Winners & Losers

This past Saturday was my bridal shower hosted by my awesome maid of honor and uber-cool bridesmaid. One of the games we played was based on a series of questions the MOH sent to Chris. He had to answer the questions, about himself. And then I had to give the right answers. Everyone first guessed how many they thought I would get right.

I knew right off I was going to fail miserably. Out of 20 questions, I was hoping for 50% correct. I actually did slightly better than that. It helped when some of the questions came with hints. Knowing that I like to cook, she asked Chris what his favorite dish of mine was and his least favorite.

Since Chris has a number of “home run” dishes he talks about, and has been known to lick the plate clean, literally, I needed a little guidance but I was able to determine the winning dish. Funnily enough, I haven’t made it in months. The Squash Risotto is really more of a fall/winter dish in my head. I knew for sure that some kind of seasoned and bread-crumb coated chicken would be part of the dish.

As for least favorite. Well, I was briefly insulted that he would be able to choose anything since I’m so fabulous but this wasn’t really that hard. I never blogged about this dish but there is a Twitter comment referencing a turkey meatloaf gone awry. It really wasn’t awful. It just needs some work. And the first step will be using the proper ratios of peppers and onions to ground turkey. I thought I had the 2 pound package of ground turkey, not the 1 lb; realized my error after cutting up onion and pepper. It was a recent experiment so I’m not surprised it would come to mind when asked.

The luncheon at the shower was partly made up of some little deli sandwiches from a new place in Flint, Hoffman’s Deco Deli. I don’t know the all the varieties chosen except one was a vegetarian sandwich that looked pretty tasty. I had what I believed to be the Dillyliscious: Stacked turkey, provolone cheese, a dill mayo spread with leaf lettuce and a tomato. Good bread and a nice size to go with the salads and such. The deli itself is one of several new places in downtown Flint on my list to check out next time I’m in the home area which will probably be this weekend.

For dessert, we had cute sugar cookies and some really tasty chocolate cupcakes with a secret. When Chris came back to pick up his mom and the gifts, I had him try a cupcake. He was impressed with the flavor and shocked when I told him the secret. My MOH picked this up from Weight Watchers apparently: 1 batch cake mix and 1 can of diet soda. If its a dark cake mix, use a dark diet soda. If its a white/light mix, use something like diet Sprite. And don’t add anything else like egg or oil as is usually directed by the box.


After the shower, my ‘maids and I headed over to a friend’s house for relaxing before heading out for girl’s night. On the way, we stopped at this gas station near I-75 because I needed a diet coke. I almost forgot my soda when I walked in to this place, Aaron’s. It was so much more than a gas station stop. They had a couple aisles of beer including some unusual microbrews along with a few aisles of wine ranging from $7 to more than $50 per bottle plus a full deli, small fresh produce section and probably more we didn’t notice.

I grabbed 3 bottles of wine, one for the night and two to take home. The two take-homes were not rare or necessarily good wines but they spoke to me. Number 1: the winery name is CMS, Chris’s initials. Its on the front in fancy font- had to buy. Number 2: Earth, Zin and Fire. Silly name but earlier, during the shower game, I got the answer to “Chris’s favorite musical group” wrong. Apparently its Earth, Wind and Fire. I had no idea*. To make up for this, I bought the bottle. We also bought some artichoke-asiago dip which was absurdly tasty

*In retrospect, I need not feel guilty because when Chris arrived, we made him take the test as if I answered the questions, excepting the few that wouldn’t apply, like cooking related topics.

He got 6 out of 11 so we were quite close percentage-wise. He didn’t know my favorite color but did know my first job. Lucky for him, she didn’t ask my birthday. He gets that wrong all the time.


After a night on the town in Royal Oak during which some guy in a neck brace gave me a list of bachelorette things to do (i.e. kiss a gay guy, switch underwear with someone, etc), a little greasy food was required to round out the night. We went to National Coney Island in Royal Oak. Which is funny because I don’t think I’ve been back in that restaurant since my 30th birthday celebration a few years days ago. Anyhow, there is nothing quite like fries with ranch dressing to top off a fab girls night out.

The next morning, my bridesmaid and I were driving home and decided we needed some food. My MOH was in the back and definitely didn’t want food. We dropped her off first then considered our options. Time was a factor so we ended up doing a drive-thru but somehow the topic of Angelo’s came up. Angelo’s is a Flint Institution, an old-school coney island and likely inventor of the Flint style coney sauce. The location is not great for late night dining and since I don’t really eat hot dogs, I rarely go. But back in college, my roommate’s dad used to drop off a half-dozen dogs once in awhile. I’d walk in the door after class, immediately recognize that distinctive dog, sauce and onion aroma and be transported to my youthful days (which again, were just a short time ago) hanging at Angelo’s with my parents and grandparents. I still need to take Chris there, just once. They serve Pepsi but he will have to suck it up.

The Thursday before this weekend adventure, I cooked dinner for Chris, his mom and I. She wants to move in with us now. Guess what? I made breaded chicken with pan sauce. It runs in the family I guess.

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My Life in Pictures

I haven’t posted much lately, I know. Things have been a bit hectic. On March 2, I started taking 2 classes through Walden instead of one. Between work, planning a short trip to Florida for a wedding, another trip to Puerto Rico, also for a wedding, in May and some other future planning activities, I haven’t been able to sit down and write a post. But I’ve been cooking.

Most recently, I made panko-crusted tilapia which I first marinated in Cuban mojo sauce:


Topped with a white wine-shallot pan sauce and accompanied by baked sweet potato fries (from a bag).


At the request of Chris, I made tacos one night. I use ground turkey and my own combination of chili powder, cumin and something for heat.


A few weeks ago, I made these crab melts based on a recipe from Eating Well magazine:


Super simple and healthy with just a bit of mayo. The vegetables were onion, sweet pepper and asparagus.


And about the same time, I was experimenting in an attempt to perfect a basic Chinese stir-fry sauce. This picture is from an “almost there” night.

Last week, I finally got what I wanted with the addition of just a bit fish sauce. But I didn’t take a picture. Honey, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, garlic and the fish sauce did the trick. Now, to expand upon it.


We’ve also been eating out. Besides the infamous Tony M’s, lately I’ve been to Fowlerville Farms Family Restaurant, Evans Street Station (in Tecumseh), a little bar in Pewamo and returned to Badawast, an old favorite in my hometown of Flint.

This past Saturday, we finally took my parents to Sawyer’s Gourmet Pancake House. I stuffed myself on the turkey burger with basil mayo. Oh, I can’t get enough of that tasty goodness!

After lunch, my mom and I went shopping. For wedding dresses. Because the real reason I’ve been so busy is that I’m getting married!! Chris proposed on Valentine’s Day at the aforementioned Evans Street Station. As it happens, that is the place we went to back in May, the very first time Chris planned a special weekend for us. After plying me with good food, wine and while waiting for dessert, he got down on one knee and presented me with this gorgeous ring:


Of course, I had to say yes! We find an incredible place to have the reception and had to choose between 9/12 and 10/31 for a wedding this year. It was an easy choice for me. Halloween is NOT the day I want my anniversary to be! So, six months to plan means a very busy spring for me. Posting may be more sporadic but I’m going to try to do something once a week at least.

Turkey Day Recipes: Stuffing (aka Dressing)

I have always called it stuffing. Probably because we ate a lot of Stovetop Stuffing when I was younger. During my college years, I’d buy it in cannisters and make 1-2 servings at time. Or, I admit, eat the dry product right from the can. I still eat it on occasion but I’m more likely to buy plain breadcrumbs and season them up so I can control the salt levels. Ditto for Rice-a-Roni and other packaged starches.

Sidenote:

During college, I ate a lot of things like ramen noodles. It was super cheap, right? After being trapped in my apartment with no power for 3 days following an ice storm, I couldn’t look at ramen for a long time. Fortunately, during the outage, I was able to use my old-fashioned (i.e. non-electric start) gas stove to eat. And ramen plus assorted sauces, spices and frozen vegetables were my sustenance for those 3 days.

Stuffing is one of the requirements at Thanksgiving. As I mentioned previously, I call it stuffing whether its in the bird or out. I visualize dressing as this mushy bread-like mash that we would have at Grandma-in-Iowa’s house over the holidays. Ironically, that stuff usually was cooked inside the turkey and should have been called stuffing.

Sidenote 2:

I’m making dinner on Thursday. It will be served about 6pm. That’s dinner time. In Iowa, dinner was the big meal eaten at about 1pm. And then supper came later and was not so heavy (usually). While I do occasionally refer to dinner as supper and we used to jokingly call a late lunch “lupper” or “linner”, I just don’t think of the post-work meal as anything but dinner. The regional nomenclatures fascinate me.

Although I make stuffing periodically, I don’t really have a recipe for it. Bread crumbs, onions and celery, maybe some nuts and/or dried fruit plus seasonings like thyme and sage. Moisten with broth and butter, bake and voila.

Fortunately for all of you, my good friend Gwyneth* has come up with a mighty tasty-sounding stuffing/dressing recipe. For more Thanksgiving recipe suggestions, check out the menus HERE


Classic Bread Stuffing

Ingredients

15 cups of 1/2˝ bread cubes (I usually have challah, wholegrain and ciabatta in my bread bin)
1/4 cup butter + 1 tablespoon cut into small pieces
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 very large onion, very finely diced (roughly 2 1/2 cups)
2 stalks celery, very finely diced (roughly 1/2 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
2 generous tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley
2 1/2 cups high-quality vegetable stock, divided

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 300º F. Spread the bread cubes out on two cookie sheets and bake for about ten minutes or until a bit dried out, not browned.
  • Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup of butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onion, celery, fennel and celery seeds, rosemary, salt and pepper and sweat the mixture for 20 minutes, keeping the heat low enough so that the vegetables don’t color – you just want them to get soft and sweet. Turn off the heat, add the parsley and let the mixture cool for about ten minutes in the pan. Add the bread cubes and 2 cups of stock; stir to evenly distribute. Let the mixture sit for about an hour to let the flavors really get into everything (now’s a good time to work on your other Thanksgiving dishes!).
  • Reserve two cups of the stuffing for the turkey if desired.
  • Set the oven to 350º F. Put the stuffing into an ovenproof baking dish (you could even leave it in your sauté pan if it doesn’t have plastic handles – one less thing to wash!). Pour over the remaining stock and dot with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.

    Serves 12


    *Okay okay, Gwyneth isn’t actually my friend although I’m sure we’d have fun together in the kitchen. She’s actually Gwyneth Paltrow, the actor and writer of a weekly newsletter called Goop.

The Omnivore’s Hundred

Originally created by Andrew at Very Good Taste, I have seen this list popping up on food blogs a lot lately including Amy’s Runs with Spatula and Chocolate & Zucchini, whose list motivated me to do my own. In light of today’s blah blah weather, I decided to scroll through my memory banks and think about good food (okay, a few ick experiences too).


The rules:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment < a href=” http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk/uncategorised/the-omnivores-hundred/&#8221; target=”_blank”>here</a>linking to your results.


1. Venison – I once walked in to a friend’s house to see him cooking something rubbery looking on the stove- it was a deer heart- not venison per se but still a little disconcerting.

2. Nettle tea

3. Huevos rancheros

4. Steak tartare – but tuna tartare, yes!

5. Crocodile – almost said yes, but that was alligator

6. Black pudding – seems unlikely but I wouldn’t say never

7. Cheese fondue

8. Carp – I’m not 100% positive on this one- I grew up eating Great Lakes fish, mostly trout and whitefish.  But I suppose some carp could have snuck in there.

9. Borscht

10. Baba ghanoushmmm, yummy stuff!

11. Calamari

12. Pho

13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi – Once, not a fan of cauliflower but I’ve had other aloo dishes

15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses

17. Black truffle – I’ve had truffle oil before but never the actual truffle, yet.

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes

19. Steamed pork buns

20. Pistachio ice creamOne of my favorite flavors

21. Heirloom tomatoes

22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras

24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese – Not bloody likely

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper

27. Dulce de leche

28. Oysters

29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda

31. Wasabi peas

32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl- I had chicken n’ wild rice in a bread bowl yesterday tho’!

33. Salted lassi

34. Sauerkraut

35. Root beer floatmemories of a kid at A&W with a root beer float and a hot dog

36. Cognac with a fat cigar

37. Clotted cream tea

38. Vodka jelly/Jell-Onot proudly, but numerous times

39. Gumbo

40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat

42. Whole insects – Maybe under the right circumstances and it would depend on the insect. That worm that Anthony Bourdain ate on Cook’s Tour- nu-uh.

43. Phaal

44. Goat’s milkmy aunt & uncle raised goats when were younger

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more

46. Fugumy death wish is not that strong

47. Chicken tikka masala

48. Eel

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut – and proud of this fact, almost cancels out the jello shots

50. Sea urchin – Their cousin, the sea cucumber was gross so I’m leaning towards no.

51. Prickly pear

52. Umeboshi

53. Abalone

54. Paneer

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal – mostly due to giving up red meat in 7th grade but the special sauce might have kept me from it anyhow.

56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martinidon’t like gin, tastes like eating a pine tree

58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine – I’m taking this one even if I’ve not had the original traditional Poutine with cheese curds and gravy.  With gravy and cheese, yes. Just not curds.

60. Carob chips

61. S’morescan’t go camping without these!!

62. Sweetbreads – Not such a fan of the glands and innard parts.

63. Kaolin – really, its clay?

64. Currywurst – Doesn’t really appeal to me

65. Durian

66. Frogs’ legsThis just gives me the willies, can’t explain why

67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake – yeah baby, elephant ears all the way

68. Haggis – I’m not going to strike this off because I’ve heard its good and nutty, despite all the organs. There are even vegetarian versions.

69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette

71. Gazpacho

72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe

74. Gjetost, or brunost

75. Roadkill – Did you see the DOW today?  Better not strike this off the list.

76. Baijiu – 80-100 proof?  Jeezus! Well, maybe just a sip.

77. Hostess Fruit Pie

78. Snaila friend in college convinced me to try these- from a tin. She opened it and there was this weird blue color, gives me the shivers just thinking about it!

79. Lapsang souchong

80. Bellini

81. Tom yum

82. Eggs Benedict –I’ve been recently told I have to learn to make these but generally, I’m not an egg fan except for scrambled & omelets

83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.-Someday……

85. Kobe beef

86. HareAt Charlie Trotter’s

87. Goulash

88. FlowersNasturtiums filled with cream cheese and scallions are excellent then if you tempura them- even more excellent!

89. Horse – See Item #75

90. Criollo chocolate – Maybe? I’ve tried some fancy-pants chocolates but I’d have to go look for labels

91. SpamMy dad grew up just a short drive from the home of Spam; We ate it a lot as kids. Excellent with maple syrup.  But, I’ve not had it in years and I don’t see myself buying it anytime soon even though Gmail offers up such great recipes when looking at the spam folder. Uh yeah.

92. Soft shell crabDamn good stuff

93. Rose harissa

94. Catfish

95. Mole poblanoLOOOOVE Pollo en Mole! The Mexican place by my brother does it right, to bad its a 9 hour drive!

96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor

98. Polenta

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee – I don’t drink coffee.

100. Snakeas jerky; not that exciting really

53 out of one hundred. 

Not bad; I see I have some areas to work on though. Some of these things would require some real hunger on my part like the horse and roadkill. For the more typical items, I’m always looking to experience new tastes but I sometimes get hung up on looks and texture. Texture is why I don’t like broccoli buds but I will eat broccoli sprouts or stems (in ‘coleslaw’ usually). And looks are why I had to strike through Head Cheese.

Comfort Food

For the last 10 days or so, since coming back from vacation, I have been sick. One of the symptoms is a mouth that feels like I’d chewed on some glass. So, I haven’t been able to eat hard or crunchy foods for about a week. I really wanted some BBQ chips yesterday and I tried to eat one. Too soon! Too soon!

My mouth is getting better but I’m still looking for food that doesn’t require much chewing or biting down with my front teeth. At first, I thought I could make millions on this “diet plan.” Just get a dual bacterial and viral infection going at once and watch the weight fall away!

Between the sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, sore mouth and nausea from the antibiotics (as it turns out, I probably don’t have strep but they gave me drugs, just in case), I’ve lost about 7 pounds since last week. It was all going like gangbusters until Monday night when I realized the perfect food to get me through was ice cream. The cold numbs the pain and I don’t need to chew- life is good. Kind of hard to lose weight on the Ben & Jerry’s plan though.

Alas, I’ve set aside my dreams of revolutionizing the get-skinny-quick market. After speaking with medical experts and looking on the internets, I realized that most people only get sick like this during their first infection of the cold sore virus. After that, you might get an ugly third-eye sore on your lip periodically, but you probably won’t wake up feeling like all your teeth are about to fall out. I hope they are right.

Other than ice cream, I ate a lot of soup this week. Chris decided to pamper me by making up a big pot of vegetable soup similar to the one I’d made for my Detox program back in August. And by pamper, I mean come and ask me some question about the recipe every 10-15 minutes (I was attempting to nap at the time). In the end, it was a joint effort. He did the slicing and dicing, I watched the pot boil and adjusted seasonings.

I don’t really have a recipe for this soup but here are some ingredients:

1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 package sweet pepper and tomato soup from Imagine
A little bit of leftover cherry salsa
Some pasta sauce and/or tomato paste
1/3 red onion plus 1/2 yellow or Vidalia onion, diced
celery, diced
carrots,diced
baby bella mushrooms, sliced
small red potatoes, cubed
2-3 fingerling potatoes, cubed
green beans, cut in thirds
Seasonings:
3-4 Bay leaves
Basil, oregano and rosemary
thyme
garlic
salt & pepper

Directions: Saute onion, celery and carrot in a big stockpot with garlic and olive oil over medium heat.  When onions are translucent add tomatoes, soup, mushrooms and 2 cups water with an undetermined amount of seasonings.  Let cook over medium-low for awhile, add some pasta sauce and other tomato-based ingredients then come find your girlfriend and ask for help because it should taste “more tomato-y.”

GF steps in and asks how long did you simmer for and did you bring it to a boil first?  “I don’t know.”  I actually tried a bite and the celery was still very crunchy so I knew that more cooking was needed.  I added more oregano and thyme plus 2-3 good pinches of salt. Brought to a boil then reduced to low and simmered, lid on for 40 minutes. Then we added the potatoes and green beans, turned the heat up to medium-low and cooked an additional 15-20 minutes until the potatoes were done.

It tasted really good, just took forever and recreating it won’t be easy. Fortunately, we made a lot so there were 4 bowls in the fridge plus two ziploc bags in the freezer even after we each ate a big bowl for dinner. I couldn’t eat the green beans though- still too crunchy.


The other thing I’ve been eating is potatoes. Yes, some instant potates (which were rather unsatisfying) but also some real taters. The other night, Chris was studying late and I didn’t really feel like eating or cooking but I had pierogies on my mind. I’d just read a post about them and I knew I had a batch of them from Roma Bakery in my freezer. After thinking about them for 20 minutes, I suddenly found that I was hungry, starving in fact.

I took out 6 pierogies (by this point Chris was on his way home and I knew I’d be forced to share) and microwaved them about 3 minutes, flipping them over half-way through.  They were still cold but mostly defrosted. I patted them dry before adding to the pan (see below)

Meanwhile, I put a big slab of KerryGold butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat.

Kerrygold is Irish butter made with the milk from grass-fed cows and it definitely tastes different than Land O’ Lakes. Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to find the salted variety in our stores (Horrocks and The Fresh Market). I don’t use it for everything because its pricey but this is an ideal application.

Once  the butter was melted, I tossed about 1/4 of a onion, chopped, and a mashed clove of garlic in to the pan.  I kept the heat up on medium-high until the onions started to turn golden then I added my pierogies and reduced to medium.  It took about 3 minutes for the pierogies to start crisping and turning light brown on the bottom. Flipped ’em and cooked another 2-3 minutes since I like my tops a little crispy too.

Finally, something I enjoyed eating this week, even if I did have to cut them in to small pieces and gently maneuver the bites in through the side of my mouth.

The Roma Bakery & Deli is on Cedar just north of Lansing Lugnut Stadium, across from the City Market.  According to their website, they are open Monday thru Friday 8am to 6pm and Saturday 9-5 but I recall the storefront sign said they are closed on Mondays now.

I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned the Roma Bakery before. Its a potentially dangerous place with a gorgeous baker’s case full of sweet temptations.  I believe I was looking for Chris’s mystery cheese (Idiziabal) the first time I went over there.  I didn’t find the cheese but I did pick up some dried mushrooms and these pierogies. They are made by a company in DeWitt and are available in a variety of flavors including my preferred potato-cheese version.

Okay, its now Friday night. I wrote 90% of the above post on Wednesday, right after eating those pierogies.  Since then, I am both better and worse. I can chew again, pretty well. However, the side effects from the antibiotics have kicked in full force and I’m not really enjoying food that much.  I never thought I’d say this but I think I may have thrush- a yeast infection in my mouth.  I fear another visit to the clinic is in my near future.  Between that and the GI issues, I am sick of being sick!!  I want to cook something and bite in to the fruits of my labor, savoring the flavors and textures as the food hits my tongue.  I want to go out to eat somewhere and not look for the mushiest thing on the menu. And whatever I choose to eat, I want to bite in to it like someone with all her teeth; someone who can eat in public without fear of embarrassmend and food falling from her mouth.