My Saturday!

I was in the cooking mood today!  Also, in the catching-up on Boss and starting Girls mood…  All of which made for a fun day!

For lunch, I sauteed a pound of ground beef with orange and red bell peppers, and – of course – onions (don’t worry, I didn’t eat it all!).  Delicious, and oh-so simple.  For dinner, I made my friend Laura’s Vegan Three-Bean Chili, but served it over broccoli slaw instead of corn chips – all the crunch with none of the guilt!

 

#roscato #wine with mostly-#organic #threebean #vegan #chili and #broccolislaw // #whitagram

A post shared by Luke Bunker (@lukebunker) on

A few of our tulips have also started to bloom!  I wasn’t able to get great pictures, what with the sun beating down on them because I was too lazy to wait for the right light, but here’s a peek!  I’ve been seeing some of the trees around town start to bloom, so I might head over to the library tomorrow… redbuds and crabapples, oh my!

On Friday evening, before they really opened up...

On Friday evening, before they really opened up…

On Saturday, with mid-day brightness...  The tales of a lazy photographer continue...

On Saturday, with mid-day brightness… The tales of a lazy photographer continue…

Tonight’s Dinner

20140206-220217.jpg
Organic Penne Pasta with Garlic Alfredo, Chicken, Peas, Organic Red Pepper Flakes, Fresh-Ground Black Pepper and Fresh-Grated Romano. Yum!

I have really enjoyed cooking more at home lately. Not only am I saving money, but I have more control over what is in the food I choose to put in my body.

31-Day Blog Challenge: My Favorite Recipe

Day 27/31

Three-Bean Vegan Chili, made non-vegan with the addition of some shredded cheese.

Three-Bean Vegan Chili, made non-vegan with the addition of some shredded cheese.

Many thanks to my friend, Laura, for making this recipe for me while I visited her in Florida, which I’ve slightly adapted for what me and my family best enjoy!  It’s perfect for a winter eve, and it will serve around 6 people with good-sized bowls.

Three-Bean Vegan Chili

Ingredients:

  • 3 Cans Tri-Bean Blend Beans (or 1 can each of following:  Dark Red Kidney, Pinto, Black)
  • 2 Cans Italian Recipe Stewed Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano
  • Vegetable Broth (I need to find out the amount – I could have sworn I posted this recipe.  Can I find it??  NO.)
  • ~1 1/2 Medium White Onions, chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Chili Powder (I can’t remember the specific amount, but I used closer to 1)
  • 1/2 – 1 Tablespoons Cumin
  • Crushed Black Pepper & Pink Himalayan Salt

Directions:

  1. Heat broth in a nice, big soup pot and add onions, cooking until they get to that nice, brown color.  Go ahead and add in those spices so the onions and broth can soak it all up.  Don’t forget to add your garlic!
  2. Lightly rinse and drain the beans in-can and pour the beans and tomatoes in the pot.
  3. Simmer and make that baby cook!
  4. Serve over corn chips or with cheese and a dash of sour cream.  Or, you can eat it by itself – delicious!  (Shall you serve it with a nice red wine??  Sure – why not!)

*I recall posting this recipe somewhere else.  As I feel like I’m forgetting something as I’m going off a note on my iPhone, I will try to fill in the inconsistencies later.  Enjoy!!

31-Day Blog Challenge: 10 Favorite Foods

Day 21/31

Awwwww, foooooooood!  As excited as I’ve been for another post about food, I find myself at a loss to pick just ten favorite foods.  Seriously, that’s like making a parent pick their favorite child!!  Doable, but not altogether easy…

OMG, the creamy, the cheesy...  America's favorite comfort food gets the coveted #1 spot on my "Favorite Foods" list.

OMG, the creamy, the cheesy… America’s favorite comfort food gets the coveted #1 spot on my “Favorite Foods” list.

Macaroni & Cheese…  But, mostly, the “adult” variation with quality cheeses, CREAM, bacon, CREAM and truffle oil.  But, really, pasta of any variety will do just fine.

Coming in at the top three, this steak from Oliva Verde in Prague was so beautiful I just had to take a photo of it.

Coming in at the top three, this steak from Oliva Verde in Prague was so beautiful I just had to take a photo of it.

Steak…  There’s something about a filet or ribeye that’s just, well, right.  Having been born and raised in “The Cowboy Capital of the World,” where beef is big industry and a part of everyday life, I suppose it makes sense.  The two best steaks I have ever had were at Ruth’s Chris at the Hyatt Regency in St. Louis and, #1, at ALC Steaks in Austin.  Beef:  it’s what’s for dinner.

potato soup

Is wine a food? Let’s go ahead and slip it in, right here…

Potatoes…  Again, pretty much any form is fine, but potato soup and loaded baked potatoes really take the cake, or rather, “the potato,” here.  I’m part Irish and German, so every time I eat potatoes, I am coming home.

Crêpes...  I pretty much refuse to eat them anywhere but Paris.  I guess you could say I was spoiled at first taste.

Crêpes… I pretty much refuse to eat them anywhere but Paris. I guess you could say I was spoiled “at first taste.”

Crêpes…  Pancakes, Nutella, strawberries/bananas/whatever…  How on earth could you go wrong?  They’re great everywhere in Paris, but my favorite is at Le Tire Bouchon in Montmartre – thanks to Chris Morrison for bringing us to this awesome piano bar!

chocolate

Chocolate. Need I say more?? (Fassbender & Rausch in Berlin – YUM; Godiva is my fave chain/brand)

Chocolate…  If you need an explanation for this, we can’t be friends.

Chipotle Burrito Bowls (with Guac, naturally).

Chipotle Burrito Bowls (with Guac, naturally).

Chipotle Burrito Bowls…  Just look at that picture.  Isn’t it beautiful?  My brother introduced me to the shrine-to-all-that-is-holy-that-is-Chipotle in December 2010.  I remember this introduction vividly…

Pretty much any Mexican food...  That being said, gringas have a special place in my heart.

Pretty much any Mexican food… That being said, gringas have a special place in my heart.

Mexican Food…  In particular, tacos, burritos, gringas, refried beans, posole…  Well, anyway.  Mexican food is my go-to comfort food.

This Frozen Jitter from The Good Egg in Wichita, Kansas...  It puts me in that Happy Place.

This Frozen Jitter from The Good Egg in Wichita, Kansas… It puts me in that Happy Place.

Frozen Coffee Drinks…  Frappuccinos, ice-creamy-coffee drinks.  There’s so much to love here that I can’t start to get into it for fear that I won’t be able to stop.  There’s probably a post on BuzzFeed about it, anyway.

Enstrom's Milk Chocolate Almond Toffee.

Enstrom’s Milk Chocolate Almond Toffee.

Enstrom’s Toffee.  Our good friends out in Colorado send us a tin of this toffee for Christmas every year, and it always fills us with joy (and, in the pursuit of honesty, calories).  The crunch, the richness, the flaky almond dust…  It all just works.  OH SO WELL.

Without further ado...

Without further ado…

The best thing I have ever eaten, ever…  I really don’t know how to describe this dish…  There were fried potatoes, there was a smattering of ham, a spattering of cheese, a dose of salad…  Whatever it was, it made La Marmite in Paris the location of, to this date and of my best recollection, the best dish I have ever eaten.  I have eaten a lot (look at pictures of me for proof), but I can still taste this dish.  It was sooooo good.  My friends and I still talk about it.

What are your favorite foods?  Please share in the comments below – I love hearing people talk about food!!!

Review: Restaurant Man

Restaurant ManRestaurant Man by Joe Bastianich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joe Bastianich. He’s an arrogant a**hole, a self-professed “cheap f*ck”… But, you can’t ignore his success or that, yes, just maybe, he has a reason to be just a bit arrogant. The man seems to be a genius, although he can at times come across as the pioneer for *everything* – surely he is an innovator, but sometimes it feels like a bit of a stretch. His passion for food, wine and Italy are evident throughout the book, and it seems incredibly authentic in those respects.

To be honest, I almost didn’t make it seven pages into this book. I admit I have a potty mouth, but I literally blushed at how crude and vulgar he was, particularly in the beginning chapters of of the book. I’d think, “Wow, I haven’t seen the F word for a while…” Just as soon as I’d think that, I’d see that, yep, there it was. That being said, his voice is clear throughout his writing, and you feel like you’re sharing a long, delicious, Italian meal (with, of course, great Italian wine) with him relating his life story to you, hand gestures, asides and all. I loved that.

If you can get over his rather repulsive potty mouth (hey, we all have vices), this makes for a very enjoyable and enlightening read. It has a good theme, and his chapters and stories are on-point. His transformation and story are inspiring, and I found myself wanting to read this book every free moment I had. And, when I find myself in New York, I am SO hitting up Babbo.

View all my reviews

31-Day Blog Challenge: What’s in My Fridge

Day 12/31

I’m getting to my blog posting much earlier today than I normally do – by about 12 hours!  Today’s prompt is in regards to the contents of my fridge.  Since I share with the rest of my family, I’m listing what I’ve purchased and what I use semi-frequently.  I’ll also post the contents of my wine fridge :-).

Unfortunately, Orangina is not found in our fridge as I've only been successful finding the drink in Europe and (as pictured) in one of our favorite groceries, Ridgway (Colordo) Mountain Market.

Unfortunately, Orangina cannot be not found in our fridge as I’ve only been successful finding the drink in Europe and (as pictured) in one of our favorite groceries, Ridgway (Colordo) Mountain Market.  Boy, I should have stocked up.  I’m always on the lookout for Appletiser, too.  Delicious!

In the freezer…

  • Simple Truth Organic Roasted Vegetable & Spinach/Feta Pizzas
  • Private Selection California Lemon Grove Sorbetto – this is so delicious and is awesome in this “adult” dessert recipe.
  • Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream – I actually forgot this was in there until I looked this morning!  I’ve been doing a lot better limiting my ice cream and gelato intake this year – which is surprising, actually…
  • Cascadian Farm Organic Mixed Vegetables
  • Cascadian Farm Organic Harvest Berries

In the fridge…

  • Brita Water Reservoir – great for quick filling up of glasses and water bottles as our city water is just plain nasty.
  • Horizon Organic Chocolate Milk – this is mostly for my niece, but we all love it!
  • PureAlmond Almond Milk – I still haven’t adjusted to this flavor…  I bought it when I was trying out veganism…  Meh.
  • Diet Coke – I don’t often drink soda/pop, but when I do, it’s this or root beer.
  • Queso de Quesadilla – a wonderful, shredded Mexican cheese that goes good with pretty much everything.
  • Private Selection Romano Cheese Wedge – perfect for finely grating into and over pastas.
  • Horizon Organic Reduced Fat Cream Cheese – because cream cheese is oh-so-important in my life.
  • Kroger Shredded Colby Jack cheese
  • Alouette Baby Brie
  • 3-4 varieties/brands of hummus, my favorite being Fountain of Health Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.  Of course, one must add diced jalapenos for that added kick!
  • Garden Fresh Gourmet Sweet Onion Salsa – this is a fresh, chunky, delicious salsa that – true to the name – tastes like the ingredients were just picked from the garden.
  • Kroger Sour Cream – because I LOVE Mexican food and sour cream.
  • Bonne Maman Fruit Preserves – I have several variants, but my absolute favorite is raspberry.
  • Veggie Trays – these go on markdown a lot at our grocery store and are awesome to just snack from or put out when guests are over.
  • Organic Gala Apples – yum!!
  • Simple Truth Organic Baby Carrots
  • Condiments – ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickles and the like.  Because if I have a sandwich, Imma doll it up!
  • Lea & Perrins Worchestershire Sauce – this is awesome to pour over steaks on the grill.  I love the flavor, it’s a pretty versatile ingredient, and it even works in some Asian dishes.
  • Hendrickson’s Original Sweet Vinegar & Olive Oil Dressing – this is awesome for marinating, salads, and pretty much everything.  My mom and I were shopping one day when a guy was literally having a breakdown in front of the salad dressings because he couldn’t find a bottle of it.  After he went into a soliloquy of why this particular dressing was so amazing, we found it and – if my memory serves me correctly – he gave my mom a hug.  We proceeded to get a bottle (because, obviously, if it’s life-impacting enough to cause someone to have a public breakdown in the middle of the condiments aisle, we must have it, too) and have been devout users ever since.
  • Private Selection Whole Clove Garlic in Brine – because who likes dealing with garlic skin?!  Not me.
  • Horizon Organic Salted Butter – because, butter.
  • Mt. Olive Roasted Red Peppers – thanks to my friend, Laura, I now love putting these on whole-grain toast with avocado, greens and red onions.  It makes for an awesome and healthy sandwich.
  • Mt. Olive Diced Jalapenos – perfect in hummus.
  • Starbucks Bottled Frappuccinos – this is one of those things where I went through a phase, and I absolutely have to be in the right mood to crack open a bottle.  It just doesn’t do justice to the one you’d order at the actual coffee shop, which we don’t have in Dodge.  😦
  • A variety of local jams and jellies I’ve picked up from the farmers’ market – I think I was just being nice as I like almost never use them (see Bonne Maman, above).
  • Naturally More Peanut & Almond Butters – these are great for quick protein on toast and actually taste pretty good.  I can’t do almond butter without Bonne Maman, though, as the texture and flavor are a bit too strong for my taste buds.

In my wine fridge…

  • Cascinetta Vietti Moscato d’Asti – This was the first bottle of wine I ever purchased.  I decided to buy while we were in Occoquan, Virginia, on the week of my 21st birthday and after a wine tasting at Mom’s Apple Pie.  What a fun day and memory!
  • Godiva Chocolate Vodka – I mean, seriously, what the hell was I thinking??!  I tried this once on some ice cream on someone’s recommendation and it’s pretty much just stayed put since.  At least it was on sale, I guess…
  • Pallini Limoncello – used in the same dessert linked above.  SO delicious – it’s like an adult lemon drop.
  • Hiram Walker Triple Sec – I want to make mimosas at some point, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.  Yet.  🙂
  • Roscato Rosso Dolce – this is a great, sweet, semi-sparkling (whether it is or not, I don’t know, but it tastes like it) red wine that is quite delicious and is a good substitute for those in my bunch who don’t like the drier red wines with certain meals.  It went over really well on Christmas.
  • Arbor Mist White Pear Pinot Grigio – this may be the cheap stuff, but we love it – it tastes just like spiked pear juice!
  • Primo Amore Moscato – as I understand it, this is the house wine at Olive Garden.  Either way, it works for when I don’t have access to or stock of Cupcake (thanks, shortage!!) or Martini & Rossi.
  • Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio
  • Killian’s Irish Red & Shiner Bock – I rarely do beer, so these are remnants of my uncle’s visit back in December.  I’m sure they’ll be drank by someone, eventually…

What’s in your fridge?  Please share in the comments!

Snacks & European Day Dreaming

20140111-124717.jpg

My 2 1/2-year-old niece is visiting today while my brother moves his family to a new place in town. We have had fun listening and dancing to music, and have been enjoying watching Samantha Brown’s “Passport to Europe” back episodes on Amazon Prime. Along with her grandma (my mom), we have been snacking on Baby Brie with Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves and Crispy Wheat Crackers (delicious!!). The weather is improving outside since the “Polar Vortex” left its mark, but it’s still a great day to snuggle inside with good family, good food, and dreams of travel tickling our senses. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Recipe + Photo: Limoncello-Soaked Organic Berries over Lemon Sorbet

Limoncello-Soaked Organic Berries over Lemon Sorbet

This afternoon, I made a delicious dessert – Limoncello-Soaked Organic Berries with Lemon Sorbet! It was adapted from a recipe I saw on Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals and was really simple and quick to make.  If you spend just a few seconds on presentation, it looks quite nice and elegant.

Continue reading

Comfort Food (and other ramblings)

As I write this post tonight, it is a stormy mess outside in Western Kansas.  Thinking about it, this sort of represents my day.  I work in what I consider a fairly high-stress environment, and sometimes the stress almost gets to be too much, and the littlest things can put a person in a (to put it delicately) “sour” mood.  This morning, that person was me.  However, always trying to be the professional and never show my irritations and frustrations (at least to those who are causing those feelings!), I worked on a customer’s laptop through the morning…  And then, an epiphany!  It was time for lunch.

Lunch…  An epiphany??  You betcha!  (Those who know me well will know this is not outside the realm of everyday reality.)  My coworker/best friend and I often go to lunch together, but since she was leaving early from work today, we decided to pick up some Mexican food from Tacos El Torito, a taco wagon/food truck not far from our office.

Once we picked up our lunches, we headed back to our desks for a quick lunch.  One of my other, more colorful and bardish (is that a word?  It is now.) coworkers starting going on and on about what I had ordered, how much he liked that particular item, and his eagerness to hear how it was.  I ordered a gringa, which is basically a quesadilla of sorts – a grilled tortilla with pork, cheese and onions.  I put some delicious, mild salsa verde (green salsa) over the top and my, oh my, I was in foodie heaven.  The ooey-gooey cheese, the partially-hardened tortilla and the tender pork made for a truly delicious feast, which totally turned my morning around.  Honestly!  It was so moving to the bard coworker that he decided to get a gringa for himself, and I begged him to bring me back a horchata (rice water spiced with cinnamon and other yummies).  As if that wasn’t enough, my “neighbor” Russ’s wife baked a Coca-Cola Cake with homemade chocolate icing, showing that sometimes there’s nothing better than a classic, moist sheet cake.  I wish I had taken pictures of my meal today, but it was so tantalizing I didn’t hesitate before digging in!

It could be a sign of a problem that I get so excited and that my mood changes so drastically with the right foods.  Regardless, after thinking about it this evening after work, I realized that, as a citizen of an actually fairly urban and diverse city, “comfort food” has assumed a new dynamic in our city of ~30,000.  With the various industries and jobs we have here, we (well, some of us, anyway) have welcomed a variety of people from different cultures and backgrounds.  Thanks to them, we have some of the best Asian and Mexican food I’ve ever tasted.  Dodge City doesn’t have a decent steakhouse or BBQ joint (sorry to those of you who think we do), but we have amazing taco wagons and hole-in-the-wall, wow-that-was-unexpected restaurants.

Now, I should interject here – I often complain about the dining options in this town.  It seems that even when we do get a promising new restaurant in town, they are rarely consistent and end up leaving shortly thereafter.  We don’t have much in the way of large chain restaurants; seemingly, we can only attract fat food restaurants (no typo there).  However, when I realize how truly blessed we are to enjoy the new “American foods” – Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese and other ethnic offerings – I see some hope, a light at the end of a sometimes very desolate tunnel.

Back on track…  Comfort food…  It means many things to different people.  I used to think my comfort food was mac and cheese, the staple childhood favorite for millions of children in this country (although my “epiphany” came in my teenage years).  And, when done right (read: with bacon), it can put you at that place.  But with so many ethnic foods done right in this little town, it’s hard to ignore that those cravings are indeed answers, answers to emotions and feelings, and answers that satisfy memories and moments of reminiscence.  We often associate food and drink with highlights and downturns, celebrations and friendships, and with coming back from the edge of illness of both the physical and mental varieties.  It’s no surprise that with these strong connections comes sometimes-scary risks, but that’s another post for another time that I’ll likely never write.

But, today, I have a question for you as my rambling starts to get boring even to me…  What is your true comfort food?  Please share in the comment section below!