Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kung Pao

I don’t know what else to say about this other than, really folks you have to try it. It was so good, I had to beg my husband to leave me just a cups worth to have for lunch the next day. He did. I ate it for breakfast. I swear I couldn’t wait for lunch!!

I stole this from Cinnamon and Spice, you really MUST go see her

I had been dying to make this recipe for weeks and kept forgetting to get certain things I needed. I finally got most of it and decided to make do with what I had on hand. That said, I used about ¾ of a teaspoon of red pepper flakes instead of the chilis and Sichuan. For me, my dish was great, but could have had more heat, so do what you want. Also I used regular onion, 1 bell pepper and 2 medium carrots diced. I just wanted some more veggies. Since I had more volume I doubled the sauce. I think however you could use a banana peel and this would still be amazing (yes it really was that good, don‘t know why, just good). So give it a try.

Kung Pao Chicken
Spicy Chicken with peanuts
Gong bao ju ding
(adapted from Why the Chinese Don't Count Calories by Lorraine Clissold
page 109)

For the chicken
2 cups chicken breast
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
2 teaspoon beaten egg or egg white
3 teaspoon corn flour or cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon white wine

Supporting vegetables
1 tablespoon spring/green onion(we added extra), cut in 1/2 pieces
3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
4-6 fine slices ginger, each cut into quarters
3-6 dried red chilies, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns(we used black)

For the sauce mix
2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoon red rice vinegar
1 teaspoon cooking wine
1-2 tablespoon of a 1-2 cornflour and water mix(we used cornstarch)
1-2 tablespoon additional water
salt to taste
1 and 1/2 tablespoon oil

Brown rice, for serving over

Cube the chicken breast in small pieces a little bigger than the peanuts. Sprinkle them with
salt and wine and mix well with egg/egg white and cornflour. Make sure they are coated but not

Mix together the sauce ingredients.

To cook, heat the wok to a high heat, add the oil, swirl around, and fry the chilies and peppercorns
for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the chicken, garlic, ginger, and onion.
Stir-fry these to allow the flavor to come out, then add the peanuts.

Add the liquid ingredients (stirring first to dissolve the cornflour) and allow it to come to the boil stirring
gently. Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, to thicken, and then add additional liquid until the sauce
reaches the desired consistency. Add extra salt to taste, mix well, remove from heat, and serve over rice
if desired.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Contests and Sage Butter Agnolotti

So let me start with the food. As part of being a featured publisher with Foodbuzz, periodically they send us stuff to try. This time it was a package of Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. I wanted to keep the “sauce” simple so I could actually taste the pasta, and I am glad I did. It was wonderful but a bit delicate and I think its wonderfulness would get lost in a heavy sauce. Just this girls opinion.

2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
4 torn sage leaves
½ clove garlic grated
1 package of Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti

Put butter an olive oil in a pan. Once your butter begins to bubble add garlic and sage leaves and take off heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Toss with Agnolotti and parmesan.

So on to the contest. Luckily, a ton of you are interested. For this I am grateful and excited.

I try not to share too much on the blog. Mostly because you are here for the food, not antidotes of my sons current inch worm obsession or my little girls cute bottom. However, this is one that is shaping the contest so bare with me.

We all have them, friends we adore but just don’t see enough. Friends that we roar with when we see each other and we just think the world of. Life happens though. It does, for better or worse… it does. Joel and I have a ton of friends we think of all the time but, sadly do not call nearly enough to come over for drinks or dinner.

This new year I vowed to have one particular couple we are friends with over more. That was my one and only New Year resolution. So not wasting any time Joel and I started planning a dinner party mid-January. Ironically said couple called the very night we were planning to call to extend our invitation. Sadly it was to let us know that one had just been diagnosed with cancer. I just found out today, they have about a week left to live. We never had the dinner party.

Life happens.

So my caveat to this contest is send me your entries, send me your pictures, however, I want you to call a friend and have them over to enjoy your delicious creations. After all isn’t that what makes food so great, the sharing of it? So get on the phone and call someone you love (or at least someone you like a little). The deadline for your entry is May 25th to give everyone time.

The recipe can be anything from a drink to an appetizer, entrée to dessert. I want at least one picture. I would love a picture of you enjoying said recipe with your friend/ person you at least like a little, but that is not necessary. What is necessary is tell us about your evening. Don’t just submit a recipe, submit a post about how the evening went. I am going to have folks vote for their favorite recipe and for the evening they would have most liked to have joined in on.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Sadly I had planned a week of bells and whistles for the week of my anniversary and alas, it did not happen. Today it has been one year. Blogging has been a life line for me into grown up land, on days I felt like I might loose my mind in kid land. So thanks for all the support.

What I was thinking about was doing is a contest. Everyone enters their favorite summertime recipe and whoever gets the most votes wins….something (really haven’t gotten that far, but have some ideas). So anyone that is interested, let me know by commenting in this post and I will be contacting you with the details.

Also, over the next week all my followers (and anyone who joins this week) will be entered to win a prize (that I will announce as soon as I get my ducks in a row and figure out what it is!!)

Thanks for making this such a great year and helping me retain my sanity.



A.K.A Mommy Gourmet

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Just Kebabing Along

There is not a lot of recipe in this, but I will do my best. I love spring. I do! However, this spring has been an odd one here. It gets warm, I get all excited with thoughts of fresh tomatoes, and lettuce, and squash, all from my very own yard. I just can’t tell you, it makes me so happy. Then, low and behold it gets cold again. Grrrr. This is not too atypical of Virginia weather, however it has been going on for about 6-8 weeks and typically by now it is warm and has been for quite a while.

Warm weather also means patio and dinning outdoors…and of course the grill (yippee!). There are so many things I look forward to on the grill and shish kebabs is definitely one. I made this with chicken because it is what I had. The reality is, you could use whatever, just veggies, fruit, really anything, so I am just going to give the marinade recipe and you figure out what to marinade!

1 large container of Greek yogurt.
2 cloves of garlic minced or grated
¼ c. lemon juice
3 tbs Penzeys Italian dressing base (if you don’t have this use 3 tbs of any dry seasoning Italian)

Mix in a bowl, put in meat and/or veggies and let sit 2-4 hours. Grill.

Just a note, I have not tried this, but I think mango, and pineapple in Greek yogurt and honey (maybe a touch of fresh mint?) then grilled would make an awesome dessert. Maybe some fresh soft goat cheese to serve with it???? Just an idea.

We had some non traditional tabouli, another summer favorite. As we can’t get good tomatoes yet, I used some red pepper. Also, I had a huge basil plant I had to use, so I used basil instead of parsley. It was good, but I missed the tomatoes!!

Luckily we got to enjoy it all on our patio with some wine, so all was not lost…and we will have tomatoes soon enough!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Salmon with a Dijon Cream Sauce

I tell you sometimes, sometimes my mind scares me. I totally forgot to take a picture of this. After Joel took some leftovers to work, thereby vanquishing any evidence of this dish, I thought, well hell, I forgot to take a picture. What is wrong with me?? Anyway, our trip to Erie is the inspiration for, this and I have to say, this was really, really good.

½ lb pasta
2tbs butter
½ small onion chopped
½ c. wine
½ tbs flour
½ c half and half
1/3 c milk
2 tbs Dijon
1 tsp dill
½ lb salmon
½ lb shrimp

Heat butter and wilt onion. Add flour and stir to form paste. Add wine and let cook until reduced by ¾ about. Add flour and stir to form paste. Add half and half and milk, Dijon and shrimp and salmon. Cook until thickened and fish/shrimp done. Add dill and stir to incorporate. Toss with pasta.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Peach Martini

Okay, I am off yet again tomorrow. We have waited all week to see if the weather would cooperate and luckily it is. So with the good weather ahead we are off to our place in West Virginia. As some of you might recall this brings with it pork tenderloin biscuits (and typically and added 2 pounds on me that I have to address…ahh life is not fair). So I will leave you with a recipe for on of the beverages I will be enjoying whilst away. This is my fathers creation and I have to say quite lovely.

3 parts peach nectar
2 parts peach flavored vodka
½ part roses lime juice

Put in a cocktail shaker with some ice, shake and strain (or if you prefer serve over ice).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Mourning of Pufferbelly and Wegmans

Joel and I get into Erie the next day and I was shocked. Erie was nothing like I expected. Do not ask me why, but I was expecting Erie to be a small town. It is not. Erie seemed like an odd mix of Long Island, Philidelphia, and Hinton, West Virginia all rolled into one. It really was not what I expected. Again, we asked our hotel for a recommendation on dinner and we were told, hands down, the Pufferbelly was the place to go.

The Pufferbelly is where the original fire station for Erie was located. It is a neat building and quite beautiful. We had called ahead and they were all booked but the lady had told us we could still come and if no table was available we could sit at the bar and eat. That worked for us, so we went. We get there and belly up to the bar, the bartender/waitress came over and we asked if we could get a menu , she told us a table was about to open up. She said if we wanted to get a drink at the bar she could seat us in a second. Outstanding! We ordered our drink and before we even got it she had us seated.

I had a martini, slightly dirty and a Joel had a Makers Mark and Coke. I am usually hesitant to order a martini out anymore. Typically if I say dirty, slightly dirty, barely dirty, (Donna, I swear stop it!) I get a drink that has as much olive juice as gin and I find it undrinkable. Considering in Richmond a martini will set you back anywhere from $10 to (as I found out at Can Can…grrr) $19 it is a bit too expensive for me to experiment. However, I really just wanted a martini and decided to take the plunge. It was the best martini I have ever had that my husband did not make for me. Whoohoo! We were off to a good start.

Joel and I order the muscles in a garlic wine sauce for a starter. I order the Dijon pork chops and Joel ordered a pasta with chicken in a sauce of fresh tomato and bacon. We get the muscles and there had to be 50, it was a huge serving. They were wonderful. Joel loved his pasta, which was full of a basil (yumm, and just a side note under $9) and I got two huge pork chops that were wonderful(and the best mashed potatoes).

To make the experience all the better we had the best server. Mary Ellen. She was outstanding, warm and funny and helpful. I was not surprised to find out that her and her husband owned the restaurant. Then before we left she gave us a list of other restaurants she recommended that we should try the next day. Sadly non of her recommendations were open the next day (it was a Monday).

So what do you think 4 top shelf drinks, one appetizer of mussels, one pasta entrée and one pork entrée plus a take home dessert, a beautiful setting and an outstanding server set us back? Under $65.
I really wish we had a place like Pufferbelly here. A place that I would tell offered dressy casual dinning, outstanding food, at a very affordable price. Sigh. So if you are ever in the area, go visit

So the other thing about Erie that leaves me feeling want is their grocery store, Wegmans. If you have a Wegmans near you, kiss someone, because it is the store I dream of. I get that very few people while on their first multi-day vacation in over 5 years would not think to peruse the local grocery store, but what can I say, that stuff kind of geeks me. When I walked into Wegmans I wanted to cry. It was like, I suspect many folks feel upon walking into the Louvre. I only saw about 15% of the store (it was HUGE) but this is what I noted. Their produce, was beautiful and inexpensive. Their organic prices were less then Krogers regular prices. They had a gynormous deli counter where you could bring a filet of fish and have it prepared to your specifications (are you kidding me??). They had fresh handmade sausages, even hot dogs. Their cheese… ohh , their cheese, they had an entire cold case that was just Blue cheese, an entire cold case that was just Spanish cheese… etc. etc. Their meats, their BUTCHER meat was cheap. Their pork tenderloins were $1.39 a pound, and fresh and gorgeous. Their freshly cut standing rib roast….$5.99/lb. What on earth?? People of Richmond, we are being robbed by our grocery stores. This store, in my opinion handily put Whole Paycheck to shame yet was priced less than Food Dog. WHAT ON EARTH. I feel like I uncovered a whole food conspiracy. The conspiracy to sell me inferior food for exorbitant prices.

Sadly I don’t think there is much I can do about it, except covet what Erie has… sigh. I feel a road trip coming on again.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Apparently no sleep and me don’t mix. Much to my chagrin I have had some serious sleep issues. Sadly for me, no sleep for almost a week now, has made me pretty non-functional. Plthh. I am still working on the Pufferbelly and the rest of Erie post and with some luck I will have it out tomorrow. Until then… a bit O’ Easter for you.

Not much in the way of cooking for Easter. We had a huge breakfast with my sticky buns…which rocked, so we ended up skipping dinner. I know it is terrible, but honestly we gave the kids some fruit and veggies we had a couple crackers and cheese and everyone was happy. Maybe I should have a huge breakfast everyday…hmmmm..

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Quick Down and Dirty Post

I swear Donna, that is not what this is about. In the vein of supporting my fellow bloggers I am asking you to go support Chef E. I know most of you reading this post love her and her blog, and if you didn’t know she entered this post in a contest over at Savor the Thyme ( I love the name, I do, I do) . So go give her some bloggie love and a vote. You KNOW she would do it for you.

Oh and what the heck, in the interst of self promotion, if you are a member of foodie blogroll and would like to vote for my entry in the joust this month Creamy Asparagus Cavatappi that would be kinda cool too

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Road to Erie

Okay, okay, okay. Look I lied, I admit it. I told you I was throwing the burger recipe at you and was going to get right back to the business of blogging. Then what do I do… I took 3 days off. HOWEVER, I have a really, really good excuse. It was spectacular here this weekend. I love to garden. In fact, as opposed to a cooking blog I almost started a gardening blog. Somehow, I felt like my advice of stick it in the ground, throw some worm poop on it (yep you heard right, worm poop, really …who knew they pooped?) AND if you remember to water, and if it lives, score one for Darwin, would not make for the best blog. So I spent every second of this fine, fine weekend elbow deep in earth or on my patio with a brew in hand. I did however plant a ton of veggies that will provide, god willing, fodder for future blogs, so hopefully you aren’t to mad at my fib.

So back to my trip. It really was not anything sexy. As you know Joel started his own insurance agency. The primary company he represents is Erie. One of the things Erie does for their new agents is bring you out to their headquarters to meet your underwriters and to see their operations. So Mommy decided to tag along. Really 4 days, sans kids… you could be going to Buffalo… in winter, and this girl would be all about the trip.

We decided to take our time going up there (can’t imagine why? Did I mention, four days, no kids?) We stopped in Somerset, PA which is about 4 hours from Richmond. I have never quite been in a town like Somerset, it was truck stop town. So when we got there I was a bit depressed, thinking we would not get a decent meal (well there was a Ruby Tuesday, and I do like their salad bar ??). So we asked at the front desk and decided to take their advice. They sent us to the Pine Grill. Based on the description you would expect haute cuisine in the middle of commercial USA. We walk in and it is…mmm… well it had industrial tile throughout the whole restaurant, and paper napkins?? I bravely got a filet with boursin and brie and puff pastry, my husband got a rib eye. I asked for it medium rare, as did Joel. I won. My dish was just amazing. I mean really, the steak was cooked perfect, it was the right amount of cheese, it was seasoned well. I loved it. My veggies made me sad. They were raw. Not undercooked, raw. I think they might have forgot to put them on. It was a nice mix, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and green pepper, just raw and raw didn‘t go with the meal. Joel’s steak was okay, thin but big and more like medium well, but okay. Here is the kicker though….we had 2 steak dinners, one okay, one outstanding (oh, I forgot to tell you they grill all their meat), we both got two extra sides, we had 4 glasses of wine…and the bill, was under $50. No I am not joking. No really. Pick your mouth up. This town was looking up.

The next morning before hitting the road we stopped a at cute little dinner, The Summit Dinner. I got nothing special eggs, sausage and hash browns. Joel got, 2 eggs, pancakes and bacon. I would like to disclaim this next bit by saying we don’t eat a big breakfast at our house often. We are fruit, or some kashi, or an egg white omelet sort of family. Maybe, maybe three times year we go all out for breakfast or have a big breakfast and one of those is Christmas. This was hands down the best breakfast I have ever had. (just for those folks in Richmond, the previous title holder of that had been the Paradise Café, and they still rock). I don’t know why, the eggs tasted so fresh and rich, (sunny side up) it was odd. Other than Ireland I haven’t had eggs that stood out like this. The sausage was, out of this world (turns out, after inquiring, they have an in house butcher that makes it daily for them) and the pancakes (which I scored off my husbands plate) were the best I have ever had (Paradise is runner up on this), but that could be because they use real maple syrup which I am a sucker for. I did not love the coffee. It was weak, but it often is to me. I am a big hearty cup o’ Joe sort of gal. Again, 4 eggs, 4 slices of rye, 4 pancakes, 4 slices of bacon and surely a ¼ lb of sausage, hash browns, coffee, and honest to god, real maple syrup, set us back $10 bucks plus tip. I swear, I am starting to love this town.

Next we head to Erie and Pufferbelly… Pufferbelly you say. Pufferbellly. But more on that later. It is dinner time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chili Burger

Okay, so apparently the little guys actually missed me and I have spent more time holding and loving today than I thought (tough huh:) ) so I am going to throw a quick recipe out today and I will try to get all the details of my trip sorted out for you tomorrow.

We had the grandparents come and stay with the kids. I wanted to leave them lots to eat so they didn’t have to worry about anything since they were doing us such a big favor. I made a big tray of baked ziti, so I bought a large thing of ground beef. Since it was more beef than I needed for the ziti, I made Joel and me some burgers the night before we left. Originally, I was thinking something along the lines of a meatloaf burger (you know, green peppers and onions, the kind of burger that Eddie Murphy had to endure as opposed to the McD kind), but then I had a shift.

You guys know, definately, by now, I love Penzeys. I also love their Chili 9000. So I got thinking, add a bit of the chili 9000, green peppers, onions, some chopped up cheddar cheese, and a bit of tomato paste…you will have a serious burger. So that is what this girl did, and damn, it was GOOD!

1 lb ground beef
1/3 green pepper (sautéed)
1/8 large onion diced (sautéed)
1 large TBS Penzeys chili 9000
3 oz of cheddar cheese (I cubed mine into small cubes, but you could shred it)
2 tbs tomato paste
Salt and Pepper

Just a note, I sautéed the green peppers and onions first. Mix all ingredients and form into patties. I only made 3 because I like a big burger, however you could easily get 4 if you are not a pig like me. Cook as desired.

Just a side note, it was a close call weather to add some egg and bread crumbs, I didn’t. I just worked out, JUST. However if the patties seem to be falling apart add about ¼ c. of bread crumbs (or bread or panko) and an egg.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Back Home Again!

Okay guys, I am back home and have quite a bit to tell you about. Not about that Donna… really I swear. Hopefully I will get a proper post up tomorrow but have to give the kids an abundant amount of love today. For now, I will leave you with this picture and I will tell you more about it later.

A much happier and more relaxed,

Mommy Gourmet