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Archive for November, 2010

If you’re craving Chinese food but just don’t have the time or are trying to watch the waistline reach for this quick recipe to get your Asian food fix.    

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 heaping tsp garlic
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded with veggie peeler
  • 1 10 oz-12 oz bag of frozen edamame (soybeans)
  • ½ cup scallions, diced
  • 12 frozen potstickers (any filling)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • Salt to taste

NOTE: I  use the powdered stock and add water since it lasts longer and is much less expensive.  I also added some shredded chicken that I had extra from a roast chicken that we purchased a few days before.  A little overkill, but, it had to get used somehow!

Directions

  1. In the soup pot saute the sesame oil and garlic until fragrant. 
  2. Add chicken stock, water, carrots, edamame, scallions, and potstickers into the same pot and bring to a low boil for 10 minutes, until all ingredients are cooked thoroughly.

      3.  Taste the broth, add the soy sauce, re-taste, and then add salt to your liking being careful to only add small amounts of salt each time that you’re re-trying the combination.

      4.  Serve immediately and freeze the extras into ziploc containers to bring to work.

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Well, I did it people!  I baked a pie for the first time in my entire life and it actually turned out really good!  While watching a show on the Cooking Channel called “Unique Eats” I saw this pie from the bakery “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” located in Brooklyn featured and knew I had to give this a whirl.  If you ever see salted caramel anything (ice cream, pie, cake, ect) TRY IT!  It might not sound good to your brain but it will give your taste buds a nice kick in the mouth…it’s unexpected and incredible.   

Pie Crust

  • 1 recipe your favorite (2-crust) butter pie crust

Salted Caramel

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) fresh unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (recommended: Maldon sea salt flakes)

Apple Filling

  • 4 to 6 lemons
  • 5 to 6 medium to large apples*

*Cook’s Note: A mixture of Crispin, Braeburn and Granny Smith is nice

Apple Filling Seasoning

  • 1/3 cup raw sugar (castor, unrefined, large granule sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters

Assembly

  • 1 egg beaten
  • Raw sugar, for sprinkling on top
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (flake)

*Special equipment: Mandolin for slicing, and a pastry brush.

Directions

To make the pie crust:
Prepare one 2-crust batch of your favorite all butter pie crust. Roll the bottom crust to fit a 9-inch pan, and cut the top crust as a lattice, approximately 1-inch in width or as desired. Chill the rolled crust while you prepare the salted caramel and apple filling.  I used store-bought ones and it worked okay, but, if you have a homemade crust it would probably take it to the next level.

To make the salted caramel:
Cook the sugar and water together over low heat until just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking at a low boil until the mixture turns a deep, golden brown color, almost copper.
Note: This process can take a while depending on the heat source. Keep an eye on it, if the caramel begins to smoke, you’ve burned it and you’ll have to start over.  It took me over 15 minutes to do this so don’t be surprised.

Once the mixture has turned a copper color, remove it from the heat and immediately add the heavy cream – the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam – be cautious as the sugar will be very hot.

Whisk the final mixture together well over low heat and sprinkle in the sea salt. Set the caramel aside while you prepare the apple filling.  Make sure that you give the salt time to stir into the caramel.  I didn’t give it enough time to absorb and there were chunks of sea salt on the bottom of my caramel pan.

To make the apple filling:
Juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl. Core, peel, and thinly slice the whole apples. Cook’s Note: A mandolin works great for producing very thin slices.

Dredge all the apple slices in the freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent browning and to add flavor. Set the prepared apples aside.

To make the apple filling seasoning:
In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and Angostura bitters. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples in the mixing bowl. Use your hands to gently mix and coat the apple slices.

To assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 375 to 400 degrees F (depending on the hotness of your oven).

Gather your rolled pie crust, salted caramel, and apple mixture. Begin by layering 1/3 of the apples in the bottom of the crust so that there are minimal gaps. Pour 1/3 of the caramel over the apples. Add 1/3 of the apples and caramel for a second layer, and then add a third layer of apples, and then the caramel again. Cook’s Note: Save a small portion of the caramel to pour on top once the lattice is assembled.

Assemble the lattice crust and flute the edges of the crust. Pour the last bit of caramel on top. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and lightly sprinkle with raw sugar and sea salt.

Bake the pie on a baking sheet larger than the pie pan for 20 minutes (otherwise the caramel will bubble over and burn on the bottom of your oven). Reduce the oven temperature to 325 to 350 and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. You can test the apples for doneness with a long toothpick or small knife. The apples should be just soft.

Let the pie cool, then slice and enjoy!

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Earlier this month I went out to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for a sales meeting. My advice is that If you ever get a chance to go out to Idaho in the summer, take it for the love of Hey-Zeus! CDA is beautiful and I would compare it to Stillwater, MN on steroids. The Coeur d’Alene Resort  is the main draw to the town and towers above an extremely large lake with monstrous boats parked up on the slips. They also have a famous golf course that has a floating green.

To get out onto the course you are driven by boat (how cool would that be?!) . What I also found interesting was that the town seemed like it was run by the mob, with the mob boss being the owner of the Coeur d’Alene resort. There are a couple different stories around this:

• When we asked some of the front desk people where we should go out to eat (since we wanted to leave the resort) each one of them looked scared to even mention anywhere off the resort and told us that they could get in big trouble for even mentioning any other places and ultimately never even gave us recommendations off-site.
• After picking out a place suggested by a local we tried to get a shuttle to the place that was about 8 miles away. The van driver let us know that it would be a $250 charge. WHAT?! Obviously we took rental cars but we found the whole thing weird…
• When we got to the steak house we mentioned the situations to our waitress and joked that the steakhouse should get a shuttle down at the hotel. With fear in her eyes she said “We would never want to make them mad and we would get in sooo much trouble”.

The way that everyone’s fear shined in their eyes, we got the impression that people had lost their jobs (and maybe had hits taken out on their families – jk) for recommending the steakhouse that was a local favorite.

BUT back to the “eat” portion of my blog. Beverly’s was a surprise find and was I ever happy that it was right there in the resort! Beverly’s is a five-star restaurant right in the heart of Northern Idaho with a $2 million wine inventory. I went there a few times and do I ever have some things to talk about.

Signature Orange Rolls – I’ve never had anything like these and man were they tasty. Flaky rolls doused in a sticky citrus sauce. Wowee.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad – grilled chicken breast on organic greens tossed in a lemon-garlic vinaigrette with olive tapenade romesco, hummus, grilled pita bread, marinated grape tomatoes, roasted red peppers and roasted garlic. $12! Are you kiddin’ me? You can’t even get a salad at Perkins at that price! My Aunt Donna ordered this and I just about had a heart attack when our food came I was so impressed!

I ordered a regionally grown and caught product, the Dungeness Crab Melt – fresh Oregon Dungeness crab, rich artichoke cream cheese filling, lemon garlic aioli on toasted sourdough baguette with melted Tillamook cheddar cheese. Holy yumminess.

The next day for lunch I ordered the Dungeness Crab Cakes – panko crusted with lemon garlic aioli, chili oil, Yukon mashed potatoes and organic vegetables. The crab melt I thought was better from a taste and flavors standpoint but look at that presentation!

Other honorable mentions include the Wolf Lodge Inn and the Wine Cellar. You drive out to the Wolf Lodge thinking that you’re GPS is leading you straight into a horror movie with a weaving road and full on Freddy Krueger ending. Then when you pull up you are still wondering about what you’re in for since it looks kind of like a rundown red barn. Inside it’s filled with funny signs about hunting and fishing, decked with a few fireplaces, and waitresses dressed as cowgirls.

And THE STEAKS. The steaks are why people are driving from all corners of the Northwest to get here. The steak that I had was fantastic, juicy, perfectly cooked to medium rare, had wonderful side dishes. You can check Yelp or any restaurant review site to vouch for it. One bite and you’ll see why the resort doesn’t want to drive people to this local favorite. They also had another interesting dish that you can see below on the menu:

 

I had an overall wonderful couple of days and hopefully get the chance to come back to the Northwest and make my second time out there an equally as flavorsome success. : )

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I will never read two huge books at the same time ever again after this.  Last month I read “Freedom” and “The Passage”.  I stupidly picked it up at the same time as I decided to listen to “Freedom” via Audible.  SIDEBAR:  I forgot to mention in the previous post that I listened to “Freedom” on audiobook and listened to part II of III before I listened to part I.  Possibly one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done but since the book wasn’t in chronological order it ended up working out fine.

Now back to the vampire book.  I often found myself at night staring down the 800 page book sitting in my night stand and there was never a good time to pick it up.  Deciding to pick up a book that size requires a blizzard, all day thunder-storm, or a terrible task that you want to avoid…and from what I recall it was the last situation that reared its head the night that I picked it up.

“The Passage” spans a century, focusing in on three different storylines that weaves together towards the end.  The novel starts out in nearly present day and tells of a desperate scientist trying to find a way to irregularly lengthen the human life by way of an area that he’s heard about in South America.  The expedition that he and the US Army are on goes terribly wrong and the group ends up stumbling into something that could ultimately be the end of the human race.

Fast forward years ahead and meet Amy.  Amy is a six-year-old girl who has been abandoned by her father, then her mother, and lastly society.  She’s considered a Jane Doe since there is almost no one left to worry if she went missing and there are individuals that exploit this fact.

I don’t want to too much away but I will tell you that there is another story line that is many years later and takes up the focal point of the story and it has to do with vampire-esqe super creatures.  You finally get to know the characters in that portion of the book so I’ll admit that you won’t have much connection with the characters until you’re a good 400-500 pages in…so don’t put it down too soon!

“So Ann Marie how was the book?” you ask.  Here’s the four point summary:

  • I couldn’t read it while Adam was away for work because I freaked myself out so much
  • I’m glad it’s over
  • I was upset to find out that there will be a sequel
  • I quite honestly don’t want to read the sequel

The ending left me feeling as though it didn’t end…and when I went online and checked out Justin Cronin’s website I found out why.  He’s one of those authors that wrote the book to be a movie and there is going to be a sequel written.  UHHHH.  If I would have known that an 800 page book was going to have a sequel than I wouldn’t have picked it up.   My coworker Stephanie and I were discussing drawing straws when it comes out to decide who’s forced to read it first.  If she gives a good synopsis I might not even read it!

While the book kept the pages turning I felt as though it was a bit too “enlightening” for my taste and had very religious undertones throughout the book…even though it was very scary.  I found his writing quite similar to some of the Stephen King novels that I have read in the past so if you like Stephen King I recommend it…if not, I would skip on this very large thriller.   

***/5 stars

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I gave Oprah ONE last chance on her book club after being disappointed not once, but, twice with her recommendations. SIDEBAR:“The Road” is one of the worst books that I’ve ever read and was lacking what I consider the three most important parts of a novel; storyline, character substance, and an ending. “Edgar Sawtelle” was so bad that I tried to read it three different times and couldn’t get past 40 pages. So when in September Oprah chose Franzen’s long anticipated book “Freedom” as her next choice I was extremely apprehensive. What pushed me over onto the “third chance” wagon was the fact that most of the book took place in Minnesota; and I’m glad that I hopped on.

“Freedom” paints a tale spanning three decades with the Berglund’s, being primarily back dropped in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The novel refers to the kind of freedom that being part of the upper middle class can give you, and in turn, the kind of decisions that threaten that freedom. The book is packed full of affairs, differing agendas and goals over time of a married couple, rock and roll, friendships from college warped over time and decades old regrets. If you like the movie “American Beauty” then you should definitely pick this one up.

There was only one character that I had an issue with and after checking it out online, it turns out that I wasn’t the only one. Patty Berglund is an ultra competitive ex-player for the U of M Gophers women’s basketball team. She ends up being competitive after college in the only thing that she ever learned how to do…raise 2 kids and take care of her house. Since Patty has nothing else fulfilling in her life she takes it out on everyone else her life and has the “whoa is me” act town to an art form. Part of the book is actually a memoir that she wrote as part of an assignment from her psychologist. I’ll admit that the memoir was extremely sharp, witty, and well written but hearing someone complain about how terrible their life is in the upper middle class just isn’t something that I’ll ever understand. SIDEBAR: If rich people are feeling so depressed it’s called charity people. Go work at a soup kitchen for a few days or volunteer to help out less fortunate children in your community. If that won’t make you feel like you have a purpose then go find a corner to cry in at your five bedroom mini mansion.

All in all I found the book as a slightly guilty pleasure and the end did not disappoint. And while some parts are kind of graphic it’s primarily about real life topics that happen with families, marriages, and friendships over time. One of the most creatively put together novels that I’ve ever read and I’m putting it on my Christmas “nice” list and taking Oprah’s book club off the of “naughty” list for the time being. ****/5 stars

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I’ve been a big fan of Bobby Flay’s since I started watching the Food Network about 4-5 years ago and got caught up in “The Iron Chef”.  I then continued to fall more in love with Bobby after a couple of seasons of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” where he takes on the experts in their respective dish.  For example, if there is a pumpkin pie hot spot in your town that is world-famous, the Food Network will come in and say that they want to do a story on it.  Then when they’re demo-ing the cooking process Bobby Flay will come in, everyone will FREAK out, and then he’ll try to beat them in their own game.  Bobby and his two assistants are pretty hilarious and they give him a lot of crap throughout the show.  Anyways, I’m diverging.  The real thing that I wanted to write about was Bobby’s restaurant that we went to for dessert yesterday, “Mesa Grill” in Caesar’s Palace. 

The reason that I wanted to go for dessert can be seen below.  The Coconut Layer Cake.  Bobby commented and revealed this cake during season 5 of “Throwdown” and I knew that I would have to have it.  He raved about how it is the ultimate coconut lovers dessert and boy was he right….

It was worth the $11, the astronomical amount of calories, and the 1/2 mile + walk to get there.  If all cake tasted like that, I’d probably be the size of a baby humpback whale and would actually think that cake was an appropriate food to serve at a wedding.  Adam had the banana cream pie which he also said was really good and was served upside down so that the crunchy portion didn’t get soggy (which I thought was ingenious). 

After taking a look at the rest of the menu we thought that it might be nice to come back for lunch and that the meal prices weren’t that different from other places that we had seen in Vegas.  So, we’ll see if we get a chance to come back to Mesa Grill this weekend for some fabulous looking Southwestern dishes!

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I know what you’re thinking, “this chick has an irrational obsession with soup”.  Well, let me at least defend myself!  When I feel like cooking I dislike wasting food.  Since soup is such a great thing to freeze and bring for work lunches, I tend to gravitate towards it whenever the man can’t have dinner with me.

 

Potato and Bacon Soup
This is a delicious recipe that I customized from a ham and potato soup from allrecipes.com.  I mean, how can a dish with bacon and potatoes go wrong?  I’ll honk my horn and say that this is one of the BEST soups I’ve ever made! 

Ingredients: 

  • 4-5 large potatoes, cut to spoon sized pieces
  • 5 TBSP butter
  • 5 TBSP flour
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups milk (might need more)
  • 2 cups reserved potato water (don’t add all right away)
  • ½ cup fat-free cream (if not, no big deal)
  • ¼ cup scallions, diced  
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Shredded cheese and scallions to garnish

Tips: Feel free to leave the potato skins on, to substitute low-fat butter or a butter/margarine mixture, and add celery. 

Instructions: 

  1. Boil the potatoes until they’re cook almost all the way through, strain, and make sure you save and set aside the 2 cups of the starchy potato water. 
  2. At the same time, fry the bacon bits and garlic in a small pan and set aside.
  3. Make a roux with the butter and flour in a large pot.  If you’re not sure what that is, here are the details: “How to Make Roux Video”.  
  4. Slowly add the milk into the roux pot.  Once there are no chunks of roux by mixing it slowly with a spatula, add the potatoes, bacon/garlic mixture, cream, salt, and pepper.
  5. Once you get a gauge on the thickness, start adding the starchy water until it’s a little thinner than you’re desired texture (it will thicken up a little).  Simmer for 5 minutes.

  1. Add the scallions (reserving a few for a garnish) and season to your desired salt and pepper level. 
  2. Garnish with scallions and shredded cheese!

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