Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Dinosaur, An Egg and a Foodie

I need the chocolate and peanut butter milkshake I’m drinking right now about as much as I need a hole in my head, but it’s hard to resist the delicious frozen decadence of a milkshake that I’ve deemed surely from Heaven. I cannot begin to explain the elation of being off my no-dessert diet…hence the milkshake…and the Twix bar I ate for a snack, and the chocolate covered rice krispy treats I ate for breakfast, but more on that later. This past weekend we celebrated my son’s 4th birthday and it was all things dinosaur related. I announced to my husband that I do not like cake, do not bake cakes, cannot make them look remotely appetizing and do not have the creativity of a master pastry chef to create a masterpiece likened to that on a Food Network Challenge, so we were going to buy an ice cream cake. He just gave me a knowing smile and kept driving the car.

I realized that an ice cream cake at an outdoor birthday party in 97 degree humid weather was the dumbest idea I’d come up with all day and began just peeking at ideas online. It was just a peek…a subtle curiosity into what other moms had done for their children’s dinosaur themed birthday cakes and I stumbled upon and would like to hug Betty Crocker, her website, and her dinosaur cake idea. Betty, I made a fun little cake that delighted audiences of all ages and I have you to thank.

Granted, my icing spreading abilities will not be winning any awards, but bear in mind that my target audience was 4 years old.

I surprised even myself. It was one triple chocolate cake mix which made two 9” layers, two containers of whipped butter cream icing and a handful of Raisinettes, Hershey Kisses and Malted Milk Balls. What’s not to love?!

To keep in theme, I also made Dinosaur Eggs…and I have Kelloggs to thank for this grand idea. They had the idea at Easter time and I pulled it out of my back pocket for the occasion. Making a batch of Rice Krispy Treats, I formed them into egg shapes, dipped them in chocolate and decorated with sprinkles. These are FABULOUS and I polished off the last one for breakfast. I need another excuse to make these – and SOON. Perhaps something at Halloween will surface. These are too fun and fabulous to merely fix once.

So now that I’m coming off my dinosaur sugar high, I’d like to give you some super fun news. The musing foodie has made the plunge into some culinary aspirations and I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m now a Featured Publisher with a large food blogging community called FoodBuzz. I’ll be competing in contests and will have a wider audience with which to share my foodie adventures with. Thanks for your support in getting me to this next step. That cookbook dream is one step closer.

Have a delicious day!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Super Duper Grouper

Still basking in the memories of white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, I attempted to recreate one of my favorite meals while on vacation. A local island grill, located on Pillory Beach, Grand Turk served an amazing Grouper and Vegetable Wrap. Feeling like a local, based on the tan I came back with, I purchased a large filet of Grouper and some blackening seasoning and my husband brought his grill master skills to our cast iron skillet. The result was a masterpiece that will soon be repeated!

I took whole wheat tortillas, added red leaf lettuce, roma tomato slices, swiss cheese and italian salad dressing and topped it off with the Blackened Grouper. The results were fabulous! There was no talking while we were enjoying - all you could hear was the munch and chew and savory smack of a happy family devouring a delicious dish - even the kiddos enjoyed!

If you're stuck in the fish stick abyss of sea creature fear, branch out and try Grouper. It's a firm white flesh with a mild taste and doesn't take long to cook. My next attempt will probably be Blackened Grouper over a salad. The healthy bite of the veggies combined with the delicious flavor of the fish make this combo hard to beat.

Have a delicous day!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cruising from the Culinary Point of View

I think I’m beginning to get the hang of life without a personal wait staff again…though it’s been a tough transition. One really does get spoiled on a cruise – there is a team of staff who literally clean and straighten your room every time you leave – that involves a bathroom clean and towel replacement too (I so wanted to put these people in my luggage and bring them home).

Every morning we’d either hit the fine dining room where I got hooked on Eggs Benedict, or we’d mosey on over to the more casual buffet style dining where I’d concoct a Ham and Cheese Croissant while shoveling as many Apple Danish as is humanly possible into my mouth. My son all but camped out at the round the clock soft serve Ice Cream machine and by the time breakfast wore off, we were usually off the ship enjoying local island cuisine and some of the best fresh cooked fish you’ve ever eaten. I had a Blackened Grouper and Vegetable Wrap one afternoon on Grand Turk Island that rivals any fine seafood restaurant – and who can beat the view of crystal clear water on a white sandy beach? Irreplaceable!

Dinners were back on the boat and we chose to eat dinner each evening in the fine dining room. The food was a mix of average and good – it’s hard to feed exceptional food to 2000 people from a varied menu that will please every palate. The advantage I enjoyed was being able to select a few appetizers and a few entrees – so if you didn’t enjoy the Caesar Salad, the cold Strawberry Soup brought the smile back to your face. And if the Eggplant Parmesan was a little too salty, the Petit Filet or Chateaubriand with Hollandaise made your evening complete – almost. Dessert was always a treat and I literally fell in love with the Molten Chocolate Lava Cake. I ate it 3 nights in a row and polished off every bite – never mind the looks one gets from licking the ramekin – it’s worth every calorie. I also enjoyed Cappuccino Pie and the Tiramisu that incorporated Grand Marnier into the pastry crème. Oh the bliss!

I came back with inspiration for some new dishes to try at home and enjoyed being catered to hand and foot. It was a relaxing time away, spent with those I love and I am blessed. No doubt about it.

Have a delicious day and thanks for enjoying my adventures!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Lava Cake Vacation.

Dear friends, I've been remiss in posting to this delicious blog, but have the best excuse! I was eating 'til my heart's content aboard a wonderful cruise that went to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos! I've returned with a tan, sunburnt nose and boatful of memories. We took my almost 4 year old and adventure ensued at every port.

I have much to share, but am in the midst of settling back into reality. I returned to an empty refrigerator - save an open can of red beans that had turned into a science project and whose smell infiltrated the entire kitchen. I'm sitting here looking at grocery ads and coupons and feeling rather inspiration-less as I have been catered to non-stop for every meal, snack and whim. Someone else made the menu choices of which I merely had to say "I'll have two of these, one of these and add some molten chocolate lava cake on the side." Divine! I believe I could eat it every day - and practically did.

So, before I aimlessly hit the grocery store, I wanted to say hello to each of you and bid you a delicious week. I'm in the midst of planning the ultimate dinosaur themed 4 year old birthday party, along with restocking my shelves, downloading vacation pictures and undergoing a bit of redecorating. I have 3 rooms to transform. Much to do! Ciao for now!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Are You a Good Picker?

I've received multiple requests on this topic, so this is in answer to your request on Picking! Many of us will be venturing out to farmer's markets, road side stands or the backyard to pick up some fruits and veggies this weekend - but do we really know how to be good pickers? What should the tomato or zucchini or ear of corn look like, feel like, smell like? Behold! I have researched and am a pretty good picker - so, here is my take on the matter...

I've taken my four favorite summer time picks and plucked them for your reading enjoyment.

Let's first tackle the Tomato - marvelous in pasta sauces, cut up on salads or sliced and served with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. I can't eat enough of them during the summer. My father in law has the growing of Better Boy tomatoes perfected, but since his crop is almost all picked, I'll be forced to quit mooching off of his plants and hit the farmer's market. Tomatoes should be firm, with a smooth waxy skin. Stray away from squishy and wrinkled - run from holes or bruises. If you're going to eat your tomato that day, it's ok to grab the reddest juiciest looking fruit you can find, but go a little orangey red if you're going to eat them throughout the week so they can ripen in your windowsill. And to totally throw you, live life on the edge and buy a green one and fry it in oil after dredging in cornmeal and egg wash. Ooooooh the bliss of a Fried Green Tomato. But that's another recipe for another day.

Now for Corn. Corn on the cob with salt and melted butter - who can beat it? Canned and frozen should be shunned and hidden in the back of the pantry or freezer until desperate times (winter season). I (in my couponing sassiness) purchased 10 ears of corn for $1 at Earthfare yesterday. Who else can walk out of Earthfare only spending $1.04? (Well, anyone who is on their mailing list...but I'd prefer to consider myself among the frugal minority of savings and satisfaction). Corn on the cob should have bright green, moist husks (can I tell you how much I dislike the word moist? I can't find another adjective, so we'll have to suffer through). The silk should be stiff, dark in color and moist (ugh, there it is again!). The best time to eat corn is after you've just picked it - or just purchased. Corn actually loses it's sugar content the longer it's off the stalk. Who knew? You want to eat your corn within 2 to 3 days or else the taste won't be as delicious and sweet. Boil it for a few minutes, grill it with your burgers, bake it in the oven for 20 or microwave it for 4...it's delicious. There are disputes on keeping the husks on or off while cooking. I'm a husks off kind of girl.

Now for Zucchini - another veggie of choice in our household (wait, I did NOT include my almost 4 year old in the poll. His opinion is not of relevance as he'd exist on sour gummy worms if we let him). I'm growing several pots of zucchini in my backyard and have enjoyed sauteing them with onion and olive oil and serving them as a side. If I could get off my sauteing kick, I'd also bake zucchini bread and zucchini squares. YUM! I've just inspired myself. Ok, to pick a good zucchini you want to look for a firm dark green skin - avoid nicks and cuts as they can breed bacteria. Choose small to medium in size - 6 to 8 inches in length. Your freshest zucchini will still have bristled tiny hair on it.

And finally, who can have a blog post such as this without mentioning the beloved PEACH?! Peaches are tricky. I prefer yellow over white. They have a much better taste. I go for a firm fuzzy fruit that gives just a little when I squeeze it. Peaches have a rite of passage they must endure upon entering our house - they have to sit on the kitchen counter for several days to ripen. When they begin to give a little more upon squeezing them, then slice and enjoy. The tricky part is getting your peaches from a good source and your best bet is to try a sample to make sure you like it. If there are no samples, ask if they will slice one for you (in which case, go for a softer one to have sliced). Avoid bruises and soft spots - you want a well rounded peach that ripens all at once.

All of this talk of produce now has me starving. I'm off to pick.

Have a delicious weekend!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chavrie Risotto

I love goat cheese but have to admit, my first encounter was on a date and ended up spit out in a napkin. I was young and dumb and hadn't yet matured my taste buds. I ordered a salad at a little California Bistro. I was a teenager wishing I was at least 25 and decided to order a mature dish with a cheese I had never tasted. So much for maturity. The waiter presented me an incredible salad with a goat cheese medallion nestled in the center of field greens. I took a bite and was hating the fact that we had cloth napkins. Who can impress a date when you're spitting the contents of your dinner into a cloth napkin? And then what in the world do you do with your napkin after it has chewed up goat cheese and lettuce in it? Gross. I'll repeat again: young and dumb.

Thankfully I've acquired the taste for this sumptuous cheese and now I crave it. It's creamy texture and sharp taste pair perfectly with a salad or my new favorite risotto recipe! Thanks to my new pals at Chavrie (loved the freebie coupon - thanks guys!) I tried their Chavrie Creamy Risotto as a side to some Chicken Squares I made. WOW is the term that exudes from your mouth. If you're a Risotto fan (which I am) and if you're a Goat Cheese fan (again, sign me up) then this recipe will make you dance the jitterbug. I had never attempted Risotto before, so I had no idea it required so much babysitting - but it's worth the effort when you have extra time for an exotic side dish.

Chavrie ® Creamy Risotto
Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cook Time: 35 minutes. Serves: 6-8 (though I'd say more like 4 servings if you eat like me)

1 pkg. (5.3oz) Chavrie® Basil and Roasted Garlic goat cheese
5 C Chicken stock or broth
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
½ C Minced onion
1 cup Arborio rice
½ C White wine
2 tsp. Flat leaf parsley finely chopped


Bring chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm. Heat olive oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Add minced onions and cook until translucent. Pour in the arborio rice, cook for 4 minutes, stirring until well coated. Turn the heat to high and add the white wine, simmer until mostly absorbed.Add the hot stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed by the rice. Continue to add stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to release the starch. Check rice for doneness after 18 minutes, rice should be al dente but cooked through. Stir in Italian parsley, and Chavrie®. Season with salt and pepper serve immediately. (And they do mean IMMEDIATELY - leftovers turn into strange clumpiness - but no worries, you'll eat it all in one setting).

I would've taken a picture, but didn't, so imagine tapioca pudding or...Risotto if you're used to dining on it regularly.

Have a delicious day!

Disappointing Torte

My amazing husband found a super fabulous recipe that he wanted us to try this weekend. The catch: it had 87 thousand ingredients and an equal number of steps to complete it. It really looked delicious in the picture (and I do love a full page glossy picture in a cookbook). We decided to attempt it. It would be fun, right? A cool project to work on as a couple...despite changing a diaper - or two, rescuing a cowboy hat from the bathtub, rescuing the dog from being ridden by the 3 year old, dodging telemarketers, stepping over plastic jungle animals that kept crawling under our feet, putting all of the tupperware back in the cabinet thanks to our 1 year old, fixing snacks for everyone while we complete this life long recipe and forgetting the fresh parsley. Dried would simply have to do.

The attempted recipe: Herbed Omlet Torte. We were both convinced that, thanks to our friends at Southern Living, this recipe would revolutionize baby showers, bridal showers, pot lucks, dinner clubs and any excuse in which to dazzle and amaze in a culinary setting. I painstakingly took pictures of each step - as you have to wilt spinach, saute red peppers, make two omlets with fresh dill, parsley and tarragon...layer everything with ham and swiss and olives in a buttery, flaky puff pastry crust. Who cares that it was 47 grams of fat per serving? It was going to be the recipe of recipes. I'll forgo the plethora of photos I took in which to pull you into the recipe the way I was. The pictures are FAR more delicious than the outcome.

We pulled the masterpiece out of the oven. It was beautiful, it smelled amazing...it it it....was a bland and disappointing recipe. Sadness. I'm not totally giving up on the concept - as I feel there is potential there, but a repeat of this complex Herbed Omlet Torte won't take place again in my lifetime.

Alas, here is a photo of our noble attempt that was merely more of a fun project for us to work on together, and not a delicious revolution. Oh well - you win some, and you give some to your garbage disposal. Such is life. They can't ALL be good - right?

Have a delicious afternoon and let's hope dinner turns out good. :)