Tuesday, January 29, 2013

For the Love of Food...

This blog, Eat What's On Your Plate is about food (clearly).  I started this blog not so long ago (6 months to be exact) for a few reasons:  

1.  Develop my "voice" and strengthen my writing style.  I found that I was losing my assertiveness and started pandering to my audience (in writing and speaking) instead of 'telling it like it is' - so I thought this would be a good place to practice.  Because I had somehow lost my Jersey. 

2.  As a way to figure out social media a little more and become more familiar with the tools of the trade (there was no such thing as 'tweeting' when I was in school, learning about useful subjects)

This was the type of "cell phone" I had in college.  There were no apps... it made phone calls.  If you were lucky

3.  Provide an outlet for my opinions, meanderings, and advice on food and eating (because I know everyone was dying to know and my husband was sick of listening).  I love hearing what other people thought about a restaurant, or a recipe and I wanted to contribute to the conversation.  I WANT TO BE HEARD, PEOPLE.

4.   To become an adult person again.  After having two small children, I quickly immersed myself in two areas of focus - my family and my job.  And I lost part of me - my outside interests that held the attention of another adult for more than 10 minutes before falling back into the "my kid... (fill in kid story here)" pattern of conversations most familiar and comfortable among parents.  This phenomenon is broadly called "Mommy Blogs" and I am apparently, not alone.

Care of B12 Patch... look how tough!

5.  And the most important reason is because I love food.  Before we had kids, my husband and I were thinking about starting a catering business.  Since that is a little outside of my 'risk tolerance' zone now (as in, I need a stable paycheck), and I wanted to somehow find, join and create a community around FOOD.  

Hence, this blog (and Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest account). 

A few months ago, I was super excited when Healthy Life Virginia contacted me and asked if it would be okay to link to my blog.  WHAT!?!  This blew me away.  People besides my mom and sister were reading my blog?  Who knew?

Needless to say, my blog is growing (little by little) and getting a little more "press" which makes me happy.  A little sense of achievement. 

In addition to this blog, I am also fortunate to be a contributor for Capital Cooking with Lauren DeSantis, a food blog and TV cooking show.  This has been an awesome experience for me.  I get to go to different food events, meet new people and share my food thoughts.  

As part of writing for Capital Cooking, I get to meet lots of other food bloggers whom I admire.  I have spent a lot of time looking at other blogs and learning from their styles -- from layout, to content, to pictures and 'color commentary.'   I always get excited when I can go to events to meet other food bloggers.  So a few weeks ago, I went to an event for Capital Cooking and the marketing team caught this picture of us "food bloggers" and I thought I would share with you because it made me laugh...

So, since I have not met some of you in person, I will clarify that I am the second girl from the right.  I am the only one with food still in my hand (and mouth).  

That just cracked me up, they got a picture of me eating.  Go figure.  But this picture is exactly why I do this blog.... for the love of food.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mardi Gras King Cake

We are two weeks away from Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday" which is on Tuesday, February 12th this year.  Fat Tuesday celebrates the last day of Carnival season in New Orleans but the parades began back in mid-January.  King Cake is the traditional dessert served during the Carnival season, and usually has a plastic baby hidden somewhere in the cake.  The person who gets the slice of cake with the baby is declared "King of the Day" (assuming they don't choke on the baby) and is supposed to host the next party.  It seems like a constant party circuit and a great way to keep your social calendar full.

As many of you may know, I also vowed as part of my 2013 New Year's Foodie Resolutions to bake something this year.  So I thought I would try to bake a King Cake.  It actually turned out really, really well so I thought I would share the recipe with you (which is modified from Southern Living).  Please note:  Baby not included.

PS - Don't get any ideas in your head, I will not turn into a baker.  This cake took upwards of 4 hours to create.  I just do not have the patience for this sort of thing. 

1 (16 oz) container of sour cream
1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of butter
1 tsp salt
2 (1/4 oz) packages of active dry yeast
1/2 cup of warm water
2 eggs
6 cups of bread flour
1/3 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup of sugar
1 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter
1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of milk
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Purple, green and gold sprinkles
1.  Mix the sour cream, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of butter, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium sauce pan over low-medium heat, stirring often until butter melts.

2.  While the sour cream mix is warming, stir together the yeast, sugar and warm water in 1 cup sized cup.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  It will bubble and rise.  It may overflow so put the cup in a bowl to catch any overflow.

3.  Whisk your two eggs.

4.  Mix the sour cream until smooth and remove from heat once the butter is melted.

5.  Using a stand mixer, blend at medium speed the sour cream, eggs, yeast and 2 cups of bread flour.

6.  Once it is well blended, reduce the mixer speed to low and add one cup of flour at a time until the remaining 4 cups of flour have been added and dough begins to form.

 7. Turn out dough mess on a lightly floured surface (I use about 1/4 cup of the bread flour).  Knead until smooth and elastic - about 10 minutes.  (This is quite a work out... my hands were tired).

8.  Generously grease a bowl with butter and add the kneaded dough.  Flip dough over so it is greased on top.  Cover with towels and place in a warm area (like 85 degrees) and let rise for 1 hour until it is doubled in bulk. (I don't know about you, but my house is not 85 degrees in the dead of winter, so do the best you can with this one).

9.  While the dough is rising, take out the 1/3 cup of butter to soften at room temperature.  Mix 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon in a bowl. 

10.  Take dough out of the bowl, "punch it down" (which means to use a fist and press in the center of the dough and then the sides to get the air out) and divide in half.  

11.  Take one dough ball and roll out into a rectangle that is 12 inches x 22 inches (or somewhere close to that).  Spread HALF of the softened 1/3 cup of butter over the dough.

12.  Sprinkle HALF of the sugar/cinnamon mix over top of the butter.

13.  Starting with the long end of the rectangle, begin to roll the dough toward the other side (like you are making a tube).  

14.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and form into an oval.  Cover with towels again and let sit for 30 - 45 minutes in a warm place so it rises.  Repeat steps 11-14 with the other dough ball.  (Surprise - you are making two cakes!!)

15.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Once the oval dough has risen, place in the oven for 16 minutes until golden.

16.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  While it is cooling, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, 2 tbl of milk, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter in a bowl and mix until smooth (it's icing!).

17.  Once the cake is cooled a little, drizzle HALF the icing on the cake and drizzle the other half on the other cake.

18.  Get out the sprinkles and sprinkle alternating bands of purple, green and gold on the icing.  Let your cakes cool completely.

19.  Your cake is ready to serve *and* you have an extra cake to give to a friend to continue the party spirit!  You are so nice...


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Curried Lentil Soup

Well, it's finally gotten cold and "winter-ish" here in DC (and we waited long enough -- into late January).  For me, that means warm comfort foods that are healthy and protein-rich.  And, let's not forget... SPICY.  Which is why curried lentil soup is just perfect for a weekday dinner on a frigid, snowy evening.  I recommend serving it with a warm baguette and a glass of red wine.  

Here is the recipe (I adapted it from Bon Appetite, 2010).

1 carrot
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt & Pepper
3 tablespoons of curry powder
4 cups of chicken stock (or for the vegetarian option, vegetable stock)
2 cups of lentils
1 14.5 oz can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 shallot
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon of butter


1.  Dice the carrot, onion and garlic into small pieces.

2.  In a large stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and carrots, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes.

3.  Dice garlic and add to pot.  Saute with onion and carrots until fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes.  

4.  Add 2 tablespoons of curry powder to the vegetables.  Stir until completely mixed and warm, about 1 minute.

5.  Add 4 cups of chicken stock and 2 (or more) cups of lentils to the stock pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30-35 minutes.

6.  While the soup is simmering, drain and rinse chickpeas in a colander.  Add chickpeas, lemon juice, shallot, 1/4 cup of water, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a food processor.  

7.  Puree the food processor for 3-4 minutes until a puree/paste forms.

8.  Add the chick pea puree and 1 tablespoon of curry powder to the stock pot.  Add an additional 1/4 cup of water to the soup if it needs thinning.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Heat for five minutes until blended and warm.

9.  Finish the soup with one tablespoon of butter.  

Time to eat!  Don't forget to pour that glass of wine!



Friday, January 18, 2013

Ragin' Cajun Jambalaya

I love cajun food -- it is Southern, spicy, and soulful.  It is the perfect comfort food and is easy to adjust based on your preferred flavors and 'heat-tolerance.'  As an added bonus, the ingredients are rather simple and most folks have the items on hand to be able to make most cajun recipes.

I am also planning a trip to New Orleans this coming March, so I'm trying to get my palate ready for my travel adventure celebrating food (and music!). So first up on my list is the traditional cajun cuisine, Jambalaya.  Here is the recipe I use and just so you know, I like it to be saucy (not soupy) to give it that full flavor.

1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 tbl of butter
1 tbl of vegetable oil
1 cup of frozen okra
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of rice
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 chicken breast, diced
12.8 oz Andouille sausage
6 oz frozen shrimp
1 tsp of hot sauce
1 tsp of worcestershire sauce
1 tbl of cajun spice


1.  Slice and dice all your vegetables -- onion, celery, green peppers, and jalapeno.  Leave the seeds and membranes in the mix, as it adds heat and flavor to the dish.  Same with celery leaves.

2.  Dice the chicken.  Sprinkle with salt and a pinch of cajun spice.

3.  Heat a stock pot/Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Melt one tablespoon of butter with one tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Add chicken to the butter/oil mixture and heat until cooked through (about 10-12 minutes).

4.  While the chicken is cooking, slice the sausage and add to the pot.  Cook with chicken for about 5 minutes (10 if the sausage is not pre-cooked) to blend flavors.

5.  Remove chicken and sausage with a slotted spoon.

6.  Add all the vegetables to the pot (onions, peppers, celery, jalapeno, and okra).  Saute until tender (about 8-10 minutes).  Add one tablespoon of cajun seasoning.  Mix and cook for one minute.

7.  Add chicken and sausage back to the pot with the vegetables.

8.  Add diced tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.  Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes to blend flavors. 

9.  Add chicken stock and rice to the pot.  Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes until rice is fully cooked.  Stir often to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot!  Also, add any additional chicken stock as needed to ensure a lighter consistency/broth to cook the rice all the way through.

10.  Once the rice is fully cooked, add the shrimp to the pot.  Cook until the shrimp are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

11.  Your jambalaya is ready!  Add a dash of hot sauce and salt to taste.  

Enjoy your ragin' cajun dinner!  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Food Vices

The other day, as I was thinking about my foodie resolutions, I also reflected on my food vices... you know, the things that I eat that I am not super proud of.  I'm figuring most folks have 1 or 2 of these. 

As it turns out, I have quite a few.  Oops.  Oh well.  The thing of it is, I'm actually a little proud of my food vices (and please note, I'm using the term "food" loosely here as for somethings I'm not sure how they even met FDA standards).  Yeah, sure - everybody's body is a temple.  But it is also fun to spurge and enjoy the things you like.  In moderation of course.  

So I am going to be honest and say that yes, while these food vices aren't fantastic, I don't eat them all the time (with the exception of coffee).  And when I do, it's because I haven't had it in a while and I otherwise take good care of my body and my health.  

So here it goes, my 'shortened' list of food vices...

1. A larger than normal amount of cream and sugar in my coffee.  I mean, to the extent that most people comment when they see me doctor my coffee in the morning, if I "want any coffee with my cream and sugar."  I'm not going to reveal all my secrets and talk about how many scoops of sugar, but it's pretty sweet.  And I really like my coffee this way.  Which is why I only have one cup a day.  

I only use 1/2 and 1/2.  2% milk does not taste right AT ALL.

2.  Hot Dogs.  I realize that what goes into hot dogs is a serious question.  I can tell you right now, I don't care what "parts of a pig" are used to make a hot dog.  They taste GOOD.  Really good.  So I have been known to enjoy a hot dog every now and again (more so in the summer so I think it balances well throughout the year).

3.  Diet Coke.  I believe there is a chemical sweetener in here that will kill you.  But low doses, I'm not convinced.  So I like to enjoy 1-2 diet cokes a week.  I prefer the fountain soda to the can (there is a very different taste) but can't always get that so I generally need to hit up my 'private reserve' in the fridge downstairs (it's like my equivalent of a wine cellar).  Please note, there is no substitute with Diet Pepsi.  Ever.  That's a waste of a soda treat.

When I was in high school, I used to 'pair' diet coke with raw chocolate chip cookie dough

4.  Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli.  I have no idea why I love Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli or why I think it tastes so delicious, but I do.  It may have to do with the salt content.   Regardless, there is something in this can of heaven that draws me in.  I rarely enjoy this food vice but I can tell you, I do crave it.  If you have never had this, I strongly encourage you to try it (just once).  I am convinced that little Italian man laces his ravioli with crack... 

Warm on the stovetop, never microwave
5.  A Slurpee and a Slim Jim.  Yes, that is correct... I have been known to frequent 7-11 to pick up my favorite snack, a Coke Slurpee and a Slim Jim.  It is my number 1 food vice and I am proud of it.  I love to 'snap into a slim jim' and wash that down with some slushy slurpee.  Food can be very nostalgic and this treat definitely brings me back to  my childhood (in NJ, of course - where else is there a 7-11 on every corner?!).

Check out that lighting, you know it's authentic 7-11 florescent blubs!
Even though I enjoy well prepared food and fine dining, there is most certainly a piece of me that finds comfort in warming up some beef ravioli for dinner with some diet coke.  It's all about balance and moderation in the end anyway.  What are your food vices?  Taquitos?  Doritos?  Gummy Bears?  I know you have some....