Monday, May 31, 2010

Cheese Tortellini Soup and Peggy Lee

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend. Stewart and I just said goodbye to his family a couple of hours ago, and we already miss them. It’s funny how you get used to having company around, with all the food and chatter. Now the house is quiet, and I reminisce on the great meals and conversations we had over the past 3 days. 

Friday night I made a big salad and cheese tortellini soup; and to say it was "successful" would be an understatement. After a 12 hour car trip to Memphis, I figured our guests would be in the mood to unwind and have a good, hot meal. I usually don’t brag (not my style), but Stewart's mother, sister and brother wanted the recipe. And for two days, everyone talked about how much they liked this soup. That was the moment I heard the “Hallelujah” chorus sing. This cheese tortellini and vegetable soup comes from Cooking Light, and it is a definite crowd pleaser. Trust me. The best part is that it only takes 20 minutes to throw together, from start to finish.

The orange and cranberry scones were another hit! I made 16 scones for this weekend and by 8 am Monday morning, there were none. Fortunately, Stewart and I weren't left with a refrigerator full of left overs, because we all know who would eat them...ME.

On two occasions I took Stewart’s mom and sister to the mall to do a little shopping. Macy’s had great sales on shoes; but surprisingly Julia walked away without a shopping bag in hand, very un-Julia like. Well fast forward to Monday afternoon, and we decided to head to the Botanic Gardens up the road. They were hosting the annual potter’s guild show and sale; and ya’ll, you couldn’t hand me a credit card fast enough. I was blazing a trail through each of the potter’s displays. It was awesome! First of all, I love pottery. They are such beautiful works of art; and the various shades of blues, browns, purples and greens swirling through each dish made them stunning. I bought two bowls and a spoon rest. And second of all, food is always better when you display it well; hence the pretty bowls : )

My theme song for this weekend was “I’m a woman”. I felt like such the multitasker playing hostess to 7 people: cleaning, entertaining, cooking, etc. There was no doubt about it that Peggy Lee and her ode to women was the perfect beat. Sing it, girl!

This weekend is Italian Fest, and it’s a four day work week!


Cheese Tortellini and Vegetable Soup:
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion, undrained

1 (11.5 oz) can of condensed bean with bacon soup (such as Campbell's) undiluted
3 cups water

1 squash
1 zucchini
3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 (9 oz) bag of cheese tortellini
*top with Parmesan cheese (optional)

Combine first 6 ingredients in a 4-quart saucepan; cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta; reduce heat to medium. Cook, partially covered, 7 minutes or until pasta and vegetables are tender. Yields 6 servings.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Send Me on My Way with Scones

Last night I made scones with my mom in preparation for Stewart’s family coming in town this weekend. I wanted to have something fun for them to enjoy each morning with a cup of coffee or tea, and scones are the perfect size pastry for a morning treat. So, I took the 15 minute drive over to my parents' house and mastered the art of making scones.

I chose orange and cranberry scones because the zest of the oranges and the sweetness from the cranberries are in season; but be on the lookout this fall when I make pumpkin scones. They are out of this world and taste like Thanksgiving.

I’m not a particularly big breakfast eater. Well…let me rephrase. I love a big breakfast on the weekends: bacon, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, etc. But on a daily basis, I tend to skip breakfast and settle for a cup of coffee. However, I never turn down sweets. Even in the a.m. So, if there just happens to be a display of fruitful scones in my kitchen, I will be the first in the house to wake up and go straight for the plate.

This particular recipe makes 8 scones. For a house full of 7 people this weekend, we made two batches. My mom coached me through the first round and then put me in the driver’s seat for the second round. It’s such a huge help to have someone walk you through the steps to make a recipe, versus just reading the directions from a book or web site. I love how these scones have such a rustic look to them, and they are the thickness of a biscuit. They're not your typical tea party scones, but better. 

I don’t know why these scones made me think of Rusted Root’s “Send Me On My Way”, but it did. Something about it makes me think of waking up in the morning and starting a new day, refreshed and ready to go. Perhaps that’s where the breakfast food ties in. Perhaps I associate this song with breakfast because they played it in the movie Matilda when she makes pancakes for herself in the morning. But, no matter the reason, I hope you have a great morning. Try these breakfast eats to perk up the start to your days.

Cranberry-Orange Scones:


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1/2 cup butter, cut up
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine first 6 ingredients; cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Add buttermilk and dried cranberries, stirring just until moistened.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 5 or 6 times. Pat into an 8-inch circle. Cut into 8 wedges, and place 1 inch apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush with milk, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until scones are golden brown.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pound Cake Is My Bread and Butter

It’s all about pound cake today. Because I’m pretty sure I’ve gained a pound for every piece I ate over the weekend. I hoped that by grilling this buttery cake, it would magically melt the calories right off each slice. Not so much. I guess every now and then, we just have to dig into these delicious desires. I’m all for a healthy, balanced diet; but life’s too short to worry about every bite. Live a little!

Along with the humidity this past weekend came sunshine. And where there is sunshine on a Saturday afternoon, there must be a grill. But this time, I wanted to grill out for dessert. Anyone up for a little grilled pound cake and berries? I saw this recipe in Food and Wine magazine; and it not only looks good, but it tastes great. Strawberries and blueberries are two of my favorite fruits, so this recipe was right up my alley.

We did, however, eat our dessert indoors. Hot cake and fruit mixed with humidity and 90 degree weather makes for an uncomfortable and un-enjoyable time.

On another note, Stewart’s family will be in town for Memorial Day weekend! We can't wait to see them! So this means I will be spending some quality time in the kitchen in preparation. And you can bet some of these meals will make its way to My Eats and Beats.

The Newbeats had a one-hit wonder in 1964 called “Bread and Butter”. And I had lots of bread, and lots of butter, and lots of buttered bread this weekend.


Mixed Berries with Grilled Pound Cake:
1 lb strawberries and blueberries (strawberries halved)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 Cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
Grilled slices of pound cake (grill about 2-3 minutes on each side)

Combine the ingredients. Light a grill. In a medium bowl, toss together all the ingredients. Arrange four 12-inch squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a work surface. Spoon 1/4 of butter in the center of each foil square and pour the fruit mixture over the butter.
Bring two sides of the foil up over the fruit and fold them to form a seam across the top. Fold the remaining two sides to seal the packs.
Grill the packs over moderate heat, about 10 minutes; open and pour the fruit into bowls. Serve.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Italian Pork Chops and Besame Mucho

It feels so good to finally prop my feet up with a glass of wine and relax. Saturday and Sunday afternoon were spent doing yard work, hours of physical labor. And it’s official. The hell of Memphis’ humidity has arrived. I almost forgot what that feels like. Oh wait; that’s right. It’s agony!

I had a blast with the electric hedge trimmers on Saturday. If you ever need a good stress reliever, take a pair of these bad boys to a front yard full of azaleas and go to town! Sunday I replanted the flowers in the front yard as well.

The first time around, we planted very fragile flowers that eventually took a beating by severe spring thunderstorms. So, this time around we chose French marigolds, Mexican heather and Pentas. Several of our neighbors walked by and said when I was done with my yard I could come over and do theirs. A-ha. A-ha. I told them, “now I know why people pay to have this done”. But I do feel a sense of accomplishment. I just hope these flowers live a long and fruitful life.

During the 2 hours that I worked in the flower bed, I thought I made friends with a little robin who stood within 5 feet of me the entire time. He would watch my every move and stare at the front door if I went inside for a cold drink of water. So cute! I even took photos of him with my phone, and he didn’t move! About an hour into planting, I realized what was happening. The robin wasn’t my friend. He just wanted to stuff his beak with the worms that were uprooted from the dirt by my shovel. Seriously, he would pack a fist full of those creepy crawlers in his mouth and come back for more. And here I thought I had a bonding moment with mother nature.

As a reward for all our hard work this weekend, I decided to make a nice meal for Stewart and me in the dining room. Eating in the dining room is more of a special occasion than routine. Because it’s just the two of us, we often come home from work, throw dinner together and eat in front of the TV, flipping channels between Glee (my choice) and the latest basketball or baseball game (Stewart’s choice). It helps us to practice the art of compromise.

On the menu for dinner was Italian pork chops with rice, salad and a bottle of Layer Cake. This meal packs a whole lot of flavor and makes for a nice presentation without spending hours in the kitchen. In fact, the only hour spent on this meal is the one when the pork chops are in the oven. And the rice is simply delicious. In fact, you can cook these two dishes side by side in the oven while you wait.

To channel a romantic Italian dinner, I listened to a romantic Italian tenor named Andrea Bocelli. His voice just sings “I’m sexy.” There are so many of Andrea’s songs that I love, so I’m sure this won’t be the last time you hear him on My Eats and Beats; but I thought “Besame Mucho” fit perfectly with a candle lit setting. However, at 6:30 on a summer’s night there’s more sun light than candle light in the dining room. Oh, well. It’s the thought that counts, right?

Here’s to another week of delicious eats and the beats that accompany them!

Italian Pork Chops:
3 pork chops
Garlic powder, oregano, celery salt, and pepper to taste
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
3 slices of mozzarella cheese

Sprinkle pork chops on both sides with seasonings. Place in 8x8-inch baking dish. Cover with tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Top with cheese and bake for another 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Infallible Rice:
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 Cup long grain white rice
2 Cups chicken broth (hot)

Saute onion in butter until transparent. Add rice and hot broth. Bring to a boil on top of range. Cover and place in 325 degree oven for 20 minutes. (Serves 4 people).

*Recipes come from "Recipe Hall of Fame: Quick and Easy Cookbook". I added the can of diced tomatoes to the pork chop recipe and changed the serving size from 4 pork chops to 3.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Boiled Peanuts: a Southern snack

About a year ago I came across Garden and Gun magazine when a client of mine wanted to look into advertising with this publication, and now it is my latest obsession. Keep reading before you jump to conclusions about my recreational interests and hobbies. I realize with a name like Garden and Gun, you may think this is right up there with Ducks Unlimited, Bass Pro Shop and Larry the Cable Guy; but au contraire my dear readers. This magazine embodies everything that is the classic charm and tradition of Southern culture. In fact, I bought Stewart a subscription to Garden and Gun as a birthday gift this year, and I confess that it’s as much of a gift for me as it is for him. Every other month, this perfect bound publication arrives in my mail box and lures me into a world of truffle hunting dogs, guides to oysters and Kentucky bourbons, and Southern dream towns. Did I mention that the photography is beautiful? If you want to see more, check out their web site. You’ll get a feel for the real South.

In the latest issue (April/May 2010) I came across an article called “The Southern Invasion of NYC”. It talked about how Southern culture has never been more popular in the Big Apple thanks to a new generation of chefs, designers, musicians and entrepreneurs. Apparently one of my favorite snacks as a kid is now taking NYC by storm. It’s the boiled peanut. Boiled peanuts are the best! Leave it up to Southerners to cook foods in the most original of ways. Case in point: the fried pickles I made in one of my very first blog posts. But I grew up on boiled peanuts. My grandpa used to make big pots full in the summer. When you open the shell, they’re soft and packed with salty flavor.

Humbly I admit, this being my first attempt to boil peanuts, mine did not turn out as soft as my grandpa’s. To my defense, the grocery stores in Memphis don’t carry raw “green” peanuts; they only sold roasted peanuts which have already been cooked. Therein lies the difference. Mine still had great flavor and were pretty soft on the inside, but you don’t want any crunch to these peanuts when they’re done. If you’re sitting around this Thursday night and looking for a tasty Southern snack to accompany that bottle of Sam Adams Summer Ale, I recommend you kick back with an ice cold brew and wait for these babies to boil. It will take about 3-4 hours, so consider yourself warned that you need time and patience on your side.

Everyone’s recommendations for how much salt and water to use will vary; but you can see my suggestion below for measurements.

This evening is Harry Potter night! About once a month, my friend Shelby and I curl up on the couch and watch Harry, Ron and Hermione take on the dark Lord Voldemort. She brings the wine, and I make the dinner. Good times. Tonight’s feature presentation will be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And we’re having Muddy’s cupcakes for dessert! I’m a happy girl who will assuredly be in a sugar coma around 10 p.m. tonight.

As a compliment to my eats, I needed a beat that was a song of the South. Here is The Doobie Brothers' “Black Water".

Go nuts tonight with these eats!

Boiled peanuts:

As previously mentioned, there are various recommendations for how much salt and water to use, so make adjustments where needed. Keep pulling out one or two each hour to taste test. You want to make sure they are soft, not crunchy at all on the inside but still hold its shape.

2lbs of raw peanuts
1 Cup of kosher salt
(I started with ½ cup and then added more salt as needed)

Rinse off the peanuts and place them in a large stock pot; completely cover with water and add the salt. Cover and bring to a boil and then simmer for about 3 hours or until the peanuts are soft. If they are still slightly crunchy, they are not done. If they are not salty enough, leave them in the salted water and turn off the heat. When they are done, drain and serve immediately. You can refrigerate these for a couple of days.

Lady Ella and Pasta Salad Caprese

Monday night we dined al-fresco. One of my best friends from high school, Cristina, was in town and came to see our house for the first time; so I wanted to entertain out on the patio. I love our backyard and enjoy sitting out there every chance I get. Recently, it hasn’t been that often because of all the rain. But the stars aligned in my favor on Monday. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. The temperature was just right; no humidity. Dining outside is such an enjoyable experience. That was one of my favorite things about living in Chicago during the summer months. Practically every restaurant, coffee shop or pub had outdoor seating. As a self-admitted people watcher, I could sit at my table for hours, chat with friends, breathe the city air and watch pedestrians stroll by with their shopping bags. And then I would proceed to comment on their outfits and accessory choices. But I digress…as it relates back to Monday night’s dinner, I think we would have sat outside all evening if it weren’t for the mosquitoes feasting on us. I’m beginning to believe certain citronella candles are falsely advertised.

For dinner I made a light pasta salad with cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. I also bought a bottle of Estimulo’s Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany the meal. Cristina brought over a bottle of wine called Layer Cake which makes me want to eat the wine instead of drink it. I love that name. I usually buy my wine at Wine Market in east Memphis. The staff there is extremely helpful and never shy of an opinion which I truly appreciate. Plus it’s next to Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn outlets so why not kill two birds with one stone and throw in a little home and kitchen shopping while I’m at it? When I asked the sales associate at Wine Market whether or not he’s tried Estimulo’s Cabernet Sauvignon, he said this Cabernet Sauvignon was the only one out of Estimulo’s entire collection that he liked. He said, “The rest are not even drinkable”. Now that’s the kind of candor I’m all about!

There are no cold or calculated moves to the way I chose a wine. I basically look at three things: red or white wine, the label, and the country of origin. According to this web site I should have served Zinfandel with my tomato pasta dish instead of the Sauvignon Blanc that I bought. But you want to know a secret? The wine and the pasta both tasted molto buoni! In all honesty, I would like to learn more about being a decent wine connoisseur so I don’t order wine off of a restaurant menu based on the price per glass, or whether it’s red or white wine. Oh, and on a side note, I dislike Chardonnay. So that’s out of the running.

This pasta is great. With just a few ingredients, it allows the tomato and mozzarella to work their magic together in a caprese salad kind of way. Boil the pasta in water, omitting the salt. Drain, rinse with cool water and set aside to chill. Chop the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, and mix them together in a bowl. Drizzle the mixture with olive oil; season with kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and garlic powder. Stir and add the mixture to the pasta in a serving bowl. Add more olive oil and seasonings to your liking before you serve. You may also chose to add a little fresh basil. I had the basil chopped and ready but forgot to add it at the last minute.

The First Lady of Song (Ella Fitzgerald) can sing the soundtrack to My Eats and Beats any day. Her voice has such a beautiful tone and purity to it. I’ve always loved her duets with Louis Armstrong in particular, and their rendition of “Summertime” is perfect to pair with dining outdoors on a summer night, a glass of wine in hand, good company to laugh with, and an appetizing meal on your plate.

Here's to the eats and beats of summer time!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chicken BLT and Obla di bla da

Lord, Jesus. This past weekend I made one of the best versions of a BLT that my mouth has ever laid teeth on. It’s a chicken BLT. We are continuing work to finish the upstairs room in our house which we so lovingly call the “man cave”. The old wood panels in this room were basically put together with hammer and nail. A few months ago we started tearing down the panels and rebuilding this room from the frame work on up: new panels, new molding, new paint, new carpet, and a new TV! It will be one of the biggest projects we ever do to this house, and it’s been a fun one at that. Saturday we were working on the trim and floor boards. So for a quick “manly lunch”, I thought I would make one of the all-time classic sandwiches but with my own spin on it. A BLT sandwich with rotisserie chicken.

The best part about making this sandwich was shopping for its ingredients. I decided to pass the ole super market and drive to Fresh Market. Fresh Market makes me happy to go grocery shopping. It’s all about the experience. First of all, you walk in and the store is set up like a market place. There are fresh flowers in buckets towards the front and a plethora of fresh fruits and produce to the side. To the back of the store are fresh baked goods and loaves of bread, alongside fresh cuts of meat and seafood. Then you have the entire front half of the store devoted to fresh candies, chocolate and granola. You can mix your own batch, or buy them in presorted bags. All the while, Fresh Market is playing classical music. Who knew that grocery shopping to a classical string quartet could make you feel so chic?

For this chicken BLT, a sourdough baguette was my bread of choice. Baguettes are my favorite to eat with a sandwich, and you can really sink your teeth into a sourdough baguette. Instead of using iceberg lettuce, I went with a spring mix of greens. The colors are much prettier to dress up your sandwich presentation, and the nutritional value is better too. Use thick slices of bacon and bright, red tomatoes. The colors in this sandwich are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. All you need now is a classic rotisserie chicken breast to top it off. A little kosher salt, a little cracked pepper to taste, and you’re good to go.

But don’t forget the dressing! This is where I decided to step outside the box. You can stick to the classic BLT recipe and use mayonnaise, but I added Thousand Island dressing to my sandwich and it was a-maz-ing. Thousand Island dressing already has mayonnaise as a base ingredient. So when you add in the ketchup, Tabasco sauce and finely chopped vegetables (pickles and bell pepper) in the Thousand Island dressing, it gives your taste buds a tangy kick. I will certainly make these again. The nice thing about this sandwich is you can switch up the specific components to match your mood. For instance, try using a fresh loaf of toasted wheat bread instead of the sourdough. Or top the sandwich off with Russian dressing instead of Thousand Island. You can’t go wrong when there’s bacon and chicken involved.

This chicken, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich was a fab four combination. Just like another musically famous fab four, The Beatles. Their song Obla di Obla da is a favorite, and it simply puts me in a good mood much like this sandwich does.


Monday, May 17, 2010

French Apple Tart and Django Reinhardt

This past weekend didn’t exactly go according to plan. About an hour before I was scheduled to leave for the airport, my friend called from Dallas. She saw on American Airlines’ web site that my flight had been canceled. We immediately got on the phone with an airline rep and rescheduled my flight to leave a few hours later that evening. Within five minutes of my arrival to the Memphis airport, my flight was canceled again due to severe thunderstorms approaching the Memphis area. With my only other option being to take a flight out Saturday afternoon, which would put me in Dallas around 1 p.m. only to turn around 24 hours later and head home, I decided to reschedule my trip for a later time this summer. It put quite a damper on the start to my weekend. But in instances such as these, I tell myself that everything happens for a reason, and I’m sure my trip to Dallas the next time around will be even better. On the rainy ride home it sounded as if hail the size of golf balls were being launched at my car. I’m just thankful they didn’t leave any dents.

So, how does a girl like me cope with stress and frustration? I eat. I am 100% an emotional eater. This weekend I spent more time in the kitchen than I normally would cooking up a storm. But on the positive side, that just means I have some great meals and music to share with you!

I’m kicking off this week with the meal I made this past Sunday. My family has a tradition of getting together on Sundays for a late lunch or early dinner. This past weekend, Stewart and I got to host the 6 of us! No pressure. I wanted to serve something light, flavorful and relatively healthy (aside from dessert). So I chose to make Napa cabbage salad. Stewart worked his magic on the grill with mesquite chicken; and for dessert, I made a French apple tart. This is a great weekend meal on a hot summer’s day, or a humid summer’s day in the case of Memphis. The dressing for this salad has the right balance of salty and sweet. And the toasted almonds, sesame seeds and Ramon noodles give a great crunch alongside the crisp Napa cabbage. One word of advice on this salad: Do not add the dressing to the remaining ingredients until you are ready to serve. The longer the dressing sits on the salad, the soggier it will become. It’s not ideal for using as leftovers. I generally find Napa cabbage at our local Whole Foods or Fresh Market.

For dessert, Ina Garten’s recipe for French apple tart was the star. I L-O-V-E this recipe. It’s not only beautiful to look at, but it’s equally delicious. Fruit tarts are such a traditional French treat. All the boulangeries (French bakeries) feature gorgeous fruit tarts, chocolates, croissants and ├ęclairs. And this apple tart brought me back to my roots of growing up in Brussels, Belgium. I have never seen more beautifully decorated window displays as they have in European bakeries. It’s truly an art form. I think I was meant to do that job. The trick to making this tart is to use the right baking pan. A large, jelly roll pan will ensure that your puff pastry cooks at the same rate as the apples, so one does not burn before the other. And the apricot glaze coats this pastry to perfection.

Anytime I think of French food, I hear the guitar strings of Django Reinhardt. Django was born in Brussels, Belgium; but he grew up amongst the Gypsies outside of Paris playing the guitar, banjo and violin. When he was 18, Django was injured in a fire that destroyed his caravan. Consequently, his right leg was paralyzed and the third and fourth fingers on his left hand were severely burned. Django had to relearn his craft in a completely new way by playing all of his guitar solos with only two fingers. If you watch the video closely, you will see. His technique is pretty incredible. This song makes me day dream of walking the streets of Paris or lounging somewhere on a beach in the south of France.

Hope you enjoy these sweet eats!

Napa Cabbage Salad

1-2 heads of Napa cabbage, cut in long thin strips
1 bunch green onion, chopped
2 packs Ramon noodles
1/2 Cup sesame seeds
1 package slivered almonds
1 stick of butter

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 Cup oil
1 Cup sugar (3/4 cup recommended)
1/2 Cup cider vinegar

Mix cabbage and onions. Put in covered bowl and refrigerate.
Brown noodles, seeds and almonds in butter until crunchy or light brown; drain and dab with paper towel.
Mix all ingredients together and serve.

Ina Garten's French Apple Tart

One sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted. Roll out to 10.5"x10.5"
4 Granny Smith apples
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 Cup of apricot jelly
2 tbsp water

Roll out puff pastry to 10.5"x10.5".
Preheat over to 400 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Place the dough of the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples. Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows until the pastry is covered with apples. Sprinkle with the full 1/2 Cup of sugar and dot with the butter. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. When the tart's done, hear the apricot jelly and with water and brush the apples and pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn't stick to the paper. Allow to cook and serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sushi and Bryan Adams Concert

The concert last night was perfectly simple and simply perfect! One of the best I have been to in my life thus far, and I have a feeling it will remain in the top 5. There was a guitar. There was a piano. That was the band. Bryan and his pianist Gary played to the cheers of the crowd for an amazing two hours of entertainment. The stage was bare except for his microphone stand and the gorgeous grand piano. Having played the piano since I was 5, I was just as mesmerized by Gary's talent as I was Bryan's. The two of them were a true compliment to one another; and they kind of looked alike too.

The spotlights on stage were old movie set lights, with big square lenses, and the backdrop was raw. Just the exposed wall with no decorations. I also have to give kudos to the Germantown suburbanites and those of us Memphians who were in attendance. We were a great live audience! We gave standing ovations after every other song, clapped our hands to the beat every chance we got, and sang every chorus in tune. We had box seats up in the balcony, stage right. Well worth the money. My only complaint was the camera Nazi of an usher that sat next to me. But little did she know, if I want a picture of Bryan Adams then I'm going to get a picture of Bryan Adams. Booya! All joking aside, his performance was brilliant, and the acoustics at the Germantown Performing Arts Center were outstanding. The sound of his voice bounced off the walls with such clarity. I recorded one of the songs he sang, "Do I Have to Say the Words", and just listening to it now seems as if I'm back at the live event.

But what's a night out without a great meal to start things off right? You know I couldn't neglect to show you the sushi from Sakura! I got the spicy tuna roll and the shrimp tempura roll. My friend got the smoked salmon roll, the dynamite roll and the Saki roll. All of them were devoured in a total of 20 minutes. We don't play around with our food; we mean business and come prepared to throw down some seriously good sushi. Somewhat surprisingly, Sakura only serves beer and Saki. I was hoping for a glass of red wine because I'm not sure how well beer goes with raw fish...and I didn't care to find out. But this meal never disappoints.

This afternoon I'm off to Dallas, TX! It's going to be a wonderful weekend full of delicious eats and good beats. I don't plan on wearing anything exceptionally tight fitting for the very reason that I want to give my tummy room to expand when she gets overzealous at dinner each night.

This morning I'm channeling the words to Little Texas' "God Bless Texas". Check out the mullets on these guys in the video. Business in the front; party in the back baby! I feel like Dallas should adopt the slogan "Go big, or go home". My friend, Holly, has sent me an email full of links to restaurants, bars and shopping options for this weekend; and there is so much to do! I am really excited to wine and dine myself in the Lone Star State.

Wishing you good eats and beats this weekend!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thirtsy Thursday en Francais

BIG night tonight. My friend Ashley and I are having sushi at Sakura and going to the Bryan Adams concert! First of all, Sakura is without a doubt the best place to eat sushi in Memphis. And that is a scientific fact. It’s actually located in Germantown, about half an hour away from the city center. The most endearing part about dining at Sakura is that the d├ęcor is a traditional Japanese steak house. It’s not a trendy sushi restaurant that has plush lounge seating, dim lights and chic cocktails. You would not even know that sushi is their specialty judging from the looks alone.  

I’ll admit that I used to turn my nose up at the word sushi. Raw fish couldn’t possibly be appetizing. Wrong! I love it. And when you have a craving for sushi, nothing else satisfies the need. If you’ve never had sushi or are convinced that you wouldn’t like it, take baby steps. Start out with a California roll. It’s just raw vegetables, no fish. From there try the shrimp tempura roll because it is fried. As you start to acquire the taste for it, try maki sushi with the spicy tuna roll. It’s raw; but I think the spicy tuna roll is one of the easier ones to help make the transition into being a sushi aficionado.

After Sakura we will travel around the corner to the Germantown Performing Arts Center where Mr. Bryan Adams will entertain us with acoustic renditions of his classics like “Summer of 69” and “Forgiveness”. I can’t wait. Whether you’re a Bryan Adams fan or not, nothing beats the experience of live music. It separates the singers from the artists and the posers from the true entertainers. Can you believe it was sold out?

On another note, it’s Thirsty Thursday! Which means it’s a good opportunity to feature some of my favorite French cocktail recipes. If you’re having a nice quiet evening home, perhaps you’d like to shake up a French martini to accompany your coffee table coaster. Or if you’re headed out to ring in the weekend, try a French 75; I love anything with champagne.

French 75 - makes one serving

1 oz gin
1 oz Cointreau
Squeeze of lime
1 sugar cube
Champagne, chilled
Preparation: Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne glass. Strain in the gin, Cointreau, and lime, and then top the cocktail with champagne.

French Martini - makes one serving
2 oz dry gin
1/4 oz raspberry liqueur
1 oz pineapple juice

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
Shake well.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Kir Royal - makes one serving
Cassis (1-2 tablespoons or 15-30 ml)

Champagne (about 6 ounces or 150 ml)
Flute or Champagne Glass

When I think of French cocktails, I think of Pink Martini. The group is from Portland, Oregon, and they cross different genres of music to cover sounds from all over the world: French, Italian, Spanish, etc. Funny enough I had their album “Sympathique” when I was in high school but had forgotten about them until now. Looks like I might have found my next album to play on repeat. This video for "Je ne veux pas travailler" is hilarious. Being proficient in French, I actually like how the video gives you definitions to some of the words in the song; so you can understand the concept behind the lyrics. Basically, the singer doesn't want to work. She doesn't want to have lunch. She only wants to forget, and so she smokes.

This Thursday kicks off my weekend extravaganza because tomorrow I’m headed to Dallas, TX! I'm visiting one of my best friends and old college roommate. So be sure to check in tomorrow when I’ll post photos from the concert and close ups of some seriously amazing sushi rolls from Sakura.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Black Eyed Peas and Ray LaMontagne

Tonight I made one of my appetizer specialties: black-eyed peas con queso. Or, more commonly known as black-eyed peas cheese dip. My sister is visiting from Chicago this week, and it is her favorite. She's already told me several times that she hates me because this dip is addicting. It's like Pringles. "Once you pop, you can't stop." And this evening, misery loves company because I was right there with her in the constant motion of moving the cheese dip covered Tostitos from the bowl to my mouth. It's a one-two step. Scoop and shovel. Scoop and shovel. Breathe...two, three, four...Scoop and shovel. We took our photo together at the table before things got messy and tummies were too full to muster up a smile for the camera.

Earlier this evening, my mom and dad treated us to dinner at Firebirds. Isn't it a special occasion when your parents still treat you to dinner? I'm a married woman, and I still get excited over a free meal. I ordered their garden salad, knowing that I was making this dip later. I also went light on dinner because I inhaled one of the best gyros in Memphis at Elliots for lunch. I would have taken a picture of that gyro, but I was with my boss for lunch and wasn't quite sure that whipping out the iPhone and taking photos of my food was appropriate. Next time. It will eventually find its way into this blog.

So, back to the black-eyed peas. Disclaimer: don't judge a dish by it's name. If you are not a fan of black- eyed peas, I would encourage you to try this recipe. Over the holidays last year, I made this appetizer several times, and people who admittedly dislike black-eyed peas loved it. I think it's because the beans do not dominate the flavors in this recipe. It adds texture and substance more than anything. The pepper jack cheese is the ringer.

Black-eyed peas have been a staple in southern cooking for centuries. As a southerner, we usually eat our black-eyed peas on New Years to bring us good luck and prosperity. Or you could just make this special con queso and eat it any time of the year you want! It refrigerates well and will last throughout the week when you want to feed the need for a quick snack.

This beat comes from Ray LaMontagne. He is an extremely talented singer songwriter, and I think he has such a great raspiness to his voice that brings out the soul in his music. I heard Ray LaMontagne's voice before I ever saw his picture; and for some reason I always envisioned him being a black guy. Maybe it's the raspy tone. But when I saw his photo, I was surprised to see a white boy. I think it's funny how your senses depict different things. Case in point, what you think someone looks like just by hearing their voice is different than what they actually look like. Or even what you think someone's voice would sound like, just by seeing them in person or in a photo, is different than what you expected when they speak.

Ray's voice is original, raw and full of soul. Much like these tasty black-eyed peas.

Back-Eyed Peas Con Queso

1/2 stick of butter
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
One medium onion, finely chopped
1 (16 oz) processed cheese spread - I use Velveeta Pepper Jack
2 (16 oz) cans of black-eyed peas, drained

In a dutch oven, melt the butter, onion and garlic. Saute until tender.
Add the cheese and cook over medium heat, stirring until melted.
Add the beans;reduce heat and simmer until dip is thoroughly heated. Stir occasionally.
Serve with tortilla chips.


Carolina Boil and Shag Music

I am so excited to post today's Eats and Beats because it comes from my birthplace state and family home town of South Carolina. This past Saturday the weather was perfect for cooking outside. The sun was shining, the temperature was a cool 70 degrees and there was no humidity. It's as if Poseidon parted the seas and spoke to us saying, "today is a perfect day for seafood". And where there is seafood, there must be Frogmore Stew.

Frogmore stew should be named the state dish of South Carolina; and it is similar to the crawfish boils of Louisiana. This is lowcountry southern cooking at its best. Traditionally eaten with your fingers on a newspaper covered picnic table, this crowd pleaser feeds large groups of family and friends. Frogmore stew has nothing to do with frogs, but in fact is made with ears of yellow corn, red skin potatoes, spicy smoked sausage and shrimp. Yum. Yum.

My favorite parts about Carolina cooking are the memories and senses behind it. I grew up spending summer's at Litchfield Beach, SC, and visiting Charleston and Myrtle Beach. We spent our days scoping the sand for sharks teeth and wading in the ocean (praying to God that we didn't get stung by a jelly fish or bitten by a crab). And at nights we drove over to Murrells Inlet where you can have your pick of any delicious seafood restaurant. But perhaps my favorite memory of these summers is the shag beach music. That's right. Here's your lesson of the day. Shag is not just a British word for sex. It's also a type of dance - almost like a version of swing dancing. In fact, there was a movie called Shag that came out in 1989 and starred Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda and was filmed in Myrtle Beach. We owned it on VHS for years. I'm sure we still have it in a closet somewhere at my parents' house. If you're curious to learn more, there's even a national shag dance championship that takes place in Myrtle Beach every year. Click here to check out the web site.

The recipe I featured today comes from Southern Living and is similar to my family's. My dad cooks our frogmore stew using a turkey fryer; but how many people actually own a turkey fryer? So, I chose this recipe because you can use a large stock pot for the same purpose. One of my favorite beach music songs is "Stay" by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs.

Grab a paper towel and dig in to these eats!

Frogmore Stew (makes 12 servings)

5 quarts water
1/4 cup Old Bay Seasoning
4 pounds small red potatoes
2 pounds kielbasa or hot smoked link sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
6 ears fresh corn, halved
4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
Old Bay Seasoning
Cocktail sauce
Directions: Bring 5 quarts water and 1/4 cup Old Bay Seasoning to a rolling boil in a large covered stockpot.
Add potatoes; return to a boil, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain. Serve with Old Bay Seasoning and cocktail sauce.

More eats and beats to come this week. We've got Bryan Adams and a special trip to Dallas, TX!