Thursday, October 28, 2010

Slow-cooker North Carolina style Barbecue

My husband had a really depressing weekend last week. His Phillies, who were expected to easily make it to the World Series, fell to “The Freak,” the San Fran Giants’ Tim Lincecum. His Eagles and their ever-going quarterback controversies had a heart-attack inducing loss to Tennessee. He's collecting tied games in his fantasy league. What do you do with a husband with a playoff beard with no playoffs? I knew I had to do something to cheer him up. Isn’t the way to any man’s heart through food?

Personally, I love a different type of barbecue, but Frank’s favorite barbecue is North Carolina style: vinegar based. Any excuse to use my slow-cooker and have my house smell glorious for hours of the day is worth using, though.

1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Three chicken breasts

Stir all ingredients (minus chicken) together inside crock pot. When thoroughly mixed, add chicken breasts. Cook on low for eight hours. When it’s ready, using two forks, shred chicken (this is really, really easy). Serve alone or on a bun.

Honestly, this recipe didn’t impress me, but as I said, I’m not a huge vinegar based barbecue fan. Frank, on the other hand, absolutely loved it, eating ever last bit of the left-overs for lunch the next day. So maybe it was awesome, and I just didn’t appreciate it. If you’re a NC-style barbecue fan, I hope you like it!

Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Salsa Chicken Casserole

I’ve always had a go-to chicken burrito recipe that I serve on occasion, but when it comes to Mexican, my menu ended there. I have a bit of a weakness for good tortilla chips and salsa, an adoration for cheese, and find exquisite glory in a perfectly timed cold cervesa. More Mexican dishes in my repertoire seemed only logical, right?

Stick a slice of lime in your Corona and serve this casserole for dinner. You won’t be disappointed by its ease, simplicity, or flavor.

2 cups uncooked white rice
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Shredded Cheddar cheese
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
¼ onion
1 ½ cups salsa.
(I fully admit using a pre-made salsa is cheating – sweet, glorious, getting-dinner-on-the-table-with-ease cheating)

Cook the rice. Cube the chicken and sauté it until cooked through (I spiced mine with pepper). In a small bowl, combine salsa, cream of chicken soup, and chopped onion.

After everything above is finished, in a casserole dish layer cooked rice, chicken, salsa-soup mix, sprinkled layer of both cheeses, cooked rice, chicken, salsa-soup mix, sprinkled layer of both cheeses, etc…

Stick in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (or until the casserole is bubbly).

Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Restaurant Review: Pescados on China Street

There are a lot of restaurant options in the City of Richmond. My family and I were contemplating where we wanted to go for dinner on Saturday night. We couldn’t decide between restaurants we had never been to before such as Zeus Gallery Café or our favorite, tried and true restaurants such as Edo Squid’s. Then we thought of trying the new Pescados located on China Street. We’ve been to the Midlothian location many, many times, and it has never once let us down. So, we went with the new Pescados in Oregon Hill. It’s a quaint little restaurant located on the corner of China and Pine Street. Pescados is a little pricey, so you probably want to go if you have a little extra cash or for a special occasion.

We got there around 7 pm and by that time it was already bustling with patrons waiting to be seated. This is a very busy restaurant and for good reason. The food is seriously excellent. The server was very attentive and even made a joke or two.

To start out, we ordered 3 different appetizers; the Arepas, the Ceviche,and Conch Fritters. Wow. The presentation for each dish was beautiful. The pork in the arepas was very tender and packed plenty of flavor. The ceviche was delicious, however it could have used a little more salt. And, the conch fritters were fried heavenly goodness. It was just the right amount for 4 people.

For dinner, three of us ordered the Fish Tacos and I ordered the Plaintain Crusted Grouper. Wow. Are you sensing a theme here? The grouper was silky, smooth, and cooked to perfection. The zucchini was a tad on the tough side, but the black beans were delicious. I was told the Fish Tacos were absolutely delicious with some heat added to it.

Though we were stuffed beyond belief, we went ahead and ordered a Flourless Chocolate Torte for dessert.
Boy, was that rich with chocolate. Usually dessert is such a let-down at most restaurants, but if you love dark chocolate then you will love this dessert. Overall, it was such a satisfying meal. Pescados on China Street definitely did not disappoint with their new location. For the next special occasion, I can’t wait to go back.

Pros: Food, Service, Cheap Date Nights on Thursday and $10 Tacos on Tuesdays
Cons: Parking, Pricey, Potential for Long Waits

My rating: 5 sporks out of 5.
Location: 626 China Street Richmond VA 23220
Cuisine: Seafood, Meat
Pricing: $$$

Monday, October 25, 2010

Restaurant Review: The Boathouse at Rockett’s Landing

When someone talks about The Boathouse their first comment is inevitably about the great view. Well… we finally got around to trying this restaurant at 7pm in late October, so we didn’t really get much of the view as the sun had already gone down. But after trying the food and dealing with the slow service, I am guessing that there’s a reason why the view is the best part of dinner here.

(Clockwise from top left: spicy tuna roll, tuna tartare, lobster bisque, calamari)

The food wasn’t bad, per se. In fact, I very much enjoyed the tuna tartare (though the whole spoon thing makes it hard to eat in polite company). I heard that the calamari was also tasty. And the desserts were actually quite delicious. But the main course was a bit of a snore for me, and I know Steve was quite unhappy with his portion size. We went in expecting a great meal, and got just a fine meal. Similarly, the service. It wasn’t egregious. It was just a bit slow. Mostly in the beginning and end of the meal.

(Shrimp & grits, filet mignon topped with crab, grouper topped with crab, seared rare tuna)

For the money, I think you could do better. However, it might be a nice option in good weather to hit up happy hour and enjoy the apps and drinks. And of course, the view.

Pros: View, good apps and desserts, Wednesday 1/2 off wine deal
Cons: Main course is just ok, slow service

My rating: 3.5 sporks out of 5.
Location: 4708 East Old Main Street
Richmond VA 23231
Cuisine: Seafood, Steaks, Pizza
Pricing: $$$

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Creamy Pasta with Veggies and Chicken

In the continuing quest to try new recipes with the ingredients I already have in my house, I stumbled upon this one. Now everybody has their favorite comfort food. For some it’s chocolate, or homemade mac & cheese, or chicken pot pie, or crawfish jambalya (to each their own, right?). There are always those busy days where you get home and just want your tastebuds to be spoiled, wrapped in warm, delicious extravagance.

As for me, deep into the logistics of the James River Writers Conference – yes, shameless plug: – I just wanted something creamy, full of noodles, and simple. (Yes, observant readers, you’ll also note I’m posting this a few weeks after the conference.)
Be it stress, or a rainy day, or any other excuse for it, I highly recommend the ease and soul-food appeal of this Creamy Pasta recipe.

2 Chicken Breasts
Pasta (I used penne)
Three handfuls chopped carrots
Four handfuls baby spinach
Two shakes garlic powder
1-½ cup Milk
2 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Whole Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons Paprika
1-½ Tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt And Pepper (to taste)
Parmesan Cheese (for Topping)

Whisk together milk and flour in a small bowl. Heat butter in a small sauce pan and add sprinkle a few shakes (to taste) of garlic powder. After the butter has melted, add the milk mixture and whisk thoroughly. Add salt and pepper (to taste). Continue stirring until the mixture thickens. Then remove from heat and set aside.

Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes. Season chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta.

Heat drizzle of oil in a pan and brown the chicken until cooked through. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from pan and cover.

In the same pan, drizzle oil and then add carrots and spinach. Cook the veggies for a few minutes until tender. Then, remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, combine pasta, chicken, veggie mixture, and cream sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving.

Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Restaurant Review: Chopstix

I had seen the sign for this restaurant waaaay out off Midlothian in a new shopping center called the Watkins Center, and I really wanted to try it. Mostly because… I was confused. Asian Bistro? Sushi Lounge? This place has an identity crisis. And unfortunately, you can taste it.

The décor is nice-ish. Very dark, but I like dark in my restaurant. Service was fine as well. They have a full bar and the normal array of wine & beer. We started off the meal with two appetizers, the Gyoza which are pan fried pork dumplings, and Tuna Tataki, a seared tuna (which I get everywhere). The gyoza were probably the best things we had all night. Very tasty, great dipping sauce, perfectly cooked. The tuna was… a bit bland.

(clockwise from top left, Tuna Tataki, Gyoza, Rock n' Roll)

For our main course, Steve ordered the Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp. I got Pad Thai and the Rock n’ Roll. The shrimp was just ok, but Steve was very impressed by my Pad Thai. I thought it was good, too. The Rock n’ Roll was pretty good. The pieces were too big, which is a sushi pet peeve for me, but overall it was fine. For dessert we got the deep fried banana. It was... phallic. And not that great. There was just nothing special to it.

(Clockwise from top left: Pad Thai, Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp, Fried Banana)

We left the restaurant feeling just a little disappointed. There were some hits, but mostly misses. I don’t think we’ll go back to the restaurant, but we may order some food for takeout. Overall, this restaurant proved the occasional problem with fusion cuisine: you end up with a chef who specializes in neither.

Pros: Gyoza! Range of options. Gorgeous plating.
Cons: Overall lack of flavor. Hits & misses.

My rating: 3 sporks out of 5.
Location: 15801 City View Drive
    Midlothian, VA 23113
Cuisine: Asian Fusion; Sushi
Pricing: $$

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spicy Corn Chowder

Ok, I’m going to be honest. I did not make this. I had a root canal earlier in the day (hence the soup decision for dinner) and my wonderful husband Steve made the soup. And maybe it was because I didn’t help a lick, or maybe it was just made with lots of love, but it tasted really, really good. So good that I’m going to eat it again tonight.

I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen and the only tweaks Steve made were to double the bacon (because, c’mon, it’s bacon) and add an extra chipotle pepper and pepper (our changes are incorporated in the recipe). We thought about adding cheese but the soup really doesn’t need it. I would caution you that it’s pretty spicy. If you want a milder soup, only add one chipotle chile, and maybe not the entire can of green chiles.

4 slices bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1-½ whole yellow onion, diced
5 ears corn, shucked
3 whole chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 4oz can diced green chilies
32 ounces, low sodium chicken broth
1-½ cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
3 tablespoons corn meal OR masa
¼ cups water

Start with prepping everything. Trust me, this makes it way easier when you start cooking. Slice the corn off the cob, chop up your onion, bacon, and peppers. We got these lovely little glass prep bowls from Crate & Barrel that are just perfect for putting together a “mise en place.” Which is just a fancy way of saying “all the stuff I need to make this fantastic soup!”

Make this in a big pot, or even better, a Dutch oven. Cook the bacon pieces over medium heat for a couple of minutes (they won’t be fully crispy), and then add the diced onion. This is also when Steve added the pepper.  Cook the onion for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the butter. Once it’s melted, put in the corn and cook that for one minute. Throw in the chipotle and green chiles and stir until it’s mixed. Finally, pour in the chicken broth, cream and salt. Stir it up and bring it to a boil (you might have to turn the heat up a little for that… it’s ok.)

Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to low. I don’t know what masa is, so I just used the corn meal. Mix it with the water and stir it before pouring it into the chowder. This is the thickening agent. I think next time I might skip the cornmeal and use cornstarch instead. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes. At this point you want to check the thickness of the soup. If it’s good, cover it and cook for another ten minutes. If you want it to be thicker (we did), add another tablespoon of cornmeal mixed in a little water. I have to say, this soup is billed as a chowder, which I guess should be pretty thick. But ours came out more like a cream soup, and it was excellent. Not sure I would have wanted it to be too much thicker. After ten minutes it’s ready to eat, and it’s a really enjoyable soup. The corn was perfect—tender but still with that great crunch. I suggest you try it on one of these cool fall days, and if you can get someone else to make it for you—even better!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spaghetti Soup

I really have no idea where this recipe came from. My original thought was that it came from my Aunt Cathy who lives in Illinois. But, perhaps, it's a recipe my mom has had for several years. I don't really have a story to go along with this one, either. Alas, it doesn't matter. This is the perfect recipe for trying to get rid of celery, spaghetti noodles, or getting rid of some of those green peppers growing in your garden. It's very easy to make. Really. And, it's very good.

1 lb italian sausage (mild)
1 med onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 c. chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz jar spaghetti sauce
6 c chicken broth
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

First thing I did was prepare the vegetables by chopping the onion, pepper, and celery. Next, I took a large sauce pan and began browning the sausage over medium heat. Once the sausage was browned, I added the minced garlic cloves, the chopped onions, pepper, and celery. Continue cooking until the vegetables become tender. Then, you add the diced tomatoes along with the juice, the spaghetti sauce (I found a 14 oz jar of Ragu Plain Sauce at Kroger's), the chicken broth, the italian seasoning, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Then, add about 2-4 ounces of spaghetti and break it in half. Cook until the spaghetti is tender. Serve with bread.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Coconut Basil Chicken Curry

Since my friends and I started doing our Iron Chef nights I've really tried to be more open-minded about experiencing different types of food. Sure, there are still some things I refuse to try such as duck, veal, snail, etc. But, I'm definitely opening up to more International Cuisine such as Indian, Thai, etc. One of the blogs we have linked on ours is TasteSpotting. Today I went searching for another recipe to make tonight. I found this one that sounded international, easy, and delicious. This evening, I went to the store to purchase some of the ingredients, and as soon as I got home started preparing this recipe. It took about an hour to make, and I must say it was very, very good.

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
2 baking potatoes, dices
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 – 14 oz can coconut milk or cream
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1/2 cup torn basil
kosher salt
steamed white rice

I began by prepping the ingredients. First, I chopped up the onion, and set it aside. Next, I peeled the potatoes and cut them into cubes. I used white potatoes, and three of them at that. I took a 1 1/2 chicken breast and sliced it into cubes and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Next, I prepared a large skillet by drizzling it with some olive oil and setting the heat to medium. Once the oil was warmed, I tossed in the potatoes and diced chicken. I sauteed the chicken and potatoes with the lid covering the skillet. I sauteed for about 15 minutes so they begin to caramelize.

Around this point I started my rice, which takes about 20 minutes to make. Next, I tossed in the onions and sauteed for about five minutes until the onions were translucent. I tossed in the minced garlic and cooked until fragrant. Next, I poured in the coconut milk and the curry paste. I stirred and let it simmer until the sauce thickened.

Once the sauce thickened, I then removed from the heat and added the basil. I thought it could use something else, so I added about 1/4 tsp of red hot pepper flakes, a touch of ginger and cayenne, and some more salt.

Serve on top of the rice, and enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spicy Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup

Here in Richmond, fall and cold weather are upon us. One of the few things I like about cold weather is the good, warm, comfort foods. And, soup is definitely one of those warm, comforting foods. I came across this recipe when looking up different types of soup recipes. I like sweet potatoes, carrots, and spicy foods so how could it go wrong? Well, it didn't. I very much enjoyed the smokiness of this soup, and hope you do too!

3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 ribs celery, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 c white wine
1-2 tsp chipotle powder
1 quart vegetable or poultry broth
1 1/2 lb garnet sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 inch chunks
1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch lengths
1/2 c whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
Yogurt and/or Cilantro optional

First thing I did was gather up the vegetables and peeled and chopped them. I ended up using a pound of carrots, because I wanted to get rid of all the carrots. I did not cut the carrots into strips. I just chopped them up roughly. I'm not certain I understand the point of cutting the carrots into strips. Oh well. Also, I just used any ol' sweet potato I found at Martin's. I have no idea if they were Garnets.

Next, I took a soup pot, and over medium heat, warmed the olive oil. Then, I threw in the chopped celery and onion. Also, add the minced garlic and thyme. Stir the ingredients until the veggies are soft. It says it takes about 10 minutes, but I think I waited about 15. I then proceeded to open myself a bottle of wine, and pour myself a glass. Oh, and I measured out a half cup of the wine and poured it into the pot along with the chipotle powder. Now, I have no idea where you find chipotle powder, but I did find Chipotle Chili Pepper at Kroger. So, I used about 1 1/2 teaspoon of this pepper. I am pretty sure it's similar, and maybe it's exactly what the recipe called for. If you happen upon chipotle powder, please let me know.

Anyway, cook until the alcohol smell dissipates. Then, add the chicken broth, (or vegetable broth) carrots, sweet potatoes, and the salt and pepper. Bring this to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft. I believe it took about a half hour for this to happen.

You are supposed to cool the soup and then transfer the soup to a blender and puree in batches until the soup comes out smooth. However, I just pureed it immediately, and placed a towel over the blender, and made sure I was very careful. As I worked, I put the pureed soup into a bowl. Once the soup has been pureed, transfer back to the soup pot and add the milk. Continue seasoning with salt and pepper until it tastes about right. I also added a bit of cumin and nutmeg. I did not garnish with yogurt nor cilantro as the recipe indicates.

(Click here for printable recipe)