This Week’s Menu: Quinoa, Ribs, Grilled Meat & More!

this weeks menu 7-6-15 I miss writing about food, you guys. I took all this time around Christmas to import my old food blog Monkeying Around The Kitchen over here and really haven’t taken advantage of the new digs. So, in an effort to get back on the horse, I figured I’d tip everyone off to the week’s upcoming menu on Monday and return to it either at the end of this week or early next. I also started writing the menu on this old chalkboard-painted pizza pan my mother-in-law gave me so we’ve got a nice visual.

A few weeks back I got all the ingredients for One Pan Mexican Quinoa from Damn Delicious. I’ve made this a few times before and it’s not just easy, but a great dinner that works well for a Meatless Monday if you’re down with that. I also appreciate how this one comes mostly from canned or boxed products meaning you can swing back around to it if you don’t get to it when planned. I will also be returning to the excellent Chicken Asiago Pasta from Chef Mickey.

Another pick-up for this week will be The Crockin’ Girls’ My Crock of Ribs using the St. Louis variety which were on sale last week. I’ll be doing this one on Thursday when I’m home along with the kids (if I remember to get them in the Crock Pot on time).

After I get everything ready for the quinoa dish tonight, I’m also going to work on the brine for Grilled Pork Chops with Corn, Tomatoes and Basil from Cooking Channel and grill that up tomorrow. Finally, as you can see, we will have some grilled beef. along with a vegetable. What kind? Not sure yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 96

pop poppa nap cast logoThe Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 96 covers my new job writing for Geek.com, my better mood thanks to the weather and how I hope that leads to better times with my kids this summer!

october country basement

If you’re in the Orange County area and like comics, do yourself a favor and check out October Country in New Paltz.

I wrote about fried-egg-coverd BLTs in this post, which you should absolutely check out. Fried eggs also played into Feed Me Phoebe’s excellent Mexican Sweet Potato Hash with Black Beans and Spinach and Smitten Kitchen’s fantastic Spaghetti Pangrattato with Crispy Eggs.

cinci chili dog

Finally, the two StaceyMakesCents posts I mentioned about Cincinnati Chili and magnesium lotion can be found here and here. Also, feast your eyes on this rad-looking dog.

For more of me check out UnitedMonkee.com, Comic Book Resources, Geek.com and @PoppaDietsch on Twitter.

Baking Homemade Hamburger Buns

When I started thinking about preparing a Fourth of July meal for my folks, I figured I’d try my hand at making my own ketchup (post coming soon). While the wheels turned about that one I had a thought pop into my head wondering, “Hey, how do you make burger buns?” I went to Google and found one on Taste Of Home called 40-Minute Hamburger Buns. I don’t do a lot of baking, but since I started making most of the pasta I use, I’ve gotten more and more okay working with dough, so it wasn’t too scary.

This particular recipe appealed to me because it’s so simple. You’ve got seven ingredients, most of which I already had on hand, so I decided to try it out a few days in advance. The process itself wasn’t hard at all, but I will say that the 12 buns I got that time would have worked for sliders, but not full-sized burgers. With that new knowledge, plus the idea that you’ve really got to pat down the dough so you don’t get those crazy outgrowths, I gave them another shot, this time breaking the dough into 6 buns, which you can see in that last photo. Still, if you’re looking for rolls or slider buns, go with the dozen.

I should also note that I made these two different ways. The first time was with the mixer and the second was just by hand in a big bowl. Both worked really well. I’d probably go with the bowl just because it makes fewer dishes, really. Anyway, these buns turned out so good in both forms that I had trouble keeping everyone away from them so we could have burgers on them. They’re just so light and airy with a bit of sweetness that makes for awesome rolls or buns. In fact, as you can see in the following images, they also make great rolls for mini breakfast sandwiches if you’ve got some spare eggs, cheese and ham/bacon/sausage around! IMG_7192

Cooking Damn Delicious’ One Pot BBQ Chicken Pasta

I’m all about Damn Delicious these days. I’m pulling a recipe or two a week for my menus these days including this one last week for One Pot BBQ Chicken Pasta. I was a little leery about this one, not because of the recipe itself, but because I sometimes have trouble getting into a dish if I associate it with one style of food. I had this problem when I made Taco Stuffed Shells a while back. Stuffed shells are just an Italian dish that should have ricotta or cottage cheese as far as my taste buds are concerned. Would I have the same problem with this barbecue sauce-infused pasta dish? Luckily, no!

I’m a big fan of the one pot method for cooking this dish. You cook the bacon in the pan (I skipped the olive oil because of the bacon fat) and then toss in the diced chicken breast. From there you add the garlic and onion followed by the rest of the ingredients, including the pasta which actually cooks in the tomatoes, chicken stock and milk. Cover that up and let it cook for about 15 minutes, mix in the cheese and bbq sauce — we had Sweet Baby Ray’s on hand — and you’ve got dinner!

I wasn’t sure if the the sweetness of the sauce would throw my tongue for a loop, but this whole dish worked so well together that I didn’t even think about Italian food. In fact, the sweetness really popped and worked well with the saltiness of the bacon and the tomatoes. It all worked really well together and you can’t complain about making a whole meal in one pot!

Cooking Jeff Mauro’s Chicken Shawarma with Tomato Cucumber Relish and Tahini Sauce

This was another dish I saw prepared in the limited time during the weekend when Food Network actually shows cooking programs that  I mentioned in yesterday’s post. In that one hour I saw four recipes I want to try and have already made two of them.

Like a lot of people, I first heard of Shawarma thanks to that post-credit sequence in The Avengers. Oh, I’d probably heard of it before in passing, but never really thought about it. Within the next year, I wound up at Chickpea and tried some with my wife. It was quite good, so why wouldn’t I want to try and make some in the comfort of my own galley kitchen?

Before making this meal, understand one thing: tahini’s kind of expensive. The 16 oz jar of the sesame paste I got was about $8, but you only use a quarter of a cup, so hopefully I won’t have to buy it again for a while. Aside from that, though, you’re dealing with pretty standard ingredients though you might need to add a few spices to your rack.

Speaking of which, that’s the best place to start with this recipe. I usually like to chop up all my veggies first, but since you need to marinate the sliced chicken thighs for a half hour, I cut up the thighs after I put the shawarma spice mixture together. This is the first time I’ve worked with boneless chicken thighs, but I tried to get a good deal of the fat off.

With the meat doing it’s thing in the refrigerator, I got to work on the Tomato Cucumber Relish (more of a salad really) and the Tahini Sauce, neither of which were difficult but did take a bit of time (well, at least for the former). For the relish, you just chop, measure, mix and you’re good to go. The sauce is even simpler.

Now, Jeff put the marinated meat on skewers and grilled them on the episode. He said it was because he wanted to recreate the spit roaster he saw at the restaurant he visited. That seemed like a lot of extra work, so I just tossed the contents into a cast iron pan and got cooking.

I also tried to cook the pitas the way he did in the episode: by putting olive oil on one side and heating it on the girl. It didn’t work out so well for me so I stopped. When I served myself a plate, I tried putting all the ingredients on top of the pita as you can see in the picture, taco-style. But, the problem there was that there’s a lot of liquid going on here and everything fell apart. I was a little upset until I remembered that a lot of Middle Easter food is eaten with the hands, scooping whatever’s on your plate into the pita or naan and then into your mouth. With that in mind I dug in and had a good, old time.

The chicken had some nice heat and spice to it without going over the top. Even if it was, the tang and crispness of the relish would have cut through it, aided by the thick, substantial tahini sauce. Mixed all together and scooped into pitas, this was a killer meal that I will definitely make again.

I don’t have any pictures of this, but that same week I also made Real Simple’s Spiced Mini Burgers With Couscous Salad. This not only added a bit of continuity to the menu that week, but allowed me to use  up the leftover relish and tahini sauce for this dish. I ground up the beef and made the burgers as advised, but for the couscous salad, I used the leftover relish and just added a few more cucumbers, tomatoes and some couscous I cooked in homemade chicken stock. The tahini sauce then got used to make Alton Brown’s Hummus For Real recipe, though one that used canned chickpeas instead of slow cooked ones. I really enjoyed the spice mix used for these burgers and could imagine going either way size-wise with them: smaller for appetizers or finger food or larger for full on burgers. Both of these recipes get the thumbs up from me!

MATK Originals: Bangin’ BLTs

bagin' bltsAs a kid growing up, BLTs were pretty common in our house. They were the good, solid kinds that featured your basic toasted bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo combination, most often served with some Campbell’s tomato soup. But, over the years I’ve started adding to that structure and think I’ve created some really special sandwiches that I wanted to tell you about.

The first major BLT change came for me when my wife introduced me to the idea of the BELT, that’s a BLT with a fried egg on top. As fried eggs and their runny goodness are a favorite of mine, that was a pretty easy sell. So was the inclusion of cheddar cheese, which makes just about everything better.

Recently I’ve been playing with a few ways to make all that even better which culminated in last night’s dinner, what I’m now calling Bangin’ BLTs. Last night’s sandwiches includes your B, your L and your T, but also the aforementioned fried egg, cheddar cheese (we’re big fans of the Hannaford Wisconsin sharp these days), homemade mayonnaise straight out of Ruhlman’s Twenty and either Tony Packo’s Sweet Hot Skinnies or Banana Peppers (the former for my wife, the latter for me).

Bangin’ BLT Ingredients

Bread
Bacon, 2-3 pieces per sandwich
3-4 Large Leaves of lettuce, I use romaine
1-2 Tomatoes, sliced
Eggs – 1 for each sandwich
Sliced cheddar cheese
Pickles, Banana Peppers
Homemade Mayo

This meal might seem simple, but it actually has a lot of moving parts, so I’ll walk you through my process. I make the mayo first and follow Ruhlman’s recipe to the letter using vegetable oil and a farm fresh egg (we just happened to have a few on hand). This is the most intensive part of the process, but I guarantee the flavor you get from this will be far more full and rich than the stuff you buy at the store. This can be made days ahead, but the process only took me about 10 to 15 minutes and I went the hand-whisking route. In the future, I’d like to experiment with combining this mayonnaise with different elements like spicy sauces or fresh herbs.

Next I get my bacon in the oven. Sure, you can cook your bacon in a pan the traditional style, but I’m a big fan of using the oven because you don’t get splattered with hot grease and you don’t have to worry about it for 10 whole minutes. I set my oven for 400 degrees, then line a rimmed baking sheet with crumpled-up tin foil, this gives it more surface area to heat up. I then lay out as much bacon as I can fit, which wound up being about 7 or 8 pieces and popped it in the oven for 10 minutes. At that point I flipped the pieces over and let them cook for another 10 minutes.

With the bacon in the oven, I get to cleaning and cutting my vegetables. For the lettuce, I just pulled four large romaine leaves, sprayed them down and then ripped them into smaller, sandwich-sized pieces, discarding the hard white ribs in the process. Then I cleaned and sliced the tomatoes before slicing the banana pepper into strips for my sandwich (half of a large Tony Packo’s pepper did it for me) and getting out the Sweet Hot Skinnies for my wife. I also cut the cheese into squares.

At this point, it would behoove you to set up a solid sandwich-making station. I didn’t have the space for this, so it was a bit tricky, mostly because I had the toaster right in the middle of my work space. Once the bacon’s out of the oven and patted down, you’re almost ready to start making sandwiches.

Why almost? Because it’s egg time. This is where things can get a little tricky timing-wise because you want to work fast enough to make sure your bacon is still warm, but you’re also cooking eggs and toasting bread. I don’t worry so much about the bacon, so I basically put the bread in the toaster and then drop my egg in a small hot pan coated with cooking spray. By the time the toast is done, I’ve flipped my egg and it’s ready to go.

So, grab the bread and put on your desired about of homemade mayo. Then put cheese on one side (I’ve found that the extra sharp cheese can be a little overwhelming if you double up). I then put the hot egg right on top of the cheese and build up the other side with the bacon, tomato, lettuce and peppers/pickles. Bam, there’s your sandwich.

The richness of the homemade mayo works so well with the bacon, but do watch out because both can be on the salty side. When you mix in the crispiness of the lettuce, the coolness of the tomatoes, the sharpness of the cheese and the heat of the pickles or peppers, plus the egg doing it’s ooey gooey thing, you’ve got something really special happening in your face.

While I’m thinking about it, I do want to circle back around to the idea of serving BLTs with tomato soup. It’s an idea I still adore, but there was no way I was going to cook soup yesterday when it was in the 80s. However, a month or two ago I did make BLTs and tried a new tomato soup recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen. It was delightfully creamy and made for awesome dipping. Unfortunately, we lost most of the leftovers when our fridge fritzed out a month ago, but when things cool down, I’ll give it another try.

Bonus Food Pic: Handsome Devil’s Hot Mess

handsome devil hot messA few months back my in-laws discovered a new barbecue place near us called Handsome Devil that happens to be inside the local ice rink. This past weekend we celebrated Father’s Day by heading back over there to get some food on Saturday. As we have in the past, we had a great time with wonderful food and a nice selection of beers on tap. We all started off with some fried pickles (forgot to photograph because I got so excited for one of my all-time favorite apps). The pickles themselves were nice and briny, but they also came with some sriracha mayo dipping sauce that was fiery and fun. I’m just recently discovered the wonder of sriracha, so this was auspicious timing.

Better than the appetizer, though, was the meal I got. I wasn’t hungry enough to tackle my usual barbecue meal of “as much meat as I can stuff into my face,” so when I saw the Hot Mess on the menu, I was sold. The dish has a layer of beef brisket topped with mac and cheese which has pulled pork on the very top. This was a great choice because you not only get the best side of all time — mac and cheese — but also a sampling of their brisket and pulled pork. Considering their food is so great, this is an easy sell for anyone looking to try a few different elements all in one big pile.

My wife also had the Three Little Pigs smoked ham sliders which were just bonkers good. I was lucky enough to get one half of those little sandwiches and could have eaten about 10. The salty, smokey ham worked so well on the sweet bun and covered in Gruyere cheese.

As an added bonus, Lu got to watch some hockey because there was a kids game going on and you can walk into the stands right from the rink. I bet they do a pretty great appetizer/beer business during those games.

Disney World 2014 Bonus Food Pics Part 2

lu, anna and elsaLet’s get right back into the Disney World goodness! (If you missed part 1, click here.) On February 5th we spent three hours waiting in line at Epcot to meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen. In that time, my dad and I ran over to the cafe in Paris called Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie and had sandwiches which were awesome. I was too perturbed from the line to snap a picture, but I did last time. Still, it was worth every minute because she still talks about meeting her favorite charactera and having them sign her Frozen book which we read at night sometimes. wave

That night we headed back to The Wave…Of American Flavors inside the Contemporary. Wave has easily become our favorite sit down restaurant at Walt Disney World thanks to its nice, quiet dining room and wonderful selection of entrees. I can’t quite remember what I ordered, but it looks like a steak from this picture (did I mention, it’s nice and dark in the restaurant?). The menu there changes with the seasons, so it’s probably different by now. If you’re looking for a nice sit down dinner that’s outside the parks, but still on the Monorail system, this is one of the best. disney jr character breakfast

The 6th was my 31st birthday, so we celebrated by going to Hollywood Studios and doing the Disney Junior breakfast buffet at Hollywood & Vine. Breakfast is one of the hardest meals to keep consistent and tasty in the buffet style, but this one was pretty darn great. It had all the basics which were all super tasty. Even the eggs were good and that almost never happens. However, the real delight here was seeing my kid’s eyes light up as she got to meet Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins and Jake. She had no idea who Handy Manny was and kind of looked at him like you might someone dressed the exact same way on the subway. spirit of aloha

For dinner we went to the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian. I’ve wanted to do ever since I first heard about it a few years back. Even though the weather got a little dicey, the show was still pretty great, filled with a variety of different dances from all over the world. My daughter and dad even got in on the dancing action. See if you can find them in the picture above. The food itself was served in an all you can eat, family style manner with platters. I remember the bone-in chicken being particularly good as were ribs. As a birthday bonus, I had a large drunk in a coconut shaped to look like a monkey which I was able to bring home with me. pinocchio italian sub

On our last full day, the 7th, we went back to Magic Kingdom. We’re big fans of starting and ending these kinds of trips there. The weather was a little difficult as it was misting rain and chillier than the other days, but we still had some great food. For lunch we stopped in at Pinocchio Village Haus which actually had my favorite single piece of food of the whole trip, the Italian Flatbread Sub which includes Italian Meats, Cheese, Dressing, and Balsamic Glaze on a warm Toasted Flatbread. There was just something so balanced, with the smooth tanginess of the balsamic glaze and salty meats with the melty cheese that hit a lot of my moutbuttons. I also think this might have been my first flatbread sandwich. I’ve got to get more of those in my life. As an added bonus, you can eat over by a window that looks down on the It’s A Small World ride.

from from pinocchio's

For our last dinner we went to Be Our Guest which was…interesting. We had to wait out in the rain for our table along with everyone else which wasn’t the most fun thing in the world. And then, partway through, Lu got scared about the idea of seeing The Beast there. Now she’s seen Beauty and the Beast plenty of times and doesn’t get scared, but she got very adamant about not seeing him. It wound up not really mattering because she fell asleep on me before he even showed up. I can’t say for sure because I ate around a toddler the whole time, but I think I had the Braised Pork (Coq au Vin Style), described as Eight Hour Slow-cooked Pork with Mushrooms, Onions, Carrots and Bacon served with Puréed Cauliflower and Seasonal Vegetables.

I know we also had a lunch poolside at our hotel The Grand Floridian and my wife grabbed a cronut in Epcot, but I think that about covers our food adventures earlier this year in Disney World.

Disney World 2014 Bonus Food Pics Part 1

magic kingdom main streetAt this point, I think we all know that I’m way behind when it comes to posting about recipes and bonus food pics. Case in point? Here’s a whole bunch of pictures from early February when my parents, wife, daughter and I spent a delightful week in Disney World. I had a good time going through our meals day-by-day when we went last spring, but since we’re so far out, I figured a pair of recap posts about all the delicious food we had while in the Happiest Place On Earth would still be fun and hopefully helpful if you’re on your way to Orlando. One quick note before jumping in, on this trip we didn’t opt in for the Disney Dining Plan like last time. While it worked pretty well that time around, we realized that we were eating way more dessert than we would have normally just because it was there. I’m not much of a sweet fan, so I was glad to have more options.

chef mickeys

We all got into Disney World on February 1st and went right to the Magic Kingdom as is our custom, but I didn’t take any photos, so I can’t remember what we ate. On the 2nd, we went back and I did a better job of documenting meals. For lunch we had seafood at The Columbia Harbor House. Again, no pics, but I remember the fried food being nice and crisp without being too heavy. For dinner we hopped on the Monorail to have dinner at Chef Mickey’s, a buffet style place inside the Contemporary that features characters like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto (sorry Daisy fans) walking around taking pictures with the kids. Lu loved the place and I’ve got to say that we were all pretty impressed with the food. You might think something like that would offer the lowest common denominator because you’re already there and it’s aimed at kids, but it was one of the better buffets I’ve had in recent memory. tutto italia

Again, I don’t have documentation of what we ate for lunch on the 3rd, but we did spend most of the day at Epcot. For dinner we went to Italy in the World Showacse where we had reservations for Tutto Italia Ristorante. There I had the Gnocchetti which is described as Cavatelli pasta, sweet sausage ragu, tomato and Pecorino. This was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a long time. It might seem simple — and it was — both it tasted like each of those simple ingredients was the best it could be and combined for an excellent, rich dish. 1900 park fare cinderella dinner

Finally (for this post, come back tomorrow for the rest!), on the 4th we spent most of the day at Animal Kingdom where we had Pizzafari for lunch. I have a picture of the tiny, tasty pepperoni pizza I had along with the Cesar salad, but I compared photos and it’s almost the exact same as the one I took several months earlier. That night we headed back to our hotel, The Grand Floridian, where we went to the Cinderalla-themed character dinner at 1900 Park Fare. I don’t remember this meal, another buffet, for the food nearly as much as I do for watching our daughter show zero interest in Cinderlla’s stepmother, warm up to the very funny stepsisters and glow when Cinderella came around. I gotta give it to those step sisters, they were pretty funny, tossing tame insults and one-liners across the room at one another and convincing the kids (and me to a lesser extent) that they were the evil, mean, awful creatures seen in the Disney classic.

Bonus Food Pics From Yummy Taco, Handsome Devil & Fiddlestix

yummy taco chicken and beef burrito

One of the more frustrating things about where we live is that there’s not a great taco place that we can run into when we have that hankering. There’s a nice Mexican place, but it’s sit-down and sometimes I want to just call in a bag of tacos and have my wife pick them up on her way home from work. So, we got pretty excited when we were leaving Target one day and saw a new place called Yummy Taco opening up soon. Well, the other weekend it was actually in business, we gave it a shot and all had pretty delightful food. Above you can see the chicken and beef burrito I had which was more of a giant taco, but who’s counting? I will say that this is a rather interesting establishment because everything about it screams “Chinese food place” from the decorations and staff to the picture menu above the ordering station. But, none of that matters when you realize they’re making their own tortillas on the spot and making killer food. It’s still not super close, but it’s nice to know there’s a solid taco joint nearby we can hit up while running errands.

handsome devil bbq

About a month ago, my inlaws came into town and watched our daughter while my wife and I went out for a nice Italian dinner around Valentine’s Day. Meanwhile, they discovered a new barbecue joint we didn’t even know about called Handsome Devil that’s actually above an ice skating rink (that we also didn’t know about). We’ve actually got a lot of solid BBQ joints nearby, but I think this one will be tops on our list. Brothers has been so-so and Johnny D’s is a bit far away for more of a casual dinner, so Handsome Devil takes the top spot. I had the ribs and pulled pork along with some mac and cheese and onion rings, all of which were delightful. Plus, they’ve got a variety of local beers on tap which I always appreciate.

fiddlestix bangers and mash

And finally, I have to sing the praises of Fiddlestix once again. The above photo comes from their St. Patrick’s Day menu which, as always, was some of the best Irish food I’ve ever had. This is the bangers and mash which was so good I wish I could have it every day. The mashed potatoes had a healthy, but not overpowering dose of horseradish which made for a delightful side. Looking at this picture is actually making me hungry.

Cooking Closet Cooking’s Fully Loaded Hasselback Potatoes

From the age of 16 until I moved out to New York to start working for Wizard, I worked in a bagel shop in my home town of Toledo, Ohio called The Bagel Place, but everyone called it Barry’s Bagels. In addition to the circular bread delights so popular out here in New York, they also served sandwiches, soup, a variety of offerings on the salad bar and baked potatoes. Depending on what position you were working on a particular day, you were either making these things in the back, preparing them for customers up front or throwing away the remnants in the bussing room.

One of the unexpected treats of working there (at least for the first few years) was a pretty solid list of free food you can have on break. While I wasn’t overly familiar with baked potatoes before that, I became quite adept at creating a variety of options for customer and myself. What do you expect from a bunch of kids with access to a ton of food who get tired of eating the same thing over and over again?

This is a long winded way of saying that, when I saw a recipe on Closet Cooking for something called Fully Loaded Hasselback Potatoes, I was intrigued, especially because that super starchy part of my life mostly came to an end when I moved east as  a young man. The basic idea of the Hasselback is you thinly slice a potato about 4/5 of the way down the tuber, top them with garlic and butter and bake them. Before they’re done, you pull them out, sprinkle with cheese and bacon, pop back in and then serve with sour cream and chives.

I’ve actually cooked these a few times now and have tried a few different variations. The first time, I didn’t cut the slices thin enough, which meant they didn’t cook evenly. I also melted the butter and poured them over the potato before baking. The second time I went thinner which made for more evenly cooked tuber slices. I think I also mistakenly put the cheese on before baking which wasn’t the worst mistake in the world, but it definitely changed the flavor of the cheddar.

You could really do a lot with this basic recipe. At the Bagel Place, we sold broccoli and cauliflower potatoes as well as steak tips and gravy. Those are just two possibilities that could easily translate into the Hasselback format. And, if you think a potato isn’t quite meal-worthy, I’d challenge that assumption. One giant potato topped with cheese, bacon, chives and sour cream all cut up makes for a very hardy meal. Give it a whirl!

Recipe Roundup: Closet Cooking Part 1

As any regular readers will know, it’s been a looooong time since I’ve posted here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen. Unfortunately, with work and all kinds of other things going one — raising our two year old and prepping for a new little baby — MATK can fall to the wayside. But, I’m still cooking almost every night which means I have a huge backlog of meals to talk about going back to last fall. So, in an effort to try and document the good recipes I’ve tried out in the last few months, I figured I’d implement a new kind of a post called Recipe Roundup that will gather a bunch of meals from different places, throw in a few pics and do my best to remember how they turned out.

Today’s subject is one of my favorite new cooking sites, Closet Cooking which is great because there’s tons of older recipes on there and the site gets updated constantly. I also appreciate that Kevin Lynch seems to be cooking in a kitchen even smaller than mine which is no small feat. So, without further ado, hit the jump to check out the first batch of CC recipes I’ve tried out in the past few months!  Continue reading

The Triumphant Return Of Woody’s!

woody's is back

 

One of the great things about living where we do in Orange County is that there are plenty of great restaurants of all kinds, sizes and cost-levels, especially in Cornwall. The town we want to move into counts my absolute favorite restaurant Fiddlestix as one of the many placescalling it home. But, before discovering Fiddlestix we used to love going to another place called Woody’s. I’ve talked about the naturally sourced burger joint before and how it shut down, which was a huge bummer.

But, a few weeks ago I noticed that the building was getting repainted and fixed up. With each successive pass, I noticed something new until a sign appeared saying “Opening Soon!” I want to say it’s been open for a few weeks now, but we finally went over there a few weeks ago and are happy to say it’s back in force.

I went with one of their specials, a Breakfast Burger with bacon and egg on it as well as some of their excellent fries. I’m glad to say that the place hardly changed and the few changes I noticed were actually improvements. For instance, instead of a Coke or Pepsi fountain dispensary, they actually have Boylans which is an awesome smaller soda maker that specializes in Cane Cola, Root Beer and Cream Soda.

I’m really glad that Woody’s is back in action and ready to keep rolling. With them back, we now have a place to go and get a solid burger that doesn’t come from mystery meat and also offers a good deal of specials. Welcome back Woody’s!

Philly Bonus Food Pics: Pastrami Cheesesteak, Sushi & Dinic’s Roast Pork

pastrami cheesesteak Well gang, I think we’re pretty far past apologies for a lack of posting. A lot of things went down in the past few months that prevented me from posting here on MATK, but I’m really hoping to make a big push for more posts. I’m even circling around to recipes I made months ago that I never posted about so they can be refreshed in my brain. Anyway. I’m kicking this week off with a series of food pictures I took while hanging out with some college friends in Philadelphia a few weekends back (for more details on the weekend, check out the 35th episode of my podcast over on PopPoppa.com). kinish Above you can see the lunch we had at a place called The Famous 4th Street Delicatessen which had wonderful service and gigantic portions. My wife and I split a pastrami cheesesteak which was certainly filling. I also got myself a   blintz. I honestly wasn’t quite sure what a blintz was, but I enjoyed the sweet cheesy insides as well as the fried crust.

While looking for a place that could serve a fairly large dinner party, we stumbled upon Kabuki Sushi. The positives were that they took reservations and weren’t too far from out hotel. Oh, that and the food. I can’t quite remember what rolls I got, but both of them were super tasty. I also tried our friend Heather’s fried tofu which reminded me of fancy carnival food. As you can see, Lucy also had a roll which she seemed to like, though she basically just took the chicken out and ate that. dinic's roast pork Finally, before heading to the Please Touch Museum and heading back home, we went over to the awesome Reading Terminal Market and got Dinic’s roast pork sandwiches for breakfast. My wife remembered seeing these sandwiches on a food show and we were familiar with the market from previous comic convention-related visits to Philly, so we each had one. I’m not sure if I prefer these to cheesesteaks, but I will say that, while I’ve had plenty of crummy cheesesteaks, I’ve only had one awesome roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, so that’s something!

Cooking A-1 Beef & Broccoli

For years and years I just didn’t care about cooking. It wasn’t something that was even remotely interesting to me and then at some point in college, I did. I don’t remember how or why, but it just happened. At that point I did some looking around and discovered a recipe I simply titled Beef and Broccoli when I typed it out all those years ago. I can’t remember where it came from, but it’s pretty simple and I did tweak it a bit, so I’ll post the whole thing here.

2/3 cup A-1 steak sauce
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic
1 pound London Broil
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Head of broccoli
One bell pepper (I used red)
Small package of mushrooms
Cooked rice

First off, get your rice going. After that, cube your steak and marinate in the soy and A-1 sauce for an hour. During that time, chop up the garlic, pepper and mushrooms and steam the broccoli until tender. After the hour marinade time, cook the beef in olive oil for five minutes on medium-high heat. When that’s done, remove to a plate and cook the vegetables, bringing everything to a boil. Reduce heat to low, reincorporate the beef and stir in cooked rice.

The original recipe I have written down is pretty close to this, but I replaced the original 16 ounce bag of frozen vegetables (broccoli, peppers, mushrooms and bamboo shoots) with fresh aside from the shoots, which I would definitely throw back in when making this again.

I made this a few weeks back at this point (sorry for the lack of posts lately, this have been all over the place lately) and while I still enjoyed it, it doesn’t quite blow my mind like it did the firs time around. Back then, I was all over the mix of A-1 and soy sauce — two of my favorite condiments at that time — but it’s a bit strong and overpowering now. I could probably dig deep into this recipe and figure out a way to temper it (maybe cut down on the A-1), but now that I make so many legit wok-based dishes, I’m not sure if I’ll come back to it.

Cooking Alton Brown’s Sweet & Sour Pork

I haven’t tried as many recipes from my copy of Alton Brown’s Good Eats: The Early Years for a few reasons. First, I know the book is based on the chronology of the TV show, but I’m not a big fan of the book’s layout. It makes sense for what it is, but I prefer my cookbooks organized by type of meal or ingredient, that kind of thing. I also get a bit distracted by the overly busy page design. And yet, every time I make something from this volume, it turns out good, so I should probably stop complaining about it.

Sweet And Sour Pork (page 342-3 or this link on FoodNetwork.com, if you want to check it out for yourself) was my most recent recipe attempt and, like most of the others, it turned out really well. As noted in the recipe, the first thing to do is cut up a bunch of pork butt and marinate it overnight, which means this recipe takes a bit more forethought than most. I think I forgot to do this the night before and wound up putting it together earlier the day-of and still had pretty solid results.

When you do get to the actual cooking, Brown suggests using an electric skillet. We happened to have one in our kitchen by way of wedding present, so I used that, but it seems like a pan would work just as well. As per usual, I did a lot of my prep beforehand. My wife had cut up the pineapple earlier in the week, so that wasn’t as big a chore as usual. I then got to work on the onion, celery, carrots and peppers, organizing them together based on when they went into the pan. With that out of the way and a flour dredging spot set up in a pie plate, I was off to the races.

After cooking the pork in the pan, you throw in the onion, celery and carrots. Once those get their cook on, it’s time for the more colorful peppers and pineapple to join the party along with the previously removed pork. At this point in the process I was really struck by how colorful this dish is. You can see it in the pictures, but anything with such bright yellows, greens, reds and oranges has to be good right?

The recipe actually called for an easy-to-make ketchup-based sauce to be added to the meat, vegetables and fruit, but it came out a bit sweet and I figured it would be better as a side sauce. I’m glad I made this move because I put a bit too much sauce on one of my servings and it basically washed out all those great meat and vegetable flavors. Drop some of that mixture on top of some rice — I went with Jasmine — and a drizzle of sauce and you’ve got a plate of food that not only looks amazing but also plays to most of your taste buds.

Bonus Food Pics: Gyro & The Mack Trucker Melt From P&G

gyroLast weekend, my wife, daughter and I went to the New Windsor Community Day event which was packed with various food vendors. If I’m in the vicinity of a good looking gyro (pronounced yee-ro), I’ve got to have one. I forgot to note the name of the place selling them, but I think they just do events like this and weren’t representing a restaurant. Anyway, this was a solid pita with meat carved from the spit and dosed with a good deal of tzatziki sauce and got the thumbs up. Even Lu dug the lamb, which was a bit of a surprise. p & g mack truck burger melt

The next day, we went to New Paltz to do some walking around. Before that, though, we stopped at P&G’s because I was jonesing for a beer or two with my meal. I decided on The Mack Truck Burger Melt which was described as, “8 oz. of freshly ground Black Angus beef charbroiled and topped with homemade macaroni and cheese, nestled in a grilled cheese sandwich.” This seemed like a good idea at the time, but didn’t mix well with the press of coffee I’d had that morning, the two beers during lunch and the coffee I had afterwards. Also, I’ve got to say, the sandwich was a tiny bit bland, which I wasn’t expecting. Still, I not only want to try this again, but also want to make one of my own. Finally, the onion rings were killer!

 

Cooking Rachael Ray’s Bacon Burger Mac N Cheese


Our two year old daughter loves macaroni and cheese. I mean, who doesn’t, right? But she’s all over it. In fact, the dish holds such a special place in her tiny little head that pretty much everything with noodles is “macos and cheese” to her. As such, I’ve been looking around for various ways of cooking mac and cheese and seem to not be doing a great job of it. The general problem I keep running into is that cheddar’s just not doing it for me on the creamy scale. I’ve got to come up with something else to throw in there that really brings that out, but until then, I’m keeping track of the recipes I like in hopes that I can return to them later on and really knock them out with a few different cheeses.

Rachael Ray’s Bacon Burger Mac N Cheese is one such recipe. The only deviations I made from the recipe included replacing a bit of the milk with water (which is another factor in the creaminess factor) and I also ground up my own beef. Aside from that it was business as usual.

While I wished it was cheesier, the resulting dish was still super tasty. I enjoyed the bacon in there — adding one of the best foods to one of the best dishes just makes sense when you ponder it — and think the fresh ground beef added a fresher note, but I was also surprised with how much I enjoyed the faint hints at ketchup and mustard in the dish.

It might sound strange, but I’d really like to try this dish with more homemade and locally sourced ingredients. Beef and bacon from a local farm, some homemade ketchup and pasta and even some local cheese. I think you could have something really special and hearty hear with a few alterations.

Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere

Guys, I love pretzels. Hard, soft, full of cheese, covered in eggs, I’m all-in for all the options. As you’ve probably noticed if you watch even the slightest amount of television, we’re in a kind of pretzel renaissance these days. Sure, you can still get all shapes, sizes and flavors in the snack aisle of your grocery story, but the concept of pretzel dough and bread is moving out of carnivals and sporting events to a good deal of fast food joints.

My wife and I first encountered the widespread nature of pretzel bread while on a trip to Michigan from New York. We love stopping at Sheetz and they have a full line-up of pretzel bread sandwiches, which I indulged in on both the way there and back. They were great, with that hint of pretzel flavor without being overly salty. I didn’t snap a picture because I was driving and eating already, but they were great.

wendys pretzel bread burger

When we got home, we started seeing pretzel bread everywhere, specifically at Wendy’s which is another big chain making a similar push. Last week we both got these burgers and I’ve got to say, I wasn’t very impressed. I thought Sheetz did a much better job of capturing the pretzel bread flavor while Wendy’s was overall pretty bland (it didn’t help that the burger was overcooked and a little cold).

homemade pretzelsThe biggest pretzel revelation in recent memory, though, came when my wife decided to MAKE OUR OWN SOFT PRETZELS. I was super excited, thinking back to my childhood and wondering what Young Me would have done had I presented him with something like Alton Brown’s recipe for  soft pretzels. Would I have jumped in the kitchen immediately and started making one of my favorite snacks by hand or would I have said “Cool,” and continued eating frozen ones because they’re easier?

Seeing as how I haven’t mastered time travel (yet) that’s neither here nor there. What is here AND there is that fact that these pretzels were fantastic. She made something like eight and then also made herself a bagel dog using Brown Eyed Baker’s take on Brown’s recipe. I regret not asking for one myself. Still, I’ve been enjoying the light, buttery, salty goodness of these tasty snacks for the first half of this week and am already thinking of ways to incorporate this delightful food into our regular rotation.

Bonus Food Pic: Deep Fried Oreos

fried oreo

Last week the Cornwall firefighters held their annual fair. It’s been going on for decades, but this is the first year we went. It was a nice little fair with plenty of rides, over-priced games (I remember when you got three darts for $1 instead of one for $2) and, of course, the kinds of food you can only buy from people who travel from town to town under cover of darkness. While thoughts of corn dogs danced in my head (they turned out to come from a box), I was actually won over by the six deep fried Oreos my wife requested. I actually saw the woman in the cart/thing dipping the cookies into the batter and tossing them into the frier, so I know they were fresh (or, you know, as fresh as fresh can be). The results were a super sweet combination of dough and softened cookie that was delightful.

Bonus Food Pic: King’s Meatloaf Sandwich

king's meatloaf sandwichThis photo’s from about a month ago, but I’ve far from forgotten about this wonderful Meatloaf Sandwich from King’s Pommes Frites. After writing about the burger I’d had there, I actually went out that day with my daughter, hit up the farmer’s market and decided to stop in at King’s and see what they had for the special. The idea of a meatloaf sandwich was super intriguing so I went with it and some olive sauce for the fries (my favorite one there).

I’ve had meatloaf sandwiches before, but the stroke of genius with this one was actually the condiment. Instead of going with the more obvious ketchup, they put mayonnaise on the sandwich which added a creamy, tang that made the juicy meat loaf jam really well with the cheese. Another excellent pairing from King’s!

 

Pizza Party: Luigi’s Deluxe & Hawaiian Pies

luigi's deluxe pizza

For the second half of last week and part of this week, my wife, daughter and I spent some nice time in Michigan hanging out with my parents at their cottage. We ate a lot of food on the grill which I forgot to snap pictures of, but there was one meal I absolutely, positively needed to let the world know about and that’s the pizza from Devil’s Lake’s Luigi’s Pizza. I almost wrote that it’s the one and only pizza joint up there, but it’s been a long time since I was a regular and don’t know that for sure. I do know that for a long time as a kid, it was one of the few food options that offered carry out food you could run up and get in your bathing suit and not get funny looks. It also happens that it was my favorite pizza before I moved out to New York.

Above you can see my favorite pie from them, the Deluxe which includes pepperoni, ham, sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and black olives and, before moving to New York. I feel like it used to include green olives at one point, but memories get fuzzy. The beauty of this pie is just how much they cram on there. You can get deluxe-type pizzas a lot of places and this one probably isn’t super special as far as toppings go, but the key to Luigi’s greatness is the crust. The crusts on these pies have a garlucy, salty quality that made this the only crust I bothered eating for a long, long time.

luigi's hawaiian pizza

We also got a Hawaiian pie which featured pineapple, ham, green peppers and extra cheese which we tried to get with bacon instead of ham (highly recommended), but they were swamped leading into Fourth of July and didn’t get the custom portion of the order. Still, this is a solid, delightful Hawaiian pizza, which is something you can’t always get easily in my area. The extra cheese really makes this pop. Man, it would have been rad with bacon.

Anyway, if you’re in the Manitou Beach, Michigan area and haven’t tried Luigi’s go do it. If you’re somehow driving through (it’s not exactly close to any highways, which is by design as you might imagine) get over there and try some of this goodness.

Bonus Food Pic: Mayor McCheese Omelet From Fiddlestix

20130618-153611.jpg I hope all my fellow dads out there had a good Father’s Day. I got booze, breakfast and smoked pork, plus time with my family, so I’ve got no complaints. For breakfast we went over to our favorite local place Fiddlestix and got yet another wonderful meal. As usual, I went with one of the specials, this one called the Mayor McCheese, which is an omelet with ground beef, caramelized onions and tomatoes topped with melted cheese sauce. Considering everything I just wrote ranks pretty high on my favorite foods, you can reasonably bet that I had a wonderful time filling my face with a cheesy, beefy concocion held together with eggs. As an added bonus, I got to dip my toast in cheese!

Bonus Food Pic: King’s Pommes Frites’ Cheese Burger & Fries

king's palm frites burger

If you live in the Cornwall/New Windsor/Vail’s Gate area and like to check out local food places, you were probably a fan of Woody’s, an all natural burger place in a yellow house in Cornwall. They had a solid staple of offerings, but would also branch out into limited-time specials based on whatever was good and fresh at that time. Well, Woody’s closed down in the past year and we’ve been left wanting for places to get a good burger that doesn’t come from a clown’s mouth.

Thankfully, my wife and I didn’t have to look around too long before realizing that King’s Pommes Frites — also in Cornwall — is killing it with their burgers. In fact, as far as I’m concerned their burgers are actually better than Woody’s were. They’re big and juicy and perfectly cooked, plus they come with King’s always-fresh fries and their signature variety of sauces.

As far as I’m concerned, King’s is doing it right. They started off with a simple idea: the fries with sauces, plus a special or two every week or so. Now they’ve expanded to a full menu PLUS unique offerings every week that you can keep tabs on by way of their Facebook page (linked above). From what I hear, they’ve also got shakes now, which is wonderful because no one else seems to be doing that in the ‘Wall.

This picture’s actually from a month or so ago and we haven’t been back in that span, but writing this post and looking at that picture make me want to head there right now. Now that I think about it, I was planning on running to Cornwall around lunch time…

Bonus Food Pics: Cranky Carol’s Fries & Cheesesteak From Slack’s Hoagies

slacks hoagies cranky fries A few weekends back my wife, daughter and I made our way to Pennsylvania to meet up with some friends and visit the Sesame Street theme park Sesame Place (hear more about it on my most recent podcast if you’re interested). The first night we got Qdoba for dinner, but after two full days in the park and being relatively close to Philadelphia, we were hoping to get cheesesteaks. Of course, the problem with traveling is that you have no idea how good anything around you is or where to even look. Fortuitously, when we got back to our hotel that evening, there was a menu waiting from a place called Slack’s Hoagies. Not only did they have cheesesteaks, but also delivered. Perfect!

slacks hoagies cheesesteak

My wife and I each went with a cheesesteak as well as the Cranky Carol Fries where had a good deal of pepper and maybe a few other spices to bring the heat. Everything tasted great, though I will say that this was not the best Philly Cheesesteak I’ve ever had. Still, after a long day of walking around, waiting in lines and dodging excited kids, it was nice to sit down with a hot, cheesy sandwich, some fries and enjoy a meal I didn’t have to make myself.

Disney World Bonus Food Pics: And The Rest

My apologies to regular readers for the intense lack of posts the past month or so. Between the lead-up to vacation, vacation itself, getting back into the groove with work and being sick and not cooking for all of last week, writing about food unfortunately fell pretty low on the priority list. I know the Disney trip seems like it was pretty long ago at this point, but I wanted to finish things out (if you’re curious to see what else we ate either scroll down or read, this, this, this and this).

pizzafari lunch

The Wednesday we spent at Disney World — which also happened to be my dad’s birthday — was spent hanging out in Animal Kingdom. As happened last time we all went there, it was a rainy day, though not nearly as bad as the previous visit. For lunch we went with a counter service at Pizzafari. When I think about food like this I always think it’s going to taste like the box it was delivered in, but I’ve got to say it was a pretty solid little pizza. I mean, it was nothing like the places around us in New York, but it also wasn’t terrible. I’m always a fan of Cesar salads and also went with the pudding for desert. I have no problem recommending Pizzafari if you’re in Animal Kingdom looking for a good lunch place.

boma soup

To celebrate my dad’s birthday, we went to the African buffet dinner at Boma which is located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The last time we went to Disney World, this place was easily our number one favorite eating spot. I’ve got to say, though, that the experience wasn’t quite as enjoyable this time around. For one thing, the place was PACKED, so it was kind of hard to navigate the buffet line. Making matters a bit worse, the actual buffet is set up kind of poorly. People tend to line up for the carved meat, but are you supposed to get in that line before going after the other sections? Some people clearly think so while others did not. I went rogue when I needed to, as is my want.

But, the food was still really great. My personal favorite dish is the Coconut Curry Chicken Soup (above right). I’m also a fan of the Ginger Carrot Soup (above left). The interesting thing about eating at Boma this time around is that it wasn’t quite as revelatory. The food was still fantastic, but in the time since we ate there the first time, I’ve eaten and cooked a lot of different foods. Still, if you’re in Disney World, go eat at Boma, it’s worth it.

Croque Monsieur

Thursday was my daughter’s second birthday, so we tried to cater our dining choices to things she might get a kick out of. Since we were in Magic Kingdom that morning, we decided to try out one of the new eateries in New Fantasyland called Be Our Guest and as you might imagine, the place is Beauty And The Beast themed. This was the only place we ate at where diners could use a touch screen to order their food and while I love that idea, the practice was difficult because most people apparently can’t fathom how to use such a system just yet (even the helper at our station took longer to input our desired meal than it would have taken me). Anyway, my wife and I decided to split two different sandwiches because we couldn’t decide. So, we each had half of the Croque Monsieur (“Grilled Sandwich of Carved Ham and Gruyere Cheese and Bechamel with Pommes Frites”) and the Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich (“Served warm on a Baguette with Horseradish Sour Cream and Pommes Frites”) both of which would make fine choices for a hungry dining party.

Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich

To say a few more things about this restaurant, I really appreciate the theming they did. When you walk in you’re given a plastic spherical bar with a rose on it. You tap this to the screen when you order and then it acts like a GPS so the servers can find you. The servers themselves roll the food out in covered serving carts that both look neat and keep the food warm. Speaking of neat, the place is broken up into three different dining rooms, Belle’s Library, the West Wing and the ballroom. I’m actually not sure which one we were in, but one of the other rooms featured Beast’s flower and the other had windows set up to make it look like it was a dark and stormy night (though it was raining that day, so maybe that’s what it was). Anyway, if you have a BATB fan in your life, they’ll love eating at Be Our Guest.

princess dinner

For dinner that day we hoofed it over to Epcot’s World Showcase for the Princess Storybook Dining at Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. Lu absolutely loved getting to meet and have her picture taken with Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella and Belle so it was worth it for that alone. It was also nice that they had a great drink menu and rad food like Traditional Kjøttkake also known as, “Norwegian Meatballs served with Mashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, and Lingonberry Sauce.” It’s like that stuff they have at Ikea, but roughly 7 billion times better, plus you get the added bonus of knowing you don’t have to put frustrating furniture together after eating. They also do a complimentary buffet called “Taste of Norway,” but I don’t remember much about it aside from a sweet brown cheese that half the table enjoyed and half was not into at all.

kat korra dinner I din't eat

Unfortunately, I was not feeling very well for our last full day at Disney. I had some weird stuff going on with my stomach that was probably compounded by drinking more coffee and beer than water while on vacation. Not smart, people, be sure to stay hydrated. I really wish I had because we went to Kouzzina by Kat Kora for dinner and it was one of the restaurants I was most interested in checking out going back to the early days of planning this trip. Unfortunately, the strong Greek smells and flavors did not work well with my wobbly tummy, so, even though I ordered the Briami — “Oven-roasted Vegetables with Oregano, topped with Greek Cheese, served with Herbed Orzo Pasta” — I was only able to look it, sigh and go back to the room to take a nap. So while the Disney trip didn’t end on a high culinary note for me personally, I’ve got to say that, overall I probably haven’t had a better week of meals ever. Also, get the Dining Plan if you can!

Making Veggie Hash Out Of Failed Veggie Burgers

When I first started cooking, I was really big on following the recipes to the letter. My wife, who’s been cooking much longer would razz me about this a bit, but I took the same approach to cooking that I’ve read about comic book editors gave to new artists: do it a very specific way until you get the craft down, then branch out and do what you want. In the case of comic artists, they were often given a set number of panels to work with per page. For my cooking, I stuck super close to the recipes.

Now that I’ve been playing with food and recipes for a while, though, I feel like I can play around a little more. It’s good that I have that confidence now because my attempt to make Food Network’s recipe for Veggie Burgers With Mushrooms wound up not working out quite as planned. I don’t quite remember why my veggie burgers didn’t hold together. The only real swap-out I made was to use Panko crumbs instead of regular bread ones. Could that have had something to do with it?

Anyway, after making the patties and starting to cook them in the pan, I realized that these guys were not going to stick together. So, I broke down the burgers and cooked the whole thing as a kind of stir fry or hash, adding a little more Worcestershire AND low sodium soy sauce to boost the flavor.

For dinner that night, we ate it as is, but my wife suggested eating them with eggs, like a breakfast dish. I didn’t feel like cooking up some eggs at that point, but I did remember the idea the next morning and had myself a nice breakfast of sunny side up eggs and veggie hash. I gotta say, the eggs really brought the whole thing together and made for a much more interesting and tasty dish than it was as a plain old dinner.

Walt Disney World Bonus Food Pics: BBQ At Whispering Canyon Cafe & Pork Belly From Waves

bbq On Monday my wife, dad and I went on the Disney Backstage Magic tour which takes you on an all-day tour of the park behind the scenes. Since it really does last all day they stop at a place called Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge hotel that’s got a real country western theme. They’ve got a regular menu, but also a family style barbecue thing where they bring big plates of food to your table and you all just dig in. As it turned out, there were the perfect number of people on the tour to fill three big tables and then one with just three people. We were that table of three which was great because I don’t like the idea of other people accidentally touching my food.

Anyway, the food itself was pretty great. The menu describes the Family Platter as including “Kansas City-style Smoked Pork Ribs, Herb-baked Chicken, Hand-carved Oak-roasted Beef Strip Loin, Citrus-crusted Market Fish, Western-style Sausage Sides fro Sharing: Seasonal Farm Fresh Vegetables, Herb-crushed Yukon Gold Potatoes, Cowboy-style Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob.” I’m pretty sure we didn’t have fish or beef stip loin, but the ribs were fall-off-the-bone cooked and super tasty but the real star of the show was that sausage which I could have eaten a whole plate of. I’m not sure if a huge heavy barbecue lunch is the best idea when doing a Backstage Tour, but it was tasty.

waves pork belly and tenderloin For dinner we ate at a restaurant called The Wave…Of American Flavors in the Contemporary Resort. I feel like I kind of screwed up while eating at The Wave. While my family went with some fancy steaks, I decided to try the “Thompson Farms Naturally Raised Pork Belly and Tenderloin with White Bean Cassoulet and Locally-sourced Vegetables.” What drew me to this dish is the fact that so many chefs and food personalities that I like and appreciate say that pork belly is supposed to be one of the best foods around. Unfortunately it didn’t do a whole lot for me and just kinda tasted like fatty bacon. It wasn’t bad and I didn’t really know what I was expecting, but it didn’t exactly send fireworks through my brain like in Ratatouille. However the tenderloin — small as it was — was fantastic as was the cassoulet, though I wound up passing that to my daughter who really loved it.

waves sherbert dessert

Since the Disney Dining Plan comes with dessert (I’d personally rather have an appetizer, but I’m a team player) I had a lot more dessert during that vacation than I normally would. The desserts at The Wave are pretty neat because they all come in little tiny dishes and you get three of them. I went with “Our Spring Gelato Trio: Mandarin Orange Gelato, Chocolate Malt Gelato, and Toasted Marshmallow Gelato” because I didn’t want to pile it on too heavy. And it was actually really tasty. My favorite was the marshmallow gelato because it really did taste like toasted marshmallows which are one of the desserts I really enjoy.

Walt Disney World Bonus Food Pics: Studio Catering Co. & Sci-Fi Dine-In At Hollywood Studios

studio catering company We spent the second day of our Walt Disney World vacation walking around Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a place that had great food at both the counter service and sit down levels. For lunch we hit up Studio Catering Co. which is supposed to be set up like the commissary of a studio, but, you know, right around the corner from Star Tours and butting up against the Honey I Shrunk The Kids playground (which is a childhood favorite of mine).

The way places like this work is that there’s a menu posted up high where everyone can see it (those yellow signs in the above picture). When you know what you want, you approach one of many very nice people standing at a computerized register. Once your food is ordered, you move up and pick it up from the people working in the kitchen and prep area, so it’s a little nicer and more organized than your average cafeteria, which you’d expect from Disney.

studio catering turkey panini For lunch I went with the Pressed Turkey Club which includes “Turkey, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Swiss, Roasted Red Pepper, Arugula, Multigrain Ciabatta Bread.” It was a really solid, tasty sandwich that didn’t feel like something slapped together. It seemed well thought out and well balanced. I also got the cole slaw which was better than average and think I even had a little cheesecake dessert, though the for-a-limited-time-only Worms & Dirt Cupcakes you see in the background were enjoyed by my family.

sci fi dine in reuben That day we had dinner at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater which is a fun place where you actually sit in tables that look and feel like old school convertibles. Those car-tables are “parked” in an area that’s set up like a drive-in theater complete with a movie screen running film clips, cartoons and trailers of stuff from the 40s, 50s and 60s.

We weren’t sure if the atmosphere — which was fantastic — would outshine the food, but I really enjoyed the Reuben I had. You might think that a sandwich with such basic ingredients (corn beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and rye bread) would be difficult to screw up, but that’s not been the case in my experience. For one thing, you can find a wide spectrum of quality in just those five things, but the way a place treats their corn beef is also really important. The Sci-Fi Dine-In seems to treat its beef really well because the meat was nice and juicy and not dried out at all. In fact, all the ingredients felt top notch and tasty. I’ve probably had better Reubens in my life, but not while sitting in a fake car watching trailers for Plan 9 From Outer Space and Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman. Oh, the cucumber salad was actually super tasty as well, it was a kind of sour, pickle-y alternative to fries if that’s something you’re looking for.

Walt Disney World Bonus Food Pics: New York Strip & Shrimp Combo At Big River Grille

Hi folks, it seems I’m apologizing more and more for my lack of posting these days. I apologize for that. Things were crazy work-wise two weeks ago as I was doing my best to get all my work done before heading on vacation and then spent last week computer-less at Walt Disney World with my wife, daughter and parents. I’m back in action now, though and have plenty of food pictures to show off from our vacation! My dad and wife did a fantastic job figuring out the whole trip while also mapping out the restaurants. We went with the Disney Dining Plan, which gives each person in your party one snack, one counter service meal (basically any place where you’re not being served by a waiter) and one sit down meal per day. It worked out really well for us and I recommend giving the plan a look if you’re even remotely interested. In addition to having a lot of different options, we really enjoyed the break that a sit down meal gave us from all the park hopping.

steak and shrimp at big river grille

Our first meal was at a place called Big River Grille & Brewing Works on the Disney BoardWalk which was right across from our hotel room at the Beach Club. As it turned out, our flight from New York was right on time and without complication, but my parents wound up having to sit on the runway pre-takeoff for 90 minutes. As you can imagine, they were looking forward to getting some food and a drink, so Big River — which had been planned out months in advance — became an even better choice thanks to its proximity to our hotel and availability of beers brewed in house and a healthy list of cocktails.

The beauty of the Dining Plan is that you can choose anything on the menu from the cheapest to the most expensive offering and it all costs the same (though it doesn’t include alcoholic beverages, just FYI). With a healthy appetite, most of us ordered the New York Strip & Shrimp Combo which is described on the menu as “Grilled 8oz. New York strip with large scampi-style shrimp, served with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables.” I also went with a couple of the Steamboat Pale Ales which had that bitterness that all pale ales are known for, but didn’t pack that real soul-punch that some of the more intense ones feature.

I’m not the biggest fan of shrimp, in fact I tend to avoid the tiny sea bugs most of the time, but figured I’d give them a shot and they were pretty good. I’m just not a big fan of that flavor/texture combination though I guess as I’m still not won over. The steak was also great, but not the best I’ve had. I think what I actually liked best about the meal was the garlic mashed potatoes, but then again, I’m a sucker for mashed taters. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t go wrong with a nice steak and some beers on a warm Florida day after doing some hefty traveling.

Stay tuned here for more Disney food posts. If you’re more interested in our trip, keep an eye on Pop Poppa where I’ll be catching up on Photo Diary posts and also posting the latest episode of The Pop Poppa Nap Cast which will be all Disney!

Cooking Lentil Sloppy Joes

For me, the fun of cooking is trying out brand new recipes. It’s great returning to old favorites, but I get a much bigger kick out of trying out a new take on those old faves. That’s what I was thinking when I decided to try Food Network’s recipe for Lentil Sloppy Joes. I don’t make Sloppy Joes often, though I did write about them once last year, but I do remember my mom making them when I was a kid, so there’s a soft spot in my heart for the loose meat classic.

This new version isn’t a wild departure from the classic, it just includes some lentils and less ground beef to kind of round things out. Compared to that other recipe I made, though, this one definitely has a lot more veggies incorporated but other than that and the lentils, it’s the same basic process: cook the veggies, add in the liquid and the meat, let cook for a bit and dinner’s served.

While there’s definitely something to be said about going old school with this meal, I like this version as a healthier alternative that gets all kinds of vegetables into the mix. Since my wife and I have been watching our calorie intakes, these sandwiches are a good alternative that packs a good deal of flavor, doesn’t waste too many calories and also helps use up some of the lentils I’ve had in the pantry for quite a while, so that’s a win-win-win!

Bonus Food Pic: The Parker’s Special From Parker’s Maple Barn

parker's breakfast Last weekend we took a trip to New Hampshire to visit my wife’s parents. On Saturday morning, a day I usually get to sleep in, we all got up early and headed to a place called Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason, NH. It was early, kind of a far drive and we waited mostly outside for about a half hour before getting seated. Sounds like a recipe for disaster right? No way man, this was one of the best traditional breakfasts I’ve had in a long time.

Parker’s is a sugar house which means they make maple syrup and other maple-flavored products. As I was informed on the way there, we’re in the middle of sugaring season, which means we actually got to see a little of the process, though we didn’t take the tour. Anyway, I perused the menu and after realizing I was pretty darn hungry, I went with the Parker’s Special which featured two eggs (over easy), a piece of ham steak, two pieces of sausage, two pieces of bacon, wheat toast, home fries and  piece of deep fried French toast.

Man, that was a great plate of food. I love getting crazy stuff at places like Fiddlestix on a regular basis, but sometimes you just want one big plate filled with well-made versions of all the classic breakfast foods and this was that. Plus, that deep fried French toast is a real thing of beauty, especially when devoured with a healthy dose of legit maple syrup. This was all so good and filling that I didn’t wind up eating anything else until my wife and I went out for a date and got some appetizers that night.

Cooking Ballpark & Sweet Thai Wings

I’ve mentioned a few times here on MATK that I have a mysterious subscription to Good Housekeeping. The magazine just started appearing in our mailbox one month and keeps on coming. I’ve asked a few people if they hooked me up with it and everyone said no, so either someone’s playing a not-particularly-inspired prank on me or there was some kind of mix-up somewhere. Whenever it comes, I glance at the TOC which usually doesn’t have much in the way of interest for me, and then move on to the food section, tearing out any interesting looking recipes and putting them in my Big Blue Binder. One such page that I saw and immediately got excited about was a piece called Wings of Desire which showcases six different recipes for wing sauces: Sweet ‘N’ Sticky Thai, Bourbon BBQ, Hot Caribbean, Fiery Buffalo, Ballpark and Sesame Teriyaki.

A while back, I decided to give a few of these a try. Sweet ‘N’ Sticky Thai and Ballpark sounded particularly interesting, so I gave them a shot. As you can see by clicking through those links and looking, neither of these sauce recipes are particularly complicated. The Thai one just involves lime, sweet Thai chili sauce (which I’d never had before) and fish sauce (I skipped the french-fried onions because I thought I had some in the pantry, but didn’t) while the Ballpark sauce is just Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey (I skipped the cayenne) and some chopped up roasted peanuts as a topping.

For the wings themselves, I did not follow the method in the given recipe, but instead broiled them on high in two batches. Basically I got all the wings spread out on foil-covered baking sheets, then put one in the oven to broil for five minutes or so. When they started getting cooked, I took that tray out, put the other one in and flipped over the partially cooked ones. I just repeated that until they were cooked on all sides. Once the wings are cooked, you just toss them in the sauce, plate and serve. I was actually pretty surprised at how easy wings were to put together when I first made them years ago. It’s so easy and you can really customize your sauces to your liking.

One other little thing I want to add that’s kind of cool is that my wife and I actually have perfectly complimentary wing preferences. While we might differ on what kind of sauce we like, we each like the opposite kind of wing. I’m a fan of the ones that look like tiny drumsticks while she’s more into the other kind. It winds up working out perfectly because wings almost always come in pairs. What I’m saying is that we’re made for each other.

Making Burgers With Home-Ground Beef

With a meat grinder on hand, I just had to make burgers sooner or later. It wound up being sooner rather than later, though I’m just getting to the post now because of all kinds of business. From the pictures it looks like I forgot to snap a picture of the cut of meat I used to make the burgers, but I believe it was a tenderloin. I read a tip in one of my newer books that suggested freezing the meat for an hour or so before grinding which allows for it to be cubed easier and also grind a little better. I’ve done this with every grind I’ve done and the results have been great.

The ground beef went into the bowl with some chopped onion, grated Asiago cheese and a mixture of seasoning that I pulled from the pantry. I don’t usually plan these things ahead of time and tend to wing it, but I did actually write down what I used this time which means I’m learning at least a little bit as I continue to write about cooking. This time around, I went with an interesting mixture of salt, pepper, steak seasoning, dried mint and Garam Masala. That last one is an Indian spice that I have left over from a recipe I didn’t write about.

Once the patties were formed, they went into two of the cast iron pots we have. I remember seeing a show about burgers on Food Network or Travel Channel and they showed cooks covering their burgers with lids to really get the cheese melted on there. I’ve tried that the last few times I’ve made burgers and you definitely get a much better cheese melt. The rest of the dish just involved getting things prepped: slicing some tomato, cutting lettuce and getting the condiments ready.

I would love to tell you that I could instantly taste the difference between these home-ground burgers and ones made with the store-ground stuff, but I can’t. It’s not that these burgers weren’t good, I just don’t know if I have the kind of palette memory that allows for such comparisons. I do know that these were good burgers. Maybe I’ll even try this combination again next time!

Wok This Way: Barbecued Pork Lo Mein

I’ve said in previous Wok This Way posts how surprised I’ve been by the ease I have cooking in the wok. Depending on how I’m feeling a particular day that can either be a good thing or a bad thing. If I’m really looking for a challenge or to try something different, it falls on the negative side of things, but if I want to make something really simple but also always tasty, it’s a good thing. When flipping through my copy of Grace Young’s Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge I came across her recipe for Barbecued Pork Lo Mein (page 273). While reading through the ingredients, I saw that I would need some Chinese Barbecued Pork which took me to page 285 and another recipe. I figured the multiple day process would make for a more interesting dish.

Of course, because I’m still less than a novice when it comes to cuts of meat, I got the wrong kind of pork. Instead of getting shoulder or butt I wound up with Blade Steak. I can’t remember now if it’s because they were out of shoulder or what, but that’s just what went down. Anyway, you rub sugar over the cubed up pork and then get it in the marinade which includes soy sauce, hoisin sauce, dry sherry, beans sauce, sesame oil, white pepper and honey. Once that’s all combined, the marinade goes into the fridge. The next day you broil it. If you’re doing shoulder there’s a whole rack system involved and water, but since I was using a different cut and don’t actually have all the necessary equipment, I just cooked my pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet and everything turned out fine.

The actual cooking of the main dish actually takes a lot less time than all that. I was pleased to discovering my grocery store carries both Chinese round noodles and packages of bean sprouts, so I picked up the appropriate amounts and felt like this one turned out a little bit more authentic than it might have otherwise. I liked the candy-like quality of the pork which popped in different bites along with the noodles and firmer bean sprouts. Next time I’m going to get the right kind of pork though, I even know where it is at the store now!

A Few Forgotten Recipes: Giada’s Orzo Stuffed Peppers & Jeff Mauro’s Meatloaf Sandwhiches

giada's orzo stuffed peppersOne of the problems I have with this blog is that, even when circumstances come up that delay me from posting, I’m usually still cooking. That means, when I do get the chance to sit down and write about what I’ve cooked, I’m often left with several pictures of food that looks good that I vaguely remember making and don’t really remember eating. But, I hate just deleting all these pictures and hope that some day I might have a spontaneous memory that pops up. By posting about these forgotten meals here, I hope to give my future self a record of what I cooked.

Anyway, above you can see the finished product of my attempt at making Giada De Laurentiis’ Orzo Stuffed Peppers. I want to say that we enjoyed this meal and from looking at the recipe, it doesn’t look too difficult to put together. I like that she mixed it up with this one and included mint and orzo, which I’ve also used when making food in my wok instead of rice. This isn’t the first of De Laurentiis’ stuffed pepper recipes I’ve tried, I’m a big fan of her Couscous-Stuffed Peppers With Basil Sauce, which I’ve made a few times now. jeff mauro's meatball sandwichesHere you can see my attempt at making Jeff Mauro’s All-American Down-Home Patriotic Meatloaf Sandwich which, again, I want to say turned out well. You basically make a meatloaf and a sauce and combine the two on bread with cheese and pickles (I went with dills because bread & butter pickles gross me out). I also tossed on some mayo because it’s not really a sammich without mayo.

I want to reiterate that I haven’t forgotten about these dishes because they were bad, I would have definitely remembered something bad, it’s just that my memory — especially my taste memory — fades more the longer away I get from something unless it was mind-blowingly amazing.

Making Tony Packos Chili Dogs

The only thing most people know about my home town of Toledo, Ohio comes from MASH. That series starred a guy named Jamie Farr who, aside from Katie Holmes and Adrianne Palicki is probably the most famous person from there. His character, Clinger, was also from Toledo and therefore he represented his hometown by way of Mud Hens and Tony Packos references. The former is our minor league baseball team and the latter is a local restaurant that specializes in hot dogs and pickls. In fact, you might have seen the restaurant on food shows because they have any visiting celebrities sign a hot dog bun and then said buns get put on display.

To be honest, I don’t have a long history with the restaurant, at least not when I lived in town. I think I only ever went to one of the restaurants once and then they opened one in a local supermarket called Andersons that I went to a few times. But, when I met my future wife and she told her parents where I was from, her dad got excited because he’s a big MASH fan. As such, I started giving them Tony Packos pickle sets. That’s really where I discovered how tasty their pickled products are. I’m a fan of their dills but also their banana peppers.

Anyway, when my parents visited for Second Christmas, they brought with them two packages of Tony Packos hot dogs and two cans of their chili. After they went home, Em and I wanted to just have a relaxed dinner in, so I popped open the cans of chili (probably could have gotten by with just one in retrospect), warmed them up on the stove and then got a pot of water boiling for the dogs. I also got the steamer basket ready and put the buns in there. Unfortunately, I put just a little too much water in the pan and those buns got ruined. We had more, so those went back into the basket with less water with a lid and we were good to go.

The chili is actually spicier than I remember, but I thought the Hungarian hot dogs and chili popped so well with some basic yellow mustard. I probably should have cut up a few onions and mixed those in there too, but that’ll be next time. If you’re curious about trying Tony Packos yourself, either go to Toledo — they could use your tourism bucks — or click that link above and you can order a ton of stuff, including these handy dandy gift packs (one even comes with a Mud Hens hat!).

Second Christmas Remembered: Ruhlman’s Mac & Cheese With Soubise

As I explained yesterday, I made what turned out to be a pretty great Second Christmas dinner for my family all from Michael Ruhlman’s book Ruhlman’s Twenty. In addition to the Leeks Vinaigrette, I also made his recipe for Mac & Cheese With Soubise (page 87). As regular readers — and anyone who knows me — will remember, I’m a huge fan of macaroni and cheese and have been since my Kraft’s Blue Box days. But, I also like trying new recipes and seeing how they compare to one another. I don’t know if I’m ever going to find one that will become the default version, but if so, this one might be up for the spot.

This particular recipe has four kinds of cheese involved including basic Swiss, sharp cheddar, Emmenthaler (which I’d never had before, but is another kind of Swiss) and Parmesan for the top. If you look closely at the picuture, you’ll see that there’s Asiago on top there, but I just grabbed the wrong block for the picture.

The major difference between this recipe and other ones that I’ve made is that you not only carmelize the onions, but also put the entire pre-cheese sauce in a food processor to whir it all together. Aside from that, though, you’ve got a recipe that’s similar to other ones I’ve tried. As always, I got all my ingredients as prepared ahead of time as I could, separating out spices and whatnot that would be added together. This all made the process a lot easier. Also aiding the process was the fact that I used the food processor to cut the cheese up, a trick I always use for mac & cheese and also got this whole thing ready in the morning. You can get 95% of the mac & cheese ready, refrigerate it and then pull it out when you’re ready to go. The only thing you don’t add before the cooling process is the buttered breadcrumbs. When we were ready, I got those together, put them on top of the dish and in it went into the oven.

The finished product had a very creamy, very cheesy feel to it. My wife heard somewhere that you can actually replace milk in a mac and cheese recipe with water. I’m going to try that next time I make this or any other similar dish. I just didn’t want to try it like that the first time as I was making food for a larger group than just the three of us. That is a lot of dairy as the recipe is written, so if that’s something that bother’s your system, watch out.

Bonus Birthday Food Pics: Sushi From QQ & Brothers Barbecue

qq sushu1One of these days I’m going to remember to write down what I order from our favorite nearby sushi place, QQ Asian Bistro. I want to say that these are pictures of the 007 Roll (above) which consists of “Spicy tuna, crabmeat, avocado,lightly deep fried, eel, spicy mayo sauce, topped with scallion, masago” and the Spider Roll, but I can’t quite be sure. qq sushu2

Anyway, when my parents were in town for Second Christmas and New Year’s we decided to celebrate another holiday: my wife’s birthday. Instead of going out for a big meal, we instead ordered the big meal and ate it at home. It was a great experience and as usual, the QQ food was wicked good. IMG_2474But that’s not all the food goodness we enjoyed to celebrate my lovely wife’s birth. On her actual birthday I made her a cake and we also went and got dinner at Brothers Barbecue. Brothers actually opened a while back, but they had a fire and shut down for around two years or so. Well, they’re back open and we had some awesome food there. Above you can see the corn bread which was super thick and sweet and yummy. IMG_2478And then there’s the entree. I had the two meat plate with two sides and decided on Kansas City ribs and pulled pork with mac & cheese and collard greens with bacon. The ribs were delicious and fell right off the bone, the pulled pork was perfectly tender. Both were complimented very well by their barbecue sauce which reminded me of a homemade version of Arbys Sauce. The collard greens were really tasty too, I don’t think I’d ever had them before, but they had a very cabbage-y flavor to them. The mac and cheese was alright. Having made several versions of that as a main course and as a side, I know how hard it can be to keep in good shape. It wasn’t bad by any means, just not mind blowingly awesome like everything else. Welcome back, Brothers!

Cooking Martha’s Macaroni & Cheese By Way Of Smitten Kitchen

Macaroni and cheese is a real delight. Creamy cheese, starchy pasta and a myriad of other additions you can try. Heck, I even love Kraft Mac & Cheese and still make it for myself every now and then. But, sometimes you just want to dig into a steamy bowl of cheesy-pasta goodness without a lot else going on. That’s what I found and got when I came across Smitten Kitchen’s take on Martha Stewart’s recipe. The only changes I made to the recipe were using the remnants of a loaf of bread I had left over instead of white bread slices and not using Gruyere cheese because, much as I like it, it’s pretty pricey and I don’t make Martha money…yet.

I liked this recipe because you can do a lot of the prep work using a food processor. I threw a bunch of the stale bread I had in there for the crumbs and also chopped up most of the cheese that way. Aside from that, you don’t have to do much else besides measuring a few things out. The rest involves making the pasta and heating up some milk and other ingredients in which to melt some of your cheese. After that it’s just mixing everything together and tossing it into the oven. I used two different pans because sometimes I have trouble putting too much in a baking dish and get some spillage.

In addition to being a very cheesy, very tasty dish I appreciate how simple this is to put together. I also really liked how the buttered breadcrumbs turned out on top. They got just the right amount of crunchy, adding a nice extra texture to the dish. This recipe will definitely make its way into the rounds when I’m looking for a simple, great mac and cheese dinner.

Bonus Food Pic: Cheddar Cheeseburger At Burger Heaven

burger heaven Last week my wife and I traveled down into the city to meet with her doctor. We got the excellent news that she is cancer free. To celebrate, we met our friend Rickey for lunch. We didn’t have a plan, just met at a particular subway stop and walked around until we found a place. Burger Heaven happened to be that place.

Em and I split a black and white milkshake that was really tasty. Then, once Rickey got there we ordered and got our food pretty quickly. I went with a cheddar cheeseburger which was pretty good, though nothing mind blowing or spectacular. I actually kind of wish I had tried the Burger Heaven Burger which also had carmelized onions and special house sauce. There wasn’t anything wrong with the burger by any means, it just wasn’t spectacular either. I was surprised at how good the cole slaw was, though. I’ve had more bad slaw while eating out than good, but I’d put this strongly in the good column.

I’m Thankful For Fiddlestix

 

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this Turkey Day. My folks have come in from Toledo to share a meal with Em, Lu and I so that’s great. But, since this is a food blog and there’s no way I’ll be able to turn around photos of our Thanksgiving prep until next week, I figured I would keep things on topic.

Regular readers will know that I love Fiddlestix. I’ve never had a bad meal there and love the variety of specials they present every week. Here you can see a collection of photos I’ve taken in the past few months. I can’t quite remember all the details. Up top is some kind of breakfast quesadilla. Then you’ve got a roast beef wrap above this paragraph followed by a double whammy of a sausage omelet and what I believe are raspberry and something pancakes.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked about this, but even the sides at ‘Stix are something to talk about. At a lot of other places, breakfast potatoes feel like an add on, but theirs are always crisp and paprika-y. Better than that are the lunch sides which consist of homemade potato chips and what seems like a different pasta salad every time.

I hope you’ve found a great place like Fiddlestix and go there on a regular basis. It’s important to support local restaurants, especially when they’re awesome.

Cooking Pat Neely’s Famous Beef and Pork Chili

I’ve made plenty of chili in my days. Most of them kind of blend together, but then I made Pat Neely’s Famous Beef and Pork Chili which I saw over on Food Network’s website and things changed for me all because of one spectacular ingredient: bacon. You can hit the link to head over and see the the recipe which is super easy to follow, but I want to talk about the addition of that delicious, salty substance known as bacon. The flavor might have faded a bit in the leftover phase, but that first bite of bacon-infused chili was just slap-you-in-the-face amazing. Why had I never thought of this before? Why hadn’t I come across a recipe like this before? You can darn well bet that every chili I make from here on out will feature bacon.

I Finally Had My Own Under The Big Top At Fiddlestix!

Guys! Guys! I finally had the breakfast I couldn’t stop thinking about it for myself! We went to Fiddlestix in Cornwall this weekend and I immediately stopped reading the menu as soon as I saw something called Under The Big Top on the weekly breakfast special menu. As soon as I saw “pretzel” I was super in. This version was actually written a little differently than the one my wife had as it was supposed to have sausage, but they were out of sausage, so they put bacon on. That made things a bit salty in some bites (pretzel plus bacon, you know how it is), but overall this was delightful. The pretzels and bacon were joined by a wonderful cheese sauce and a pair of poached eggs. Man oh, man. This was amazing. I need to figure out how to make pretzels and try this out at home!

New Hampshire Bonus Food Pics: Steak Bombs, Cinnamon Buns & Breakfast

Two weekends back, we headed to New Hampshire to attend the surprise birthday of my wife’s long time friend. While there we hit up a few restaurants and ate some food I just had to brag about.

Just take a second to behold the glory that is a New England steak bomb sandwich. I don’t even know what’s in it, but I love it and want to eat one every day of my life, a life that would probably be all the shorter for such an experience. Anyway, this particular sandwich of the gods came from a place near my inlaws’ house called Giovanni’s and I highly recommend getting this food in your face if you can. Even after sitting in a bag on the way home, this was still a wonderful, cheesy thing of goodness.

Before heading home on Sunday, we went to breakfast at my inlaws’ favorite place, Janie’s. We’ve been there lots of times and I like that they always have a list of specials in addition to their regular menu. This time I got a bratwurst and sauerkraut filled omelet that was pretty tasty, but probably could have used more kraut. The real spotlight of the meal for me was that giant cinnamon roll I only ate half of so I could eat the rest for breakfast the next day. Man, I really need to get my oven fixed so I can figure out how to make these things, they’re my one real dessert weakness.

Cooking Alton Brown’s Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie

After a somewhat disastrous attempt at cooking a whole chicken that I’d rather not get too much into, my wife suggested I take the leftover meat — of which there was a good deal — remove the skin and make chicken pot pie, a favorite of hers. I figured it was the least I could do, I started looking around for recipes and landed on Alton Brown’s for Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie. It looked tasty, I had most of the ingredients and the idea of putting biscuits on top of something that already includes chicken, gravy and vegetables was quite appealing to me. I was sold, but a little nervous. Dough and I don’t always mix well, but the recipe didn’t seem that hard so I moved forward.

I didn’t make any changes to the recipe, but the only chicken sausage I was able to find was actually pre-cooked, so I didn’t need to cook that all the way in the pan. Aside from that, I did what Alton said and had pretty good luck. I got all the dry ingredients for the biscuit dough together first in a bowl and then got to work on the inside of the chicken pot pie.

Once that was done and set aside to cool a bit, I got to work on the rest of the dough. Like I said, I was a little worried about this part, but it only involved mixing the ingredients, putting some flour on the counter, smushing the dough down and then cutting out circles with one of our glasses. You then put the pie filling in the oven safe container, cover with the dough discs and pop it into the oven.

I was most surprised by how little time this all took to put together and how freaking good the end results tasted. Like I said, it’s got chicken and gravy, plus biscuits and chicken sausage, which I didn’t even know I liked. Wins all around.

Vacation Bonus Food Pic: Supreme Roast Beef

One of the greatest points of food contention between my wife and I revolves around roast beef sandwiches. See, I come from Toledo, Ohio where you can only really get roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s, one of my all time favorite fast food restaurants. For years she’d tell me how gross Arby’s was and how great these little roast beef sandwich joints in New England were. I’ve had a few of these sandwiches and while they’re good, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the fast food version — heck, I might literally have a soft spot BECAUSE of said love.

Anyway, while on vacation last week, my wife had a hankering for a roast beef sandwich so I did some searching and found a place in nearby Gloucester, MA called Supreme Roast Beef. As I usually do when ordering such things, I just put a “X2” behind my wife’s order and wound up with a large roast beef with pepper sauce (basically the same thing as Arby’s sauce), mayo and pickles. And you know what? It was a damn tasty sandwich, no doubt about it. I guarantee I’d hit up a place like this here at home if there was one. So, Supreme Roast Beef, any interest in expanding to New York?

Bonus Food Pic: Steak Teriyaki Sandwich In New Hampshire

One of the great things about traveling to different parts of the world is getting a chance to check out local foods. We go to New Hampshire roughly once every two months to visit my wife’s parents and there’s an aspect of the local food scenes that I’m a huge fan of. No, it’s not seafood (though I do like that), it’s local sandwich shops.

Where we live in New York, we have some sandwich shops, but they’re more delis than anything and they ALL feature Boar’s Head lunch meat exclusively. I’m not sure what the deal is there, but since I worked in a sandwich place in high school and college that used some really great meats not sold by BH, I’m not as big of a fan as everyone else.

Aside from that, though, you’re SOL. What NH has in spades is steak sandwich places. The favorite one of my inlaws is called All American Subs, I believe. The above picture was taken at a newer place that opened in the last year inside an old Taco Bell that I stopped in on one of my few solo outings in the past 15 months of fatherhood. It’s so simple to cook a bunch of steak or chicken, throw some cheese on and grill that I don’t know why more places around here don’t do that. Roast beef sandwiches along the lines of an Arbys are also very popular there. I hope to pick up some of those sandwiches in the next trip or two to the Hampsh.

Bonus Food Pics: Homemade Cheeseburgers

Since I’ve already written about how I make burgers, I figured I’d skip the process shots this time around and just show off the results of my most recent burger-making experience. To the ground beef I added a handful of herbs from our herb garden, some chopped up onion, spices I can’t quite remember, a torn up piece of bread and an egg. Everything else was pretty standard. We wound up with a great summer dinner that everyone, including Lu, enjoyed.