Thursday, December 29, 2011

Restaurant Review - Take the Cake

Christmas Eve morning I met one of my bestest friends, her boyfriend and her brothers for brunch in Northside at Take the Cake... I was excited because I have been wanting to try their brunch for a while... I sometimes have an issue with going out for breakfast ... (unless it's with friends or for a specific reason) mostly because I have an issue with paying $10 for two eggs, toast and coffee that I could most likely make better at home and would cost me about $1/person....so the kind of brunch places I like are when the food is different than the normal eggs/toast/pancakes type fare and more creative kind of stuff.... that is definitely take the cake.

The restaurant was cool with high ceilings, exposed ducts and the menu written on giant chalkboard.... and the tables were big long wooden tables mixed with smaller tables....perfect for large groups of breakfast goers... The coffee was self serve and tasted great and the employees were super friendly, helpful with the menu, cleared our plates when we were done and let us sit and drink another cup of coffee and catch up with our friends without rushing us out.

I had the Cuban biscuit with a poached egg, swiss cheese, local ham, pork tenderloin, mustard aioli, onion, jalapeno and cucumber..... It was really delicious....the mustard aioli was something I would buy a bottle of... really just every bite was different and interesting....ham with the runny egg yolk, pork with the mustard, the really flavorful melty swiss cheese.... this is my kinda brunch.


Rob had the Steak & Egg with black beans, chimichurri, guacamole, feta & cabbage slaw
I didn't try any of his but he said "the meat was cooked perfectly and was easy to cut and it was just the right amount of spice for breakfast time."


Both meals were between $8-$9.... and something I will be definitely back for...
Also if we didn't have ten thousand Christmas cookies at home I would have been excited to take home some of the yummy looking things in their bakery case....so we will definitely have to be back for that!


Take the Cake on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

It's probably a little late for another Christmas cookie post, but I figure this cookie can be for more than just Christmas...so I might as well share. These little guys are cute, simple and Rob's favorite cookie....

Mix up the dough and the refrigerate..... seriously...refrigerate the dough for a while...otherwise you will have a big sticky doughy mess, if you let it chill for a little bit, the dough will be much easier to form into little balls....which is the next step...that I forgot to photograph...so anyway... refrigerate the dough, roll into small balls pop into a mini muffin pan and bake....


While they are baking, start unwrapping the reese cups and pop them in the freezer for a few minutes just long enough to put a lil chill on them...then when the cookies come out of the oven, press the Reese Cups into each cookie.

As if a reese cup isnt delicious enough...this one has a peanut butter cookie wrapped around it!



Enjoy!

Recipe from all recipes:

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 40 miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda; set aside.
  2. Cream together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk. Add the flour mixture; mix well. Shape into 40 balls and place each into an ungreased mini muffin pan.
  3. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball. Cool and carefully remove from pan.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Restaurant Review - Gordo's Pub & Grill

I have heard so many great things about this place that we were really excited to try it...but after eating there I have to say I have no idea what all the hype is about....

Here is a picture of the outside, just because it's really easy to drive right by if you don't know what you are looking for....



 Inside it smelled a little like something unpleasant that I can't quite put my finger on....


We came for the burgers and that's what we were going to have! I ordered the Gordos burger that was topped with Roasted Poblanos, Mushrooms, Onions, smoked bacon, Boursin cheese and Mayonnaise for $9....the burger that I ordered medium was VERY much well done, which is annoying and it looked like this.....

I am just not quite sure hot to put something like that in my mouth...


The mushrooms were slimy and rubbery and The fries looked like they were frozen out of a bag, but they tasted pretty good.


The burger mostly tasted like overcooked meat smothered in boursin cheese. The beer selection is pretty good.....everything was fine, not great but not terrible...but there are just too many good burger joints in Cincinnati to return to this one. 

Gordo's Pub & Grill (Norwood) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a fantastic day with your families and that Santa was good to you this year 
Merry Christmas!



Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Cookies with Royal Icing

Yesterday was a day full of baking here at our house....Is there anything better than baking and Christmas music? Because I honestly can't think of anything more relaxing....

I decided to make, cut out and bake the cookies during the day so that when Rob and Emily came home we could have a decorating party without worrying about all the pesky baking.......

Big Blue was excited to make her Christmas time debut......




I mixed up the ingredients into a delicious sugar cookie dough....



Rolled it out..


and cut it into cute Christmas shapes.
This year's choice was a Christmas tree, a candy cane, a snowman and a star...



Baked them and listened to some of the most random Christmas music that I've ever heard.... seriously I'm pretty sure everyone and their mom has a Christmas album these days...


  baked them in the oven and let them cool.....


 Then wrapped them up, put on a Hallmark Christmas movie and waited until it was time to decorate!


After dinner we unpacked the cookies, whipped up the icing and got to decorating....
The (very short) story of this icing is basically as follows:
Pipe icing around the edges.....


 water down the icing to be more liquidy and "flood" the cookies so they get that pretty smooth topping...




pipe on the decorations!! (the fun part!) 





 Look how pretty the turned out! We had fun trying to be creative with some of the cookies (some creative attempts turned out way cuter than others :) )


Sugar Cookie Recipe from Annie's Eats
Ella’s White Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
2 ½ c. sifted flour
Directions:Cream butter. Add powdered sugar. Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla, salt and flour. Chill dough until firm. Roll to ¼” thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. Frost and decorate when cool. Yields ~40 cookies (depends on the size of your cookie cutters- I doubled the batch)

Royal Icing Recipe also from Annie's Eats
Royal Icing
Ingredients:
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water
Directions:Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).  Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container.  This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating.  Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated.  Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping.  (Remember, if you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick.  Add a little more liquid and try again.)  Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie.  Let stand so the icing will set.  Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.
Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container.  Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl.  If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again.  Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie.  If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along.  Allow to set.
Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired.  Gel icing color is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid.  Liquid food coloring can be used as well – add powdered sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Restaurant Review- Saigon Cafe

Before getting to the review can we talk for a second about the "half-price" sushi phenomenon in Cincinnati? If the sushi is half price for every single minute that the restaurant is open.....isn't that just the price? What is the point of printing the menu with double the prices but then never ever charging that much? I get that it's a head game thing.....but wouldn't it make sense to at least charge full price for a couple of hours a week? They're like the Kohls of Sushi...nothing in Kohls has ever been its "original price" and everyone knows it but yet everyone still feels like they're getting the deal of the century by looking at those ridiculous sale signs....but I digress....let's talk about Saigon Cafe...

We went on a weeknight late after an event and actually went to Amarin only to find that it was shut down... I had no idea....so down the street we headed to try out the new Saigon Cafe (in the location where Saki Bomb used to be)... it hadn't gotten the best of reviews up to this point, and the man who greeted us at the door seemed to apologize before we even ordered so I was a little more than worried. "Have you been here before?" "No" "Well hopefully you like us enough to come back again!".....

We were starving so we ordered the crab rangoon as an appetizer and it was fine...actually pretty greasy, but otherwise pretty standard....


Then we ordered a couple of rolls, our standard spicy tuna roll and some salmon and then took the waitress's recommendation on the third one,The Hyde Park (Spicy Tuna, Cucumber, Masago,
Scallions, topped with Avocado, Wasabi Sauce, Crunch) I'm so glad we went with her recommendation because that roll was really delicious...along with the others... the salmon was fresh and a good temperature (I am really weird about everything coming out way too cold)..and the spicy tuna roll was a good amount of spice.




They also have half price bottles of wine Sunday through Thursday...
To get an idea of the prices, check out the menu here (and divide all prices by two obviously)

 The ambiance is nice too and it has a little parking lot to the side especially for them.. We will definitely be back in the future...

Saigon Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tofu Curry

A couple of weeks ago we made this tofu coconut curry over brown rice. It was really great and even better the next day.... Since I am too lazy to write too much, here is the recipe in pictures with the actual recipe at the bottom.














This recipe was really delicious, but next time I will add some kind of green vegetables... I think peas would be a good addition.... Enjoy!


Adapted from Very Simple Curry, p. 271, Jamie’s Food Revolution
Serves 4
6 scallions
large bunch of fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 heaped teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon butter
2 cans (14-ounces each) coconut milk
sea salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
15 ounces extra firm tofu, patted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes
1. Finely slice the scallions and finely chop the cilantro.
2. Put a pan over low heat and add the olive oil.  Sprinkle the curry powder over the oil and the scallions.  Stir everything together and then add the butter.  Continue to stir and cook for 20 to 30 seconds more.  When it’s all bubbling, add the coconut milk.  Bring everything to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 2 minutes.  Finish the sauce by seasoning it to taste with salt and then stir in the cilantro and lemon juice.
3. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the sesame oil.  When it is hot (it is ready if a drop of cool water sizzles when it is dropped into the pan), add the tofu.  Let the tofu brown, and then toss and continue to brown the tofu on all sides.  When it is browned, turn off the heat and serve the tofu with the curry sauce over rice.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Some more Christmas Fun

I mentioned a couple of years ago one of my favorite holiday traditions was Katie and my annual treat making day. This year the husbands decided to join along with their hobby and brew some beer during the day while Katie and I worked on our adorable Christmas treats... We are like old pros at this these days....we have come so far since the first couple of times we did this and the terrible chocolately mess that came with it.... now we just have piles of perfect delicious pretzels wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow and passed out to my co-workers this morning :)

Beautiful Christmassy Pretzels :)
wrapped up and ready to gift

The boys brewed beer on the deck and listened to the bengals game on the radio
very serious work...
chocolate covered pretzels, beer and more Christmas music than normal people can stand
More pretzels and beer :)
Also, another one of my favorite yearly holiday traditions is our annual book club christmas party. We always forgo the book in December and use it as an excuse to just get together, eat, chat, have some mimosas and do a little ornament exchange.... I can't believe this is our fifth one!

stuffing our faces with a delicious gigantic brunch

Every year Rob and I exchange ornaments too and here are some of my favorite ones... the goal is to one day have a tree full of meaningful ornaments that will remind us of all the years we've celebrated.... 
here are a couple of my favorites...






I hope everyone else is having a fantastic holiday season...this is absolutely my FAVORITE time of the year :)