Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tree's, Decorations and Sloppy Joes

Hello Friends!

Well, Sunday and Monday was a very productive day for Mr. Christmas (aka. Dave).  We woke up way too early for my husband ... and was on the road by 7:45am with My Awesome Niece (aka Julia) and friends of ours to go cut down our Christmas tree! 

We drive out to Lewin Farms in the Wading River/Calverton area to hop on the tractor and haul us out to the massive fields of endless Christmas Trees ... Dave gets positively giddy once in that field!  This is a tradition we started 4 or 5 years ago - and we really do enjoy it...so it makes getting up at the crack of dawn much easier! 

I didn't take much pictures...only one, actually of my Jul next to the tree she picked out for her family (who was at the Bud Man's hockey game)...  They required something Julia's height - and not too big, as space is a bit limited while they clean up after hurricane damage.   This is what Julia got:

Quite perfect I think...It was nicely layered that Julia commented on how it looked like a tiered cake (girl after my own heart to relate a tree to food!)...but her funniest comment was "it won't be as easy to hide the pickle".... a family tradition started years ago with a gift to Elena at her bridal shower...Now the whole family does it (wikipedia describes it here Christmas Pickle)!

I wish I had taken more pictures, as it was comical to see Dave loading up and securing three Christmas Trees on top of the truck...(ours, our friends and one for their family)... and then stuff Julia's tree in the car beside her! Funnier still would have been pictures of me - completely freaking out as apparently Julia's tree housed a few spiders that wanted to crawl across the ceiling of the truck and a Lady Bug or two... Now I don't mind a Lady Bug, but anything with more than four legs completely freaks me out.  I spent most of the ride home hunched down to avoid the attack of the thousand spiders that I was sure that was going to happen. Dave worries about the zombie apocalypse - I worry about the spider one.

Once Home - Dave rigged up the lights while we watched the Jets game...Finally a win, after they pull Sanchez - it was a happy day in the Taylor house!  But exhausted we were, so the decorating waited for Monday.

After a full day of work for me - and Dave moving furniture and preparing the ornaments for the tree - I was evil and made him wait to decorate the tree until after dinner.

Dave found a recipe for Turkey Sloppy Joe's...I added a bit to it and away we went!  I didn't take pictures - but will post my version of the recipe for you... it was delicious (though we both thought...once it sat and came to room temperature - the flavors did meld really well and it was even better!).  

So - here we go:

In a heavy large pot (over medium heat) put in 3 tablespoons of oil to heat up.

Then add:
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste (and I usually add a bit more pepper than most)
*Note: while I didn't this time - next time I will add one small jalepeneo, minced... Up to you if you want to keep the ribs and seed in or not!

Sauté until turkey is no longer pink, breaking up meat - about 10-15 minutes.

Then add 3 tablespoons chili powder and 1 tablespoon of cumin.  Mix in for about 1-2 minutes and then add:

1 1/4 cups ale or beer
3/4 cup bottled chili sauce (or ketchup if you don't have chili sauce)
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add in 1 cup of finely chopped green onions and mix...taste at this point to see if you need more salt or pepper.

We served it on potato sandwich rolls...Dave had it sandwich style and I did it open face...and of course, I had to add some shredded sharp cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a few slices of avocado to mine.  Really delicious - I'm having it for Lunch today...and Dave even thought about having it for breakfast with some eggs....That is how good it was!!

Then Tree Time... put up most of our old ornaments - and all of our new ones.  We just left off a few of the balls as we were running out of room - and a few of the "family" ornaments my mom has given us through the years - as I have a special plan for them!

And this year - Dave won the "star" vs. "angle" battle - but only because I found a star that I absolutely LOVED!  I've always had a angel on the tree...and the one we've used for the last six years was so pretty...but we were in The Christmas Tree Store in Elmira New York this summer and found a gorgeous star...so here is the TAYLOR TREE for 2012!

Now its time to start thinking about what I'm going to be making for the Christmas celebrations! 

I'll do a bit of my biscotti (as that's about the only cookie I bake)... and have to plan the Dec 22 dinner I'm planning for my family as my sister and brother in law will be up from NC to collect their daughter who's slummin with us Dulik's/Taylor's for a few weeks... and there are a few recipe appetizers that I want to share (old and new)...so December will be a Post filled month! 

OH, and dinner with some good friends at a Favorite place that I have yet to review...so look for that about the 17th or so!

Until Next Time...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Oopps...I did it again!

Ok... I went out to dinner and ordered Scallops again!  I know I've told you that it is a favorite of mine...and it is my go-to because I love scallops so much...but I need to also try other things!

But, I'm telling the story backwards if I start with that.... so..

Hello Friends!
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Mine was a quiet one...well, how quiet can it be with three dogs over 65 pounds?!?  Dave was working, and the rest of the family in three different states...so Mom and I had a lovely dinner with Sam, Lilah...and that gorgeous black boy is Jake!  We had fun... and Grandma got Grandpuppy Kisses (well, what did you expect when you put yourself on their level??)

I could be all sappy and pour over - in my own wordy way - what I was thankful for... but I'll keep it simple.. I'm thankful for my entire family, their happiness, their health...and that some are getting healthier... and I am thankful for my David... because he didn't run when I told him during our first phone call (before we met face to face) that I was the craziest person I know... and now when I do all the crazy things - he still stays and just shakes his head and says "I really thought you were kidding".... He gets me...He lets me be me...and he laughs AT me (which really ticks me off - but it's how he gets through my crazies).

And how fitting Thanksgiving falls just before my wedding!  Dave and I celebrated our 2nd Wedding Anniversary on November 26.  What did we do that day? 

Well - of course on a gorgeous day, we took the kids to the dog park so they could run about like a bunch of loons and get tired out... and then we finished decorating the outside of the condo...  Have I mentioned I married "Mr. Christmas"?  He loves Christmas, decorating, Christmas music...the whole thing!  Look - this is what he created - with only a touch of my help... :)  <Oh help us when we do finally have a house!!>

We decided to go out for a nice dinner for our anniversary - Aperitif in Rockville Centre.  This is a place that Dave and I have talked about going to for a while - since we've been to their sister place - Sage Bistro in Bellmore and were very excited to try out Aperitif!

So - let me start my review... 
They have an amazing menu of appetizers, salads, raw bar, entrees...and a small plate menu as well.  Oh my goodness - so much to choose from.  Then...to top it off - a menu of specials that just almost adds to the confusion, if you didn't want to try them all so badly!

I started off with a glass of their wine special - and it was FABULOUS!! A new one to me...Chateau Prieure Marguet - described as a bright, deep Bordeaux with hints of red current.  It had such an amazing and rich flavor and it really complimented every single dish that I tasted... and I want more of it!  Grab a glass of this lovely Merlot!

We started with a few "small plates" and a salad...  So...we ordered the Camembert Fondue and the Risotto Fritters ... and the Aperitif Salad... OH.MY.GOODNESS!!!!

This is the Camembert Fondue... a luscious cheese fondue...while I'd have preferred it be a bit thicker...the taste, the flavor was absolutely amazing.  Delicate cheese, with nutty overtones...and it is served with apples and a nutty bread that is drizzled in honey...a lovely touch!!  Dave and I both said, multiple times, that we'd love to pick up this crock and drink the cheese mixture.  This is a MUST GET when you go to this restaurant!

 OK, so yes.. we ordered a salad... we love salad...and Dave loves anything with Figs... This dish, with the figs, goats cheese, the frisee lettuce and the candied walnuts looks so simple... but the depth of flavor was amazing... the figs, oh so sweet, complimented by the balsamic and the champagne dressing... the goat cheese added an amazing tang, and the walnuts, the crunch and sweetness to balance the whole dish.  If I had known this salad was so good...I would have ordered it as my meal!!

And...Lets talk about the mushroom risotto fritters...Simple, right?  Wild mushrooms and fontina cheese... these bad boys were so delicious...I had to steal one off the plate before I could take a picture!  The risotto was cooked perfectly...the cheese, enough to accent the dish, but not overpower it...and the mushrooms...Heck...if you're not a mushroom fan - you'd still LOVE this dish!!

Aperitif has amazing "small plates"... and I'll have to go back to taste more... but - Ok, its time to order dinner...

OK..my "ooooppps" I did it again... for my entree...I ordered the scallops....I just couldn't help myself!!!  The dish was "Fricassee of Sea Scallops" Sauteed leeks and a butternut squash puree with truffle cream sauce...
Holy Sh*t.  Just about the best scallops I've ever eaten!  I kid you not... Even Dave said so.  The Truffle cream was amazing...and paired with the balsamic drizzle and the butternut squash...it shouldn't work the way it does...but it does!  Then they saute the leeks for an amazing flavor...but top it with fried leaks for texture....  I will HAVE to order this dish again, that is how utterly amazing it was.  And of course, I ate the left-overs for breakfast the next morning!!
And while I ordered a full on entree... Dave decided to go with a few more "small plates"...
The Escargot, the Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Mousse, and the Duck Tacos.

Ok... I didn't taste the Escargot... I just can't get past the 'I'm eating Snails" thing... but I will say... our waitress Amy was helping the table behind us...and they were adventurous enough to order and try them.. I absolutely LOVED how she described them... went through the mouth feel... really encouraged them to taste something different...Honestly, if she was my server when I do decide to try Escargot....I would do it, just on her confidence and assurance for the dish.  This was an amazing witness to her tables...Go Amy... (or Ams, as Dave decided to call her!)
I did taste the Fois...I'd have had chicken liver pate before, and ... surprisingly for me... I do like it.. but tasting this dish was like having an amazing pate, but with a rich, luscious texture and after glow...that only Fois Gras can give.  The caramelized onion added a sweetness that complimented the balsamic reduction that was on it... these components gave the dish a very luxurious feel, an amazing taste and a dish that I would order again!
Now...moving on to the duck tacos... I eat duck in tastes and bites...so I did try this dish.  Amazing flavor to the duck, the spices and the flavors they have on this dish... Dave and I just loved each and every single freaking bite...that we'd have to go back just for these!  Complex flavor, hints and notes of various spices, and the duck was so amazingly tender.  It really was amazing!
And, of course... we stuffed ourselves with this amazing food that we couldn't even order dessert...(shame on Dave!).  So worth it... the food was fantastic that Dave and I both agree that it blows some of our favorite french places out of the water (Cassis and Sage)..Shocker!!!
I can not wait to go back to Aperitif - we can't wait to bring friends there... Amazing!!

So - my ratings:
Food: with ease...an A 

Price:  very reasonable, considering they have small plates for 8-10 dollars...entrees are a usual of 25+ 

Service: I have to give them an A... and simply because of Amy's service, and the teamwork of the bus service.  Amy was completely attentive to all of her tables...and listening to her recommend food, really deliver on those recommendations to other patrons, and even when we asked as well... she knows her menu and is willing to really recommend things that may be out of your comfort zone, but you won't  be disappointed... I would love to have her as my server again.
This is a food Rave - my friends... Go to Aperitif...Ask me to join you!  I can't wait to go back and really dive into their menu some more!!
Until Next Time...


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Brunch at a Favorite

Hello friends!  Sorry for being missing in action for a bit...but here I am!  How are you doing? 
I want to start out by saying that I hope and pray that anyone who has been touched by Hurricane Sandy is regrouping, recovering, rebuilding and staying strong. 
Dave and I were very lucky - we had two days of no power, but that's about it.  Those are the times I appreciate living next door to a fire department!  (Of course - when Sammy is commiserating with the fire whistle - I wish I were far from that noise!)  Some of my family is in the throws of dealing with water damage in their houses, but all in all - we were all very lucky and very blessed not to have more severe damage. 
So Sunday comes around and after a long and trying week - Dave and I decide to go to
Brasserie Cassis for Brunch.  You remember Cassis from Moules Monday, right?  Well, this still isn't a full review...because I need a nice night out and several people with me to sample dishes... but I just wanted to share one of our favorite Brunch spots! 

Classic French Bistro style, Cassis takes you to our own little Paris in Plainview!  We started out our brunch sharing a fantastic and classic "La Soupe a L'Oignon" French Onion Soup!
Golden and bubbly Gruyere cheese covering a flavorful, beefy, sweet broth and the most tender caramelized onions and slightly softened crusty bread...Simply delicious.  An elegant yet pheasant style soup that is just so perfect to start off a lovely meal!

Dave's dish...my carnivore!  He ordered the "Sandwich Bouchere"... on a crusty bread - wonderfully delicious sliced steak, frisee lettuce with caramelized onions and melted Gruyere cheese... I mean, look at this thing! 

The meat is so tender and flavorful, added to the sweetness of the onions and the tang of the cheese... this sandwich is an amazing blend of flavors. Added to that, amazing french fries with an herbed mayo to dunk them it - Classic Bistro Food, man...Oh so good!

Now - on to my dish... again a very classic french dish (yes, I know I'm repeating that, but I mean...its a French Restaurant!)... One I've eaten in Paris before... "Crepe Jambon et Fromage" .. a Ham and Cheese Crepe. 

The Crepe is amazingly light and the mix of the ham and cheese is, of course a classic flavor...I usually top it with their home made Dijon mustard and take a bite...Party in my mouth!

We were so full after that delightful Brunch, that we didn't even order our usual dessert of the baby Madeline's! That has to say something to the amazing flavors and the quality (and size) of the meal!

I do promise...soon I will do a full on review ... this place warrants it!

Until Next Time...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thanksgiving...giving back... and Vittorio's

Hello Friends...

I have lots to post, but my first post after this "Sandy" aftermath is... I hope every one has power, gas and a hot meal... 

If you don't ... I have a very little space...and 2 dogs and 2 cats... but my home is open to anyone who needs a hot shower, hot meal, laundry... what ever.  Even if you need a few hours in front of a TV... if you can deal with my fur babies.. Please - call, email, text...Let me kmow...

I will post a lovely brunch and some other things next week... but today - I wanted to give you all this info...
A hot meal is available at Vittorio's and Vero in Amityville - they are fully open for lunch and dinner... They have charging stations if you don't have power...and they have amazing meals to enjoy.... They both are also apart of Long Island Restaurant Week... which has been extended, and both Vittorio's and Vero had extended for their communities!

Now... I will say...Vittorio's...  has a special place in my heart as that is where Dave works, we went there for one of our first dates... and now, very dear friends and Amityville Community Supporters - Michael and Kristy Esposito - who own Vittorio's (and Vero) ... are doing something special and amazing...

They are opening Vittorio's for Thanksgiving this year...

Thanksgiving specials will be served... on Thursday, November 22, from 12 noon until 10pm..  The restaurant will be donating 20% of the proceeds from the evening to help local Sandy Relief efforts.

Michael and Kristy.... AWESOME!!!

The regular dinner menu will also be available however, special items include:

Roasted turkey with cornbread stuffing, giblet gravy, broccoli and cranberry sauce
Crab stuffed salmon
Herb roasted prime rib
Bacon wrapped pork tenderloin molasses demi glaze

For the table
Truffled mac and cheese * Pancetta braised Brussels sprouts * Glazed carrots * Corn bread stuffing Candied yams * Steamed broccoli * Green beans with crispy shallots * Baked sweet potatoes
Butternut squash gratin * Creamed spinach * Whipped potatoes * Roasted potatoes * Braised broccoli rabe

Friends....To make reservations call 631 264 3333

And... Really - with the amazing food at Vittorio's... eat a fantastic meal and be thankful for all that you have!!
I know ... I will!!!

Until Next Time...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I will preface this by saying...this is by no means a 'review'... (that will come later, when I have more people who want to come with me so we can try many more dishes! - accepting volunteers now...!!) hence this being (oddly for me) pictureless because I wanted to just sit back and savor the meal and not have to remember my camera!

So this Pictureless-Non-Review is simply a post of complete excitement as one of my favorite restaurants is Opening again!

Vero - Cibo - Vino - Liquori Bar (clicky, clicky) in Amityville, NY

I was a regular guest at Vero when they opened in November of 2010...even celebrating with friends New Years Eve to a delicious meal in an amazing atmosphere. 

Unfortunately Vero has been closed for renovations after a fire -but friends...November 1 they are officially open for business!

(I actually herd angles singing in my head when I got that news...as it had been way too long since I had the amazing Cesare alla Griglia (grilled ceasar salad), the Caponata Siciliana (eggplant) or the utterly delicious Lamb Lollipops - which were some of my favorites during previous visits)

I am thrilled to say that last night, Dave and I were able to go to Vero on their first soft opening night to enjoy a much anticipated-absolutely-delicious-can't-wait-to-go-back-again-meal!

There were four of us having dinner, which actually started out with a cocktail at the bar.  With a well thought out wine list, a large and unique beer list as well as a plethora of unique cocktails - how does one choose?? 

I stuck to a lovely Cabernet (as my motto is when you don't know what to choose - drink Cab!) and Dave beer - a really dark, creamy, hint of coffee/chocolate-esque Porter... Elena a cocktail from the menu, which she absolutely enjoyed (I wasn't around to hear what it was but looked luscious) and Andy a different kind of beer (again, wasn't around to hear what it was, but he drank it the rest of night, so he must have liked it!).  

I mention cocktails and beer now (as we all know I'm a wino) because while the wine list is fantastic - the beer menu and the specialty cocktails are worth a look (or two!) ... and a try!  Some very unique beverages for you to test out...And when I do a full on review - I won't have room to mention the bar (which is a fantastic setting) and its offerings!

For our starter...we opted for a sampling of the Formaggi, Salumi and Olives ... holy can you say "meal in itself?"... except there is so much more to try (I warn you - you'll leave there very full, but oh-so-satisfied!). 

The board it comes on is huge...and there are piles of salumi (we got the Bresacola, Coppa and Dave's favorite, the Mortadella) and enough cheese to put me right into my "i love life Happy Place"... Burrata (we all know how much I love that...a love I was introduced to at Vero!), an amazing Gorgonzola, of course a Parmigiano Reggiano...the assortment of cheeses offered on the menu is simply wonderful.  The board is served with a home made Giardiniera, a jam (ours was carrot!) as well as a grape and mint salad.  Each and everything was a perfect accompaniment to the Salumi and Cheeses.  Just wait til I have pictures, folks!!

After that delicious, pungent, creamy, meaty start - we opted for a few hot dishes to try.  Of course the Polenta Fries with Roasted Tomato Pesto... I simply can not go to Vero with out ordering these! Crispy, light, buttery, creamy...this hit all the notes and then when you add the pesto, a touch of sweet... a must have!

Our pasta dishes were:
The Garganelli with the duck ragu ... pasta cooked to perfection and a sauce that is rich, delicious and tender all on a plate.  I'm very new to eating duck - and often times will shy away - but not with this dish!

Gnocchi with the ragu of the night ... pork and mushroom i think... I was too busy shoveling it in my face to pay attention!  These little pillows of clouds simply melt in your mouth and leave you with a beautiful, chunky, meaty ragu that is just so flavorful.  We (thankfully!) had enough left over so I could eat it again for breakfast this morning!! What a treat!

Arm twisted for dessert, with lovely little - and surprisingly light - donuts in a trio of sauces (raspberry, chocolate and the carrot jam - which so worked with this!)... but my favorite of the night was the chocolate Ganache and Pistachio mousse.  I mean, my favorite word in the world after wine and cheese is Ganache...this was a mix of luxury and lightness, sweet and salty that was just the perfect way to end a meal!

Compliments to Chef Massimo and all of the staff for a delicious meal and great service....And a very heartfelt thanks to Michael and Kristy for a really fantastic evening...and a very loud Congratulations in the re-opening of Vero!

Friends...I suggest you make your reservations at Open Table as soon as possible!!  See you there!

(By the way ... who's coming back with me and when??  Can you imagine how long the review will be with pictures and oh so many more dishes to try?!?!?)

Until Next Time...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Waiters, Tips and Service

I had an interesting thing happen this past week that has sparked a thought process…Yes, they can be random at best, so thanks in advance for reading this long blog!!

I was in NYC with some friends at a restaurant.  It was just an OK place to grab a bite after doing a walking tour (Can you guess what the tour was by this Picture??)
Anyway – the restaurant was nothing gourmet by any means...not memorable enough to remember the name of the place (hence not blogging about the meal!) but with service that was absolutely memorable.  Our waiter Walter was amazing.  Anything we asked was answered with “of course”…and while I could go on about the little things he did – his professional behavior and stellar customer service was really a stand out.

He impressed so much, that one of my friends asked him to see the Manager… (mind you we hadn’t even eaten our main course yet and Walter did look a little freaked out!).  Without question, Walter said “Of Course” and got the manager.  When he came to the table, she said, “I just wanted to let you know that Walter’s service is amazing.” 

I wonder how many of you think to do that.  We all are so quick to complain – but how many of us tell either the manager or even the waiter themselves what a great job they are doing?

Of course that got me to thinking about tips…as at the end of the day, Walter knew he was appreciated by the 45% tip we ended up leaving him.  Excessive, absolutely … but with 7 women at the table who were very impressed with his service…we all just threw in above and beyond to say Thank you.

I’ve never been a waiter, but I married one (does that elude to "I played one on TV??").  I know me enough that I do not have the temperament or the personality for that particular job.  And after knowing my husband just shy of a decade, I have a deep appreciation for anyone who has the patience, energy and overall amazing demeanor to service the public. 

I hate most of the public…you’ll get that feel as you read through my blogs and we get to know each other…Unfortunately, a waiter doesn’t have the luxury of outright hating the public – they must cater to the public - give in to ever whim, thought and desire of the customer they are helping that evening. OH, no…I couldn’t do that to save my life. I swear if someone snapped their fingers at me, I’d walk over and slap them.

I’ve witnessed many a “did that just really happen?” incidents in restaurants involving waiters and customers…and I’ve heard many a funny, irritating, down right ‘people-are-disgusting’ stories from Dave and other friends in the restaurant industry. 

Let me tell you my favorite of all Dave-isms from his tenure in the business…this makes me chuckle every time!

Two ladies come in for lunch…each have a burger and a beverage and ask for separate checks (in case you don’t know, that is one of a waiters least favorite questions to be asked). Dave brings them their checks, they pay and leave.  One of the ladies left an appropriate tip for her portion of the bill…the other lady put on the tip line - no monetary tip, but the words “Jesus Loves You”.


Maybe it’s an occupational thing – but these days when Dave and I go out, we’re always leaving over 20% when we have good service in a restaurant.

This is a scenario I witnessed recently:
A group of diners are in a restaurant…the service is fine, they were being paid attention to, they never wanted for a drink nor did they have to ask for more bread or butter, their special requests were handled with ease…
One of their appetizers wasn’t cooked to her liking…the waiter took it back and did bring another a short time later.  Another didn’t like how his meat was cooked, but just ate it anyway.   

Upon paying the bill, the guy actually said that he was tipping 10% because of the errors with the meal…specifically said ‘that will show him’.

Ahhh....What did the waiter do?  They served; they did their job, but because the food wasn’t correct people feel the need to take it out on the waiter (um…isn’t that the chef’s job??).  I don’t understand why they didn’t talk to a manager, but rather decided to ‘dock the pay’ of the waiter.

Pet Peeve:  (I was out with a few friends and their friend when this one happened)… we decided to go out for some drinks and maybe some appetizers. We did sit at a table, and the service was just fine…at the time to pay the bill… the friend of a friend just threw in a few dollars for the tip “because we didn’t eat a meal, it was just drinks and apps”. 

Yes.  She said that.

I don’t know why would anyone think that 18-20% tips don’t count for just drinks and apps?  Your waiter has to tip out the Bartender who made your drinks and the bus person who cleared your table (which lessens his take) and yet – its OK to not tip right cause it was just ‘drinks and apps”?  Needless to say the rest of us covered it…but I was stunned!

And how many of you do this (or know someone who does):
You sit at a bar and order a cocktail before dinner or waiting on friends.  The bartender gives you your check…which you pay and leave $1 extra. I’ve seen it numerous times.  A drink is usually about $10.00 … why would you only tip 10%?  If your drink was 10 bucks...at least leave $2...really!?

I am ashamed to say that in my youth – I’ve done things like this.  Youth and ignorance on my part…absolutely and in my defense it was before I knew anything about the food service industry and I was overly critical of service. OK, yes, I’m still overly critical of service – but I do so knowing that if I have an issue with something – I take it to the person who can do something about it (the manager)…and not take it out on the livelihood of the person serving me.

Ok…vent over.  Moral of this story: next time you’re out to dinner and your service is good – take the time out to say thank you...verbally and monetarily.

Until Next Time...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yes, it's finally Quinoa Lentil Salad Time

I've written about it two or three times in my blog, so I thought it's now time to share this with you!

I remember the first time I heard the word quinoa and I was like “king-what?”…and really paid no attention to it.  But I’m hearing it in more and more recipes and hearing how it is a whole grain that is a great source of protein and I wanted to check it out.  I looked it up online and saw that it really isn’t a grain, but a seed of a plant (related to spinach) – and since I love spinach, I figured how bad could quinoa be…?

Well, months go by and I don’t do anything about it…Until I saw a recipe on the Food Network and decided I had to try this…it’s so simple and my lazy self loves the idea of being able to make a salad that is filling, nutritious and (crossed my fingers and hoped it would be) delicious.  

So – off I go to Stop & Shop and buy a box of white quinoa (yes, there are colors!) and a bag of lentils…Two ingredients I have NEVER cooked with … and geared myself up to make this recipe.

And the stuff sat in my pantry for easily six months.  Yes folks, I am that lazy…and especially with ingredients I’ve never used before – I almost am intimidated by them.  Almost…

Then one afternoon, I’m going to a BBQ at my friend’s house and need something to bring.  Having nothing in the house and not wanting to go shopping, I decided to let my friends be my guinea pigs.  Nice of me, right?  This could have been disgusting, but I’m willing to let my friends jump into the quinoa pool. 

So this is what you need to make the quinoa:
½ cup quinoa
1 ¼ cups of water (or chicken stock)*

And for the Lentils
2 cups of water (again, or chicken stock)
½ cup lentils

*note – you can cook all of this in chicken stock or vegetable stock…to impart flavor…however I originally used water as directed – the recipe came out just fine.

OK – Let’s address the Lentils:  Put them in a sieve and rinse with cold water.  Then add them to the saucepan that has the 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer – let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, but not mushy.  (I did fined that 30 minutes was just right)
 Drain and set aside in a bowl.

The quinoa:  Put them in a sieve and rinse with cold water too (ah…yes, separately from the lentils!).  Put with the 1 ¼ cups of water in a large microwave bowl with a cover and nuke it on high for 9 minutes.

Let it sit for 2 minutes, then stir.  The quinoa absorbs all of the liquid (if it doesn’t – cook a bit longer) and when done it will have a consistency a bit tougher than sort of a cream of wheat…it kind of ‘pops’ when you bite into it.   
(Kids, if you don’t have a cover to your dish, and you just cover with plastic wrap, you’ll need to just about double your cooking time!)

Put the quinoa in the bowl with the lentils.

Now here is where I deviated from the original recipe that wanted you to make your own vinaigrette – and not that there is anything wrong with that, but when you have perfectly fine Good Seasons Italian Dressing, why wouldn’t I use that? (Of Course you can make your own vinaigrette or use your desired Italian style dressing of choice).

So I add into the quinoa/lentil bowl: 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, salt (not a lot) and pepper to taste and about ¼ cup (to taste) of the pre-made Good Seasons Italian Dressing.  Combine with the quinoa/lentil salad and then taste – see if you need more dressing or not.  Not salty enough…That’s OK – I then added two large handfuls of Parmesan cheese!  It added that salty, nutty, creaminess that I was looking for! 

Done!  Or just about... :)

This salad is great just as is...Hot, Room Temp or even cold...but it also has "expandable" possibilities!

Want a bit more crunch?  Throw in a few handfuls of either Pine Nuts or Slivered Almonds...

Or cube up some feta cheese, halve some grape tomatoes, dice in 1/4 of an English cucumber and toss in a touch of oregano and you have a great Mediterranean salad.

Top with some cooked shrimp, 1/2 cup of salsa, 1/2 can of rinsed black beans, a dash of cumin and chili seasoning for a Mexican inspired dish (I'd even top it with a touch of Cheddar and Sour Cream).

Or just go all veggie on it and dice up some green onion, red peppers, (blanched) asparagus tips...what ever you have in the house!  Then crumble a bit of goat cheese on top...Yum!

Try this one out...it sits well in the fridge, so I usually double the recipe and will have it for the occasional breakfast, lunch or a side with dinner (if I don't throw some chicken in it and have it for dinner!).

Until Next Time...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Monday Football Nights

Is it really October?  I love the autumn and the changing of the trees...Halloween and Thanksgiving...I'm just not a fan of the cooler weather.  I don't want to have to put on a jacket (but I'm OK with a heavy sweater) and I certainly don't want to start thinking about the possibility of snow.  Eh.  A completely four letter word people.

I was forced to admit this morning that Fall has fallen - I’ve actually started today wearing socks and closed-toed shoes.  

Well, tonight is Monday Night Football and the JETS are playing...

on top of a cool, gray, damp day...and the memory of the horrific game last week…Well now lets add to that Dave is working. I don't think I can hold off and not watch the game until he gets home...but I also know it won’t be any fun yelling at the TV alone tonight … Yes - it's a bit gloomy over here!

It's time to break out the comfort food!

Comfort food brings so many dishes to mind from my childhood… German Eggs, Poor Man's Chicken, Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese...OH! Welsh Rabbit! (OK, that one will take explaining, but that is for another time!); but the one that stands out as one of my favorites is ‘Hamburgler Helper’ as my sister Kris called it for years…(I’d bet she still does!)

Hamburger Helper … Specifically – Cheeseburger Macaroni. 

I mean, please – who didn’t like Hamburger Helper as a kid?  And please note: I did say ‘as a kid’. 

Dave and I took a walk down memory lane a few months ago and bought a box to make for dinner…I was so excited!  I hadn’t had it in…oh, say 25 years and my mouth could just remember the flavors that I enjoyed so much as a child.

Well folks, apparently as I grew up, so did my taste buds – it wasn’t the same at all.  Or maybe it’s just that Mom needs to make it…Who knows. All I know is that I was so disappointed!  And then Dave said that “we (he really means me) can make this from scratch and it will be way better”. 

Well Dave, Yes… I can.  And I did.

In the EmilyVerse, it’s Monday Night JETS football and my version of Cheeseburger Macaroni and Cheese…if only Dave were home and the JETS win – it would be a perfect night!
(Ok - so obviously this was written Monday Night and posted Tuesday morning...and I got one out of my two wishes...Dave got home early so we could watch the game together...but the JETS lost.  Again. Sigh.)

So, two things:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
Put on a large pot of boiling, well salted water for the pasta.

Elbows or Shells are the norm, but we all that I don't do norm well.  Use what ever pasta you have in the house! You'll cook the pasta per the box instructions (just shy of al dente please!).

While that is going, you're going to brown your meat.  In a skillet, put some olive oil, and then throw in:
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (or run it through a micro plane)

Let that cook until just fragrant (about a minute or two) and then add in 1 lb Ground Turkey (yes, you can use beef here...I just choose turkey!). 
I'll also season at this point with some salt, Pepper, Worcestershire sauce (a few dashes) and some dried Italian seasoning.

Let this go, breaking up the meat and cook until brown. 
The sauce...We're going to make a basic rue so melt in a sauce pan
8 tablespoons of butter
one quart of milk.
When that is warm and just barely at a simmer, whisk in 1/2 cup of flour to thicken the sauce.
(I suppose I should add that this would be the perfect time to make a slurry so that the sauce doesn't get lumpy...meaning put some of the hot liquid in the flour, combine well and then put it in the rest of your milk - Dave would tell me to do this.  I don't...I just dump it in and whisk away...haven't had any lumps yet!) 

I also add at this time about 2 heaping tablespoons of dried mustard as well as about 1/2 a teaspoon of fresh nutmeg - little flavors that will make you say...hum..what IS that?
When its all combine (and no lumps! :) add in your cheeses...Be flexible here - use what you like!  I'm putting in about 8 oz of Gruyere, 12 oz of a sharp yellow cheddar...(and this is very conservative for me...but it's all I have in the house at the moment! I usually overload with the cheeses, so feel free to do so!)

Mix until the sauce is all gooey, cheesy goodness. 
You'll put this on top of your drained pasta and add the meat...

mix well and put in a casserole pan. Sprinkle a mixture of the cheeses on top and cover generously with some seasoned panko bread crumbs (yes, you can make your own, but why? when you can just get a good panko?) and a drizzle of Olive Oil.
 Bake for about 45 minutes until golden and bubbly.  
In my world...any Mac and Cheese is served with the choice of putting Ketchup on it.  Yes, I know most of the world just read that sentence and said..."what?" But that is how I was raised, so that is how I eat it.  Please feel free to try it - or just eat it plain...But do try this recipe and make it...and eat it! It's yummy, trust me!

Until Next Time...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I think I have a Dave-ager...

It may be possible that I've met and married not only the love of my life, but someone who talks as much as I do (Yes, Dave...you do!). And with my amazing husband in the restaurant business, this quality comes in very handy in dealing with the public. 

So last week while he was at work, Dave starting talking to some ladies that were in for lunch.  The ladies, looking for somewhere new to try asked Dave where likes to go to eat when he isn't working...(it really is a common question asked to waiters) and Dave mentions Left Coast Kitchen and that I had blogged about it here... 

Dave gave them my blog address and they asked what kind of blog I wrote...
(while he knew about it from my telling him about some posts, he hadn't been back to read it since the first post...Shame on you Dave...but I'll forgive you because...) he described that I do my own restaurant reviews, but that I also post the recipes that I like to make.

"Your wife likes to cook?" the Newsday Food Reporter asked, "Would she be interested in submitting a recipe for us?"  She was in Vittorio's and reviewed the lunch they had (see it here).

Of course, Dave said yes...calls me and tells me...and I thought - OK, that is awfully nice, but really, nothing will come of it (that's my luck!).

Oh - the very next morning, they called! It took less than a week to submit a recipe, have a phone interview and a photographer come to the house and take some pictures!  So in Sunday's Newsday, you'll see my recipe and I in print!

Dave says he wants 10%....Um, its not a paid gig.
Dave says its the start, he got it for me, so he's claiming his percentage up front...

I have a Dave-ager. 

For Representation, call Dave

Anyway folks... Here are my "Baby Wellingtons"! 

First - make the horseradish sauce... at least a few hours ahead of time so the flavors have time to 'marry'. =)

3/4 of a cup of Mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of horseradish (I like it spicy...if you don't - do about 1/2 a tablespoon)
4ish tablespoons of sour cream
a touch of salt

Mix together and let sit while you prepare the Welli's

Ingredients needed:

3 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 pounds of beef*, cut into 24 cubes about 1 inch each
  * I use my favorite cut of beef here - rib eye or sirloin...but you can use any cut you choose...tenderloin is most popular
1/4 cup of flour
1 package of baby Bella mushrooms (minced)
1 large shallot
2 cloves of Garlic *note:  I always add more garlic than a recipe says...I think I used 4!
1 tsp each of fresh thyme and rosemary
1 tbs of butter
1/4 cup of a dry red wine (Cab or Merlot)
2 sheets of puff pastry - thawed
1 egg beaten
Salt and Pepper to taste

Trim/cut the beef into cubes then put into the freezer for 20 minutes.

Take the beef out of the freezer, pat dry - season with salt and pepper and coat very lightly with flour.

In a large pan over medium high heat, heat up 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sear the beef on top and bottom until golden - about 2 minutes in each side.  Remove from the pan and put on a plate to cool.

In the food processor - pulse the baby Bella mushrooms until finely minced. 

Then, finely chop the garlic and the shallot, as well as chop up your thyme and rosemary.

In that same pan that you browned the beef, add rest of the olive oil as well as the butter to melt. Then add your garlic - cook for about a minute and then add the shallot.

Cook for about 5 minutes, until the shallot is translucent and then add your mushrooms, salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary - Stir to combine and cook on a medium heat for about 6 minutes. 

Then add the red wine
and cook until the wine has reduced and the mixture is moist, but not overly saturated.

Remove from the heat and cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a baking sheet very lightly with olive oil or non stick spray (or - as I did, for easy clean up, line the baking sheet with parchment paper!).

Flour your cutting board or work surface and roll out (separately) the sheets of puff pastry to be about 10 by 14.  (There is no exact science to this...and as you can see by the picture below, most often times I can't get it straight or at 10 x 14 either... just go with what feels comfortable.)
Place a teaspoon of the Mushroom mixture on the pastry - evenly spacing them in 3 rows of 4 (or as I did, 3 rows of 3!) and top that with a piece of your beef. 

Cut the pastry into even squares around the meat/mushroom mixture, pull each side up to completely surround the beef and make a pastry packet. 
Seam side down, put that on your baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg.
Bake until golden brown - about 20-25 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

I also love the versatility of this dish - I've done it with loin of pork for Pork Wellingtons...and for my vegetarian friends... I'll make Veggie Welli's by replacing the beef with Portobello Mushrooms and Zucchini. 

I'd love to see how to do it with shrimp or scallops - but I think I'll change the mushroom mixture into something with  Leeks...  to be continued... :)

If you're on Long Island...pick up Sunday's Newsday...It should be in the Life & Style section!

Off to AZ with my sister...to visit a few more SOC's (sisters of choice)...I'll tell you about it next time!

Until Next Time...