Beginners Guide: What Equipment Do I Buy? Part 1: Knives

One of the things I love about cooking is that everyone has their own style. Cooking is an art which means people tend to bring in their own vision, culture, and experiences into every dish they make. I truly love this. I’ve said it once and I will say it again, you can learn a lot about someone based on what they do in the kitchen. Even though this essentially means that everyone brings something different to the kitchen, there is one thing everyone cooking has in common – you need quality tools to get the job done. All chefs need knives, pots/pans, and accessories to bring their food to life.

Which brings me to Zatorrius. Zatorrius (I just call him Z) is one of my best friends that I met at the nationally ranked amazing Florida State University. Z, a fellow foodie, was often my best taste tester. He’s hard to please and has a very specific 3-point scale. “Eh” means its needs work or scrap the recipe. “Meh, its ok” means it’s pretty good, I’m onto something, keep tweaking. “It’s pretty good” means wow, you knocked it out of the park, make me more right now. He’s also one of my go to people for southern food. To this day, his mom made me one of the best southern meals I have ever had. I will often travel with Z and one of my other best friends (Michael) and we try to eat everything on the menu at the restaurants we pass through. Foodie trips are the best trips, especially with these guys.

zName: Zatorrius
Rating: Pretty Good

Z is a decent cook eater and a below average cook (his words, not mine). He has been looking to take his cooking to the next level. When I first started this blog (way back when), he told me he wasn’t sure he owned the cooking equipment he needed for all of your basic cooking needs, likewise, he wasn’t sure what he had was of the right quality or brand. He asked me to do a series on the blog of what every basic or beginner cook should own to produce quality meals. It was a great idea and I should have done it sooner, but I digress. It may be three years too late, but the time has finally come – Z, this one goes out to you.

This series will be broken into three parts. This is part one, Knives. The second part will be for Pots and Pans. Finally, part three will be for Kitchen Accessories and Extras.

In general, this can be a difficult topic to tackle for two reasons. Continue reading

Restaurant Review: Kitchen on San Marco, Jacksonville FL

Once I turned 21, the Gastropub quickly became one of my favorite kinds of restaurants. I like to go out to bars with friends. When a bar offers food as well, it makes then environment to hangout and relax so much easier. If someone gets hungry, you don’t need to leave. Everyone can get what they want.

Gastropubs are a hybrid between a bar and a restaurant. Now yes, it’s true that many bars serve food. Likewise, most restaurants serve alcohol. It’s really the expectations that are setup by labeling your place of business a gastropub that sets it apart from other places within the food industry. A gastropub typically offers a higher quality, elevated, and fresher experience from the rest. It doesn’t just serve drinks. They create their own using flavors you won’t find anywhere else. Likewise, it doesn’t just offer bar food. Gastropubs take bar food and elevates it to a whole new level. It finds a way to balance familiar flavors with new experiences. The best gastropubs take their unique food and drinks and use them to form their own identity.

Naturally, one of the first spots my wife and I found when we moved out to the west coast was a gastropub. When we moved back to FL, I searched for the same thing. I am happy to say that I think I finally found that place in Jacksonville. Located near the riverside area on San Marco road, Kitchen on San Marco offers a gastropub experience with southern flair.

Kitchen on San Marco Front

Walking into Kitchen on San Marco, I was caught by the atmosphere and service. I made a reservation online ahead of time. We were shown to our table immediately, there was no waiting. I should note that they were not busy at the time. I assume we would have been seated immediately even without the reservation. It was nice to have the option to make one. It picked up by the time we were leaving with satisfied patrons enjoying their meals and time. The restaurant featured a large bar seating area, roomy booths, and high top tables. The atmosphere was warm and inviting. It seemed like the kind of place that allowed for both a nice dinner, or a place to relax and keep the drinks flowing – the perfect combination for a gastropub. Our server was super friendly. She knew the menu well and kept the drinks refilled. She checked on us frequently, but wasn’t annoying. Continue reading

Cook the Blog Returns

March 16, 2014. That was my last blog post. It has been awhile. After almost a year and a half, Cook the Blog emerges from the shadows reinvigorated and ready to discuss food, restaurants, recipes, travel, and life. But why now? And what took so long? Did I get lazy?

In short, yes, yes I did. But there’s much more to it than that. As with most things in life, my time off from the blog was not due to a black or white reason. It was due to many grey, green, blue, black, white, and purple reasons. Not to mention all of the red reasons – way too many red reasons.

When I look back at my original blog entries, they seem kind of sterile. With this second go around at the blog, I hope to fix the tone. I want to inject this blog with personality. Make it feel like my food blog, rather than a generic food blog. With that in mind, please allow me to explain my absence.

The last time I was constantly, actively writing on this blog was mid-2013, right before I got married. In July of 2013 I married my high school sweetheart (and the love of my life). At that point, we had already been together for 8 years. I really didn’t expect anything to be different, partially because we had lived together for years before getting married. What I have learned from the experience thus far is that no matter how well you know a person, no matter how long you have been with them, you never truly begin to build a life with someone until you get married. It takes effort, energy, and hard work to build that life and honor that commitment. It took me longer than it should have to figure this out. Now that I have, I work every day to ensure I am the best husband I can be.

Wedding Photo

After a quick honeymoon, we were off for adventure.  Continue reading

Recipe: Broccoli Casserole

I know, it’s been awhile. This is my first real post in months. All I can say is, life happens. 2013 was a busy year for me. Probably the busiest year of my life. I ended 2012 by finishing my Master’s degree. What followed can only be called the domino effect. Finishing my degree led me to many job interviews and eventually a new (and wonderful) job. In 2013, I spent a lot of time working with my fiancée on our wedding and finally tying the knot. Then, my wife finished her degree and got a new job…in Portland. We spent a week driving across the country. Ever since then we have been adjusting to a new life. If you are reading in Tallahassee, if you want more restaurant reviews, keep reading. I have been visiting FL quite frequently. I still have reviews in FL to post. But, this blog is expanding. We plan on having more adventure, and I want you to come along for the ride.

This brings me to my first new recipe in a long time. This recipe is nothing fancy, but it’s important to me. This is a family staple. This is typically a side dish that we serve at any family event. I associate this dish as a side dish to any major holiday, especially Thanksgiving. Shortly after we moved to Portland, I was craving this dish, but I didn’t want to spend the time to make a Turkey or Brisket to go with it. That’s where my twist to this dish came in. I added chicken to the dish to make it a full meal. No side dish needed.

Normally, my recipes tend to take more time to make because I like to make the entire meal from scratch. When I have time, I make my pasta from scratch. This isn’t necessary for this dish. I made this once making the soup and the biscuit topping from scratch. For whatever reason, it didn’t that much of a difference. I reverted back to making it the way it has always been made in my house.

The best part of this recipe is that it scales easily. This is the easiest dish to make a bigger or smaller portion for. It can be eye balled for the most part how to increase or decrease the ingredient amount. For the purpose of this recipe, it assumes that the dish is being made in a 13×9 casserole dish.

Ingredients:

Bisquick (about 2 Cups)
¼ Cup Milk
1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ Small Onion
1 Bag Frozen Broccoli
1 Clove of Garlic
Butter (about 3 – 4 Tablespoons)
Chicken (about 1 full sized chicken breast)
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Olive Oil (about 2 Teaspoons)
¼ White wine (can easily be replace with water or chicken stock)
½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
Salt
Pepper

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Recipe: Healthy Tacos

I want to start by congratulations to Lorraine. She was the winner of the Cooking Planit spice giveaway. Thank you to everyone that entered. Keep reading the blog for more contests in the future.

This is a new recipe for me. It was developed because I wanted to eat healthy and was tired of salads. I wanted to create a recipe that had a ton of nutritional value. Something I could pack a lot of vegetables into without feeling like I was eating “healthy”. Something flavorful. I also wanted to keep the veggies raw if possible, again, for the nutritional value. It seemed impossible at the time…and then it hit me. Pico de gallo. It fit my needs perfectly. Pico de gallo has nutritional value, tons of flavor, and it doesn’t make you feel like your eating health food.

Shrimp Tacos

Once I thought Continue reading

Virtual Blog Tour: Crazy Dumplings Cookbook

Hi everyone. I first wanted to start by saying a big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the Cooking Planit giveaway. I was very happy with the response I received. A winner has been chosen. I will announce the name as soon as I get confirmation from Cooking Planit that the spices have shipped. Keep reading for more giveaways in the future.

CrazyDumplings

Now I have a special treat. A new cookbook is coming out via kickstarter soon and the author is currently on a virtual book (or blog) tour. Today, I am going to share with you some information about the cookbook and a few of the recipes as a sneak preview. The cookbook is called Continue reading

Contest: Cooking Planit Spice Giveaway

It’s time! My contest giving away a Spice Set from CookingPlanIt begins today! It’s an awesome set of spices that includes 26 of the most commonly used spices in the kitchen:

cookingplanit

Ground Cumin
Basil
Saigon Cinnamon
Bay Leaves
Smoked Paprika
Thyme
Garlic Powder
Mediterranean
Oregano
Onion Powder
Rosemary
Nutmeg Powder
Red Pepper Flakes
Coriander Powder
Cayenne Pepper
Ground Cloves
Chinese Five Spice
Turmeric
Curry Powder
Yellow Mustard
Pennsylvania Pepper
Cardamon Powder
Cajun Seasoning
Allspice Powder
Hill Country Chili Powder
Ginger Root Powder
Manzanillo Mexico Seasoning

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Restaurant Review: Be Our Guest in Disney World, Orlando FL

This is it, my first review for a restaurant outside of Tallahassee. I can’t think of a better place to start with. Full disclosure: My fiancée and I are Disney fanatics. We have been traveling there together since 2007. Being a Florida resident, it isn’t that hard for us to find an excuse to get down there. I even proposed to my fiancée in Downtown Disney. Disney in general, is a special place to us.

Be Our Guest in Disney

Beauty and the Beast also holds a particular place in my heart. One of my other passions (outside of food) is acting. I have been acting for most of my life. In high school, my school was chosen as one of the first to do Beauty and the Beast as play. We were lucky enough to get some original costumes from the Broadway production. Our set and actors were top notch. We entered the play into state competition and were chosen to perform the show at Morsoni Hall in Tampa, Florida for all the other competing high schools in Florida. This is a huge honor. Hundreds of schools enter and less than ten are selected. Performing at states was the only time I have ever performed on a professional stage. There were 2,552 people who saw us perform that show and many that got turned away (we sold out). It is an experience I will never forget.

Be Our Guest in Disney

Don’t let it fool you though. This isn’t a biased review. When we went to dinner at Be Our Guest, we also brought my sister, niece, nephew, and brother-in-law. We all had the same opinion.

For those of you who don’t know, Be Our Guest is a new restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. It’s part of their “New Fantasy Land”. During the day time, Be Our Guest is a quick service restaurant. At night, it becomes a sit down restaurant. This Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant is modeled after three different parts of the Beast’s castle.

Be Our Guest in Disney

The main dining room  Continue reading

Contest: Cooking Planit Spice Giveaway – Coming Soon!

Hello fellow foodies. I am happy to announce a contest that I will be running in association with the people behind the Cooking Planit website and iOS App.

cookingplanit

The fine folks at Cooking Planit will be giving away 50 spice sets to the readers of 50 awesome food blogs. 2 sets will be given away for 25 days starting this week.

Cooking Planit is a website and smartphone app that handles the recipe a little differently from most recipe utilities. You can plan out your meal using the tool. The tool then arranges the different items in your chosen meal into one recipe. It automatically puts the steps for each item into an order which will have the entire meal ready at the same time. I have only tested it a minimal amount so far – but it works pretty well.

Captures

Here is a list of all the blogs participating in the contest:

2013 Cooking Planit Spice Giveaway Participants

Start Stop Flight 1 Flight 2
1 3/6/13 3/12/13 Sophistishe Field and Feast
2 3/7/13 3/13/13 The Wicked Noodle The Cooking Planit Blog
3 3/8/13 3/14/13 The Aliso Kitchen Slow Down & Savor
4 3/9/13 3/15/13 Chicago Foodie Sisters Jessiker Bakes
5 3/10/13 3/16/13 My Happily Ever After the End The Food Yenta
6 3/11/13 3/17/13 Notes from Maggie’s Farm Food Fash
7 3/12/13 3/18/13 My Kitchen Addictions What Jew Wanna Eat
8 3/13/13 3/19/13 Bite Sized Blog Nicole’s Nickels
9 3/14/13 3/20/13 A Busy Mom of Two Food Squeeze
10 3/15/13 3/21/13 Kasey’s Kitchen Kitchen Concoctions
11 3/16/13 3/22/13 Daily Ups & Pounds Lisa Cooking
12 3/17/13 3/23/13 Ditch the Box Huppie Mama
13 3/18/13 3/24/13 Hungry Hutch Food Fetish
14 3/19/13 3/25/13 Cook the Blog Three Diets. One Dinner
15 3/20/13 3/26/13 Sugarfoot Eats Gear Live
16 3/21/13 3/27/13 CopyKat Recipes The Mouthy Housewives
17 3/22/13 3/28/13 Burnt Apple The Butterfly Mom
18 3/23/13 3/29/13 The Mama Report Ancestral Chef
19 3/24/13 3/30/13 A Food Centric Life We Like To Cook
20 3/25/13 3/31/13 Dixie Chik Cooks Baby Boomster
21 3/26/13 4/1/13 Unorganized Mommy of 3 Much Ado About Fooding
22 3/27/13 4/2/13 Better with Butter The Primlani Kitichen
23 3/28/13 4/3/13 Mother Would Know California Country Gal
24 3/29/13 4/4/13 Yi Reservation NY Foodgasm
25 3/30/13 4/5/13 ME Redone Creative Cullinary

Follow the link for further information on the spice set and contest.

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Cook the Blog: Cluster’s and Hops Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich

This is it. The main event. After weeks of anticipation I am posting the full recipe to Cluster’s and Hops “Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich”. I should say upfront – this is not an official recipe. I am not some special person who knows the chef or anything. I just really liked the sandwich when I ate it and decided to do a bit of food hacking. I won’t say this recipe is exact – but it is pretty close.

Here is how Cluster’s and Hops describes the sandwich on their menu:
GRILLED GOAT CHEESE SANDWICH roasted eggplant, carmelized onion, goat cheese, fig jam, lavender & white truffle oil on grilled rosemary olive bread

Now, let’s get started.

Untitled

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