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Food I’m Drooling Over Now

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I will update this once I get out to try, and will move some to the proper place on the Gastro Graze.

I haven’t gotten there yet, but I made my husband visit The Merry Dairy on his whirl wind visit in fall. I have this thing for frozen custard, especially in a cone, especially with rainbow sprinkles. They’re the best in England or Wales, for 99p with a chunk of flake sticking out of them. This is not an easy thing to find in the U.S. even with the omission of the flake. The Merry Dairy springs forth with soft serve in cones with toppings in rainbow colors like they’re the givers of smiles for the planet.

BFF. Burger and Fries Forever. Nothing so special here, right? I mean, Austin has its share of burger joints and they are good. It takes a powerful force to make me crave a burger, particularly one I haven’t tried before. BFF does it effortlessly with images of dripping meat, chicken that’s visibly crunchy, and fries gooey with cheese. Sold. I’m there. Take my money and shut up.

Edgar, just over the river in Gatineau, makes me want one of their perfectly poached eggs with radicchio, lardon, wild mushrooms, and anything else they want to throw on there even if it were 3am and I was being jolted awake to eat. Even if I had just finished a meal so filling, I’d have to lay down on the floor. It doesn’t matter, I’d eat their offerings. Plates that look so simple and yet intense that even if I knew they’d been sprinkled with poison, I’d be hard pressed not to gobble them up.

North & Navy. I grew up with Italian food. I’m so stereotypical Italian, my family had pizza restaurants in New York. I can make meatballs in my sleep. I have an Uncle Mario AND an Uncle Vinny. I’m generally very picky about my Italian food. The red sauce covered cheese stuffed crap we’d make in the restaurants is not the Italian we’d eat at home or after 10pm once we stopped serving. Cold, fresh slices of cantaloupe wrapped in delicate, salty prosciutto. Octopus grilled to a char and drizzled with olive oil. Flat breads topped with shaved parmesan, a million fresh greens, lemony homemade ricotta and served with slices of rare bistecca. That’s the Italian food that makes me proud, and hungry. And North & Navy serves plates that look very much like home to me.

Black Walnut Bakery. Sometimes you need a croissant the size of your head, one that you know would not only not be over kill, but each bite would be better than the last and you’d miss it when it was gone as you pressed your finger tips to every last flakey crumb trying to extend the experience.

Now, I have about a half dozen Indian places on my list. I love a good curry. When my husband and I travel to the UK we eat so much Indian food, we practically bleed saag paneer. But if there are any recommendations – for Indian or anything else for that matter – I would love to get some!

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Chocolate Banana Protein Bread

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One of my friends gave me a recipe for ultra light banana bread. The thing is, I’m not one for substitutes (fake egg, chemical sugar substitutes, etc). I think there’s a trade off of biting the bullet for “real” ingredients over zero fat or zero sugar additives that may save you calories, but give you a nice serving of processed crap instead. I don’t want finding ingredients to be a bitch, I don’t want chemicals in there or for the flavor to leave a weird coating on my tongue. I want my food to be mostly clean, but I’m no die hard. That’s just me. And I’m an ass, so by no means do you have to agree. Point is, I’m eating this banana bread and without the egg substitute and with real sugar it’s good. It’s an absolutely fine banana bread. But I am trying to be very conscious of everything I put in my body. That banana bread didn’t give me anything. So how could I get it to give me more?

Well, for starters I added dark chocolate. Ya know, for the antioxidants or whatever the hell. I substituted some of the flour for organic protein powder, changed the sugar substitute to real sugar and reduced the amount, added a little fat for moisture, and now have a protein boosted Banana Bread/Muffin for a quick breakfast to go prior to work.

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Chocolate Banana Protein Bread

1 cup + 2 TBSP whole wheat flour (or all purpose or some mix of the two, doesn’t matter)

2 scoops (1 serving) Orgain Organic Chocolate Protein Powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar (Or sugar substitute. You do you.)

2 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp Vanilla

1 1/2 to 2 cups smashed over-ripe bananas

2 eggs

2 TBSP Greek Yogurt (or light sour cream or regular sour cream or 0% greek yogurt)

1/2 cup Apple Sauce (or no sugar added applesauce)

1/4 cup Ghirardelli dark chocolate bittersweet chips

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Preheat ye olde oven to 350 degrees. Take a bread pan or muffin tin (makes 8 muffins) and spray with non-stick spray. Mix everything, except the chocolate in a bowl. Seriously. Just chuck it all in at once, skip the pomp & circumstance of sifting this or blending that or creaming. Screw that. Just put everything in a bowl and mix it with a hand blender, a good spoon, or your kitchenaid mixer. Once mixed well and mostly smooth, pour the batter into your prepped bread pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes for bread (35-40 minutes for muffins) or until a tooth pick comes out mostly clean. I like my bread moist, a little dense. If you want yours dryer or more cake like, cook it longer.

Let cool for an hour at least. I took mine out of the oven and let it cool a good couple of hours, then I sliced it into 8 pieces, wrapped them individually, and stacked them in the fridge for a quick grab-&-go breakfast for during the week. Each slice has less than 200 calories, 3 grams of fat, and about 8 grams of protein. That’s a lot less sodium, less fat, and less calories than an Odwalla, Kind, or Clif Bar and more protein than the Kind. And CHOCOLATE! Boom.

 

 

Chicken Pot Pie

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Using trimmed chicken thighs and herbs de Provence with lavender kicks up the flavor of this classic for a modern twist without ramping up the calories in kind. Sure, it’s called “Chicken Pot Pie”, but in these parts it’s known as CHICKEN POT AWESOME.

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Ingredients

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs trimmed of any excess fat and cut into 1″ chunks

3/4 cup roughly chopped carrots

2/3 cup frozen peas

2/3 cup frozen corn

1 cup chopped mushrooms (“Optional,” my husband says. They’re not.)

1 cup chopped celery or fennel (I prefer the fennel)

1/3 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

4 tsp kosher salt, divided

2 tsp black pepper, divided

1 1/2 tsp herbs de Provence (if you can get it with lavender it’s better)

1/3 cup flour

1 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

2/3 cups milk

2 9″ frozen pie crusts or pie dough

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roll you pie dough into a deep casserole pan, leaving enough to top the pot pie if using. If you are going with 2 pie crusts, one will be your bottom and the other will be used for the top. I used pre-made pie crust in the aluminum pans, but turned one out and pressed it into my oval casserole pan, while rolling out the other for the top and it just worked fine.

In a medium pot heat 1/2 TBSP vegetable oil and combine chicken, carrots, peas, corn, mushrooms, and celery or fennel. Sprinkle with 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper, and sauté over medium heat for about 6 minutes. Carefully add enough water to cover chicken and veggies, leaning away so steam doesn’t hit you in the face. Crank heat to high, cover, and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. This step can be done as much as a day in advance if need be. Simply store in an airtight container in the fridge and take out about 30 minutes before you’re ready to assemble the pie.

In a bowl or large measuring cup, mix the wine, broth, and milk. In a saucepan over medium heat cook the onions and garlic in the butter until soft. You don’t want these to brown. Mix in the remaining salt and pepper, and herbs, toasting a little while, stirring for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add the flour, followed by one fourth of the liquid mixture. Stir until incorporated. Continue mixing the liquid in batches, stirring until incorporated each time. Once the liquid is well mixed and smooth with the onions, garlic, and herbs, let slightly thicken an additional couple of minutes (should coat the back of a spoon). Remove from heat.

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Pour the chicken and veggie mixture into the bottom pie crust. Pour the liquid flour-onion mixture over the top of the chicken, letting it move down and around every thing. Cover this deliciousness with the top crust, sealing the edges with the tines of a fork or your fingers. Cut 4 or 5 vents in the top about 1 inch long to allow steam to escape while baking. If you’re feelin’ fancy (and that’s okay) you can use extra pie dough to make a design on top or whisk an egg with 2 TBSP water for an egg wash to brush on for an extra shiny golden crust.

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Bake for 34 – 38 minutes until the top is nice and golden brown and the insides are bubbling hot. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before serving. We didn’t bother to serve ours with a side of anything, though I suppose mashed potatoes might be the norm or sautéed spinach might be good. The fact of the matter is any other food would simply detract from the pie, and who wants that? No one, that’s who.

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Kale Chips

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This may be the hippy-est thing I’ve ever said, but I love me some Kale Chips! Take a bunch of Kale (or two) and dry them out in your oven for crispy, delicious, and addicting healthy treats. When you make this, bake as much Kale you have time for. They cook down more than anything else you will ever bake. It’s like sautéing spinach. So, if it’s a rainy afternoon with hours to kill, do a number of bunches and keep them in zip lock bags, then re-toast to eat as snacks throughout the week. This is time consuming, but EASY, and definitely worth it.

Easy peasy!

Ingredients

1 bunch Kale (1 bunch as a snack per every 2 people is a good rule of thumb)

1 TBSP fresh lemon juice, divided

1 tsp Cayenne, divided

1 TBSP olive oil, divided

Kosher or Sea salt to taste

If you’ve got a convection oven use it. Preheat oven on convection to 280. If you’re using a regular oven, preheat it to 325. Rinse kale and cut the leafy part away from the stalk as best you can. You want large pieces because these suckers are going to contract more than Shrinky Dinks. Spread out your future chips on tea towels to dry a bit (you can do this long in advance to preheating the oven if you’d prefer to make them fresh later on). This will also give you an idea of how many batches you’ll have to do based on the size of leaves, cookie sheets, and oven size. This is important; the number of batches will of course be the way you’ll need to divide the lemon juice, salt, cayenne, and olive oil. If you’re good at eyeballing or winging it, do so!

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Scoop a cookie sheet’s worth of kale leaves (about 12-20) into a bowl and sprinkle with fresh lemon juice (I would just squeeze a half of a lemon through my fingers each time), a pinch of cayenne, enough olive oil to lightly coat most without being overly greasy, and a sprinkling of kosher or sea salt. Toss with tongs or hands. Place kale in an individual layer on parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Immediately rinse your hands of any cayenne residue once you’ve got your kale placed. Bake for about 12-14 minutes in convection or 23-27 minutes on a regular oven setting. Some edges may brown; that’s absolutely fine. Place crisped leaves on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Continue baking in as many batches as needed. You can store in ziploc bags for up to a week and retoast whenever needed.

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Ooey Gooey Hipster Brownies

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I hate baking. It’s a mess. It’s gotta be exact. It’s a pain in the ass. What ever the result is, I’ll probably hate myself after eating it. And, frankly, if I’m going to have steak or sushi for dinner I’d much rather have more steak or sushi for dessert.

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But for some lame reason I like to take on new challenges and the past couple of weeks that has manifested in from-scratch brownies. Though, full disclosure, these actually came about because I was PMS’ing like a mofo, didn’t have chocolate in the house, and didn’t want to have to put on pants to go out and get some.

I’m calling them “Ooey Gooey Hipster Brownies” at the behest of friends that felt I shouldn’t call them “Stupid Fucking Hipster Brownies”. So, I also caved to peer pressure. Black pepper. The black pepper makes them hipster.

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I wanted brownies that had a very dark almost bitter flavor. Like me, but good. I also wanted a texture that would end up like the boxed mixes, ya know a mix between cake, fudge, and ganache. To intensify the dark chocolate flavor I reduced the sugar, and added cinnamon, cherry juice, espresso, and yes, black pepper. “But Katie, why not add balsamic vinegar? That’s so hot right now with dark chocolate.” First of all, the ‘e’ in my name is silent. It’s Kate. Secondly, balsamic vinegar in desserts is so 14 years ago. And I want goo brownies, not dry pieces of crap, so shove your vinegar.

Everybody knows that in baked goods it’s not just fat that makes the moisture. Sugar traps the fatty, juicy globs and keeps it in place while baking, so to speak. So I had to reduce the sugar while balancing the fat retention, something  my body has actually perfected. Baking time also had to be tweaked, so keep an eye on these the last 10 minutes of baking – everyone’s oven and pans are different. So. Here we go.

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Stupid Fucking Hip Ooey Gooey Hipster Brownies

I use a glass pyrex 8 x 8 inch pan. You can double this for a 13 x 9 pan if you want to party it up or expedite heart disease or whatever, but I’d use a 1/4 cup less sugar.

4 large eggs

2 sticks (1lb) melted unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2/3 cups brown sugar

2 tsps Vanilla

1 tsps cinnamon

1 TBSP powdered espresso

1 TBSP cherry syrup (from the maraschino jar you keep in shame in the back of your liquor cabinet)

2 TBSPs vegetable oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 1/2 cups dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark and they came out almost black. It’s awesome.)

1/2 cup flour

1 cup mini dark chocolate chips or roughly chopped walnuts, If you like some texture.

Preheat your oven to 300. Spray your brownie pan with some non-stick spray. Start melting your butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. You want it to be able to cool a bit before adding to your eggs. Using a beater or mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the eggs until they’re light and a little frothy. That’s the only time you’re going to use a mixer. From here on out it’s old school by hand with a wooden spoon. Once your eggs are frothed stir in the sugars, vanilla, syrup, and oil. Add the butter a little at the time so you don’t wind up with vanilla scrambled eggs. Add the salt, espresso, cinnamon, pepper, and oil.

Then add the cocoa. As any of you who have read my site knows, I don’t sift. I think terrible things about the people who take the time to sift. Don’t sift. Be hardcore. But also add it carefully, folding it in and then incorporating, otherwise you’ll have a fine coating of cocoa dust fucking everywhere. EV. ERY. WHERE. Add your flour the same way and then add the texture bits if you’re going that route. It’s probably going to be a little lumpy; that’s fine. If anyone questions your lumps, tell them the lumps are love and then accuse those people of making it difficult to love them.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan, smooth out the top a little with a spatula, and put in the oven for 15 minutes.

After fifteen minutes, remove from oven for 15 minutes to rest. I’m not kidding.

After they’ve rested for 15 minutes, put them back in for another 30 minutes. Check with a toothpick or chopstick in the center. They should come out a little sticky, but you don’t want the tooth pick to be smoothly coated as if it’s just straight batter in the center. Cook in additional 5 minute intervals, until a toothpick placed in center comes out with little brownie chunks on it, but not completely clean.

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Let them cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Then move them to the fridge. If you want warm brownies, cut into them after 45 minutes and don’t refrigerate, fine.

If you want cake-like brownies because, I dunno, you had a bad childhood or something, omit the oil, double the flour, use a mixer on medium pretty much the entire time until the batter is almost stiff, and bake straight through without the rest period outside of the oven, 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Then throw the pan of brownies into the trash, because cake-like brownies are garbage, and just make chocolate cake.

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Seriously. Gooey and moist is the way to be.

Greek Yogurt Remoulade

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I make this once every week to two and keep it in a jar in my fridge. I put this on chicken burgers, salmon cakes, crab cakes, and use 2 TBSP of this instead of plain old mayo for tuna salad that is just crazy good.

Ingredients

1 cup 2% plain Greek Style Yogurt (you can use 0% as well, it just won’t be quite as thick)

2 TBSP mayonnaise

1 1/2 TBSP Dijon Mustard

1 TBSP red wine vinegar

2 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp kosher salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 dash Worchestershire OR 2 tsp Hot Sauce depending on who wants what

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Chill for at least 1 hour for flavors to marry. Will keep in tupperware in the fridge for 5 – 8 days.

Beef Bolognese

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Bolognese with homemade peasant bread & spaghetti squash.

It’s getting’ Italian up in here. There are some inherent comfort foods in my life spawning from my upbringing and a really good pasta sauce is one of them. To Italian households your tomato sauce is a family recipe; other sauces, restaurants, etc just don’t taste right. As cold weather has finally started to settle in to Austin, I needed something filling and hot to warm my soul. When you want all the flavors without so much fat you can substitute the ground beef with ground turkey and serve with spaghetti squash instead of pasta.

Beef Bolognese
Ingredients

1 lb 80/20 ground beef, preferable chili beef, a thicker grind (If you substitute ground turkey for this, be sure to add a cube of beef boullion when add the cans of tomatoes, stirring to dissolve.)

1 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP butter

1 diced white onion

3 cloves minced garlic

1 1/2 TBSP Tomato paste

2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp dried oregano

2 28oz. cans of crushed or diced tomatoes

1/2 TBSP red pepper flakes

3/4 cup dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon, you can also use a good white for this)

1 TBSP low sodium soy sauce

The zest of 1 lemon

1 lbs prepared linguini, rotini, or 2 lbs prepared spaghetti squash

1 minced anchovy (strictly for glutamate flavor, adds no fishiness, but optional none the less)

Saute the beef over medium high heat in a deep pot or sauce pan for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. You don’t want to cook it through, but you definitely want it to give up a lot of its fat. After few minutes, when a significant amount of grease has been rendered, but the meat has yet to really brown, turn off the heat and strain the meat with a slotted spoon into a bowl and set aside. Dispose of the rendered fat. If you want some added flavor, you can also do 1/2 lb beef with 1/2 pound ground pork, and you can use ground turkey for a healthier option, of course, skipping the step to render any fat.

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In a deep pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbling a bit, add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the onions are just transparent and the garlic is no longer raw, about 5-7minutes. Move the onions to one side of the pot, exposing a bare area and dollop the tomato paste there, to toast a bit, about 1-2 minutes. Stir the tomato paste with the onions and garlic, and then add the oregano and basil. Stir, letting the flavors marry and carmelize, about 3 minutes. Add the 2 cans of tomatoes, red pepper flakes, wine, and soy sauce, stirring well. Add the meat back to the sauce and let it simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, and allow the pot to continue to simmer over medium heat for another 10 minutes or so or until the sauce has thickened.

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Serve over your favorite pasta or spaghetti squash and top with shredded fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

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