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Mikey’s food resolutions for 2013

Happy New Year foodie friends! My first resolution is to post more regularly here. Beyond that, here are some of my food resolutions for 2013, and feel free to add yours in the comments or by e-mail to mikeyskitchen@gmail.com.

1. Create two new original recipes per month. Any of you that are creative types know that getting started is the most difficult part. But once you figure out your medium (meat/veggies/sauce/herbs/spices), the possibilities are endless.

2. Try four new foods I’ve never tried before. This one is tricky as I am not the kind of person who wants anything to do with foods like snails or even squid. But one new food item every three months? I think I can do that without having to try anything too far out of my comfort zone.

3. Make better use of a local specialty. In Wisconsin, that would be cheese. I have had some of the best cheddars of my life here in Madison, and yet there are so many other varieties. Maybe this will also go hand in hand with both #1 and #2.

4. Eat less junk and eat more healthy but tasty food. That means less packaged chips and crackers and more homemade beef jerky or celery with spicy hummus. It can be done.

5. Create a new column or two. The first idea I have is to re-create vintage food items that I can’t find or that no longer exist. The first of these–Buitoni’s toaster pizzas. I think I have written about these before, and I miss them dearly. But I think with some experimentation, even without an elaborate test kitchen, I can work on coming close to re-creation. Intrigued? So am I.

6. Figure out a better way to organize recipes. We have mountains of magazines and cookbooks, and it’s getting scary. I try and clip recipes, and toss magazines when I can, but it’s hard to keep up. But hey, it’s winter time in Madison, and that means it’s freaking cold outside and time for indoor projects. No excuses.

7. Watch more food TV. Not necessarily Food Network, but any of the other food related shows that are popping up on various channels. Or maybe just watch all of the episodes of Sandwich King and Best Thing I Ever Made or The Minimalist on DVR for a change.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Any more, and I won’t even try to keep said resolutions. Now let’s get cooking….

Bacon and egg torpedo

Sometimes you just gotta eat a pile of bacon. I didn’t know what I wanted for breakfast this morning, and pulled out some bacon. I took four thick slices out and cut them in half, and put them on the bacon tray. So that meant 8 short slices of delicious bacon. Now what? I spotted some hot dog rolls, and then it came to me–a little sub of sorts…..a torpedo. Of course, sometimes you have to accent the bacon with a scrambled egg, and you have to then accent that with cheese. So I stacked the bacon on the bun, put the egg on top and the cheese on top of that, and closed it up.

Bam–the bacon and egg torpedo. If I would have thought about it, and if I wasn’t so hungry that I didn’t have time to look for them, I would have thinly sliced up some jalapeno too for some good, clean heat. But hey, it was still pretty good.

Foods I miss from…..Cleveland

After living in New York from when I was born until I was around 27 or 28, I moved to Cleveland and kick-started my life and career in various ways that, while involving many twists and turns, were somewhat defining. I also went through various phases of food experimentation–and back in the late ’80′s, and ’90′s there was a lot of low-fat this and that, and less meat. Thankfully the pendulum for that stuff swung back toward high protein, low-carb, which is still not ideal (I want to eat everything, yo), but, well, I love bacon. Let’s leave it at that.

Anyway, as was the case when I moved away from New York, moving from Cleveland to Nashville left a void in some areas food-wise. And so here are a few items I miss and still do from the Buckeye state…..

Aladdin’s–okay so this isn’t a food item as much as it’s a restaurant, but it’s something I have to have when going back there. Aladdin’s is a local chain that serves delicious and inexpensive Middle Eastern food. They have great stuff like hummus, stuffed grape leaves and falafel. But it’s more than that–they have some delicious signature items like pita pizzas and one I miss in particular is the one with spicy chicken, peas, fried onions and a spicy tomato mixture. Also, they have these smoothies that you can get with combinations of fruits and vegetables. Seriously, they make veggies more palatable than you can imagine using a blender.

Pad thai–I’ve never had pad thai like the pad thai at Phnom Penh in Cleveland. It’s….wait for it…..Phnomenal. Sadly, I haven’t been back there since moving in 2003, but maybe next time. I mean, we have great Thai and Vietnemese and Laoatian food here in Madison, but….

Pizza–There really is great pizza in Cleveland. There is Mama Santa’s, Tasty, Geraci’s on the east side. There is Antonio’s and Santos on the west side. This is all coming from a New Yorker too.

West Side Market–There is nothing like the West Side Market in Cleveland. It’s an institution, and you can get all kinds of fresh produce, but also the indoor portion has vendors selling meat, bakery products, cheese, nuts, candies, and more. It was always fun to go there hungry, and we try to get to the market whenever we are in town. My mouth is watering thinking of the spicy jerky at this one place, and I think Michael Symon profiled it on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network once.

Krispy Kreme Donuts–I don’t think there is a single donut shop in Madison. In fact, you have to go to grocery stores and gas stations to find donuts at all. Yikes. But the ones in Krispy Kreme are freaking heavenly. The glazed ones in particular are their signature item, and it’s quite easy to down five or six at a sitting (no, I really haven’t ever actually tried that. No, really!).

Homemade granola/fruit bars–The Arabica coffee shop at University Circle has these pastries they sell at the counter, and they are like granola bars with a layer of cherry or berry preserves. And I go way out of my way to get some no matter how long we are in town for. In fact, last time I think I brought home a dozen.

Tommy’s fries–Tommy’s in Cleveland Heights has amazing french fries, but also makes some mean sandwiches and veggie creations. Oh, and milk shakes!

I know there is more. But we’ll have to just re-visit this column from time to time!

It’s Grilled Cheese Month!

Grilled cheese sandwiches. Who doesn’t love them? Well, it’s your month–April, specifically, is Grilled Cheese Month. I have a few ideas of sandwiches I’d like to create, but the first one I tried yesterday was killer–maybe literally if you eat too many of them, but I digress….and digest. I give to you, the Wisconsin cheddar/bratwurst grilled cheese.

First of all, as I may have mentioned before, it’s best to use real butter for these. Set a stick out and let it get to room temperature to soften. And get some good sturdy bread, preferably as I did that I cut from a loaf, but not too thick that the cheese won’t melt. This particular sandwich is best with white, rye or pumpernickel bread.

For this sandwich, I found some mini-brats at Trader Joe’s, and cooked those in a skillet over medium heat. I added water after they started to brown, just like cooking sausage, although these are fully cooked and probably didn’t need to be cooked through too much more. If you can’t find these mini-brats, you can use sliced regular brats. After cooked, slice two of the links in half lengthwise, and set them aside (or slice into 1/4 inch rounds for larger links). Shred some good cheddar and set that aside. Butter the outside of two bread slices, and spread some thousand island dressing on the inside of one or both bread halves (you can buy it or make your own mixing mayo, ketchup/chili sauce, and sweet pickle relish). Put a pat of butter in a small nonstick skillet and warm over medium heat until just melted. Lay the brat pieces on the inside of the bread, and then put about 1/3 of a cup of shredded cheese on top. Close the sandwich, and cook in the pan for about 2 minutes or until browned, and then flip it over and cook for another 1 minute or until browned. The second side takes a much shorter amount of time.

Slice and serve with pickles, chips and a cold beer (or a frosty root beer or cola is even good with grilled cheese). Oh, and tomato soup, but it’s getting too warm for soup already. Oh wait, I had mine with these kickass sweet/hot peppers from Trader Joe’s…..you’d think I was on their payroll, right?

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Why diets are a downer

I have excellent intentions every new year. I start every January on a diet and sometimes they last a few months, sometimes a few hours. I started this one on Monday and have made it thus far to the end of Wednesday doing the South Beach Diet, and if you have done this particular diet you know that the first two weeks (Phase 1) are extremely restrictive–no carbs of any kind. That means only meat, dairy, vegetables, eggs, beans and nuts. And it’s freaking HARD. Especially if you’ve been just eating whatever for whenever. And I think the reason so many of us fail at dieting is that we go from eating so bad to so good so fast, as I just did.

I’m not saying I can’t keep it up, but let me tell you a few reasons why all I want tonight is a huge plate of fries, a pizza and a whole coconut cream pie. One, I haven’t had time to adequately plan, which has left me scrounging for jerky and nuts mostly. Oh and sugar free candy. You get sick of these items real fast, believe me. Secondly, the broccoli cheese soup I made yesterday was great, but for whatever reason my belly was not happy yesterday. And today it really wasn’t happy after I ate it again for lunch. Finally, my breath smells like a large metropolitan market’s sewage plant. I know this because my wife keeps reminding me of it. And I can just feel how bad my breath smells.

Mrs. Mike is on Weight Watchers, so it’s pretty easy for us to synch these diets. But I have a feeling we’re about to binge, and try to start this diet again (or skip to Phase 2) tomorrow or the next day, or Monday!

Do you have diet horror stories, or anything else you’d like to share this January?

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