Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fresh, light meal

A co-worker of mine just recently had a baby and at her baby shower someone made a delicious, light salad made with orzo and various Mediterranean vegetables. I immediately went home and found the recipe and now, only three months later, I have finally found the time to make the salad.

The recipe only asks for a handful of ingredients and it took me about 20 minutes (including 9 minutes to cook the orzo) to make the whole thing.

Here's the recipe. Enjoy.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette

1 cup uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta; about 8 ounces)
2 cups bagged prewashed baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
3 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
3/4 cup (3 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled and divided

Cook the orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; rinse with cold water. Combine orzo, spinach, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl.

Drain artichokes, reserving marinade. Coarsely chop artichokes, and add artichokes, reserved marinade, and 1/2 cup feta cheese to orzo mixture, tossing gently to coat. Sprinkle each serving with remaining feta cheese.

I would also like to mention that this will probably be the last blog I write from this kitchen. I am currently in the process of packing boxes and will be moving at the end of the month. It is sad to pack up after five years, but I'm looking forward to breaking in my new kitchen that comes with gorgeous granite counter tops. Look for another post after I get settled at the beginning of June. Cheers!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

César Chávez bacon day

Working in the newspaper industry, I am rarely offered major holidays off let alone lesser holidays such as President's Day or Cesar Chavez Day. I guess it's a good thing I don't work until 2:30p.m. so that I can enjoy the first part of the day with those who actually get the whole day off from work.

Today, I capitalized on having someone to share my morning with and decided to go out to brunch at a place I don't often go to, Hash House A Go-Go. A while back I saw a show on the Travel Channel called Bacon Paradise where they highlighted places where bacon was a main attraction. The Hash House was one of these places. The restaurant features a few bacon-rich dishes including "O'Hare of the Dog" - a 24oz Budweiser in a brown bag with a side of bacon, "BBBLT" - with obviously more than one slice of bacon, and their "Bacon Waffles" - with 6 pieces of bacon actually baked into a vanilla waffle.

On the show the waffle looked amazing and once I realized I'd be going to brunch, I couldn't get it out of my head. To my sad surprise when I looked over the menu I did not see the waffles listed anywhere. Were we too late? Did they only cook them in the morning and not for the late breakfast menu? Before my hopes could be dashed completely I asked our server if I just missed them on the menu or if they really weren't serving the dish. Much to my jubilation he informed me that indeed I could order the waffles.

This is serious. 6 slices of bacon baked right into the waffle!
Simply stated: heaven. Yet another enjoyable combination of savory and sweet. It was a perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside vanilla waffle and then a delightful burst of smoky, meaty bacon. Well, what are you doing still reading this?! Quick, get thee to the Hash House and order this amazing bit of breakfast heaven.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not quite bacon, but close enough

I went shopping at Trader Joe's yesterday with a few friends and was contemplating what to make for dinner for my boyfriend, when low and behold I walked by a gorgeous package of pancetta. I immediately thought about making Spaghetti alla Carbonara. I knew that I would need the pancetta, eggs and of course some spaghetti, but I had never made this dish before so had no idea what else I would need.

Just when I was saying how I didn't want a smart phone where I had to pay extra for a data plan, I found myself in the middle of the store needing internet access to recipes. Thank goodness my friend Traci was there. In less than 5-minutes we looked up a recipe on Food Network and I knew exactly what I'd need to buy.

The other reason pasta was on my mind was because I watched the movie "Eat, Pray, Love" in the morning. I have to say that I really didn't enjoy the book when I read it. In fact, I don't even think I finished reading it. The author just went on and on in this "whoa is me" manner that got on my nerves. It's a very rare occasion when a movie is better than the book, but in this case, the movie was WAY better than the book. Partly, I'm sure, because I love Julia Roberts, but also because the whining was kept to a minimum.

But enough about movies and grocery shopping. Here's the main attraction, the recipe.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, minced
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 pound fresh linguine
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
½ cup heavy cream, at room temperature
¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta and cook until the onions are translucent and the pancetta is beginning to crisp. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the linguine according to package directions until al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander (reserve a small amount of the cooking liquid in a small bowl) and return pasta to the pot. Return the pot to the heat and add the reserved pancetta and onion mixture. Stir over high heat until pasta is coated with the pancetta mixture.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and heavy cream and add to the pasta, along with the Parmesan. Remove the pot from the heat and toss the pasta until it is well-coated. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. If needed, add a bit of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to help toss the pasta if it is dry. Serve immediately.
The finished product with some garlic & cheese bread. I added a little fresh, chopped parsley to the top of the pasta.

Mellow yellow

Around Christmas time, I spoiled myself and made a big-girl purchase of a new Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Finally, only four months later, I used it for the first time. When I finally have a place of my own I would love to have a citrus kitchen with lemon, lime and orange colors. In keeping with my kitchen dream, I got the butter cream-yellow mixer and I LOVE it.

In keeping with the yellow theme, I decided to make some banana bread in my new stand mixer. I've made this recipe from Martha Stewart a few times now, and each time I've tweaked it just slightly. I think this time I found my best balance yet. And here's the final result.

Banana-nut Bread from Martha Stewart

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cups granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups ripe mashed banana (about 3 medium)
¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
½ cup buttermilk
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray, spray; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, both kinds of sugar and vegetable oil on medium-low speed until combined. Beat in the flour mixture. Add the vanilla, banana, coconut, nuts and buttermilk, and beat just to combine.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, gently rock pans side-to-side until top is smooth. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, 60-65 minutes; when inserted, a toothpick should come out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely. Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.

And, while it wasn't watched while sitting on the couch, I do have to pass along that I went and saw the movie "Happy, Thank You, More Please" with some friends on Sunday. I thought it was a pretty cute movie. It was a screen play written by the leading actor Josh Radnor and it reminded me a lot of "Garden State." It's only playing at select theaters, but I'd probably say I'd wait for it on DVD.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sunny strawberries

Yesterday was one of those unusual days in San Diego. It was raining. It was windy. It was cold outside. But inside my cozy apartment was another story. Inside, I was basking in the glow of some gorgeous, sunny strawberries that I had found at the store that morning. And boy were they ever delicious -- so delicious in fact, that I had to share a picture.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wake up, it's beer time

There aren't many things that will get me out of bed early -- the smell of bacon cooking in the kitchen, a fire alarm going off and of course, the offering of beer. Thursday morning it was the call of beer that had me wiping sleep out of my eyes at the crack of 9 a.m.

Once a year the northern California brewery Russian River releases a limited amount of the 11%ABV brew Pliny the Younger. After finding out from Brewery Rowe that the San Diego bar O'Brien's would have a keg on the weekend, a friend did some searching and found out we could enjoy the tasty beverage at an earlier time. Thanks to Toronado San Diego we were able to enjoy it three days earlier. A lot of other bars around San Diego are being very hush-hush on when they will tap their prized keg.

When we arrived at Toronado at 9:20 a.m. there were already 10 people in line in front of him. My job was to stop for donuts on the way to the bar and by the time I got there around 9:40 there were about 20 people in line. There were moms with kids, men in business suits, hipsters and me in my workout clothes (eating a donut and getting ready to drink beer, that's how I roll).

While waiting in line people started showing up with cameras taking pictures of the odd spectacle of people waiting in line for a bar before 10 a.m. on a workday. And finally, with about 30 people in line, the doors to Toronado opened just past 10 a.m.

Like the orderly beer drinkers we are, everyone filed in to the end of the bar and in order, took a seat at the bar. After the bar chairs ran out, beer fans filed in behind in a calm, orderly fashion. And the Pliny started flowing.

So, was it worth getting up early and waiting in line to try? When craft brews reach the threshold of 10%ABV, they have the tendency to get a bit syrupy, but Pliny the Younger was extremely smooth and full of flavor. I give the Younger two very enthusiastic thumbs up. I wish I could have had more than one, but after my inaugural drink I could feel the fact that it was an 11% beer. I knew that if I would have had more than one I would have been struggling to hold poses at yoga afterward. I am glad, however, that this beer only comes out once a year, because if it were available at all times, that could lead to some trouble -- and the addition of a beer belly.
Fallen soldiers.
By the time I left the bar around 11:30 to head to yoga class, there were probably close to 75-100 people. I read later that the first keg was dust by noon and while Toronado was lucky enough to have a second keg, it was tapped out around 3 p.m. Well done fellow beer drinkers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

More bacon & a new kitchen gadget

Boy, how time flies. I know all you regular readers out there (are there any of you?) have been longing for a new post here on Eating in Front of the TV. Well, the day has finally arrived! And here we go.

Last month I celebrated the last birthday of my 20s. I had to work on my birthday this year, so to make it a bit more enjoyable I thought it would be appropriate to add some bacon to my day. There is no more appropriate way to bring bacon to work for your birthday than in the form of cupcakes. That's right, chocolate bacon cupcakes! I wish I would have known about these cupcakes in elementary school, I would have been the most popular kid on the playground.

The other exciting element to this birthday undertaking was the fact that my former roommate gifted me a new kitchen gadget for Christmas called the BabyCakes Cupcake Maker. This machine boasts the ability to produce 8 mini cupcakes in 5-8 minutes.

BabyCakes Cupcake Maker + Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes = match made in birthday heaven.

Here's how it went down.

I love having the use of a stand mixer. Makes baking a breeze.

The BabyCakes in action.

Getting down and dirty with the frosting.

So cute I could just every last one...good thing I took them to work to share with others.

A big birthday smile to go with a big plate of mini cupcakes.
The recipe from All Recipes:

12 slices bacon
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup cold, strong, brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
powder, for dusting
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
2.In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, coffee, buttermilk and oil. Stir just until blended. Mix in 3/4 of the bacon, reserving the rest for garnish. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing evenly.
3.Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan set over a wire rack. When cool, arrange the cupcakes on a serving platter. Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting and sprinkle reserved bacon crumbles on top. Dust with additional cocoa powder.

* For the mini cupcakes I halved the recipe and it made 24.

And, while I did not watch it while sitting on my couch and eating these delicious cupcakes, I did see the movie The Social Network during my birthday weekend. I have to say I enjoyed the film. I never would have thought a movie about the inception of Facebook could have been interesting, but turns out it really was. And for my birthday dinner I went to Cucina Urbana in San Diego. Fantastic place. The drinks alone will bring my return business. They make their own infused alcohol and they had a jalapeño infused tequila mixed with ginger beer and lime juice that was fantastic.