Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Restaurant-style pizza

Tomorrow, I'm heading out of town with my girlfriends for a long weekend trip (bachelorette party to be exact). So, with all of the packing I need to do, a quick and easy dinner was a must. But, even when I'm super-busy, I try to come up with something interesting and healthy to eat.

So for tonight, I made a pizza that's modeled after one I ate once at Lolita:

Wild mushroom with arugula

Here's what you need:

1 pre-made pizza crust
1 package sliced wild mushrooms
1 cup Italian blend shredded cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced (lucky for me, I had some fresh garlic from my grandpa's garden)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
A few leaves of arugula chopped (again - I had some fresh from his garden)

Saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic in olive oil until the mushrooms are cooked. Then, spread the mushroom mix on the pizza crust, lightly sprinkle with cheese. Follow the cooking instructions for the crust (for me it was 7-10 minutes), but a good rule is to take it out when the cheese is melted and slightly browning.

Finish it off by sprinkling the chopped arugula on top.

It was a perfect, light dinner that took me 20 minutes to make.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Deagan's Kitchen and Bar

Tonight was my second trip to Deagan's - first was only drinks, though.

I forgot take pics until it was too late, sorry!

Anyway, this place is really great. Nice casual vibe, a nice mix of metal and rustic decor, with a pretty eclectic menu. The beer list is long, and they have some interesting nightly specials. Tonight, all wine bottles were half off - a great deal for wine drinkers!

After starting with two of our favorite beers, Leinenkugal Summer Shandy and Ommegang Witte, we went with:
Bangers and mash - the sausage was flavorful, the mashed potatoes were like a big of whipped heaven, and the porter gloss was incredible.

Spicy shrimp tacos - perfectly-cooked shrimp, with creamy, smashed avocado and a spicy sauce topped with fresh cilantro. There were so many flavors in these tacos - a delicious mix of hot and cool, all wrapped in the softest tortilla I've ever had. Very good!

Crisp eggplant - Two large slices of eggplant that were breaded, fried and rolled and stuffed with cheese. Served with a chunky tomato sauce and fresh arugula. These were great, but I was so full from the tacos that I could only each half of one piece. No worries, though, now I have lunch for tomorrow!

While the food was great, the one less-than-perfect thing about the experience was the service. Our server just seemed a little too busy and rushed. But, that definitely won't stop us from coming back many more times. If you haven't given this place a try, you absolutely should soon.

Check it out:
Deagan's Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summery Steak

So, tonight I felt like Mexican. But, not just the typical Mexican (taco night), or even something with a little more pizazz (I already have barbacoa burritos planned for another day). Tonight we had something simple, with just a hint of Mexican flavor.

Strip steaks with chimichurri, spicy grilled potatoes and avocado
Here's what you need:
Potatoes (I used one large potato for the two of us)
1 avocado
1 punch of parsley
1 punch of cilantro
1 small red onion
Olive oil

To make the chimichurri, put the parsley, cilantro and red onion in the food processor and let it run until it turns into a choppy pesto consistency, then, while it's running for another 10 seconds or so, drizzle in some olive oil.

To prepare the potatoes, slice then in thick slices and toss the slices with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

Grill the potatoes until they're soft, and grill the steak to your liking.

Once everything's ready, slice an avocado and serve it on the side. It tastes really great with the spicy potatoes. Spread the chimichurri on top of your steak or use it as a dip - it's up to you, and either way, it's delicious.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Eating through Spain

My husband and I just got back from a week-long trip through Spain (including a day trip to Tangier, Morocco). While many people spend their time in Europe seeing the sights, standing in line at each of the famous tourist spots, we spent most of our time in search for our next great meal.

I don't have a lot of experience with Spanish food, other than the few dinners I've had at the downtown Cleveland restaurant Mallorca, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Needless to say, I was very pleased with what we found on the menus of the many restaurants and cafes we went to. While I did take notes during every meal, I thought I'd just share the highlights:

Spinach pasta stuffed with fresh cheese, with blue cheese cream sauce

Catalan sausage with shrimp and mushrooms

Beef cannelloni with black truffle cream sauce

Duck confit with pineapple chutney

Potato omelette sandwich with cured ham
King prawns with curry
French-fried cheese with honey and caramelized onions

Sole Andalusian style (white wine cream sauce with prawns)

Fish and seafood paella

Moroccan cous cous with chicken and vegetables

Toast with minced tomato and cured ham, toast with beef and brie
Veal in cider sauce, side of patates (or fries)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Build-your-own Burgers at 56 West

Tonight, I met two girlfriends at 56 West in Lakewood for dinner. It was a bittersweet experience - great food, but we were saying goodbye to a friend who's moving to Pittsburgh this weekend.

She picked the restaurant - she'd been wanting to try 56 West for a while. And, I'm glad she did.

It's a very casual, laid-back atmosphere, and the menu, also casual, had some really great options.

Burgers, sandwiches, salads and a few simple large plates made up the inexpensive menu (all sandwiches and burgers were under $10). It seems that the feature is the burger section, with build your own section that included a lot of unique topping options, as well as a list of suggested burger/topping combinations.

Here's what we chose:

Bacon, egg, arugula, roasted tomato, herbed mayo

Build-your-own Burger with arugula and goat cheese

Build-your-own Burger with chimichurri sauce, chipotle honey glaze, leaf lettuce and Vermont cheddar cheese

The burger itself was average...juicy enough but not the best I've ever had. It was really all about the toppings for me. And, you really can't beat the list of options they offer for such a low price.

I'll definitely be back to this place and hope you check it out, too.

56 West on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Freshening up for summer

I try to use fresh ingredients as often as possible, but now that it's summer, I feel there's no excuse to not use all of the beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables out now. So, for the next several weeks, I'll be including at least one fresh fruit or vegetable in every meal.

So while I'm snacking on peaches, plums, berries, kiwi and anything else that looks delicious at the grocery store, I've been thinking up new ways to include them in our meals, too. Here's what we ate tonight:

Farfalle with lemon, asparagus and Parmesan

While cooking the pasta (1 pound), I blanched a bunch of asparagus spears that I had cut into small pieces. Then, I mixed 3 tablespoons of butter with the zest of one large lemon. Once the pasta cooked and the asparagus had spent some time in an ice bath (to keep it green and crunchy), I mixed it together and stirred in the lemon butter, which melted and coated all of the pasta and asparagus. Then, I mixed in some shredded Parmesan cheese.

The crunch of the asparagus, the sweetness of the lemon zests and the salty taste of Parmesan was a great combination. It was a hearty dish that was still light enough for summer.

Dessert: Warm sugar cookie topped with grilled peaches and plums and vanilla bean ice cream

While my husband grilled the peaches and plums, I quickly baked a batch of sugar cookies (had pre-packaged cookie dough in the fridge). I literally transferred the cookie from the baking sheet to the bowl, and the fruit went straight from the grill to the bowl as well. Once the cold ice cream joined them, it started to melt over the warm ingredients and all mixed together so deliciously. With the exception of the cookie, this is a pretty healthy dessert (we used fat-free, no sugar added ice cream with only 70 calories per serving). I'm sure we'll make it again at least once this summer, with or without the cookies.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Happy Hour at Happy Dog

As a true hot-dog fan, I've been wanting to go to Happy Dog for a while, so when a group of friends planned a happy hour yesterday, I jumped at the chance. I'll definitely be back.

It's a casual bar atmosphere with a great beer list and a simple, yet surprising menu. Your choices: hot dog, veggie dog, tater tots, fries and - honestly - more toppings than you could ever imagine in your life. Because there are so many to choose from, they do offer a menu of "suggestive wieners" to help you decide.

Choose as many toppings as you want for only $5. Here's what we got:

Veggie dog with tomato, caramelized onions, house made ketchup and marinated portobello mushroom

Hot dog with chorizo chili, tillamook cheddar cheese, warm pineapple-ginger-currant chutney and potato chips
Hot dog with teriyaki onions, red pepper relish, warm pineapple-ginger-currant chutney and French brie cheese

Hot dog with hot pepper relish, Brazilian chimichurri, Caribbean coleslaw and chorizo chili

Then, for just $2.50, you can order fries or tater tots and choose 5 dipping sauces. With 3 orders, we had 15 different sauces on the table, including raspberry crunch mustard, black truffle honey mustard, saffron aioli, creole remoulade, brazillian chimichurri, oaxacan red chile & chocolate mole and so many more!

For such a low price, you can't get much more creative than that.

Check it out:

Happy Dog on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Brunch

Happy Mother's Day...hope everyone is enjoying this time with their families.

Because it's such a busy day and I live out of town, we hosted a brunch with both of our mothers and families, allowing the evening to be available for other visits.

This was the first brunch I hosted, but it really turned out great. Here's what we ate:
Lemon Pepper Panko-crusted Chicken

Zucchini, Tomato and Orzo Frittata

Fruit Salad and Croissants

To prepare the chicken:

Cut chicken breasts into small cutlets.
Beat one egg with a few tablespoons of milk. Mix panko crumbs with the zest of three lemons, salt and black pepper.
Zip each cutlet into the egg mixure, then the bread crumbs, completely coating each piece.
In a large frying pan with olive oil, lightly fry each piece of chicken for about one minute on each side, until a crust forms.
Bake the chicken at 275 degrees for one hour (or, if you're short on time, 30 minutes at 350 works just fine). To keep the chicken moist, place small bits of butter on each piece, or pour a small amount of white wine or chicken broth in the baking dish.

To prepare the frittata:
Cook about 1 cup of orzo pasta according to package directions.
Dice one small onion, zucchini, tomato and three cloves of garlic. Saute all veggies in olive oil until soft. Add orzo pasta and mix well. Add enough olive oil to be sure pan is coated.
Beat 8 to 10 eggs with about 1/4 cup milk. Add salt and pepper to egg mixture and add mixture to pan. Press pasta and veggie mixture to be an even level. Cook in the frying pan until the bottom of the egg mixture is set. Then, place in the oven for about 30 minutes until eggs are fully cooked.
Cut into wedges and serve.

Friday, April 29, 2011

B Spot really 'hit the spot'

After talking about it for weeks, we finally last night went to B Spot in Strongsville, the latest location of the Michael Symon burger joint to open in the area. With only a 40 minute wait - happily spent at the bar with a Hefeweizen - we had time to browse the menu and decide what we'd try out.

Of course, there were so many enticing options that we had a hard time deciding. So, we choose two burgers and two sides and split everything.

For the burgers, we choose:
Lola - fried egg, bacon, pickled red onions, cheddar and mayo

Shroomage - portabella mushroom, blue cheese, Lola steak sauce and griddled onions

At medium temperature, these burgers were so juicy and flavorful, they probably would have been delicious even without the fantastic toppings. These have easily joined the list of my favorite burgers.

On the side, we shared an order of chips with Parmesan fondue and Lola fries, which we dipped in the assortment of condiments provided on the table. My favorite was the coffee BBQ sauce and my husband stuck with the Sasha sauce, a mustardy hot pepper combination - a Michael Symon speciality.

As if that meal wasn't good enough, we decided to end it by splitting a milkshake (or Bad A** shake as they're called on the menu) for dessert. We went all out with the most unique choice - Vanilla Bean Apple Bacon with Bourbon and it was the perfect combo of sweet and salty.

We plan to be back often. It was tasty and fun enough even to face the 3 hour wait they've been having on Saturday nights. Check it out soon and stay tuned for the Crocker Park location to open, too.

B Spot Burgers

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pasta Date No. 2

So, usually when I don't like something I've cooked, I don't post it, but since I committed to 3-4 pasta dishes this week, I couldn't leave this off.

It's not that I didn't like it or that it was bad, it's just a little more of an acquired taste.

Orecchiette with sweet fennel sausage and rapini

Rapini - aka broccoli rabe - is not quite what I expected. I thought, "I love broccoli, I love spinach and most other greens, so something that combines both should be great." Well, it was a little bitter. I may just need to experiment with different cooking methods to get the taste just right.

Anyway, if you're interested:
Cook about 3/4 pound bulk sweet fennel sausage, then add a little olive oil to the pan and saute the rapini with the cooked sausage. Add salt, pepper and garlic to taste. Then, add some chicken stock to create a sauce (I used about a cup and a half). Then, add this to a pound of cooked orecchiette pasta and serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My life-long love affair with pasta

This week, I'm truly inspired. After reading this oh-so appropriately titled article about America's most delicious pasta dishes, I had to take my relationship with pasta to the next level.

Pasta - in all forms - is my absolute favorite food, so an article that offers 101 ideas for fabulously tasty pasta dishes is my new favorite reading materials. This week, I have 3-4 dishes planned (time permitting). Here's what I started with:
Butchers Bolognese

It's basically a meat sauce - just with more than one meat. The original dish called for ground beef, pork and lamb, but my grocery store was out of ground lamb. So, I settled for a variety pack of beef, veal and pork - about 1 2/3 pounds total weight.

Other ingredients included: one red bell pepper and one banana pepper (both chopped), 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed to a chunky consistency, 1/4 cup chopped onion and salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried basil to taste.

I browned the meat in a large pot first, then added the onion and peppers and cooked them until they started to get soft. Then, I added the tomatoes and seasonings and simmered on low for about one hour until the meat was really soft and finely ground.

You can use whatever shape pasta you like. I choose a large, flat noodle that really folded up around the sauce, holding nice bites of the meat inside. It really was delicious and really easy to make. Next time I'll plan ahead and make it as it was intended - with lamb instead of veal - I'm sure that adds an extra something to the sauce. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New old-fashion: Pork chops and applesauce

I feel like pork chops and applesauce have been around for such a long time. I even remember hearing about it on the Brady Bunch (yes, I loved that show). I've made lots of variations of this dish, and last night, I tried a new twist:

Pork chops with apple chutney and wild rice with a brown butter sage sauce.

Since wild rice takes a long time to cook, I started that first. To make the chutney, I cut up two tart apples and sauteed them in a sauce pot with a little olive oil. Then, I added balsamic vinegar, ground ginger, garlic powder, nutmeg and sugar. Sorry, no measurements, I just eyeballed it and did a few taste-tests. I let this cook down until liquid reduced to a syrup, then set it aside. I cooked the pork chops in a large frying pan with olive oil. Then, using in the same pan I cooked the meat, I melted a few tablespoons of softened butter that I had mixed with about 1/2 teaspoon of ground sage. Once the butter was melted and brown, I added cooked rice and quickly stir-fried until it was completely coated.

It was a tasty twist on a pretty classic American dish. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Experimenting with my favorite things

For tonight's dinner, I thought I'd see what I could come up with using some of my favorite foods.
Favorite Vegetables: Zucchini and Yellow Squash
Favorite Spice: Cumin
Favorite Food Overall: Pasta

With those ingredients, plus garlic, coriander, chicken breast and cream, I came up with this:
...sort of a creamy, spiced-garlic chicken pasta.

Here's how you make it:
Cook pasta according to package directions. I used mezze penne because it's the perfect small shape.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and put the pieces in a bowl. Mince a few cloves of garlic. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander and olive oil to the bowl and toss to coat.

On medium heat, cook the chicken in a large frying pan. While the chicken cooks, slice one zucchini and one squash and add the pieces to the pan. Then, add a little heavy cream to create a sauce.

Toss all together. It was so delicious, I'll definitely be adding it to my list of quick and easy meals.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Getting ready for fish friday

I'm big on leftovers for lunch. But now that it's lent, I have to be careful not to make a meat dish on Thursday night or I won't be able to eat it for lunch. This added rule has actually be nice - it's helped us eat healthier and keeps me thinking of creative seafood dinners.

Tonight we had: Shrimp and wild rice in lemon-white wine broth

This was incredibly easy to make. I cooked the wild rice according to package directions (it took about 25 minutes). Meanwhile, I cooked the shrimp on my large frying pan with a little bit of chicken broth. Once the shrimp was mostly pink, I added the zest of one lemon some baby spinach (gotta get some veggies in there). Once the spinach was wilted, I added 2 splashes of white wine.

I finished it off by combining the shrimp mixture with the wild rice and topped it with a little bit of Parmesan cheese. And, of course, I poured some of that wine in a glass to enjoy with this fabulous meal!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Low-fat Fat Tuesday

With all of the traditional Mardi Gras foods out there - King Cake, Paczki - I was surprised to find out that my favorite Creole classic - Jambalaya - isn't so unhealthy. That's why I made it tonight in honor of Mardi Gras.

After looking at a few different recipes, I came up with my own that worked best with what I had in my kitchen.

1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 1/2 c instant brown rice
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups chicken broth
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce
3 links andouille sausage, cooked and thinly sliced
1/2 pound raw shrimp

Heat oil in a dutch oven or large sauce pot. Add onions, peppers and celery and cook for about 5 minutes. Add rice, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and oregano and stir well, allowing to cook for about 2 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce and hot sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes or until rice is cooked and sauce thickens. Add sausage slices and shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes or until shrimp is pink.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Review: Buckeye Beer Engine

Beer Engine is a place I've been meaning to visit for years now. I'm a huge craft beer fan, and this place boasts one of Cleveland's beer lists. I finally made it there last night, and I'm glad I did.

On a Saturday night, the 20-minute wait for a table was a nice surprise. And it went by even quicker thanks to the friendly staff. By the time we read through their extensive beer list and placed an order, we were minutes away from being seated.

We started with one of our favorite Hefewiezens - Franziskaner - and one of Buckeye's house brews called Witless, which was a light Belgium White Ale.

The menu included some classic bar food options, as well some unique twists on the traditional. The also offered a nice selection of classic Cleveland ethnic food (chicken paprikash, cabbage and noodles and pierogies).

We choose two burgers:

The Westside - a cheeseburger topped with a pierogie and sour cream, served with Buckeye chips and a breaded pickle.

The Mammoth Patty Melt - A burger with cheddar and swiss cheese, topped with sour cream on grilled marble rye. I substituted a side of cabbage and noodles for the chips and pickle.

With dinner, we ordered more beers: Ommegang Witte (a Belgian White Ale) and Ayinger Brau-Weisse (my new favorite Hefeweizen). In case you aren't seeing the pattern, we really love certain types of brews.

Now that I've finally been to the Beer Engine, I can definitely say I'm a fan. Cheap burgers and great beer are always a perfect combination!

Check it out:

Buckeye Beer Engine on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another new kinda gnocchi

I've been a little lazy with my cooking recently, so I thought I'd take on a more challenging recipe this afternoon (and by challenging, I really mean time-consuming, so don't think this is too hard to make):
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Cream Sauce

For the gnocchi, peel and boil 2-3 sweet potatoes. Once they're soft, drain them, mash them and let them cool completely.

Take the cold mashed potatoes and add 1 egg, a little salt and a lot of flour. You'll probably need about 3 cups, but add it a little at a time until you get the consistency of bread dough.

Once you have a ball of dough, cut it into small sections and roll each section out into long, thin cylinders. Then, cut the strip into small pieces (no longer than one inch), and place them on a floured baking sheet.

Then, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the gnocchi until they float up to the top of the water (about 3-4 minutes). While you're cooking the gnocchi, prepare the sauce.

You'll need:
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1 1/2 cup cream (I used half-n-half because I already had it in the fridge and it's a little healthier)

Melt the butter on medium heat so it doesn't brown. Then, add the garlic and sage and cook for 1 minute. Then, stir in the cream. Pour over the gnocchi and stir. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Velvet Tango Room: What all bars should strive to be

I've had the pleasure of going out to the Velvet Tango Room three times now - twice in the private back room - and every time has been magical.

This bar prides itself on serving the best cocktails, paying tribute to the concoctions that made drinking popular decades ago. After an incredible dinner to celebrate my parents' 50th birthdays this week, we continued the night with drinks in the back room.

The main bar of the Velvet Tango Room is already luxurious, with old-fashioned velvet furniture, low lighting and an overall jazzy atmosphere, but the real experience is waiting behind the mirrored door. To get into this secret back room, you just need to make a reservation and find out that week's password. It's well worth planning in advance to enjoy the back room.

Once you're taken through the back door, you'll step into what looks like someone's warm yet fancy living room, with a private bar and beautiful fireplace. The variety of seating options includes couches, high-top tables and more intimate tables for two tucked into corners of the room. Beginning at 10 pm, the pianist comes in to provide soft jazz sounds.

The drink menu is an educational experience, giving you a glimpse of what the art of true cocktails is all about. Luckily, our group has a wide range of tastes, so we got to sample a little of everything from the menu.

Negroni (left) - a bitter, strong cocktail with orange flavors that come from Compari, accompanied with a house red wine reduction
Bourbon daisy (right) - a slightly-sweet combination of bourbon and ginger beer, complete with a piece of candied ginger

Old-fashioned (left) - a classic whiskey drink enhanced with bitters and a sugar cube
Ramos Gin Fizz (right) - an orange/vanilla blend fluffed with a frothy egg white mixture

Other drinks included Knob Creek on the rocks, a French 75 (gin, champagne and lemon juice), an Apricot Sour and the classic White Russian.

The Velvet Tango Room is perfect for celebrating a special occasion or for a very important (and romantic) date, and that's why we'll continue to go there.

Velvet Tango Room on Urbanspoon

Birthday Dinner at Chinato

Last night, we celebrated my parents' 50th birthdays with dinner and drinks.

My husband and I went to Chinato a few months ago and I knew right away that it'd be the perfect place to celebrate this occasion.

Even with Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood, Chinato is serving the most authentic Italian food I've had in the city.

Just like our first visit, we had a great experience. Our server, Jeffrey, was incredibly attentive and knowledgeable, offering great recommendations for each course.

We started with a shared appetizer called: Involtini of Eggplant stuffed with ricotta and shrimp. Thin sheets of eggplant wrapped around perfectly-cooked shrimp and seasoned ricotta cheese, covered in tomato sauce. It was the perfect start to the meal.

We each ordered a different entree to be able to try a wide selection from the menu, including:
Pappardelle with creamed cauliflower, pecorino and peperoncini
Creamed cauliflower and pureed hot peppers made up this delicious sauce. I'll definitely be trying to recreate this dish at home!

Beef Braised in Amarone with creamy polenta
Incredibly tender beef roast soaking in a flavorful wine sauce that went perfectly with the creamy polenta and tender kale.

Ravioli with pork, veal, zucchini and shiitake mushrooms with melted butter and parmesan
Raw zucchini added the perfect crunch to this unique meat ravioli.

Venetian Style Calves Liver with dried figs
Although not for everyone, this could easily become any liver fan's favorite dish, the sweetness of the fig sauce combined with the tender, lightly-breaded liver.

Veal Breast with salsa verde and polenta
This veal was so tender, you hardly had to chew it. Although it tasted great on its own, the salsa verde (a pesto sauce) added a crisp, fresh flavor.

After a delicious meal, we ended with chocolate, cherry and lemon gelato and the most delicious almond panna cotta I've ever tasted.

We will definitely be back again, and I hope you try it soon.

Chinato on Urbanspoon