Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's Your Life, Create and Inspire

   It is funny how in this day and age a Facebook status can you give you the emotional jolt you need to power through some of your weakest hours.  You won't hear from me for a few days.  There are some really trying things happening in my life at the moment which are moving to break my spirit and quench my desire to create.  This darkness has come so close to it's goal, but I am determined to power through it and come out stronger than ever.  At least... I'll find myself stronger.  Others may not, but they are not important.  Less than an hour ago, I felt like I was at the lowest point in my life.  I am still incredibly hurt, but an impossibly poignant Facebook status (first quote) helped to pick me up out of my slump.  Currently, I am in the process of making one of the most beautiful things I have touched with needle and thread.

   Normally I am not one for sappy, inspirational quotes.  However, at this very moment of my life, they seem appropriate.
"When you limit, you create a state of dis-ease. Each limitation set upon your potential is a stumbling block for your creation. Be the life of your desires without limitation and so do you find the pathway to your highest life self."   (I don't know who said this or if it is original,  from John Davis)
(In case you haven't read my side bar...)
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."
~J.R.R. Tolkien 

"There is nothing to which men, while they have food and drink, cannot reconcile themselves."
~George Santayana 

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all."
~Harriet Van Horne

This is my message to you (and to myself):
Create out of love.  Create out of hate.  Create out of joy or sorrow or fear or ecstasy.  Create out of any of the thousands emotions we feel every day.  Just... create and make.  Do something you are proud of.  Fuck what anyone else says.  They don't matter.  People may try to bring you down out of spite or jealousy, but it is their own insecurities speaking.  You are better than them; prove it by doing something incredible.
Cook.  Sew.  Dance.  Paint.  Sing.  Write.  Anything. 

 Roatan, Honduras 
Infinite Inspiration

Cumin Spiced Steak Fries

   Roast potatoes.  Mmmm.  I make roast potatoes about once a week.  They are are my go to side dish.  Especially because you can line the baking sheet with foil and simply minimize clean up.  I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but when I am home alone for extended periods of time, I will eat only roast potatoes for dinner.  Crispy outside, fluffy inside... pure goodness.  Because I eat them so much, I like to switch up the flavorings I use.  These steak fries go with anything, in my opinion, because I think cumin goes with just about everything.  I am not giving amounts, because it depends on how many people you are feeding. You know how much of the stuff you like.
Cumin Spiced Steak Fries 1 large white potato per person, cut into wedges
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
cracked black pepper
ground cumin
garlic powder

   Drizzle potato wedges (you'll get about 8-10 wedges per potato) with evoo.  Liberally salt and pepper.  Dust with garlic and cumin.  Toss potatoes to evenly distribute spices.  Arrange in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet.
   Bake at 375 deg F for 20 minutes.  Flip potatoes.  Bake another 20 minutes.
   Serve with ketchup or chipotle sour cream... or nothing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chili Lime Turkey Burger (with Ginger Lime Goat Cheese)

   We love turkey burgers in our house.  I make them a couple times a month.  They are so easy and healthy, but feel like an absolute indulgence!  A couple months ago, I saw 90/10 ground turkey.  This is mostly white meat, but has some dark meat mixed in to give it more flavor and moisture.  If you can find this, use it!  It is delicious and stays moist.  You end up with meat that has roughly 7 g fat per serving (pretty awesome) and very, very little cholesterol.   If you can't find it, no worries.  We use quite a bit of ground turkey, so I just buy one package ground white meat (97/3) and one package dark (85/15).  I mix them together to get a half and half mixture... basically creating my own (roughly) 90/10.

   I've included a little bonus recipe, ginger lime goat cheese.  It is so yummy and creamy.  The lime really compliments the natural tanginess of the goat cheese.  And the ginger adds a lovely freshness and fruity spice.  This was just whipped up spur of the moment, but I am definitely going to experiment more with this flavor profile!
Chili Lime Turkey Burgers
1/2 lb white meat ground turkey
1/2 lb dark meat ground turkey
1 recipe chili lime seasoning (see yesterday's post)
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1/2 lime juiced
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
extra virgin olive oil
thinly sliced red onion
4 buns
Ginger Lime Goat Cheese
4 oz room temp goat cheese
zest of 1/4 lime
1/2 lime, juiced
1 tsp grated ginger
Mash ingredients together; bring to room temp before serving so it spreads easily.  Serves 4

   Combine turkey, cilantro, lime juice, and spice mix.  Cook a tiny patty to test seasoning.  Add salt and more pepper, if needed.  Shape into 4 patties that are slightly larger than the buns you intend to use.  Heat a little evoo in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Cook patties for about 6 minutes per side.  (You could also grill these.)
   Toast buns.  Spread a little bit of mayo on one side of the bun and the goat cheese on the other.  Top burgers with whatever you like.  I think lettuce and red onion are the only thing needed for this particular burger.
   Serves 4  (Cumin Spiced Steak Fries are a great side.... stay tuned.  Recipe tomorrow!)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chili Lime Seasoning

   "Whole Foods" in the title of the post "Whole Foods' Tequila Lime Seasoning" is probably what gets me hits, and why that particular post is the most popular post that doesn't concern David Rocco.  The blend is fantastic and cheap.  However, there isn't a Whole Foods conveniently located near me in North Carolina.  I assume not all of you have easy access to this healthy mega chain.  I've been meaning to make my own version for a while now.  I was already planning on turkey burgers for dinner last night, and a comment on the spice mix's post cemented the idea of making the blend.  Also, I mentioned in the original post that we made turkey burgers with it, but I didn't supply a complete recipe.  So, first of all, here is this recipe for the spice mix.  Tomorrow:  recipe for an awesome burger!
Chili Lime Seasoning
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne (more or less, depending on the amount of heat you like)
1/8 tsp sugar
zest of 1 lime

   Combine all ingredients.
   Serves 4
   This is enough for 1-1.5 lb meat, basically a 1 time use amount.  Feel free to make a larger batch and keep it in the fridge, but don't make too much.  Because of the zest, it will not keep for more than about 10 days in the fridge.

Note In Response to Comment (9/28/11):  The Whole Foods mix uses dried cilantro.  I am not a fan of dried cilantro because it tastes like nothing, so I don't own any.  If it makes sense in the dish, I will use fresh cilantro with this blend.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Not the Same Old Broccoli and Rice

   This dish came out of my needing to use up vegetables (about a year ago).  We made it to that point of the week where we didn't actually have two servings of any given item.  My solution to that problem was mix it all up with rice and cheese.  Clever.  I know.  It was good.  Really, how do you mess up veggies, rice, and cheese?  It was nothing impressive to me and I made a mental note to use it as a last resort, veggie roundup dish.  Something in it resonated with my husband though.  Since then he has asked for it several times, but I generally find a way to get out of making it.  Why?  No clue;  I can't always explain my own actions.  This week, I gave in due to some strange attempt to throw him of my trail less he realize my sneaky tactics.  (Yeah, sometimes, I am an idiot.)

   While making the bechamel, I had a revelation.  I control the creativity.  Alteration of classic recipes is the number one way to spice up the average weeknight meal.  Remember I mentioned I can't explain my own actions on occasion?  I had only made this broccoli and rice in a very traditional manner before.  WHY?!  That explained my reluctance to make it.  It wasn't original or creative, and I didn't find it particularly tasty.  In the swirl of ideas racing around my head, I began grabbing things from my spice basket and refrigerator, all the while keeping in mind flavors that are kid friendly.  After all, this is just a ploy to get kids to eat their vegetables, right?  Many of my recipes would not be appealing to the vast majority of children.  I felt it was time to give another dish that is appealing to kids but sophisticated enough that adults enjoy it to.
Broccoli and Rice... amped
1/2 onion, sliced or chopped
1/2 red bell pepper sliced or chopped
2 Tbsp butter
1.5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp flour
~3/4 C chicken stock
~3/4 C buttermilk
2 Tbsp deli style mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional, but it doesn't add heat, just flavor)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 C shredded sharp chedder
1/4 C shredded parmesan
2 stalks/head of broccoli, broken down into small florets
salt and pepper
1 C parboiled rice
1 C water
3/4 C low sodium chicken broth/stock

   For rice, bring broth and water to a boil.  Add rice.  Return to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low.  Cook for 15-17 minutes.  Fluff with fork so it isn't gummy.
   Heat 1/2 Tbsp evoo over medium heat.  Saute onion and pepper for 3-4 minutes, until onions are translucent.  Add the rest of the oil and butter.  Allow butter to melt.  Whisk in flour so there are no lumps.  cook about 2 min.  Slowly add buttermilk and chicken broth, whisking constantly.  Add mustard and spices.  continue whisking.  The mixture will thicken on its own.  If it begins to get too thick, add a litttle more stock or milk.  Slowly melt in 1/2 C of cheddar.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Remove from heat and allow to cool for a couple minutes.  Then fold in broccoli and another half  C of the cheddar.  Add a pinch more salt (for the broccoli).  Fold in rice.  Place in a lightly greased baking pan (4x8 or 6x6....)  Top with remaining cheddar and parmesan.  (Up to this point, it may be made ahead.)
   Bake at 375 deg F for 20-25 minutes, until heated through and cheese is lightly browned.
   Serves 4 (adult portions)
If I had a top heating element in my oven this would be brown and pretty.
Served with some easy breaded chicken for the perfect kid friendly meal!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beef Stir Fry Pizza

   This sounds bat-shit insane.  I am fully aware of that.  While planning out our weekly menu, I said I wanted to try a new kind of pizza.  Neither of us could think of anything truly creative.  So I looked at Louis and told him to name a dish, anything, and I would make it into a pizza.  How did I not guess that he would say stir fry?  Stir fry is a staple in our house and I know Louis would eat it two or more times a week.  My expression probably read, "You've got to be kidding me."  However, I started thinking about it, and it seemed to make sense.  20 years ago BBQ chicken pizza sounded crazy.  This is basically Asian BBQ.  And let me tell you, it was amazing!  This is absolutely happening again.

   This recipe is giving you several things that can be used on their own.  The marinade on the beef is light and flavorful; great for beef or chicken on the grill.  And the sauce would make a perfect quick dipping sauce for cooked shrimp or veggies.

Beef Stir Fry Pizza
Pizza Dough
corn meal
1-1.5 C shredded mozzarella
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3-4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
Marinated Beef:
1/3 lb beef, very thinly sliced (sirloin or flank steak)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
~1 tsp sriracha
baking soda*
1/2 C hoisen sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated or pasted garlic
1 tsp sriracha

   Marinate beef for 30 minutes-all day.  Just before cooking, sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp baking soda (to tenderize).  Heat a little oil over medium-high heat, quickly sear beef.  Cook about half way through.
   Mix sauce.
   On a pizza pan or baking sheet, sprinkle a little bit of corn meal to prevent sticking.  Stretch dough into a roughly 12 inch circle.  Pre-bake on bottom rack at 450 deg F for 5-6 minutes, until bottom is just lightly golden. 
   Spread sauce over crust.  Top with cheese, veggies and beef.  Bake at 450 deg F for about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Sprinkle with cilantro
   Serves 4.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pork Enchilada Casserole

   I don't know about you, but I find making enchiladas is a pain in the ass.   Perhaps it is because I like corn tortillas for enchiladas.  They tend to fall apart on me and get mushy when I roll them up around meat and slather them in sauce.  Now, I am not a big casserole person, but this seemed to be the perfect solution for my soggy tortilla problem.  And, I don't want to brag, but I was right.  This was so easy and tastier than I could have imagined! 
Pork Enchilada Casserole
1 recipe Mexican Braised Country Ribs*
1 recipe stewed black beans
1 1/2-2 C shredded cheese (cheddar or jack)
6-inch corn tortillas (about 10)
sour cream
chopped cilantro
lime wedges
enchilada sauce:
1 14-oz can tomato sauce
juice of 1 large lime
1 large chipotle, minced or pureed

   Mix up sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste if using unsalted tomato sauce.
   Lightly spray a 13x9 baking dish.  Spread a little bit of sauce (just a couple Tbsp) in the bottom of the dish.  Lay down one layer of tortillas.  It will probably take 4:  3 whole and 1 torn to fill in gaps..   Spread half the beans over the tortillas.  Top beans with half the pork.  Add about 1/3 of the sauce and 1/3 of the cheese.  Repeat.  Top casserole with last three tortillas, sauce, and cheese.
   Cover.  Bake at 375 deg F for 25 minutes.  Uncover.  Bake another 15 minutes. 
   Let cool for about 5 minutes.  Cut and serve with sour cream, cilantro and lime wedges.
   Serves 6.
*You could also use 1 recipe chipotle chicken or roasted vegetables.  Or, for the really easy version, 1 store bought (smallish) rotisserie chicken shredded mixed with about 1 C salsa.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stewed Black Beans with Tomatoes

   This recipe is similar to a black bean recipe I posted several months ago.  However, these beans are slow cooked so the flavor is richer and heartier.  If you like refried beans, you'll love these.  While they are great on their own, I made these beans specifically for an enchilada casserole (recipe tomorrow.)

Stewed Black Beans with Tomatoes
1/2 lrg bell pepper, diced (red is preferred)
1/2 lrg onion, diced
1 C chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh), pulp/liquid removed
1 lrg clove garlic, minced
1 14oz can black beans, half drained of liquid
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp oil
salt and pepper

   Heat oil over medium heat.  Saute bell pepper and onion until soft (7-8 min.)  Add tomatoes and garlic. Cook 3-5 minutes, just until tomatoes start to break down.  Add a little bit of salt along with the cumin and chili powder.  Let spices toast for 1-2 minutes.  Add beans and bay leaf.  Bring to boil over med-high heat, reduce to med-low.  Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and lightly mashing the beans when you stir.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Serves 4.
*If at any point the beans seem to get too thick or gloopy, add a couple Tbsp water to loosen them up.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wild Iris

   I feel terrible that it has literally taken me two months to get to this post!  Wild Iris must be done justice, though, so I couldn't just slap something together. It was Valentine's Day, well, the day before.  V-day is generally known to me as my parents' anniversary.  I guess they felt bad for me dealing with the beginnings of what has turned into an absolute nightmare and the fact that Louis was still in Afghanistan so they forced me to go with them.  I'm really not joking about the forced part.  I didn't want to go, I wanted to stay home and work.  When we got there the hostess almost had a fit because three people showed up for a reservation for two.  The place was packed (it's not a very big place) but the man who ended up being our waited glanced at the schedule and quickly rearranged a couple things.  So, first thing's first, make reservations.

  Upset as I was, the first bite of food sent all my problems away for the night.  The salad was literally the best salad that I have ever had.  It's funny that the menu refers to it as the "baby arugula" salad.  It is so much more!  It had pecan crusted roasted beets, sage goat cheese, bourbon figs, and a Tabasco sorghum vinaigrette.  It sounds like everything would compete against the other elements, but the flavor profiles are similar enough with the basic theme of sweet, salty, savory so it all works together.  The vinaigrette is very light; it almost disappears.  There is just enough to bridge the elements with the fresh, peppery lettuce.  The pecan crusted beets are one if the best things I have ever eaten.  If you don't think you like beets, these will change your mind.
   My dad ordered the antipasto platter.  This is something that could have gone very boring, but just reading the description, you know it's going to be something special.
"Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus, Salami Boursin Cheese Roulades, Country Olives,
Sundried Tomato Relish, Manchego, Caper Berries"
The salami is an artisan sausage.  The creamy, herby boursin cheese is homemade as is the beautifully sweet and tangy sundried tomato relish.  The caper berries are giant.  Literally.  And there was a tiny surprise on the side of the plate.  White anchovies.  Wow.  I can't say these are for everyone, but they are so amazing!  Briny, fishy goodness that automatically makes you think of the Mediterranean.
   For the entree, my mom had the scallops with roasted garlic gnocchi.  It sounds like a strange combination but it was delicious.  The super soft gnocchi somehow go perfectly with the diver scallops.  The menu said there was a mushroom broth, but it was more like a ragout.  It is to die for either way!  My dad had the cashew crusted salmon with butternut squash ravioli, fig jam, and a chimichurri salad.  Again, things that sound odd together, but work in a way that can't fully be explained.  Normally, I am not a huge fan of nut crusts.  They can be scorched and bitter and often the texture just isn't right.  Wild Iris can go ahead and crust their entire menu with nuts for all I care because they have perfected it!  (I don't have pictures because the lighting in the restaurant is limited and I was getting frustrated of just getting totally unusable crap worse than the antipasto pic, lol!  Also, we all wanted to eat.)
   I had the herb crusted tuna with spaghetti squash rollatini stuffed with portabellos, broccolini and ricotta salata with roasted red pepper and black truffle buerre blanc.  The tuna was not actually herb crusted; at least, not at all what I would ever consider to be herb crusted.  It was well seasoned and cooked to a perfect medium-rare.  Those two things are the most important elements of good tuna anyway.  The flavors in the rollatini were wonderfully balanced.  However, it was a little over salted.  The sauce.... yeah, that's a lick your plate kind of sauce. 
    Dessert is not something I usually order out, but when you go to a nice place.... You have to do it.  The menu was pretty standard:  creme brule, chocolate torte, cheesecake, blah blah blah, boring.  Then our waiter mentioned the last dessert.  Banana Pudding Cheesecake.  Yes please!  It sounded too good to turn down.  The crust is vanilla wafers and bananas are pureed into the cheese base.  Fresh whip cream and caramel sauce finish it off.  Decadent and heavenly.  *Sigh*

127 Franklin Road
Brentwood, TN

Friday, April 15, 2011

Parsley and Parmesan "Crusted" Flank Steak

   The reason crusted is in quotations is that I found out my broiler doesn't work.  I turned on what I thought was a working broiler to 500 deg F, put the meat in and 5 minutes later it was just barely warm to the touch.  Attempting to broil something then finding out you do not have a top heating element is not fun.  So what started out as a "crusted" idea became a "melted" actuality.  It was still fantastically delicious, so it's not a big problem.  For now....  I know that at some point I am going to want to make something brown and crispy, though.
Parsley and Parmesan Flank Steak
2-2.5 lb flank steak
sea salt and fresh pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
1/3 C fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley

   Lightly sprinkle both sides of steak with rosemary, garlic and onion powders.  Liberally salt and pepper steak.
   Place in 450 deg F oven near bottom rack for 6-7 minutes.  Flip and cook 3-4 minutes.  Combine cheese and parsley, top steak with it.  Cook another 3-4 minutes.  This should give you a medium/medium-rare steak.  Let rest 5-7 minutes.  Slice against the grain on a biased.
   Serves 4-6

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Loaded Twice Baked Potato

   I will eat potatoes any way you give them to me.  My mom can be thanked for that.  Roasted, fried, baked, mashed, scalloped... whipped potatoes are the only thing I stay away from.  Despite growing up in the South, I had never had a twice baked potato.  I assume it is because my mom couldn't be bothered with that kind of time investment for a baked potato we could top ourselves.  There are two reasons I made twice baked potatoes a week ago.  1)  Several people had made them on Food Network in a short period of time so the idea was in my head.  2)  Halfway through baking the potatoes, a friend called saying he was in town and wondered if we wanted to get dinner.  He was leaving the next morning, so we couldn't postpone it.  I finished baking the potatoes, let them cool, then stuck them in the fridge for the next night.  It worked out great! 
   If you do bake the potatoes in advance, I would wrap them with a paper towel before refrigerating to prevent moisture.  That was my only problem, and it made the very outer portion of the potato slightly tough.   However, because you can bake them in advance and the oven does all the work, these are great for dinner parties.  You can make 10 in the same time as making 4.  Obviously this is a technique and you could put whatever you want in the potato, but bacon, cheddar, and scallion is one of my absolute favorite flavor combinations!
Loaded Twice Baked Potato
2 large baking potatoes (Idaho or Russet)
2 thick cut slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 scallions, chopped
3/4 C shredded sharp cheddar (I used white)
~1/3 C buttermilk*
~2 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper 

   Clean potatoes very well.  Prick the skins with a fork.  Place directly on middle oven rack.  Bake at 375 deg F for about 1 hour.
   Allow potatoes to cool until easily handled.  Cut in half longways and scoop out center of potato.  Mash with buttermilk.  Fold in bacon, 1/2 C cheddar, and scallions.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Put filling back into skins.  
   Bake at 375 deg F for 15-20 minutes.  Top with remaining cheddar and dot little bits of butter on top of the potato halves.  Bake another 10 minutes.  
   Serves 4

*Don't have buttermilk?  Or don't like it?  Use a combination of milk and sour cream, about a half and half ratio.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Crowd Pleasing Marinara

   What goes better with meatballs than a classic marinara?  Nothing is the correct answer to that question!  There is something incredibly comforting about a basic red sauce.  And when it is made from scratch, it is amazing.  This sauce is really easy and almost impossible to mess up.  There is nothing crazy happening in this sauce so it is great for everyone (even little kids... but maybe don't use the wine, although, it does cook down.)

   This is the sauce I made for our big spaghetti dinner.  This recipe makes a lot of sauce.  Even if you aren't having a lot of people over go ahead and make a full batch because it does take a while (so worth it though.)  Marinara freezes great.  To freeze, portion out in plastic ware, spread a little olive oil on plastic wrap, and place on surface of sauce.  This will prevent freezer burn and keep your marinara safe for about 6 weeks.  (Unless you have an awesome freezer... then it will keep longer.)
Simple Marinara 2 lrg carrots, diced
1 lrg onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
4 lrg cloves garlic, minced
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 1/4 C water
3/4 C red wine (don't have wine?  use water + an extra Tbsp of balsamic)
1 bouillon cube (veg, chicken, or beef... doesn't matter)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
1.5 tsp dried oregano
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

   Heat some olive oil (about 2 Tbsp) in a large pot over medium/med-low heat.  Cook vegetables down until very soft but not carmelized; about 15-20 min.  Add garlic, cook 2-3 minutes.  Add all other ingredients (except salt and pepper.)  Bring to a boil over med-high heat, boil for roughly 10 minutes.  Turn heat down to low, partially cover with lid, simmer for 2-3 hours.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Serves 10-12.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Classic Meatballs... for a bunch of hungry people

   Sometimes meatballs aren't that exciting.  But a good meatball can't be beat.  Tender, meaty, lusciousness that is all heart and comfort.  I think everyone needs to have a great, basic, classic meatball recipe.  With it, you can branch out and experiment.  Or keep it close to tradition and satisfy a crowd.  This was the first time I ever used a beef and pork combo.  Why had I not done this before?!  It is perfect.  I always thought TV personalities were bullshitting about the awesomeness of this combination.  That was stupid on my part.  So many people wouldn't rave about it if it was bad.  I guess I just wasn't prepared for how good it actually was.  I never order meatballs out, so my standards for comparison were meatballs I made and the ones my mom made.  Not a wide variety there.  I am writing the recipe slightly different that what I actually did.  I am saying 1.5 lb ground sirloin.  However, I only used 1 lb and I had about 1/2 lb of ground 90/10 turkey in the freezer so I threw that in; but you could also use ground veal.  (I don't eat baby animals sooo.... not an option for me.)
1.5 lb lean ground beef (sirloin, 93/7)
1 lb ground pork (80/20)
2 eggs
1/2 C seasoned bread cumbs
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
extra virgin olive oil

   Combine all ingredients except meats and oil.  Using hands, work in meats; be sure to not overwork meat.  (Let meat come up to room temp so it is easier to work with.)  Form into balls a little larger than golf balls.
   Spread a little evoo over the bottom of a baking pan.  Place meatballs in, leave a little bit of space between each one.  Mixture will make about 24 meatballs and they will all comfortably fit in a 13x9 pan.
   Bake at 375 deg F for about 25 minutes.
   Serves 12 (at most).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mexican Braised Country Ribs/Guajillo Chili Pork Tacos

   Ugh, I feel bad that I have lapsed several days.  Oh well.  I've been really busy getting costume pieces done and then on Friday we drove to Tennessee.  So, yeah, I am in Tennessee now... again... for the weekend.  There may not be a beach here but it is so much prettier in TN!  Everything is so green, the trees are budding, and the annoying birds are hatching.  I need to train my cat to kill them.

   To make up for the last couple of no-post days, you are getting 2 (sorta) today!  Ok, these coutry ribs are fantastic.  I had never eater or worked with this cut before, but they were cheap and all the pork shoulders were way too large.  They were really easy and incredibly delicious.  You could braise them and go ahead and have them for dinner.  Or make them into pulled pork tacos like I did.  Or make a big batch, have them for one dinner, then use the left overs for tacos.  The meat can be braised several days in advance so this would be perfect for a big taco party.

Mexican Braised Country Ribs
2-2.5 lb country ribs, trimmed
1 med onion
1 lrg carrot
1 lrg rib celery
4-5 lrg garlic cloves, minced (~3 Tbsp)
1 chipotle, minced
1 C water
3/4 C salsa
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper

   Cut country ribs into 4-5 inch sections.  Cut celery and carrot into large chunks (these will be taken out in the end.)  Slice onion thinly.  In a baking dish, combine garlic, chiptole, salsa, water, oil, and oregano.  Add celery, carrot, and onion.  Liberally salt and pepper meat.  Place in dish. 
   Put in a preheated 450 deg F oven for 25-30 min.
   Reduce heat to 300 deg F.  Turn meat over, cover dish.  Cook for about 2 hrs.  Check after 1 hr, stir everything together.  Meat is done when it literally falls apart when you touch it.  Remove celery and carrot chunks.  Shred or serve as is.
   Serves 4-6
Guajillo Chili Pork Tacos
shredded pork from Mexican braised country ribs
1 chiptole
2 dried guajillo chilis
~1C reserved chili liquid
1 Tbsp honey salt and pepper
taco toppings (whatever you like)

   Boil about 2 C water, turn off heat.  Add dried chilis that have the stem and seeds removed to water.  Let sit for about 30 minutes, until chilis are soft and pliable.  Place reconstituted chilis, chipotle, 1 C of guajillo chili liquid, and honey in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add sauce and pork to pot.  Heat through and allow sauce to reduce by about 1/4.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Build tacos!
   Serves 4-6

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Caprice Bistro

   It's time for the food highlight of last weekend's trip to Wilmington!  Louis and I are still dreaming of the food.  Caprice Bistro.  A tiny little French restaurant in the heart of downtown with a sofa lounge, of all things, on the second floor.  We did not go to the sofa bar, but I really want to on a future trip!  You are probably thinking, French... oh, it's probably stuffy and expensive.  Wrong.  The chef/owner Thierry Moity was born in France and knows exactly what a bistro should be: understated and relaxed with an air of elegance.  The food is beautiful and has options for every price range. 

   We started with the escargot.  The sweet, tender snails were swimming in the most delightful broth I can possibly imagine.  Roquefort cream with garlic, I believe there was a touch of tomato paste and a pinch of thyme.  Whatever it was, it was exquisite.  So good, that if they had forgotten to put the snails in, I wouldn't have cared.  Despite calling it a "cream", it is light and the flavor doesn't overpower the mild escargot.  Make sure you save the bread they bring first for this sauce!  I would have picked up the bowl and licked it if that were acceptable.
   For the entree, Louis had the Crepe aux Fromage.  It is a huge crepe stuffed with fresh baby spinach, swiss, gruyere, goat cheese, and parmesan.  Yes it is cheesy, but oddly, not too cheesy.  There is just enough spinach to cut through the quartet of cheeses (though, you can't see that in the picture.)  And the crepe: perfect, thin but fluffy, evenly cooked without a single brown spot... I don't even know how that is accomplished!
   My dinner was the Mussles Bruxelles.  Giant Prince Edward Island mussles in a beer cream with mustard, parsley, and bacon.  If I have a complaint of this dish, it is that the mussles were too large.  When mussles get larger, it is harder to properly clean them and grit or a bit of the tough beard (attachment mussle) can be left.  I only had one slightly gritty mussle in the pile; the rest were meaty and sweet and lovely.  Oh, and it should have been served with a hunk of baguette.  I ate all the mussles, then sat there slurping the broth.  Absolutely delicious.  I considered asking for a to go box for the extra broth.
  Nevermind the fact that we were getting full, on to dessert!  We split the chocolate mousse.  I like mousse, but I thought it sounded a little boring for dessert.  However, it was the dessert we could agree on.  I was SO wrong about boring!  The menu doesn't tell you that it is a chocolate trio: white, milk, and dark.  I guess they want to surprise you.  They also surprise you with the presentation.  Usually mousse is in a container of some sort, often because they may not have been made properly and it might fall.  Moiry boldy serves his like ice cream scoops.  We couldn't decide which was our favorite; the consesus was which ever you are eating at the time is the best.  All I can say is "heaven"!

The next time you are in Wilmington, please try Caprice Bistro!  There is something for everyone, even you non-adventerous, picky eaters (I swear!)
10 Market St.
Wilmington, NC

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Reel Cafe

   The Tennessee storms of yesterday have made their way to my little corner of North Carolina.  I happen to love mornings like this: grey, rainy, and cozy with a big cup of coffee.  Currently I am watching old reruns of Melting Pot on the Cooking Channel.  It's pretty funny; I used to watch this show a lot when it was airing regularly but I never recognized any of the people.  Retrospective viewing is amusing, at this moment, Padma Lakshmi is awkwardly fumbling through a vegetarian episode but it doesn't really matter because she is still impossibly gorgeous.  Yesterday, Micheal Symon was a way too charming, way too bald chef who vainly tried to bottle his excitement.  (Sorry, I had to share that.)

   Lunch this past weekend....  The Reel Cafe.  I hear there is a pretty kicking nightlife scene that often attracts the actors from the various shows/movies filmed in Wilmington.  However, we have never made it there at night.  (You can go to their website to read about the roof deck and live music.)  We tend to gravitate there for lunch because most of the menu is sandwhiches and fried things.  That happens to be what we enjoy around the noon-ish time of day.

   First of all, Louis and I agree that they have some of the best fries:  medium thickness in their cut, fluffly on the inside, light and crispy outside and tossed with cracked black pepper and sea salt.  They are the kind of fries that when you are full from the sandwich and half the pile, the waitress doesn't pick up your plate right away.  You sit there picking at them while talking, and before you know it, you've finished what was left on your plate!

   Louis had the crab cake sandwich (fried).  I was a little skeptical of the frying, but it wasn't greasy and the breading was a lot lighter that I expected.  Now, you aren't going to find lumps of crab meat in this cake.  They have to keep cost down... But it is loaded with crab: backfin, claw, and the leftover meaty bits.  The cake is sweet, meaty, and crunchy with limited fillers (like bread crumbs and mayo).  The cajun remolaud served alongside is tangy and the perfect compliment to the crab.  I should mention that all of the sandwiches and burgers (except the po'boys) are served on kaiser rolls.  These rolls are great, I don't know where they get them, but they better not change the supplier!
   I had the chicken sandwich.  Sounds boring, I know, but that's what I was in the mood for.  They grill the chicken breast to order so it is hot, flavorful, and actually juicy... none of that stringy dried out stuff.  I had the Jamaican Jerk sauce on it.  Immediately after ordering, I regretted it.  Normally jerk sauces are fiery hot and have no flavor; they just sear off your taste buds and that's that.  Luckily, I was wrong about my regret.  Their jerk is mildly spicy, could have been hotter for me, but really tasty.  The cumin and allspice are upfront, but well balanced with the other spices.  I will not say it is the best jerk sauce I've had out, but it is the best jerk sauce I've had in a non-Caribbean restaurant.  The only problem is that I could have used more of the jerk sauce and maybe a little mayo... though, I could have asked for that stuff.  I just didn't; so, my fault.

100 S. Front St.
Wilmington, NC

This Post is Dedicated to Jessie over at 87Life (because I know how much she loves this place!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Barista Cafe And Cape Fear Bakery

   Alright, I know I said recipes.  Those are still on the way, but this past weekend, my husband and I took a little mini-trip to Wilmington, NC (about an hour from our house.)  He has been thrown into my little blog world of making notes and taking pictures of food before eating even though I know he is often anxious to dig into food.  He has been very patient with me; he is amazing.  Most of the trip was spent planning where we were going to eat and noting where we want to eat in the future.  We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Wilmington, though not in that order.  However, I wanted to give you a slightly more cohesive progression finishing with our fabulous French dinner!

   So, breakfast.  We made the decision to walk to all of the restaurants because we were staying on the waterfront downtown.  At the other end of the boardwalk from the Hilton is the Barista Cafe and Cape Fear Bakery.  It's super casual and laid back.  Think Starbucks meets Cracker Barrel.  It smells like coffee, bacon, and muffins as soon as you walk in.  The menu is very traditional Southern breakfast with eggs, grits and potatoes.  Louis ordered the meaty omelet: bacon, sausage, ham, and American cheese.  (But he had it without the ham, we are not ham fans.)  And hash browns as the side.  Wow, these hash browns.  Nothing resembling the overly salty, hard, shreds of frozen potatoes in most places.  You get a huge pile of red skin potatoes seasoned with some sort of house blend magic and cooked in bacon fat!  Beyond delicious!  Oh, and the eggs in the omelet were light and fluffy; and the ratio of egg to meat to cheese was spot on... everything an omelet should be. 
   I made the decision before we even left the hotel room, that I was going to get a pastry.  It's a bakery.  Just forget the calories and go for it!  The raspberry scone was screaming at me.  It was sooo good.  The dough is light pink and the whole thing tastes like fresh raspberry (even though it was frozen fruit that was used).  Even the little tang of the raspberry was preserved!  The center was light and flaky, the edges were slightly crisp and there were tiny bits of butter dotted throughout.  I don't know how they managed the butter thing, when I make scones the butter always gets mixed in evenly.  
    If you find yourself wandering around Wilmington in the morning, definitely stop into the Barista Cafe and Cape Fear Bakery.  They brew an awesome cup of coffee and I am sure the specialty drinks are just as good.
225 S. Water St. (at Chandler's Wharf)
Wilmington, NC 28401

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Honey Vanilla Yogurt with Fruit

   I had planned to make some awesome fancy dessert for my husband's homecoming.  Key lime creme brule?  Lemon curd pie?  Something crazy chocolatey with peanut butter?  But when I asked what he wanted he said fruit.  "Some sort of fruit salad with a yogurt sauce" was the exact quote, I believe.  I shouldn't have been so shocked.  He had been living off packaged food for the most of seven months.  Who wouldn't want something bright, fresh, and light?  Also, it was a lot less work on my part.  This is perfect for a light dessert or breakfast.  Use whatever fruit you like or have on hand; this sweet yogurt dressing will go with any fruit.
Honey Vanilla Yogurt with Fruit
1/2 C plain Greek or thick yogurt
2 Tbsp honey
zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 pint strawberries, halved or quartered
1 1/2 C grapes, halved
1 lrg banana, sliced

   Combine yogurt, honey, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla.  Toss with fruit.
   Serves 4

Friday, April 1, 2011

Easy, Traditional Guacamole

   No, traditional guacamole is not just mashed avocados.  You know what that dish is called?  Mashed avocados.  I'm really sorry to burst your bubble if that is what you thought guacamole was.  That's a lie; I am not sorry.  Good news is, traditional guacamole isn't much harder than mashing some fruit.  I am not a huge fan of avocados, but fresh guac.... almost nothing better.  And seeing as how the weather is (attempting) to warm up, this is a recipe you need to have in your summer cooking arsenal.  Garlic is the only ingredient up for debate in tradition in this guacamole.  However, I love garlic and have always put it in this velvety green dip.  Also, Rick Bayless, God of Mexican food in America, uses garlic in his traditional version.  So there.

Easy, Traditional Guacamole
2 ripe haas avocados
1 roma tomato, diced
1/4 sweet onion, diced (yellow or red)
1/2 serrano, minced (use jalapeno if serranos are not available)
1 lrg clove garlic, pasted
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
juice of 1 lime (~1 Tbsp)

   Combine ingtedients. Mash avocados into a chunky consistency.  Salt to taste.
   Serves 4.