Monday, January 30, 2012

The Standing Room

Los Angeles food trucks have gotten a lot of hype lately. They deserve it. There are some good eats coming out of those restaurants on wheels, no doubt. They are fun to chase too. But sometimes you just don't feel like chasing. That's when you go to the Standing Room.
Here are the guys waiting in the aisles to place our order. The neon menu is between them and Seinfeld is playing on the TV to the right. Love it.
Food truck food on the ground. In a liquor store. Behind the canned corned beef and Boston Baked Beans, and next to the refrigerator of sparkling water and Coca-Cola. Across from the shelves of Vodka and cigarettes...there is an itty-bitty kitchen with three dudes working their *!# off to make some really yummy food.

The Bull Burger. Korean bulgogi beef on a cheeseburger.

The Pulled Pork Sammie. Check out the bread!

The Shortie. Braised short rib on a french roll
Korean-influenced burgers, "sammies", plate lunches, and fries. Kim chee aoili. Bulgogi on a beef patty. Braised short rib, pulled pork, grilled salmon, roasted brussel sprouts. Flavor-packed food. In a liquor store. Check it out if you ever find yourself in the South Bay. Lucky for me, I find myself in the South Bay everyday. :) This is a new favorite spot. Come and visit. I'll take you there!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crockpot Tri-Tip & Spaghetti Squash

I was taking inventory in my freezer and found a tri-tip roast from all of our summer BBQing. I guess it kind of got lost in there! So, I took it out and put it in the refrigerator to thaw over a few days.

I was really wanting to use my crockpot. I don't think I've used it since last winter. I felt sort of sad about that because I LOVE my crockpot. It's like magic. Dump in a bunch of ingredients, plug it in, and forget it. Sooo wonderful.

I was skeptical that I could cook a tri-tip in a slow cooker without searing it first. But, lo and behold, Google saved me again. I found this {recipe} on another food blog.

You can disregard all the wine bottles in the background. Ha!
The best part? I had nearly everything that the recipe called for. The only thing I was missing was Italian spice mix. I was going to just throw in some oregano or Italian herbs, some onion powder and paprika and chili flakes, but then I found a jar of Mexican Herb Mix that I got as a birthday gift, and I thought that would be a great substitute... it was!

I pulled the top part so you could see how  it looks before and after...
I cooked it as the recipe told me, 8 hours on low. It was pull-a-part perfect and the whole house smelled delicious all day.
I served it with some spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.
The spaghetti squash was a new cooking experience for me. I cut it in half (with a lot of muscle strength), and cleaned out the seeds.

Then placed them in a pyrex dish cut-side-down in about an inch of water.

Baked it at 375F for 40-45 minutes until tender. I used a fork to remove the noodle-like flesh out of the tough skin. Topped it with some warm tomato sauce and grated cheese.

The tri-tip was tender and juicy and SO flavorful - a little spicy too. The squash was sweet, light, and another nice carbless side dish. It was a hearty and super simple meal.  Can't get better than that.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Triple Chocolate Black Bean Brownies

"What?? Black bean brownies?" That's what I thought when I found my way to Joy the Baker's blog this week. Second thought was, "Hmm. I have black beans." Scroll down. "Do I have everything else in the recipe?" Yes, I do.

It was a done deal. These brownies were in my future. Here's the {link} to the recipe and my step-by-step:

I'm out of parchment paper, so I skipped that part and just buttered and floured my small rectangular pan (smaller than 9x13, it's like 7x12). Nope, I don't own a square cake pan, like it calls for. I'm tellin' ya, use whatcha got. The funky spots you see are just butter build-up. Nothing to worry about.

Butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and dark chocolate chips...

melted in a double boiler.

While the chocolate melted nearby, I pureed the black beans. It's not that many beans - only a quarter cup! Definitely 3 times as much chocolate than beans.

Mixing in the eggs, vanilla, and sugar. I used Splenda.

 Sifting the dry ingredients with the help of my handy Yogurtland spoon. God, I love those spoons!

Mixing in the bean puree. Looks sort of purplish going in, but it's soon masked by the triple chocolate.

The batter is uber thick. You have to work pretty hard to spread that stuff in the pan.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. I should have taken them out a little sooner. They were a little dry - I think because my pan was a little bigger than a square pan would have been. Oh well! I did not fret.

They were still pretty good, cake-like, chocolatey, and satisfying for a sweet tooth trying to get healthier. And, they are a great way to get protein into your kiddos! And, no, you can't taste the beans. Give 'em a try!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Oven Fries

I had 3 sweet potatoes in my CSA box, and a handful of fingerling potatoes from another day's cooking adventure. I decided to try making oven fries again - you know, fries that are baked instead of deep-fried. It's been a while. I've tried before and they haven't crisped up much for me, so I tried a few different things this time.
1. I cut them thinner.

2. I made sure they were all flat on the pan (the best I could using one pan, may have been wiser to use two).

3. I made sure they were all coated with olive oil, salt and pepper before putting them in a hot 400F degree oven.

4. I turned them in the middle of baking, after about 15 minutes.

5. I let them cool a bit before eating them. Patience - something I'm trying to get better at.

I baked them for a total of about 25 minutes. The fingerlings did much better than the sweet potatoes, but the thinner cut ones definitely were more firm and crispy.

They weren't perfect, but they were better than I've ever made them! And they tasted good, which is all that really matters.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Homemade Granola

I made a few different food gifts this year for Christmas. It has become a very economical way to love on our many cousins, aunts, and uncles that we get to visit with every winter.

This year, I went with a sort of breakfast theme, serving up granola, hot cocoa mix, and a homemade jar of jam, fruit butter, or jelly.

I got this recipe for homemade granola from our cousin, Sarah. She's a great cook and has her own {blog}too. I love making my own granola because I can control what goes in it, like the amount of sugar, and I can use whatever I have in my cupboards to make it unique each time. 

First, preheat the oven to 275F. Prepare your baking pan (either a 9x13 pan or a cookie sheet with edges) by covering it with aluminum foil and spraying it with cooking spray.

Second, mix up all of the dry ingredients: oats, wheat germ, salt, brown sugar, nuts, and dried fruit. You can wait to add the dried fruit until the middle of the baking process (unlike how I did it this time) so that the fruit doesn't taste too "cooked."

Then you mix the wet ingredients (no picture, sorry!) in a small saucepan: maple syrup (I use sugar-free pancake syrup), flavorings like vanilla or almond extract and cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, vegetable oil, and a little bit of water. Heat it up until it reaches a simmer, then take it off the heat and pour it onto the dry ingredient mix. Stir thoroughly so that all of the oats are coated with the wet mixture.

Then, pour out the granola onto your prepared cookie sheet. Make sure that it's evenly spread out. I like to pat mine down flat so that the grains actually look like one large sheet. When it bakes, it will become crunchy and become little clusters.

I packaged my granola in these little bags that I found on eBay.  Aren't they cute? I especially like the peekaboo windows. I printed up labels and it was ready to deliver to the family!

Here's the recipe:
Homemade Granola
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 Tbs. dark brown sugar (I used Splenda brown sugar blend)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup Extra Ingredients (see complete list below)
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used sugar free maple syrup)
3 Tbs. flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola
1 Tb. water
Flavoring (see below)

Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 275 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch metal pan with cooking spray, and then set aside. Mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt and Extra Ingredients --except dried fruit -- in a bowl. Bring syrup, oil, water and any Flavoring indicated below to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat. Drizzle over oat mixture, and stir to combine. Pour mixture onto prepared pan. Spread out evenly and press it down flat. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir in dried fruit. Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool. Granola can be stored in an airtight tin for up to two weeks.

1. Classic Granola
Extra Ingredients: 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, 1/3 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/3 cup dark or golden raisins
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
You can replace the 1/4 cup of maple syrup with 2 Tbs. each of maple syrup and molasses.

2. Crunchy Granola
Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup slivered almonds, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 2 Tbs. sesame seeds, 6 Tbs. currants
Flavoring: none

3. Granola with Tropical Flavoring
Add the coconut along with the cashews and banana chips.
Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted cashews, 1/4 cup chopped banana chips, 1/4 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/4 cup chopped dried pineapple
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

4. Granola with Cherries and Almonds
Extra Ingredients: 1/3 cup sliced almonds, 1/3 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/3 cup dried cherries
Flavoring: 3/4 tsp. almond extract

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Viva Las Vegas

Happy 2012 Everyone! Hope you enjoyed the holidays as much as we did.

My husband and I went to Las Vegas last weekend for a little getaway before all the family events that were in our then-near-future (now past). We went with great intentions to hit up all the fancy restaurants we could handle. I made reservations at four restaurants. We made it to two of them. Not bad odds for Vegas, right?

Here they are, for your viewing and salivating enjoyment:

Mesa Grill @ Caesar's Palace Quite possibly our favorite place to splurge. Great cocktails (margaritas always, and mimosas at brunch), excellent food.

Bacon and Hashbrown Quesadilla topped with a Fried Egg, Salsa, and Cotija Cheese, and Cilantro - to die for.

Blue Corn Waffle with Blackberries and Cream - delish!

Striploin Steak  with Scrambled Eggs and a variety of toppings to make breakfast tacos - yum!
Mon Ami Gabi @ Paris Las Vegas It was our first time eating at this restaurant and I loved it. Charming ambiance and definitely Parisian. The food and service were absolument superbe!

Onion Soup - full of gruyere cheese and dark carmelized onions. A bit salty, but really satisfying.

Blueberry French Toast, a side of scrambled eggs, and a decaf latte for hubby.

Moules Marinieres for me. So meaty, so good!

Moules aren't complete without Frites! These are super crispy and more like chips than fries.
And then we hit up a couple of other places without reservations:
Hubert Keller's Burger Bar @ Mandalay Bay Resort It was...okay. Burgers, beer, and really good fried sides.

Slightly disappointed in this place...the sliders were dry and didn't have much flavor. But Hubs' burger was good, as were the pepperjack potato popper-thingies. Probably won't go back to this place.
Serendipity 3 @ Caesar's Palace A must-go for a late night treat. We actually had dinner (salads) and then indulged in ice cream. The salads were actually really good. The ice cream, well...just look.

That dark stuff on the plate is hot fudge. Oh yeah.

Ok. Best sundae of my life. Vanilla and Coffee ice cream, bananas, and a SLICE OF PEANUT BUTTER PIE, topped with whipped cream, peanuts, and a cherry, of course.

No visit to Serendipity 3 is complete without a Frozen Hot Chocolate. This one was Amaretto flavored topped with candied almonds and cream. Decadent.
We ate well. Could you tell? Thankfully we only gained a couple of pounds each. :)

And totally unrelated to food, we went to see the new Cirque du Soleil show, Immortal World Tour: Michael Jackson!! It was a really great show. Awesome acrobats, dancers, sets, and the music was, of course, nostalgic, thrilling, and a wonderful tribute to MJ. The King of Pop, oh yes, he was. Go see it if you have a's on tour now.  :)