Thursday, October 23, 2008

One of the Country's Best Sandwich Places

According to the August 2008 issue of Bon Appetit magazine the market 2 blocks from my apartment is the #10 best sandwich shop in the United States.

Jake and I go to Gateway Market all of the time, mainly because of it's location and the variety of items that we can't find in chain stores. I admit to stopping there for breakfast and paying an extreme $5 for a bagel and coffee (shame on me--that's not in the budget) but I had never had a sandwich there; after reading the article I HAD to try one. I opted for the beef brisket and chuck burger and Jake had the slider sampler.

Ther verdict: The burger was good but not great. I asked for it cooked medium and it came well done ( I really do not enjoy well-done beef). The flavor was so-so and didn't have any outstanding qualities. I will admit the price wasn't bad and will go back for a second try; it may have been an off day. For the best burger in Des Moines I suggest Francie's in South Des Moines.

Jake's slider sampler was quite good. We particularly enjoyed the lobster shrimp roll.

Have any of you readers enjoyed an extraordinary burger somewhere? Please share. I love burgers!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fried Fish and Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potatoes

Jake's dad is the ultimate outdoorsman. He's a fish and wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (he's really good at his job). We are constanly blessed with the fruits of his hunting and fishing labors. Our freezer always has venison and fish in it - YUM! Now, I will admit it took me awhile to like venison but now I use it instead of beef. Plus, meat products from hunting and fishing are much more environmentally friendly than farm raised meat.

This evening we fried up some blue gill and catfish that Jake's dad caught. His dad makes a really good and simple breading. We had some really good sweet potato fries and jalapeno creamed corn on the side.

Fried Fish:
2/3 fryin' magic
1/3 cup finely crushed corn flakes
1/4 cup oil
fillets of fish
Place fish fillets in milk. Remove from milk and cover with breading. Heat oil to medium heat. Fry fish 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve with lemon.
Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Fries (thanks to Mom for the idea):
3 large sweet potatoes, cut like steak fries
Generous amount of olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to fit yout taste)
1 tablespoon chili powder
salt and pepper
Place sweet potatoes on baking sheet. Combine oil, sugar, pepper, chili pepper, salt and pepper. Pour over sweet potatoes and make sure they are all coated. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Healthy Black Bean Soup

Another recipe from our belated wedding shower. This recipe is from my Mom who found it in one of her Rachel Ray coookbooks. It must be a Rachel Ray week for me.

The soup was really easy to make, full of veggies, and perfect for a chilly fall night. Cornbread was a perfect accompiniant. Only bummer thing about this soup was that I accidently bought black soy beans instead of real black beans! Black soy beans are not that good.
Black Bean Soup:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 2 turns of the pan
1 sprig fresh bay leaves or 1 large dried bay leaf
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 ribs celery with greens, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cans black beans (15 ounces)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander -- I omitted this and used fresh lime juice in its place
Salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons hot sauce, divided
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 can diced tomatoes, diced tomatoes with peppers and onions or stewed tomatoes (15 ounces)
Heat a medium size soup pot over medium-high heat. Add EVOO to hot pot then bay leaves, jalapeño, garlic, celery and onions. Cook 3-4 minutes, then add red peppers and continue to cook. Drain 2 cans of beans and add them. With remaining can, pour the juice and half the beans into the pot. Use a fork to mash up the beans remaining in the can. Stir the mashed beans into the pot and season with cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and 2-3 tablespoons hot sauce. Add stock and tomatoes to the stoup and bring to a bubble. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes over low heat.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkin Pasta and Pilgrim Pie

I finally made a fall themed -meal!

I found a pumpkin pasta recipe on Rachel Ray's page on The recipe was easy to prepare and took about 15 minutes (just like the recipe stated) Super flavorful and savory. It was accompanied by a spinach salad with apples, walnuts, and my cousin's awesome salad dressing.

One of my fondest childhood memories is making pies with my grandma the night before Thanksgiving. All of the ladies and girls would gather in my grandparent's small but functional country kitchen to make at least a dozen pies for the big feast the next day. One of my favorite pies is grandma's pilgrim pie; it's a pecan pie with coconut and rolled oats--SOOOOO GOOD! When I was preparing it this evening the memories of my childhood easily resurfaced. I could smell her kitchen, I pictured the mess of baking supplies splattered on countertops, walls, and the floor, I remembered sticking my tiny fingers in the pie filliing to sneak a taste, and I could recall the laughter that filled that tiny kitchen. What a wonderful thing! I hope you enjoy making the pie as much as I do.

Pilgrim Pie:

2 eggs, beaten,

1 cup sugar

1 cup karo syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 oz. butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup coconut

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup chopped pecans

Pie shell -- I just used an already made one

Beat together eggs, sugar, syrup, vanilla, butter, and salt. Stir in coconut, rolled oats, and pecans to mixture. Put into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes and 30 minutes at 350 degrees ( I have no idea why she does the heat change, but she always has done it that way).

Grandma's words of wisdom to me at the bottom of the pilgrim pie recipe card:

"To Jenny: Spoil your husband, but don't spoil your children." Grandma raised 6 wonderful children while working full time as a teacher and farmer.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Green Eggs and Ham

Wanna know what's been keeping me busy?

My wonderful Club kids! Above is a pic of some of my Torch Club members serving Green Eggs and Ham to the younger kids at the Club. These kids are AMAZING.

Torch Club members are responsible for planning and implementing Club and Community service projects and events. The first project for 2008 was a Green Eggs and Ham day for the little kids at the Club. Torch Club members read Dr. Seusse's famous book, colored pictures of Sam I Am with the little ones, prepared and served Green Eggs and Ham, and played pin the green egg on the plate.

Green Eggs and Ham are easy to make! Just follow this recipe on!

"Say!I like green eggs and ham!I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!And I would eat them in a boat.And I would eat them with a goat...And I will eat them in the rain.And in the dark. And on a train.And in a car. And in a tree.They are so good, so good, you see!"

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Marsala Chicken

In late August my family held a late wedding shower for Jake and I. At the shower each guest was asked to bring a recipe card with their favorite recipe written on it. We got some great recipes and we're determined to try them all before the New Year. Tonight, we made the Marsala Chicken from my Cousin Jake and his beautiful wife, Carissa.

Jake pretty much cooked the Marsala chicken while I worked on the salad and dressing. He did a great job! The recipe was easy to follow and didn't take long at all. The next time we make it we'll add some prosciutto and make more sauce.

Marsala Chicken:
2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed marjoram
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 tablespoons sliced onions
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup marsala
salt and pepper to taste
Mix flour, marjoram, salt and pepper; lightly press chicken into flour mixture, both sides.
Cook mushrooms and onions in butter until tender. Remove and replace with chicken in same skillet on med-high 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and onions, then add broth and marsala; cook uncovered 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens.
Transfer chicken to serving plate, spoon mushroom mixture over chicken.

Long Lost Recipe: Amazing Salad Dressing

In May 2007 my cousin made this really great salad for a family gathering and gave me the recipe via e-mail. I made it once and never printed off the recipe. Well, today I was rummaging through old e-mails and I happened upon it. It was like finding $10 in my winter coat when I bring it out of storage. SOOO EXCITING!

I'm going to make this tonite with Chicken Marsala. I'll post pics later. But, until then, here's the recipe.

My Cousin's Super Delicious Salad:

1/3 C White balsamic Vinegar

1 C Maple Syrup

1/4 C lemon juice

1/4 C chopped garlic

1 C olive oil

2 T Black Pepper

2T fresh Basil chopped

Combine all ingrediants except Oil, Once combined add oil. Salad consists on field greens, golden raisins, grape tomatoes, gorganzola cheese and toasted walnuts

As an extra shout-out ot my fabulous cousin. I just caught sight of this beautiful wedding cake she did for a wedding. So talented. :-)

French Onion Soup

Jake loves french onion soup. His love affair began when he had Panera's--which, is really good.

My dad always made french onion soup when we had it at home;I got his recipe and that's what I made last night for dinner. This recipe takes A LOT less time than other french onion soups, but keep in mind it isn't as flavorful because you don't cook the onions as long. It's still really good and easy to make on a night you don't have a lot of energy or time.
French Onion Soup(recipe is cut down for 2):
2 onions, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (using fresh would be even better)
1 bay leaf
2 cans or 20 oz. condensed beef broth
Splash of cooking sherry or red wine
2 slices French bread, toasted
Swiss Cheese (or any yummy cheese of your choice)
Melt butter in stockpot and add onions. Cover and cook over low heat for 25-20 minutes (onions will become carmelized and really yummy smelling). Stir occaionally. Add broth, wine or sherry, and spices. Heat to boiling then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Set oven to broil. Place toasted bread in ovenproof bowl. Pour in onions and broth, top with cheese. Place bowls on cookie sheet and broil until cheese is melted and golden brown.