Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Too busy eating and cooking to blog!

Is it possible to be so busy that you don't even have time to jot down a few paragraphs about what's been going on in your life? Sure I can make excuses but for not having written anything for a good several months I really don't have any other excuses than the obvious "I've been busy".

I have to give a shout out for perhaps the greatest internet invention since Opentable (for those of you who are living in the dark ages, Opentable allows you to see a restaurants availability online and make a selection from fabulous options across your city). Groupon rivals Opentable for its fabulousness. Groupons was started online a mere year ago and has now grown to include 45 cities across the US. You sign-up for to receive Groupon e-mails and on a dailly basis they offer a different coupon to a restaurant, store or service in your area. You click on the button that says you're in and if enough people join you then you get the coupon. Yes, it might seem a little odd "buying" coupons but really is fabulous (and addicting). I have had to restrain myself because I get insanely giddy with the opportunity to visit fanastic restuarants that I normally wouldn't be able to afford - Lockwood in the Palmer House Hilton, Otom, Bonsoiree and Shawn McClain's Spring just to name a few. All of these dining options further propel me towards my restaurant obsessions. So many restaurants...so little time!

I've been doing a good amount of traveling this fall/winter too which has been fun. I am the Queen of the 3-day weekend :) In October I took a Girls Weekend with the Ladies to Leesburg, Virginia. We visited VA and nearby West Virginia at the ideal time when all the leaves were changing colors. Of course we ate well. If you're planning a vacation next Fall, I'd highly recommend renting a car if you're in the DC area and visiting the great wineries in the area as well as dining at some of the fun restaurants in charming downtown Leesburg! Cheers to my high school ladies and our fabulous food (and wine) filled weekends!

On another weekend this Fall I voyaged to Disney World with my dear friend Annie. We had a wonderful time running from park to park in 3 days but it was one of those that I left thinking "geez, I need a vacation from my vacation!" The Epcot Food & Wine Festival was winding up when we were there and we enjoyed some delicious treats at the different countries booths from gulab jamun (my favorite Indian dessert) to jambalaya (regional US cuisine). I did try a turkey leg there (because really I can't resist) but was severly disappointed. It was overly priced the meat was gross. I don't recommend getting one!

I've had a few visits home the most recent of which to celebrate my Mom's birthday. My adorable nephew Sam was also in town. He is the first wee one in our family and therefore gets a lot of (much deserved) attention. We cannot seem to take enough pictures of him eating. He is a HUGE dessert fan and will usually opt for the chocolate desserts at that. Things can get pretty messy, but really don't those make for the best pictures?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More Mac & Cheese Please!

Who doesn't love mac & cheese? Yes, there is that stuff in the blue box that we grew up with, but then there is the gourmet, rich, insanely decadent stuff that dreams are made of. This is the ultimate comfort food folks...pasta, cheese all wrapped up into warm gooey goodness. I love the stuff. If I see it on a restaurant's menu I HAVE to order it - this obsession has sometimes steered me in the right direction (Rockit Bar & Grill has an awesome baked delight) but often it has not (Carnivale is a fabulous Jerry Kleiner restaurant, but sadly mac & cheese is not a Latin fave and has no business on their menu). If you through in some fancy cheeses (Emmentel swiss anyone?) and some over the top mix-ins (truffles or bacon usually makes everything better) then I'm sure to be a happy camper.
I have to say that I make pretty good mac and cheese. I crave it all summer, but really its the ideal food for fall and those cold winter nights. It fills the cockles of your soul with its gooey goodness and I love to share it with friends. If you haven't received an invitation to join me yet for dinner (and I deeply apologize for that) then you can use my recipe for yourself. Please note all ingredients listed are full fat. This is for optimal enjoyment. My friend Erin loves mac and cheese so I made a big batch for her (and baby Connor) recently.

Robyn's Gooey Mac & Cheese

Note: If you are watching your waist line, cholesterol or fat content then you can certainly opt for whole grain pasta and fat free cheeses and milk.

1 lb. pasta (I like to use fusilli)
1 lb. of shredded sharp white cheddar
2 cups of heavy cream
2 slices of whole wheat bread
1 tbsp. butter
1/8 tsp. Dried mustard (the spice - not the stuff in the jar)
Sliced mushrooms and Pancetta or ham (depending on your preference)
Preheat oven to 350

1. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain.

2. If you're opting for the mix-ins (which I recommend) heat a pan with the butter and add chopped ham and mushrooms. Sautee until mushrooms are cooked and ham has caramelized a bit.

3. Meanwhile toast your bread. Pulse the toast in a food processor so that chunks of the bread still remain.

4. Toss drained pasta in a large bowl (you'll need a HUGE one) with heavy cream, dried mustard, salt and pepper (to taste) and the shredded cheese. If the pasta is still warm it should melt the cheese. You may need to put the gooey pasta back into the pot and melt the cheesy mixture a bit more. Add in the mushroom/ham mixture now too.

5. Pasta/Cheese mix should be transferred to an ovenproof container. Spread breadcrumbs evenly on top. Bake for 10 minutes until crust forms on top.

ENJOY. The great thing about this dish is that it reheats easily and you CAN make this as healthy (or not) as you wish. Mmm, mmm good.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Quinoa and her grainy cousin Kasha

It seems like every magazine article I read these days extols the "secret" virtues of grains like quinoa. Some of you may agree and others might ask "what in the world is quinoa, I've never heard of it". Well, for you folks that asked the later, let me help you out with a little background info on this wheat and gluten free wonder is all about.

Pronounced keen-wah this grain-like crop is actually a relative to such superpower foods as beets and spinach, though it more closely resembles rice. Quinoa has been a staple in the South American culture for roughly 6,000 years now and dates back to the ancient Incas who gave it the moniker "mother of all grains". So what did they know then and revere that is only coming into popularity in the US now? For starters, quinoa is ridiculously healthy - I'm talking high protein, low in fat and an excellent source of fiber (3 grams per 1/4 cup serving). Plus this is a fairly easy and delicious dish to make!

Quinoa's flavor is really subtle and lends itself well to taking on other ingredients, so if you're going to give it a whirl in the kitchen (which I highly recommend you do) then cook it with chicken (or veggie) stock for a savory dish and add in veggies (broccoli doesn't seem to favor well sitting through 15 minutes of stock absorption though - next time I'll cook it and add it in at the end for flavor). I am hoping to have some leftovers one of these days (trouble is I never do because I end up eating my whole portion with the dinner) and to make a "healthy" fried rice...if I do that I'll let you know how I fare with that! Here is the interesting thing though...you think quinoa...you think savory...salmon...veggies...but what about sweet quinoa? I saw a recent article in Men's Health (my brother gets it and they surprisingly have great recipes) that was for a quinoa "oatmeal". Instead of water or stock use apple juice and add fruit and nuts. Delicious and so filling! Be sure to rinse your quinoa well because you need that liquid absorption, and it ain't happening if you don't rinse before use!

Another healthy rice alternative I "discovered" is Kasha, 100% roasted whole grain buckwheat. What you think it sounds gross? Trust me its nutty flavor is savory and delicious. This dish has Eastern European roots (just like me!) and is apparently a common filling for knish (dough or potato filled dish that is fried -- similar to an Indian samosa or an English pastie). Though I don't remember eating kasha when I was little (we opted towards farfal in my house but I couldn't find it at TJs or Jewel this weekend) I have known about kasha for sometime thoughI didn't realize its great health benefits.

Last night I gave it a whirl and served it at my little Yom Kippur dinner (little meaning - me & my brother with too much food). I took a picture of my table and the dinner for you here. I didn't have to rinse the kasha (yeah, one less step to worry about!) but did sautee 1/2 cup of chopped onions in butter before adding it to the boiling chicken stock. Wow! It was so good and I can't wait to eat the leftovers.

So my question of the day to you all is...kasha? quinoa? other miracle grain? Let me know how you cook your groats!

Friday, September 11, 2009

What's a girl to do about fried food?

It's been a few weeks...I know and I apologize. What in the world have I been so busy doing you ask? I had been oh so diligent about posting at least once a week and then Wham. Nothing. You missed me you say? Oh that is really sweet. Well, I was busy eating of course and yes, that does take up more time than you would think (OK, I confess I wasn't just eating, but may also have been busy at work, entertaining my folks, traveling home to OH and running a bit too...but there was a lot of eating in between!)

So the good news is that in my absence I had some wonderfully delicious food stories I've been meaning to share. Most important is my visit last weekend to the Geauga County Fair back home in the great state of Ohio. This is one of the biggest county fairs in the state with all sorts of fun rides (sadly adults can not go in the bouncy castle) and of course foods. I don't think its possible to eat anything healthy at a fair so instead I turned my attentions to the fried fair delights. Surprisingly there were many. Who would have guessed that you could snack on a fried pickle, get some fried veggies, a corn dog, french fries, a fried twinkie, candy bar and of course a fried Oreo.

You'd probably guess that broccoli would be the healthiest possible thing you could eat fried. I had it and let me tell you there's a pound of grease and once you're taking that little green giant for a dip in a vat of ranch dressing there is nothing healthy about it. Tasty? Yes. Healthy? Not so much.

I think these were some pretty interesting fried options but I'm sure there are others out there! What sort of fried foods have you seen/tried? I do admit that I shared (yes, shared ladies & gentlemen I did NOT eat it all myself) a deep-fried Snickers once. Ooh it was so sinfully tasty. There's even a place in Geneva, OH that has deep-fried foot long hot dogs. I admit I've had one of those too. Frying...so bad but such a good guilty pleasure!

Monday, August 24, 2009

City Girl Down on the Farm

Last year my friend Kate shared some phenomenal photos of a dining experience she had in Portland, OR. She had visited a local farm and had a gourmet dinner out in the middle of the farm's field. Just looking at the pictures I was overwhelmed with a sense of calm at the beauty of the natural setting. I was delighted when I read about a local Chicago caterer, City Provisions that creates these same sort of farm dinners in the Midwest. This community-minded caterer sets its mission at educating customers about where their food comes from and prides itself on local, sustainable food. I'm glad I registered for the farm dinner as soon as I heard about it, because a story ran about City Provisions that same week in the Chicago Tribune and the dinners for the remainder of the season were quickly sold out.
I convinced my younger brother that he had to join me for this adventure and I think he's happy he did. It was a bit pricey at $125 a person, but it really was a full day experience. We left the north-side of Chicago from the caterers' storefront and boarded a biodiesel bus (because really on a farm dinner tour how else are you getting to the far burbs of Chicago?) with 40 of our closest friends. The time on the bus passed quickly even though the drive was close to an hour and a half. This is probably because we were eating and even drinking during the trek to our Elburn, Illinois farm. Drinking you say? Robyn? Yes folks its true. How could I be rude and refuse a cold Great Lakes beer...it is Cleveland's finest after all and I like to support my hometown. So a cold brew, a tasty BLT on brioche and a cool shot of a zesty gazpacho later this little lady was a wee bit tipsy and ready for a tour of the farm.

Heritage Prairie Farm prides itself on being a four-season farm producing not just one produce (corn or soy beans) as many farmers do, but creating a variety of items that can be harvested almost year round. The family was warm and inviting and it was a beautiful sunny day. This being a tour bus full of foodies everyone was snapping away with the cameras and I'm sure a couple of people were taking copious notes too.

A large table for all 40 dinner attendees was set on the lawn near the farm house. The head chef and owner of the catering company, Cleetus Friedman, had selected beers from Cleveland's own Great Lakes Brewery to compliment each of the courses. Little did I know that Great Lakes prides itself on environmental respectfulness. Owner Patrick Conway passionately explained each beers flavor profile and gave a brief history of how each was created. Very interesting, but I'm not really a beer person. I have a few sips and like I said above, I'm a tipsy girl. Tasty, but I need to be eating to support this drinking!

Lucky for me we had a 5-course dinner in store for us. Not so lucky was great food but small portions. I know you're all dying to read what we ate right? Well, you'll be happy to know that my camera is FINALLY working again and I was able to take my beloved food pictures ;)

1st Course: Green salad with sun gold tomatoes (these tomatoes are AMAZING - I have been buying them recently at the Green City Market and they are like candy)

2nd Course: Rainbow chard, baby leeks, currants and pine nuts over brown rice with crispy pancetta (this was far and away my favorite course of the evening and I scaped my plate clean -- no the presentation did not look particularly appetizing maybe that's why they put the pretty flower on the plate!)
3rd Course: Zucchini cake with micro greens and roasted baby carrots (micro greens seem to have burst onto the food scene recently -- basically they are baby plants that have all the nutrients that the adult plants do, but they're not as big and look more like sprouts).

4th Course: Delicious locally made brat with grain mustard, potato salad and green beans (this was probably the heartiest of all the courses -- the brat wasn't chewy like a Johnsville store bought one but was surprisingly tender)

5th Course: Pavlova with honey cream and peaches (the perfect culmination of the meal! I think I can make this at home as the base is just a meringue)

After dinner I was pretty much ready to call it a night. I had run 16 miles that morning, had eaten a delicious dinner plus beer and was ready for sleepy time. We stayed a bit longer though for people to drink more beer, stand by an evening fire and yes, roast some marshmallows. Truly a great experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different. If they've got this in Portland, OR and in Chicago, I'm sure they've got one in your city too.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Top Chef - Season 6

As I was sitting on the couch comfortably watching "Top Chef Masters" Wednesday night my heart raced when I saw previews for the final challenge. Yes folks, I am a Top Chef dork.

I know that a good percentage of the viewing population are Top Chef newbies. You started watching the show when the Masters came on, or maybe you even started watching the show back in Season 4 when the chefs were here in Chicago. But lil' old Robyn? I was glued to the TV when the show first started...Season 1 in San Francisco. Billie Joel's now ex-wife Katie Lee Joel was the host. She was awful. I still watched it. In the very first episode Hubert Keller threw out one of the contestants for giving him attitude. I was hooked. Dave told Tiffani "I'm not your Bitch Bitch". Oh yes the drama. I was twitterpated when Harold won the title of "Top Chef". I knew that I was in love with this TV show. People said I was crazy. How can you watch something about food when you can't taste it? You just know ok? You can tell that people have a talent, the skill and the passion. That makes good TV.

So...you know I love this show. I haven't missed an episode. If you quiz me about something I may even remember the specifics of the dish (that's a stretch but I did watch every show). Watching the finale for next week though I was in awe that yes, they were able to get each of the Top Chef winners to judge the Top Chef Masters finale - there was Harold (Season 1), Ilan (Season 2), Hung (Season 3), Stephanie (Chicago's own, Season 4) and Hosea (Season 5). I am so excited I can hardly wait until next week.

What's on tap for Season 6 which also premieres next week?? Vegas! I don't think a lot of people know that some of the top chefs in the world have a second outpost of their eponymous restaurants there - Wolfgang Puck (the original chef to bring culinary greatness to sin city) Emeril, Daniel Bouloud and Todd English to name a few. I don't think there is a better location for complete gluttony that Vegas and I'm sure that after people spend money gambling, another $200 per person for a tasting menu is nothing right?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Traveling....and of course eating too!

I have been a very busy lady recently with two back to back weekend trips. As always, I do love to travel but after an exhausting stint in the LaGuardia Airport last night, I am happy to be back in Chicago!

Two weekends ago I traveled with two of my closest college friends for a girls weekend in Door County, Wisconsin (a peninsula just West of Green Bay in Lake Michigan). It was a bit of a drive but luckily I have a fabulous driver friend and I really enjoyed being passenger. I had plenty of opportunities to soak in the Door County culture on the drive and gazed longingly at all the farm stands and multitude of markets along the way. The sun was shining, the corn and soybean fields were gently blowing in the wind and it was the sort of scene that you would imagine typifies rural Wisconsin.

Door County is known for their cherries, though not the sweet kind as you might expect. These are tart cherries that are best used for baking. Anytime I saw that there was something cherry on a menu I had to order it -- cherry vinaigrette dressing, cherry jam on my cherry filled pancakes, a wrap with dried cherries and of course cherry pie. I had phenomenal cherry pie at the Greenwood Supper Club in Fish Creek and I brought home a mini pie made by Sweetie Pie which coincidentally ships their 30 different varieties across the country. If you're in the Midwest and don't mind a drive I recommend a relaxing weekend in Door County. There are some shops and some activities, but mainly you relax and plan what foods you'll be enjoying in the day ahead!

I had a very different vacation last weekend when I visited my sister, brother-in-law and adorable 3-year old nephew in New York. I went from one extreme to another not just in terms of scenery (I am a city girl and do love exploring parks, shopping and restaurants by foot) but also in the types of food I was enjoying. We had brunch at a Cuban restaurant called Cafe Con Leche, traditional Jewish deli food at the 100 year old Barney Greengrass, and gourmet cupcakes from Crumbs Bake Shop (oh yes, their cupcakes are not only beautiful to look at but also very tasty!) There were a plethora of dining options for every palate and as in only NY everything seems to be open well past my bedtime.

I did bring back some of my favorite H &H Bagels, because really I can't leave NY without bagels, but I had plenty of time to ponder a few monumental food differences between the Big Apple and the Second City while I waited in the LGA Airport:

1 - In NY there seem to be long stretches of streets (like Amersterdam, Broadway & Columbus to name a few) that have restaurant after restaurant -- we just don't seem to have the population density that allows this in Chicago even though we are a foodie city

2 - Street Vendors. Why oh why can't Mayor Daley allow street vendors in Chicago? The food is oh so delicious and typically less expensive. I was especially impressed by the number of vendors selling fresh produce from their carts and my sister says they have a push for more of these carts in neighborhoods that might not have the produce options on every corner.

3 - Fresh fruit, veggies and flowers seem to be everywhere on every corner of a neighborhood! In Chicago we just don't have those corner markets displaying the seasonal fare out on the sidewalk.

Definitely some things to think about and I'd love for you all to weigh in on what you think and if you notice any other differences. Chicago is my city and my home. I love our food culture and the burgeoning passion that Chicagoans have for our food, but there are still so many opportunities for us. One place I know that Chicago outranks NY? Our airport dining! At both Midway and O'Hare Airports we have a variety of dining options that are sure to entice any stranded passenger!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Going all "natural"

I love going to the farmer's market but this year between training for the marathon, work and stuff in general I just haven't seemed to go as often as I would like to. Wednesday I was able to visit Chicago's Green City Market. I am always amazed just how much the market has grown in recent years as the popularity of sustainable, local food sources has grown. It used to be a handful of us on Wednesday mornings sipping our Intelligenstia coffee and doing some light shopping. The Market today is now a bustling metropolis of stores compared with the little market that could just a few years back. It is very exciting to feel the energy and be part of something that is so special to the city of Chicago.

On my shopping trip I bought some beautiful mini sweet yellow tomatoes, peaches, basil (for the pesto of course), cilantro and chives. I had such fabulous intentions for my creations with my bounty from the market, which I have to say if half the fun of the visit. The peaches are so ripe I had to eat them over my wastebasket at work for fear of decorating myself with the juices. Day 2 I cut them (much cleaner eating) and paired them with low fat brie from Trader Joe's and walnuts for lunch. Simple. Delicious. The pint of tomatoes had a sign next to them that said "like candy". Who can resist tomatoes that are supposedly as sweet as candy? Believe it or not they were. These little yellow bits were sweet with a bit of a peppery finish. On Day 1 I cut them into a "salad" with my herbs (just snipping them in with kitchen scissors is way easier than bothering to use a knife) and my fancy tuna in olive oil (Genova Tonno) and Day 2 I sliced them on top of my bagel and veggie cream cheese. This market trip was a "fruitful" one for me and I am already planning my shopping list for next week.

Also on the "natural" front, I was in the mood for ice cream this evening. I do love making my own ice cream and I probably should have just bought the milk and cream I needed to whip up the special treat at home for my own 100% natural experience. But no. I was lured by the new All-Natural line of Haagen-Dazs containing just 5 ingredients. What can I say...I'm influenced by advertising and I was intrigued. I ponied up my $3 and decided on the Brown Sugar flavor. I thought the flavor would be natural and light, but instead the brown sugar was cloying sweet. The texture was smooth and lovely but really I could only enjoy a few bites. Even now my palate is left with a not so pleasant after taste. Will I try it again. Definitely (its in my freezer now after all) but next time I'll add a small cookie to cut the sweetness a bit. If there's a sale going on with ice cream at your grocery though I say "go for it". Please let me know if you try any of the other flavors too...I'm curious about the mint and the vanilla too!

Monday, July 27, 2009

One Weekend, 2 Brunches

My tummy was very happy this weekend. I ran 12 miles on Saturday and I think that "gave me permission" to pig out. I love brunch and really took advantage of that by visiting two of my favorite brunch spots in the city of Chicago.

Day 1 - Bongo Room - 1152 S. Wabash
I hate waiting in long lines for brunch. I'm hungry. I want coffee. I wanted to start eating 20 minutes ago when I began waiting in line. Bongo Room is one of those places that you're usually guaranteed a long wait. It's listed as a "must visit" in all the magazines for tourists, it's in close proximity to the museum campus and around the corner form lots of high rise condos. As one of the best brunch spots in the city everyone and their sister wants to eat here. That is after 10 am - aka the magic brunch hour. I hurried to shower and get out the door to be at Bongo Room by 9:45 am. With 2 of us we were seated immediately in a booth. By 10 am we could see the crowds starting to congregate outside the window. Suckers! There is no better feeling that being comfortably seated in the A/C, drinking an iced coffee and enjoying my absolutely fabulous breakfast.

Bongo Room has some phenomenal pancakes (peanut butter and white chocolate pretzel anyone?) and the famed chocolate tower of french toast, but when it's on the menu I really do have a tough time not ordering the special breakfast burrito. Chorizo. Rock Shrimp. Beans. Eggs. Spinach tortilla. Delicious. Add some rosemary potatoes on the side and you're golden.

I spent the rest of the day watching movies, icing my knees (yes from the running) and recuperating before a night of out to celebrate my friends bachelorette and my brother's birthday. I was out well after midnight, which I may be getting to old for.

Day 2 - David Burke Primehouse - 616 N. Rush
My gluttonous eating continued with a 2-hour American Dim Sum Brunch at David Burke's restaurant in the chic James Hotel. Very different atmosphere here as it this is hotel dining (at its best - in this blogger's humble opinion) and reservations are accepted. No waiting for a table. My party of 3 was comfortably seated in a large booth and we were raring to go. Though the service was not as attentive as I've seen on past visits, the food was never the less stellar and unforgettable.

Dim Sum, small plates of food, is served in the morning in Chinese restaruants. Head to Chicago's Chinatown and you can be waiting in Bongo Room (post 10 am) type lines for Pheonix on Cermak. Who can resist warm steamy bao buns or crispy chicken feet? Ok, I can't, but I'm sure there are readers who can...in any case David Burke, being the incredibly inventive chef that he is, created his American version of this popular eating style at his eponymous Chicago restaurant on Sundays.

The menu offers 27 different small plates starting with traditional brunch goodies (eggs benedict and small panckaes with passion fruit butter); to chilled nibbles (smoked pastrami salmon, oysters, salmon tartar, oatmeal creme brulee served beautifully in a hollowed out egg shell, Caesar salad and granola parfait); to the more Asian inspired menu items (tempura green beans, lobster fries and beef dumblings); onto southern bits (mini hamburgers on brioche buns topped witha kobe beef corn dog, fried chicken drumstick, mac & cheese); and the final savory course a surf & turf (a fried potato skin topped with creamed spinach and beef tenderloin, unfortunately the salmon portion wasn't anything too exciting). Enough already you say? No, no, no...The sweet treats were our finale and we couldn't even finish all of them! The trolley of sweets included make your own mini sundaes, hazelnut or lemon creme brulee, the famed cheesecake lollipops, chocolate cake, chocolate mousee and who could forget the made to order mini fortune doughnuts.

Needless to say after over 2 hours of eating all this plus coffee I looked and felt like I was carrying a large food baby. It was difficult to even walk, yet I found myself purusing the racks at Nordstrom - big belly and all. I'm detoxing now, but there's always a new adventure next week after all, right?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pesto for my Pasta...or for a sandwich...or for some chicken

I looove pesto, especially in the summer because it tastes incredibly fresh, it's easy to make and you can use it in so many dishes. Now I've read in my food magazines that you can create a batch of pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. Great idea, but unfortunately when I make my pesto I like to use it immediately. I'm not so great at that planning ahead stuff. If you are though more power to you!

So Pesto...According to my trusty Wikipedia reference guide, Pesto was originated in the Liguria region of Italy. Now I have traveled fairly extensively in Italy but unfortunately I have not been to this beautiful northern coastal region. Someday though right? The "sauces" popularity spread throughout Italy, France (specifically Provence) and other Mediterranean regions. Pesto meaning "to pound" or "to crush" is a reference to the traditional crushed basil, pinenuts and garlic of the "sauce".

With the help of my food processor I will sometimes stick with the traditional ingedients (basil, pinenuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese) but often I'll use whatever I can get my hands on. Here is my recipe for pesto success:

1 cup chopped greens (basil, mint or argula)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pinenuts or pistachios)
1/2 cup+ olive oil
1/2 cup+ parmesan cheese
salt to taste
Garlic 1 or 2 cloves chopped -- I know you're supposed to add some but hey, sometimes I'm just not in the garlic mood (ahem, I don't want to stink to the wholly heavens as I'm sweating out garlic on a run)

*Chop the nuts in the food processor
*Add chopped greens, garlic (if desired) and 1/4 cup of the oo. Pulse until combined. Taste (very important -- does it need more oil? Probably). Scoop mixture off sides and add in more oil. Pulse again until combined.
*Add in your cheese and a bit of salt. Again tasting is very important so have your tasting spoon handy. Add more oil, cheese or salt to make sure you've got the taste down right.

Presto you've got Pesto! See so easy right? Why would you buy the store bought stuff when you can go to a Farmer's Market for the greenies or even just pick up a $2 pack of herbs at the grocery? You can add it to pasta (cook 1 lb. of pasta according to directions, reserve 1/4 cup cooking liquid, drain and then stir together) for a hot or cold dish (referigerate for 2 hours and it makes excellent pasta salad. Even if you don't want to use the pesto with pasta, you can use it in lieu of mayo on your sandwich, use it as a topping for your chicken or fish...

*Other pesto ideas? Please comment and share them!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Welcome to our first adventure together

Hello there Ladies & Gentleman!

I'm delighted to at long last have a blog. I've been met with shock and awe when I say "I don't have a blog" or "what would I write about?" You my friends have told me to do what I do best and that is to write about food. This will serve as my new medium for reviewing restaurants (though Yelp will by no means fall by the wayside), discussing food favorites, market visits and basically anything that has to do with food. Welcome to the Adventures with Food Girl!

Up first? A rave about a fabulous snack food discovery that came to me by way of
Costco (thank goodness I love these treats or else I'd be stuck eating a box of 50 of them all by my lonesome!) Brothers All Natural has created some delightfully tasty fruit crisps in the Fuji apple and Asian pear variety. 40 calories, 0 grams of fat, one whole gram of fiber? Can't beat that in a morning snack option. These freeze dried fruits are crispy and light,making for a perfect palate cleanser. Each bag contains one and a half pieces of fruit (shocking I know) and that's it...no other ingredients! Taking a peak at their website (www.brothersallnatural.com) they also offer bananas, strawberry bananas, pineapple, peaches and a host of potato varieties too. Can't wait to keep snacking!