Archive for the tag “veggies”

Bites in Baltimore! Who am I kidding? BINGING in Baltimore! #PSTC

I flew out to Baltimore last week to attend my third PSTC (Pressure Sensitive Tape Council) conference.  It’s not a large conference, but a very focused industry event.

I found myself getting to know new colleagues from a sister company, spending lots of quality time with key customers, and bonding with newer colleagues from my own company.  In all, it was a great week (and I normally loathe being away for almost a week – especially while having a senior dog (and having recently said goodbye to my other senior dog)).

On my first evening in Baltimore, I met two new colleagues from Arkema Coating Resins for dinner.  I immediately knew Pat (the planner of the evening) and I would get along.  He promised me “a good restaurant”!  😉  Keith, a technical guy and I also hit it off quite quickly – lots of common interests! It’s awesome to feel such a natural connection with guys I had never met, and who live in NJ and NC, respectively.  Yet, we are now “family”!

We met at the cocktail hour reception at PSTC (quite literally one hour, folks…so we weren’t staying long). We walked several blocks over to Kona Grill and immediately realized we were in a good spot for a seafood dinner!  Here is the menu.

We were hungry, so we knew we wanted appetizers.  Pat chose the Shrimp Diablo (diablo sauce, danish bleu, bleu cheese sauce), and then Keith turned the second option over to Robbie, our server.  He chose the chicken + shrimp lettuce wraps (bibb lettuce, cucumber salad, spicy sesame vinaigrette).  Both appetizers were delicious, and we devoured every last bite!  IMG_2049IMG_2050

 

Robbie charmed me immediately with his great sense of humor (stepping back to “reset” as he flubbed when describing the evening’s special (which Pat ordered)).  I can definitely appreciate someone who can laugh at himself and who can also recover so nicely after a minor “trip up”.

It didn’t hurt that Robbie brought me a glass of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay to compliment the appetizers and entree as well! 🙂

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The entree he chose for me was the Snapper topped with crab meat, served with couscous and asparagus. Normally, couscous doesn’t seem like an interesting side, but Kona’s couscous had really good flavor and texture to it! Delicious!

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And, my colleagues had equally delicious, and beautifully plated dishes as well!

In addition to having a very pleasant server who was quite open-minded and excited about “She Ordered What?”, I had good quality time to get to know my new colleagues and to chat about both business and personal interests.

On Wednesday, we decided to have a casual evening and walk over to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to watch the O’s take on the Toronto Blue Jays.  I had never been to Camden Yards, so I was excited to check that ballpark off the bucket list of venues to visit!  If you haven’t been, you’ll see that it’s beautifully situated in the heart of the city and the brickwork makes it an absolutely beautiful area!

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The view from my hotel room! Thank you, Hilton Baltimore!

Of course, it was a hot dog and beer kind of night. No fancy dining while watching America’s pastime!  And, the Orioles won 6-1 that evening, so it made the local experience all the better!

Thursday, however, was a different story.  I was totally set on going to my hotel room for the evening to write meeting notes, but my colleagues convinced me to venture out for dinner at a restaurant an industry contact recommended – The Fork & Wrench.  It’s perfectly described as a “boutique dive bar”, and founded by Cyrus Keefer, (associated with that well-known James Beard foundation!).

The Fork & Wrench is an eclectic and charming space!

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The staff all greeted us warmly, and at ~6:30 on a Thursday night, we were able to grab a table for four with no problem.  Well, except the fact that we were all still reeling from one of the worst cab rides I’ve ever experienced.  To the driver of cab number 90 in Baltimore: I will NEVER get into your vehicle again! It was so bad I took a picture AND tweeted about this dangerous ride!

I have a strong stomach, but all four of us wanted to bail multiple times during this 2 mile / 35 minute cab ride!!!

I have a strong stomach, but all four of us wanted to bail multiple times during this 2 mile / 35 minute cab ride!!!

A quick glance at the menu, and I knew everything would be wonderful.  My colleague was really trying hard to “move out of her comfort zone”, so she was quite impressed when she saw me hand my blog card to our server, Greg.  He read it, and was totally up for the task!  The only question he asked me was how hungry I was.  Answer: pretty darned hungry!

The meal started with fresh bread and salted butter (delicious!).

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Then came fried oysters, served with a glass of Simonnet Febvre Brut Rosé .

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For good measure, I took a picture of all of the appetizers on our table.

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You’ll see smoked Beef Tongue with tostones, aji marmalade & cilantro crema on the right, and Ssamjang Glazed Pork Belly with green papaya relish, kimchi purée & Bibb lettuce on the left (the colleague who stepped out of her comfort zone – and thoroughly enjoyed her appetizer!).

I teased Greg that he gave me a clue about my entrée when he set down a serrated knife.

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For my entree, Greg was not the person to serve me, so I wasn’t sure if I should claim the dish that was presented or not!  After all, this was a surprise!

When I mentioned that it “might” be my dinner, the server sat the plate down and then excitedly told me that everyone in the kitchen saw the blog card and thought it was such a cool idea!  I have to admit that I got pretty excited by that response as well!

It turns out that I was served the Leg of Lamb served over stewed white beans, baby carrots & wild ramp salsa verde. Extremely tender meat and really nice flavor! I felt like it was a reasonably healthy dish as well – lots of veggies and no heavy cream sauce. That makes up for all of the gorging, right?

I couldn’t possibly finish it all, but I wanted to!  And, it turns out that I didn’t need that serrated knife – the meat was that tender!

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Although I was overly full, Greg had already decided that I needed to try dessert as well.  I mentioned on Instagram that I (jokingly) thought I found my soulmate in Greg.  He picked the dessert that had immediately caught my eye.  The “Creamsicle” Gooey Butter Cake with blood orange curd, orange sherbet.  Y’all know how much I love a citrus dessert!

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But, let me tell you that the butter cake was the absolute BOMB.  I wasn’t hungry any longer, but I would have licked that plate clean if it were socially acceptable!

On the way out, I stopped in the Ladies’ room, and I even felt compelled to take photos there. Such a charming space!

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It’s no wonder Baltimore is called “Charm City”.  Everyone I met was very pleasant, our servers Robbie and Greg were both charming men, and the spaces and places we visited had unique charm and character.

Now, time to get back to healthy eating and exercise!  No more binging!

I hope you enjoyed my recap of my visit to Baltimore as much as I enjoyed the visit!

Cheers!

Ker

She Cooked What?!?

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to take time to visit with my most dear friends from Clemson.  Beth and I met while working in the on-campus restaurant Seasons by the Lake.  We bonded over a pitcher of Killian’s one night after working a shift together.  The rest, as they say, is history!

I was honored to be asked to serve as Beth’s maid of honor when she wed Jason in Charleston, SC. Beth and Jason have been together since they were sixteen! Therefore, Jason was a part of the package for me (and a fantastic part!), as I was for him.  They are two extraordinarily lovely people, and they continue to be one of the strongest couples I know.

They lived in Manhattan after college for ~12 years before moving to a gorgeous home in Sparta, NJ.  That’s where I went to spend a week visiting with them.

Looking back, my most vivid memory from their wedding was of me constantly chasing them around and shoving a bite of food into their mouths at each brief opportunity between the obligatory conversations with every guest who participated in the celebration!  It was my duty to help them enjoy everyone’s company, but also to ensure they enjoyed the food!

Beth was beautiful, as always. And, Jason, is a good-looking man - whether dressed up or casual.  And, I forgot how good-looking my boyfriend at the time was (back right).  He's happily married and I will always wish him and his family the best!

Beth was beautiful, as always. And, Jason, is a good-looking man – whether dressed up or casual. And, I forgot how good-looking my boyfriend at the time was (back right). He’s happily married and I will always wish him and his family the best!

Last week was a bit more of the same – keep Beth focused on doing what she needed to do (rest), and help life continue as normally as possible for her and Jason.

As always, Beth and Jason were gracious and welcoming hosts.

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Beth had surgery a few days before I arrived, and she was ordered to take things easy, rest, and not exert herself.  That’s where Jason and I came in.  We took over the household duties – including cleaning, shopping, cooking, etc.

Now, Beth and Jason are both accomplished cooks, so preparing meals for them was a bit daunting!  However, I knew that I had the old adage going for me…food tastes best when someone else cooks!

Some of my friends will recognize these recipes, and I promise it’s not that I have such a limited repertoire!  It’s really that a few of the meals I prepared have been “crowd pleasers” in the past. People often ask me for the recipes.  So…I thought I’d take a slightly different tact on this post and share the recipes of some of the food I cooked while visiting with Beth and Jason.

On Monday, when I arrived, Jason prepared grilled chicken for us.  He introduced me to his Big Green Egg  (my friend Bryan also uses the BGE to make masterful creations!), which I ended up using later in the week as well.

Breakfasts and lunches were fairly easy and nondescript, so I’ll focus on what we had for dinners.  Although, I would be remiss not to mention the Banana Bread recipe (please note that this does not take 2 hours to prepare – maybe 20 minutes!) and the Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake recipe.

Banana Bread (Food Network recipe)

Banana Bread (Food Network recipe)

Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake

Here’s the recipe for the coffee cake: (it’s from a Holiday Baking magazine purchased at The Home Depot last year)

Here you go:
For the caramel topping:
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 c chopped toasted pecans

For the streusel:
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/3 c all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

For the cake: (taste the batter when you’re done!!)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 c low-fat vanilla yogurt
2 eggs
1 (8 Tbsp)stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9″ round cake pan w/ non-stick spray

Stir together 3/4 c brown sugar, cream, and salt for caramel topping. Pour caramel into prepared pan and spread to cover pan. Sprinkle pecans over caramel.

Process ingredients for streusel in food processor until sandy, w/ no clumps. Set aside.

Whisk together dry ingredients for cake and set aside.

Whisk together buttermilk, yogurt and eggs in a measuring cup (w/ pour spout) and set aside.

Using a mixer, cream together softened stick of butter and sugar until combined. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Blend only enough to incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter.

Spread half of the batter over the caramel in the cake pan. Then, sprinkle with half the streusel. Repeat one more time with remaining batter and streusel.

Bake coffee cake until the center comes out clean – 50-60 min. Cool on rack for 5 min, then loosen and invert onto serving plate (while hot). Slightly cool before serving.

On Tuesday, I threw together one of my favorite snacks.  It’s a recipe I saw on “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”, and have made several times since.  It’s an easy dish to bring to a summer party.

Y'all need to try this simple snack recipe - it's so YUMMY!

Y’all need to try this simple snack recipe – it’s so YUMMY!

2-3 Golden delicious apples, sliced

Lemon juice

Dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

~6 basil leaves, finely chopped

Mix lemon juice and Dijon until emulsified.  I usually use 3-4 Tbs lemon juice and ~2-3 Tbs of Dijon, but I doctor it until the taste is a nice blend of the two.  Add apple slices to liquid.  Add salt and pepper (I usually just do a quickly once around with the grinders).  Toss apples and continue to doctor the flavors to taste.  Add basil and toss again.  Serve immediately.  Keep in a Tupperware container for munching later in the week.

That evening, I made grilled Cod with mango salsa, grilled asparagus and grilled lime-pepper corn (a recipe from some friends from Corning, Inc.).  I actually made this meal again this week for my family and friend so I could get a picture.

Tuesday night

Tuesday night

The cod is simply marinated in lemon juice with salt and pepper.  I let it sit out at room temperature for 3o minutes prior to grilling for ~10 minutes (until flaky).

Grilled corn before being sauteed.

Grilled corn before being sautéed.

The corn is set directly on the grill (no husks) to give it a slight char and then I take it inside to slice the kernels off into a saucepan with a couple of pats of butter.  I then add a tablespoon (or so) of lime juice, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.  And, the asparagus was drizzled with olive oil, and salt and pepper, and then grilled for 3-4 minutes.

On Wednesday, Beth marinated the leftover (uncooked) Cod, and baked it in parchment paper.  We had leftover salsa to add to it.  We also had the apples and green beans.  It was an easy meal – but it was also after I made the banana bread and the coffee cake, so the break was a welcome one!

Thursday, I ran to Kroger (I had secured “my parking spot” at this point – lots of runs to the grocery store!) to pick up some Sockeye Salmon. Beth was going to brine it and Jason would cook it on a honey coated Cedar plank.

For dinner that evening, I made a variation of a recipe my friends and family always love.  Usually, I make it with a full pork tenderloin, but this time I used the pork chops Beth and Jason had on hand.  We also grilled up some leftover cornbread that Beth had made Monday.

Grilled Garlic Lime Pork with Onion Jalapeno Marmalade

Grilled Garlic Lime Pork with Onion Jalapeno Marmalade

Here is the standard recipe: (note: I generally try to make the marmalade a day in advance in order to let it “heat up”)

Grilled Garlic Lime Pork Tenderloin w/ Onion Jalapeno Marmalade (from a Vera Bradley cookbook)
 
The pork:
6 lg cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs fresh grated ginger root
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 c lime juice
1/2 c olive oil
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and black pepper, to taste
4 (3/4 lb) pork tenderloins
onion marmalade (recipe below)
 
Process first eight ingredients in food processor or blender. Place pork in large Zip Loc bag and pour marinade over pork. Marinate in fridge for a day or longer, turning occasionally.
 
Let pork stand at room temp for 30 min before grilling. Drain marinade.  Place pork on oiled grill and cook 5 min per side (20 min total).  Let stand on cutting board 5 min before slicing.  Serve with onion marmalade.
 
Onion Marmalade:
1 large red onion, sliced into rings
3 Tbs olive oil
salt and black pepper, to taste
2 fresh jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced
2 Tbs honey or sugar
4 Tbs red wine vinegar
1/4 c water
 
Saute onions in the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until softened.  Season w/ salt and pepper.  Add the chiles and saute for a minute.  Add honey and cook for a minute.  Add the vinegar and simmer until almost all of the liquid had evaporated, stirring constantly.  Add the water and simmer ~10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly.  
This can be prepared ahead of time – the longer it sits, the spicier it gets! If refrigerated, reheat prior to serving with the pork.

Here is the proof that I used the Big Green Egg!

Pork chops on the grill.

Pork chops on the grill.

On Friday, Beth asked if I would make another loaf of banana bread so they could freeze it for later.  I gladly obliged.  And, friends…I’m serious that the recipe I linked to above is a really good basic banana bread recipe. Yum!

As mentioned previously, we were set to have salmon for dinner.  Salmon is generally my least favorite fish, but this tasted more like a steak than fish.  It was not the slightest bit “fishy”! Very tasty.

Beth’s brine consisted of water, coarse sea salt, soy sauce and brown sugar.  She placed the skinned salmon in a TupperWare container.  She covered the fish with ice and added the brine.  The fish was refrigerated overnight (1 hour would be the minimum recommendation).

Then, the fish was placed on a soaked Cedar plank, coated with honey.

Brined Salmon on a Cedar plank.

Brined Salmon on a Cedar plank.

Jason grilled it up, using some additional smoking chips as well.

Since Beth was feeling a little bit better, she decided to make a side dish of Quinoa and Grits.  It was a delicious side, flavored with Pepper Jack cheese , giving it a slightly spicy kick to it.

Salmon, salad, and cheesy quinoa/grits.

Salmon, salad, and cheesy quinoa/grits.

All in all, we had a wonderful, relaxing week together.  I got some severely overdue QT with my dear friend.

Beth and me (in our "uniforms" for the week)

Beth and me (in our “uniforms” for the week)

I also got to meet their new “kid”, Buddy.  He has a very different personality than their beloved Toes Kitty, but I think I ultimately won him over!

Buddy.  He's a beautiful cat.

Buddy. He’s a beautiful cat.

We should all be lucky enough to spend a week with our best friends!  I’m so fortunate that I was able to jet over to NJ for a while and see Beth, Jason and Buddy!

And, readers… If you happen to try any of these dishes, please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear what you think about the meals.

Cheers!

Ker

Sto mangiando da solo – DiParma Italian Table, Seekonk, MA

I had a brief business trip to Providence, RI recently.  I was traveling solo, and therefore, was dining alone (Sto mangiando da solo, according to the Internet, which we all know is NEVER wrong!)  as well.  Being that it was 6:30PM on a Sunday evening, I decided to take the recommendation of the hotel clerk and walk a short distance over to the local Italian Table, DiParma’s. photo (25) It really was only a 5 minute walk or so – not a big deal as I walked over there, but on the way home, in the dark, I was questioning my own decision.  Especially as I passed three squad cars – lights flashing – as they surrounded the gas station situated between me and the hotel in which I was staying.  I decided to look at it as though I had at least six cops in striking distance should something happen (glass half full!).  Luckily, nothing did happen, and  I arrived back safely to my hotel in time to gather my thoughts for the following day.  I didn’t, however, stop to take a picture, for fear that I might catch the actual moment that guns came out a blazing! (Dad, you didn’t read that part!)

Now, back to the dinner… I don’t mind eating by myself, but sometimes other patrons or the wait staff appear to be a bit uncomfortable when there is just one person at a nearby table.  I caught a stare or two from a couple sitting near me, but the server who attended to me was quite pleasant and gave me just enough attention without appearing to rush me, and without ignoring me.

When he initially approached me, he asked what I’d like to drink.  I simply smiled at him and handed him my trusty little card, while letting him know that I would like him to choose my meal and a glass of wine to compliment it – along with a glass of water.  He quickly returned with a glass of red wine (no explanation) and a glass of water.  He also never introduced himself, but I overheard him speaking with other tables, so I knew his name was Nick (and ultimately, my receipt confirmed that).

Nick then delivered some fresh bread, which was tasty enough, and said he’d be back with my salad shortly. photo (23) The salad, my friends, was delicious!  The Italian dressing had great consistency and flavor, and really made the salad for me.  It was a huge bowl, and I didn’t come close to  finishing it, but I did have a couple of servings! photo (24) When Nick had confirmed that I was done with the salad (I usually use the sign I was taught while serving tables to indicate that I’m finished, but I’m not certain it’s really a US standard practice.), he indicated to me that he would bring my entrée out momentarily. And, when he did place the plate in front of me, he started to walk away without letting me know what I had been served – until I stopped him to ask what I would be eating. photo (26) He clearly  felt bad about his oversight, and then quickly gathered his composure.  He told me that he had ordered me the marinated Steak Tips, prepared medium well.  Medium well?  What is it about my blog card that makes people read “MW” instead of “MR”? photo (27) Somewhat skeptically, I asked Nick if the Steak Tips are normally prepared medium-well, and he said that they were.  I’m not sure I believed him, because the Steak Tips, which tasted as though they were marinated in the Italian dressing, were really delicious!  And…they were prepared more MR-M than MW.  They were tender, flavorful, and a great portion size (though I didn’t finish everything). The smashed potatoes were fine, but  the green beans were fresh, crispy – prepared just the way I like them. I left quite a bit of the potatoes on my plate (too much!).

Although I was expecting a more “Italian” dish, I was pleasantly surprised by Nick’s choice.  And, he did not turn toward the most expensive items on the menu – this one being $15.99 for the entrée.  I think I threw him off a bit with my unorthodox order, but even without properly introducing himself and forgetting to tell me that he had served me a “5 River” Pinot Noir and the Steak Tips, Nick did a nice job of providing me a delicious dinner and enough attention to make me feel welcome, but not overwhelmed.

I’m excited (and hopeful that I’ll have opportunities) to visit downtown Providence again (it’s been several years since I’ve spent time there) to check out the really terrific culinary adventures the city has to offer.

So, friends, I wonder… do you ever dine alone?  Is it fun for you? Do you find it to be ntimidating?  Please leave your comments!

Cheers!

Ker

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