Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic in Disguise

I quickly got into this book and then couldn’t put it down. I LOVED this writer and the life of a food critic is absolutely fascinating. Ruth Reichl became the New York Times food critic and then started with some disguises after learning every restaurant had her photo posted in the back for staff to be on the lookout. She wanted the true experience so her disguises allowed her to visit 3+ times to try everything. I felt like she was looking out for the normal people knowing that she got the best of the best when arriving as herself.

51PD5ZNNHTL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_
I don’t dine at the best restaurants ever, but I do work very closely with them for my event so I could truly picture a lot of this. Ruth also reviewed everything out there…tiny Korean restaurants and toured mom & pop shops. You definitely get the sense of how much she just adores food.

She does a fantastic job at showing what it is like, and how reviewing restaurants is actually work. When her little boy was wanting her home for dinner I can see it become tiresome, also when coupled with her thrift-store & wig shopping to create these personas. I think there’s a fine line for everyone to think of her very first-world problem of going out to eat every night. I get it. I found her warm and the struggle real that she didn’t get to be herself to do her job. She loves to cook and includes a recipe to wrap up each chapter. The reader falls in love with her characters, since the get-ups aren’t just costumes. She takes on the persona and uses her doorman as the tester.

I love her experiences when the food blows her away and when she’s so in the moment that she can’t even speak. I love how many details she shares for the restaurant, food, and service at one she doesn’t love…like an over-priced one that isn’t worth it. She has such a realistic life perspective that makes her experiences very genuine and easy to read.

For some reason, it never crossed my mind that a food critic would go to a restaurant 3-5 times before writing the review. The people and relationships Ruth has with her colleagues and friends at The New York Times was really captivating. I have seen what happens to restaurants and chefs when they’re nominated for prestigious awards. Certain ratings can do some of that as well.

I loved this and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the restaurant world with a fun reminder that outward appearances aren’t always what they seem.

Panzanella

This panzanella is the salad that can be dinner on its own, or for me, it was just part of a crazy salad night for dinner. I liked the crouton-ish part of this salad, and sometimes any salad without greens if a more-fun one for me. I don’t know that I’d make it all that often, but on a hot night panzanella hits the spot. Now, I just need the bigger tomatoes in the garden to ripen up. We’ve gotten some cherry tomatoes but the bigger ones are still green so I bought the tomatoes for this salad.

The Three Bite Rule - Panzanella

Ingredients:

2 cups cubed & dried bread
2 large tomatoes
1/2 large cucumber
1 yellow/orange bell pepper
1/4 red onion
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbs red wine vinegar
splash of lemon juice
salt & pepper

Directions:

Chop up the tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and red onion. Let the onion soak for about 5 minutes in some cold water so they mellow out a bit.
The Three Bite Rule - Panzanella
Heat a large skillet to medium-low heat with about 2 tbs of olive oil.
Drop the bread in and toss it around to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes until it gets just a little golden and a little crusty.
In a glass jar, add in the garlic, mustard, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Shake it up!
The Three Bite Rule - Panzanella
Toss the veggies, bread, and some dressing together.
The Three Bite Rule - Panzanella
Let it sit for at least 15 minutes, then add more dressing if needed. Enjoy!

If the tomatoes or cukes are really juicy you might not need any more dressing. I used just enough to get it all tossed – maybe half? Then another little splash before serving. I liked the bread getting a little crisp first and then soaking a bit of the dressing. I didn’t want it completed soaked and falling apart. The dressing takes 2 seconds and is an easy one to use again on any salad or adding some herbs to make it a marinade.

The Three Bite Rule - Panzanella
I don’t know that I’d make this all the time, but it was a great use for some leftover really good bread. I served it on a night of two unusual salads (the other being watermelon, feta & arugula) with grilled sausage. It probably didn’t really get to shine because I was sooo into the watermelon/feta/arugula salad.

The Three Bite Rule - Watermelon & Feta Salad
Have you ever soaked onions? It is great for a raw use so they don’t overpower everything else. They maintain the crunch and some flavor but they won’t be the only taste in there.

Steakhouse Burger

Does the swiss cheese and arugula make this American burger acceptable for Bastille Day? Ohh well, not quite on-theme but I once went to Bastille Day at the French Library in Boston and the crepe toppings included M&Ms so this is wayyy more appropriate for this French holiday (or my fav Parisian Burger). This burger has the buttery sautéed mushrooms that remind me of a steakhouse side dish. They are little sponges to soak up the butter and give an earthy flavor. Some melted swiss + herb aoli + arugula round this out perfectly. This is soooo good as a burger, but could easily be a piece of chicken or steak on the grill then topped with the mushrooms & swiss.

The Three Bite Rule - Steakhouse Burger

Ingredients:

2 burger patties seasoned with salt & pepper (mine was ground chicken & Mr. J’s was ground beef)
2 buns
1 cup of baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 tbs butter
2-3 tbs mayo
fresh herbs of your choosing: I used: oregano; basil; chives; & rosemary
2 slices of swiss
arugula or spinach

Directions:

Heat the grill or a grill pan and begin cooking the burgers to your preferred done-ness.
Warm a skillet to medium-low heat. Add the butter to melt.
Sauté the mushrooms for about 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
The Three Bite Rule - Steakhouse Burger
Mix together the mayo & herbs. I have a bunch of thriving herbs so I grabbed some of a bunch of them. You could easily just use whatever 2 you might have on hand. I had a 1:1 ratio of the mayo so it was suuuuper herby.
The Three Bite Rule - Steakhouse Burger
Lightly grill the buns at the end and top the burgers with the mushrooms then the cheese.
Assemble each burger with bun > arugula > burger > mushrooms > swiss > herb aoli on the top bun.

The Three Bite Rule - Steakhouse Burger
It was Mr. J’s idea, our grillmaster, to hold the mushrooms on with the cheese. They were so good on this burger. I love mushrooms but not everyone is such a fan. I think because these are baby portobellos with a bit more flavor and after they’ve bathed in butter, anyone would like them!

Roasted Chicken Salad with Radish & Blueberries

One of the many perks of work is that we get scratch-made lunch everyday. It is family style and there’s salad. Every day! I know, so lucky! It is always a hot lunch but the other day, before the long weekend, we got some really amazing chicken salad. It was full of apples and dried cranberries. I put mine on top of my salad and was loving it. I was eating thinking,

“this is just so good.”
“I love the add-ins. I could make this.”
“I should make this.”

My sis brought over dinner of a roasted chicken with a Caesar salad kit for the perfect instant dinner. I used some leftovers for this chicken salad and it wasn’t just any chicken salad. You’re bananas if you think I would ever put celery into my chicken salad. Blech. This one gets crunch from radishes and some sweetness from dried blueberries.

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Salad with Radish & Blueberries

Ingredients:

(for 1 serving)
1-2 slices of a roasted chicken, chopped
1 radish
2 tbs dried blueberries
1-2 tbs mayo
splash of milk

Directions:

Chop the radish into a fine dice
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Salad with Radish & Blueberries
In a bowl, add the chicken, radish, blueberries (and walnuts would be good!)
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Salad with Radish & Blueberries
Mix in a small amount of mayo and stir to combine. Add the splash of milk to ensure it is wet enough. Then add more mayo, if needed.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Salad with Radish & Blueberries
Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Enjoy!

I put some on a sandwich loaded with arugula. Use good mayo for his. I like The Ojai Cook’s Lemonaise. The blueberries provide a sweet chewiness. My radish was from the farmers market. Those are zesty! Radishes from the grocery store have nowhere near the same flavor. It added the perfect zip and crunch. I didn’t have any apples and was using what I had on hand. The radish was my stroke of genius for the day.

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Salad with Radish & Blueberries

Bok Choy with Sesame Dressing and Teriyaki Chicken

I grabbed some baby bok choy at the farmer’s market without a plan for it. I went to trusty Pinterest and found a fun raw use for it on Culinary Hill. I tweaked the dressing by adding some stronger flavors of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. We added some grilled teriyaki chicken for a really great speedy dinner.

The Three Bite Rule - Bok Choy with Sesame Dressing and Teriyaki Chicken
Get some chicken on the grill, shake up some dressing in a jar, and then chop up a few veggies. Poof. Instant dinner with some great flavors.

Ingredients:

adapted from Culinary Hill
2-3 chicken thighs, marinated in teriyaki
2 baby bok choy bunches
2 large radishes
2 tbs sesame seeds
3 tbs brown sugar
1-2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup almond slivers

Directions:

Grill the marinated chicken until cooked through, brushing with some teriyaki at the end.
Chop the bok choy, discarding the bottom pieces.
The Three Bite Rule - Bok Choy with Sesame Dressing and Teriyaki Chicken
Chop the radishes into a small dice.
Toast some sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Watch carefully to toast them without burning.
In a small jar, add brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar.
The Three Bite Rule - Bok Choy with Sesame Dressing and Teriyaki Chicken
Shake vigorously. Taste and adjust as necessary.
The Three Bite Rule - Bok Choy with Sesame Dressing and Teriyaki Chicken
In a large bowl, add the bok choy, radish, and toasted sesame seeds.
The Three Bite Rule - Bok Choy with Sesame Dressing and Teriyaki Chicken
Add in some dressing and toss. Sprinkle with almonds.
Top with chicken to serve. Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Bok Choy with Sesame Dressing and Teriyaki Chicken
I liked the mild flavor of the bok choy. The almonds were pre-sesaoned with salt and pepper near the croutons. I might have toasted them if they were regular almond slivers. It was such a quick dinner that felt fresh, crunchy with juicy chicken.

The dressing was great. Make it, and then you’ll have sesame oil on hand for these (most Pinterest-pinned) sesame noodles and for Asian Broccoli Slaw with Peanut Butter Chicken and your next pork & veggie spring rolls, etc. You’ll use it, it isn’t such a crazy specialty ingredient.

Crockpot Chicken Mole

I sometimes forget that the crockpot is actually really ideal for summer meals since it doesn’t heat up the whole house, annnnd it means dinner can be less fuss when it is just too hot to think. I hate being hot. I love the snow and can’t imagine regular triple-digit-temperature days. Some crockpot food is really heavy and winter-ish but I want to keep looking for those that aren’t. I hadn’t ever made mole before but it was good, and something different. We had them as tacos but the poor pups had to smell chicken cooking all. day.

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Mole Taco
I saw the slow cooker chicken mole recipe in a Cooking Light magazine and loved the idea of chicken thighs cooking all day and making a different type of taco. I decreased the chipotle chile in adobo to just 1 (instead of 2) in case it was too spicy. I didn’t have smoked almonds, but used some mixed nuts and thought it was pretty good. I’d add a bit more water to the slow cooker…mine was on low for 8 hours (as instructed) but part of it got kind of burned along the edge when it got too low.

Chicken Mole Tacos:

from Cooking Light
chicken mole
shredded lettuce
roasted corn
squeeze of lime
side of guacamole

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Mole Taco
It was good, maybe not my favorite taco ever, but the flavors were nice. The chicken had a light smokey flavor and the cocoa made it have a light earthy taste.

I froze the leftover chicken and corn. I’ll assemble some burritos to wrap individually and freeze for the next time we need an instant dinner. Or it’d be good as some nachos too.

I froze some blobs of tomato paste the last time I opened a can. Then for recipes like this I just pull one blob out and nuke it in the microwave since I rarely need a whole can at once…even though the cans are itty bitty.

June 2015 Recap

I always like June. It is like the intro to summer in terms of weather, produce, and weekends. Work is always busy (which I’m thankful for) but June has a nice buzz to it while still being a chance to breathe. We had a multi-occasion celebration in June for Father’s Day/Mr. J’s birthday/Momma R’s birthday and a few other fun plans.

Mr. J got a new grill so there was A LOT of grilled dinners. He’d grill B, L & D if he could. :) One of the first grilled meals was this Tuscan Herbed Chicken served over white beans with cucumber salad. I was ob-sessed. This needs to be a go-to meal.
The Three Bite Rule - Tuscan Herbed Chicken & White Beans
I don’t make nearly as many pizzas in the summer, to avoid heating up the house even more, though…I did make a Pistachio and Sausage pizza. I liked it and will mix things up by toasting up some nuts and adding them to my future pizzas too.

This year’s birthday burger was a fun one! I dubbed them Picnic Burgers and topped them with colby jack cheese, coleslaw, and potato sticks.
Picnic Burger - The Three Bite Rule

I made a great salad with Watermelon, feta, and arugula. I looooved this combo. I’m going to a bbq in a few weeks and I think I’ll bring this…I’m guessing nobody else will bring it.
The Three Bite Rule - Watermelon & Feta Salad

The Little One: 

He’s already 5.5 months old! Crazy! He’s rolling non-stop, sleeping on his belly and side very often, and he is now able to scootch backwards while on his belly. He’s now onto cereal…though saying that is a loose interpretation. Not a whole lot of it makes it or stays in his mouth. We’ll keep at it.

He’s really funny, full of smiles and giggles. I’m convinced he’s teething. Every toy is most fun when it is in his mouth. We’ll see if teeth poke their way though anytime soon. We’ve taken him to a party and to some restaurants. He’s doing so great and we’re having a blast. It is nice to look back and see how far we’ve come. I’m proud of the 3 of us.
11415470_614009624428_3532435748983021381_o

Progress on this year’s goals: 
The Year of the Earring: I got a May-pair just in time! Phew, I know you were worried! June’s are coming! I liked another pair, but the shipping was more than twice the cost of the earrings. 

make more salad dressings: You’d better believe it. I made Parmesan Peppercorn dressing annnnd I made a Watermelon, feta & arugula with a citrus vinaigrette.  2 dressings. yes!

factor more time into how long every-day tasks/trips will take: 
not that I need to beat other people who are also learning to do this, but yeah, #winning

recreate restaurant menu items: 
I recreated a Davio’s lobster risotto with grilled asparagus dish that came out great!

be more adventurous with my reading selections: 
I nixed the Paradox of Plenty. I read The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant and couldn’t put it down. I tried to get into How to Build a Girl and it wasn’t for me. Now I’m reading Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl and I’m obsessed. I’m sure I’ll be done soon.  

use the crockpot more: 
Yes! It’ll hit in June, but it was fun for tacos! 

seafood once a month: 
I used some lobster in the risotto and then we grilled salmon with dijon butter sauce for the father’s day/birthdays celebration. It was great.

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Arugula

Guys. I’m so jazzed about this salad. It was so good. I was just so excited and actually “cut the line” in the ole blog que. This 2 posts a week has been a good schedule for me and lately I’ve had enough posts ahead of time that I don’t have to be all that timely in getting the pics from my camera onto the blog with some words. This one skipped ahead of a few other goodies because I just loved it so.

The Three Bite Rule - Watermelon & Feta Salad
It just might make another appearance in my meal roation soon since a) I have an entire watermelon and b) I made more dressing than I needed. This dressing has lots of possibilities for other salads too. Bam. 2 dressings this month. #winning

Watermelon & Feta Salad with Arugula (serves 2)

adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe

Ingredients:

1/8 watermelon
~4 oz feta cheese (a block cut into cubes, or crumbles)
arugula
3 tbs fruit juice (I used V8 Golden Goodness juice)
1 tsp lime juice
3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey
~4 fresh mint leaves
kosher salt & cracked pepper

Directions:

Chop the watermelon & feta into smaller-than-bite-sized cubes.
Lay the arugula into a bowl and top with the feta & watermelon.
In a jar, shake together the juices, oil, vinegar, honey, mint, salt & pepper.
The Three Bite Rule - Watermelon & Feta Salad
Drizzle a little dressing onto the salad. Toss and then add more if needed. The watermelon adds some moisture so a little dressing might be enough.
The Three Bite Rule - Watermelon & Feta Salad
Enjoy!

I seriously loved the pepper-y arugula with the sweet & cool watermelon with the crumbly salty feta. This salad is the perfect combination of sweet and salty and peppery. It also takes 10 minutes to shake up the dressing and cut the ingredients. Just 10 minutes to something interesting, different, and fresh.

This was part of a crazy salad dinner we had. I wasn’t sure it was going to 100% be Mr. J’s kind of thing. I like the stronger flavored arugula than he does and watermelon isn’t is favorite. I made this one annnnd panzanella salad the same night with sausages on the grill. The two salads weren’t 100% complimentary but I’ll share that one soon. Maybe just don’t make ‘em both the same night.

The Three Bite Rule - Watermelon & Feta Salad

Picnic Burger

I began making Mr. J a special Birthday Burger back along the same time the blog started. I’ve made a lot of fun burgers so I have to be sure I save an idea or two when his bday rolls around mid June. This year’s picnic burger was very fun and all about the toppings.

Picnic Burger - The Three Bite Rule

In 2015 it is a Picnic Burger with potato sticks and coleslaw.
In 2014 it was a German Burger with horseradish, caramelized onions, pickles and a pretzel roll.
In 2013 it was a Vermont Burger with maple mayo, cheddar, bacon, and spinach.
In 2012 it was a Bacon Wrapped Burger enough said.
In 2011 it was a Stuffed Burger stuffed with bacon & cheddar or bacon & blue cheese.

Picnic Burger

potato sticks
cole slaw
colby jack cheese
special sauce: 1 part mayo, 1 part ketchup, a touch of dijon mustard, a touch of sesame oil (optional)

Picnic Burger - The Three Bite Rule

I had no idea if it was going to be hard to find potato sticks, or if they’re not just a snack from the 1990s. Turns out, they were just in the snack aisle and I could buy just a single can. It is so funny to me that they come in a can. You pull the plastic ribbon around the top and pop the aluminum top off. Really, opening them is half the fun, but they had so much more potato flavor than chips do. They conveniently stuck to the cheese to stay on the burger while the cole slaw provided a crunch and a creaminess.

Need other burger topping ideas? Find ‘em all here!

Cantaloupe Smoothie

I don’t know why I haven’t ever used cantaloupe for a smoothie before. I tend to go for berries but switching up the fruits are important! Mr. J isn’t that into fruit, but he likes cantaloupe so after he did all the hard work of cutting it up and storing it in the fridge, I helped myself to some in a smoothie.

bfcd730bc9d3e289279e502ddb0ecc8f
The flavor is so delicate, so I wanted to pair it with a fruit that wouldn’t overpower it. Also, I still have TONS of frozen pears in the freezer thanks to a generous host of a fall pear-picking-party who doesn’t even like pears.

Ingredients:
1+ cups of cantaloupe
1 cup of frozen pears
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
2 tbs milk
1-2 tbs flax seed

Directions:
Add the fruit & yogurt into a blender
The Three Bite Rule - Cantaloupe Smoothie
Add in the yogurt, a splash of milk, and flax seed.
The Three Bite Rule - Cantaloupe Smoothie
Blend and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Cantaloupe Smoothie
The flaxseed + light colored fruits makes for more of a murky-colored smoothie, but it was lovely and a great way to use a melon before it gets too squishy. Swapping the milk for some orange juice would wake this up a bit, though I liked the subtle flavors. The flaxseed doesn’t add any flavor or taste. It is just a good source of fiber, possible source to lower cholesterol and helps heart health in general.