Monday, April 29, 2013

Give cheese a chance

It's very uncharacteristic of me to post about cheese, but I happened to visit a new cheese shop in Pasadena yesterday and had to share.
Even though I'm not a big fan of the flavor or smell of cheese, I felt like I had to sample the offerings here because I knew they were probably the best of the best.
I eased into it with some salty goods first.. olives, pickles...
And cured meats... (I love prosciutto. The 100% lean cured beef at the Cheese Store of Pasadena was especially delicious with their selection of spicy mustards).
As far as the cheese goes, I first tried the goat cheese (the round one on the left). It was especially smooth and creamy, and it tasted like frosting when I paired it with pure honey on a baguette (nothing like something sweet to make cheese tolerable!) I also tried the truffle cheese (to the right of the triangular pieces with the bright orange hue). The truffled cheese was infused with truffles (duh) and balsamic vinegar. I have to admit the truffle and balsamic flavors were pretty amazing. The bright yellow cheese (which in my opinion looked like mango slices) was a parmesan cheese infused with saffron spice. It was the first time I'd heard of cheese being infused with saffron, but sounded like a good idea to me! The other cheeses that I didn't sample included "mild" blue cheese, brie, cheddar, and triple cream (others said the triple cream was pretty much like pure butter).
The Cheese Store of Pasadena has a long list of sandwiches and grilled cheese plates as well. They pair them with cured meats, spicy spreads and sweet stuff that all sounds amazing (fig jam and honey nuts in a sandwich? Yes, please)!
And did I mention they had some mouth-watering imported products for sale as well? Pepper and olive-infused pasta? Honey gingerbread mustard spread? Those are just a couple unique products among many here.. oh and they have a wine press for sale in the front of the store.. in case you're in the market for one of those :)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bread Bar

Before my mom left town, we went to Bread Bar for brunch. My mom and Kevin had breakfast and Justin and I got lunch.
As a rule of thumb, my mom never goes to Bread Bar without getting pastries, whether we're having breakfast or lunch. I usually avoid pastries because I know they're full of butter. However, I'll admit that the pastries here are just plain delicious, regardless of the fact that they're probably very unhealthy. I had the raisin bun, which was the lightest and flakiest of the bunch. Justin loved the cinnamon coffee cake. And mom was all over the almond croissant, which was the probably the most dense croissant I've ever seen. I think they pack the croissant with almond paste to give it extra flavor and moisture.
Kevin's breakfast was eggs benedict with potatoes.
It looked like it would be a breakfast to die for if you're a benedict fan!
Mom's latte was like a little work of art.
I went with a simple green tea, which also had a nice presentation despite not having fancy foam!
And here's the veggie burger that Justin and I got. It had portobello mushrooms, peppers and artichoke with lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun. The bun was very rich and the insides were nicely seasoned. Not a mind-blowing sandwich, but it was good!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gulfstream

My mom is visiting for the weekend! And pretty much every time she comes to visit, we dine at Gulfstream. All Hillstone restaurants have my stamp of approval, but I think Gulfstream may be my favorite of their options. It has a great relaxing atmosphere (and of course, the best fresh seafood!)
Mom got the cedar plank salmon with sauteed spinach.
Justin got their veggie burger (I was torn between this and the ahi burger because their veggie patties are so good). They use the perfect mix of grains, beans, veggies and nuts with a sweet glaze that's to die for.
But the ahi buger was very good, too. I got it mayo/butter-free (if you ask for no butter, they'll refrain for slathering your bun in unnecessary calories)! The fish had cajun seasoning which gave it a great kick, and it was sauteed to perfection, medium-rare.
And we closed the night with decaf coffee. Perfect end to a crazy week.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Apple crumbles

Do you ever have those apples that have sat in the fridge a little too long and you can just tell they might have lost the crispness that makes them so good on their own? We had one of those in the fridge tonight, and instead of forcing myself to eat a sub-par apple without its crunch, I decided to bake it and make it delicious! I love apple crumble/cobbler (whatever you want to call it), so I set out to make a low-fat (no butter) apple crumble for dessert. 
Here's what I used for 2 personal servings of a basically fat-free apple crumble:
-1 large apple, chopped (note that it doesn't have to be on the verge of expiration like mine was, but this is a good method for salvaging such apples!)
-2 tbsp milk
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-2 tbsp sugar (I used baking Splenda)
-pinch of salt
-3 tbsp whole oats
-2 tsp oat flour
-1 tbsp applesauce
First I mixed the apple, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar together.
Then I sprayed two 2-cup sized souffle cups (oven-safe) with coconut oil spray.
Filled them with equal parts of the apple mixture.
Then prepared the oats!
I put the oats, oat flour, and applesauce in my mixing bowl.
And stirred them together to make my crumble topping.
Placed it artfully over the apples.
And put the oven-safe cups in the 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. I turned the oven to hi-broil after 25 minutes and let the tops get crispy for about 2 minutes.
Until they were perfectly golden brown. I removed them very carefully from the oven, topped them with whipped cream and an extra dash of cinnamon, and dug in (with caution, they were HOT)!  If you're impatient like me and want to eat immediately, just keep adding more whipped cream to cool off your spoonfuls and go for it. There's no shame in that :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Quinoa breakfast cakes

What does one do with extra quinoa, eggs and veggie scraps? Healthy protein breakfast cakes, of course!
Here's what I had on hand to make these (this was a mini-batch of 4; if you have more scraps than I did, I recommend doubling or even tripling it!) 
-3/4 cup cooked quinoa
-1/2 cup egg whites
-1 fire-roasted pepper, ripped to shreds :)
-a few leaves of kale, torn
-1/3 cup mushrooms
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-Pinch of low-fat shredded cheese (acts as a great binder with the eggs; if you really like the taste of cheese, feel free to add more)
This "recipe" is very flexible. You could always add more egg and cheese (just don't reduce the egg to quinoa ratio or your cakes would crumble instead of binding like they should!) You could also swap out the veggies listed above for other veggies you enjoy.
I just stirred all the ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit a couple of minutes to gel.
Then I coated a muffin pan with cooking spray and poured the mix evenly into 4 muffin cups.
And baked it at 350 degrees for about 17 minutes!  The egg whites expand to bind all the quinoa and veggies together into the perfect little breakfast cake.
After baking them last night, I brought these on the go to work this morning and they made a great morning snack!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hands-off risotto

Last night, I made risotto that doesn't require an hour of stirring! Now this is my kind of meal. Special thanks to Jan for sharing the recipe!
Here are the ingredients:
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1/4 cup diced onion
-1.5 tsp thyme
-1.5 cups arborio rice
-4.5 cups vegetable broth
-4 cups cubed butternut squash (I used 2 packs of pre-cut bnut squash from Trader Joe's)
-1 large bunch kale, de-stemmed and torn into pieces
-1.5 tsp kosher salt
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-(optional) some grilled chicken breast if you want to add meat
First pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Then bring 4 cups of the broth to a low boil over the stove.
Heat a large dutch oven over medium and add olive oil. Sautee the onion in there until soft, about 3 minutes. Add thyme and cook 60 seconds until fragrant. Add rice and stir well, being sure to coat every grain in oil (I did not get to photograph the rice part because I was too absorbed in making sure that I wasn't burning the rice and making it stick to the dutch oven!)
Next stir in the hot broth with the squash and kale.
Pop the lid on the dutch oven and bake until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
After removing the oven from the oven (that sounds funny!), take off the lid and look at the deliciousness you've created. Then sprinkle in the salt, pepper, wine, and remaining veggie broth.
And add grilled chicken if you so desire.

Give it a quick stir.
And dish yourself a serving. (Or 2, or 3).  This is the method I'm using for risotto from now on! No more arm going numb from stirring for an hour and worrying about rice sticking to pan. This is foolproof. Thanks, Jan!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Artful food

Over the weekend, we visited a new exhibit at MOCA.  My favorite part of the exhibit was the bread house. I love bread. I wouldn't be able to live in a bread house because I'd eat my roof off.
The rain outside the house was pretty cool, too... even though it was not made of food.
I like that both my most intense food dislike and Justin's most intense food dislike were both in the museum. First came Justin's... soy sauce (which I love)... and then came mine.. cheese...
We both agreed that this chair was pretty cool, too. It's made of wax, and there are burning wicks on top. So the chair is literally melting away. And it kinda looks like it has a beard.. right?
We went to Toscanova after the art exhibit, where we joked that I had a carby pizza, and Justin had a protein pizza. Doesn't his chicken paillard (below with the spinach on top) look like a pizza?!
And here's my carb pizza. Toscanova is very generous with the capers, which I love!