Friday, February 24, 2012

Greek Chicken Gyro Spanikopita Eggroll....Thingies

I loooooove me some Greek food.  It all started in college when I lived near a little joint called Dave's Taverna and we'd go there after frat parties with our inappropriate clothing and ravenous appetites (did you know that Milwaukee's Best Light, otherwise known as "Beast Light" increases your appetite tenfold?  True story).  They have a mean gyro and chicken souvlaki.  One day I ate there 3 separate times (lunch, dinner, and a late-night bad decision, naturally).

I still love Greek food, even now that I am grown up and way too mature to EVER chow down late at night after some good, wholesome fun.  Um, right.

ANYWAY, my city has an annual Greek festival and I'm pretty sure its like the most popular event in the history of Richmond, VA.  Literally thousands of people descend upon the tiny parking lot of the Greek church in my neighborhood and stand there in the sweltering heat, chugging cheap Greek wine and waiting 2 hours for their turn at the buffet.  Its actually quite curious because the Greek Festival, when you really think about it, isn't really all that fun.  First, it always seems to fall on the hottest weekend in the history of summer in Virginia.  Not like, "oh its kind of toasty out there, maybe I should wear a sundress".  Its hot like, "my entire face is going to melt off and coagulate on the ground in front of me".  Also, while the food is quite tasty, the wine is not.  Have you ever had a $7 bottle of Greek wine (no doubt marked up to $7 from the $1.50 it cost to buy from the distributor)?  If not, I don't recommend it.  Plus, they usually run out of the white variety (the less offensive one) early, because who wants to drink red wine in 110 degree heat?  Sometimes its so crowded you can't move and there is nowhere to sit and you have to try to eat your gyro with one hand while you hold your bottle of white to your forehead with the other.  And the funny thing is, I'm pretty sure a lot of Richmonders agree with me about the Greek Festival's shortcomings.  But the REALLY funny thing is, it will never stop any of us from going.  I look forward to it all year, and get super excited for Greek Festival night.  I'll see you all there, and I'll ignore your back sweat and the fact that your makeup has melted onto your shirt.

Because the Greek Festival isn't for another few months, I had to satisfy my craving in a homemade kind of way.  I don't even know what made me think to take all of my favorite Greek ingredients and roll them into eggroll wrappers, but I'm glad I did.  These were delicious, and dipping them into homemade tzatziki was the icing on the cake (or, the sauce on the eggroll, if you will).  I served these with Greek salad and some white beans.  Delish!

Homemade Tzatziki Sauce
Source: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

2 cups Greek yogurt (I used Chobani 2%)
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 1/2 cups diced seedless cucumber (it must be seedless)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine Greek yogurt, sour cream, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, red wine vinegar, and dill. Stir until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Chill at least an hour before serving.

Greek Chicken Eggrolls
Source: My own, inspired by Chili's Southwestern eggrolls

8 eggroll wrappers
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup tzatziki sauce (recipe above)
1/4 cup chopped pepperocini peppers
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup seedless cucumber, finely chopped
1/2 - 3/4 cup feta, crumbled (works best if you buy a block and crumble it yourself)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for brushing

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine the chicken, tzatziki, pepperocinis, onion, cucumber, feta, oregano, garlic powder, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Stir to mix until tzatziki is evenly distributed.

Next, lay an egg roll wrapper out on a work surface so that one of the corners is pointing toward you and spoon about 1/4 cup (or a little more) of the filling in the center. Fold the tip closest to you up over the filling, and then roll it a little bit.  Next, fold the outer points into the center and then keep rolling until it forms an eggroll shape.  Make sure to leave a small triangle at the top in order to make the seal.  Dip a finger in water and lightly brush on the edges of the free corner. Fold the loose end over and press to seal the eggroll closed. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the eggrolls on the baking sheet seam side down.  Brush the tops of the eggrolls with olive oil. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until lightly brown, turning 2-3 times during the baking process. Serve with tzatziki.

Chopped Greek Salad with Vinaigrette
Source: Adapted from Midwest Home Magazine

1 romaine heart, chopped finely
1/2 red onion, sliced
4 roma tomatoes, insides removed and chopped
1/2 seedless cucumber, roughly chopped
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
1/3 cup pepperocini peppers, chopped
1/3 cup feta, crumbled
Greek dressing to taste (recipe follows)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss to combine, and dress with Greek dressing.

Greek Vinaigrette
Source: Adapted from Midwest Home Magazine

1 clove garlic, minced
dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon crumbled dried Greek oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
¹⁄³ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients through the salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Mix to combine.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until incorporated.  Serve over salad.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eggs Benny Recipe Posted!

Hey y'all!  I didn't realize how much you chow hounds loved yourselves some eggs benedict.  I sure did get a lot of emails begging me to post the recipe immediately, and your wishes are my command.  I've edited the Brunch post to include the recipe (thanks Lauren, for typing it all out for me!).  You're welcome.

And tomorrow, you have Farmer's Spaghetti to look forward to.  Or buttermilk roasted chicken.  Not sure yet, but stay tuned nonetheless!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Brunch! Eggs Benedict, Home Fries, and The Best Bloody Mary

I love brunch.  Its an excuse to eat decadent stuff early in the day.  And to enjoy a cocktail early in the day, but that's not really the point here (I swear).  I love going out to brunch, but all the good places in my city are super crowded at brunch time and don't take reservations.  And I hate waiting.  My brunch-mates hate waiting, too, because I get super grumpy when I'm hungry (true story).  So making brunch at home is a good option and then you can save money and wear your PJs and "forget" to put makeup on.  And then you can play on Pinterest afterwards.

This past weekend we had Lauren and Brian over so we could make brunch while the boys brewed beer in the back yard.  You know, when I type that out, it doesn't really seem fair.  Like, the womenfolk slaving away in the kitchen while the menfolk make gallons and gallons of beer and talk loudly about how hungry they are.  But I guess it is sort of fair, because we like to cook and brewing beer doesn't sound like that much fun anyway.

I had been dying to make Bloody Marys at home ever since I got back from Austin, TX where we had a team dinner at Casino El Camino.  The website doesn't mention how amazing the Bloody Marys are, but they should.  Rumor has it that they put coffee in the mix.  And they put like a whole ham sandwich (sans the bread) on a skewer in there.  It had bacon!  And fresh mozzarella!  Yum.

Aside from Bloody Marys, eggs Benedict and home fries were on the menu.  The recipe for the eggs Benedict is coming in a later post, because Lauren made it and I wasn't really paying attention to the steps.  Stay tuned for that - it was amazing!


The Best Bloody Mary
Source: Inspired by Casino El Camino
(Makes 1)

2 oz. Effen Cucumber Flavored Vodka (OMG you must use this, its awesome)
4 oz. Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix (I know its cheating, but this stuff is good.  It MUST be Zing Zang if you use a mix)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
1-2 tsp. (depending on your taste) hot sauce
several grinds fresh black pepper

pickle spears (I know it sounds weird, but do it.  Its amazing)
fresh mozzarella (the little balls work best)
salami or ham chunks

Mix all ingredients in a tall glass with ice.  Stir, and top with black pepper.  Garnish with pickles, cucumbers, and the cheese, olives, and ham on a toothpick or cocktail spear.  Drink.  Die.

Home Fries
Source: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch cubes (I used 3 potatoes for 4 people and we had leftovers)
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 onion, finely chopped

1 poblano pepper, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder

smoked paprika
bit of cayenne

Arrange potatoes in large microwave-safe bowl, top with 1 tablespoon butter, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on high until edges of potatoes begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking bowl (without removing plastic) to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in large regular or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and and poblano and cook until softened and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and pack down with spatula. Cook, without moving, until underside of potatoes is brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn potatoes, pack down again, and continue to cook until well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring potatoes every few minutes, until crusty and golden on all sides, 9 to 12 minutes. Stir in onion, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.

Kicked Up Eggs Benedict
Made by the Lovely Lauren
Source: partly her own, partly adapted from The Joy of Cooking
4 Croissants cut in half (we used the smaller, rounder ones)
8 slices of Canadian bacon
1 cup Béarnaise sauce (ingredients and recipe to follow)
8 large eggs

For the Béarnaise Sauce: (adapted from Joy of cooking)
3 Tblsp dry white wine
3 Tblsp white wine vinegar
3 stalks fresh tarragon, leaves removed,chopped and set aside for later (should be about 4-6tbsp of chopped leaves)
8 peppercorns, lightly crushed
(you can also add one shallot but we didn't have it so she left it out and it still tasted great!)
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp cold water
10 tablespoons butter, melted

In a small sauce pan add vinegar, wine, tarragon stems, and peppercorns reduce by 2/3 on medium low heat. This is where you would add the shallots if you choose to. Once reduced, set aside and cool.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly.

In the top of a double boiler (or glass/steel bowl if you do not have a double boiler) add eggs and water and whisk until the eggs are light and fluffy. Put whole top boiler/bowl over bottom of double boiler with simmering water and whisk eggs consistently until eggs star to harden (about 3 to five minutes).

Once eggs have began to harden take off double boiler and slowly whisk in butter until smooth. Then mix in tarragon leaves and about 1/2 of the reserved liquid a pinch of salt. Taste, if it needs to be a little tangier add more reserved liquid, salt, & pepper to taste.  I use about 3/4 of the reserved liquid when you add too much it will taste too vinegary.

Keep sauce warm until ready to serve.

For the poached eggs and sandwich assembly:
In a 4 quart pot, bring a large pot of water to a boil. 

Meanwhile, under a low boiler, cook the Canadian bacon. Once done toast the croissant halves. Put two croissant half on each plate and top with one piece of Canadian bacon.

Once the water is boiling add a Tblsp of white vinegar. Create a whirlpool in the water with a large spoon or ladle and crack and egg in the center of the whirlpool.  Around the outside of the pot continue to create the whirlpool around the egg. The swirling allows the egg whites to coagulate around the yolk.  Once the egg whites have fully coagulated around the yolk the egg is done (it should be about 2-4 minutes, over cooking the egg will cause the yolk to cook which you don't want for the Benny). 

Keep the pot at a boil and create a new whirlpool before adding each egg.

As each egg is done finish the rest of the Benny by adding an egg on top of the bacon.  Once all the plates are done top each Benny with a portion of the Béarnaise sauce. Decorate each plate with a swirl of siracha!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Meatball Sliders

Did you miss me?  Well, I'm back, even if you didn't miss me.

The weird traveler of the week award goes  I know its totally lame to give an award to yourself, but I deserve it.  And I'll tell you why.

Have you ever seen people asleep in the chairs at the gate in airports?  How they just fall asleep sitting up and their heads either fall forward on their chests or backwards onto the back of the chair?  And you're like, who can sleep like that?  That can't be comfortable!  And they're snoring in front of a bunch of strangers!  And their mouths are wide open!  There could be drool! 

Yes.  Its true.  This past Friday, I was that person.  Its shameful, but true.  I arrived at Austin International Airport on Friday after a long, long week, feeling utterly exhausted.  I mean, top 10 most exhausted days of my entire life.  Maybe top 5.  It literally took everything in me to put one foot in front of the other and not throw a temper tantrum in the security line because people were taking too long to take their belts off.  All I wanted to do was sleep for one billion years.  And then an extra day for good measure.  I arrive at my gate, and realize with dismay that I have an hour and a half until boarding time.  What do I do?!  I can't wait an hour in a half until I settle into my comfy first class seat (Thanks American Airlines!  You rock, I don't care what they say about you!).  So I settle into a seat near the gate but away from other passengers and put on my sunglasses, telling myself that I'm just going to close my eyes for a second....

Next thing I know, I awaken with a jolt.  I'm not sure exactly what it was that woke me up.  It was either the loud snore that escaped since I was sleeping with my mouth wide open, or it was when my chin hit my chest with the power of 10,000 horses.  I sheepishly look around and realize everyone within earshot is staring at me.  Like, jaws dropped, eyebrows raised, staring.  They are probably thinking, "Who can sleep like that? That can't be comfortable! And she's snoring in front of a bunch of strangers! And her mouth is wide open!  I think I saw drool!"

Yep, I was that girl.  And I get the award.  The end.

Too bad that when I finally got on the plane, they served gross airplane food instead of something tasty like these meatball sliders.  I love meatballs and am always looking for new ways to make them.  I also love sliders because sandwiches are the best food in the entire world.  These were amazing.  They were juicy and garlicky and the sauce was sweet and the cheese creamy.  Nom.  They were pretty healthy, too, since they were baked and not fried.  You know what that means?  Yep, you can eat twice as many.


Meatball Sliders
Source: Meatballs adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride; Sauce adapted from Food Network's How to Boil Water

1 lb ground chuck (I used 90/10)
4 oz dried bread crumbs (I used seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs)
4 large eggs
4 oz whole milk (I used 2%)
6 oz grated Romano (I used parmesan, romano, asiago mix)
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves finely diced fresh garlic (I used 6 cloves)

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Make sure everything is mixed in, but do not overmix or your meatballs will be too dense.

Roll meat mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball and place onto the greased baking sheet. Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled, tomatoes, roughly chopped (use the best quality you can find)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 small bunch fresh basil, leaves chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with about half of their juices (discarding the rest), the thyme and basil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for about 25 to 30 minutes or until thickened.

Stir in the salt and season with pepper, to taste.
To make sliders:
Top slider size potato rolls (or sliders rolls of your choosing) with one meatball, sauce, and a small piece of fresh mozzarella.  Place under broiler (on low) for just a minute or two, until cheese melts and roll starts to brown.  Serve and enjoy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Oy.  My "businses" trip to Austin consisted of far too many late nights and curious cocktails.  I've been home for a couple of days and I'm just now starting to feel like a regular person.  Evidently sleep isn't a priority in Texas and I arrived home utterly exhausted.

I'll commence cooking, blogging, and living a wholesome life starting tomorrow.  Until then....happy Sunday!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Beef Stir Fry with Veggies

After almost 3 months working at home and avoiding airport food, I hit the road again this week.  I actually kind of missed it and was itching to get back to traveling, even though I complain about my fellow travelers and the inevitable 6 AM flight.  I'm going to be on the road a lot in the next couple of months and I've decided that we will be implementing an award system to make sure we keep these trips interesting.

Every time I get home from a trip I'll be gracing a special someone with a "Weird Traveler of the Week" award.  I think its best to document my favorite instances where I think to myself, "What the....?".  One day when I'm old and senile (and may well be a subject of someone else's weird traveler award), I'd like to remember these folks fondly.

And the Week 1 winner is.....the four pageant moms in the Cleveland airport bar!!  They were sitting right next to me and each had a garment bag full of tiny jeweled and bedazzled clothing.  And they were awfully drunk.  They were downing "chocolate cake" shots like it was going out of style (although if you've ever had a chocolate cake shot, you'd know they will NEVER go out of style).  They were loudly discussing how little their husbands know about the true (astronomical) cost of participating in pageants.  I also wonder if their husbands know how much booze at an airport costs.  I'm thinking no.  I was alone working on my laptop and I kind of wanted to join in the fun...because after all, I love a chocolate cake shot and I have a per diem allowance for "meals".  But I was too intimidated and I was convinced they'd know I was a poser who was just trying to get close enough to get a picture of the bedazzled dresses with my  iPhone.  So I sat there in silence and posted about it on Facebook instead.

And you know the most curious part?  They didn't even have any little girls with them.  I mean, where were the tiny pageant queens?  I figured they were probably with their daddies, sitting at the gate and wreaking havoc on the poor unfortunate menfolk who don't know how much pageants cost.  Suckers.

Anyway!  I'm in Austin next week, and I'll be sure to let you know who wins the Week 2 award.

As usual, my random story will be followed by a delicious recipe.  I had a flank steak sitting around and needed a way to cook it without making it into tacos (because I'm trying to not be fat).  I thought beef and broccoli sounded like a good idea, but since I'm trying to avoid eating too many white foods (like rice), I added a bunch of other veggies so I wouldn't miss the rice (I still did).  It was super flavorful, though, and it got the thumbs up from the husband, too.  Although, he had his with rice and I spent most of my meal staring at his plate and giving him dirty looks every time he took a sweet, yummy, ricey bite.

Beef Stir Fry with Veggies
Source: Adapted from Ask Aida

2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pound flank steak, trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 scallions, ends trimmed and sliced into 1” pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
12 ounces snow peas
2 cups broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper, sliced
Whisk the chili-garlic sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, sesame oil, and cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside. Cut the beef lengthwise along the grain into 2 (3-4 inch wide) pieces. Slice each piece of beef across the grain into paper thin pieces, about 1/8-inch thick. Pat the beef dry and season well with salt and pepper, to taste.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over high heat just until smoking. Add the beef and cook, stirring rarely, until well browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a plate.
Return the skillet to the stove over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, the broccoli, the garlic, and the ginger, and cook until just fragrant and starting to color, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the snow peas, scallions, and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Whisk in the chili-garlic sauce mixture, then remove the pan from the heat, and add the beef and accumulated juices. Toss to coat and transfer to a serving platter. Serve immediately.