Last Week’s Menu: Lasagna, Mac And Cheese & More!

In an effort to not only catalog previously attempted recipes, but also give a few hints, tips and anecdotes, here’s last week’s menu revisited!

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Cooking Bobby Flay’s Mole-Rubbed Steak and Eggs with Chocolate Stout Beurre Blanc

One of the many nice things about the new house is our far more robust cable package. With it comes Food Network subsidiary The Cooking Channel, which, as the name implies, features far more actual cooking shows. In addition to buying a new house, my mom also moved out to New York to join my dad who’s been here for a few months. She’s been coming over and watching the kids during the day which allows me to get my work done more efficiently and also start cooking dinner without as many interruptions. But, if we get lucky and both kids fall asleep at the same time, we like to watch food shows.

Last week we happened upon an episode of Brunch At Bobby’s that revolved around chocolate. I didn’t care for the most part, but then he got to his recipe for Mole-Rubbed Steak and Eggs with Chocolate Stout Beurre Blanc and I was all ears. It made it onto my menu the next week and turned out pretty swell.

Instead of using the variety of chili powders mentioned in the recipe, I used my mother-in-law’s chili powder concoction which is always on point. Aside from that, I followed the rub recipe and covered the steak, but I did forget to put the canola oil on first, so instead I cooked the steak in some (maybe a little too much, actually) oil after letting it sit for the 30 minutes.

In the meantime I got everything together for the sauce. Since I used a bit too much oil while cooking the steak, the sauce was a bit oilier than I think it should have been, but still turned out to have a really interesting flavor profile. Part of that came through because I used Shocktop’s Shockolate Wheat instead of a straight-ahead chocolate stout. While the citrus and wheat elements did come through, I don’t think the resulting sauce was as thick in consistency or flavor as the recipe as written. Next time I’ll try it Bobby’s way.

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

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.

Smoothies For Breakfast

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to get myself on track to tackle the next phase of adulthood. I turned 31 earlier this year and have definitely started feeling it when I don’t eat well or drink a bit too much. So, while I’m watching those things, I’m also trying to give myself the proper fuel to watch two kids. If you don’t follow my dad blog over at PopPoppa, we had our second child about seven weeks early two months ago. With my wife’s maternity leave coming to an end in the relatively near future, I know I need to not only be really organized, but also equip myself with food that will help fuel me throughout the day. I do my best to cook healthy, homemade meals most nights that make for great lunch leftovers, but I tend to skip or overlook breakfast.

In an attempt to remedy that and also get a lot of fruits and vegetables in early in the day, I’ve started making smoothies in the morning. The process is super simple, but does take a bit of grocery store planning. I’ve added frozen strawberries, store brand vanilla Greek yogurt and kale to my weekly grocery list and also increased the number of apples, carrots and bananas I usually get, but I wouldn’t say that’s much of a hardship.

So, here’s my basic recipe:

1 banana
1/2 cup frozen strawberries*
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1-2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup kale leaves
1/2 cup milk
1 apple, chopped
1 tablespoon peanut butter

* = you can definitely use fresh, but if you’re like me and your kid adores strawberries, you give them the fresh ones and use what you can get

Basically, you just throw all this stuff into your blender or food processor. I’ve never used a juicer, so I’m not sure what the deal is there. For instance, I don’t know if you’d put the dairy products in there or mix later. Anyway, with our blender, since we’re dealing with a pretty full bowl, it takes a walk down the settings to get everything properly decimated. Even so, I still wind up with leafy bits and the occasional chunk of carrot or apple. That doesn’t bother me at all, but my wife can barely look at the finished product.

The beauty of the smoothie is that you can put pretty much anything in there and come out with an easy to consume breakfast. When I first started making smoothies years ago, I would put whey protein in there. I’ve swapped out the peanut butter for actual nuts like peanuts, walnuts and almonds, but you could also put in all kinds of nut butters. Same with the berries. This is also a good way to get rid of mushy bananas if you don’t feel like making bread of muffins. Last week I used up some leftover fruit salad instead of going with the berries which gave the smoothie a much different taste. Kale can be swapped out for spinach, endive or whatever other non-lettuce greens you might have. I’ve even tossed in extra mint and basil. Lastly, sometimes I’ll throw in a few tablespoons of orange juice or freshly squeezed lemon or lime to give it some nice tang.

I find cooking very relaxing and am quite fond of prep stuff like measuring and chopping, so an added bonus of making this smoothie in the morning — something I do after getting up with the kids, drinking my coffee and getting my morning work done — is that it gives me a bit of that zen kitchen experience early in the day which can be as good for me mentally as the nutrients in the drink are physically.

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!

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Japanese Vegetable Pancakes

Every time I see a new meal recipe pop up on Smitten Kitchen, I get excited. When I saw her post about Japanese Vegetable Pancakes, I got jazzed and added it to that week’s menu because it looked new and different yet I could tell that I’d be able to find most of the ingredients at the grocery store.

You’ll need cabbage, kale, carrots and a few other things and you basically just slice them up into strips. Throw all that in a bowl with some flour and six eggs and start forming patties. After my failed attempt at making veggie burgers recently (which turned into a successful veggie has), I was worried that my pancakes wouldn’t come out, but luckily everything stuck together. I broke out two different pans to make the process go a bit faster and flipped/took them off the heat when they got a good shade of blackish brown.

The other key element to this dish is the Tangy Sauce which was FAN-tastic. I’ll probably get to a post about the Sesame Chicken Breasts I made around the same time. There was a similar, spicy ketchup based sauce with that, but it turned out a lot spicier than we like. Smitten’s, though, was fantastic. Tangy, sweet, salty, all the good things in one. The only problem? We ran out of sauce well before we ran out of pancakes.

My wife and I both really fell for this dish. To frame it properly, I would go to the fridge and eat these as snacks right out of the bowl, dipping in the sauce when we still had some. That’s how much I was into this recipe. It’s definitely going in the regular rotation, such as it is.

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.

Disney World Bonus Food Pics: French Breakfast & Moroccan Dinner

french breakfast You know what I love in pretty much any combination? Ham and cheese. You really can’t go wrong there, you guys. One morning we decided to hit Epcot and to start our day we headed over to the World Showcase to get breakfast in France at a place called Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie. When you add ham and cheese to a buttery piece of bread you’re really onto something. Good on the French for figuring that out.

moracco salad

For lunch we went to a place in Epcot where I not only had a bad experience but also didn’t enjoy my food, so we’ll just skip right past that. That night, my wife and I had planned on going out for a date just the two of us. We wanted to try something new and interesting so we decided on going to Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco back in Epcot in the World Showcase. We both went with the Taste of Morocco – Royal Feast which included (*deep breath*) “Jasmina Salad: Lettuce, Tomato, Olives, and Feta Cheese in Mustard Vinaigrette, Seafood Bastilla: Layers of thin Pastry filled with Grouper, Shrimp, and Mushrooms, Lemon Chicken: Braised Chicken seasoned with Green Olives and preserved Lemon, Roast Lamb Meshoui (A Moroccan tradition – Roasted Lamb Shank in Natural Juices),  Couscous with Seven Vegetables and Assorted Moroccan Pastries.”

moracco entree

As you can imagine, it was quite a meal. First off, everything was fantastic and interesting. I was a big fan of that salad, which is kind of a strange thing to single out when talking about so many different kind of food. The lamb fell of the bone and I don’t have much experience with that particular protein, but I enjoyed it. The lemon chicken was also nice and tangy. I even dug the desserts which is something I don’t always say. So, if you’re looking for something unique and packed with variety, do yourself a favor and hit up Restaurant Marrakesh.

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.

Drinking Breakfast Has Never Been So Colorful

morning shake I hate writing this every few months or so, but sorry about the lack of posts lately. If you read my Photo Diary posts over on Pop Poppa, you’ll know that I’ve been swamped with work this week and then just didn’t get my head around writing about food again until today. Since it’s morning, I figured it would make thematic sense to talk about what I’ve been having for breakfast the past week or so: breakfast shakes!

My parents visit the week before my birthday and my mom was making herself shakes with frozen strawberries and a few other ingredients. It reminded me of the time I did much the same thing for myself for breakfast. I’ve been wanting to make sure to get the proper amount of fruits and vegetables back in my diet these days and I’m terrible at remembering breakfast, so I started a new routine that will kill two birds with one stone.

Like with the burgers you’ll see later today, I like to mix things up when I make them. I think I’d go a little crazy making the same shake every morning, so each day offers a different combination of the following basic ingredients: Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, fresh fruit, milk and sometimes a vegetable or two.

Hannaford just started carrying their own bran of Greek yogurt which is cheaper than the major brand name stuff. I also use the store’s frozen berry mix for that portion of the beverage. For fresh fruit, I always use a banana and then whatever else we have around like mango or Lu’s half cut pears or apples from the day before. Vegetable-wise, I just started adding a carrot to the proceedings. Everything goes into the blender along with some milk which helps give the frozen stuff a medium to get all chopped up in.

Here’s a note for those of you who made and froze food for your babies: you can use leftovers in breakfast shakes! Now that Lu’s on to eating whatever we eat for lunch and dinner we’ve got a few bags of frozen concoctions still hanging out in our freezer. I went through the strawberries and banana first and just finished up an apple/blueberry combination that went into the shake pictured above. I actually want to figure out that recipe because it made for some really good liquid breakfast!

I’ve thought about adding some protein powder or maybe another kind of dietary supplement to the shakes, but still haven’t decided if I want to take that next step. I already take a multivitamin and fish oil capsules, so I don’t know if that would serve me well, but I might give it a shot, even if that means I’ll have a chalkier drink in the mornings.

Bonus Food Pic: Janie’s Uncommon Breakfast Sandwich & Potato Hash

potato hash at janeysWhile visiting my inlaws for Christmas we went to our usual breakfast spot, Janie’s Uncommon Cafe. I like Janie’s because the food’s always good, they’ve got a solid regular menu and also usually have some interesting specials. The last time we visited, I wasn’t feeling super hungry, so I went with the Uncommon Breakfast Sandwich which the menu describes as “A fried egg with bacon, sausage, black forest ham and cheddar cheese on an English muffin.” I wasn’t sure if that would be quite enough food and I happened to see something called Potato Hash on the menu and decided to try that.

The sandwich was good, but that hash was ridiculously good. “Shredded Idaho potatoes grilled with sauteed peppers, onions and cherry bacon.” It’s such a simple sounding dish with only four ingredients, but it tasted so damn good with the saltiness of the bacon mixing in with the starchiness of the potatoes and the crunch of the vegetables. This doesn’t usually happen, but I liked this dish so much that I want to try and make it myself. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Turkey Day Remembered: Pumpkin Pancakes & Turkey Sausage

With the turkey brining and the pies cooked (I’ll post about those tomorrow), we actually had a pretty good amount of time to make things happen in the morning. I thought it would be fun to make some pumpkin pancakes and cook up some turkey sausage. I found a particular pumpkin pancake recipe on Food Network’s site that sounded pretty good, but then I realized that it was for like 15 people and I couldn’t figure out the math on how to make it for four people. So, I quickly found one on my phone that I wrote down on a piece of paper and didn’t save. As such, I don’t remember exactly how I made them, but you can see the ingredients above.

I actually mixed the dry ingredients together the night before to get things ready. Then, in the morning, I broke out the big mixer and got the dough made which wasn’t any trouble. However, I’m apparently incapable of making a worthwhile pancake on the correct heat and kind of screwed them up. My wife said I didn’t have the heat right, either too high or too low, I honestly don’t remember. They weren’t terrible, but they also weren’t great.

For the sausages, I just tossed them in a cast iron pan and got them going. A few were pink inside, so I goofed up on that too. I was not happy with how breakfast turned out, but luckily it didn’t ruin my mojo with the rest of the cooking. More on that tomorrow!

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.

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 Smitten Kitchen’s Baked Orzo With Eggplant & Mozzarella

A few weeks back my parents came in for a visit. Since my mom’s a vegetarian, I always try to come up with something fun and new to try when they visit. I was looking and looking and looking and then I came across the Smitten Kitchen recipe for Baked Orzo With Eggplant & Mozzarella and figured I had a contender on my hands. I neglected to take pictures of the last few steps, but I can assure you that this recipe is a good one to try out even if you don’t have any vegetarians in your crew.

The first thing I did, well before I even started prepping everything else, was get the eggplant cut up, salted and hanging out in a strainer over the sink. I’ve had problems getting the water out of the purple tubers before, but think it went pretty well this time. After a while I got to work on the rest of the prep work which consisted of chopping up carrots, celery, onions, garlic, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

With everything good to go, I got to cooking. The eggplant went into oil first which was kind of like frying, but without the crispiness. You take that out and set aside on some paper towels before using the same pot and cooking the rest of the veggies. Right here I have to stop and say that I appreciate any meal that doesn’t result in a mountain of dirty dishes at the end.

Anyway, after cooking everything, you add in a few of the other ingredients, mix things up and pop it in the oven. You might need extra time to make this because of the eggplant and the oven time, but it’s really a simple set up that yielded awesome results. I mean, what’s not to like about orzo, two kinds of cheese and eggplant? It winds up being kind of like a veggie-filled mac and cheese which I am always in favor of.

Bonus Food Pics: Fiddlestix Breakfast

A few weekends back the family and I headed over to Fiddlestix for lunch, which wasn’t particularly new or shocking in and of itself. It’s become our favorite breakfast place around and always has really great food to stuff our faces with. However, this day was a bit different. Why? Because I had one of the greatest dishes of my life and no it’s not the wrap above…It’s the above work of art. What’s that, you say? Well, I don’t remember the name of it which is fine because, like everything we order, it was a special that week. But it’s actually a large soft pretzel topped with two poached eggs and cheddar cheese mixed with ham and peppers. Eating this meal was like what I assume it’s like on one of the cooking competition shows when great chefs are asked to make spectacular meals out of mundane ingredients.

Better yet, or possibly worse? I didn’t even order it. My wife did. I got a few bites, but those bites have lingered in my memory. I won’t say that I can’t stop thinking about it, but I would jump at the chance to order this plate again. Also, don’t get me wrong, the meat and egg filled breakfast wrap I ordered was pretty great, but it didn’t have one of my favorite foods of all time (pretzels) covered with another favorite (cheese with ham in it).

Making Pancakes For The Family Reunion

Two weeks back, my family and I traveled to Michigan for a family reunion hosted by my parents. Aside from some playing sous chef to my mom who was handling 99% of the cooking for the three day event, I had a break from cooking. My wife and I were however asked to handle the blueberry pancakes one morning. I don’t know exactly what recipe we were using, but you can see most of the ingredients above. Mom is a great planner, so she actually had all of the dry ingredients measured out and packaged ahead of time (you can see one of them on the table, it’s the black-topped container). We doubled the recipe and took the batter outside to the grill where a cast iron griddle was on the heating gas grill.

My wife wound up doing most of the actual cooking while I watched the baby and ran done blueberry pancakes into the house to keep warm in the oven or later for eating. She did about three at a time and just dropped some blueberries in right after. They went really quickly, so I guess they were a pretty big hit.

Fiddlestix Bonus Food Pics: Cheesey Steak Sandwich & Cowboy Cakes

Hey, check it out, two more food pics from Fiddlestix, I’m sure you’re leaning back in your seat shocked. But, hey, when you find an awesome place to eat with variety, why go anywhere else? Above you can see a steak sandwich I got that was wonderful and slathered in portabello mushrooms, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese sauce.

We also went to the ‘Stix for Father’s Day breakfast and I got the Cowboy Cakes again. Man, this is a tasty breakfast that actually makes me want to get pancakes, something that doesn’t often happen. The way the peppers are cooked inside with some kind of awesome mystery spice or herb really mixed up into something amazing. I want to eat these every day.

Seriously, if you live anywhere near Cornwall, New York GO TO FIDDLESTIX. If it’s a weekend, you might see me there, I’m the one trying to quickly snap a picture of my food before diving in fork first.

Cooking Breakfast For Dinner

I am a big breakfast fan. I don’t mean cereal, which I occasionally eat these days, but a full-on spread with bacon, eggs, sausage, toast and the like. I was also looking to keep last week’s menu simple without producing a ton of food because we went to New Hampshire for Easter that weekend. Usually, we eat off leftovers for lunches and occasional weekend meals, but I didn’t want all that to go to waste.

So? Breakfast for dinner! I went fairly simple with the whole deal. I bought a pound of bacon, a package of Jimmy Dean sausage (patties are preferred) and some eggs. To save the house from getting super greasy from the bacon, I decided to give baking bacon another shot. Last time, I used a smaller jelly roll pan, but the bacon was frozen and it didn’t work out so well. This time, I followed a recipe I found on About.com which wisely suggested crumpling up tin foil and then opening it back up to give the bacon grease somewhere to go. I flattened it back out a little too much and still wound up with grease on the pan, but this was a much better way to go. I wound up cooking for about 17 or 18 minutes. I noticed that, since I was using two jellyroll pans right on very

While that was in the oven, I got to work on the sausage, which basically consisted of cutting them into patties and then cooking them in a pan, flipping constantly. There was no trick to this, I just followed the directions on the packaging. They wound up looking a little charred, but they tasted great.

I siphoned off some of the sausage grease and then cooked a pair of sunny-side-up eggs which turned out nice and brown, but tasted great. You’ll notice that I also cut up some cheese, that was for my wife who had a sausage and cheese sandwich. My only complaint about the meal as a whole is that it was very salty between the bacon and the sausage. I think next time I’ll try making my own sausage so I can have more control over those levels. When I ate the sausage for lunch the next day, I poured a little maple syrup on there and that was a solid choice!

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Food Pics

In the past, I’ve had less than great luck with corn beef and food on St. Patrick’s Day. For a while there, it seems like gnarly corn beef was attracted to me like a magnet and bad metal. It’s okay, though, I’ve gotten past it and actually had some amazing CB in my life, especially this week. I didn’t bother making anything St. Patrick’s themed because it landed on the weekend and I tend to take those off for cooking. We wound up heading to a few of our favorite restaurants this weekend, all of which had wonderful Irish-themed food. You know you want to see the pictures, so scroll on down! On Friday, we headed over to King’s Pommes Frites in Cornwall and got their corn beef specials. These weren’t Reubens because they didn’t have sauerkraut and the bread was a sesame roll, but they were still quite tasty. Obviously, Reubens aren’t Irish, but they do utilize corn beef, so there’s the connection. But who cares! I went to Ireland about 12 years back and the food wasn’t all that great. In fact, this was one of two German dishes I had last weekend. Oh, my wife and I got the same thing, but we also tried a pair of new sauces: Horseradish and Basil, both were fantastic and highly recommended.

On actual St. Patrick’s Day, we headed to Fiddlestix, also in Cornwall, for breakfast or lunch, whichever you please. I went with lunch because they had something called The St. Patrick’s Day Sneak Peek or soemthing along those lines. This was all Irish (as far as I know). The corn beef was tender and juicy, some of the best I’ve ever had and those mashed potatoes actually had horseradish in them and were super tasty (I’m gonna have to remember than one in the future). The cabbage was a little bland, but with all those other flavors going on, that wasn’t such a terrible thing. Lastly, but in no way least, you can see a thick piece of Irish Soda Bread. I haven’t had a lot of this in my life, but this piece was MAGIC. It actually tasted a bit like French toast and I’m a little surprised that wasn’t on the menu. Maybe next year! Billy Joe’s Ribworks also had a series of Irish themed meals on Sunday, which was nice. We decided to go on a whim and weren’t even expecting that, so it was a nice surprise. I thought about getting some more corn beef, but instead I went with kielbasa which came with some amazing sauerkraut and Irish soda bread as well as two sides–I went with macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes because I love both of those things in my mouth. We also got out first and only…green beer! It’s Bud Light which probably explains why they were able to get such an electric green. Everything was super tasty. Again, I know I was eating German food while celebrating and Irish-themed holiday, but I do not care. Any time I can get quality kielbasa next to mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, I am golden.

Cooking Sausage & Egg Casserole

After my exploits with pierogies I was left with a pound of bacon and no real plans for it. On a trip to the grocery store after that I procured some sausage. I think I was going to do breakfast for dinner or something along those lines just simply making eggs with a side of bacon and sausage. However, after making Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie I had an idea to make an egg casserole. I had eggs, sausage, cheese and vegetables so I actually combined two recipes, Alton’s and Robert Irvine’s Egg Casserole Recipe and wound up with something pretty tasty. My idea was to do a pretty simple egg casserole by cooking onions, carrots, peas and corn and then adding the de-cased sausage before tossing that into a baking dish, adding Irvine’s egg mixture and covering with cheese and bacon.

The first step involved cooking the bacon. I had heard about baking it in the oven instead of in a skillet or pan, so I found this recipe on About.com’s food section and went with that. I think it would have worked awesomely except I hadn’t completely defrosted the bacon and had to run hot water over it just to get the pieces separated. It was kind of a mess and cooked unevenly, but I’m guessing that’s all on me.

Anyway, after that, I got to cooking the onions and garlic then the carrots in olive oil. The Shepherd’s Pie recipe called to add frozen corn and peas after putting the mixture in the dish, but I tossed them in now so the flavors could mingle a little better. After that, I got the sausages out of their casings, mashed them up and cooked them with the vegetables. Once that was all done, I put the whole mixture in a baking dish.

For the eggs, I didn’t completely follow Irvine’s recipe because I didn’t have everything in the house. I just mixed five eggs in a bowl and added some milk, then added that to the baking dish. I had shredded some cheddar cheese and chopped up the good pieces of bacon and topped the meat, vegetable and eggs with that. The dish then went into the oven and cooked for 30 minutes or so.

I was pretty proud of whipping this together and having it come out pretty tasty. You can’t really go wrong with eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese in my opinion, especially all in one simple package, but actually combining two recipes and figuring everything out without explicit directions was nice, made me feel like I actually know what I’m doing in the kitchen.

Me & My Bagel Guy

Things have gotten a little awkward at my local–and preferred–bagel shop. It all goes back to almost a year ago (maybe longer at this point, actually, now that I think about it). Anyway, it was around the time I had been laid off from my magazine editor job. I wasn’t sure what the heck I was going to do. I had worked out a few freelance gigs, but didn’t feel secure. Heck, I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel secure as a freelancer, but that’s another story.

One day, I went in to the bagel shop to get lunch. I ordered hard salami, cream cheese and mustard on a bagel. The guy working on my sandwich said something about it being an unusual choice. I smiled and said that I had worked in a bagel place back home for years, trying all kinds of different combinations. The truth is that I liked salami and mustard sandwiches and like cream cheese, so they made a great combination.

Anyway, the guy asks me about where I used to work and I tell him I used to work behind the counter, slicing and making sandwiches, that kind of thing. He mentioned that he was looking for someone to come in and help out when things got hectic or someone called off. I said it was something I’d be interested in and left without leaving any contact information. The truth is that I think there’s a weird kind of zen-ness working behind the counter of a bagel shop/deli and would have probably enjoyed trying my hand at it again, but I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to take that step in my career. The next time I went in, he was there, we talked again and I left my number.

I never heard from the guy. It really didn’t bother me. By then I’d probably gotten and lost a number of writing gigs and my wife and I were talking about having a baby. I’ve had legit job interviews that raised my hopes before being crushed. This was nothing. A simple conversation spawned by a sandwich. No big deal.

Or at least it wasn’t until I went back into the bagel shop one day and the guy was there. I didn’t mention anything, perfectly fine leaving it in the past. Then he brought it up, saying something about calling or whatever. I said it was okay, but just wanted my food and to head home. It became awkward after that. Like what I imagine it’s like seeing a person you broke up with in college or being stuck in a class with them. You just want to put it behind you and move on but every now and then you catch a stray glance (or think you do) and wonder what the other person’s thinking.

Of course, it seems like he’s there every single time I go in. In fact, just this weekend, I went to grab some breakfast for the wife and me and out of a line of people and a half dozen employees, I wound up with this guy. We exchanged looks, trying to measure one another up. Was he going to mention the job? Was he wondering if I was pissed? Was I going to ask about the job? It can be emotionally taxing and who needs that? I just want some damn bagels with green olive cream cheese.

I wrote the above back in August and haven’t really been back in a while, but I did go in today. Thankfully I got a different guy, but the one I had talked to was there. I think we might be past our awkward phase, or at the very least things have gotten less so. I wonder how much of this weirdness just lives in my head and if that guy even remembers talking. Does my face just seem oddly familiar or does my number hang in his office haunting him with what could have been? Oddly this is not the most wrapped up I’ve been in a bagel place or it’s employees, but more on that to come.

Bonus Food Pic: Cowboy Cakes

Can’t believe I didn’t post this one sooner. Two or three weekends back, the wife, kid and I went to what I would call our favorite joint around, Fiddlestix in Cornwall, NY. As always, they had a whole board filled with excellent sounding specials for both breakfast and lunch, but I was drawn to something called Cowboy Cakes. I don’t remember the exact description, but they are basically pancakes with meat cooked into them (can’t remember if it was bacon or sausage). The cakes are then covered in cheese and a pair of sunny side up eggs. Do you ever have a meal that changes how you think about food? This was one of those for me because I had never even thought about making pancakes more savory. It’s a great idea and one I hope to experiment with in my own cooking.

By the way, I didn’t snap a picture of it because I was famished, but we went to Fiddlestix again just yesterday and I ordered another specialty item, this time a sandwich called The Super Sub that boasted steak and portabella mushrooms. I love, love, love portabellas, so I was all over this. It was even better than I imagined it would be because it was covered in this awesome, salty mushroom gravy. I probably shouldn’t have eaten it with my hands because the bread was pretty soggy, but it was worth needing to wash my hands like crazy afterwards. So good. Honestly, if you live within any reasonable distance, do yourself a favor and get some food at Fiddlestix. Leave yourself some time, though because there’s often a wait.

Inventing Beef & Black Bean Chili Omelets

One of my go-to ideas when it comes to leftovers is to turn whatever it is into an omelet. I love omelets and I think they’re super versatile and that’s without even getting into crepe territory, which I’m mostly unfamiliar with. Well, after making Bobby Flay’s Beef and Black Bean Chili last week, freezing some and eating some for lunch, I was looking for something new to do with it.

So, I ladled a few scoops of chili into a small pan just to heat it up. At the same time I heated some olive oil in a larger pan and cooked one clove of diced garlic. While both of those warmed, I whipped three eggs together and poured just a tiny bit of milk in there (I’m still figuring out these ratios, but the less the better). By this point, the chili was bubbling a little, so I took it off the heat. I then poured the eggs into the larger pan and let them cook for a minute or two.

Then I poured the warmed chili in there. I should have strained out more of the juice. All that liquid in there made things a little tricky. While the eggs cooked and the chili heated, I shredded some cheddar over it all. I let that cook for a few minutes, tried folding it over, but didn’t have luck until I put it on the plot. I topped it with a dollop of sour cream and was good to go! I gotta say, this was a pretty good little mash-up. I could see this working with pretty much any kind of chili and will hopefully used them when I start my restaurant/food truck called Nachos & Omelets (the two most versatile foods).

Cooking A Sausage Omelet

One evening last week I remembered that I had a pair of sausage links in the freezer. I think I used them for a meatball or meatloaf recipe, can’t remember. Anyway, having eaten that night’s dinner, I realized I’d need something to eat for lunch the next day and started thawing them out. My plan was to combine what I had around the house which included three eggs, a little milk, a garlic glove, half of a very small onion and some cheddar cheese. Sounds like perfect omelet fixins to me!

My first step when making an omelet involves sauteing some chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until brown. While that cooks, I crack and beat a trio of eggs in a bowl. I use a fork instead of a whisk because that’s how we used to beat eggs back when I was making egg sandwiches at the bagel place. I then pour a little milk in–about a tablespoon–and mix it all together. The milk adds some fluffiness to the proceedings (another trick learned at the bagel place, we would add a little creamer cup to our break food to make them better than the ones we served to customers).

Once you’ve got the onions and garlic where you want them–I like a little browness, but not too too much–I pour the egg and milk mix all over the veggies. As the eggs cooked, I cut the casing off of one of the sausages and distributed that around the omelet. You can see the other sausage cooking in a pan, which was a big mistake and wound up getting tossed out after burning. Anyway, the eggs cooked the distributed sausage pretty well and I shredded some cheese over the cooking omelet, but wasn’t so sure about the done-ness of that meat, so I wound up breaking the omelet apart with my spatula, making it more of a scramble I guess.

Once it looked pretty done, I transferred the pan’s contents onto a plate, shredded a little more cheese and had myself a pretty good lunch. Well, I would have. The baby wound up waking up right as I finished, so I had to scarf it down while feeding her, but still, it wound up being a pretty good way to use up some spare food lying around the house.

Bonus Food Pic: Justin’s Ommy From Fiddlestix

Fiddlestix
319 Main Street
Cornwall, NY 12558
(845) 534-3866

I fully intended to do a post on this meal from a few weeks back at Fiddlestix, an amazing breakfast/lunch place in nearby Cornwall that always features a variety of specials. Being a huge fan of mixing things up, I love going there. It also doesn’t hurt that the food–whether from the menu or a special–is consistently fantastic. Since the above picture of Justin’s Ommy was a special and I accidentally deleted the notes I took on the dish, you’ll have to settle for this picture. If memory serves (and it doesn’t always) I think the omelet had bleu cheese, roast beef and caramelized onions. Mushrooms might have also been involved. The salty, sweet and sourish flavors bounced off of one another and then fit together so well that I’m kind of amazed that this isn’t a standard omelet offering on every menu everywhere. I guess I do remember the meal better than I thought! That’s because it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten there.

Hot Dog & Onion Omelet

Originally published on UnitedMonkee, 12/15/09.

Something you might not know about me is that I love to cook. I started learning how in college and got okay with it. For Christmas that year, my mom got me a pretty good set of Calphalon pots and pans that I still use. But, with working full time and my wife usually getting home before me, she took over the cooking (which is good because she’s also a lot better at it than me). Since I was laid off, though, I have assumed the cooking responsibilities. While I usually stick to the recipe, I have started branching off and working on a few things myself, usually things based on what we have in the house. Last night I whipped up an omelet that was shockingly good. Hopefully this will put me one step closer to opening my restaurant Omelets & Nachos.

Growing up, my dad didn’t cook much, but he was killer when it came to breakfast. He sure knows how to make a mean omelet. That’s probably where my love of them came from. I was surprised when I grew up to find out that not only do omelets in a restaurant not always come with cheese, but I’ve never really found one that matches my dad’s kitchen sink-mentality. So, the way I approach an omelet is trying to figure out everything I can throw in, hence the hot dog for some extra protein (and pig lips). We didn’t have a lot of veggies in the house, so I figured sauteing some onions and garlic might make an interesting base instead of using cooking spray. It’s a trick I picked up from the very first episode of that Bravo show Chef Academy that needs to come back soon! Not only does it smell awesome, but it tastes crazy good. It might take a little bit longer than normal, but I think it’s worth it. Throw on some coffee or OJ and some toast on the side and you’re good to go.

Hot Dog & Onion Omelet

Pre-cut ingredients.

INGREDIENTS
Olive oil
Diced onion
2 cloves garlic diced
3 eggs beat
some milk
shredded cheese
1 hot dog, cut

Ingredients cut and mixed.

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Brown onions and garlic over medium-high heat.

Browned onions and garlic in olive oil.

Mix eggs and milk in a bowl. Pour mixture over browned onions and garlic, lower heat to medium.

Pour the egg over the onions and garlic.

Once the eggs start to harden, add hot dogs and cheese. To get the eggs to cook better, tip the pan a little and push the eggs towards the center of the pan with the spatula to let excess flow to the warm pan (I tried taking a picture of this, but it seems impossible while holding the phone/camera).

Cover in cheese.

Add hot dog and cover with cheese.

Bring heat back up to medium-high. Once the eggs are cooked and the cheese is melted, flip the omelet in half and let cook a little longer. Flip if you can, but sometimes the omelet gets a little weak with all that goodness in there.

The big flip, sometimes it's sloppy, but who cares?!

Brew yourself some coffee and toast some toast and you’re good to go. This bad boy’s good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The breakfast of champions!