Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Raymond's Mexican Polenta

Oh how I love my husband! 

As I've mentioned I have a list of recipes and ideas that I have on my "To Make" list.  Well we had just gotten back into town from a long weekend in Colorado...look at these mountains! 

We had so much fun, biked around the city, climbed 2-14er's - kinda a big deal, tried out breweries, and hung out with a good friend of ours.

Oh, and did I mention that he surprised me with this trip to go see MY friend with plane tickets that his co-workers got him for HIS birthday...I think I got a winner. 

Anyway, we get back into town, and like it always goes, we have no food in our fridge, or the stuff that is in our fridge has gone bad and needs to be thrown out.  I ask my husband if I should make dinner tonight or if he had anything planned.  He told me that he would make dinner so that I could study (score), then he asked if I had anything I was craving.  I sent him a recipe I had an idea for a while back but hadn't had a chance to try yet, and he told me he would make it (double score!).  He did tell me he was going to make his own version of what I sent him, so I had no idea what direction he was going to go with it...well okay, maybe I had a guess, but I was waaay off.  After 3 months of marriage we're not quite reading each other's minds yet, so we're still able to surprise each other.  :)  The result...a ridiculously yummy meal, made with pantry staples that I bet everyone has on hand!  He even made the polenta from scratch!  The recipe I gave him made no mention that you could buy pre-made polenta, so not sure if he knows you can or not, but I'm definitely not telling him that because homemade is so good...or maybe I just did...whoops.  :) 

After dinner I drilled him as best as I could to figure out the recipe.  He's a bit like I used to be, before I decided I should start measuring things a bit and write down what I do so I can re-create the good meals, so here goes.


1 can black beans, drained
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can Rotel
3/4 cup salsa
2 - 18oz rolls of Polenta (or make from scratch)
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese


In a medium saute pan saute onions and bell peppers until almost done.

Add in black beans, Rotel, chili powder, ground cumin, and cayenne pepper.

Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice Polenta or prepare (if you are making from scratch).

Press half of the polenta into bottom of a large (9 x 13) baking dish.

Top with bean mixture and sprinkle cheese on top.

Layer the rest of the polenta on top of the cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until bubbly.

Broil for 2-3 minutes to create a crisp crust.

Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.


This really was such a great dinner! I wish I had gotten more pictures of it, but unfortunately I was in the other room studying.  This fills a large dish, but it will go quickly.  I was thrilled with the amount he made, because that meant I got to take the leftovers for lunch!  Lucky me!  :-)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Honeymoon Foodie Recap...and other musings

Okay, so I'm kind of a bit behind posting this one, but there's so much to tell!  June 4th, Raymond and I got married and a few days later we went to Greece and Brussels on our honeymoon.  We had an amazing trip and ate some wonderful food.  Greece definitely wasn't the culinary destination that I had hoped for (at least where we went), but we still had some great food.  My three favorites: Feta Cheese, Greek Yogurt, and Greek Salad...wait, I forgot about their potatoes...oh they were so awesome!  Okay, four favorites.  :-)

After about 25 hours of traveling we finally made it to our first stop, the island of Kos.  We got a tiny hotel room, since we were only staying one night, but were very happy with had an AMAZING view.  We were only steps away from the beach and in the distance we could see Turkey. 

We went to this little authentic Greek restaurant that our concierge recommended.  After trying to figure out the menu, the owner recognized that we were not locals, came and chatted with us, and then ordered our meal for us.  What followed was an amazing meal, complete with ouzo(traditional Greek Liquor, that both Raymond and I decided tasted like black liquorish and didn't really like).

Feta Stuffed Red Peppers, Beer, Wine, and Ouzo

Chicken and Corn Salad, and Pork and Potatoes

I was surprised to find that pork is a huge source of meat in Greece.  I guess I just expected to see a lot of Lamb everywhere.  Apparently Lamb is hard to get on the islands (where we spent the majority of our honeymoon), so we didn't see a lot of lamb.  These potatoes were AWESOME!!!  I have been trying to re-create them since we've been back and haven't succeeded yet...good thing I'm persistent.  :-)

I'm kind of a chicken snob.  I usually eat the white meat, and I like my chicken juicy.  Chicken breasts are VERY hard to cook and have a juicy end result.  I have had good chicken plenty of times, but I have had perfectly cooked chicken twice in my life.  This was one of those times.

After this wonderful meal we headed back to get some sleep because we had to get up the next morning to catch a ferry to Patmos.  The ferry ride started out really rough and I got sea sick, thankfully the ride calmed down, I got to feeling better and we both fell asleep.  Luckily somehow I woke up as everyone was getting off at our stop and we got off.

The hotel we stayed at here was absolutely beautiful!  It was a small little place with only 12 rooms, and we basically had a private butler.  (Raymond finally matched a personality to HIS "Geebs" as we both forgot his name and called him that for the remainder of our stay).  EVERY morning we awoke to have the biggest breakfast I have ever eaten served to us with this view:

This was the view from our balcony:

After watching the sunrise from our balcony:

Breakfast served to us EVERY morning looked something like this: freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, meat and cheese, a pastry of some sort, a quiche, two eggs cooked however we wanted, two different kinds of sweet breads, toast with marmalade, Greek yogurt with fruit and honey, cheese with olives and tomatoes, and dessert cookies.

After watching the sunset in Chora:

We went to dinner and had Greek Salad, Goat and POTATOES!

Just a one of my favorite pictures of us exploring a rock that Monks used to LIVE on.  A ROCK was so neat, they had caves dug into the rock on all sides, and even dug a well into the rock.

After a long day of hiking and exploring we tried the town tavern for dinner.  We weren't too big of fans of this meal, but the company was good! (Shown below is taziki...we had it later in our trip and both Raymond and I loved it...just not here)

The next night we tried out another little tavern on the other side of the beach and had much better food!

Dolmathakia (Grape Leaves) and Rabbit.

The dolmathakia was delicious here.  They were covered in a bechamel sauce.  Later in our trip we had them again and they weren't cooked as well.  As for the rabbit...well at this point I think Raymond got his first glimpse of what his life will be like with me.  I ordered Rabbit (because I love trying new things).  Well they brought it out and it looked like a...rabbit.  I could see the legs and tail and everything.  I just sat staring at it for oh, maybe 5 minutes.  Raymond asked me if I was going to eat my food.  I told him I didn't think I could.  Luckily my wonderful husband came to the rescue and cut up my food for me, discarded the bones, and mixed the meat with my orzo so I couldn't clearly see the rabbit anymore.

After this ordeal, I was able to eat and enjoy this meal.

Just another pretty view of Skala from Chora:

We stopped for a snack mid-day and ordered waffles.  I was excited about them, but Raymond couldn't decide.

Greece definitely had the pretty flowers, white buildings and blue pretty!

Another picture of us in Chora:

Raymond insisted on carrying ALL of the bags after shopping.  I thought it was cute so I snapped a picture.  I wonder if he will still insist on carrying all of the bags say 10 years from now when I go shoe shopping for the millionth time... :)

Our last night in Patmos, after heading to a restaurant that had gotten good reviews that we wanted to try and finding it closed, we decided to eat at our hotel.  The breakfasts they served were always great, so we figured the dinners were probably a good bet.

Such a pretty table setting...

...a great view...

...and good wine.  I'd say we are off to a great start!

I loved my salad.  Raymond (not a big salad person) claimed his salad was the best he has ever had.

I will be re-creating both of these.  :-)

Spanakopita.  I think Geebs got the translation wrong here.  He told us it was shredded zucchini with feta in a phyllo dough, in actuality it was spinach with feta :-)

We had Greek slouvoki

I LOVED these plates!  I thought they were soo cool.  Now, if only I could find some, I know exactly what I would serve in them.  :)

Dessert was a chocolate mouse.  It absolutely devastates me, but I was unable to finish it.  We sat there drinking wine and water and slowly eating the mouse for at least an hour after dinner, and I was still unable to finish it all.

The next day we sadly left for Athens.  Little did we know what we were in for.  We stayed in the Royal Olympic Hotel, and royal it was.  Absolutely beautiful! 

This picture was taken of Zeus's Temple while lying in bed in our room.  (We were literally right across the street from it and had panoramic views of it through our basically floor to ceiling windows).

This guy is so cute!  I loved the idea of this place.  He brought around a huge platter and we picked what we wanted off the platter.  We both thought the food was sub-par, but the company was good, the atmosphere was fun, and it came with a jug of wine!

Our time in Athens was kind of spoiled by a strike and protest turned riot that occurred.  We wondered why our breakfast the first morning that was supposed to be on the rooftop was re-located to the ground floor.  Later we found out it was because we were a half a block away from the riots and the hotel didn't want to take any chances.  The riot was even advertised on fliers throughout the city!

This was about as close as we could get to the Acropolis.  We got much closer views of the Agora, Heron's Arch, and Zeus's temple, so we were satisfied.

The Agora and Heron's Arch

Our last night in Athens we found this really cute rooftop restaurant.  They packed everyone onto the roof from the back to the front, so if you got in early and were at the back, you had a hard time getting to the front to leave, and your server had a hard time getting to you to get you your food.  They had a Greek band playing and we got to watch Greek dances.  We had the sun setting to one side of us, the Acropolis to another side of us, Lykabettus hill to the other side, and towards the end of our meal we were surprised with an elcipse to view (if we were in the US we either would have missed this or had to get up in the middle of the night to see this, so that was a treat).

The Greek salad was awesome.  The feta cheese alone is worth a trip to Greece.  This was both of our favorite breads of the trip.  Love the herbs!
Moussaka (Greek lasagna). This ended up being our favorite dish in Greece. Also, they came with those potatoes!!!

It took 7 days in Greece, but I finally found good lamb!  It was slow cooked with vegetables in the dish covered with cheese.  The cheese was a bit overwhelming and I ended up taking most of the cheese off, but the lamb was delicious!

We got to eat on the rooftop our second morning and we did have a gorgeous view!

After Athens it was off to Brussels to visit some good friends of ours, Trisha and Michael, who were also newlyweds and have just moved.

The first night we had a lot of wine, some celebratory champagne, and Michael made us some yummy roasted stuffed cherry tomatoes, and pizza.  It was so nice to have a homemade meal after eating out for everything for the past week.

Unfortunately this was Raymond's last solid meal for a while.  He had a stomach bug that had him up all night that night and in bed the next day.

Meanwhile, we reluctantly left Raymond behind and went to the market.  There we got some delicious Belgium waffles...unfortunately I didn't get a picture of it, but true Belgian Waffles are like candy.  They coat them with sugar and cook them until the sugar caramelizes.  We also accidentally spent way more than we meant to on some wonderful cheese, and picked up a rotisserie chicken and some potatoes to bring back for lunch.

We brought our food back from the market and had a picnic in Trisha and Michael's beautiful backyard.  Raymond eventually came and joined us for a little bit.

After lunch, Raymond still wasn't feeling well, so our friends took me around to show me some more of Brussels, stop for tea, and eat chocolate of course.  Belgium chocolate is amazing!

Meanwhile Raymond stayed at home with his friends:

The next day we went to see where the battle of Waterloo was fought:

Then our friends took us both around Brussels some more.  I've decided that Brussels is about as close to Paris as you can get without going to Paris.  It felt like a little suburb of Paris, so I was happy with that as a substitute for going to Paris.  Very charming.

The Atomium.  Built for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair.  If you ask me, it looks modern enough to be built just a few years ago.  It was built so the shape is that of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.  You can actually go up in the spheres to get a view of Brussels, but shortly after we got here it started to rain, so we nixed that idea.

We accidentally stumbled on these Chinese and Japanese exhibits that were built for the same World Exhibition that the Eiffle Tower was built for. 

On our last night in Brussels our friends took us out to a delicious meal!  By this time we were both quite tired of carrying around our camera so we only have our toasting picture.  The boys had steak that they seemed to enjoy and Trisha and I had some really awesome fish.

Back home and ready to enjoy the rest of our lives together!  :)