Friday, June 29, 2012

Pizzas and Pies

I went to Indiana to visit some of my Dad's side of the family, and we had to make a pit stop at our favorite pizza place - Arni's. This restaurant has been here since my Dad was a child, and I'm in love with their delicious Arni's Jr. Salad.

Diced ham, diced mozarella, radishes, green onions, and croutons. Absolutely delicious! I got mine with Italian dressing.

It took a long time for the entrees to come out, but, luckily, I already knew how tasty the pizza was going to be, so I wasn't bothered by the wait.

We got half pepperoni, half mushroom and sausage. The pizza is deliciously thin, like a thick cracker, and the diced pepperoni is my favorite style of pizza.

The sauce is also fantastic. I tried to get a picture of the full pizza, but my Dad couldn't wait and snagged a slice before I could get a complete shot.

The real gem of the evening, however, was my Aunt Lora's selection of homemade desserts that we indulged in after the restaurant. I drooled over the coconut creme pie, lemon meringue pie, and jello cake (don't know what a jello cake is? I'll explain in a minute). 

My sister tried the coconut creme..

I went for the lemon meringue... 

I think I selected the best one, because even Bruce wanted a piece!

My dad grabbed some jello cake, a fluffy combination of cake and jello mixture that blend together to make a cool marbled dessert.

So many little space in my stomach. Guess I'll just have to save some for later!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Easy and Delicious Spaghetti and Meatballs

I love this dish, a simple Italian favorite from Giada De Laurentiis (food network page here). The turkey meat means it's low-fat, but most people can barely tell the difference between these and the typical veal meatballs. I recommend making it for any occasion, but in case you're concerned about trying your hand at homemade meatballs, I've compiled a small list of reasons why you should make this recipe:

1. You're a twenty-something who can't remember the last meatball you had that didn't come from a Chef Boyardee can

2. You're having a dinner party (everybody loves a good meatball)

3. You're visiting your parents and want to show them how mature you've become by displaying your mastery of the culinary arts (thereby assuring them that you can make more than Ramen noodles)

Now that I have you convinced, go grab these ingredients!

1/4cups breadcrumbs (I use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs!)1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley2 large eggs, lightly beaten2 tablespoons milk1/2 cup grated romano cheese3/4 teaspoon salt3/4 teaspoon pepper1 lb ground turkey1/4 cup olive oilTomato sauce

Mix all the ingredients besides the turkey and the oil together in a bowl.

I just love the texture of grated cheese!

Now add your turkey meat and mix the whole mixture together carefully. Don't be afraid to get dirty - using your hands is a satisfying feeling!

Now, shape the meat into balls. Giada's recipe suggets tiny bite-sized ones, but I prefer a thicker meatball. 

Line them on a plate, wash your hands, and heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-high.

This would also be a good time to start boiling your water for pasta, depending on what thickness of noodle you're using (add a little earlier if fettucini, closer to meatball-cooking time if spaghetti). I used angel hair - the contrast between super-thin pasta and thick meatballs is delectable. 

When the oil is hot, add the meatballs, leaving some space between each one.

While your waiting for them to cook, add your pasta to the now-boiling water.

After about five minutes, flip your meatballs. They should be a toasty brown on the bottom side.

Wait another five minutes, allowing the meatballs to finish cooking. (Tip them on their sides if they're still a little pink on the edges.)

Next, add your tomato sauce to the pan and bring it to a boil. I didn't happen to have my favorite jarred sauce on me, so I whipped up my own out of crushed tomatoes and thin sauce.

Once the sauce has boiled, lower the heat and let it simmer for five minutes.

While your waiting, drain your pasta.

Spoon the meatballs into a serving dish and top with additional romano cheese.

Pour your pasta into the pan and coat it with the remaining sauce.

Serve it up, and watch your guests' amazement as the bite into these delicious homemade meatballs!

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Homemade Oreo Nutella Frappuccinos

Now that summer's in full swing, I'm finding myself craving frappuccinos more and more. Yet looking out at the steaming pavement and baking sun makes the walk/drive/bus ride to the nearest Starbucks seem like torture. (Also, if I find myself craving a frappuccino in the morning, I rarely want to take the time to shower and change out of my pajama pants in order to get my frapp fix.)

So, to increase my laziness and salvage what's left in my wallet, I developed my own homemade version of the classic frapp - I call it my Oreo Nutella Frappuccinos.

I'm guessing that the name gives away some of the ingredients, but  I'll list all of them here to keep it concise:

Large handful of ice
1-2 shots freshly brewed espresso
4 Oreo cookies (I recommend double stuffed)3 tablespoons Nutella1/2 cup milk

whipped cream & chocolate syrup (for topping)

(the recipe will make one jumbo serving or two medium-sized servings)

Start with the basis of every frappuccino - a lot of ice.

Then add 1-2 shots of your freshly brewed espresso. (For info on how to do this, check out my Affogato recipe here)

I only went with one shot this time. On a morning where I'm struggling a bit more, I'd probably up the dosage to two.

Next, throw in your 4 Oreos. 

Scoop in your nutella for some hazelnutty deliciousness.

Honestly, I think I could make anything better with a dollop of nutella on it. 

Add in your milk, and blend, chop, puree the mixture until all of your ice chunks have been demolished into tiny chips.

Pour into your glass and top with whipped cream and chocolate syrup (or caramel, if you prefer).

I recommend using a straw to drink it, but I needed a spoon to get past the whipped cream mountain!

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Espresso - the recharger

Busy day today, so I went to my usual recharger - a dark steaming shot of espresso.
While many find espresso to be too harsh, particularly first thing in the morning, I find it's an acquired taste that usually develops after several all-nighters studying for exams. I like my espresso in the mid-afternoon or evening, and the bitter taste is excellent when paired with a super-sugary chocolate dessert.

Espresso is the base of many coffee drinks, so learning to make good espresso is the gateway to making lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas. If you ever plan on expanding your caffeine repertoire beyond basic coffee, I highly recommend buying a Moka pot or espresso maker. Be sure to use a fresh dark roast that's ground very fine (DON'T skimp on the grinder! Buying a cheap grinder for gourmet coffee is equivalent to putting water in your gas tank).

Soon, you could learn to make coffee like this...

Medium cappuccino from Lab Cafe

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

DJB's Big Burger

I'm going to let you in on a secret - my favorite burger joint.

Surprisingly, it's not a quaint and colorful down-home fries and burger grease bucket like most would expect. Quite the opposite. Diamond Jim Brady's, generally known as a high-class bistro, happens to be my first stop when I'm craving some serious high-quality burgers and fries for a reasonable price.

Let me give you a quick tour of the restaurant..

See what I mean? Not exactly the place you'd expect to find a great burger. And they certainly aren't the emphasis of this restaurant. After all, the majority of their menu consists of high-priced (but exquisitely made) fish, steak, and chicken entrees, so they generally cater to an upscale crowd. I started going here with my parents awhile back, and generally ordered salmon, potato-encrusted whitefish, etc. However, the light shined on me two years ago when my friend Courtney came out to eat with us and ordered a DJBs Big Burger.

Since then, I've never been able to order anything else off of their menu.

But for now I'll stop babbling and let the pictures communicate....

Let me just interject that these fries are a gift from God. Imagine Arby's curly fries, only thick-cut and 10x tastier. Ketchup would honestly be an insult to these fries.

I believe I've made my point.

But, to emphasize a bit more, let me point out that the basic DJB's burger and toppings with fries is NINE DOLLARS.

You heard me.


This is a comparable price to Red Robin's, which sits right across the street, but the flavor and quality of the burgers are anything but comparable.

My addiction to DJB's Big Burger has gotten to the point that my friend Maria and I go here every time we want a reward or to celebrate a recent accomplishment. We even call them our "celebratory burgers.

In addition to the excellent food, I also appreciate DJB's attention to detail, even when serving a simple dish like a burger. When you order one, you won't see a waitress rush by and slam ketchup and mustard bottles down on your table without so much as a glance at you. Instead, your ketchup and mustard are brought to you in adorable little serving dishes.

And, of course, when Maria and I are celebrating something, we must get dessert...

The pick this time was a scrumptious Bud's Brick House Sundae. Gooey, caramely, and delicious (with fresh whipped cream!).

Now that your stomach is rumbling and you're ready for a taste, ditch the chain restaurants and go get your own addiction to DJB's.

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