International Food & Wine Fest

I’m going to be that annoying relative who shows you a bunch of photos from vacation you probably don’t care about, but at least it’s not a two-hour slideshow with crawling commentary and a clicker only I can control.

Last weekend, I attended Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. For anyone who’s been to the park, you know Epcot does an incredible job of recreating the look and feel of countries all over the world — from the United States to Greece, Japan to Morocco. During the festival, each stop serves up a beer and/or wine from each country and an assortment of local fare.

UPDATE: It appears I can’t get a slideshow plugin with this WordPress account, so my layout here is a mess. I don’t know how the photos will appear in your browser, but I’m sure you’ll be able to place the captions beneath the photos with the correct subject — like a fun little game!

Epcot “golf ball” with IF&WF decor; my first taste of international cuisine, I indulged in some spicy tuna maki from “Japan”; killing time outside the Fish & Chips station, I got distracted by the malt vinegar packets; potato pierogies and kielbasa from Poland were a fantastic main course; treated myself to a glass of Riesling from Canada to celebrate the “wine” portion of the festival; capped off the feasting with amaaazing chocolate crème brulée from “France.”

stuffed turkey burgers

Given my deadline schedule at work, I’ve become the holiday section of Target — three months ahead on the calendar and confused about the seasons. A Thanksgiving event came across my desk today, and I shuddered thinking about what a Tgiving dinner a la culinaryneophyte might look like: pathetic potatoes, canned gravy, semi-liquid corn, brick o’ stuffing and a beautiful, slow-roasted turkey – the mainstay of the meal – replaced by whatever I could grill on my Foreman. I may have mastered mac ‘n cheese, but I’m a long way from hosting any sort of party where people RSVP ‘yes’ based on the quality of food. Someday, though; someday…

But, hey, speaking of turkey you can cook on the Forman [I know you love my segues], let’s make some stuffed turkey burgers (adapted from Playing House).

While I’m typically a fan of turkey burgers, I acknowledge the fact that ground turkey on its own is as flavorful as a mouthful of packing peanuts. This dish is not only really easy, but it’s got a nice Italian spin. The roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese add moisture and tons of flavor.

I was pretty excited to make something with ‘stuffed’ in the name, because up until this point, the only thing I’ve been stuffing is my face. (I know you love my terrible jokes even more than my segues…)

♦1/2 lb. ground turkey breast
1/4 c. chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Divide turkey into two even balls, then divide each of those into two patties. Add red peppers and cheese to one patty, then top with other patty and work the turkey around the edges to seal shut. Repeat with other patties. Season with salt and black pepper. Grill on Foreman for approximately six minutes. Makes two burgers.

Total time? 15 minutes.
Wait for a sale on ground turkey; I got 1lb. for $1.99, and was able to freeze half for a recipe-in-waiting. The only other ingredients are needed in small quantities, which I had in my fridge; if you’re purchasing them for the first time, though, it’ll be $1.75 for a package of shredded cheese and about $5-6 for a jar of peppers.
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. You can’t tell from the photo, but I bought a too-big roll for my tiny burger, so that was disappointing. I think I gave the burger a complex. Improvements for next time? Make patties thinner and wider and use more cheese.

make a dang apple quesadilla

It’s been a few days since my last post, but fear not: I had another rantable (yeah, I made up that word — so?) kitchen experience last week in prepping for my friends’ potluck dinner, so I’ve got something good cooking in my drafts. In the meantime, I wanted to share a quick-and-easy recipe that helps usher in the fall — the best season of them all: apple-bacon quesadillas.

(By the way, I hate the way ‘quesadilla’ is spelled; there should be an ‘e’ where that first ‘a’ is. And now I’m about to write this word approximately 7,000 more times. Sigh.)

At Christmastime, my friends organize a Thieving Elves/White Elephant party, and I was fortunate enough to come away with the El Paso Quesadilla Maker this past year. When I first moved into my new place, we had a few taco nights where I whipped up some spicy chicken quesadillas, but since then, my little El Paso has been taking up real estate upon the barren shelf in our least-used cabinet.

When I saw Red Delicious apples on sale at the supermarket, I grabbed two and vowed to use them in some sort of savory-and-sweet dish — my favorite kind. The easiest way I could think of? Dust off the El Paso and fire up some nontraditional quesadillas.

This was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experiment (dangerous, I know), so I have no recipe or measurements, but it seriously couldn’t be easier:

♦apple (variety of your choosing)
♦cream cheese (non-fat works)
♦flour tortillas

Fry up some bacon. Chop up your apple into tiny cubes. Take two flour tortillas congruent to the size of your quesedilla maker, and spread a thin layer of cream cheese across one side of each. Top one cheesed side with bacon and apple, then add the other tortilla cheese-side down. Place on preheated quesadilla maker, and cook until golden brown.

apple-bacon quesadilla with honey

These tasted awesome and were incredibly easy — especially the cleanup. In true me-fashion, I drizzled honey across the inside before adding the second tortilla. (Seriously, I put that stuff in and on everything — tea, chicken fingers, grilled cheese…)

As far as quantities go, I was able to get two full quesadillas (12 slices) out of about six pieces of bacon and less than one apple. For a healthier take, I used low-fat cream cheese and turkey bacon.

Total time? 20-ish minutes (includes bacon frying).
Cost? Really cheap: $1.49 for tortillas, 45¢ for one apple, 99¢ for cream cheese.
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. The next time around, I’ll cut my apple cubes a little smaller so they’ll be a little more consistent throughout. I might also throw in some shredded chicken to make them more of a meal and less of a snack.

the corn soup catastrophe

Up until this week, I had a handful of consecutive, successful culinary adventures under my belt, so it was only a matter of time before I screwed up.

Enter corn soup, massacred from One Perfect Bite.

ready to be shucked!

With fresh summer corn on its way out — and me in desperate need of some easy, cheap food with leftover power — I opted to take on this liquescent collation. In hindsight, I should have stuck with corn on the cob and saved myself three hours and $3.

To give this a try yourself and/or follow along with the disaster I’m about to describe, check out the full recipe at One Perfect Bite.

I kind of enjoyed my first corn shucking, but that’s where the fun ended. I loaded the kernels, cobs and milk into a pot (despite being instructed to use a skillet or saucepan), and reached for the baggie of sea salt I gleaned specifically for this soup. Hmm. Looks like my roommate tossed it in the garbage earlier this week. After some whining, I used kosher salt and hoped for the best.

do not use any of the above to puree.

But certainly the absence of sea salt and a skillet didn’t devastate this dish’s future, right? Oh no, it wasn’t that; it was probably the fact that I didn’t own a blender and tried to use a hand mixer to puree the finished mixture. That’s funny, right? What’s funnier was my next ill-fated attempt to puree the mixture by pouring it 12 ounces at a time into my Magic Bullet. When that started leaking everywhere (and nearly electrocuted me), I poured the entire mixture back into my ill-advised pot, stormed out to my car, sped to Walmart, trounced anyone in my way, bought the cheapest blender they had and returned home — determined not to abandon this already-sad, pathetic corn soup.

Seeing as the mixture sat on the stove for a full hour before stuff hit the fan, my stomach was empty and my frustration was mounting. After several rounds in the blender, my impatience got the best of me and I abandoned the appliance.

In keeping with not keeping to the original recipe, I nixed the cilantro (because I hate it), and I don’t own any fancy “smoked” paprika, so generic had to do. At this point, I was delirious, so I just started throwing in all sorts of things — most notably cayenne pepper.

In the end, the flavor wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but the consistency was horrendous. Instead of a delightful soup, I got some spicy corn-flavored liquid and the daunting task of chewing chunks of corn kernel remains. The more daunting task, though, will be unloading the five servings of this stuff that’s currently sitting in my fridge.

the finished product. sigh.

Total time? Too long.
Cost? $1 for three ears of corn + six cups worth of milk.
Overall success relative to expectations? 0 out of 10. If I really have to explain this to you, you are probably incompetent enough to more miserably fail at this than I did.