Welsh Rarebit Mac & Cheese

I don’t really eat macaroni and cheese often, mostly because of all that fatty stuff that goes into and makes it so darned tasty! But when I do get a craving it is definitely NOT for that boxed crap filled with nutrition-less noodles and orange powder…what animal does powdered cheese come from?? Anyway when I get a craving I like to take a page from one of my favorite TV chefs; Alton Brown.welsh rarebit mac

On one show, a million years ago he made this Welsh rarebit (or rabbit) cheese sauce and my mouth watered like crazy. I knew that I would be adding this recipe to my repertoire and tweaking it several times over. And guess what? I did.

Spicy Paella

Paella featured I It has been awhile since I’ve enjoyed any culinary treats from Spain. The last time I hit up a Spanish restaurant it was in the birthplace of Einstein and unfortunately the food was not as great as its most famous citizen!

I didn’t get the paella but my husband did and boy was he disappointed. The bite I had only whetted my appetite for the real thing. So the next time I hit up the Kaufland I decided to pick up what I needed for some truly fantastic paella.

Full disclosure: this was my first time making paella and after consulting a few chefs I mixed together what sounded best and this is what I came up with. I have to say though that the fruit di mare mix I found was superb! It has the world’s tiniest shrimp, octopus, calamari rings, mussels and chunks of white fish. Basically it is a seafood lover’s delight.

One ingredient that I did add but not at the suggestion of any of the recipes I found was turmeric. I use it when I make Spanish or Mexican style rice because it gives it that vibrant yellow color along with the smoky taste for authenticity. You can generally find this bright yellow powder in the spicy aisle of any big supermarket or in the ethnic aisle alongside various curries and cardamom. If you can’t find it, no big deal just go with the natural color and flavor.

If you’re making this for a gathering I suggest you slice and dice your fruit first so the sangria has time to chill before dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 bag (about 500g) mixed seafood
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup brown rice
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • Sea salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 cups broth/water (I used ½ fish broth and ½ water)
  • ½ cup sun dried tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tsp. each: oregano, basil and thyme
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

spicy paella

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large, deep skillet.
  2. Add in onion, season with salt and pepper, then cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until onions are translucent and starting to brown.
  3. Stir in garlic and cook another 3 minutes.
  4. Add cherry & sun dried tomatoes, and stir.
  5. Add herbs, spices, bay leaves and rice, stir until blended.
  6. Add in water & broth combo, then bring mixture to a boil.
  7. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Add in seafood mix and cook another 10 minutes or until water has been absorbed.
  9. Enjoy with Spanish wine, sangria or just pick your poison!

I have to say that while this wasn’t the best paella I’d ever eaten in my entire life; it was incredibly flavorful and delicious. I will add it into my meal rotation until I have perfected it. I’m thinking next time that a bit of cumin will enhance the smoky flavor and fresh seafood will take this dish to the next level.

How do you make your paella?

Juicy Salmon Burgers

I won’t pretend that I am the pinnacle of good health, but I do try my best to only feed my body good things these days. I quit smoking almost a decade ago (yay me!) and I’ve lost about fifty pounds but I still indulge in alcohol because it tastes yummy and I love it. But what I do is stay away from processed foods that I used to love like salami, bacon and even my beloved prosciutto. Then I began to feel sluggish after a juicy steak so when I was in the States I satisfied my beef craving with bison.

Here in Germany however Bison isn’t so easy to come by…do they even have bison floating around here? I haven’t had beef in a couple of years, since I visited my steak-loving papa and even then I got a delicious cut of bison at Ted’s Montana Grill (everyone check it out if you have one near you). But the thing is beef just doesn’t taste like it did back in the day when I was a kid, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have burger cravings. I am a red-blooded American, after all.

Faux Spaghetti & Sauce

In my quest to learn about new things or just to try foods I’ve never eaten, I recently stumbled upon spaghetti squash. I’d heard of it but I really hadn’t seen it up close before. So last week I spotted it at the grocery store and targeted it as my next culinary feat. I went online and did my homework to see what it looked like on the inside (self-explanatory) and how to cook it. Satisfied with my research I had the perfect idea that was both simple and brilliant: spaghetti-less spaghetti!

spaghetti squash cuSince it looked so much light spaghetti and by all accounts has a pretty mild flavor I figured this was an easy way to introduce my taste buds to the natural wonder that is spaghetti squash.

Since it would take some time to cook the spaghetti I decided to skip time with a traditional protein and opted to use chickpeas in my sauce. Years ago when I tried hummus for the first time, I fell in love with chickpeas. Then I had falafels and that love was solidified. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have a really unique and earthy flavor. I love’em so much that sometimes I rinse and dry them, pop them in the oven with some spices and eat them like beer nuts!

So yeah, chickpeas served as our main protein for this meal and I have to say I was more than pleased with the results. Then, there was the entertainment value of serving it to my husband without telling him what it was other than “spaghetti”. His response was classic, “it doesn’t taste like spaghetti, what is it?” Turns out he loved it though so now I just have to find more ways to use it because when autumn comes in Germany it is a veritable feast of squash!

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 15 oz. chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • ½ tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Sea salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, homemade
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Poke holes into shell of squash and slather with olive oil. Place on baking sheet and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until soft.
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium high heat and add onion and bell pepper.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until transparent.
  5. Add fennel seeds and garlic, cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Stir in marinara sauce and tomato paste and bring to a boil.
  7. Add chickpeas and reduce to a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. When spaghetti squash is soft, remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes or until it is cook to the touch.
  9. When read you will have to split the squash in half and use a fork to scrape the insides until you release the ‘spaghetti noodles’ from the body. As you scrape it out, place it in a large mixing bowl so you can season with salt, pepper and herbs as you see fit.
  10. You can mix it together with the sauce or serve it underneath as pictured.

faux spaghetti

Beer & Seafood Soup in a Bread Bowl

I wouldn’t say that I lead a sheltered life as a young child but I was a fully grown adult before I had the luxury of eating soup from a bowl made out of bread. I was living in Boston back in 2004 and working hard for John Kerry and sharing a huge coastal house with a bunch of college grads. We decided to go to New Hampshire to look around and check out the ‘Live Free or Die’ state. After indulging the guys in endless hours and thousands of bullets at a gun range we were in search of nourishment.

Since none of us were from the Northeast we were all New Hampshire virgins but we stopped at this really great seafood restaurant on the water. In addition to having some of the bluest water I’d ever seen at the time, this place made a killer lobster bisque in a delicious sourdough bread bowl. Maybe it was the booze, or maybe it was the MJ but I ate nearly every inch of that bowl except the über soggy bottom section.

Sweet & Savory Bulgur Salad

I am not one of those people who hate salad. Whether it is the lettuce and dressing variety or the pasta variety, I love a good salad. In fact I am such a salad lover that I don’t need lettuce or pasta, and often I forego both when I’m feeling adventurous or simply tired of them.

I don’t look at a bowl of arugula and tomatoes and see some restrictive diet food…unless of course you try to feed me iceberg lettuce. Contrary to what some of my dear friends believe, iceberg lettuce is crap. Sure it has almost no calories, but it also has almost no nutrients and if I’m gonna nosh on salad then I’d like some nutrients to go with my leafy greens.

Crispy Zucchini Cakes

Lately I have had a major hankering for crab cakes. Not fake surimi cakes but honest to goodness crispy crab cakes with little bits of color and that tang of Old Bay seasoning. Unfortunately finding crab—at a reasonable price—around these parts is about as easy as finding Unicorn meat so I had to improvise.

At first I was hopeful I could find canned crabmeat, but alas in Germany most of their canned seafood does not fit the bill. Canned tuna, while not awful, tends to dry out a lot as I learned years ago in a failed attempt to sate a crab cake craving. The rest of this aisle is filled with mackerel, sardines and tuna, but packed in a variety of flavored oils. Needless to say it didn’t fit.

 zucchini cakes recipe

Plus I was sick of using beans so I decided to get some deliciously fresh zucchini. I never was a big fan of zucchini if I’m being honest but when I was about 12 years old our neighbor Rosemary made zucchini pie. And I was thinking “yuck” until I slid a piece off the fork and I decided it was some of the best pie I’d ever eaten. Of course Rosemary made a superb crust that was the perfect blend of flaky and buttery, but the cinnamon, nutmeg and what I later learned was cardamom made zucchini pie taste a whole lot like apple pie.

Dirty Rice & Beans

When I was younger I guess I was like most kids and teens, equating good food with, what I now know is unhealthy crap. As such whenever there was a dish that contained both beans and rice—and no meat—I looked at it as Third World food. I would turn my nose up at it and once I got my first job at White Castle I’d use my own money to buy food I found more palatable.

These days as meat makes a more infrequent appearance in my meals, not to mention time spent in Louisiana and Los Angeles, I’ve learned to appreciate the subtle nuances of rice and bean dishes. Whether it’s dirty rice or Mexican style rice & beans I’ve discovered how delicious and healthy beans can be.

Mushroom & Guinness Stroganoff

One of my favorite things to do for my husband is to take traditionally meat-based meals and turn them vegetarian for him. Of course it’s for me too, but if left to my own devices I’d probably chop up some filet and make old school beef stroganoff.

One day in the market I passed by some delicious looking egg noodles and immediately I was transported back to my granny and her tasty thick stroganoff gravy. I always enjoyed the gravy with mushrooms and onions, but honestly my granny (both of them) tend to make their beef a little well done, which sucks when you have to reach inside a gravy-filled mouth to pull out meat stuck between your teeth. Even thinking back to the last time I made it with meat, I think I made the meat too tough as well so I was pretty excited to try something new.

Mediterranean Sardines & Herbed Bulgur

In my recently rediscovered love of all things whole fish I decided to give sardines a try. I mean, I’ve had sardines before but usually of the canned and packed in oil variety, but I’ve never had the actual fish in all its bony glory. So when I spotted these babies in the frozen section—not fresh but since I’ve no experience with them I figured it was good enough—I snatched’em right up.