Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Housemade Croutons and Creamy Goat Cheese Mint Dressing

As I'm sitting here munching on fresh raw sugar snap peas and dipping them in my mint and goat cheese dressing, I realize I forgot to share the recipe with you. May I offer you my deepest apologies.

On Sunday I went to a cookout and brought along a nice salad. I knew there would be a lot of people there, so I made a big one. I bought an aluminum roasting pan from the grocery store to use as the container. If I left it, I wouldn't be heartbroken...and if I left it, it can go in the recycling bin and not the trash. Truth be told, I neither have nor have room for that size of a serving dish.

The previous day, I went to the Farmer's Market. Around 10 AM, it was already packed! It seemed to be mostly people buying things to plant, rather than shopping for food. Once I found a parking space, I bought my cutomary RC Cola in a glass bottle and walked around. I prefer to walk around and sample things before I buy. You never know when the next guy's strawberries are going to be better.

On this particular day, the stawberries were out in full force. It's still early in the strawberry season here and it's only now beginning to be over 90 degrees. I think the weekend after next will be good for strawberries. There were many farmers on Saturday with strawberries that were still crunchy and tart, except for one man. I found a farmer who looked remarkably like Santa Claus. He even had a red shirt on under his bib overalls. He had for sale a little cardboard box with a gallon of the sweetest, but not too sweet, and softest, but not too soft, strawberries you'd ever had. They were perfect for jam making. And they were only $8! His berries were $4 less than everyone else's for the same amount! I also bought a pound of baby spinach for $2, 3 bunches of radishes, a big bunch of green onions, a pint of sugar snap peas (I'm powering through them right now!) and a lovely goat cheese.

If you happen to go to the NC State Farmer's Market, know that Debra Lee's produce is my favorite. They are closed on Sundays. On Saturday, Beth Moore herself told me that she "doesn't do samples!" She has a permanent stand there. There were lots of tomatoes for sale and everyone was giving out a free sample. I wasn't looking for lunch, just to see who had the best quality! Well, Miss Moore, I won't be back.

For Sunday's salad, I used the baby spinach, radishes, an English cucumber, and the green onions. I made croutons from a whole grain baguette and a creamy goat cheese dressing. The inspiration for the dressing came from the goat cheese and the giant tub of plain yogurt I mistakenly bought. I swear I thought I picked up vanilla!

Without further ado, I present you Goat Cheese Mint dressing and homemade croutons.


1 baguette
salt and pepper to taste
a lot of olive oil

Dice baguette into large bite size pieces. Place in bowl and coat with liberal amount of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Toss or stir well. Lay out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown and crispy.

I used a multigrain baguette this time and it was great! It added a nice texture to the crouton. I encourage you to try this.

I really like warm croutons on a salad. They are still yummy when they've cooled.

Feel free to add minced garlic or herbs to this.

Use a good quality olive oil and don't skimp!

Goat Cheese Mint Dressing:

4 oz goat cheese, room temperature
6 oz fat free plain yogurt
2 TBSP minced garlic
2 TBSP minced fresh mint leaves
juice of 3 lemons
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In stand mixer with whisk attachment, food processor, large bowl with hand mixer, large bowl with whisk, or however you want to make this, add goat cheese and yogurt. Mix until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add garlic and mint and mix again. Add lemon juice while whisking. Mix well again. While mixing, slowly drizzle in oil. Add salt and pepper and mix once again. Store in air tight container, keep in fridge and serve cold.

I found this dressing stayed emulsified when kept cold.

Be sure to use the herb labeled as "mint" rather than some fancy schmancy mint. Don't add too much mint. You don't want a Creamy Toothpaste Dressing.

To make this into a dip for veggies, strain the yogurt overnight first to thicken it up.

I found this needs to sit for a while to let the flavors marry. Don't be alarmed if you get an overwhelming flavor of olive oil when you first taste it. You're tasting it for the seasoning. Give it and hour or so and taste it again. It's like magic!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Restaurants that Matter, No. 7 Manresa

One of my brothers biggest concerns when starting his job at Manresa was finding just the right tweezers. Not your usual kitchen tool, or even expected for that matter. One look at these photos and you'll see why it's necessary. Here is a blog post by the photographer of Saveur Magazine's Twelve Restaurants That Matter. The photographs are beautiful, the food is spectacular. It's neat to get to hear what the photographer has to say about the photo shoot and the Chef.

If you look at the first photograph with people in it, the man on the right is Chef David Kinch. The dude on the right is Lil Brotha. He's almost famous, in an anonymous sort of way. I really need to find this issue.

Congratulations to Manresa and thank you for your contributions and inspiration.

Inspiration Manresa

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Silver lining, postponed.

It looks like school will be postponed until the fall semester. Both classes for the summer filled up almost instantly. I was able to register for the Fall for everything I need by one class. I will pay for the Fall term tuition shortly and hope someone fails to do so. I will be up and online at 5 AM on Tuesday May 5 to nab a spot in Baking I. Here's what my schedule looks like:

10:30 AM to 11:20 AM Beginning Golf
12:00 PM to 1:50 PM Purchasing
2:00 PM to 3:50 PM Purchasing Lab

8:00 AM to 8:50 AM Baking I
9:00 AM to 9:50 AM Sanatation and Safety
10:00 AM to 10:50 AM Basic Culinary Skills
11:00 AM to 4:50 PM Basic Culinary Skills Lab

10:30 AM to 11:20 AM Beginning Golf

8:00 AM to 8:50 AM Baking I
9:00 AM to 9:50 AM Sanatation and Safety
10:00 AM to 10:50 AM Basic Culinary Skills

8:00 AM to 11:50 AM Baking I Lab

I desperately need this baking class. Without it, I can't go on in the program. So, I need all the good vibes, thoughts, prayers (if you're the type to do such a thing), candle lighting (if you do that too) and any other well wishing you can think of.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Both classes are full.


Monday, April 20, 2009

I need a brown paper bag, stat!

I get to register for classes on Thursday, April 23, as early as 5 AM. I looked on Web Advisor this afternoon. There are only 3 seats left in one class I need and 4 seats left in the other. I am freaking out here people! I am sure that if they fill up, I can talk to the department head and he'd let me in. I hope. Maybe. Don't the people know I have a Plan? I cannot afford to deviate from The Plan. I mean, things are supposed to happen in a certain order. Not taking these classes deviates from My Plan! OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod! I am freaking out, people.

Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nomad sweets

My friend, E, was in New York City this weekend. She posted a photo on Facebook of a dessert truck she visited. With a helping hand from Google, I found their website. Now, people who know me well know I love street food. There's something so honest and real about the food you can get from the taco truck or a cart on a Chinatown street. I love the idea of a truck that serves fabulous desserts. Could this be my million dollar State Fair food idea?

New York City's Very Own Dessert Truck

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The S Word

I mentioned in my last post that I'm having knee surgery. Many of you have sent warm, kind and concerned thoughts which are so much appreciated. I thought I'd take a second and give you the 411. "That means information, people." (Any Monk fans in the house?)

At the end of January, I slipped and fell on a rubber mat that was turned upside down. Luckily, this happened at work. This means I don't have to pay for anything and I'll ultimately get reimbursed for my time. It also means this whole process has been dragged out 17 times longer than if I had to pay for this. All I'll say about that is...if you have to get hurt at work, don't do it in North Carolina.

It turns out that when I fell I tore my medial meniscus. I've had ice, compression, heat, NSAIDS, a cortisone injection, yoga, physical therapy, x-rays, an MRI and a glucosamine/condrointon supplement (when I can remember to take it). You name it, I've tried it. No dice. Nothing has worked. I'm still in a lot of pain, can't walk far, biking and running are out of the question, and I'm still wearing a knee brace. Without the brace, I feel things moving in ways most unnatural.

At my last doctor's appointment, it was decided that surgery was the next step. It will be arthroscopic surgery and should take about 20 minutes or so. They will go in and look around, take pictures and cut out the torn piece of cartilage. I'll be laid up for a few days and on crutches for a few more. They expect me to be as good as new in 4-5 months. Sadly, my hopes of a robotic knee transplant have been crushed. Perhaps next time. I do however get souvenir photos of the inside of my knee, which is a nice touch. I wonder if they do t-shirts too? "I went to Blue Ridge Surgical Center and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

The surgery is scheduled for May 7. My mom will come stay for a few days. It will then be up to Elvis to care for me. I have three weeks to teach him how to open the fridge and turn on the oven. If that fails, I am certain a few friends will come over to feed me if absolutely necessary.

I appreciate the well wishes. I assure you I will be fine. My 89 year old grandmother always says, "you just don't die as easily as you think you do." In the past 9 years, she's had breast cancer and mastectomy, a broken hip and replacement, an exploding gall bladder, and recently 5 staples in the back of her noggin from a fall. She's never been in the hospital for more than 3 weeks. So, I think she'd know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cookies make everything better.

I work with a girl, T., she about 28 or 29. As a coworker, she's merely okay, but as a person, she is a very sweet, soft spoken girl. She has a son, J., who is about 10 or 11. If I have extra goodies, I'll give them to her to pass on to J. because I know he'll eat them. I also do it because T. doesn't cook or bake and really, every kid needs a freshly baked cookie every now and again. I've also passed on goodies that neither she nor he have tried before and have yet to find something that they don't like. I think the last thing I shared with them was red velvet cupcakes. I've only met J. once or twice in the past. He's a super cute, super sweet kid. T is doing an amazing job as a single mother and I have no doubt that J will turn into a fine man someday.

Two mornings ago, T comes up to me and tells me that her son has just learned how to make those slice and bake Toll House cookies and he's going to make some for me. Yesterday, she tells me that J wants me to know that he didn't make the cookies the night before because he had to watch the wrestling draft and he hoped I would understand. I told her to tell him I would have done the same thing. This morning when I got to work, T hands me a little plastic baggie with 4 chocolate chip cookies. I almost cried. Seriously. He made me cookies because I am always sending things home for him.

I was late this morning because I had a doctor's appointment. I found out that I have to have knee surgery in a week or two. Getting cookies that J baked especially for me made my day!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It should almost be criminal!

Eight Worst Sandwiches In America They include an alternative to each sandwich that is much healthier.

Unhealthiest Drinks In America Click on each link in the red box to see some surprising results. Take note of the portion size too!

Twelve Worst Breakfast Foods In the Supermarket Yikes! Again, alternatives are included. I'm almost better off eating an Egg McMuffin everyday!

Worst Vegetarian Meals In America These companies really ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

iPhone apps for the foodie

Seafood Watch Guide (Free) Now it's even easier to make sustainable and healthy choices in the market, at the restaurant, or at the sushi bar. If you don't have an iPhone, go here for the online guide.

What's Fresh ($0.99) This app will be great for hitting the farmer's markets this summer. The "local area" is user defined. I entered North Carolina and 200 miles, giving me Virginia and South Carolina as well. A list shows me what fruits and veggies are in season and a calendar shows me a comprehensive list of all fruits and veggies. The calendar even shows me what hothouse produce is in season. Now it's even easier to be a locavore!

Urbanspoon (Free) Can't decide where to go for dinner? Open this app, give the phone a shake and the slot machine will give you recommendations based on your current location. If you need to set a parameter like price or type of food, you can do that too. It makes being indecisive fun!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Flying Biscuit Cafe, a review.

I had a few errands to run this morning in Cameron Village which finally led me to The Flying Biscuit. I arrived around 9:30 am. The tables outside were full and there was a short wait. Luckily there were a few seats empty at the bar. I was greeted very quickly by a bartender. I ordered an iced chai with soy and perused the menu. The menu was huge. I was specifically interested in biscuits with sausage gravy, so I settled on the Country Eggs Benedict. While I was looking over the menu, I noticed just how many things they offered that are vegetarian. Next time I think I'll try the Eggceptional Eggs, two eggs on black bean cakes with tomatillo salsa and sour cream. I also noticed that the offerings seem to be on the healthier side of breakfast. For example, the sausage served on many dishes is not a traditional fatty pork sausage, but rather a chicken sausage, and the bacon is actually a turkey bacon. It's really easy for the fat content in a traditional breakfast to get out of hand, so it's nice to have such an alternative.

My breakfast came with a side of either potatoes, grits or fruit. I'm current in the midst of a moratorium on fried potatoes, I don't eat grits and I guessed correctly that the fruit was mostly melon (I hate melon), so I opted to skip the side, much to the bewilderment of my bartender. The couple next to me at the bar did get a side of fruit and I spied a giant blackberry in the bowl. If you're more open minded about fruit than I am, give it a try. I had a book with me, so I wasn't paying attention to the time, but my bartender came back at one point to tell me that it would be right out and it was taking so long because they were working on more biscuits. I guess I didn't notice because I wasn't ravenously hungry. I'm not sure it really took all that long.

The Country Eggs Benedict was outstanding. It was a biscuit split open, each side had a chicken sausage patty and an egg over easy. The whole thing was slathered in a sausage cream gravy. There was just the right amount of sausage gravy, the eggs were cooked perfectly, the biscuit was great and the chicken sausage was fantastic. This was so good. It was exactly what I was craving and exactly how I wanted it to taste. It was just the right amount of food too! I really did not miss the side item. As I was eating this, I was thinking how great it would be as hangover food. The portion was perfect. I was full when I was done, but didn't feel like I ate too much.

The service was pretty good. I find that service from a bartender is never as good as service from an actual waiter, generally because their attention is divided between customers and other duties. The bar staff was attentive and friendly. This leads me to believe that the waitstaff is well trained.

The Flying Biscuit is a small Atlanta-based chain. Outside the Atlanta metro area, there's one here and one in Charlotte. From the moment I arrived to the moment I left, I felt like I was in a local neighborhood joint. There's a wacky purple and orangey gold color scheme inside that is well done. The front face of the restaurant opens, which was very inviting. Today was beautiful, warm and sunny, so even if you were inside, it still felt like you were outside. The dishes look like Fiestaware, rather than corporate issue plain white plates. I know that sounds silly, but I think it adds to the neighborhood feel. So many corporate restaurants feel like corporate restaurants, rather than some labor of love belonging to your neighbors.

I had a great experience this morning. The Flying Biscuit is a great addition to Raleigh and in a perfect location. Even if you live a little further outside the Cameron Village area, it is worth the drive. Plan to either arrive early or sit back and relax either in the parlor (they have this cute little room with wicker chairs) or relax in Cameron Village. I highly recommend this place. I will definitely be back as often as possible.