June 30, 2012

Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage, Artichokes and Sun-dried Tomatoes

I like the combination of sausage, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, but something seemed to be missing. At first I thought the flavor of the dish was sort of "muddy" - no particular flavor stood out and it seemed something was missing, but I had it for leftovers the next day and it was really good. I think the flavors just needed time to develop.   I served it along with toasted french bread that was drizzled with some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and sprinkled with a bit of Asiago cheese - yum!

1/2 cup sun-dried tomato (oil-packed, sliced, 1 tablespoons of the oil reserved)
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 TBS dried basil
1/2 TBS dried parsley
8 ounces rigatoni pasta (or any short tubular pasta)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded (plus extra for serving)
salt & fresh ground pepper

Heat the oil that was reserved from the sun-dried tomatoes in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned; breaking up the meat as it cooks. When the sausage is fully cooked, transfer it to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add the artichokes, and garlic to the hot skillet and saute over medium heat, until garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. Boil over medium-high heat until sauce is slightly reduced, stirring occasionally, about 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta.

Add the cooked pasta, reserved sausage and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese to the artichoke mixture.Toss everything together until sauce is nearly absorbed by the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with extra cheese to pass at table.

Adapted from a recipe by Giada DeLaurentis.

June 28, 2012

Whole Grain Rye Bread

I love this simple, no-knead, whole grain rye bread. It is hearty and dense, like a good German bread. It is also super easy to make. Enjoy!

1¼ cups whole wheat flour
1¼ cups plus 2 TBS rye flour
1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ tsp granulated yeast
½ TBS kosher salt
1 TBS caraway seeds
2 TBS vital wheat gluten
2 cups lukewarm water

Whisk together all the dry ingredients, then add the water and mix without needing (a wooden spoon works best). Cover the dough (not airtight), and allow it to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses, approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Dough can be used right away, but is easier to use if refrigerated. However, use it within 7 days.

When you are ready to bake the bread divide, dust it with a bit more flour, divide it in half and quickly shape each half into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Place the dough balls on cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.  Cover loosely and let rise approximately 90 minutes, preheating oven to 450° F while it is rising. 

Slash the top of the bread with a bread knife, mist it with water (creates a better crust) and then bake it for 35 to 45 minutes until brown. Cool before slicing. 

Adapted from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

June 26, 2012

Michelle's Brown Bag Cafe - Sarasota, FL

Great fresh sandwiches! The first time I went here I was not impressed, so much so that I don't even remember what I had. However, my recent visit changed my perception. I had the Chicken Curry Salad Sandwich which came with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and crisp granny smith apple slices all served on thick, toasted nine grain bread. I had the coleslaw with it, which was really good (not overly dressed, not too sweet, and flavorful) and I was pleasantly surprised by chunks the of Gorgonzola cheese in it. 

I am happy to say that I expect to return to Michelle's and will gladly recommend it to others. Enjoy!
Michelle's Brown Bag Cafe on Urbanspoon

June 24, 2012

Gecko’s Grill and Pub on Hillview - Sarasota, FL

The food here is typical bar food and tends to be hit or miss. My favorite thing they serve is their "homemade" chips.

The last time I went I had the Pastrami Pretzel Roll which had the bun not looked like a pretzel I would not have know it was anything special and the pastrami didn't have much flavor (I kept thinking the sandwich needed more mustard). The time before I had the Chicken Panini Sandwich which was good, but way too greasy for me (do I really need my bread slathered in butter?!). The time before that I had the Cuban sandwich which was also good (though not a true Cuban), but my chips were the “bottom of the bag” crumbs and my husbands fish and chips were overpriced for frozen factory-produced fish pieces.

You are probably asking yourself why I keep going here if the food is only mediocre, well...I attend a social group which frequents Gecko's and the way I see it there are definitely worse choices ;-)

Gecko's Grill and Pub on Urbanspoon

June 22, 2012

Cowboy Dinner Tree - Christmas Valley, OR

Mass quantities of uninteresting food served family-style is how I would sum this place up; it is more of a novelty then a place to go for a really good meal (I have never had such an overcooked chicken). The best thing we had was the bean soup as it reminded my husband and I of the homemade soup we had growing up. 

On the flip side, based on the amount of food you receive, it is a great deal as they let you take all the leftovers with you and, believe me, you will have leftovers (if not, wow you are impressive;-).  

Cowboy Dinner Tree Restaurant on Urbanspoon

June 20, 2012

Chow - Bend, OR

I have only been here for breakfast, but the food is great!  I would venture to say it serves the best breakfast in Bend. They have a wide range of options including biscuits and gravy, pancakes and amazing egg dishes (my favorite is "The Caesar") that all come with a piece of their "bread of the day" with homemade jam - YUM!  Daily specials are also available and are based on seasonally available foods, many times locally sourced. Some of the dishes are a bit pricey, but they are so uniquely delicious it is worth treating yourself every once in a while. The only negative comment I have is that the service tends to be spotty (sometimes it is great, others not so much).  Enjoy!
Chow on Urbanspoon

June 18, 2012

The Grit - Athens, GA

The Grit has a great selection of interesting vegetarian foods, even for someone who typically eats meat at most meals. I had the Mid-E Platter which came with 3 small pieces of falafel, a hearty portion of hummus, a big scoop of tabouli, pita wedges, and a lemon-tahini dressing. Everything was good, fresh and tasty. However, the tabouli was not traditional (it was not bulgur wheat and fairly low on the parsley) and needed the dressing for flavor. Service is laid back and seating procedures during busy times is disorganized, so as long as you are not in a rush (same as Ted's Most Best!) this is a nice place to go for a healthy vegetarian meal.
Grit on Urbanspoon

June 16, 2012

JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe - Sarasota, FL

Worst Cuban Sandwich I have had in a long time. The bread was chewy and tasted like it was past its prime and the filling had little flavor.  My husband's BBQ Pork Sandwich was at least better than my Cuban, but it also lacked flavor.  I think this is a better place to go if you are wanting to have a few beers and listen to live music as the food is nothing I would go back for  based on our experience. 

June 14, 2012

Alpenglow Cafe - Bend, OR

The food was good and very fresh, but in general we found it to be overrated and overpriced. My waffles were overcooked and my husband asked to have a side of bacon instead of all the sides with his omelette and then instead of a side they put less than one piece in his omelette :-(  Unfortunately we won't be going back nor can we recommend Alpenglow Cafe based on this experience.  

Alpenglow Cafe on Urbanspoon

June 13, 2012

Strictly Organic Coffee Co - Bend, OR

Best coffee in Oregon!  Love their carrot muffins and gluten-free chocolate chip biscotti as well. You can't go wrong with a stop at Strictly Organic - great coffee, yummy organic food and sustainable business practices. Enjoy!

Strictly Organic Coffee Co on Urbanspoon

June 11, 2012

Pilot Butte Drive-In - Bend, OR

Great milkshakes and the best "southern-style" biscuits and gravy that I have had in town. Burgers are pretty yummy as well! Staff is always friendly. A Bend staple definitely worth a visit. Enjoy!

Pilot Butte Drive-In Restaurant on Urbanspoon

June 9, 2012

Chipotle Meatloaf

We use a lot of chipotles in our house. We love the smoky, spicy flavor they impart on dishes. This meatloaf has a nice bit of heat and is super moist, but the overall flavor was very mild. I would recommend doubling the spices (cumin, oregano, basil, and garlic) and adding some coriander (1-2 tsp) to the loaf. I would also add some ground chipotle pepper to the topping (~1/2 tsp).  Enjoy!

2 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup regular oats
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 large egg whites or 1 whole egg
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey

1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon chipotle hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350°. To prepare meat loaf combine chile, onion, and next 14 ingredients (through ground turkey) in a large bowl, stirring to combine. Place turkey mixture in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes.

To prepare topping, combine 1/4 cup tomato sauce, ketchup, and hot sauce in a small bowl; pour mixture evenly over meat loaf. Cover and bake an additional 20-30 minutes or until thermometer registers 160°. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

June 7, 2012

Chicken Chile Saute

While I enjoyed the flavor of this dish, it seemed to be confused - not quite a stew and not quite  a fajita - I was unsure of how to both serve and eat it. I ended up putting most of the mixture into a corn tortilla and eating it like a fajita.  

2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch strips
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS pure ancho chile powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup water
Warmed corn tortillas, sour cream and cilantro, for serving

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned but not cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, chile powder and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce, corn and water and cook over moderate heat, scraping up any bits stuck to the skillet, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is reduced, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and serve with corn tortillas, sour cream and cilantro.

Modified from the original recipe published in Food & Wine Magazine. 

June 5, 2012

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

This nutritious dish is great as a vegetarian main dish or as a side dish to grilled chicken. It can be enjoyed warm or chilled. Enjoy!

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
3 TBS rice wine or red wine vinegar
1 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS fresh lime juice
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
3 TBS olive oil
1 (15 oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
6 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 yellow or red bell pepper (or a combination), finely diced
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan and simmer the quinoa over low heat until the water has been absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice and chipotle. Add the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking until blended. Add the black beans, quinoa, scallions, red onion, bell pepper and cilantro. Season with salt, toss to combine and serve.

June 3, 2012

Carribbean Chicken

This is one of the best dishes I have made in a slow-cooker in a long time. It has a great flavor profile along with just the right amount of richness from the coconut milk. If you don't like spicy food just leave out the adobo sauce. Enjoy!

1 1/2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 TBS cooking oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1 TBS adobo sauce or 1 chipotle pepper, minced
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup coconut milk (lite is fine)
1/2 tsp pepper
Hot cooked rice
Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; add the onion and garlic. Cook until tender then transfer them to the slow cooker. Combine the coriander through cloves; apply the spice mixture liberally to the chicken thighs. Add the chicken to the hot skillet; cook approximately 3-4 minutes per side (chicken does not need to be cooked all the way through). Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker. Add 1 cup broth to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits left in the pan. Pour the broth over the chicken. Add remaining broth, adobo sauce, black beans, coconut milk and pepper to the slow cooker. 

Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours. You can serve it immediately as a soup over the hot cooked rice  and sprinkled with cilantro or if you prefer something thicker (I did!) ladle the majority of the liquid into a saucepan. Mix 1 TBS cornstarch with 2 TBS of the liquid until dissolved; add the cornstrach mixture to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the liquid 30-45 minutes until thickened to your desired consistency. Serve over hot rice and sprinkled with cilantro. 

June 1, 2012

Rockin’ Dave's Bagel Bistro - Bend, OR

I really like their spinach and artichoke cream cheese, however the bagels themselves are a bit heavy and chewy for my preference. I like a bagel with a bit more crunch when it is toasted.
Rockin' Dave's Bagel Bistro & Catering on Urbanspoon