Monday, December 28, 2009

Gourmet Gin is Simmering a Pot of Tom Yum Soup

I am surrounded by people with the flu, people with Mono (for over an entire YEAR) people that are now on their second cold, people that are plagued with allergies, people who claim their immune systems are "just out of whack" and then there is me.

I happy, healthy, smiling merrily on my way.  Well, I might not be smiling "merrily" on my way, because I am the one taking care of all these people. (Which explains my lack of blogging.  Well, that and the fact that I have a new camera that might take me all of 2010 to learn how to use!)

This brings me to the topic of the day.  Tom Yum Soup.  Tom Yum Soup is being studied has you read this blog for it's ability to boost your immune system.  It is thought that the soup can fight cold and flu viruses and quite possibly cancer.   I really can't say enough on how scrumptious this soup is.  Here is my recipe, but there are one hundred different ways to prepare Tom Yum Soup.

Gin's Tom Yum Soup Recipe

•4 cups good-tasting chicken stock (I used homemade)
•1 stalk lemongrass, minced, OR 3 Tbsp. frozen prepared lemongrass (available at Asian stores)
•3 kaffir lime leaves (available fresh or frozen at Asian stores)
•10 cloves garlic, minced
•1-2 red chilies, finely sliced, and 1 teaspoon dried crushed chili
•3 Tbsp. fish sauce (available at all Asian/Chinese food stores and some supermarket chains)
•12 medium raw shrimp, shells removed
•1/2 cup coconut milk (more to your taste)
• 2 packages of ramen noodles, spice packets saved for another day
• fresh limes
• fresh cilantro 
•optional: extra vegetables of your choice (I put none in this batch because of Mr. Picky Head) 
(1.)Pour stock into a deep cooking pot and bring to a boil.  (2.)  Add the lemongrass and boil for 1-2 minutes. If using fresh lemongrass, also add the tops of the stalks for extra flavor.  (3.)Add garlic, chili, lime leaves and Ramen Noodles. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until Ramen is cooked.  (4.)  Add the shrimp (plus other vegetables if using). Simmer 3-4 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and plump.  (5.) Reduce heat to medium-low and add the coconut milk plus fish sauce and lime juice. Stir well to combine and gently simmer until hot. Test the soup for salt and spice and adjust to your taste.  (6.)  Serve in bowls with fresh cilantro and lime slices. For an extra hit of spicy add some Thai chili sauce.  (7.)  ENJOY!
I have to tell you that this soup isn't worth making without the kaffir lime leaves.  These leaves are a little bigger than bay leaves and have such an unique smoky flavor.  I am in search of other recipes that would use kaffir lime leaves.  They are extremely hard to find unless you are "lucky" enough to live by Jungle Jims in which case you just walk in and get yourself a little pack. I did find out that you can order these leaves on Amazon.  They would be well worth the hassle and you can freeze them for future use. 
A wise man (my favorite Sushi Chef) recently told me that Tom Yum Soup is also thought to bring luck to one's life.  I am adding to my New Year's Day menu along with my Peppered Black-eyed Pea Salad.  Food traditions are so much fun and it is a way to get picky eaters to at least try one BITE!
I am wishing everybody the best 2010 EVER!

Now, on to my new obsession which is Bento Box Lunches. Who is in?

Stay tuned for a blog post brought to you by Red Gold Tomatoes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Breakfast Bowl for Champions Served to You by Gourmet Gin

When it comes to breakfast (brunch) I tend to take many chances with my family's menu.  My culinary inventiveness (actually it is just a desire to use all leftovers) trumps traditional breakfast fare on most days.

This week, for some odd reason, we had fresh delicious corn on the cob at the market.  Go figure, I have never seen it in December EVER!!  It has been nice here (Cincinnati) so I fired up my grill.  I treated my family to a summer dinner of steak, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes.

I am using family loosely here because my oldest son is away at college, and my senior in high school has a job, a girlfriend, and a schedule that on most days has me feeding him separate.  This has been hard because family dinners have been an important tradition through the years to me and my husband.  Times change, and I am going to change with them.

 I can see that I am really going to have to practice cooking for two!  I had several ears of corn left and there was no way I was going to let those go to waste.

The breakfast bowl consist of my 2 packets of low fat Ramen Noodles, fresh corn on the cob, fried egg, spicy relish and fresh limes.

Gin's Spicy Relish

4 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

(1) Mix all ingredients and let marinate  for 1/2 hour.  (2) Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, add oil and then sear remaining ingredients for 4 to 5 minutes stirring frequently.  (3)  ENJOY!

I use this relish on just about everything.  I love it, guess who doesn't?

That's right, Mr. Picky Head.  Imagine that??  His loss!  While I am enjoying perfectly cooked fish with a spicy topping, he is just eating fish.  While I am enjoying a taco with an additional fresh topping,  he is eating the same old "boring" taco.  (I think I will stop here since he is helping me with the purchase of a new camera!)

I divided the Ramen Noodles in three bowls and topped mine with the spicy relish, corn, fried egg and fresh lime slices.  The other two bowls were topped with corn and fried egg.  Why?  Mr. Picky Lucas Head is his father's son.

They are two picky peas in a pod.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  Here the two are at a picture taking event at his girlfriend's (Betsy) house for senior Homecoming. Betsy's Mother ( in the background) was kind enough to host this event at her house.

This dish is perfect anytime of the day.  I want to serve it with poached eggs, but I am terrible at this process!  The relish gives it just enough kick to get your taste buds going and the lime adds a subtle fresh flavor.

So go ahead, dare to serve this "different" breakfast to your family.  Hopefully you don't have Picky Heads in your house!!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Potato, Two Potato, Sweet Potatoes Galore. . . .

Everybody in the Cincinnati area is talking about White Castle Sweet Potato Fries. . . .

If you want to read my take on them go here, if not continue on for a tradition of sweet potato fries inspired by healthy eating.

Gin's Baked Sweet Potato Fries

3 medium sweet potatoes
Chinese Five Spice, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon Virgin Olive Oil

(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Put your baking pan in oven to also preheat.  (2) Peel and slice sweet potatoes in thick fries. (3)  Coat fries in olive oil.  Mix fries with Chinese Five Spice, salt and pepper.  (4)  Remove heated baking pan and spray with cooking spray and add fries in a single layer.  (5)  Cook until tender crisp (for my oven it was 25 minutes) and then turn broiler on and brown fries for 3 minutes each side.  (6)  ENJOY!

This cooking method is "perfect" for sweet potato fries.  They are tender crisp and quite fresh and mouth watering.  You lose none of the outstanding nutritional value that sweet potatoes offer and they are a great value for your grocery dollar.   What more could you ask for? A dipping sauce?  The combination of the aromatic Chinese Five Spice, salt, pepper and olive oil has such a flavorful twist; you won't miss the dipping sauce. I promise!

These fries are a blank canvas for your culinary creativity and taste for different spices. You could coat them in a Spicy Stir Fry mix, an Oriental Blend, or a Hunan Sweet and Sour Blend.  Your spice cabinet is the limit!

Quite possibly you might like your sweet potatoes fried, and in that case if you have a White Castle in your area, I do suggest that you give them a try.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ode to the "Pumpkin Roll"

I get excited every year for the "pumpkin season."  At the beginning of October I stock up on cans and cans of pumpkin.  I bake, I roast, I puree, I slow cook and I eat and eat and eat PUMPKIN!  Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin butter, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, PUMPKIN, PUMPKIN, PUMPKIN!

Then there is the "dreaded" pumpkin roll. :-(

I am never making the pumpkin roll again. Why?  You don't have to look too closely to see that my pumpkin roll isn't actually a roll.  It is more like layers of pumpkin cake glued together with thick rich frosting.  Oh sure, the taste is delightful (that is if you aren't sick of pumpkin) but isn't the point of a pumpkin roll,  is that it actually be a roll?

If your pumpkin roll looks good enough to serve to the President of the United States, like my friend Mary's pumpkin roll looks, then sure you are in for a lifetime of pumpkin rolls. I mean why not.  If your pumpkin roll looks like a work of art, then heck, you might as well serve it all year long.  I don't think anybody would raise an eyebrow if Mary showed up at a Fourth of July picnic with her pumpkin roll!  While I am on the subject of Mary from One Perfect Bite, go take a look at this Pot Roast.  Get ready to shake your head is AMAZEMENT!

On the other hand, I would probably get a few snickers and giggles on why the heck I was showing up to a Fourth of July picnic with a pumpkin roll?  Here have a piece.

There will be no pumpkin pie for this girl on Thanksgiving.  There will be pumpkin pie on the dessert table, but none for me.  I happen to have first hand knowledge that there will be a Chocolate Truffle Cake which sounds like a wonderful sweet ending to a much anticipated "family" get together.

Guess who is coming home?  WE CAN NOT WAIT!  Andy is more excited to have a decent meal other than frozen food which is what he feeds himself day in day out. 

Happy Thanksgiving EVERYBODY!

(PS The Pumpkin Roll recipe can be found here)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Move Over T.G.I. Friday’s® There Is A New Green Bean In Town

Have you ever had T.G.I. Friday’s® Green Bean Fries? Did you like them? I guess as far as appetizers go, I would give them a 2 out 4 stars. Let's face it; anything deep fried with cold beer hits the spot.

What if you could bring the garden freshness of green beans to you very own "happy hour" with 1/4 of the fat but twice the flavor?

Gin's Happy Hour Baked Green Bean Fries

1/2 pound fresh green beans
2 eggs
1 cup seasoned flour
1 1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 cup light Ranch Dressing
1 teaspoon Sriracha Hot chili Sauce

(1) Place baking pan in oven and preheat to 450 degrees. (2) While oven and pan are preheating place flour in large food storage bag. Place Panko Bread Crumbs in large food storage bag. Mix the two eggs in a bowl. (3) Spray green beans with cooking spray and put in bag with seasoned flour. Shake. (4) Transfer Beans to bowl with eggs and saturate. (5) Move Green Beans to bag with Panko Crumbs and shake to coat. (6) Place green beans on hot baking pan and bake approximately 12 to 18 minutes, or until green beans are crisp and a brilliant brown. (7) Mix Sriracha Chili sauce with ranch dressing. (8) Serve Green Beans with dipping sauce and fresh sliced cucumbers. (9) ENJOY!!

(Note: The key to getting these browned and crisp is the heated baking pan.)

There is good news and bad news for Gin's Happy Hour Baked Green Bean Fries.

I am going to give you the good news first. This is a healthy inspired appetizer with a big dose of delicious flavor. I will give you a personal guarantee that you won't miss the fat or the calories. I also guarantee that your guests will rave and want your "secret" to such light satisfying appetizer.

Now, here comes the bad news. These little gems are time consuming. They are best served directly from the oven while they are crisp and piping hot. They might not be worth the effort for a "big" get together but are certainly perfect for a small gathering.

I served them to Mr. Crabby Head and guess what?

This is a smile of one happy eater, because Gin's Happy Hour Baked Green Bean Fries  passed his picky palate with flying colors.

This is the sad face of a loyal kitchen companion and willing taste tester because the "darn" vet put an end to his happiness with one quick statement.  "Kramer needs to stick with dog food only."  He also seems a little embarrassed by the fact that I dressed him up in a doggy shirt to keep him warm.

Poor Kramie!
Happy Tuesday EVERYBODY!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Story of the Little Black Dress and Homemade Pickle Salad

The Holidays are fast approaching. Christmas is exactly 44 days away for today!

A theme that seems to resonate through the holidays is the dreaded weight gain. (At least for me!) Let's face it; we are faced with a variety of eats, treats and drinks. The best made "waist watcher" plan goes out the window when you stand front and center of a fabulous holiday buffet table.

Before you know it, that little black dress you bought needs to be a bit bigger!

Oh yes, you can put your tennis shoes on and tack on another mile to your run.

Or you can vow to eat healthy for the days that the treats aren't calling your name.

Gin's Spicy Pickle Salad

1 pound salad cucumbers, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
1/2 Daikon Radish, sliced
1 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
 piece 2 inch fresh ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Fresh chopped cilantro

(1) In medium saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, salt, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. (2) Pour over vegetable mix and stir. (3) Move to refrigerator and marinate one hour stirring frequently. (4) Drain mix and toss with 1 teaspoon Sesame oil and top with fresh cilantro. (5) Enjoy!

I usually save the liquid and use it has a marinade for chicken, or as a base for homemade salad dressing.  It is savory and full of flavor and lends itself to a variety of uses.

This pickle salad is spicy, filling and can turn a mundane meal into something delectable without all the calories. You could have a little bowl before you head out to your holiday party to take the edge off your hunger.

With that being said, let the Holiday begin! :-)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

From Farm Fresh Eggs to Incredible Fresh Egg Salad

Now this is fusion! Who would have thought that combining rich mayonnaise, tangy mustard, fresh herbs, and tantalizing spices with farm fresh eggs would taste so good?

There is nothing not to love about farm fresh eggs. When I say "fresh" I mean FRESH. Most times you will be purchasing eggs that the chicken just gifted the farmer with that very morning. How much fresher do you want than that?

You will notice a difference right away in the quality of the eggs. The yolk is a brilliant shade of yellow that you will never get in store bought eggs. The taste of farm fresh eggs is extraordinarily rich, savory and frankly way more tasty. And yes, they are a little bit more expensive but you are paying for the highest of quality. A side benefit not to be lost in the farm fresh egg's deliciousness, is that you will be supporting local farmers and their families. It doesn't get much better than that!

Or does it? Yes it gets much better when you transform your fresh eggs into distinctive egg salad.

Gin's Egg Salad

8 eggs

6 Tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 Tablespoon fresh chives

1 Table Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Johnny's Great Caesar Garlic Spread & Seasoning

(Note: I use an egg cooker and have perfectly cooked eggs every single time whether I am looking for hard or soft boiled.) (Note: Johnnys Great Caesar Garlic Spread & Seasoning was the missing ingredient to my egg salad. It really racks up the flavor to a delectable knotch of YUMMINESS)

(1) Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Cover pan and bring to a boil then remove pan from heat. (2) Let pan sit 1o minutes then drain water and cover eggs with cold water and ice. (3) When cool, peel eggs under running water and transfer to a bowl. Chop eggs with pastry blender or a fork. (4) Stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. (5) ENJOY!!

An egg is a pretty good bang for your nutritional buck. A medium egg will cost you approximately 60 calories and 4 grams of fat. It is a powerhouse as far as protein, vitamins and minerals go.

Mr. Crabby Head would sooner starve than eat egg salad.

Don't let this happy face fool you. This man has a palate that would put any "picky eater" to shame! He is a meat and potato guy. I have thought about sending him to my friend Dave over at My Year on the Grill because he might be better off learning to cook for himself!

Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Holidays courtesy of Johnny's Great Caesar Garlic Spread & Seasoning

I would like to say a big "Thank You" to MaryBeth from Dunkin Cooking the Semi-Homemade Way for the Johnny's Great Caesar Garlic Spread & Seasoning that I had the incredible opportunity to win!

When my package arrived I eagerly opened it and and got a whiff of Johnny's Great Caesar Garlic Spread & Seasoning and knew I was in for a treat. The seasoning smells delicate but rich in flavor. There is no doubt the seasoning is created using the highest quality ingredients that delivers a taste experience that will have you stocking up your spice cabinet.

On the back of the bottle there are recipes for bread, prawns, dressing, and dip. My brain immediately started going through it's virtual cookbook to see where Johnny's Great Caesar Garlic Spread & Seasoning would make a good recipe so much better. I can see that this seasoning would complement a wide variety of dishes from meats and breads to soups and salads. It has the normal uses that you would think of; like a dash on bread or a sprinkle in sour cream for a flavorful dip, but my culinary curiosity is going so much deeper than those uses.

I can see it in egg salad, mingled in a fish dish, added to my chicken and garlic stew, as a marinade for Mozzarella Balls and so on. . . . . . . . . .

Probably the best thing next to the extraordinary flavor of the seasoning is that there are no calories, no fat and very little sodium. That is what I call a bang for your taste buck!

Since we are getting closer to that magical "day" (50 days) but hey who is counting, you might head over to Johnny's website and check out their incredible gift packs. I for one would be extremely happy to receive one as a gift. Would someone please pass that on to my Husband??

Happy Holidays EVERYBODY and have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"IT IS A GOOD DAY" with Homemade Garlic Bread in the House. . . .

It is a '"GOOD DAY!" Why? Because, my Chinese horoscope said I should start everyday from here on out saying, "IT IS A GOOD DAY!" I actually like that advice!!

It is also a good day because there is homemade garlic bread in the house. By homemade, I mean homemade, start to finish.

Gin's Garlic Bread
(by Once Upon a Gourmet Gin)
2 cups warm water ( I shoot for 115° F)
2 packages active dry yeast
2 tablespoons raw sugar
2 tablespoons honey
5 to 6 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup pesto (preferably homemade)
10 cloves of garlic, very very very thinly sliced
2 cups Italian Cheese

(1) Mix together yeast, sugar and honey and let sit five to ten minutes until foamy and active. (2) Mix flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in yeast mixture, olive oil and melted butter. Knead by hand or in mixer for no less than 15 minutes. (3) Shape dough in to a ball and place in a well oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled. Punch dough down and divide in half. Cover again and let stand for 20 minutes. (4) On two well greased baking pans place the dough that you have shaped in to loaves. Cover and let rise until doubled again. (5) Preheat over to 425 degrees. Bake bread for 25 minutes or until bread sounds hollow. If bread is getting to brown during baking process cover with foil. (6) Cool 30 minutes or longer. (7) Preheat broiler. split each loaf in half horizontally. Brush with pesto, top with garlic and Italian cheese. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes. (7) ENJOY!!
Frankly, if you are looking for a light dinner, a slice of this bread and a nice Caesar salad will do the trick.

My son found my "expensive" bottle of balsamic vinegar and has claimed it has his own. He treated us to a bowl to dip our bread in and it was tantalizingly good. (I might have a Chef in the making!!)

If you are lucky enough to have leftover bread, you can cut it into cubes, toss with olive oil and bake at 450 degrees until crispy and crunchy. HOMEMADE CROUTONS!

PS I have a new camera and clearly do not know how to operate it. Pretty much every picture I take is blurry which can be just a little depressing but "IT IS A GOOD DAY!"
Have a great week. . . . . . . . :-)

PSS The fresh garlic on this bread is enough to chase any Vampire away but why would you want to do that??

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gin Versus Magic Mayonnaise AND the winner is. . . .

With it getting to be that time of the year (HOLIDAYS!!) my freezer is slowly filling up with home baked cookies for my holiday treat trays.

I know what you are thinking; "Gin if you are blogging about holiday cookies, why am I looking at a veggie tray?"

Yesterday started out innocently enough as I was looking for some new holiday cookie recipes. If you are like me, you have 100's of those recipe booklets that are right by the check out at the grocery store.

In my many stacks of these recipe booklets, I came across this one and started to browse through it.

This is where the trouble starts!! Right dab smack in the middle of this booklet is a recipe for Magic Mayonnaise. I was intrigued to say the least. Magic Mayonnaise is one of those recipes where you would hope that one of your fellow food bloggers would try first, but seeing that I can't imagine anybody making mayonnaise from Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk, I pressed forward.

Lucky for me, right there on the center shelf of my pantry were all the ingredients for this unique concoction.

Magic Mayonnaise

2/3 cup Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice (I used apple cider vinegar)

1/4 salad oil or melted butter (I used canola oil)

2 tablespoons refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed (I used refrigerated)

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 salt

Dash cayenne pepper

The directions were as followed:

Place ingredients in a pint jar. Cover tightly, then shake vigorously for 2 minutes. If desired, ingredients may be place in a mixing bowl and beat with a rotary blender until mixture thickens. For a thicker consistency, chill for 1 hour before serving.

I went ahead and doubled this recipe because 2/3 cup of Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk is approximately 1/2 of the can. What the heck was I going to do with the other half?

To say Magic Mayonnaise in incredible just would not cover how good it is! It is sweet and savory with a kick of taste from the vinegar. To be down right honest, it is frightfully addicting! It is one of those things that you just can't stop eating, trust me!

I took my Magic Mayonnaise and made a veggie dip. I mixed half of the Magic Mayonnaise with one packet of ranch dressing, 1 8-ounce carton light sour cream (figured I should save the calories where I could,) 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, two green onions that were finely chopped, and garlic pepper to taste. It was YUM and like no other veggie dip you have ever had before!

I over ate Magic Mayonnaise yesterday and that is all I can say about that. When I do that, I TRY and make up for it by adding an extra mile to my daily runs. So, why are my shoes sitting on the computer room floor?

It is POURING RAIN :-( Even after an entire 24 hours of my Magic Mayonnaise eat fest, I still feel it in the bottom of my stomach! YUCK!! Now, am I saying YUCK to the Magic Mayonnaise? NO! I am saying YUCK to how much magic mayonnaise I ate!

In the words of a friend and fellow food blogger Sherri from Everything in Moderation ; moderation is exactly how I am going to eat Magic Mayonnaise from here on out.

Have a great day!

PS The Magic Mayonnaise WON!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Irresistibly Stupendous Salmon Salad Sandwich

Have you ever had one of those days that your body doesn't cooperate with you? You know, a pain here, a twist here or an abnormal cracking of your bones?

I guess that question is only for my friends in their forties and beyond. I am a runner and there are days where my body says "NO!"

"Gin, eat more salmon," said Dr. K.

Dr. K is a good friend of mine and that was his advice. He gave me all the health benefits and so on. . . . . Thanks Dr. K!

This week on the menu was poached salmon. Poached salmon is amazingly tasty. It is a great way to eat salmon. As far as the poaching liquid, you are only limited by your taste buds and imagination.

I had one salmon fillet left.

My goal is to get better at working with my leftovers, so I went to work creating some salmon salad.
Gin's Poached Salmon Salad

1 poached salmon fillet
fresh grated horseradish, to taste
1/4 cup fresh sour cream
1/4 cup light mayo
1 teaspoon sugar
fresh dill, to taste
fresh snipped chives, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
(1) Shred salmon fillet. (2) Mix the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate until ready to create sandwiches. (3) ENJOY!

Salmon salad is right up there with tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad or ham salad. The fresh grated horseradish gives a kick to the taste buds, and the sugar is the secret ingredient that brings it all together.

My sandwich was out of this world. I started with Arnold Select Sandwich Thins. I added two scoops of salmon salad, fresh sliced radishes, fresh sliced cucumbers, a pile of crisp lettuce and a drizzle of Lemon Pepper Dipping Oil from the Little Dipper Company. I am pretty sure this sandwich could find it's way on to a gourmet menu, it is just that good. The Lemon Pepper Dipping Oil was definitely the magic touch that led to the unbelievable taste. I have to say that I have tried a lot of dipping oils in my time and the ones from the Little Dipper Company are so superior in their taste that I will never waste my money on any other flavored oils. The company has an unique way of mixing the right amount of spices and oils to compliment almost any dish in your recipe box.

I am on way to drop a container of fresh poached salmon salad to Dr. K, and you should be on your way to making a side of potato salad to go with your salmon salad. ; -)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

POM Wonderful, Jalapeno Peppers and the University of South Florida

(This blog post is brought to you by POM Wonderful and yours truly, ME!)

Yesterday afternoon my phone rang and it was my Mother, "Gin, what the heck is going on at the University of South Florida?"

Usually, I would know because I am a news hound. If I am at home, I have the news on. Lately, I have tried to modify from that practice because I was either aggravated by politics or feeling bad at a sad story that I had just heard. So, I have been listening to music.

"I have no clue," I told my Mother. "Well, you better turn the news on and find out?" Which I did immediately.

Sure enough there was breaking news pertaining to the University of South Florida. There was a lock down, mayhem, arrests, a bomb squad, helicopters, and a cowboy allegedly carrying a black puppy along with a large hunting knife. Seriously, my best friend is an awesome published romance author, Cathy Liggett , and I am pretty sure not even her creative imagination could make this up!

I knew that my son was in class so I sent him a text and asked what was going on? He said that he was dodging bullets, which was his attempt at a joke. I have to say that he got his sense of humor from his father, not me. I am happy that he is on his way to feeling better and back to his normal self. All I could do is chuckle. I am over 800 miles away and my son is learning life lessons that I could have never taught him.

Up until he got Mono, he like most young adults, felt like he was invincible. Shortly after we got him back to school in August, we got a phone call from him saying that his car had been stolen. Long story short, his car is gone forever and in Tampa they don't even send a police officer to take the report, they do it over the phone! Now in the middle of campus mayhem, 800 miles away, I had to take some deep breaths. You send your babies out in the world and hope for the best. You realize that they are young adults experiencing their own life lessons, lessons that will undoubtedly have a big impact on their lives. As a Mother, you hope for the best and if your a foodie you head for the kitchen. Cooking, creating and baking are most definitely stress relievers for me.

This brings me to POM Wonderful, jalapeno peppers and one awesome tasting-barbecue sauce recipe. The people from POM Wonderful were kind enough to send me a case of 100% Pure Pomegranate Juice. I really can't say enough about their Pomegranate Juice. The fresh tart taste and proven health benefits make it a drink sensation. Once you realize it's versatility in cooking and baking, then your only problem is that you won't have enough! As far as the jalapeno peppers, that was the only thing in my garden that could stand up to my inattentiveness. So, I have a bountiful crop of peppers just waiting to be used.

Gin's Spicy Barbecue Sauce

1 cup whiskey

1 cup POM Wonderful juice

2 bottles of your favorite barbecue sauce

10 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped

4 tablespoons cayenne pepper (you read that right!!)

1 cup honey

(1) Get a saucepan and put on high heat. Pour whiskey and POM Wonderful juice in hot sauce pan and reduce by half. (2) Add barbecue sauce, jalapeno peppers, cayenne pepper, and cup of honey. (3) Simmer at low heat for approximately one hour, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick and fragrant. (4) ENJOY!

I am going to suggest that you don't deviate from this tried and true recipe. Yes, it is spicy (actually right down habanero hot) but it's like nothing that you have ever tasted. It is thick, rich, sweet, and fresh all bottled up in one terrific tasting multi-purpose sauce.

Serving suggestions are as follows: chicken wings, mixed with oil and vinegar for a unique marinade, spread on sandwiches, brushed on grilled meat, as a dipping sauce for pretzel sticks, and so on. . . . .

I would like to say how happy I am with the way that the University of South Florida handled the mayhem on campus yesterday. I feel that my son is completely safe and that the administration is incredible at keeping it that way. When the lock down was over my son headed to the grocery to get a "Butworst to put in the crockpot to make sandwiches." (CHUCKLE)

I said, "You mean a pork butt?" "Yes, that," he proudly said. (CHUCKLE AGAIN)

Have a great day everybody!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pumpkins, Pumpkin Muffins and a World Famous Foodie Speaking Tour

It is October, which means PUMPKINS!! One of my best memories as a young child was visiting the pumpkin patch. Back then, it was about painting the pumpkins, with very little carving. This is my first carved pumpkin of the season. I am about to expose the one trick that will make you a Master Pumpkin Carver, patience. Pumpkin carving takes time, and a lot of it.

My pantry is stocked with cans of pumpkin and I am ready for the pumpkin season. This weekend I made pumpkin muffins with strudel topping for my nieces and nephews. There is one thing that I have learned about muffins and kids, they love the strudel topping. This batch of pumpkin muffins comes with a double batch of strudel topping.

Gin's Pumpkin Pie Muffins with Rich Strudel Topping
1-2/3 cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
1 cup plain pumpkin
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup chocolate chips

Strudel Topping
1 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp. flour
4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. melted butter

(1)Heat oven to 350. (2) In medium bowl mix flour, sugar, pie spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. (3) In another bowl mix eggs, pumpkin and butter. Whisk until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. (4) Pour over dry ingredients and fold in. Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups half way full. (5) Top with Strudel topping and bake 20 to 25 minutes. When muffins come out of the oven gently push a pumpkin candy in muffin top. (6) Let cool slightly before serving. (7) ENJOY!

It is hard to believe that fall is here and the holidays are right around the corner. The saying "Time Flies" is losing it's meaning with me. I blink and it is months later! This brings me to my absence from food blogging. I would like to say that I have been on a world famous food blogging speaking tour, or that I have been working on a cookbook that is already on the best seller list. The truth of course is a little more boring, but equally important, I have been a mother. As some of you might know my son was diagnosed with Mono last November. He came home from college for the summer and I spent the last months nursing him back to health. I am happy to report that he is much better and back to the University of South Florida to start his junior year in college.

Happy Fall everybody!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Succulant Smoked Salmon and There is a Winner in Pay It Forward!!

It is Saturday afternoon and I am busy preparing for a day of "family" birthday celebrations. In my family we usually lump birthdays together and have a big day of celebration. Of course, the day is all about the food and the cake.

Today's celebration is a "little" special because we are adding a new teenager to the mix.

Jake's (my nephew) birthday is very special for two reasons. The number one reason is obvious, he is now a teenager! The number two reason is that thirteen years ago Jake entered the world weighing barely two pounds. Jake was a preemie. It is hard to believe now that he had such a shaky start, because he is growing like a weed grows in my garden, FAST!!

Of course, I have to mention Nick, my now ten year old nephew.

Nick now lives each day in the double digits (10) has he likes to say. Nick is the sweetest and smartest ten year old boy that I know. Ok, I know he is my nephew and I might be a little partial to him!

Thanks to my brother-in-law, I have a freezer of fresh wild caught Salmon!

Rob just got back from a very successful Alaskan fishing trip which brings me to my Smoked Salmon.

I am taking a big platter of homemade smoked salmon to the birthday celebration.

Word of warning!! This smoked salmon is fresh with rich smoked flavor. You will need a charcoal grill to to get that rich smokey flavor.

Gin's Smoked Salmon

1 salmon fillet, 2 to 3 pounds

2 cups rum

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup Chardonnay Oak Smoked Sea Salt

1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

(1) Rinse salmon and pat dry. Put salmon in baking dish and cover with rum. Let marinate in rum for 45 minutes. Drain salmon and pat dry. (2) Mix brown sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl. This is your cure. Put salmon in baking dish and cover salmon with cure. Cover with plastic wrap and put in to refrigerator for 4 hours. (3) Soak 3 cups of your favorite wood chips in water for 1 hour. (4) Prepare charcoal grill for indirect heat. (5) Rinse the cure off the salmon with cold water and blot dry. Brush your grill grate with oil and place salmon in the center of grate. Add drained wood chips to hot coals and cover grill. (6) Smoked Salmon for approximately 20 minutes or until it flakes easily. (7) Cool and ENJOY!

I served the Smoked Salmon on a big platter with capers, red onion, chopped hard boiled egg, cucumbers, lemons and pumpernickel bread! Delicious! This salmon will save for three to four days in the refrigerator, so you can enjoy it with your morning bagels if you so do choose.

On to Pay It Forward. I put every body's name in a hat and picked a winner the old fashion way. I wish I could show you the process, but once again I have a dead camera battery! (So AGGRAVATING!) DRUM ROLL PLEASE. . . . . . . THE WINNER IS. . . . . KIM FROM the Ungourmet!! Kim has a great blog and if you haven't had a chance to check it out, head there now! Kim drop me an email with your address and I will send a package your way.

Have a great week!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

And the secret ingredient is. . . . GREENS!

Before you say gross, let me explain.

Girlichef is hosting the BSI (Blogger Secret Ingredient) and I just couldn't resist participating in this. First, Dar is the absolute best and if you don't believe just grab my badge! That is right! You can grab my badge because Dar created it for me. THANKS A MILLION TIMES OVER FOR THAT DAR. Second, I love greens.

I also love all kinds of pesto. As a matter of fact, I am kind of a pesto expert. I always have frozen homemade pesto cubes in my freezer. I am always making new pesto recipes. Pesto is what I order, if it is on the menu, when we go out to eat. Which brings me to my Mustard Greens Pesto recipe.

A couple of months ago we were in Tampa, Florida at a local seafood restaurant where I ordered fresh fish with pesto and pasta. It was delicious. The pesto had such an unique taste that I asked to speak to the Chef.

"Chef, may I inquire about this delicious pesto," I asked?

"Yes you may. It is Mustard Greens Pesto but I can not give away my recipe. It is my signature item."

When I got home, I went to work on my own mustard greens pesto recipe.

Gin's Mustard Greens Fresh Pesto

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup almonds

2 garlic cloves, roasted

3 tablespoons raspberry balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons honey

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups coarsely chopped mustard greens

salt and pepper to taste

(1) Blend 1/2 cup olive oil, almonds, and garlic in a processor until finely chopped. (2) Add vinegar, Parmesan cheese and thoroughly blend. Add mustard greens with remaining oil. Season with honey,cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. (3) ENJOY!

There you have, my entry into this week's BSI. Let me tell you what I like about this pesto. First of all, it really has a kick in the flavor department. It is relatively cheap to make. It is off the chart in the versatility of uses.

I hope that everybody is have a great summer and a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Summer is passing by with Swedish Meatballs, Fishing and Pay It Forward

I would like to take this quick opportunity to tell my blogging friends that summer is getting in the way of my blogging AND more importantly reading all my favorite blogs! Between a triathlon, a son coming home from college, another son running around like there is no tomorrow AND MY LOVE FOR

FISHING, the summer already feels like it is speeding by. YIKES!! Anyway, I would like to say that I am always happy when I get a chance to read all my favorite blogs and if I don't visit for awhile it is only because of all that is going on in my little world. The great thing is, everything that is going on, is good, and for that I am grateful!

Ever since I went to Ikea to shop for my "new" kitchen and stumbled upon their Swedish Meatballs, I have been on a hyper quest to create my own recipe. Ikea serves their meatballs with freshly boiled potatoes and a huge heaping of lingonberry jam. They are DELICIOUS!!

The thing is, I knew that I could do better. The only reason I knew I could do better is that I could use fresh and more healthy ingredients for the meatballs.

Gin's Swedish Meatballs

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 sleeve of saltine crackers,
1 1/2 cup fat free half-n-half, divided
1 egg

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon onion powder
salt & pepper to taste
3 cups beef broth less sodium

1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoon flour
4 tablespoons water
2 egg yolks
dash lemon juice

(1) Add meat, crackers, 1/2 cup half-n-half, egg, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, salt/pepper and roll into small meatballs. (2) Gently brown in a nonstick pan . (3) Move meatballs to pot with beef broth and simmer for 45 minutes. (4) Remove meatballs. (5) Add to a jar flour, water, wine and lemon juice. Shake until flour is dissolved and add the beef broth. Stir constantly until thicken. (6) Remove a cup of gravy. Mix egg yolks. Slowly add gravy to egg yolks to temper and not scramble! (7) Add mixture back to gravy and continue to stir until well mixed. (8) Add meatballs to gravy and simmer until ready to serve. (9) ENJOY!

I served these meatballs with fresh boiled potatoes and a large slice of 9 grain bread from the farmers market. I skipped the lingonberry jam, not because I didn't like it with the meatballs when I ate them at Ikea, it was because I didn't have any. AND honey would rather not have his dinner served with jam (go figure?)

I realize that these meatballs are a comfort food that you would serve more during the cold winter months. If you get tired of grilling (which whoever would) give these a try. I have to tell you that the Swedish are on to something by putting cream into their meatballs. It makes the texture of the meatballs so moist and rich. They practically melt in your mouth.

On to Pay it Forward or PIF for short. I was so lucky to be the winner of Dar's Pay It Forward. In short, to be a part of PIF all you have to do is make a comment on this blog post. On June 28, I will make a random draw of a winner to receive a gift of some sort from me. According to the rules, I have 365 days to send the gift, but I can guarantee you that it won't take me that long. If you are the winner of PIF, you then will host a PIF on your blog where you get to send a gift! FUN!!

I hope that everyone has a wonderful summer full of family, friends and fun!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Sunday Triathlon and a Devil of a Cupcake

Male-Female Division KEN AND GIN 3:34:26 3:42:23 = 7:16:49

So, there are the results of our second Triathlon that we participated in yesterday! We improved our score by over forty minutes from our first Triathlon. Obviously, we are extremely pleased with our performance, and we are still speaking to each other. The day was beautiful and "most" of the other participants were extremely nice and fun to be around. What more could you ask for? Well, maybe to be a little less sore today, but I am not complaining.

When I crossed the finish line I did a little dance. I think that the onlookers thought that I might be delirious, and questioned my behavior. That was until they heard my song that went with my dance!

"Oh yes, oh yes, I am officially retired from Triathlons! Oh yes, oh yes, I am never doing another Triathlon! LA DE DA, LA DE DA!"

If I even mention doing the October Triathlon, I would really appreciate someone bringing me to my senses. I would like to thank you in advance for telling me, "GIN, DON'T DO THE OCTOBER TRIATHLON!"

The one benefit, among many, from doing a Triathlon is that you can treat yourself to some goodies without guilt. When you are training for it, you are burning extra calories, and race day brings a huge calorie burn.

This Devil's Food Cupcake comes from Martha Stewart's new book. I have never been a fan of Martha Stewart. It isn't because I don't think she is awesome, because I do. Her way of entertaining and mine are bipolar opposite. I haven't used my good china in the entire twenty three years that I have been married! I have always admired people who entertain with a perfectly set table and good china, it just isn't me.

The cookbook is awesome and is filled with 175 different cupcakes. The photos are incredible and the recipes are amazing. I think I need to practice making my Chocolate Ganache Frosting. Mine didn't quite turn out like Martha's. I am not exactly sure what I did wrong, but the taste was still rich and delicious. The book is definitely worth the price if you are a baker of any kind. I think that cupcakes are the "perfect" treat. They travel well, make great gifts, an awesome birthday treat, and are the right size.

Now, I need to go soak in a very hot tub to heal these sore muscles. I hope that everybody has a great week!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Tangy Grilled Lime Turkey Burger and the Review of "Cult" Condiment #2

A wise man recently asked me, "Is there anyway you can shorten your blog posts?"

"Hmmm. . . let me give it a try," I replied.

What moves this delectable moist grilled Turkey Burger out of the mainstream is Patak's hot Lime Relish.

This is "Cult" condiment review #2. Refer here to information on "Cult" condiments.

This is probably one of the most unique relishes that has ever graced my palate. There is enough zip in this relish to satisfy your "spice" tooth and then some. The lime gives it a fresh tang second to nothing I have ever tasted. A little goes a long way. I see the uses for this relish has unlimited when fueled by your culinary creativity.

Tangy Grilled Lime Turkey Burger

1 lb fresh ground turkey

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped

1 cup cilantro, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Patak's Hot Lime Relish

1 egg

2 cups Panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 tablespoon brown sugar

(1) Combine all ingredients for burger except turkey in a food processor. Add Turkey and gently form into five small thick patties. (2) Spray burgers with cooking spray and grill four to five minutes on each side. (3) Serve on homemade buns with lettuce, fresh tomatoes and a slight dab of Kewpie Mayonnaise. (4) ENJOY!!!

In closing this "short" blog post, Patak's Lime Relish is definitely worth a try. It is worth the search to add to your pantry.

PS I now ask the wise man "How is this for a "short" blog post?"

Friday, May 29, 2009

It is all about Friendship, Laughter, an Award, and a Cupcake Video

When I discovered blogging sometime back, and eventually had the nerve to start my own blog in December 2008, I had no idea the impact that it would have on me. I have been a stay-at-home Mother for over twenty years focusing on raising my two sons. I was pretty much living my life in a little bubble of Motherhood and Wifehood.

I have met some really extraordinary friends though blogging. These friends are extremely creative, kind, compassionate and have brought a richness to my life. These people are teachers, chefs, lawyers, bakers, cooks, mothers, fathers and so on. . . . They come from all over the United States and the world for that matter.

For instance, I feel that I could just make my way to South Bend, Indiana for visit with Dar that would have us laughing and talking for hours. I feel like I have known her for years! Not only does she have one awesome blog, now she has two blogs. Make sure to take some time to check out her new blog. It is full of incredible pictures and is a great read.

When Dar gave me an award, of course I was honored! Thanks Dar!

I would like to pass this award to Heather from Diary of a Fanatic Foodie. She has incredible recipes, is a lawyer (just in case we need blogging representation) and has one darn cute dog named Roxie. Oh yeah, and we can't forget her husband Nick. Most likely all my blogging friends are her blogging friends, but just in case you have not had the chance to check Heather's blog out, what the heck are you waiting for?

Hope that everybody has a great weekend! If you want something to bring a smile to your face take time to watch It is precious and cute.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Don't Have to Go to Japan to get this Potato Salad!!!

Bear with me here!

I tore this page from the April 2009 issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine and headed to Jungle Jims. I was bound and determined to find four of the six "Cult Condiments" that I have never heard of, let alone tried or tasted!

I am a huge Nutella fan and thanks to Heather an even more so fan of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce! That left me on a quest for four "Cult Condiments" which brings me to the first of which I would like to share with you.

Kewpie Mayonnaise comes from Japan and it is awful! It is awful for bathing suit season, awful for your diet, and most likely awful for your cholesterol. It is so awful, it is off the charts mouth-watering delicious. Kewpie Mayonnaise is dense and rich with a slight tang to tickle your taste buds. According to Every Day with Rachael Ray, Kewpie Mayonnaise "is tangier, sweeter and more flavorful than American mayonnaise." I will have to raise my hand high in agreement with that assessment! Now, for the bad news. One tablespoon will cost you 100 calories and 10 grams of FAT! (YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT)

Undeniably, Jungle Jims has some of the best customer service EVER! So, I was surprised when I asked for help finding the Kewpie Mayonnaise and the young lady told me, "You do not want that."

"I am a food blogger," I said proudly. I immediately thought how stupid that sounded. But, I wear the badge of "food blogger" proudly! What can I say?

"No, you don't want it because it is too good to eat," she told me. "I bought some the other day and I can not stop eating it. I use it to make my bologna and cheese sandwiches and they are gourmet good."

"What is the problem?" I thought to myself. This is when she handed me the bottle and pointed to the nutritional facts. We exchanged a glance that indicated we both knew what the problem was. That didn't stop me. I work under the saying "Everything in Moderation."

On to Japanese Potato Salad.

Gin's Japanese Potato Salad

5 medium firm potatoes, peeled and diced

1 carrots, finely sliced

1 red onion, grated

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

8 radishes, thinly sliced

6 farm fresh eggs, boiled and thinly sliced

1 cup Kewpie Mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

(1) Boil the potatoes approximately 20 to 25 minutes. The last 10 minutes add the carrot. (2) Drain potatoes and carrots and place in bowl to cool. Add salt and pepper. (3) Add grated onion, cucumber, radishes, Kewpie Mayonnaise and sour cream. Stir. (4) Top with sliced eggs. (5) ENJOY!

I took a big bowl of that potato salad to our Memorial Day celebration at my sister's house so "Why is my brother-in-law giving me that look?" He just found out what the big bowl of potato salad that he just ate consisted of! Rob has been on a meticulously determined diet with such will and resolve, that he has dropped over 40 pounds!

To take a word from my seventeen year old son.

"Sorry Rob!"

I have since done some more research on Japanese potato salad. Here are the changes I will make for this decadent treat. I am not going to put the cucumbers in the salad. Why? They don't stay firm and there is something about biting into a limp cucumber. If you don't believe me just ask Donna! And, I am going to take some of the potatoes and mash them like the do in Japan. In place of the cucumbers I will add a lot more radishes and carrots.

There you have it, JAPANESE POTATO SALAD. It is definitely worth a try for an unbelievable treat. The magazine suggests using the Kewpie Mayonnaise "as a dipping sauce with fried foods or in any mayo-based salad."

Stay tuned for reviews on Patak's Hot Lime Relish, Branston Pickle Relish and Vegemite. Have a wonderful day!