project food blog challenge #2: classic pho

I had to have more Pho and I had to have it now. But we went out because the recipes were overwhelming, it takes too long to make and it is dirt cheap in restaurants. Oxtails? Beef knuckles? Star Anise Pods? Where do I even buy such things?

Then came the news that I had made it to Challenge #2 for the Project Food Blog and the challenge was a classic dish from a culture you aren’t familiar with.  There was no question in my mind and I’d be making Pho sooner than I thought.

Pho is a dish that I have never made or never attempted, but if you follow me on twitter, you know that I dedicated a whole day to finding the perfect Pho restaurant in Minneapolis and recipe, only to decide the recipe was a little too much work. I normally don’t take the easy way out, but a dish that requires over a day to prepare is a little much for my healthy, simple and delicious mantra.

But there was a challenge and I had a recipe, so the cooking process began with the broth. As the onion and ginger were browning, and the meat simmering with water, I started to smell the Pho and my worries of it not turning out faded away. The aroma coming from the broth was so enticing I almost didn’t want to wait for the next day to start slurping.

The ample soup is spicy, savory, filling and fresh tasting all served up in an oversized bowl with chopsticks and an asian soup spoon. One of the reasons I love Pho, and Vietnamese cuisine, for that matter is because the majority of the seasoning is done at the table, to your own taste. Need more sriracha? A little more hoisin? It’s all there.

The components are layered in a deep bowl – the short ribs, the beef, the noodles and finally the broth. Then the toppings and flavorings are all up to you. My favorites are lime, bean sprouts, jalapeño slices, fresh basil and mint. Oh and lots of sriracha.

How did the pho turn out? It didn’t taste exactly the same as in the Restaurants, and I may be lacking some Vietnamese cuisine experience, but that just means I’ve got some experimenting to do in the kitchen, and that’s something I’m perfectly fine with.

Voting begins Monday!

mini greek pizza

Only this isn’t the kind of pizza you may be thinking of.  My friend Megan and I lived together in college and while we didn’t survive on ramen noodles, we did have our share of simple meals. One of our favorites was what we called “Mexican Pizzas.” A tortilla, refried beans, shredded cheese and enchilada sauce all microwaved until the cheese is melted and gooey. Just thinking about it makes me miss those “simple” dinners of ours! (We never rolled up the tortillas, which is apparently why they weren’t burritos :) )

Well, here is the Greek version! Made with pita bread, hummus, feta cheese and any toppings you have on hand. All broiled until the cheese is hot and the pita bread crispy. Fast enough to qualify as a snack, but delicious enough to qualify as a meal!

Greek Pizza - 1 serving

  • whole grain pita bread
  • hummus
  • feta cheese
  • toppings: red peppers, olives, tomatoes, chopped onions

Layer hummus, cheese and toppings on pita bread and broil on high for about 5 minutes until bread is golden brown.

review: annie’s creamy tuna skillet meal

In my 27 years of existence, this was the first time I’ve tried tuna helper. I must admit, these “helper” meals have always intrigued me. Apparently when you grow up eating good,  wholesome foods you miss out on culinary adventures like hamburger helper. I’m so appreciative that we ate the way we did and I wouldn’t change it for the world but I decided it was time to see what these meals were all about.

The Annie’s version was my first choice, and really the reason I was even interested in trying them. Unfortunately I don’t think the Betty Crocker version would have done it for me.  Corn syrup, trans fats and artificial flavors? No thanks.

The meal was actually quite good and I love that I had a few lunches ready to go for the week. But it is important to be mindfull of the serving size, because when prepared, one serving has 320 calories + tuna. I easily could have eaten two servings but with that said, it was quite filling. I added some cooked peas to mine as well, which add a bit of color and up the hot dish quotient that much more.

Is it something I’ll be eating once a month? Probably not, but I’m sure I’ll be ready to try the cheeseburger macaroni variety in a few years or so. ;)

zucchini toasts

If you don’t have a garden or you haven’t visited the farmers market recently you may not realize that we are currently in peak zucchini season. Those who grow it at home are probably already sick of it, wondering what to do with those pounds and pounds of zucchini. Since my pathetic patio “garden” is barely supplying me with the herbs I need and deserve, I’m still so ready for zucchini.

These zucchini toasts take summers bounty beyond the usual sauteed, grilled or baked. Shredded zucchini, combined with cheese and broiled make for an interesting and healthy twist on the typical grilled cheese. Any cheese that melts will work – it’s a great way to use up those cheese “ends” in your fridge. Gruyere or provolone would be especially tasty.

Zucchini Toasts - 2 servings

  • 1 large zucchini, shredded
  • 2 oz cheese of choice (I used goat cheese)
  • 2 slices bread (I used Rye)

After you shred the zucchini, sprinkle a bit of salt on it and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

Turn on broiler to high.

Squeeze all of the excess water out of the zucchini and set aside.

Stir cheese into zucchini mixture and divide between slices of bread.

Broil for about 4-5 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.