Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day #241 - Chicken Breast with Southwestern Relish

Tonight at the grocery store, I picked up a couple ripe avocados and tomatoes. I thought I would use them to make a Southwestern-inspired relish for my chicken.

To make the relish, I drained and rinsed the leftover black beans from Monday night and dumped them in a medium mixing bowl.   I diced up 1/2 yellow onion, 1 large tomato, and 1 ripe avocado and added them to the bowl.  Seasoned the relish with a little salt, black pepper, and lime juice, mixed well, and let to rest for 30-minutes while I continued cooking the rest of my dinner.

I preheated some olive oil in a skillet on the stove over medium-high heat.  I seasoned a large chicken breast with a little salt, pepper, and Southwestern seasoning (Pampered Chef), and seared it in the skillet until both sides were nicely browned.  I then lowered the heat on the skillet, added a cup of chicken broth, covered, and let the chicken simmer over low heat for 20 minutes until cooked through.

To serve, I sliced the chicken and topped with a generous spoonful of the relish.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day #240 - Turkey Meatballs

Tonight I continued my healthy eating journey by trying a new recipe for  Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs.  

The recipe called for 1.5 lbs of ground turkey.  Unfortunately, the only package I had on hand was about 1 lb.  Once I added in the other ingredients (which I tried to cut down on quantity), the consistency of my meatballs was a tad on the soft side and they didn't retain their pretty balled shape.

Since I was planning to roast some vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, and red bell pepper) in the oven, I decided to bake the meatballs instead of pan-cooking them.   Hence the dull beige meatball (meat blob?) color, instead of the pretty browned meatballs on the recipe page.

Regardless of appearance, they still tasted good!   The flavor of the turkey was mild enough that I could still get slight hints of the cheese and herbs in the mix.  I grated some additional Romano cheese over the meatballs and vegetables just before eating.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day #239 - Rotel Tilapia with Black Beans

Reader bewarned: Today begins my attempt at healthier eating.  So you will be seeing LOTS of vegetables and healthy dishes appearing over the next few weeks. 

Now that I got the health disclaimer out of the way, let me describe my dinner...

Tonight I made pan-sauteed tilapia with Rotel tomatoes with a side of black beans.  

At the grocery store, I splurged and bought fresh tilapia from the seafood counter, rather than buying the frozen fillets.   It sped up the cooking time and tasted better too (in my opinion).   I seasoned the fillet with a little crushed black pepper, then seared it in a little extra-virgin olive oil in a hot saute pan, a couple minutes on each side.  Once the tilapia was lightly browned on both sides, and starting to turn opaque. At that point, I dumped about half of a can of Rotel tomatoes (I used the Mild kind) into the sautee pan, and let the tilapia finish cooking for a few more minutes while it simmered in the spicy tomato juices.   Once the tilapia was fully opaque and started flaking nicely, it was time to eat!

I served my tilapia fillet atop a bed of mixed field greens, which I had sprinkled with a little lime juice.  The tilapia fillet broke in half when I was plating, which makes it look like a much bigger serving that it really was.  I spooned the tomatoes from the sautee pan and added those to my plate, leaving the tomato/fish juices behind.

For my side dish, I microwaved about 3/4 cup of canned black beans, and stirred in a little lime juice for an extra kick.

Colorful, flavorful, and a healthy start to the week!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day #238 - Beef Burritos with Mixed Greens

Today I tackled the task of cleaning out my fridge, freezer, and pantries.   One of the many Tupperware containers of leftovers was ground beef from taco night.... 12 nights ago?  I figured I better use it up once and for all, so I tossed together a couple burritos for dinner.   Two small flour tortillas, shredded Mexican-blend cheese, ground beef taco meat, mixed greens, and tomato-cilantro salsa.

P.S.   I find burritos to be extremely boring to photograph - the white burrito without much depth against the white plate.  Which is why I stacked them in an attempt to be more exciting.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day #237 - Chicken Noodle Soup

Earlier today I was feeling a little under-the-weather, so I craved a nice bowl of chicken noodle soup for dinner.  Fortunately I could find everything I needed in my pantry to throw together a pot of soup.

I started by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot.   Once boiling, I dropped in 4 chicken bouillon cubes, 2 bay leaves, and 1/2 yellow onion (chopped).   I let these ingredients boil for a couple minutes, until all the bouillon had dissolved and the flavors started coming together.  I then added a cup of diced carrots, and boiled for 5 minutes until tender.  At this point, I removed the bay leaves.

In my fridge was one remaining poached chicken breast from earlier this week, so I chopped that up and tossed it into the soup pot.   I also added about 1/2 cup of frozen corn kernels, 1 cup cooked edamame, and 1 cup egg noodles.    I seasoned the soup with crushed black pepper and a small pinch of dill, and brought back up to a boil.  Once boiling, I turned down the heat, covered the soup, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. 

It was just what the doctor ordered!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day #236 - Greek Wrap

Friday night!

Tonight I decided to give myself a night off from cooking.  I walked up the street to Tommy's Good Eats.  I know I've posted dinners from their shop on the blog before, but it's been a while.

I ordered the Mediterranean Chicken Wrap - oven roasted chicken strips, feta cheese, kalamata olives, mixed greens, hummus spread, and Robusto Italian dressing, served in a large flour wrap.   I also bought a small bag of chips from the Billy Goat Chip Company, another local company. 

I enjoyed this meal with a large glass of Diet Dr. Pepper while I sat in front of the TV and watched the movie "Beastly."      TGIF!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day #235 - Ham & Vegetable Quiche....with a Twist

I still have a large amount of leftover couscous in my fridge!!  It's the bottomless tupperware.   So earlier today I actually did a Google search for "leftover couscous recipes," trying to find something to do with it, because I was out of ideas.   I'm glad I did this search, because I found a very creative and delicious recipe.   The recipe came from a 2007 blog post on a site called Janet is Hungry.   Janet had created a quiche using couscous as the crust!!   I was intrigued.

While I was cooking the quiche, I had fun and took pictures of all the steps....  enjoy the bonus photos.

I started by taking the leftover couscous (about 2 cups), mixing in 2 tablespoons of melted butter, and pressing it along the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan.  I sprinkled this "crust" with some shredded Mozzarella cheese and a layer of very thinly sliced some yellow onion.

I then diced 1/2 cup of deli ham and 1/2 cup of bell pepper (I used a combination of red and green).

In a small bowl, I whisked together 3 eggs, 3/4 cup of skim milk, a couple squirts of yellow grain mustard, 1 tablespoon of chopped chives, and a pinch of salt & pepper.  I then mixed in the diced pepper and ham, and poured the whole mixture into the couscous crust.   I sprinkled on a layer of grated Parmesean cheese, then topped the whole quiche with 8 thin half-moons of tomato (4 thin slices, cut in half) and a nice layer of shredded Mozzarella cheese.

I baked the quiche in a 335-degree oven for an hour, when the edges and top were nicely browned.

This turned out much better than I expected!!   The couscous crust had a nice crispiness on the bottom and sides, and held up well under the quiche.    Very clever, Janet!

If I was going to make this again, I would probably pre-bake the crust for a few minutes before adding the egg & filling mixture.  I would also add a couple extra eggs, because mine was a little thin (the recipe called for an 8-inch pie plate, but I only had a 9-inch).   Otherwise this was really good!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day #234 - Balsamic Tomato Wedges

Today I didn't have much appetite for dinner.   I was hot and tired and too lazy to cook.   So I grabbed a large Missouri-grown tomato from my fridge, cut it into wedges, seasoned it with a little salt & pepper, and drizzled it with rich balsamic vinegar.   Simple and satisfying.

But don't worry, the tomato wasn't the only thing I had to eat.  By the time I sat down to write this blog post, I was a little bit hungry, so I had a light snack of sliced white cheddar cheese and Bosc pear. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day #233 - Summer Succotash

Tonight I tried out a new recipe - Prosciutto-spiked Summer Succotash.   I found the recipe while I was exploring the website and blog of The Spice & Tea Exchange, and had to try it out!

This succotash consisted of chopped prosciutto, onion, bell pepper, sweet corn, edamame, a splash of milk, and a combination of assorted spices.   Since I don't own any of the TSTE spices mentioned in the recipe, I substituted others from my spicerack - a little each of Pampered Chef's Crushed Peppercorn & Garlic Rub and Jamaican Jerk Rub, and TSTE's Island Sweet Blend.  

This recipe would work using regular bacon, or even diced ham, but I wanted to splurge and treat myself to the prosciutto.   I actually found a package of diced prosciutto in the grocery store - the brand was Volpi, which I didn't realize was a St. Louis company!!   I'm not even the tiniest bit Italian, but I felt a little surge of hometown pride using this product.

The dish was bright and colorful, and packed with flavor.   And in my logic, the nutrients of the peppers and edamame balance out the prosciutto.   I ended up eating two servings tonight, and I already have another serving packed for my lunch at work tomorrow.

P.S. Clicking on the title of the recipe just below the photo will take you to the blog where you can find the original recipe.  I highly recommend this one!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day #232 - Chicken and Parmesean Couscous

I have lots of leftovers accumulating in my fridge, so it's time for me to start finding ways to use them before I cook anything new.   For dinner this evening, I took some of the leftover garlic couscous and mixed in a generous amount of grated Parmesean cheese and dried Italian herbs.  I shredded one of the poached chicken breasts, added it to the couscous, and reheated the whole plate in the microwave. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day #231 - Chicken Salad Sandwich

Today I was in the mood for chicken salad.   I had some chicken breasts in the freezer, so I pulled them out and defrosted them.  I decided to poach the chicken, rather than sautee or bake it.   I put the chicken breasts at the bottom of a medium pot, added 2 cups of water, 1 chicken boullion cube, a palmful of dried herbs, and a few dashes of dried onion.   This combination added a nice flavor to the chicken breasts.

Once the chicken had cooked and cooled, I diced the breasts, mixed in some mayonnaise, crushed black pepper, and a little more of the same dried herbs and dried onion from the poaching liquid.

To build the sandwich, I spread a thin layer of chicken salad on two pieces of whole grain bread, topped both halves with swiss cheese, and put in the toaster oven until the cheese was melted.   To add a little extra kick (and since I didn't have any fresh tomatoes in the kitchen), I added a small bit of mild salsa.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day #230 - Steak StirFry with Couscous

Tonight I decided to use up the leftover steak and throw together a simple stir-fry.   In a medium skillet, I melted a little margarine and started by sauteeing broccoli florets for a few minutes, until not quite tender.   I added some frozen snap peas and continued sauteeing.  Once the snap peas were thawed, I seasoned the vegetables with some crushed black pepper, Garam Masala seasoning, and soy sauce.   I let this cook down for a couple more minutes before removing the vegetables from the skillet, and then added the sliced steak.   I cooked the steak until it was heated thoroughly and starting to brown on all sides, then added the vegetables back in.

While all the vegetables and steak were cooking, I searched through my pantry for some rice.  I couldn't find any, but I did find a box of Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous.   That could work.   I cooked that in the microwave, according to the box directions.   The couscous ended up being a nice "bed" for the stir-fry, without overpowering the flavors.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day #229 - You Call These Nachos?

Tonight I was really craving nachos.   However, I don't have any tortilla chips in the apartment.   I suppose I could have cut some tortilla shells into wedges and baked them to make chips, but I didn't want to wait that long.   I improvised, using saltine crackers as my nachos base.  I sprinkled some shredded Mexican-blend cheese on the crackers, and microwaved for 20 seconds so the cheese started to melt.  I then loaded it up with leftover taco meat, diced green pepper, tomato salsa, more shredded cheese, and topped with a few small dollops of Greek yogurt.    The Saltines didn't hold up very well under all the toppings, so I ended up using my fork to eat most of them.   But it took care of that nachos craving.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day #228 - Chef Salad Bowl

When I made taco salad the other night, I cooked up two tortilla shell bowls.  Tonight I took the leftover bowl and used it for my large chef salad.   I chopped and layered romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomato, green bell pepper, and deli turkey breast in the tortilla bowl, drizzled with honey mustard dressing, and sprinkled with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day #227 - Espresso Steak & Roasted Veggies

When I was at the Spice & Tea Exchange in San Francisco, I picked up a small bag of Espresso Steak Rub.  If you have been following my blog for a while, you might remember the Coffee-Marinated Pork Chops I prepared back on Day #100. Since those were a success, I had high hopes for this Steak Rub, which consisted of fresh pepper, ground espresso beans, kosher salt, garlic, cilantro, smoked paprika, and ancho chili powder.

I drizzled my steak with a little olive oil, sprinkled on the steak rub, rubbed the seasoning into the steak until well-coated, and then let it sit until room temperature.

Meanwhile, I had the oven preheating to 400 degrees, so I could roast some vegetables on the side.   I took red bell pepper slices, broccoli florets, and snap peas (thawed from the freezer), and tossed them with a little olive oil.   I spread the veggies  on  my stoneware baking pan, seasoned with a little salt & pepper, and roasted them in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until they were tender and browned.  Since I had cut the vegetables somewhat small, they roasted pretty quickly. 

While the vegetables were roasting, I heated my stove-top grill pan to high, cooked the steak for a couple minutes on each side, then pulled it off the heat to rest.

Once the vegetables were roasted to perfection, I served up a nice mound of veggies onto my plate, cut off a few slices of steak, and enjoyed my dinner.

The steak rub added great flavor to the steak.  The espresso was not pronounced, but it did add a subtle richness with the smoky spice of the rub.   And the roasted vegetables were delicious as they always are - I ended up going back for seconds and thirds until I had eaten the whole pan.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day #226 - Taco Salad

Mmmm... I love a good taco salad!!   I started by browning my ground beef, and adding in a packet of taco seasoning and some water.   I cooked the taco shell bowls by laying some flour tortillas over a couple of my ceramic (oven-safe) cereal bowls.  I snipped the tortilla shells on the quarter marks, just so it would take on the shape of the bowls a little more.  I cooked them at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, then removed them from the oven.  I carefully flipped the tortilla bowls over, removed the cereal bowl, and then baked for another few minutes so the inside of the bowls would crisp up.   Once the fully-crisped tortilla bowls were ready, I added a thin layer of shredded Mexican-blend cheese at the bottom, then layered in the fillings: lettuce, tomato, green bell pepper, mild tomato-cilantro salsa, ground beef, and shredded cheese. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day #225 - Tomato Mozzarella Melt

Tonight's dinner was inspired by my friend, Anna.   Earlier I asked the question on Facebook, "What do I want for dinner tonight?"    Several of my friends responded, including Anna, who was having an open-faced, broiled tomato and cheese sandwich with garlic butter.   I saw her response shortly after leaving the grocery store, where I had just purchased some nice ripe tomatoes, so I figured it must be fate that I should also have a tomato & cheese sandwich.

I started by taking a whole grain Sandwich Round, spread on a little butter, and sprinkled it with some garlic salt.   Topped each half with tomato slices, which were seasoned with a garlic & peppercorn rub, added a handful of shredded Mozzarella cheese, and sprinkled with dried Italian herbs.  I baked this in my toaster oven for about 10-15 minutes at 250 degrees, just so the tomatoes would heat through.   I then switched the toaster oven to the "Medium Toast" cycle, which allowed the cheese to melt and the bottom of the bread to toast.  Delicious!!    Thanks for the suggestion, Anna!
With my tomato melts, I also had a small serving of Apple Chips, which I grabbed at the grocery store on a whim. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day #224 - Island Chicken Sandwich

Are you sick of seeing chicken patty sandwiches yet?   I've fallen back into my pre-blog eating habits - too lazy to go grocery shopping and too lazy to do any active cooking.    I'm even behind in my posts, so they don't appear until a couple days after I actually eat them.   I was doing so great for the first 200 posts of my blog, and now I'm letting all my followers down.  But at least I'm still taking pictures each night, which was the original intent of the blog.    Maybe this weekend I'll spend some time browsing my large stacks of cookbooks, food magazines, and printed recipes, and pick out a couple new recipes to try.  Maybe that will spark my food "energy" again.

Anyway, so tonight I made a chicken patty sandwich with sweet potato fries.  About halfway into the cooking time, I took them out of the oven to add some seasonings.  I took a tablespoon of coconut milk and mixed in some of the Sweet Island Blend spices (the ones I bought in San Francisco).  I brushed it onto the chicken patty and drizzled it over the sweet potato fries, and then put everything back in the oven to finish cooking.  The coconut milk helped the seasonings soak into the chicken patty and fries.  
The rest of the sandwich consisted of a whole grain Sandwich Thin, swiss cheese, and a little mustard.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day #223 - BBQ Pork Quesadilla

I like quesadillas.  They are easy to make, and can be filled with any combination of ingredients.  

Tonight I took the leftover pork chop from Tuesday night, sliced it into thin strips, and cooked them in a skillet with a handful of frozen corn kernels.  When the pork and corn were heated, I added some Barbeque sauce, thinned down with a little bit of water, and let it simmer on low for several minutes.   I took a large whole grain tortilla shell, topped it with a few slices of swiss cheese, and microwaved for about 30 seconds until the cheese was starting to melt.   Added the pork & corn filling to the Quesadilla, folded the tortilla in half, and then popped it into the toaster oven for the "Light Toast" cycle, just to toast up the tortilla slightly.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day #222 - Birthday Burgers

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Michelle!!

Tonight we had a birthday dinner for Michelle.  The menu consisted of Grandburgers Gram Burgers* (giant burgers with an onion/cheese/pickle relish filling), bowtie Mac & Cheese, salad with a variety of dressing choices (I used the Dove Chocolate Fig Vinaigrette), chips & dip, and fruit pizza (which I ate without taking a picture).

And for dessert, birthday cake & ice cream!! The birthday cake was a spice cake colored in the Hogwarts house colors.  It's difficult to tell in this photo, because the icing smeared when the cake was cut, but even the icing in between the layers was colored per the houses - red cake with gold icing for Gryffindor, green cake with silver icing for Slytherin, blue cake with bronze icing for Ravenclaw, and yellow cake with black icing for Hufflepuff.  Very creative, girls, very creative!!

*I have been kindly corrected by my cousin.  They are called Gram Burgers, not Grandburgers. Everyone says the name so fast it all blends together, and the letters M & N sound remarkably similar.   I had a 50/50 chance at typing it correctly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day #221 - Alternative White Mac & Cheese

Tonight I tossed together a delicious plate of pasta, using the sparse ingredients in my pantry.  And by sparse, I mean that I have no pasta sauce, no ground beef or chicken, no tomatoes, no spinach, no eggs, and no milk available to cook with.  So "traditional" pasta dishes weren't an option.  I had to be creative.

I boiled my elbow macaroni noodles, with a couple chicken bouillon cubes thrown in the water for some flavoring.  I created a sauce for the noodles using the leftover cooked white beans from Tuesday night and some various seasonings.   And I tossed in some frozen vegetables for additional nutritional value and color.   It actually turned out really well, and I thought I was being creative....until I looked online and found many many other recipes for pasta with a white bean sauce.  Oh well.   Here is my version:

Theresa's Alternative White Mac & Cheese

1 cup cooked Great Northern White Beans
5-6 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon butter or margarine
1 palmful dried Italian herbs
2 cups elbow macaroni (or other short-cut pasta.  Whole grain would work too)
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese (or other white cheese)

1) In medium pot, bring enough water to a boil, per the pasta box instructions.   When boiling, drop in the bouillon cubes and pasta, and cook for 6 minutes.  Add the frozen vegetables to the pot with the pasta and continue boiling for another 2-3 minutes, until pasta is al dente and vegetables are tender.
2) In a microwavable bowl, reheat white beans for 2 minutes.  Use a fork to mash beans to a smooth consistency.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, butter or margarine, and Italian herbs to the bean paste, and stir well.  **
3) Once pasta and vegetables are cooked, use a small measuring cup to scoop 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.   Drain out the rest of the liquid.
4) Slowly pour the cooking liquid into the bowl with the the bean paste mixture, and stir until well-combined.  You want this sauce to be thin enough that it can pour over the pasta without being too soupy.
5) Pour the bean sauce into the pasta pot, and add in the cup of shredded cheese.  Mix together well and serve immediately.

The result was a creamy, cheesy pasta dish.  And no, it did not have an overwhelming bean taste.  The Italian herbs, cheese, and Worcestershire sauce helped mask the bean taste.   You might be wondering why I chose to use Worcestershire sauce in this dish?   Because Rachael Ray often uses Worcestershire in some of her dishes as a secret ingredient, so I figured I'd sneak a little in for an extra pop of flavor. 

**NOTE: This combination of beans, herbs, butter, and Worcestershire sauce was good enough at this point, that I could have scooped it out of the bowl and eaten with pita chips.  Try serving this bean dip at your next party!

P.S. If anybody can think of a really good, creative name for this dish, let me know. :-)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day #220 - Mexican night

Tonight I went over to dinner at my parents house.  We had giant burritos, stuffed with lettuce, sour cream, shredded cheese, sliced cherry tomatoes, ground beef, wild rice, and salsa.  For our side dishes, we had tortilla chips and salsa and halved strawberries.   Instead of having a second burrito, I made a helping of nachos on my plate with all the burrito fixings.  Yum! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day #219 - Island Sweet Pork

First dinner back at home.  Since I haven't had a chance to get to the grocery store yet, I rummaged through my freezer and pantry to find something to cook.   I pulled a package of pork chops from the freezer first thing in the morning and let them thaw in the refrigerator during the day.   When it was time for dinner, I drizzled olive oil over the pork chops, and coated them with an "Island Sweet" spice blend that I bought at  San Francisco's Pier 39.   The "Island Sweet Blend" (from the Spice & Tea Exchange) is a combination of sumac, mustard, coconut powder, rosebuds, dill weed, vanilla sugar, turbinado, and orange zest.  It had a slightly sweet, citrusy, earthy flavor, and it paired nicely with the pork.  I cooked the pork chops in my stovetop grill pan.   Near the end of the cooking process, I drizzled a little pineapple juice over the chops to form a "glaze" with the spice rub on the chops.

For my side dishes, I found a can of Great Northern white beans in my pantry cabinet.  I poured the contents of the can (beans and juices) into a microwaveable bowl, and added a small pinch of the Island Sweet Blend to create a more cohesive pairing with the pork chops.  I microwaved them for 3-4 minutes, stirring at the halfway point.   I also chilled a can of crushed pineapple, and had a few spoonfuls on the side.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day #218 - Travel Fast Food

Vacation is coming to an end. Today was a long day of traveling home from California. Lunch was at McDonald's in the Denver Airport terminal. I had Chicken Selects and a Fruit & Yogurt Parfait, but didn't take a picture for you.

After we arrived home in St. Louis and picked up the car from the parking lot, my parents and I stopped at Arby's for dinner:

I just had a Jr. Roast Beef and a small Jamocha shake.  Not a very large dinner.   Then again, I also had lots of small snacks on the airplane ride (pretzels, peanuts, pita chips, and granola bars), so I didn't have a huge appetite.  And it was close to 8pm.

What a trip!   "Regular" dinner posts will resume tomorrow night.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day #217 - Fast Food & Homemade Food

Our last full day on vacation, and we all chose to sleep in again. We started our day with lunch from Subway.   I had the Chicken Teriyaki sub, toasted, with lettuce, cucumber, and tomato. With Nacho Cheese Doritos.

After lunch, we all hung out at my brother's apartment for the afternoon.  I think the past week of sightseeing and hiking has worn all of us out.   It felt nice to just chill and decompress for a day.

We went over to my relatives' house for dinner again tonight.  My aunt made Chicken Kiev, which was very delicious!  She also cooked some homemade potato pancakes, which were very thin and crispy!  I don't remember having potato pancakes before, so I tried one with sour cream, and one with applesauce.   Despite my family claiming they taste best with the applesauce...I preferred the sour cream.  I guess that makes me the nontraditional one of the group.   I also had a nice salad of lettuce, mandarin oranges, pecans, croutons, and balsamic dressing.  It was a wonderful meal, and a nice change from all the fast food I've eaten this week.

We had two desserts tonight: Lemon Bars baked by my aunt, and chocolate-dipped strawberries and clementine slices made by my cousin and his girlfriend.
The lemon bars were superb, probably because the lemons came straight from the trees in their backyard.  Much better than any store-bought lemons or boxed mixes found back home in the Midwest.   The chocolate fruit was delicious too.   You can never go wrong with fresh fruit dipped in chocolate.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day #216 - Pitas, Soup, and Pie!

Today we got a late start on vacation; the whole family chose to sleep late instead.    When we finally got up and moving, we went to Extreme Pita for lunch.   I've eaten pitas before, but never like this.  These were really large, thin pitas, stuffed with delicious ingredients and then rolled like a wrap.    I ordered one of their international-inspired pitas:  The Chicken Souvlaki - chicken, red onion, cucumber, black olives, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, feta cheese, Greek oregano dressing, and tzatziki sauce.   It was very good!

After lunch, we drove to Lands End for some trail hiking and beach observing.  I say observing, because it was a little too cold to get in the water, except for maybe our hands and feet.  Plus the waves were very strong crashing against the rocks!

My brother knew of a restaurant a short drive from Lands End, so we went there for dinner.   Duarte's Tavern, located in Pescadero, CA, is a small historic landmark restaurant, family owned since 1894.  In 2003, they were one of five restaurants in the United States to receive an honorary award as an American Classic from the James Beard Foundation.    They have also been featured in an episode of Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."   With credentials like that, I couldn't wait to taste their menu!

Two dishes Duarte's is known for is their Cream of Artichoke Soup and Olallieberry Pie.   I ordered a bowl of the soup as my entree, in order to save room for dessert.  The soup was hot and creamy, with a light taste of artichokes.  It didn't have as many chunks of artichoke as I was expecting.   But it was still a very good soup.  We were also served a large basket of hot, fresh, homemade Rustic country white bread.  It made an excellent dipper & scoop for my soup!

Next came dessert.  They had several varieties of pie on their menu, and I knew I wanted to try the Olallieberry.  But another flavor caught my attention: the apricot.  I've never had an apricot pie before, so I ordered a slice of that.  It worked out perfectly, because my mom and brother both ordered the Olallieberry, so I still got a sample of it.  The apricot was flavorful, a little less sweet than a peach pie.  The olallieberry was rich and berry-like, very similar to a blackberry.   And the combination of both pies together in one bite was fabulous!

P.S.  What is an olallieberry, you ask?   An olallieberry is a cross between the loganberry and the youngberry, each of which is itself a cross between blackberry and another berry (raspberry and dewberry, respectively).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day #215 - Chipotle & Tied House

Today was the 5th day of our California vacation.  We started the morning with a walk through the Redwoods Regional Park in Oakland, California, where we worked up an appetite.  From there, we drove to Berkeley and stopped at Chipotle for lunch.

At Chipotle, I ordered a steak burrito bowl - rice, black beans, steak, lettuce, mild tomato salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese.   I also had a few tortilla chips from the bag my family was sharing.   It was a filling lunch after all the walking in the morning, and enough food to tide me over until dinner.   After lunch, we spent a couple hours walking around the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens. 

For dinner, we drove to Mountain View to a restaurant my brother recommended:  the Tied House Brewery & Cafe.   My aunt, uncle, and cousin met up with us there.   Considering we were at a Brewery, I had to order a beer with my meal.  Their featured fruit beer was a Passionfruit Pale Ale.  It sounded intriguing, so I gave it a try.   It was light, with a typical ale taste, but had a slight tropical fruit kick at the finish.  I enjoyed it!   

For dinner, I ordered their Turkey Burger - a half-pound ground turkey patty, with arugula, fresh tomato, and red onion on a kaiser roll, served with Chipotle Tarter sauce on the side, and a large portion of fries.  The turkey burger was juicy and flavorful, and the chipotle tarter added a nice kick! 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day #214 - San Francisco

Day #4 of my California vacation. Today my family and I spent the day in San Francisco.  We started with lunch in Chinatown, at a restaurant my aunt Carol picked out called Four Seas.

My aunt and brother were adventurous enough to eat Dim Sum for lunch, but I chose to order something more substantial (and familiar) from the menu - Cashew Chicken.    Large chunks of chicken, green bell pepper, white onion, celery, and baby corn, cashews, and a cashew sauce.   My mom gave me some of her pork fried rice, and I also tried one of the dim sum pork & mushroom dumplings and steamed pork buns.  It was all very good, and very filling.   A large lunch, considering we would be spending the rest of the afternoon walking around San Francisco and Pier 39.

Later in the afternoon, my uncle and cousins met up with us at Pier 39, and we all walked through Fisherman's Wharf on the way to Ghirardelli  Square.    Yes, the famous chocolately Ghirardelli's.   We ordered giant ice cream sundaes, which was our "dinner."

I know this will be shocking, but my sundae wasn't chocolate at all.   Rather that something heavy and rich, I ordered the Very Berry Sundae - strawberry cheesecake ice cream, sliced strawberries, vanilla ice cream, blueberry topping, whipped cream, chocolate-covered blueberries, and a chocolate-dipped waffle cone roll.   Delicious!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day #213 - Friar Tuck's & Black Bear Diner

Day #3 on vacation.  Today we drove down to the small town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.  We walked around the streets for a bit, then stopped for lunch at a place called Friar Tuck's.  I ordered the Club Sandwich - turkey, ham, bacon, and cheese, on toasted bread, with a side of potato salad.  It was a good classic club sandwich, perfect for a light lunch.

After lunch, we stopped at the Carmel Mission and Carmel State Beach for a few photo ops, then proceeded to the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach.  Unfortunately the sky was very overcast, so my photos didn't turn out as beautifully as they could have been.   After exiting the 17-Mile Drive, we drove through the city of Monterey, and stopped for dinner at the Black Bear Diner.

I ordered the Roadhouse BBQ Tri-Tip Platter - Sliced, marinated tri-tip served with onion rings and homemade cole slaw.  It also came with a small garden salad (which I had with blue cheese dressing) and a warm cornbread muffin.   The tri-tip was very juicy and flavorful and tender, and melted in my mouth.  The onion rings were crispy and perfectly fried, without being too greasy.  Overall, my entire dinner was delicious, and I couldn't finish all of it.    The family ordered two pies (Chocolate Cream and Coconut Cream), which we took back to my brother's apartment for dessert later in the evening.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day #212 - Subway & Pizza

Today was our second full day on vacation here in California.   We started the morning by driving through San Francisco, stopping at the Golden Gate Bridge for photos and a little walk halfway across the bridge.  From there, we drove north towards Muir Woods.  We stopped at a Subway for lunch, and I had an Oven-Roasted Chicken Breast sub on the Italian Herbs & Cheese bread, with spinach, tomato, cucumber, provolone cheese, green pepper, and Honey Mustard sauce.    The family and I split some SunChips with our sandwiches, and cookies for dessert.     After lunch, we continued on the drive to Muir Beach, Bonita Point, and the Fort Baker Pier.

After a long day of riding in the car or walking in nature, we came back to my brother's apartment and ordered pizza from dinner from Premier Pizza.   We ordered two varieties: the Bacon Chicken Supreme (white garlic sauce, smoked bacon, and grilled chicken) and the Cowboy (smoky barbecue sauce, mesquite grilled chicken breast, sweet red onions and green bell peppers).  They were both very good!   

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day #211 - Google & Ravioli

While I am on vacation, I will try to include both my lunch & dinner pictures with my posts, since we will likely be eating "out" for both meals. Today is our first full day in California, and here is what I ate:

Lunch was on the Google campus here in Mountain View.   My brother works at Google, and he treated us to lunch at one of the many cafes on the campus.  We ate at Charlie's Cafe, which had several stations of cuisine - salad bar, American, Italian, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, and dessert.    My lunch consisted of a chilled green gazpacho soup (cucumbers, honeydew, and light spices); a salad of butter lettuce, mixed greens, bell peppers, fresh mozzarella balls, marinated zucchini, slivered almonds, and balsamic dressing; fresh cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and grapes; some sort of spicy chicken wrap; and a dessert called Brownie VS Cheesecake - a thick brownie crust topped with cheesecake and then decorated with large chocolate curls.

It was a very filling lunch!!  But I tried sticking with mainly healthy choices (except for the dessert).   And it all tasted excellent.   Thanks, Google!

For dinner we went to visit some relatives out here in California, and my aunt cooked dinner.  She made giant meatballs, homemade ravioli, garlic bread, and fresh vegetables.  Everything was delicious!  She also baked a peach pie for dessert, but my phone battery died before I could take that picture.  Plus I ate that piece rather quickly because it tasted so good.  Slightly warm peach pie with a scoop of slightly melting vanilla ice cream.  MMM mmm good!!