Best Burger Joint In Town

Ok, well, that may not be entirely true.  In fact, I have a whole list of places that do great burgers, my house is just not one of the top 5. When I think of a burger, I think of a massive all beef patty with all the fixings and a side of fries or if I’m feeling extra indulgent, onion rings (good beer battered onion rings, not the crunchy pankoish ones).  When I make burgers at home, I tend to go the healthier route and use ground chicken or turkey, whole wheat buns, Vegenaise and if we have bacon, it’s usually low sodium turkey bacon.   I’m getting older, I need to watch the waistline and fat intake. Don’t get me wrong, its still delicious, but it makes me cry a little inside, especially when local burger joints post their burger menu on Facebook every Monday for their 1/2 price burger special (yes, Shooter McGee’s, I’m talking about you).

In college I decided I would try out being a vegetarian for a while, obviously it didn’t stick.  I was pretty good for a few weeks, then I just decided that I wouldn’t eat beef (it was the whole mad cow thing I was afraid of, don’t judge).  That lasted for a few years,  I’m not really sure how long exactly.  I only would go off the “no beef” plan when I was home for breaks, I allowed myself one cheeseburger from Bill Gray’s, with hot sauce on the side and onion rings (best onion rings ever!).   Then I’m not sure what happened, I just started eating beef again.  Like I said, I love a good burger.  I also love a good steak…I’m not really sure why I decided to write this blog before lunch, I’m already starving!

Last night was burger night, yes, a healthy burger.  I like to add different flavors to the chicken to really make it flavorful.  I also let Eric season his own, since he likes different flavors.  I  tend to stick with the basics, a tsp. of Montreal Steak Seasoning and basil and green onions, sounds weird, but it’s really good.  I added some Siracha last night and it was even more awesome.  Surprisingly, Eric wanted the same thing, except extra Siracha, of course.   I’m a huge fan of flavored mayo, I also realize that mayo isn’t great for you, so I use Vegenaise mixed with this wonderful garlic-shallot mix called Vik’s Garlic Fix from The Spice and Tea Exchange, mix in as much as you want and let it sit while you cook the burgers.  This garlic mayo is great on burgers, BLT’s, Salmon BLT’s, and awesome dip for onion rings.  Trust me, if you go the Vegenaise route, you can’t even tell it’s not mayo.

I’m not going to post a recipe, because I think you all know how to make a burger.  If you do make a chicken or turkey burger, just make sure it’s cooked all the way through, no one wants to get salmonella from rare poultry, plus that would just be gross. Oh and obviously the whole “Meatless Monday” thing went down the drain, maybe next week we’ll try again…

Chicken burger with avocado, turkey bacon and garlic “mayo” with a side of baked onion rings.

It’s pasta night, we’re going to be trying out Nadia G’s Penne al Forno recipe.  I hope its good, it looks like it will be, I’ve seen that episode of ‘Bitchin’ Kitchin’ like 3 times in the last two days.   It’s also in her cookbook, so again, if this works out to be as awesome as I think, you’ll just have one more reason to go buy it.

Now, on to more important decisions…what’s for lunch?????

Advertisements

Cooking Outside of the Box

Happy Hump Day!!!

I know the other day I promised to post the recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes, I’ve been trying to finish a project at home and totally spaced.  For the cake part of the  cupcake I use the Highway to Heaven Cupcake recipe.  If you have time to go through all the steps of making this salty, chocolate, sweet cupcake, by all means, go for it.  I’ve heard wonderful things about the end results, but I’m just too lazy to go through all those steps.   Here’s the cake recipe:

Highway to Heaven Cupcake  (From The Sugar Cube)

Ingredients

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup dutch-process cocoa powder

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 cups warm strong-brewed coffee or french-pressed coffee

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

Directions

To make the cupcakes: Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and there are no lumps. (It’s a thin batter, but it will bake up beautifully.)

Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups, leaving about 1/4 inch room at the top. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes.  Be sure to cool the cakes completely before frosting.

Fun Tip:  About half way through baking, put a bite sized (not mini) Reese’s Cup.  I think they call them the “Fun-Size” or something.  It’s a nice little surprise.

I top the cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and a mini Reese’s on top.  The frosting is so easy.

Peanut Butter Frosting ( From Ina Garten)

Ingredients

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I’d say this is optional, I don’t use salt)

1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I use a whisk attachment, I like a lighter, fluffy frosting). Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth. You can also double the recipe easily, though I tend to keep the 1/3 cup heavy cream the same and just add a bit if it’s too thick.

Verdict: Everyone at Eric’s office loved these.  I’m going to make them for my boss next week for her birthday treat.  I hope they go over just as well.

Do you remember those crazy Hamburger Helper commercials from the 90’s?  I just love that little glove character, makes me want to high-five someone when I see him.  I actually love Hamburger Helper, it’s definitely a blast from the past.  The only problem with the boxed mix, is the sodium levels and half the ingredients I can’t even pronounce.  So, I began a quest to find a homemade version, where I could control what I put in it.  This is what I’ve found (I’ll post two of my favorites)

Basic Chili Cheese Hamburger Helper ( from Homemade Mixes,Main Dishes,The Farmhouse Table) go here for more variations

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef (or ground chicken/turkey)
1 cup hot water
2 cups milk (any variety, I use skim Lactaid)
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

Brown ground beef in a large skillet; drain.

Add hot water,milk,pasta and your homemade sauce packet (corn starch, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, and paprika).

Bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.

In the last few minutes of cook time, stir in the cheese; cover the pot again for the final few minutes of cook time.

When the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted, turn off heat and uncover. Let mixture stand, uncovered, about five minutes. It will continue to thicken as it stands.

Variation Recipe for Cheesy Beef (or Chicken/Turkey) Taco:
Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 can of Rotel, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end, then top with another 1/2 cup cheddar 5-minute standing period.

Side note: I add onions and garlic to the pan while browning the meat, I think I would just die if I didn’t add garlic to basically everything.

Awww, bummer, I thought I had a picture but I guess I didn’t save it 😦 You’ll just have to make it yourself to see how glorious it is.

Verdict: Always a favorite. Plus, if Eric doesn’t inhale more than one serving, it makes a great lunch for the next day.

Tonight is another “Fend for Yourself” dinner, I’m not sure what I feel like. My co-worker’s wife brough me some soup she wanted me to try, so I know that will be part of dinner. I can’t wait to try it, it looks awesome.

Pizza, Peanut Butter and Pandas, OH MY!

Happy Monday!!  Today is actually a great day because a cute little baby panda was born at the National Zoo last night.  I’ve been glued to the Panda Cam all day hoping to catch a glimpse of the new cub, however, I haven’t seen anything exciting except a lot of loafing around, which makes me really jealous as I sit at work.  I think once they put the baby on display it may be time to take a trip to the zoo, I wouldn’t mind going before then either, I am in need of a panda fix.  Of course this also means Quincy will be a panda again for Halloween…I better start getting him used to his costume now.

He looks like a sad panda, but he’s still cute!

 

Ok, now on to the good stuff.  Last night we had “make your own” pizza’s.  Personally I think this is a great weekend meal, especially if you’re going to take the time to make your own pizza dough.  I’ve tried a bunch of recipes and have found that Nadia G’s dough recipe is one of the best.  It’s easy, straight forward and hard to mess up.  Of course I make my own adjustments here and there.

Pizza dough still is the only “bread” I can make that doesn’t come out like a piece of concrete.  Maybe 2013 should be the year of dough, hopefully I can master some rolls that are edible.  Just because this is pizza dough, doesn’t mean you have to use this recipe for only pizza, you can do so many other things with it, like calzones, strombolis, sausage bread or any kind of stuffed bread (I’ve done chicken and eggplant parm stuffed bread, so good).

Nadia G’s Pizza Dough (if you have her cookbook, she has a bunch of delicious pizza recipes.  If don’t have her cookbook, what are you waiting for? Go buy it!)

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon yeast (or just use 1 packet)

1 1/4 cups warm water

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 cup whole wheat flour (I actually just use 2 cups of AP flour)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix the yeast with the warm water and let sit for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and sugar and whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the all-purpose and whole wheat flours (or all AP flour)  Make a hole in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly hand mix the flour until all the liquid is absorbed. If too wet, add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Sprinkle a clean work station with flour and knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Coat a large ceramic bowl with the remaining olive oil. Place the dough in the ceramic bowl and flip over to coat in the oil. Cover the top of the dough with plastic wrap and cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let rise until the dough has doubled in size, 2 hours. Punch down the dough and let rise for another hour.

I actually made the dough in the morning, let it sit and rise all day, punched it down an hour before I used it and it was good to go.  I’m a set it and forget it kind of girl who probably angered the pizza dough gods, but whatever, it was amazing.

Chicken Pesto Pizza

Verdict:  Since Eric and I like different toppings, I like to divide the dough in half so we can create our own culinary masterpieces.   I topped mine with homemade pesto, shredded chicken, onions and a tiny bit of mozz cheese, YUM! Eric loves red pizza sauce, he added onions, pepperoni and jalapeno (we have ton, might as well use them).  I tried his, it was awesome, better than any delivery chain for sure.

On to dessert, because sometime’s you just need a sugar fix at 9pm, especially when some of the cupcakes you made are “messed up”.

We’re doing this new thing at work where the person who had the last birthday makes or buys a treat for the person who has a birthday next, does that make sense?  Anyway, since my birthday was last I have to make something for my boss, who has a birthday coming up this weekend.   I think I’ve decided on Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcakes, but I’m not sure.  I did a trial run for Eric’s office and they loved them.   I’ll post the recipe tonight because I actually use two different ones and you will want to make this (if you aren’t allegeric to peanuts). But here’s a teaser until then.

Friday Never Felt So Good

Happy Friday!! This week has dragged on, even though it was filled with a happy hour and yoga class.  I’m super glad it’s almost the weekend!  Just gotta make it through the day.  My biggest decision for today is figuring out what’s for lunch.  Sorry I haven’t been posting the last few days, here is a recap.  Tuesday night Eric made delicious fajitas with an avocado cream sauce.  He did a great job per usual.  I have to say I’m very lucky to have a husband who knows his way around the kitchen and actually enjoys cooking, though he’s still not allowed to make spaghetti sauce.   Wednesday is usually our busy weeknight so it was a leftover night, also known as “Fend for Yourself” night, I chose a PB & J sandwich with my mom’s awesome strawberry jam, it totally hit the spot.  Sometimes something so simple is just so satisfying.  I am one jar down, one more to go.  The jam just tastes like summer in a jar, I love it.

Last night I actually got back on the culinary bandwagon and made dinner.  I wanted a quick, no fuss, minimal clean up meal (doesn’t really matter for me, Eric is in charge of clean up and dishes) so Pork Chops with Shallots and Tomatoes fit the bill.  I like to serve it with salad and couscous.  I’ve kind of taken a recipe and modified a bit after making it a few times.  I don’t have an exact recipe, but those are the best kind of meals in my book, it gives you more room to play and adjust things to how you like it.

Pork Chops with Shallots and Tomatoes

Ingredients

4 center cut pork loin chops, bone in

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1/2 container of grape tomatoes, halved

1 1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

flour for dredging

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Lightly dredge the pork chops in the flour, I like to season my flour with garlic and onion powder.  Heat skillet on medium heat with a few Tbsp. of olive oil, if the pan is not big enough to fit all four chops, cook in batches, overcrowding the pan will steam the food and not create that gorgeous crust you want.  Cook chops 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how thick they are (I prefer thin ones).  Once all the chops are done, remove from pan, place on a plate and cover with tin foil.

In the same pan you used for the chops, add a Tbsp. of oil, shallots and tomatoes.  Cook for 1-2 minutes stirring frequently.  Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar and stir to coat tomatoes and shallots, cook 1 minute.  Add pork back to pan, cook 1 minute to marry the flavors.  Serve with shallots and tomatoes on top of each pork chop.

Verdict: Always a favorite in our house.  Eric requests this about every other week.  Plus he loves couscous, which still surprises me.  I never have leftovers because he ends up going back for thirds and sometimes fourths.  Couscous is a great side dish for many meals, its pretty versatile.  I add onions, garlic, red pepper flake and za’atar (middle eastern spice mixture), sometimes I’ll add chopped tomatoes and a tiny bit of mint (I mostly do this if I make lamb chops).

So far this weekend will prove to be full of very delicious food.  Well, tentatively as we all know sometimes the last thing we want to do on a Saturday is cook, or maybe that’s just me.  In any event, I will be eating, hopefully something fabulous, I”ll keep you posted.

On a side note, I just finished a new mystery book, A Diva Runs Out of Thyme, by Krista Davis.  I really like this series so far, it incorporates recipes, helpful food tips and decorating ideas all while the character tries to solve a murder mystery.  It’s definitely one of those fun reads, nothing too serious and there’s always a chance you’ll find a new fabulous recipe to try.  This first book centers around a mystery taking place during Thanksgiving, so there are many fall themed decor and menu ideas.  I’m itching to make her bourbon pecan pie.  Did you know that the airplane booze bottles equal 3 tablespoons?  Pretty handy if you just need a few tablespoons for cooking or baking and don’t want to buy an entire bottle.

Until next time, Happy Cooking!!

Risotto Burritos?

Probably one of my top 5 favorite meals is risotto.  I’m not sure why I love it so much, possibly because its nice and creamy and has a good texture (most of the time).  The best risotto I’ve ever had to this day has got to be the shrimp risotto from the Infinity Restaurant at Oyster Bay Resort in St. Maarten.  We had such travel issues just getting to the island and arrived 5 minutes before the restaurant closed.  Feeling our pain and seeing how exhausted we were, they graciously kept the kitchen open for us.  Originally the risotto was lobster, but they ran out of lobster and asked if shrimp would be ok.  Beggars can’t be choosers and at this point I was begging for anything that didn’t come in a snack sized bag.   All I remember was that once I was done with dinner, I wanted more.  I ordered it again the next night and tried again before we left but it wasn’t on the menu anymore, which was a bummer.   It was so good I took a picture a picture of it, though the picture doesn’t do it justice at all, especially in the styrofoam container its in.  I should try to recreate this meal, I’m sure it won’t be the same, but who knows, it might be even better! (I doubt it).  Man, I could really go for some now, I wonder if they would deliver….

Shrimp not Lobster Risotto

I’ve done risotto recipes before, always hovering around the stove, stirring every so many minutes after adding the hot chicken broth.  It’s time-consuming but worth it.  The risotto I made last night was done in the oven, sounds crazy, I know, but it’s pretty easy.  I still like the stove top method better, but if you really want risotto and don’t want to bother with the stirring, try the oven method.

Here’s Giada’s Chicken Round 2 Recipe:

Risotto with bacon and kale  ( Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis)

Ingredients

4 slices bacon, chopped coarsely

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup arborio rice

3 cups low-salt chicken broth, plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)

3 medium curly kale leaves, stemmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

3/4 cup diced leftover chicken (from roasted chicken with root vegetables)

1 roasted carrot, chopped (from roasted chicken with root vegetables)

1 roasted parsnip, chopped (from roasted chicken with root vegetables)

1 roasted shallot, chopped (from roasted chicken with root vegetables)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large heavy saucepan or braising pan, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.

Add the onion, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes. Add 3 cups broth and lemon juice. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover with a tight lid and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Remove the lid and stir in the kale, chicken, roasted vegetables and 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth. Stir until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes, adding extra broth, as needed, until the risotto is creamy. Stir in the cooked bacon and cheese. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Verdict:  Now I didn’t use bacon or chicken in this, I think if I did, it would have been AMAZING!  It was still good.  Like I said, I love risotto.   I also would have not done this in the oven, I think it came out too gummy, but that could be because my oven stinks and is a tad on the hotter side.   The veggies were a nice plus in this, I was just glad to use up the leftovers from the roasted chicken.  Now,  I wasn’t sure if Eric would like this.  He never really likes risotto but will eat it if I make it as a side dish but usually won’t go back for seconds.  To my surprise, he didn’t hate this dish, though he couldn’t eat it straight up, he had to douse it will hot sauce and make it into a burrito.  Yes, a burrito, because according to him, everything tastes good in a tortilla.  I’m not sure about this, but at least he ate it, he actually had two risotto burritos.    My suggestion is try it the normal way first, if you don’t like it, stuff it in a tortilla with some hot sauce.

Tonight Eric is charge of dinner.  I believe we’re having fajitas with avocado cream.  At least this dinner requires tortillas.

Sunday Dinner Round #1

Why does the weekend always seem to fly by when the work week drags on for what seems like ages? Maybe it’s because I start my day later on the weekends, or that these are the only days during the week where you can basically do whatever you want, whenever you want to.   This weekend was particularly fun.  Some highlights include, going to a Dungeon and Dragons store (not really my choice), getting caught in a huge storm because I refused to wait out the storm in the D&D store (the guys seemed nice, but nerds in large groups freak me out), running through the heavy rain and getting soaked to the bone (literally looked like I jumped in the lake, I should have stayed with the nerds), saving the best part for last, was getting Indian food, nothing warms the soul like extra Naan and Chana Masala.  We later found out that there was a tornado that touched down close to where we were…oh what a fun Saturday!

Sunday’s are truly the saddest days, only because it means that the next day is Monday, which usually means another long work week ahead.  Don’t get me wrong, Sunday does have its ups, but it’s still the last day of the weekend. Sunday is the day we usually go grocery shopping for the week, clean the house,  I catch up on the trashy Bravo shows I’ve been DVR’ing all week while Eric watches one of the many sporting events, but the best part of the day, Sunday dinner!  I look forward to Sunday dinner, it’s basically the only day of the week where I don’t mind spending time prepping and cooking a nice big meal (there’s only two of us, so the leftovers are more than welcomed).

This week I was reading an article from the Today Show about chicken recipes from Giada De Laurentiis.  Basically she took one roasted chicken and created three dishes with it.  I figured if I could get at least two meals out of one chicken I would be a culinary master.  So far round one went off pretty well, though I’m going to have to modify round two for tonight and make it vegetarian (which is perfect for Meatless Monday!) Eric went back for thirds and then I found him picking the carcass clean (that sounds really gross) while cleaning up, I guess that means he really liked it.

Here’s Round #1 Chicken recipe. It seems like a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it.  I’m pretty sure everyone will love this recipe, if not, well, you must have done something wrong.

Garlic-roasted chicken and root vegetables  (Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis)

 Ingredients

For chicken:

1 (6 1/4-pound) chicken, rinsed and patted dry

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 sprigs fresh rosemary

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 lemon, quartered

For butter:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 large lemon)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For vegetables:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 baby red potatoes, halved

4 medium carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise

2 large parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthwise

2 large shallots (about 8 ounces), peeled and halved

1 clove garlic, peeled (or three, like I used)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth (I just used water because I didn’t want to open a box of broth for just a 1/2 cup)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Position an oven rack just below the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

For the butter: In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, rosemary, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper until smooth.

For the chicken: Tuck the wings under the chicken. Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into the cavity. Place the rosemary, thyme and lemon quarters in the cavity. Tie the legs together loosely with kitchen string. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan.

Starting at the neck end of the chicken, loosen the skin over the entire chicken breast. Smear the remaining butter mixture over the outside and under the skin of the chicken, being careful not to tear the skin.

For the vegetables: In a large bowl, toss together the oil, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, shallots, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.

Arrange the vegetables around the chicken in a single layer. Add the broth and roast until the vegetables are tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken thigh registers 160 degrees F to 165 degrees F, about 1 1/2 hours. Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Arrange the vegetables around the chicken. Scrape the contents of the roaster into a 4-cup measuring cup. Spoon off the layer of fat that rises to the top. Season the pan juices with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve the chicken with the pan juices.

I forgot to take a picture of the whole bird before I cut it up, it was beautiful…

Verdict: Eric said it was the best chicken he’s ever had.  I have to agree, it was really good.  The skin came out super crispy, it took all my will power not to eat it, though I did try a little and it was awesome!  The best part was the sauce it created with all the juices, I probably could have sucked it up with a straw, but that would not have been very lady like…not that it has stopped me before…  Anyway, I served this with the root veggies, green beans and a side salad.  definitely a dinner we will have again, especially since its getting cooler out and fall is just around the corner.

Tonight is round #2, Risotto, made with the left over root veggies and some kale.  I love Risotto, so I hope this comes out good. I’ll keep you posted.  If its bad, there’s always take out, I’m sure our delivery guy misses us.

Taco Thursday

I love tacos, I probably could eat them everyday.  If you’re near the Old Town Alexandria Whole Foods on Thursdays, I’m not sure if it’s at all WF stores, you need to try their street tacos.  I always see their cute little set up near the hot food and salad stations, but have never tried them.  You can get 2 or 3 tacos in an order,( I forgot how much they are but I didn’t tell the cashier the box had a bar code so she weighed it and it was cheaper than it should have been…oops) with either chicken, steak or tofu all wrapped in a corn tortilla.  The fixings are on the side, I added cabbage, onion, cilantro and their Habanero cream sauce to my chicken and tofu tacos.  I’m now hooked, I wish they had these tacos everyday, but considering I don’t ever leave WF without doing some shopping, it’s probably not a good idea. 

I planned on having tacos for dinner earlier in the week and I wasn’t really planning on having tacos for lunch, but the more the merrier.  Tonight I made fish taco’s, it’s a good thing too because I was running out of room in the freezer.  I like to buy frozen filets of various kinds of fish, I know it’s not as good as fresh, oh well, I like it.   There are a ton of fish taco recipes out there and I’ve tried many of them.  I’ve broiled, grilled, pan-fried and deep-fried cod, tilapia and halibut for tacos, all have been good, but I prefer the lightest version I can make.  I feel if you’re going to eat fish to try to eat healthy, you shouldn’t deep fry it, unless you’re doing the fish and chips thing, that’s different and really delicious.   My favorite recipe for these tacos is adapted from Anne Burrell.  I’ve made a few adjustments as usual and Eric whipped up an asian dressing for the slaw. 

Fish Tacos (Food Network Chef Anne Burrell)

Ingredients:

For the fish:

1 pound flaky white fish fillets, such as haddock, halibut or cod (I used tilapia, three small filets made six tacos)

1 lime, zested and juiced

1/2 tsp. Paprika

1/4 tsp. cumin

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

Kosher salt

Cabbage: I bought pre-shredded cabbage, like a cole slaw mix.  Eric added a dressing that was amazing, you can definitely play around with different flavors.

1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded

3 scallions, sliced thinly on the bias

1 jalapeno, minced, optional

1/4 to 1/2 cup white vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup canola oil

Kosher salt

6-8 flour tortillas ( I used whole wheat corn tortillas)

1 avocado, halved, pitted and flesh sliced

Verdict: They were so good.  They were nice and light and fresh tasting.  Eric really enjoyed them too, he wants me to make these every week, but lets not get too carried away.  The only problem was that he wanted more.  3 tacos for me was perfect, they weren’t huge but filling, unless you have a bottomless stomach like some people… I say, more room for dessert!

Now, what to do with the leftover tortillas….

 

Childhood Comfort Food

It’s September which means back to school.  I happen to love fall and after the hot humid summer we’ve had, I am looking forward to cooler weather.  However, by the looks of it, it may not be very soon.   In all honesty, I really can’t wait for it to get colder because my boots are calling my name, its been ages since I’ve worn them, ok, so its been like four months, still, that’s a really long time.

 I guess I can start embracing fall in baby steps, first by lighting my fall harvest candle, second by gathering together some fall friendly recipes.  I personally like the comfort foods of fall and winter, they’re rich, hearty and filling, warming the body and soul with each bite.   This brings me to tonight’s dinner, taken from Guy Fieri Food cookbook.  I know I say every cookbook is great, and all the ones I own are, but this one really is wonderful.  Most of the recipes are pretty time-consuming and often have ingredients that may only be available in Asian markets, but once you make the dish it’s totally worth it. I don’t think I’ve made anything from this book that came out horrible, if anything, I want to make each recipe again and again.  I’d say, if you pick up this book, which you should, try most of the recipes on the weekend when you have more time.  Well, except his recipe for sloppy joes, its fast, easy and way better than anything you buy in a yucky can.

Sloppy Joes with Maui Onion Straws (Guy Fieri Food-by Guy Fieri)

Ingredients:

For the Sloppy Joes:

1/4 cup canola oil

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced(I used a hold orange pepper instead of 1/2 of the two he listed)

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and diced

1 red onion, diced (I used 1 yellow onion)

1 pound ground beef (I just used ground turkey)

1 pound ground pork

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup red wine (I used beef broth since I didn’t have vino)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (this can be adjusted depending on taste)

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

24 slider rolls or sweet Hawaiian rolls (I used whole grain buns)

For the Maui Onion Straws: (I didn’t do this, but I bet it brings the sandwich to a whole other level)

2 cups canola oil

1 large egg

1/2 cup milk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 sweet onion (Maui or Vidalia)

Directions:

Prepare the sloppy joes: In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, combine the canola oil, bell peppers, jalapeno and onion; cook for 5 minutes. Add the beef and pork; cook thoroughly, breaking up the meat as it browns. Add the garlic. Depending on the amount of residual grease, you may need to drain some of the fat from the pan. Deglaze with the red wine, then stir in the remaining sloppy joe ingredients (except the rolls) and season with 1 tablespoon each salt and freshly ground pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick as it simmers, add up to 1 cup water to adjust the consistency. Toast the rolls and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the onion straws: In a medium sauce pot, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Whisk the egg and milk in a medium bowl. Mix the flour, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper in another medium bowl. Cut the onion in half, then slice into 1-inch-thick half rings; separate into short straw-like pieces. Add to the milk mixture to soak.

Once the oil is hot enough, remove the onions from the milk mixture, shake off excess and dredge in the flour mixture, 4 or 5 pieces at a time. Add to the pot and fry until golden brown; transfer to paper towels to drain.

 Serve the sloppy joes on the toasted rolls and top with onion straws.

Verdict:  Really flavorful, if you have kids or don’t like the spice, you can omit the jalapeno and cayenne pepper, it would still be great.  Next time I’ll try the onion straws, I’m usually not one to pass up fried onions, but it was too much to do tonight, plus I’d like to save the extra calories for dessert.  Eric gives it two sloppy thumbs up, he’s already had two, I’m thinking he’s going to go in for number three any second now…

I leave you now with something that has been in my head all day, sloppy joe, slop sloppy joe

 

 

Big Flavors from the Big Easy

One of my most favorite cities is New Orleans.  I’ve been there twice and have had two very different experiences.  My first trip was in January, I think 2007 (I’m not sure), it was right before Mardi Gras and not too long after Katrina.  I remember a lot of this trip, but the food really stands out for me.  I mean don’t get me wrong, we partied down Bourbon Street, I believe there was a mechanical bull involved, maybe some dancing, maybe some beads (but not in the way you think, I’m not that kind of girl) and a whole lot of hurricanes, and I’m not talking about the weather.   Oh and I can’t forget to mention the  helicopter ride through the 9th Ward Sheriff Leo invited me on, it was very overwhelming to see all the devastation from Katrina, things that were once there just gone forever and so many people displaced…so very sad.  But even in the short amount of time between Katrina and my trip, the city was trying bounce back as fast as it could.  Other than the partying that ensued, I did over indulge on the deliciously rich food that New Orleans had to offer.  I probably ate my weight in gumbo, crawfish, fried and fresh oysters and jambalaya, so worth it though.

My second trip to NOLA was later that year in August, it was so hot! I stayed at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, yes it’s fancy, yes it’s beautiful and yes it’s haunted.  I was there for 4 days, I don’t think I slept a bit because I was afraid of seeing a ghost.  My last day there, as I was leaving the hotel, I was told that ghosts have only been seen on certain floors and my floor was not one of them…figures.  I still had a great time doing the more touristy things.  I think I went to Bourbon Street once and it was for dinner (the best BBQ Shrimp, I’ve ever had).  The best though was my visit to Cafe Du Monde, oh my goodness, I could eat beignets everyday, all day.  I’ve tried to make my own, but it’s not the same.  

I promise this whole New Orleans talk is going somewhere.  I was looking through recipes I’ve cut from magazines and found a recipe for” Not-So-Dirty Rice”.   I’m not sure what magazine it came out of, probably a health or fitness one since it’s a vegan recipe.   I did add meat to this, but it’s probably just as delish with the veggie burger crumbles (I use those when I make stuffed cabbage rolls).  So here’s the recipe:

Not-So-Dirty Rice (from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped (I used a red pepper)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups vegetarian burger crumbles (I used 1 lb. of ground chicken)

1 tsp. Tabasco Sauce (I used a couple of dashes of Crystal Hot Sauce)

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

3 cups of cooked long grain white rice (I used brown rice)

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper, cover and cook until softened, about five minutes. (I added the ground chicken at this stage because unlike the crumbles, it needs to cook through).  Stir in the garlic, veggie crumbles, if you use them) Tabasco, thyme, salt and cayenne and cook 5 minutes.

Stir in rice and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings, I added a bit more hot sauce.   Enjoy! 

I do realize this is not your traditional Dirty Rice recipe, there isn’t any chicken livers, though I’m sure if you wanted to add them you could, I don’t roll that way.   I decided to go a more healthy route and it came out great. 

Verdict: It was spicy but not too spicy. The brown rice really added a nice texture. Eric was going to eat more than the 2 servings he had, but I told him I was taking the leftovers to work. I have a feeling this dish just gets more awesome the longer it sits.  Plus, this is a great recipe to play with, I think the next time I make this I’ll make some minor adjustments, maybe add some celery and some green onions, I don’t know, I may go crazy and add bacon fat to it (probably not, but you can’t ever go wrong with bacon)

Before I forget, the cake batter brownies from last night were pretty amazing, so amazing that while I was writing about them Eric ate half of them.  So if you need a fast and easy dessert, check out Girl Meets Life’s blog.   In the meantime,  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Williamsburg Adventures

Happy Labor Day!  I hope you all were able to take some time to relax and have fun before summer comes to a close.   This weekend my husband and I went to Williamsburg, VA for a mini vacation.  My brother lives there so we had our own tour guide, which was nice.  The day and half we were there was packed full of food, food and more food, with a little colonial history thrown in here and there. 

We started off our adventure at Plaza Azteca.  I think I could eat mexican food all day, everyday.  The first thing I noticed was that they do table side guacamole, another one of my obsessions.  Next time I will tell them to make it mild because the medium burned my face off…darn jalapenos strike again.  Now usually I’m not one to take a chance on seafood at a mexican restaurant, I’m not sure why, but I may just have changed my mind about it because their shrimp tacos were AMAZING!  The shrimp was grilled not fried, which was huge plus and even though I was filled to the gills on the spicy guac and chips, I powered through and rolled out of there very satisfied.  

Now if you know me, you know how much I love BBQ.  My mom happens to make pretty good ribs, considering she’s from New York and Italian.  So knowing how much I love a pulled pork sandwich, my bro took us to Pierce’s Pit BBQ.  I got the pulled pork with slaw and a side of onion rings.  Probably one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever had, ranked in the top 5 at least.  I’m glad I don’t live close to this restaurant because I’d go there at least once of week, I’d also be on cholesterol controlling medication.

Pulled Pork from Pierce’s

We did do other things than just eat, I just want to clarify that.  Though with all the candy, fudge, BBQ, mexican and more candy, it really seems to have taken up most of our time there.   

After eating the best thing to do is to walk it off shopping.  We went to this cute little trading post store, it was pretty interesting.  They had everything from cowboy hats to well, I think the following pictures say it all. 

 

 

 I really am kicking myself for not buying the “White Trash Cookbook”.  I did flip through it, it was interesting, however, I didn’t think I would every make anything out it, but boy would it make an interesting addition to my collection.  If I ever see one again, I’ll probably pick it up.  I did however purchase a “Best of Virginia” cookbook which has a ton of delicious recipes that I can’t wait to try!

We got to the Colonial Village late so there weren’t any people doing “Colonial” things. We stayed at the Yankee Candle store way too long, but it was totally worth it, I got a bunch of fall scented candles. 

All in all the trip was good. I wish we could have stayed longer and hopefully we will be able to visit it again soon.  Next time I’d like to actually see some Colonial folks and maybe go to Jamestown and Yorktown.  We shall see!

So I can’t end this without a recipe.   Tonight we are sticking to Meatless Monday and having Rigatoni with Pesto and Peas.  I have a ton of Basil and I love making it and freezing it for those days when we want a quick easy dinner.   I don’t use pine nuts in my pesto, I’m too cheap.  Walnuts are a great substitute and honestly no one can really tell the difference.  

Pesto

Ingredients:

2-3 cloves of garlic

2 cups of basil leaves

1 handful of walnuts (or if you’re fancy, 2 Tbsp. of pine nuts)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup of parmesan cheese ( or a tad bit more if you like cheese)

Blend everything together in a food processor until smooth.  You may have to scrape the sides down a few times.   Toss with cooked pasta or spread on crescent rolls before you roll them up…Yum!

Tonight I added peas to the pasta, it turned out great. 

Verdict: Eric had like 4 servings and just finished the last of it.  I guess I’ll have to buy my lunch tomorrow…

I’ve planned a bunch of new recipes for this week.  Most are new ones that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. 

I made confetti blondies for dessert, I hope they come out good, they sure smell awesome!  I got the recipe from Pinterest, a pin from a blog called “Girl Meets Life“.  Pretty cute blog, she posts recipes using cake batter.   I’ll let you know tomorrow how they came out. 

Until next time!