Foodie In Training

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blueberry Crumb Cake

I've been finding really great deals on fruit lately. Last night I was at the grocery store and blueberries were only $5 for 2 lbs. Great deal! I knew I could not eat 2 lbs. by myself but I couldn't pass it up. I thought about making more jam, but I didn't have enough jars so I scratched that idea. Before I went to the store I was reading my food blogs and Smitten Kitchen had a recent post about her blueberry crumb bars. Smitten Kitchen has the most gorgeous photos of her food and cooking process, you can even buy prints of her photos on their web site. I definitely recommend her site.
So anyway, I decided to run with the crumb bar idea and even though I had to go back to the grocery to buy eggs and more butter, it was really easy to make. I'm not much of a baker so I think next time I try this I will make the dough more crumbly. Mine was definitely not the same as her pictures and it still tastes good, they are just little dry.
I just used her recipe that she got from www.allrecipes.com. She modified it a bit so I just followed her lead.

I'm going to try and stop copying off fellow food bloggers because what's the point of that!? It's not fun to have the same post on 2 different food blogs. But these just looked so good.
And they are! A photo is to come, I only took one of the finished product.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jam Session: It's all about timing

One of my favorite food blogs is Amateur Gourmet. You may have seen the link on our blog and I definitely recommend checking it out. Adam Roberts is the blogger and he documents his cooking adventures and most recently his new gig on the Food Network.  He had a great post a few weeks ago about making jam and he made it seem so easy.  Easy enough for me to want to attempt it! 
So when I was at Findlay Market in Cincinnati a few weekends ago and there were beautiful cherries at the market for very cheap - like 2 lbs. for $5 cheap - I had to buy them and instantly thought of using them to make jam.  So the next day my friend Mo came over and helped me make cherry jam.  To make this quicker and easier I decided to buy a cherry pitter.  What a great idea!  Who knew for like $11 you could have such a fun kitchen tool!   The pitter stabs into the cherry pit and shoots it out the bottom...and also creates a kind of gory splash of cherry juice that resembles a blood bath.  So Mo was in charge of pitting the cherry's while I sterilized the jars.  I decided to do what Adam did when he made jam and I cleaned the jars with soap and water and then put them in a large pot filled with water and brought the water to a boil to sterilize. 
When Mo was done pitting all of the cherries I roughly chopped them and put them in a large pot and cooked them on medium to high heat with the zest of one lemon and the juice of one lemon.  This is one of the instances in jam making when it's all about timing.  We cooked the cherries until they released their juices and became sloshy.   The smell was amazing!  An intensely sweet cherry aroma filled my tiny kitchen and we were getting excited.  Once the cherries are sloshy, it's time to measure how much cherry slosh we had because that is how you know how much sugar you need.  
I'm not much of a mathematician but this is pretty easy. If I can figure it out..you can. You measure the cherry slosh and you multiply that by 3/4.  We had about 2 1/2 cups of cherry slosh and after we dumped the slosh back in to the pot (sounds appetizing right..sorry for my choice of words) we added about 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  We cooked the cherry slosh and sugar over medium heat and this part is where timing is crucial.  As the cherries and sugar cook it will begin to bubble up and foam and you have to stir often so it doesn't burn on the bottom.  
I was nervous about overcooking it so we tested the jam way to early, but I'm glad we did because you can always put jam back on the heat to cook if it needs more time, but you can't save burnt, overcooked jam. To test, it's really simple. At the beginning of the jam-making process put a small plate in to the freezer and when you are ready to test, put a drizzle of jam on to the cold plate.  Wait for it to set and then push the circle of jam and if it wrinkles when you push it, it is ready.  If it's slippery and gooey still, put it back on the heat and keep stirring. 
Since we cooked it on medium heat, we cooked the jam for about 15-20 minutes before it was ready.  Once the jam was ready we ladled it in to the jars and let them cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge.  
The jam turned out really tasty!! Next time I am going to chop the cherries a little smaller but other than that the flavors are great.  I've gotten some raised eyebrows and giggles when I told friends and family I made jam.  My sister had the best comment though..she called while I was making the jam and when I told her what I was doing she said "God Erin what else you are doing, churning butter?"  haha..we are so different it's funny. :)   Making jam was so easy I definitely want to make it again and with other fruits.   It's definitely better than my Smucker's jam I've bought before and they also make great gifts!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Read book and blog ASAP

Hello everyone, just a quick post to inform you that I've added a new link to the food blogs. Anthony Bourdain has a blog through the Travel Channel and it is fantastic. It is all things food and travel related. No one puts words together like Bourdain and I'll leave it at that. Just check it out.

I'm currently reading his book Kitchen Confidential and it is fantastic. It definitely shows a different side of the restaurant and food industry. I'll do a book review when I'm finished but I'd recommend it to anyone.

That's all for now. :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Study Break with Bobby Flay

Debates on the merits and legitimacy of Bobby Flay's career have run rampant recently between Craig, Ryan and me.   Being the wonderfully optimistic person (who always looks for the good in people) that I am, I always give Flay a break.  Yes,  he's over-exposed.. sure he frequently loses Iron Chef America and Throwdowns... of course he sounds like he's always reading off cue cards.. but gosh darnit, he seems like a nice guy who and he actually went to cooking school!  
Ryan and Craig on the other hand, are not in the Bobby Flay fan club.  Ryan displays a distaste and disgust for Bobby that is surprising and makes me want to ask "where is this coming from?Was Bobby Flay someone who bullied you in middle school? did he steal your girlfriend?"  I think Craig just grows tired of the Flay overexposure on the Food Network and gets fed up.  
So our conflicting views on Mr. Flay has let to many debates and even an outburst from me last night where I basically said "will you both relax! Yes, he's constantly on the Food Network but he's a legitimate chef who is obviously successful and knows how to cook!"
Well, today at work I decided to Wikipedia Bobby Flay just so I could back up my rants with some facts.   After learning quite a bit I wrote an email to Craig and Ryan including some fun facts.  Here are a few facts I bet you didn't know about Iron Chef Bobby Flay:
1. He has been married and divorced twice and is currently married to an actress  on Law and Order: SVU
2. For a long time, Flay was known to hate lentils. As The New York Times reports, "An early draft of Bar Americain's menu had a beet and goat cheese salad with lentils, but Mr. Flay rejected it before the restaurant opened. "When I go on vacation, they run specials on lentils, " he said. In 2007, Flay stated that he had "made peace" with lentils.  (phew)
3. He dropped out of high school at age 17 after he was expelled. (what a rebel)
4. Flay received a degree in culinary arts at the French Culinary Institute and was a member of the schools first graduating class in 1984. 
5. In addition to his restaurants and cooking shows, Flay has been a master instructor and visiting chef at the French Culinary Institute.
6. In 2000, when the original Iron Chef America show traveled to New York for a special battle, he challenged Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto to battle rock crab. After the hour battle ended, Flay stood on top of his cutting board and raised his arms in premature victory. Not realizing that cutting boards and knives are sacred in Japan, he offended Morimoto who criticized his professionalism, saying Flay was "not a chef". Flay went on to lose the battle.
7. Flay challenged Morimoto to a rematch in Morimoto's native Japan. In this battle, at the end of the hour, Flay threw his cutting board on the floor and stood on the counter yet again to raise the roof with the audience.  this time, Flay won.
8. Jeopardy featured a special "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" category during the March 12, 2008 episode, in which each of the clues featured Bobby Flay. 

Hopefully we've all learned some important tidbits about Bobby Flay.  These are kind of random, but you already know he has 8 million shows on the Food Network. You already know he is the "grill guy" and you already know he has a line of cookware at Kohls. 

Are you ready for a Throwdown?

love youuuu Bobby

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Subscribe: it's the right thing to do...

Hello readers.  I'd like to call your attention to a new item on our blog.  If you scan all the way to the bottom there is a new link to subscribe to our feed so when we have a new blog post, you will be notified! No more worrying about checking the blog for new posts, no more sleepless nights...no more stress.   So really, it's the right thing to do.   For you, for me, for all mankind. :)

Ok, it's not really that deep.  But it will be a good way to keep on top of the Foody in Training excitement!  

I bought a new cookbook yesterday and I'm exciting to look through it and pick out some new recipes to try.  It is called The Organic Seasonal Cookbook by Liz Franklin.  It is all about cooking and eating locally and it also talks about the importance of sustainable farming.  The book is split up in to 4 sections (seasons) and goes through what foods are in season in the fall, winter, spring and summer and then provides recipes for the seasonal ingredients.  

I paged through it a bit this weekend and I think it's going to be a nice addition to my ever-growing cookbook collection. I'm trying my best to eat locally and utilize farmers markets for my groceries instead of the supermarkets and over-processed foods.  I also just finished a book "French Women Don't Get Fat" which was a fun read and the author talked a lot about the European way of cooking and eating seasonal foods.  It reminded me how I want to try and adopt that mind set when grocery shopping and planning meals.  It takes a little extra effort to eat locally and seasonally in Cincinnati, but it's definitely doable.  Cincinnati has a great local market Findlay Market and summer time is a great time to visit all of the area farmers markets. 

Happy Summer eating!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fine Dining on Lake Erie: Restaurant Review of Zinc Brasserie

Our beautiful hometown of Sandusky, Ohio has a beautiful and tasty new restaurant, Zinc Brasserie. Located downtown, a stones throw from the picturesque Sandusky Bay and Cedar Point, Zinc Brasserie opened last summer. Sandusky has a lot of wonderful, local places to eat (and a lot of boring chain restaurants too) but there has never been a restaurant quite like this in Sandusky. The menu is seasonal with elegant and gourmet ingredients (duck confit, blood oranges, and artisan cheeses are rare on menus in Sandtown) and the decor is chic

Now, don't get me wrong I love my local Sandusky restaurants, there are some great family-owned, local restaurants that have great food and a wonderful, hometown charm. But that is a post all in it's own.Maybe after my parents read this they might say "Erin, this isn't the FIRST fancy restaurant in Sandusky...I remember when.. etc., etc. etc" but at least in my memory, I don't remember there being a restaurant like Zinc Brasserie.

Ok- now about the food. My parents, Ryan's parents, and Ryan and I all ate at Zinc Brasserie to celebrate a weekend home, wedding plans and because we're all going to be a big happy family soon! :) Our waitress was really nice and helpful, their late spring menu was full of choices and then there was a chalkboard full of specials they change daily. Zinc also has a great list of cocktails so after we ordered the cocktail and wine, we were ready to order.

I started with the ruby red beets and blood orange salad, which was AMAZING. I have been really loving beets lately so once I saw this salad on the menu, it was a done deal. For some reason as a child and until about 6 mos. ago I never liked beets. Maybe it's because my mom used to eat them cottage cheese and that I thought that was weird or maybe it's their very deep, dark purple color that turned me off, but man have I been missing out!! Beets are so good for you and so tasty. But, I digress.. The salad was really good, the combination of the rich goat cheese truffles with the tartness of the blood oranges and the sweetness of the beats was a heavenly symphony on my taste buds. I think I could have just ate like 3 plates of that salad for dinner but I finished my salad very satisfied and excited for my dinner.

For dinner I ordered one of the specials which I believe may have been an appetizer.. I chose the mussels in a white wine sauce with a spicy sauce in the broth. The mussels were delicious and the broth was very light with a few cherry tomatoes for color and a wonderful sweetness. It all worked so well with the flavor of the mussels. I really liked the spicy kick in the sausage and it provided a little extra something special and spicy to my meal.

Here are Ryan's salad and dinner. He might make an addition to the post and talk about it. I know his salad was something a little different for him and he also chose seafood which is not the norm for Ryan but he thoroughly enjoyed them both.

I definitely recommend Zinc Brasserie to anyone from Sandusky or just passing through. It is a great restaurant with a nice atmosphere and when you walk outside, the view is beautiful (the photo at the top is the view). I also recommend taking a walk around downtown before or after your done. Sandusky is a great city and the more people who spend time downtown the more it will grow in to the great city it has so much potential to be.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Best Burger on the East Side of Cincinnati

A good burger is one of those foods that I just crave sometimes. I have a couple of favorites in my little corner of Cincinnati. I think they are the best:

- Zip's Cafe, Mt. Lookout Square. They have won Best Burger awards from all the local publications several times and for good reason. Their burgers are simple and delicious. Not too big, not too small. The toppings are pretty standard: lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, catsup, mustard, mayo. I get mine with everything except the mayo. There isn't a lot of variety: Zip Burger, Zip Burger with Cheese, Double Zip Burger. They also have a girth burger that includes a split mettwurst with the burger, I haven't gotten that one... yet. (I think they have some sort of veggie or turkey "burger", but I don't count those as burgers, they are more like gross sandwiches). Anyway, with such a high quality of burger you don't need much else. It is my favorite burger in Cincinnati, hands down and thats mainly because of its taste and simplicity. Also, they have great chili and you can wash it all down with good selection of beers on tap. Usually a Great Lakes variety and a 7 or 8 English or Irish beers. Or cheap megapitchers of Bud Light. Zip's has a great atmosphere. Its a dark tavern, casual place. There is a toy train that goes around the restaurant along the top of the walls. There is a small bar in the back, "The Code Room", that you might not even know was there unless you are from around here. In the bar there is a huge plasma tv with HD service- seems out of place in this comfortable place- but I love it. When I first moved out to Cincinnati, before I had cable, I would hang out with the bartenders and watch baseball all day and night there. Zip's is one of the places I will miss the most when I leave Cincinnati.

- Arthur's Cafe, Hyde Park Square. Arthur's is a great place to go with a group of friends for food and drinks. They always have cheap pitchers of beer. The outside patio is perfect for a summer evening, but be prepared to wait for a table outside. Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays are Burger Madness nights. You can get a burger with any and all toppings. The options include jalepenos, grilled onions, mushrooms, a bunch of different cheeses, chili, and anything else you would normally put on a burger. Its a good deal. The atmosphere, inside or outside is very casual. I don't know what a "neighborhood bar" really means, but this is it.

- Terry's Turf Club, Linwood. I've only been to Terry's once, but it is in the running for Best Burger on the East Side. The atmosphere is like a weird 50's diner with all kinds of neon signs and decor. It tries hard to be overly casual with overly exotic, yet small, menu. I like the concept, and I think eventually it will get better. I got a burger with burgundy wine with wild mushrooms and truffles. It was tasty, very home-made tasting. Very greasy. I liked it fine. I would like to try the foie gras on my burger and maybe the goat cheese. The beer selection was great. It included a small variety of Bavarian-style brews. I forgot the name brand, but I had a light wheat heffeweizen style. There was a lot of texture and flavor. The burgers were served on a paper plate and the only knife was a large chef knife borrowed from the kitchen. This is why it seemed to be trying too hard to be casual. A real plate and silverwear would have been better. Overall, I will go back, and probably soon. After writing this post, I'm hungry for a burger.

Runners Up:
- Hyde Park Tavern, Oakley Pub and Grill

Stay away from:
- Mt. Lookout Tavern, Mulligan's