Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Latkes - JESSt for you!

From preschool to my senior year of high school I went to Catholic schools.  First Elizabeth Seton Elementary School (ESES baby!) then Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School (OLSH).  When I was very young, I thought there were 2 types of religions - Catholic and Public - based on the school systems!  So for 14 years I wore uniforms, tucked my shirt in, tried to wear my skirt shorter than my fingertips, hid my gum chewing, stood up and greeted my teachers with "Good Morning Mister/Miss/Sister ____", took religion classes, went to mass once a week, learned all about Catholic guilt, etc!  It was certainly a great way to grow up, although sometimes those religious fanatics, and their 8 bothers and sisters, can get kind of annoying :) 

Finally, at age 18, I made it to Penn State for college where I was introduced to so many people with varying religious beliefs, lifestyles, etc.  It was a welcome change from the bubble of Catholic school.  One of the funniest memories of that year was when my roommate at the time asked me why people's foreheads were dirty on Ash Wednesday!  Try explaining that one to someone with no religious beliefs without sounding nutso...

One of my dearest friends, Jessica, is Jewish, mazeltov!  We lived together senior year and even threw a "Christmakkuh" party with red cups for Christians and blue cups for Jews, a Christmas tree, a menorah, and dreidel spinning!  We tried to convince our hovering landlord that it wasn't a party, but a religious gathering - HAHA!  

So this year I decided to celebrate Hanukkah in honor of Jess with a traditional Jewish meal, latkes!  Better known as potato pancakes.  I followed a combination of latke recipes so I'll just go over the basic steps.  They were delicious - Happy Hanukkah! 

Prepping for the latkes - taters, grater, water bowl...

Once the potatoes are grated let them soak in the water, then drain them and put them and the chopped onion into a dish towel and SQUEEZE out all the water.

Mix the potatoes and onions with egg in a large bowl, then portion into little pancakes and cook on the stove top.

Flip 'em over!

We had ours with sour cream, but applesauce is kosher, too.  (Pun intended!)

We added broccoli for a side and it was a great little meal!  There were leftovers from dinner.  When I went to gobble up the remaining latkes for breakfast the next day I found only one...  Bryce had gotten to them first for a midnight snack!  

Maybe I'll try something a little more exciting/challenging for the next Jewish holiday!  Jess, just let me know when that is and what I'm supposed to make :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Dinner at Chef Mavro

Back in September I found an amazing online coupon offer: a $100 gift certificate to Chef Mavro restaurant for $50!  I bought it immediately with "our Christmas dinner" in mind.  Since Bryce and I don't spend Christmas together we usually go out to a fancy dinner before we part for the holidays.  I didn't know too much about Chef Mavro, although I knew I wanted needed to go there!  

After some research I found out a few things:  
  • Chef Mavro is Greek and "Mavro" is short for Mavrothalassitis!  
  • The cuisine is French inspired with lots of (Hawaii) local influences and ingredients
  • The menu changes quarterly and is prix fixe, beginning with 3 courses
  • Finally, $100 won't go very far! 
It was supposed to be a surprise to Bryce, but I couldn't hold in my excitement and told him we were going and that I'd pick up the first $100 if he'd pick up the rest of the tab!  He agreed and for the past few months I've been studying the menu and anticipating this wonderful meal.  This week was our big night!  So we got all dressed up and posed by the tree (pause for AWWWWWWWE moment!)


I was a little nervous because the restaurant was so fancy and we were clearly the youngest people there, but once we got settled in I was so excited and happy!  Since the wine pairings would have set us back another $100 and nobody agreed to pay for that we each ordered just one drink - I had chardonnay and Bryce had a rum and coke.

We'd already decided what we wanted to order long before we arrived but we pretended to look at the menu for a while, then told one of our many helpful hands/waiters/men with water refills what we wanted - the 4 course menu, mine as-is and Bryce's with lamb instead of pork.

First came the soup, which I hadn't expected because it's not on the menu, but it was a welcome surprise!  I don't know exactly what was in it, definitely apples, then spiced carrots and almonds on top.  Very good!

Course 2: DAY BOAT CATCH BOURRIDE "MODERNE" medallion (ours was red snapper, although the table next to us got something else with a larger course menu) poached in bourride, leek and onion étuvée, aïoli sabayon sea asparagus tempura.  This was delicious!  The snapper was so moist and flaky I didn't even need to use my knife.  My favorite part was the crispy sea asparagus tempura and the foamy sauce.

To cleanse our palates we had these fancy little honeydew melon and mint gelatin things.  They were so refreshing :)  The best Jell-O you've ever had.

More dessert?  Tiny macaroons with green tea filling, a super dark chocolate bite (left), and a salted caramel!  Tiny, cute, and so yummy.

I was thrilled to meet and get a photo with Chef Mavro!  I even spoke Greek to him - yassou - which means hello, is the only word I know.  He was excited to hear it and it was a great conversation starter, even though I don't actually speak Greek, but he doesn't either so it was funny!  He was very nice and if we can ever afford to go back to his wonderful establishment we certainly will!

Happy and full after our fantastic dinner, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Candy Jackpot

Some work days require candy.  After packing and eating a boring lunch and 1 or more cups of home brewed coffee, sometimes you just need a fun afternoon pick me up.  Since alcohol is out of the question (right?) I turn to candy.  During lunch I ran to the store for a few things and couldn't resist the impulse buy of some sugary treats.  I'm a big fan of gummy candy - Sweedish Fish, gummy bears, worms, peachy rings, etc.  For just 99c I quickly added this bag of fruit slices to my order and hurried back to the office.  Later when I pulled the bag out to snack I realized I had hit the candy jackpot!  In my bag was a majority of red candies, everyone's favorite!  Sometimes it's the little things in life :)

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's the most wonderful time of the year, there's no denying that on any level.  The Christmas season is magical and fabulous.  Part of what makes it so wonderful is the food!  Just take a look at this spread of candy, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, pie, fruit & dip from a friend's holiday party over the weekend.  I didn't make or bring dessert since the ever famous Broccoli, Chicken, Cheddar Braid was requested, but I sure did eat many of those sweet treats!

This is also why most people resolve to eat healthy each new year!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Brunch Pie

I can't quite remember how I found the "Brunch Pie" recipe on Food Network's website, but it has quickly become a favorite of mine for breakfast/brunch-y foods!  (You'll see there are 2 reviews of the recipe - 1 is mine and the other is my Mom's!)   It requires a ton of ingredients and pre-cooking prep and it's all worth it in the end.  Once it's assembled you pop it in the oven and you're done.  The mixture of all the different ingredients and flavors is great, each bite is usually a little different from the one before.

I first made this for Easter and it was a hit!  I made it again a few months later when my parents came to visit me.  We knew we'd be heading out early in the morning so we had everything prepared and just assembled and baked in the morning, then ate leftovers for a few days!  I'm getting ready to go home for Christmas and this will most definitely be on the menu for Christmas morning!

    * 3/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
    * 1/4 cup chopped garlic-stuffed green olives - I used green olives with pimento
    * 1/2 cup chopped plum tomatoes
    * 2 tablespoons chopped scallion
    * 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
    * 1/2 cup chopped white mushrooms
    * 3 cloves garlic, minced
    * 1/2 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
    * 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    * 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
    * 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
    * 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
    * 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
    * 4 large eggs
    * 1/2 cup reduced-fat milk
    * Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
    * 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    * 10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed - Crescent roll dough is easier to find and use!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix the kalamata and green olives, the tomatoes, scallion, onion, mushrooms, garlic and artichoke hearts in a large bowl.  Stir in cheeses, basil, oregano and thyme; set aside, 20 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the eggs, milk, and salt and pepper in another bowl.

Brush a 10-inch glass or ceramic pie dish with some of the butter.  Position crescent roll dough along the bottom of the pie dish - I trace mine with the pie dish and cut it to shape, first.

Spread the olive mixture evenly in the dough dish, then pour in the egg mixture.  Layer more crescent roll rough on top of the pie - for this step I keep the pre-cut triangle shape of the dough and layer it that way.

Bake until the top is golden and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 1 hour - usually more!  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.