Crazy Easy Crustless Quiche with Arugula Salad {as seen on WBTV}

Posted on Oct 14, 2014 | 3 comments

Now that fall is finally here, it’s time to bust out some comforting cool-weather breakfast recipes.  I’m a self-declared morning person, but when I wake up with a grumbling tummy, the less hands-on time required of a breakfast recipe, the better.  That’s why I love baking eggs in the oven.  Call it a casserole or a crustless quiche (or a frittata if you start the cooking process on the stove top).  The method is simple:  eggs are whisked with a little milk (or half-and-half or cream, whatever you have on hand) and then combined with one to two cups of the fillings of your choice—sausage, leftover veggies, cheese, whatever sounds good–and baked for 30 minutes.  Breakfast done.

Turkey Sausage Crustless Quiche 4To take the dish up a notch, top it with a simple arugula salad tossed with an olive oil and lemon dressing.  Not only does the arugula salad add extra veggies, but the tartness offers a nice contrast the richness of the eggs.  Plus, look how fancy!

Turkey Sausage Crustless Quiche

Looking for more cold-weather breakfast recipes that require minimal hands-on time?  Check out this simple recipe for crockpot oatmeal.  Oats, water, and salt cook for six hours in the slow cooker, and are then dished out and topped with whatever strikes your fancy.  My favorite combo:  fresh blueberries, almonds, and cinnamon.

Crustless Quiche with Arugula Salad

  • 6 large Eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 1 cup of cooked sausage, diced, such as Johnsonville’s fully cooked turkey breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan, or cheese choice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • a few handfuls of arugula
  • olive oil
  • lemon
  • salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the cheese.  Coat a glass pie dish with cooking spray.  Layer the sausage (or other fillings of choice) in the bottom, then gently pour the egg mixture on top.  Top eggs with slices of tomato, if desired, then bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and set.  Let stand ten minutes.

Just before serving, place arugula in a medium-sized bowl, drizzle lightly with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, to taste.  Toss to combine, then top crustless quiche with the salad.

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Chinese Baby Back Ribs {recipe}

Posted on Oct 5, 2014 | 0 comments

When I think of ribs, I think of my dad.  My dear ole dad.  Grilling has always been HIS THING.  Even if it meant standing in the driveway with a golf umbrella during a tornado warning with occasional hail (yeah, that happened).   Even in the middle of those brutally long Ohio winters when temperatures dropped so low the inside of your nose would most literally freeze.  Even after that one time he got a little carried away with the lighter fluid and singed off half his beard, even then, dad was out there grilling.

Chinese Baby Back Ribs 2When dad makes ribs, he slathers them in barbecue sauce, tucks them tightly in foil packets, throws them on his Texas-style offset smoker, and lets them hang out for HOURS . It’s a simple, straightforward technique, but it’s pretty much impossible to replicate this sort of perfection in a tiny apartment kitchen with nary a smoker to be found.  Remember that first time I made mussels and they were an embarrassing abomination?  Well, true to form, my first attempt at making ribs was a complete and utter failure.  When I lifted the crockpot lid after ten hours of slow cooking, I found the meat had shriveled so much I could see more bone than brown.  I was irrationally optimistic as I pulled a bit of meat off with a fork and sampled the day’s wares.  It was, undoubtedly, the dryest meat I’ve ever laid tongue on.  Ten hours in the crockpot and a little liquid smoke seemed too good to be true.  This just in:  it was.

Chinese Baby Back Ribs 3

For Mary vs. Baby Back Ribs, Round II, I modified my approach.  Who knew simmering ribs on the stove top and finishing them in the oven would make for super moist meat? Boy did it ever.  With just a slight twist of the bone, the meat slid right off.

Chinese Baby Back Ribs

 

Chinese Baby Back Ribs

Cooking method from Food52, sauce recipe adapted

For the braise:

1 rack of pork baby back ribs, cut down to fit your pot

1 white onion, peeled and quartered

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

1 nub of ginger, sliced

1 head of garlic, slice in half

1 cup soy sauce

water to cover

For the finishing sauce:

2 tbsp hoisin sauce

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

2-3 tsp sriracha, depending on heat preference

1/4 cup honey

1/2 tsp fish sauce

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 green onion, sliced

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

 

Braise:  Place the ribs and all braising ingredients into a tight-fitting pot, then add enough water to cover the ribs by 1 inch (approximately 2 cups).  Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the ribs are tender (about 1.5 hours).

Finish:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients, except for the green onion and sesame seeds.  Line a sturdy cooking sheet with foil, then place the ribs on top.  Use a grill brush to lightly paint the sauce on both sides of the ribs.  Continue until all the sauce is used.  Bake the ribs until the sauce begins to caramelize, about 5 minutes.  Cut ribs into pieces, baste with pan juices, and top with green onion and sesame seeds.

Make ahead:  to make this dish ahead, once the braising step is complete, allow ribs and braising liquid to cool in the pot, then place in the fridge.  To finish, wrap ribs tightly in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then proceed to the “finish” step above.

Disclaimer:  as a member of the North Carolina Pork Council Blogging Network, I was compensated for the cost of pork used in this post.

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French Silk Pie with Lemon Fennel Cracker Crust {IFBC 2014}

Posted on Sep 29, 2014 | 1 comment

Last week, at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle, hundreds of food bloggers from around the globe (yes, it really does have international reach) gathered in Seattle to talk blog.  There were sessions on the creative aspects of blogging (story writing, recipe development, and wine pairing) and the technical aspects (like Google+ and SEO—that’s search engine optimization, totally nerdy, totally cool), plus plenty of opportunities to network with other bloggers and with national brands.  I was one of the lucky few who sat down with Lesley Stowe, creator of Raincoast Crips, to talk about her career path and how her Raincoast Crisps, which started as a minute part of her business, grew to become her company’s main (incredibly delicious) product.

Mini French Silk Pies

At the IFBC, Lesley announced their newest product, the Lesley Stowe Raincoast Flats, which come in two varieties:  Lemon & Fennel and Kale & Walnut.  Both the Raincoast Crisps and the Raincoast Flats are no-brainers for cheese plates and dips (check out my Cheese Plate 101 post for cheespiration), but the lemon-fennel combination immediately  had me craving chocolate.  I don’t know why.  I’ve learned not to questions these sorts of things.

Mini French Silk Pies 2

Earlier in the summer, I made Food 52’s (now infamous) Atlantic Beach Pie, which uses a combination of crushed saltine crackers, sugar, and butter as a crust.  I used this same technique here with the Raincoast Lemon Fennel Flats, which resulted in a crispy, flavorful crust, the perfect base for the light and silky chocolate topping.

french silk pie 3

 {beautiful turquoise platter by jmnpottery}

French Silk Pie with Lemon Fennel Crust

Serves 8

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com

Crust:

1 box Lesley Stowe Lemon & Fennel Raincoast Flats

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp butter, melted

Filling:

2 ounces dark chocolate

1 tsp butter

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 pasteurized eggs

For the crust:  in a food processor, pulse crackers to small pebble-sized pieces, but not to dust.  Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp melted butter.  Knead together, until combined.   Coat a standard-size muffin pan with cooking spray.  Divide cracker mixture evenly among muffin tin (I did 8 mini-pies).  Tamp the crackers down and firmly pack with you fingertips.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, until golden around the edges, then allow to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate:  slowly melt chocolate and 1 tsp butter in a double boiler, over medium heat.  Once melted, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

For the filling:  in a large bowl, cream 1/2 cup butter, then slowly add the 3/4 cup sugar and cocoa powder. Once combined, stir in the vanilla extract and melted chocolate.  Add one egg, beat at a medium speed for 5 minutes, then add the second egg and beat five minutes more.  Spoon filling onto cooled crusts, and chill for at least two hours before serving.

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Cheese Plate 101 {IFBC 2014}

Posted on Sep 15, 2014 | 3 comments

I’m proud to come from a family of foodies.  Though some attach a negative connotation to the word (shout out to Huffington Post and Eatocracy, among many others), I use the term “foodie” endearingly.  We foodies are people who, at the root of it all, love food, though it’s more than simply eating the food (or excessively consuming the food, as the case may be).  Food is the binding tie, the common ground, the one thing that unites us all, family and strangers alike.  It’s about sharing, and connecting, and traditions.  Food is love, after all.

My foodie family is big on potluck get-togethers.  Everyone brings a dish to share and the host handles the main course:  MEAT.  As far back as I can remember, there were two dishes we’d consistently have on hand for the hors d’oeuvre hour:  potato chips and French onion dip (Lawson’s or Heluva Good only, people) OR cheese and crackers.  This was my formalized introduction to the cheese plate.  The preferred cracker of choice was the round, buttery kind that disintegrated instantly on tongue contact, and the preferred cheese was Colby Jack.  If it was a really special get-together, like my Dad’s annual (epic) Christmas Eve parties, there’d also be some pepper jack and a little bit of Swiss.  For the life of me, I never understood why they wasted space on the plate with that shitty Swiss cheese.  No one liked it.  And at the end of the night, it’d be the only thing left, the last cheese standing, all hard and slightly yellowed from the night’s neglect.

But I digress.

Cheese board

The foodie family lesson to be learned here is that when you tell your guests to “come hungry” you better have something on hand for them to nibble on til mealtime.  The simpler the better, because as the host, you’ve got bigger fish to fry.  The cheese plate is my go-to, and though mine looks much fancier than the cheese plates of my youth, it comes together just as fast.  Plus, cheese tastes best at room temperature, so you can fix it and forget it before the guests arrive.

My cheese board rule of thumb is to include something soft, something stinky, and something special—the wild card, if you will.  Three to five types of cheese with contrasting flavors, about 2-3 ounces per person for a light appetizer, or 3-5 ounces for a heavier first course.  My selections often consist of brie, blue cheese, and smoked gouda, because those are the cheeses I enjoy, and really that’s what matters most.  Whatever you choose, you’ll want to give your cheese room to breathe – don’t mash them too close together or the stinky cheese can taint the more delicately flavored ones.

soft cheesestinky cheesewild card cheeseraincoast crisps2

I love the contrast of soft cheese and crunchy crackers, so I paired my cheese with some original Raincoast Crisps  (chock full of pumpkin seed, flax-seed, and sesame seed) and some Salty Date and Almond Raincoast Crisps.  The Raincoast Crisps have great flavor that compliments the cheese, and they’re sliced thin, so neither the flavor of the cheese nor the crisp gets lost.  (I should note that these crisps are crazy addicting.  I’ve been eating the leftovers topped with almond butter for snacks for days.)

As for all the fancy finishings you see, I suggest picking things you like and that you have on hand.  No sense blowing the bank on the cheese plate, I always say.  Fresh fruit is great with cheese, so I used the red raspberries I had in the fridge along with almonds, cashews, whipped cinnamon honey, and some fresh triple-berry jam my sister made FROM SCRATCH (everyone should be so lucky to have a sister who likes to can), plus some chocolate chunks, because, well, why not?  Pickles, dried fruit, fresh crusty bread, and charcuterie (SALAMI, for those of us still avoiding our fancy pants) are great too.

cheese board close up

Speaking of foodie get-togethers, this week I’m once again heading to Seattle to join foodies from across the globe at the International Food Bloggers Conference.  There’s something magical about surrounding yourself with people whose passions align with yours, and I am beyond excited, even more so than last year (which you can read all about here and here).  Plus, I’ll be meeting Lesley Stowe, creator of Raincoast Crisps while I’m there!

International Food Blogger Conference 2014 Seattle

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Restaurant Roundup: The Round Bistro, Fahrenheit, Stagioni

Posted on Sep 7, 2014 | 1 comment

THE ROUND BISTRO.  I don’t make it out to Gastonia very often (once a year, give or take), imagebut I made a special trip last month to check out Chef Jack Acheson’s restaurant, The Round Bistro, and celebrate the restaurant’s two year anniversary with a wine dinner.  Within minutes of speaking with Chef Jack, one thing becomes blatantly apparent:  his strong passion for the history and diversity of American food.  That’s what fueled him to chose American cuisine as his concept for the Round Bistro, and each month, Chef Jack develops a new regional menu that features indigenous ingredients of a specific U.S. region.  Last month’s region was the Pacific Northwest, and for September, he’s taking a fun turn and featuring famous football stadium foods.  Ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible, and Chef incorporates what’s in season into his regional menu planning.

The menu at the The Round Bistro is large, and spans the gamut from fondue-of-the-day to potato-crusted crab fritters, muffaleta to “Pittsburgers”, plus several salads, She Crab soup, shrimp and grits, and fresh salmon FIVE ways (including baked parmesan crusted, olive oil poached, cedar plank roasted, and blackened).  In short, if you want it, they’ve got it, brunch included.

Every third Thursday of the month, The Round Bistro hosts a wine dinner.  Chef Jack works closely with a sommelier to select regional wine pairings for each of the six courses, and he uses these dinners as an opportunity to showcase his culinary creativity.  The menu for the wine dinner I attended included a cold peach soup with mint and cantaloupe, bay scallop over cactus and smoked gouda salad tossed in a green apple vinaigrette, cedar roasted salmon over basil tomato risotto, wine poached heritage chicken over rosemary polenta, pappardelle pasta with lamb ragu, and chocolate and raspberry mousse parfait, plus wine pairings for each course.  All for just $65 per person.

IMG_4495The Round Bistro - Salmon and Risotto

The Round Bistro - Lamb RaguThe Round Bistro - Scallop Salad

The Round Bistro - Dessert

The Round Bistro on Urbanspoon


FAHRENHEIT is one of Charlotte’s hottest (no pun intended) new restaurants.  Chef Roccoimage Whalen started the concept in Cleveland in 2002, and opened the second location in Charlotte earlier this year.

First off, SCALLOPS.  WOW.  Scallops are my go-to entree, and Fahrenheit’s are the best I’ve had in town, no exaggeration here.  They are served with a cauliflower purée, arugula, and pomegranate seeds, and they are PERFECT.  PERFECTTTTTT.  Every time.  Even during restaurant week, when perfection is practically unheard of.  I also highly recommend the fried goat cheese salad with dried cherry tapenade, pistachio brittle, and “local pig vinaigrette.”

I recently hosted a happy hour at Fahrenheit.  (As the resident foodie of my department at work, I’m on the social committee and am in charge of selecting locations for our happy hours.  Fahrenheit was a no-brainer because the bar area is large and the outdoor balcony area offers a fantastic view of the city.)  So at said happy hour, I tried nearly all of the small plates on the menu.  Not complaining.  The bacon-wrapped chorizo-stuffed dates with tomato aioli are OUTRAGEOUS.  Even the picky eaters liked them.  The lobster and sausage biscuit is very comforting and flavorful, but I’d pass on the lobster rolls next time (surprisingly boring).  The group also loved the charlotte nachos (potato chips, pimento cheese fondue, green onions, and bacon—what’s not to love?).

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Fahrenheit on Urbanspoon


STAGIONI – FOUR SEASONS OF FOOD opened early in 2014 by the Moffett Group, the same team thimageat owns my beloved Good Food on Montford.  The restaurant is located in the historic Reynolds-Gourmajenko House (the one that looks like a villa) on Providence Road.  It’s a little tricky to locate your first time through, but they do have ample parking available behind the building — off of Fenton Place.  Whether sitting at the bar or in the small dining area that overlooks an especially open kitchen, the restaurant has a great feel.  Low lit, lots of energy, and its almost always packed.  Sure, it can get a little loud, but I think that adds to the overall energy of the place.

The menu at Stagioni (pronounced Sta-jo-nee, means “seasons” in Italian) features classic Italian dishes and is divided between snacks (pizza and nibbly bits) and entrees, all of which change seasonally.  The snacks are where it’s at, y’all.  First, there’s the pizza.  Pancetta and Brussels Sprout, clam and bacon, sausage and peppers…  All awesome.  The pizza (which you cut with large scissors) and a couple glasses of wine make for a stellar meal alone, but I also love their housemade ricotta and stuffed peppadews, and if mussels or octopus are on the menu — get them.

As for entrees, well, I’m a little less excited.  I’ve tried several pasta dishes (including the shrimp with saffron and the frutti di mare), and while the housemade noodles were great, I found the overall flavor of the dishes underwhelming.  Every time I venture to the entrée side of the menu, I find myself wishing I’d went with the pizza and small plates.  Yet, I keep going back.  The small plates are THAT good.  I should note I haven’t sampled any entrees off their most recent seasonal menu, so I’m hoping to stop in soon and give them a taste.   I should also not they’ve got prosecco on tap and a delicious pear skillet cake with avocado ice cream (when pears are in season, that is).

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Stagioni on Urbanspoon


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As seen on WBTV: Three Awesome Sausage Toppers {recipe}

Posted on Jul 22, 2014 | 5 comments

Did you catch me talking sausage toppings on WBTV this morning?  Check out the video link below!

Here we are, in the height of backyard barbecue season, with literally dozens of ketchup and mustard covered hot dogs under our belts, and I.am.bored.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that classic combo, but sometimes I crave to shake things up a bit.  Get a little spicy, a little saucy, a little something like THIS:

Sausage toppings

TOPPING REMIX #1:  a Mexican-inspired sandwich using Johnsonville Chorizo Sausage  topped with some of my homemade guacamole and fresh pico de gallo.  Incredible flavor, practically impossible to eat just one.

TOPPING REMIX #2:  a Johnsonville Turkey Sausage with Cheddar topped with barbecue sauce and a simple lightened up slaw.  Hearty and healthified without sacrificing a pants size.

Sausage topping

sausage toppings - guacamole slaw pico de gallo

The Best Guacamole of Your Life (according to this girl)

  • 1 medium-sized ripe avocado (a ripe avocado is one that is soft to the touch, but not squishy, and definitely not rock hard)
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 2 heaping tbps chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Halve the avocado with a knife, scoop out the avocado pulp into a medium bowl, and discard the seed.  Mash the avocado with a fork, then add the remaining ingredients.  Stir, and enjoy!

 

Pico de Gallo

  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine.  Add additional salt and black pepper to taste.

 

Simple Lightened-up Cole Slaw

Recipe here!

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Chinese Porterhouse Pork Chops {recipe}

Posted on Jun 30, 2014 | 2 comments

Growing up, pork chops were one of my least favorite family dinners.   Coated in Shake n Bake and cooked, and cooked until they were so firm a steak knife would bow as you sawed through them, it was one of the few meals I wouldn’t fight my brother for seconds on.  They ranked only slightly higher than hobo dinners, yet, just like those horrid foil packets of sliced kielbasa and mushy vegetables I dreaded, the chops required a vat of Ranch dressing to make them swallowable.   Of course, this was before the USDA revised the temperature guidelines for cooking pork.  The new rule-of-thumb is 145 degrees and 3 minutes resting time, which results in one juicy, tender chop.  Voilà:

hoisin pork chop 2

Speaking of revisions, did you know pork cuts recently underwent a renaming process?  I had no idea, until I started searching for this month’s North Carolina Pork Council Blog Network featured cut of pork:  the Porterhouse Chop, formerly known as the pork loin chop.  I found this handy reference image on the Pork Be Inspired website:

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For these chops, I was shooting for big, bold flavors and juicy meat — something a wee bit crazy to put the chops of my childhood to shame.

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