Friday, July 31, 2015

Wait, What???

August tomorrow!! WTF happened to the summer? In the blink of an eye, woosh, it's over. While I admit to Fall being my favorite time of year, it seems like summer is just getting going for me. We FINALLY have temperatures in the 90's and prime beach weather. Hard to believe, back to school shopping has already started. I swear the older I get the faster the time goes. It's kind of scary. So, one of the reasons this month went by so fast had to do with 1 week vacation followed by 1 week of field work in eastern Kentucky. I have to admit I was dreading that trip to Kentucky but, as it turns out, if was actually pretty nice. Beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife and friendly people. Our hotel was in Wise, VA (birthplace of George C Scott). I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meals we ate in this small town. The first of which was actually in the neighboring town of Norton, VA. The place was Magnolia Kitchen. The cuisine was cajun/creole influenced but also featured some standard American fare. We actually ate here twice and I had some of the BEST fried green tomatoes I have ever experienced. I also tried the beef tips and the jambalaya. All were good. I have to admit I thought the mashed potatoes tasted funny. I can't put my finger on what exactly it was. I seemed like there wasn't any added cream so maybe that threw me off. I ate them all anyway so it's not like they totally sucked, lol. The Jambalaya was great. Only complaint is that the tails were left on the shrimp so I have to fish them out of a pool of hot rice to clean them up before eating. Regardless, all of the food was tasty and the price couldn't be beat.

Magnolia Kitchen Restaurant

Next on our dinner list was a new Mexican place called El Castillo. now, anybody who knows me knows I Love, Love, Love Mexican food and have pretty high standards. Bad Mexican food is SO awful. The place advertized that they made all their salsas and sauces in house so I figured we should give it a try. Right off the bat I was optimistic as the customary chips and salsa were fantastic. The salsa tasted  fresh and homemade. For research purposes (yeah right, lol) I ordered the "Taste of Everything". It came on 2 plates and made me look like a glutton but once I dug in I regretted nothing. It was super! I had a taco, enchilada, chalupa, tamale, a chile relleno, refried beans and rice. It took me 2 days to eat it all but eat it all I did! So good!

 El Castillo Restaurant

Next on out list was Moondog Pizza.  We were there on a Wednesday and I had the $6.50 Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner special. I loved that they offered that on what, to me, is "Prince Spaghetti Day" (ANTHONYYYYY!). The pasta was actually vermicelli and was a tad mushy but the meatballs were definitely homemade as was the sauce. Both were tasty. Not the best plate of spaghetti I have ever had but I have definitely paid more for worse. The place a a very good selection of beers and the service was good. I enjoyed my meal and would visit again if I were in the area again. My coworker ordered pizza and seemed to enjoy it. I didn't try any so I can't comment on it but it looked really good.

Moon Dog Brick Oven

Finally, in what had to be the BEST meal I had in western Virginia came from a roadside shack called "Piggy Went a' Smokin'" operated by Ronnie and Tammy Mullins. We had been driving past it every day on our way to our field sites in Kentucky (HWY 23 or Otby Cantrell Hwy) and made a vow to stop at some point and try it. Turns out we wished we had stopped before out last day because we would have eaten there every night if we had. This is what we saw when we drove by:

When You See this on the Side of the Road, you STOP!

I had the best pulled pork sandwich of my life and a bargain at $6. Smokey, juicey chunks of succulent pork served with a side of what tasted like homemade BBQ sauce. HEAVEN! They had smoked turkey and chicken as well as fried catfish and other things. Seriously, I wanted to order more as soon as I finished my sandwich. I wanted to order 2 pounds of pork and sauce to take home but without a cooloer I didn't want to risk it spoiling and poisoning myself. If I ever go back I WILL be eating here daily and i WILL be bringing stuff home with me it was THAT good.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Happy 4th!

So, this year I wasn't planning on doing anything noteworthy over the long holiday weekend but, true to form, that wasn't how things worked out. At the last minute we were invited to a cook out with some friends and we responded with a hearty, "hell yes!" I had all sorts of things to eat in the works for our stay at home weekend, way too much for the two of us, and now I had folks to share it with, yay! The new item on the list came from a recipe over at Stacy Snacks. It is a dill pesto potato salad with green beans. YUM, right!? It was perfect because I had just gotten a bunch of fresh dill from my CSA. The other bonus for this salad is that it has no mayo or other ingredients that you need to keep cold at a hot summer picnic. It is also super quick and easy to make. Need I say more? My husband liked it better the next day but I actually liked it best right after I made it when the potatoes were still warm but thought it was great the next day as well. The only change I made to the recipe was to switch out the walnuts in the pesto for pine nuts. Walnuts are MUCH cheaper but they are not one of my favorites in the realm of nuts. So, I stuck with the original pesto nut.

Potato & Green Bean Salad w/ Dill Pesto: (adapted from Stacey Snacks who adapted it from Dishing up the Dirt)

1 bag new potatoes (yellow or red)
1-2 Cups fresh green beans, trimmed

For the pesto:

1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small package of pine nuts (lightly toasted)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 Cup (approx) of parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice

In a food processor blend together the dill, garlic, and walnuts. Add in the oil and cheese. Process until desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl and add in the lemon juice. Can be made a day ahead.

For the potatoes and green beans:

Cook a potatoes (skins on) in boiling water for 18-20 minutes, during the last 3 minutes of cooking add green beans (this saves you from washing 2 pots!).

Combine potatoes and beans with pesto and serve. This can be served immediately, while still warm, chilled or at room temperature.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


I should probably post a recipe, huh. I guess I am still wallowing in hockey blues. I have been cooking but nothing super awesome or innovative. Just slapping shit together in a pan, lately it seems. Don't get me wrong, it's all come out tasty but I certainly wouldn't post a picture of it, lol. With the Fourth around the corner I should be all fired up with things to make for family cookouts and the like but this year I don't plan on going anywhere or seeing anyone. I am turning into quite the cynical misanthrope. I do plan to make stuff for me and the hubs but that's about it. I still don't know what. I have tons of leftovers in the fridge to eat but yet still have tons of veggies from the CSA that I need to use up. It's quite a conundrum. I hate wasting food but don't want to make more when I have a bunch already that needs to be eaten. Good thing I have freezer space available. This is the recipe I am envisioning for tonight. It was inspired but something I saw on public TV. I think it was Lidia Bastianich who was making it but I can't remember. The lady seemed older than her but it looked so good that it has stuck with me ever since. I do remember her mixing it all up with butter and parmesan/romano cheese. Can't possibly be bad, right? This is my interpretation of what she did

Sausage with Orecchiette and Rapini (Broccoli rabe)

1.5 lbs quality Italian sausage
1/4 lb prepared broccoli rabe, chopped (yes I cheated and got mine already cooked from an Italian market/deli)
3 TBS butter
2 Tbs olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs chicken base (add to 1 cup of the pasta water)
salt and red pepper to tase
1 lb orecchiette pasta
1 C parmesan/Romano cheese, grated

Prepare pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Remove from heat and drain just before fully cooked. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water before draining.

While pasta is cooking, add oil to a large saute pan and add crumbled Italian sausage. Saute until cooked through. Add broccoli rabe and garlic continue to saute. Add chicken base and pasta water. Add pasta to pan to finish cooking. When liquid is absorbed gently stir in half of the cheese and the butter. Season to taste. Turn on to a platter or into a large bowl to serve and top with remaining cheese.

If you are not a fan of broccoli rabe you could substitute with spinach, chard, any leafy cooking green, really or even straight up broccoli or broccolini

UPDATE: The Italian market near my office had fresh made Italian Sausage with provolone and Broccoli rabe in it t so I made this recipe again but added a little half and half to the pan at the end. OMG it was even better than the first time I made it.