Saturday, January 30, 2010

Undercover Eater: Nino's Italian Eatery



Ahh.... the smell of a italian food..... Something in their marinara makes me crazy! So in my attempt to sample the wonders of Alaska, I ventured to a wonderful little place in midtown Anchorage. I was encouraged to go there by a few friends, but it wasn't until my brother Brandt really said anything did I listen.

When you walk into this quaint little place, after battling to find a parking spot, you feel like you are sitting in your italian Grandmas dining room. The staff was very friendly and oh my goodness the menu was amazing. I wish I could have a sample platter of everything! Our group did want to try different things and share, which worked out great because the portions were served family style.

We chose for appetizers the mozzarella sticks and the homemade garlic knot rolls. Fresh cheese, breaded and fried. Yum... the boys loved this option. They were served with their homemade marinara, which was elegantly seasoned. It had the flavor of fresh tomatoes and just enough spice to tingle the pallet. There is nothing worse than a tomato sauce that takes like watered, spiced  tomato soup. The knot rolls are kneaded and proofed on demand. They are glazed with a  garlic butter sauce and are served piping hot to our table. Good thing the Waitress put them near me... because I was bound and determined to eat my fair share and anyone else's who couldn't get theirs fast enough.

For dinner we ordered a Sausage Hero, Pepperoni Pizza, Chicken Parmigiana with Spaghetti Noodles and the house Ravioli. First lets talk about the pizza. It was a beautiful thin crust with an al dente bite. Wonderful cheese and pepperoni combination. My two year old loved it! We would have picked other toppings, but she only wanted pepperoni. The hero was great. They have a wide array of selection to choose from. Each is a wonderful french bread baguette, sliced open and filled with your choice topping, sauce and cheese. This was my husbands favorite! The pasta was cooked well and came out hot, but not water logged. My favorite typical italian dish is chicken parmigiana. I have eaten this at many restaurants across our country. My Italian friend's mother and grandmother's version, has never met a competitor until now. fresh meat, pounded, lightly breaded and served with fresh mozzerella, melted on top. Oh it was delightful. Now my husband doesn't like chicken too much because he says it's a dry meat, meaning more often than not when he is served chicken it has dried out. Well he loved Nino's chicken. He couldn't believe how much flavor was nestled between such wonderful layers of cheese and sauce.

Some recommendations that I would make, when I rule the world, is making it easier to access the restaurant. So if the city could reconstruct 36th Ave, I would really appreciate it. And for some reason, I feel that a wonderful wood burning stove would just add to the ambiance. I would highly recommend this establishment to anyone. It is family friendly as well as perfect for a night on the town.

Here is the link to their web page to view their menu and more information on the Restaurant.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chocolate Waffles



So a quick family dinner tonight, yet gourmet to my heart. Just a simple bisquick recipe, with a few modifications for tastiness and a little flavor.

2 cups Bisquick Baking Mix
1 1/3 cup Chocolate Milk
2 egg whites, beaten
1/3 cup applesauce

Preheat waffle iron. Add all ingredients together and mix well. let batter rest in fridge for 5 min. mix again for 30 sec. Spray waffle iron, fill and close. Serve with fresh fruit preserves, or whatever you want.

Microplane Box Grater



Well, a few months ago, we ran out of grated cheese. So I though to myself that I would use my cheese grater, umm... I didn't have one. How could we have gone this long without a cheese grater? So I went on a search to find one. I knew that I loved all of Microplanes hand graters, but I didn't know that they had yet made a box grater. I love this! It is sturdy, and very durable. The rubber handle helps out and is very comfy for gripping while grating. Also the same rubber additions on the bottom keeps the grater in place. It has a large grate cut for medium to hard cheeses like cheddar and provolone. It has a zester side for all those zester needs. There is a slicer side and a side for soft cheeses. It is also easy to wash and has proved itself worthy to last in the dishwasher. No home should be without a cheese grater, and if you are going to have one, pick a good one and make it last.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Undercover Eater: FireTap Ale House









So last night for our family night out we decided to try the new Fire Tap  Ale House. It came highly recommended from my good friend Kim. It was a typical sports bar, setting, with a upper-class feel. We didn't have to wait to long, for a Saturday night, about 25 minuets for a table for 4 people. Which was lucky, because their waiting room had a very awkward feel to it.  Once we got seated, I would have to give the servers a less than bronze star effort. It seemed to our waitress that being busy didn't suit her.  We were not treated very friendly. She didn't say much to us, be seemed to be overwhelmed by the night. Which could be a number of things, or just an off day. We always had to ask to have our drinks refilled, our food came out no very timely and she only visited our table 4 times, get our drinks, serve our drink and take our order, bring our order and finally bring our check. The first time she said anything to use was when we told her we needed boxes, and she smiled and said, "Yeah, I always order to much too." That was the friendliest thing all night.


I menu all looked great, I wish I could have tasted a bit more. We tried two of their appetizers, Baked Mozzarella and a Monk Pretzel. The Mozzarella was served with a wonderful flat bread and some tomato basil sauce. The bread was wonderful, the sauce, which they use on their pizzas, was a little sweet for me, but tasty non the less. The pretzel was wonderful! just crunchy enough, just soft enough. It was served with a Homemade cheese sauce and a large grain mustard.


For dinner, We ordered the baked macaroni, a pepperoni pizza and my husband ordered a "Meat-lovers' Calzone. Large portions, and all the food was tasty. Their pizza is stone baked, the crust is light and has enough stability for you to hold it, but a bite to it that can only be classified as al dente. It was wonderful, and it tasted great the next day as well.... for breakfast I might add. There is another pizza joint here in town that is similar to the setting we found here... they better watch out. 


The macaroni, was nice and creamy. The sauce was nice and flavorful. I feel it might actually rival some mom's homemade cheese sauces. It seemed to me that it was the same sauce that the pretzel came with. My husband loved his calzone. Why? because same great bread crust, filled with wonderful toppings and enough for him to take to lunch tomorrow, or eat in the middle of the night.


Overall, our experience was great. The wonderful aspect of the food offset the minor follies from the other areas in the restaurant. I would like to venture back to try different entrées and not have the kids with me. Maybe we would get a different treatment not having a crazy family label on us. Some suggestions that I would make...


Waiters, all need the same attire, and same level of attire, some shouldn't look like they just washed 500 dishes and then are brining me my food? They need to regroup with who is running food, and who is bussing tables. Also... maybe some of the staff is ultra friendly, review that with everyone. I heard a few other customers, also complain about staffing issues... not that I was trying to eavesdrop.


The layout of the restaurant needs to be reevaluated. There need to be a distinct separation from people eating, and people waiting. A room divider I would switch the Hostess meet and greet desk 180 degrees and put a divider behind them. But that is all my opinion.


Here is the Link to their wed site: http://firetapalehouse.com/
Here is the Link to their Menu: http://firetapalehouse.com/sites/firetapalehouse.com/files/FireTap%20Menu%2046300.pdf

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Best French Toast Ever



I made this on Sunday for our breakfast... In a world with no little kids getting up at 7am on the weekend, this would be perfect for brunch.

1 loaf Challah Bread cut into 2 inch slices
3 Eggs
2 cups Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Cinnamon (optional)


Preheat griddle to 350, or on a medium high heat on the stove. Mix together eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat for 30 seconds.  Soak pieces of bread into mixture, making sure that each side is evenly coated. Grease griddle. Place bread on. Cook on each side until golden brown. Serve hot. Top with fresh fruit, a variety of syrups of flavored butters. My preferred choice would be to top with fresh boysenberry jam and powered sugar.

A good variation would be to switch a flavored extract like orange or almond for the vanilla. Also ground nutmeg, pumpkin spice or cardamon are great spices to add! Enjoy.

Garlic Twist






Oh Garlic twist... How I love you! This thing is amazing! It can save time and stress when dealing with garlic. I use it always when I want garlic in a meal. Too many people sacrifice the perfect flavor from garlic because they are too frustrated with getting all that great flavor out of its package. All you do is Take the garlic twist and hit the gloves with it, on a cutting board. This gets the papery outside off the garlic pods on the inside. then place 2-3 cloves in side... and start twisting. It is hard to get it going sometimes, but nothing that lasts for more than a second or two. Then you twist away! When you get to the size you want. Turn side of Garlic Twist upside down, forcefully...... hit it on the cutting board to get all the goodness out. toss in dishwasher... and DONE! Garlic Goodness at your fingertips. Sometimes I will twist up a little extra, add a little olive oil to it, put the pieces together and place in the fridge. Keep it there for only a day... or else everything will start smelling garlicky for sure!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Home Style Fried Chicken








home style fried chicken
ingredients:

6 breast for chicken or 9 tenderloins
2 cups low fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 eggs

½ cup bread crumbs
Flour, for dredging
Vegetable shortening, for frying


preparation:
Place chicken pieces into a plastic container and cover with buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
Melt enough shortening (over low heat) to come just 1/8-inch up the side of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan. Once shortening liquefies raise heat to 325 degrees F. Do not allow oil to go over 325 degrees F.
Drain chicken in a colander. Combine salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Liberally season chicken with this mixture. Dredge chicken in egg and flour and shake off excess. Dredge in egg again and then in bread crumbs.
Place chicken into the pan. The oil should come half way up the pan. Cook chicken until golden brown on each side, approximately 10 to 12 minutes per side. More importantly, the internal temperature should be right around 180 degrees. (Be careful to monitor shortening temperature every few minutes.)
Drain chicken on a rack over a sheet pan. Don't drain by setting chicken directly on paper towels or brown paper bags. If you need to hold the chicken before serving, cover loosely with foil but avoid holding in a warm oven, especially if it’s a gas oven.







Virginia Biscuits







virginia biscuits
ingredients:

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ cup butter
½ cup crisco
1/8 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
½ cup milk
1 large egg


preparation:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In large bowl sift flour, sugar and salt. Add baking powder.  Cut in butter and Crisco.

Mix milk and egg. The total volume for both should yield ¾ cup, adjust if needed. Form well, add liquid mixture. Fold together. Do not over mix!

Turn out onto floured surface and knead. Let rest in refrigerator for 10 min.

While resting, lightly grease Dutch oven with Crisco.

Press out to 1 ½ inch, cut into biscuits.  Place one finger width apart in pan.  Cook for 10-15 mins.

Serve warm.



mississippi mud cake


cake recipe

Butter for dutch oven pan
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar

½ tsp. Salt
1 cup butter
1 cup water
2 tbs. Cocoa
3 eggs
2 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Vanilla
½ cup milk
25   each Hershey kisses
1 cup milk chocolate chunks

garnish:
2 cups smashed Oreo cookies
whipped cream

glaze:
¼ cup butter
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cup powder sugar.
3 tbs. Cocoa powder



Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350

 Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl beat eggs, set aside. In additional bowl. Mix together milk, soda and vanilla. Set aside. In Dutch oven melt butter water and cocoa. Do not boil, but heat thoroughly. Add flour mixture to hot cocoa mixture. Mix. Add eggs, beat again. Add vanilla/milk mixture. Fold in kisses and milk chocolate chunks. Bake at 350 for 25 min.

Glaze:
In small Dutch oven, heat butter, milk and cocoa. Bring to boil. Remove form heat. Add vanilla nda powdered sugar.
To serve, place 3 tbs. of Oreo crumbs on plate. Then, with a large ice cream scoop, scoop out cake. Place on plate. Pour glaze generously over cake.  Dollop whipped cream. Sprinkle more Oreo on top.

Cream Puffs





Profiteroles au Chocolate
(cream puff)

Ingredients:

Profiteroles
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
¾ cup water
6 TBS of unsalted butter cut into 6 pieces
3 eggs

chocolate sauce
½ cup chocolate nibs
½ cup heavy cream warm

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly butter a large backing sheet

Sift together flour, salt and nutmeg. In medium sauce pan, bring water and butter to boil. Remove from heat and add the dry ingredients all at once. Beat with a wooded spoon fro about one minute until mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Return to low heat and mix fro about 2 minutes.

Place mixture in large mixer bowl. On medium heat add one egg at a time, allowing eggs to incorporate evenly. Place dough in piping bag and pipe small balls onto greased pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes until pastry is well risen and browned.

To make sauce, place nibs in bowl. Add warm cream. Let sit for 2 minutes. Stir and serve on profiteroles.

Country Bruschetta







Country Bruschetta

Ingredients

1 loaf day old country bread
6 whole roma tomatoes
6 roughly torn basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup of fresh soft cheese

Preheat a grill or grill pan.

Slice your bread thickly, and place slices on a dry grill to brown, about 30 seconds on both sides. Take tomatoes, place on cutting board, and slice. Add the basil to the tomatoes in a large bowl. Add olive oil and season with black pepper, to taste.
Remove caramelized bread from grill and rub each side with cloves of garlic. Top with spoonfuls of mixture, garnish with cheese and serve immediately.
Yield: 6 servings

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Papa Murphy's Pizza


Well today was a crazy day with the kids and I really was craving Pizza. So I asked my Husband to stop by Papa Murphy's and pick up one of their "take n bake" pizzas. We tried the new think crust pizza and it was really good. These pizzas do tend to be a little more greasy than most others, but the staff did a great job making the pizza to our specifications and they were really friendly. I really liked how I was able to call them and they had it ready in a timely manor, not too early and my husband didn't have to wait. I would recommend you locating one in your neighborhood and trying them to day!

Basil Tomato Sauce

This is a classic. I use it for all forms of pasta dishes and for my pizza creations. It's easy to make and oh so tasty. It is the best with fresh tomatoes, but canned ones will make due.



1 tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, small dice
1/4 cup carrot, small dice
28 oz of seeded, diced tomato (or 28-32 oz can drained)
1 tbs fresh basil, chiffonade

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, saute until soft . Add garlic and continue to saute. Add the tomatoes, simmer uncovered on low heat for 20 min, or until thick. season to taste with salt and pepper. using an immersion blender, process the sauce until its smooth. add basil and keep over low heat until ready to serve.

Classic Caesar Salad



1-2 Heads of Romaine

4 oz bread crusts removed
1-2 oz olive oil

6 anchovy Fillet
     or 1 tbs Anchovy paste (easier option)
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 egg, beaten
3 tbs lemon juice
4-6 oz oilve oil
tt salt and pepper

1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated

Wash and drain romaine. cut into manageable size pieces. Keep covered with a wet paper towel in the refrigerator until just before service. Cut bread into small cubes. Heat 1 oz olive oil in a nonstick pan. toss cubes and saute until crisp.

To prepare dressing, mash anchovies and garlic together to create paste.  Beat in the egg and lemon juice. drizzle the olive oil in slowly while whisking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss Romaine, Parmesan cheese and bread with dressing just before service.

Veggie Salad

This was a recipe from a wonderful neat older lady. Her husband didn't like romaine or iceberg is his salads so she would just chop a ton of veggies together. This combination was his favorite.

1/3 cup chopped cauliflower
1/3 cup diced cucumbers
1/3 cup diced seeded tomatoes
1/3 cup carrots cut on the bias 1/2 inch
1/8 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Toss all veggies together, serve with favorite dressing, garnish with cheese

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sauted Vegetable Medley

This is a variation of a recipe that we served when I worked at the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska. A good adaptation for a low fat diet or no oil, use a non stick pan, and use Pam cooking spray. You still get all the flavor and effects of saute, without the extra oil. using fresh ingredients really make the difference here!  ENJOY!

1 Zucchini, cut bias
2 Yellow Squash, cut bias
1/2 Red Onion, cut julienne
2 Tbs Olive oil
1 Tbs Fresh Rosemary, Chopped
tt Salt and Pepper

Wash and cut vegetables and herbs, Preheat a saute pan on medium heat. Toss vegetables with oilve oil, Enough to lightly coat. Pour a small about of oil in heated pan. Add the vegetables and herbs. saute until al dente. Serve immediately.

serves 4

Roasted Potato Wedges


This is a favorite recipe to combine with most meat dishes. I try to make this after I harvest from my garden for the best results... but off season veggies are great too. I also have added carrots and pearl onions for a roasted veggie combination. Also on a word for Summit spices, they are based in South Side in Anchorage, Alaska. They have great blends, which I use regularly. Enjoy!
1/2 lb Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/2 lb Baby Red Potatoes
2 Tbs Rainy Pass Rosemary Blend (from Summit Spices)
3 Tbs Olive Oil
tt Salt and Pepper

Cut Potatoes into 1" wedges Place all ingredients into a bowl and toss with olive oil. If they are fairly dry, add more oil until evenly coated. Spread onto a sheet pan or baking dish. Bake at 375 for about 45 min or until potatoes are tender and lightly browned. Be sure to stir several times during the roasting process to help with even browning.

serves 4

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ginger Sauce

Oh nelly! Another wonderful sauce from yours truly!!!!! Great with chicken! Great with Pork! I also have served this over potatoes and rice. Jasmine rice is the best choice.


Ginger Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups of chicken stalk

1 can of ginger ale

2 tbs minced ginger

Pinch of saffron

Salt and pepper to taste

Slurry to thicken (corn starch and water)

¼ cup onion

¼ cup celery

1/8 cup carrot

In medium sauce pan sauté onion celery, carrot on medium heat. Add minced ginger. Add stalk and ginger ale. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Add saffron and salt and pepper. Use immersion blender to combine all ingredients. Thicken with slurry as needed. Serve warm.

Cranberry and Apricot Sauce


So want a wintery sauce that goes great with chicken and pork? Try this one... Cranberry and Apricot Sauce. I have found that is easy and very versatile. Also great for all those individuals who still crave a tasty turkey meal. ENJOY!


Cranberry and Apricot Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

2 Tbs of apricot jelly or marmalade

3/4 cup sugar, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 cup of chicken stalk

salt and pepper as needed

slurry (cornstarch and water)

Preparation:

In a small saucepan combine cranberries, apricot jelly, chicken stalk, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmering and cook until cranberries are tender, stirring occasionally. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens. Taste and add more sugar, if necessary. Use blender or hand blender, to combine all ingredients. Use slurry to thicken if necessary Cool. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mexican Casserole

So each week we will have a fun way to share stories and the recipes behind them.

One of my favorite dishes is Corn Bread Casserole.

My college budget and my hungry roommate Emily inspired this dish. We were poor and were having a few “boys” over and well I combined resources and brainpower and this is what I got. The boys loved it, I loved it and now my Husband requests it all the time. It has the potential for many variations and experimentations, but is wholesome and tasty, especially on a cold or busy day.

1 Lb of lean ground Meat
1 cup frozen corn
2 TBS Taco seasoning
1 small can of tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 can of Favorite Chili

3 cups of Marie Calendar Corn bread mix
1 ½ cups cold Water

2 ½ cups of shredded cheese (any flavor)

In a fry pan, brown meat, add taco seasoning, tomato sauce, corn and can of chili. Place in casserole pan, spread out evenly. Sprinkle 2 cups of cheese over meat. In a separate bowl mix corn bread batter. Spoon it over meat mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 400 degrees until corn bread is done. Serve with sour cream.

Good variations are other veggies like peppers and flavor your corn bread to make it spicy.

Best Basic Muffins Mix Ever!

Basic Muffin Mix

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for preparing the muffin tin

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for the top of the muffins

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk

Optional Ingredients

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

1-Cup Mini Chocolate Chips

½ White Chocolate Chips and ½ Cup Craisens

2 TBS orange Zest, 3 Tbs Poppy Seeds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly brush a 12-muffin tin with butter and set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with an electric hand-held mixer in a large bowl, cream the butter, zest, and 2/3 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour in 3 parts into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk in 2 parts, until just combined. Fold in the blueberries (or other ingredients). Take care not to over mix the batter.

Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool muffins in the pan on a rack. Serve warm.