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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Recipe: "Blackened" Salmon Tacos

I went on a cooking spree last week so I have a bank of posts ready to go! First up for me was Blackened Salmon Tacos out of Woman's Day magazine. 

We've been having this discussion around the office - and I'm a stringent Meijer shopper. I just cannot get behind Kroger! It seems like every time I go I buy 5 things and it's $30! I get a cartful at Meijer for $100/week and love it. I'm a couponer too though - so that helps. Although I might go back to a Meijer/Aldi combo again. Aldi has a gallon of milk for $1.99!!!!!

But back to salmon - I got a pound of salmon at Meijer and while it tasted great - their fish butcher (is that what you call it?) needs to get some skills - this salmon looked pretty beat up.

I'm not too much a fan of "blackened" which is used with a specific blackening (mix of paprika, oregano, thyme, cayenne, black pepper, white pepper and garlic powder) or Cajun seasoning - so I used my Island Fish Spice that I got on vacation a couple years ago. I don't use it often but it does taste great!

I coated both sides of the salmon with the seasoning and then pan-fried them for a few minutes on each side. They cooked up beautifully!

I also mixed together fresh lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and then tossed some lettuce into the dressing.


Once the salmon is done, I flaked it and put it in the tortillas. After that topped it with the dressed lettuce and leftover Tsatsiki from blublu. I also had some left over hashbrowns from making another batch of breakfast cups


These salmon tacos were delicious! I had never really thought of using salmon since most fish taco recipes use a white fish - but these were really great. The tsatsiki was also a nice add - it took the place of sour cream and added a nice fresh zing!

I would highly recommend this recipe and just branching out with tacos in general. These were delicious! And I had extra salmon left for lunches and my husband!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

So last week - I was a cooking fiend! I did some menu planning and decided to get started. I did really well - I made 4 of the 5 items I planned to. So first up - the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars! 

I wasn't really sure if I would like these - since I don't like "rice krispie treats" so I decided to make half of the recipe (full recipe below). I got this recipe from the current issue of Everyday Food magazine

It starts easy enough with a bowl full of Cocoa-flavored rice cereal. I used Cocoa Pebbles because I had a coupon.

Then you melt mini-marshmallows and peanut butter in saucepan with a little butter. I was a petrified of this step. I was sure the marshmallows would stick to the pan - but they didn't at all! It was super easy and only took a few minutes. 

Then you pour the sticky mix into the cereal and stir it up. This is where I encountered a little issue - I cut the recipe in half but think I should have kept the sticky part at full recipe and the cocoa pebbles at half. When I stirred these together - it was just some small clusters and lots of loose cocoa pebbles.

The recipe then calls for chocolate chips & peanuts to be stirred in. I also added peanut butter chips because they are my favorite.

 Then you pat the mixture into a dish - you were supposed to use parchment paper but I didn't have any so I made do with plastic wrap.

I just didn't have enough of the sticky mix because I knew when I pushed it into the pan that I didn't have enough. Sure enough - it didn't hold together. But I made the best of the situation and just poured the mixture into a big ziploc bag. I'm using it as a snack mix - it's REALLY sweet - so I'm not sure if it's a cereal bar or a snack bar.

But even with the lack of bar formation - it tastes really good. Like I said - it's VERY sweet and rich. I take the little snack bag size to work every day and munch on it mid-afternoon.

So here's the recipe as printed - I would recommend making more of the sticky mix or use less cocoa cereal.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

* cooking spray
* 8 cups chocolate crisp puffed rice cereal
* 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
* 10 oz mini marshmallows (4 3/4 cups)
* 3/4 cup natural peanut butter
* 1/4 tsp fine salt
* 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
* 1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Coat a 9" square baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment. Place cereal in a large bowl. In a large pot, melt butter over medium. Add marshmallows, peanut butter and salt and cook, stirring, until mixture is melted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into cereal until combined. Let mixture cool slightly, 4 minutes (mixture should still be pliable), then stir in chocolate chips and peanuts. With a spatula (or your fingers) lightly coated with cooking spray, press into pan. Let stand at room temperature until set, about 20 minutes. Using parchment, left from pan and cut into 12 bars. (Store in an airtight container up to 5 days.) Makes 12

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Art of Food - GIVEAWAY!

This Friday night is one of my favorite events of the year - The Art of Food at the Carnegie in Covington. If you haven't been - add this to your Cincinnati-to-do list! (Friday March 2 - 6-9pm) 

The Art of Food is a fantastic night of food and art - looking at all the food art might make you hungry and then all the chefs cooking up excellence will stuf your belly! 

Mona Lisa in toast by Eric Brass

Last year I went with my good friend Lou - not sure who my "date" will be this year. Matt from Virgils started us off with some fresh bread and it just got better from there...just re-read the post and my camera died when I got there - that will NOT happen this year! I'll have my camera and phone - so I'll be double packed! 

Glass toast by Leah Busch

The list of Chef's/Restaurants is definitely mouth-watering: Jean Robert, Jeff Thomas, Marc Bodenstein (Parkers), Renee Schuler (Eat Well Celebrations), Jackson Rouse (SmoQ), Paul Weckman (Otto's) and more...

The artists will also amaze you - I've heard some sneaky sneak and cannot wait to see all of the pretties!! 

So yes - I'll be there with a camera, a phone, no purse (you can't take pics, carry a plate, carry a drink AND carry a purse) and a friend - but who else will be there?! IT COULD BE YOU! 

Comment on this post and you're entered to win a pair of tickets to Friday night's opening gala at the Carnegie. If that's not good enough for you - purchase tickets now! And if you don't win - the art portion of the exhibit is open thru April 13 and it's FREE! 

Please only enter if you can go Friday night and PLEASE LEAVE A WAY TO CONTACT YOU!!! (Twitter, Facebook, Email, something!!!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frozen Lunch Review: Lean Cuisine Steak Tips Portabello

More frozen lunches. It's funny because last weekend I did some menu planning and have actually made 3 of the 5 things I planned out! I was hoping to have leftovers for work as some folks suggested as a frozen lunch alternative. 

Here's the thing though - my husband - eats A LOT! Now - he's a muscle-bound guy with crazy-low body fat (unlike his Mrs) but he has a huge appetite! I made a 2.5 pound roast and he ate 3/4 of it! So - unfortunately - unless I make a casserole, I don't usually have leftovers. He's not a casserole fan so I don't make them much, because when I do - I end up eating them for a week! 

So there it is - I did try - but the pot roast I made was too good and we had no leftovers for me! :-( But Lean Cuisine was there for me with one I have bought before - Steak Tips Portabello. 


Here are my notes:

  • Flavor - the sauce honestly has kind of a funky taste - almost like a freezer-burned taste - but it might also be the "burgundy" part of it that I just don't like. 
  • Meat - I like the steak tips - it's why I liked it before - they taste like meat that's been in the slow-cooker all day. The broccoli is incredibly bland and the mushrooms are nearly non-existant.
  • Cooking - Excellent - no issues! 
  • Cost - $2.50 no coupons this week :-( for LC
  • Nutrition - 150 calories, 4 grams fat (w00t!)
  • Allergens - milk, wheat, soy
  • Fullness Factor - with the leftover sweet potatoes, I was full for the day 

Sorry Lean Cuisine - you get a thumbs DOWN on this one! 


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Road Trip: "American Pickers" wannabes and Aurora, IN

Hubby and I are big fans of American Pickers on History Channel and have decided we want to start checking out estate sales. We know we have no idea what we're doing but it's a fun way to spend a couple hours on a Saturday.

So off we head to Petersburg, KY - this house is out in this wooded community - there's a lake and it's really pretty! 

I need to get gutsier and just ask if they'll make deals - I found out after I left that they were dealing all over the place. Argh! I love that pin!

Then we came across this Gustav Stickley table - it was priced at $350 - too rich for our blood. They were dealing though - so maybe we could have gotten it for a deal. I wouldn't have known what it was and am curious about the use for the table. Anybody know what the use for this table is? Obviously it's something specific with the tray area and bowl area.

Upstairs we found A KITTY!!!! Turns out it's the neighbor's kitty but it was pretty humorous how comfortable kitty was in the house. He was splayed out on the bed like he owned the joint!!!!

I would love to wake up to this view every morning!!!! 

This was a unique find to me at the sale because my mom made me one almost identical as a kid and it's in my kitchen right now. I think they had the same molds! (Which is odd - since we lived in Iowa when she made it.)

Then my husband ended up helping this older couple disassemble and carry an industrial/professional treadmill up a tight stairwell. So this was my view for an hour - but it's okay - we met a wonderful couple and ended up making friends!

It's a bit scary - I'm turning into my mother! I go to an estate sale and end up bonding with a couple (older than my parents) and exchanged info. WTF? But it's okay - they were really sweet!

I also have to say - I really love my husband for things like this. He saw these folks struggling and in a really impossible situation and without hesitation - stopped everything and jumped in with both feet to help. More people should be like this!

After the estate sale - we were STARVING! We meant to get breakfast first but didn't and then the treadmill happened - so by this time - Larry was beat and we were both starving! We look up "food" in the GPS and it tells us a place is 4 miles away - turns out it's was 25 miles away!!! Oh well...we headed to Aurora, IN for lunch.

Passed by the Seagrams Distillery - there since 1857!

Then we finally arrived at Applewood by the River - there was only one boat and one barge on the river - but it was so wonderful outside - 50 degrees in February!!!

Larry's not a fan of the camera - so I always try and pirate pictures of him...

Applewood has some grama decor for sure but the smell is delicious as soon as you walk in - I was already starving - the smell had me drooling!!! Most of the tables have a view of the river and there's a huge patio outside for the summer. We'll definitely be back.

I went for the Ribs, Fries & Slaw ($8.75) and started with the slaw. Larry questioned me immediately because he thought I didn't like cole slaw - but there I was DEVOURING this stuff.

So here's the thing - I'm extremely picky on slaw - aren't you? It's either too vinegar-y or too thick or just something. It's rare to find EXCELLENT slaw. This stuff was PERFECTION!!! It was creamy but kind of runny and had a really great flavor.

Next was some fresh, hot bread. I saw Apple Walnut Bread ($3.50) on the menu - and thought about getting some - but we got this bread free so I decided to just be happy with this.

It was also delicious! Crispy outside, super soft inside, baked with butter and garlic already on it and served with soft butter. This was excellent bread! Larry usually skips the bread and this time - I only got one slice!

The decor though - pure Grama! I always think WWGS: What Would Gordon Say? I am a big fan of the British version of Kitchen Nightmares (the American version blows goats) and Gordon tears the decors of these restaurants up! Applewood could use a remodel for sure!

Larry got the soup & sandwich ($8.50) - this is a "chef's choice" type of item and today it was turkey & provolone with loaded baked potato soup. And I'm going on record with a big statement:

THIS IS THE BEST BAKED POTATO SOUP I HAVE EVER EATEN!

It was creamy but brothy - if that makes sense. You know - most of the time it's an uber-thick white soup or it's brothy. This was the perfect combo. The potato pieces were small and there was just so much flavor. Seasonings, bacon, broth, potato, creamy deliciousness.

One of the managers came in and I was complimenting him on the soup and he said it was supposed to last a couple of weeks and it's only lasted a couple of days. Now I have to say - hearing that a restaurant would make soup that's supposed to last two weeks - um - ew?! But thankfully - this was so good it wasn't lasting more than the weekend!

Oh and yeah - Larry ordered it but of course he let me try some - and by try some I mean let me eat half of it.

Here's the rest of my ribs, fries and slaw. The fries were heavily seasoned and I liked them. They were salty but and had that orangish fry seasoning. 

The ribs fell off the bone for sure and the pork was juicy and tasty. The sauce was really interesting - not sure I liked it or didn't. It was more like a gravy - it was thick and not sweet or spicy. Just not like any BBQ sauce I've had. I liked them but I wouldn't say I loved them. 

And that was our road trip for the day. The Applewood was definitely a great end to our road trip.

Why Should You Go? The food at Applewood was really great - sometimes places like this are really just good for the view but this one has great food to back it up. I can't wait to go back!

Applewood By the River on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 20, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

I'm really trying to work on cooking at home and menu planning a bit more. It's just time consuming to have to find recipes, make shopping list, then coupon and find sales and then shop and then cook - good Lord how to Mrs. Cleaver do it?

For this week - I have planned:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars from Everyday Food (not exact recipe - but almost)
Shredded Beef Chuck Roast from Everyday Food
Creamy Linguine with Shrimp & Veggies from Cooking Light
Rigatoni with Roasted Broccoli and Onions from Womans Day
Blackened Salmon Tacos from Womans Day

I made the chuck roast and the cereal bars today (posts coming) so I'm off to a good start!

Hopefully my week goes pretty well and I make them all!

Have a great week!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's not the Olive Garden...but we had to make do.

I love going through the photos in my cell phone! Why? Because I realize there are reviews I forgot to do! So today - from last month - it's Old Spaghetti Factory in Fairfield. 

I've been dying for Olive Garden - still haven't gotten it - I know it's chainville and not "real" Italian food - but it's where me and my bestie back home would always go in my pre-Food Hussy days - so I have a special place in my heart for the OG. But we were not near one and came across OSF and decided to give it a try. 

We were starving so we got the Sicilian Garlic Cheese Bread ($5.50) appetizer. This was definitely a generous portion for $5. The marinara was good - bright flavors, chunks of tomatoes, etc... The cheese bread wasn't too dense - and had the right amount of cheese. I love cheese, husband likes it lighter and this pleased both of us. It's a tough balance!

I got a salad with my meal - and it was fine - good ranch. Nothing too marvelous here...not like the OG.

And for my friend @madasbirds - they have Gluten Free pasta!!! 

Larry went for the Garlic Mizithra ($11.50) It's Spaghetti and Mizithra Cheese & Browned Butter tossed with garlic, bacon and topped with sautéed mushrooms.

It was okay but he didn't like it too much - he thought there would be more of a sauce. I liked it okay - but again - there wasn't much to it - tasted like buttered spaghetti with mushrooms and a little cheese.

I went for the Sicilian Meatballs ($11.25). This again was okay. The marinara was the same from the bread and it was fine. The meatballs were pretty good. But overall together - it just wasn't anything extraordinary.

They also had fresh hot bread and that was awesome! I'm a sucker for bread. Larry's not much on bread but he agreed that it was really good.

Why Should You Go? Well - it's no OG! :-) But it's pretty good. I mean - we didn't love what we got - but the food was tasty and the service was good. If you're in Fairfield - it's a decent option for pasta.

Old Spaghetti Factory on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Frozen Lunch Review: Healthy Choice Top Chef Chicken Margherita

It's product review time again! Yes - a couple of days a week I'll be sharing product reviews (unsolicited by brands and unpaid) of something many folks out there are probably eating right now - frozen lunch entrees! 

I got a bit of criticism for these I'm soldiering ahead. While I agree that making food at home and packing leftovers is a better tasting/healthy option - it just doesn't fit into my life schedule so well right now. Hopefully life and work will calm down a bit - but in the mean time - I'm still rocking my frozen lunches 2-3 days/week! 


Today's choice was Healthy Choice and one of their Top Chef entrees - Chicken Margherita with Balsamic. I'm a sucker for anything Top Chef so I gave this one a whirl and I have to say - it is VERY different! 

Some folks have emailed me about the sodium level in these - this one has 600 mg of sodium which is 25% of your daily allowance. Not really sure if that's good or bad - but I'm going to take note of this going forward. 


This is also one of their Cafe Steamer line - the food is heated in two separate compartments with the sauce on the bottom and the rest on top. Once you're done heating you just empty the top container into the sauce on the bottom.


Then stir! 

Here are my notes:
  • Flavor - No salt needed on this one! The balsamic sauce really has a ton of flavor (and smells good in the office). 
  • Meat - Chicken is pretty good for texture - a little processed in texture but again - fairly realistic. Very comparable to the pre-cooked salad chicken strips you might purchase. 
  • Time - directions say 3.5-4.5 minutes - I cooked it for 4 and it was perfect
  • Cooking - Excellent - no issues! 
  • Cost - $2.75 no coupons this week :-( 
  • Nutrition - 320 calories, 8 grams fat, 600 mg sodium
  • Allergens - wheat, egg, soy
  • Fullness Factor - today I have a meeting so no side item, other than the giant Red Bull my husband bought me for my jam-packed meeting day today. Hopefully the combo tides me over until 3pm at least! 

Today's was probably my favorite of the frozen meals that I've had lately. It doesn't overcook and the flavor is very light and fresh tasting - which is pretty unique knowing it's frozen! Yeah to Healthy Choice! 

I also decided to find a new "thumbs up" image - the creepier the better I say. I have no idea why this was taken - but it made me laugh! 


Photo courtesy of http://www.terrysdiary.com

Friday, February 10, 2012

WTF is Shrimp Toast?

So hubby and I were trolling Colerain and he wanted Chinese food - alas we found China Chef! 


It's kinda dirty and sketchy - but hell sometimes those places have the best food. So we went on in. 


Not much recollection of what we ordered - but it wasn't very good. Larry got sweet & sour chicken - that's what he always gets. I got some sort of spicy shrimp dish with peanuts and vegetables. It had too many vegetables that weren't broccoli and mushrooms so I didn't like it much. I'm so hit or miss with Chinese food...either I love it or hate it. 


We also ordered an appetizer - and I let Larry pick - well he picked wrong. He ordered Shrimp Toast. We've both seen this on menus before and didn't really know what it was. He asked if it had eggs - the girl said no - but once we saw it - we knew it did. 

But I have to say - I was only able to eat one of the little triangles. This is the one of the ODDEST foods I have EVER eaten! 

The first bite is crunchy and has this weird texture and does taste like shrimp. And you're thinking - hmmm - interesting. Then it just goes downhill from there. It's got an odd smell and it's sort of like french toast that hasn't been cooked long enough and instead of egg & milk mixture - it's like egg & fish juice mixture. It's just odd and fairly gross. The texture is the funkiest thing - soggy bread that smells like fish and is deep fried. 

Don't eat it. Ever. 

Why Should You Go? Don't. The rest of the food wasn't awful - but it wasn't good either.  



China Chef on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Frozen Lunch Review: Lean Cuisine Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce


Yup - back again with my packed lunch. Up today is the Lean Cuisine Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce from their Culinary Collection line. I've been eating a lot of Lean Cuisine's because of their new Delicious Rewards program. There's a code on the inside of the box and if you enter 25 codes by March 31 - you get a free lunch bag!  I'm up to 7 - only 18 more to go!

 My tummy was drawn to this one - not by the springs of basil (really?) but mainly by the chicken, pasta, creamy sauce and vegetables.

And I have to say - the box photo is a pretty good representation of the actual food! Nice job! 

Here are my notes:
  • Flavor - once I added salt, it's really tasty. I think this has a little much black pepper - I'm not a fan. The vegetables are crunchy and the pasta is cooked well. I don't taste much basil and the sauce is fairly bland.
  • Meat - Chicken is good but a little "processed" tasting - like the texture of chicken nugget meat
  • Time - directions say 5 minutes - I cooked it for 4 and it's good (it was one of those 3 min - then stir and go 2 more - I was too hungry to stir and wait) 
  • Cooking - Excellent - no issues! 
  • Cost - $2.75 no coupons this week :-( for LC
  • Nutrition - 230 calories, 6 grams fat (w00t!)
  • Allergens - milk, wheat, egg
  • Fullness Factor - my side item today is a Jello Temptation - Double Chocolate Pie - mm mm good! 

So again - I'll give this a thumbs up! I think I would definitely buy this one again.