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Archive for the ‘Memorable Meals’ Category

Dinner tonight was something that I had been dreaming about all day: Grilled Brown Sugar Barbecue Salmon, Grilled Corn on the Cob and Tomato-Cucumber Salad with Feta Cheese. Before I get into the details, let me just say that this meal was heaven on my palate.

During the Summer I have uncontrollable cravings for barbecue sauce. When the weather breaks the 80 degree mark I simply cannot get enough barbecue sauce in my life. I went to the grocery store last night to do a quick “in-and-out” trip to pick up a few staples for the week (is it even possible to do a quick grocery store trip?). Per-usual, I ended up doing a few laps around the store to browse all of the wonderful products that I did not need to buy. My eye caught a new Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce and temptation struck. I did not need the sauce but my mind started going wild with thoughts of beautiful grilled dishes that it would be PERFECT for. I couldn’t resist, I was sold.

I think that salmon is a fish that is enhanced by just a touch of sweetness. One of my favorite ways to prepare salmon is with a mixture of whole-grain Dijon mustard and honey. I thought that a brown sugar barbecue sauce would have a similar flare and decided that the first way I wanted to use my new sauce was paired with this succulent fish.

I pre-heated my grill pan (and coated with non-stick cooking spray) to a medium heat and brushed one side of my fish with a light coating of an herb-infused olive oil. I placed the fish in my grill pan olive oil coated side down and waited about 3 minutes until the color slightly changed and it had a light, crispy coating. I brushed the top side with the oil before flipping and continued to cook the fish until it reached the internal temperature of 130 degrees (I use an electronic meat thermometer. I find when you cook your protein to the proper temperature that it has the perfect flavor and consistency.) When the fish was done cooking I brushed the top side with an even coat of the barbecue sauce.

My fish was moist on the inside with a good crunch on the outside. The barbecue sauce was a nice compliment to the fish and it was love at first bite–brown sugar barbecue sauce + salmon= match made in heaven.

For my corn I simply coated each side in a light layer of my herb infused oil and grilled it for about 10 minutes (start the corn before the fish!), turning every few minutes.

My cucumber-tomato salad was simple yet elegant. I used about 1/2 of a cucumber sliced into 1/4 inch pieces and quartered, and a handful of sliced cherry tomatoes. I drizzled the mixture with in olive oil, white wine vinegar and cracked black pepper and tossed to coat. I finished this salad with feta cheese. It was cool, crisp and sweet; an easy and refreshing summer salad combination.

I paired my meal with my new favorite summertime wine: Kendall-Jackson 2008 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay. I have found that this wine works nicely with grilled foods, especially ones incorporating a garlic based barbecue sauce 🙂 .

YUM.

Lately the  the recipe section of my brain has been going wild.  I have a few new things I want to try in the next few days so stay tuned!

Inspired,

Nora

What is your favorite sauce?

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My roommate and I have two friends who LOVE to cook. We have made dinner for each other twice before, and although we  discussed a third extravaganza months ago, we were not schedule a get together until last night. When I asked them what they were cooking, they told me it was, “Swiss and Italian”, but would not reveal the details of the meal beyond that. One of our friends is from Switzerland and grew up watching his mom cook authentic dishes. The first time he and his friend made dinner for us he made Spaetzle and Chocolate Mousse (using Lindt Chocolate of course!). It was absolutely to die for. I love experiencing other cultures through food.

Our friends arrived around 7pm, and established themselves in our kitchen. Yes, we had two boys cooking us a fantastic meal. Aren’t we lucky? We started off with one of my contributions, a Middle Ages ImPaled Ale (IPA), while they cooked and we watched. I loved watching them cook. They are so diligent and precise. This beer is also amazing. It is so flavorful and mildly bitter. I really like Middle Ages Wailing Wench, however; my roommate isn’t particularly fond of extremely hoppy beers. I wanted her to give this one a try, and guess what, SHE LIKED IT!

So what do you get when Switzerland meets Italy? Pasta Carbonara and Orange Cream. The pasta was cooked according to directions, and drained reserving about a cup of pasta water. The sauce was a combination of Asaigo Cheese, Nutmeg, Cracked Black Pepper and Pasta Water. After the cheese mix was added, he added 3 raw eggs and bacon with sautĂ©ed onions. Cheese and bacon…what could be bad? Dinner was served with a slice of  Twisted Root (Dark German Bread) and a simple side salad. Our Swiss friend even made the dressing from scratch using olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. He states, “This is the only way to make it.” I also contributed a wine that I have been “saving for a rainy day”, a 2007 Hermann J. Wiemer Merlot. I fell in love with this wine last summer when I visited the Wiemer Vineyard. The Finger Lakes Region Rieslings are near and dear to my heart, but have never found a red wine as luscious as this Merlot from the area. It is a wine that makes you feel good with each sip; perfect for sharing with good company.

Dinner and conversation lasted for nearly two hours. I couldn’t believe how quickly time went, we were having so much fun. I nominated myself to do a quick kitchen clean up while the boys served dessert: Orange Cream. This was essentially whipped heavy cream with an orange sauce (orange juice, lemon, corn starch on the stove) folded in. It was so light and delicious. Our friend told us that he thought it would be a perfect dessert after our pasta/bacon/cheese dinner. It was something that his mother would make when he was a child in Switzerland. This is what I like to call food from the heart! Every dish has a story behind it, and I was happy we were able to share this with him.

We continued catching up late into the night and I didn’t get to bed until 1:30am. Good Food+Good Company= Lasting Memories. I’m probably going to be exhausted tomorrow, but I live for these moments!

Stuffed,

Nora

What is your favorite meal to prepare for company? (My roommate and I have to make them dinner next time so I need advice!! I’m thinking Mediterranean style, since this is one of my favorites!)

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Whew! What a day. I’m not even entirely sure how I still have an ounce of energy left, but with that ounce I must blog.

I arrived home around 7pm to the wonderful smell of our charcoal grill and dinner was underway. My dad prepared some POM cosmopolitans, and we chatted away outside while he cooked the pork tenderloin. My mom was hard at work in the kitchen assembling steamed asparagus and a mixed green salad: mixed greens, mandarin oranges, strawberries, sliced almonds, blue cheese and cherry-raspberry vinaigrette. I love the family aspect of making dinner. It is so much fun when everyone shares in its preparation, relaxing and enjoyable. My dad also paired our dinner with a Diseno Malbec.

Grilling  is one of my favorite things to do in the summer time. I think EVERYHING tastes better on the grill, especially on charcoal because it enhances the meat’s flavor. The pork was perfectly cooked with a slightly pink center.  Good work dad! The wine choice went really well with the meat. Diseno is dryer than most Malbecs I’ve had but has a nice smokey flavor with cherry undertones. My mom’s side dishes were so fresh and clean. I love the combination of fruit and blue cheese on salads.

Dessert was my contribution to the meal. I brought home a slice of Mixed-Berry Open Faced Tart from the bakery. It was so nice to share something from work with my parents! It was crisp and delicious!

After dessert I had the urge to plan for breakfast tomorrow morning. My mom is making cupcakes to take to lunch with our extended family, so I decided to get a jump on my cooking  around 9pm so that I wouldn’t be in her way in the morning. I couldn’t decide between biscotti and carrot cake muffins, so I made both. The biscotti were the Holiday Biscotti that I made around Christmas time and contain pistachios, dried cranberries and dried apricots. My family likes biscotti and cappuccino on Sunday after breakfast, and loved these the last time I made them so I thought it would be a nice addition. Easter reminds me of carrot cake and it is essential that I make some form of it. I decided on carrot cake muffins. I somewhat made the recipe up, so hopefully they will taste okay!My second wind just ended, and I am beat! Time for bed!

Happy Easter,

Nora

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Maybe it’s just me, but my daily food choices are DEFINITELY inspired by the weather. Reflecting on some of my daily eats, I realized that certain flavors and textures are more appealing to me based on the temperature. It was gorgeous and sunny around lunch time, and all I wanted was either a loaded salad or a veggie hummus wrap. Since lunch had to be portable today (working at a desk in this picture), I went to a campus eatery that has to-go containers. I am the annoying girl in the salad line that has to get everything…I can’t help it I love everything, and lets face it, salads are never really THAT filling. In this mix: mixed greens, romaine, spinach, broccoli, bean sprouts, tofu, mushrooms (sliced bella and marinated portabella strips), mandarin oranges, feta cheese, carrots,  and snow peas along side a juicy apple. This hit the spot, but a few short hours later it was time for a snack.

I relished in the weather as I walked outside to a local cafe to study. I sat at a cozy table near a window so I could continue to enjoy the playful sun and craved a tropical bite as I worked. I’m not really a pineapple/coconut girl, but the Tropical Fruit Tart LaraBar was screaming my name. I’ve always wanted to try this flavor, but it has never sounded particularly appealing to me until today. I LOVED IT. I kept questioning why I had avoided this flavor for so long, because I have tried every other Larabar. It was sweet and appropriately nutty. I could taste the orange and coconut the most with a slight hint of pineapple and crunchy almond. This was so satisfying, and I washed it down with an iced tea. Maybe I think I’m still on Spring Break?

After a few solid hours of work, I decided to head back to my apartment before it got dark out. As I walked, the air was a bit cooler, and it reminded me of a quintessential fall day. I love the flavors of the fall. My mom always made roasted acorn squash, turkey, stuffing, baked apples…all the warm comforting flavors you crave on a cool evening. Obviously, food carries a lot of sentiment (I miss home!) to me and I decided to make Seared Chicken with Balsamic Mushrooms, Warm Kabocha Salad and Lemon Steamed Green Beans. I seared the chicken in olive oil (about 4-5 min per side) and removed it from the pan. I then sauteed 1/4 of a Spanish Onion, added sliced bella mushrooms and balsamic vinegar until it reduced. When the reduction was a syrup consistency I topped the chicken with the mixture. For the Warm Kabocha Salad, I coated the Kabocha with olive oil and cinnamon, and roasted it for about 40 minutes. I added it to a bowl of spinach, chopped walnuts, dried cherries and dried blueberries and tossed it all together. This dinner was sweet, savory and represented every element of the fall.

I couldn’t shake my cinnamon craving, and went for a make shift apple pie. I chopped half of a Jonagold Apple, topped with cinnamon and microwaved it for a minute. I added a large scoop of vanilla ice cream and some Galaxy Vanilla Almond Granola. What a great way to end my day. This reminded me of the gigantic apple dumplings my family would purchase from the Farmers Market nearly every Saturday. We would have them for dessert after a thoughtful Sunday dinner. My mom would bake them in the oven, and the sweet-syrup-goodness would start seeping out the pie crust cover. They were always topped off with large scoops of vanilla ice cream, and it was heavenly. I’m still not sure how each member of my family was able to eat a whole one; they were so large that they only fit in our over sized soup bowls!

Memories,

Nora

Do particular foods strike memories for you?

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A good meal isn't complete with out a good wine.

I have to admit, this new venture post was going to be for NEXT Sunday but I was so proud of the result that I swapped it with the one for today. My noteworthy creation: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Rappi in a Mushroom Balsamic Reduction. Fancy, Fancy…I know. This was a new food venture times three (I think that alone qualifies a blog entry upgrade), I’ve never attempted Gnocchi, never tried Rappi and never reduced balsamic vinegar. WATCH OUT! A FEARLESS COOK IS IN THE KITCHEN!

I was extremely nervous to make the gnocchi and looked up about a thousand methods and recipes. To be healthy, and keep it real, I did half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour. I think it was a good balance, I find when you do all whole wheat flour to replace white flour the result is often disappointing. I was extremely cautious to slowly incorporate the flour so the batter wasn’t rock hard. I added cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter which gave warmth to the sweet potato flavor. After rolling and cutting the gnocchi, I broke into a sweat, dreading the thought that they wouldn’t surface, or that they would break in the boiling water. After a few minutes all my deepest fears were relieved as each little dumpling sprung up in all their glory. Not bad for a first try.

How have I never tried Rappi before? This stuff is like the gold of greens (wait that doesn’t really make sense…but you know what I mean?). It was like a mixture of broccoli, arugula and spinach. Could that sound more heavenly? It had little crunchy stems with sprouts on top, and tender leaves. The flavor was slightly piquant and peppery like arugula. It was a nice contrast to the starch laden sweet gnocchi.

To top it all off…a balsamic reduction. I sauteed mushrooms in garlic and olive oil to give this dish an earthy element, and added sweet balsamic until it reduced into a syrup. I think everything doused in balsamic is fantastic, but the richness of the syrup made this dish reminiscent of dessert– Topped off with raisins and toasted walnuts, it very well could have been a dinner sundae.

Onward Speed,

Nora

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Everyone has a particular food that triggers memories of a certain time or place in their life. Growing up every Halloween my mom would make a slow cooker chili. The house smelled fantastic! A culmination of chili powder, cumin, onions, peppers, tomatoes, beef and beans…OH MY! It was always cold and dark on those nights and an overflowing bowl of chili topped with melted cheddar cheese and a glass of apple cider was the perfect start to prepare my brother and me for the bitter air. This dish sums up October for me. It gives warmth, love and memories that can never be replaced. Now that I am living on my own, I requested this recipe from my mom. I finally made it one of the first days that it fell below 40 degrees this season. The aromas were the same and made me feel safe and secure. In hopes that it might provide some comfort to you this fall, I want to share the recipe with you:

Mary’s Chili Recipe

1-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef ( I use 95% Lean)
1-2 onions (Diced)
1 green pepper (Chopped)
1 TBS cumin
2 TBS chili power
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder (season to taste)
1 TBS hot sauce (Frank’s or Tabasco)
1 32 oz. can chopped tomatoes with liquid
1 jar of salsa
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 15 oz. can of great northern (white cannelloni) beans
1 15 oz. can of butter beans (lima beans)
1 large can of light red kidney beans (32oz?)
1 large can of dark red kidney beans
1 cup of beer or wine
Olive oil
Crock pot
Shredded Monterrey Jack or Cheddar Cheese or Taco Seasoned Cheese

Add small amount of oil oil to grease a frying pan add beef, cumin, cayenne and chili power. Brown beef. Add onions and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until soft. Drain any grease from pan. Place in the bottom of a crock pot.

Drain beans in a colander to remove liquid. Run water over beans. Drain. Add to crock pot.

Add tomatoes with liquid to crock pot. Add beer or wine. Add hot sauce. Season to taste.

Cook on low 6-8 hours or on medium 2-4 hours.

Before serving check seasonings, you could add more hot sauce or beer/wine if more liquid is needed. Chili is a recipe that can be altered to the cook’s preferences for mild or hot seasonings, Cumin is key. You could increase the amount for a more savory flavoring.

Ladle into bowls, top with shredded cheese. Serve with green and red hot sauce.
Enjoy!~

–Straight from my mom’s email!

Love The Power of Food,

Nora

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