Thursday: Link Rodeo

Welcome to our Link Rodeo! It’s roundup of cool/exciting/delicious food news, recipes, and more that we’ve encountered recently. Hope you enjoy!

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1. With the hot weather we’ve been having in the East Bay, these look divine - Melon Snow Cones, via Martha Stewart
2. I can absolutely never get enough fresh blueberries, can you? 15 Tasty Blueberries Recipes, via The Kitchn
3. Dishes. Dishes are the worst. This makes them better: Easy Clean-Up “One Bowl” Chocolate Cake, via Hummingbird High
4. No dogs were harmed in the making of this recommendation - YouTube Cooking Channel: Cooking With Dog
5. Meta Trends - “Selfie” Toast, via Today Food

Restaurant Review: Texas de Brazil and/or Adventures in Chicago

Restaurant Review: Texas de Brazil and/or Adventures in Chicago

In the first half of 2011, I had a brief interlude of living in Chicago, or, the suburbs of Chicago.

Although it was only about 6 months, and the circumstances around my move away from, and abrupt return to, California are surrounded in some pain, I managed to generate some fantastic experiences and favorite moments.

These include riding the L every day into the city for pâtisserie school at Le Cordon Bleu…

foodschool

My first and only encounter with true deep dish pizza… (delicious)

PizzaPull

Image courtesy of Giordano’s because I was far too busy stuffing my face to take a picture. Coincidentally, Giordano’s will ship you pizza anywhere in the US, so, have fun getting fat.

Finishing my first and only (so far) Triathlon … second to last …

sherox

I’m pretty sure the “all whites” on the sign is some kind of sponsor product and not a commentary on the racial restrictions of the race.

And at the top of this list, discovering that magic that is Texas de Brazil; Brazilian barbecue.

brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Now, a Brazilian barbecue restaurant, or a churrascaria (which is is named for the type of barbecue used), is a delightful and wonderful experience.

Texas de Brazil is the only one that I’ve been to, but I recently went into fan-girl mode with a friend who had visited a similar restaurant, Fogo de Chão, and found that the experience is virtually the same. She affectionately named it “Meat Mountain”*.

*I was going to find an image, but I’ll let you do your own googling on that term…

So, during my 6 months in Chicago, I managed to visit Texas de Brazil twice, once on a whim, and then I insisted on going back for my birthday. It’s not necessarily one of those places that will kick you out for wearing jeans, but the atmosphere definitely makes you want to dress a little nicer; the meat demands the reverence.

Here’s how they explain themselves:

THE EXPERIENCE

Texas de Brazil is carving out a new experience in fine dining. The restaurant is an authentic Brazilian-American “Churrascaria”, or steakhouse, that combines the cuisines of Southern Brazil with the generous spirit of Texas.

Treat yourself to our 50-60 item seasonal salad area that includes appetizers, gourmet vegetables, soups, and salads. Turn your place card to green and prepare to be swarmed by a troop of carvers generously serving various cuts of seasoned beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and Brazilian sausage, all accompanied by traditional side items and house-baked Brazilian cheese bread.

As you dine endlessly on Brazilian fare, let one of our in-house wine connoisseurs select the perfect pairing from our extensive, award-winning wine lists, or sip on a freshly-made signature cocktail — the Caipirinha.

Complete your dining experience with one of our many decadent dessert selections and then relax with an after-dinner drink or steaming espresso and enjoy the ambiance and service perfection that is uniquely, Texas de Brazil.

“Generous spirit of Texas” indeed. They give you a small circular card, similar to a coaster, with a green side and red side that you turn over depending on if you want the meat to keep coming on not. And they just keep on coming. These wonderfully handsome servers dressed as gauchos bring you offerings of spears of meat that include filet mignon (plain or wrapped in bacon)….

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

…braised beef ribs, lamb chops, leg of lamb, pork ribs, Brazilian picanha, garlic picanha, Brazilian sausage…

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

…chicken breast wrapped in bacon, Parmesan drumsticks, Parmesan crusted pork loin, flank steak, herb marinated pork loin, Brazilian alcatra, and chicken sausage.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

I don’t know… does that sound like enough meat? It might not be enough meat…

I kid though, not only is the meat plentiful, but it is incredibly well cooked and delicious to boot.

Oh! And the salad bar.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

It’s not just a bowl of iceberg, shredded carrots, and aluminum bowls of ranch dressing; it’s full of things like imported cheeses and Italian salamis…

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

…steamed asparagus with strawberry sauce, or spicy surimi sushi, jasmine rice, grilled Portobello mushrooms. Shrimp salad! Greek olives! The salad bar is amazing and delicious, and also incredibly plentiful.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

I would feel comfortable saying that you could bring a Vegetarian along with you (or if you yourself are one) and a stunning, satisfying, and filling meal would be had.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Speaking of food preference, Texas de Brazil is the perfect place to go if you’re gluten free. Although they have artisan breads and maybe some pasta salad options, there’s not a lot of gluten in sight.

They of course also have delightful dessert options including things like key lime pie, Brazilian cheesecake, Brazilian papaya cream, or Crème Brûlée, however I would be surprised if you would be able to finish one after the preceding feast.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Truly these are just icing on the cake that is meat.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Honestly, my meals at Texas de Brazil are the best I’ve ever had. Though there isn’t one in California, they’re all over the US and even internationally. And if you can’t get to a Texas de Brazil, get yourself to a Fogo de Chão, or find and support a local Brazilian barbecue.

Copy-cat Recipe: Petite Vanilla Bean Scones

Copy-cat Recipe: Petite Vanilla Bean Scones

I don’t go to Starbucks that often (when I say not that often, I mean maybe twice a year), but a long day at jury duty (it was only lunch time) will make you do things you don’t normally do.  I went in for a nice cold refreshing frappuccino so I wouldn’t fall asleep and left with a few little vanilla bean scones instead. I sat outside enjoying the sunshine before I had to be ‘locked up’ again and munched on the scones. They were sweet vanilla-y, and soft. Just a couple of bites of deliciousness. I went back to  Starbucks the next day on my jury duty lunch time and of course, they were out, and the same thing the next day.

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I thought about them all the time after that. Which is so silly because all I had to do was go into Starbucks to get them. It was also silly because i’ve made scones a million times, and I hadn’t even thought about making them. I grabbed my favorite scone recipe, my vanilla beans and got to making. They were everything I was craving and more!

photo (1)

 

Petite Vanilla Bean Scones
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 3 ounces of unsalted butter (cold and cut into chunks)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 whole vanilla beans
Instructions
  1. Split both vanilla beans in half length wise
  2. In a small sauce pan bring the milk and vanilla beans to a simmer
  3. Once the milk has simmered transfer to another container and cool completely
  4. In a mixing bowl, mix flour, baking powder, ¼ cup powdered sugar and butter together until the butter has turned into small pea size pieces
  5. Crack your egg in a measuring cup and add enough of your now cold vanilla milk to make ½ cup, you will use the rest of the milk for the glaze.
  6. Scrape two halves of vanilla beans (1 whole bean) and add it to your egg and milk then whisk to combine
  7. Slowly add the milk into the dry mixture.
  8. Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and roll out into a sheet about ½ inch thick, cut into about 1½ inch by 1½ inch squares, then cut the squares in half to form a triangle.
  9. Place on parchment or slipad lined cookie sheet and bake at 350°F for about 8-10 minutes, or lightly browned around the edges.
  10. While the scones are cooking, mix together 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, and vanilla milk. Adding only a few spoonfuls of milk at a time until it forms a thick, but runny glaze. Scrape the vanilla bean and add it to the glaze.
  11. Once the scones are done, cool slightly and dip them into the glaze. You can just dip the tops, or coat the whole thing. If you glaze the whole thing, you will need to place them on a wire rack to let drip. Once the glaze sets up you can move them wherever you'd like, they are best served the first day, but are fine for a few days.

 

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Aries was investigating me and the scones at the light box

Link Rodeo

Welcome to our Link Rodeo! It’s roundup of cool/exciting/delicious food news, recipes, and more that we’ve encountered recently. Hope you enjoy!

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1. Cappuccino-Flavored Potato Chips Are Heading To Stores Whether You Want To Eat Them Or Not, from The Consumerist
2. 12 Amazing Hot Dog Topping Ideas, With Recipes! from Epicurious
3. 5 Links to Read Before Pickling, from Food52
4. The Best Ways To Clean Out Your Messy Spice Drawer, from The Kitchn
5. 40 Beers to Put on Your Bucket List, from Serious Eats

 

Overcoming Anxiety: Setting a Table

Overcoming Anxiety is a series where Cat shares tips for balancing a desire to be social with various phobias/fears. If your life is severely impacted and/or limited by your own anxiety, please consult an actual mental health professional. She is not one.

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Bad news: there are lots of ways to set a table. Good news: there are some pretty clear guidelines out there that will make it easier on you.

The first thing you should consider is the occasion. Are you setting the table for you and your BFF, or is the Queen of England coming to tea? If it’s your BFF, relax and do what’s easy or fun. If it’s the Queen of England, send me an invite. Please. But also make sure you spend extra time thinking about the formality of the place settings, your dinner menu, and the utensils and dishes you need to make things run smoothly/appropriately.

queenofengland

The basic components of a place setting are:

Utensils – fork, knife, spoon

Dishes – glass, dinner plate, bowl

Other – napkin

Don’t already have dinnerware? This is a nice, basic set that you can pair with these utensils and some drinking glasses. Oh! And don’t forget napkins (cloth are more formal and work great for things where you want to be fancy – like holidays, while paper are better for casual or large scale events). :)

A more complex setup may include:

Utensils – fork, salad fork, butter knife, steak knife, spoon

Dishes – water glass, wine glass, appetizer plate, salad plate, dinner plate, bowl

Other – Napkin, placemat, charger

Find wine glasses, steak knives, placemats, chargers (a charger is a decorative plate that goes under the dinner plate – don’t put food directly on it!) and more at anywhere from Target to Amazon to Williams-Sonoma.

What dictates the complexity of your place setting is the formality of the event and also the serving requirements of the food you will be serving.

These may vary a bit by country or occasion, but frankly, most people will be impressed/delighted that you’re having them over for dinner in the first place. ;)

fancy

Let’s pretend you have five friends as dinner guests who will all sit at the same table.

friends

Fine. If you don’t currently have five friends, you can check out this OA article on how to be interesting. That should bring some new people into your life.

adorablefriends

Now that you have the friend thing sorted out, let’s look at the table.

emptyable

Pretty plain and boring, isn’t it? We should set out one example place setting, then you can repeat it. Ready? Pretend you are sitting at the table – here is what you should see in front of you.

casualplacesetting

Fork and napkin on the left, largest plate in the middle, knife and spoon on the right. Appetizer plate is slightly in front of the fork and drinking glass is slightly in front of the knife/spoon.

Now lets do that five more times – we are setting six place settings because you are presumably going to be sitting with your friends. I hope.

casualtable

Look! It’s a nicely set, casual table. And there are even spaces to put other things! Try a vase of flowers or candles for something pretty and festive, or feel free to have your serving dishes full of food out to be passed around at will. Like this.

tablewithflowers

If you have a small table, you can serve the food away from the table you are eating at. Instruct people to grab their plates and direct them to where the food and beverages can be found.

supermarket

Preferably in your home, already set out by you. Ahem.

What’s that? Oh, you have FANCY friends.

adorablefancyfriends

Not to worry! Let’s start back at the first place setting – here is how it will look directly in front of you.

formalplacesetting

Bottom row from left to right: folded napkin, tallest fork to smallest fork (if you need to add forks, just keep ‘em in descending order of height),charger plate in the center with the dinner plate laid on top and the soup bowl on top of that. Knife (tallest to smallest again if you have more than the steak and butter knives), and extra spoons beyond the soup spoon can go to the right of that. Top row from left to right: salad plate, appetizer plate with butter knife on top, soup spoon, water glass, wine glass (additional wine glasses can continue along to the right). This may not be the most formal setting on the planet, but it should serve you quite well for nearly any “nicer-than-usual” occasion.

Now repeat it 5 more times.

formaltable

Since you’re being fancy, now you have all the more reason to add a few decorative touches. Flowers, candles, table runner (a piece of decorative fabric that runs length wise down the center of the table. Different from a table cloth in that a table cloth covers the entire surface of the table while a table runner “runs” down the center lengthwise). Make sure your decorative touches don’t block the view your guests have of one another – keep the vases, fruits, and most candles below eye level.

decoratedformatable

Look at that lovely table! Well done. :)

Still in need of other examples? There are lots online! Try not to get too nervous about how much variation there is – because there are so many ways to do it, it means that most of them are right. You’ll only get into trouble if you do something big like run out of forks or try to serve soup with a knife. You got this!

etiquette

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Something got you anxious? Get Cat’s perspective by emailing her at cat@qwertycafe.com.

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More from Overcoming Anxiety:

 

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

I’m a sucker for tuna or chicken salads. Chicken salad though always seems like a more difficult task; you have to cook the chicken instead of just opening a can of something. IMG_6533smalledit What works great though, is if you’ve got left over chicken from something else, or just make some extra in prep for lunch the next day. IMG_6536smalledit This salad is truly easy, and very delicious. You can of course add grapes or walnuts if you’re one of those people, but I like mine basic and flavorful.

Chicken Salad
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken breast*
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • ½ cup diced sweet onion
  • 2 teaspoons honey mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl combine all ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight for best flavor.
  3. Serve on its own, on bread, in a wrap, or in lettuce boats as pictured here.
Notes
* You'll see that most simply poach their chicken, which is fine, but I highly suggest preparing it in a way that you would want to eat it plain. So grilled/baked and seasoned with salt, pepper would be perfect.

** Recipe time does not include cooking the chicken, this would assume it is left over from a previous meal or made in advance.

 

Recipe Review: Banana Muffins

Recipe Review: Banana Muffins

I’ve been having trouble eating breakfast in the mornings before school or work. Virtually every day (even weekends) I’m leaving the house pretty early and I can’t think of something easy filling, but this last week these banana muffins sure helped a lot.

IMG_6520smalledit

They are of course a far call from any kind of well rounded and nutritional breakfast, but it means I’m able to wait to get lunch until I’m home and can skip the fast food.

I’ve made banana bread many times in my life, always pulling a random recipe here or there, and this time was no different.  I wanted something that seemed simple and would use up a bunch of our brown bananas.

(Besides, I can’t bribe Brandie to make me her Cinnamon Streusel Banana Bread every week)

I found this one by Yammie and fell in love with how simply it was layed out.  I didn’t have any gallon bags so I ended up dirtying at least one bowl, but it was still so worth it.

My only complaint is that I think the recipe had too much sugar, since ripe bananas are already so sweet, but it the muffins were exactly what banana bread should be; sweet, sticky, and soft.

Recipe Review: Banana Muffins
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 3 brown bananas (1 cup mashed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour*
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Glaze (optional):
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or lemon juice
  • Read more at http://www.yammiesnoshery.com/2013/10/the-best-banana-bread-muffins-ever.html#Bwy4WvFRfKp4p0i2.99
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Get out a ½ measuring cup and a ¼ teaspoon (these will be all you need to measure your ingredients).
  3. In a large Ziploc bag, mash the bananas. Add the eggs, seal the bag, and shake and squish until combined. Add the sugar and mix well. Dump in the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Before zipping and mixing them all the way in, mix them together a little with your measuring spoon. Now add the oil** and vanilla and shake and squish until well combined.
  4. Snip the corner of the bag and squirt the batter into a lined muffin tin (if you don't want to clean the pan, line it with tin liners so the grease doesn't come through). Don't make the hole very big at all because the batter is very runny. Pinch the corner between each muffin.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. To make the glaze, just mix together the powdered sugar and milk or lemon juice and spread over cooled muffins.
Notes
As written on: http://www.yammiesnoshery.com/2013/10/the-best-banana-bread-muffins-ever.html

The original recipe said it would give you about a dozen muffins, but I got nearly two dozen out of it.

All in all I liked this recipe a lot and recommend you try it.

5 Stars (5 / 5)

Also, be sure to check out Yammie’s site!

Peanut Butter Gelato

Peanut Butter Gelato

If you know me at all, you’ll know peanut butter is probably my number one weakness. My off-the-diet cheat day usually consist of a lot of peanut butter, in as many forms as I can get it in. I am always on the look out for new peanut butter recipes, and peanut butter gelato has been on my to-make list for a while now. The only thing I would change about this recipe is next time I will probably mix something into it, like chocolate cake pieces or brownie pieces, even some chopped peanuts, peanut butter cups, or  a chocolate swirl. It’s really good on it’s own, but it’s so peanut buttery it starts to loose it’s flavor after a couple of bites.

 

DSC02295

Peanut Butter Gelato
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ½ cup sweetened smooth peanut butter
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan heat up cream and milk heat milk to a simmer
  2. While the milk is heating, in a bowl whisk together yolks, and sugar.
  3. When the milk comes to a simmer, slowly whisk the milk into the egg mixture
  4. Return mix to pan and heat on medium low till it slightly thickens or reaches 170°F
  5. Strain into a bowl and whisk in peanut butter, cover and refrigerate until completely cooled, or over night
  6. When it's completely cooled, churn according to the manufacturer's instructions
  7. If you have add-ons, when you transfer it to a freezing container is the time to mix in add ons.

 

DSC02296

Josh the Cat always visits me in the kitchen looking for tuna juice or raw chicken