Monday, December 29, 2008

Creamy Mushroom Phyllo

This is one of my favorite hors d'oeuvres to make and eat! I will assemble and freeze these beauties about a week before a party. If you can't find dried porcini's, don't worry. The tastiest batch I've ever made had a combination of dried portobello, chanterelle and wood ear mushrooms. So, don't be afraid to mix it up! I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Creamy Mushroom Phyllo Triangles
courtesy Cooking Light

This elegant appetizer takes a couple of hours to make, but you can do all the preparation ahead of time. Don't fold triangles too tightly or the mixture will burst through the phyllo. Assemble and freeze up to two weeks before the party. Don't thaw the triangles before baking; just add seven minutes to the baking time.

3/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 3/4 ounce)
1 pound button mushrooms
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 8 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
24 (18 x 14-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Olive oil-flavored cooking spray

Cover porcini mushrooms with boiling water in a bowl. Let stand 1 hour. Drain well; chop.
Place half of button mushrooms in a food processor; pulse 8 times or until finely chopped. Remove from processor. Repeat procedure with remaining button mushrooms. Add onion to processor; pulse 8 times or until finely chopped.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add button mushrooms; cook until mushrooms are tender and liquid evaporates (about 10 minutes). Stir in porcini mushrooms, oregano, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheese; stir until cheese melts. Stir in parsley.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large cutting board or work surface (cover remaining phyllo to prevent drying). Cut sheet in half lengthwise; lightly coat with cooking spray. Fold each phyllo piece in half lengthwise to form a (3 1/2-inch-wide) strip. Spoon a level tablespoon of mushroom mixture onto 1 short end of each strip, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold 1 corner of edge with 1-inch border over mixture, forming a triangle; continue folding back and forth into a triangle to end of strip. Repeat procedure with remaining phyllo, cooking spray, and mushroom mixture. Place triangles, seam side down, on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat tops with cooking spray.

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.


While looking for a festive party drink, I tripped across this Southern Living favorite. It's very tasty and was a big hit!

Poinsettia Punch

Chill the Champagne and juice in the refrigerator before the party; then mix the punch right before serving. I actually mixed everything except the champagne in separate gallon sized zip-top baggies. That way, when I needed to mix another pitcher, everthing was good to go!

1 (750-milliliter) bottle Champagne, chilled
3 cups cranberry-apple juice, chilled
1/4 cup thawed white grape juice concentrate
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Stir together all ingredients in a 2-quart pitcher.

Serve in Champagne flutes.


Part of our family's tradition every year is to do both a cheese & chocolate fondue. This can happen on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, we're not particular about the date. We indulge sometime around the end of year holidays.

This year, we did fondue for friends at a small gathering and it was a big hit. Here are our favorite recipes--

Ultimate Cheese Fondue
courtesy, Tyler Florence

1/2 pound imported Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cherry brandy, such as kirsch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard Pinch nutmeg Assorted dippers

In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic, then discard.

Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in cherry brandy, mustard and nutmeg.

Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French and pumpernickel breads. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and blanched vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy!

Chocolate Fondue
(not sure where this recipe came from, it's just in my files and happens to be our fav :) )

16 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. caramel syrup/ice cream topping
3 tbsp Grand Marnier

Slowly melt together all ingredients over a double boiler. Once all items are fully combined, serve and enjoy! Some dippers may include bananas, strawberries, pretzel sticks, pound cake, angel food cake, marshmellows, green apples.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Scalloped Yukon Gold Potato Gratin

This another one of my "what can I make with leftover crap?" recipes.
We served this Christmas eve w/a salad and a nice steak, chased by creme brulee.
Happy holidays, one and all!

Scalloped Yukon Gold Potatoes

4 small/medium yukon gold potatoes
1 - 1 1/4 c. heavy cream
1 tspn fresh, chopped thyme
1 large garlic clove, pressed
2 tbsp butter
1 tspn kosher salt
1/2 tspn fresh ground black pepper
4 oz grated gruyere

Peel potatos, cut in fourths lengthwise.
Take the 2 parts of one half next to each other and slice into thin pieces 1/8" thick.
Repeat until potatoes are all sliced. Dump into a bowl of cold water.

Combine cream, butter, thyme and garlic in medium saucepan; bring to simmer.
Remove from heat.

Butter an 8x8 glass baking dish. Drain potatos, pat dry w/a towel.

Transfer half of potatos to baking dish. Spread evenly. Sprinkle half of salt and pepper and half of cheese. Repeat w/remaining potatoes, salt, pepper and cheese. Pour cream mixture over gratin, pressing lightly to submerge potato mixture as much as possible.

* Can be made 6 hours ahead

Preheat oven to 400F. Cover tightly w/foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until top of gratin is golden and most of liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes longer. Let stand 10minutes; serve.

Cranberry Cravings Cake-

This particular cake holds a special place in my memory & my heart as it was served during a Thanksgiving trip to see old friends. These friends were the ones that took me in during college and after when my own family wasn't so much fun to be around. :) Love you guys! You know who you are!

I have tweaked it a bit to my tastes, but the original recipe may be found here. Tubs of icing are convenient, however, I find homemade cream cheese icing to have no match!

I am no baker and I make no excuses or apologies about that. I also take help from a boxed cake mix where I can get it! If you can make a yellow cake from scratch, knock yourself out! It will only make this mouth watering dessert more delicious.

To start, storing this bad boy is a bit tricky. It has to go in the fridge and therefore needs to be covered. No easy task w/cream cheese frosting. Thus, I have a cake plate with a dome cover.

This particular cake plate is challenging b/c the bottom also has a lip on it. Good for keeping the cake fresh, bad for the person who wants to frost. So, I lay a few bits of parchment around the edges and then put the dome on to press the parchment into the plate. This helps stabilize the paper so I can easily throw the first layer onto the plate.

Cranberry Cravings Cake

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup whipped cream
1 package Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic Yellow Cake Mix
1 cup cranberry juice
1/3 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/3 cup Canola oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon red food coloring
Cooking Spray
A few tbsp of flour
2 8 oz packages cream cheese
10 tbsp softened butter
4 tspn vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar, measured after sifting

For the frosting:
Beat cream cheese with butter and vanilla until combined. Gradually add powdered sugar that has been sifted after measuring. Continue to add sugar until you reach a consistency and sweetness that fits your taste.
For the filling:
In medium size bowl, blend together cream cheese and cranberry sauce. Gently fold whipped topping into cream cheese mixture. Chill until ready to assemble cake.

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease sides and bottom of three 8- inch baking pans with nonstick cooking spray. Flour lightly.
Blend dry mix, cranberry juice, orange juice concentrate, vegetable oil, eggs and food coloring in large bowl at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds). Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour one-third of batter in each pan. Bake immediately.

Bake 20 to 23 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Cool completely before assembling.
Place one layer on serving platter. Spread with half cream cheese mixture. Top with second layer and remaining cream cheese mixture. Top with remaining layer. Frost top and sides of cake with frosting. Garnish with fresh cranberries, orange twists and orange zest curls, if desired. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Parmesan Dijon Chicken

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! And actually cooking in my kitchen :)

Tonite's assignment was to jazz up the boring, old chicken breast.
I happened across this particular recipe in my ages old "To Try" pile that has been languishing in the back of my file cabinet.

I have no idea where this particular recipe came from, so if you do, let me know! I'd love to give someone credit for this wonderfully savory chicken recipe. Not only is it tasty and looks great, but it's also a snap to make!

Parmesan Dijon Chicken
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts
3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp white wine
Pinch of salt
1/2 c. panko
1/2 c. fresh grated parmesan
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Combine mustard, wine and salt in one bowl and the panko, parmesan and pepper in another. Dip chicken in mustard mixture, then dredge through panko mixture. Place in greased baking dish (one w/a rack inside is preferable so the bottom gets crispy as well) and bake at 400 degrees for approx. 30-35 minutes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dear Santa,

This is all I want for Christmas. I swear.

Oh, and maybe a trip to Napa to actually visit the French Laundry?
Too much? The economy, you say? Ok, maybe next year.
I'll just settle for the cookbook.
Thank you!

Mamma Zu

Today, at long last, I had the opportunity to visit (according to locals) that bastion of ultimate Italian cuisine in the river city-- Mamma Zu's.

Living here in RiVA for the past 5 years, I've heard pretty much all of the scuttlebutt surrounding Zu's. Words like 'dump', 'dive', 'surly', 'attitude', 'churlish' and 'fractious' have all been thrown around.

Being a Zu neophyte and having heard these stories, I was touched with a tad bit of mild apprehension about my lunch today. My anxiety was all for naught. Certainly, all of the aforementioned appellations apply. However, 'heavenly', 'delightful', 'authentic','charming', and 'intoxicating' would be appropriate as well.

Richmond, I get it. Many times I don't, but this time, I really, really do. Ours was a simple lunch, not too many folks up in the joint and one of our party almost got stabbed when she requested her entree they forgot after the rest of us had already finished. (Well, she didn't really almost get stabbed, but I feel a strong moral imperative to help hold up the fearsome urban legends swirling around MZ's). But I get it.......there's just this vibe. No other way to explain it. Oh, and the pasta! My lord.......

If I had to explain it, I would probably say it's b/c Zu's is completely unapologetic for who they are. Personally, this is an attribute I appreciate, respect and admire. Also, perhaps my own personality "quirks" lend to feeling like I "fit in" to this environment- LOL! It takes solid cajones to say, "This is who I am, like it or get the hell out." And that's exactly what Zu's does.

We ordered the white pizza, penne gorgonzola, spaghetti carbonara and the fabulous pasta w/sausage, broccoletti and ricotta. The white pizza was exploding with roasted garlic flavor. The smell overpowered the restaurant as it was being made (no complaints here however, as my enthusiasm for garlic knows no bounds).

The penne and spaghetti, both creamy, rich and tasting exactly as you would want them to. And lastly, but most certainly not least-- the sausage pasta w/broccoletti and ricotta. Three simple words cover it all = To.Die.For. The sausage is a hedonistic indulgence of the senses. I may not know a lot in this life, but I do know I will be dreaming about this particular dish for many nights to come. :) And it will draw me back.

If you haven't gone, I encourage you to go. All the things you've heard are true and make for a unique and revered Richmond experience. Get thee to Zu's, pronto!

** I would also like to add, that without any prompting or threat of physical violence, the manager took 1/2 off of my friend's dish that had been forgotten.
**PS They only take cash, local check or AMEX.

Mamma Zu
501 S Pine St
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 788-4205

Thursday, October 30, 2008

1 North Belmont

Friday, this blogger celebrated a birthday out in the swinging metropolis that is Richmond. My hubs was so kind as to take me to 1 North Belmont. This was a highly anticipated event as I am a closet (no more!) francophile.

We arrived for our 7 o'clock seating and the restaurant was about half full. We were allowed to choose our table, which I thought was nice, so we situated ourselves next to the quiet, empty bar area. The decor itself was warm and modestly elegant with chippendale style chairs at all the tables, silver candle lamps and white table cloths. Overall, 1 North Belmont does a good job at creating a quiet, cozy, romantic environment. The wait staff is kind and gracious, albeit a little stiff. The restaurant never did completely fill or feel busy.

Since the evening had a touch of chill, the hubs and I opted for soup as our first course. An inspired choice indeed! Hubs had the seafood bisque. Apparently, it was so good, his vocal chords were paralyzed until he was finished. :) I ordered the butternut squash soup. The serving staff came out w/a soup tureen for each of us and ladled our soup, steaming hot and fresh, right before our eyes. Hubs soup was served over crab meat and chive, my bowl appeared w/candied pear and creme fraiche in the bottom. I have to say, my butternut squash soup tasted like a bowl full of Thanksgiving and was truly lovely.

For dinner, hubs ordered the steak au poivre, which was perfectly cooked and tender. I ordered the Sole Meuniere, which was fileted tableside. And it was quite a show! In silence, for what felt like an hour, we watched the waiter pull 4 filets off of the Sole with 2 large tablespoons. This was not a $49 worth show. That's right, you read that right, the Sole was $49. Hubs steak was $46. So, I will state at this point unabashedly that our meal was VERY overpriced. Granted, our meals were good, but each of our entrees, in my humble opinion, should not have cost over $35 each. The fish was decent, but not noteworthy.

Once the entrees were consumed, hubs and I decided to head off to Can Can for post-dinner drinks and dessert. I would like to mention as I perused the Can Can menu, I noted that their Sole Meuniere cost $23.50. Which, I believe is much more reasonable for this dish. Our meal at 1 North Belmont which included bottled water, 1 glass of Austrian Pinot Noir, 2 soups and 2 entrees was $150. Yes, you read that right...........$150.

Hubs and I agreed that we appreciated the atmosphere of 1 North Belmont more for our occasion b/c it was without the bustle, clatter and general cacophony always heard echoing from the rafters of Can Can. But, bottom line, we believe we paid way too much for our meal. I would however, recomment 1 North Belmont as the starting point for a Girls Nite Out. Or an end. You could have soup(which is quite filling by itself) and champagne or dessert and champagne up at the bar. But, we will probably not be back for a special occasion.

*Addendum: Recently, we made travel plans for Vegas (12/08). I'm doing a little research on Bouchon and it starts to dawn on me. Bouchon, THOMAS KELLER'S CREATION, is more reasonably priced than 1 North Belmont. It literally almost makes me want to tell people to never go to 1 North, just on principle.

1 North Belmont
1 N Belmont Ave
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 358-0050

Monday, October 20, 2008

Avenue 805

Friday nite found the hubs and I out at Avenue 805. I have to say, I immediately liked the comfortable ambience and atmosphere upon entering this establishment. Dim lighting, original art on the walls, votives flickering everywhere, pale blue & green, pleather booths, stacks of wine stashed all over and a little Jack Johnson playing in the background......(and hubs plugging his ears in protest). Whomever designed the decor, obviously put a lot of thought into it.

We were greeted and seated immediately. The restaurant was about 3/4 full when we arrived around 7:30, seemingly doing a brisk business. We took a table at the very back of the restaurant, far from the chilly breeze blowing through the front door. Warm bread was immediately brought to the table, which we promptly tucked into.

For apps, we ordered the evening's special of smoked zucchini ravioli in a cream sauce topped with house made duck proscuitto as well as the white bean hummus platter w/fresh veggies and toasted foccacia. Both were excellent and I would easily order them again.

For drinks, I ordered a glass of the house Malbec. It should be noted that Avenue 805 favors their patrons selecting bottles of wine for the table and does very few wines by the glass. And mine had been sitting around too long in an opened bottle, teetering on the edge of undrinkable. I would love to have ordered a bottle of a full bodied cabernet, but the hubs doesn't drink wine and I can't finish a whole bottle by myself. And if I could, I'm not confessing it here! LOL! ;)

For entrees, we stuck to the basic pasta menu. The hubs ordering fettucini alfredo with shrimp. The alfredo sauce was creamy deliciousness, but the shrimp was rubbery. Which to me is an unforgivable sin. My gnocchi were soft potato pillows of delight, smothered in a bolognese sauce that was too sweet and not seasoned enough for my taste. I would love to see a gnocchi option with a tomato cream sauce and lardons added to the menu. Actually, that is my perpetual search in this city anytime I'm eating gnocchi.

For dessert, the hubs tried the carrot cake and it got an enthusiastic two thumbs up. Which is rare praise from him! The cake was moist, fragrant with spice, lacked raisins (which is a plus for the hubs) and had a rich cream cheese icing. I had the standard creme brulee, which fit the bill in texture as well as taste. I also ordered a post-meal coffee which arrived in a "Barryshnicow" mug. And as silly as it sounds, this sealed the deal for me to come back. I love a comfortably elegant restaurant that serves great food, but doesn't take itself too seriously.

I'd also like to note the service- friendly, responsive and every course was to the table, piping hot within minutes. Top notch and unbeaten in my experiences dining around Richmond. This is obviously a restaurant that cares about it's patronage and I, for one, will be back even though our entrees fell a little flat this first visit. B/c overall, Avenue 805 has all the characteristics of what I look for in a "regular" place. :)

Avenue 805
805 N Davis Ave
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 353-2505

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Chili Time again, folks!

I get so excited for Fall, b/c that means I get to bust out my soup and chili repetoire. Today, I've made my first batch of chili for the season and I have to say it's my tastiest one yet! I never make the same chili twice and this one's a little more en fuego than I normally make (per hubs tastebuds' request). So, this recipe should hopefully make you heat seekers happy. Simultaneously, I think it's pretty flavorful. The smell alone makes my mouth water.
I hope you get to make and enjoy this!

B's Bohemia Chili

Olive Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined and finely chopped
1 lb ground chicken
3/4 bottle of Bohemia beer
Smoked Spanish Paprika
Dried Oregano
Chipotle Chili Powder
Chili Powder
Powdered Garlic
2 Poblano peppers- roasted, seeded and finely chopped
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatos w/jalapeno
2 28 oz cans of plum tomato puree
5-6 cans beans of your choice (I used white & red kidney as well as pinto), drained and rinsed
1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 c. chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Turn on broiler and blister 2 poblano peppers (about 6-7 minutes per side). Once roasted, put the peppers in a small bowl covered with plastic wrap. When cool enough to handle(approx 10-15 minutes), skin, seed and chop finely.

Meanwhile, heat a dutch oven w/a little olive oil in it over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and jalapeno sweating for approx. 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Crank the heat to med-high and then add chicken along with half of the amount of spices you intend to use.

I don't give exact measurements for the spices b/c everyone's tastes are different. I will tell you that to start I use a palm full of chili powder, 1/2 palm of garlic powder, 1/2 palm of chipotle(this has A LOT of kick!), 1/3 palm of smoked paprika and a hearty pinch of oregano.

Once the chicken is cooked through, I add the 3/4 bottle of Bohemia and tomato paste. I let it simmer until it becomes like a thick gravy surrounding the chicken, approx 10 minutes.

Transfer chicken mixture to a crockpot and add the other half of your seasoning, poblanos, tomatos, beans, chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve with corn bread! (this particular day, I made cheddar, scallion corn muffins, mmmmmm........)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Whole Paycheck......

......finally made my way over to Short Pump to visit the new Whole Foods. I'm really still in shock that we got one. Since transplanting here from Chicago, it's something I have yearned for. Yet, when the store opened, I stayed away b/c I knew it was going to be bombarded.

Somehow this past Sunday, a friend talked me into popping into the WF. I was feeling brave that day (maybe it was the mimosa's from Millie's) so I said, "Sure! Why not?" And I was delighted to find, it's still as wonderful as I remember. It was busy, but not as insane as I had imagined.

Gorgeous and varied produce. So many kinds of yogurt, it boggles the mind. Cheese for days. Hot and salad bars, that, if I lived closer, would mean I would never cook again! I was very excited to find Fage, a greek yogurt called for in a lot of recipes I have on hold to try. And I'm happy to report I left unscathed with a mere $25 worth of goodies in tow.

I'm even more excited for the opening of Trader Joe's. Quality organic products at even more fair prices than WF. Yay! Richmond has finally come into the 21st century!

Note to self: Leave reusable shopping bags in car for impromptu shopping moments such as these.
Note to WF: A wider variety in the whole grain pasta would much appreciated. Didn't see much here I couldn't find at Kroger. Would esp. love to see whole grain orzo!

Millie's Diner

Ok, I know Millie's is held in high regard and is much beloved in this town. And as much as I want to fall in love with Millie's, I find that for some reason, I just can not. I love the variety of their menu and what they represent as far as a quality local restaurant. However, I have yet to find something on the menu that speaks to me and beckons me to come back for more.

This past Sunday I went a-brunching with my ladies. A big part of brunch for me would be the beverages. Two complaints here-- bloodies at Millie's are neither tasty enough, nor do they have any heat, the mimosa's are extremely acidic and left me with indigestion. (And this is saying a LOT b/c I have an iron stomach).

I had the Huevos Rancheros, which were tasty enough, but nothing to write home about. And the "salsa" on top was actually super chunky and akin to pico de gallo. Others in my party had the breakfast burrito, eggs benedict served on a croissant and cheddar biscuits with gravy. The biscuits and gravy disappeared off of my friend's plate at light speed, so I take that to mean she enjoyed them. :) The eggs bene on a croissant got rave reviews, I have decided I will have to go back to try this. And lastly, the burrito, there was a bit of a scuffle over this particular item.

Normally, my friend is offered(by her regular waiter which we did not have on this day) to add eggs to her breakfast burrito. This particular Sunday morning, that did not happen, so my friend asked for eggs to be added. She was told a flat, "no." Granted, the sign upfront does say- "no substitutions" and that always puts the fear of God into me to not to have a "When Harry Met Sally" moment. But, since the precedent was set for my friend that she could have eggs, she was taken aback. And then sullen. I daresay it almost ruined our fun brunch. As a consolation prize we did get toast and apologies later.

I will say the coffee and potatos are great. And if you've ever read any of my other reviews, these are the 2 most important criteria in my opinion of a breakfast/brunch place.

In all, it was ok. Was it worth an hour wait? In my opinion, no. My preference for brunch in this town so far is for Can Can or Kitchen 64 (AWESOME bloody mary's).
2603 E Main St
Richmond, VA 23223
(804) 643-5512

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nationals Game

Rode on up to DC to catch a Nationals' game this past weekend. It was my first time in their park and I have to say that it's fabulous! Reminds me a bit of Turner Field.

The team itself........meh, I've seen better. Cubbies anyone? ;)

Food choices abound, including a fav of mine- 5 Guys! But, I only sampled the Boardwalk Fries which were neither noteworthy, nor salty. Unlike the peanuts, which are a no-fail in whatever ballpark you find yourself.

And for fun---

Tip from B: Someone should really rethink this brand name:

You're welcome.

Fall cometh........

........the temperature declines into the 60's and the rain softly patters on rooftops here in Central VA, my thoughts turn to what else? Tomato Soup! And grilled cheese!

I also have to share that I love using up odds and ends of pantry stores. I get a weird sense of accomplishment from doing this. I enjoy challenging myself to see how much leftover crap I can get into a dish that's still edible.

Also, hubs is sick and tomato soup is his fav. Turns out, this meal is a win-win for us both ;)

B's Tomato Soup
Serves 2

2 large, ripe tomatos (I had Hanover)
1 1/4 c. chicken broth
2 tspn tomato paste
1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
1 small onion, chopped (or half a medium)
1 small stalk celery, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sour Cream

*Chive for garnish, optional

Quarter and seed the tomatos. Throw everything except the sour cream in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cut to a simmer for 20-30 minutes. It's at this pt. the tomato skins loosen and you should be able to easily extract them with a set of tongs. (wouldn't hurt if you left them in either, it's a personal choice).

Once soup is done simmering, I hit it with a stick blender. If you don't have one, a regular blender would be fine. Just make sure to take the middle portion out of the lid to vent the hot liquid!

Ladle up the soup and hit it with a dollop of sour cream (although creme fraiche would be lovely if you have some, but if you'll recall, I'm trying to use up leftovers. So, sour cream it is!)

Serve w/a nice buttery grilled cheese (we like Irish Cheddar) and Bon Appetit!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Must See TV...

Richmond, mark your calendars and/or set your DVR's for PBS at 6 pm, Sunday October 5th.

Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow are taking a road trip full of feasting. This is a 13 part series discovering the rich traditions of Spanish foods called Spain....on the road again.

I'm partic. excited about watching this b/c Mark Bittman (NY Times food columnist and cookbook author) is joining the crew!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Popkins & The National

This past Friday found me anxiously anticipating the arrival of The Cult at The National. Would they still be any good live? Would the lead singer still be hot? All the important, universe-impacting, hard-hitting questions.......... :)

Prior to arriving at The National, our crew met up at Popkins for a pre-show bite and a beer. It should be noted that Popkins has a new chef who has instituted a new menu w/a bit of French flair. The menu has poutines (which I may one day get around to trying), steak frites, tons of seafood options, various sandwiches on buttery, toasted egg bread, "pizettes" and many other items that will encourage one to drool. Maybe I'm the last to know, b/c it's been a while since I've dropped in here, but just wanted to pass the info along like any good blogger!

My friend and I tried the Pizettes. I had the mozzarella, tomato, basil and my friend tried the goat cheese, caramelized shallot and ham. Hers won me over, hands down. (Duh! It had GOAT cheese on it!) Salty, sweet delicious. Mine, not so much. The sauce was too thick for my tastes as well as too sweet. The crust gave itself away as pre-frozen, thawed and baked. We all agreed we missed the former chef's thin pizza crust. (Lesson: Don't cut corners! People notice!)

In closing, I would like to go back and try a few main course items to get an overall feel for the food again. I am sad that the chopped salad is gone, I really used to look forward to having it.

As far as The National, it did not disappoint! I am, by self-definition "old" (btw- over 30 does = old ;) ) and therefore like to sit down while enjoying a few hours of music. Our group was very lucky to find a handful of seats together on the upper deck/balcony.

Otherwise, it was standing room only on the floor and packed from corner to corner. They have a bar upstairs and down that have easy access and pretty good service, considering the amount of folks they are serving. The upper deck has bathrooms located in the back hallway, so you don't have to go all the way back downstairs to hit the ladies/gents (*I mention this b/c it's such a luxury. If you've ever been to The Riv in Chicago, you know what I mean!)

Opened in 1923, the interior seems to be restored, with a big, white, plaster dome in the middle of the ceiling and a romanesque frieze moulding all around the top walls of the theatre. I really love that as a city, we're trying to hang onto and restore our downtown/Jackson ward area.

The show itself was phenomenal with the encore consisting of, of course-- Fire Woman and Sanctuary. These guys really know how to please their fans and they have still got "it." My fav part of the show (other than the encore) was when Ian Astbury gave a shout out to the Jonas Brothers for "keeping it real" and being "Dirty Little Rock Stars."

Inlaw Visit = Canal Tour in Richmond

To quote my husband, "The Richmond Canal tour is worth $5, but not 6.........." Sunday, after Hanna, was a beautiful, clear, no-humidity day. So in all, a lovely day to tour the canal. Of course we got there 1 minute past the time the first tour was heading out. So, we bought our tickets and opted to saunter up to Stool Pigeons for a Mimosa while we waited for the next tour to come around.
I think it's hard to hear the tour guide and the tour itself deserves a script that has more meat and structure. There's so much history in the bottom area that is significant that wasn't even touched upon.
My 2 fav parts of the tour were the mention of our lucky strike factory in The Shawshank Redemption as well as the turtles hanging out on the banks and swimming freely next to the tour boat :)

I also got a really sweet shot of downtown on our way back in:

Our lunch consisted of a trip to Zuppa. (I've talked about it on here recently). Which was not as crazy packed for lunch as it is for the work crowd during the week. The French Dip is still delicious and I've discovered that their chili cheese fries are worth an honorary mention. Crispy fries, tasty chili w/real cheese (no canned, goopy plasticky stuff). This is a "must stop" for lunch sometime if/when you're down in the bottom.

Inlaw Visit = Daytrip to Norfolk

I've been negligent in reporting our recent daytrip to Norfolk. Mainly b/c I've been trying to recover from our marathon tour of the entire state of VA and DC ;)

My father-in-law had his heart set on the boat tour of the Naval base in Norfolk. And as luck would have it, Hanna blew through on Saturday. So then, the following Monday when we went to Norfolk, it was gorgeous. The tour itself is $15 and 2 hours long. Basically, 1 hour of a tour out and 1 hour listening to a random selection of songs on your way back to port.

The tour boat itself (above) has an air conditioned cabin below and a canvas covered deck above. With a little shade and a breeze, our journey was quite pleasant. However, I couldn't care less about the tour. I'm like, "Oh! There's a big grey boat! Annnnnnnnnnnd another big great boat.......oh. and a big.grey.boat." *Yawn!* *Insert fork in my eye* And let's be honest, Norfolk is not the most pleasant of waterfronts to behold, no matter how useful it may be. ;)

I was astounded ,however, at the 90 million ton Disney cruise ship they had suspended in dry dock.

The high point of my day, as per usual, was lunch. We ended up at local watering hole, Hell's Kitchen. Hubs and I both agree that if we lived in Norfolk, this would be our local joint. One of their recent fun "events" was "80's Prom Nite." The menu, as expected, is hot, hot, hot! I ordered the buffalo flounder sandwich. It was lite, crispy and melted in my mouth. The side of "fries" are more like rounds or home fries. The rest of our table ordered the buffalo chicken cheesesteak and the crabcake sandwich. Fries all around.

Silence ensued upon delivery of our order. Except for an occasional head nod and reflexive, "Mmmmmmm........." The verdict is that we would all go back any day to eat ourselves silly.

On a side note, we walked down to Waterside. Basically b/c it was there and the inlaws had never seen it. After popping in, I'm wondering why we thought they NEEDED to see it, other than the fact it was right next to where our tour boat docked. What a pit. Seriously, why am I going to Joe's to order CHAIN seafood when I'm sitting right on a hotbed of local seafood restaurants that are Xinfinity more worth patronizing? It really ticked me off to see all the chains, but I should've known better than to go in there, so I deserve what I get I suppose :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Anthony Bourdain--

This is making me LOL today......(and I say this as a lover of AB and all things No Reservations. I mean, who doesn't love a show about food that starts off with a parental warning?)

What will you eat?

Copied from River City Food & Wine:

Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that Very Good Taste from the UK thinks every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.

Here’s the deal:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. (mine are in green b/c it's hard to see bold on a black background)
3) Red out any items that you would never consider eating.

Here is my list (with a few comments thrown in):

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda

31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar

37. Clotted cream tea (at the Ritz in Chicago)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (do Jello shots count?)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects(I have to confess, my ant was covered in chocolate)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear

52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV(thank you trucker friend who brings back Canadian beer!)

59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs (my uncles caught the frogs and made these for me as a child)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (like RCF&W-- I consider Charlie Trotter's to be sufficient)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Monday, September 8, 2008

Last nite w/inlaws = Arroz con Pollo

A secret stash of saffron + finding chorizo at the local Bodega Latina = making Brandon Eats' Arroz con Pollo for dinner.

This meal is so rich in flavor and fragrance, it's a treat for the senses.
PS-- I had the leftovers for lunch today (T9.9.08) and it's a good thing my mama was no where near or she would've gotten smacked. It's twice as good the next day..........

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice)*
from Brandon Eats

2 TB. olive oil
1 red pepper, sliced
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 double-sized cubes (like Knorr) chicken bouillon
4 cups hot water
2 very large pinches saffron (lightly toasted in a small pan ahead of time)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 c. Bomba rice or Aborio rice
1 lb. real SPANISH chorizo, sliced into 1/2” rounds (NO SUBSTITUTIONS)
6-8 pieces of chicken, skinned, rinsed and patted dry

Sauté the garlic, red pepper, and onion over medium heat in large, wide cast-iron skillet until soft and fragrant. Add the chicken and sauté until golden brown. Dissolve bouillon in hot water; stir in tomato paste; add to pan. Sprinkle with saffron and stir. Add rice and chorizo; bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering with the pan covered.

Cook slowly until all of the liquid is gone (20 to 30 minutes: keep a close eye on it), and the rice is cooked.

* Mine cooked for about 45 minutes in this instance.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The perfect meal...


The.perfect. meal.

My mother-in-law can rock out some salsa y'all! This was our dinner tonite after a day of touring the city of Richmond. And man, it hit the spot! Viva la Texas! ;) We hit up the Bodega Latina on Broad St. around the corner from my house and I have to share that their tomatos cost half of what Kroger charges and were twice as ripe! Their jalepenos had awesome kick that really made our salsa sing.

My MIL and I made a discovery together tonite. Both of us had added canned, diced tomatos to salsa in the past to "red" it up. I only had crushed plum tomatos in my pantry, so we added those, it turned out delicious, much to our delight! It sweetened up the salsa and gave it an amazing color and texture.

I topped everything off with a Carta Blanca. It's basically the Miller Lite of Mexican beers and my all time favorite summer beer.

Martha's Salsa

1 large, very ripe tomato
4 smallish jalepenos, seeded & deveined
14 oz crushed, roma/plum tomatos
Juice of half a lime
Pinch of salt & pepper (to taste)
1/4 of a small onion
2 large cloves of garlic

Throw everything in the food processor and let 'er rip!

Inlaw Visit = Lasagna!

Inevitably, if we have out of town guests, I will make and freeze a lasagna at least a week ahead of time. I'll pull it out and put it in the fridge 24 hours in advance to thaw and then leave it out for an hour on the counter before I cook it off for dinner.

I've been "test driving" lasagna recipes for years, but none of them seemed to hit the "just right" button in my mouth. So, recently, I combined 2 great recipes to make what I think is a knock out 5 layer combination. I hope you try it and think so too!

I will also typically buy the short and deep tin lasagna pan from the grocery store for ease of clean up. So, take that into account as far as amount of ingredients, height of layers etc.

So, for the sauce, I was inspired by Ina's Turkey Lasagna. For the cheese mixture, I was inspired by Rachel's Special Occasion Lasagna. I ended up adding a ton more mozzarella and parmesan along the way, so here we go!

PS-- This recipe has now officially set the landspeed record in our house for fastest disappearing lasagna ever! We only had 2 pieces leftover after the first round and they were consumed asap the following day. I think this recipe might be a keeper! ;)

5 Layer Lasagna for Company

1 large lasagna pan
1 lb box lasagna noodles (will need 15 noodles total)
1 lb bag of part skim mozzarella

3/4 cup small curd low fat cottage cheese, drained
3/4 cup (6 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup (6 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley

2 tbsp olive oil
1 c chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 1 1/2 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (roma/plum)
3 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
1/4 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tspn kosher salt
3/4 tspn freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, only 1 or 2 minutes less than directed.

Mix up items for cheese mixture (using only a 1/4 c. parm) and set aside.

Heat oil in large pan or dutch oven, add onion and garlic. Cook/sweat for approx. 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add turkey sausage and cook until no longer pink. Add tomatos, tomato paste, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened.

To assemble Lasagna:

Layer a ladle of sauce on the bottom of your lasagna pan. Lay three noodles, lengthwise across pan. Add two ladels of sauce on top of noodles. Add a ladle and a half of cheese mixture and then a handful+ of mozzarella. Repeat. Be sparing w/sauce and cheeses and you will want to have 5 layers when you are done. For the top and final layer, merely ladle the sauce that is left across the noodles and top with mozzarella cheese and remaining 3/4 c. of parmesan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until browned at the edges and bubbly. Enjoy!

Inlaw Visit = Trip to Monticello

You never have to twist my arm to take you to Monticello. Few places truly stir my soul quite like Thomas Jefferson's home place. In fact, you could probably say it's amongst my top favorite 5 places on Earth. And TJ is my fav president for four reasons:

1. He was a red-head
2. He was a lefty
3. He had the soul of an artist and a poet
4. He was the original American "foodie" (thanks for reminding me of the obvious joelen! lol!)

If you guessed this is really not a food related post, you'd almost be correct. :) I didn't eat anything at Monticello (unless you count the pack of Lance crackers I consumed while taking in the view), but I do have a few culinary references for you. I'll try and let the pics do most of the talking.

If you haven't been here, I highly encourage you to go anytime between April and October on a cool clear day. You'll feel like you're standing on the edge of the universe looking at a 360 degree view of the shenandoah valley.

During Jefferson's time, his house was considered the "curiousity of the neighborhood" as it did not embody the Georgian characteristics of the day. The kitchen was also not in a separate building, but underneath the house, with the cook's room being right next door:

My very favorite part of every visit, is a trip to the garden. Below you'll see the entry gate. The garden and vineyard/orchards below are each built into terraces.

There are benches all along "Mulberry Row" (a row of mulberry's on the top terrace above the garden level) that you can park on to enjoy the amazing view.

"I have lived temperately," Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1819, "eating little animal food, and that as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet." Jefferson's favorite were English peas. A man after my own heart :)

He also kept fruit orchards which are still tended.

Thomas Jefferson has been described as America's "first distinguished viticulturist," and "the greatest patron of wine and winegrowing that this country has yet had."

And the most food-related item in this post-- Barboursville 2004 Octagon -- a.m.a.z.i.n.g. That's all I'm going to say- you need to try some for yourself. Hands down my favorite red. Ever. And you can pick a bottle up at Monticello, at Barboursville vineyard or a local wine shop in VA. Salut!