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December 2008 Archives

2008 in review


Seems like every blog is doing something like this, and here I am to jump on the bandwagon! First are my recaps, then Mandi has written a little something about her fave posts of the year. Hope everyone has a good new year and I will be back next week with some great pictures and food!

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New Year's Week

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Did everyone have a good holiday last week? I did and I got some good pictures to share with you all. For now I am still in Massachusetts, so I wont have any NEW new posts until next week....
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Chimichurri Flank Steak and Paella Style Rice


I don't know how this meal came about. I suppose it was mostly inspired by a meal we had at a new restaurant in Bermuda. The place is called Latin. The food was delicious but it was highly overpriced (even for Bermuda). For example I got some paella with like a half portion of skirt steak on it and it was 25 dollars! Skirt steak is one of the cheapest cuts of meats so the whole thing confused me. Also the 13 dollar drinks were a bit much. Anyways, Mandi and I decided to take some of these flavors home and enjoy them for half the price. I'm calling this paella STYLE rice so some purists don't jump down my throat yelling about it not being true paella.

Ceviche Sushi


I've made sushi before, so if you need to know how to make the rice and roll it up properly, check out the older sushi double post. Today I just wanted to share with you all a few rolls I made that came out pretty good. One of them I think was pretty innovative and something I have never seen before. It came about because we didn't have much selection of fish for our sushi. The salmon looked best, but when we opened it, it didn't smell as fresh as it could have been. I threw some lime and orange onto it with onions and ceviche'd it and the resulting rolls tasted great!

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Green Curry Soup (Again)


We made green curry soup a few times before, and even posted it once, but I was never that happy with the final outcome. Sometimes the broth was delicious, but didn't match well with the wontons. Other times the broth was a bit too thick and rich and could have just been curry sauce and not soup. I wasn't going to post this since we did something like it already, but it came out so great that I had to let you guys know! If you want to make green curry soup, make this one, and not the old one.

Continue reading Green Curry Soup (Again).

Guinness Braised Shortribs


The rest of this great meal was Guinness braised short ribs, and potato-celery root horseradish mash. These 3 components went amazingly well together, tied with guinness, thyme and balsamic. This was a classic meat and potatoes, but it was elevated to steakhouse quality with simple tweaks and flavors. The meat was so tender and fell apart on your fork. The creamy mashed potatoes and flavorful onions were perfect compliments to the beef. If you missed the first part of this meal, it is an onion gratin we made here.

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Onion Gratin


A Wednesday post? On a full week? Yep ladies and gentlemen, we are trucking through full steam ahead this week. Today I am very pleased to give you part 1 of a meal Mandi and I made Saturday night. This was easily one of my top 5 meals of 2008! I split it into 2 parts, because I wanted to keep a bunch of pictures but don't like to have posts with more than 50 pictures. Today is the onion side dish we made. We got it from Jamie Oliver's book "Cook with Jamie" and made a few tweaks to fit it to our dinner. He says this in the book, but I feel the same way; the onion is something people use to build flavors in almost every meal, but rarely is it brought to the forefront! This onion side dish really makes onions the star of the show. The final result is sweet, creamy, and tastes like french onion soup (but better) without all the broth. It was a perfect compliment to the rest of the meal.

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Pom-Chocolate Truffles


Chocolate Truffles are the non-bakers friend! Around this time of year when friends come over, there is almost the expectation of freshly baked cookies cooling on the windowsill. Well I am no baker, so what do I have to offer? Mandi loves chocolate truffles and they are super easy to make. Just make a quick ganache, (fancy word for chocolate and cream) roll it into balls, and cover with cocoa powder. Your friends will love them. Last minute, we decided to put a little surprise inside.

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I have never been the biggest fan of quiches or frittatas. They aren't bad, but I would much rather an omelet or just scrambled eggs any day of the week. To me, it is easier and tastier and so why bother with the extra effort a quiche requires? Similarly, my grandmother used to make a baked egg and pasta dish she called pastair (sp?) pronounced pa-stare, or past - air. I never really liked this all that much either. It was basically baked egg and pasta cooled down and cut into squares. I would hold it in my hand like a brownie and snack on it as a kid with my sister. What I made yesterday for breakfast was sort of a combo of these things that totally changed my mind about their goodness. With components of pastair, frittata, and quiche, this 'pasttata' (he he he) was fantastic, simple, and fun to make! I made it with pretty much all leftovers. I even made a quick breakfast sausage with some leftover ground beef I had in the fridge.

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Is it cold where you are? I can't really complain about being cold here, cause when I do, my friends from Massachusetts make fun of me. 62 degrees (F) seems really cold though when it is humid and windy. Not to mention I drive a scooter and have no heating in my house. I have bared many a New England winter so I do know what real cold feels like, but sometimes here there is just a night when your bones feel cold and when you get off the scooter you just want to get in bed under the covers. This is the kind of soup that can warm your bones. It is nothing special, a pretty straight forward chowder, but extra smoky bacon and a store bought bread bowl really push it over the edge of awesome.

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Drunken Noodles


I wasn't feeling very well all day yesterday. I'm not sure what it was. Some would say that it was the jello shots and ice luge of last weekend, but I say naaaaaaaa.  It's just the season and lack of sleep and flying and working and everything sort of catching up to me at once. When I am sick, like most people I crave something brothy and noodley. A new sick craving I have had recently is very spicy foods. I have been eying this meal for over a year now but never made it for some reason and it popped into my head yesterday afternoon as a cure to my ailments. This guy has an interesting writeup explaining the name drunken noodles you should check out. We used that recipe and a few others online to come up with our own and it tasted awesome with only a few things we will change for next time.

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Ice Luge?


In keeping with the college theme of our party this past Friday, we made an Ice Luge! Do you know what an Ice Luge is? I am ashamed to say that I do. It is a block of ice with a path (usually 2) running down it. You pour alcohol into the top and stand by at the bottom to receive the ice cold liquid. This Ice Luge is more of a gimmick. It still worked, but it was much smaller than what you would see at a frat party. I just wanted to have it as a joke and memory of college. The fact that it worked well and people used it during the night only made my efforts more worth it.

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Huge Burgers


So you might be wondering what we could have possibly done with all those jello shots. We had a big party at our place this past Friday. The theme of the party was college, so the jello shots fit in well. Today and tommorows posts are also things from that party. I have been wanting to make a large burger for awhile. In this world dominated by mini cheeseburgers and sliders, a huge burger is my rebuttal. I recommend anyone to make this for a party. It was easier than making 5 normal sized burgers, and was somewhat of a showstopper when I unveiled it.

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Jello Shots!


When most people think jello shots, they immediately flash back to some college party where there were two types of jello shots: green with a handle of ten dollar vodka and yellow with a handle of ten dollar rum. Pretty much the goal with those is to get it down without ever really tasting it. THESE jello shots are different. Each one is based on a real cocktail and is thoughtfully prepared with different ingredients. The list of jello shots has been growing since college and keeps expanding still!

The basic method is as follows: boil one cup of water, add one packet of jello, mix two minutes (don't skimp on this it will be grainy!), add one cup alcohol, pour into little cups. If you are using two packets or one large box then this doubles to: boil two cups of water, add jello, mix two minutes, add two cups alcohol, pour into cups. If you remember this you can make pretty much any shot your mind can create!!! I will include a list at the end of all the variations I've come up with thus-far. The pics are of some of the recipes that deviate slightly from my basic method. Along with a couple pics of the process...

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1100 Tortellini!


Tortellini soup has been a Christmas Eve tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. My Mom would buy 8 bags filled 100 tortellini each from a little old Italian woman who lived across town. When she called each year she would have to mention my Grandfather and I think there was even a secret password involved. The bags only cost 3 dollars, and the tortellini were out of this world. Every year it was the highlight of the season and we waited for it with anticipation. It was my Dad's side of the family that came over every year. And since they are the Irish side of my family, they could only get their fix of this soup once a year and it became quite a big event.

One year we found out that the secret tortellini lady had moved back to Italy. What would we do?? For a few years my Mom bounced around from various specialty store to newer secret tortellini ladies. But it was never the same and our special meal suffered. Don't get me wrong, it was still great, but not like it once was. On top of that these women were charging 15 dollars a bag and up! That got expensive when buying 8 bags. Finally one year when we had no other options (and I happened to be unemployed at the time and just beginning to love cooking) I offered to make the tortellini.

My Mom was unsure. Should we risk it not tasting good for all those people? Can we get the recipe from Grandma? Will you be able to do it all yourself? I was home for the weekend and she called my Grandmother asking about the recipe and if she thought it was doable, she replied probably not and that it was a lot of work. The NEXT MORNING, my Grandmother showed up with 2 pounds of tortellini filling, my Grandfather, 2 great aunts, and a ham(!) for lunch. We worked all day and it has been a fun tradition ever since. I was home for thanksgiving this past weekend and we all got together to make them for this year.

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"lasagna" soup


I have to admit I doubted my mom on this one. She sent me the recipe a few months ago and I just ignored it. When she said that she was cooking it for our annual tortellini making party, I was happy to finally try it even though I was still skeptical. Well it turned out to be really great! A simple and healthy soup you could easily whip up on a weekday. My only qualm is that the name is kind of arbitrary; it didn't taste like lasagna to me. Maybe if you were to float a spoon of ricotta on top. MAYBE. She also used turkey sausage and whole wheat noodles to keep it healthy. These are two ingredients that I don't always like, but tasted great in this application.

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