Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18th - Summer Update

The Winds of Change Keep Blowing
This summer is flying by, isn't it?  It just seems like the beginning of July and now it's getting towards the end of August.  Yeesh.  Well, I tried to keep my promise, but not having to blog has been too nice and I'm 18 days late with an update for all of you. 

I am officially a full time instructor now at my culinary school (I was a part-timer before).  Congratulations to me (PAT ON THE BACK).   I just found out today in fact.  Also, got rid of the mall job and now work at a catering place in the city.  ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!  The people are so nice and the work is fun!   Finally,  I've been keeping busy with projects for the school and teaching.     

I know you're here to see what I've been cooking up in the meantime, so here's the two biggies I have for you.

The above sugar cookie is for the Culinary Honor Society I am the faculty advisor for.  I made about 50 of these guys for the induction cerememony (it was at the end of June).   

Below are the cakes I just finished last week for a buddy of mine for his baby shower.  (Excuse the unpolished look of the photos.  I did transfer them to a cake board and cleaned them up a little, but I thought I should get photos of them at that point in the process because I would forget in the end...and I did.) 

He wanted childrens books, so I busted out the fondant.  One was vanilla with vanilla butter cream (Giving Tree), one was chocolate with chocolate fudge frosting (Curious George), and the last one was carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (Good Night Moon).   I was a little disappointed with the Curious George.  The perfectionist chef in me thought I could do better.   I do have to give props to Brian for helping cutting out fondant shapes.   He put in a lot of time at night when I was at the catering place.





So, that's my update.  I'm doing really well, staying busy, and still loving my life.   I hope to blog again soon.  My goal is once again at the end of August.  Stay tooned...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 1st - Recipe for Success

Throwing In The Dish Towel
Well, I knew this day was going to come.  The end of a silly project I half schemed after a few too many.  I was hoping it would be January 1st 2011, but instead it's July 1st and I need to call it quits.  This cooking everyday/blogging is going to have to take a back seat to the new responsibilities I'm taking on at school.   

I got behind on the recipes due to side gigs and its impossible to get ahead now.   So, after much debate with Brian and others, I've made peace with the fact that this is the end of the Bon Appetite: Fast, Easy, and Fresh project.   I'll still blog every once in a while on special events and things I make, but it won't be on a daily basis.  More like weekly.  (I'm taking July off and will be back in August).

So Thank YOU kindly for all your comments, words of encouragement, and support as I trudged through the last 6 months of food, food, and more food.    I'll see you back in August for different food and a different format.

Friday, June 25, 2010

June 25th - Shallot Bruschetta

Shallots Next Year?
I'm thinking I want to plant shallots next year in my garden.   I've got garlic growing this year and its doing great.  I'm too apprehensive to do full fledged onions, so maybe the small unassuming shallot will be my crop for 2011.  I love the taste of shallots.  They're small, but potent, and lend a great flavor to sauces and vinaigrettes. 

This recipe was very simple.  I was quite surprised.  However, I think that the caramelized shallots and cheese would make a much better topping for flat bread pizza than bruschetta rounds.  Sprinkle on a little chopped thyme?

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Shallots: $1.29
Olive Oil: had
French Bread: $0.99
Cheese (Asiago): had

Total: $2.28

THE RESULTS

FAST:   About 10 minutes total.

EASY:   The difficulty lies in cutting up the shallots.

FRESH:  Yes, but could improve with a sprinkling of some fresh herbs.

OVERALL:  I like the simplicity of the recipe combined with that caramelized shallot flavor.  Again, I would maybe add a little chopped parsley or thyme for flavor and garnish.  It needs a little punch of color on the top.

This weekend we have bruleed berries (not to be confused with creme brulee).  See ya then!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24th - One Hour Shrimp Paella

You can have some of my paella..ella..ella..
Years back, when I was studying in Italy, I was able to get away for a long weekend to Barcelona.  It was an amazing adventure and I'm so glad I did it.  My mission on that trip was to eat the best paella in the city.  So I researched, found it, and it was everything I had hoped it would be.  Super friendly staff at this family owned place...just perfect.   Every time I hear the word paella now, I think of me sitting at that little table on the second floor overlooking the street and eating that wonderful combination of seafood and rice. 

What can you expect from this One Hour Shrimp Paella?  Nothing close to the real thing, but this recipe was quite tasty.   It's suprisingly good for a recipe with a title that makes it sound no better than the photo printing at Walgreen's. 

Try to track down real smoked Spanish paprika, it'll make all the difference.  I was able to find that and some saffron at Williams Sonoma.  (Trader Joe's might have it as well).  I suggest you make this sometime soon before the price of shrimp becomes astronomical due to the BP disaster in the gulf.

THE RECIPE

Ingredients
Olive Oil: had
Smoked Ham: $2.44
Onions: $0.89
Red Bell Pepper: $0.75
Saffron: $6.00
Paprika: $7.50
Broth: $1.00
Arborio Rice: had
Shrimp: $6.00
Green Olives: $3.09

Total: $27.67  (Ouch.  Pricey.  But I spent the majority on excellent quality saffron and paprika, which should last a while).

THE RESULTS
FAST:  Contrary to the name, the recipe does not take 1 hour.  It takes about 15 minutes to prep, 15 minutes to cook the rice, and another 6 to cook the shrimp.   So about 36 minutes total.
EASY:  Really easy.  The most difficult part is chopping everything up and peeling the shrimp.
FRESH:  Yes.  You can even make it more fresh tasting with some chopped up parsley.
OVERALL:  Not bad for a really simple and easy paella.  Yes, technically it's not paella.  Its more of a paella style risotto, but delicious none the less.  Brian weighs in on the recipe with a yum and a thumbs up.  I recommend the fresh parsley as a garnish and maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon to zing a contrast to the smokey/herby flavors of the paprika and saffron.

Tomorrow is a simple shallot bruschetta.  See ya then!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 23rd - White Beans with Sage and Olive Oil

Snoozeville!
This recipe is such a disappointment after the wonderful waffles.  But alas, all is not loss.  This recipe did remind me that dried beans really aren't that hard to cook.  They may seem a bit intimidating, but can be pretty easy.

The flavor on these beans was weak and pretty blah.  My recommendation: boil the beans in plain water, saute up a garlic/sage mixture in olive oil, and add the oil mixture to the cooked drained beans.  You'll avoid the blahs and get a much better flavor on the beans.  

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Dried White Beans: $1.00
Olive Oil: had
Garlic: $0.89
Sage: had (from the garden)

Total: $1.89

THE RESULTS
FAST: Not at all.  The beans need to come to a boil and soak for 1 hour.  Then, you need to boil them again in some fresh cold water for 45 minutes.  You're looking at 2 hours for beans.

EASY:  If you can boil water, you can do this recipe.

FRESH:  The flavor of the garlic and fresh sage is lost when you boil the poop out of it.  In fact, the flavor gets so subtle you almost miss it.

OVERALL:  Not great.  Definitely making the garlic-sage oil mixture next time and drizzling it just before service.  Otherwise, skip this recipe.

Tomorrow is Paella!  See ya then.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22nd - Waffles with Frizzled Ham and Maple Mustard Cream

Waffles you say?
Gosh darn, I did!  Breakfast for dinner is becoming really really popular in the Chicago-land area.  You can find all sorts of savory waffles/pancakes and egg dishes on dinner menus throughout the city.   I think folks like the comfort breakfast foods provide.  Plus, they take well to interpretations.  This, my dear friends, is an absolute treat that you MUST try.  Brian is putting this recipe in his top 10 favorite recipes of all time!  That's a big honor from such an oldster!  (Ha ha, kidding!)

Seriously, ditch the Eggos and either make waffle batter from scratch or buy the Malted Mix from Williams-Sonoma (that's what I used).  This recipe deserves the best waffle you can get!  The maple-mustard cream is like gooey heaven and the pieces of ham thrown in put you over the edge!  It all works fabulously together to make a memorable dinner that'll make your guests think twice before poo-pooing your crazy ideas!!

THE RECIPE

Ingredients
Butter: had
Ham: $2.57
Heavy Whipping Cream: $1.99
Maple Syrup: $6.00 (I got the real stuff)
Dijon Mustard: $1.00
Green Onions: $0.53
Waffles: used the Malted Mix from Williams-Sonoma which I had in the pantry

Total: $12.09

THE RESULTS

FAST:  The recipe takes about 20 minutes including prep time, sauce cooking time, and waffle making time.

EASY:  Super easy.  You just saute the ham for 5 minutes, then add all the rest of the sauce ingredients and let simmer for 3 minutes.  The hardest part for me was making the waffles.

FRESH:  The green onions add the fresh zing to the sauce.  Make sure to have some extra for garnish!

OVERALL:  LOVE THIS RECIPE!!  LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS RECIPE!!  I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is the best recipe so far this year from this crazy (time consuming) project.  The ham-maple-mustard cream is so delicious.  Who would have thought maple and mustard would go so well together?  Now, in order for this to work, you CANNOT use Mrs. Butterworths.  You need to spring for the real maple syrup (it is pretty expensive though).  It will not taste the same.  I just tried it and it does not taste the same!!   Please, do me a favor and have waffles for dinner.  The kids will love it and your dinner guests will freak!

I don't know if anything will ever top the awesomeness of this recipe, but we've got white beans tomorrow.  I'm thinking it'll be a let down.  We'll see ya tomorrow and find out!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 19th & 20th - Heath Bar Brownies

Brownie Goodness...
I go ape for brownies.  Absolutely love them.  Especially when they are fudgy (and not cakelike).  Yumm..  I could eat a whole pan by myself.  This is a delicious twist on the, dare I say it, ho-humness of brownies.   Although, I'll stick with ho-hum any time. 

I found Heath bits at my local grocery store.  They were with the chocolate chips.  I decided to go with those rather than trying to crush up candy bars.  It was a tad more expensive, but worth the convenience.

THE RECIPE
Ingredients:
Butter: $1.99
Chocolate: had (compliments of Callebaut, where I took a chocolate class)
Flour: had
Salt: had
Baking Soda: had
Sugar: had
Eggs: $0.89
Vanilla: had
Walnuts: had
Heath Bits: $3.19

TOTAL: $6.07

THE RESULTS

FAST:  These brownies took about 55 minutes overall.  Fifteen minutes for prep, 30 minutes for baking, and ten minutes for the brownies to cool down enough for me to eat.

EASY:  The part about beating the eggs with the sugar to get them really fluffy and then fold in the dry ingredients was probably the most difficult part.

FRESH:  Meh, you can call these brownies delicious, but you really can't call them fresh tasting.  Now a fresh take on the classic brownie, they are!

OVERALL:   Love these brownies.  Absolutely love them.  The fact that you sprinkle the Heath bits on them when they just come out of the oven...shear genius!  Although, I did put some in the batter.  Also, I had a handful of pecans leftover in the freezer and threw those in as well.  Yumm!  I haven't met a brownie I didn't like (unless it had raisins in it!).   These are a must try!

Well folks, we've got waffles for Tuesday.  Yes, that's what I said...waffles!  See ya then!

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 18th - Classic Shaken Margarita


Cocktail Time!!!!
I'm not a huge fan of tequila (there was an episode back in my younger days), so I shy away from the margarita.  This recipe actually was pretty easy, but really really strong.  If you like tequila, you'll love this!

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Limes: $1.00
Tequila: Had
Cointreau:  Had
Salt:  Had

Total: $1.00

THE RESULTS

FAST:  It only took about 5 minutes to concoct this drink (which doubles as a relief tonic from pesky children).

EASY:  Easier than trying to get a full time job (believe me, I know!)

FRESH:  The fresh squeezed lime juice makes all the difference.

OVERALL:  This drink was too strong for me.  I know, you're shocked and horrified.  But, I had to dilute it with some flat club soda and some sweet sour mix.   The tequila taste was too strong and I kept throwing up in my mouth and tasting that awful bile taste.    The sweet sour mix mellowed it out, but I'm going to skip this recipe for the future.

We've got brownies for the weekend!  See ya then!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 17th - Grilled Chicken with Olive Puree

Backed Up...
If you've been checking my blog, you'll have noticed that the Thurs and Fri recipes haven't been posted.  Let me assure you that I've made the recipes, but I've been so busy I haven't had time to blog them.   I've been working on projects for the school.  So, here they are, backdated and posted.

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Kalamata Olives: $2.19
Olive Oil: Had
Chicken:  $2.88
Rosemary: Had (from garden)

TOTAL: $5.07

THE RESULTS

FAST:  The chicken has to marinate for 3 hours or overnight.  (I recommend it otherwise you won't get any flavor into the chicken.)  So this is one recipe you should probably do one day ahead of time.

EASY:  The puree is super easy since you're using a food processor.  Then it's just slab it under the skin of the chicken, marinate, and grill.

FRESH:  The rosemary gives it that punch of freshness.

OVERALL:  This recipe was a little boring.  I didn't care for it and Brian thought it was good.  It would go really well with a gravy of some sort.  Maybe a Sauce Maltaise?  That's a hollandaise sauce that uses orange zest and juice (typically blood oranges).  The orange, rosemary, and olives would be really good together.

Okay, I need a laugh.  Here's my favorite lady, Amy Sedairs, stickin' it to Martha.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 16th - Sugar Snap Peas with Toasted Sesame Seeds

SNOOZE FEST!
Ugh.  What a boring recipe.  Literally I got a bag of snap peas that steam in the bag, microwaved it, added sesame oil and sesame seeds and bang...that's it.   Know what it tastes like?  Snap peas with sesame oil and sesame seeds.



THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Snap Peas: $2.19
Sesame Oil: had
Sesame Seeds: had

Total: $2.19

THE RESULTS
FAST:  Took me 4 minutes to nuke the peas in the bag and 30 seconds to add the sesame oil and sesame seeds (which I toasted while the microwave was going).

EASY:  Umm...it's the microwave.

FRESH:  Surprisingly the steam in the bag frozen snap peas actually tasted fresh (and good).

OVERALL:  Not feeling like being Martha Stewart in the kitchen?  This recipe is for you.  Nice and easy and BORING!  YAWN.  It's sleepy time.  Wake me up when we get a good recipe cause tomorrow's is even more boring!

See ya then!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 15th - Bell Pepper, Red Onion, and Goat Cheese Pizza with Fresh Thyme

Grey Skies Are Gonna Clear Up...
Well, I'm feeling 100% better today.  The cough is now subsiding and I'm able to sleep at night.  Yeesh, that was a little rough going.   So, today I bring to you a nice pizza recipe.  Usually, I'm not a fan of the bell pepper (especially green), but this was actually pretty good.

THE RECIPE
Ingredients:
Olive oil: had
Red Onion: $0.79
Garlic: had
Red Bell Pepper: $0.89
Yellow Bell Pepper: $0.69
Crushed Red Pepper: had
Pizza Crust: had (see note)
Goat Cheese: $3.99
Thyme: had (from my garden)

TOTAL: $6.36

So a while back (April 27th to be exact), I had to make calzones and I decided to buy a pizza crust mix.  Well luckily it came with 2 packages in the box and I kept the other package just in case I'd need to make pizza again.  Viola!  Another pizza recipe.  So that's what I used.

THE RESULTS

FAST:  Well, it's not the quickest.  For now, we're going to ignore the pizza crust I made. (Once it's mixed up, you have to let it sit, covered, for an hour to rise.)  The onions had to saute on low for at least 30 minutes.  Then you add the peppers and saute for another 5.  Then, you assemble your pizza and let it cook for 12.  The prep took me about 10 minutes.  So, all together, you're looking at 57 - 60 minutes to make pizza even with a fully baked shell.   Not so quick compared to the other recipes.

EASY:  Yeah, somewhat.  The trick with the pizza is to make sure the onions and peppers are sliced really thin.  That can be somewhat tricky if you're not good with a knife.  Don't slice your fingers off!!  Otherwise, it's just assemble and bake.

FRESH:  I'd say.  The sweet of the onions with the bite of the bell pepper match well to the creamy, earthiness of the goat cheese and that hint of  fresh thyme.  But something felt missing...

OVERALL:   I happened to have some balsamic glaze in the fridge and drizzled some on top of the pizza.  It took that recipe from WOW to POW (bringing back a classic, Joy).   That little extra zing of balsamic really set all of the flavors off.  So, I actually liked this recipe.  I'd make it again.

Tomorrow is snooze city with some snap peas.  See ya then!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

June 12 & 13 - Lemon and Anise Sugar Twists

It's Sunday!
Feeling somewhat better today.  Went with Brian and Nikki to see Sex and the City 2.  My review is...meh.  Didn't care for it so much, but it got me out of the house for 2 1/2 hours which I needed.  I've been cooped up in there since Thursday Night.

After the movie we came back to the house and had a Thanksgiving in June meal.  I made a free range turkey that I've had in the freezer for a while.  Thawed it out on Friday and brined it on Saturday.  Turned out excellent.  Brian made the stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green beans.  Yumm! 
So for this blog entry I've got a guest taster, Nikki!

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Puff Pastry: $3.19
Egg and Milk: Had
Sugar: had
Lemon Peel: had
Aniseed: $2.99

TOTAL: $6.18

So I finally found anise seed at a grocery store I haven't been to yet.  And I found a butt load of it for $2.99.  Yeah for me!  I've got anise seed for the next 2 years.

THE RESULTS

FAST:  You need to dethaw your puff pastry for at least 40 minutes.  The assembly took less than 5 minutes and they bake for about 20 (16 in my oven).  So, I would say they were pretty quick.
EASY:  Yeah, just make sure you don't let your puff pastry thaw too much on the counter, otherwise it'll be impossible to work with. 

FRESH: I would say the anise seed and the lemon zest give it a somewhat fresh taste.  It's much better than using fake anise extract.

OVERALL:   I thought they were okay.  They needed more sugar in my opinion.  They would be a great garnish for a bigger dessert of some sort.  Maybe ice cream or sorbet?  They'd be a nice addition to an after-dinner cookie tray with coffee.  Nikki gives it a 6 out of 10 and Brian says "that's fair". 

Next week we've got some pretty simple dishes.  We'll see ya then!

Friday, June 11, 2010

June 11th - Cantaloupe Mint Cooler

GETTIN' BETTER
Well, my last two days of bed rest here in the homestead have helped a bit.  I don't feel as congested, but still have the cough.  Hopefully I can shake that in the next day or so.  You'd think by the look of the drink in the picture above that I was making myself some kind of crazy home remedy.  Although it packs a vodka punch, it didn't cure my cough.   I can attest that it tastes much better than it looks (I think I over blended)!

THE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:
Cantaloupe: $1.29
Sugar: had
Vodka: had
Limes: $1.00
Mint: had (from my garden)

TOTAL: $2.29

THE RESULTS

FAST: It took me about 5 minutes to cut up the melon and squeeze the lime juice.  Then, you just blend everything in a blender which didn't take more than 30 seconds!  Super Fast!

EASY:  Cutting up the melon was the hardest part of this whole recipe.  Just zip zap the rest in the blender.

FRESH:  Mmm..nothing like ripe cantaloupe and fresh mint with a smack of vodka.  DEE-LISH!

OVERALL:   I haven't met a drink I didn't like.  Well, except for Campari.  This was really nice and refreshing.  Perfect for hot summer days.  I suppose you could use any kind of fresh fruit or melon.  I happened to have lemon vodka, but I suppose a raspberry or blueberry flavored vodka would work well too!  Brian gives this a thumbs up.  He says that it would also be good sans the alcohol.

Alrighty, we've got some puff pastry twists for the weekend.  See ya then!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 10th - Soft Tacos with Sausage and Feta

It Continues...
Yuck.  Still not feeling great.  Nyquil is my nightcap of choice now.  Good news, these tacos came together pretty quick, which was good because I was hungry and tired when I came home from teaching all day!

THE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:
Olive Oil: had
Italian Sausage: $3.08
Red Onion: $0.74
Cumin: had
Corn Tortillas: $0.99
Feta Cheese: $2.19
Cilantro: had (from Tuesday's recipe)
Romaine lettuce: had (from Tuesday's recipe)

TOTAL: $7.00

THE RESULTS
FAST:  It took about 15 minutes to cook the sausage and another 5 minutes to chop up the rest of the ingredients.  So, about 20 minutes for these tacos.

EASY:  Nothing to it.  Fry up some sausage with some onions and cumin.  Then, it's basically a build your own taco bar.

FRESH:  The feta was a great touch to the fennel/cumin taste of the Italian sausage.  The fresh cilantro also perked up the entire dish.

OVERALL:  This was a really quick, easy recipe.  I would add some fresh tomatoes and maybe a little diced avocado as well to this.  Top with some sour cream?

Tomorrow is cocktail time.  Very simple and hopefully delicious.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 9th - Green Onion Biscuits

Still Enfermo
Well folks, I'm still sick.  I actually think I'm worse than yesterday.  But, I was able to whip these biscuits up no problem because the recipe was so simple.  I just wish it wasn't so hot out.  Because the oven was on, I ended up opening the doors and shutting off the A/C.  Normally, I would cool myself off with a chilled gin martini.  But, being sick and medicated, I've got to stick to water.  BOO!!

You'll love this recipe.  They're so good.  I skipped the part about brushing with melted butter because I wanted to get the true taste of these biscuits.  Also, I ended up using a good amount of flour on the table when kneading/turning the dough (as instructed in the recipe).  Just make sure to have the extra flour handy so you're not playing Edward Dough Hands and making a mess of your kitchen trying to get to it (from experience). 

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Flour: had
Baking Powder: had
Salt & Pepper: had
Whipping Cream: $2.99
Green Onion: $1.00

Total: $3.99

THE RESULTS
FAST: These biscuits took me about 7 minutes to prep (including green onion chopping time).  They baked about 15 minutes in my oven (because it runs too hot).  So about 22 - 25 minutes for some really good biscuits.

EASY:  OMG, YES!  The hardest part was waiting for them to cool down enough to eat! 

FRESH:  The green onion does it here.  Make sure you put in a touch more pepper than it calls for.  It helps to make the green onion flavor pop!

OVERALL:  Love these!!  I'm keeping this recipe for the next time company comes over.  Simple and easy, they'll think you slaved all day to make these.  I would love to put some cooked bacon bits into the dough.  Nah, I'll just keep them they way they are.  

Tomorrow we've got some interesting tacos.  See ya then!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

June 8th - Turkey Chopped Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing

I Hate Being Sick
Being sick, especially when the weather is warm out, sucks.  I have a bad chest cold/sinus infection and I've been medicating myself up for the past few days.  So, you'll pardon me if these blog posts are a little shorter than normal and more straight to the point.  I've been sleeping a lot more than usual.

THE RECIPE
Ingredients:
Avocado: $0.59
Lime: $0.19
Chili-garlic Sauce: $2.99
Chicken: $3.05
Jicama: $0.89
Red Onion: $0.84
Red Pepper: $1.02
Cilantro: $0.33
Romaine Lettuce: $2.99

Total: $12.89

I decided to substitute out chicken for the turkey.  I found a great deal on boneless, skinless chicken thighs so I just rubbed them with the BBQ rub I had in the pantry and sauteed them.  Perfect and tasty.

THE RESULTS
FAST: The chicken took about 15 minutes to cook.  The dressing took 2 minutes to make (because you put everything in a food processor).  The salad took only 15 minutes to put together (this included prep time for all the veggies).  Overall, 30 to 35 minutes.  I'm sure it would be even quicker if you used already cooked turkey (like the recipe calls for).

EASY:  The dressing is really simple since you're using a food processor.  The prep of the veggies isn't too difficult except for the jicama.  That took a little bit longer.  Patience grasshopper!

FRESH:   You're darn tootin'.  Its a salad for gosh sakes!

OVERALL:  This was a really good salad.  I ended up squeezing a bit more lime juice onto my salad as it seemed like it needed it.  Otherwise, the dressing was a nice combination of creaminess and zing.  The BBQ rub on the chicken worked great and the jicama and red pepper were a nice touch of crunch.  I really liked this recipe.  I think I would actually make it again, but add a bit more lime juice to the dressing or maybe even add some cilantro to the food processor.

Tomorrow we've got biscuits!  See ya then!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

June 5 & 6 - Amaretto Chocolate Pudding

My chef friend Tommy is having a party tonight, so I thought I would make something a little different for it:
MEATLOAF CUPCAKES!!!  YUM!

It's the best of both worlds.  Meatloaf and cupcakes!!!  Delicious!
The meatloaf recipe is from America's Test Kitchen which is actually really good.  The mashed potatoes are homemade (no recipe really).  Let's hope they go!

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Milk: $2.99
Pudding Mix: $1.29
Chocolate Chips: $2.29
Amaretto: had
Whipping Cream: $1.99
Sugar: had

Total: $8.56

THE RESULTS
FAST:  The pudding took about 15 minutes to make.  It then had to chill for at least an hour.

EASY:  As long as you follow the instructions on the box mix, you'll be okay.   It's really not that hard.

FRESH:  Adding berries as a garnish to the pudding will make the recipe taste much fresher.  Otherwise, it's pretty much just chocolate pudding.  Not really fresh.

OVERALL:  I didn't care for this recipe at all.  It just tasted like chocolate pudding with some alcohol in it.  You might as well save some time and get the jello instant pudding mix and throw in some amaretto in the end.  This definitely needs some strawberries to go with it. 

Okay.  Next week looks like some fun recipes.  See ya then!

Friday, June 4, 2010

June 4th - Honeydew and Prosciutto with Greens and Mint Vinaigrette

NEEDS TO PAY ATTENTION IN CLASS
Ugh.  I screwed up.  I somehow put cantaloupe on my shopping list instead of honeydew.  And of course, at the grocery store, I thought that it should have been a honeydew, but picked up cantaloupe instead.  So, this recipe is going to have a major substitution.  Also, I couldn't find anise seeds (I'll talk about that later) so I substituted out a very tiny drop of anise extract.

Speaking of class, the field trips went fine (sorry I was so short yesterday).  Nothing major to report.  Just did a huge amount of walking and was beat from that and the constant wrangling of students.  We visited a bunch of cool bakeries in the Chicago area, but I didn't grab my camera!  Ugh.  Some really tasty things, though.   If you're in the Chicago area I recommend Bittersweet, Bleeding Heart Bakery, and Twisted Sister.  Three very different bakeries with some very different pastries!

Speaking of class...again, this morning I was lucky enough to attend a "Summer Pastry" class at the Callebaut Chocolate Institute downtown.   Mmmm just think mangoes and white chocolate and strawberries and dark chocolate goodies!   It was great.  Learned a lot of info.  I'll post pictures once they e-mail them to me (again, forgot the camera).


THE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:
Sherry wine vinegar: had
Honey: had
Anise extract: $1.99
Mint: (from garden)
Olive Oil: had
Baby Greens: (from garden)
Cantaloupe: $1.19
Prosciutto: $2.29

TOTAL: $5.47

THE RESULTS
FAST:  The whole salad, from dressing to finished plate, took under 10 minutes.  It's a real quick throw together salad, so it shouldn't take you any longer than that (unless your catching up on season finales on hulu, then it'll take you a bit longer).

EASY:  The hardest part of this recipe was cutting up the melon.  Again, need to pay attention to the recipe because it calls for sliced melon and not cubed.  DUH MARK!

FRESH:  Are ya kidding me?  Do you have to ask?  Fresh baby greens from the garden, topped with fresh mint and really ripe cantaloupe with a slightly sweetened honey anise vinaigrette.  This is the epitome of fresh and by which all other dishes should be judged!

OVERALL:  Meh.  It's okay.  I think the substitutions got in the way of this one.  I've really been trying to find anise seeds (I guess I'm not looking hard enough) for the last month because I have a great biscotti recipe that uses them.  They would add a much better texture and anise flavor to the salad than the extract would (it's a little too stong for me..even though I put in only a drop).  I actually prefer cantaloupe and the nutty/salty prosciutto together, but I can see why this recipe calls for the honeydew (because it's milder and would take on the flavor of fresh mint really well).  It's a nice change from the norm and would be a great summer starter. 

Yeehaw!  This weekend we've got us some dessert and maybe a surprise recipe or two (or maybe I'll leave those for Tuesday...I'm not sure).  See ya Sunday!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June 3rd - Hunan Lamb Chops

I'm wiped out.  Took my two classes on their field trips today and I've been on the go from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  It was a beautiful day outside, but I'm going to be so sunburned tomorrow.  Need to get this done and get some sleep.

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Hoisin Sauce: had
Soy Sauce: had
Dry Sherry: had
Chili oil: Had
Rice Vinegar: had
Garlic: $0.89
Green Onions: $0.33
Lamb: $7.45

TOTAL: $8.67

THE RESULTS

FAST:  The hunan sauce takes less than 5 minutes to whip up.  The lamb has to marinade in it for at least 20 minutes.  The cooking takes about another 6.  So, you can have this dish from start to finish in about 30 -35 minutes. 

EASY:   The hardest part of this recipe will be to not overcook the lamb.  I think lamb should be cooked to medium or medium rare (that's my personal opinion).  Well done lamb is like an oil spill in the gulf, it ruins everything.  NOTE: Keep an eye on your lamb!
FRESH:  Not really.  The hunan sauce is really thick and "dark" tasting.  Lots of soy sauce and hoisin which can get really syrupy and cloying.  Now, throw in a little fresh ginger to the sauce and you'll put a little more zip in the ship.
OVERALL:  The lamb I bought for this recipe was too lamby/gamey.  It killed the taste of the whole dish.   The hunan sauce would be great with either chicken or pork as well (I didn't mind that so much).  It's kind of all purpose that way.  I will be adding some fresh ginger next time and maybe some more green onion.

Sorry to make this short.  See ya tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June 2nd - Bistro Oven Fries with Parsley and Garlic

THE FRENCH FIGHT
I absolutely love potatoes.  Whether boiled, baked, mashed, scalloped, au gratin, roasted, or made into a salad, I could eat nothing but potatoes!  However, I get insane when it comes to French fries.   I have an unhealthy (literally) obsession with them!!  (Yes, I love them more than Butter Pecan Ice Cream).  If I could eat nothing but French fries everyday for the rest of my life and not have any unhealthy side effects from them, I would!  When I go out to eat and order a sandwich and they come with, I usually say screw the coleslaw give me more fries.  And this, my friends, is where the fight begins.

Brian does not like French fries.  He frowns (well, scowls) every time I order them.  I get that look of "Do you really think you need to eat those?".   I put on my own scowly face that says "Yes, I think I need to eat these, now back off."  Every time we go out to eat.  It's like clockwork.  I tell him that I'm going to get fries and he tries to lay a guilt trip on me.  Every once in a while he'll win the fight and I order either a side of fruit or salad instead of fries (just to appease him).  But then the table next to me gets their food and of course their plates are loaded with fries.  I think "Man, look at what I'm missing out on.  Oh, I bet they're so good.  Stupid fruit.  Stupid salad.  Stupid fries.  Thanks for nothing Brian."

My name is Mark and I am a French fry addict.

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:Potatoes: $1.07
Canola oil: had
Parsley: (from garden)
Garlic: had

TOTAL: $1.07

THE RESULTS
FAST:  The fries took me maybe 7 minutes to cut and another 30 minutes to bake (my oven is a little wonky and I didn't follow the recipe cook time).  So you can have these fries in about 37 - 40 minutes.

EASY:  Cutting the fries so that they are all the same size can be difficult, especially if you're not very confident about your knife cutting skills.  You could buy either a mandoline or a french fry cutter (often sold in kitchen supply stores like Williams Sonoma) if you're going to make french fries often.  Otherwise, you better start practicing because they are pretty expensive.

FRESH: The parsley is actually a fresh touch to what could be ordinary fries.  I'm thinking next time maybe some rosemary.
OVERALL:  Brian says that there is no such thing as a healthy French fry.  Whether it's baked or deep fried, they're still bad for you.  I ignore that because I CANNOT live without my french fries.  It is nice to know that I can use this simple recipe to do home fries (that are at least healthier than deep fried ones..you've got to agree with that Brian).  Although they don't compare to Burger King fries, they're still good.  And the herb salt is a nice touch and can be improvised with many different flavor combinations.

Okay.  Tomorrow I make lamb.  See ya then!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June 1st - Grilled Salmon with Tomato Olive Salsa

THE HALFWAY POINT...
Can you believe it's June already?  Gosh, where does the time go?  I'll tell you.  It goes into this blog.  It's really becoming difficult to find time to do this almost every day ("...pity, party of one..pity, party of one"), but I'm surviving.  Everytime I think of giving up this project, I get an e-mail from someone asking what's on the menu for next week or a comment from someone responding to my crazy opinions of things.  Then I'm like "Wow, someone is really reading this thing!  How sad."  (Just kidding.) But seriously, here's to all of you that keep me going.  Someone's got to keep you entertained (and make you hungry) at work!

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Tomatoes: $2.07
Olive Oil: had
Kalamata Olives: $2.29
Basil: from my herb garden
Capers: had
Galic: had
Shallot $0.83
Salmon: $4.99

Total: $10.18

Doesn't it seems like I've made some version of this already.  I'm having a total deja vu moment here.  There's got to have been some sort of tomato/olive salsa with fish before.  Hold on..I'm going to check. 

The Verdict:  Yes, and no.  If you look back to January 12th there is a striped bass with Moroccan Salsa.

http://superstarchefmark.blogspot.com/2010/01/january-12th-striped-bass-with-moroccan.html

The salsa does have kalamata olives, but it does not have tomatoes or capers.  In fact, it's a whole other set of ingredients.  Similar concept, different take.  I knew I wasn't going crazy.  It's only June for crepes sake!

THE RESULTS

FAST: The salsa only takes about 10 minutes to make.  However, it needs to sit for at least 15 minutes for the flavors to develop (longer if possible).  The fish was really quick at 6 minutes.  So maybe 30 minutes for this meal?  If someone says Rachael Ray I'm gonna....

EASY:  How good are your salsa making skills?  That's about as hard as this recipe gets.  Unless, you get the fish stuck to your grill.  WARNING:  Make sure you wipe down your grill with some olive oil.  DOUBLE WARNING: Make sure you don't start your paper towel or rag on fire!

FRESH: Yeah.  The salsa is a great fresh kick to the salmon.  The just picked basil and kalamata olives combined with the capers is a symphony of flavors.  You know I'm going to say that this salsa will be even better in the summer with garden fresh tomatoes!

OVERALL:  A great variation of the fish and salsa recipe we've come to see twice now from Bon Appetit.  How many more will we see before the year is up?  Care to guess?  This is a great recipe to clean out your fridge and to use that home grown basil and tomatoes that you'll have an abundance of. 

Tomorrow is my favorite veggie: THE POTATO!  See ya then!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 29 & 30 - Butter Pecan Ice Cream Pie with Caramel Topping


LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, BUTTER PECAN ICE CREAM!!!!
Butter pecan ice cream is my most favorite flavor in all the world.  There is just something about it that drives me nuts (Ha!).  I will take a handful of lactaid just so I can enjoy this most holy of ice cream flavors.  The sweet and salty are in  perfect balance as you get a play of smooth and crunchy textures in your mouth.  I think its my love for pecans in general that fuels this passion.  Oh gosh, I could gush for hours and hours on the greatness of this flavor, but I've got an ice cream pie to eat on this extremely hot day!

THE RECIPE
Ingredients:
Pecans: $4.28
Graham Cracker Crumbs: $1.00
Brown sugar: $2.00
Butter: $1.99
Butter Pecan Ice Cream: $2.50
Caramel: made

Total: $11.77

I forgot to get caramel ice cream topping, so I decided to make a small batch.  Since I had some leftover cream in the fridge and sugar in the pantry, I was good to go.  (Caramel should only be made with cream.  Regular milk or half and half don't work.)

THE RESULTS
FAST:  Not really.  The crust took 5 minutes to prep and 15 minutes to freeze.  The ice cream sat out while this happened.  The ice cream softened, I put it into the shell, and then had to wait 1 hour for it to harden back up (made the caramel during this time).  So, about 1 hour 20 minutes for pie.

EASY:  The crust wasn't too difficult.  The processor made fast work of it.  Just make sure you pack your crumbs in well and into the corners of your dish for a crisp, finished look.

FRESH:  Not really.  It's just butter pecan ice cream and caramel.

OVERALL:  YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!
I mean, come on.  Unless you don't like butter pecan ice cream, this is the greatest dessert so far in the past 6 months.

Okay.  I've got tomorrow (Memorial Day) off.  Which I will need to do school stuff.  Hopefully, I'll get back on track this week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

May 28th - Grilled Pesto Breadsticks with Goat Cheese Pesto Spread

BEFORE THE BASIL HARVEST...
I have to tell you that I have always made my own pesto.  I purposely grow a lot of basil in the summer to make a huge batch and then freeze (it works great in ice cube trays).  If I don't have pesto in the freezer, then I go without.  It has never crossed my mind to go to the store and buy already made pesto until this recipe.  Cause guess what?  No pesto in the freezer.  And with the project that I've been working on, no time to make my own.  So I discovered the pesto section (well, shelf really) of my grocery store.  Not much to choose from, so we'll see how it tastes.

THE RECIPE

Ingredients
Pesto: $2.99
Goat Cheese: $3.99
Bread: $1.99
Olive oil: had

TOTAL: $8.97

THE RESULTS

FAST:  The pesto/goat cheese was really quick in the food processor.  2 minutes tops?  Then the bread took another 5 to prep, coat, and then broil.  In less than 10 minutes, you've got an appetizer.

EASY:  The hardest part will be cutting up the bread.  You've got to split the bread, as if you're making a sandwich, and then cut those halves into strips.  Just think bread stick shapes and you'll be fine. 

FRESH: Pesto and goat cheese.  Yummy.  The jar pesto wasn't that bad.  Now homemade pesto....YUMMY IN THE TUMMY!!

OVERALL:  This is a simple, easy appetizer.  Brian really liked the bread and said he'd eat that by itself.  I liked the goat cheese/pesto spread.  (I'm actually going to toss that in some just cooked pasta with some chopped tomatoes and cooked broccoli for dinner tonight.  I think it's going to be great.)  The cheese/pesto would be a great addition to any cheese plate as well.

Okay, now we just have to get dessert out of the way, and I'll be all caught up!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 27th - Grilled Steaks with Anchovy Lemon Butter

I've Been A Bad Blogger

Okay, so this recipe and the next (the pesto bread) are actually late.  It is Sunday night and I am just blogging them now.  I made the recipes on Thursday and Friday respectfully (so that part of this blog I'm still good on), but I have a project for school that needs to get done ASAP.   In the spirit of full-disclosure, I've got to tell you that I've backdated these blog entries. 

COMPOUND BUTTER

Compound butter sounds like a hoity-toity thing, but it's super easy thing to make.  It's basically soft butter mixed with some herbs, spices, and/or other flavorings.  Some people will reform it into a log to make it look pretty, other chefs like to use a pastry bag to pipe out stars.  In either case you need to take your soften butter and put it back in the fridge to harden up.  Then you can either cut the log or serve the hardened stars on your bread and butter plates or top cooked meats (or fish).  The great thing about compound butter is that the flavor possibilities are endless.  You can go very simple with one flavor (like dill) or make it as complicated as you want (with olives, paprika, marjoram, lemon zest, cayenne pepper, anchovies, and oregano).  And, you can make a huge batch and put what you don't use in the fridge (tightly wrapped of course).  Then, the next time you have company, you can pull it out last minute and wow your guests.

TOUCHING YOUR MEAT

The touch method of knowing how to cook meat is really not that hard.  There are three basic touches:
With your hand slightly closed, touch the pad of your palm.  Feel how soft that is?  That is rare.

With your hand now outstretched (but not really tight), touch that same part of your palm.  That is medium.
With your hand outstretched (somewhat tight now) touch the pad under your index finger.  It should feel pretty solid.  That is well.

Hey, not bad.  I took these pictures myself with the auto-timer and the camera in my mouth!

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Butter: had
Anchovy: $1.79
Shallot: $0.89
Lemon: $0.50
Steak: $7.99

TOTAL: $11.17

THE RESULTS

FAST:  The butter didn't take more than 5 minutes to prepare.  (If you need to soften the butter quick, give it a 1 minute zap in the microwave.)  Even though the butter is quick to throw together, you'll need to let it become solid again in the fridge.  My butter took about 45 minutes to come back to a hard solid.  The steak was really quick.  I like rare to medium rare so I only "grilled" it for 7 minutes total.

EASY:  The butter is super easy to make.  The best part is you can make a big batch of compound butter and store it in the fridge.  Then, you can use it not only for meats, but as a flavored butter for a great loaf of crusty bread.  Depending on your skill with a grill, the steaks can be no problem or a pain in the butt.  I usually do the touch method of knowing when the meat is done, but some people will use a thermometer.  Just make sure you don't stick your meat too much, or you'll release all of the juices. 

FRESH:  If it had some chopped up fresh parsley or thyme, then I would give this a big yes.  But, it really isn't what I would consider fresh.

OVERALL:  Surprisingly, the anchovy lemon butter really isn't that bad.  However, if you don't like anchovies, you are not going to like this butter.  You can try adding fresh herbs all you like, but the anchovy taste is going to pop through.  Personally, I like anchovies and I actually liked this butter on my steak.  I think adding some fresh chopped capers would have given the butter even more zing and an Italian flare. 

Okay, we've got some pesto bread as an appetizer.  See ya then!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 26th - Warm Spinach Salad with Parmeasn

YAWN!
If a recipe could embody the lack of enthusiasm as demonstrated by yesterday's post, this would be the blue ribbon winner.  When I tasted this salad the words "ho-hum", "boring", and "lackluster" come to mind.  Yeah, it could be the snobby chef in me coming out.  But really folks, this salad is nothing more than a bowl of spinach with a warmed up balsamic dressing thrown on top.  They're adding the nuts and Parmesan to "fancy" it up, but really, you've got a basic spinach salad with boring-ness thrown in. (I'm sure there is a pig and lipstick joke somewhere in there).   I mean COME ON.  Speaking of pigs, how about some bacon?  Bon Appetit you could have at least gone with a warm bacon dressing on this one.  

I can't be too upset.  Everyone has those days where they don't want to work to hard.  For example, me, yesterday with this blog.  Today, Bon Appetit, I'm letting you off the hook on this one and chalking it up to a lazy day.

I suppose we should just get on with this as a formality.

THE RECIPE
Ingredients:
Spinach: $2.10
Radicchio: $1.02
Olive oil: Had
Balsamic: had
Red Wine: had
Shallot: $0.89
Almonds: had
Parmesan: had

Total: $4.01

I'm sorry, but I was not going to spend a small fortune to buy pine nuts for this droll recipe.  I went with some slivered almonds which I had in the freezer. 

THE RESULTS

FAST:  The salad takes less than 10 minutes to make.  That includes the time you have to let the warm dressing sit in the spinach, the time it takes to make the dressing, and the time it took to toast the nuts in a pan on the stove top.

EASY:  We've discussed this before, but toasting nuts in a saute pan can be a little difficult.  You definitely never want to leave the kitchen or turn your back for too long on those guys.  They'll turn to charcoal in less than a few minutes.

FRESH:  Yeah, I guess.  You've got fresh spinach and radicchio. 

OVERALL:  Well I think you all know how I feel on this one.  LAME!  Seriously, I would have gone with a warm bacon dressing.  At least that would be a little more fun than a boring balsamic vinaigrette. 

Well, I'm out of here.  I'm going to get some Mexican food with Brian.  A new Mexican restaurant opened up in the neighborhood and I've been wanting to try it for days now.   Hasta maƱana!  See ya then!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 25th - Grilled Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce


Heat Stroke...
This warm weather is making me sluggish and not wanting to do much blogging.  So, I'm going to skip the small talk and get right into the recipe, which is actually not that bad.

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Italian Parsley: $0.69
Olive oil: had
Red wine vinegar: had
Cilantro: $0.69
Garlic: had
Red Pepper: had
Cumin: had
Salt: had
Chicken: $3.19

Total: $4.57

THE RESULTS

FAST: The chimichurri is real quick because its all made in a food processor.  It took me less than 3 minutes.  Cooking the chicken took about 10 minutes.  I was too lazy to start the charcoal grill, so I decided to pan fry it in the house.  Yeah, probably not the smartest when its so hot, but it was the only thing I had to cook and that's what air conditioning is for.

EASY:  The hardest part is cooking the chicken.  There really isn't anything to the sauce except throwing it all in the food processor.  That's my kind of easy!

FRESH:  Uber-fresh.  Think of it as a parsley pesto/vinaigrette. 

OVERALL:  This recipe is really not that bad.  I only put in one clove of garlic, because I didn't want to reek of it.  Uncooked garlic is starting to make me very wary.  Anyway, this recipe is so easy to make and would go great with some cooked asparagus or roasted potatoes.  I like it because I always have too much parsley growing in my garden and nothing to do with it.  This kind of remedies that. 

Yeah this was kind of a bummer post, I know.  Not very witty.  But hang in there.  We've got salad tomorrow and I plan on sleeping in, so I should be as right as rain.  See ya then!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 22 & 23 - Strawberry Mascarpone And Marsala Budini

The Amazing Budini
Ugh, it is hot and sticky and I am not ready for this weather!  It's going to help the tomatoes I planted, but it's not going to do a thing for me except keep me indoors with the A/C on high! 

The dessert for this weekend is super easy, super delicious, and Italian!  Budini means "pudding" and is used rather loosely.  The consistency of the pudding can vary from really super soft to something rather dense.  And don't even get me started on flavors.  They are infinite and are only limited by your imagination. 

This dessert is perfect for the hot, mugginess outside.  Although, I will be enjoying mine indoors watching the last episode of my favorite T.V. show in the world....LOST!   I do have to say this season kind of bit, but I'm excited to see how they end it all.  After tonight, I won't have any shows to tune into regularly (except Modern Family).  I guess that's good.  It'll give me more time to read and cook (like I'm not doing that enough..cooking that is).



THE RECIPE

Ingredients:
Marscarpone Cheese: $2.19
Marsala: had
Heavy whipping cream: $1.29
Sugar: had
Strawberries: $1.50
Amaretti: had

Total: $4.98

THE RESULTS
FAST:  This recipe is really quick to throw together, but you have to let the cream and berries sit in the fridge for 30 minutes before you can assemble your dessert.  Then, after it's assembled, you need to let it sit 30 minutes more.  So, you won't be eating budini for at least an hour.

EASY:  The hardest part you'll have with this recipe is not eating up all the wonderful strawberries before you get a chance to slice them.

FRESH:  I had super ripe strawberries which put the letter R in the word FRESH.   Garnish with some fresh mint leaves and you've got yourself one heck of a summer recipe.

OVERALL:  Great recipe.  If you don't want to go as heavy (or as expensive) as mascarpone, you can use cream cheese.  Also, you can use any other sweet dessert wine or even liquor in place of the Marsala.  I wouldn't mind trying this again with a little Chambord or Grand Marnier.  The amaretti are a must in this recipe.  You have got to search them out (look in Italian grocery stores) because they add a great crunch to the overall dessert.  MMMMM....we've got a winner with this one and I suggest you try it!

Okay, I'm going to hunker down now for Lost.  We'll see you Tuesday!

Friday, May 21, 2010

May 21st - Cucumber Gimlet

GOOD OLE GIN
I fell in love with gin back when I was 21.  It was a wonderful summer.  My cousin, who lives in California, offered me a chance to stay with her and her husband for a month out there.  I jumped at the opportunity.  To make a really long story somewhat not as long, I spent my days lying out by the pool and sipping dirty gin martini's.  Yeah it was only 10 a.m., but I was in California.  The weather was beautiful all the time and I didn't have a care in the world.  I somehow managed to get a month off from work (thinking back now that was really generous of my work) and relished every minute (except for the times when I got really drunk at night and ended up puking for a good hour or two).   Come to think of it, that happened almost every weekend.  Ugh the aftertaste of the dirty martinis in the morning with that strong sunshine blaring into the room.  And the headaches....wait, where was I going with this?

So it was my cousin who introduced me to gin.  Seagrams I believe.  Now I've developed a somewhat more sophisticated palate and prefer Bombay Sapphire.  I don't drink it dirty anymore.  Basically straight up with olives.  The drinking at 10 a.m. days are gone and I only touch the stuff once in a great while.  But, it was fun to visit with gin again today.  We reminisced on old times and had a good laugh about the crazy old days.  Man, it's tough getting old.

THE RECIPE

Ingredients
Cucumbers: $1.55
Gin: $21.99 (I ran out and had to buy more)
Limes: had
Sugar: had

TOTAL: $23.54

THE RESULTS

FAST:  Not as quick as you think.  Making the "cucumber water" took a good 20 minutes.  Straining it was the hardest part (partially because I didn't have a fine mesh strainer.  SHOCK AND HORROR?  Chef Mark doesn't have a fine mesh strainer?  Yes, the truth is now out.  There are a few kitchen gadgets I don't have.  A fine mesh strainer being one of them).   Anywayw, once the cucumber stuff is done, the rest is really easy.

EASY: Again, I have to go back to the making of the "cucumber water" and harp on it.  It was kind of putsy.  And the "strainer" I used was a pain in the butt.  Not to sound redundant but once that's done, the rest is really easy.

FRESH: For as much work as the "cucumber water" is, it really freshens up the drink and is worth the effort.  That with the combination of the lime juice make this the perfect hot day drink.

OVERALL:  You know I like my gin and would you be really suprised if I didn't like this recipe?  Well, I actually like it a lot!  I will definitely have to find a real fine mesh strainer to use next time (to make things go quicker and easier).  I'm also tempted to maybe add a little fresh mint.   Hmm...

Well, the rain has cleared up and the sun is out.  It's actually quite beautiful outside now.  I'm going to head outside with this martini, towel off the patio chairs, and try to recapture maybe 30 minutes of a simpler time when I was 21.  I'll see you this weekend for dessert!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20th - Tuna, White Bean & Roasted Pepper Salad with Creamy Dijon Dressing

Aw, Lettuce
So the lettuce we planted has finally started coming up!  There is such a difference in taste between homegrown lettuce and store bought.  We planted a loose leaf mix and some romaine-ish type head lettuce.  What's great about growing lettuce is that you can keep growing more and more throughout the summer.  It's pretty low maintenance.  So the picture above is a 50-50 mix of homegrown and store bought!

THE RECIPE
Ingredients
Mayonnaise: had
Olive oil: had
Dijon mustard: had
Champagne vinegar: had
Baby greens: $1.99
White beans: $1.00
Roasted red peppers: had
Red onion: $0.88
Tuna: $1.75
Kalamata olives: $1.91

TOTAL: $7.53

THE RESULTS
FAST: The dressing took me 5 minutes to make.  The prep for the rest of the salad (including opening the cans of tuna and draining them) took about 10 minutes.  So, this salad can really be thrown together in about 15 minutes.

EASY: Really the hardest part of this whole thing is opening the cans and draining the tuna well.

FRESH: Very much so.  Everything works together great.  The creaminess of the beans and the saltiness of the kalamata olive play off the red onion and pungency of the dijon dressing.  Throw in some garden fresh lettuce and you've got a hit on your hands. 

OVERALL:  My least favorite part of this whole salad is the tuna.  I really would have enjoyed this recipe more without it.  Unless canned tuna is mixed up with some mayo to make tuna salad, then I don't really care for it.  I suppose you could mix in the tuna with the bean/red pepper mixture, but I think a total veggie version would be just fine.

Tomorrow is cocktail time!!! Exciting.  See you then.