Sunday, February 28, 2010

Some favorites

When I uploaded my photos of last week's recipes, I found this one of our cat Atticus. Edwin took it, I think, when he was documenting our TV saga for his blog. Atticus is definitely a favorite around here:
I made a couple of our favorite dinners last week. I'm sure you'll be surprised when I tell you they're Sara Foster recipes.

On Monday, I made what Edwin calls Fancy Mac and Cheese. Technically, it's Creamy Mac, Chicken, and Cheese* from Fresh Every Day. It has spinach in it and is truly my favorite version of mac and cheese. The recipe calls for a combination of heavy cream and milk, but I used all milk to decrease the fat. There's really nothing that isn't good about this recipe, and if you only made one Sara Foster recipe ever, this should be the one. I halved it last week, but it makes a ton and is great for company.

See how creamy it is on the bottom and crispy it is on top? That's my favorite thing about macaroni and cheese.

I also made Edwin's favorite salad, from Sara Foster's Casual Cooking: More Fresh, Simple Recipes from Foster's Market. It' s Tomato, Cucumber, and Feta Cheese Salad with Fresh Basil.** It's basically a greek salad (without lettuce or greens) with jalepeƱo and fresh basil. The pepper and basil give it a more complex flavor that we love. I usually serve it with toasted pitas, and we stuff the salad into the bread to make a whole meal out of it, but last week I had some mystery grains on hand and used them.

Have you ever had Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend? It is fantastic! I don't remember buying the bag, nor do I remember it being given as a gift, but I am so glad it was in my cooking drawer. The bag says it's a "savory blend of Israeli style couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa." If you live near a Trader Joe's, go buy this. It is seriously amazing, and I plan on buying a case when I get to a TJ next.

I just followed the directions on the bag and served the salad on top, and Edwin and I both devoured it.

I hope you like it. I made it.

*Foster, Sara. Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster's Market. "Creamy Mac, Chicken, and Cheese." p. 229

**Foster, Sara.
Sara Foster's Casual Cooking: More Fresh, Simple Recipes from Foster's Market. "Tomato, Cucumber, and Feta Cheese Salad with Fresh Basil." p. 41.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Eat your way through Raleigh

This past weekend was Gransefest 2010: Burton Edition, redux.

That means that I got together with Emmel, Amey, and Char for a weekend. (FYI: I don't really call them Emmel and Amey. I call them by their first and last names, together, always, but don't want to mess with their online anonymity). The first time the 4 of us got together Edwin called it a Granseefest, and the name stuck. This weekend we celebrated Char's engagement, hence the Burton edition. It was redux because we had to reschedule from the snow weekend. Remember, when I was bummed out and had to go here to drown my sorrows in cream?

So I didn't actually take any pictures of my food.

I know, I know.

But I'll tell you everything I ate, which is almost as good. Then you too can go to Raleigh and eat your way through it, fancy style.

Before you continue, you need to know I really am going to chronicle my meals and not much else. Consider yourself warned.

I got in Thursday night around 8. I went to Moe's at Cameron Village and ordered a burrito to go. Burritos from Moe's are a big deal to me, and Cameron Village holds a special place in my heart. It's where my parents took us to buy shoes at Ryan's and then go to Baskin Robbins afterwards. It's where my library was, which is where I met Miss Benjie at age 3. At age 23 I decided I wanted to be Miss Benjie when I grow up. It's where Emmel and I spent summer nights outside the Village Draft House trying to decide if we liked our boyfriends or not and naming her future dogs. It's where Susanna and I went to the K & W. A lot. It's a good place.

This is what I ate at Moe's on Thursday: junior Joey Bag of Donuts with steak. No rice. Black beans. Cheese. Cilantro. Little onion. I had salsa verde with my chips. It was perfect.

Friday Emmel and I went to Starbucks (decaf grande skim cinnamon dulce latte no whip) after breakfast (cheerios). For lunch, we went to Sitti, Neomonde's new sit down restaurant. I looooove Neomonde (more than Med Deli in Chapel Hill, haters) and I knew I'd looooove Sitti. I did.

We shared hommos and each had the day's special pizzette, which had green apple, beef shawarma and mozzarella. YUM.

For dinner, we went to Irregardless, another Raleigh classic. Amey had arrived by then, so there were 3 of us. I ordered the Morgan Street Chicken, which is odd for me because I never order chicken at restaurants. I'm glad I did, though, because it was delicious. Some of the best chicken I ever had, I think. It was probably the lemon tahini dressing they used to marinate it.

Saturday we went to Starbucks again (I need it as much as possible when I'm out of town. Our closest Starbucks is in Ellijay, Georgia. That's not really close.) I ordered another latte, and we had to get Barbara, Emmel's mom, a drink because we were going to see her and drop off the dog. Barbara, I kid you not, always orders this:

Triple tall skim peppermint wet capuccino. It's her signature drink.

For brunch, we went to The Weathervane at A Southern Season. I thought about breakfast items, as I am a longtime fan of the breakfast quesadilla, but the salad sampler was calling out to me. I ordered it and got a scoop of these salads: apple and fennel, black bean and corn, and brocoli and bacon. The apple and fennel was definitely my favorite, but they all were scrumptious.

We were eating a late dinner (when I called the restaurant they could only get us in at 8:30) so I texted Amey and Char to tell them to eat a snack. Yes. I know that is a mom thing to say, but we all needed a snack. (4:30: I had a bag of freeze-dried fruit from Fresh Market and an Izze.)

After reuniting with Char, squealing at how pretty her wedding dress is, oooohing over the ring, and ahhhhing at her wedding notebook, we headed out on the R-Line to Gravy.

Okay Gravy? Amazing. Not Southern cuisine, like you might think because of the name, but Italian-American deliciousness. It was packed when we got there and the hostess told us it would be just a tiny wait for our table. The tiny wait turned into 30 minutes, in which I poured Char some water so she could take her cold medicine, the manager brought us free wine, and the co-manager brought us a free appetizer.

Once we sat down we got another appetizer.

Thank you, Gravy!

Our first free appetizer, which we ate standing up, was some sort of bruschetta. It's not on the menu, so I'm not exactly sure what it was besides fantastic. She asked us, before bringing us anything, if we liked lamb, and we all do, so I was hoping for that. But when she came with the bruschetta, she apologized for just selling out of the lamp appetizer. It was okay and I didn't have to throw down, because the brushcetta was excellent.

Once we sat down, they brought us Crispy Polenta and oh my. Think of a fancy mozzarella stick, but inside is polenta. It comes with their signature gravy, which is basically this really amazing tomato sauce.

We all had to get lots of feedback about the menu from our server, who was really nice, and I ended up ordering the Pork Cannoloni. It had red pepper flakes in it, but it wasn't spicy. It just had this nice, full-bodied flavor and I was in absolute heaven. Edwin and I enjoyed the leftovers when I got home Sunday. (I was full from the apps!)

I looooove Gravy. I want to go back. Now.

For breakfast Sunday we all went to Whole Foods at Ridgewood, another favorite Raleigh spot. I gazed at the hot bar for a while but ended up with greek yogurt and honey, fresh fruit, and granola. It was a perfect meal before hitting the road for my six hour drive.

I ate like a queen, and I'm missing Raleigh (and my sweet friends) already.

I hope you like it. I [haven't] made it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Something fun

Go read my friend Katrina's new blog. She's a librarian and a lover of olive oil, so we're basically the same person.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Healthy's not my favorite flavor

Alternately titled: The Trouble with Lima Beans

Monday was a snow day with no snow, which is my favorite type. I asked Edwin, before I left for the gym this morning, what he wanted for dinner. "Meatloaf!" was the quick response, and I've had a recipe for meatloaf I've been meaning to try. I saved it from a Real Simple last year-- I'm pretty sure it's the same issue that had the chicken and vegetable pot pie. It was an issue featuring healthy alternatives to comfort foods, if memory serves.

So I set out to make this turkey meatloaf. Instead of making mashed potatoes, I made these crash hot potatoes, my all time favorite way to make taters at home. I planned on lima beans to round out the meal:

The meatloaf was okay. Edwin liked it and I ate it, but it tasted... healthy. Not bad, just healthy. I like my meatloaf to taste not healthy, which was my issue with this recipe.

The crash hot potatoes, which are basically just cooked til crispy red potatoes with olive oil, were delicious as always.

And then the lima beans.

Oh, lima beans. I have a complicated history with lima beans.

I love them. I always have them in my freezer. I make them often. But sometimes they fail me.

Last summer, Edwin and I were grilling out for dinner. When we grill, I prepare whatever is going on the grill and he actually cooks it. I was chatting outside with him while a pot of lima beans was simmering on the stove. I guess we got caught up in whatever we were talking about, because 30 minutes later I remembered my limas. I ran into the house and woah. The smell.

You know how on the bag of lima beans it says to simmer just until the beans are tender? Whoever wrote those directions means it.

I had let the limas go too long and they had dried up and shriveled and released an unmistakable odor: weed. Seriously. Lima beans left too long on the stove will absorb all the water and make your kitchen smell like weed. It's not a good smell.

I haven't made that mistake since.

But last night? Last night I made a new one.

I wanted to save some time. I followed the directions on the bag for microwaving the lima beans. I thought I did everything right, but when they came out, they looked like this:
Dry, shriveled, and pale.

They tasted bad. The insides were tough and the outsides were leathery. They were not good lima beans.

For the fourth time in our marriage, Edwin admitted that he couldn't eat what I had put on the plate. (Please be aware, there have been many times when I couldn't eat what I put on the plate--Edwin is much more forgiving when it comes to food)

What I'd like for you to take away from this post is the following information:

1. Turkey meatloaf is not bad, good for you, and worth it if you need to up your daily fiber intake.
2. Crash hot potatoes are fantastic.
3. Lima beans should neither be left on the stove for 40 minutes while you're drinking a glass of wine of the porch nor microwaved according to bag specifications.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oatmeal Cookie Hearts and other things to love

My cousins Laura and val are some of the best cooks I know. I've never had a thing from them that wasn't delicious. Seriously.

For our wedding, Laura and val gave us two cookbooks: Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day, which by now you know I adore, and Wish You Were Here, their own little cookbook. Wish You Were Here is a homemade cookbook that they bound themselves, full of their family's favorite recipes. I love it.

One of the recipes is for Oatmeal Cookie Hearts, a recipe from Laura's mother. Here's what Laura says about them: "These irresistable butter-laden cookie 'cakes' have become legendary in our house around Valentine's Day. The recipe was my mother's, though no one but me remembers her making them. Making the cookie sandwiches is labor intensive, but I see it as a labor of love-- a Valentine to my sweethearts"

This recipe is definitely a labor of love, but it's so worth it. I've made these two years in a row now, with plans to continue this tradition. Here's the recipe:

Cookie Dough:
1 c. butter (softened)
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
2 1/2 c. flour
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
2 c. oats

3/4 c. butter (softened)
4 c. powdered sugar
1 unbeaten egg white
1 t. vanilla
1- 1 1/2 c. coconut
red or pink food coloring

To make dough, cream butter and sugar together on high speed in an electric mixer. Reduce speed to medium and add egg and extracts. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder and combine. Add oats and mix thoroughly. Chill dough (2 hours or more).*

*Sarah's notes: I don't sift. I'm too lazy. I chilled mine overnight this year and it worked just fine.

Divide dough into manageable amounts and roll out on floured surface until dough is about 1/8" thick. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Place cut cookies on a greased baking sheet. Continue rolling and re-rolling until all the dough has been cut into cookies. Bake at 350 12-13 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.*

*Sarah's notes: I needed a lot of flour for my surface. Maybe the dough was too cold, but I found it very sticky. I used two different sizes of heart-shaped cutters. They are cute.

To make the icing, cream butter and slowly add sifted powdered sugar. Combine until creamy. Add egg white and extract; mix thoroughly. Add small amounts of food coloring to icing and mix until desired color intensity is reached. Finally, blend in coconut.*

*Sarah's notes: Again, no sifting. I added a little milk to make the mixing go easier. Since not everyone I was giving cookies to likes coconut, I iced some cookies without the coconut before mixing it in.

Now you are ready to assemble the cookie "cakes". Each "cake" requires two cookies layered together with icing. Once you have a cookie/icing "sandwich", you will ice the top and sides just as if it were a small cake. This will take some practice but will get easier after the first few. Place iced cookies on a wire rack to "dry" a bit. These cookies have the unique quality of tasting better as they age. Nevertheless, you'll want to store them in a sealed container...if they last that long!*

*Sarah's notes: The icing of the cakes isn't too hard, but as you can see, I don't go for perfection. Here's a large cookie cake without coconut in the icing:

You can see the smaller ones with the coconut icing in the background-- that icing is lumpier. I didn't take a picture of the large heart cake with coconut, but here are some smaller ones. I made some small cakes and just topped the rest with icing:

I gave these, along with small candy-filled boxes and peppermint brownies, to my coworkers and Edwin's coworkers. Here are the peppermint brownies:

To make them, just make any brownie recipe you like. Bake for 5 minutes less than the required time. Remove from oven and cover surface with broken peppermint patties. Bake for the remaining 5 minutes. Spread the melted peppermint with a spatula as soon as you remove from the oven. Allow to cool; slice.

And I have to share this last thing with you. My friend and coworker Wanda gave us goodie bags, with these in them:

Yes, that is a box of conversation hearts turned into an i-pod.

She covered them with paper, typed out a playlist for the menu, and attached peppermint patties as earbuds.
SO cute!

Enjoy your Valentine's Day. Make someone you love a treat. Or share a treat with someone you love. Or get a Steak Junior from Char-Grill in Raleigh, a box of red wine, and a DVD of Grey's Anatomy and go to town. Each of these ideas is a Fancy-Gransee tried and true method to enjoying Valentine's day.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I'll just hang out here, by the food.

Ah, the Superbowl. I can't say I exactly look forward to it-- football is so not my thing-- but I have enjoyed it in past years when there was a party to attend. My favorite parties are the ones where there's a girl or two who, like me, isn't in it for the game. I'm looking for friends who are in it for the food.

We're going to Carla and Claude's for the game (yes, we have other friends. It's just that C and C are so charming and fun-- and they're our neighbors now-- so we spend a lot of time together). I'm making dips.

I will be bringing, thanks to my secret and unknowing bff Ree Drummond, pico de gallo, guacamole, and mexican layer dip.

I'm thinking I'll be the only one there who doesn't care so much about the actual game, but that's okay. Carla and I may end up doing yoga in between feedings-- we tried kickboxing on Saturday and ouch. I'm seeing some sore hip flexors in my future.

Pico de gallo and guacamole:
I need them for the layer dip. Here it is:
We're all going for the Saints for these reasons (I think): Carla is from Louisiana, Claude is married to Carla, Edwin thinks they're exciting, and I don't like to rock the boat at sporting events. So geaux Saints!

And geaux chips and dips!
And geaux salsa pig with guac in it!
I hope you like it. I made it.


Let's make pudding!

I found this recipe over at Real Simple the other day and thought I'd try it out. Since I'm abandoning my husband for Valentine's Weekend (I'll be back for dinner Sunday night) I thought I'd make it this weekend for a treat.

I bring you: pudding. Fancy pudding. Chocolate-Cinnamon Pudding with Raspberries!

I was a little nervous about the saran wrap layer. There was talk of a skin forming if I let air on it too long, and I'm pretty sure the skin would seriously gross me out. I hate skin forming on anything I'm going to eat, and I don't even really like skin that's naturally occurring (chicken skin, that is). But I went with it anyway.

Edwin helped with the layer of saran wrap: as I ladled the warm, delicious pudding into ramekins, Edwin did the plastic covering. I would love this warm (and I definitely sampled some) but I made it ahead of time and chilled it for later.

We had this for dessert after I made chicken and vegetable pot pie tetrazzini. I took this recipe, also from real simple and one I make often, and made it into a tetrazzini.

(I'm not actually sure what tetrazzini is, except when I make Betty Crocker's version it involves chicken and pasta and baking.)

Instead of putting the pie crust on top, which is oh so delicious, I mixed in a box of whole wheat pasta and baked it at 350 for 30 minutes, uncovered. The pot pie filling isn't bad for you-- no butter, no cream-- and leaving out the pillsbury, I'm assuming, greatly reduces the fat.

Here it is:
Pretty tasty, if I say so myself. Not quite as tasty as it would have been with the pie crust on top, but we were saving calories for the grand finale.
And the pudding? It was excellent.
Rich and creamy and not too sweet. It was special. Most things served in ramekins are special, if you ask me.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Eat here!

If you live near where I live and need good food, go to Cucina Rustica in Morganton, Georgia.

If you're disappointed because Granseefest 2010: Burton Edition was postponed due to weather, rally your in town friends (Carla and Claude, you know them by now) and make the trek to Blue Ridge in the rain (and in the car).

Order the following:

Vongole Al Forno
Little neck clams on the half-shell topped with seasoned bread crumbs, garlic and butter then baked in our wood-fired oven

Anitpasto Freddo Per Due
An assortment of Imported Italian cheeses and cured meats, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted peppers

Don't eat the clams if you're me, because you're allergic to shellfish. You can still enjoy their buttery aroma, and you get extra olives from the antipasto plate.

Then enjoy your salad, which is served family style.

Next, when the entrees come, be glad your table of 4 ordered the following (and doesn't mind sharing bites):

2 orders of VITELLO RUSTICA (Veal Rustica)
Lightly breaded veal stuffed with prosciutto and fontina cheese then topped with a porcini mushroom sauce

Delicate crepes rolled with spinach and ricotta cheese, topped with a parmigiano beschamel sauce and then baked in our wood-fired oven

Meat-filled tortellini tossed in a rich cream sauce with prosciutto, peas and parmigiano cheese

Wish you had saved room for tiramisu or spumoni, but settle, at the end of your meal, for a cup of decaf coffee.


I hope you like it. I [haven't] made it.