Monday, March 31, 2008

Light Hot Dogs

I was never really into hot dogs until a couple years ago. I was watching a special on the Travel Channel about hot dogs and I must have been really hungry, because I added them to my grocery list . Now I usually have them on hand when I'm craving junk food ( I guess it's better than going to get a Quarter Pounder, right?). I buy Oscar Meyer Light Beef Franks (I think the fat free & turkey dogs are GROSS). They are really good for being light! I heat these up in the oven, along with the buns (Whitewheat is the "healthiest"). I add half a slice of 2% American cheese to each bun and top it with mustard and hot sauce. It's a great treat!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Miami Beach: Taco Rico

I spent part of last weekend in Miami for my friend's birthday. We spent way too much money on Saturday night, so it was time to get a filling & cheap meal (I know this seems impossible for South Beach). So it was time to head to Taco Rico, which is south of Lincoln Rd on Alton Rd. They have great lunch specials. Three of us had 3 entrees, 3 sodas, and Queso dip for $27.00 total. We each got the Three taco platter ($4.95, which is served with beans & rice). You can pick your meat (I got 2 beef, 1 chicken). You order at the counter and they give you chips to start. They have a good salsa bar with about 8 different salsas, the hottest being Atomic (I am not brave enough for that). I got Tomatillo, which is my favorite. The Queso was really good, but the cheese did clump up in some spots. The tacos were yummy! They had a good portion of meat and toppings. You really can't beat the prices here. The quality is great for the money paid.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chocolate Truffles

This past weekend I was experimenting with a cake I'm developing for a contest. The topping of the cake was chocolate ganache. I guess I over estimated the ganache needed so I had some extra...WOOHOO! Lots of ideas ran through my head, but Truffles seemed like the best one. They were very easy to make and delicious! This recipe should make about 20 truffles.

1 bag chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cocoa powder (the truffles with the light coating are covered with ground almonds, I had a small amount of them left and crushed them in my magic bullet)

Over double boiler, heat cream & chocolate chips. When chocolate is almost completely melted, take off heat and continue stirring until completely smooth. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for 2 or more hours. When ready to make, pour cocoa powder on a plate. Take ganache out of fridge and scoop out large tablespoons. Roll in your hands until a ball forms (this part is a little messy). Then roll the ball into the cocoa powder (or almonds) until it's covered well and not sticky. Then roll the truffles around your fingers (or a paper towel) to get the excess cocoa powder off. Place completed truffles back in the fridge and enjoy at your leisure! (I'm sneaking about 1 a day)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fort Lauderdale: Aruba Beach Cafe

I live pretty close to Aruba Beach Cafe and it is a nice place to go when you want decent food and an amazing view. It's literally on the beach, right by the Pier in Fort Lauderdale. It's so fun to people watch there. We even saw a guy that was on the beach cross country skiing! I've been there a handful of times. Even though the bar is crowded, I haven't had to wait for a table. Service is usually efficient. Prices aren't too bad either.

My last visit I ordered the Crabcake Sandwich. The crabcake was pretty good. I love crabcakes so I've definitely had my fair share, and I'd give it a 6/10. I love their french fries. The fries are thin and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. My sister had the Seafood Louie salad. It was delicious! They toss the seafood in a creamy dill sauce (I LOVE dill!). This is one of their best items. One thing I missed though is their Lobster Pizza. It was great, but they took it off the menu. I hope they put it back on soon.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I was on the Radio!

I've been pretty lucky to be getting a decent amount of press for my recipe in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. I was on a local radio station yesterday, Majic 102.7. I did a short radio segment and then they taped me for you tube. Everyone was really nice and it was a lot of fun. Here it is!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Black Bean, Corn and Mango Salad

I'm trying to eat healthier for the most part, and I wanted to make something that had veggies, was healthy, and tasted good (which is hard to do). I went through my Cooking Light Book and found a recipe. I tweaked it a little bit (mostly just used less corn) and here is what I came up with. It came out really good!

1 small can Sweet Corn (drained)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp minced Garlic
2 cans Black Beans (drained & rinsed)
1 Green Pepper (diced)
1 Red Onion (diced)
1 Mango (diced)
1 can diced Green Chiles
3 tbsp chopped Cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
Salt to Taste

In skillet, heat olive oil then add garlic, when garlic starts to smell add the corn, and saute for 4 - 5 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together all the other ingredients, then toss in the corn and mix.

This is a large recipe and makes about 6 cups. You can eat it alone or on top of salad. I've been enjoying it for the whole week, with grilled chicken and salad!

Monday, March 17, 2008

City Link Beer Fest

This is the first time I have gone to this Beer Festival. I went ahead and bought tickets in advance (Only $15). The tickets included unlimited beer samples. Food was extra. They also had live music which was nice. My one complaint about the music though is they took about an hour break where they had contests like best abs and hairiest chest...I mean come on, we aren't on a cruise. I got a chance to sample most of the beers, the good thing was there weren't huge lines. They had more well known beers like Presidente & Carib. Most of the beers I tried were pretty good. But here is my best and worst.

Best beer: Warsteiner Dark Ale, it was smooth and not to hoppy. It was slightly malty, which I like. I will be looking for this next time I go to Total Wine.

Worst Beer: Jupiter Brewing Company's Organic Amber Ale. I was excited to try a beer from a Florida Brewery, but wow it was horrible! It tasted like something died in thinking was that there was too much yeast. It was so bad, I had to dump it out.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kentucky Hot Brown

I had some extra bechamel left from my Baked Rigatoni the other day, and I wanted to make something different. I spent a few weeks in Louisville a couple years ago and I remembered how much I wanted to try the famous "Hot Brown" but never got to. So I decided to make it on my own, and it was GOOD! I live by myself, so this is only for 1 good meal...but feel free to up the quantities.

2 slices Toast (crusts cut off)
3 oz turkey (I used Boar's Head Ovengold from the Deli)
4 slices of bacon
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cheese (I used the Gruyere, Parm, Asiago again...but use your favorite)

Preheat oven to 400. Lay bacon out on rack on top of cookie sheet (this way the bacon crisps up great). Put bacon in oven for 15 - 20 minutes until crisp. While the bacon is in the oven, in a sauce pan, melt the butter, then add the flour and whisk for a minute or so (until flour is lightly cooked, you don't want it to get brown or it will change the color of the sauce). Then add milk and whisk continuously. The sauce will thicken after a few minutes (add more milk if it's too thick. Then add the cheese and stir for about 10 minutes. When the bacon and the sauce is ready, it's time to assemble. Set the broiler on the oven. In a baking dish, lay the pieces of toast, then the turkey, then the sauce (be generous with the sauce). Place under the broiler for 4 - 5 minutes until it starts to brown. Then place the bacon on top, and it's ready to serve.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Baked Rigatoni

I tried this out on Saturday to test out some sauce methods. It came out delicious and I'm still enjoying the leftovers!

16 oz box rigatoni
1 cup shredded Mozzarella
Meat Sauce:
1 lb ground meat (I used a combo of half sausage/ half beef)
1 Jar of high quality tomato sauce ( I used leftover fresh sauce I had in the fridge)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Bechamel Sauce:
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3 - 3 1/2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheese (I used Gruyere, Parmesan, and Asiago)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Cook the rigatoni according to package directions and set aside. In a large pot, brown the meat. When it is browned, add the tomato sauce and simmer on low-med for about 15 minutes and set aside. In a separate sauce pan, melt the butter, then add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes or so (until flour is lightly cooked, you don't want it to get brown or it will change the color of the sauce). Then add the 3 cups of milk and whisk continuously. The sauce will thicken after about 5 minutes (If it's too thick, add more milk). Let the sauce cook on low-med for about 10 - 15 minutes, whisking occasionally. Then add the cheese and whisk until it has melted in.

Assembly: On the bottom of a 9X13 dish, spread a layer of the Meat Sauce, then place a layer of Rigatoni. On top of that, spread Bechamel and then more meat sauce. Then add another layer of Rigatoni, Then Bechamel, and finally top with the shredded mozzarella. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until mozzarella is lightly browned. Makes about 6 servings.

Yummy Mint Chip!

I have been craving some good ice cream lately and went with my all time favorite...Mint Chocolate Chip. I wasn't sure which brand to buy, but I didn't want a huge amount lingering around my freezer so I went with Häagen-Dazs Mint Chip. This has to be my favorite store bought brand of mint chocolate chip. It's super creamy, has the perfect amount of mint, and the perfect amount of dark chocolate pieces. This is going to be hard...but I decided to eat 1/4 cup (150 calories) every other night for a treat. After all, I've been doing pretty well at working out (trying to lose a few more lbs for the Pillsbury Bake-Off next month) so I think I deserve a little extra ice creamy goodness.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Salad Creations vs. Tossed

I usually try to keep it somewhat healthy for lunch and have a salad. I work in Boca and have 2 salad restaurant franchises that are pretty close to me. I have tried them both and this is how they compare.

Salad Creations: They feature salads, wraps and soups. The salads have a "create your own" option which is $6.99 ($2.25 extra for meat). I like this idea because you can pick anything you want and it's the same price. They also have a great choice of dressings, including several that are low fat (and actually taste good). Salad Creations is the winner for overall value, and it's my pick.

Tossed: They have a larger menu than Salad Creations. They also offer regular sandwiches and smoothies. Their wraps are "crepes", but it's basically the same. Their Salad Palate (their version of Create Your Own, which you can also put in a crepe) lets you choose all your toppings, but they charge you for each individually. This really adds up! For the same price of Salad Creations, I get about half as many toppings. The best deals are the pre-designed salads and crepes. The dressings they offer are regular (way too many calories) and Fat Free (gross!). But overall, Tossed is good if you're looking for the most variety.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fort Lauderdale: BBQ Jacks

After about a year and a half of constantly driving by the fragrant smoker, I decided to try it and see what BBQ Jacks was all about. They have a pretty typical BBQ menu, featuring Pork, Ribs, other meats and sides. I decided to go for the Pulled BBQ Sandwich Combo ($6.99). The combo comes with the sandwich, fries and baked beans. I placed my order at the counter and it was ready for me to take home in about 5 minutes. The dining area itself is very basic, similar to any fast food restaurant. So I get home and open the box, there plenty of meat on the sandwich, and the pork had the smoked pink look which was good. The sides looked good too, just the right amount of fries and beans.

The pulled pork sandwich: The bread was standard, nice and soft. The pork seemed much more like chopped up than "pulled" and some bites had some tough pieces which I wasn't quite fond of. The smoky flavor was slightly overpowering and the sauce a little sweeter than I like.

The sides: Fries were great, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The beans were really good too, probably the best I've had in a while. You could taste the bacon slightly and they had just the right amount of sweetness.
Overall: Not bad, but I have definitely had better. Next time I'll try Tom Jenkins.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Turkey Mozzarella Panini

I was craving something cheesy on Saturday, and I didn't want to go to Publix so I had to search for something good to make. I had some yummy Olive Bread from Whole Foods, turkey, and mozzarella cheese (which I always seem to have on hand now since I'm practicing for the Pillsbury Bake-Off). I broke out my grill pan and my panini gadget. I love the panini press! It's basically just a cast iron weight with grill marks in it (only 10 bucks at Homegoods!). You can use it with any pan and it makes a perfect panini.

So here's what I did...
I set my grill pan on the stove at medium. I took 2 slices of olive bread and spread butter on one side and dijon mustard on the other. Then on one of the dijon sides, I sprinkled mozzarella, added one slice of turkey, then sprinkled more shredded mozzarella on top of that. Then I topped it with the other slice of bread (butter facing out). I put the panini on the grill pan and set the press on top of it. The panini was great! It was gooey in the middle, and the crust was crisp and buttery!