Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Birthday Celebration

I normally go out to dinner for my birthday locally, but this year I wanted to go out with a group of my friends and it HAD to be in the city. I was craving the city! I knew I wanted to go to one of Jose Graces’ restaurants. He is an awesome and creative Iron Chef that has a bunch of restaurants in Philly. Basically I’m a big fan of his, oh and as a plus he’s very veg friendly! Side note here: A lot of chef’s HATE vegetarian’s period. Take this quote from Anthony Bourdain “Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold.” They think we are void of any fun, but personally I think I have to be more creative as a veg cook than some of these Chef’s are. Since I’m allergic to soy and will not eat processed fake meat junk, I have to come up with fun creative recipes that I like. I also have to be creative because I like to make dishes that are substitutes for meat dishes I loved in the past. Ok I’ll get off my soapbox now! Back to Jose Garces. I’m so impressed with his creativeness and his care for vegetarians. I mean we’re in philly, there is not a HUGE veg movement out here, so kudos to him and his restaurants. I really appreciate a good restaurant that caters to everyone, so I made up my mind and it was either Amada or Chifa. I was leaning towards Amada, but I ate at Chifa when I was a meat eater and the pork belly bao buns were calling to me. So when I learned that they had a tofu version, I decided on Chifa. When I called and made a reservation, I asked if they still had the tofu version of the pork belly buns and they said yes and that they had a full veg menu. Yay!
We had a group of 8 people and there was a lot of variety so I have some pictures, but not all because we were hungry! Oh and the presentation may not look great in all of the pictures because some of us, including myself, dug in before I could take pictures. For the meat dishes, I will provide the commentary I overheard by the meat-eaters of the night.
The menu is basically a tasting menu although, there are a few larger dishes. The waitress recommended 2-3 plates per person. I thought we were all pretty big eaters, but a lot of people were struggling with 2-3 per person and the dishes were staggered well. The veg menu was pretty extensive and it doesn’t come out automatically, so ask for it. Also, when ordering say the dish you want is off the veg menu because a lot of the dishes are adapted from non-veg items on the menu. One of the most exciting menu items for me was the veg ceviche. Sadly, I didn’t get to try it this time.
A great thing about Chifa is that they welcome you by bringing out warm yucca rolls with a sweet and spicy butter. They are one reason Chifa is a must when your in Philly. The warm soft rolls with the butter just melt in your mouth…yumm!
My first dish was the Tofu bao were amazing they actually got better with every bite!  The tofu was firm and coated in hoisin, the pickled veg made a great contrast to the hoisin and togarashi mayo, and the buns that held the tofu were soft like pillows.  I would come back here just for these. 

 Tofu Bao Buns
To my amazement no one got the pork belly buns, the must have dish at Chifa. I was actually a little relieved because I loved them so much. It would have been like watching someone eat the last chocolate bar in existence in front of you. Anyway, my friends got the duck bao buns and they liked them. I was too busy eating my own to get anymore commentary on that dish, but it looked good if you like duck.
 Duck Bao Buns
One of the big hits with the meat eaters was the Thai Beef Salad. It had kobe…enough said… They said it was great with the herbs and the dressing. They would all highly recommend this salad.
 Thai Beef Salad (one of the dishes with a few bites missing) 
Another salad was the House green salad with the sweet chili vinaigrette. I actually got to try this and it was great. It was sweet and then it finished with a kick in the back of your throat.

The Chicken wings are not red flaming wings you get a sports bar. Apparently I should have warned the guys that got them, but they should have read the menu and realized they would be an Asian style wing. From my experience Asian wings are normally fried and are lightly sauced. Domenick enjoyed them, but there was A LOT of garlic on them so if you are planning on kissing anyone or having a romantic evening I would not recommend getting them. Out of the 3 people that got these only 1 would recommend them.
 Chicken wings
A friend was deciding between the squid and the mussels and I had read on a few blogs that the mussels were to die for. He said they were too small for his liking, but the broth was good.  
Unfortunately, the yuca fries came out with so much red chili mayo that they looked and tasted like cheese fries. I totally forgot they came with cilantro chimichurri until my friend said hmm there’s green stuff on this one. Then I tried the chimichurri and it was AMAZING. I was very disappointed that I was saving room for my entrée at this point so I couldn’t eat anymore with the chimichurri. Next time I would get the mayo on the side since it overpowered even the fries.  Everyone else enjoyed these though. Oh and there’s enough to split between 4 or more people
 Yuca Fries
Four people ended up getting the Lobster bowl, which I remember being amazing from my meat-eating days and they all agreed it was one of the best dishes of the night, if not the best. It’s basically like Fettuccine Alfredo with bacon, peas, and lobster. Now how can that EVER be a bad thing? Well unless you’re a veg of course!
 Lobster Bowl
When the Pho came out I was very jealous. It was basically a noodle bowl if anyone has been to the noodle shops in Hawaii, but it had Kobe! The Kobe was placed on top and it was raw. Then when mixed in with the broth it cooked. So you could “cook” the Kobe to your liking. If I was a meat-eater I would have to try this dish. I really wish there was a veg version of this… I actually may try to replicate this soon because I’ve been craving Ramen.
The Pork Bowl was very similar to the pho but with cooked pork, once again I was envious of this dish. I really need to find a place that offers veggie ramen and not the crap out of the packet! 
 The Pork Bowl
I got the veg version, but the “meat” version comes with jumbo lump crab. It was very sweet and spicy like a red curry but I LOVED the addition of edamame and eggplant which I’ve never had in a curry before. 
 Red Curry
I don’t remember the name of the dish but it was a veg version of a tamale with mushrooms. It was a little too bland for me but it was still really good. If you are a veg and do not like spicy, this dish is for you.

A big hit with the guys was the Allagash on draft. It happens to be one of my favorite beers but I was in the mood for cocktails.
My favorite and the collective favorite cocktail of the night was the Yuzu & Thai Basil Caipirinha. It was simply amazing. Light and refreshing, it was the perfect summer drink. 
 Yuzu & Thai Basil Caipirinha
I also tried the Freseca. It was like a gin mojito, it was also really good but nothing could compare to the Caipirinha.Then I saw the Spicy Margarita. I love spicy and I love margaritas. Unfortunately, this was worst decision I’ve made, probably in my whole life. It honestly tasted AMAZING, but after two sips I had the WORST heartburn I’ve ever had in my life. Between three people we could only choke down ½ of this drink. Please do yourself a favor and avoid this drink at ALL COSTS!!!! You’ve been warned!
 The Drink from HELL
After the fire in my throat, esophagus, and stomach, I didn’t really want dessert but I figured maybe it would cool the fire down. I had the Banana-Passion Mousse. It was alright but I probably wouldn’t get it again. It was a waste of calories.
 Banana-Passion Mousse
Domenick had the Captain Crunch Donuts. Everyone made fun of him for getting them, but they were AMAZING! When it comes to dessert don’t try to do light and refreshing because you will be disappointed like I was. 
  Captain Crunch Donuts
Two people had the Turron De Chocolate. I don’t remember what they said about it and I didn’t try it, but my advice is, get an order or two of the donuts and pass them around the table!
 Turron De Chocolate
Chifa is a great restaurant and I will be back!
After a stop at Walgreens for Tums because I was still hurting, we went to APO because it was closer than Franklin Bar. I wish we wouldn’t have stopped here because Franklin was so amazing. At APO, the drinks were alright. Actually the best drink there was non-alcoholic. Since I was still feeling the burn after eating a ton of Tums, they mixed me up some ginger ale with bitters. It was very yummy and I would recommend it.  As for the alcoholic drinks my advice would be the Whiskey flight. It was a decent price for what you got and it will get your drunk fast, which is critical because of the high drink prices in the city. 
After the disappointment of APO and after I was feeling better, we decided to leave and go to Franklin Mortgage & Investment. Unfortunately, we only had little over an hour to get there and get drinks, well a drink. The damn train’s latest departure to Lansdale is at 11:20…grr…way too early for the city!
Franklin Mortgage & Investment is named after the largest alcohol ring in the country (during the prohibition). It is also modeled after a speakeasy and it was the best bar I have ever been too. But you have to know my style. I was born during the wrong time period….
When we got to the bar which has a very small sign (we actually passed it since it was below a salon) we were asked how many and then the bouncer went down to clear it with the people inside the bar. Our ID’s were checked and then we were led down the stairs into the bar. They seated us at a large table with a comfy booth and chairs. They’re menu is quite extensive, but they are all classic drinks with a new-age twist.  The best part is that they are all made with fresh juices, fresh ice, and REAL ingredients. You won’t get Cranberry Cocktail and Vodka here folks. The drinks we had were all wonderful and unfortunately I do not remember their names, but there are some pictures below.

For the drinks that were like manhattans the waitress came out lit an orange peel on fire and then rubbed it around the glass. It was a pretty amazing show.
I’m so disappointed we only had an hour here and only 1 drink, but I will definitely be back!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Peas

For some reason I love the combination of pasta and asparagus. My favorite is gnocchi with asparagus, which hopefully I will make soon. This Friday my husband and I wanted to stay in, drink some wine, and watch a movie. I’d been craving pasta with asparagus yet again, so I figured I would make a new recipe. Since it is incredibly hot out, I wanted a light pasta dish. Cream sauce was out of the question and we are running low on homemade marinara sauce so I figured a white wine sauce would work. Here is my new recipe:

½ lb of Egg Tagliatelle (sometimes hard to find so you can sub fettuccine if you’d like)
2 bunches of asparagus tips cut into ½ inch pieces (I actually found tips instead of spears so I just trimmed the very edge off)
½ bag of frozen peas (preferably sweet peas)
2 tbsp of evoo
2 large cloves of garlic
S&P to taste
1 tbsp of fresh chopped oregano
1 tbsp of fresh chopped thyme
½ cup of starchy cooking liquid
½ cup of white wine (I used pinot grigio)
The juice of 1 ½ lemons (try to use fresh juicy sweet lemons)
2 tbsp of fresh basil

Bring 2 large pots of salted water to a boil. Cook your pasta al dente to the packaged instructions. In a large pan heat evoo and sauté the garlic for about 2 minutes then add the oregano, thyme and S&P. Once the herbs are fragrant about 5 minutes on low, add the white wine and starchy cooking liquid. Add your asparagus and peas to the other pot of boiling water and boil them until the peas are no longer frozen but still crisp and your asparagus is still crisp. No limp veggies here. Add the juice from the lemons to the pan and drain the pasta and the veggies. Toss the veggies, pasta and sauce in a bowl. If the pasta is not loose enough add some more evoo. Garnish with freshly chopped basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese and then serve immediately. I hope you enjoy this light summer pasta as much as we did!

Lemon Basil Mojito

Clearly from my last few posts you can tell that I’m OBSESSED with herbs. One of my favorite herbs is basil, I eat it almost every day. It’s just one of those flavors that says “its summer”. If you know me at all you know my favorite alcoholic drink is a mojito. Last year I started making basil mojitos and they are a refreshing change from mint mojitos.  I always have a ton of basil in the summer so they are more convenient for me, especially on a Friday night after a long day at work. This time I didn’t have limes so I used lemons, which worked well because I also had lemon basil.
3-4 slices of lemon
A bunch of basil (I used lemon and Italian basil)
2 tsp natural sugar (You can add more if you like it sweeter)
A shot or 2 of your favorite rum (I probably used 2)
Seltzer or Club Soda
Get a big glass, one that won’t break. Add the lemons, basil, and sugar and then muddle. If you are like me and do not own an actual muddler, use the back of a wooden spoon. The sugar will dissolve with the juice of the lemon and it will also bruise the basil, which will release the flavor. Once you have muddled the mixture fill the glass with ice, pour in your shot of rum, top with club or seltzer, and give a stir. Mojitos are so light and refreshing and are the perfect way to start a weekend. On a side note the pictures all came out blurry. I guess I should take them before I start drinking!

Shells with Neufchatel Cheese Sauce

I had ½ a jar of homemade red sauce in the fridge and a ½ of a 8 ounce container of Neufchatel Cheese (like cream cheese) so I figured why not put them together to make a pink sauce! I also had a ton of fresh herbs from the garden so I decided to add some of them too. It made a great quick and easy dinner.

½ a jar of tomato sauce about 8 oz (preferably homemade)
4 oz cream cheese
A handful of freshly chopped basil, parsley, and oregano
½ lb of whole wheat shells

I added the ½ jar of sauce to a small pot and brought it to a simmer. Then I added the 4oz of Neufchatel until it was fully incorporated. Chop up the fresh basil, Italian flat-leaf parsley and add it to the sauce. Simmer until the pasta is done. Cook your pasta to your packaged directions and drain (NEVER RINSE PASTA). Add the pasta and sauce to a bowl, mix, and then serve. Garnish with more fresh basil.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Herbed Cream Cheese

Over the weekend my friend Britt came to visit and just happened to bring bagels from her local market. We decided we wanted something more than boring cream cheese so I made herbed cream cheese for them. Making your own flavored cream cheese is so much better than buying it because you control the quality and quantity of the ingredients and of course you aren’t going to add HFC, MSG, or other harmful additives. For me making herbed cream cheese is rather simple because we grow a ton of herbs. Honestly there’s not going to be measurements for this recipe because I just grabbed a bunch of herbs, washed and dried them, then snipped them with scissors into my cream cheese (organic valley spreadable Neufchatel cheese), added onion and garlic powder and then viola herbed cream cheese.  I used the following herbs: basil, chives, Italian flat-leaf parsley, oregano, and thyme, but feel free to use your favorite herbs. I did not add S & P to my mixture; instead I spread the cream cheese on my bagel and ground fresh salt and pepper on it. It was wonderful and I also used it as a spread on some good whole grain bread. It would be a wonderful dip for veggies too but in that case I would add some S&P to the spread.

Our Garden

My husband and I put a garden in 4 years when we first bought our house. Gardening is a tradition in both our families, so when we bought our first house we knew that we would put a garden in ASAP. This year I cannot take much credit because my husband did most of the work, but in all fairness, I tried to help and he didn’t want my help because “I wouldn’t do it right”. Men! Anyway, I buy all the seeds and plants because we garden organically, which means without pesticides and other harmful products. I get my seeds and plants from: Whole Foods, Lowe's (seeds only), the Piazza at Schmidt’s (plants), and a few plants at an organic grocery in VA beach. This year we have: carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, a ton of tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, potatoes, pineapple mint, dill, cilantro, oregano, basil, purple basil, lemon basil, Italian flat-leaf parsley, sage, and thyme.

Here are some pictures of the garden now. I will post more of the garden as it grows.

Tomato Plants

Pineapple Mint



Some peppers are already on



Flower on the tomato plants we have some tomatoes on already but the pictures didn't turn out
Full view of the garden

The lower part of the garden


Monday, June 7, 2010

Grilled Asian Sirloin Steak with Grilled Asian Veggies, Cilantro Lime Rice, and Grilled Corn on the Cob

Since it’s been so nice and warm outside, I was really in the mood to grill. My new favorite thing on the grill is grilled veggies of any kind, but let’s face the grill makes everything better. I do suggest getting a grill pan if you intend to grill veggies because veggies fall between the grates quite easily. One great tip for the grill is marinating. You can change the flavors of any meat or veggie just by the marinade. When I grilled I was in the mood for hibachi so I created my hibachi style marinade from some of the ingredients I’ve seen Chefs use while making Hibachi. The steak and veggies had a slightly different marinade but feel free to use either whichever one appeals to you.
Grilled Asian Sirloin Steaks
A few splashes of soy sauce. Enough to coat the bottom of a pyrex to marinade the steak. I’d say probably an 1/8 of a cup if I had to guess.
A few splashes of evoo about 3-5 tbs
A few splashes of sake about 5 tbs (this is the key ingredient in the marinade to make it taste like hibachi)
Clearly this marinade is not a science. Just make sure you have enough to cover about half of the steak so when you flip it the other half gets some marinade too.
Sprinkle each side of the steaks with ground ginger, salt, pepper, and your favorite grill seasoning and then place in the marinade. Marinade each side of the steaks for 15 minutes or until the marinade soaks in.
Grill about 3-5 minutes on each side on medium depending on the thickness and your meat preference.  Let rest for a few minutes and then serve.  On a side note if you do not let you meat rest all of the juices will run out and you will be left with a rubbery juiceless steak! Always let your meat rest!
Grilled Asian Style Vegetables.
For this I used a few small zucchini, 2 portabella caps, ½ a medium red onion, and 2 small crowns of broccoli. Trust me this is enough for 4 people with leftovers!
A few splashes of soy sauce once again about 1/8 cup
A few splashes of evoo about 3-5 tbs
A few splashes of sake about 5 tbs (this is the key ingredient in the marinade to make it taste like hibachi)
Salt and fresh ground pepper
About  1tsp of ginger
About ½ tsp of red pepper flakes (this can be omitted if you do not like it spicy)
About ½ tsp garlic powder
Once again make enough marinade to coat the bottom of the bowl or pan. I like to use 2 bowls or pans with vegetables because the marinade likes to settle at the bottom so I transfer the top veg to the bottom of the other pan and then the marinade hits them. Or you can stir frequently.
Put your veggies on grill pan or on in an aluminum pan and grill for about 10-15 minutes on medium. Make sure you scoop out the veg with a slotted spoon because the marinade will just go on the grill and create a lot of smoke. Make sure to save the marinade because after the vegetables are cooked but still crisp toss them back in the bowl with the marinade and serve. It makes a wonderful sauce/dressing.
I can only comment on the veggies but they were really good and a heck of a lot cheaper to make at home than to get at hibachi.
Rice is a perfect accompaniment to grilled meats and veggies. Sure you can grill some potatoes or sweet potatoes for a starch but I wanted something light and refreshing. I had some Cilantro in the fridge, so I thought Cilantro Lime Rice would be a great addition to my meal. I’ve had it at a few places including Chipotle, so I looked up how to make it. A lot of people suggested adding the lime and cilantro to the beginning of the cooking process but it wouldn’t be light and summery if you did it that way, so here’s my recipe.
1 cup of uncooked white Thai Jasmine Rice (cook to the packaged directions with water and a few dashes of sea salt)
Once the rice is cooked, stir in some evoo, about 1 tbs, to get the rice nice and shinny and to keep it from sticking. Then squeeze the juice of one lime. My lime was small and not juicy so I popped it in the microwave for 10 seconds before I cut it to get more juice out of it. Stir the rice to make sure the lime juice is distributed over the rice evenly. Then chop about a ½ handful of cilantro and stir into the rice. Fluff with a fork and serve. This rice was very flavorful and the best version of cilantro lime rice Domenick and I’ve had. This will serve about 4-6 people.
Grilled Corn on the Cob
1-2 Cob’s per person
Shuck the ears of corn and get some crushed ice. Cut a piece of aluminum foil and place the corn on the foil and add the crushed ice on the side of the corn and then wrap. Place on grill turning every once in awhile. These will cook in 15-20 minutes. Then add your favorite condiments. I like butter or Earth Balance spread and salt or butter/earth balance spread with Aww Shucks seasoning and parmesan cheese.

Virginia Beach

I actually started writing this blog awhile ago, but guess what? I got sick again! The doc finally gave me some meds so hopefully I will get better and be able to keep up with my blog.

Instead of blogging day by day I figured I would just write one long blog about the food on our trip. Unfortunately, since it was a RELAXING vacation I didn’t cook, like I had planned on and I didn’t take many pictures. Anyway, I will admit that the reason I didn’t end up cooking is that Domenick ended up sitting on the beach with our cooler and just relaxing with a few brews all day, so I just plain didn’t have the energy that it requires to cook after drinking and laying out all day.


One thing about the beach is that everyone loves to snack there. So we had carrots, which I cut into sticks, some crackers, tortilla chips, pretzels, and nuts. I made some salsa and it was delicious!


4-6 plum tomatoes
½ of a small sweet green pepper
¼ medium red onion
½ jalapeno
1 clove of garlic
A handful of chopped cilantro
½ of fresh squeezed lemon
1 fresh squeezed lime
S & P to taste

This is wonderful as a light snack on the beach and salsa and tortilla chips are pretty healthy for you. I really like blue corn tortilla chips.


Every morning for breakfast we would have fresh fruit. We bought strawberries, bananas, raspberries, and pineapple! They were all amazing. I love starting my day out with fruit; it just makes me feel light and healthy. I also had organic chunky PB with ezekial English muffins for me and Domenick had Thomas mini cinnamon raisin bagels.

We only ate out one morning at Pocahontas Pancakes. I had some sort of veggie egg wrap it was good, but there were too many eggs for me. Next time I would just get the veggies. The potatoes they served along side were very good. Dom had his usual a bagel breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg, and cheese.


For lunch we normally ate leftovers. One day I did make a cucumber tomato salad. I brought salt, pepper, evoo, and herbs and spices from home so that helped a lot! We also had cheese and crackers and salami for Dom.


As most of you know I am a pescetarian so I still eat seafood. I do not prepare seafood, but I will eat it when it is the only option on the menu or when I’m on vacation. At the end of the week I was feeling a little gross and bloated from eating too much seafood so I went back to a veg diet.

The first night we got there we just wanted pizza so we could watch the Lost season finale so we ordered in. We got the pizza from Pi-zzeria. The one good thing is that they deliver directly to your hotel room. Domenick got chicken and bacon, while I got pepper and onion. It was pretty expensive and it tasted like cardboard. Dom swears he liked it but I thought it was gross and I would NEVER recommend it. There are plenty of other good pizza places around there including North End Pizza, which was also right across the street, but we didn’t see it that night. We did check it out for lunch one day and it was so much better. They do not accept credit at North End though so make sure you have cash on hand.

On Monday night we checked out CP Shuckers. It was recommended by our concierge for a sports bar with good food so we could watch the flyers. We had some steamed clams, which were really good and then dom got hot wings which they finished on the grill. Let me tell you they smelled AMAZING!!! If you eat meat get these! I got the house salad and a side of hush puppies for my dinner and both were really good especially for bar food.

One of the best places we visited was Lubo Wine Bar. The reason it was our fav was that Tuesdays are $5 flight nights. You get 3 good sized tastings of wine for 5 bucks! You can’t beat that, especially on vacation! The best wine of the night hands down was from a local VA winery and it was Chocolate wine. I’m not an expert by any means but it was probably the best thing I’ve ever drank in my entire life, wine or otherwise! It was to die for and I am about to beat myself over the head for not buying a bottle. They have a pretty veg friendly menu including pizza’s made using a portabella mushroom cap as the crust, but we had there AMAZING sherry crab dip for an app. It was probably one of the best crab dips I’ve ever had. For dinner I just had the house salad which came with portabellas on it! Yumm! Dom had some chicken lettuce wraps which he said were good but a little spicy for him.

Next we ate at Catch 31 and it was alright, the VA beach oysters were really good, and Dom said his filet and lobster was good but I didn’t like my entrée witch was some mixed plate of broiled seafood. I guess the shrimp and scallops were good, but the crab cake was HORRIBLE and the fish was alright! Oh and the veg they served it with was the best part. I would have been happier with that, to tell you the truth. It was UBER expensive so I recommend going somewhere else.

Since we were in VA we tried to find a place for all you can eat blue crab. We met some people down there that recommended a place to us but we ran into them in the lobby and they told us the place was no longer there. Apparently there are no more all you can eat blue crab places in VA beach! Boo! We were really bummed, so our kind concierge recommended an awesome place to get crab cakes called Beachcomber. Domenick and I both got crab cakes. He didn’t think 2 were enough for him so I got 2 as well. Anyway, they come with 2 sides or a head of broccoli with hollandaise sauce. Domenick got them with mashed potatoes and gravy and coleslaw. He said the mashed potatoes were good but they had meat gravy on them so I didn’t try them. The coleslaw was very good. I got the head of broccoli; it was perfectly steamed so I didn’t use the sauce. The crab cakes were close to the best crab cakes I’ve ever had if not the best. There was NO filler! It was all crabmeat and at a decent price. If you are anywhere around VA beach and you like crab cakes go here! I ended up taking home a crab cake and some broccoli but it made for a great lunch the next day.

I was planning on making pasta on Friday but Domenick and I decided to kill a bottle of Prosecco and do shots of patron café in the morning so that killed that idea. Once again we headed to the concierge in search of good Italian. He recommended Isle of Capri, which is oceanfront which was wonderful. We got the Caesar salad for 2. It was prepared in front of us, out of real ingredients, which I believe is a lost art. For those of you that know me I don’t really like Caesar, but I knew Domenick wanted it so I decided to be a good wife and get it with him. It was AMAZING and so fresh. I would definitely go there again just for this salad. The only problem was that it filled us up quite a bit so we ended up taking a large part of our dinner home. I ended up getting the pasta primavera but with the red sauce. It was pretty good, but mine is better! Domenick got the chicken picatta and he said it was good.

Finally for our last night we wanted to check out Abbey Road, mainly because they have 101 international beers. I had a wild blueberry wheat from the good old US of A and a black beer from brazil. They were both good, but the blueberry won out in my book. Dom had a raspberry wheat and then stuck to miller light. For apps we got beer battered onion rings and fries. Here’s a tip for people who are vegetarians but used to like wings, get wing sauce with your battered onion rings and you won’t miss a thing! For dinner Domenick had a lb of king crab legs, since he’d been craving crab. They looked good, but I didn’t want anymore seafood at that point so I had veg chili, which was more of a soup than a chili in my book and my veg chili kicks its butt! I also had a house salad, I have to be completely honest here, the lettuce was wilted and gross and the dressing was horrible. I think they are better at bar food, but I will be back, but mainly for the beer.

Overall it was a wonderful and relaxing vacation. Hopefully we will be back to VA beach, but next time I would like to cook!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Making Lemons into Lemonade

So the last few weeks have been CRAZY!!! I went on an interview, ended up getting the job, had to give my 2 weeks, and then went to VA Beach for a relaxing vacation with my hubby. Needless to say I haven’t had much time to cook.

Anyway a few weeks ago was my nieces birthday party. I made vegan brownies and attempted to make chocolate chip cookies. Let me preface this by saying I made the brownies at about 10pm on Friday and took out the ingredients for the cookies so I could make them at 8am the next morning, BAD idea!

First the brownies: My friend and former co-worker, Andrea, gave me her AWESOME brownie recipe and I love it, but I decided to revamp it because lets face it that’s what I do. You may ask, how to do you revamp a brownie? You make it vegan. How do you make it vegan? By replacing the animal products for vegan products and if your me they are also soy free products, but replace at your will. Oh and vegan baking is awesome because the ingredients you use don’t spoil as fast as animal products do. I say they are my best brownies yet and they are completely guilt free, well in a vegan/moral/eco-friendly sense. Unfortunately, they still have fat and calories. Everyone liked them and they couldn’t tell they were vegan!
Vegan Brownies as adapted from Andrea Drazul’s recipe:

¾ cup Cocoa (I used Ghirardelli, yummmmm)
½ tsp baking soda
2/3 cup of your favorite vegan butter substitute, melted and divided (I used soy free Earth Balance spread)
½ cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
The equivalent of 2 eggs with an eggs substitute (my favorite is ground flaxseed and water, very nutritious, all natural, and delicious. 1 Tbs of flaxseed meal mixed with 3 Tbs of warm water = 1egg)
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 365 organic, which is whole foods brand)

Heat oven to 350. Stir together cocoa and baking soda in a large bowl. To that, stir in 1/3 cup melted butter sub. Add boiling water and stir until mixture thickens. Stir in sugar, egg sub, and remaining 1/3 of butter sub. Mix this until smooth. Then add the flour, vanilla and salt, stir until blended. Then fold in the chocolate chips and pour into a greased 9x13. Bake 30 minutes or until the brownies pull from the pan. You can serve as is or top with your favorite icing. Do not knock them until you try them!

Finally we come to the making lemons into lemonade part. So as I said I prepped my ingredients ahead the night before so they would be room temp for me early in the morning. What I didn’t notice even when preparing the recipe, is that it called for 2 sticks of butter aka 1 cup and I took out 2 cups of butter aka 4 sticks. I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies since I was what 2??? Who knows I may have helped before then. They have been a staple in our family since my mom and dad got married because they are my dads’ absolute favorite cookie! This just goes to show that even if you know a recipe by heart you can still screw it up so follow your directions carefully! Oh and it probably didn’t help that I used my iPod touch to obtain the recipe so I was reading itty bitty tiny writing. Note to self: wear reading glasses while baking! Anyway, after mixing the dough, I tried to make the cookies and they were all running together. I was like WTF, so I tried another pan and the same thing happened. I looked at the oven temp, that was fine, and then I looked the recipe on my iPod again. There it was clear as day, I used twice the amount of butter! What to do now? Make a pie cookie?? I didn’t have quite enough batter for a large one and a small one would have been pointless. Then I looked down and saw my mini muffin tins. PERFECT, I can spoon them into the muffin tins and make little choc chip cups! Well needless to say it worked and everyone loved them! I’m guessing I should email this recipe to Paula Dean, or the Queen of Butter as I like to call her. The moral of my story is that almost every recipe can be fixed. You just have to stop, think, relax and try something new! So the next time you screw something up, come on, we all do, make lemons into lemonade!

Chocolate Chip Cups definitely not vegan
2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips (once again I used 365 organic)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl with your mixer. Beat until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each egg. The gradually add in your flour mix. Beat until smooth. Then stir in your chips. Spoon into mini-muffin tins. I believe I baked these for about 10-15 minutes, but I was keeping an eye on them not on the time since I’ve never made them before. Take them out cool in the mini-muffin tin and then pop them out and serve.