A trip to Vegas…

I traveled to Vegas for the NASCAR event in early March and here are some tales from that trip.

As a native Californian…I am a loyal In N Out burger fan. Growing up I was always a really picky eater, which is so weird now becasue I love food. Anyway, I was the kid that always had to wait extra time for my burger at McDonald’s becasue I used to order them plain. No mustard. No ketchup. No onions. Definitely no picke. Ick. So when I was introduced to In N Out by my father, who grew up near the first location in Southern California, I was instantly in love. Granted, I did order it at first w/ out the sauce, but now it’s a Double Double w/ Grilled Onions, fries and a Diet Coke.  In college and well post college too, my friends and I used to justify our burger intake by saying it was a well balanced meal. The five major food groups were represented. Meat, check. Dairy, check. Vegetables, check. Bread, check. Fruit (yes a tomato counts), check.

So instantly upon my arrival it was a Double Double w/ Grilled Onions, fries and a Diet Coke. Boom!

Later that night…it was legendary Rao’s at Caesar’s Palace. I knew of Rao’s from my favorite TV Chef Giada DeLaurentis. She had featured Rao’s in her show, Giada’s Weekend Getaways. It’s old school Italian and modeled after their restaurant in NYC, which another friend tells me is impossible to get into. My colleague and I were told to definitely order a meatball…we did. We also split the Penne Vodka, a Veal Parmesean (that looked like a pizza) and Chicken Scarpariello. WOW. Everything was awesome but we totally overordered. It happens. Here is a photo of our feast.

The next night…it was one of my favorite restaurants of all time. Estiatorio Milos. If you like fish…this place is for you. Full disclosure…it’s very pricey. However, it’s the freshest, most delicious fish I’ve ever had. I’ve been to both their NYC and Vegas locations. YUM. Vegas is a people watching adventure as it’s in the new Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino. My colleagues and I sat outside on the patio and had a very enjoyable evening. I can’t even really tell you the kind of fish we ate because everything is fresh and fish you’ve never heard of. They prepare it for the table, family style. Most of the fish is prepared in olive oil, lemon and and capers. That’s it. Also a must is the tomato salad. Typical greek tomato salad and SO yummy. Here is a link to Milos.

http://www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com/taste/restaurant-collection/estiatorio-milos.aspx

We also went back to another seafood favorite, RM Seafood by Rick Moonen. He was a contestant on Top Chef Masters and is the Master of sustainable seafood. It’s just off the casino floor at Mandalay Bay and I highly recommend it as well.

Stay tuned for more blogs!

My apologies…I’ve been busy

When I started this blog I said to myself…you must keep going. Well, I failed.

I’ve been busy with work, see NASCAR and Google’s April Fool’s joke, and have traveled much more than anticipated in 2012. There is good news and bad news about when I travel. The good…I am a culinary traveler making an effort to try new places I’ve read about or visit old ones I love. The bad…is that I get tired and cranky and fail to blog.

So here is the first of many blog posts to come this week, catching up and culminating in my first time hosting Easter brunch for my friends and family!

First up…Super Taco Tuesday.

My boyfriend Franklin and I love politics. We also love Taco Tuesdays. So March 6th, aka Super Tuesday, we had Super Taco Tuesday. I cooked some pork shoulder in the crock pot all day while at work and it was delicious. Can I remember what recipe I used? No and that frustrates me trememdously. But if you use the Google machine, there are a ton of good carnitas recipes out there using the slow cooker. Add in my salsa and guacamole recipe and tadah! Super Taco Tuesday.

Tonight…it’s Sunday and we are having tacos again…but this time it is Tri-Tip tacos with the tri-tip marindade from the fans at Auto Club Speedway in the Google video. Stay tuned for that later!

Think Eggs Benedict is hard? So wrong. Easy Breezy.

This week (and it looks like Sunday mornings are my favorite time to post) it’s a very very easy Eggs Benedict.

Here is what you need…

Eggs

Whole Wheat English Muffins

Smoked Deli Turkey

Butter

Lemon Juice

That’s it! I started making this with Smoked Turkey instead of Ham years ago…and never has an eater at my table complained. I actually like the smokiness vs a salty piece of ham.

Here’s how it’s done:

1) Take two eggs and separate them. Place the yolks in a blender.

2) Take 2 more eggs per person and either put them in a poaching pan or poach them in a boiling pot of water with some vinegar in it. The vinegar helps them stay together when you poach them in the water. Just a splash is fine.If using a poaching pan, remember to add just a bit of water in the pan. You are steaming the eggs, not boiling them.

I use this poaching pan from Williams Sonoma.

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/poached-eggs.html

While your eggs are getting happy in the pan, complete these steps

3) Melt 1/3 cup (or 5 and 1/3 tablespoons) of butter in a pan. Add this along with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the blender. Blend on a whip setting.

4) toast your english muffins.

5) Warm your deli turkey ( I use 2 slices per english muffin side) on a plate in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. Just to get it warm.

Once your eggs are poached…assemble. Muffin, Turkey, Egg, Sauce.

Where is the photo? #epicfail. I had one on my phone so I didn’t take one this morning…and now I can’t find the one on my phone! DOH!

Oh well…I’m still learning on this blog thing. 🙂

What are you making for the Super Bowl? Try this!

Ok kids…it’s time for Super Bowl Salsa and Guacamole!

I make this all the time. I know it seems intimidating to make your own salsa but it really could not be easier.

In a food processor combine the following:

2-3 medium size tomatoes (chop them into quarters before dropping in the food processor)

1 medium onion (help this along as well by quartering)

1/2 of a jalapeno pepper (take the seeds out they are HOT)

1 bunch of cilantro

1/4 cup of lemon juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)

salt to taste

Turn on the food processor. And…you are done!

 

taste it…add a little salt if needed.

then…transfer it into a bowl but leave a bit in there. about 1/3 of a cup.

throw 2-3 avocadoes in the food processor with the salsa…

BOOM! Guacamole!

I seriously don’t know why people ever buy this pre-made. SO EASY! and delicious! and you know what is going into your body. No chemicals. Ok well maybe a few if you are using the lemon juice in the bottle.

I’ll be making this today along with some turkey chili. Happy Eating everyone!

 

 

A recent trip to NYC…

Hi everyone! So sorry it has been so long since my last post. Work and a cold kept me busy and well exhausted.

As promised this blog will be about a recent trip to NYC but I have also been cooking so stay tuned for some new recipes coming your way shortly.

On the second weekend of the new year…a few friends and I went to NYC for a girls weekend. NYC is one of my favorite cities to eat in and on this trip I was able to visit one of my old favorites, cross a big one off my list, and eat some fabulous brunches. I heart brunch.

First the old favorite…Serafina. You can never go wrong with a trip to Serafina in the city. They have five locations in the city and they are always, consistently delicious. The other day I was trying to recall my first trip there…and I am fairly sure it was none other than Five Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson who first took me there. I know for certain we have been there mulitple times together. Pizzas, pastas, and yummy salads are always good comfort food on a media tour. Trust me.

The big one…ABC Kitchen by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It’s a cozy yet fancy farm to table restaurant on 18th street near Union Square. As a foodie, I kept seeing articles about how good it was and it certainly lived up to it. My favorite dish of the night was a roasted carrot salad with avocado. Sounds so strange, especially considering I am lukewarm about cooked carrots (ask my mom, I used to spit them out) but this dish was amazing. The seasoning on the carrots, with the creamy avocados…YUM. If you are traveling to the city, make a reservation. I will certainly be back. Where are the photos you ask? Well…I was too busy eating.

However, I did take some brunch photos for you guys so let’s talk about that!

The first place we went for brunch, I had been to before, and when you are searching for a place with friends, you want to go where you know the food is good. Eatery on 53rd and 9th is SOLID.

We started, as I had done with my friend Kate the first time, with the macaronni and cheese with BACON. YUM! And it takes the edge off of everyone at the table who has any resemblance of a hangover.

This trip I ordered Green Eggs and Ham to go along with my delicious guava mimosa.

Eggs with pesto, goat cheese and ham on a crossaint and a side of greens. Yes please!

However, the star of the table was the fantastic stuffed chocolate and banana french toast with ice cream. Ordered by my friend Ramsey’s five year old daughter Miss Ava, we all pitched in to “help” her finish it. OMG. It was phenomenal and it was our duty to help her out right?

The following morning it was a trip to the Uppper East Side to catch up with our friends The Shiftans as well as my friend Kate who made the treck up from the financial district. Big ups to Kate for making the hike. We went to Sarabeth’s on Madison and 93rd. I suck because this was the only photo I took.

I have an unusual love for Huevos Rancheros so I have a habit that when I see it on a menu…I must order it. The Upper East Side however might not have been the best place for that dish. It was just eh. I have a great recipe for Huevos you can make at home that I will post in the near future.

I am also a dork and when a place is famous for something…I order that too. Sarabeth’s famous velvety cream of tomato soup…did not disappoint. The soup was so creamy and yummy but had big chunks of tomato in it too. I googled it and found a recipe for it from Good Housekeeping so you know I will try that and let you all know how it turns out.

So all in all I was well fed in NYC. Love that city.

Here is what you can expect in upcoming posts…

My smoked turkey eggs benedict

A slow cooker carnitas pork shoulder (which i ate some leftovers of last night…so good)

My famous homeade salsa and guacamole

and the aforementioned Huevos Rancheros which utilized the extra salsa and guacamole.

Also, I have been itching to make a Pot Pie since having a delicious one at Fran’s Filling Station. Maybe this weekend!

You asked for it…Goulash!

SO…chances are good that if you have crossed my threshold…I have made this dish for you.

In our family, we call it goulash. However, Wikipedia defines the dish a bit differently than the dish I make. 

Goulash (plural: goulash) is a soup or stew of meat, noodles and vegetables (especially potato), seasoned with paprika and other spices.[1] Originating in Hungary, goulash is also a popular meal in Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Romania, Scandinavia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the north-eastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. It is one of Hungary’s national dishes.[2]

It’s really more of an Italian dish for us. It was one of the staple dishes I would make when I started cooking in my first apartment that I shared with my friend Teresa. My Dad taught me how to make it and told me that he would make it for my Mom, when they were first married and had no money. Hence, I made it numerous times for friends, when none of us had any money. It was our go to pre-party meal in The House of Hooch (an amazing apartment I shared with my friends Kate and Annie). It provided a good base if you will. It is still my “go to” dance move.

Here are the ingredients:

1 medium size onion chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic chopped (i love garlic so used 4 last night)

1lb of ground beef or turkey (or chicken if you like)

1 14 oz can of tomato sauce

1 14 oz can of stewed tomatoes

1 box of small or large shells

You don’t have to get all fancy with the sauce or stewed tomatoes. Just use what you have. You can use whole wheat pasta if you like, or fiber filled. Whatever works for you.

This recipe is so easy. So let’s get started.

Start your pasta water, add a bit of salt to the water.

Coat a large pan, with some extra virgin olive oil. Add your chopped onion and garlic to the pan and let them get fragrant.

Add in your meat, I used turkey this time, and let it brown. It will look like this.

Add in your can of sauce and stewed tomatoes and let it simmer. By this time, your water should be boiling, so go ahead and cook your pasta per the directions on the box.

 

NOTE: I only used half of the pasta in the box…because I was making enough for my boyfriend and I. I still had enough to make him a lunch and could put some sauce in the fridge for a weeknight dinner for me.

Once your pasta is cooked, add some sauce and pasta together add some of your favorite shredded or grated cheese (mine is grated pecorino romano from Trader Joe’s) and ENJOY! Serve it up with a fresh salad and/or some garlic bread and some wine…perfection!

Next time…notes from my recent trip to NYC!

Here we go! The first thing I ever learned to cook…biscuits and sausage gravy!

This dish is one of my earliest childhood memories and is where I think this blog should start!

 My grandmother, Bea Fields, who passed away last year, taught me how to make this. She made the biscuits from scratch, with some shortening and flour and milk. It was my job, to add the milk as needed while she formed the dough. Then once she had patted them out and formed them and put them in the pan, my second job was to top each biscuit with a spoonfull of butter so they got golden brown in the oven. YUM! Somewhere there is a photo of me doing this alongside Grandma, but I couldn’t find it this morning. So instead, here is a photo of Bea Fields. I can hear her saying “dadgumit” as I type.

Bea had five children…four boys and one girl, my mother Ginger. She used to make this recipe to feed those kids. When I was a kid, this was (and well quite frankly sitll is) our “special” morning breakfast. We’d eat it at Christmas, birthdays, and the morning of the Indy 500 (which was a holiday in our house).

Today…my parents and I both cheat a little bit. Instead of making the biscuits from scratch like Bea did, we use Pillsbury frozen southern style biscuits. It’s just easier and they are almost as good as Bea’s. Almost. Just follow the directions.

We still make the homeade sausage gravy. Here is that recipe…

Brown 1lb of sausage. Today I used Neese’s country sausage, a local NC company, and it rocked. So fresh and full of flavor. A link to their website…http://www.neesesausage.com.

Once the sausage is cooked, you essentially make a roux for the gravy. Add some flour to the pan to absorb the grease rendered by the sausage. I know, not the healthiest thing in the world and you are asking…can I use a leaner sausage like Turkey Sausage? The answer is yes. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, you are going to need to add shortening into that pan of turkey in order to make the gravy. So what’s the point? Nobody said this was a low calorie dish and this is a “special” morning. One Christmas, my brother bought turkey sausage for this dish, which my mother and I were making in his kitchen. We added Crisco to the pan, but acted as a team to do it, when he was out of the room. HA!

So once you add the flour and a bit of milk, you pan should look something like this. There is no official amount of flour to use, just use your best judgement. You want the flour simply to absorb the grease. It’s going to make your gravy thick.

Keep adding milk (I used 2%) as it gets absorbed, and then add a bit more, and a bit more, and a bit more. Really scientific right? Eventually you will get the amount of gravy you want and your desired consitency. Your heat should be about medium. You don’t want to boil it but keep it hot enough to thicken up the gravy.

All the while, your biscuits are getting golden brown in the overn. Takes about 20-25 minutes according to the directions.

So eventually your gravy (patience is a virtue) will end up something like this. YUM.

And you are ready to plate! Now every person in my family does this differently. My mom, splits her biscuits in half, only puts gravy on one, and puts orange marmalade on the other. My dad, splits his, puts butter on the biscuits, and then puts gravy on them. Me? I mash my biscuits and put gravy all over them. It ends up looking like this.

So there ya have it. My first recipe and blog post! I promise that future recipes will have more step by step instruction and exact measurements, but this one you just make with your gut. Just don’t make it too often or you will have a big gut!