Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Different Meal

Now its time for a BREAKFAST recipe! Can ya stand the excitement!?

Ok, so I am a fan of making breakfasts. I can do all different styles of eggs: omelets, scrambled, over easy, sunny side up....except for poached...but soon I WILL master that one!

But this is was I made in the meantime...

~Extreme Breakfast Sammich~
2 slices bread
2 eggs
2 strips of bacon
1 tbsp. goats cheese, softened
1-2 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

Pre-heat a med. sized skilled over med. heat. Toast bread in toaster. Cook the eggs, over easy, in the skillet, once done remove from pan and season with salt and pepper. Keeping the pan over the heat, cook the bacon until it reachers your preferred doneness. Once toast is done, spread the goats cheese in a thin layer on each side. Top one side of the toast with the 2 eggs, and other other side with the sun-dried tomatoes. Once the bacon is done, drain on a paper towel and place over the eggs. Bring the two slices of bread together to form a sandwich, slice and serve with fruit. 

This one was a hit with the Hubby! He likes new a creative things with his breakfasts...and I sure LOVE making them for him! Another one that he liked was an omelet with leftover veggies (peppers, onions, zucchini), parmesan cheese, and Cholula Hot Sauce. Served with bacon and OJ. 

Be creative! I think next time a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning comes around, I am going to make some sweet potato hash browns or skillet hash...who knows!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

RR - The Pit...


So, when the Hubby and I randomly decided to make a trip up to Raleigh, NC, we needed a place to eat dinner. I had heard of, and even walked by, this place...I think I walked by because it looked closed, or it was an off hour or somethings...little did I know what was inside!

Where we went: We had dinner at THE PIT BBQ. The Pit was started by Ed Mitchell and he specializes in whole hog pit-cooked barbeque. His restaurant has become known in the Raleigh area as one that servers tasty spins on classic southern dishes.

What we had: To start out the meal, we ordered some drinks. Hubby had a seasonal brew and I had some hard cider by the brand name of Original Sin. I like me a good ol' cider every now and then. This one was good, not too sweet. We were also brought a little basket of "munchies" that contained small biscuits and what I believe were hushpuppies. They were alright...slighly over breaded and a little bit too crisp...but man were they good when dipped in the BBQ sauce that was on the table.

Hubby chose the BBQ Ribs for his meal and his sides were cole slaw and sweet potato fries. I decided to stay light, and because I am a sucker for sweet potatoes and cornbread, I had the sweet potato skillet corn bread.

What we thought: The food was okay...with the exception of the ribs. They were very yummy, tangy, and moist. Fall off the bone good, in the NC barbeque style. Not a saucy, lick-your-fingers type, but a good clean tangy rib. If there is one thing the Pit does well, it is the meat. The sides were okay...the coleslaw needed more sauce and more tang, the sweet potato fries were just that...fries. Hubby was served quite a lot of I was stealing some of course! The sweet potato skillet cornbread? It sounded a lot better than it was. I wish it was served with honey! (I didn't ask for any though...) I was served with a maple butter that could have used more maple flavor. The bread was moist and it did taste like sweet potatoes, but it confirmed for me that the two should be kept separate. You eat cornbread to taste corn, and you have sweet potatoes for their unique flavor.

Overall: 3 out of 5 Yums!
I would really like to go back and taste more meat. There was a menu option that I did not try, and looking back on it I should have, but it had something to do with chicken, barbeque, brie cheese and what not...but I thought it would be a little bit too much food. Oh well, now I know! But I would for sure like to sample more of their meat offerings...I feel like that is the star of the restaurant. Bring on the MEAT!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Grillin' Action

I got to fire up the GRILL a few weeks ago! Just a simple supper...nothing too fancy, but, when its done on the grill, it seems so much more special!

Just some sweet Italian turkey sausage and green beans. I tossed the beans with some garlic, salt, pepper, and onion powder. Then I put them on a small baking sheet and grilled them next to the sausage. T'was yummy!!

I had some time this week to edit other pictures besides food-related ones! Here is a sample: can you guess where it is from? Probably not...oh well, it looks cool!

NEWS: Stay tuned for a few restaurant reviews from a recent trip the Hubbs and I took to Raleigh, NC! Great time, great reads!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dream Kitchen!!

I am going to start a list of the products and things that I would someday like to have in my kitchen. Some I may already have, some I dream of having....gotta get my own kitchen first right? *smiles*

So, here goes:

  • Knives: 8-inch cooks knife, 14-inch chefs knife, 4-inch paring knife, 10-inch serrated bread knife, flexible knife, boning knife
  • KitchenAid artisan stand mixer
  • Tongs: Various sizes, nylon heads so as not to scratch nonstick cookware
  • Mandoline
  • Silpat baking sheets
  • Immersion blender
  • Food processor
  • High-powered blender
  • Wok
  • Salad spinner
  • AccuSharp knife sharpener
  • Pots/Pans/Skillets: 2 and 4 qt. saucepans, 8, 10, and 12 in. skillets, 2 or 3 qt. sauté pan, 6.5 qt. stockpot w/ strainer
  • Large cast-iron skillet
  • Steamer
  • Dutch oven
  • Pyrex measuring bowls
  • Pyrex baking dishes
  • Roasting Pans
  • Olive oil turrets 
  • Fish spatula 
  • Set of high-end steak knives
  • Scale
  • French Press
  • Electric Juicer
  • Stainless Steel mixing bowls
  • Kitchen Scissors 
  • Glass Batter Bowl
  • Sifter

Here some other fun things that I think would give my kitchen some flair and character!

"Unzipped" glass bag container

Babushkups Glasses - Just too cute!

Half-pint Glass Creamer

Storage bottles w/ stopper tops

Chatterbox Nibbles dish - Remember paper fortune tellers??

Stitched Recipe Box Dishtowel - too cute, just for looks *wink wink*

Peacock Dinnerware - I LOVE peacocks, again, more for looks
SoHo Spices Lg. Spice Board - 
Nice sleek way to store spices. Can't decide if I would put it inside a cupboard or display out in the open...

Veggie (tomato & onion) and Fruit (kiwi & orange) cutting boards/trivets
Cute and fun, and dual purpose!

Produce bags - you can wash fruit and veggies in the bags! and store them in there as well! 

50 Healthy magnets - quick reference guide for healthy snack and food choices!

Kitchen Pencils - Fun kitchen related sayings, cool stuff!

Peel and Stick Chalkboard -
I want one of these in my kitchen area to do a menu/grocery list thingy

MN Marvels Dishtowel - Gotta represent my home state!

Am I My Herb's Keeper? - Great way to store herbs!

Sponge Gloves - I would like to see how these work...if they do, it would be awesome!

Sili Gourmet Honey Jar - Very sleek and stylish look

Just a few of the fun things and gadgets that I would like to have in my future kitchen! I have not even considered furniture/appliances yet! Yikes! Tehehe!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Couscous Experiments

I tried cooking a new grain! COUSCOUS. It is made from semolina wheat and wheat flour. The flour is moistened and rolled into small spherical shapes.

There are different varieties of couscous and the specific one that I used in this recipe was Israeli Couscous, which is a larger, baked wheat couscous-like product similar to the Italian orzo. So it ends up being more like a pasta versus a rice in texture and taste.

Anywhos....on the the recipe!

~Israeli Couscous w/ Dried Fruit~
(adapted from Food Network Magazine)
2 c. Israeli couscous
2 1/2 c. boiling water + 2 tbsp.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. cranberries*
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1 tsp. chopped parsley

In a med stock pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over med. heat. Add couscous and toast, until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Once toasted, add boiling water (I heated mine in the microwave). Stir to combine. Simmer, covered for 5-7 min. or until a majority of the water is absorbed. Turn off heat, cover and let sit for 5 min. Meanwhile, in a med. skillet heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over med-high heat. Sauté onion with cinnamon until golden. Add the cranberries* and 2 tbsp. water and cook for 2 min. Once the sautee and the couscous are both done, combine them together and add the almonds, parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

*Feel free to use whatever fruit you have on hand. The original recipe called for raisins, but since I did not have them, I used cranberries. I have heard that apricots are also good in this dish.

Something that I really liked about this one was that they used cinnamon when sauteeing the onions! I think I am going to try and incorporate that into some other dishes that I like, just to give them a little bit of flair!!

I served this with some shrimp that I just baked in the oven at 375 F. and seasoned with some classic Old Bay to give them a kick. Of course, some lemon juice was squeezed over the top before eating!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sweet Sweetness

Dessert time ahead!

I had the opportunity to make some desserts! I made them for a friend of the Hubby...and found out that Rice Krispie Bars were a favorite, so those were made, along with another variety, Scotcheroos.

~Easy Rice Krispie Bars~
(can be found on most rice krispie cereal boxes; slightly adapted)
4 tbsp. butter, cubed
1 10 oz. bag marshmallows, about 40
2 tsp. vanilla
6 c. rice krispie cereal

In a large pot, big enough to hold the 6 c. of cereal, melt the butter over low heat. Once melted, add the marshmallows, stir regularly until completely melted. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and stir to combine. Add the cereal and stir until evenly coated with marshmallow mixture. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 in. pan. Let cool. 

The Scotcheroos recipe can be found here. They have the addition of peanut butter in with the rice krispies, and over the top is spread a mixture or semi-sweet chocolate chips and butterscotch chips, i.e. Scotcheroos.

Ooooh! I also got myself a treat too! I went to Fresh Market and got some Toffe-Chocolate Covered Pretzels. I loves me some chocolate covered pretzels! White or Milk, it makes no difference, but these ones had toffee bits sprinkled on top, and boy-o-boy do I like toffee! Perfect salty-sweet combo. If you ever get a chance to try them, do! I think I might research a recipe, cant be to hard, or experiment for myself to make some at home! Yeah!!  Now I just need an appointment to make them for.....


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Warning!! Rant Time!!

Time for a little rant....

So, as many of my family and friends know, I like Starbucks. I think some might say that "like" is a slight understatement. I may be an addict. I really do like it, and only for one reason: the Frapuccinos. NOBODY can make them the same way as they do at Starbucks. As far as I am concerned, they have that market cornered. Don't get me wrong, I have tried various "Frapps" at other local coffee shops. If I want an iced latte, I have no issues with going to the "local blend" if you will, its a basic coffee drink that all baristas should have mastered. But the Frappuccino: thats a whole nother beast onto itself.

So, enter Starbucks, my biggest love and biggest frustration when it comes to coffee shops.
Here is why: There is no consistency!
Let me explain, so take the new format for the Frapps. They consist of about 5 elements

  1. Coffee/Espresso Base
  2. Milk
  3. Ice
  4. Frappe syrup
  5. Flavoring
These are the elements that make up a Frappe. The only two that are ALWAYS consistent are the ice and the coffee base. The other elements can change. There are two major varities of the Frappe that are standard: the normal, and the light. The normal has whole or 2% milk, regular syrup, and whipped cream. The light has skim milk, light syrup, and no whipped cream (unless otherwise specified). The other milk option is soy milk. The flavoring syrup is all the same.

Now, to me this seems simple, the difference between the regular and the light Frappes. If you have that down, memorized, you shouldn't mess up right? Wrong!! There are so many times that I have ordered a LIGHT Frappe and I would not get a truly light Frappe, what I would get would be one of 4 options:

  1. A regular Frappe
  2. A whole milk, light syrup Frappe
  3. A skim milk, regular syrup Frappe
  4. A light Frappe
It is really annoying. I can tell the difference between the milk. I know when they have used whole or 2% because it is so much thicker. The syrup is harder to tell. Sometimes I can and sometime I cannot. It just drives me nuts when I order a LIGHT and I do not get it.

To avoid this, I rarely go through the drive through. I am the person who orders inside and tries to keep track of her drink. I make sure they used skim, and the light syrup. I also try to tell them before the drink is blended up. Then its not wasted. When I ask them to use skim if they don't I say "excuse me, can I get it with skim...I ordered a light" the same goes for the syrup. One time I watched a gal make it, but I couldn't say anything due to the location and the amount of people there. So, when she brought over the drink to me...I asked, "Are the lights made with light syrup?" She said "yes", and I said "I ordered a light (It said so on the cup) and you just made it with regular syrup" Basically she was like, did I and I said yes, and she remade the drink. I felt bad doing that, but I am a customer, and Starbucks is a customer based company, based off of customer I have a right to get what I want right? I like it because I like the flavor...and the coffee...and the fact that I cannot recreate it.

Phew!! It felt good to get this off my shoulders! Please don't take this the wrong way...I just want to get what I order, thats all! I still LOVE my Starbucks!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Late-Night Dinner Post

Here was the menu for Tuesday of this past week:

BBQ Chicken (w/ BBQ sauce bought in Napa Valley  :-)
Garlicky Broccoli
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Easy, good, and healthy comfort food! Here are the recipes....

For the Chicken, I basically just put a few breasts in a pan, seasoned them with salt and pepper, covered them in some BBQ sauce and baked them at 375 for about 45 min.

~Roasted Rosemary Potatoes~
9-10 New Potatoes, washed
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp crushed rosemary
2 tsp. garlic salt
2 tsp. onion powder

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the the potatoes into uniform cubes and place in a med. bowl. Pour olive oil over potatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle with rosemary, garlic salt, onion powder, and a pinch or so of pepper. Toss to combine. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 15-20 min. or until potatoes are golden brown around edges and are fork tender. Serve warm. 

~Garlicky Broccoli~
(recipe from Men's Health Magazine)
1 tbsp. minced baby carrot
1 tbsp. minced red onion
2 tsp. canola oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger*
1 8 oz. bag broccoli florets, cut into bite sized chunks
1-2 tbsp. hot water

In a skillet, combine carrot, onion, oil, garlic, ginger, and salt to taste. Cook, stirring, over low heat 3 min. Add broccoli and stir to coat with seasonings. Add water and cover pan. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1-2 min. or until broccoli are done. Add more water if necessary. Serve warm.

*I did not have any ginger on hand, so I omitted it here.

The broccoli recipe was good. I have come to like additions to cook broccoli. So far my favorites have been carrots and mushrooms. I wish this recipe was a tad bit more garlicky though...maybe more garlic next time? I think so!

Just an FYI I did not cook at all the rest of the week. Thursday we had a potential "hurricane" pass close to our area. We decided to have a little impromptu hurricane party. Needless to say, drinks were had and dinner was just a "get what you want" ordeal. Then on Friday, the Hubby got off work early and we went downtown to a restaurant called Sahara's Pita's & Subs. I was bummed that I forgot my camera because I wanted to do a review! Oh well, maybe next time!



Thursday, September 2, 2010

Simple Fish Dinner

Dinner from Monday of this week. Red Snapper fillets and brown rice with peas and tomatoes. Simple, easy, tasty.

~Baked Snapper w/ Crumb Topping~
2 lg. Red Snapper fillets, thawed
1/2 c. bread crumbs
Various Herbs*

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, herbs (*I used italian seasoning, onion powder, and garlic powder). Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and place snapper fillets on it, skin-side down. Season each fillet generously with salt and pepper. Coat each fillet generously with the bread crumb mixture. Place in oven and bake for 15-30 min. depending on the thickness of the fillets (mine were really thick), or until fish flakes and is no longer translucent. Remove from oven and serve with sliced lemons. 

For the rice I just cooked up some instant brown rice, added some butter, salt, pepper, and some cooked peas. I also baked some tomatoes along side the fish in the oven for a few min, until they popped, and then served them with the rice. (Trying to get rid of them, we have a lot.)

The fish was good, it tasted like fish. The bread crumbs were a little crumb-y if ya know what I mean. I think next time I am going to put a little less bread crumbs, pan sear it before hand, then finish it off in the oven. Now I know what to do for next time!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

BBQ Chicken Taco Party

Tacos are a great party/hosting food. They are easy, that are tasty, and people can have exactly what they want! On Saturday night the Hubbs and I were planning to go over to another good couples house and grill. While planning things out, word got spoken that I was a good cook, so I was asked to cook. I got SO EXCITED!! I like love to cook and entertain! (even if I am prepping all the ingredients at home, bringing them to another house, and then cooking) Hummmm....potential business venture there?? Maybe??

Wanting to keep things spicy and different. The Hubbs and I decided on doing chicken instead on steak. The tacos were accompined by a grilled asparagus and prosciutto appetizer, tortilla chips with homemade salsa and guacamole, and steamed peppers and onions. Other toppings were; grated Manchego cheese and sour cream. The meal ended with grilled peaches on grilled cinnamon-sugar tortillas with sweetened sour cream.

Phew! Think I took advantage of having a grill? I think so! Here are the recipes:

~Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus w/ Lemon~
(Recipe from Serious Eats)
1 Bunch asparagus, washed, tough ends snapped off
4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto*
1 lemon, zested and cut in half
Olive Oil
Black Pepper

Wrap each asparagus spear in 1 slice of prosciutto, or 1/2 slice if the slices are large (or asparagus are small). Place on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the asparagus, and season with black pepper to taste. Preheat a gill to high heat. Place lemon halves, cut side down, and the asparagus on the grill. Cook asparagus until tender and prosciutto crisps, about 3-5 min. per side. Cook lemon halves until lightly browned, about 2-3 min. Remove asparagus from grill. Immediately squeeze the lemon halves over them, and sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve hot or at room temp. 

*I used 8 oz. of prosciutto and I halved each slice. I also used about 2-3 asparagus per roll because they were small and there were a lot in the bunch I got.

~Fresh Tomato Salsa~
(Recipe from Simply Recipes)
2-3 med sized fresh tomatoes, stems removed, seeded, and finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced 
1 jalapeno chili pepper, stems, ribs, and seeds removed, finely diced
1 serano chili pepper, stems, ribs, and seeds removed, finely diced
1 lime, juiced
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped 

Chop the tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. Place in a med bowl. Prep the chilies. Be careful while handling the peppers. Avoid touching anything else with your hands afterwards until they have been washed thoroughly with soap and hot water. The seeds can be saved and added later if the salsa is not hot enough. Just a few at a time though. Combine the chilies, lime juice, salt, and pepper in the same bowl as the tomatoes. Stir to combine. Let sit for at least 1 hr. Stir before serving. Makes about 2-3 cups.

~Essential Guacamole~
(Recipe from Serious Eats)
4-5 ripe Haas avocados
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 dashes Tabasco
1/2 c. red onion, finely diced
1-2 lg. garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2-3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped (from a jar w/ water) 

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Immediately add the lemon juice, Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the sun-dried tomatoes. Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes enough for 4 adults.

I had to alter this one to get the exact flavor I was looking for. The Tabasco, lemon, and sun-dried tomatoes add wonderful flavor. I  added more chopped garlic, garlic salt, and a little more Tabasco.

~Beer-Marinated Chicken Tacos w/ Onions & Peppers~
(Recipe from Serious Eats)
1 c. dark Mexican beer, I used Dos Equis Amber
2 tbsp. dark sesame oil
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper*
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8-12 taco sized corn tortillas 
1 lg. yellow onion sliced into rings
1 red, yellow, and green pepper, cut into strips

Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together in a small bowl. Place the chicken breasts in a large Ziplock bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag, remove as much air as possible, and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 2 hours to overnight. Remove chicken from the refrigerator and preheat a grill to high. Place the peppers on double-layered tinfoil. Season with salt and pepper, and roll up into a package. Do the same for the onions. Place peppers and onions on grill, away from direct flame, about 7-8 min. before chicken. Turn foil package occasionally. Grill chicken until fully cooked and browned on both sides, about 4-5 min. per side. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5 min. Check peppers and onions, they are done when steam comes out of the package and both are soft. While chicken is resting, warm tortillas on the grill until pliable, about 1 min. per side. Cut chicken into thin strips.
To assemble, place a tortilla on a plate and top with guacamole, add chicken, peppers, onions, salsa, cheese and sour cream, or whatever toppings you wish. Wrap up and eat!

*I did not have cayenne pepper so I used some dried hot mexican chilies

This seems like a lot, but it was very doable for someone willing to put in the effort! I made the salsa ahead of time, and also marinated the chicken for about 3-4 hours. Everything was prepped before we went over to our friends house. All I had to do was cook!

Now, on to dessert!

~Grilled Peaches w/ Cinnamon-Sugar Tortillas & Sweetened Sour Cream~
(Peach recipe from Martha Stuart - Tortilla recipe from SAB)
4 peaches
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 c. sour cream
3 tbsp. brown sugar
4 flour tortillas
Spreadable butter
Cinnamon-sugar mixture

Mix sour cream and brown sugar together in a small bowl. Half and pit the peaches; brush both sides with butter, set aside. Preheat grill to med-low. Spread each tortilla with butter and sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon-sugar. Place peaches and tortillas on grill. Cook peaches until charred and softened, 4-5 min. per side. Heat the tortillas until the cinnamon-sugar bubbles and caramelizes, and the bottoms are brown, about 4 min. Remove both from grill. Place a tortilla on a plate. Slice 1 peach, two halves, and place on top of the tortilla. Spoon seasoned sour cream over top, and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon-sugar. Serve warm.

This was a very yummy and light dessert. I have been wanting to grill some other fruit besides pineapple. Maybe next time i'll grill some bananas? Who knows! I hope you can try some of these recipes for yourself!