Friday, November 28, 2008

Pickin' apples

Pickin' suncrisp apples to be exact. Boog and I went out to Lynd's Fruit Farm early on a Saturday this past October with the intention of picking Asian pears. When we arrived we found out that the pear trees were picked clean the day before. After a brief moment of being totally bummed (complete bummitude!), we decided to pick some Suncrisp apples. The nice pady at the gate assured me they were crispy and sweet; I asked how they compared to my favorite,the fabulous Honeycrisp. She said "Nothing compares to the honeycrisp, honey."

We had a great time going through the orchard, looking for the biggest and best apples. I was somewhat surprised to see that all of the trees are pretty short, maybe 7 to 8 feet tall a the most. The last apple tree I remember seeing was in the yard of a house in Dayton back in fall of 1985. . A classmate of mine was renting a room there and invited us for a picnic - Bambi-burgers, fresh veggies and homemade apple pie! That tree was huge! HUGE, I tell ya! The littel trees at Lynds were full of apples, though, and nearly all were within easy reach.

We picked a full bag and headed back to the car and to the exit gate to pay. Almost all of the apples made it...
Here are some of those that made it home:

The Suncrisps are indeed crisp and sweet. And they're very juicy, too, but next year, I'll be taking the proper Fridays off to pick both Honeycrisps and Asian pears.

There were plenty of other things to do at the big tent Lynds has set up at the big intersection - lot's of fresh baked goods, other crops (gigantic fresh picked cabbage, cucumber, zucchini, peppers, onions, potatoes, and of course, lots of defferent kinds of apples). There was freshly made caramel corn, giant pecan turtles, great hot dogs (again, huge!), fresh squeezed lemonade...nothing was cheap, but it was all tasty.

Can't wait for next fall. We had a great day.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Shrimp and Scallop pasta

I created this dish a couple of years ago and forgot about it. I found the recipe written in one of my notebooks and remembered how much we liked it, so I gathered the ingredients together and cooked it up tonight. It was as tasty as I remembered, but perhaps could have used a bit more heat (red pepper flakes).
It's quick to make, not too fancy, but tastes rich. There's a whole lot of garlic in it, and If you've read any of my other posts, you know I love garlic.

This recipe made about 4 servings.

Shrimp and Scallop Pasta
½ pound pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 pound Shrimp, peeled (26-30 size)
½ pound bay scallops,rinsed
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces plain tomato sauce
4 ounces chicken broth
2 more ounces chicken broth with ½ teaspoon flour blended in
1 small tomato, diced, drained
1 roasted red pepper, cut in ½" x ½" pieces
½ teaspoon dried "Italian seasoning" blend (blend of basil, oregano,
Hot red pepper flakes to taste (¼ to ½ teaspoon)

put the shrimp and scallops in separate bowls. Sprinkle each with ¼ of the Italian seasonings and stir.
Cook the pasta per package directions.
Heat the Olive oil in a large saute pan on medium-high
Add the sliced garlic, cook 20 seconds or so.
Add the shrimp, saute about a minute.
Add the tomato and roasted red pepper. Saute another minute.
Add the 4 ounces of chicken broth, the tomato sauce & minced garlic. Bring to a boil
Cover and cook for another minute.
Add the scallops.
Stir the broth with the flour to be sure it is well blended and add it to the pan.
Add the red pepper flakes and return to a boil.
Cook until the scallops are just cooked through, another minute or 2.
Toss with the pasta in a large bowl, and serve.

I've used shrimp and scallops, but I think the next time I might try some shrimp and fish, like cod or even salmon.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chicken Sausage with Spinach, Feta and pignoli

I've wanted to try these sausages since I saw them at Whole Foods - Chicken Sausage with Spinach, Feta and pignloi. I finally picked some up last weekend and popped them into the freezer for safe keeping. I pulled them out yesterday and tonight came up with this recipe. I will definitely be making this again. be warned, though, most of the amounts of ingredients were just eyeballed as I made this up as went along, so use your best judgement - more of what you like, less of what you don't...

The eggplant, tomato and basil came fresh out of my garden. It was a pretty good year back there.

Chicken Sausage with other stuff...
3 fresh Chicken sausage with spinach, feta and pignoli, about 1 pound
Roasted eggplant, about 1 pound
1 can of cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed.
Roasted red pepper, cut ½" by ½"
Fresh tomato, chopped
Gemelli pasta, about ½ pound
Paranno cheese, shredded
Fresh basil, cut chiffonade
½ cup chicken broth/stock
Olive oil

Set oven to 350°.
Prick the eggplant all over and put in a baking dish (foil lined) and roast for about 45 minutes.
Cook the pasta per package directions.
When the eggplant is done, remove the peel and cut into bite sized pieces.
Slice the sausage into about ½ inch slices.
Heat a large pan, add olive oil, brown the sausage on both sides in batches. Remove to a plate, keep warm.
Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth.
Add the beans, red pepper, tomatoes, eggplant, and sausage, and stir gently (don't break the beans!) to heat through.
Serve over a small bed of gemelli, top with shredded parrano cheese and some of the sliced basil.

some notes:
Slicing sausage was made easy as thy were still partially Frozen. I would recommend removing the casing first, too.
When browning the sausage, between each batch try to scrape out some of the looser browned bits and pignoli that may escape from the slices and put them with the cooked slices.

Since I was pretty much just winging it, I'll make a couple of changes next time:
I'll I think I'll saute some garlic, probably sliced, before the sausage, then use some white wine to deglaze.

The Parrano cheese was a great find. Boogie and I tated it on a trip to Whole foods about a month ago, and I picked up a wedge this past week when I bought the sausage. I thought it tatsted like a combination of parmesan and gouda - turns out I hit the nail right on the head. From their web page:
It has the alluring nutty flavor of a fine-aged Parmesan with the versatility of a young Dutch Gouda.

It's great right out of the package and with apple slices, too.

UPDATE: 2200, 09/28/08: I was poking around my favorite sites and I remembered what really inspired me to get these great sausages:Sausage, greens and beans on Dave's Beer. Good stuff.


Monday, July 07, 2008

It's as easy as riding a bike...

And today, that's what Boogie did.
After a nice dinner of Tilapia stuffed with crab, we headed outside to relax for a bit on the front steps. I decided that it was a great night for Boogie to try his bicycle without the training wheels, so he scurried inside, retrieved his helmet, elbow pads & knee pads, the air pump, his water bottle, the pliers and the adjustable wrench. Yes, he was quite prepared. After struggling with one of the training wheels for a good 10 minutes (that sucker just didn't want to come off!), we were finally ready.
I figured I'd be running along beside him, propping him up by the back of his seat for a good hour while he got the hang of riding, the balance, the steadiness.



Two times.

That was it! I only had to steady him up a couple of times and away he went:
The second time...

And away he went!

I'm completely stunned; he just took to it immediately. I think it took me a week to learn what he did tonight in all of 5 minutes. It wasn't a perfect trip every time, of course, but he only ate dirt once. He did get sucked into the retaining wall a few times, though:
conclusion: retaining wall = Bike magnet

After about an hour of practicing going back and forth on the sidewalk, I think he was pretty pleased with himself:

Cool bike, cool kid. Very proud mommy and daddy.


Monday, June 23, 2008

We need a home!

UPDATE: Both of these fabulous felines have been placed in great homes.

Our neighbors are currently trying to care for a very young, very sweet mother cat and her lone surviving kitten, and we'd like to help find them a home. The mother cat (I call her "Velvet") isn't much more than a kitten herself, maybe a year old, 2 at the absolute most. The kitten (I've been calling her "Teddie") is about 12 weeks old, still quite fluffy, and very playful; she was trying to play soccer with us last night. The ball is so much bigger than she is that my wife was calling her "Kittiana Jones" (remember the boulder scene in "Temple of doom"?).

Here are some pics of both. If you want to adopt them or know some one who might, please contact me. They're both very sweet and friendly and need a real home as soon as possible.

Here's some kitty eye candy. I know that once you have a taste, you'll want to hold and cuddle and play with them and take them home...

This is Momma kitty (I call her "Velvet). she's soft and sweet, and loves her kitten.

Say "Hi" to the kitten (I call her "Teddie"). she fluffy and extraordinarily playful.

"Better back off...ok, not really, I'm just playin'! Ain't I fierce lookin' , though?"

I'm hungry and lonely and want a hooman to take me home!!!!

Please help us find these girls a home.
Contact me at Lorence.Sing @ (take out the spaces to get the real address...)


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chile Verde Cafe, Great (New) Mexican

I've been meaning to post about Chile Verde Cafe for a while.

We've been regular customers of this small Mexican jewel for well over 15 years and for good reason: the all-made-from-scratch food is great and the staff has always been top notch. Chile Verde has always been a family business, and even now that a new family is running the place, it's still related in some way to the old family. The current owner, Tom Anthony is just as friendly a host as our old pal Julie was (Julie, we miss you and hope you are well!). We've seen waiters come and go, too, including our old regular waiter, Rob, but through it all, one thing has remained constant, and that is the quality of the food.

Ok, start with the salsa. nice fresh chips and the best salsa in all of Columbus. This photo doesn't do it justice.
It is a bit chunky with bits of onion, tomato, and peppers. It was the first salsa Boogie dug into and is still his favorite. Chile Verde was actually the first restaurant Boogie ever went to, at a couple of weeks old (shown here with me, a still weary mommy and Julie, Oct, 2000):
It is still Boogie's most requested place to go to for a night out or a weekend lunch.

On one recent visit, I had my favorite, the shredded beef chimichanga. Most of their selections come in a shredded beef variety (Chicken, too), soft tender, slow cooked, tasty shredded beef and plenty of it, too. I only have a shot of the half I brought home:
There's just the right amount of cheese over the top with a merlot mushroom sauce, too. And the side dishes - don't be afraid to stray from what the menu says each dish comes with, substitutions are allowed without question. While the rice is just o.k., the beans and potatoes really shine. There are 2 types of potato: the fabulously thin and crispy shoestring fries (even better than Steak and Shake's), and the mashed potatoes, flecked with red pepper. I usually get one of the potatoes and ALWAYS get the pinto beans. These are not your ordinary, bland run-of-the-mill refried Mexican restaurant refrieds. No, my friends, these are spicy, house-made tender-firm, spicy moist and meaty spicy beans. And their spicy, too. If you lucky, you'll go on a night that chef is mad about something and the potatoes and beans will have that little extra "kick" to them. You'll know...

Last weekend we visited for a late afternoon lunch. It was the first time that we've been there in a looong time without having to wait for a table. Of course, we're usually there for dinner and have a wait of at least 20-30 minutes even when we call ahead to get our name put on their list. This time, though, at about 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, we pretty much had the place to ourselves:

Boogie and I split the shredded beef nacho
with jalepenos, sour cream and guacamole. Between the two of us, we had no trouble cleaning that plate off. Karen had the shredded beef tacos. Be sure to ask for the red sauce on the side when you order tacos. They can be a bit plain without, but red sauce is the perfect completer for them.
The shredded beef burrito is also a family fav, as well as the enchilada. We usually pair them together in the CV Duo Plate.
Other items of note: chile rellenos, fajitas, green chili stew, beer, wine, margaritas and a children's menu.

If you live in Columbus and think Vaqueros is fab, you must try Chile Verde.
Those who know, don't go Vaquero.

In a nutshell, the food is consistently good, the service warm and friendly. The prices are more mid-range other Mexican places, but worth every cent. They also have a full margarita menu with each one made from a fresh on-site made mix. With their drinks, like their food, freshness reigns.

Some other reviews:
Columbus Alive, March, 2008

CMH Gourmand


Chile Verde Cafe is located at the west end of the Carriage Place Center, at 4852 Sawmill Rd., Columbus, Ohio
Call ahead for seating.


Appetizer in a box

In our never ending quest for a quick fix for dinner, Boogie found a new little treat for us in the Kroger freezer case, Mussels in Garlic Butter Sauce from Bantry Bay Seafood, an Irish mussel producer. The 1 pound package was on sale for $2.99 and I figured, "how bad could it be?".

All 3 of us love mussels, but have only had them out, at restaurants and wedding parties. Yes, I know they're quite easy to prepare, and I have a great recipe for "mussels prodotto" that I saw Lidia Matticchio Bastianich make on a cooking show on PBS a few months ago. I think it is from her book, Lidia's Family Table. I also just stumbled on "Tapas of Mussels" on The 64 Sq Ft Kitchen blog. I will try them both soon.

In the mean time and until I have the patience to do it myself, the Bantry Bay frozen mussels weren't bad at all!

We fixed them as an appetizer a few nights after we bought them . They cooked up quite easily and we were very happy with the taste.

To prepare them, the sealed package is opened and dumped into a large saucepan:

After heating on high for about 4 minutes and simmering for another 2-3 minutes,
I just transfered them to a big bowl and sat them in front of the family.

The mussels were sweet and tender and the sauce was good, not too bold, not really bold enough, but pleasant. It wasn't anywhere near the heavenly broth my table was fighting over at the Scottsdale, Arizona "Bobby's, A Mancuso Restaurant" back in August, 2006, but it wasn't bad at all, and certainly worth the effort of scooping up and slurping from an empty mussel shell.

The package went quickly that night, and we've since tried the "Tomato and Garlic Sauce" variety. Boogie really preferred them over the garlic and butter, but he was out voted 2-to-1 on our last shopping excursion (still $2.99).

Better luck next time , Boog...


Monday, April 28, 2008

A New Family Member

Last September (2007) I wrote about Emily's 20th birthday. The morning after Christmas, 2007, though, she had a massive stroke and died. Though at 20 years, she was very old, her death was still quite sudden.

We miss her immensely.

We also found the house to be so very quiet, just too quiet. And though we knew we could never replace Emily, we began to realize that we needed to bring another little one back into the house. I had thought we would wait until the fall, but that just wasn't going to happen. My boss told me about one of their cats that needed a different home, a more settled and quiet place, and we decided we couldn't wait until the fall, the time was now. So we went to meet our new cat, it was decided that we would call him Nick.

Nick has such a bittersweet/sad story; He was adopted by my boss's partner about 7 years ago from the Licking County Animal Shelter, where he arrived after being rescued from a his original owners who raised him for about a year in a closet (why, oh, why do people do stupid thing like that?). She took wonderful care of him and tried to look after all of his needs, but he is a bit scared and skittish, even after all these years, and was afraid of some their other animals, especially one other cat that completely terrorized him (strangely, that other cat looks a lot like Emily did...).

We brought him home on 3/27, and after a couple of days, he began to make himself right at home, claiming my side of the bed as his own:

In the month we've had him, we've found out that he's just a great big ol' baby, sweet, gentle and very loving. He absolutely loves to be be held, cuddled and pet, purrs very loudly and will rollover and cover his eyes while getting a belly rub.

Nick's mostly calm and relaxed now, though he's still a bit scared of people walking around him, and he REALLY doesn't like the doorbell or the vacuum. Overall, though, he's settled in real well and our house feels complete to us again.


Monday, April 14, 2008

A Cub Scout Outing - A visit to CD101.1

A fun tour of the locally owned and operated Alternative music station, CD101.1

What do you think, Future DJ's or no?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fresh Basil all winter long

Last September ('07), Dave posted about starting some basil cuttings hydroponically. This was about at the beginning of the start of the end of the basil season. After years of disappointment and complete inability to grow anything that even resembled basil, I had finally had a successful planting in the herb garden for summer '07 - I actually grew basil!
I know, it isn't really that big of a deal for most, but for me I always seemed to have a brown basil thumb. No longer. I even was hoping that I would have enough in the garden to make some pesto. That was a big fat joke. I'd only put in one plant (figuring I'd kill it just I had murdered all of the others) and I babied that plant all summer long. Around the beginning of September, though, I began pulling pieces off to use at a furious pace and though my lone plant began to grow infinitely better, it just wasn't going to make a pesto load in return. No matter, I thought, I'll just use what I have and maybe try out Dave's experiment on my kitchen window sill...

I'm getting a real spring mindset and preparing to plant for summer '08, which will definitely include multiple basil plants, and they're all going to come from my window sill. I'm pleased to report that I've had fresh basil all winter long as a result of the hydroponic growing and frequent clipping:

The above photo was taken around Mid December of a clipping growing for about a month and a half. I had two others that I thought had good enough roots to plant in a small container. I placed them in the window of the upstairs room with a nice eastern exposure, but it was either too cold, too eastern, too dry, too something, and they withered and died. of course, I began to get paranoid that my brown basil thumb had returned, but I still had my kitchen hydroponic basil going, growing, so we soldiered on. I babied it, changing the water every 2 weeks and adding a small bit of the only fertilizer I had in the house, Schultz African Violet Plus™ Liquid Plant Food. I put a couple of drops in 2 cups of water, drained the plant's bottle and refilled it with the fertilized water. I didn't cut any until mid January, then I went to town, using whatever I needed whenever I needed. The plant responded well. We even had plenty of large leaves for the beautiful Caprese salad that Boogie helped to make on Easter Sunday:
(Boogie's own Caprese salad recipe, sans salt and pepper on the platter -
people can add those if they want them, he reasons, and that way Grandpa won't get too much salt)

This week, I snapped this photo:
The last remaining original cutting is on the right, and while it looks pretty spindly, it has provided well. It has grown well and been snipped at quite a bit. I started the 3 other bottles about 2 weeks ago for future spring planting, and they've already grown 1 ½" roots. I'll probably keep the original in the house for the occasional quick access.

Thanks for the idea, Dave!

I wonder if this would work for oregano, too?


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Last Honeycrisp

When I was a kid back in the late 60's and early 70's, I loved the crisp, sweet juiciness of a great big white dotted Red Delicious apple. The disasters that go by that moniker in the stores today are mealy, dry and bland. I had all but given up on apples a couple of years ago when I discovered the Fuji. Not bad, I thought. then I tried the Jonagold and the Cameo. Pretty good. Maybe there really are good apples still to be found, I thought.

And then I came upon the Honeycrisp. Sweet. Juicy. Crisp. Bright. Tasty! A Great apple, finally!
I don't think I've ever had any fruit better than a fresh picked Honeycrisp apple.


True, they're pricier than other apples, but I don't care. I think I even paid $3.99/lb for some at one point this past winter.
So it was during a bittersweet moment that I snapped this photo back in the middle of February. I was eating the last of the Honeycrisp apples. I was surprised to still find them in the store. I had found a small basket of them at Giant Eagle in mid-January and bought a bunch (I think I bought about 4 lbs @ $2.99/lb).

And this was the last was almost an Iron Eyes Cody moment.

Goodbye my honeycrisps, 'til next fall. I will miss you.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Thank goodness that's over...

It's been almost a month since winter hit Columbus in a big, big way with 18 inches of snow in our neighborhood over about a 24 hour period.

Boogie shot this as I attempted to dig the cars out.
Little did I know I'd be digging another 6 inches later on.

Since then we've had rain, sleet, rain, hail, sun, wind, cold rain, sun, warm rain, cold rain and more rain. And I think that was just the following week. Welcome to Ohio weather. What's that old saying?,"If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes."? Coined by an Ohioan, I'm sure.

Nothing new here, just some of photos of the "Blizzard of 2008":

First, my "winter wonderland" picture
ok, everyone say "aaaawwww...

Our snowy backyard

The driveway - this one car LONG driveway was a real pain to clear. I only did one side, right up the side of the house and was running out of places to move the snow to. The wind blew the snow to carve the shapes on the cars. My wife thought they looked like the ugliest vehicle on earth, the Pontiac Aztec. She made me clean them off right after she noticed.

There were a few others out, mostly dog walkers. The dogs seemed to really like the end of my driveway.

I'll have to check the weather report before I really believe it's all over - for now.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Windozes pooched

I'm coming back online soon. My home PC crashed - BSOD from a totally pooched windoze.

Moved went over to XP (was W2K & , NO, I will not go to Vista, A.K.A. Millenium II).

Just a few more apps to load and I'll be up again. yippee.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Herbed Pork Roast

I've only made a pork roast a couple of times before, and I don't recall either being all that great. So when My wife came home from the grocery ( I was a bit under the weather, so she subbed for me that week) with a big ol' hunka pork, I coulnd't help but wonder what the heck she was thinking! I guess I'd impressed her enough with my recent culinary accomplishments that she figured I'd have no problems...
After a bit of 'net research, I came up with a recipe that I hoped would produce a half-decent outcome. From the family's reaction, I think I did. I found a few tips here and there. First was to not trim off the layer of fat that is usually on one side of the roast and to keep that side up while roasting. Oiling up the roast with the seaonings and putting it in a very hot oven for a short while before turning it down for a long while was another good tip, helping to "seal" the piece and keep it juicy
so here's what I did----

2 ½ pound pork loin roast
Olive oil, a tablespoon or two
1 Tablespoon of a combination of herbs:
-a mix of rosemary, thyme, marjoram leaves
¼ teaspoon rubbed sage
¼ teaspoon ground red Thai chili
½ teaspoon of salt (I used kosher salt)
¼ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 450°
Put the olive oil in a small bowl.
Add the herbs, chili, salt and pepper, mix to blend.
Rub the mixture all over the roast (top, bottom, sides and all...).
Line a pan with foil and put the roasting rack in it.
Put the herbed roast on the rack with the fat side up and put the roast in the oven.

After 10 minutes, turn down the heat on the oven to 250° and continue to cook for 50 to 80 minutes, until a meat thermometer measures the internal temperature at150°. The cooking time will vary with the roast's shape - longer for a thicker piece, shorter for a more narrow piece.
When it is done, remove the roast to a cutting board. Cover it loosely with foil (I just loosely tented the roast) and let it sit for about 15 minutes to rest*.
Slice the roast about ¾" and serve.

I served mine with garlic-sour cream mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.
*Resting meat: there is some controversy as to whether one should cover/tent/wrap meat while resting (AKA complete carry-over cooking). It works for me, so I do it.

BTW, this is a bit of the "ground" Thai chili pepper I used. I made this from the peppers that Rosie brought me last fall (Thanks, Rosie!).


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tandoori Chicken Burgers

I was watching the PBS show Everyday Food last weekend - the show was called "The Best Burgers" (episode 405 according to their website). I love a good burger, but don't make them from scratch very often, so I thought it would be worth the time. After the show was over I had 2 things: a couple of interesting recipes to try and a big hunger. Good thing it was lunch time.

I didn't have any of the ingredients readily available for either of the recipes, so it was a couple of days before I could cook one up. The first (and as of 02/21/08, the only so far) was the Tandoori-style Chicken burger in pitas. There are so many interesting flavors going in, I was really looking forward to how they would turn out. I was also excited to get to use the cardamom pods I'd recently purchased from Penzey's. The original recipe called for a cumin-yogurt sauce, but I made the tahini mayonnaise from the veggie burger recipe.
The use of chicken thighs makes for great chicken flavor. The thighs are run through the food processed a bit to break them up, but not enough to make them mushy.
For the pitas, try to find the thin pitas, not the thick heavy ones. I'm not a big fan of one of the national brands, Father Sam's; they're just a bit too thick/bready for me, but are very popular and usually available near your grocer's deli department. If you live in an area that has an Aladdin's Eatery location (northern Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Antonio,Texas; western Pennsylvania, Chicago,Illinois; and 16 Ohio locations), I recommend that you stop in and buy a bag of pita from them. It's pretty cheap and perfect for almost anything, even (and especially) just snacking on. Oh, yeah, they're great for this dish, too.

1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs (4 to 5), cut into rough chunks.
4 scallions, sliced thin (both the white and the green parts)
2 Tablespoons of finely chopped fresh ginger (about a 2 inch piece, peeled)
2 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon of paprika
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom (I ground mine fresh in the old coffee mill!)
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
Whole wheat pitas
Cucumber, thin sliced on the bias
Fresh Cilantro leaves

Place the scallions, ginger, lemon juice, cumin, cardamom, cayenne, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Add the chicken and toss to combine all of the ingredients and set the bowl aside to marinate for up to 30 minutes (at least 10 minutes).

After no more than 30 minutes, transfer the chicken mixture to your food processor. Pulse the mixture just until it is roughly chopped, and not yet pasty (maybe a dozen pulses).

Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and spray it with vegetable oil spray (Pam or the equivalent)
Form small patties fromthe chicken mixture (about 3 Tablespoons each).
Season the patties with salt and pepper and place inthe skillet. Be sure not to crowd them.

Cook until they are opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes,then turn carefully and cook 2 to 3 minutes more.

Tahini Mayonnaise
1/2 cup of Mayonnaise (use the real stuff, not that nasty Kraft M.W.)
1 to 2 Tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 to 2 Tablespoons of tahini (I used "Ziyad" brand)

Whisk the above ingredients together and season with a bit of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

Serve the burgers in the pitas - halve the pitas and place 2 cooked patties inside with some cucumber slices, cilantro leaves and some tahini mayo.

They turned out moist, tender and full of freshness. I need to cook from scratch a lot more.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Garlic Lemon Shrimp Pasta

Yeah, let's hit all the good stuff at once - garlic, shrimp, pasta, and lemon all living in perfect harmony and with one goal in life: to make me happy.
This recipe is based on one of those old recipe cards I got from First Magazine years ago (early 1990's?). I haven't made it in a while, but I pulled it out last week when I was pressed for time. I always have a pound of shrimp in the freezer for emergencies, and I'd just been to the store and found some nice lemons at a decent price (for February), so I was all set (garlic is, of course, a staple...).

I usually use a thin spaghetti, and until recently my preffered pasta was Barilla Linguini Rigate. I can't seem to find it anymore and it's no longer mentioned on their web site. I've had to settle for their Spaghetti Rigati, which works ok , but it's a bit heavier than I like for this dish, although I think angel hair would be too thin. Such a delicate balance..

It's a pretty simple and quick recipe, and tastes even better as leftovers.

½ pound spaghetti
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed, then minced
¼ cup of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (I used the zest from ½ large lemon)
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice (I used the juice from ½ large lemon, the same ½ that I got the zest from)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta per package directions.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil and butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan.
Add the minced garlic and cook for about a minute.
Add the shrimp and cook until pinked through; that should only take a couple of minutes.
Add the parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice and toss well.
Be sure to time the finshing of the shrimp with the finishing of the pasta.
Drain the pasta and toss the drained pasta into the sauté pan of shrimp and garlic sauce, blending it well with the shrimp/garlic sauce.
Serve with a finish of a bit fine salt and fresh ground pepper, garnish with some thin lemon slices if you're into that sort of thing.

Sorry, no photo this time - too hungry.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Toasted Chili Mayonaise

Eager to do something constructive with my new haul from Penzey's I cracked open the chili powder with a specific condiment in mind. Since I had 1/2 of a torta carnitas in the fridge from our trip to Cuco's Taquieria, I decided to make some toasted chili powder mayonaise. I've made this before and love how it makes an ordinary sandwich jump with flavor. I never have found a real recipe for it, so this is what I've been doing. It seems to turn out ok:

Toasted Chili Mayonaise
2 to 3 Tablespoons Penzey's Chili powder (whatever type you choose is fine)
Real Mayonaise (I always use Hellman's, NEVER EVER that nasty M.W. stuff - even if I believed in miracles, it would take more than a miracle to make that stuff any good...)

Get a heavy skillet nice and hot over medium heat. Add the chili powder and toast the chili powder, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a mixing bowl to cool.

Once the powder has cooled, it can be transfered to it's own jar for future use, or just use some of it right away like I did to make the mayo.

Put a couple of Tablespoons of mayo in a small bowl. Add some toasted chili powder to it and blend well. Taste it & tweak the flavor - does it need more chili powder? Add some more, then! Too much chili? Add a bit more mayo. You'll know when it's right.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. I used some on my leftover Cuco's torta. Very nice...


Thursday, February 14, 2008

My first trip to Penzey's

Penzey's Spices.

I know it's been sitting there in that little round building on Reed Road for a couple of years now, I just never seemed to get there - until last weekend. Finally, I'm not a Penzey's virgin anymore.

I was no stranger to this building, though - I'd actually been inside of it years before it was a Penzey's. Way back, this odd shaped building was a bank, the covered portion on it's south side was drive-through. After the bank closed, and after a while of being empty, the building became the home of the "Zacchaeus Short Man's Clothing store". Yes, I'm a bit vertically challenged, so I visited the store in search of some pants to wear to work. I quickly learned that the name of the store should have been "Zacchaeus Short *FAT* Man's Clothing store". I was looking for 29x29 - they had 26x45, 27x49, etc., with prices as large as the wiast sizes and in those fabulous golf prints everybody loves to wear to the office... Lovely. Would you believe I didn't buy anything?

But I digress.

We stepped in to Penzey's and I almost felt overwhelmed. I have been receiving their catalog, so I was somewhat familiar with their products,but I was completely unprepared for how nice the actual store would be. Boogie grabbed a basket and I immediately started fiding things to put in it. Of course, I did have a list to follow and quickly reverted to it in a desperate attempt to keep from spending too much. It was tough, but I managed to stick mostly to the list, spending a bit over $20 on: chili powder, garam masala, Fine ground white pepper, white cardamom pods (for Kheema), vanilla sugar, and some hot chocolate mix with mint:

Back at home, I decided that before I put my Penzey's bounty away, I would clean up/out my spice rack & cabinet and boy, oh, boy did they need cleaning. This turned into more of a project than I had anticipated, but I was still giddy from the shopping adventure in that little round store and had plenty of energy to burn off.

I wiped down all of the bottles & I found some really old and scary stuff hiding back there, along with some things I know I'll never use. Both categories included a few bottles of spice that originally came with the rack (we received it from my classmate Tracy as a wedding present in back 1987...). When the heck am *I* ever going to use pickling spice? I also found a 10 year old can of cinnamon hiding inthe back of the cabinet. I hate cinnamon. I emptied both of those (and a few others) into the trash and thoroughly washed and dried the bottles for re-use.

With a cleaned up space, I began to put my spices & herbs back into the rack. After a bit of organizing/alphabetizing/categorizing, I decided, being the nerd that I am, to make a list to blog, a list of my spices... I discovered that I had much more variety than I thought. Actually, I hadn't really thought at all about how many different herbs and spices I had. I've accumulated so many different ones over the past years that I lost track. Here's what I found in the rack and two shelves of the cabinet:

My Spices

AllspiceWhole Cumin Seed
Basil LeavesGround Cumin
Black PeppercornsMustard Seed
Ground White PepperGround Mustard
Caraway SeedMarjoram Leaves
Cavender's Greek SeasoningGround Marjoram
Celery SeedNutmeg
Chili PowderOld Bay Seasoning
Toasted Chili PowderOregano Leaves (Homegrown)
Chinese 5 SpicePaprika
Cilantro LeavesSmoked Paprika
CinnamonRosemary Leaves
Coriander PowderSesame Seed
Whole Coriander SeedTarragon Leaves (Homegrown)
DillThyme Leaves (Homegrown)
Onion PowderGround Thyme
Dried Onion FlakeWasabi Powder
Whole Sage, Dried (Homegrown)White Cardamom Pods
Rubbed SageWhole Fennel Seed
Garam MasalaBaliene Sea Salt
Garlic PowderCourse Sea Salt
Ground Cayenne pepperKosher Salt
Red Pepper FlakesLowery's Season Salt
Thai Chili PowderMorton's Iodized Salt
(made from Rosie's Homegrown peppers)

48 in all and I'll be buying more the next time I get to Penzey's, which hopefully won't be too far away.

Go, Shop, Enjoy,

A Cuco's Taqueria lunch - on the card of course.

This past weekend's lunch outing was a trip to Cuco's Taqueria up on Henderson Road. I've always loved going up to this area. There have always been so many great places to eat around there, with one of my all-time-but-long-gone places just a few storefronts away from Cuco's, the old Gloria Cafe, aka Harold's Cajun Glory. It's been a while since our first visit to Cuco's (last summer) and after our lunch we realized that we can't stay away that long again.

So we headed up to Henderson Road, Prestige Dining Club card in hand, at about 2 in the afternoon. There weren't many people in the place, so we were seated quickly and were served a basket of crisp fresh chips and a great fresh medium-mild salsa. They have a wonderful salsa bar to paretake of, but we were so happy withthe regular stuff they served us that we completely forgot about the salsa bar. After much deliberation (their menu offers great variety), we made our selections & our soft spoken very polite waiter took our order - A $6.99 combo of one beef enchilada, one crunchy beef taco, rice and beans fo my wife, torta carnitas ($5.95) for me, and the kids menu fish and chips ($3.95) for Boogie. I was very surprised that he went with a non-mexican style choice, but he's been on a real fish kick lately (must be all that Easter/Lent talk at school). We completely killed the bowl of chips along with 2 bowls of salsa while we waited for lunch to arrive.

When the plates arrived at the table, they were, of course, very hot and looked fab. The combos plate was steaming and very colorfully pleasing to the eye; my torta was enormous and smelled great (sorry, I haven't installed BlogSmell yet); and Boogies fish selection turned out to be an excellent choice - the fish used in his kids meal was the same fish Cuco's uses in their great fish tacos and burritos, lightly breaded golden brown strips of grouper.

We polished off another basket of chips and more salsa with our meal, and I wound up taking half the sandwich home. Of course, I forgot the camera again, so the olny photo I have is of my leftovers:

We got out with a check of $20 (including $4 tip) with the help of the Prestige card, plus a tasty lunch to make my coworkers jealous with on Monday's.

Go for lunch, go for dinner, go for a late breakfast...Just go. And be sure to print out the coupon for 1/2 off a second entree if you don't have or have already used your Prestige card there.

Cuco's Mexican Taqueria
2162 Henderson Road
Columbus, Ohio 43220


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hearty Blueberry Oat Pancakes

My wife found the basis for this recipe in the February 2008 issue of Prevention Magazine, and their original version can be found here - Cranberry-Orange Oat Pancakes.

The first time she made them, she didn't add any fruit to them at all, but really enjoyed them and they lived up to their claim of being a satisfying breakfast that held hunger at bay easily until lunch time. I made the second batch for her and added whole organic frozen blueberries - this batch was an even bigger hit. If you're looking for a hearty breakfast that will get you starteed and give your metabolism a boost, try these. they're full of fiber, protien, and are low in calories.

Our version - Hearty Blueberry Oat Pancakes:
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup Tropicana® Healthy Heart with Omega-3 Orange Juice
¼ cup 1% milk
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup frozen organic whole blueberries

Directions:Preheat a nonstick griddle. (no need to grease or spray)
Whisk together the oats, flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, orange juice, milk, and oil.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in the blueberries (try not to crush them).

Drop ¼ cup of batter onto the griddle and cook them until edges look dry and bubbles come to the surface, about 3 minutes.

Carefully flip them and cook until their bottom browns and the pancakes are cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Repeat with the remaining batter.

These pancakes freeze very well, too, so we put ½ in the fridge and ½ in a the freezer. This batch made 18 pancakes, enough to last her over a week.