Monday, January 31, 2011

"I'm on Vacation!"

I had a great three day weekend in New Hampshire visiting my brother.  He's almost finished with his senior year at Dartmouth.  I'll be going back for his graduation, but because hockey season ends in March, I wanted to see a couple more of his games.  I left Dallas at the crack of dawn on Friday and met my Mom, who flew in from Michigan. I'll be posting a couple different times with pictures from my trip, but thought I would start out with the food.  I didn't take pictures of every meal I had, mainly because I was too busy enjoying!  I did get some highlights for you though. 
Dartmouth is right on the boarder of New Hampshire and Vermont.  My parents visit often, and have found a couple really neat places to visit that are a short, but scenic, drive from the campus.  One of my favorite places is Simon Pearce.  It's a glass blowing and pottery making plant and store.  They also have a restaurant attached that uses all of their dishes, glasses, table decorations that are made in house.  It's really cool, and the food has been amazing every time I've been there.  Above is a glass table center piece in the restaurant.  It's gorgeous!
I was coming down with a bit of a cold, so ordered some tea. I know tea isn't the most exciting food picture, but the glass and dish it's sitting on were so pretty.  We saw guys making those exact dishes below the restaurant, so it was cool to be drinking out of one! 
What a great lunch!  Vermont Cheddar soup, and a mixed green salad with their house lemon vinaigrette dressing and bleu cheese crumbles.   The salad dressing was perfect; light, but just enough so that you could taste it.  I'm starting to like bleu cheese on more things, and I must say, it was perfect on the salad.
Best part of the meal = dessert.  This was apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream.  It was sooooooo (the extra o's are needed) good!  Cinnamon ice cream was a little different than the normal vanilla that's served with apple crisps, and it was a great addition.  
Before we left on Sunday we had a chance to meet up for breakfast at the Norwich Inn.  They have a restaurant on the main floor that serves great breakfasts.  I've been here a couple times, and always been impressed with what they come up with.  They have the regular breakfast dishes, but also seem to always have a couple innovative dishes.  This time my brother and I both ordered stuffed croissant french toast.  It was stuffed with cream cheese and strawberries, and man, it was good.
I ate it all, shocking I know; but I'm on vacation!!  I also dipped a couple pieces in the Vermont maple syrup that was on the table, delicious. 
I had such a fun trip, and loved being around my family for a few days (besides my Dad, we missed him!) My brother's hockey team did really well.  Tied the game on Friday night, and won on Saturday.  Plus, he scored a goal on Saturday night, which was so awesome to see!  I'll be posting more pictures of the scenery (and snow) in the next couple of days.  It was 73 degrees when I got back to Dallas, talk about going from one world to another. 
My brother in all his glory :) 

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Love Garlic

I have been researching "hole-in-the-wall" places to eat since I got to Dallas.  Obviously, this is hard to do, because most places that would fit that description aren't google-able (my made up verb.)  I've been looking on yelp a lot, which has been fairly effective.  People post their reviews about a place, so even if the restaurant doesn't have a website, someone will have gone and reviewed it.  I found Paesano's Italian Restaurant, it got very good reviews, and is just down the road from C's apartment in Richardson.  As soon as we sat down, I knew the reviews were right.  They set this garlicy-amazing dip with fresh bread on the table and I fell in love.  C and I devoured it.  (Please forgive my pictures, the light was horrible.)
I found a coupon that if you bought two entrees you got bottle of wine for free.  I'm by no means a wine snob, so I went for it.  The wine was really good, and the bottle made us a little giggly.  It was nice after a long week of work to unwind! 
I got the Rigatoni with meat sauce; it was cheesy and amazing.  I couldn't finish it all, probably because I loaded up on garlic and bread.  Either way it was great then, and great as leftovers!
C had Spinach Cataloni, and he thought it was very tasty.  Another thing I liked about Paesano's was they had these two person booths.  They were very private and cute, and a nice way to enjoy a meal.
I am a dessert person, and force anyone who eats with me to be as well.  You're welcome.  This homemade tiramisu was beyond great.  The strawberries topped it off, it tasted even better than it looks!
I know many of the people who read don't live in the Dallas area, but if you have any of your favorite "hole-in-the-wall" restaurants please fill me in, I'd love to try them!

As this is posted, I'm on my way to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  It's my brother's final college hockey season, and I'm meeting my Mom there to see him play one last time for the Big Green!  It's going to be a nice weekend full of family, hockey, and cold weather (not looking forward to that.)  Go Ev :)  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dijon Pork Tenderloin

I will be honest, most of my life I have not been a huge pork fan.  I like bacon, but am very fussy about how it's cooked; and wasn't inching to try other pork dishes.  This all changed when I got a waitressing job at a fine dining restaurant in college.  Working there changed my pallet a lot.  The mentality was, we had to taste all the food so we'd be able to properly describe the dish to the customers.  Tough life I know! :) I think the biggest takeaway from trying all of that new food, was that I LOVE pork tenderloin.  Cooked medium with a slice of pink on the inside, oh-so-good!
While I have tried to make a couple different pork dishes at home, I usually find they never taste as good as when a chef makes it, and a waiter/tress brings it to your table.  Ain't it the truth.  This recipe was delicious though, and fairly simple.  If you're a new timer to cooking pork, this would be a great introductory dish.  Recipe calls for four cuts of pork, I cut it in half and just made two.  Pat the meat dry with a paper town, and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
Start by heating olive oil in a large skillet.  Stir in the butter, as soon as it's completely melted, add the pork.
Sear the tenderloins, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Reduce the heat slightly if they start to brown a little too quickly.  I know people get a little nervous about not cooking pork until it's well done, but it truly is better cooked to around medium or 145 degrees.  At least try it, if you don't like stick it back on the stove!
Remove the tenderloins from the pan, and pour off most of the fat.  I left just a little to cover the bottom of the pan.  Add shallots and cook them on medium high until soft - about one minute. 
 Add 1/2 cup wine and bring to a boil.  Stir in the chicken stock and return pork to the pan. 
Bring sauce to a simmer, reduce heat, cover, and cook until pork is cooked through to 145 degrees F internally, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the pork, and place on a warm platter, if you have one, to keep warm.  I put on a plate, covered with foil, and placed in the microwave to stay warm.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine.  Increase the heat to high to boil the juices in the pan.  When they're reduced by half, around three minutes, add the heavy cream and boil for another three minutes.  When you can scrape the pan with a wooden spoon and it leaves a trail, the sauce is ready to be removed from the stove.
Remove from heat, and in a bowl whisk in mustard and parsley.  If you want, you can add more mustard to taste. 
Place tenderloins on a bed of sauce and serve.  I made mashed potatoes and zucchini as sides.  The sauce was great on the mashed potatoes as well!  Enjoy :)

Dijon Pork Tenderloin *makes 4, I cut in half
1 tablespoon butter 
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 center cut pork tenderloin or chops
ground black pepper
1/4 cup shallots or green onions
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped parsley *optional

Pat pork dry with paper towel, and salt and pepper both sides.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in butter.
When butter is melted, add pork to pan and sear.  Around 2-3 minutes on each side.
Reduce heat slightly to make sure pork doesn't brown too fast.
Remove pork from pan and pour off most of the fat. 
Add green onions or shallots and cook them on medium high until soft, around one minute.
Add 1/2 cup wine and bring to a boil.
Stir in the chicken stock and return pork to pan. 
Bring sauce to simmer, reduce heat, cover, and cook until pork is 145 degrees F internally, around 10-15 minutes.
Remove the pork and place on a warm platter to keep warm.
Add remaining 1/2 cup of wine and increase to high to boil.
When juices are reduced by half, add heavy cream and boil for another three minutes, until sauce is thick.
Remove from heat and whisk in mustard and parsley. 
Place pork on a bed of sauce and serve.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Where's My Phone?

A couple of days ago I left my phone, and my computer, at C's house.  I was constantly reaching out to check my phone, but nothing was there.  Major let down!  The main issue was that day I actually had to leave the office to go on a field trip, to somewhere I'd never been.  I was going to go home for lunch, then take off on the work field trip.  When I got home I realized I didn't google where this place was, didn't have a computer to look, or my phone GPS.  Safe to say, I was a little panicked!
I actually had to use a paper map. Yes, they still exist. My Grandpa continues to give me maps from AAA whenever I move somewhere new, thankfully!  Bad news was, the place I had to go was off the map. So, I stopped at a gas station to ask where I was, and where I had to go.  The guy was very nice and helped me out a lot!  It was just such a strange feeling, no technology. I was the stereotypical generation X and felt lost - literally.
One of my favorite vacation spots the last couple of summers has been Door County, Wisconsin.  It's on a peninsula at the very northern part of Wisconsin.  I've come to really enjoy going there for a few reasons.  One, it's absolutely beautiful, as you can see from the above pictures.  The other reason is it's off the beaten path.  My cell phone doesn't work the best, and the whole area takes you back to a simpler time.  There are no chain stores, restaurants, or hotels, there are no high-rise buildings.  It's a great escape from city life.
My favorite place to eat is Fred and Fuzzy's.  It has great food, and the best location.  It's in the middle of the woods, and the seating area looks out over the Bay of Green Bay.  As you can see in the above pictures, trees surround you as you wait for a table, and eat.  It's simple, and that's what makes it great. 
The only part of the restaurant that has a roof is the kitchen.  Yes, that picture is the kitchen.  It's a very relaxing place; they always have new and creative drinks.  The food is awesome, and you'll leave very full.  The best part though is that it's just you, plastic table and chairs, friends and family, and nature. The sunsets are beautiful, the air is refreshing, and your cell phone doesn't have service.
Sometimes it's nice not have your cell phone, laptop, ipod, and whatever else around you.  It's important to take some time for yourself, go out, and explore.  There are so many beautiful places to see, pictures and google earth don't even begin to compare to really being there!  It can make you realize everything and everyone you need is already around you, even as you're going through withdrawals on checking facebook.
Dallas is the largest city I've ever lived in.  It's huge compared to where I came from; Bessemer MI's population was 1,270 (as of 2000 census.)  Now especially, I long for the non-city landscape, which I never thought I would say, but it's true.  I'll have to settle on these places for vacation, but that will make me appreciate it more :)

If you're interested in visiting Door County, here's a website full of information.  It's a trek to get there, but very worth it! Door County, Wisconsin

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche

I wanted to change things up a little this weekend, and make something for breakfast. I've been cooking mainly dinners and desserts lately, so thought it would be a nice change.  Plus, I had some ingredients that I needed to use up!  Little tip, they have to cook in the oven for about 35 minutes, so you could probably make the mix ahead of time.  Keep in the fridge overnight,  so in the morning all you have to do is put them in the oven.  Then you have some time to make coffee and relax :)
Recipe calls for 10oz. of frozen broccoli.  Cook in a medium pot of salted water for about 1 minute, drain well and chop up.  
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Stir in broccoli and cheese.
 Make sure you butter or spray non-stick in the ramekins.  Place on a baking dish that is about 1/4 full of water.  Fill each ramekin with mixture.  Cook in the oven for around 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
I paired the quiche with some fresh fruit.. it was the perfect side! 
Done to perfection.  These were so tasty, a great way to start your day!

Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche
Butter for ramekins (or non-stick spray)
Coarse salt
10oz frozen broccoli
6 large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half
Ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Butter or spray 4 ramekins (or 9 inch pie dish.)
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Add broccoli, cook for around a minute. 
Drain well, transfer to cutting board, and chop coarsely.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. 
Stir in broccoli and cheese.
Place ramekins on a baking dish with some water in the bottom. 
Ladle mixture into ramekins evenly.
Bake until golden brown, around 35-40 minutes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Favorite Things of 2011 (so far!)

"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry it will change.  If you're in a good situation, don't worry it will change."
The year 2010 was very full of change for me.  I moved about a millions times trying to find a nice apartment in Milwaukee - thank you again for all your help Mom! I got a promotion, started the transition into a new job, only to decide to completely leave that company and relocate to Texas.  Got a new job, got a new apartment, finally had a NON long distance boyfriend.  So yeah, a lot of change.  There are so many new people and places in my life right now, I can't even begin to list everything!
It's not always easy, my family and close friends are all over 1,000 miles away.  I don't have a lot of my normal "constants" around me.  So, while I would like to list all of my favorite people; of whom most are very far away, I'm going to settle for my favorite things.  Mainly because these "things" don't cause me to get as emotional. Plus they all live in my kitchen...way closer than Michigan. 


The first is an apron my Mom made and gave to me as a Christmas gift.  As C can attest to, I am a "full contact cooker," as he calls me.  In other words, I'm really messy and loud.  I spill a lot of things, I burn my fingers a lot, and don't even think about watching TV or having some peace and quiet while I'm in the kitchen, it just doesn't work.  Due to this, one of the things on my Christmas list this year was an apron.  My Mom went above and beyond, and used her sewing talents to make me a very cute, and one of a kind, apron.  The pattern is perfect, but my favorite is the "Made with love by Mom" label.  I've been using it a lot lately, and it's always nice to feel like I have my Mom by my side!  Now if only she could help me be a little less clumsy :)
I spoke about my new pan in one of my older posts.  I can't say enough about this thing; it's simply awesome.  It's heavy and huge, and perfect for making anything and everything on the stove.  I haven't taken the best care of my other pots and pans, but this one gets special treatment.  I even asked for wooden spoons so I wouldn't scratch the bottom!  *Other uses include knocking someone out.  The pan weighs roughly 10 pounds - ok so I'm a bit dramatic, but it is heavy.
OXO Good Grips are what I'm storing all of my dry ingredients in now.  The lid seals with a press of the button located on the top.  These are plastic, but are pretty thick.  Hopefully this means I can't easily break them, when I inevitably drop them, but I'll keep you posted on that! They're great for sugar and flour.  You can easily pour out of the containers, plus they're see-through so you know exactly what you have stored in each one.
I actually found these little containers at Tom Thumb, which is starting to have an interesting selection of cooking utencils!  They have a magnet on back, so they stick to your fridge.  I bought three, and put parsley, garlic salt, and Lawry's seasoned salt in them.  It's perfect for spices you use a lot, because they're readily available.  They also have two settings to pour out of when you turn the top, to help better distribute how much you need to use.
Last, but by no means least, my new favorite shoes.  I'm on a kick right now of buying one of a kind things, and have recently become a huge fan of, where everything is original and hand made.  I found these at the shop:, and LOVE them.  They're suede and have feathers on the upper part by my ankle.  I haven't worn them yet because I don't want to get them dirty or have any of the feathers come off (even though they are very glued on, and don't seem to be moving anytime soon.)  That just tells you how attached I am, I won't let them leave the house.  I only wear them inside on my safe, and soft carpet.  I think C thinks I'm crazy, he caught me telling them "I love you."  Guys just don't understand.

The year has just begun, and I'm sure it will again be full of changes and surprises.  My list of favorite things and favorite people will be updated and hopefully added to.. that's life I guess.  The first picture on this post was my favorite trip from 2010. We went to the southern part of Maine for a family trip with our significant others, it was beautiful and very relaxing.  Looking forward to the adventures 2011 brings.

Happy Monday :)  

Friday, January 21, 2011

King Cupcakes

I know that I promised you all a dish using the great cheese I got from Central Market, but it's going to be delayed.  Due to a happy hour (renamed happy until midnight) that went a little too late, I didn't have time to make it!  I promise to make and post about it next week.  Please forgive me, and take pity on my hungover body :)
I got this recipe out of a magazine a while ago.  It interested me because one cupcake is only 319 calories, which in my book is pretty good for a dessert; and because I love banana and peanut butter together.  I love peanut butter with anything, I could dip chips in it, and would still think it's the best thing ever. So, I figured this would be a good dessert for my taste buds.  I always buy way too many bananas, and they end up going bad before I can eat them.  A good work around I've found is putting them in the freezer, it's a great way to save them to use later for baking.  Banana bread is usually what I use the leftovers in, but I'm cheating on my favorite bread and using them for cupcakes this time.
Start by beating softened butter and sugar together.  Add egg substitute and continue to beat.  Add mashed banana, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, beat for one more minute.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Add flour and milk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Line cups with paper liners, spray with non-stick, and fill cups with batter.  Bake at 350 degrees F for around 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a rack for five minutes, and let cool completely before adding frosting.
For frosting, combine cream cheese, butter, and 3 butter in a medium bowl.  Beat until fluffy, then add powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt. 
Peanut Buttery goodness.
Spread frosting evenly over cupcakes.  You can sprinkle with peanuts if you like, I chose not too, which means they were less than 319 calories! 
I will warn you, you can tell they are a low fat option of cupcakes; however, they are addicting.  I think I got a little confused, and thought they were breakfast, lunch, and dessert.  Oh well.. they're low fat, right? :)

Weekend's almost here, hope everyone has a great couple of days, see you back here on Monday!

King Cupcakes
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup mashed rip banana (this equals about 2 medium bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 1% milk (I used skim)
2 oz fat free or less fat cream cheese
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of salt
3 tablespoons chopped unsalted peanuts *optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To prepare cupcakes, place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until blended.
Add egg substitute and continue to beat.
Add banana and vanilla extract, beat for one more minute.
Lightly spoon flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl, and whisk together.
Add flour mixture and milk alternately to the sugar mixture.  Beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Line cupcakes cups with liners, fill cups with batter.
Bake for around 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. 
Cool for five minutes on wire rack.  Cool completely before frosting.
To prepare frosting, combine cream cheese, peanut butter, and butter in a medium bowl. Beat until light and fluffy.
Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt.
Spread frosting evenly over cupcakes.
Sprinkle evenly with peanuts *optional.