Monday, December 22, 2008

Rainbow Tomatoes

Check out these beauties from the Winter Park Farmers Market. I picked up a few purple ones and they were the best middle of winter tomatoes I've ever had.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Every Christmas season, the Grand Floridian gives out roasted chestnuts at their main entrance. The toasty aroma can be picked up from a quarter mile and this time we decided to stop and sample these hard to find holiday delicacies.

The girls were ready to try something new so I handed them each a roasted chestnut. Each "pod" is cross-shaped split to help in the roasting process.

Sadie worked furiously to get her chestnut open.

Lillie dug her nails in and popped out the seed inside.

Not afraid to ham it up, Lillie decided to perch her chestnut on her face for a memorable photo.

It was quickly devoured. I tasted one too. They taste like a cross between earwax and a cashew. The texture is similar to a cross between earwax and a cashew.

Sadie ate the chestnut before any fun photos could be taken.

I spoke too soon...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Smokey Pumpkin Seeds

The only thing better than a triple mushroom, bbq pumpkin burger is a batch of delicious smokey pumpkin seeds.

Split open a fresh pumpkin very carefully!

Pull all the seeds out of the pumpkin and rinse in a colander. Massage with your fingers to eliminate most of the pumpkin fiber. Rinse one last time...

Transfer to a bowl and shake on your favorite savory season blends. This batch was flavor-blasted with a combo of smoked paprika, Penzeys bbq 3000 and Penzeys smokey seasoned salt. Maybe a 1/4 cup for a large pumpkins worth of seeds.

Spread over a foil-lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until they are nice and crunchy. Use a spatula to remove and let cool.

Eat them shell and all!

Lillie can't stop snacking!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spaghetti Squash with Meatballs

I acquired a spaghetti squash a few weeks ago and the girls were immediately fascinated. Spaghetti inside a squash? Could it be true?
Each night I pick them up, I ask them what they want for dinner and ever since the words "spaghetti squash" pinged onto their radar, Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs was the clear winner.

Finding a delicious low-fat meatball probably should have been a priority before creating this meal...In the end, my "fly by the seat of my pants" culinary approach worked to my advantage and once again reminded me that intuition and creativity beat out a recipe every least for me.

I went to my recipe bible, America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook - BAD NEWS! The meatball page was missing! What the hell?! These 3-ring binder pages of this 848-page book are so thin and the most popular get torn occasionally. I'm pretty sure the meatball page also includes the fresh sauce section....crap.

Now what do I do? I pulled Mario Batali's Molto Italiano off the shelf - he has got to have a rock-solid meatball recipe in there somewhere. I modified his Neapolitan Meatball recipe to suite my needs. I love a cheesy meatball and the low-fat ground chicken I'm using is very lean, so the first thing I changed was to double the amount of shredded Pecorino Romano cheese.

Double Cheese Chicken Meatballs

3 cups day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound ground chicken/turkey
3 eggs, beaten
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Pecorino Romano, grated
¼ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
½ cup saltine crackers, crushed
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoon Penzeys smoked seasoned salt (any seasoned salt will work)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a shallow bowl, soak the bread cubes in enough water to cover. Remove the bread cubes and squeeze by hand to wring excess moisture.

In a large bowl, combine everything and mix by hand to incorporate bread into meat. It will be a little soupy so chill (covered) in the fridge for a few hours. I let mine sit overnight.

With wet hands, form the mixture into 12 to 15 meatballs, each of a size of a golf ball. Place on foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in the center of the oven on 375 for 35 minutes.

Steamed Spaghetti Squash

Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Wrap in one layer of saran wrap and cook in microwave for 7 minutes. Let sit to cool in microwave for 10 minutes. Remove with caution because it will still be really, really, really hot. Really. Remove wrap and use fork to pull out the string-like layers of squash.

Plate the squash, top with your favorite marinara (I used my 5-minute creamy marinara - recipe to follow in a few days). Top with some sliced meatballs and dust with some microplaned Pecorino Romano.

Sadie was the first to give it a try. The meatballs were so flavorful and moist! I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious they turned out.

Lillie was skeptical of the spaghetti squash at first but loved the meatballs from the start. They were so full of flavor.

Another fun dinner with dad!

Big bite! Even Daddy has got to eat!

Sadie cleaned the plate. Finger lickin' good.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Will She Eat It? Black Cat Licorice Soda

Jones Soda pushes the soda envelope (is there such a thing?) every holiday season. Their turkey and gravy soda for Thanksgiving is just going to far. They actually had the nerve to bottle a brussel sprout soda last year! This Halloween, I had to pick up a 6-pack of their Black Cat Licorice Soda to try. The question is, will Lillie like it?

Was their any doubt? Next up: Sardines!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

I don't want anyone thinking I'm reinventing the wheel or doing anything fancy, but when I tell people we made Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream last night, their eyes light up and their taste buds shudder. A source of creative ice cream inspiration will always be Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Dessert Book - if you have an ice cream maker (you have a homemade ice cream maker, don't you!?) then this is your bible.

They have a pumpkin ice cream recipe, but mixing canned pumpkin into a sweet cream base just doesn't cut it. I need bite-sized pieces of pumpkin pie in my pumpkin pie ice cream. Here is how to make that dream come true.

The first step is to buy a pumpkin pie. Freeze for 30 minutes and then cut it in half.

Remove the dense edge of the crust and slice into bite-sized pieces. Place into freezer.

I used Ben and Jerry's Sweet Cream Base #2 as a starter. Here is the recipe:

2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar

I added 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice and probably another 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg. Mmmmmm, nutmeg.

After chilling the pumpkin spice sweet cream base for 1/2 an hour in the freezer, it was time to drop the base into the ice cream maker.

Within 10 minutes, the mixture is starting to freeze and has doubled in size due to the air being whipped into the mixture.

Once the base has thickened, drop in the "half pie" and mix for another 30 seconds on high.

Transfer into a freezer-safe container and deep-chill for at least 1 hour.

When ready, scoop out, top off with some whipped cream and serve.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Miami Cream Cheese

Todd "The Senator" Halstead came for a quick visit this past weekend and we couldn't help but whip up a batch of Miami cream cheese for old time's sake. An everything bagel loaded with this savory spread was a staple during our Framingham recording sessions back in the late 90's.

Miami Cream Cheese

1 block of regular cream cheese, softened on the counter for 15 minutes
3 small scallions
1 cup smoked salmon
2 tablespoons of horseradish

These small scallions add some crunch and savory goodness.

Get yourself a good fresh prepared horseradish - if it has been in the fridge for more than 3 months, replace it for recipes like this.

Chop up the salmon into bite sized pieces and thinly slice the scallions.

Lillie monitors the whipping process. Whip until blended and the salmon begins to flake.

The final product won't be around for long.

Fresh veggies for the most flavorful sandwich ever.

Slice and toast your everything bagels in the oven!

Now that's a sandwich!

Sadie ate the whole thing.

A skilled bagel muncher, Lillie shows off her one-handed sandwich skills.

Halstead only ate two fingers this time.