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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Blue-Tastic!

Are you tired of the same old boring ground beef?  Do the kids groan out loud when you tell them it's Meatloaf again?  Does the thought of hamburger helper make you throw up a little in your mouth?

Do you want a decent hamburger but cringe at the thought of shelling out $30.00, $40.00, $50.00, or more, for dinner?  Don't give in and don't give up.

Introducing, The Blue-Tastic, the all new super easy Food A Go-Go solution to making an amazing kicked up burger, right at home, for under $20.00 for a family of four!


1 lb. ground beef (FYI - hamburgers should have some fat left in them because fat adds to the flavor of the meat.  A hamburger that is too lean can be bland and dry.  Try using a beef that is 80 - 85% lean vs. 90 - 93%).

1 small package of your favorite Blue Cheese (I used Point Reyes Original Blue).

1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

1 tsp. cracked Pepper

1 tbs. French's Mustard

1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke

1 Four-pack of Hamburger Buns, or slider buns if you wish to make bite size burgers.

1 Tomato (optional)

1 Onion (optional)

Mayo to taste


Set ground beef out until it reaches room temperature.  In a bowl add beef, mustard, liquid smoke, salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Heat skillet to medium high heat and coat bottom of pan with vegetable oil.  Place burgers into pan and cook about 3 minutes per side for medium rare burgers.

When you flip the burgers wait one minute and then add the blue cheese, this gives it time to melt thoroughly.

Spread mayo on bun and add tomato and onion, top with burger and let sit one minute to absorb the juices.

Viola, an amazing gourmet burger your family will love and all for under $20.00  The Blue-Tastic, you will never pay those high restaurant burger prices again.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Beef's what's for dinner!

If I never said it before, I'm saying it now. Living with my brother has definite perks. The man is a genius in the kitchen. He should have his own show on the Food Channel. Tonight he outdid himself and that's a pretty high bar he had to surpass. He made beef wellington, mushrooms, and asparagas. If I thought that I was full last night, I was mistaken. NOW I am full. I can't even tell you how he made it because when I tried to help I was told to get the hell out of his kitchen...gotta love that! These photos are an in progress photo (pre-being-thrown out of the kitchen) and the other is obviously the finished product. And now I must explode.

It's called a doggie bag for a reason

Maggiano's is a very dog friendly place. They serve enough food to even bring some home for the most special members of the family. I'm not eating Science Diet Light tonight! Thank you, PETE for turning 75 and going out for your birthday. Thank you, Mom, for bringing some home to me. And thank you Shells for creating this blog. (Oh, and God bless God for making spaghetti).

PETE turns 75 in a big way!

If you read this blog, you know PETE. Wednesday will be PETE's 75th birthday!!!! We wanted to take him somewhere special (that did not serve a Sailor's Platter). My niece and I decided upon Maggiano's. If you've never had the experience of Maggiano's Family Style dining, then you haven't lived. Everything at Maggiano's is over the top big. There's nothing skimpy about their servings. On the family style menu you order two appetizers, two salads, four entrees, and two desserts. I was full after the salad. However, I did manage to taste three of the four entrees. And then dessert. And then also part of PETE's special chocolate cake. And cappuccino. My brother commented that he didn't know how Maggiano's manages to pack so many people into one room and still meet the fire code. It's true, the place is a mad house. Our server, Michelle, managed to make us feel that we were the only people she cared about. She even flirted with PETE and let me tell you, he flirted right back. We brought enough food home to feed all 9 of us again today. However, I am still full from last night.

So, our menu included Calamari and Bruchetta for the appetizers. I know Shelley is the Calamari queen, and I would like her opinion on Maggiano's calamari if she's ever had it. I thought it was good, but it lacked the sauce that I am used to with it. They only gave us some marinara sauce that I just skipped. The salad we had was a basic chopped salad and a kick-ass Caesar salad. I asked for anchovies on the side and they brought me a truck load of them. I was sitting between my niece and my son and I had to hear about how disgusting they were, but to me it made the whole salad. For the entrees we had Chicken Saltimbocca which is a lightly breaded chicken breast topped with fresh sage, prosciutto and provolone cheese and served in a garlic white wine sauce with carmelized onions. It's served with angel hair aglio olio. It was INCREDIBLE. We also ordered Coach Joey Z's Angel Hair Pasta with Sausage, Parmesan-crusted Tilapia and Four Cheese Ravioli. I didn't taste the sausage dish but I would recommend any of the other dishes.

Dessert was a whole 'nother adventure. NY style cheesecake with fresh berries and whipped cream? CHECK. Tiramisu soaked in espresso and coffee liqueur layed with Mascarpone, dusted with cocoa powder and served with chocolate shavings? CHECK. Chocolate Zuccotto cake with sambuca chocolate mousse, iced with chocolate frosting and dusted with cocoa powder? CHECK.

They had to roll me out to the car.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Catal in Downtown Disney

Hmmm, so my experience at Catal was at first annoying, then promising and then ended really, really badly. 

The Bon and I hit Catal on the last night we were in L.A., It was an extremely cold evening and Bon and I wanted to sit inside for dinner.  Now, Catal is unique in that it boasts three eating areas; a lovely second story fine dining area, an inside more casual restaurant and an outside area known as the UVA Bar.  The casual restaurant and UVA bar have a different menu than the second story dining area.

The hostess was no where to be found when we approached the restaurant so we stepped inside and huddled with several other groups in what turns out was the food prep area of the restaurant.  Very weird!  The servers were prepping plates right next to us and we all had to move several times as they took food out to the patrons of the restaurant.

The hostess finally arrived and told us it was a several hour wait for the restaurant.  Since we didn't want to wait (and we really weren't dressed for the fine dining) so, Bon and I put on our Big Girl pants and braved the cold and opted to sit at the Bar outside. 

This Bar would be really fun in the Summer (it was really beautiful all lit up at night) but, unfortunately this night it was just really cold.   Bon and I looked over the menu, huddled near the closest heater and decided to go with the idea we had had at the House of Blues to split an app and a main dish and we ordered the Calamari and the UVA Burger.

The Calamari was simply divine.  It was a baby calamari that was battered with a chickpea flour for the crust and served with fried basil leaves, a spicy harissa aioli for dipping and fresh lemon.  A really outstanding presentation and so flavorful I could have just ordered another plate (or two) for dinner.  Bon and I truly enjoyed this dish which ran about $12.00

Bonnie tried a few adult beverages (lemon drops I think) and she seemed to enjoy them.  The Bartenders were really pleasant at first but the experience turned bad quickly when the burger arrived.  The Uva Burger was described in the menu as a beef burger with caramlized onion-applewood smoked bacon relish, fresh arugula and Gruyere cheese for $15.00

Bonnie and I had ordered the burger medium rare with no relish.  The burger came cut in half (which was nice) but had thousand island dressing (with relish) on it.  I would have scraped the dressing off but Bonnie said she wouldn't eat it so we apologized profusely and we asked the Bartender to have another one made...NO RELISH PLEASE. 

The Bartender punched in the order and shortly (very shortly) another burger came out...It not only had relish but it was bloody rare.  Now, I usually enjoy rare meat but Bonnie was gaking, and I don't blame her, I mean it was seriously just warmed before it was served...It was basically raw meat. 

Now, at this point I looked at the Bartenders who were watching Bonnie and I and I swear they were waiting for our reaction.  On a side note, I simply don't trust any cooks that I piss off by sending food back, so when the Bartenders asked if anything was wrong my survival instinct kicked in.  Okay, I admit it! I am already a freak about sending food back and there was no way I was sending the burger back again.  I told the Bartender that there was again relish on the burger but that I would eat it anyway.  I urged Bonnie to just order something else so she chose the Hot Wings for $12.00.

Sooooo, the wings arrived and looked like typical wings, however, by the third wing Bonnie's mouth was on fire...They were so hot she couldn't taste anything at all and just couldn't eat any more.  And, she left the rest of the meal on the plate. 

When the Bartender asked if everything was alright I swear he was smirking...I gave up eating the burger and just wanted to leave at that point.  So for our $80.00 meal we basically got calamari and a couple of drinks. 

I wanted to love this place with it's lovely outdoor atmosphere and maybe it really was just one bad night for everyone involved...However, I cannot recommend Catal to anyone because it was such a miserable experience and way too expensive.

If anyone else has had a different experience at Catal, please share it with our readers because I am really curious to know if this restaurant is worth a second chance.


There is no crying at the House of Blues!

So, the Bon and I were in Anaheim, CA the last week of 2010 to celebrate her Birthday.  And, among the many challenges of our fun filled mini-vacay (wind and rain, crowds that actually closed entrance to the park) we, additionally, had the challenge of finding places to eat during the busiest week of the year at Disneyland. 

On the evening of Bon's actual Birthday, and after about 14 hours of park hopping and standing in mega huge lines, we were starving and were just hoping for a place where we could actually sit down to eat.  I initially wanted to find a nice place for an elegant Birthday dinner, but the wait at most of the restaurants was about 1.5 to 2 hours.  However, when we asked about the wait at the House of Blues (in Downtown Disney, a separate outside shopping mall adjacent to Disneyland) we were told that there was no wait at the Bar and that they served a full menu.  At this point that was a bonus so we headed in.

My first reaction to walking into the House of Blues was disappointment, it was like any other restaurant/bar chain.  There was no "magic" in the air, no sense of the mysterious, no aura of the Rock Gods that I know have played there...The only difference from any other eatery, that I could see, was the little room that sold music and movie memorabilia and House of Blues merchandise. 

Really Big Sigh.  I guess it wasn't my night to bump into Axl Rose, Paul Rodgers, Sebastian Bach or Bon Jovi who would fall madly in love with me at first sight and whisk me away from my regular life to join the band on tour. I am a Band-Aid (groupie) at heart and of course my life long dream has been to proclaim to one and all (and really, really mean it) that I am with the band!  Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh yes, food.  Sooooo anyhooo, amid my disappointment the Bon and I bellied up to the bar and Bonnie ordered a lemon drop and I ordered water (what else?) and we asked for menus. 

Our bartender (I cant remember his name) was really nice and pleasant and he asked all the right questions...He wandered off and another extremely nice bartender arrived and took our order.  Bon and I opted to split an app and a burger, specifically,  the Spicy Calamari which was tossed with a chili sauce, kalamata olives, parmesan cheese and lemon olive oil for $9.99 and The Bleu "Blues Burger" with sauteed onions,  bleu cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion for $12.99

About 20 seconds after we placed our order the calamari arrived and lordy was it GOOD!

Now, I'm not talkin' good as in it was alright, or it was passable or even enjoyable, this was seriously GOOOOOOOOD!  The squid was all chillied up and tossed with kalamata olives and drizzled with cheese and olive oil...It was a plate full of lip smackin' yumminess to be sure.

During this enjoyable app-fest a new bartender (Matt) arrived and the fun was on!  There is nothing better than a good bartender; a guy or gal who can get your drink right, can makes you feel welcome, can make you laugh, and make you want to come back for more...That was our guy Matt.  Matt even offered to buy/make Bonnie a special Birthday shot which she gladly accepted.

In a surprisingly short amount of time (considering the full to capacity crowds) our burger arrived and it was superb!  I couldn't find a picture but basically it was a giant burger piled with blue cheese, cooked to perfection and served with yummy straw fries.  Bonnie and I both loved this burger and raved about it for days.

You know its funny how first impressions really can be wrong.  When I walked into the HOB I had great expectations, then I felt a sense of being let down, but at the end of the evening the House of Blues had given me even more than I had expected.  I really had a great time!  The bartenders were awesome, the drinks (according to the Bon) were excellent, the service was quick, and the food was fabulous.  Plus, I think I might have seen Elvis peaking around a corner winking at me as we exited the building. 

See?  Dreams really do come true when you visit Disneyland and the House of Blues!


The Perfect Bite?

Okay, resorting to threats and throwing guantlets, Really Nancy?  What has the world come to when grown women and dogs start e-challenging people?  Seriously, we are truly a twisted generation of food freaks.

So to answer the challenge I am tossing out a mini blog about The Perfect Bite Co. and thier amazingly yummy perfectly perfected Gourmet Miniature Burgers with Carmelized Onions and Gorgonzola.  Yeppers, they are indeed perfect.  Perfect for an appetizer, perfect for individual snackage, perfect for parties (if you are in a frame of mind to share) and perfectly easy to prepare.  It doesn't get any easier than box to microwave right?

It all started with a seemingly innocent walk through the Nugget Market on a Sunday afternoon.  Then there "she" was at the end of the frozen food aisle offering free samples just like one of those Costco whores.  I mean seriously, who can pass up the free food offering...Clearly someone with much thinner genes/jeans? than me! 

The Nugget/Costo whore was offering samples of a goumet pig in a blanket, but it was the stack of burger boxes that caught my eye. 

So the Perfect Bite Co. with thier perfect Nugget/Costco whore had me at hello...I bought the perfect burgers for $8.99 and ate the whole perfect damn box.  And, I loved them, a perfect little succulent bite with a perfect dab of cheese and onions.  Good stuff!

I am truly a fan of Burgers on almost every level.  And, in some completely perverted mind meld marketing scheme the mini burger/slider is a fat chicks holy grail of burgers.  It's like I am eating smaller portions, or less, but really I can scarf all twelve baby burgers and somehow convince myself it isnt bad because they are so tiny. 

How perfect is that?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Some bloggers are annoying...

I'm not naming names, either, but my MOTHER doesn't allow me to cook. She doesn't take me out to eat with her. She doesn't even let me eat much other than Science Diet Light. What does she think I'm supposed to blog about? I don't want to give away my whole secret over here, but what I do is wait until she goes into the bedroom to spend time with that silly bird Zelda and then I sneak out to the living room where I can usually snag a few bites of whatever Uncle Jim is making. He acts like he doesn't like me but when nobody is around he talks to me. He says "Millie, you're not supposed to eat this, but don't tell your mom". I don't know why he calls me Millie, but if he's feeding me, I will not be correcting him anytime soon. Thank you Uncle Jim! Love, Millie.

Squash and Cream Cheese Soup

Now, I have never been one to toot my own horn, but I have blogged like a million more times than either of my partners. I'm just saying. I have also cooked two nights in a row which might be a record. The way I look at it, I have at least three more days until the 17 Day Diet book I ordered comes and I might as well make the most of it. If this soup doesn't want to make me become a vegetarian, nothing will. It's rich and creamy and buttery and perfect for a freezing cold winter night where were are AGAIN expecting snow. It's margarine and onions sauteed in the bottom of the big sauce pan. Added to that is 6 cups (about three) cubed butternut squash, 3 cups of water, 4 chicken bouillon cubes, 1/2 tsp of marjoram, 1/8 tsp of red pepper, 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Boil that for 20 minutes or until the squash is soft. Put it in a blender with two 8 oz blocks of cream cheese. Pour it back into the sauce pan to heat through if necessary.
I rule when it comes to blogging. So what if I don't blog for months on end? When I do, I do it all the way...not like my two deadbeat partners who shall remain nameless. I have thrown down the gauntlet.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moving boxes and buffalo wings

When I moved in with my brother it was meant to be only temporary. However, it's become a long-term solution and I am going to stay a while longer. My storage room that I rent wasn't big eough for all of my boxes and therefore the master bedroom of the house (where I have been staying) is piled with boxes. Part of the deal I made with my brother is that the bird, the dog, and I would move into the smaller guest room. The boxes need to go into the back room of the man cave downstairs. Luckily for me, my niece has a boyfriend who is built like the 23 year old farmer that he is. He's used to lifting heavy things. And he likes to eat. I just couldn't see asking my own son to drive all the way from the city to help me out when Caleb lives so close. So, I went to Dominick's and bought all the stuff to make some buffalo chicken wings and bleu cheese dressing (from scratch!). Here's his reward for coming over tonight and moving boxes into the basement. I suppose there will be beer to go with this. Yum...the dressing is fabulous!

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayo

1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles

1 tsp. white vinegar

chopped green onion



Mix everything together - sprinkle a few extra green onions on top.

The wings were just baked for 20 minutes at 500 and then coated in Frank's Wing Sauce.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Village Grind in must go!

On Friday morning I met my girlfriend at a little hole in the wall coffee shop in downtown Oswego called The Village Grind. I got a large gingerbread latte and a toasted bagel and cream cheese for $4.14. Yes...$4.14. At Starbucks that wouldn't have even covered the coffee! Inside this quaint little coffee shop there were comfy seats, tables with newspapers, friendly patrons and a cute little girl playing the harp. It was almost like sitting in your living room having coffee with friends. The building was formerly somebody's home and that's just what it felt like sitting there relaxing. It was great to spend time with Mary and catch up on everything and compare notes on our doggies. She is the new Mommy to a dog that I had back when I left for California. She has been the BEST Mom to Millie and I know I made the right decision when I chose her to succeed me. But back to the Village Grind. If you are local to Oswego and haven't been - definitely go. If you are not local to Oswego, then book a flight and go. Seriously. It was SO MUCH FUN!

The treat with the most bang for the buck

I know it's been a long time since I've posted! But Mom took me to PetsMart the other day and we picked out a few treats and I just had to share about this one I like the best. It's by Canyon Creek and it's chicken wrapped raw hide. I KNOW! You are all thinking that this sounds too good to be true. Even Mom is happy because this is one treat that takes me about 10 minutes to eat. Usually I just inhale the treats she gives me, but this one is a little harder to get through and it gives Mom a few minutes to herself and I just love it! So listen, my fellow canines...tell your Mom or Dad to get to PetsMart pronto and look for these treats. They will be happy and you will be happy. WIN-WIN.