Archive for February, 2012

Charred Corn Salad a Great Southwestern Side

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
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Charred Corn Salad

Sauteed corn, peppers and scallions get a dusting of cumin and splash of white wine vinegar in this bright veggie side dish.

I didn’t partake in a frosty cocktail on last Wednesday’s “National Margarita Day” (darn calorie counting), but we did take advantage of the occasion to enjoy a nice Southwestern-themed dinner.

The chicken enchiladas were an easy call, but I was struggling with something semi-healthy to serve with them. The homemade Charred Corn Salad I ended up with turned out great, even though I was totally making it up as I went along.

Here’s how it went down …

I knew I wanted a veggie-based side dish and, fortunately, we had some fresh produce we needed to use up before heading out of town. 

So I heated a little olive oil in a skillet and sauteed some corn dusted with cumin until it started to slightly char around the edges. Then I added lots of chopped red and orange peppers, scallions and garlic, stirring them around until the veggies softened and the flavors started to sing.

After that, I added splashes of white wine vinegar and orange juice to create a bright and tangy, subtly citrusy dressing to complete the light salad I wanted.

Definitely a keeper!

Could You Cook Dinner for 200 from YOUR Pantry?

Thursday, February 23, 2012
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Love great food, a good party, the thrill of competition AND helping out a good cause?

Have I got a night for you!

At the Covenant House Chef’s Challenge Dinner at the Clay Center on March 7, six local chefs will be challenged to create a nutritious, delicious gourmet meal using only the items typically found in the Covenant House Food Pantry. And their meal needs to serve 200 guests.

Yep, that’s a challenge.

Chefs who have stepped up to tackle it are Nick McCormick of Berry Hills Country Club; Gary Needham, formerly of Bluegrass Kitchen; Mark Sabal of Thomas Memorial Hospital; Mark Schnurrpusch of Embassy Suites; Jeremy Still of Edgewood Country Club; and Joe Zando of Catering Unlimited.

Tickets for the night are $100 per person, with proceeds going to the Covenant House. For more information, call 304-344-8053 or visit www.wvcovenanthouse.org.

At IHOP, Free Flapjacks on National Pancake Day

Sunday, February 19, 2012
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What’s better than warm and fluffy pancakes?

FREE warm and fluffy pancakes!

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and IHOP restaurants will celebrate National Pancake Day next Tuesday, Feb. 28, by offering a free short stack of its famous buttermilk pancakes to guests from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In exchange, diners will be asked to leave a small donation behind for West Virginia University Children’s Hospital.

I guess that technically doesn’t make the pancakes “free.”

But I’ll bet the warm-and-fuzzy you get knowing you’ve helped those in need will make them taste even better going down.

The chain hopes to raise some $2.7 million for affiliated Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals this year. For more information, check out www.ihoppancakeday.com.

Aphrodisiac Recipes: Love on a Plate, Guaranteed?

Sunday, February 12, 2012
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I’m not sure I buy into the concept of food aphrodisiacs.

Sure, a glass or two of nice wine may put you in a “bow chicka’ wow wow” state of mind, but can eating oysters or chili peppers really – and chemically – make you wanna, you know?

I find that hard to believe (especially with oysters being so foul) but that’s what they say.

If you want to spice up your Valentine’s Day with some easy-to-make Latin aphrodisiacs, check out these fairly simple recipes from Nuevo Cocino Latin Foods that’ll make your date think you were in the kitchen for days.

Start with a creamy Oyster Corn Chowder that wakes up your taste buds with a combination of sweet, salty and spicy. Then, you and your date can feed each other fondue (for dinner!) featuring Chocolate and Chipotle Mole Sauce with chicken or beef for dipping.

OYSTER CORN CHOWDER

  • 1 pkg. corn soup mix
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup sweet corn kernels
  • salt to taste
  • 1/3 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 cups of low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups of diced white potatoes
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 8-oz cans of oysters in water, with liquid
  • ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

 

  1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onions, celery, carrots, corn and season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (to taste).  Sauté until all vegetables are tender.
  2. Add contents of the corn soup, plus the white potatoes, water and chicken broth.  Bring to a rolling boil and let boil for 1 minute. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are done.
  3. Stir in the cheese, the oysters and the parsley and simmer for 8 more minutes or until oysters are cooked. 

 

CHIPOTLE CHOCOLATE MOLE SAUCE WITH BRAISED CHICKEN OR BEEF

  • 1 pkg. chipotle taco seasoning
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp. cumin seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 20 whole unsalted almonds
  • 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • ½ cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups of low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth
  • 3 ozs. of unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. of chicken (and/or beef) strips

 

  1. Toast the sesame and cumin seeds.  Add the olive oil, garlic, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cilantro, tomatoes (with skin) and onions.  Sauté for 10 minutes.  The skin of the tomatoes should blister some. Add the chicken broth and chipotle taco seasoning package and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Blend the mixture, along with the corn, chocolate, pumpkin seeds and almonds to a smooth consistency.  The mixture is now a mole sauce.  Simmer the blended mixture for 1 hour, stirring often to keep mixture smooth.  Serve warm. 
  3. Cut the chicken (and/or beef) strips into medium cubes.  Rub them with salt and black pepper and braise them (fully cook them in a little water and oil).  Serve the mole as a dipping sauce with the chicken (and/or beef) on the side, along with short bamboo skewers.  Eat as a fondue.

Not-So-Sweet News: Not All Chocolate Good. GASP!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
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If you’re planning to buy chocolates for someone special on Valentine’s Day – and aren’t we all? – the folks at Consumer Reports suggest you purchase wisely.

Based on the results of recent testings, editors learned two important things:

  1. All chocolates are not created equally.
  2. Higher price does not always indicate better quality.

Big names like Hershey’s, Russell Stover and Whitman’s were deemed “merely so-so.” Even Lindt, perceived as a gourmet brand, only received a “good” rating.

The good news is they found 12 excellent (though pricey) chocolates they described as “ultra-smooth.” Among those recommended are, in order of taste, Norman Love Confections Signature Gift Box, Woodhouse Assortment, Christopher Elbow  and Candinas.

But the bad new is, most are only available online.

If you’re looking for something you may be able to find in local stores, Godiva’s Gold Ballotin earned praise for a good selection.

But your best bet – and my VERY STRONG RECOMMENDATION – is that you check out Holl’s at Capitol Market. Those wonderful, West Virginia-made Swiss-style chocolates are divine.

Check them out at www.holls.com.

As for the Consumer Reports test, full ratings are available at www.consumerreports.org.

Which Girl Scout Cookie is America’s Favorite?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
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I recently placed my annual Girl Scout cookie order, a day I look FAR too forward to each year.

And while I was sitting there debating so many good choices — Oh, the agony! — it got me thinking. Which Girl Scout cookie really is the most popular?

Turns out it’s not even close.

According to a new Good Morning America/SodaHead.com poll, Thin Mints ran away from the competition with 49% of the vote. My personal favorites, Samoas and Tagalongs, came in second and third — at 28% and 11%, respectively — followed by Do-Si-Dos and Trefoils, both at 6%.

So what’s yours? And, more importantly, just how many boxes did you order??