Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hmmmm Brunch!

Mmmmmm Brunch! First a Quiche with spinach, baby portabella mushrooms, sausage, red onion, garlic and parmesan! Then Biscuits and Gravy with garlic and cumin and a delicious cup of coffee with beans from Caffé Vita!
I love brunch! Personally I love breakfast foods any time of day and the great thing about brunch is that it's good have any time between 11am to 1pm which means you get to SLEEP IN! Which I love to do!  Bobby Flay on the Food Network currently has show dedicated to brunch and he has some amazing recipes on there to check out!
Making a quiche is easy and they are delicious! On top of that you can make a quiche in so many different ways.  So a quiche is basically is an oven-baked dish made with eggs and milk or cream in a pastry crust.  That's where you start and where you go is up to you!  My quiche today had spinach, baby portabella mushrooms, sausage, red onion, garlic, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.  It was delicious! When making a quiche you have the choice of making your pie crust or buying it.  This is definitely up to you, I personally love homemade pastry dough much more than store bought but time can be an issue.  I would recommend taking the time to make your pie crusts ahead of time and keep them in your freezer so you can use them as you please.  Otherwise pick the best quality pie crust in the freezer section of your local grocery store and treat it well.


1 C Sliced Baby Portabella Mushrooms
1 C Ground Sausage
1 C Packed Spinach
2 Garlic Cloves Minced
1/4 C Minced Red Onion
3 T Ground Cumin
1 C Shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese 
6 Large Eggs Scambled season with a pinch of salt and pepper
1 Pie Crust (homemade or store bought)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the pie crust for 10 minutes and remove from the oven.

Season your ground sausage with salt, pepper and 1 T of cumin and mix thoroughly.  Then make marble size balls with the sausage using a teaspoon and brown the sausage balls in a medium saute pan at a medium heat.  Once browned move the sausage to a bowl.  Return the pan to the heat and add the red onion and garlic.  Saute for a minute and add mushrooms and spinach season with salt, pepper and the other 2 T of cumin plus the 2 T of EVOO.  Toss everything together and saute until the spinach is wilted to a medium point and remove the pan from the heat.

Sprinkle a layer of the Parm/Reg in the bottom of the pie crust.  Follow that with a layer of half of the mushroom/sausage/spinach mixture, followed by a layer of cheese followed by the rest of the mixture and top that with cheese. Then pour your scrambled eggs over tops of everything until the eggs fill the pie crust and almost reach the top.  Shimmy the dish a little bit to get the egg mixture around everything in the pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Take the quiche out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Then slice into 6ths or 8ths, garnish with fresh fruit, serve and enjoy!

Brunch is fantastic and making a quiche can be so easy for you, friends and family to enjoy!  Remember a quiche can be anything, instead of sausage use panchetta, instead of spinach use basil, toss some toasted pine nuts in there, add some roasted red peppers, what about some olives or maybe sun dried tomatoes.  The combinations are endless and can be so delicious! So get in that kitchen and make it happen! Cooking is all love to me and a big brunch on a Sunday is a great way to prepare for the upcoming week.  


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Quick and Awesome!

I love cooking for people! I love cooking for myself but it is never as rewarding as when I cook and serve other people.  If I am lucky enough I'll get a chance to cook for you too!  For those of you who know me Thanksgiving can be my favorite days of the year because I turn it into a cooking THUNDERDOME!

So onto Quick and Awesome! One of my favorite things to make during the week is a stir-fry.  Stir-fries are great because they can be done in a variety of ways, they are quick, delicious and AWESOME.

The other night I had my dad in town and he was feeling seafood so we ventured over to Whole Foods and found some amazing bay scallops and key west shrimp.  Soon as we got home I had the meal together in 20 minutes and this is how.


1/2-3/4 lb shrimp (deveined and cleaned)
1/2-3/4 lb bay scallops 
1/2 a sliced red cabbage
1 zucchini - 8-10 inch halved and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 yellow summer squash - 8-10 inch halved and sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1 14oz Box of thin pad Thai noodles (Thai Kitchen makes a good noodle)
1/4 C Dean and Deluca Asian seasoning (it is a mix of pepper powder, garlic powder, ground coriander, sweet basil, ground ginger and more. Any Asian mix of seasoning will work, just make sure you taste it for it's salt content.  If it's heavy in salt be careful how you salt your seafood or other protein you may use.
3 T Soy Sauce
2 T Butter
2 T Hoisin
Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste

First! Get a two quart pot out fill Get your pans out and get two pans up on medium high, these will be for your scallops and shrimp.  Use the directions on the packaging of noodles and start those. Wash all seafood thoroughly! After rinsing the scallops and shrimp soaking any mussel (shellfish) and shrimp really helps get all of the sand out.  Salt and pepper the seafood on both sides. Sear the scallops and shrimp in a medium high pan that has been lightly coated in Veg Oil.  The seafood should sizzle strongly the minute it hits the pan.  Each side (and there are only TWO) should only take about 1 minute per side.  Make sure when placing the seafood in the pan not to over crowd it.

Once the meat is in the pan toss all of your veggies in a medium high wok.  Season veggies with Asian seasoning and toss with hoisin and soy sauce until everything is well coated.  This should only take a second so make sure not to forget to flip your seafood. Add two table spoons of unsalted butter to the pan with scallops and coat all of the scallops and remove from the pan. Once your seafood is cooked remove it from the pan to a plate, drizzle with lemon juice and place to the side.

The noodles should be done by now and you want to strain those and toss them with the sesame seed oil.  Then toss the noodles into the wok with the veggies and thoroughly mix.  Now the next step is a personal choice.  When I cook seafood and then mix it into a noddle veggie mix I don't like to toss the seafood with everything.  I want to make sure everyone gets the same amount of seafood; so I first plate a softball sized portion of the noddle veggie mix onto a plate/bowl and then I put an equal portion of the seafood on top.  I then mix everything by hand to not damage the seafood. Top with lemon zest and enjoy!

Stir-fries are quick and can be done in a variety of ways which is awesome and gives you not only a delicious meal but also a healthy one too!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Don't be scurred and get in that kitchen! Now who likes stuffed peppers?!

I think people are scared of getting in the kitchen and experimenting because something might not "taste good", might be "too hard" to make or they have no idea what they are doing.  BUT how are you ever going to discover foods and dishes you love unless you roll up your selves and jump in!

If you have to start simple, find recipes that have no more that 5-10 ingredients and work from there until you get more confident and what to start tackling larger recipes.  Don't start with Thanksgiving dinner and a dozen sides, you may tear out all of your hair and throw the turkey out a window!

The Food Network and have excellent videos on how to's for beginner to expert level recipes.  So what do you want to eat tonight right? Find a recipe and get in that kitchen!

From my experiments in the kitchen I have found in cooking that there are only a few things that can really kill a dish:

- Too much salt
- Burning it to a crisp
- AND by far one of the most important tip I can give you test and try your food. Let me say that again TEST AND TRY YOUR FOOD!
          - For instance, if you are making a stuffing for stuffed peppers, like I am doing tonight, make the mixture you are going to stuff the peppers with.  Then make a small burger patty about 1 inch in diameter and pan fry it and try it.  That whole saying "the proof is in the pudding" well that is exactly what you are doing you are testing your seasoning levels and the texture of what you are making.   
- There are many other things that can kill a dish and for now these will do.  THERE are many MORE things that can make a dish amazing that's what I am going to focus!

On Sunday's I am usually relaxing and then thinking about what I can make for dinner since I have the time and what my lunch will be for the next couple of days.  Today I looked in my fridge and saw ground turkey, peppers and cilantro so immediately I thought, Stuffed Peppers! My stuffed peppers are a total experiment because honestly I have never made stuffed peppers but you know what that's not stopping me! My peppers are gonna be awesome and here is what is going into them:
Aaron's Ground Turkey Stuffed Peppers!

Stuffed Peppers:
2 lbs ground turkey (you could also use ground chicken if you have that or grind up some chicken in a food processor)
3 Cloves Garlic Minced
1/2 C Onion Minced
6 Bell Peppers in Orange, Red and Yellow
1/4 toasted Pine Nuts
Zest and Juice of 1 Lime
1/2 C chopped cilantro
1 Cup Golden Raisins
1 T Cumin
1 T Paprika
1 T Garlic Powder
1 T Onion Powder
1 C bread crumbs soaked in milk until absorbed
1 Egg
1 1/2 C Shredded Cotija or Pepper Jack cheese (optional except the 1/2 C to top the peppers with)
3 Cups Quinoa cooked (1 cup uncooked) If Quinoa is not available in your area three cups cooked brown rice is decent substitution but if Quinoa is available make sure to use it.
1 1/2 C Water
Salt and Pepper to taste (I use about 2 T of salt or 3 big pinches and 3-4 table cracked black pepper, I love pepper!)

First cut the peppers in half leaving the stem intact on one side.  Leaving the stem is nice for presentation.  Then seed and remove the membrane with a paring knife.  Take the half of a yellow and red pepper that does not have the stem, coat in EVOO place on a sheet pan skin side down and put in an oven at 450 Degrees for 15 minutes flip and roast for another 10 minutes.  Remove from over, place roasted peppers on a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes.  Then chop peppers into slightly smaller than dime size pieces.

While the peppers roast start cooking your Quinoa.  Put 1 C Quinoa and 1 1/2 C Water in a small pot with a lid.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes stirring at least once in the cooking process.  Then remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. 

Side note: I substitute chicken stock in most cases for half of the water when I cook Quinoa or any rice.    
When peppers are done change oven to 375 Degrees
Then take all of the other ingredients (except the halved peppers and 1/2 C of the cheese) including the roasted chopped peppers and cooked Quinoa and mix in a medium to large mixing bowl until well incorporated.

Overstuff the peppers with the filling. Drizzle about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil over the peppers, pouring about 1 tablespoon over top of each. Arrange the peppers in a casserole dish or small baking dish and roast 30-35 minutes rotate dish 180 degrees half way through, until crispy at the edges and cooked through. 


3 C Chunky Salsa warmed - I love to make my own salsa but if you are in a pinch for time Pace Chunky works great here
3 Roasted Clove of Garlic
1 Roasted orange pepper
3 T Sour Cream (optional)

Place all of these ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  

Serve the peppers hot with sauce drizzled over top and in a puddle underneath the peppers.  Top with a little shredded Cotija cheese end enjoy! 

This meal is a perfect example of something healthy and easy to put together any day of the week!  And it's great for lunch the next day! 


Yesterday was awesome! The Dooz and I got together and hung out all day! We picked up a partied out T from the airport and then had a KILLER breakfast at The Dish in Ballard (4358 Leary Way Northwest Seattle, WA 98107 CHECK THIS PLACE OUT!!!) I couldn’t decide what I wanted because everything looked SO GOOD!  So first I ordered coffee, because well coffee and I have a serious love affair, this will be explained in another blog soon.  I am typically a huge sucker for a great Eggs Benedict but I had already tried theirs once so I had to try something new. So I ordered both a half order of biscuits and gravy and a half order of corn beef hash.  Oh and then I also ordered a side of whole wheat toast because The Dish has AWESOME freezer jam!  This may sound like a lot of food and it was! I could only eat half of it but man it was awesome to re-heat and enjoy later.  The Dooz enjoyed the vegetarian style Eggs Benedict and let me tell you it was awesome! 

The Veggie Eggs Benedict at The Dish is a perfect example of vegetarian food being done right! Full of flavor and without the meat! The Bearnaise sauce was velvety and delicious over the perfectly over easy egg, veggies (that were supplemented for the meat) and a well toasted English muffin.  Next to that some roasted red potatoes that were fantastic with some of the habanero sauce on the table!

Biscuits and bravy is a fairly simple dish but can be so easily messed up.  The sausage gravy can be bland or way too greasy.  It can even be clumpy is the roux is not made correctly.  Then the biscuit.  The biscuit, just like the crust on a pizza, is SO important.  It should have that light buttery flakiness we all love about a good biscuit.  A bad biscuit is dense and can be chewy.  So when you make your biscuits don't over work your dough and start with a good recipe.  The Dish knows what's up though!  The gravy was perfectly seasoned and biscuit was on point! In fact the biscuit was sliced in half an looked like it was quickly browned on the sliced sides in a pan with a little butter, then put back together and dressed with the sausage gravy.  Oh man this was good!  

The corn beef hash had the perfect amount of crust that I like in this kind of dish along with an excellent ratio of corn beef to potato, awesome! 

The freezer jam at the Dish is something I would just go there for to have with a cup of coffee.  It just makes my day and reminds me of eating toast at my parents kitchen back when I was a little kid before we made any of the additions to their house.   

Then we went grocery shopping, and I am finding more and more that I become a kid in a candy shop any time I am in a good grocery store.  That day we went to the Central Market in Mill Creek.  And of course I got caught up in exploring, luckily I had Doozer there to keep me focused on making our trip quick and getting back to our friends and start cooking!

Doozer and I combined forces and made spinach, toasted almond, golden raisin, garlic and onion stuffed empanadas!  We also made grilled basil turkey burger sliders with a roasted orange pepper, asiago cheese that had been marinated in olive oil and fresh herbs, a dab of a homemade garlic aioli on a Hawaiian roll!  

This opportunity to cook with the Dooz was awesome! She will be my first choice the next time I need a sous chef!  For me cooking is all about creating something delicious that is made with love for people to enjoy.  I have been busted multiple times watching people eat the things I have cooked for them, and honestly that moment when someone tastes something you have made for them and truly enjoys it is the largest compliment ever for me!

Then we watched the UFC fights and hung with friends while enjoying our culinary creations.

I came home and shared a bottle of wine with my room mate and relaxed.  Yesterday was an awesome day!

Now a recipe:

Grilled Basil Turkey Burger Sliders

1 lb of ground turkey burger
1 C of fresh basil finely chopped
1 T paprika
1 T cumin
2 Garlic Cloves minced
1 T cracked black pepper
1/2 C bread crumbs soaked in a couple Tbls of half and half until fully absorbed
1 Egg
Kosher Salt to taste, typically a couple pinches is perfect

2 orange peppers
4 oz asiago cheese - sliced into 1/8 inch thick slices
 Aioli - see link and I like to add a little mustard to my aiolis.  It helps with emulsion and makes it taste even more delicious!
1 package of a dozen Hawaiian rolls

Preheat over to 450 degrees.

Combine ground turkey, basil, paprika, cumin, garlic, black pepper, bread crumbs, egg and salt in a medium sized blow.  Mix with well washed hands until combined.  Forming your sliders, make a slightly larger than golf ball sized ball of your mixture.  Then press into a disc about a 1/2 and inch thick pulling from the middle of the patty.  The middle of the patty should be slightly thinner than the outer part of the burger.  This helps prevent your burgers from turning into dome like hockey pucks.  Then transfer your patties onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and set aside.

Slice your orange peppers in half and remove seeds, membrane and stem.  Then lightly coat in EVOO, place on a cookie sheet skin side down and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

While the peppers are roasting place your patties on a medium high heat grill that has been greased with a little EVOO.  Grill both side for 3-4 minutes no longer!  Remove from grill onto a clean sheet pan and place a slice or two of the Asiago cheese on top of the hot patties.  I will sometimes finish the burgers for a minute or two under the broiler in my over to fully melt the cheese.

At the end of the 15 minutes flip your peppers and place back in the over for 10 minutes.  I like my peppers with a good amount of char so I will usually flip them back to their skin side for another 10 minutes and flatten them out a little so as much of the pepper as possible to touching the metal of the pan.  Once your peppers are done roasting remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board to cool and then slice into 1x2 or 2x2 slabs.  Basically you want a nice little slab of pepper on every burger and depending on the shape of your pepper this may vary in size.  Just make sure there is enough pepper on the burger to get some in every bite.

Now it is time to assemble our sliders. 

First take a Hawaiian roll and cut it in half with a serrated knife.  Then smear a little of the Aioli you have made on both sides of the roll, place the burger patty on the bottom half, then a slab of the roasted pepper and top with other half of the roll.  And now you have a delicious and flavorful slider good for any gathering or just as a snack! 

My First Food Blog!

This first blog is going to be a little longer than most but I have a lot to tell you all about! :) And for those of you who know me well I know you are saying "what's new?" I love you guys! 

For those who know me food is a huge passion of mine.  Whether I am eating or cooking I love the experience of food and how it enriches our lives.  Last night a friend suggested I start a blog to share my experience and my recipes and so here it is.  I have amazing friends and family and having the opportunity to feed them is something that makes me truly happy.  Cooking allows me to tap into a level or artistry I have never experienced and I hope that I will get a chance to feed all of you some day!  My family is filled with amazing cooks and chefs and my mom and family have been incredibly supportive of this passion of mine.

Over the last four plus months I have had some huge changes in my life.  One of those has been losing about 20lbs! The amazing thing is that I lost this weight and still ate great food and enjoyed frosty beverages or a good glass of vino!  How did I do this you might ask? Well it all came down to organization honestly.   I think a lot of the time we compromise and eat what is convenient over what is healthy, thus all of the fast food chains that are killing us slowly.  So the question I had to ask myself was: I how am I going to change my life so that I have a sustainable plan that I can enjoy, not divert from and is fairly easy?  

- First the came the menu. I really started researching foods that are good for you and still have flavor! Let me tell you citrus and fresh herbs are your best friends in the kitchen sometimes.  So a normal weekday may consist of something like this:

Oh I have to say, if you are trying to lose weight YOU HAVE TO EAT!!! And that saying "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" well it's true.  I live with a very intelligent and well educated personal trainer who knows this stuff and if he says it then it's the facts people.  Eat breakfast dammit!

Breakfast: Cup of Vanilla Greek Yogurt (currently I am enjoying Fred Myer brand Greek yogurt because honestly the nutrition of it is better than Yoplait or Chobani) the trick here is to look for how much protein and how much sugar are in your yogurt.  The higher the protein and the lower the sugar the better.  I might also add half of a peanut butter sandwich using whole wheat bread and Adam's brand crunchy (personal preference) peanut butter.  This gives me long lasting energy and goes great with my morning coffee.

Mid-Morning Snack: (if needed) a 1/4 cup of almonds or more Greek Yogurt

Lunch: Pan seared or grilled chicken breast liberally seasoned with black cracked pepper, cumin, paprika, red pepper, fresh herbs like cilantro or lots of basil and sauteed garlic.  The seasonings I change up regularly so that I don't get bored with my food.  I realized early on that to make my new way of life sustainable I had to keep it interesting so it wouldn't become mundane and boring. I then will remove the chicken from the pan and deglaze the pan with a little chicken stock to get all of the goodies off of the bottom of the pan and add some fresh veggies (what ever is in season, but squash, zucchini, red/orange/yellow peppers are all great and usually what I go with).  I'll chopped up the chicken add it back to the pan after sauteing the veggies for a bit and toss it all together.  Then I will usually put that over a bed or brown rice or Quinoa.  Quinoa is a super food and is great for you and I have to thank a special friend for turning me on to it a few years ago! Usually they sell it in the bulk section of most grocery stores depending on the area you live in.  Otherwise brown rice is a great way to go. 

This is my lunch 4-5 days a week.  I usually make 2-3 servings and keep it in the fridge so I can just grab it and go.  The big trick here is to use a variety of seasonings and have an Italian, Latin or Asian influenced version of a chicken, rice and veggie dish.  

Mid-Day Snack: (if needed) a 1/4 cup of almonds or more Greek Yogurt

Dinner: Dinner for me during the week is usually similar to my lunch but with more of a focus on protein and less starches or carbohydrates.  Instead of chicken sometimes I'll cook tilapia or another white fist like cod.  These both are great with lots of lime juice, cilantro and salsa.  Put that over a bed of Quinoa or brown rice and I am a happy camper. 

Side note: When ever you cook ANYTHING make sure your pan has a chance to heat up to the correct temp.  This will take 5 to 10 minutes depending on your stove and pan so set a timer and walk away.  If you want a good sear on your steak, chicken or fish you pan HAS to be hot! Trust me you'll enjoy your food more if you do this.

So this is a typical weekday for me and my ingested calorie count is usually between 1300-1600 a day.  Some of you might say "holy shit 1600 that's a ton of calories!" Well most of the calories I ingest are from protein which the body loves and uses efficiently.  Remember you have to eat to lose weight and you can eat in a fun and exciting way if you make a plan.

- Second, I had to plan out my exercise.  

I started with low intensity cardio work on an elliptical 3-5 days a week exercising for 20 minutes the first week every day I was there, then for 25 the next week, 30 the week after and so on until I hit 50 minutes.  I also do an array of lifting exercises that help me build muscle strength.  Now I am doing high intensity cardio exercises because I gotten into better shape and those only last 20-30 minutes tops! 

I know a lot of people hate doing cardio and I found a good trick to getting it in is to go to a gym that has TVs and watch the news, a sport your like or just a TV show you like.  I do that and I make a game out of it, kind of like golf I am always in competition with myself to improve. 

- Third, have reasonable expectations and be your own cheerleader!

Since I love food and a good beer I knew getting into this that I won't be one of those insanely ripped guys and I am okay with that.  My goal was to be healthy and stay healthy.  To do this I have to organize my life to make this new life style work and you know what? It's easy! Once you start making a plan for yourself and executing it everything starts falling into place and the pounds melt off!  In 15 weeks I lost 20lbs and now I am getting stronger and loving life more and more.  During this time though I have had to make sure to tell myself I can accomplish this.  Whether is was 5 more minutes of cardio or making my lunches for the next day I have been my own cheerleader.  It might sound silly to tell yourself you can do something but self empowerment is an incredibly strong tool.  You will only appreciate yourself more and more if you rely on your own ability and quit waiting for someone to walk through the door and help you.

We only get one body people and we should treat it with some respect!  I say some because I still like to go out and enjoy some insanely rich foods or a delicious beer.  The trick is to limit yourself to when you ingest these foods and drinks.  Personally Saturday is my free day, I eat and drink what I want and it's working great! 

I bring this up because we all have the power to be who we want to be and we should enjoy the food we are eating while we ride this crazy of life.