Monday, August 24, 2009

Tapas Restaurant and Nightclub

Tapas Restaurant and Nightclub 3/5
Anything wrapped in dough and fried is delicious. I had my first empanada for the first time at Tapas Restaurant and Nightclub. My aunts took me and my sister there for one of my aunts' birthday. That night, there was entertainment from the belly-dancing group The Jewels that Raq. Admission to see the show is $10 a person, which doesn't include dinner. Darn. :P

The belly-dancing was interesting. A little strange and exotic, but enjoyable. They even danced with snakes, which they let us play with after the show. We talked with one of the dancers and she was very nice. It was also fun when they pulled up people from the audience to dance. One funny thing I noticed was that more women than men were smiling while watching the show. My family joked that it was because the guys didn't want to upset their significant others by showing interest in belly-dancing women. Haha. :D

I forgot to take a picture of the food, but the dim lighting wouldn't have gotten very good shots anyways. What we ordered was:
  • Antipasto Madrid: Combination with Tortilla Espanola, Sauteed Mushrooms, Crab Crouquettes, Chorizo, Empanada de Pollo and Albondigas $16.50
  • Roasted Piquillo Peppers: Marinated and served with Fresh Garlic $6
  • Chicken Marsala: Tender chicken breast topped with a Marsala Mushroom Wine Sauce, served with Bomba and Vegetables $15
  • Stuffed Chicken Breast: Chicken breast stuffed with jamon serrano, spinach and cheese, served with Bomba and Vegetables $19
The appetizer platter was delicious. It comes served on a bed of lettuce. We split up each item so each of us could try some. Everything was really tasty. I would order this for my meal if I ever came back (which I don't think I would...). My order, the roasted pepper was not that great. I chose red snapper for the filling, and it was only all right. Cream sauce good, but the texture of a roasted pepper is not that delectable. The two chicken plates were good, but my aunt and I thought they were a bit too salty. I could get better marsala and stuffed chicken elsewhere for cheaper. But, it is a Spanish restaurant trying to do Italian for those two chicken dishes. I bet if we ordered other real Spanish stuff, it would have been better.

Decent entertainment, decent decor, and decent food. This place gets a 3 out of 5.

Other than that, I love the look and taste of empanadas, so I made some with my friends at a baking party I had two weeks ago.
We made healthy vegetable empanadas. I'll post that up tomorrow!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Black Cherry Muffins

On the same day that I made my banana bread, I made cherry muffins so I could use the oven at one time. We had some dark cherries from a few sales at the supermarket, and my mom forgot that we had them. I took them out and decided to remake the fresh cherry muffins I had at Souplantation!

I used the Black Cherry Sour Cream Muffins recipe from Baking Bites. As I never have sour cream, I used vanilla yogurt instead. And I used whole milk instead of cherry juice. Whole milk really adds flavor to all these baked goods. Even though I did not glaze the top with an egg wash or milk, they came out shiny and moist. My sister asked if I did, and I said, "No, they just came out like that." I think it has to do with the yogurt and milk giving it a nice sheen. Pitting and chopping the dark cherries covered my hand in a dark red juice. This stuff really stains! But it was well worth it.

The first bite, I thought they were bland, but as you let the taste come out, it is a really good muffin. Not too sweet, just right. Perfect for a light breakfast or after-meal snack. The warm cherries are great too. I bet a little white icing drizzled lightly on top would be a tasty and pretty addition.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Best Healthy Banana Bread

My absolute favorite baking dish has to be banana bread. It must be because of how much I love bananas and sweet yet hearty breads. The combination is perfect. Ever since I was a little kid, I always had to have a banana every day. And I was picky, too. The banana had to be the perfect ripeness. Yellow with hints of green. Not ripe, but just getting there. I had a thing against those really yellow bananas. They were just too ripe and mushy. But...ripe bananas are exactly what you need for baking!

My quick breads are made with whole wheat bread for the hearty texture. I added graham cracker to the top, which added a little something extra to the banana breads I've had before. Man, when I ate a slice of this, I was simply in heaven. My face just goes into an expression of pure bliss and all I want to do is enjoy that bite forever. My mom took it to work and liked it a lot, too, even though I didn't use any white flour - all whole wheat! This made me pretty happy.

Graham-Topped Whole Wheat Banana Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1.5-2 graham cracker sheets, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour an 8.5" by 4.5" loaf pan.
2. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar in a large bowl.
3. Mix vegetable oil, egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix into dry ingredients.
4. Mix in mashed bananas. Pour into loaf pan, then sprinkle top generously with graham cracker crumbs.
5. Bake 55-60 min until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

My bread came out slightly moist near the middle when I tried it, but it was actually very good. The next day and following, the texture gets better in the bread. Enjoy this for breakfast or dessert; this is a great quick bread!

Friday, August 7, 2009

General Tso's Chicken

Chinese? Puh-lease. Delicious? Yes!

General Tso's Chicken is an Americanized-Chinese dish. As Racialicious de-mythifies: "General Tso’s chicken is unrecognizable to people in China. It is the quintessential American dish, because it is sweet, it is fried, and it is chicken." It really is just KFC, slightly less fried, and with Asian ingredients for the sauce. But, really. We all like how it tastes in America so we don't care if it's really authentic or not. Heck, I seriously don't care. This is a real tongue-pleaser! It hits the spicy, sweet, tangy, and salty parts of your tongue. Plus, it can be paired with almost any vegetables and rice. It is quick to prepare and it delivers.

My dad came home from work, ate a bowl, and later went up to my mom to compliment the dish. She replied that I actually made it! He came to me, with a beaming smile, saying how good the chicken was. It made my really happy and I shall for sure have to make it again.

(I got this recipe from some blog somewhere. I can't seem to find it now.)
General Tso's Chicken
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs hoisin sauce
3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
3 Tbs kethcup
2 Tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 lb skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
3-4 Tbs cornstarch (less is better, trust me)
2 stalks green onion, chopped
2-3 inch piece ginger, minced
1 Tbs sesame oil
Red pepper flakes (fresh or dried, optional)

1. Mix ingredients from brown sugar to water together.
2. Dredge chicken in cornstarch. Saute in pan over med-high heat until lightly browned. Remove from heat.
3. Using another pan, stir-fry the green onions and ginger in sesame oil until lightly browned. Add the sauce. Boil, then simmer until thick. Add cubed chicken and cook through.
4. Add red pepper if desired. Top with fresh green onions. Serves 4-5 people.

You can serve this with steamed broccoli, carrots, or cabbage
or just fresh lettuce for vegetable pairing ideas.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Got the Blues? Make Muffins!

Summer is that special time for berries, berries, and more berries! The entire food community is chock full of cool (in both meanings of the term) berry desserts and dishes that just highlight the vibrant colors of the season. Muffins hold a special place in my heart (and my mouth!), and the sound of "Blueberry Muffins" has such a wonderful ring to it. After going to Souplantation, my mom really enjoyed their blueberry muffin and their cherry muffin. The cherries came out piping out; so good fresh! The blueberry muffin I didn't taste, but they used tiny little dried ones, which are never as good as the real things!

Henry's Marketplace had a sale two weeks ago: blueberries for only 88¢! She bought a few cases. Also on sale that week (and for the past few weeks) were the dark red cherries. Dark, delicious, and juicy. My mom really liked the little muffins and asked if I could make them. I was so happy she asked me to bake for her!

I borrowed the blueberry recipe from Baking Bites. It's called Big Blueberry Muffins. The blueberries we got from Henry's were definitely big, and I added more blueberries than called for. I thought it was a good amount of blueberries, but my aunt thought it was too much. With so many blueberries packing the batter, I ended up making 24 scrumptious muffins instead of just 16. I tried to sneak in just a touch of wheat flour, but my mom could still taste it. Just stick to the all purpose flour if you got non-healthy eaters. Otherwise, this tastes very nice!