Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A 2007 Orioles Highlight: Attman's at the Ball Park

Baseball season is winding to a close here in Baltimore and, sadly, the most notable thing about the Orioles 2007 season is the addition of Atman's Deli to Camden Yards. Johnnycakes and I have decided that their deli sandwiches are the best thing to the eat at the ballpark.

Attmans Delicatessen, located at 1019 E. Lombard Street along Corn Beef Row, is a Baltimore landmark. First opened in 1915, a loyal legion of fans flock to the deli for authentic New York style deli items such as corn beef and pastrami.

We were pleasantly surprised to find an Attman's stand at Camden Yards this summer. Ballpark food can be so generic for the outlandish prices, and Boogs and Bambinos have just not been cutting it the last few times I ate along Eutaw Street.

Anyone familiar with Attmans knows that ordering at the deli can be at a frenzy pace so you should know what you want when you get in line. Luckily, things are a little more relaxed at the Oriole Park location.
The prices appeared quite steep at first. $10 for a beef brisket, turkey, corn beef or pastrami sandwich on rye. You will soon discover that the purchase is well worth the price once you receive your generously stacked sandwich (we got the brisket) served with a standout coleslaw and pickle. Johnnycakes and I split our sandwich both times we ordered Attmans at the ballpark and went away satisfied.
The last time we visited, Johnnycakes also ordered a meat knish which the Attman's staff referred to as a "Jewish Egg Roll". I had never tried one but Johnnycakes assured me they were delicious. He was right! I enjoyed the dough stuffed with meat.

Hopefully, Attman's will back next year at Oriole Park. Let's just pray they are not the best thing about the going to see the O's in 2008!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tried and True: A Pasta Dinner

There is just something about a spaghetti dinner that helps you ease back into cooking after a vacation or time off in the kitchen. At least that's how it is in our kitchen. It seems like we always make a spaghetti dinner after a hiatus in the kitchen. Perhaps it's the simplicity of the preparation or readily available ingredients.

There isn't anything that sets this round of pasta preparation apart besides, maybe, some healthy veggies. We diced some onions, peeled some carrots and steamed some spinach and added it to some lean ground beef and canned pasta sauce. The sauce itself featured some mushrooms, which are one of our favorites.
As you can see, the sauce featured lots of colors. I have read that a variety of colors is a good indicator of plenty of nutrients.

To add to the health factor, we prepared Barilla Plus Whole Wheat Rotini for some extra whole grains. We've been making whole wheat pasta for several years so we're happy to see new brands and extra varieties to try.

You can't always be healthy, so we were sure to top the pasta with lots of freshly grated Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses.

You just can't go wrong with a simple ragu pasta chock full of veggies, at least not in our household.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today is Johnnycakes and I's 1-year wedding anniversary! It's hard to believe it's been an entire year. As many of you may know, it has become tradition to freeze the top layer of the wedding cake to be eaten on your first wedding anniversary, which is exactly what we just did!

We were both skeptical as to how fresh and/or palatable the cake would be, especially since neither of us could recall any other couples having a positive experience. Most people we asked said the cake was freezer-burned or had some sort of freezer malfunction during the year or had simply forgotten about the cake. These accounts did not make us overly anxious to try the cake.

We ourselves had struggled a bit with storage of the cake over the past year. On our wedding night, we were both so hungry after the reception that we ate a portion of the cake with our bare hands! The box that the reception hall put the cake in had gotten sort of crushed and covered in icing so we ditched it as soon as we got home. Since we had devoured a portion of it, the cake was sort of a funny shape. We didn't know how to store it, so we wrapped it in several layers of plastic wrap and aluminum foil and stored it in a large round bowl. Unfortunately, the funny shape wouldn't let us seal the lid all the way, which led to our belief that the cake would not fair well over the course of a year.

Luckily for us, we were completely wrong! Our cake, lemon with butter cream frosting, was just as good as on our wedding day. The frosting was super sweet, creamy and buttery. The cake was still moist and had a distinct lemon flavor. You would never know it sat in the freezer for a year. Our neighbor enjoyed a piece with us and concurred that it was both fresh and delicious.

The cake was prepared by Sugarbakers, a well known local bakery that was featured on The Today Show. As you can see, the cake was beautiful. It consisted of alternately layers of lemon cake with butter cream frosting and amaretto cake with raspberry filling. Unfortunately, neither of us ever got to try the amaretto layer besides at the original tasting. We never found anyone that tried it either.
We enjoyed our trip down memory lane while we enjoyed our cake. It brought back lots of memories of our wedding day and all the preparation and excitement that led up to the Big Day. Now that we have reached this important milestone, we are just happy to have the extra freezer space back!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sensational Asian Inspired Chicken

Johnnycakes and I can't stop commenting on how much we enjoyed tonight's dinner. It all just came together without much forethought and it was one of the tastiest dinners we've prepared in a long time.

I should probably mention that we are in another one of those critical times when we desperately need to go to the grocery store. We are really getting to the bottom of what we can eat but it's an interesting exercise to say the least.

I set out some boneless chicken thighs to thaw while we were at work. We decided to go with an an Asian theme since we haven't went in that direction lately. I was sort of in the mood for rice so I prepared about two cups in the rice cooker while we started to prepare dinner.

I coated the chicken in World Harbor Hawaiian Style Teriyaki Sauce. I am a big fan of all the World Harbor sauces. It's basically all corn syrup but I've used the brand in many dishes, especially when I go to a party.

Johnnycakes heated a large deep frying pan coated in sesame oil. He chopped 2 cloves of garlic and a large chunk of fresh ginger. Once that started to cook, Johnnycakes added the chicken thighs to the heat and covered the pan. The meat, combined with some of the teriyaki sauce, gave off a lot of moisture so the meat almost boiled in the juices.

I chopped a whole red onion, julienned 2 carrots, sliced some canned pineapple rings and steamed some frozen broccoli while the meat cooked.

We slowly added the onions and carrots to cook until soft. Once the veggies were soft and the meat was cooked thoroughly, we combined the rice, pineapple, meat and vegetables and tossed. The combo was a little dry so we added some pineapple juice and some extra teriyaki sauce.

Yum! The end result was great. We both went back for seconds which I usually try to refrain from. I think it was the sweetness that made the dish so good. I am a new convert to chicken thighs since I think they have a lot more flavor than chicken breast. We thought some salty peanuts in the mix may have been good but, in retrospect, I think it was the sweetness we savoured and enjoyed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An Interesting Trio

I know this photo is probably puzzling. I think this beef brisket is technically being served with two fruits since I think plantains are related to bananas. Without much available to us, we improvised on what to make for dinner. Since we've been really pressed for time lately, we tossed the brisket in the slow cooker while we tended to other duties. Of course, we rubbed the meat with "Nicks" Barbecue Rub courtesy of the Baltimore City Farmers Market first.
When we got home, the meat had only cooked for about 2 1/2 hours and was still a little tough but we were so hungry and it was getting late so we ate anyway. Goya Platano Maduras (fried sweet plantains) are among my favorite foods and since we had three packs in the freezer, we decided to 'nuke them in the microwave. To round out this unorthodox meal, I sliced some cantaloupe I picked up at the Cross Street Market.
I know the meal isn't too visually pleasing but, believe it or not, dinner tasted good. It was an interesting combination of sweet and salty.
At the rate we're going, who knows what we'll have for dinner tomorrow night.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cheese, Please

Johnnycakes and I have taken a little hiatus from the kitchen due to more pressing matters that demand our time and attention. We have made a few snacks here and there but we haven't had time to make anything elaborate or blog about it. Hopefully the next couple of weeks will be a bit more forgiving but I doubt it. We are going out of town this weekend for our 1 year wedding anniversary!

We made a fattening chicken dinner cooked in olive oil again. I don't know what that says about us. I don't know what was the best part, the cheesy potatoes or the sauteed mushrooms? We tried to be remotely healthy by serving some steamed broccoli on the side. Come to think of it, I think tonight's meal was all about comfort food. We have been sort of stressed out lately and I think it shows through the quick and fattening meal we prepared.

It was still economical and tasty but it could have been healthier. That's two out of three and it's better than nothing!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Grilled Chicken Salad in a Flash

Johnnycakes and I totally spaced on dinner tonight. I honestly forgot and didn't even think about preparing dinner until around 5 p.m. today. We've been really busy to say the least. Luckily, Johnnycakes took some initiative and defrosted some chicken breast in the microwave which is one of my pet peeves. I know that's kind of a weird pet peeve but it's true.

We also had a perfectly good head of romaine lettuce that had been in the fridge untouched for over a week. I chopped the lettuce and gave it a "spin" in the salad spinner. We had plenty of fresh veggies for making a grilled chicken salad.

Johnnycakes also took the rather unorthodox method, by a Couple of Cooks standards, and fried the chicken in a frying pan with an inch of extra virgin olive oil. The chicken wasn't breaded but I'm sure the olive oil added a lot of fat. Oh well, it tasted good! We fried it on each side for about 10 minutes on med-high heat and then cooked it on low for another few minutes.

I topped the salad with fried red onions, delicious Maryland tomatoes, shredded carrots, chopped celery, croutons and Parmesan cheese. We also used a Greek salad dressing which was basically oil and vinegar with seasonings.

The chicken had lots of flavor and was still warm when we ate it. Not too shabby for dinner on the fly. Not to mention I saved a little bit and made some chicken salad for lunch tomorrow. Yum!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Apple of Our Eye

I had forgotten how much inspiration the Food Network provides Johnnycakes and I with our meal ideas. We haven't been watching as much Food Network over the summer months because of a new exercise class on Saturday mornings and the Sunday Farmer's Market. We recently rediscovered the channel over the long weekend and our heads are already brimming with ideas.

On Saturday, we watched Tyler Florence prepare a delicious sandwich featuring cheddar cheese, Granny Smith apple and bacon during a "soup and sandwich" episode. It looked so appealing that we kept talking about it for the rest of the day. I occasionally enjoy a bagel with tart apple slices and cheddar cheese (thanks to a childhood friend's children's cookbook) so I thought that adding bacon to that combination sounded even better.

Johnnycakes bought the necessary ingredients on Sunday and we finally got around to preparing the sandwich tonight. Preparation was super quick which is just what we needed after a unusually crazy week.

In Couple of Cooks fashion, we also prepared a healthier version that the one featured on the Food Network. We topped rye bread with Cracker Barrel 2% cheddar cheese, thin Granny Smith apple slices and turkey bacon and grilled then in a frying pan. I admit I did cook them in the same pan I fried the turkey bacon so that added some extra fat and calories.

The apple, cheese and bacon is a great combination! I suggest you try it. Thanks Food Network! I can't wait to see what our next inspiration will be.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Colombia, Maryland

No, that's not a typo. I am not referring to Columbia, MD, the "new town" brought to reality by visionary James Rouse. Instead, I am referring to the Colombian and Maryland influences that combined to make tonight's dinner.
This plate features Maryland grown corn, Maryland grown tomato and chicken breast in the Maryland favorite Old Bay "spicy chicken marinade". The Colombian influence came into play with the "Platano Maduros", or fried plantains which were prepared by my sister-in-law and mother-in-law. They were seasoned in vegetable oil, brown sugar and cilantro but I'm not sure about the rest. The platanos were full of fresh flavors.
Just in case you don't know, the McCormick Spice Company's Old Bay Seasoning is a Baltimore favorite. The side of the can contains several recipes depending on which size you buy. To date, Johnnycakes and I have tried the Fried Chicken (delicious!) and now the Spicy Chicken Marinade. Both have been full of flavor and definitely worth a second try.
While I can't take any credit for tonight's tasty dinner, I must say I enjoyed it and we both hope you give the Old Bay recipes and Platanos Maduros a try.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Checking In

Just checking in! Haven't even boiled water since Wednesday. I have pressed the "start" button on microwave a few times. This holiday weekend has been characterized by a lot of takeout. Just to summarize, Chinese food, deli food, McDonalds, doughnuts, crabs, breakfast bagels... All kinds of junk, really. I'm not feeling my best, like usual, when I don't cook. We're eating lots of leftovers and going to a cookout today. We're going to have to stop at the grocery store tonight. The kitchen is in critical condition right now.