Mmm… Food

Homemade Pizza. Delicious!
January 30, 2009, 11:52 am
Filed under: Cooking, Foods, Shopping

I always used to believe that pizza was best ordered out.  Call it my Chicago roots talking but I love deep dish Chicago style pizza.  Thick and cheesy.  Giordano’stops my list but there are many other places I love a slice at.  This is not something you can just make at home either.  So with that considered, making pizza at home was usually seen as a money saving opportunity or food adventure by making my own crust and topping it with unlikely items, (like the prosciutto and egg pizza we tried earlier this year).  So last nite I was just looking for an easy fix to the problem that we had extra pesto in our fridge and needed a food solution to use it up.  Stepping up to the plate was Trader Joes.


Trader Joes sells pizza dough still in it’s raw dough form.  You just have to roll it out, top it with whatever you choose and bake for 7 or 8 minutes.  It’s fresher and tastier than any kind of Boboli or other pre-baked pizza dough, and it comes in a Whole Wheat version which makes it a little healthier.  (I say a little because even at home, pizza is not the prize winning choice for healthy meals.  However… last nite it was easy to make, cheaper than getting a pizza delivered, and one of the tastiest homemade pizzas I’ve ever made!!!

Instead of using a red pizza sauce, I used the pesto as the base.  I topped it with some pepperoni and fresh mushrooms and then covered it with a part skim mozzarella.  In the oven for 8 minutes and wala!!!  Heaven.  We ate the whole thing.  I felt overfull when we were done, but when it tastes that good you just can’t stop yourself.  Well maybe YOU can, but I can’t.


Week 4: The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston M.D.
January 26, 2009, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Books


This is not a diet blog.  This is a food blog.  A Mmm… Food Blog.  So while I have read the South Beach Diet and am following the plan, the food I’m eating is no less tasty or satisfying than it was before.  In fact we’ve been doing more cooking than ever!!  Which totally works out in favor both tastiness wise, health-wise and budget wise.  🙂  I wont’ go into all the details, but South Beach is a 3 Phase Diet.  Phase 1 lasts two weeks.  The first two weeks you start you are stabilizing your glycemic index by not eating sugar in the form of soda, candy, ice cream, fruits, bread, pasta or most carbohydrates.  Phase 2 lasts from after the first two weeks until you are at your goal weight.  Here you get to add some carbohydrates back in.  Good carbs only though.  Fruits, whole wheat pastas, brown and wild rice, whole grain breads.  No french bread, white flour or cookies.  But you get to eat almost everything else.  Phase 3 adds most things back in, in moderation such that you maintain.  But really what I think is cool about the whole thing is that while it is labelled a diet, it doesn’t especially feel like one.  Sure cutting out things like my morning Coke, and a bag of chips from the vending machine, as well as deep-dish pizza when we get home late and don’t want to cook isn’t easy, but anybody, even those not on a “diet” know eating too much of that stuff isn’t good for you.  Eating by the South Beach plan means planning our meals out.  Knowing what we are going to eat on a weekly basis, and executing meals to make sure we have the food we want to eat available to us when we’re hungry. 

I was laughing at the New Year’s Resolution to cook at least 1 new recipe a week.  We’ve made at least 5 new recipes every week so far.  It hasn’t been hard.  Just the opposite, there are so many things we want to try, we haven’t been repeating.  April did voice the concern that she would like to repeat some of the things we’ve made, and this would certainly make planning easier, but it’s still fun to go through and pick out all sorts of new things. 

The book and diet plan seem sound.  I was very skeptical at first, but I like that Dr. Agatston talks about only looking at this eating plan as a therapeutic way to improve the lives of his heart patients.  He wasn’t trying to create a diet to make people skinnier.  However, as he says in the intro to his book “I see now that the cosmetic benefits of losing weight are extremely important because they so effectively motivate the young and the old-even more than the promise of healthy hear, it often seems.” (The South Beach Diet, p7)  I for one agree. 🙂

Beef Stroganoff with Greek Yogurt and Dill
January 26, 2009, 2:16 pm
Filed under: Cooking

We had my parents over for dinner this past Saturday. We decided to make Beef Stroganoff with Greek Yogurt and Dill featured in the February 2009 issue of Real Simple. As repped on the recipe page this version employs greek yogurt instead of the standard sour cream and butter, significantly reducing the amount of fat intake. Awesome. And served over a whole wheat garlic fettuccine I ordered on-line from Pappardelle’s (seriously some of the tastiest and unique flavoured pasta) we added fiber and made this meal even more nutritious. Of course in what at times can be a whirlwind of entertaining, I forget to get out my camera and have no documented proof of how delicious this meal was. However, I do have the fact that my mother asked for “A Doggie Bag” as proof that it was tasty. I used sirloin for the meat and my parents rarely ever eat hamburgers let alone steak, so I felt pretty good when this request was made. I though, can’t take any credit for the cooking of this meal though. April executed everything, from salad greens with blackberries and a fig balsamic vinaigrette, the creamed spinach(which was also in Real Simple) and her version of Banana Chocolate Walnut muffins with a Cream Cheese frosting. Mmm… sooo tasty!!! And once again good for you. Whole wheat flour, no butter, splenda just all around goodness. Props to April!!! Perhaps I’ll remember to pull my camera out again for our next cooking adventure this week!!!

For Everything New there is Something Old
January 23, 2009, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Cooking

While I try to keep on track, for every new item I blog about there are other lost menu items that have never made it up here.  So I thought I’d try to make a quick go of a few of the other items we’ve been eating in the last couple of weeks.

food-064Portobella Mushroom caps stuffed with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts in a Red Sauce.  Quick.  Simple.  Easy.   Tasty!!!  These dont’ require much prep, and with only 30 minutes in the oven @ 350 they are a quick meal.    Just one of several recipes from the South Beach Cookbook.


Flank Steak with Roasted Shallots and Goat Cheese.  This Bon Appetit wonder was scrumptious.  Marinate the steak in a mix of olive oil, red wine vinegar, thyme and garlic.  Toss the shallots with the same dressing.  Cook the steaks in the broiler and top it with a little goat cheese and sink you teeth into this wonder!!!  LOVED IT!!!

Pistachio Chicken Salad.  South Beach has some good ones.  Here it’s the  simplest of things give a meal the oomphh it’s looking for.  For this Chicken Salad I encrusted the chicken breasts with finely chopped pistachios.  Add  pistachios to a food processor and chop to a fine mix.  food-071Lay the pistachios in the bottom of  pie pan and press the chicken into the nuts, coating both sides well.  Add some olive oil to a frying pan.  Cook each side of the chicken about 2 minutes.  Then transfer to a baking dish and finish cooking in the oven @ 375 until internal temp is 165 about 10-15 minutes.  Just chop up the chicken and sprinkle it over a green salad and add any veggies you want.  I made this salad with an Avocado Dressing, 1 avacado, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Super simple.  And this is really just too easy, and fast!!!  It has to be put on the rotation for the “I just got home, it’s late and I want to order take out, but know I should cook something” kind of days.  This meal can be ready in less than 30 minutes.  Faster than most delivery services!!!

Mustard Tarragon Shrimp and  Brussel Sprouts with White Beans and Pecorino.  Bon  Appetit may slowly be becoming my new Bible.  I love Martha dearly, but this food is just so damn tasty. 


April continues to bemuse the fact that she didn’t discovered Bon Appetit sooner.  The shrimp here were tasty, but the clear winner was the Brussel Sprouts with White Beans.  The Brussel sprouts are first braised in some olive oil.  Then saute a little bit of garlic before adding in some chicken broth with the white beans and Brussel sprouts and reduce until the broth has become a glaze.  Salt and pepper to taste and stir in the Pecorino.  The flavours meld so well together.  Our friend Jennifer has already remade this meal after we first tried it out on her 🙂

So that’s at least a few more of the meals we’ve been trying out 🙂

Week 3: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
January 22, 2009, 3:12 pm
Filed under: Books


I zoomed through Garlic and Sapphiresby Ruth Reichl.  Three days on the train to and from work and I had polished off this fun book. Ruth Reichl is currently the Editor in Chief at Gourmet magazine joining the staff in 1999. What’s interesting then about this book, which details her time spent from 1993-1999 as the Restaurant Critic for the New York Times, is that it was published in 2005, after she had left the job behind. It’s interesting to get a hindsight account of her activities. As the books subtitle “The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” tells us, the stories about her adventures in eating at and reviewing restaurants had her donning disguises to try and get a more “honest” tasting of the food and service at any given restaurant. Any time Ruth was spotted as herself she would be catered to. Waiters fawning on her every need, course after course streaming from the kitchen, the best table in the house. She had to come up with a way to get around that, and so she invented characters to go out and dine in the establishments. This of course is probably a great reason why this book had to be written after she was done being the food critic, even when people would have loved to know about it as it was going on. You don’t reveal your tricks when you still are using them. You wait until the shows over and done and then you let people in on your scheme.  That and I’m sure writing about your coworkers when your coworkers are staff at the New York Times may also not be such a good idea.  You want to keep your job after all.

The book was laid out in a wonderful fashion.  Chapters detailing each new “character” Ruth invented followed them to a restaurant and let you in on her dining experiences.  Many of these chapters ended with the printed Times review of whatever restaurant she had been extolling, both the good and the bad.  And if it wasn’t the review that you were finding, you were getting one of Ruth Reichl’s own recipes.  I for one will be trying her recipe for Pasta Carbonara, which looked quite simple and easy.  The book just flowed so easily.  What could have seemed incredibly choppy flowed together without fault.  I was left constantly wondering, how would she top herself now!  

Ilana once again gets the props for pointing me towards this book.  Loved it, want to read more, although it will have to wait.  I am trying to venture all over the board, and only read one book by each author this year.  There are so many books to choose from, I don’t want to limit myself to just a handful of authors, even if I love their writing.  So… until next week.

Cutest Video!!!
January 22, 2009, 9:54 am
Filed under: Foods, Random Facts

Crab Crunch and Salsify
January 21, 2009, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Foods

 There are successes and there are failures.  I know that you need one to have the other, but still there is disappointment when things don’t work out the way you think they should.  Last nites dinner of crab cakes and salsify was decent.  Not a failure, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a success.

Let’s start with the Crab Cakes.  Lump crab meat is expensive, even more so when you buy it at Whole Foods.  However, they didn’t have it at the first grocery store I had been at, so we stopped by Whole Foods


on our way home from seeing Revolutionary Road (side note, very good don’t see it if you’re looking for a pick me up).  The woman behind the seafood counter section showed us to the refrigerated section where they had pre-packaged lump crab meat.  $3.99.  Not bad.  Get two containers, add it with our few other items and we’re ready to go.  Until.  You check out and each container rings up at an alarming $14.99 a piece!!!  Definitely read the sign wrong.   What is meant to be just part of our Tuesday nite dinner is now costing us 30 dollars!!!  Stop. Return that, get the canned stuff.  It’s still not $3.99 a can, but much less expensive.  I don’t know what canned crab meat at  Jewel or Dominick’s might cost, but crab cakes are being viewed as a treat by my pocketbook right now.

After chopping and cooking onions and celery.  Measuring all the spices, sauces, mayo, parsley and mixing it with crab meat I thought.  Boy these cakes aren’t sticking together very well.  I’m not sure how breading them is going to go.  Not well is the case.  Gingerly touched, they still fell apart.   I was able to place in them in the pan whole for first side browning, but forget flipping them.  Crab cakes became crab crunch.  Not the same, but April didn’t disapprove.  She claimed to like them, although I didn’t find anything super special about the seasoning, and am still working on adding seafood and fish to my diet as something to be enjoyed.   My vote is don’t make these again.

Salsify.  Salsify is just strange.  Maybe more strange because I hadn’t even heard of it before last week.  April compared the finished version to french fries, but I won’t be buying this as substitute any time soon.  salsifyI prepared the brown root vegetable per Emeril’s recipe here.  #1- Peel the salsify.  No problem.  Softer than a carrot, peeling was relatively easy but time consuming.  What’s strange is that you peel a section to reveal a milky white flesh which immediately starts to brown.  Within seconds it is a brownish hue.  The ends that I cut also leaked a milky substance,  oozing out the top really.  Never seen anything like it before.  #2 Cook it.  Put it on the stove top in a mixture of milk, water, salt and pepper.  Bring it to a boil and simmer it for about 15 minutes.  Pull it out and let it cool.  #3 Coat it in cornstarch and sear it stovetop in olive oil.  Kind of looks like a french fry.  A duller french fry. 

But the salsify didn’t seem to have any distinct flavour.  I couldn’t detect an oyster flavour, which had been hinted at in articles I had read.  Nothing sharp, tart or tangy.  Nothing to push you to either side.  Just a cooked root vegetable substance with a little browned coating.  

Alone the dishes looked sad in their pans.  Blah and unappealing.  Which is why there are sauces and garnish.  The red pepper and mayo sauce to top the crab added some much needed color, and a sprig of parsley brightened up the plate. 


Like I said, not a total failure, but not exactly a success.