Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day & Alpha Phi Sorority Formal

Happy Memorial Day guys! Just gonna do an overview of how my sister's sorority formal dinner went... which by the way, I think went great! People kept coming back for seconds, so that's always a plus right? Right.


Garden Salad w/ Ranch & Italian Dressing
Italian Pasta Salad w/ Asparagus, Tomatoes, & Olives
Dinner Rolls
Roasted Potatoes w/ Green Beans
Teriyaki Flank Steaks
Lemon Pepper Chicken
Penne Broccoli Pasta Bake
Individual Cheesecakes w/ Assorted Fruit & Whip Cream
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

I absolutely had a blast doing this and was so glad that people seemed to like everything. I must say, the steak was definitely the favorite of the night! So I've got that recipe included down below... if anyone is interested in anything else I whipped up that night, let me know and I'll post the recipe! Enjoy! (P.S. Don't forget to check out's Daily Special today - it's a Cuisinart Griddler! Perfect for those rainy days when you want to grill!)


1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup sake
1 & 1/2 lbs. flank steak

Combine soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, ginger, red pepper flakes, and sake in a medium bowl/container. Marinate steak in mixture overnight.

Heat a grill on medium high heat. Cook flank steak for about 4-5 minutes per side for a nice medium rare/medium. Let rest for 5 minutes. Slice thinly against the grain. Serve with rice and enjoy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Busy Week/Weekend

Hey guys... sorry for the delay of posts, but I'm taking the rest of the week off. I've got to cater my sister's sorority formal tomorrow and there's just way too much to be done! Wish me luck and I'll be back on Monday! Have a good holiday guys!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ginger Honey Chicken

Well, it's officially summer... in my book anyway. After a whole WEEK AND A HALF with just gray and rainy skies, the sun finally showed it's face again this past weekend. And you know what? I worked ALL WEEKEND long. But I know I'll get other chances to enjoy the nice weather we're currently having (hopefully). One thing that does scream summer to me is grilling. Summer = grilling. I know more people are grilling all year round more often, but there's just something about the sun shining, the weather being hot, and a grilling, that just screams summer to me.

Something I wish I'd just go out and buy already, a grill basket. They're just easy to cook practically anything from vegetables to fish in. Definitely would help with the problem of fragile fish on the grill, that's for sure! If you wanna check out a great grill basket,'s Daily Special today happen to be just that!

A great grilled chicken recipe comin' right up!


1 cup honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
5-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 in. piece ginger root, peeled and minced
1 jalapeno, minced
3-4 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

In a small saucepan, combine honey, soy sauce, garlic, shallot, ginger, and jalapeno under medium high heat. Stir until honey is just melted and ingredients are well combined.

Place chicken thighs in shallow dish and pour honey soy mixture on top of chicken. Let marinate in fridge for at least 1 hour (I let mine sit for about 2 & 1/2 and it was PERFECT!).

Light a charcoal grill under medium high heat. Grill chicken for about 5 minutes per side (depending on thickness of thighs) or until cooked throughout. Let rest for about 10 minutes and slice into strips. I served this with white rice and carmelized carrots!

This was absolutely exceptional. The honey, soy sauce, and ginger were prevalent in the chicken, but didn't overpower one another. The chicken was succulent and juicy! Enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Food Science Friday and Lobster Mac & Cheese

This week's Food Science Article:

'Effect of Hydrogen Bonding on the Rotational & Translational Dynamics of a Headgroup-Bound Chromophore in Bilayer Lipid Membranes' by Aaron J. Greiner et al. Journal of Physical Chemistry, 2009, Vol. 113

I know, whoa... and whoa. Lots of big words that have give no immediate spark of interest to you. Well let's break it down.

Hydrogen bonding. One of the most commonly found bonds in most organic and inorganic substances. The quintessential bond in Water. (H2O) What does hydrogen bonding allow? Well, it's mediocre in strength (being strong than a van der Waals, but weaker than a strong covalent and ionic bond). However, molecules with hydrogen bonds present, allow for higher boiling points. Boiling... now we can relate to that right? Right.

Now rotational and translational dynamics brings us to my most hated subject of all time... Physics. Yes, I know, physics is a part of life... but I still remain adamant that I HATE it. Rotational dynamics is the concept that states that "an object at rest remains at rest and an object in rotation will continue to rotate at a constant angular velocity unless otherwise disrupted by a net external torque" (for example, that loaf of bread on the counter will remain on the counter unless you touch it or pick it up... a wheel of a car will continue to spin, unless you apply the brakes). Translational dynamics is pretty much up the same alley, stating "an object at rest will remain at rest, and an object in motion will remain in motion at a constant velocity unless disrupted by a net external force".

Chromophore. Basically the part of a molecule responsible for its color. Common chromophores can be found in food colorings.

Bilayer Lipid Membranes. Well, most of us know that lipids = fats. And if you didn't... well now you do. Bi-layer = layers. So, essentially, fat membranes made of 2 layers. Lipid bilayers are found in most living organism cells to prevent ions, proteins, and other molecules from leaving the cell.

Okay, now that we've broken down the title, not so scary is it? So let's see how this applies to us, as the cooking gurus that we are.

Bilayer lipid membranes are not created equal. A human cell lipid bilayer is not that same as say, the lipid bilayer of yeast. The fluidity (how well things flow in and out) of the membrane also plays a key role. Something like nitric oxide (a signaling molecule that transmits info between mammalian cells, has been shown to decrease membrane fluidity). What does that mean? Well, an increase in fluidity has shown that mammalian endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes results in activation of certain membrane-bound transcription factors. This isn't necessarily bad or good, it just increased the possibility of "different" things happening. By the way, nitric oxide can be founds in many types of nuts, including walnuts, peanuts, milk products, etc.

Now that last paragraph was a lot to soak in. But it's basically saying, what if some of the foods we eat, that contain certain chemicals and molecules, would help prevent certain toxins or "enemies" from entering our cells? And what if some of those foods allowed for those toxins to enter?

This was honestly one of those articles I just couldn't get in to. Mainly because it dealt a lot in physics, and I just can't seem to compel myself to be interested in that aspect. But, I told myself that I wasn't going to be partial to any specific field of Food Science, but cover it all, to really develop an understanding of what is going on, but I didn't say how "in-depth" I would make myself go on each part either. I'll look for something more interesting next week...

Now I do have quite an interesting recipe lined up today. I keep seeing Lobster Mac N Cheese posts on Tastespotting and Foodgawker, so I figured what the hell, I'll give it a go... I was NOT disappointed...

Adapted from Zen Can Cook's blog

12 oz. lobster meat, chopped (I bought the 50:50 artificial/real mix at Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon tarragon
1 bay leaf
1 pint heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 box elbow macaroni
Gruyere cheese, grated

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil under medium high heat. Add about 1/2 of the lobster meat. Saute for about 3-5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until vegetables start to soften.

Deglaze pan with brandy and (if using a gas stove) slowly tip pan away from you to allow for whiskey to catch fire. Alternatively (if you don't want to risk it, or if you have an electric stove), you can light a match and carefully light on fire. Allow alcohol to extinguish on it's own and then add wine. Reduce for about 5 minutes or so.

Add tomato paste and hand crush the whole tomatoes. Cook for about 3-5 minutes longer. Add in heavy cream, thyme, parsley, tarragon, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and lower heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool for about 10-15 minutes. Remove bay leaf after cooling period is done.

Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until you get a smooth texture of the lobster cream. I like a little bit of chunk in there so mine was not entirely silky smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare the macaroni to al dente in a pot of salted boiling water. Drain and return to pot. Add remaining lobster meat and lobster cream. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Pour mixture into large glass baking dish. Grate enough of the Gruyere cheese to form an even layer for the topping. Broil in oven until cheese is nice and browned. Serve immediately!

This was great! It was definitely worth the time and effort (although it came together rather easily and quickly). I liked it because it wasn't your typical "mac n' cheese"... more like a delicate pasta bake. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Buitoni Riserva Derby Dinner Party

The Kentucky Derby has long been one of the most opportune times to throw a gathering or party. It's ideal because, the race only lasts no more than 2 minutes, so there's no long periods of time where guests are glued to the television, and so there's more time to mingle and socialize.

I was really shocked when Foodbuzz shot me an e-mail telling me that my "derby dinner party" using Buitoni's new line of Riserva products was chosen. I was somewhat overwhelmed with what exactly I was going to do, and when, and how. Of course, ideally, I would have liked to actually have had the dinner party on the actual day of the Derby, May 1st, but other things prohibited that. So instead, this past weekend, I had a post-Derby dinner with about 15 or so folks enjoying the goods.

What was my original proposal? Well, it was basically to throw a Derby Pasta Party using Buitoni's new Riserva raviolis and agnolottis. I was to do about 3-5 dishes incorporating the pastas and name them after some of this year's Kentucky Derby horses, as well as pair them with wines. Easy enough right? Well, so I thought. I give props to restaurant chefs and caterers who just magically name dishes creatively, and come up with unique dishes as well. I had to seriously put some hard thought into it all, but in the end, it pulled through and everyone ended up having a great time and great tasting food.

The dinner line up was as follows:

"American Lion's" share of Four Cheese Ravioli (these were actually Agnolotti) w/ Marinara

"Discretely Mine" Wild Mushroom Agnolotti (I realize the picture says ravioli) w/ Olive Oil

"Awesome Act" of Indulgence Spicy Beef & Sausage Ravioli w/ Marinara

"Super Saver" the Flavor Chicken & Cheese Ravioli w/ Alfredo

Strawberry Mascarpone Dumplings w/ Strawberry Whiskey Sabayon (for the FoodieFight battle I had the same weekend)

And I didn't have specific wine pairings, but more of a general direction... pairing the 3 reds with dishes with marinara, and the 3 whites with the alfredo.

The 3 reds were:

'Layer Cake' Primivito
'Bolla' Chianti
'Tempra Tantrum' Tempranillo

The 3 whites were:

'Barefoot" Sauvignon Blanc
'Bohemian Highway' Chardonnay
'Della Scala' Pinot Grigio

All of the wines were pretty tasty, with the Sauvignon Blanc being the favorite of many... and best of all, most of those wines can be found for less than $15. Score!

All in all, I think the party was a great success. We didn't get to watch the race, but we did get to socialize, mingle, and eat... which is what a traditional Derby party is all about. What I found most unique about the night, is that the alfredo dish, named after Super Saver, was by far the favorite of everyone... and just so happens that Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby... coincidence? I think not. The recipes for the dishes are found below, I made my own alfredo and marinara sauces, and paired them with the ravioli and agnolotti that I thought would best suit them... enjoy guys!

Marinara Recipe:

2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

This is a pretty basic marinara. In a large dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the olive oil under medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

Add diced tomatoes and red wine and let simmer for about 30 minutes to let the flavors blend.

With an immersion blender, puree the vegetables until you get a smooth or desired texture for the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Alfredo Sauce Recipe:

1 quart heavy cream
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups grated Parmesan/Romano mix
1/2 cup Gruyere, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Another basic sauce, but packs a punch of flavor. In a large saucepan, heat the butter under medium high heat. Once melted, add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute or so.

Add cream and bring to a boil. Stir until slightly starting to thicken. Add Parmesan/Romano mix in about 1/2 cup increments. Make sure it is thoroughly melted before adding next 1/2 cup. Stir constantly. Add final 1/2 cup of Gruyere and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

'American Lion's' share of Four Cheese Ravioli w/ Marinara

2 packages Buitoni Riserva Quattro Formaggi Agnolotti
1/8 cup 2% milk
1-2 cups plain breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 & 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil, for frying
parmesan cheese (optional)
marinara, for dipping

Combine milk and eggs in small bowl. Mix well.

Combine breadcrumbs, basil, thyme, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Dip each agnolotti in the egg wash and then coat with breadcrumbs.

Fill a large heavy pot 2 inches deep with vegetable oil. Heat under medium high heat. When temperature is hot enough, fry each agnolotti for about 1-2 minutes total, flipping once in between. Let dry on paper towels. Top with grated parmesan cheese and serve with marinara.

'Discretely Mine' Wild Mushroom Agnolotti w/ Olive Oil

The back of each Riserva package claims to say that the pasta is great even with just olive oil, so I tested out this claim, and was not dissappointed.

2 packages Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti
1 zucchini, cut into small cubes
1 cup corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

This is definitely a simple and easy dish. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil and add ravioli. Cook for about 5 minutes for a nice al dente. Drain.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil under medium high heat. Add zucchini and corn and saute for about 5 minutes, or until they start to soften. Add the agnolottis and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve right away.

'Awesome Act' of Indulgence Spicy Beef & Sausage Ravioli w/ Marinara

2 packages Buitoni Riserva Spicy Beef & Sausage Ravioli
1-2 cups marinara (recipe above)
salt and pepper to taste

Can't get any simpler than this. Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil and add raviolis. Cook for about 5 minutes for al dente. Drain.

Mix in with marinara. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

'Super Saver' the Flavor Chicken & Cheese Ravioli w/ Alfredo

4 packages Buitoni Riserva Chicken & Four Cheese Ravioli
2 cups alfredo sauce
12 oz. frozen peas
6-8 oz. diced ham
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large salted pot of boiling water, add raviolis and cook for 5-7 minutes for al dente. Drain.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil under medium high heat. Add diced ham and cook for about 3 minutes, or until it is nicely browned. Mix in alfredo, peas, and raviolis. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until peas are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Closing Statements:

I must say, I'm not usually the type of person to buy pre-made things (pastas, dinners, etc.). I usually tend to make my own thing and do things from scratch. But let's be realistic, you can't ALWAYS do that. Especially with the busy schedule that most of us have. All of these recipes and can done in no time, 20 minutes tops (if you have the sauces made ahead, anyway). I really liked the way that the Buitoni pastas tasted like they were freshly made. The fillings were well balanced and the pastas themselves were really unique, but have total mass appeal. They definitely get my approval, and when I'm in the mood for something quick and easy, I know that these pastas will totally be a great go-to.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Foodie Fights - Battle Strawberry/Wonton Wrapper

If you haven't noticed me talk about it, Foodie Fights is an ingenius idea! It's like an Iron Chef-type battle between 6 food bloggers, chosen at random. It really lets your inner creative chef shine through and more often than not, lets you in on some really awesome recipes that you couldn't find anywhere else! So it was my turn this week, I was chosen. And I've got a rep to hold up (I was last year's champ - winning twice, but more than once, so a champ nonetheless), so I had to come up with something good. And so...
Strawberry Mascarpone Dumplings w/ Strawberry Whiskey Sabayon came to be.

The pictures don't do them justice. They're absolutely delicious by themselves, but when paired up with the sweet whiskey sabayon... we've got something there.

Ingredients for the Strawberry Mascarpone Dumpling:

12 oz. container mascarpone cheese
1 container strawberries (roughly about 15-20 big ones)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon sugar
20 wonton wrappers (I used round ones, but you could definitely get the square if you'd like)
vegetable oil, for frying
powdered sugar (optional)

In a small food processor, combine the mascarpone, 1 container strawberries, honey, and sugar. Mixture should be somewhere between thick and thin. Place mixture in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up a bit.

On a flat working surface (like a cutting board), place 1 wonton wrapper flat on board.

Spoon about a teaspoon worth of filling in the center.

Dab the edges with warm water and fold up to seal. (For a quick tutorial on how to fold your wonton into different styles, you can check this out. I did the basic Samosa style) You can pinch the edges to get an even better seal also.

User a deep fryer would be ideal for this, but considering I don't own one, we'll just have to keep it old school. Fill a deep pan about 2 inches high worth of vegetable oil. Heat under medium high to high heat. You'll know it's ready when you can throw a little piece of wonton wrapper in and see it bubble and fry nicely.

Fry about 3-5 wontons at a time, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, flipping once in between. They should be nice and golden brown. Let dry on paper towels and top with powdered sugar.

Ingredients for Strawberry Whiskey Sabayon:

about 7 strawberries, chopped
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup whiskey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice

In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries and orange juice. With an immersion blender, puree the strawberries until they're at your desired consistency. I left a little bit of chunks for good texture.

Mix in the whiskey, vanilla, and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

In a metal mixing bowl, add the egg yolks and stir until the yolks just break. Add in whiskey/strawberry mixture and mix well.

Assemble a double boiler with the metal bowl by sitting it atop a small pot of simmering water. Make sure the bowl doesn't touch the hot water or your yolks will scramble. Whisk constantly for about 10-15 minutes, or until mixture is triple in size. I sped up the process by using the whisk attachment on my immersion blender and it whipped up pretty nicely. Serve with dumplings.

Like I said, this was pretty tasty. The strawberry whiskey sabayon wasn't too overpowering and all of the ingredients played nicely with eachother. It was an elegant dessert for an elegant night (oh, by the way, I served this at my Buitoni Derby Pasta Party last night and it was a hit... more on the Buitoni Pasta Party on Wednesday's post).

So, if you dig the recipe, don't forget to go to Foodie Fights on Wednesday and rock your vote!

P.S. Thanks to Buitoni and I was given the chance to throw a Derby-themed pasta party using Buitoni's new line of Riserva products and I'll be posting all the creative dishes and festivities on Wednesday, so stay tuned!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Food Science Friday and Seared Yellowfin Tuna

This week's Food Science Friday paper:
'Effect of Debraching & Heat Treatments on Formation & Functional Properties of Resistant Starch from High-Amylose Corn Starches' - By Serpil Ozturk et al., European Food Research & Technology, 2009 229:115-125

This was one of those kinda sleepy reads for the non-science enthusiast. Me, I found it somewhat stimulating, but I won't bore you with the details. Instead, I think I'll talk about High-Amylose Corn Starches.

We've all heard of starches, and most of us use them in our everyday cooking lives... natural starches are found in tons of vegetables and fruits - potatoes and corn being the big ones here.

But with so many different starches out there, what's the difference? We won't go into the different varieties, but just High-Amylose corn starch, which is used in a plethora of settings, manufacturing of textiles, gum candies, cosmetic products, pharmaceuticals, biodegradable plastic products, and used as an additive in food products to increase dietary fiber and lower the rate of energy release.

Most scientists and food industries are highly interested in this type of starch. Why? Well, it contains a high rate of RS, or Resistant Starch. Resistant starches are less susceptible to digestion than regular starches and this is major because it helps lower our Glycemic Index. A lowered glycemic index helps promote long term health and reduces risk of heart disease and diabetes. This is also key to sustainable weight loss.

There are 4 different types of RS:
  1. RS1 - physically inaccessible starch locked within cell walls
  2. RS2 - native granular starch
  3. RS3 - retrograded or crystalline starch
  4. RS4 - chemically modified starch
During food processing, RS1 and RS2 are both destroyed due to heat and moisture. However, RS3 is possibly formed, but not always.

So basically, what this study tried to accomplish, is to find a way to produce more RS3 during the food processing. Crystalline structures take into consideration numerous factors and one of those factors is debranching. The high degree of debranching, the more opportunity amylose chains would be able to align and aggregate to form perfectly crystalline structures - leading to more RS3. In order to accomplish the debranching, they used a debranching enzyme - Pullulanase, which is used more often in starch conversion processes.

The study concluded by saying that the debranching treatments, indeed, increased the RS3 levels and improved functional properties of amylose corn starches. The results are suitable for use in food products - most of which require high water binding capacity, high cold viscosity, or good emulsion properties.

What do I take from this study? High-Amylose corn starches are good for you. They help lower your glycemic index and promote good health. So the next time I'm buying a product, I may have to look at the ingredients list and see if high-amylose corn starch is listed.

Your comments? Concerns? Is this blasphemy? I want to hear it!

Here's a simple and healthy tuna recipe:

Adapted from Now Eat This! - Seared Tuna w/ Green Beans, Lemon, & Wasabi

2 3 oz. sushi-grade yellowfin tuna steaks
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 oz. haricots verts, trimmed
juice and zest from 1 lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon wasabi paste
4 scallions, sliced thin
black sesame seeds, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet under medium high heat. Season tuna with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes per side. If you want a nice medium rare, I'd go a little under 2 minutes. As you can see from the picture above, I went a little over and got a small margin of rarity. Let tuna rest on cutting board for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the haricots verts to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain.

In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice, lime zest, garlic, and wasabi. You may have to add a little water also if there's not enough liquid. Add mixture to the haricot verts, along with the scallions.

Thinly slice tuna and serve with haricot verts. Top with black sesame seeds!

This was pretty refreshing. Next time, I think I'll do it a little rarer, but all in all, a great dish! Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grilled Salmon w/ Black Beans

Oh mother nature. I've been a really big mother nature rant lately, but it's just been such bizarre weather. Take for instance today. It rained bloody murder all morning. For once, I was glad to be inside and at work. (Raining cats and dogs = less customers wanting to come in = less stress for me) But now, as I'm about to head out to my volleyball game, it's sunshine and roses. Which is a good thing because our volleyball league plays, regardless of the weather, unless it's a threat to our lives. Meaning it was must be the Great Flood, or Zeus striking us dead with lightning, for our games to stop. So I guess in this case, I'm grateful for the sunshine... but c'mon already, make up your mind mother nature!

Adapted from Bon Appetit's May 2010 Issue: Grilled Salmon w/ Black Beans & Piment D'Espelette Mayonnaise

1/3 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, 2 pressed, 3 minced
freshly grated lime peel
1 tablespoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 7 oz. salmon fillets, skin on
1 onion, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 roma tomato, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, chopped
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon cumin
small handful cilantro, chopped

Whisk the olive oil, pressed garlic, lime peel, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small baking dish. Place the salmon, skin-side down, in the dish. Brush the marinade over the top and sides of fish. Let chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, tomatoes, jalapenos, and minced garlic. Cook until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5 minutes.

Stir in black beans and cumin. Reduce heat and cook for about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro and set aside.

Spray grill with nonstick spray and heat to medium high. Arrange the salmon on the grill, skin side up and spray skin with nonstick spray. Grill salmon for about 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip over and grill for about 3 more minutes, or until opaque all the way through.

Serve fish with black beans and dig on in!

This was pretty delicious. Aside from the small mishap of my charcoal grill going crazy. You wanna watch the salmon closely. Since you marinated it in olive oil, it's kinda really flammable if you're grill is sensitive... like mine was. It pretty much charred my skin (and that's my favorite part!), but the salmon itself was nice and smokey and delicious. Enjoy!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Roasted Chicken

I just have one question for Mother Nature... How in the heck did it go from high 70's - mid 80's to being low 60's - mid 50's... That's quite a temperature drop little lady. And I'd appreciate it (and my garden would, as well) if I had my nice spring/summer weather back. Thank you.


1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs)
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 celery ribs, sliced
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
1 teaspoon sage
salt and pepper
2 cups chicken stock
5 slices of wheat bread, cubed

Pat the chicken dry and coat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with thyme, herbs de Provece, sage, salt, and pepper. Generously rub seasoning all over the bird. Let sit, uncovered, in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Heat a large skillet under medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrots, celery, and onions. Cook until starting to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Let cool and mix with bread cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff the chicken with mixture and any that doesn't fit can go in the roasting pan underneath the bird and the roasting rack.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Position bird, breast side down, on a roasting rack. Pour chicken stock carefully around chicken. Roast in oven for about 1 & 1/2 to 2 hours. Flip over bird, breast side up, and continue to roast for 1 to 1 & 1/2 hours longer (basting once or twice in between there), or until internal temperature is about 165 F.

This was pretty tasty. I wish our bird had a little more of a golden skin on it, but we were so hungry and once it hit the right temperature we were all about eating that sucker. The stuffing I'm still on the fence about. I mean, it's pretty simple, and kind of lack luster, but the chicken was one of the moistest pieces of meat that either one of us had ever had. Enjoy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Food Science Friday and Shrimp & Asparagus Pasta

This week for Food Science Friday, I read the article:

'Consumer Acceptance of Fresh Blueberries in Bio-Based Packages'
by Eva Almenar et al. Journal of the Science of Food & Agriculture 2010 Vol 90: 1121-1128

So how many times have you gone into a supermarket or grocery store and wanted fresh berries or fruits? Then you get to the counter and realize that there's mushy, and somewhat fungus infected fruit in the container. Do you really want to waste your money on a product that's obviously past due? No! Of course not.

Well, this article presents a study on non-vented PLA (Poly-lactic Acid) containers vs. the normal commercial vented petroleum-based (PET) clamshell containers. Now if you looked at both of those pictures, you wouldn't really be able to tell much of a difference right? Well, the material the container is made from, actually makes a TON of difference, and this study presents why.

If you're like we, quality is usually more important than price for a certain ingredients. I can dish out a few more dollars for something that will last longer, taste better, and just be better for me. Am I right? Right.

The study is conducted on blueberries, so we'll stick to just referring to blueberries from here on out.

Right now, blueberries are only packaged in vented clamshell containers. These containers help with rapid cooling and protects them from mechanical damage during shipping. PLA containers, however, have been shown to increase the shelf life of blueberries as compared to the clamshell containers. But they've never been used in a commercial setting. Blueberry consumption is steadily increasing from year to year and a switch to PLA containers would essentially reduce environmental impact (because most PLA containers are biodegradable) as well as reducing fruit deterioration, allowing for less economic losses (because essentially we, as consumers, would buy more blueberries because they look a hell of a lot better, for a longer period of time).
Alright, so how did they conduct this study? Well, the researches obtained about 100 g (roughly 75-100 blueberries) of high bush (cultivated) blueberries from Michigan Blueberry Growers and divided them between non-vented PLA containers. The same amount was divided up between vented PET clamshell containers (these were the controls).

Half of the PLA and half of the PET containers were stored at 10 C (50 F) to simulate commercial transportation conditions, and the other half of both types of containers were stored at 3 C (37.4 F) to simulate display conditions.

the samples were analyzed on day 0, 7, and 14 of the study. What exactly did they analyze the berries for?
  • Weight Loss - this indicated degradation of fruit
  • Soluble Solid Content - to test for firmness of the fruit
  • Titratable Acidity - did the blueberries retain their acidity?
  • Off-flavors & Aroma - do they still smell and taste fresh/appealing?
The samples were also visually examined for fungal development.

The sample also underwent and consumer testing at days 7 and 14 of the study. The "consumers" in the study were all recruited from Michigan State University (students, faculty, staff). They were to grade the unidentified sample blueberries based on flavor, appearance, and overall quality and texture.


In the consumer testing phase, panelists were asked to describe the appearance of their blueberry samples. An overwhelming amount of panelists described some of the samples as "shriveled" or "wrinkled". Would you want to eat a blueberry described like that? What container do you think those blueberries came from? You guessed it, PET. Shriveling and wrinkling are usually caused by transpiration rates and RH (Relative Humidity) levels. Vented containers don't allow for high RH levels, causing less moisture to keep the blueberries in a "plump" state. However, non-vented PLA containers keep RH levels high due to the very absence of vents and the hydrophobic nature (water molecules basically don't escape "through" the material) of the PLA polymer itself.

Out of the 33 panelists subjected to the consumer study, the following shows how many picked the non-vented PLA containers over vented-PET containers in each aspect of study:

Flavor - 24 @ 3 C, 24 @ 10 C
Texture - 30 @ 3 C, 29 @ 10 C
Appearance - 30 @ 3 C, 30 @ 10 C
Overall Quality - 28 @ 3 C, 30 @ 10 C

In each category, at least 80% picked PLA containers each time. That should show right there how we should package our blueberries. And if that didn't convince you, here's the results of the analysis tests:
Weight Loss - 14-16 % was observed in vented PET containers and less than 2 % was observed in PLA containers. Shriveling in the PET containers attributed a massive weight loss over the 2 week study.
Soluble Solid Content - Now this was a tricky one for me, vented PET containers were shown to have a high sugar content, therefore being "sweeter". But you necessarily want a "sweet" blueberry? Or do you want a "tart" blueberry. Non-vented PLA containers were not observed to be sweet, and definitely picked moreover than the PET blueberries, so maybe sweet is not so good in this aspect? I'm indifferent on this bit of analysis.
Titratable Acidity - was not noticeably different in either container so it was deemed not to be affected by packaging.

Aroma - The panelist study confirmed that PLA container blueberries were preferable to vented PET containers.

So basically, what does this all mean? Well, in my opinion, I think PLA containers should be implemented for the packaging of blueberries. The study really didn't say whether other fruits were packaged using the PLA containers as well, but I know I've seen them around. PLA containers can be bought online from Eco Products and I know that I'm definitely going to look for the non-vented PLA containers from now on. After all, how many times have you gone to the grocery store, picked up some fresh fruit, not used it within a couple of days, go to use it, and it's already mushy and gross? TOO many times this has happened to me, and it's good to know that there's something out there that prevents this. * And just a little disclaimer here, no, I wasn't paid by Eco Products or any PLA company to post this, I just feel really strongly about quality and freshness of products that we use, and plus... these things help the environment, so it's always a good thing then!

Alright... what a doozy, let's get to a quick and spring-time recipe!


1 lb. spaghetti noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb. shrimp, deveined, shells and tails removed
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the spaghetti noodles according to package directions. I always like a good al dente boiling.

While you're waiting for the noodles to cook, heat the olive oil in a large skillet under medium high heat. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about a minute or so. Add the asparagus and cook until it softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add in the shrimp and make sure you spread them out pretty good for even cooking. Cook until the shrimp are a nice pink, about 5-6 minutes (make sure you flip them once, in between).

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of liquid. Add in pasta to asparagus and shrimp mixture and pasta liquid, if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve right away!

I figured you guys would need a quick and easy recipe after reading that long spiel about blueberries! I really liked this dish, and considering it's simplicity, the salt and pepper are really key here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Steamed Halibut w/ Fried Ginger

I am pleased to announce that I managed to obtain a B in Organic Chemistry. You might say to yourself "Well why didn't you get an A?"... and the answer is, seriously? You try getting an A in Organic Chemistry AND still having a social life. Hehe, either way, I'm happy with it and I'm happy that summer has officially started.

I'm also happy to announce that Dan and Nick over at Foodie Fights asked me to be this week's judge. So if you haven't yet, check out the site and sign up (if you're in that creative mood) for this week's battle: Battle Tequila/Avocado. Or if you're scared of those ingredients (or just don't have the time to cook this weekend, vote for your fave on Tuesday!

Adapted from The Bitten Word's blog

1 piece of ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced (white part discarded)
2 6 oz. halibut fillets
salt and pepper, to taste
4 teaspoons sesame oil
pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Set up a bamboo steamer over a pot of simmering water over medium heat.

Crush half of the ginger sticks with the flat side of a chef's knife and place on a plate small enough to fit inside steamer. Add garlic slices and scallions.

Score the skin on the halibut and season with salt and pepper. Place halibut, skin side up, on the plate and top with 2 teaspoons sesame oil and pinch of sugar.

Place plate in steamer and before covering, top halibut with soy sauce and sherry.

Cover steamer and cook until halibut is white throughout, about 10 minutes or so, depending on thickness. Remove plate carefully and set aside.

To fry ginger, in a small skillet, add remaining sesame oil and sunflower oil. Add remaining ginger sticks and fry until starting to brown.

To plate, serve with brown rice and steamed vegetables (I chose to use snap peas). Top halibut with ginger oil and browned ginger sticks.

This was elegant and delicious. I'm still a fan of a nice crispy skin on a fish, but the steaming method really gave it an added moisture that you often lose with simply frying. And not to mention it was definitely healthier for you! Enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shredded Chicken Tacos

How was everyone's weekend? Mine... pretty eventful. Of course, being in Louisville, it was the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. A pretty rainy day, but had a few beers with friends, which is always good. I don't do any betting, so I can't say I won any money, but nonetheless, a good time.

I'm happy to say that today was my last day of class for the semester. I now have a FULL summer off, no class, just work (which I can deal with)... so plenty more free time.

Speaking of which, I've got a busy May planned. My sister has asked me to cater her sorority formal at the end of the month and I'm scared and excited at the same time. I pretty much have to make enough food for about 30-40 people (it was supposed to be 60+, so it's a tad bit less stressful, but still...) Anybody have any good tips on how to cater for large groups of people? I figure they're college students, so it can't be too hard to give them something other than ramen noodles and easy mac... right?

Anyway, I love tacos because they're quick, they're versatile, and they're pretty much delicious any way you stack 'em up!


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 & 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
3 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
1 cup salsa
1 cup chicken stock
juice from 1 lime
shredded cheese
sour cream

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil under medium high heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes or so.

Stir in cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.

Add in chicken in one layer, then top with salsa and chicken stock. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. (You could honestly cook for longer if you're using chicken thighs because it's practically impossible to overcook them)

Remove the chicken and let cool on a cutting board for about 5-10 minutes. Continue to heat sauce under medium heat.

Shred chicken with forks and add back into sauce. Stir in lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

Assemble tacos any way you like, we like adding some shredded cheddar cheese, pickled jalapenos, and sour cream.

These were pretty fantastic. They were ready in no time, and definitely made for lots of leftovers. Enjoy!