Friday, August 29, 2008

Your thoughts please...

13 words to the wise

I have a question for you parents and non-parents alike. In your opinion, what types of restaurants are appropriate to take young, loud children to? I'm talking about babies in stroller through bouncy 4-5 year olds that can't seem to be contained to their own table.

My boss said her and her husband use this rule of thumb, if there are paper tablecloths, it's kid appropriate. I think that's a good rule of thumb. Buffets, places with menus with photos of food on them, paper napkins, plastic cups, pizzerias, etc. I definitely expect kids.

Why is it that some people just DON'T GET IT?????? Come on people. We're eating sushi in a dimly lit, mod-decorated place, dropping like $50 on dinner. Young children do not belong here. Why on earth would you not have the common decency to just order take out OR get a sitter and have your own romantic dinner? I know kids are unpredictable. I know life changes dramatically when you have them, but I would still think that basic manners should apply. I suppose these are the same people that probably talk on their phones in restaurants and bathrooms as well though. I did enjoy the one couple that had a screaming baby, waiting on their takeout order that paced with the baby in front of our table trying to calm him. I can't be the only one that this annoys the crap out of, what say you?

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Food Bible Rule #18

0 words to the wise

Calories consumed at weddings and funerals don't count.

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Tofu Parmesan

14 words to the wise

I don't know if you're a fan of tofu, but my vegetarian upbringing has me craving it every once in awhile. Actually most people I know that don't like tofu, have never had it cooked well. Forget what you think your opinion of it is. I strongly encourage you to try this method. It would go over well even with kids (minus the marinara maybe). How can you not like anything that's breaded, fried and topped with cheese though?

Tofu Parmesan
Makes 4 servings

14 oz. extra firm tofu
1/2 c flour
2 eggs
2 tb milk
1/2 c italian or regular breadcrumbs
1/2 c panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp grated parmesan
3-4 tb canola oil
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or italian cheese blend
1/2 cup of your favorite marinara

Drain tofu and press to get out excess water. Slice tofu in 1/4–1/2 inch thick slices widthwise. You should end up with about 10 slices.

I know it isn't pretty or even appetizing at this point and this is how most people think of tofu, but it will get there, I PROMISE!

Measure flour into a bowl or on a plate big enough to fit a tofu slice. Beat egg and milk together in another bowl. Mix all breadcrumbs, spices and salt in another dish.

Take one tofu slice and dip it into the flour. Coat tofu on all sides with flour. Next dip into the egg mixture. Take special care not to get any huge booger-esque egg on the tofu. If you mixed it well enough it shouldn't be a problem, but if you're like me, you'll want to avoid getting those large pieces of slime in the breading bowl. Finish with coating in the breadcrumbs, again on all sides. Repeat with remaining tofu.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. If your pan isn't large enough for all slices, use only 1/2 the oil the first round. Gently place tofu slices into pan and cook undisturbed for 2 minutes.
Flip and cook for 2 minutes more.
Preheat oven to 350. Remove tofu to cookie sheet and top with shredded cheese. Bake until melted or browned to your liking (about 5 minutes).
Plate with some pasta and veggies, top with the marinara and dinner is done.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


0 words to the wise

I didn't want to go two days with no posts. Tonight I'm going to cook. I've got a mound of tofu I need to use up and I'm craving spaghetti so I'm going to make tofu parmesan (something I adapted from my vegetarian days). Check back tomorrow for the recipe and photos if you're interested.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

411 West - Franklin Street, Chapel Hill

1 words to the wise

Friday night we had dinner at 411 West. A meal there never disappoints. We shared the crab cake special for the appetizer which had 3 lovely little crab cakes on a bed of baby greens with watermelon gazpacho and citrus oil. It was very tasty.

For my entree I ordered the scallop special. Four pan seared scallops were served around a pile of roasted fingerling potatoes, covered with apple-fennel slaw and topped with a tarragon yogurt drizzle. The apple slaw was the star of this dish for me, though everything complimented each other. The acidity of the vinegar in the slaw was perfectly balanced by the natural sugars in the apple. The thinly sliced red onion was softened and played nicely with the crisp julienned apples. I am not a huge fennel fan and I didn't even notice it in the slaw so it was perfect to me. The slaw was perfectly balanced by the buttery earthiness of the fingerling potatoes and the lightly seasoned scallops were brought to another level with the creamy tarragon yogurt.

For dessert we shared the Guinness chocolate and it was awesome. It had homemade chocolate chip ice cream and homemade sugared peanuts. It sounds overly sweet, but it actually was yet again, a perfect balance of flavors.

They were noticeably busy with the return of students, but our service was good and all of our food came out of the kitchen promptly and served warm. I was perfectly pleased!

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Photo of the Day - Speechless

5 words to the wise

Okay actually I'm not, but you see this right? It actually occured last week but I just got around to photographing it yesterday. It's a beautiful sight. Can you believe this is the same refrigerator from this post? I do wonder though why one needs two large jars of mayonnaise. Salad dressing I understand bringing separately to work, but mayo? Please enlighten me. Am I missing out on eating random spoonfuls of the slimy stuff?

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Deviled eggs - Recipe

5 words to the wise

I found the piece of paper this morning so as promised, here's the recipe!

Deviled Eggs

Makes 12 deviled eggs


6 eggs
1 minced green onion
2 tb mayo (I use light)
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 tb sour cream
(you could sub mayo out for this, my hubby just isn't a fan of mayo so I reduced the amount I was using)
salt and pepper to taste


Bring a small pot of water (enough to completely cover eggs) to a boil. Gently lower eggs in and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 12 minutes. Remove eggs and run under cold water to halt the cooking process.

Once cool enough to handle, crack and peel the eggs. I tap them on the cutting board and then gently roll them over the board with the palm of my hand to loosen the shell. Rinse the eggs to get rid of any little shell pieces.

Cut eggs in half lengthwise and using your hands, gently pop the yolks into a mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and mash and mix with a fork until smooth. Pipe or spoon back into each of the egg halves. Sprinkle with paprika to garnish if desired.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Deviled eggs - illiterate style

6 words to the wise

Okay so the truth is that I made deviled eggs on Saturday. I had 6 eggs I needed to use up fast and I hadn't yet made deviled eggs for the hubby. I wrote down everything as I went along (I rarely use recipes) and I photographed the process so I could share my recipe with you, as I often do. I've forgotten to grab it each day and finally misplaced the little piece of paper today. A pictorial will have to suffice. The ingredients were:
dijon mustard
light mayo
light sour cream
garlic powder
green onions
salt and pepper

Deviled eggs are one of the easiest things in the world to make, but for some reason when you make them and bring them somewhere, people go nuts like they're a precious gem. Go ahead and try it if you don't believe me. If and when I ever find my quantities, I'll be sure to share them with you. Until then, have a look...

Update: I found my wonderful little notes and have posted the recipe here.

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Food Bible Rule #17

0 words to the wise

When consuming crackers or cookies, calories from crumbs don't count (anything that is not a whole intact piece is a crumb).

Happy smashing!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Watts Grocery - Broad Street, Durham

3 words to the wise

Friday night, the hubby and I decided on dinner and a movie for our date. We went to Watts Grocery once for brunch in the past and I have been wanting to go back so that's where we headed. We got there around 5:30 and had no problem being promptly seated.

We ordered the hushpuppies to snack on (not realizing they were bringing cornbread) and they were tasty! They were moist, slightly sweet and served with basil aoli. These are big hushpuppies but we still managed to scarf all 6 of them down. Oh and we ate all the cornbread too which was also wonderful!

For my entree I ordered the grilled pork tenderloin over fresh corn pudding served with seasonal vegetables and a summer berry reduction. I asked for the pork cooked medium and it was served as such. The pork was well seasoned, a little heavily salted for my taste, and plentiful. It came with a small gelatinous circle of corn pudding. I ordered this dish because I am a big corn fan. I liked the pudding though it was a little light on flavor, the texture was lovely. The grilled veggies were a brown mixture of eggplant, squash and maybe zucchini. They were heavily seasoned and a good addition to the dish. The summer berry reduction was not present in my dish. I ended up using some of the hubby's bearnaise sauce to drown out the salt of the pork.

The hubby had the steak frites which was a hand cut NY strip
with homemade fries served with bearnaise sauce and grilled vegetables. He asked for his steak medium. It was oddly cooked. 1/2 of the steak was indeed medium but the other half was medium well-well. Perhaps the hand cut aspect left it a little uneven? It was also very fatty for a NY strip. I sampled everything on his plate. The steak was seasoned to perfection, as were the fries. The fries were my favorite. The bearnaise sauce was great and there were no grilled veggies.

By the time we neared the end of our meal, about an hour later, the place was filled with people and busy wait staff. I felt the quality of the food was good, but with both dishes flavors seemed a little unbalanced due to the missing items. The atmosphere is great and despite being packed towards the end, wasn't too loud for our liking.

Now to the service. Our waiter was the worst I've had in the triangle. He even topped our ass of a server at Serena. We were one of two tables he was servicing (at the beginning). He was quite obviously new, uninformative, unattentive and bordered on being rude. Each time we needed something (a refill, our check, etc.) we had to wave him down. Our table was still covered in dirty dishes when they brought our entrees almost 30 minutes later. It was ridiculous.
I understand everyone deserves a chance and I understand being a little uneasy in a new job, but for a $50 dinner (no alcohol or dessert mind you), I expect more from the staff then a shoulder shrug when I ask a question about the food.

Don't get me wrong, we'll go back. Hell we even had another server stop by and ask if we were waiting on our check.

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Photo of the Day - Woven

3 words to the wise

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Food Bible Rule #16

2 words to the wise

When it comes to cookies, oatmeal cookies are the healthiest because not only do they contain whole oats, but also fruit and nuts. It's like having a very small bowl of oatmeal!

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Photo of the Day - Grasshopper weather

2 words to the wise

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Curious Survey - What do you eat for lunch?

23 words to the wise

I know I have a fair amount of readers that love to cook and I personally love cooking, but what do you do for lunch most days? I usually bring leftovers, or if I don't have them, I eat a can of soup, sometimes a salad or a "mean cuisine". Maybe 3 or 4 times a year I go out for lunch (during the work week). So what say you? What do you eat for lunch????

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Food Bible Rule #15

0 words to the wise

Any stuffed vegetable is healthy regardless of what it is stuffed with because vegetables are good for you.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Photo study - Jack Johnson

8 words to the wise

I went and saw Jack Johnson two years ago at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. The show was sold out and it was packed. This is a small venue and it was before he gained the popularity he has now. It felt intimate. It was great.

Last night I saw him at Walnut Creek in Raleigh. Neil Halstead and Rogue Waves (two different bands) were the openers and they were both great. Neil Halstead was kind of folky and Rogue Waves was rock. I'm definitely going to buy a Rogue Waves album, they were really my cup of tea.

Jack Johnson and his band were fantastic and as down to earth as you can possibly be in a large venue that is so commercial. They played all but one of the songs I wanted to hear. I really love his lyrics. He is a true romantic. Missing from the equation was my husband, who returns tomorrow thank goodness, but I did get to take my sister and a gal pal. The weather was fantastic. The crowd was pretty subdued.
The photos I took are pretty crappy because I took a little POS digital (they don't allow any cameras with removable lenses) and the damn thing just didn't like the combination of low light and distance shots. I'm still going to share a few though because I loved all the images projected onto the screens on the stage.[Begin rant] I think I've probably been to Walnut Creek about a dozen times over the years and the sound is almost always underwhelming. The parking and getting in and out of that place are a joke. They need to tear it down and put something that isn't halfway to Benson and has more then a two lane road to access it. I do love being outdoors for concerts but Walnut Creek just sucks.[end rant]

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Photo of the Day - Firsts

0 words to the wise

Speaking of my sister again, I took her to her very first concert last night.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Cook Out - Roxboro Road, Durham

1 words to the wise

On Sundays I normally prepare a feast. I like to spend several hours cooking dinner and prepping for meals during the week. Yesterday was an exception. I only had me to feed and I was craving a burger. I finally tried out Cook Out on Roxboro road. They have a mix and match combo deal where you can select one of 7 or 8 different sandwiches, 2 sides and a drink for $3.99. You can even upgrade that drink to one of their famous shakes for .99 (which was what I did).

I ordered the 1/4 lb burger combo with hush puppies and fries. The burger was juicy, not greasy, had tons of fresh iceberg lettuce, ripe tomato, sour pickles, ketchup and mustard. The bun was soft and tasted fresh. They let you order it however you want and that's my preferred combo.The hushpuppies (I think I got about 8 2 inch long puppies) had the sweet cornmeal flavor I love in a hushpuppy. I think mine were either a little over done or sat under a heat lamp a little long though cause they were a little hard and dry.

The fries were big, moist inside, crispy outside and perfectly salted. They were great. And the chocolate shake was the best fast food shake I've ever had. For $5.25 after tax, dinner at Cook Out could not be beat.

Note: there is no indoor or outdoor dining at this location, it's drive through only :)

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Photo Study - Orange County Special Olympics

1 words to the wise

There is nothing like attending a Special Olympics event to put life in perspective. It's always a great time and if I ever do volunteer work again, that's definitely what I'd like to do. Truly special people.

Volunteers are crucial to the events.
It's a long lap.

But they all make it and once they're at the finish line...
Looking back to see if he was first, "Did I win?"
Well it's really something special to witness.

Go here to view the rest of the photos from the swim meet.

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Photo of the Day - Victory

2 words to the wise

I attended the Orange County Special Olympics swim meet yesterday to cheer on my sister. As you can see, she did great! I have tons more photos to post, but this shot really sums up the day :)

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Work photos - A few of my favorite things

7 words to the wise

I either work with the nastiest people on earth or my expectations of hygiene are far too high. I hate to think what these people's houses are like.

There is always a pile of dishes next to or in the sink.
I guess people think that these will magically disappear or be washed by some unknown source if left there long enough. Oh wait! I've got it! They'll be washed by the same people that clean out the fridge.

This is disgusting.It's like someone literally puked IN the refrigerator. Thank god there are two, though the other one is filled with about 40 salad dressing and condiment bottles, it's actually a little cleaner.

And the last is my favorite. Even the fake ficus loses it's leaves. Seriously though, this has been sitting in a trash can, by the recycling and other trash cans for almost 3 months. Apparently they don't get that it's trash, despite it being in a garbage can.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008


1 words to the wise

A calabacita is a mexican squash, or at least that's what it's called at the grocery. It's also a mexican dish of squash, onions, corn and tomatoes. I originally found it on allrecipes, but have modified greatly to my own liking. This is what I tend to serve as a veggie dish with most mexican style meals I make.

Makes 6 side dish servings
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 calabacitas or 3 zucchini chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
8 ounces frozen corn
1 large tomato chopped
1 medium onion chopped
1 small can of diced green chiles (I forgot them this time)
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco or other mexican crumbling cheese
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp crushed dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
fresh chopped cilantro (if that's your thing)
salt and pepper to taste
lime wedges to garnish

Heat oil over high heat and add squash and onions. Let sit for 2 minutes. Stir to flip over squash and cook 2 minutes more. Turn heat down to medium, drain excess liquid. Add corn, garlic, chiles and all spices. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine and continue cooking until corn is heated through. Add tomatoes and cook another minute.
Add crumbled cheese and remove from heat. Serve with a lime wedge.

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Tamale dinner

2 words to the wise

Last night, I pulled my cooked frozen tamales (cooked on Sunday, recipe here) from the freezer and steamed for 15 minutes. Then I removed them carefully from the husks and topped them with a quick chile sauce (I cheated though, mock recipe follows) and garnished with some crumbled queso. I served these with a side of calabacitas (recipe to come in another post), and a lime wedge. The resulting dinner was mildly spicy and light!
Quick chile sauce for tamales
Ingredients and instructions:
Open one store bought can of enchilada sauce and pour into microwaveable covered container. Add 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp sugar and as much cayenne as you think you can handle. I used a few shakes of cayenne. Stir to mix through. Next dissolve 1 tbsp corn starch in 1 1/2 tbsp of water and mix into the chile sauce. Cover and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave one minute more.

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Photo of the Day - Start em young

6 words to the wise

For those of you who have enjoyed my yard parking neighbors saga, this is number 3 in the series...Please note the EMPTY driveway.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Food Bible Rule #14

3 words to the wise

Any food on a stick is under 200 calories. As a side note – corndogs are actually the healthiest food on a stick because a vegetable is involved.

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Sushi Love - Erwin Terrace, Durham

0 words to the wise

Last night two of my gal pals and I tried out Sushi Love. I was thrilled to finally have decent sushi in central Durham. I am a big fan of Shiki Sushi in southwest Durham and have missed it terribly since moving this spring. Sushi Love, according to Carpe Durham, is owned by the same people that run Shiki and the menu is similar. They don't have quite as many specialty rolls, and the ones they have are a good deal different and cost more. Specialty rolls at Shiki start out around $7. The cheapest at Sushi Love was $9.

All the rolls are buy one get one free and this applies to the entire table so its best to all order similarly priced rolls. I ordered the lobster roll which had tempura cooked lobster, avocado and cucumber. My other roll was the crunchy roll which was filled with crunchy tempura batter, spicy mayo and topped with crab and shrimp. Both rolls were very tasty, but I was less pleased with the lobster roll. It was 5 thin slices, of which the end two slices didn't even have lobster. The crunchy roll was much more substantial and I think I actually preferred the flavor of that one as well.

There seems to be quite a variance in the size of the rolls. My one gal pal ordered the Poseidon and it was twice the size of any other single rolls. It was more expensive too so perhaps that's why? My other gal pal ordered the blue devil roll which had cooked steak on top. Everyone seemed to love their rolls and I know I'll definitely be going back, probably this weekend if I can haha.

We followed this up with my first trip to Locopops. I tried the chocolate brownie pop and it was fantastic. It was more like a brownie on a stick then a traditional popsicle. It was packed with flavor, creamy and delicious.

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Chicken tamales

7 words to the wise

I went to Compare Foods on Avondale drive for the first time on Sunday. I've been wanting to try making tamales, but could never find the corn husks. My search is over! Compare was great, not only for latino foods but for everything. I doubt I'll go to Kroger much anymore. Compare was also supercheap!

Make these on a day where you've got lots of time to kill. Though there's not that much active time, they do take several hours to complete.

Chicken tamales

Makes 30 tamales
32 dried corn husks
For the stewed chicken
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 6 thighs)
1 tsp cumin
1 tb garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion (I used yellow)
1 cup water
2 cubes chicken bouillion

For the tamale dough
4 cups masa
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2tsp garlic powder
1 tb melted butter
4 tsp vegetable or canola oil
2 cups chicken broth or water with 2 cubes chicken bouillion dissolved
1 cup water

Season chicken breasts on both sides with cumin, garlic, chili, salt and pepper. Saute onions for 2 minutes over medium high heat and put in crock pot. Add chicken breasts to saute pan and brow 2 minutes per side. Remove breasts and add to crock pot. Turn heat on saute pan to high and slowly add water to deglaze pan, scraping at the browned bits on bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Add in bouillion and stir until dissolved. Add liquid to the crock pot, cover and cook on high 3 hours.
While breasts are cooking, place dried corn husks in large with enough water to cover completely. Weigh down with a can or mug to keep the husks submerged. Allow to soak for at least an hour.
After 3 hours, gently remove the breasts from the crock pot with tongs to a medium bowl. Using a fork (or two), shred the breast meat. Add to the bowl 1/2 cup of the juices and onions from the crock pot. Mix well and salt to taste.
Next it's time to make the dough!
Combine the masa flour, salt and spices in a large bowl. Add the butter and oil and mix well. Next add the broth and water and stir until you have a soft dough. Note that I found I had to keep a little water nearby to add to keep the dough moist as I assembled tamales.
Take 2 corn husks and peel lengthwise, 1/4 inch strips that you'll use to tie the tamales close. Next lay a corn husk flat, place about 1/4 cup of dough on the upper 2/3 of the husk (the wide end). Press the dough into a rectangle about 3"x3". Drop about 2 tb of chicken on one side of the dough and spread evenly. Using the husk as a guide, roll the tamale up (like a jelly roll) and make sure the sides of the husk are overlapping. Fold the bottom of the husk up and tie with 1 husk strip to secure.
Here's what it should look like.
Now repeat this 29 times until you've used up all the dough, husks and meat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Use enough water so that it doesn't all evaporate. Steam the tamales (med-high to high heat) for 50 minutes or until the dough is firm. I had to do this in two batches and I had a makeshift steamer I made using a metal colander, sitting in side of my 8 qt stock pot. I also steamed using chicken bouillion in the water to add more flavor to the dough. I froze most of mine and they'll keep for up to a year in an airtight freezer bag. To re-heat, just steam for 15 minutes!

You can (and I will) serve these with some sort of tomato based chili sauce. I'm serving tomorrow night to some friends and that's when I'll try that out.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Garlic mashed cauliflower

1 words to the wise

I combined and altered various recipes so this is what I came up with. I have to admit, I had my doubts about mashed cauliflower, but I devoured every bit of it. I finally finished it off last night. It was great!

mashed cauliflower
Makes 4 large sides
1/2 head of cauliflower broken into 2 inch florets

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1/4 cup light cream cheese

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower and return to a boil. Continue boiling over medium heat for 20 minutes. Drain cauliflower in a colander. Using a bowl, press down on cauliflower to squeeze out excess water. Mix up and press again. Pour cauliflower and all remaining ingredients in food processor and puree until you get your desired texture. Salt and pepper to taste. I really was shocked at how much this resembled mashed potatoes in flavor!

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Photo of the Day - Hot tamales

1 words to the wise

Guess what I made yesterday? Recipe to come!

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Chubby's Tacos - Ninth street, Durham

0 words to the wise

Last night after my hair cut, I decided to walk down to Dain's Place for a burger. Along the way, I stopped in front of Chubby's Tacos to check out their menu. I had read about them over at Carpe Durham some time back and my curiousity was piqued. I opted for a shrimp burrito to go. They have a large assortment of salsas and I filled my two containers with the guacatillo (guacamole-based) and the salsa asada. Both salsas were very tasty, but I preferred the salsa asada. The guacatillo had more tomatillo flavor then I care for. Just a personal preference.

The burrito itself was large. Not large, as in Cosmic Cantina large, but still big. It was about 8 inches long and about 3.5 inches in diameter. It was stuffed with shrimp (no tails and de-veined YAY!), rice, smashed pintos, and a little bit of iceberg lettuce. The shrimp is also cooked to order and not pulled from some steam table where it's turned to rubber. The burrito normally has cheese but I requested it without. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, mildly seasoned and plentiful. The rice and beans were nice for texture, but didn't really stand out in any way. The lettuce was the one thing I disliked.
Ever get a burger or something from McDonalds and the lettuce is slightly yellow and you know it's going to have that yucky overwhelming flavor that tastes nothing like lettuce, but you eat it anyway cause it's the healthiest thing in the sandwich? Well this was that lettuce. It damn near ruined the burrito for me. I ended up completely dissecting the thing to get the lettuce out. The rest of it was good, but I will note that the last 2 inches of the burrito were nothing but flour tortilla.

I'll give Chubby's another try, perhaps the tacos next time, but for ninth street, I think I still prefer Cosmic Cantina for the massive burritos.

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