’tis the season

Farmer’s Market season! Shayne and I went to Bedner’s Farmer’s Market over the weekend and rounded up some tip-top produce for our post-workout meals. And besides going to Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) Market like every other day and getting salad bar yummy’s… our at-home meals are light and healthy. (But I miss butter…and carbs….and chocolate………) And I will be back on the wagon soon… just not all at once. 🙂

This Farmer’s Market/STORE is filled with prime vegetables and fruits of the season. It’s incredible! They just opened the doors on this little barn not too long ago and seriously, the place was packed this past weekend! It was crazy.

FRESH, FRESH, FRESH! And the prices beat any grocer.

We would’ve loaded up on more but seriously I was walking around like my head was cut off. I couldn’t even fathom my next purchase. I didn’t know whether I wanted to make a salad with blood oranges or stuff poblano peppers. Our picks:

Sourdough bread, Roma tomatoes, a couple of Granny’s, sweet onion, blood orange, celery, fresh Romaine and a baby watermelon.

This seedless, baby melon made my eyes water it was so juicy! What a beauty!

What we made with our yummy’s from the Whole Paycheck salad bar and our fresh Romaine. A spinach hummus, couscous and chickpeas & Mississippi caviar lettuce wrap. So delicious and the perfect snack!!
(Mississippi caviar = black eyed peas, tomato, red onion, garlic, jalapeno, oil and vinegar. In some cases other ingredients like corn…)

I didn’t indulge because my lactose warning siren was wailing but right when you walk out the door at the Farmer’s Market, you’re met with freshly churned ice cream!

Get out there and enjoy your Farmer’s Markets!


sweet home chicago

One more thing about Chicago…

Sometimes I find myself longing for Chi-town. Mostly just the food, hustle and bustle and… the food. Chicago is a treasure chest of good eats and acclaimed culinary talents. I feel so lucky to have studied the food arts there but lets face facts – winters up there can kiss my as$! Seriously! Are you people INSANE?! Clearly. I mean, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a train was insane in itself but doing this when it was 12 degrees while 40 mph winds swirl sheets of snow in my face….!!? So thank you Chicago, for the lovely weather, reality check and more importantly THIS:

Oh, Chicago-style hot dog. No one in South Florida truly knows how to emulate you. Although I desperately try, not even I. It’s one of those true gems of the Windy City. And in an almost heated debate earlier with my coworker (who is a native Chicagoan), I was trying to persuade him that yes, we have had a Chicago-style (in Chicago!) with sliced cucumber. I had to Google the ingredients to win the battle – Wikipedia states: A Chicago-style hot dog is a steamed, boiled or grilled all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, originating from the city of Chicago, Illinois. The hot dog is topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish (often a dyed neon green variety called “Nuclear Relish”), a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and celery salt. Some variants exist, adding things such as cucumber slices, although ketchup is never included. (and forget the “sliced tomato” business, we dice in our kitchen.)

Ah-ha! I don’t lie. Especially about food.

enjoy your hot dogs… only if they’re Chicago-style.


move over rachael

I am no Sandra Lee. I am not eloquent or comfortable in front of video cameras or talking into microphones even in front of a few people, especially while whipping up a quick ganache next to a very eloquent food editor. I was a complete wreck this day and can barely stand to watch the video in its entirety without looking away or tucking my face in my hands and guffawing at my lame ass self. What-the-hell-ever, right!? On with it!

Whilst in culinary school I bamboozled my way into a newspaper internship as a contributing writer for the food section. How? I am still in awe of how my younger, wilder self managed to walk straight into the Daily Herald office and demand Deb Pankey give me some food writing experience! It was probably the best 3 months of my entire professional life. Up until she asked me to make ganache, in front of a big ol’ video camera at her house. And narrate practically 3/4 of the whole damn thing. I happily obliged, of course! And dove head first into my wanna-be-a-food-network-star-food-video (juuuust kidding!). After this was done I didn’t really post it so many people could see it so now that I am 2 years older and little more comfortable with my embarrassing failures, I will share! As I was watching a video from another food blog, I started thinking about making demo videos for this little blog here and then remembered how much of a wreck I was making this: (Feel free to laugh – I did.)

Now that you, um, know my, um, secret to great, um, ganache… enjoy your ganache! 🙂


hold onto your pants…

Another recall! Good lord. Every time you turn around (slowly?) there’s another recall on our food. I’m gonna put my little faux-journalist hat on and report what’s on the wire today:

The FDA announced that HVP manufactured by Basic Food Flavors has been recalled, and an estimated 10,000 products are affected by this recall (REALLY?!). Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) is a flavor enhancer commonly used in processed foods. <—RIGHT THERE. There’s the kicker. Like I mentioned in my latest examiner.com article, go local and fresh!

HVP is found in snack foods such as potato chips and pretzels. It’s also used in dry mixes for chip dips, gravy, au jus and marinades. HVP is also used in frozen foods (such as taquitos and quesadillas) and in fresh foods such as potato salad and fresh dips. In addition to these items, it is also used in many other grocery products.
The recall was issued due to possible salmonella contamination. Salmonella is one of the most common causes of bacterial food-borne illness in the United States. It can cause fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
(So if diarrhea, which might be bloody, doesn’t turn you off, maybe the nausea will make you think twice about purchasing any of the following products):

The following soup and dip mix products are included in the HVP recall.
Castella Chicken Soup Base
Concord Foods Vegetable Dip Seasoning – Homestyle
De la Casa Spinach Dip
Dean’s – various brands of soup/soup mix & dip/dip mix
Delicioso Spinach Dip
Follow Your Heart Beef Au Jus
Fresh Food Concepts Garden Fresh Spinach & Spinach Dip with Real Yogurt
Great Value Ranch Chip Dip
Healthwise Cream of Mushroom Soup
Homemade Gourmet Tortilla Soup Mix
Johnny’s French Dip Powdered Au Jus
Kroger Onion & Beefy Onion Soup Dip Mix
McCormick French Onion & Vegetable Dip Mix
Mrs. Gerry’s Crab Creole Spread & Old Home/Old Fashioned Spinach Dip
Oak Lake Farms French Onion Chip Dip
Publix Beef Flavored Stew Mix
Reser’s soup and dip mixes
Rojo’s Garden Fresh Spinach Dip
T. Marzetti soup and dip mixes

Bouillon products
Herbox chicken, beef & vegetable bouillon

Dressing and dressing mix products
Follow Your Heart Organic Creamy Ranch Dressing
Reser’s Ranch House Dressing
Trader Joe’s Organic Creamy Ranch Dressing & Dip

Flavoring base and seasoning products
Garden Harvest Special Blend Seasoning
Minor’s Bacon Base
Publix Meatloaf Seasoning

Gravy mix products
McCormick Onion Gravy mix
Publix Mushroom & Au Jus gravy mixes

Sauce and marinade mix products
Durkee Spaghetti & Marinade Mix
French’s Thick Spaghetti Sauce Mix
Weber Grill Creations Italian Herb Marinade Mix

The following is a list of snack and snack mix products that are included in the HVP recall.
CVS Honey Mustard Pretzel Bites
Great Nut Supply Honey Mustard Pretzels & Bar Mix
HK Anderson Honey Mustard Pretzel Bites
Tim’s Cascade Hawaiian style snacks
Herr’s Sea Salt Flavored Kettle Style Potato Chips
National Pretzel Company (various)
President’s Choice Honey Mustard Onion Pretzel Bite snack
Pringles Restaurant Cravers Cheeseburger & Family Faves Taco Night
Quaker Baked Cheddar Snack Mix
Rouses Louisiana’s Best Snack Mix
Safeway brand Honey Mustard Onion Nugget Pretzels
Spec’s Wines & Fine Foods
Sunflower Markets Honey Mustard Nugget Snack Mix

Frozen foods
Casa Solana Shredded Mini Beef Taquitos
E-Z Eats! Beef Taquitos
El Pasado Shredded Beef Mini and Beef Taquitos & Grilled Chicken Quesadillas
Giant Eagle Steak Taquitos
Jose Ole Taquitos
Posada Corn & Shredded Beef Taquitos
Tornados Ranchero Beef & Cheese

Prepared salad products
Reser’s Redskin Potato Salad
Safeway brand Redskin Potato Salad
Walmart brand Redskin Potato Salad

Ready-to-eat meal products
Follow Your Heart Ready-to-Eat Meals

Stuffing products
McCormick Corn Bread Stuffing

Be careful out there in the grocery stores and enjoy your whole foods 🙂

calle ocho

We are the whitest of the whites and had no clue what we were in for when my coworkers invited us to ‘Calle Ocho’ in Miami over the weekend. Apparently, when you Google “What is Calle Ocho?” A Pitbull song comes up as the first hit but digging a little deeper I found out what I didn’t really grasp on Sunday. It’s a ginormous street festival celebrating all things Cuban. Duh. It’s in “Little Havana” (and we ended up eating Puerto Rican food. Go figure).

It was like a Taste of Chicago, celebrating Cuban culture (well, among others who were insistent on representing), except you don’t purchase tickets to trade for food and there’s no fireworks. I don’t think. Tons of people gathered on a 8 block stretch of Calle Ocho and ate, drank and apparently there were performers (pretty sure Pitbull being one) but we didn’t get that far into the throng to even get to check that out. Nor did we see any fun costumes. We pretty much stayed on the outskirts and got our Puerto Rican food and bailed. Quickly. Not that it didn’t feel safe or wasn’t fun… Maybe it was a combination of none of us being Cuban.. or Puerto Rican.. some of us were drunk and it was too much too handle… and then some of us didn’t wear the right shoes (yours truly) so we had blisters forming on our big toe.

So here’s what I caught on film at “one of the biggest street festivals in the world.” Hm. According to about.com anyway.

I’m hitting the gym hard. Harder than I ever have before – even before our wedding! Muscles are sore in my upper body that I never knew I had. I couldn’t even wash my hair in the shower this morning. Pa-the-tic! I’m hoping the class tonight is pilates. Ugh. Please. Hopefully after 8 classes I will still be alive and eating. We’ll see… stay tuned.

enjoy your Cuban meals!

hodge podge

I don’t know why but I love that little phrase. 🙂
I can only find time to blog at work. I attempted to blog at Brandy’s house over the weekend but I got distracted, even after she was showing me some fancy tricks on Photoshop. Which I still remember and tried to mimic today on these here photos: (I need those actions, though, sis) 🙂

Nothing in this world is better than a hot bowl of chili. Especially when its Veggie Chili.. a hearty hodge podge of bright vegetables with a dash of cayenne… ugh.. yum! And you can’t forget the crumbles of sweet cornbread.
I’ve been playing with the settings on my new camera. Can ya tell? 😉

Easy Veggie Chili
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 12 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can corn
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 15 oz. can pinto beans
1 16 oz. can kidney beans
1 green pepper, medium diced
1 small onion, medium dice
1 zucchini squash, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chili powder (I had Mexican on hand)
s+p to taste

Combine all ingredients, except both squash, in a crock pot and set on low for at least 24 hours. Before serving, add zucchini and yellow squash and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve hot with a slice of cornbread.

I made some rustic French toast from leftover French bread. I LOVE French toast – when its crunchy. Soggy bread? No thanks.

We may seem like some real cornbread freaks. It might’ve been true. Shayne asked for it twice – with chili and grilled chicken. Geez louise. He loves this concoction shown above. You may remember my reference to this in an earlier entry. It’s this wonderful, totally indigenous to the Stephenson clan, authentic side dish I have come to love. I can’t sit there and eat a whole bowl or anything but it just tastes… homey? I don’t really know the word… country? I’m at a loss but if you’ve ever had supper with my in-laws out in the backyard – you’d know the word for it. 🙂

Drove up the Turnpike this weekend to go to Orlando and visit the Burridges. Saturday they took us to Disney World to the Wilderness Lodge to go to the Campfire/Movie night shindig. SO COOL. Ugh, have I ever mentioned how much I love Disney World! So, we watched Monsters, Inc. on a very big screen while roasting marshmallows over a fire pit. (Don’t spend too much time looking at my splotchy hands – for some reason they look like this in this photo but not in real life).

Can I be completely honest here, though and admit that marshmallows are another thing I really don’t like. But I like s’mores. Kind of. I don’t like graham crackers either. By themselves. I know.. I can’t believe I even exists sometimes. On that note..

enjoy your meals!


i hate spaghetti

I feel like I’m losing it. The imagination and desire I possessed as a culinary student to produce exciting meals. Do not get me wrong! I still love making things and following recipes and improvising and eating great food but I feel like as worker bee, now, my main objective when making dinner is to just get something yummy on the table in a somewhat quick fashion. Not microwave quick, but as showcased in a way earlier post – making beef burgundy-esque dishes every other night doesn’t really cut it. So I started poking my nose through lots of sharp-imaged, pretty foodie blogs and sites with their simple, modern, clean templates…. It’s so interesting to read about what other people are cooking and with such sophistication! I feel like a numb-nuts. Especially since I am somewhat formally trained. But the point is I don’t feel like I am reaching beyond my potential and honing my skills. First order of business: I need a knife sharpener. I have been dropping BOMBS as far as hints and even put it on our wedding registry last year but I guess people just figured I needed something like a salad bowl instead of a knife sharpener so I can sharpen the $900 knife kit from $40,000/year culinary school I went to. Just sayin’.
Second order of business: Get a new job, one in a kitchen. Pay will likely decrease and sucky hours will increase… but I feel its imperative to my future as a food writer and professional in the culinary arena to make this happen. I have no clue when it will or if anything will happen soon, I just feel like its got to. Somehow. I applied for a job at a country club but that never sprouted anything. It’s hard enough just to find any job, much less the one you really want these days. No excuses – upwards and onwards!
I also have this conscious urge to work in a bakery again! I don’t know what it is, I am in love with pretty pastries.

Dinners haven’t been too grand and lunch has been either 1/2 sandwich or Special K. I am really trying to keep my intestines happy and going light on the bad stuff. And you would not believe this but its true – I haven’t had ANY candy since Ash Wednesday (except, OK, last night I had one Ghiradelli chocolate square – but c’mon… women need their chocolate every so many weeks).

But here is the real monumental thing happening in my food life. I am starting to get Italian food cravings. A little background about yours truly: it’s my least favorite “ethnic” food group. Ever. All that chunky red sauce (heartburn), noodles (bloated), and cheese (lactose intolerant)… ugh.. and I love you mom, but I always hated the spaghetti. Every time. However, I’ve always really enjoyed basil-olive oil combos with fresh tomato. That was the extent of it. So the other day my coworker was chomping on chicken parmesan and it looked so appetizing – I was eating a half of a turkey sandwich on sourdough and a 1/2 cup of mushroom bisque. That night I told Shayne I reeeeally wanted chicken parm. We went to an “italian” restaurant and had some, it was gross. So I’m back at square one with “italian” food. Still hating it.

enjoy your meals…