Cold Weather and Soup

twisted-fork-white1_clipped_rev_2

There comes a point in time when I am tired of the summer weather.  I know many of you won't agree with me but I long for sweaters and fires and cozy comfort.  That is probably one reason why I decided I needed to ignore the 75 degree weather in the beginning of October and make some soup.

I love soup.  It takes me back to those childhood days of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches my mom would make me.  It was soup out of a can but it still gave you the warmth and cozy home feeling after the chill of the autumn air.

I had seen this soup recipe in our local newspaper and of course I couldn't leave it alone...I had to put my own spin on it.  I am so glad I did because as we were sitting around the table in our shorts and flip-flops, my husband said to me that if we weren't already married, after eating this soup he would have married me!  How is that for a testimonial on how good this was?

hash, soup 020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is super easy to make so even on a busy day, you can have this for your family dinner.   A salad and some crusty bread will make it a complete meal.

hash, soup 018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold weather will be here soon and I will be making this again.  Heavy socks, a warm sweater and a bowl of this soup will take me back to my mom's kitchen.  I don't know about you, but it doesn't get any better than that.

 

Dinner for one

There are all forms of entertaining.  Of course there are the big parties, dinners and events.  There are also smaller and more intimate settings when you have another couple over or it’s a special dinner just for the two of you. You plan, you do the shopping, the preparation and then hope everyone oohs and ahhs.  It’s validation for the work and time you put into it and you go to sleep thinking everything was worth all the effort.  But have you ever thought of putting that same effort into a dinner for one?

What do people do when they eat alone?  I know when I was single and just starting out, dinner usually consisted of a bowl of cereal or a bag of popcorn.  I never thought of making an effort for myself.  I’m going to assume that a lot of single people have the same way of looking at things as I do.  We just do whatever is the easiest.

Tonight however, I changed my mind about things.  My husband was going to play cards with the guys and I was going to be alone for the evening.  In the past I would have eaten something I could just grab.   Not that there is anything wrong with a bowl of cereal or grabbing what ever is in the refrigerator at the moment, but I decided with the lifestyle changes we are making in our home I should make the effort and do the same for myself as I would anyone else that would be eating dinner in my home.  I was going to make myself a real dinner.

lobster pasta 002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was inspired by a recipe in Bon Appétit that sounded so good, but my husband wasn’t as excited about this meal as I was.  It calls for adding lobster to pasta.  What was I thinking?  Doing something with it other than boil it and dip it in butter?  It was the perfect opportunity to try this…and I’m so glad I did!   Not only was this very tasty, it was also relatively easy.  The lobster was still tender and sweet with a nice spicy complement from the pasta and sauce.

lobster pasta 019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You could of course do this meal for your guests and still get the oohs and ahhs.  They won’t know how easy it was or that most of it could be done in advance.  Or you could wait until that one night when you’re sitting all alone and don’t want a bag of popcorn for dinner.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your own company.  It’s worth the oohs and ahhs you’re going to give yourself.

 

Changes in Life

Life Changes.   None of us want them because I think we all hate change.  If it’s a good life change, we’ll take it begrudgingly, but if it’s something that’s scary or undesirable, we avoid it like the plague.  Perhaps that is why so many of us cling to what we know and what is comfortable.

I am one of those people.  I get comfortable and want to stay with what I know.  Even if it makes me unhappy.  I sit and think how different life could be if I would just try something new, but it’s scary so I stay where I am.  Sometimes, however, you get a kick in the butt that forces you to make that change and you go with your heels dug in…. and then you realize that it was something you should have done so much sooner.   Yes, that’s me.  Kicking and fighting and holding on to the door jam until my knuckles turn blue.  And that is where the story begins.

To start with, I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything.  It’s only been a couple of months but when you stop doing what you love, it can seem like forever.  I stopped for several reasons.  It was a time of drudgery and unhappiness and I couldn’t wrap my mind around anything that gave me pleasure.  I was trying to figure out life’s destiny due in part to the untimely death of my brother, due in part to the fact I didn’t want to get up and do what I had done for the last sixteen years….mortgages.  Life wasn’t fun anymore.

My bosses talked to me…they were worried.  My friends and family talked to me.  I talked to myself.  I decided after several conversations and long bouts of thinking that I was going to make a HUGE change and leave my “I knew where I was going everyday” job.  I was going to concentrate on my blog and so the next change was to redo everything to make it more exciting and fun to look at. I went to a food writing seminar and hung out with chefs and other foodie writers and thought I was super cool.  But then I added in food safety courses and menus and decided to take on the catering business.  At this point I am sure my husband thought I had lost my mind and for the first few days I was almost in agreement with him.  But as time wore on and I was doing what I loved and I didn’t have the stress of my job any longer…I realized this was a dream come true and yes, why hadn’t I done this years ago?

But just as you think everything is going right with the world,  along comes another change that slaps you upside the head and wakes you up.  Out of state and only one day into our mini vacation, my husband has a heart attack.  Luckily for both of us, with fortuitous timing and excellent care, everything turned out well with no damage to the heart.  But what a wake up call for both of us!

We had to take a look at our lifestyle, our way of eating and what we were eating.  It was time for another change.  We realized how lucky we were to receive this “second chance” and made the choice to eat smaller portions, heart healthy meals, exercise and even cut down on the wine that we love to enjoy.  Some of it has been easy, and some of it has been a kicking and screaming change.

picnic, granola, stuffed peppers 137

One of the fun things is discovering foods that are good for you and still amazingly good to eat.  The day of the heart attack we had eaten that morning at the bed and breakfast we were staying at and they had been so nice to share their granola recipe with me that I had enjoyed with my yogurt.  It was one of the first things I made for my husband to make a change to his breakfast.

picnic, granola, stuffed peppers 143

Sometimes changes are good and sometimes not so good.  But it’s all about how we deal with them and how we embrace that change.  I for one am loving life right now and hope that it keeps being as exciting as it’s been the last couple of months.  And I hope you stick with me…together we’ll embrace the storm.

 

Almond Coconut Granola

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 bag (6 ounces) frozen coconut
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 6 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruits I used dried cherries, blueberries, apricots and banana chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

  2. Stir together oats, almonds, coconut, flaxseed, and salt.

  3. Melt butter, oil and honey and cinnamon over low heat.

  4. Pour liquid mixture over oat mixture until well combined.

  5. Spread granola evenly in a large rimmed baking sheet.

  6. Bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring halfway through the baking process.

  7. Cool granola in pan on wire rack and stir in dried fruits.

Changes

As with most things, we need to change and grow in order to improve.  Exciting things are happening and my blog is part of it.  I will be delving into the foodie world of catering and we are working on changing this site.  Please be patient and hang in there with me while “construction” is going on.  I will be back soon with a brand new look!

I can’t wait to share it with everyone!  Thank you for hanging in there with me while we change!

A Memory

For most of us there is something that will trigger a memory.  it might be a song, a smell or even a place.  For me, it is a block of butter and a piece of toast.

We grew up on margarine.  At least my mom, my brothers and I did. It was cheaper than butter and growing up poor, my mom did what she could to control what was spent.  However, when it came to my dad, the expenditure of butter was not negotiated. My mom thought once she could fool him and put margarine on his toast.  That never, and I mean never,  happened again.

scan0008 (2)

I remember him slicing his block of butter, not from the side like most people cut it, but skimming his knife along the top as though it was a priceless commodity. .One day I asked if I could try it.  My mom and my brothers looked up like I was about to commit a crime, but my dad beamed with pride and agreed to let me try it.  I was watching a man share his pot of gold as he shaved the butter from the top with the same care as a man who was shaving his face for the very first time.  He laid the thin slices on my toast and we watched it melt into the crags.  Taking that first bite;  tasting the buttery richness that I had never experienced before, I smiled at my dad and realized we had just shared something that would always be special between only the two of us.  It was almost like he knew I understood the importance of what I had just experienced.

butter

I’m grown up now and my dad is no longer with us.  There is never a time, however, when I don’t come across a solid block of butter, hold it in my hand and I’m immediately back in our little kitchen. Who would have thought that one simple gesture would start me on a culinary trek of tasteful discoveries?  Unlike, my dad, I don’t use butter like it’s a treasure to be doled out sparingly.  I use butter with gusto and add a bit into everything I do.  Maybe it’s the richness it adds to my recipes, or maybe it’s just a small thank you to my dad for showing me that sometimes you just need to splurge for the sake of enjoyment.

So a toast to my dad, well,  with a piece of toast!  And of course I can’t forget that little slice of butter.

 

 

 

An Interview with Jamie Young of Thirty 7 North Restaurant

Despite it’s location in a rather affluent area of Virginia Beach, Thirty 7 North Restaurant and Bar is an unassuming and relaxed place to go for dinner or to meet friends for an after work drink.  Located at 2105 West Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach and known for it’s elegant farm to table American Cuisine, it’s a casual on the water restaurant headed up by executive chef, Jamie Young.

IMG_6698

Jamie is a fresh new face to us, but not to the culinary world.  A graduate of Johnson and Wales, he moved to this area in 2012 to be with his sister who was in the military.  He was immediately hired on as the sous chef with Thirty 7 North and the rest is history.

I had the pleasure of talking to Jamie not too long ago, to discuss his passionate commitment of what he does best, serving up delicious and beautiful plates of incredibly good tasting food.

What is your philosophy on food and how do you come up with your menus?

It’s all about going back to the basics.  Keep it local, create new ideas but remembering to keep it simple.

How do you come up with the menus?  What is it that you are trying to create for the public?

It’s a team effort.  We put ideas together on what is fresh and what can come from what we grow or the local farms.  We want to create a healthy and simple – again back to the basics- menu.  I want to stay away from additives and go back to braising, grilling and roasting.

What tip would you have for the home cook that would really get them the “wow” factor?

It’s all about the attention to detail.  Create texture in food, make sure the plates are wiped.  The little things matter.

Have you ever cooked for anyone famous?  If so, who was it and what did you prepare?

Everyone is famous here!  Actually, when I worked in Charlotte,  I prepared Bananas Foster Pancake for Rosario Dawson, who is a female actress.  She liked breakfast.  And Michael Jordan came in several times, but there was never anything special he asked for.

What is your favorite local food  to cook with?  What is one of your signature dishes you like to use it in?

Rockfish.  My favorite is with wilted kale, roasted pumpkins from Stoney’s and a spiced butter sauce.

What is your favorite kitchen gadget you love to use?

My Vitamix.  It’s great for creating sauces and purees.  You can get different textures with it.

Jamie is about as relaxed and friendly as anyone I know, but don’t get me wrong.  He is a whirlwind of activity having just completed the Iron Chef competition, where dishes like bacon jam on cornbread and Geechi boy grits with braised goat were served.  He is also working with Jim White on nutritional fitness and is hoping to bring healthy menus together for the community.

Listed below is one of his recommendations, “House Pasta with Charred Yuzu Salsa”,  for the home cook to try.  If you can’t or don’t want to try and make it yourself, make reservations with Thirty 7 North by calling 757-412-0203.  I bet if you asked Jamie, he would make it for you!

 

 

 

 

Scallops, Mushrooms, and Scallions

Last weekend I was getting ready to go out to breakfast with my husband and in the background was a show on PBS that I was semi listening to.  Did you ever have one of those moments when suddenly what you aren’t paying attention to suddenly becomes your entire focal point?  Lydia Bastianich was pointing a finger at me and telling me I should pay attention because it was the dinner I had waited for.  Ok,, she didn’t really call out my name but it was a dinner I could have waited for.  I could have literally licked the TV screen.  She had put together a dish of mushrooms and scallions and scallops with a beautifully caramelized crust to them and it had my name written all over it.

IMG_6821

Later that morning, we were out eating breakfast and I’m telling my husband about this dish.  He had the same reaction I did.   Conveniently, the bookstore was right next to where we were  (I know it was fate) and we ran over.  On the spot we bought her new cookbook, “Lydia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking”.  Not only did it have this recipe, but several others I will try soon.  It’s a great addition to your cookbook collection.

IMG_6826

One thing I do want to note on this recipe is that you want dry scallops.  You have to ask for them when you go to the market.  Typically you get the scallops that have sat in some chemical brine and they are slimy and won’t caramelize well.  It’s definitely worth the extra effort and your scallops taste so much better because they haven’t absorbed that chemical brine.

I also added brown rice to this recipe as a starch base.  You don’t need it, but it did add a little substance to the meal.  I just placed a large spoonful under the mushrooms before serving.

IMG_6839

I will definitely make this again.  The mushroom combination hit a home run with the garlic and butter flavors hanging on discretely to every mushroom.  The crunch of the scallion was a nice sharp bite in comparison to the sweet softness of the scallop.

The next time someone yells at you from the TV to pay attention, do it.  This really hit a 4 star YUM rating on my palate.  You need to try this!

Scallops, Mushrooms, and Scallions

Course Entree
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
  • 8 cups sliced mixed mushrooms, (buttons, shitake, cremini and chanterelles)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 bunches scallions, trimmed and lightly chopped (approximately 2 cups)
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter I used 4 Tablespoons
  • 1 1/4 pounds sea scallops, foot or side muscle removed
  • good quality balsamic vinegar for optional drizzling

Instructions

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, over medium high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

  2. Add garlic.

  3. Once garlic begins to sizzle, add the mushrooms and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

  4. Cook until mushrooms begin to wilt, about 6 to 7 minutes.

  5. Add the scallions, thyme sprigs and butter and cook until the mushrooms are tender, another 3 to 4 minutes.

  6. Transfer to a serving plate and keep warm, removing thyme sprigs.

  7. Wipe out the skillet, return to medium high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

  8. Season the scallops with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, turning once, until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.

  9. Serve on mushrooms, drizzled with balsamic vinegar if desired.

Lobster and Corn Arancini

Clearly I am not in control of my life any longer.  Between work, the trips, my food writing class, the boot camp exercise class (that I might add is about to kill me),  and the house and all it involves, I cannot find any time to do any thing.  It’s a sad state of affairs, when I have to schedule time to complete the one thing I love to do…this blog.

This past weekend was one of the first in many that I have been able to devote a couple of hours to myself, so I decided to finalize a couple of ideas I’ve been working on.  It was me and my kitchen, alone at last.  Me and my kitchen along with cheese, rice, lobster and corn.  It can’t get any more romantic than that….just don’t tell my husband I said so.

IMG_6768

I love Arancini. You know them; they’re those cute little cheesy rice balls.  I can’t seem to ever have enough of them and a while back I got this obscure idea to add lobster to the recipe.  And what goes better with lobster than corn?

IMG_6770

With the combination of flavors, all the ingredients made for a very tasty dinner.  What I loved was the sweetness of the lobster and corn combined with the creaminess of the cheese and rice but it all had the crunch from the outside crust.  Yes, my friends, an Arancini affair had begun.  I even invited my husband to come along for the taste train of love, of which I believe he thoroughly enjoyed, given that he ate four of them.

IMG_6798

Make a date with your kitchen and try these cheesy rice balls.  You’ll love them as much as I did, with or without the husband involved.  Just don’t tell him I said so.

Star rating is a huge YUM!

Public House Field Trip

There is always that one place you can go to grab a quick bite and maybe a drink…or vice versa.  That place that everyone knows your name.

The other day, for my “Expressions of Food” class, we met at a restaurant named Public House.  Public House, located off Colley Ave in Norfolk, VA,  is a dark but homey atmosphere where I felt everyone was going to shout out my name when I walked in.  It was as though I had walked in to an American spin-off of an English Pub, although I’ve never actually been to one.

We had a rather large group, but our waiter, Matt,  made us all feel as though we were sitting alone.  I was very impressed with the speed and personal service that was given.  Public House is well-known for their Bacon and Egg Cocktail, having been featured in the national Huffington Post, however, I just ordered my usual champagne and cranberry Poinsettia to start the meal off.  It was a beautiful mixture of the two components, the champagne being bubbly and crisp and the cranberry adding just enough tartness to make it refreshing.

IMG_6687

For my meal I ordered the club sandwich which was pretty standard as far as club sandwiches go.  They were quite accommodating when I asked not to have cheddar included in the layers of cheese and meat offerings, but fell a little short when I requested to have it all between 2 slices of bread and not three.  I’m honestly not quite sure if only two slices would have supported everything that was jam-packed into the sandwich, so I made due and took the extra layer out myself.  I do wish I had been more courageous in trying something else after seeing everyone else’s plates, but I have to say that my sandwich was up in the top five for club’s that I have eaten in the past.  Rather than fries, my plate had a side of sliced apples which was a very fresh respite from the heaviness of the bread, meat and cheese.  I did try my neighbor’s fries which I have to say were quite good and the amount served on the plate was far too many for one person.

IMG_6692

Considering the large group we had, it went well and all the food brought to the table was in a very timely manner.  No one had to wait on theirs and from what I could tell all the orders were as requested, without having to send anything back.  Kudos to our Waiter Matt, for getting everything correct!

I highly recommend Public House if you’re in the Norfolk area.  I’ve decided to go back after reading several of their reviews and order the Blue collar Mac and Cheese.  Just from the comments I’ve read, I’m already drooling, thinking of a tangy blue cheese sauce over the macaroni.  I cannot wait to revisit.

Maybe next time they’ll even call out my name when I walk in!

 

The Best Meatloaf

Meatloaf.  We all have our favorites.  The funny thing is our favorite is typically the one we make ourselves.  If someone makes a meatloaf, it’s always the best and you can’t tell them any different.  I have to include myself in that segment of the population.  My husband and I each have our own meatloaf recipe and of course we each think ours, individually,  is the best.

Until last night that is.  We have thrown away our respective recipes and we now have the best meatloaf recipe.  Ev-VER-rrrrr!  Well, in our own humble opinion, that is.

IMG_6700

Meatloaf is as subjective a topic as a macaroni and cheese recipe.  We all have that recipe that our mom made, one that has passed down through the generations, or even one that we have created ourselves based on what we like and don’t like to add in.  There is not one recipe that is exactly the same as someone else’s.  Meatloaf is a personal odyssey of originality and taste, a symphony of meats, cheeses and vegetables.  That is why we all love it and we all love the one we make ourselves.

This particular recipe, adapted from a show I saw on the Food Network, was in a category of the best eaten comfort foods. The meatloaf had been selected by Ina Garten  from Tavern 1770..  Since it was meatloaf it seemed almost mandatory that I make my own personal stamp on it, and so I did.

IMG_6708

Although my husband thoroughly coated his with a layer of ketchup, we both agreed that this was the best we had ever made or had.  I will, however, have to be understanding of the fact you may not agree with our opinion..  You may not even want to try this recipe because you might still hold on to the fact that yours is the best….and perhaps it is.  But I would challenge you to give this a try….just for something different.  It’s full of flavor, moist and hearty all at the same time. And,  I can assure you, that while you may not think it’s the “best” in your home,  you will still want to keep it as a really good back-up.

Be forewarned, the next time someone asks me if I have a good recipe for meatloaf, I am going to say yes.  Yes, I actually do have the best meatloaf recipe.

The Best Meatloaf

Course Entree
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground veal (preferably naturally raised)
  • 1 pound ground pork (preferably naturally raised)
  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably naturally raised)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh fresh thyme, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 3 large eggs (preferably organic)
  • 1 1/3 cups finely ground Panko
  • 2/3 cup whole milk I used goat's milk
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery finely diced
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 8-10 roasted garlic cloves
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Place the veal, pork, beef, chives, thyme, parsley, eggs, Panko, milk, roasted garlic, Pecorino Romano, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat and film it with extra virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the celery and onion to the pan and cook, stirring until softened. When the mixture is cooled, add it to the other ingredients in the mixing bowl.

  4. Using clean hands, mix the ingredients until well combined and everything is evenly distributed. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high.

  5. Place the meat on the sheet pan and pat it and punch it down to reduce any air pockets. Shape the meat into a loaf (about 14 1/2 inches long, 5 inches wide and 2 inches high.)

  6. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes or until a meat thermometer indicates an internal temperature of 155 to 160 degrees. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

  7. Meanwhile for the sauce, combine the broth, roasted garlic cloves and butter over medium-high heat and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly thickened. Add 1 teaspoon each of the chopped chives, parsley and thyme.

  8. Slice the meatloaf and place pieces in the sauce for 3 to 4 minutes. Place on serving plates and top with sauce.

Pin It on Pinterest