Vietnamese Pho

I’ve always enjoyed a variety of ethnic food. Often, I’m not brave enough to try making these favorites myself. If you make pho, a vienamese beef and noodle soup from scratch, it is a lengthy process. On a recent trip to Kroger, I found a starter for the broth which cuts out one of the longest steps, so I figured I would give it a shot (I was not trying to go vegetarian on this version, it just happened to be what I found).

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I began cooking the steak strips.

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I had leftover rice noodles from a previous challenge with salmon, radishes, greek yogurt, and rice noodles, and this was a great excuse to use more of the rice noodles. I added them to the broth.

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While the steak and the noodles cooked, I prepared the other ingredients including basil, limes, jalapenos, soy sauce, and sriracha.

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I couldn’t wait to add all of my goodies to the broth, steak, and noodle base. However, the jalapenos that must have been freaks of nature. They were the hottest jalapenos I have ever had in my life (and normally I love jalapenos, I have to ask for extra when eating at Pho BC). Unfortunately, I think the dish would have been tasty but I added so many jalapenos that it ruined it for me. It was far too hot to enjoy.

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Would I make it again? Probably not. I’ll leave it to the professionals. 

 

 

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Eli’s Barbeque

This weekend I had the pleasure of making my first (and certainly not my last) visit to Eli’s Barbeque in Cincinnati.

It is a little bit off the beaten path and there is no sign for the restaurant. You just have to look for the massive smoker and a picture of a pig.

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Once inside, you get to peruse a large collection of records and choose your music. We had an early lunch and were the only ones there at that time, so the music selection was all for us! We must not look our age, because the employee asked if we knew how to change records on a record player… We enjoyed Michael Jackson and Johnny Cash while there.

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All this to say, that the atmosphere was so cool. And the food matched. It was delicious! I went with pulled pork (which you can get Pittsburgh style with cole slaw on the sandwich), mac n’ cheese, and jalapeno corn bread.

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If you need a unique joint to try some great barbeque, then Eli’s is your place.

Homemade Birthday Sushi

Every year for six years, we’ve been making sushi for my birthday. This year was a little different; I recently took a sushi rolling class so I got to put my new skills to use!

It all starts with the rice. This is a lengthy and sometimes tricky process. We could simplify with a rice cooker, but we’ve been doing it this way for so long, that is has become a habit.

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While the rice is boiling, simmering, or cooling (or whatever other stage of prep it might be in), we prepare all of the filling materials. In this picture you will see sushi grade tuna, smoked salmon, crab sticks, shredded crab mixed with spicy sauce, avocado, mango, chives, cucumber, cream cheese, wasabi sauce and soy sauce.

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Everything was ready to go, so we started rolling and slicing away! There are so many differnt combinations you can create!

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We enjoyed a gourmet sushi dinner and even have some leftover for lunch today! Below was one of our favorites – tuna, mango, chives, and cream cheese.

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Support Your Local Restaurants, Farmers, and Charities

I love the town where I live. I believe that when you support your local farmers, restaurants, stores, and charities, your town is a more vibrant place to live and you become a more engaged citizen in your community.You actually get to see the impact that your support can make.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I often blog about local restaurants. For example, you may have read my posts about life changing donuts, making soup from local produce, the bluegrass pizza bakeoff (which BRIDGE pizza won by citizen and professional judge vote!), the Nicaraguan Latin Grill, local food trucks, or School sushi.

Tonight I had dinner at Stella’s which is common for us because of our close proximity to the restaurant. Every Thursday night they donate 15% of their proceeds to a local organization. For example, tonight they donated this percentage of their proceeds to the starting gate program of The Race for Education, an organization that focuses on college readiness for children of those families in need for equine and agricultural programs, providing scholarships for college.

All of their products are locally grown and made in house from scratch. Further, they are one of the best restaurants that I am aware of in town that offers a wide variety of vegetarian dishes. I’m not a vegetarian but I still order the dishes and enjoy them immensely. Tonight’s dinner was their sausage plate: local bratwurst, andouille sausage (which I haven’t had since France!), mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut.The picture is not flattering thanks to my to-go container, but WOW did that meal hit the spot!

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My other favorites there include the hot brown, lamb burger (which they sell out of quickly if you don’t get there), the Revro burger, duck deviled eggs, and the truffle mac n’ cheese.

We often eat dinner out or through carry out, but where does the food actually come from when we grab McDonald’s, Qdoba, Subway, or Papa John’s? And was it frozen first? More importantly, where do their profits go? I’m not saying I never eat at these places because I certainly do, but I love when I have the chance to eat locally grown homemade food and know that part of my money is going back to a locally supported good cause.

Kudos to Stella’s for making giving back to the community a regular business practice.

Berrylicious Pork

Last week’s Crockpot Wednesday meal was a Blackberry Pork. I didn’t blog about it, mostly because I rushed it into the crockpot and then rushed out the door without taking pictures. However, it was a DELICIOUS meal.It reminded me of another favorite crockpot meal I would highly recommend: Honey and Apple Pork Loin (my advice is to add more apples!).

You might be asking yourself, “Why is she blogging about it now?”

The answer is because I found a way to use this pork in a different way and the result was noteworthy. As you know, I try to repurpose leftovers from restaurants and to reuse ingredients from previous meals in creative ways.

I heated the leftover pork from the crockpot and shredded it, making sure that the shredded pork was well coated in the blackberry wine sauce. I added this to a bun, topped it with a slice of cheddar cheese, and toasted it in the oven until the cheese was melted and the bun was slightly browned. Quick, simple, and tasty!

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I enjoyed both of the fruity pork crockpot recipes I’ve tried. Now, I’m wondering about other protein and fruit combinations I could try. Chicken and peaches? Beef and pears? Duck and cherries? So many possibilities!

Food Swap – Crockpot Creamy Tortellini Soup

One of my favorite days of the month, every month, is Food Swap day.

I’m part of a group of about 6 women who much like me, all enjoy cooking but also lead very busy lives. We choose one day a month where we each make a different food item and we make freezable family sized portions of a recipe of our choice to share with each other. We each walk in with multiple portions of ths same thing and walk out with a whole array of new foods to try! It is a great way to get new recipes to spice up my recipe box (both my real one and my virtual one on Pinterest). For example, my food swap buddy Sarah brought Spinach and Broccoli Enchiladas that I really enjoyed so I instantly tracked down the recipe she used and put it away for safe keeping.

I can’t take the credit for starting food swap, but I can tell you that I’m a huge supporter. It usually feeds my husband and I for a whole week including lunches and dinners. We’ve also used our food swap bounty for multiple weeks if spread out where I cook a couple of days, but not feeling like I have to cook every day or even needing to grocery shop for that matter.

For food swap this weekend, I decided to make a crockpot soup to go along with the recently chilly fall weather. I made a Crockpot Creamy Tortellini Soup from Better Homes and Gardens. I did three things different for my soup. I added shredded chicken to give the dish a little protein; I used more fresh garlic just because I enjoy garlic; and I used the rainbow tortellini to give it a little color. Here is the finished product:

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I am pumped to find out what foods I’ll bring home with me tomorrow!

Risotto

One of the foods that appears to be the most challenging on Hell’s Kitchen is risotto. I’ve enjoyed eating it, but I’ve never made it. Before I branched out too much, I decided to just learn how to make the basic risotto first.

The basic risotto starts with olive oil, butter, and onion.

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After the onion is slightly browned, add the arborio rice and stir until coated with the oil and butter. Once coated, add a broth of choice (vegetable, chicken, broth) to barely cover the rice. Beef broth was all I had on hand, so that’s what I used!

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As the risotto swells and the liquid reduces, keep adding broth. I cooked this for about 25 minutes while constantly stirring. I added leftover cheese from the bagel challenge.

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I thought it turned out well. I do want to make something a little more unique and challenging with risotto though. I looked for some inspiration and found mushroom risotto, butternut squash risotto, and bacon risotto.

I sought out Chef Ramsey for more advice as I imagine what my own risotto would taste like, and I’ll leave you with this video of him giving risotto tips….