July 28, 2008

cannelini bean chutney with grits fries

this dinner idea is thanks to a post at thursday night smackdown. it sounded healthy, looked delicious and the ingredients were all to be found in my pantry!
except, i didn't have polenta, so i substituted grits. and for the accompanying dish, i made it up.

for the grits "fries", cook the grits according to the directions on the box... then pour it out onto a baking sheet, and spread it until it's about 1" thick. place the baking sheet in the fridge to set up a bit, while you start cooking the chutney.
chutney is sort of a salsa/stew/veggie dish. it has a tomato-onion-garlic base, and you can add just about anything to it after that.

cannilini chutney

3 strips of bacon, in big cubes
1 can of organic crushed tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp masala
1 can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
2 curry leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt & pepper, to taste

in a saucepan, start frying up the bacon squares. once they're cooked, set them aside to drain; now you have some bacon grease! to that add some extra olive oil, the chopped onions, and garlic. when they start to brown a bit, sprinkle the masala over it and mix to incorporate. then add the crushed tomatoes and cannelini beans and allow it to heat through. stir occasionally while the chutney cooks, and season with salt and pepper. half-way through cooking, add about half of the bacon pieces back to the pot and stir. drop the curry leaves in (optional) and just when the chutney is about done, take them out.
> while the chutney cooks, you can work on the grits fries.
once the grits are set and cooled off in the fridge, cut them into steak-fries-sized strips. heat a griddle pan and add some butter to melt. place the strips on the pan and brown on each side and until it's warmed through.

when the chutney and grits fries are done, plate it. you can add some freshly chopped parsley and extra crispy bacon to the top, or just dig in!

cPe 2008

salmon cakes with wasabi mayo dipping sauce

i stumbled across that "healthy eating" show on foodnetwork one day, and she was making salmon cakes with an asian dipping sauce. salmon could very well be my favorite fish, so i'd eat it in just about any way. i had to try this recipe. i knew i'd be eating it all alone - the hubby isn't a fan, but oh well.
so i bought a can of salmon, and a small can of yellow fin tuna. i didn't want all salmon, so i thought the mix might be nice, and not too overpowering. i also made a quick dipping sauce for the cakes - it was all delicious.

salmon cakes
1 can of salmon
1 small can of yellowfin tuna
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
kosher salt & pepper
a little flour (seasoned with a little salt, pepper and paprika) to dredge
oil for frying

add the salmon and tuna into a mixing bowl and flake apart using a fork. add the lightly beaten egg and combine. then add the panko, a little at a time, so as not to dry out the mixture. add the onions and scallions, and seasoning. mix it well.
once it's able to hold shape, make small patties and set aside. once the patties are shaped, dredge each in seasoned flour and start slowly frying them until each side is nicely browned.

while they're frying, you can get started on the dipping sauce... which takes about 2mins to make.

wasabi mayo dipping sauce
1 tbsp wasabi mayo
1 tbsp light mayo
1 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 splashes of soy sauce
juice of one lime

combine the wasabi mayo, light mayo and sour cream. add one splash of soy sauce and taste. if you prefer it with more, add another splash. add the dijon mustard and lime juice. mix it altogether. add any of the ingredients to your taste, and set aside.

when the salmon cakes are ready, plate it up. i used some romaine, sliced radishes, and then the cake with some sauce drizzled on top.
so good!

cPe 2008

mango spritzer

this is the perfect summer drink to accompany anything. i love sprintzers. i was introduced to them 3 years ago in austria, where i'd order a white wine spritzer everywhere i went - half wine, half sparkling water.
so to copy that, i make a mango spritzer as a healthy alternative. it's 50% mango juice, and 50% perrier sparkling water. make sure both have been in the fridge and are nice and cold, or else, add a few ice cubes or crushed ice.
stir it up, and you've got yourself a fizzy, sweet, delicious faux cocktail.
to make it a real cocktail, add some rum or vodka. mmm :)

cPe 2008

summer salad

i'm really not much of a "salad person". i prefer my food hot, and preferably with some type of meat and starch involved. but since it is the summer, and e enjoys a good salad now and again (albeit, from whole foods!), i attempted to throw one together for a light sunday lunch.

i used a spring mix of greens, olives, spicy shrimp, bacon, roma tomatoes, avocado cubes, and artichoke hearts.
the combination, along with some balsamic vinaigrette, was quite good. along with a piece of garlic toast, it made for a light, healthy, summer-y lunch... and i got some bacon in there too :)

cPe 2008

tizi melloul

for our regularly scheduled "date night", i decided on a new place to try. i'd read about it quite a bit, and was excited about it, just by looking at the menu.

the place we went to was tizi melloul, a moroccan restaurant in the heart of chicago. it's near a lot of other cute, trendy restaurants, like sushi samba rio.
our first impression - kinda small... but the decor is just so very-near-authentic, we were blown away. if i didn't look out of the window at the fanny-packed tourists trekking by, i would have thought we were in some faraway land.
the place is beautiful, classy, sexy.

the food is just the same. we ordered steamed mussels as a starter, which i had read about online, and which our server also recommended. everyone around us was getting them too.
they arrived sizzling hot, and the smell... yum! they even smelled spicy and exotic. they mussel shells hold all the seasoning... it's pasted with what must be a mixture of paprika, and masalas, kosher salt? who knows, all i know is that it's delicious. probably the best mussel dish ever. EVER.
so you pick the mussels out of the shell, rub it on the shell's seasoning a bit, then dip it in the harissa butter sauce. so so so good!

then it was onto the entrees. i ordered the grilled hanger steak, while e got the lamb loin. i am a huge lamb fan, but i wasn't thrilled with this one. e loved it though. and i loved my hanger steak. and i also love that it came with french fries... which i lovingly dipped into the accompanying sauce.

dessert was... eh. this is not a dessert place. if you want something yummy, get the fondue from sushi samba rio up the street. our server suggested the poached pineapple brulee. while the brulee'd pineapple slice was delicious, the rice pudding was the blandest i've ever had. it seriously needed sugar, or syrup, or molasses! lol.
oh well... due to my lack of interest in my dessert, she could tell i wasn't impressed. but the complimentary champagne was a nice touch.

the customer service at this place is just on point. they make sure you're attended to (e.g. it was a busy night, but the manager came over to take our orders)... they check back on you at the perfect times... the manager makes rounds to ask about the food and service. and at the end of the night, you leave knowing that you're going to visit again, and indulge in those mussels.

cPe 2008

homemade masks

while the hubby was away on a business trip, i used one sunday afternoon as the perfect opportunity to have my lovely ladies over for a fun afternoon of.... making homemade masks, having drinks and chit-chatting like we do so well! i called it my "masks & martinis" party... and gave away organic homemade soaps as party favors. cute huh?
it was a huge success... we even had a professional masseuse set up in my 2nd bedroom!
below is a quick photo of the ingredients used for the masks... including sliced potato, cooked oatmeal, strawberries, olive oil, etc.
they were super easy to find online, and everyday ingredients. give it a try one afternoon! :)

cPe 2008

pho ha

thanks to my sister's recommendation from years ago, while sitting at work one day, sick as a dog, i was just craving a bowl of steaming hot pho.
there aren't many places around here that have good pho, aside from the "ok" version at stir crazy. *chuckle*

i spent about an hour that afternoon trying to find a vietnamese spot along my way home from work, that had good reviews, a menu i could see online, and wasn't out of my way.
search results: 0

then the lightbulb went off and i remembered my sister talking about a place not so far from my house. she'd been there 2 or more years ago, but i remembered it.

so i searched google maps for the general area, then checked with her on the place i found, and voila! found it: pho ha

my order:

#2 spring rolls,
#8 rice with sizzling diced,

#26 pho with sliced beef and flank, and

#31 banh mi house specialty

total wait time: 15mins

total cost: around $30

everything was deliciously fresh! the pho was amazing and definitely hit the (sick) spot. the sizzling beef was very tasty, with nice veggies. and that banh mi... it was my first... and definitely won't be my last. it may be the very best cold sandwich i've had. and it just felt so healthy!


the portions are very generous as well - we got about 3 servings of pho out of one order.

so! if you're in the northwest suburbs, looking for a good little hole-in-the-wall vietnamese take out spot, head over to pho ha in glendale heights.

cPe 2008

strawberry patch waffles

while i don't make time for a good breakfast everyday, sunday mornings are set aside for making, or baking, a good breakfast.
that either means bacon & eggs, or something sweet. sweet is most likely a waffle. we love them. and if we happen to have fresh strawberries in the fridge, i make strawberry patch waffles. ok i stole the name from richard walker's. i use a basic waffle recipe - for 2.

classic waffles for 2
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 cup of warmed milk
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

to serve: powdered sugar for dusting and fresh strawberries, sliced

steps: combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until you get a nice batter.
get the waffle iron heated up, spray with pam, and pour enough batter to cover the iron. cook to desired consistency (about 3mins on high).

serve hot with sliced strawberries, powdered sugar - and if you eat waffles like i do, add some maple syrup and whipped cream to it all.
those boxes of waffle mixes have nothing on this simple and so easy recipe!

cPe 2008

peach cobbler

this is hubby recipe #2 ... for our love of peach cobbler, and our love of paula deen.
this was done word for word from paula's recipe, so i will just copy and paste it here:
4 cups peeled,
sliced peaches
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Ground cinnamon, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.
Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.
To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

RESULT: here's a photo of my hubby's peach cobbler. YUM!

cPe 2008

fish n chips

i'm writing this post courtesy of my hubby, e.
he occasionally gets into a cooking mood... most likely by watching a paula deen show then taking over my desire to copy her recipe. :)
i sit back and watch, and snap shots of the process, then dig in. most times... ok, so far, everything he's cooked has been quite delicious.

that being said, here's his recipe #1 for fish n chips, to satisfy our english/south african cravings. (he cheated by using oven-baked crinkle chips, and store-bought coleslaw) :)

beer-battered fish

6 pieces of cod
2 cups of all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs
2 cups of beer
1/2 cup of oil
flour for dredging
oil for frying

add all ingredients in a bowl and mix together until it's all incorporated and looks like fluffy batter.
season cod with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. dip each piece in batter to coat evenly.
once ready, fry the pieces on high on each side until nicely browned.
> in the meantime, if you're going the hubby route, get the chips going in the oven as directed, and start plating.

i must say, it was absolutely delicious! and made for a really good quick sandwich later on too! :)

cPe 2008

July 25, 2008

surf and turf

a week after the hubby and i got back from san fran for a family wedding, we were still very much in the pacific/beachy/sunny mood. and the following sunday, was the perfect day for cooking to our desire, and pretend we were back on the west coast. that, and the parents-in-law, who had spent extra time in cali, brought us back a fresh king crab. yum!

so sunday afternoon e, the sis and i took a drive up to whole foods to pick up a few things for our feast. i got some pre-marinated shrimp kebabs (i know i know... next time i'll marinade myself), as well as some chuck, and fresh veggies. oh, and a side of potato salad.
this was to be a lazy feast. :)
brought it all home, picked up the king crab and got to work. so the only cooking i really did was seasoning the meat and veggies and arranging it all on bamboo skewers. then onto the "grill"... a countertop one, i.e.

i just seasoned the meat and veggies with kosher salt, black pepper, some paprika (i'm obsessed) and brushed a little bit of evoo once it was skewered.

in the meantime, e got to steaming the king crab in our pasta cooker. haha.

in about 10mins, everything was done and we got to eating in our little kitchen with the patio door open, the sun streaming in, and the smell of grilled seafood and steak!

cPe 2008

July 11, 2008


murta- what? well, a little background.

this dish is commonly found in the countries of yemen, malaysia, brunei and singapore. it originates, however, in india and is said to have made its way into middle eastern countries during the muslim conquest of india. wherever it's from, it's delicious.
this is a very quick and satisfying snack or friday night dinner. murtabak is a wrapped roti (indian flat bread) filled with any type of meat curry. the variation i made was a simple ground beef curry with peas. instead of wrapping it in a roti, i used thawed parathas from the local indian grocery store's freezer. lazy? yes. still delicious? yes.

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1lb lean ground beef
1/2 large onion, chopped according to preference (i like mine finer)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green chili, sliced
ginger root, grated to make about 1 tbsp
1 tbsp masala
1 tbsp garam masala
1/2 cup of water
salt & pepper to taste
about a cup of frozen sweet peas
handful of cilantro, chopped finely
1 pack of parathas (plain or onion)

allow the parathas to thaw.
heat the oil in a saucepan on medium-high and add the onions, garlic, ginger and chilis. once they are starting to brown slightly, add the masala and stir to incorporate. add the ground beef to that and stir, to break up the meat into the onions and garlic mixture. once it is nicely mixed together, add a bit of water to the pan and close it with a lid to allow the beef to cook through. season with salt and pepper to taste. once it is just about done, add the frozen peas and chopped cilantro and allow it to cook through.

the entire dish takes about 15mins to make, so while that is going... you can start separating the parathas.
once you're ready to assemble the murtabak, take one paratha and add about 4 tbsp of the curry mixture onto the center. wrap the paratha around the curry, just like you would a burrito. if you're having trouble getting it to all be sealed, you can use a bit of egg wash or water on the paratha.

once they're all wrapped up, get a griddle going with a bit of butter and start frying the murtabak slowly on each side until all sides are golden brown and the parathas are cooked through. it will take about 8-10mins and then you're all done!

the hubby and i had ours with a beer and made it friday night dinner :) yum!!

cPe 2008


where have i been?
well, basically... since tastespotting was down for a few weeks, i got lazy to post anything on here if i didn't have the chance to make it onto the tastespotting website. hehe...
but now that it's back up, i'm back!
it's such a dreary, rainy, stormy friday in chicago - i'd say it's the perfect weather to get to blogging!

cPe 2008