Sunday, July 22, 2012

Waffles and Lattes

I love weekends.  Hanging out with Zac, sleeping in, being lazy; just a few reasons weekends are awesome.  Another reason is breakfast.  Breakfast food is my favorite food and on the weekends I have time to make it and enjoy it.  So this morning I had a sudden craving for homemade waffles.  I am overflowing with frozen blueberries from earlier in the season, so plopped some blueberries in each waffle.  I now have enough waffles to freeze and toast up on a weekday before running out of the house to work! (or toast up at work, like I often do because I'm running late!)

I also dug our espresso maker out of the closet recently. I wish I had more counter space, I end up putting things away and then it's out of sight, out of mind. All that time spent waiting for waffles to cook - it's perfect for making a latte! Heat the water, grind the beans, make the espresso, steam the milk, froth the milk, combine and enjoy!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Welsh Rarebit with Stewed Tomatoes

Back in march of this year (when it was still nice and cold outside) we made Welsh Rarebit.  I had heard of this, and like many people thought it was rabbit and didn't sound particularly appetizing.  But then, the magazine Cuisine at Home (if you are only going to get a couple food magazines, get this one!) featured it in their April 2012 issue with a full page color photo of this crusty piece of 1-2" thick toast with a thick cheese sauce and roated tomatoes on top.  I was hooked!  Plus, the cheese sauce has beer in it, and I love the combination of beer and cheese in food. I couldn't find the recipe online, so order you a copy of the 2012 Cuisine at home magazines (you can do that online) and get cooking!

Ingredient list for sauce: butter, flour, beer (dark), heavy cream, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, aged sharp cheddar.  Will also need sourdoguh bread, 1" thick slices toasted.

For the stewed tomatoes, combine dice onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil with grape tomatoes, sugar, fresh parsley, salt and ground black pepper

Top bread with cheese sauce and put under the broiler.  Should be more brown than this, next time I'll leave it in longer. I couldn't resist the smell and was ready to eat!

Finished Welsh Rarebit with Stewed Tomatoes.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Real Cajun: Recipes by Donald Link

Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's LouisianaRecently we made three dishes from the cookbook Real Cajun by Chef Donald Link.  My husband and I visited his restaurant Couchon in New Orleans a few years ago and were very impressed (the alligator appetizer was especially good!). This cookbook is a must for any cajun, creole, gumbo or just good food lover! We made Smothered Pork Roast over Rice, Vietnamese Marinated Shrimp, and Cheesy Spoonbread.

First up, the pork. Pork is seasoned generously with salt and pepper, then left to rest for up to an hour. Onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary are combined.

Sear the meat on all sides.....

Let meat rest.....meanwhile sift some flour to make the roux. 

Make the roux, cook until a dark peanut butter color. Then add the veggies. 

Add chicken stock (homemade is best!) and the pork. Let roast for about three hours, turning and basting every 30 minutes or so. 

All done!

Now on to the Vietnamese marinated shrimp.  To make the marinade, combine salt, Donnie's spice mix which is a combination of cayenne pepper, paprika, ground white pepper, ground black pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder, bay leaves, and lemon halves and boil for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook. Remove, add ice to stop the shrimp from over cooking, and let this hang out for a good 20 minutes. Drain.  For the sauce, combine garlic chili sauce, mint, salt, olive oil, and lime juice.  Add shrimp to the sauce to coat. Chill and serve. 

Shrimp are ready to eat! (keep chilled until ready to serve, good for appetizer or main dish). 

Last but not least, the Cheesy Spoonbread.  As a Southerner, I'm not sure how I've missed out on spoonbread.  Maybe it's more of a gulf coast/Louisiana thing? Nevertheless, I know about it now and that is what matters.  I'm already thinking of making this again very soon (maybe tomorrow!). It's just amazing.  It's part cornbread, part souffle, part just cheesy goodness, with the right amount of heat.  

Start by whisking cornmeal into boiling milk with butter and stir until smooth.  Whisk in the egg yolks (temper first), then cheese, scallions, salt, pepper, and cayenne until well combined. Remove from the heat.  Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Plop onto the cornmeal mixture. 

Fold in to combine. Spread into a 8x12 pan (or similar size) and cook for about 40 minutes uncovered. 

Finished Cheesy Spoonbread!

Cajun meal courtesy of Donald Link's recipes in his book "Real Cajun". Oh, somewhere in there, make some white rice, serve the smothered pork over the rice.  Probably can't hurt to add some kind of green vegetable for a well rounded meal. :)


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Foodie Adventures in Napa Valley

I've recently been thinking about a trip my husband and I made a little over 2 years ago now to Napa Valley.  Writing about that trip was what got me started writing this blog.  Napa Valley, and the drive to/from San Francisco is absolutely beautiful, and something I want to experience again one day.  After that trip I wrote about our fine dining experience throughout the trip, but thought I'd fill in some gaps while we were in Napa Valley - our foodie adventures.  So here we go....

May 5-6, 2010 - Destination Napa Valley, California.  We arrived in Napa Valley on the afternoon of the 5th, in time to check into our cottage (The Cottages of Napa, would highly recommend), rest, and head off to Bouchon in Yountville for dinner (see previous post on Bouchon).  Not much sightseeing that day, except for walking around Yountville.  The next day, we enjoyed our basket full of goodies from Bouchon Bakery, left on the doorstep of our cabin (a perk of staying at the Cottages), see photo below. Nothing beats complimentary room service!

We then made the drive to the northern end of the Valley from the city of Napa up to Calistoga. Here's a typical view from the highway, never got old!

Outside Calistoga we stopped at Dutch Henry Winery, where they make both wine and olive oil.  Dutch Henry was a fun place to stop, we both had the wine tasting and also tasted a few olive oils. The dogs liked us too!

After Dutch Henry we made our way south through the Valley to St. Helena, CA. St. Helena had a ton to do for the food lover. Our first stop was the Culinary Institue of America. Only a small part is open to the general public, but it was still worth the stop with great views of the wineries across the street, a great kitchen/food gift shop, and rooms full of old cooking gadgety.

CIA in St. Helena, CA

Next stop - lunch at Taylor's Automatic Refresher!  The back story - Taylor's Refresher was a walk-up diner built in 1949. Bought by Gott's Roadside recently, but the new owners kept the original sign. Recently featured in Food and Wine Magazine. I got the fish tacos (delicious!) and Zac got a loaded hot dog. We split the black and white milkshake.

Other stops in St. Helena included the St. Helena Olive Oil Company, which had more varieties of olive oil that I’ve ever seen!! My favorites included the various fruit infused olive oils, and the blue cheese olive oil.

Close by the St. Helene Olive Oil Company is Woodhouse Chocolate. Couldn’t pass by stopping here and trying a few chocolates!

Inside Woodhouse Chocolate

Woodhouse Chocolate 

On our way back to our cottage in Napa, we passed by the Francis Ford Coppola winery, producing Coppola wines.  The main visitors center was not free of charge (also a quasi-museum for the film maker), so we stayed outside but were able to enjoy the views of the winery. 

Zac at the Coppola vineyard

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Grilled Chicken Banh Mi

Let me start off by saying that I hate pickles.  I'm repulsed by them - don't like the smell, or for the pickle juice to be anywhere near my food. Due to my distaste for pickles, I have not ventured into "pickling" anything, assuming I would not like it.  Boy was I wrong!  My husband suggested we make Banh Mi.  I was ignorant on what it was, but am always open to trying new things.  When I realized it involved pickling carrots and radishes, I wasn't excited at all.  After eating them however, you know what I don't like about pickles? The dill!  No dill = very good eats.  My grandmother has been making "marinated cucumbers" for my whole life, little did I know they were actually picked cucumbers (yes, which is a pickle, I know).  However there was no dill, just some Japanese ingredients, and I love them.

Back to the Banh Mi.  We actually made this last summer.  I have been craving it lately so was inspired to post our photos from last summer.  We used a recipe we found in our Food and Wine 2009 Annual Cookbook.  The recipe describes the dish as "a popular Vietnamese sandwich combining sweet, sour, crunchy, and soft in one delicious, and portable package."  Delicious is right!

The recipe consists of 4 main steps - 1) Marinade the chicken  2) Pickle the vegetables 3)Grill the chicken 4)Assemble the sandwich.  Can't forget the 5th step, Eat!

**The onion rings are Beer Battered Onion Rings, recipe by Hubert Keller, found in his cookbook Burger Bar Cookbook. Also found online here -

Grilled Chicken Banh Mi
Recipe, from Food and Wine Magazine



  1. 1 cup Asian fish sauce
  2. 1 cup fresh lime juice
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 8 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 4 red Thai chiles, thinly sliced
  6. 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  7. 8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (3 1/2 pounds)


  1. 1/2 cup water
  2. 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  3. 1/4 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. Pinch of crushed red pepper
  6. 3 large carrots, julienned
  7. 1/4 pound daikon radish, julienned


  1. Four 8-inch baguettes, split and grilled
  2. 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  3. 1 cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise
  4. 10 large cilantro sprigs
  5. 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

  6. Directions:
    1. In a bowl, whisk the fish sauce with the lime juice, sugar, garlic, Thai chiles and salt. Put the chicken in a resealable plastic bag with all but 1/4 cup of the marinade. Reserve the remaining marinade for the Vietnamese Chicken Salad. Seal the bag and refrigerate the chicken for 3 hours.
    2. In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and crushed red pepper to a boil. Transfer the brine to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add the carrots and daikon and cover to keep them submerged. Refrigerate the vegetables for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.
    3. Light a grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Grill the chicken over moderate heat, turning once, until just cooked through, about 14 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes.
    4. Drain 1 cup of the pickled vegetables. Slice 6 of the chicken breasts. Reserve the remaining pickled vegetables and 2 breasts for the Vietnamese Chicken Salad.
    5. Spread the cut sides of the baguettes with mayonnaise. Arrange the cucumber slices on the bottom halves. Top with the chicken and the pickled carrots and daikon. Garnish with the cilantro sprigs and jalapeño. Close the sandwiches and serve.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cold Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Chicken

This past Friday I made "Cold Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Chicken", a recipe from the blog Smitten Kitchen that I found via Pinterest. This was my first experience cooking with rice noodles.  It's so easy! The recipe itself isn't very hard either, and all of it can be done ahead of time and refrigerated.  The leftovers the next day were just as good, if not better since everything was cold (chicken was still hot when we ate it on Friday night).  I used chicken breasts versus thighs, because that is what I had on hand.  I grilled the chicken on the outdoor grill, and served the dish with oven baked spring rolls.  Great dish for a hot summer day!

Recipe below, copied from Smitten Kitchen, which was adapted from a recipe from David Tanis, via The New York Times

Serves 4 generously, 6 moderately
Dipping sauce
6 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
6 tablespoons brown sugar
12 tablespoons lime juice
2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
Small Thai or Serrano chiles, thinly sliced, to taste

Peanut dressing
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
9 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 one-and-a-half inch chunk ginger, peeled and sliced
6 tablespoons natural unsalted peanut butter
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Pinch of cayenne

Chicken and noodle salad
1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 6)  - I used chicken breasts
8 ounces dried rice vermicelli or other rice noodles 
2 small cucumbers, cut in 1/4-inch half moons
2 medium carrots, cut in thin julienne
Additional vegetables, as suggested above
Small handful basil or mint or cilantro sprigs, or your favorite of the three (torn or roughly chopped)
4 or more scallions, slivered
1/4 cup crushed or chopped roasted peanuts
Lime wedges (to serve)

Make the dipping sauce: Whisk ingredients in a small serving bowl, making sure to dissolve the sugar. Leave to ripen for 15 minutes. Refrigerate any extra and use within a few days.

Make the peanut dressing: In a blender or small food processor, puree all ingredients to a smooth sauce, about the thickness of heavy cream. Pour into a serving bowl.

Marinate the chicken: Stir together 1/2 the dipping sauce and 1/3 the peanut dressing (you can eyeball this) in the bottom of a low-sided bowl or dish. Add the chicken to the mixture and toss to coat. Let marinate at least 15 minutes.

Cook the noodles: Bring a large pot of water to the boil, then turn off the heat. Add the rice vermicelli and soak for 7 to 8 minutes. (Package directions may vary; check for doneness by tasting.) Drain when noodles are al dente, and cool under running water. Fluff and leave in strainer to drain well.

Cook the chicken: Grill the chicken on an outdoor grill, a stove-top grill pan, or run under the broiler until nicely browned, about 3 to 4 minutes a side. Let cool slightly, then chop roughly into 3/4-inch pieces.

To serve: At this point, you can place everything on a large serving platter, with piles or small bowls for noodles, vegetables, chicken, the dressing and marinade and toppings (peanuts, herbs) and let your family and friends put it together in their own bowls as they wish. Or, you can assemble it for everyone as suggested:
Toss vegetables with 1 tablespoon dipping sauce in a small bowl. Divide the cooked noodles among 4 to 6 bowls. Top each bowl equally with vegetable mixture and chopped chicken. Toss each bowl with 2 teaspoons of each the dipping sauce and dressing, or more to taste (we wanted more). Add the herbs, peanuts and scallions to each bowl and serve with additional dressing and dipping sauce on the side.