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~Julia Child

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Surprise Box of Ingredients From Marx Foods

Also See Below for New Marx Foods Blog Challenge
So I received in the mail a box full of ingredients from Marx Foods, a gourmet online food emporium that seriously does not disappoint. The ingredients were as follows: dried porcini mushrooms, dried black trumpet mushrooms, black truffle salt, juniper berries, and granulated honey.  The CEO of Marx Foods, Justin Marx, put me to the task (just for funsies) of coming up with a delicious meal that incorporated all of these very different flavors.  So the answer to the enigmatic equation of Surprise Box of Ingredients=X:

X=Turkey Breast seasoned with Truffle Salt, Savory Mushroom Stuffing, Candied Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, and Chocolate Grand Marnier and Juniper Souffles

The day began on the best note you could imagine, Saturday Joe bought us hour long massages, as part of my birthday present (bday was November 26th).  Then off to Jamba Juice to indulge in something that would cleanse our bodies, and taste absolutely phenomenal.  Finally we headed to my Mecca, Genes Sausage Shop and Delicatessen, which is featured in a previous blog of mine, I highly recommend going.  Although I had my shopping list, I of course had to veer off the path a little bit when I excitedly noticed that they sold Landj√§ger Sausages and smoked gouda.  Sounded like the perfect pre-dinner appetizer to me.  Joe, in the meantime of my shopping extravaganza, ran off to the wine shop down the street to pick out some extra tasty varietals to go with dinner.  Finally it was time to trek back home.  We cooked, and chopped, and mixed together. All the while sipping one of the bottles of wine (you MUST drink when you cook) and me literally dancing around the kitchen, as we were jamming out to Joe's I POD.  Finally all the food was in the oven, the souffles were made and resting in the fridge, and we could sit and enjoy some more wine and tasty cheese and sausage treats.  After we finished with our delish meal, we watched the movie Inception, which happened to be AMAZING.  The souffles that we devoured during the movie only added to its awesomeness!

 Turkey Breast and Savory Mushroom Stuffing

  • 4 cups white bread small cubes (I used french bread), partially dried out in oven (400 F for 10 minutes, flip after 5)
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 tbsl of sweet cream salted butter
  • 4 slices of pancetta or any thick, smokey, bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 medium size onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups of assorted mushrooms, sliced (in my case I used dehydrated Porcini and Black Trumpet)
  • 2 eggs 
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil
  • 1 skin and bone-in Turkey Breast (Cleaned and patted dry)
  1. In a bowl place your dried mushroom, cover completely with low sodium chicken broth (about 2 cups), let sit for at least 5-10 minutes.  Then take mushrooms out of broth, reserving the broth for later use.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, over medium-high heat, cook up your bacon til just crisp.
  3. Add in 2 tblspn of butter, let melt completely, then throw in your onion, celery, and garlic.  Let sweat until completely tender (about 3-5 minutes) over medium heat. Add tsp or so of poultry seasoning, and some cracked black pepper.
  4. Take your reserved chicken broth and pour into the sauce pan.  Give everything a good stir. Let it heat all the way through over medium heat.  Then turn down to low.
  5. In separate bowl add your one cup of milk and 2 eggs.  Mix thoroughly.  Slowly add your milk/egg mixture to the broth, directly in the middle of the pan, stirring constantly (you don't want scrambled eggs!)
  6. Add all of your mushrooms, and let cook for about 3 minutes.
  7. In whatever pan or casserole you plan on cooking your stuffing in, place your bread cubes.  Pour the contents of the saucepan evenly over the cubes.  Mix thoroughly, and continuously until all your bread is evenly coated and on the soft side. (if cubes still seem too dry you can add a little more chicken broth to the pan).
  8. Take your Turkey breast and lather it up with olive oil.  Place on top of your stuffing, and season to taste.  Lightly sprinkle some of the poultry seasoning, and then truffle salt all over the top.
  9. Cover with aluminum foil and cook at 375 F for 30 minutes.  Then take off foil and cook until timer pops up out of turkey or a meat thermometer reads 170 F (probably another hour).
  10. Place turkey breast on cutting board, let sit a couple of minutes then carve.
  11. If serving your stuffing out of the dish you baked it in, sprinkle some of the truffle salt evenly over the top, or scoop into serving dish and then sprinkle the truffle salt.

Candied Brussel Sprouts with Bacon


  • 2lbs of cleaned brussel sprouts
  • 1/3 lb of thick cut bacon or pancetta chopped
  • 2 tblspn of granulated honey
  • olive oil
  • crack pepper to taste
  1. On a baking sheet, preferably with sides, place your brussel sprouts.  Toss them with the raw pancetta/bacon.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over sprouts, and toss so they are completely covered.
  3. Crack pepper evenly over the top
  4. Sprinkle your 2 tblspn of Granulated honey evenly.
  5. Bake at 375 F for 30-40 minutes or until tender.

Chocolate, Orange, and Juniper Souffles


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed (dry) juniper berries **used my coffee grinder to crush the berries**
  • 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus 7 ounces chopped
  • 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar mixed with 1 tblsp of crushed (dry) juniper berries


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Butter and sugar 6 x 6oz ramekins.
  2. Heat the butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, grand marnier,vanilla, and 1/2 tsp juniper berries in a double boiler over medium heat until the butter melts. Remove the butter mixture from the heat, add the 3.5 oz chocolate, and let sit until it melts, about 3 minutes. 
  3. Place the chocolate mixture in a pie dish and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Use a spoon to form the chilled mixture into 6 evenly-sized balls about the size of a walnut and place in the buttered/sugared ramekins.  Place them back into the freezer.
  4. Meanwhile, place the flour in a double broiler and slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until thick, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and continue to whisk constantly. The mixture will thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise in another 3 to 4 minutes. 
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat. Stir in the 7 ounces of chocolate and set aside to let the chocolate melt.
  6. Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the cream of tartar. Using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks form.
  7. Add the 1/4 cup of orange juice to chocolate mixture, mix well.
  8. Fold the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture
  9. Spoon the souffle mixture over the chocolate balls, up to the rim of the ramekins. (At this point the souffle can be covered and kept refrigerated for 2 days.)
  10. Place the ramekins in a hot water bath and bake until golden on top and the souffle has risen, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if refrigerated). 
  11. Remove from the oven, dust the top with the powdered sugar and juniper berry mixture, serve immediately. 

Have You Been A Good Little Foodie This Year?
Blogger Challenge

    This dog is absolutely adorable, I wish my animals would let me dress them up!

    I suppose that I could have started a new blog about this challenge however I felt that my above post and this particular challenge were linked to each other for two main reasons: 1) the above recipe (s) were the direct inspiration of Marx Foods and 2) the package of delish goods is a prime example of how I have been trying to think outside the box (pun totally not intended) this past year, in terms of my culinary pursuits.  

    I started this blog  about a year ago, and I feel that I have been sort of upping the ante with each post and foodie review that I make.  I've always been someone who loved to cook and bake (thanks to my mothers talents and patience with us kids in the kitchen).  However, I started off with simply replicating my mom's family recipes and have slowly grown into creating my own from scratch, or making twists to traditional fare.  The box full of "surprise" ingredients from Marx really forced me to create something delicious and gourmet without use of any of my familial recipes.  I was definitely taken out of my comfort zone.  In fact I had NEVER attempted souffle before this challenge!  It was also a bonus receiving these items because generally speaking I have to make my meals on a budget (Academic Research Scientist is definitely more about the passion then the payroll).  I do not have access to such intriguing items as truffle oil or bourbon vanilla beans, and although any good cook can make a wonderful meal from a few and very simple items, sometimes its one or two ingredients that can truly take a dish to the next level.  With a stocking full of goodies (hopefully including some truffle oil, because I am secretly obsessed with the flavor of truffles!) I could really show off my imaginative nature with some new culinary innovations thanks again to Marx Foods!

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Mexique': Anything BUT Tacos

    Last night I was invited by the Mexico Tourism Board (apparently they came across my blog and wished me to attend based on my culinary tastes) to enjoy a night of authentic Mexican cuisine, with the flare and artistry that only a chef like Chef Carlos Gaytan could bring to the table (pun totally intended).  If you haven't noticed the Mexican Tourism Board has been really trying to advertise all the beauty, wealth, and richness that their country has to offer; and if this meal was even one-tenth of what I would have to look forward to on a trip to Mexico, I'm booking a flight today!  Not only was I lucky enough to be thought of for this event, but was able to bring my own culinary muse, which by now you know is my boyfriend Joe.  He also served as photographer for the evening.  So all the delicious pictures that will be shown, were his doing. 

    As I mentioned above, Chef Carlos Gaytan was the culinary genius behind this thoughtful, and thought provoking, menu.  He is not only head chef but also owner of Mexique', which is nestled in the wicker park area of Chicago and Ashland (close to both Milwaukee and Chicago blue line stops).  His food was a marriage between the simple and well known flavors of his Mexican heritage, but paired in a way that creates a revelation of both flavor and texture. 

    Chef Gaytan's passion for cooking shown through with each course that was brought to the table.  You could tell that a lot of love was put into his creations, and also to the overall melding of all four dishes together.  It was an absolute pleasure meeting him, his wonderful staff, and especially the folks at the Mexico Tourism Board.  Thanks for an absolutely amazing Thursday night!

    So without further ado the four course menu, with wine pairings from Mexique'!


    Ahi Tuna, Avocado Mousse, Chipotle Aioli, Mango Habanero Galette
    Wine pairing: Prosecco, Label Unknown-Light, crisp, citrus and apple

    (Delectably light.  Cilantro and onion did not over power but melded with the airy avocado mousse.  BEST tuna tar tar I've had, this includes my favorite sushi restaurant TANK)


    Mole y Maiz
    Jamaica Braised Pork Belly, Mole Teloapan, Fresh Corn Tamal, Butternut Squash Foam
    Wine Pairing: Tempranillo, ERCAVIO-smells of banana, smooth, with nutty and oak tones

    (The texture of crisp, tender, and saucy, created something beyond palpable words, just mmm...mmm...good)


    Carne Asada
    Grilled Flank Steak, Fingerling Potato Salad, Spinach, Asparagus, Roasted Red Pepper Chipotle and Goat Cheese Fondue
    Wine Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon, La Flor- sweet and aromatic, oaky smoothness, so good I finished mine before the course was brought out! oops

    (Goat Cheese Chipotle Fondue was so flavorful that I could have sopped up extra with bread.  The flank steak was PERFECTLY prepared rare.  You enjoy the steak and fondue to the point that you forget about the subtleties of this dish, until a piece of roasted asparagus explodes onto your taste buds, bringing the meal to an entirely higher level of culinary being!)


    Chocolate Tamal
    Warm Rare Chocolate Tamal, Pistachios, Papantla Vanilla Ice Cream
    Wine Pairing: 100% Agave Tequila, Don Julio Anejo-I love tequila and have never tasted anything like this.  It was like candy, couldn't stop drinking it!

    (Chef Carlos described chocolate as being a luxury that only the wealthy in Mexico used to be able to enjoy.  This dessert made me feel elitist!)

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Nightmare on Berteau Street: A Halloween Extravaganza

    So this year I decided to throw a Halloween party.  I was sick of being disappointed in taking all the time and effort to dress up, and then simply heading to a bar, where you are overpaying for drinks and eating (for lack of a better word) craptastic food.  So although I was on a tight budget this year, I set myself to the task of making both my apartment and my food as festively ghoulish as possible.

    I wanted decor, but if you've been to Target or even Joanne's and contemplated buying full retail halloween decorations, you know how pricey it can get.  So instead I simply made all my decorations, except for buying a couple pumpkins for carving and gourds for more of an autumnal accent.  I cut out a ton of bats from construction paper, and either taped them in flurries around my walls, or hung them from string and put them hanging in my windows.  I constructed boo-tastic ghosts using large pieces of drawing paper, and strategically placed them popping up from behind furniture.  The creme de la creme of decor came from my reconstruction of a scene from It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, by either drawing and coloring in the characters or making the pumpkins and vines from cut out construction paper.

    As for the food, i didn't want to simply serve up sickeningly sweet, treats.  So I created dishes that would both be easy on me to make, and especially easy on my wallet.  The menu consisted of: "Devilishly Good Taco Dip", "Bloody Bat Wings" (Jerk style Rub chicken wings with the drumstick and wing tip attached, served with a BBQ dipping sauce), Crescent Roll Wrapped Mummy Dogs, A Snake Bite,  and Individual Pumpkin Pie Cheesecakes.  Of course it wouldn't be a party without a tasty cordial or two.  Other than beer, and lots of it, I served up Skittles shots.  Which is simply skittles that have been fully dissolved in vodka, and then I allotted them into 15 ml disposable test tubes, gave off a great Mad Scientist Vibe.  Of course a slew of candies were also served, to indulge our inner child!

    Everyone had an amazing time.  I will definitely repeat not only the menu, but the decor next year.  See below for my easy peasy recipes, and more pics to come!

    Pumpkin Pie Cheesecakes



    • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    • 4 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted


    • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar 
    • 1 16 oz can of Pure Pumpkin with or w/o spice
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (less if using freshly grated)
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 eggs


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a paper cupcake liner in each cup of a standard muffin pan.

    To make crust: In a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until crumbs are moistened. Press crust into bottom of each muffin cup. To make the filling: Beat cream cheese with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy, add pumpkin and mix thoroughly. Add sugar, flour,cinnamon, and nutmeg, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Spoon cream cheese mixture over graham cracker crusts. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream!

    Devilishly Good Taco Dip

    • 1 16 oz can of refried beans
    • 1 8 oz package of cream cheese
    • 1 cup of sour cream
    • 1 tblspn of chili powder
    • 1 tsp of black pepper
    • a dash or cayenne pepper
    • 1 16 oz package of shredded cheddar cheese OR make homemade cheese dip (make sure its on the thicker side)
    • homemade or store bought guacamole (16 oz)
    • 16 oz of salsa (I used a little spicier of a salsa)
    • 3-4 cups of shredded iceberg lettuce
    • 1/3 of cup of Cilantro (chopped roughly)
    • package of medium or large flour tortillas
    Blend your cream cheese and sour cream together (so it's thoroughly mixed) and add in your chili powder, black pepper, and cayenne. Set to the side. 
    In a 9 X 13 pan, spread out your refried beans so they completely cover the bottom.  Then add your cream cheese mixture, guacamole, evenly distribute out the salsa, and finally the shredded cheddar.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to set, either over night or for a few hours before the party.
    Cut out a graveyard scene from your flour tortillas.  Individual fence posts, graves, a tree, black cat, etc etc.  Bake in the oven at 350 F, for only about 10-15 minutes or until crisp.  Spread your shredded lettuce and cilantro evenly over the top of the taco dip.  You do not want to see any of the shredded cheddar.  Then place your graveyard scene sticking out of the dip.

    Bloody Bat Wings

    • 12-16 Wings, with drumstick and wing tip still attached (the bigger the better) 
    • 3 tblsp cups paprika
    • 3 tbsp course black pepper
    • 3 tbsp onion salt
    • 3 tbsp granulated garlic
    • 3 tbsp chili powder
    • 1 tbsp Cayenne powder
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup of BBQ sauce

    Make sure your wings are clean, and patted dry.  In a baking pan or even better a metal rack over a baking pan, use a little canola oil so nothing sticks.

    Now mix together all your spices and brown sugar.  Thoroughly coat each of your chicken wings, so you can't see any skin.  Place on your metal baking rack, and bake at 375 F for about 30-40 minutes. 

    Take out and let cool for about 5 minutes.  Place on a large circular plate so it looks like the wings of bats, surrounding a ramekin of BBQ sauce. 

    Snake Bite


    • 1 can crescent rolls
    • Flour, for dusting
    • 4 tablespoons spicy mustard
    • 10 ounces thinly sliced ham
    • 10 ounces thinly sliced salami
    • 10 ounces bologna
    • 12 ounces Monterey Jack, grated
    • Liquid Food Coloring
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 2 whole cloves
    • Toothpicks
    • 2 small pimento-stuffed olives
    • 1 (1-inch) strips jarred roasted red peppers


    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
    Line a cookie sheet with foil. Grease the foil and set aside.  Dust a flat surface lightly with flour. Spread out the crescent dough — do not separate. Pinch together the seams so that you have 1 piece of dough. Roll out to make a large rectangle. Make sure the dough is not stuck to the surface at all.

    Brush the dough with the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border. Layer the meats down the center of the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border on either end. You can feel free to use your favorite cold cuts.  Top the meats with the cheese. Fold 1 side of the dough over the filling, lengthwise. Then, fold the other 1/2 over and press the seal the filling inside. 

    Take 1 egg yolk, and beat lightly with a fork. Brush the egg yolk over the top of the dough. The yolk will act as the glue to hold. Fold the dough in 1/2 again lengthwise.  Pinch the seam with your fingers to seal. Press the outside of the dough to make sure everything is sealed tight and to make an even thickness for the body of your snake. Taper 1 end of the dough to form a tail shape. Form the other end into a head shape.
    Beat the 2 remaining egg yolks together. Transfer to 3 separate small bowls. Add some food coloring to each bowl — whatever colors you like! Using a clean paintbrush, "paint" the snake with the egg yolk/food coloring mixture.

    Transfer the snake to the foil lined sheet tray. Form into an "s" shape so it looks like the snake is slithering. Insert 2 cloves into the head to look like nostrils and 2 stuffed olives for eyes. Create a mouth or tongue with the roasted red peppers. Bake the snake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

    Crescent Wrapped Mummies

    • 2 cans of crescent rolls
    • 1 package of 8 ball park franks

    Unfold your can (s) of crescent rolls.  Using 1 crescent roll/hot dog, cut it into long strips.  Using these strips, wrap them around your hot dog to resemble a mummy.  Leave some space where the eyes would be, and simply use mustard to dot eyes on some of your mummies when you serve them.  I like to use a dipping sauce of just mustard and ketchup mixed together, but anything would be delish!

    Skittle Shots 

    • 1 large bag of colored skittles
    • 1 half gallon of vodka
    • 5 clean, empty plastic water bottles

    Separate all your colors into individual containers/the water bottles.  Make sure you know approximately how many you have in each. 

    Add 1 oz of vodka for every 10 skittles.  So if you have 80 skittles, add 8 oz of vodka (1 cup).

    Shake vigorously for about 30 sec to a minute.  Let sit at least overnight at room temp, shaking every once in a while.  For the most part all of your skittles should completely dissolve. You might be left with a small amount of white, but you can rid yourself of this by either carefully decanting OR using a sieve or cheesecloth.

    You can either put your skittle vodka in individual serving bottles and chill, using for mixed drinks/martinis OR pour into 15 ml disposable plastic test tubes for individual shots.  This is what I did, and not only were they delish, but made a great decor addition.