Beach Cake

As many of my loyal readers know, it was Mandi’s birthday yesterday. Since she has made me some crazy cakes in the past, I decided to try my hand at making one for her. Luckily, I had the design team there to help me decorate it. The cake recipe is from Ina Garten, and can be seen here. The idea for the teddy grams came from a pool cake I had seen online.

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Caprese Salad

Caprese salad is a simple and delicious summertime
treat.  Traditionally it has only tomatoes,
mozzarella, basil, salt, pepper and olive oil.  The key to this salad is having fresh tomatoes
which is why I cant wait until mine jump off the vine into something awesome
like this.  Over the years, we have
changed the way we make it.  We first
would do the traditional tomato and mozzarella, with a little red onion, cut
them into rounds and line them up in a spiral like you sometimes get at restaurants.  I came to the conclusion that this looks
kinda cool at first, but it is cheesy, annoying to do, and harder to eat!  Mandi also found that cucumber adds a great freshness
to this salad and makes it even better for summer.  Here is what I like to call Mandi’s version of
a Caprese salad.

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The Great Gnocchi Debate of 08

Today’s post is an extremely exciting, scientific experiment. At Christmas this year we were lucky enough to receive my grandmother’s gnocchi recipe. I have the fondest of memories growing up eating these little pillows of heaven. So you can imagine my surprise when we saw that her recipe calls for potato buds instead of normal potatoes! This really got us wondering and Mandi and I decided that it would be a good idea to put them in a head to head competition to see which tasted better, potato buds or the spud itself.  We had made Heidi’s recipe before, so we planned to use that as a base recipe.  It started to get crazy when on the morning of the experiment we saw Tyler Florence make gnocchi. We wanted to try his recipe too! That got Mandi’s brain going and she decided she wanted to make some colored versions of each recipe to see how that affected the flavor and texture. When it came down to it we couldn’t agree on a sauce. I prefer tomato sauce on my gnocchi, but she likes cream… well the whole thing really just continued to snowball and in the end we ended up making four types of gnocchi with two flavors and three sauces…

For all the different gnocchi’s, we kept the flour / egg / potato ratio as similar as possible so that we could really judge the potato method. The comparison involved baked potatoes, steamed potatoes, boiled potatoes, and potato buds. Then we colored some of each kind with some spinach and roasted red peppers.  The three sauces were tomato, gorgonzola cream, and thyme butter. This made for a total of 36 possible combinations.  Our impressions on which were best and worst are at the bottom of the post.

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Refreshing Summer Drink

This drink was inspired by a drink Mandi got at KO prime.  From the menu:

Grapes of Wrath
Grey Goose Poire Vodka,
New Zealand

Sauvignon Blanc, muddled cucumber & pineapple.

continually said that this was the best part of her meal.  She wasn’t the biggest fan of her bone marrow
app (I was), and she has had better pork belly. 
We didn’t look up the actual drink last night when we attempted to re
create it, but what we made was delicious and very similar.  On a side note, I hate muddling and did not
muddle this drink.  I think you can get
all the flavor from the fruits and mint without bruising and smashing them into
a big mess.  This is a great article on
mixing drinks and it totally captures my opinions on cocktails.  Be sure to watch the video too! Click below for the recipe for this drink.

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Plant Update

When you last saw my plants, the situation was dismal. The tomatoes had leaf miners and were extremely infected. The cayenne pepper plant had holes in many of the leaves, clearly being eaten by some pest who doesn’t mind spicy food. After doing much research online, I decided my best bet was to strip all the leaves from the tomato plants and just hope they survived. I was heading out on vacation to Boston and I didn’t tell anyone to water them when I was gone. This was because I did not think they were going to survive anyways and was kind of upset about the whole situation. Just as I was getting into the cab to the airport, I looked over my plants and saw a new leaf on one of the tomatoes! I was shocked and kind of disappointed that they would be left to nature for water purposes for the next week and a half. Well when I got back, I was stunned to see large, green, leafy, and thriving plants in my walkway! My landlord had taken it upon himself to nurse my poor plants back to life! Before I had 4 tomato plants and 2 pepper plants, and now I have 2 tomatos and 1 pepper, so it wasn’t a 100% recovery, but it was still really great because I thought they all were goners. Click below for pictures and more.

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Fresh Ricotta

I have always wanted to make cheese at home. But you know how those things go… it’s just something that I talk about but keep putting off. Yesterday when I saw ricotta in our recipe I decided to stop putting it off and give it a try! Ricotta is a great intro to home cheesemaking because it is fairly simple. Now that we’ve tried it, I have the feeling we will start making it all the time because it was easy and so delicious! I have seen Mario make this before and planned to use his recipe, but we ended up using one from my new favorite food site – playing with fire and water. The only ingredients were milk, buttermilk, and salt! The main difference is the acid used to help the milk separate into curds and whey. In Mario’s recipe, lemon juice is the acid but in this recipe it is buttermilk.

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Going away parties are always bittersweet events. You go and have a great time, but in the morning you have fewer friends. Todd and Joy are heading home to Canada tomorrow and had a beach party last night to say goodbye. I decided to take some pics to post here for 4 reasons. First, nothing I have on the site is simple, so sometimes people think I can’t eat normal food. Like I have to spend 2 hours cooking dinner or I won’t enjoy it. I think no matter how immersed you are in the food world, if you cant eat a hot dog, you’ve crossed the line into snob territory. Second reason, Mandi loves s’mores. So do I, but not as much as her. Last summer every time we lit the grill she would have a s’more appetizer. In my opinion, it is the best desert flavor combo. Whenever I ever see a s’more dessert at a restaurant I have to try it (and I usually don’t get dessert). We even tried to make a s’more ice-cream cake once and bought a mini blowtorch for it but it didn’t turn out that good. The third reason for me posting these pics is to say goodbye to Todd and Joy. I have worked with Todd, and Mandi has worked with Joy, for over a year and they will be missed in the office, at the work events, and of course, at the parties and bars. The final reason for this post is I’m wicked behind on cooking since our return and I had nothing else to put up! Click below to see the rest of the pics.

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One of the many highlights of my trip home was the last day. Steph hosted a BBQ so I could see a bunch of people from the area that afternoon. Fun times were had by all. We ate cous cous salad, corn on the cob, jalepeno poppers, pancetta wrapped peaches, scallops, and of course, ribs! Recipes / links are at the bottom of the post.

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Iceburg Wedges

Were back!  And what a
great vacation it was!   Wanna hear about
it?  Here goes.  Ribs 4 times, potato salad, peaches wrapped
in bacon, pasta salad, scallops, taco dip, chicken wings, cheesesteaks, qdoba burrito,
cheese fries, cheese fries, mcdonalds 4 times, steak egg and cheese bagel from
there, sausage egg and cheese from dunks, finagled another bagel, 2x taco bell,
(once drunk at 1:30 am with my family?) clam chowder, clam chowder, chili,
fried fish sandwich, beef burros, boneless wings from petes (still good), soft
pretzel, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, spicy basil pad Thai, spring rolls, kobe
flat iron, tuna tartare, sweetbreads, bone marrow, and about 400 or so
beers.  I’m sure I missed stuff; we had
about 4 meals a day.  And NOW it is time
for a diet!  Starting off my diet today I
have an iceberg wedge salad with a blue cheese dressing.  Blue cheese dressing!?!  You can’t have that if you are trying to be
healthy!!!!!   Relax folks, we only used 4
oz. of blue cheese (<200 calories each) and made the dressing with low fat yogurt
and buttermilk.  It was delicious!

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Mexican Party

Last weekend was the 7th annual Mexican party
hosted by Amy and Cheryl.  Mandi and I
were lucky enough to go last year, and this year TFIMB was the corporate
sponsor (without actually giving any money). 
A great time was had by all and I took some pictures of the
festivities.  There will be no recipes
today except for one vague one for the pork that everyone requested.

Dan:  hey you think i
could get the pork recipe for the post today?   im not going to put
up any recipes except that one cause it was such a big hit.

Amy: There wasn’t a recipe actually.  I put a Mexican dry rub on it that I bought
at Target (Archer Farms).  In the bottom
of the pots, I put a mixture of orange juice, lime juice, garlic and
oregano.  Roasted at 425 for about a half
hour to brown a bit, then took it down to 300 for about 5 hours.  Each Boston Butt was about 5-6 lbs.  Oh my god, I’m hungry!

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Chili Cheese Corn Dog Fries!?!?

My sister has made the most heart attack inducing,
cholesterol raising, trans-fatty incredible meal that she wanted to share with
the world the only way she knew how, with a guest post on TFIMB!  She will take over for the rest of the post
and I may have some comments in red.

Since the 1st Celtics playoff game vs. the Atlanta Hawks,
there has been a feeding frenzy at my house.  One of our regular group,
who has been there for every game, could easily take on Kobayashi in a hot dog
eating contest. Since the beginning of the playoffs, he’s been talking about
the chili and cheese corn dog fries that he saw on Phantom Gourmet.  My
promise was that they would happen when we made it to the finals.  Well,
here we are, game 2: the C’s vs. Lakers.  

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Taco Burgers!

Mandi always claims she hates burgers.  I think one of the reasons is that when I make
them, they always end up huge and have no direction.  I put in whatever is in the fridge and they
end up tasting more like meatloaf than cheeseburgers.  Now that grilling season has begun, I am
trying to make more focused burgers and turn around Mandi’s opinion. My first
attempt was a taco burger.  An obvious
choice due to her love of tacos!

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