Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We've Moved!!

Our blogger home has been a blast, but we foodies have decided to move on to our very own domain space at (drum roll please)...

Drop on by and let us know what you think!

Kitchen Experiment Gone Right

I'm the kind of person who likes to follow directions. Doesn't really matter what they are, but I figure everything should turn out moderately well if directions are followed. Same is true for recipes. The step by step instructions usually lead you toward a decent finished product. Now, I know from personal experience that, especially with recipes, even the most specific directions don't always yield the expected results. And every once in a while I get brave enough to throw caution to the wind and make up my own.

Last night, R was making his famous lemon and garlic pasta, but I wanted something extra to go with it. R loves bruschetta and I had a quickly-ripening tomato, so it seemed like a good plan. After consulting some reliable recipes, I chose to go it on my own. And the results were fantastic! Ripe tomatoes, freshly baked bread and high quality parmesan cheese made the perfect combination for an easy bruschetta. The fresh flavor complimented the garlic in the pasta with a lightness the meal needed.

I used a French baguette and found the pieces to be slightly small. Next time I'd try to find a wider Italian bread, I think. I'd also cut them a little thinner - it's hard to bite into a 1-inch thick piece of bread! All in all it was a very successful attempt and I was proud of my creation. But I don't think I'm quite ready to get rid of the cookbooks yet....



2 large tomatoes
1 loaf Italian bread
3-4 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 C. onion, chopped
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese


Seed and dice tomatoes and place in a bowl. Add basil, garlic, onion, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Cut bread into slices 1/2-inch thick. Drizzle grill pan with olive oil. Place slices on pan, turning each piece of bread to make sure both sides have oil. Toast bread over medium heat until both sides are golden brown. If you don't have a grill pan, this can be done in the toaster oven.

Top each slice of bread with a spoonful of the tomato mixture. Using a vegetable peeler, shave long curls of parmesan and top each bread slice with a curl.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, July 9, 2007

Taste of Chicago

From catfish to oxtail, Chicago has no shame. City vendors will fry just about anything to serve up one of the greasiest festivals known to man. But that doesn't stop me from going, every year.

Depending on where you're from, you may or may not be familiar with the annual summer food fest in Chicago nicknamed the "Taste." If you're not, just like you might imagine, it's quite literally a taste of Chicago's cuisine (do NOT take this to mean that grease is all Chicago has to offer, it is by no means an exhaustive collection of Chicago's fine dining). More specifically, it's a 10-day event that hosts almost 60 restaurant vendors throughout Chicagoland. Each station has a "taste portion" for 3 tickets (approximately $2) to allow for more accessible sampling.

Anyway, yesterday was the last day and I made it there in the nick of time. I sort of make it my duty to try and go annually, so that I can feel like I've done my job as a Chicagoan. This year I made myself extra proud because I braved the 92-degree heat! (I drank a TON of water.)

But let's be honest, I eat the same food every year. So I guess I'm not really "tasting" much, just showing my support. Give or take a couple of variances, each year my stomach has to deal with at least one Indian samosa from Arya Bhavan, one pierogi from Kasia's, a slice of deep dish from one of the many pizza places (this year it was Bacino's pizza of Lincoln Park), and the ever delicious Original Rainbow Cone (an aggregate cup of pistachio, cherry, orange sherbert, Palmer and chocolate ice cream.) But don't think this year's list stopped right there. Those were just the staples. I also sampled a famous Billy Goat hamburger, a fried chicken wing, a frozen banana, beef on a stick, and....that may be it.

Oh no, wait. I was pleasantly surprised to see a new item that piqued my interest: Chocolate-Dipped Ginger Saffron Cookies from Vermilion, but in all honesty, they weren't as good as they sounded. The cookie was a bit dryer than I would have liked.

(Yes, I have it displayed in the grass, there aren't too many other seats at the Taste.)

All in all, the gorging fest met my expectations. 41 food tickets (a friend and I split!) and a full stomach, for the most part, later, I did not go home disappointed.

-Hillary, wishing "Hey Sushi" would come back to the Taste and serve their delicious fried green-tea ice cream
Editor, Recipe4Living

I need an ice cream maker.

I'm rapidly turning into an ice cream snob.

First came the days of Breyers, whose classy (and actually minty) Mint Chocolate Chip made me turn up my nose at Edys' green, nearly flavorless junk. Then Haagen-Dazs, with its rich vanilla and decadent caramel. Now I balk at anything less than Oberweis, in my opinion the nation's finest iced cream (narrowly beating out Gilles Frozen Custard, mainly because of proximity).

And after seeing all these recipes for DIY sorbet, gelato, custard...I have to make some of my own. Meaning I need an ice cream maker. Meaning, unfortunately, I need to spend more than they charge for a shake at my local Ice Cream Shoppe.

Now, I'm not opposed to spending money on indulgences. I have a staggering DVD collection and I'll be wasting $400 come September so's I can play one game. But those things last forever! Ice cream doesn't last an hour in my house!

Still, I must. A whole world of culinary experimentation and unnecessary weight gain beckons, yearns, cries "Smylie!" at night while I sleep--

Look, I'm not crazy, I just really like ice cream. So I need your help. Where should I start? What brands are the best? Do I go manual or spring for electric?

Oh ye all-known sages of confection (all of whom, like, totally read our blog), please give me some tips. Because I need to make this recipe as soon as possible.

-Jim, hoping he gets to try all these soon, too

Wake Up!

Have you seen the commercial recently with all the people yawning to advertise the new, more-caffeinated Pepsi Max? I've been watching Wimbledon on TV lately (yes, I woke up at 9am on Sunday morning with J* to watch Federer, J*'s icon, vs. Nadal, personally my favorite...his right arm is crazily bigger than his left). I yawn every time I see this commercial, and think about making a cup of tea. I suspect that this commercial is a rip-off of a popular Starbucks' commercial (do they need advertising?), but that's really not the point here.

The point IS why don't they (they being the man) post the amount of caffeine on bottles of soda? I am trying very, very hard to give up soda, but I still think this would be an important factor in consumer decisions. Sometimes you don't want to feel like a hummingbird in the afternoon, and sometimes you need a little something extra. Luckily, The Journal of Food Science analyzed the caffeine content in some of the more popular soda brands. Here are a couple highlights:

Coca-Cola (33.9 mg/12 oz)
Diet Coke (46.3 mg/12 oz)
Pepsi (38.9 mg/12 oz)
Diet Pepsi (36.7 mg/12 oz)
Dr Pepper (42.6 mg/12 oz)
Diet Dr Pepper (44.1 mg/12 oz)
Mountain Dew (54.8 mg/12 oz)
Diet Mountain Dew (55.2 mg/12 oz)

With the exception of Diet Pepsi, why do most of the diet versions have more caffeine than the regular? Hmmm.

-Caley, sipping on tea and not Pepsi Max

Friday, July 6, 2007

Your Weekly Libation

Instead of recommending a cocktail this week, I'm gonna push a product from off-site that's near and dear to my heart: Woodchuck Dark & Dry 802 Draft Cider. Someone at Woodchuck's laboratories (filled with mad scientists and in a skull-shaped orchard, no doubt) heard my demands for a dryer, crisper cider, and they delivered in spades. It's not a full escape from the soda pop-sweetness mass-produced ciders all suffer, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

So instead of getting yet another case of that Johnny-come-lately beer, stop by your local liquor store and try out a six-pack of Dark & Dry. If you aren't happy with your purchase, drink the remaining five bottles really fast, and you'll get happy pretty quickly.

-Jim out, mourning Cider's sad history

An Ode to Pasta and Meat Sauce

I came home from work last night ravenous for a well-balanced and filling meal. Lucky for me, some delicious pasta and meat sauce were awaiting my arrival. In my relief and satisfaction, I realized that this was exactly what I wanted.

To me, there is something comforting about pasta and meat sauce. Maybe it's the fact that it has been a family staple for years, or maybe it's the simplicity. Probably both, but the best part about it is how easy and inexpensive it is to cook such a delicious and substantial meal.

So, without further adieu... my dinner:

To replicate the image seen here, all you need to do is saute some ground beef. Mix it with Barilla pasta sauce and pour it atop some mostaccioli. Or, you can make your own pasta sauce of course, but store-bought sauces work perfectly well for a quick dinner. Serve with a salad and you're good to go.

-Hillary, wishing she was back in San Diego
Editor, Recipe4Living

Thursday, July 5, 2007

About time

Apparently, NYC restaurant chains are now required by law to prominently display nutritional information for concerned customers. And they're reluctant to do so. A Burger King, for example, put their info on a wall where few prospective customers would notice it. Had the customers actually seen the sign in a prominent location,

...they could have learned that a triple Whopper with cheese has 1,230 calories (1,070 without mayonnaise), and a king-size chocolate shake has 1,260. The recommended daily calorie intake for an adult woman is about 1,800.

I know nothing's more American that truly terrible-for-you fast food, but come on, 1,260 calories for a frakkin' milkshake? I hope we see legislation like this in Chicago as soon as possible; you can't keep us from eating junk, but by God you should warn us about it.

Pop Rockin' Chocolate

So, I need a favor. About a month ago, I tried a chocolate bar that nearly changed my life. It was an Israeli chocolate bar, but the unique part about it was that it had pop rocks in it! Just imagine that for a second, chocolate with pop rocks. Sounds simple, but it is out of this world, and it created, quite literally, a party in my mouth (I know I've used this expression before, but it's too appropriate here to pass up.)

My problem is, it's been out of my world for a little bit too long. I can't find it anywhere! I believe the brand was the Israeli Elite brand (they make a ton of delicious chocolate, you should try it sometime), but their Web site seems to be lacking in the accessibility department. So here's where you come in. Know of a particular grocery store that carries it, or a website I can order mass amounts of them from? If so, please let me know! My cravings are unruly lately and they need to be fed.

That is all. Thank you.

-Hillary, obviously wishing she was eating chocolate with pop rocks
Editor, Recipe4Living

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Recipes I must try

Odd as this may seem, given that I'm writing for a food blog the best food blog ever (rep-re-sent, people), I don't do a lot of cooking. One of the reasons I'm so excited to be working for the site is because it'll pull me outta my comfort zone and force me to make more than a grilled cheese or some absolutely delicious Pankeggs.

With that in mind, here are some recipes I have GOTTA take a crack at as soon as I get my lazy butt off the couch and into the kitchen.

Fat-Free Honey Granola Bars. Yeah, nothing special, but I'm sick of being under the yoke of Quaker Chewy's fake-healthy food. I want something I can snack on that's filling and not loaded with preservatives or chocolate chips!

But on the subject of chocolate, these chocolate cupcakes from She Bakes and She Cooks look positively heavenly. From the described texture to the nutella frosting, they're designed to make my stomach rumble, demanding tribute.

And while we're still on desserts, I want to whip up some of Thomas Jefferson's Ice Cream like Slashfood recommends. Problem is, I don't own an ice cream maker. Do I really need one? The recipe says you can just stick it in the freezer, but I imagine without the churning it won't be nearly as good.

But wait, tomorrow's the 4th! I should be grilling up some burgers! Right you are (or I am, since I'm typing this). Had I a meat grinder and a healthier lifestyle, I could justify eating perhaps one of these literal Bacon Cheeseburgers I saw on A Hamburger Today--still my favorite culinary find in the blogosphere by far. As it is, I might be able to get away with a few of these Firecracker Burgers instead.

And since my ladyfriend's a staunch vegetarian, I MUST cook the Ribz pictured on Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen for her. But that won't happen tomorrow, because I'll be too busy eating actual meat.

All day.

Happy 4th, everyone!

My Basil Affirmation

I'm such a foodie. I'm sitting here eating spinach linguine with homemade pesto, while snacking on Chantal cheese (dang this aged cheddar is good) and a few lychee for dessert (these are quite juicy and wrecking havoc on my work area). I love it.

Actually, last night was one of those nights that makes me feel better about my ability to cook. My dish worked gloriously. But, I cannot take all the credit. In truth, the farmer's market supplied a gloriously fresh bunch of basil for my homemade pesto. Every time I visit the farmer's market across the street, the smell of the basil demands I do something with it: put it in on pizza, make a caprese salad, even dunk in lemonade with a bit of watermelon.

When J* suggested pesto, I reveled in my increasing awareness of his genius. The classic pesto recipes generally include basil, pine nuts, garlic, sometimes a touch of fresh Pecorino-Romano cheese, and plenty of olive oil. Being a fan of walnuts, I decided to substitute them for the pine nuts. Hey, cooking is all about experimentation (and, well, I'd heard this works). The pesto came out a bit chunky, for want of a proper food processor, but was still completely delicious over the spinach linguine. Triumph! A glass of red wine was all the accompaniment I needed.

Here is a classic Pesto recipe, but with Parmesan instead of Romano (I like both versions). Feel free to substitute walnuts and let me know what you think.

Wolfgang Puck's pesto pasta is a great way to use your homemade pesto.

Have a wonderful Fourth of July!

-Caley, looking forward to things going "Boom!" tomorrow

Monday, July 2, 2007

Sage and Sausage

That's fresh sage. What a wonderful texture the leaves have and you can almost smell it. I used a bunch of sage to make homemade pork sausages with applesauce this weekend. Currently, I'm in somewhat of an Irish mode, experimenting with my beautiful new cookbook, Irish Traditional Cooking. On Sunday afternoon, I plopped four Granny Smith apples into a saucepan with a touch of water and sugar. I cooked these on very low heat for a short time, until the apples broke down. I've never actually made applesauce before and this smelled delicious. I could have added cinnamon at this point for a different treat.

The sausages were a snap to prepare, since casings are not necessary. A bit of fatty pork, minced, is best. Mix with the fresh herbs of your choice and plenty of salt and pepper. I love the combination of sage and apple, so chose this fragrant herb. For 1 lb. of fatty pork, also add 1 egg, 1 clove of garlic, and 2/3 C. soft breadcrumbs, as advised by cookbook author Darina Allen (I'm not a big fan of following recipes, but if you need measurements.) Allen recommends dividing the pork mixture into sixteen, rolled lengths, but I fried the sausage in bigger circles. I think the smaller pieces would have worked better.

The applesauce paired quite well with the sausages, although I think J* was more interested in the applesauce. In true Irish style, I served a potato dish on the side: buttery chive champ. One step further and I would have had colcannon.

What's next this week? Beef and Guinness Stew of course and Fadge


Breaking my heart and hurting my tongue

What the hell happened to Chee-Tos? While picking up classier lunch fare--cold cuts, good Swiss, yogurt--at the store last night, I saw a bag of Chee-Tos and could not resist nostalgia's call. These things turned me into an orange dust-coated zombie in lunch hours past, and I couldn't wait to try eating them again. I still consume a fair amount of bagged chips and such, mind you, but I moved to Sun Chips and Baked Lays long ago, preferring fake health food to the lowly Chee-To. I snagged the bag, packed a portion into a lunch baggie, and cracked them open as a midmorning snack.

Big mistake.

I feel like I've been eating a cheesy salt lick, and I'm only three bites in. Is this a sign that my tastes are truly developing? What happens next, then? Can I still enjoy cheap Chinese and Domninoes' Pizza? What has this job done to me?