We don’t enjoy going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day.
It’s overcrowded, the service isn’t always the best and working in the food industry, I can not relax and enjoy myself knowing that the restaurant is desperate for you to finish and leave so they can sit their next reservation.
Since Valentine’s was on a Friday this year, it made it easy to go out for our Valentine’s celebration on Saturday night instead. We wisely chose Bink’s Scottsdale.
Dinner was, of course, fantastic. The one thing I had that I thought I might be able to recreate was the Queen’s Affinity Cocktail. The menu said that it was made with Bombay Sapphire, Orgeat, and muddled Lemon and Mint.
Before I made the cocktail at home, I had to figure out what the heck orgeat is and then find out where to buy it or how to make it.
Orgeat is pronounced “or-zsa” – “zsa” as in Zsa Zsa Gabor.
After some research, it appeared that orgeat should be easy enough to find at any liquor store. I also learned that homemade orgeat is far superior to store-bought. As a result, I made my own.
First I shall share with you a recipe for my Queen’s Affinity Cocktail Knockoff and then for the Homemade Orgeat.
February 24, 2014 2 Comments
Wow, this week went fast! I can’t believe it’s Friday already.
Once again, I shall be answering one of Lori’s questions. Lori put forth several when I asked you to pose questions to me. This is one that I didn’t expect to be getting to quite so soon. But the week flew by so fast, that I wasn’t ready to answer the tougher questions she asked… here we go:
Are you going to unveil your plan for your “playroom” when you figure it out?!?
Yes, Lori, it’s not only figured out.. it’s all done. Well, not completely done… but done for now.
I desperately needed a space to store and organize all my craft supplies in one central location. It’s been stuffed in several places throughout the house; the garage, my closet, in the buffets in the dining room, the master bedroom sitting room, in the kids’ rooms (under their beds – without their knowledge) and even in the backyard patio area.
As I mentioned in a post earlier this month, I’ve reclaimed a portion of a large room upstairs that we’ve always called “the playroom.” The playroom has always had a television, couch, and computer desk. In the early years it had a dozen shelves along two of the walls. Those shelves housed Marissa’s extensive collections of Disney figurines and Connor’s huge collection of Star Wars action figures. The shelves came down and the toys went up into the attic, years ago. There were also about a half-dozen tall white cupboards, in the early days, that held school craft and art materials, games, videos and toys… those too are long gone.
More recently the room has been an extra bedroom, with a trundle daybed and also sadly became sort of a junk room. When your kids are college age, they accumulate dorm/apartment furniture and when they finish college, that stuff has to get dumped somewhere… this room became our “somewhere.”
Currently, the room is divided into three distinct areas – television lounge area … also known as Connor’s lair.
… Connor’s computer desk area …
… and my craft area, which still has the daybed included in it. Here are some of the details and close-ups.
February 21, 2014 4 Comments
A quick note before we get to today’s recipe: If you read yesterday’s post about the amazing cauliflower, you’ll recall that I said my friend, Ronnie had the dish at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. Ronnie sent me a fabulous photo of the hotel lobby all decked out for Christmas. It’s a must see, so I’ve added it to the bottom of that post, for all to enjoy. Check it out!
So… I heard about an amazing snack that is served at a bar in Brooklyn. The bar is called Pork Slope and the appetizer – Chicken & Waffle Sliders. How perfect would that have been for the Super Bowl?!?
Dang it. Oh well, you know what I did? I served it as our Official Olympics Opening Ceremony Snack. Yeah, take that lopsided 2014 Super Bowl! You were not worthy of these Olympic sliders!
I found a recipe online, changed it just a tad… and …. it was a major hit with my two guys.
A quick word about the frozen waffles. The recipe I found called for Aunt Jemima frozen square waffles. I could not find Aunt Jemima waffles at my grocery store, nor could I find square waffles. Belgium waffles – that was all they had in any and all brands. The closest thing to square that I was able to find were octagonal waffles.
What you want to use for each slider is four squares of a waffle for the top “bun” and another four square piece for the bottom “bun.” Here is what I did.
Take a waffle.
Cut 3 “four square” pieces from each waffle.
A package of 6 frozen octagonal waffles yielded 9 sliders. Here’s the math:
6 waffles = 18 “buns” = 9 sliders
February 12, 2014 5 Comments
There is so much I have to tell you about this recipe that I hardly know where to begin. So, how about at the beginning?
Almost exactly one year ago, on January 30, 2013, I wrote about how Marissa and I had gone into a kitchen store in San Francisco and found wonderful watercolor postcards of famous dishes from various San Francisco restaurants. We framed the postcards and they now hang in Marissa’s kitchen. One dish in particular caught our fancy. It is a breakfast muffin from Craftsman & Wolves.
The next day, 1/31/13, I tried to recreate “The Rebel Within” at home. Although the end product was tasty, it was not at all what I was looking for… there was no runny egg yolk in the middle of a baked muffin.
Fast-forward almost a year to January, 22, 2014, when I wrote about how Marissa and I finally went to Craftsman & Wolves and tasted “The Rebel Within” for ourselves and about my renewed passion to try to recreate it at home.
Just as I had done back in January 2013, I went online to research what I could about how it would be possible to bake a whole egg in a muffin and get it to be “soft-boiled” with a runny yolk.
First, I stumbling upon this website and read up on “egg cookery” – I then found out that two wonderful women had “cracked the code” to The Rebel Within. They went through dozens of eggs and baked more muffins than I would have ever had the patience to bake… and they did it!
Tuesday morning, I used their method. The result?
Although my “Rebel Within” was not as beautiful, or as perfect, or as tall and well-shaped as the muffins at Craftsman & Wolves or as the muffins the brilliant women at Follow Me Foodie baked, it tasted exactly like the muffin Marissa and I enjoyed at Craftsman & Wolves! And the yolk – it was perfectly runny!
If you would like to make this masterpiece at home, I’ve posted the recipe here, the majority of which is copy/pasted from the Follow Me Foodie post, with just bits and pieces of my own additions and omissions.
I still strongly suggest you go to the Follow Me Foodie recipe post and read from top to bottom about their trials and tests and all of their tips and suggestions. It’s truly amazing and a really good read, even if you do not plan to bake the muffins. There’s a whole boatload of interesting information, dedication, perseverance and patience to be seen there!
If you don’t have the time to read it all, allow me to let you in on a few of the notes that I found to be more important:
The recipe makes six muffins. Even so, I suggest you start with 12 eggs, as I did, when you’re making the Extra-Soft Boiled Eggs. Of the 12 eggs I started with, seven turned out perfectly.
Another two would haven been “usable” but were less than perfect … and the remaining three … completely unusable.
It is imperative that you “warm” the eggs before dropping them in the boiling water. Use hot tap water to do so. I actually brought the eggs to room temperature first, and then let them sit in the hot tap water for the amount of time it took the water that the eggs would be cooked in to come to a boil. Even so, two of the eggs cracked almost immediately as they were placed in the boiling water. I took those out and discarded them straight off the bat. They were two of the “completely unusable” eggs mentioned above.
The Follow Me Foodie women used bacon for their recipe, I used breakfast sausage, just as they do at the C&W. As much as I love bacon, I’d suggest going with sausage for this.
Be certain to boil the eggs for EXACTLY 4 minutes and 30 seconds. If you want to achieve that runny yolk, this is the most important part of the recipe.
The Follow Me Foodie women suggest that you either use a popover pan or a large muffin tin. I have 2 popover pans, so of course, I used a popover pan. I can’t begin to imagine how it would work in a muffin tin. It wouldn’t be tall enough.
If you don’t own a popover pan, buy one or borrow one! If you live anywhere near me, you can borrow mine.
Once the muffins were done baking and had cooled, I found it easiest to remove them by placing a baking sheet on top and flipping it over, then gently lifting the popover pan off. Because of how much they overflowed, I feared that the tops would rip off if I tried to “lift” them out of the molds individually. This is the method that worked for me.
Finally, when peeling the extra-soft boiled eggs, take care to gently crack all over. While peeling the last couple eggs, my mind was wandering and I failed to do so. The egg on the left is what happened as a result of not cracking all over. The egg on the right is an example of how to do it correctly.
Oh, and to those of you who so generously and selflessly volunteered to be taste-testers … I’ll have to soft-boil and bake up another batch. Those first six muffins are long gone my friends!
February 6, 2014 6 Comments
San Tung is that restaurant in San Francisco that Marissa and I have to eat at the night I arrive in San Francisco each and every time I visit her. It serves the famous “dry-fried” chicken wings that we crave and love.
I desperately wanted to make them for the family on Super Bowl Sunday.
After much online research and some trial and error, I have the recipe for you to make at home!
You’re going to need a large pot, Dutch oven, or preferably a deep fryer. If using a pot, you’ll also need a candy thermometer. Plus, you’ll need a couple big bowls, wire racks, paper towels and a baking sheet.
If you’re like me, you like your wings cut into two pieces, the drummett and the wing.
When cutting the wings in half, just cut through the skin, then bend the wing so you see where the joint is and cut right through the joint.
It’s easy once you find the joint and don’t try cutting through the bone. Then cut off the wing tip, there is a joint there too.
Save and freeze the tips for the next time you make chicken stock.
This recipe makes about 60 wings (30 wings cut in half) and it takes over and hour and a half to fry them all – twice. The recipe can easily be cut in half.
OK, let’s get started…
Homemade San Tung “Dry-Fried” Chicken Wings
Sweet and Spicy Sticky Sauce
1 bunch green onions, minced (green and white parts)
1 small bunch cilantro, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 cups honey or agave nectar
3/4 cup water
1 head garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Szechuan chili sauce
8 pounds chicken wings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 cups canola oil
2 cups cornstarch, divided
1 1/2 cups water
Sauce: Mix together the green onions and cilantro. Divide in half, placing half in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Place the other half in a large bowl and…
…whisk in the remaining sauce ingredients.
Pour the sauce into a large skillet and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened.
February 3, 2014 2 Comments
On Sunday, Dave and I went to a second baby shower for Tram. She’s having twins after all, so she should have a minimum of two showers! This was a couples shower that her best friends threw for her. It was at the home of Chef Michael Cairns and his wife, Dar. Michael is the Executive Chef at the Montelucia Resort and Spa.
So yes, naturally the food was outstanding! As was the decor, the company, and the relaxed casual vibe on an absolutely perfect and beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Everything was delicious but the two standouts for me were a delicious and ultra-creative quinoa bar that we started with. And a pureed sweet potato side dish that Chef Michael served.
After eating that addicting sweet potato dish, I was craving sweet potatoes on Monday and I could not shake it. That is how this recipe was born… out of a craving. As we all know, pregnant women are not the only people who get them!
Connor and I thought the heat from the chipotle peppers was perfect. Dave thought it was a bit much. If you’re heat sensitive, cut the amount of chipotle in half. Or start with half as much, taste and then decide if you want to add more.
Chipotle-Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins
3 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Greek yogurt, for garnish
Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish
January 28, 2014 2 Comments
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.
Of course, the best part is having all my loves home with me!
For Christmas Eve, we brought back a tradition we began last year (when I had a fractured pelvis and could not stand up in the kitchen to cook) and we once again had blue cheese fondue. We are all in love with the new simple, fun, and communal approach to a special family meal. The kids voted that we add in chocolate fondue for dessert in 2014. Dave and I made that vote unanimous.
This was our Christmas day tablescape.
For our Christmas day dinner, the main course was something I taught at Les Gourmettes, individual beef Wellingtons.
You’ll notice that some of the photos below were taken while I was prepping for that class.
I purchased a full beef tenderloin and cut it into 16 pieces. This was the most economical way to feed a crowd.
For our holiday meal, I purchased already cut filet mignon.
December 27, 2013 2 Comments
This recipe came from the food section of our newspaper and was provided by our local dairy, Shamrock Farms.
We didn’t trim our tree until Saturday, once the kids and my mother-in-law arrived. So the night before, I put together this breakfast dish while I waited for Marissa’s plane to get in from San Francisco. It was scheduled for midnight, but delayed until 2:00 AM. I made good use of the extra two hours and wrote out all my Christmas cards as well… blurry-eyed, but I got it done!
We all enjoyed breakfast and tree-trimming, with carols playing in the background and coffee and hot chocolate mugs in our hands.
I made a few changes to the recipe; using actual rum instead of rum extract and subbing cinnamon bread for the firm white or whole wheat that was suggested. Additionally, I’ve decreased the amount of eggs used in the mixture.
This eggnog French toast was a huge hit with the family and will likely become a new holiday tradition for us.
December 23, 2013 4 Comments
If there was one food, dish, or recipe that you could eat for the rest of your life; as much as you want, as often as you like, from now until eternity – without gaining an ounce – what would it be?
If you would have asked me that question a few weeks ago, I would have said, “Ice Cream!”
Ice cream is my go to answer to any question that begins with “What food would you…”
I love ice cream; the coldness, the smoothness, the creaminess, the richness, the pure happiness that ice cream brings. And that is why we rarely have ice cream in our house!
But ask me that question today – my new answer is, “Chile, Cheese, and Chorizo Bread Pudding.”
I developed this recipe for my classes at Les Gourmettes and I could not love it more! I am quite certain it is as calorie and fat laden as ice cream, if not more so. It’s full of bread, cheese, chorizo, more cheese, eggs, and milk. And it is SO GOOD!
Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is just perfect, in every possible way. It is amazing! Well, except for the calorie/fat count – on that front – it sucks!
I made it twice last week. First for the class and then again for a dinner party the evening before Thanksgiving that we had with our family and Marissa’s boyfriend, Jeff’s family. One of the guests was vegetarian, so for the dinner party, instead of using a 9×13-inch pan, I made two 8×8-inch pans. One with the chorizo and one without.
The recipe is for the larger pan but the images are of the two smaller pans … just to clarify … so you aren’t confounded by the instructions vs. the photos.
Oh, and if you don’t have time to make the red pepper sauce, it’s still delicious with out it. Just saying!
December 4, 2013 4 Comments
Even though I may be a food industry professional who generally avoids big chain restaurants, even I have to admit that Olive Garden’s all-you-can-eat salad and bread-sticks are hard to pass up!
Not that we are frequent diners at Olive Garden. In fact, I believe the only times we’ve eaten there in the past decade have been on road trips.
This is the salad I made for work-weary Marissa and Jeff on Friday night. I have a few more photos of the apartment kitchen too. Here you can see that 6′ 3″ Jeff doesn’t have to stretch much to touch both ends of the kitchen at the same time.
After I complained about how dark the sink area was at night, Dave went to Costco and bought a cool light strip that Jeff and I installed around the kitchen and over the sink. It even has a remote and you can have a full-color light show! Most importantly, it really lights up the place.
Lastly, Marissa used the velvet pumpkins I made for her last year, to cover up and camouflage the TV cords and components on her mantel. Cute!
And most wonderful of all… I found the Jarrahdale pumpkins, that I so love, at Marissa’s corner market which is only two blocks from her house. I smuggled home three of them in our luggage! So excited!
October 8, 2013 3 Comments