Saturday, April 30, 2011

Celebrate Earth Day Everyday

Earth Day 2011 was on April 22nd, but you know, it's not too late to start celebrating everyday! Earth day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. Jim and I have slowly made some changes around the house and in the way we live that I believe have made a big positive impact on the environment. First of all, we started recycling religiously. As many wine bottles that we go through a week.... It was a simple change, but we now look to see if each piece of trash is recyclable and lucky for us, Austin has a great recycle program.

Jim has also gone through the house and changed out the lights to more efficient light bulbs to save on energy and they also last longer.  Earlier this year we purchased some energy efficient appliances. The new front loading washer and dryer is I had no idea how much more "efficient" they would be. I wash on the cold setting most of the time because the washer does such a good job and that saves energy by not heating the water . The dryer also completely drys our clothes in a quarter of the time our old dryer did. One of my favorite change was the new energy efficient dishwasher. It got me thinking about what other small changes can I make in the kitchen (my domain) which would please mother earth.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Grilled Mahi Mahi Kabobs

I am on a fish kick lately...have you noticed? Jim isn't quite sure what has gotten into me. It started back when I tried Mussels and absolutely loved them, boy have I been missing out all these years. Maybe I'm making up for lost times. I tried Salmon for the first time recently and thanked Jim for nudging me in that direction.  For this easy dinner I made kabobs of mahi mahi filet, marinated in a green olive tapenade. Inspiration for this easy dinner comes from epicurious. I served the fish kabobs with jasmine rice mixed with chopped roma tomatoes, marinated red bell peppers and avocado. Man did we enjoy this dinner! Here is what I did.

This is half the mahi mahi filet that I purchased. It was only after I cut it in half that I had the thought, "dang, I should take a picture of it right out of the package from the market." It's a big honker, but I was pleased with the price on this filet...It wasn't as expensive as say the Sea Bass or Halibut.

I cut the fish filet in half, then I sliced into roughly 2x2 pieces and placed them in a small casserole dish covered with olive oil and green olive tapenade.  You can absolutely make an olive tapenade yourself... just chop any kind of olive you like by hand or in the blender and add olive oil . You can make it as chunky as you like or puree it to make a paste. In a pinch, I used a store bought green olive tapenade that I found on the International food aisle.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Santa Fe Chicken Skillet

After being out of town and away from my kitchen for a couple days, Jim was really missing my cooking. I didn't have time to plan dinner, or grocery shop but I did go through the fridge and pantry to dig out some ingredients to make a spectacular dinner in less than 30 minutes.

Here is how I did it. We always have chicken in the house, that was a good start. The veggies I found were an onion, a green bell pepper, 2 garlic cloves and a can of diced tomatoes (which I always have on hand.) I also gathered some leftover black beans (from another recipe), a block of cheddar cheese and egg noodles.

The key ingredient, that pulled all these random foods together is the new Philadelphia Cooking Creme, Santa Fe Blend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Noble Pig

The Noble Pig isn't just a fantastic sandwich filled high with spicy ham, pulled pork, melted provolone cheese and thick cut bacon on toasted white or wheat bread...

The Noble Pig is a sandwich shop in Northwest Austin which also serves what looks like a very yummy breakfast. My co-workers and I heard through the grapevine about this fantastic "pork place" and were trying for weeks to schedule a time to all go for lunch.

Located in a small strip center in Northwest Austin on 620 North, it's easy to pass up if you are not familiar with this side of town.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What to Grill this Weekend: Salmon

Although I've been apprehensive to cook and eat salmon, I know the health benefits of this fish make it a super food. I tend to prefer mild, white, flaky fish to salmon. Jim just loves salmon and talked me into giving it a try the other night. And boy am I glad he did!

I of course went to my local Whole Foods who I know carries fresh fresh fresh seafood and has a comical and wildly knowledgeable staff behind the seafood counter. I explained that I dont' like "fishy-fish" and they told me that this Atlantic Salmon filet was delivered only hours before I walked in the door. With fish this fresh, the "fishy" flavors that I dislike will be mild. I asked about soaking the filet in milk, as I had read that would take away the fishy flavors. They told me that it doesn't really work as well as the old wives tale claims.

I felt like I hit the jackpot when I spotted this purple asparagus. It was my first time to find these and I was mesmerized. This asparagus would be the perfect accompaniment to my salmon dinner.

The fish mongers at Whole Foods were kind enough to even add the seasonings for me. For Jim, I had them season one filet with a lemon pepper rub. This rub would highlight the delicate flavors of the salmon.

For me, the fish mongers dusted my filet with a green chile rub which ended up being so incredibly spicy that it nicely masked any fish taste for me... I know, I know... the point is to taste the salmon. Well, not for me. I couldn't stop eating the salmon because the spice was so wonderful. I loved it!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Sweet Easter Giveaway

{The Giveaway is now closed. Scroll down to the bottom to see who the lucky four winners are.}

I haven't had a giveaway on this site for a while, and now that it is Spring time and Easter is right around the corner... let's give some sweet treats away!

If you live in Austin, Texas then you are very lucky to have access to this fabulous company. Iffy's Sweets and Treats was established this year to pay homage to bite-sized baked treats. From time-tested treats like cupcakes, to the more trendy cake pops, to the sophisticated French macaron, Iffy is dedicated to pleasing your taste buds with a delectable palette of her simply delicious sweets and treats.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to Make Spring Rolls

We have been experiencing 85 to 95 degree weather in Austin, TX and are just thrilled to welcome Spring! I want to soak up every lovely afternoon that we have in the 80's because soon and very soon it will be in the triple digits. Right now is the perfect time to put together a batch of these cool and crunchy Spring Rolls that are surprisingly easy to assemble and highly customizable.

Have you seen or cooked with these vermicelli rice noodles? They are quick cooking, thin noodles that are great as the base of stir-fry or added to soup. I boiled a medium pot of salted water, added a handful of rice sticks and let them boil for just a few minutes. As soon as they were cooked through (about 3 minutes) I strained and set asside to cool as I prepped the remaining ingredients.

For a nice spicy bite, I rinsed a handful of cilantro.

I like the crunch of cool Spring Rolls, so I thinly sliced a red bell pepper. Again, use what you have on hand!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

House Pizzeria

After hearing some buzz about House Pizzeria, Jim and I decided to check it out for lunch one day. The building that is House Pizzeria doesn't look like much. In fact, the building was once a KFC drive through located in the 'hood of Airport Blvd. Local Austinites should know better than to let the exterior lead you astray, some of the most creative chefs in this town of ours is cooking in odd locations including trailers.

The inside is new and modern with various colors and textures that bring you in and make you feel comfortable. There is a very small bar area, maybe four bar stools total serving a good number of local brews plus Maine Root Draft Root Beer. They carry all the Austin standards: 512, Live Oak, Real Ale and some every changing surprises.

Since we were there for lunch during the work week, Jim and I didn't sample anything from their beer selection...but it was noted and we will definitely go back "after hours" so we can enjoy a cold beer with our pizza. Mmmm cold beer and pizza!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mussels and Wine Feast

I had not eaten mussels until last week when a friend and I met at Vino Vino, a local wine bar in Austin and shared a bowl of mussels in white wine sauce topped with french fries and a dollop of herby hollandaise sauce. It was spectacular, I couldn't believe how delicious the mussels were. I absolutely loved dipping the crusty bread that accompanied our dish into the flavorful juice in the bottom of the bowl. I felt sad that I had missed out on this experience for so long. Jim has ordered them before in restaurants, but my fear of shellfish and eating something that looks like the actual animal (ex: crawfish, peel and eat shrimp, frog legs) kept me from being adventurous.

For food this tasty, I thought I could overcome my fear and just go for it. What better way to take on something new and experiment in the kitchen than surrounding yourself with hungry friends? If the dish bombed, we could always order Chinese takeout or pizza delivery. My mom is cringing right now. She always told me never to try new recipes on friends or for a special event or holiday.

Our awesome friends Chip and Shelley had us over to their new home for a night of poker and I brought all the ingredients to share a Mussels and Wine Feast. Why is it always so much fun to cook in someone elses kitchen?

Jim really loves to play Texas Hold 'em and he is trying to teach me. I've played about six times and enjoy it also, but I still need my cheat sheet to remind me the denominations of the chips and also the order of the hands.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chicken Hash over Creamy Polenta

This was a totally random and made up dinner that ROCKED! I wanted something comforting, filling and wholesome - and I also wanted to use up produce that was on it's last leg in my house. I pulled every vegetable I had out of the fridge and then roasted two chicken breasts. All the ingredients are slow cooked in my dutch oven with wine and chicken stock and then served over the creamiest and most delish polenta. I didn't know what to call it, "everything but the kitchen sink chicken and veggies dinner?" Doesn't sound appetizing. A "hash" is a great way to maximize leftovers or use up produce before it spoils. Although a traditional "hash" usually contains potatoes of some sort, I replaced the starch with polenta and then named my recipe Chicken Hash over Polenta.
By the way, Jim is absolutely terrible at coming up with recipe names. I should start a list of his suggestions. My sweetie pie means well, but I'm pretty sure he would have named this "the really good chicken and vegetables."
Both Jim and I enjoyed this meal so much that I made it twice...and photographed it twice. I usually don't take pictures of a dish I've already posted, BUT I've made some improvements to my "kitchen studio."

I have invested in an EGO light and a small tabletop tripod. Can you tell the difference? Above is the new photo I took this week, below is my first run with this recipe that I took about a month ago. 

Here is the step by step photos from my first run at Chicken Hash over Polenta: