Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful.....


As a kid, I don't think I fully understood Thanksgiving. What asked what I was thankful for one year, I said my dog. As a teenager, I don't think I ever said I was thankful for my family (I was rebellious). But now as an adult, living on my own, I'm thankful a lot of things- my family, friends, job, and my inner strength.
This year has been rough. Moving, breaking up, getting a job and in the beginning it all seemed so hard. I didn't know if I would make it sometimes, but I pushed through with the help of friends and family.
And while today, I will be working and missing from my family's table. I will be at a friends. Plus, a coworker and I are bringing in dinner for the people on duty. It won't be a feast by any means, but it is something. More than nothing.
I'm making my famous Upside-Down Butterscotch Apple Sour Cream Cake. I made it 2 years ago and was a huge hit among friends and family. I hope it will be the same here.

Upside-Down Butterscotch Apple Sour Cream Cake
(Bon Appetit)

Cake
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup baker's sugar (superfine sugar) or regular sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

Butterscotch-caramel apples

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup butterscotch morsels
2 8-ounce Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

For cake:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until blended. Beat in flour mixture, then sour cream. Stir in chopped apple. Set aside while preparing butterscotch-caramel apples.

For butterscotch-caramel apples:
Melt butter in 10-inch-diameter nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add brown sugar and butterscotch morsels; stir until melted and smooth and mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes. Add apple slices to skillet and cook until golden brown, using tongs to turn slices, about 3 minutes per side (there will be a lot of liquid in skillet). Remove skillet from heat and let cool 3 minutes. Using tongs, arrange apple slices in skillet in concentric circles or other pattern.

Carefully spoon cake batter in small dollops atop apples in skillet. Using offset spatula, gently spread batter evenly to edges of skillet (batter will seem to float on top of apples and pan juices). Bake until cake is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in skillet 10 minutes. Run knife around edges of cake to loosen. Place large platter atop skillet. Using oven mitts or pot holders, hold platter and skillet firmly together and invert, allowing cake to settle onto platter. Serve cake warm.

Monday, November 10, 2008

No 60 minute Thanksgiving dinners...


I'm sorry to disappoint Ms. Rachael Ray, but her 60 minute Thanksgiving dinner took almost 2 hours for me to make. No help, just me, myself and the ingredients.
Now why would I take on such a feat?
Well, because I've never made Thanksgiving dinner and I wanted to know if you could really do it in 60 minutes. So I gathered up the ingredients and tore up the kitchen to see if I could do it.
I begun where the magazine said to start, blanching the green beans and starting on the potatoes. Check Check. Bird in oven, check. Start on chopping for stuffing. Back to green beans. I started to get mixed up with which dish I was working on and what hadn't been done. My brain was getting frazzled. I knew 20 minutes in this wasn't going to work. So I began going dish by dish, getting each one done.
I was ahead for about 30 minutes and then I got slammed. The trifle and potatoes came back to back, plus I was going back and forth between her minute-to-minute list to her recipes because I had found errors during prepping that I wanted to weed out.
For example, Ray's original turkey recipe said to let it rest for 20 minutes but in the minute-to-minute list the bird rested for 8. Where did the other 12 minutes go?
Plus it didn't help that I did not have enough counter space or any help. I decided to go it alone.
Sixty minutes hit, the turkey was still raw and I had just begun on mashing the potatoes. Albeit 3 dishes had yet to be completed, 2 were.
Another 15 minutes go by, the dessert and the potatoes are completed. What's left is the bird. I didn't use a thermometer, I did it by touch and luckily (as usual) I was right. The bird was done.
And while I may not have been able to do it in 60, I did do it 90. And this is mainly due to the fact that the bird was still partially frozen when I put it in the oven. It was the last thing to come out. If it had been dethawed I think I could have shaved 15 minutes off, but that would be cutting resting time.
My companion, who watched me, enjoyed the entertainment and the meal. The potatoes is what she loved the most and I concur, but who doesn't love potatoes.
Now I just wonder is Ms. Ray even doing her meals in 30 minutes and what to do with the leftovers?

Orange and white potatoes
(adapted from Rachael Ray November 2008 issue)
4 small russet potatoes
1 cubed sweet potato
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup of butter
salt
pepper

Place russet potatoes in pot cover with water. Bring potatoes to boil After about 20 minutes add sweet potato. Cook until tender, drain water into colander. Place potatoes in bowl, mash with fork or other utensil. Mix in cream and butter. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cowboy cookies?


I am a cookie fan. Peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chip. Anything really. I do not discriminate against the cookie.
So last week, I talked to a friend for the first time in months and she said to me, "Jerry, I miss your cooking." I smiled and then felt guilty. She had yet to receive a Jerry package of goodies. I knew I had to rectify my shortcoming with something, so I hit the computer.
It seemed everything I found I a) have made 2) didn't want to buy the ingredients or c) had no interest in making. O.K. so maybe I was a little discriminatory. Then I remembered a recipe a friend had given me- Cowboy Cookies. When I heard about them, they intrigued me because I had never seen or heard of them before.
However, if you look at the recipe all they are, are just oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips, but I made them anyways. And they are a fabulous! Crunchy outside soft middle. The way I believe a cookie should be. Now if I can only part with them.

Cowboy Cookies

2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 cups oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix together dry ingredients. Cream butter, then add sugars and cream some more. Add in eggs and vanilla, after that combines add in dry in spurts so that you don't have flour everywhere. Then add in raisin and chocolate chips, doll-up scoops unto a baking sheet and cook for 10-12 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making Whoopie....


Do you remember those Little Debbie "Oatmeal Cream Pies" you'd get in school? The two cookies on the outside and frosting in the middle?
I remember them vividly, probably for different reasons than you, but I can honestly say I ate my far share of them. That and Zebra cakes.
So, when I heard about the "Anything but Pie contest" that the local market was doing here in Elizabeth City, I thought whoopie pies. This was because contest rules said you had to use either pumpkin or sweet potatoes in the food you made. When I was told this, I vaguely remembered a recipe I had seen for pumpkin whoopie pies. So I knew then I had to make them.
I spent one afternoon roasting the pumpkin, making puree and then making the little "cookies."
Some might say it would be easier to have gotten canned pumpkin, but I had a small one and I like using fresh pumpkin when I can. Yes, the kitchen is a mess but you have pumpkin for a couple more recipes than just a pie.
The whoopie pies came out spectacular, my friend said he would give me first place if he was a judge. Then come Saturday-market day and it was cancelled. No contest, no market, me with a lot more whoopie pies, then I had planned. So, I took them to work and they got gobbled up by coworkers, who took more than one.
Now what to do if the market is on this weekend and the contest rescheduled for this Saturday?

Pumpkin whoopie pies
(adapted from Rachael Ray mag)

1.5 sticks butter, 1 stick melted, the 1/2 stick softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
cinnamon, allspice, clove
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 2/3 cups of flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup sugar
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup powder sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, the baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.

Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop 12 generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My obsession with biscuits

Tonight was suppose to be chili. I had every intention to make chili, however I got home from the pumpkin patch and the last thing I wanted was chili.
But what I really wanted was a biscuit. So I googled and then went to Food Network, finding Alton Brown's biscuit recipe. You know the shortcut episode- instead of buttermilk use milk and lemon. So I had found my recipe, but could I make fluffy biscuits?
I've been trying to get that final product, Brown's would be my third. Every other time, the biscuits were never fluffy rather rolly. Crusty outside, white inside, but it would never be a biscuit. So awhile ago, I asked my dad about biscuits, he said that I should never knead them, which is what I had been doing. So, this time I used the best tools- my hands.
What did I get? Well, they weren't exactly huge, tall biscuits, but they were fluffy and crusty and oh so good.
The perfect biscuit to go with my southern dinner/breakfast- eggs over easy, bacon, biscuits and OJ. A great way to end my day.

Southern Biscuits
(adapted from Alton Brown's Southern Biscuits)
1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
9 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the milk and lemon juice in a glass measuring cup and place in the refrigerator.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips and working quickly, rub the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled milk mixture. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold the dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform the scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting.

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A quiet cake

I am a maker of cakes. I don't need a reason. I'll make cakes just for the hell of it, but if its your birthday, I always make one. Whatever you want. No questions asked. I'll make it even if I hate it.
So, when I learned a friend's birthday was this week, I automatically said I'd make a cake. He said I didn't have to. He didn't need one. My mouth dropped. No cake?
I protested. He said if it would make me happy, then I could make him a cake. I was a little hurt. Cake is a big deal. Birthdays are defined by cakes.
Maybe it's because I view birthdays as the one day of the year, I can say screw you and do what I want because I have an excuse. Or maybe its because I get my favorite cake. I don't know.
Plus, people always surprise you on your birthday. You learn about your turn friends on that day. So that's why I took offense.
Of course, I made a cake anyways- Chocolate Espresso from Nigella Lawson. It didn't rise as it should have. I think that's due to my lack of self-rising flour and that I tried to make it myself. However, it has a good chocolate with a hint of coffee taste that I like.
And maybe this year, I'll celebrate my birthday twice. Cause the first time I didn't get the cake I wanted and it's always better when I make it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A little bit of West, Texas


Oh the market is down, gas is down and jobs are becoming scare. Amid all of this, I can be found in my kitchen.
The market is bad, I could soon lose my job, but I do not fret or worry. Maybe I should, hell my newspaper is for sell, but I'm calm about it all. It's my laid back lifestyle.
So instead of fretting I make kolaches. What are kolaches you ask?
One of the many breakfasts that I know and love in Texas. All it is really, is a sweet roll with jam/jelly/preserves in the middle.
Nothing is better than stopping in West, Texas at the Czeck gas station to pick up a kolache on your way to or from Austin. Sure there are other places to get them. They are all along the I-35 corridor, but I find them to be the best in West.
After moving to NC, I've craved them, but no one knows what they are. I've had to explain them to almost everyone I know. I guess it's a Texas thing.
So this morning, I got up and made kolaches. It's just like making any sort of bread. It takes time to rise and the whole process takes about 4 hours. To some it may seem like to much work but to me. The work is worth the reward.
Especially with a hot peach kolache and a cup of coffee. Nothing is better. Well... that's a bold statement isn't it? O.K. so it's up there. At least in my top ten.
But don't take my word for it. Hop on over to Homesick Texan's website and try her kolache recipe. It's divine.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Far far away...


My closest college friend is in D.C. and although it is only 4 hour drive from my current residence, work prevents me from visiting often. The rest of my friends live in Texas, far far away. I find myself missing them more often now that I am away, keeping in touch more and sending more goodies than ever.
I guess its the distance. I can no longer cook or bake for them so I send packages of brownies, cookies, books and other things. They do the same. There is no hesitation from any one of us and often there is no message of the package until it shows up on the doorstep of the receivee. It's better that way; it's a surprise.
With Ike and Gustav hitting places where I have friends currently, I've been constantly making sure everyone is alright by twittering and text messages. I guess its the maternal instinct that I have.
Then again, I made several e-mails and phone calls when Hanna hit last week, so I've been in the same spot. Though some may say they have to worry about me more because sometimes I don't fully think things through before doing something, which is true.
So this morning I decided to put together packages my friends know so well. (My friend's dad patiently waits to see what I send her every month, which means she sometimes only gets one piece.) Since I love chocolate and coffee, I put together an espresso brownie recipe.
It is deliciously soft, chewy and chocolatey the perfect thing for all my girlfriends.

Espresso brownies
(adapted from Everyday Food)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon coffee grinds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in center. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan, and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Coat paper with butter. Set aside.
In a large heatproof bowl, combine the butter and unsweetened chocolate, and place over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and eggs.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture, and stir until just combined . Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly wet, 30 to 35 minutes. Using a damp, warm knife, cut into 16 squares, wiping knife blade after each cut.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Black only.


I never drank coffee as a teenager. I tasted it a few times out of my Dad's cup and always made a sour face, saying, "Bluck!" However, tastes change and you pick up a real job, naturally you pick up coffee, too.
Or like me, you knew it could become an addiction, so tried to avoid the haunting black liquid as long as you could. Really, since trying coffee more than a year ago, I felt an addiction comin' on. Weird I know, but my first sip caused a flutter with my taste buds and a began Saturday ritual of breakfast tacos and iced mochas. Routine seemed innocence enough until friends and I began meeting up at coffee joints at 11 p.m. One latte later and I was up all night. Thus began my relationship with coffee- a reoccurring romance that I avidly denied and avoid. Little did I know that coffee had already won.
Of course being journalist, hours are strange and sleep always is lacking, what becomes once a week eventually turns into 3 times a week into at least one cup a day. This happened to me over a span of a few weeks. I know drink at least one cup a day, depending whether I'm at work or with friends. It is my 3 p.m. jolt during my 10 hour day that lasts often until midnight.
Within this span of about 2 months, I've gone from cream and sugar coffee to black. Now I don't mind the cream and sugar, but I find that I don't need the additions to drink my cup. I don't know why. I like the bitter often woody taste of my coffee. I don't need to sweeten it.
Now I just need to learn to make espresso.

My Black French Press Coffee

1.5-2 Tbsp of coffee
1-2 cups boiled water

Boil the coffee in microwave or like me on the stove because I lack a microwave. Place coffee in press, pour boiling water over. Let water and coffee steep for at least 4 minutes, I let it steep for long anywhere between 5-10. Press the metal press down, pour into cup. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Comfort me with food


I claim mental insanity, when I decided to start studying for the GRE because today my prep book arrived. I immediately started to skim through it and discovered that it seemed just like the SAT, but all the words I once knew failed me. I mean, who actually uses the words-assuage, cacophony, ephemeral- in daily life? I know of no one.
Of course this comes after helping a friend's daughter with a percentage of a percentage problem today, which I couldn't understand. Did going to college make me dumb? Or is it that I haven't had math since high school?
Personally, I'll go with the latter, but all this education talk made me hungry and what better way to easy a hurting head than with food. Plus, it was one of my nights off, so I could cook a decent meal in my kitchen without having a time limit or forgetting to defrost dinner.
I knew I had zucchini, which was on its last leg and googled a recipe. For meat, I felt like chicken. But what I was really feelin' like was biscuits. Nothing is better than a golden fluffy biscuit. O.K. so that statement is a stretch, but I'd prefer a homemade biscuit to Pillsbury any day.
Sure the can is fun to pop open, but making them is just as fun.
(Note: I've been craving fried chicken, but I put it off until I had some guinea pigs to try it out on. Plus, grease still scares me. It is the one hospital visit I do not want to make.)
So I made the biscuits which puffed and became golden brown, zucchini hash and chicken. It was so nice to have a home cooked meal again. I forget sometimes with late night work shifts, how comforting a meal can be.
Now I've promised myself that I would begin preparing meals before I go to work, so on my lunch I can just pop them in the oven. Well, see how long it lasts. Or if it even starts.

Zucchini Hash
(adapted from Cookin' for Real)
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tablespoon butter
1/2 pound zucchini, cubed
1/4 onion, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over high heat. Add zucchini, squash and onion. Cook until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rainy days call for soup.....


The weather here in NC has been less than appealing. No sunshine, just gray clouds and rain lurking in the area. Don't get me wrong. I love rain and what it brings to my garden, but after a couple days I'd like to bask in the sun.
However, the great thing about gray weather is the urge to get inside and cook. And that is what I decided to do the other day. I looked at my counter once again, overflowing with vegetables in the garden and immediately decided to throw it into a pot. And that is exactly what I did. I chopped up squash, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic and allowed them to simmer together.
I would love to say that I allowed them to marry for hours, stirring it occasionally as I sat in my big brown leather chair reading. But I had work in the afternoon and only had two hours. So, I let them simmer, while cleaning up the mess. I added in some spices and tabasco to my liking, turned off the stove and went to work.
As the day went on the gray clouds let go of there condensation for a large downpour, and I thought about my chili waiting for me when I got home. I was too excited about it, but it was my first real meal of the week (I've really been slacking of in the cooking department)and I couldn't get enough.
Although, it might have been too spicy for some. I loved it. The only thing missing was some cornbread. That would have made the meal complete.

Vegetable Chili
1 zuchini chopped
1 squash, chopped
1 eggplant, chopped
1 lb or more of tomatoes
2 small bell peppers
1 medium onion
4 garlic cloves
few splashes of tabasco
salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano
extra virgin olive oil

Saute onion, oregano, and all veggies except tomatoes. After onions are semi-translucent add tomatoes. Make sure you turn down the heat, the tomatoes will add juices to the chili. Add a cup of water if it needs it and let simmer for at least an hour. After simmer add spices to your liking. Let cool a little before serving.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Localvore to a....


Well, I can't say T, but I'm pretty close. I've been even more local than I was in Austin, which is quite shocking, considering all ATX has to offer. (Confession: I spent a lot of time at Whole Foods and Central Market.) But here in North Carolina, I live off of food stands, the garden, and almost all organic staples on a budget no less.
Now I can't say that I've stuck to the budget always. It is really hard when you read Tastespotting and food magazines all the time because most of the stuff isn't local to my area. For example, I haven't bought an avocado in months because they are expensive due to "surging" gas prices. Maybe with this lower gas prices, food prices will go back down with it.
But even if prices do go down, I don't think I'll buy things that have made the trek from South America here. I just can't bring myself to buy those things anymore. Yes, I love asparagus in the winter, but a) it doesn't taste the same and b) I just made a huge carbon footprint. I'm not trying to rant or lecture, just opinionating.
And trust me it is really hard for me to stick to this whole localvore thing come winter. I can only eat cabbage so much. However, this year, I have learned the art of canning, pickling and freezing. Oh and what wonders have they brought me.
I now know how to can tomatoes (not as difficult as it seems), make pickles, and freeze squash. I am becoming Miss Martha Stewart almost. Never in my years would I imagine doing the things I've learned this summer, but it just makes me realize how easy things are to store for later. Yes, its not easy, but invite friends, make a party and can or freeze. Trust me come winter, I'll be having my canned tomatoes in my tomato sauce. Oh and my salsa!
I made and canned tomato salsa! Which is a feat in itself! It taste sooo good and it's spicy. Only one habenero, but my god does it leave the tingly sensation in your mouth. Next on my list is canning barbecue sauce made with garden grown tomatoes! Yum!

Spicy Salsa
1-1.5 pounds of tomatoes
1 habenero
1/2 medium onion
1 medium to large anaheim pepper
2 garlic cloves
salt, pepper, cumin

Blend vegetables together or chop for chunky salsa. Reduce for a hour on the stove to heat it up. Pour into sterilized jar and place in waterbath for 15-20 minutes. Make sure that you hear the pop, which means the jar is sealed. If it is not sealed pour salsa back into sauce pan, sterilize another jar and lid, place in water bath once again.
Seems so hard, but it is super simple!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy like a clam.....


As big of a food snob as I am, (this is my new name at work), I haven't been culinarily adventurous in my life. I haven't had true lobster, brussel sprout, oysters, uni, beet, and many other foods that never crossed the table. Why?
One most of my family doesn't like seafood, which is sad because they are missing out, but that means more for little old me!
Two, I don't know if my parents even like most of them, and I wasn't a kid who would go out of there way to try a new food until college. So... that means I have a lot of making up to do.
Of course, I began this catch up maybe a year or two ago, but I'm still behind. I only just tried mussels for the first time a month ago, and now I can scratch clams of my list.
Oh, I'll admit, I had this once before in Alabama with the ex, but they were on his plate not mine. So I'm not counting that. You can if you wish, but I'm not.
Clams aren't that hard to find in N.C. most seafood markets I visit have them that was the easy part. And I knew that clams in a white wine sauce was popular, so at least I had an idea of a cooking method.
On Saturday, I traveled north to Virginia Beach to go to the Old Beach Farmer's Market. The market is off of Cypress right as 264 turns into a road. It has 9 vendors, all local and I believe all organic. I felt like I was back in Austin. It was small, but had that vibe. I can't describe it well, but I hope you know what I'm talkin' about.
And to my surprise they had clams. The clams were came in 25/50/100. I chose the 25 and paid the vendor. No going back, I had them. I spent the money. It was a sink or swim now.
Of course I didn't go straight home. I made trip to Trader Joe's, the bookstore, and Macy's. I had to get my coffee grinder, o.k.? At each stop, I think to myself, I'm going to kill my clams. By the time I got home 5 hours later, I had a sinking feeling they were dead.
But I wouldn't know until I cooked them. So I found a recipe, opened a bottle of wine and followed the instructions. Five minutes of steaming and some mouths were open, but not all.
My stomach sunk. I killed the clams. I wouldn't be having dinner. I would starve. So I opened my Joy of Cooking to find that they can be steamed for 5-10 mins. So, I reheated them and sure enough a couple of minutes later they were all open.
I hadn't killed them in the car, which was a relief. Plus, they didn't scream in the pot. I liked them enough, but am a bigger fan of mussels. Not to say that I won't cook them, again. Because next time they will have a shorter joy ride.

Clams with garlic and roasted tomatoes
(adapted from Heart of New England)

24 littleneck clams
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup roasted tomatoes

½ cup dry white wine, such a Sauvignon Blanc
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons dried oregano or marjoram
Freshly ground black pepper

Place clams into a strainer and shake under running water to remove loose shell debris.

Heat a large sauté or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, oregano, and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic starts to color. Add wine and bring to a boil, then add clams and tomatoes. Raise heat to high, cover pan and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until clams are opened (5-10 minutes). Discard unopened clams.

Serve immediately with the sauce. A salad and crusty bread for the sauce completes the meal.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A snap and a crunch


When the vegetables started to pile up on my counter last week, I knew I had a problem. There were and still are 4 squash, which has turned into 10; 4 peppers, magically now 9;
5 cucumbers, now 2.
Now I know what you are asking? Where did the cucumbers go?
Well, I decided to do some pickling. Yes, I know, me with all my "oh my god, the kitchen is going to explode" episodes, decided that she would pickle. And no there was no damage to myself or my kitchen.
Actually, I thought about pickling two years ago, when I was a vegetarian. My mom actually sent me my great grandmother's recipe. However, the procrastinating college student, I was never got around to it, and eventually had to throw the cucumbers out. I know it was a waste of food, but I had yet to realize my food impact.
So last week, when I had the abundance of cucumbers, I decided to give Homesick Texan's pickle recipe a go. It sounded easy enough. There was no boiling of ingredients, just the sterilization of the jars, which I've done before. And in 4-6 days I'd have pickles. So I gathered ingredients, sterilized the jars, which splattered water all over my stove. I then mixed the brine added the cucumbers and placed them in the fridge. There they sat for 5 days, haunting me.
Of course, I shook them everyday and everyday was tempted to steal one, but I waited. And then today I broke and opened one of the jars. And when I bit into that first pickle spear, I died a little. That is because the pickle was so good. It had that right acidic bite and it was still firm. I had one than another than another. Finally, I just put them away before I ate them all.
Now I know the difference between the store bought pickle and homemade ones. Today when I opened up one of the jars of pickles and took a long spear out, put it between in my teeth, I felt the snap and heard the crunch. Before I even tasted it, I knew it was a great pickle because of the crispness of it. Sure you can get that from store bought, but you taste the dill more in homemade and you miss out on it being truly something you had created. The store bought ones just take away all the fun. So this is added to my list of recipes. Now what to do with the rest of the vegetables?

Refrigerator dill pickles
(from Homesick Texan)
Ingredients:
6 Kirby cucumbers, cleaned, stemmed and halved, lengthwise
1/2 cup of white vinegar
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of fresh dill

Method:
Place salt, peppercorns, coriander seeds, garlic and dill in a sterilized 1-quart Mason jar.
Layer sliced cucumbers in jar, leaving 1/2 inch at the top.
Pour in vinegar.
Fill jar with water, seal with lid and shake for about a minute.
Refrigerate for six days, shaking daily.

Makes 1-quart jar of dill pickles. This simple recipe, however, can easily be multiplied.

Note: I divided the recipe in have for 1/2 pint jars. They are a little sour, but that is the way I like them.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Going bananas.....


I don't remember if I've ever had banana pudding. I don't remember ever making it as a child or having it. But then again, I don't remember the first time I had peach cobbler, but my dad does. So more times than not I don't trust my memory.
This week a friend's daughter wanted to make banana pudding for a pot luck, but she didn't know how to make. I told her we could make it together over the weekend.
So the daughter and I set a date. Her father then inquired if I was going to make the custard based banana pudding or the fake stuff? A little confused, I replied that it would be the custard based. Then I told my father and he told me the proper way was to layer vanilla wafers and bananas along with the custard. Boy was I thrown in a loop. To many demands and requests that I didn't know how to answer.
Most of the week goes by before I look for recipes finding one from Food Network that I was going to do. Then I am told that the original recipe is on the wafer box. But since I had found the food network one, I did not worry about the box recipe.
The day of I write down what I need from the food network recipe and go to Walmart for ingredients. Upon finding the wafers, I see the box recipe. I see that it is easier and simpler for me and the seven-year-old to make. And with that the food network recipe went out the window.
The girl and I made the recipe. She learned how to separate eggs and how to temper them. She wasn't allowed near the oven or stove so I had to do the stirring and the baking. But she was enthused about the end result and kept asking if it was done when it was baking. I replied she had to be patient.
But her enthusiasm for the pudding and her want to do everything was uplifting. It is good to know that some children want to be involved in cooking and I guess when it comes to sweets most do.
The pudding was eaten after dinner and every morsel was scrapped up by everyones spoon. I don't believe there was any leftovers to be had. And whether or not I've ever had banana pudding, doesn't matter anymore because I've learned that I am a fan and I'll make it one day, again.

Banana Pudding
(adapted from Nilla wafer box)

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Dash salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
NILLA Wafers
5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided

First, layer wafers and bananas in pot of small brownie pan. So after pudding mixture is made you can pour it over quickly.

Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour, milk and salt in sauce pan. Once it is hot, temper eggs and then add them to milk mixture. Once mixture is thick pour part of mixture of wafers and bananas.

Cover with another layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas. Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to layer wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard. Or how ever many you get.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges.

Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly or refrigerate. Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Too much....


OH MY GOD MY FRIDGE IS OVERFLOWING!
Ok, ok that was a little dramatic, but seriously, my fridge is like so full for a single person. Well, unless you factor in that I'm a huge food dork. And that's not even all of it.
No, my counter has peppers, squash, and cucumbers on them too. I don't know what to do with them all. I keep on telling myself, I'll make this and that, but I procastinate and it never gets done.
Why am I in abundance? I do not know how to say no. You may laugh, but when it comes to people giving me food, I feel bad saying no. But then again, I also, feel bad when people around the world are starving and I throw out what was once perfectly edible vegetable.
So, I promise myself that this time, I won't. The cucumbers will become pickles. The peppers..... I think I can pickle those too? The squash?
A chocolate zucchini cake. I know, I know, its odd. But strangely enough its really really good! You never taste the zucchini in it. All the vegetable does is keep the cake very moist and gooey. Trust me I know.
I have already made it for pot luck dinner this week. And I even converted a seven-year-old, who said she didn't like squash. I believe she even ate most of it, well her and her father.
So next time you have too many vegetables think outside the box.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
(adapted from Epicurious.com)
2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 2 1/2 medium)
1 6-ounce package (about 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter and oil in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each. Mix in grated zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A peach festivel gone astray

I'm shocked. Appalled and downright saddened. Why you may ask?
The Knott's Island Peach Festival has no peaches from North Carolina. I mean, if you are going to have a peach festival in North Carolina, you shouldn't ship in 6,250 pounds (an exact number) of peaches from South Carolina, it just isn't right.
Maybe it's my Texas pride coming out, but no county or city in my home state would ship in peaches from "the outside" for a festival. It would be an abomination. It's unheard of. I'm ranting, but still.
What happened to a festival, celebrating the local crop that has sustained that town for years?
Add to this that the pies came from Sam's Club, no telling where the ice cream came from (it didn't have much of a peach taste, anyways). My hopes and expectations were crushed. My thoughts of getting a pie crust or peach pie recipe were fleeting because I soon realized that I was not going to get any.
Defeated, I walked away. I could get South Carolina peaches at any farm stand around. What then to do?
I went home on the ferry, a very disappointed. My first peach festival and the peaches weren't even regional.
However, the next day, I went to an orchard where I picked peaches (there is peaches on the island at a winery, but not enough to supply the festival, i guess). The woman told me that many had hail damage to them, but I decided to pick a few anyways.
All had hail damage, bugs, or were rotting on the ground. I was able to find some soft with no bugs to bring home with me. I then, took them cleaned them, mixed them with blueberries, and made cobbler.
The cobbler was wonderful. Though I am more of a pie person, I think it is the crunch with the crust. But still this was quick and easy, plus a lot less work.
Blueberry and Peach Cobbler
(adapting from Eating Well)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup reduced-fat milk
1/2 cup sugar
cinnamon and nutmeg
3 ripe but firm peaches (about 1 pound), pitted and sliced into eighths, or 3 1/2 cups frozen
2 cups (1 pint) fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place butter and oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Heat in the oven until melted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add milk, sugar and vanilla; stir to combine. Add the melted butter mixture to the batter and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Spoon peaches and blueberries evenly over the batter. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the top of the cobbler is browned and the batter around the fruit is completely set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Throwing Out the Menu

My ex might describe me as a little uptight, maybe a little anal. Though I would just say that I like my routines and often than not I break them. Because they occasionally get boring. Like last week, I took a week off from running to sleep in and do nothing but play on my computer. Was it productive? No. Did I get anything done? No. Did I enjoy it? Well, yeah. So it wasn't that bad. It wasn't a life change, no, but I did what I thought I needed. It is balancing this and what actually needs to get done.
Included in my routines is weekly menu. I look what I have or don't have and try and plan around--Gazpacho-Tuesday, BBQ chicken-Thursday, etc. But I have to say that no week goes as planned. This week I've only stuck to my menu once. Why? I have a lot of squash and tomatoes
from the garden and berries I picked in VA. I'm only one person and can only eat so much. So what do I do? The one thing I can do. Throw out the menu and start over. I zucchini, well what can I do with- bread, fries, grill it. Think outside the box.
We forget that menus and grocery stores are something new. They aren't really that old if you look at history. People a hundred years ago, still lived off the land and now I need to think like that. Think about what I can do with one thing and prepare it a hundred different ways. Create something new even. There are no rules in the kitchen, just the ones you make yourself.

Monday, July 14, 2008

All Mussels, No....

Ah cable. It is a glorious thing. A place where any foodie can sit down learn something new and not be in a kitchen. Or if you are like me, it is background noise. But I don't have it. Like I said in my last post. I don't have cable, budget doesn't allow for it. So I make due without (although, I believe I am going crazy without). I read now. I read gastronomy.
Oh yes, right now I can recite a lot about Chinese food because I just got done with The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, learning too much about the fact that the Fortune Cookie is from the Japanese. But where am I going with all of this?
Nowhere, really. I got sidetracked. Back to cable. So life without cable is boring, and when visiting friends, I seem content to just sit on their couches and watch Food Network there. I know I am a horrible guest, but I miss it. I miss Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Ace of Cakes, Iron Chef, Good Eats, etc. So when I went and visited a friend in D.C. this is what I did. (No, I didn't veg out the whole time- we did things that normal 20 somethings do.)
But while, we were watching the food channel. We came across Throwdown with Bobby Flay and wouldn't you know it, he was in D.C. for an episode-mussels and fries at Granville Moore's. I was ecstatic and told my friend we had to go, plus the chef was extremely cute (added bonus points).
So on Sunday evening, my friend and I hopped in her car and took the winding ride to the other part of town. Her comment was "if this place is in a shady neighborhood, we are leaving." Slightly bummed, I agreed. But soon we realized that it wasn't that shady and parked. Outside was none other than the chef himself- Teddy. I smiled and told him we saw him on the Throwdown and I was to go eat my first mussel.
Now you maybe shocked that this is my first mussel. Yes, folks, indeed it was. There are only a few people who like seafood in my family-my father and I. So the rare occasions I got it as a teenager (don't make me explain that either), I always ate salmon.
We were soon informed that there were no tables. It was around 6 p.m. on a Sunday. We shrugged and sat at the bar. On the wall was the list of beers. My mouth about dropped at some of the prices. Thirty to forty dollars for a bottle of beer, but people spend thousands of dollars on wine. So I shouldn't be so shocked.
Soon we got our menus, I looked at the wine list and tried a 2006 William Pinot Blanc, a fabulous light white with a slight tropical taste.
I soon chatted with the bartender, learning they sold out of mussels Friday and Saturday night and had a fresh load in the back. My friend and I were shocked, here we were on a Sunday night going to dine on mussels that arrived that morning. I asked Teddy, who was sipping a beer at the bar, how many pounds they received, he said, "150 pounds." They had gone through 220 on Saturday and close to 180 on Friday he told me. He estimated that they went through almost 500 pounds this past weekend. Very close to their record. All of this because Bobby Flay and the Throwdown?
That is what was speculated because, when I saw the episode it was only the second time, it had run.
But don't think Granville Moore's is a two trick pony. Yes, their fries and mussels are excellent and fresh. His blue cheese, bacon, mussels that I tried converted me to mussels and their spectacular taste (I'll be making them at home). Plus, you can never go wrong with bacon! But also, on the menu was a bison, which I am a HUGE fan off. And they had daily specials.
Being partial to bison, my friend and I ordered it medium-rare. The burger came out nicely cooked with the correct pinkness to it. It wasn't over cooked or tough. It didn't need ketchup or mustard. It was perfect plainly dressed.
Oh and the fries! They were perfectly crispy with great seasoning. The hints of sweet and spicy hit your tough when you bit into a fry. It's great to see a place doing much more than just adding salt to french fries these days.
So I suggest trying out Granville Moore's, not just for the mussels, but the other menu items as well. They are truly a place worth going back to. I know I'll be heading back the next time I'm in D.C. and this time I'll have a beer.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Swooning over Mario Batali


If I had to name my favorite chef it would be the one with the orange crocs. Better known as Mario Batali. I don't know when I became a fan. Maybe it was the Iron Chef Americas challenges because he always won, or his Italian cooking, but I fell in love with him one day.
I have told some people if I ever met him I would faint. Probably not the best first impression from me to him, but it's either that or I might lose the ability to speak to him, which is the more logical choice.
Now you would think with my admiration of Mr. Batali, I would own all of his books, most of his cookware and orange crocs. However, I do not. I own a Mario Batali wooden spoon, but that is all. Shocking, I know.
Also, due to my recent move, I no longer have Food Network, which means no more Iron Chef America, Good Eats, or all of which I use to watch. But trust me this doesn't mean I am lacking in food knowledge. Or that I am not cooking. Quite the contrary.
I rarely am seen outside my kitchen because most nights are spent there cooking quick meals. With this in mind, I decided this week to make a Batali dish, but having some of the ingredients already. I came up with my own, an ode if you will to Mario. The perfect light summer pasta dish, simple and elegant. One that calls for seconds. Fresh tomato and basil spaghetti.
I picked basil from the garden, picked up local tomatoes and garlic, but off cooking for a day, then cooked it for lunch. I was craving Italian food, so I took his spaghetti with sweet 100 tomatoes, garlic chives, and lemon basil and used what I had. It was me being economical, a localvore, and well, avoiding searching all over North Carolina for lemon basil and garlic chives. What came out? Well, I guess you'll have to try it for yourself and see if you like. I am adding it into my recipe book and am sure to make it when my tomatoes come in on my vine.
And if you see the man in orange crocs, can you send him my way for a cooking lesson or two?

Fresh tomato, basil spaghetti
1 tomato, cut into slices
handful of basil, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/4 of a bag of spaghetti

Begin boiling a pot of water for the pasta. Once boiling, add dried spaghetti.

While the water comes to a boil, saute garlic in olive oil, once turning lightly brown add tomatoes. Cook until softened. Once pasta is cooked, drained and add to tomato mixture. Toss together and basil. Serve and Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The move and going greek


There is reason why there has been no updates in awhile and how I've teetered off the blogging circle. That reason is that I've moved!!!!!
Good-bye Texas, Hello North Carolina!
It took 2 long days and about a week of searching to find an apt, and settle in. Of course I've blown off some of the unpacking. And I don't have a dresser so that has made some clutter, but other than that the transition has been good.
I have a kitchen with a 2 ft stove. No dishwasher or disposal, but I don't mind. Do need to get toaster because I miss toast.
I cook almost every night and and I have fresh seafood and produce around. There is farm stands all around. Plus, there is a trader joe's in Virginia. It is a slight drive, but every few months I don't mind going.
Oh and I will be starting my own garden. I'm so excited and hopefully no one will steal my tomatoes like last year and if you have any tips, I'm all ears.
To celebrate the move and the fact that is officially summer. I will leave you with a great yogurt sauce. I love it! I think it would be great with lamb meatballs or chicken kebabs. I paired it with grilled shrimp, which was tasty too. Plus its quick!

Cilantro Garlic Yogurt Sauce
(adapted from epicurious.com)
1 1/2 cups plain 2% Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
4 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper

Stir together all ingredients with 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste), then chill, covered, at least 30 minutes (for flavors to blend). Bring to room temperature before serving.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Going Vegan


I went vegan for three months, vegetarian for more than a year. It was hard, especially when going out with friends. I could only eat certain things. And although, I am no longer of the veggie persuasion, I still have my veggie days and friends, especially as a yogi.
I have one friend who is raw and one that is vegan. I respect both diets, but find the true way of being raw a little odd because it doesn't include soap or deodorant. EWWWWW!
Recently, my vegan friend and I decided to cook together. She loves to cook vegan and I am all to happy to cook with her and for her. So we talked about making a burger or Indian food, but we decided on a Vegan Muffulleta with roasted potatoes.
So we met up at Target and went down the list: red pepper-check, eggplant-check, olives-check, bread-check. We then went back to her place to cook and sip wine. We split up the duties and I went to chopping and so did she. An hour later, we sat down to a wonderful meal. The olive spread was wonderful with the vegetables. The perfect light summer meal.

Vegan Muffuletta
(adapted from Veganomicon)

Mixed Olive Salad Relish:
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 cup pitted green olives
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, oil packed or dried and reconstituted
4 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Sandwhiches:
1 small eggplant
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
2 roasted bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow)
1 round peasant style loaf (or bread of choice), sliced

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease two rimmed baking sheets. Cut eggplant widthwise into 1/4 inch slicesand rub each slice with kosher salt. Allow to drain in collander for half an hour.

While eggplant is draining, place olives, parsley, garlic and sun dried tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with the vinegar and dried herbs. With a food processor, chop the mixture in 2-3 batches, adding a little of the olive oil with each batch. Process only enough to chop the olives and tomatoes, scraping the sides of the processor often with a rubber spatula.

Rinse the eggplant slices with cold water, rub with olive oil, and lay in a baking sheet. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove stem and seeds. Rub with olive oil and place on a second baking sheet. Roast eggplant and peppers in preheated oven for 20-22 min, flipping the eggplant once, until it is browned and tender. Remove skin of peppers if desired, and cut into thin strips.

For each sandwhich, spread a thick layer of olive relish on one slice of bread. Layer the spinach, eggplant, and roasted peppers on top of the olive relish. Place a second slice of bread on top and press down on the sandwhich. Enjoy!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Traveling to the South


I've logged many miles lately to New York, Austin, and North Carolina for jobs and friends. I've been able to taste a lot of good food, too. Anything I can't get fresh in Texas, I indulge on these trips. The most recent was to North Carolina, where I fell in love.
I was born on the beach and I've been attracted it since last year, when I first surfed. It's hypnotic, it's soothing. I can watch the waves, walk in the surf, and stand in the sun for hours. So when I got off the plane in Norfolk, I headed straight to Virginia Beach.
Of course I got lost, almost gave up, but the beach was calling me. Soon I found the boardwalk and a parking spot. I basked in the sun before my stomach grumble. It had been hours since breakfast and I went in search of seafood. What I found was Spicy Devil Crab aka spicy crab cakes. And the crab cakes were not all bread and little meat. They were in fact all meat. I dug in hungrily. They were flaky and not too spicy. I could have eaten a dozen.
After another walk of the beach, before I drove to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Once again I got lost, unable to find the Hampton Inn. Fifteen minutes later, there I was inside my nice room with a very large bed. I quickly left to explore, finding the Main St and the few blocks of downtown. The city sat on the bay and boats docked at the harbor. I went for a quick run, trying not to get lost.

Soon my tummy grumbled again, and I went in search of bar-b-que. My compadre on the plain said that I might not like the bbq here because they use vinegar. I told him I was german and loved all things sour. So I found myself at the Bar-b-que Barn, looking at the menu confused. There was a bar-b-que sandwich, bar-b-que plate, ribs, hamburgers, etc-- no sausage, brisket, choice of ribs, chicken. I was definitely not in a Texas bar-b-que country. So I chose the sandwich, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I found my first reason to move to North Carolina, coleslaw on a sandwich, GENIUS!
The next night I was invited over to a local's house for a grill out. I gladly accepted. There was a several things to choose from. There was chicken, beans, corn, ribs, hamburgers, and hot dogs. Plus there was this famous bar-b-que sauce I had to try. One taste of the sauce on a chicken wing and I knew the cook had developed a great recipe. I soon started guessing ingredients only to find silence. I wasn't going to get the recipe, but I enjoyed it anyway.

On my last day, I hit the Outer Banks for some seafood and the beach. Upon arrival, I hit the visitor center to get tips on local restaurants, before making my way to the beach. It was soft-shell crab season, I was told. I kept that in mind and landed at one of the recommended spots, The Black Pelican. A place located close to the beach. I ordered She-Crab soup, which was delicious and creamy, and shrimp and grits. The grits had a kick from jalapeno, but were perfectly cooked and creamy. The shrimp was plump and soft. A southern classic made right.
I was sad to leave, but hope to be back soon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mexican in New York, is it better?

Texas is known for two things-Mexican and Bar-b-que. Of course this is besides the accents and the size. So can New York compete?
Well, at least one restaurant can.
In a recent trip to upstate New York, I found myself dining at Raul's Mexican Restaurant in Glens Falls. I was shocked to find that you had to pay for chips and salsa unlike most restaurants in Texas, where it is often free. Another shocker was that you had to pay extra for rice and beans, when you ordered tacos! My eyes bulged. It would be around $15 if I wanted chips, salsa, tacos, rice and beans. In Texas I could order 2 taco meals or 5 tacos from TacoDeli in Austin.
Despite the math, I ordered the pork tacos, which was marinated in Seville oranges and Mexican oregano in blue corn tortillas. My companion and I also, ordered guacamole and chips. What did I find?
I discovered that Tijuana might be more than 3000 miles away, but you could taste it in the tacos. Plus, it was better than the Mexican meal I had, had the day before in Dallas.
Though the tacos were delicious, I missed some of the tanginess from the oranges in the sauce and I didn't taste a lot of oregano, but it didn't lack seasoning like the restaurant in Dallas.
So if you ever find yourself in Glens Falls, New York, try Raul's, it maybe a little pricey, but you'll get a good meal.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Taco Revolution


I am a girl who eats salsa right out of the jar. That's right, I will get a spoon and dig it. Maybe its my Texas background, but salsa is one of my favorite condiments. I eat it out right, I use it as salad dressing, I put it on tacos, and the list is endless.
With the recent taco truck debacle in L.A., I am craving salsa and tacos a lot more. For those of you who don't know, part of L.A. wants to pass a law that makes taco trucks move every hour to a new location. This is causing quite a ruckus in L.A. among foodies, Latinos, and taco lovers. It makes me want to go out to L.A. and sit down to as many taco trucks as I can. But since I can't, I've decided to make my own.
I looked in the kitchen to see what I could use. I found tomatoes, onions, fresh cilantro from the garden, chicken, spices, lime, and green bell peppers. I decided to make a pico de gallo without jalapenos, caramelized peppers, and grilled chicken. The verdict?
Well it isn't carne asada or fish tacos, but it sure was tasty. The perfect Friday night meal when there isn't a taco truck or shack nearby.

Protest Tacos
2 chicken breasts
oregano
white pepper
cayenne pepper
paprika
salt
cumin
sugar (optional)

Pico de gallo
1 tomato
1/2 onion, white or red
1/3 c cilantro
1/2 of a lime

Caramelized Peppers
1 bell pepper

Dice up tomatoes and onions, then chop cilantro, mixing them all into a bowl. Squeeze the lime and flavor with salt and pepper, mixing again.

For peppers, slice them in strips, caramelize in oil on medium heat. They will get a brown tint to them.

Pound chicken breasts to 1/2 inch thick. Mix spices in bowl, rub chicken with spices, let sit at least 10 minutes. Use indoor or outdoor grill to cook meat after letting it sit with spice rub. After grilling, let rest 5 minutes before cutting. Top with peppers, pico de gallo, and other condiments such as sour cream, cheese, guacamole.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

La viva Mexican Brownies!


I have a weakness, known as chocolate. I'm steadily making it a habit to have at least one piece of dark chocolate a day. My excuse- they say its good for my heart and anything good for that sucker is promising. Also, a reason to drink red wine, no? It goes along with my friend's idea that because there is milk in a cafe mocha, your getting your calcium.
So we all have are little cheats and sayings that go along with why we eat certain foods. And to me that is all good. I believe in moderation not exile. A reason I can't be vegetarian or vegan, anymore. I love ice cream, bison burgers, and eggs over easy, way too much.
So when it came to my monthly drum circle meeting, I decided to bake something. It was the Cinco de Mayo festival, too. I had seen Rachael Ray's recipe for Subtle Spicy Chocolate, but had no cocoa powder. So I searched the web to find another recipe, and soon found one from Emeril. Can you ever go wrong with Bam?
So I made Emeril's Chocolate Chipotle Brownie, and they were good. One friend kept on going back for more. I missed some of the chocolate taste, but am going to tweak so you get a chocolate and spicy taste. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chipotle Brownies
(Emeril)

1 teaspoon plus 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 tablespoon plus 1 cup all-purpose flour (I split it and used half wheat and all-purpose)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
4 eggs
1 cup chopped Mexican chocolate or semisweet chocolate morsels

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease and flour an 11 by 7-inch baking pan or dish with 1 teaspoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the flour. Heat the remaining butter and the unsweetened chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. In a medium bowl, stir together remaining flour, sugar, cinnamon, and ground chipotle. Add sugar mixture to melted chocolate mixture, stirring to combine. Add eggs, mixing until smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate or chocolate morsels.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan or dish. Bake until the center is set, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely and then cut into small squares.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Food Prices


Last week, I almost killed over when I saw the price of raspberries at a local grocery store. Eight bucks for a pint of raspberries. I don't know about you, but I go through a pint in 2-3 days. Thats a lot of money on one fruit. Of course, haven't we all noticed the higher prices in food lately?
I've been keeping my eye on it because I love food, to eat, but also, my dad is a farmer. He's growing wheat, soybeans, and corn this year because of the prices. I guess that the higher price at market offsets the higher gas prices, but I haven't crunched the numbers.
Along with this, I visited a local farmer's market, only to find that everything wasn't local. There was watermelons, peaches, and other produce not in season. One vendor said, "Wait a week or two and I'll have Georgia peaches."
However, I know peach season isn't until June depending on where they are grown. This guy wasn't going to put a veil over me. The past couple of years in Austin gave me the knowledge of seasonal produce, how to choose the right one, and the compassion to buy local. This guy was a fake.
But I took my tomatoes and my peaches home, to find the tomatoes unripened and the peaches going bad. They say, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." So I took those peaches, mixed them with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, let them marry for awhile. Then I took them and made a cobbler.
So what have I learned, research farmer's markets in local areas, and if you get some bad produce try and find something to make out it.

Peach Cobbler
(adapted from Gourmet)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granola without dried fruit
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

3 lb peaches, sliced
1/2-1 cup sugar
nutmeg
ginger
cinnamon


Take sliced peaches mix with sugar and spice and let marry for a little bit. Then place in baking dish.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Stir together sugar, flour, granola, spices, and salt in a bowl, then work in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps.

Take crumb mixture and spread over peaches.

Bake in middle of oven until topping is golden and peaches are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers: Cheesecake Pops

It is here again, the monthly Daring Bakers recipe. Elle said that this month recipe was going to be good, so I was excited to find out what it was. When I found out it was cheesecake pops, I was thrilled.
Last month's Perfect Party Cake was thrown out after a week because no one ate it. Not that they didn't like it, but chocolate always goes faster than cake in this house. So I decided to make half the recipe this month, but how do you half 5 eggs? So I used two. Plus, cheesecake doesn't come in 20 oz containers, so I settled for 16 oz. When I started mixing, I was a little scared. Did I have enough eggs in the batter? Was it going to rise? Was it going to taste like cheesecake?
Well, it rose, then fell. I cooled it and tried rolling into balls. It didn't go so well. A lot of the cake ended up on my hands. I froze them overnight. In the morning, I melted dark and milk chocolates and then rolled the little balls in chocalote, covering them with sprinkles. Oh and then I bit into one of them.
Oh it was heaven! Plus, no disasters again this month. Whew! I just don't know if I can share.

For the Cheesecake Pop recipe visit Deborah's Taste and Tell.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spring Soup



In Texas, spring and summer doesn't usually mean soup. It means tomates, bar-b-que and grilling, but I'm not a normal Texan. I use to be a vegetarian and still have those tendancies. So when I make a weekly menu, I try to include one or two.
When I went through recipes this week, I looked into Super Natural Cooking, a cookbook I bought when I was a vegetarian. One that I rarely looked at the past couple of months. However, with a new vegan friend I'm trying to cook for her, too because I know how hard it is to be a vegan in Texas. It is now turning into weekly Saturdays meals before our long runs on Sundays. But tonight is Friday, why am I cooking vegetarian?
Because fresh vegetables go bad quickly and with them in the fridge I decided to go to the cookbook to find my next meal. What I found was Heidi's Spring Ministrone. It looked perfect for a light meal and tasted great. Next dish, BLT's when tomatoes are ripe.

Spring Ministrone
(Adopted from Super Natural cooking)
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup rice
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
1/2 lb asparagus
1/4 lb snap or sugar peas
1/4 cup peas
salt
pepper

Saute garlic in olive oil in a pot, after the aroma permeates the kitchen, toast the rice. Add stock and water, cook rice for about 35-45 minutes. After rice is cooked, add vegetables, cook them until tender. Season salt and pepper. Serve.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Blogging by Mail


Dear Dani,
Thank you for the package. It had quite a trip. First, it was to be sent to my Alabama address, then changed to an austin address. But by the time it arrived in Austin, my boyfriend and I had broken up so it made an extra trip to Dallas.
Oh and the things that you love, I love too! Especially the chocolate covered pretezels, I almost died! I couldn't get enough of them! Too bad I don't have a Trader Joe's in Texas! Pretty sad! And the Crab Chips tasted like the crab I had in D.C. last august. It just reminded me so much of being reluctant to shuck the crabs, but they were already dead! I haven't made any of the dips yet, but they look yummy as well! Oh and I use the mug every morning, its wonderful!
I know you are getting ready for your wedding, Congratulations! So I wanted to give you a healthy recipe that I'm sure you'll love!
I'm a pasta and pizza addict. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not Italian, but I'm more Eastern European than anything. So I always look for healthy recipes for pasta dishes. So looking in the fridge today, I found Italian turkey sausages. So I decided to make a meat sauce with that. It was yummy! Hope you enjoy!

Sincerely,
Jerry M. Allison

Turkey Tomato Sauce and Pasta

2 turkey sausages or 1/2 lb ground turkey
1/4 c chopped carrots
1/4 c chopped celery
1/4 onion, chopped
garlic cloves (up to you the number of cloves)
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato sauce
italian seasoning
salt, pepper
red pepper (optional)
Whatever pasta you like

Cook sausages or ground turkey in deep sauce pan with seasoning and red pepper. Once it starts to brown add vegetables and garlic, cook until tender. Then add stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce to sauce pan. Let simmer for about an hour or longer.
While sauce is cooking, boil water and add pasta. Cook until tender, then drain. You can either add the pasta to the sauce, or plate the pasta and put sauce on top. Serve.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

LiveSTRONG with a Taste Of Yellow


I've run past Lance Armstrong in Austin. I've seen him in person at UT for a CNN Fit Nation tapping. I've heard the stories of his ego. My friends and I don't like him very much. But his foundation LiveSTRONG is huge.
You might not see a lot of yellow bracelets around anymore, but thousands come out for Armstong's Race event in Austin every fall. He is the man of cancer. He is the stand out. But if we look around, we'll see thousands others who have survived. They give hope to others fighting the battle currently.
I am lucky my mother has survived cancer. They caught it early and because it was in Stage 1, only surgery was needed. But she continues blood tests every 6 month to make sure it isn't back. Soon I will be doing the same as a precaution because doctors have told her I may have it one day, too. So I am a possible survivor.
So to celebrate the survivors, I have choosen to go away from the sweets like many others go to and make an entree. Rather a Lemon Chicken recipe I created last year. It consists of a few ingredients and its baked. An easy, healthy dinner. Perfect for one or many. Make it for the survivor in your life and let them know how much they mean to you.

Spring Lemon Chicken
2 chicken breasts
basil
oregano
rosemary
salt
pepper
olive oil
lemon slices

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place aluminum foil in baking dish. Pick fresh herbs or use dry. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, top with herbs. Drizzle olive oil over and place lemon slices on top. Bake for about 45 minutes, let rest 5 minutes. Serve.

To Learn More about the LiveSTRONG challenge visit: http://winosandfoodies.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/02/post.html

Friday, April 11, 2008

Finding Home

Austin is my second home. I moved here when I was 18 years old and I automatically transitioned into life here. The liberal, free spirit embraced me. In my second semester in school, I was at Posse East, chilling with friends and a waiter told me that "I looked happy and that I fit into the Austin scene." I smiled. I had finally found a home that would accept me for being wild and a little crazy.
Now back here for the second time sense the break up and I fill that sense of home I first felt. As a friend told me, "Your ex might have broken up with you, but Austin didn't." And I feel now like the city hasn't. I have friends here, I still have a life here. I have Townlake, the Farmer's Market, and my yoga studio. Those haven't left. They are still here.
As, I come to realize this today, I also realize that I have grown so much in the past month. Things I wouldn't have done before I am doing now. Like drumming, dancing, eating weird things, making new friends. I am allowing myself to explore and see life and I haven't been happier. I do not regret anything, these mistakes are what I needed. Whatever happens, happens.
So tonight in my friends kitchen, I make Lemon Risotto. A twist on my new favorite dish. Of course you can't just have risotto for dinner. I chatted up the cute boy at Whole Foods on a salad. He agreed that my thoughts of a spinach, strawberries, candied pecans, and cheese. So off I went around the store to get everything.
Went home and immediately again made my friends kitchen my own. Started the risotto, made the salad dressing, and stirred the rice. I was in my zone. The scent of the rice and broth wafted through the apartment. My friend and I sat down and ate the meal, enjoying wine, a nice meal, and good company. To me that is home.

Lemon risotto
(adapted from Bon Appetit)
3 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Meltbutter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine and stir until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cups hot broth; simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until rice is creamy and tender, about 35 minutes. Stir in cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in lemon juice and lemon peel. Season risotto with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Rabbit Food


I love salads! Of course something more than just lettuce or greens. Like apples, cranberries and blue cheese. Or salsa, cheese, and tortilla chips. I haven't had a lot of salads lately. Often the question was where is the meat?
As a former vegetarian/vegan, I have no problem excluding meat. So now I'm back to salads. And yes they do include meat.
Last week, I was playing ideas in my head for a new salad. I had a craving for blue cheese, pecans, and cranberries. However, I often don't get enough meat, so I always try to have some sort of protein during the day. So I knew I needed to add that to the salad.
What did I come up with?
A pecan-encrusted chicken with cranberries and blue cheese drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette. I had floated around the idea of a balsamic vinaigrette, but I had no Dijon mustard and no shallots. So I came up with the raspberry, which personally I loved.
It was a hit at the dinner table. Every plate was empty. I almost licked mine, but refrained. Now I need to come up with an exciting vegan meal?

Pecan Encrusted Chicken Salad with Cranberries, Blue Cheese and Raspberry Vinaigrette

Chicken
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup bread crumbs
cumin
paprika
garlic powder
salt
pepper

Vinaigrette
1 Tbsp raspberry jelly
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
salt pepper

Salad
mixed greens
cranberries
blue cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Marinate the chicken in buttermilk for at least 30 minutes, can be longer. While marinating, mix pecans, bread crumbs, and spices to your liking. After marinating the chicken, encrust chicken with pecan mixture. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes.

While chicken is baking, whisk together jelly, vinegar, and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When chicken is done, let rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting. Mix greens, cranberries and blue cheese in bowl and then put on plates. Add chicken on top of the salad mixture, then drizzle with dressing. Serve.