Monday, February 28, 2011

March Munchies

Well I didn't share any recipes for February food holidays, but it's still February technically, so go here and you'll find a healthy enough banana bread recipe that I made for Banana Bread day - which also was Bunco night, and no bread was left!

Now for the goodies that March brings!

National Celery Month - which means hummus galore!
National Flour Month - easy enough
National Nutrition Month
National Noodle Month
National Caffeine Awareness Month

Second Week - Chocolate Chip Cookie week - Yum!
Third Week - American Chocolate Week - Even better
Shrove Tuesday (2011 - March 1) - International Pancake Day

March 1 - National Peanut Butter Lover's Day and National Fruit Compote Day
March 2 - National Banana Creme Pie Day
March 3 - National Cold Cuts Day and Mulled Wine Day
March 4 - National Pound Cake Day
March 5 - National Cheese Doodle Day ??
March 6 - National Frozen Food Day
March 7 - National Cereal Day
March 8 - National Peanut Cluster Day
March 9 - National Crabmeat Day
March 10 - National Blueberry Popover Day
March 12 - National Baked Scallops Day - Gross.
March 13 - Coconut Torte Day
March 14 - National Potato Chip Day
March 15 - National Pears Helene Day
March 16 - National Artichoke Hearts Day - This will be celebrated in my household!
March 17 - Corned Beef and Cabbage Day
March 18 - Oatmeal Cookie Day - I have a great recipe to share!
March 19 - Poultry Day and National Chocolate Caramel Day
March 20 - Bock Beer Day and National Ravioli Day
March 21 - California Strawberry Day...
March 22 - Coq Au Vin Day
March 23 - National Chip and Dip Day
March 24 - National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day
March 25 - Pecan Day; Waffle Day; and National Lobster Newburg Day
March 26 - Spinach Day
March 27 - National Spanish Paella Day
March 28 - Something on a Stick Day - FUN!
March 29 - National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day
March 30 - Turkey Neck Soup Day - I have a lot to explore...
March 31 - Tater Day; Oranges and Lemons Day

It looks like March has some interesting holidays and I better start learning a little more about these culinary creations!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Take that NYC!

On one of my favorite Houston websites, I found a great article on restaurant rows that should be growing in Houston!

Marine Gustin says it best....


There are a few truths in life: You can never be too thin, too rich or have too many pairs of shoes. Or in my case, too many pairs of fancy cowboy boots.
But can you have too many new restaurants? Particularly if they are all opening within spitting distance of each other?
The National Restaurant Association’s just released 2011 Restaurant Industry Forecast is projecting Texas sales of $36.6 billion this year. That’s a healthy 3.9 percent increase over 2010. And it places Texas second only to California in restaurant sales volume.
“We definitely think that will apply to Houston,” says Mike Shine, president of Texas Food Group — a restaurant consulting company — and current president of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association.
“We’ve seen some bounce back over the holidays,” he adds.
Shine says the greater Houston area has more than 9,000 restaurants, and as some have gone under, an equal amount open.
“It just looks like more are closing,” Shine says. “You don’t see a close but you see a restaurant with a closed sign on it.”
So things are looking up for the industry here. But, in what is looking to be a good year, we have what seems like an awful lot of high-profile restaurants slated to open in 2011, and a heck of a lot of them are in the same neighborhood.
Westheimer Road, around Montrose Boulevard, may soon be the new Restaurant Row in town with the hotly anticipated openings of Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly in the old Chances spot (next door to the soon-to-open Anvil sister Hay Merchant beer bar), the Bill Floyd/Bryan Caswell/Robb Walsh vintage El Real Tex-Mex in the old Tower Theatre across the street, then just catty-corner, is Austin über hip Tyson Cole’s anticipated reimagining of the long-shuttered Felix spot into something like his hot capitol eateries Uchi and Uchiko.
Ah, but as they say in the late-night cable commercials, there’s more.
Just a stone’s throw away from that intersection, at the West Ave multi-use complex on Westheimer Road and Kirby Drive, we’ve already got a new Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Schiller-Del Grande’s Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar. And SDG is about to open Alto Pizzeria upstairs from Ava’s. Apparently Ava and Alto have some kind of weird Italian/French love affair going on. Although I’m pretty sure they’re not real people.
Oh, and Pondicheri, from Indika’s chef/owner Anita Jaisinghani, is also going in at West Ave soon.
If you’re keeping score, that’s seven new hot spots for dining, er, eight if you count the temporary Tony Mandola’s Miracle Kitchen in the old Fin’s spot on Westheimer.
Which leads me to wonder, is there such a thing as critical mass when it comes to cuisine?
“Well, there certainly can be,” laughs GHRA’s Shine. “But that area is very active for dining, with a high income base. They’re taking a risk, but they are making decisions based on what their customers wanted.”
So maybe my little slice of the ‘hood will be this year’s new Washington Ave. Restaurant Row.
And if Ava is any indication, they all may fare well.
Ava opened Feb. 7. It’s an elongated 6,500-square-foot space with a cool, urban décor designed by SDG partner Candice Schiller, who describes it as “modern take on a traditional European space.”
I like the ocean-hued palette and the wall of windows facing Kirby Drive, but I like the food even better. Celebrity chef Robert Del Grande has created an eclectic menu that runs along Italian lines with a few Spanish and French touches and a dash of Texas thrown in for good measure. Makes you wonder how he keeps coming up with all these divine dishes.
“I go to sleep at night, wake up screaming and then write it down,” Del Grande says with his typical dry poetic wit.
Seriously, he adds that however creative a recipe idea is it still comes down to how it tastes.
“It’s like when an eclectic composer tells you the music is actually much better than it sounds,” says the chef/musician. “It’s not. It sounds and it tastes like what it is, no matter how much genius goes into the creation.”
What tastes good at Ava is the spicy coppa salad with aromatic Taleggio cheese, dried mission figs and fennel. And the delicate white anchovies paired with hot chorizo and green olives.
And the rigatoni with Bolognese sauce ripe with spicy beef is a welcome pasta dish on a cold day. There’s also lamb T-bones, seared ahi tuna, a burger (of course) and a wonderfully priced petite filet mignon ($17) on the lunch menu.
Of course there’s plenty of whiskey, but you shouldn’t pass on the citrusy house margaritas.
I like Ava. And I like the fact that there are now five fine restaurants within walking distance of where I live. And that doesn’t even include all the gourmet food trucks hanging around here lately.
Houston Ballet managing director Cecil C. Conner, Jr. recently lamented to me that the only thing he missed after moving here from New York City was being able to stroll down the street and check the menus in restaurant windows before deciding where to dine.
With this plethora of new places, a lot of Inner Loopers will now be able to do exactly that.
So take that, Big Apple. When it comes to cuisine, we are no longer a car centric culture.
So there's the low down! Now if only I lived closer in and made a little more money......

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Food Holidays - February

I should have started this in January, but every month I will start featuring the food holidays that foodies honor!

Starting with February, here are [most] of the holidays - If I absolutely don't like the food then it won't be mentioned on this blog...sorry, I don't mind being a little biased.

Here we go!

Berry Fresh month
Canned Food month
Celebration of Chocolate month
Great American Pies month
National Cherry month
National Fiber Focus month
National Hot Breakfast month
National Grapefruit month
National Snack Food month
Potato Lover's month
Sweet Potato month

First Week - Shape Up with Pickles Time
Second Week - Jell-O week
Fourth Week - National Pancake week

Feb 1 - National Baked Alaska Day
Feb 2 - Heavenly Hash Day
Feb 3 - Crepes Day (France)
Feb 4 - Homemade Soup Day
Feb 5 - National Chocolate Fondue Day
Feb 6 - Nutella Day
Feb 7 - National Fettucini Alfredo Day
Feb 8 - Molasses Bar Day
Feb 9 - Pizza Pie Day
Feb 10 - Cream Cheese Brownie Day
Feb 11 - Peppermint Patty Day
Feb 12 - National Plum Pudding Day
Feb 13 - National Tortellini Day
Feb 14 - National Creme Filled Chocolate Day
Feb 15 - National Gumdrop Day
Feb 16 - National Almond Day
Feb 17 - National Cafe Au Lait Day
Feb 18 - Drink Wine Day!
Feb 19 - National Chocolate Mint Day
Feb 20 - National Margarita Day
Feb 21 - National Sticky Bun Day
Feb 22 - National Cherry Pie Day
Feb 23 - National Banana Bread Day
Feb 24 - National Tortilla Chip Day
Feb 25 - National Clam Chowder Day
Feb 26 - National Pistachio Day; and National Chili Day
Feb 27 - National Strawberry Day and National Kahlua Day
Feb 28 - National Chocolate Souffle Day
Feb 29 - Surf and Turf Day

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Food Photography Obsession?

Are you like me and take pictures of every awesome dish you order at a restaurant, or take pictures throughout your cooking process like most foodie bloggers are doing these days? Would you say you have a food photography obsession? Lol well I sometimes feel weird taking pictures of my food in public, but after reading this article I shouldn't feel so ashamed :o)

I came across this article this morning - I get Google alerts on many topics, and one is specifically food photography. It usually sends me pretty generic articles and updates, but every now and then I read a great article or learn some great tips for photography and shooting food items.

Well this morning was one of those articles. The original writer nails the point - Experienced photographers and chefs probably hate most of the photos they see online of food, or watching people in restaurants whip out their smartphone to take a quick pic of their dinner and post it on Facebook...but David Hammond has a great point, taking these quick pics and snapping every step of your cooking process is actually a healthy habit to practice. It means your spending more time with your food, appreciating the process and smells - Where on the other hand, the people that aren't documenting their food are probably the ones who are in line at Chick-Fil-A, eating on their way to the meeting they are late to, and spilling crumbs all in their car. They probably have no idea what the wonderful Polynesian sauce tastes like or what slowing down your eating feels like :o)

Enjoy the article!


Like many of my friends, I take a photo of almost every restaurant meal I eat. I do that because I never know when I might need a picture of something I've eaten for something I'm writing.

Also, maybe I'm a little obsessive.
Those of us who whip out cameras or iPhones to shoot our food are no longer considered eccentrics.
I get the sense, though, that chefs wish amateur photographers would dial down their urge to document every dish.
Jeff Kauck is a professional photographer who has shot the culinary creations of some of Chicago's leading chefs, including Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, Ryan Poli of Perennial and Alinea's Grant Achatz.
Kauck told me that Achatz, for one, "sometimes worries that his food is being appreciated only visually," and that when guests photograph his food, "they're not really concentrating on the aroma and thoughtfulness that went into it."
But Kauck believes shooting food is a way to spend more time with it and appreciate it more.
"In America, a lot of times we eat while driving in the car. We're rushed," he says. "I think it's wonderful to slow down, sit at a table and capture the food with a photograph. If that increases everyone's appreciation of the food, so much the better."
What can non-professional photographers do to improve the quality of their photos?
"Definitely turn off the flash," Kauck says. "With a flash, you lose the mood of the room.
"And find interesting angles. There's a tendency to bring the camera to eye, because at dinner you're usually in a chair, but there are other angles that are more interesting. A low angle, for instance, is more majestic. Or you can crop halfway through the food and show the ambiance of the room."
Fancier photography requires a more sophisticated camera. I asked Ronnie Kap­lan, the best "amateur" food photographer I know, what kind of camera he'd recommend to a non-professional food enthusiast.
"The Canon EOS 550D is the way to go," Kaplan says. "I've seen them for under $900, and this camera is going to be great for food in low-light situations. It shoots in several modes, which gives you the maximum amount of post-production capability."
Whether or not you have the eye and an expensive camera, remember this: The art of food is transient. If you can capture how that beautiful dish looks at the moment it's set before you, you can continue to appreciate it long after the table has been cleared.
David Hammond is an Oak Park writer, Chicago Public Radio contributor and founder/moderator of culinary chat site Questions,comments, tips? E-mail

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

In honor of Valentine's Day, here a some spirited cupcakes! Enjoy the day with the one you love!

Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 Food Trends

2011 has already made it's grand entrance and is flying by. Before it draws near, let me post all the predictions that have been made by top foodies about what food trends 2011 might see:

Epicurious is a great recipe website, who has built itself into a world renowned foodie brand. Here is their top ten food trends for 2011:
1. Food Halls – These are large restaurants that have been popular for centuries in Europe. Some people equate them to a cafeteria, but they sound more like a market, with shelves overflowing with food in a bustling atmosphere. Food halls in New York City and Los Angeles have already gotten into the mix with others on tap around the country.
2. Korean Cuisine – This is predicted to become the next big cuisine.
3. Macaroons – Move over cupcakes and make room for macaroons! These gluten-free, delicate confections are the next dessert trend. Popular varieties include passion fruit, mint chocolate, chocolate and coffee. Kowalski’s bakeries have been making these for several months. Ours contain coconut and have bottoms that are dipped in dark chocolate. Yummy!
4. Meatless Mondays and Tofu Thursdays – The trend here is eating less meat. A group called Meatless Monday has a goal to encourage United States consumers to cut their meat consumption by 15% to improve our health and that of the planet. Epicurious predicts that eating meat-free will be on the calendar more than once a week.
5. Foraging – For the past few years, many chefs have touted that their ingredients are sourced from local farmers, but this trend takes it a step further as chefs head to the woods in search of wild greens, nuts, berries and even bark.
6. Tiki Bar Cocktails – This trend proves that what is old can be new again. Polynesian-style drinks made with fruit juice and rum and adorned with flowers and paper umbrellas are showing up on bar menus once again. Think Planter's Punch, Mai Tai and Hurricane a.k.a. Don the Beachcomber, made with fresh ingredients.
7. Pop-Up Cafés – We know them locally as food trucks that move around the city from place to place depending on the day of the week. They are an inexpensive way for chefs to showcase their food while avoiding the high cost of rent. They are becoming more prevalent in Minnesota during the spring, summer and fall. Look for a growing list of options this spring.
8. Sweet Potatoes – Full of beta-carotene and fiber, sweet potatoes are the vegetable of 2011. The most popular version is Sweet Potato Fries, but look for them in other ways that showcase their flavor, texture and beautiful color.
9. Urban Wineries – Beer-making is a popular hobby, and now making your own wine has come to the forefront. Look for establishments that allow their patrons to de-stem, crush and press the grapes to create a wine that can even be personalized with your very own label.
10. Pimentón de la Vera - This ingredient is similar to smoked paprika and is the building block of Spanish cuisine. It lends a sweet heat to roasted and grilled meats, paellas, sauces and soups.

McCormick Spice Company does a Flavor Forecast each year, and this is their Top 10 Flavor Pairings list for 2011:
  1. Fennel and Peri-Peri Sauce
  2. Pickling Spice and Rice Vinegar
  3. Roasted Curry Powder and Wild Mushrooms
  4. Caramelized Honey and Adzuki Red Beans
  5. Ancho Chile Pepper and Hibiscus
  6. Thyme and Stone Fruits
  7. Mustard Seed and Vermouth
  8. Cilantro and Nut Butters
  9. Herbes de Provence and Popcorn
  10. Green Peppercorns and Goat's Milk

McCormick's trend watch also highlights five "currents of change" for 2011 which includes:
  1. Spirit of Discover – A hunger for international culinary adventure propels exploration of new ingredients and techniques.
  2. Flavor with Benefits – Eating for wellness is more delicious than ever.
  3. Invigorating and Uplifting – Exciting pops of flavor bring new energy to dining.
  4. Soul Satisfaction – Comforting favorites soothe the mind, heart and taste buds.
  5. Craveable Contrasts – The interplay of tastes, textures and visual cues adds fun and excitement to the basic pleasures of eating.

The National Restaurant Association surveys professional chefs each year—all members of the American Culinary Federation—on which foods, beverages, cuisines and culinary themes will be hot trends on restaurant menus:
  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Sustainability
  4. Nutritionally-balanced children's dishes
  5. Hyper-local (e.g. restaurant gardens, do your own butchering)
  6. Children's nutrition
  7. Sustainable seafood
  8. Gluten-free/food allergy conscious
  9. Simplicity/back to basics
  10. Farm/estate-branded ingredients
  11. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  12. Locally-produced wine and beer
  13. Half-portions/smaller portion for a smaller price
  14. Organic product
  15. Nutrition/health
  16. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
  17. Newly fabricated cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, Petite Tender)
  18. Fruit/vegetable children's side items
  19. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g. Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
  20. Artisan cheeses

And lastly, according to the Food Channel, these are the foods that will be hot-and-happening this coming year:
  1. Small Pies – Pie, of course, has been around forever, but 2011 could be the Year of the Pie. Some are already calling it the "next cupcake." We say, yes, pies will be hot in the coming year, but look for smaller pies to make it big—in both sweet and savory varieties.
  2. Sausage – Look for a leaner, better quality sausage, sourced locally, to take on the role as the "new bacon."
  3. Nutmeg
  4. Moonshine – Moonshine has gone legit. Tennessee's first legal moonshine distillery opened this summer, and the clear corn whiskey hootch can now be found in many liquor stores and even purchased online. It still packs a wallop.
  5. Gourmet Ice Pops – Ice pops in exotic flavors like bacon, mango chile, and peanut butter are the latest to get the artisanal treatment. They're known as paletas in Mexico. Watch for them to go mainstream north of the border in 2011.
  6. Grits – Could this old southern favorite become the "new grain"? We see it moving beyond the breakfast menu and above the Mason-Dixon Line.
  7. Sweet Potatoes – These super-nutritious tubers will be orange-hot in 2011. They'll be especially molten as the alternative, better-for-you french fry.
  8. Fin Fish – We are still discovering so much about the benefits of fish. We're banking on more acceptance of farmed fish as it becomes more important to have a good supply of this lean protein.
  9. Cupuaçu Fruit – This is quite possibly the next superfruit, following in the footsteps of the açaí fruit. Both are from the Brazilian rainforest. Cupuaçu has a number of antioxidants and minerals, and is considered a natural source of energy.
  10. Beans – The lowly legume will step up to the spotlight in 2011, as a great source of protein and a versatile ingredient in appetizers like white bean & rosemary bruschetta.

Interesting predictions!! Some of them I'll be happy without  :o)  And others I wouldn't mind trying for the first time!

Keep your eyes out for these up and coming trends - If any are spotted in Houston let me know!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy National Crepes Day!

I'm sad because there are no crepes being made in my household :o(

Within hours I've had some sort of sickness come over me and before I cook for others I want to make sure it's not contagious. So when the coughing and feverish feeling goes away, the smell of homemade crepes will fill this house!

Goodnight and stay warm Houston!

Food Holiday!

I almost forgot! Today (well yesterday I need to have some time management) is National Crepes Day!

Since tonight was filled with southern goodies, I'll make crepes (for my first time BTW) tomorrow night and post some pics.

I'm thinking classic Nutella with bananas..?!? Mmm I can hardly wait.

Southern Dinner, Fancied Up

So I discovered a blog last night (and have lost too many hours in my life already...oops) BUT I did however, manage to cook a fun, filling, and fantastically delicious southern meal tonight thanks to those lost hours!

I didn't get around to taking pictures so I'm borrowing the original ones from the original chef and photographer over at How Sweet Blog.

For starters, I made Cheesy Sweet Potato Crisps - I need to work on them a little, but for my first time they weren't too bad.

For our main meal, I made Mashed Potato Pancakes and Parmesan Ranch Chicken Fingers, and OH MY GOSH, they were both delicious!

First off, for those who know my mom, you know she can cook. So, not only does she play a huge part in my love for food, but she always helps me in the kitchen (not that I cook every night, but when I'm there, she's right there with me!) With that said, she was genius and decided to add some garlic and green onions to the mashed potato pancakes. Can we just say, this recipe could win awards!

The chicken fingers were my favorite of the night (putting aside dessert of course). All I can say about these, is MAKE THEM! The dry ranch mix completes the flavor, and since they are baked and not fried, they aren't greasy and filling like most chicken fingers (or any southern meal for that matter).

I have to admit though, we didn't shy away from the fact that we saved a few cals by baking my mom whipped up some of her delicious homemade white gravy :o)  It was so worth it.

We also had fresh green beans as a second side, but there's no special recipe or pretty pictures for that, sorry.

And to complete this overly delicious, flavorful meal, I kept dessert simple by making brownies. Oh, but not just any brownies, I made Oooey Gooey Fudgey Brownies. And boy are these oooey and gooey! I have a tendency to be impatient while dessert is cooling, and always cut into the baked good WAY before it's ready to be cut...maybe I'm a chocoholic...besides the point though. Anyways, I cut into these about 30 seconds after they came out of the oven. Honestly, bad idea. They were so oooey and gooey that they didn't even stay together as a square to be enjoyed. So I tied my hands behind my back...or made my self useful elsewhere, and cut these babies after they were completely cooled down. And again, so worth it! They are still so moist that they could probably sit out for days and still be just as moist!


I don't believe any picture could do these brownies justice. When they came out of the oven, the smelled good of course, but they didn't look like anything that would knock some socks off. So, along with everything else I made tonight, give these brownies a try! They are SO EASY and quick to assemble, and again, so ooey and gooey that you just might eat two or three and not remember :o)