Thursday, January 31, 2013

Truffled Risotto

Excuses to Use Truffle Oil

Do I really need an excuse? As you may recall I recently purchased a bottle of Black Truffle Oil from Great Lakes Olive Oil in Frankenmuth and I have a new attitude. I'm not saving it. I'm going to use it with reckless abandon. Typically I would just use a little for special occasions but really, sometimes you should savor the finer things by just consuming them!

It was a weekday night and there was no time to prepare lobster for another version of risotto that I have made in the past so I'm improvised. Warning: Truffle oil was not used sparingly despite those that say you should!

Truffled Risotto


2 Carrots, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon Sun Dried Tomatoes, packed in oil (don't have to drain)
1/2 teaspoon Shallots packed in water
1 cup dry Risotto Rice
24 ounces of Chicken Broth (estimate)
1/2 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Lobster Base
Truffle Oil - lots of it!
Parmesan Cheese (grated)
Heavy Whipping Cream
2 Tablespoons Pine Nuts

Start by sauteing carrots, shallots and sun dried tomatoes in truffle oil. I will typically do this with some olive oil but like I said. . . reckless abandon. Cook until tender over medium heat. I often hear of the concept of Mirepoix, a respected combination of carrots, onions and celery that is cooked in butter or oil as a start to most dishes. Think of it as a holy trinity. . . with different combinations based on ethnic foods and cultures. Apparently after doing research on Wikipedia, there are other versions such as refogado (onions, garlic and tomato) in Portugal, and wloczyczyzna (leek, carrot, cabbage and celeriac) in Poland. I have decided that sun dried tomatoes, carrots and shallots (sometimes onions) are a much better combination for a foundation to my dishes sometimes.

Once our version of the trinity is cooked (soft but not browned), add the dry risotto and stir to get all the kernels a little bit golden. I try to do this on a medium heat. I really find that a wooden utensil is best and so it a really good quality heavy pan. Some folks will add a little brandy or wine before moving on, once those kernels are starting to brown. Typically I do too but like I said before we are using truffle oil and I didn't want to overpower this dish. Chicken broth and some lobster base seemed like plenty.

Add chicken stock or broth at 1/4 cup intervals, letting the liquid get absorbed as you monitor and stir. I know I say this a lot but patience is important. It typically is in cooking although it's against my nature personally. You want the risotto to absorb all the goodness but not burn. If it sits too long the bottom of the pan gets too hot and the kernels at the bottom dry out, stick and burn. No good. So lower the temperature, monitor and stir. Keep adding the broth. I used a box/carton of 32 ounces but had taken off a cup for another recipe so I estimate I used about 28 ounces. I find that the liquid proportion is something you also have to monitor. . . sometimes it's a bit more and sometimes it's a bit less. I think it's based on the risotto and the other ingredients you are using plus temperature and stirring.

So I also tried a little experiment. . . When I make risotto with lobster I have historically made a complicated lobster stock by baking the shells and then pulverizing in a food processor with chicken stock, then straining and so on. Lots of work. I didn't want to do any of that but I wanted some lobster flavor . . . so I used about 1/2 Tablespoon of this awesome base pictured here. How I experimented was I didn't add it to hot water or to the stock. Just put that spoonful into the pan with all the other items as an "infusion" with a 1/4 cup installment of the chicken broth. I have to say it added a subtle taste which you could adjust. The base is salty so you want to err on the side of caution. This would be an example of not displaying reckless abandon!

Keep adding the stock until the risotto rice is tender and soft. The remaining liquid will result in a creamy consistency at this point. Now it's time for those final touches. I added a little bit of heavy whipping cream to emphasize the creaminess of this dish (probably 1/3 cup), the pine nuts and a good dose of Parmesan cheese. Now you may be saying wow this is a lot of extra stuff but we put some work into this dish and why decide to ration now? Why shouldn't a weeknight dinner also be a celebration? Remember this is a showcase for the truffle oil!

Speaking of truffle oil, here we go. . . Drizzle it on top of your bowl after you plate. You can control the amount of course but this is really a wonderful flavor to add to this dish.

I'm working on some other things to do with the oil. Recently a friend reported having wonderful truffled deviled eggs at a local fine restaurant as a "small plate". I'm investigating and of course there are many recipes on line. This may be a weekend adventure to create.

What else can we make? I'm thinking a tossed pasta with some added things like maybe feta cheese and some black olives. . . A frittata with potatoes and onions. . . What are you thinking of?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Black Salt and the Wonderful Finds at Home Goods

Snow Day Monday!

You know why it was a snow day? Because I took the time to pack lunches for all of us, making cabbage and noodles last night for the adults around here. Honestly, the cancellation of school worked out well. . . see the X-Games finished up last night and the kids really wanted to see Shawn White win for the 6th time so they were up very late.

I'm off dinner duty tonight because I have to work this evening - presentation across town. The husband will be in charge for the evening. Tomato Soup and Noodles is scheduled but I'm not betting any money on what he will actually make. I can tell you this - it's always kid friendly and they will all eat it.

Because I can't actually give you a recipe for today I wanted to focus on one of my favorite places for for "food finds". Treasures really. TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods are all owned by the same company. Whether it's a stand alone store (Home Goods) or the little back corner near housewares, the food section always has unusual and high end little treats for significant discount. I will admit that I will sometimes go into the store for something we need (for example, a pair of sweatpants or gloves for one of us) and actually avoid this special section.  I can do serious damage in matter of minutes.

We were there Friday night for a necessity and I somehow was lured into that section. I bought two beautiful hand made glasses made from recycled materials that are going to lead to a quest to check every one of the stores in the tri county area to make my own complete set.

There was also a vast array of olive oils. As you may know right now I'm completely stocked on olive oil and even have some new Black Truffle Oil but it was hard to resist the hand painted ceramic containers that some of the olive oil came in. They were works of art.

This is the find I wanted to show you today though. It's Hiw Kai Black Lava Sea Salt. I have to say it tempted me for a variety of reasons. Here's the list: 1. I have never had black sea salt before and I have a stock of sea salt here, 2. I think the color of the salt will look really dope in some dishes for contrast. I'm thinking about how this will look in a salad with grapefruit and avocado, 3. Look at the cute little jar. . . it looks great hanging out on a shelf as a decor item rather than a seasoning and 4. I'm already thinking about how to re-purpose this jar at a later date.

I kind of have an obsession (okay maybe it's not "kind of" but truly just that) with spice containers. I like what's in them, of course and believe that they should be showcased. For instance, I have an old wood rack that came with a spice set from McCormick's years ago that I decorated with bottle caps from beers and glass bottles of soda. The spices have changed over time but the rack remains a focal point in our kitchen. All the makeshift ledges on the door casings are "shelves" for an assortment of old spice jars and tins from a variety of manufacturers. The spices are long gone but the jars are a peek into a vintage kitchen.

This is one of my treasured favorites right here.

Griffiths Milk Glass Spice Jars and Metal Rack

They (whoever the "they" are) say that "Variety is the spice of life" and I would have to agree. Herbs and seasonings can make or break a dish that you work hard on. Too much is overpowering but a careful subtle addition can make for a delicate nuance that enhances the flavors.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Night is Leftovers but Monday Requires Lunch

It's a "Leftovers Sunday Night"!

This is a pretty rare occurrence around here but because of our trip to Frankenmuth yesterday and Chinese Carry Out, we have a lot of food to work with for dinner tonight. Of course the kids won't eat any of it and will have cheddar filled bratwursts tonight (with carrot sticks to pretend to add nutrition). Tomorrow does require some lunch packing as the leftovers won't carry us that far so I'm making a pot of cabbage and noodles tonight. I think our German theme is continuing as it's an old family recipe on my husband's side but then I think about the Chinese we are eating tonight. . . I guess we truly believe in a large melting pot when it comes to cuisine!

Cabbage and Noodles

1 Large Head of Cabbage
1 Stick of Butter (I could have lied to you to make myself look good and said 1/2 stick but I don't like to lie)
1 Package of Keilbasa (photo of the kind I use)
1 Package of Egg Noodles
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Melt the butter in a large dutch oven or similar pot. Meanwhile cut the cabbage up and use all of it except the hard core. Add to pot and cover. Cook on a very low heat. You have to be patient. The cabbage on the bottom will burn and it tastes horrible when it burns. Slow heat and stir and check every once in a while. You will need a good half hour. If you like it super soft, even longer.

Boil water for egg noodles and cook according to the directions on the package. I would leave them a little firmer as you will add them to the pot. Slice the keilbasa and add to the pot along with the noodles stirring them gently to mix.

Cabbage and Noodles

 White Chocolate Strawberries

. . . and a couple of dried apricots for me!
Well it is Sunday night and on Sunday nights I cook. I felt kind of funny not cooking to be honest, especially since we ate out all yesterday - it was a feeding frenzy. . . My son has been asking me to make him chocolate covered strawberries for quite a while. Apparently he was at the mall with Nana and wanted one when he saw the showcase at the Godiva store. I'm sure they were delicious but apparently they were $7 a piece and he did not get one. He is traumatized by this based on the fact he keeps asking me to try it. Tonight was the night.

We used a whole pack of Baker's White Chocolate Squares and I found some pretty decent strawberries considering it's January. I washed them and let them drain for a bit and wiped them gently with paper towel. I melted the chocolate in the microwave and dipped them. Then I sprinkled them with red crystal sugar. I think they are pretty awesome. I bet Godiva didn't add red sugar! Don't you think that looks delicious? Andrew said they were quite tasty. Maybe I will buy him a Godiva one just to compare. The potential for validation is enormous!

Frankenmuth. . . It's not just all you can eat chicken dinners

As a family we really like Frankenmuth. A lot of folks will question this, equating the experience with an all you can eat Chicken Dinner at either Zhender's or The Bavarian Inn. Not so! We do go to Zhender's but not for Fried Chicken or an all you can eat buffet. I really like Wiener Schnitzel and my husband enjoys Beef Tips and Noodles. This week happened to be the Annual Snow Festival so we had another reason to visit, but it also meant traffic that impacted the schedule. We missed the lunch menu and therefore it was dinner time which impacted our meal choices but still proved delicious.

Beef Medallions
Paul ordered the Beef Medallions instead, which are whole cuts of meat rather than small beef tips, and a side of buttered noodles to create his favorite dish. The dark gravy with the noodles was a close facsimile to the lunch menu item. He did say that if we go at dinner time again he will order the noodles plain rather than buttered so the gravy will remain the showcase.

Pork Schnitzel with Marsala
There was a special for Pork Schnitzel in Marsala Sauce yesterday which was a slight variation of the Wiener Schnitzel I enjoy. I have to say it was delicious, with nice crispy cutlets of thin pork, topped with a lovely Marsala loaded with fresh mushrooms and sweet onions. Add a side of spaetzle and it made for a great hearty meal that warmed me up after being outside navigating the crowds.

We headed for Zhender's first because of the crowds but I should add that the wait wasn't long. Walk ins seemed to get seated quicker than those with reservations. It's a really large place and they can accommodate a lot of diners. Kids had macaroni and cheese and chicken. What is really great about dinner is that you get a whole lot of extras. Before having our main dishes we had bread (both white and a fruit stollen) with butter and strawberry jam, cranberry relish with bits of oranges and frosty cold, sweet creamy coleslaw, chicken noodle soup, and toasted croutons of bread (buttery) with cheese spread and chicken liver pate. It is a necessity to pace yourself with the spread.

Before and After Dinner Portraits

There seemed to be an underlying theme of hearts during our adventure. . .
Left: Toasted Crouton at Zhender's. Right: Discovered Ice Sculpture Fragment with a Heart

 Frankenmuth Snow Festival

After our hearty meal we went happily went outside to tour the snow and ice sculptures around town, heading into stores to warm up as we walked around. The sculptures were worth seeing; I was amazed at the sheer size of some of the pieces and there were all kinds of themes. It was really a beautiful day, cold enough for the sculptures to stay intact but without any wind to make the event miserable.

So here is one of the wonderful sculptures so I at least acknowledge the weekend's festival. It's an alligator and it's very cool. But this is a food blog for the most part and if you wanted to see this you could go elsewhere I'm sure. Let's move on to the food now!

Glockenspiel Mice

The Bavarian Inn across the street from Zhender's is also famous for chicken dinners as well as typical German Fare. They also have one of the tourist attractions that draw visitors in with the Glockenspiel Tower.  At designated times, the clock opens up with music and animated robotic figures to celebrate the culture. What does this have to do with food? I'm glad you asked because in the basement of the Bavarian Inn are stores and lot of yummy treats (bakery, wine, chocolates and candy. . . ). One of our favorites are the Chocolate Glockenspiel Mice.

Glockenspiel Mice
 Aren't they cute?!!! They come in white or milk chocolate. The head is a Hershey's Kiss, attached to a chocolate covered maraschino cherry and then decorated with little sliced almonds for ears. They are absolutely delicious. If you think you see a very deformed mouse in this pic, it's really a marzipan truffle that managed to sneak into the photo.

River Place Shops: Great Lakes Olive Oil Company

Great Lakes Olive Oil Company
A little bit south of the chicken dinner mecca is a relatively new strip of shops called the River Place Shops with lots of treats (fudge, candy, cupcakes, gelato) and plenty of opportunities to visit specialty stores for souvenirs. You cross over to the shops over a concrete bridge and get an opportunity to see the damn. At this time of year, kids are venturing on the ice (as my own kids did) that cover the river but the waterfall is still going. Once you cross the bridge you are immediately struck by the aroma of fudge. They actually pump the smell outside by the windows where you can watch them forming the loaves. It's heaven and you probably gain 20 pounds just breathing in the wonderful smell. 

Chocolate Covered Bacon at Sugar High Bakery
I typically stop at the Sugar High Bakery but the line was out the door. Apparently they recently were featured and won The Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. I honestly do not go there for cupcakes. Chocolate Covered Bacon and Cinnamon Sugar Bacon. Try it! Seriously, great stuff. I made candied spicy bacon at home but I think it's sometimes easier to buy things and chocolate dipping can be messy! Look at that photo? Doesn't that look divine? It really is, I assure you. I'm sorry I couldn't have any this time.

Black Truffle Oil
We trek over to this side of the town for a primary purpose. The Great Lakes Olive Oil Company has a wonderful assortment of flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars that you GET TO TASTE!!!! Now for regular olive oils I have been known to purchase them locally at Trader Joe's that has some very high quality grassy and peppery offerings for low prices. But for truffle oils I have not found any better than GLOOC. In the past I had the white truffle oil but they had Black Truffle Oil yesterday and it packed quite a kick! Of course I don't have to tell you it's now in my kitchen. I'm already conjuring up images of what I can do with this stuff. Of course Truffled Lobster Risotto comes to mind with this extra indulgence but I'm thinking some simpler dishes with pasta tossed with some green olives, sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. I'm also thinking about a vinaigrette dressing as well. I'm still thinking about it! I'll get back to you.

Chicago Flavored Popcorn

So as much as I dream about olive oil, and yes, I really do. The husband and kids have a similar attachment to Chicago Flavored Popcorn that is at Mac's Fudge Kitchen. It's apparently all over town and it's a combination of a trifecta of flavors: Cheddar Cheese, Caramel, and Salted Popcorn. Delicious. No picture but check out the link.

So it's important to note that there are many other food items and treats we could have discussed today but I have to some limits. It's about self control isn't it? I have to at least pretend. . .

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Night's Dinner is Breakfast. . .

French Toast and Maple Glazed Baked Bacon

The almost 12 year old that lives here likes to go to this thing called Skate Jamz. His friend is here too so I had to come up with something respectable for dinner. I should be honest and tell you all that we will have carry out or something out later (once they are skating) and I wasn't really thinking about meal prep. Breakfast is always liked and well received.

I really like to bake the bacon rather than fry it in a pan. Lining the the baking sheet (make sure it has some kind of rim) makes it easy clean up too. Right before the bacon was appropriately crispy, I added a quick brush of pure maple syrup. I don't know where I heard it but I try to buy Grade B rather than the more expensive Grade A. It may be the only time I don't pursue the highest mark but it's more flavorful and good in recipes.

Star Ingredients - Don't skimp on the heavy whipping cream
French Toast - this is not the time to cut calories even if you are contemplating doing so. Listen to me, skim milk and some cooking spray in the pan is just not going to cut it.

Don't you want this to taste good? Have a salad tomorrow instead! Although I will say leftover French Toast is quite good the next day. Wrap it in foil and put in the fridge. But I digress. . .


French Toast


8 slices of white bread
Yes, nice bakery French bread would have been great but alas we had a loaf of cheap grocery store bread. To make it a little more palatable, I put it on the counter to dry out for about a half hour.

6 large eggs
1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 cup Half and Half
2 Tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Dash of Nutmeg
Fresh Ground Pepper and Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients with the exception of the bread in a bowl with a whisk. The whipping cream will make this a thick consistency, combine well. Mixture will start to separate if you set aside so you may have to stir up again.

Place the slides of bread in a baking dish and pour the egg mixture on top, insuring that all areas are covered. I had to use two Pyrex dishes to coat the bread without overlapping. Turn/flip the slices after about 7 minutes or so and then soak again.

Heat up frying pan with a mixture of oil (I used Canola) and butter. Again, don't skimp thinking it will be okay. . . it won't. The mixture gets it heated fast and it browns better. It also puffs the bread up a little bit. You put a lot of work in this and we want it to be delicious.

Fry until a little more than golden brown and then flip and cook some more. I find that the first batch in the pan takes the longest (maybe I am impatient and don't heat the pan thoroughly) and is never the prettiest in terms of browning. When each batch is done, place on a plate between layers of paper towel and top with a sheet of foil to keep it warm. In terms of plating, I took a photo for the blog on a plate. That will be for my husband. Kids get it cut up in bowls and drizzled with syrup. I have learned that kids are messy French Toast eaters.

Maple Glazed Bacon

12 oz of thick slab bacon (I used uncured applewood smoked bacon today)
Pure Maple Syrup

Place strips of bacon on lined cookie sheet and place in a cold oven. Heat to 400 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes. Brush with maple syrup and bake for five more minutes. Place cooked bacon between sheets of paper towel to drain extra grease and place in oven to keep warm on a plate while getting dinner ready.

French Toast and Maple Baked Bacon

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Baked Spaghetti . . .

Sometimes it just has to be easy! 

Baked spaghetti is easy and 3 out of 4 Hendrens will eat it. That's a pretty good rating around here. Just cook a box of pasta and drain. Because you are using it in a dish that requires baking, I cook the minimal amount (about 6 minutes). I place it in a greased casserole dish and stir in a 1/2 jar of sauce. Top the dish with slices of mozzarella cheese

Mozzarella Cheese makes it so much better!

Bake at 350 degrees. It's as easy as that. We had some yummy white bread topped with sesame seeds and some chicken apple sausage to round out our meal tonight.

I have found that besides the box of pasta, everything else will make two dinners!

Yummy Cheese Goodness

Now of course, staring at the photo and contemplating (because I always think about ways to add to food and put a new spin on it), I'm thinking that tossing some other additions into the pasta before topping with the cheese would be good. If it was for me, not the family, I would probably add green olives, sun dried tomatoes (because they are good in almost anything) and pine nuts. Maybe some crumbled sausage?

What would you add? We could have a Baked Spaghetti Challenge! I challenge you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Night Dinner Masquerading as a Monday

Tonight's Dinner
Tonight's main dish was the Beef and Cheese Crostata we had planned for as a meal this week. Bonus that there is a 1/2 jar of gravy, a pie crust, and shredded cheese so that all we will need is some more ground beef for next week. Rounding out this meal were some green beans (I'm on a "make your kids eat their veggies" kick) that were steamed and tossed quickly with some of the sweet butter we made yesterday (see yesterday's post for the recipe).

I have made some slight changes to the Beef Crostata recipe. Instead of putting in real garlic and chopped onion (kids here can detect it, even in minuscule amounts) I used minced toasted garlic (which is great with olive oil for a dip - just saying) and onion powder. I topped with a mixture of three shredded cheeses. That might sound fancy but it comes that way in the package.

Beef and Cheese Crostata

Now I must admit that Beef Crostata is not my thing - I like a taste but I wanted something lighter and refreshing so I made a new version of "salad with seafood of some sort and an avocado". That's my meal of choice lately. Maybe it's because it's refreshing and seems like a light summer dinner and it's below zero outside? A girl can dream of summer right?

So here is the latest version:

Crab and Avocado Salad

Crab and Avocado Salad

  • 4 Crab Legs (the stuff you buy in the package, nope it's not real!) cut into pieces
  • 1 Avocado cut into cubes
  • 1 White Grapefruit, peeled and chopped 
  • 1/4 cup Pine Nuts
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Red Chili Flakes to taste

  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Fish Sauce
  • 1/2 Teaspoon White Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Lime Juice
  • Dash of  sugar

Mix salad ingredients gently. In a separate bowl whisk together dressing. Drizzle on individual plates of salad.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Best Laid Plans. . . Weekly Dinner Planning Already Askew!

So there was a plan. Five meals scheduled, list created, and then grocery shopping. But you know how plans go right?

First my husband requested that I make some copycat Outback Steakhouse Walkabout Soup. Somehow things fall off the radar - we make something and enjoy it a couple of times and then we forget about it. Paul is good about remembering. We are actually thinking about making a master list of dinners/meals we like and putting it in Excel so everyone can "check off" items. I know, I'm a nerd!

The plan for tonight was to have Chicken Sate with Peanut Dipping Sauce. It was one of the dishes that fell off the radar and has been on hiatus for a few months.  It's really delicious, and not that difficult, but it's a little time consuming so we typically make it on the weekend when there's more time, or I make the marinade and sauce ahead of time for a weekday meal.

Hi Ho Hi Ho, off to the grocery store we go. . . (yes, you can sing it to the 7 Dwarfs' tune, I am). Trader Joe's and then Hollywood Market. I get all our dairy at TJ's and some other items but sometimes you have to go to the larger stores. I had the lime in the cart, checked the list against the recipe and so on. . . Except the grocery store did not have any thin sliced boneless chicken breasts! None, not one pack. Maybe it's because today's a Sunday that just feels like Monday?

So now the plan for tonight is the Walkabout Soup. I based mine on the recipe above but have changed it up a bit. A little creamier and I double the recipe, making it into more of a bisque. We are going to have it with pumpernickel bread with sweet whipped butter (think maple and honey with a touch of cinnamon). Here are the customized recipes below:

Debra's Version of Outback Steakhouse Walkabout Soup

Bisque Style!

Debra's Walkabout - Bisque Style with Pumpernickel Bread and Whipped Sweet Butter

Better Than Bouillon
  • 3 Large Yellow Sweet Onions, sliced
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 32 oz carton of chicken broth
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt (Himalayan Pink Crystal today)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Ground Fresh Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons of Chicken Base (I use Better Than Bouillon - you can alternately use 6 Bouillon Cubes)
  • 6 ounces of Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • Half and Half
  • White Sauce (see below)
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese

White Sauce:
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter
  • 6 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 3 Cups of Half and Half
  1. In a large soup pot place butter and melt, add onions and keep on very low heat. Be patient (it's not in my nature either but you don't want to burn those onions) and let them cook slowly. You want them to be clear and soft. 
  2. Add broth, bouillon, salt and pepper and give it a quick stir. Let this heat up.
  3. Add White Sauce and Velveeta. Depending on when you made the sauce, it may be really thick and that's okay. Stir well on medium low heat until well mixed and cubes are dissolved. 
  4. Turn the temperature to low and let the ingredients meld for about 45 minutes or so.
  5. Okay here's my special part. . . Let cool slightly and use an immersion blender. Yes, I know Walkabout Soup at Outback has lots of onions in it. We like it better as a bisque. If you really feel the need to have some onions to add to the visual imagery, just take a few out of the pot before you blend and use as garnish. If you must. . . 
  6. You may or may not need to thin the soup a bit. I stick to more half and half. This isn't a low calorie dish regardless and it's just too thin with the 1% milk I keep in the house.
  7. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and those onions if you decided to keep some in reserve.
  8. Serve with the pumpernickel bread and sweet whipped butter.
I caution you to use a very large pot, much bigger than you anticipate, especially if you plan on using an immersion blender. I find that the blender makes the soup foam for a bit and expand in size.

White Sauce:
  1. Melt butter in a 2 qt saucepan and add flour, whisking the mixture until it is heated through and becomes a thick paste, pulling from sides of the pan. FYI you just made a roux!
  2. Put half and half in slowly while you whisk. Stir frequently. I don't say "constantly" because I'm usually cooking something else at the same time to multi task and I have been known to step away for a minute or too. Just be conscious of what's going on and don't stray too long.
  3. Mixture will thicken. Take off stove and have ready for the soup (direction #3 above).

Debra's Sweet Whipped Butter

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon of Raw Honey
  • 1 Tablespoon of Pure Maple Syrup 
  • 1/8 Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
  1. Whip butter in Food Processor until smooth
  2. Add honey and maple syrup and whip again. You may need to use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides to make sure it's well blended.
  3. Add Cinnamon and give it one more "processing"
The butter will keep in the fridge for a few days. It will harden back up and have the consistency of regular butter once it's chilled. So for our meal, I made it about an hour before and left it in a Pyrex container. Leftovers will go in the fridge.

Quick Lunch: Farfalle with Marscapone and Apple Cinnamon Bacon

I have been staring at this pack of apple cinnamon bacon for a few days. . .

It was a Christmas gift from my friend Aimee who shares my love for bacon. She bought it fresh at a farm on the western side of the state. While I knew my bacon was waiting for me, Aimee and I live quite a distance apart. She stuck in her freezer at work so we could plan a rendezvous which occurred last week.

So I've been looking at it trying to figure out what to do with it. It was too special to just fry up by itself (although now that I tasted it, that would have been good too). I really wanted to showcase it and thought about some of the flavors that may compliment it. A pasta dish came to mind. Don't worry there's plenty of bacon left for other dishes this week!

Farfalle with Mascarpone Cheese, Apple Cinnamon 

Bacon and Cranberries

This was for a light lunch so I only made 1/2 a box of pasta and I have a lot left over. . .  

Some of the ingredients used for today's dish - all staples in the house.

1/2 box of Farfalle pasta (or your shape of preference) cooked
1/2 cup of Mascarpone Cheese
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/3 cup of pine nuts
Dash of salt (I chose sun dried tomato flavor - I have an array of flavored salt, and yes, I have a problem)
Ground Pepper to taste
Chopped Cooked Bacon - Apple Cinnamon goodness - Our Piece de resistance!

Cook pasta per directions on box. You will want to drain quickly and have the other ingredients ready as you will want the marscarpone cheese to melt in. Take pasta and stir quickly with the cheese until well covered. toss in cranberries and pinenuts. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with bacon.

I would just like add that the aroma of the bacon in the house was wonderful. I was very tempted to keep the bacon grease for a future dish. I am happy to report the cooked bacon is going to go back in the fridge, wrapped in paper towel, for future use. Good stuff. Thank you Aimee!

Helpful hint for the day: I love things like cranberries and pine nuts. These items aren't always cheap, especially when I also like pecans, almonds, etc. etc. I store them in the freezer so they stay fresh and are always ready for use.

Enjoy! Leftovers for lunch tomorrow. . .

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturday Night Dinner Out on a Sunday Night = Baconfest!

So tonight is a Saturday night even if it's Sunday due to MLK tomorrow. Sunday night is free pinball after 6 at One Eyed Betty's in Ferndale. The kids must have looked pretty pitiful or just extra cute because when they went up to the bar to break a 20 spot at 5PM they were told "it looked like 6" and they turned the machines on for them.

The showcase dish for us at One Eyed Betty's is an appetizer called "Bacon with a Side of Bacon":

Bacon with a Side of Bacon at One Eyed Betty's

So what exactly is this wonderful dish? Well there's bacon (of course) and also pork belly. Slow roasted, melt in your mouth, flakes as you cut it, pork belly. Accompanying these piggy dishes is an panko encrusted scotch egg and arugula. If you cut into the egg before it cools, you have yolky golden goodness to drizzle on the plate and it's wonderful. Yep, new word, "yolky".

They have many beers to choose from. When I go there I typically get a sampling of whatever hard cider they have available. Today's pick for me was McKenzie's Black Cherry Hard Cider and it was delicious! Just a hint of cherry, not overpowering, so you could taste the bite of the sour apple. Good stuff. What I love about One Eyed Betty's is that they serve each beer/drink in one size and they pick what kind of glass based on the drink. So in this case my cider was in a tulip glass (14 oz) but other imbibements come in pilsners and other assorted sizes including the firken (consider this the "mother load").

Other dishes for our dinner includes beer cheese soup (a staple), a Po Boy with shrimp for me, a Bacon Betty Burger, and a steak sandwich. Andrew decided to forgo his typical grilled cheese (which is one of the best around town, with a side of tomato jam) to be more adventurous - and remember this blog is about food adventures - to try an appetizer of Pork Belly Poutine for dinner. Fresh cut fries, cheese curds, pork belly confit (yes more pork belly but this was with a slight BBQ sauce) and poached egg. He didn't want to be too hard core adventurous so we ordered the egg and gravy on the side. He reports it was pretty tasty. We were so involved in this dish that we forgot to take a picture.

Good thing I ran today at the YMCA and did some strength based training too. . . One Eyed Betty's is very very close - like so close you can't miss stopping - to Treat Dreams. Treat Dreams is famous for exotic and new ice cream flavors and Sunday is the beginning of the new rotation. Sunday Breakfast was available with . . . yes, you got it. . . bacon! Waffles, bacon and maple syrup. I don't think I need to say anymore. Let's keep in mind that tickets for general admission to the 2nd Annual Baconfest aren't available until February 1st.

Meals for the Week

I have tried to get into a good habit of planning out the week's menu (and it's an ideal - it doesn't always happen like we plan it) to insure I don't walk around the grocery store aimlessly or buy food impulsively. I think there is a direct correlation between adding family members to the adventure and how much we spend (it's exponential). I also think that depending on where we shop there are added temptations (i.e. expensive gelato ice cream and baked goods at Holiday Market and an array of yummy cheeses and wines at Trader Joe's).

This is the planned menu for the week's dinners. I know going in that my son will probably turn his nose up and eat some cereal some nights and that's going to be okay.

Chicken Sate Chicken with Peanut Sauce and green beans
Baked Spaghetti
Fettucine Alfredo with Bacon
Beef and  Cheese Crostada

There is one night I'm working late (all night basically) so my husband is on duty. I think he will make his famous "Tomato Soup and Noodles". Basic fare but the kids love it. He adds some velveeta to the soup in addition to milk and pours it over macaroni or egg noodles. 4 out of 4 Hendrens will eat it so that's high praise.

Tonight will be considered like Saturday around here - no cooking tonight - because of tomorrow's holiday. Still deciding if it's carry out or dine out today.

We did have a lovely meal with friends in Shelby Township last night. We placed a massive order for carry out from Da Francesco's nearby. Because there were so many of us, lots of choices. I highly recommend the calamari with lemon sauce and the marinated seafood platter for appetizers. The veal dish we chose - Vitello Cotrones - had a brandy cream cheese sauce which was a nice change, topped with some wild mushrooms. Gnocchi in a creamy palomino sauce was also quite good.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Shrimp Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Earlier this week, I found a great recipe for a salad that featured fresh oranges with Brussels sprouts, avocado and pomegranate seeds that I found at 

It was tossed with a dressing made of orange juice and zest with some honey and olive oil. I made some changes this time, adding shrimp and replacing the oranges for pink grapefruit. For the dressing, I made a pineapple vinaigrette with pineapple juice, olive oil, a little rice wine vinegar with Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper. It was colorful, refreshing and lively!

Here is my version:

Shrimp Grapefruit Avocado Salad Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups of shaved Brussels Sprouts Save yourself sometime. Trader Joe's has them prepackaged
  • 1 Pink Grapefruit, peeled and membranes removed, chopped into chunks
  • 1 Avocado, cubed into 2 inch pieces
  • Shrimp (adjust quantity to your liking): I used frozen precooked with tails off, defrosted in cold running water and drained
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 2 TB Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Sea Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Mix all the above ingredients for salad gently in large bowl. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing separately in another bowl. I like to have small plates and come back for seconds (somehow it seems like I demonstrate some restraint this way) so I keep the dressing separate and just drizzle on my individual portion. I think it keeps fresher as well, and stays crisp so you can have it for more than just one snack/meal.