Monthly Archives: May 2010

Obviously, Rocco Dispirito and I have two TOTALLY different palates

For several weeks, I eagerly awaited notification from the public library that it was my turn to check out Rocco Dispirito’s latest cookbook, Now Eat This.  Then one morning I awoke to find that lovely email in my inbox stating I could pick it up at my local branch!  The book cover states that inside, you will find “150 of America’s favorite comfort foods all under 350 calories.”  I had seen him make some of his recipes on talk shows and hosts had mmmm’d and yummm’d over everything they tasted.  Therefore, I was eager to try some of them myself.  I went through the book and saw plenty of recipes that looked good.  I sat down and planned my menu and grocery list around the cookbook.  However, the 1st recipe I made taught me that Rocco and I have totally different palates, and subsequent recipes just reiterated that.

The 1st recipe I made was a mock risotto with mushrooms.  I loved the idea that textured vegetable protein (TVP) was used in place of rice.  I am always on the lookout for recipes that use TVP.  If you have any, please send them my way!  The finished product was very wet.  Risotto is supposed to be creamy, but this was runny.  Either there was too much liquid in the recipe or not enough TVP.  No big deal, though; something I could fix next time I made the recipe.  However, what I did not agree with taste-wise, was that the 1 cup of sliced scallions.  They overpowered the entire dish and that is all you tasted.  We did not like it.

The next recipe was Shepherd’s Pie and the usual mashed potato topping was replaced with pureed cauliflower and Greek yogurt.  I love cauliflower.  I do not eat any kind of yogurt but I do use plain yogurt to replace sour cream in recipes.  I had never used Greek yogurt before but assumed it would blend in like regular yogurt.  I was wrong.  I tried the topping before putting it over the filling and really did not like it.  I just could NOT take the tang or sourness or whatever it was.  I had the hubs try it, too, since he is a yogurt fan and the look on his face said it all to me.  I threw it out and rushed to the basement for potatoes to made a quick mashed potato topping.  But the filling of the pie was flavorless.  0 for 2.

At this point, the hubs asked if I was going to feed us any more recipes out of “that book”.  So I looked through the rest of my selections and picked one that I was sure would be good based on the ingredients.  It was Beef Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Cauliflower.  I prepped the ingredients  before going to work and left the hubs the recipe.  He had it all made and on the table when I came home and it was AWESOME!  FINALLY!  All 3 of us loved it!  But here’s the thing – the recipe called for 1/2 cup of cilantro.  That was a surprise.  And although I like cilantro, and it added an interesting and surprising layer of flavor, once again it was too much.  Especially the next day when the flavor had intensified.  We will mos def be making this regularly, but will use less cilantro.  I’m beginning to wonder if a professional chef has so many different and strong flavors on a regular basis that they need to really intensify the flavor of their foods to enjoy them over time?  You know, like how some people get used to using salt in most of their meals so food without salt or a lower amount of salt tastes bland to them?  IDK, just a thought…

Riding the high from the stir-fry, I made his (Almost) General Tso’s Chicken a few days later. This is our most ordered item from Chinese take-out places and I have wanted to make it home.  This one was more labor intensive than the stir-fry recipe.  You have to dip the chix pieces in whole-wheat flour, egg whites whipped until foamy but not forming stiff peaks, then panko breadcrumbs and baked on a rack.  Took some extra time, but I appreciate that the chix is not fried like in the original recipe.  You steam your broccoli on the side, make the sauce in a bowl and then toss the cooked chix and broccoli in the sauce.  Now, once the chix is coated in the sauce, you cannot taste any of your dipping coats and the hubs thought it was a waste.  However, I believe the point was to ensure that the sauce clung to the chix.  If it was just plain, cooked chix, the sauce would slide off.  But the sauce was the problem.  None of us liked it.  There was too much rice vinegar in it.  The chili garlic sauce can be adjusted more or less to your spice tolerance, so that is not an issue.  The hubs plowed through it reluctantly, but B and I could not eat it.  I wish I had not tossed the broccoli with the sauce, b/c we could have at least ate that.  So, I had to make something else for the 2 of us to eat.  Since the sauce is pretty easy to make, I am going to work on perfecting that to my taste and only once I have done that, will I make the chix again.  So now we’re 1-1-2.

I had his Chicken Marsala on my list, but since it called for the Greek yogurt again, I just made it with butter.  And the last recipe of his I tried were his Brownies, made with black beans.  They are not the consistency of a regular brownie; they are like fudge that has been whipped full of air to make a very light, almost sponge-like chocolate cake.  I like this as the alternative to a heavy brownie.  I will, though, try making them without the espresso powder.  I do not drink any form of coffee and that 1 tbsp is the only flavor that comes through.  It is not bad by any means, but it is not a chocolate brownie.  Once again, Rocco’s adding another layer of flavor is kinda too strong or she-she-poo-poo for me.  The hubs eyed them suspiciously yesterday but never tried one.  I’m going to see if he’ll eat one today.  He is really good about staying away from chocolate, even though he loves it, but I hope the black beans and the fact that there is only 1.6g of fat and 53 calories in each brownie will persuade him to try.

Next on my list to try is Beef Stew-Fry (that is not a typo, it really is stew) with Shiitakes and Bok Choy.  I will not be putting in the entire bunch of scallions it calls for nor all of the rice vinegar at first.  Will let you know how it goes.

Wedding in Detroit, MI

My cousin, Jed, got married this weekend in the Detroit, MI area.  I have never seen a groom unable to contain so much happiness and excitement!  It was wonderful to behold.  He just grinned so wide and was bouncing up and down on the balls of his feat throughout the entire ceremony!

We originally planned on driving out there – halfway after B got out of school on Thursday and the rest of the way on Friday morning.  But my dad so generously offered to fly us out there, so we took him up on his offer.  B and I have flown together twice before, but this was the 1st time the hubs had flown with B.  I was determined to not check any bags, so I packed up as much as I could earlier in the week and gave it to my parents, who actually drove up.  Our friend, Clair, drove us to and from the airport (thanks Clair and Rudy!)  We got to experience the new trains at Dulles airport, which thrilled B.  Kudos to Delta for not only having the best airline allergy policy I’ve seen but also for their efficient service that got us into our destinations well before scheduled arrival times.  :o)  Will be selecting them in the future, wherever possible!  One of my many Uncle Pauls flew into the same airport within a half an hour of our arrival, and my parents picked us all up.  The hotel was 45 miles from the airport, but the trip was so fast and fun with Uncle Paul’s entertainment!  He is so good with and patient of B, and asked us to include him in any field trips we take to Baltimore next school year.

The reality of how hard our current economic situation has affected Detroit was driven home to us during the car ride from the airport to the hotel.  I have never, in my life, seen entire neighborhoods, schools and businesses abandoned and vandalized.

So Detroit is planning to demolish all of these abandoned areas and turn them into community gardens, so that the locals can grow their own food.  I hope their plan is able to take place and is successful.The hotel that Jed and his bride, Angella, selected for guests was awesome!  It is an extended stay hotel of suites.  We had a one-bedroom suite with a king-sized bed, full kitchen, dining area, DVD/VCR combo, full hot breakfast, library full of movies and books to borrow, warm, friendly staff and CHEAP!  The hotel was right next door to the Silverdome, the former home of the Detroit Lions.

There was also a White Castle burger joint down the street from the hotel!  My brother also drove to the wedding, and I begged him to drive me to the White Castle Friday afternoon so we could get some burgers.  Unfortunately, I found out from the employees that they fry in peanut oil, so we had to walk out with no burgers.  :o(  But no worries, we forgot all about White Castle when we got to the rehearsal dinner.  All wedding guests in town on Friday were invited to a local bowling alley for food, cocktails and glow bowling!  Even though the area was under a severe thunderstorm and tornado warning Friday evening, we didn’t notice in the bowling alley.  Each lane could take up to 6 bowlers, so the hubs, B, me, my brother Neale, my cousin Josie (groom’s sister) and her newlywed husband, Brendan, played until 10pm.  The alley served great appetizers and dinner.  Josie pointed out to me that the neon colors of the bowling shoes and laces matched the colors in the carpet.  So cool to bowl under black lights!  Even better is to hear B say, “I’m tired!  Can we go back to the hotel now?”  :o)  The bride and groom, Jed and Angella, presented B with congratulations-it’s-your-first-wedding gifts.  They are so thoughtful!  They gave him glow bracelets, which he saved for the wedding reception, and a new LEGO set which kept him occupied on Saturday morning.

Due to the storms Friday and Saturday, the church lost power Saturday morning.  It worked out beautifully because we got to attend a candle-lit wedding!  The hubs and I were so proud of B during the full, Catholic mass wedding.  We let him move as much as he needed to as long as he kept quiet and that’s what he did.  I wish his school could see what a difference it makes to just let him move…  None of the ladies in the wedding party, including the bride, held a bouquet during the ceremony.  I noticed it immediately during the procession and thought to myself, what a wonderful idea!  They are unencumbered by bouquets throughout the ceremony – what a great idea!  It turns out, the florist just didn’t make it to the church in time!  I would not be surprised if this florist’s faux pas doesn’t end up setting a future trend.

The service ended at 3pm and the reception did not start until 5:30pm.  We stopped at a CVS on the way back to the hotel to pick up some anti-itch cream.  Ben was having an allergic reaction to something he ate the night before.  I will gladly handle a skin reaction, especially away from home, rather than an anaphylaxis reaction!  Starting at 5pm, a bus rented from the local parks and recreation dept shuttled guests from the hotel to the reception.  What a fabulous idea, especially since there was an open bar at the reception!  The reception took place at a beautiful place with historical decor.  There was great food, a slide show of Jed and Angella through the years and a wonderful DJ with great tunes to dance to.  B and I were out on that dance floor until the hubs dragged us, as well as my brother Neale, off to bed.  BOOO!  There was also a photo booth at the reception!  I’ve never seen such a thing and it was yet another great idea from the wedding couple.  You went into the booth and could choose from a tub of accessories, if you desired.  Just like a photo booth on the beach boardwalk, 4 pix were taken of those in the booth at any give time.  Two strips of every turn in the booth were printed out.  One strip was placed in a photo album for the married couple and we were invited to sign our photos.  The other strip copy was for us to take with us.  The vendor of the photo booth also gave us his card and said that he would have all photos on his website by Tuesday afternoon for us to download and/or print for free.  :o)  When we were heading back to the hotel on the party bus, we passed the custom bus for the “Girls Gone Wild” show a couple of blocks from the church!  Much to the hubs’ dismay, the driver would not stop and let us out.  :o(

After all the partying, B slept in 2 whole hours this morning and woke at 7:30am.  He and the hubs went to the lobby for breakfast and let me stay in bed.  They brought me back breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day!  My parents gave me a card and B and I gave my mom cards.  By 11am we were on the road back to the airport for our flight home.  Clair and Rudy picked us up and brought us home.  The hubs promptly fell asleep on the couch.  I was tired myself, having found it difficult to stay awake on the plane ride home.  But I rallied!  I left B in charge of his father and went out to forage for licka and dinner.  Everyone would be at all of the area restaurants and we wanted to be at home.  I got some crab legs, scallops and queso fixin’s for our Mother’s Day dinner.  Such a perfect ending to a wonderful weekend full of family and memories!

Now, I must admit, my eyelids are drooping and I must turn in.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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