The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

“Eat a Ridiculous Amount of Food” Sunday is Here!

How can the biggest football game in the world be so Super if action on the field is constantly overshadowed by food and commercials?

Beats me, but Super Bowl Sunday is here – so belly up to the buffet!

Taste of Home says Americans spent more than $1 billion on food during last year’s game, making it the second-most popular holiday for eating, trailing only Thanksgiving.

Wow.

Research shows fans will devour about 1.25 billion wings and 11 million pounds of potato chips tonight alone. They also say you could fill a football field almost 12 feet deep with the amount of guacamole that will be consumed during the game – a fact that is both unbelievable and gross.

So whether you watch while dipping into the salsa or diving into a platter of wings or pot of chili, you’re in good company.

Super Bowl Sunday is always a big day for pizza delivery, but you can intercept that looooooong wait for a slice by making your own at home. Here are two recipes from Kontos for inspiration …

 

Ffour-cheese margherita pizzaour-Cheese Margherita Pizza

one ready-made pizza crust

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ tablespoon fresh minced garlic

dash of sea salt

8-9 slices of small Roma tomatoes

3 oz. shredded whole milk (artisan) mozzarella

2 oz. Fontina cheese

1 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 oz. Feta cheese

4 fresh basil leaves washed, dried and julienne sliced (strips)

  1. Preheat oven to 400⁰ F (375⁰ for a convection oven)
  2. Stir together the olive oil, garlic, salt and tomatoes and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Brush the crust with the tomato marinade (leave tomatoes in the bowl).
  4. Arrange tomato slices over the top of the crust.
  5. Spread Mozzarella and Fontina shredded cheese evenly over top of tomato slices; top evenly with shredded Parmesan cheese, Feta cheese and sliced basil leaves.
  6. Place topped pizza into the oven, directly on rack for crispy crust, on a pan for soft crust.
  7. Bake for approx. 5 minutes (a few minutes less for convection oven); remove from oven with a baking sheet or pizza spatula.
  8. Let cool for 1-2 minutes. Slice into 4-6 slices and enjoy!

 

veggie lover's pizzaVeggie Lovers Pizza

One ready-made pizza crust

3 oz. tomato pizza sauce

4 oz. whole milk Mozzarella (artisan) cheese

1 ½ oz. sliced red onions

1 ½ oz. sliced black olives

1 ½ oz. total (½ oz of each) diced red, green and yellow bell peppers

  1. Preheat oven to 400⁰ F (375⁰ for a convection oven).
  2. Evenly spread the tomato pizza sauce over crust.
  3. Evenly spread the Mozzarella cheese over the top of the pizza sauce.
  4. Top with the bell pepper mixture, black olives and sliced red onions.
  5. Place topped pizza into the oven, directly on rack for crispy crust, on a pan for soft crust.
  6. Bake for approx. 5 minutes, or a minute or two less in a convection oven; remove from oven with a baking sheet or pizza spatula.
  7. Let cool for 1-2 minutes, slice into 4-6 slices and enjoy!

 

Cooking tip: Oven baking times can vary. Flatbread pizza is ready when the cheese is melted completely and edges are medium to dark brown.

Happy National Cheese Lovers Day!

What, you didn’t know?

There’s a day, week or month to celebrate just about anything these days, and cheese gets it spotlight today. Personally, I feel like cheese deserves MUCH MORE than a mere 24 hours, but I’ll do my best to honor it in this short time we have today.

And in honor of the occasion, I’ll also share these tips from food app SideChef on how to style your own cheese board like a pro. A good cheese board, they say, should consist of three to five different styles of cheeses, plus an assortment of accompaniments that provide a variety of flavors and textures – so no two bites are the same.

When it comes to the cheese itself …

  • Cheese is made of three types of milk: goat, sheep and cow.
  • There are five different textures of cheese: hard, semi-hard, soft, semi-soft and blue.
  • There are two essential types of tastes: mellow that includes citrusy, fruity and herbal tastes; and intense that includes bitter, smoky and sharp ones.
  • For your display, choose cheeses with different textures and flavors (varying from mild to strong) and at least one cheese from each animal.

And about those accompaniments …

  • Cheese needs sidekicks that make it shine, so choose yours carefully.
  • Breads and crackers provide a base for the cheese, but stick to simple or complimentary flavors that don’t overpower your cheeses.
  • Fresh and dried fruits or fruit spreads compliment intense cheeses.
  • Brined vegetables such as olives or peppers provide a salty contrast.
  • Nuts offer a crunchy, nutty flavor.

And if National Cheese Lovers Day snuck up on you, consider this fair warning for the days ahead – Jan. 22 is National Hot Sauce Day and Jan. 25 is National Irish Coffee Day!

Vandalia Gathering Hosting a Sweet Bake-off

Ready to get your cupcake on?

The folks putting on this weekend’s awesome annual Vandalia Gathering on the State Capitol Grounds in Charleston are inviting West Virginia residents to enter a “Cupcake & Pound Cake” bakeoff as part of this year’s event.

A celebration of Appalachian heritage featuring food, music, dance, crafts and more, the Vandalia Gathering draws big crowds of fans who love to enjoy everything “Wild and Wonderful” about our great state. This year’s baking competition will take place inside the Culture Center State Theater this Saturday, May 24. Registration is from noon to 1:30 pm and tasting/judging begins at 2 pm, with winners announced shortly thereafter.

Entries must be original recipes made from scratch, with no prepared mixes allowed. Judges will disqualify previ­ously published recipes, such as those in cookbooks and in magazines, from food companies, on food websites and cooking-contest winners, unless the recipe features changes considered significant by the judges. Entries must be submitted in disposable pans/liners, with no refrigeration required. The recipe used also must be included on a 3×5” index card.

Creativity is essential and this contest is not limited to traditional cupcake and pound cake flavors. Judges will look for a variety of fillings and textures.

Entries may score a possible 100 points, with 30 for taste/flavor, 25 appearance, 15 consistency in size/shape, 20 moistness/crumb and 10 for creativity. First place wins $75, second gets $50 and $25 will go to both the third-place winner and the top entry among youth ages 15 and under.

All cupcakes and pound cakes become the property of the Division of Culture and History and will be offered as prizes during a cake walk in the Great Hall at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome to join the dancing!

Although I was asked to help pick this year’s winners, sadly, I’ll be out of town this weekend and can’t make it. #bummer

For complete rules or more information, contact the West Virginia Division of Culture and History at (304) 558-0220 or visit www.wvculture.org.

Bacon … The Next Health Craze?

Could bacon be the next hot health craze?

I doubt it.

But there are those who tout its benefits as a good-for-you indulgence.

Dr. John Salerno, for one, believes bacon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Of course, he’s also a protégé of Dr. Robert Atkins (gasp), creator of the once-hot “eat all the bacon you want but don’t dare touch a slice o’ bread” Atkins Diet.

“Many think of bacon as one of the guiltiest pleasures possible, but it has also been shown to alleviate the effects of diabetes, heart disease and strokes,” says Salerno, author of “The Silver Cloud Diet.”

“Nitrate-free bacon is an excellent source of high-protein, low-carbohydrate energy that helps to reset the metabolism,” he continues, “and it’s filled with amino acids delivered without the risk of dangerous levels of mercury, which can be found in many fish.”

Need more reasons to praise the pig?

  • Bacon has a 4-to-1 ratio of protein to fat.
  • It contains choline, which boosts memory and healthy brain function.
  • It’s composed of monounsaturated fats, the kind that contains lots of healthy fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
  • And it’s a potent source of oleic acid and saturated fats, which help reduce levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), lower triglycerides and raise HDL, commonly referred to as the “good” type of cholesterol.

I do love the stuff and will continue to chomp down on more than my fair share. But let’s not kid ourselves about its debatable health benefits.

Wheatgrass, it’s not.

But man cannot live on wheatgrass alone, which is why the occasional slab of bacon is such a joy. Everything in moderation.

So when you’re ready to moderate, here are a few fine bacon-blessed treats you might want to try …

  • Wrap a slice of bacon around your favorite items when grilling. Chicken or a nice filet, of course, but also around asparagus, scallops, even some grilled fruits.
  • Bling up a traditional BLT with creole mayo, sliced avocado or spicy pickles.
  • For an incredible appetizer, wrap bacon around a feta stuffed fig or a chunk of apricot rolled in brown sugar. Bake until the bacon is cooked through.
  • Three words: bacon cinnamon rolls. Unroll cinnamon buns from a refrigerated canned dough and roll them back up with a cooked slice of crisp bacon inside. Bake per package directions.
  • Two more words: bacon candy! Spread sliced bacon across a slotted baking pan and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup, then bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Best bacon ever.

 

x   x   x

 

Bacon also played a supporting role in a great appetizer idea a neighbor recently shared. Actually, she didn’t just give me a recipe but also brought over all the ingredients I needed to make it.

What a gal!

Her Cheesy Stuffed Peppers featured an assortment of red, orange and yellow peppers filled with a mixture of cream cheese, sautéed onions, garlic and bacon, then baked until warm and gooey inside.

The results were so good, I’m sharing Naomi’s recipe this week. But like me, she didn’t really measure anything so just adjust all amounts to taste.

 

Cheesy Stuffed Peppers

assorted small red, orange and yellow peppers
medium onion, chopped
cream cheese, softened
cooked bacon
garlic, salt and pepper (to taste)

  1. Cut off (and save) the tops of all peppers and scoop out seeds.
  2. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp, then remove to drain on paper towels. Pour off all but a scant amount of bacon grease and sauté onions in the same pan. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from skillet and let cool.
  3. Mix onions and crumbled bacon into softened cream cheese, then use this filling to stuff each pepper. Replace tops and place upright in a baking dish. Bake 15-20 minutes a 350 degrees or until peppers are a little tender.

 

 

Two-Pound Pepperoni Roll in Good (?) Company

Appalachian Power Park's two-pound Pepperoni Roll
Appalachian Power Park’s two-pound Pepperoni Roll

After reading about the new giant two-pound Pepperoni Roll coming to Appalachian Power Park this season (http://bit.ly/10ABEeN), it made me wonder what other calorie-packed stadium eats you could munch on at ballparks around the country.

Oh, man.

Better loosen your belt if you want to sink your teeth into one of these over-the-top indulgences …

  • Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field – “Da Burger Triple Play” pork burger is a 3-pound pork patty topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, pulled pork and barbecue sauce, but it also packs an estimated 1,100 calories, 65 grams of fat, 2,700 milligrams of sodium and 60 grams of carbohydrates.
  • New York Yankees and Yankee Stadium – Moe’s Southwest Grill’s “Billy Barou Nachos” – piled high with ground beef, white cheese sauce, salsa, jalapenos, olives, guacamole and sour cream – weighs in at an estimated 1,380 calories, 90 grams of fat, 3,196 milligrams of sodium and 112 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium – “The Victory Knot,” a mega-sized pretzel designed to feed four people, is two pounds of dough that fits in a full-size pizza box and is served with chipotle honey mustard, sweet cinnamon crème and beer cheese for dipping. Here’s the twist, though. It’s an estimated 3,080 calories, 82 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 6,550 milligrams of sodium and 500 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field – The big whopper on this menu is “The Fat Darrell,” a jumbo sandwich consisting of chicken fingers, French fries, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce. According to Paula Deen’s Fat Darrell recipe, there are 2,166 calories, 75 grams of fat, 27 grams of saturated fat, 3,500 milligrams of sodium and 220 grams of carbohydrates in this baby.
  • Atlanta Braves at Turner Field – “The Dixie Dog,” a half-pound frankfurter that’s flash-fried and topped with pulled pork barbecue, low-country mustard barbecue sauce, pickles and creamy southern slaw, has about 1,277 calories, 98 grams of fat and 2,280 milligrams of sodium.

But nosh with caution. These eats may take you out AT the ballpark!

Bridgeport Woman Wins Super Bowl Recipe Contest

Just in time for tonight’s Super Bowl, a Bridgeport woman has beat out hundreds of entrants in the “Sporty Snack Showdown” at justapinch.com, a recipe and social network for home cooks. And she didn’t just win bragging rights, but also a $4,000 home entertainment system.

Jeanette Nelson won for her Island Teriyaki Tiki Chicken Bites, little rolls stuffed with Asian-flavored chicken, green onions, red peppers and carrots flavored with pineapple preserves, garlic, sesame oil, hot chili sauce and more.

“Who can resist this fabulous appetizer? I know I can’t — especially when you dip them into a sweet and sour sauce,” Jeanette says. “I guarantee if you put these in front of a crowd they will be gone in seconds!”

Nelson is a proud mom of three girls (ages 3, 7 and 11) and says Asian food is a hit in her family.

“This delicious appetizer recipe captures those flavors you find at your favorite Chinese restaurant.”

You can find the winning recipe, along with photos and notes about the dish, here.

 

 

These Easter Goodies Better Than Good

There’s a place to get really fantastic West Virginia-made chocolates right here in town – let’s hear it for Holl’s! – but it’s always nice to try out foods from other places.

One of the perks of being a hope-to-someday-be-famous food writer is that companies often send you their products in the hopes that you’ll sample, savor and spread the word about them.

That’s exactly what happened with renowned Pittsburgh chocolatier Edward Marc, who sent me a case of their Easter goodies to nosh on. We broke into them today and were really impressed with everything we tasted.

Featuring top-quality ingredients from across the globe, the Vanilla Salt Caramels, filled chocolate eggs (loved the mocha, peanut butter and nut meltaway) and dark chocolate bunnies were so fine. You can check them out, and order your own, at www.edwardmarc.com.

A few weeks ago, we also sunk our teeth into some fantastic gourmet cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake, with locations in New York and Washington, DC. Almost too pretty to eat (almost!) we enjoyed both vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, but especially the red velvet and carrot cake options. A mound decadently rich buttercream (in deceptively light pastel colors) topped each one.

Delish. You can browse or buy at www.georgetowncupcake.com.

Which Girl Scout Cookie is America’s Favorite?

I recently placed my annual Girl Scout cookie order, a day I look FAR too forward to each year.

And while I was sitting there debating so many good choices — Oh, the agony! — it got me thinking. Which Girl Scout cookie really is the most popular?

Turns out it’s not even close.

According to a new Good Morning America/SodaHead.com poll, Thin Mints ran away from the competition with 49% of the vote. My personal favorites, Samoas and Tagalongs, came in second and third — at 28% and 11%, respectively — followed by Do-Si-Dos and Trefoils, both at 6%.

So what’s yours? And, more importantly, just how many boxes did you order??

New Krispy Kreme App: So Good, But So Very Bad

For those of you who tuned in to my live chat on healthy eating yesterday, please skip this post. (Hey, we ALL have our weaknesses!)

Finally, a food app really worth downloading!! 

If you’ve ever stalked your local Krispy Kreme waiting for that drool-inducing red “Hot Light” to shine, the chain just launched a free “Hot Light” app and desktop widget to help guide you to its signature warm doughnuts right as they come out of the kitchen.

The new tool includes …

  • Mobile Locator: Using your smartphone, you can enter a zip code to locate the closest Krispy Kreme location.
  • Website Locator: From your computer, the website locator will help you locate any Krispy Kreme shop in the U.S. – and will identify locations with “Hot Lights” on in your search area.
  • iPhone/Android Mobile App: Allows you to register to receive alerts when the Hot Light is on in your area. You can also get directions to your nearest Krispy Kreme and share Hot Light alerts with friends and family.
  • Tweet Your Zip Code: Tweet #HotNow and your zipcode and they’ll tweet you your nearest Krispy Kreme location.
  • Desktop Widget: When downloaded, a Hot Light icon on your desktop taskbar will alert you when the Hot Light is activated at your nearest shop. (GET OUT!) The desktop widget also allows you to print directions, search for other locations, and share Hot Light info on Facebook and Twitter.

You can get the app/widget and learn more at www.krispykreme.com/hotlightapp.

Shrimp + Bacon + Spinach + Cheese = OMG!

We’ll soon be saying goodbye to a family who lives on our street as they pack their bags and head elsewhere to face new opportunities.

This is bad for two reasons. One, they’re good neighbors. More importantly, they occasionally feed me.

As sad as I am to see them go, I’m thankful that I at least got one recipe out of them before parting ways. They once served this to-die-for shrimp appetizer at a neighborhood gathering and now it will provide even sweeter memories each time I make it.

Like me, Carla doesn’t follow precise recipes, but her dish goes something like this …

  1. Get a bunch of shrimp and set aside. Preheat your oven while chopping up some fresh spinach into some feta cheese.
  2. Lay a piece of shrimp on a slice of uncooked bacon with a pinch of the feta-spinach mixture and wrap the shrimp in the bacon.
  3. Bake on a cookie sheet with sides just long enough for the bacon to crisp up. Enjoy.

Don’t worry about exact measurements, precise oven temperatures and the like. This “recipe” is pretty forgiving — and delicious.