Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011: A Foodie Odyssey part 8, Scotland: Cock-a-Leekie Soup & Highland Toffee

Ahhhhhh Scotland.  One of my favorite places on Earth and a post I was looking forward to.  Now most people associate golf with Scotland, I think Haggis and Fish & Chips.  I think Chef Ramsay and rain.  It is not well known for its food that is for sure.

Scotland is rich in history and the architecture of cities like Glasgow show it.  The food was often lacking in spices due to the expense in the 1600's-1700's.  But that did not mean it was tasteless.  They used a little more fat than most.  Although it is the worst part to eat it really packs all the flavor, so that is what they used.  Vegetables where also a big draw, such as turnips and leeks.

I chose to do a soup for a couple reasons.  The first was that it is a classic dish, which is what I wanted.  The second reason is that it required no spices.  And the third was the name!  Cock-A-Leekie Soup!  Sounds like a needed trip to the clinic after a wild weekend!  But it is a Chicken and Leek soup, and a very good one at that!  I felt it showed just the side of Scottish cooking I was looking for.

Here is What You'll Need:

2 pounds of chicken thighs skin on bone in
5 cups of water
1 onion chopped
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons of barley
1\2 can of chicken broth
3 1/2 leeks sliced
1 stalk celery sliced
1/2 sprig of fresh thyme chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Get a large pot and add the water, chicken, barley and onion.  Bring the water to a boil and then reduce head and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the water and remove the skin and bones.  Chop into bite size pieces and replace into the water.
 Add the leeks, parsley, thyme, celery, chicken broth, salt and pepper and simmer for another 30 minutes.  When the veggies are tender you are done.  It may not take quite 30 minutes!

That was a very simple recipe.  It dose take some time to cook but you can move on to other chores while it is cooking.  The prep is easy and fast.  The flavor was outstanding!  All the fresh veggies, the chicken, and a little salt and pepper go a long way in the flavor department.  This would be a great spring soup.  The freshness of the vegetables really comes out and it's simple straight forward flavor is relaxing, letting you enjoy the taste without all the over complicated layers of spice.  It just seemed like it was too simple to be so good!

 And Highland Toffee!...


I also chose to do a dessert!  Highland Toffee.  It is a nice chocolate topped oatmeal bar.  Not to sweet if you can believe it.  It was an easy one to prepare and was a big hit at work.  I made a double batch and took it in to work to get some outside opinion, not to mention everyone has been asking me when I was bringing in some goodies! 

Here is What You'll Need:

1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped nuts (this is optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Stir together the oats and oil in a mixing bowl.  Add brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and corn syrup and mix well.  Grease or butter a 9 or 8 inch square pan generously and add the oat mixture.  Place in oven and bake for about 12 minutes.  When done baking set aside and let cool. 

When the oats are cool remove and cut into four large squares.  Melt down the chocolate according to the packaging directions and top your oat bars.  Sprinkle the nuts on top while chocolate is still warm.  When the chocolate is set and can be handled cut your bars into as many pieces as you like!

 The Toffee was good and not very sweet!  It was fast to prepare, about 45 minutes or so.  I'm sure they are not healthy but it is not to glutinous either.  I did use light syrup and sugar! 

I had fun preparing these dishes, and I hope you give them a try and enjoy them as much.  This trip to Scotland was fun for me, got to eat my new favorite veggie, the leek.  Made a new dessert and that dose not happen often.  Estonia is next to be featured in 2011: A Foodie Odyssey!  I have a recipe that should prove interesting!  Don't forget to vote for the next country to be featured at the top of this page!

Love Food, Live Life!

Friday, March 25, 2011

2011: A Foodie Odyssey part 7: Fance, Pot Au Feu

France.  The word to me speaks of food.  It is a culinary destination for so many aspiring chefs and foodies alike.  My budget dose not allow me to travel at the moment so I decided to bring a little piece of France to my kitchen.  If your like me then you think most French food is over the top and a great deal of work or skill is required to prepare it.  That can be true, as with every other country in the world, but what about the average home maker?  Do you think they slave over Duck A L'Orange or fuss over Creme Brulee?  Heck no!  They are as busy as the rest of us.  Working.  Dropping the kids off at practice and countless other obligations.  The recipes we are accustomed seeing are not the average home dinner.  That is why it's on your favorite celebrity chef's show, or restaurants menu.  It is special and dose take skill and that's what makes it interesting to watch.

I found lots of simple home recipes.  Pot A Feu, or Pot of Fire, was one that caught my eye for two reasons.  Reason one was simple enough, it was the style I was looking for.  It is known as a peasant food with a long history, right up my alley!  Reason two is that it is similar to the Rippli recipe I used for Switzerland.  I thought it was interesting to see two variations of a similar dish from two different countries.

Here is What You'll Need:

3 pounds of beef with bone in (beef spare ribs are what I used)
11 ounces of bacon (cut in thirds)
10 peal onions
3 cloves of garlic chopped
4 medium carrots peeled and cut into cubes or sliced
2 leeks cut into rounds
5 tomatoes diced
1 cup beef stock
all purpose flour
sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste

Season the beef and brown over medium heat. 
You want a good color and caramelization, this is where your flavor is!  Sprinkle lightly with flour and turn as needed.  Place the beef in a slow cooker and move on.

 Fry the bacon, onions, garlic, and carrots.  Cook until bacon is just under done.  Add the tomatoes and leeks along with the beef stock. 

Bring to a boil then add the mixture to the slow cooker with the ribs and let cook on low for about 5 hours.
Plate, or bowl rather and serve!

So so so easy!  It was very good to but rich.  I loved it!  You can cook it ahead of time, chill and remove the oil from the top when it solidifies but I went for the full affect!  It was so good and flavorful I had a hard time not eating it all.  In comparison to the Swiss version it held it's own.  Though it did not have a wine base for the soup it was still packed with flavor.  I love the leeks in the mix as I have just discovered a new affinity for them. 

All in all I hope that you have learned that not all French cooking is for the pros!  This was an easy one to throw together and move on to chores as it simmers to perfection! 

Scotland is next up followed by Estonia on 2011: A Foodie Odyssey!  Don't forget to vote for the next country on the top of the page.

I have some exciting news as well.  I will be having two of my favorite bloggers doing a guest post on Wichita Falls Foodie!  They are both very talented and crafty women who feature homemaking tips, crafts, food, and lots of other cool features.  It will be a good chance for you to get a glimpse of some other talented bloggers and see who I draw some inspiration from!  The buttons are for the respective blogs, give them a peek!

Love Food, Live Life!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What I Ate Wednesday! Sponsored by Peas & Crayons! Week 1

In the spirit of getting to know a person I have found a great feature from Peas & Crayons that I thought would be fun and give you a glimpse into what I eat when I'm not doing a recipe for my blog.  It is called "What I Ate Wednesday".  The concept is to get some pics of at least one meal a day, including snacks, and let you see a day in my dietary life.  It should be a fun and interesting glimpse outside my normal posts.  Do you wonder if I eat like the recipes I post all week?  The answer is HECK no!  I plan those meals for when time allows me to cook like that.  My diet outside that is something like this....

For breakfast, a bacon egg and cheese burrito with home made salsa and tortilla from a co-worker who makes food at home and brings it in for us to eat, at a small charge.  This breaks up the same old food from the restaurant day in and day out.  And it's cooked with love, you can taste it!

While at work I sneak in a power bar!  And somewhere along the day I do a protein shake, I use orange juice and the chocolate for some flare!  Don't knock it, try it!

For my snacks I had some Scottish Toffee that I made for my blog and co-workers, and some of my spicy Tabasco Egg Salad!  Just on some crackers and in small portions I don't feel to glutinous!

I got my taxes back recently and treated myself to my favorite dinner, not to mention I have been training a lot harder trying to get in shape for some upcoming Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Tournaments.  I felt like I deserved it, plus I eat what I want one day a week to keep the cravings to a minimum.  Cravings kill a diet plan and often make you feel guilty and make you drop the diet I have found.  A nice Rib eye marinated in Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Montreal steak seasoning, and Tabasco.  To go with it an artichoke boiled in red wine vinegar water and finished off on the gill with olive oil, sea salt and pepper!  Ohhh my it would be my last meal if ever I had to choose :) 
Well that's "What I Ate Wednesday"!  What did you have?????

Love Food, Live Life!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Johnny Carino's

I am a lover of Italian food!  I love the zest and enjoy pasta and the atmosphere of a good Italian restaurant.  I have not been able to try the local Italian scene until just a few days ago.  This restaurant was highly recommended by a fellow foodie, Will McCracken.  This is "his spot" he said.  The food is good and they have great drink specials to go along with it.

With this recommendation in mind I was eager to try it.  I was off work at an early time and headed out to my destination.  It was lunch so I skipped the drinks, and not feeling to well I even skipped the wine!  I know it is a cardinal sin when dining in a Italian setting but health first!  When we pulled into the parking lot I was surprised.  It was a large beautiful building, I was expecting a smaller more mom and pop style.  By first glance of the unexpected architecture I knew it must be a chain.  Come to find out it is! (Carino's Italian)  When I walked in the decor was beautiful.  Lots of plates on the walls and Italian art strung up and the perfect soft lighting that comes with a nicer establishment.  The dimmer the lights the higher the prices I always say. 

They have a 6$ lunch menu if your not looking to spend a whole lot.  The regular menu starts at about $9.99 and goes up from there.  The menu is loaded with the typical and not so typical Italian fare.  I was in heaven from the start and knew right away what I was going to order.  Chicken Marsala.  My favorite!  I have had some variations of this dish, including my own, and was eager to try theirs.  Not to mention Will had said it was one of his favorites and a must try.

To start the meal you are brought bread, in traditional Italian fashion.  Their spin is to provide dried garlic on a plate and top it with a spiced olive oil.  The bread was nice and crispy outside and soft and warm on the inside.  The spiced oil and garlic was an addictive and nice twist too.

I'm not a fan of mushrooms, so it is kind of surprising that Chicken Marsala is one of my favorite dishes.  I do tend to pick around them but they really do bring the whole plate together.  For those of you who are wondering, Marsala is a wine.  Usually reserved for cooking, though I have met people that do drink it.  I have used it in a previous post to make Marsala Pork Chops.  This sauce was a much lighter color than the rich brown I am accustomed to seeing, which was a pleasant surprise.  It was served over a perfectly al dente fettuccine.  It was a nice refreshing dish and not all that heavy on the stomach.  Tho I know better than to think it is a "Healthy" dish. 

My Mom was having a big dinner later that evening so she opted for a Chicken Cesar Salad.  It was among the best she had ever had, if not the best.  The reason being was the addition of black olives. 

To end the meal we chose to have Cannoli.  They where amazing!  They where filled with a chocolate chip white cream and half dipped in chocolate.  Our server Matt had informed us that they where made on location and he had been the one to make the filling, as well as the half dip and plating.  He was obviously proud, as he should be, and took pride in his work.  For me that was refreshing.  As a foodie and restaurant lover it is good to know that someone takes pride in a job that may very well be a way through school.

I recommend trying Johnny Carino's.  It is amazing food done well.  The service was the best I have had for a long time.  The dining room was comfortable and the large tables and booths where accommodating.  It is worth the money if your in the mood for some Italian food!

Love Food, Live Life!

Johnny Carino's Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grilled Mango Jerk Chicken!

This was going to be my first grilling post of the BBQ season, an homage to the king of grilling Bobby Flay.  But it was fail from the start.  I did not read the recipe properly and messed it up.  It was not a complete culinary failure though.  In fact it was very tasty and a new take on his dish.  I made the mistake of blending the mango into the marinade!  I did not have enough to make the salsa, and I think it may have been a bit much if I had the salsa with this take on the dish.  The actual recipe is under the link above.  Here is what I did...

Here's What You'll Need:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 onion chopped roughly
2 scallions chopped
1 large habanero pepper seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves fresh garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 mango's diced
4-8 drumstick's skin on, or 4 drumstick's and 4 thighs!

I blended all the ingredients, don't be intimidated by the size of the list!  Then placed the chicken in a baking dish and poured the marinade over it and let it sit overnight. 

The following day I headed out to the grill and fired her up.  Man I love to grill! There was a time when all I had was a small hot plate and an out door gill (an old dryer tub) with a refrigerator shelf as my grill!  I did not eat unless it was grilled!

Next I heated up the remaining marinade and brushed the chicken as it cooked.  Be sure to cook the marinade thoroughly as it was in contact with raw chicken!  Trust me Salmonella is not something you want!

That is that! Done!  Not what I set out for it to be originally but it was very tasty.

It was sweet, it kind of reminded me of a pie.  Then the habanero kicks you in the throat and makes the dish come together and down to earth.  It was surprising how good this was and how simple it really is.  The list of ingredients looks daunting but it is all just thrown in the blender and blitzed until it is almost smooth.  If you are looking for something new and bold to grill give it a go!  Though I would not top it with the marinade when you plate it, that was just to much.  I just mad some good old mac and cheese to go with it.  I was craving mac and cheese for weeks!

What is your favorite food to grill?