Sunday, May 30, 2010

Random Picks: Chopped Cafe Salad (with recipe)

Salads are so refreshing, healthy, and versitile. They can be served hot or cold. There are hundreds of varieties of toppings: fresh or cooked vegetables, meat (cold cut, hamburger, bacon, beef, chicken, steak), fruit, fresh herbs, and the list is endless.

Salad is like an art. They can be served layered, the toppings can be placed in strips on top, or simply put in a bowl all mixed together. There really is no right or wrong way to make a salad.

I could eat a salad everyday. I enjoy tasting the fresh ingredients, and the satisfying crunch. One of my most recent creations of a salad is a bowl with a fresh, rinsed and dried, chopped head of romaine lettuce, a strip of feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, strips of bacon, bean sprouts, and a hard-boiled egg topped with my homemade bleu cheese dressing (recipe below). I call this salad my Chopped Cafe Salad. Happy chopping!

Blue Cheese Dressing
1/2 pound blue cheese (1 cup packed)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard

In a bowl, break blue cheese into 1/2 inch chunks.
Add buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream, red wine vinegar, and dry mustard; stir until blended.
If making up to 4 days ahead, cover and chill; stir before using.

NOTE: You can also use gorgonzola cheese instead of the blue cheese.
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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Recipe: Caramel Macchiato Coffee Shake

I love coffee! I enjoy my hot black drip coffee with cream and sugar every morning. If I go out for coffee I usually order an Americano (made with espresso and water). If I feel like treating myself I will order the caramel macchiato extra hot with whipped cream. Today I had a coupon for one pint of Starbucks ice cream and selected the Caramel Macchiato flavor. I got inspired and here is the recipe I came up with. This makes a creamy, smooth, refreshing drink with a coffee kick.

Caramel Macchiato Coffee Shake

3/4 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
1/4 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans
1/2 cup half and half
one pint Starbucks Caramel Macchiato ice cream

Place all ingredients in a blender.

Blend until smooth and espresso beans are in small pieces.

Makes 2 shakes.
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Random Picks: Meatballs (recipe included)

Lately I have been so hungry for meatballs and gravy, served with boiled potatoes. I have yet to master a meatball recipe or even find a delicious recipe I like- so tonight I went for the frozen meatballs. I am definately not one for many frozen foods, with a few exceptions. I like the satisfaction of chopping, the fresh taste, and enjoy taking the time to make something, instead of pulling out a plastic bag from the freezer and throwing it in the microwave for a few minutes.

One of my favorite grocery stores is Trader Joes. They have a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, cheeses, and so many unique kinds of food. They do have a frozen food isle. I have tried numerous kinds of their frozen foods, and dinners and they are actually quite good. I hadn't tried their meatballs yet and decided to give them a try.

My first thought when I put them in the shopping cart was to serve them with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, a vegetable, and green salad. Today I was shopping at Costco and all around the store they had the food sample tables set up. One of the samples was a big bottle of this Veri Veri Terriakyi Sauce and Marinade. They had served this sample with meat. It looked delicious! I couldn't resist the marinade and thought I would try it with the meatballs. After I returned home, I dumped a little bit over the meatballs and let it marinade for about an hour. For dinner, I served this recipe with diced boiled potatoes, and fresh corn kernals cut off the ear on the stove in butter with salt and pepper to taste.

Teriyaki Marinated Meatballs

1 (16 ounce) frozen package of Italian style meatballs

1 cup Veri Veri Teriyaki Sauce and Marinade

In a bowl, take meatballs and place teriyaki marinade on top; stir to blend.

Let sit for 1 hour.

In a heavy saucepan, put in meatballs and marinade.

On medium-high heat, bring sauce to a boil; stir occasionally.

Let cook for about 20 minutes or until meatballs are heated through.

Serve immediately.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Random Picks: Dessert Idea

For some reason, most of the ideas I think of come as I am lying in bed about ready to go to sleep. The other night I thought of this dessert idea and put my idea in action. It is rather quite simple and looks fun. I took tall stemmed champagne glasses. I made some vanilla pudding and set it aside in a separate bowl, then made some chocolate pudding in another bowl. I layered the vanilla and chocolate pudding and filled the glasses about 3/4 full. I added the rest with fresh whipped cream, and garnished with a strawberry. It is a very simple, quick, elegant looking dessert!

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Random Picks: Sushi

I just tried sushi for the first time. Phew, I did! Really...!! For those of you that know me very well, you know I can't stand to eat anything from the sea. I have never had the pallete for seafood. Tonight Scott wanted to go out to eat and as we were discussing where to go I got out the phone book for more ideas. I turned to a Japanese restaurant ad and he said he could go for some sushi. I gave him a scrunched up face and said, "Eww". I knew they would have other choices of food to order so off we went to Osaka Japanese Restaurant located in Olympia, WA. On the way he was convincing me that sushi really was good and he had the same reaction as I did at first. Just the thought of raw fish doesn't sound to appetizing. I ordered the Beef Yakisoba (picture below), Scott ordered the plate of Sake (Salmon) sushimi (picture to the right). When we got our food, Scott poured the soy sauce into the little dish they bring you, and added just a little wasabi to make the flavor mild for me. He gave me a large piece of ginger to cleanse my pallete and cut off a small piece of fish, dipped it in the sauce, and in my mouth it went. First reaction was: it was okay- melt in your mouth though, soft but chewy- definately not fishy. Atleast I was proud of myself for trying it and so was Scott! He also ordered some Spicy Salmon sushi rolls (Salmon, some diced veggies, seaweed wrap and white rice). That was actually my favorite. I couldn't even taste the raw fish in it at all and was very spicy, rolled in rice with vegetables inside. Yum!

The Beef Yakisoba (the red is pickled ginger)

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Random Picks: Southern Girl Sweet Tea (and Recipe)

I got introduced to sweet tea about a year ago when my boyfriend, Scott, and I were grocery shopping and he added a gallon of sweet tea to the shopping cart. After we got home, I took a sip and was instantly addicted.

Growing up, my mom would make an unsweetened black tea. I always added a bit of white sugar to my glass to make it a little sweeter and sometimes a slice of fresh lemon and mint leaves. As we know, when you add something like sugar to a cold glass of tea and stir almost all of it ends up at the bottom and doesn't dissolve. It may sweeten it a little, but by the time you get to the bottom of your drink the last gulp is nothing but a gritty mouth full of sugar.

I had remembered in one of my cookbooks there is a recipe for sweet tea. I modified this recipe a little but you can find the original recipe in the cookbook, "The Get 'Em Girls' Guide to the Power of Cuisine: Perfect Recipes for Spicing Up Your Love Life" by Shakara Bridgers, Heniece Isley, and Joan A Davis.

Southern Girl Sweet Tea

3 big tea bags of black tea
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups boiling water
1 cup white sugar
6 cups cold water

Combine tea bags and baking soda in a large glass container.

Add the hot water.

Let steep for 15 minutes.

Dispose of the tea bags-do not squeeze the tea out of them.

Pour tea mix into a 2-quart container.

Add the white sugar.

Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Add the cold water.

Put in refrigerator to cool.

Enjoy with ice, lemon slices, and fresh mint leaves.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recommended Restaurant: Norma's Burgers, Olympia, WA

When I first began this blog in March of 2009 I was so excited to go out and try new restaurants and coffee shops. I thought it would be fun to pick a new place to eat, and write a little review, from my perspective, on the quality of food I ordered, the service, and cleanliness of the restaurant. After many visits to this particular restaurant I am going to highly recommend this place to eat:

Norma's Burgers is located in Olympia, WA. They have two locations just a few miles apart from each other, both located off Martin Way. One of their locations is right off the I-5 in Nisqually. My family has eaten there numerous times in the past few months. Everytime we walk in we are seated immediately. The place is clean, the waitstaff is always ready to serve you and friendly, and the menus look new. I always find it disgusting when you go out to eat and are handed a sticky, food-smeared-on-plastic menu (really, who wouldn't find that disgusting!). Norma's Burgers menu is simple- salads, seafood, hamburgers, sandwiches, and shakes.

When we order our food it has always come out in a timely manner and is served to us hot! The food is always so fresh and satisfying. My favorite is the cheeseburger combo (with french fries and soda). I have had the chicken fingers, and also the double cheeseburger. I have never been disapointed with anything I have ordered. You can taste how fresh the meat is, soft the hamburger bun is, and crisp the raw vegetables are on the burger. My boyfriend often orders the General Patton burger (a juicy patty topped with double cheese, bacon, jalepenos, pineapple and mustard). He is always satisfied. I asked him for his opinion and he said, "They seem to take pride in their food. If I want to go out and get a high-quality, old-fashioned hamburger, Norma's Burgers is the place that comes to mind". The prices are very reasonable for the quality, and amount of food you are served.

They serve breakfast and dinner. There are always customers inside, and the place seems to stay busy- always a positive sign of a good restaurant.

If you want to try a new place to eat in Olympia, I highly recommend you stop and try Norma's Burgers. I would love to hear what you think of the place too.

You can visit their website and take a look at the menu online:
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Recipe: Chicken Milanese with Spring Greens

My kitchen helper pounding the chicken

Chicken ready to be cooked

3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
dash of sugar
2 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used Panko breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups packed spring mix salad greens
2 lemon wedges

Combine juice, vinegar, shallots, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and sugar; let stand 15 minutes.

Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallot or small heavy skillet.

Combine breadcrumbs and cheese in a shallow dish.

Place flour in a shallow dish.

Place egg white in a shallow dish.

Sprinkle chicken with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Dredge chicken in flour; dip in egg white.

Dredge in breadcrumb mixture.

Place chicken on a wire rack; let stand for 5 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add chicken; cook 3 minutes.

Turn chicken over; cook 2 minutes or until browned and done.

Add 2 tablespoons oil and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to shallot mixture; stir with a whisk.

Add greens; toss gently.

Place 1 chicken breast half and 1 cup salad on each of 2 plates.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Cooking Light, May 2010
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Friday, May 21, 2010

Random Picks: The Love for Cooking and Baking!

I love to cook! It's that simple. Having someone to cook for makes it even more enjoyable. I like to plan my meals out a week in advance- plan my menu on the weekends and go grocery shopping. When Monday comes, after a long day at work, I have all the ingredients already in the kitchen and can get dinner on the table in a short time.

Lately, I have been thinking about how I got so interested in cooking. I know I was young. I had a grandma that was an excellent baker and when she came to visit we would have a "baking day". During the holiday's, my mom would bake up a batch of sugar cookies for us to decorate and put a plate together for our friends and neighbors. At about the age of 10, one of my chores was to make dinner once a week. I remember often making my family tostadas. When a kid learns to cook you have to start somewhere, and that is where I began.

Growing up, my mom always cooked a solid, healthy meal and we would all sit down and eat together. The simply variety of food she prepared got me interested in how to cook. Soon I began getting cookbooks and looking at food magazines. By the time I moved out of the house I had boxes and boxes of cookbooks, almost too much kitchenware, and a huge passion for cooking.

I'm not much of a sweet eater, but baking is one of my most favorite things. I find it satisfying to mix a whole lot of ingredients in my KitchenAid mixer and watch it all blend together into a sweet-smelling, gooey mix. I remember as a little girl, the best thing when my mom baked was she let us lick the spatulas, mixer paddle, and swip the bowl of batter with our fingers after she was done.

Today, I have even a bigger love for food. With many years of experience behind me, I find myself so excited to get in the kitchen and cook. I am happiest when I am in the kitchen!

Bon Appetit!
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Recipe: Mocha-Chocolate Shortbread

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
2/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels, divided
vanilla or coffee ice cream (optional)

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; add butter and vanilla, and beat at low speed with an electric mixer until blended.

Stir in 1 cup chocolate morsels.

Press dough into an ungreased 9-inch square pan; prick dough with a fork.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Sprinkle remaining 1 cup morsels over top, and spread to cover.

Cut shortbread into 25 (about 1 3/4 inch) squares; cut each square into 2 triangles.

Let cool 30 minutes in pan before removing.

Serve with ice cream, if desired

Southern Living, July 2004
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