Thursday, January 30

Photo Montage: My Week of Breakfasts

Two "pried" eggs over collard greens (with bacon), a sliced tomato, and strawberries.
Two fried eggs, 2 chicken sausage links, salad and soup.
Half a cheese-less omelet with avocado, sweet potato hash, side of cantaloupe and strawberries.
Left over Hamburger, 1 egg, sliced tomato and avocado. cup of broccoli soup and coffee. 
Pulled pork over swiss chard with two eggs. 
Crust-less quiche with sliced tomato and cantaloupe. 
2 fried eggs, grilled steak kabob, sliced tomato/avocado, mixed fruit. 

There are several things you can learn from this photo montage. 
1. Canteloupe is in season. 
2. Most of my breakfasts make use of last nights leftovers. 
3: I love avocado and tomatoes. 
4. There is no such thing as a "breakfast" food. It's meal one people 

Friday, January 24

Perfectly Roasted Potatoes

 Perfect. Crisp. Potatoes.

Some people love mashed potatoes. I think they are yummy for Thanksgiving but never really think to eat them throughout the year. What I really enjoy are Perfectly Roasted Potatoes. When done right, these things will make you forget about french fries (almost) and will round out your menu for any occasion. We don't eat regular potatoes around here very often but when we do I cook them this way.

This is less of a recipe than a technique. I thought of this a few years ago after I remembered AB's directions for getting your rice the right constancy for homemade sushi. The key was to rinse the starch so that it would be sticky but not overtly so. I tried it for my roasted potatoes and it worked!

Dice your potatoes into 1 or 2 inch cubes. It doesn't matter the size you want to make but just remember the larger chunks, the longer it will take in the oven. Put in a bowl and rinse thoroughly (I stick my hand in there to mix up all the chunks) then drain the water. It is important to do this until it is no longer opaque and the water is clear, usually three or four times.

Turn the oven on for 350. Drain the potatoes for the last time. Spread out on a kitchen towel and leave to dry for at least 20 minutes- sometimes I wait up to an hour while I am cooking other things. It is important for them to be dry so when you put the fat on it'll stick to the spuds. Once you are ready to cook, spread the potatoes in a single layer, you might have to use two cookie sheets to accomplish the single layer. Melt a the fat of your choice (Ghee, Coconut Oil , duck fat, bacon fat is a favorite of mine for this) and mix in to evenly coat the potatoes. Sprinkle on salt, pepper and garlic powder. Now is the time to add other spices if you wanted to get fancy; Sometimes I'll do rosemary, thyme or paprika. Then stick in the oven for 20 minutes or until you can stick a fork in the potato and it is just done but not mushy. Then turn the oven up to 425. After 5-10 minutes take the tray out and turn the potatoes over then stick back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Are your potatoes getting crispy brown edges? If so you are on the right track and will be finished soon, if not you need to wait until your spuds are at least a bit brown on the edges. Also after the oven is turned up you have to make sure to pay attention to them since the temperature is so high. This can go from really delish to really burnt pretty fast. 

Want French fries? I do my homemade baked french fries the same exact way- I just cut them up in sticks. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 22

THE List

Is it weird that every year I put together a list of restaurants that I really really have to go to by the end of the year? Nah. The List this year was inspired by a recent article by Laura Reiley in Tampa Bay Times. Doesn't she have the best job? Seriously, how do I get that gig? 

Below are the top 37 restaurants according to Reiley. (The original list was 50 but some of them I have no interest in or they are far enough away for me not to include them.)  Her well rounded lineup has pointed out a few that I still have yet to dine, made me reminisce in past deliciousness and showed me a couple of new ones that were not on my radar. 

Tampa Bay's Top Ten
10. CopperFish- This venue has been open since May of last year and every time I pass it on Howard, I am reminded that we still haven't dined there... Add it to The List
9. Birch & Vine- I have been to The Canopy upstairs and although it is not the same menu, it is the same kitchen so I really don't feel the need to dine here until some of the others on the The List have been conquered. 
8. Z Grille
7. Pearl in the Grove- I always love a good theme night but it is a little bit far for dinner. 
6. Rooster & the Till- I am down for anything new in Seminole Heights and I do love a good Farm to Table. Add it to The List
5. Mise En Place- Mr. FFF and I went with friends once but I wasn't really a fan. A little too stuffy for me.
4. The Refinery- Seminole Heights + Farm to Table + multiple time James Beard semi-finalist = So good.  

3. SideBern's- This one has been on The List for quite a while, we just never seem to make it there.  
2. Cafe Ponte
1. Edison- It is number one for a reason, but it is a bit loud for the older generations. 

Part of Tampa Bay's top 50
Bern's Steak House- Oldie but a goodie.
Datz/Dough- Love this place; we go often.

Osteria Natalina
Oxford Exchange- Love this place; would love to go more frequently.
Pane Rustica- Last year's anniversary dinner. Not too shabby. They have both inexpensive items and top dollar. 
Restaurant BT- I have been hearing about BT for a few years but I thought it closed down since I never saw it while driving on MacDill, which isn't far from home. Then the other day, I saw the sign (cue the early 90's pop song) until the other day.  Add it to The List.
Anise Global Gastrobar- Loving the fusion. 
Cena- Of course after we move from the Channelside area there are a few new restaurants and more things to do... But that won't stop me from dinning at Cena. Open since May, I am hoping to try it out before the end of the year. 
Add it to The List.
Fly Bar- A favorite.
Eddie V's
Seasons 52
Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe- This is another one that I haven't quite made it to yet. I hear the Sunday brunch is quite good. 
Add it to The List.
Council Oak
Cigar City Brew Pub- Need to head up to Carrollwood and try out this one. Local beer + food= sounds good to me. 
Add it to The List.
Yummy House- Take out counts right? I would like to go back for a dine-in experience. 
Taco Bus- It would be devastating if this taco place was not around. 

Capital Tacos- it's in Land O'Lakes but if I am ever up that way, you had me at Tacos. 

DTSP (Down Town St Pete)
Bella Brava
La V
Rococo Steak 
Ciccio's- Great to start off a Sunday Funday! But NOT while wearing a shirt that says Sunday Funday....
Gateway to India
Red Mesa- One of my absolute favorites.
Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish - Really need to get on this side of St. Pete to try the smoked fish.
Add it to The List but remember to bring cash. 

If all goes as planned then 2014 will be one delicious year. 

Restaurant BT
Rooster & the Till
Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe
Cigar City Brew Pub
Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish
Yummy House

There is plenty of room on the The List, so let me know if there is an eatery that you think I need try
 Happy Dinning!

Thursday, January 16

Milk & Meal: Homemade from Almonds

I didn't always like almond milk. The kind that you get in a carton at the store just never tasted right to me. I bought several different brands and I just never liked the after-mouth taste. Then I looked at the ingredients list (Note to Self: look at ingredients BEFORE purchasing). Calcuim carbonate, Carrageenan, Gellan gum, additional vitamins...  I mean what is that stuff anyways?? Shouldn't Almond Milk just be about the Almonds? There are already vitamins in the nuts why are they adding them? I am not here to definitively say that these ingredients, both natural and chemically made, are "good" or "bad". I just want REAL FOOD. 

So I decided to make some homemade prior to adding to my Not A Fan of Food List. After the initial ingredient discovery, I looked at recipes all over the webs and tried out a couple of different ratios. This is what I came up with... YOU might like yours creamier or you might like it more watery- this is what I like. I would also like to mention that my taste tester I.E. Mr. FFF really despised my very first batch... as in he told me "there are somethings you just can't make and you shouldn't try". Doesn't that sounds like a challenge to you? It does to me!

This almond milk is a 2 days process but it is sugar free, chemical free and ridiculously tasty. 

Homemade Almond Milk

Ingredients: Filtered Water, 1 cup Almonds, 1 Date (this is optional, just adds a hint of sweetness)

Day 1: Put one cup of raw almonds in a mason jar, fill with water until right above the almonds. Lid on, walk way.
Day 2: This is still a waiting day. I added more water because the almonds had risen above the waterline.
Day 3: Milk day! Dump the soaking water, rinse the almonds. Your almonds will be really plump and juicy! Add the nuts to the blender, with one date (take out the seed) for sweetness and add 1.5- 2c of filtered water (recipes normally say 1 to 2 cups per cup of almond). I used to find 2 cups of water to be too much because it made the the almond milk have a skim milk fluidity but as long as you let the almonds soak for TWO days and you have a decent blender 2 cups should be fine. Blend for a few minutes until nuts are pulverized. Take your milk nut bag (yes I have one it was $7 on Amazon but you can use a strainer and a cheese cloth instead) place in a medium bowl or Pyrex, pour in almond mixture in nut bag, pick up bag and squeeze liquid from pulp. The amount of almond milk you get will depend on how much water you used. Make sure to keep your almond milk in an air tight container and refrigerate. Remember, this stuff isn't pasteurized and since it is completely made of REAL ingredients it only lasts 3-4 days... but that isn't really a problem in my house. 

What to use almond milk for? As a creamer in your coffee or tea, replacing fruit juice in your morning smoothie, with cookies (hehe), if you are a cereal eater use it in place of milk. The list goes on... I personally love to use it in my morning cold brew. In fact, I have to make sure to eat breakfast within 30 minutes because if I let more time go by I am pretty content with the protein in my morning cup of joe and wont eat until lunchtime. 

Don't forget to save the pulp! Almond flour is expensive but if you have a dehydrator and a food processor you can use your leftover almond pulp and get two different uses from the same almonds. How awesome is that?! (Some might say frugal, I say penny-wise.) I have done it before in the oven but here in Florida I don't like to leave my oven on for that long, even in the "winter".  Put your dehydrator on at 165 degrees (my oven only goes as low as 170)  and then add the pulp to a tray and leave it over night to 12 hours. Once its no longer moist you can add it to your food processor and pulse away until there are no more lumps. Now you are ready to coat your chicken, make crackers, paleo pancakes... or whatever else you can come up with. Here are a few more ideas. 

 Making almond milk is not hard but it does take planning. Do you like almond milk? Would you ever made your own?


* Thanks for the awesome Christmas present Sis!

Thursday, January 9

Man I need a Cold Brew.

Not Beer, Coffee! I have been reading all about cold brew coffee lately and hearing about it from the ladies at the Balanced Bites podcast. Now we can't get their recommended cold brew in these parts (Florida your weather is great, but you are no hipster) so I decided to research and make it myself. What I found was a surprisingly easy way to make your cold coffee. No more waiting to brew coffee and then let it cool for me! It is perfect for those mornings you are rushing out the door and for coffee all year round in the South. I use the best flavored coffee I can get my hands on; usually it's the seasonal coffee at The Fresh Market. You can use regular but I looove flavored (in spite of its dark side).

Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
Step 1: Get out your coffee grinder and grind 12 oz. of coffee. If your grinder has a choice, courser beans are better than finer in this instance. Pour in Mason jar. I use a large half gallon Mason jar to house the grounds during the brewing process but you can use anything large enough for 7-8 cups.  Add filtered water until half way full. Thoroughly stir your ground coffee with the water until all grounds are saturated. Then fill to just below the brim this will be about 7-8 cups of water altogether. Put a lid on it and set aside for 15-24 hrs. 
Step 2: When the wait is over, use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth and pour into clean container to remove grounds. Rinse out your original container and filter it again. (Use the spent grounds for the garden!) Now here is the fun part. You can use your *coffee maker to do this. Place a clean filter in the coffee maker; pour your pre-strained coffee directly into the basket of the coffee maker. Let it drip into the coffee pot and walk away- do the dishes or something. In a few minutes you will need to add more to the basket and you might have to do this a couple of times depending on the size of your coffee maker. After the last drop has dripped, you will end up with a great cold brew coffee concentrate.

How is this a "fast morning coffee"? 
Once you have your concentrate, your mornings will be easy breezy and caffeinated. All you will need to do is fill your glass with ice (does not matter if it is a to-go mug or a stay-at-home glass) and pour in 4 ounces (1/2 c) of the coffee concentrate. This is the ideal amount but for those **heavy coffee drinkers out there just fill your glass half way. The other half can be water, milk, almond milk, whatever ever your little heart desires. Except soy milk. It's terrible for you. I know some people just need a big jolt to get them going in the morning, so for you- drink it ***straight. 

Have you ever had a cold brew before? What is your favorite? You have one more day to help vote in the best coffee beans for home brewing
* If you do not have a coffee maker, alternatively you can use a mason jar with the ring (not the lid) and a coffee filter. It does take a rather long time. 
**Also you should really fix your dependency on caffeine. Mark from Mark's Daily Apple asks "Is it really just a pick-me-up, or is it a band-aid for a larger problem..."
***Stop this! It is a drug after all

Sunday, January 5

New year, New Goals

I know I am few days late.  I don't necessarily have a new year’s resolution this year- I just have a few objectives I would like to accomplish and incorporate in my life in the upcoming year.

I know a popular goal this time of year is to lose weight or get more exercise and mine is similar. But really I want to get out there and move. We already do Orange Theory Fitness twice a week, and I am running (just not as much as I would like). Between OTF, running once or twice a week, biking (I got a bike for Christmas!) and walking one mile on rest days- hopefully I can just move every day. So I am telling the WORLD in order to hold myself more accountable. Bahaha. 

I already eat pretty healthy. At least 90% (maybe 80%) better choices than most of Standard American Diets but I'd like to clean it up more. Maybe 2014 will bring me less beer and more broccoli. That sounds terrible but definitely healthier. I'd like to stick to my guns and only partake in things that are less healthy when it's really really needed not just because it's Friday.

I really have a great life including a wonderful husband, great family and an awesome group of friends. There is so much to be thankful for- I am choosing to look at what I have and not at what I do not have. And to just be appreciative.

As of yesterday, we have already started to do this with cutting the cord (for Cable, that is). I want to learn how to say no and not take on too much. I have a tendency to say yes to everything, to watch too many TV shows and to keep watching just because I have for the last X number of years, to think I can get everywhere in in 15 minutes and to basically over book myself. Not being employed for the past couple of months has shown me that taking the time to do that basics can really make you value the whole experience even more. Does this make sense? Maybe less really is more? I would like to take this year to figure that out for sure.

Whether it is in the field that I have been in the last 8 years or even another avenue. I would like to find an occupation that I am passionate about.

As open as I am, sometimes you need to keep some ambitions to yourself. If it comes to fruition, you'll be the first to know. :)

I am very lucky, we have only had one death in my extended family and that was many years in the making. Last year brought sickness. One of our strongest, healthiest, most stubborn members suddenly came down with one of the worst cancers. Never in a million years would we have expected for him to become so sick so fast. I love our joint families but life gets in the way and sometimes you don't spend enough time with them as you intended. I'd like for 2014 to be the year to change that. This personal experience has shown me that you never know what the next day will bring. Spend it with your loved ones. No regrets.

For some people this is an easy one. Not me. I am terrible at sleeping enough. I start off good and have intentions of getting my 8+ hours of sleep but this never happens. Usually it’s more like 6 hr., maybe 6 1/2 hrs. and almost never anything over 7 hr. This needs to change. It's not good for me and although I am naturally a night person, I need to start getting up and resting with the sun.

We already have a trip planned for early this year to see family up in Virginia. Whether it be saving up for one large trip or taking a bunch of mini trips. I would just like for us to spend time seeing more of the world.

Along with spending more time with family, I would like to keep in better touch with my friends. I'd like to reconnect with the women I was once incredibly close too. I'd like to get more regular updates from those friends who have moved away. And I would love to have more tete-a-tete's with the friends I see regularly because sometimes a personal connection can really be just the thing we all need.

I am sure if you looked up common New Year's objectives or goals or resolutions (whatever you would like to call them) many of the above would be listed. However I think they are still worth putting out there. There is always room for improvement especially if it also improves the fullness and overall richness of one’s life. Maybe I will not succeed in all of these in the upcoming year but I am going to try. Plus there is always the next year. 

This reminds me of a fitting quote I once heard.
"You can’t win at everything, but you can laugh at everything." -Robert Killinger

Too bad you can’t make money on quotes. We'd be rolling in it over here. :)