Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Homemade Fresh Vegetable Soup...

Today we're experiencing our first real cold snap of the season and hubby requested homemade
veggie soup. It's supposed to be in the upper 20's tonight, so after a trip to the market I got it started. To me, there is nothing better than the smell of a savory homemade soup simmering on the stove all day. This is enough for about 6 to 8 people.

You can easily add or subtract any veggies you choose as well as the broth amount. It's all up to the person making it, right? Chop size of veggies to your own preference. I like to make them small enough to get a little of everything in a single bite, but that's just me. So, what do you say? Let's get this party started, shall we?

INGREDIENTS:

2    tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2    medium size yellow onions, chopped
2    large white potatoes, chopped
3    stalks of celery (use 4 if they're skinny), chopped
4    carrots, peeled and chopped to size preference (use more if baby carrots are used)
4    garlic cloves, minced
1    (4 cup) carton of beef (or chicken) broth, low sodium
1    large can of diced petite tomatoes
1    12 oz. can of tomato sauce
1    bunch of fresh green beans, chopped to bite size
1    container of fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/2 bunch of parsley, minced
2    bay leaves, whole
      salt & pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1.   Coat bottom of stock pot with the olive oil and saute onions and celery for a few minutes over medium heat or until they start to get transparent.

2.   Add minced garlic then stir for a minute. Add the potatoes and carrots, stirring for another couple of minutes.

3.   Next, add the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer for approximately 2 hours. Stir gently occasionally. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

4.   When the soup is nearly finished cooking add the chopped mushrooms, diced green beans, and minced parsley. Simmer for an additional 15 to 20 minutes

5.   Remove bay leaves and serve with piping hot corn bread and butter.

6.   Enjoy with a nice glass of red or white wine! Personally, I like a good Malbec red wine. I haven't met one I didn't like, yet.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bruschetta Topped With Creamy Quail Eggs... You Will Love It!

We don't have quail eggs available to us where we live in West Texas. We just like to shoot the adult quail and eat them. So when I was in San Antonio the last time visiting friends, I made my favorite trek to Groomer's Seafood. There, I found an abundance of fresh quail eggs. I might have even squealed with delight just a little.

In the days since I first started going to Groomer's, they weren't quite so sophisticated as they are these days, but they're still fun. And, they have fresh quail eggs that are simply divine. The creaminess of the quail eggs is like nothing else I've ever tasted. I might feel a teensy bit guilty for eating sweet little quail eggs, but maybe not.

Soooo... In trying to decide how I was going to spotlight these lovely little eggs at home, I decided they would be the perfect accompaniment served over delicious homemade Italian Bruschetta. I don't know where my flashes of brilliance come from, but I allow them as much room as they need. (wink!)

This was one of my very best. Please enjoy!

Italian Bruschetta Served With Sunny-Side-Up Quail Eggs On Top:

INGREDIENTS:

4 - 1 inch thick pieces of sourdough bread
1  - tablespoon of butter
1  - tablespoon of extra light olive oil

1  - small can of sliced black olives
1  - green bell pepper, chopped
1  - yellow bell pepper, chopped
1  - red onion, chopped
fresh basil leaves, lightly chopped, to taste
1  - tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
2  - tablespoons of extra light virgin olive oil
1  - fresh, large tomato, chopped
fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped in small pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
 
1  - dozen quail eggs (six for each of the two servings)
2  - tablespoons of butter

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Place olive oil & butter in saute pan and brown both sides of bread lightly. Set aside.

2.  Combine next 10 ingredients in a medium to large bowl. Set aside while the flavors have a chance to meld.

3.  Cook quail eggs (6 at a time) in a saute pan coated with butter, as you would sunny-side-up eggs. However, don't cook them too long or you'll miss the delicious, oozing egg.

4.  Quickly place the cooked eggs atop the beautiful bruschettas that you've already prepared.

5.  Try to not make pleasure noises while gobbling it...

6.  We like to just have this for dinner but it might work for an appetizer as well.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thin & Crispy Pizza w/ Store Bought Crust

In my opinion, pizza can be a very delicious AND healthy meal, when you make your own at home. I never have time to make a crust from scratch, so I'm always on the lookout for a good, quick crust to use.


The crust is actually made by HEB grocery store and comes in packages of two pizzas. It is so amazing.
 




Living in Texas, we have a wonderful chain of grocery stores called HEB (Henry Butts ring a bell?), which offers us many new and lovely things we'd otherwise never see. For that, we thank them profusely.


For about the last 6 months, they've been carrying this great, easy, ready-made pizza crust that is as thin as it gets. It's really quite good and allows us to make our pizzas to our personal preferences.


We used to be huge fans of Pizza Hut's thin & crispy, but the last 3 times we've ordered the pizza delivered, it has arrived not fully cooked AND it was stuck on the new parchment paper they are now including in their pizza boxes. We had to scrape the crust off the paper with a metal spatula.



We also like to use fresh tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella as well as chopped artichoke hearts and sliced black olives.



For really authentic flavor and even cooking we also like to use a preheated pizza stone, which allows the pizza to cook to perfection inside 15 minutes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dry Brine Roasted Turkey... Via Kathy Vegas


For the last few years all I see are people swooning over the wet-brining of this meat or that, or the fried turkeys, which each sounded like a big pain in the pa-tootie to me. Then, I met a new blog friend on Foodbuzz who used to be a professional chef. Not only has she changed the way I cook, but she has also rocked my world with this Dry Brine recipe for turkey. She goes by kathyvegas on Foodbuzz and she lives in THE Las Vegas (as opposed to Las Vegas, New Mexico...). Her blog is called Las Vegas Food Adventures and she is an amazing chef who just so happens to give excellent restaurant reviews as well. She's innovative, daring, imaginative, and explains her process to the T on each and every recipe. I am so totally in awe of her expertise and I want to be just like her! (Okay that sounded just a little stalker-ish. Sorry!)


I'll admit I was a bit scared to try something new on a major holiday. However, she posted a recipe for Dry Brine Roasted Turkey, stating that she really doesn't even like turkey but she will eat it this way any time. I just wondered how could I get a better recommendation than that? I was sold. So I decided to go with it for Thanksgiving 2009. We've tried other ways of cooking our turkey since then, but nothing else even compares. So, we're doing the dry-brine again this year.

I have to tell you that my dearest hubby was breathing down my neck and watching everything I was doing like a hawk. That makes me crazy, but this time I was ready to prove him wrong for once, so I just kept shooing him out of my way, keeping to my recipe from Kathy.

He even went so far as to go to the Butterball web site and print out a chart that showed how long to cook a turkey per pound, which I totally ignored, as I stuck to Kathy's recipe. I was only a tiny bit worried, but Kathy had even emailed me with a few extra tips, so I was locked in on the Dry Brine. The only thing I did different was stuff the cavity of the bird with chopped fresh garlic, celery and onion, which also lends a nice flavor to the meat.



I cannot begin to tell you how easy the recipe is. I've never had it so easy in my life. And, the biggest surprise of all? Kathy said the internal temperature deep within the thigh (and not touching the bone) should be 165 degrees. The Butterball web site said it should be 185 degrees internal meat temperature. That is the 20 degrees that makes the difference between dry white meat and succulent white meat. Huh? Who knew? I am telling you the absolute truth when I say it was truly the most succulent turkey I've ever had the pleasure of eating in my entire life. Best of all? I MADE IT! First time ever that I received (sincere) compliments on my turkey. I wasn't even sure how to react because I was in something like a haze of euphoria. It was quite a heady feeling.

And, this is the most excellent recipe I will ever give you.


Dry Brine Roasted Turkey By KathyVegas:

"I’m already on record as a pumpkin pie hater, I might as well publicly announce I feel the same way about turkey. I understand how people are inspired by the look of a gargantuan perfectly browned Norman Rockwell bird as the centerpiece of a holiday meal. I just don’t understand how so many folks actually like the taste and general lack of moistness of the darned things. I much prefer roasting a large capon (always juicy and tender), but cave into peer pressure every couple of years and give turkey another try.

I’ve had turkey prepared in every way imaginable-injected & deep fried, smoked, crock-pot cooked, spatchcocked & grilled…and with every imaginable spice combo on earth. To date, I’ve only found one way to make a turkey palatable and that would be brining. But not wet brining in an unwieldy vat of salt water, but dry brining.

Brining works this way…soaking in a salt water solution draws the moisture out of the bird initially but then is reabsorbed into the cells of the flesh, seasoning and moisturizing during the process. The salt works to make the turkey retain water as it roasts. The scientific name for this is diffusion and osmosis. I also feel that dry brining improves the texture of the meat (unlike wet brining). Dry brining is easier and far less messy than the current darling of cooking shows, wet brining. The recipe and dry brining technique are straightforward. This is the method I use and I highly recommend it (unless you are roasting a nice plump already juicy capon):




Dry Brine Roasted Turkey:

For a 12 pound “natural” whole thawed turkey (not Kosher which is already salted) you will need
½ cup kosher or sea salt

2 tablespoon granulated white sugar (optional but definitely not needed-seasonings such as garlic, herbs, spices, citrus peel, wine, etc.)

Thaw, wash and dry the turkey with paper towels well. Combine the salt and sugar and gently work about a teaspoon under the skin of each breast and thigh as far as possible without tearing the skin.  I carefully use the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle to gently separate the skin from the meat to reach way under the skin. Rub another teaspoon all over the outside of the bird and evenly sprinkle the remainder in the cavity.


Place on a rack, loosely covered with plastic wrap in a large pan (the pan you will be roasting the bird in will do) for 12-24 hours.

To roast, rinse the bird well inside and out under cool water to remove the excess salt and dry the skin and cavity very well with paper towels. The dryer the skin, the crisper the skin will become. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the tips of the wings under the bird. Rub the bird all over with softened butter. Place the bird in a 425 degree oven on a rack and roast for 30 minutes.

After the first 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees and baste every 30 minutes with additional butter or pan drippings for approximately 2-3 hours or until the internal temperature taken in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer;  juices from inside the cavity will have no trace of pink. Don’t rely on that pop-up thermometer that comes with your turkey.

Remove the turkey from the oven, place on a large platter, uncovered, to rest while you make gravy with the pan drippings. Resting allows the meat juices to redistribute and makes carving easier."

I sincerely hope that if you try this method, it fulfills all your dreams of the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Austin Dining Review.... "The Mighty Cone" Food Truck

Mr. Snooty and I just returned from visiting our offspring in Austin and it was quite the culinary trip indeed. So, first of all, I must tell you about our experience with the first food truck we've ever actually been to.


The Mighty Cone. Owned and operated by Hudson's On The Bend. I'm now a total fan and will make a special trip to Austin just to sample, once again, their goodies.


Located on South Congress (the totally trendy foodie area), The Mighty Cone delivers the most healthy fast food I've ever had the opportunity to devour. Can I just say YUM? I admit that I was making noises like, "Mmmmm", "Ohhhh", "Ahhhhhh", among other sounds of foodie bliss. We sampled their panko fried chicken, panko fried avocado, with an exquisite cole slaw wedged in between, as well as a drizzle of the most dazzling sauce ever. They also make their own (spicy) ketchup, which they serve with their Skinny Fries.


The whole experience was just a delicious adventure that I won't soon forget.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Uchiko In Austin Is To Swoon For.... A Review

We recently went to Austin to visit our daughter while she was in Austin doing a coveted law school internship. Since we always try to make plans for only upper end dining when out of town, she suggested that we make *rezzies* (her word) at the spin-off of Uchi, the smoking hot place to be, Uchiko. We jumped at the chance and dined there on Saturday night. What a magical night it was!


After visiting our daughter several times during her California Experience, we totally fell for the eateries with *open kitchens*. So, I was thrilled to see that Uchiko had an *open kitchen* concept. That's right. We don't get out much. I should also admit right here that I'm not a huge sushi fan unless I'm at Katsuya in West Hollywood in LaLa Land or now, Austin's Uchiko. Frankly, just the thought of eating excellent sushi in West Texas (The Permian Basin) just makes me howl with laughter or seriously want to hurl.


Although we had perused the menu on line before our dinner, we had a server who was so knowledgeable and well-spoken, that we followed her advice without question. Admittedly, our daughter has a friend (one of my faves - who also has a degree in English from NYU... I'm sure he's also writing the Great American Novel in his spare time) who is *in training* for wait service at this point, at Uchiko. Therefore, he wasn't able to be our server that night. Bummer. Luckily, he steered us to the right server and everything just unfolded from there.


I'm pretty sure I'd have to have my master's degree in something just to tell you what we ate. Yes, it was that indescribable. Speaking Japanese would help just in case you happen to have that in your resume. Naturally, I embarrassed the whole family by taking pictures of each and every dish (I think.). There were so many coming to us in succession that it was mind boggling. However, we never once felt as if we were being rushed. They never interrupted us or hovered too much, which are pet peeves of mine. The service, the food, the saki. It was all an experience rather than just being a meal. Something worth lingering over.


I truly give Uchiko my highest recommendation for any restaurant ever, but it does come at a price. I could have gotten a new Louis Vuitton bag instead, but I definitely preferred the enchanting dining experience with my family. The freshness of the food as well as the presentation were dazzling. Seriously.


Since this relatively new Austin restaurant is currently so hot, you must book rezzies way ahead of time. I can assure you that every single server can determine what would be best for those dining at your table after asking a few pertinent questions. It's why they hire only the best, top rated staff in Austin which is what makes it so unique.


All of the best restaurants in Austin hire nothing but the brightest but Uchiko has the cream of the crop. Do not pass up the opportunity to dine there, if given the chance. You can thank me later. Expect to pay at least $500.00 for a party of 3. It's worth every penny....

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How To Tell If Your Oven Is Working Improperly...

Some of us often have to be slapped upside the head before we see what is before our eyes. For the longest time I thought I was cooking everything at the wrong temperature because things kept burning on top. I mean, really. How stupid is that? Don't answer. I realize now how naive it was. I must have made at least 20 meals like this before I finally realized my wonderful, vintage Thermidor double ovens had finally bitten the dust. It was a death I mourned almost as if it had been a relative, as we'd had them for 23 years. I knew when I had to bid them adieu that I wouldn't be getting new Thermidor ovens. Too expensive these days and we have too many repairs and updates going on at the moment as it is. Besides, Mr. Snoots can't do anything to help with a renovation of any kind. Frankly, he's not ALLOWED to attempt to do anything with power  tools or remodeling, for his own safety as well as the safety of our home.


Our next annoyance was finding a double oven that would be the right size to fit in the former space, which so didn't happen. Times have changed and so have appliances. Ovens have gotten smaller and washers/dryers have gotten bigger. God forbid that we might have to remodel something around here. We were able to locate a double oven that fit the width dimensions, but not the length dimensions, which means we still  have  an entire shelf under the oven that has no cabinet cover. It actually looks ridiculous at this point.






However, I've strayed far from the point of this post, so I'll get back to it now.When I kept burning everything I made on the top side, I finally realized that I needed new ovens. Apparently, I'd been cooking with improperly working ovens,  I'd forgotten how to cook like a normal person. The only working coils were the ones on the top, thus the reason everything was getting so dark on top.


I was used to things turning out like this:







 


And this:













And this:




So, when you start burning everything in your ovens, you might want to have a pro check it out instead of second guessing your own cooking expertise. It might not be you. 


We ended up purchasing the GE double ovens because they were the only ones that we wouldn't have to totally rebuild the cabinets around them, not because they were the best. I would certainly have preferred stainless steel to go with our other appliances. I like these but the bottom oven is not self-cleaning, which I consider to be a pain in the neck, even though we try to be careful about what we cook in the bottom oven. But hey, I'm not burning everything anymore, so I guess I shouldn't care.....

Monday, November 21, 2011

FIVE SIXTY By Wolfgang Puck, Atop Dallas' Reunion Tower..... A Review


Wow! That's the only way to begin describing Wolfgang's Dallas, Texas venture, FIVE SIXTY. Forget the fact that you receive a 360 degree view of the Dallas Metroplex within an hour of dining. That's just a perk. The real star is the the food and then, the service.



Of course, one must prepare to call two months ahead of time to secure a reservation at a decent hour. What can I say? The place is sizzling hot at the moment and has been for the last year or so.



Sadly, we only called a month ahead of time and could only get a reservation for 6:30 PM. At that time, I'm still normally doing the day's *unwind* and not yet ready to dine. But, dine we did, and it actually turned out to be the perfect time. We were afforded a spectacular view as well as the sunset, then the city at night. It turned out to be a total event and we loved it.



We live in West Texas so we mostly have chain restaurants, with a few select eateries (locally owned), in which to find superb dining. In other words, it's slim pickings in these parts. So, when we travel to visit our daughter (who is in law school @ SMU), or to any large city, we focus our trips around our daughter and/or divine cuisine. We've had our share of hits-and-misses as well as some delightful surprises. FIVE SIXTY was one of those special surprises.



We began our meal with little miso cones filled with tuna tartare, which was incredibly good. Next, the kitchen sent out a plate of fried green beans (for free), which were to die for. For our third appetizer we had little pork belly filled dumplings that we had to fight over. They were that good.





Mr. Snooty ordered the lobster special (which looked divine), our daughter had the wok fried whole sea bass, and I had the beef filet mignon "au poivre". Let me just say that there were no leftovers after this dinner. We were so satisfied that we didn't even order dessert.





Five Sixty is a restaurant you go to for a *dining experience*, which is far more than just eating a meal. The wait staff were wonderful and all were very well trained. The views were magnificent and we can't wait to back the next time we trek up to Dallas to see our daughter.......

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Deliciously Messy Shredded Barbecued Pork Sliders With Trimmings....

I was totally buzzed by this idea while we were dining at a downtown Dallas dining establishment whose name I can't remember. Luckily, it's not exactly a patented or novel idea and I'm pretty sure I didn't just give birth to this recipe, as it's been made and re-made over decades of time. Research it if you don't believe me. 



Now, most people are accustomed to having PULLED PORK sandwiches, but we find the pork to be overcooked to the point that it's already got one foot in the grave. 



We like to use leftover pork tenderloin instead, since it's cooked to our liking. So, whenever I make a tenderloin for the two of us, we use the  leftover pork for these lovely little sliders, and usually get a day or two of lunch sliders as well.




You can serve these messy food orgasms with any assortment of breads, pita pockets, tortillas, or whatever floats your boat. Yes, they are that incredible. We prefer the wheat slider buns, coleslaw, mustard, red onions, and pickles. Perhaps you'll find another way you like them best. But, that's what these are all about. You can do whatever you want and so can everyone else. So, let's get to it, shall we?



Shredded Barbecue Pork Sliders With All The Trimmings:


Ingredients:


1 pork tenderloin, cooked to taste and shredded with a fork

1 cup (approximately) of your favorite Barbecue Sauce

1 package of wheat slider buns

1 package of coleslaw (without the dressing), or just chop your own cabbage

1 cup pickle slices, chopped

1 cup red onion, chopped

mustard, whatever type you prefer



Directions:



1. Heat the sauce over a medium flame, adding the pork several minutes before serving. This will give the pork ample time to warm up and yet, won't overcook it.

2. I usually just put each ingredient in its own bowl with a serving utensil and let everyone build their own.

3. You can even change up the ingredients with whatever you like. Be creative and enjoy!

4. I will usually serve these with either the healthy chips (that you see pictured), oven sweet potato fries, oven fries, black-eyed peas,  or Cowpoke Pinto Beans.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thinly Sliced Beef Tenderloin Atop A Bed Of Pasta Primavera.... Perfect Simplicity

Last week I realized that I hadn't made Pasta Primavera in quite some time, so I got with it. If you're trying to get in the recommended 5-7 servings of fruits and/or veggies, this is your vehicle to success. Make enough and you have at least one more night's dinner and several lunches as well. It's a total *win win* deal.


I had leftover beef tenderloin as well as leftover buffalo steaks, so I simply used them instead of having to cook fresh steaks. I also wanted them cold and sliced as thinly as possible. Hello.


Normally, I would make dressing from scratch but we've been having pipes replaced in the midst of our current kitchen plumbing problems. Oy me! So, I simply used a store-bought Balsamic Vinaigrette, which substituted quite well under the circumstances. Here's how I worked it:


Thinly Sliced Beef Tenderloin Atop A Bed Of Pasta Primavera:

Ingredients:


2 cups Rotini pasta, plain & cooked al dente
2 cups Rotini pasta, mixed & cooked al dente
fresh broccoli, steamed to personal preference

fresh asparagus, steamed to personal preference (however I used leftover sauteed asparagus), chopped
1/2 fresh green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1-1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, chopped (or the equivalent with medium tomatoes)

1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 medium red onion, sliced and chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 - 4 ounce container of Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese, crumbled

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to directions, al dente. Set aside to cool.

2. Chop all veggies or use a food processor to hurry it along. Add to cooled pasta

3. Mix or toss well.

4. Add Blue Cheese. Toss again.

5. Add dressing, toss again, and cover with plastic wrap. Place in fridge for at least 2 hours.

6. Slice beef tenderloin as thinly as possible.

7. Place pasta pleasingly on the plate then add the sliced beef as much like an accordion as possible.

8. Add additional dressing to the top of the beef.


9. ENJOY!