Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Sandwich

It's been quite a while since my last post, which indicates that I wasn't being very housewifey.  And this is partly true.  You see, I'm very low maintenance when it comes to feeding myself.  When I lived alone, I was always able to throw something together for myself at the last minute.  However, M's very particular preferences require a lot of thought and planning.  And while I enjoy it (and cooking is great fun), I sometimes long for the simplicity of a sandwich.  But I hardly make what you'd call a typical sandwich.

M went away for business this week and I thought I'd revisit my love for sandwiches.  Now this isn't an explicit recipe -- just an idea for you to spice up something that might otherwise seem boring.

I always start out with either whole wheat bread or a whole wheat wrap.  And then I usually add some turkey breast, or chicken breast, or ham -- whatever sliced deli meat I have on hand.  Sometimes, I even use two.  Then, the cheese (it's my favorite food group) -- sliced deli cheese or fresh mozzarella or sometimes even shredded cheddar.  And then the fun begins.  A dry sandwich is not a good sandwich so next I look for something to moisten it up.  I love mayonnaise but my waistline doesn't so I usually look for an alternative.
Alternatives to mayonnaise:
  • Hummus
  • Sliced advocado
  • Sun-dried tomato paste
  • Pesto spread
  • Salad dressing (although sometimes it gets a little messy so use it sparingly.)

And sometimes, I'm in the mood for something else entirely and I look for something to change it up.  I've added slices of apple, pear or mango to my sandwiches and it always gives it just the right amount of sweetness.

Then finally the last and most important step -- pop it in the panini press.  And if you don't have a panini press, you can put it in a skillet at low to medium heat and press it down with another heavy pan.  Another alternative, my favorite one, is to pop it in the George Foreman grill! I don't have a panini press either and the GF does an amazing job at pressing everything together and toasting the bread.


God I love sandwiches.  If you have any more tips and tricks for enhancing them, please share!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Grilled Caesar Salad

I know what you're thinking.  The first time I read the name of this recipe, I thought they forgot the 'chicken' too.  But there's no mistake.  The recipe I'll be sharing with you today is for a delicious Grilled Caesar Salad -- courtesy of the folks at Taste & Technique.  It couldn't be any simpler and it's super-tasty.  Let me know if you try this and what you think.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (serves 6):
    video
  •  1 large garlic clove cut in half
  • 6 oil packed anchovies
  • 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water (or more, if needed to thin vinaigrette)
  • 3 hearts of Romaine lettuce
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese



Directions:
  1. In a food processor, add garlic, anchovies, grated cheese, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, lemon, and pepper.  Process until fully blended and then scrape down the sides of the processor.
  2. With machine on, slowly add olive oil.  If vinaigrette is too thick, add a small amount of water.  Transfer to a bowl with a pastry brush.
  3. Adjust oven rack to top shelf and preheat boiler. 
  4. Trim ends of Romaine hearts leaving the core intact. Cut in half lengthwise and place on baking sheet cut side up. 
  5. Brush dressing over the lettuce making sure that it goes between the leaves.  Sprinkle pine nuts on top. 
  6. Set sheet pan on top shelf in the oven and cook for 4 - 6 minutes.  The lettuce will start to wilt and brown lightly.  
  7. Remove promptly from oven and sprinkle the Parmesan shavings on top. Serve warm.

Cooking Resources

I admit that Google and I are best friends.  Any time I have a culinary question, Google is right there to help me find the answer.  However, this week's cooking class made me realize that there's nothing like hands-on experience and a little conversation with veteran chefs to enhance one's cooking. So, I thought I'd share a list of some places you check out if you're interested in a cooking class or two.

National:

Williams Sonoma Store Events: 
Technique Classes, Product Demonstrations & Cooking Classes
Locations Nationwide


Whole Foods Market Culinary Centers:
Cooking Classes
Locations Nationwide

New Jersey:

Taste & Technique Cooking Studio
Cooking Classes for Adults, Kids, Groups for many different events!
597 River Rd.
Fair Haven, NJ 07704

Kings Cooking Studio
Technique Classes, Diploma Classes, & Cooking Classes
778 Morris Turnpike
Short Hills, NJ 07078

Classic Thyme Cooking School 
Cooking Classes, Private Cooking Parties, Cooking Camps
710 South Avenue West
Westfield, NJ 07090

If you've had any experience at any of these places or there are any that you'd like to add, just put the comments section.

A visit to Taste and Technique

Recently, the company I work for started a new fiscal year. And what does that always mean? Time for a team building activity.  This year, our management decided to make us bond over making a meal.  We went to Taste and Technique in Fair Haven, NJ and made a delicious 6-course meal.  Sure, I blew my calorie budget that day, but the good time had and the techniques that I learned made it totally worthwhile!  I'll be going over the recipes in subsequent blog posts but for now I just want to highlight a few of the tips and tricks that I learned. 

Tip #1: The easy way to chop fresh herbs [video]:

video

Tip #2: Double Burner Grills are awesome! Invest in one.  I got the All-Clad one from Williams Sonoma and I have to say it was worth every penny.  I've heard people complain that the less expensive ones are harder to clean.  This one is a breeze to clean.

Tip #3a:  To prevent sticking when grilling meat, wait until one side is well cooked before moving it around.  If you move it too early, it will stick. [video]

video

Tip #3b: Once meat is sufficiently grilled turn it at a 45 degree angle and let it cook a few minutes more to get beautiful grill marks.  (Gorgeous!)



I was really amazed by the things that I learned and how much fun I had in this 3-hour class -- which prompted me to look into available cooking classes in my area.  I was surprised to find that the King's (local supermarket) by me has a wide array of classes available.  You should check out your local markets as well if you're interested in classes.

Bon Appetit!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

M's Perfectly Brewed Iced Tea

After the lasagna debacle, I decided I'd share something simple, healthy, and delicious. 

Recently, M decided that he was going to give up soda.  I'm sure those of you that know him recognize that this is a very wise decision -- he definitely doesn't need any more sugar.  As for me, I've started counting calories as a weight loss method (in addition to exercise) and I realized how many I was wasting on beverages.  So, we were both motivated to find a healthy, and tasty, low calorie drink that was not as boring as water.  This is what we (mostly M) came up with. 

M's Perfectly Brewed Iced Tea

 
Ingredients:
Serves 8
      • 4 Tea Bags
      • 2 Tsp sugar*
      • 2 Cups Cold Water (for concentrate)
      • 1 1/2 Cups Cold Water (to dilute)
      • 1/2 lemon
      • 2 Cups Ice



Directions:
  1. Bring 2 cups of cold water to a boil.  
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and allow to dissolve. 
  3. Remove from heat and steep 4 tea bags for 20 minutes.  
  4. In a pitcher, mix concentrate, the rest of the water and the ice cubes. Stir until ice cubes have melted (at this point, entire mixture should be cold enough to serve.)
  5. Squeeze half a lemon into the pitcher.  
  6. Pour into a glass over ice and garnish with a lemon. 
*Although this iced tea is not completely calorie free it's only 6 calories per serving.