Saturday, June 29, 2013

Slightly Healthy With a Chance of Delicious

Sometimes I have a plan to be healthy when I wake up.  I lay in bed wondering what I'm going to make for my low calorie, low sodium, fat free, gluten free, carb free, dairy free, all organic, vegetarian, whatever it might be that day, breakfast.  A fruity smoothie like THIS one.  Maybe an egg white omelet with spinach and salsa.  A scoop of Greek yogurt with Grape Nuts cereal sprinkled on top with blueberries and honey.

And I go to the grocery store with all these healthy visions in my head.  But then I actually get to the store and I see a plethora of meats and cheeses and I become weak in the knees.  This particular morning, I went to the store with all intentions of making an Egg Beaters omelet with spinach and mushrooms and a side of turkey bacon However, what I ended up with was an EXTREMELY delicious sausage, mushroom and spinach frittata.  A frittata, in case you aren't familiar, is like a quiche with no crust.  It's my favorite thing to make for breakfast because you can't mess it up, it's easy as hell, and it's always delicious.

6 Eggs, beaten
1 large handful of spinach
1 cup of shredded cheese (I chose cracker barrel's so sharp and creamy) 
1 1/2 cups of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 roll of Jimmy Dean LOW FAT sausage, cooked *
Olive Oil
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
Salt & Pepper

Heat oven to 350.  Use a large non-stick skillet that you can place in the oven.  (That means no plastic handle dip shit).  Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to your pan and cook the mushrooms.  I like my mushrooms on the more crunchy side, so I cook mine less.  If you like soggier shrooms, by all means, cook them longer.  When they are done to your liking, add in the spinach and wilt.  Season veggies with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper.  Add in your beaten eggs, cooked sausage and shredded cheese and make sure everything is distributed evenly.  (As you can see in the picture, I actually topped mine with cheese, but I wished it had been incorporated as I ate it, so you do what you like.  It was still good with it on top.)  Now's where you want to cook this like an omelet.  Scrape the pan and move the runny egg around until it's almost set.  Then put it all in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Once it's solid and no longer runny, turn on the broiler and just brown the top.  When it's done, you can be brave and put a plate on top of the pan and flip the pan, fingers crossed that it all comes out in one piece.  Or you can just cut it and spatula out the portions.  Both ways have worked for me.  Top with avocado, salsa, green onion, parsley, whatever you want, whatever you like.  You're the one that has to eat it. 

*Here's where I stuck to my health guns!  This is what made me feel good about my decision of abandoning my health ship this morning. LOW FAT SAUSAGE!  That's right kids.  Will power. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tragic Food

Sometimes you have a small tragedy in life that causes you to hate certain foods.  For example, take my sister.  She can never look at a microwave pizza again because when she was little, she ate one, got the which end flu, you know the which end flu, the flu where you can't figure out which end of your body should be over a toilet.  Yes, that flu.  And she forever blamed the microwave pizza.

My certain tragedy happened in college.  We ended up at one of the million of keg parties being held (We were at West Virginia University, a school consistently ranked as the #1 party school, and rightfully so...we partied our asses off there...hence our low GPA's and high BAC's).  And this particular keg party had some high rollers who had a keg of Samuel Adams.  I say high rollers because we weren't splurging for anything more than Milwaukee's Best when we would throw keg parties.  So I proceeded to drink said Samuel Adams keg beer.  And I had many of them.  More than I should have.  And in the morning I barfed up said Samuel Adams keg beer, over and over again.

But then I got that hangover hunger.  I had been puking all morning but I felt that I was ready for my day to begin.  I was going to get out of bed and get myself some food.  And we had a head shop on the main strip (called Coolridge Company) and they had just decided to put in a little deli/restaurant area.  So always wanting to try new things, I made my way to Coolridge and sat at the counter and ordered myself a portobello sandwich.

Now this was a first for me on two levels.  1.  I had never eaten a portobello mushroom before this instance, but had heard how much they tasted like steak.  And 2. I had never in my life chose a vegetarian sandwich over a meat sandwich in my whole life.  So I was feeling all big girl.  I had beaten my hangover.  I had ordered something totally unlike me off the menu.  I was trying new things.  I was stoked.  And then I took a bite of my sandwich.  And the portobello was slimy as hell.  The bread was DRIPPING with mushroom soaked juice and all of a sudden, it tasted like Samuel Adams himself had just wrung out his sweaty, old, beer drenched vest all over my big girl, vegetarian sandwich.  And all I could do at that moment was hope and pray that there was a bathroom nearby. Luckily there was, and luckily I made it.  Because I made that bathroom my bitch that day.  My DNA is still in that bathroom today.  All over it.

But I finally got up the nerve to eat a portobello again.  And I started to like them again.  And here's a recipe for you to try if you like them, if you don't like them, or if you've never had one.  It's good.

Here's What You Do:
Preheat oven to 400. Take a portobello cap, wipe it off with a damp paper towel to remove any poop, I mean dirt, and place it on a cookie sheet, gills side up.  Drizzle a good bit of soy sauce over the mushroom and bake for 20 minutes.  Add a good hunk of blue cheese to the mushroom after the 15 minutes is up.  Stick it back in the oven.  Let melt about 5 more minutes.  And Eat.

It DOES taste like steak.  Not Sam Adams.  I got over my portobello mushroom hatred.  But I will never, EVER drink Sam Adams beer again.  EVER.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Filling the Italian Beef void

Have you ever eaten at Al's Italian Beef in Chicago?  No?  Oh my goodness.  It's quite possibly the best sandwich in the world.  Granted, I've never had one sober, but a million food shows on television making this same claim can't be wrong right?  Every time I've eaten an Al's Beef, I'm coming straight from a concert.  One too many beers in and hungry to soak up the excess alcohol, I excitedly stumble or take a cab (whichever one gets me an Italian Beef sandwich in my belly the fastest) to Al's.  The last time I ate one was after a Prince concert, September 25, 2012.  That was a long time ago.  So long ago, that I decided to make my own.  Now, mind will NEVER, I mean NEVER, EVER make an Italian Beef as good as Al's.  So don't get your panties in a wad if it doesn't taste exactly the same, because I promise it won't.  But it will fill the void until you get your ass back to Chicago...when in the hell will I be in Chicago again...  

Here's What You Do:
Break out your crock pot.  Unless you have a deli meat slicer, which I do not, you'll never be able to slice your beef as thin as Al's.  So the closest thing to do is make fall apart beef.  Get a good ol' piece of chuck roast.  Season it GENEROUSLY (now is not the time to worry about your salt intake) with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano and crushed red pepper.  Place your beef in your crock pot and add in about 4 cups of beef broth.  And THEN throw in a few beef bouillon cubes.  If you have them on hand, add in some celery stalks, onions and carrots.  The more flavor, the better.  Cook your beef on low or high (your choice...I did high.  The faster I was eating, the better) until it is fall apart tender.  I believe mine took about 4 hours.  Once your beef is ready, get a hoagie ready to fill with the meat (unfortunately, Memphis doesn't have a good bakery anywhere that I know of, so I had to go with Italian bread...hint, hint....if you're a baker, move to Memphis.  You'll make a killin').  Top your bread with beef and hot giardiniera (you can find this in your grocery store next to the olives).  Then dip the entire sandwich in the beef broth and try to eat it without it dripping down your arms.  Oh wait, that's never going to happen.  So just enjoy, then take a shower!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Soakin' Up Some Salmon

It's hard to live in Memphis in the summertime without a pool.  We joke every Summer that we need to make friends with people with a pool, or with pool access.  We have broken into (and been thrown out of) pretty much every pool this city has to offer.  So it was quite easy to talk one of my dearest friends into purchasing a 11X30 pool via text message last week.  It went something like this:

Ashley: I love Big Lots.
Me: Do they have any swimming pools?
Ashley: Haven't seen any yet, but they have patio furniture.
Me: You should get a pool.
Ashley: I keep finding bigger and bigger pools now.  Not sure what one will fit in my yard.
Me: I think I'd go with the 11X30 (knowing damn well that it would fit us and 2 rafts perfectly!)
Ashley: We got the pool

So we proceeded to make plans on our next day off, Father's Day Sunday.  My job?  Bring a honkin' piece of salmon over for us to smoke on their Big Green Egg.  Now, if you've never heard of a Big Green Egg, it's basically a big, egg-shaped, ceramic, charcoal grill, that you can also smoke food on and even bake bread on.  It's designed to allow the heat to get up to 1200 degrees.  And they ain't cheap.  And I secretly kicked and screamed, crying that John, Ashley's boyfriend, got a Big Green Egg for his birthday from his parents for FREE.

So the plans were set.  We were to wake up at 10 am, go to Costco and buy salmon and cure it for 3 hours, while Ashley and John put up and filled up the pool.  Sounds easy enough right?  Unless you work in the music business and you're Ashley and you set your alarm for 10pm.  So it's not until about 1 o'clock that I make it to Ashley's.  And it's not until about 4 o'clock that we make it into the pool.  And once we get into the pool, we realize it's freezing.  And if there were just a FEW branches trimmed off of the tree in the yard, the sun would shine it's perty face onto the pool and we'd be set.  But there's no ladder tall enough for John to get on the roof.  So we sit in the pool for about 10 minutes (after filling it for 3 hours), fighting to be the one who is standing in the "sunny" spot.  But then the cured salmon arrives.  So we start working on firing up the grill.  Still on the eating schedule we originally planned.  Eating by 6:30.  We start the grill, and let the salmon sit out to form a pellicle (some fancy term for fish to form a shiny skin so the smoke is absorbed better...I read a whole lot about smoking fish before our get together, so I gathered that this was an important part).

 Our pretty little cured sockeye salmon, waiting for its pellicle

Turns out the Big Green Egg takes a lot of Big Ol' Trial and Error.  And since none of us are exactly smoking experts, we had to do many things to a.) make sure we weren't just grilling the salmon, we wanted to smoke that bad boy and b.) to get the right temperature we were shooting for, which was 180 degrees.  So it's now 9 o'clock.  And the salmon has JUST gone into the Big Green Asshole.  And we're all starting to get a little hangry (hungry and angry mixed into one).  And we still have 45 minutes to smoke it, and it's at 200 degrees but we don't fucking care anymore, we just want to eat.  And we're considering just ordering some smoked salmon from the store and calling it a night.  But after about 40 minutes we look into the Big Green Egg-straordinary Failure, and it has produced for us a stunning piece of smoked salmon like you'd buy from the great state of Alaska.

So we bring it in, and like 4 cavemen yielding clubs (except they were forks) we hacked into it.  And it was actually pretty damn good.  The only bad thing about it, was that it was a BIT salty.  But we fixed that by smearing a piece of toast with an aoili I made with chives, tarragon, parsley, mayo, garlic, cayenne and lemon and topping that with the salmon.  Well, that, and we were so ravenous at this point, the salmon could have been jerky and we all would have loved it. 

So our idea was somewhat of a success.  We learned a lot.  We know what changes have to be made to produce the PERFECT smoked salmon.  We're no longer mad at the Big Green Egg.  We can't wait to do pizza on it next.  We're super excited to have a pool to soak in during the next few months where wind becomes extinct.  We now know that Captain Morgan is a downer bastard.  We know that we have to get John a ladder to cut down some branches.  We also learned that broccoli is delicious smoked.  And finally, we learned that true relationships can withstand an, "If you open the fucking green egg again you will die!!" comment every now and then.    

Monday, June 17, 2013

This next one, is the first meal, in my neeeew kitchen

Que the Beastie Boys!  And if you still don’t get the reference, well then, I just have no idea what to say.  Actually, I do, go listen to the Beastie Boys.  Now.

You might think cooking is like riding a bike.  I’m here to tell you that it’s not.  You have to continuously cook and experiment with cooking to be good at it.  When I was in my old house, I stopped cooking so much because it was just frustrating.  And when I would decide to cook, because I need to cook for my soul, it was even more frustrating, because I lost my groove.  Cooking, and when I say cooking, I mean real cooking, not open-up-some-cans cooking, requires research, planning, preparation and skill to be able to execute a delicious meal.  It takes practice, patience (which I have actually gained more of BY cooking), and trial and error.  You will spend a ton of money trying to make an excellent meal and it will taste bad.  It’s gonna happen.  And you’re going to have to deal with it if you want to be a better cook.  Because the only way to be a good cook is to mess up some $30 scallops.  You will quickly figure out that that $40 worth of sea bass needed a hot pan before you so impatiently threw it in the skillet.  You will have to read books, search recipes, ask old people!  And no…I’m not an expert.  I mess up all the time in the kitchen.  But I have become so much of a better cook, and I’ve said this before, that going out to eat seems silly.  Most times I’m disappointed with what I overpaid for.
And I tell you all of this because I finally have a GOOD kitchen again.  I take that back.  I have a BITCHIN kitchen.  And I intend to find my groove again.  And I am going to experiment like crazy.  And I’m going to harass the hell out of my professional photographer sister to teach me how to take excellent photos long distance over a telephone!  And I’m going to get better at both things, and in turn you will have delicious foods to try.  So it’s a win win for all of us.  Well, except maybe my sister! 

Ok, so maybe I went a little overboard with my chant of kitchen domination.  But I’m sooooo excited to have a kitchen now!  Can you tell??  I have a big ol’ kitchen, with more drawers than I can fill, enough cabinets for all my kitchen accessories, and a pantry for all my food. Stay tuned!!

RECIPE HERE (Yes, I ripped it off. I said I lost my groove!  It will be back.  Did you not hear anything I said??)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I have a long, long list of things I want to make.  Some of these are hard and require tools I don't have.  Some of these things take days at a time, something I'm just not ready to commit to right now.  Some of them I want to do right.  Like ravioli.  But then again, there are times when I want ravioli and I don't have the time, patience, energy to clean up, etc.  So sometimes you just gotta fake it and make life easy on yourself, all the while pleasing your taste buds.  I will make ravioli from scratch soon.  Mark my words.  Just not for this post!

I am a Pinterest addict.  You know you are too.  How can you not be.  Recipes, fashion, photos of extraordinary people and places, DIY projects, craft ideas.  I can spend hours Pinteresting.  And I am often inspired to make some of the recipes I find.  Like this one!  You can find it HERE.  I didn't exactly follow it to a T.  I never do.  But it was pretty damn delicious and MUCH easier than ravioli from scratch.  So I thought I'd share with you!  Cheers!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Huggable Risotto

I don't know what it is about risotto, but when I eat it, I feel like it's giving me a big old hug with each bite I take.  It's warm, creamy, flavorful, cheesy and comforting.  I like a good hug.  Have you ever hugged someone and you get one of those stiff hugs back?  Those are the worst.  Risotto hugs are NOTHING like stiff hugs.  But the thing I like most about risotto, is that you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want and it's always good.  Risotto can be a homey meal or it can be a gourmet meal, just add some expensive pieces of seafood (think lobster)  and're suddenly a top chef.

On this particular day I was inspired by Spring.  I was craving a colorful, healthy risotto.  Not that it's really that healthy, hell, it's got a ton of cheese in it, but anything with this much green makes it seem healthy and that's what I was going for.

You can find the core recipe HERE.

I didn't add fennel, because I couldn't find any that looked good.  I did use the leeks and they gave it such a delicate onion flavor.  I love onions, so I also added in some shallot for an extra layer of onion/garlic flavor.  I think this is the first time I have ever used Mascarpone cheese before.  And here's what I think of it.  It tastes like glue.  Don't act like you've never eaten glue before.  We all have and it's time you just admit that you were indifferent to its flavor.  It didn't suck, but it wasn't great either.  That's how I feel about Mascarpone.  It's thick as all get up.  And it tastes more like glue than it does cheese.  Italians.  No wonder they cop such attitude.  They've been eating glue their whole lives!

Try this risotto.  It doesn't taste like glue.  It tastes like a hug. 

Monday, June 03, 2013


I mean, do I have to persuade you to eat salad for dinner after seeing this picture??  I would eat that picture for dinner.

When it's hot outside, the last thing I want to do is stuff myself full of food.  So in the summer (I know, it's technically not summer until June 21st, but once it's too hot to breathe when you go outside, I call it summer) I like to come up with salads and other light menu items.  This was the most recent salad I made, and it was AMAZING!!  And so easy.  And being a little reluctant about eating salad for dinner, this salad satisfied...or shall I say, salified. 

Take some chicken, or fish or steak and cook it to your liking.  I roasted chicken breasts at 400 for 20-25 minutes with just salt and pepper.  Set aside until cool and cut into bite sized pieces.  Take a skillet, put it on medium heat and brown some nuts in it.  I used walnuts.  You can use pine nuts, pecans, almonds.  Just make sure you don't burn them because they will brown fast.  Takes about 5 minutes.  But don't skip this step, because brown nuts are better nuts.  They're nuttier.  Wash some lettuce.  Any kind will do.  I used microgreens because I like the variety.  Wash some berries.  You can use blueberries, blackberries, strawberries.  I used raspberries because they looked so red and radiant.  Get some avocado and slice it up.  For the dressing...take an old jar (I find my Grey Poupon jar works best for salad dressing) and pour 1/4 cup of raspberry vinaigrette into it.  Then pour 1/2 cup of olive oil into it.  Add salt and pepper and a lid (don't forget the lid, genius - I can't tell you how many times I have) and shake it until it's vinaigretty. 

Now for the hard part.  Get a bowl and put everything above in the bowl.  Drizzle LIGHTLY with dressing and toss.  Don't overdress your salad.  I can't stress this enough.  You want to taste the ingredients over the dressing.  Top with your favorite cheese.  Parmesan, pecorino, goat, mozzarella.  I used blue.  I love blue.

Speaking of blue.  This salad blew me away.  The bitterness of the greens complemented the sweetness of the raspberries.  The nuttiness of the nuts complemented the sourness of the blue cheese.  The saltiness of the chicken complemented the creaminess of the avocado.  It's just a salad that impressed the hell out of me.  I would even say you could entertain with this one.  It's a real looker!