Sunday, February 28, 2010

Joan's On Third


Continuing on with our LA food trip, we spend our first meal on Friday at the cutest little bakery/cafe I have been to in a long time, Joan's on Third. I heard about Joan's on Third from The Best Thing I Ever Ate. I can't remember which chef it was that was going on and on about a chocolate coconut cupcake from Joan's on Third, but I like chocolate, coconut and cupcakes, so I added Joan's on Third to my list of places to visit.

We went there about noon, thinking we'd grab some lunch and a cupcake to go. We walked in and it was the most amazing site I'd ever seen, I was in love. Off to the right was the bakery counter, cake plate after cake plate filled with everything from cupcakes, to cookies, to dark chocolate bouchons. Their cafe counter had cases of wonderful looking salads, meat, and pastas on display and you can also order their signature sandwiches, soups. Throughout the rest of the store was gourmet food market that is complete with a wide variety of cheese, olives and prepackaged pastries.




I decided to order a warm short rib sandwich that was featured on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine. It was amazing. So warm, perfectly toasted and the meat was very tender and seasoned to perfection. It was topped with just the right amount of cheese and arugula. But let's not forget the pickled caramelized onions, they made my mouth very, very happy! (I looked up the Bon Appetit article they gave the recipe for the sandwiches. That might be fun to try, but if you can go there, even better.) Brian ordered one of their newer menu items, the Croque Monsieur. It is also a hot sandwich, built with ham, gruyere, Dijon mustard and b├ęchamel sauce. I made him give me a bite, and I would have been equally satisfied if I had ordered that sandwich. Another melt in your mouth sandwich, with some very flavorful cheese and sauce. Brian is already talking about going back!





Now that our stomachs were very satisfied, we decided to get dessert to go and eat as a snack when we weren't quite so full. I planned on just getting the chocolate coconut cupcake I came for, but the selection was too good, and I knew we wouldn't be back for a while. So, I also ordered a chocolate chip cookie and a dark chocolate bouchon, I love dark chocolate. Brian then proceeded to order a peanut butter and jelly bar, a snickers cupckate, a white chocolate raspberry cupcake, a chocolate cupcake with marshmallow filling, and a vanilla coconut cupcake. (I'm happy to report this is not all gone yet, two days later.) I made Brian give me bites of a few of his. I loved the chocolate marshmallow. It was so moist and the marshmallow was soft and gooey, not like a hard store bought marshmallow stuck in the middle. The bouchon was good, very rich dark chocolate flavor. I thought the cookie had good flavor but was a little dry, not my favorite chocolate chip cookie. The chocolate coconut cupcake was every bit as dreamy as I imagined. The cake was moist, which is my number one quality of a good cake, I hate dry cake. The coconut frosting with coconut flakes on top was super creamy. It wasn't the cream cheese type of frosting I was expecting. Just sweet and the perfect compliment to the chocolate cake.




All in all I'd say we had a very successful trip to Joan's on Third. I'm pretty sure Joan has my dream job, and I'll be back to visit her very, very soon.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Umami Burger


On Friday Brian had the day off work, so I decided to ditch out of my day job and we spent Thursday night and all day Friday playing in Los Angeles. When we were deciding what to do while we were there I couldn't come up with any specific activities, just a list of restaurants I've been dying to try. So as it turns out, food was the main focus of our quick LA get away.

On Thursday night we hit up our first restaurant, Umami Burger. I've been watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network and I practically drool for the 30 minutes it's on. On the show, chefs just sit around and tell you about the best food they've eaten and where to get it. The topic was hometown favorites when Giada was singing Umami Burger's praises. The thing that got my attention, besides how amazing the burgers looked, was that they make their own ketchup. I love ketchup. Brian constantly makes fun of how much ketchup I consume during a meal that involves hamburgers, fries, or quite a few other menu items. If the bottle at the table isn't full when I sit down, I'll always have to ask for more. Umami Burger is a simple, but gourmet burger restaurant, with extremely friendly staff and simple but hip atmosphere. (What is Umami?) Their burgers were a nice size, much smaller than your average restaurant burger, but I liked that. I ordered their Umami Burger, (also what Giada had) and it comes with tomato, mushroom, a thin, crisp slice of Parmesan cheese, and homemade ketchup. It was so soft when I bit into it, it was sweet, salty, juicy, oh so good. Brian got the Manly Burger that is topped with beer-cheddar cheese, smoked salt onion strings, and bacon lardons. He loved it. We also ordered their hand cut fries. They were very thick, which was fun, but we both would have preferred the regular size fries (which they do offer). The fry to ketchup ratio was off since the fries were so thick. Their menu has a lot of other delicious sounding burgers and the price is definitely right. The burgers range from $9-$11. We even got some dessert. I had read that their ice cream sandwiches were very good, so we ordered one up. We got vanilla bean ice cream, which came between two macaroons, with half dipped in chocolate. To die for. I'm still thinking about that one. Bottom line, if you are ever in LA, stop by. They have three different locations plus a burger truck. Visit their website for more info. And if you need a little extra incentive, I read online that a Jonas Brother was spotted eating there.



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Olive Oil



Olive Oil is a staple in my cooking. It's nice to buy the best one that you can afford. That being said, Costco has some great brands of olive oil for great prices. The only catch is that you have to buy a ton. Olive oil doesn't keep forever, so it's not the best idea to keep the huge Costco size bottle in your cupboard. So because I'm trying to shop smart, I took an idea from my mom: freeze it. My mom freezes everything. I mean everything. Bread, oatmeal, cookies, especially cheese. Just tonight Brian asked me if I had cheese for our fajitas and I pulled some shredded cheese from the freezer and he changed his mind when he found out it was frozen. I have fond memories of that same thing happening when I was growing up. (Brittany know just want I'm talking about.) But the good news is, my mom rarely has food go bad. So back to the Costco olive oil. Here's what you do, buy the big bottle. Pour an amount into a smaller container, store that in a dark, cool cupboard for longest shelf life, (not the one over the oven) and put the big bottle in the freezer. When you freeze olive oil it will become cloudy, and solid, obviously. But don't be alarmed, it will defrost nicely, back to it's original liquid, clear state. Just a random post, but I like to buy things at the best price, and I don't like wasting food. Thanks mom for teaching me well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Balsamic BBQ Chicken



As I was driving home today I was going through my cupboards in my head, trying to figuring out what I could make for dinner with out going to the grocery store. I decided on barbecue chicken. My basic barbecue chicken consists of broiling chicken and basting it with Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue sauce. Now don't get me wrong, it's a tasty chicken, but it tastes very average. So I decided to make my own barbecue sauce tonight. Not having a recipe in my collection, I headed over to Food Network and and searched out barbecue chicken. I happened upon a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis that she made on her Every Day Italian show. It had a different twist on the sauce, and the ingredients were everything I already had in my cupboard. (Which is a huge bonus for me!) The sauce was delicious! It is not your average barbecue sauce. You can most definitely taste the balsamic vinegar and that makes the sauce kind of tangy. Brian really liked it, said it was different than regular barbecue sauce, with a taste he didn't expect. I might like the sauce to be a bit sweeter next time, but overall, an excellent sauce. I followed the cooking instructions as written, and the sauce reduced down, but it definitely wasn't as thick as a store bought sauce.

I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and grilled them on my Cuisinart Griddler. (That's been getting a lot of use lately) The recipe also says you can bake the chicken, use any part of the bird you'd like, or suggests also using on steak, which I'd love to try. I kept basting the chicken as it was grilling, but I think it could be great to marinate the chicken in the sauce for a bit first. I had plenty of sauce to baste and use some as a side sauce for serving. I'm a huge fan of extra sauce. I served the chicken up with some baked seasoned potato slices. This is quick, easy, and another great way to spice up that average barbecue chicken.

Balsamic BBQ Chicken Recipe

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mozzarella and Tomato Grilled Cheese


There are few things better than a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold, rainy day. I while ago I caught and episode of Tyler's Ultimate on Food Network. I don't usually watch him, but he was making the perfect meal for a rainy day. He made these delicious looking mozzarella grilled cheese with tomato and pesto. I had to try them.

I had never made my own pesto before, but his looked easy and very doable. I toasted the pine nuts in a pan on the stove. I actually forgot about them and they burned. Once you can smell them I'd say you've toasted them too long. I made the pesto in a mini attachment to my immersion blender, before I got my food processor. It worked fine because you're not making very much. I found some great sourdough bread at Trader Joe's, and good substantial bread will do. And then I assembled them up and grilled them on my Cuisinart Griddler, such a great little appliance. I paired the sandwiches up with some broiled vegetables, obviously soup would be a good choice too. Quick, easy, and a great twist on the classic grilled cheese.




Mozzarella and Tomato Grilled Cheese Recipe

Since making this recipe we've expanded out grilled cheese/panini making to include all sorts of meats, different cheeses, grilled onions, sundried tomatoes. The list goes on. If you think it's going to be good, it probably will be. And if you don't like straight pesto, we've been making a pesto mayo with about two parts pesto and one part mayo. Let the creative panini juices flow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries


I'm a little late with the Valentine's Day treat post, but it was a busy weekend. I celebrated my first Valentine's Day with my husband, and my family was in town for my brother's birthday, who shares his birthday with the holiday. One treat I did make though, was super easy chocolate dipped strawberries. I've tried numerous times to dip strawberries with melted chocolate chips and it never works out the way I want it to. I like my chocolate to harden and the chips have never cooperated with me. (If that has worked for you, post up a comment and tell me what you did!) So instead, I buy the Wilton Candy Melts and they work perfect every time. You can pick them up at Michael's for about $2.50, or cheaper if you have one of their coupons! Using these takes away a lot of the hassle you have with melting chocolate. And I am no chocolatier, so these will work great for me. I used a double boiler to melt the chocolate, then just dipped the strawberries right in. I melted some white chocolate chips and then put it in a ziplock bag, snipped the end and piped it over the chocolate to make them look extra pretty. Make sure you cool them on wax paper so the chocolate doesn't stick to the pan or plate. Keep sharing the love, even if Valentine's Day is over.

Double Chocolate Cookies


I haven't been the best blogger lately, but I have definitely been baking! Last week I was watching an episode of Barefoot Contessa and Ina had a guest, Kathleen King, on. Kathleen is the owner of Tate's Bake Shop in South Hampton. In the episode they showed some video of her shop, and I fell in love. It was adorable. On the episode Kathleen and Ina made a chocolate cookie of Kathleen's. I have been searching forever for a good chocolate cookie recipe that actually turned out. I have tried cake mix ones, one from Paula Dean's Cookie Swap episode, and a few others, and nothing. All of them turned out flat or crunchy, or just not my favorite. But Kathleen's cookies were perfect, perfect texture, perfect taste, easy to follow recipe. My batch was eaten up by me and Brian in no time.

After watching the episode and then looking at the recipe online, people had made comments about the differences, but I just followed the recipe as it was printed and that was correct. I did go by the cooking temperature she said on the show, 375, and cooked for about 13 minutes, I like mine softer. I didn't put in the almonds because I didn't have any and figured they'd be just as good without. And when I was putting in the chocolate chips Brian walked in and thought we should have a few extra handfuls. It was good, but I don't need major chocolate chips in every bite, especially in a chocolate cookie. But to each chocolate lover their own! I loved the white chocolate chips in these too. I know that Dutch chocolate can be hard to find, so just look for it at your more upscale grocery store. But no major changes, all worked out well and I finally have my chocolate cookie recipe.

Double Chocolate Cookies Recipe

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sunday Morning Waffles


Waffles on late Sunday mornings is something me and Brian have been enjoying lately! They are the perfect weekend breakfast. This is mom's recipe. She found it somewhere but I know for a fact she put her own spin on it and it has been a Stiles family household favorite for years. Brian and I started making this together while we were dating. It is a great two person recipe. One can mix the wet ingredients and fluff the egg whites while the other measures out the dry ingredients. Although, since I got my kitchen aid we whip the egg whites in there and Brian thinks he doesn't have to help any more! But I'm more than happy to make them for them.
Super simple recipe, full proof. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks and then fold them in (after you mix the wet and dry). This will make the waffles amazingly fluffy. Just make sure not to over mix the batter, they will get tough. You should still be able to see the clumps of egg. You should definitely whip a batch up this weekend!


Waffles Recipe
Combine:
1 3/4 Cup Flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/4 Tsp salt

Whip 2 egg whites until stiff peaks

In separate bowl whisk together:
2 egg yokes
1 3/4 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup oil

Combine dry to wet, then fold in egg whites
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