We went to Lake Gaston this weekend for a large family gathering. A lot of time was spent in the water. My husband is an awesome uncle. Look how he throws the children.
And look at them all lined up, wanting to get in on the action. It's almost as if they like it. Everyone got a turn!
Monday, June 30, 2008
We went to Lake Gaston this weekend for a large family gathering. A lot of time was spent in the water. My husband is an awesome uncle. Look how he throws the children.
We had lots of fresh veggies in the fridge still from last weekend's farmer's market trip and I didn't want them to go to waste while we were out of town this weekend. Sometimes things like this work out great, sometimes you'd rather forget they even happened. Thursday night I made an awesome grilled salad and I thought I'd share. I made a dressing with a bit of a mexican flair to compliment my ingredients.
Clean out your fridge salad
1/2 large tomato
2 ears of corn still in husks
1/2 large onion, thickly sliced
1 medium zucchini sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 avocado cut into chunks
1/4 cup non-fat plain yogurt
2-3 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tspn cumin powder
1/2 tspn chili powder
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tspn sugar or splenda
1 tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat grill on high heat. Chop arugula and romaine and spread on 2 plates. Dice tomato and divide evenly amongst plates. Slice avocado and spread over each salad
Put corn on lowest rack of the grill, along with onion slices. Grill zucchini and onion 5 minutes each side. Grill corn 20 minutes, flipping 4 times (each side 5 minutes). While cooling, make the dressing!
Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper once blended evenly.
Roughly chop onion slices. Cut zucchini slices into 1 inch pieces. Shuck corn and hold lengthwise with one end rested on cutting board. Using a sharp knive, start at the top and slice downward along the cob to remove the kernels. Continue rotating the cob until all kernels have been removed. Top salad with grilled veggies and dressing and serve!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Last night, I returned to Vita with my dearest female amiga. We were destined for wine, dessert and girl talk (is it still girl talk when I'm over 30?). I have no photos to share because though I don't mind annoying my husband, I do not yet expect other third parties to tolerate me with the camera at the dinner table...
Our waiter was new and his lack of experience or efficiency landed us our entree salads free (we didn't even mention anything, the bartender just comped them). I had the spinach, goat cheese and pancetta salad, which I lovingly renamed, "the bacon salad". It was covered with probably a 1/4 pound of crispy pancetta, lovely creamy goat cheese nuggets and walnuts. The balsamic vinaigrette was a wonderful companion and all the flavors complimented each other perfectly. She had the smoked salmon, arugula, endive, radicchio and champagne vinaigrette salad. She seemed to like hers and it looked lovely.
We shared a bottle of the Parducci Petit Sirah. It was half off bottles night - Awesome. It needed to breathe (waiting on alcohol is a true test of patience for me), but once it did, I really enjoyed it. We also shared the funghi pizza. All of this was more then enough food and we were both forcing the pizza down after finishing just the first half. The cheese at this restaurant is sooooo good. The mushrooms were fresh and woodsy tasting, the carmelized onions paired well with the acidic tomatoes and the crust was perfectly thin, crispy and chewy all at the same time!
Since we knew we were getting our salads free those calories didn't count (my food bible rule #1) we opted for dessert and quickly agreed on the chocolate mousse. It was served warm, with a molten center, topped with vanilla gelato. We devoured it in under 3 seconds...well not really, but you get the picture.
I just now realized that I haven't shared any of my food bible rules with this audience to this point. Perhaps I'll post one daily, like I do with the photos now...
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Last night, after a couple of beers at the pool (not mine, oh how I envy the pool), my friend and I went to Peony Asian Bistro for some sushi. They opened a little over a year ago and I had been once right after they opened. The are located close to Kroger and have buy 1 get 1 free sushi rolls. The fancy rolls are not part of this deal. Basically any regular rolls (cucumber, spicy tuna, spider rolls, etc.) are the ones that are buy 1 get 1 free.
We ordered the crab rangoon appetizer to share. It came out quickly and hot! For $3.25, it's hard to beat. There were 6 little crunchy wanton parcels filled with cream cheese, green onions and imitation crab meat. They were served on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce with a sweet/sour dipping sauce. For as simple as it was, it was yummy.
I ordered the spicy tuna roll and the philly roll. The philly roll was 8 pieces filled with cream cheese, salmon, tuna and avocado. It was very tasty. The spicy tuna was better. The spicy mayo was perfect for me and the roll had a crunchy tempura inside which complimented the texture of spicy tuna nicely.
The menu is a peculiar mixture of americanized chinese and sushi. The atmosphere and food aren't up to par with that of Shiki, but hey, it's a strip mall restaurant. I'll certainly be eating there again. Was it the best sushi I've had? Not by a long shot, but for a middle of the week meal, it definitely fit the bill. $7.42 after tax to be exact.
Oh and that buy one get one free deal is good on take-out orders as well!
If you look closely, you can see the reflection of the building behind me in the bell. I love discovering things in photos that I noticed when I actually snapped the shot! I walked past the fire station when walking up to Fisherman's wharf. My father was a firefighter for around 20 years and I just had to take a photo :)
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Are they portobellos or portobellas? I've seen them both ways...
Makes 4 servings
4 portobello caps (stems removed)
6 oz artichoke hearts (small jar)
2 oz plain non-fat yogurt
4 oz light cream cheese (I used whipped)
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
*Optional - 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs mixed with a tablespoon of melted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a spoon, gently scoop the gills out of each mushroom cap. I cradle the edges of the cap with left hand while scooping at the edge with my right so that the cap doesn't get all tore up (tore up, I crack myself up – that's the southern influence ya'll). Next sprinkle each cap with a little salt. Put those (gill side up) on a cookie sheet or baking dish and bake for about 5 minutes or until you see them sweating. Remove from oven and pour off liquid from each cap. Set aside, but leave oven on.
In a food processor, combine all remaining ingredients (excluding breadcrumbs and butter). Blend until everything is broken down and is smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste as you go. Spread spinach mixture into each mushroom cap. Top each mushroom with breadcrumb mixture and place back in the hot oven. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn broiler on and broil for 3-4 minutes.
I served with a simple arugula salad (arugula, toasted almonds, shaved parmesan and balsamic vinegarette) and baked tilapia parmesan. I baked the tilapia alongside the mushrooms for the same amount of time and broiled until bubbly. I don't use as much mayo and I used fresh basil. Yummy healthy dinner. Be careful with those hot mushrooms, they carry the hottest damn liquid on the planet. I usually cut mine up and allow it to cool while eating my salad!
Monday, June 23, 2008
My last supper in San Francisco was eaten at Cafe Pescatore. They are located about 4 blocks from Pier 39, just north of North Beach. I was craving Italian and hadn't eaten any since I had been in San Francisco. One of the free guidebooks at the hotel had a coupon for a free antipasto plate to this place, and it looked pretty decent so I decided to check it out. I took the F line up to Fisherman's Wharf and walked.
They have nice outdoor seating and I was early (a theme with me these days) so I opted to dine al fresco. The menu was diverse and very affordable. I had a very friendly and helpful waiter (Grant I think was his name). It was the best service I had while dining in the city. I ordered the comped antipasto plate and was expecting something thrown together and small. What I was served was a lovely combination of fresh marinated veggies, cheese and salty Italian meats...Delicious!
For my entree I ordered the Fettucine Con Gamberetti. This was Spinach Fettuccine, Tiger Prawns, Roasted Garlic, Sundried Tomatoes, Basil in a Parmesan Cream Sauce. The prawns were perfectly seasoned and grilled. The cream sauce was the perfect thickness so that it clung to each meaty piece of fettucine. I devoured this dish so fast that I didn't get a photo of it. Sorry. Next time I go to San Francisco, I'll be sure to visit Cafe Pescatore. It was the best meal I had while I was there – excellent food, great service, good value and lovely atmosphere.
I went to the farmer's market Saturday and noticed these flowers. I had never seen them before our honeymoon and they were all over the place at our villa. Anyone know what they are? They grow on a medium sized tree.
For date night this week, we ate at Vita in Erwin Square in Durham. We followed this up with a showing of The Incredible Hulk (see what a cool wife I am haha). Vita is part of the Giorgios Bakatsias group of restaurants. It was previously known as Verde. I've wanted to check it out after reading a few good reviews of it on eclectic glob.
We arrived early and were the only ones there. All of the staff was very friendly and attentive. We tried a cheese (provolone) and the mediterranean olives as our antipasto. They were both served with a few crunchy slices of yummy crostini.
For my entree, I ordered the roasted veggie calzone. It was more then I was able to finish. It had slightly sweet roasted red peppers, zucchini, onions, ricotta, and mozzarella. I really enjoyed it. My only negative feedback is that the crust was really chewy and hard to cut, even with a sharp knife.Mark had the polpetti con spaghetti. It was several gigantic meatballs with just the right amount of pasta. He loved it. All of the ingredients in our dishes were very fresh and properly cooked. The 3 drinks, 2 apps and 2 entrees totalled out around $38 with tip. Vita was a fantastic deal and we'll definitely be going back.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Hog Day starts tonight (cause hog day is actually 2 days) at 6 pm. I remember hearing about this festival for the first time when I was in high school and I thought it was really odd. I grew up vegetarian so any festival celebrating the demise of an animal was new to me!
It's nice to see that they're trying to be environmentally friendly with garbage, though I do find it a bit ironic that they're starting this practice at an event that celebrates a historically unenvironmentally friendly industry. Don't get me wrong, I heart barbeque just like the rest of you. And if you've never been, hog day is a great place to eat good food, listen to live music and buy from local artists :)
I took this on my walk up to the wharf. Chinatown was bustling on a Saturday morning. Lots of people shopping and haggling over meats and produce. The sidewalks are narrow and full compared to the part of town I was staying in. I kept a rapid pace so as to not be accosted by merchants hahaha, but I did manage to snap a few photos along the way.
My first full day in San Francisco was leisurely. I woke up at 5 am (still on east coast time) and got an early start. Around 9 I decided to walk up to Fisherman's Wharf. I stayed at a cute little hotel in the heart of the best shopping and a 5 minute walk to the convention center. If ever in San Francisco, check out The Mosser. The room was tiny, but clean, modern and super cheap for the location. And really, how much time do you want to spend in the room, ya know?The walk was about 2 miles through chinatown and north beach, and it was a perfectly sunny day.
On to the review of the restaurant I ate at for lunch, the Fog Harbor Fish House. There are probably 20 different eateries on Pier 39 and I'm not sure what made me pick this one. Perhaps the fact that it was less likely to have loud children and it was elevated, making for a nice view.I was in the mood for something seafoodesque and lots of veggies. The best veggies in the country are to be had in California and I always eat tons of salads when I visit. I was looking for a salad with grilled shrimp, but none was to be had (not entree size anyways). I decided on the crab melt sandwich. My friendly waiter offered up the sauteed veggies in lieu of the fries and I was thrilled to have the option at no additional cost. The crab melt was on fresh yummy sourdough, piled with fresh crab meat, a tiny bit of mayo, green onions, tomatoes (the only ones I saw my entire visit in the city) and melted jack. The sandwich was wonderful. The sourdough bread had the perfect combination of buttery crispiness. It matched very well to the mild sweetness of the crab and the zip of the green onions. The sauteed veggies were tender crisp, perfectly seasoned with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. The quality of the food was great, attentive and helpful service, the view was fantastic (that's Alcatraz in the distance) and no loud children were to be had.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Sweet. I didn't even see the kiss when I took this photo :)
San Francisco was breezy and chilly (compared to here). Fun city with lots to do! I'll blog more about it later. Some day I'd like to go see Muir woods and do a winery tour or four. I'm very happy to be back home!
Friday, June 13, 2008
This tree-lined hilltop intrigued me during our stay in St. Lucia. It looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. I took lots and lots of photos of it, with hopes that I'd end up with one good one. The best one (in my opinion) was the one I took on the morning of our departure.Oh and as a side note, I'll be travelling for the next week and should return with some fun photos and food experiences! San Francisco here I come!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I know this one is a little bit of a stretch and I would have taken a photo of the brown sky outside from the fires, but I didn't grab my camera before heading out the door this morning so this photo and story will have to suffice.
We have 5 nieces and nephews through Mark's brother. 2 twin girls (almost 5), 2 twin boys (just turned 6) and a 10 (almost 11) singleton girl. Last night my brother-in-law calls Mark and tells him to listen to the twin girls in the background. He explains that they are racing their toy ponies. Mark listens and he doesn't catch on to it at first, but after a couple of more times, he can make out what they're saying. "Uncle Mark, get set, go!" Too cute! Had to share.
And the photo is this morning's what makes Uncle Mark get set and go. So how about you? What must you have or do each morning before you can face the world?
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Purchasing an older home has been just one surprise after another. We had no idea what was planted and we continue to see new plants and flowers popping up. We have this group of sparse shrubs in the back that didn't seem like they fared too well in last years drought and we were considering moving them or just waiting for them to die off. Yesterday I was in the backyard and there was this overwhelming aroma. I turned towards the bushes and BEHOLD!!!! Gardenias! I'm in heaven.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Grilled chicken thighs
4 skinless, boneless thighs
1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil, rosemary and parsley
2 cloves crushed garlic
a couple of pinches of kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 TB olive oil
This one is easy. Use whatever mixture of the herbs suits you, but I used 50% basil, 40% rosemary and about 10% parsley.
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Place in medium sized bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat and mix in all herbs and garlic. Toss some more. I let marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours, but that's up to you how long you can wait! Cook over pre-heated grill on medium heat for 5 minutes (or until it releases from the grill). Turn and cook 5 minutes more (more or less depending on your grill).
Mushroom, bacon and spinach risotto
10-12 small mushrooms
2-3 strips crumbled or chopped cooked bacon
3 TB olive oil
1 glug of red or white wine
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove minced garlic
4 or 5 leaves of chopped fresh basil
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
5 chicken bouillon cubes
4 cups water
2 handfuls washed and dried baby spinach
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and dry mushrooms and cut in half.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and add 1 TB olive oil. Saute mushrooms, stirring frequently. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes and throw in a glug of wine to de-glaze the pan. Turn heat up to med-high and cook until wine is almost evaporated. Remove from heat.
Now it's time for the risotto. The entire process takes around 20 minutes. In a 2 qt or larger sauce pan, boil the water and throw in the boullion. Mix and mash up the boullion until it is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to low and keep broth simmering.
In a 3 qt. or larger sauce pan, heat 2 TB olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook just until it's translucent (not brown). Add rice and stir constantly to avoid sticking. Once you see white dots in the middle of the rice grains (around 3 minutes), add the wine and stir so that it doesn't stick. Cook until wine is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of broth and continue cooking and stirring until the liquid is almost absorbed.
Continue adding liquid 1/2 cup at a time, allowing to absorb each time before adding more. Once the final bit of liquid has been cooked down, add the parmesan, mushrooms, bacon, spinach, garlic and basil. Salt and pepper to your liking. I found salt pretty minimal because of the broth and bacon personally. Stir and cook another minute or so until heated through and spinach has wilted.
Remove from heat, plate, and top with a grilled chicken thigh!
Despite my neighbors best efforts and her 25x25 concrete parking pad, she always ends up in the grass. I'm puzzled by this because this is the only vehicle ever parked at her house. Sometimes at her back door, sometimes at the fence. This morning it was the fence.
Monday, June 9, 2008
1 lb. ground turkey
1 small onion (diced)
1 can diced green chiles (including sauce)
1 can green or red enchilada sauce
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
4-6 corn tortillas (soft not crispy)
1 TB garlic powder
1 TB chili powder
a couple of dashes of cayenne
1/2 cup water
1 cup of shredded cheese (your choice, I used 2% sharp cheddar)
parsley to garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350.
Brown the turkey in a heavy skillet over medium heat, add in a little salt and pepper. When there's still a little pink left, add the onion and continue cooking until onion is translucent. Next add water, green chiles, garlic, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and mix through. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed. Mix in the can of black beans and remove from the heat.Now we start the layering process. Spray the bottom of a casserole (9x12 should work great) with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the bottom with a single layer of corn tortillas. I used 2 small casserole dishes (5x8) for mine so each layer used 1 1/2 tortillas.
Next add a layer of meat and bean mixture (enough to cover the tortillas) and drizzle 1/2 of the enchilada sauce (1/4 if you're breaking it into two dishes like I did). Sprinkle half of the cheese. Repeat layer and finish with cheese and a little chopped parsley on top.
Here's what mine looked like.
Next you'll slide that into the oven for about 25 minutes or until the cheese is to your liking. Sometimes I turn the broiler on for a few minutes to get it extra bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before slicing. Great topped with a little sour cream. I usually serve it with a sautee of diced zucchini, onions, corn and tomatoes. I don't have a cooked photo because hubby will be baking this next week.
I can't wait for it to rain! Aside from planting /transplanting a bunch of plants on Saturday, we installed 2 rain barrels (and by "we" I mean the hubby). We got them at Stone Brothers and Byrd on Washington Street.
Friday night we went to Pop's for dinner. Always yummy! M had the campunti (which I love) and I had the chicken cooked under a brick. Later, I went with some girlfriends to see Sex and the City. The theater was PACKED. We sat in the 3rd row and after 2 hours and some change, I promised I would be looking down for the rest of the weekend to counter the neck pain.
Sunday I vowed to cook all day and that's pretty much what I did. I made a huge tub of hummus, an enchilada casserole for the hubby to eat while I'm away next week, and finally grilled chicken and RISOTTO!!! Recipes to come in my next couple of posts.
We went out for dinner Saturday night after a looooong hot day (100 degrees) working in the yard. I wasn't in the mood to cook and M wasn't in the mood to clean up the disasters I leave behind post-cooking. We opted to try Yamato at Northgate Mall since it's very close by.
We both got the Teppanyaki style meals. I got shrimp and he got steak and shrimp. The ginger dressing on the salads lacked inspiration and was more watery and vinegary then I'm used to. Though it wasn't what I expected, it was still edible. Amongst the lettuce and carrots there was a ripe tomato wedge, lovely. The shrimp appetizer was 2 small tiger shrimp. They were good.
The sauteed veggies consisted of zucchini, a little cabbage, some bean sprouts and tons of onion. My serving was almost all onion actually. The fried rice was just that, no veggies, no egg, but there was a ton of it. My shrimp was probably a half pound, if not more, of tastily (is that a word) seasoned little shrimp. I would have normally been all over this, but alas, it was not deveined. Perhaps I'm a little nuts, but when I pay $16 for an entree, I definitely expect there not to be feces on my plate. M's steak was perfectly cooked and well seasoned. The sauces were meh, underwhelming as well. The cream sauce that I normally love was a watery mayo concoction.
I'm sure that we'll never go back. Fortunately, this made Sunday's dinner all the more yummy! More about that later...
Friday, June 6, 2008
I went to Trader Joe's after work last night and it put me home later then usual.I dug out my wok and stir-fried some cubed extra-firm tofu, in canola oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, over med-high heat for about 7 or 8 minutes or until the outside was nice and crispy. I removed the tofu and threw in a bag of T Joe's stir-fry veggies (snow peas, carrots, water chestnuts, onions, mushrooms and edamame) and some chopped chinese brocolli (acquired at the Durham Farmer's Market the prior evening).
I seasoned with a little salt, pepper and a few glugs of soy sauce. I cooked with the lid on for about 4 minutes and then stir-fried over high heat for another 2 minutes. Next I mixed in about 1/4 cup of general tso's sauce (also Trader Joe's), a few squirts of Siracha (cause that's what that bottle does, it squirts), a little garlic powder and another glug of soy sauce. I threw the tofu back in and cranked the heat up towards high. Cooked another minute or two and the sauce got really thick. Voila! Super healthy, low cal dinner that allowed me to consume several glasses of wine without a guilty conscience. We were celebrating M's last day at his crap job before he starts his new one on Monday!!!
Thursday, June 5, 2008
I have arrived!
Seriously though, I'm now on the foodie blogroll and it makes me immensely happy to be part of the food blogging community. I love reading other food blogs and trying and twisting recipes to my liking :) If you're interested, check out the blogroll down the right side of my page.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
St. Lucia was beautiful. Without going into too much detail (it was our honeymoon afterall), I'll give you my thoughts on the island and it's people.
The natives are down-to-earth, kind, inquisitive people. They have this sense of brotherhood amongst themselves (hell some even towards the tourists) that I've never witnessed anywhere. St. Lucia's general population, from what I observed, is what would definitely be considered poor amongst American standards. But that's only a money thing. Frankly, in my opinion, our culture puts way too much emphasis on money and objects, but that's a blog for another day. Their culture is rich with life. Every person I encountered seem to take pride in what they were doing for work and actually seemed to enjoy it. A couple of examples...
The first night we went out for dinner, we misktakenly left the lights on in our rental rollerskate (M's name for it due to it's petite stature). We returned to a dark parking lot after dinner with a dead battery. No cell phones either (we turned those off in Miami since they don't work overseas). There was a man and his wife, John and Vera, parked not far from us that were sitting in their car. John came to us and told us that he saw our lights on when he pulled up and he said to himself, "shit shit". Being a mechanic he knew he'd be able to help us and he and his wife waited for us to return to the vehicle. This had to have been for at least 45 minutes to an hour. He had no jumper cables, but he took his battery out, hooked it to our car, started it up and switched our old one back all whilst running and in the dark. He saved the day. Thanks to John and Vera – truly wonderful people.
We went on a day long catamaran sail. Mostly on a catamaran, but spent some time in the botanical gardens, drive in volcano and sulfur springs, once we docked in Soufriere. The people working on the boat were pumping reggae and they were all singing, dancing and smiling. Nobody treated you as if you were inconveniencing them. They looked forward to talking to you and asking what you thought of St. Lucia. I highly recommend that trip. It was a great way to see hard to reach parts of the island.The island is economically diverse, it's clear some areas are struggling. Tourism is what keeps them going. The island is very mountainous and quite beautiful. There is a ton of wildlife. Not a car ride into town went without seeing goats, cows, horses, chickens or wild dogs loose either in the road or on the side. Driving is slow, as with most islands and people honk constantly. They stop and honk to let you out, they honk to let you know they're going to pass you. They honk to say hi. Road rage doesn't exist here. Nobody is in enough of a hurry to be rude to somebody else, though they drive a lot faster then we were comfortable with sometimes hahaha.
I prepared most of our meals, but we did have a few out. The local cuisine is a mixture of "west indian" or carribean and creole. Lots of plantains and potatoes, pork, chicken, in spicy sauces. I really enjoyed it. M, not so much. I also really liked the local Piton beer. Rum is cheap too...Many daquiris were had.It rains almost everyday but never for more then 5 minutes. It was in the mid 80s, pretty humid. Biting bugs were minimal. I only wore bugspray during the botanical garden portion of our land and sea tour. We spent a lot of time at the rental house in the pool. The views were phenomenal and the breeze on the top of the hill was amazing.
There were things that went wrong, sure, but this place is paradise. We had a great honeymoon in St. Lucia and if you plan on going, feel free to shoot me a message. I am happy to offer advice on where to stay, I have a ton more photos, etc.