Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Backyard BBQ in March

Summer is right around the corner and with that comes BBQ season. Unless of course you live in Phoenix like myself and pretty much BBQ all year long.  This past weekend we had some friends visiting from back east where even though it's been on the warmer side lately barbequing just isn't happening yet.  So we decided to give them a little taste of summer during their stay.

Hubby smoked a brisket on our Big Green Egg. I made a tomato salad with garden fresh tomatoes. We did corn on the cob with basil butter and an awesome potato salad with bacon.  We lit the tiki torches out back and were able to enjoy all the yumminess of summer in mid March.

Tomato Salad
3 large tomatoes cut into slices
1 cucumber diced
1 red onion thinly sliced
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil 
salt & pepper to taste
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 small ice cubes

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl...toss. Add ice cubes and let melt before eating.

Potato Salad with Bacon
4 slices bacon
5 Yukon gold potatoes, small diced
Dry rub (see below)
Dressing (see below)

Cook bacon in skillet over medium high heat until crispy, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from pan, drain on paper towels and crumble.

Add potatoes and dry rub mix to the skillet tossing to coat. Place coated potatoes on a baking sheet and place in a 425 degree oven.  Cook for 45 minutes or until crispy.

Transfer potatoes to a bowl and toss with dressing...stir in bacon and serve warm.

Dry Rub
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp fresh rosemary

Mix together all ingredients
5 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Mix together all ingredients.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Seasons 52 Spring Menu Sampling & Recipe

In an area of Phoenix that screams sophistication (the Biltmore) resides Seasons 52 a fresh grill and wine bar offering guests a unique dining experience that provides positive lifestyle benefits.

Seasons 52, strategically named for the fact that the menu is inspired by the seasons, 52 weeks a year, strives to feature only the freshest ingredients at the peak of ripeness.  It's claim to fame though is that every delicious menu item is under 475 calories, a concept that is "right for the times"

As I mentioned the menu changes seasonal and last week a colleague and I were fortunate enough to have a preview of the new spring menu.  Let me just say everything we tasted was very much enjoyed. With appetizers like the Artichoke & Goat Cheese Flatbread and Artichoke Stuffed Artichoke (see recipe below); it's easy to tell that the chefs are inspired by this seasons produce.

The menu favorite seemed to be the Lamb T-bone Chops served with truffle mashed potatoes and  a red wine glaze. How do they get those mashed potatoes so creamy with no butter.  Low fat sour cream is the secret.

Looking for fish...the Columbia River Steelhead Trout, accompanied by basmati rice and cherry tomatoes was a great option.

And don't forget the  award winning Mini Indulgences, 9 classic desserts in individual serving cups allowing guest to have a nice taste of their favorites with out over doing it.

Seasons 52 spring menu is innovative and fresh and truly captures the flavors of springtime. You can enjoy some appetizers and a glass of their signature Strawberry Kir Royal on the patio or dinner in the contemporary dining area.  Whatever you choose I imagine you won't be disappointed.



3 quarts water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 each artichokes (med-large)
¼ cup yellow onion, peeled, ¼” diced
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup sun-dried tomato, chopped fine
6 ounce jar marinated artichokes,
    drained and chopped (save 1/8 cup of juice)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons Italian breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1½ teaspoon creamy Caesar dressing
½ teaspoon coarse ground mustard
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/3 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
Extra virgin olive oil for brushing
Drizzle of balsamic glaze

·         Preheat oven to 350°F.
·         In large pot, add 3 quarts water and 1 tablespoon Kosher salt and bring to boil.
·         Trim ½” off top of artichokes; trim ¼” off stem and trim spikes off the leaves.  Add trimmed artichokes in the boiling water and cover for approximately 20-25 minutes until done.  Remove from heat and place artichokes in refrigerator to cool.
·         In sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive on medium-high heat for 1 minute.  Sauté onion and garlic for 2 minutes.  Add sun-dried tomatoes and marinated artichoke.  Stir to combine and remove from heat.  Add all other ingredients and mix well.  Place mixture on sheet tray and allow to cool.
·         Remove artichokes from refrigerator and split in half.  Scrape out choke and inner leaves with a tablespoon.  Place artichokes cut side up on sheet tray and brush with olive oil.  Fill each piece with ¼ of the artichoke stuffing mixture.  Top each piece with 1 tablespoon shredded cheese and bake in 350°F oven for 20-30 minutes until heated through.  Drizzle balsamic glaze over the artichokes.
·         Serve as a side dish.

Bite Size Appetizer Option:
·         Follow procedure above but do not trim spikes off of artichokes before cooking.  Once artichokes are cooked, remove larger leaves and fill each one with some stuffing mix.  Top with cheese and lay out on a sheet tray for heating in 350°F oven.  Plate on serving platter and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

Note:  leftover artichoke heart may be used for salads or garnish.

Serves:  4

Seasons 52  
Biltmore Fashion Park  
2502 E Camelback Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 840-5252

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Healthy Hummus

With all my talk lately about healthy eating I couldn't help but share this wonderful recipe for "healthy hummus" created by Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa's Executive Chef, Anthony Stewart.  

Chef Anthony has won five gold medals in top culinary competitions for his masterful use of foodstuffs.  When not in the kitchen he's in the classroom inspiring Pritikin guess to have fun with food.

This heart healthy recipe has no added fat and is under 45 calories per 2 Tbs serving. Add some fresh carrots or celery for dipping and you have yourself a great snack.


Healthy Hummus
 (Courtesy of Chef Anthony Stewart)

1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until pureed.  If mixture is too thick add 1 tablespoon water, pulsing to combine.

Serve with veggies or crackers.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Coombs Farms Maple Syrup Roasted Carrots & Asparagus

I'm all about eating veggies.  And if it takes putting a little maple syrup on them to get your family to love them....then I'm all about that too. Whatever works is how I look at it.

Organic good quality maple syrup is the key.   Coombs Family Farms has been producing 100% pure organic maple syrup for seven generations. Naturally gluten free and made without any artificial flavors, preservatives or thickeners; their syrup is amber in color and ripe with flavor.

A few weeks back my Virtual Potluck group was asked to use Coombs Family Farms maple products in a recipe (be sure to check out all of those recipes here).  When most people think maple syrup they automatically think breakfast...more specifically pancakes.  Not me I actually eat my pancakes dry...I know I'm odd.

When I hear the word maple syrup my mind automatically thinks carrots.  So I decided what's good for carrots is good for asparagus...right?

Maple Syrup Roasted Carrots & Asparagus
1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 pound asparagus, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup organic maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400F.
Mix carrots and asparagus with olive oil, salt and maple syrup until thoroughly coated.
Bake for 30-45 minutes or until vegetables are caramelized and tender.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Virtual Mad Men Dinner Party

It's almost time for the Season 5 premiere of Mad Men which airs Sunday, 3/25.  Are you a Mad Men fan?  I sure am.  And what better way to celebrate than with a dinner party; virtual of course.  A great bunch of food bloggers (you can get the entire list here) are coming together on 3/18 to bring you some of Don Draper's favorite foods and drinks that have been included in the Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, written by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin.

There are over 70 recipes in the cookbook and we'll be featuring a bunch of them on our blogs.  We'll also be tweeting about these yummy retro dishes on 3/25 at 8pm EST using the hashtag #PartyLikeAMadMan  So be sure to join us.

The Unofficial Mad Men cookbook is more than just a cookbook it's packed with period detail; every recipe authentic to the time. It provides an inside look at Manhattan's most legendary restaurants and bars. And all recipes include commentary from the Mad Men episode they appeared on.

The book is divided into categories like any other cookbook.  Including one for classic cocktail recipes. What better way to get into the Mad Men "spirit" So pour yourself a drink and getting ready for Season 5.

The Manhattan
(courtesy of the Oak Bar at the Plaza Hotel NY)

2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry for garnish

Pour whiskey, vermouth and bitters into a mixing glass with ice cubes and stir well.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with the cherry.

Old Fashioned
(courtesy of The Grand Central Oyster Bar, NY)

1 orange slice
1 maraschino cherry
1 teaspoon sugar
few drops of Angostura bitters
a splash of soda water to muddle
2 1/2 ounces rye or bourbon

In a mixing glass, muddle orange slice, cherry, sugar, bitters and a little soda water. Make sure to break up cherry and orange until flavors are released
Add rye or bourbon and serve over rocks, if desired

 Rusty Nail 
(courtesy of the Dubin Bar and Tap Room, NY)

1 1/2 ounces whiskey
1/2 ounce Drambuie 

Pour whiskey and Drambuie into a mixing glass and stir. Pour into a rocks glass over ice.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Zuppa di Verdure all'Agliata...AKA Vegetable Soup

I've said it before and I'll say it again....I Love Soup!   I eat it just about every day for lunch.  For me it's an easy way to sneak some healthy veggies into my diet and fills me up fast.

Some days I'll have a hearty meat & veggie soup and other days it will be an all veggie puree.  I usually make large batches of several types so that I have variety throughout the week.

Zuppa di Verdure all'Agliata has recently become one of my favorites.  Adapted from a Lidia Bastianich recipe the amounts and kinds of vegetables in this yummy soup can easily be adjusted to match your tastes.  Any way you look at it this is a healthy all around good for you soup.

Zuppa di Verdure all'Agliata...AKA Vegetable Soup
(adapted from Lidia Bastianich)

1⁄3 cup packed basil leaves
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil,
plus more for drizzling
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 cloves garlic
1⁄2 medium onion, cut into chunks
8 oz. red new potatoes, cut into 1⁄2" cubes
3 stalks celery, minced
2 cups carrots, minced
2 cups plum tomatoes, cored and minced
Kosher salt, to taste
5 oz. spinach, trimmed and rinsed
(about 2 loosely packed cups)
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmesan,
for serving

1. Place half the basil, 2 tbsp. oil, parsley, garlic, and onions in the bowl of a food processor and process until slightly chunky. Heat remaining oil in an 8-qt. pot over medium-high heat and add herb–garlic mixture. Cook, stirring often, until no liquid remains, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, celery, carrots, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add salt and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Stir in spinach,and peas and cook until greens are wilted and just tender, about 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper and stir in remaining basil. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with Grana Padano, and drizzle with oil.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Shanks & Veggies... One Last Hooray Before Summer Sets In

It's only early March but temperatures have already reached into the 80's here in Phoenix. Which means there are not many days left to really enjoy hearty stew like meals like Roasted Pork Shanks and Vegetables.  Let's face it once the summertime rolls around and temperatures go into the triple digits I'm going to be making a lot more lighter...quicker meals.  Won't be turning on my oven much that's for sure.

So before it gets to be too late in the season wherever you live I would recommend giving this recipe a try.  You can easily substitute veal shanks and add more vegetables depending on your taste.  Have fun with it.

Roast Pork Shanks & Vegetables

4 pork shanks
flour for dredging
olive oil
3/4 cup white wine
3 cups carrots,cut in large dice
2 cups celery,cut in small dice
1 cup onion,cut in small dice
3 cups potatoes, cut in large dice
3 zucchini, chopped in large dice
2 cups stock

Rinse shanks under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan. Add the shanks and cook over high heat until they are golden brown.  Transfer shanks and juice to a roasting pan.  Place in preheated 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for another 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil  another pan and saute the vegetables over medium high heat for about 7 minutes.  When the shanks have been in the oven for an hour add your vegetables and their cooking juice and cook 1 hour more, periodically basting with stock.

Serve hot with shanks surrounded by vegetables.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Buffalo & Beans

I remember eating pork & beans as a kid. It was one of the few things my dad cooked for us. He was famous (at least in our house) for this yummy dish. His secret ingredient…maple syrup. I’ve come a long way since those pork & bean days. But for some reason I’ve been thinking of them a lot lately or maybe just thinking of my dad. So much so that when the Buffalo Guys sent the Virtual Potluck group various buffalo sausages to review I knew immediately I would try my own version of pork & beans…aka…buffalo & beans.

The Buffalo Guys, Peter & Ken, started their business in 2000 with the idea of providing the people with a responsibly raised superior tasting meat. Today they sell their range raised buffalo to hundreds of stores nationwide. Their sausages do not include any fillers, MSG or nitrates and they never use growth hormones. In general buffalo meat is lower in calories, fat and cholesterol in comparison to beef, chicken or pork. 

Interested in trying some yummy products from the Buffalo Guys?  Through the end of March receive 15% off your sausage order when you use the code VIRTUALPOTLUCK.

 Be sure to check out all of the other recipes from the VP crew over at Diabetic Foodie.

Buffalo & Beans
1 lb buffalo bratwurst, cut crosswise into slices
1 can of Great Northern Beans
1 medium onion, cut into large dice
1 celery stalk, cut into large pieces
2 carrots, cut into large dice
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
3 cups stock
1 lb cubed pork steak

Add all ingredients to a large dutch oven over medium heat. Cover and let cook about 3 hours, stirring periodically. Remove bay leaf before serving.