Food Products I'm Loving Lately

Friday, March 8, 2013

I thought it would be fun to share some products that are my favorite at the moment.  I'll write this post once a month to share new items that I discover and become obsessed with... because I loove finding new food items, especially in stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes.  Unfortunately, there are none of those up here in Plattsburgh.. just good ol' Price Chopper and Hannaford (my wallet is very fortunate).  But I make do and am always grateful for care packages from my mom ;) (**hint hint, MOM). 
First up--Trader Joe's Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk.  My favorite part about driving home from NJ (the only part that I actually like) is stopping at Trader Joes in Paramus.  This is my first time trying this product and I LOVE it.  I use it in my cereal and it is creamy, not sweet, with just a hint of vanilla!
 I looove my pumpkin spice coffee from Green Mountain.  It is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.  I'm seriously bummed that the huge supply I stocked up on in the fall is almost gone.  I'll have to wait until September :(
 Yea Yea, I know..I'm a chef so why would I need jarred marinara???  Well, because this marinara is insanely good and ..c'mon I cook all day, can't a girl catch a break?
 This basting oil from Wegman's is my favorite to add to veggies before roasting.  It gives a nice herby, fresh flavor . I found 2 bottles of these in a cabinet at work today while cleaning and thought "JACKPOT!!"  then saw the expiration date was "10/08"..yuck!
 I put this truffle salt from Napa Valley on EVERYTHING!   I <3 truffle="">
 Another favorite from Trader Joe's: Spinach & kale greek yogurt dip.   I love the leaves of kale throughout the dip and the fresh veggies.  This dip is so good for you and is soo soo delicious!
 Egg  beaters isn't the most "natural" product in the world... I do love my whole organic eggs.. but these come already seasoned with peppers and onions already in it... CONVENIENT AND DELICIOUS!  Add some cheese on those and you've got yourself a tasty breakfast!
 I love these fire roasted crushed tomatoes that I get at the local co-op.  I'm usually not a fan of adding the fire roasted diced tomatoes to anything except something like chili, but these tomatoes make a great sauce (when I'm not using the Rao's jarred sauce ;) )
My favorite cheese of all time.. I can't pronounce it, but boy is it good....AND I can get it at the local grocery store in Plattsburgh!   My mom and I ate a whole wedge during cocktail hour one night... I added truffle honey to it and it was absolutely divine with a glass of malbec..mmm.  

Well that's it for now.. betcha wanna go to the food store now and get all of these things huh? 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Looking back on previous posts, I notice that I say "y'all"   A LOT!  Apparantly, when I came back from living in North Carolina I picked up a bit of an accent.   You will not hear that word come out of my mouth lately!  I have stuck to my northern roots and actually migrated even more north to Plattsburgh, NY. 

In August of last year I received a job offer at "Culinary Health Investors" up here in Plattsburgh.  Plattsburgh is wayyyy up north (about an hour south of Montreal)  and VERY cold.   But it is beautiful up here and I have adjusted nicely.  I have an apartment right by Lake Champlain and a short 8 minute commute to work. 

I discussed the nature of my work as an R&D chef in this post last year, but since I am at a different company my work is more concentrated on developing recipes as well as formulating the nutrition label and calculating pricing for the meals.   No more making staff lunch or working on side catering jobs.  Most of my day is spent in my test kitchen, which is adjacent to my work space where I just so happen to have a desk next to my best friend Nikki who just happens to be the purchasing director and just so happened to start working here right about the same time I did.

Right outside of my test kitchen is the big plant where thousands of meals are being made.  It is an extremely sterile enviornment so lab coats and hair nets must be worn at all times.  My mom came to visit a month or so ago and I gave her a tour.  When I told her she had to wear a hair net she was mortified and asked if she can at least stick her bangs out!  No, Mom..this isn't a fashion runway.. everbody's wearing the same thing and nobody will think you look weird :)   What do Y'ALL think (sorry I had to):

I'll get more into some of the meals I make in later posts.   I mostly make diet meals, specifically for a diet program called "Bistro MD", which is based down in Florida and for a new Campbells diet/medical program.  Lately I have also been working on different projects for Marlees Seafood, Ahold, Costco, and Weight Watchers.

I'm off to relax for the rest of the night!  I'll be back with more fun posts! :)

Hello again!

Monday, March 4, 2013

This is an extremely hard post to write... how do you write your first post in 2 1/2 years after spending a year blogging every single day?  Well that's half true because I did start a new blog "culinary diaries" last year, but my heart just wasn't into it.  I have been debating starting my blog again for the past year and needed the right moment to feel that motivation and passion for food again.

Of course going through culinary school and completing a glamorous internship is FUN to talk about.  It was an adventure I've always dreamed about and I loved sharing it with my friends, family, and the world.  However, after my internship I entered the not so glamorous life of working in the restaurant industry.  My life consisted of looong hours, constantly smelling like food, sore and tired all the time from the hard labor, and just plain blahhh.   Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't take back anything.. every job I've had has tought me so much, especially the toughest one of working as a sous chef in a kitchen/catering company.   Man oh man did I learn a lot!

So what made me start blogging again?   I had a moment.   This moment took place over the weekend while I was visiting my parents in NJ.  The Saturday I was there was the best day ever.. you know those days where you're going to bed and you just think "I wish I could wake up and it would be today again because today was awesome!".. yup that was Saturday.   I woke up nice and fresh from a wonderful nights sleep (thanks to some benedryl and cough medicine from a cold I was still recovering from... it may have made me say some straaaange things to my mom the night before!).  I had an awesome workout that made me feel like I was ready to conquer the world!  My mom and I went for a nice walk around Asbury Park and had a healthy lunch at a vegan restaurant in town and then lounged and watched a movie with some hot tea.  At 5:00 it was cocktail hour (things never change in the Zick household) and as always we sipped on some fabulous red wine and delectable snacks (that have become more healthy and gluten free as the years progressed).   Then the three of us were on our way to Portofino, a favorite local Italian restaurant.   I have written a restaurant review in the past of Portofino here.  But have visited several other times and never had the same bad service as the past review reads.   Until this past Saturday night.  The restaurant was busy... but I mean it was Saturday night and they've been open long enough to be able to handle the crowd, right?  Our waiter was clearly stressed out and our food took hours to arrive!   I had no problem with this at the time because, well, there was at least wine on the table right?   My mom and I may have indulged a bit, but it was all in good fun and at least here I am writing again because of it! As we stumbled hand in hand to the bathroom (the single person bathroom) and telling each other "don't look!!!!", I really did appreciate how lucky I am to have my best friend as a mom.. someone who motivates me every day to do what I love, tells me  I'm beautiful, and will do anything to see me happy.   She's also someone I can exclaim to "let's take shots!!!" as we are heading back to my poor dad at the dinner table waiting for his 2 drunks dates to return, and she politely declines, saying "um I don't think that's a good idea sweetie".

As we patiently (very patiently, too patiently) waited for our food to arrive (well, I can't speak for everyone because my mom kept winking at the waiter saying "drinks on the house??????")   we read my review on my blog from the last time we experienced this bad of service.   I loved reading my blog again and it got me to read even more entries.  I noticed the passion in my voice and had a flashback of the excitement I had when I would return home from school or from a restaurant and be soooo excited to blog about it, to write down everything in my head, to share my passion with everyone else.  I want that again.  I still have that passion, the witty sense of humor, and even more knowledge of food and this industry that I want to share with all of you.  Please join me on this journey as I show you how I create recipes (for my job and for just myself).  I can't wait to make this blog new and exciting and full of recipes, restaurant reviews, and stories of my crazy life!

Lo Mein Primavera

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I cannot wait for the sun to come out!!! Due to the nasty weather this week the pool at the country club has closed, therefore I can't work the pool grille. Thankfully this weekend looks promising!

It was actually nice to have today off though because we made the transition from the beach house to our regular house for the rest of the week. I was able to help my mom pack up and get home early to do a little shopping and prepare dinner.

I recently bought the new Good Housekeeping magazine. It was cool to read because I was a part of a few aspects of this issue (although I worked more on the October and November issue). The first week of my internship I went to Grenwich Village for a photo shoot for the dishes featured in this issue. I stayed for the shoots of these 2 one-dish dinners:

It's so cool to see the final photos in the magazine after seeing the amount of work that goes into choosing the perfect shot.

I was browsing through the recipes and decided to make the Lo Mein Primavera for my mom and I. I tried to follow the recipe almost exactly, but of course I added a few simple changes. Here's the recipe with my changes:

1 pkg. extra-firm tofu
9 oz eziekiel fettucini (or any whole grain fettucini/linguine)
2 T. coconut oil
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, cut into half-moons
2 carrots, grated
1 bunch baby spinach
1/4 cup bragg's amino acids
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
chopped cilantro for serving

1. Cut in large chunks. Place on a paper towel lined plate and place another layer of paper towel on top. Place a heavy pot on top to press the tofu of excess liquid. Set aside while prepping the rest of the ingredients.
2. Cook the fettucini in salted boiling water until al dente. Rinse and set aside.
3. In a 12-inch non-stick skillet heat 1 T. oil on medium for a minute. Add the tofu in a single layer and cook about 10 minutes, until browned, turning once. Transfer to a plate.
4. In sames killet heat remaining T. of oil on medium. Add celery, pepper, and garlic. Cook a few minutes, unti ltender. Add zucchini and cook a couple more minutes, until tender, stirring.
5. Add carrots, soy sauce, and spinach. Cook until the spinach has wilted and everything is cooked through. Toss with the pasta, tofu, and garnish with chopped cilantro. For extra heat add some cayenne pepper!

This was a delicious healthy meal! I'm so glad we have enough leftovers to enjoy this meal again tomorrrow for dinner! Way to go Good Housekeeping :)

Slow Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad

We had a couple of visitors over last night for cocktail hour before dinner (my uncle and his girlfriend visiting from NY).. My mom asked me what we should serve for cocktail hour and I immediately thought of Barefoot Contessa's tomato caprese salad. This is no ordinary caprese salad... The tomatoes are slow roasted with minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a bit of sugar, and crushed black pepper. After roasting away in a low oven for a few hours the natural sugars of the tomatoes come out and the flavors are perfectly enhanced.

Right before our guests arrived I assembled the salad with sliced fresh mozzarella that we got from a local Italian deli and fresh basil from our "garden" (aka basil plant on the balcony). The caprese salad was a hit! I eat these tomatoes like candy and will be snacking on them and adding them to my lunch sandwiches throughout the week.

You can find the recipe here. I followed the recipe exactly, except I left the tomatoes in the oven for a bit longer (almost 3 hours!).

Sun Sun Go Away Come Again Another Day.....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I know, I know.. Where have I been??? This is the longest time I have ever gone without blogging. But, hey.. I've been busy!!!!! As you all know, I have been job searching ever since my internship has ended at Good Housekeeping. I have had no luck until a couple of weeks ago. All of a sudden I received a bunch of calls in the course of 3 days. I scheduled interviews for basically whatever I could get and figured I'd see if any of the places seemed like a good fit for me.

I narrowed my potential career choice down to two... Di bruno brothers in Philadelphia and Battleground Country Club in Manalapan, NJ (only 20 min from my house). Both jobs were extremely different, but I trusted my gut feeling and went with the job in New Jersey. I felt really at ease with the employees of the company and felt that it was a place that I could really build my career. Di Bruno Bros may have been an interesting job, but I realized I may not be quite ready to make the big move out to Philadelphia.

Well, I started my new job as the pool grille cook and supervisor a couple of weeks ago. It was challenging at first to learn the ropes, but I quickly felt at home. It's not quite as glamorous as my internship at Good Housekeeping or any job I dreamed of having in food styling/food media, but I feel confident that I'm still doing what I love and I'm with a really good company that will treat me well. After labor day I'll move on to the country club restaurant and train to be a manager. I have always wanted to be a restaurant manager and feel that I will be really successful at this position given my customer service background (thank you, Nordstrom!) and culinary background. I'll keep y'all updated on how everything turns out!

Anyways, today was my day off and was a rainy and dreary day. Normally, I would be bummed out because that means I'm stuck inside and can't go to the beach or pool. However, today I was actually excited for the crappy weather because all I wanted to do was relax and watch sappy Lifetime movies with my mom. Sooooo..that's exactly what we did. Large mugs of tea were made as we cuddled with our puppies in front of the TV. Around 3:00, we started on dinner... yup, 3:00. What better thing to make on a rainy Sunday than homemade pasta?! This has to be my favorite thing to make (and eat!).

We started out by making the pasta dough:
-1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
-1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
-1/2 tsp. salt
-4 eggs
-1 T. olive oil
-3 T. warm water

Combine the flours and salt. Form a well and add the eggs, olive oil, and water. Whisk and incorporate. Knead the dough until smooth (5-10 min-- upper body workout number 1). Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about 30 min.

While we were cooking, we snacked on some heirloom cherry tomatoes from the Asbury Park farmer's market. They were sooo sweet.. we ate them like candy:

Next, we took our large bunch of roma tomatoes (also from the farmer's market) and concasse'd them (aka blanched). To make tomato concasse, simply core the tomatoes and mark an "x" on the other end of the tomato with a pairing knife. Plunge them in boiling water for a mere 10 seconds and them immediately shock them in ice water. Peel off the skins and remove the seeds. My mom and I started removing the seeds and realized that these small roma tomatoes didn't have that many seeds, so we decided to save some time and skip this step. I simply roughly chopped the peeled tomatoes and set them aside for our sauce.

The other prime ingredient that we needed for our sauce was fresh basil. My mom and I skipped out to our garden (I kid you not) and picked a large bunch.

Yes, our garden consists of a large pot of basil on our condo balcony....

Did I mention we have a wine garden too? We apparantly grow empty wine bottles...

Finally it was time to make some PASTA!

Last week my mom and I bought this crafty pasta machine from William Sonoma. We chose to make bucatini (well... I chose to make bucatini). What is bucatini? It's a thick hollow most favoooorite type of pasta! Well, let me tell you.. I got some workout making this pasta. This machine is not electronic and quite hard to use. In fact, my mom and I are considering returning it after all of the work it required (especially cleaning). We noticed as we were making hte pasta that it was all sticking together, despite the large amount of flour we were constantly sprinkling on it. We just prayed that it would all separate once it dried out a bit and was cooked.

I also browned some hot italian sausages to go with our pasta meal.
Unpictured was a fresh salad that we enjoyed with the rest of those cherry heirloom tomatoes, craisins, and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Ohhh, but how can I forget the sauce?! The best part of the meal!!!!!!!! It was so simple, yet sooo good. Usually I am not this simle, and when it comes to making a pot of sauce, my mom and I add tons of ingredients. However, this was a simple farmer's market sauce and contained only the simplest, fresh ingredients.

I started out by heating extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan. I added about 5 small cloves of garlic (minced) and sauteed for 30 seconds, until fragrent (DON'T BURN THE GARLIC!) Next, I added those delicious peeled and chopped tomatoes. Seasoned it with a bit of salt and pepper and let the mixture simmer for an hour or 2. At the very end I added in torn basil from the "garden".
Oh so fresh and yummy! I'm sure you want to see a final picture of my plate with the pasta, sauce, cheese, and basil.............

Ummm.. well... I was hungry.. and um well.. I forgot to take a picture. I'M SORRY. I promise you, it was a beautiful plate that was devoured in minutes. My mom and I literally sat at the table after everyone was done and licked our plates...and everyone else's plates...and all of the pots. Ha, you think I'm joking...

Fried Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I made these zucchini flowers as a fun cocktail hour treat for my mom's birthday. It really brought back memories for my mom since her grandma used to make them all the time. While I followed my mom's traditional family recipe, I added my own little spin to make them extra delicious! I stuffed them with a ricotta cheese mixture before coating them in egg batter and frying them in coconut oil. Here is the recipe for this outstanding Italian treat:

15-20 zucchini flowers
1 cup ricotta
1/4 cup pecorino or parm, grated
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 cup flour
2 large eggs
salt and pepper
oil for frying (any oil--I used coconut for its health benefits and sweet coconut flavor)
marinara sauce for dipping

1. Wash the zucchini flowers REALLY good-- You might find some bugs inside (yuck!).. Pat dry with paper towel
2. Mix together the ricotta, pecorino, basil, and a touch of cracked black pepper
3. Spoon about a teaspoon of the ricotta mixture inside each zucchini flower. Twist the tops to secure.
4. Heat a large frying pan over high heat and add about 1/4 inch of oil.
5. In a shallow bowl, mix the flour with salt and pepper to taste.
6. In another shallow bowl whisk the eggs.
7. Dredge the zucchini flowers in the flour and then dip in egg. Fry in the hot oil on all sides until brown. Drain on a paper towel. Fry the flowers in batches so the oil stays hot (you may have to add more oil for the other batches).
8. Serve with warm marinara for dipping!
9. Mangia!

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