Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olivia's Austin

This afternoon we went to Olivia's for brunch which was sooooo good! We have been there for dinner before and it was amazing. The brunch was definitely one of the best brunch's I have ever had. We love this restaurant, the atmosphere is great, not too noisy, and great service. The team at Olivia's definitely knows what they're doing. We ordered a cinnamon roll to split which was covered in a cream cheese icing glaze, which I didn't know about until it came to the table, so I picked out the center part! But it was so buttery and rich, I don't think it really needs the glaze. But I guess it wouldn't really be a true cinnamon roll if it didn't have that. Needless to say it was amazing! Then I ordered the Lox plate, which was fantastic. They house smoke the salmon and it was served with 2 pieces of thick sliced home made bread. I could eat this every day if I could. My husband got their version of a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. He said it was amazing, and I munched on his fries which are the perfect consistency of crispy goodness. My mom ordered the Olivia Benedict which she said was great. It had 2 perfectly poached eggs sitting on a bed of braised beef and home made biscuit, topped with perfect hollandaise sauce. She said it was very rich, but definitely one of the best things on the menu.
So once again, a great meal at Olivia's. I would suggest this restaurant to anyone who loves to eat!

Parkside Austin

Last night we went to dinner at Parkside on 6th street. The restaurant reminded me a lot of Blue Ribbon in Brooklyn,NY. The atmosphere of the restaurant was young and hip. It was a bit noisy so it was very difficult to hear the person sitting across from you at the table. I wouldn't recommend bringing and older person who has hearing problems here. But the food was good, its known for its raw bar and oyster selection. Which is not my cup of tea, so I opted for the steak, which was good, but not fantastic. My husband got the braised pork cheeks which were very tasty. The standout of the whole meal were the desserts! We got the chocolate sticky toffee pudding which was out of this world! Sorry to say I didn't get a picture of this because we got a little too excited and ate the whole thing before I remembered to snap a photo. And we also got the cream filled donuts, which I didn't eat since there was cream in them but the presentation was gorgeous and from what everyone said they didn't taste too bad either.
So, I would definitely go back for dinner but maybe would go a little earlier than 8pm, since it was so loud and 6th street gets pretty crazy on a Saturday night.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Breakfast for dinner

My favorite meal of the day is breakfast and nothing beats having breakfast for dinner! So last night we made pancakes and bacon for dinner. I have to say pancakes are just about the best thing on the planet, when they are made right. They have to be moist, not too big, with just the right amount of sweetness. And you have to use real Maple Syrup, none of that imitation syrup, please!
I used to make this pancake recipe that had yogurt in it, but ever since I became a lactard, I can't make that recipe anymore. So, I have found that the basic pancake recipe in the Joy of Cooking cookbook is great, and I just substitute whole milk with lactose free milk, and they are just as good.
Here is the recipe:
Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Whisk together in another bowl:
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until combined. If you wish you can fold in any type of fruit, nut, or chocolate chip.
Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the preheated griddle or non stick pan. Make sure to butter your pan first and it should be on medium low heat. Cook each pancake until the top of them is speckled with bubbles and some bubbles have popped open, then flip and cook until underside is lightly brown. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree oven.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

About a year ago we decided that we needed to start cutting back on our grocery spending. We felt like we would spend all this money on buying vegetables and fruit and it would end up going bad in our refrigerator because we would forget to use it or we just couldn't eat it fast enough. So we came up with a plan to start making a menu at the beginning of each week, that way we would know exactly what we needed to buy from the grocery store and not waist anything. This has been such a great way for us to save money and we suggest it to anyone who is trying to stay on a budget. It also eliminates the question of "what are we eating tonight?" and saves us time during the week since we know exactly what we are eating everyday. Its also a great way to remember to use things for more than one meal, for instance we make a whole chicken and we can use it for at least 2 more meals. So your getting more bang for your buck!
One of our go to meals is spaghetti and meatballs, its so easy and scrumptious. We save money by not buying a jarred sauce, we make our own which is so easy. Here's how:

Marinara Sauce:
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 28oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon of dry basil

In a large saucepan on medium heat, cook the onion and carrot in the olive oil, until soft, about 10 minutes. Then you add the tomatoes, break them up as they go in the pan. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, and basil. Take off the heat and pulse with a hand blender until smooth or if you don't have a hand blender then you can use a regular stand blender. Taste to make sure the seasoning is to you liking, adjust if need be. This is it, its so easy and quick and you can make a lot of it and store in the freezer and take out when you need sauce.

1 egg beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3/4 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of dry basil
1/2 teaspoon of dry oregano

In a small saute pan, on medium heat, heat olive oil and add onions, cook until soft and a little browned. Set aside.
In a large bowl beat egg. Add breadcrumbs into egg and stir until combined. Add meats and cooked onion and all spices. Mix with hands until well combined.
Put foil down onto a large baking sheet and start to form your meatballs. Place on the baking sheet as you form them, this is just a holding station until you are ready to cook the meatballs.
Then in a large cast iron skillet or large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat, then place meatballs in the pan. Cook until browned on all sides, they don't have to be cooked all the way through. As soon as they are browned on all sides place in your Marinara sauce. Have your marinara sauce on the stove on low. The meatballs will finish cooking in the sauce on low for another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Salt your water and add the spaghetti or linguine. Follow cooking instructions on the package. Drain the pasta and add your meatballs and sauce to your pasta.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Grilled Chicken and Zucchini

One of the best things about living in Austin is that you can grill in February! When we moved from Brooklyn, NY to Austin one of the most exciting things was that we could own a grill and that we could use it pretty much all year round! Grilling just gives food such amazing flavor that you just can't achieve inside on a stove top or in an oven.
So, last night we made grilled chicken and fresh grilled zucchini and served it over creamy polenta.
We always grill on hardwood lump charcoal, we feel it is a much better flavor than regular charcoal.
To prepare the chicken:

1 whole roasting chicken, quartered
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of dry oregano
1 teaspoon of dry parsley
1 teaspoon of dry rosemary
1 teaspoon of dry thyme
1 teaspoon of dry basil
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Clean and quarter a whole chicken. In a bowl combine all spices. Coat the chicken with olive oil and rub spice mixture into skin very liberally. Put on grill and turn chicken after 12 minutes, cook until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Takes around total of 25 minutes on a very hot grill surface.

For the zucchini: Slice 2 zucchini's lengthwise into 1/4" thick strips. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and place on hot grill. Cook on one side for 5 minutes and turn and cook for another 3 minutes or until both sides are caramelized. Immediately sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile to prepare the Polenta:
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt to boiling water. Stir in 1 3/4 cups of cornmeal. Keep stirring until it starts to thicken, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of butter until desired creaminess. Season with salt and pepper.

Chocolate Cupcakes for Rae's Birthday!

So my cousin Rachel turned 18 today! She is the biggest chocoholic in the world, so I decided why not make her the most chocolaty cupcakes she's ever had. The cupcake recipe comes from the "at home with Magnolia" cook book. But the icing recipe is from Ghirardelli Chocolate. This was my first time making these cupcakes and I thought the flavor was good but they are more dense than a regular cupcake. Just an FYI, so if you don't mind a non traditional cupcake these are great! Here is the recipe:

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp.
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 1/3 cups whole milk (I use lactose free low fat milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with 18 cupcake papers.
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the chocolate, mixing until well incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended, and the batter is smooth. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Chocolate Butter cream Frosting:
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 2/3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup milk (I used lactose free low fat milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix confectioner's sugar with cocoa. Blend sugar mixture with butter alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth. Blend in vanilla.
FYI in the picture I topped them with crushed up chocolate heath bar. Which gives them a nice crunch.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Dinner

My sweet husband made the most delicious and healthy Valentine's dinner last night. It was flank steak that he marinaded in Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, and Crystal hot sauce. And a beautiful chopped Mediterranean salad, that had green bell pepper, chopped red topped lettuce, flat leaf parsley, scallions, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, and English cucumber. It was perfectly dressed in a vinaigrette that had shallots, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. He served it with warm garlic bread to sop up all the yummy juices from the salad and the steak.
Sorry I don't have exact measurements for this one, since my hubby prepared it all.
Oh and he surprised me with the most amazing chocolate covered strawberries! Unfortunately I don't have a picture of them since I gobbled them up so fast. LOL!

Friday, February 12, 2010

In November of 2008 my mom and I took a trip to Israel. This was not my first trip but I hadn't been there since the summer of 1998 so it had been 10years. A lot had changed in the city of Jerusalem but at the same time everything was all too familiar. Israel is such a magical place, I think it has something to do with the history, the people, and all the cultures and religions. Its such a melting pot. The sites, sounds, and smells of the city of Jerusalem always make me feel like I am somewhere exotic but at the same time I feel at ease and at home. The food in Israel is always so amazing, and they have such great produce. The outside food markets are always beaming with colors and great aromas. I took a few pictures on my trip and thought I would share them.

Venison Chili

The weather in Austin has not been our typical winter. It has been cold and rainy, and yesterday was no exception. It was the perfect day to make a steaming hot pot of venison chili. We get the best venison meat from my step sister and her hubby. George goes hunting every year and comes back with freezer loads of venison meat. So, we are always happy to take some of it off their hands. This recipe is on the mild side since my poor stomach can't take much heat but you can certainly add cayenne to the recipe if you want to kick it up a notch. This is also real Texas chili, you won't find any beans here! Also I don't really do any measuring when making chili so please feel free to adjust my measurements if you need to.

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 yellow onion diced
4 garlic cloves chopped
1 pound ground venison (you can use any kind of ground meat you like)
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1/2 cup of chili powder
1 28oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 8oz. can of tomato sauce
1 cup of chicken stock
1 1/2 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 carrots diced
1 package of Burton beef/pork smoked sausage sliced

In a large pot heat oil on medium high heat, add onions and garlic, and saute for a few minutes until onions start to soften. Add ground venison to the pot, saute until meat is browned. Add cumin and chili powder to meat mixture. Add whole can tomatoes, breaking them up as you put them into pot. Add tomato sauce, chicken stock, and water and stir until all combined. Add bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to low. Simmer uncovered for around 30 minutes. Add carrots and sausage to pot. Simmer for another 30 minutes or until carrots are soft and cooked through. Serves 6. We like to eat ours with fresh toasted sourdough bread. YUM!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Open Faced Steak Sandwich with herb mayo

Oh Martha how do I love thee! We started making this delicious sandwich last summer and we can't stop. It is the perfect combination of tender beef with just the right amount of herb mayo and peppery, crisp arugula. It is an open faced sandwich but could work as a regular closed sandwich but we personally think that's too much bread and it ruins the flavor of the beef. This is a perfect picnic meal for lunch or dinner. Again we have changed the recipe up slightly from the original version. Here we go:

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 1/2 pounds tender cut of beef (we usually use a flank steak, but we have used a sirloin steak but there is more fat to trim off)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves Roasted garlic (roasting garlic is simple take the cloves and put them in foil and sprinkle them with olive oil, wrap them up in the foil to make a pouch and put into a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the garlic is soft and spreadable.)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh marjoram
1 baguette or sourdough loaf, sliced into sandwich size pieces
1 cup baby arugula

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Generously season beef with salt and pepper. Add to skillet, and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer skillet to oven.
2. Roast until beef registers 130 for medium-rare, 20-25 minutes. This time depends on how thick your beef is. Take beef out and let stand for 15 minutes. Cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.
3. Meanwhile, mash garlic with fork in a small bowl. Stir in mayonnaise,lemon juice, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. You can store this in your refrigerator for up to 1 day.
4. Toast your bread. Spread 1 tablespoon of mayo on each bread slice. Top with beef. And just before serving add arugula and season with salt and pepper.

Almond Coconut Macaroons

Last year around Passover I discovered a great and easy coconut macaroon recipe from Martha Stewart. These tasty little morsels are the perfect treat, they are low in fat and only take 15 minutes to make! I have tried them several ways, one time I tried them with chocolate chips instead of the almonds, which I have to say were pretty good! And I normally use roasted and salted almonds and omit the salt from the original recipe which I find to be a lot tastier than using boring blanched almonds. Here is the recipe:

1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg white
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup whole almonds, chopped (i use roasted and salted almonds)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of coarse salt (which i leave out since the almonds are already salted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. Whisk together sugar and egg white in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Form dough into eight 2-tablespoon mounds, and drop each onto sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake macaroons until golden brown on bottoms and edges, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool. They will keep covered for up to 1 week. Makes 8

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Did someone say Swedish Meatballs???

One of my favorite comfort foods is Swedish Meatballs. I can remember when I was probably about 10 or so my grandma made Swedish Meatballs for me and it was the most exciting combination of flavors. From that point on I fell in love with them. They are so rich and decadent, I love the flavor of the seared meatball crust with a hint of allspice and nutmeg coated in that rich and creamy sauce with the fresh burst of dill. You got to give it up to the Swedes for this mouth watering goodness. So last night I made my version of Swedish Meatballs, I say my version because it is cream free. Since everyone knows I am a Lactard. Here is my recipe, now keep in mind I dont do any measuring when making this dish, so I am going to try to get the measurements as exact as possible for you guys:

1/2 yellow onion diced
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 egg beaten
1/4 cup of bread crumbs
1/4 cup of milk (i use lactose free low fat milk)
1/2 pound of ground pork
3/4 pound of ground chuck
1/4 teaspoon of allspice
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup of flour
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock or beef stock
1 tablespoon of fresh dill chopped
1 package of egg noodles

1. Take the chopped onion and saute in a pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of butter until onions are soft and a little caramelized. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl beat the egg, add the breadcrumbs and milk and stir to combine. Then add your pork, beef, allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix well until everything is incorporated. Form your meatballs into 1 oz. portions, they should be on the smaller side that way they don't take as long to cook.
3. Meanwhile fill a large pot with water and put on high heat covered until water starts to boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to boiling water. Drop noodles in water and cook until done. Drain noodles and set aside.
4. Heat a large skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat. Place meatballs in the hot pan and brown on all sides. Once the meatballs are browned on all sides take out and place aside on a plate.
5. Turn your heat down to low and add 1 teaspoon of butter and 1/4 cup of flour to the pan drippings. Scrape the drippings from the bottom of pan to form a paste with the flour and butter. Cook for a few minutes until the flour starts to brown. Then slowly add the chicken stock to the flour with a whisk. Whisking the flour and stock together until smooth. Stirring occasionally until sauce starts to thicken about 10 minutes. Once sauce is thickened add remaining butter and put the meatballs back into the sauce. Cook on low for another 5 to 7 minutes or until meatballs are cooked all the way through. Turn the heat off and add your dill to the sauce. Serve over egg noodles immediately. Serves 4

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My version of Cobb Salad

I am frequently reading Martha Stewart Living Magazine and I find the best recipes in there. Martha has some awesome ideas! So in the back of each magazine she has these cute little recipe cards that you can rip out and keep in your recipe box, which is so awesome! One of my favorite recipes which I have adapted slightly is her Bibb Lettuce Salad with Horseradish Dressing. Now I am not really a salad kind of girl, but this dressing is just so good, I could put it on just about everything. Now I have added my own little twist to the recipe by adding crispy bacon and shredded roast chicken. It is great as an entree or a side salad. Here is the recipe:
2 large eggs
2 strips of your favorite bacon
1 roasted chicken breast shredded ( we usually roast a chicken the night before and have the leftovers for the salad, but you could buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery)
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head Bibb lettuce, torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Place eggs in a small pot, and cover with cold water by 1 1/2 inches. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover, and let stand for 12 minutes. Rinse with cold water, peel, and chop. Set aside
Place 2 strips of bacon in frying pan on high, turn over once it starts to brown, brown on other side and drain on paper towels. Chop the bacon into bite size pieces. Set aside.
Combine horseradish, vinegar, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Arrange lettuce on a serving platter, sprinkle with chopped egg, bacon, and shredded chicken, and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serves 2 to 3

The best snack..

I recently discovered the best packaged hummus called Grandma's Hummus. It is made locally here in Austin,TX by company called The Mediterranean Chef
This stuff tastes so fresh and authentic, its like you have stepped into a falaffel stand in Tel Aviv. She sells her products at Central Market
I also suggest trying her stuffed grape leaves or Dolmas, because they are out of this world good! So go out and get some, I promise you will not be disappointed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am going to continue on my cookie obsession. Last night I decided to make Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies from The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook. This is one of my favorite cookbooks. It is written by Jennifer Appel who is the co author of the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. Anyone who has been to NYC knows what the Magnolia Bakery is, only the most delectable dessert heaven you have ever been to! So as you can imagine Jennifer's cookbook does not disappoint. Here is her recipe:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, room temp.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking oats)
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (I use bittersweet chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two or three 12x18 inch baking sheets. In a medium bowl, combine the flour,baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion (this is very important, these cookies spread a lot). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.


So, there is this amazing cookie bakery in Austin,TX. Its called Tiffs Treats. They make the best snickerdoodles, and as a matter of fact I can't complain about any of their cookie flavors. The weather has been so gloomy and cold I needed a pick me up, so I made a cookie delivery! How amazing is it that you can order however many cookies you want on their website and they come freshly baked and still warm to your doorstep when you want them!!!! They definitely hit the spot!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Auditorium Shores

This one comes to us via my wife. Apparently this guy looked exactly like his Mastiff... notice the shirt matches the dogs coat! All class right 'der.