February 20, 2011

Go Fish

Last night I had the pleasure of hitting up a Whole Foods on an accidental shopping trip out in the suburbs. While I realize the prices are somewhat outrageous, this store has so many little gems that anytime I see one I can't pass up the opportunity to do a little shopping. 

Like most grocery stores the entrance is located next to the produce aisle. In most stores the produce section is one of my favorite things, so wandering around was obviously on my to do list. Smack dab in the middle of dark green avocado, fresh strawberries, and bright orange carrots was a counter with two attendants and a couple of huge ass fish. These giant fish were apparently Mahi Mahi. While I've seen plenty of fresh fish these were by far the largest I've seen in a market. Here is where I find it necessary to share the fact that I don't really like fish. It's one of the few foods I really don't find myself enjoying. Of course, if it has a shell, I'm in. (Who can resist lobster, shrimp, and crab?) I'm also a huge fan of sushi! It's just that plain old, run of the mill fish (even fried) just doesn't really appeal to me. 

Whole Foods with their display of these large and even beautiful dead fish, managed to coax me out of my box once again, so I picked up a pound. Rumor has it fish is healthy and should fit perfectly into this "diet" I'm working on.  I also found some spicy mango and coconut marinade that I think will compliment it perfectly. 

Eating and cooking are both about experimentation and trying new things. I'm not sure how I'm going to cook this Mahi Mahi, or how it's going to taste, but the point is, I'm stepping outside of my comfort zone to try something new, and you should as well! 

February 17, 2011

Memories of Helmet Nachos and Pork Chops

Sometime between New Year’s Eve and Opening Day I get overwhelmed by winter. The dark days, dirty snow, and cold air are enough to make me more than a little stir crazy. Today Chicago is lucky enough to have a “heat wave” of 60 degrees. Once I saw this, of course, I decided it was appropriate to sport my Cubs shirt to work and play a continuous loop of Country music on my Pandora. 
Today was one of those days… if I turned my radio up loud enough and squeezed my eyes just tight enough I could smell, feel, and taste summer. With Billy Currington crooning, “I’m pretty good at drinkin’ beer,” in the background I could almost taste a Chicago-style hot dog at the ball park or smell a charcoal grill preparing for some steak that has been marinating for hours.  I  could distinctly remember the feeling of a hard day’s work planting and tending to “Bruce.” In the summer every omelet on Saturday mornings had an array of just plucked veggies and ice cold beer was a staple with any array of grilled meals during the work-week. 
I have appreciation for each season. I am lucky enough to experience them in full every year but it’s the touch of warmth on days like today where I am reminded why summer has been, and always will be, my favorite.

February 16, 2011

Fake Fancy Pants

As many of you may have figured out from my last post, I love cheese. (No shit, Sherlock.)  Obviously to those who know me this is no grand revelation. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this that no matter how much of a “diet” I may be on, I simply refuse to give up indulging in certain things. This list includes but is not limited to good cheese, wine, beer, and red meat. (I sound like such a healthy dieter, I know.) I don’t understand those who deprive themselves all day, every day. Victoria Beckham with her salads and plain white fish morning, noon, and night will never cease to appall me. I firmly believe that indulgence  is part of what makes the life we have grand, even if it has to be in moderation, (at least for now.)

Below is a Fig and Blue Cheese-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin recipe that sounds much more elegant and complicated than it actually is, (and of course it includes blue cheese for those of us who need a little indulgence now and again.)

 What you’ll need:

  • 1 (1 lb) pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled good quality blue cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. apple jelly, melted
  • Cooking spray
  • Butcher’s twine
  • Foil


  1.  Preheat oven to 450. 
  2. Slice the pork in half lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, the other side.
  3. Open the halves, laying pork flat.
  4. Place pork between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2 inch thickness using a mallet or small, heavy skillet.
  5. Sprinkle figs and blue cheese over pork, leaving a 1/2 inch margin around outside edges.
  6. Roll up pork, jelly-roll fashion, starting with long side.
  7. Secure pork at 2-inch intervals with twine.
  8. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper.
  9. Place pork on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray.
  10. Bake pork at 450 for 20 minutes.
  11. Brush melted jelly over pork.
  12. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until thermometer registers 160, (meat will be slightly pink.)
  13. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  14. Discard twine and cut pork into 12 - 1 inch thick slices.

Tips, Tricks, and Mishaps:

I realize there appear to be a lot of steps to this meal. Rest assured it’s much easier than the number of instructions may lead you to believe.  

  • If your “stuffing” falls out, stuff it back in. Try to refrain from leaving blue cheese crumbles and figs all over your baking pan. Figs contain sugar which tends to burn much faster than meat – cheese has a tendency to do the same.
  • I turned my tenderloin halfway through the cooking process so that both sides looked the same. (Clearly as a photograzer I feel the need for food to be aesthetically pleasing.)
  • If you are worried about a, “jelly-roll” style when rolling your pork, I suggest consulting this clip to ease your mind. There is no need to watch the entire video, just get yourself through the rolling and you should be all set. 

Don’t be afraid to try new things when cooking. Tonight I’m replacing the figs with pitted, dried dates (which are killer delicious with blue cheese.)  With just 270 calories for 3 slices of this fancy pants pork it’s defiantly worth giving the 14 steps a shot.

February 9, 2011

Damn That's Gouda

There is something about the creamy deliciousness of smoked Gouda cheese which literally makes my mouth water and quite possibly gives me goose-bumps. The smokey essence in combination with a buttery texture gives it an almost indescribable richness. Of course I realize that sounds ridiculous, but it's true. Pair it with a good beer, ripe fruit, or add it to any panini and I promise you won't be disappointed. (And if you are, well, you're a jerk.) Unfortunately, now that I'm a sometimes food-blogger on a diet, (more on that later... maybe,) I find my chances to indulge in smoked Gouda to be few and far between. Below is a recipe that not only satisfied my overwhelmingly unhealthy cravings, it was also easy on the waistline and absolutely delicious.

What you'll need:
  • 8 oz uncooked ziti
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup onion
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano (drained)
  • 1 10 oz can Italian seasoned diced tomatoes (mostly drained)
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded, smoked Gouda cheese, divided
  • Cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
4. Add onion and pepper to oil; sauté 5 minutes. 
5. Add garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is tender. 
6. Stir in tomatoes & bring to a boil. 
7. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
8. Add spinach to pan; cook 30 seconds or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently. 
9. Remove from heat. Add pasta and 3/4 cup cheese to tomato mixture, tossing well to combine. 
10. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray
11. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. 
12. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Tips, Tricks, and Mishaps: 
  • I decided that what this was missing was just a little bit of meat, (shocking.) I added one hot smoked turkey sausage (casing removed) when my onion,pepper, and garlic were almost tender.
  • As I've stated before, with any softer cheese, put it in the freezer for a bit to make shredding that much easier on yourself. (God forbid you have to waste any because it breaks off and falls on the floor because it's too soft... 5 second rule, anyone?)
  • I used a higher fiber penne (Ronzoni) as it seems my grocery store has never carried ziti... seriously, ever. 
There are 5 servings in this dish with 382 calories per serving, (without any changes of course!)