Monday, December 22, 2008

Bacon-Braised Brussels Sprouts

Since Z is not currently here, I have been trying fewer main course meals lately, and more side dishes. Also, since there are some foods she doesn't like, I've been making dishes I wouldn't be able to make with her in town. In particular, earlier this month I made a bacon-braised Brussels sprout recipe. This was a Tyler Florence recipe I found here, and it was pretty easy.

First, for those of you who are not familiar with Brussels sprouts, they are like miniature cabbages that grow on a club. I was shocked that the local grocery store sold them by the club, so I succumbed to temptation, and bought this beauty here.

It was a bit more work than buying the pre-cleaned, bagged Brussels sprouts, but I got it anyway for nostalgia's sake (we always had these in our garden when I was growing up).

This is what the pan looked like when done

Served with a citrus herb marinated chicken breast

Bacon-Braised Brussels Sprouts

1 club of Brussels sprouts
1/4 lb bacon
1 garlic clove, additional garlic powder (I only had one clove!)
dried thyme (I didn't have fresh)
1-1/2 cup chicken broth (I added gradually, 2 cups seemed like too much)
Salt & pepper
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1-cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2-sprigs rosemary
Olive oil


  • In a large, oven safe pan and over medium-high heat, cook bacon for 2 to 3 minutes
  • Add the garlic clove, thyme and Brussels sprouts and cook until slightly caramelized, ~4-5 minutes
  • Add chicken broth and reduce heat to a simmer
  • Season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes
  • Remove lid and add a splash of vinegar and reduce until syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes
  • In a bowl, toss bread crumbs with rosemary, thyme leaves and garlic powder, then drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • Sprinkle bread crumb mixture and Parmesan over Brussels sprouts and bake in a 350°oven until golden and crispy.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


For Thanksgiving, we visited Z's parents in Arizona. With the trip, came good times, good pictures, and good food.

Here, for example, would be an example of good times.

I know the white balance is off, but Z's mom is clearly cracking up over something (and the sky looks pretty cool too)

We took some pictures of an Arizona sunset, which came out fairly well. Keep in mind, these are my first sunset pictures. All-in-all, I'm pretty happy with them, but will happily take advice on how to make them better.

I think this one is my favorite.

While we were there, we came across some products of a local jam and sauce maker. I've been looking for a jalapeño jelly for Z for a while (ever since she had jalapeño jelly with brie at a wine bar in Lubbock), so when I saw that this vendor carried some, I pulled her over to try it out. She liked it, so I got some. I also grabbed a bottle of a raspberry chipotle sauce.

I used it as a pork marinade. In all honesty, I was disappointed, but that could be because I didn't have time to actually marinate the meat, and instead just put it on right before baking. The sauce was really good to dip the meat into, so it will definitely get another chance in my kitchen.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Ok, this was totally from a mix, but doesn't it look good?

The Yard

This post definitely isn't food related, but ah well. One thing I like about the place we're renting in Lubbock, is the spacious back yard. It turns out that the dogs like it too.

Here's Nizhoni trying to scratch her back (or something)

this went on for quite some time

And here Nizhoni and Kodiak are playing with each other. This picture isn't great because it is through the window and there was a big light differential. However, I was really impressed that they were play fighting without one of us watching them directly.

Yes, Nizhoni looks a lot smaller, but she can definitely hold her own

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Honey Curry Squash

I remember liking squash as a kid, but haven't had much luck myself making squash that actually enjoyed (not winter squash, at least). So, wanted to instill variety in my vegetable repertoire, I compelled myself to buy an acorn squash last week, and decided to try a few things out. The recipe below is the one that is definitely worth sharing with you, my loyal readers (AKA Z and her mom).

This recipe I got from this month's Cooking Light magazine. It turned out very well, and will definitely be one I put into a regular rotation. I tweaked the recipe based on what I had (and the fact that I was cooking for one), but didn't make any huge modifications.

Honey Curry Squash

1/2 acorn squash, cubed
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
golden raisins (not sure how many I used - I added them until it "looked right")
1-2 tbsp honey
curry powder and cayenne pepper, to taste

  • Toss squash cubes with olive oil, salt, & pepper
  • Bake at 500° for 15-20 minutes, or until tender
  • Toss remaining ingredients and serve
(see, I told you it was simple)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rice Pilaf

I'd always wanted to try making a rice pilaf. I mean, it seemed so simple - rice, some sort of seasoning, and perhaps a vegetable or two. However, whenever I tried an "impromptu" (i.e., without looking up a recipe) pilaf, I failed miserably. Then, one day while watching Good Eats, I saw Alton Brown make a rice pilaf that seemed remarkably easy. So, last month, when Z was here and I was therefore cooking and blogging more regularly, I thought that it would be a great time to try making a pilaf. Alton's recipe was remarkably easy, although it was not super flavorful. I'm not sure exactly what I'd change (more garlic, perhaps, or some pepper), but it is something I will certainly play around with.

Rice Pilaf
adapted from Good Eats

2 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, minced
2 pinches kosher salt
2 cups long grain rice (I used jasmine rice)
2-3/4 c chicken broth
1/2 tsp orange zest
Pinch of saffron strands, steeped in 1/4 cup hot water
1 bay leaf
Golden raisins for garnish

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • In a heavy, wide, lidded pan, melt butter over medium-low heat
  • Add onion, pepper, and salt, sweat until aromatic, stirring constantly
  • Add rice and stir to coat and rice begins to smell nutty
  • Add chicken broth, orange zest, saffron and water, and bay leaf & bring to boil
  • Cover pan with moistened dish towel (or tea towel). Place lid on pan and fold towel corners over lid
  • Bake for 15 minutes
  • Rest at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes without removing the cover.
  • Remove lid from rice and turn out onto a platter
  • Fluff with a large fork and add raisins

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lemon Blueberry Frozen Yogurt!

A few months ago we heard that Food and Wine magazine did a profile of Columbus local ice cream maker, Jeni. The recipes that Jeni submitted sounded great, but we did not have any way of making ice cream. Now that we have an ice cream attachment (thanks Jay and Sonja) for our stand mixer (thanks Joyce and Don), however, we decided to try making lemon blueberry frozen yogurt. This yogurt was absolutely delicious! A great combination of rich (from the dairy) tart (from the lemon) and sweet (from the fresh blueberry syrup). We put it in our deep freeze, and might have gotten in too frozen, but it becomes much more scoopable after a minute of two on the counter.

The "batter" in an ice bath

Churning away...

Finished product!

Lemon Blueberry Frozen Yogurt
Recipe from Jeni

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4-ounce package unflavored powdered gelatin
2/3 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup blueberries
2 teaspoons water

  • Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the lemon juice and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons of lemon juice with 2/3 cup of the sugar and the corn syrup. Bring to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon gelatin.
  • In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt with the zest. Stir in the lemon juice mixture, then whisk in the cream. Set the yogurt base in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a saucepan, mix the blueberries with the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and the water. Simmer over moderate heat, until saucy, 4 minutes. Let cool.
  • Pour the lemon yogurt into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Scoop alternating spoonfuls of the yogurt and blueberry sauce into a plastic container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface and close with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chicken Marsala

This recipe was largely stolen from a Tyler Florence recipe, and was very easy to make. I was generally happy with the outcome, but might do some things differently in the future. In particular, in this recipe, the chicken is only in the sauce for a brief period of time, not allowing much of the Marsala flavor to penetrate the chicken. In the recipe below, instead of removing the chicken, perhaps I'd simply add the bacon and mushrooms when I flip the chicken (I cooked it for about 5-minutes per side), and then continue from there. It would mean that the chicken was in the pan for as long as the Marsala was, and hopefully this would mean deeper flavor distribution.

On another note, this was our new braiser's first run, and I was generally happy with it. At first, when I was cooking the chicken, I was afraid it would burn the chicken too much or be horrible to clean. This ended up being a non-issue. The wine helped to quickly dissolve any cooked on residue (further flavoring the sauce) far better than it has on any other pan I've used.

Our beautiful new braiser (thanks Priscilla & Paul)

The chicken cooking

Looks pretty good, eh?

After cooking the bacon and mushrooms, add in the wine

At the end, the chicken gets added back in

And served over pasta (in our new pasta bowl, thanks to Kim and Evan)

Chicken Marsala

4 chicken breasts
1/4-1/2 c flour
salt & pepper
1/4 c olive oil
2 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 lb mushrooms, halved
1/2 c dry Marsala wine
1/2 c chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
1/4-1/2 c heavy cream

  • Pound chicken breasts flat with mallet ("meat hammer")
  • On a plate, season flour with salt and peppper
  • Heat oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat
  • Dredge chicken in flour and fry until done, about 5-min per side, depending on size (and flatness) of chicken
  • Remove chicken from pan
  • Add bacon to pan & saute briefly over medium heat
  • Add mushrooms & saute until mostly cooked, about 5 minutes
  • Add Marsala wine & bring to boil, add chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste
  • Simmer for a minute or more to reduce sauce
  • Add butter & cream, return chicken to pan & heat for another minute
  • Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Delicious steak!

So, as many of you know, I got married last weekend. With weddings, comes gifts. Of course, many of the things we registered for were kitchen-related, and probably because everyone knows of my predilection for cooking and Z's predilection for eating, most of the kitchen-related items were purchased. Today, we (yes, WE - as in Z and I were in the same state!) started enjoying these new kitchen items, with a steak dinner. We had pan-seared strip steaks with a red wine reduction (recipe stolen from here), taking advantage of our beautiful, high quality (at least for us), non-stick cookware (thanks Rich). We also had oven-baked seasoned potato cubes and grilled vegetables. This was all served on our beautiful new dinnerware (thanks Jenny & Dominic, Shirley & Joyce, Rick, Betty, and family) and eaten with our sturdy new silverware (thanks mom & dad D). We also had wine served from our new decanter (thanks Katie). Of course, since the place is a total mess (although rapidly improving), this wonderful meal was eaten from our futon on a coffee table. This is what the meal looked like:

the lighting was horrible for this picture

Pan Seared Steak and Red Wine Reduction

Strip steak, 3/4 inch thick, warmed to room temperature(ish)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp galic powder
1 tbsp herbes de provence
1/4 tsp kosher salt
pinch of cayenne
black pepper to taste

1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp flour
3/4 cup red wine

  • Mix top ingredients (minus steak) on a large plate
  • Place steak onto herb mixture and coat both sides
  • Preheat large skillet over medium heat, add steaks
  • Cook steaks ~4-minutes per side
  • Remove steaks and let rest
  • Add shallot and garlic to pan and saute briefly
  • Add flour, to form a roux
  • Add wine, making sure to loosen any meat/herb remains
  • Simmer on medium heat to reduce liquid, until desired consistency is obtained (can add more wine or stock to thin out the reduction, add more flour or cornstarch to thicken)
  • Drizzle reduction over meat and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Camera

Now that I have a new camera, I've begun playing around with it. Mostly, I've been shooting mundane objects, such as my watch (on a table), or blurry objects like Nizhoni quickly approaching me. However, last night, when I was mowing my yard, I noticed something odd about a pine(ish) tree in the front yard. From a distance, it looked sorta like it had dew on it.

However, upon closer inspection (i.e., when I had to mow under the tree), I noticed that it has these little purple berry sort of things.

Now, I know this isn't food, but I was curious if anyone knew the variety of this tree?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quick Beef Stew

Well, well, well... a paycheck comes, and with it (not literally) a new camera. To celebrate my new picture-taking device (that I'm gradually learning how to use) I decided to cook a meal that has not yet been blogged about. Actually, I've made this dish a few times in the past month. It started when I had some frozen sirloin that I wanted to do something with. So, I looked up recipes online, and found several I liked. The one I am presenting (that I'm calling "quick beef stew") was largely inspired by a Rachel Ray recipe, but was modified slightly based on what I had in the kitchen (and felt like doing). Since I've made it a few times now, I've tried several different variations. I'm presenting the one I made this time, but it can certainly be tweaked to suit your needs.

The cast of characters

Since I was only cooking for myself, the amounts below would need to be adjusted to suit most situations. This is probably enough to satisfy two adults (I had leftovers with a little extra after that.

After adding the wine, but before the broth (I think)

The finished product

Quick Beef Stew

1/2 lb beef sirloin, cubed
1-clove garlic, minced
4-5 mushrooms, sliced (I did relatively thick slices)
1/2 red onion, cut into large cubes
2-slices bacon, cubed
red wine
broth (I used chicken)
1-2 tbsp. flour
salt, pepper, & "other spices" to taste

  • Saute bacon over medium heat until cooked; remove bacon, keep bacon grease
  • Raise heat to medium high and brown beef (in the bacon fat)
  • Add garlic, mushroom, and onions. Saute until "sweaty"
  • Add flour, stirring regularly to create a paste (less than 1-minute)
  • Add red wine (1/2+ cup ), and stir, until a thick gravy forms
  • Add back bacon pieces; add salt and pepper and other spices (I used herbes de provence this time, but have also used just rosemary and thyme, and to be honest, it would probably be fine with just the salt and pepper).
  • Add broth until slightly thinner than your desired consistency
  • Simmer, covered, for about 20-minutes
  • Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A treatise on marinades

Well, while I'm in the picture-less world that I currently live in, I figure I can write something cooking-related that does not require pictures. Specifically, I'd like to provide a few guidelines I've observed and employed when marinating meat (you marinate something, the something you marinate with is a marinade). I've been meaning to do something along these lines for a while, so I figure why not now?

What is a marinade? A marinade is basically a flavor-inducing liquid, that can also tenderize or alter the texture (e.g., by caramelizing) of the final product. They can be used for grilling (my preferred application), baking, braising, stewing, steaming (in the case of fish) frying, or virtually any food preparation technique. However, certain marinades lend themselves to some preparations more than others. For example, a sugary marinade that is likely to caramelize when heated might be better suited for the grill or oven than for a pan-fry preparation (at least for thicker cuts of meat that would need to be fried for more than a few minutes).

What's in a marinade? Well, it depends, really. Marinades almost always have some sort of an acid, but the other ingredients can vary widely. Below are some of the more common elements I've noticed in marinades.

Acid: Adds flavor and helps with tenderizing the meat. Examples include citrus juice, vinegars, or alcohol (typically wine). Depending on the style of food, different acids might be appropriate. For example, with for stir-fry or other Asian-inspired marinades, I often use rice wine vinegar or lemon juice (note - a stir-fry sauce can sometimes be a marinade recipe with corn starch added for thickening (added at the end of cooking)). For Mexican dishes, I often use lime juice. For Italian, I often use balsamic vinegar (go lightly - it packs a lot of flavor) or lemon juice. If you're planning to de glace a meat dish using wine (e.g., when making stew), using some of the wine in the marinade is a good choice.

Fat: Perhaps not as essential as an acid, fats can still be very important in a marinade. This is because some flavors (see below) are not water soluble, and instead need to be carried into the meat by a fat (e.g., capsaisin - the spicy ingredient in hot peppers). I typically use either a neutral oil that can withstand high heat (many vegetable/grain oils qualify) or an oil that can itself impart some flavor (e.g., olive oil). The choice depends on the specific type of food (e.g., you probably wouldn't use olive oil for a stir-fry) as well as the cooking method (if you're going with a high-heat cooking method, it may be best to use an oil that can tolerate high heats).

Flavor: When it comes down to it, a marinade is often defined by the flavorings that are added. Sometimes I use combinations of herbs and spices that are tried and true (e.g., herbes de provence) and sometimes I get creative. Herbs and spices are the most obvious flavorings, but others are important to keep in mind. For example, the vinegars and fats can bring a lot of flavor, as can things like garlic and ginger or other liquids you bring into the marinade (e.g., soy or Worcestershire sauce). If you are using a pre-mixed herb/spice combination (e.g., jerk seasoning, herbes de provence), be sure to get one that doesn't contain salt. Salt certainly helps to enhance flavors, but you can add that yourself. There's no sense paying a lot of money for a flavoring that contains salt when salt is available so cheaply on its own.

Sugars: Sugars can help enhance both flavor and texture. Sugars generally caramelize at high temperatures, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your goals. If you're afraid of burning the sugars, you can marinate the meat in a sugar-less marinade, and withold some of the marinade. Then, add the sugar of your choice, and brush it on the meat toward the end of cooking. Think BBQ sauce (which typically contains a sugar, such as molasses or brown sugar) - quite often it is best added towards the end of grilling to get a nice carmalized BBQ flavor, without charring on the grill.

Putting it all together: Make your marinade in a blender or food processor to fully integrate (i.e., emulsify) hydrophillic (water soluble) and hydrophobic (fat-soluble) ingredients and to chop up ingredients like garlic, ginger, green onions, hot peppers, and so forth. Marinate your meat in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (placed into another bowl to catch any leaks) for at least 30-minutes before cooking.

Remember that different combinations of these ingredients can result in wildly different flavors. I've used lemon, lime, and orange juices for Asian and Italian dishes alike, but different "flavors" and fats can distinguish the dishes. Feel free to be creative in combining flavors. For example, I made a stir-fry the other day that used rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, curry powder, cayenne pepper, and corn starch for the sauce that was very good. Adding cumin, garlic, and ground up jalepeño peppers to lime juice and soy sauce creates a classic tex-mex flavor. Pair flavors from similar regions of the world (e.g., French wine and herbes de provence, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and ginger).

Also, marinating is not just for meat. I will often marinate fruits and vegetables that I'm planning to cook on the grill (mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, pineapple).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I hope to re-start blogging again sometime soon. As I said before, my camera died, so my ability to take pictures of food is somewhat lacking - once I replace it (next paycheck?), I promise to start anew. I've found some good recipes in the last month that need to be shared with the world! (or something like that).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Worst breakfast ever!

In my last few hours visiting Z over labor day weekend, we felt a tasty breakfast on our way to the airport would hit the spot nicely. So, we decided to go to Tasi, home of delicious and fluffy sourdough pancakes (and other breakfast goodies).

I highly recommend the place, but unfortunately, they were closed for labor day (and starting next week, will be closed every Monday). Disappointment #1.

On to Jack and Benny's, for surely they would be open on Labor Day. Their delicious chocolate chip (or chocolate & peanut butter chip - AKA "buckeye" - if you prefer) pancakes would certainly hit the spot. Well, they would have, had they been open. Disappointment #2.

look how sad I am

Finally, in a desperation move, we decided to go for Bob Evans. Unfortunately, it turns out, they were open. I say unfortunately, because our morning would have been a lot better had they not been, and we could have simply gone home and had cereal. Instead, we waited ten minutes to get a seat. We were able to order our food right away, and then we waited. And we waited. Keep in mind that after running to so many different places, my need to get to the airport was rapidly becoming urgent. Eventually, the waitress, who we'd watched bring food to several tables seated after us, did bring us something - biscuits (not what we ordered) to satisfy our appetites while we waited. As if on cue, when we finally decided to ask for our food to go, the waitress arrived with our food. We ate quickly. My pancakes were undercooked, but at that point I didn't care. Z didn't finish all of her food, so when I went up to pay, I asked the waitress to bring her a to-go box. After waiting in line to pay for ten-minutes (with Z patiently waiting at the table for the to-go box), Z finally walked over with no leftovers in hand. Disappointments #3 through infinity.

Perhaps I can have a satisfying breakfast next time I'm in Columbus...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Zucchini Pasta

Well, I'm back to cooking, although not so much back to blogging. The camera that I thought had dead batteries was just plain dead. It was a point and shoot that had major focus issues, so it probably isn't a huge loss, but it does mean that I'm left without my own pictures until I can get a new camera. I would simply go out and buy another point and shoot, since they are pretty reasonable these days, but Z's photography lessons have made me really want a DSLR (plus, if I get a camera body, we can share lenses - once we have enough to actually share).

OK - now onto cooking...

I'm not sure exactly what she was looking for, but Z found a recipe for "zucchini pasta" (here) that looked really good. The recipe was very straightforward, and ended up tasting quite good.

I made a few modifications to the recipe (sauteing the garlic in the oil before cooking the zucchini added some great flavor), and served it with a little grilled chicken breast. The zucchini strips from the outside were much better than those from the middle (they congealed like regular pasta that had been overcooked).

Zucchini Pasta
Modified from NY Times

1 pound zucchini (or a combination of yellow and green zucchini)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
diced mixed vegetables (mushrooms, carrot, peppers)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

  • Using a vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini into lengthwise ribbons, rotating with each ribbon. Stop before you reach the seeds at the core of the zucchini.
  • Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high hear and saute garlic and vegetables until al dente
  • Remove vegetables, retaining oil (add more if needed)
  • Cook the zucchini with a pinch of salt for two to three minutes, being cafeful to retain the crispness of the "pasta."
  • Toss with other vegetables and add freshly ground pepper to taste.
  • Quickly remove pasta from heat and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
NOTE: This was the first time my Parmesan didn't come from a green can. While I didn't grate it myself, I have to say that even pseudo-fresh is a lot better than green can cheese!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chicken Fajita Marinade

Over the past two years, I've been trying a variety of marinades for fajitas. Some have been quite good, while others have been disappointing. Below is the recipe that has become my favorite thus far. It is very easy, but the combination of flavors hits me just right. You can modify this as you choose (substituting chipotle peppers for a smoky flavor, using lemon instead of lime and reducing the sugar for fish tacos, etc.). I've used the recipe for chicken and pork, although I suspect it would work for other meats as well.

Chicken Fajita Marinade
Note: I don't have any pictures because I ran out of batteries for the camera.

1/4 cup soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (or more) cumin
hot pepper flakes to taste

  • Combine ingredients, mixing well
  • Marinate chicken 1-4 hours
I typically then cook the chicken on a grill, and then saute the veggies (onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc.) in an iron skillet.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Well, after three weeks in Texas, I finally have a working stove. I've done lots of grilling, toaster oven cooking, and no-cook eating (i.e., salad and fruit). But, finally, on Tuesday, I was able to cook a proper meal. What did I pick? Something fairly easy that I could adjust for a single serving size (OK, I ended up with 3 servings).

I made albondigas, which, according to my recipe, are meatballs in a garlic-tomato sauce. The recipe is actually for appetizer/tapas-type meatballs, but I ended up making them to put over pasta. Z and I did make these once for appetizers when we had a small party a few years ago, but they also worked very well over pasta. If you should make them for a party, you can make them early and then keep them warm/heat them up in a small crock pot to save last-minute rushing on food prep).

The recipe starts with making the meatballs and pan frying them in a heavy skillet (I used the lovely cast iron one you see below)

Notice how shiny and new the stove looks

The cooking of the meatballs is then finished in the sauce. (eeek! passive voice alert).

While normally, you'd serve them tapas style with toothpicks, I served mine over pasta.

This weekend, a group of us went to a local wine and tapas place that had albondigas on the menu. Theirs had jalepeño peppers in them as well, and were served in a marsala sauce, which I found to be a very tasty variation.


1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large bell pepper, finely chopped
Olive oil
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
2/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cilantro

For the sauce:
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can (33 oz) diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

  • Cook onion and pepper in olive oil until soft, let cool
  • Combine onions/peppers, ground meat, bread crumbs, salt, nutmeg, & cilantro
  • Make small meatball (1 - 1-1/2 inch diameter)
  • Pan fry in olive oil in a pre-heated skillet. Remove when browned.
  • For the sauce, briefly saute garlic in olive oil
  • Add remaining ingredients, including meatballs and bring to a simmer
  • Simmer for 30-minutes, or until meatballs are done and sauce has thickened.
  • Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First (home cooked) meal in Lubbock

As most of you know, I have recently moved to Lubbock, Texas. Because my stuff came this weekend, I am now able to cook again. I am still very limited in what I can do, because I have not unpacked all my stuff yet (let alone organized it) and because my stove doesn't work (new one comes on Thursday). But, I was still able to cook today using stuff I packed (grill and toaster oven). Today's recipe is oven-baked sweet potato "fries".

First, the cast of characters... We have a sweet potato (1-2 people per sweet potato, depending on appetite and potato size), kosher salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, olive oil, and black pepper (not pictured). I chose this particular combination of spices because I had unpacked them (I've since unpacked the rest of my spices) and because I sometimes like to combine sweet and spicy.

Basically, I cut the sweet potato into wedges and tossed it with olive oil (enough to coat), a decent amount of kosher salt, about a half teaspoon of cumin and black pepper, and a quarter teaspoon (I think) of cayenne pepper. I then placed them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and baked them at 450° for 25-minutes, turning once. They were not as crispy as fried fries, but were quite good nonetheless. We have made these before (using cinnamon, salt, and honey as flavoring) and baked them at a lower temperature and gotten really soggy fries, so I think the higher temperature was key.

I served these fries with a chicken breast marinated in zesty Italian salad dressing and grilled.

Also, there's a pint of a wheat beer that I got from a local microbrewery that helped complete this summertime feast.

PS - now that Z is no longer in the same state as I am, the quality of my pictures has dramatically decreased. This is a combination of having to use a point and shoot camera instead of the DSLR that she's been teaching us all how to use and not having her awesome photography and processing skills.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Last Supper

So, after the movers took our stuff away from us, we immediately locked the door, hopped in the car, and went to the Taj Mahal.

Now, this is admittedly, a pretty generic name for an Indian restaurant, but we've really grown to like the place. If any place were to be called "our place," this might be it. It is a formal enough restaurant to be suitable for date night (picture candlelight and a bottle of wine - I don't think they have candles, but they definitely have wine :) ), but well under the price of most other formal eating options.

So, last Wednesday (have I been gone a week already!) we started our typical dinner menu with some naan - this time garlic naan. I have no idea how they do it, but I swear this stuff is made of crack! It is flavorful, rich, and delicious!

Now this is where we really get into our routine. Z ordered the coconut chicken...

... and I ordered the chicken tikka.

I say "routine" because this is what we always get. Not that there's anything wrong with that. We've both tried other things on the menu and have always been satisfied. We just like these dishes so much, that nothing else can compare (in our minds at least). I actually like going for their lunch buffet, because then I can try a greater variety of dishes, while still having some of my old standby (or something similar to it) available.

Finally, Z finished the meal with some rice pudding.

please note, this picture was taken with the correct white balance.

So, that's it - the last of my Columbus blogs :(. Hopefully I'll have new dishes prepared here in Lubbock to blog about soon - once I have pots and pans to prepare them in (and a working oven, dishes, silverware, etc.)!

Surly Girl

Now that I have internet back at home, I can try and finish up my end of Columbus posts. Don't expect any new food posts this week, however, as I still don't have my stuff (no pots and pans to cook with) nor does the oven in my new apartment work (which will hopefully be taken care of very soon).

So, the night before the movers came (for the first day), and Z and I were frantically trying to get ready (last-minute packing, sorting out what stays and what goes, etc.), we decided to walk to the Surly Girl Saloon, one of our favorite places to walk - especially for a late dinner. The Surly Girl, and its sister (mother?) Betty's, are both locally owned and operated restaurant/bars in the Short North. Surly Girl has more of a western empowered woman theme, featuring drinks from female-owned wineries/breweries. They also have a great seasonal selection of mixed drinks (e.g., blueberry "lemonade").

We don't have any food pictures, in part because it was relatively dark inside and in part because by the time our food came, all we wanted to do was devour it. We split a plate of nachos (very good). I think Z had the Surly Girl salad and I had the Cajun meatloaf. Betty's meatloaf is better, but Surly Girl's is still quite good. While we didn't have any this time, Surly Girl also has funky cupcakes, like chocolate cayenne, that make for a great dessert.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Slow Blog Month

I just wanted to apologize for the slow blog month. As many of you know, I'm in the process of moving to Lubbock, TX. As a result, there have not been a lot of cooking opportunities (too much travel, eating out, and now packing). Hopefully, once I am settled in to my new place, and have unpacked the recipe binder (that Z is currently updating), I can get back to exploring the world of homemade food. In the meantime, expect small posts about eating in Columbus and Lubbock just to keep the blog from being totally empty.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mmmmm... Chocolate

Z and I just got back from a trip to NY to do some wedding-related chores and to see my parents one last time before I head off to Lubbock. During our visit, we spent some time ogling bunnies, checking out the cherry harvest, and eating lots of unhealthy food (Z stole a lot of the good posts since most had nothing to do with food).

One example of the unhealthy food is the chocolate we ate at The Original Candy Kitchen in Williamson, NY. This candy shop has been in business for 118 years. Growing up, we always got our Easter candy from here, but I'd never been any other time of the year. Z and I each got 3 truffles (we both got mint, which was good), and my favorite by FAR was the dark chocolate raspberry truffle. Raspberry just goes so well with chocolate, and the amount of flavor was just right - enough to complement the chocolate without overpowering it (I thought the mint was a little overpowering, which is why it wasn't my favorite).

mint truffle

raspberry and espresso truffles

Actually, speaking of mint and raspberry going well with chocolate, Z and I sometimes make "milkshakes" using a little creme de cacao and either framboise or creme de menthe in place of the milk. In other words, using ice cream and "spirits" instead of ice cream and milk. They make great dessert drinks.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Eating instead of cooking

Since my days in Columbus are limited, Z and I have been hitting up places we're going to miss, have fond memories of, or haven't yet tried. Today was a 2-fer, with one we had not tried and one we have fond memories of.

For the one we had not tried, the German Village Coffee Shop (aka - Der Kaffe Haus). It was a very good find - the food was extremely reasonably, and the portions were more than reasonable. I got a short stack and a side of bacon for around $5, and it was way too much food. The pancakes were large, thick, and fluffy (and loaded with complex grease-bohydrates). Z had a monte cristo sandwhich, and also had more than she could finish.

Then, this evening, Z and I returned to the site of our first official date, Hunan Lion. While I'm sure the food is not "authentic," that sure doesn't mean it isn't delicious. They serve family style, so we split veggie spring rolls and orders of sesame beef and mango chicken. Both were very good, but the sesame beef was absolutely delicious. They must put crack or some other controlled substance in the sauce, because it was hard to stop eating.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Whenever we go to NY, Z, my sister-in-law-to-be, and I go on a wine tour, usually chauffeured by my brother. On this most recent trip, we hit up Keuka Lake (see Z's post as well - Hunt Country was probably our favorite, but Dr Konstantin Frank's was good as well). One of the wineries near the southern end of the lake is Bully Hill. In general, I am not a huge fan of their wines. They quite often taste like their names imply - "Goat love," "Love My Goat," "LeGoat Blush"... Not only that, but the guy who ran the tasting was far from impressive in many dimensions, most notably personal hygiene and personality (note to businesspeople - customers will buy more when they are treated like adults by someone whose hand you're not afraid to shake for fear of getting syphilis). Despite all the signals that told us to run away as fast as we could, we stayed for a tasting, and really liked their American Riesling.

No, that picture isn't grainy. There's just condensation on the bottle.

The wine is straw colored and relatively sweet (although nowhere near as extreme as a late harvest riesling or ice wine). It smelled a lot like pineapple and also had some hints of apple. Needless to say, it went down very smoothly. Interestingly, this wine is often available outside of NY state, which is rare for NY wines (the wineries tend to be very small), and this particular bottle was one we picked up at a little Cafe in Columbus, OH.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

(Dutch) Spanish Rice

Growing up in the country, my culinary breadth was often limited. To give you an idea of what I mean, I never had Chinese food until late in high school (and never liked it until late in college) and I never had Mexican or Indian food until college. As was often the case with the Dutch farm families (at least where I grew up), there were a limited number of seasoning options that were actually used. Now, don't get me wrong, the cupboard had a reasonable amount of flavors to choose from, but almost all of them were ones used in baking. No, when it came to dinner, we had very two real options: salt and pepper. Occasionally, some garlic, onion, or seasoned salt would get thrown in there, but that was about it. I discovered, upon leaving home, that many of the dishes I'd grown up with were not the same as dishes of the same name in other kitchens.

One such recipe is "Spanish Rice," which at home involved 5 ingredients: rice, ground beef, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Of course, I've never seen another person make a dish called Spanish rice, nor have I seen it on any restaurant menus, but I have seen it in boxed form in the supermarket aisle, and there it certainly contains a different set of ingredients (and lots of preservatives and non-pronounceable chemicals). Now, don't get me wrong, I like my mom's Spanish rice, but there isn't a whole lot to play around with in this recipe. So, since I left home eons ago (ok - perhaps not eons) I've been experimenting with different flavor combinations and ingredients. Below is the basic recipe I'm working from, but this is by no means a recipe that is set in stone (perhaps you've noticed this theme in my cooking).

"Spanish" Rice

1-lb ground beef/turkey, browned
3-cups cooked white rice (AKA - 1 cup before you cook it)
1-quart stewed tomatoes, broken up
Salt and Pepper to taste (I like a lot of pepper)
2-tbsp. chili powder
1-tbsp. oregano
1-tbsp. cilantro (don't tell Z, she's not a fan)
1/2-tsp. cumin
dash cayenne pepper

  • Brown and drain ground beef, cook rice, break up tomatoes
  • Combine all ingredients in a large oven-safe bowl, cover with foil
  • Bake at 350° for 1-hour, removing foil during final 15-minutes.
I like to serve this with peas because that's what my family did, but that probably makes it even less "Spanish" (if that's possible!).