Sunday, August 31, 2008

Minnesota State Fair!

For those of you in the state, you're supposed to read that title as per the theme song that's been playing on the commercials for the past month or so. Anyway, I haven't forgotten about my blog. I haven't been purposely neglecting it, either. We moved, so I haven't been doing much any cooking lately. So... enough with the excuses and onto the good stuff.

Every year, like virtually every other Minnesotan I know, we wade through the crowd to go to the great... no, food fest... no... celebration of deep fried wonderment on a stick that is the Minnesota State Fair. If you add the attendance numbers together from each day of the fair (ignoring that many people go more than once), I think more people attend than actually live in the state.
People don't go to the fair for much other than the food. Sure, there are the animal barns where the outstate folk can show off their prize-winning pigs/cows/chickens/gigantic turkeys, and the city folk can actually see what a pig/cow/chicken/gigantic turkey looks like... but that's really just something you do in between the various food items.

Everyone has their favorites that they repeat over and over (unfortunately for me, mine are so far favorites that I crave them year-round, so once it's fair time, I am so hungry for them that I don't feel like I can cut anything out to try the newest hot dish on a stick or macaroni and cheese on a stick or whatever they manage to fry and put on a stick that particular year). My favorite is, by far, the Pronto Pup.

Cue the angel choir music...

To be completely clear: a pronto pup is not the same thing as a corn dog. I cannot stress this enough. Sure, it's a deep fried, breaded hot dog on a stick, but it's so much better than a corn dog. See, the difference is that the batter on a pronto pup is made from wheat, not cornmeal. In my experience, the coating is quite a bit thinner than a corn dog breading, and much more crispy on the outside. In short, they're the best. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the actual pup because by the time we made it through the line and got ours, we were far too hungry to bother with pictures.

Later, I did take a picture of one of the booths to show you how incredibly popular they are. The line was actually about twice this long, but you get the picture.

Unfortunately (but somewhat amusing-ly), the closest open place to the pronto pup stand to actually sit down and eat said pronto pup faced us directly looking toward this:

In case you can't see, the guy in the middle with the gray hair is Norm himself.

We thought about heckling, but decided against it.

The next major food item on the list is Luigi Fries. My husband loves these. Basically, they're breadsticks topped with melted cheese, dipped in marinara. They're good, but I think you probably get the picture just by description.

Next, the grilled corn on the cob. I know what you're thinking: what's so special about corn on the cob? In truth, nothing. It's just really, really good. It has the perfect charcoal grill flavor, and they give it to you just after being dipped in a huge vat of melted butter. The whole area smells like roasted corn.... it's an event, really.

See, don't we look like we're enjoying ourselves?

Next, there are mini doughnuts. There are two different brands of mini donuts at the fair, and people argue over whether Tom Thumb or Tiny Tim (or whatever that other brand actually is called) is the better mini donut. My in-laws swear that Tom Thumb is better, so for some reason we just sort of gravitate toward one of those stands. They're really yummy, but unfortunately, you can only eat about 5 of them before you start to feel like a mini donut yourself.

In the meantime, you walk around and check out the baby animals, like this super cute baby goat and two-day-old baby pigs, and make coo-ey sounds over them.

Now say it with me - awwwwww....

Next is a Minnesota original (or so I'm told): the deep fried cheese curd.

Again, there probably isn't anything particularly extraordinary about these things. They're just really good. And really, how could they not be? They're just little bits of lightly battered, deep fried cheese. The end result is a glob of cheese, batter, and grease. The first bite is heaven. The second bite is good. Third bite... still pretty good. The fourth bite.... well, let's just say you feel like you're going to die.

But, you can't die. There's still cookies to eat!

Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar has been around for 30 years or so, and everyone goes crazy for these cookies. They're always served hot, right out of the oven delicious.

In case you're worried for our health, we're still working on polishing off the bucket.

And then, you get back on the shuttle bus to your designated park & ride area and collapse.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The 100 foods you apparently should eat

This popped up in someone's blog on my google reader from Very Good Taste; a list of things he thinks every omnivore should eat. After looking about a good 1/3 of them up, I think I'm doing pretty well. :)

What he wants you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
13. PB&J sandwich
Aloo gobi
Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes

22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
Vodka jelly/Jell-O
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
Lapsang souchong
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Homegrown Gourmet Reminder

Hey everyone - just wanted to remind you that the deadline for Homegrown Gourmet 10 is coming up! Please remember to submit your Homegrown Gourmet Pizza to elizabethscookingAThotmailDOTcom by August 25.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Laughing Cow Chicken

I'm making a sincere effort to clean out the kitchen. We're moving soon, and I don't really want to haul a bunch of food over to the new place. It'll do us good, anyway. I'm discovering we have a lot of random stuff. When I was at work today, I wanted something with chicken. So, I got home and started looking through the kitchen. Chicken breasts? Check. What can I do with them.... stuff them, I thought. The Laughing Cow wedges I had sitting in the fridge looked like they were eager to stuff some chicken breasts. So there we go... now what exactly to do with them? I decided to lightly bread them, pan fry them a little, then finish them off in the oven. I'm quite proud of the results. We both gave this rave reviews.

Laughing Cow Chicken
Serves 2

Total Cook & Prep Time - 45 min

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
4 wedges Laughing Cow Garlic & Herb cheese, softened
cooking spray
1/2 cup bread crumbs
dash dried parsley flakes
dash grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Lay each chicken breast flat. Spread 2 wedges of cheese on each (feel free to adjust for your size chicken breasts or desired level of cheese). Roll up and seal with toothpicks.

Meanwhile, mix together the bread crumbs, parsley flakes, and Parmesan cheese in a shallow dish.

Spray the chicken rolls with cooking spray and dredge them in the breadcrumb mixture. I found it easiest to do this by spraying the tops while sitting on the tray I rolled them on, then dipping that half in bread crumbs, then spraying the other side and rolling the chicken over. I'm sure you could do a regular breading technique, but this was much easier and quicker.

Heat a couple tsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and sear on all sides. Transfer to a baking dish or cookie sheet and bake 15-25 min, depending on the size of your chicken breasts and how long you cooked them in the pan. Mine took about 20 min.

Remove toothpicks and serve!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I believe I've mentioned before that I love Alfredo sauce. My husband isn't what I'd call a fan. He's a good sport, though. He eats it when I make it because he knows I love it. I make him garlic bread to make amends. Tonight, in a sincere effort to clean out the cupboards, I made this recipe for Fetuccini Alfredo that I found tucked away in my "to-try" folder.

I'm not sure I would really classify this as Fetuccini Alfredo because the sauce was a bit too thick and a bit too tangy, but it was good, and definitely something I'd make again when I want something Alfredo-ish without all the fat and calories.

Fetuccini Alfredo
Recipe from Kraft, adapted
Serves 4
Cook Time - 15 min

1/2 lb. fettuccine, uncooked (I used cavatappi)
1 TBSP flour
1-1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
~3 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Mix broth and flour in same skillet and whisk together. Add cream cheese, 2 Tbsp. of the Parmesan cheese, the garlic and pepper and whisk until smooth; cook 2 min., stirring constantly. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more stock or some half & half.

Add pasta and toss to coat. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Another Chicken Parmesan

I decided it was maybe time to try an actual recipe for Chicken Parmesan. I love the dish, but usually just kind of throw ingredients together and come up with something Chicken Parmesan-like. While you probably won't ever find Chicken Parmesan on a menu at any restaurant in Italy (and if you do, you probably want to leave that restaurant, because Chicken Parmesan isn't a real Italian dish - Italians use veal or eggplant), you should make it at home. Seriously, you need to make this recipe. It's so delicious I could barely stop eating it.

Chicken Parmesan
Recipe from
Serves 4 (I cut halved)
Cook Time - About 30 min

2 quarts oil, for deep-frying
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP cracked black pepper
4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
3 TBSP freshly chopped parsley leaves
2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 quart favorite store-bought marinara sauce (I used homemade)
White sauce, recipe follows
8 slices mozzarella cheese

Heat oil to 350 degrees F.

Mix all seasonings together then divide into 2 parts. Season chicken breast with half of the seasoning on both sides. Add half of remaining seasoning and 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley to bread crumbs and mix. Dip chicken in flour, then in eggs, then in bread crumbs. Fry chicken until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes). Simmer the marinara sauce in saucepan over medium heat. Place 2 slices of mozzarella cheese on each breast. Pour the warmed marinara sauce over the cheese, drizzle with White Sauce and serve.

White sauce:
1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the garlic and heavy cream in a medium saucepan, until simmering. Turn off heat, add butter, and whisk vigorously until fully incorporated. Add 1 tablespoon fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper

*I served this with a side of spaghetti*

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hot potato, hot potato

I love potatoes, especially roasted potatoes. I have a standby roasted potato recipe that I love, but I'm always looking for something new. I've seen this recipe for "Crash-hot Potatoes" floating around on a few cooking blogs lately and everyone raved about them, so I decided I had to try them. You should too. They're delicious and have the perfect combination of spices and texture. They were a perfect accompaniment to my Oven Fried Chicken Fontina. (Thanks, Annie. We loved it).

Crash-Hot Potatoes
From Pioneer Woman, adapted
Serves 2

6-8 small, round potatoes, skin on (I used baby reds)
Olive Oil
garlic powder
Chives (or Rosemary - whichever you like. I did half with each) - optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Add the potatoes to a large pot. Cover with cold water. Salt water & cook until the potatoes are fork-tender.

Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil in a cookie sheet or baking dish.

Drain potatoes and place on the cookie sheet or baking dish. Using a potato masher or a fork, gently squish each potato until they are smooshed down a bit.

Drizzle the tops of the potatoes with more olive oil.

Generously sprinkle each potato with salt & pepper. Add a dash of garlic powder to each potato.

If using an herb, sprinkle that on top.

Bake for about 20 minutes.