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!

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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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My first sushi class!

Hi. My name is Brandi, and I’m a sushiaholic.

I had never tried sushi until I was 25. I was on my first date with my husband, six years ago, during this very same week of this very same month. I was slightly nervous about the whole chopsticks thing and the raw fish thing. We had a variety of sashimi and sushi that night, and I instantly developed an addiction, one that I haven’t been able to curb. Maybe I’m making up for my first 25 years without sushi?

I could seriously eat sushi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day and I would be a very happy lady. One of my favorite traditions is that Joe always makes homemade sushi for me on my birthday (see the master at work below and the outcome).

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Part of the fun is standing back and watching him do all of the work. But, then I saw that one of my favorite sushi restaurants, School, was offering a sushi making class. I figured this was my chance to pull my own weight next time we make sushi and to take on a new culinary challenge.

Below are some of the ingredients we had to begin our class.

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The first roll we made was the crunch roll, their most popular roll. It is spicy crab inside the roll, shrimp on top, and finished with spicy sauce and tempura crunch. The special spicy sauce is just mayonnaise, sriracha, and sweetened rice vinegar (although this recipe for spicy sauce uses lemon instead of rice vinegar). Who knew? My first roll turned out pretty well.

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Second, we made my favorite roll! The Philadelphia roll: smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese.

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I even learned a tip that might help all of you other Lexingtonian seafood and sushi enthusiasts. There actually is a place in town where you can get sushi grade fish! It is Charlie’s Fresh Seafood Market. I can’t wait to check it out for other seafood needs as well.

Class was a very fun experience. The plan to offer more classes in the future and I highly recommend them!