Search Recipes

Monday, April 30, 2012

Short Changed at the Manchu Wok !

Well, now is the time to see how much power my social media really has. I don't usually eat lunch out at work (except for an occasional "sushi Friday"), but we got back into town late last night, and I didn't have time to make lunch this morning.

The small Chinese place closest to my office apparently closed today (anyone know what happened to the Canton Village in the Soo Line Building?), so I wandered over to the Gaviidae Commons, as they have a food court.

I was late for the lunch crowd anyway, so some of the usual steam table fare was already looking a little cold and dry, but I knew they had a small portion of sweet and sour chicken at the Manchu Wok that was real chicken, so I thought that would suffice for today.

I ordered my lunch, and handed the lady a $10.00 bill. She gave me change for a $5.00.

"I'm sorry, I handed you a $10.00," I said, nicely.
"No, it was a $5," she said, without blinking or looking in her drawer.

I took $20.00 out of the ATM this morning, bought a coffee, and received $16.01 in change. So I knew I had a 10, a 5 and a 1. I look in my pocket, to be sure I was not mistaken, and I show it to her. I tell her this story. She doesn't buy it. She just stares at me and says, "You gave me a $5.00."

So, I say, "Look, I am not trying to be rude, but it's $5.00. You can err on the side of customer service, and give me the correct change, or you can count your till, because I know I am right."

Now she just stops talking. This makes me extremely angry. I have been in the service industry for over 30 years, in restaurants, retail, call centers, banking, you name it. I know this is wrong. It is, after all, $5.00. I even say this ! "If I was asking for change for $100.00, I would understand, but really?"

Customers start to line up behind me. She says, "I have customers."

I say, "We're not done. I need you to count your till so you can give me my $5.00 back." I then apologize to the other people in line, explain that I probably seem like a bitch, but she short changed me. And now she is treating me like I am trying to steal $5.00 from her.

I go back to the "cashier"..."Certainly I don't look like someone who is trying to cheat you. I ordered a small item, and I gave you $10.00. Can't you even entertain the possibility that you might be mistaken?"

She has simply stopped talking again. I ask for a manager. She is the owner of the franchise....great !

I am on a very short lunch break, so now I have to cut my losses. But I can't resist...

"Well, I need to get back to my corporate desk job, and I am sure my $5.00 will make or break your profits for the day. I hope when your till is long at the end of the day, you remember me. Because this won't be the last you hear of this."

What do you do in a case like this ? I know it's $5.00, but the lunch was only $3.49. Contact corporate over $5.00, so they can send me a gift certificate to a restaurant I have no interest in ever setting foot in again? Or take to the social media air waves to air my grievance?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

In another weekly installment of "Soup and Sandwich Night", I bring you my latest soup creation... 

I bought this GIANT bag of red lentils at the store a couple months ago. Why, you ask? Because buying seven pounds of lentils was the same price as buying two pounds. Bargain shopper that I am, I couldn't resist. So now I have to find ways to work them into our menu, in order to use them up. I had some sweet potatoes on hand as well, and this is the result. 

The spice I chose to use is something I picked up at the Midtown Global Market, simply called Tandoori seasoning. It has an unnatural red color, and is normally rubbed on chicken to be baked. The other ingredients are cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, and fenugreek. It made for a tasty, but very red soup.

And, grilled cheese is always good with a red soup, right ? Except I decided to try smoked gouda instead of the standard American cheese. It wasn't as melty as I would have liked, but perfectly acceptable. This made a very large pot of soup, so I get some for lunch as well!

Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 large onion, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, chopped 
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Tandoori seasoning 
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced 
6 cups water 
1 1/2 cups red lentils 
1 teaspoon salt 
Yogurt for topping 

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil, and saute onions and garlic until translucent. Add tomato paste and Tandoori seasoning, and stir until dark red. Add sweet potatoes, water and lentils, and stir. Turn heat down to simmer, and place a lid on the Dutch oven. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes, until sweet potatoes and lentils are both tender. Using immersion blender, blend until smooth. Serve with a dollop of yogurt. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pre-show Dinner at the Dancing Ganesha

We started a ritual awhile back of stopping at the Dancing Ganesha before we had tickets for a show downtown. I was surprised how many people had not heard of this place before. We have always enjoyed the food, and admittedly, we like it that we can get gift certificates to dine here, so it is always a bargain. 

This trip, we had tickets for a Wednesday night show, so we actually made it in time for their Happy Hour, which we have never been able to experience before. I was actually surprised with how few people were in the restaurant when we arrived. They had some appetizers on special, as well as drink specials, the usual fare. 

We elected to try the Gobi Manchurian, which was cauliflower coated in chick pea flour, then deep fried and and served with a spicy curry sauce. The cauliflower was crispy, and the sauce had a nice spice, and even a touch of sweetness. For the $5 price, we felt it was a decent size portion.
Gobi Manchurian
For dinner, we decided on two different entrees. I chose Shrimp Bhuna, which has an unusual combination of spices in the sauce, including cinnamon and cloves. When the dishes are brought out, I have to say it seems like the portions aren't very large, and there were only 5 shrimp in my bowl of sauce, but honestly, the sauce is really the best part of Indian food, in my opinion, anyway. And there was plenty of that. Along with the deliciously fragrant rice they serve, it was more than enough to eat.
Shrimp Bhuna
Most of the menu, you select the style of sauce you want, the type of protein, and the spice level. Ray chose the chettinad sauce, which was supposed to be one of the spiciest on the menu, and elected to have it "hot", and chose paneer as his protein. He felt this would be as close as he would come to a traditional Indian dish. It was a little disconcerting that the dishes appeared to be almost identical when they arrived at our table. The flavors were dramatically different. The chettinad was definitely spicier, and had a heartier flavor than the bhuna. We also ordered a side of raita, in case the chettinad was too overwhelming. 
Paneer Chettinad
All in all, it was a very pleasing meal. Not out of this world fantastic, but really good, solid Indian food. With a glass of wine each, and our coupon, we were able to get this meal for just over $35.00 including tip. That appeals to the bargain hunter in me, and we left satisfied and happy, on our way to the show!

Honey Goat Cheese Frozen Yogurt

I crafted this recipe when Ray bought me an ice cream maker last year. I am lactose intolerant, so while I can sometimes eat cheeses, milk and ice cream are totally off limits for me. The idea was, that I could make my own frozen desserts with this new machine. 

We love goat cheese, and almost always have some on hand, and of course, we always have honey, because we have bees! So, this recipe is an easy go-to any time we want a dessert. I added some grated ginger this time, to change the flavor a bit. 

You can eat this plain, but we have found we like to serve it topped with some cherry brandy a friend made, and some toasted pine nuts. It is a very simple, but elegant dessert. 

Honey Goat Cheese Frozen Yogurt

3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water 
1 tablespoon grated ginger 
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled 
1 cup plain Greek yogurt 
Cherry brandy 
Toasted pine nuts 

In a small sauce pan, stir together honey, sugar, water, ginger and lemon juice. Simmer over low heat, stirring until honey has melted and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Blend goat cheese into the honey mixture, then add the yogurt. Blend until smooth. Put the mixture in ice cream maker, and process according to manufacturers instructions. Top with cherry brandy and toasted pine nuts.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spicy Spinach Soup and Avocado Egg Salad Sandwiches

We usually have a soup and sandwich night once a week. Originally this started as a way to use some of the frozen soups up out of our freezer, but now I plan it because we really like soup and sandwich. I enjoy creating new and unusual combinations. 

This soup I created because we had a pile of fresh spinach I needed to use up, and we can only eat so many salads. I didn't want to do a creamy spinach soup, so I started searching the internet for some other ideas. I found there is an Indian soup that had some unusual spice combinations, but I couldn't find one that had the ingredient measurements in American equivalents, or that I had everything to make. So, this is loosely based on Indian Palak. 

The sandwich was recently featured on the foodblog I added radishes instead of onions, and sriracha for some spice, and it was a perfect meal. Ended with some goat cheese honey frozen yogurt, it was a simple, yet elegant weeknight meal. 

Spicy Spinach Soup and Avocado Egg Salad Sandwiches 

For the soup: 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup diced onion 
4 cloves garlic, chopped 
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated 
1 large jalapeno, diced 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon cloves 
4 cups chicken, pork or vegetable stock 
6 cups fresh baby spinach leaves 
1 cup roasted potatoes, diced 
Sour cream, for garnish

Heat olive oil and butter together in large saucepan. Saute onions, garlic and ginger together all are tender. Add jalapeno and continue to saute until peppers are soft. Add cinnamon and cloves, and stir until combined. Pour in stock, then add spinach leaves and simmer until tender. Add potatoes and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

Using immersion blender, puree until smooth. Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream. 

For the sandwiches: 
1 avocado 
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 
Salt and Pepper 
5 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and chopped 
2 radishes, diced finely 
1 teaspoon sriracha 

Cut avocado open and scoop out inside. Mash with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Combine with eggs radishes and sriracha. Add more lemon juice if needed, and adjust salt and pepper. Serve on toast. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Food Porn Redux-Kitchen in the Market

On Sunday, I attended my second Food Porn class at Kitchen in the Market. This class was a gathering of people like me: Foodbloggers who wanted tips on how to improve some of their photography skills. These two classes have really been a growing experience in my blogging career, I have learned a lot about what I want, and don't want, as well as what I can and can't do, when it comes to content and photos. 

First, the food and some of the photos. Our starter, on arrival, was crudite with vodka and flavored salts. I thought this was a really smart way to present the traditional "veggie" appetizer. The diced vegetables and quail eggs are dipped in the vodka, and then in one of three salts: one was a smoked salt (I am guessing), one fleur de sel, and one a smoky paprika. 

Someone wanted a vodka infused quail egg

The next preparation started with polenta. I tried to get more live action shots this time, but with a digital camera, there is a bit of a delay, so I had to try to anticipate what was next in the action. I liked this shot of some teamwork in the kitchen.

Ingredients for polenta
Scraping the pot, getting ready for the oven
The polenta was baked, cooled, and then cut into little circles. 

Topping with cranberry chutney

Polenta Cakes with Cranberry Chutney
The next course was a black tea encrusted pork tenderloin, served with green oil ? If my palate doesn't betray me I think it was chive oil. The crust was spicy and flavorful, with anise and cumin. I admit, I did take some pictures of the tenderloin before it was cooked, but they were not very appetizing (even for a pork lover like me!) I'm I presenting my shots of the plating of the final product. 

And, of course, every meal needs a little dessert. This was a light, shortbread cookie with lemon and rosemary. It took me about 20 shots to get one of the actual cutting out of the dough!

And the final product (minus one bite)

So now, what did I learn ? I am not a great photographer, and I probably never will be. The whole point of my blog is that I eat like this every day, and I cook, photograph, eat and blog our dinners, and our lives, as we live them. I don't see that changing. Could I take a little more time with staging the food, sure. But sometimes we just want to eat dinner. I plate, I snap a pic, and we sit down and eat. My expectations are that I will continue to learn and grow through this process, and some of the photographs are going to be stellar. 

But sometimes, the food is beige. And no matter what you do, it isn't always pretty, but I will guarantee it tastes good. And in the end, it's the taste that matters to me. I'll stack my recipes up against the best of them, but the photos...will always be a work in progress. 

Venison Banh Mi-East Meets Midwest

It is difficult to explain how these recipes come together. This one actually started over a year ago, I think we were watching some sort of a "Food Network Challenge" with food trucks, and they were making all kinds of banh mi, and Ray said, "I've never had one of those!" So, therein lies a challenge!

We tasted one (yummy, thank you Pham's at the Midtown Global Market), and I read dozens of recipes online. But, if you read my blog, you know I like to improvise with ingredients we have on hand. And, we have venison! Somehow, after tasting one, and reading, I decided venison banh mi was the way to go. 

I did need to start this dish the night before. I made a quick pickling liquid for some of the vegetables, and made the marinade for the meat ahead of time. When I got up in the morning, I put the meat in the marinade, then all I needed to do was cook meat, and put the sandwiches together at night.

Venison Banh Mi
Quick carrot and radish pickles
3/4 cup rice wine vinegar 
1/4 cup sugar 
1/2 cup water 
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1-2 large radishes, sliced thinly
Combine vinegar, sugar, water, pepper flakes and salt in a small sauce pan. Simmer just until sugar is completely dissolved, then let cool. Add vegetables to pickling liquid, and refrigerate overnight. 

For the marinade: 
1 1/2 pounds venison steaks
3/4 cup fish sauce 
1 small onion, diced 
3 cloves garlic, smashed 
2 tablespoons honey 
2 tablespoons sugar 
1 teaspoon black pepper 
Mix together with immersion blender, and place your venison in a plastic bag, along with the marinade mixture, and refrigerate overnight. 

For the sandwiches: 
1/2 seedless cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1small jalapeno, sliced thinly 
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup cilantro leaves 
1/4 cup mayonnaise mixed together with 2 tablespoons sriracha 
4 hoagie buns

Grill the steaks to medium rare and let rest. Spread sriracha mayonnaise on the hoagie buns, and assemble meat and vegetables on the buns. Secure with a toothpick, if necessary, and slice in half.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Roasted Golden Beet and Goat Cheese Pizza

I really love golden beets, but they are often difficult to find. When the Farmer's Market is in season, I refer to them as the "Holy Grail". I search each vendor for them, and do a small dance of joy when I find them. 

So, I was ecstatic, (albeit a bit embarrassed after my dance in the aisle) to find them at the Linden Hills Co-op! Then came the decision about how to use them. I love them grilled, but the weather was bad, so I ended up roasting them in the oven, and putting them on top of a pizza for dinner. I often see the combination of beets and goat cheese in salads at restaurants, so it made perfect sense to put it on top of my pizza. 

We paired this with a beer from 3 Floyds Brewery in Munster, Indiana. We do this once a month on our anniversary, to celebrate the gift of 12 of the beers from our friends, JT and Soraya. This month was Blackheart, an English Pale Ale, and the bitterness of the beer was a nice offset to the sweetness of the beets. 

Roasted Golden Beet and Goat Cheese Pizza 

For the pizza crust: 
(enough for two thin crusts)
1/2 teaspoon yeast 
3/4 cup water 
2 cups flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt

Warm the water in the microwave until just above room temperature. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together salt and flour. Make a well in the middle, and add water/yeast mixture. Work in flour until dough comes together into a ball. Turn out onto counter, and knead until smooth. Separate into two balls. Place one dough ball on parchment paper and roll to 1/4 inch thickness. 

For the toppings: 
4 small golden beets, grilled or roasted, peeled and sliced 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled 
2 ounces grated parmesan cheese 
1 handful watercress 
1 handful sunflower sprouts 
Salt and peppper to taste 

Preheat oven to 500. Spread olive oil on crust, and scatter minced garlic evenly on pizza. Layer beet slices, goat cheese, parmesan, salt and pepper on top. Bake 10-12 minutes until  crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Top with watercress and sunflower sprouts.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Henry's Cafe in Maple Grove

I have a bad habit of doing something I call "food eavesdropping" i.e. peeking at the plates of other diners as we walk toward our table. I spotted a delicious looking breakfast sitting on the bar at Henry's by itself when we arrived, and was trying to determine what it was, when it's owner arrived back to claim it. Busted! He explained to me this was one of the morning specials. He said, "It's delicious, but everything you get here is great!" It was a stunning combination of eggs scrambled with sausage, served over home fries, covered with sausage gravy. Served with some of Henry's homemade bread, oh, my mouth is watering now just thinking about it...

And this is how it is at Henry's Cafe. Simple comfort food, with that special touch of homemade bread. Here is the "Specials Board" from the morning we were there: 
My husband chose the Eggs Benedict, which he enjoyed being able to order without potatoes, because he always ends up eating part of my breakfast anyway. The eggs were perfectly cooked, and the hollandaise sauce was velvety and rich. Considering our breakfast came out in less than 10 minutes on a Saturday morning, I consider that quite an achievement! 

I elected to have your basic breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast. All of the bread at Henry's is homemade, so that is the big treat for a breakfast like this. Again, everything was perfectly cooked, and while it may seem odd to say the toast was the star of the dish, it really is at this cafe.
And, you can take some of the bread, as well as other baked goods home with you. We were here on Easter weekend, so the bread was literally flying off the shelves.
We have only been here for breakfast, but with this amazing homemade bread, you can bet we will be back to try a sandwich for lunch!

This is truly a neighborhood gem, hidden in a little strip mall off the 63rd Street exit on Highway 169, in Maple Grove.The prices are more than reasonable, service was fast and friendly, and while the food is nothing fancy, it is fabulous home cooking. The cafe only seats about 30 at a time, so on Saturday, or the "after-church" rush on Sunday can be a bit of a wait. But try to make time in your schedule for a stop at Henry's Cafe. And don't forget your bread to go!

Za'atar Spiced Fish

I like to pick up different spices and foods at the store, and then try them out at home. When I saw this little box of za'atar spice, I wanted it! But I wasn't really sure what to do with it. 

The ingredients on the side said thyme, sesame seeds, marjoram, sumac and salt. I wasn't sure what the flavor profile was for sumac, but I knew what the rest of it was. I also remembered seeing an episode of "Top Chef" where they put it on fish, so I created from there. 

I had some extra carrots and potatoes to use up as well, so the accompaniment is a spiced carrot potato puree. It was certainly a different flavor profile than we are used to, but I really enjoyed it. I think my next escapade will be to make some homemade za'atar mix, as it apparently is good with flatbread, which sounds delicious!

Za'atar Spiced Fish

For the carrot potato puree:
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced 
1 pound carrots, peeled and diced 
2 teaspoons salt 
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cumin 
1 teaspoon coriander 
1 teaspoon ground ginger 
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 
Place potatoes and carrots in a large pot, and cover with water. Add salt. Bring to a boil, and boil until both are fork tender. Drain all but about 1/2 cup of the boiling water. Add butter and spices, and using immersion blender or regular blender, puree until smooth. Cover and set aside. 

For the fish: 
4 firm white fish filets (I used tilapia here) 
2 tablespoons za'atar spice 
1 teaspooon salt 
1 teaspoon pepper 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
Fresh lemon wedges 
Season fish liberally with za'atar spice, salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan, and saute fish approximately 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Serve on top of puree, with a lemon wedge. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jalapeno Cheddar Pain Perdu with Salsa Fresca

What the heck is Pain Perdu ? It's just a fancy way to say French toast. But, if I was going to make something that was totally out there, why not call it by it's crazy French name?

I had this loaf of jalapeno cheddar bread from an artisan bakery, which means it has no preservatives, so you have to eat it fast, or it will spoil. And I knew we would never eat it all in sandwiches, so I had to think of another way to use it. I have made savory bread pudding before, so why not savory French toast?

I also had some fresh vegetables I needed to use up in the refrigerator, so this was the result. Totally unexpected flavor combination, but I would definitely make this again.

Jalapeno Cheddar Pain Perdu with Salsa Fresca
Start the salsa fresca:

3 small tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, diced finely
1 large jalapeno, diced finely
1 large handful cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
Juice of 1 fresh lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and set aside

For the Pain Perdu:
6 slices jalapeno cheddar bread
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons of butter
Spread one of the bread slices generously with cream cheese, and top with another piece of bread. Repeat with the remaining bread slices. In a shallow bowl, mix together remaining ingredients.

Heat butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat until bubbly. Dip the "sandwiches" in the egg mixture and place in pan. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Serve topped with the salsa fresca.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sweet Potato Brunch Bake

My parents came up to visit for Easter, and part of the visit always involves cooking Easter brunch. Since we were trying to eat healthy, and my dad uses the egg substitutes, I had to really scratch my head for a way to incorporate them into my meal. Let's be honest, I really don't like to use these kinds of things, but they could substitute for real eggs in a recipe. 

The challenge of a bake was to make something that didn't have a lot of calories, carbs or salt. That left out most of the brunch items I have ever made. I searched, and imagined all kinds of different things, and finally landed on this. It is a little different, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about putting sweet potatoes in an egg bake, but the sweetness was a nice offset to the sausage. I served this with some freshly baked Irish soda bread, and melon, and it was a lovely brunch!

Sweet Potato Brunch Bake

1 carton (16 ounces) egg substitute, or 7 whole eggs 
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, diced and cooked
1 pound mild turkey Italian sausage, browned
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/4 cup maple syrup 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
1 cup low fat cottage cheese 
1/2 cup low fat cheddar cheese 

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8 by 8 pan with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg substitute, milk, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Add all the other ingredients except 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese. Gently pour the mixture into the pan, and place in the oven. Bake 70-75 minutes until set in the middle. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and bake 5 minutes longer. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Red Quinoa Salad with Green Vegetables

I owe a debt of gratitude to one of my fellow food bloggers, Abby from, for introducing me to the idea for this salad. I was looking for something healthy, and interesting to serve my parents when they came up for Easter weekend. My dad recently had heart surgery, so he is trying to cut back on his sodium and fat intake, but he is a huge lover of salt. I have been trying to convince him that he can make some really flavorful foods, if he knows how to use some other seasonings. Lemon is always a good substitute, and this salad has a nice, lemony kick. I served it with some marinated, grilled chicken breasts. 

 I improvised with some of the veggies, because I found some cool things at the Linden Hills Co-op when I stopped the other day. The sunflower sprouts gave it a little bit of a "Dr. Seuss" feel, which made eating it fun!

Red Quinoa Salad With Grilled Asparagus and Green Vegetables

1 cup red quinoa 
1/2 pound fresh asaparagus
1 small cucumber, diced
1 cup baby watercress
1 handful sprouts (I used sunflower sprouts)
1 handful cilantro, chopped 
1 avocado, diced 
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled 
1/2 cup pepitos
1/2 teaspoon salt 

For the dressing 
Juice and zest of 2 fresh lemons
3 tablespoons olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, minced

Olive oil, salt and pepper for grilling asparagus

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Let cool. Meanwhile, trim asparagus, and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill for just a few minutes, just until charred. Cut into bite sized pieces. Toss together with quinoa and remaining ingredients, except for pepitos. Pour dressing over the salad and refrigerate. Stir in pepitos just before serving. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Apple Butter Garam Masala Glaze for Chops

We have a LOT of pork in our freezer. I am always looking for creative ways to grill the chops, and often invent marinades or glazes on the fly.

We have a ton of apple butter after experimenting with a recipe for crock-pot apple butter (see September 2011 recipes), and I was thinking it might make an interesting glaze for pork. Applesauce and pork chops is a pretty classic combination (everyone remembers that famous Brady Bunch episode, right?),but the apple butter was fairly sweet, so I needed bring that down a notch, as well as add some spice. My palate wandered over to garam masala. This is a very interesting combination, definitely one we will use again.

Apple Butter Garam Masala Glaze for Chops

1/2 cup apple butter
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon garam masala

Mix ingredients together, and brush on chops (or chicken would work as well) near the end of grilling.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Crisp

I am getting so excited for strawberry season, I have to admit I jumped the gun a bit. I saw some really beautiful strawberries at the store, and they weren't very expensive, so I bought a pile of them. We ate quite a few plain, they were so delicious. But then, we needed to use some up before they spoiled. So, we start making things, strawberry ice cream, strawberry pie, you know how this goes.

And strawberry crisp. Crisp (or crumble) is one recipe every home cook should have in their back pocket, to pull out whenever you have fresh fruit. It is simple, always good, and can be used with almost any fruit you have on hand. I baked this one in individual casseroles, and served with homemade vanilla ice cream. One of my dinner guests nearly had a food-gasm! Yummy !

Fresh Strawberry Crisp
1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour

For the topping:
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Ice cream or whipped cream, for topping

Preheat oven to 350. Grease individual casseroles. Place strawberries in a large bowl, and gently toss with sugar, vanilla and flour. Distribute evenly between the casseroles. In the same bowl, combine the topping ingredients with a fork until crumbly. Top the strawberries with the crumble mixture. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbly and golden on top. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Steak and Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

One of my favorite memories of childhood was a salad my grandmother made with hot bacon dressing. It was a fairly simple salad, with fresh spinach from the garden, hard boiled eggs, onions, bacon, and this dressing! Oh my, it was hot when it hit the salad, so it made the spinach wilt a bit when you poured it on. I asked for it all year long, but we only had it when the spinach was fresh.

We had some left over steak from a dinner party we hosted, and some spinach in the refrigerator, so I wanted to make a salad for lunch, and the bacon was speaking to me! So, in honor of grandma, this is the creation. The salad could really be anything you want it to be, but the warm bacon vinaigrette is the star. I took some liberties with the original recipe, but I think grandma would approve.

Steak and Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
For the Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons warm bacon drippings
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey

Mix together until emulsified, set aside.

For your salad:
2 cups fresh spinach, stems removed
1/4 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 strips bacon, fried crisply, and crumbled
3 tablespoons bleu cheese crumbles
6 ounces grilled steak, sliced
2 hardboiled eggs, cut in half
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Arrange spinach on a platter. Top with onion, bacon, bleu cheese, steak and eggs. Drizzle with warm vinaigrette. Salt and pepper as desired.

How to Rescue the Hummus

One thing I have written about in my blog several times are "happy accidents" that come from rescuing a failed dish. This was one of those accidents.

I have made hummus several times, because we really like it. And we like it a certain way, with lots of garlic. It stands to reason that one day, I was going to pass the limit of what a human being can endure, garlic-wise.

That day finally arrived. Even my garlic loving Italian husband admitted he couldn't eat it. I was heartbroken, and I didn't want to sacrifice all of my hard work and just toss it out. So, what to do, so I would still have an appetizer to serve for my guests when they arrived. Hmmm...cream cheese to the rescue ! So easy, and it gave my hummus a lovely, creamy texture that we really enjoyed. One word of caution, however; it needs to be served room temperature, because the cream cheese will set up like a ROCK!

Creamy Hummus
1 cup dried chickpeas
10 cloves garlic
1/2 cup (roughly) olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 8 ounces package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature

Cook chickpeas according to package directions. Drain, and rinse in cold water. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to make this in 2 batches. Process the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt in food processor until smooth. Adjust salt if needed, and add more olive oil if needed as well. Remove to a large bowl, and stir in cream cheese. Serve with pita chips or crackers.