February 26, 2009

Brussels Sprouts are Healthy AND Delicious!

As a child, I don't really remember having Brussels sprouts. We probably had them, and being the kind of kid I was I'm sure I didn't bother trying them. Thankfully, my willingness to try different foods has increased as I have gotten older.

About 2 years ago, we were given a gift certificate for dinner at DB Bistro (Thanks, Michele!). We enjoyed an incredible tasting menu with wine pairings. My main entree was accompanied by Brussels sprouts. This vegetable was prepared perfectly, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really liked them. If you are ever in NYC and have the chance, do try to make it to one of Chef Daniel Boloud's restaurants - you won't be disappointed.

After enjoying that amazing meal, the one thing I've often thought I should try serving to my family was Brussels sprouts. I've done a bit of searching for ideas on how to prepare them, but decided to keep it simple this time.

I started by sautéing them in a bit of extra virgin olive oil. I then added a squirt of lemon juice, a sprinkle of Kosher salt and about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. They were done in just a few minutes.
While My Boys were unimpressed, My Husband enjoyed them. I thought they were a nice change from the usual veggies. I think I'll try roasting them next time to see if My Boys will be enticed into eating them again.

I found a few other blogs with Brussels sprouts on them - check them out. You may be inspired to try them yourself.

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Top Chef Finale

Sorry for the lack of posts this week! I've been working on some recipes for a couple of contests and haven't had any interesting meals to post yet. I hope to have something I can share tonight.

In the meantime, Top Chef fans can head over to Edible TV and read my synopsis of last nights finale. Anyone else wishing that things had turned out a bit differently for the fan favorite?

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February 22, 2009

Top Chef Stephanie Izard & Quaker Oats Quickfire Challenge

From Drop Box

Season 4 of Top Chef was a first in the series history. Why? Because it was the first time a woman chef won - Stephanie Izard was the chef that made history. From the beginning of that season, I was a huge fan of Stephanie because she was so knowledgable but not arrogant. She was always so supportive of the other chefs and was obviously gifted in the kitchen.

In speaking with Stephanie, I found that the personality we saw on the show was accurate. I asked her if the comraderie and everyone working together was really the way it was or just editing. Stephanie told me that they were put into this situation where they were all living together for 5 weeks and that "its all about the food" and "getting good food to the customer". No one really wanted to see the others fail even though they were all competing against each other.

For Season 4, there were open casting calls and over 5,000 chefs tried out for a spot on the show. The casting directors were contacting up-and-coming chefs and Stephanie received a phone call at her first restaurant, Scylla, asking her to come and talk to them about being a part of the show. When asked which challenge was the most stressful for her, Stephanie recalled the Wedding Wars challenge. Richard had won the Quickfire and opted to cook for the Bride, which meant a cake was needed. Stephanie took a risk and made her first wedding cake - ever. Even though the cake was a success, she said she was not likely to volunteer to make one again.

One of the recent episodes I found so fun to watch was the "Last Supper". So, I posed that same question to Stephanie, "What would you choose as your last supper?" Stephanie's answer was "Sushi and French fries dipped in Ranch dressing." These are the two foods that she just can't live without.

I asked her if she could invite four people to dinner who would she invite and what would she serve. Stephanie answered that her four grandparents would be her choice as it would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about their lives since she did not have the chance to know them growing up. The meal would be full of comfort foods such as roasted chicken and plenty of wine.

Since winning, Stephanie has been on a whirlwind of traveling and cooking with wonderful chefs. When asked what would be the highlight, she shared with me that working in the various kitchens and getting to know all of these chefs has been a lot of fun. By the end of each night they are all good friends and "are sharing a beer and laughing" together. She's made a lot of new friends as a result.

If you are in Chicago, then you will be happy to know that in late 2009 Stephanie's new restaurant, The Drunken Goat, will be opening. She is in the process of getting the location set. She is constantly thinking of ingredients and menu ideas. She plans to work with local farmers and create a family style atmosphere. Her philosophy really hinges on hanging out with family and friends simply enjoying good food together. This is a restaurant I would love to go to once it opens.

When asked if chefs have a natural instinct when it comes to creating dishes from unusual ingredients or if it is something learned from culinary school, Stephanie answered that "Training just gives you the skills, the rest is all instinct. Good chefs are born to do this and think about food all the time." She recommends that home cooks who want to take their skills up a notch take a class that focuses on a different region or cuisine each week. This will make it easier to incorporate different flavors into everyday cooking.

Stephanie is also involved in the Quaker Oats Quickfire Challenge that Bravo is running in conjunction with Top Chef. She's helping to get the word out on the competition and had a few bits of advice to share. She says "Go all out, but make sure it tastes good. Start playing around, and think outside of the box. Buy a couple of containers of Quaker Oats and find new ways to use it. Such as replacing other grains with the oats." The deadline for entering is February 28, 2009 - next Saturday.

The winners will be brought to New York to compete in a Quaker Oats Quickfire Challenge in the Top Chef kitchen. When asked what those winners should expect when the time begins she answered simply, "Stress." Then, realize that it's "fun and rewarding". She says to just have fun with it. When asked what the contestants should do when the time begins she says: "Take a deep breath, then calmly walk and go get your ingredients. Try not to freak out. " Stephanie said she always grabbed the salt and pepper first because those two ingredients always add flavor to any dish.

I want to thank Abigail at Ogilvy PR for giving me the opportunity to interview Stephanie. And, Stephanie for taking time out of what must be a very busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. It was truly a pleasure!

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February 20, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookies

A little over a year ago, My Husband started a neighborhood poker game. I encouraged this night out for him because I had been enjoying my monthly Bunko games and the occasional dinner out with girlfriends. It just seemed fair that he should have an opportunity to hang with the guys and talk about guy "stuff". Who knew that it would grow from about 5 guys to a list that is well over 20 and now they have to limit it to 16 each month. Guess there were some other husbands who needed a monthly night out.

Each of the guys who joins in on the game brings some kind of food item in addition to their beverage of choice. My Husband had been bringing Munchkins for a few months, then a new neighbor joined in who discovered I bake cookies. It didn't take long for him to make a request for cookies to make an appearance each month.

So, now each month that I provide some cookies to these poker playing men. Since I tend to bake regularly anyway - my family is very spoiled as a result - I always have some kind of freshly baked cookie ready to share. Earlier this month, this neighbor put in his request for Peanut Butter Cookies. Seems these are his favorite cookie. I was going to make the Triple Play Peanut Butter Cookies I made last year, but I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand to make them. So, I went searching for a simple recipe that used what I already had in the pantry.

I ended up at Simply Recipes and the Peanut Butter Cookies over there were exactly what I was hoping to find. They turned out exactly as I remembered peanut butter cookies from when I was a child. I didn't manage to get a picture of them before they were taken to the poker game, but Elise was nice enough to allow me to share her picture here - don't they look wonderful?

Photo Courtesy of Simply Recipes

Head on over to Simply Recipes to find whatever you are in the mood to make. The site has an extensive recipe index - even if you want to browse until you find something that strikes you!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Izard - Season 4 winner of Top Chef this evening! I'll be sharing our conversation a little later this weekend, so you'll want to come on back to visit soon!
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February 19, 2009

Crispy Cashew Chicken

Sometimes the week calls for a bit of creativity when it comes to meal planning. Not that anything crazy has been going on this week, but with My Husband working on a project for work it's been me and My Boys for dinner most nights. When it's just the three of us, I like to come up with a few more meals that are likely to please the palate of the youngest members of my family.
When I was grocery shopping last weekend, I was thinking about different ingredients that I wanted to have on hand. As I walked down the aisles I thought that a container of cashews might be good to have in the pantry. I wasn't sure yet whether they would end up being a snack or if they would be chopped and a coating for fish or chicken.
So, when it was time to put together dinner the other night, I decided that it was time to use the cashews. No, they did not last long in the pantry at all. To those cashews I added a couple of Penzey's seasonings that I had on hand: Shallot Salt and Aleppo Pepper. The slight hit of spice from the pepper really offsets the slightly sweet nutty flavor of the cashews.
From Family, Friends and Food

The chicken strips were irresistable! The crunchy bits were hard to stop eating. I served it with roasted fennel, but was not too impressed with preparing it that way. My Oldest tried it, but even he said that it needed "something". I do like fennel and will continue to search for other ways to prepare it. The chicken received "100 thumb's up" which has become the highest compliment in our house.
Here are some other ideas for weeknight dinners:
Jenny at Picky Palate made a Walnut Crusted Tilipia that her family thoroughly enjoyed.
Judy at No Fear Entertaining made a Spatchcocked Chicken... you'll have to visit her blog to find out what that is!
Aggie at Aggie's Kitchen made lemon Pepper Chicken with Artichokes, Mushrooms and Asparagus that sounds like a nice change from the heavy foods of Winter.

Crispy Cashew Chicken
Source: Patsyk


  • 8 oz. cashews, chopped (I just pulsed them in the food processor until coarsely chopped)
  • 1/4 teaspoon aleppo pepper
  • 1 teaspoon shallot salt
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts - cut into 1/2 inch slices


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine Cashews through bread crumbs. In a separate dish, lightly beat the eggs. Dip the chicken pieces in the eggs, then completely coat in the cashew mixture.
  3. Place each coated piece of chicken on a baking sheet, and bake for about 30 minutes or until chicken is done.

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February 17, 2009

A is for Asparagus

With two Boys, I am often trying to encourage them to try vegetables that they may not have liked the last time they were served. Not too long ago, My Oldest found out that Roasted Cauliflower is something that he could eat and enjoy. So, when I found some asparagus at the produce market I thought it was time to give it a try again.

In the past, we've had it steamed and sauted. This time, I wanted to roast it a bit and see if that would please My Boys. So, after a bit of internet research I decided to keep things simple this time. Just a bit of extra virgin olive oil, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I roasted it at 425 for about 15-20 minutes - just until it was tender.

From Family, Friends and Food

It had just the right amount of simple seasonings, and the best part was that everyone enjoyed it! Of course, My Oldest ate the whole piece and asked for 2nds and 3rds. My Youngest decided he didn't like the tops, but the bottoms were worthy of eating. Which I found funny because most people don't like the bottoms.

I've got a few more new vegetables to try on them throughout the next week and will share their opinions as we try them. I'm on a mission to add more vegetable side dishes to our weeknight meals beyond the "usual".

Peanut Butter cookies will be making an appearance next time!

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February 16, 2009

Culinary Broth - Rich and Full of Flavor

Not too long ago, I was contacted by the folks who represent College Inn about their new line of broths. As I always keep some chicken stock on hand for various uses, I was intrigued by this new line as they were infused with different flavors.

The first one I tried was the White Wine & Herb Culinary Broth. The moment you open the resealable box, you are hit with an aroma that is blend of wine, thyme, oregano and rosemary. These are all flavors I enjoy, so I had high hopes for this broth. Rather than make a soup that had a lot of components to it, I decided on keeping it simple with tortellini in broth. This would allow me to thoroughly enjoy the flavors of the broth.

As you can see below, the broth is very rich looking, not pale as most store-bought broths can be. Those broths can often be flavorless, which defeats the purpose of adding broth to certain recipes.
From Family, Friends and Food
I was not disaapointed in this broth - not in the least. It was full of flavor and made my house smell wonderful as I heated it up. It was delicious! I have another broth to try and will share my thoughts on it very soon!

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February 15, 2009

Sausage and Peppers

I hope everyone enjoyed their Valentine's Day and were able to share it with those closest to them. I had a wonderful day with my family and we managed to stay home and just relax and be together. My kind of day! I have to enjoy these days while they last because spring will be here soon, and with that comes both of my boys in baseball, and a much busier schedule each day of the week.

Since we were staying in yesterday, My Husband decided to make dinner. I must say he's really good at grabbing things in the fridge and putting it all together into something that is really delicious. I know I'm lucky to have a man who likes to cook, and on occasion we will decide to cook up a special meal together. It's always nice having him in the kitchen with me as we pull those meals together.

So, for my Valentine's meal, he made a simple dish of Sausage & Peppers. What made this dish so good was that he carmelized sweet and purple onions, and an assortment of peppers. To this he added some grilled turkey sausage that he sliced up into easy to eat pieces. He threw it all together with some farfalle. I am not kidding when I tell you that this simple dish was absolutely delicious! After I went back for a second helping, I was thinking that the leftovers would reheat so nicely for lunch. Yum!
From Family, Friends and Food

Here are some other wonderful meals you may want to try:

Dragon's Kitchen shared Spinach, Ricotta & Sausage Lasagna
Jaden's Steamy Kitchen had Grilled Shrimp with Lemongrass & Ginger
Susan at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy made Roast Chicken with Pancetta & Olives

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February 14, 2009

Cranberry Muffins with a "hit" of POM

Happy Valentine's Day! Oh, it feels good to be back to cooking and baking! Thank you, again, for all of the well wishes as I think it really helped! My wrist is back to working order, a little weaker than before but it will get there.

So, as I mentioned before I am a bit behind on product reviews and recipes to share. I was contacted a few weeks back by some nice people over at POM Wonderful about sampling some of their POM Juice. I've purchased it before and was fiddling around with a Cranberry Muffin type recipe that incorporated some of the juice into it, so I was thrilled to have more juice to help me get this recipe closer to what I thought it could be.

Soon as I received the juice, My Boys saw it and were ready to have a cup of it. POM Juice is 100% pure pomegranate juice. Nothing un-natural added, just the pure and simple juice. It comes straight from the trees that the folks at POM grow and is picked and then squeezed (gotta love that you don't have to do it yourself, that can be a pain to do!) into juice. Their orchards are located in California so you can feel good about supporting a homegrown company. This is something you can feel good about sharing with your kids, and even drinking for your own health benefits.

Now, I never realized that there were different varieties of pomagranates. Seems that the name POM Wonderful is due to the Wonderful variety. Who knew? Not me! This variety is filled with antioxidents, a delicious tastes and a really pretty ruby-red color. If you haven't tried POM juice, grab a bottle and give it a try. They even have a ton of great recipes on their site you can sample.

By now, you are probably wondering if I have perfected my muffin recipe yet.

From Family, Friends and Food

From Family, Friends and Food

Well, it is definitely closer to what I was hoping for, but I need to adjust the sweetness as the tart cranberries can be over-powering if you aren't a fan of them. As the recipe stands right now, it is tasty and with a dab of butter they won't be going to waste in my house. I still have more POM Wonderful Juice to use, so I'm sure I'll get it right in the next few weeks. I did love the essence of POM juice in the muffins, so I know that measurement is just right. The POM juice is a nice offset to the tart cranberries. But, the overall muffin still needs a bit more sweetness so more testing is required.

I also asked for some recipe ideas of my friends who are on Twitter and have a salad dressing recipe to try and an amazing sounding sorbet. Can't wait to try them both and will share my results soon as I do!

Here are some other muffins that would be perfect for sharing with a loved one:

Cooking With Christine made Orange-Honey Muffins

Sophistimom made Cinnamon Oatmeal Apple Muffins

Grumpy's Honeybunch made Double Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day and I'll be back soon with more recipes! Boy, I've missed you all!

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February 11, 2009

Tyler Florence & Macy's Team Up to Keep America Cooking

Who doesn't love Tyler Florence? He makes cooking so simple for even the most novice home cook. Well, here's a chance to share your favorite dish and possibly win a trip to San Franciso to cook with Tyler and shop with him for new kitchen gear at Macy's ($2500!!!) - here's the full contest information. That's quite a prize, isn't it?

Well, it's not as simple as submitting a recipe. Oh, get those video cameras rolling and tape a 2 minute video making your favorite dish and telling the world what gets you cooking. Keep it humorous and fun, and you may just win the ultimate prize! You have until April 3, 2009 to get those videos ready to share with the world, so you better get started fine-tuning your recipes.

To get your creative juices flowing, Tyler will be adding a new podcast to the contest site every other week... check out this one:
Breakfast in Bed: "
Wake up to Tyler's French Toast Waffles with Caramelized Apples and Bacon. Served with a mocha cappuccino whipped up with an immersion blender."

Be sure to read all the contest rules, wouldn't want anyone to be disqualified for not following the rules! Good luck!

I hope to have some new recipes to share soon. I have a few other things to share this week, so do check back!

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February 10, 2009

Quaker True Delights - A Taste Test

Being a Featured Foodbuzz Publisher has it's advantages. Besides having access to tons of great food blogs and fantastic people, we are sometimes offered the chance to review new products. Recently (ok, not so recently as I have been out of commission for just over a week now and am WAY behind on my blogging and reviews), I had the chance to taste the new Quaker True Delights granola bars.

Now, if you ever took a peek into my pantry you'll see that I always have a stock of granola bars and various cereal bars. I love having something that I can just grab in the morning when I don't have time to sit down and eat breakfast. So, the chance to try a new one had me intrigued. I mean, really, how can you make a new one that's different from the rest?

From Family, Friends and Food

Just take a look at that bar. It's is packed with nuts, granola and fruit. Each and every bite has this amazing combination of sweet and salty. My favorite is the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond. The dark chocolate bits are nicely offset with the almonds and sweet raspberries. It really tastes like an indulgence, but at only 140 calories it's really not a bad option for that late afternoon snack.

I also tried the Honey Roasted Cashew and Mixed Berry bar. It was delicious, but with more of a salty flare. The berries added just a bit of sweetness which is perfect for anyone who really prefers the salty snacks.

The last one we had to try was the Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut bar. Now, as I've mentioned before I do not care for coconut. However, My Oldest is always up for trying something new, so he was the taste tester on this bar. He declared it "yummy" and has asked that I get more of them so that he can take them as his snack at school. He also brought the bar to me and pointed to the macadamia nuts and said "these are REALLY good". Oh boy, I have created a child who has expensive tastes when it comes to food!

These bars are already in the stores, so go ahead and give them a try!

Finally, I'd like to send a huge "Thank You!" to Jenn at The Leftover Queen for including me in an amazing group of bloggers on last week's Finest Foodies Friday! Please take some time and go see who else was on the list and check out their blogs. You may find another "must read" blog to add to your list!

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February 8, 2009

Mushroom, Bacon & Onion Frittata

Let me start by saying a HUGE "Thank you" to everyone who has wished me a speedy recovery! I must say that I love the food blogging community, everyone is so supportive and just plain nice! Now, on to a recipe from before my wrist was sprained! My typing is still limited, so please be patient while I get back up to speed again.

I bet I had you at bacon with that title. I keep hearing how bacon makes everything taste better. Have you seen the Bacon Explosion in the New York Times (click HERE for the article). My Boys fell in love with crispy bacon when we were in Disney last year. I don't usually have it on hand as we don't need the grease and fat, but after enough begging I said I'd get a small package and figure out some way to use it.

So, one night recently I decided to do breakfast for dinner. I wanted something that wouldn't require a pasta or rice side dish. In my house, we have to have one of those two side dishes with dinner to keep the masses happy. With a frittata, I can totally skip on the carbs!

For this dinner, I checked the fridge to see what I had on hand and found mushrooms, onions and bacon. Usually, I make a spinach and sausage variation that everyone loves. I really enjoyed this combination. The sweetness of the onions was offset by the saltiness of the crispy bacon pieces.

From Family, Friends and Food

February 6, 2009

My Taste Buds are Going Crazy! (Panko Crusted Turbot & Roasted Cauliflower)

That is what My Oldest said as he ate a dinner of Panko Crusted Turbot Fillet and Roasted Cauliflower.
From Family, Friends and Food

From Family, Friends and Food

This was one of those meals that came together with inspiration from other places. I had bookmarked a Roasted Cauliflower recipe from Sugarlaws and used that as my guide. Actually, I printed it out but couldn't find it when I went to make it, so I did it from memory. Obviously, my memory is not great (I continue to blame my children for that one) so my version is slightly different. I cut the cauliflower into bite-size pieces. Then, drizzled some extra virgin olive oil over it. Then, a sprinkle of Kosher salt, a few turns of the pepper mill, and a handfull of Panko bread crumbs. Tossed all of that together on a rimmed cookie sheet. I roasted it in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. The result was the best cauliflower we've ever had! No more steaming for us, this method brings out a nice sweetness and makes it so easy to keep popping more bites into your mouth. With this preparation, My Oldest is no longer boycotting cauliflower!

I went to the grocery store after work to pick up more milk, and figured a stop by the fish counter might be a good idea. My Boys love fish, and with it being such a healthy protein option I want to try to serve it more often. They had Turbot fillet on sale, so I picked up a couple of nice sized fillets. I coated them in a mixture of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, Panko bread crumbs and some Italian seasonings. It came out amazing! Not one speck of fish was left.

I'm still recooperating from a sprained wrist, so posting may be a bit sporadic. And, please be kind if I have typos, etc. It's not easy typing with only 1 hand!
Have a great weekend!
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February 3, 2009

temporary post slow-down

I had the mis-fortune to slip on some ice last weekend. It appears I may have sprained my wrist (waiting 4 x-ray results). So, I am unable 2 type with 2 hands 4 now. Please bear w/me and I'll be back 2 regular posting soon as I can.


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February 1, 2009

Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce

When I see a recipe that has lemon in it, it makes me think of a bright, warm summer day. I love how lemons bring that fresh flavor to a dish. Isn't it funny how some flavors can immediately transport you to another season? With all the bitter cold we've been enduring the last month or so, I thought making a dinner that was filled with sunshine would be a nice change of pace.

I found this recipe in my copy of Cooking Light's 5 Star Recipes. This cookbook has really become a go-to resource since I purchased it. The recipe for Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce can be found at the Cooking Light website, HERE.

The great thing about a recipe like this is that I can often get offers to help from at least one of My Boys. Just look at that concentration as My Oldest gets every... last... drop... from the lemon.

From Family, Friends and Food

His hard work paid off with a very flavorful and lemony sauce to go over the chicken and pasta. Rather than saute the chicken as full pieces, I chose to slice it thinly so that it would cook in a flash. This was a delicious dinner, but definitely a bit too "lemony" for My Husband so I was able to eat the leftovers for my lunch the next day. It reheated beautifully.

From Family, Friends and Food

Now, for a little diversion. I was recently given a blogging award by one of my dear Food Blogging friends, Shelby of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch. She is really such a sweetheart for passing the Triple Award on to me! If you haven't visited her blog yet, be sure to go and visit after reading on to see who I tagged for this fun award. Thanks, Shelby!

From Family, Friends and Food

The rules for recipients are:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!

3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

While I have more than 10 blogging friends, I will stick to 10 for this award and to keep this post from going on forever! Since this post is getting rather long, the rest will be short and sweet.

1. Jenny at Picky Palate

2. Prudy at Prudence Pennywise

3. Julie from Peanut Butter and Julie

4. Lisa at Jersey Girl Cooks

5. Sandy at Eat Real

6. John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey

7. LaDue & Crew

8. Deborah at Taste and Tell

9. Susan from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy

10. Judy at No Fear Entertaining

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