Anniversary Challenge

It has already been a year since I started my food blog. And what a fun year it has been! In the past year I’ve written over 80 posts, accrued followers from many countries including Poland, France, Austria, and others, I’ve changed blog host sites from Posterous to WordPress, forgotten ingredients, burned my arm, learned about new styles of cooking and new vegetables, and I’ve even won a recipe contest in the Kentucky Monthly magazine. I’ve cooked everything from a simple soup to lobster, from stuffed mushrooms to lamb chops, and from vegetarian curry to pumpkin muffins.

I had hoped that I would not get bored with this adventure, and that my husband would not get tired of coming up with challenges for me to pursue. So far, it doesn’t look like we are slowing down. So, because of this anniversary, this week’s challenge seemed extra special to me. He asked me to make 3 gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches (or cheese toasties depending on where you are from), to try to elevate a classic comfort food.  I was allowed to shop for my own ingredients and came home with lots of options.

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I took inspiration from my favorite food, sushi, for the first grilled cheese sandwich. My favorite roll is a Philadelphia roll. So, I pulled cream cheese and avocado from that roll. I also love a California roll, so I pulled the crab from that roll. I mixed the cream cheese and diced crab, added it to bread and topped it with avocado before cooking it.

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My second gourmet grilled cheese was inspired by some ingredients I already had on hand. I had a huge bag of basil from my mother in law and several tomatoes from my community supported agriculture share. I decided my second one would be a homemade pesto, tomato and mozzarella grilled cheese.

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Finally, I took a little hawaiian inspiration for my final grilled cheese. The plan was to add smoked cheddar, pineapple, toasted coconut, and ham…but I forgot the ham  =(  So, my final grilled cheese was a meatless version of my original plan. I used to make grilled cheese by just spreading butter onto the bread and then putting it into the pan. However, my brief time working in a kitchen at a golf course taught me that the bread was so much better when the butter was melted first and then brushed onto the bread. Look at that golden brown and even color!

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The three sandwiches were all very good. Our favorite was the pesto, tomato and grilled cheese (pictured as first on the left) and it was also the messiest. The sushi grilled cheese was good (pictured in the middle), but could be better with a little crunch. Maybe add cucumber? And finally, the hawaiian grilled cheese was good, but could have been so much better with ham (pictured on the right).

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I look forward to another year of exciting food challenges and kitchen lessons!

Baby Back Ribs and Cabbage Slaw

Joe brought home several ingredients today and even gave me a choice in the main protein in the dish! Below, you will see lemongrass, greek yogurt, a habanero cheese, a creamy mushroom cheese, and baby back ribs. I chose the ribs over ox tail. I’m saving that for another post this week.

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I coated the ribs in olive oil. And look! Joe took an action shot. I didn’t really notice while cooking, but you can see me biting my lip in the picture. Apparently, it requires serious concentration to slather olive oil on ribs… P.S. Please ignore the coffee mug that looks like a toilet in the background…

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I realize that the obvious choice for ribs is barbecue sauce. However, I did not have the ingredients to make a sauce. Besides, who wants to do the obvious? Instead, I mixed 5 spices together (1 teaspoon of each): cumin, ancho chile powder, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper. I stirred the spices into about a cup and a half of greek yogurt to make a paste.

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I spread this over the ribs and topped it with chopped jalapenos. I baked it at about 350 degrees for 2 and a half hours.

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Next, I used leftover cabbage from my sausage and cabbage rolls. I chopped it to about the consistency of a rough coleslaw. I finely chopped 4 sprigs of lemongrass into the cabbage.

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Next, I added one chopped and deseeded tomato, one mashed avocado, and 2 tablespoons of lime juice. I remembered making a similar coleslaw in the past, but this was a different twist on it.

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I grated the habanero cheese and put it on the salad to chill while the ribs cooked.

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The ribs turned out very juicy but also nicely browned. They were spicy, but not too spicy. My thought was the greek yogurt would help tone down the spice level and it did.

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I also really liked the addition of the lemongrass to the coleslaw. The flavor really set off the dish. Overall, we were both very happy with the dinner!

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