Sunday, March 11, 2007

Places I've Dined in the Last Couple Months and My Recent Kitchen Experiments

The first picture is of a yummy apple breakfast bake (cake) that was topped with apples and had small pieces of apples on the inside. I didn't leave it inside the oven for long enough so the middle was a little soft, but I kind of liked it that way. I used part whole wheat flour, part all purpose, and also put oats in it. It actually smelled and tasted very similar to the apple cinnamon nutrigrain bar...very tasty.
The second picture is of a recipe I modified from Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals on the Food Channel. It was Chicken Marsala (with three types of mushrooms-button, shitake, and portabello) with a savory tomato-y sauce (that was not like any tomato sauce I had ever had) made with butter, garlic, chicken stock, tomato paste, and wostershire. The pasta I used were shells, but I cooked them too early so they sat in the pasta pot until the rest was ready which resulted in them being a little too soft and stuck together. Also, I put a little too much pepper in the pasta. The marsala sauce and mushrooms, however, tasted amazing and I put shredded spinach on the top for garnish.
The third picture is of something I made this morning because I had some yummy pears I wanted to use in sort of a muffin/breakfast thing (but I'm not supposed to be making/eating desserts for lent). I modified a streusel apple muffin recipe from the food blog Bakingsheet, and I used pears chopped up instead of grated apples, and oats instead of walnuts. It is very good...relatively low in cals (205 per muffin). The flavor of the muffin part itself isn't significatnly sweet, but the streusel topping is, and a light pear taste is apparent when you bite into the soft chunks. I used a splenda blend of brown sugar (1/2 splenda, 1/2 brown sugar), and half whole wheat flour, half all purpose. The recipe was only supposed to make 8 muffins, but turned out 11 for me.
The next picture doesn't do the meal justice! I made a grilled veggie open faced foccacia sandwich. MMM! I used a sundried tomato and cheese foccacia mix (firenze blend from Ross) that was actually rather bland by itself, but paired with the veggies, spread, and cheese, it was just fine. I used provolone cheese melted on the foccacia and then spread with a homemade (by me) cumin mayo that was not too spicy but had enough of a kick to layer the flavors of the sandwich. I grilled eggplant, bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, and onion. It was supposed to have a top (which would have helped it stay together), but the veggies piled so high that I left it open-faced. I would definately repeat this recipe!
Flan...this was supposed to be a pumpkin flan, but upon looking at the frigerated pumpkin, it was moldy, so I just made the flan sans pumpkin. It was pretty good, the bottom (when in the oven, the top) was a little hard (more rubbery than hard-not supple like the rest of the custard), and I think in an attempt to melt all the sugar, I may have burnt the caramel a little resulting in it being not as sweet. Overall I think I will try another recipe next time.
The last pic is of Lemon Broccoli Chicken made with cream of broccoli soup and fresh lemon. The flavor was suprisingly VERY lemony....maybe a little too much so, and I think it overpowered the broccoli taste a little. Also in the picture is Risotto Primavera with chopped zucchini and peas. This was good, especially blended with the sauce from the chicken, but was a little bland on its own. I also wished it had been creamier like the other risottos I like.

Places I've Eaten at in the Last Couple of Months

Kaka'ako Kitchen
I love this place! The price for the quality can't be beat and the food is soo fresh and delicious! I don't remember what my fiance ordered, but I had the calamari spinach salad with sweet chili dressing. I never remembered whether or not I had liked calamari before this, but I loved it! I usually stay away from anything with the name "chili" in it, but the dressing was a harmonious blend of sweetness with a bite. It was the perfect size and filled me up without making me feel too full. MMM can't wait to go back!

Gordon Biersch
This place was alright...i wasn't really impressed. I had some cocktails which were hit and miss. My first one was a tropical cosmopolitan which was not too sweet and very delicious. It was made with Skky melon vodka, midori, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice. I could really taste the melon flavors at the end! YUM I also sipped (and liked it so much I drank 1/2 of it) my dad's pomegranate mojito which I expected to be really tart, but the rum balanced out the pomegranate flavor and it was very good. After not liking or drinking the sangria (could barely taste any fruit) or the rasberry martini (which almost had the taste of cough syrup) I found another drink I liked which was the Cran Bluberi Lemonade. This drink was so good, I had never had any blueberry flavored alcohol at all and this was a perfect blend of Stoli Bluberi Vodka, sour mix, and a splash of cranberry juice with just the hint of the blueberry flavor found in a blueberry muffin. The food wasn't really bragworthy either, I had a gorgonzola pear salad that had barely sweet and too crunchy slivers of pear, and this huge hunk of gorgonzola that was way too much so I had to crumble off bits myself. At least we were treated by my dad. We went on Mardi Gras and the music and crowds were pretty loud so I might not be inclined to go back.

TGI Fridays
I used to come here a lot when I was a kid with my parents, in fact this was where I learned to love baby back ribs, but more recently when I had been (about a year ago), I had ordered a new fave, the Jack Daniels flat iron steak. I'm usually not a big steak person but the barely spicy, sweet jack daniels sauce is amazing. But this time that I went, my fiance and I both got the appetizer, entree, dessert combos. First of all, just one appetizer/entree/dessert combo was enough to share for two, and we ended up taking much of it home, resulting in dinner that evening. We started with drinks (the ones in my profile picture)-GIANT servings of Mojito (my fiance's choice), and mango strawberry (I think) margarita. I asked for it on the rocks, not blended, but the waitress got it wrong so the bar floated extra tequila on the good!

For an appetizer I got the bean fries with cucumber wasabi ranch dip. These were so good, especially with the light hint of wasabi in the dip. They were addicting! We also got fried mac and cheese and potato skins. They were both pretty good, I like the idea of the fried mac and cheese, but they couldn't stand up to the bean fries.

For an entree I went back to my old favorite of the ribs, and my fiance got the pulled pork jack Daniels sandwich, that I tried but didn't really like; it was too spicy. Actually, mine was spicier than I remember it but the sweetness in the sauce offset it just enough that I finished them (with the help of my fiance) in finger licking-pleasure. By the way, I really like the salty spice blend they sprinkle on the french fries, and they go great dipped in the Jack Daniels sauce. I think these ribs are way better than the ribs from Chilis.

We had one dessert at the restaurant (sharing the chocolate angel swirl cake) and took the cinnabon cheesecake home. The angel swirl cake was very light and a good ending because we were so stuffed, but I was kind of disappointed because it only came with a couple strawberries instead of the big fruit medley they show in the picture on the website. I personally liked the cinnabon cheesecake better, that had the delicious taste of cinnabon and the sweet drizzle of the icing, but still had a cheesecake taste. Not that there's a problem with the Cheesecake Factory's desserts, but the one cheesecake I tried from there around Halloween time was really good (peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake...or something), but didn't taste at all like cheesecake. At least this Cinnabon cheesecake still tasted like it was supposed to.
Overall this meal overdid me on the fried-foods, making me feel slightly sick to the stomach, so I think we won't order so many fried foods/appetizers.


Pomai said...

The open faced Focaccia sandwich sounds like a winner! So you bought the Focaccia as a mix from Ross and baked the bread yourself? That must have made all the difference over something premade at a store. Provolone melted over that? Yum!

That Cinnabon Cheesecake also sounds tasty, as does the green bean fries from TGIF. Costco used to sell a Jack Daniels BBQ sauce sampler set that had several flavors. Good stuff for home made BBQ babyback ribs. Spicey, smokey and sweet.

Gotta' love Gordon Biersch's Garlic Fries.

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