In the past entries, Ben and I have mentioned our brunch club, where a small group of our friends will meet at a restaurant and catch up on what’s new and old in our lives. We like to try new places and on a couple of rare occasions we’ve gathered at one of our homes to enjoy brunch in. One of those times, I made an “egg bake” that combined several of my favorite foods into wonderful little individual servings. Modify it as you wish, but it’s definitely a tasty treat that is perfect for a brunch of one to one dozen….depending on how many ramekins you have in your kitchen.
This past year was a very exciting year for Ben as he had the opportunity to shoot several cookbooks. These books are not small projects. It’s easy to pick up a cookbook and take for granted how much work goes into the production of them- from the writing and editing, to the layout and design, to the styling of props, and the creation of the food, not to mention the lighting and capturing of each image- it’s meticulous work. Ben’s been fortunate to work on these projects with a strong team of artists, editors, creative directors, and wanted to celebrate the success of one these books by giving back by way of food on plate. We hosted a cocktail party at the studio, and Ben created a menu with 8, yes 8 different small plates for everyone to try. The mushroom flatbread was such a hit that we figured, if it’s good enough for our party, we think it might be good enough for yours.
My dad has a green thumb, and so does Ben’s dad. The fall is the best time to go home to visit the parents in Iowa and score fresh, organic, home grown with love produce which can be anything from peppers, tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, to apples. My parents are will grown enough vegetables that will last them through the winter by storing potatoes and onions in a cool dry spot, and freezing chopped peppers that will be ready to go for one of my dad’s homemade pizzas- which you can’t beat. One of our last visits we brought home what seemed like a bushel and a big peck of Yukon potatoes, so we put them to work in pot with some leeks, some sausage, and some other ingredients and came up with a winner that I can guarantee will warm your belly and make your taste buds dance in the cold months to come.
Summer Summer Summer Time
Thank goodness we can all put that dreary, freezing, wet, slushing, messy, cold, cold, cold winter behind us. I know it’s not officially here yet, but with the scorching 90+ degree days that Mother Nature has bestowed upon us, I feel like she’s been priming us for another hot (and really humid) summer. Along with the seasonal change comes the fresh produce at the farmers’ market. Lots of vibrant colors, flavors, and textures all in the various forms of fruits and vegetables enable us to shake up our eating habits- hopefully for the better. Last year Ben and I perfected this beautiful panzanella salad that makes you feel like you’re tasting the vegetable rainbow (Skittles reference), so you can guarantee that we’ll be taking full advantage of our local farmers’ bounty with their goods to make this goody.
You Say Tomato, I Say Tomatillo
Forever now, anytime that I ever cooked anything that was of Mexican or Tex-Mex nature, I would jazz it up with a homemade pico de gallo that I learned at a restaurant (which will remain nameless) that I waited tables at years and years ago. I clearly remember that first time tossing fresh tomato, onion, lime, cilantro and jalepanos with naked hands. The memory of it still burns a little. You may be wondering why- that’s how they did it in the kitchen…while wearing latex gloves. Anyway, lesson learned, and it became my stand by- fresh, citrusy with just a hint of heat. Recently Ben and I have developed a new love for tomatillos and the wonderful verde sauce that I have been making. It all started with a trip to the grocery store shopping for the week’s menu, and there they were on sale 1 pound for a mere $1. Tomato. Tomatillo. I thought that I’d give it a whirl, and I’m so glad that I did.
Taking simple ingredients and turning them into unique treats is the goal of any cook. With a sweet potato, there are so many different ways to prepare this modest vegetable- baked, candied, mashed, pied, casseroled, pureed, roasted. I feel one of the best way to enjoy sweet potatoes is when they are cut into wedges and fried into a crispy wonderful finger food. The sweetness of this simple rustic treat pairs nicely with this easy to make dipping sauce.
Ben and I aren’t ones to shy away from carbs. We love our pastas. We love our breads. We love potatoes, and we eat our fair share of all of the above. We also like to change things up. Now I know that the Atkins Diet has been a very big deal in the past 5 plus years, and it provided lots of alternatives for your typical favorite carbs, one of those being cauliflower in lieu of potatoes. With that said, I have to say that we do not count calories. We do not count carbohydrates. We do not count fat grams. We do gauge the “healthiness” of our meals by the amount of different colors that make up a dish and whether or not we added indulgent butter or sour cream. On occasion, Ben will make a great cauliflower mash instead of mashed potatoes, because honestly, we don’t eat enough of it and this is a really good way to have it. This recipe is truly delicious full of flavor and as an added bonus- a little friendlier to the waistline.
We love the versatility of carrots. They’re great in soups, stews, stir-fry, cakes, and salads. For our Thanksgiving dinner we gave them a holiday touch to accentuate its natural sweetness that would fit in nicely to your upcoming holiday dinner. This simple cooking process will add depth and body to a often overlooked vegetable. You know how carrots go with peas, so we decided to pair them with some lovely pearl onions, an homage to my late Grandma Ida Mae who loved pearl onions, and created a keeper that we think you’ll enjoy.
It’s getting to be that time of year- the season of sides. Yes, the holidays generally bring on the turkey birds and the honey hams, but those show pieces are nothing without the sides. Ben and I are pretty much in agreement that we generally get more excited about the sides during holiday dinners and get togethers, so we’re going to try to help revamp, introduce, or maybe just reintroduce some ideas that would be great additions to your holiday spread.
So, today I Googled “Most Disliked Vegetable,” and the worldwide web revealed a resounding dislike for brussel sprouts. As a child, my only recollection of brussel sprouts was lived through Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years growing up in the turbulent social times of the 60’s sitting at the kitchen table proclaiming his disgust for the mini cabbages. I was never forced to eat brussel sprouts (actually I was never forced to eat anything- I just had a robust appetite for whatever was put in front of me). Actually, Ben introduced me to brussel sprouts just a few years ago. I have to say that I do enjoy them and feel so strongly about this easy recipe that we will change your opinion of the brussel sprout so much so that you may move this vegetable up to your top 10 vegetable list. It’s quick & easy, and it’ll look great dished next to the cranberries on your holiday plate.
It’s hard to believe that fall is already upon us. Football season has officially started- thanks Chiefs for giving Kansas City a “W”. We’ve been able to turn off our a/c on occasion. Oliver’s shedding has reduced significantly. Friends are lighting up their fire pits. The Halloween paraphernalia is hitting the store shelves. The new fall prime-time television season is about to start which means new premieres and the final season of The Office with the beloved Steve Carrell. Just as life changes with the season, so does the local produce. One of our family favorites that gets worked into our fall/winter food rotation are our Acorn Squash Potatoes. It’s quick, easy, tasty, and good for you. Not only that, but it’s the type of dish that will turn squash skeptics into fans of this affordable and healthy produce. It’s packed with nutrients, and when cooked well, gives a sweet, earthy flavor that is wonderfully rich. This squash potato combination is great because you can dress it up or dress it down. We had it for dinner last night with chicken sandwiches, and we don’t have a holiday dinner without it. Hope you enjoy.
Growing up in Iowa, a sure sign of summer was sweet corn on your dinner plate. Ben and I each grew up with the experience of picking, husking and cleaning sweet corn, along with the luxury of having it readily available at the supper table. There are several types of sweet corn- yellow sweet, white sweet, bicolor sweet, and there’s many names that you’ve probably heard of too- honey and cream, peaches and cream, candy corn, and honey and pearl. Sweet corn becomes a staple at our house during the summer, and we get it from the local farmers’ market. What’s great about getting it there is that it tastes like what we grew up with- not the cream corn from a can or the frozen cobs or kernels from the freezer section, and it’s even better knowing that the money is going directly to the farmers that planted, picked, and delivered this wonderful product locally.
In order to keep the taste buds happy, we’ve got a variety of ways that we like to prepare sweet corn which includes the traditional boil- a mother & mother-in-law of our friends (Becky Craig) adds butter to the water used to cook the cobs. Ben and I have adopted this trick, which saves you from sloppy buttering after it comes out of the water. We also grill, make soups, and sauté.
The first time that I had the sauté was circa 2001. Ben and I were visiting my sister Kari in Pasadena. It was a great trip having been our first time to California for bothof us. Seeing the Pacific Ocean, new vegetation and landscapes, and of course, fresh seafood were all treats. In gratitude of her generous hospitality, we cooked dinner for her. It’s been so long that the one item that sticks out is the corn, and you know something is good when after nine years you still remember that bite. So, add this to your summer cooking arsenal. It’s simple, clean, fresh, and summery.
The final item on the top 10 is the microplane. The microplane is the utensil that will make a fine lemon zest for a blueberry cobbler, fresh nutmeg for any baking or alfredo sauce, and make the quickest, lightest pile of fresh parmesan that you’ve ever seen. A block of fresh parmesan is a staple in our refrigerator, and we like cheese, so needless to say we utilize ours quite often. To demonstrate the usage of the microplane we took spring’s finest, most elusive treasure the morel mushroom and tried to do it justice. If you’re not familiar with this fungi you should be. They’re only around for a short time- actually you have minimal time to scavenge these, and the elements have to be just right- just enough rain and warmth from the sun before they sprout. You have to get to them before grass creates a camouflage that will make it impossible to find. We were blessed with a small bounty of these beauties from a colleague of mine, Kim Folsom. We cannot and will not reveal the location of her source- we’ve seen them sold for up to $20 a pound, so you can understand the confidentiality. With that said- we didn’t go too crazy with this already amazing mushroom, but we did spruce it up a bit. Here’s our tribute to those who introduced the morel to us, who have shared their morels with us, and to the morel itself.
One of the most basic, yet essential tools in the kitchen is the cutting board. If you are only going to own one cutting board, it should be a hard durable plastic. This will protect your knives, and any scratches can be cleaned and disinfected to keep bacteria out from raw meats that may come in contact. For a small investment you can have a tool that will provide safety and functionality. If your cutting board doesn’t have an anti-skid surface, use a damp towel or rubber mat to place under the board to prevent movement.
We had the opportunity to host dinner last week for a couple of fellow bloggers. I have to admit, I felt a little like a Trekkie at a Star Trek convention, it was as cool as I imagine the real deal would be just with a little bit more of an artistic spin, but Meg from mimiandmeg.blogspot.com and heather from twineandtwig.blogspot.com stopped by to enjoy some wine and a little meal that Kim and I prepared. We did have to go boldly where no Foodie has gone before cooking a meal with no greens or raw onion, but we were successful as the clean plates spoke for themselves. So, we’ve been trying to keep our past few recipes simple and delicious, and this side dish fit the simplistic and dietary parameters of our guests, and we can guarantee that these veggies won’t be the last thing left on your plate.
There are two types of people in the world, those who eat meat and those who don’t. Contrary to popular belief, based on the fact that a majority of our recipes focus on an animal protein of sorts, we have a great admiration for vegetarians. On a philosophical level we understand the reasons why people choose not to consume meat. We on the other hand are not strong enough to not indulge in the occasional steak, drumstick, burger, pork chop, hot dog……this is going somewhere. Not long ago we got together with some friends where the line was clearly drawn between the “carnivores” and the “herbivores.” It was an easy menu that we came up with- one couple brought a salad with homemade vinaigrettes & artisan breads; another came packing an apple pie ala mode (chocolate & vanilla- yeah, I said chocolate), and we threw down the main event- eggplant and chicken parmesan with a Mediterranean spin on the red sauce that we could all enjoy harmoniously.
The Four Foodies are landlocked- over 1,200+ miles to the nearest coast going east or west. So, it was an amazing gift that was given to us by our neighbors, Sarah, Bill & Townes, just passed through our fence- filets of halibut. Not just any halibut- this halibut was the product of a fishing trip that Sarah’s father, Dan Darling, had made on a two week trip to Alaska late in late June- early July with his brother-in-law and two other gents. Mrs. Pam Darling provided me with some of the details of the trip that make this dish so special. Dan and his 3 comrades planned this dream trip (I say dream, b/c I dream of doing this with the Foodies) to go fishing in Alaska. From my understanding, this was a serious fishing trip with true professionals that knew the sweet spots to get the goods. Each day the men would venture out on the Pacific Ocean on a fully equipped boat for a two-hour trip (one way) before dropping their lines. Over the course of three days, these four men caught a total of four hundred pounds of fish including lingcod (a gnarly looking fish by the way), rockfish (equally fugly but I’m sure tasty), and the coveted halibut. When they made their way back to land, a crew would be waiting to immediately process the fish which involves cleaning, filleting, flash freezing, weighing and packaging the catch to be shipped back to the lower 48. And so, a generous small portion of halibut was passed to the Foodies. We did our best to prepare it in a way that would maintain its integrity skipping the battering, deep fat frying, hush puppy, crunchity extravaganza, and it went like this.
This video represents a series of 2600 photos edited down from the 6400 we captured that day.
It all started with a bet. Ben and I were at Mark & Jane’s house enjoying the typical weekend together with cooking, dogs, wine, jousting, cards, and crafting (not necessarily in that order). Ben was helping Jane load the dishwasher- Mark and I were a) pouring another glass of wine and getting our glue sticks ready to scrapbook b) giving Oliver & Sobe (The Dogs) their gourmet doggy kibble or c) putting our helmets on or d) all of thee above, and Ben made The Bet. Which movie had the scene with the timed dishwasher loading scene in it? Dan in Real Life or Rachel Getting Married? As soon as Ben named the stakes and asked me which one it was, I start jumping up and down with Jane screaming that we won, and once again Ben realized that he shouldn’t bet against the “Steel Trap.” Rachel Getting Married was what brought sweet, tasty, victorious, satisfaction in the form of four courses, for four foodies, for under $40.
So the following is the menu that was prepared for the victors of the bet. Now, we love food. We love good food, and Ben and Mark came up with the idea to do this gourmet meal on a budget. Based our experiences dining out, we figured that this meal could easily be $40/person, so the challenge was set and the menu was written. We do have copies of receipts with our purchases minus any pantry staples i.e. salt, pepper, flour, water, etc. Keep in mind that the bubbly and any wine consumed with the meal was not budgeted with good reason- had that been the case, we would’ve been drinking our dinner : )