Foodie In Training

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

dinner thrown together-success!

Tonight I played in a softball game with my coworker Sheila so I didn't have a lot of time for dinner. I was starving because I had a light lunch so I wanted to have a filling, but healthy dinner, so I threw this meal together. I guess I would call it my version of an on the run seafood scampi? Who knows, but here's what I did:

I bought a bag of frozen shrimp, scallops and calamari from Trader Joe's and the bag was almost gone, just enough for a single serving, so I put the frozen seafood in a colander and let cold water slowly run on it to defrost. While that was defrosting I diced half a shallot and added that to a saute pan with a little olive oil. Once the seafood was defrosted I added them to the saute pan to cook. When the shrimp, scallops and calamari were about halfway cooked I added a spoonful of diced garlic. I also seasoned the seafood with salt and pepper, dill, and fresh basil and when the seafood was completely cooked I added a couple splashes of white wine and a squeeze of lemon wedge and turned the heat down to let it simmer.

While all of this was going on I decided to make a different kind of starch to accompany my seafood dish. I didn't really have time to make pasta and I didn't feel like rice, so I decided to try something new, quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") it is a similar texture to couscous and has a light, nutty flavor. It's also really good for you. I bought a box at Trader Joe's a while back and after I saw that it can cook in the microwave for 6 minutes (there is also an option for stove top preparation) I knew it was meant to be!

When the quinoa was done, I poured it in to a bowl and then mixed in the seafood and sauce and I was ready to eat! I also squeezed a little more lemon juice before I started to eat.
For a meal I prepared in about 10 minutes, I was pretty impressed. The seafood was really good and the mixture of the white wine and lemon worked really well with the seafood. And of course garlic makes EVERYTHING better. :) I also really liked the quinoa, I'm excited to make some more recipes with it, because it is a nice alternative to pasta.

Sorry no photo..no time!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ryan Graduated!

Hey all, these have been a busy few weeks, lots of wedding stuff and school stuff. Ryan is done with law school! (besides that pesky bar exam) Last weekend Ryan's parents, grandparents and twin brothers (and Stephanie!) and my parents made the trek down to Cincinnati to celebrate.
Graduation was really nice and after that was over everyone headed back to our apartment and we had some appetizers. Ryan's mom brought shrimp cocktail and champagne for celebrating and my mom brought some cheese and crackers and grapes.Sorry for the photo with almost empty platters, I forgot to take a photo earlier..
We decided to make panne con zata which is a garlic-type bread that I think I've mentioned before. I bought a loaf of french bread and sliced the bread horizontally (like a sub) and then score each piece and drizzle with olive oil. You can season it with whatever you want, but I kept it simple. Salt and pepper to start, crushed red pepper and oregano. I just started growing fresh herbs again so I clipped some basil leaves and added those to the bread. I also added sun dried tomatoes to half and then sprinkled mozzarella cheese on each side. Then I wrapped the bread in foil and it bakes at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes I recommend checking to see if the cheese is melted.We also decided to make prosciutto wrapped asparagus which is a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis' first cookbook Everyday Italian. Ryan made this for me a while ago for my birthday and it was a great appetizer, and it was definitely a hit at our party! It was very easy, basically just seasoning the asparagus with salt and peper and a little bit of olive oil and bake it for 12-15 minutes. Once you take them out of the oven, let them cool and then wrap each spear in prosciutto and there ready to serve!After appetizers we relaxed for the afternoon and then had a great dinner at Bella Luna, a wonderful Italian restaurant in Cincinnati. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their dinners and besides the room being a little loud, I think everyone had a great time.

My dinner was great, I ordered the seafood stew, it was shrimp, mussels and scallops over a bed of pasta and the sauce was an olive oil sauce with diced tomatoes and a lot of spice to it! The sauce seemed to have a definite flavor of pepperoncini's. The last time I ate at Bella Luna I had a the mussels appetizer as my meal and the sauce was flavored with pepperoncini's and had them diced in the sauce. So maybe that's their thing. Either way, it works because both were tasty!
Another recommendation is to get the calamari appetizer. It's not the fried calamari that has become pretty standard on menus, it is cooked calamari in a spicy diced tomato sauce that is wonderful with the fresh breadsticks they give you.
It was a wonderful weekend full of wonderful food..and here is a photo of some of the fun that went on after dinner at the bar. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Code Cracked: Bangkok Bistro

Tonight Ryan and I had a nice evening, we were productive before dinner and got the tuxes ordered for the wedding (check that off the list) and then we headed to dinner.  We were in Kenwood/Montgomery area, and folks if there is a great, local restaurant in this area of Cincinnati, please tell me, because all we ever seem to see is chain restaurants and the mall food court.  I'm sure there have got to be a few, but Ryan and I have even tried asking someone last time we were at the mall, and they had no idea where to send us, besides Max and Erma's or Macaroni's across the street.  Don't get me wrong, those restaurants are just fine and dandy, but I can eat there any time in any city in America.  We wanted something local and non-chainy.
So we headed back to the Hyde Park area. Of course I was wanting Thai food so we decided to go to Bangkok Bistro.  This is not our first time eating at Bangkok Bistro and I have always had a great meal here.   They have really good Paad Thai and pretty decent sushi.  Our dinner tonight was really good, we had a fun waiter, which is always nice and a few great things happened...1.) i had an awesome duck noodle soup that made me realize that Thai and Asian soups are my new best friend and 2.) I have cracked the code when it comes to ordering spicy food on the spice scale.  ha!
I'll start with my soup, I had the duck noodle soup which is new on the menu at Bangkok Bistro, and in this wonderful soup contained noodles, duck (duh, and duh) cooked lettuce, onions, tons of fresh parsley, and bean sprouts in a tasty beef broth.  The aroma of the soup when it was set before me was amazing, the fresh parsley brightened every bight and the duck (although a little fatty) was really tender and delicious.  I only wish I could have gotten a photo of it...but I forgot my camera. I've been very good about eating healthy and not going overboard because I'm trying to watch what I eat.  I've come to the conclusion that Asian soups are a really great option if you are a watching your diet.. I know the broth was probably super super high in sodium, but I ate my soup with chopsticks so by the time I was done (and stuffed) I still had 3/4 of the broth left in the bowl.  So, the other ingredients are not that bad for you and very filling! 
OK- so here is the big news...Many blogs posts ago, Ryan blogged about the plight of the white man and spicy food.  He wasn't sure how he was supposed to go about getting the really spicy food that he so loves...Well, I told you about our fun waiter, Ryan asked him what he recommended and our waiter told him he really likes spicy food.  So he recommended the Drunken Noodles and Ryan challenged him by saying "10" spice level.  The waiter was like, "are you sure" and Ryan said yes and I  added my two cents by saying "give it to him good!" The gauntlet was laid..  When Ryan got his dish he was pretty impressed, it wasn't so spicy that it wasn't enjoyable for him, but it had enough heat to satisfy his taste buds.  so yay!  
But here is where the code was cracked, I heard the waiter talking to another table about spice levels and he said that if you want it really spicy and the spice level is 1-10, say you want a 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15, therefore challenging the cooks and letting the waiter know you mean business.  If you say 9 or 10, they might take it easy on your thinking you can't handle it...Another suggestion the waiter made is ordering a 1o spice level and then asking for more sauce on the side, so if it's not spicy enough, you can always add more.  

Quite a productive evening I must say!!  So next time we are at an Asian or Indian restaurant that has spice levels, I want Ryan to test this code... I'll let you know what happens. 

Monday, May 12, 2008

Vegetable Orzo creation

One night last week Ryan and I were throwing dinner together and it didn't seem like we had much food in our pantry.  We had some pork chops and Ryan was in charge of those (that can be a separate post) and I took the challenge of figuring out the side dishes.  We had a few bags of frozen veggies and I found some orzo in the pantry and an idea was born!! It was a very quick and easy meal.  While the orzo was cooking according to the package instructions I roughly chopped a shallot and some fresh mint.   When the orzo was almost finished I put the veggies in the microwave (it was the Steamfresh veggies bag, Asian medley).  Once the orzo was done, I drained the orzo and the added the veggies and orzo back in to the sauce pan along with some olive oil.  I added the shallots, lots of garlic and mint and stirred everything together.  After I drained the orzo, I turned the burner down to low heat so all of the ingredients could warm together.  Then I just started playing around with flavors, I added about a 1/2 cup of white wine, salt and pepper, crushed red pepper, and parsley.  After I added all of that and stirred everything around it tasted pretty good, but it definitely was missing something.  Next time I might try adding lemon juice and maybe some lemon zest, but we were fresh out of lemons, so instead I added some white wine vinegar and it brightened up the entire dish.  The dish turned out really great and it has been really good for leftovers!  The mint was a nice addition, it really added a nice fresh flavor to the dish and the white wine vinegar is a must.  Next time I want to use fresh veggies, but the frozen veggies made this a quick and easy weeknight meal.