I talk about food a lot. And other stuff.

But mostly food.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Only Way to Watch A Movie (unless it's at home with Rifftrax)

I went to see Avatar with my dad the other night.  It was in a fancy new theater called the ShowCase ICON.  There's one in St. Louis Park, MN and one in Chicago, IL.  This is a theater where you can reserve a huge captain's chair with a table on the side in the balcony of the 3-D theater and eat and drink before and during the show.  Before the movie we had martinis and snacks at the bar.  Here's what we had:

His: Kettle One, Mine: Sapphire.  Both: No vermouth, shake it a lot, up, twist.
I think I was right to change my order from the "Red Hot Grandma Martini" - Opulent Vodka infused with fresh pears and spiced with Red Hots served with a splash of Orange Juice and Sprite.

Meat and Cheese Plate:
Proscuitto De Parma (18 month), Mildly Spicy Coppa, Soppressata, Mortabella
Taeggio, Gorgonzola Dolce, Pecorino Romano, Provolone
Maranated Olives, Quince Jam, Toasted Hazelnuts, Dried Fruits, Currant Bread

With bacon spice AND chunks of bacon, FTW!  

As for the movie:  The seats were truly awesome.  My rebellious  side gave in as I watched, and I actually liked the movie.  It was a really cool experience.  I ate my giant cookie in a skillet with ice cream in the dark (something I'll skip next time and eat it out at the bar), and split a bottle of wine with my dad as we watched (which is so much better than sneaking in a flask of rum and mixing it with your fountain coke -- not that I ever even knew of anyone who did that).  If you live near one of these theaters, I highly recommend going.  We spent  over $100, but got dinner and a movie in one, and drank wine in the theater.  A great experience. I highly recommend it.  You can follow their parent company on Twitter here or go to the theater's website and learn more and find showtimes and buy tickets here.  To learn more about what I'm talking about in the title of this blog, please click here and enjoy, won't we?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dinner, Drinks and 3-D

Tonight my dad is taking me to a movie in a theater where you buy advanced tickets and can eat and drink and sit in fancy chairs.  The menu looks pretty good.  I'll probably end up splitting a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc unless I can justify paying $12 for a martini - it does have Red Hots floating in it, after all.

Also, there is no way I'm leaving that theater without having bacon popcorn.  I'll let you know how it is.

Monday, March 22, 2010

You say Rabe, I say Rapini.

We went a little Greek last night.  Some parts of the meal were more successful than others.  The menu was grilled salmon with fresh oregano and lemon, topped with a cucumber, red onion, tomato salsa, and Broccoli Rabe and Orzo Salad.

The salmon left a lot to be desired.  It was an impulse buy, and I should have taken the impulse to another store and gotten a nicer piece.  It was fine, really, but I love salmon so much that I hate to eat a mediocre piece, you know?  The salsa on top was just to try to tie it in to my salad ingredients and use up the stump of English cucumber and six cherry tomatoes we had laying around.

I've never had broccoli rabe.  It is, apparently, not a popular ingredient in my suburb, as I found it in ONE of the four grocery stores I've tried in the past few weeks.  (Yay, Byerly's!)  It is also called broccoli rapini, if you're looking for it.  And it's totally worth looking for.  I made extra orzo, as I knew I was going to have to fish some out without greens in it for my kids, and the picture above shows that even my portion is a little heavy on the pasta. Not that I minded.

The flavor of this green is really great.  It's broccoli-y and green leaf-y, and blanching it in the water with the pasta really takes the bitterness out of it.  I'd go easier on the feta next time, as every once in a while I got a big chunk and it overwhelmed the dish, and I'll also make sure to take out all the big stalky stems.  The leaves are especially wonderful.  Chop them up and put them all in.  This is a great way to get all those fabulous dark green leafy vitamins.  It will definitely hit our table again.  I may even add more garlic and omit the cheese next time, giving me more leeway with my protein. I really felt they had to tie in, so I used the feta as my inspiration for the Greekness of the salmon, and I think this can be a more versatile side dish.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oh, How I Love My... Vegetable Peeler

Ok - new blog thing.

Periodically, I want to tell you about something I love.  Due to the nature of this blog, it will mostly be kitchen tools or ingredients or the like.  However, I have a lot of love to give, so you'll probably hear about all kinds of stuff.  Here we go:

I love my vegetable peeler.   It's Y shaped, which gives me a more comfortable grip.  It also has a cool plastic guard that flips over the blade so when I stick my hand in the drawer, it doesn't stick me. It's an OXO.  It is technically a julienne peeler, though I have yet to use it that way - I just use a light touch while peeing.  Do you have one of these?  Do you like it better than the aligned kind?  I loved the way my mom's old stainless aligned peeler used to sound. - I kinda miss that about this one, but mine is so sharp and comfy, I wouldn't go back.

I love to try new things! If you have something you love that you'd like to send me to try, email me and I'll give you my mailing information.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

I love making Irish Soda Bread with my kids.  It's quick, I always have all the ingredients on hand, and the results are really delicious.  The kids love making Irish Soda Bread for this reason: I let them put their hands in the dry ingredients and mush it around.  Once we put the wet ingredients in, they use their forks (raw eggs, you know).  Then Mama blobs it all out on a cookie sheet and sticks it in the oven.  This St. Patrick's Day, we put butter on the warm bread, drizzled it with honey, and ate it as dessert! 

Here's the recipe:

4 cups flour 
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 TBS sugar
2 TBS caraway seeds Optional.  I usually add another 1 tsp
1 cup raisins  I usually add another 1/4 cup

1 beaten egg
1 cup butter milk
A scant cup of milk (any fat content) with 1 TBS lemon juice works just as well - mix this up first and let it sit on the counter while you're mixing the dry ingredients
1 cup plain yogurt  Fat free and reduced fat works just fine if you prefer.  I like to use fat free Greek yogurt.
1/4 tsp vanilla extract Optional.  
I tried adding vanilla (some of my life-time supply from Mexico) for the first time on St. Patrick's Day because I knew these loaves had dessert as their fate.  It was really good!

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined - do not over mix.  Dough should be very sticky.
Place dough on lightly greased cookie sheet - I always make two loaves and just drop the two roundish blobs on a single sheet.
Bake at 375 for about 30 - 35 minutes.  The outside should brown a little.
You can make one big loaf if you want to, just bake it for longer - 45 minutes.

If you make two, you can always freeze the second loaf, wrapped in tin foil.

What fun!

The raw dough.

The finished loaves.  MMMM!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rosemary-Orange Pot Roast. You heard me.

I love pot roast.  I especially love my mother-in-law's pot roast.  She adds tomato paste to the broth, and it just does all the right things for me.

This week we tried EatingWell's Rosemary-Orange Pot Roast on St. Patrick's Day.  I just couldn't get behind the corned beef and cabbage this year, and it seems wrong to make shepherd's pie from scratch.  You really need leftovers to do it justice.

Let me just tell you that I am not big on leftovers.  Once I eat something, I'm kinda done with it.  That's why I need to menu plan, because I just can't have similar tastes days and days on end.  It drives me nuts.  That being said, I plan on eating Rosemary-Orange Pot Roast for the third day in a row tomorrow.  Yeah.  It's really good.  Is it better than my mother-in-law's?  I say it's different from my mother-in-law's...

This is a great variation when you want that rich, deep, fabulously saucey,  comforting, fall-apart tenderness of pot roast - and it's spring.  I usually think of pot roast as a winter meal.  It's something you eat on one of those twenty below zero days in January when you want a comforting, hearty meal with yummy starchy sides like potatoes or pasta.  I cook it on those days because it takes all day to cook, and that helps keep the house warm.  (I live in Minnesota, these days happen.  Sometimes for a week.)  This variation is good for springtime.  It does still cook all day and warm up the house, but the flavors are lighter and my bet is, if you really really wanted to, you could put some veggies next to the dutch oven and cook it all on the grill.  I may try that on a cool June night.

I loved cooking (and eating) this.  I made a few adjustments. ( I cooked it on the stove top!!!)  The aromas were wonderful, and I took a lot of pictures:

Orange zest (!), Rosemary, Garlic.  What could be better?  I ran out of fresh rosemary and used 1 TBS fresh and 1/2 TBS dried.

Can you smell this through your computer?  Seriously. Awesome.  Olive oil. Onions, browned. Orange zest (!) Rosemary. Garlic.  HEAVEN.

I cooked the onion mixture in my dutch oven, removed it, added the rest of the oil, and browned my Chuck roast.

How could I not use this to de-glaze - Look at that tree!

Removed the beef to a plate and added the wine and broth, scraping up the delicious brown bits.

Nestle the meat back in the pan, scatter the onion mixture around and on top of it.

That's right - I cooked it on the stove top. (I'm a loner, Dottie, a rebel.)  Simmer for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.  This left my oven open for my kids to make Irish Soda bread.  Check back for a recipe, review, and amazingly cute pictures.

This orange looked so sad and naked after I zested it. It called out for more.  I used 1 TBS of its juice in place of the water for the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce.

It added a little more orange to the dish, and came through in a light, lovely, springy way.  I could drink this sauce in a glass.

The mustard sauce in the recipe lends just the right touch to this meal.  I served it with egg noodles and a medley of roasted carrots, parsnips and green beans (drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt on a cookie sheet at 400 for 30 - 45 minutes.) I had two little waxy potatoes in there, too, for good measure - it *was* St. Patrick's day and I'm 1/2 Irish (Bill is 100%).

My 1/2 and 1/2 pour  was terrible, but this did go very well with some Irish beer (Harp and Guinness pictured here).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fork The Fire!

On February 18th, a fire decimated two local restaurants: Heidi's, and Blackbird.  Today, 80 restaurants banned together and are giving proceed to help these chef-owned gems.  There is more information here.

I went to two of these restaurants in the last 24 hours. 

Last night we met our awesome friends and dogsitters at the amazing Cafe Maude.  They have a super fun cocktail list that changes seasonally.  While I miss the "This Charming Man" (served with an English cigarette on the side), last night I had a "Bloody on the Rocks".  It was a whiskey sour with a red wine float.  Ok, I had two.  It was great.  The other cocktails our dinner companions let us taste were the "Scenic Route" - a sidecar with ginger-infused applejack and a sweet cayenne rim, served up, and the "Pank Drank" - sparking pear, cassis and lemon in a champagne glass and a pink glow stick.  Both excellent.

To eat, I had my old standby, the Egg and Spinach.  It's sauteed spinach served with a fried egg, basmati rice, feta and harissa.  The harissa is super hot.  I dip just the tines of my fork in it and then load up with everything else.  I get this every time I'm at Maude.  If I didn't, I'd miss it.  I got the Duck and Frisée Flatbread for my entrée.  The crust is super flat and it has duck confit, frisee, giant chunks of blue cheese and aged balsamic.  I love having a salad on my pizza.  Last night's crust was not as crispy as I like, but it was in no way soggy.  I could have used a little more balsamic (I could drink balsamic, really).  The blue cheese was defiantly the prominent flavor.  Which is just fine with me.

For Fork the Fire today, I took the kids to Salut for brunch.  My kids call this the "Frog with the Hat" restaurant.  They spilt the kids' menu pancakes (two medium pancakes), and chose Lemonaid and Orange/Cranberry juice.  I had a Blood Mary with a beer chaser (is that a Midwest/MN thing?) and the Special Pancakes: Bacon and Brie in the batter, topped with a chiffonade of basil.  Excellent with maple syrup.  We split the "Four bite Chocolate Mousse".  It's a tiny little turine of dark chocolate mousse served with little shortbread cookies (three - perfect for our party), and a cut strawberry.  Perfect.

What do you CRAVE for lunch?

I needed to get the kids out of the house, and I needed a little indulgence, so took my kids out to lunch this week.  And it wasn't to Perkin's.  I took them to Crave - where I can eat sushi and they can have "macaroni and cheese" (it's actually penne in a great, rich, creamy, not-oily cheese sauce).  I took them to Crave - where I can have a lovely glass of Fume Blanc, and they can have juice in cups with dinosaurs on them.  I took them to Crave - where they can color on the place mat with the bundle of crayons that comes tied up in a rubber band, and I can rip off the $3 play money to the most awesome toy store in the Cities (and also online - the have easy lookup by age and interest, great delivery and amazing gift wrap!).  That's $3 free.  To spend immediately or keep and combine with other coupons!  Which I did, because in the Edina location, Creative Kidstuff is across the hall.  And we spent about an hour in there playing.  What a great afternoon.

Now. I did spend $50 on lunch for the three of us.  But it was totally worth it, and you absolutely don't have to.  I ate $24 in sushi and had a $8.50 glass of wine. We also indulged in the amazing coconut cake for  a treat. The kids split one kids meal, and they bring you a bowl of fruit for each child for free when you sit down. Great table, great service, great food, great atmosphere, great perks.  When I am in the mood for sushi and have the kids in tow, there is no other place I crave.

 EDIT - I just saw on their website they have Monday Night Wine Classes for $45 once a month at each of their three locations.  How awesome is that?  You can follow them on Twitter.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My 26 year old ice cream machine

My parents save everything.  I have dressed my daughter in my party dresses and pushed my son in my old pram (thanks, Mom!).  This week, while staying at my parents' house while my husband was away for work,  recording, I played game after game on my old CollecoVision console from the early 1980s (thanks, Dad!).

One great kitchen discovery from the treasure trove in the basement was the Donvier Ice Cream Maker.   Bought on sale in probably 1984 (for $19.99 down from $29.99!), and perfectly preserved in the box with the instructions printed on it, this ice cream maker holds many memories for me.  And now my kids get to use it.

I put the metal insert in the freezer one night, and the next afternoon, I told the kids we were Making Ice Cream!!  Are you kidding?  This was gonna be awesome.  Now, to make it awesome for ME, we made Chef Rick Bayless's Avocado Ice Cream from EatingWell's April issue.

I love Rick Bayless.  I loved watching him win on Top Chef Masters, and I will be forever jealous of our friend who got to hang out with him and eat his food at a small gathering.  I love avocados.  I have been known to enjoy tequila on occasion (though mostly 10 - 15 years ago).  You already know how I feel about zest. 

The kids loved doing this.  They turned and turned and turned and TOOK TURNS turning and turning!  What a great experience for them to be able to see their progress and make something together.  I sat them at the dining room table and they did it all.  Fantastic.

I was so excited to taste this ice cream, and really liked the avocado flavor I got from it.  I think the zest garnish really helped (I tried it the second time without, and found it really does make a difference).  I also found it a little sweet for my taste.  I think I'd use 1 cup instead of 1 1/3 cup next time.  My husband was wishing for more of a gelato experience, and I wonder what would happen if you made this with milk instead of water.  Chances are I'll try it and find out.  The kids each ate about a spoonful and then requested Girl Scout Cookies.  They're two and four, do you blame them?  It's the first year we've gotten GSCs and, boy are they going fast!  I'm so proud of them for trying the green ice cream, though.

I brought some over to my parents' house this week, too, and both my mom (dessert, and particularly ice cream lover) and my dad (typically a dessert passer) LOVED it.  I also heard from a friend before I made this about her story of her family who loved it too.  Her two year old ate it up, her husband tasted the lime most prominently and she, the tequila.

I'm so happy to have a treasure trove of riches four miles away (in someone else's basement), and really look forward to the next time I get to make ice cream with the kids.  This thing is great, if you want to try to find one on E-Bay or something.  I also discovered you don't have to put it in the ice cream machine.  My machine only fit half of this recipe.  I put the other half in a glass pie plate and stuck it in the freezer. It came out exactly the same as the other, it just took a little longer.

But how can you deny the awesomeness of this:

No Electricity! No Ice! No Salt Needed!  

Also,  apparently "Anyone! Can! Do It!"

To answer your question: Yes, I served ice cream made with tequila to my family.  I knew they weren't going to eat very much, if any, and I wanted to keep the integrity of the recipe - at least the first time around.  This was really about the experience of making ice cream with them.  Next time we're doing vanilla made with some of the Life-Time Supply of Mexican vanilla my parents brought back from Cancun for me last week.  Maybe malteds will be in our future, too!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hilary's Heavenly Eggs

Hilary, I don't know who you are, but thank you for a great answer to the question, "Ok, what am I gonna do with eggs THIS morning?" Eggs braised in tomato sauce with onion, garlic, basil and cheese.  Now, really, what could be better than that?  Oh, yeah, I served it on sourdough toast.  And there's a dinner option to serve it on angel hair pasta.

The key to the success of this recipe, I think, is to love your prepared sauce (or your homemade sauce, I suppose).  It is no secret here that I love Trader Joe's.  When they hit, they really hit.  One such item is their big can of Tuscano Marinara Sauce.  I was really glad to have had this sauce for this dish.

Next time I make this, I will know that it needs to hit the table immediately.  Everyone needs to be AT THE TABLE with hands washed, silverware, napkins and drinks at the ready when that timer goes off.  As it was this time around, the eggs were perfectly hard-cooked, bright yellow and crumbly.  It was really delicious, and I look forward to making it again with a runny center.  (As you may know, I would eat my hand if it had a runny egg on it.)

Remember when I said onions and garlic cooking in olive oil was my favorite smell?  Yeah.  This has pancetta in it.  My house smelled Seriously.  Awesome.

Nestled eggs.  I made the whole recipe (not the "for two" version).  Bill and I had no problem polishing the "serves 4" portion.  But then, we're like that.

I didn't add the basil until later.  This was honestly because I sometimes don't Actually Read the recipe, but I liked the freshness of the basil because of this.

I also sprinkled some pancetta on top.  I think next time I'll leave it out of the sauce and only sprinkle it on top.  The recipe calls for 1 oz for the whole 4 servings, and it disappeared in the sauce.  I'd rather use that little bit on top and preserve the crispiness of the pancetta.  (Not to mention the calories, as I felt the need to add more later because I was missing it.)

I can't wait to try this on angel hair pasta.  I bet I can get my kids to eat it then.  They had cereal this morning.  They have great palates, but the morning is not really when we try new things at ages 2 and 4, ya know?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finally! Soup!

I've been meaning to make this for many nights.  I went out and bought the ingredients last week.  In the meantime, my first round of cress went yellow and subsequently my husband treated himself (with my blessing) to the 1/2 and 1/2 in his coffee.  I finally got around to buying more of both. Boy was I glad it worked out that way, because I got these really cool packages of cress that was still growing - with the roots intact like you sometimes see basil sold.  Excellent.

Last night I made Creamy Watercress Soup.  I know it's not on my original list, but it sounded really good, and I reserve the right to change my mind to suit my tastes.  I served it with grilled hamburgers on English muffins and a side of asparagus.  It was a Huge Hit.

The thing that attracted me to this was EatingWell's description of "Steakhouse Flavors".  I love horseradish.  I love blue cheese.  I love soup.  This seemed like a perfect fit for me.  I assumed my kids wouldn't eat it (hence the asparagus on the plate), but they have pretty surprising and sophisticated palates for two and four year olds, so I did serve it to them in little ramekins.  Freddy (2), had an early-rise,  no nap, lots of activity day.  He fell asleep on the couch as dinner was being served and slept for 11 hours.  Molly (4), had two ramekins of this soup and her whole helping of burger and asparagus.  I couldn't believe it when she said "I like this soup, Mama!" and almost fell over when she asked for, and ate, seconds.  The kid likes Brussels sprouts and broccoli, too (and Freddy loves beets and pickles).   They would both eat asparagus every day.  Lucky me!

After dinner my husband admitted he wasn't really jazzed about trying this one - though on the whole he is very happy to reap the benefits of all this new recipe cooking I'm doing.  He was pleasantly surprised, and really enjoyed the soup, too.  As for me, this recipe fulfilled all my dreams of the promised Steakhouse flavors, and I think the accompanying burger was perfect.  I'm not sure I'd serve this soup alone as a meal, but the cheese was wonderful and complimented the creaminess of the soup, and we all loved how the croutons stayed crispy.  The sourdough is key.  Great flavors!

I haven't done a lot of play-by-play photo-cooking here yet, and I really enjoyed making this.  So, I took a bunch of pictures, and would love to share them.  Please keep in mind, these are iPhone pictures, and I am not a professional. :)

One of my favorite smells, ever.  Olive oil, onion and garlic doing it's thing.

 I was a little worried about the "Extra Hot"-ness of this prepared horseradish, but it's what I had, so it's what I used.  I initially only put 1 TBS in.  I let it cook, tasted it, and added the remaining TBS.  It turned out great.

The package of growing cress.


Super easy to prep with the roots holding it all together, too!

I was surprised this recipe called for beef stock, and almost used my own frozen chicken stock from when I made Bobby's Chicken last month.  I'm so glad I went with the recommended reduced sodium box of beef stock.  Great flavor, and it complimented the burgers.  Another testament to my belief that you should do what the recipe says the first time, see how you like it, and then adjust to your tastes. (Now please don't look back at the onion dressing I made last week where I used leeks.)

Add cress.

No matter how many times I cook greens, I'm always amazed at the reduction in volume.


 Blend in batches.

Add 1/2 and 1/2 and pepper.

Toasty!  Sourdough is one of my very favorite breads (up there with Caraway Rye and Soda Bread).  It was perfect in this soup.  Plus - super crunchy texture in the creamy soup!

The accouterment.  Freddy helped sprinkle before he fell asleep.

Molly's ramekin of goodness.  (This was the first helping.)

Make it and tell me what you think!!