Foodie In Training

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I'm a big fan of the Disney Pixar movies and I just finished the latest to come out on video "Ratatouille." Because of it's popularity I'm sure many of you have seen the movie or heard about the plot. I thought it was a really cute movie and the reason that I am adding it to the blog is because it is food related. I really liked the message the movie portrays which is "Anyone Can Cook" which is also the name of the cookbook of the famous Chef Gusteau and the central theme of the movie because Remy the rat is a wonderful cook. After watching the bonus features with the creators of the movie, they reiterated the theme of the movie well by saying, "Anybody can cook, you just have to have the desire and determination to make something that you are going to feel proud to give somebody." I know it might some corny but that really resonated with me because I (and I can probably speak for Ryan too) really enjoy cooking and trying new recipes and I especially love sharing those recipes with family and friends. And now with Foodie in Training, I feel even more motivated to try more recipes so I can share them on the blog. Ryan and I got few great gadgets and cookbooks that we are going to put to use after the New Year! I hope everyone had a great holiday and if you haven't already, check out Ratatouille, you might get inspired to cook! (and maybe get some rat traps. ) :)


In the world of food, Christmas is a dynamic time for Erin and me. First, since we started to get into the world of food many of our gifts from each other and others are based on things for our kitchen. Second, my grandma makes several of her most incredible dishes every year for my family and it is probably my favorite meal of the year.

As far as gifts go, between Erin and I we got several cookbooks, including and Cooking Light: Italian and Essentials of Italian from Williams-Sonoma. We also got our first food processor! We are both very excited to use it. The possibilities are endless. It seems like most of our favorite cooking shows use food processors each episode, and it just seems like it will save a lot of time chopping and the like. Finally, we got a new digital camera, so you will start seeing lots of pictures here on Foodie in Training.

Now, on to my grandma's Christmas dinner. For appetizers we had pannacunsata (Sicilian cheesy garlic bread, a family dish), roasted sweet red peppers and garlic; and some traditional antipasta meats and cheeses (including delicate and delicious fresh mozzarella). For dinner my grandma made a giant prime rib; lightly breaded baked shrimp; green beans with garlic; broccoli rabe; pazella (green peas with onion seasoned with olive oil and sugar); lasagna.... For desert we had some fresh panettone (pronounced pan-a-ton-eh); chocolates; espresso; and some fruit. We then had some fresh fennel and sparkling water to help us digest the wonderful meal. Each of these dishes probably deserves their own post and as Erin and I attempt to recreate them, we'll write more about them.

P.S. Erin's biscotti were a hit, they were awesome!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Biscotti

I am not a baker but this year for the holidays I decided to attempt to make biscotti for my coworkers gifts. At first, I was a little intimidated by the recipe and the whole baking process, but after reading over the recipe and the steps for Holiday Biscotti and Chocolate and anise seed biscotti I realized it was easier than I thought and I decided to give it a go. I thought the Holiday Biscotti with dried cranberries and pistachios would be fun and festive for Christmas presents and I chose to make a second batch (assuming all went well with the first) of the chocolate chip and anise seed for Lisa at work who is a picky eater and I knew she wouldn't like the cranberry pistachio combo. For some reason I could not find the recipe for the chocolate and anise seed on Food Network's recipe but I got it from Giada De Laurentiis' cookbook Family Dinners. Basically, you can use the holiday biscotti recipe and replace the pistachios, cranberries and lemon zest with 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 tsp. ground anise seed.

I began by combining the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and in a separate bowl I beat room temperature butter, sugar, and lemon zest with an electric mixer. After mixing the sugar, butter and lemon zest, I beat in the eggs (1 at a time) and then added the flour. Once all of the ingredients were combined to form a sticky dough, I added the cranberry's and pistachios (get it, red and green for the holidays!) and mixed it all together. Then I formed the dough in to a long, flat log on a lined baking sheet and baked at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Then you have to let it cool about 30-40 minutes and then you cut cookie into diagonal cuts and lay then cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes. Once they are done, you just set the pieces on a rack to cool completely and you are all done! The great thing about biscotti is that as long as you keep them in an airtight container or ziplog bag they last a really long time. They turned out really well and I had fund making them, so much fun that I made 2 more batches the next evening and I plan on giving them to all my family for Christmas. I hope everyone has a great holiday season with lots of great food and great times!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Simple Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is one of the fundamental creations of Italian-American cooking. Every Italian family has recipes that have passed down through the generations. My mom's side of the family is 100% Sicilian, my mom's generation being the first born in the US. Most of my interest in cooking and food derives from watching and helping my mom prepare both quick and intriguing food for dinner almost every day while growing up. If we didn't eat at home, we were eating at my Nonno's (grandpa's) restaurant, where I would watch and help my grandpa create all his traditional dishes.

In my mind there was three types of tomato sauce: my Nonno's; my Nonna's (grandma') ;and my mom's. Nonno's sauce is a spicier and more flavorful version, my favorite. Nonna's sauce is more true to the main ingredient: tomatoes- very simple, and perfect for a variety of uses from delicate homemade ravioli to spicy Italian sausage to a plain plate of spaghetti. My mom's sauce is a perfect combination of both: a little chunkier, with a little kick, but toned down from my grandpa's version.

Since moving away from home I have cooked a lot of sauce, but never a real simple classic tomato sauce. Usually my basic sauce was a can of diced tomatoes cooked quickly with onion, olive oil and seasoning: ready in 15 minutes and very simple and spicy- great for a quick dinner. Well, that quick chunky tomato sauce deserves its own post for the usefulness and diversity that you can add 15 minutes before you want to eat dinner. But, I never actually simmered a big pot of smooth tomato sauce, and this past weekend, that changed.

I eventually want to mimic my family tradition, but for this first go round I was going to do it from memory, from my intuition, and a little help from Mario Batali. Consulting his cookbook so I didn't forget anything major, I, as usual, adjusted for my style and ingredients I had at home.

Erin and I started our tomato sauce with a healthy bit of extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan, once that got hot we added about a cup of diced onion and salted them, then three healthy tablespoons of minced garlic (out of a jar). We cooked the onions and garlic on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Then we added some shredded carrots and a couple tablespoons of capers. I added more salt and some crushed red pepper to infuse the oil. We let the carrots get soft and then added 3 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes. The main ingredients we were missing was basil and a bay leaf. Erin's fresh basil had died in the cold weather and we were out of the dried stuff. I seasoned with a bit more crushed red pepper, salt, fresh ground black pepper, parsley, a dash of sugar, a little oregano (not too much). We brought it to a boil, stirring frequently, and then reduced to a simmer for about 40 minutes.

The result: we were left with a huge pot of delicious, smooth, mild tomato sauce. we quickly boiled some pasta and had a beautifully simple lunch. We stored the rest in the fridge and the freezer, ready for us to use in one of our future cooking endeavors. Pizza, soups, breads, sandwiches, sausage, meatballs, pasta, the possibilities are endless for simple tomato sauce.

DIY Popcorn

I will never have a bag of popcorn again...the homemade stuff is just too good!! Ryan and I have recently started making our own popcorn instead of buying the Smart Pop or Orville Redenbacher bagged popcorn. It is so much better and you can add all kinds of different seasonings to make it different every time. And it's a lot healthier for you too. I just buy the cheap popcorn kernels at the grocery (usually located at the bottom of the shelf under all of the bagged popcorn options) for about $2 you can get a bag of seeds that will last a long time because a little goes a long way!
You need a large sauce pan, and pour about a 1/4 cup of oil (vegetable or canola) into the pan. Put in a 3 or 4 kernels at first and once they pop you know the oil is hot enough to pour in the rest. Ryan is usually in charge of the popcorn because the one time I tried to do it I burnt it..he eye balls the amount of kernels to pop, but I think it is about 3/4 a cup. Once you put the kernels in the pan, constantly move the pan back and forth to keep the kernels from sticking to the bottom and burning (that is where I got in to trouble), basically once you stop hearing the popping noise the popcorn is done and ready to eat! We usually just add a lot of salt and parmesan cheese, but last night we added grated asiago cheese on top for an extra kick. It was a great late night snack. Not the most foody-ish thing to make but it's easy, fast and tasty.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Comfort Food

I just got back from a work trip to sunny Jamaica! I has been a long and stressful few days with travel delays and airports so I was really craving some comfort foods. Ryan is also in the middle of finals so I thought it was the perfect time to make home made mac n' cheese, the ultimate comfort food! I found a healthier recipe from Self Magazine's web site. I know I have mentioned the web site before and I definitely recommend it, they have tons of healthy and tasty recipes and they provide nutritional information which is also nice. While at the grocery store, Ryan and I modified the recipe a bit by skipping the Velveeta light because a.) the grocery did not have it, and b.) Velveeta creeps me out..I ended up getting a reduced fat block of Cheddar cheese and then slicing 3 oz. of that in to thin slices. I also added some reduced fat mozzerella. I was in charge of the meal from start to finish, I let Ryan relax, and I think I did a really good job! The only thing I think I would do differently was a let the cheese become a little smoother before adding the macaroni, the consistency was not as creamy as I would have hoped. But it was still was pretty good! I accompanied the meal with pork chops seasoned with some jerk seasoning I got from Jamaica, Cumin and salt and pepper. We bought 4 small pork chops so I seasoned 3 with jerk seasoning and one with lemon pepper seasoning because sometimes the jerk can be too spicy for me. For a vegetable we had peas seasoned with some olive oil, salt and pepper and a little sugar. I'm not usually the chef in charge when we cook and it was fun to cook Ryan a good meal after a long, stressful week.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Restaurant Review- Martini's in Columbus

Friday night I traveled to Columbus to visit my friends Claire, Lauren and Hillary, we had plans to have dinner and go out Friday night and Christmas shop till we dropped on Saturday. Claire picked Martini's Italian Bistro which is located in Columbus' short north, which is a great part of downtown Columbus with a variety of great restaurants, bars and eclectic shops.
When we arrived at the restaurant it was very elegant but with a twist, with beautifully painted murals on the wall and soft lighting to create a romantic atmosphere (great for date night or girls night!). Made obvious by the name, they are known for there martini's but none of us felt like starting off the night with a strong martini (girls nights can get pretty crazy) so we just ordered a bottle of the house Pinot Grigio and began pouring over the menu. The menu is big but not too overwhelming and Claire recommended her favorite that she always gets the Salmone alla Campania, so I decided to go with that and a Martini side salad.
The Martini salad was excellent and a perfect way to start off the meal, not too filling, the salad had field greens lightly tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with sweet sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and gorgonzola cheese. When our dinners arrived, the smell of my salmone alla campania was intoxicating. The salmon was beautifully pan seared with topped with two lemon slices and over a perfect portion of spaghetti, grape tomatoes and sliced asparagus. I immediately dug in and was not disappointed. The salmon melted in my mouth combined with a bite of the pasta, asparagus and grape tomato it was a perfect blend of very simple, yet delicious flavors. The pasta had bits of pancetta which I thought made the dish a little too salty, but the salmon was so good that it didn't make that much of a difference. What I also liked and appreciated about Martini's was that the portion sizes were not outrageous, it was just enough food so I did not feel overstuffed. Everyone finished happy and full and read to continue our night at the bars of Cbus! I definitely recommend Martini's when in Columbus.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Global House Salad

Since I'm on a health kick these days, I wanted to try this new salad I found in the Self Dishes magazine. Self Dishes is a whole magazine of tasty, healthy and easy to make recipes from Self Magazine. After my exercise class I came home and whipped up this salad in about 15 minutes and it was so good!! I added mushrooms to it and I thought it worked really well with all of the other flavors. All of the ingredients really compliment each other, and I even used the Sriracha sauce. I was pretty proud of myself because I normally don't like spicy things, but it only calls for 1/8 of a tsp. so I figured I could handle that. It wasn't that hot, but I could definitely taste that layer of heat underneath the sweetness of the pear and tanginess of the balsamic dressing. This was also a very filling salad considering it did not have any protein. I think the walnuts helped. I did toast mine in a little bit of honey, but looking back I think they would be good plain as well. I definitely recommend the Global Salad.

Serves 2

1/2 cup walnuts
1 tbsp honey
1 Anjou pear
4 cups mixed baby lettuce
1/4 cup blue cheese

1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp Sriracha sauce (Thai hot sauce)
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 350°. Mix walnuts and honey in a shallow baking dish. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove; set aside. Cut pear into thin slices. Combine nuts, pear, lettuce and cheese in a bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients in another bowl. Divide salad between 2 serving bowls; drizzle each with 2 tbsp of the dressing.

Beer and Me: Natty Light to Christmas Ale

Over the last couple years I have increased my knowledge and appreciation for wine. I would love to go to wine country in California or Europe (or even Chile or Australia) to explore the varieties and learn more about the drink of choice for most foodies. I even enjoy many of the wineries that I have toured and sampled in northern Ohio, the Lake Erie Islands and Canada- but that is for a different post.

I also go on lengthy vodka/martini kicks and whiskey kicks throughout the course of the year.

Sill, my alcoholic beverage of choice is beer. Maybe its because I feel like I was raised on the stuff. My dad used to have a couple beers every night. It was usually Molson or Labatt, maybe Michelob or Heineken. It's not that I ever was allowed to have more than a sip, but more that I just wanted to be like my dad. Now my dad is an all out wine-o, but this a recent development, after my formative years. Later, in high school, I started drinking. Natural Light, aka Nattie, was the beer of choice for me and my friends. "Good beer" was Busch Light or maybe even Bud Light. Then came college. I could actually have a couple beers on a week night, just like my dad. Still, it was all about quantity and not quality. The best value was Beast. Milwaukee's Best Light was really cheap, really prevalent on University of Dayton's Ghetto and dorms, and it went down like water- probably because it was about 95% water. You could drink a ton of it, and we did. Every now and then we'd splurge and get a sixer of something good. Honey Brown, Sierra Nievada, etc.

I studied abroad in Ireland one summer and I started appreciating Irish and English beers and began to understand different styles. Ciders, Stouts, Red Ales, Lagers, it all started making sense to me. Hell, at "tree fif-ty fiive" (As my favorite bar tender said when asking for 3.55 euros), Guiness was cheaper than a Budweiser, the only prevalent American beer in Dublin bars.

After college, I started really getting into good beers. A good friend of mine, Craig, is somewhat of an expert in the area and he would talk to me about the finer points and pointed me to some of his favorites. Being crazy for all things Cleveland, Great Lakes Brewing Co. was a natural start for me. I fell in love with their Commodore Perry IPA and really like Conway's Irish Ale. Their beers are expertly made, and each of their beers stays true to the Great Lakes quality and flavor. As a bonus, they are each named for something in Cleveland lore or history. Also, I encourage you to go through their website as they do a nice job explaining the origins of their different styles, descriptions and listings of the awards they have won for each style, and their impressive environmental commitment.

In addition to Great Lakes' 6 or so year round brews, they also produce some delicious seasonal beers. I am quickly falling in love with all seasonal beers. I love changing seasons and certain beers traditionally or practically fall nicely within different seasons: Bock's in the spring, Oktoberfests in the late summer and early fall, hefeweizen and wheat beers in the summer. My favorite, and, more impressively, one of Craig's favorite seasonal beer, is Great Lakes' Christmas Ale. It is a perfect blend of Christmas spice and honey backed by a strong ale that can stand up to the sweetness and spiciness. I urge anyone to try it regardless of their experience with beer or how much they like it generally. The only problem with it is its limited production. They only make it once a year, in a smaller batch and whenever that runs out, usually in less than the planned 3 months (November through January) you are left waiting until the next season. The Plain Dealer wrote about the supply demand issue with Christmas Ale, which I found pretty interesting.

I still like the cheap stuff (though that means Bud Light now, not Beast or Natty). I enjoy beers of all qualities and usually in large quantities.

Merry Christmas. Celebrate with a good Christmas Ale, Great Lakes, if you can get your hands on it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Foodies on a diet

As Erin mentioned, we are making an effort to eat healthier, lose some lbs and get into shape. Well, doing all that while eating interesting and delicious things is not impossible, but it is an added challenge. General rules of thumb include eating less cream/cream sauce (which I generally avoid because I think they are gross), cheese, fatty meats, cut down on portion size and snacks, and generally reduce complex sugars and fat. One thing I have found effective was keeping track of the fat and calories that I eat.

Many websites can assist you in this, but my calorie calculator of choice is FitDay.com

Also, Men's Health has a good compilation of several restaurants' nutritional information:
Nutrition Facts - Men's Health

So, over the next several months if you see us substituting skim milk cheese for regular cheddar or ground turkey for ground beef, you will know why. And while it might not be the foodie thing to do, we should be pretty successful at making these healthier options just as delicious.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Maybe Ryan has a point..

I had so much great food this Thanksgiving weekend that I still feel full.. I would blog about all of my meals I had around the state of Ohio (3 cities in 4 days) but I'm only going to choose one meal to talk about and only because it's kind of funny.
Sunday night Ryan and I went to dinner with his Grandma and parents to Marconi's, an awesome family-owned Italian Restaurant in Huron. I ordered one of the specials, Fontina Chicken. The description said, spinach and artichokes over chicken with fontina cheese. When I got my dish it looked amazing and it was very tasty, but about half way through I looked at my plate and I saw, spinach, artichoke and cream sauce..basically the ingredients for Spinach and Artichoke dip on my plate. This was a little different because it was a pasta dish, but maybe Ryan has a point about how overdone spinach and artichoke dishes are in restaurants..ugh, I hate when he is right. :)
Anyway, the dish was actually very good, I just didn't realize it was going to be a heavy cream sauce, something I am not used to getting, but it was a nice treat to end a week of great food. Ryan and I are starting new, healthy eating plans today so there will be no more cream sauces for me!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Quick and Easy Salsa

Hey everyone, it looks like this is going to be a combo of mine and Ryan's blogs so hopefully there will be more posts on a variety of topics!
The day before Ryan's amazing Brazilian chicken I made some quick and easy salsa that we had as an appetizer to the chicken dish. I had leftover corn and black beans from a previous meal I made and some leftover green pepper. So I added that all together and wanted to add some diced tomatoes...well, I opened the wrong can (we didn't have any diced tomatoes)and so I had to work with the can of crushed tomatoes that I opened. I just added a few tablespoons of the crushed tomatoes to add the tomato flavor but not make it too juicy like the jarred salsas. I also quartered some grape tomatoes and added those. Next came the purple onion (which we had to buy and add later and it made such a difference)and for seasonings I put a lot of salt and pepper, tons of cilantro, lime juice and orange juice and then Ryan made me add a lot of Tobasco sauce. I'm not a huge fan of spicy things and at first the salsa was way to hot for me, but after I let it sit for a day and let all of the flavors blend, it turned out to be a great salsa!
It lasts for a while and I like to add it to other dishes because it can really pump up an otherwise ordinary dish. For example, you can always just eat it with tortilla chips, but I like to add it to eggs for a Mexican omelet and I've also added it to top burgers. Now that I think about it, it would be really good added to a grilled cheese.
Yum, now I'm hungry!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Brazilian Chicken ala Ryan


I'm quickly becoming a fan of amateurgourmet.com. The author is a former law student who started cooking in his third year to stay sane. He critiques restaurants, mainly in New York, tries recipes and generally discusses all things food. Actually a similar format to this blog, but honestly, I never heard of the Amateur Gourmet until a few weeks ago when I got his book, "The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table Hop like a Pro (Almost)" for Erin's birthday. Maybe someday one of us will have time to review the book on here.

Anyway, last night I wanted to cook dinner for JJ and Erin. I had some chicken breasts and Erin made some fresh salsa over the weekend that I wanted to try, but I didn't really have a full meal in mind. After searching around the internet, I went over to amateurgourmet.com and found this post about Brazilian Chicken with Olives: http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2005/10/if_i_were_perky.html

Here is the link to the simple recipe:

Now, I had to adjust for Erin's dislike of olives and what we had around the kitchen. I ditched the olives idea and added some lime zest and lime juice to makeup for the lack of orange peel. Also, we didn't have yellow rice, but a packet of Litpon's Spanish rice worked ok. Lots of garlic, cilantro, lime, and orange juice was the keys to flavoring the chicken and rice. It turned out really well. Cooking with orange juice added nice flavor throughout the rice and chicken and it was highlighted nicely with the lime and garlic. I might just use plain rice the next time so the individual flavors don't compete with the flavoring of the Spanish rice packet.

This dish creates a great base to be creative and adapt to flavors and what you have around the kitchen. We could have added capers, olives, artichokes, tomatoes, really whatever flavor combination you feel like, or have the ingredients for, could work with this garlicy and juiecy chicken and rice base.

Overall, I think it was a big success. It went nicely with the fresh salsa and really any green salad or veggie would make a good meal. I'd give the recipe an A-.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


So..it's quite apparent that Ryan and I had very different dining experiences at York Street Cafe, but I guess that happens when a person does not like their entree. To defend my critique I think that atmosphere can definitely sway me one way or the other when I think about a restaurant and food. I loved the feeling I got at York Street Cafe, just very cozy and cool and like Ryan and I both said, eclectic. I think the restaurant has definite potential and it all comes down to what you choose from the menu. I think when I go back I want to try new things on the menu and critique them again and I encourage Ryan to do the same. :)

P.S. Ryan does not like broccoli, therefore I do not think he is a good judge of it. I also had no idea how jaded he was about spinach and artichoke dip. Learn something new everyday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ryan's Restaurant Review: York St. Cafe

Hi everyone, this is Ryan, I’m Erin’s fiancée and I’ll be guest bloging every now and then with some restaurant reviews and thoughts on food shows and recipes.

Last week, Erin and I went to the York Street Café in Newport, KY for dinner. We were celebrating Erin’s 25th B-day. I found the place through some while looking for a restaurant in Newport, but away from the Levee scene. We wanted to go to a movie, but I didn’t want to eat at the cliché places that the Levee has to offer.

York Street Café appeared to fit the bill. To call the atmosphere eclectic would be an understatement. The dining room walls were filled with bookshelves containing everything form 1940’s football helmets, to old random family portraits, to small collectables. Our waitress somehow fit right in with her obviously over-dyed hair, short skirt, high argyle socks, and long black boots.

We started with one of their “conversation boards,” basically an appetizer/salad combo to share. We decided on the Toastie Sampler, which included “toasted pitas” with a couple different toppings and a cherry salad. It was ok, but besides the layout, did not inspire much conversation. The pitas were just mini-pizzas and I enjoyed the one topped sun-dried tomato, eggplant, roasted red peppers and provolone. The artichoke, spinach topping on the other “pita” was ok, but I am bored with the cheesy creamy spinach artichoke dip that is on every menu in the discovered world. The highlight of the dish, and maybe the entire meal was the cherry salad. A nice mix of fresh greens was complemented with dried cherries, toasted sunflower seeds and some feta. The dressing was a dijon vinaigrette that beautifully combined the kick of vinegar and horseradish with a smooth and mild mustard.

For our entrees, I chose the Pork Tenderloin, while, Erin smartly went with the York St. Fresh Catch, Halibut. The Tenderloin was just ok. Instead of being “seared to perfection” as portrayed on the menu, it was overcooked, and more importantly tasted as if it had sat under a hot lamp since the afternoon. The Asian sauce was pretty good, but there isn’t enough sauce in the world to make up for a dried out piece of meat. The “garlic” mashed potatoes had no garlic, or garlic flavor to speak of, and they were seemed to be sitting for some time before being served. Finally the season vegetable was a lone broccoli sprig, overcooked and mushy with no seasoning.

Erin’s dish had its flaws, but was overall a success. The fish was cooked nicely and served with some nice basmati rice, and the same sad broccoli sprig. Unfortunately, the fish was smothered in a spinach artichoke sauce that was probably the same that they used for the appetizer. It overpowered the fish and made what should be a nice light dish heavy and creamy. Erin enjoyed it, but it could have been so much better.

Overall, I thought the meal was disappointing and the atmosphere can only go so far to save average food when you are paying $20 a plate. It was fun though, and I’d probably recommend York St. Cafe for a “conversation board” and a bottle of wine with a group of friends, though probably not for dinner. Overall grade: C

I did take a couple things from this meal: Spinach/Artichoke is overdone and I am over it and sunflower seeds are a tasty, crunchy addition to a salad. Cheers, Ryan

York Street Cafe

For my birthday last week Ryan took me to a great restaurant in Newport, KY, York Street Cafe. What a great place, you walk in and instantly it feels homey and comfortable. The restaurants was filled with antiques and knick-knacks and everything had a very eclectic feel to it all the way down to the collection of pez dispencers lined up behind the bar. Some of the smaller tables made for two had mismatched, really cool club chairs that looked really comfortable and added to the unique decor of the restaurant. Ryan and I started off with one of their "Conversation Boards" all of them looked great and at first we thought it might be too much food for 2 people, but the waitress said they are good for 2-4 people to share. We got the Toastie Sampler and it was delicious! It was mini slices of pizza one with spinach and artichoke topping and the other with sun-dired tomatoes. They were served on a beautiful platter and in the middle there was a tasty salad filled with mixed greens, sunflower seeds, feta, and craisins. The dressing was a homemade, really tangy balsamic vinaigrette. I decided on their catch of the day which was halibut grilled with a spinach and artichoke crust (I couldn't get enough spinach and artichoke). The fish was cooked well, but the artichoke spinach crust overwhelmed the fish and I didn't really taste much of the fish, but it was still wonderful! On the side was 2 large, bright green stalks of broccoli, which is my favorite vegetable and tasty basmati rice.
York Street Cafe is a unique place with a unique menu and I definitely recommend it to anyone. It was a great birthday!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I'm going to take a few moments to write about my favorite cooking show...if you are Food Network savvy you know that my blog title "Giada" is the host of Everyday Italian. My favorite kind of food is Italian so that is a huge reason I love the show. All of the recipes I have tried from the show or one of Giada's cookbooks are delicious and very easy. She uses just a few ingredients and lets them speak for themselves.
I also really like the look of the show and how they style the food. Giada used to be a food stylist for Gourmet so I think that is why everything always looks so beautiful and stylish. Some of my favorite and easy recipes from Giada are lemon spaghetti, grilled vegetables, stuffed shells, and chicken piccata. Yum!

I think her show is on in the mornings and then in the afternoons around 4 p.m. Check out the show and try a recipe, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Redskin potatoes cont.

I realized in my haste to post something I forgot to tell you the most important part of the redskin potato dish..how to bake it.. I use a cookie sheet covered in foil (easy clean up) and spread the potatoes, onions and green peppers on the cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. Half way through, stir the ingredients a bit so the potatoes turn over.
Dinner last night was very yummy. Ryan was in charge of the steak and it was tasty! He seasoned it with cilantro, chili powder, salt and pepper and olive oil. The juices from the steak made an awesome jus!
Tonight is a study night so I think I'm just going to make those whole wheat cheese ravioli's with red sauce, quick and easy!

This is not food related, but don't forget to vote today!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Dinner guest

Ok, so my attempt to blog at least once a day for November failed. It was an interesting weekend and I had things to blog about, but just never found the time. Oh well. Back to the grind!
Tonight, JJ is coming over for dinner and I'm excited to cook for him. Ryan is in charge of the protein for the meal, but I'm going to make steamed spinach with lemon and roasted redskin potatoes with green pepper and onion and fresh herbs. The potato dish is so good and so easy, my mom made up the recipe. You start with small redskin potatoes, watshed and the eyes scraped out. Chop the potatoes in to medium-small pieces (I usually quarter the potato) but make sure they are all about the same size so they all cook evenly. Chop the onion and green pepper evenly as well and you can use as much or as little of these ingredients as you want. In a large bowl, add the potatoes, onion and green pepper and add olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. I also like to add fresh herbs like parsley, basil and anything else you want. I sprinkling of crushed red pepper is also good, but a little goes a long way.
Happy Monday!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Pizza night

So apparently it is National Blog Posting month so I'm going to try and post something every day in November, we'll see how that goes.
Last night Mo and I had dinner and I made a pizza. I used a store-bought wheat crust which makes things quick and easy. To start off, I lightly brushed the crust with olive oil, which is a trick I learned from my mom. Then I spread the sauce and for my sauce I use the jarred stuff (Classico, spicy tomato sauce) which I know isn't very "foodie"-like but it's quick and I think it has more flavor than the canned pizza sauces. I also like to add fresh herbs like basil or parsley to the sauce to brighten it up a bit. Tonight my toppings were onions, green peppers, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, grape tomatoes and spinach. I also added some diced garlic. Before topping with cheese I like to add a little bit of salt and pepper and sometimes crushed red pepper. Then I topped all the veggies with a little bit of part-skim mozzarella cheese.
It was a tasty meal that was really quick and perfect with a glass of wine, which I might have drank to much of last night but that will have to be another post. :)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Lunch in Paris

It is always great to go to lunch with friends and it's even better when it's at my favorite downtown restaurant! Cafe Paris on Garfield between Vine and Race streets is a cute and quaint restaurant with great sandwiches and salads. It really feels like you could be in a cafe in Paris. I usually get one of there Cafe Paris specialty's, the Cafe de Paris sandwich (which is what Mary had for lunch) which made with home-made chicken salad on a baguette with melted brie, tomato, sprouts and red peppers. But I wasn't sure if my jaw could handle a huge baguette so I opted for my second favorite, hummus plate with a side of pasta salad. The hummus is also homemade and they serve it on a large plate sprinkled with finely diced cucumber, onions and tomatos. Warm wheat pita bread is served on the side so I can dip! The pasta salad is made differently ever day, today it was tri-color pasta with chopped carrots, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and a vinaigrette dressing. Sometimes they add broccoli or cauliflower or tortellini's.
Hopefully my dinner is as good as my lunch. I think I'm on my own tonight so I'm making a pizza.

Au Revoir!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Solid Food!

This weekend was a wonderful weekend at home filled with great food (solid, not soup!) and family. We arrived Friday evening and met Ryan's parents at the Four Monks for a late dinner. I was able to eat a HUGE entree of lasagna and it was sooo good. I love home-made, authentic lasagna. Italian food is probably my favorite type of food and I've been missing it since my jaw problems started.
Saturday night the Stookey women resurrected an old family tradition where the we got together and made finger sandwiches for a family members bridal shower. It was so great to get together with my grandma's, aunts and a few cousins and make the sandwiches. They consisted of a layer of egg salad, a layer of bologna salad, and a layer of cream cheese (colored green with food coloring!). A slice of a wheat or white bread separates each layer. I was skeptical at first because they look a little crazy, but they were so good and they were a hit the next day at the bridal shower.
I hope we can continue this tradition because it was great to get everyone together and we had so much fun making them.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I heart Soup

I think that's what I have to keep telling myself, because getting tired of soup. I had really good Tortilla Chicken Soup last night with the girls. I got the recipe from the Self Dishes magazine. Self Magazine put out an entire magazine devoted to healthy and tasty recipes. I've tried a few of them and they are great! And it's just nice to know it is going to be pretty healthy too.
Here is the recipe, it was pretty easy and it's always fun to cook with friends. :)

1 whole bone-in, skinless chicken breast (about 12 oz)
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
8 baked tortilla chips

1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup canned corn
1/2 avocado, cubed
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1 lime, halved

Poach chicken in 2 cups of the broth in a large pot over very low heat until cooked through, about 20 minutes from when broth reaches a simmer. Remove chicken from broth; set aside. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook onion, garlic and jalapeño until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes; simmer 1 minute. Strain poaching broth; add it and remaining 4 cups broth to saucepan. Bring to a boil. Combine first 5 salsa ingredients in a bowl; add juice of 1 lime half; slice other half into 4 wedges. Shred chicken into bite-size pieces. When soup boils, lower heat to medium and add chicken. Simmer 1 minute. Season with salt. Ladle soup into 4 bowls. Top each with 1/4 of the salsa and sprinkle with 2 crumbled tortilla chips. Squeeze 1 lime wedge over each bowl of soup and serve.

The dish 323 calories per serving, 10.4 g fat (1.9 g saturated), 5.3 g fiber, 29.3 g carbs, 32 g protein

At first I thought the recipe looked involved, but it was really easy! My friend Mo had a little trouble slicing the avocado's but Mary and I showed her how it's done. :) It was a great girls night as usual.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Red Sauce

I thought I'd elaborate on my sauce I made with my ravioli's because it is so quick and easy. Here's what you'll need:
can of diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, diced (the more the better in my opinion)
red onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
any herbs you have on hand, fresh is always best but dry is good too.
I like to use basil, crushed red pepper and sometimes parsley flakes.
Depending on what I have in my kitchen, I'll often add a special ingredient like capers or sun-dried tomatoes.

Add a little bit of olive oil to a large saute pan and saute the onions. Add salt while your onions are cooking, it brings out the flavor of the onions. Once onions are soft add the garlic and then add the diced tomatoes. Let that cook for a few minutes together and then add the herbs. That's pretty much it. The simpler the better. If you want to thicken the sauce you can always add tomato paste, but remember a little bit goes a long way.
Always remember to taste your sauce as you go along and add things sparingly at first, you can always add more but you can never take spices out.

Tonight I'm making Tortilla Chicken Soup with the girls and watching Grey's Anatomy, I'll report back on how the soup tastes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jaws, part 2

I haven't been posting recently because I'm still have problems with my jaw. So I'm still mostly eating soup. I've graduated up to chunkier soups, chili, ravioli's, egg salad and the occasional pasta salad. This is getting old but hopefully I'm on the mend and can start eating normally again. I helped my mom make chili this weekend so I finally got to have my chunky chili! My mom bought some of that Boca Burger meat and we used that instead of meat. It was kind of chewy but it didn't change the taste of the chili. I'm not sure I'd use it again, but it was worth a try.

Last night I had my friend Mary came over and I made whole wheat ravioli with my tomato sauce. Nothing fancy, just canned diced tomatoes with some seasonings and fresh herbs. It was a nice simple meal and a wonderful change from soup. Thanks for coming over Mary!

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Hello my very few readers. Posts have been sparce because I've been a busy and I've been having jaw problems, so I haven't been able to eat many solid foods the past few days. It really stinks because it makes you crave all the foods you can't have. And it doesn't really make me want to make chili which is what I was planning to do this weekend.

On a related note, the Tomato Bisque soup from Wild Oats is amazing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fish Dish

I made a really tasty and pretty healthy dinner for myself on Tuesday night. I got the recipe from a magazine and the instructions looked so easy I thought I'd give it a whirl. The meal literally took me 20 minutes. It is called Mustard Dill fish. I used catfish filets which is what the recipe called for, but I think any type of whitefish would do. The marinade was just dijon mustard, dill and olive oil. I'm sure you could spice it up even more by adding your own herbs and spices, which I plan to do next time. Usually for first time recipes I like to stick to it as much as I can (unless I don't have an ingredient and must substitute) and then add my own flair the next time.

In food television news, I have a new favorite show on the Food Network that I like. The Next Iron Chef. First of all, I love Alton Brown so anything with him as the host is bound to be good. The first episode was this week and I think it's going to be a good show! The first challenge was testing their skills, they had to de-bone a chicken, filet a salmon, and produce paper thin slices of daikon. I just love watching pro chefs and their knife skills and technique. My goal is life is to be a fast chopper. :) The show also increased my growing foodie knowledge, because I had no idea what daikon was. I just looked it up and it is a white radish commonly used in japanese cooking. So now you know too!

Also, there is a chef from Cleveland on the show...Michael Symon from Lola and Lolita, two restaurants I've been wanting to experience. Cleveland represent!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


It's not very cold yet in Cincinnati (much to my anger and dismay) but I've decided to get in to the fall spirit anyway and make chili this week.
I doubt I have any readers yet, but I'm looking for a good recipe. I've never made it before. I have a recipe for black bean lime chili, but it is a healthy, modified version that is served over couscous, so it doesn't really count. I'm talking chunky, full of beans and spices chili.
Maybe if I make chili, the cold weather will arrive...kind of like "if you make it, they will come" theory. I can only hope!

So, if you have a good chili recipe, send it my way, I'd love to try it out.

Oh yea, here is a recipe for the black bean lime chili...It's from the Food Network web site. I'm just going to copy it below. For some reason, providing a link is not working.

Black Bean Lime Chili
Recipe courtesy Juan-Carlos Cruz
Show: Weighing In
Episode: Tour Guides
1 cup water
2/3 cup couscous
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 (14-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
1 (10-ounce) can white meat chicken, or 2 cups shredded chicken, store-bought, skin discarded
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan and then pour in the couscous in one steady stream. Stir to prevent lumps. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 15 minutes. Once liquid is absorbed, fluff with a fork.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add bell peppers and chili powder and cook for another minute. Stir in tomatoes and black beans and their liquid; bring all to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add chicken and heat through. Stir in lime juice and cilantro and remove from heat. Serve over fluffed couscous.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Welcome Wagon

Welcome to my blog!!

While thinking of what to write for my very first post, something bad happened. Ryan and I made burgers tonight and it was my job to slice and get out the condiments. Well, after easily chopping up onions and tomatoes I sliced the fresh jalepenos...I think I got some juice or a seed under my fingernail, because just scrached a cut on my lip and licked my fingernail and my whole mouth is on fire...and I don't like spicy stuff.

So while my mouth is burning, I'll tell you that the point of this blog is to report my adventures in food. I love to cook, try new recipes and new ingredients. Ryan and I also like to eat out and try new restaurants. We like to call ourselve (well at least I do) Foodie's in training.

I'll probably add in a few random thoughts every now and then.