BBQ Buffalo Cheddar Burgers with Maple Caramelized Onions

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So last week Kat from A Good Appetite won last month’s Royal Foodie Joust with her Brie Stuffed Maple Burger with Spicy Apple Bacon Compote. That got me thinking (and drooling, slightly) about burgers…and maple, one of my favoritest ingredients on the planet. She said that she thought that maple went really well with beef, so I wanted to see if it went just as well with buffalo. I suspected it did.

I love buffalo meat, it is leaner than beef and has more CLA in it, because buffalo must eat grass to survive. To read more about CLA, and why it is important, click here. I also love burgers and it is often our meal of choice for movie night. This meal accompanied the movie Appaloosa with Viggo Mortensen.

I am also a huge fan of caramelized onions. They go good with just about anything you can cook up. Seriously, I bet putting them on ice cream would be awesome. Ever had garlic ice cream? That stuff is fan-freaking-tastic. I only have had it once, but it is a food memory that has stuck with me for probably more than 15 years. So really, I might try the caramelized onion thing, but not today.

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Back to the onions. Recently I had made cinnamon spiced caramelized onions to go on a spicy carrot soup. I didn’t blog about it, but the recipe is pretty much like the one I did for Yogi Times way back when. Just added some nice cinnamon to the onions as they were doing their caramelizing thing. They turned out pretty good, so I figured that adding maple to this batch would be worth trying. Top the burgers with these maple-y onions, some Vermont sharp cheddar and some local St. Augustine, FL datil pepper BBQ sauce, and see what happens. A burger of transition, one that features the local delicacies of our current and future homes.

Well what happened is that the sky opened up and…wait no, that didn’t happen… What really happened is that it was one of the best burgers either of us had in a while. Kat, thanks for the inspiration, and I am sure before the fall and winter is over, I will be taking a stab at your winning entry!

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Cooking with Family and Friends

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I really love playing in the kitchen and sometimes, I like to play in the kitchen with others. The kitchen in our condo is kind of small and lacking counter space, but I have still found it possible to squeeze people in the kitchen with me, so we can have a good time cooking up something fun! Everyone I know, knows about my love of cooking and I like to have the opportunity to share this passion of mine with them. Cooking together is a whole different experience from cooking FOR someone, although that is great too! I think the key to cooking together with people in small kitchens is to use as few bowls and pans as possible, and to keep it simple so people can enjoy themselves no matter what their level of cooking is.

A few weekends ago we had both my mom and my cousin Michelle visiting. They both came up on a Friday, and since Fridays are always “Movie Night” in this household, I wanted to pick something that would be quick and easy, but also fun and delicious that we could eat while watching movies. Also since Michelle is the only other person besides Roberto that I know who could literally eat pizza every day I decided to do a “make your own pizza” night!

Before anyone arrived I made sure to make a batch of the Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (seriously, if you don’t already have this book, stop reading this post and get it!). I also checked to make sure we had my secret pizza sauce ingredient – tomato paste. We use it straight from the can as pizza sauce – it is nice and thick, so no soggy crust!

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Everyone had a great time rolling out their individual pizzas. I wish we had been better about taking photos of actual people, but we were too busy having fun! We had a variety of toppings to choose from, which are things I just had in the fridge: fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, olives, Applegate Farms pepperoni (no nitrates, antibiotics, etc), peperoncini and fresh heirloom tomato slices, and of course extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top. We had a great time making pizzas and a week later I was still finding flour in random places :)

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Then last week, our friends Chris and Erin from The Olive Notes came over for a pasta party. When they lived in Italy they always had several jars of Barilla’s Pesto Genovese in their Italian pantry, however were sad to discover that they could not find it back in the states. So when we were in Italy in March ( and I promise there are more travel posts to come) we brought them back a few bottles. To thank us, they suggested we have a pasta making party. Since Roberto and I are moving at the end of the month, we decided to have them over so that we could have one last get together at the condo.

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We decided to make a filled pasta, and went with ravioli. We used this recipe for the dough from Recipe Zaar and decided to fill our fresh pasta with a mixture of wild mushrooms that Erin got at the Farmers Market, goat cheese and fresh chives from my garden. We also seasoned it with Sicilian Sea Salt with Blood Orange Zest that we got from D’Italia .

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First we made the filling in the food processor – basically threw everything in there and let her rip. Then we cleaned it out and made the dough in the processor at well. Then Erin and I got to rolling out the dough, while the boys made various bruschetta.

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Once the dough was rolled it had to sit for 15 minutes and then we filled and cut out the ravioli.

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At this point we had another hour to wait until we could cook it, so we ate our bruschetta, sipped some wine and made a delicious salad made from wild arugula and heirloom tomatoes topped with a homemade balsamic-mustard-honey dressing Erin made – it was delicious.

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We cooked up the ravioli and then enjoyed an evening reminiscing about our respective Italian travels.

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We had such a good time cooking with people in our home that I plan to make this a regular thing, especially now that we are going to have a much bigger kitchen in the new place! So look forward to more of these posts in the future! :)

Pub Grub: Fish n’ Chips, and other fried goodies…

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Recently we were in the mood for some pub grub. I guess it has something to do with the cooler weather settling in, but we were looking for something tasty for movie night, and we had an Irish movie, The Secret of Roan Inish and really good beer, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and Post Road’s Pumpkin Ale. So fish n’ chips just seemed so appropriate!

If you have never seen The Secret of Roan Inish. I highly recommend it. It is one of my favorite films, a beautiful tale based on the Orkney Islands myth of Selkies, people who can transform themselves into seals.

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The legend goes anyone who steals and hides the skin of the Selkie, when it has shed its skin, while in human form, they can keep the Selkie from being able to resume their seal form. So there are lots of stories of men stealing the skin of a female Selkie so that he can wed her, etc. But the Selkies always long to return to the sea. One of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I have ever heard, Sealwoman/Yundah by Irish singer, Mary McLaughlin is also about a Selkie. But, I digress….

Anyway, to make the fish n’ chips, I remembered that my good friend, Judy, from No Fear Entertaining had recently made beer battered squash blossoms, and so I decided to use her beer batter for our cod loins (does anyone know why they call them loins? Last time I looked, cod don’t have legs….).

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After battering the fish, we had more batter and since I had used the last of the oil, we figured waste not want not, and so we started pulling everything out of the fridge that could be battered and fried – like Bubbies bread n’ butter pickles and some leftover rings of onion. As per tradition, we also had oven baked fries (the chips).

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It was a fry festival! Like how I had to add some basil to the dish for the picture? It just looked too monotone without a little color in there!

This was a great dinner and was perfect for the movie and the delicious beer to wash it all down!

Daring Bakers: Za’atar Spiced Lavash Crackers with Spicy Walnut Dip and Cilantro Chutney

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When I saw the Daring Bakers challenge for this month, I was nothing short of ecstatic! Don’t get me wrong, I love the creativity behind all the cakes and pastries we have been baking as of late, and if I hadn’t done them, I would still be thinking that baking things like this was something un-attainable for me. But I am always much more into the land of savory. So this was going to be a real treat. I have never made crackers before, but I am a HUGE lover of crackers, eating them almost daily. So I figure it was high time to start making my own!

I was also excited because this is the first time the DB challenge is hosted by gluten free blogs, Natalie from Gluten A Go Go , and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl. So when you look at the recipe, be sure to take note that there is a gluten free and non-gluten free version available!

So what is Lavash? It is an Armenian flatbread which is traditionally cooked in a clay oven or Tandoor and is usually used like a tortilla – as in you wrap a filling in it (like a kebab) and eat it like a sandwich. But we bakers are daring, so we are all attempting to make it into crackers using conventional ovens! :)

I love the foods of the Middle East, so to fulfill the other part of this challenge – making a topping for the crackers, I decided to stay in the same vein by preparing an Armenian Spicy Walnut Dip

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and and an Afghani style Cilantro Chutney

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(this was a discussion on the Leftover Queen Forum and now I can’t find the thread and I can’t remember the creator of the thread….if anyone recalls, please remind me!!!!).

I decided to make this treat for movie night accompanied by the Lentil Koftas I made some time ago.

The lavash was nice and crispy and the toppings were both fantastic!- the cilantro chutney is full of clean green flavors, while the walnut was very earthy and robust. I even had some leftover dough so I made a few breadsticks!

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I loved that this challenge was something I have never made before, yet didn’t take hours or even days to complete! Plus, there is just so much wonderful versatility possible here! So I am no doubt going to be making them again very soon and just play around with the flavors!

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Recipe: The BEST Homemade Pizza EVER and “Italian Mojitos”

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So as many of you know, in the Leftover Queen household there is an unending quest for good pizza.

I have written about it on my travel blog here, here, here and here , as well as attempting it at home, on the grill last summer when we were at my mom’s.

We have tried other, not so successful pizza making attempts at home that certainly weren’t worth blogging about. But still on this bread revolution kick, I decided to use my new favorite cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day to try my hand at a new recipe for pizza dough.

I decided to go with the Olive Oil Dough, but I modified it a little to get some whole wheat flour in there. I have heard the low down on all WW pizza dough from my good friend Helen’s blog, Food Stories, and so I didn’t want to make the same mistake (thanks Helen for being the guinea pig!).

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This dough was amazing! It was easy to work with, lifted right off the cookie sheet with no trouble and a perfect golden brown. We topped our pizza with Ciliengini (small fresh mozzarella balls), sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and anchovies with capers. It was the perfect combination of flavors and they texture of the crust was perfect – thin, crunchy on the outside, with a soft give inside. The flavor of the olive oil in the dough really gave it a whole level of deliciousness. The fruitier the olive oil, the better!

We enjoyed this pizza while watching The Spiderwick Chronicles when my mom was visiting. Now Roberto is insisting we have this pizza at least once a week! ;)
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French Movie and Dinner:Recipe: Pan Fried Chevre with Porky Chard and Pomegranate – Balsamic Reduction

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After finishing up some projects, I decided to treat myself to a movie. You know how there are just some movies that you want for your collection? Well, Le Pacte des Loups or Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of those movies in my book. The film is loosely based on a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century and on the famous legend around the Beast of Gévaudan. The plot goes something like this. The Chevalier de Fronsac, a knight and the royal taxidermist (yes, you read that right) of King Louis XV of France, and his Native American companion Mani (who is played by Mark Dacascos “The Chairman”, of Iron Chef fame…oh yeeeeaaaaah!) an Iroquois, are sent by the King to the Gevaudan province to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.

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If you have never seen it, it is an amazing example of cinematography. I have a real weakness for historical movies – where the costumes and scenery are as brilliant as the imagination can make them. I also love a good supernatural mystery and this movie covers all the bases. It is a bit of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, mixed with Last of the Mohicans and a little bit of Sleepy Hollow thrown in for good measure. It is a gorgeous movie, full of mystery, action, intrigue, a little darkness and beautiful French people. If you get this movie, please so not chose the dub option.
It is just way better in French. Take it from one who knows, ma cherie.

I am not really big into French Cuisine. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like it. Quite the contrary, I just haven’t had many opportunities to eat it and I doubt much of what I cook can be classified as anything close to French cuisine. But in my attempts to somehow create a theme to this movie dinner, I decided to use the one French ingredient I always have in my fridge – Chevre, or Goat’s Cheese. This is my absolute favorite cheese in existence. It is so creamy and pungent and delicious. So I decided that it would taste really good coated in breadcrumbs and pan-fried. My mistake was not giving it an egg wash first. It would have kept these cheesy disks together better. When I was rummaging through the fridge to see what would go with this, my eyes fell on some lovely baby swiss chard leaves I had. So I decided to sautee these up with some bacon, and wine and create a pomegranate-balsamic reduction to go overtop of everything. Not sure how French it was, but it sure tasted fabulous – coupled with some fresh baked bread and a nice glass of red wine, it was certainly a feast for our mouths as we watched the movie, a visual feast for the eyes. Both sensory experiences were intense, deep and exciting!
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Recipe: Spaceship Squash Fritters and Another Buffy Night…

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Man, there is a lot of squash out in the blogosphere these days! I love squash fritters, to me, it is the absolute best way to cook this “filler” vegetable. There is something about pan frying shredded bits squash with onions and other veggies that really bring out the squash’s hidden sweetness. Zucchini is another great food for making fritters or pancakes. One of my all-time favorite personal creations was Zucchini Fritters with Chipotle Harissa Yogurt . So with that dish in mind, I decided to use the cousin of the zucchini, the humble yellow squash.

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I got these cute yellow squash that became affectionately know as “Spaceship Squashes” at the Farmers Market. Have you seen these guys yet? Anyway, it was the last time this particular produce stand was going to take part in the weekly market this season. We love this stand because their local produce is always so BIG – remember that gigantic head of cabbage for a dollar ? – well this is that vendor. So I decided to grab as much as we could for the freezer over the next few months, including another large cabbage and a basket of these cute squashes.

They sat in the fridge for about a week, until I realized that I needed to use them up soon. So I decided to make fritters for another Movie Night. We ate this while watching a DVD of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer Episodes – Season 5. Yes, I love Buffy. The show has gotten a mention twice this week. What can I say, it is quite enjoyable. I promise though, this is as geeky as I get…besides my Lord of the Rings problem, but that is a whole other story. But I am thinking we should have been watching something with aliens for this particular meal. Perhaps, more suited would have been Firefly. *insert geeky music*

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Product Review: Freida’s Garlic Delight

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Recently I was sent another great product to review. I was contacted by Hazel over at Freida’s Inc. about a new, fresh garlic product that is now on the market. Hazel told me that the product is made using all natural ingredients and no preservatives: fresh USA-grown garlic, canola oil, lemon juice and salt — that’s it. It sounded too good to be true, a dream come true product review. Something that sounded great and totally fell into pace with my Mediterranean eating habits. So of course I agreed to sample it.

The package from Frieda’s arrived overnight in a cooler with ice. I recieved the original Freida’s Garlic Delight as well as the chipotle flavor – imagine my delight. Immediately I checked out the ingredients and it was just as Hazel had said – all natural and no preservatives! Each tub is 7 oz. and so my head was just swimming with ideas of what to do with these tubs of garlicky goodness.

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This package could not have come at a better time. It arrived the same week that Roberto’s mom arrived here from Rome. So I thought it would be great to get everyone’s opinion of the product. The first thing we did with the original flavor was to make garlic bread – what better, simple way to showcase the flavor of this product? Good garlic bread’s merit is based on the subtle, yet earthy flavor of garlic. When I opened the tub, I was immediately hit with a lovely, sweet and nutty garlic aroma – similar to the smell of roasted garlic. As I dipped my spreader into the container the spread was light and fluffy. All good signs.

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Some of us got adventurous and decided to put a piece of prized Iberian Acorn Ham, a lovely gift from Nuria, on top.

I must say I am very pleased with this product. The garlic bread was so good that we decided to try the spread with several other recipes: we put it in hummus, in a dipping sauce for sweet potato fries, as well as the Koftas and Buffalo Wings we made for Movie Night. Everything turned out great.

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With the Chipotle flavor we used it as a sauce for a spicy shrimp pasta that we served when my mom was here this weekend to celebrate Mother’s Day. We included her in Movie Night and enjoyed this delicious pasta dish, while watching Into The Wild, a movie that stays with you long after the watching. Similar to garlic, that stays with you long after the tasting.

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The chipotle garlic spread was a perfect smoky heat with a great garlic punch. I think it would be delicious as a sauce for fish tacos, in cole slaw, or slathered on hot, fresh corn on the cob!

Each tub comes with a recipe and there are two other great flavors, Sun Dried Tomato and Green Olive, both of which sound wonderful! You can also get other recipe ideas on the Frieda’s Inc. website. I honestly thought when I received this product that it was a great idea, but that I would never really use it myself – I have fresh garlic cloves that I use in nearly everything I cook and I don’t get products that overlap. But after sampling this, I changed my mind. The texture and taste is so good, and it is just so convenient, that I told Roberto I might need to be buying this soon.

If you would like to learn more about the various products that Freida’s Inc. offers, including organic, tropical and latin produce, as well as gift ideas and gourmet foods, please check out their webpage. If you would like to know where you can purchase Frieda’s Inc. products near you, please click here or check the produce section at your grocery store or market.