Friday, May 28, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Jason Kanengeiser

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin'Home Cooking'

Jason Kanengeiser
Jason and his lovely wife Jaime

For today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am featuring Scott's closest cousin, Jason.  I think one of the most special things about the Kanengeiser family is the closeness they have with each other.  They live within miles of one another and spend most weekends, holidays, and any 'ol time with each other.  Especially in the heat of the summer when Grandma K's beautiful in-ground pool is the place to be.  Scott and Jason are first cousins but growing up they probably were more like brother's.  As adults we don't see each other nearly enough- we are one of the only Kanengeiser's that don't live minutes from the rest.  But when we do, fun is always had!  Jason has a beautiful wife, Jaime one daughter Emily and another baby girl due pretty much any day now!  He is surrounded by his women, but if you ask him he would say he loves every minute of it.  

Jason owns a very successful landscaping/snow plowing business which keeps him incredibly busy (especially living right in the middle of the snow belt!).  And just glimpse at his own backyard one would see how talented he is at his work. He has an eye for nature, and natural green thumb.  I love visiting their house and seeing the beautiful yard, woods and gardens surrounding his property.  It is stunning.  

Jason has a quiet soul, very much a male Kanengeiser trait.  But don't let it fool you!  His has a terrific sense of humor and a smile that lights up his whole face.  He has a genuine way of making those around him more comfortable and because of that people gravitate to him.  I am honored to now be able to call him family.  Love you Jay!  

What is your favorite thing to cook?

How about your least favorite thing to cook?

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Brasa is my favorite, would love to try B-spot

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Grateful Dead

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
Prime Rib, Bacon wrapped Beef Tenderloin, Cheesy Potatoes, and Angel food cake with Heath bar topping

What are you currently reading?
The Little Critter Collection

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Meat Tenderizer

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburgers

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
that my whole family lives here

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
Prime Rib, Mased Potatoes, Corn, and Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind- and yes!

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Good Fellas
Boon Dock Saints
Super Bad

what has been your happiest moment in life?
The birth of my daughter and the upcoming birth of another!

Jason and his daughter, Emily

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Giant Eagle and Mazzulos

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin and Crab Legs

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
That I have been able to start my own company and watch it grow enough to provide for my wife and growing family.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
To try a wider variety of foods

One word that best describes you is: Quiet
Pot Roast
3 lb center cut chuck roast

beef broth
vidalia onion 
Worchestishire Sauce
Salt and Pepper

Place 3 lb center cut check roast in roasting pan.  Cover 3/4 up with beef broth and cover roast with 1/2 sliced Vidalia Onion.  Add a few dashes of Worchestishire sauce and salt and pepper generously.

Cover meat and roast at 325 for 1 hour.  Raise temperature to 375 and roast for an additional hour.  Add potatoes and carrots roast until tender.
Uncover and roast until golden brown.

Serve with fresh Italian bread

Jason, thank you so much for doing this interview for me! I'm looking forward to seeing more of you guys this summer and to finally meet your beautiful baby girl, Dylan! I have been wanting to try your Pot Roast recipe for sometime now, so thank you for choosing it! I have to add, I had never heard of sweet pickled watermelon rind before eating dinner at your house; what a cool thing! I might just have to try and figure out how to make it myself one of these days!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guilt Free Sorbet Pie

This is a recipe my sister discovered while paging through this month's Cooking Light Magazine.  I was trying to decide on what type of dessert to make for my mom's birthday and asked Bonnie for any suggestions.  She immediately said this looked really delicious and also quite simple.  Oreo cookie crust, refreshing sorbet, whipped cream and shaved chocolate- what is there not to love?!  I jumped on the idea.  It turned out so pretty- very feminine with the pink, brown and white color scheme and equally delicious.  While eating it, I just couldn't get over the fact on how NOT unhealthy it was!  The sorbet and whipped cream were both fat free so all you were indulging in was the Oreo cookie crust and the chocolate shavings- hardly anything to stress about!  This was a simple dessert to prepare and and left a nice impact, pressenation wise.  I am looking forward to trying this out again with different flavors.  I'm thinking graham cracker crust, pineapple sorbet with maybe a sprinkle of toasted coconut in place of the chocolate shavings.....

Guilt Free Sorbet Pie
Oreo Cookie Crust
Raspberry or strawberry sorbet, lightly softened
Fat Free Whipped Cream, unfrozen
chocolate Shavings and fresh berries for a garnish

Fill pie crust with lightly softened sorbet (don't let it be completely liquid, it would be too difficult to work with.  Just soften to the point that makes it spreadable).  Top with Whipped Cream and place back into the freezer to re-harden.  When ready to serve sprinkle chocolate shavings on top and garnish with fresh berries.  Serve immediately.  

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tri-Tip Steak Sandwiches with the Penicks

This weekend Scott and I went over to our friends, Jess and Curtis' for a lovely dinner and great conversation.  Curtis is originally from California and treated us to one of his favorite dinner's from back home- Tri-Tip.  I had never heard of this cut of meat before, and was excited to try it out.  It originated in the Santa Maria area of California and cut from the Bottom Sirloin of the cow.  For whatever reason it is only just becoming popular here, and might be difficult to find here in Ohio.  Luckily while shopping at Trader Joe's, they excitedly discovered it.  I am sure you could easily find it at the West Side Market as well.

I learned some great tips from Curtis about how to prepare this, so now I am excited to give it a try myself soon!  When cooking this steak it is important to cook it very slowly so it can tenderize and then also to let it rest, wrapped in foil, for at least 15 minutes to finish the tenderizing process.  Next, very much like flank steak, it needs to be sliced thinly against the grain otherwise it can become chewy.    

They grilled up some colorful red, yellow, orange, and green bell peppers and red onion to serve on our sandwiches along with beautifully in-season asparagus to have on the side.  I brought a pasta salad and wow, were we treated to a wonderful dinner!!!  It was so colorful and full of flavor.  The perfect summertime meal!  

Jess and Curtis, thank you so much for having us over and for a delicious meal!  It was such fun being able to eat outside and enjoy warming our feet at the bonfire.  Yep, I think Summer is on it's way!

Curtis, the comedian and Scott

Me and the lovely Jess

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Jessica Miller

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin'Home Cooking'

Jessica Miller
Jessica and her husband Joel

This lovely lady is my sweet friend Jessica.  If her smile didn't give it away already, she is a ray of sunshine.  This girl knows the gifts that God has blessed her with and she comes alive with the joy that radiates from that type of knowledge.  She is the mother of two incredibly handsome little boys and married to the love of her life.   I am inspired by the creativity and honesty that she lets flow on her blog, The Miller Family.  This is a little snipit from one of her posts that stuck with me after reading it.  I find it truly demonstrates the beautiful example she is...
I think of the verse that I consider my lifetime motto:  If you refresh others, you yourself will be refreshed.  (prov 11:25) It's a contagious thing to value what we have.  It makes us realize our problems are so much smaller than our eyes can see in the moment.  It brings joy to a heart that is downtrodden...
So, look at your many hours do you have left before your kids go to bed?  What things can you do together to make the 'simple things truly sacred'?
So let it be known Jessica, you are indeed a breath of fresh air.  You refresh me with each post, kind word, and offering of prayers.  Thank you for sharing such a special, private part of your life with the rest of us.   We are the lucky ones.   So for todays Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am blessed to introduce you to Jessica Miller.

What is your favorite thing to cook?I have fun with vegetarian cooking.  I sported the lifestyle for a good bit but it was difficult to maintain with my meat-adoring husband.  I began a love affair with vegetables that has yet to diminish.    

How about your least favorite thing to cook?  I am NOT a bacon fan.  I know I know....I'm probably the only one.  It's just not my thing.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?  I think our new fave right now is The Greenhouse Tavern because of its commitment to farm-to-table freshness.  The one I am looking forward to trying out would have to be L'Albatros Brasserie + Bar in Cleveland off Bellflower Road.  I have not begun to know much of Zack Bruell as a chef yet....and I am intrigued. 

Music and food go together so beautifully.  You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?  Joel and I tend to go more classic so I guess the list would include: Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and Louie Armstrong

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?  The lamb dish at Greenhouse Tavern.  ROCKED MY PLANET. Seriously. 

What are you currently reading?  Well, these days I am focusing in on my other artistic interest as a makeup artist.  I am working as an associate makeup artist for Kajal by Kimberly and my days are spent learning how to perfect the art of an Indian Wedding look.  So....lately Asian Vogue.  ;)  Gives me a hankering for Umami Chagrin Falls....

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?  I like my food processor/blender.  It just gets the job done.  I have a growing wish list.  Also a little fun fact about me....I have a fetish with specialty coffee makers.  If I could just lease coffeemakers and get a new one every 6 months, I would.   

Do you have a signature go-to dish?  Yes, my husband loves my lemon chicken piccata with's an easy one i can do in advance and slow cook for the most intense flavor. 

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?  We're an unpretentious town that is used to being made fun of by outsiders...but is full of artists, chefs, athletes, and inventors.  My favorite part of Cleveland would have to be our best kept secret: The beautiful Cleveland Metroparks - aka "The Emerald Necklace" This vast spread of parks, recreational fun and beautiful trails could be continually explored for a lifetime.  While I enjoy a great night out to dinner....I would much prefer bringing my dinner outdoors while listening to the river. 

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?  I grew up eating rich and delicious Puerto Rican favorite dish was their roasted pork.  I have actually never made it myself but need to pay a visit to my Grandma soon so she can teach me!  

Top 3 Movies of all time?  Juno - Inglorious Basterds - Julie & Julia (Of course!) 

What was your happiest moment in life? Marrying my BFF & welcoming our sons into the world.  Jude London born 5.22.05 and Leland Ryan born 11.2.09 Our 7-year anniversary is coming up this Monday, May 24th. 

Where do you do your grocery shopping?  West Side Market for fresh produce and Trader Joes mostly.  It's just the best...and at such decent prices. 

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?  I heart dessert.  It's intense the love I have for pastries and pies.  Coupled with vanilla bean ice cream, of course!  

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?  I am proud of a vow I made to truly understand the chemistry of food this year.  I cook homemade much more often.  I am trying things....taking risks.  I am almost always pleased with what comes out.  

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?  To continue to buy fresh and organic. 

One word that best describes you is:  

Turkey & Pork Meatballs

The combination of these two meats is such 
a lovely texture and I am ALL about texture. 

1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2 pound ground pork
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tablespoon of:
minced onion
fresh flat-leaf parsley
minced oregano (fresh)
lemon zest
2 tablespoon white wine
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil...more as needed

1. In a large bowl stir all the above ingredients (minus the oil) form into meatballs about 3/4 inch in diameter.

2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium high heat until hot but not smoking and cook the meatballs, in batches, turning them as they cook until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer to a wire rack to drain.

I then throw these babies over some Orechiette Pasta with sauteed cauliflower and artichokes and pour over homemade pesto sauce!

It's a delicious and comforting meal and you will have TONS leftover...

Jessica, thank you so much for doing this interview for me!  I had a blast reading it and I can't wait to try out your meatball recipe.  These sound fantastic!  Looking forward to a zoo day soon!  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kitchen Tip of the Day- Cleaning a Messy Blender

We love smoothies in this house.  Especially since I have become pregnant, I can't get enough of them!  The only thing that stinks about making them is trying to get the blender clean- that blade wont come out and there are those tiny grooves and crevices that stuff just likes to stick to.  Well here is a little tip to get it nice and sparkly in no time flat!  

Strawberry Banana Smoothy

With the blender still plugged in, add one cup of warm water to the mixing container and blend for a few seconds.  Now add a drop or two of dishwashing soap and another cup of warm water and blend.  Let sit for a minute.  Then rinse clean! Voila!  No more sticky mess.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Don Lepley

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin'Home Cooking'

Don Lepley
Don and Sandy, the last day of our wonderful OBX vacation

I am a lucky girl. Not only do I have the best parents in the whole world, I was also blessed with the best in-laws a girl could ever hope for.  For today's segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am excited to bring you one of my father-in-laws, Don Lepley.  If you have ever had a few minutes to chat with this man you would immediately get a taste of his great, dry sense of humor, honest spirit and his enormous zest for life.  But what you might not notice right away is what I like to call "the softer side" of Mr. Don.  Watching Don slowly transform into "Pop" with our own Little Man has been such a special experience.  He has an enormous heart, and I have had the joy of watching it break wide open with each hug, kiss, and special moment the two of them have together.  Their relationship is indeed a special one, for both of them, and I love watching it change and grow.  Don has told me that in the past he never expected to see himself a father, let alone be a grandfather.  But he has taken to each role like a natural; husband, father, grandfather, friend, Don is all of these things and so much more.  Each of us are so blessed to have him be a part of our lives.  Love you Don!

What is your favorite thing to cook? As most know I love to grill and barbeque, and there is a difference. As for my favorite I must say Thanksgiving Day turkey. We have had that bird on the grill for at least 20 years and by all accounts, it is wonderful. Golden brown and moist, Oh man I could go for some right now.

How about your least favorite thing to cook? I like to cook nearly everything that is thrown my way. What I do not like is the challenge of multiple dishes with different cooking times and the expectation that they all need to be ready at the same time. That is when the pressure is on but so far success has been achieved; at least most of the time.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out? There are several that I like. A few years ago I would have to say Johnny’s on Fulton would have been the one, but that has been aced out by Osteria downtown on St. Clair. Sandy and I stumbled into that place, stumble is correct since you enter from St. Clair and go down stairs to the dinning room. All meals had there have been wonderful. One problem with a favorite is that you may not have the desire to venture to another, and that is my case. So no place that I am dying to go to.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist? Well I think that AC/DC and Led Zepplin may not be the best of choices, so I ask Sandy pick the music for the crowd. She does such a wonderful job.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth? Last meal??????? A big juicy hamburger with onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard. So greasy that it flows through your fingers as you eat it.

What are you currently reading? Contagious by Scott Sigler

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget? A bigger Weber grill just because? Na that’s not it. I guess that I don’t have a favorite. Or wait, I love my “long tongs” and spatula that keep my finger hairs from being singed.

Do you have a signature go-to dish? All of my dishes are signature dishes, but if I was forced to admit I guess my Ahi Tuna, ribs, and burgers, and with a plank salmon thrown in for good measure.

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area? Our family is here.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today? Tuna noodle casserole. Do I cook it, na and neither will Sandy.

Top 3 Movies of all time? Caddie Shack, Kelly’s Heroes, and Night Shift

What was your happiest moment in life? Can I have a few????  Meeting Sandy and Scott, getting married, meeting Amie, ah and Jackson’s birth all capped off with a couple of hole in ones.

Where do you do your grocery shopping? Where Sandy tells me to go. Actually I don’t do grocery shopping.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food? Potato chips and French onion dip.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of? Finishing graduate school after 50.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year? I will try never to overcook the meal when it is below freezing outside.

You are the self-professed "Grill Man", and for good reason- everything you throw on it turns out amazing! I can honestly say I have never cooked on a grill by myself before, but it is something that is high on my culinary To-Do list! All help is welcomed! What is your most favorite thing you have ever cooked on the grill and was there ever a time you made something on there and it failed completely? If you have had a "fail", did you ever try the failed recipe a second time using different techniques or altered recipe with better luck? If I had a failure, I can’t remember. If there was one, I would certainly try it again.

One word that best describes you is: 
I need two words, "Twinkling Eyes" 

Pop and Jackson, the week we got home from the hospital with him!

Thank you so much Don for doing this interview for me!  I really enjoyed reading it- you did a great job!  Looking forward to seeing you guys this weekend.  We've missed you while you two were basking in the sunshine in Mexico!  Lucky ducks!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Retro Recipe: Seven Up in Milk- Taste Tested!

Do you remember {this post} where I found that silly, "wholesome" recipe for 7-Up and Milk?  Well  I let my curiosity get the best of me and finally gave it a try.  I mean, seriously, what is the fun of having a food blog if you don't try out weird stuff every now and then?!

Surprisingly, I have to admit that the flavor was actually pretty good.  It reminded me of a combination between a vanilla milkshake and a Coke Float.  It was just missing one key ingredient- ice cream! It frothed up quite nice, but the consistency was a little odd.  I felt it needed that lovely, icy thickness of a milkshake. Was I grossed out with this silly retro recipe- no way. But would this become a regular beverage on my menu- I highly doubt it!  Go ahead, give it a try. Just be sure to let me know what you think!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

This is easily my most requested recipe. Each time I make it, I am always asked to provide the recipe so friends can make it themselves at home. It really is yummy- and the best part.... it takes about 3 minutes to prepare, a couple additional minutes to shred the chicken once cooked and then back in the crock-pot it goes to finish soaking up the goodness! Easy-peasy, but oh sooooooo good!

Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches 
1 bottle BBQ Sauce of your choice (I usually use Sweet Baby Ray's, but this time I used Open Pit to give a little more of a kick)
3 lbs boneless chicken breast, thighs or a combo of the two
1 large onion, sliced into chunks
1 can pineapple (I recommend nibblits or crushed)
*Optional* Up to a half a can of the pineapple juice, depending on how sweet you like your pulled chicken (I did not use any this time because we wanted it more spicy, and a tad less sweet.)
hamburger buns or kaiser rolls

If you use frozen chicken, make sure it is completely defrosted.  If you cook it frozen, it will indeed cook but it will make a very "wet" sauce.  Place your chicken in the bottom of the crock-pot.   Top with onions, then pineapple.  Pour entire bottle of BBQ sauce over the whole thing.  Turn your crock-pot on LOW and cook for 8-10 hours (or on HIGH for 4-6).  An hour or two before it is finished cooking, carefully remove the chicken from the crock-pot and shred it using two forks- watch out, it will be hot!  Place chicken back in the crock-pot and stir well to combine.  Finish cooking an additional hour or two so the chicken can absorb most of the sauce.  Serve on hamburger buns and top with coleslaw if desired.

When I had made it with Sweet Baby Rays and Pineapple juice it was a very sweet Pulled Chicken.  It was great, and everyone loved it.  But I have to say, this particular recipe (using Open Pit BBQ Sauce and no pineapple juice) was hands down our favorite!!  It had just the right amount of sweet and vinegar that we love in a good BBQ.  I think I will be making it like this from now on!  That is one of the coolest things about cooking.... varying a recipe and coming up with something even better then you had expected.  You just never know how the slight change in an ingredient can improve on a dish!

This dish goes perfectly with an Oil and Vinegar Slaw.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Ryan Detter

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin'Home Cooking'

Growing up I had lots of male friendships.  I just seemed to hit it off better with the opposite sex- less drama and girlish nonsense.  Despite my love of pretty dresses, a great shade of lipstick and wedge heels I had a lot of tomboy in me.  I loved "being one of the guys", and always having someone to keep a look out for me.  It was easier back then.  As you get older, that statement from When Harry Met Sally becomes dreadfully true "Men and Women Can't be Friends".  I tried to resist it, swearing up and down that this wasn't true.  But just as Harry predicted usually one fell for the other and the friendship was ruined.  Once married, pretty much the only male friends you will have will be the husbands of your best girlfriends.  Guilty by association (luckily my girlfriends have all married fabulous men!)

I have only found this  exception to the rule twice in my adult life and the first time was when I met my college neighbor, Ryan Detter.  My long time roommate Andrea and I moved into these great apartments a bit off campus and lucked out living right next to these really sweet, super fun guys, Ryan and Mike.  I was dating Scott at the time, but unfortunately he was attending Kent State University so we had to suffer through 3 1/2 years of long distance relationships.  Long distance dating can be difficult, especially in college.  But he was the love of my life and we were both determined to make things work.  By this point in my life I was already growing weary of male friendships.  I was now tired of the guy drama, and would just rather hang with my girlfriends.  Well surprisingly Ryan and I hit it off right away and were instant chums.  From the get go Ryan was always respectful of my relationship with Scott.  He would share his dating adventures with me and I would complain to him about how I hated Scott living so far away.  We were good ears for each other and provided perspectives to life that our friends of the same sex couldn't give.  

After college I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and Ryan moved to Baltimore, Maryland.  We successfully kept in touch.  A few years later I was thrilled and honored to have him and his delightful girlfriend Jill attend my wedding.  It meant so much having them there to help Scott and I celebrate.    And I look forward to the day I can do the same for him.  

Ryan is funny, smart and an amazing cook.  You are a lucky one if you are invited to dine in his kitchen for you will have a feast!  He's pretty fearless when it comes to food, so you know you will be in for a treat- or at least an adventure!  Ryan knows how to have a good time and his taste in music is spot on.  Want something new to listen to?  Be sure to check out his website.  You will be sure to go home with something fabulous.   So for today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am proud to introduce you to my true, dear (male!) friend, Ryan Detter. 

Ryan Detter
Ryan and his girlfriend, Jill.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Wow, that's a tough one. I can't commit to what movie to watch let alone a favorite thing to cook. Usually it's based on seasonality (soups/stews in the winter, fish/grill/salads in the summer) or whatever looks fresh in the grocery store or market. I guess I will go with what i've cooked the most lately, which would be a great light version of gumbo I got from Mark Bittman on The New York Times. It's not too heavy for gumbo and has a nice amount of spice and seafood (two of my favorite things). The protein and vegetables are pretty flexible so that allows for some good creative variation every time you make it, which goes along nicely with my "buy what looks fresh/seasonal" mentality. If you're feeling especially hungry you can eat it with rice, and if not you can simply serve it 'naked'. Plus it always has a ton of leftovers that are even better the next day.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
My weekday meals. There's generally not much time to prepare them and I stick to simple things (fish/steamed veggies/salad) so there's not much room for creativeness, etc. I don't mind this, as i can't eat fancy elaborate meals all the time (for health reasons too), but it simply doesn't make the cooking part as fun as when i am doing something different and learning new things. Guess you gotta have the sour to enjoy the sweet.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Right now my favorite place would have to be Brian Voltaggio's (the guy from Top Chef) place in Frederick, MD Volt. I was lucky enough to have a 21 course chefs table there for my birthday (thanks Jill) and it was unbelievable. It did just as it was designed: allowed me to taste a small sampling of everything, and drool for the next 2 months till I get back and am able to have a full course of certain items (*drool* butternut squash goat cheese ravioli *drool*)
Jill and Ryan with Chef Brian Voltaggio at Volt

As for a place I am dying to try: there is a place a little off the beaten path in baltimore called the Chameleon Cafe. It's in a neighborhood called Hamilton that has had some rough times, but is now seeing an upswing in new residents/shops/bars/restaurants. It's always in baltimore top 50 list and I have had many close personal friends say it's not only great, but one of the best bargains in the city. Quaint too, not one of those McSteak joints.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Considering I write a music site (blatant self-promotion time: this question is pretty tough. I guess I would go with Iggy Pop - "I wanna be your dog". on repeat. Just kidding. I think I would put on a good mix of low-key indie (The National, Feist, Beach House, etc.), down-tempo electronica (junior boys, air), and some mellow classics (neil young, bob dylan, aimee mann, etc). Sidestory: I once went to this hip bar/restaurant called brewers art for a Valentines dinner (even though we don't really celebrate it...just an excuse to go out) and they were playing one love song, and one not at all love song, etc. Example: Beatles - Hold me tight, Nirvana - Rape Me, Marvin Gaye - Lets Get It On, Bob Dylan - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. It was hysterically genius.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
You know, I wanted to answer with something fancy that I thought was absolutely absurdly good, but you know when they say "the best food is the food that brings you back home"? Well they're right. My last meal on earth would have to be a mixture of my mom's greatest hits: Her "So thick it comes out in squares" mac-n-cheese, her "orange juice/brown sugar, cooked so long it just falls apart" ham, and her pumpkin pie. Love yah mom, but if I lived closer to you, that "last meal" would be happening a lot sooner than planned ;)

What are you currently reading?
Been in quite a big Hunter S. Thompson phase. Just finished "Hells Angels", and am 1 chapter into "Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72" (I would also highly recommend the book version of "Youth in Revolt" by C.D. Payne)

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
My pasta maker. I don't make it as much as i should because it takes a long time, but it always impresses people (myself included), and tastes like NOTHING you can get at the store. Plus raw eggs and flour is the cooks equivalent to a little kid getting dirty in a sandbox. Sad thing is, I actually have to clean the kitchen, where as my mom always cleaned the dirt off my clothes. refer to my earlier statement about not making it very often.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
I think my signature dish changes every year or two. I find a dish and cook for anyone who will try it. So I would say I have a couple. The first one, is an "antipasta" chicken cordon bleu. First you chop up some basil and layer about 3 pieces of prosciutto together so it forms a wide "paper". Put some goat cheese and some of your chopped basil in the middle of the prosciutto and wrap the prosciutto around the cheese/basil, making sure to seal off the ends (it will kind of look like a mini-hot dog). Meanwhile I like to marinate the chicken in whatever marinade you like, then pound it out so it's flat. Wrap the chicken around the prosciutto "roll", throw in a couple toothpicks so it stays wrapped (or you could use cooking string), brown it on the stove, then throw it in the oven till it's up to temp. Definitely rich, but really tasty.

My other signature dish I got from the wonderful food blog The Kitchen Sink. Its an herb encrusted pork tenderloin. They suggest to do it on the grill, but I find that you lose a lot of the herb goodies that way, and prefer to do it on the stove top, followed by the oven. First get a mixture of herbs (thyme, basil, sage, rosemary), the more the better as you wanna be able to overcoat the entire loin. Chop up the herbs, some garlic and mix it all together with some red pepper flakes and fennel (this ingredient is key, but you don't wanna go overboard on it, as it will make it too anise tasting). Coat your pork loin in spicy brown mustard and pour the herb mixture over the entire loin till it's fully coated. preheat your oven, put some oil on a large skillet and brown your loin, trying to limit the loss of herbs. then throw it into the oven until it reaches 145. This temperature is key, as I've seen lots of people over cook their pork. It'll keep cooking as it rests, and this makes it super moist. I know what I'm cooking this weekend.

You are from the Cleveland area, but moved out to Baltimore a few years ago. What do you miss most about the Cleveland area and what do you love most about where you live now?
Hands down the people. Not just people I know, but the overall nice way the people of Ohio and the mid-west act and treat others. It's funny because I can meet someone for the first time and after talking to them for a bit I start to think something is a bit off. I end up asking "are you from the mid-west?", and sure enough they usually are. Not that people aren't nice in baltimore, it's just different and hard to explain. There is just something warm and comforting about walking into a CVS in ohio and being told "thank you" and "can I help you" and knowing they actually mean it (most of the time).

As for what I love about baltimore, there are many things (closeness to other major cities, the bay, the history) but the thing I love the most has to be the tons of hidden gems. Just when I think I've been to every small restaurant or bar I'll trip onto some unknown place that starts a whole other adventure. It really makes the city seem pretty new and fresh, although I've lived here for about 8 years now.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
My mom always did a mean chicken stir fry. We always knew what day was stir fry day because that odd looking "pan" would be brought down especially for the meal. Of course later we would learn that it was actually called a wok, but for us at the time we thought it was quite worldly to be cooking in such a cool looking thing. I make it still, along with all kinds of other stir fry's, but as is usually the case I can't seem to get it quite as good as mom did.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
In no particular order, off the top of my head: High Fidelity, Life is Beautiful, Fight Club.

What was your happiest moment in life?
Wow, talk about a hard question. I am lucky to have a lot of happy moments, but I guess the most recent happiest moment was at my brothers wedding. All of my family was there, along with my girlfriend and a bunch of our friends. We were all just having a huge party and enjoying our time together. I don't get back to cleveland as often as I would like, so it's those times I get with all of my family together that I truly cherish.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Usually safeway, but every sunday we have a huge downtown farmers market and I try to make it there once a month. It runs from may to december, which i was always amazed about.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Cheese. I love it. All of it. I recently wrote a comment in a food blog saying "Cheese is The Beatles of food" and I still think that's true. There are thousands of variety's, they're not good for you (which makes it all the better), they have a broad range of tastes and texture, you can add them to anything....I could keep going on and on. I would much rather have a cheese plate for dessert than whatever chocolate volcano thing-a-ma-jig the pastry chef is making these days.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
I guess the thing I am most proud of is all of the great people I've had the privilege of meeting and creating great relationships and friendships with. Seems weird to be proud of other people, but all of those relationships really mean the world to me. I've had some wonderful times, but none of them would be nearly as good without great people to share them with. Maybe that's a cop out....and if it is, then my second answer would be running about 18 miles a week for 2 years now. Including a marathon, 4 half marathons, and 2 10-milers.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Every year it's the same: cook more. Like I said, weekdays don't allow for the time to cook the types of things I want to, and weekends are generally busy but I've been working on making room for cooking weekend nights, and sometimes weeknights. My girlfriend seems to like this resolution quite a bit.

One word that best describes you is: Gregarious

Provençal Calamari Salad with Tarragon and Mint
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

1 cup grape tomatoes
1 pound calamari, cut into 1/2-inch rings (frozen calamari that is already cleaned and sliced works great)
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 stem tarragon, leaves roughly chopped
2 stems mint, leaves roughly chopped
Chopped toasted almonds, for garnish (optional)

In a sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté gently—you don't want to add color, until it just turns fragrant. Add the tomatoes and chili flakes, and some salt and pepper, and sauté for about 3 minutes.  Raise the heat to high, add the calamari, and season again. Allow to cook until just firm and opaque—under five minutes, so keep a close watch.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, and lemon juice with some salt and pepper.  When the calamari have gone from translucent shell pink to opaque white, and not a moment later, drain off most of the liquid in the pan. Then add the lemon dressing and the tarragon and mint. If you like, sprinkle just a few roughly chopped toasted almonds over the top. Serve hot, or at room temperature.

Ryan, thank you so much for doing this interview for me!  You have provided me with so much wonderful new reading material, food blogs, and the like, my Google Reader just grew over night!  I am super excited to give all of the recipes a try, that calamari one sounds so perfect for the summer.  Next time you are in Cleveland, give me a ring.  We can take our better halves out for a fun dinner on the town!  

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Dip

For my brother-in-law, Neil's 40th birthday we went up to their cabin on Kelley's Island to celebrate in style.  It was an amazing time that flew by way too fast.  Full of friends, family, neighbors, crazy fun and a whole lot of silliness!

Me and the birthday boy!

For one of my contributions I brought along my most favorite dip of all time- Buffalo Chicken Dip.  It was first introduced to me by my sister, and we have all adopted it as one of our most favorite party snacks.  It is incredibly addictive, but hey, you can use celery sticks to scoop up the goodness so it makes you feel wayyyyyy less guilty indulging!  You will find many variations of this stuff all over the web, but this is our favorite way to make it.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
1 bunch of celery, 4 stalks chopped into small chunks and the rest cleaned and sliced into 4 inch pieces for serving
2 (10 oz) cans of chicken or the meat from one rotisserie chicken, shreaded
1 package of cream cheese, softened (I use low fat all the time and no one can tell)
1 cup blue cheese or ranch dressing (I like to use low fat blue cheese, but both work fine.)
3/4 cup Franks Red Hot (or other pepper sauce)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
tortilla chips for serving

In a large skillet, sauté the reserved 4 stalks of chopped celery in the Franks Red Hot just until heated, but still crunchy.  Add the chicken and stir.  Now add the cream cheese and blue cheese dressing, stirring well until melted and heated through.  Transfer to a 9" baking dish and carefully stir in the shredded cheese.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until heated through.  Serve with celery sticks and tortilla chips for dipping.  The leftovers (if there are any!) are awesome rolled up in a wrap with some lettuce and tomato!  Yum!


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