Monday, August 8, 2016

Garlic Butter Festival

The other night, The Boss and I had a Garlic Butter Festival. Most people call it Surf and Turf, but considering how much butter and garlic I melted, and how much we love our garlic butter (on Shrimp Scampi as well), I thought it might be appropriate to temporarily rename the dish.

It started out as something simple - I had purchased some unfavorable steaks from a national warehouse retailer and needed something to help out and prevent them from ruining a weekend meal. My initial thought was salmon. It's a fish that's easy to grill and pretty hard to screw up. But a few days previously I had watched a few some videos, including a couple that showed how easy it was to grill lobster tail.


I've never cooked lobster tail before, mostly because of the expense in relation to the size of the cut - seems like a lot of money for something that, at least locally, is usually available in sizes about the same as crawfish. This time, though, since I've been making an effort to expand my cooking abilities, I decided to purchase some bigger lobster tails I had seen and surprise the woman of the household with her favorite shellfish. So I bit the bullet on expense and laid out the extra cash.

Once home, which just that unique touch of trepidation that comes with stretching your comfort zone, I fired up the grill and followed the steps I had spent thirty minutes on YouTube researching.

The aluminum-wrapped corn on the cob went on the grill first for a few minutes, followed by the steaks, and just moments later, I gently placed the lobster tail on the hot metal with a small prayer to the cooking gods ("Please don't let me royally screw these up.")

I kept a careful eye on the timer while I minced the garlic and melted the butter (an entire stick of butter and three garlic gloves). I pulled everything off the heat exactly when I was supposed to, and in the end, we had a meal that was absolutely worth every penny and the small effort to make. maybe the lobster could have remained on another minute, maybe two, but the meal was absolutely wonderful and well worth the money and effort. Later, when I did the math, I calculated I had spent on the entire meal for two people what I would have spent on one meal at Joe's Crab Shack or Red Lobster. (Note: the lobster could have arguably stayed on for one more minute, seems The Boss's piece was still just a hair rubbery in one small part, but I'll need to further research if the cause is due to the length of time on the grill, or placement, etc.)

I don't see myself cooking lobster anytime in the immediate future, but I'm definitely over any confidence issues I had, and assuredly will be making lobster again (and again).

Until Next Time...
Here's a video from Lighthouse Seafood and Deli on the simplicity of grilling lobster tail.
Butterly Yours,
Michael  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Margarita Redux on National Tequila Day

Well, when I wrote earlier this week about Margaritas, I had no idea National Tequila Day was this weekend, and since I wrote about it, I thought I'd make a Margarita pizza for fun and post the pics.
No secret recipe and I gave you the ingredients last post.
 Before


Marinating in olive oil and garlic

Fighting with the box of gluten-free flour



 In the oven

 Sous Chef Zeus decides to take a nap while the pizza cooks.


Slice it up, time to eat.

Until Next Time...
No video today, I'm too busy pouring a shot of tequila. Speaking of...
Tequilaly Yours,
Michael

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Margarita vs. Margarita

Let's have a Margarita!!

But wait, what am I talking about? Am I saying, "Let's have a drink" or "Let's eat a pizza" or maybe both? Maybe I'm saying, "Let's drink margaritas while eating a margarita pizza!"

Beginning on the most basic level, a margarita drink is a mixture of tequila, triple sec, and lime or lemon juice, often served with salt on the rim of the glass. You can have crushed ice, cubed ice, or some places will make it like a slushy. You can buy margarita mixes at the store if you don't feel like squeezing fresh, but to my tastes those pre-made mixtures are always too sweet.

Now that we have our drink, what about the pizza? The margarita pizza (sometimes spelled margherita) is a subclass of the Neopolitan pizza and in it's basic form it's made with tomato, sliced mozzarella (not shredded), basil, and extra virgin olive oil.

So why the similar names on two very different items? They share no ingredients. They don't have a similar food theme. One was not created to compliment the other.

It's no surprise that the answer lies in their origins.

The drink was born south of the US-Mexican border. At least five different areas claim it as their invention, and more than a few entertaining anecdotes are used as "proof" to back-up their claim, none seem any more credible than another. Experts though all tend to agree that the drink was probably invented sometime between 1900 and 1930.

The pizza can trace its origins back to Italy where its age is indeterminable but definitely older than the drink. The margarita pizza was the basis on which all other pizzas were based. For the true pizza scholar, this is the pizza you must try if you wish to call yourself a pizza connoisseur.

As I searched for anything else that might explain why these two completely separate items might share the same name, I could only think of one thing - I associate both of them with a beautiful day spent outdoors, relaxing and just enjoying the sun.

Think I can talk The Boss into joining me? Yeah, I think so too.

Until Next Time...
I leave you with two videos - a video on how to make a Margarita pizza (this man makes a beautiful pizza!!), and while that cooks mix yourself a tasty Margarita drink to pass the time.

Margaritaly Yours,
Michael

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Re-Organization

In my professional career my company has something called a "ReOrg." That means a few departments and professional duties have been shifted around to clarify goals and eliminate confusion and overlap.

When it comes to social media, sometimes people should do that too.

So I'm having a little ReOrg myself.

First, my Twitter account MichaelPeeples (@MichaelPeeples1) which is where I spend most of my time will only be devoted to my literary efforts. I'll no longer be posting food blog updates there or any food related tweets unless they relate somehow to the literary world. This is also the account that I will post my Classics & Cheese blog and webpage updates to. I will be dividing my time between this Twitter account and my other Twitter account.

Second, my Twitter account MeatyCheesyPizzaGuy (@MeatyPizzaGuy) will focus solely on the food industry and updates to this food blog. Before, this account was simply for goofing around, but now it seems more logical to focus this twitter account on food related issues since the username is food related.

Hopefully I haven't confused everyone by this ReOrg, and if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line.

Until Next Time....
Here's a short video with pantry organizing ideas.
Organizationly Yours,
Michael

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Grilled Cornish Hens with Asparagus

I want to put more of my own recipes on this blog, sometimes though, some of the things I make don't really have a recipe other than "throw it on the grill." I take pictures of nearly everything I cook, but when I sit down here and try to write up some sort of instructions to follow or ingredients to include, my first thought usually is, "Well, duh! Folks know that already."

Maybe it's time I do that anyway. For instance, the other morning as I peeked into the deep freezer for something to thaw that wasn't pork or beef or standard chicken, I saw these Cornish Hens I had. Yes, granted, they're "chicken" but they're tiny chickens in a manner of speaking, and I suddenly had a vision of them on a plank on the grill, and Wah-Lah!, that night's dinner was born.

Sure, I surfed the web throughout the day looking for further ideas, but I was technically supposed to be working so I knew anything that required any real prep time was out of the question. I decided to stick with my original vision even though I knew I'd have nothing original for this blog.
It was quite simple. I thawed the Hens, soaked a plank in water, eventually spread some seasonings on the poultry, fired up the grill, and put the planked birds on indirect heat. Took about an hour, but can't say I really timed it. Near the end, I took some asparagus and laid them one the grill as well. If you like asparagus, it's a real good "go to" veggie for grilling with just about anything, i.e., steak or salmon especially.

Needless to say, dinner turned out great, and even though I have no real recipe to share, I thought at least I could slap a couple of pics up here for your inspiration.

Until Next Time...
Here's a real recipe for smoking Cornish Hens, but please don't tell The Boss or else she'll make me make it next time.
Cornishly Yours,
Michael


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Difficult but not Insurmountable (a.k.a. Heathly Eating on a Budget)

If you follow my Twitter feed (MichaelPeeples1), then you might have seen a recent article I posted from Bodybuilding.com about "The 5 Cheapest Health Foods Money Can Buy." The article hit upon a theme I had already begun this post about so the timing of its publication worked out well.
 
I've talked about the love of cooking before and how, like any hobby of love, the initial costs can be high. What I didn't discuss was the average costs of the average family just trying to eat a healthier diet and how it can seem impossible to both eat better quality food while not breaking the bank.

People of all level of fitness, either the super fit or the overweight, face the delimma of costs versus health. A lot of today's food in the grocery stores and supermarkets will fill us up,  but can also leave us nutritionally incomplete. Efforts to break free of nutritional starvation can seem more difficult than a normal person with a normal busy schedule can handle.

For instance, sodium - a recent study showed that nearly everyone in the United States exceeds the federally recommended sodium level on a daily basis and that 90% of our sodium intake comes already packaged in our foods. So even if people stop salting their food, they still will be getting way more sodium than they should.  To reduce their sodium, people have to actively seek out alternatives or make it themselves. Soups serve as a good example, even the "low sodium" among them has high sodium levels. A person can take the time to prepare and make sodium free soup, but if pressed for time, it's much simpler to just open a can and pop it in the microwave.

But the first few steps are rather easy and inexpensive. You don't have to go out and buy a whole lot of exotic foods to do so. You can start with your next trip to the grocery store.  

1. Read the Labels - this is your most powerful weapon. It doesn't get any easier than this.

2. Educate Yourself - the more you read, the smarter you'll become.
There are a ton of articles in magazines and on the web plus more than a few published books on the matter to help us navigate a way to a healthier diet while keeping the costs down. Also check your local library. (Stay away from the sensational publications, though, they're just fad diet crap - you can usually spot them by their titles.) And while you may not put into practice everything you've read, at least you start making smarter choices from time to time. It's like the old axiom, "Baby steps."

3. Stay away from food you know is junk food - I used to think everyone knew the difference between real food and junk food. I was wrong. I've had friends say they don't want to give up "real" food for healthy food. When I asked what "real" food was, they listed off a bunch of junk food items, including potato chips and mayonnaise. So learn what is "real" and what is "junk" and try to avoid the junk as much as you can.

4. If you must buy can vegetables, at least wash them off prior to cooking - it helps reduce the amount of sodium.

4. Avoid processed sugar and sugar additives as much as you can. This includes artificial sweeteners.

Those few steps alone can increase your overall level of health while not increasing the overall impact to your pocketbook.

Until Next Time...
Watch this fitness couple stock up their kitchen by looking for sale items and reading tags and labels. I don't agree with all the choices they make, but it's good general advice.

Budgetly Yours,
Michael 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Simple Gluten Free One Skillet Dinner

The goal was to make a tasty gluten free dinner, and despite what many would have us to believe, it wasn't that difficult.

I tend to use garlic in a lot of my recipes, which is good for the heart, but can become rather boring on the palate if used too often. I wanted more of a mushroom sauce for this particular dish, but without adding mushroom sauce or soup (since I haven't done much research into the gluten levels of either), I decided to try to extract as much flavor as I could from simply sauteing fresh mushrooms in butter. Needless to say, it didn't quite work out as flavorful as I wanted. Desperate to rescue what I'd done, I threw in the garlic at the last minute afterall.

But no matter at this point. I have the basis for a one-skillet dinner which is going to change over time as I experiment. Right now I'm calling this "One Skillet Gluten Free Spiral Pasta with Shrimp."

Ingredients:
one bag (one pound) Tinkyada Pasta Joy Gluten Free Spirals
one pound deveined and pre-cooked shrimp
one can diced tomatoes
one package (12 ounces in this instance) of sliced mushrooms
four tablespoons of butter
fresh garlic or garlic powder to taste

Directions:
Prepare pasta per instructions, drain, and set aside.
Saute mushrooms in butter
Add shrimp and garlic to skillet until shrimp is cooked
Add pasta to skillet; stir in can of diced tomatoes.
Once all is well mixed, cover for ten minutes, stirring occasionally to even out thoroughness.
Serve

Calories:
I didn't do a calorie count this time since this is still in the experimental stage, but other than the butter, this should be a relatively low-cal meal. 


Like I mentioned above, this truly is a recipe in the experimental stage. I have a vague idea what I want, but still not sure of the path to get there. My next steps include a search for gluten free mushroom sauce or soup, and I want to also keep the sodium level down to a medium roar.




Until Next Time...
Since the protein base of this recipe is shrimp, I thought I'd link in this video of the Five Largest Shrimp caught in recent times. 

Experimentally Yours,
Michael 


p.s. Later I did find a single can of Campbell's Golden Mushroom in the pantry, it contains wheat flour.