Sunday, May 30, 2010

Summer Sides

Let's talk about side dishes for summer meals. Here is a dish that is a staple for cookouts in our house. I don’t have pictures of them, because who thinks to take a picture of something that is a staple? I don’t think you’ll really need a picture anyway. But these are so good that you really should try them. You owe yourself that much!

It used to be that I never could make a decent pot of baked beans. Then I tasted Calico Beans. They are so absolutely incredibly delicious! It’s funny because now I’m asked to bring these beans to cookouts. They are so good that Bob and I could truly eat them for dinner all by themselves. Of course the rest of the evening might be a little dicey, if you get my “drift” ;-)

"Calico Beans"

½ pound bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
½ pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
15 oz can pinto beans, drained
15 oz can black beans, drained
28 oz Bush’s Baked Beans, undrained (your favorite flavor)
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons vinegar
½ cup ketchup

Put all of the beans in a baking dish.

Cook bacon in skillet, remove and drain well on paper towels. Remove all but two Tablespoons bacon grease. Cook ground beef and onions in reserved bacon grease. Drain some but not all of the fat. Add brown sugar, vinegar, and ketchup. Mix well.

Pour over beans and mix well. Bake at 350 degrees until desired consistency.

Swoon accordingly.

Another side that I made this weekend is totally retro. Think back to when every potluck, every cookout, and every family reunion had … Veggie Pizza! No, I’m not talking about a pizza with vegetables on it. I’m talking about the cold appetizer that is made with a base of crescent roll dough and has a ranch like dip & veggies and cheese on top. Oh yeah. Brings back memories, huh? Thought so. Me, too. I made it and was totally smitten with it all over again. So here is the recipe, if you’d like to take a walk down memory lane with me!

"Veggie Pizza"

2 cans crescent rolls (8 ct each)
Press dough onto cookie sheet, closing seams. Bake 15 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Cool completely.

2- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz sour cream
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch mix
Blend well. Spread on cooled crust.

Top with:*
½ cup broccoli, chopped fine
½ cup carrots, shredded
½ cup cucumber, peeled and seeds removed, chopped fine
½ cup cauliflower, chopped fine
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut into small pieces and serve.
*May be any combination of vegetables you desire.

What sides are favorites in your house?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Smoky Tomato Bacon Pasta

I read quite a few cooking blogs and am always seeing recipes I want to try. I have stacks of printed recipes I intend to make someday. Ask Bob. It makes him crazy. I also have computer files full of recipes and paper folders and binders and I think there might even be some taped to the cats! Come here Bogey, let’s see … yep. Turned him over and there is one stuck on his furry little belly right now!

Every once in a while there will be one that I just keep thinking about. Who knows what it is that makes one stick in my head and another one slip away? I can’t tell you.

Some time ago I saw a recipe on “Taste and Tell” blog. (I love her blog. And her little girl? I could just eat her up she’s so cute!) Anyway, I saw this a while back and it stuck. The other night I wanted to make something different than the standards that we always fall back on. Well I’m here to tell you I’ve just added a new recipe to the “standards”!

Deb posted “Smoky Tomato-Bacon Pasta” after she made it from The Deen Family Cookbook. While on the whole she wasn’t blown away by the cookbook, she was totally smitten with this recipe. And I can understand why. It was everything I had hoped it would be.

Admittedly, I did make a few alterations. First of all, where is the garlic? It cried for garlic. I, of course could not resist. There was a very persuasive voice in my head telling me to chop garlic. Oh wait, that was Bob’s voice. He was standing behind me, looking at the recipe and saying, “I think you should add garlic.” Sometimes we think so much alike that it is downright frightening.

In addition to the garlic there were a couple of other adjustments I needed to make. I have a big bag of shallots that I’m needing to use, so instead of the yellow onion I chopped up a very big shallot and about 3 cloves of garlic. I used thick cut bacon and I think that added a great depth of smokiness along with a good bite of meat. I drained most all of the bacon drippings, leaving much less than the ¼ cup the recipe calls for. I couldn’t justify all that fat and the ½ pound bacon! I used San Marzano tomatoes because frankly, they rock. And the pasta shape I used was Campanelle, which was perfect because it really held the sauce.

Speaking of the sauce; it was thick and rich and absolutely delicious! I love that instead of heavy cream it uses cream cheese to make it rich and creamy. I used the Neufchatel (low fat) and it was great! It made me feel just a tad better about all that bacon! I garnished the dish with a fresh basil leaf and some grated parmesan cheese.

I love this recipe! The sauce is so good, and the fresh basil really made it pop! This is a new favorite. Thanks Deen family! And thanks, Deb!

Smoky Tomato-Bacon Pasta
from: The Deen Family Cookbook and “Taste and Tell”

Serves 4 to 6

1/2 pound bacon (about 10 slices)
1 large yellow onion
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
salt and pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces
1 pound uncooked pasta

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and brown. Transfer it to a paper towel lined plate. Pour off all but 1/4 cup fat from skillet.

Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes, and then crumble in the bacon. Season with salt and pepper; simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and chunky, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese until melted.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with the sauce and serve immediately.

Note: This is the recipe as printed from “Taste and Tell”. I did not change it to include my alterations.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Have you seen a blue turtle in Westerville?

We've been blessed with another fantastic place to eat in Westerville -- the Blue Turtle Tea and Spice Company, 2 S. State St. (diagonally across the State Street/College Avenue intersection from Grater's Ice Cream.) Originally opened as a quaint and quirky shop offering organic tea and spice products, it as evolved into a wonderful place to grab lunch and dinner (or attend special Sunday events such as murder mystery dinners and Mothers/Fathers Day seatings.) You can also stop in anytime for a cup of hot tea or a glass of iced tea, and some friendly conversation.
A group of friends gathered there last night to gab, and devour some delicious food, prepared by owner Amanda's brother, a chef recently profiled on Table Talk, by Columbus Dining We started with iced tea, brewed individually for each of us (I had Thai Pear; I also heard raves about the Georgia Peach). Some of the organic creations sampled by our group included a crab cake sandwich, apricot curried chicken salad and jerk chicken quesadillas, each served with a side of zesty pasta salad. Their soup of the day was cream of spinach, just right for a crisp spring evening. Amanda advises the menu changes weekly, but I was happy to hear she loves crab cakes more than life itself, giving me hope for more this summer.
Of course we succumbed to the lure of the dessert menu, which features creations by Sugardaddys. Amanda commented that she'd never seen a group of such close friends be so quiet -- we were swooning with every bite of Tahitian (or mint) brownies and amber walnut cheesecake with brownie crust, and there just didn't seem any need for words.
The location holds a special place in my heart -- it was for many many years Brinkman's Pharmacy, one of those great old corner drugstores where I worked during college. It has a whole new vibe, but I was glad to be there again.
After indulging, there was time for a little shopping. I can't wait to try the Sweet Onion organic sugar I brought home -- recommended for sprinkling on asparagus, or on shrimp before grilling. They probably have about 200 more products calling my name -- I'll be back for food, tea and spices!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Morphing Cinco de Mayo Leftovers

Remember that jewelry party I had on Cinco de Mayo? Remember the food? Oh, the food! Well I didn't have much in the way of leftovers other than the rice. Seems we kind of overestimated on that. Don't get me wrong; it was absolutely delicious. But I think that since everything else was finger food, it kind of got lost. So I had rice left over. What to do?

Inspiration! We had made a ham for Sunday dinner. I love ham fried rice. How good would it be if I made Ham Fried Arroz con Gandules? (Rice with Pigeon Peas, which really aren't peas at all! They are actually legumes; like lentils, kind of.)

Not to mention that when Chef Tony, Michelle and Camryn came into town on Saturday, we went to Costelos. Laura Lee (L3) and her mom, Linda met us there. Another great time was had by all. And I brought home beef empanadas and a bottle of that crazy good sauce! So I'm thinkin' I was set to go!

First I gathered my ingredients; eggs, onion, leftover rice, ham, canola oil and a smidge of butter. I began by chopping the onion into decent sized pieces. I wanted them in big enough pieces that you could see them and know what you were eating. Not huge chunks, but not minced either. Next I set about whipping the eggs like I was making scrambled eggs; but I didn't add any milk. I put a little canola oil and the butter into the pan. I let the egg begin to cook and then I kind of pushed it around with a spatula. When it was almost set, I removed it to a cutting board. I ran a knife through it both ways to cut it into pieces.

I then added a touch more oil to the pan and began to saute the onions. When the onions were soft but not translucent, I added the cold rice to the pan. At this point I was pretty much finished with the actual cooking. From here on in, I was going to be adding ingredients that are already cooked, and then I'd be marrying the whole bunch ... kind of like a hippie commune. (Did I really just say that?)

After I'd broken up all of the rice clumps and mixed it together with the onions, I just let it hang out a bit. I wanted to let it get all warm and cozy before I'd go adding anything else to the mix. I'd know when it was ready to continue. I began to smell the wonderful aroma of the warmed rice mixing with the onions. I gave it a good stir to make sure it was warmed completely through.

Now was the time to add the cubed ham and the egg that I cooked earlier. I mixed it all up really well. Again, I just let it do its thing. Every once in a while I gave it a good stir. When I thought it was ready, I speared myself a piece of ham and tested it. I wanted to make sure the ham was warmed through.

Here it is in all its beauty. Oh I could not wait to get my fork into that. But wait! There's more! Remember the beef empanadas I brought home? And that sexy Costelos sauce?

Ladies and gentlemen ... lunch!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

For the Love of Gnomes

Have I ever told you about my love for all things "Gnome"? Oh, it's true. I am totally smitten with gnomes. I just get the biggest kick out of them. They make me smile. Even when I don't feel like smiling, they make me.

They're such funny creatures. I would have them everywhere if I could. But Bob can only tolerate so many at a given time. We had a particularly nasty storm right before Easter that blew my stacked "see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil" gnomes off the front porch. Poor babies; the top gnome's head exploded. It was very sad. Bob wasn't so sad.

This is my favorite gnome. He is sorely in need of a new paint job. I'll have to take care of that soon. This guy mans the front of the house and sits right by my kidney stone (that's another story). It was quite a coup when I got him. Oh boy was I excited. Yes my friends, that was a happy day. He was even on sale!

On my 50th birthday my crazy friends Cara & Sandy gave me 50 gnomes. Ha! Some of those little guys have even shown up in other people's yards. Some have stayed here. (Like those involved in the unfortunate incident of the exploding head.) If you find a gnome in your yard you must keep him. If he has found his way to you then you are his rightful owner. Something unseemly may happen if you don't keep him. They are quite mischievous, you know. I know this because there are quite often situations in our house when I know I haven't done something and Bob swears he didn't do it, and I'm almost certain the cats didn't do it. So what other explanation is there than it was the work of the gnomes?

When it's nice outside I like to sit on the deck and read. Fortunately, if the phone rings or I need a snack (and we all know how I like my snacks!), then I have the security of knowing that my gnomes will "mark" my page in my book so I don't lose my place.

But sometimes when I'm sitting out there reading, I get the feeling that I'm being watched...

Bob says he gets the same feeling when he gets ready to grill ...

...maybe we're just paranoid. Because gnomes really can be quite helpful. If they like you they do things that you may not have the patience to do; like just hanging out and monitoring the temperature all day ... boooring. So if you happen to find a gnome in your yard, be good to him and he'll be good to you.

All this just because I wanted to show you what the Easter Bunny brought me (my new gnome dish set).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Costelos & Cinco de Mayo!

Costelos Restaurant – Latin Cuisine

Have you ever “found” a restaurant and feel like you’ve just discovered a rare gem? Even though they’ve been there for three years and they didn’t even know they were “lost”? Yeah, it’s something like that.

Much to my husband’s dismay I was having a jewelry party. Actually he’s such a good sport that not only did he not mind, he was right in the thick of it, being the backbone of the whole affair! Am I a lucky gal, or what? My sister, friends and I joke and tell him he is our “boy-toy/servant”. But let me just say this … he’s the only man in a room of 27 women. Does he really mind? Not so much, I think.

I digress (as usual). Back to my “find”. I had my heart set on having empanadas for the party. It was Cinco de Mayo, after all! After much calling around and begging and pleading, one of the local Mexican restaurants took pity on me and directed me to Costelos Restaurant. I immediately “Googled” them and that was the moment! That was the moment that the clouds parted and the heavens shone light down upon us!

I kid you not! This was just what I was looking for! I called the restaurant and spoke with Rick. He knew just what I wanted and just what I needed! It was incredible. After looking at the pictures on the website and talking to Rick, I placed my order for catering pick up for the party … without ever having even tasted the food! I know! Crazy, huh? But I was so sure. I just knew.

Bob and I did go to Costelos for dinner before the party. Brothers Brian and Rick Perez are Costelos Restaurant. Their mom Anni, makes the desserts. They opened their restaurant in February of 2007. Why am I just now finding them? I honestly do not know. I lament the loss of time and empanadas that represent the past three years. However, I plan to make up for that lost time!

Bob and I wanted to taste what we would be serving, as well as taking a look at the rest of the menu. Would this become a new favorite? We met Rick, who is not only handsome and personable, but is definitely a man that loves what he does! He talks about the food that his brother creates as if it is sacred; something precious and cherished. He speaks of it with a certain reverence.

I have to tell you that upon my first bite of the beef empanada, I understood. That is when the light bulb came on! That is when the fireworks went off! That is when the angels started to sing! This was everything I was looking for and more. The crust was flaky and delicious. The ground beef filling was flavorful and tasted like “more”. As in, “I’d like more, please!”

The chicken empanadas and crab empanadas followed suit. The fillings have so much flavor; using spices to enhance but not adding heat. And the plantains, you ask? O.M.G. The fried sweet plantains just rock. I don’t even know how to describe them to help you “taste” them. They made me swoon. And Costelos has a sauce that just defies description. It goes on the plantains and on the empanadas and anything else that stood still long enough for me to drizzle it on! Seriously, the “secret” sauce is worth the trip alone!

The yellow rice with pigeon peas is a Costelo specialty. As well it should be! It is the perfect accompaniment. We also ordered shrimp in creole sauce and it worked beautifully with the rice. There are just so many other dishes I want to try. You need to check the menu out on the website. And take a few minutes to watch the pictures of the food cycle by. Each one looks better than the last!

Before we left we definitely had to have dessert. As I said before, Brian and Rick’s mom Anni makes the desserts. We chose to order the flan and a piece of the tres leche cake to share. When they were served, I didn’t know which one was more beautiful. Flan is a classic favorite of mine. This one was a beauty. Flan is a crème caramel with vanilla custard. The texture of a good flan is one of silky smoothness. And this one was so "good" that I almost felt as if I just couldn’t cut into it. But soon I came to my senses and slid my spoon smoothly through the gently yielding custard. One bite and I knew I had indeed entered the Promised Land. Hey, it could happen!

I looked at Bob and he was having his own moment with the cake. Anni’s tres leche cake was divine. The cake was light and incredibly fresh. We were delighted to find that in between the layers were thin slices of perfectly ripe mango. It was frosted with whipped topping and had a fanned strawberry on top. The plate was a thing of beauty.

I really wanted to try the dessert empanada. I'm totally an empanada girl! ;-) Listen to this description: "Guava Cream Empanadas - Island turnovers with a cream cheese and guava paste stuffing". Imagine my excitement! Unfortunately they were out of them. I consoled myself with another bite of flan. It helped.

And then we got to meet Anni! She came into the restaurant and Rick introduced us. No way could this gorgeous woman be Rick & Brian's mother ... she was way too young! And her smile lights up the whole room. She is just as sweet as her delicious confections. A new friend! Could this night get any better?

As full as we were, it did not take us any time to take care of those gorgeous desserts. Then there came Rick with coffee that he had insisted on making himself. I’m not quite sure what magic or mojo he used to make this coffee, but I loved it! It was the perfect strength, with the perfect sweetness and the perfect amount of cream. I need to go back just for the coffee!

There was no decision to be made here! We confirmed our order for Cinco de Mayo with the assurance that we were in good hands. Rarely do Bob and I have a party that we don’t do the cooking. We love to cook! But with me just getting out of the hospital, we felt that this time that just wasn’t going to be possible. So we put ourselves in Brian and Rick’s hands. What a tremendously good decision that turned out to be!

Wednesday came and Bob headed out to get the food. I set the oven at 200 degrees for warming, I was a little anxious, but that could be because pregnant Brooke was having conversations directly with the salsa and guacamole. When a 7 months pregnant woman begins to converse with her appetizers, well that’s pretty much a red flag. We diffused the situation by systematically testing the mild salsa, hot salsa, guacamole and chili con queso. All three required their own type of chip. Having sorted this out we were feeling quite prepared, because we knew we were the girls for the job. And anyone could have taken one look at us and recognized that was true by the dribbles of salsa and con queso on our shirts. Brooke and I are what we eat! And we wear it well, too!

Jane made the con queso dip and it was muy bueno! I've encouraged her to blog about it so that we can all have the recipe. It is a definite must for a Super Bowl party or for next year's Cinco de Mayo! Brooke made the salsa and guacamole. In fact, if you're a regular reader of Dishing-it-Up! Columbus, then you might remember Brooke's post on her salsa. Yum!

Bob came in and the aroma that wafted through the house was mesmerizing. Oh my goodness! Guests followed him in so they could see the unveiling.

We loaded platters with beef empanadas, chicken empanadas (excuse the tongs; had to get the picture quick before the masses descended on them),

fried plantains,

and yellow rice with pigeon peas.

A bottle of the “Secret Sauce” was passed around and around and around. Oh, that sauce! We had to watch a few of the ladies to make sure they didn't slip it into their purse and walk out with it. I thought Laurie was going to start drinking it right out of the bottle! (Hey, I've seen her do worse!) Yes, I'm telling you it is that good!

For the party Dianne, our very own pastry chef, made us two incredible Tres Leche Cakes, served with tropical fruit. I'm sorry I can't show them to you. They, uh, got devoured before I could even think to photograph them! Dianne is amazing! And her cakes are right up there with Anni’s. These women kill me! I gained 20 pounds just looking at those cakes. Okay, so maybe I did have a teeny piece … or two. Hey, I kept losing my plate! ;-)

Everyone at the party loved the food. I lost count of the compliments! I'm still getting calls and emails about what a wonderful Cinco de Mayo feast we had! The combination of foods that Rick helped me choose was absolutely perfect.

Hopefully you will find your way to my little gem. Maybe I’ll see you there. Most likely I’ll be the one with a beef empanada in one hand and a plantain in the other, with sauce dripping down my chin! Or maybe I’ll be eating the Mofango! Or maybe I'll be having a Cubano. Who knows what I'll be enjoying? There is so much I want to try. For sure, I’ll be the one with the big smile on my face!

See you there for some of the best Latin Cuisine in Columbus ...or anywhere for that matter! When you go, tell them you "found" them on Dishing-it-Up! Columbus!

Costelos Restaurant
Latin Cuisine
2492 Home Acre Drive
Columbus, OH 43231
(614) 899-2550

p.s. Chef Tony is coming into town on Saturday ... guess where we're going for dinner!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Thingies – Pioneer Woman

Did you happen to notice the stuffed jalapeños on the plate with the Italian Drip Beef? Those were also from The Pioneer Woman. Oh my gosh were they good! I knew you noticed them! And I figured you’re probably thinking, “Hey! Why the heck didn’t she give us the recipe for those?” Well, I’m going to do just that!

First of all, I don’t eat jalapeños. No way. I don’t do spicy. So I really can’t explain to you why these caught my eye. Except that they looked like something Bob would really like. So I got three little jalapeños, thinking that would make six appetizer/sides for him. Well, once they started cooking and smelling so incredibly delicious, I couldn’t wait for them to come out of the oven. I mean, they’re wrapped with bacon (the daddy of all pork products)!!! And, they’re filled with cream cheese! By the time they came out of the oven, I was beginning to rethink my resistance to jalapeños!

When I was plating up our dinner, I slipped the smallest jalapeño thingy onto my plate. I was about halfway through my drip beef sandwich before I worked up the courage to try it. Bob assured me and reassured me that it was not hot. I cut it in half and tentatively tasted it. Of all that is green and creamy and smokey and bacony on this earth! This was delicious! I wanted more! But, uh oh … I’d already put the rest of them on Bob’s plate. Would he notice if I slid my fork across the table and nabbed one? Does a squirrel eat nuts? Of course he’d notice. If I asked, he’d probably give me one. But I knew he was enjoying them too. So I decided right then and there that the next trip to the grocery store was going to include more jalapeños to make more “thingies”!

One more thing! Pioneer Woman says that her family has started to put these on top of their grilled hamburgers. I sure do like the way those folks think!

Here is the recipe. It is so good and so easy! If you want to see in detail step-by-step picture instructions, here is the link to PW’s post.

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Thingies
Pioneer Woman


• 20 whole Fresh Jalapeños, 2-3 Inches In Size
• 2 cubes Cream Cheese, softened
• 1 pound Thin(regular) Bacon, Sliced Into Thirds

Preparation Instructions:

If you have them, slip on some latex gloves for the pepper prep… Cut jalapenos in half, length-wise. With a spoon, remove the seeds and white membrane (the source of the heat; leave a little if you like things HOT). Smear softened cream cheese into each jalapeno half. Wrap jalapeno with bacon pieces (1/3 slice). Secure by sticking toothpick through the middle. (At this point, you can freeze them, uncooked, in a Ziploc bag for later use).

Bake on a pan with a rack in a 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. You don’t want the bacon to shrink so much it starts to the squeeze the jalapeno. If, after 20 minutes, the bacon doesn’t look brown enough, just turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes to finish it off. These are best when the jalapeno still has a bit of bite to it.

Serve immediately, or they’re also great at room temperature.