Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Memory Friday--Living Room Floor Crepe Picnic

When I lived in New Mexico while working on my Master's Degree, my cousin, my friend, and I would get together every few months for some sort of themed food fest. Both my cousin and my friend are vegetarians, but we always seemed to find ourselves in a food coma after a few hours of eating. Some of the themes included pizza and comfort food. We also did a crepe theme, which was the only themed gathering I photographed:
We had a bunch of different cheeses, sauteed spinach with onions and garlic, Nutella, fruit, and flambeed bananas. The flambeed bananas were quite the adventure. We probably should not have  flambeed them in a Teflon coated pan, and there was a bit more alcohol involved in the process than necessary. BUT they were the best flambeed bananas I may have ever had, and I haven't been able to recreate them since. Since we had so much stuff to choose from to fill the crepes, we ate on the floor, and didn't move for quite awhile after finishing eating (Hello food coma!).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's blueberry time!

When I first moved to Virginia, my dad bought a local newspaper, and there was an advertisement for a pick your own blueberry place in Pungo, a small community outside of Virginia Beach. This will be the third summer I have gone to pick blueberries, and it didn't disappoint. I had planned to go over the weekend, but with the threat of a heat index in the 100 degree range, I opted for the coolest day of the week.

 I went early in the morning since it was still supposed to be hot. There were quite a few people there, and the blueberry bushes were loaded.

My total haul was over 8 pounds of blueberries. They freeze really well, and all you have to do is put them in plastic bags and put them in the freezer. That's it, and they don't get mushy like strawberries. It took awhile to pick my 8 pounds, but it was worth it.

There was also a local farmstand located right next to the blueberry farm where I got all of this:

I love summer produce :).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Time = BLTs

Growing up, we would have to ask permission to fry bacon in the house because my mom couldn't stand the lingering smell of bacon. I can sympathize now since bacon grease isn't that much fun to clean up, but eating the bacon is worth it. My beefsteak tomatoes have been coming in from the garden, and they have made the juiciest addition to a BLT. So far, I've made BLTs twice using my tomatoes and here are the results:
This has been the best tomato of the summer. I drool looking at it while sending vibes to the beefmaster tomato plants to keep growing big ones...
The perfect BLT tomato--as big as the slice of bread. This is non-fancy grocery store bacon.

It talks to me...

I decided to get fancy and make a BLT with an heirloom tomato, the rustic bread from my Cape Charles adventure, and I splurged and bought fancy bacon made locally.

This one says, "I'm fancy." The fancy local bacon is definitely good, but not worth it to me to buy all of the time. I also am not planning on growing that heirloom tomato variety next year. They're better than what you can get in the store, but it cannot compete with the beefmaster.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cape Charles, VA Food Adventure

My friends Vincent and Kevin have been talking about going to Gull Hummock Gourmet Market for wine and cheese and eating lunch at Aqua in Cape Charles, Virginia, located on the Chesapeake Bay on the Eastern Shore of Virginia for quite awhile.  So Saturday, we loaded into the car, and embarked on our food adventure, and what a wonderful day it was! We stopped at Gull Hummock first for wine and cheese since they wanted to make sure we didn't miss it before they closed.

Upon entering Gull Hummock, we were greeted by the lovely people who run it, and we began sampling the freshly baked bread made locally that is sold there. They samples of sweet and savory breads. The best was the cinnamon peach bread. I had to control myself with that stuff--I could have devoured the entire loaf they had. The woman who makes the cinnamon peach bread was testing out this particular recipe, and I hope she makes it a regular staple of hers. Once we meandered to the back the store, the wine tasting began. They had a few cheeses to sample along with the wine. Gull Hummock has started carrying more gluten-free items, and organic fruit preserves. We tried the blueberry preserves, which were fantastic.
Bread made locally in Cape Charles and sold at Gull Hummock. Sooo...goood...crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.
Once we made our purchases at Gull Hummock, we made our way to Aqua, a lovely restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay.
It was really hot out, at least 100 degrees, and we opted not to eat outside, even though the view was marvelous.

We made our way inside, and ordered some cocktails.
I ordered the Ruby Red? (I don't remember the exact name), but it is the drink in the back left hand corner. I had to resist chugging was crisp, fruity, and refreshing. Exactly what was needed to beat the heat.
We decided to start with a pound of steamed shrimp. They were steamed with Old Bay seasoning, carrots, celery, and onion. I don't think I ever want to eat a steamed carrot without Old Bay ever again :).
For our entries, Kevin ordered the Grilled Mahi-Mahi Soft Tacos:
I ordered the Grilled Open-Face Tuna Sandwich with Greek pasta salad:
Vincent ordered the Classic Blue Cheese Salad:
Hannah ordered the Signature Crab Cake sandwich:
For dessert we split the truffles:
And the fuzzy navel cheesecake:
Everything eaten at Aqua was great. I felt like I was on vacation even though we were less than forty minutes from where we live. After we were all deliriously full, we headed back to sit on Kevin and Vincent's front porch to sample some more wine and cheese.

A much needed rainstorm was the highlight of the night, and I enjoyed saying at one point that I felt kind of cold from the rain. We were all surprised it rained longer than 20 minutes, and it was the perfect ending to a great day :).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mushroom Bread Pudding

While I was visiting my family over the 4th of July, my sister bought a loaf of challah at the Des Moines Farmers market. She said she was going to make mushroom bread pudding out of it, and I was intrigued. When I got home from my trip, I forgot to write down the ingredients for the mushroom bread pudding before going to the store, but luckily my sister answered the phone and had her cookbook handy to tell me what I needed. The recipe came from Bon Appetit, and can be found online at I cut the recipe in half and ate it as a main course instead of as a side dish. I also did not use delicious challah, and instead used a $0.99 loaf of day old Italian bread from the grocery store. But my bread pudding turned out delicious:
Hello giant mushroom slice in the foreground.

Look at how creamy and mushroomy you are...

Gratuitous close-up
I will definitely make this again, and I am thinking some Jimmy Dean sausage might taste pretty good in this.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I ran across Giada De Laurentis' recipe for Gnudi on a blog, and I decided I had to try it. The first time I made it, I had some left over ricotta cheese from another recipe, and that contributed to the appeal for making them. Gnudi is basically ravioli filling without the pasta on the outside. I still ate it with spaghetti noodles, but I guess if you're trying to watch your carb intake, you could eat it by itself.

Giada's recipe is fairly simple, and you make patties first with the ingredients:

 You cook the patties in rapidly boiling water:

And I served them over pasta with sauce:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Niçoise Salad

Certain smells and flavors bring me back to different places or remind me of specific memories. One flavor combination that always takes me to France is the niçoise salad. The combination of the vinaigrette, the olives, the tuna, and the vegetables is so French to me. My recipe came from Jane Doerfer's Going Solo in the Kitchen, but Julia Child's Recipe is similar except that I left out the anchovies. The key to this particular salad is using fresh green beans and making the vinaigrette yourself:
I used a potato medley that included purple potatoes. The vinaigrette recipe I used included fresh basil.

The recipe didn't call for a cucumber, but I thought I would use one anyway since I had one from the garden.
This salad is really hearty with the egg and the tuna. I also used tuna packed in water instead of packed in oil, which is not very French, but the one time I had oil packed tuna, I wasn't a fan. Quelle horreur!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stuffed Popovers: Two Attempts

One night I decided that I really wanted bread and something dense. I don't know why I decided that would be popovers. I had seen a recipe for stuffed popovers in my copy of The Joy of Cooking, but I decided to add extra stuff. This is Paula Dean's Recipe for popovers, which is pretty much the recipe I followed, except that I cut the recipe in half.

My first attempt included Jimmy Dean sausage, gruyere cheese, and sauerkraut. They turned out pretty good, but I didn't portion out the batter equally between custard cups:
The one on the lower right was under filled, but still good.

Gratuitous close-up

The next attempt involved ricotta cheese, a garden tomato, fresh basil, and lots of black pepper. These definitely "popped" over, but the filling was a bit too wet, and I needed to have given them a few more minutes for the steam to escape to crisp them up:
Puffed, but soggy on the bottom.
Another gratuitous close-up. I added way too much black pepper to this, and I wasn't a fan of the fresh basil. This combo of flavors didn't really work overall.
I really want to perfect this idea, and I may try other fillings. I really like the eggy flavor and they are fun to watch "popover" in the oven. :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Garden Recipes: Tomato Basil Risotto

With tomatoes coming in consistently from my garden, I have been fortunate enough to make some fresh and delightful recipes using the produce from my backyard. I found this recipe in my somewhat old The Best of Food and Wine (1986). After making this recipe, I became obsessed with coring and boiling my tomatoes for a few minutes to get the skin off. I think there is a technical term for what that is called to boil the tomato to get the skin off, but I didn't feel like looking it up to see what it is called. Sorry :).

The recipe is as follows:

Tomato-Basil Risoto
5 cups chicken stock or 2 1/2 cups canned broth diluted with 2 1/2 cups water
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/3 cup or 3 oz prosciutto or smoked diced ham
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
1 1/2 lbs plum tomatoes peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped (I used Romas)
1/4 cup shredded basil leaves

1. Core the tomatoes. Bring water to a boil in a pot large enough to hold all of the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in the pot of boiling water. Once the skin of the tomatoes begins to peel away from the flesh, remove the tomatoes and cool them. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the skins, and coarsely chop. I also used one of the tomatoes for the tomato puree required in the recipe. I took 1/2 of a Roma tomato, and ran it through a food processor.

2. Bring the stock to a simmer and keep it at a simmer over low heat. You will use the stock for cooking the risotto.

3. In a large noncorrodible pan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and prosciutto or ham to the pan, and saute until the onion is soft and translucent--about 3 minutes.

4. Add the tomato puree to the onion/ham, and cook for a minute.

5. Add the rice and cook to coat the rice with the butter and tomato puree for 1-2 minutes.

6. Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock to the rice and cook, stirring constantly until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Continue to add 1/2 cups of stock as the rice absorbs it. Maintain a simmer during the cooking process of the rice. This should take 20-25 minutes, and the rice should be tender, but still crunchy after 20-25 minutes.

7. Add the cheese and season with the pepper and salt. Continue to cook, stirring and adding stock until the rice is tender but firm, and a creamy sauce has been created. This should take 3-6 minutes longer.

8. Stir in tomatoes, basil, and the remaining 2 tbsp of butter. Serve immediately.
Hello Deliciousness! I couldn't get a close-up without the steam getting in the way. Hopefully you can see the large tomato chunk in front.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Oatmeal, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm normally not a fan of peanut butter cookies, but I decided to give this recipe a try from Better Homes and Gardens. I cut the recipe in half since I didn't want a million cookies, and I wasn't sure if I would like them. Surprisingly, I can have a hard time eating a batch of cookies by myself, but this particular recipe was a delightful success. I had no trouble eating the entire half batch by myself:

I used peanut butter chocolate chips instead of the chocolate chunks the recipe called for.
Looking at these pictures makes me want to make another half batch, but I have other delights in line before I make these again...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Food Memory Friday--French Convenience Food

While looking through my photos to come up with this post, I ran across this particular photo:

While this may just look like a pre-made sandwich in a plastic triangle, it reminded me of how many of these triangle sandwiches I ate in France. This particular sandwich was tuna on white with tomato and lettuce, and these triangle sandwiches were surprisingly good. You would think I would always search out some new place for lunch or a place that sold more than just triangle sandwiches, but I was usually in a hurray, and there weren't that many places near the school I was attending. I did find a really delicious bakery that sold quiche by the slice, but that was later on in the summer. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the quiche I purchased from that bakery, but it was delicious.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A little LOL

I don't remember how I ran across this, but the comments are really funny:

Boiled Water Recipe

And as a bad transition: Food Porn

A few years ago, the NPR radio show "On the Media" had a segment describing how the lighting, camera angles, and sound effects of cooking shows were modeled after pornography. Unfortunately, the transcript and podcast for that particular segment of "On the Media" seems to no longer be available on their website. But I think the website above serves to illustrate what the "On the Media" segment was sort of talking about. And here's a little food porn of my own:
Hello intense closeup of a frozen nut covered banana on a stick....
The pictures of food on the Food Porn website are drool worthy, and they put my overexposed frozen banana above to shame. I try not to go there otherwise I get hungry and waste a lot of time looking a pretty pictures of food.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Garden Update: July

Well, the garden is in full swing. I have to post a few of the recipes I've made using the tomatoes I've grown. It has become a jungle:
They've outgrown their cages...
The eggplant haven't done well. I think the spot I put them in is too shady and the bugs have gone crazy on the leaves.
Powdery and Downy mildew have plagued the cucumbers...
Given the problems, I've still harvested a lot of produce!
While I was gone, my neighbor watered them, and he also tried to stake some of the tomato plants since a few of the plants have pushed over their cages. He also told me he put some dirt around the exposed roots. It was really nice of him :).