Food & Drinks

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Absinthe & a Martini



If you've never had Absinthe before my suggestion is to try it. Most people do not like Absinthe at first. It is reminiscent of licorish and heavy on fennel. The licorish flavor is actually anise. There really isn't a lot of anise and fennel in American cooking and so really for us it's sort of a different and new thing.  Absinthe has to contain 3 ingredients to be truly Absinthe. Wormwood, fennel and anise. Anything that is put into it afterwards is up to the creator. Many Absinthes' have variations of wormwood fennel and anise, along with coriander, melissa, and sometimes hyssop and many other herbs and botanicals. You have to find one that suits you.

There are many brands now available in the United States all with different and unique distilling processes. My husband prefers to get his shipped in from Europe - the brands that aren't yet sold state side. The first time you have an Absinthe, you should definitely have it in the traditional preparation, which DOES NOT include fire. Absinthe is never supposed to be set on fire. In another post I'll go over the traditional Absinthe cocktail preparation. It's truly a wonderful apertif.

A few nights ago I made my husband a martini. To me a martini is a base spirit of either gin or vodka, has a splash of dry vermouth, a splash of olive juice, tons of olives, shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass. He had the idea of using gin and giving it a splash of Absinthe as well. So I did. Just a touch of Absinthe (you really don't need much Absinthe if you are using it to bring out a new flavor profile in a cocktail, such as the Sazerac).

Once I was done I tasted and to my delight, it was delicious. This was the new martini. So it has all of the details of a great dirty martini but with a twist. The olives add a tart and earthy flavor while the Absinthe brings in some herbal touches. What a delight!



Dirty Absinthe Martini

Ingredients

3 oz of gin or vodka
splash of dry vermouth
splash of olive juice
splash of Absinthe (most kinds will do, if you do not have Absinthe, Pernod or pastis will also work)

Directions

Fill cocktail shaker half way with ice. Pour in all ingredients and shake for about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with olives. Enjoy!



Fall Time Office Lunch


Fall is definitely in the air. It's 45 degrees here, windy and chilly. We had some unusually warm weather for a few weeks (which I'm not complaining about) and now the chill in the air is really starting to get me thinking of some yummy fall foods to create.

Sweet Potato Quiche Cups
*Picture courtesty of lafujimama.com*

Today for lunch I brought in a sweet potato quiche cup that I made. I got the recipe here. I switched up the ingredients to reflect what I had on had. Which meant I omitted the ricotta, added a touch of milk and fat free Greek yogurt (my favorite is Fage Greek Yogurt 0%), and substituted in tarragon for the original basil. Otherwise, pretty close. It turned out so yummy!

*These are mine - not as pretty as lafujimama, but I don't have a great camara*

And as far as soup goes, I appreciate simplicity. Progresso makes a wide range of healthy soups that I really love. Today was the Vegetable Classics Hearty Tomato. Just a sprinkle of some pepper and I'm good to go. I love that I can throw a can of soup into my purse and have half a can for lunch (1/2 a can is one serving) and something on the side if I'm still hungry and the rest of the soup can be tomorrow's lunch. The soups are tasty, I save money and it's even been part of my weight loss regime. Well, keeping my portions to one serving has been the key really. Progresso has just been an easy way to accomplish it without breaking the bank.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quick and Easy One Person Dinners

My husband goes to school two nights out of each week (until mid December). So Monday and Tuesday nights are pretty much set aside for leftovers, simple dishes and anything I can grab out of the fridge to eat.

Sea Queen® Alaskan Salmon Burger
These. Sea Queen Wild Caught Salmon Burgers. I bought them at ALDI. I happen to enjoy ALDI food. I find that you can get basics here for a reasonable price. Now a days it's also easier and easier to buy food with less or no preservatives, no hydrogenated oils and with more healthful nutritional content all around. I pretty much always look at package ingredients.

Whenever I'm shopping at ALDI I have to be a bit more careful of package ingredients that I do at the Trader Joe's which is just one level up (yes, I have an ALDI and Trader Joe's in one building. It's magical). These Salmon Burgers aren't bad at all. The calorie and fat stats are good and low, the ingredients are few and reasonable and they are super easy to cook up. I can put one of these in the oven to bake, put it under the broiler or on the stove top and just a few minutes later I have a really tasty, high protein, low calorie dish.

I also love these...


The entire package of these noodles is 40 calories. 40 calories! They are made of tofu and have a good amount of protein in them and you can buy them in different styles. They are called Tofu Shiratake Noodles. I mean, you can do almost anything with these. Basic marinara and a sprinkle of Parmesan, stir fry with veggies and soy sauce, chicken fettuccine, the possibilities are endless. 


You do have to follow the package directions carefully before eating them. They have a little bit of a smell - which is normal with this type of tofu. After rinsing them and then boiling them and cooking them with the sauce of your choice they have nearly no smell. Although, it is there, it's very slight but it doesn't actually bother me at all.  I buy these at the little corner grocer down the street from where I live. 


I also enjoy extra firm tofu blocks. I like to slice the tofu and marinate it in soy sauce and eat it cold just like that! Of course they are yummy cooked too, but sometimes isn't it nice just to pluck something out of the fridge and eat it? Instead of getting out the pots and pans and making a spectacle just eat it as is. It is good cold. I promise. 

This also looked really good and easy to prepare:

Of course there is always take out, delivery and frozen pizza to fall back on, if none of these are up your alley! My suggestion for frozen pizza is Home Run Inn Pizza. This is the best frozen pizza I've ever tried. I love the thin crispy crust and I think all of their varieties are delicious!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Crouton Crusted Tilapia & Sweet Potato


Today is Sweetest Day. I didn't consider using this day as some sort of ruse to get my husband to buy me something nice or to take me out to eat. He did, after all, take me out to eat last night. We went to this little Dutch restaurant called Vincent. Dutch food is sort of interesting in that it's not widely popular and there isn't really anything in particular that you might point to and say, "Oh, yes, that's Dutch food." Even if Vincent is really just some variation of New American and German with a dash of Dutch (zaansemosterdsoep, bitterballen, moules) I still love it. It's unique and wonderful. The restaurant itself is very European. It's small, dark rich woods, and very romantic.

So today I had an idea to do my version of the meal I ate last night (which actually turns out to be nothing like what I ate last night). I had Beer Battered Haddock on Snert. You probably already know what beer battered haddock is, but you may not know what snert is. Snert is pea soup, essentially. I wanted to photograph the plate that was brought out to me last night, but I thought it might be rude since I was in such a nice and romantic setting with my husband. The snert came out more like the consistency of mashed potatoes. So smashed peas that tasted of ham and garlic. Perfect.


I don't have peas on hand but I do have lots and lots of sweet potatoes. This meal is for two. For the side (as well as the sweet potatoes) I decided that green beans would be good. I needed a little greens to go with the rest of the meal.

The first step is to chop the sweet potato up into smaller pieces about the same size and boil the potatoes. I used 3 large sweet potatoes and this made way too much for only 2 people but I figured I could just make something with the leftovers for breakfast in the morning. Perhaps some sweet potato cakes? I let the potatoes boil for about 20 minutes until I started to prepare the fish.

Crouton Crusted Tilapia

Ingredients

2 tilapia fillets
1/2 cup smashed croutons or breadcrumbs
1 egg
salt
pepper
sprinkle of dried tarragon
sprinkle of sweet paprika

Rinse and pat dry the tilapia. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and dried tarragon. Not much of the seasoning is needed because the croutons have a lot of flavor already. I used croutons that were pre made. I purchased them from World Market as a last minute decision to make a quick Caesar Salad. I had these leftover and needed to use them before they went bad. If you are using fresh homemade croutons yours will probably not be as salty as these prepackaged ones are. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Take the egg and place in a shallow bowl or tupperware dish. Mix thoroughly and dip the tilapia fillets into it. Have the breadcrumbs or smashed croutons near in another shallow bowl or tupperware dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs all over the fillets and place into a hot and well oiled pan. You can use whatever oil you choose. I sprayed canola oil onto the pan and lightly seared the tilapia until gold brown and a fork placed in the middle went in easily and the flesh was white - about 3 minutes on each side.

At this time I started my green beans which was just canola oil in another pan. I seasoned the beans with salt, pepper, garlic and dried tarragon. Low heat.



Check the potatoes by placing a knife or fork into one of the potatoes in the pot. If it easily slides into the potato and it falls apart you know the potato is done.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

4 cups chopped sweet potatoes (scale down if you need)
1/2 stick of butter
2 TBLSP half & half (I used fat free)
1 TSP dried tarragon
Dash of nutmeg
Salt
Pepper

After boiling potatoes drain and then place back into pot. Add ingredients and mash with potato masher until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Green beans should only take about 5 minutes. When you begin making the green beans it should be right after you start cooking the tilapia. Once the green beans are seasoned and in the pan you can mash your potatoes, flip the tilapia. Plate the food and finally the green beans should be just ready. You don't want to cook the green beans too long because they will lost their vibrant green color.


We also enjoyed some dark chocolate from a well known chocolatier and some lovely Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hope your sweetest day was as sweet as ours!



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beer for One, Beer for Fall

Tonight my husband and I finished off the adobo carnitas from last night. Yum.



We also had a cocktail.

But I'm here to tell you about a beer I tried recently. I came upon it one day in the corner grocer down the street. Hoptober Golden Ale by New Belgium. I went back and forth between this beer and another I had my eye on. I stood for quite some time. I contemplated the cost vs value and thought about what kind of beer I like most. I thought about what kind of beer my husband usually gravitates toward. I looked at the cute packaging and thought how much effort was put into the New Belgium packaging. Some artist must have thought this up and painted it or drew it, or something. It was nice. Then I realized that there was someone else also looking at the beer. I was likely in their way. So I just grabbed the Hoptober beer and found that it was the last. *this is one reason my husband usually picks the beer out for us, because I tend to over think my options and take waaaay too long deciding on what to pick*


Upon returning home and cracking one of these bad boys open I realized that I really really really liked this beer. It's not that I don't usually really like the beer I'm drinking. It's just that I typically opt for a cocktail over a beer. Beer usually gives me a full and round belly. That's how I feel anyway, after drinking one or two. I mean, seriously. I feel like I've eaten a steak after drinking one or two beers. Then once I've finished my second beer I'm done. I can't really enjoy my dinner, I don't want another beer and I certainly don't need a cocktail stuffed into my belly.

This beer was still filling. No doubt. However, I couldn't get past how yummy the flavor was. At the top was this slight floral aroma with bounces of hoppiness. The taste was clean, refreshing, super hoppy, floral and a touch bitter (I like bitter - it's good for digestion). After the first one I cracked open another to my husbands wonderment. It is that good. I was willing to possibly sacrifice food and cocktail for one more Hoptober.

Bánh Mì for Me!

Bánh mì thịt nướng.png

Lunch time is a pretty special occasion. Sometimes. I don't have a very demanding job. I'm here early, do some reports, fiddle around on line, help out with getting things done in the office, type up emails for my boss (he cannot type - I consider this job security for myself), etc.

So when lunch time finally gets here (anywhere between 10:30 A.M. and 1:00 P.M) it's time for me to break up the monotony of office life. I bring my lunch from home often. So my usual lunch routine is to pull out last nights leftovers from the office refrigerator and heat them up if necessary.

Yesterday was different. I didn't have leftovers yesterday. I felt like some Thai or Vietnamese. I perused close by restaurant and shop menus. I came across a new place called Banh Mi Express Sandwiches. The menu items looked decent and I'd never tried a bánh mì before.

Banh Mi is a sandwich. It's Vietnamese with a French influence. Many bánh mì have pork liver pate, crispy veggies, head cheese, and fish sauce or mayonnaise or both. It comes on crispy crunchy thin bread. It's slightly chewy and holds all of the ingredients in.

Yesterday I tried the grilled garlic shrimp. This is not a very traditional bánh mì, but it's a start for those of us that haven't ever had a true bánh mì and don't really want head cheese on their sandwich. Not yet anyway.



I have to say: Deliciousness on airy crispy bread. The shrimp was of course wonderful. I loved the crispy vegetables all over. It included daikon, radishes, pickled carrots, cilantro and a combination of mayonnaise and fish sauce.


I'll be having one of these again. Next time I'll try a traditional bánh mì.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Carnitas and a Cocktail

Fall is officially here. Pumpkin beers are seen in every grocery store. The squash section of said grocery store has grown much larger (thankfully). Sweet potatoes have more meaning. The dutch oven comes out (but was it really ever put away?). The leaves are turning color and falling into small little piles along the side walks. In a week they won't be small piles.



Right now I'm still enjoying mid 70's temperature. This includes, sunshine, light sweaters or none at all, and walking home from work until it's too cold. See, that's what I do for activity. I walk. I really enjoy it. I live in Chicago and it's a really walkable city. It's a pretty good walk. Nearly 3 miles. So I figure that can count as what I do to keep fit or active or to work out. I don't enjoy working out. I hate gyms. For the deep freeze winter that is upon us I have a home work out dvd that I sort of enjoy. The only reason I work out is because I'm no longer in my 20's, I still would like to hope that I could possibly look like I'm in my 20's, and because I enjoy food and drinks. Lots of both.

If you've ever been to Chicago you know this city has lots of food. And drinks. Mixology bars everywhere! Gastropubs right next door! I don't say this is bad. Not at all. I enjoy the convenience of it all. But it's part of why I have to at least walk home from work often and/or put in my home work out dvd.

All that being said, I'm excited to start blogging. Sharing my experiences in food and drinks with everyone. I'm hoping I'll get a lot of ideas from people, other bloggers, readers, experts (because I am by no means an expert in either field).

So tonight for dinner I'm making adobo style pork carnitas in the dutch oven. Because this is my first post I'm not going over the details of my meal (because I didn't take pictures in time). I'll share with you the basic ingredients:

2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 lb pork loin roast chopped into chunks
garlic (a lot)
1/4 cup green chiles
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (canned about 3 peppers - they're hot)

I patted the chopped loin with spices and fried the pieces in canola oil in the dutch oven until they were crispy with a nice deep brown color all over. I removed them and placed them on a plate for the next steps.
To deglaze I used some red wine left over from a couple of nights ago, put in the garlic and the tomatoes, the chiles let it simmer until slightly (ever so slightly) reduced and placed the loin pieces into the dutch oven on low heat for 2-3 hours (all on stove top).

I like to use corn tortillas, onion and cilantro. Perhaps a dollop of fat free greek yogurt atop to cool it down a bit (these are a bit spicy). You could use sour cream too. I just don't happen to have any sour cream.