Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Few Days On My Own

My husband was out of town on business last week and I was left home alone. I hate to admit it but even at almost 40 I'm not good on my own.  My eating habits fall to the way side and my shopping addiction becomes elevated (but we're not going to talk about that).

Last week was a perfect example.  My first night alone I met up with some friends at Christopher's at the Biltmore. Sort of an upscale kind of place I figured this would not be too bad.  We went for happy hour; 1/2 price drinks and menu.  The down side though is happy hour is only served at the bar.  I really don't like eating at the bar; especially with more than one other person...I think it's hard to have good conversation at the bar. But such is life. 

After perusing the menu we decided to share a few things: the burger, a mushroom pizza, duck frites and a chocolate tower for dessert.    Not healthy choices; I know.  The burger was just that..a burger.  It came with a homemade ketchup that I didn't like at all.  The duck frites were ok; just not what I was expecting. They were more like strings.  The pizza was good but I don't consider crimini mushrooms "wild" and if you are going to put onions they need to be cooked down.  Who wants to bite into semi raw onions on a mushroom pizza.  I really wanted to like this place but I'm not sure I can bring myself to go back.
Night two was slightly better.  I met a friend at Postino's on Central.  After a 20 minute wait we found ourselves seated at the very back table; right off of the restrooms.  Not the best spot in the house but at least it was somewhat quieter than the rest of the place.  Positano's does a cool bruschetta board.  The menu says it includes 4 bruschetta's; you pick the toppings.  So we each got our own.  Who knew that each of the 4 was cut into 4 which means there were 16 total.  In other words the boards are huge and could've easily have been split. In my opinion a good waitress should've told us this.  The highlight of our meal was the cucumber, honey lemonaid. The minute I read this on the menu I knew I had to try it.  The combination of flavors was amazing and the fact that you could distinctly pick out each one was also kind of cool.  All and all I can't really complain about the food. 

Night three I found myself at the "Vig".  I had heard so many good things about this place and it's food.  Frankly I'm not sure what all the hype is about. Unless you get a table outside; then maybe. But there's nothing really special about the inside and it sure as hell isn't worth the 30 minute wait.  As for the food...I can see people saying they have a better selection than most bars would have. Menu options included things like salmon and steak. But the quality to me was not good.  Maybe I'm being a food snob; but any place that can bring you out a grilled salmon in under 2 minutes can't be that good.  I want the chef to take some time preparing my food.  Portions were huge...I'll give them that. But I'd much rather have a small well prepared meal.  Size isn't least not in this case. 

Yesterday was my last day alone; my husband was due in around 8pm. So I had the entire day to fend for myself.  I looked through the fridge at all the leftovers I acquired over the week and decided none of them were worth revisiting.  Instead I ate some fruit and some crackers with peanut butter to get me through...maybe I was mentally preparing myself to get back into my good eating habits.  Who knows.

There's something to be said about routine and eating at home. It's Sunday morning  and we just enjoyed a nice healthy breakfast we cooked together and we're about to embark on an afternoon of food preparation.

I'm so glad he's finally home.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Releaf Water Give Away Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in this giveaway and a special thank you to Redleaf water for allowing us to try their premium water.

The winners are:

Janet from LaDue & Crew

Joanne from Eats Well with Others

Jen from NJ Epicurean

Topher from Hurry Slowly

Kathy from Are You Hungry

By the way these are all great blogs so if you have a minute and check them out!

I'll be back soon with some cookie recipes and a lot more...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Redleaf Water & A Giveaway

Play Ball!

That’s what you’ll be saying once you’ve tried Redleaf water.

Why you ask?

Because Redleaf is the official water of the 2010 spring training season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Oakland Athletics. It’s being sold at all the concessions stands at both the Phoenix Municipal stadium and the Tempe Diablo stadium.

Yes, I’ve tried it and yes I think it’s great…if not I wouldn’t be blogging about it. The first words that came to mind after sampling Redleaf was “clean and crisp” and that’s exactly what I want my bottled water to be.

A little background about Redleaf:

Redleaf  is Canada’s ultra-premium bottled water; founded in 2008. Their mission: “to produce and distribute bottled water that is good for people as well as food for the earth.”  Some benefits of Redleaf water include:

1. No chemicals used in the bottling process or plant
2. Micro-oxygenated to boost alertness, energy and re-hydration
3. Magnetized allowing red blood cells to easily absorb oxygen
4. Filtered four times for ultra-purification and natural mineral retention

Not planning on attending a spring training game; but want to try some Redleaf water; that’s where I come in. Redleaf has agreed to send 5 lucky readers a 12 pack of this premium water. There’s 3 ways to win:

1. Post a comment on this blog.
2. Tweet about this contest & leave me a comment letting me know.
3. Post a link about the contest on Facebook leaving me a comment here to let me know.

Contest ends Friday, March 26, 2010 at midnight (EST) so get moving. Don’t miss the chance to try this premium water for yourself!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Foodie Family Field Trip

Once a year, when the weather starts to warm up, we plan a family field trip. We pack up the “kids” (mom and uncle) and head out on an all day adventure. This year our destination was Queen Creek, Arizona. Although, 1 1/2 hours from home may not seem that far; with two “adult children” in the backseat it can feel like an eternity.

Food usually plays a huge role in these trips. Within minutes some sort of snack is usually produced from the back seat. This trip was no different. Needing gas we stopped at the Circle K in our neighborhood…no more than 1/2 mile from our house. As my husband pumped the gas my uncle headed over to the girl scout table. Back in the car a few seconds later and the box of cookies began making the rounds. Oh it was going to be a long day!

Our first stop in Queen Creek was “The Pork Shop” As the name implies they sell all things pork. It’s a small store on the side of the road but it's jam packed both with pork products and customers. We got there around 1 pm and there was quite a line. This could mean trouble with the “kids” as they tend to get very impatient. The only thing keeping them calm was the multitude of samples being passed around. Definitely a nice touch to be able to try meats before purchasing. The people behind the counter were very knowledgeable and helpful when it came to the various cuts of meat. One of the men even offered up a recipe. It’s very unfortunate for us that The Pork Shop is so far away as I could see this being a regular stop on my weekly food outings.

Next up was the Queen Creek Olive Mill. I had heard a lot about this place and was eager to check it out. We purchased tickets for a late afternoon tour and decided to grab a bite to eat in the cafĂ© while we waited. What a mistake. The line for food was long and very slow moving; and although we had almost an hour before our tour started we almost didn’t make it. We ordered a couple different sandwiches, a salad and a cup of soup. None of it is really worth talking about. The bread on the sandwiches was dry, the salad under dressed, and the soup tasteless. I have to say that things did not get better with the tour. We spent 15 minutes of the 30 minute tour seated outside barely able to hear the tour guide. The last 15 minutes we were led into the olive press room and directed to pictures on the wall that explained the process. Very lame tour and not worth the $5 per person.

Our last stop was Schnepf Farms where we were able to pick our own vegetables from their garden. What a great experience; although I’m not sure how much the kids liked it. We came home with bunches of spinach, romaine lettuce and broccoli crowns. I will admit that the pick your own is not easily accessible if you’re not in the best of shape. There's a small dropoff to get into the garden and a lot of small hills to maneuver around.  I sure thought it was lots of fun.

Forty minutes into our drive home and we needed to get the kids fed. They are not happy campers when they are hungry. We stopped for dinner at Uncle Sal’s, a casual neighborhood “red sauce” restaurant in Scottsdale. Entrees run about $15-20 and all include a soup or salad and a side of garlic bread. Uncle Sal’s is nothing fancy just decent Italian American food in a cozy atmosphere. Everyone seemed satisfied enough with their meals and with bellies full the rest of the ride home was a breeze. We decided to have coffee and dessert back at our house since I had made a mocha marble bundt cake the day before.

It was almost 9 pm before the kids were finally back at their own house and I was exhausted. Thank goodness field trip day is only once a year.

Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake Recipe

Adapted from:  Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup coffee, hot or cold
1 tsp. finely ground instant coffee or instant espresso powder
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Use a 12 cup bundt pan. Don’t put it on a baking sheet – you want the heat to circulate through the Bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk together the flour, ground walnuts, baking powder and salt.

Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Put 2 tbps. of the butter into the bowl, along with the coffee, chocolate and instant coffee. Heat the mixture, stirring often, until melt and smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.

Beat together the remaining butter and the sugar at medium speed for about 3 minutes – you’ll have a thick paste; this won’t be light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. The mixture should look smooth and satiny. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately, adding the dry in 3 portions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry).

Scrape a little less than half the batter into the bowl with the chocolate mixture and, using a spatula, blend thoroughly.

Either layer the two batters or alternate spoonfuls of light and dark batter in the pan. When all the batter is in the pan, swirl a knife sparingly through the batters to marble them.

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until a thin knife insereted deep into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the Bundt pan to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool the cake completely on the rack.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Quick, Easy & Expensive....

Veal is somewhat tough to come by in my neck of the woods.  It's hard to find; especially fresh and often you won't find the particular cut you need.  When you do come across a store that has exactly what you're looking for you can rest assured it will be pretty darn expensive.

Case in point:  AJ's Fine Foods, the only place I found in my neighborhood that sells fresh veal cutlets, and the cost is $26.99 per pound. Now if I didn't mind driving and purchasing the veal in advance I could get it frozen from Hobe meats for only $12.99 per pound.  But since I often want what I want when I want it  (only child syndrome) I usually end up spending a small fortune.

Tonight was one of those small fortune nights.  I've been craving veal milanese for some time now and when I came across this recipe on Food & Wine I figured...why not.  So I broke down; stopped at AJ's; spent $20 for 1/2 lb of veal, a head of bibb lettuce and an heirloom tomato; came home and enjoyed a quick, easy, expensive meal.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Weekend Eats Roundup

I feel like I spent way too much time in the kitchen this weekend and although everything was really good nothing stands out enough to warrant an entire blog...sometimes that just happens. Instead here's a quick run down:

Grilled corn on the cob with 3 herb butter (oregano, parsley, basil)

St. Louis style smoked ribs with homemade BBQ suace


Cumin crusted potatoes (recipe from Daisy Martinez)


Tossed salad with homemade ranch dressing (probably the best ranch I've ever had)

Roasted mixed vegetables and beans (carrots, eggplant, zucchini, butternut squash, tomatoes and garlic)

Crumpets with eggs and ham

What did you cook this weekend?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Finding Good Eats in Sedona & Contest Winner

About two weeks ago my husband asked me if I wanted to take a small vacation; a long weekend somewhere just for fun.  Of course I did. So being me I immediately started checking airfares. I looked up prices to places like Philly, NY, LA, and Chicago.  Anywhere we could go to hang out and enjoy some good food; because to me that’s what vacation is all about, right??  (I’m the Food Hunter remember)

Well my husband obviously had something else in mind because the next thing I knew he was talking film festival and Sedona.  What!  That’s not vacation…where would we eat in Sedona.  And movies…don’t we watch enough of them at home…do we really need to drive two hours to the middle of nowhere to watch movies and eat crappy food.

For the record I did not want to go on this “vacation”  but after 20 plus years I’ve learned that sometimes (not often) I need to let my husband have his way and that most times he usually knows what he’s talking about.  
We set off last Thursday afternoon on what turned out to be an awesome long weekend at the Sedona Film Festival.  Since this is a blog about food I won’t go into details about the festival itself accept to say that I loved it!  Can’t wait to attend another one (is this really me talking) and I got to meet Michael Moore, Jerry Stiller and Robert Osborne from TMC, which was awesome!!

More importantly the food; we had some really good food in Sedona.   Our first night we went to a small place called Apizza Heaven. It reminded me so much of the mom and pop places we frequented back in Philly. We shared a hand tossed pie and antipasto salad.  Although I wouldn’t say this was anywhere near the best pizza it was decent and brought back some great memories of home.

Breakfast on Friday was at NY Bagels and Deli.  Not only did they have authentic NY bagels they also had tons of east coast pastries.  The owners were 5th generation bakers from Brooklyn; how could you go wrong.   They had the most delicious danish, thick slices of marble pound cake, and NY style cheesecake that looked incredible.  Needless to say we took a bag of pastries back to Phoenix with us.

Later that night we had dinner at Dahl and DiLuca. Although the evening started out rough (they sat someone ahead of us) it was made special by our waiter who adorned our table with rose petals and brought us out a complimentary platter of mixed appetizers.  Included were cheese filled olives with a caper aioli, grilled focaccia topped with tomatoes and basil and some marinated kalamata olives. This was followed by a mixed greens salad and our entree; mushroom ragu over handmade pasta. Everything was very tasty but unfortunately we didn't save any room for dessert.   

The next day we wandered a little off the beaten path and found a great Italian market called A'Roma. (owned by the same people that own Dahl and DiLuca) They had a large selection of Italian specialties including: olive oils, pastas, pastries, and wine. We shared a mozzarella and prosciutto Panini, a freshly made mixed green salad, and homemade potato soup. This is definitely place worth seeking out.

Dinner on Saturday was at Red, located in the Rouge hotel.  We decided to sit in the bar and share a few small plates from the menu.  Beef sliders, sweet potato fries, and a Mediterranean plate (definitely my favorite) which included hummus, feta cheese, cucumbers and kalamata olives. 

Vacation is over and I must admit we had a great time.  Lesson and you shall find...good food is out there...even in what I consider the middle of nowhere.  

And now the moment you've been waiting for:  the winner of the Daisy Martinez cookbook is: 

 True Random Number Generator

Laurie from Dalla Mia Cucina 

Congratulations Laurie and thanks to all of you that participated!