Saturday, July 29, 2006

Chan Dara...yummy and easy standard spot

Everyone needs a handful of restaurants that are part of their standard repertoire of places to eat out. Decent food, close to home, nice variety. For my bf and I, Chan Dara falls into that category. It is only down the street and their menu has a nice selection of inexpensive dishes as well as ones that are a little more interesting. We already had plans to do the Violet on Sunday thing for my bf's birthday but his actual birth date was on Thursday so we needed a to do something for dinner the night of his birthday. After a little contemplation, Chan Dara seemed like a nice choice.

I'm glad we went since we had a lovely time. We were both really hungry when we got to the restaurant and decided to split an order of the spring rolls. They were absolutely amazing, probably one of the best I have ever had. The rice vermicelli inside the roll was marinated in some sauce which gave it a very yummy flavor and the dipping sauce complemented the flavors very well. I was going to just get a salad, but decided to be a little more exciting and ordered the clay pot with clams. I love steamed clams and especially when they come in one of those clay pots. It makes me feel so earthy, like generations of people have been eating them this way. The sauce they were served in was just spicy enough for my taste and not too heavy. I also really enjoyed the bell peppers in the dish which went really well with the sauce. I wish the dish had been served with rice but luckily my bf got enough rice that he could share. I usually love the rice at Chan Dara since it is very chewy but it was actually a little too chewy on this occasion. I didn't mind too much though. Since we were celebrating a birthday I also got a super yummy mixed drink. I was being my typical indecisive self and couldn't decide what drink to order (their list is quite long). I finally decided on the lychee margarita. I love the Buddha Margarita from P.F.Changs, which is pretty much just a margarita with lychee. I was so excited when it came with a whole lychee in it!! It was super yum, I love the way the lychee flavor complements the lime and tequila of standard margarita. My bf got some beef dish which he said was very good. The food at Chan Dara isn't amazing but it is very good and all of the experiences I have had there have been quite enjoyable.

The Good: Nice ambiance, close to home, good food choices, nice variety on menu, yummy mixed drinks

The Bad: once I got the tempura and it was yucky...but who order's tempura at a thai place...silly me!

The Yummy: spring rolls, clam pot, stir frys, catfish

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Birthday Boy's Creation: Chocolate Cake, Toffee Frosting, and Banana Ice Cream!

Mmmm…I just love birthdays! I love to celebrate my own and I love celebrating others, especially since I get an excuse to bake!! Each year my mom always has to make for each member of my family our ‘favorite’ cake…Now, I love my bf and all, but he isn’t one to have ‘favorite’ dessert type things, which is okay, I can deal with that, at least it allows me variety. Last year I made him a homemade chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream. The cake turned out delicious, but due to a crappy freezer the frozen core of my ice cream maker didn’t get cold enough to freeze the ice cream. Oh well, at least that refrigerator eventually died and now my bf has a nice new one with a good better freezer...anyways, back to this year…when I asked my boyfriend what kind of cake he wanted, I think half joking he suggested chocolate cake with toffee frosting and banana ice cream. Since I love all three of those flavors and like making things that aren’t the same the same old thing, I replied with an enthusiastic "sure"! And I’m so glad I did since the results turned out fabulous!

For the chocolate cake, I used the recipe of the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box, which can also be found on their web site. My mom and I both swear by this chocolate cake recipe. It is only a couple steps more than using a box mix and the results are absolutely amazing. It is so moist, a little dense, and very rich and chocolaty. I love that step when you add a cup of boiling water to the batter and a delicious chocolaty smell rises up from the mixing bowl. Ohhh…super yum!

I wasn’t sure what to do for the toffee frosting, but I did a quick search on Google and came across this recipe. It didn’t really appeal to me at first since Cool Whip isn’t exactly one of my favorite things. However I know that bf loves it (and it is HIS birthday after all). Also, I thought that it would balance the richness of the banana ice cream much better than a more traditional butter cream frosting.

For the banana ice cream, I used a recipe out of my favorite ice cream recipe book. While usually I like to experiment trying to make a low fat version, I really wanted to go for some real ice cream this time (okay I admit I did substitute 2% milk for the half and half but still I did actually use real cream). The recipe it turned out so good it actually makes me want to give up on my quest for the perfect low fat recipe. The bananas I used were super ripe and it was almost too sweet. Good thing the cake was so rich! The combination of these three parts worked in perfect harmony to create an amazing dessert. The richness of the chocolate cake, the cool creaminess of the ice cream and light fluffy frosting all complemented each other very well. I can’t wait till next year to make whatever delicious combination my bf comes up with then.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Grain of the Month (GOTM) - Quinoa...yay!!

There are a lot of different grains out there that I don’t really have any experience cooking with such as quinoa, couscous, barely and amaranth. I have always wanted to branch out and try some recipes made with these, but often get a little intimidated or have a hard time picking a recipe. To help me branch out and try some of these recipes I am going to start “Grain of the Month” aka GOTM. Each month I am going to pick a new grain to try and then about each week or so make a different recipe involving that grain. This way I can try a few different recipes and get experiment with the different ways the grain can be cooked and enjoyed. Yum!

For the month of July, I choose quinoa. I have read so many things about this grain being super healthy and very versatile. Not only is it high in protein, but is also contains all essential amino acids, making it a great food source for vegetarians. It’s hard to believe that after all these years I’ve never gotten around to cooking with. There are so many recipes online that it is hard to choose one! Last week I made a recipe for Quinoa with Sesame Tofu that I found on the CookingLight website. Unfortunately, my first attempt at cooking with quinoa wasn’t a super success. I think I must have had the heat a little too high while I was simmering the quinoa and I kind of burned the bottom. Oops! I was going to throw it out and try the recipe again another night, but it was already 9pm and I didn’t have anything else to eat to go with the tofu I had cooked so I went ahead and finished up the dish. It actually wasn’t too bad and I really enjoyed the flavor. I didn’t find that the recipe had enough of a sauce (especially to mask the slightly over-toastiness of the quinoa) so I added a splash of toasted sesame oil and a little seasoned rice vinegar in addition to the soy sauce which helped a lot. The tofu turned out very yummy and went really well with nutty taste of the quinoa. I can’t wait to try another recipe!