Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

Brian and I had a date afternoon showing of Avenue Q and an early dinner at a little Italian place in our town.  We have ordered pizza to-go many times from this restaurant, but have never eaten there, so we were really looking forward to it.

Avenue Q was hilarious!  It's kind of like the dirty version of Sesame Street.  Songs like "What do you do with a Degree in English?", "It Sucks to be Me" and "The Internet is for Porn."  Very, very funny.

Dinner at the little Italian place was beyond amazing.  It really is a crying shame that we have lived in our town for almost nine years and this was our first dinner there. The menu was in Italian, with English descriptions. We ordered an appetizer to share, mussels in broth.  Brian ordered a plate with beef tenderloin, scallops and lobster ravioli.  No cream sauce for the ravs, either, instead it was a brown gravy.  So good!  I ordered risotto, which is something I've never made at home.  It's a lot of work, constantly stirring the rice and liquid, and more labor intensive than I can commit to at this stage in my life.  This risotto came with veal, garlic, mushrooms and asparagus spears.  It tasted like HEAVEN.  And there was so much, it was great for lunch today too!  No dessert, we were simply too stuffed.

I will certainly not wait another 8.5 years to go back there!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Puffed Apple Pancake

Hubby was very kind to my sick butt today...he let me sleep in!  When I got out of bed at a leisurely 9:30am, I found that not only was the coffee ready, but there was a Puffed Apple Pancake in the oven.

What exactly is that?  Well, let me tell tasted like a dutch baby and an apple pie got married.  Empire apples gave it a really tart taste, with sweet pancake-y goodness around it.  One slice per person, since it wasn't the healthiest thing on the planet.  (Sometimes you just have to splurge though)  This thing was AWESOME.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about our fabulous Saturday afternoon date, with dinner at a local restaurant that it's a crying shame we've lived here so long and never tried!

Monday, March 21, 2011

From the Freezer

I guess you could say that I really like chili. .. in reading my previous posts I seem to write about it a lot. What can I say.... it's easy to make, nutritious and very freezable. Today's lunch came straight from my freezer. Added a little cheese, crushed corn chips and sliced frozen leftovers ever!!
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fish Tacos

Despite him saying that he wouldn't like them, Brian suggested that we take "salmon" off the menu for tonight and try fish tacos.  I was elated, since I LOVE fish tacos!

Grocery shopping on a Friday night--it's pretty tiring but it gets it out of the way so you're not looking to carve out some time during the weekend to get this chore done.  I wanted to make fresh mango salsa to go with the fish tacos, but our grocery store only had green mangoes.  I'm not really an expert in the mango field, but something told me that these aren't the mangoes that I used before.  I whipped out my Droid in the produce aisle  (Seriously.....smartphones are awesome!) and googled it. mangoes aren't going to work.  So I brought home a fresh pineapple instead.  Mmmmm......fresh pineapple is so, so good.

I came home from a trip to the spa to find that Brian and Will had already put together the pineapple salsa:

Good call on gloves for the little one, Daddy!  Brian said that Will helped with the "dumping" the ingredients into the bowl.  Looks like he's having a blast.  :)

We settled on a tempura batter and frying the tilapia that I had bought.  (that Will helped pick out in the grocery store.  He's become quite the kitchen helper.)  Brian was surprised with the ingredient that makes tempura so thin.......seltzer!    The only drawback was that the seltzer choices in the house were flavored....raspberry and lime.  He decided to throw caution to the wind and use it anyway.  After all, it was going with a fruit salsa.  It was a snap to throw together.

Add some corn tortillas, Boston lettuce and the aforementioned pineapple salsa and you've got dinner!  Oh, and the corn tortillas were absolutely delectable, once they were warmed in a frying pan.  Now that I have that taken care of, I'd be happy to eat corn tortillas any time.

First bite and I'm hooked.  And you know what?  So is Brian!  He loved them!  He was so surprised that he liked the fish tacos but I wasn't....I know him and I knew he'd love them if given the chance.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Eats

Lots of cooking ambitions this weekend.  The biscotti came out fantastic, and there was Southwestern Refrigerator Pie for dinner tonight:

This is Alton Brown's recipe for Refrigerator Pie, which I've written about before.  (And, in my humble opinion, kind of a silly name for the dish.  But I digress.)  This one has chicken shortcuts with "southwestern flavor" that I had kickin' in the freezer, some diced onions and three kinds of peppers, a blend of Colby Jack and Cheddar cheeses and a bit of cilantro.  It came out awesome!  With no sides (usually we have salad) two slices apiece was enough for dinner, and there's some leftovers in the fridge.  Hmmm....that might be good for breakfast.  No different than an omelet, really.  :)

I also made a batch of chili for dinner one night this week.  Chili is one of those things that if given a day or so in the fridge it tastes even better.  (also on the list:  lasagna and shepherd's pie)  The little taste that I got while putting it away tells me that the chili is pretty spicy.  Good, just how I like it!

Also, mark March 12th on the calendar:  it's the day Grilling Season 2011 opened in our house!

Grilled steak tips (naked, with no marinade, just steak sauce) baked potatoes and broccoli, all cooked outside.  It doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Biscotti, Anyone?

I fondly remember my first taste of biscotti.  It was horrifying....I bit into it and had to check to see if I lost a tooth!  Nobody had told me to first dip it into coffee, for when I did that a biscotti lover was born.....

Biscotti are definitely one of my favorites.  However, I don't indulge all that often, for they're a bit of a trigger food for me.  One dip and I could eat the plate.  However, Brian felt like baking and when he suggested biscotti, I couldn't resist agreeing right away!

Cranberry Pecan Biscotti.....with some surprising ingredients.  For example, this recipe has corn bread mix in it.  And lemon zest.  However, they smell absolutely heavenly coming out of the oven.

Can't wait to have one (or two) with my first cup of coffee tomorrow.  :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fond Memories of "The Bean"

I was stuck at home this morning, at the mercy of the oil company to do our annual maintenance on the heating system.  I ended up having an early lunch.  We'd had roasted chicken on Sunday, so with the leftovers I decided to make some tarragon chicken salad.  It's quite easy..just some cut up chicken, add a little mayo, some salt, pepper and dried tarragon.  Sometimes I like to add chopped walnuts or pecans, but I didn't today.

Isn't it funny how food (the smell, especially) can whisk you back to somewhere else?  I worked at a coffee shop nicknamed "The Bean" in college, where I used to make this very sandwich for customers, topped with avocado slices.  That, and I learned the ins and outs of being a barista and really learned to appreciate coffee in its many forms.  .  My interview consisted of making sure I was a living, breathing person, and at the end I was given a key to the shop and told  to show up for the bagel delivery at 7am the next morning.  That was it.  I guess I have a really trustworthy face!

The owner, Delia (not her real name) was an absolute bear.  She was pretty short-tempered but she liked me, paying me 50 cents more per hour (plus tips) than anybody else.  And allowing my then-boyfriend Brian to call me from his naval deployment in the Mediterranean.  These were the days before cell phones were widely available and cheap as they are now...if he didn't get me at the house, he didn't get me on the phone at all.  Delia thought it was pretty romantic, so she told me to tell him to call the shop if he got five minutes.  (I'll always remember her for that.)

The coffee shop was a cute little place, on one of the main drags in Newport, RI.  It was fairly expensive, being Newport and all, but people came in all the time and we had lots of regulars.  Some of her specialties included fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies as big as your head, spinach and feta croissants, and she made a mean chicken and tortellini soup.  Her husband, Greg (also not his real name) was some sort of executive for some foreign car company and he spent most weeks in New Jersey, working.  On weekends he would come home and work in the shop as well.  They used to get into the most terrific spats, with yelling and drama and usually somebody throwing something in the kitchen.  She fired employees for trivial things, and often called them the next day to apologize and beg them to come back.    My friends usually came by for chai lattes and veggie wraps, and if it was slow I'd sit with them for a spell.  It sounds crazy, but I loved working there.  I loved the fast pace, the steady flow of people coming and going.  Working there fueled a desire to someday own my own coffee shop.

  After graduation, I would stop in from time to time, whenever I found myself in Newport.  (which wasn't that often.)  The last time I was there was in 2004, when my college roommate got married.  Delia wasn't there that day, but the place hadn't changed one iota.  Two years later, I was in Newport for a conference.  Pregnant with my first child, I stopped by to visit my old boss and her shop and to my chagrin, it wasn't there anymore. Delia had apparently sold the building, and the new owner had turned it into a tapas restaurant.  Now, I adore tapas, but the place will always be "The Bean" in my mind.

As for my old dream of owning a coffee shop?  It'll probably always remain a dream.  Having that kind of place is like being married to a business.  You put your all into it, and while I am an ambitious person, I don't know if I have the desire anymore.  But I still love the coffee.

Thinking of you today, Delia, as I relish my tarragon chicken salad sandwich.  Best Wishes!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Soup's On!

I enjoy making soup.  I don't do it often, though, because of the time committment.  Boiling a whole chicken until the meat falls off the bones, then adding vegetables and a starch (my preference:  rice or noodles) makes your whole house smell fantastic!  But the time it takes to boil away the meat, the chopping of the's substantial.  However, I do find the chopping, stirring and tasting to be somewhat meditative.

So when I saw a recipe in Cooking Light for Escarole, Bean and Sausage Soup with Parmesan Cheese, I thought, hey, I can do that!  One of my favorite soups growing up was my friend Heather's mom's Escarole and Meatball Soup, so I knew that I would like this.

Shopping for it was a real who's who in the produce aisle:  the recipe calls for fennel, garlic, onion, white beans and escarole.  Happily, my local market had it all and I was soon on my way home.  It comes together rather quickly too, and doesn't make so much that you have way more than you could ever possibly eat.  I think I went a little heavy on the fennel, but the end result is delicious.  Which brings me to another thought:  I need to do this more often.  Making homemade soup is good for the mind, and good for the soul.