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Super easy: Sungold Omelet and Pork Fried Rice

I made a couple of tasty and healthy dishes this past weekend that I wanted to share with you all.

Chef JimFirst, since we had two pints of sungold cherry tomatoes from our CSA, as well as a wealth of basil, I had an idea. I heated some olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, threw in a handful of the sungolds, shook the pan a few times and let them roast for a minute or two. Then I scrambled 3-4 eggs with salt and pepper and poured those into the pan. I swirled the pan around a bit and once the eggs were just about set, threw in a couple tablespoons of feta cheese, and a sprinkling of chopped basil. I cooked for another 30 seconds or so and then transferred to a plate, cutting the omelet into two servings (you can also use more eggs and cut into four wedges).

Chef JimThe other thing I had a taste for was fried rice. I like to make mine with pork, but it’s always difficult or next to impossible to make the kind of red-tinged barbecued pork you see in Chinese restaurants. So I did the sensible thing and picked up a container of roast pork at our local Chinese takeout joint. They call it “boneless spare ribs,” but it’s basically strips of barbecued roast pork (and it’s freaking delicious). So here is how I made my fried rice–I took a bag of frozen bag brown rice from Trader Joe’s (this is the best tasting quick brown rice you will find anywhere–I guarantee it), nuked it for three minutes and set the bag aside. I heated a couple tablespoons of canola oil in a large nonstick skillet with a splash of sesame oil. I threw in some finely chopped onion, carrots, sweet pepper, shelled edamame, and a small bit of minced fresh ginger — and stir fried that for 3-4 minutes. Then I dumped in the cooked rice and maybe 1/2 cup of diced roast pork and stir fried for another minute. Then I added a few sprinkles of Kosher salt, some shakes of black pepper; and a sprinkling each of teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, and Korean barbecue sauce, stirring for about a minute. Meanwhile, at about the same time I added the sauces, I heated a small nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray, and dumped in one scrambled egg. Instead of stirring, I just let that set, and slid onto a plate, cutting into small pieces and adding to the fried rice, stirring another 30 seconds and then sprinkling with chopped cilantro. After dividing among two plates, I sprinkled mine with a few drizzles of chili oil.

You can make this rice with whatever you have on hand. Green onions are typical but I don’t like them and they don’t like me. You can also use peas, corn, bok choy or whatever you can find. It’s fun to try different combinations, but trust me — the pork is what makes it. My wife says it’s better than takeout, and who am I to disagree? So maybe you should try it and see if you like it too. But I already know you will.

Fish Boil

Greetings everyone….I am still here, so keep checking back often and I’ll have many updates to follow about recipes, food shows, product reviews and more. I mean, it’s almost football season…..well, it kind of IS already, so I’m getting my indoor smoker ready and also wanting to check out a recipe I saw recently for wings–in which you steam them first, then pan fry them before tossing with wing sauce. It’s an alternative to deep frying that I think would be cool to check out.

The other thing I wanted to bring up and mention is the fish boil my wife and I went to when on vacation recently in Fish Creek (ha), which is up in Door County, Wisconsin. We stayed at a renowned bed and breakfast called the White Gull Inn and one of their claims to fame is their Wisconsin fish boil, something that is a tradition year-round in that part of the country. Now, I’m not a huge seafood eater. In fact, only recently have I ventured beyond occasional shrimp or crab and made actual fish. But honestly, I’m still squeamish about cooking it, afraid I’m going to screw it up, like the time I made cod that became shredded fish on a plate.

So keep in mind this is not fried fish. What they do is have these master fish boilers, or whatever they call them. These guys dump buckets of large pieces of fish–skin, bones and all–into a vat of boiling water over a fire. After a few minutes, they dump kerosene on the fire and it shoots flames up to the sky, but what it also does is push all of the fish oil up and over the side of the vat–leaving you with tender, flaky whitefish that can easily pull from the skin and bones.
They serve it with a delicious horseradish sauce, boiled potatoes, slaw and bread. And it is delicious and not at all fishy tasting. If you are not sure about seafood, this is one meal I’d recommend trying if you are somewhere that they do this.

And honestly, the one thing I didn’t like about this meal was the slaw–for the life of me, I don’t get why anyone puts raw onions in cole slaw. It makes it so that all you taste is mayo and onions. Blech. Don’t onion the slaw, is what I always say.

Review of Casino Restaurants

For many people who visit land based casinos, they often take advantage of other amenities offered at these casinos. One of these would be restaurants. Most land based casinos have at least one restaurant affiliated with them. Some casinos have even more dining options as they try to appeal to the diverse culinary preferences of their customers. Some of the world’s best restaurants can be found in casinos.

Las Vegas is a city well known for its casino but also for the fabulous restaurants that are associated with the casino. The Bellagio is one of the finest casinos in the city so fittingly; one of its restaurants has a similar reputation. The Picasso Restaurant provides diners with a breathtaking view of the famous Bellagio Fountains. The décor of the restaurants features several authentic paintings done by the restaurant’s namesake. The head chef of the Picasso serve food that draws on the cuisine found within the regions of both France and Spain, where the painter resided. For instance, expect to find dishes like pan-seared scallops with potato mousseline. For many who typically play at online casinos, these restaurants are one reason to enjoy land based gaming.

Probably one of the finest casinos in Europe would be the historic casino at Monte Carlo. The massive resort which encompasses the casino offers guests a total of 33 bars and restaurants. Of these the best would be the Le Louis XV-Alain Déclassé. Expect to find this restaurant serving up dishes inspired by its location along the Mediterranean. An example of dishes on the menu would include baby lamb seasoned with Espelette pepper and then slowly roasted in a fireplace. Another example would be sea bass which has been seasoned with marjoram and served with roasted artichokes. For wine connoisseurs, the restaurant’s wine cellar is well stocked with over 400,000 bottles.

Of course many of these sites are in exotic locations that many of us can not easily get to, however it doesn’t stop us from enjoying a nice home made meal and a game or two on riverbelle.

Mikey’s Monday this and that

Some random food thoughts for your Monday morning and to start June…..

I think I’ve had just about enough of the spring vegetables. I love asparagus, peas and various spring greens and herbs. But I think almost every stand at the Dane County Farmer’s Market on Saturday had asparagus. My pee is going to smell funny for a month. But anyway, I’m very ready for the summer onslaught–tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, melon, berries….let’s do this thing.

I made meat loaf last night, but not just any meat loaf….Bobby Flay’s Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf. I made it with 2/3 beef and 1/3 ground turkey and I suddenly remembered why I love this recipe so much. The balsamic vinegar/ketchup glaze on top is so good that it’s making my mouth water right now. Next time you are in the mood for meat loaf, you HAVE to try this recipe.

Two summer food shows have started their new seasons–Fox’s Masterchef and Food Network’s Food Network Star. Now, I have nothing against these shows, but sometimes they can be predictable. Masterchef is in Season 4 now, and the best part is that they didn’t drag out the audition part–basically there was maybe one or 1.5 episodes of auditions. And we have our cat fight–between Krissi and Natasha. Natasha is so full of herself but appears to be able to back it up with skills. Meanwhile, Krissi is also talented and she has that east coast “don’t mess with me” vibe. Meanwhile, Food Network Star began its eighth season last night. It’s kind of getting old and stale the way American Idol did. And they seem to pick the same contestants every year–I don’t mean literally, but there are demographics they follow–the tough guy, the Hispanic, the chatty blogger, the dude who can cook his ass off but has no on-camera talent. Oh and this year we have the Ellie Krieger look alike. Of course, I watch these shows like it’s my job, and I don’t see that changing this season.

Have you ever taken a bunch of ingredients and tried to make a meal out of them, sometimes using way more of what you have on hand than you should? I did that last week when I made this chicken dish with bacon and cheese, and somehow tried to incorporate spinach and mushrooms. But I wound up doing the spinach and mushrooms on the side. However, in what should have been a sauce for the chicken, I instead added white wine to the spinach/mushroom stir fry and didn’t cook it out…blech. But I also had an avocado sitting there that I almost used. Sometimes I wonder about myself. I can put cool things together much of the time, but sometimes have cooking slumps. Does this happen to you?

At some point recently, I saw a cooking show about pizza and it may have been one of those competitions between two purveyors of pizza in New York City. And I was struck by the fact that this one pizza chef used canned San Marzano tomatoes as the sauce on his pizza. Those are usually seasoned with a bit of salt and maybe basil and that’s about it. The tomato shines by itself. So I tried this the other night and it was delicious. I’m just one of those people who doesn’t like those garlicky sauces or commercial pizza sauces, but I think this was the best and most natural way to go.

Oh, speaking of pizza…..I have to give a shout out to Scott and Jen at La Fortuna Pizza. I have found great pizza in Madison, and it’s as good as any I’ve ever had. They have a food truck and one of their regular stops in the summer is at the Verona Farmer’s Market, five minutes away. Every Tuesday. And hey, tomorrow is Tuesday! Low carb what?

Mikey’s Beef Fried Rice

I’ve been on a mission lately to find Chinese roast pork in the grocery store. And I don’t think it’s gonna happen. One day I will stop being lazy and just pick up a container of it from the local takeout place and make my own fried rice with it. Because lately I can’t seem to find good fried rice. It’s either bland, too yellow and not brown enough, has too many onions or green onions, not enough meat, or all of the above.

So yesterday I was in the grocery store and saw these really nice stir fry beef strips. The last thing we had on our weekly menu (yes, Mrs. Mikey and I try to do that) was fish, and I had not thawed it, and want to be especially careful thawing seafood. So now then. I suddenly had a vision in my head for fried rice. Basically watching a lot of “Chopped” and “Top Chef” has made me try to think more creatively than usual lately.

So I took the beef strips and marinated then in teriyaki sauce for 15-20 minutes or until I prepped the other ingredients–Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice (poke a few holes in the bag and nuke for 3 minutes for absolutely perfectly sticky and delicious brown rice), carrots, 1/2 an onion, some snow peas, ginger, canola oil, sherry, soy sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, some cilantro, a lime, and a couple of eggs. I chopped the ginger up fine, chopped the carrots (I used baby carrots) and the onion, and then sliced the snow peas into slivers. I put about a tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet and when hot to the 2-inches-away touch, put the veggies in the pan and stirred, adding a bit of salt and pepper. After the onion just started to brown I removed the vegetables to a plate and added the beef to the pan, with some salt and pepper. The beef started to brown but I wanted it to be slightly charred in spots, or in this case a bit overdone to make it like a sponge for the teriyaki sauce if that makes sense.

Then I put the beef on a plate, and poured a little bit of sherry and soy sauce in the pan to deglaze it. I added a touch more canola oil, a sprinkling more of sherry and soy, a few drops of sriracha and a few drops of sesame oil. I put the veggies back in, chopped the beef into small pieces and added them to the pan, followed by the rice. Then I stirred, and added a little more teriyaki sauce and set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile, I heated a small nonstick skillet over medium heat and cracked two eggs in it. I put the rice in two bowls, topped each with a sunny side up egg, some chopped cilantro and a lime wedge, and there you have it….Mikey’s Beef Fried Rice!

My only regret is I forgot to snap a picture. But I will say it was some of the best fried rice I’ve ever made, and Mrs. Mikey agreed. Damn, now I’m hungry again.

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest is a home run

In the PR world, there are gimmicks, and there are the actual bright ideas that, when done correctly, can become a company’s signature. Frito-Lay has, in this blogger’s humble opinion, potentially laid the groundwork for the latter with their new Lay’s Potato Chip Do Us a Flavor competition. When I first heard about the competition on a radio talk show promo, I knew I had to try these chips. The concept? Lay’s asked for suggestions for new flavors between July and October of 2012, and received 3.8 million submissions from which there were three finalists chosen.

When the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange rang on February 12, the three finalists for the contest were on hand along with actress/restauranteur Eva Longoria and celebrity chef and restauranteur Michael Symon to kick off the contest, which runs until May 4, to introduce their flavors to the world. Here are the options and my thoughts on each one….

Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread (submitted by Karen Weber-Mendham of Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin) has a big, bold hit of garlic immediately after biting into the chip, followed by a more subtle cheese taste. I’m not a huge garlic guy, and while the flavor was more of a roasted garlic note, it kind of overpowered the other flavors of the cheesy garlic bread. And I think what is a tad disappointing is that, since I live in Wisconsin like Karen does, I would have preferred the cheese to be more dominant.

Lay’s Sriracha (submitted by Tyler Raineri of Lake Zurich, Illinois) has a touch of sweetness at the start, followed by a big chili pepper kick–just like the sriracha sauce. And it keeps getting hotter and hotter the more you eat. I love spicy food and love sriracha, and I definitely dig this flavor, but it still was my second favorite of the three.

Lay’s Chicken & Waffles (submitted by Christina Abu-Judom of Phoenix, Arizona) was the flavor I wanted to try the most, and it wound up being the one I liked the most, and wanted to just keep eating. If you’ve never had chicken and waffles, let me tell you you are missing out on one of the culinary world’s greatest gifts to our palates. The combination of crispy, juicy fried chicken with a light and fluffy waffle, both drenched in maple syrup, has my mouth watering as I type. And these chips had those notes–maple sweetness, followed by a faint savory chicken flavor. It was like a Chicken in a Biskit cracker dipped in maple syrup. Okay, where are my chips? Now I’m hungry for more.

For more information, please visit the Do Us a Flavor website, which also gives options to vote for your favorite, such as on Facebook. As for where to find the flavors, I’ve seen them in various stores, so you should be able to locate the chips easily as well….or you can use their handy store locator. So what are you waiting for? Do the fine folks at Frito-Lay a flavor!

Preview: Travel Channel’s Feed the Beast

From Travel Channel, the network that has brought us some cool food shows the last few years such as the Adam Richman Man vs. Food franchise, and various Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain shows, comes a hip new gluttonous guilty pleasure–Feed the Beast, hosted by Mikey Roe. The show premieres on Wednesday, March 6 with two 30-minute episodes back to back at 9:00 pm and 9:30 pm ET/PT, with the San Francisco and Austin episodes first in line.

The premise of the show is that Roe is a creature of late night, and appreciates everything that the midnight to sun-up time frame has to offer–from night life, to parties, to–you guessed it–food. And, just like night life in general, the craziest combinations and food offerings are also abundant after midnight. Roe is someone who really appreciates these foods too, and he also appreciates the atmosphere, activities and the alcohol that goes along with that food. He also knows where to go, and as a hybrid of, say, Richman and Guy Fieri, Roe knows how to make you want to try some of this crazy food right along with him. In fact, after watching the screeners on Sunday, my wife and I cooked up some Mexican breakfast for dinner.

You won’t believe some of the things Roe gets to eat, and it’s remarkable that he samples all of the crazy combinations of foods–for example, deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich followed by a jackalope sausage and bacon bloody mary. I don’t know if these were literally filmed in one night, or if there was much editing to be done, but if it’s all in one night, I’m seriously impressed by how much of an iron stomach Roe has.

Fans of some of the above mentioned shows are going to love Feed the Beast, and are going to love watching Mikey Roe take us to these crazy places. I just know it.

Mikey’s This and That

So for Super Bowl Sunday, we stayed home which is how I like it–primarily because I’m a football purist and like to focus on the game. But hey, I’m a foodie so made some good food too. My wife has been doing something similar to South Beach Diet, and so we kept things relatively healthy and low-carb. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be tasty. We made Andrew Zimmern’s Asian wings that I have covered on here before, South Beach Texas Bowl o Red which is basically beef chunks in a thick chili sauce, and Mark Bittman’s Black Bean Soup from a Men’s Health Magazine. I could not find that online, but here is a version of Bittman’s that is close.

This new show “The Taste” on ABC looks pretty cool. It’s essentially a food version of “The Voice,” with big names like Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre and Nigella Lawson–the judges have to taste a spoonful of food prepared by someone that they don’t know is a home cook or a professional. And it looks like it has a big budget set. My wife and I barely got through the long 2-hour premiere, but it’s definitely a show that looks like it will be worth watching.

Have you guys noticed food prices going up? I have not researched this but man, it seems like simple things that were $4.99 a year ago are $6.99 now. Or maybe I’m imagining things.

Man, speaking of food, it’s dinner time and I’m hungry. See ya!

Mikey’s This and That

A few random food observations on a snowy Madison Thursday afternoon…..

*Is there a reason why many canned soups have this gummy, almost plastic sheen of a taste these days? This is particularly true of so-called diet soups which I think use gummy fillers to make up for the loss of fat–i.e. loss of flavor. But they wind up making a chemical concoction that has totally turned me off of canned soup. I’ve been trying to make more of my own, which always tastes better, but it’s not always easy to find the time. Thankfully football season is over (well not really thankfully) which means more cooking for the week on Sundays with the wife.

*Salads just are not appealing in the winter. I sometimes find myself not getting enough vegetables in the winter, and a big reason is that I have almost no desire to eat healthy salads. That’s a summer thing, right? Maybe I need to make more soups. Where have I heard that before?

*I can’t believe Kristen fell on a sword on Top Chef: Seattle last week and didn’t throw Josie under the bus as she should have. I pegged her as the potential winner. I haven’t watched Last Chance Kitchen…but maybe she still can win if she won her LCK battle. But wow, Josie. Please go away.

*Speaking of Food TV, did you guys catch the first episode of that Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity cook off show on Food Network? That’s one of those reality shows that grabs its players from the depths of wherever they get contestants for Celebrity Fit Club. This season they’ve got the likes of Carney Wilson, Hines Ward and an actress and a socialite I’ve never heard of. And then there was Gilbert Gottfried. The poor dude doesn’t know how to boil water. So the first episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich. Then, as he’s battling another contestant for elimination in the same episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich AGAIN. Dude, who is your agent and why would they put you through that?

*I often profess my love for Trader Joe’s on here. But I’ve come across something that’s amazing even by their standards. This Speculoos Cookie Spread. It won their award for customer favorite product of 2012, so I bought a jar. Holy smokes. It’s like peanut butter-like crack in a jar. I don’t even know what it is made out of…but it’s like a “butter” that is sweet and has cookie pieces and hints of cinnamon and….well, just go try it, and if you don’t love it, then you don’t like food. It’s impossible to not like it.

What’s the obsession with green onions?

I came to realize well into my adult life that, while I may not be allergic to them, my belly just does not like green onions. Or, as my grandfather would say, “They don’t like me.” The thing is, though, I try. I love the taste of green onions. One of my favorite holiday foods growing up was green onion chip dip. But for whatever reason, if I eat more than a few of them, I have to reach for the Alka-Seltzer.

But let me tell you, avoiding green onions is almost impossible. If you like Mexican, Chinese, Thai or anything Southwest, you are likely going to encounter this vegetable. They are chopped up and added to wonton soup, stir fries, dumplings, quesadillas, spinach dip or get this–Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza. No joke, I have had to ask for my fast food Mexican pizza with no green onions. If I forget, I have to pick them off the top–but they have this way of multiplying and frustrating me. I have to look at ingredients before buying them.

Oooh, these Trader Joe’s dumplings look delicious–oh wait, green onions are the third ingredient. I took a Thai cooking class a few months ago and we made egg rolls and spring rolls from scratch, and guess what was in them? Same with the dumplings we made. Oooh, Southwest corn and chile dip! Wait, green onions. Hey, what’s Bobby Flay making? Oh, there he goes with the green onions.

I guess the one saving grace is that oftentimes the green onions are added as a garnish and can be omitted or scraped off before they immerse themselves in whatever dish it is. But as I mentioned earlier, they get tough to pick out, especially if they are stuck to melted cheese.

Then sometimes I think, “Hey, maybe I should try green onions again.” After all, I don’t like raw onions either, but I do love them grilled or caramelized or stir-fried….or, in onion rings. So recently I tried grilling some green onions that we received from our local CSA. Maybe the charred version would be okay to my insides. The result? Delicious, but the same old green onion indigestion or heartburn or whatever it is came right back. So I guess it’s something I’ll have to continue to avoid, and well, there could be worse things to have an aversion to I guess!

And hey, if you like green onions, more power to you, and you can have mine.

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