Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sunday Funday

I have really been enjoying the micro-brew scene in the San Diego area lately. This enjoyment has been spread across the board, anything from drinking local brews at home, visiting bars/restaurants that carry craft beers, and going to distribution hubs and on-site breweries.

I knew that San Diego had some local breweries, but it has only been within the last year that I have come to realize just how big the scene really is. The expanse of this culture has been brought to my attention not only by friends who are beer nerds, but also by local events and more recently by the 91X morning show and the Union-Tribune blog Brewery Rowe.

Every Thursday the 91X morning crew has a segment called Beer for Breakfast (note: the 91X morning show has since been cancelled). Each week a local brewer stops by the studio and for about 20 minutes the hosts drink the beer that was brought in and the brewer talks about what goes into the making of said beer and a little about the brewery it comes from. I have learned through this show that San Diego brewers don’t mess around. This is no Bud Light being brought into the 91X show. San Diego brewers are known for their robust, hoppy, high-percentage alcohol. Where beers such as Bud Light boarder on 4-5% alcohol content, San Diego beers typically reach into the 8% and higher categories.

One such local place is Stone Brewing in Escondido. Being a central San Diego gal myself, making the trek north to Stone is quite out of the way, but well worth it. Stone did a fantastic job of transforming their brewery into a destination location that caters not only to those who want to tour the facilities, but also to those who want to take the time to really sit and enjoy the beer offered over an extended period of time. No matter what your intentions are at Stone, they can be accomplished as a date, in a friendly group or as a family gathering.

Attractions at Stone include a gift shop, the brewery tour, a restaurant, an outdoor bar and a garden/picnic area. Stone is beautifully designed and inviting. In 2007 it even won The People’s Orchid, a local architecture award, for its “open and airy interior and the seamless indoor/outdoor connection via floor to ceiling glass doors. The element that drew the most attention of voters was the huge outdoor patio and garden animated by waterfalls and fire pits. Stone Brewing World is a destination very much in tune with Southern California living.

But enough background information and on to the meat and potatoes of this blog: A Sunday Funday trip to Stone Brewery.

The other weekend a friend and I headed north to Stone. It was a very nice day in San Diego and the weather got even warmer as we headed north to Escondido. We opted to sit at a table in the outside bar area, because the surrounding garden area at Stone is so inviting and because of the sunshine.

We didn’t end up doing the tour on this trip. It’s recommended to get there early if you want to get a spot in one of the daily tours. Tickets are limited and very popular.

First thing was first, attack the massive beer list. I started with Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, while my friend went with the Stone Ruination Ale. To curb the appetite for a while I got a side salad. I have to say that the only negative to our trip was the service. It took more than 20 minutes for my side salad to come out. It’s a good thing I had a tasty beverage in hand to hold me over.

Since we were in this visit for the long haul (it takes too long to drive up there to just get one beer and leave), we brought some games for us to play and amused ourselves with quite a few rounds of Phase 10 and Rook.

We also took the time for some more good food. We had the Wild Boar Baby Back Ribs, which were fall-off-the-bone tender and doused in an excellent Stone Red Imperial Ale Five Chili Agave glaze. Of course there were a few more beers thrown in. I had a Stone sampler, which was a small taste of their 4 most popular brews: Pale Ale, Smoked Porter, IPA and Arrogant Bastard Ale.

To finish off the night – for those of you who know me, you knew this was coming – we had some bacon. In this case, bacon came in the form of dessert. To be more specific we got the Stone Imperial Russian Stout Chocolate Bacon Torte. For someone who LOVES bacon, this was enjoyable, but I have to say the bacon may have been a little extreme. The cake was a bit dry for my liking, but it didn’t stop us from eating the majority of the concoction.

Five-hours later and despite the poor service (although it turned out our busboy was more helpful than our server) and the overly bacony dessert we had an overall great trip to Stone Brewery. On our next trip we hope to make it in time to go on one of the brew tours.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Art what?

Over the weekend I went down to Little Italy with my friend Amanda to the 26th annual ArtWalk. I've been living in San Diego for nearly 10 years now and this is an event I hear about every year, but one that I've never been to. Amanda had never been either, so it was the blind leading the blind.

We made our way downtown on Saturday just after the event started on the first day. The weather couldn't have been better. The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze to keep it cool. People were out in full force at this event. It was tough to squeeze into some of the smaller booths to even be able to see the art.

As stated in the title of the event there was some art. In fact, one of my former co-workers Dani Dodge was one of the featured artists this year and she had some great watercolor pieces of New York. But most importantly, there were food street vendors. Yes, please.

Amanda and I scanned the corners where the vendors were and settled on a particularly smoky stand that was selling tri tip sandwiches. The line was long, the sandwiches looked good, and we picked up a free sample of eau de campfire while waiting.

The $7 sandwich did not disappoint. I was a bit worried about the bun it was served on; it looked tough. In actuality, the bun was amazing. It was thick, but soft, like it had just been baked. The tri tip was melt in your mouth tender and to top it off, there was a great bbq sauce with just the right amount of kick to it. Amanda and I both gave the sandwich two thumbs up.

Due to the warmish weather, we couldn't leave Little Italy without a stop at Yogurtland. Plus, Amanda had never been, so I felt it was my duty to introduce her. I think every body else at the ArtWalk had the same idea -- I'd never seen so many people in a Yogurtland. Worth the wait? Of course!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Food flash mob

I'm now caught up on all four episodes of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Since the first episode, Jamie is continuing his program at the elementary school with a bit more success. He's still meeting resistance from the lunch cooks (who don't like to be called lunch ladies. Adam Sandler would be disappointed.) who say cooking from scratch is too much work, even if the food is fresh and tastes good.

Jamie also started a program at one of the local high schools. Not only is he cooking lunch meals, where students are given multiple lunch options, as opposed to the elementary school that only gets one, but he also gathered a few students who were interested in spreading the word and helping him with his project. Each of the kids involved has a personal connection to obesity or just really wants to help see their community make a change.

The best part of the fourth episode came when Jamie made a bet with the local deejay Rod Willis who is very opposed to the project. Rod told Jamie that he doesn't think people will want to come to the kitchen Jamie set up for free cooking lessons. As a response, Jamie said if he could get 1,000 people to come through the kitchen in 5 days time, the deejay would finally have to start backing Jamie's project (and buy him a beer, of course).

A thousand people in 5 days is a lot. So, along with going on a variety of TV and radio programs to help promote Jamie's Kitchen, Jamie set up a flash mob at local Marshall University. A flash mob is where a group of people collaboratively do something out of the ordinary in an ordinary setting. In this case, in the middle of campus among unsuspecting people gathering and walking around the center of campus, the flash mob busted out a choreographed dance making stir-fry. It was awesome.

During the week Jamie then set up a cook-a-thon where he had people out in the streets cooking stir-fry. He visited local factories where he taught workers how to cook in the middle of work.

"One person cannot change 50,000 people in the town of Huntington." - Rod Willis.

When Jamie came about 200 people shy of his goal, he turned to Rod Willis to help him reach his goal. To try to convince Rod to help, Jamie took him to a local funeral parlor. It was crazy. You never really think about what happens to obese people when they die. This segment was a real eye opener. With the increase in obesity, casket makers have had to expand their business to create, essentially, double-wide caskets. The morticians at the funeral home said because of their size, morbidly obese people cannot be cremated and to carry the casket, it has to go on a flatbed truck. That's for sure not the way I want to exit this world. "It ain't about cooking lettuce, the Food Revolution is about saving lives." Jamie said to Rod after leaving.

Jamie's plan worked. During the last day, Rod showed up to Jamie's Kitchen to help reach 1,000 people cooking. Rod finally broke down and said, "I've come to realize that it's not about Jamie Oliver any more, it's about us as a community."

If you haven't checked out the show, you can catch up with old episodes on Hulu.com or tune in at 9pm on Fridays on ABC.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Food Revolution

While I do write quite a bit about such unhealthy foods as burgers, hot dogs, fair food and of course bacon, when it comes to my normal everyday eating habits, my choices tend to be fairly healthy. In fact, my lunch today consisted of rotisserie chicken, broccoli, a slice of whole grain bread and a glass of nonfat milk.

As with much in life if you are frugal and smart about your spending habits, you are able to indulge in larger items from time to time -- a new pair of shoes, a piece of furniture for your house or maybe even a vacation. It's the same for food. If you maintain a relatively healthy eating pattern for most of the week, you should be able to indulge in the delicious, not-so-healthy food from time to time.

I'm a little slow on the uptake, but today I watched the first episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolutions, which runs at 9pm, Friday nights on ABC. After the first few minutes I was totally hooked. The premise of the show is that British chef Jamie Oliver goes to Huntington, West Virginia, called the most unhealthy city in America, with the goal of showing people that it doesn't cost any more, nor take more effort, for people to eat more healthy.

In the first episode, Jaime goes into an elementary school to observe what the children are eating and how the workers are preparing. His visit, however, came after stopping by a local radio station to talk about his goals for this experiment. The disc jockey was very against the whole idea. "We don't want to sit around and eat lettuce all day. You come to town and you say you're going to change our menus and stuff. I just don't think you should just come in here and tell us what to do. I mean who made you the king?" said DJ Rod Willis.

It's funny to me that this guy's view of eating healthy is to sit around eating lettuce. I don't think it would be much of a revolution to come into a town and tell everyone that all they're allowed to eat is salad. That's absurd.

Following that radio station visit Jamie shows up at the school. The scene was disturbing. Children were eating their morning meal of pizza. Seriously, pizza for breakfast provided by school officials? I don't think I learned about pizza for breakfast until I woke up from a late night study session in college and there was nothing else available as I ran out of my room to get to class. The school scenes only got worse. Chicken nuggets, frozen this and that, and a whole load of foods with countless added preservatives. Another thing that alarmed me was the amount of food the kids throw away.

Aside from the elementary school, Jamie visited a local family. Everyone in the family -- mom, two boys and one daughter -- were obese. The father was a trucker and wasn't seen in this episode. The 12-year-old son looked older than the 16-year-old son. Jamie took the family's receipts from the past week then took all of the food the family had purchased, prepared it and displayed it on the kitchen table in one big heap. It was disgusting to look at.

Jamie told the mom that by serving her children that food, she was shaving years off her children's lives. She broke down and said, "I'm killing my children." No arguments from Jamie. Everything on the table was processed, fried and full of fat. There were no fruits and the only vegetable was potatoes. As a symbol of moving forward, Jamie and the family buried the fryer in the backyard.

During the whole show Jamie was met with resistance (other than the family, who seemed to realize there was a problem and were willing to work toward making a change). There was an extremely negative article written in the town paper, resistance came from the kitchen workers, principal and other administrators, and of course, when given the choice between pizza or freshly made chicken, even the kids resisted the idea of healthier food in their lives.

I am very curious to see where this experiment leads. I hope Jamie's work can help plant the seed of change for a more healthy America.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter leftovers

I spent Easter with my boyfriend's family yesterday. His mom was out of town visiting family and friends, so his dad took the driver's seat on Easter lunch. The spread was amazing. There was a fantastic meat lasagna that is his mom's signature Italian dish (his dad was given very precise step-by-step instructions on how to make it), a honey-baked ham, green beans with toasted almonds, mashed potatoes, salad and bread. With only four of us eating the food there were quite a few leftovers. While my boyfriend claimed much of the lasagna, I managed to escape with some of the ham.

Here's what I did with my Easter leftovers today.

I bought some pre-made herb ravioli with spinach and cheese. I boiled these for 4-5 minutes, while those were cooking I diced one slice of the ham into small squares and cooked them in a pan with about a teaspoon of olive oil.

After I drained the ravioli I added them to the pan with the ham. While those two heated, I steamed about a half a cup of broccoli with lemon pepper on top.

While the ravioli and ham is cooking, add a teaspoon of lemon juice and the zest of half a lemon. Continue heating for about five minutes.

Remove ravioli and broccoli from heat and combine both in a bowl and give it a toss. Squeeze a little more lemon juice over the top of everything. Grate about a teaspoon of fresh Parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy.

Obviously this made only one serving, but can easily be increased for larger portions.

I ate my lunch today while watching the movie New York, I Love You. This is one of those movies that seems to be the who's who when it comes to actors that are involved. From Natalie Portman and Bradly Cooper to James Caan and Cloris Leachman. When you see films with so many familiar names you expect big things. To me, this sometimes tends not to be the case (A Prairie House Companion).

This movie was a collaboration of multiple short stories rolled into one that displayed the many lives and relationships that make New York, New York. Now, I love New York. It's a fantastic city that is always alive with something new. I thought the movie was cute, but not fantastic. It didn't enhance my view of the Big Apple, but I'd say it was worth the peak.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Eating my way through Spring Training, V

Just because we finished with Spring Training games it didn't mean we were finished eating. On our way out to Camelback Mountain on Friday we drove past a Sprinkles cupcake shop. I shrieked with excitement. We didn't have time to get cupcakes that day (plus it would have voided the calories we burned hiking), so I made sure to make it back on our way out of town Sunday.

I'm not saying that getting cupcakes was the highlight of the trip, but it darn well was up there. It would have been more of a highlight if I would have gone on Saturday when they had the strawberry cupcakes, but instead I settled for a black & white cupcake and a lemon cupcake. Yummy.

After our stop at Sprinkles, we headed south to the Arizona State University campus. On the edge of campus sits deli/bar Bison Witches, a must eat in Arizona I was told before leaving on the trip. The selection offered up at Bison Witches was part pub food and part deli. I opted for the $7.75 deal of a half sandwich, half soup. I got a roast beef and brie sandwich on wheat with clam chowder.

Roast beef and brie with clam chowder. Yum, yum.

My dad got the Sundevil on rye. Both sandwiches were served on thick, homemade-like bread. The soup was served in a bread bowl. I was able to down my whole meal, my dad ended up taking half of his sandwich home. It was a little heartbreaking that we had to get on the road after eating here because the beer selection was excellent.

Eating my way through Spring Training, IV

Our last game at Spring Training. Giants vs. Diamondbacks.

Saturday marked the last game for our Spring Training trip. Unlike my father, who had a hot dog every game, I had managed to not repeat on food and today would be no exception. After making a circle around the stadium and eying the wares I decided upon a cheeseburger from the BBQ stand.

This burger was sub-par for sure.

As a self-proclaimed burger connoisseur this was NOT a good burger.  First of all it wasn't very warm, like it had been bbq'd earlier then set aside. Second, I hate when you just slap a slice of cheese onto a burger without it being melted. The only positive to my lunch was that I found a beer kart behind home plate that sold Shock Top beer -- a much better alternative to Bud or Coors Light. The burger set me back $7.75 and the beer was $7.25.

Dinner was a much better experience. We headed into downtown Phoenix near where both the Suns and Diamondbacks have stadiums. The dinner destination was Alice Cooperstown.

All of the menu items were cleverly named for various athletes and musicians. I got the Sundevil Clubhouse with chicken, sweet garlic mayo, bacon, lettuce and tomato. It came with two sides and I got fries and mandarin slices. The sandwich was great and the fries were perfectly crispy.
The Sundevil Clubhouse with fries.

My dad got "The Great One" bbq sampler with ribs, smoked turkey, pulled pork, hot link and brisket. Everything was great and the proportions weren't overwhelming. The best part were the prices. My sandwich only set me back $9.99 and my dad's plate was only $13.99. If in town I'd check this place out again.
"The Great One" bbq sampler

Friday, March 5, 2010

Eating my way through Spring Training, III

Today was a little better as far as food goes. Heck it was a pretty darn good day in general.

The day started with Kashi bars and bananas on our way to Camelback Mountain. We decided that since we ate so poorly the day before we needed some exercise, so we went for a hike. I found out about Camelback on Yelp.com. Many people had written they had enjoyed the hike and that it had some great views once you reached the top. The description on the Phoenix parks site said that it was a trail recommended for experienced hikers only -- that is correct. I hike to the highest point in San Diego probably one to three times a month. It's a good hike that gets the heart pumping, but nothing compared to this hike. There were parts of the hike where you had to hold on to railings bolted into the ground going up and down because it was so steep.

Are we hiking halfdome?!

But in the end, the panoramic views of both Scottsdale and Phoenix were incredible. In all we hiked for just over two hours. I estimated that we probably burned off a hot dog or two.

At the game I wasn't in the mood for another hot dog. Instead, I headed to the third base side of the stadium to get some noodles I had seen the previous day. For $6 you could get a Chinese food-sized takeout box filled with noodles and various vegis. For $8 you could get ginger chicken on top. I love ginger so opted for the chicken. Not worth the extra $2. Sure, they gave you lots of chicken, but it was way too salty for my taste.

Left-field award winning noodles. Eh. At least it wasn't a hot dog.

After the game (which in case you were wondering was the Giants vs. Rockies - Giants won 7-4) we took a pedi-cab to Scottsdale Road and went to happy hour at Salty Senoriata. We drove past this restaurant around noon when returning from our hike and the patio was packed. It wasn't much different when we arrived. We opted to get our drinks from the inside bar. Happy Hour margs were $4. There were various other happy hour specials from 3-7pm, but we stuck with the basics.

Pedi-cab ride from the stadium to Salty Senoritas.

For dinner we ventured back to downtown Scottsdale on a recommendation from a friend of mine. The night's cuisine was Italian food at Pasta Brioni. The restaurant was in a strip mall off Miller Road, just east of Scottsdale Road. It was a decent size, nicely set up with a good dinner atmosphere for family or date night. I got the spaghetti and meatball which I give two thumbs up. The meatballs were perfectly seasoned, no overkill on parsley or any other crazy seasoning. The pasta sauce was light and also not overly seasoned. My dad had the veal piccata. The sauce was very light and the meat was so tender that it melted in your mouth. Both meals were satisfying and delicious. I would check it out again if I were back in town. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Eating my way through Spring Training, II

It's a good thing I made no disclaimers on the type of food I would be eating while here in Arizona. Today was a golden junk food day for sure.

Barry Zito warming up before the home opener for the Giants.

It was day two of Spring Training today and we went to Scottsdale Stadium to see the Giants take on the Brewers.

There was some drama in today's game as the Giants' starting pitcher Barry Zito hit Brewer Prince Fielder on the first pitch. Fielder earned a target on his back after the two teams met back in September and Fielder pulled an elaborate stunt after hitting a game winning homerun with two outs in the 9th inning. The un-sportsman like production included many Brewer teammates falling over like bowling pins when Fielder leaped in the air and struck home plate. Was Zito justified in the retaliation? I think so.

Enough about baseball, what about the food?! Well, it was a doosey of a day, I'll tell you that much to start.

As I reported in my day one blog, Scottsdale Stadium took 7th place out of 11 teams on the ranking of stadium food. The selection that the Peoria Sports Complex had by far out shadowed the Giants' home base. There was the famous Gordon Biersch garlic fries, but I'm not a huge fan of them. They smell good, but don't get make the cut in my book.

Lunch was enjoyed on the outfield grass area.

For my stadium lunch selection I opted for a Giant dog at the bbq stand between third base and right field. This was my first dog of the trip, and probably not my last. I happily got my favorite dog toppings: catchup and jalapenos. Yum. The dog was standard, but took on some extra flavor because it was bbq'd. As far as stadium dogs go, it was pretty good.

We took a break from baseball action to catch a hockey game.

As if eating stadium food once during the day wasn't enough, we decided to head over to Jobing.com Arena to watch the Phoenix Coyotes take on the Colorado Avalanche in some hockey action. A friend of mine recommended this outing and also told us that for $30 you got seats behind the goal AND all you can eat at the concession stand. Sweet! On the menu (and I am going to sound very glutonous for this one): two rounds of nachos, a pile of goober peanuts, a hot dog (no jalapenos this time) and three diet pepsi's. I think I for sure got my moneys worth.

All you can eat?! Now that's something I can really get behind.

Next up on the menu? I guess we'll have to see tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Eating my way through Spring Training

Day One
At 6a.m. the sun rose above the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest and I was behind the wheel of my car headed east to Phoenix. Thus begins the trip to Spring Training 2010. The lineup: Day one, Giants at Mariners; Day two, Giants vs. Brewers; Day three, Giants vs. Rockies; Day four, Giants vs. Diamondbacks.

I went on a solo trip to Spring Training two years ago for a quick weekend where I saw two Padres games. For this year's trip my dad joined me. He has never been to Spring Training and is a huge Giants fan, so watching him get ready for this trip has been like watching a kid in a candy store.

A bit of planning went into the trip including, of course, where to eat while in Arizona. I checked out Yelp, got some word-of-mouth recommendations and found a few ideas on springtrainingconnection.com.

On the Spring Training Connection web site they ranked which stadiums had the best food. Peoria Sports Complex, where the Mariners play, was ranked number one. Giants' stadium in Scottsdale was ranked number seven out of eleven locations.

For Day One I decided to try Randy Jones' BBQ in Power Alley behind third base. I got their bbq pulled pork sandwich and it was not a disappointment. For $6 I got the sandwich, piled high with pulled pork, potato salad and corn on the cob. My beer on the other hand, a measly Bud Light, was $7.25. Guess you can't win all your battles.

We also went to a small beer garden near center field where there were some better beer choices. A big cup of Fat Tire and Blue Moon was only $7.25 each. A great value in my book --only in terms of ballpark prices, of course.

For dinner after the game we crossed the street into a shopping center that had a bunch of different restaurants. We checked out a word-of-mouth recommendation by going to Abuelos. The food was really great and reasonably priced. The best part was the happy hour drink specials. Most drinks were $3-4 each. I got a two enchilada plate with chicken in a green sauce and avocado in a cream sauce. My dad got a Matamoros plate with chili relleno that was excellent - nice and crispy with great flavor. I would go back here indeed.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Holy guacamole!

Today was one of those rare occasions where it was raining in San Diego. Good thing my morning plans were taking place indoors. Today was the 7th annual Guacamole Bowl at Balboa Park. For $5 at the door you got a bag of Mission Tortilla Chips and some stickers for voting for the best guacamole.

The event took place inside the Balboa Park Club and several hundred people were in attendance. All funds raised were to support Sports for Exceptional Athletes, a non-profit group that helps special needs athletes.

My roommate attended the event with me. When we walked into the big open room, we both looked at our bag of chips and said we should have brought some more from home. We worked our way around the room walking counter-clockwise. There were four different categories of competitors: law enforcement, Kiwanis, open and professional.

Medals to be handed out to the winners.

Or first favorite guacamole came at one of the first tables we stopped at. The CH(i)Ps threw down a pretty spicy guac with jalapenos. It was the perfect blend of avocado flavor and spiciness.

Our first favorite, the CHiPs and Dip spicy guac.

There were some so-so guacs and some that we could have done without tasting (one with mango and another with some crazy homemade mayo).

One of the cleverly decorated booths (and team members), but with so-so guac from South Bay Kiwanis.

Our favorite team name was an open category group called Our Lady of Guac who had pictures of Mary with glowing avocado surrounding the booth. There weren't a ton of professional teams but the standout was Marieta's Grill in Escondido. I'm now interested to see what other delicious food they serve there. A road trip might be in my future.

Ultimately my favorite guac came from a Kiwanis group. This team roasted most of their vegetables and it gave the guacamole a great smoky flavor without using too many crazy spices.

A winner in my eye.

We were at the event for just over an hour. Before we went I read over the event Web site and saw that Calavo donated some 2,000 lbs of avocados! We tasted probably about 25 different guacamoles (maybe a total of 2 avocados each). By the time we walked out the door we were very happy we didn't bring any extra chips because someone would have had to carry us back to our car from being too full. All-in-all, a great way to spend a rainy Saturday morning. And who knows, maybe I'll start perfecting my own guac recipe and enter in the open category next year. Yum.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New kitchen gadget

Ever since watching the movie Julie and Julia I desperately wanted a dutch oven to cook with. I have no idea how to make boeuf bourguignon (which was made in the movie), nor have I ever looked at the recipe, but I at least wanted to own the proper tools in case I wanted to make the dish.

As luck would have it I received a 7-quart, cherry red, cast-iron casserole dish by Martha Stewart as a gift recently. I couldn’t wait to try it out so I searched the web for some dutch oven recipes. There were lots of tasty sounding recipes, but that one that stood out the most was a twist on a traditional French dish Coq au Vin from the Food Network called Classic chicken in red wine.

For this meal I found a pack of quartered chicken with legs and thighs at Vons. The chicken was not butchered very well, so if I were to do it over again, I would buy one pack of legs and one pack of thighs rather than buying them still connected.

After getting all the ingredients prepared, I started by cooking the bacon in a little olive oil over medium heat. Any recipe that starts out with bacon is fine by me. In no time at my entire apartment took on the deep, smoky aroma of the delicious meat. Already off to a good start.

After the bacon was good and crispy, I set it aside on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the grease. Next I seasoned the chicken quarters with salt and pepper and in two batches I browned them in the oil and bacon fat. Then set them aside.

Once I drained a little of the grease I added the pearl onions, garlic and carrots. I decided to use Ukon Gold Potatoes instead of Russet Potatoes, so I added them a little later. I also didn’t want my mushrooms to get too soggy, so I added those in with the potatoes. I switched up the mushrooms too and got a half pound of button and a half pound of baby bellas.

The rest of the directions I followed straight from the recipe. After I braised everything for 40 minutes, I did leave the lid off for about 20 minutes to get the sauce to thicken a bit.

I served the chicken and vegetables with a big chunk of sourdough bread to slop up the tasty juices. The dinner was great the first night and just as good for leftovers the next night.

Bon app├ętit!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New twist on childhood favorite

When I went away to college, my mom was kind enough to supply me with multiple care packages each semester. Inside she would pack all the comforts of home (well, a few at least), including the always popular RiceKrispy Treat.

On occasion after I finished college I would get a craving for the tasty treat and make the typical recipe from the back of the RiceKrispy box. They were good, but not great. And then I came across this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Once you try it, you'll never go back to anything else.

Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats

What’s different about these? Oh, just a bit more (coughdouble) butter which you toast until it’s brown and nutty and help along with some coarse salt, just minor things. But it changes everything.

Makes 16 2-inch squares or 32 1- x 2-inch small bars

4 ounces (1/4 pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)

Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.

As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. I liked to use a piece of waxed or parchment paper that I’ve sprayed with oil to press it firmly and evenly into the edges and corners, though a silicon spatula works almost as well.

Let cool, cut into squares and get ready to make new friends.