Monday, May 31, 2010

Salad Alternative

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I LOVE salads, but really prefer all of the toppings more than the lettuce.  So… I’ve decided to start experimenting with salad “alternatives”. 

One of my experiments was the bread salad, and today I made a really simple salad out of avocados, heirloom tomatoes, olive oil, dill, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper!  The ingredients were actually very similar to guacamole – but not mashed, just left chopped in the bowl.  Yum!

It was such a nice summer dish – fresh, earthy, simple, and no mayo or other ingredients that would go bad being left outside for a while on a grill-out of picnic.

Taste of Cincinnati

I went to Taste of Cincinnati this weekend.  Who can resist the temptation of samples, food galore, and did I mention – Cincinnati people watching?  That’s some good entertainment!

(It’s also a great way to learn about new restaurants in the area.  I learned there is a cute little place called The Loving Cafe nearby that caters to vegans and vegetarians.  I have a friend who is vegan, so next time she’s in town – I’m taking her there!)

The man and I enjoyed being out in the warm sunny weather and did try a few food items.  Before we went, I checked out the vendors online to see what options they’d be bringing and I had my heart set on trying the deep fried Twinkie from Mac’s Pizza Pub! 

I first heard about deep fried Twinkies on “The best food I ever ate” Food Network show, and it sounded divine.  I’ve had fried candy bars before (fabulous!), so this was next on my list.

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The fried Twinkie was okay, but to be honest – it just didn’t live up to my expectations… The sweetness of the cake didn’t come through because of the fried batter, and the cream inside melted into the cake part so that you didn’t actually get the cream, you just got soggy cake.  I think I’ll stick to fried candy bars  :)

As for the Taste – I’m glad Cincinnati has kept it going (32 years!)and I’m excited for next year. 

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Special Special Burgers

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I love fancy gourmet food, but I also love old fashion down home basics – including hamburgers!! 

I made these hamburgers with just a little twist:

  • extra lean beef
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • grill seasoning
  • dill

To make them extra special, I added a good size chunk of Vermont sharp cheddar right in the middle of the patty.

**Another special touch was to put cranberry sauce on the bun instead of ketchup – its sweet and tangy flavor was a great switch from the norm!

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On the side, I grilled up some leeks and onions.

(Can you tell which burgers are mine and which ones are my boyfriend’s??)

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Finally, I finished off my plate with pickles and heirloom tomatoes.  I ADORE heirloom tomatoes and will never go back to regular old tomatoes.  Heirlooms are a bit more expense, but not too much – and the flavor is divine.  They just have a more intense fresh tomato-y flavor in them…  Try them; you’ll love them.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Made-Up Eggplant Dish

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I don’t cook with eggplant a lot because I’ve often found it to be tough or bland.  However, I love Pompilios eggplant parmesan, so was recently inspired to try cooking with it again.

Typically, when I cook I just make things up as I go and utilize whatever I happen to find in my pantry or fridge at that moment.  That was definitely what happened with this eggplant dish.

I started by peeling the eggplant and slicing it in 1/2 inch thick slices.

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Next, I drenched the eggplant slices in flour and then a beaten egg mixture.  I cooked them slowly on the stovetop w/ a little olive oil and butter.

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For the other part of my made-up eggplant dish - I sautéed onions, leeks, and ground turkey breast.  At the very end, I threw in diced heirloom tomatoes and added salt and pepper to taste.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Eggs Benedict

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My mom and I made eggs benedict recently.  It was SO freakin good…  I could eat it everyday.

I’ve never made hollandaise sauce before, so she showed me how.  It was a bit of work, but was well worth the trouble.  Here’s how we did it:

Better Homes & Garden Recipe

  • 1/2 cup room temp butter cut in thirds
  • 3 beaten egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Dash salt
  • Dash white pepper 

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In the top of a double boiler combine egg yolks, water, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add a piece of the butter. Place over boiling water (upper pan should not touch water). Cook, stirring rapidly with a whisk, till butter melts and sauce begins to thicken. Add the remaining butter,a piece at a time, stirring constantly till melted. Continue to cook and stir till sauce thickens (about 2 min more). Immediately remove from heat.

Now… before the sauce is being made, there are some other items to prep --

We roasted asparagus and leeks with some extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt.  We also toasted  up our Canadian bacon in the oven and propped our English muffins in the toaster.

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Next, we had to make sure the eggs were poached and ready for the sauce.  We poached the eggs in a few inches of vinegar & salt water to a perfect yolky consistency. 

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Then, when the sauce was about ready, I toasted the English muffins and took the bacon and veggies out of the oven.

Top the toasted muffin with the Canadian bacon, then the poached egg.

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Finally, we top the whole thing with hollandaise sauce, a little dill, and add our veggies to the plate.  Time to eat!

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Poached cod dinner

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This poached cod recipe was from Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris.  Thank you Bard for helping me with my first time making fish ever!  I didn’t use a fresh fish from the market, and no, I didn’t gut it myself (as Bard does) – but it still turned out fabulous!

“Poached Cod

  • 1 bouquet garni, a mixture of fresh herbs (parsley, coriander, bay leaf, thyme, dill) still on the stem, tied with kitchen string or left loose
  • A few black peppercorns
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 3 pounds boneless cod fillet, at least 1-inch thick
  • Lemon wedges

… "Partially fill a frying pan large enough to comfortably hold the fish fillets with cold water and add the herbs, pepper, and enough salt so you can taste it.  Bring to a boil.

Turn down the heat, add the fish, and simmer…until the flesh is firm, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness.  Discard the herbs.  Remove the fish with a slotted spoon to a serving platter.  Serve warm… with lemon wedges.

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Sides to my fish dinner

I am reading Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard and it is phenomenal!  Not only do I get to read a beautiful love story, but I also get ridiculously delicious simple French recipes.  This book couldn’t fit me any better!

The most recent recipe I tried was a poached fish dish and the sides I made were homemade mayonnaise, oven roasted leeks, and red potatoes (the potato recipe wasn’t in book, but the other recipes were).

“Homemade Mayonnaise

The key to success is to have everything, from the bowl to the eggs, at room temperature.

  • 1 egg yolk (only the freshest, preferably organic – remember, you’re eating it raw)
  • Scnt 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup safflower, sunflower, peanut, or mild vegetable oil

… Combine the egg yolk, mustard, and salt in a small mixing bowl.  Using an electric eggbeater, beat the yolk mixture while adding a few drops of oil at a time.  When the mixture begins to thicken and set, add a thin but steady trickle of oil.  The mayonnaise will not take more than a minute or two to puff up.”

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I hadn’t tried leeks until I made this simple recipe, and now they are a staple I won’t do without.  They are delicious!  Salty, sweet, slightly oniony goodness…  mmmmm

I make mine a bit different than Bards recipe, but it’s still the same idea.

Leeks – chop roots and coarse green woody end off, then chop as bite size desired.  Place on tin foil lined baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix with hands so that olive oil covers the leeks.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until leeks are tender.

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My starchy side was little red potatoes.  I dropped the potatoes in a bath of cold salted water and brought to a boil until I could “stick a fork in them!”.  Then I softly smashed them and added butter, salt, pepper, and dill to taste.  Ready to eat!

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Super easy spinach

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Need Popeye strength?  You remember what you have to do – eat some spinach!  I happen to love spinach, but even if you’re not a big spinach fan, there are many ways of making it that are more appealing than just regular old greens. 

One option is to make a cheesy baked spinach dish.  I thawed a frozen spinach package (about $1 in the frozen food section – such a steal!), then added a 1/2 cup cream, a good dash of salt, a pinch of nutmeg, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and 1 clove crushed / minced garlic.

I baked it at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until it was bubbly and the garlic cheesy smell was drifting through my kitchen.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Split Pea Soup

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I love split pea soup!  It’s one of those foods that’s good and good for you (as long as you don’t mind eating green food).  I also love it is because it’s a great hearty fall / winter soup, but also works well in the spring due to all the fresh vegetables used.  I add spinach and sweet green peas to this recipe in the spring to mix it up from the norm.  Yum!
Ingredients
  • 2 1/4 cups dried split peas
  • 2 quarts cold water or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds ham bone
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch dried marjoram
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 package frozen spinach (thawed)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Directions

  1. In a large stock pot, cover split peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. If you need a faster method, simmer the peas gently for 3-5 minutes, and then soak for l hour.
  2. Once peas are soaked, add ham bone, onion, salt, pepper, marjoram, and bay leaves. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove bone; cut off meat, dice and return meat to soup. Add celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  4. Stir in spinach and peas until warmed through.
  5. Eat and enjoy.

If you like a vegetarian option – this is a very easy soup to transition!  Just use veggie broth instead of chicken broth and skip the ham.