Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day everyone! I decided to push my "Seasonal Saturday" post to Sunday so I can combine my love of seasonal ingredients with one of my favorite days.
Every year I make a big brunch for my family as per my mother's request. When a mother says, "I would rather eat your food than any restaurants," you'd better take it seriously.
So I go all out....deviled eggs, shrimp cocktail, eggs benedict with homemade hollandaise sauce, quiche...a real smorgasbord. In fact, I'd better head over there now!
So for this "Seasonal Sunday" post, I decided to focus on the midwest and as I've said before, there are a lot of great resources available online to help you find what is in season in your area. Two of my favorites come from and the National Resources Defense Council. You simply enter your state and month and voila, you have your ingredients. Epicurious' interactive map not only allows you to find these ingredients but also leads you to further information about the ingredient as well as recipes featuring the item. The NRDC's handy program allows you to choose time of the month (early, mid, late) and also helps you locate farmer's markets in your area.
In early May rhubarb is in season in Michigan. Here are a few insights into rhubarb:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guess who's nominated for a Best Food Blog Award?

No! Not me sillies.
That would be a little presumptious of me, no?

However, a few of my favorite food blogs are nominated and I couldn't resist spreading a little love and encouraging others to vote for them.

So anyway, Saveur holds the Best Food Blog Awards each year and there are a lot of categories, like Best Photography, Best Regional Cuisine Blog & Best Original Savory Recipe, to name a few.

From Saveur's website:
In SAVEUR’s ongoing mission to chronicle “a world of authentic cuisine,” we find what we’re looking for more and more in one place: online. We’re thrilled to shine a light on the very best of the best in the second annual SAVEUR Best Food Blog Awards — and we need your help. After going through all your nominations for the best blogs, posts, and photographs on the web, we’ve narrowed the field down to finalists in each category — and it’s time for you to pick a winner! Voting is open from April 26 – May 12. We’ll reveal the winners on May 17. Start voting today!

Head over to Saveur to vote your faves but check out the categories for a few of my favorites:

Smitten Kitchen (

Traveler’s Lunchbox (

Alinea at Home (

Remember, voting ends on May 12!

P.S. Anyone else checking out the Future of Food Conference live? Prince Charles said some very inspiring things about agriculture.
"The entire food system is at the mercy of the increasing price of oil."
"We must have 'agri-culture', not 'agri-business'."
The current panel is on the future of agriculture, but panels III & IV are beginning at 2:15 and 3:15 and are on Health & Nutrition and the future of International Food, respectively. Check it out!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cod vs. the Crazy Life

I live a fairly chaotic life. I have one of those jobs that never leave you. I rarely spend 40 hours a week in the office and when I do, I end up spending much of my nights and weekends catching up on work I couldn’t get to or attending work events.
I try to plan better and go food shopping once every two weeks to cut down on cost and impulse shopping (never walk into the grocery store hungry!) but my schedule sometimes doesn’t permit it.
On top of that my boyfriend and I live in separate homes that we both own and spend our weeks bouncing back and forth from place to place. On any given day I can be found carrying around a rolling shopping bag filled with clothes, sauté pans, ziplocks of jewelry and other miscellaneous necessities.
Why am I spilling my guts on my topsy turvy personal life? No, I’m not pitching a reality show. I just happened to find myself yesterday in the fortunate position of being able to cook dinner at home (With all of my high-quality cookware and ingredients to keep me company), but also in the unfortunate position of having no actual plan or food for that matter. Oh, and we planned dinner for 6:30.
So, all I had to do was figure out what to make (I’m still on a diet L), pick up all of the ingredients, cook it and get it on the table in an hour and a half….ha!
Luckily I stumbled upon this fantastic cod recipe that required little purchasing on my part and fairly little time and effort (roughly 30 minutes). With a little bit of rapid fire cooking and a blind eye to kitchen mess, I managed to get dinner on the table in pretty good time.
The Mediterranean flavors quite simply sing and compliment the cod beautifully. I served it on top a bed of steamed spinach (though sautéed would be tastier) and tri-color orzo (Go full throttle on that one- make it with chicken stock and mix in some of the tapenade) but a nice rice pilaf and roasted veggies would be nice accompaniments.

Forget the dress! What about the food?

Like many people out there, I woke up early this morning to watch "The Royal Wedding" (which will most likely be referred to in exasperated whispers and clasped hands from now on. Heretofore written only in quotes. Seriously it's a big deal). Because of the miracle of DVR, I was able to wake up at 6:30 am instead of 4, but I still want my "early morning wake-up street cred".
This being the biggest royal wedding in I-don't-know-30-years(!) they really pulled out all the stops. But for me it wasn't about the dress (it was beautiful!), the celebrity guests (Posh & Becks looked amazing but her "fascinator" had some sort of parasite (wink, wink)) or even the first fairytale kiss (yes, it was très adorable), for me it's all about the food!
Obviously "The Royal Wedding" wasn't going to have a reception following the church like many of us are used to in America so it's been interesting to see what kinds of celebrations will be going on throughout the day (Fun fact: There will be a dance party at the palace tonight and rumor has it, MOH and sister of the new HRH stood up to the Queen herself and had disco balls installed).
One event that sparked my interest is the lunchtime reception held by the Queen. According to the official Royal Wedding website, "The Queen is giving a lunchtime Reception at Buckingham Palace for around 650 guests drawn from the Wedding Service congregation, representing the Couple’s official and private lives."
Considering the 6 hour time difference, this is old news but who cares! It's almost lunch time in New Jersey and I'm hungry!Since this blog was borne out of my love for appetizers, I simply had to share the menu with you all.
Doesn't the phrase "Scottish Langoustines with Lemon Mayonnaise Pressed Confit of Pork Belly with Crayfish and Crackling" give you the warm & fuzzies?
The website is also so kind as to give us a play-by-play of the luncheon as well as assurances that the food is locally sourced (Bravo Royals!)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Seasonal Saturday!

Lately, it seems everyone has gone green. Whether to cut down on energy costs or to truly limit our "footprint" on the world, this new way of thinking has taken hold all over the country.
In the culinary world, this behavior has been around for a long time, but only bits and pieces have leaked out to the mainstream kitchen. Suddenly, the home cook is being asked to take a stand...What's better? Farmed or wild-caught? Free-range or organic? Most recently, which is better for my family? Organic or Local?
Phrases like "sustainable seafood" and "eating seasonally" have made their way into our everyday vocabulary.And yet, many people don't understand the importance if this method of cooking and eating.
Seasonal eating is a very simple practice. You try to eat foods (namely produce like fruits and vegetables) that are in season in your area.
Again, why is this important?
In my opinion, there are three very good reasons for eating seasonally: nutrition, freshness, environmental damage.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And would you like this polenta gift wrapped?

The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.
Well, I’m asking for forgiveness dear readers (but please don’t forget me!). See, I didn’t mean to stay away for so long. I just have this life outside of this blog (as much as I wish I didn’t) and it kind of took over.
At first, it was party planning and then more party planning. Then it was home(s!) repair. Then it was work and more work and then even more work. By the time I inevitably realized the work just WOULD. NOT. CEASE. I was riddled with guilt and fear.
Would I just continue on and pretend nothing ever happened? Would I overcompensate by deluging you with multiple posts? Should I throw up a quick commentary post to let you know I’m still here? Does any of this really matter?  (Who knows?!)
I eventually came to the conclusion that I would have to come back with a bang. Someone once said, “Apologizing is like leaving a gift on the doorstep and hoping it’s appreciated.
So here is my gift to you: Polenta
(Record scratches)
What? You didn’t know that polenta is the coolest thing under the sun? Hear me out… 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The "heart" of my family and my table

Hi guys. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather lately and haven’t been up for blogging so much. However, I promise I’ll have a whole bunch of new content this week starting with this great lunch/snack/side dish item.

Artichokes. Yum.
Let me begin by telling you why I love this vegetable. My mother, a pure-blooded Italian-American, is generally more of the Semi-Homemade Sandra Lee School of Cooking, as opposed to the Pancia Mia Fatti Capanna Italian Nonna School of Cooking. She’s a good cook but like many mothers, she likes her short cuts and recipes her mother used to make rarely made it to the dinner table (They did occasionally make it to the holiday table which is why I was blessed to eat Calamari and Anguilla as a child…right up until my cousin told me they were eel and squid! Forgiveness for this is impossible.).
Also like most mothers, Mom tried not to buy pricier items until they came on sale. This accounted for the “extreme cereal binges” of my youth in which my mother would purchase multiple boxes of my favorite cereals and then vigorously encourage me to eat them all before they expired (To this day I have difficulty opening that cabinet in her kitchen).
There were a few family dishes that my mom did make for us and steamed artichokes is one of them. Due to the high price of artichokes, this precious commodity only came around when there was a sale, which made them a delicious treat for my sister and I to enjoy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tasty Tuna Skewers

I don’t know if you caught it in the news (granted, there has been much heavier issues on there lately), but New Jersey is partially….underwater. This week has been a little crazy but I finally got a chance to get back to the blog.
I was searching though Hors d’Oeuvres (it is the reason I started this blog!) for a recipe I could blog about that still fit in with my diet and I stumbled upon a tuna skewer recipe that I never paid much attention to….boy, will I now!
These tuna skewers were delicious! The marinade is fresh, light and citrusy with a real sharp note from the garlic and stays that way with each bite. It’s a perfect dish for winter because roasting is a great way to bring out the flavor of out-of-season tomatoes. But don’t discount this for spring or summer either, those bright flavors will really sing with a pitcher of lemonade on your patio!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

So many salads in so little time...

Sorry for the cell phone picture!
You may have noticed a string of healthy posts on my blog in the past week. There's a reason for that. I'm on a diet (insert melodramatic music here). Specifically, I'm on the 17 Day Diet, a diet that involves tricking your body's metabolism into burning more fat, thus creating weight loss. All kidding aside, it's fairly strict but not all that difficult to follow. I'm actually quite happy with the results so far.
Anyway, the worst part of this diet is all the salads! I hate salads! I like my lettuce stuffed in sandwiches or buried under a pile of pulled pork. On this diet, I may have gotten used to salads but that doesn't mean I have to like them. Enter the 17 Day Diet Eggplant Parmesan.
This is a great meal to break up the monotony of most diets. It may not be your grandma's eggplant, but it's a healthy, simple, and surprisingly tasty alternative. I've had it a few times and been very happy with the results.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kale Chips? Did we run out of potatoes?

That's the question you might be asking yourself as you sit down for the big game and someone sets a heaping bowl of these babies in front of you.
But trust me, they're worth it.
These little crisps are a healthy, tasty, innovative (and trendy!) alternative to classic potato chips and really easy to make.
There are a few different versions floating around the internet, some with vinegar and others with seasonings like chili powder, but I think simple is the best way to go (at least to start).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Healthier Risotto that Doesn't Compromise on Flavor?

Recently, I began taking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education (recreational for now). It has been a wonderful experience and I’ve met many amazing people—from the instructors to the sous chefs (Shout out to Jesus!) and students.
One of my classes was on risotto. Now let me tell you something. I love risotto. I try to make it as much as possible because risotto is definitely a dish you get better at over time.  So, when I saw this class, I quickly signed up.  I also love mushrooms, so when I was tasked with preparing the Mushroom risotto (more on that below), I was on cloud nine!
Our instructor was the incredibly talented Peter Berley. Chef Berley was former executive chef at the world-renowned Angelica Kitchen, an organic, plant-based restaurant. He has also written numerous books, including the recent Flexitarian Table: Inspired, Flexible Meals for Vegetarians, Meat Lovers, and Everyone in Between, which is an amazing book that not only helps meat-lovers and vegetarians share meals together in a way that doesn’t require the vegetarian to eat side dishes or the host to cook a separate meal, it also helps you think seasonally(Remember, not only does choosing in-season fruits and vegetables give you more flavor, in-season produce  also contains more nutrients)
I’ve worked with Chef Berley before and I was excited, not only to try out different risotto dishes but to discover different grains (farro, barley, rye berries) to use to prepare “risotto style” dishes. To be a true risotto, a dish requires a short-grain rice such as the popular Arborio. However, you can prepare risotto-like dishes using the same or similar methods.
Here are a few steps to making a typical risotto:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Of mice and men....

The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry
That statement, from Robert Burns’s poem, “To a Mouse” and inspiration for George Steinbeck’s iconic Of Mice and Men, was never truer to me then it was this weekend when I finally began working on recipes from Hors D’Oeuvres.
I had an extensive day laid out for myself; I’d spent a decent amount of time writing out my shopping lists and an extensive prep list. I’ve made a significant amount of recipes from this book in the past with good to great results, so I wasn’t concerned at all as I set off to the store, visions of bouchees and galettes dancing in my head.
Well, none of this was meant to be it seems. It started out harmless enough. No crème fraiche? That’s okay, I’ll substitute sour cream. No lobster meat? I’ll use crab. No fresh tarragon? I guess I’ll just use dried. When I began passing off no wonton skins or puff pastry as simple fixes I should have known I was in trouble. Instead, I toiled away for hours trying to salvage a menu that was doomed from the start leaving me, ultimately, spent and depressed (Must give my man credit for taking the bad attitude and bland food like a champ!).
The next morning I decided to treat myself to a little comfort food to numb the pain. I decided to make a baked eggs recipe that Lara Ferroni had recently featured on her blog. Usually opting for tomato sauce with my baked eggs, I was looking for a change of pace.
This experiment went much smoother than the first. My step by step after the jump…

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Excuse me, could I get some full surface-contact with my halibut?

I recently stumbled upon this interesting article about “the recipe for the most astonishing cookbook of our time,”…or so says the Wall Street Journal.
“Take one multimillionaire computer genius, a team of 36 researchers, chefs and editors and a laboratory specially built for cooking experiments. After nearly four years of obsessive research, assemble 2,400 pages of results into a 47-pound, six-volume collection that costs $625 and requires four pounds of ink to print.”
Apparently this Nathan Myhrvold guy, a former chief technology officer for Microsoft who holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate in mathematical physics, decided that Microsoft was really getting in the way of his cooking, quit his job, and got to work on this book.
Whether this book really is a “game changer” as their touting it, is a mystery to me and is likely to remain that way. I certainly won’t be spending the $625 to find out (er…at least not now).
The Journal article did, however, select a few “counterintuitive nuggets of wisdom” for us poor folks and I picked out one that I thought was really interesting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

V-Day Inspiration: Outside-In Lobster & Mashed Potatoes

Unfortunately life doesn’t like to halt for a better blogging environment and so the “Hors D'oeuvres” post I’ve been planning will be postponed until the end of the week. In the meantime, yesterday’s Valentine’s Day hustle and bustle inspired me to write something about one of my favorite quick and easy romantic recipes.
When I feel like spoiling my man (or myself for that matter) with a romantic dinner, I usually think lobster. But I, like many other people out there, can’t stand the idea of killing a lobster. It just breaks my little heart.
So I like to buy frozen lobster tails, you can order them online or get them at the supermarket. As long as you’re smart about it, they can be a great and (mostly) guilt-free alternative. Read this great tutorial on “How to Buy Lobster Tails & Not Get Ripped Off”.
One day, when pondering what to pair with my lobster tail, I came up with the idea for “Outside-In Lobster & Mashed Potatoes”—a quick & easy recipe that involves “butterflying the tail”, cooking the lobster using the method of pulling the tail meat out of its shell (but keeping it attached and resting it on top) and then stuffing the hollow shell with mashed potatoes, so the yummy lobster juices seep into potatoes imparting yummy lobster flavor.

Friday, February 11, 2011


I've never had a blog before so please bear with me while I attempt to dazzle you with wit, wisdom and...worcestershire sauce. Fail? That's okay, I'll get better.
This idea started when I fell in love with a book I received for Christmas, "Hors D'Oeuvres" by Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell.
Have you looked at something and something inside you just clicked? That's how I felt when I began looking through this book; it was as if I had found the man of my dreams. Once I picked it up I couldn't put it down again until I thoroughly read through every recipe.
Why this book?
I cook a lot, so this wasn't my first experience with a cookbook. Nor is it my first encounter with the delectable subset of cuisine known as hors d'oeuvres, appetizers, tapas, amuse bouche...whatever you like to call them, for that is one of my favorite things to make. It's something else.
It's the way the book is done. Everything is laid out like a house. They give you solid foundations and many different options to build different rooms and different additions.
You'll see what I mean soon. I can't wait to get started...