Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving on a plate

This is Thanksgiving on a plate if there ever was one..even if we didn't eat it on Thanksgiving Day!

Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, roasted vegetables, and cranberry relish. Very traditional, and very, very nice!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Spaghetti & Meatballs from Sunday

Last weekend I made some fantastic spaghetti and meatballs.

The meatball recipe was pretty much based on this one, except that I used dried Italian seasoning in place of the fresh herbs. And for the sauce I used large can of crushed tomatoes, one can of Trader Joe's "Sugo di Pomodoro" marinara sauce, and about a cup of red wine. I also sprinkled in some Italian seasoning just for some added flavor.

Delicious. The meatballs turned out flavorful and well seasoned. I love adding bits of sun-dried tomatoes to them, because they provide a bright little surprise in each bite. And the sauce was rich with a hint of sweetness. A comforting meal after the Packers destroyed my Vikings on Sunday… :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The perfect pizza?

This is arguably the best pizza I have made. At the very least, it is among the prettiest!

My masterpiece pizza

It was topped with pepperoni, green peppers, green olives, black olives, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Along with a homemade pizza sauce, this was one of my finest works to date!

Road Food Pursuits - Mainstreet Bar & Grill

My pursuit for real, authentic American food continued yesterday with a stop in the city of Hopkins, MN, a now Twin Cities suburb that still retains some charms from yesteryear, including an honest-to-goodness main street.

And on Main Street, you will find (appropriately enough) the Mainstreet Bar & Grill

Mainstreet Bar & Grill
814 Main Street
Hopkins, MN

The Mainstreet Bar & Grill is an old fashioned bar right in the heart of downtown Hopkins. I used to come here for lunch on occasion when I worked in the area, but I have not been here in ages. It is decked out with brick and wood, and has a dark. cozy atmosphere. They have been here for decades and are known for their live music on weekend. And, of course, there is a menu filled with great bar food; sandwiches, appetizers, burgers, and entrees.

I opted for the "Mainstreet Burger," which was a 1/3 lb. hamburger topped with bacon and ham, cheddar cheese, and Thousand Island dressing.

The "Mainstreet Burger" at the Mainstreet Bar & Grill

The burger was cooked to order (medium, with just a little pink on the inside. It had a great crust on the outside, and the two-kinds-of-pork toppings and the cheddar cheese were tasty, with the bacon being the thick-cut variety. The dressing added a sweet and tangy zip, and what I really liked was the bun. A toasted onion roll...yum! All in all, a very good burger.

The accompanying fries were again my least favorite thicker-cut style, but they were crispy, hot, and cooked up just fine.

The total bill with a diet Coke was $11.18 before tip, which is getting a bit on the spendy when talking about burgers and fries. But the burger was good, and the atmosphere was very authentic and cool, unlike all of the various chain restaurants. And isn't that worth a couple of extra bucks?

Vegetable beef soup from last weekend

With the weather getting colder, last weekend I brewed up a pot of vegetable beef soup. I haven't made this soup in ages, and it turned out very tasty. The beef was incredibly flavorful and tender, and it is chock full of veggies. Great stuff to warm you up on a chilly day.

Of course, I didn't write down a recipe. But if I had to guess, I used a 2 ½ lb beef chuck roast that was trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes. I seasoned them with salt and pepper, browned them really well in a large Dutch oven, and set them aside.

Then, in the same Dutch oven, I sautéed approximately 4 carrots (slices), 1 small yellow onion (diced), and about 6 cloves of garlic (minced) for a few minutes until very aromatic and the onions were translucent. I added 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, about 8 cups of beef stock, and returned the beef to pot. I seasoned the soup with a generous amount of Italian seasoning blend and a good splash (2 tablespoons?) of Worcestershire sauce, along with black pepper and salt to taste. Bring it to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Once simmering, I added about 8 oz. of sliced crimini mushrooms, and two Yukon gold potatoes (cubed). Allow to simmer for a couple of hours for the flavors to come together. Right towards the end, I add corn and frozen peas (as much as you like), as well as some small pasta shells (which I actually cook first and rinse with cold water before adding to the soup…the pasta retains its texture better that way!).

Serve with oyster cracker, and enjoy the leftovers! This seems to taste even better on the second day.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The first pizza in months

I haven't made a homemade pizza since the summer. I felt it was long overdue.

This baby was topped with pepperoni, hot Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and black and green olives. Cheeses included mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a tiny bit of baby Swiss.

The pizza tasted so good after such a long hiatus. I did learn that my oven heats unevenly, as the portion of the crust in the back of the oven got darker than the portion in the front. I'll have to work on that.

I love pizza. :)

Road Food Pursuits - Wayzata Bar & Grill

Today for lunch I ventured into the town of Wayzata on the northern shores of Lake Minnetonka to have a little lunch. Wayzata has a reputation of being one of the "high rent districts" in the western Twin Cities suburbs, and there are a lot of upscale dining establishments that reflect this. However, there are good casual places to go as well.

Wayzata Bar & Grill
810 Superior Boulevard
Wayzata, MN

I stopped in at the Wayzata Bar & Grill. This is an interesting place in that it is owned by the City of Wayzata and has the municipal liquor store attached. Not too many restaurants can claim that they are owned by the government!

The bar is very nice and clean, with sort of a nautical theme combined with pictures of old Wayzata. The staff is very friendly, and it is the kind of place that still has a small town feel. Many of the patrons were conversing, and the servers knew most of them by name.

Their menu is classic bar food; burgers, sandwiches, several appetizers, wraps, and salads. I ended up diverting from my usual burger and went with the breaded fish sandwich.

The breaded fish sandwich at the Wayzata Bar & Grill

The sandwich consisted of a breaded cod fillet on a hoagie roll, topped with lettuce and tomatoes, with tartar sauce on the side. Sides included cole slaw, and I upgraded to the French fries.

A good fish sandwich should have some textural contrast between the bread and the fish, which this sandwich definitely had. The cod fillet was crispy on the outside, with a mild, delicious flavor, rounded out nicely by the vegetable toppings and some of the tartar sauce. Well done! The fries, while they are my least favorite style (those being the larger, thicker kind), were also well-prepared. Some sweet, crunchy cole slaw on the side, and I was a happy boy. The meal with a diet soda cost $11.35 before tip.

So if you are in Wayzata looking for a casual meal, look no further than the Wayzata Bar & Grill. Not too bad for government work. :)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thai one on

Last weekend, I made a delicious Thai chicken stir-fry dish with rice stick noodles.

The sauce component was pretty much the same as the fish sauce-based mixture of this recipe (minus the grated ginger), and I used cubed chicken thighs, orange bell pepper, carrots, bamboo shoots, yellow onions, green onions, mushrooms, garlic, peas, and ginger. (Nothing was measured, or course!)

With the ginger, I was inspired by a ginger chicken stir-fry dish I had at Sawatdee in Maple Grove last month. In it, they left the ginger in long, thin, matchstick strands, treating it more like a vegetable than a flavoring agent. Every so often you would take a bite and get this wonderful crunch and a burst of fresh ginger flavor.

I liked that. And I liked that in this dish. Combined with the rice stick noodles (which I am planning on using more often in my stir-fries), the Thai chicken stir fry offered a spicy and salty flavor with a variety of textures. And the aroma is torturing my coworkers (in a good way), as I have been enjoying leftovers for my lunches this week! :)