A Brit, a Yank and a Kitchen

Monday, October 30

Help! Our Wedding Menu!!

So, to those of you who dont know what I do for a living, I'm the in-house designer/web person for a military retirement community in Florida... which happens to have a very nice golf club, and this is where we've decided to have our wedding reception (Dec 1, 2007). I am lucky in this respect because it has made me friends with the club manager, and the chef. And they have basically told me that I can create whatever menu I want (as long as it is do-able in banquet proportions - approx 75 peeps).

Now, as excited as I am, I've never done anything like this! I've only been to a handful of banquets, and therefor never paid huge amounts of attention to what was being served.... so I need help!

I've come up with this to start with... I know I have to keep people with picky palettes in mind... but I dont want a standard chicken/steak menu either... I want duck.. or lamb... or something just a bit out of the ordinary....

Help! HELP!! =)

So.... lets call this Wedding Menu Draft 1!

Curried Pumkin Soup
Field Greens Salad with Raspberries, Walnuts and Stilton
Pan-Seared Duck Breast with a Raspberry Coulis
Prime Rib something...?
Yukimi Daifuku
(Mochi Cake Ice Cream)
Wedding Cake!!
and of course..
a big kick ass cheese display

Hehehehe... I'm sure to some of you that menu sounds very familliar! ;-)
The pumpkin soup is something that I've made several times.. dead easy... pumpkin puree, diced onion, butter, curry powder, salt, pepper... super easy to increase in qunatities. I'd really like to have duck or lamb at our wedding.... but anyone know how difficult it would be to actually do duck breasts for a banquet? And the prime rib... would that be conflicing with the duck as a dark meat? I dont think chicken would work... 2 poultry? And fish? So many people hate fish... why must there be picky eaters!? WHY WHY!? As for the mochi cake... I dunno.. a friend suggested it and I thought it would be something fun to throw in there in anticipation to the cake part. ;-) They are simply bite sized droplets of icecream wrapped in a rice cake, that can be eaten with the fingers.. see this pic here...

Anyways... I'd love to hear feedback!!!!! =)

Saturday, October 28

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

I've never been much of a baker.... all the measuring and precision... I am too much of a zen cooker to be any good at following exact directions. More often than not, I never cook the same dish, exactly the same way twice. I do not own a single baking book.... but I own dozens of cookbooks... and this collection is constantly growing.

So when Sara over at I Like to Cook invited me to take part in her newest Cookbook Spotlight.. I was definitely up for the challenge.

Once I received my copy of Baking, from my home to yours, by Dorie Greenspan I was like a little kid with a brand new toy. What to make!? What to make!!?? My pantry was in a sad state as far as baking ingredients. My flour in its jar was of questionable age... and I soon realized just about every recipe called for either vanilla or almond extract, brown sugar, buttermilk, or powdered sugar.. none of which I had in stock. I knew I would soon need to make a trip to the store to get some baking staples...

But in the mean time, I did have what was required to make her "basic biscuits";

Flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, butter and milk. What good cook doesnt have those things in stock!? I've never actually been successful at making biscuits, and its shameful as a southerner!! Perhaps the recipes I was using were too complicated, or didnt tell me NOT to overmix the dough (most likely). But Dorie lovingly explains how the dough should look... and how the chunks of butter will melt leaving those nice fluffy pockets inside. My biscuits turned out beautifully. Suddenly... for the first time.. I felt a spark of confidence as a baker!

I fervently searched out my next baked victim.

My mom always used to make lemon poppyseed cake, and I loved it so. Now, not being a baker meant I didnt have cake pans, or square pans, or loaf pans (I've since remedied this).. but I DID have a muffin pan!! An lo and behold! There I found a recipe for lemon poppyseed muffins!

I donned my baking cap (okay... pretend I donned a baking cap).. and set out gathering my ingredients... even pulling out (gasp!) measuring utensils! I measured everything out exactly as she said... and was oh so careful not to overmix. The batter seemed thicker to me than any muffin batter I'd seen before... but I continued on, refusing to stray from the recipe. I placed the muffins in the oven, full of anxiety that they would burn, or be raw inside, or turn into rocks... but I left them be, and resisted the urge to open the oven and poke at them. Once their recommended time was up... I took them out... and let them cool, again.. resisting the urge to poke at them.

They looked EXACTLY as they did in the picture. This was a big moment for me because as far as baking goes, this has NEVER happened to me. Okay.. good so far.. but how will they taste? Am I gonna break a tooth!?!?

Once cooled I iced them up, and finally... got to taste.

OMG. Soft, fluffy, slightly sweet and lemony with that little poppyseed crunch.

The baker in me has awoken.

Thank you Dorie..... and thank you Sara for inviting me. =)

Now I flip the pages... wondering what I will make next... Blueberry Crumb Cake maybe?

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins


2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest & juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter
2 T poppy seeds

For the Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 T lemon juice

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs niether greasing not paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lemon strong. Whisk in the flour baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup, or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with a whisk or rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough - a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. Cool the muffins completely on the rack before icing them

To make the icing: Put the powdered sugar in a small bowl and add about 1.5 T of the lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough additional juice , a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizzle from the tip of the spoon. You can then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely, the better to get an extra zap of lemon.

Friday, October 27

Introducing: BBQ Confessions

Is blogging contagious? I think it is!!

Dave has decided to create his very own food blog... and since he is the man.. and men like FIRE and MEAT.... his is all about his adventures on the grill! His first post is up and its all about the fantabulous grilled chicken he cooked us the other night... BBQ made with curry.... leave it to a Brit to curry up some BBQ! ;-)

Yes, I know its just what you all need.. ANOTHER food blog to keep up on... but if youre a junkie like I am.. you can never get enough of the food porn!!!

Thursday, October 26

Bangers & Mash... and Greg

Not long ago we had Greg over for dinner in exchange for some manual labor (aka moving a 600+lb pool table), and we had one of our faves, bangers & mash. We are so fortunate to have a meat market in town that actually sells some pretty authentic bangers... of all things.

The highlight of the evening though wasnt the bangers.. or the mash... but Greg deciding he would try a whole dried habanero. I wish I had taken pictures... but I think I was lost in the hilarity of the moment.

We were simply showing off our massive stash of habs.... frozen, pureed, in salsa, dried... when he says "Lemme try one of those dry ones".. and proceeds to pop the entire thing in his mouth. "MMmm... this isnt so bad..." he said as he crunched away, oblivious to the horror that was soon to come. "Hmmm... man that thing has a little bit of a kick in the end...."..... "I think I could use some water...." I handed him a glass watching as a strange habanero hue started taking over his I offered some milk... which he quickly chugged. It wasnt long before his face had inherited the color that his eyes had taken on... and tears were streaming down his face.

I am not really sure if he fully recovered before leaving.. or if he could taste the bangers & mash... in the end he professed, "Yea... I think thats one of the dumbest things I've ever done..."

On a side note.... I never could figure out why they found my serving of bangers so funny.....

Monday, October 23

Segura Viudas Cava: Brut Reserva Heredad

Okay! OKAY!!! I confess. We bought it because the bottle was pretty. GOSH!!!!

But seriously... who can resist it? It has to be the prettiest darn bottle I've ever seen a wine in, and with the major plus that it was only $20, modestly priced compared to the $59 I've found elsewhere!

Apparenly this region of Spain has been producing wine since pre-Roman times. I am easily impressed by history... I am the one who spent near $40 on a bottle of olive oil while in Italy because I was told that those very olive orchards produced the olives and oils during the height of the Roman Empire. Stop laughing. Should I mention that the bottle of olive oil was my most expensice purchase while there? Leave it to me to spend all my money on food stuff. But I digress....

A wine with history!! And in a nifty bottle... AND at a good price.

We'd both been craving some of the bubbly savoring the memory of our first night in the house... and we'd been really good with the spending.. and decided to treat ourselves a little. And I think Dave agreed that even though it wasnt French (and thankfully didnt try to call itself Champagne like all the Californians do (can you even handle this gank-fest!!?!)

Once again, since I am no wine critic... only a wannabe... I dug up this little review by someone obviously much more versed in the subject!

"As good as any top French vintage Champagne.

Rich in texture, creamy and supple, with toast, pears and vanilla on the nose and a refreshingly lingering finish."

Yea.... what he said.

Friday, October 20

Angel Hair Pasta with a Creamy Mushroom Romano Sauce

Amazing how fancy one can make food sound when in reality I was in a panic because I had no idea what to cook.... only 2 chicken breasts and 1 trout that I need to stretch out through all of next week. I didnt really want to tap into my maranara supply since I've had enough of that flavor this week from the leftover lasagna. So I rummaged through the fridge and pulled out some bits and pieces of things left over unused from the picatta (mushrooms)and from the lasagna (romano) and came up with this. It was actually pretty freaking good! =)

about a dozen sliced cremini mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 T olive oil
.5 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
.5 cup whole milk
1.5 cup shredded Romano
1 T parsley
2 t cayenne
salt & pepper to taste
a couple handfuls of toasted pinenuts


Sautee your garlic for a few moments in the olive oil, then add the mushrooms. Sautee until they are nice and soft.

Add wine and boil off the alcohol for one minute. Add chicken broth, and continue boiling until reduced by half. Add Milk and return to a simmer, add romano and stir until melted. Add parsley, cayenne, salt & pepper. Toss with cooked angel hair pasta. Serve with a sprinkling of pine nuts on top.. cause in my world, everything tastes better with pine nuts. ;-)

Thursday, October 19

Dave's Beer Ribs

So Sunday I let Dave cook. ;-) And I took crappy pictures.
He decided to make his ribs that he has been telling me all about as long as we've been together... but had yet to make for me! =P

First, he asked me to make a rub for them... I'd never made a rub before so I jumped online a combined a few different ones I found depending on what we had in stock. We were short chili powder so it did prove to be a challenge... but in the end I wound up using: dry mustard (I used dry English mustard), paprika, cayenne, parsley, black pepper, mrs. dash, and salt. We let them sit with the rub in the fridge for about 3 hours...

From here Dave completey took over. First he boiled them in 3 bottles of dark beer (his own brew!)and some water for an hour....

Here they are fresh out of the pot, rub still intact...

Then to the grill they went to cook for another hour... occassionally basting with some BBQ sauce. Unfortunately it was getting late at this point, and here we can see Dave basting in the almost-dark:

They turned out delish, with a bit of a bite from the rub. To accompany them I made some salt baked potatoes... whisk one egg white, covering the potatoes with the whites, then roll the potatoes in kosher salt. Bake for an hour in the oven at 425. These will give you the crispiest crunchiest potatoes ever... though I would suggest scraping a bit of the salt off first before serving.

All in all it was very nice to not cook for a change (hehe)... and I am pretty positive we smelled up our little neighborhood like some yummy smokin ribs!

Wednesday, October 18

Japanese Pubs on the Horizon?

Just read this article from Beverage Trends magazine... apparently the peeps who brought us PF Changs are testing a new restaurant based on Japanese pubs. Mind you, nothing can touch the real thing when it comes to Chinese food.. but as far as American chain restaurants are concerned, I don't think Changs is half bad... plus I kinda like the idea of an American spin on a Japanese pub... especially since the only Japanese we get around here are strictly sushi joints... often questionable... unless one goes all the way to Rangetsu in Orlando....

Anyhoo... here is the article:

Beverage Trends Newsletter
P.F. Chang’s unveils Japanese-pub concept

By Lisa Jennings

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. has opened the test store here of its new concept, Taneko Japanese Tavern, a restaurant-bar patterned after izakayas, the neighborhood pubs of Japan.

The 144-seat potential prototype features an exhibition-style kitchen with a wood-fired oven and charcoal robata grill as the centerpieces. Specialties include wood-roasted yellowfin tuna, wood-roasted oysters and shishito peppers, American kobe beef, and Kurobuta pork chops, as well as traditional noodle, tempura and sashimi dishes. Drinks include Japanese micro-brew and imported beers, as well as sake, wine and cocktails made with shochu, an alcoholic beverage distilled from rice and sometimes characterized as Japanese vodka.

The Arizona Republic, one of the state’s major newspapers, described Taneko as P.F. Chang’s “most ambitious concept.” Management has indicated that the average check per person will be $30. The typical tab at the company’s namesake brand is under $20, and a customer usually spends under $10 at Chang’s fast-casual brand, Pei Wei Asian Diner.

Taneko’s menu was developed by executive chef Tim Coonan with the help of Japanese cookbook author Hiroko Shimbo and chef Hiroji Obayashi, proprietor of Los Angeles’ Hirozen Gourmet Restaurant.

Taneko was the brainchild of P.F. Chang’s veterans Rich Sullivan and Paul Muller, both of whom were involved in the creation of the company’s namesake concept. Mark Evensvold, an operating partner within the P.F. Chang’s system, is the local operating partner for the new venture.

The test comes as The Cheesecake Factory Inc., the Calabasas Hills, Calif.-based casual-dining chain, is readying its own Asian spin-off. The casual-dining powerhouse has released few details about the upstart concept, but executives have indicated that its fare will be more pan-Asian than Chinese.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer restaurant critic Rebekah Denn has cited izakayas, Japan’s version of the gastro-pub, as one of the U.S. restaurant industry’s next big things. She noted that the restaurant-bars are popular in Japan as a place to stop off on the way home from work for a quick meal and a few drinks. Seattle already sports several, she reported in an August article on emerging trends.

P.F. Chang’s has insisted that Taneko is merely a test site, not necessarily the genesis of a new chain. The company has focused with limited success in recent months on reversing same-store sales declines within its P.F. Chang’s and Pei Wei brands. The operator reported a 13.8-percent increase in total corporate revenues, to $231 million, for its third quarter, but said that comparable sales at its namesake chain dipped 0.5 percent from a year earlier despite a 2.5-percent menu price increase. Same-store sales at the company’s Pei Wei Asian Diner chain also fell, down 1.5 percent from the prior year for the quarter ended Oct. 1, despite a 2.7-percent price hike. But Pei Wei’s comps rose 1.2 percent during September, the company indicated.

P.F. Chang’s, based here, operates 142 China Bistros and 97 Pei Wei’s.

Tuesday, October 17

Mini Focaccia

world bread day '06

So I know this post is a day late... but I did bake this bread yesterday, officially on World Bread Day. ;-)

I decided to make my handy ol' stand-by, mini-Focaccia. I would usually make this with olives, but alas... I had none. So I improvised and used misc dried herbs, and some caramelized onions & garlic.


3 cups flour
1 cup tepid water
3 T olive oil
1 packet instant dry yeast
2 t salt


In a large bowl combine flour, salt, any herbs you would like and yeast. Make a well in the center and add water and olive oil. With your hands combine until you have a nice springy dough. Toss onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl and cover to rise for 1 hour. Knock back down and form into 4 small dough balls. Place whatever toppings on top you prefer, onions, olives, tomatoes, sea salt (always sea salt!), cheese, your imagination is the limit! Drizzle with olive oil. Cover and let rise again for 30 mins. Bake in a 375 degree oven until they start turning golden. Enjoy with some herbed olive oil!

We enjoyed this bread last night with some of my chicken piccata. =)

Monday, October 16


So Dave told me that he likes lasagna. That was all I needed to hear to make my decission on what my kitchen adventure would be this weekend.

I've had this old cookbook called Italian Immigrant Cooking forever... my mom bought this for me for Christmas years ago, the few things I have cooked from it were wonderfully simple and delish... so I decided to go with its recipe for lasagna... starting with the "Brooklyn Meat Gravy" (aka marinara). This recipe I would soon find out... would supply me with a life time supply of this meaty marinara.

First I would need FIVE pounds of tomatoes. I've never used anything that called for so many tomatoes, and I really lucked out as Publix was having a sale on some really beautiful "on the vine" tomatoes, they smelled wonderful and tomato-ey, which I thought was really unusual for supermarket tomatoes.

Publix was also having a massive sale on Ronzoni pasta... so we stocked up on that as well, expect to see a LOT of pasta dishes from us in the upcoming weeks!!! =)

I had way too much fun making this.


For the "Meat Gravy"
2 T olive oil
5 lbs tomatoes
1.5 cups diced onion
.5 cup minced garlic
2 T oregano
2 T parsley
.5 cup sugar
.5 t fennel
1 lb Spicey Italian sausage, skins removed, browned and broken apart
20 small meat balls, minced up
salt & pepper to taste

For the Lasagna
1 lb ricotta
1 cup grated Romano
1 cup grated Mozzarella
2 T parsley
2 eggs
9 sheets lasagna noodles, cooked al dente, tossed with olive oil

Cut crosses in the bottoms of your tomatoes, and drop them in boiling water for about a minute to loosen their skins, shock in iced water, and peel. Mash them up in a large bowl... removing any stems or hard bits.

Sautee the garlic and onions in the olive oil until they are soft and transluscent. Add tomatoes and their juices and the sugar. Cover and bring to a simmer. Add herbs and meats, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-5 hours, or until the sauce has reduced to a thickness you like.

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine Ricotta and 2 eggs and stir until well blended. Add Romano and Parsley and combine. Take a baking dish and spoon a layer of meat sauce onto the bottom.
Add a layer of lasagna noodles. Spoon the cheese mixture over the noodles and smooth. Add another layer of meat sauce and noddles and continue this way until the cheese mixture is gone. Top with a layer of noodles and grated mozzarella.

Bake until the cheese is melted and begins to turn golden in spots.

Serve with a bit of meat sauce spooned onto the plate, with a square of the lasagna centered on top.

Pure bliss.

Uber leftovers.

Sunday, October 15

The Trinity

Is there a more perfect combination?
Balsamic vinegar, roasemary, and garlic. I can't think of three things that compliment eachother better.

Now and then when I am short on ingredients I'll throw this together, because thankfully, my mom has a massive rosemary plant that has taken over the better part of her herb garden. She is always more than willing to part with some, and always gives me more than I asked for.... for instance this bit here:

I asked for a couple of sprigs, she gave me what appears to be an entire plant. Not that I'm complaining!

We managed to find a bottle of table wine even cheaper than our regular cheap wine.. and I wasted no time making use of it...we have no shame! Altho.. I agree with Dave that this one wasn't near as tastey as our regular table wine... this one had aromas reminscent of.... rubbing alcohol. Hrrmmmm.

We didnt have an red bell peppers, so I used orange this time... I definitely think red tastes better... We also didnt have this with salad.. instead using some more of the masses of pasta supplied by mom. Thats the thing I really like about this recipe, its so versatile and so easy, and always makes for good leftovers.

Thursday, October 12


O-M-G. I have just found my new favorite chocolate.
Sexy name for a sexy chocolate.

I am sitting here, savoring the little square I broke off of my first ever bar of Valrhona.. and I am finding it hard to concentrate on anything else but how envious the rest of my body is at the extasy my tastebuds are experiencing right now. Rich, bittersweet velvet slowly melting and wrapping itself around my tongue... deceiving me at first with a pinch of cool sweetness, then the rush of the heat of lush strong pure decadent chocolate... am I blushing??

I've heard of this chocolate before, but have never tried it until now, thinking, "Could it really be that much better than Lindt?"... considering that its about twice as much per bar... I couldnt justify it.

Okay I've changed my mind. This stuff makes Lindt taste like Hersheys. They actually make vintages of their chocolates... based on region and year grown, like wine. These people are serious about their chocolate and it shows.

I'm gonna return to my orgasmic moment now. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 11

Tuna Casserole

Sometimes... there's nothing that can hit the spot like a good ol' casserole.... or sometimes... there's nothing you can do but scrounge together a can of tuna and a bag of noodles your mom gave you for dinner!

But you wont find a single can of campbells in this tuna casserole.. nuh uh! If I'm gonna make a casserole... I'm gonna do it right! And its gonna have wine in it damnit!!

This recipe is based on one I found and modified from epicurious. I love that place. Its like allrecipes for food snobs. hehe.


1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup frozen peas
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 (6-oz) cans tuna, drained
6 oz dried curly egg noodles (preferably Pennsylvania Dutch style; about 3 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
Grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon olive oil


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Cook onion in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add wine and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat. Remove onions to a warm bowl

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in the skillet over moderately low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and stir gently. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Cook noodles in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain noodles in a colander and transfer to baking dish. Add sauce and peas and stir gently to combine, spreading evenly.

Toss together bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve with some buttered bread. Make grandma proud.

Tuesday, October 10

Calves Liver with a Port Reduction

Okay it wasnt completely a reduction.. I got impatient and threw in some cornstarch at the last minute... yes... cheater I am. ;-)

This dinner was inspired by all of the wonderful offal I've been drooling over on a daily basis that Ros over at Living to Eat has been cooking up. I wish I had access to half of the innards she does over there in London. But here in the states... where you're lucky to even find calves liver... chicken and beef (usually frozen!) are about as good as it gets. If I lived in Orlando, I know of a couple of Asian markets where I could get my grubby paws on kidney... but I digress.

Thankfully we have a nice meat market in town that usually carries fresh calves liver. Joy! I love Petty's.

I based this recipe loosely on what I'd read from Ros...

4-6 calves liver slices
flour for dredging
1 onion, sliced
lots of butter (2 tbsp to start)
olive oil (just enough to keep the butter from burning)
1/4 cup Port wine
1 cup beef broth (I cheated and used one of Dave's OXO cubes.. those things are like beef boulion on steroids, I highly recommend trying this stuff to my fellow Yank readers)

Dredge your livers in flour.
Fry your livers on both sides until nice and golden... I dont know what was up with mine, but they were sucking up the butter like mad... I think I used almost a whole stick in the end! O_O So if that happens, keep adding a little butter to keep things from drying out. Once your livers are cooked, remove them and keep them someplace warm (I usually shove everything in the oven). Add a bit more butter to the pan and sautee your onions til they are nice and soft. Add Port to deglaze and let simmer for about a minute to burn off the alcohol. Add beef broth, and reduce.... or cheat like me halfway through and mix some cornstarch and water and dump the lot in. ;-)

Serve with the sauce poured over your livers.

Dave also made an attempt at making mushy peas, they didnt turn out exactly as we had hoped.. Dave says he is inclined to think that a different sort of pea is used in mushy peas... anyone know?

Sunday, October 8

Blueberry Nests

This is the kind of happy accident that happens when EVERYTHING goes wrong.

I started off last night with every intention of making a blueberry struedel.

For one thing, I didnt have enough blueberries... no big deal, I'll reduce the recipe by half and sub some of the blueberries for strawberry preserves. I also didnt have any almond extract.. also no biggie... I'll change the flavor a little by using cinnamon instead.

Then things got really interesting... I pulled out my phyllo, AFTER I had already made the filling, only to discover that the phyllo was stale. Sh*t. I'd remembered reading somewhere once in a recipe where phyllo was set out to dry, then tossed in butter to make "nests". Okay... dry... stale... whatever. Only that recipe called for a pie pan. Yea, I'm not a baker... so no pie pans here. Hmmm... I do have a muffin pan though! WOOT!

They really ended up beautiful.. as always my photos do 0 justice. I think they would have been just gorgeous with a bit of a vanilla cream sauce drizzled over... maybe a mint leaf for garnish.... so simple and pretty. Of course... we're poor at the moment and we dont have things like vanilla or cream or fresh mint.. the only reason I made stuedel ... err.. was going to make stuedel was because we were both having an insane sweet tooth so, I scrounged together what I had on hand for a fix. ;-) But work with me here people!

So.. ultimately.. here was my accidental recipe. =)

1.5 cups frozen blueberries
.5 cup strawberry preserves
1/3 cup sugar
.5 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 pack of stale / dry phyllo

Preheat your oven to 400.
Grease a muffine pan.

Mix together in a saucepan the blueberries, preserves, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon until hot and gooey, about 5 mins.

Shred the phyllo and toss into melted butter (I did this in batches).
Create little "nests" from the shredded phyllo on the bottom of each muffin well, making sure that the phyllo covers the sides... to make a little bowl for the filling. Fill each nest with the filling. Top each one with a bit more of the buttered phyllo.

Bake until the nests are golden on top.

I love these kinds of accidents. Now I have a purpose for old unused phyllo. =D

Friday, October 6

Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Raspberry Coulis

Since I had a few people ask me about this recipe the other day on my meme post, I decided I'd go ahead and share the recipe with everyone. =) This isnt something we've had any time recently.. but coincidentally, the meal pictured here we had exactly one year ago today.

This is, by far, one of my favorite dishes.


* 4 duck breasts
* 2 teaspoons sea salt
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* 1/2 cup red wine
* 1/4 cup Chambord liqueur
* 1 teaspoon cornstarch
* 6-12 fresh raspberries, pureed with a tsp of lemon juice


1. Preheat oven on broiler setting. Use a fork to score the duck breasts through the skin and fat but not all the way through to the meat.
2. Heat a small amount of butter in a large heavy skillet on medium high. Fry the duck breasts skin side down, until the skin browns and fat runs out, about 10 minutes. Remove the breasts from the pan, turn and fry skin side up for another 10 minutes. Remove breasts from pan, and allow to rest on a baking sheet. Mix the sea salt, cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle over the skin of the duck breasts. Pour most of the fat out of the frying pan (reserve for frying new potatoes).
3. Mix together the red wine, Chambord, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Pour into the pan, and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Add raspberries, and simmer for another minute until heated through.
4. Broil the duck breasts skin side up, until the sugar begins to caramelize, about 1 minute. Slice the duck breasts thinly, pour a little sauce over the top, and serve warm.

Tuesday, October 3

Sweet & Sour Shrimp & Cabbage Salad

Trying to make use of the remaining cabbage we bought for our okonomiyaki, I decided to try my hand at an Asian style cabbage salad. This was so incredibly flavorful... is it possible for something to have too much flavor? Well... if youre wanting something with a LOT of flavor.. definitely try this one. Dave liked it in any case.. so much so that he was going through the bowl trying to find the little crispy bits. ;-) It was an incredible combination of sweet, salty, sour and spicey.

I used the same recipe for the spicey orange ginger sauce & shrimp, simply broiled with some 5 spice powder sprinkled over top. The recipe for the cabbage salad I ganked from allrecipes... I modified it a little and came up with this:


* 1/2 head cabbage
* 1 bunch minced green onions
* 1/3 cup butter
* 1 package ramen noodles, broken
* 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
* 1 cup slivered almonds
* 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
* 3/4 cup olive oil
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 2 tablespoons soy sauce


1. Finely shred the head of cabbage; do not chop. Combine the green onions and cabbage in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
3. Make the dressing: In a small saucepan, heat vinegar, oil, sugar, and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, let boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat and let cool slightly then pour over cabbage.
4. Make the crunchies: Melt the butter in a pot. Mix the ramen noodles, sesame seeds and almonds into the pot with the melted butter. Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake the crunchies in the preheated 350 degrees F oven, turning often to make sure they do not burn. When they are browned remove them from the oven.
5. Combine dressing, crunchies, and cabbage immediately before serving. Serve right away or the crunchies will get soggy.

Monday, October 2


Dave and I were looking through a Japanese magazine the other day... I am always so fascinated by all the photos of food that some of them have. And while admiring all the exotic looking delicacies, we kept seeing photos of okonomiyaki. So as you can imagine, by the time we were done looking at it, we were both craving some.

We followed the same recipe Shizu gave us again... but this time we used shrimp instead of pork. I have to say it is much better with pork.

I am predicting that okonomiyaki is going to make an appearance in this country withing... eh.. say 10 years. And its gonna be huge. I mean this is just like the ultimate junk/party/hangover food EVER.

I actually took a photo of it this time.

If you ever get the chance... or want to freak out some friends... buy and use kastuobushi (aka dried bonito flakes). It is super thinly shaved dried fish. So fine that the light steam coming off your food will make it wriggle. It was really quite disturbing the first time I saw it. Good times. =)

Inviting All Foodbloggers

I was tagged for this joint project by my wonderful friends waaaay over in Germany at Kochtopf!



Since this is my first time ever making a menu.. I am positive I am making a tremendous amount of faux pas... also... its hard to pin point exactly what is "seasonal" in Florida... because in Florida we are growing the summer foods that cant be grown in the rest of the country at this time of year. And at the same time are shipped the foods that the rest of the world considers "in season". I didnt want to kill myself trying to make a real "in season in Florida" menu.. and confuse everyone else in the process... so when it comes down to it... if I wanted to cook for a bunch of other foodies, I'd probably want to stick with what I know I am good at. =)

So here we have it!

Bloggilicious Menu

Curried Pumkin Soup
Field Greens Salad with Raspberries, Walnuts and Stilton
Tomato and Garlic Shrimp Bruscetta
Pan-Seared Duck Breast with a Raspberry Coulis
& Crisped New Potatoes
Italian Coffee
Fresh Strawberries with Melted Nutella & Crushed Hazelnuts

Beverage: Since my favorite is red, I'd probably pick mine and Dave's favorite, Chateuneuf de Pape, and perhaps Gewurztraminer with the 2 first courses. The coffee would be made in my nifty little Italian coffee maker.

to this shin-dig I would invite:

Jeff & Stephanie from C for Cooking
Tyler & Amanda from What We're Eating (what kind of masochist am I inviting a chef??)
Maltese Parakeet, Mooncrazy & Doodles from Peanut Butter Etouffee
Ros & The Goon from Living to Eat
Susan from The Porcini Chronicles

I tag them to host a virtual Welcome Dinner, too.

Sunday, October 1

Daredevil Night

Dave and I had some adventures in the kitchen last night.

First, I wanted to jar the rest of the habaneros I had.... I had to boil the vinegar solution first, and I can tell you the smell that produces makes you feel like you live in a salt & vinegar chip factory. So that jar is now off in a dark corner of the fridge to pickle and get nice and pissed off for the next 4-6 weeks.

Dave also made a couple of jars of the Angry Nosebleed Salsa, which we had a little bit of last night. He tried making it differently, by having the tomatoes in chunks instead of pureed. Yea, that didnt work... the habs are so hot that eating even a tiny chunk of tomato was waaay to hot. This stuff is only edible in very very small bits at a time... like... tomato crumb small.

The best part of the night though was the beer. While moving, Dave found a box full of bottles of beer that he home-brewed over 4 years(!) ago! We decided to be brave and try some. It was actually still pretty good... so we enjoyed a couple of bottles. I don't think there were any bad side effects, no halluscinations were induced... but I'll let you know as soon as our cats second head goes away.