December Roundup

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Friday Round Up

It’s been a busy, busy, busy month for me, and before it ended, I just wanted to take a few minutes to round up everything that caught my eye in the blogosphere this month for posterity. I’ll be returning to the normal Friday roundup format next week. Weekly events will now be replaced by a Event Calendar that you can find on the right side pane.

If you haven’t made plans for tonight yet, here’s a list of the various places in town that have something going on. Many of them require reservations, which may be filled at this point, but it’s a place to start.

And speaking of the New Year, I guess it’s time to reflect on what I’d like to accomplish, at least with food, in 2007. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

- I’d like to have a healthier relationship with food in 2007. I’d like to gain enough control over it to lose 100 lbs. by this time next year. This will mean more moderation on my part, something which I severely lacked in 2006, and also increased activity, which means I’ll need to incorporate exercise into my life. Kalyn’s post about the South Beach Diet is almost enough to convince me to give it a try, especially considering my known insulin resistance problem.

- I’d like to attend more food related functions this year – last year I attended the North Market Apron Gala and Taste the Future, which I hope to attend this year as well. I’d like to attend more industry functions and more festivals next summer.

- I’d like to learn how to take better photographs, which means learning how to use my new photo in a box for lighting, and acquiring and learning to use a DSLR by the end of the year.

- I’d like to learn how to preserve food, either by canning or cold storage, so that I can enjoy nature’s bounty in the months of no local food.

- I’d like to expand the site to include links to more restaurant menus, more local resources for foodies, and more things that make this a Columbus-centric site rather than having the focus so much on myself and my family.

- I’d like to get to know more local artisans and food producers.

- I’d like to eat out more often – I’m shooting for one restaurant review every 2 weeks, since we have plenty of places in town yet to try.

- I’d like to either establish or join a supper club this year.

There are many more small things I’d love to do, but these are the biggies for 2007.

In local restaurant news, it looks like DaVinci, which had been torn down several months ago to make way for a new strip mall, has reopened as a much smaller Caffe DaVinci at the same location. I wonder if they still have that wonderful lunch buffet?

Speaking of pictures, check out the amazing color of the fruit in this entry by winoandfoodies.com. It makes me long for early summer and Ohio strawberries!

I wish I would have seen Dumneazu’s post about Katz’s Deli before my trip to New York. I had the hardest time trying to find a decent corned beef sandwich while I was there.

Savory recipes that I’d like to try are Pork Goulash and Sauerkraut Casserole from the Columbus Dispatch, Wasabi-Crusted Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Apples, Curry, and Honey from Acme Instant Food, Roasted Butternut Squash Puree with Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Sage from Adventures of a Digestive Diva, Leek and Vegetable Gratin from Albion Cooks, Migas and Holubki from Coconut & Lime, Chicken and Dumplings from Cook & Eat, Osso Buco from Cookthink, Risotto with Leek, Broccoli, and Feta from Dinner for One, Tramps on Horseback from Eat, Mustard Pork Chops and Colcannon from English Patis, Porcupine Meatballs from Flavors, Hungarian Chicken Paprikash with Pierogi from Garlicster, Kalyn’s 2006 Herb Blend from Kalyn’s Kitchen, Chicken Thighs with Balsamic Vinegar from The Kitchen – Apartment Therapy, Potato Latke Master Recipe from The Kosher Blog, Two Onion Tart from Live to Nibble, Truffle Egg Pasta from Local Eats, Farfalle with Pistachio Cream Sauce from Pinch My Salt, Orecchiette with Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula from Smitten Kitchen, Poblano Rice Cake from Too Many Chefs, Bread Pudding with Ham, Leeks, and Cheese from Trivialissimo, and Finnish Meatballs and Hummus from The Wednesday Chef.

Sweet recipes that are keepers: Fleur de Sel Caramels from 28 Cooks, Ultimate Turtle Brownies from Cooking Debauchery, Croissant Bread Pudding with Pecan Toffee Sauce from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, 2006 Holiday Cookies from Dessert by Candy, Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Gastronome, German Pancakes from Smitten Kitchen, and Rolo Pecan Candies from Something So Clever.

In informative posts this month, The Columbus Dispatch tells us all about cheese, and in an older (but new to me and related to cheese also) post, Cake and Commerce tells us how to assemble a cheese plate. Also, Candy Addict gives us an amusing, but insightful look at Boxed Chocolate – Rules of the House. Cooking for Engineers explains how to temper chocolate, and Cookthink shows us how to prep and use leeks. The Ethicurean answers the question, What is a Whole Grain?.

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A few new foodie sites have launched. Among them is Serious Eats, a collaboration of several food bloggers, and FoodCandy.

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Anne from Anne’s Food had a post last month about what she misses from the US. Since I’ve moved from my hometown, it inspired me to reflect on what I miss from places of my past.

- I definitely miss Philly cheesesteaks something fierce. The stuff we get in Ohio doesn’t even come close – I miss the honest to goodness steaks at Jim’s Steaks, served on an Amoroso’s bun “wit Whiz” and fried onions.

- I miss cheesesteak strombolis, which are IMPOSSIBLE to find outside of the Philly/South Jersey area. If you’re lucky enough to find someplace in Columbus that makes strombolis in the first place, they will look at you like you’re insane if you ask if they can make a cheesesteak stromboli. I’ve yet to find a place that will.

- I miss Tastykakes, specifically Peanut Butter Kandykakes. So much so, that when we visitors from the East Coast, the price of admission for our accommodations are a couple of boxes of Tastykakes. We had some fantastic absolutely fresh Butterscotch Krimpets in a little corner deli in NYC, and it was pure heaven. Probably the best thing I ate my entire vacation.

- I miss Yocco’s Hot Dogs, based in Lehigh Valley, PA – this is my husband’s home area, and he introduced me to the crack which is a Yocco’s Dog. Paired with an order of three deep fried Mrs. T’s pierogies, this is manna in a paper bag. Again, we ask our East Coast visitors to bring a Doggie Pack with them when they visit.

- I miss Grandma Utz’ potato chips, the thick cut chips that are hand-cooked to perfection in lard. Sometimes, with the folded over chips, you get a caught dollop of lard, which is pure bliss.

- I miss Italian subs from Giovanni’s Deli on the corner of Oak and East in Vineland, NJ. Absolutely the best Italian sub I’ve ever had in my life, and from what I hear, 20 years later, the place is still going strong and is still the best Italian sub in Vineland, NJ.

- I miss apple strudel from Friedman’s Bakery in Vineland, NJ. This place closed a few years ago, and I haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement since.

- I miss Philly/NY style pizza. Pizza in Ohio is either cracker crust or too thick. NY style pizza is huge slices, thin soft crust under the toppings (which makes it foldable), and nice chewy outer crust. The best of bost worlds. The closest I’ve found locally is Whole Foods, believe it or not.

- I miss Puerto Rican food. You absolutely, positively can’t find it here. I keep telling myself if I opened a Puerto Rican restaurant in Columbus I’d make a killing, because the food is so delicious. In particular, every time I visit my home town I must visit Penalvert’s. Of course, this desire for Puerto Rican may be driven by the fact I have a pernil roasting in the oven as we speak. ;P

Please comment and tell me what foods you miss the most, if you’re far from your hometown in this holiday season.

Have a happy new year, everyone. I hope to be back in 2007 with lots more stuff!

Italian Wedding Soup

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Recipes

For some reason, I’ve been craving soup and stew lately. Probably has to do with the weather – it’s been unseasonably warm, and soups and stew remind me of winter. Since we were about as far from a White Christmas as we could get, I guess I had to eat SOMETHING that reminded me of cold snowy days.

Italian Wedding Soup

I’m sure there are various ways of making this, some of which require making your own meatballs and making your own broth, but this is a recipe that I’ve come up with that gives you the same results, but takes a few shortcuts to save you time.

Italian Wedding Soup

2 rotisserie chickens, meat stripped and chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 49.5 oz. cans chicken broth
10 carrots, chopped coarsely
4 ribs celery, chopped coarsely
2 bags mini Italian meatballs (found in frozen section)
1 lb. orzo, cooked al dente, rinsed in cold water and drained
1 large bunch escarole, chopped coarsely

In large Dutch oven or stock pot, saute celery and carrots in olive oil 5-10 minutes, and then add chicken broth. Bring to boil, and add chicken. Cook for about 1/2 hour until vegetables are almost done, and then add meatballs. Meanwhile, prepare orzo to al dente according to package directions, and then rinse and cold water and drain. Add to soup and return to simmer. Add escarole and cover, and then turn off heat. Allow soup to stand 5-10 minutes for escarole to wilt. Serve.

It freezes very well, so I usually make a double batch (like above), and eat half and freeze the rest.

Holiday Update

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Holiday, Life, Travel

Well, Christmas has come and gone – and with the passing of Christmas has come the return of calm in my household. Even under the best case scenario, December is extremely chaotic and stressful here, but with our trip to New York, this year it was even more so.

We tried something new this year – a tradition that my family is starting in lieu of the usual turkey or ham on Christmas. Starting this year, we’re going to do a different ethnic feast each year. This year? Italian. We had bread and dipping oil from Bravo, Mixed Baby Greens Salad with Balsamic Dressing, Insalata Caprese (made with Campari tomatoes, since they are the only tomatoes you can buy in December that taste like tomatoes!), Italian Wedding Soup (no pic or recipe yet, I’m making another batch tonight and will post the results tomorrow), trays of Meat and Cheese ravioli and meatballs from Carfagna’s, and a Strawberries and Cream cake from Whole Foods. If there’s one thing I learned from the Thanksgiving Day fiasco, it’s that I don’t have to make every little thing from scratch to serve up an excellent meal.

I got lots of great presents this year – tons of cookbooks! (including Culinaria Germany, which I’ve been wanting for years), a set of Calphalon One, a new table and chair set for the dinette, and a photo studio in a box (should make for much better (or at least better lighted) food porn).

Manhattan Skyline

We’re still trying to get settled back into our routine after our trip to New York. We had a great view from our hotel room (on the 35th floor, it had 3 windows – one looking directly over 42nd Street (and Madame Tussard’s), the otherlooking towards the south end of Manhattan (in the pic above, especially if you click through to the bigger version, you can see the flag at Ground Zero directly under the sun, and also, although you can’t see it in the pic, I could see the Statue of Liberty in the space between that big building on the left side and the other buildings). The other window faced to the West, and I could see the river from it. It was gorgeous!

I’ll be honest. I didn’t wander too far from the hotel room over the weekend, because the weather was mostly miserable (unseasonably warm, but very rainy), the walking was a little more than I could handle because of my health (I could make it about the equivalent of 10 city blocks before I felt like I was going to pass out from the pain in my back), and because I felt overwhelmed by the city in general (had no idea where to go or how to get there, was too intimidated to try the subway, not because of any fear, but because the maps were confusing). I just had a bit of culture shock, I guess. :) We had a few good meals (at Kyma, at the corner of 46th St. and 8th Ave, good Greek, decent prices for the area), and at Lucky Star Cafe (right next to the hotel at 43rd and 8th, great burgers, CHEAP prices, we ate there 3 times), and a horrible meal at Old San Juan (yuck, yuck, total waste of money, it was inedible, see my review here for more info). Even though we had thought about going to one of the better restaurants or a Broadway show, we didn’t plan ahead enough to be able to pull it off on short notice. Maybe next time?

I should be updating much more frequently now since the chaotic part of the holidays have passed. More later this week – definitely keep an eye out for the cookie post, the December roundup post, and the Italian Wedding Soup post. For those of you who said you will be coming this weekend to the potluck, can’t wait to see you there. If anyone still wants to attend, it’s not too late. Email me at columbusfoodieATgmailDOTcom and I’ll send you the details.

Blogging by Mail: Holiday Edition

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Blogging Event, Meta

In the middle of wrapping presents this afternoon, the doorbell rang. I was expecting it to be one of the many presents I ordered for others online this year, but was happily surprised to see that it was a Blogging By Mail package from Chrispy of Experimentation of Taste. Let me tell you, that box was HEAVY. I dashed about trying to find something I could use to open it, sat down at the sofa, and proceeded to tear it open like a kid on Christmas morning!

bbmletter

She wrote me a lovely letter describing everything inside – tons of homemade and local to her goodies, along with some treats for the dogs and Burts Bees and local soap. I feel so spoiled! There was too much stuff in there for one picture, so I’m going to have to break it down into two pictures.

Blogging by Mail

Among the homemade stuff, there’s some things she canned this year – strawberry rhubarb jam (one of my favorites!), quince jam (I’ve never had it, but I’m excited to try it!), and mild fiesta salsa (glad it’s mild, I have a low tolerance for pain, LOL!), a couple of food sections from her local paper, quince cheese (not sure what this is, will have to look it up on her site! – either way, looking forward to trying it!), and what I think are homemade butter pecan cookies (the letter didn’t say, but she posted about making these recently, and these smell very pecan-like). The taste test will tell me for sure. ;)

Blogging by Mail

The rest of the box had mostly local items to her – a few bars of chocolate, locally made soap, some treats for the dogs (I gave one to Diva, who snarfed it down approvingly, and Sadie buried hers in her blanket for later consumption), bread mix, burts bees. So much wonderful stuff! Thank you, Chrispy, for the thoughtful package!

I had an excellent time with Blogging by Mail, and hope to participate next time. I was also glad to see that Aarika received the package I sent her, I was getting worried that it hadn’t arrived. :)

An Apology

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin

…for the lack of posts lately, but this month has been hectic, to say the very least. Between being in poor health myself, Christmas baking and shopping, getting the house into shape and an ill dog, I haven’t had much down time to be online lately. I read all other blogs via rss feeds, and am at least 6,000 messages behind at this point. That’s why there wasn’t a Friday Roundup last week, and why there probably won’t be one today. I’ll be in New York next Friday, so will post next week’s Friday Roundup on Wednesday before I leave.

Thank you so much for your patience. :)

What We Cook When We Don’t Feel Like Cooking

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn

I’m still feeling under the weather, and because of that, have been all about quick dishes and convenience foods this week.

In last night’s edition of laziness: sauteed pork loin brushed with apple butter bbq sauce, McCain’s “Baby Cakes” potato pancakes, and chunky applesauce from Trader Joe’s.

Macky Cheese

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn

Sometimes, when you’re feeling under the weather, NOTHING really tastes good. You don’t even want to go near decent food, bland and comforting is the name of the game. And at those times, when you’re in the need of comfort, nothing hits the spot like macaroni and cheese right out of the box.

Macky Cheese

Not just any macky cheese (I say macky cheese to differentiate this stuff from macaroni and cheese, which has honest to goodness cheese in it, not powder), mind you. It MUST be Kraft, and it must be Three Cheese (since the original flavor tastes like cauliflower, blech). You really have to be in the mood to eat this stuff – but when you are, there is no substitute.

Indian Cooking Night

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Ethnic, Food Porn, Recipes

Last night, I decided to try my hand at semi-homemade Indian. I’ve been craving Indian for a while, and had a korma kit I had picked up at World Market a little while back that I needed to use, so it seemed like a natural choice. I had originally planned to make this dish with paneer (cheese), but decided to keep that for another dish, probably a makhani of some sort.

Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Korma

I served it with tandoori chicken (chicken thighs marinated in a tandoori mixture (1 cup plain full fat yogurt, 2 tbsp. tandoori masala, generous squirt of lemon juice), and then grilled on the contact grill), basmati rice, and naan from Trader Joe’s. Unfortunately for me, the korma was a bit too spicy for my tastes (my loss is hubby’s gain!), so I filled up on tandoori chicken and naan. 

Kheer

For dessert, I made the wonderful kheer (Indian Rice Pudding) recipe that was recently posted on A Fridge Full of Food. Glenna is right, the flavor IS all packed in the coconut milk and cardamom, and it tasted exactly like the stuff I get in the Indian restaurants. And like most of Alton Brown’s recipes, this one is a keeper.

Pork Piccata and Italian Green Beans

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Cooking Light, Food Porn, Recipes, Weight Watchers

I was in the mood for Chicken Scaloppini, but not in the mood for the calories that come with Chicken Scaloppini (this recipe, for example, calls for a pound of butter and has 2,114 calories and 126 grams of fat per serving!). So I figured I would compromise and start with a Cooking Light recipe and add what I needed to in order to get the creamy mouth feel I was looking for. I then realized I didn’t have any boneless chicken in the house, so I ended up substituting pork loin. The pork picatta recipe at Cooking Light didn’t review well, so I ended up using the chicken recipe anyway.

Pork Piccata and Italian Green Beans

What this means to me is that even though this is technically a Cooking Light recipe, I changed it enough so it’s not exactly “healthy”, although much healthier than the alternative. It’s got the same vibe, at least. I served it with some doctored up Italian green beans, because otherwise hubby wouldn’t eat them (it’s been a struggle trying to get him to eat vegetables lately. This is a compromise, although I like them without all of the extra ingredients). The original Cooking Light recipe for the piccata is below, along with my substitutions in parenthesis. Bear in mind that the nutrition information is for the original recipe.

Chicken Piccata
courtesty Cooking Light

4 (4-ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves (I used pork loin)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons butter or stick margarine, divided (I used 2 tbsp total)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups dry white wine, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I used 1 tbsp)
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 cups hot cooked linguine (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta) (I used quinoa angel hair instead)
(Additionally, I used about 1/4 cup of heavy cream as well, which I added when I mixed in the butter and parsley)

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; flatten to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Combine flour, salt, and pepper; dredge chicken in flour mixture. Heat 1 teaspoon butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Add 3/4 cup wine, juice, and capers to pan, scraping pan to loosen brown bits, and cook 2 minutes. Remove chicken from pan, and keep warm. Stir in 3/4 cup wine, and cook over high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Stir in 1 teaspoon butter and parsley. Serve chicken over linguine. Drizzle with sauce.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half, 1 cup pasta, and 2 tablespoons sauce)

CALORIES 389 (13% from fat); FAT 5.5g (sat 1.1g,mono 2.2g,poly 1.4g); PROTEIN 34.3g; CHOLESTEROL 66mg; CALCIUM 43mg; SODIUM 590mg; FIBER 2.8g; IRON 4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 48.4g, 8 WW POINTS

Italian Green Beans
courtesy Recipes Today

16 ounces frozen green beans
1/4 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook green beans according to package directions; drain. Place beans in a medium serving bowl, and mix in breadcrumbs, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano and basil. Toss mixture until the beans are coated. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

I finished the dish with some bread (yes, it’s Pillsbury, sue me – I was in a hurry ::laughing::) for a nice well-rounded tasty meal in less than 30 minutes total.

A Couple of Things

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Events, Farmer's Market, North Market

First, looks like almost everyone has a previous engagement on December 16th, with the upcoming holidays and all. I’m thinking of rescheduling the potluck to the 30th (after the holiday rush is over). Does this work better for everyone? Let me know.

Second, it looks like Lisa, Rosie, I and another blogger got a mention in Jeni‘s article in the North Market newsletter. :) VERY nice article, thank you Jeni (I didn’t know you were a visitor – I *love* your ice cream and would love to do a feature on it sometime – let me know…).

Speaking of the North Market, we were there for lunch today, and I was amazed to find that there were still fruits and veggies to be had at the farmer’s market! I bought some rutabaga and some potatoes that will go into a very nice roast later this week. I’m already looking forward to spring!

I need to start my Christmas baking soon. Anyone have any links to some really good Christmas cookie recipes that they’d like to share?