Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lonnie's Pumpkin Soup

If you like pumpkin, you'll love this pumpkin soup and it's really easy to prepare.

Lonnie's Pumpkin Soup


* 2 14oz. cans of fat-free chicken broth (vegetable broth for a vegetarian soup, if you prefer)
* 1 15oz. can of plain pumpkin
* 1 15oz. can of pumpkin pie filing (which includes spices)
* 1 1/2 cups of orange juice
* 3 Tablespoons of light sour cream
* 1 1/2 teaspoons of nutmeg
* 1 teaspoon of allspice
* 1 teaspoon of salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Heat the broth in your soup pot over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes
  2. Blend in the pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling into the broth using a whisk and continue to heat for an additional 5-6 minutes
  3. Stir in orange juice until completely blended with the pumpkin mixture
  4. Blend in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice
  5. Finally stir in the sour cream and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes
  6. Soup is ready to serve...preparation time less than 20 minutes! Just ladle into soup bowls and garnish with a dab of light sour cream(optional) ENJOY!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eastern Palace

Anyone who knows us can tell you that our very most favorite Asian restaurant in the world is Eastern Palace. It is located in Reynoldsburg (Ohio) at 6078 East Livingston Ave. (614) 755-8880
Owner Tony Quach and his family make you feel like one of their own. In fact, everyone there treats you like family. We fell in love with the restaurant about 3-4 years ago and are definitely regulars. It's kind of like Cheers...we walk in and Tony or one of the staff literally call out our names! Usually if it is just the two of us we will sit at the sushi bar so we can talk to them during dinner.

It is also a great place to have dinner with friends. The atmosphere is comfortable and makes it very easy to have conversations. Family friendly and date friendly alike. There just isn't much to not like about this place.

But the star attraction is the food. Oh-my-gosh! If you are a sushi fan, you'll be hard pressed to find fresher sushi than at EP. Tony hand selects the seafood himself. And while he employs a sushi chef, you will often find Tony rolling sushi for his customers. When I was a sushi virgin, Bob and Tony nurtured my curiosity and led me slowly along the path to what I like to call "big girl sushi". You know, the raw stuff! I could never see myself eating raw fish. No way. No how. But by taking baby steps along the way with California rolls, dragon rolls, and other cooked items I began to become more adventurous. It wasn't long before I discovered the joys of spicy salmon roll, albacore, yellow tuna, fatty tuna, spicy scallop roll , and even unagi (bbq eel, which I have to admit is not my favorite). He does a volcano roll that rocks - no pun intended! The sheets of nori (seaweed) and rice are rolled with lobster salad and have crab and shrimp (all cooked to perfection) coming out of them. It is then stacked with a spicy sauce drizzled over it. A flavor explosion! So if sushi is your thing, prepare to be dazzled.

The rest of the menu is your basic Asian menu divided into the beef, pork, chicken and seafood dishes. Also the vegetables, fried rice, pan fried noodles, lo mein noodles and chef's choices. And definitely do not forget about the appetizers. Egg rolls to die for, spring rolls that melt in your mouth, crab rangoon that will bring you to your knees, fried and steamed dumplings that simply defy description. And if you don't see something on the menu...ask! Tony says there is no way he could ever list everything! For instance, I am a complete fool for egg foo yung. For the longest time I just thought he didn't make it. Well, it came up in conversation and I am here to tell you that Tony's chicken egg foo yung is the best I have ever, and I mean EVER eaten! (Just ask Meow. She'll tell you.)

So a few weeks ago we had an evening out with our friends Curt and Sandy (yes, that would be Sandy of the chocolate and mint cookie post). We had a feast! We started with egg rolls, fried dumplings, crab rangoon, and a volcano roll. Oh my....

Did I mention that Tony makes his own soy sauce and his own sweet and sour sauce? He also has the red version we are all familiar with, but his own is a clean, crisp sauce of orange and ginger and magic (because I don't know what else is in it :-) And the hot mustard...well, let me just say that when Bob eats it I sweat!

Moving on to our entrees, we decided we would choose four different and share. So we tried to make the selection well rounded. Entrees are served with your choice of steamed rice or fried rice. Portions are more than generous. And this is not fast food. It is asian food lovingly prepared with respect to top ingredients. Let me show you...
Golden Almond Chicken was the perfect poultry dish. (This, by the way is my new favorite!) The tender pieces of chicken are lightly breaded and then rolled in sliced almonds. They are then deep fried and served with a dark brown sauce with a hint of spice from the red chili flakes in it. A little heat, but not too much for this self described sissy :-)
For the seafood choice we selected Pad Thai. The succulent shrimp were complimented by the tangy fish sauce and fresh lime juice. The chopped peanuts and bean sprouts gave it that fresh kick that just puts you over the edge into food heaven.
For the beef we did Mongolian Beef. The thinly sliced beef is cooked in a sweet plum sauce that renders the meat so tender. The crunchy white noodles that serve as the bed for the beef are a perfect accompaniement.

And for pork we ordered what we know as "Tony's Special". One night Bob couldn't decide what to order so Tony said he would fix him up. He tied on an apron and disappeared into the kitchen. He returned with a pork dish that was absolutely wonderful! Strips of marinated pork, vegetables, green peppers, green onions and a dark sauce with enough spice to make Bob a happy man.

Oh! I would be remiss if I did not tell you about the perfect ending to one of Tony's perfect meals. His ice cream is really good ice cream. Coconut, mango, plum wine, red bean, and my very favorite, green tea. But please don't eat all of the green tea ice cream. It makes me very sad when there isn't any for me. *sniff* And afterall, I am the one who is turning you on to this gem!

When you go see Tony, tell him you're visiting because you read about him on this blog. Pretty soon he'll be calling your name when you walk in the door. Tony's customers are his friends.

Eastern Palace. Just west on Livingston Avenue off of Brice Road; north of 70. It is so worth the trip! And I suspect you'll be finding yourself there time and time again:-) Enjoy!

Eastern Palace on Urbanspoon

Meatloaf Baked Ziti

This is a Rachel Ray recipe that I tried and would like to recommend. A great dish when you have leftover meatloaf!

Meatloaf Baked Ziti
* 1 pound ziti
* salt and freshly ground pepper
* 2 Tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
* 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1 cup of beef stock
* 1 14-oz. can of chunky-style crushed(or diced) tomatoes
* 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
* 4 1-inch thick slices of leftover meatloaf
* 1 cup ricotta cheese
* 1-1/2 cups of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
* 1 or 2 balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes, divided
Yields: 6-8 servings

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, add a generous handful of salt. Add the Ziti and cook just short of al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
In a heated medium sized skillet over medium heat add EVOO, onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes. Add the beef stock and both cans of tomatoes, bring to a bubble. Chop up or crumble the leftover meatloaf and add to the sauce.
Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.
Add half of the tomato meatloaf sauce to the ziti. Add the ricotta ccheese and half of the Parmigiano Reggiano and toss to coat the mixture. Add half of the cubed mozzarella cheese, give everything a stir anf transfer it to an oven-safe baking dish.
Top with the remainingtomato meatloaf sauce, cubed mozzarella and the parmigiano. Place in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Killer Lasagna, Not Endorsed by Lipitor!

Hi all,
On Friday, Feb. 13, we had a small dinner party at our house to celebrate Valentine's Day. We thought about having a Freddy Kreuger theme to go with the whole Friday the 13th thing, but decided on our favorite Italian instead.
My friend Sue Ellen, known mostly for her baking expertise but a great all-around cook, brought this lasagna to share. It was to die for, and if you eat it often, you will die from it! However, as an occasional treat, it's totally worth the time and arterial plaque. Here goes:
Sue Ellen's Killer Lasagna
  • 1 lb. of spicy sausage (ie, Bob Evans' HOT, or better yet, Hot Italian from Carfagna's, removed from the casings)
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef


  • 15 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 18 oz. mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz. Parmesan or Romano cheese

White Sauce

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • nutmeg to taste (about 1/2 -1 tsp)


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 box no-cook lasagna (Barilla is good)
  • couple of sprigs of fresh parsley, choppeed
  • 1 jumbo-size jar of Prego traditional spaghetti sauce

1) Prepare white sauce:

Melt the butter in a pan, mix the flour into the melted butter and make a "roux" -- whisk it together and it will be pasty. Cook the butter and flour gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the cream all at once, whisking constantly to blend it smoothly. Increase the heat and continue to whisk while the sauce comes to a boil. REduce heat to a very low heat and simmer. Keep stirring as the sauce gets thicker. Cook uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep from getting too thick -- should be the consistency for easy drizzling. Add nutmeg to taste after cooking.

2) Prepare the meat sauce:

Dice the bacon and cook until crisp. Drain slightly, and set aside (some fat left with it is desirable.) Cook sausage, beef, onion and garlic together. Drain, but not so zealously as to lose the onion and garlic. Mix the bacon into the meat mixture, then add the spaghetti sauce and cook on low, to thoroughly heat.

3) Make the cheese mixture:

Mix the ricotta, 3 eggs, 1/2 of the Parmesan, 1/2 of the mozzarella and all of the chopped fresh parsley in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside.

4) Assemble the lasagna:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use a 13 x 9 pan, or an even larger lasagna pan if you have one. Spray the bottom of the pan with Pam. Ladle a bit of the meat sauce into the bottom of the pan and spread it to thinly cover the bottom. Place a layer of noodles on the sauce. Add another ladel of sauce on top of the noodles. Drizzle some of the white sauce over the meat sauce. Put on another layer of noolds, then half of the cheese filling -- drizzle more white suace over the cheese layer. Repeat until all of the meat and cheese filling and white sauce is gone, ending with meat sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese on top. Cover with "no stick" aluminum foil and put into the oven; bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes. Keep watch and make sure the cheese isn't getting too brown; if so, loosely replace foil over darker spots.

Remove from oven and let rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting. It's even better if baked the day ahead and reheated before serving.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Chi Thai" Restaurant on N. Hamilton road is great! We ate there for the first time last night. It looks small from the outside, but the inside is decorated very nicely and the food was great as was the service. I had chilean sea bass and Patrick had Pad Thai.
It's in the same shopping complex as Drug Mart. Give them a try sometime.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dining in the Big Apple

Hi all

I told Jean that I would post when I had a chance. Well, I just got back from a business trip to NYC and decided that would be the perfect first post -- relatively inexpensive, yet great food, in Manhattan.

Before any trip into NYC, I always check to find recommended restaurants near my hotel. On this trip, my friend/colleague and I were staying near Korea town (31st and Madison). So what better first night dinner than Korean barbeque! Lisa and I headed over to Don's Bogam BBQ & Wine Bar. It was Valentine's Day, so we did the very non-New Yorker thing and had dinner around 6 p.m. -- before all the lovebirds were out. Lisa ordered a pork kimchee stew and I ordered bulgogi -- strips of marinated grilled steak, planning on sharing, of course. All the meals at Don' Bogam come with a variety of Korean side dishes and sauces: thinly shaved scallions in sesame oil, potato salad with peas, delicate pieces of pickled radish, and a dish of tiny, silvery fish. While we anxiously gobbled it all up, we did decide that Lisa's cats might be the best audience for the fish. The entrees were absolutely fantastic -- spicy, yet not too spicy kimchee and tender, juicy steak. Oh -- and the sake was fabulous too!

Our second night we ended up at Ayza Wine Bar & Chocolate Bar (notice a theme here?!) We ordered a tasting menu: 2 small glasses of red and white wines (red for me, white for Lisa), and a variety of cheese and meat served alongside some fig paste (spread a little paste and cheese on the bread) and fresh fruit. Feeling a bit guilty, we also ordered a side of roasted veggies. But really, they were superfluous! The parmiaggano, shropshire bleu, and meats were the star.

On Monday, we were treated to dinner by the PR folks from a toy company (we were in the city for Toy Fair) at Carmine's -- a popular Italian restaurant in mid-town. And it's popular for a good reason. All the dishes are served family style. The meatballs are "almost as good as my Grandma's" according to one woman at our table. And the chicken marsala was the best I've had.

Finally, on our last night, we ended up at a place we've gone to the last three years -- Havanna Central. It's touristy, for sure, but the food is really good, homecooking Cuban -- and inexpensive. I almost always order the Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice). But we've never had a bad dish. Yet the real reason we keep going back? The mojitos! (and maybe the bartenders!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Let's Make Whoopie!!!

Can ya tell Bob's out of town? Of course you can...he'd have reigned me in by now if he were home. But before he left we did make a little, no a lot, of whoopie. Pies, that is. Red Velvet and Chocolate Fudge.

And they were absolutely yummy. I have always made my Whoopie Pies completely from scratch. And they rock. However, one of my favorite food blogs, posted these right before Valentine's Day.

Be still my beating heart. I just had to make them. I am a huge fan of red velvet cake. Bob, not so much. So for him we made a batch of chocolate fudge whoopie pies. He took them to work for his Monday morning meeting and they were a hit.

Believe it or not, these are made from a cake mix. So any flavor your little heart desires is just a cake mix away. Too simple to be believed? Just wait til you see the recipe! But we don't really need to share just how easy they really are, do we? Just bask in the glory of the adoration being thrown your way between mouthfuls of these little sweeties. And enjoy!!!

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

1 Box red velvet cake mix*
1/2 Cup butter, softened to room temperature
2 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix ingredients until combined.
Drop spoonfuls of cookie batter onto baking sheet about two inches apart.
Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Cream Cheese Filling
1/2 Cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 8 oz. Package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 1lb. Box of confectioner's sugar
1 tsp Vanilla

In a mixer, cream butter, cream cheese and vanilla.
Gradually add sugar and mix until smooth.

Makes about 24 cookies or 12 cookie sandwiches

You too can fondue!

Clever, huh? (Okay, maybe not so much...but it sounded good in my head!!!)

Last Friday night our small group from church met at our house. We always have dinner first. Naturally! Eating is what we do best! And Friday night was no exception. We had an evening of fondues. And it was fun! And good! And fun! (oh, did I mention that already?)

Bob and I made two main course fondues. First was a cheddar & beer fondue that I got off of the food network site. It was pretty darn good! We've always made the basic white wine fondue before so I wanted to try something a little different. Second was a Parmesan Fondue. Both fit the bill. YUM!

Cheddar & Beer Fondue - food network
1 clove garlic
10 oz shredded sharp cheddar
6 oz Gruyere, shredded
1 heaping tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cup lager beer (we used Bell's Amber Ale)
1/4 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
a few drops hot sauce
a few drops Worcestershire sauce

Combine cheeses in a bowl and toss well with flour. Rub fondue pot with cut sides of garlic clove. Add beer to to pot and bring up to a bubble. Reduce heat to simmer and add cheese in handfuls. Stir with a wooden spoon in a figure eight pattern. Stir constantly, melting the cheese in batches. When cheese is melted and smooth, add the mustard, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Keep warm.

Parmesan Fondue -
3/4 cup milk
8 oz package cream cheese, cubed
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

In a large saucepan, cook and stir the milk and cream cheese over low heat until cheese is melted. Stir in Parmesan cheese and garlic salt; cook and stir until heated through. Transfer to fondue pot or mini slow cooker; keep warm.

For dipping, we served platters of blanched cauliflower and broccoli florets, slices of fuji apples, sauted slices of kielbasa sliced beef franks and trail bologna, mini meatballs, and cubed organic roasted garlic bread. A dish of mini dills was a perfect side.

What a feast! And to put earrings on the elephant, Julie made a decadent chocolate fondue for dessert! She had an array of fresh fruits and Jill made an awesome pound cake.

Now if we can just get the two of them to post those recipes!

I tell you true, this is a menu that rocks!!!'s fun!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This is a Rachel Ray Recipe that I've tried twice and it turned out nicely once I got my new oven with a working broiler!

Tilapia with Roasted Corn

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp chili powder
4 tilapia fillets (1 pound total)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 lime cut into 4 wedges

1. Preheat broiler. Combine mayo, chili powder and dash of salt.
Place tilapia fillets in greased baking dish. Coat fish with mayonnaise mixture.
Top with corn.
2. Broil until corn is lightly browned and the fish is cooked, approx 10 minutes.
Serve with lime wedges

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Belated Valentine's Day!

Wow! How does time get away so quickly? Last week was so busy, what with all the hearts and cupids and love notes floating around (it was kind of like dodging soccer balls with your head the way you do on Wii Fit!). I have several things that I've been meaning to post about. Bet all of you are in the same boat, huh? "No" you say? Hmmm.

Well, first off let me wish all of you a belated Happy Valentine's Day. We had reservations for dinner at Sakura Japanese Steak House. It was wonderful! We got to do one of our most favorite things and that is to have dinner with our godsons Bryce & Blake. And to make it even more festive, Megan, a very special friend, joined us. Oh yeah, their parents came, too. We were seated in a reasonable amount of time, even though the place was packed! Most of us decided on the special dinner that has chicken, steak, shrimp & lobster. This comes with the soup, salad, rice, plum wine (mmmmm....I'll take yours!) and pineapple sherbet. Since it was Valentine's Day they served a complimentary glass of wine before dinner. (I gave mine to Bob in exchange for his plum wine...score!) I also had a bottle of "Hana-Awaka" Sake - meaning Sparkling Flower. It is a sparkling sake that is slightly sweet with balanced tartness. I just called it good! And it came in a pink bottle! What's not to like about that, I ask you?

Our chef was most entertaining. He did all the requisite moves; shrimp tails tossed in his hat & pocket (wonder if they ever forget them and go home with crustaceans in their clothes?), and fire, and an onion volcano, etc. It's fun to see the kids' reactions. Blake wasn't too sure about the fire, but Meg and Bryce were loving it :-) There was way more food than we could eat and it was good enough to take home for lunch the next day. Note: the steak was superb.

After dinner we went back to the Byington's house and played Wii. It was my civic responsibility to kick some butt at bowling. Marilyn stunned and amazed us with her prowness at cow tossing. Bob rocked the house with his record setting ski jump of 115m! That's my Colorado dude ;-)

Clint still rules as the disco rabbid rabbit other comes close! Virna is an amazing couch coach and Jerry? Well Jerry just looks cool (in a cool eyebrow kind of way) doing whatever he's doing. I'm pretty sure that somewhere in there we let the kids play...we must have let them play. Didn't we let them play when we were filling our beer/wine glasses? Of course! I was sure we let them play.

When we got home, we exchanged cards and I had a little treat for Bob. *ALERT* This is a family blog so you can get your minds out of the gutter right now! The treat I got my honey was a gorgeous chocolate dipped strawberry that had been filled with sweetened mascarpone cheese. Just look at this beauty!

And it tasted every bit as good as it looked.

Note to self: We can do this as a light summer dessert!...with icewine!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Jean's little adventure at the Restaurant Warehouse got me thinking about something near and dear to my heart: Equipment. Good tools are a essential to professionals like myself and HawaiiChef and there is no reason those people not in the business shouldn't have the same access to all the toys we get. :)
That being said, I will try to post a different item every week as well as my recommendation on where to purchase it. Some things may surprise you, and I hope that we can share our stories and learn from each other. :)

First off, knives. This is a mixed bag since there is no one size fits all but there are three basic knives you should have: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a serrated/bread knife.
As far as a chef knife goes, you have to find what works best for you, which means picking it up and holding it. Got small hands? Don't get anything over an 8 inch blade and look for something that isn't too heavy. You might think heavy equals durability, but if using your knife to cut just one tomato tires your hands out, it's too heavy. This is one area where you should splurge, since the best names and the better varieties will cost money.
And as a side note, as nice as they are, stay away from a ceramic knife as primary knife. I own one, love it, but hardly use it. It's great as a splurge item, but my day to day knife is the same one I've had for almost 10 years.

Paring knives: Buy cheap and buy Asian. Some of my favorate paring knives have come from Korean/ Japanese groceries and are commonly called "fruit knives". They usually come with a cover, which is a wonderful bonus because it keeps the blade from getting dull.
Serrated/Bread knives: I don't care what ANYONE says, you cannot sharpen a serrated knife. Buy cheap and plan to pitch it when it goes dull. You can also see if a knife sharpening shop will grind the serrations off, leaving you with a carving type knife. Target has a cheap line of Henkels and the serrated knife is only $10.

Any other knives are just bonus. A good chef's knife can do just about anything when used properly. The only other type you might want to invest in is a fillet/boning knife and that is only if you want to clean your own fish or meats. Otherwise, save your money :)

Comments? Questions? Flames? :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Alright, So it's that time again to make another posting and I've been kinda stumped as to what to post in here. It seems I have a hard time taking pictures of food before it's already gone....
So I was wondering what type of helpful hint I could serve up today.
So, as you know I'm a huge pork fanatic. But little does one suspect that deep down inside there lurks something much more decadent, some "dark" and deeply seeded secret addiction that brings me to my knees at the very mention of it's name. So much so that it's even dangerous for me to be around it lest I give in to my primal urges and satiate my ravenous needs. What could this be you might be asking yourself? Chocolate... Yes for all of us choco-holics out there you know what I'm talking about. "Beware, oh box of unsuspecting richness... You have met the end of your days once my lustful gaze has fallen upon you." One of my most favorite concoctions has to be a wonderous blend of chocolate and hazelnut also known the world over as Nutella. Now. For those of you who have been to the store recently to try to find Nutella you've probably seen it priced at roughly $13 a jar. Blasphemy I tell you!! The cruel, ignominious folks at work behind the pricing of my sweet, sweet decadence will never keep me away from such toothsome splendor. So with that I present to you a recipe for what else? A Nutella...ahem "like" spread(no one knows when those damn copyright lawyers might be looking over your shoulder). And until we eat again, Happy eating!
Roasted Hazelnut and Chocolate Spread
Note: Use good-quality cocoa powder, such as Scharffen Berger or Valhrona.
2 cups raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil, more as needed
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts evenly over a cookie sheet and roast until they darken and become aromatic, about 10 minutes. Transfer the hazelnuts to a damp towel and rub to remove the skins.2. In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a smooth butter, scraping the sides as needed so they process evenly, about 5 minutes.3. Add the cocoa, sugar, vanilla, salt and oil to the food processor and continue to process until well blended, about 1 minute. The finished spread should have the consistency of creamy peanut butter; if it is too dry, process in a little extra hazelnut oil until the desired consistency is achieved. Remove to a container, cover and refrigerate until needed. Allow the spread to come to room temperature before using, as it thickens considerably when refrigerated. It will keep for at least a week.
(photo and recipe courtesy of L.A. Times)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hellooooo out there!

Seems to me that all the bloggers on this blog are sleeping!!! Aren't you all tired of listening to just me? I am!

Aunt Bea had asked in a previous blog about our food related Christmas gifts. Well let's see, I got a pan for making mini madeleines that I have been wanting forever! And (I'm really excited about this one) I got Ina Garten's new book "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics". It's wonderful!

We've already made several recipes from it and each one has been a hit. For New Year's Eve we did the "parmesan and thyme crackers". Now I am usually one that when I make a recipe for the first time I follow it to a T and make modifications the next time around. But seeing as I still have a gorgeous rosemary plant from this summer (I know! Can you believe that???), I decided to use that instead of the thyme. May I just! Totally delicious! And pretty darn easy, actually. These are absolutely addicting. With a glass of wine? Fageddaboutit!!!

Thinking "no way can we top this!", we made the "roasted shrimp cocktail". Okay I'm going to admit it...I had a moment. Actually, I had many moments. This stuff is incredible. Ina says that it came to her "since roasted chicken breast tastes so much better than poached chicken breast, I wondered if that wouldn't be true for roasted shrimp as well--and it was!" And boy is she ever right! It blows the old boiled shrimp cocktail out of the water; so to speak :-p

Anyway, here is a link if you're interested in the recipe
I beg you, if you only try one new recipe this year make it this one! I promise you that you'll love it. And don't forget to let me know what time it comes out of the oven...I want to "help".

So there are the cooking gifts Santa brought me for Christmas 2008. Tell us what you got!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Adventures in Nirvana

Nirvana exists and I have seen it with my own two eyes. Yes friends, in the form of Restaurant Depot it does truly exist. For foodies it is as defined by Webster: Nirvana - "A place of complete bliss and delight". This gem on Wilson Road is billed as the place where restaurants shop. You do need a membership card to make purchases, and this foodie was fortunate enough to have gained entrance to this Utopia of food!

May I just say this? Oh, wow! The walk-in cooler is a place where one feels almost compelled to genuflect. The hunks-o-meat will dazzle your eyes. The gorgeous produce will tickle your senses. And the wheels of cheese; oh my! It truly is one of the most magical places on earth.

Okay, you get the picture. So get on with it already, you say! Alrighty then...

One of the gals with us was a "Restaurant Depot Virgin", so we took it aisle by aisle. (Ha! Like I'm an old experienced pro! It was my 2nd visit ;-) So much cool stuff; chef's wear, pots, pans, ladles, gadgets, pizza pans/peel/screens, pastry bags, whisks, funnels,...and that was just in the first little section! I could just blog all day about this place, but I'll cut to the chase.

The cooler is where it's happening! Not only is the quality great, but the prices are awesome. Oh, did I mention the butter? Yeah, I had to take Dianne by the hand and lead her away. She was starting to swoon from all that Plugra in one place! And it was worth the trip to see Susan's eyes glaze over when we came around the corner to the cheese aisle. A woman smitten, she was. It really is incredible. No frills, but just incredible. Time ceases to exist when you enter the inner sanctum of the cooler.

Here is a little bit of what I got on our adventure today:
  • a pizza screen (never heard of it, never knew I needed it til Dianne showed it to me)
  • a roll of lean & gorgeous pancetta at an incredible price (did I mention I love this place?)
  • a 9 lb bag of shallots to be split three ways (I'm going to be a sautéing fool!)
  • a 4 1/2 oz wheel of Danish Brie (perfect for 2)
  • a 10 ct bag of Greek pitas
  • a package of frozen beef gyro slices (you know where I'm going with this & the previous item)
  • a ginormous container of exotic dried mushrooms (also to be split)
  • a half moon of Antonella roasted garlic, tomato & basil cheese (Antonella is a hand-crafted pressed curd, semi-soft cow's milk cheese)

So you see how this place can turn a girl's head? Thought you'd understand. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Restaurant Depot on a shopping adventure do not pass go, do not collect $200. (uh, maybe reconsider the last bit of advice; $200 can go a long way here!)

Here's to Nirvana on Wilson Road!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This Cookie Recipe Has Been Calling My Name

About a month ago Jean got a cookie recipe from Martha Stewart that combines two of my favorite things: rich, dark chocolate and sour cherries. I've been thinking about how good they would be since she told me about them. Sunday afternoon I couldn't stand it any longer and decided to make a batch.

They are even better than I imagined (and that's going some!) The cookies are chewy, rich and dark with intense chocolate flavor, punctuated by chunks of smooth dark chocolate and sweet, tart dried cherries. In the words of LL Bean, they are Wicked Good! I took some to work Monday morning for a meeting -- they were a big hit.

Here is the recipe --

Dark Chocolate Cookies with Sour Cherries
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Scharffen Berger)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried sour cherries, firmly packed (9 ounces)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed, until just combined. Do not overbeat. With a wooden spoon, fold in chocolate and cherries. (Dough can be frozen at this point, wrapped well in plastic, up to 1 month; thaw completely before baking.)
  3. Form balls of dough, each about 1/4 cup; place balls on baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake until puffed and cracked, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, up to 3 days.

Makes about 3 dozen

Monday, February 2, 2009

New Follower!

Hi Ellen!

I just saw that you've joined us. Thank you and welcome! We are just getting started and I'm excited that you've found us. Any comments you have are welcome:-)

aka "Jean Bugs" (ok, that one wasn't too difficult to figure out)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Better than Average Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I just made these for lunch today, and they were scarfed down by 3 generations. The possibilities for sandwich fillings are endless, but the bread treatment makes all the difference. I had a sandwich similar to this at First Watch yesterday and wanted to see if it was do-able at home.

I used sliced ciabatta bread (Kroger Private Selection) and muenster cheese (Finlandia, from Costco). After buttering the bread slices, I sprinkled the butter with shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and pressed the cheese into the butter. I made the sandwiches on a griddle, medium-heat, and the Parm/Regg got all crusty while they grilled. As my "nephew" Andy Taylor would say, they were "extry-good!" I can't wait to try these with some fresh mozzarella, basil, sun-dried tomatoes as filling.