Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blue Gill

Mr. T and I have a monthly dinner date with some of our friends.  This month we tried a new place in town called Blue Gill.  They're located in next to a parking garage outside of the hospital gym.

I think this place is classified as "Southern Inspired".  The appetizers include boiled peanuts, pimento cheese, and fried green tomatoes.

We started off with two appetizers.  Mr. T ordered the boiled peanuts and our friends ordered the biscuits with sausage gravy.  Both were fantastic.  The gravy had plenty of pepper in it and the biscuits were still nice and crunchy around the edges.

We also ordered some beverages.  One of our friends got a nice glass of white wine.  The rest of us were a little less classy and went with a "Gin and Juice" and "Trailer Park Punch".  They were served in mason jars with tiny umbrellas and cherries.  (Which is what makes a good beverage if you ask me)

Then it was time for the main meal.  I got the "Blue Gill Burger".  It was a beef patty with bacon, smoked pork, and melted pimento cheese.  It was a very rich and smoky burger due to the smoked pork and bacon.  It was really good.  It was served with the choice of a house salad with their house vinaigrette or house made chips.  I went went the salad.

Mr. T got the pork belly.  I didn't get a picture of it, sorry.  It was a good sized piece of pork and it wasn't over cooked. It was served with a side of butter beans which were very creamy and had bits of bacon throughout.

Our friends split an order of "Ham Hock Mac & Cheese".  It was a basic dish that reminded me of something my mom made when I was a kid.  I'm pretty sure it was made with white cheddar cheese and had big pieces of ham in it.  Their dish was served with some random roasted veggies (I picked out some squash, brussels sprouts, and green beans).

One the way out I decided that we needed to get one of their "Fried Pies" to go.  Our choices that night were the cherry or the chocolate.  I went with the cherry.  It was awesome... and totally healthy.

The verdict: We'd go back.  It's a cool venue, the staff was really great, and the food was hot and tasty (except the salad... it was cold... as it should be)  It's not going to become an everyday place for us but it is fantastic for date nights or dinner with friends.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mini Spinach Quiche

Quiche is so tasty and everyone seems to love it.  Making a mini version is just as easy as the large one and the tiny size is perfect for appetizers.

I like to go ahead and make them a day or two early and just reheat them quickly before it's time to serve. (A toaster oven works great)

Mini Spinach Quiche:

2 eggs
1 cup half and half
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
1 tablespoon corn starch, blended with the half and half
salt and pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
pie crust, store bought is fine

In a bowl blend the eggs, half and half, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise together.  Add the spinach and swiss cheese, mix well.

Take the pie crust, roll it out, and cut small circles out (I used a shot glass).  Spray a mini muffin pan with some non stick spray and place the circles of pie crust into the muffin tins.  Fill each little pie crust with the quiche mixture and bake at 350 until nice and golden, 20-30 minutes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My trip to the farmer's market

One of my favorite memories when I was a kid was going to the farmer's market.  Back then they weren't as popular as they are now and the county I lived in only had one.  It's still the one I go to, although not as much as I probably should.

Mr. T and I have been thinking about joining a Community Supported Agriculture group, also known as a CSA.  Basically CSAs are a great way to know where your food is coming from.  You buy produce (and other items based on what your "contract" is) directly from the farm(s) of your choice.  The farmer's benefit because they get more income to continue to grow and do what they do. 

Graham Farms is the farm that we will be doing our CSA with.  They're been in business for about 18 years and I like how they do their CSAs.  You pre-pay into your account with them.  They give you a 10% bonus and e-mail you each week with a list of what they will have at the market.   You e-mail them back with what you want and they bag it up.  Graham Farms has jams, jellies, pickles, plants, local honey, and pork products (I got bacon this week).

Here's my haul from this week.

Pink Grapefruit, Sugar Snap Peas, Broccoli Flower (or something like that), Hydroponic lettuce, and Honey Cured Bacon!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Food Art

Have you ever gone to a party and seen cute little flowers made out of random vegetables?  Well the Linda Blondheim Art Studio did a mini demonstration on how to make different flowers out of veggies recently.  Here's some pictures of what was done... think of it as inspiration for your own veggie creations.

This is a lemon peel rose, carrot flower with red jalapeno leaves, curled celery (just cut it in strips and place in cold water over night), and a cut orange with cloves... which smells amazing.

A close up of a simply cut mushroom flower and a cut radish with jalapenos and scallions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Blueberry Pie

I was lucky as a child to have blueberry bushes in my back yard.  I didn't really appreciate them at that point in my life because my grandmother made my sister go outside and pick them in the heat, but we certainly enjoyed the pies and cobblers that my grandma made with them. 

This is not my grandma's pie but it's a really good basic pie.  There are many ways to top this pie.  The lattice topping is the most traditional and is really pretty.  Martha Stewart topped it with cut out stars, which is awesome for any summer party.

** See the splotchy spots on the pie crust?  It's because my egg wash puddled while it was resting.  It will still taste fine but it's not the prettiest pie in the world.  Just something to remember to check on when baking.

Blueberry Pie:
(Martha Stewart Baking Handbook)

All-purpose flour, for dusting
8 cups blueberries, picked over
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Pie crust

On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out one disk of the pie crust to about 12-inches round.  Dust off the excess flour and fit into a glass pie pan.  Trim the dough so that there's only 1/2-inch overhang all around the pie plate.  Crimp the edge however you'd like.  Roll out the remaining dough and chill both for about 30 minutes.

Place the blueberries in a large bowl.  Crush about a 1/2 cup of the berries.  Add the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice.  Gently stir to combine.  Pour the fruit mixture into the chilled pie crust, mounding the berries slightly in the center.  Take the butter pieces and dot them all over the pie.

Take the second pie crust and decide how you want to to your pie.  I decided to go with the basic lattice pie so I cut the pie crust into strips.  Arrange the strips on the top of the pie.  In a small bowl mix the egg and half and half.  Brush the egg mixture all over the top of the pie.

Let the pie chill for an additional 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  After the pie has chilled move it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the bottom third of the oven for 20 minutes, or until the crust is starting to turn golden.  Reduce the oven to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes, turning halfway.

Let cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wilton Cake Decorating

I've started my second round of Wilton cake decorating classes.  This is the second set of classes in the 4 part series.  This class focuses on flowers and cake design.  Flowers are everyone's favorite thing to make anyway.

Last night we learned about the basics of working with fondant and gum paste and then we made two flowers.

The first flower was made using a special flower press.  It cut the gum paste and stamped a design on it at the same time.  We just layered the different flower bits on top of each other and left them to dry.

The second flower was a basic pansy.  We used the same gum paste, a thin piece of foam, and a ball tool and made the petals of the flower curl slightly.  We layered a couple of the petals to make it 3-D and that was it.

These flowers were easy to make but can still make a huge impact on a homemade cake.  I can't wait for next week.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hibachi Soup

We like to frequent our local Japanese Steakhouse for special dinners, like my birthday!  One of my favorite parts of the experience is the soup that they serve.  I love brothy soups and this is the perfect brothy soup.

It can also be made gluten free by using gluten free bouillon cubes and skipping out on the french fried onions (or making your own).  Not all bouillon cubes are gluten free but these are.  I know that my local grocery store sells them.

Hibachi Soup:
(found on Pinterest, from Cooking with Carrie)

1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
3 tablespoons beef bouillon granules
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
2 quarts water (8 cups)
French fried onions

In a large saucepan or stockpot, combine the celery, onion, carrot, ginger, garlic, and a few of the mushrooms. Add chicken bouillon, beef bouillon, and water. Place the pot over high heat, and bring to a rolling boil. When the mixture reaches boiling, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 45 minutes.

After it's cooked for at least 45 minutes strain the cooked soup and discard all of the vegetables, leaving the broth. Serve the broth with sliced mushrooms and sprinkle french friend onions over the top.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekly Meal Plan: February 12th

I'm posting a meal plan for the first time in forever.  I've been making one every week but just haven't been posting it. 

Honey barbecue meatloaf

Grilled fish tacos

Vegetarian lo mein

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Crock Pot Chili

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wilton Cake Decorating- Class #4

I'm finished with my first round of cake decorating classes!!  Impressed? (You should be)  Here's a recap from my final class for session #1.

We did more flower work this week and worked on our final cake.  The cake was decorated and pre-iced at home.  In case you're wondering I made a basic yellow cake with a strawberry filling.

We also worked on writing.  The instructor showed us how to write in print and cursive.  Print isn't for me so I stuck with cursive.

We also learned how to make some basic ribbon roses.  It is important when making roses to have your icing tip facing the correct way.  The rose on the left was made with the tip upside down.  Whoops.

We took the rest of the class to work on our final cakes.  I am the prime example of why you should have an idea of what you want your cake to look like before you start decorating it.  Whatever, my coworkers enjoyed eating it the next day... plus, I had a lot of fun.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chicken Ropa Vieja

I was so happy to find this recipe the other day.  I had to work late and needed to figure out something to do for supper that night.  My plan was to use this chicken in tacos but I forgot to buy shells.  It didn't really matter because the chicken was really good and super moist.

(It also works really well for leftovers)

Chicken Ropa Vieja:
(Skinnytaste- 5pp+, 4 servings)

3 (22.5 oz) chicken breast halves
1 small onion, quartered
1 tomato, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Reserved broth
1 tsp cumin
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste


Place chicken, onion, tomato, carrot, and 2 cloves of garlic into crock pot. Add water to cover, and set to high for 4 hours until the chicken is tender. If cooking on the stove, cook on medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Place the chicken into a bowl and shred it into strips using a fork; set aside. Reserve the liquid.

In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, green peppers, and red peppers. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in chicken, tomato sauce, white wine, and about 3/4 cup of the reserved broth to create a nice sauce. Season with cumin, garlic powder salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes more adding more broth and seasoning if needed.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wilton Cake Decorating- Class #3

We did even more decorating this week.  We finally got to work on flowers and leaves!  (It's my favorite part)  In order to keep those flowers under control a little bit we decorated cup cakes.  They were the perfect size to practice on.

These were the first flowers we made.  I don't remember what they called it.  Please excuse the color choices, I was being lazy.

The second flowers we made were called "Shaggy Mums".  They were made by placing the leaves where ever you want and covering them with these little strings of icing.  They are my favorite.

I decided to go nuts and combine my flowers on my final cupcakes.  Go big or go home.  Here's what I came up with.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sesame Chicken Tenders

This is another new recipe that i'm trying out. I'm always looking for new ways to eat chicken.  I was really happy with how crispy these were and how easy they were to make.

There is a really big taste of sesame in these.  I know how obvious that sounds but for me it went from 0 to 60 within a couple of bites.  Next go around I might leave out the sesame oil and just stick with the sesame seeds but test it out for your self and decide how much sesame taste you love.

Sesame Encrusted Baked Chicken Tenders:
(skinny taste- 5pp+, 4 1/2 servings)

18 oz chicken tenderloins
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
6 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon course salt
4 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
olive oil spray


Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick oil spray.

Combine the sesame oil and soy sauce in a bowl, and the sesame seeds, salt and panko in another.

Place chicken in the bowl with the oil and soy sauce, then into the sesame seed mixture to coat well. Place on the baking sheet; lightly spray the top of the chicken with oil spray and bake 8 - 10 minutes. Turn over and cook another 4 - 5 minutes longer or until cooked through.