The Roaming Foodie

This is my new buddy

This is my Scottish Terrier, Maddy. She’s 5 years old. I got her at a rescue in North Carolina, and she is the best dog ever. I’m a little obsessed with her.

Anyway, Maddy is also a little bit of a foodie. Her kibble is venison and sweet potato, she won’t eat dog biscuits unless they’re mainly meat, and she gets homemade food. She’s into the bacon food trend, even though she only gets it every once and a while (though she’d love to have it more). She’s definitely a little spoiled.

I’ve been making Maddy’s food, because that’s what her foster mom had been doing, and because Maddy turns her nose up at canned food. I actually don’t mind, because then I know what’s in her food and know there’s no weird fillers or anything. Sometimes I put more effort into her food on a weekday than my own, haha. She regularly gets beef stew or chicken soup. Until I found the Three Dog Bakery cookbook (yes, I’m buying cookbooks for my dog).

Here’s the first recipe I tried. I can’t give much feedback, as I didn’t eat it. But Maddy cleans her bowl every time she has it, so I guess that’s review enough.

Lazy Day Loaf
Adapted from “The Three Dog Bakery” cookbook, and Maddy approved

One pound ground turkey
One cup plain bread crumbs
One egg
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
4 oz lowfat cheddar cheese, cubed

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix ground turkey, bread crumbs, and egg together. Place half of the turkey mixture in a greased loaf pan (or form it on a cookie sheet like I did, since I didn’t have a loaf pan). Layer the spinach on top, and then the cheese. Add the rest of the turkey on top. Cook for one hour to an hour and a half (the recipe said one and a half, but mine was done after an hour).

Makes 8 servings depending on the size of your dog (I’ve been getting four or five servings out of one loaf for Maddy, and she’s about 25 pounds).

So, after Friday evening, I can now say I’ve eaten at two Top Chef restaurants. And not just any Top Chef restaurants….those that are attached to the names Richard Blais and Kevin Gillespie. Both of them made it to the top three of their respective seasons, and after eating at their restaurants, I know exactly why.

Woodfire is expensive, especially since I am on a college student’s budget. But the dinner was a gift from my great-uncle, and definitely quite the treat.

Woodfire is located on Cheshire Bridge Road. Cheshire Bridge is an eclectic mix of sketchy buildings and some really great restaurants. Woodfire is a very unassuming orange building near where Cheshire Bridge intersects Piedmont.

The inside is wonderfully warm, cozy, and inviting. I loved the inside. It wasn’t pretentious, despite the white tablecloths, it just felt very homey. They had some pillows that I fell in love with on all of the booth seating. The restaurant is also a LOT bigger than it looked from the outside.

Everyone inside was very friendly. Our waitress was phenomenal, very nice, prompt, and knowledgeable. The service was really well-timed, and it didn’t take long at all for us to get our drinks and our starters.

Now, Woodfire has a great sounding 5 course tasting menu for $65, with full table participation. Andrew and I opted for drinks, a first course, and a third course so that we wouldn’t go overboard. And I’m glad we did, because everything we ate was amazing and very filling.

For my cocktail (Andrew got a Sweetwater 420), I had something they called the Botanical Garden. It was vodka, lavender syrup, pear liquer, something citrusy (I think, I can’t remember) and club soda. It was incredibly refreshing and delicious, perfect for Spring like evening in the middle of February (I love the South).

We ordered our first and third course, and the chef sent out an amuse bouche. It was beet and microgreens, and something else. Point is, it was the first restaurant I’d been to that served an amuse bouche.

We both ordered the potato and bacon soup for our starter. It was potato and bacon with creme fraiche and crispy potato skins. It was delicious. What I loved was that the potatoes were left in chunks, and not cooked down so much like other potato soups, so the texture was there to cut through the creaminess of the soup. What made it special was the crispy potato skins, but I’m not sure there’s a dish out there that can’t be bettered by crispy potato skins.

I ordered the wood-fire grilled hudson valley duck breast for my entree. It was hands down one of the best dishes I’ve eaten. I generally don’t like duck, but this was so good that my mind may be changed. I had it cooked medium, and the inside of the duck was oh so tender while the outside was perfectly crisped. The wood-fire grill gave it a great smoky flavor as well. The duck was served atop some black-eyed peas flavored with small pieces of sausage. The breast was topped with microgreens, crispy duck cracklings, and a citrus dressing. Everything worked so well together on the plate to create a dish that I might just obsess about a little.

Andrew got a wood-grilled beef striploin. I can’t say anything about it. Sorry, I was way too focused on my duck dish to even remember that he was eating. I might get him to describe it to me. I’ll see if he’ll write about it. And he just described it to me:

“It was some sort of beef with some sort of mint salsa verde, and a creamy sauce. And some vegetables. And it was good. Be sure to put that on there.”

He’s pretty awesome :)

All in all, Woodfire Grill was one of the best (if not the best) meal I’ve had in Atlanta. Kevin Gillespie is a fantastic chef, and definitely a top chef. His menu is brilliant and inspired. I love that he changes it based on what’s in season, only it makes me wish I could afford to return more times. But I’ll definitely be back as soon as I can.

Woodfire Grill on Urbanspoon

This is not in the interest of those following New Year’s resolutions to diet and such, and I myself am trying to eat better as well, but these are just too good and too simple to NOT write about.  I came about this recipe after watching Nigella Lawson on Cooking Channel while I was at home for the holidays.  While I can’t eat sweets (or really eat at all) like I used to, I seem to always be able to find room for these little ramekins of heaven. I used to love making molten chocolate cakes, but they always seemed to take forever, and getting them out of the ramekins always turned into a big blob of melted chocolate, not the neat little cake that stands on a plate until someone pierces it with a spoon and turns it into a volcano of melted gooey chocolate.  That was what I loved about those recipes…it took this unassuming little cake and made eating it into something more. This recipe takes all that I didn’t like about molten chocolate cakes and throws it out the window. There’s no unmolding. No flouring after buttering the ramekin (something that I detest, despite how much I love baking). Just enjoyment of the lush molten chocolate, perfect for indulging.

Chocolate Hot Pots
Makes 4

by the way, Nigella calls them “chocohotopots”. Her recipe is here, but I’ve changed it just a bit:
http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/chocohotopots-recipe/index.html

1 stick of butter, plus enough (about a tablespoon) for greasing
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter the ramekins with the tablespoon of butter.

Melt the chocolate and butter together, either in a bowl that’s set on top of a small pan of simmering water (aka a double boiler) or in the microwave, until it is completely melted and silky. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl. Beat in 3 tablespoons of flour. Stir in the melted chocolate. Pour into the four ramekins. Bake immediately, or you can also put any that you don’t want to bake immediately in the fridge, and bake them when you please.

Bake for 20 minutes. They’ll be cracked and done looking on top.

These are very hot when they come out of the oven. Place the ramekin on a plate, and serve with a spoon. Warn everyone that they’ll be hot, though.

First, let me just get this out of the way. Gnocchi is such a fun word to say. Just say it a few times. Do you need another reason to make gnocchi other than just to have a reason to repeatedly say gnocchi?

If you do need another reason, then the fact that ricotta gnocchi is quick, easy, and delicious should cover it.

I first saw ricotta gnocchi being made by Anne Burrell one of those days I was visiting home and was getting my fill of the Food Network/Cooking Channel. I don’t get those channels at school, so I watch them as much as I can when I’m home. But I digress. Anne made ricotta spinach gnocchi with a quick tomato sauce. It looked wonderful, and easier to make than potato gnocchi, and tastier than potato gnocchi, since I’m not a huge fan of potatoes.  This was a few months ago when I saw her make these, and I never got around to making them, even though the thought was always at the back of my mind.

Last night, I was in a mood to cook.  I have  a brand new chef’s knife (a Wusthof, and it’s freaking awesome) and so I’m looking for excuses to chop things.  This was the night I decided to try my hand at ricotta gnocchi. Most of the recipes I looked at either took some time to make, or you had to wait for the ricotta to drain.  I wanted something quick. So I adapted it myself. And it actually turned out pretty good. I served the gnocchi with a red pepper (one might not can tell from the blog, but I am OBSESSED with red bell peppers), onion, and tomato sauce. I think you can serve it anyway you want thought: tomato sauce, pesto, and I even saw a few recipes that served it with a brown butter sage sauce. Yum.

Ricotta Gnocchi
adapted from several recipes, but mainly this one:
http://www.deliciousdays.com/archives/2009/05/19/15-minutes-to-fame-gnocchi-for-beginners-and-braggarts/

One container of ricotta cheese (the one I used was 15 ounces)
1/4 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
about 1 tsp salt
About 1/2 cup flour

Bring a pot of water to a boil.

Drain off some of the liquid from the ricotta, mainly just the stuff sitting at the top.  Stir together the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, and salt.  Add the flour little by little, until the mixture starts to come together and look a little firmer. It will be quite a sticky dough.

If you’re making the sauce, start now. The gnocchi will start to get sticky if you wait until after you’ve rolled them and cut them (but it’s not the end of the world if you forget)
Flour a board really well. You’ll need to add more flour as you go probably.  Take a spoonful of ricotta, roll it in the flour on the board until it’s coated pretty well, then roll it out to about a 1/2 inch thick log. The flour will make it keep it’s shape. Cut it into about 1/2 inch long pieces, or however long you’d like. Repeat with remaining dough.
Add a palmful of salt to the boiling water and put a few of the gnocchi in. Don’t put too many in, or they’ll stick together. Stir the gnocchi a few times so they don’t stick to the bottom. The gnocchi is done when they float to the top. Use a skimmer, spider, or slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi.

Toss the gnocchi VERY GENTLY with whatever sauce you are using.

Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce

2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
1/4 cup of marinara sauce
salt
pepper
a few basil leaves, chopped

Saute the red bell peppers and the onion in olive oil until they are soft. Add just enough marinara sauce to get the peppers and onions wet, about 1/4 of a cup.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then throw the fresh basil into it.

So, here’s a story of how boyfriends can influence your cooking.

The other day while over at Andrew’s, I was in a terrible mood for no reason, and decided to bake in order to lift my spirits.

I had made Andrew blondies before, and he really liked them. I also had chocolate chips left over from brownie making that I wanted to use, so I settled on making chocolate chip blondies.

Andrew was helping me make them to keep me company, and as he was looking at all the things the recipe suggests you can add into blondies, and said, “You can put bourbon in these???”

Sigh. Andrew really enjoys whiskey. Kentucky whiskey (or bourbon, or whatever you call it. There’s a million types of whiskey, and I’m quite positive I wouldn’t like any of them).

The thought of bourbon makes me squirm (and yes, I know it tastes really good baked INTO things, just not by itself, and frankly, the raw smell of it gets to me), but he seemed so excited by the prospect of putting bourbon into this that I agreed.

And that is how my boyfriend convinced me turn these into bourbon chocolate chip blondies.

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Blondies

adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s website: http://smittenkitchen.com/2006/11/blondies-for-a-blondie/

By the way, I baked these in an 8×8 pan, and they turned out rather thin (though rich, so it worked out well), but if you want thicker blondies, doubling the recipe may work.

8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch salt
1 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
1/2 to 1 cup of chocolate chips

  1. Butter an 8×8 pan
  2. Mix melted butter with brown sugar – beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.
  3. Add salt, stir in flour. Add in the bourbon and the chocolate chips, and incorporate.
  4. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle.  Cool on rack before cutting them.

So, I have a confession to make.

I’ve never made brownies from scratch before.

I always used the box kind, because, well, they’re easy and always come out fudgy and gooey. Always.

This all changed yesterday. I was in the mood to bake, perhaps because the last two weeks have been stressful, but whatever it was, I needed to cream some butter and sugar and sift some flour and just make something sweet and delicious. There was no way that I could have a good day unless I baked.

I was thinking about making my grandmother’s coconut cake, until I came across Cakespy’s blog (which you can find here:  http://www.cakespy.com/ )

As soon as I saw the post on Fat Witch Brownies, I knew that brownies would be what I made. So Andrew (who was completely up for brownies as long as they were JUST brownies, no frosting or fillings or extra stuff) and I went to pick up supplies for brownie making. As soon as we got home, I started my baking therapy.

Maybe I’m weird, but there’s nothing quite as soothing as standing over a stove, slowly melting bittersweet chocolate and butter until it becomes a beautiful, smooth, and glistening liquid.  Creaming eggs and sugar by hand makes me feel like even if I’m not in control over anything else in my life, I can control these brownies. And adding the chocolate mixture and the sifted flour and stirring until everything just comes together, well, I feel like I accomplished something, even if I failed my test or whatever, at least I can make a batch of brownies.  Baking/cooking is the best form of therapy for me, and I am perfectly fine with that.

Fat Witch Brownies (from the Fat Witch Bakery in NYC)

(I found the recipe here:  http://www.cakespy.com/blog/2010/9/24/lifes-a-witch-fat-witch-brownies-cookbook-and-a-recipe.html but it’s from Fat Witch Bakery’s cookbook:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1605295744?ie=UTF8&tag=cakespycom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1605295744)

By the way, if anyone can tell me how to make a link that is just a word, that’d be great. I tried it, but it didn’t work, which is why there are so many links in my articles.

Ingredients

  • 14 Tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ubleached flour
  • pinch of salt

Procedure

  1. Grease a 9-inch baking pan with butter. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool while you prepare the next step.
  3. Cream the sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and mix until well blended.
  4. Measure the flour and salt and then sift together directly into the chocolate mixture. Mix the batter gently until well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remains.
  5. If you wanna, stir in nuts or any extras at this point.
  6. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan and bake 33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with crumbs but not batter.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool on rack for 1 hour. Cut just before serving. Makes 12-16 brownies (or 9, if you cut them like I do)

Sorry for the lack of posting. Senior year has started, and it’s been pretty hectic so far.

Thursday night, the night before my first Chemistry test, I was struck by the mood to cook dinner and de-stress a bit, since I was freaking out about the test. I couldn’t put too much time into cooking though…I needed to put most of my time into studying. So I decided the best compromise between my desire to cook and studying would be to go to Trader Joe’s, pick up some ready made fresh ravioli,  a jar of pesto, and a red pepper and throw them all together. Not exactly cooking (hate to break it to you, Sandra Lee) but it satisfied and relaxed me all the same. Oh, and it satisfied mine and Andrew’s stomachs. :)

By the way, I love Trader Joe’s. They have great things there. Just don’t go when you’re hungry, or else you’ll end up buying these chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels (chocolate+peanut butter+pretzels are like crack to me) and there’s just no way to turn that into a good situation.

Ravioli with Chicken, Red Pepper, and Pesto

2 packages ravioli (I mixed spinach and ricotta and artichoke)
1 jar pesto
1 red bell pepper, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper
1/2 a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store (1/2 because we already had that left over. You could use a whole one and just add more pesto. Or you could use half and save the rest. Or you could get chicken breast and cook it)

Bring a pot of water to a boil.

Heat the olive oil over medium high in a large pan. Add the chopped bell pepper, a dash of salt and a dash of pepper and cook until the pepper is soft. Cube or shred or chop the rotisserie chicken and add it to the peppers to heat through.

When the water is boiling, add a palmful of salt (about a tablespoon) and cook the ravioli according to package directions. Drain, and add to the chicken and peppers. Add the jar of pesto and toss to coat.

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