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Archive for July, 2010

We came to Breadmen’s in Chapel Hill on a drizzly Saturday afternoon.  Breadmen’s has a free attached parking lot which is nice to find in the downtown area.  The restaurant has a small town diner feel, with Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling and posters on the walls.

The menu is typical for North Carolina, with sandwiches, burgers, and BBQ.  The reason we picked this particular restaurant though is because it serves breakfast all day, and my picky son will only eat things like pancakes or french toast when we go out to eat.

Turkey and Bacon Club Sandwich

I ordered some coffee, my husband got a Coke, and my son got a chocolate milk to drink.  We ordered some mozzarella sticks as an appetizer.  They were pretty good, but the marinara sauce was served a bit cold.  For lunch my son ordered a single pancake, I got a waffle, and my husband got a turkey bacon club.  It’s too bad they didn’t have any Monte Cristo’s here, they sometimes serve them at restaurants that serve breakfast.

My husband said the fries were excellent, and the ingredients of the sandwich were good, but the sandwich fell apart all over.  It was impossible to eat neatly.

My son didn’t use all his butter on his pancake so I got his extra butter.  He liked his pancake and ate the whole thing.

Waffle

I love whipped butter and was glad to have plenty of it for my waffle.  It’s been years since I had a waffle, since I don’t have a waffle maker and don’t typically order them at restaurants.  It was good, though I think strawberries would have made a better topping than maple syrup.

The prices here are pretty decent.  $2.10 for the pancake, $5 for the waffle, and $8 something for the club sandwich.  The service is a bit slow though, it was difficult to get a refill or get the check at the end.
Breadmen's on Urbanspoon

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Magenta Melon

Magenta Melon

I picked up a Magenta melon the other day from my local Kroger.  I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture before I cut it, but it resembles a larger cantaloupe with some longitudinal stripes.  From the name I expected to see bright reddish-pink fruit on the inside, but I was disappointed to find it was only a slightly richer orange color than normal cantaloupe.  The flavor also differed very little from cantaloupe; I don’t think I’d be able to tell them apart in a blind taste test.

It was very hard to tell that the melon was ripe.  This one, unlike the some of the other melons, does not seem to give off an odor when ripe.  There weren’t any visible signs of ripeness either.

I will say that in a fruit salad, this would be slightly more colorful than a regular cantaloupe, and it’s certainly a fleshier fruit being bigger, so you’ll get a lot of nice, round melon balls out of it.  But compared to the Galia melon which I tried last week, this one wasn’t nearly as tasty or pretty.

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Cheesecake Batter

Cheesecake is pretty easy to make.  The recipe is easy to memorize, easy to make larger or smaller, and has infinite variations.  The basic formula is 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 egg.  Most cheesecakes double that, to fit well inside of a typical pie crust.

Cream Cheese and Sugar

Ingredients:

  • 2  8 oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ready-made graham cracker pie crust

Place a pan with water in it at the bottom shelf in your oven, and preheat to 325 degrees.  Cut the cream cheese into small squares and let them warm and soften a bit.  Add the 1/2 cup sugar and beat with a mixer until the sugar is completely dissolved in the cream cheese, and the mixture starts becoming light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time to the batter, mixing just a short amount until the egg is incorporated into the batter.  Then add the vanilla and mix again.

Add Eggs One At A Time

Put the ready-made crust on a baking sheet for stability.  Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust.  Put it in the oven on the middle rack (above the pan of water) and bake for approximately 35 minutes.  The center may look a bit “wet” but it continues baking for a while after you’ve taken it out of the oven.  After about an hour on a cooling rack, move the cheesecake into the refrigerator to finish cooling.  It should fully cool before eating.  Keep in mind that plastic wrap may make odd patterns on the top of your cheesecake, so you can cover it with a concave dish to prevent this.

It’s very important you don’t overbake your cheesecake, or it may crack.  The pan of water also helps prevent cracks, but make sure you don’t open the oven to peak while it’s baking, otherwise you’ll let out the moisture.

Variations on this cheesecake recipe are limitless.  Most fruit toppings go well with cheesecake, but you’ll just put these on the top, after the cheesecake has fully cooled.  Very rarely will a recipe suggest baking the fruit in the cheesecake batter, though I have done this successfully with a caramel apple cheesecake in the past.  Most added ingredients get mixed in last, after the eggs and vanilla.

Variations:

  • Pumpkin cheesecake – use 1 15 oz. can of pumpkin, 1 8 oz. cream cheese, and pumpkin spices like ginger, cinnamon and allspice.  Eggs and sugar and general preparation is the same, except the pumpkin is added after the cream cheese and sugar are blended.  This will result in extra batter which can be baked separately, or discarded
  • Almond cheesecake – same as above, but add 1/2 cup of almond paste or 4 oz. almonds that have been finely ground in a food processor.
  • Caramel apple cheesecake – add 1/2 cup diced apple bits, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, and top with a caramel topping.
  • Chocolate chip cheesecake – use a chocolate graham cracker crust and add 1/2 cup of very small chocolate chips.  If you use normal sized chocolate chips you’ll have difficulty cutting the cheesecake later.
  • Chocolate cheesecake – add 1/2 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate to the batter, or 1/3 cup cocoa powder.
  • Peanut butter chocolate – add 1/3 cup peanut butter to the batter, put 2/3 of the batter in the crust.  Then add a few teaspoons of cocoa to the remaining batter (your personal preference for the darkness of the chocolate), mix, and add in large spoonfuls to the top of the peanut butter batter.  Run a knife through the batter to blend the chocolate and peanut butter batters together a bit.  I made this one most recently, and unfortunately I over-baked it by a few minutes and it broke on top…

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

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Martin’s Curry Rice just opened up in the same lot as Food Lion, China Town and the Carmike Cinema, right next to the Dollar Tree.  The grand opening will be July 31st, 2010, but if you go before that all the food is 25% off (except the cupcakes).  There’s some casual outdoor seating outside, but no one’s outside because it’s a record high July and no one wants to be out in this heat.  The dishes are mostly Indian with some Japanese fusion.

When you first walk in you immediately go to your right, down a lane to the menu screen and guy who puts together your food.  It’s kind of a mix of fast food/Mongolian grill, where you pick out your ingredients when you order.  You get a choice of meat (chicken, beef, or fish), vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, chickpeas, potatoes or jalapenos).  They also have sliced eggs.  According to their menu they also offer tofu or goat, but I didn’t see this out there.  Then you pick your sauce.  They offer 3 different sauces, a yellow, green and red.  Then you pick your rice (basmati, brown or broccoli) and side (lettuce salad or yogurt salsa, which was just a chunky raita).

I ordered the chicken with chickpeas, potatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers and yellow curry sauce with basmati rice.  My husband ordered the beef with potatoes, carrots and green curry sauce with basmati rice.  We also got one of the cupcakes because they looked so interesting, though I believe the cupcakes are actually made elsewhere.  The price was decent, only $13.90 for both the entrees, plus the 25% discount.  The cupcake was $5 though which is a bit pricey for something so small.

Chicken Yellow Curry with Cupcake

After you order you go pick out a place to sit.  There isn’t much seating here and isn’t a whole lot of room to stand either.  I imagine during a busy lunch hour this place could get really crowded.  They didn’t offer any numbers or write down names, so I wonder if they get busy if they’ll develop a system for alerting people when there food is ready.  It only took a few minutes to cook our food.

The yellow curry had some nice flavor to it, but it wasn’t spicy at all.  Some of the chicken pieces were rather fatty and the mushroom pieces looked like they either came from a can or were sliced at least a day before.  But for $7 it was a decent entree, and the rice and raita were just fine.

Beef Green Curry with Lettuce Salad

I tasted my husband’s dish and I liked his better.  The green curry had a better flavor and was a lot more spicy than the yellow.  I think the beef pieces were also more carefully cut so they didn’t have as much skin and fat as the chicken did.  I don’t think I would have liked the lettuce salad though, it didn’t look nearly as good as the raita.

Supposedly the red curry is supposed to be more like a Japanese curry, and it’s supposed to be spicier than either the yellow or green.  Perhaps I’ll try that next time.

Phuket Bill Cupcake

The cupcake was very rich and dense, so even though it was small it was easy to share.  It was good, but I’m not sure it was worth $5.

The restaurant atmosphere is very casual and I think it’d be best suited for take-out.  There’s not a whole lot of seating for a busy lunch hour, and the reggae music here is a bit loud for conversations.  But the place does look very clean and bright, and the prices are decent enough that if my office was near this, I would certainly be coming here at least once a week.  I’ll try to make it back after the grand opening to try some of their expanded menu.  Eventually they’re supposed to get some more entrees and appetizers like curry puffs, tonkatsu and curry rolls.

Meat and Curry Sauces

Vegetable Options

Lettuce Salad and Yogurt Salsa (Raita)

Behind the Counter

Bright Atmosphere

Martin's Curry Rice on Urbanspoon

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The Galia Melon

Kroger is amazing me with their produce section lately.  First the Sprite melon, next the Galia, and I did see a bunch of other new melons there too that I’ve never heard of before.  I have to add a new category for just reviewing melons.  Now if only they could get some fresh mangosteen, and hire a decent cheesemonger…

I bought this melon without doing any prior research, it just looked like a cantaloupe so I figured it would probably be similar.  I bought it yesterday and noticed it was filling my whole kitchen with fresh ripe melon smell today, so I figured I should prepare it before it went bad.  Imagine my surprise when I sliced in and saw a deep green tone, merging into white, merging into orange!  What a strange looking melon, it looks almost like an under-ripe cantaloupe with a huge rind area.  But this one was ripe all right, just from taking out the seeds it was oozing with juice.

I got out the melon baller and started working away at it.  The melon balls came out really nice and round, with a beautiful mix of color in them.  This fruit would look gorgeous in a fruit salad or fruit tray.

Then I tasted it.  Oh my god, the Sprite melon has nothing on this one!  Not only is it sweet and soft and smooth, but it’s got a really unique tartness that I’ve never tasted in a melon before.  This is some fantastic fruit!

The only downside is it seems to “melt” really quickly if stored in the fridge.  I would recommend if serving it, to only prepare it the same day, within a few hours of displaying to people.  Otherwise it starts to get a strange translucent tone and loses its tartness.

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Almond Cupcake Recipe

I base my cupcakes off a box mix.  I’d like to eventually make a recipe that doesn’t involve a box, but for the time being these cupcakes are delicious and easy to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box cake mix (yellow is good, but you can use butter or white too)
  • 8 oz. almond paste (Solo) or pureed almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup amaretto liquor (I prefer Disaronno)

If you can’t find Solo almond paste you can try to use marzipan, but marzipan usually has more sugar and is considerably harder to work with.  You can also use plain, unsalted roasted almonds, same weight (8 oz.) pureed with a food processor.  The higher percentage of almonds the better.  If you have a food processor, use that to break up the almond paste into the smallest bits you can.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can try using a mixer to mix up the almond paste with some softened butter, but you’ll probably end up with bits of butter and almond paste everywhere.

Once the almond paste is broken up into a workable consistency, add the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix on low speed for 30 seconds.  Then mix on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the side of the bowl with a spatula as you go.

Fill cupcake cups about 2/3 full.  Make sure not to overfill, because cupcakes rise more than muffins, and look bad if they overflow the cup.  Bake the cupcakes in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  This recipe makes approximately 30 cupcakes.  I usually frost with a white frosting like buttercream.

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Our first stop Saturday for lunch was at Martin’s Curry Rice, but unfortunately we found it wasn’t going to be open to the public until July 31st.  So instead we went to Pei Wei Asian Diner near Cary Towne Mall.  I had never been here but my husband had, and he said it was a cheaper, more casual P.F. Chang’s. 

As you come in the menu is lit up along the wall.  The menu here is slightly different than at P.F. Chang’s, but some of the core dishes are the same.

After you decide what you want to eat, you walk up to the cashier and order.  You pay and get your number and your cup for the soda fountain drinks.  The straws, sauces, fortune cookies and other items are all by the sodas too so it’s a very busy spot at the restaurant.  The number you put on top of your chopstick holder at your table.  I didn’t see any plastic silverware, just chopsticks, but maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough.

Hot and Sour Soup

Our table was very wiggly.  It was very distracting throughout the meal.  I would have switched tables but the place was very busy.

For appetizers my husband got the hot and sour soup and I got the Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls.  My husband said the soup tasted the exact same as P.F. Chang’s and that it was really good as usual.  I had never had the Vietnamese chicken salad rolls before, and I don’t think they’re on the menu at P.F. Chang’s.  They were fantastic!  Next time I’ll just get 2 servings of these, they’re so good.  They come with a peanut sauce and a spicy sweet and sour sauce, and the peanut sauce is much better.  They had a really fresh, minty flavor.  I wish my peanut satay salad was as good as this.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls

For the entree my husband ordered Orange Peel Beef.  This is what he normally gets at P.F. Chang’s as well, and it tastes the same.  The portion size is really good here and he plenty left over for dinner in the evening as well.  When you order it you get your choice of rice, he got the white steamed rice with his.

Orange Peel Beef

I got the Thai Coconut Curry with tofu.  I thought that since the Coconut Curry Vegetables is one of my favorite dishes at P.F. Chang’s, that this dish might be just like it.  I was wrong.  For starters, the veggies were completely different.  These veggies were just green beans, onions and just a few bits of bell peppers.  And the sauce wasn’t nearly as good as the Coconut Curry Vegetable sauce.  But the biggest difference was the tofu.  In this dish, it was just sliced, not fried at all.  It was really just terrible bland and dull.  It was the spiciest bland dish I’ve ever had, very strange.

Thai Coconut Curry with Tofu

I didn’t really like the atmosphere in this restaurant, especially compared to P.F. Chang’s.  And the entree was terribly disappointing for me.  But I think those Vietnamese Chicken Salad rolls are good enough to come back for.

Pei Wei Asian Diner on Urbanspoon

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Redstone Boysenberry Meade

Redstone Boysenberry Meade

We went to Tyler’s tonight in Apex for some burgers.  I wanted to try something very different, so I got the Redstone Boysenberry Meade.  The description is:

“Made from wildflower and clover honey with boysenberry added after fermentation is completed.”

It was very sweet and fruity, and much lighter than some of the fruit lambics I normally drink.  It almost reminded me of some wine coolers.  It was pretty tasty and refreshing for such a hot summer day.

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I usually make either pancakes or french toast on the weekends, and my husband likes a Monte Cristo if I’m making french toast.  But this weekend I didn’t have any swiss cheese around, so I figured I’d try it with my favorite soft cheese instead.

I used regular bread since I hadn’t planned this.  Usually when I make Monte Cristos I try to use a thicker bread that holds it’s shape more.  I use about 5 slices each of thin turkey and ham deli meat.  I microwave the meat slices for a few seconds just before the french toast finishes cooking so it’s a nice even temperature throughout the sandwich.  After the french toast was done, I put a few pats of the inner, gooey cheese on it to melt for a bit.  Don’t use the rind, the rind won’t spread at all (I ate it all later with some Chardonnay anyway).  After about a minute on the french toast the brie spreads really easily.  Then just pile on the warmed deli meat and serve!

I don’t generally eat Monte Cristos, this one was just for my husband.  I asked for his opinion on it, and he said it was very good.  But he still prefers it with swiss cheese.  Oh well, it was worth a shot.  Next time I’ll make sure to use my cheese for something I intend to eat.  I’m thinking maybe a cheesecake…

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I was at my local Kroger yesterday and I spotted this strange new fruit, about the size of a mango.  It was labeled as a “Sprit Fruit” with an E scribbled in. Most of the pile was white but a few were starting to yellow.  I had no idea which were ripe or not, whether they were supposed to be yellow when ripe or if it meant they went bad.  Canteloupe are easy to tell when they’re ripe because of the smell, but I couldn’t make out any kind of smell from these.  So finally I just picked one that was half white, half yellow, thinking at least one side had to be good to eat.

When I got home I washed the outside really well and sliced it in half.  It was very soft and easy to cut.  I think this particular fruit may have been extremely ripe (but not in a bad way) because it was so juicy.  I spooned out all the seeds (there were a lot).  I got out my melon baller and started with the small end.  Even with the smaller side, I was still hitting the rind every time I tried to ball out the melon.  There didn’t appear to be any inedible part between the rind and the rest of the fruit, it was all uniform in color and texture.

I gave up with the baller after a while and just spooned out the rest.  By the time I was done there was juice everywhere, it was a very juicy melon.  The texture of it was much like honeydew or canteloupe, not as crisp as watermelon.  It had a very smooth texture.  It seemed very sweet, but I don’t know if blindfolded I would be able to tell the difference between this and a honeydew. I also tried to eat a bit of the rind since I had cleaned it, just to see what it was like.  It was very tough, like a mango rind, but still edible.  I’m not sure why anyone would want to eat it though.

I did some research on the Sprite Melon and supposedly it came from Japan, and recently started being farmed in North Carolina.  I can see why it’d be popular in Japan, since they like their food in small portions, and it tends to look cleaner than most other melons.  But for most practical purposes I think I would stick with a honeydew melon.  At least if you’re making a fruit salad or fruit tray, a honeydew would add some color.

Some sites suggested the Sprite melon has a flavor like a pear, and a crisp texture like an apple, but I didn’t experience that with my melon.  It was just very much like honeydew.  Perhaps mine was overripe.  I think I’ll try one that’s all white next time at Kroger and see if I still have the same experience.

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