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Etch AKA The Best Meal of My Life

I consider myself a foodie, so I don’t take the phrase “The best meal of my life” lightly. I’ve eaten many wonderful meals throughout my lifetime, including a Michelin star restaurant. However, there is one meal that I will (for now) remember as the best meal of my life (and that’s definitely saying something!)

While visiting Nashville for a conference, I met some people who I became friends with and we went to dinner. It was a Saturday night and we had no reservations. We had a couple places in mind and would go to whichever one had the shortest wait. We stopped at Etch first and they had a small table that our party of 3 was happy to take!

Our little table became very crowded when we all had waters, drinks, and appetizers, but we make everything work. When another couple left, the restaurant offered another larger table, so they were very accommodating!

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Dessert: peach tart with peach sorbet and a vanilla creme anglaise. Of course, this was at the end of the meal, but it’s fun to think about dessert first! This is everything you want in a nice southern dessert: warm, slightly tangy, with sweet cinnamon.

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Beef with cashew butter, a berry chutney, parsnip puree, and lightly fried okra. There were so many elements on the plate and usually when there are that many things, flavors can be lost. Not with Etch, though! I could taste all of the flavors and I have never had a meal where all the flavors complimented each other so nicely.

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Salad course and butter tasting. Steak Diane, Taco, truffle tallegio, and ginger cashew butter. What a fun idea to have a butter tasting. These definitely had a higher caliber of flavor and depth. I couldn’t stop eating them.

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Yummy cocktail. It was a spiced Sangria. It had a nice fruity and slightly spicy flavor with clove and cardamom. Definitely not just a regular old sangria!

Overall I’d give the meal more than 5 stars if that fit into my rating system. However, my limit is 5 stars, so I’ll give it that. I can’t tell you how wonderful this meal was and how excited I am to share with you the best meal of my life!

What’s been the best meal of your life? Share in the comments!

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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!

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

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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.

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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!

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Almost ready to put the finishing touches on the soup.

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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!

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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

Beer and Cheese Pretzel Bites

I was having some friend over for my birthday and we were having a potluck. The theme was comfort food and I wanted to make something hearty and filling. Lately, I’ve been really enjoying Tasty videos on Facebook. Basically, they make cooking look like it goes really fast and easy because they speed up the videos. Nevertheless, it’s great to see a recipe make in a minute!

While browsing Facebook one day, I saw the video for Beer and Cheese Pretzel Bites. While watching the video, my mouth began to water and I knew I had to make this for my party. You can view the video here:

They were definitely as good as they looked, but they were slightly difficult to make. I had my husband and brother helping me and here are some things I’d recommend:

  1. Allow the cheese to harden just a little bit before putting them inside the pizza dough
  2. Try to make sure all the sides are covered after covering the cheese with the pizza dough. Any seams that are coming apart slightly will be coming apart more when you put them in the boiling water
  3. To close the seams on the pizza dough before boiling them, squeeze and twist the pieces together
  4. Although it’s tempting because cheese is so good, don’t overfill the pizza dough with cheese. It will result in cheese spilling out the sides, which will become worse while boiling them and even worse in the oven.

Those are my tips for making perfect Beer and Cheese Pretzel Bites. I give them 5 stars. You must try them!

 

Eggs on a Cloud!

Let me start this post out by saying that I hate eggs. That’s right, I had been traumatized as a small child (in my preschool) and forced to eat eggs (and I did not like them then). That said, I have begun to try eggs in various preparations. I’ve found that if the eggs are disguised enough, I don’t mind them so much and sometimes even enjoy them.

When I saw this video I was extremely intrigued. 

I figured you can’t go wrong adding cheese, bacon, and chives to disguise the eggs. I was absolutely right! Yes folks, this REALLY is as tasty as it looks in the video. I enjoyed runny-yolk egg-looking eggs filled with cheesy goodness and baconnnnnn!

Here’s what the egg whites look like after you whip them and add your desired fillings. I whipped the egg whites by hand like they did in the video, but it took a long time with both my husband and me doing it. If you have a hand mixer or kitchen aid mixer, use it…unless you need the extra exercise! Also, make sure to make a little indent in the egg whites before baking them to make room for the egg yolk.

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You bake them at 400 degrees for 3 minutes. I baked them a couple minutes longer because they were not browned at all after 3 minutes. All ovens are different. Watch them during the 3 minutes, if they start to brown, add the egg yolks. If they don’t, cook them longer. Mine spread out some, probably because I used pepper jack cheese (in addition to parmesan). The pepper jack cheese was more moist than the parmesan, so probably made the egg whites flatten slightly. Below is the halfway point of cooking, where you add the egg yolk. They look like eggs, still. Scary!

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And, the finished product! (cue heavenly sound)

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And the other 5 finished products! The eggs continue to cook slightly after you take them out of the oven, so these are best eaten immediately. They are so tasty, you likely won’t have to worry about leftovers, and they would not make good leftovers anyway.

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My husband added some pepper to his.

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And I barely had enough time to snap a picture before he ate it all!

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As I said, we thoroughly enjoyed these. I was actually surprised how much I liked them. I give them 5 stars and highly recommend you make them in your home soon!

I still can’t believe how much I liked these… but I’m getting used to the idea.

Homemade Granola

I’ve wanted to make granola for a while. When I searched for granola and the first search term that came up was Alton Brown’s recipe, naturally I had to try it!

Here’s a picture of the granola right out of the oven. Look at that nice golden color!

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I had to make some modifications, however, because I was making it partly for someone with celiac. Many nuts in this country are contaminated with wheat (processed in facilities that also process wheat), so I left the nuts out. I substituted part of the oil for coconut oil and substituted the raisins for dried cranberries, but the gist of the recipe is the same.

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My husband and company decided that it tasted even better mixed with plain yogurt.

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Here’s the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/granola-recipe.html. I’d probably put a little less brown sugar and maple syrup next time to cut down on the sweetness, but I’d still give it 5 stars!