This Week Online - January 27, 2014

I hope everyone is enjoying the Winter weather across the country. I know I'm glad the kids are back at school today. Here are some fun things I found online this week:

Please enjoy, and check back often!

This Week Online - November 11, 2013

Hi folks! Time for the round-up of fun things I found on the Internet this week.

Enjoy!

This Week Online - November 6, 2013

I've found a few entertaining things online in the last few days.

Enjoy!

This Week Online - October 1, 2013

Hello all - Here's tidbits from the Internet that I've gathered over the last week. I hope you enjoy them.

I'll be back Thursday with a link to the new episode of Tabletop!

This Week Online - Sept 23, 2013

Hola folks - This week had wide ranging things of interest. I hope you enjoy!

  • Do you eat meat? Are you a vegetarian? Do you think about the impact of what you eat and how you eat on your health, your community, or the planet? This is a well-written and well thought out article on what it means to be a conscious carnivore.
  • Two key members of House Lannister from Game of Thrones appeared on Sesame Street recently. Enjoy Peter Dinklage (singing!) and Lena Headey!
  • Did you back Neal Stephenson's videogame kickstarter? It was all about creating a realistic motion capture sword fighting game. I'm a huge kickstarter participant and I remember looking at this. I thought to myself, I've been mad at Stephenson since he stopped writing good books, so I'm not going to back this project. Petty, really. Well, now I'm glad I didn't back it. Definitely a lesson in the pitfalls of kickstarter investing and in thinking about where you decide to put your money.
  • Have you upgraded to iOS7? Do you know about the privacy settings that you need to enable STAT?
  • Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are awesome. And their friendship is a thing to envy. Truly, these two are way up on my list of people I'd invite to a dinner party.

Enjoy these tidbits. I'll be back tomorrow with a review of Riddick!

Avgolemono

You may not know what this soup is if you don't eat Greek regularly. Think of the most splendid homemade chicken-and-rice soup you've ever had, add a lemon flavor throughout the broth, and make it creamy as well. That's avgolemono! It's really fantastic, and now that the season is changing to Fall and the weather is cooler, I am craving soups! avgolemono

 

1. Roast a whole chicken (3-4lbs). I like to rub mine with olive oil, stuff with an onion and a lemon (and maybe some rosemary), and pepper liberally before roasting.

2. Make stock with the roasted chicken. I like to add onion, parsley, celery, carrot, bay, leeks, peppercorns, garlic, ginger, thyme, and anything else that is starting to look old that is kicking around in my veggie drawer. Throw it all in a pot, cover with water and boil for an hour. Strain everything out of the broth and reserve all of the chicken meat.

3. Put the broth back on the stove and add 2/3c arborio rice (or 1/2c orzo). Cook 30 minutes. Add all of the chicken meat back into the broth.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 1/2c lemon juice. Pour 2 cups of (slightly cooled) broth very slowly into the bowl, whisking continuously. Once incorporated, add the mixture back into the soup pot and stir to blend throughout.

5. Add 1Tbsp salt and 1tsp pepper.

I've found this recipe makes about 12 cups of soup. It freezes really well, so if you decide to eat half and freeze half, you'll have easy soup to have again in the future.

Fun Stuff on the Internet

It's time for another list of fun things to watch/read on the Internet!

Latkes

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Who doesn't love a fine potato pancake? So tasty and crispy and oniony... mmm! Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

The traditional fried latke is, in my opinion, the best tasting but probably the worst for you. Isn't that always the way? Here's the recipe I use when I'm looking for fried goodness with no regard to calories, courtesy of Herbivoracious.

I have tried latkes a couple of other ways which are close to as good but better for you overall. Here's an excellent baked latke recipe, courtesy of Healthy Recipes Blogs.

And here is a latke/pancake hybrid which uses all good-for-you ingredients like coconut oil and coconut flour (courtesy of Yummy Inspirations).

So, get out there and eat some potatoes! I find latkes are good for any meal - breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Chicken Curry Pitas and Carrot Curry Soup

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I love Indian flavor combinations. This soup and sandwich combo makes a great lunch or dinner, and is pretty healthy as well.

The sandwich is an old standby of mine - I make it a lot during the fall and winter. The mayo/pear/cranberry/almond combination with the chicken makes it light and delicious. The recipe I use is from Eating Well. It takes about 20 minutes of prep time total, including toasting the almonds. A tip to make this extra quick - roast a chicken beforehand or buy a roasted chicken at the grocery store to use.

For the soup, I make a combination of a recipe from Eating Well and a recipe from Thrifty Veggie Mama. Taking the Eating Well recipe as the base, I substitute olive oil for canola oil, add 1 leek, and 1Tbsp ground ginger (or fresh, if you feel like grating it). I'm good either way with using either homemade vegetable stock or homemade chicken stock. I think both are delicious. And then I top the soup with roasted shelled pistachios, chopped.

The overall impression of this meal is warmth. Good for chilly days or days when you want a mild hint of heat in your food.

Oryoki (Three bowl dining)

IMG_0325 As has previously been said here, I love Japanese food. I am also very interested in the ritual of Buddhist mindful eating known as ōryōki. Buddhist foods are amazing - I've never had vegetables prepared so well as when using one of their recipes.

There is great ritual around the preparation of the place, the unpacking of the bowls, eating, cleaning up, and repacking. There is a fantastic video on YouTube which goes through this ritual.

My two favorite cookbooks for this type of dining are the Three Bowl Cookbook and 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery. The large bowl usually consists of a grain, such as rice or oatmeal. The middle bowl usually consists of a hot liquid. The third bowl usually consists of vegetables, yogurt or nuts.

In the picture above, the bowls are holding (from left to right) Basmati Rice with Raisins and Walnuts, Miso Soup, and grilled vegetables. Frequently the meal should also be accompanied with some kind of pickle. I love pickled ginger, but am experimenting with pickled daikon, carrot and other good vegetables for pickling purposes.

These meals are very simple in terms of structure, but the flavor combinations can be surprisingly complex.

Pork Souvlaki

IMG_0315 I love good Greek food. I was delighted to discover that it's really easy to make your own souvlaki at home -- and it tastes better than any I've had at a festival or restaurant.

This is the recipe I use:

Take 12 boneless pork chops (serves 4 with leftovers), remove all fat and cube the meat

Combine 1/4c olive oil, 1/4c red wine, 1Tbsp red wine vinegar, 2Tbsp lemon juice, 1Tbsp Tarragon, 1Tbsp oregano, 4-6 cloves of garlic, 1 bay leaf crumbled into tiny pieces, salt and pepper.

Place the pork in the marinade and let sit in the fridge overnight.

Place the meat on skewers and prepare a charcoal grill until the heat is ready.

Grill the skewers over direct heat to brown the meat, then move the skewers onto indirect heat and cover the grill. Allow to cook for 20 minutes, turning once.

When I serve souvlaki, I serve it on heavy Mediterranean bread (think gyro sandwiches) with a relish of tomatoes and onions in balsamic vinegar, local feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce (either homemade or store-bought depending on time). It is a favorite dish for kids and adults!

 

Let's Talk Baked Beans

IMG_0919 I'll admit, my experience cooking beans (of any type) is fairly low. I love baked beans and decided to try my hand at making my own. Here's the recipe I used:

  • 3 cups navy beans, soaked & simmered until tender
  • 1.5 cups ketchup (I used organic in order to avoid HFCS)
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth (homemade)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 heaping cup of brown sugar (I used palm sugar)

Put all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 10 hours.

Now, the results are pretty tasty. But I have a few things I'd like to fix the next time around. The first thing is that the beans aren't as sweet as I had expected them to be. Their flavor also doesn't "pop" in that way I associate with really bold beans -- I'm not sure if the flavor I'm missing is some variety of smoky or if it's just not very tomato-y. Also, the beans seem very mushy -- should I have pre-cooked them for less time before putting them in the crock pot?

If you have experience with baked beans, please post here. I would love to hear your thoughts.

I love Japanese food - Tsukune Dango and Okonomiyaki

I recently got a cookbook called "My Japanese Table" full of recipes and gorgeous pictures. Last night was the first time I decided to try something from the cookbook -- two things, in fact. meatballs

I started with Chicken Balls in Teriyaki Sauce (Tsukune Dango). I made them as turkey balls, and used bottled teriyaki sauce, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. They're full of egg and ginger and sesame oil and scallions and ginger. They were delicious, but would have been more delicious if I'd made my own teriyaki sauce. The total cooking time in the book was 40 minutes, and it took me an hour to make them. So I guess with practice it'll get faster.

okonomiyaki

Next, I made Stuffed Savory Pancake (Okonomiyaki) stuffed with sliced pork, pickled ginger and green onions. The pancakes came out light and eggy and were simply delicious. To go on them, I made Quick Tonkatsu Sauce which is made up of worchestershire sauce, tomato paste, sugar and grated apple. It was sweet and spicy and a nice compliment to the savory eggy-ness of the pancake. The cook time in the book was 30 minutes for 2 pancakes. I made 6 pancakes in about 40 minutes, so not bad time-wise!

I am impressed with the recipes in this cookbook and can't wait to try more of them!

Chicken, Veggies & Grills

Last night I made a really tasty, fresh, summer-flavored dinner. IMG_0203

Above are the veggies that I prepared to go on the grill.

IMG_0204

 

This is a picture of everything cooking.

And here's what I made:

Corn -- rub with olive oil and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Mmm spicy!

Veggies -- I used garlic, onion, potato, carrot, tomato, green bean, and zucchini. I tossed them in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary, thyme and parsley (about 2Tbsp) very finely chopped. The carrot came out a bit under-done... I'm going to re-try and see if I can get everything to play well together this weekend.

Chicken -- I marinated chicken breasts in buttermilk, shallots, cumin, salt and pepper for 12 hours. They turned out surprisingly juicy, tender, and the cumin permeated the chicken thoroughly.

This makes for a delicious, healthy Summer meal!

Cheesecake

cheesecake cheesecake-slice  

Ah, cheesecake! This cheesecake is the reason I am unable to eat cheesecake in restaurants. Once you’ve had it… that’s it.

Topped with a decadent sour cream topping, it is the only way to eat cheesecake. Lots of vanilla, Perfect creamy smoothness. And the graham cracker crust compliments without asserting itself.

Today was my hubby’s birthday, and he asked for the cheesecake. Which I usually don’t make unless it’s for his birthday… I probably haven’t made it in a couple of years. It’s not hard to make, but it is a bit labor intensive. It’s also my grandmother’s recipe!

Simply fantastic!

Battleships

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I had never been to The Black Sheep on West Marshall in Richmond (VA) before last night. Some friends suggested going to get a drink after a baby shower we all attended.

Now, we were all full to the brim after eating all afternoon at the shower, so the intention was just to go get a beer (or a cider in my case) and be social. But, as they say, the best laid plans of mice & men…

As it turns out, we had all seen the episode of Man vs. Food that was set in Richmond, and The Black Sheep was one of the locales visited because of their enormous sandwiches (called Battleships). But oh, what sandwiches they are…

Despite being full, after seeing the food on the tables around us, we all decided to order sandwiches to take home and have the next day.

Hubby & I ordered the USS Brooklyn - jerk barbecue chicken on a FANTASTIC baguette with roasted banana ketchup and peach chutney. Wow, oh wow. Spicy, sweet, crunchy… gods such a good sandwich!

The couple with us ordered a CSS Shenandoah - crabmeat, pollock, bay scallops & potato/veggie/cheese hash baked with mornay sauce & roasted red peppers on another one of those marvelous baguettes. The sandwich looked delicious. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t eat seafood.

So, consider this my high recommendation to check out The Black Sheep. It was a really great meal, and we plan to return!

Mulligatawny

mulligatawny  

Mmm homemade Mulligatawny soup!

Recipe from here: http://www.weareneverfull.com/mulligatawny-soup/.

The awesome thing about soups like this is that you’ll find a thousand different recipes online and each one will taste distinctly different.

I served ours with the recommended almonds (which I toasted), a dollop of plain yogurt, and some naan I’d picked up a while back at the local Indian grocery. The only thing I did differently from the recipe was using Garam Masala instead of the coriander/cumin/peppercorn/cinnamon stick recommended.

It was very spicy - which kind of snuck up on you. I also needed a bit of salt with mine, but my hubby enjoyed his without. I think it turned out just slightly thicker than I would have preferred - but the naan compensated for this by being a dipping soup-conveyance.

Overall, excellent. However it made enough to serve 8-10, not the 4-6 the recipe claimed! I’m going to try another variant in a couple of weeks that also includes potato and apple into the mix.

I love soup when it’s really cold outside!

More Cookin'

Whew. The chicken has been carved. The bones are in a pot (with another chicken I had laying about) slowly turning into stock. Classic mirepoix stock, but I decided to jazz it up by using the remaining fresh rosemary I’d picked earlier, a clove of garlic and some parsley. So we’ll see how that turns out.

I also had a 6lb beef tenderloin I’d bought with the intention of cooking it Christmas Day. That so totally didn’t happen. So I’ve got that going in the oven now. I bought the tenderloin at Nadolski’s Butcher Shop (http://www.nadolskisbutchershop.com/) and it was provided with duck fat to lard the beef and a delightful pesto that appeared to be heavy on garlic to smear on while cooking.

I had forgotten how nasty it is to lard meat. Ha!

But it smells incredible. I am looking forward to dinner. AND I got the added bonus of using my new fancy “alarm goes off when the meat is at the right temperature” cooking thermometer. So that’s fun all around!

I love having a garden

I ended up with a lot of uncooked food post-Christmas. Today is my day to catch up! The lovely thing about having a garden with still-growing herbs in it is that I can skip out back and whip up herbs for cooking in an instant. Hard to beat just-picked freshness too.

I needed to cook a whole chicken. So I grabbed enormous handfuls of rosemary, sage, marjoram and thyme out of the garden. I brought them inside, chopped some of all of the herbs with some garlic and mixed it into butter. Under the skin that went! Then I stuffed the cavity with all the rest of the herbs and a halved mandarin orange to hold it all in. Olive oil on the outside with salt & pepper and we’re ready to go.

I had prepped my charcoal grill with indirect heat & a drip pan in advance. So the chicken is merrily cooking away… I am SO looking forward to it!