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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Homemade Barbecue: How to Do "Low and Slow" at Home

Barbecuing is a slow-cooking technique that's been used since the West was won in the late 1800s. Because cowboys were men of little means, they had to settle for inexpensive cuts of meat. The tough meat, often brisket, was made tender through many hours of cooking. Slow-cooked brisket remains a favorite throughout the United States today. Texas, in particular, is known for its barbecue, but you can prepare an amazing brisket no matter where you live. Follow these tips, and you'll be the superstar of this year's block party. 

1. Choose the Best Cuts of Meat: If you're feeding a large crowd, your first instinct may be to buy the largest brisket available. That would be a mistake. Instead, select a point cut or a flat cut. Use point cuts for shredded brisket or a flat cut for sliced brisket. Choose a "choice" over "select" grades of beef. Choice grades contain more fat marbling, resulting in a more tender meat. A 6-pound brisket will serve 8 people.

2. Season with a Recommended Rub or Marinade: There are thousands of rubs and marinades from which to choose. Experimenting can be fun. Ask for recommendations at a grilling store. Often grilling stores sell ideal cuts of meat in addition to a variety of rubs, marinades and sauces. They also frequently offer samples of barbecue, which is another way to choose a rub, marinade or sauce. Whether you marinade or rub, it will require 1-2 days in the refrigerator. Follow package directions, and don't be tempted to skip this important step.


Via


3. Fire Up the Grill: There is a heated debate as to whether charcoal or propane grills do a better job when it comes to slow cooking. Charcoal lovers say there is no substitute for the smoke created by a charcoal grill. However, gas grill owners have won many awards by using flavored wood chips in conjunction with propane. Some prefer to move the slow cooking indoors; however, you will want to sear the brisket outdoors regardless of your technique.

4. Sear, then Cook Slowly: Brush on cooking oil, then sear the brisket on the outdoor grill for 8 to 10 minutes on both sides. Season the brisket with salt and pepper. If you're going to continue cooking the brisket outdoors, turn down the grill to about 200 degrees. Alternately, put the brisket in the oven at 200 degrees, wrapped in aluminum foil. The brisket will require approximately 8 hours of cooking time.

5. Sauce or Slice: If you prefer barbecue sauce, brush it on and cook another 15 minutes. If you put it on too early, the sugars in the sauce will burn. Personally, I recommend that you simply slice it up and serve. Be prepared to amaze your hungry guests, who can add the sauce they most prefer.

This was a guest post provided by Andrew, a Community Coordinator at ApplianceHelp.com, where he writes, thinks, and breathes the DIY lifestyle.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pelican's Reef

Every once in a while I get emails from local restaurants or staff asking me to try their place out - and sometimes I'm really quick. Other times...not so much! Three years ago (I'm guessing) one of the staff from Pelican's Reef on Beechmont told me I should come in and do a review...oops. Better late than never!

I decided to start with a cup of Lobster Bisque ($3.25) - it was a bit cold that day and this sounded nice and toasty.

It was okay - I tend to like soups better that have chunks in them - but I understand a bisque doesn't. That said - I sort of thought there would be pieces of lobster. There weren't any...it still had a decent flavor.

Meals started with a salad as well - it was fine - regular Caesar salad - nothing too fancy.

Our friend Rachel went for the Fish Tacos ($9.95). They looked okay but Bayou Fish House seems more my style. 

Dani & I went for the Seafood Enchiladas ($13 I think). They came with a side of dirty rice - which was dry and undercooked. The enchiladas were fine and had a lot of shrimp in them. I wish they'd had a little more crab in them.

Dani was very pleased with her enchiladas - but we were all starving! :-)

She also decided to take a slice of key lime pie home with her. Our server forgot to add this to her bill so Dani mentioned it and they just said - don't worry about it. So service and hospitality is very nice. 

Why Should You Go? Well unfortunately I didn't care for the food too much. I would have tried some of their seafood rather than the enchiladas but those dishes were all more in the $20 price range and I was trying to stay on budget a bit more. The service was great and very friendly. It's got the feel of a sports bar so it's casual and comfy. There's also outdoor seating for the nicer weather. 



Pelicans Reef on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ABC's of Dining: The Letter R - Richard's Pizza

I'm still making my way through the alphabet and finally got to the letter R. With as busy as work and life are - it takes me about a month to get to each letter. It's slow going...but I will conquer the alphabet! 

I have to say though - this one was just finding the time - I drive by Richard's every Sunday when we get our nieces in Hamilton. Normally they are screaming for McDonalds or Wendys - but I said "How about pizza?" and they jumped at it. Whew! 

Richard's has a lot of "Mediterranean" items on the menu (greek pizza/salad, pasta, etc...) but we just went for pizza and breadsticks. It's hard to be adventurous with a 5 and 7 year old that live on chicken nuggets. 

Here are the breadsticks with cheese - very fluffy and good - they also douse them with the garlic butter so a bit oily. Far better than LaRosa's sticks with cheese though...

And the 1/2 pepperoni and 1/2 cheese pizza (ugh - kids). I swear - if I had kids - they would not be the kind that ate 3 things (chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pizza) - but alas I don't have kids and have to do the best I can with the 3 hours a week I get with these two munchkins. I tried and begged for vegetables and they just mocked me. 

The pizza is good - I really like the thin-ish crust and the ample cheese and sauce. The crust is crispy and the cheese was bubbly. I was barely able to save two pieces for Larry since he was home sick that day - the kids were scavengers! 

Why Should You Go? It's a good pizza. Is it "drive out of the way" good? Meh...but it is good and I would most definitely go again.

Richards Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Red's All Natural Steak Burrito

Every now and then - more often lately - I get food swag from various companies. A few months back I got some free coupons from Red's All Natural Burritos. I gave a couple away on Twitter but kept one for myself. 

Red's are available at Kroger and retail for $3.99 (pretty steep for a single burrito). They were not available at my Kroger in Mt Healthy but I did find them in Hamilton/Fairfield. They have four flavors: Steak, Bean & Cheese, Chicken and Turkey Mole. They are all natural (duh) and have beans, brown rice & veggies. 

I had tried Evol burritos a while back - and didn't love...so would Red's be any different/better/worse? 

I did learn my lesson and used the oven for this one. It's full of veggies - lots of black beans and corn. The steak though - really shredded and didn't really taste like meat. I'm also not a big fan of brown rice. The tortilla portion was better when you cook it in the oven but again - overall I just didn't love it.

The texture of all of it together just is mushy and there's a just a bitterness - maybe with the brown rice - that I just don't care for. They're also lacking cheese - I think that would have done wonders.

So - sorry Red's - I didn't dig them. But if you're into all natural - you might want to give them a try.

I'll stick with my good old El Monterey...my husband got me addicted.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Recipe: Flourless Fudge Cookies (dairy & gluten free - but really good!)

It's Monday and you know what - it already sucks. So if yours is sucking too - here's an EASY recipe that you can make tonight and then at least your Tuesday will be awesome!!! 

I was assigned the Gluten-Free Girl at work for the birthday treat list - greaaaaat! But it was a task and I could conquer it - she likes chocolate - so I found these Gluten & Dairy free Flourless Fudge Cookies. I also grabbed the parchment paper that I got a while back from PaperChef.com (thanks!).

It was a really easy recipe - powdered sugar, cocoa, egg whites, vanilla and chocolate chips. It's a tough stir though. The recipe called for 3 large egg whites - my eggs were small and after 3 - it was still a powdery mess. I decided to try for a 4th egg white and magic happened! Suddenly it became this thick, gloppy, ooey gooey texture! It was like the slime from "You Can't Do That On Television".

After glopping the dough onto the parchment paper - it didn't look too appetizing - but I had gone this far - might as well bake them!

Here's the finished product...they better taste good. 


I have to say - this might have been the best cookie I've ever eaten. It is EXTREMELY rich - like the chocolate factor is OVERLOAD!!!!! But they're moist and chewy and just really damn good. 

Also - a few notes as far as the recipe goes:

* they call for fancy cocoa - I used plain old Toll House cocoa (yeah - Toll House makes cocoa now and it comes in a plastic tub - very convenient for sealing it back up)
* they call for espresso powder - couldn't find that at Kroger, didn't use
* they call for fancy gluten-free vanilla extract - isn't all vanilla extract gluten-free? If not, oops. 
* I did add the chocolate chips - I used Nestle Toll House dark chocolate since it's what I had. 
* I also threw in some peanut butter chips because they were left over - really good addition as well. 
___________________________________________________________

Flourless Fudge Cookies

Ultra-chewy, rich chocolate cookies with no added fat? And no gluten? Impossible! But it's true: these flourless chocolate cookies get their texture from egg whites, and their flavor from cocoa powder (which represents the only fat in the recipe). Plus they're easy to make: Just stir together a few simple ingredients, scoop onto a pan, and bake for 8 minutes. You won't believe the delicious result.

  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but good
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-process (European-style) preferred*
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract
  • *For darker, richer-looking cookies, substitute 1/4 cup black cocoa for 1/4 cup of the Dutch-process cocoa

Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets. Or line with parchment, and grease the parchment.
2) Stir together all of the ingredients till smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and stir again till smooth.
3) Drop the soft, batter-like dough onto the prepared baking sheets in 1 1/2" circles; a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.
4) Bake the cookies for 8 minutes; they should spread, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackly tops.
5) Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool right on the pan.
6) Yield: 16 large (3") cookies.

Recipe summary

Hands-on time:
5 mins. to 7 mins.
Baking time:
8 mins. to 10 mins.
Total time:
13 mins. to 17 mins.
Yield:
16 large (3") cookies.

Tips from our bakers

  • Want to make more, smaller cookies? Drop the dough in 1 1/8" balls (about 2 measuring teaspoonfuls) onto the baking sheets; a level teaspoon cookie scoop works well here. You'll make about forty 2 1/4" cookies.
  • Add up to 2 cups of chocolate chips or diced walnuts to the batter. You'll lose the cookies' "no added fat" attribute, but make some very tasty cookies. With 2 cups of add-ins, you'll make about 24 large cookies, or 48 smaller cookies. Note: For larger cookies with add-ins, increase the baking time by 2 minutes, to a total of 10 minutes.





Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tradewinds Tea Review & GIVEAWAY!!!!!

I have to say - I have an addiction. It's pretty severe and hits without warning. It's an addiction to Tradewinds Sweet Tea!


I tell ya - that stuff is MY FAVORITE!!! I buy those jugs of Sweet Tea every time I go to the grocery store! Well thankfully - the drink fairies of the world found my blog and delivered this for me on my front step!


Yes - four cases of Tradewinds Tea products! Sweet tea, Unsweetened tea, Green tea and Lemonade Tea. As I mentioned, I was already a fan of their Sweet tea. It's my favorite. I have to say - those 12 bottles were gone by the end of the week! 

I hadn't tried the other three - so I was looking forward to it. The Lemonade tea is just like an Arnold Palmer in California - sweet, refreshing and a bit tangy. Good stuff!  The Unsweetened - I knew I wasn't a fan - so I gifted that to a friend that had us over for dinner. She loves the stuff and had a big jug in her fridge when I got there. 

The Green tea was a bit of a surprise - I was hesitant to try it and my sister messaged me and said to save it for her (she comes home in couple months! yeah!). Then one day - I was thirsty and it was in the fridge and I caved - I drank one. Turns out - I liked it!!!! I thought it would taste healthy (hahaha - what rationale is that? I have no idea.) It's flavored with honey and has a natural sweetness that isn't as sugary as the Sweet tea but definitely flavorful. And Green tea is supposed to be good for you and provide energy - I think I might have a new friend in this stuff! :-)
Tradewinds is also interested in your stories - what moment in your life brought a breath of fresh air to your life (just like the first time you tried an iced cold sweet tea on a hot day!)? 

I can definitely think of the day I met my husband was a real breath of fresh air! 

This isn't the day we met - but it reminds me of that feeling. We were playing kickball with our coworkers and it was just so great to be there with him and just have a fun "boyfriend/girlfriend" moment. I was single for a LONG time before - so it was a really happy time. 

You can share your story/photo on their Facebook page and you might appear as their cover story. 

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!

So yes - I'm a huge fan of their Sweet Tea and now - their Green Tea! But now you can be too! The folks at Tradewinds were kind enough to provide me with some goodies for one of you! You can either choose to get a case of one flavor of tea or a bundle with a mix! 

Let me know if you'd rather have one flavor or a mix and what flavor you're looking forward to trying in the comments ALONG WITH A WAY TO CONTACT YOU. Then next week - I'll draw a winner and BOOM! You get free tea!!!! 

Happy Tea Time! 



Monday, April 16, 2012

Dayton, Friends, BBQ

We have some good friends in the Beavercreek area that we don't see NEAR enough - but when we do - it's always a food adventure. I ate my first tongue taco with these folks - that's how you know they're good people. 

They had heard good things about Woody's B-B-Q and it's pretty even between their current house and their new house. I love the old 70's look to the building... It is a chain - but there are only 2 in Ohio. 

The first thing I saw when I walked in the door was this damn pie! They have what they call "Sky High Pies" - I guess we know why.

The next fun thing I spotted on the menu was Beans N' Franks. I mean - seriously - I gotta give big love to any restaurant that has this on the menu!

First we had a couple of apps - it had deep fried squash and I wasn't quite sure if it would be zucchini squash or acorn squash. I was actually hoping for the latter...but no it was the kind that is more like zucchini. It was fine - not much flavor. Larry's daughter was with us and is a pretty picky eater and I think she ate 75% of them. We were pretty shocked!

We also had the mushrooms - these were really good - a little more cooked than the squash and very tasty.

Most of us got pretty much the same thing - ribs and stuff. I went for ribs and shrimp which also came with 2 sides and Texas toast.

The shrimp was really good - plump and juicy. The ribs were okay but as you can see they were a little overdone and there wasn't a ton of meat. The meat was tasty and had good flavor.

I chose the beans and sweet tater for the sides. The beans were a little under done for my taste but great flavor. I think I need to make some baked beans since I found that dutch oven for $2 at an estate sale! The sweet potato was fine...very well done - soft and sweet.

Larry's daughter went for wings and told us she could handle the medium - she couldn't. But Larry and I could. Pretty good.

Why Should You Go? Even though it's a chain - it feels like a local place. The staff is all extremely friendly and it has a great feeling. The food is good and you definitely won't leave hungry! Is it the best BBQ I've had? No...but we all did enjoy it.

Woody's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yeah - I went to the Olive Garden...

So yeah - it's confession time. I like Olive Garden. I tried to deny it - I haven't been for YEARS! It's the mockery of "Italian" food in the blogger/foodie world. This I know! But I just couldn't take it any longer - I had to go! 
Photo Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly (ew.com)
One of my favorite Olive Garden moments came from ABC's The Bachelor and even Entertainment Weekly and Chris Harrison remembered it! It was #6 on Top 10 Favorite Moments from the Bachelor:

6. Five words: ''I like the Olive Garden''
Not sure why this has stayed with me or why we all thought it was so funny, but it was: During a particularly awkward dinner date in season 3, Amber asked Bachelor Andrew Firestone, ''What's your favorite, like, restaurant chain? I like the Olive Garden!'' It's true — when you’re here, you're family!


I love that she thinks a billionaire would eat at Olive Garden...still makes me chuckle. 

But anyway - I finally broke down last night and made Larry take me to Olive Garden...
Photo courtesy of Olive Garden
 We, of course, started with the salad. That's the best part of the OG is the big bowl of delicious and fresh salad. My love for the OG started here - my best friend and I used to go almost weekly - it was Kohl's and OG - and we both loved the salad. My favorite part was finding the olives - mmm!

We also had the breadsticks - which I couldn't find a pic of on their site. They're buttery, garlicky and salty - a great combo!
Photo courtesy of Olive Garden 
A couple years into my visits, I found the soup and I have to say - I've never turned back. Last night I went for a bowl of Pasta e Fagioli. It's basically an Italian version of chili and sooo good! And you can find an awesome copycat recipe here - I've made it - it's dead on! I was in heaven eating this soup last night.
Photo courtesy of Olive Garden
For the entree - I went with my standby - I was so glad it was still on the menu - Chicken Scampi! I tried it back when it was a "new" item... #imold. It was pretty darned good again last night - a little less garlic than I remember - they used to have whole cloves all over the plate! Last night I couldn't find a one!

Photo courtesy of Andes/Tootsie.com
And then the topper - your Andes mint that accompanies your check. Larry didn't want his - so I got two!!!! 

Why Should You Go? Um - cuz it's awesome! I know - it's a chain - I know!!!! But I can't help it - it makes me feel like I'm back in Cedar Rapids with my bff putting myself in a food coma after a big day of shopping. Oh and the service was great too.

* I was not compensated in any way for this post - I just freakin loved it and had to share. I even left my camera in the car because I thought, "I don't need to blog about OG". And then I was dying over every bite and decided I had to share.

Olive Garden on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest Post: Why You Should Be Hunting for Cincinnati Food Trucks


Food trucks have become a recent sensation across nearly every major city in the United States, and Cincinnati is no exception. The city has bloomed with food trucks each offering great food for reasonable prices. While many people think of food truck food being similar to fast good, it is anything but. A few quick scans through their restaurant menus will quickly reveal that the food served by these food trucks is often gourmet and there is generally a truck for every palate. A few of our favorites include:


New Orleans To Go

New Orleans To Go: A Streetcart Named Desire definitely leaves you wanting more after you have a taste of their incredible poboys, gumbo, or grits. This foodcart does excellent renditions of traditional style Louisiana fare, and is easily one of Cincinnati's favorite trucks. With huge portions and inexpensive fare, you can easily sample fried okra, sweet potato pie, catfish larue, poboys, or etoufee on a visit – that is, assuming you get their before they sell out.


Cafe de Wheels

Noted as being the first food truck to enter the Cincinnati city limits, Cafe de Wheels has been a favorite ever since it rolled in to town. Working with local farms and distributors such as Daisy Mae, Busch's Country Corner, and Servatii Breads, Cafe de Wheels serves up excellent sandwiches, appealing to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, along with great sides – the sweet potato fries are always a favorite. Not to mention, the truck received recognition from Cincinnati Magazine for having on the best burgers in town.


Cooper's Crepes

For those looking for a great dessert, look no further than Cooper's Crepes. While there are only a few items on the menu, there is no doubt that each crepe whipped up by Cooper's is delectable. The Cheeky Monkey is always a favorite as very few can say no to Nutella and bananas, but The S'more crepe is also an excellent ode to a childhood fav.

The only downside to food trucks is that they can often be unpredictable in terms of location. So if you are interested in finding one, be sure to follow the trucks on Twitter or visit their sites. Otherwise you can further scope out these trucks' menus and their reviews through sites like YellowPages.com or other eatery based sites.

-Jenna Lee Smith

Friday, April 6, 2012

Another Smart Talk Giveaway! Vy Higginsen

It's time for another Smart Talk speaker! These always sneak up on me...the show is in less than two weeks! 




Vy Higginsen is responsible for a number of remarkable media firsts: 


* she was the first black woman to host a morning radio show in New York City
* the first woman in advertising sales at Ebony Magazine
* the first black woman to produce a drama on Broadway (August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone)
* and the creative force behind a series of wildly successful gospel-themed musicals, including Mama I Want to Sing


These shows have toured Europe, Japan and the United States, and led Higginsen to establish the Mama Foundation for the Arts, which promotes arts and culture in her hometown of Harlem. She'll give an inspiring talk called "Seeing No Limitations."


Buy Tickets or win them from me! Leave a comment with your name and a way to contact you and you're entered to win a pair of tickets to see (and meet) Vy Higginsen. The show is Tuesday April 17 at 730pm at the Aronoff Center. 


I'll select the winner next Friday (ugh - a Friday the 13th?! I don't need one of those right now!)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hot Wings in Mt Healthy

We enjoy exploring our new neighborhood and one of the places we sort of stumbled upon was Frickers off Hamilton Ave in Mt Healthy/North College Hill. 

Our visit was during March Madness so it was pretty busy for a mid-afternoon on a weekend. They have a big patio as well - but it was too cold this day.

There's a very large bar but there are also a lot of tables separated from that - so you can get away from that atmosphere. There are a lot of TVs everywhere - so for sports - not really a bad seat in the house.

We started with Pretzel Bites and I have to say it is a HUGE portion! They took quite a while to come out - which was annoying for an appetizer - but they were tasty.

Larry went for the bone-in wings - both of us went for "medium" buffalo because they said the mild is basically just butter.

I'm definitely addicted to buffalo right now for some reason. I tried the boneless (odd because it's usually the other way around for us). They were both good and the portion size is large in both cases.

Why Should You Go? While not as good as Toot's - the wings are good and the best in my part of town.  The atmosphere is friendly and the staff was attentive. Service was a bit slow - but we both enjoyed our food and had ample leftovers to take home.

Fricker's Sports Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 2, 2012

Noodles & Company GIVEAWAY!

I love the folks at Noodles & Company - they're always sending me info about their new dishes along with free bowls for me and you! 

So - free lunch for me and Lar and free lunch for one of you!

This time we even got a free t-shirt and reusable tote. Larry was more than happy to take the t-shirt and wear it to the gym - he's a mac daddy - of course!

He went for the mac & cheese in honor of the shirt with a grilled chicken breast on top. He loves their chicken. He's a big eater but we're always surprised at how filling their "regular" size is. We both probably could have gone with the "small" but this way we had leftovers.

He also likes all the shredded cheese they put on top - it's a good mac & cheese for sure!

I tried the Pasta Fresca with a grilled chicken breast. It was really good. Penne with balsamic, olive oil, white wine, roasted garlic, red onion, tomato, spinach and parmesan.

Larry's choice was under the "American" menu and mine was under the "Mediterranean" but I have to say - the "Japanese" has a lot of inviting choices as well. Plus they now have sandwiches - which might have to be my next choice! 

So they have 5 sandwiches: the Meatball, the Med, Spicy Chicken Caesar, Wisconsin Cheesesteak and Veggie Med - let me know in the comments which one you'd like to try as well as a way to contact you (email, facebook or twitter) and you might win!

Thanks again to Noodles & Company for the free bowls and the coupons for you guys!