Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Battle Begins

I am currently battling with my computer. Not that there is anything wrong with it; I am just WAITING for something to be wrong with it. You see, it is brand new. And new things just seem to have little bumps in the road.

I think my computer smells my fear. It knows I am scared of it; so, it is taking advantage of my nerves and acts up just a little. At what point do you decide something is wrong. Or at what point do you decide, Oh this is what it is supposed to do?!

So in the mean time, I hosted one of the biggest events EVER this last weekend and I took ZERO pictures. The amount of cursing in my head about this huge mistake is deafening. I am really mad. I took a couple pictures of the prep work. Okay, only two pictures of the prep work and it was of my red stained hand after rolling Red Velvet Cake Truffles. Woopity Doo!

I hosted the meeting of my parents and my "person's" parents. It was a Saturday night. It was an appetizer type party. There was lots of drinking. The appetizers came out in waves.

The first wave (all recipes will follow):
Rosemary Cashews (a fortuitous gift from a student)
Mini Frittata three ways: bacon and leek, ham and swiss, and potato, onion and red pepper
Cocktail Shrimp
A trio of dips: Salsa (my standard recipe), black bean (my standard recipe), and hummus (store bought)
Carmelized Onion and Butternut Squash Purses


The second wave:
Porcini Mushroom Fondue
Chicken Skewers

The third wave:
Mini twice baked potatoes (My dad called this "a good pill")
NY Strip Cheesesteaks on french bread slices

Desserts:
Red Velvet Cake Truffles
Carrot Cake Truffles...for both truffles, I would not make them again. Just too much!
Pecan Pie Cookies
Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
Bailey's Whip Cream in Chocolate Cordial glasses (they looked like little thimbles)

Drinks:
Beer
an Albarino for the white wine
a french Pinot Noir (Klingenfus, awesome!)
Spanish Cava, Rose'...When I brought this out, the "person's" mother thought there was a big announcement. Clearly she needs to learn that sparkling wine should totally be an ALL THE TIME drink!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Maple Mustard Cream Sauce


The sweet potato gnocchi (SPG) was supposed to be my signature dish. It is unique and something not many people would go through the pains of making. Honestly, gnocchi making is pretty fun! And it is so reassuring to know that restaurants who make their own gnocchi, fresh, DON'T do the crazy fork markings. I still do though. It is a cute personal touch. Literally, every gnocchi gets personally TOUCHED!

The recipe that I use makes a POOP TON of gnocchi. And the gnocchi I cooked last night had been frozen, thawed in the fridge, and then rolled last night. So if you freeze the dough, it will still come out as if you didn't. When you freeze the dough, I recommend freezing it in about the size of a bratwurst, wrapped in parchment paper. When thawed, they probably need some flour added.

This recipe is from epicurious, and I think it is the same as the one I have. But I got mine from another website.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Sage Brown Butter:
2 1-pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with fork

1 12-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sweet potatoes on plate; microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces (two pieces will create two servings, freeze the remaining). Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to baking sheet.

Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender (uh when they float, they are done), 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Add chopped sage (mixture will bubble up). Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.

Transfer half of sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add half of gnocchi. Sauté until gnocchi are heated through, about 6 minutes. Empty skillet onto rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi. (This seems entirely too high maintenance...just toss and go!)

Last night, I served these with Pork and a Maple Mustard Sauce (featured in a previous blog entry). This sauce actually went GREAT with the gnocchis! SO I took a picture of the gnocchi atop the sauce. A really nice and different way to eat them. And who doesn't love sweet potato with some maple syrup??

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Who's Ready for a new Apron??

These aren't your grammies aprons! I think Paris might call them, "hot."








So if you like, check out my google page for directions on how to get your very own!: Cook's Wear by Kristy.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cook's Wear by Kristy

My cooking focus has been transferred to a focus on aprons. I want to make cute aprons. So I have been learning how to do this. I learn by trial and error, so I bought some patterns and some fabric, and I have been trying to create cute aprons. So far, I have made one. I am not sure if I should take a picture yet.

The idea: I want to sell them. I figure I can sell them a little cheaper than the boutique aprons I have seen at Anthropologie and online.

Soon I'll post my products!

In the mean time, a recap of my week in eating, so you can see how my cooking has suffered:
Monday: Chinese Take-Out
Tuesday: Leftover Chinese Take-Out
Wednesday: Chicken Caesar Salad and Orzo pasta
Thursday: Taco Bell Grilled Stuft Burrito
Friday: Peanut Butter and Jelly for lunch...so far.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Slippery Slope to 30

Last year I learned about something called the "Golden Birthday". It was quite fortuitous, as it came shortly before the year that IS my Golden Birthday. It is the year where your birthDAY is the same as your age. As all who know me know, 529 takes on mythical meaning with me. It is the time my alarm clock goes off everyday. If an item's total at the checkout is 5.29, it is fate that I purchase it. The last purchase that happened this way: A map purchased at BP on the road to North Canton on Thanksgiving Eve (have you SEEN the traffic on 71 at the holidays??).

On Thursday, November 29th, I celebrated my HALF birthday. Some may find it comical that I even KNOW when my half birthday is. My students don't find it funny, as on their half birthday they can legally get their temporary permit to drive. They certainly are aware of their half birthday.

Truth be told, I used the half birthday as an excuse to open a bottle of wine that I would otherwise never purchase and certainly never drink ALONE. It was a Barolo. It was almost $30. And I drank it with a frozen thin crust pizza that I doctored up with homemade meatballs (transported BACK from North Canton) and banana peppers.

See that wine glass? It exists no more. I shattered it walking from the living room to the kitchen, running into one of those dining room chairs in the dark, after I fell asleep on my new sofa. (FELL ASLEEP, not passed out...I swear!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Chicken Stock Secret, exposed!

I make my own chicken stock. I have been doing it ever since I started buying the roasted chickens from the grocery store. I'm pretty sure I have not posted my recipe, because I was a little shy about it. Truthfully, I wasn't sure it was turning out right, but my FOOD that I cooked with it tasted great! So I was not going to change anything about it. Just kinda shyly put it into stuff and pretend I knew what the hell I was doing. Really, I wasn't sure!

There is a local blogger that I frequent, who seems to have much more substance to back up her cooking. She does cooking expos at the North Market. She reads books by chefs about cooking. She seems to have some experience! A recent post features her knowledge about stock, which she learned from Ruhlman's book The Elements of Cooking. This Ruhlman character is, like, the real deal. He was a judge on the Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef." I am pretty sure I saw him on a "No Reservations" episode with one of my favorites, Anthony Bourdain. (It was the Las Vegas episode...and yes, I have a small obsession with everything Vegas). Oh! And Ruhlman is from Ohio! I think his book will be on my Christmas list, officially.

So Ms. Restaurant Widow took a picture of her final product. It jiggles. MY STOCK JIGGLES! I always thought the jiggle, was, like, BAD. It isn't! It is CORRECT! Not to mention, in her blog "Comments", there is a nice response from someone titled "ruhlman". I like to think I am not naive. Maybe I am...but quite possibly he posted on her blog! And of course I comment, because, "Hey! Look at me! My stock does that too! I can't take good pictures of it. And I secretly thought I was just f-ing it up. But me too, me too!"

So in conclusion. I was right. And perhaps you now want my brilliant recipe. So here you go (and as usual, all measurements are approximate, as I no measure good, or ever).

Kristy Stock
One chicken carcass (2lbs)
2 sliced carrots
1 chopped celery stalk (the leafy part is encouraged)
1 medium onion roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
other herbs if you got 'em (thyme, sage, oregano)
salt
pepper
water to cover (about 10 cups)
Crockpot

Put vegetables on the bottom, and place the chicken on top. Cover with water. Generously salt and pepper the water. Nestle the herbs and bay leaf along the side. Cook on low overnight. In the morning, turn to "keep warm" until you get home from work. Turn off and let cool enough to then place pot in the fridge. Skim off the fat after it appears at the top. Strain. Freeze. And yes, it is OKAY and GREAT if it jiggles!

Picture Update: Here is the amount of stock I get from my crockpot. Each container has 2 cups, and the top of the pyramid is 1. The containers, which I then put into the freezer, are FREE from the local chinese food place, and I just pop them into the microwave for 3 minutes to partially thaw so that I can then pop the stock into a pot on the stovetop when I am ready to use them.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sweets! Sweets!

The Chocolate Crepe, stuffed with amaretto cream, drizzled with coffee syrup.

Recipe:
Chocolate Crepes
Whipping Cream
Powdered Sugar
Amaretto or other liqueur (Baileys, Kahlua, etc.)

Directions: In your KitchenAid mixer, pour 1 cup of whipping cream. Set to medium-high, and whip with the whisk. Once it gets 'peaky', add powdered sugar slowly, tasting often so you know when it reaches the sweetness you desire. Add 1T of liqueur, taste. Add more if desired.


The Pecan Pie Tartlet

This was eaten for breakfast. Don't judge!
Recipe:
Pie Crust
Pecan Filling Leftover from THESE COOKIES

Directions: Make the cookies, because they rock. But I had a lot of leftover filling. Line a small baking dish, or even cupcake tin, with pie crust. Fill with filling. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. It may bubble over, so I put foil under the dish.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Baked Ziti with Ground Turkey

Sundays are for pasta. It is a nice filling dinner and just perfect for starting your diet off on the WRONG foot. I tried to trim down my ziti a little, with ground turkey, 2% milk Mozzarella, and low fat sour cream.

Ingredients:
cooked penne pasta (about 4 cups)
1 large can chopped tomato with basil and oregano
1/2 large can of tomato sauce
2 frozen cubes of Trader Joes basil
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion chopped, (used in two spots)
1lb ground turkey
1 cup shredded mozzarella
3 heaping large spoonfuls of sour cream
1/2 cup shredded "other" cheese (I used extra sharp white cheddar)
handfuls of grated parm
salt to taste (sauce and ground turkey)
olive oil (for cooking onion)

Directions (in order of how I cooked things)
1. heat olive oil, saute onion (about 3/4 of what you chopped) and garlic
2. I add some pepper flakes (totally optional) and then added the sauce and chopped tomatoes. Drop in the basil and bay leaf, stirring to thaw and mix into sauce. Heat until bubbles start popping, then turn down to simmer.
3. Put water for pasta on the burner. Preheat oven to 375.
4. Once water starts to boil (drop pasta in), heat a small amt. of oil for remaining onion. Saute and then add in ground turkey. Cook and then strain.
5. After pasta is cooked, transfer to casserole dish or large bowl. Mix in sour cream. Mix in cooked meat/onion. Spoon about 3 ladles of tomato sauce into pasta mixture.
6. In large rectangular baking dish, spoon tomato sauce on bottom. Dump pasta mixture on top. Layer shredded cheese (I did just the cheddar here) on top of pasta.
7. Spoon more tomato sauce on top. Then mozzarella, then parmesan.
8. Bake covered about 20 minutes. And then uncovered about 10 minutes.

And now...the pictures!
Before Baking:

Ready for eating: (see that forkfull right there? That was the BEST bite!

Finally, this is what my kitchen looks like when I cook. Is everyone as messy as me? The gnomes that clean up after I cook think I am extra-specially-messy. Am I?? What I love about baking things for dinner...you have that 40 minutes of clean up time, so that AFTER you eat there is little to do.

UPDATE: I clicked on this picture (you can too) and it totally zooms in so you can see EVERYTHING. Including, through the peep-through over my sink, where you can see the outline of the gnome that cleans the kitchen. Okay, actually he is a gnome wearing an Ohio State shirt. Go Bucks!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ohio Blog Meme:Only 5 Questions

1. You and your town: a marriage of love, convenience, or necessity?

Such a complicated question! I moved back to Columbus on purpose. I regret it. I regret it, not because I dislike Columbus, but because I could've gone ANYWHERE and I was chicken! I moved back to Columbus because my father offered up Bluejackets season tickets, which have since been sold. I stay in Columbus for family. I'd leave Columbus for love, though. If I didn't have love now, I'd possibly leave. Again, not because I dislike Columbus but for the adventure!


2. A mysterious benefactor gives you $75, with the condition that you must do nothing productive. Where in town do you go, and what do you do?
I have spent almost $75 on dinner and trivia for two at Damon's; you know, the place for ribs. I am not proud of that! I guess my idea of productive could be different from others. I'd take my $75 to North Market and just buy lunch and a couple cool things to cook with later. But is eating productive? I think so! Or I'd go to The Columbus Zoo.


3. You are your town’s tour guide, on a tight schedule. What is the one place you show visitors?


The Short North, North Market, and all the cute boutiques, making sure to stop at Jeni's Ice Cream.

4. The mysterious benefactor is back, this time with $500, three days off, and the condition that you must not leave the state. What’s your plan?

I don't think I'd even leave Columbus! I've always wanted to stay at The Loft hotel downtown, go to a show, get drunk in the Arena district, stumble back to the hotel, eat bruch at L'Antibes (only seen it in pictures and they looked GOOD!), Hockey Game, and eat at one of the nice places downtown or in the Short North.

5. You’re an Ohioan. What about that makes you proudest? The flip side of pride is shame; go there too if you want.

I love that no matter where you go, there is a fellow Ohioan there. And that Ohio is often the "hometown" of a character on tv or movie. We are just the most predictable plot detail.

Ohio bloggers...man up and answer the five questions too! And post your blog in the comments section if you do!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pink Moon Cupcake Bakery

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: Carrot Cream Cheese, Black Bottom, Chocolate Caramel, Peanut Butter Chocolate
Wednesday: Pumpkin Cream Cheese, Ginger Bread, Red Velvet, Chocolate Chai Spice
Thursday: Vanilla Latte, Devil's Food, Spice Buttercream, Apple Crumbcake
Friday: Banana, Chocolate Peppermint, Coconut, Peanut Butter Cup
Saturday: Lemon, Pumpkin Cream Cheese, German Chocolate, Black Bottom
Sunday: Closed

Photo: Red Velvet, Carrot Cake, and Pumpkin Cream Cheese

My favorite was actually the Pumpkin! I was surprised! And His favorite was the Carrot Cake. Eventhough, he is so perplexed at how carrot can actually be IN the cake. It was cute.

Each cupcake is $2.50. We cut each in 1/4s, ate one 1/4 of each, and were stuffed!
The boxes are worth the money...they are so cute.

Location:
West Olentangy St.
Powell, Ohio 43065
And they do have a website:
http://www.pinkmooncupcakes.com

Which cupcake would you like to try? What flavor is missing? I'd like to see a chocolate raspberry!

The Steak I Can't Recommend Enough!

Flat Iron Steak Fajitas



The flat iron steak is the best steak ever! I purchased this piece of meat at Whole Foods. It is about 8 ounces and was only 4.50, I think. All I did for the meat was place it in a zip lock with a spice mixture, about 1t of oil, and a couple shakes of Worcestshire sauce. Then I moved it around and let it sit about 20 minutes.
Spices:
1/2t Cumin
1/2t paprika
1/2 cayenne
salt
pepper

I love the Calphalon grill pan. I just throw vegetables on there with some salt and they are perfect. Now, I do have to wave an oven mit over the smoke alarm every minute or so. Whoever chose to place a smoke alarm in the hallway, right by the entrance to the kitchen, is a chooch!

Pink Moon Cupcakes...the latest craze in Powell.


Next Post...the weekly Cupcake Specials. Because I am a nice person, and I think a lot of people want to know what all this place has!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Linky Poos

I didn't cook last night. So here are some cool things to look at instead!

A new blog I found...
A list of soups for the winter...
A website of cool aprons...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuna Noodle Casserole

I have officially met someone who loves sauces as much as I do. But if you've ever cooked for someone who loves sauce, you know that they will dip anything into the sauce, while it is cooking, thus lessening the quantity of the sauce. Now, I don't mind company in the kitchen, so the idea that I am cooking with someone to talk to is so very nice. It is just a little comical to see Triscuits, dive into the sauce. Bread slices, dive into the sauce. Tortilla chips, dive. Spoons, dipped. Cooked egg noodles, dunked. The sauce being smuggled last night, the homemade cream of mushroom that was then tossed with the noodles and tuna.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Egg Noodles, cooked (about half a bag)

Preheat oven to 350.

2 T butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 T flour
2 cups milk
1 can tuna
1 cup frozen peas
parmesan cheese
salt
pepper

Melt butter until bubbly, then cook onion. Add garlic and mushroom and cook until mushrooms give off their juices. Stir in flour and brown. Whisk in milk, and cook until thickened, salting and peppering to taste (this is when the sauce starts to disappear...sauce gnomes). Add tuna and peas. Toss with noodles, and add parmesan cheese. Dump into casserole dish, and dust the top with more cheese. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncover for 10 more.
Serves about 4...normal people. We also had a salad, and I had about 1 serving leftover of the casserole.

I swear I will bring my camera to work tomorrow with all of these lovely pictures I keep taking.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Things I could've made with a Dutch Oven

More food without Pictures, sigh.

Parental Anniversary Menu (PAM)

Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce (including an extra tablespoon of horseradish)
Au Gratin Potatoes
Cabernet Pot Roast
Shredded Brussel Sprouts
Chocolate Crepes with an Amaretto Cream and Coffee Syrup

Two of the menu items were from fellow food bloggers, and I have linked those recipes to their sites. Go check them out, as they are much more diligent at the blogging than I.

For the potatoes, there was some drama. I do not have a mandoline, so I used the large bladed side on the cheese grater. It worked great; however, I did the slicing in the morning, put the potatoes under plastic wrap in the refrigerator, and when I came back to cook them, they were almost black. I rinsed them with cold water, which seemed to lessen the discoloration, and upon cooking them, it was all normal again. PHEW! But I thought I had lost 4lbs of potato!

Because I did not have a pot large enough to house all of the potatoes, I split them up between two round casserole dishes. This recipe definitely serves at least 8!
Potatoes au Gratin

Ingredients:
4 lbs. russet potatoes, sliced into 1/8" slices with a mandoline
2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, choped fine
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp. butter
5 c. chicken stock
1/3 c. flour
1 4in x 2in parmesean rind
1 bay leaf
1 c. shredded aged white cheddar
1/2 c. shredded parmesean
1/8 c. shredded white America cheese (I just did more white cheddar)

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Meanwhile, melt butter in Dutch oven over medium high heat until foaming subsides, about 1 min.
-Add onions and saute until soft and begins to brown, about 4 min.
-Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 sec.
-Add flour and stir until browned, about 1 min.
-Deglaze pan with chicken stock, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
-Add parm rind and bay leaf and simmer vigourously until stock is reduced and sauce gets thick, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
-Remove parm rind and add cheese, stirring to melt.
-Add sliced potatoes and stir to coat.
-Cover Dutch oven tightly and place in oven to cook for 45 minutes.
-Remove top of Dutch oven, stir slightly to recoat potatoes and place back into oven to brown for 15 minutes.
-Remove Dutch oven from oven and let cool, uncovered, for 10 minutes before serving.

And the pot roast...

I also added a sweet potato to the vegetables that roasted with the beef. I actually cooked all of this in my large Calphalon Omelete pan, covered in foil. Worked just fine! I did my grocery shopping at 1130pm, and there was no rosemary in the fresh herb section. I bought, instead, a poultry mix, using the sage and thyme as the herbs used. I also forgot to use bay leaves. And I did a red wine and corn starch slurry for the gravy.

Cabernet Pot Roast
1 2 lb. chuck roast trimmed of excess fat
Flour for dredging plus 1 Tbs. for slurry
salt, pepper and garlic powder for seasoning
2 Tbs. canola oil
1 cup Cabernet
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 1/4 cup beef broth divided
3 med. sized carrots cut into long strips
2 celery stalks roughly chopped
1 medium chopped
4 garlic cloves roughly chopped
1 rosemary sprig cut in half
2 bay leaves
2 sage stems with leaves
1 Tbs. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 325

Heat skillet over med. high heat and add oil. Season meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder and dredge in flour. Sear meat in skillet on all sides, and set aside. Add butter to the pan and take off burner to cool down. Lower heat to med. low and return the skillet to the burner after a few minutes. Add all veggies and herbs except garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent and soft. Add garlic and cook a couple minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine scraping all the stuck on bit from the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, and broth and bring to a simmer. Let simmer about 5 minutes until slightly reduced. Add roast, cover skillet tightly with foil and roast for 2-2 1/2 hours.
Take skillet out of oven and put meat and veggies on a platter. Discard stems and make a slurry with 1 Tbs. of flour and water. Turn heat on burner to low and stir in slurry and 1/4 cup of beef broth. Continue stirring until you have the consistency desired.

The blogs, where these two recipes came from, have great pictures. So I feel a little okay that I didn't take the photos last night. I was entertaining for this meal, so the added stress made it impossible.

I will post the dessert recipe with the photo tomorrow...stay tuned.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Chicken Parmesan with Creamy Orzo

Chicken Parmesan
Pounded Chicken breast, for even cooking
1 cup italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup egg beaters
1/2 cup flour
vegetable oil to cover bottom of saute pan (size of pan varies this)

1 cup tomato sauce (recipe to follow)
shredded mozzarella
grated parmesan

After chicken is pounded thin, dredge in flour, then dip in egg beaters, then in bread crumbs. Heat oil. And also turn on broiler in oven. I unsafely drop a little water in the pan to see if it is ready for the chicken. If the oil spatters and burns me, we're good to go. Drop chicken into pan, turning once after the first side is brown. If the chicken is thin enough, 3-4 minutes on each side should be sufficient. After cooked, place in oven safe pan (I use a pie dish), top with a spoonful of tomato sauce, and then top with the desired amount of cheese. Place under broiler to melt the cheese.

Creamy Orzo

1 cup uncooked orzo
1 T butter
3 minced garlic cloves
3 cups chicken broth (I make my own)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tree of broccoli, chopped
1 T cream cheese (I use 1/3 the fat cream cheese)
Melt butter in a sauce pan, and cook garlic about halfway. Then add the orzo to coat with butter. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add chopped brocolli. Boil until orzo is done. Sometimes a need for straining is necessary, sometimes it isn't. If you strain, leave a little liquid to keep creamy once you add the parmesan. Mix in parmesan, then drop in cream cheese, mixing until it melts.


Last Minute Tomato Sauce
1 small onion, chopped small
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t oregano
2 t fresh basil
salt
crushed red pepper
1/2 cup red wine
1 large can of crushed tomatos
1 bay leaf

I always make my own tomato sauce. I keep cans of Tomato Sauce, Crushed Tomato, Chopped Tomato, and Whole Tomatoes in my pantry at all times. I really liked the CRUSHED for this sauce, and will probably keep more crushed tomato than just tomato sauce in the future.

The order that I cooked this in:
Tomato Sauce
Cooked the orzo to a boil
Started chicken on the stove
Put chicken in the oven
Added cheeses to the orzo

White Bean and Chicken Chili

Yum! I haven't heated something up at work for lunch in a very long time and ALOUD gave an "oh yum." This soup caused me to do just that.

And I took a picture of it! All dolled up with a dollup of sour cream, and smatterings of green onion and cilantro. But, the camera is at home. With the picture. Insert frowny face here.

But here is the recipe with my alterations in parenthesis. I printed it off from All Recipes.

Cha Cha's White Chicken Chili

INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (4 ounce) can diced jalapeno peppers (I had jarred jalapenos, chopped, and only about 2 T)
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (roasted from the store, or course)
3 (15 ounce) cans white beans (I used 2 cans of White Kidney beans, with one can smashed. And 1 can of Cannelini beans)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I used the Kraft Mexican Shredded blend)



DIRECTIONS
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Slowly cook and stir the onion until tender. Mix in the garlic, jalapeno, green chile peppers, cumin, oregano and cayenne. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until tender, about 3 minutes. Mix in the chicken broth, chicken and white beans (including the smashed ones). Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the mixture from heat. Slowly stir in the cheese until melted. Serve warm.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pictures Coming Soon!!

I got a great deal on a canon digital camera yesterday. It was an early morning impulse buy, but it is for the good of Foodie Nation that I can take photos of my creations. (rhymed)

Last night was comfort food night. It was a cozy 62 degrees in my house when I got home, and soup and macaroni and cheese certainly sounded good!

Brocolli and Potato Soup (5-6 servings)
1 small onion chopped
1 smaller carrot peeled and chopped small
2 potatoes peeled and cubed
1 brocolli stalk, chopped
2 T butter
chicken broth to cover, about 3.5 cups
1 cup milk
1/3 cup Half and Half
1 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper

In a pot, melt butter, and add onion and carrot, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until softened. Add potato, brocolli, and broth (I did not add salt and pepper here, but you probably should). Simmer until potatoes are softened. Then cover for about 10 minutes over low heat. While simmering, take about 1/4 cup of the milk, and mix with 1/4 cup of flour; this is The Agent, the thickening agent.

Uncover the soup and add the milk, The Agent, and the cream. Bring to a simmer; let it simmer until it creams up. Add the cheese.

With soups, I just prefer to salt to my personal taste when I eat it. This was a little under salted upon serving, but I prefer it that way!

Second Course: Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Ham (6 servings)
2 cups dry elbow macaroni
1 can Fat Free Evaporated Milk
1 cup milk
3 T butter
1/3 cup flour
1.5-2 cups shredded cheese (I used white cheddar and swiss. Just use up what you have!)
1/2 cup deli ham chopped
4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped

Cook the macaroni.
Melt the butter, add the flour (The Agent), then whisk in the milk. Once creamy, add the Evaporated Milk. Mix in shredded cheeses. Once thick and looking like heaven, add the ham and bacon. Stir in macaroni. Turn into a buttered round casserole dish and bake at 375 until bubbly goodah.

Notes:
-I am NOT a breadcrumb topping kinda gal, so you won't see a topping on the mac.
-Block cheese, shreddeed on your cheese grater, melts the best.
-If you eat the soup first, it will fill you up more, and you will not need as much of the super rich mac and cheese.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trader Joes....Loves Me, Love Me Not

In the cooking world, Trader Joe's is known as "TJ's". In my world, it is known as Trader Joes.

I have had some issues with good old Trader Joe's. Last thing that sucked royally, Thai Style Green Beans with the ICKIEST sauce ever to come in a frozen pack of vegetables. Yes, even ickier than the pack of garlic sauce for Trader Joe's Garlic French Fries. That is some serious ICK.

Last night, was a triumphant Trader Joes night. I bought Gorgonzola Walnut Tortellini from their Frozen Food section, thinking I would use up some of the butternut squash that I roasted. I mashed up the roasted squash, mixed it with a pat of butter and a cup of milk, and then tossed that with the cooked tortellinis, adding the appropriate amount of parmesan cheese (meaning, what is appropo for me, is probably NOT the suggested serving amount). It was DELICIOUS! You can definitely taste the walnut and the gorgonzola is perfect. If only I had a little fresh sage!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ravioli Lasagna

Ravioli Lasagna
serves 4...cook in a LOAF PAN
1 package Trader Joes Cheese Ravioli (cooked per package directions)
1 cup-ish mushroom cream sauce (recipe follows)
2 cups marinara sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
frozen spinach (1/2 a package)
2/3 lb ground beef, browned with 1/4 onion chopped

Mushroom Cream Sauce:
Brown 1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms and one large minced garlic clove in 1 t olive oil. Remove from the pan. Place 1 T butter and melt, then add 1/4 cup flour and make a roux. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of skim milk. Salt and pepper to taste, adding some parmesan cheese. Stir BACK in mushroom. Remove from heat. This makes more than you'll need.

Marinara Sauce:
(this is adapted from a Cooking Light magazine recipe...I had to change it a little)
1/4 chopped onion
1 large minced garlic clove

In 1 T olive oil, cook onion with garlic. After softened, add:
1/2 t dry: basil, oregano, salt, and crushed red pepper.
After herbs are combined with the onion, pour in:
1 14 ounce can of chopped tomato (mine was with balsalmic and garlic)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1T balsalmic vinegar

Let simmer so that it thickens, about an hour. I then added about 1 cup tomato sauce, because the recipe was very chunky and it wasn't reducing much. It tasted great! And it went along well with the lasagna.

The assembly of this lasagna went, from bottom up,
Marinara
3 cooked ravioli
cream sauce
spinach
mozzarella
parmesan
3 cooked ravioli
beef
mozzarella
tomato sauce
ravioli
cream sauce
parmesan
strip of tomato down the center of the cream sauce
parmesan

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes. Let set about 15 minutes, so it hopefully sets up a little.

Oh how I wish I had a camera. It was pretty, but then when served, that first piece looked crazy. I need little individual baking dishes, so that I don't have to use a spatula to get it out!

Note for the dieting: These raviolis from Trader Joes claim to be enough for TWO. So I stretched these raviolis into 4 servings. Also, the beef, 2/3 lb, for 4 people is a smaller sized portion too. I used Skim Milk Mozzarella, skim milk in my cream sauce, and smaller amounts of olive oil, since I have lovely Calphalon cookware. I don't feel too bad about this dish, diet wise.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Roasted Poblano and Chicken Penne

3 handfuls Dry Penne Pasta
1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken
1 roasted poblano peppers
1/2 roasted red pepper
1/4 of a yellow onion sliced
1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 large garlic clove
1t oil
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (pisses me off...because why do I have a whole can and then only use one...now I need more recipes that calls for this)
1T flour
1t cayenne
1/4 t cumin
2 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup broth
1/2 cup water
optional: shredded taco cheese

And now for the process:
I created this dish based off of the Mushroom Cream Sauce that is used in a Cooking Light Mushroom Enchilada recipe.

Warning: This ended up spicy!!

Under Broiler: place peppers, halved. Roast until skin is black. Place peppers in a zip-loc bag to cool. This will make it simple to peel skin off.

In nonstick pan, heat oil and add mushroom, onion, and garlic. Cook until soft and shiny. Add chipotle pepper (cut it up...and if you remove the seeds, this won't be so hot). Add flour and spices. Cook to make it nutty smelling. Whisk in broth and water. Bring to a simmer to thicken. Add sliced roasted peppers. Add chicken. Add cream cheese and remove from heat.

After boiling penne, add to sauce (salt sauce to taste). Shredded mexican cheese looks nice and adds a little more cheesiness.

This makes two big servings. And I did NOT eat all of it by myself.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Faster than frozen pizza Pasta

Faster Than Frozen Pizza Pasta:

4 cups penne (uncooked)
1-2 cups chopped roasted chicken from the grocery
1 cup sliced mushrooms
4 sundried tomato pieces (mine were in oil)
2-3 T pesto ( I used Trader Joes Genovese Pesto)
1 large garlic clove minced
2 T pine nuts
2 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup crumbled feta
white wine (I just use splashes here and there for some liquid, broth would work too)

I had parent teacher conferences last night, so I asked my special friend to put pasta water on the stove, so hopefully it would be boiling by the time I got home (12 minute drive) Note: This means COVER the water and put on the burner with a good heat radius (is that what it would be called??). The pasta making is seriously the most time consuming thing in this recipe. Everything will be done in the time it takes for the pasta to cook.

Before making the "sauce", bring pasta water to a boil. Once you add the pasta, heat a saute pan and add the mushrooms. I use a nonstick pan, and then add NO oil. As the mushrooms are cooking, they will emit liquid, and then add a splash of wine or broth. Add the minced garlic and cook about 1 minute. Then add chopped sun dried tomatoes and the chicken. Stir to coat chicken and to heat the chicken. Add 2 T of pesto. At this point, I slid the chicken to the side of the pan to keep warm, and toasted the pine nuts.

Drain pasta and add to saute pan. I added another T of pesto to the pasta, and then added the feta and cream cheese (I used my fingers to break it up and scatter along top...it was messy). Stir, and add some splashes of wine to add some liquid and make the cream cheese create a creamy coating.

Voila! This should probably serve 4 people, along with a salad. We just ate this. All of this. But it was 8pm and we was hungry!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Egg Noodle Coma

Recipe:
Chicken Ala King Noodles

1 Chicken breast from Grocery Store baked Chicken (chopped)
1 handfull of frozen peas
1 handfull of frozen corn
1 cup milk
1T butter
2T flour
1 cup sliced mushroom
1 garlic clove, chopped
optional: parmesan cheese and italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 bag of egg noodles (figures to 3 servings after cooked)
(preheat oven to 400)
Here is what I did. Because this is a blog and not a recipe machine! I am going to explain, rather than make it all recipe-ish.

I love casserole.

I had mushrooms to use up, as they were about to get a little slime. Recently, I have discovered how it is cheaper to buy mushrooms from the bulk bin, rather than the prepackaged business. So that makes me happy.

I had milk to use, as it expired last Friday. Using my super-smeller, I can tell it will not be spoiled until tomorrow around 4am.

I get a little skeeved out by the curd looking thing that squeeks out of the Cream of Mushroom can. Sometimes it makes funny noises coming out! And it has ridges (for her pleasure) from it forming to the can. So I used the soon-to-spoil milk and the mushrooms and made my own "soup". First, I cooked the mushrooms, until they started to let their "juice go", then I added the garlic, being careful that it didn't burn. I removed that business, then added the butter. After it melted and picked up the mushroom leftovers, I added the flour. I salt and peppered that, and then whisked in the milk. Once the flour was combined without lumps, I added the mushrooms and garlic back. Then added the chicken. Then added the peas and corn.

While all that was going on, I was cooking the noodles. Duh. If you don't know to do that, you need a better blog than mine. Sorry. I consider certain things to just be OBVIOUS, so sue me.

Add the cooked noodles to the chicken and soup stuff. Then bake it at 400 for about 20 minutes. I added some bread crumbs and parm to the top.

And sadly, I ate all of it while watching America's Next Top Model. Or also known as "Dog Show", named such by my new special friend :)

A warning: If you eat all of this in one sitting, do NOT try to watch baseball, as it will make you sleepy and unable to move for the rest of the night. It will also make you send sleepy text messages that say, "Gooj nite". It will also make you pour water all over the counter, in an attempt to make coffee for the next morning. And then you find the water the next morning, as it has been soaked up by random things on the counter, and then wonder "Where in the hell was the water??" Thus creating the term: Egg Noodle Coma.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Asian Ground Chicken with Lettuce Cups

The diet continues and I think I am doing a nice job. I am keeping track of calories on SparkPeople. I was 10 calories OVER for the amount I should be burning a week. I don't think I went over my daily calorie allowance, well Saturday doesn't count. I figure I'll give myself one free day a week.

Last nigth I created this little recipe for myself. I am excited to have leftovers for my lunches, but think I'll keep it as a "dinner meal." One change in my routine is that I am NOT bringing dinner leftovers for lunch. I think that just messes me up. So dinner leftovers will be consumed only at dinner.

Recipe:
Serves 4
1 pkg Swanson Ground Chicken
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 can waterchestnuts, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2T teriyaki
1/4 cup Gyoza Dipping Sauce (Trader Joes) or another stirfry sauce
1T cornstarch with 1T water (slurry)
1t vegetable oil

In wok or saute pan, heat oil and then brown the chicken. Add first three vegetables, garlic, and chicken broth, soy, teriyaki, stirfry sauce. Simmer about 10 minutes to soften vegetables. Add waterchestnuts and cabbage. Combine well, adding more soy or broth if needed. Let simmer 10 minutes, then add slurry to thicken the sauce. The longer it simmers, the better the sauce!

Serve over rice or in lettuce cups. According to sparkrecipes.com, this is approximately 330 calories, and 12 grams of fat per serving.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Caffeine and the Blog

Wow Monday's post sucked! Call that a result of too many things bouncing around in my head, along with about 3 cups of coffee. And I had 2 extra hours at home due to FOG! Yes, scary scary fog.

For Clarity:
If you didn't follow the link, my sudden comment about Feminism causing obesity probably sounded insane! The previous blog mentioned, and I think even SHE was quoting someone else, women working is making it harder for families to eat healthy because they aren't at home cooking healthy meals (icky word icky word!). Honestly, grilling some chicken, steaming some vegetables, baking a potato would be considerably easier than the concoctions I put together! And weren't stay at home moms the ORIGINATORS of the meatloaf and casserole? Super healthy there! So no. I don't think working moms/women causes obesity.

My food allergies do not stop me from eating those things! I just don't eat a lot of them. And I don't eat them on a completely empty stomach. I had a Dairy Queen Blizzard for dinner once (so many things wrong with that statement!) and I felt like a huge pile of crap! Damn Dairy. I had a whole meal (icky word icky word!) of seafood, including tuna, lobster bisque, fish, calamari, and awoke in wicked cold sweats.

Progress Report: I had cereal for dinner last night. NOT following the elimation diet there! But it was the only wheat I ate all day! And it was within my calorie counting, which I am using sparkpeople.com for that task.
For example, today's lunch of vegetable soup with a whole wheat tortilla with hummus and feta cheese in the middle, along with a yogurt is 346 calories.

If I was home right now, I'd make an egg beater omelete and an english muffin. Instead, apple and peanut butter. Sigh.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Why We're Fat...or at least I'm Fat.

One of my guilty pleasures is reading blogs; generally, they are mom blogs, written by moms. I am not a mom. And I read to get a taste of what all that craziness will be like. There is one blog I have followed, and they have recently moved to Korea...just like my friend Achilles! (And Achilles is so NOT a mom.) I read this recently, which I thought went along well with my weekend.


My second year teaching, I had a pretty brutal asthma attack one morning after the day before I was pulling ragweed out of my garden. I am allergic to ragweed. Duh! So I got tested for foods, at the same time as some other allergens. I learned I am allergic to wheat. And dairy. And oats. And oranges. And corn. And "fish mix", sounds like cat food. I blame my vegetarian diet for 6 years (Sophomore year H.S. to Junior year College). During that time, there was a lot of cereal, pasta, and orange juice. Perhaps I used up my lifetime quota. The doctor suggested an "Elimination Diet". For two weeks, I did not eat any of those things, and I lost 11 pounds. IN TWO WEEKS!

So this week, I am doing another elimination diet, maybe a little modified, but close enough. But seriously, I was just eating significantly healthier. I was eating unprocessed things. I ate a lot of fiber and vegetables. And avoiding corn and corn starch and corn syrup cuts out some serious sugars. And I need it. I was in the copy room today, and a teacher thought I was ANOTHER teacher who I think is significantly larger than I. I blame the hair. My back was to her. I am wearing a non form fitting skirt. I swear my ass is not THAT big!

Do I blame feminism, like the above linked blog mentions? No way. I blame my love for food, but also the expense of good food. My grocery bill yesterday, chock full of fresh vegetables, is evidence of this! Yesterday, I cleaned, did laundry, and of course, cooked a bunch of stuff. All after I spent almost 90 bones at the grocery store, and I am SINGLE people! I didn't even buy booze! But I did buy oatmeal.

So I made
Vegetable Soup, modifying an old Weight Watchers recipe I had.
Salsa, using the salsa recipe I have posted here before.
Grilled Vegetables, including zucchini, onion, red pepper, mushroom.
Brown Rice
Boxed Banana Muffins, "Just add Milk!" (I was craving, literally made this just so I could eat ONE. A waste of money, perhaps?)
Chicken Broth, which is currently chugging away in my crockpot as I type.

And I am going to quit my latest addiction at the same time...Vitamin Water. Wish me luck. There will be progress reports.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chicken Scaloppine

(I am just going to post like I have been posting everyday for the last month. Because nobody truly noticed, I'm sure.)

I breaded chicken breasts that I pounded real good (incorrect for effect). Pan cooked it in only 1 T oil. Deglazed the pan with some chicken broth. Added the juice of two lemons. Some juice from the caper jar. Some capers. Placed the chicken back in the pan. The bread crumbs thickened up the sauce a little. And poof it was done.

The end. Thanks for stopping by San Diego.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Funkity funk funk funky

I am in a cooking funk and I blame the heat. Isn't that what we blame EVERYTHING on in August? "I don't want to workout; it is just too hot!" or "Yardwork? Too hot!" or "Grocery store? My leather seats are too hot!" This is how I know I am in a funk. I don't even want to go to the grocery store!

And the fact that my last dinner seemed like a failure. And I am just not in the mood to get back on the horse. Or bike. It was just an ugly meal. It tasted great but was not attractive. I hate that.

So today I made something that I blogged about early in my career. It is what I call the Goddess Omelet. I actually made the pesto for it last night at about 11pm, because I just felt like making something. Eventhough, I didn't eat it last night.

I am just a whole mish mash of topics today. And I think I'll just type as they come to me. It will be an adventure.

I have been eating a lot of tomatoes. It seems all I am really in the mood for.

Yellow curry stains your carpet. It is now known as simply "The Devil". I dropped the smallest of yellow curry coated beef on the floor beneath my dining table. It rolled a good 3 feet and left little yellow tracks the whole way.
Now that I think about it...is "yellow curry" even what it would be called? Maybe there was Turmeric in the dish. Hmm...whatever. It is just called The Devil, whatever it is. (again, I didn't cook. So I didn't make it!)

Blockbuster is playing a dirty trick on me and not letting me send the movie Hannibal back to them. This movie is TERRIBLE! And it is forever stuck in my house because they won't send me a replacement envelope for it and all of its crappiness.

Ding Dong the Bees are Dead.

I think tomorrow I will make braciole. This means I have to go to the store...but I will just go tomorrow.

ennui

I say that now, but in three weeks I'll be all longing for the ennui!
(as in boredom)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Refectory: 27 years of Frenchiness

To say that I am very blessed is an understatement. On a Tuesday evening, when the skies are looming with rain, I had the privilege to attend one of the top restaurants in Columbus. It is not trendy. It is not filled with blinking neon lights and techno music. It is, though, featuring the latest trends in fine dining cuisines, but with such restraint and finesse that it leaves you feeling on the edge of a culinary precipice.

The Refectory has been in business for 27 years, and it exists as a "special occasion" restaurant. However, it would seem the staff wants you to become a regular. Or maybe it was just me and my dining companion; I mean, we did look GOOOOD. Dressed in our nicest dining ensemble and the waitstaff in their tuxedos, it seems a bit upsetting to see a man walking out in shorts and golf shirt. But if that guy is accustomed to dining like that SO MUCH that it doesn't seem like an occasion to dress up, well I guess the more power to him!

I love a server who asks if you'd like to start the evening with a cocktail or glass of champagne. THANK YOU for suggesting we ease into our meals and not rush us in and into a salad or appetizer. I absolutely took him up on his subtle champagne nudge, and it was the wisest choice. My dining companion sipped on scotch throughout dinner, but of course could not resist the Wine Show that our server put on for us. Special Show. Ask for the show.

You see, I got caught. I was taking a picture with my cell phone of our first course. And man I wish everytime I got caught doing something wrong it had this result! Our server saw and said, "Do you have a blog!?" I think I must've blushed, because he came back and apologized. I was just hoping I was unique, but immediately it is assumed there is a blog. Now, he did inform me that a previous employee's wife is a blogger, and so perhaps she does the camera phone thing too...so he is just equating me with her. The previous employee now works at Rosendale's, which I hope is next on the fine dining list. So not only did we chat about my blog, they wanted the website, the owner came over and talked about the blog, we talked about food, we had star treatment!

So onto the food:
Course 1: MARBLE OF ESCARGOT
God Bless him, he made sure we knew it was not the standard escargot, bathing in the butter and garlic. I did not mind this, as the idea it was not standard made it even better. The only thing I missed was that standard texture of the escargot, but all of the flavor still existed. Perhaps though it was a little dry, but compared to the Butter Bath, what wouldn't be? And compared to the creaminess of the second course, the escargot didn't have a chance in hell of standing up to it!
Course 2: Sea Scallop with pan seared Foie Gras
OH
MY
God.
If Foie Gras is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Upon placing this interesting piece of duck in your mouth, it just "evaporates". There is no chewing, it is just setting it on your tongue and letting the flavor fill the expanse of your pallet. Adding a small bite of the seared scallop just places such a perfectly paired texture to the dish that you don't really want to swallow. And I may have said an expletive, causing my dining partner to look around to see if anyone heard, and have to decide if he wanted the check or to continue to watch my face in peaks of culinary pleasure.
Course 3: CRABMEAT AND ARTICHOKE CRUSTED HALIBUT After scooping my goo-like body off of the floor so that I could enjoy something other than this foie gras, we moved onto a fish dish. Now to call this dish 'flimsy', it creates a negative connotation. But the fish is not a firm fish! It is moist and mixed with crab meat, it is incredibly, well, WHITE! Splitting this dish between two plates was impossible, understandably, and so they brought an extra plate and two gravy terrines of the lobster butter sauce. HEAVEN is Lobster Butter Sauce. It runs out of fountains. There is of course endless amounts of bread in heaven. And the fountains are there to coat this bread in lobster goodness. One of my dining quirks is that I choose things for the sauce. This sauce stole the show for this dish.
Wines: Three Whites consisting of a California Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc of bananas, and a third that I can't think of!! grr!!
Course 4:PAN SEARED CRISPY MILD SPICED DUCK MAGRET I am a girl who had never had duck. Well I think I had a little sliver on SOMETHING somewhere, but never had a whole breast of duck. I was leaning toward a steak course, only because it had a truffled butter on top (again, with the choosing things because of the sauce). Our server said he would just bring the butter on the side, so that we could enjoy the duck. And enjoy we did. I hate to keep harping on textures, but for so many people, food is just about taste. And to me, it is every sense creating an experience. The texture of duck is unlike chicken. It is unlike steak. Perhaps most similar to a medium rare steak, when you are eating the warm red center. I didn't even notice the sauce on this, because duck just has a flavor to itself, that is complimented by the cherry sauce, but not masked. I didn't want to drown it in anything.

This course indeed was split into two plates and the portions were still large! If you've never dined like this, one entree at a time, go do it tonight! So relaxed. So peaceful.
Wines: Three reds, featuring a Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Merlot that exploded like a canoned Cab.
Course 5: PEAR FEUILLETE AND CHOCOLATE CREMEUX
If your meal is a ride, I think it should start slow have a peak and then come back down. I felt going to the poached pear next would be a nice gently stop to the meal. It is not too rich. It does not carry you out with a mouthful of heavy chocolate mouse. It gently places you at the end of your meal, on a cloud of whipped Chantilly cream and a bite of light puffed pastry. (Note: I hate the cliche of a cloud and cream. I'm upset I even typed it.) But God bless our server, he wanted us to have some chocolate! And I think my dining companion was relieved. You men like chocolate just as much, if not more than some women, I swear! The chocolate dessert was good, but I think my choice of pear was better. I win!
Wine: Moscato

Wine Show: I did not order a single wine. I requested--well actually he suggested this and I beamed at the thought--the server bring a 2 ounce pour of two wines for each main course. He brought three. And with dessert, we ordered the pear, and he brought the chocolate and two tastes of the moscato dessert wine.

Before my personal experience at The Refectory, I had heard from people who had heard from people that it "isn't THAT great." I consider this to be the spouting off of morons. People who will not take the chance of the experience and therefore cope with their ignorance by pretending they are not missing much. They are missing a lot. But honestly, some people may not be ready for the experience, and to The Refectory I say, you didn't want them there anyway!

To finish, it has been nothing but stressful thinking of how to put this all into words. It is really a consistent thing for my last week or two. So to have this dining experience fit into the place that I feel I am right now, is just so, well, FITTING. And we will be returning and creating even more experiences that leave me speechless.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Porky Pink

I made something up last night!

Spinach and Spanish Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with an Maple Mustard Apple Chutney
Holy long title Batman!

Ingredients:
Pork Tenderloin sliced carefully to make flat and rollable
Bagged Baby Spinach
Grated Mahone and Roncal Cheese
salt and pepper

Chutney:
one granny smith apple, diced
2T diced onion
2T butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1t dijon mustard
1t whole grain mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
splash of milk
1 t butter

Place spinach and cheese inside pork, and roll. Use toothpicks or twine to bind, but it is not necessary. Grill on all four sides, about 4 minutes a side.

Melt butter and add apple and onion, let saute until soft. Add chicken broth to syrup and whisk. Add butter and milk to desired thickness. Place chutney over or under pork on a serving plate.

I served this with a side of sweet potato and white potato cooked in foil, also on the grill.

For dessert, Vanilla Crepes with Strawberries and Dark Chocolate Sauce. Crepe recipe is from allrecipes.com.

Vanilla Crepe
INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups milk
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons melted butter
DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, mix together the milk, egg yolks and vanilla. Stir in the flour, sugar, salt and melted butter until well blended.
Heat a crepe pan over medium heat until hot. Coat with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and tip to spread the batter to the edges. When bubbles form on the top and the edges are dry, flip over and cook until lightly browned on the other side and edges are golden. Repeat with remaining batter.
Fill crepes with your favorite fruit, cream, caramel or even ice cream or cheese to serve.

A couple tips:
-Pork is usually dry because it is overcooked. Do you KNOW how many antibiotics are in pig feed these days to prevent crazy pig borne illnesses? Lotsa. So eat your pork medium-medium well. A little pink makes things so much better!
-Find friends/dinner guests who enjoy your food and then say, "You are not doing anything else! I am cleaning it all up!" These people just come from a better ilk than other people. And they probably are very thoughtful in other ways too.
-Crepes are easy. Don't let the french fool you! They are tricky like that.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!

I feel like every July 4th for the last 6 years have been SOMETHING. Last year, it was spent with my husband, after a couple months of minimal time spent together. The year before that, it was in California. Before that, I was on my honeymoon, or at least just getting back. And always there was a bit of a struggle about going to see fireworks or not. I'm not sure why I am not always gung ho on the fireworks thing, but it has never wowed me. In fact, the owws and ahhs kinda make me laugh.

This year, it is truly an Independance Day. I did laundry, independently. I watched The Next Food Network Star Marathon, independently. I then made my standard Independent Dinner. Spaghetti, meat sauce, red wine...and I rented The Departed. Because my independent nights are generally mafia themed. Whaddaya gonna do about it??

Friday, June 29, 2007

Foods that are SCARY

Growing up, my reoccurring nightmare involved a crocodile. More specifically, the crocodile that chased Ernie in the song on the Sesame Street Album. In this song, he goes over a mountain, because "You can't go under it. Can't go through it! Gotta climb over it." And then he goes through a spooky swamp (because you can't go over or around it), where low and behold, a crocodile is lurking and then we had to RUN! Run with the speed of a gazelle!! Run or we will be EATEN! Go go go over the mountain and the grass and whatever obstacle the twisted sadist decided to put into this children's song!

I would only have the nightmare of the crocodile chasing me after drinking hot chocolate before bed. Because generally, hot chocolate was not permitted in the evenings by my mother because, "If you drink it you will have nightmares." So why, did occasionally, I get this nectar of the gods (I like to think Buddha is a Hot Chocolate Lover)? I have no idea. But indeed, it would cause nightmares.

Last night I discovered another nightmare inducing food. Similar to how after eating the Boneless Teriyaki Wings from Buffalo Wild Wings you sleep dreaming only of drinking endless amounts of water, eating Level 4 Chicken Tikka Masala from Amul India causes dreams of a Female Wellness camp that encourages wrestling matches amongst the girls. And there were colorful painted faces and costumes. One of the ladies had this interesting blue feathery outfit, with blue eye make-up.

Now how is this a nightmare? Because of my wrestling match. Oh I was good. I was dominating in my match (note: nothing sexy about this...no mud, or grease, or bikinis). Because as many know, I am indeed freakishly strong. But I got bored and just wanted it to end, so I jumped and yanked the legs of my partner, causing her to fall out of the ring and onto her neck area. I, because I jumped, was then looking down on her. And it was SAD! I really wounded this person! And I woke up, so horrified that I had caused damage to someone! So bizarre. I was shaken.

I prefer the crocodile dream. No more Indian food after 9.

The End.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Grillin'

My grill usually becomes the home for wasps. As it was all leaky at the beginning of the season, I was thinking it would be a wasp hotel yet again, but my dad in his fix-it-ness saved it!

So I have cooked a couple things out there. Last night, I did a sad hamburger for one, some sweet potatoes in foil, and thought I'd give bacon on the grill a try. Just put it in foil. And NO NO DON'T YOU TRY THIS TOO!! I don't know what happens to bacon in that environment, but it almost liquifies and then catches fire. True Story.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Marcella, I love you.

I took pictures!! How do I get the little fuckers off of my cell phone? I figure it out. They'll come soon!

Marcellas sits on High Street, in the short north with parking being my only complaint. There is a long bar along the right side of the establishment, and lacking a patio, it has a large window wall that opens up. You cannot sit outside, but you can definitely sit and hear the traffic whiz by and feel the breeze.

I am going to just list out all I love. Because I loved a lot.
1. the napkins are dish towells...the white with green stripe down the middle.
2. the placemats are maps of Italy.
3. there is a stack of appetizer plates in the middle of the table, all mismatching, just like the silverware
4. the wines come out in carafes: one glass, half bottle, and full bottle carafes
5. there are small cold plates, small hot plates, 6 cheeses and a list of meats.
6. pasta dishes that would please my father who wants to go to an Italian place and get PASTA. not ravioli, not tortellini, but spaggheti.
7. the cheeses came with TRUFFLED HONEY. This stuff was amazing!
8. the servers wear jeans and white shirts that have things on the back like "Sprinkle some parmesan on me." "EVOO" "Everybody loves an Italian Girl". And one guy had on a white snapped shirt with TEX on the chest. Yes, he was from San Antonio...because as he walked by, in true Kristy style, I read aloud what his shirt said and he turned around. Of course.
9. water did not have ice.

So our dinner was:
three cheeses: goat, buffalo mozarella, and one that starts with T that I don't remember. (started with a glass of prosecco)
fried risotto balls: these had a surprise of cheese in the middle, came with marinara to dip in. (shared a half bottle of Nebbiolo)
shrimp pesto pizza: with goat cheese and roasted tomato...good!

No dessert. But they looked interesting!

This place was busy! And it was a Tuesday. Get there at 6 and you'll get a table. But you won't get to sit by the windows. There were people lined up outside when I left at 7:45. I plan on going, oh, once a week. And if I go with my friend that I went with last night, we may get as good of a deal on the bill everytime.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Trader Joes Hates Me

I made pork tenderloin kabobs last night, and they were so incredibly excellent. I used the marinade from a Cooking Light recipe. I wanted to serve them with a fruit salsa, like a pineapple mango jalapeno chunky thang. Well Trader Joes USED to have one that was decent. So I trucked down there.

Nope.

Discontinued.

So I wung it. Winged it. Gave it a wang. :)

one chopped roma tomato.
About 1/2 cup chopped pineapple.
2T chopped red onion.
1 chopped green onion.
5 chopped jalapenos rings (from the JAR).
juice of half a lime
chopped cilantro (I like a lot)

It was perfect. Yes, perfect. And spicy! I figure this is about 2 servings worth.

Here is the marinade for the pork: (linky poo up there)
3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 1/2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

This marinade is for 8 servings. I cut it in half. It says to reserve marinade for brushing while cooking, but the pork is so tender and I think it would be marinade overkill.

Marinade Overkill...my new band name. Rock on!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Evolution of a Blog

New Cell Phone New Cell Phone! Which means, I can take photos of my food and post them on the blog.

So what did I do? I went to Scali's, and forgot to take a picture of anything except a half eaten stuffed mushroom and the bottle of wine we ordered. Nice Work Kristy. Nice Work.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Priorities

I have been planning my budget. As I am hoping to have a loan and take over the ownership of my house sometime this week, I have been trying to figure out the whole real life thing called BILLS. Basically, as long as I find a second job, I can still eat and have gas for my car. Great! Right?

Here is where my priorities come into play. Good food (i.e. not ramen, pizza rolls, hamburger helper) or television. Or more importantly, an occassional glass of wine, nice dinner, and in general keeping up my food snob habits.

Currently, I am choosing food over television. If I can actually make enough money to include the tv...well then that will be a nice addition. But it isn't a necessity.

So Friday night I stayed in, made a pizza, and watched a movie. And I had a couple beers. If I had not been saving money, I would've had some spaggheti with meatballs, Chianti, and movie. But I opted for cheese, turkey pep. and banana peppers pizza with Miller Lite. I am so responsible! And really craving that Chianti.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Buy the Chicken

If you are like me, you've looked at those roasted birds at the store and contemplated throwing them in your cart. For whatever reason, I always resisted. Since I began cooking for one, the individual birds have been the greatest purchase in my cart.

I pick it. (get about three meals worth)

I then put it into the crockpot on low for the day and gain about 10 cups of broth.

So three meals, about $2 a meal.
10 cups of broth, about $7 of boxed broth.

So I save $3 and a lot of time! And my broth is better than the box. And that chicken is damn good!

Here is my broth recipe:
one small onion
3 carrots
3 celery stalks
sprig of sage
sprig of thyme
dried herbs
salt
pepper

Chop the vegetables in larger pieces, so they strain easily. Cover with water, about 10 cups.

Last night I took the chicken and made a curry simmer. I got this recipe off of allrecipes.com.

In the recipe, it calls for uncooked chicken. The roasted chicken got so tender and good, and I simmered it for about 20 minutes. Here is the recipe the way I used it, sans chicken. It made 2 servings.

1 onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 itty bitty bay leaf
1 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pinch salt
1 T cup olive oil
water to cover
DIRECTIONS
Fry the onions in olive oil until browned. Add the cinnamon and the bay leaf. Continue stirring and add the ginger, paprika, curry powder, sugar, salt, and garlic. Continue stirring for 2 minutes. Mixture will become much like a paste.
Add chicken pieces and tomato. Add enough water to just cover the chicken. Simmer until chicken is done, about 20 minutes.

I ate this chicken with brown rice, cooked in lime juice and water, and tossed with chopped cilantro.

Monday, May 21, 2007

YumYum gets under my skin.

More on the yum yum debacle.

Sure, mayo exists in Japanese cooking. Or at least as a nice swirly decoration on the greatest sushi roll ever.

If you people SAW what the woman across from me was DOING with the yum yum, you'd be horrified and tweaked as well. I'm talking POURING it over rice, vegetable, and meat. I have to think this is NOT what the gods of Japanese chefery (I made that word up. Suck it) intended as the usage of this condiment.

If they ("they" being Morimoto on Iron Chef when he defeated Bobby Flay) get pissy when someone jumps on a cutting board, I have to think they would throw a samurai sword at your head if the mayo was poured over so excessively.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Gengi...yum yum sauce, For serious!!??

Yum Yum Sauce=Mayonnaise and Sweet Mustard

Please tell me...what Japanese recipe books includes a recipe for such a sauce? None. That is the answer. ZIPPO!

So the fact that a Japanese Steakhouse, which yes, may be an oxymoron in itself, offers such a sauce is so incredibly condescending and insulting. You crazy Americans who think it is amazing, please realize, you are putting MAYONNAISE on your asian-esque food!

I would consider myself an expert on the House of Japan cuisine. It is something I have experienced multiple times (like, lots) and it has always been the same. Soup, good. Salad, good (sometimes two salads). Chicken and Steak, very good.

At Gengi, I got the same entree. The salad tasted fine; although I like the ginger dressing at HofJ a little better. The soup, tasted like straight up beef broth, which to me can have a bit of a rodent cage flavor. Like, it tastes like a gerbil cage smells. I had a couple slurps and was done. The steak was excellent. My dining companion had the scallops and they were just fine. The chicken was a little dry. Vegetables good. Bean sprouts, fine.

Interesting note: The servers have ear pieces like they are in the frickin' Secret Service. I imagine, "We are going to need some chicken and a steak...but this girl is a BITCH, so make sure it is a crappy piece of chicken." Of course I was not the bitch in this scenario. My chicken was fine!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Vaqueros doesn't Compare-Os.

In my quest to find the perfect all around Mexican food location here in central Ohio, here is what I have found:
Salsa: Senor Antonios
Queso: Senor Antonios
Bean Dip: Vaqueros. I have not had it elsewhere...so a wee skewed.
Enchiladas: Chile Verde
Margarita: Senor Antonios...but it is EXPENSIVE/Chile Verde is good and reasonable!
Service: Chile Verde
Atmosphere and Cleanliness: Senor Antonios
Feeling that I will NOT get food poisoning: Chile Verde. (I have heard horror stories about Senor Antonios).

Vaqueros in Dublin Center was 'meh' to say the least. I ordered something different than I normally do to go along with my whole "try new things" thing. So I got the Yucatan Chicken, which had a large portion of vegetables and small portion of CRAPPY CRAPPY chicken. Like, chicken parts. With funny shapes and tendons running through them. I put it all to the side. And still did not eat all of my meal. Maybe they could put the shredded chicken in it next time?

There was salsa on the walls. And they sat us by the kitchen, where I could see servers pull of squares of toilet paper and blow their noses. Nice, huh?

I'll end it with that lovely visual.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I'll take irresistable things that end in O, Alex.

The Daily DOUBLE!!

I'll bet my ability to grade essays and urge to spank people.

The answer: When consumed together, these two food items seem to be impossible to stop consuming.

What are Risotto and Prosecco!

Correct!

(And the result: I couldn't stop eating this amazing risotto I made which included garlic, shallot and onion, as well as roasted chicken that I tossed in pesto before mixing into the saute pan. And an entire bottle of prosecco went bye-bye. Oh. And I wacked TJ in the ass when he was standing in the kitchen. And then just laughed. Yes, he knew I was drunk. I'm a delight! I'm sure at that moment he knew he was making a huge mistake...joke. Obviously.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Overthinking It

When you think as much as I do, it is so difficult to not think. Just put things in your mouth, just walk around the neighborhood, just watch tv. Everything is fairly planned out. Incredibly intentional. And moments that are unintentional, that are done with little thought, generally cause regret. "Why did I do that!" "Boy I wasted time there." "What a waste of money!"

Some people regret eating things, usually because of the quantity. Or the contents. I regret eating things that I really didn't want and the fact that there was something I wanted more. Or I could've had something even better. So I live in fear that what I am eating, isn't the absolute best choice. This is why I plan my dinner at 9am.

It has to do with what might spoil. What I could then use the next day. What would be good leftovers. What I might eat later in the week.

We were discussing OCD last night. It to me includes cleanliness, but I think I may be a little food OCD. Standing in front of a spread of appetizers and munchies at a party, I must scan the whole table, weigh the possibilities, feel the air for a breeze, check my taste buds, and then choose ever so carefully.
-That cheese is too big
-That chip will break in that dip...need a smaller chip.
-Brocolli floret is too big, carrot too boring, grape tomato too squishy
-That dip is cold now
-If I dip that stick-lookin-thing into that sauce, I'll want more sauce and that stick is too long. I can't double dip! I just met these people!
-In order to get to that piece of pineapple, I must move that large watermellon piece.
-This thing has too much dough, not enough filling
-Beer and Brownies?? I'm not ready for sweets.
-Pigs in a blanket? Really?
-Bowl Of Nuts...I call those "Poop Nuts". Just like the "Poop Mints" in the bowl at restaurants.

All of these thoughts, in the time it takes to wiggle my fingers as I'm trying to choose. Impressive. Insane.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Chile Verde: Spanish for Green Spicy Sauce

My dinner event last night included one of my most favorite things in the whole entire world. That would be MEXICAN food and margaritas! In the aftermath of my insane spring, there are multiple things I am thankful for. To repeat things: sleeping with the windows open, cooking whatever I want just for me, using onions willy-nilly, trying new restaurants and one of my most thankfullnessed things is EATING MEXICAN FOOD! Next week I'll get to blog about El Vaquero, but for now, I am blogging Chile Verde, a Mexican restaurant in a strip mall. And it has been there for a very long time.

Three of us ate and drank for 55 bucks. We had a beer and a pitcher of margaritas, as well as three entrees. The menu consisted of fairly standard fare. C.V. is known for their green sauce (Chile Verde) and it is very good, but some find it spicy. Me, notsomuch. One neat thing about their "Pick your combo" option--seen on most menus of this ethnic genre--on the menu is there are the usual: burrito, enchilada, chimichanga, and then there are chile relenos and crab cakes! One of my dining partners chose a crab cake, and she did not share a bite with me...shame!!!! It was a nice sized cake, looked good and crabby...but that is all I can say about that.

The second entree ordered was the grilled fajita burrito. It comes with a queso sauce, which is excellent. The beef is sliced and flavored, seemingly marinated, and very tender. Great choice and as this particular dining partner is known for announcing, "Now I have lunch for tomorrow" after most dining events, indeed there was enough for lunch the next day.

I chose two enchiladas. One shredded beef and one chicken. The chicken was cubed, not shredded, and seasoned with a tomato like substance. Beef was great and beefy. The green sauce was noticeable, but I would've preferred less cheese on top and more sauce. I wasn't in a rice mood, so I chose the sauteed vegetables which were outstanding! I really only order fajitas for those veggies, and here I got them along with the standard menu accompaniment of pinto beans (NOT refried beans).

It is the norm for complete and utter STUFFING at mexican restaurants. I tried not to STUFF myself, but I finished my whole meal nonetheless. This is by far one of my favorite restaurants for mexican fare in Columbus, and I can't wait to compare El Vaquero next week. Chile Verde, I can already say, has a much smaller menu, but like I said about La Tavola, it means they do everything right...or at least have a better chance to!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Claddaugh: Irish for Overpriced Salads

I went to Claddaugh last night with friends. I hate complaining about restaurants that I attend with friends because I don't want to be a negative nelly. And in no way is it a reflection on the company I dined with.

My complaints about Claddaugh?
prices
grilled chicken in my salad was suspect
dressing pairing on the salad menu were bizarre-o

That's all. Their patio is nice, but bugs were amok (pronounced: a muck...I bet you didn't know that was the spelling of that word). Despite the bugs, there was the requisite old guy with three guys around him who in turn bought our whole table a round of drinks.

I giggle at myself, because I chose my salad based on the goat cheese. There was also sun-dried tomato and pine nuts. Here is the weirdness: Tarragon Mustard dressing. huh? What part of those ingredients makes you think a thick mustard dressing is appropriate? And the mustard was good with the creepy chicken, but didn't really match up with the goat and sun. I ordered a second dressing, because I am high maintenance like that, of maple vinegrette and it was much more suitable for this salad.

My advice...order an appetizer. Cheaper, although still overpriced, but the amount of food is sufficient.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tips for the 'Ginners

As in BEginners.

1. pans/pots on the stove, hot and empty, for too long, will scorch, smoke, and ruin the pan/pot.
2. adding oil to a too hot pan/pot will cause a fire or splatter burns
3. mushrooms should be cooked in minimal liquids, or they taste weird. IF they carmelize and let go of their OWN juices, it tastes substantially better.
4. burnt garlic is G-ROSS. Sautee intelligently in enough oil, or often WITH something else to prevent burnt, bitter, barlic. (b's hee hee)
5. don't move your meat too much.
6. the more you cut into your meat, the more juices are lost and flavor goes buh-bye too.
7. the broiler is an excellent tool! It keeps the smoke and smell of using a grill pan to a minimum, as it is cooked within the stove.

Some things I learned recently:
1. Wooden cutting boards should be washed/submerged. Otherwise, getting them wet only in ONE part will cause the cracking and warping.
2. Indeed, Calphalon should NOT be put into the dishwasher. It ruins the calphalon coating, and then they DIE!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Food Plan!

Here is where I think I am going this week with my foods:
1. Meatballs from the freezer
2. Trader Joe's Pizza dough, fashioned into some sort of pizza. Maybe with chicken?
3. Happy Hour scheduled at Claddaugh Irish Pub.
4. Shrimp with Pesto Risotto
5. Fajitas!

Last night I tossed together a Tuna Orzo salad for my lunch. It looks beautiful! My goal this week is to use up some things in the freezer. So I grocery shopped last night, only buying a red onion, grape tomatoes, and basil. I used leftover orzo, a can of white tuna, red onion (about 1/4 of the onion, sliced), a handful of grape tomatoes, quartered, chopped red pepper, two large basil leaves (chiffonade), red wine vinegar and about 1 T of olive oil. I think it will be two servings. In the tupperware container, it looks even cooler, as I placed the serving atop a bed of baby spinach leaves.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Jason's

And no. It is not the name of the guy's house I stayed at last night. Jason's is a restaurant in Dublin, on High Street, near some other faves: Tuccis, Brazenhead, and now a La Chatelaine. It is a funky place, with an asian fare and an italian fare section on the menu. I have indeed tried some of the asian dishes, and they are excellent. Still have not ventured to the italian side. Although, last night we came close.

My dinner companion and I started with the Flirtini. And no, it was not the girliest drink on the menu. They had a whole section of what could be boat drinks. Even with a boat drink glass. Their Flirtini is made with Raspberry Vodka, not Chambord, so we were a bit surprised when it was not pink. We both looked at it a little suspiciously. I even smelled it first. In essence, it is Raspberry Stoli, Pineapple, and Champagne. Easily could put me under in 5 minutes flat if I didn't sip and ordered 5.

We followed the martini with an order of spinach dip with garlic toast points (not chips) and a bottle of Pouilly Fuse. We were splurging. The spinach dip was excellent, seemed a little lacking in the spinach, actually. But often, that would be preferred for people.

After the dip and the bottle, we moved onto a Margherita pizza, which was super fresh and great, and fried calamari. Calamari was prepared perfectly, dipping sauces were k-rappy. There was an aioli which was really more of a dijon mustard and dill sauce. The red sauce was a cocktail sauce. Weird. So we commented on the abundance of mustard and our server brought out a new dipping bowl, which still tasted like mustard. But she also brought a hoison barbecue, and it was much preferred! Kudos to her and the chef for noticing two people with excellent taste and recommending something new and even better. It probably helped that we ordered a SECOND bottle of wine. This time, it was a Pinot Noir from Oregon.

The wine prices here are not great. The Pouilly was $20 MORE(!!) than it was at Thom's in Grandview. And to think around the corner is Tuccis and that conglomerate who charge only $5 over retail. I can't imagine upcharging and surviving.

I also can't imagine drinking two bottles of wine again tonight and surviving. So since it is Cinco de Mayo, it will be margaritas bitches!

Friday, May 04, 2007

(La) Tavola on the River...

...the dirty river, that is indeed a little green. But from afar it could be called picturesque.

Actually, I never even ventured to look over the railing and see if the river was indeed in view. Next time, I will make a point to go check it out. Ambiance was awesome. Deck/Patio was busy. I can't believe I had never been out there before!

"Next time". That is what I like to call, "foreshadowing." From the usage of this foreshadowing it is implied that indeed the restaurant was a winner and deserving of a second visit. It helps that their new menu starts TODAY.

Their menu is one page, no back, separated into sections of (and this is my language, not theirs): Appetizers, Pizzas, First Course Pastas, Meal Like Pastas, and Proteins. There is a Tapas menu, which is quite small and seems to change daily. This Italian restaurant could freak out the plebians, as the choices are not lengthy, but honestly, that just means they can't skimp or half ass on something. I appreciate that. But it also raises the expectations.

As in my real life, I am attempting to have no expectations; I am uping the ante on the food life expectations. Oh they're high! For example, I think restaurants need to be doing a "bite" from the chef. Something not on the menu. Something to give you an idea of the kind of head a chef has. Where his allegiances lay. La Tavola's chef likes fennel and tomato based sauces. If I wanted to get this across, perhaps a bite sized brushcetta with a tomato and italian sausage bite would've gotten that across.

Onto the description of dinner:
We began with a large portion of the steamed mussels, in a tomato broth with the usual toasted bread accompaniment. The mussels were cooked perfectly; however, I am not really a tomato broth fan. It wasn't that the broth was poor, because it was good for dipping bread in. But the acidity just does something to the flavors of the mussel and it just isn't the same as a more butter based "broth". And this goes for any seafood, for me. Not sure what it is about my palatte that I just don't care for it. Before this mussel experience, I don't recall the last time I had mussels or especially mussels with tomato sauce, so I was wanting to try it again. There I go with the whole "try something new" thing.

Choosing an entree was difficult. As this winter was the Winter of Gnocchi, I've been wanting to try a gnocchi from a professional, to see where mine measures up. So I went with a Gnocchi dish, with a cream sauce featuring pancetta and artichokes. The dish was baked off, so it was bubbling, and if you recall my hot food thing (some might call it neurotic), I liked this a lot! Luckily, I had a dining partner that could help me finish this off. It was excellent, but as in most Italian places, a large portion. So how do my gnocchis compare? Lets just say I was giving myself little high fives in my head. Texture was dead on. And in the future, screw the ridges from a fork. If the Tavola chef doesn't roll his over something to give it grooves, I sure as hell am not either.

On the other side of the table (I love the mystery of "who is over there?"), the tortellini filled with pork and some other meat, was ordered. It had that tomato broth again, but with the meat filled torts, it worked. Here is where the fennel came out a bit too much for my taste. But it is my problem, really, as I can see how many would like it. The tortellinis were HUGE and obviously handmade, and I SO appreciate this and look forward to trying maybe a ravioli or other unique tortellini there in the future.

Dessert. Tiramisu. Dry. Sorry guys, it wasn't that great. I'm a fan of the lady fingers having an obvious soakage of coffee liqueur. This one didn't. And there was a lemon flavor there.

And onto the drinks! Madonna Montepulciano. Described as a dark cherry with spice, and it drank very much like a red Zinfandel. Which I love me some Red Zin, and I especially like it with Italian food. It drank smoothly, maybe too smoothly...but honestly, who says that? Too smoothly? "Oh yea, it went down perfectly, but I wish it hadn't so I didn't enjoy it so much." I hate that.

And if you go, Kali rocked. She was our server and was just all peppy and pleasant. And when I ordered, she said I was "so smart" and picked the best thing. Ha! I win!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Another Example of my Selfishness

Wonder why I do not take photos? Wish I had a picture of that Creamy Chicken weirdness? Wish you could see my skills in colorful creations and presentation? Oh I've got skills!

But I am more hungry and unwilling to delay my personal pleasure for your pretty picture desires.

Last night I made an awesome Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Orzo. And it was purrty! There was red, green, browns (from balsalmic vinegar) and whites. It would've made an excellent photo. But I want my food hot; I want to eat all of my food; I take extreme pride in making the perfect amount without much measuring and the whole photo process takes up precious-get it while its hot-time.

Like I said, I'm a little crazy!

Here is the recipe from my dinner. I'm actually the author of this one.
Sun Dried Tomato Balsalmic Chicken Orzo
servings: 1 Kristy Sized Portion

1 6 ounce chicken breast
2 T balsalmic vinegar
1 large garlic clove (halved)
3 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
2T sliced sun dried tomatoes in oil
1 Trader Joes basil cube (frozen)
1/2 T butter
1 cup orzo
2.5 cups broth
1 cup fresh baby spinach

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Combine chicken, half minced garlic clove, and vinegar. Set aside.

Melt butter and saute other half of garlic, minced. Add orzo and toast. Add broth, boiling, stirring, until pasta is done. Remove orzo.

Coat pan as you like (olive oil, spray, whatever). Pour chicken and marinade into pan and cook. Add mushrooms. Add sun dried tomato. Add basil cube. When cooked, add orzo and combine. Add spinach and heat up, but try not to overwilt. Season with parmesan cheese.