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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Fried Cheese Snack

Oh Costco, how I love thee. On two separate trips to Costco, I had the same food sample of fried cheese. The first time, I thought it was really tasty, but was buying a lot of other things and didn’t think I would use all the cheese and the other perishables I was buying.

The second visit, when they had the same sample, I knew it was a sign that I needed it. Making this snack is really simple. The person making the samples at Costco had a griddle and the cheese. I noticed some oily residue on the griddle and asked if she was using butter or oil. She said it was just the cheese…so easy!


Here’s the cheese packaging, in case you feel obliged to get some after I tell you again how easy this is!


I heated up the skillet to medium heat for a few minutes before putting in the cheese slices. When the cheese is in the pan, don’t touch it for the first few minutes. You’ll notice the edges start to brown when they are also brown underneath. Cook them for a few minutes on each side.


I served mine on some multi-grain sourdough bread from Trader Joe’s, mainly because it was all I had. The cheese seemed to take away from the flavor of the sourdough a bit, but it was still tasty. The lady making the samples at Costco was saying that this makes an excellent grilled cheese sandwich, so maybe next time, I’ll have to try that! I give the fried cheese an ecstatic 5 stars!


Chicken (in the pressure cooker!)

Warning: After reading this post, you may feel the need to go out and buy an Instant Pot. Do not be alarmed. It really is an awesome gadget that I’ve been using a lot lately, as you can probably tell by my Mac & Cheese post. I should probably mention that I’m definitely not being given money or anything else to rave about the Instant Pot, all of this enthusiasm is completely genuine!

This time, I decided to make chicken using the Instant Pot. The problem I have with meat is that most of it is in the freezer. In order to make it, I have to defrost it for a couple  days and then be prepared to make it at that time. I often cook on whims and make whatever I am craving on that particular day. I don’t often plan out every meal and am not prepared enough to make sure I cook the meat I take out of the freezer before it goes bad.

I should also mention that my husband and I eat mostly vegetarian food at home, so having meat is a special treat. Keeping those things in mind, I didn’t have chicken defrosted the day I made this chicken. I began to search for pressure cooker chicken breast recipes that allow for frozen meat. I rejoiced when I found some! More on the meat later…


The Instant Pot has a sauté function, which takes a couple minutes to warm up and stays on for 30 minutes, unless you switch to another setting. I sautéed some chopped red onions and mushrooms with salt, pepper, and Emeril’s Essence until they were softened. You can find the Emeril’s Essence recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/emerils-essence-recipe.html. Personally, I’m not a fan of Emeril’s television personality, but this stuff is really good!


Here’s a picture of the Instant Pot with the sauté function on. After the onions and mushrooms were softened, I added some water and the frozen chicken breasts, which I seasoned on both sides with salt, pepper, and more Emeril’s Essence. I cooked the  chicken using the poultry option, which cooks for 15 minutes. After releasing the steam and checking the meat, it was still pink, so I did another full cycle of the poultry function.

I could have probably used a little less time, but the meat was still very tender! I was surprised that the mushrooms were quite tasty and were not too chewy, as is often my experience when I put them in vegetable soups.

After the chicken was done, I cut it into cubes and put it in a bowl covered with aluminum foil. The foil kept it warm while I was cooking other things. I kept the juice from the meat in the Instant Pot and used it to make a gravy. I switched back to the sauté function and added white wine, heavy cream, corn starch, and a little salt and pepper to the meat drippings. I whisked the mixture until it thickened and served it with the chicken.


I give it 5 stars easily (my rating system does not allow for more). I served the dish over rice and it was delectable! My serving spoon says, “Save room for seconds” and I definitely did have seconds of this meal!

Mac & Cheese and Pressure Cooker Cooking

Growing up, my mom did not own a pressure cooker, so I had very few ideas about what you could cook with such a gadget. I have a feeling that many of my friends have very little knowledge about how to use one as well. For example, during a cooking challenge at a friend’s house, we drew knives to select our cooking method (can you tell we watched a lot of Top Chef?). One of the methods was the pressure cooker and everyone stayed away from that one. A few years later, I would be ready to delve into using such a device, albeit an electronic one.

My husband and I had an Instant Pot on our wedding registry and received it as a gift. Up until recently, I had only used it for cooking rice, which it cooks perfectly. While my mother-in-law was visiting last October, she and my husband made pressure cooked ribs in it and they were AMAZING. They were so tender and fell off the bone. Here’s the link to that recipe: http://instantpot.com/instant-pot-bbq-ribs/

Below is a picture of the Instant Pot in all it’s glory! Seriously though, this gadget could replace many in your kitchen. You can see all the functions it has: from sauté to slow-cooking to specific proteins. It’s got a function for everything. If you don’t like the amount of time programmed for a particular function, you can change it, so it’s fully customizable and wonderful!


Fast forward 5 months after the rib adventure and I decided to make pressure cooker Macaroni and Cheese after a friend and neighbor made it for my birthday. He gave me the recipe, but his recipe called for cream cheese, which I did not have. As it was a cold and rainy night the evening I made this recipe, I did not feel like going out to get cream cheese, so I found another recipe. I searched for recipes specific to the Instant Pot that I owned and found one that looked good.

In addition to the ingredients required, I also added dried chopped onion and a few sprinkles of garlic powder. I find that dried chopped onion really adds a nice flavor and texture to macaroni and cheese. I even add dried chopped onion along with other dried herbs to the boxed macaroni and cheese when it’s cooking to soften them and give the macaroni more flavor.


For this recipe, you cook the macaroni for 4 minutes, YES 4 MINUTES! Of course, the pressure has to build up first which takes 5-10 minutes, but I was amazed at how little cooking time was required!


When serving, I added some freshly ground pepper and more hot sauce. I used Frank’s Red Hot, because you know, “I put that #^&* on everything!” I give the finished product 3.5 stars. I’m not sure whether it was the pasta I used (it contained artichoke), or the extra dried onion and garlic that I added, but it wasn’t as good as I imagined it to be. Next time, I’ll follow the recipe my friend gave me and go with something I know is going to be good! After playing with the Instant Pot more, I’m definitely a pressure cooker convert and hope to make many more recipes using the it!

Here’s the recipe: http://www.copykat.com/2016/01/10/instant-pot-macaroni-and-cheese/ Enjoy!


Broccoli Cheddar Soup

When in the mood for a cheesy comforting soup, I decided to make Broccoli Cheddar Soup. It has cheese AND vegetables! What could be better?!

I was inspired to make this soup after a trip to Panera with my brother. He always gets broccoli cheddar soup in a bread bowl. I had a bite of his soup and it was quite tasty. Instead of trying to find a Panera copycat recipe, I did a quick google search. The first recipe that came up was a food network recipe, so I was sold. It was titled “Almost Famous Broccoli-Cheddar Soup” and after reading the title, my mouth began to water.


At this point, the soup was still cooking. After this picture was taken, I used an immersion blender to blend everything to a silky smooth texture. You can also blend it in a blender in small batches if you don’t have an immersion blender.


Almost ready to put the finishing touches on the soup.


Time to pour in the cheese. Don’t worry, I didn’t skimp on the cheese. This picture was taken after already pouring in some cheese and whisking it in!


I ended up adding some cayenne pepper and extra black pepper to the finished product to give it a bit more zip! Unfortunately, I didn’t have sourdough bread bowls, but I did have sourdough bread. My husband has been buying multi-grain sourdough bread from Trader Joe’s recently and let me tell you, it’s one of the best breads I’ve ever tasted! It also has very few ingredients (read: fresh and containing no preservatives or additives). Pick up a similar bread at the grocery store and it’ll contain weird ingredients you never knew they put in bread! But, I digress…

We served the finished product with the multi-grain sourdough bread and it was delicious. The recipe makes a fairly large amount of soup, but it was so good that we finished in the next day.

I give the finished product 5 stars! Here’s the link to the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/almost-famous-broccoli-cheddar-soup-recipe.html

“No Sugar” update

So, what’s your favorite sugary treat? Vote here! 

This month, I decided to give up sugar. My husband has also joined me in my venture, so it’s nice to have support. I’ve realized it’s easier to say no, or just acknowledge that there is cake, cookies, brownies, doughnuts, etc. and label them as off limits. Then I grab for fruit or other items because I need some sweetness in my life! Through this experiment, I realized that when I have a small amount of cake or cookies, I just want more because they’re so good and satisfying.

The month was off to a great start for the first week and a  half. Unfortunately, recently things have not gone exactly as planned. I’ve done well at social occasions and with temptations at home and at work. In fact, it’s been easier than I thought to say no to cake at work. During both of the two weeks that I’ve been doing this, at work we were celebrating birthdays (and you know that means lots of cake!) And, to all of this, I said no.

So, what was my downfall? Actually, it was unintentional. Earlier this week, I was sick with a virus or some other bug. I grabbed for soup that was going to make me feel better. In my zombie-like stupor from my cold/virus, I picked up some soup from the grocery store that contained sugar. It wasn’t only that. My throat was sore and I needed to be able to communicate with patients in my career as a speech pathologist, so I grabbed for the *gasp* cough drops! Even the “all natural” cough drops contain honey at the very least. Many of the regular ones have sucralose (yuck!)

I certainly don’t feel like I cheated in any way. I am still continuing for the rest of the month. I do really have a craving for a piece of cake or to bake something with pumpkin in it (’tis the season!) In fact, I’ve already bought some cake batter cookies from Costco to celebrate the end of my “No Sugar September.” Also, my husband found that Trader Joe’s make pumpkin Joe-Joes! Yes, pumpkin Joe-Joes, Trader Joe’s brand of oreos!! So excited to try them. Here’s a pic of my soon to be treats so you can drool with me!



I won’t be continuing the no sugar sentiment into the month of October because it will be my first anniversary with my husband. To celebrate this occasion, we will be getting cake from Charm City Cakes. It’s going to be the same flavor as our wedding cake from there! I’m so excited to have pear spice cake again because it was so good the first time!

No Sugar September

Ever since I was little I’ve always been a sugar fiend. I would always try the latest confections and candy treats. If there was a new candy advertised on television, you could be sure that I was one of the first to try it.

This mentality continued into my teenage in adult life. Anyone who knows me knows that cupcakes are one of my all-time favorite foods. Desserts were often a typical part of my daily routine. However, I started to realize that after 30 minutes of consuming sugar, I would feel extremely tired. Several repetitions of this pattern made me realize that it was definitely sugar that was causing these ill-desired effects.

I’ve been wanting to try to revise my thinking about sugar, so I decided to do a no-sugar September. I am still eating fruits, but avoiding sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, artificial sugars etc. To prepare for this expedition, I made the most of a few days before enjoying desserts and other sugar-laced foods: creme brulee, candy, and chocolate chip cookies, trying not to go overboard.

I’m on my 6th day and so far have made some observations:

1) Fruit makes a good dessert. In the evenings, instead of grabbing for cookies, I’d enjoy an orange, berries, a banana, or other fruit. Eating fruit instead of desserts has made me be more mindful of the wonderful sugars I am eating in the fruit.

2) It’s amazing what foods have sugar in them. Some foods are hard to find without sugar. I was recently searching the bread aisle for sugar-free and corn syrup-free bread. I looked through the whole aisle and was about to give up, when I found one without sugar, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. Foods like beef jerky, nacho cheese chips, cheddar cheese bratwurst, and many others unexpectedly have sugar in them.

3) Social events are a bit harder, but being prepared is important to successfully navigating a party or pot luck. My husband and I are on a getaway with several friends. As mentioned above, there are many sugar-laced foods that you wouldn’t necessarily expect, so it’s been important for me to be prepared. I made sure to bring plenty of fruits on the outing so that I would have a sweet treat if cravings set in.

All in all, it’s not extremely difficult, but is definitely taking some self-control and reading the labels for me to stay sugar-free this month. Anyone else have any sugar-related experiences? I’d love to hear them.

The Revival of this blog and Lentil Soup

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit and started to miss it. My last post was August of last year. What can I say? Life gets busy. I’m happy to announce that I became engaged in September of last year and am in wedding planning mode. Despite all this, I’m going to give another go at blogging. My posts may not be as detailed as before and the number of items I focus on may be fewer, but I will attempt to continue it.

The other day I made lentil soup. I have not made this before, so I found a recipe from Alton Brown: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/lentil-soup-recipe/index.html. The spices in his recipe were: salt, coriander, cumin, and grains of paradise. So, what the heck is grains of paradise? Apparently it’s a cross between pepper and ginger and Alton Brown likes it so much that he keeps a separate grinder full of them

I attempted to find this spice at Penzey’s spices, a local store I was sure would have what I seeked. However, they did not have it. For this recipe, I used ground cardamom and pepper as a substitute. Meanwhile, my fiance ordered some grains of paradise so we can use it in the future. Alton Brown keeps the spice on hand and even keeps a special grinder just for it, so I’m definitely willing to try it out.

The lentil soup was quite tasty, though I don’t have any picture this time. I’d give it 4 and a half stars!