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  1. Spring Rolls Me Away

    April 23, 2015 by Barb

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    Where do you live? Have you been enjoying a “normal” spring in your area? I am in the Midwest and spring is a rollercoaster of temperatures, weather events and emotions.

    For most of us “lifers,” we aren’t surprised when one day we have 80 degrees and the next week it snows. We get used to frost warnings the day after we plant our vegetable garden. Snow the day after we put away our shovels. And 40-degree temperatures drop the day after we put away our heavy sweaters.

    I normally don’t mind the cockamamie weather. (Mostly because it gives me an excuse to use “cockamamie” in a sentence.) I like the unknown. It makes me feel more dangerous because danger is my middle name. (I’ve always wanted to say that too.)

    The best part of spring to me is probably the food. It really doesn’t matter what the weatherman says….as long as the food on my plate says “spring,” I’m happy! (Actually if the food on my plate is talking to me, I’m a little freaked out but I still eat it.)

    Spring meals are full of color and vibrancy. Usually the ingredients have more crunch to them and freshness that is only experienced after a great trip to the farmer’s market. (I can’t wait for it to be farmer’s market season!)

    So Saturday was one of those spring days that you remember all year. The sun was shiny but it didn’t feel hot. The wind was just a wisp that made the leaves of grass dance. The birds were all singing like they were part of Mother Nature’s choir.

    But the best part was my lunch. I made spring rolls, which seemed appropriate. I had some spring roll wrappers in my pantry and just started pulling stuff out of the produce drawer. I also had some leftover chicken that I shredded and made a quick pot of rice noodles. Mmmmm, it was like spring rolled right into my mouth….I guess that is where they got their names.

    Spring Rolls

    Ingredients

    ½ package of rice noodles (cook per package directions, I also use the glass noodles)

    Package of rice paper wrappers, don’t buy the ones that you have to fry. These look like there is a basket weave on them (see picture)

    I found this picture on the internet to give you an example.

    I found this picture on the internet to give you an example.

    1 red pepper, thinly sliced

    1 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced

    A good handful of pea pods

    1 cup of shredded cook chicken

    1 package of your favorite salad mix

    1 cup of shredded carrot

    Fresh herbs like mint, basil, cilantro or chives. You don’t need a lot, just enough sprinkled in each roll so you get that wonderful pop of fresh herbs.

    Optional: Peanut or Thai Chili Sauce for dipping

    Directions

    Have all your veggies chopped and set up in an assembly line ready to go. Make sure your rice noodles are tender and your chicken is shredded before you start on your rice paper rounds.

    Have a large cutting board set up with some dry paper towels stacked up.

    Fill a large shallow pan with hot water and take one rice paper and submerge it for 30 seconds or so until it isn’t hard but not mushy. (This might take a couple attempts.)

    Transfer it to the top of paper towels. Top with some lettuce, rice noodles and your chicken, veggies and herbs of choice. Don’t OVER FILL it!!!

    You can add a smidge more than this but don't go crazy.

    You can add a smidge more than this but don’t go crazy.

    It should take up about a third of the wrapper. Fold your sides in but don’t pull so tightly that you rip the wrapper. Wrap the long end over and kind of tuck it under.   From here everything should be secured and you can just roll it up.

    Place the now wet paper towel over the top and set aside until the rest of your rolls are made. Slice on the diagonal and serve with a dipping sauce if you desire.

    You can make these ahead of time (like an hour) but you HAVE to keep them covered with something that is lightly moist but not super wet or you will end up with mush rolls.

    These can make a great lunch or a fun appetizer! Either way these are a great way to help spring “roll” in!


  2. Hamilton Beach FlexBrew 2-Way Coffee Maker

    April 19, 2015 by Barb

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    So I’ve been 45 for one full week now and have spent some time being introspective.   At this number (that I consider middle age), I have decided to make two lists. One of my lists would be my good qualities that are just perfect and don’t need any adjustment. (Wow! This is a very long list. Apparently, I like me very much.)

    My other is a list of things I could work on. Like being a bit more humble and maybe some more humility. (Example… reread my first paragraph.)

    One of the things I would like to work on is my hostessing skills. For some reason I never mastered that whole invite someone in and offer him or her a cup of coffee. They make it seem so easy on TV. “Welcome, can I make you a cup of coffee.” Smiles all around.  Nope, not at my house.

    In my case, I say, “What are doing here? I don’t have a coffee maker. There is a gas station down the street!” Okay, I’m not that bad.

    The truth is I didn’t have a coffeemaker until last week. Hamilton Beach was kind enough to send me the FlexBrew 2-Way Coffee Maker to try out in my house. Previous to receiving the FlexBrew, all I had was an espresso machine, which is not everyone’s cup of tea….I mean coffee.

    The FlexBrew makes coffee differently than your average “joe” machine because on one side you can make up to 12 cups in the carafe with fresh ground coffee or on the other side make just 1 cup using a single serve pack.IMG_9514

    This is an awesome option for our house because there are times we only have the one friend who wants a cup of coffee and then we have others who want more than a cup or two (or three or four) after dinner.

    After testing it out this weekend, I was pretty excited to have this bad boy in my house. Let me start with the carafe (pot) side. It is pretty much like other “regular” coffee makers where you add the paper filter to the brew basket (permanent filters can also be used), measure out your coffee and water and press a button.

    A few things stood out to me like there is a button for you to press for brew options…bold or regular. It is nice when you can ask your guests how they like their coffee. (I have one friend who likes it so strong you can literally watch the hair grow on his chest as he finishes his cup.)

    I also LOVED the pause and serve option.   There is nothing worse than sitting waiting for a pot to fill up when you really NEED that first hit of coffee in the morning. (And let’s admit we live in an impatient world and we want things fast!)

    And lastly my favorite thing about the carafe side is that you can program it so the coffee will be made at a designated time. This can be great for overnight guests who wake up earlier than you. No more worrying about them snooping in your cabinets trying to figure out how to make some coffee; it’ll be ready when they get up and you can sleep in. (Let’s face it, they are going to snoop anyway but they’ll do it faster now that they’ve got some caffeine kicking in!)

    Now what really got me excited was the single serve side. I do have a lot of “popover” company that just want a quick cuppa and then leave. (To spare my proofreaders any anguish….cuppa is slang for coffee.)

    The instructions for this side were even easier because I didn’t have to measure the coffee. I just moved the dial from left (carafe side) to right (single serve side), filled the mug I was going to drink out of with the desired amount of water (it couldn’t be larger than 14 ounces), adjusted the cup rest to my desired height, popped in my single serve coffee capsule and pressed a button. Ta-dah!

    There is also an option to use coffee grounds or soft pods on the single serve side if you are not a fan of the individual plastic cup option.

    I really enjoyed the cup of wakey juice from the individual side. It gave me everything I love in cup of coffee….warmth, great taste and CAFFEINE!!! (You can make it decaf but I would ask WHY?)

    If I were to make one criticism, I wish Hamilton Beach had included the travel mug with the machine. There is one available on the Hamilton Beach website or you could probably find one at Wal-Mart (who does sell the machine.) It isn’t a huge issue but it would have been nice to have it all matchy-matchy.

    With all that said, see how simple it is to improve my hostessing skills with something as easy as offering my guest a cup of coffee any way they like it?!

    So in the spirit of a good hostess, I am offering to giveaway one Hamilton Beach FlexBrew 2-Way Coffeemaker on the Felt Like a Foodie Facebook page.   Click here for the details. I will pick the winner on May 1, 2015 and post it on the Felt Like a Foodie Facebook Page. (Sorry to the non-FB folks. I really don’t have the manpower to do it any other way. So much for being a good hostess.)

    Again, thank you to Hamilton Beach for allowing me to test out another one of their great products. I am sure all of my future guests appreciate me finally being able to offer them a cup of delicious coffee!  (But you can’t use my monkey mug!!)IMG_9525


  3. You say Potato, I say Poutine

    April 16, 2015 by Barb

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    One of the best things about writing about food is that there is always something new to learn about. There are trends with certain foods like quinoa, bacon and kale. (Bacon is not a trend to me because I’ve been all over it for years!) I’ve seen how the definition of healthy eating can range from no fat to no carbs to no wheat. I’ve even seen how they have changed plate sizes from bigger is better to little micro small plates. It is all fascinating.

    So when I do go into a restaurant, my goal is to learn something new. I want to try something I’ve never heard of or at least never have tried so I can then steal the concept and try it at home.

    I was meeting some friends for dinner one night and I got to the restaurant early. (I am ALWAYS 15-20 minutes early for some reason.) My waiter asked if I would like to order an appetizer while I waited.   I was hungry and knowing my friends they would be 15-20 minutes late so I had a bit of a wait on my hands. (You know who you are and you are worth the wait.)

    The waiter looked at me, gave me a wink and said “Poutine?” (Okay, maybe he didn’t wink but in my mind all young men wink at me.) Poutine?????? Wait; did he just call me a dirty name? I don’t know this word. My sister used to call lady bits a “pooty” so did he just call me a version of pooty? (There goes his tip!)

    I could be wrong.  Maybe this is one of those restaurants that serves everything on the animal from nose to tail to pooty? I’ve eaten brains, livers and hearts. I’ve been offered everything from eyeballs to other “balls” but I’ve declined those. So I thought I’d play it safe and say no.

    “I’m sorry, young waiter boy. I just can’t put something like that in my mouth.” He looked at me with a smile, winked again and said “No worries.” (Good thing he winked because I really can’t stand the phrase no worries.)

    He then continued on to say you are probably the first woman I’ve ever met who doesn’t eat potatoes. When did potatoes enter this conversation? He then explained that a poutine is a pub dish popular in Canada that is essentially French fries smothered in gravy and topped with cheese curds.   Oh, color me red….I was way off on this one….except for the winking. (Apparently the kid has some eye issue that had nothing to do with how adorable I am. His tip just went back up.)

    I ordered it and it arrived at the table at the same time as my pals. (Funny how that always works).   The poutine was really a guilty pleasure kind of dish but a little too heavy (read as greasy) for my tastes.

    My mind started to wander conveniently just as my friend started talking about her kid’s sports schedules. (I get lost during children’s organized sports and usually zone out.) How could I make this dish but not make French fries? I apparently mumbled out loud “I can do it” because my friends all nodded and patted me on the back. (Crud, what did I just agree to?  Am I now a soccer aunt?  I need to work on my listening skills!)

    Luckily the folks at Food and Wine must have had the same feeling so they posted a recipe that was a good outline for me to get started.  I didn’t follow it exactly (surprise) but I did want to give them credit for helping me learn something new….like the winking waiter.

    Poutine-ish Twice Baked Potatoes

    Ingredients

    Potatoes

    ½ pound bacon, chopped up

    6 baked potatoes (Bake potato at 350 for an hour)

    ¼ cup butter, cubed,

    ¾ -1 cup warm milk

    ¼ cup sour cream

    ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

    1 Tbsp dijon mustard

    1/8 tsp cayenne

    ¼ cup chives

    Salt and pepper

    1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded

    Gravy Ingredients

    1 Tbsp butter

    1Tbsp bacon fat

    2 Tbsp flour

    2 cups vegetable broth

    ½ lemon, juiced

    1 Tbsp cream

    Salt and pepper

    Extra green onion or chives

    Directions

    In a heavy bottom pan, cook up your bacon. Do it in batches so it cooks evenly and renders the fat nicely. Drain and set aside. Do what you will with the all the drippings (like save them for other recipes) but use one tablespoon for you gravy.

    In the same pan, add the drippings and melt the butter. Add the flour over medium heat, whisking until it starts to get a nice brown color. Slowly add the broth, whisking so it doesn’t get lumpy. It will thicken. Taste. Season to taste. If you want to brighten it up, add a little lemon juice. Add the cream and keep warm.

    For the potatoes, cut a strip out of the top and reserve these. (If you have seen Silence of the Lambs, think of it like you are cutting out a pattern but not as creepy.) Scoop out the potato innards and using a potato ricer, rice this flesh into a bowl. (This recipe just got scary.)

    Add the butter pats as you rice so the butter gets well incorporated. Add in warm milk until it reaches the desired consistency. Don’t get over enthusiastic with the milk because remember you are still going to add sour cream!

    Add the sour cream, parm, mustard, cayenne and chives. Taste for seasoning.

    Set oven to 450. Set empty potato shells in oven for about 5 minutes. It will just make the skins a little crispy and they will hold up better when you fill them.

    After the 5 minutes, remove from oven.   Divide evenly between each potato.   Bake for about 20 minutes.

    Optional step: While the potatoes are cooking….you can take those reserved strips and fry them up. It makes a cute presentation….and tastes good. Your call.

    Ding.   Pull potatoes out of the oven and make a little well in each potato. Add some gravy, top with cheese and put them back in the oven. Bake until cheese until cheese is all bubbly and melty.

    Sprinkle with bacon and green onions or chives and serve while hot!

    I ate these almost all week for lunch. They were so good!!!!!! Obviously the advantage of the restaurant poutine is that you can share it with your friends, the advantage of MY poutine is I don’t HAVE to share. That’ll teach them to be late!


  4. The Birthday Blog #45

    April 12, 2015 by Barb

    Something happened. It is kind of horrible and wonderful all at the same time. I am trying to find the right words to use to talk about it but I’m almost speechless. But here it goes….I turned 45!!!

    45!!!!!! How the heck am I 45???? I looked in the mirror this morning and thought, “Is this the face of a 45 year old?” I guess I am showing some wear and tear but I don’t think I will ever be one of those women who “do something” about aging. (Well….I do dye my gray hair.)

    I started to look at my face more and I said to myself “You don’t look 45, go have a nice day and don’t sweat it!” But then I put on my glasses….because we all know there is some weird point after you turn 40 that your eyes start to go.

    Um, maybe my glasses should have stayed off! I AM showing some lines on my face. Are they wrinkles or just the storyline of my life?

    On the left side, there is a deep-set wrinkle. As much as I pull my skin it won’t go away. I think this is the frown line I make every time I’m sick. 44 was really a rough health year for me. I spent week upon week in pain struggling to know if I was going to get through this particular flare up of my Crohn’s disease. It has left more scars on me than just this wrinkle. It has been emotionally hard to be in this loop over and over in my life but I am determined to continue fighting the battle. I don’t have a choice.

    The good thing is also on my left side there are some crinkly lines by my eyes. I know these creases well. These are my laugh lines brought on by my husband. Every year I am with him, I see more of these on my face. He is my smile and my joy. He has found a way to bring out parts of me that I never knew existed and frankly he is what it means to be loved by someone.

    Moving on over to the right side of my face, I see a little brown blotch by the side of my mouth. Hmmm, what does that represent? Oh wait, that is some of my breakfast that I didn’t wipe off. Ooops. I guess that also represents how my love of food has grown and my love for writing Felt Like a Foodie. Even not feeling well this past year, my blog has allowed me to take cooking classes, go on an amazing cheese tour of Wisconsin and watch James Beard Award winning chefs cook.   It is a gift I don’t overlook. (Unlike overlooking wiping my mouth when I eat.)

    I see other smile lines that I know are from my friends and family. Every year I am lucky enough to keep adding to the list of people who care for me and in turn who I care for too. They can be new pals that pull me into their own circle of friends to someone I’ve met at a food event to a new baby in the family. It is amazing sometimes to look around and know you love so many people and so many of them love you back.

    I do have a pretty big groove between my eyebrows, which shows that my mind is always thinking. I am thinking of the gifts that life has given me and hoping that in some ways I can pay this world back. I am thinking of things that I have done that I want to make better. I am thinking that growing older is something I should rejoice in because my life’s road has been fraught with illness. (Now I am thinking who the hell says “fraught?”) I am thinking that every day is as happy as I make it and I am in control of how my tale ends.

    Whether I view them as wrinkles, creases or lines, they are telling a story with every smile and every frown. I get why people may want to hide them or make them disappear but I see it as tearing out a chapter in a book that is still being written.

    As I take off my glasses again, I see smoothness to my skin. It is a blank piece of paper for another year. Life will add to the story in the way it sees fit and I hope I can just look at myself and continue to tell the adventure of a very fortunate life.

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  5. Noticing the Little Things

    April 10, 2015 by Barb

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    Do you take time every day to appreciate the little things? It could be the first spring bunny hopping in your yard, the green of your daffodils trying to pop out of the ground or the sight of a chubby squirrel hanging off of your bird feeder. (Okay maybe I don’t appreciate the fact that he knocks ALL the food out of the feeder.)

    I was having one of these moments this week when I was doing laundry of all things. It seems like in the previous weeks it has been such a challenge to toss a load of laundry in the wash let alone to spend any time folding or hanging up the clothes.

    So I just stood there. Our see through lid let me watch the machine fill. There was peacefulness in the sound of the water pouring in and hearing the chug of the tub starting to turn about. The swish of the water hitting the sides of the machine as it went into the different cycles was almost mesmerizing.

    The incident that made me smile the most was the “chime” our machine makes when the cycle was done. It is more like a little tune. It sang to me like a bird on a budding spring tree and it just struck me as one of the most joyous melodies.

    So my recipe for today’s post really is just something simple and easy but I hope when you make it you will take time and appreciate all the small nuances of the dish. Relish the flavors that shine in a perfectly browned chicken breast, take a moment to delight in the crunch of the fresh veggies and lap up every salty/umami drop of the warm sauce as it tries to coat each grain of rice.

    This is what life is about folks…. appreciating things that you may ordinarily overlook and it doesn’t get better than that!

    Little Things Mean A Lot Chicken

    (Gosh, if I would have made this with chicken wings

    it could have been little wings….that would have been cuter.)

    Ingredients

    1 pound chicken breasts, sliced thin but not pounded

    ½ cup flour

    1/4 tsp togarashi (Japanese chili pepper or just use red pepper)

    2 Tbs grapeseed oil

    ¼ cup soy sauce

    1/3 cup coconut sugar (use brown if you don’t have coconut)

    ½ cup rice vinegar

    1 tsp fish sauce

    ¼-1/2 cup vegetable broth

    2 Tbs ginger

    2 Tbs garlic, chopped

    Shake of red pepper flakes

    1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced into thin strips

    1 red pepper, cut into small pieces

    1 cup spinach, sliced into thin strips

    2 scallions, thinly sliced

    Cooked sticky rice

    Note: I am not adding any extra salt….the fish sauce and soy add plenty of seasoning but if you think it needs more…it is your call and your blood pressure. : )

    Directions

    NOTE: DO THESE THREE THINGS FIRST!!!!

    1. Mix the flour and togarashi. Dredge breasts in the flour and set aside.
    2. Mix soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and fish sauce. Set aside.
    3. Mix peas, red pepper, spinach and scallions in a bowl and set aside.

    Okay…now we can cook. Oven at 350.

    In a non-stick skillet, heat grapeseed oil. So you don’t overcrowd your breasts (otherwise known in the cooking world as cleavaging), brown the breasts in batches. It should take 2-3 minutes a side. Place them in an ovenproof dish and put them in your heated oven. (They will finish up cooking in here by the time you finish your sauce 10-12 minutes.)

    In the same pan (you may have to add a swirl more of oil so you don’t burn your garlic), add garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Sauté about 1 minute. Add sauce mixture and about half of the vegetable broth. Bring it to a boil.

    Reduce heat and simmer. Stir frequently so the sugar doesn’t burn. It will reduce and thicken. If it is too thick, slowly add a little more vegetable broth.

    Check chicken to make sure it is done. Add to the pan just to coat it in the sauce.

    To serve, add some rice to your bowl, top with a generous handful of the veggie mix, top with the chicken and give it a drizzle of sauce.

    This was sooooooo good. The combo of the fish sauce, ginger and garlic just took it over the top and I loved having crunchy, munchy vegetables!!!!

    Bonus thought: If you have leftovers, chop up the chicken into little pieces and set your pan up for a stir-fry. Add veggies, chicken and rice. Drizzle on the sauce and mix it in well. Cook in the pan and top it with a fried egg.   Some of the best fried rice I’ve ever had!!

    I know a lot of these feelings are compounded by the fact that it has been an eye opening year.  I am just happy that I can spend a moment each day finding something new to appreciate…..like my readers.


  6. There Is No Business Like Dough Business

    April 6, 2015 by Barb

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    Do you ever do something and you KNOW it is a mistake? It could be as simple as eating that extra cookie or slice of cake. Maybe it is when you buy a dress a size too small thinking you will lose enough weight to fit in it by next summer. How about that selfie you took in the bathroom making a ducky face? (I really don’t get taking pics where you poop but to each his own.)

    I had one of those moments. (Maybe I had two because now I am rethinking that poop comment.) This weekend I thought it would be fun to make homemade rolls for Easter.

    Normally, I am pretty successful in my bread making endeavors. I’ve taken enough classes and know the big “secrets” to making a delicious loaf or two. But yesterday, I was in bread hell. (Otherwise known as a gluten free bakery.) I had my recipe in hand, Kitchen aid was pulled out and was all set EXCEPT for the ingredients!

    I was missing a few key things……like flour and shortening. (I was also missing energy. Note to self: Bread isn’t something to make weeks after surgery because it is exhausting.)

    So today I am doing something different. Instead of writing a fun recipe on how to successfully bake bread. I am going to write a blog on 11 common mistakes we make when baking bread.

    1. Yeast is yeast. Yes and no. For dry yeasts, there is regular and quick-rise in most stores. It can be used in most recipes interchangeably BUT if it is old….forget it!!!
    2. Hot water is better than warm water. Your water temperature should be somewhere between 95-110 degrees. Sprinkle on your yeast and let it sit for about five minutes. I also add a sprinkle of sugar to feed the yeast. If it doesn’t get all bubbly in that five minutes…DO OVER. Don’t think it is magically going to rise. (Unless you bought some magical yeast from a fairy soliciting your neighborhood.)
    3. I don’t need to follow a recipe. Baking is a science. It isn’t like regular cooking. If you don’t have all the components right, you won’t have good bread. Ta-dah.
    4. Flour is flour. When yeast is added to flour, it interacts with the gluten and starts to grow. If you introduce the yeast to a flour that is gluten free like a rice flour, you have to introduce a leavening agent. A lot of gluten free flours for baking have leaveners already added so look at the ingredient list if you are going to use it for baking bread.
    5. I’m watching my salt so I’m going to not use any in my bread. Salt controls yeast activity. Too much slows down the yeast, too little and the yeast becomes overactive and you will end up with overexpansion.
    6. I love sweet bread so I am going to double the sugar. Sugar likes water so it drinks it like…um…water. When that happens there isn’t anything left for the yeast.
    7. I don’t need to proof. Yes you do! Proofing allows the yeast to produce nice airy pockets. You want that in your bread.
    8. I want super airy bread so I will let it proof for hours. Um, this is bad too. The yeast is like a carbonated soda (which you shouldn’t drink because they are poison). Initially, you get a lot of bubbles and the drink tastes great but after sitting in your cup for an hour, it loses the fizzle and just isn’t so yummy. Yeast is the same way….it fizzles out.
    9. I feel the need to knead. There is a delicate balance of knowing when you are done kneading. If you have a big strong man (or sister in law) kneading your bread, there is a tendency to do too much. So you need to do the windowpane test. Take a small piece of the dough and stretch it so it resembles a pane of window glass. If the dough is properly kneaded, the dough should stretch very thin without breaking. Your gluten is developed the way it should be so you can let it go sit in a nice warm corner and rise now.
    10. I don’t like punching my bread. It is mean. It isn’t really mean but you should start with a poke. After the recommended proofing time is over (your recipe will tell you), give the dough a gentle poke like a half of an inch in. If it pushes back slowly, you are good.
    11. I want my bread done faster so I’m going to turn up the oven. Yeast produces gas when it is introduced to the heat of the oven. If the oven is too hot, you get one fast burst and it is over. Your bread is flat.

    So how many of these mistakes did I make yesterday? I know I made at least 3-4 of those mistakes when I made my rolls yesterday. I totally didn’t follow the recipe, I subbed my flour without any thought of the consequence, someone kneaded the hell out of the bread (I’m not blaming anyone) and I’m really not sure what my oven temperature was at the time of baking.

    The bread wasn’t a total fail. It just wasn’t the light fluffy roll I was planning on. It was kind of dense but it did taste pretty great warm and smothered in coconut butter.

    I will make the exact same recipe in the next few weeks after I recover from this disaster. Honestly, the minute I saw that I had NO regular flour in the house; I should have scraped the whole thing. (Or I should have googled how to bake with rice flour.) Either way, it was a good incentive for me to read more about baking bread and I know my next batch of bread will be the star of the show!


  7. I’m Gonna Wrap My Dinner Up in Paper

    April 3, 2015 by Barb

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    One of my favorite parts of my childhood was singing with my mom and sisters. (Even though half of us were tone deaf.) Mom would pull out her guitar and we’d look at all of her sheets of music and lyrics and beg her to sing certain songs.

    I remember sitting on her bed (the same bed I still sleep in today) watching her sing and strum the guitar. The joy in her face as she sat in front of us cradling her guitar made me smile and wish those moments never would end.

    Every kid thinks their mom is the best but when I’d watch my mom, I would know she was the coolest person in the world.

    She sang everything from Harry Chapin to Peter, Paul and Mary. (And in her crazier days she’d whip out some Whitesnake.)

    The songs she sang have stayed with me locked in my heart and mind for years. The tunes give me comfort and joy and wrap me up like one of my mom’s hugs.

    The other day I was goofing off in the kitchen and wanted to try to cook some salmon en papilotte. (En papilotte is a French term for cooking food wrapped in a sealed paper pouch. The food inside the pouch is steamed and cooked all together. It makes a nice presentation at dinner especially if you slice open the packets at the table so each guest gets a snoot full of the aromas wafting up from the packet.)

    So I read up on different methods and got all of my ingredients in place to make my packets. All of a sudden I started singing “Mail Myself to You” by Woody Guthrie. (I will admit that I thought this was by Peter, Paul and Mary but couldn’t find any reference online to that fact.)

    Do you know the song? It really was just a sweet ditty about mailing yourself to a friend. (I wonder how many “Forever” stamps it would take in today’s world?) The song started like this

    I’m a-gonna wrap myself in paper,

    I’m gonna daub myself with glue,

    Stick some stamps on top of my head;

    I’m gonna mail myself to you……

    My version was a little different….

    I’m gonna wrap you up in paper

    I’m gonna daub you up in juice

    Stick some veggies under your body

    I’m gonna love eating you

     

    I’m gonna add some herbs and spices

    I’m gonna add some citrus too

    Crimp the edges to stay sealed

    I’m gonna love eating you

     

    When the timer rings a chime

    The oven door will let you out;

    Make sure paper is nice and poofy

    Get ready fishy for my mouth

     

    Slice a hole in my parchment paper,

    Grab a fork in the hand that is right;

    Take a whiff and start to smile,

    Enjoy every tasty bite

    This is one of those dishes that sound like it is hard but it was incredibly easy and cooked very fast. The keys to success include having your ingredients all ready before you start preparing your packets, oven to proper temperature and making sure your parchment is sealed completely.

    Here is the link I used to figure out how to cut my paper properly and how to fill each parcel.

    It is an incredibly light meal and I would think it is considered moderately healthy. I had used Israeli couscous as a base but you could easily make it without any starchy base and do all veggies.

    I will probably make this again for an easy summer dinner or maybe a fun option for dinner guests. By no means is this my new favorite cooking method, it serves a purpose for certain meals BUT the memories of singing with my mom are my favorite and I know that the next time I want to relive those moments, this will be the dish I feel like making.

    Salmon en Papilotte

    Serve 2

    Ingredients

    2 six ounce salmon filets

    ½ orange pepper, sliced thinly

    ½ yellow pepper, sliced thinly

    2-3 green onions, sliced thinly

    ¼ pound of snow peas, sliced thinly

    2/3 cup of cooked Israeli couscous (or cooked rice)

    1 tsp minced ginger AND minced garlic

    3 Tbsp ponzu sauce

    Juice from ½ of a blood orange (If you can’t find a blood orange, use a navel.)

    1 tsp rice vinegar

    1 tsp sesame oil

    A few slices of blood orange from remaining half

    Direction

    Oven 425

    In a small bowl, add peppers, onion and snow peas. Mix together and set aside.

    In another bowl, whisk together ginger, garlic, ponzu, blood orange juice

    Vinegar and sesame oil.

    Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the sauce over the veggies and mix well.

    Prepare parchment paper by cutting two sheets 15 x 24 inches.

    Fold each piece in half and cut a heart shape out of it.IMG_9418

    Lay the sheet on a baking and only in the center of one half of the heart, place a small portion of the couscous, topped with a hearty portion of the veggie mix and top it with your salmon filet. I added 1-2 tablespoons of the sauce slowly over the fish and then topped it with the orange slices.

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    Fold the rest of the paper over the heart and crimp like your dinner depended on it. I found that I did a crimp and scrunch technique to make sure it would stay closed. I read one hint that you can put egg white on the edges but I forgot about it until I was already done.IMG_9425

    I did do a brush of olive oil on the top of the packet too. I’m still not 100% sure what that does besides keeping the paper from scorching.

    Bake for 8-10 minutes. The bad thing is that you can’t open it to make sure your fish is done so if your paper hasn’t poofed up, odds are they aren’t done. Unfortunately, there isn’t a surefire way to make this part perfect. So start singing and hope it is right.

    Remove baking sheet from oven and place on plates. Open carefully with scissors or a knife in front of guests so they can see the pretty steam escape and smell that first bit of aroma. Ahhhhh.IMG_9431

    I am going to try this method with some different types of fish and veggies. I think the options are endless EXCEPT singing “Mail Myself to You” is mandatory.


  8. The Devil is in the Detail Eggs

    March 30, 2015 by Barb

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    One of the many highlights of writing Felt Like a Foodie is the communication I have with my readers. I get Facebook posts telling them that I made them laugh. I get comments on how they tried a recipe and just loved it! And then I get some emails that are let’s say a little more explicit. (Explicit as in detailed, not as in naughty but I do get those too.)

    Apparently there are things that I find important to include in a recipe, like exact measurements, that some people just feel are unnecessary. Case in point, my annual deviled egg recipes. Since year one of Felt Like a Foodie, I’ve written about creative variations for deviled eggs around Easter time.

    In previous posts, I’ve gotten so exact as to the measurements for one egg. ONE EGG!!!! To quote one of my readers “Felt Like a Foodie, who the heck makes one egg? And who the heck wants to do the math for more than one egg? Seriously, is this the best you can do??” (Um, yes.)

    Just so you know, I hear you. Personally, I like math. It is fun and I forget not everyone likes to add and multiply like I do. But I can also see how it is pretty easy to add ingredients to an egg filling and taste it. You don’t have to measure everything down to the last smidge of salt. (I sort of thought this was fun but then again lately I’ve been hanging out with a stuffed monkey.)

    “Why don’t you tell your readers something useful like the best cooking method or an easier way to peel an egg? (Because most people know how to do this already.)

    So to make some of my readers happy, let us start out with the basics….How to make a hard-boiled egg. There are hundreds of methods and every one of them is the best according to the author who wrote it.

    First, I poke a hole in the bigger end of the egg with a clean tack. When you put the egg in the water, you will see the air escape when it heats up. This is a good thing so don’t freak out. Heat causes air to expand so by allowing some of the heat to release while they are cooking, you lower the risk of the egg cracking while cooking. (There is nothing more scientific that I can add to that but Ta-Dah.) Also, the eggs sink in the water and they don’t dance around as much when the water starts boiling, which will help prevent extra cracking.

    Next, fill a saucepan that is big enough to hold your eggs in a single layer with water. Add your eggs. Place on high heat to boil. Once boiling, cover and remove from heat. Let them sit undisturbed for 15 minutes for extra large eggs or 12 minutes for large eggs. While the eggs are cooking, prepare an ice bath.

    Ding! Place the cooked eggs in an ice bath….Immediately!!!!!!! When the eggs are cool to the touch, peel them.  (This is how to properly shock an egg.  When I first learned to cook and was told to shock the egg, I lifted up my shirt.  It did nothing for the eggs but my chefstructor asked me for my number after class!)

    There are other tricks I’ve read like use an old egg or make sure the chicken who laid the egg name is Henrietta but I can neither confirm nor dispute the validness of those claims.

    So now your eggs are cooked and you need some fillings. It is KILLING me not to get all technical and tell you exact measurements. I will give you one equation that seems to work for me. For every six eggs, add ¼ cup of mayonnaise.

    If you want to make multiple flavors, you can separate them out from there and add more seasoning. I would not add any salt or vinegar until you decide what your flavor profile is going to be for all of your eggs or maybe just ONE EGG!!!

    If you need some suggestions, feel free to go back to my previous posts Deviled Eggs (2012), Deviled Eggs (2013) and Deviled Eggs (2014).

    This year I made six variations that I didn’t measure a thing. Yep, I am that wild and crazy. I did play it safe and add my ingredients slowly and I tasted frequently to make sure that I wasn’t ruining the filling.

    I also concentrated on ONLY using ingredients that were open in my fridge so I didn’t have to go out and buy little bits of everything like in past years. (This was another request from a reader for me to use “normal” pantry ingredients. Of course, she didn’t say it had to be her pantry so I’m not sure if she will like these options.)

    Are you dying of suspense to know what I added into the yolks and mayo? Okay, I’ll tell you.

    Summer Sausage: Finely chopped summer sausage, stone ground mustard, a smidge of pickle juice with pickle garnish.

    Franks: Frank’s Hot sauce, blue cheese crumbles, chopped green onion with a piece of blue cheese on top.

    Peppadew Pepper: Chopped peppadews with just a dash of the brining liquid. Top with a thin peppadew ring on top.

    Red Pepper Hummus: Red pepper, hummus, drizzle of olive oil and a sliced kalamata olive on top.

    Kimchi: Finely chopped kimchi with a dollop of Gochujang on top. (Gochujang is a spicy Korean condiment. It is the next best thing to Sriracha.)

    Chipotle: Chopped chipotle peppers, chopped green onions and slivers of the dark green onion tops as a garnish.

    Hell Raiser: Add Sriracha until your eyes water. This is the one I would make for Earl’s college friends when they dare each other to eat something spicy.

    My favorite this year was tied between the kimchi and the summer sausage. The red pepper hummus one was a little sweet for my taste so I would probably add more tahini next time. Too bad I didn’t measure things exactly.

    Hope everyone has fun making their eggs this year. Let me know what fun creations you tried this year and if you want you can tell me your exact measurements.. I’ll do the math!


  9. Crazy Monkey Bread

    March 27, 2015 by Barb

    IMG_9411So it has been five weeks since surgery and everything is going as expected. I am still taking it easy and am getting a little stir crazy trying to fill my days around the house. I’ve had plenty of time to do crafts, read about food and watch copious amounts of television.

    The hardest part is probably the seclusion. I’ve had some friends pop over and the joy of my mom hanging out with me on occasion but a majority of the time my days are spent alone. (This is where you should say “Awwwww.”)

    My sweetie pie is at work during the day so when I am lonely I have resorted to finding company the only way a rational adult on pain medication knows how…I talk to my stuffed monkey, Crazy Eyes!

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    Crazy Eyes came home with me from the hospital. (Earl always buys me a stuffed monkey when I’m in the hospital.) I must say I wasn’t too attached to him at first. I had never seen such a colorful monkey and I will admit….I judged him for being different.

    But once we got home and I realized that he was by my side day and night, my affection for him grew. There was just something about looking at his bright face and button eyes that made me smile. Most importantly, he magically took away some of my loneliness.

    His personality is only limited by my imagination. Crazy Eyes loves to be under a blanket and likes to be close to me at all times. He doesn’t like scary movies but loves Animal Planet. He doesn’t eat much and never goes to the bathroom.

    Crazy Eyes loves to joke around too and make fun of Earl. He caught Earl tearing up at a TV show the other day and really let him have it. It was just hysterical!!!! (Earl did not find it as funny and said we were both heartless and mean.)

    So yesterday we were hanging out and I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I wasn’t feeling great so I wanted something easy.   Crazy Eyes said I should just make breakfast food for dinner. (He really has a lot of great thoughts in his little stuffed head.)

    I thought that sounded great but I really like some sort of bread or muffin with breakfast and didn’t have anything in the house. Crazy Eyes said he had the perfect solution. I jumped in before he could say anything else and guessed “banana bread.”  He was sooooo offended. I guess just because he is a monkey doesn’t mean he likes bananas. Crazy Eyes thought it was a bit rude of me to come to that conclusion.

    I felt horrible. I gave him a big squeeze and said that I was sorry. After he calmed down and fanned the tears from his buttons, he sighed. He looked up at me and said that he accepted my apology. (Phew!)

    Crazy Eyes then told me that he thought monkey bread is a nice addition to breakfast. Yum! I love monkey bread. Does this monkey know me or what???

    The only problem, homemade monkey bread is a lot of work. Crazy Eyes said he could do it and we pulled out the Mixmaster. It was an instant fail.

    IMG_9413

    So Crazy Eyes did the next best thing…..he called up his friend, The Doughboy, and got a suggestion to just use refrigerated biscuit dough. The Doughboy said his recipe was so simple that even human could make it. (Oh did those two laugh at that joke.)

    We ran to the store and found out that Pillsbury had blueberry biscuit dough and thought that would be a great option. (Crazy Eyes may not be a fan of bananas but he loves blueberries.)

    IMG_9403 I sat back on the couch and let Crazy Eyes do his thing. He made a nice butter sugary topping for the bread with just butter and brown sugar.

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    He also decided that he wanted to make individual portion sizes so he made it in a muffin pan. Crazy Eyes says that this way is better because then you don’t end up with some super gooey chunks in the middle that don’t taste fully cooked.

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    And I’ve gotta hand it to Crazy Eyes…his Monkey Bread was awesome. It had a lot of flavor and just the right amount of gooey goodness.

    As I get stronger every day, I wonder how our friendship is going to change when I start living in the real world again. I know it is not reasonable for a grown woman to carry a stuffed monkey around with her everywhere she goes. I do know that I will look back on these weeks as a fun time to have just been silly and enjoying a very real friendship with a very pretend monkey.

    Blueberry Monkey Bread

    Makes 10 mini-monkeys

    Ingredients

    1 can Pillsbury Blueberry muffin

    2 tsp cinnamon

    ½ cup white sugar

    ½ cup brown sugar

    ½ cup butter, melted

    Directions

    Oven at 350

    Separate the muffins in the can and divide the portions in half. Cut half of those portions into quarter size pieces meaning cut one muffin into four. And then take the remaining whole muffins and cut into 6 pieces each.

    In a bag or bowl, mix white sugar and cinnamon. Roll the cut pieces in this mixture until they are all coated.

    In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar with melted butter.

    Using a 12 count muffin tin, spray the holes with nonstick spray. Using only the 10 spots on the perimeter of the tin, fill them with approximately 1 Tablespoon each of the melted butter/sugar mixture.

    Evenly divide the biscuit pieces into the holes. It isn’t perfect math so just judge it with your eyes.

    Bake for 14 minutes and check. The biscuit dough should feel dry but not hard to your touch. If it is really mushy, cook a smidge longer.

    When it is done to your satisfaction, remove from oven and flip over onto a baking sheet or tray. Ta-Dah.

    Little Monkey Bread!!!!

    I’m not sure if Crazy Eyes will be helping me any more in the kitchen. He made a mess. When I tried to get him to wash off the counter, all the water got sucked up into his body so now he feels bloated.

    I am sure that this was a tasty little breakfast treat and it would be an easy fix for company or on a day you just feel like feeding your inner monkey.


  10. Reincarnation of Ravioli with Lobster Sauce

    March 23, 2015 by Barb

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    Do you ever have moments in your life where you are sure that you have been reincarnated? (Yep, I’m still on pain meds!) Were you a pioneer who crossed the plains in a covered wagon? Maybe you were a caveman who used to work in a quarry? (Or did that only happen on the Flintstones?) Heck, you could have not even been a human! Maybe you were a poodle!

    I think in a previous life I lived in the depression where I couldn’t always afford what I wanted to eat or maybe just in a country where food was scarce and there wasn’t access to a variety of foods.   I do feel like I must have been some sort of gathering who would have to forage for my food.

    This conclusion has been made because of the amount of food I chose to have in our home at all time. I live in fear that I won’t be able to find an ingredient so I keep our house stocked. I have everything from common necessities like pasta, butter and chicken breasts to crazy things like duck fat, seaweed and preserved lemons.

    There is no rhyme or reason to what I keep in the house but all I know is that if I find something interesting, I end up buying it for my pantry or freezer.

    I am not saying this is a bad thing. I like to blame my stockpile on the fact that I was once an orphan in England who couldn’t get enough porridge. It all has made sense to me when I rationalize it that way.

    So since I’ve been housebound, I haven’t been accumulating any new food treasures and I am actually having some fun creating some amazing meals. Case in point….ravioli with lobster sauce!

    I always have frozen ravioli in the house. It is an easy, tasty meal especially on nights when I’m not feeling my best. I usually make an easy tomato sauce maybe add some veggies and say “Ta-Dah!”

    But this past week as I was digging in my freezer for my ravioli I came across a bag of lobster tails. I remember that I bought them last month after Valentine’s Day when they were on sale. (I live in the Midwest so finding frozen lobster tails in the fish department is a norm.)

    They weren’t the big tails that should be saved for a special occasion. They were the itty-bitty tails that you buy because they are cheap and you are horny for lobster. They give you just enough lobster to curb your cravings and put a smile on your face.

    So I looked at the lobster tails and said they need to be incorporated into a yummy sauce with my ravioli. (Maybe I was an early European fisherman who lived in Maine.)

    I sort of feel like this meal rewarded my bad behavior of food hoarding or maybe this was just a quintessential example of what a great gatherer I was in my past life. Yep, I’ll go with that.

    Ravioli with Lobster sauce

    Ingredients

    10 -12 ounces of lobster meat, removed from shell and chopped, not cooked yet

    Olive oil

    1 Tb butter

    Lemon

    3 cloves garlic, minced

    1 shallot, minced

    1 pint of roasted tomatoes

    ½ cup white wine

    ½ cup heavy cream

    ½ cup Parmesan cheese

    ¼ cup chopped parsley

    10-12 ounce package of  cheese ravioli, cook per package directions

    Chives (optional)

    Directions

    Start cooking your ravioli per package instructions. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

    In a large sauté pan, heat up a swirl of olive oil over medium heat. Add the lobster meat and cook until done. At about 2 minutes, I tossed in a pat of butter. It took about 3-4 minutes and that was it. Give it a squeeze from half of lemon and remove from pan and keep warm.

    To the same pan, add a smidge more olive oil. Add garlic and shallots and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook them another minute or two. Deglaze the pan with the wine and let the liquid reduce by half. Add cream and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the cheese and parsley. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little of the ravioli pasta water.

    Finally, toss in your ravioli and lobster meat. Toss it around just enough to coat. Add another squirt of lemon juice and serve with a sprinkle of chives.

    I don’t want to say this sauce was good but I licked the pan. (I was a piggy in a former life too.) The lobster took it over the top and it really was a nice treat.

    Truthfully, I don’t know if reincarnation actually exists but if it does, I like the quirks my former self has given me.