Recent restaurants – Teela Taqueria, Tsunami Taqueria, Stoney River

January 28, 2012

So, I don’t believe in cooking for 1, so I’ll be eating out a lot more now that I’m single again. The one exception will be that I am going to learn to cook very expensive fish, and also developing vegetarian recipes for devoted carnivores. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, I have had some interesting meals at Atlanta area restaurants, and I want to share my thoughts. Not interested in my thoughts? Stumble now 🙂
Stoney River steaks: Yeah, it’s a chain. Slightly more expensive than your Longhorn but the ambiance and service were a lot nicer. Their standard rub contains rosemary, but they’ll leave it off if you ask. While it was not overpowering, I thought it was unnecessary, as the steak itself was large, well-trimmed, and properly cooked medium-rare. The potato choices? Meh on the gratin. Next time, I will have a straight up baked potato. It’s really the perfect foil for a nice steak. And they actually had an albarino on the wine menu. Albeit pricey. (Don’t hate on me for drinking white with steak.)
Next up: after a photo exhibition, we went to Tsunami Taqueria. This is almost identical to favorite Teela Taqueria, but way hipper and louder. While Teela seems to cater to people my age. Tsunami was mostly populated by twenty-somethings on dates and in fairly big groups. Both places serve individual tacos for $3-4, making for a fun, inexpensive dinner. I actually favor Teela’s food over Tsunami’s, but if I was young and out for before/after drinking fare in Buckhead, Tsunami would be a winner.


Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars

January 28, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars
Source:  adapted from My Baking Addiction


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Cheesecake Filling:
10 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 purchased graham cracker pie crust
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
2. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Mix in the flour on low speed, and mix until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips. Set aside.
3. Cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla on low speed just until incorporated. Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared crust. Using your hand to form clumps, distribute the cookie dough onto the top of the cheesecake batter in teaspoon-sized clumps. Be sure to use all of the dough.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top feels dry and firm (the cookie dough) and the entire pan looks set if given a gentle shake.
5. Eat warm or chill.

The Cookies

October 25, 2011

So, I made some cookies that have become known as “The Cookies”. They are a nut butter cookie, less edgy than peanutbutter cookies. The nut butter gives them more personality than simple sugar cookies. They are quite awesome. They include cashew nut butter, which is super easy to make. I am thinking of trying pistachio nut butter, but pistachios are way too hard to shell. I’ll post again if I give in and do pistachios.

cashews, the kind in a can (Planters) or the big plastic container from Costco
canola oil
1 stick of butter
1 egg
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour (self rising…not sure what would happen with all purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
If you use unsalted nuts and/or unsalted butter, you probably want to add some salt.
Process nuts in a food processor until they are pretty well ground up. I keep mine a little chunky for texture. When nuts are decently ground, trickle in the oil until you get a nice nut butter texture.

Combine 1/2 cup nut butter, butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla in a bowl and mix well. Add dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. Bake at 375 degrees for ~11 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven.

Maryann’s Church Potluck Chicken and Rice

March 7, 2011

I have two really great memories from church from when I was really little, before I started enjoying church for its own sake (and mine!). One was that sometimes if we were really, really late, mom would decide we were too late to go in, so she’d take us to a (presumably Jewish) bakery near the church and we’d get brownies. Cut her a break, folks; she was a 25-year-old widow with 2 kids. Good on her taking us to church at all! My other great memory of church at that time was that they’d have potlucks, so you’d have all these neat things to choose from. But I never ate the other stuff, I always ate my mom’s chicken and rice! I have no idea how close this recipe is to her circa 1960s version. The whole thing is very flexible so it is great for slapping together with what you have. And of course, you can change the amounts to accommodate however many people you’re serving.

1 cup Jasmine or Basmati rice
3 cups chicken stock OR water + Pollo y Tomate (boullion, in the Mexican section LOVE THAT STUFF!)
3 boneless skinless breasts cut into 2 pieces each (pretty sure mom used a whole chicken cut up)
1 package “baby” carrots (or less, depending on how much you heart carrots) Of course you can use peeled, cut regular carrots
1/2 medium onion, cut in smallish chunks (I always use Vidalias)

In a cast iron skillet or nonstick fry pan, sear the chicken pieces in a small amount of oil, just to brown; season with salt and pepper. Remove to a casserole dish. Add 1 TB or more of butter to the pan, then brown the rice VERY slightly. You mostly just want the rice to become opaque with just a few grains actually browning. Heat the stock or bouillon water in the microwave. Lately, I’ve been putting the carrots in a bowl with the stock and microwaving all until it’s fairly hot. This seems to get the carrots cooking quicker; they are the long pole in the tent (business buzzword bingo). Add 2.5 cups of broth and everything else to the casserole dish, making sure the rice and broth are evenly distributed and the chicken pieces are on top. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 mins. This is an art, folks, not a science. You will need to check the rice after about 20 mins and make adjustments as needed to get the rice to the consistency you want. You can have firm rice or moister rice by a) adding more of the broth (moister) b) removing the foil (drier). If you want saltier rice, you can also dissolve salt or pollo y tomate in the water or broth you add after testing.

Optional additions: a pinch of one or more of thyme, tarragon, and/or basil

Butternut Squash Ravioli

November 21, 2010

I’m a big fan of simple dishes that don’t require a lot of prep time, but every once in a while, perhaps for a special occasion, I’ll do something very labor intensive. Butternut Squash Ravioli definitely qualifies. But they are wonderful — smooth, creamy, and rich.

1 medium butternut squash
1 small shallot
1 small clove garlic
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup montery jack or gruyere cheese
2 eggs
1 package wonton wrappers

Cut the butternut squash into large pieces and remove any seeds. Toss with olive oil and salt, then roast in a 375-degree oven until soft (about 45 minutes). In the meantime, finely mince the shallot and garlic, then saute in butter until translucent. In a bowl, whisk one egg, then add the cheeses and the garlic mixture. When the butternut squash is done, scrape the flesh away from the peel and puree it in a food processor or blender, then add it to the cheese mixture.

Prepare trays or cookie sheets by placing a piece of parchment paper or foil on them, then sprinking lightly with flour. Whisk the egg in a small bowl.

Have a seat and turn on something good on TV; this is going to take a while. On a plate or work surface, place one wonton wrapper, then brush lightly with egg, focusing on the edges; the egg is your glue. Spoon a rounded teaspoon of the butternut squash mixture on the center of the wonton wrapper, then place a second wonton wrapper on top. Carefully squish the edges of the top wonton wrapper onto the edges of the bottom one. You want to remove any air bubbles, and you don’t want any of the filling near the edges. When you’re happy with the seal, pick up the ravioli and pinch the edges to make sure it’s sealed. Place each ravioli on the prepared tray. Keep going until you’ve used all the wonton wrappers. Place the trays in the freezer for a few hours, then bag the ravioli in zipper bags and keep frozen til you’re ready to cook them. NOTE: I do not suggest trying to make these the same day as you plan to serve them; it’s just too much work/time.
When you’re ready to cook them, brink water to a brisk simmer (not a rolling boil) and gently simmer them, possibly in batches, for about 3 minutes. One way you can tell they’re getting done is that the pasta becomes more translucent. Put a little butter or perhaps olive oil on them as you bring them out. Serve with butter, cream, and chopped bacon OR any delicate sauce. I will probably use walnut/basil pest and garnish with chopped walnuts.

Many ravioli

Many ravioli

Steve’s Shepherd’s Pie – yummy!

August 19, 2010

This is a recipe that our friend Steve Spivey developed a few years back when my cousin Vikki and I were working on recipes for the Pillsbury Bake-off. None of us won (we were robbed!) but we came up with some cool recipes and also learned some things you should just Not Do. Trial and Error and all that, ya know?

This is one of those recipes that seems very simple but for some reason, just WORKS. This is delicious hot out of the oven, but it also reheats remarkably well!

Steve’s recipe calls for instant potatoes (in part because of the competition) but if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can make and use real potatoes. I am devoted to the new ready-to-serve mashed potatoes from the refrigerated section, so I’ll probably give those a try.

Makes 2 deep dish pies

2 – deep dish pie shells – precook pie shells according to instructions for pies with fillings

1 – pkg frozen french style green beans – small bag he thinks – it’s really up to you how many green beans you want in the mixture
(must be totally thawed and drained of all liquid)

Instant box potatoes – make 8 servings with double the butter; adjust with milk if needed to make them more pliable

2lbs – Ground beef or a combination of ground beef and turkey

Garlic to taste
1 large onion or to taste
1 small can of tomato paste or more to taste
Parmesean cheese for topping potato layer – as much as you want, really adds an extra BAM! to the taste sensation

Brown meat, remove from pan and drain
Saute onion and garlic in same pan
Add meat back to pan
Add green beans to mixture
Add tomato paste
Mix and get all ingredients hot
Add salt and pepper to taste

Spread meat mixture between both pie shells
Spread mashed potatoes on top – it will be a lot, like about 2 inches high
Sprinkle cheese on top

Bake at 400 for about 15 to 20 minutes


Everything is really to taste, if you need more tomato taste then add more tomato paste.

Thanks, Steve, for the recipe, and thanks, Vikki, for sharing!

Lubiyeh or Lubieh (Lebanese Green Bean Main Dish)

June 22, 2010

This is an old family recipe, so I hope I do it justice (although it’s super simple). If you’re doing it as a side, you can use a very small amount of lamb. For that purpose, you can usually buy lamb neck bones in the meat section. For a main dish, I like to use LOTS of lamb, either butchering a boneless leg or using several lamb chops (not the pricey kind) and bony cuts. You can also use beef, or a combination.

2-ish lbs of lamb and/or beef, including some bony cuts
2-ish lbs green beans, whatever is fresh: green beans, pole beans, purple beans (which I used this last time: THANK you Renee Barbara!)
1 large onion, chopped, or more
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced, or more
water or chicken stock
3 large cans tomato sauce (can substitute 1 or more cans petite diced tomatoes)

In a large hot pan with some oil, sear the lamb, in batches, until all sides are really crispy and brown. Return all lamb to the pot and drain any really excess oil.
Add all the tomato proucts and bring to a boil briefly, then reduce heat to simmer. Add onions and garlic and simmer for about 1/2 hour. Add water and/or chicken stock if necessary to cover all meat. Add green beans (and more water to cover if necessary) and simmer until done…I have no idea how long…depends on how cooked you like your beans. At least another half hour. Serve over rice. If you’re totally untraditional (Lebanese cousins pls close your eyes now), this is also good over pasta. This is not a thick sauce, but a delicious, soupy sauce, so serving in a bowl can be a good idea.

Had this once in London at one of the ubiquitous Arabic places on Edgeware road near all the embassies…unfortunately it was a vegetarian version and I think the lamb really adds a lovely unctous smoothness. Not to mention protein!