Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Sweet Potato & Basil Chicken

This is the hottest week of the year.  It's so hot, my glasses fog up when I walk out from the AC.  My PHONE fogged up when I walked out of work tonight!  

And yet, I was craving a hot meal.  The cheeseburger craving is at bay for the moment, and was replaced by a need to make myself some dinner.  And of course I was HUNGRY when I got home, so I didn't even give myself time to cool off.  I just turned on the burner & let go!  

Truthfully, I'm glad I did!  : )  I didn't have a plan, other than to cook a chicken breast tenderloin.  I thought maybe I'd salt & pepper it, add some cheddah (cuz cheddah makes everything bettah!).  I also had a sweet potato to microwave.  

As I was cutting up the chicken in the skillet, I decided I needed some sort of sauce.  I scoured the fridge & pantry, and decided to do a splash of milk, a dollop of sour cream, a dollop of cream cheese, and some spices - basil & pepper & garlic.  Mmmm!  I added in a little parm at the end, and voila!

It was really delicious, and I will be making it again!  : )  

On the sweet potato, I just put some cinnamon & a little butter, but then it didn't taste quite right, so I pulled it together w/ the chicken by adding a little bit of cream cheese & salt.  DELISH!!  

i need to work on my presentation - that doesn't LOOK appetizing... LOL 

Until next time - how do you normally prepare your chicken breasts?  

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Harry Potter Party Food

I met my family & friend Holly for the final installment of Harry Potter yesterday. 

After the movie, which was GREAT!, our group met Uncle Gene at Ruby Tuesday's for dinner.  They have a pretty delicious salad bar.

I made myself a yummy salad w/ dark greens, mushrooms, green peppers, cucumbers, tomato, cheese, creamy caeser dressing, cheese (yep, more - two kinds of cheese!) & croutons made of a dark, dark bread.  

For my entree, I was going to have mahi mahi, because I really like it!  Liked?  Gene & Nancy told me it was dolphin.  :(  I joked about it, but I didn't want to eat Flipper!  Actually, I think I let them psych me out...  Cuz, I don't really care.  I eat meat.  I eat fish.  I don't feel guilty about it... but dolphin??  So, why does that bother me?  Weird.  And likely not permanent!  *laugh*  However, I have since learned that it's not FLIPPER dolphin, it's some other fish that is in the dolphin family.  So that makes me feel better, and also makes me want to go back to Ruby Tuesdays for dinner!  *laugh*  

Anyway!  Since I got psyched out by my aunt & uncle, but still wanted fish, I ordered trout.  I chose sugar snap peas and spaghetti squash as sides.

The trout was served on the skin.  Is it always?  Should I have known it was going to come attached to skin? Oye.  Anyway, other than being a little weird peeling it out of its "shell," I enjoyed it.  It was covered in almond slivers & served with a really delicious almond sauce.  : )  I also enjoyed the sugar snap peas, which were buttery but not swimming in it.  The spaghetti squash was a disappointment, however.  :(  I was prepared to like it - hello, I LOVE squash!  Alas, it was not to be.  LOL  

Aunt Vickie's entree was spaghetti squash w/ marinara, which she enjoyed.  She also had yummy cheddar biscuits (and shared one w/ me, thank you!).  

Holly & Mom each had just the salad bar.  Uncle Gene chose the crab cake, and said it was really good.  He cleaned his plate, so I'm thinking he must've really liked it!  

Aunt Nancy had lobster pasta, which was also enjoyable.  Everyone was obviously very pleased with their meals!  Which was nice, considering my last memories of RT's food were not so fond!  

However - let us talk about the atmosphere of the restaurant for a moment.  First of all, we had 7 in our party.  This obviously necessitated a larger table.  So, we waited.  Waited.  And waited some more.  Ppl left, ppl arrived and were seated immediately.  Including a party of 5.  ?!  Now, I don't think a five top would fit at one table, but perhaps I'm wrong.  At any rate, they were seated right away, while we sat waiting and getting increasingly hungry!  The hostess did come out - after Aunt Nancy gave her the stink eye - to apologize and thank us for waiting so patiently.  Finally, we were led to our tables.  The thing I didn't get, tho, was that it was just two tables put together.  Now, while we were waiting, and when the hostess came out & said she was waiting for ppl to leave so she could get a space big enough, I kinda assumed the tables were really small & they were going to have to put together 3 of them, which would be more difficult, and the wait understandable.  But two tables?  Idk, it just didn't seem like it should have taken as long as it did.  ALSO, I think that a good hostess would have offered free appetizers, or drinks, or dessert - something - for the table to compensate us for our wait, and thank us for staying to give them our business!  

Do restaurants do that any more?  One striving for excellent customer service would, in my opinion.

The temperature was perfect for some of us (me & Aunt Vickie!), tho too cold for others (Mom LOL).  The lighting left lots to be desired, tho.  I've spoken before of my dislike for restaurants that choose this kind of "mood" lighting.  So, that was annoying.  Small annoyance, tho, as the food was mostly star-quality, and the staff was nice.  I'd give the whole experience a solid B+.

The company, however, gets an A++!  : )  

After dinner, Mom, the Aunts, and Uncle Gene left for their homes.  Holly, Jaycie & I headed over to Biagi's for coffee, dessert, and an actual meal for Jaycie as she hadn't ordered anything at RT!  *laugh*  Biagi's has realllllly good coffee!  : )  

Jaycie ordered a Margherita pizza, which was pretty (and I had a small piece, very good!).  She said she liked the "confetti" look (of the basil).  : )  

Along with my coffee, I had a piece of Tiramisu.  Cuz I wanted more coffee.  LOL  It was scrumptious!!

All in all, an excellent Harry Potter night!!

Unit next time - send in some suggestions of what you'd like to see a post about!  It's probably not going to be another CFA post... LOL  

Friday, 15 July 2011

A Taste of Elegance - #9 & #10

And now for my final post this week about the Taste.  

I did not have high hopes for #9, Biagi's Chef Patrick Trainor.  Don't get me wrong, I love Biagi's!  However, he was the only chef that did not engage us as we were at his table.  He was too busy talking to his assistant to do more than look at where he needed to hand the plates.  Not impressed.  

Now, I'm sure it wasn't deliberate or anything, and he's probably a perfectly nice guy.  He's definitely an excellent chef!  The Sambucco sauce was delicious, and the pork had EXCELLENT flavor!  It was citrusy and as Becca said, had a very memorable flavor.  Also, good portion!  This dish tied for 2nd (with #6) for me.  

The last dish, #10, was Chef Martha Cleveland's entry.  She was the only female chef, good for her!  She was very sweet, and I'm sure is a talented chef. 

Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the black bean cake or spicy sausage.  However, the cauliflower had an excellent flavor, and I did enjoy that.  Which counts for a lot because I really don't like cauliflower!!  : )  Everyone at the table agreed that the pork sausage had an unusual and slightly unpleasant aftertaste, and the black bean cake did not have the flavor it should.  

All in all, this was an awesome night full of amazing food, and many talented chefs!  Becca & I had a wonderful time, and we both declared that we definitely want to have this experience again next year!  Thank you for taking the time to join me on this journey, and hey - if you want to join us in person next year, let me know!  :  )  

Until next time -  have an awesome weekend!  No homework for you this weekend.  Except, maybe... Go see Harry Potter?  ; )  

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A Taste of Elegance - #7 & 8

Dish #7 by Chef Doug Lear of Bass Street Chop House was by far the BEST dish.  

A delicious southern inspired BBQ pork was the star, sitting atop white cheddar potatoes and a scrumptious cornbread wafer.  This was the BEST dish because A) it looked nearly identical to what was presented to the judges.  To me, this showed a respect for those of us who were there to support the cause and the chefs.  and B) it really did have the best flavor.  Of course, I later found out that was because he used a generous amount of bacon in the au jous... LOL  

(As Nicki pointed out, I lost part of my post - I had this in an earlier version, tho, I promise!!)  The people agreed w/ Becca's & my assessment, because Chef Doug won People's Choice.  The judges also gave him props by awarding him Premier Chef!  We're very proud of him!!!  : )  

The best table presentation of the evening went to #8, the Isle's Chef Shawn Timmerman.  Sadly, we did NOT get a picture of it, but it was tiered and looked like something you'd see at a spa.  Very, very neat.  

Pork butt with grits, and a sweet corn ice cream.  I don't know if you can tell, but the judge's plate had what looks like a yummy, crispy piece of bacon.  Our plate did NOT have any bacon.  And the butt is too fatty a piece of meat for my tastes.  *laugh*  Punny.  Also, something about the dish reminded me of Christmas - but not in a good way.  Could have been cloves?  Not sure.  At least the ice cream was great!  I think it was the best part of the dish, and there wasn't enough of it!  : )  

The judges liked their plate, tho, as Shawn won Chef Par Excellence.  My personal opinion is it must have been a really awesome piece of bacon that we missed out on!!  

Until next time - what's the most unusual flavor of ice cream you've tried?  And did you enjoy it?  

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A Taste of Elegance - #4, #5, & #6

See posts for Dessert & Dish #1, and Dishes #2 & 3.  : )  

Dish #4, by I-Wireless Chef Rory Bancroft (I love the name Rory), was Braised Pork Belly w/ Forbidden Rice and salad.

Not sure where the judge's rice was located, or what the sauce is on their plate!  

So sad about this dish!  From the chef's story while plating, I was expecting an explosion of flavor.  Alas, it was not to be.  : (  Becca called it "flavorless."  I didn't think it was quite that bad, but certainly didn't taste like much. The Forbidden Rice, which we expected to have some great flavor, just tasted like regular wild rice.  Perhaps in the Emporer's time, that flavor was enough to warrant the hands-off-only-for-me sentiment, but it didn't work for us.  Sorry, Chef!  

Chef Paul McDermott's (of The American Legion) entry was the first we tried, and I completely forgot to look at the sign at the table, detailing what was offered!  I also forgot to take a picture of my plate... d'oh!!  

Dish #5 consisted of pork (loin?) with a mustardy sauce & a different sauce on top.  Served with carrot ginger salad and mashed potatoes.  I liked the meat a lot, but the potatoes & carrots... not so much.  Too much ginger in the salad, and the mashed potatoes didn't taste like anything.  SEASON, SEASON, SEASON is what came to mind.  Of course, then I tasted the gingery carrots, and thought there was too much seasoning, so what do ya do??  

Moving along... LOL 

Dish #6, brought to us by Chef Mike (Gabe) Gabrielson: 

I liked the look of this dish from the judges' table, and it was one of my favorites from the night.  I called it Prettily Stuffed.  : )  The pork was buttery & stuffed with greens, quite flavorful!  Served w/ a side of rice and asparagus, which both had quite a tasty flavor.  Good job, Chef!!

Until next time - have you ever attempted to stuff a meat other than turkey at Thanksgiving?  : )  

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A Taste of Elegance - #2 & #3

See Part 1, featuring Dessert & dish #1 here.

Dish #2 was created by Sous Chef Jerimy Henson of The Outing Club.  

It featured pork heart with vanilla and chocolate, with a pineapple corn salsa/salad, and fried risotto with LOTS of white cheddar.  The pork heart was kinda odd, but had a beefy flavor.  I really enjoyed the pineapple corn salsa/salad - lots of flavor, partly due, tho, to the lots of onion in my portion.  Still, it was sweet and spicy at the same time.  Thumbs up to that, and to the risotto ball, which had a creamy cheese ball flavor.  

The vanilla & chocolate flavors were strong but not overpowering.  The judges liked this one, as it won Superior Chef (or 2nd place).

Created by Chef Matt Kaperka of the Iowa Machine Shed, Dish #3 was my least favorite of the night.  This surprised me a lot, because I LOVE the Machine Shed!  

I loved the idea for this one - Coffee Cocoa Chili pork loin with avocado sauce, black beans and corn bread.  Unfortunately, the pork loin didn't have as much flavor as we were expecting.  The avocado sauce and black beans were prepared well, however, the corn bread was a definite MISS.  :(  Again, disappointing because normally the Shed's bread is something to talk positively about! 

I think the problem may have been that the pork wasn't fully cooked (not like a safety issue, just that it didn't cook long enough for the flavors to infuse).  Neither of us finished this one.   

Until next time, have you ever eaten any kind of heart?  I'm not usually one for organs, except pate and liverwurst!  : )  

Monday, 11 July 2011

A Taste of Elegance

Tonight Becca & I went to a fun local tradition, for the first time, A Taste of Elegance.  It's put on by the Pork Producers Associations & my friend Nicki's husband had an entry.  He's an executive chef at a local restaurant, and he is AMAZING!  

I picked up Becks at 4:30 & we headed the couple of blocks to the convention center at a local casino, where the dinner was held.  First of all, the lobby is beautiful!  And has comfy chairs.  :)  

We were some of the first to arrive, so we got to walk around & check out the set up before it got crowded.  And it did get crowded - by the end of the night it was a full house!!  Which is great, as the donation at the door was for a local college's Junior Chefs programme.  The chefs had submitted their dishes for judging earlier in the day, and the plating was beautiful.  They weren't ready to serve until 5:30, so we chatted w/ Doug & decided to get dessert first.

Many varieties of cheesecake!  Raspberry, lemon, amaretto, chocolate chip, regular cheesecake, chocolate espresso... I tried the lemon, raspberry & amaretto.  The raspberry was toooooo raspberry-y, the lemon didn't have enough lemon.  The amaretto, tho, was perfection!  Cherry-like goodness.  : )   I admit it, I had two.  Becca's favorite was the chocolate chip.  She said it was, "Really creamy and light.  Everything you expect a cheesecake to be."  

Finally, we saw that ppl were starting to plate up at their stations, so we joined in the queues.  We didn't start with dish 1 & go in order, but that's how I'm going to blog it because this is going to be a series of posts this week.  There were 10 dishes plus dessert, and if I did it all in one post, it would just be too long.  You would all get bored reading about it, and your kids would want your attention, and dinner would burn, and oh my heck what just happened on Big Brother??  Heh.

So, tonight's post is about dessert and Dish #1. 

Dish #1 was a chorizo sausage with potato served by Chef Dominick De Leon of Sunnybrook Assisted Living.  I was not a fan of this dish.  There was something in the flavor I didn't enjoy.  Becca, however, really liked it.  She said it was probably the chorizo I didn't like, which is true.  The carrot was perfect, tho.  ; )  

Notice how the judged dish looks all pretty & ours ... not so much.  *laugh*  The judges based their scores on taste (50 pts), appearance (30 pts) and originality (20 pts).  For People's Choice, we pretty much did the same thing... Heh.  Which is why I was surprised at how many competitors didn't make their plates pretty... But you'll see as we go along this week!  

Until next time - have you been to a dinner like this?  What did you like about it?  Do share!!  : )  

Sunday, 10 July 2011

On The Road Again

Tonight's installment comes to you from my eating adventures during this weekend's vacation to Des Moines, Mason City, and Newton, IA.  

Mom, Leyton & I left Friday morning, with a cooler and bag full of plenty of snacks, soda, diet soda, and water.  We'd all eaten breakfast before our journey, so we didn't stop for lunch until about 2 pm.  We stopped in Newton because I knew was pretty sure they had a Subway, which is what we'd decided on before taking the exit.  However, Penelope (Mom's GPS) took us some random way into town, which brought us by a different restaurant that Leyton decided sounded good.  

It actually WAS good - which is saying something as I'm not really a fan of Pizza Hut's pizza.  Their breadsticks on the other hand?  YES please.  : )  We made it just in time for their lunch buffet, which meant salad & pizza & dessert bar, oh yay!!  I really liked how they'd decorated the restaurant, also.  

Interestingly, BUFFET was the word of the trip.  For dinner that night, we went to Bonanza.  I miss having a Bonanza here.  Ryan's Steakhouse is good, but just not the same!  Anyway, Mom & I ordered the 6 oz steak & buffet, and Leyton got the buffet.  However, the staff heard him say he wanted his own steak (after Mom & I assured him we'd share), and so they made him one!!  Seriously, giving the props to the Bonanza staff!  (And the next time I'm in MC, I have to remember to seek out a waitress named Crystal & give her an extra tip, because Mom gave a good but not great tip & I think she gave GREAT service!)  

(Insert picture later - camera died while we were at the zoo & I haven't emailed myself the pic I took w/ my phone yet!)  

Saturday, Mom & Leyton went down to the continental breakfast, and brought up a bowl of cereal & some milk for me.  Then, for lunch Leyton & I were at my nephew Stephen's birthday party.  They served ham & cheese sandwiches, veggies & chips, watermelon, and ice cream & cookie for dessert.  Quite good!

 oh yeah, and potato salad!  yumm!!  : ) 

Saturday night, I picked up Subway for us all to enjoy after nap.  : ) 

Today, continental breakfast again - we all went down this time, tho.  There were hard boiled eggs & make-your-own waffles, cereal & donuts & bread for toast.  I had a waffle & an egg, and a couple cups of really good coffee.  Then for linner (which we ate at around 4, thus the lunch/dinner combo) we ate at Pizza Ranch. I'd never been to one, but on weekends they have a buffet.  And they are apparently known more for their amazing chicken than for pizza... 

I would have to agree about the chicken!  I just had a little drumstick, but could totally see having a meal of their fried chicken & skipping the pizza.  (Which is not to say the pizza wasn't good - it was good!  But the chicken was my favorite.)  Also, their salad bar choices were quite good, altho I could have used a spinach or dark lettuce option.  Ah well, very few salad bars think of us anti-iceberg peeps!  LOL 

So, there you have it, our weekend road trip menu!  There were M&M's and DQ in there, as well.  Mom wanted a Blizzard Saturday night.  : )  

Until next time - have you been to a good buffet/salad bar recently?  Do share!!  : )