Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mint Julep

Tonight I had dinner with a friend at a wonderful local restaurant - Mint Julep in Palatine. With rain pouring down outside and lightning flashing overhead, it was easy for us to feel like we were, indeed, settling in at the cozy restaurant in the South. After a long day at work, the wonderful cocktails on the menu were tempting, but I knew I had to try their sweet iced tea (my favorite drink). I also strong-armed my friend to let me order Fried Green Tomatoes for an appetizer since I have always wanted to try them. I was not disappointed! Of course, what isn't good fried, right?

Next, we both tried the soup of the day, a curry-ginger carrot soup that was smooth, creamy, carroty with a hint of spice. Even though I had the soup, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try the Brunswick Stew for my main entree. This hearty Southern stew made with barbecue beef, chicken, peas, and corn in a rich tomato sauce was the perfect meal for a stormy night. I brought some home with me and forced Stacy to try some before I even took off my coat.

At $10-$20 an entree, large portion sizes and a delightfully cozy ambiance, this would be a great place to recommend to Check, Please!

Next time, I am definitely going to have a Mint Julep.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Quesadillas, Rum, and Restaurants

Don't try to fool me - you're still reading because the rum caught your attention! This weekend we tried two new recipes and one new restaurant. Since our Saturday afternoon was cold and snowy - I decided to make cookies! However, looking through recently collected recipes revealed only doughs that needed time to chill. No time for that, I thought, and I decided to make the much anticipated Butter-Rum Pound Cake from Betty Crocker! But, alas, we were both disappointed. It had a nice texture and decent taste, but we both were looking for a moister cake with more rum flavor - something similar to the tasty goodness of Stacy's mom's recipe for almond-poppy seed cake that turns out rich and moist due to drizzle added during the last step of the recipe. We might try something similar with a Tastefully Simple pound cake to experiment.

While the cake was cooling, I tried another new recipe for our dinner - Roasted Corn and Goat-Cheese Quesadillas. Stacy loves quesadillas, but I cringe everytime he eats them in a restaurant since they are always served dripping in cheese and grease (no offense, quesadilla chefs of America). I also thought this would be a good dish to try to make using our new panini press. In the end, we were both satisfied with the meal that also included Rice-a-Roni Mexican rice (yum!) and black beans. The quesadillas were tasty, although a bit heavy on the goat-cheese side...probably because my container of goat-cheese contained slightly more than the recipe called for (but not enough for me to go to the effort of removing - .3 oz). Using the panini maker resulted in melted quesadillas, but they weren't as crispy as they probably would have been using the skillet as the recipe indicated. I do think I would make a variation of this again, however. The recipe was fast and easy to make, as well.

On Sunday, I needed to go to work unexpectedly so, for a special treat, we visited a new local restaurant and had a very nice time. Toscana Restaurant and Lounge in Rolling Meadows is a nice, intimate sit-down Italian restaurant. We had delicous bread, more bread in the form of bruschetta (my ultimate favorite) and I had Pollo Limone and Stacy had the Tortellini Paesano for our main entrees. It's special occasion spot, with entrees running from $13 and up, although maybe we will try their lunch and/or take-out menu sometime as well. The service was outstanding; the staff were friendly and attentive. I look forward to trying their version of garlic pizza. It is very nice to find a nicer place in our area - we're still looking for our "Cheers."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Re-inventing the Ramble

One of my New Year's Resolutions a few years ago was to give up doing New Year's Resolutions. Now I just make and break resolutions all year through! Right now, one of my mini-resolutions is to become a culinary and organizational genius.

What's that mean? I need to cook and clean more. Therefore, the last few weeks I've been making an effort to cook new dishes and "weed" various collections throughout our house. Therefore, I've decided to bring my blog back and document my progress - if nothing else than for my own amusement.

The most recent culinary experiment was Korean-Spiced Beef and Cabbage Rolls - a recipe that I saw last year in Cooking Light magazine. It was winning recipe from one of their readers that was inspired by my husband's favorite food from Nebraska - the Runza! I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon putting this recipe together and, thankfully, Stacy helped by making dessert - a rum pound cake also from CL. The dish was relatively easy to make - just a little more time consuming that I would usually like.

Honey was one of the dough's main ingredient, resulting in a light, sweet dough that I would consider using for other dishes as well. Overall, the Korean flavors were tasty, yet subtle. I would like to experiment with making the rolls smaller to create more of an appetizer snack bite, although I hope they won't be too hard to fold together. Additionally, I want to try adding different things to the filling - more vegetables and a little cheese.

The rum pound cake was carefully created by Stacy as he channeled his inner chemical engineer. It turned out ok - our favorite part was the mild taste of Captain Morgan's. Thankfully, a colleague at work shared a similar recipe with me today that might be a good one to try this weekend.