"I am not a glutton, I am an explorer of food." - Erma Bombeck

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mac n Cheese Quest Continues

So this post will be pretty text heavy. Sometimes I get hungry and forget to take pictures. Especially when there is something really tantalizing in front of me: like Mac n cheese.

1) Panera Break – Signature Mac n Cheese was fantastic! It is made with these cute little twisty elbow macaroni and Vermont white cheddar. Go for a cup! The bowl is enough for two! My only complaint: I love my food screaming hot (hot enough where you put in your mouth and have to and realize your mistake, burn your tongue, and blow in and out through your mouth to try and cool it down so you can actually chew). It hurts so good! Panera serves their Mac n cheese lukewarm and I sneak it over to the microwave by the coffee to make it hotter.

2) Daily Eats – Daily Eats Mac and 3 Cheeser was OK. That’s the best I can give it. I was disappointed because it tastes just like velveta shells and cheese and I can buy a box and just make it at home for way cheaper than they sell it. :( I WILL be back for their flavored Mac n Cheese but I need to keep in mind that the flavored varieties only are served at 5 PM.

3) Datz - Bacon Mac n Cheesiest. Was this on my list? I can't remember but if it wasn't it should be! I got the chance to finally try Datz mac and cheese creation the other day and I don't have anything bad to say about it. It wasn't the BEST mac n cheese I have tried, but it wasn't horrible. It was very. . . baccony flavored. Would I order it again? Probably not (and that is saying something); I just wan't impressed with the flavor. I am not sure what cheese they use but it was very bland and I had to add salt and pepper to the mac n cheese which I normally dont need to do. What's really sad about this whole experience for me is that they have a lunch class in which they teach you how to make 3 difference types of mac n cheese and they are all better than the one they have on their menu.

Want to keep track of my quest list? Have a Mac n Cheese dish to add? Go to my original Mac n Cheese Quest post here: http://nealesa.blogspot.com/2010/08/we-interrupt-your-regularly-scheduled.html

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pumpkin Ale Bread. . . I have to share. . .

in hopes that someone will make it for me! I am not quite a baker yet.

Anyway, found this recipe through Slashfood.com and I believe it originated somewhere on the Samual Adams website, but I couldn't find the link.

Photo Credit: Samual Adams

Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale Bread

Recipe created by Carlene O'Garro for Samuel Adams Brewing.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 cup Harvest Pumpkin Ale purée (directions below)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the sugar and oil in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed. Slowly add the eggs.

Stop the mixer and add the Harvest Pumpkin Ale purée (directions below).

Turn mixer to low-medium speed and leave it running for 4-5 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.

Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients. Mix for 1 minute at low speed or until all the ingredients are mixed together.

Pour the mixture into a greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, leaving room at top of pan for bread to rise.

Bake for 60 minutes. Check bread by sticking the center with a knife (when the knife comes out clean, remove from the oven). If needed, bake for another 5-8 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Once the bread has fully cooled, finish with a light dusting of powder sugar. Serves 8.

Per serving: 434 calories; 15 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat; 31 percent calories from fat); 70 g carbohydrates; 53 mg cholesterol; 492 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Pumpkin Ale Puree

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 bottle Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Combine all the ingredients and stir slowly. Set aside until ready to use.

What are some other good fall recipes you can think of?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thai Temple

This past Sunday, the husband who shall henceforth be renamed invisible husband (inside joke), my friend Mandy and I went to the Thai Buddhist Temple in South Tam. . . South. . . near. . . well, OK, its not south Tampa its more like in between Brandon and Ybor off of 301 (where you probably think the Tampa Bay would be, but there is land there).

Anyway, the Thai Temple is located in the Palm River section of Tampa and is open to the public on Sundays from about 11 am to 2 pm.

I had the pleasure of finding this little gem thought one of my coworkers almost a year ago. Every Sunday they serve up homemade Thai food for donations to the temple. The food is phenomenal! and I promise that I will start taking more pictures with a better camera!

This is their tasty Thai (ramen style) soup. We just learned this weekend that you can order in "small" "medium" and "large" which doesn't mean size, it means noodle size. Silly us have been ordering the "small" thinking that we couldn't eat more than a bowl this size!Friends and Family! I would like to direct you to the first picture of food in this blog. See that whitish ball of something? It has been a year but I finally discovered just today what that is! We have been debating it for quite a while and I am pleased to finally be able to say that I not only know what it is, but that it is quite tasty. That my friends is a FISH MEATBALL!

They also have pad Thai, and tons of curries just to name some of their savory dishes. I recommend their curried pumpkin! Did I mention the meat on a stick? Cant go wrong with meat on a stick!

Of course they have Thai tea (for $1). I like to sit in front of the Thai tea lady and order one and finish it in front of her and order a refill. It makes me happy :)

As you can see I LOVE thai Tea

The Thai people love their sweets as well. They have a huge table devoted to their desserts and we are making it a personal goal to try everyone. . . unfortunately we are not making it a personal goal to take a picture of everyone :( so I leave you with a pic of my friend Mandy (cuz shes a sweety!)
Seriously though, we have tried their tapioca, their coconut puddings, their black sticky rice with mango (yum), and my personal favorite their black sticky rice with custard on top. I have been known to drive to the Thai Temple just to get that dessert. This last time we tried their pumpkin custard. It was really bland :/

There's another station that just fries up yucca banana and other yummies. Those were good but not worth the 1 hour wait.

Overall, I would really recommend this tasty Tampa treasure to anyone who enjoys Thai food. It is tasty and very cheap. I think 3 of us spend less than $30 for our lunches with plenty for another lunch or two later this week.

Any other Tampa gems  I need to discover? Come on! I know you can think of at least one!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lonnie’s Deli WHY DO YOU HAUNT ME!

This is the perfection known to us commoners as Ron’s Sunny Bird. It is a concoction of turkey, bean sprouts, French dressing, and sunflower cream cheese served on their daily made wild rice bread. It sounds gross, but I promise. . .NO! I GURANTEE that you will eat the first half, groan in ecstasy and realize you’re full. Then about two hours later you will hear this small muffled voice that appears to be coming from the Styrofoam sandwich container, “Hey! , why haven’t you eaten me? I’m so lonely! Eat me! Eat me! I’m super tasty!”

And like that, you will swim out of unconsciousness to find that the last bite of the second half of the sandwich is going into your mouth. Because the sandwich is magical like that! Oh god, I think I’m having withdrawals. . .

Can you think of a food that sounds gross in concept but was fabulous when you ate it?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Falling in love with a woman from Oklahoma

Recently, I found this blog called the Pioneer Woman. It’s a woman from Oklahoma who lives on a cattle ranch with her husband, four kids, and a gaggle of farm animals (a gaggle? Is there a better word?) Anyway, I found her blog through another blog I was reading where the blogger featured Pioneer Woman’s HOMEMADE cinnamon roll recipe (drool) and while I feel that is too advanced for my cooking skills right now (and my kitchen is too small) she has some other great recipes that I have started to try.

Last Friday I took my 11 year old step son grocery shopping and we cooked  Pasta alla Betsy together. (Recipe here)
I was not only surprisingly easy (an 11 year old could do it, with my help) it was amazingly tasty! So tasty in fact, that I forgot to take a picture of it! . . . It looked just like hers though . . . true story.
Last night we tried her Steak Bites (Recipe here) and man oh man were they good! I added mushroom pieces to mine though and we paired it with some sour cream and dill (purple) mashed potatoes. I saw these beauties in the grocery story over the weekend and while they were a bit pricey, I wanted to try them out.

Word to the wise, the purple potatoes were a bit starchier than a normal potato. This led me to add a bit more milk, butter, and salt than I normally would as a result.

Next we are going to try her Beer Braised Beef with Onions (I'm getting fat. Recipe here) and her Homemade Chicken and Noodles (I can't fit into my pants but I'm making this this week)

What are some of your favorite chefs/cookbooks?

PS I want her cookbook for Christmas, kay?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer

. . . I love beer. More than liquor, more than wine. Does that make me coarse? Unrefined?

Well. I don’t care! I am a proud card carrying member to not one but THREE beer clubs in the Tampa Bay Area. I started one with my best friend in 2006 and a year and a half later I finished the “tour” of 110 different beers. #1 Old Chicago:

That was fun! They put my name on a wall for being a drunk! So I thought I would start it over.
But that’s not enough . . . we (husband and I) have also joined Mello Mushroom’s beer club and this lovely little place we have in Tampa called World of Beer. Their tour is 500 beers! We are about 10 in. Can’t wait for that one to finish!

Moreover, I love taking pictures of my beer.

I’m not sure why. . .

Its an arrow in my beer!

I am NOT a drunk! Seriously, beer clubs are a great way to explore new beer brands and tastes and have allowed me to fall in love with some favorites that I would never have thought to try otherwise! Some of m favorite beers are: Highlands’s cold mountain winter ale (seasonal), Anderson valley winter solstice ale (seasonal), anchor brewing Co. Anchor Steam Christmas ale (seasonal), Blackthorn Hard Cider, and Lost Coast Apricot Wheat Ale. All very tasty. The first three are full of spicy flavor (cinnamon and nutmeg) and taste like you are drinking a pumpkin pie. The last two are more fruity: the cider actually tastes like apple juice (with a kick) and the apricot wheat tastes like apricots.

One more!

What are some of your favorite brews/drinks(alcoholic and non alcoholic)?

Monday, September 13, 2010

A day in the life of my neurotic mind. . .WARNING! Insane ramblings inside!

I LOVE grocery shopping. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I love seeing/smelling/touching all that fresh produce, finding a new ice cream flavor or cheese to try. I am also not a grocery store snob. My favorite bread is at sweetbay, but my favorite watermelon is a publix etc. (it is a house divided :(  )
Yesterday’s dinner conversation (in my head) went like this. Ohhhhh! My coworker had pasta with tomato sauce and zucchini (hes so healthy, I’m so jealous). I want that for dinner!

OK. I am going to need zucchini. I will go to the grocery store! So I went to the grocery store and bought zucchini (actually Italian squash because it looks like zucchini and who the hell can tell the difference besides I couldn’t find the zucchini anyway)…aaaaannnnd hot dogs, hot dog buns, a watermelon (because its healthy!), cheese, more cheese, bologna, and ready in a box appetizers (because you never know when someone’s going to pop by!). Are all women as insane as I am when it comes to shopping? I went for frickin’ zucchini and frankly I didn’t get my damned zucchini. And I spend $40.

But back to food, because that’s what I’m always thinking about anyway. I was thinking. . . “Oh! I could put a spin on boring old spaghetti and tomato sauce! I could use canned tomatoes and roughly chop them, add some garlic and voila! . . . or I could buy fresh tomatoes and roughly chop them, add some garlic and voila! Canned tomatoes? Or fresh? Canned or fresh??! Canned have more lycopene (better for you), but I like the texture of fresh and I wouldn’t want an all squishy of the canned tomatoes and squishy zucchini (Italian squash). As you can see from the grocery list above I opted not to buy tomatoes. Because I think I will try this reciepe sometime in the near future with canned tomatoes. I will call it Des pates d’ete (summer pasta in French. . .it sounds more sophisticated in French). Notice I said sometime in the near future? I mean hopefully before the zucchini (Italian squash!) rots in my fridge.. . . because a lot of fresh produce rots in my fridge. . because we didn’t eat the pasta I went to the grocery store to prepare for. . .

So you ask? What did we do for dinner?

We had Chinese. (Yes, that’s my cat eating my fried rice)

Pee eeS

What the hell Publix???

Friday, September 10, 2010

Horray for Hummus

Funny story about hummus. First year in grad school I took a soils class on the recommendation of a colleague. She said that the teacher was amazing and I would love it. I did love it, but that’s not the point of the story. Point of the story is soil is made up of layers. Every layer has a name and an associated initial and they ALWAYS go in the order of depth. It goes something like this:

Sooooo. We are in class (either the first or second night) and the teacher asks does anyone know what the top layer of soil is called? Being the studious little girl I am and having read the material before class, I eagerly raise my hand and shout, “It’s hummus!” To which my teacher raises his eyebrow at me and says, “Nooooo. It’s humus (hugh-mous). Boy was I embarrassed.

Well. The other day my coworker made homemade hummus and brought it into the office and I was impressed. When I found out how easy it was (according to him) to make it, I had to try it for myself that night.


2 cans chickpeas (drained and rinsed)

Juice of one lemon (throw in some zest if you got it) approx ¼ cup

1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste, intenational food isle)

¼ cup olive oil

1 TBS cumin

½ tsp of salt

1/8 tsp of pepper

7 (!) cloves of garlic minced (3 if you’re a wuss)

Water for thinning


Combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini. . .EVERYTHING into a huge honking bowl (except the water!) and combine with your stick blender. My husband and I added the 3 cloves of garlic the recipe called for but we didn’t think that was enough, so we added more 2 at a time until we liked the taste. When everything is combined, it will be really thick. I mean REALLY thick, as in oh shit! Did we do something wrong? It smells like hummus, it tastes like hummus, but it don’t look like hummus. That’s when you slooooowly add a little water at a time to thin it out; some recipes call for the juice from the canned chickpeas, but frankly, that just grosses me out, so we used water. Next time, I am thinking of adding a liquid with more flavor (like chicken or vegetable stock premade from the grocery). All in all, I think we added a little over 1/3 cup water, but I have a feeling that will probably change from recipe to recipe.

Pretzels and hummus? Deeeelicious. . . . I had some carrot chips in the fridge from something else and I picked up this naan (Indian flat bread) from the publix deli.

I don’t know why I was ever intimidated by making hummus. The only strenuous part is using the stick blender to get a smoother consistency (my coworker used a food processor and his hummus was kinda grainy). It will never be as smooth as store bought hummus because the research I did on the internets suggested that hummus manufacturers actually use chickpea flour instead, but think about all the preservatives and additives you are avoiding by making your own!

And I don’t know about you but I keep everything for this recipe in my house on a regular basis but the tahini paste.

I also discovered, by chance a really tasty variation that involves ingredients used to make chili (chili beans, green bell pepper, tomato, corn, chili seasoning, secret ingredient (worchestershire sauce), and tahini), no oil needed, the veggies provide enough moisture.

Combine all that and add a healty scoop of cheese and sour cream and you're set!

What else can be falsely intimidating to make? ;)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dragon*Con 2010

Thinking back on my past experiences with Draong*Con, I am reminded how great it was when it was just a girl's weekend and how last year we had 7 friends essentially staying in the same hotel room on and off.

This year has been so low key. I managed to take the entire week off and had some extra quality time with my best friend who moved to Atlanta a few years ago. We have serriously eaten our way though Atlanta. We went to 2 nationwide famous burger joints, had some amazing barbecue, and some great homemade italian. Not to mention the mexican a few nights ago with the cheap pitchers or margaritas. And Dragon*Con hasn't even started yet.

I do miss everyone and I wish they were here to have fun and relax with me. I hope they can make it next year.

. . . Pictures to follow (or see them now on FB).


PS Did I mention the hour long foot and leg massage? No? :D It was awesome