The food abides…

Cullinary Experiments

Apple Walnut Chicken Salad

It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon in Tampa and the weather is starting to get warmer so I’m enjoying the outdoors while I can (before the heat becomes unbearable and I barricade myself indoors until October). Figured I’d enjoy a little lunch while I was out here.

  Apple Walnut Chicken Salad

 One of my favorite springtime/summertime lunch dishes is an Apple Walnut Chicken Salad; it’s healthy and insanely simple. Just some shredded chicken, diced green apples and some chopped walnuts mixed with a little light mayonnaise. Then just hit it with a pinch of kosher salt to bring out the flavor and a couple of heavy grinds of black pepper. I prefer to chill it for a little while as I like a cooler sandwich.

Apple Walnut Chicken Salad 2

 This afternoon I just loaded the chicken salad into a whole wheat wrap. Served it with some baked kettle chips and paired it with a Blue Moon Valencia Grove Orange Amber Ale whose fruit notes compliment the apples in the salad perfectly.

Have a favorite lunch dish? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…


Tuscan Chicken Flatbread

Wanted something to satisfy the pizza cravings without all the carbs so I played around with this.

photoCACEER8O

Fairly simple. Just a slice of flatbread with a little bit of olive oil, then some leftover grilled chicken that had been marinated in Italian dressing. Topped it with a light blend of six shredded Italian cheeses: parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, asiago, fontina and romano. Topped it with a little bit of dried oregano and then threw it under the broiler just long enough for the cheese to start bubbling and the edges to brown. Sliced it up and added a little red hot sauce but you can also toss on some crushed red pepper with the oregano before cooking.

Got a favorite flatbread recipe? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


2013 Holiday Season Wrap-Up

A belated “Happy Holidays” from the Food Dude!

It’s been a crazy couple of months which would account for the lack of posts during this holiday season. I thought I’d wrap everything up with a catch-all post. Better late than never, right?

I believe my last post was a quick shot of the Thanksgiving supplies so here’s a follow up pic of the cooked turkey.

Holidays 2013 - Cooked Turkey

Simply dressed with butter, sage and tarragon and stuffed with a sage turkey sausage and cranberry stuffing, the bird came out really well.

Holidays 2013 - Turkey Dinner

Stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn souffle, and green beans; I’m a creature of tradition when it comes to food holidays. In the glass is Cigar City Brewing Company’s Good Gourd, one of the best pumpkin ales I’ve ever had (look for a review in next year’s Pumpkin Beer Round-Up!).

Holidays 2013 - Linguine and Clams

Speaking of tradition, I hosted Christmas Eve this year and when I host I always make a Linguine with White Clam Sauce. This is a simple recipe that my family has been making for as long as I can remember. As good as this looks, it’s even better eaten cold out of the container on Christmas morning. Sounds weird but trust me, it’s good. In the glass is Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Krampus a spicy Imperial Helles Lager which went along great with the seafood.

Holidays 2013 - London Broil

Christmas Day was spent with some very good friends both of whom are excellent cooks and while I don’t eat red meat and thus didn’t partake in the Beef Tenderloin, I’d be hard pressed to say it doesn’t look good.

Holidays 2013 - Tiramisu

My friend also made a from-scratch Tiramisu which I did partake of and I’m glad because she did a kick-ass job.

******

So another one of my friends is hands-down the best holiday gift-giver I’ve ever known. She’ll remember something you said two years ago and not only present you with an insanely well-thought-out gift but also give it you at the perfect time. This year, said gift was a professional-grade Atkins digital probe thermometer.

Holidays 2013 - Thermometer

First of all I’ve been wallet-lusting after one of these things for quite some time now but it’s one of those purchases that always gets bumped back in favor of other things that become more necessary. But second, I just switched over to an infra-red grill and I’m having some trouble learning how to control the heat. A thermometer like this will be invaluable for learning how to successfully cook with the new grill type. See? Best… gift… of the season…

******

Topped the holidays off with some more great friends on New Years Eve where we stuffed our faces with Cheese Fondue, Asiago Risotto Balls, Barbeque Biscuit Cups, Oreo Balls and basically anything bad we could squeeze in before the post-holiday dieting season began. Topped everything off with some bubbly when the ball dropped and you can’t ask for a better New Year than that.

Holidays 2013 - Champagne

So Happy New Year from the Food Dude! Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays as much as I did.

And remember… the food abides…


And the preparations begin…

Turkey Day 2013 Prep

And the Turkey Day Preparations begin…


Shrimp Pad Thai

Shrimp Pad Thai 1

Was really in the mood for some Pad Thai but didn’t want all the calories and fat found in typical restaurant versions of the dish, so I decided to attempt to make this myself to try to pare down some of the unheathier aspects. Pulled this recipe off of the web and it came out better than I expected. The full recipe is below with my tweaks just after the photo.

 

  • 8 ounces uncooked flat rice noodles (pad Thai noodles)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice $
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha or chili garlic sauce
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil $
  • 1 cup (2-inch) green onion pieces
  • 8 ounces peeled and deveined large shrimp $
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts $
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

 

1. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.

2. While water comes to a boil, combine sugar and next 4 ingredients (through Sriracha) in a small bowl.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion pieces, shrimp, and garlic; stir-fry 2 minutes or until shrimp is almost done. Add cooked noodles; toss to combine. Stir in sauce; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly to combine. Arrange about 1 cup noodle mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1/4 cup bean sprouts, 1 tablespoon peanuts, and 2 teaspoons basil. Garnish with lime wedges.

 

Shrimp Pad Thai 2

 

So I changed a little from the original instructions. First, I didn’t use three full tablespoons of canola, only just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Shrimp has a lot of liquid in it, so you don’t have to worry about anything sticking. The extra canola oil is just extra fat that’s unnecessary. In addition I left out the  peanuts altogether. When I serve this to guests I’ll likely have chopped peanuts available on hand for anyone that wants them, but again, they’re just extra fat. I also cut the garlic chili in half thinking it may be a little too spicy but that was really just unnecessary. It was diluted enough not to cause me any heartburn and the flavor didn’t really come through. Next time I’ll leave it as-is. The one thing I noticed about the sauce itself was that it was a little too sweet and not quite savory enough. Next time I’ll likely tone down the brown sugar and bump up the soy sauce and fish sauce.

Have a favorite Pad Thai recipe? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Apple Butter Crescent Rolls

Apple Butter Crescent Rolls

Just Apple Butter spread over some crescent roll dough before baking. Yeah, it’s that good…


Turkey and Spinach Cannellini

Turkey and Spinach Cannellini

Had some leftover carved turkey so I threw together a  very quick Thursday night protein bowl. Tossed some cannellini beans in a skillet with just a little extra virgin olive oil, then added some baby spinach until it cooked down and seasoned with some minced garlic, basil, and crushed black pepper. Added the leftover turkey at the end just to heat it through.

Not bad for a last minute culinary experiment. I’m thinking with a little preparation and some tweaking this could make a good seafood recipe (maybe some mussels?). Be on the lookout.

And remember… the food abides…


Roasted Lime Chick Peas

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

I’m a big fan of grazing when it comes to weight-management. I don’t believe you can be successful in trying to lose a little weight if you’re always staving yourself. A lot of my diet is based on substitutions. If I can find something that satisfies just as well as the real thing but can cut out some calories and fat I’ll give it a shot. One of the better substitutions I’ve come across is Roasted Lime Chick Peas.

A slight variation of Alton Brown’s Roasted Chick Peas, this is a great snack for a long holiday weekend like Memorial day where chips and beer tend to dominate the pre-barbecue dinner menu. 

Roasted Chick Peas

Take one pound of soaked chick peas patted dry and toss them in a vinaigrette composed of 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tsp of Dijon mustard and 1 tsp of kosher salt. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 60 -70 minutes tossing every 15 minutes to make sure there is even heat coverage.

When fully dried removed from the oven and move the chick peas to a heat-proof bowl, then add 2 more tsp of red wine vinegar and 2 tsp of lime flavored margarita salt. Toss to coat.

Serve in a snack bowl alongside your favorite skinny margarita or a Corona Light with a lime (or your preferred lime-infused beer) and you’ve got a relatively healthy snack that can save you quite a bit of calories while satisfying the craving for something crunchy and salty along with your beverage.

Hope everyone’s enjoying their Memorial Day weekend with friends and family. Don’t forget to take a little time to remember why we’re observing this holiday.

And remember… the food abides…


Sunday Morning Breakfast…

A little Sunday morning breakfast kept on the lighter side…

Chicken & Onion Omelet

Scrambled Egg Beaters, some leftover chicken, chopped white onions and a little fat free cheese. Added some sliced fresh strawberries on the side.

Hope everyone’s enjoying their Sunday.

And remember… the food abides…


Fish Night – Tilapia

I had the day off yesterday and indulged quite a bit when it came to my calories so I kind of  wanted to keep it light tonight.

Fish Night - Tilapia

Cooked up some fresh tilapia tossed in the same seasonings that I used for fish tacos a few of weeks ago (celery salt, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, black pepper and sea salt) . Stayed light for my sides as well; grilled asparagus that I marinated in just a little oil, vinegar and sea salt along with some white mushrooms sautéed in a bit of worchestire sauce, white wine and garlic.

I never bought into that snooty “only white wine with fish” thing so I served this with a glass of  2011 Route 40 malbec and it went perfectly.

Not bad for keeping it light, huh?

And remember… the food abides…


Chicken and Mushroom Orecchiette

I’ve been seeing these commercials for Carrabba’s advertising a dish called Chicken and Mushroom Orecchietti. I tend to avoid chain italian restaurants, but seeing these ads over and over again started to get to me. I figured I’d try my hand at my own version of the recipe.

Mushroom Orechetti 1

I absolutely love mushrooms and I wanted them to be a major player in the dish rather than taking a backseat to a thick cream-sauce so I kept it very light. I cooked up some orrechietti and tossed it with some extra virgin olive oil then added the sautéed mushrooms, a little chicken that had been marinated in italian dressing, minced garlic, some shredded parmesan, asiago and romano cheeses and some finely chopped italian parsley.

Mushroom Orechetti 2

Didn’t come out bad at all for something as light and simple as this. However this is still missing a little something to round out the flavor and make it a balanced dish but I haven’t quite figured out what that is yet. I’ll continue to tinker with the recipe and post when do.

Orrechietti isn’t the most common of pasta dishes so I’m curious if anyone else out there has a favorite recipe. If so, drop a line in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Fish Tacos!

About 12 years ago I had to stop eating red meat for medical reasons and that would have sounded like a death sentence to someone who loved hamburgers as much as I did. However I grew up on the coast in New England and because of that, I have also been a fan of seafood for as long as I can remember. I essentially just shifted focus; at some point fish tacos became my new hamburgers. Living in the Tampa Bay area there is a boundless amount of restaurants that serve them and if I see them on the menu I’m almost guaranteed to try them out. Every so often though I get a hankering to make them myself and tonight’s experiment turned out pretty well.

Home Fish Tacos 2

I grilled up some fresh tilapia and coated it in a mixture of celery salt, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, sea salt and black pepper. As a side note the smoked paprika makes ALL the difference. Tossed the cooked fish in a soft taco shell with a little shredded cheese, a few ribbons of red cabbage and some fresh lime juice. As a side I made a some basmati rice with corn and cilantro and another squirt of lime juice and then a serving of black beans.

Home Fish Tacos

I have another favorite fish taco recipe that’s got more of a japanese flair to it which I will have to post at some point. But for now here you go. If you dig fish tacos, this traditional recipe is a great staple.

Have a favorite fish taco recipe or a favorite version served by a local restaurant? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides.


Super Bowl Sunday – Hickory Marinated Barbeque Chicken Nachos

Last night was the Super Bowl and while I had very little interest in either of the teams playing, I always enjoy the game mostly because of the commercials, the socialization and especially the food. My contribution to the evening’s festivities was a giant batch of Hickory Marinated Barbeque Chicken Nachos.

Super Bowl - BBQ Chicken Nachos

These started with a layer of tortilla chips then and then some shredded chicken that was marinated in a little Moore’s Hickory marinade. I topped that with some sliced pickled okra and then some shredded smoked gouda cheese. Added another layer of chips and repeated about four times. After the final layer I liberally poured some hickory barbeque sauce over the entire platter. These went into a 400 degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese was melted.

Super Bowl - BBQ Chicken Nachos 2

Wouldn’t recommend that the health conscious consume these on a regular basis, but it’s definitely some good man food for game day. And that’s what the Super Bowl is all about. 

Hope everyone out there enjoyed the game no matter what team you were rooting for.

And remember… the food abides…


Christmas Eve 2012

Christmas Eve with my Dad’s side of the family is chocked-full of even more culinary tradition than Christmas Day. The traditional italian Seven Fishes always make an appearance in one form or another, but the star of the show is always the crustaceans.

DSC_3180

Lobster cooked in a spicy marinara sauce.

DSC_3133-B

And nothing says Christmas Eve in our family without a big-ass pile of King Crab Legs. I’ve always enjoyed the crab far more than the lobster and this year was no exception.

DSC_3183

I do my best to make sure the food is the star of my site, but I was so grateful to be able to spend Christmas Eve with my family and enjoy a meal with them, that I couldn’t resist posting a photo of our elongated dinner table. In fact, it was this very table that insprired me to write this Christmas Euphiction piece a couple years ago.

I hope you all are enjoyed your Christmas Eve, both your menus and your families.

And remember… the food abides…


Christmas Two-Days-Early

Merry Christmas from the Food Dude!

Yesterday my family had our annual Christmas Celebration (two days early to accommodate schedules). The day was filled with food, drink and Christmas cheer and you really can’t ask for anything more than that.

Our gathering totalled almost 30 people and we had a menu to match.

DSC_3075

Spinach Balls with Honey Mustard as an appetizer.

DSC_3077

Another appetizer of Fried Risotto Rice Balls. These were phenomenal.

DSC_3080

And we’re italians, so an Antipasto tray is of course, a staple…

DSC_3107

Dinner was Porchetta, Lasagna, Eggplant Rollatini, Stuffed Baked Chicken, Roasted Red Potatoes and Green Beans.

DSC_3106-B

Porchetta was not something we grew up with but as of late it’s become somewhat of a staple at large family gatherings.

DSC_3110

My brother made these roasted reds and I have to say, I’ve rarely had potatoes done this well.

DSC_3129-B

On to desert. Making homemade struffoli has been a family tradition since before I was born. For those not in the know, struffoli is basically just deep-fried pasta with honey. As simple as that sounds it’s actually very complicated because it’s very easy to screw up if you’re imprecise. It’s usually done in the weeks before Christmas and made in large batches which is never a problem because struffoli stores very easily.

DSC_3126

Cannoli nachos. Yes, you read that right. Cannoli nachos. This is a giant edible shell loaded up with Cannoli filling served with triangles of fried pastry dough for dipping.

As I’ve said before, food is always an important part of our holiday festivities and traditions and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What are some of your culinary holiday traditions? Let me know in the comments below!

Again, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and always remember… the food abides…


Pumpkin Mousse

Pumpkin Mousse

DSC_2940-B

Apparently some folks saw the Thanksgiving Day post the and the desert caught their eye because I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the Pumpkin Mousse. This recipe was given to me by a friend right after Halloween and turned out to be my go-to desert for the holiday season. People tend to devour it everywhere I bring it, so I take that as a good sign.

1 (16 ounce) can of pumpkin

1 (1 1/2 ounce) box of sugar free instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (8 ounce) container of Cool Whip Free

Pumpkin Pie Spice to taste

Combine each ingredient in order. Chill for 2 hours. Serve in individual desert cups or in a large serving bowl with ginger snaps for dipping. I chose to lower the fat and sugar content by using healthier ingredients, but feel free to use the full versions if you so choose.

If you give this a shot, let me know how you feel about it in the comments section. Special thanks to my friend Meghan for passing on the recipe!

And remember… the food abides…


Scallop and Mushroom Chowder

Tried a new recipe tonight. It’s a slightly modified version of Sandra Lee’s Scallop and Mushroom Chowder

The main difference is that I have removed the celery as I really dislike the taste and consistency of cooked celery and upped the seafood seasoning to 2 teaspoons to make up the celery flavor. I also add a splash of heavy cream just to make it a creamier chowder

Ingredients
4 tablespoons butter, divided use
1/2 pound bay scallops, rinsed and patted dry
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine, preferably Chardonnay
1 (10-ounce) can condensed cream of potato soup (recommended: Campbell’s)
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
2 teaspoon seafood seasoning
1 splash of heavy cream

In medium pot, over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Dredge scallops in flour. Shake off excess and saute in butter for 3 minutes, or until opaque and starting to color. Use a slotted spoon to remove scallops from pan and set aside.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in pan. Saute mushrooms for 5 minutes.

Stir in wine, potato soup, clam juice and seafood seasoning. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in scallops with any accumulated juice add the splach of heavy cream and simmer for 3 minutes.

Served this with a bottle of Harpoon’s UFO Pumpkin Ale. The heavy nature of the ale complimented the thickness of the chowder and the pumpkin and spices really brought out the sweetness of the bay scallops.

Enjoy!

And remember… the food abides…


Bubble Bread!

Enjoyed some 4th of July festivities with some very good friends yesterday. Two of them had just returned from vacation in Captiva Island and they managed to procure something very special: the recipe for the Bubble Room’s famous Bubble Bread. I have no idea how they got their hands on this stuff because it’s apparently a closely guarded secret. They made a batch to bring over and we all had the opportunity to try it.

I haven’t been to the Bubble Room since a family vacation to Captiva Island when I was twelve years old and yet this is exactly how I remember it. Comprised of a hearty bread, butter, mayonnaise, spices and a number of different kinds of cheeses, this stuff is basically heart disease on a plate. However, a once-in-a-blue-moon sampling won’t kill anyone (I’m a big proponent of “everything in moderation”). An excellent addition to our traditional 4th of July menu.

Hope everyone out there had a great 4th of July as well.

And remember… the food abides…


Sloppy Joses!

Cooked up some Sloppy Joses for dinner tonight. A Sloppy Jose is essentially a Sloppy Joe but with salsa instead of tomato paste. I find it to be just a little more flavorful and it’s got a nice kick if you use a hot salsa.  Served with tater tots and sautéed baby spinach with a Dos Equis Amber. Except for the beer, it’s like lunch in the third grade! 😉