Cravings

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I know a lot of restaurants are doing take-out and/or delivery, but we’re so far away from a lot of our favorite places that those options aren’t really feasible. So, while I’m perfectly content to stay at home, I do admit that I occasionally miss going out for food. I was supposed to go to the dentist for a cleaning yesterday, which would normally have meant stopping for food (probably Mexican) afterwards. Due to Covid-19, the dentist canceled my appointment. I didn’t really care, but it meant no flan for me. Sadness. Anyway, it got me thinking about some things I’m looking forward to if the businesses survive this whole pandemic thing and I can eventually leave the house.

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It’s the whole reason I leave the house 95% of the time.

1. Cajun and bread pudding. Specifically from The Free Man in Deep Ellum. It’s been a long time since we’ve been down there because of all the crap that was going on. Hopefully things will stay calm for a while after the pandemic (I doubt it). At least long enough for us to hit up a couple of places before everything goes to shit again.

2. Seafood. Half Shells. Because it’s been too long since we’ve been there. It’s just so far away and we don’t have many excuses to go out that way. Granted, we only go there once every four or five months, but we haven’t been since mid-December, so it’s around that time when oysters, fish, and a nice cocktail sound good.

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Stolen from Google and has nothing to do with Xquinkles, but it’s pretty.

3. Fresas con crema y un malteada (strawberries and cream and a milkshake). The fruteria down the street is called Xquinkles. Dad’s been buying me cookies for my sweet tooth, so I can hold off a while on this, but pick up is an option here. Maybe the next time we want a burger from the place next door to this one we can order from here too. They close early though (8pm), so probably not.

4. Irish food. Trinity Hall Irish Pub. It’s getting a little warm for hearty potato-filled goodness, but I could still go for a black and tan with a Dublin bay casserole and something yummy for dessert. Luckily, Dad made a shepherd’s pie recently, so that will tide me over ’til summer makes an exit. Maybe by then we’ll be able to venture out into the world again. I doubt it, but there’s no harm in positive thinking.

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Pad Thai from Bangkok at Greenville’s Facebook page.

5. Thai food. Maybe Tukta Thai or Bangkok at Greenville. Some tom kha gai and black rice pudding. Yummy. Maybe when everything is over we’ll take a ride to one of these places.

Anyway, that’s some of the food I miss during this whole quarantine thing. What about you? What are some of the places you’re looking forward to eating at if life returns to normal? Any dishes in particular that you could go for right now? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or lists or comments here or on my social media pages!

A Look Inside the Maple Leaf Diner

Hello, hello! Can you believe it’s already February? Do you have any special plans this month? Any goals you’re hoping to achieve? Don’t worry. This isn’t another goals post or check in or anything like that. But I will say that I’m still on schedule with all my stuff and the date of my friend’s visit is closing in fast! Huzzah! Anyway, last week, Dad and I had to run an errand in Dallas over by the Galleria (corner of Alpha and Inwood), so I decided to look for something different to eat that would be on our way home. I found a Canadian diner on the corner of Preston and 635. Canadian food? Pretty much the only food I know of from Canada is poutine, so I figured why not try it. The place is called the Maple Leaf Diner and it’s tucked in a strip mall. Check the website linked above for the address and menu and all that.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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Pictures are borrowed from the diner’s Facebook page and Google.

Accessibility: standard for Texas. There’s a little rise to the doors, but the ramp comes at it from all angles, so getting in is easy. The tables are a little close together, so I can see maneuvering around the place getting difficult if it’s super busy, but we went when it wasn’t crowded at all. The tables are on the tall side of normal, which I like. There aren’t any knee bangers on the tables and they even have some half booth places so Dad didn’t have to sit in an uncomfortable chair. So yeah, it’s pretty good.

Service: fabulous. Our waitress, May, was super friendly and treated me like a human from the get go, so you know that gets her automatic bonus points. She made sure nothing came out too fast and didn’t rush us. She was attentive but not overbearing. May made the whole experience a wonderful one.

Appetizers: yummy. We had the pierogies. They’re dumplings filled with potatoes and cheese then topped with bacon, onions, and sour cream. I don’t know who decided to stuff a dumpling with mashed potatoes, but they were a genius.

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Pot roast poutine.

Entrees: worth the drive. Let’s be honest, I hate that part of Dallas because the roads are crap and the drivers are worse. But I will go back just for this place. The menu is huge. They have lots of breakfast items (served all day) and a bunch of items that are more for lunch or dinner. Dad had the pot roast poutine (french fries smothered with pot roast, gravy, and cheese curds). I had the lox benedict (eggs benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon) with latkes and fresh fruit. To my surprise, it was actually fruit I could eat. And even Dad liked the lox, which he isn’t usually into. I’m actually sad we don’t have a place like this near us.

Drinks: so much to choose from. They have all the standards, plus lattes (iced or hot), milkshakes (adult versions also available), and booze. I had a hazelnut latte (hot) and really enjoyed it. I also had a Hummer (vanilla milkshake with Kahlua and I believe rum, but don’t quote me, and chocolate sauce). Yum. And of course Dad and I had a lovely conversation with all the inappropriate jokes about hummers. Dad just had iced tea and tastes of my drinks.

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A little bakery and dessert area they have.

Dessert: yes, please. I stuck with my milkshake for dessert, but they have cookies and pies and cream puffs and some other stuff. Dad got a nanaimo bar (pastry topped with custard and chocolate). It was tiny which was good because it’s super sweet. There was also shredded coconut in it, but it still tasted good.

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Nanaimo bars.

Price: surprisingly not bad. It’s in an area of Dallas where everything is more expensive, but even with everything we got, it was less than $60 (not including the tip). So, it’s definitely worth the price.

My rating:
MMMMM

Five Ms! The only issue I really have with the Maple Leaf Diner is that it’s so far away and I can’t fairly take away points because of that.

34 Random Things About Me

Howdy, howdy!  On Sunday, I turned 34.  It was a nice, quiet day.  Dad took me out for Thai food, which was super yummy.  It’s a place we used to go to pretty often called Tukta Thai over on the corner of Walnut Hill and Plano Road.  We still have no idea why we stopped going other than it being a bit of a drive.  I’ll have to review the place next time we go (if I can remember to make Dad take pictures).  Anyway, since I have nothing new to ramble about, I thought I would make a list of 34 random facts about me that you may or may not already know.

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1. In case you haven’t guessed by the January 12th birthday, I’m a Capricorn.

2. Just about every morning, I call my dog random names to see what she’s answering to in that particular 5 minutes, because she refuses to learn her name. Or any name.

3. I love garlic. What’s the point of eating something if there’s no garlic in it?

4. I’m a slush reader for PseudoPod.

5. If I have to choose between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, I’ll usually choose vanilla. Unless it’s Ghirardelli or Talenti, then chocolate please. Or just give me coffee ice cream. Now, I want ice cream.

6. I watched The Witcher and never got the song stuck in my head. I can’t even remember the tune.  Does that make me a psychopath?

7. I think Madonna is overrated.

8. I haven’t watched a single episode of Game of Thrones, nor have I read any of the books.

9. I like fake grape flavor.

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10. Sailor Saturn is the best Sailor Senshi and nothing you say will change my mind.

11. Anime taught me that main characters don’t have to be likeable for the story to be good.  Yeah.  I’m looking at you, Shinji and Eren.

12. I love bats and octopuses.  And snakes.  And wombats.  Animals.  I like them.

13. Mermaids, sirens, and selkies are among my favorite mythical creatures.

14. I’m so bad at remembering to write letters that one of my friends routinely sends me stationery type stuff to remind me to write to her.  I currently have one of the blank cards she sent me for my birthday sitting in front of me waiting to be filled out.  It’s been there since Friday.  I’m a horrible friend.

15. I told Dad I was going to crochet a bag of dicks for him if he didn’t stop being one, so he brought out the “dick warmer” he got as a gift a long time ago.  Needless to say, I now have an old crocheted penis on display in my room.

16. My CD collection has been sitting on my desk for over a year since my old stereo died. I keep forgetting to transfer them to my computer.

17. I have been in every state straight up from Texas and to the east.  Now, we just have to conquer the west.

18. When people ask if I’ve been out of the country, it takes me a minute to remember that Canada counts and I have been there.

19. I used to cross-stitch before my hands decided to be stupid.  Which is probably why I enjoy crocheting.  It’s a completely different experience, but I get to buy pretty yarn, which is basically the same as buying pretty thread.

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20. As much as I miss video games, I’m kind of glad I stopped being able to play before you had to start buying in-game upgrades and subscriptions and all that crap.  I’m poor enough as it is.

21. I could never be a vegan because cheese.  Meat too, but mostly cheese.

22. I like Pepsi better than Coke.  Unless it’s Mexican, then Coke is better.

23. My acquaintances post these “picky eater” test things on Facebook and I really have no idea how some of them survive.  Like, what do you eat?  You can’t survive on air and cookies.

24. I’ll taste just about anything once.  I’m not picky.  Even if I know I don’t like it, but haven’t tasted it in years, I’ll try it again.

25. I don’t like sweet pickles.  Doesn’t matter how many times I taste them.  Blargh.  But I love dill pickles.

26. My favorite season is summer.  I like heat, though I admit as I get older, 85-90 is warm enough.

27. Anything besides cheese pizza (and maybe sausage or pepperoni) is an open-face sandwich. You’ll never convince me otherwise.

28. I’ve had to read “Hills like White Elephants” by Hemingway so many times I’ve lost count.  The last teacher who assigned it actually looked supremely disappointed when he asked what it was really about and I automatically answered abortion.  He was kind of a dick anyway, so I didn’t mind bursting his smug bubble when he just knew no one would know what it was about.

29. I love boxes and baskets.  I have no use for them, but I love them.

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My bat’leth and other things.

30. I collect blades and whips.

31. In one of my fiction writing classes at SMU, no one knew what an asshat was.  I understood the teacher not knowing, but none of my classmates had heard it either.  I fixed that.

32. Aside from weapons, my room also contains an eclectic mix of stuffed animals, skulls, Barbie dolls, and signed posters among other things.

33. I like Panera’s frozen coffees, but find their hot (read that as lukewarm) drinks extremely disappointing.

34. It took me a ridiculously long time to write this because I suck at talking about myself.

There you go. Thirty-four random things about me.  Feel free to share your thoughts or comments or lists about yourself here or on my social media pages!

A Look Inside Crispy ‘N’ Puffy Taquito

Hello, hello!  Welcome to November!  Is everyone looking forward to the holiday season?  I’m looking forward to peppermint EVERYTHING.  Because yes, I’m one of those people.  If you can get excited about all things pumpkin spice, then I can do the same for peppermint.  But I digress.  On Monday, Dad and I tried out a new restaurant in Mesquite called Crispy ‘n’ Puffy Taquito.  It promises “authentic Mexican cuisine with a modern twist,” so we thought we’d give it a shot.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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A colorful banner.

Accessibility: fairly standard.  There’s an oddly positioned ramp to get in, but that’s been that way since the building went up.  Spacing between the tables is super tight.  I barely maneuvered around them when they were empty.  If it had been busy, it would have been impossible to get beyond the ones right by the door.

Service: wonderful!  Our waitress was friendly and attentive.  She wasn’t sure about me at first, but once she realized I was capable of ordering for myself, she talked directly to me.  She even came out to hold the door open for us when we arrived.

Menu1
I didn’t take any pictures, so here’s one of the menu I found on Google.

Appetizers: not bad.  We ordered the stuffed jalapeños which contain both cheese and chicken.  They were pretty good.  We also had the fried mushrooms.  They were large with a nice crispy crust.  Also pretty good.

Entrees: just no.  I have to go back to the beginning here, which was ordering our drinks.  They advertise a lot of Mexican sodas (Coke, Fanta, etc.), but they were out of them ALL.  Then, when we ordered our appetizers, we found out they also didn’t have any of the avocado sour cream they tout as a must try on their website.  Needless to say, there was a lot of wondering if they even had tacos left.  But they did, so Dad got two beef and two chicken (the only options they have), and I got the nachos.  There was absolutely zero puffiness to Dad’s tacos.  It was just your standard hard shell.  All the reviews we read talked about a flavorful dusting on the shells, but Dad got none of that.  The chicken tasted like it was canned.  The beef was reminiscent of Taco Bueno, only not as… I won’t say good… edible, I suppose.  My nachos had some kind of cheese sauce and the beef and lettuce and tomatoes all topped with shredded cheese.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. The chips tasted fine but had a stale consistency.  Everything was super greasy as well.  It just wasn’t a good experience food-wise.  Also, their menu is super limited.

Menu2
The other side of the menu courtesy of Google.

Dessert: unknown.  Yes, you guessed right.  They were out!

Price: not worth it.  It wasn’t too expensive, but you might as well go to Taco Bell or something like that for the same quality at a better price.

My rating:
M

P.S. I thought long and hard about posting this, especially since they have so many good reviews.  I don’t like being a downer when it comes to a new local business struggling to make it.  But it was just that bad.  Maybe we went on a bad day.  Maybe all the reviews on Google and Yelp are right.  If they’re still around in a year or two, maybe we’ll try again.  All I know is that this go ’round sucked.  And first impressions are everything.

A Look Inside The Schooner Restaurant

Hello, hello!  This weekend, Dad and I went to Port Neches for the book launch of Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 3.  It’s down by the coast, so we were looking forward to the prospect of amazing seafood.  We asked around about the best place to go and the consensus seemed to be a place called The Schooner Restaurant off 69 right where Nederland and Port Arthur meet.  So, after the event (which was cozy, lovely, and hosted by the awesome little book store Fleur Fine Books), Dad and I headed toward the restaurant.  It was a building in the middle of a strip mall parking lot and when we got there around 6:00, 6:30 there was no wait.  On a Saturday night.  Granted, a dreary and drizzly Saturday night, but still.  On to the review!

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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A picture of the menu that I borrowed from Google because I didn’t take any.

Accessibility: standard.  There were no steps or ramps required to get in, which was interesting.  We don’t often run into places without at least a sidewalk around them around here, so going to a place even with the parking lot was cool.  It did have two sets of doors, but the hostess was right there holding the inside door open, removing any potential hassle.  There seemed to be multiple paths to a number of tables, so it wasn’t difficult to maneuver around the place.  The tables themselves were not my favorite.  They were the kind with a thick leg at each end, which meant I couldn’t pull in all the way.  It makes things annoying, but not impossible.

Service: amazing!  The hostess greeted me before Dad even finished coming inside.  The waitress, Raven, treated me like a person from the get-go.  She was super nice and helpful when we had questions about the menu.  If she didn’t know something, she was honest about it.  She was attentive, but not overbearing.  It was one of those places where everyone seemed nice and no one ignored my existence just because I’m cripple, so they get some bonus points.

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A neat old picture (1955) I found on Google.  It’s from the UNT website.

Appetizers: pretty good.  We ordered the oyster Rockefeller, which turned out to be cheesy, spinachy goodness.  Pretty sure that was my first time eating cooked oysters and, I have to say, they were really good.  We also got some alligator.  It was fried and tender, so it was also good.

Entrees: this is where things go south.  I ordered the Schooner deluxe platter, which was a bunch of fried things (shrimp, scallops, trout, stuffed shrimp, stuffed crab, a frog leg, and crab).  But I asked for everything that could be grilled to be grilled.  Nothing was grilled.  The shrimp and scallops were lightly breaded and pan-fried instead of deep fried, but that’s not grilled.  And the trout coming out deep fried made me wonder if perhaps it was a pre-made and frozen thing, because why else couldn’t they grill it?  And don’t get me started on the fried crab.  They fried it in the shell!  What was the point of that?  It appeared to be a dungeness crab, so you can’t eat the shell.  And frying it made all of the meat stick to the shell, which meant if you didn’t want to sit there for hours picking at it, you couldn’t even get half the meat out.  It was all super disappointing.  Plus, the stuffed shrimp tasted like it had soap in it.  Dad ordered grilled flounder (came out pan-fried) Greek-style.  The seasoning was good.  That’s about it.  Everything, including our sides, was over-cooked.  I never thought seafood could become shoe leather.  I was wrong.

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Picture stolen from their website.

Dessert: not bad.  All of the desserts looked delicious (even the carrot cake), but we decided to split a chocolate eruption.  Needless to say, a lot of chocolate erection jokes were made.  But it was pretty good.  A chocolate mousse cake with chunks of cheesecake in it.  Worth a try.

Price: for good seafood, the price wasn’t bad.  For the seafood we got?  Totally not worth it.

My rating:
MM

If it had just been a crappy appetizer or a bad dessert, I’d say a MM was harsh, but when it’s both entrees (and not just a small part of them, but all of it), I’m okay with this rating.  If that’s what passes for the best seafood so close to the coast, I’d rather stay in Dallas for fish.  And that’s really sad to me.

A Look Inside Seafood Shack Mariscos

Hello, hello!  Welcome to September.  It seems like forever since I’ve posted a food review (since January 2017 actually), so I thought it was about time for one.  Dad and I were going to go to Zenna  on Sunday, but they are temporarily closed due to fire damage.  So, we ended up trying a place called Seafood Shack Mariscos.  You can find addresses for all three of their locations on the website linked above.  It has a Big Shucks vibe.  Honestly, it’s super surprising to find a seafood place in Mesquite that isn’t a huge chain (Red Lobster, Joe’s Crab Shack, etc.), so Dad and I decided to check it out.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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Didn’t think to take pictures, so I borrowed this one from Google.

Accessibility: not bad, not great.  Cripple parking is sparse, but it’s a small lot so what do you expect?  There’s a spot on either side of the loading zone right out front.  And it’s a loading zone that’s actually large enough for me to get unloaded in (yay!).  Getting in is easy enough.  But the tables are pretty tightly packed, so when it’s busy, you have to rely on the kindness of people moving and pushing chairs around so you can reach an empty spot.  It’s embarrassing, but you do what you have to do for the sake of food.  The tables themselves are easy to fit under and a good height.

Service: good.  You order at the counter, they give you a flag, someone brings your food and booze out.  Fountain drinks, tea, and condiments are serve yourself.  The cashier smiled at me when we approached, but seemed a little apprehensive to assume I would order anything.  After she realized I was going to order, she talked to me normally.  Some wires got crossed because I speak softly, but Dad helped straighten them out.  She also messed up some stuff with him, though, so I didn’t feel too bad about my mumbling.  The person who dropped off our food just asked if it was ours and put it down in front of whoever responded, which was perfect.

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Again, no pictures.  So here’s part one of their Mesquite menu from the website.

Food: fan-freaking-tastic!  We got a bowl of gumbo and a shrimp and octopus cocktail to share.  Both of which were amazing.  I had a little trouble chewing the octopus, but it’s supposed to be chewy.  I knew that going in.  Dad had the salmon, which came with rice and veggies.  Aside from the fish being a bit more well done than he usually eats it, he said it was really good.  I had the enchiladas de camaron.  Three shrimp and cheese enchiladas in a creamy sauce with a side of rice.  They were wonderful!

The only (not really) problem with the food was that everything came out at once.  It’s one of those things that happens when you have to order everything up front.  Is it inconvenient?  Yeah, a little.  Especially for those of us who enjoy eating at a slow pace.  Is it a deal breaker?  Nope.

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Part two of their Mesquite menu from their website.

I didn’t notice any desserts on the menu.  Sadness.  But they have mango margaritas (as well as other drinks).  Those things are addictive.  They coat the rim in Tajin (a seasoning containing lime, chili peppers, and sea salt).  It goes really well with the sweetness of the mango.  They also have tamarindo margaritas.  I want to try that one too, but it’s going to be really hard to beat the mango.

Price: normal.  Seafood is never going to be cheap, but the prices here are pretty good.  We walked away with around a $60 bill (not including tip).  That’s not bad considering all the yummy food we got.  We’ll definitely be going back and I suggest you give it a shot as well if you’re in the area!

My rating:
MMMM

Smashed Cucumbers and Grilled Lamb-Stuffed Pitas

Hello, hello!  First and foremost, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!  Yup, it’s the anniversary of his awesomeness as a few of my friends call it.  If you have his number, call him and sing at him.  Otherwise, post birthday wishes here or on my social media pages and I will pass them along.

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Opus and Bill say happy birthday!

And now, onto the blog.  I have nothing new to talk about, so I thought I would post a couple of recipes Dad recently tried out: smashed cucumbers (also known as Pai Huang Gua) and grilled lamb-stuffed pitas with yogurt sauce.  Both of these recipes came from America’s Test Kitchen.  Have you tried something new recently?  Feel free to share your food exploits here or on my social media pages!

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Borrowed from Google

First up, smashed cucumbers (from season 18, episode 17).  Serves 4.  We forgot the chili oil ATK suggested you use with this dish, but it was good without it.  Nice and cool and refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.  Dad also added a teaspoon of minced ginger, which was delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14-ounce) English cucumbers
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar (or 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced to paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Directions:

1. Trim and discard ends from cucumbers. Cut each cucumber crosswise into three equal lengths. Place pieces in large zipper-lock bag and seal bag. Using small skillet or rolling pin, firmly but gently smash cucumbers until flattened and split lengthwise into 3 to 4 spears each. Tear spears into rough 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces and transfer to colander set in large bowl. Toss cucumbers with salt and let stand for at least 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes.

2. While cucumbers sit, whisk vinegar and garlic together in small bowl; let stand for at least 5 minutes or up to 15 minutes.

3. Whisk soy sauce, oil, and sugar into vinegar mixture until sugar has dissolved. Transfer cucumbers to medium bowl and discard any extracted liquid. Add dressing and sesame seeds to cucumbers and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

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Also borrowed from Google.  We had the smashed cukes instead of a salad.

Next up are the grilled lamb-stuffed pitas with yogurt sauce (from season 18, episode 20).  Serves 4-6 (the following instructions are for 4 servings, but just add extra pitas and divide mixture by 6 if you want to serve more/have fewer calories).  The pita was crispy, the meat juicy, and the yogurt sauce was nice and cool and creamy.  Definitely worth a try.  Some grilled onions on top might be a nice addition as well.

Ingredients:

SAUCE

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup minced fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

SANDWICHES

  • 1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 pounds ground lamb (or 85 percent lean ground beef)
  • 4 (8-inch) pita breads

Directions:

1. FOR THE SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.

2. FOR THE SANDWICHES: Pulse onion and cilantro in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Stir in oil, lemon zest and juice, coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon. Add lamb and knead gently with your hands until thoroughly combined.

3. Using kitchen shears, cut around perimeter of each pita and separate into 2 halves. Place 4 thicker halves on counter with interiors facing up. Divide lamb mixture into 4 equal portions and place 1 portion in center of each pita half. Using spatula, gently spread lamb mixture into even layer, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Top each with thinner pita half. Press each sandwich firmly until lamb mixture spreads to ¼ inch from edge of pita. Transfer sandwiches to large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. (Sandwiches may be held for up to 1 hour before grilling.)

4A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter two-thirds filled with charcoal briquettes (4 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

4B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium-high.

5. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place sandwiches on grill, cover, and cook until bottoms are evenly browned and edges are starting to crisp, 7 to 10 minutes, moving sandwiches as needed to ensure even cooking. Flip sandwiches, cover grill, and continue to cook until second sides are evenly browned and edges are crisp, 7 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer sandwiches to cutting board and cut each in half crosswise. Transfer sandwiches to platter and serve, passing sauce separately.

It’s Beginning To Smell Like Thanksgiving

Hello, hello!  So, my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is this week!  It’s currently Monday and the house smells like cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes.  And the aromas will just keep getting better as the week goes on.  So, in celebration of the season, I thought I would share a couple of recipes with you!  Namely, the cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole Dad makes.  I know it’s a little late given that Thanksgiving will be tomorrow by the time this posts, but you can always try them next year or for Christmas.

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Picture stolen from Pinterest.

First up is Cranberry Orange Relish with Bourbon.  It’s a recipe Dad found in the Dallas Morning News a couple of years ago.  He decided to try this one since the chutney recipe he used before had apples, which I’m mildly allergic to, so I couldn’t eat much of it.  He’s tweaked it a little since then by adding walnuts, but here’s the recipe!

CRANBERRY ORANGE RELISH WITH BOURBON

Ingredients:
1 cup bourbon (Dad uses Jack Daniels)

1 orange, zested and supremed (see chef’s note)
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed or from concentrate

Directions:
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine bourbon and orange zest.  Bring to a boil and simmer, until reduced to a syrup, about 10 minutes.

Add cranberries, orange segments, sugar, and orange juice.  Stir until sugar is dissolved and cranberries pop.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cover and refrigerate. Makes 8 servings.

Chef’s note:
To supreme orange: Using a sharp knife, cut remaining skin and pith off of the zested orange.  Working over a clean mixing bowl and using a sharp knife, cut out each segment of orange between the membranes.

PER SERVING:
Calories 1,620 (None from fat)
Trace fat (No sat)
No cholesterol
No sodium
Fiber 4 g.
Carbohydrates 276 g.
Protein 3 g.
Sugar 239 g.

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Picture stolen from Google.

Another recent addition to our Thanksgiving line up is Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel Topping.  Dad found this one last year in the Dallas Morning News.  It’s fairly similar to the recipe he had been using, but it has an orange-y flavor that makes it better.  Even I like it, and I’m not a big sweet potato fan.  I know he’s tweaked it, but this is the recipe!

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE WITH PECAN STREUSEL TOPPING

Ingredients:
5 pounds sweet potatoes, roasted until soft (instructions follow; or substitute two 40-ounce cans sweet potatoes, drained)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Grated zest from half an orange
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 F.  Butter the inside of a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Scrape flesh from sweet potato into a mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor (work in batches if using a processor).  Mash or puree until smooth.  Add eggs and combine thoroughly.

Add granulated sugar, cream, allspice, and orange zest and mix thoroughly into mashed sweet potatoes.  Transfer sweet potato mixture to prepared pan.

To make the pecan streusel topping:
In the bowl of a food processor, place butter, brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, pecans, and vanilla and pulse until mixture is crumbly and looks like small pebbles.

Sprinkle sweet potatoes evenly with streusel topping — it should completely cover sweet potatoes.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Makes 15 servings.

To roast sweet potatoes:
Heat oven to 450 F.  Place whole sweet potatoes on the oven rack and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until tender.

SOURCE:
Adapted from Justin and Diane Fourton, Pecan Lodge

PER SERVING:
Calories 525
Fat 24 g. (11 g. sat)
Cholesterol 92 mg.
Sodium 271 mg.
Fiber 6 g.
Carbohydrates 73 g.
Protein 7 g.

Thanksgiving-2017

What are some recipes you or your loved ones make for the holiday?  Do you tend to stick to the same menu or try to mix it up each year?  Feel free to share here or on my social media pages.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

A Look Inside Texas de Brazil

Howdy, howdy!  How was everyone’s week?  As promised, I’m posting a review of my birthday experience at Texas de Brazil.  We went to the one out in Addison this time, instead of the one in Dallas.  Check out their website (linked above) for locations near you!  It’s a Brazilian steakhouse and churrascaria, so there’s a big focus on meat.  As carnivores, Dad and I appreciate that, as did Ed Baker who went with us and is a family friend from back when I was active with MDA.  I will say that this wasn’t my first time there, so this post will probably draw on my other experiences as well.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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A selection of their meats borrowed from their Facebook page.

First up is accessibility.  They don’t have many handicap parking spaces at either of the locations I’ve been to, but they do have valet parking to make life easier if the spaces are taken.  I admit that I like the Addison location a little better than the Dallas one because I can get in through the front door.  The only ramp on the Dallas location is in through the kitchen, which is cool (I mean, at least they made it accessible in the ways they could).  The Texas de Brazil in Addison did a nice job to accommodate wheelchairs.  It can be a tight squeeze around the salad bar, especially at the corners (we had to ask a nice man to move because I couldn’t make one of the turns), but otherwise it was fairly easy to manuever around.  The tables are a nice height, but they do have a small piece underneath that I would’ve banged my knees on if I hadn’t looked first.  It’s easily avoidable, though.  So, it’s accessibility is up to the usual standards around here.

Next is service.  The hostess and waitress were wonderful.  They both talked to me like a regular human being.  The people who carry the meat around and serve it focused mostly on Dad and Ed.  Only one or two of them looked directly to me when asking who wanted what, but since Dad grabbed a piece for me off of everything, it didn’t really bug me.  In other words, the service was great where it mattered.

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Dad, Ed, and I post-meat, but pre-dessert.

Now, the best part: food!  Once you’re seated, there’s a huge salad area you can hit up as often as you want.  There’re vegetables and cheese and fruits and fish and soup.  It’s delicious all on its own.  They do have vegetarian-friendly options in case you know some herbivores, but I’m not sure about vegan options.  My personal favorites were the cheeses and some kind of pineapple dish that was super thinly sliced and sweet.  It’s definitely got enough to fill you up even if you don’t want to eat the meat floating around the room.

As for the meat, I can honestly say it’s like a little slice of heaven.  Waiters carry skewers of everything from beef to chicken to pork to lamb.  There’s literally something for everyone.  Dad loves lamb, I loved the parmesan crusted chicken and pork, Ed kept going back to the sausages.  You can gorge on whatever you want or have a little bit of everything like we did.  They even have a couple of sides (garlic mashed potatoes and fried bananas) they bring to the table despite the huge salad area.  They also have bread.  Be prepared to stuff yourself silly.

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My birthday creme brulee!

Texas de Brazil also has a fairly wide variety of desserts.  I had the creme brulee, of course.  Dad had flan, and Ed had the key lime pie.  Everything we’ve had here has been yummy.  They don’t have specialty coffee cocktails, but the bartender will whip something up if you ask, which is how I like to end such a wonderful meal.

Now, onto the thing no one likes to talk about: the price.  At nearly $50 a person (not including drinks and desserts), it’s not cheap.  But for everything you get, it’s totally worth the splurge once a year or so.  Get dressed up and make a night of it with someone special.

So, here’s my rating:
MMMM

Sweet Tooth: A Top Five List

Hello, hello!  It’s Thanksgiving week!  My favorite holiday ever, as if you didn’t know.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Thursday and gets to spend time with their loved ones and eats tons of goodies.  Also, instead of shopping Thursday night and Friday, I encourage you to stay at home and binge-watch Netflix (Gilmore Girls!) or play games or something fun.  Anyway, in keeping with last week’s light and fun food related post, I thought I would devote this one to desserts.  This has nothing to do with Thanksgiving per se, it’s just my top five favorite desserts, along with an honorable mention.

creme-brulee
That looks delicious.

1. Creme brulee.  If there’s creme brulee on the menu, you can pretty much guess what I’m getting.  There’s just something about the creamy goodness underneath the crackly crunchy coating that speaks to my soul.  It would take something super weird that I’ve never had before (because I like trying new things even more than I like creme brulee) to beckon me away from this particular dish of delish.

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I’m making myself hungry.

2. Tiramisu.  Ladyfingers and chocolate and coffee and creamy marscapone custard deliciousness and (depending on the recipe) booze.  What’s not to love?  The real question, though, is whether I like tiramisu because I like boozy coffee or if it’s the other way around.  I guess we’ll never know.

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I may or may not have just drooled on myself.

3. Flan.  In the process of making this list, I have just realized that I have a weird attraction to custardy desserts.  I have no idea where it came from.  I’m not complaining, nor am I apologizing.  Flan is special, though.  It combines my love of creaminess with my love of caramel sauce, so it gets bonus points for that.

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Blueberry crumble pie?  Don’t mind if I do.

4. Pie.  I admit it.  I like pie more than cake.  The problem is, I can’t pick just one kind.  Blueberry crumble, key lime, peanut butter, chocolate creme, pecan.  The list goes on and on.  There are a few exceptions, like coconut, pumpkin (yeah, I said it), sweet potato, or anything banana, but otherwise, as long as I’m not allergic to it, I will probably like it in a pie.

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It looks so good.

5. Red velvet cake.  If we’re talking regular old cake, I lean more toward red velvet.  Maybe it’s the color, maybe it’s the cream cheese frosting, it’s just so delicious.  I could totally go for a piece right now.

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I couldn’t not include it.

 Honorable Mention.  Cheesecake.  There’s just no way to make a list of favorite desserts without at least thinking of cheesecake.  I’d never turn a slice down even though I may prefer other things.

What about you?  What’re your favorite desserts?  Is there a particular dessert you’re looking forward to on Thanksgiving?  Feel free to share your lists or thoughts here or on my social media pages.  Thank you for reading!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

See you next week for my 100th post.