Friday, May 30, 2008

I know.

I haven't posted. In almost 2 weeks. That's ridiculous, isn't it?

I just started a new job, working as a caseworker at a county Child Protective Services agency. I'm working in the abuse division, which is where I wanted to be. It's been hard getting used to the emotional toll of it all, and by the time I make it home at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is cook.

I do promise to be back next week with some new recipes and pictures. And even more exciting - I'm going to a cooking class on Sunday with a bunch of my friends. My father won a 10-person gourmet cooking class and our chosen menu is Seafood. I'm looking forward to a great afternoon and plenty of pictures.

Until next week, have a great weekend and hug your children for me, would ya?

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I'm taking a break from my normal postings to share with you the incredible weekend I had. It's not entirely food related, but I hope you enjoy it just the same.

I'm a very lucky individual. I grew up with two parents who loved each other and their children unconditionally. I can remember them trying to make sure they spent weekly quality time with the family. Every Friday night was "Family Night" in our house, and my parents would always come up with new ways to have fun and be together. We'd go bowling or out to dinner, or else we'd stay at home and have "Game Night," which was always a good time. Summers were probably my favorite, though, since it usually meant camping.

We hit a few places over the years, but none were more exciting than Knoebels. Just saying the name takes me back many many years to the fun I had growing up there. We always went with another family who had a daughter my age, and I can remember feeling so mature and grown-up when my parents would let us walk around the park by ourselves. And that's the type of park that Knoebels is. It's family-oriented, small, and meant to feel like you've stepped back in time.

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We went this weekend, taking my nephew, who is a very mature 13, and my niece, who is a 9. This is their second summer there, but they absolutely love it.

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There is no cost of admission. The rides are pay as you go, ranging from 90 cents (seriously!!) to $1.40 for most of the good ones. Or you can buy a "Ride-all-Day" handstamp. This weekend, the cost of the stamp was only $19. And it's not one of those parks that tries to hustle an already captive audience. Picnic lunches are allowed and encouraged. But should you desire a bite to eat, there is no shortage of cheap food options.

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When's the last time you saw a menu with full meals and hot sandwiches this cheap? Hand-formed burgers were only $4, and judging by the delight on both my father's and my nephew's faces, they must be incredibly tasty!

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I can still remember the year my best friend and I finally worked up the courage to go through the haunted house. The campy music and the creepy mannequins were enough to throw us straight into a fear frenzy. I went through it again this year, and it hasn't changed one blessed moment.

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I know many of you aren't anywhere near being close enough to go to Knoebels for the full experience and I don't intend for this post to be an ad campaign for them. Rather, it's moments like these that make me realize just how fun the small pleasures in life can be. Oftentimes, we're so focused on the future that we forget to take time to enjoy the present and remember the past. So even if you don't have the time to take yourself back to those places and events that were so much fun as a child, try to take a few moments to remember just how much you loved them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Horseradish-Crusted Salmon

I don't think it's any big secret that I love fish, especially tilapia. But I thought it was high time I made a recipe with something other than tilapia!

Salmon is such a great-tasting fish. It's very versatile and is super easy to prepare. If you're looking for a great-tasting yet easy and quick to make salmon recipe, here you go. The topping takes about 5 minutes to whip up, and then 15 minutes to cook. That means you can have this on the table in about 20 minutes, if my math is correct. So go ahead, give this tasty recipe a try!

Horseradish Salmon III

Horseradish-Crusted Salmon
Serves 4

2 (6 oz ea) salmon filets
2 tbsp horseradish
1/2 c italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tbsp stone-ground mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat broiler. Combine horseradish, bread crumbs, lemon zest, mustard, and garlic in a small bowl. Season salmon with salt and pepper and place in lightly-oiled baking dish. Firmly pat horseradish mixture on top of both filets. Place under broiler. Cook about 12-15 minutes, until topping is nicely browned and salmon is done. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, May 12, 2008

An Interview with Kate Jacobs

I was honored to be asked to interview Kate Jacobs, the author of Comfort Food. You may recognize the name from her previous book, Friday Night Knitting Club. To be honest, I'm not one for fluffy fiction. Although I'll pick up one every now and then for fun, I usually choose to read foodie books or those that are nonfiction. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a copy of Comfort Food in the mail and I immediately sat down to read it. It's definitely one of those books that are easy to read and you'll find yourself immersed in the middle before you know it.

Coming up with questions for an author was much much harder than I thought. Hopefully you'll enjoy reading these questions and answers.

What are some of your most enjoyable memories spent in the kitchen?
Kate J: I have a photo of myself as a fairly young girl – maybe 6 or so? – and I’m in an apron, my hair up in a ribbon, and I’m baking with my older sister. I really enjoyed those times. The funny thing is that, as a teenager, I was so difficult about learning anything my mom wanted to teach me about cooking or sewing. But I have always loved to bake chocolate chip cookies. I like to make chewy ginger cookies, too. Or brownies. All from scratch. I find it an excellent stress reliever.

Were there special mealtime rituals or traditions that your family shared?
Kate J: You know, we always had a drink before dinner – pop, in my case – accompanied by raw veggies and dip. I have learned, as an adult, that this was my mother’s trick to get the kids to eat their vegetables. The surprise is that not only did it work, but it was a great ritual for being together. We’d all read the paper and watch the news and talk about stuff. My friends used to love to come over for dinner because of “veggies and dip” time.

You've written books about both knitting and cooking. I myself love to knit and cook. How do you find the two interrelated?
Kate J: Well, with both of these, the sum is greater than its parts, that’s for sure. Both knitting and cooking are creative and nurturing and can be great fun and yet incredibly frustrating when things go wrong! And in my new novel, Comfort Food, there are lots of things that go awry on the television cooking show that is the setting for the book. In fact, one of the mishaps is something that once happened to me in real life...but I won't give anything away by telling you what it was!

What would you eat for your last meal on earth?
Kate J: Wow, that’s a tough one. Am I cooking it? Then I’d have my favorite guilty pleasure: al dente pasta with butter and parmigiano-reggiano. Simple and delicious. But if I can choose absolutely anything, I’d have my late grandmother’s chicken soup with homemade noodles, fresh bread, fried chicken, and cherry pie – with scratch crust and cherries from the tree in her yard. All the grandkids spent a good chunk of time at Nanny’s and I’m telling you, we ate well!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I love these things!

I love giving away free stuff. Probably because I love to win free stuff, especially cookbooks. And if you haven't read the comments for both this and the other cookbook giveaway, then you definitely need to. Because they are loaded with all sorts of great ideas for recipes.

Appetizers and tapas are very near and dear to my heart and I loved reading all of your comments. A lot of you seem to favor goat cheese and brie, which are absolute favorites of mine. Hummus also seemed to be a favorite and judging by the number of variations on my sidebar, I think you can tell it's a favorite of mine too.

Now onto the winner. The winner is MK99! Congratulations MK! Here is her entry:

We love tapas. We often make our own meals on the tapa style and of course love to have tapas parties.

There are so many to choose from but I have to fall back on one we love and love to serve.

Prosciutto and Parmesan Pinwheels

1 (17.5 ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
5 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
5 ounces Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons prepared mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil spray.
Roll the thawed pastry out onto a flat surface. Spread Dijon mustard to taste on the pastry sheets. Cover pastry with a layer of prosciutto, then cheese. Roll the sheets, beginning at the long side. Cut into 1 inch thick sections. Arrange the sections on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Sounds absolutely delicious!
To everyone else, thanks for playing and for your delicious recipes and ideals. I'm sure a few of them will be showing up on this blog over the next few weeks!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Psst! Wanna win a cookbook??

I love cookbooks. I think anyone who loves to cook does, even if you don't use them all the time. I rarely cook a recipe as written, but I love reading cookbooks, which are great for inspiration. I used to have well over 500 cookbooks, but a few years ago, I weeded through them, keeping only the ones I adored or used. Since then, I've amassed a few more, but it's nowhere near the amount I used to have.

DK Publishing partnered with the Culinary Institute of America to produce this book, Spain and the World Table, and let me just say 1 word - Wow! If you only get it for the pictures, it's well worth it.


Every year, the CIA selects a nation's cuisine to highlight during their "Worlds of Flavor" conference and festival. Spain was an obvious choice, and this book is full of all sorts of mouth-watering recipes. There's an entire chapter dedicated to tapas, which I absolutely adore. There are also notes throughout the book, providing information on pairing wine and sherry, selecting Spanish cheeses, and choosing Spanish olive oils. There's a few recipes I have my eye on, such as the Spanish Fig Cake, Hazelnut-crusted Halibut with Spicy Romesco, and Valencian Seafood Rice.

Wouldn't you love to add this book to your library?? Well now you can! Simply leave me a comment with your favorite appetizer recipe or idea, in honor of all the great tapas recipes in the book. It can be something you love to make or tell me your favorite appetizer you love to order at a restaurant. Leave your comment by midnight on Tuesday, May 6th. I'll be drawing the winner on Wednesday morning.

Good luck!