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Five Things I Learned While Eating My Way Through Spain

In 2016, I finally took my taste buds to the Eastern Hemisphere for the first time.  This chic travelled solo to Spain.  While in Spain, I visited 4 cities (Madrid, Barcellona, Valencia, Seville) and had a ball.  Spain is beautiful.  The people are amazing.  And the food is even more amazing.  While eating my way through Spain, this is what I learned:

  1. ‘Menú del día’ is a wonderful thing.  Menú del día means menu of the day.  Monday through Friday restaurants will serve a three course meal (includes bread & your choice of beverage for one price for lunch.  The choice of dishes are prepared with thought & precision.  And the  portion sizes are hearty since lunch is typically the largest meal eaten in Spain.  I found these meals my most enjoyable.  Below are pics from my menú del día at Toro Tapas in Madrid.
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    Vegetable & Potato Salad topped with Tuna

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    Grouper Fish in Green Sauce with Clams

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    Apple Pie

  2. A spanish tortilla in Spain has a different meaning.  Spanish tortilla in Spain is different than the tortilla made for tacos.  If you see ‘Spanish Tortilla’ on the menu, this is a dish made with eggs, onions, and potatoes.  I ate spanish tortillas almost every morning for breakfast at my hotel.
  3. Food tastes fresher.  It is what is.  Potato chips from a corner store tasted as if they were made with ONLY potatoes fried in oil with minimal salt without any extra added preservatives.

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    My Chip Fix

  4. Siesta is a ‘real’ thing.  Pay attention to the hours of operation for restaurants, shops, & other businesses you would like to visit.   Some places are closed for 2 to 3 hours before they reopen during siesta.  Side Note: You might want to carry a few snacks in your bag to tide you over until you can find somewhere to get a meal.
  5. Sometimes the best made plans occur when there is a change in plans. Piggybacking on lesson 4, I had 1 restaurant picked out.  I had studied the menu; but I failed to check the hours of operation.  Good thing that they were closed or else I would not have found a  vegetarian restaurant, El Estragón Vegetarano in Madrid.  And of course, I ordered the menú del día 😉
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    Salad with Feta Cheese

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    Broccoli Burger with Trimmings

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    Vanilla Custard topped with Chocolate

This was only a snippet of what I ate while in Spain.  And yes, I ate tapas & drank wine while in Spain.  But I will save that for another post.

I am looking forward to returning to Spain.  But in the meantime there are a ton of other places I must cross off the Dish Destination list first 😉

For the Love of Pie:  Sweet Potato Candied Pecan Pie 

Yes, it has been a ton of Sundays since I posted.  I apologize for staying away so long; but I needed to sort some things out while I adjust to my new environment.  Well, now I am fairly adjusted and I am back in the kitchen creating.  In time for the holidays, I bring you pie.  I give to you a recipe that combines 2 of my favorite pies: sweet potatoe pie & pecan pie.  Enjoy 😋

Sweet Potato Candied Pecan Pie

1 traditional pie crust

Candied Pecan Filling:

1 1/2 cup chopped pecans

3/4 cup organic sugar

1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

ONEAdd sugar, vanilla extract, and butter to a medium sauce pan on medium heat.

TWOTurn heat off.

THREEStir in pecans.

FOURPour pecan mixture into pie shell.

Sweet Potato Pie Filling:

1/4 cup unsalted butter melted

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large sweet potato baked (sppon out inards & discard the skin)

2 tablespoons milk

1/3 cup organic sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 pinch cinnamon

Little less than 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

ONECombine all ingredients, except for flour, into a food processor.  Blend until smooth.

TWOStir in flour to thicken mixture.

THREEPour, carefully, the sweet potato mixture over the candied pecan mixture.

Pie Layered

Layers of Yummy Goodness

FOURBake pie for about 40 minutes or until pie is done in the middle.

Slice of Happiness

FIVEEnjoy 😋😋😋

NOTEServe with whipped cream or ice cream. For an extra treat, sit some candied pecan filling aside & top pie slices with a dollop of candied pecan filling.

There is Nothing Little About It: Embeya (Now Closed)

For dinner, I chose to experience the Restaurant Week menu offered by a restaurant located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood by the name of Embeya. This sexy establishment is located on the northeast corner of Randolph and Jefferson.

Embeya

Embeya

Yes, I said sexy. Everything was inviting. The decor drew me in and the flavors kept me captivated and satisfied. I didn’t have to do anything but enjoy the moment.

By the way, I did have to decide if I wanted 3 courses or 4 courses. I proudly chose 4 courses since I had studied the menu earlier that afternoon. Unlike Blackbird, you received every dish listed for each course.

WARNING: Bring your appetite.

Embeya CRW Menu

Embeya CRW Menu

Embeya means ‘little one’ in Vietnamese. The Asian Progressive restaurant did not deliver a ‘little’ experience. Embeya exceeded my expectations with each course.

The First Course:

Octopus

Octopus


Green Papaya

Green Papaya

The Optional Course:

Clams & Grilled Quail

Clams & Grilled Quail

The Main Course (not showing Thit Heo Kho & Fried Rice):

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts


Garlic Chicken

Garlic Chicken

Dessert:

Pineapple Marmalade

Pineapple Marmalade


Creme Puff

Creme Puff

I am a fan of coconut. I found myself wanting to tilt my head back & slurp the remaining broth left in the bowl after I finished the clams. Instead, I remembered my manners and used my spoon to shovel the broth in my mouth. The octopus was a winner also. The octopus replaces kampachi found on the online CRW menu.

Embeya offers a restaurant week menu for lunch ($22) and dinner (3 courses for $33 or 4 courses for $44). Tax, tip, and beverage are not included.

I will be returning back to Embeya. I suggest that you make your reservation and you tell me how it is. The staff at Embeya will be happy that you stopped by. I don’t think you will regret it.

My CRW @ Embeya

My CRW @ Embeya

Grits with a Twist:  Roasted Veggies & Cheesy Grits

I know what you are thinking.  It is okay.  There are days I can’t believe it either & I wanna know what the hell am I doing putting vegetables in a dish that should contain a protein that runs and jumps.  

Lately, I have been eating less meat.  Truth be told, I feel a whole lot better now that I have consistently eat more vegetables.  I don’t feel sluggish.  I have more energy than I had when I was in college.  I’m kinda liking what I see in the mirror.  My stomach isn’t so flabby.  My legs are shaping pretty good. 

In order to NOT miss meat, I am remixing my own recipes.  My key to eating more vegetables is seasoning.  You can go from Cajun cauliflower to lemon pepper cauliflower by simply changing spices.

This flavor remix is to my Shrimp & Cheesy Grits recipe.  Instead of shrimp, I turned the flavor on an array of roasted vegetables 🙂 and black beans.

Roasted Vegetables

1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Head of Cauliflower
1 Small Green Zucchini
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Chipotle Chili Pepper
1 teaspoon Onion & Herb Seasoning

ONEPreheat oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
TWOClean veggies & cut into small pieces.
THREEPlace veggies in a bowl.
FOURAdd EVOO & seasonings.
FIVEToss until all veggies are well covered.
SIXPlace veggies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
SEVENRoast veggies in the oven for about 15 minutes or until veggies are browned.

Roasted Veggies

Roasted Veggies

Black Beans

1/2 cup canned vegan black beans rinsed
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

ONEAdd oil to a skillet on medium heat.
TWOSauté garlic & shallots until translucent. Be careful to not burn the garlic.
THREEAdd beans to skillet & sauté for about 5 minutes.

Cheesy Grits

1 1/2 cup shredded aged white cheddar cheese
1 ounce cream cheese
2 cups water (plus a 1/4 cup of water set to the side)
1/2 cup grits

ONEAdd water & grits to medium saucepan.
TWOCook mixture on medium heat.
THREEWhisk mixture to prevent from sticking.
FOURAs mixture thicken, turn heat to low.
FIVEAdd cheese to mixture & continue to stir until all cheese is melted.
NOTEAdd a little extra water if necessary prior to adding the cheese. If grits look dry, add a little bit of water.

Assemble Roasted Veggie & Cheesy Grits with Black Beans

ONEAdd grits to a bowl.
TWOAdd beans.
THREETop with roasted veggies.
ENJOY!!

Roasted Veggies & Cheesy Grits with Black Beans

Roasted Veggies & Cheesy Grits with Black Beans

It’s Not Goodbye. It’s Hello.

I missed soooooooo many holidays. I missed soooooooo many possible posts. This chick was busy making some changes before 2016.

I know July was my last post; but I was busy saying, ‘Until we meet again’, to my favorite city, Chicago. I traded pizza, lemon pepper wings, and State Street for clam chowder, sourdough bread, and Market Street. I moved to East Bay area of California.

When I settled in the Bay Area, I had felt the need to visit Brown Sugar Kitchen, located on Oakland’s Westside.

Brown Sugar Kitchen

Brown Sugar Kitchen

Each time I visited Brown Sugar Kitchen there was a wait. And honestly, the food was well worth the wait. Chef Tanya Holland’s soul food creations will make your taste buds happy. My favorite item on the menu is the Cornmeal Waffle. The light and airy waffle served with brown sugar butter & apple cider syrup truly dissolves in your mouth with minimum effort.

Chicken & Waffles

Chicken & Waffles

Check out Brown Sugar Kitchen’s website for the hours & location. I have added a few pictures detailing my taste excursion.

Chai Tea Latte

Chai Tea Latte

Brown Sugar Kitchen

2 Eggs, Chicken Sausage, Toast, & Breakfast Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

Brown Sugar Pop Tarts

Brown Sugar Pop Tarts

Roasted Garlic & Tomato Chunky Salsa: Small Appliance Review

Chips & salsa was my go to snack when I was in undergrad. And if I had a bag of Cool Ranch flavored Doritos and a jar of any medium salsa, life was grand 🙂 Since I had the opportunity to check out Hamilton Beach’s Wave Action Blender, I decided to take it back to the undergrad days and make a delicious tummy pleasing salsa.

Chips & Salsa

Roasted Garlic & Tomato Salsa

I had the opportunity to make a number of recipes. The Wave Action Blender performed above and beyond my expectations when I made smoothies and most dips. In less than 2 minutes, creamy smoothies were ready for me to devour. The 48 ounce glass jar allowed me to blend a week’s worth of smoothies to store in the fridge.

Hamilton Beach Blender

Hamilton Beach Wave Action Blender

My hummus recipe didn’t turn out too well in the Wave Action. I transferred the contents of the unblended chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, smoked ancho chili peppers, and tahini to the food processor to make a smooth hummus without having to add additional oil to the mixture.

The Wave Action Blender is worth sitting on your counter. The beautiful stainless steel base is one reason for you to jazz up your kitchen.

Roasted Garlic & Roasted Tomatoes

1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
1 pint red cherry tomatoes
5 garlic cloves
pinch of salt
dash of black pepper
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

ONEPreheat oven 250 degrees.
TWOIn a medium bowl, toss all ingredients until tomatoes are well covered with the extra virgin olive oil.
THREESpread the tomatoes out on a lined cookie sheet.
FOURBake for 20 minutes.
FIVEAllow to cool before putting them in a food processor or blender.

Roasted Garlic & Tomato Chunky Salsa

3 cups roasted garlic & tomatoes (recipe above)
1 diced sautéd shallot
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeño pepper (optional)
1 pinch salt (optional)
5 to 8 leaves fresh cilantro finely chopped

ONEAdd all ingredients to the blender.
TWOPulse ingredients for about 1 minute. NOTE: The longer you blend the mixture, the smoother the mixture will be.
THREEEnjoy!!
FOURRefrigerate any leftover, if you have any leftovers.

Chips & Salsa

Savor the Moment

Stay tuned to Facebook or Instagram for your chance to win your own Hamilton Beach Wave Action Blender.

Tasting New Orleans Part 2: Crescent City Cooks

Just minutes after starting my walk through the French Quarter, I bumped into a few shops along Chartres Street. I ducked inside one shop that sold unique kitchen decorative items, local food items, and regional cookbooks. On my way out, I saw a cooking demo class schedule posted outside the door of Crescent City Cooks located at 201 Chartres Street in New Orleans’ famous French Quarter.

Crescent City Cooks

Crescent City Cooks

I quickly walked back in the shop and paid $30.00 USD for Saturday demo class; and patiently waited for Saturday morning to arrive.

The demo class at Crescent City Cooks was more than what I expected. Chef Scott, one of the instructors, gave us a lesson in creole and cajun cooking while creating amazingly delicious dishes.

Chef Scott Giving A Lesson

Chef Scott Giving A Lesson

Arrive earlier, to make sure you get a great seat. If you don’t get a great seat, the remaining seats are good. Large mirrors & a large screen allows you to witness the cooking action.

See What's Cookin'

See What’s Cookin’

Before you arrive, I suggest that you only eat a light breakfast. Crescent City Cooks will make sure you leave satisfied.

Shrimp Creole

Shrimp Creole

Chicken Fricassee

Chicken Fricassee

Bread Pudding w/Rum Sauce

Bread Pudding w/Rum Sauce

After leaving Crescent City Cooks, you will be able to conquer the streets of New Orleans on a full tummy 🙂

Tasting New Orleans Part 1: Everything You Think It Is

Instead of going back to Miami, I decided to venture to a city that I have never visited. Everyone I know that had visited this city would talk about how great the food is so I had to experience it for myself. And yes, New Orleans is everything they say it is and more.

I am going to take you on a visual tour of the restaurants I experienced in NOLA:

DayONEKingfish

Pimento Cheese Fritters @ Kingfish

Pimento Cheese Fritters @ Kingfish

No. 10 - Crawfish & Green Tomato Galette with Sweet Corn & Red Bean Relish topped with a Poached Egg @ Kingfish

No. 10 – Crawfish & Green Tomato Galette with Sweet Corn & Red Bean Relish topped with a Poached Egg @ Kingfish

DayTWOThe Original Pierre Maspero’s

Shrimp & Southern Fried Fish Platter @ The Original Pierre Maspero's

Shrimp & Southern Fried Fish Platter @ The Original Pierre Maspero’s

DayFOUR

Café Du Monde

Beignets & Café Latte @ Café Du Monde

Beignets & Café Latte @ Café Du Monde

The Palace Cafe

Pomegranate Mimosa @ The Palace Cafe

Pomegranate Mimosa @ The Palace Cafe

Crabmeat Cheesecake @ The Palace Cafe

Crabmeat Cheesecake @ The Palace Cafe

Bleu Cheese Salad with Crawfish @ The Palace Cafe

Bleu Cheese Salad with Crawfish @ The Palace Cafe

The Praline Connection

Stuffed Crab Plate @ Praline Connection

Stuffed Crab Plate @ Praline Connection

DayFIVE

Mother’s Restaurant

Seafood Half & Half (Calamari & Oysters) @ Mother's Restaurant

Seafood Half & Half (Calamari & Oysters) @ Mother’s Restaurant

Pier 424 Seafood Market

Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish @ Pier 424

Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish @ Pier 424

DaySIXMr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House

Charbroiled Oysters with Garlic & Parmesan @ Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar & Fish House

Charbroiled Oysters with Garlic & Parmesan @ Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House

I could go on about each dish and each restaurant; but I won’t. I wish I would have saved Kingfish for last. The flavor combinations & creativity blew my tastebuds away. The unique Crabmeat Cheesecake at The Palace Cafe and the Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish (served with roasted mirliton, sweet potato andouille hash, and sauce meunière at Pier 424 Seafood Market did not disappoint either. Every meal I ate was great.

What was very interesting also is that three of the restaurants I walked into because I liked the menu, are owned by Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts. Go figure. The three restaurants are: Kingfish, Piere 424 Seafood Market, and The Original Pierre Maspero’s. Each restaurant has its own style while offering great food and good service (The Palace Cafe wins the best service award for this visit.)

And yes, I ate pralines. There are so many company’s that sell pralines in New Orleans. My favorite of all the pralines I tasted is Pa Pa Praline located in the outlet mall located along the river walk named (The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk).

And to cool off on the super humid & hot days, I went to The French Market for snoballs.

Peach Snoball @ The French Market

Peach Snoball @ The French Market

Kiwi & Cream Snoball @ The French Market

Kiwi & Cream Snoball @ The French Market

And no I didn’t skip DayTHREE. Number three will be part two of my foodie vacation 🙂

Branca Menta Chocolate Float

I had some Branca Menta left and I needed to do something with it. I just couldn’t let is sit in the cabinet and just age away. I am a firm believer that you should treat yourself from time to time. With a little chocolate sauce and some French vanilla ice cream, I made the perfect chocolate float by adding a few ounces of Branca Menta. The Italian mint liqueur gives your chocolate float a smooth and sexy taste

Chocolate Float with Alcohol

Branca Menta Chocolate Float

You know you want a sip 🙂 Check out the recipe below to make your own indulgent float.

Branca Menta Chocolate Float

2 Tablespoons Chocolate Sauce
1 to 3 Scoops French Vanilla Ice Cream
2 ounces Branca Menta

ONEIn a small glass that is about 8 ounces, add 1 tablespoon of chocolate sauce.
TWOAdd 1 scoop of ice cream.
THREEAdd 1 ounce of Branca Menta.
FOURRepeat adding the ingredients in the order above until you have a scoop of ice cream on top ensuring you end with a drizzle of Branca Menta.
FIVEAdd a straw and sip with joy!! Happy Summer!!

Celebrating National Iced Tea Month

June is National Iced Tea Month and what better way to celebrate is with a refreshing new recipe. Don’t settle on adding water to a dry mix. Whip out the tea bags to make a batch of fresh brewed tea. Did you know that fresh brewed tea makes the simplest meal taste that much better?

When the weather is hot, I love to snack. Veggies, hummus, crackers, and cheese are my favorite past time munchies. Add turkey sausage with other turkey based cured meats and you can create your own customized charcuterie platter.

Branca Menta

Good Times with Branca Menta

I added fresh fruit and the refreshing taste of Branca Menta. Branca Menta is a Mint Liqueur made in Italy. The smooth herb minty flavor is the perfect addition to fresh brewed iced tea.

Fresh Brewed Tea

4 Mangoes, cut in cubes
1 Pineapple, cut in cubes
8 Black Tea Bags
1 cup Sugar
1 gallon Water
1 cup Branca Menta (optional but suggested)

ONEAdd water to a pot.
TWOBring gallon of water to a boil.
THREEAllow water to cool down for about 5 minutes.
FOURPour water in pitcher.
FIVEAdd sugar & stir until sugar has dissolved.
SIXAdd tea bags to pitcher.
SEVENStir in Branca Menta.
EIGHTPlace pitcher in refrigerator for at least 4 hour or until cold.
NINEServe with fresh fruit. NOTE: To not water down your drinks, serve iced tea with frozen fresh fruit instead of ice cubes.
TENEnjoy!!

Branca Menta Iced Tea

Branca Menta Iced Tea