Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's for Lunch?

What have I been eating for lunch lately? Tasty meals that are easy to whip up in a snap!

The "BEST" Sandwich "Best" also meaning Bacon, Egg, Spinach, and Tomato
on parmesan-parsley crusted sheepherders bread!
How to make: butter one slice of bread and sprinkle with
grated parmesan and fresh chopped parsley. Grill in a hot
skillet until parmesan begins to brown. In the same pan,
crack an egg and cook over hard. Season with pepper.
Assemble sandwich with other ingredients and take your
brown bag lunch to a whole new level :)

Simple Mac & Cheese
You'll never want instant or microwave
mac & cheese after you try this recipe!
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook 8 ounces of pasta until al dente.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour until well blended. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Slowly whisk in 1 1/2 cups of milk and bring to a slight boil. Immediately remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of shredded cheese (I recommend a sharp cheddar and jack blend).
4. Add a dash of worchestershire sauce, dash of thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of spicy brown mustard. Add pasta to cheese mixture and pour in a greased pan.
5. Top with more shredded cheese and make the topping by combining 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon paprika.
6. Bake at 375* for 30 minutes.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Summer Sangria

Sangria has become one of my favorite drinks of the summer because it is light and refreshing and it combines two great ingredients: wine and fresh fruit. I also love that the variations and combinations of sangria are virtually endless. Most recipes can be tweaked to your personal tastes - here's my simple and easy version:

Summer Sangria

1 bottle Chianti
2 cups ginger ale
1 cup orange juice
1 orange
1 cup blackberries

Combine all liquids in a large pitcher. Cut orange into bite sized pieces. Add fruit to wine mixture and chill for 1 hour. When ready to serve, pour sangria in glasses filled with ice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Not Just For Breakfast Anymore: Waffle Cookies

When I came across this recipe, I thought, "Wow. So simple, yet so creative." These breakfast cookies aren't too sweet and will go great with your morning cup of joe!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Waffle Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1. Heat waffle iron. In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter and sugars until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla.

2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients.

3. Add oats and chocolate chips.

4. Using a scoop, portion out batter into waffle iron greased with non-stick cooking spray. Cook 2-4 minutes, depending on the heat of the iron. Carefully remove with spatula and tongs and let cool.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Zucchini Banana Bread

When it comes to bananas, I'm pretty picky and really only enjoy eating them when they're a little under ripe. Whenever I have a few that start to develop spots, the first thing that comes to mind is: BANANA BREAD :D Here's a funky twist on a classic:

Zucchini Banana Bread
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 medium zucchini
3 Tbsp. milk
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Peel and mash bananas. Grate zucchini and add to bananas. Combine sugars in a bowl and gradually add oil. Add eggs, one at a time. Add banana-zucchini mixture and milk. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients. Add nuts last. Grease loaf pans or prepare muffin tins. Bake at 325* for one hour (adjust time for muffins) or until toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Trendy Now: Food Trucks

Food is such a fascinating concept because of what can be done with it creatively, visually, and conceptually. Having said that, food can also be trendy. In recent years, Sprinkles sparked the cupcake craze. Shortly after, Pinkberry and its many counterparts helped put frozen yogurt on the popularity scale. Now, the biggest trend in food service are the ever-growing population of food trucks - or less favorably known as the "roach coach."
Never in a million years would I expect to see myself looking forward to dining off of a mobile truck. Just a few years ago, most people knew food trucks as the run-down, slightly unsanitary vehicles that served unhealthy American and Mexican fare to blue-collar workers. But in the recent year, food trucks have cleaned up their acts, taken on international themes, and become the latest buzz on Twitter feeds. You can find practically anything to eat on these trucks - from Indian curry (India Jones) to ice cream sandwiches (Cool Haus) to Korean fusion tacos from Kogi, the ones who started it all.
This past Friday, a friend and I headed down to Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice for their monthly First Fridays event. At least a dozen food trucks occupied the area and you could easily tell which ones were the most popular by the size of their lines. One of the longest lines was The Grilled Cheese Truck, but let me tell you, their food is definitely worth the wait!
By all means, whatever you do, you MUST get the Cheesy Mac & Rib. No questions asked. Yes it is rich and yes I was only able to eat half of it (along with my dessert melt - also a winner!) but it is one of the most delicious grilled sandwiches my lucky little taste buds have ever come in contact with!!

Cheesy Mac & Rib

Macaroni & Cheese, BBQ Pulled Pork, & Caramelized Onions

Dessert Melt
Banana Puree, Nutella, & Melted Marshmallow

Tater Tots
Garlic Aioli & Chipotle Mayo Dipping Sauces

For a complete list of food trucks in the Los Angeles area, please click here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eating My Way Through Japan

Bento Box
The typical Japanese lunch. This one had fried rice, two kinds of
shumai, karaage (fried chicken), eggplant salad, and ginger.
Japanese Buffet*
This was my favorite meal of the trip because it had a selection of
all the popular Japanese foods and a dessert bar! There was
salad, tempura, shabu shabu, saba, yakitori, croquette, seafood
casserole, kabocha, tonkatsu, fried noodles, curry, miso soup,
sushi, a few types of Japanese pickles and salads, fruit,
sakura manju, cakes, and ice cream!
*This was an ironic concept for Japan, since everything
is about portion control and it is customary to finish all
of the food you are served on your plate.

Hello Kitty Water Bottles

American products with Japanese text

Never seen Haagen Dazs Macadamia Nut flavor - not even in Hawaii!

Hot Food Vending Machine

Yes, folks you can even get your lunch out of a vending machine
in Japan! They had drink vending machines EVERYWHERE,
but this was the first food one I found!
(It takes about 2 minutes to heat the food.)
Strawberry Flavored Popcorn
At Disney Sea there were multiple food carts that sold different
flavored popcorn like curry, black pepper, milk tea, caramel,
and strawberry.
McDonald's Value Menu
Most of these items can be found on an American value menu,
except for the Bacon Potato Pie and "Shaka Shaka Chicken"
Also, their Apple Pie is deep fried, not baked like it is here.
Teriyaki Burger and Fries
The "burger" patty wasn't 100% ground beef (probably because
meat is hard to come by in Japan) and tasted more like a
veggie patty. The sizes of fries and drinks are much smaller
than the ones in America.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Economic & Culinary Bliss: K'ya Happy Hour

So I know I've blogged about K'ya before, but last week I discovered that their already budget-friendly, high-quality menu has a HAPPY HOUR. Yes, boys and girls that means from 4:30-5:30 PM it is 1/2 off ALL food items!! Drinks are still regular price, but when you're paying $2.50 for truffle risotto, who cares?

They also updated their menu since December and added a few new items (still none over $15!) like the seared scallops. This fun little tapas spot never ceases to amaze me!

My apologies for the dark pictures, the restaurant was dimly lit...

Flash Fired Calamari with Thai Glaze - $2.50 (Reg. $5)
Seared Lamb Chops with Baby Arugula - $5 (Reg. $10)
Black Truffle Risotto - $2.50 (Reg. $5)
Seared Scallops on Spinach and Mushrooms
with Lemon Butter Sauce & Polenta - $5 (Reg. $10)

K'ya Bistro Bar
1287 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, 92651
(949) 376-9718
Reservations highly recommended.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Amazing Breadsticks and Wannabe Carbonara

When eating out, I usually tend to order menu items that are lighter and healthier (for the most part) and won't do too much damage to my waistline. However, for the past month or so I've really been craving a rich, homestyle spaghetti carbonara. Like how an Italian grandmother would make it with tons of crispy bacon bits and freshly shaved parm...Unfortunately, for some reason I just don't see it on many menus these days.

This past Saturday, I found myself at Dominic's (an Italian restaurant in Cypress) for a friend's birthday and low and behold, they had spaghetti carbonara on the menu. Yahoo!
Most dishes here are served with salad and their "famous" garlic breadsticks. "Famous" I'm not too sure, because I've never heard of this place before, but "AMAZING" yes!! Served hot out of the oven and glistening with butter and garlic, the bread was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Really one of the best garlic breadsticks I've tasted!
After devouring the bread, I anticipated the carbonara even more. Sadly, my craving for this dish was not fulfilled because their "carbonara" was actually served in a cream sauce and really was a carbonara at all. They should have called it "fettuccini with bacon." You see, traditional carbonara is simply made with noodles, eggs, bacon, onion, white wine, and parmesan cheese. There is no sauce like there was in this dish. It was still filling, but slightly heavy and not what I was expecting.

Overall, the garlic bread was the real star of Dominic's. They do have an extensive menu with plenty of other options to choose from. I would recommend the lobster ravioli instead, but as long as there's bread around, I'd be pretty happy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Buttermilk Truck

Bored of plain old cereal and milk for breakfast? Then it's time to vamp up your morning meal by heading on over to the Buttermilk Truck's current location. Yes, I said "current" because it is essentially, a roach coach - food that is cooked, sold, and travels on wheels. However, this street food vendor is far from the average person's vision of a roach coach. It is clean, uses fresh ingredients, and offers a creative take on fusion breakfast.
We've all seen or heard of red velvet cupcakes, even the occasional red velvet cookie, but red velvet pancakes?? This is definitely a creative new one. For $2.50, you get six bite-sized pancakes dotted with chocolate chips and dusted in powdered sugar. They already are fairly sweet, so try them without syrup first.

Another popular item is the buttermilk biscuit breakfast sandwich. A homemade biscuit is split in half and filled with an over easy egg, cheese, and your choice of chicken apple sausage, applewood smoked bacon, or tocino (Filipino sausage). Add on a tasty rosemary-garlic hash brown nugget for fifty cents more and this sandwich is good to go!
We also tried the Hawaiian breakfast sliders (my fave!!)and Hawaiian bread french toast sticks. The sliders were three King's Hawaiian bread rolls filled with a generous portion of Portuguese sausage, shoyu scrambled eggs, and grill onions. A bit messy, but definitely worth it! It really made me miss the ono food from islands! Unfortunately, the french toast sticks were very disappointing!! They were dry and over fried.
First it was cupcakes, then frozen yogurt, and now the latest trend is street food trucks. So why don't you jump on the bandwagon and grab your next meal from the Buttermilk Truck?! ...Just stay away from the french toast!
To see the whole menu and find out when they'll be in your neighborhood:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Farmer's Market & Food Writing

Happy belated Valentine's Day :)

This past week has been filled with excitement as I finally started writing for The District Weekly. I was sent out on my first two assignments, which were interviewing and then sampling (oh yeah!) foods from BigMista's BBQ and Big Nick's Pizza.

BigMista's BBQ is not a restaurant, but rather a traveling husband and wife team that sell their multiple-award-winning spicy, smoky barbecue at three different farmer's markets in Southern California. On Tuesdays and Saturdays you can find them at the Torrance Farmer's Market next to Wilson Park. The owner of BigMista's prepared his "Perfect Pulled Pork" sandwich for us and it was darn near perfect - a huge helping of shredded pork (that was slow cooked for 12 hours!), secret sauce, and pineapple coleslaw in between a soft bun. Mmmm mmm! We (the photographer and I) also got to nibble on brisket and beef ribs. He also raved about his wife's super cheesy mac and cheese, but was sad to inform me they didn't have any that day.

We had some time to kill before our next appointment with Big Nick's, so we strolled through the rest of the market and sampled some of the fresh produce.

Now after living in Torrance nearly all my life and only having been to their farmer's market a couple of times, I found myself wondering: Why don't I come here more often??? The produce is fresh - and not to mention cheap - and the food stands are delish! Also, where else can you get a dozen roses for $6.00?! I may have just found my new Saturday morning ritual.

Torrance Farmer's Market
2400 Jefferson St.
Torrance 90501

BigMista's BBQ
http://bigmista.com/ <-- follow them on Twitter and Facebook too!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chicken Feet and Pork Balls

No, I'm not watching reruns of Fear Factor on Hulu. I'm referring to a few of the Chinese creations I consumed over dim sum last weekend at Great Seafood Harbor in Artesia. For those who've never experienced a dim sum meal before, let me tell you, it is unique, exciting, and foreign - much like the items that they serve. In a well-run dim sum operation, your party is seated promptly and before the waiter comes to take your drink orders, a server pushing a cart filled with small plates of ready-to-eat foods starts offering what they have. You either select their offerings or refuse and wait for the next cart of goodies. Sort of a buffet-that-comes-to-you ordeal. (How much more could a lazy foodie ask for?!)

The first cart that came to our table seemed like we hit the jackpot. It had shrimp potstickers, pork shumai, and a thick noodle covered in hoisin sauce. One of each please! The server stamped our receipt 3 times, once for each dish. This is how they keep track of what you order. (Some items are more expensive and get stamped further down on the receipt.)

Immediately after the first cart left, another one stopped by, "I have charsiu bao, short rib, chicken feet." Yes. Yes. And Yes.

Stamp, stamp, stamp.

Then we flagged down the Chinese broccoli lady. And then the walnut shrimp lady.

Stamp, stamp.

I felt like it was almost time for me to yell "BINGO!" but the distraction of the chicken feet were staring me in the face. I am a firm believer in trying everything once. So as I gnawed off the chewy skin from one toe and sucked it off the bone, I found it to taste mostly like the sweet and sour sauce it was cooked in, but the thought of what I actually was eating did ruffle my feathers a bit. :)

By the time the dessert carts rolled by with mango pudding and boba drinks, we were too full for anything else. We asked the waiter for our check, which he took off of our table, examined the stamps for a minute, started writing profusely, handed it back to us with the tax and total figured out, and stood waiting for our payment. Well if they serve the food to you immediately, I guess they want their payment immediately too.

Great Seafood Harbor
18329 Pioneer Blvd.
Artesia, 90701
(562) 860-7794

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Antipasto Pasta Salad

Antipasto Pasta Salad
1 package rainbow spiral pasta
3 eggs, hard boiled
8 slices Italian dry salami
1 large jar artichoke hearts
1 small can sliced black olives
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. While the pasta is cooking, slice eggs, salami, and artichoke hearts into bite sized pieces.
3. When the pasta is done, drain and rinse under cold water.
4. Toss all other ingredients in the pasta and add dressing to taste.
5. Chill for two hours before serving.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cookies for A Rainy Day

Butterfinger Candy Cookies
1 stick butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Butterfinger candy bars, chopped

1. Cream butter and sugars. Add in egg and blend well. Add peanut butter and vanilla.

2. In a seperate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to peanut butter mixture.

3. Chop Butterfinger candy bars and add to the dough.

4. Bake at 350*F on parchment paper for 12-14 minutes.

New Writing Gig...

My recent neglect to the blog has been due to the fact that I started writing for examiner.com and my alias is: Torrance Restaurant Examiner. A pretty cool title, if you ask me! Anywho, the site claims they are the "insider source for everything local." This means they hire locals to write relevant articles about anything from food & drinks to style, news, religion, and dating. Pretty much anything interesting to read about, you can be an "examiner" for.

The pay rate is interesting too. Sort of like commission for writing; meaning you get paid based upon the number of articles you write, how much traffic your page gets, how many subscriptions you obtain, and how many user comments are left. Then they clearly state in nice bold print: THERE IS NO MINIMUM PAY.


So, despite all odds, I decided to give it a try (for the experience I suppose?) and am now your local Torrance Restaurant Examiner! And as you can see, I would really appreciate some page traffic and even a subscription or two so I can earn enough to get me a Big Mac meal at McDonald's next week :)


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

School's Back in Session

After many months of anticipation, I finally had brunch at Blackboard Bistro in Seal Beach. This quaint cafe is designed around a school theme in every aspect but the food. Thankfully, the food is nothing like the casseroles and frozen entrees scooped up and served to you on cardboard trays in elementary school. Rather, the menu here offers a wide selection of choices for Homeroom (breakfast), Recess (lunch), and After School Specials (dinner).

Although it is early January, we are fortunate enough to have wonderful sunny weather practically year round and opted to sit outside on the patio. I ordered one of the breakfast combinations cleverly called "The Playground" because it came with your choice of a little bit of everything. I went for the blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage. The large pancakes were fluffy and filled and topped with an abundance of wild blueberries. They were served with warm syrup and a blueberry puree. The sausages were seared crispy on the outside and were perfectly juicy on the inside.

Great for small groups and dates, Blackboard Bistro is a great place to satisfy any appetite for good old Californian-American fare.

Blackboard Bistro
1198 Pacific Coast Highway
Seal Beach, 90740

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ten Tips for 2010

Happy New Year everyone! It seems like many people had a rough 2009...so here's to a fun, fresh, and fabulous 2010! To kick off the new decade right, here are 10 helpful tips to use next time you're in the kitchen:

  1. When baking, a sifter should be your new best friend! Sifting flour can make all the difference between a dense, heavy cake or a light and fluffy cake with the perfect crumb.
  2. Baking something that requires softened or room-temperature butter and you forgot to let it sit out ahead of time? Toss a stick of butter in the microwave for 10 seconds and it'll be good to go.
  3. Recipe calls for chopped nuts? Instead of running your knife through whole nuts, put them in a gallon sized zip top bag and roll over them with a rolling pin. This breaks up the nuts so you don't dull out your knife.
  4. To extend the life of green onions, gently wrap them in a paper towel after washing and then into a zip top bag. They'll keep 3-4 days longer in the fridge.
  5. Frying something and don't know if the oil is hot enough? Simply sprinkle in a few breadcrumbs or panko into the oil - if they sink to the bottom, the oil's still too cold. If they fry up and float to the top, the oil is ready for frying!
  6. Need to thinly slice beef (or any other protein)? Toss the meat in your freezer for about 30 minutes to firm it up and slicing should be a breeze.
  7. When cutting anything sticky (brownies, rice krispie treats, etc.) use a plastic knife instead of a metal one...the food won't stick!
  8. Unless a recipe says otherwise, ALWAYS preheat your oven! Cooking foods at temperatures lower than required causes uneven cooking and longer cooking times.
  9. To see if an egg is hard boiled or raw without cracking it, spin it on a flat surface. If it spins quickly, it is hard boiled. If it wobbles, it's still raw!
  10. Lastly, never cook with a wine that you wouldn't drink - it will make all the difference in your end product!

Happy cooking :)