Sunday, March 7, 2010

Another giveaway - whoa!

Apparently it's the season of awesome blogs giving away awesome things. Love and Olive Oil is giving away a set of Chef'n baking goodies - take a look!

(New post soon with a TON of sneak peeks at what will be coming!)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sweetest Kitchen giveaway!

I hope you guys all know about The Sweetest Kitchen. It's a great food blog. You should check it out.

They're celebrating their first birthday over there and having a great giveaway. Check it out!

Good old home-style cookin'.

I figured it out! Pictures! Woohoo!

So I thought that my first-ever recipe post should be about something that I love, something that has significance, something that might remind you all of your own childhood... I chose meatloaf and garlic bread.

Yes, meatloaf. The word itself is a mystery; though it's quite an appropriate moniker, nobody really wants to eat a loaf of meat. A side of beef, sure, or perhaps a chicken breast or pork shop. But meat loaf? Come on.

This is the dish that I taste whenever I think about it. Everyone has had it, for better or for worse, but rarely is the dish the same from person to person - everyone makes it differently. Some make it spicy, some sweet, some savory. I make my mother's meatloaf and my father's meatloaf (two very, very different creations) all at once, and I love it.

This is my mother's recipe because it was she who first taught me about meatloaf. I still use, for the most part, her proportions and basic ingredient list. It is also my father's recipe because I take a very clean-out-the-pantry approach to meatloaf; that is, with the exception of a few basic ingredients, I have no problem swapping out one thing for another, or using chopped where I usually use fresh.

I tacked garlic bread on here because I love garlic. It is, hands down, my favorite flavor/seasoning/spice, whichever you choose to call it. I heart me some garlic, and I love bread, so I pair this easy side with lots of meals. (Or with no meal. With just hungry me.)

I'm going to caution you now: neither of these recipes really has measurements. It's really a to-taste science in my household. I will, however, do the best I can for you; if you try it and think "Hmm, this is really missing some ___," the spirit of the recipe is to go ahead and put that in next time. For example if you love dill weed, go ahead. Do it. I hate dill weed, so nothing I put on here will ever ever contain it. (On the other hand, if you like rosemary, you and I should be friends.)

I was cooking for two people with leftovers in mind (because who doesn't like meatloaf sandwiches?). I started with a whole bunch of ingredients:

The first step is to preheat the oven to 350F. Next, put the meat in the bowl. I have here roughly two pounds of ground beef. (I use beef; again, in the spirit of use what you have or what you like, go with turkey or anything else if you prefer). The one proportion that I will stick to is this: one egg for every pound of beef. It's quite necessary to stick with this, or the meat just won't stay together. It will be delicious, but it will be crumbly and not loafy. You have been warned.

Put the sauces and spices in with the egg and meat mixture. This is far from an exact science when it comes to measuring; for a two-pound loaf,I use about a quarter cup each of ketchup and barbecue sauce (flavored or not, it's based on what you like/have); and a little less tan that of mustard. The spices are a pinch of this and that; it's to-taste, so I'm not going to tell you how much you have to put in. For mine, I usually dust over the top of the mixture with each spice so it's powdery on top.

At this point, you should have everything in the bowl but the bread crumbs. This is where it gets messy... wash your hands and dive in. Mix it thoroughly, then wach your hands again to get the raw egg and meat of before moving on. It should look like this:

It's a bit of a wet mess at the moment (more of a meat puddle than loaf).Since we're not going for puddle, it's time to add the bread crumbs to thicken it up a bit. Start out with about half a cup and mix it in. You'll have to go by feel here to see if you need more; you want to be ale to shape it, but for it to still be nice and moist. Try making a little meatball out of it when you think it's ready. If it holds its shape, it's good. Don't be afraid to add more bread crumbs if you're unsure; more barbecue sauce can be added if you overdo it a little. Once it's a good consistency, shape it into a loaf in a baking pan. For a bigger loaf, I'd use a 9x13 dish, but I have a smaller one on hand for situations like this.

Bacon time!

Take the bacon in its handy pre-cut strips and place it, in neat little rows, across the loaf.

When you've finished, it will look something like this. It's probably about 1/3 lb. of bacon, all told.

I love bacon, so I cover the whole loaf, but it's by no means necessary. If you're not a fan (gasp!) or are watching your health, cut it. Adaptability, remember? (On second, thought, if you're watching your health, you should probably go ahead and make something else. It's tasty, not good for you.)

Stick the whole thing in the oven. It will be an hour until it's edible but a little wobbly; this is how I prefer it, a little pink in the middle but otherwise cooked, since I do the leftovers thing and don't want it to dry out too much. If you want it a little more well-done, leave it in for an extra ten to fifteen minutes.

Awesome. You're almost ready to eat this meaty monstrosity... but wait a minute, it looks a little lonely on the plate there. Let's make him some garlic bread so he doesn't have to sit there all alone!

Now, I'll say this here: don't make your own bread for this. You can, of course, if you want to, but I always buy mine from Jimmy John's. You can get a day-old roll there for 50 cents, which is way cheaper than the ingredients it would take to make it. If you don't have a Jimmy John's (or they're - gasp! - out of bread), get a baguette from the grocer's. This is an easy meal. We'll worry about making our own in the future. Maybe.

This will go into the same 350F oven as the meatloaf, so you can prepare this while the loaf is baking and stick it in when it's almost time for the meat to come out.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil for super-easy cleanup (highly, highly recommended here - the cheese and butter can melt all over the place). Cut the bread in half (I'm still cooking for two people) and put half away. It will keep for a few days wrapped in its paper inside a plastic bag. Cut the half you kept out into eight pieces and lay them on the cookie sheet. (Cut the very end off so it lays flat. Eat it. Or wait a minute and dip it into the extra garlic sauce and then eat it. Mmmmm.)

Put 4T butter (half a stick) in a microwave-safe bowl and melt it. It usually takes about 45 seconds on fu power in my microwave; it might be a little more or ess in yours, but don't ut it on for too long or it'ss pop in there and make a mess. Take it out (be careful, the bowl is probably very hot) and stir in a heaping 2t minced garlic and 2T Parmesan cheese.

Spoon the mixture onto the tops of the bread, spreading it as evenly as possible between the pieces. There will be some left over, so don't wory about globbing it all on there. (This is your opportuinity to taste-test - stick that bread end from before in here and chew happily.) When you're done buttering, break each slice of provolone cheese into quarters and put one slice on each piece of bread.

Stick it in the oven when there are ten minutes left on your loaf. It will come out looking like this:

At this point, everything should be out of the oven and delicious. Dig in, Use that extra butter as dipping sauce for your bread. Enjoy. You have conquered meatloaf (and, quite possibly, developed an addiction to garlic bread).

Meatloaf and Garlic Bread
The idea for these recipes is adaptability. This is the basic recipe that I follow, but if I have some fresh garlic I'll use that instead, or if there are some leftover peas in the refrigerator... you get the point.

2 lbs. ground beef
2 eggs
Barbecue sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Seasoned salt (I use Lawry's)
Garlic powder (or fresh garlic)
Onion powder (or chopped onions)
Other seasonings as you like
Bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350F.

Put all but the bread crumbs and bacon into a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hands until everything is incorporated. Add bread crumbs until meat holds a shape. Form into a loaf in a baking dish. Cover in bacon.

Bake for 1 hour for tender, falling-apart loaf; 1h15m for firmer loaf.

Garlic Bread
1/2 baguette (I get mine from Jimmy John's)
4T (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2t minced garlic
2T Parmesan cheese
2 slices provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.

Slice the baguette into eight equal-sized slices. Cut the very end of so the bread will lay flat. Lay on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Melt the butter (45s) in microwave. Mix in Parmesan cheese and garlic. Spread evenly on bread slices. (There will be leftover butter.) Break provolone slices into quarters. Put one piece on each slice of bread.

Bake 10m or until cheese is melted but not burned.

Use extra butter sauce as dipping sauce. (It's also great as a mix-in if you're serving the bread with mashed potatoes.)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Looking for Mexican food that's more authentic than Taco Bell?

There will be pictures with these posts eventually, I promise. I just need to figure out how to get the photos I’ve taken from my camera to my computer. (Anyone know, offhand, how I can download pictures from a Fujifilm Finepix? It came with a USB 2.0 cable, which doesn’t play nicely with my Mac…)

Anyway, another restaurant review for now. I’ll do recipes when I can do pictures.
This time we’re going for Mexican!

Taco Riendo
1301 North 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122-4303
(215) 235-2294

This is my personal favorite for cheap and authentic Mexican food. They open at nine every morning, and though they do serve breakfast until noon, I’m more into ordering a burrito de pollo (chicken burrito) for breakfast. Yes, delicious chicken burritos for breakfast. Life is good.

Their food is good, and it’s cooked fresh when you order it. They’ll do everything from guisados (a sort of stew) and enchiladas to ensaladas (salads) and quesadillas. I personally love the burritos here, and have ordered most of the options on the menu in regards to fillings for those tasty tortillas. The chicken is, by far, my favorite, and at $6.50, it’s one of the cheapest on the menu (that, my friends, is a win-win). The tacos are also good – they’re tasty and filling, but for some reason, I enjoy it when my food is wrapped up in its own edible packaging.

If you don’t do spicy, you can do as my sister does and order a quesadilla with only cheese. It is, literally, a tortilla filled with cheese, folded over, and fried. That’s it. She ate it and loved it.

A few tips for eating at Taco Riendo: always, always, always start with the chips and salsa. They’re fresh-fried tortilla chips, they’re crunchy, and they’re tasty. You’ll especially want to do this if you’re really hungry, because as I mentioned, they make it when you order it. It’s gonna be a few minutes before you get your food.

Tip two: don’t bother getting a soda. Ask for a cup for water. There’s a pitcher on the counter, and you can refill your little cup as many times as your heart desires. If you’re especially susceptible to spicy foods, this is the drink option for you. (Even if you don’t order things spicy, well, everything’s cooked on the same griddle here. You’re going to get some flavor.)

Tip three: save room for some Mexican coffee. Sometimes they have it, sometimes they don’t, but it’s worth the extra couple of dollars to nab some if they’re got it. If you’ve ever seen Mexico: One Plate at a Time (the Rick Bayless show on public access), then you’ve seen this delicious drink. Rick calls it cafĂ© de olla, which roughly translates to “saucepan coffee.” It’s made with a blend of spices and sugars and coffee itself, and is more of a dessert than anything else. Even non-coffee drinkers have enjoyed it. Give it a try. It’s wonderful. (We’ve figured out how to make a cheater-pants version at home. Perhaps that will be a future post, if anyone’s interested.)

Tip four: this one is less of a tip and more of something you can’t forget about his place. They only take cash. I’ll say it again, just so you see it again, and so it sticks: you must bring cash to Taco Riendo. You can’t use a credit card, and though I’ve never tried it, I’m willing to bet they won’t take a personal check, either.

So why do I prefer Taco Riendo to some of the other, more popular Mexican places in Philadelphia? One, it’s less crowded than, say, Taqueria Veracruzana (which is also delicious, not knocking them at all). There just aren’t as many people who know about this great spot, so it’s rarely as crowded. Two, it’s cheap. I can get a full meal for about ten dollars, and it’s enough food to fill me up for the day. Three, it’s absolutely authentic. You can hear Spanish flowing from the windows from patrons and staff alike. I can (and often do) order entirely in Spanish, though you can order in English with no repercussions if you’d prefer. Four, it’s between Spring Garden and Girard, both of which are pretty big streets, so it’s easy to get to.

So, the next time you’re in the mood for some Mexican food that actually has connections to Mexico, head on down. I’ll be the one in the corner with a chicken burrito at ten in the morning, Mexican coffee in hand and a blissful smile on my face. Ladies and gentlemen... this is my happy place.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sushi. Oh, how I love sushi.

Here's a conundrum for you to chew on: I love sushi with a passion, but I won't eat cooked fish. Won't touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Feel free to mull over that for a minute before moving on. Ready? Okay.

I've had sushi at a lot of different places, both in and out of the city. There is good sushi and there is bad sushi... and then, once in a while, there is some seriously awesome sushi. This is that kind of sushi.

Mixx Asian Bistro
1002 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 923-1190

They're affordable, they have a huge selection, and everything there is very, very good.

Mixx is tucked in the middle of Chinatown on a part of the street that smells absolutely heavenly. The outside of the building doesn't look like much; a door beside a window, a dark interior only somewhat visible through the glass. Don't let it fool you. Go inside.

You will immediately be presented with a choice: do you want to order a la carte, or do the all-you-can-eat option? You can ask for both menus to peruse your options before making the decision. I like the variety offered by the all-you-can-eat, but if you're really aching for something on the other menu (or don't think you'll eat your money's worth) by all means, go for the a la carte.

I've been to Mixx so many times that I have a regular order, which the wait staff knows, and I rarely deviate from what I've deemed delectable. The salmon here is some of the best I've had, and the tuna is always a sure bet. I have a friend who swears by the mackerel. The tempura rolls are decent, though far from the best on the menu. The miso soup that comes with the all-you-can-eat is good, and the salad is light, with a dressing that helps set you up for your meal. I haven't had too many of their special rolls, but from what I have experienced, I'd say they're probably all great. Just stay away from the fried banana roll.

The all-you-can-eat is $24 a person. They give you a special menu from which you can order (a two-sided piece of 8-1/2x11 paper with extensive listings) and it includes a miso soup or salad. The a la carte begins at $4 for two pieces of sushi or sashimi and $3 for a roll. They serve other things as well, so if you're in the mood for some great sushi but are with some non-believers, Mixx can stay on the list. There's a menu posted over at, but I was unable to verify how recently it's been updated. (It looks pretty close to what I remember of the menu.)

I recommend parking a block over on Filbert - it's a lot easier to find a spot near the bus station than right in front of the building. Also, be careful to check where you park - sometimes they don't mark the handicapped spots very well, and that's a big, sad ticket at the end of an awesome meal.

So, what's your favorite sushi place in or around Philly? Anywhere I should avoid? What are your thoughts?

...and we're off!

I'm Karisa, and I'm a teacher, a student, a baker, and a foodie living in Philadelphia. I love eating; that's something you should probably know. I love baked goods. I love pasta. I love spending time in the kitchen (on the cooking side; not a fan of dishes). I love my cat (she also loves baked goods).

Hmm... what else?

My plan for this blog is to review recipes and restaurants that I love (or don't love). I know that this is just another blog about food in a sea filled with some big, big fish, but I'm hoping to make my own splash. (I also love metaphors, though I will try, for your sake, to not use them too often.)

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Let me know! I promise to read every comment that comes through this blog, though I won't be able to respond to all of them.

So, to be perfectly cliche... bon appetit!