08.02.11

California Trip – other food destinations

Posted in Foodie Friday, Main, Weekend Adventure at 12:56 pm by carrie

We didn’t just chase food trucks all day long (although, it was fun!), we also visited (more than) a few places around town…

First off, not in town but it needs to be mentioned, we had our first Mexican food experience in a long time at a place in Albuquerque New Mexico called El Charritos.

We each had a twin helping of enchiladas:



And sopaipillas came with every meal. They brought us these things with a squeeze bottle full of honey. I’ve never had one. Now I know what I was missing. Fried dough? Yes, please. (seriously… that should have been the meal).



They had a little patio, so we could bring Meg. You can tell she was as excited about the experience as we were!



Truly.

Our Mexican food experience continued when our friend introduced us to Norma’s Tacos in Pasadena.

It’s a cute little taco stand made from a converted gas station.



The tacos were good and super fresh, made with fresh handmade tortillas, the sauces were excellent and it was a gorgeous day out. Although, they put guacamole on everything, and I mean everything. So if you aren’t a fan, as I am not, you may want to be very specific about that. (I know, I know… from California and I don’t bow to the glorious avocado… it’s a curse I suppose).

One place we ended up at late at night a few times… The House of Pies in Los Feliz.


The House of Pies has been on the Food Network and has an interesting Hollywood-flavored history. Rumor has it, Quentin Tarantino worked on “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” here as did Charlie Kaufman with “Being John Malkovich.” If they wrote at night, I’m not sure how… the lighting in this joint is pretty bad for writing. They don’t seem like guys who write in the bright light of day… but that’s just an observation. Perhaps the pie made up for the horrible lighting.

Behold… the pie.



This is the peanut butter cream pie, which was amazing. I’m a big peanut butter fan. The crust was perfect and the filling to whipped cream ratio was really good. (Although, we later were introduced to the banana cream pie, and I never looked back at the peanut butter again. But I’m guessing, any of their cream pies are superb.)

Another place we frequented was a place on Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta called Everest. It’s a drive-thru fast food joint. They have great chicken sandwiches (The Mediterranean Chicken is excellent), salads and breakfast burritos. Great prices, open late and the food was consistently good.



They also have a dog-friendly patio! (Yes, that’s Barkley in a stroller. A dog stroller. I’ll revisit this again, later.)



The other cool thing about Everest… it was transformed into “Deb’s Restaurant” in the HBO series Big Love. It’s where Sarah and Heather worked. So, we were eating at a location from one of our favorite shows, which was fun to talk about. I wish I would have snapped a picture of it when they were filming here years ago… I had no idea at the time! They also filmed at a few other locations in the area including Chili John’s in Burbank and Wild Thyme in Pasadena.

While visiting downtown LA to see a sort of variety show hosted by the delightful Charles Phoenix (Which I shall talk about in another post!), we grabbed dinner at a place called Starry Kitchen.



There were some bold choices on the menu that day like, the Chinese Hoisin Hamburger, crunchy tofu balls, basil friend rice and assorted pork Banh Mi and lemongrass chicken wrap and sandwich options. Since they were slammed that day, they were crossing off menu items left and right, leaving us with little to choose from. When my Mom got to the front of the line, she ordered something… I can’t remember what… and the owner yelled “That’s the most f***ing-est boring thing on the menu!!!”. He was cute about it… but… I think it took us all by surprise. So, because of his outburst, she ordered something else, they ran out of it and she went with her “boring” choice anyway. My “boring” choice was the lemongrass chicken wrap and basil fried rice. The wrap tasted pretty good, but a bit messy and drippy (hard to eat while sitting on a bench), so I couldn’t finish it because I was starting to wear it. I love the lemongrass flavor. A burst of citrus with earthy undertones… very fresh and summery. The basil rice was really good, too. If you are ever near Starry Kitchen… I recommend a visit.

A close up of that sign in the room… referring to their crunchy tofu balls.




And this sign was sort of awesome… and notice their lack of beverages and placement of empty cup on the floor. Definitely was a busy day for them.

So, I’ll leave you with Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena. We found this place on a food truck gathering night, and I ended up going back to pick up a pound of coffee.



Great atmosphere… including live music the night we were there.



And the coffee is roasted on the premises. Their coffee has a rich, caramel flavor. So, it’s almost sweet without any sugar. Makes for an amazing drip experience at home, or get a latte there… you will not be disappointed!

We visited dozens of other eateries… but the ones above had the most character :)

So, I still have at least 3 more California/trip posts…

awesome LA events we visited, friends’ shops we visited, Meg’s favorite spots and the actual 5,000 miles on the road!

After that, it’s back to art-centric posts. And Halloween is coming!! yay :)

07.30.11

California Trip- Obsession with Food Trucks

Posted in Foodie Friday, Main, outings, Weekend Adventure at 9:57 pm by carrie

I’m familiar with the food truck concept. We called them ‘roach coaches’ in high school. It was never gourmet… in fact, I remember vividly the very last purchase I made with a roach coach back in 2008. It was because there was mold all over my salsa. Period. End of food truck sentence. Gross.

Then we watched this fascinating show on the Food Network. The Great Food Truck Race. Featuring gourmet food served out of brightly colored boxy trucks. I’m listening…

There were several trucks to start and week by week, they eliminated the truck that didn’t make the most money or who couldn’t perform a specific culinary task. The last two trucks to compete both came from Los Angeles. The Nom Nom truck and the Grill ’em All truck. Pretty cool. The show was a mix of business plan, awesome food idea/theme/branding, good marketing, being at the right place at the right time and great food.

I thought we may accidentally come across a truck while in LA… but I wasn’t going to hunt them down. I mean, come on… who does that?

Then, one Sunday, after dropping off DH at a 3 hour class in Hollywood, I made an illegal U-turn when I saw the Grill ’em All truck parked on Melrose Avenue.

I had Meg and my Mom’s dog Barkley with me. This made getting out of the car, getting a burger and trying to eat this burger on Melrose Avenue a bit difficult. There were dogs and leashes everywhere. Those gathering for a burger gave the pups lots of love and attention, though, so I was able to enjoy my “Hannah Montana” burger, the plainest one on the menu (and I got a bit of a side eye and mocking tone when I ordered it), while leaning up against a wall, flamingo style.


After consuming my incredi-burger. I was now hooked and willing to chase these things. I had caught the food truck bug, sans roach sentiment.

To make my treasure hunt easier, there’s a food truck app called TruxMap. So you know when and where to get your next truck fix.



Our first true food truck adventure started with a food truck party on Tuesday nights at Figueroa Produce in Highland park.



The parking lot at Fig Produce was hopping with brightly colored food trucks and tons of people, kids and dogs. Fellow foodies were sitting on parking blocks, curbs, leaning against cars and standing… all eating small portions of food on sticks, in little paper bowls and tiny plates. Everyone was smiling, too. Some of the trucks had large flat panel TV’s blaring salsa music or showing a basketball game. It was like a mini food Las Vegas… in a parking lot.

That night, DH and I each had another Grill ’em All burger, shared a smoothie and two bottles of water. Almost $40. We missed getting a waffle a la mode from Waffles De Liege, but a fellow foodie in line for a burger offered me a bite of his. After a few moments of hesitation, and wondering why this lovely person would part with some of his treasure, I ate a chunk of waffle off of a stranger’s plate. Why I just admitted that, I am not sure. Maybe it was because it was the best waffle I’ve ever had. EVER. Perfect texture with a sugary crunch layer, smothered in chocolate, nutella and perfectly ripe sliced strawberries. Angels sang. Well… maybe they hummed a little, but there was music from the heavens in any case. (Little did I know, I would enjoy my very own waffle two weeks later in Pasadena, see below.) But at that moment, Jose the waffle bearer was my new best friend. Jose is a carpenter on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, too. His generosity will not be forgotten.

After this magical experience, I dragged my Mom to a food truck gathering at Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena.



Mom and I shared some Asian/Mexican fusion tacos and our very own Waffles De Liege waffle. Behold… the waffle:



The perfect waffle; a scoop of Fossleman’s vanilla ice cream, bananas, pecans, nutella and caramel. Yes. We did. And it was $11. Worth every cent. Although, we couldn’t finish the darn thing.

I think the most interesting truck was the Phydough truck. They sell only gourmet organic dog cookies. For dogs. Not human consumption. People walking up to the truck were mocking the concept, but I couldn’t resist. $12.00 later, I walked away with 8 dog cookies. Two of each… peanut butter & bacon, duck fat, apple oatmeal and pumpkin . The truck was lined with AstroTurf, they had a doggie mascot inside, I paid using a snazzy new ipad credit card thingy and the owner was delightful. What’s not to love? ;)



Our third trip to a food truck gathering was at the Chef’s Center on San Gabriel Blvd in Pasadena.



On this visit, we tried the lemongrass chicken tacos from the Nom Nom truck, our friends had the banh mi sandwiches and then we got in the monstrous line for the Cool Haus truck, the much talked-about ice cream sandwich experience.


See where the truck is? I took the picture after being in line 5 minutes. Yes. That was my place in line… that long winding line.

As if the ice cream gods were laughing at us, as we inched our way to the front of the line, the popular flavors of ice cream were being crossed off the menu. Each time the super tall guy (watching him bend down 2 or 3 feet to get to the ordering window was a hoot) serving up the goods took a pause to remove a flavor, the line got silent, and many audible “NOoooo!”‘s could be heard all around us as a flavor departed into ice cream heaven.

I had my first, second and third choices picked, fingers crossed. But when I got to be the 2nd person in line, my 3rd choice was the only one available, and the lady in line in front of me got the last bit of it. So, seconds away from my turn, and 25ish minutes after I got in that line, I pouted out of line like a four year old not getting her pick of carousel pony.

I wasn’t interested in the beer and pretzel, mascarpone & fig, pineapple mint sorbet or earl gray sorbet flavors. I may have tried the earl gray sorbet on its own (given a different day and attitude), but I was on a mission to try the complete ice cream sandwich package that they’d been bragging about. I made the mistake of angrily shouting “sorbet has no place in an ice cream sandwich!” I wasn’t going to bend, even though I was now branded the ice cream line jerk. So, Cool Haus… you get a big wag of the finger on this one. Uncool. (But of course I’ll try again some other time).

We had other random food truck encounters…


NaanStop in West LA… best Chicken Tikka!

Just up the street in La Crescenta… NomNom for the 3rd time

And our last encounter was tracking down the Grill ’em All truck one last time, and introduced my Mom to their burgers… She had the Blue Cheer…


Nathan had the Behemoth… which has grilled cheese sandwiches for BUNS….


But I stuck with my simple Hannah Montana… ketchup only… burger… again.


We listened to the planes take off from the nearby Burbank Airport and sat on the curb, surrounded by a dozen Yahoo badge-wearing employees standing and sitting under trees on the corner of a semi-busy street. Everyone was discussing their burger choices. It was a happy burger gathering.

I could totally get used to this. Is Yahoo hiring?

03.11.11

Foodie Friday – Cupcake Field Trip!

Posted in Foodie Friday, Main at 11:00 am by carrie

We recently went out to explore the cupcake possibilities in the area and we found The Cupcake Shoppe in Raleigh, and Gigi’s Cupcakes in Raleigh.

Both were good, in their own way, but I’m still on the bandwagon that Sprinkles in LA is the one to beat (Yes, believe the hype).

Our first stop was The Cupcake Shoppe:


We got four cupcakes:
Black and White – Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
Pretty In Pink – Fresh Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream
Peanut Butter Cup – Moist Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Buttercream
Banana Cream Pie – Banana Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing rolled in crushed up vanilla wafers

Then, while driving around, we stumbled upon a second cupcake shop, Gigi’s. My husband was the one who spotted it, actually ;)


We got four cupcakes here, too:
Raspberry Champagne – Champagne-vanilla cake with Raspberry champagne icing
Wedding Cake – White cake topped with a vanilla buttercream frosting & sprinkled with white nonpareils
Scarlett’s Velvet – Red velvet cake with a vanilla filling topped with cream cheese frosting, a white chocolate heart and red sugar crystals
White Midnight Magic – Dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate chips, topped with a white cream cheese frosting & chocolate chips

We drove straight home to conduct the cupcake review:

Raleigh Cupcake Shoppe:

Texture & Appearance: We found that overall, the cupcakes from the Raleigh Cupcake Shoppe were really dry. The cake was dry and the icing had that “crust” on it that let you know it had been exposed to air for too long. The banana cake, which is hard to do I realize, was exceptionally dry and more like a muffin. The one exception was the chocolate cake in the black and white. It was moist and tasted fresher than the others. They looked simple and elegant… nothing too big or dramatic about them. I was hoping the flavor would blow me out of the water to make up for that.

Taste: The cupcakes tasted pretty good, but a tad bland. The chocolate cake was excellent, the icing on this cake was not too sweet and you could tell there was real butter in there. I thought that overall, these had a light taste, nothing overwhelming or overpowering… but not too exciting, either. You could taste the flour, the understated use of sugar (not too sweet, which was a plus)… it tasted fresh-ish (minus the banana cupcake for sure), although you could tell these cupcakes had been exposed to too much air, making them drier than they should have been. I wonder if I got a fresh one if I’d be raving? :) If I get a fresh batch, I’ll re-do my grading ;)

Atmosphere: It’s a cute little shop that looks like it used to be an older building. You can peek around to the back and see their baking area. Parking is a nightmare, so maybe you want to drive with someone who can keep the car running, or get ready to walk.

In a nutshell: Taste homemade, with good ingredients… but not a lot of punch or pizazz. Cake is dry, icing is a little blah… but it still tasted pretty “natural” and “simple”. If I could get a batch of fresh ones, I feel like I could really give them a proper rating.

Overall grade: C+

Gigi’s Cupcakes:

Texture & Appearance: The texture on these were perfect. Soft, creamy icing, moist fresh and soft cake. The cupcakes were much larger than the cupcake shoppe. I loved the various toppings on the icing, too. Coarse sugar (gave a fun crunch), chocolate chips, little white sprinkles and the white-chocolate heart. All fabulous. These just looked impressive and creative when you walked in the door, like being in the Wonka Factory… it’s cupcakes you’ve seen in other places, but on steroids.

Taste: SWEET! 2 of the 4 of these cupcakes were overly sweet. Be prepared. The icing was gorgeous, and if you are an icing fan you might be thrilled because there’s more icing than cake, but the icing mostly tasted like whipped Betty Crocker tub frosting, minus that tub frosting after-taste :( (I’m so sad to say that). It just didn’t taste “home made” or light and buttery. It was more crisco-like, but really whipped. The raspberry icing on the raspberry/champagne was the least like tub icing, although this one is not a regular menu item (and alas, it was my favorite). The cake tasted like box mix cake, but with a kick… like they added a few ingredients or sifted it nicely because the cake was perfect, texture-wise. The red velvet cake was even moister because of a gooey pudding blob in the middle… not bad, but… it wasn’t adding anything to the flavor other than keeping that hard-to-keep-moist red velvet cake… moist. So… gosh… these are BETTER than grocery store cupcakes, taste just like “homemade” box/tub cupcakes, but they tasted just a bit better than the box/tub. But sweeter. And SO much prettier and you will impress your guests (as they scrape 80% of the icing off to the side of their plates).

Atmosphere: Strip mall. Lots of sun (blinding in the afternoons). Very simple cases and some logo retail items. The cupcakes are gorgeous and are the stars of the show. It’s a franchise, they are well-organized with lots of fun colors, fliers and menus. Easy and ample parking.

In a nutshell: Gorgeous to look at, lots of great creative names and flavors, well thought out as a business, but dang it… these cupcakes have the sweetest icing I’ve ever encountered. Perfect texture, but the flavor is a bit over-the-top and unnatural. I still would be happy to serve them (with a warning) to my guests, though… especially because they would look great in pictures.

Overall grade: B

Other cupcake places I’ve tried… Sugarland (which I gave an A-) , Sprinkles (which I give an A+, although it’s not indicated on my blog post, but you can see pictures!), Yummy Cupcakes (I didn’t blog about it, but they were pretty awful… SO dry, maybe I went too late in the middle of the week? C-) .

Again, Sprinkles is by far, the best… fresh, pretty and taste great! :)

Wouldn’t it be fun to travel the world and rate cupcakes? ;)

We’re going to NYC in May… might have to check out a few places and report back!

01.13.11

Fiesta con mucho mucho comida…

Posted in Foodie Friday, Main at 6:12 pm by wordpress

Last weekend was Nathan’s birthday… We had quite the feast (with a Latin flair).



The spread…


Churrasco with chimichurri sauce


Roasted garlic mashed potatoes, corn cake & bread (The carb experience)
The tiny salad bar is over yonder, but that is not what this evening was about


Really good restaurant chips, their salsa, my salsa, sour cream, chimichurri sauce & some guacamole


Meg’s nose investigating


Simple table decor


I call this a “masculine” flower arrangement… a cabbage & some greens (Thank you, Trader Joe’s)


There was talk of recipe sharing, so here are a few…

****************************************

The Chimichurri sauce was pretty amazing, you can find the recipe here, but I’ll copy and paste it, too, just in case :) (I never ever want to lose it!)

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2005
Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (1 3/4 to 2-pound) skirt steak

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the olive oil, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, parsley, basil, oregano, garlic and shallots. Pulse until well blended but do not puree. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the crushed red pepper. Remove 1 cup of the chimichurri sauce from the processor and transfer to a non-reactive bowl, cover with plastic wrap and reserve at room temperature for up to 6 hours. (If cooking steak another day, refrigerate sauce and return to room temperature before serving.)

Season the steak with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt on each side, as well as 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper per side and place in a large, resealable plastic bag. Add the remaining chimichurri sauce from the processor. Seal bag and refrigerate the steak for at least 2 and up to 4 hours.

Preheat a grill to medium heat.

Once the steak has finished marinating, remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Brush the excess chimichurri sauce off the steak and set the steak over the hot grill. Cook for 6 minutes on the first side. Rotate the steak 45 degrees, and cook another 6 minutes. Turn the steak over and continue to cook until the steak is done, about 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare. Once cooked, lay the steak on a clean cutting board, and allow it to rest for 5 to 7 minutes before slicing across the grain into 2-inch wide strips. Serve with crusty bread and the reserved chimichurri sauce.

Coming from California, the thought of grilling on any January night isn’t a big deal (elitist weather snobs!). But when we ventured outdoors into the windy, below 20 degree North Carolina night to fire up the grill, it was a wee bit comical. You’d think standing in front of FIRE in a Disneyland hooded sweatshirt would be enough to warm you up. That would be a negative. So, the birthday boy was wonderful enough to stand out there and help me grill these steaks as we shivered together and felt sorry for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, it was the best steak we’d ever made, but… sacrifices were made. Even Meg, who would never ever give up a chance to be near sizzling meat, ran inside when we opened up the sliding glass door and opted to chew on a squeaky cow-shaped toy instead. I could tell she was making fun of us. I would have, too.

Oh, and I used the leftover sauce to marinate and cook some chicken a few nights later… it was SO good. Best sauce ever.

****************************************

The potatoes… SO easy to make. Basically it’s a bag of small golden potatoes. Scrub them well, cut them into halves or quarters with their skins on. Boil until tender. I put them in a Kitchenaid bowl mixer with a stick of butter, roasted garlic, a rectangle of cream cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

****************************************

The corn cake… something we expect on a plate while dining at El Torito in Pasadena… the corn cake is a favorite of ours. Here is the recipe:

* Exported from MasterCook *

El Torito Sweet Corn Cake

  • Recipe By : El Torito Restaurant, California
    Serving Size : 12 Preparation Time :0:30

    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 2 tablespoons shortening
    • 1/2 cup masa harina
    • 3 tablespoons cold water
    • 10 ounces corn kernels
    • 3 tablespoons cornmeal
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • —–
    Place butter and shortening in mixer bowl and whip until soft; continue
    whipping until fluffy and creamy. Add masa gradually while mixing; add water
    gradually and mix thoroughly.

    Place corn kernels in blender or food processor fitted with metal blade;
    coarsely chop. Stir into the masa harina. Place (regular) cornmeal, sugar,
    whipping cream, baking powder and salt in large mixing bowl; mix quickly.
    Add masa mixture and mix lightly, just until blended. Pour into greased
    8-inch-square baking pan. Cover with foil.

    Method 1: Bake in 350-degree oven 40 to 50 minutes or until corn cake has a
    firm texture.

    Method 2: Place pan in a larger pan and pour boiling water half way up corn
    cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees 40 to 50 minutes, checking water level and
    adding more boiling water, if necessary. When cooked through, remove corn
    cake pan from water.

    Let cooked cake stand at room temperature for few minutes before cutting
    into squares or using a small ice cream scoop to serve.

    Makes 10 to 12 small servings. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

    Cook and Tell recipe swap column, Riverside Press
    Enterprise 3 Oct 96.
    Pat
    H. McRecipe.

    ****************************************

    Last, yet never least, was dessert. I made croissant bread pudding. I don’t have a picture of it. It’s like bigfoot, not around long enough to get a non-blurry picture of it. But I can give you the recipe, which I modified a bit. (Raisins have no place in bread pudding… in my opinion).

    Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

    Ingredients

    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 5 large eggs
    • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream or during the later months, eggnog (I know, I know)
    • 10 – 14 croissants
    • 1 small bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    In a kitchenaid bowl mixer, cream the butter and sugar until well blended. Add cinnamon, and vanilla.

    While the mixer is running crack 5 eggs into the mixture. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides. Add the heavy cream.

    Lightly butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish (I use two deep smaller 9″ round casserole dishes). Chop up the croissants into 1-inch pieces and layer in the pan and mix in handfuls of the chocolate chips in when you do this. Pour the egg mixture over the croissants; soak for 8 to 10 minutes. You will need to push croissants pieces down during this time to ensure even coverage by egg mixture.

    Cover with foil and bake for 35minutes (you may want to use that cool non-stick foil). Remove foil and bake for additional 10 minutes to brown the top. The croissant bread pudding is done when the custard is set, but still soft. Allow to cool and serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

    Of course I only got a few pictures before the guests arrived and not after. Oh well. It’s pretty astonishing that we got all the food ready and set up BEFORE anyone arrived. Normally people show up to some raw chicken, hot beer and lots of time to kill ;)

    Happy Birthday Queso ;)

    10.29.10

    Foodie Friday – Berry Salad with Candied Pecans

    Posted in Foodie Friday, Main at 6:38 pm by carrie

    It’s the Summer to Fall transitional salad (since it’s still been so warm lately!) ;) I’m making enough for 4 people here…

    What you’ll need:

    • Sugar
    • Pecan Halves
    • Strawberries
    • Blueberries
    • Raspberry vinaigrette (or any vinaigrette… really)
    • Baby romaine lettuce or spring mix – two small boxes or one big box (Earthbound Farm, etc)
    • Gorgonzola cheese – one small tub
    • Ground black pepper (optional)

    We’ll make the candied pecans first. Now… these things get HOT… anything where sugar is melting is HOT and a tad dangerous, so please be careful!

    Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil first, and have it ready.

    I’ve seen pecan to sugar ratios anywhere from 8:1 to 1:1. I sort of did 4 cups pecans to 2 cup sugar… how sweet you want it is up to you. Some people add butter, olive oil and even a smidge of balsamic vinegar… but I kept it simple. Put your pecans and sugar in a deep-ish non-stick skillet and get a wooden spoon ready to go. Fire it up to low-medium heat and stir constantly!!


    Keep everything moving… the sugar should start melting and turn into drops of brown goo… like so:


    Keep it moving! Get all the pecans coated and all the granulated sugar should disappear:


    Then, spread them on that cookie sheet to cool for about 30 minutes:


    So really… the rest is just prep, cutting, cleaning and assembling because there isn’t any more actual cooking involved! Hooray!

    Clean your berries… and cut up your strawberries:


    Get a big bowl and put your salad leaves into it. Get your raspberry vinaigrette ready and dump about… oh, 1/4 – 1/2 cup or so (more or less depending on your taste) over all the lettuce and toss carefully using tongs. I used two different kinds of raspberry vinaigrette… one from Trader Joe’s and one from our local grocery store, Harris Teeter. I found that the TJ’s had a slighter sweet taste and the HT’s was more tart… it was a good mix!


    To assemble… I used the tongs to get a heaping helping of dressed lettuce onto the plate. I then placed the strawberry slices and blueberries all around the outside of the lettuce. I then put the candied pecans on top in the middle… you may need to break them up a bit with your hands. After this, I placed a generous amount of Gorgonzola cheese on top. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, if desired.


    This is a great salad and those pecans really make it super amazing! Make enough pecans to snack on later because they are addicting (and they are better than most trick-or-treat candy out there!) ;)

    I’ve seen other variations of this salad… making the pecans with brown sugar, making them spicy pecans, using walnuts instead. And you can use spinach instead of greens, add mango, apples or pears… some avocado, a different cheese etc etc. The internet is full of different recipes, check it out :)

    Have a fabulous weekend!!!!

    10.23.10

    FF – Pumpkin Skillet Cornbread

    Posted in Foodie Friday, Main at 6:04 pm by carrie

    The Pit in Raleigh is famous for their BBQ and ribs (And their ribs even won on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network) … but on this trip, I was blown away by their pumpkin skillet cornbread with maple butter.


    The cornbread was moist and held together more like a muffin or cake…it wasn’t dry and crumbly like most cornbread I’ve had. It also had a lot of spice and the maple butter was just a tad sweet. I’m not now a quest for the perfect recipe.

    I found one recipe over at Diana’s Desserts:

    Spiced Pumpkin Cornbread

    Servings: 16

    Comments:
    A nice change from regular dinner rolls that are usually served at Thanksgivng. This sweet and spicey cornbread will go so well with your traditional turkey dinner and your guests will love it.

    Ingredients:
    1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup cornmeal
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
    1/4 tsp. ground allspice
    2 eggs
    1 cup canned pumpkin
    1/2 cup milk
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    3 tablespoons molasses
    1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

    Instructions:
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan or a 8 or 9-inch square or round oven safe cast iron skillet. Sprinkle bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon cornmeal; set aside.

    In a medium-size bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; set aside. In a medium-size bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in pumpkin, milk, oil, brown sugar, molasses, and orange zest. Add to flour mixture, stirring only until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand in pan 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into squares and serve with lots of butter and honey.

    Makes 16 (2-inch) squares.

    I’m going to try this… and add fresh ground ginger to mine and try to make that maple butter… I will report back! :) Oh, and I don’t own a cast iron skillet… now I’m going to have to hit all the thrift stores for the perfect one ;)

    10.15.10

    Foodie Friday – Sugarland!!

    Posted in Foodie Friday, Main, outings at 11:30 pm by carrie

    We’ve passed by Sugarland… I don’t know how many times… Then it was on the Food Network, revealing its secrets. That’s when I knew I had to stop in.

    First, I checked out their website. On the sidebar, a quote from Julia Child…

    “A party without cake is really just a meeting” – Julia Child

    I love them already.

    I went there on a crowded Monday at lunchtime. There were tons of people wandering around, students lugging heavy books, everyone on cell phones… parking was sparse… I was on a mission.

    First off… their window is super colorful, full of energy and inviting. There are periwinkle tables and chairs out front, a few sandwich boards with super fun events coming up… and to remind us where we have seen them ;)



    Then, just before you enter the shop… the most amazing mosaic I have ever seen!!!


    My next store will have an entry like this… ;)

    You are greeted with caramel apples and cupcakes…



    As you make your way in past the cupcakes, there is a whole gelato case that is screaming for attention.



    I had an affogato which had a few baby scoops of cappuccino gelato covered in two shots of espresso. It was just the right amount of sweet and bitter.


    They encourage you to try the different flavors. So, I also tried the Tar Heel Champ Puffo gelato. It tasted like a combination of vanilla and daiquiri ice from Baskin Robbins, which is a lime/rum/citrus flavor. It was really good… I think I’ll get a simple scoop of that next time :)



    I took home three cupcakes. Pumpkin chocolate chip, french vanilla and guiness chocolate.


    The cake was a tad dry on the pumpkin, but the icing is the best I’ve ever tasted! It was light and whipped but still tasted buttery and not too sweet! I feel like it’s the same recipe on Good Eats that Alton Brown showed us… whip in an egg white… I swear, that’s what this was :) And the guiness cake? Errr… it really really did taste like beer so I wasn’t in love with the taste, but it was a great concept. I think my fave was the vanilla (I’m SO not a vanilla girl). It was perfect! :)

    Cupcake Grade: A-

    I can’t wait to bring all of our out-of-town guests here! ;) (Who am I kidding?!? I’ll probably go next week)


    10.08.10

    Foodie Friday…

    Posted in Foodie Friday, Main at 2:55 pm by carrie

    I’m totally behind on cooking today (I was planning on sharing a recipe!)… so… I’m just going to post what we had for lunch instead…



    This is macaroni and cheese with Parmesan crusted chicken from Noodles and Company. We go here… 3-5 days a week :/ It’s sort of embarrassing how much we frequent the place. Their menu is simple and easy… lots of comfort food (lots of cheese)… which we enjoy :)

    Oh, and they have a fenced-in patio and the weather has been so awesome so we take Meg and she gets a noodle or two, along with lots of love from everyone there :)

    Maybe we’ll find a different favorite lunch joint? (nah)