Foodie In Training

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quick Steak dinner for 2 and good beer.

Cooking for two is much different than cooking for six. For the past few months, Erin and I have been living in my parents' house and on any given night there can be as few as one and as many as six people eating dinner together. Usually, my mom takes over most of the kitchen duties (which helps explain our lack of activity on FiT- that's Foodie in Training, for those not paying attention). Every now and then Erin and I will make dinner for everyone. Or my brother Greg and I will come up with some creation (our cavatelli with chunky tomato sauce and diced chicken was awesome).

But the last week, my parents and brother have been out of town, leaving Erin and I cooking for two, like we did quite often in Cincinnati. When cooking for two some things aren't as practical: huge roasts, baked pastas, casseroles, etc. We've made those things before, its just that you end up with more leftovers than dinner, and we get sick of the food before it spoils. Instead, our go-to meals usually involve a small package of some sort of meat and smaller sides.

On Tuesday, Erin and I bought a couple small steaks. They were pretty thick and lean top round cuts. Being so lean, and not the highest quality, I wanted a lot of flavor. I used salt, lots of pepper, oregano, parsley, and some "Mrs. Dash" seasoning blend (basically some dried onion, more pepper and oregano). I also added a drop of olive oil. Once my grill-pan was smoking hot with some Pam, I added the steaks, searing the pepper-heavy seasoning into the meat, creating a bit of a crust. (Caution- if you try doing this, make sure you are prepared for lots of smoke and your smoke detector going off. If, say, you are cooking at a home that has an alarm system that will call an alarm company and ultimately the fire department whenever a smoke detector goes off, you may want to disarm the system before you start cooking). I then turned the heat down a little and cooked the steaks to medium.

Erin made some spinach with lots of garlic and lemon (which is, again, my favorite vegetable side dish), a salad and a little brown rice. I also sauteed some onions and baby bella mushrooms for the steak and rice. The mushrooms and onions cut the peppery steak nicely. A nice little meal, just for two.

Beer: I tried a hI.P.A.- Magic Hat Brewing Company's extremely hoppy IPA. This is a beer made for hop-heads, and I fall into that category. There is a bit of a fruitiness, but your hardly can find it under all the hops at both the front and the back of the taste. I love IPAs, and one of the reasons is how well they stand up to hearty food, like steak. hI.P.A. is Magic Hat's spring seasonal, and let me tell you: I'm ready for spring. I've already had Great Lakes Brewing Company's spring varietal: Conway's Irish Ale. And, pitchers and catchers report today! IT IS SPRING!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


As far as trendy and new restaurants, our options may be limited in little Sandusky, Ohio, but I have been happily surprised several times. Zinc, Red Gables and Nagoya being some of them that come to mind.

This weekend we found another great place in North Central Ohio: Touche'. It is a Martini Bar operated by Chez Francois, a highly regarded French Restaurant right next door. The menu at Touche is highlighted by appetizers and comfort food with a stress on high quality and French ingredients.

Friday nights is Martini night. My father-in-law (John), my dad and I all have an affection for a good martini, so we went, with our wives to enjoy the discounted martinis and good company. The three of ordered vodka martinis up. My dad's was dirty with anchoive stuffed olives. John and I had vodka martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives. Awesome.

I ordered a meat plate that had a good sausage, a thinly sliced ham, and smoked salmon. There were large shavings of parmesian cheese, the perfect salty compliment to the meats. There was also a large assortment of olives and a bunch of gigantic whole capers. This all surrounded the best part of the plate- a bunch of artichokes, sun dried tomatos, and a really spicy cherry pepper, all perfectly marinated.

Erin and I then split a ham and cheese sandwich. It had the same, high quality ham that was on my meat plate with melted gruyère cheese. It was served with a spicy giardiniera, dijon mustard and a plate of more olives and other pickled vegetables (including a green tomato).

My second martini was the same, but dirty. The three martini guys, after dinner, had a shot of Knob Creek on the rocks. A sofisticated and strong whiskey with a bite. A great finish to a great evening.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Smashed chickpea salad

In my quest for healthy recipes, I came across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen (one of my favorite food blogs) for smashed chickpea salad. She adapted her recipe from a sandwich she had at Tom Colicchio's restaurant Wichcraft. I took her recipe and adapted it to what I had in my fridge and also my new healthy lifestyle.

This recipe is sooo easy and you can really just throw whatever you want in there, whatever you think would taste good! I'm kind of obsessed with it and find myself craving it for meals. It's kind of like a deconstructed hummus (that's how Smitten Kitchen described it and I agree) in that you mash the chick peas with a potato masher or fork to get a thicker consistency but not the thickness of hummus.

Here is my adaptation of the smashed chickpea salad, inspired by Smitten Kitchen, which was inspired by Wichcraft:
1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
zest of one lemon and juice of one lemon
diced carrot (add as much as you like, I diced about 4 carrot sticks)
about 1 or 2 tbsp. diced red onion (add as much as you desire for this as well)
1 tsp. of capers1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (the first time I made it I only had dried parsley and used about 1 tsp.)
salt and pepper (to taste)
a few glugs of olive oil
a dash of White Balsamic vinegar (optional)

1. combine all ingredients
2. mash together with potato masher or fork for desired consistency
This is a really relaxed recipe, based on your personal tastes. If you want it more tangy, add more lemon juice or the white balsamic vinegar. If it seems a bit dry, add a little more olive oil. I just kept tasting until I felt it was right.

I've eaten this a few different ways- on toasted bread with spicy mustard, as a dip with crackers, and straight out of the container. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Four Things You Should Know- "The Angry Whopper"

There are four things you should know about Burger King's Angry Whopper.

1.) Makes you feel like ass. (I woke up at 3 AM, enough said)

2.) Makes you fat. (over 800 calories, over 50 grams of fat)

3.) Too expensive. ($6 with a drink)

4.) Does not taste good.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Spicy, Tasty and Healthy!

Ok- so like everyone else in the world, I have a New Year's resolution to get healthy and eat right.  Very unoriginal and un-foodie-like I know, but, what can ya do..  So lately I've been scouring the Internet and cookbooks for healthy and tasty recipes to make and this past week I requested a healthy meal when we were dinner guests at my parents house.   My mom came across a recipe for vegetable and pork stir fry that was featured on The Biggest Loser and made by Rocco DiSpirito. 

My mom and I made it on Thursday evening and it was really good.  My parents didn't particularly like it, but Ryan and I loved it so we made it last night for Ryan's family and it was a huge hit! The combination of the ginger, orange, red pepper flakes and peanut butter make a surprisingly complex sauce.  You could add any vegetables to this and in fact we added carrots. I would love to try it with an Asian medley with broccoli and baby corn and all of that good stuff, but Ryan is not a fan of broccoli so maybe I'll have to make this just for me someday.   This is also a fairly quick and easy recipe, which is nice for busy weekday nights.   We served this over brown rice.  

Vegetable and Pork Stir Fry
Rocco DiSpirito
serves 4
cooking spray
1 lb. lean pork loin cut into bit size strips
4 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound snow peas*
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil

heat a large nonstick skillet, spray cooking spray, season pork with salt and add to pan.  Stir fry until golden brown and cooked almost through, about 3 minutes.  Remove pork and set aside. 
Spray cooking spray and add ginger, cook for one minute.  Add onion and season with salt and cook for about 4 minutes. **We added one clove of garlic, finely chopped,  for some extra flavor**.  Add snow peas and continue to cook until tender. Remove vegetables from the pan.  Add orange juice concentrate and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil.  Whisk in peanut butter and return to a simmer. Toss in pork, vegetables, and basil to combine.  Adjust seasoning if needed and serve!

****To make this dish even quicker, we used frozen carrots and snow peas and partially cooked them, and then added when instructed. 

**Not to drill home the whole diet/new years resolution thing, but this dish is only about 300 calories per serving.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Erin and I had some great food while celebrating the Holidays. Some of the best:
1.) Filets at the Stookeys, Christmas Eve:
Erin's parents made some delicious filets. **So sorry I don't have a photo..I'm so mad, because they were soooo good!!
2.) What the heck is a stratta?
Turns out, it is some sort of quiche dish. It made for a pretty tasty brunch
3.) Nonna's Christmas spectacular:Similar to last year's, my grandma made a Christmas dinner for the ages. This year, we had Steak Sciscliano (prounounced SHISH-lee-ano). A very good cut of meat sliced into thin steaks, quickly seared on each side and soaked in olive oil and garlic and some italian seasonings. We had a lightly breaded and then baked shrimp; Pazella (italian style peas); homemade ravioli (with homemade tomato sauce)- they took my grandma something like 6 hours to hand make over 100 ravoli. They were the highlight of this wonderful meal. We had some nicely seasoned and spicy rappini (an Italian vegetable- a cross between spinach and broccoli).

4.) New Years Eve dinner: steaks at Red Gables Mesquittttte grill
We went to a small steakhouse in Sandusky with my brother and a couple friends on New Years Eve. The planning of our evening was very last minute, but we didn't complain. In fact, Erin ended up with the best steak ever. She got the filet, I got the ribeye. Both were perfectly cooked, high quality, and rubbed down with bold amounts of pepper and flavor. I tried a bite of Erin's- amazing.
**Also, sorry no photo, I guess the holidays=eating=Erin and Ryan's forgetfulness. I now have a New Year's resolution to remember to take photos of all this awesome food!

 A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to everyone!