Thursday, April 28, 2011

Recipe: Sausage & Bean Ragu on Quinoa Macaroni

This week - my cooking challenge from Allison Fishman and Cooking Light went a little more smoothly. I can boil noodles much easier than quinoa. Yet - still had the quinoa! It was Sausage & Bean Ragu over Quinoa Macaroni!

I forgot about pictures until I already had most everything in the pan - it's tomatoes, turkey sausage, northern/white beans, onion, garlic and chicken broth.

I didn't realize the recipe called for a 1 lb. box of Quinoa Macaroni until I got home. The package from Whole Foods was only 8 oz so I threw in a little whole wheat rotini. Little did I know the macaroni was GIANT. I have no idea why - but that giant macaroni made the whole meal even better. It's also very yellow - so it looks different than "regular" macaroni.

It doesn't taste any different - so that's a great way to sneak in the whole grains for folks that aren't sure how to do it. It's obviously more expensive ($2 or so for the 8 oz box).

Then you mix it all together - it definitely reminded me of my Dad's goulash. I don't think it was a traditional goulash by any means - but it's what he called it. All the same ingredients - just in less healthy forms.


And there you have it - dinner is served with a tall glass of milk! It was really a great dinner and made a TON. I put a half of it in the freezer to take out and enjoy in a couple of weeks. Good stuff! Enjoy!


Sausage and Bean Ragù on Quinoa Macaroni



  • YIELD: 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups pasta and 1 tablespoon cheese)
Ingredients
  • 1 (16-ounce) package quinoa macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound bulk turkey Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Romano cheese
  • Preparation


Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add sausage; cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add broth and next 4 ingredients (through tomatoes); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
  • Add pasta, stirring well. Top evenly with cheese. Serve immediately.



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hot Headed - Check it and see...

Friday was the day for H - for lunch it was Hot Head Burritos and for dinner it was Hahana Beach

Hot Head occupies the spot formerly held by Fatburger on Madison in Oakley. I was kinda sad to see the Fat go - I thought the burgers were good.

It's very Chipotle-ish - you can get tacos, burritos, etc... but you can also get nachos. The meats don't look or smell as delicious as Chipotle. The rice they put in the bowl has no cilantro. The beans look sad. Also - they don't have extra veggies other than the pepper/onion. That's my one complaint about Chipotle - I like Moe's for the mushrooms and other veggies that they have!

They have similar toppings with a couple of additions. They also are known for their sauce options - all the way from mild to hot head.

Larry got the steak tacos - I had a bite at the end. The shell was stale and the meat was dry. Meh.

I got the "Lil Bowl" with shredded pork. The pork was good. The guac was meh. I liked being able to get taco sauce on it.

And it was Good Friday and we saw these folks walking up and down Madison. Only in the 'Nati. Good for them - that takes some cahones. It's one thing to wear a cross on your neck - it's another to carry it down a major roadway in broad daylight!

Why Should You Go? Well if you couldn't tell by my lackluster descriptions - I wasn't too excited. There is absolutely no reason for me to go back here. It wasn't bad - it just wasn't Chipotle.

Hot Head Burritos on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

H = Hahana Beach

I'm heading through the alphabet and got to the letter H. The winner was Hahana Beach - and the runner up was Hot Head Burritos. I actually visited BOTH on Friday! So here's the winner...the runner up review will follow soon.


Speaking of the ABC's - you'll notice I have the poll for the letter I up to the left. Yes - I'm cheating. My good friend Rachel told me about Island Frydays so long ago - there aren't many I restaurants - so I decided to take this one in my own hands (she'll be so happy). It's a Jamaican restaurant in Clifton and is really cheap - woohoo! I'm looking forward to it.

Hahana Beach is the brainchild of the Bob Slattery - the same guy that also Reach Magazine, Wags Park, Slatts Pub and a variety of other businesses. I know this because I worked for Reach last summer when they were building Hahana! Hahana Beach has beach volleyball and hosted the ATP event last summer as soon as it opened. It was a crazy time!

The restaurant is very big and has a wide-open feel. There are garage doors that lift up during good weather and lead to the courts.

There were four of us and we started with wings with BBQ sauce ($8.99). They were fine - my friend said a little fatty but the sauce was very tasty and sweet. 

We also had the crab cakes ($8.99) - again - fine. One of our party thought they were a little spicy - I thought  they were just okay. Nothing too special. 

Their menu is in the process of changing - they currently list Steak Kabobs but our server mentioned they are no longer available and that a new menu will be out soon. My friend instead chose the Baja Fish Tacos with sweet potato fries ($8.99). The sweet potato fries are fantastic. My friend was not a fan of the tacos and compared them to something you really shouldn't be eating.

Larry wasn't too hungry and got the hummus ($6.99) - I did sneak a bite and liked it. Their menu says it's the "fresh hummus of the day" - I wonder if they're going to add different flavors on different days - I think that would be something unique to add.

I got the West Coast Burger ($9.99) with sweet potato fries. The burger had goat cheese and bacon - being a huge goat cheese fan - I was stoked. I ordered my burger medium rare. It was just okay - I really only ate about half - for some reason the goat cheese didn't taste so great (nothing like Terry's goat cheese). I'm not sure if it wasn't cooked enough or what - I just knew I didn't feel like finishing.

The burger came with a side of Hawaiian cole slaw - not a fan of that either.

What I was a fan of were the sweet potato fries. These are DELICIOUS! First - they're waffle fries - which are the best - then they've got little bits of sugar baked in. The fries were the best part of the night - by far! Everybody at the table loved them.

Dessert was even included - not sure if they do that for everybody but it was a nice treat! They brought out chocolate chip cookies for each of us. They also (at the boys request) brought out some of the fruit that was soaking in Absolut. The cookies were pretty good - not as good as Max & Erma's - but a nice ending to the meal. The fruit - GAG - the boys were much more interested than the girls. It was too strong...it's not really a dessert option - the server just brought it out for the guys since they were asking about it.


As we left - we saw this house out back. The photo doesn't do it justice - that house is a peachy pink awesome color!!!! 

Why Should You Go? We had a fantastic time at dinner and the atmosphere is very relaxed and enjoyable. The service was excellent - attentive but not overbearing (Kyla was fantastic!). My only disappointment truly was the food. It was okay. Something was off about the burger - I'm thinking it wasn't cooked enough. I was enjoying the company so much - I didn't really check the middle. That said - I'd go back in a minute for those sweet potato fries! Spring leagues are starting up soon - so if you're up for some beach volleyball - that's one reason to go. If I was in the area - I wouldn't say no to going back - although if I was in the mood for a burger - I'd likely head to FlipDaddy's
Hahana Beach  on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 25, 2011

Where? Elsewhere

I got to go to NYC for my job a couple of weeks ago and after a long day of work - we headed over to the Hell's Kitchen area for a big group dinner at Elsewhere.

It's a very pretty restaurant and cozy on the inside - a pleasant dining experience for sure! 

There were 9 women - NINE - we needed some food and some vino - STAT! We started with the popcorn because of the previous recos from coworkers. We got a bowl each of Porcini, Lavender-Rosemary and Bacon-Butter.  ($5 each) 

Flavored popcorn is something that hasn't hit Cincinnati yet and we really enjoyed it. Everybody had their favorite - nearly everyone was raving over the Lavender-Rosemary. It wasn't overpowering yet added a kick to the corn. My personal favorite was the bacon-butter - but duh - I'm from Iowa. Nobody was raving over the porcini - it tasted a little burnt. 

One of the girls was in love with the Menage-a-Trois and told us we HAD to order it. Dates stuffed with Roaring Forties Blue, Almonds, Pancetta and Orange ($10). Everybody but me loved it. I tried. I tried one bite but that was some strong-ass blue cheese and I'm just not a fan. I couldn't handle it. But if you like blue cheese - you'd like this!

For the appetizer I chose Bay Scallops with Celery Root Puree & Butternut Squash ($12). I wasn't thinking bay scallop and was expecting a regular sized scallop. It was okay - a little sparse compared to the salad portions - but okay.

One coworker went for the cheese tasting ($27). It was quite a variety and she really enjoyed it. That's another thing you don't find out here in the 'Nati too often - I'd love to see this as an option at places here.

After MUCH debate - I chose the Raviolo with warm Ricotta, Arugula Pesto & Pistachio Oil ($19). The fresh pasta was really great...but overall I didn't like it much. The ricotta was bland - the brown sauce (no idea?) seemed like it was screaming for mushrooms and the pesto was more like chunks of arugula. I was pretty disappointed and was wishing I was back at the Hudson Cafeteria!

Chocolate Bourbon Icebox Cake, Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream  ($8) - it looks delicious and my coworker said it tasted pretty great too! 

Another coworker and I decided to split their Dutch Baby with Apple Compote & Fresh Cream ($10). It was okay. The dough was good but the apples were a little undercooked.


The next morning I was at a coffee shop and had to take a photo of the newsstand out front. This is so NYC - I love seeing it! Also inside the coffee shop - I had my one "celebrity" sighting. The guy at the table next to us looked insanely familiar - but I couldn't place him (which really isn't like me). I couldn't go up and just say "Hey - who are you?" - especially with my new boss right there. Then I got home - turned on the TV and it hit me - it's one of the sober coaches from A&E's new show Relapse. Not sure how much of a celebrity that is - but it was the best I could do! 

Why Should You Go? Eh - I wouldn't. Although I'd love to see some Cincinnati folks take a hint from the big city and add the flavored popcorn to their menus (eh-hem - Virgils - sounds like something right up your alley!) - I just didn't enjoy my meal that much. I also have a theory - when you're in NYC - go to one $100+ dinner (Daniel for example) and then - devour street food the rest of the time! The service and the food is THAT MUCH BETTER. And with the street food - gyros, pizza, dogs - they're on every corner - and don't forget the black & white cookie (still a Seinfeld junkie after all these years).

Elsewhere on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 21, 2011

For the Love of Quinoa!

Thanks to Allison Fishman and Cooking Light - I'm now a whole grain fan. I can't believe it's true. But eating 3 servings a day isn't that hard! You can keep up with my progress and the blog here on CookingLight.com.

Because of this challenge - I've been trying to find whole grains that I like and now - I like/love quinoa. After you cook it - use it just like you would rice - the only difference - it's actually good for you! No matter how much we like white rice - there's pretty much no nutritional value there. Quinoa on the other hand is packed full of goodness!

So now - I search for recipes with quinoa that I think Larry and I will like. I found one a few days back that I had to try: Quinoa Pilaf with Salmon & Asparagus. Larry isn't much of a fan of veges but he does like asparagus - so it was worth a shot.

Fresh asparagus from whole foods, some very sweet yellowish red grape tomatoes and frozen peas...all ready to go.

Cooking quinoa is so easy - boil 2 cups of chicken broth (or water) then add 1 cup quinoa - simmer for 10-15 min and voila - DONE! I leave it for a bit just to get it all fully "popped" and cooked through.

This recipe had me poaching the salmon in chicken broth/water...it called for skin-on salmon but I bought skin-free from Meijer and it worked just fine and was easier.

After the salmon is done, remove that and start cooking the veges.

After the salmon has cooled a bit - I broke it into chunks...so much better than canned - yuck! The cats were circling like sharks in the ocean - it was pretty funny.

Then mix it all together. You have to be a bit gingerly or the salmon will just fall into tiny pieces - so I mixed in the quinoa first - then added the salmon last. There were seasonings along the way that are in the recipe.

Funny thing is - Larry jokes that sometimes my recipes come out and look like "slop". He says "Oooooh what kind of slop are we having tonight?" Well - this did look like slop. I laughed and said - "Honey - it's salmon slop tonight!"


But even though it looked like slop - it tasted GREAT! We both really enjoyed it. The vegetables were added a lot and seriously - so did the chicken broth. I never ever cook quinoa with water - I really think the broth adds a lot of flavor but doesn't compete with the salmon. And poaching the salmon definitely mellows it - it wasn't strong at all. 

So another whole grain recipe success! And I just found out corn is a whole grain too - I'm going to be getting some corn on the cob this weekend! 

Next recipe has quinoa and white beans - mmmmmmm! 


QUINOA PILAF WITH SALMON AND ASPARAGUS

Betty Tip: This main dish tastes as good as it looks and will be requested again and again. Vegetable broth and chicken broth are available in convenient 32-ounce resealable cartons. Cooking grains in broth adds flavor and pizzazz to your recipes.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Start To Finish: 30 Minutes
4 Servings (1 3/4 cups each)
Whole Grain Serving: 2


Ingredients

• 1 cup uncooked quinoa
• 6 cups water
• 1 vegetable bouillon cube
• 1 lb salmon fillets
• 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
• 20 stalks fresh asparagus, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces (2 cups)
• 4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
• 1 cup frozen sweet peas (from 1-lb bag), thawed
• 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
• 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
• 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed


Directions
1.
 Rinse quinoa thoroughly by placing in a fine-mesh strainer and holding under cold running water until water runs clear; drain well.

2. In 2-quart saucepan, heat 2 cups of the water to boiling over high heat. Add quinoa; reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until water is absorbed.

3. Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, heat remaining 4 cups water and bouillon cube to boiling over high heat. Add salmon, skin side up; reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Remove with slotted spoon to plate; let cool. Discard water. Remove skin from salmon; break into large pieces.

4. Meanwhile, rinse and dry skillet. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in onions; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in peas, tomatoes and broth; cook 1 minute.

5. Gently stir quinoa, salmon, lemon-pepper seasoning and dill weed into asparagus mixture. Cover; cook about 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Nutrition1 Serving: Calories 420 (Calories from Fat 140); Total Fat 15g (Saturated Fat 6g; Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 90mg; Sodium 650mg; Total Carbohydrate 37g (Dietary Fiber 5g; Sugars 6g); Protein 34g
% Daily Value: Vitamin A 35%; Vitamin C 20%; Calcium 8%; Iron 30%
Exchanges: 1 1/2 Starch, 1/2 Other Carbohydrate, 1 Vegetable, 4 Lean Meat, 1/2 Fat
Carbohydrate Choices: 2 1/2

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Upscale Cafeteria Food? Why not - it's NYC!

During my recent trip to New York, I had one night to myself. I was so excited! Then I got there and it was pouring down rain, cold and windy. Boooo! NYC is a walking city and it was not walking weather. 

Luckily I was staying at a really fun hotel with an interesting restaurant concept! I stayed at the Hudson on W 58th (very close to Lincoln Center & Central Park). The hotel - it's very hip. Dark, funky and unique. The rooms - the size of a cracker box of course. All of the girls remarked about the lack of room in the bathrooms - if you're over 5'5" - it's not gonna work for you. But - it's very cool. 

I was starving and decided to check out Hudson Hall. It's a very unique dining experience - it's a fancy, funky cafeteria. 

I was seated at this giant chair and felt very regal. The seating is long communal tables - which is a bit intimidating when you're by yourself. But - it's dark - so I didn't feel too out of place. It was hard to take pictures inside - the walls are all giant picture frames. They had 70s rock concert videos playing but the music wasn't matching the videos. It was unique - but funky. Definitely a "You're not in Kansas anymore Toto!" moment. 

The concept is cafeteria style - which is so unique. There are placards with the name and price of a dish and some are ready for you. They're all fresh - the staff keeps a close eye on how long things are on the bar. If there's a placard with no food below it - just ask and they'll make one up for you.

I LOVED the concept - it was so different. A fancy cafeteria - whodathunkit?

Here's a shot of the brussel sprouts ($10) with house made sambal and puff rice. I should have gotten these - I'm so bad at making decisions when all the food is in front of me. I really like brussel sprouts (thanks Dad - he made me eat every vegetable as a kid).

Here's what I did choose - 72 Hour Sous Vide Short Ribs with fresh horseradish ($14)! I'm a self-professed Top Chef Junkie and have heard the term "sous vide" so many times - I had to finally try it!

Sous vide is French for "under vacuum" and is a method of cooking food sealed in air tight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time - apparently 72 hours. :-)

Sous vide should really just mean delicious! These short ribs literally fell apart as I ate them. They were rich and juicy. I didn't realize they had horseradish (I wasn't paying close enough attention) and there definitely was a pungent taste but it was so amazing. Almost like a salt & vinegar chip - it's strong and a little off-putting, then completely addicting. I enjoyed every bite!

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with garlic confit & thyme ($8). Confit - another term you hear a lot on the cooking shows. Confit is basically a means of preserving food in a substance - duck confit is immersed in duck fat, garlic confit is typically garlic soaked in olive oil.

The potatoes were fine - I should have been more adventurous. I could definitely taste the garlic and salt and there were crispy pieces, soft pieces and everywhere in between. They were good but I wish I'd tried the brussel sprouts or something more adventurous. Shame on me!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pudding Sundae ($6) - you can guess how this was. Rich and tasty!

The dessert options were pretty nice - they had these incredibly huge donuts and one was even coconut cream...but it seemed a little too giant. I decided on the dainty cup of pudding.

Dainty it was not! It was extremely rich - I almost couldn't finish it after filling up on meat & potatoes! It was so good - the different textures were great. The chocolate was almost like a thick creme brulee, the peanut butter was fluffy like mouse and then the crumbles and peanuts added crunch and a little salt.

Why Should You Go? Not expecting my Cincinnati folks will hop on a plane to go - but if you're in NYC - it's a great option. The hotel is funky and cool - very chic feeling - and pretty affordable for NYC. (I stood out like a sore thumb - it's the Iowan in me.) The food was excellent and I liked it even more than the place we went the next night! (review coming...) It's so different to have this cafeteria like set-up - I loved the uniqueness of it. The food definitely did not disappoint.

The best part was there was something for everybody - if you're not adventurous - a slider & fries is a good choice. If you are adventurous - the cheese plate looked pretty unique and there were lots of other funky options. I also like that the menu is always changing - so I can't wait to go again next time I'm in the city!


Hudson Cafeteria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

G = Greek to Me Prassino

I am FINALLY getting back to the ABC's! It was a close race for the letter G but, in the end, the winner was Greek to Me Prassino!

If you're not sure where it is - it's in the Wedding Mall on Madison in downtown Covington. The "mall" consists of a dozen or so wedding-related businesses and Greek to Me at the front (on the right).

Here's the menu - it's similar to their Erlanger location but here - it's all organic! No frying, no grease. You can see the same message here on their site.

Larry and I each got a gyro ($5.25) and as usual they were HUGE! They are filled with over 1/3 pound of meat and it's always so delicious. I'm a huge fan of their gyros and it's especially great to see more options in Covington.

I used to work at 6th & Main and I know - there's not much on that strip - so a new place is always welcome!

Looking back, I should have gotten something that is more unique to this location - but I can say everything tasted very fresh and the tomatoes were really great (something you might really be able to tell if it's organic and/or fresh).

Inside - it has a great look. My favorite part of the visit was chatting with the owner - George Betas! A former coworker has known George for a long time - so I got to know him from visiting the Erlanger store so often. We had a great chat:

What made you decide to try this organic concept? 
I've been to California and organic is everywhere out there. I wanted to try something and bring that back here. 

How's it going so far?
Great during the week - Saturdays are a bit slow but they're picking up. We're even thinking about staying open for dinner hours... (Any thoughts for those of you in NKY?)

Why do you like this location?
I think it's great when I get to work at the Covington location. I feel good about the food I'm serving and I don't smell like grease when I go home. 

What's next for Greek to Me? 
It's not 100% yet but we are looking at opening up a third location DOWNTOWN! 

Why Should You Go? I'm a huge fan of Greek food - so anytime I can have a gyro - I'm a happy girl. I think there are some great options all over the city. Greek Isles in West Chester, Sebastians on the West Side and most definitely Greek to Me in Kentucky. GTM is also very affordable - $5 for a giant gyro is good on the pocketbook as well.

Greek to Me Prassino on Urbanspoon

Update - they have moved! They're now downtown on Court St next to Tom + Chee.

I went with some friends and we all got the combo with fries and it was soooo good! The gyros are so huge and I got extra tsatsiki - which is always good. They have fries now - they are similar to Penn Station but they coat them with their lemon seasoning and it's delish! So definitely keep going to Prassino - you won't be sorry!

  Greek to Me Prassino on Urbanspoon