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Friday, March 29, 2013

Cooking Light Recipe: 30 Minute Filet Bourguignonne with Mashed Potatoes

My good friends at Cooking Light have a great deal going on right now where you can get six issues for just $6! (Click on the magazine cover to the left.) They also - as a part of their blogger network - send me a free subscription - which is fun because then I get to try things and share them with you. 

The November 2012 issue was great - it was the best recipes of their first 25 years! (You can still find them all online here.) One I had to try was the 30 Minute Filet Bourguignonne with Mashed Potatoes. A coworker is always picking on me for not making mashed potatoes from scratch - so I figured this was my chance. 

The ingredients gave me a couple of hiccups - we don't like onions much - so I omitted those. I don't drink red wine - so sure didn't feel like buying a bottle of it - so I went with all broth instead. Lastly the ingredient of "beef tenderloin" was a little generic and the "butcher" at Kroger wasn't too helpful - so I came home with stew meat which I'm not sure was the right choice. But onward and upward! 

First I had to brown the meat - I made sure to not brown it too long in hopes of keeping it more on the rare side. After that, I removed the beef and set it aside. 

Then I diced a couple of pieces of the beef and fried that with 2 slices of bacon in the same skillet...

Then I added mushrooms...

While all this is going on - I started out dicing 3 russet potatoes into 1 inch chunks and boil them for 10 minutes. 

Add spices, tomato paste and broth - then simmer and thicken the sauce...to help it thicken you add a little slurry of flour and water as well. 

By now - the potatoes are done. I drain those and put them in a bowl...

Then to the potatoes mix in salt, pepper, butter and milk - mash and you're good! This was super simple and the plastic masher I had did the trick just fine. The key is just having uniform dice to the potatoes so you know they're all cooked the same. 

Add the beef back to the sauce and mix it all together...

And there's dinner! Potatoes and then top with the beef/mushroom mixture. 

I really missed the boat I think with my meat choice - the butcher said that stew meat is hit and miss because it's really leftovers from whatever they cut that day. I think next time I'll head to the local true butcher shop down the street. I also think I'll spring for one of those mini bottles of red wine and try it with that. 

This was good but not amazing - I realize that a couple of short cuts might have caused it to suffer a bit. 

But it was still tasty and the leftovers made a great lunch the next day. Thanks to Cooking Light for healthy alternatives to very rich dishes.  






Thursday, March 28, 2013

Food Hussy Review: Taqueria Mercado

I'm usually a "pack my lunch" kinda gal - and the crew that is the "going out" group doesn't usually go for Mexican - but every once in a while the stars align and they go for Mexican on a day when I want to go out - those are the days I say, YAHOOOOOOOO! 

So we headed to Taqueria Merado's downtown location just up the street from the Aronoff. The chips were warm and the salsa was fresh - can't get much better. 

Chicken, shrimp and rice...

Tacos...

And my favorite - the Torta. It's hands-down the best sandwich ever. Fresh bread, shredded pork, sour cream, lettuce, tomato and avocado. I just can't get enough!

Why Should You Go? The prices are great - it's definitely a good deal! The guac is better at La Mexicana but they don't have a torta. It's nice before a show too - since it's so close and never as busy the fancy places.


Taqueria Mercado on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Recipe: Spinach & Ricotta Shells

I have a habit with magazines to tear out the recipes that I want and then put them in a big pile...and there they sit. So I went through a pile recently and pulled some out I really wanted to make - first up:
Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells!

It's really easy and only takes 10 minutes (or so) of prep time. You cook shells and while those are boiling - you cook up a mixture of chorizo and onion - then you add tomatoes, sugar, salt & pepper - simmer and done. Chorizo is not the easiest thing to find - at Kroger I had to settle for a Johnsonville brand :-(. 



Then you mix up ricotta, mozzarella and spinach - the recipe calls for an egg as a binder - I just added a tiny bit of water - it worked just fine. This was raw spinach as well - once you start mixing it with the cheeses it flops down very quickly. 

Then you stuff the shells with the spinach & cheese mixture...

Top with your tomato/chorizo mixture and bake!

This was delicious! I will definitely be making this dish quite a few times. The chorizo was a nice change from just using normal hamburger or italian sausage. I was so excited for the leftovers as well! Mmmm mmmm good!

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Ingredients

18 jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1/4 onion, diced
4 oz chorizo, crumbled
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
3/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
2 cups (2 oz) baby spinach, finely chopped
1 cup low-fat ricotta
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Directions

1. Cook shells according to package directions; rinse under cold water, drain and dry
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and chorizo & cook until browned about 5 min. Drain all but 1 1/2 tsp drippings and return to stove. Add tomato & sugar and season with salt & pepper to taste. Simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 min. Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 375 and spray 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray.
4. Combine spinach, cheeses, egg white and 1/4 tsp salt & pepper in a large bowl. Spoon half the tomato sauce into the prepared dish. Stuff each shell with 1 heaping tablespoon filling and arrange stuffed shells in dish. Spoon remaining sauce over shells and cover with foil. Bake until pasta is cooked through and sauce begins to bubble, about 30 minutes. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. 

Thanks to Fitness Magazine for the great recipe. 



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Road Trip: Kentucky Bourbon Trail - Buffalo Trace & Town Branch

The hubby and I decided we needed a little weekend away - put that together with a Groupon and we had a mini-vacation! We took a couple days off work and headed to Elk Creek Lodge & Winery in Owenton, KY which is about 90 minutes south of Cincinnati and equidistant to Louisville and Lexington. 

Part of our stay also offered a cheese tray in their Winery. It is really pretty and all full of wood and leather. There's also a small art gallery upstairs. 

Mmmm cheese! None of it was too "fancy" and we polished off everything except for the blue cheese - oye - I just cannot deal with that stuff - tastes like feet!

I went for a flight of their fruit wines - the blueberry was my favorite. 

This was the view from our room - I'm sure it's really beautiful in the summer. There are a few different buildings on the properties for folks to stay in. We were in the actual Lodge which has 6 rooms as well as a few common areas. It's really nice and there's a full kitchen which you're welcome to use which I thought was a nice feature.

The wines on the left are all the more white/red wines and the ones on the right were all their fruit varieties. Most "real" wine people aren't fans of the fruit ones - but I don't really like wine - so the fruit ones are right up my alley.

The trip also included free continental breakfast in the morning - there were all sorts of rolls, muffins, cereal, juices and waffles! I love me some waffles. While I was enjoying my waffle, we were chatting with them about historical sites in the area and they recommended we head to Frankfurt (maybe 20 min away) and check out the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The distillery sits on a beautiful property and the tours are free! We were down with that! The tours are free at Buffalo Trace (they are not on the official Bourbon Trail anymore) and they also offer a ghost tour which we will definitely be back for!

This right here is their 6 millionth barrel of bourbon! They keep the barrel in there until the 7 millionth is done. It's pretty cool that when that happens they will donate this barrel to charity and then they'll do something special with it to generate some money.

They have quite a few buildings on the site and it's a science as to what barrels go where and what comes out of them! Depending on where the barrel is (1st or 5th floor, middle or outside) - the taste changes. Some of the barrels have been here 23 years!

My favorite fact that I learned was about their Blanton's Bourbon (named after the pioneer of Buffalo Trace). Blanton's is on the right in the photo above. The stoppers that go in the bottles actually have 8 versions - and when put in order - look like a horse taking off in a race.


They go from the start position all the way through galloping. Each stopper also has a letter on it and they spell out Blanton's. Unless you've been on the tour - you probably would never even notice that! I love stuff like that. (They even gave us one stopper each to take home!)


And now my confession - if I could have any job where salary would not be a factor - I would probably work in a factory. I freakin LOVE watching products get made/packaged. I think I watched too much Laverne & Shirley as a kid. 

After the tour we headed to the "bar" and got ready to try bourbon (and chocolate!). I have to say - these chocolates were amazing! They had bourbon in them and were so creamy and delicious! We brought some home for Larry's mom as a thank-you for watching the dogs.

Here's an interesting fact - Buffalo Trace was one of only 5 distilleries open during prohibition. They were allowed to sell whiskey for "medicinal purposes". People would get their whole family diagnosed with whatever ailed them so they could get more!

I did try some bourbon - and I did not like it! It's way too strong for me - I just am not much of a drinker anyway - especially this. But the tour was incredibly fun - especially since it was free!

Next up we headed to Lexington to check out Town Branch. This distillery is on the bourbon tour but they're also a brewery. The bourbon is really the side business for them - and this is also the newest spot on the tour.

Larry was really captivated by these - I'm guessing there will be a barrel purchase in our future.

Here we are - getting ready for the tour!

Our guide on this tour was great - while we enjoyed the other tour more - this guy was really fun and knowledgeable as well. We found out that the brains behind the operation has experience working with animal nutrition and he has it set up so the used up yeast is then used for animal feed. Pretty cool to reuse as much as they can!


And more of my factory obsession! Town Branch/AllTech makes the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. It's their Kentucky Ale that's then aged in a bourbon barrel for 6 weeks. It started as a treat for the employees of AllTech but as friends & family found out it grew and grew and grew and they finally started bottling the beer.


They're now making their own bourbon as well but since it has to age for a while - they still use barrels from the other distilleries. This beer can be pretty strong and it's a lot pricier - but it's a nice treat. 

Here's me with a taste of their bourbon...that smile quickly disappeared. That's just horrible stuff! 


This on the other hand - is NOT HORRIBLE! 

This is Bluegrass Sundown - it's a combination of coffee, bourbon, sugar and vanilla cooked down and bottled. You pour this in a glass, add hot water and top it off with heavy cream. 

Holy hell it was AWESOME! I don't like coffee or bourbon - but this was the best drink ever! I drank two little cups of it! I asked if I could drink this before work and tour guide said he probably wouldn't suggest it. :-( 

So that was our first stop on the Bourbon Trail and we'll definitely be back to visit more places. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Food Hussy Review: Happy's Pizza & Giveaway

I love being able to try new places and then share them with you - here's another one a little off my beaten path - but turns out it was only about 5 minutes out of our way! 

Happy's is on the corner of North Bend & Daly in College Hill. It's a chain with locations mainly in Michigan but also in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, California and Nevada. 

We called the order after work and picked it up on the way home - I can tell you - it smelled DELICIOUS!

Larry wasn't in the mood for pizza or chicken so he got a steak & cheese hoagie. It was okay but nothing like a Penn Station. The bread was over-toasted which didn't help any.

I got a "you pick two" dinner combo ($12) with 5 wings, 5 shrimp, roll, fries & cole slaw. This was really good. I got the buffalo wings and they were spicy but not too much so and the wings were really crispy. The shrimp was batter-dipped and really good. They provided packaged cocktail sauce with the dinner. The roll was tasty and the cole slaw was tasty as well since it had some creaminess to it but wasn't overly mayo-y.

Why Should You Go? If you're in the area - it's worth a try. It was a mixed bag for sure - but all in all it wasn't bad by any means. I think there's just certain things they're better at than others. I'd like to try their pizza sometime. You do get a good deal for the money.

Now it's giveaway time - Happy's provided me a $10 gift certificate to give away! You can enter below and I'll draw the winner on Friday.

Happy's Pizza on Urbanspoon

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cincinnati Phenomenon: Fish Fry Season

Ah yes it's Lent and that means only one thing in the world of Cincinnati Dining - FISH FRY!!!! 

The Enquirer even has a URL redirect to their calendar just for this purpose - Cincinnati.com/fishfry!

I was pretty ashamed to admit that having lived here for nearly 9 years - I'd never been to one!! How can that be?! So I had it on my bucket list of things to do this year and can definitely say - I'll never miss another year! 


I know they are all over town - but I decided to hit up the Corpus Christi Catholic Church since it's on my way home. They post their menu online each week as well - here's the one from last Friday

They have a few options - which is nice - I went for the beer battered and it was delicious! I've gotten this twice now - and won't change my mind on the main dish for sure! As far as the sides - I've tried a few things now:

  • mac & cheese - it was better the first time (pictured here) - the 2nd time it was a little more "bottom-of-the-pan" so this can be hit & miss - definitely some Velveeta in this stuff
  • hush puppies - they were fine - a little small and crispy - I guess I'd prefer fewer and bigger - but they were good - definitely needed ketchup or tartar sauce
  • bread - one week I got the piece of rye and the other i got a pull-apart roll - loved that - so I could make a sandwich out of one piece of fish
  • green beans - these were really great - definitely NOT canned! I think they were from someone's garden - they were so good! 
  • cole slaw - it was okay - not very creamy so if you're a fan of "lightness" when it comes to the creamy - then this is for you
All in all - I'm digging Corpus Christi for sure - you can call ahead or walk in to a separate door for carry out and the price can't be beat either - $7! 

Larry's never sure about fried fish because a lot of times people dip it in egg before the batter - so he went with the baked tilapia - and again - good stuff. 

You only have a couple more weeks to experience this phenomenon - so get to it! And please share some of your favorites with me - I want to try a new one before they're over for 2013! 


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: The Best Pizza in Iowa

Let's put on our thinking caps and remember back to the days of yore. The days when nickel beer night was the highlight of the week - when a pile of quarters on your dresser was a necessity - when black & gold were the primary colors in my wardrobe. That's right - COLLEGE!
Photo courtesy of Pagliaisic.com
My favorite place during all of college was Pagliai's Pizza - it's an institution in Iowa City. The tradition was watching the Homecoming Parade across the street from the Old Capital (the original capital of Iowa - was Iowa City) and then as SOON as the parade got by you - you SPRINTED to Pagliai's. If you didn't get there quick enough - you'd be in a line that went out the door and around the block. 

I hadn't been to Pagliai's since I moved out of Iowa City which was the year after graduation - so um - a long ass time. The menu is simple - pizza. 

One of my favorite things is that you can watch the guys making the pizza up front. It's tradition.

And there it is - the amazingness that is Pagliai's. If you go - beware - IT'S HOT AS HELL when you get it. Our standby order was 1/2 pepperoni/green pepper and 1/2 sausage/mushroom and of course I had to recreate it. It was just as good as I remembered! 

The crust is thin and crispy - the sauce is a bright red tomato sauce - the cheese is browned and a little crispy and the toppings are fresh! 

I ate. And ate. And ate. And ATE! 

I was practically going from table to table asking strangers for their leftovers. OMG it's so good! 

We also sat in the world's largest camping chair (okay - maybe not "world's) - but that's fun - right?

And after pizza - WRESTLING!! LET'S GO HAWKS!!!

It was so much fun to grab some nostalgia - I hadn't been to a Hawkeye wrestling meet in about the same amount of time (15+ years) and man was it fun! Hearing the fight song and watching the Hawks get about a million takedowns - such fun!

Why Should You Go? If you live in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area and haven't been to Pagliai's - you might want to get your mental status checked. It's the best. Go tomorrow - they open at 4. 

A & A Pagliai's Pizza on Urbanspoon