Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Purple Chicken Soup

I've never made soup. Ever. I've never watched my mother make it, I've never attempted to make it. Ever. At all. Zilch.
So this was an interesting experience! My mother was disappointed because I didn't make my own stock, but oh well.  I don't have time! But I bought free range chicken stock, which was fantastic!
I bought a lot of these ingredients awhile ago when I actually had money, and let me tell you what.. this will definitely last me forever! But it will be good when, in the middle of the semester, I have no money and it's cold out.  Sounds like a plan, right?? :)

The memories I have of soup growing up are phenomenal.  Mom always made some sort of soup every fall - Cincinnati-style chili, turkey noodle soup, chicken vegetable alphabet soup, white chili, or vegetable soup were her main soups.  She normally made two a year, and froze a bunch of it to keep and reuse on a lazy evening (along with homemade spaghetti sauce).  You'd know when she was making something good because she would always get out her pressure cooker on Sundays, after we had roasted chicken, to pressure cook the bones and make her own stock.  And after Thanksgiving, she'd always make a turkey stock.  Gosh! I can remember the smell of the house the next morning was amazing - you almost floated to the kitchen.  And she'd be in there, working away, to feed her family.  That morning you'd have fresh turkey sandwiches and then for a late afternoon snack, the first turkey noodle soup bowl of the season.

But me? No thought. I kind of just winged this, so if you have any suggestions please don't hesitate to comment!

Purple Chicken Soup
3 large chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
32 oz. + 1 cup free range chicken broth, or homemade equivalent
12 cups of water
1 1/2 cups red cabbage, chopped
1 1/2 cups green cabbage, chopped
6 stalks of celery hearts, chopped
5 large carrots, chopped
Dried basil, rosemary, and thyme
Cajun seasoning
Olive oil
1/2 red onion
1 package of pasta (I used campanelle)

Purple Chicken Soup
In a large pan, put all the vegetables (not onion) in there with about 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Cook for a couple of minutes and then add salt and the 1/2 cup of chicken broth and cover with a lid.  Let them cook until almost tender (you don't want them to be tender). Stir them every few minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the chicken into bite size pieces.  Then cook them in a large sauté pan with olive oil, and the herbs, and the cajun seasoning.  Or season the chicken to your liking :) Cook until ALMOST finished cooking.  You don't want to over cook the chicken.  Once the chicken is finished, put it in a separate container and cook the onions in the same oil.
Cook the pasta al dente with salt.
In a large stock pot, add the rest of the chicken stock and water.  Drain and add all of the above cooked items.  Stir it up and let the liquid simmer for at least an hour.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.

And here ya go!

Ciao e Bella Cucina!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Workouts and Hunger

I've recently (as of last Friday) started a workout regimen and I've been having a problem.  I get so hungry after I work out! I have been doing anywhere between 40 minutes to 80 minutes for workout, mixing cardio and weight lifting, so I'm going to have to find some sort of alternative to stuffing my face after I get home.

The other day I had an almond and apple sauce post-workout snack.  What do you suggest? I heard mixing carbohydrates and proteins is perfect for a mixture of replenishing quick energy and longer-lasting energy.

On other news, I'm in a rut. I want to create something yummy, but I have no money! It's a problem.  But I do promise that after I get my next pay check and after I pay rent, there will be a yummy recipe to follow!! Right now I'm living off of random vegetables, leftovers, and random things I can steal from my friends!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Physics, Ribeyes, and a good Pinot Noir

And now for my first actual blog update (with little to do with food, but just enough to belong here!).
Summer is slowly starting to wind down in the grand city of Knoxvegas, and I am definitely starting to feel it. Between finding hours at work, finding an opportunity to go home to Ohio, finding time for school, and finding time for food and friends, I'm slowly but surely losing myself. But I'll make it through, because I do have my good friends down here in Rocky Top.

Let me just say that class is hard. I love the fact that I'm taking a fast track course, but a four credit hour physics class in 16 days is kind of rough.  My friend and I are taking the same course but at different universities, and she started in June and I've already passed her (I started the first of July) and my final is the last Thursday of July. It's rough. I have a test every Tuesday and Thursday and a lab report due every Monday and Wednesday.  And this coming week I have a quiz Monday and Wednesday as well.
Not only am I taking that dreadful class, which lasts from 9 am to 3:20 (ughhh), I'm also trying to work 20+ hours.  Which, yeah, is no big deal... but c'mon. I'm doing that in 3 days. Haha! I don't work Monday-Wednesday, and I'm not usually scheduled on Fridays, so my work schedule is all over the place!  But it's okay, I only have two weeks.

Thankfully I've found time to go home this coming weekend.  Due to some family issues, I have to.  And having to deal with that stuff from so far away is rough - my brother and I have had to deal with it the same way, though, so I have someone to relate to.  I'm going to go home Friday morning and probably leave Saturday night, so that leaves little to no time for me.  But I may possibly be bringing back goodies for my kitchen!

Enough rambling, my friend and I had a good dinner this evening!  Emily and I had ribeyes (yum!) with feta butter, along with rice and baked broccoli.  No pictures today, but here's some tips!

If you melt about a tablespoon of butter and add in some fetta cheese, it makes a perfect, salty, cheesy spread for bread and meats.  We put it on top of our steaks and it was delectable!
I also cut up broccoli into mini little pieces and baked them at 400 degrees on a nonstick cooking sheet for about 20 minutes and it created a soft, yet crunchy alternative to fries.  Season with some dried herbs, salt, and pepper before putting them in the oven and they will be so yummy!

The gem of the evening was my 2005 Navarro Pinot Noir (that my mother so graciously gave me in April) and although I broke the cork, it opened up very well in the glass.  Teamed with a ribeye, it was so subtly sweet with a good acid level - my mouth was begging for more of this pairing!! What kind of wine do you like with your steak?

Ciao e Bella Cucina!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Something Fruity!

Yes. It's fruit time in Tennessee - well, at least for me and my fellow friends in my apartment.  My dear friend, Alicia, and I have been talking about making some sort of fruit pizza (in order to start the process of me obtaining baking skills), but it slowly turned into a cheesecake rendition of this classic dessert, and even a rendition of a classic cheesecake.  We walked around Kroger Marketplace, finding fresh fruits that would beautifully top this devine decadence.

We started with a store bought (yes, I know) sugar cookie dough put into a small baking pan, and then made some cheesecake filling with 1/3 fat cream cheese and fat free cream cheese, along with sugar, vanilla, eggs, and lime zest.  We baked those two together, and topped them with a sour cream, lime yogurt, sugar, and lime zest topping and then baking a few minutes longer.  Then we topped it with yummy fruits - raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, red plums, fresh cherries, and kiwi.  It was a sweet, tart, and tangy dessert, with a cheesecakey-sugary-chewy-cakey-yummy bottom :) ('Cause you know how we like our bottoms around here, huh?!)

Fruity Lime Cheesecake Pizza
1 sugar cookie dough package
Lots and lots of fresh fruit!!!
1 1/2 packages of 1/3 fat, fat free, or combo cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lime zest
2 eggs
1 small cup Weight Watchers Key Lime yogurt (or equivalent size)
1 small (8 oz) cup fat free sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp lime zest
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a small baking pan (I think mine is like... a 6x12 or something... some really random size), flatten out the raw cookie dough.
Mix all of the filling ingredients in a bowl until smooth.  Pour over top of the cookie dough. Bake for about 30-40 minutes (until the cheesecake is ALMOST cooked all the way through).  Remove and leave oven on.
While the cheesecake is cooking, mix all of the topping ingredients together.  Refrigerate until the cheesecake is finished.
Once the cheesecake is finished, top it with the topping. You want a thin layer, so you may not need it all.  Bake it for about 8 more minutes (Until the topping is no longer runny).
Let the cheesecake cool for about 40+ minutes, until it is cool on the top.  Then add your fresh fruit!!

Chill for at least another hour before you cut the cheesecake.

Um. Hello? Doesn't this look devine?!

It was so much fun to try this - we were all skeptical just because of my infamous baking skills. And of course I didn't follow a recipe (and yes, my cheesecake did fall, but I easily hid that with lots and lots of fruit!).  But regardless, the mixture was fantastic - the lime was tangy, the sugar..well...sugary sweet, and the fruit was a mixture of sweet and barely-ripe-tartness.  Team this with a little mint water (because it will make you thirsty!) and you're in for a good treat.  We even laughed a little at my roommate/friend's boyfriend, Phil, for gobbling up the rest of her (yes, her, because he didn't want his own) piece without even taking a breath - that usually means it's good, right?!

Ciao e bella cucina!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Fish Night!

Growing up my parents taught me to appreciate food.  My mother is an artist, and she loves to express herself through cooking.  I learned all my basics from her - how to make a roux, how to cut vegetables, how to devein shrimp... after my many tears and cries "I'm going to ruin something!" my mother taught me to trust myself through my cooking.  She also taught me that when food is made with love, it always tastes so much better.  And apparently a pie can only be made when you are happy, or else something bad will happen (and that is why she would get up before the sun to start pies during the holidays, to avoid any distractions from her two wild, salivating children).
She respected food so much, the meat guys at the local grocery store knew her by name. Her favorite was her meat man Joe, who always told her when good pieces of meat were coming in, when things were going on sale, or whatever - he had her back when it came to meat.  I had met him a couple of times when I was dragged to the grocery store, but I never really thought of him outside of that store.  Then he was laid off, and my mother was heartbroken.  She eventually made nice with the new meat guys, but it was never the same.
Then I started hanging out with my dear friend Emily, whom I explained in an earlier post that I hated her when I first knew her (and now she's one of my dearest friends, or "in my top 10 I'd like at my wedding," as she would say).  Band kids would start hanging out at her house at night, but it was always late when we were there so her parents and sister were asleep. But when Emily and I became better friends, I came over at different times.  And then I met her dad.  And I instantly knew that he was Joe, my mom's favorite meat man.  Clearly our friendship was meant to be.

But back to 2010, today was Friday Fish night at my apartment - Emily and I made spade fillets and salmon fillets.  We are both going through a "we can only go out if it is cheap" stage and we decided to stay in (because what isn't cheaper than that?!).  I was at the store today and I bought some salmon, which only costed $5.00, and between two people that's dirt cheap! I had all of the other ingredients at home, so cooking this evening was quick, painless, and easy on the wallet.

I was slightly inspired by my Pecan and Ginger Crusted Tilapia because I still have some left over ginger, so the salmon became my asian-inspired dish and the spade was cooked for a delicate pallet, only using fresh herbs and a little garlic.

Pecan and Garlic Sautéed Salmon
1 salmon filet, with skin
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp dried basil

Rub the basil, salt, and freshly ground pepper into the flesh side of the salmon.
In a small sauté pan, start browning the garlic and ginger together in the olive oil, once it starts to brown, remove the garlic and the ginger and set aside (these will be used later), leaving the oil in the pan.  Turn the oil up on a high heat and once the oil is hot, put the salmon in skin side down, to crisp the skin.  Then flip and cook until the salmon is cooked through.

For this recipe, I made the same honey balsamic glaze that I made for the tilapia, but I added in both the browned garlic and ginger, as well as some ginger powder.

Herb and Garlic Fish
2 filets of white fish (whichever you choose)
2 tbsp fresh herbs, mashed with a little salt and olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Rub the fish filets with the herbs before adding to the heat.
Start to brown the garlic on a medium-high heat, and after a couple of minutes add your fish.  Sprinkle each side with a little salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook on both sides, until the garlic starts to brown and the herbs start to cook as well.  Once the fish is cooked through, remove from heat and put in a warm oven.

Spicy Rice
Let's just say I'm always doing something crazy with my rice! Haha! :)
1 cup white rice, cooked per packaging directions
1 tbsp butter
Salt to taste
2 tsp herbes de provence
2 tsp habanero sauce

Once rice is cooked through, add in all the ingredients above and stir.  You may need to adjust per your taste, but I found that the spicier it was, the better it balanced the fish's delicate flavor.
Serve the white fish over the rice.

Ciao, e bella cucina!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

You say Gelato, I say Gelato

My friend, Alicia, and I decided to venture into downtown this evening.  Several weeks ago we were driving down our main downtown strip and saw a cute gelato place but didn't have the opportunity to stop in.  So this evening, after cooking a really fresh and yummy dinner, we decided to give it a try!  And let me just tell you I was amazed.

I've never had gelato before, but last night I was watching Diner's, Drive-ins, and Dives and Guy was talking about ice cream shops - and they just so happened to feature one very similar to our place.  I don't remember the shop that he was visiting, but they made their gelato fresh every morning, with the best ingredients, and made some interesting flavors!
I have heard from many people that gelato is a one-of-a-kind thing - it's creamy, rich, and decadent and you can't mimic that flavor any where else.  Being an ice cream connoisseur (because I work at an ice cream store that makes homemade ice cream), I thought that I was going to be hard to phase - and boy was I wrong!

This lovely little shop called Coolato sits right on Knoxville's main street downtown, sandwiched between a movie theatre, a sandwich shop, and a French Crepe-erie.  They have cute cafe like seating right outside, with a sidewalk menu, big shop windows with seating, and a sneaky little alley full of two-top tables (with more outdoor seating in the back).  You walk inside and you instantly feel like you've stepped into a confused time warp - it is very modern, with clean lines and stylish decor, but the old-time feeling of a European cafe.

They have a full hot menu, serving breakfast, lunches, salads, and appetizers (like a cheese and fruit plate!), and have a variety of drinks like coffee, iced chai lattes, and shakes made with gelato.  They also have a "bambino" section, so it's kid friendly as well!

Now when it comes to the gelato, they have 3 sizes - Piccolo (small, up to 2 flavors), Mediano (medium, up to 2 flavors), and Grande (large, up to 3 flavors).  I got a Mediano with 2 flavors and it was a little over $5.00, which for ice cream in Knoxville is nothing.  It is a little more pricey than a Marble Slab or Coldstone, but it is totally worth it - the quality is amazing.

They have a ton of different flavors, ranging from their nondairy fresh fruit sorbettos (fruit sorbets) and their fun flavors like tiramisu gelato, or turtle mascarpone cheesecake gelato.  They change their flavors daily, and of course have seasonal favorites.  Whatever they don't make fresh, they import from Italy (the owners apparently spent time out there and fell in love with the product).
I chose to have fresh peach sorbetto and and the Turtle Mascarpone Cheesecake.  Talk about delicious! The sorbetto was icy, but sweet (and not overly sweet) with just enough creaminess to make you forget it's not dairy, and then the turtle... well... it was a turtle. Don't get too excited, right? Haha! It was fantastic.  I also tested the the tiramisu and YUM! Just the perfect amount of sweetness and a hint of coffee - it was perfect.

They give you adorable little plastic cups with cute "specifically for gelato" spoons. I found this out the hard way because I asked "Don't y'all have normal sized spoons?" and boy, they sure don't! Alicia and I sat down and fell in love - promising to come back at least once a month (to try everything!) or at least when our wallets allow it.

I'm so glad I discovered this place, although they have been there for awhile and remain busy (especially because they stay open until 11 and are right next to a theatre).  I am happy we have some authentic and homemade food! Gotta have TLC, even when we eat out, right?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Orzo Stuffed Portabellas

Today was an awesome day - full of relaxation and food! My friend Emily came over and we had huge salads for lunch and laid out by the pool.  So when dinner time came, I wasn't really hungry. But I figured out something healthy, light, and yummy for dinner (after breaking a wine glass).  These mushrooms were absolutely delicious.

Orzo Stuffed Portabellas
2 large portabellas, whole with chopped stems
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Freshly ground pepper
Olive Oil
Feta cheese for garnishing

Brush the portabellas with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and roast them in the oven (or toaster oven) at 375° until cooked through (about 15 minutes).
In the meantime, cook about 1/2 of orzo per packaging directions. When finished, rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking.
Also, sauté the onions, stems, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until the onions are translucent.  When they are finished cooling, add in the herbs.
When the orzo is finished, stir it in to the onion mixture.  Then heat the mixture enough to slightly melt the cheddar cheese.
Pull the portabellas out of the oven and then fill them with the mixture.  Put them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes (until the cheese is fully melted and starts to bubble).

Garnish with feta cheese.

UM. HELLOO??!!! Yummy!!

Blue Cheese Caramelized Onions

The 4th of July is a day filled with patriotic music, bad American flag t-shirts, classic American food, and a lot of fireworks.  Today was definitely an Independence Day to remember for me! I spent it with a great friend of mine, cooking, drinking, and then enjoying a free festival in Knoxville's World Fair park.

My dear friend Emily and I have known each other since my sophomore year of high school.  She was a year older than me, so I really didn't know her outside of band (we both played clarinet).  Then, the following summer, she "left" the band, which made me the section leader.  And sure enough - she decided to come back, which kicked me out of my position.  I hated her for about 2 days and then we became great friends! How ironic. And now we both attend school at Tennessee and enjoy our time together.  We love cooking! And of course eating :) and she appreciates my growth as an experimental chef (because she gets to enjoy the products of my experiments!!).

Today we decided to make blue cheese burgers last minute, and we both wanted caramelized onions with them.  So here's what I came up with.

Blue Cheese Caramelized Onions
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp blue cheese crumbles
Splash of white wine (I used a Gewurztraminer we just so happened to be drinking)

Melt the butter down and then add the red onion and olive oil and stir.  Turn down the heat to a medium heat to prevent burning.  Add the salt and pepper and then stir.
About 10 minutes before serving, add in the blue cheese and allow it to melt.  Once the cheese is melted, add the wine and stir.  Allow the wine to reduce before topping your burgers.

Sorry no pictures today! I didn't have my camera, but I can assure you the onions were fantastic :) I could have eaten them by themselves!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Oh, The Acid!

Today decided to be a very acidic day - and my mouth is feeling it! But the recipes are yummy, fresh, and wholesome.
My friend and I decided to do chicken (that she had been marinating forever, not on purpose) with brown rice, grilled pineapple, and fresh tomato salad.  Having the ripe tomatoes that I bought at Earth Fare definitely inspired me to grow my own tomatoes next summer. I'm not a big tomato person, but they are definitely growing on me.  I'm a texture eater, and tomatoes have a really awkward texture, so I am having to get past it. I really do like the flavor - so we'll see where this goes! I think I just need to continue cooking with them and working with them.. become one with the tomato!

Fresh Tomato, Basil, and Feta Cheese Salad
1 dry pint of grape tomatoes
20 leaves of fresh basil (they can vary in size), ripped
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 packet of splenda (about 1/4 tsp)

Slice the tomatoes into circles, about 3-4 parts per tomato. Put in a medium sized bowl and toss with feta cheese.  Add about 2 tbsp olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or until taste, and stir.  I like mine with a little more balsamic flavor.  Add in lemon juice and splenda and stir.  Before serving, stir in the basil.  You can let it set, but try to avoid letting the basil wilt.  Garnish with a little bit of feta crumbles, basil leaves, and some fresh parsley.

I am loving my little porch full of fresh herbs! It makes me so happy. I love to be able to go outside, pick off some basil for a dish, and walk back in and voila! Fresh herbs. Love it :) I'll probably do a post soon, when I decide to get some more (due to a bad mold that killed off my oregano... which was a sad day). But I'm going to become a little gardener on my teeny, tiny porch. :)

Garlic-Balsamic Chicken
2 chicken breasts
Salad Dressing
Pineapple, brushed with olive oil

Use the salad dressing above (it is listed as a strawberry balsamic, but you can just not add the strawberries and that is what was used) and make at least 2 servings of it (enough to cover the chicken).
The salad dressing is really useful - you can make it in advance and have it for quite a while. Because it really doesn't have anything in it that spoils, it can stick around. But anyways!
Marinade the chicken for at least 24 hours.
Grill or pan fry the chicken on both sides until thoroughly done. I honestly wasn't paying attention the whole time, so I don't really know how long it took. But it obviously depends on the size of the chicken, too! Haha. Then grill/fry the pineapple until tender.
Bring the marinade to a boil and add in a little flour that has been mixed with either more vinegar or water (to prevent clumping). Stir it in until it is thickened, and let it simmer.  Strain and place on top of the chicken and pineapple. Garnish with torn parsley leaves.

We served it with some brown rice. Yummy! It was a great way to end the day - nice, fresh, and wholesome food.  I had some good olive bruschetta today, too, which has possibly inspired me to make some myself? Hmmm. We'll see!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Health, Chicken Soup, and Other Yummy Thoughts

First things first, I am officially a Food Buzz featured publisher! Exciting, exciting!

More exciting news? I decided to start eating healthier, more natural foods.  So that means avoiding processed foods as much as possible, at least in my own home.  Although I do love my Kelloggs Fiber Plus bars, buying things that are natural/organic should help me become even healthier.  I've always been a bigger girl, so I'm assuming avoiding processed foods will also help me get down to a healthier weight. We'll see. I've always had a healthy body, just not weight. So I'm going to play it by ear.
But I went to Earth Fare today and bought some fun stuff! And stuff for chicken soup. I'm going to make some homemade soup for once - I've never done this before so it will be interesting! What makes it more interesting? I don't have a soup pot. Haha! Good luck to me :) Maybe I'll make a small batch and test it out first.

So be looking forward to some yummy chicken soup! I need to get my cook on. I've been out for too long!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's Been Too Long

Unfortunately, it's been about 100 years since I've updated. I'm sorry to keep all of you in such deep, foodie suspense.

I enjoyed my short, yet eventful week in California.  I stayed in the Auburn/mountain area for the majority of my stay, venturing to the bay area for a day.  I love California.  Being an Ohio native and current Tennessee resident, its crisp, clean air and diverse population definitely attract me.  I basically grew up in northeastern California, as well.  I enjoyed playing in the mountains, travelling to small towns, visiting my family in Nevada City (where my uncle worked in the Nevada City Winery and then owned his own catering business for several years), skiing in the Sierra Nevadas at Lake Tahoe, and driving the many miles on the hundreds of highways throughout the state.  It's so beautiful.
My aunt basically convinced me to consider California as a destination for residency and medical school, so there is potential I will be doing some research.

But on to food I go.

I don't have any pictures to upload from my adventures, but I'll chat about it anyways.

Let's just talk about how awesome my grandmother is at cooking.  She said "I may not be a wonderful cook, but I sure do know how to buy things!" and it's absolutely true! She is the epitome of a semi-homemade chef.  She'll buy amazing things and doctor them to her best ability.
Like her olive bruschetta. Creamed onions and chicken on top of croutons. Her amazing chili.
She also spoiled me with rack of lamb and filet! I was in red meat heaven.

My grandpa also took me to a little asian buffet for lunch.  It had fresh, tasteful sushi, with a fruit bar, vegetable bar, soup bar, and hot bar. It was amazing.
Homemade strawberry ice cream, anyone??

Unfortunately when I got home from my glamorous vacation, I entered an apartment with an empty refridgerator teamed with a nearly empty bank account. Oh joy.
Luckily this evening I had some left over cabbage with diced onion, some "naked noodles" (noodles with butter), and turkey kielbasa. It was good enough.

Let's hope I make it to the super market after I deposit my pay check!!! *crosses fingers*