Fisher Nuts Features Our Sweet Potato Risotto with Glazed Walnuts

Last fall, our original "Sweet Potato Risotto with Spicy Maple Glazed Walnuts" recipe was one of the Top 10 finalists in the Fisher Nuts "My Fresh Twist" Recipe Contest. We won a monetary prize, a signed copy of Alex Guarnaschelli's cookbook Old School Comfort Food and, naturally, bragging rights. The final part of our prize just came this week, and that is Fisher Nuts having our recipe professionally cooked, styled, photographed, and featured on their website. How cool is that?!?!?

Here's the link to the feature on their website, and the beautiful photograph you can see there, or above. We think it looks amazing. 

Thank you to Fisher Nuts and Chef Guarnaschelli!!!


Secret Shame: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

It's a shade of yellow not found in many natural foods. It has a strangely tangy cheese flavor that seems almost forced into the fine powder by the people at Kraft Foods. And yet Amy loves it. Could it be because it was the first thing she ever learned to "cook" - that long ago day, home sick from school, shuffling around on the kitchen linoleum in her footie pajamas? Perhaps. 

Even then, she assumed the directions were mere suggestions and a few times after following them, began to cook "The Cheesiest" to her own liking. The elbows? Al dente, even though she didn't know what that was at the time. The sauce? Saucier, with the help of an extra ounce of milk. The result? What she lovingly refers to (with odd hand gestures, we might add), as "firm, yet watery." You know you love it? Yes, indeed.


Goong Asian Restaurant, East Hartford, CT

It was Presidents' Day, or Washington's Birthday, or whatever we are supposed to be calling it these days. And that means no school! It was also only about 30 degrees out, so the two of us took advantage of the opportunity to warm up with a fantastic lunch of Korean food at Goong Asian Restaurant in East Hartford, CT. It is easy to drive by and miss it, as it is (somewhat depressingly) located in a mostly abandoned strip mall on Silver Lane. However, there are plenty of upsides to that: it is located just minutes off I-84; there is ample free parking; there is an Asian market nearby in case you want to recreate a dish or two; and, most importantly, there is no other authentic, Korean-specific restaurant in the Greater Hartford area. 

And did we mention, it's fantastic. Truly good food, and plenty of it. Two cordial and attentive servers shared the task of waiting on the whole floor, about eight tables (not including the private dining rooms), most of which were occupied during our time there. The table was neatly set (Amy loved the long spoons with the fancy covers!) and we were immediately given a teapot filled with a steaming, light brown brew that had beautiful notes of toasted rice. The cups were a welcome handful for two winter-weary people such as ourselves.

We were pretty hungry and ordered a large plate of steamed pork and beef dumplings (Mool Mandoo) to start. Before they arrived, we were served our complimentary kimchi, or traditional variety of pickled and marinated vegetables. Ours included (clockwise, starting at top left): black beans, cucumbers, bean sprouts, lettuce, cabbage,and potatoes, as well as a bowl of miso soup for each of us. Then our dumplings arrived, presented on a plate lined with a ladle-full of the steam water and accompanied by a side of dipping sauce. The dumplings were large, perfectly steamed, and very much filled with a wonderful mingling of meat, garlic, ginger and scallions. And they were gone in minutes.

The dumplings and the kimchi alone could have sufficed for lunch, but we soldiered on, wanting to taste more of what Goong had to offer. We stuck with the more well-known, traditional Korean dishes, ordering from the lunch special menu which offered items at a lower price but seemed to be lacking nothing else. Amy got the BulGoGhi Dup-Bab, sweetly marinated strips of Korean barbecued beef served with steamed rice. Although she wished for more of a char on the meat, the tenderloin strips were exceptionally tender and the flavor was outstanding. We're sure she'll be ordering that again. Chris wanted to see if our own version of Bibimbap was as good as we thought it was and ordered Goong's DolSoht version. It arrived in a sizzling stone hot pot filled to the brim with beef, vegetables, and rice, all seasoned with hot pepper paste and topped with a sunny-side up egg. Ours was good, but now that we've discovered Goong, we probably won't be making it again any time soon (if ever!). The hot pot crisped the rice nicely, creating a wonderful textural balance to the creamy egg yolk, cooked veggies and spicy beef. Talk about comfort food - hearty, soulful and so very satisfying.

As we finished, the server brought us orange slices and  to-go boxes and we were happy to get to nosh on the dishes later on that evening. We were also so happy to have finally visited Goong, which has been on our to-do list for a while. It was worth the wait but we won't wait long until next time. Goong is located at 798 Silver Lane in East Hartford, is open for lunch and dinner every day except Tuesday. 
Goong on Urbanspoon


Slow Cooker Cuban Pork for Secret Recipe Club

Every once in a while, a convergence of events makes you feel like the heavens are smiling upon you. Such a convergence has happened in the past couple of days and it sprang first from our February Secret Recipe Club assignment: The Savvy Kitchen.

To start, The Savvy Kitchen is written by a woman named Amy whose husband is named Chris. Quite a coincidence! Amy specializes in low-carb, low-calorie and gluten-free recipes, and there are plenty from which to choose. We've spent a few days browsing the blog and were particularly intrigued by the slow cooker section because of the weather.

So let's talk about the weather. You see, the school districts in which the two of us teach took away our beloved, much needed February vacations a couple of years back. But Mother Nature has taken it upon herself, in those couple of years, to give it back to us in the form of Snow Days. In 2012, it was Snowpocalypse in October. The year 2013 brought a blizzard that made our annual Mardi Gras party unforgettable. And this year, it has snowed much and often. We had two Snow Days in a row leading into this long weekend. Yes, we were two happy and relaxed people this weekend, and, just sayin', it's been perfect slow cooker weather. 

While we were lingering on The Savvy Kitchen's slow cooker section, the final element of the convergence of events occurred in the form of a text from neighbors D and J in which they were offering us half of an 11-pound pork shoulder in exchange for our participation with them in a pulled pork showdown. Minds. Blown.

Thus, it all came together. Secret Recipe Club assignment + lazy Snow Days + free pork + Pulled Pork Challenge = The Savvy Kitchen's Slow Cooker Cuban Pork.

The challenge was on and the house smelled delicious. With notes of cumin and citrus, our (literally) falling-off-the-bone pork reminded us that as much as we love Snow Days, we love summer more. D's spicy barbecue pulled pork sandwiches were amazing, so we called it a draw. To Amy of The Savvy Kitchen, thanks for a fabulous (and super easy) recipe that we are sure to make again, even without a convergence of Snow Days, free meat, and/or cooking challenges from the neighbors. And to the neighbors, thanks for the pork!

Slow Cooker Cuban Pork
(recipe from The Savvy Kitchen)


1 onion, sliced
1 5-6 lb. pork shoulder 
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried cilantro
4-5 garlic cloves, minced

Cooks' notes: we served ours in warm tortillas with shredded lettuce, cheese, salsa and sour cream, and if we had black beans in the house, probably would have had those on the side. Alas, we made some saffron rice instead. Also, while Amy suggests setting the slow cooker on low, we did ours on high, and doubled the ingredients (besides the onion) because our pork shoulder was larger. And because Chris likes to play with knives, he butchered the pork first.

Place the sliced onions in the bottom of a slow cooker set to high. Top with the pork, fat side up. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the pork. Cover and cook on high heat for 8-10 hours. Remove meat from slow cooker and shred using two forks. Remove all but two cups of liquid and return shredded pork to the slow cooker; cook additional half hour. Serve as desired.

Peruse this week's Secret Recipe Club posts below, including what Our Eating Habits did with our "Chicken, Sweet Onion and Potato Paprika"!


Meatless Monday: Celery Root Soup

It's only recently that we have come to love celery root, or celeriac as it is also known. It's pretty ugly, and as the saying goes, you eat with your eyes first. But we have found this funny-looking root vegetable to be quite delicious in dishes such as our Potato, Leek and Celeriac Gratin. Then again, cheese can be like bacon in that everything-tastes-better-with-it kind of way. Regardless, we bought a couple of celery roots the last time we were at the farmers market and were looking for something new to do with them.

Rewind to Christmas, when Amy received this beautiful set of cookbooks from her cousin J (Thank you so much, J! We love you!). The cookbooks are particularly meaningful as they contain recipes created by the Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy of Rome, where Amy was lucky enough to study in the summer of 2004 via a Fulbright Grant. She has so many wonderful memories of her time at the AAR and her other adventures in Rome, and while this particular program did not exist back then (darn it!), Italian, or more specifically, Roman, food is definitely something close to her heart and soul. Suffice it to say, she loves these books and she has been flipping around in them almost daily since she got them. 

Now back to the celery root thing. Since the volume on soup, Zuppe, is arranged by seasons, one of the first things she had looked at was the chapter focusing on winter, and there it was! Celery Root Soup (or, rather, passato di sedano rape), a velvety soup with beautifully rich flavors of celery, leek and potato that was as comforting as it was nourishing. Just lovely. And perfect for Meatless Monday.

Now, normally, we would post the recipe for you. But, as is noted on their website, "The American Academy in Rome is a private institution supported by gifts, grants and membership fees of individuals, foundations, corporations and leading colleges, universities and arts and cultural organizations." And purchasing items in their store, particularly these amazing cookbooks, is part of that support. So we don't want to do anything to take away from that. Perhaps this post and its photographs will inspire you to consider buying the book from AAR (or on Amazon here) and enjoying this and 49 other amazing soup recipes.


The New England Women's Regional Invitational Chili Cook Off

On Saturday January 18th, we were judges at The New England Women's Regional Invitational Chili Cook Off. What a wonderful event! Organized by chili cook and cook-off veteran "Mad Mike" Freedman, the event was a benefit with all proceeds (approximately $5,200) donated to help Marine widow Amanda Jordan and her family as she battles cancer. Her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Philip A. Jordan, was killed in Iraq in 2003 and the military benefits going to the family have since expired. All cooks, both men and women, were asked to dress as ladies for the "women's" cook-off, which made for quite a sight, as you can see in our pictures. We were asked to judge all three categories: salsa, chili verde (made with green chiles) and red chili (made with red chiles), using rules and regulations set forth by the International Chili Society. Over forty cooks from across the Northeast and even Canada were on hand with their best salsa and chili recipes. And the winners were: Isaiah Frechette from Ellington with the best salsa; Dave Kelley from Loudon, New Hampshire with the best chili verde; and Matt Levy from Baltimore, Maryland with the best red chili. The New England Regional Chili Cook-off is slated for May 3rd so mark your calendars!

Enjoy the pictures!