Hi All, Sorry I have been so painfully absent. It is not that I have not been cooking and it is not that I have not been taking pictures, it is just that I have been doing homework instead of blogging. And next semester is going to be even worse. So, I will try to get a slew of posts together over Christmas. I have several recipes in the making and they are almost perfected. As well as the run of the mill, I found the recipe, and it is AWESOME!

Now to what is irking me. I am sure you all know about the proposed Biolab in Butner, NC that is no longer an option (read, we lost the contract thanks to all the protesting). I read a post on the Morehead Hill listserve that really annoyed me celebrating the fact that we lost the contract. NC lost out on a huge funding and job opportunities because of, in my opinion, people's ignorance. There are people out there patting themselves on the back for keeping jobs out of NC. People in Butner, not the most economically viable town, cheering because there will not be people coming into the town on a daily basis wanting to buy lunch and run errands.

I don't understand what the problem is. Do people not realize that this kind of research goes on at major universities everywhere (read UNC and Duke)? I work in an area where this kind of research goes on and let me tell you, with all the inspections they have to do and all the security measures in place, there really is nothing to worry about. There are security guards on duty at all times monitoring access to the building. There is negative air pressure in all the rooms, meaning no air escapes out the doors and into the hallways, and all the rooms are further protected with an anteroom where only one door in the anteroom can be opened at a time. All the air from the building goes through two filters and the entire building, walls and all, can be sterilized.

I am glad that people can be happy for the lack of economic development in our state, but this is something I can not understand.

Coming up next: Pumpkin Ginger Bread. I am making what I assume will be the perfect recipe (3 times the charm) tonight and I will share with you all it's deliciousness!


Green Beans, cooked my favorite way!

This dish is taken from Jamie Oliver from his show "Jamie at Home". I fell in love with this dish as soon as I saw it on TV. Green beans, tomatoes, chili's and anchovies. How can you go wrong? The original recipe is here along with a recipe for munkfish Jamie served with his beans. (I opted for roasted chicken thighs). My changes to the bean recipe are below, reflecting what I have available in my pantry at home.

I did not have any chili's on hand, so I used many shakes from my crushed red pepper shaker. Maybe 1/2 tsp total? Anyway, it could have used more so be generous. Also, I used two 14oz cans of diced tomatoes, no extra salt and dried rosemary (although I would use fresh if available, it had a better flavor when I made it with the fresh last time). I cooked the beans a little longer than called for in the recipe so they did not have as much as a bite, undercooked beans don't agree with everyone in my family.

Anyway, this is the second time I made this dish and I can not get enough of it. I will need to try it with frozen green bean for winter time, but will probably add tomato paste to the sauce to compensate for the extra water from the frozen beans.

Wine Authorities 1st Birthday

In case you are not on the Wine Authorities mailing list (and if you are not, you should sign up) they are turning 1 this week! On Wednesday they are having a party and even if you don't like wine, you should attend. Durham's first burger truck, Only Burger, will be there selling their wares! I always am on the look out for the new Best Burger around! I'll let you know how they stack up later this week.


Farewell to Summer

One of my favorite parts of summer is going to baseball games. We make an annual trip every year to Washington DC to see the Cubs play the Nats. Also we make it out to at least a dozen Bulls games and go to Greensboro a couple times to see the Grasshoppers. While I love watching the game and keeping score (yeah, I'm a nerd), I also love eating! So, last weekend, as a farewell to the regular AAA season, we went to the ball park and I got my favorite menu item at the DBAP, a footlong hotdog with Dillard's BBQ on top, extra mustard based BBQ sauce on top.

And since I am on the subject of hotdogs topped with yumminess from baseball stadiums, check out this gem from the Nats stadium, a blackened hotdog, topped with chili and cheese.

Summer, I am sure going to miss you. Football food is just not as good.


Grilled Watermelon

I should start out by saying, I don't really like watermelon. The taste to wateriness ratio does not make it worth it to me. When my husband showed me a recipe for grilled watermelon in Mark Bittman's "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian", I just had to try it. Afterall, I had a watermelon from my farm share and we needed to eat it.

I chose to try the olive oil and cayenne pepper rub to go on the melon slices before grilling them. Grilling watermelon is a strange thing. I found that you really need to turn the heat up to keep the water evaporating. Otherwise, it is pretty strait forward. Keep grilling and turning till it is as dehydrated and charred as you want. The end product is surprisingly sweet and caramelized. And the texture is not at all like watermelon but almost dense. I really liked it and if I ever find myself with watermelon again, I will make it!

For friends: This will make an appearance at Grill-Fest!


Rockwood Filling Station

So, I am back, after a much too long absence. I could blame it on almost moving, then not, and having my house packed up waiting for the real move. Or I could blame it on my stress combined with my slackness. But I am not one to place blame. Let me just say that this time next week I will have access to internet inside my new home and once I don't have to contend with the mosquitos, there will be no stopping me.

To the matter at hand: Rockwood Filling Station. I had dined there on its second night of operation but due to the abundance of reviews from every other Durham blogger, I just skipped my review. Tonight we went back and noticed some much needed changes and really had a fantastic meal (again). The first time we went, we got the wings, chicken liver pizza and milkshake. We loved the wings (but wish they had a more traditional option for take out, football season is starting up). Chicken should always be covered in lemon sauce and caramelized onions. As for the pizza, it was tasty. I did not know I liked chicken livers, but anything fried with caramelized onions has to be good! The milkshake left a lot to be desired, but I want to give it another try.

Tonight, we got salads and split the ham and egg pizza. My husband got the Ceasar salad and it was pretty good, nice and creamy. I got the arugula salad and it was wonderful. It had roasted red peppers (not advertized on the menu), toasted pine nuts and nice tangy salad dressing. The pizza was pretty good too. Important to note, they are now cutting your pizza for you. Very nice. That steak knife was not helping anyone. Also, they have beer. Lots of beer choices on tap. All in all, I had a wonderful dining experience (much better than cooking would have been tonight) and I highly suggest you try it out if you have not already.


Asian Chicken Salad

We bought a rotisserie chicken this week with the idea of making chicken salad. The problem with chicken salad in our house is that my husband does not eat mayonnaise. We also had fresh peas in our fridge and decided we would try a chicken salad with an Asian flair.

Asian Chicken Salad

Juice of one orange
Juice of half of a lime
1-2 Tbsp Rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1-2 tsp ginger garlic paste
stream in olive oil to desired consistency while whisking (ie: I forgot to measure it)

Add the picked rotisserie chicken to the dressing and allow it to soak up the juices for a few minutes.

To the chicken, I added one pound (pre-shelled weight) of peas, 1-2 handfuls shredded carrots, one handful cilantro chopped, and 1-2 handfuls chow mien noodles. Toss and enjoy!


Fluffernutter and Locopops

I am a huge fan of Locopops. I tried them out right after they opened their first store in Durham. Thanks to the awful parking situation at Duke, I saw it when it first opened. Just a quick walk across the street and I had a tasty treat for the ride home. A favorite Friday evening tradition. I subscribe to their mailing list to get updates on their current pop flavors. This week I was really excited that they had a fluffernutter flavored pop. I exclaimed to my husband that we really needed to go right away and get one, but he was not excited at all. Come to find out, he did not even know what a fluffernutter sandwich was. So, we took a quick trip to the grocery store to get marshmallow fluff. It has been years since I had one, and it was the best after dinner dessert I have had in a while. If it has been a while since you had one, you should make one right away.

So, on with the Locopops part of the story, in Raleigh, while killing time, we drove past the Locopops located there. So, in I went for my fluffernutter pop. Unfortunately, they were out, so I got the sesame candy instead. And I think it is my most favorite flavor yet! If you have never been, you must go now. Or at least put it on your list of things to do this summer.


Sunless Kitchens with Breakfast

I have a confession, I have about half a dozen different meals ready to write about, and even have pictures in my camera of them, but I have a sunless kitchen. So every picture I take has this yellow tinge to it, making food very unappetizing. Good news though, I should be moving in the next 2 months to a house with a kitchen with lots of windows. I know I will become a better, more consistent blogger when I don't have to take my plate of food outside so I can get a decent picture of it.

In the mean time, here is my new favorite breakfast. I got the recipe from Ellie Krieger and it can be found here. Here is a reproduction in individual serving sized proportions. Perfect for toting to work to eat on the job, as if I would take the extra time in the morning to eat at home.

Oatmeal Yogurt Parfait
1/4 c skim milk
1/4 c low-fat or nonfat yogurt
1/4 c rolled oats
1/2 T honey
berries (I use frozen blueberries)
Toasted nuts (I use walnuts)

Mix the milk, yogurt, honey and oats together to combine. Add frozen berries to the top and let sit in the fridge overnight. Toast the nuts and toss on top of the berries and enjoy!


Food vs. Food: Boxed Mac and Cheese

For this battle, the American standard, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, was pitted against Back to Nature's (BTN) Crazy Bugs Macaroni and cheese. BTN has no artificial preservatives or flavor, and can that really make a better boxed mac and cheese? First let me admit. I don't like boxed mac and cheese. I just hate the powdered cheese flavor, preferring actual cheese instead. So, this is the first time I have ever made boxed Mac and Cheese in my adult life (I used to make it for kids I babysat in High School).

First, let's compare the prep. BTN noodles took twice as long to cook, making this a less instant meal, one of the appeals of boxed mac and cheese. For making the sauce, I used skim milk for both since that is what I had. But the biggest difference in the prep is that BTN calls for 1T butter while Kraft called for 4T (again, I used butter for both even though Kraft called for margarine). So, there is no clear winner here, Kraft cooks much faster, but has way more fat making this a dead heat.

Next, noodle taste. I tried the noodles before they were coated in sauce and they were like night and day. BTN was nice an firm, the way I like pasta. Kraft was thin and mushy, definitely not a good mouth feel. Here, I am definitely going to give it to BTN.

Finally, we have the cheese sauce. Personally, neither of them tasted like cheese to me and I did not really like either of them. I especially hated the yellow color of the Kraft. It is just so creapy to me. So, I guess I will give this one to BTN since it was not an unnatural color.

In short, I actually ate the BTN with dinner and had left overs for lunch later that week. I never touched the Kraft again. I just could not get over the yellow color and mushy texture. So, let's hear it for the winner! Back to Nature! Coming up soon, homemade mac and cheese. The only mac and cheese for me.


Compare Foods

I have been interested in Compare Foods off Roxboro Rd for a while, but have never actually shopped there. All I knew was it was a grocery store with good prices and my only experience with that kind of establishment was Aldi's. Aldi's was crowded, small and pallets of food made up the isles. I was not really looking forward to repeating the experience, but when I made it out to Mami Nora's, I was convinced I needed to give it a chance, if only for to see how the massive size of it was organized.

This week they had collard greens on sale (3lb/$0.99) and I just could not resist. As we entered, I was shocked. It was totally not what I expected, definitely not an Aldi's. I felt a little out of place as everyone there was Hispanic and speaking Spanish (something to put on my to-do list) but then the produce section caught my eye. They had the largest variety of produce and it's quality was second only to the farmers market (from my experience). The fresh cheeses were practically irresistible (if only I had not just bought so much at Costco) and the selection of chorizo (drool), I may never have need to go to Whole Foods again (chorizo being one of the few things I buy there.)

The other thing I noticed about the store was that most of the people shopping there were following the suggestion of all the nutritionist I have ever herd. They were shopping the perimeter. We just had to look at all the frozen food treats, if you ever need fruit pulp of any kind, you now know where to go. I see popsicles in my summer future! But I think we were one of the only ones on the frozen food isle. Anyway, it is definitely my new favorite places to shop for groceries. Time to increase my Hispanic recipe repertoire.


Babyback Ribs: Heaven on a Plate

I don't think food can get much better than ribs. Falling off the bone, tender meat, glazed with a sweet sticky sauce, it just makes me swoon. The guys I work with are always keeping me informed of the rib sales, so last time they were on sale, I got us a rack and they have been sitting in the freezer calling to me.

I was out of the rib rub they gave me, so I turned to "The Joy of Cooking" for inspiration. This is what I came up with:

Rib Rub
1/4 cup Chili powder
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup pepper
2 T salt
2 T cayenne powder
2 T cumin
1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix it all together and sprinkle liberally onto ribs and let sit in fridge a while to marinate (I did 2 hours, but if I had been more organized I would have started them the night before so they could sit longer.) I used less salt than called for in the original recipe since the ribs I bought were brined.

Wrap the ribs tightly in foil and bake in a 225 degree oven for 3-4 hours. Add a can of beer (although the original recipe called for a cup of apple juice) and bake for another hour. Using the drippings from the foil pouch, make a sauce to coat the ribs with. (Fire up your grill before starting this so it will be waiting for you.)

Saute a clove of garlic in a Tbsp of olive oil. Add the drippings from the foil pouch and bring to a boil. Add a Tbsp of tomato paste and honey or brown sugar to taste. Allow the sauce to boil and reduce about 5-10 minutes.

Baste ribs with sauce and put on grill, turning every couple of minutes continuing to baste after each turn. I usually apply sauce to each side 2-3 times, allowing the ribs to blacken slightly.

Serve with sauce on the side.


Warm Bacon Salad Dressing

I am not a fan of cold foods and never have been. I never liked salads until I came across the spinach salad with warm bacon dressing. It made me realize what all salads had been missing up to that point in my life. Now I make my own version of the warm bacon dressing as my go-to dressing when ever I have salad greens to eat up without taco meat to top it with (now that is another blog). It is super simple, super quick and very tasty, and it makes eating salad greens not just bearable for me but enjoyable.

For this salad dressing, I use precooked bacon. I love having cooked bacon in the freezer on hand at all times and I highly recommend it. Just take a pack, spread it out on a baking sheet and cook at 375 on the top rack of the oven until done (about 15-20 minutes), drain, bag and freeze. Now you have instant BLT, grilled cheese with bacon and breakfast sandwiches. Just watch out; it is dangerous work handling all that freshly cooked bacon at once and I suggest doing it on a full stomach.

Warm Bacon Salad Dressing (makes 2-3 servings)
1-2 strips cooked bacon
2 T olive oil
2 T honey
2-3 T balsamic vinegar
pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in small nonstick pan and heat bacon through in oil. Add honey to pan and when gooey and bubbly turn down heat and deglaze pan with balsamic vinegar. Adjust amounts of vinegar and honey to suit your taste and add pepper as desired.

Mami Nora's

Tonight, I ventured over to Mami Nora's, a new Peruvian chicken rotisserie located off Roxboro by the Compare Foods. I got takeout, 1/4 chicken, 2 sides, a roll and sauces for just over $5. Not only was it good, but it was a bargain for someone on a budget. And much tastier than that other rotisserie chicken place.

For my sides, I got the chicken soup and plantains. They were both good but I would go back just to get the soup. The soup was nicely seasoned and a good change of pace from your normal chicken and rice soup. The main event, aka chicken, was nicely prepared. I liked that it did not taste like your normal Costco/grocery store prepared chicken. I will definitely be going back again.