Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mosaic Monday ~A Cookbook Review

I was recently asked to review a new cookbook. Two things interested me about this new book. The fact that the author is a blogger was exciting. I love to hear about bloggers making it "big". And the subject of the book was of even bigger interest. Sandwiches! I like them a lot and Randy REALLY loves them. This is the guy that asks for ham and cheese instead of a hot dinner frequently. Or grilled cheese & tomato soup. Or tuna fish and cream of celery. Or Subway...

I have to share just how excited Randy was when this book was delivered to our door. I was at work and he called to tell me a package had arrived and he said if all of the cookbooks I ordered were as good as this one he wouldn't mind me bringing them all home. Normally my growing collection is a sore spot with him, so I couldn't imagine what book that I had ordered he was talking about(especially since I hadn't ordered any!).

Then he started reading the names of the recipes and even reciting the descriptions of some out loud and giving me a list of the ones he wanted me to make. Then the light bulb went off! It was the cookbook that I had been asked to review, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo of Food Blogga fame. Interestingly she dedicated this book "to all those hungry fellas out there who think they can't cook but can." She must have had Randy in mind :-)

The book is an encyclopedia of Sandwiches, so there are a few things you wouldn't normally expect to see in a peanut butter sandwiches..or ham and cheese :-) But there are also some great regional and original recipes and the descriptions & sandwich histories are inspiring.

Its a cute little chunky book with great pictures, including the jawbreaking Dagwood on the cover. I was pleased to see interpretations of some of my favorites like the Cubano, the Po Boy and my most recent fave, the Vietnamese Banh Mi.

Its alphabetically arranged, which keeps things interesting but does coincidentally put Heroes next to Hoagies! It also has a separate index of sandwiches plus an index of ingredients in the front of the book.

So since receiving this on Tuesday, I've tried three recipes..all under "C". The first was the Classic Club sandwich because Randy showed a high level of enthusiasm around this one. Unfortunately although I stopped at the grocery store on my way home I forgot one ingredient that I consider key, a tomato. But I went ahead and made it anyways. It would have been better with the tomato, but it was still great without. The club is one of those sandwiches that changes from restaurant to restaurant and home to home so I suppose that's okay.

This classic debuted at New York's Saratoga Club in 1894 according the encyclopedia. The best one I ever had was at a small diner called the Double V Cafe in my hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana. I wrote about it HERE. Here's my tomatoeless ( and fancy toothpickless) version.

And a shot of the recipe in the book

Saturday afternoon I decided to try something else. There are two chicken salad sandwiches in the book and I kind of combined them, but with a larger focus on the Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich. I planned on taking the leftovers to work tomorrow, but ended up eating them today instead. So yummy!

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich

2 cups chicken (I used canned chicken with success)
1/4 cup julienned carrots
1 medium apple, chopped (a little more than called for because I lacked mango)
1 mango (I didn't have so omitted)
2 scallions thinly sliced
1/4 cup red onion, chopped (my addition)
1/4 cup raisins ( I subbed Craisins)
1/4 cup chopped cashews ( I subbed sliced almonds and added a little more)
1/4 cup mayo
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1-2 tsp curry powder (depending on how strong you like it)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp salt
4 slices toasted bread or buns

Mix first 8 ingredients. In separate bowl mix remaining ingredients until smooth and creamy. Pour dressing over salad & refrigerate before serving. Divide between bread or buns to make two sandwiches.

*Note: I ate it right away and it was still good :-)

Finally, for dinner Saturday night I went with a southern classic, the Chicken Fried Steak Sandwich with cream gravy. Very filling and very good! We enjoyed it.

I learned that Chicken Fried Steak is originally from Texas and was made by German immigrants as a New World version of Weiner Schnitzel.
Chicken Fried Steak

2 tenderized round steaks
2 eggs
4 Tablespoons milk or buttermilk
Several shakes of salt & pepper to taste (I added Tony Chachere's seasoning as well)
1/4 tsp paprika
4 tablespoons flour (I ended up using a little more than this)
4 Tablespoons canola oil

Cream Gravy
2 T flour
1/2 milk (I added about 1/2 c more)
Salt & pepper to taste
Hamburger buns

Trim steak of fat & tenderize if not already done. Whisk together the egg, milk, paprika, salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl or plate. heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dip meat into egg mixture, then flour, then repeat. Place in hot oil. Fry 3-4 minutes, flip then fry 2-3 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. For gravy scoop 2 Tablespoons of oil from skillet in which meat was cooked and add to a small pan over medium heat. Whisk in flour, then gradually whisk in milk. Add salt and pepper. Lower heat and continue whisking until thickened. For a thinner sauce add more milk. Place steak on bun and top with gravy if desired. I put mayo and ketchup on bun and served the gravy on the side.

Overall this is a fun cookbook with a lot of appeal. I'd highly recommend! I only got through the C's with the review and I still have one more C sandwich I want to try. An English Chip Buddy. A sandwich of can you go wrong with that? Check it out when it goes on sale on April 5th at Amazon and I'm sure other fine bookstores.

I'm joining in over at Little Red House today for Mosaic Monday. Check it out HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flashback Friday ~Tulips are on the way

I'm doing a quick flash back to this photo taken in 2008 of an area north of Seattle, Skagit County that grows a ton of bulbs. It a flower photographers dream :-)

The bigger daffodils are beginning to bloom in my yard now, so the tulips shouldn't be too far behind! I'm also showing a picture today from what I was going on in my kitchen in March of 2008. I was experimenting with these neat painted cookies. Its easy to do...just ice your favorite sturdy sugar cookie with an thin icing that dries hard then then paint directly on icing with food coloring - full strength or slightly diluted. Plus now they have those food color pens that work too!

If you have a flashback of any kind that you'd like to share please add your link below!

I'm joining in at Foodie Friday and Sweet Tooth Friday today! Check them out :-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mosaic Monday ~Hello Spring!

First day of Spring and I couldn't be happier! For the past few months I've been having to make due when it comes to sunshine. My suns have been working overtime to make up for our weather deficiency.

We have been wet! But it was all smiles and happiness this weekend. Okay...maybe it wasn't so sunny today, the official start of spring. But Saturday was nice :-) And I took advantage. Spring is here! and I have a new camera!! This the first picture snapped...Me right after I got home Friday and Randy had the camera ready to greet me. Don't I look happy?

I dropped my last camera on the kitchen floor in the fall and have been sick about it since. We got a decent deal on a new Canon T2i and I'm thrilled with it. Keep your fingers crossed this one stays on the counter!

My little point and shoot Canon has been good to me during these past months, but I love taking photos in my garden and in the kitchen and once you've stepped up a level its hard going back mostly because the fine detail and contrast isn't the same. So I enjoyed some time on Saturday snapping a few shots with the new camera of what we've got blooming right now in the garden. But first...a peek at the blue skies!

Poor Mr. Jigs looks like he's in jail.

But never fear, he got to enjoy a little sunshine too! Here he is guarding the yard for us.

Due to the rain and cool weather the spring bulbs seemed to have stalled, but I'm sure they will be coming along soon. Store bought primroses and ranunculus are filling the void.

I do have a few bulbs blooming these crocus

And the tiny Tete-a-Tete daffodils under the camellia

This 'Wanda' primrose is looking pretty too.

And the pulmonaria is starting to bloom

But what's really shining at the moment are the hellebores

Most of mine are unnamed seedlings I received at plant exchanges.

They are all beautiful to me though!

I love the daintiness and detail

And the various shades of pink and purple

Here's a for sure sign for us that spring is in the air...the lovey doveys are hanging around. They are usually very skittish and fly away when we go outside, but this time of the year they are a lot more calm and seem to do a lot of fluffing and nestling around on the ground. Here they are getting cozy on the fence.

We spent the day washing the car and grilling..other signs that spring is here. I did shish kabobs and Bacon wrapped jalapeno "thingies" from The Pioneer Woman's blog. Check them out here. She baked hers...I grilled mine. They were a hit with me and Randy.

I'm joining in for Mosaic Monday over at Little Red House.

Also I want to remind everyone about my Great Cooking Magazine Challenge. The linky is up and will be for a month, so go cook something and join in!

Before I close I'd like to share that I was recently contacted by Chris at HSN about their upcoming event, HSN's Cooks Spring Weekend Event presented by Bon Appetit. Check it out HERE. Looks like there will be some pretty cool products and chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Emerial, Jacques Torres, etc...and I'd imagine some good recipes shared. The dates are March 26-27. Here's a little video promoting it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Great Cooking Magazine Challenge March 2011

A couple of weeks ago I threw out the Great Cooking Magazine Challenge again. This is an event for all of us to attack that stack of cooking magazines, clippings or printed out recipes. If you're anything like me you have plenty of material! The idea is to try something new. Don't worry if you didn't know about the challenge until now. Just take some inspiration and come back here to share what you tried. The linky will be open for a month.

I got a new Sunset magazine recently because I was attracted to the beautiful waterfall on the cover. But they always have pretty good recipes too. The March edition was no exception. I'm the only one that likes seafood in my house, so sometimes on the weekend I will do fish or shrimp for lunch for just me. So the Halibut Parchment Packets sounded just up my weekend cooking alley.

I like to cook with what I have on hand, so I had to make a few changes but I stayed pretty close to the recipe. It was tasty and something different for sure!

Halibut (or Tilapia!) Parchment Packets with Coconut Almond Rice

March 2011 Sunset Magazine

  • 3/4 teaspoon red curry paste (I used green curry paste)
  • 3/4 cup canned coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds
  • 1/8 tsp chili paste (my addition)
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice (I used regular rice)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 4 halibut fillets (6 oz. each) (Tilapia worked well!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2-in. pieces on the diagonal (I omitted)
  • 1/4 pound sugar snap peas
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges

1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a small bowl, whisk curry paste & chili paste, gradually adding coconut milk. Transfer 1/2 cup sauce to another bowl; set bowls aside.

2. Toast almonds in a small saucepan over medium heat until golden, 3 minutes. Stir in rice, reserved 1/2 cup sauce, 1/2 cup water, the coconut, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until rice is tender, 16 to 18 minutes.

3. Season halibut (or other white fish) with remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and the pepper while rice cooks. Cut 4 pieces of parchment, each 12 by 14 in. Set a fillet in center of each, then mound asparagus and peas on top (some may roll off). For each packet, bring 2 opposite sides of parchment up over ingredients and fold several times to seal. Bring other sides up and fold to seal. Place packets, folded sides up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until fish is just opaque (poke with a sharp knife to check), 10 to 15 minutes. (I used the parchment lined with foil and it needed a bit more time to cook. I upped the temp to 450 for the final couple of minutes.)

4. Microwave remaining 1/4 cup sauce to warm. Divide rice among 4 plates and top each with fish and vegetables from a packet, discarding extra liquid. Drizzle sauce over dishes and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges if you have them.

My note: I didn't have unsweetened coconut, but rinsed the sweetened coconut I did have. Gotta improvise!

I made enough to bring for lunch this week. That office break room microwave won't know what hit it :-) Beats the heck out of Lean Cuisine!

So whatcha got cooking? Show us what you tried. Leave your link below and please link back to me in your post. That way everyone that reads your blog can see everyone else's magazine recipes too! There aren't many rules here..just cook something new!

I'm joining in over at Beth Fish Reads for her weekly Weekend Cooking event.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy St. Patty's Day

My friend Kathleen over at Cuisine Kathleen hosts a yearly St. Patty's Day Blog Crawl. Its always lots of fun and I wouldn't dream of missing it :-) Its always a challenge for me though because I really don't have an Irish heritage or even many green things in my house. So I like to turn it into a kind of Green scavenger hunt. Be sure and check out all of the other fun posts at Kathleens.

What better place to hunt for GREEN than the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. There was a "Once Upon a Time" theme and the Wind in the Willows display had some really interesting glass green grasses.

I fell in love with this cute little green moss

At the Alice in Wonderland exhibit, Alice found a nice grassy green lawn chair to sit on!

How about some beautiful green orchids?

Vertical growing was seen in several of the exhibits. Green growing up!

Now this is taking "Going Green" to a whole new limit. I wonder if there is a putting green on the roof?

I loved these lush green steps

Apart from the fantastic display gardens there was a lot of fantastic window shopping and plenty of cool green things.

I'd love to have one of these washed green figures on my garden fence

More green glass - this time bamboo

These fat funny green leaves seemed to be a big attraction at the Monrovia display

There were even green houses on display.

This big green ball was a great find on my scavenger hunt

And this green gate..which was part of the gate competition would be beautiful leading into an Irish cottage

More green glass...this one a fountain

I was tempted to bring this green flutterby back to my garden

Ahhh now we're getting really warm!

And finally I found the green prize...sending a virtual one to Kathleen for being such a fantastic host.

So I always have great intentions of doing an Irish spread or setting a beautiful green table, but somehow my big plans never quite pan out. So instead of the whole shabang we get a few wee bits o' green from my kitchen and a tiny leprechaun of a table setting for two. I was going for kind of a Green with a pot of gold at the end of a Rainbow kind of thing. What I ended up with was a bit of a mess lol!

I tried my hand at a green 4 leaf clover napkin and learned a couple of things. Square napkins are not always square and its looks a lot easier on the video!

I saw this bouquet at the grocery store and fell in love with the little green mums

The exact same color green as the inside of my new rainbow bowls

Under everything is my Mom's tablecloth that I confiscated when she brought it out for my wedding. Please pardon the dark photo. It is really a lot lighter cream than shown below..see above! Plus green leaves!

And finally the Pot of Gold along with two cute green grass patterned glasses I found at Goodwill.

My Green Food Contributions...hardly Irish, but Green none the less. How about a pot of green and gold otherwise known as Mangoes and Kiwi!

I was planning on doing an avocado dressing and salad, but when I peeled this smooth skinned Bacon Avocado it was so creamy and good I ate it at the counter as fast as I could slice it!

The next Green from my kitchen is about as close to Irish as I made it this go round and that's only because I had some Guiness left over from last year...Beer Braised Collard Greens

The greens cooked up really yummy though.

Inspired by recipe found HERE at Budget Bytes.

Beer Braised Collard Greens
2 T olive oil
1 med onion chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
12 oz beer
Chicken bouillon or base plus 2 cups water or 2 cups broth
1 large bunch collard greens, washed, stems removed and chopped
1 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
black pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a large pot and allow to come to boil with lid on. Once boiling stir will and reduce heat to low. Simmer until greens are desire tenderness. Collards can cook for a very long time without getting mushy. Mine went for 2 hours but would have been good well before that. Stir every 15 mins or so.

And finally my crowning GREEN Glory....GREEN GOOK (also known as Watergate Salad). I'm not sure if anyone else calls it Green Gook. I think my family made that up lol. This was a staple with Sunday dinners at my family when I was growing up. Some versions call for marshmallows. We mostly skipped that. Its been years since I've had it and I have been thoroughly enjoying it! It's not the prettiest dish, but it certainly is Green!

Green Gook - found on the Pistachio Jello Instant Pudding box & suited to my taste

1 can (20 oz.) DOLE Crushed Pineapple, in juice, undrained
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Pistachio Flavor Instant Pudding
1 cup chopped PLANTERS Pecans
1-1/2 cups thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping or equal amount of whipped cream

Mix all ingredients. Stir well. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving or eat it right away like me.

Kathleen...sending thanks for being such a great friend and hostess. It was another fun time this year!

An Irish Prayer

May God give you

For every storm, a rainbow,

For every tear, a smile,

For every care, a promise,

And a blessing in each trial.

For every problem life sends,

A faithful friend to share,

For every sigh, a sweet song,

And an answer for each prayer.

May the strength of God pilot us,

May the wisdom of God instruct us,

May the hand of God protect us,

May the word of God direct us.

Be always ours this day and forever more.

I'm having a Great Cooking Magazine Challenge this weekend on Sunday March 20th. Please join me with your magazine clipping inspired recipes! See this LINK for earlier events.

I'm also joining in for Table Top Tuesday & Janmary's St. Patrick's Day Bloggy Carnival.

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