Category Archives: Cooking

Gluten-free goodness

Brunch is a beautiful thing. It is a great excuse for day drinking and for consuming all of my carbolicious favorites: pancakes, french toast, hashes of all kinds. Yum. Plus, there’s bacon. Lots and lots of bacon.

To continue the holiday eat-fest, I invited three (well, three and a bit…one is preggers) of my pals over for a post-Christmas brunch.

Before you get too excited, this isn’t going to be one of those posts where I get all giddy about trying some really involved new item. Everything was delicious – don’t get me wrong – but my efforts this go-round were a bit more pedestrian in nature. But sometimes that’s the best way to go so you have time to actually talk with your guests. And consume mimosas. How could I have not mentioned mimosas?

The menu was basic – turkey bacon, scrambled eggs – which I make using evoo in the pan and just salt, pepper and a little bit of ginger in the eggs – fresh fruit and pancakes. The pancakes are where things get interesting though.

My fabulous gal, Kristi, does the gluten-free thing. Which is cool and good for her. But I had no idea how to make pancakes that she would be able to eat. And then – ta-da! – while browsing the aisles of Albertsons-I-hate-you, I found it. Gluten-free Bisquick. Totally worth the gamble because I’m sure the good people at Bisquick have already done the trial and error thing to get the formula right. Probably would have taken me weeks to end up with something edible had I tried to go from scratch.

So, after adding some vanilla and tart dried cherries,  we ended up having some pretty fabulous pancakes. In fact, the group agreed that we liked them better than regular, gluten-y pancakes. Lighter consistency and a nicer profile for adding other flavors. Brunch success!

But – just to keep things balanced, I went ahead and made regular old-fashioned cupcakes for dessert.

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A duo of haiku, eh?

Holiday soiree,

Trying to schmooze co-workers

Don’t drink too much wine.

 

 

Offered moose sausage,

Tried with much trepidation

Refill my wine, please.

 

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Bacon and booze

When your schedule for the evening includes taking in a drag show with a bride-to-be and her girlfriends, a glow-in-the-dark replica of male genetalia and Dirty Mad Libs, you need to start out with a solid dinner. You know, to sop up all of the booze that you are bound to consume on such an evening.

My dear friend Lindsay is getting married in a mere nine days, so over the Labor Day weekend I headed to KC for the shower and bachelorette party. Fun times had by all. I mean, how could you not when a silver wig is involved?

We started the evening at Houlihan’s. Now, I don’t mean to sound like a snob (maybe I do a little), but I’m not generally a fan of restaurants of Houlihan’s genre. Some are worse offenders than others, but most of them sort of blur together for me because the menus are so similar and massive, much like the entrees themselves. But, as referenced at the start of this post, when you’re trying to lay down a good base for copious consumption of adult beverages, this sort of eatery is actually ideal.

The next time you find yourself at your local Houlihan’s, be sure to start with the jumbo stuffed ‘shrooms. Aside from my disdain for referring to mushrooms as ‘shrooms (unless hallucination is likely to ensue), this appetizer is a delicious bit of fried, creamy goodness. And, fried is the number one food group for a night out.

See the bacon?

The second important food group on this type of evening? Bacon. Hence my choice of the Brentwood chicken sandwich, which smoked bacon, gouda cheese, dijon-spiked mayo and some vegetation on top. Not wanting to fill up on bread and get too full for the chicken-y, bacon-y goodness, I ended up foregoing much of the bun (despite its deliciousness), relying on my side of fries to help me carbo-load.

Did the sammich knock my socks off? Nah. Was the chicken a bit overcooked? Sadly yes. And the fries were a bit flaccid. But, when your dinner comes with a side of great conversation with some fantastic women, you tend to overlook these details. So much so that, I went ahead and took the plunge into dessert. I was technically on vacation (read: in a different area and zip code), so splurging was allowed.

For me, it was a toss up between a few items. Have I mentioned dessert is my favorite food group? Creme brulee, Bourbon pecan pie, Snickers crunch ice cream dome, s’mores fondue…all were calling my name. I ended up deciding to keep it simple and go with the creme brulee. Great caramelization on the top. Nice vanilla bean flavor. Thin consistency.

Tasted way better than it looked

I was quite jealous of my dining companions who opted for the chocolate espresso cake. It should have been a no-brainer for me. Chocolate? Coffee? Done. I’ll blame the Ketel One for blurring my dining judgement. My new pal Denna was nice enough to part with one bite for me to give it a go. Quite tasty. It was no wonder she didn’t offer me a second taste.

Once the glasses and plates were empty, it was off to begin the shenanigans of the evening. I am happy to report, though, that dinner did its job. No hangover for this happy chowhound. Which was a great thing, because the next day I found myself taking in a Royals game with the family. And, it just isn’t a day at The K without copious snacks. And a beer of course.

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#FoodTruckFail

Roach coach. Kitchen on wheels. Drunk’s delight. Who doesn’t appreciate a good food truck?

Generally I appreciate food trucks most around 2am after a long night of fist pumping, Jersey Shore style. However, the folks at Sigel’s on Greenville had the genius idea to have their first Food Truck Festival this past Saturday evening. After reading the expert’s guide to eating your way through this shindig, I was salivating much like my dogs do right before I put kibble into their bowls.

After cleaning up my puddle of drool, I talked with some of my work peeps (well, we emailed actually) and some of us planned to meet up for some good old-fashioned food trucking. Oh, and did I mention there was supposed to be free wine and beer tasting too? That alone would have sold me.

Hubster and I show up around 6:30pm (the hours were to be 6pm-9pm), park about a block away outside the Sprint Store and make the walk over to Sigel’s. Upon arriving, we take note of the sea of people crowded into the Sigel’s parking lot where the food trucks had decided to hold court. It was nearly impossible to see where one line ended and another began. It was at this juncture we realized we would need copious amounts of booze to handle this endeavor.

Inside we went to enjoy some free spirits of the drinkable variety. And, we were fortunate enough to run into Mr. and Mrs. Trishmas upon entering the store. Drinking with friends is always more fun right? After standing in line for about 15 minutes (note: this line was considerably shorter than the ones outside in the 105-degree heat for the food trucks) we get our tasting glasses and belly up to the bar.

To say that the person behind the counter dribbled wine into my glass would be a compliment. I was just lucky that the pour didn’t evaporate before I had an opportunity to bring the glass to my lips. Seriously. I mean, I’m all for responsible tasting but this was ridiculous. Two types of wine and I guarantee I hadn’t even cleared a 1/2 ounce of liquid consumed.

In the midst of this Nam and his lovely gal popped in. Smarter than the rest of us, they took one look at the crowd and decided to bail. Turns out, they were smarter than all of us.

Already committed, we continue in the line toward the beer tasting. This had to be better, right? Eh..not really. I have to give props to the Sam Adams folks for at least using respectable tasting cups. The folks at the Rahr table were using something akin to those tiny plastic cups hospitals use when they have to bring someone a bunch of different pills that they want them to take all in one swallow. Wasn’t even the equivalent of a shot glass.

After the lackluster experience with the drink portion of the evening, we all contemplated what, if any, luck we might have in jumping into one of the food truck lines. However, one look showed us that people who had been in line when we went inside for our “tastings” were STILL toward the back of the very same lines nearly 30 minutes later. That was it. We threw up the white flag and decided to abandon ship.

Thanks to the good folks at Twisted Root Burger Co., for providing hubster and I with an excellent dining experience. Not only did we get to have big-kid sized tasty beverages, but I got to order (with a straight face) a Big German. With a side of fried green beans, of course.

I guess the food trucks and I just weren’t meant to be this time. But if one – or many – of them could be hanging out in the Bishop Arts District, say, on Sept 10 after my friend’s birthday celebration, that would be just amazeballs.

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Steak Tuesday

At one point, the hubster and I had tried to start a tradition of having steak every Sunday, affectionately (and creatively) known as Steak Sunday.

Now that you’ve recovered from the awesomeness of the name, I’ll tell you that it didn’t last very long. Getting the grill going and all that jazz proved to be too much for some lazy Sundays. So, imagine my surprise when the hubster offered to grill steaks tonight. Whee!! I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I was mowing the lawn this evening. Maybe it was guilt steak. But who cares?

Tuesday night deliciousness

Ribeye seasoned with just salt and pepper, cooked on the grill to a medium rare, paired with broccolini and potatoes. So simple and yet, so delicious. And, incredibly indulgent for a weeknight. The fact is, it didn’t really take all that long. Granted, Mike is a whiz when it comes to doing his mis en place (fancy term for having everything prepped and ready to go prior to cooking), so things tend to happen in a more timely manner for him. But , the steaks only took about eight minutes to cook and then took a few minutes to rest. I think the longest part might have just been getting the coals going.

*checking to verify that was the case* 

Yep – that was the most time consuming part. Not too shabby, huh? 

Now, if you’re like me, the thought of standing in front of a grill during a Texas summer heat wave sounds about as appealing as clawing out your left eye. So, if you’re not a heat-seeker like the hubster, you can totally make this meal from the comfort of your air-conditioned kitchen. Sear the steaks in a pan on the stovetop first then finish them off in the oven to achieve the desired doneness and maintain juiciness. Oven-roast the potatoes and saute or steam the broccolini, and you’ll end up with a similar result, minus the smoky flavor. 

Pronounced "who" not "ho"

Paired with tonight’s dinner, for once, was not wine. Largely because, few things are as satisfying on a hot day (especially after mowing and trimming the lawn) as an ice cold beer. On the menu tonight, one of my all-time favorites: Hoegaarden. A Belgian-style wheat beer, with citrusy and zesty notes. Pale and cloudy in appearance, it has a light flavor and, for me, pretty much goes with anything. It has been my summer beer of choice for some time now. If you like Blue Moon, but sometimes wish it was a bit lighter (as I often do if I’m in for a marathon evening), then this is an excellent alternative

Good thing I hit the gym last night and yoga tonight, because now I can end the evening with some mint chocolate chip ice cream. So, if someone asks me how today was, my answer will most definitely be, “delicious.”

By the way – the dogs even got some leftover steak bits. This is what Gryf looked like throughout the entire meal: one ear inside out staring at both plates, anxiously awaiting the inevitable. According to all of the chop-licking and tail-wagging that occurred, I think he liked the dinner too.

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The bread of my (sinus) affliction

Colds are a downer. Spring colds are a special kind of downer because it’s so gorgeous outside, I’d rather be patioing on this lovely Friday evening than sitting in here in my jammies contemplating going back to bed. After waking up from my two-hour post-work nap, I decided to have some leftover soup and realized I hadn’t written about this week’s cooking. Silly me.

Easter gets a lot of play and all, but my focus this week was Passover. It’s that special time of year where I get to eat gefilte fish. Hubster thinks it is one of the most revolting things he’s ever encountered (even more than mayonnaise, I think) but I find it to be heavenly. And I don’t mess mine up with a bunch of condiments. Straight out of the jar for me, thank you Manichewitz.

Passover is one of those holidays that gives me warm fuzzies because: our family was always together, it was the one time a year we would break out the good china, and it was the first time I got drunk. You didn’t think this would be entirely serious did you?

Passover in our house had two forms – formal and picnic-style. First seder was generally the formal one featuring the china, the fancy silverware and Zada’s old Haggadot with pictures of Streit’s Matzos and Maxwell House Coffee from the 1950s. Second seder would just be the four of us and some years we decided to picnic on the floor in the living room. Mom and Dad would put down a blanket, we’d use paper plates and lounge. Totally in the spirit of the holiday which commands that you recline, as that was the sign of a free person back in the days of Hebrew slavery in Egypt. Plus it was fun for me and my brother because we didn’t have to sit up straight.

Picnic seder the year after my bat mitzvah was an event because, as I saw it, I was now considered an “adult” by the Jewish community, so I should get to have real wine for Passover. Note: during the Passover seder, one is supposed to consume four glasses of wine. My parents, having the foresight they did, decided it would be an excellent time to teach a lesson about drinking. And it was one I learned because, after that evening, I didn’t have another drink until I was practically in college. Again, thank you Manichewitz.

So this year, thanks to a quick after-workout trip to Tom Thumb on Monday, I had my usual Passover ingredients ready. To be honest, we don’t do a full seder at my house. Two reasons: 1. I know I wouldn’t create one as great as my mom’s; 2. Hubster would likely fall asleep on his non-gefilte-fish-covered plate. Instead, we opt for some delicious matzo ball soup, charoset and macaroons. I keep matzo, hard boiled eggs and some of the other foods around for consumption throughout the week-long holiday, but we keep it simple those first couple of nights.

Matzo ball soup

Mom’s matzo ball soup is all about the matzo ball. Very little in the way of veggies and the like. Mostly broth and ball. In my house, we do it a little differently, creating a hearty chicken soup with carrots, celery, leeks and big chunks of chicken, capped off with a good number of fluffy matzo balls.

Creating the perfect matzo ball is difficult. Sometimes they work for you. Other times they don’t. Two important notes when creating matzo balls: 1. once you’ve put them in the pot, KEEP THE LID ON. Don’t go peeking at your balls. The steam helps them poof up. 2. For extra poofiness, use a little club soda in your matzo ball mix. The bubbles help.

It’s okay to buy the matzo ball mix…but skip the soup mix. Make your own. Trust me.

Charoset with a side of macaroons

To accompany the soup, I always make charoset. Charoset has always been my favorite Passover food because it is so simple and so incredibly tasty. It is simply shredded apples, chopped walnuts (or pecans), cinnamon, sugar and wine. For full flavor, it is best to make it a day ahead, so the flavors have a chance to come together and all of that delicious wine can be absorbed. The sugar is optional, and I only add it if I’ve used a particularly dry wine in the recipe. If you’re going traditional and opt for Mogen David or Manichewitz to make your charoset, you won’t need sugar. The wine will bring enough sweetness.

You’re probably expecting a recipe here, but I honestly can’t give you mine because I eyeball all of it. In the case of this year’s charoset, I shredded three apples, used 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and then seasoned and wined to taste. The apple to nut ratio is totally up to you. Get crazy.

If you paid attention to the title of this post, you’re probably left a little bit confused as there has been no mention of bread. Matzo is often called the “bread of affliction” because it was made in haste as the Hebrews were fleeing Egypt. As the story goes, they didn’t have time to let their bread rise, so we eat these flat (and very dry, might I add) crackery things as our bread during the holiday. I like to think it isn’t a coincidence that, out of matzo (bread of affliction) we get matzo ball soup (Jewish penicillin).

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And now, for something different

Clearly I love food – the smell and flavor of a fantastic meal can define an experience. But what I generally think less about is how an experience can impact the food you’re eating. Until today, anyway.

This morning, my family got a call it has been waiting on for more than two years – the one notifying us that a kidney donor had been found for the hubster’s mom. As soon as I heard, I packed up my things and left the office, heading to meet everyone at the hospital. After showing up with a latte in tow (don’t worry – this post won’t be about my Starbucks addiction), we all sat together during the pre-op procedures, trading copious hugs just before surgery began.

From there, we – hubster, me, hubster’s dad and brother – headed to the hospital cafeteria to grab some lunch. After all, it was after 3pm and we had a long wait ahead of us.

Plastic trays in hand, we peruse the selection and end up with a mish-mash of food reminiscent of my days in my college dorm: pizza for bro, Chick-fil-A for pop-in-law, hamburger and fries for hubster and soup and some fruit for me. Oh – and it is worth mentioning that bro found an Oreo cookie parfait for dessert. Considering it was just crushed Oreos and pudding…it rocked.

Anyway, I haven’t asked hubster if his burger tasted any good. Or if the fries were crispy on the outside and deliciously fluffy on the inside. And it’s not because it was hospital food and I had low expectations. It’s because the food itself didn’t matter. My potato and leek soup – eaten anywhere else, on any other day – would have probably been disappointing. But today, on this day, as we cautiously celebrated an amazing woman’s new lease on life…I can’t imagine anything could have tasted sweeter than our shared mish-mash meal in the Baylor cafeteria.

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