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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

A Toast Addiction

I watched a cooking show the other day.  There is nothing extraordinary about that, and in the opinion of my husband I probably watch them more than I should.  It was a show I had never seen before, and honestly I can’t even tell you the name of it.  What I can tell you is that after that show I acted like a pregnant woman out of control, on a quest to satisfy an overwhelming craving.  It was a craving for toast…..oh, but not just any toast.

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It was toast browned in a skillet with a mixture of maple syrup and butter. It was toast that was caramelized until it had a sugary, crunchy coating and then topped with a slice of creamy, yet savory cheese.  It was more than toast and I wanted to try it.

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I am not usually a maple syrup on anything kind of person.  Not even as a child did I like French toast or pancakes smothered in that syrupy sticky sweetness.  I do like the taste of maple syrup, but more in the one little bite kind of candy you get when you go back to New Hampshire or Vermont for a visit.

For some reason, however, this had really caught my eye.  For the next week I thought of nothing else and so finally over the weekend I decided I was actually going to make it.

I wish I hadn’t.  I was like a drug addict on crack I loved it so much.  I made it three times and went through a whole loaf of bread and a round of brie.  I did have a little help eating it all, but quite honestly,  if I didn’t have to share, I probably wouldn’t have.  It was just that good.

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I curse you and thank you Amy Thielen of the Food Channel.  I am now an official Maple Bread lover,  or otherwise known as a toast addict . My disclaimer is,  I cannot be responsible for you once you try this.  I will, however, welcome you with open arms to my support group.

It really is that good.

Pecan Squares and Class

No matter what we do in life, we all need to continue learning our craft.  It only makes us better at what we love..  I started this blog a year ago, jumping in and not really knowing what I was doing.  And if we’re really being honest here, I still wonder if I know what I’m doing!

A friend and local food expert teaches a class in food writing, called “Expressions in Food”.  It’s instructional in writing blogs, journals, and food reviews so I thought it might give me some insight and help improve my blog I share with all of you.  (you’re still out there….right?)

Our first class suggested we bring snacks to share.  I had a weekend of Super Bowl, moving into a new office and this class so I decided to bake Pecan Squares, courtesy of Ina Garten.  The recipe makes so many I could cover everything with one dish! So I trudged in with my plate of bars, everyone brought their food of choice and our instructor, Patrick brought wine.  Now that is my type of class!

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For two and a half hours, we shared our interest in the class, drank wine and ate our snacks, all while learning how to describe what we were eating.  It was a cornucopia of smells, textures and flavors, from creamy onion dip that jumped off the salty crunch of the potato chip around the plate to the sweet caramel and sandy texture of the pecan squares.  What a tasty way to spend my Sunday afternoon!

I left the class, happily anticipating the next one and I hope it helps me to relay to you my love of food and recipes in such a way that you will love to read my blog even more than you do now.

Happy reading (and eating everyone)!

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Cream Cups with Raspberry Sauce

Several weeks ago, I had an opportunity to do a cooking demo for a smallish group of women.  The smallish group turned out to be about thirty, so I was a little out of my comfort zone.  However, they made me feel such a part of the group and were so fun, that I couldn’t be nervous!

I had put together a menu that was easy, could be prepared ahead of time and hopefully tasteful and something they would be happy to serve to their guests.  I decided upon Shrimp Toasts (recipe posting in the near future), Roasted Fennel and Sausage  (one of my earlier posts) and for dessert, Cream Cups with a Raspberry Limoncello sauce.

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I’ve always loved the Cream Cups. I first had them at a dinner party hosted by my former neighbor and friend Leanne Yocke.  I’m not sure where she got the recipe from but I adapted it a little and have an easy yet elegant dessert that literally could be thrown together at the last-minute.

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The recipe follows as I made it, but you can do so many things with this.  You could make it with just a fruit sauce or a reduced wine sauce, for just a couple of ideas.

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If you have unexpected guests, are planning a romantic dinner for two or stepping out of the box and wanting to do something a little different, give this a try.  I really think you’ll be glad you did!

 

A New Year Begins…

I cannot believe it is New Year’s Day 2014.  How fast this last month has flown!  To be honest I have to say that I am so glad this holiday is over and even more glad we are on to a bigger and better year.  So many things to think about, some good and some not so good.

Have you ever received one of those letters over the holidays that tell you how great the year has been and how many achievements the family has had?  I will tell you that I didn’t send out any letters like that this year.  My position as a mortgage lender was not nearly as successful as it has been in the past,  financially it has been more of a struggle and I have had to realize that my children have their own lives and don’t need me like they used to.  And of course there was the devastating loss of my beloved brother Will in October. The holidays were something I always looked forward to so I needed to do something that would help bring the happiness back into our home.

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My husband and I had decided the end of November that we were going to have one of those Ugly Sweater Parties.  I planned, I shopped, and I systematically made food for two weeks so I would be ready and enjoy the party.  I was however, unprepared for how fast all the food was going to disappear!  I take it as a compliment that they ate everything so quickly but for the first two hours of the party I was a lunatic replenishing platters so that there wouldn’t be hungry, drinking people wandering around.  Note to self:  cook more food up front and keep warm in the oven.

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The party, despite my poor food serving planning was great fun and a complete success. I know this will have to become an annual event.. At this point, I do want to mention my friend Marlene Charbonneau.  Here was a woman I befriended on Facebook because I liked that she baked and wrote.  I never met her but ordered some of her beautiful cookies for the party.  They were so amazing, so beautiful and so yummy that I have to give her a shout out.  She truly is my friend and I want everyone to know that her cookies are absolutely the best!

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This is where I have to learn I sometimes cannot do it all.  During the planning of the party, I got a call from a friend who needed help with her husband’s work party.  Unfortunately my husband and I were leaving that day to travel to New York to visit his daughter and then to pick up my mom and bring her back for Christmas.  But then we talked about getting all the food ready and bringing it over the night before we left….and I said yes.  So the day after our party, I shopped for the food and spent the next three days making food, writing instructions and packaging the food to take over and then left the following morning for five days out-of-town.  To those of you who may be crazy like me, I have to warn you to reconsider when you think you can do it all.  Especially when you also have a day job like I have! It was so chaotic that it was only now I realized that I haven’t posted since the beginning of December.  You can never be so busy that you put aside the things you love to do and that for me is sharing my highs and lows in the kitchen with you.  New Year’s resolution number one is to never stop doing what I love.

Anyway,  we managed to get through the month.  There was sadness over the holidays knowing that my brother and Dad wouldn’t be there to share but happy in the fact that my mom and my children were there with my husband and I.  It’s true what they say…you shouldn’t be worried about what is under the tree, but be happy with who is around the tree. Now it is the new year and a time for reflection and hope for the coming months.

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I’ve written this blog for a year now, the end of this month.  I cannot tell you the joy that it’s brought to me and I hope that somehow I have brought a bit of joy, knowledge, new recipes or something to you.  I want to thank you all for your support and following me and I hope you will continue to as I make my way through 2014.  Tell me what you would like to hear about, what you love and what you don’t.  I will continue share no matter what but without all of you I cannot grow and I want to let you know how important your support is to me.

I know it’s going to be a better year for all of us.  2014 will be a great year and I can’t wait to find out what the future is going to bring!

Pesto Crusted Roasted Pork Rack

Thanksgiving is over.  Finally!!  I was really looking forward to the holiday but after a week of leftovers it’s about time it’s done.  Turkey, turkey gravy, turkey soup, turkey sandwiches and turkey hash.  Don’t get me wrong….I have always loved turkey but after a week of trying to use it all up, I was certain that I would not be eating turkey again for a very long time!

That being said, it is time for something different.  So I decided to do something a little out of the box….at least that was what I had thought..  I have never been one that liked pork chops, but the husband has always liked them.  Since I am the one in the kitchen most of the time, I have usually won that battle.

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Out shopping one day, we came across a pork rack.  A little different that the standard thick ugly pork chop I had grown up with, so I decided to give it a chance.  The husband was feeling happy.

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Not knowing the best way to make it, I did Google my idea and came up with a recipe from the Craig Mostyn Group.  Although I had never heard of this site I gave it a shot and oh boy, was I glad I did.  The pork was moist and so very flavorful.  Not the pork chops that I had come to know from the past.  I served it with roasted potatoes and wilted greens and it tasted like a dinner I would have served at a party for guests…but incredibly easy.

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I always say, when you’re tired of turkey….eat pork chops.

 

A Lighter Stuffed Pepper

This is my favorite time of year.  THE HOLIDAYS!  It’s about good friends, good times and good food.  (Good parties aren’t really so bad either).  Christmas is actually my favorite, with Thanksgiving a close second as far as food and parties go, but I really do love the Thanksgiving leftovers.  (I know there are more out there like me, so admit it)  Seriously, I could cook everything up, skip the dinner and just save all the food for the next day.  That is how much I love it.

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The standard turkey sandwich is one of the best ways to go, but my mom’s turkey rice soup is pretty incredible too.  The only problem is I have so many leftovers left over, that it becomes boring with the choices I have to use them all up.  I think, however, I may have stumbled on a pretty good addition to the leftover madness that ensues.

This is a recipe that I have worked out with turkey sausage and the recipe follows.  An alternative of course would be to use the equivalent of chopped turkey. If you do use the chopped turkey, it may tend to be a bit on the drier side so definitely add a bit more olive oil to the mix when you’re cooking it with the onions.  You could also add a bit of leftover gravy to keep it moist.  The options are endless!  I also used Tatsoi, which is a hardy green, sort of like a spinach or kale relative.  If you can’t find it (I found mine at the farmer’s market) you can always substitute with spinach or kale.

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The fun thing about this is you can really use anything you want.  Stuffed peppers are typically made with rice and ground beef and lots of cheese, but I’m trying to go the heart healthy way more often, so this is why I decided on this formula.  Get creative and use those leftovers up!  After all, it’s going to be another whole year before we can do this again!

 

 

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