Saturday, September 29, 2012

Date night and restaurant review

BLACK SHEEP CAFE
Provo, UT

Jared and I have been wanting to go to this hip new restaurant on University Avenue. I run by there fairly often and the aroma surrounding the place is mouthwatering. The restaurant is always packed full of people. Several friends of ours had been, and recommended it highly.

When the opportunity came and Jared and I decided one night to have a date out on the town, we chose this as the restaurant. (We have a running list, so far there are 7 places we really want to try.)


Our first impressions were good, the place is family run and owned, and it is much smaller inside than one might expect, with only about 15 tables (they each seat 4 people). The lighting is somewhat dim, and  the vibe inside is kind of contemporary urban meets Native American.

We were told it would be a 35 minute wait, and although longer than we wanted to wait, we decided it would be worth it, and we took a long walk around Center (and added another restaurant to our list while doing so). Going back to the restaurant, our appetites and expectations mounted higher and higher.

We placed our order: Shrimp and polenta for an appetizer, Jared ordered a Goat Burger, goat cheese in the burger patty, sauteed mushrooms and served on nandiskaadi bread (a Navajo flatbread) and sweet potato fries, and I a Green Chile stew with Indian Fry Bread.

We were so excited.


1 hour later the waitress said that the kitchen was behind because there were several large groups in front of us. Did we want Fry Bread with honeybutter? No, but thank you, we want to be hungry for the food.

The appetizer came out and was AMAAAAAZING!! Blue and yellow polenta with tons of cheese in it, and a chili adobo sauce on the shrimp. Seriously, it was heaven. I wish I had taken a picture, but we were so hungry we didn't think of it until there was only a smear of chili sauce left of the plate...

Again, we ate most of the burger before I remembered to take a picture. It was really really good.


Thirty minutes later, still no entree. The waitress came back and told us she has misplaced our order, and written down items different than we had ordered, which were almost ready. The waitress apologized so profusely and actually told us she was going to buy our whole dinner for us, since she had made such a mistake. We were not going to argue with that :) So Jared got a delicious Bleu Burger and I got the Navajo taco trio. This is actually the specialty of the house. The trio has three different kinds of taco: green chili, red chili and bean (a special mix of their own.) They did bring us the sweet potato fries, which were the best I have ever had. They were thick and full of flavor and best of all did not taste deep fried at all.

They were all extremely courteous, and although the food we ended up eating was not what we ordered, we loved it. I probably would not order the Trio again; it tasted great but I don't particularly love that kind of food. The red chili was my favorite of the three (it's on the right). I think the burgers are better than the tacos. I definitely want to go back and try the soup. And Jared wants to get the goat burger. So back we will go. And we plan to take some friends with us.

For atmosphere, food and service (mistake included) I would rate this place a 4 out of 5.

Those Pretty Pumpkin Cakes

I made them twice, once to experiment and take pictures, the second time for the shower. My husband was delighted both times, since he has the title of Taste Tester # 1 in our household.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
From SmittenKitchen

1/2 C Butter at room temperature
1 C dark brown sugar
1/3 C white sugar
2 eggs (large) at room temperature
 ******
2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

*******
1/2 C buttermilk + 1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 C canned pumpkin
 *******
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place cupcake liners in pan.


1. Beat butter and sugars together until fluffy.



2. Sift all the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.  


3. Add eggs one at a time to sugar mixture, making sure each is fully incorporated. 


4. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk mixture to the sugar mixture. Make sure to begin and end with flour. 





5. Beat in pumpkin until smooth.



6. Scoop batter into liners until they are 3/4 full. 



7. Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. 



8. Cool completely before frosting. I saw this decorating technique on another website and decided I had to try to replicate. I was personally proud of the results.


Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/2 C butter, softened at room temperature
1 tsp maple extract
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2-3 cup powdered sugar

Beat all ingredients together until smooth. Try not to eat too much of it so you have enough to frost with. 



Shower the bride with gifts and goodies

One of my very best friends is getting married in October, and I went in with her older sister to throw her a bridal shower. It was a great success.

The gift theme was "Date Night". I thought this is perfect. Being newly married myself, we rarely go out on dates anymore. When we do it is always an adventure. I thought it a great idea to help a soon-to-be-couple still be able to go on dates (in or out, wink wink). What would you give someone for a date night? Some of the best gifts my friend received were a jar of date ideas and a piggy bank, a year membership to the aviary and zoo, and a fondue pot.

Food and decorations are as follows. My biggest hope was that she would feel 100% special at this party.



The sign says, Happily Forever After. 

 Chicken crossaintwiches. Perfect. Too many showers meet at odd times of day and provide too much sugar. Give them girls some sustenance!

My friend adores pumpkin, so I made these little beauties for her. Pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting. Although a tad dark in the photo, over on the right are some seriously devilish home made cream puffs. If you ever have the chance to make these. Do it! Your mind will be BLOWN! And then you'll eat another one and POOF. Mind GONE and utter satisfaction.

Fresher than Fresh

Farmers markets are the best way to stay healthy. This is my strong opinion, not exactly fact. You get the freshest produce, as well as that which is in season, thus maintaining the balance of nature. You are also supporting your local farmers and small business owners. I like that.

We love shopping our farmers markets, and have two that we frequent regulary. A few weeks ago we bought 6 ears of corn for $1.20. They had clearly been picked that morning.

5 of the 6 ears of corn had caterpillars on them. Quel Surprise!


Don't worry, we ate chicken with it as our source of protein. I consider myself pretty granola and earthy. But not THIS much.

My favorite cookie

Fall is here and winter is around the corner, I can feel it on the night air. One of the very best things about this season is cookies and hot chocolate.

These cookies are my personal favorite chocolate chip cookie. Not too thin, chewy, buttery, and filled with rich morsels of dark chocolate, high quality ingredients make the best chocolate chip cookies. All together, PERFECTION. Another reason they are my favorite, they are the ones mom always made on those cold afternoons while we kids were playing in the snow.

Argue if you will, but I'm sticking to it. I have made many other chocolate chip cookie recipes, as most people have done, and while I believe there are many recipes out there better than others, I also firmly believe that everyone has their own personal preferences. For example, my sister likes her chocolate chip cookies thinner than thin. Also, I think making chocolate chip cookies with shortening is a sin. I NEVER do that, even if the recipe calls for it. Gasp, oh no! She said she hates my favorite cookies. I'm not sorry. You can have more to yourself.

Do your own chocolate chip cookie hunt to find your favorite. I have learned in my research that the cookies taste better when your butter and eggs have been allowed to reach room temperature naturally. I also know that allowing the dough to rest overnight either in the fridge will help the flavors to soothe into eachother, making a richer and more flavorful cookie. Usually, I can't wait that long, and these cookies are delicious regardless. In your hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, if you start here, you definitely will not have far to go.

From the tattered pages of my mom's Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book
revised to my preferences and presented for your enjoyment, ladies and gentleman!

THE Chocolate Chip Cookie

2/3 C Butter at room temperature
1/2 C Turbinado sugar
1/2 C packed dark brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1 tsp high quality vanilla
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C chopped nuts (optional)
3/4 package Ghiradelli 60% cacao baking chips (Not optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, Blend butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until well blended. In a separate, smaller bowl, stir the dry ingredients together, then blend into the sugar mixture slowly. Stir in the nuts and chocolate with a wooden spoon (better for licking later :) 

Drop by teaspoons full onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, until delicately browned. I like mine at just 8 minutes, but this changes of course, depending on the size of your cookie. 

 


Makes 4-5 dozen 2 inch cookies. (According to the recipe. I must make mine too big because we usually get 3 dozen out of this recipe.)

Feeding the hard working and studious husband a well deserved late night snack.

WILL YOU COME DOWN TO DINNER!?!?!?!?

Please read the title of this like BEAST in the classic Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. Or even better, this version. It's a GEM.

Husband and I have started shouting this at each other when dinner is ready. All in good fun, and only occasionally in Hanger. There's a reason those books are called the Hunger Games. Full people don't have that much ambition.

On Sunday we had two friends over to dinner. I think that makes more sense that saying "for dinner" amiright? You're not eating the guests. I hope.


Sunday soup and bread has become a tradition. Especially because soup and bread make great leftovers on those weeknight's a woman is just too busy or tired to cook something new. The choice this Sunday? London Soup.



This is a family favorite that has been passed down between expats who have lived in London, and where the recipe originated. I can tell you is that this is the perfect soup for a cold, windy, rainy blustery day, when the tile/wood/flagstone floors feel cold under your feet, and a sweater provides only brief respite from the chill. This soup will warm you right up!

 Want me to prove it? Why do you think there are no pictures of the final product? We ATE it too fast for me to take a picture! Shoot. I'll just have to make it again and add pictures. Or you can make it yourself and let me know what you think.

LONDON SOUP
serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 c chopped onions
3/4 c thin sliced carrots
3/4 c thin sliced celery
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
butter or margarine
3 C beef broth
4 c diced, peeled potatoes
1/4 c flour or cornstarch
4 oz cheese (strong) shredded
1 1/2 c milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

In 3 qt saucepan or dutch oven brown the meat. In the same pan, saute onions, carrots, celery, basil and parley in butter for about 15 minutes.

Add potatoes and add enough broth to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. (We used yukon gold potatos and did not peel them.) 

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan melt 2 T butter and add the flour, cooking for 3-5 minutes or until it just starts to brown. Add the milk to the flour mixture, stirring until thickened. (I believe this only me about 3 minutes). Stir in cheese until melted and sauce is creamy and thick. Congratulations, you have just made what is called a roux, and it is often used in soups as a way of thickening them without adding heavy creams etc. I love rouxs!

Add the roux/sauce to the soup and cook and stir for 2 minutes, until fully incorporated. Add salt and pepper and serve with delicious bread. The cheesy flavor is so warm and cozy, but not heavy like you might expect. 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You can never have too many Holloways

My brother in law just had a birthday. He turned 20 this year, and to celebrate, we feasted.

Jared and I celebrated first by going on an early morning run. We ran 45 minutes, which considering his recent accident (back in July when he AC III separated his shoulder. Yes, I did use a noun as a verb. Forgive me.) I thought the run was a grand success.





Then the family and we drove the scenic route to Snowbird ski resort to visit Oktoberfest. Great German food and music, lots of happy people, and fun music were everywhere.
 Brothers, you'll never guess what they will come up with next. My man is the one on the right. Lucky me eh?--------------->

Yes. Totally.

It's okay, he's a great dancer.

We feasted that day on brats and kraut, pickles, German chocolate cake, garlic fries and Liege waffles. Turns out they make these by washing the waffle iron in between waffles with a rag soaked in beer. That was one powerful waffle.

 We took the tram to the top for a breathtaking view of the mountain side. I'm not a skier, in fact I'm deathly afraid of skiing. And my family would know that is with good reason. Plus I look like a total idiot when I try. you know those pictures you see on pinterest and other social media sites with the hashtag or caption that says, FAIL. Someone would definitely make one of those with a picture of me skiing.





 This is apparently the highest tram in the West and Snowbird has the only ski tunnel in North America; a 600 ft long tunnel under the mountain (by 200 feet) that has a conveyor belt for your skis. It was excellent. Because I thought it was interesting, it wasn't operating that day.

Want to know a nerdy fact? See the shape of the valley, how it is shaped like a U? That is because it was carved by a glacier. If the valley were carved by a river it would be shaped like a V.

 See, Geography majors DO learn something in college...


Good thing I married me such a good man.

Family photo op! Just FYI, if you go to the top of Snowbird, take a jacket. It is FREEZING up there. And by freezing I mean 62 degrees.

Utah is a desert.




 Dinner that night was another feast. Have you captured a theme of our lives yet? I'll help you. Get together with family. Have a feast.
Went to Sweet Home Chicago for DEEP DISH dun dun dun.


 Even the birthday boy couldn't eat it all.