Tuesday, July 30, 2013

California Chicken Cafe

Today my husband and I ate lunch at the new California Chicken Cafe in Chatsworth.  I had never eaten at a California Chicken Cafe before, but my husband had eaten at one while working on a shoot a couple years ago.  He remembered it being good, but he didn't remember too much about it.

It looked like a fairly busy lunch spot for local workers, a step up from a drive thru.  There was a short line, but we didn't have to wait too long to place our order at the counter.  Waiting actually gave us a chance to look over the menu and watch the workers prepare other people's orders.  It's kind of reassuring when you can see the roasted chickens being cut apart and the salads being assembled.  I like being able to see the fresh ingredients.

411 salad
I decided to go with the 411 Salad which is basically a make-your-own salad.  I selected peppers, green onions, tomatoes, Parmesan, and white meat chicken for my salad toppings with low fat ranch on the side.  It came with my choice of white or wheat pita bread (I chose wheat) and a side (I chose the fruit salad).

My husband ordered the 1/4 chicken with one side, and he chose a garden salad.  His meal also came with pita bread, and he chose wheat as well.

We filled our plastic glasses with water, chose dipping sauces from the condiment bar (BBQ, salsa, ketchup), grabbed napkins and silverware, and selected a table on the enclosed patio since it was a little bit less crowded.
side of fruit
I really liked the way lights were strung across the ceiling of the enclosed patio space.  I would love to replicate that in my backyard.  The only downside was how loud the chairs were out there.  There was a lot of cement, and the metal chairs really echoed every time anyone moved their chair at all.  It made it kind of hard to hold a conversation.

I was really impressed when our food was brought to our table.  My salad was huge!  I loved that the lettuce was romaine instead of iceberg, and the chicken was super juicy.  The low fat ranch had a nice flavor.  I liked the salsa okay, but it wasn't very spicy.  I dipped a piece of pita in the BBQ sauce, and it was pretty good.

My husband's order was a nice size too.  He said he'd get it again.  The chicken was juicy, tender and practically fell off the bone.  The croutons on his salad where kind of like pita chips. It was all good and fresh tasting.

You can probably see the similarities between this restaurant and Stonefire Grill, which I reviewed a few days ago.   (Click here to read my review of Stonefire Grill.) In both cases, you order at the counter, you get plastic cups for your water, you pick up your own silverware, there's a condiment bar and your food is brought to your table.  My husband and I even ordered similar things at both places.  I got a salad at each place, and the salads cost about the same.  My husband just had chicken today as opposed to chicken and ribs at Stonefire (they don't have ribs at California Chicken Cafe).  His meal today also cost a little less.

We like California Chicken Cafe significantly better than Stonefire Grill.  The food is fresher.  The servings are bigger.  There's more atmosphere.  It's a great lunch spot.  You need to be in the mood for chicken, but they do have vegan and vegetarian options; you can get meatless salads, soups or wraps.  They also sell whole chickens, so you could bring home a roasted chicken dinner for your family.  There's no competition.  Pick California Chicken Cafe over Stonefire Grill every time.

Now how does California Chicken Cafe compare to Chick-fil-a?  Hmm.  (Click here to read my review of Chick-fil-a.)  The food at California Chicken Cafe seems fresher, and the chicken is probably healthier since it's roasted chicken instead of breaded chicken.  I also like that you have more flexibility to customize your order.  California Chicken Cafe is a better choice for a bigger, fresher salad, but it won't cure a craving for nuggets or a breaded chicken sandwich.  I think they both serve a purpose.  It just depends what kind of chicken you want.  I'm sure I'll eat at both places again.

Happy eating!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stonefire Grill

Is there any point in writing about restaurants I wouldn't recommend?  I wouldn't recommend Stonefire Grill.

My husband and I were looking for somewhere to eat lunch today.  Ideally, we wanted to eat somewhere we hadn't eaten before, and my husband thought ribs sounded good.  We looked online and saw the great reviews for Stonefire Grill.  We headed over to the one in Chatsworth, CA.  From the outside it looked okay, average.  I was expecting it to be something along the lines of Woodranch but with pizza as well.

When we walked inside, I was skeptical.  After a few minutes, I realized that we were supposed to order at the counter and then seat ourselves.  Not that there's anything wrong with that; that's the way it works at Porto's and I LOVE Porto's.  That's just not what I was expecting.  My husband and I got out of line and looked over a menu.

They have a variety of salads, pizzas, BBQ options and a variety of sizes.  In the end, I decided to order the Grilled Vegetable Salad and add Tri Tip.  My husband considered the Steak and Cheese sandwich, but I reminded him that he said he was hungry for ribs.  He looked over the menu again and decided to try the 1/4 chicken and 1/4 rack of ribs combo which came with 2 breadsticks and his choice of salad or side.  In the end, he went with a garden salad.  The guy who took our order was friendly enough.  We took plastic cups for water and what looked like a buzzer.

The drinks are set up kind of like you'd find at a fast food restaurant.  There was also a pump for BBQ sauce, kind of the way you get ketchup at a fast food restaurant.  There were plates, silverware, and napkins kind of like you'd find at a buffet or cafeteria, but this wasn't a cafeteria, and there wasn't a buffet.

We filled our plastic cups with water and looked for a table.  There were booths inside, but we went out to the patio and chose a table near what looked like a firepit.  There was a cool looking outdoor clock nearby, but we noticed that it wasn't working.  The atmosphere would've been nicer if there had been some music playing and if the view wasn't just the entrance to a shopping center.  Basically, there wasn't any atmosphere.

The buzzer looking thing must've actually been a GPS tracking device so they'd know where we were sitting.  A waitress brought out my salad, my husband's salad and his breadsticks.  She said the rest of the food would be right out.  We started in on our salads.

I was surprised how small my salad was for the price.  I expected something bigger.  The tri-tip on my salad had a nice smoky flavor, but there wasn't a lot of it, and I expected it to have BBQ sauce on it even though the salad had balsamic vinaigrette on it.  It didn't.  My husband got some BBQ sauce from the pump, but he said it was syrupy sweet.  I don't like sweet BBQ sauce, so I didn't use it.  Some of the grilled veggies were undercooked (like the mushrooms) and some were overcooked (like the eggplant, which was practically mush).  The whole salad was underseasoned.  I hate when I go to restaurants and think how much better whatever I'm eating would taste if I had made it myself at home.  I was really hungry, so I ate it all anyway; however, next time I'm in the mood for a grilled veggie salad and don't feel like making it myself, I'm going to Mo's in Burbank.

I didn't try the breadsticks, but my husband said the ones at Little Caesar's are better.  He said the greasy butter and seasoning on these breadsticks helped but that the bread itself wasn't very good.

I just asked my husband how his side salad was, and he said, "Not very good.  It seemed a little wilted."

We were impressed at the portion size of the 1/4 chicken and 1/4 ribs, but of course, a lot of that was bones.  My husband liked the chicken okay.  I took a bite, and it was juicy but pretty bland.  He didn't particularly like the BBQ sauce, but he dipped the chicken in that anyway just to add flavor.  The ribs were on the dry side, but eating the meat off the bone helped satisfy his craving.

I noticed large families at other tables eating their food family style.  The restaurant offers large portions of food so that you can share.  Maybe that's a nice way for families to save money instead of ordering individual meals, but in the end, the food isn't very good.  It's just okay.  We won't be back.

We didn't try the pizza, so maybe that's good, but a safe bet for pizza is The Rack in Woodland Hills.  If you want good BBQ, I'd recommend Woodranch or Rosie's, both in Northridge, although it might be better to go to Woodranch at a different location.  I always feel disappointed when eating at the Northridge location.  If you want a good veggie salad, as I mentioned before, go to Mo's in Burbank, or the Cheesecake Factory has awesome salads.

Hopefully we find some great new restaurants soon.  This was a hit and a miss.

Happy eating!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Flame Grilled Ribeye

My husband got a new toy yesterday.  It's a Jim Beam Vacuum Sealed Marinade Box.  Basically, it speeds up the time it takes for marinade to penetrate the meat you're marinating.  Of course he had to try it out right away.

We had a couple Ribeyes in the refrigerator, so my husband whipped up a simple marinade of equal parts lemon juice and olive oil (you'll need about a tablespoon of each for each steak you're marinating).  You're only supposed to have to marinate the meat for a couple hours with this marinade box, but we let it marinate overnight.  Why not?  Before the new marinade box, we used to put the steaks and marinade in a ziplock bag overnight.  That's probably sufficient, but when I'm buying new clothes, who am I to argue if my husband wants a marinade box?

Today, my husband fired up the grill.  We decided to round out the meal with baby potatoes and a salad.  I precooked 14 baby potatoes in the microwave (until you can easily stick a fork in them), and then put 7 baby potatoes on 2 skewers.  I also filled two skewers with grape tomoates.  I think there were about 16 on each skewer.  I brushed all of the potatoes and tomatoes with a little olive oil.

Back to the grill.  Heat it to 700.  Wow, that's hot!  The steak takes 12-15 minutes.  Flip it halfway through.  The potatoes and the tomatoes take about 5 minutes to grill.  Once again, flip about half way through.

It was a little tricky to get everything to fit on our plates, and they're pretty big plates.  We filled half of our plates with mixed greens.  I sprinkled the lettuce with TexJoy.  Then we put the tomatoes on top of the lettuce, and I sprinkled that with more TexJoy and Parmesan.  We ran out of goat cheese yesterday, or I would've added goat cheese to the salads.  Instead, I added goat cheese to the grocery list.  We put the potatoes on the other side of the plate, and I sprinkled them with TexJoy and Parmesan.

Then my husband put the steaks on our plates so that they'd overlap the salad.  No salad dressing needed; the juice from the steak is flavor enough!  I topped the steaks with a little spray butter (I couldn't live without I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray), and a sprinkling of TexJoy and Parmesan. 

We've been working on our backyard for the past couple weeks, and the patio was too messy for us to use the grill.  When we were working outside, we kept smelling the tell tale aroma of grilled food wafting over from our neighbors' backyards.  It was nice to use the grill again tonight and to once again be contributing to the smell of grilled food.  It tasted as good as it smelled and looked.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kalua Pork and Coconut Rice

When most people visit Hawaii, they go to at least one luau.  My husband and I went to Oahu for our honeymoon several years ago, and we loved the Kalua Pork at the Ali'i Luau we attended at the Polynesian Cultural Center.  A couple years ago, we decided to try to replicate the flavor of the Kalua Pork at home. 

Kalua Pork is simply smoked pork.  At a Hawaiian luau, they present a pig that was smoked all day in an underground imu.  Usually the pork is wrapped in banana leaves while it is cooking.

If you don't have room in your backyard to dig a hole big enough for a whole pig to smoke all day...then I guess you can't cook kalua pork at home.  No, no, no.  Just kidding.  It's super easy to replicate the taste and flavor in a crockpot.  I've included this super simple recipe in this post.  I've also included the recipe for Coconut Rice, which is a perfect accompaniment to Kalua Pork and is also super easy to make.

We served our Kalua Pork and Coconut Rice at a luau party we had last summer, and some of our guests commented that the food tasted better than the food at a luau in Hawaii.  A few months ago we attended a luau while visiting Maui, and I would have to agree that I like these recipes better than what they served in Maui.  So, if you want a taste of a tropical paradise at home, you can't go wrong with these recipes for Kalua Pork and Coconut Rice.

fully cooked Kalua Pork

Kalua Pork


4 lb pork roast (shoulder or butt will work)
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp TexJoy


example of the bone coming out clean
Put the pork roast in a crockpot and sprinkle with salt.  Turn your crockpot on high for 8 hours or until the bone comes out clean.

You almost can't overcook it.  There will be a lot of juice from the pork.  After you take the bone out, add the liquid smoke to the juice and stir so that the meat is evenly flavored.  Sprinkle with TexJoy.

At parties, we usually serve the pork straight from the crockpot, but you can transfer it to a serving dish if you want to dress up the presentation.


Coconut Rice


Coconut Rice


1 cup brown rice
2.5 cups Silk Vanilla Coconutmilk
3 cubes low sodium chicken bouillon (use vegetable bouillon for vegan or vegetarian diets)
1 tsp ground ginger


Put all ingredients in a pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to low heat.  Simmer for 30 minutes, and check it.  Scrape sides of the pot to incorporate any part of the mixture that has boiled up and stuck to the sides.  Keep checking every 10 minutes until the rice is sticky and there is no visible liquid at the bottom of the pot.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

We've accidentally overcooked the rice before, and I actually LOVED the burnt, crispy rice that was stuck to the bottom of the pan.  It was almost like coconut candy.

My husband and I just finished devouring Kalua Pork and Coconut Rice for dinner tonight.  It was awesome served with a salad topped with a sprinkling of goat cheese.  Since we visited a goat farm on Maui that makes goat cheese, I associate goat cheese with Hawaii.

You could also enjoy these recipes with an Ono Mai Tai.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Elephant Bar - Happy Hour

Skinny Snap Dragon Martini
This afternoon, my husband and I decided to try Happy Hour at the fairly new Elephant Bar in Northridge, CA.  It was pretty dead when we arrived around 4pm.  We chose a table on the patio area that's connected to the bar.  There was only one other table occupied out on the patio.  It was nice and relaxing.  There were TVs both inside the bar and out on the patio, but the volume was either turned way down or off which I appreciated.  I don't like the sports bar feel restaurants tend to get when the TVs are too loud.

Our waitress came over with full menus, but we ended up just ordering off of the Happy Hour specials.  To start, while we looked over the menu, I decided to take advantage of the all-day Tuesday special of half-price Skinny Cocktails.  I ordered the Skinny Snap Dragon Martini.  It contains Dragon Fruit Skyy vodka, passion fruit puree, cranberry juice and a pinch of cayenne.  I was not disappointed.  After visiting Maui, I've really grown to appreciate the passion fruit flavor, and the cayenne gave it just a hint of spice, a nice kick.  It was really a great combination.

Sweet Potato Fries
Coconut Shrimp Skewers

The menu had pictures of most of the items on the Happy Hour menu, so I used that reference to help decide what to order.  In the end, I chose Coconut Shrimp Skewers and Sweet Potato Fries.  They both tasted like "dessert," which to me means they were pretty sweet.  The coconut shrimp skewers were bigger than I expected.  It's a good thing my husband was there to help me eat them.  He usually doesn't like the texture of coconut, but with the batter, he actually enjoyed the flavor.  I really loved the sweet potato fries.  They came with Szechwan chili-spiked ketchup.  Our waitress also brought out a bottle of Heinz.  When it comes to ketchup, I always prefer Heinz.  In my opinion, that's what ketchup is supposed to taste like.  The Szechwan ketchup wasn't bad though, especially considering that a lot of the food at the Elephant Bar has Asian flavor.  In the end, I ate the fries without dipping them in anything.  They were just that good.
Quick-Fried Soy-Ginger Calamari

Classic "Big E" Burger and French Fries
My husband ordered the Quick-Fried Soy-Ginger Calamari and the Classic "Big E" Burger and French Fries.  The calamari was thick and juicy, but it wasn't as crisp as I would prefer.  It was okay, but we probably wouldn't order it again.  As far as the burger goes, to quote my husband, "That's probably the best burger you'll ever get for $5.50."  That's right folks, a 1/2 lb burger and a generous serving of fries for only $5.50 during Happy Hour.  That's less than you'd pay at your favorite fast food chain.  I took a couple bites, and I was impressed with the flavor.  I'll probably order the burger next time.  The fries were good, but I'd probably upgrade to sweet potato fries.

We looked at the dessert menu, but we were too full to really consider ordering dessert.  Maybe next time.

Happy eating!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Who needs frosting?

I actually had a dream about cupcakes.  Maybe that's not weird.  I think it was because I had just tried Dryers Slow Churned Take the Cake ice-cream which is scarily addictive.  It's yellow cake flavored ice-cream mixed with frosting and sprinkles.  It really tastes like birthday cake.  I love it.  But, this post is not about ice-cream.

After eating that ice-cream, I had a dream about cupcakes.  They were yellow cupcakes topped with peanut butter.  In my waking state, I would naturally think of chocolate cake or brownies with peanut butter, but I don't think yellow cake would ever occur to me.

Tonight I finally made cupcakes with a Butter Recipe Golden cake mix I had on hand.  That's not exactly yellow cake, but it's close.  My husband and I didn't wait for them to cool before trying out the peanut butter idea...and for good measure...Nutella.  In the picture below, the cupake on the left is topped with Nutella, and the cupcake on the right is topped with peanut butter. 

I know the frosting job in this picture is messy, but the flavor is amazing.  You could get decorative with the "frosting" if you were having a party or bringing them to a potluck, but otherwise, I go for finger-licking good.

Who needs frosting?  First of all, I could easily argue that both Nutella and peanut butter are way healthier for you than frosting.  The sugar content is lower, and if you use natural peanut butter or, even better, almond butter, the sugar content is 0%.  I wouldn't say that a cupcake topped with peanut butter is exactly "healthy," but it's way healthier than the alternative of 2-inch high frosting you get at all these new-fangled cupcake shops.

Get creative!  When making the cupcakes, you could put half the batter in the cupcake pans, add a dollop of jelly in the center and then put the other half of the batter on top of the cupcakes.  Then frost them with peanut butter.  It'd be peanut butter and jelly surprise cupcakes.  You could also top a cupcake with peanut butter and jelly or make strawberry cupcakes and top them with peanut butter.  That'd be kinda like peanut butter and jelly.

Any flavor of cupcake would be good with peanut butter, but I did dream about yellow cake, so I'm going to have to say that a yellow cupcake frosted with peanut butter is a Peanut Butter Dream cupcake.  Just sayin'. 

By the way, cupcakes freeze super well.  Allow cupcakes to cool completely, and then put the un-frosted cupcakes in freezer bags.  When you get a cupcake craving, they'll be there for you.  Just stick a frozen cupcake in the microwave for 30 seconds or less, top it with your favorite creative frosting (peanut butter, Nutella, whipped cream, jelly, Greek yogurt, etc, etc...), and enjoy your single serving size dessert.  This will save you from feeling like you have to eat an entire cake right away and will help with portion control.

I'm making myself hungry.  I'm going to have to go get another cupcake...with peanut butter!  Then the rest are going straight to the freezer...really.

Quick update: My husband and I went out of town for my birthday.  I like the tradition of blowing out a candle on a piece of cake, so I took a couple yellow cupcakes out of the freezer and brought them with us.  Frosted with peanut butter and topped with a candle, these cupcakes are an easy and delicious birthday treat!  I ate mine for breakfast.  It was my birthday after all.

Happy eating!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cilantro Hummus

A couple days ago, my husband wrote his first guest blog post, which was for hummus.  You can read it hereI love that he can cook and whip up new recipes.

His sister (my sister-in-law) told us that there are 2 kinds of people...those who like cilantro and those who don't like cilantro.  Apparently it's one of those love it or hate it flavors.  I can't imagine hating it, but if that's you, may I suggest reading a different recipe instead of this one.  You can find my latest recipes here.

My husband and I both love cilantro, and it's complimented perfectly by lime juice.  This variation on hummus goes perfectly with chips, or spread it on a sandwich for a real kick of flavor. 

You'll need a food processor for this recipe.  Use the metal blade that spins on the bottom of the container (not the shredder or slicer blade). 
Cilantro Hummus
One 15-ounce can (425 grams) chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, mostly drained (save the liquid to thin the hummus at the end.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup (59 ml) tahini (you might find it in the grocery store by the peanut butter)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Garlic powder equal to1 large garlic clove
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chipotle flakes
2 cups unchopped cilantro (approximately 1 bunch of cilantro as sold at the grocery store)

Put the drained chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, and salt in the food processer.  Process until blended smooth – about 20 seconds.  It doesn’t have to be perfect – you’ll process it more later.  Mix in the lime juice a little at a time (adding too much at once will cause it to splash all over the inside of the food processor). 
Mix in the garlic powder, cumin, and chipotle flakes.  Add cilantro and process until smooth.

Happy eating!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hummus recipe

I told you my husband loves hummus.  Well, his first guest blog post is a hummus recipe.  It's so good that I even love it.  See below:

From 2004 to 2006, I was stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey.  The Alley (a shop- and restaurant-lined street leading to the main gate) had some of the best food.  I loved the hummus and cheese bread, the chicken tava, doners, and kebabs.  I also got rugs and hand-made furniture for amazing deals.

Since I got to L.A. I’ve loved the Mediterranean hummus from Trader Joe’s.  I pretty much always have a container of it in my refrigerator.  As soon as I’m about to run out, it goes on the grocery list – thanks to my wife, I actually use a grocery list now.

I got a hummus recipe from http://www.inspiredtaste.net/15938/easy-and-smooth-hummus-recipe/.  I made it according to the recipe, and I liked it, but I altered it a little to suit my taste.  Below is my altered recipe.

A food processor is a miracle invention, and I wouldn’t even try this without one.  Use the metal blade that spins on the bottom of the container (not the shredder or slicer blade). 



One 15-ounce can (425 grams) chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, mostly drained (save the liquid to thin the hummus at the end.)
2 tablespoons chickpea liquid
1/4 cup (59 ml) tahini (you might find it in the grocery store by the peanut butter)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Garlic powder equal to1 large garlic clove
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon chipotle flakes
sprinkle paprika before serving


Put the drained chickpeas, 2 tbsp chickpea juice, tahini, and salt in the food processor.  Process until blended smooth – probably 20 seconds or so – maybe more/less.  It doesn’t have to be perfect – you’ll process it more later.  You can mix in some of the lemon juice, but putting it in a lot at a time will make it splash all over the inside of the processor.

Mix in the garlic powder, cumin, and chipotle flakes.

Add in the rest of the lemon juice slowly while processor is on.  If the hummus is too thick, add more chickpea juice one tbsp at a time until it's the desired consistency.

One thing that’s great about the 16oz hummus container from Trader Joe’s is that this recipe makes the perfect amount to refill the container – and it’s just as good.  

Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

POG Cocktail

A couple months ago, when my husband and I were on Maui, we stopped by a restaurant called Sea House for happy hour.  (You can read my post about the restaurant here.)  I tried a cocktail there called the Sea House Punch.  It was one of the few cocktails I had on Maui that wasn't a Mai Tai, and I wish I had tried it sooner.  It was so good.  As my blog post about Sea House mentioned, it contained coconut rum, POG (a mixture of passion fruit, orange and guava juice), pineapple juice and mango puree.

After one sip of this cocktail, both my husband and I were in love with POG, which is pretty hard to find when you're not in Hawaii.  We broke down a few weeks ago and ordered some on Amazon.  The brand we got is called Hawaiian Sun, and the flavor is Pass-O-Guava Nectar.  It's not 100% juice, and I don't think it's the same brand we had at Sea House, but it's as close as we could find that ships to L.A. 

The box of POG arrived yesterday, and we were both so excited.  Now summer will feel like a lazy day at the beach on Maui.  All we needed was some POG!

Today, I decided to create my own version of the cocktail that I had at Sea House.  It's not exactly the same, but it's refreshing and light, perfect for sipping on a summer day. 

POG cocktail (makes 2)

1 11.5 oz can POG
4 oz pineapple juice
4 oz Malibu coconut rum


Fill 2 large glasses with ice.  Divide the POG, pineapple juice and Malibu evenly among the glasses.  Stir to combine.  Sip by the pool and envision yourself at an open-air bar overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Happy drinking!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Beer Battered Chips

If you've read some of my previous blog posts, you know how much I love beer battered chips.  My husband and I visited Australia this past December, and we ate beer battered chips every chance we got.

For those of you who don't know, "chips" are what those in England and Australia call "fries."  Or, those of us in the U.S. say "French fries" instead of "chips."  Who's right and who's wrong is not for me to decide; all I know is that the beer battered variety is amazing.

The good news is that they're really easy to make.  All you need is a deep fryer, a bottle of beer, some flour and potatoes.  Here's the recipe:

Beer Battered Chips


6 large potatoes (not peeled but cut into wedges)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 can or bottle of beer
TexJoy (or your favorite seasoning mix)
vegetable oil for deep frying
sea salt


Spread out the wedges on a cookie sheet so that they're in a single layer and place the cookie sheet in the freezer.  You may need more than one cookie sheet, or you could put parchment paper between the layers of wedges to keep them from sticking together.

Freeze for at least 2 hours but longer is fine.  I've frozen them overnight before.

Heat up the oil in your deep fryer.  Meanwhile, put one cup of flour in a large bowl. (I use bread pans because they're the perfect size and shape for chips.)  Add the beer and mix to combine.  Put the remaining cup of flour in another large bowl (or bread pan). Add TexJoy to taste.  I probably add a couple tablespoons but it depends how spicy I want it. 

Then remove the potatoes from the freezer.  Add the frozen potato wedges to the bowl with the flour and TexJoy mixture, and stir to coat the wedges evenly with flour. 

Dunk the wedges into the beer mixture and then drop them into the deep fryer.  Fry until golden and crispy, probably about 5 minutes.  It depends how hot your oil is and how thick your wedges are.  I suggest tasting one to make sure it's done.  :)

Transfer the wedges to a serving platter to eat immediately, or place them on paper towels on a cookie sheet and keep warm in your oven set to the lowest temperature (probably 170).  Sprinkle the wedges with sea salt and TexJoy while they cool.


Make sure you don't put a new batch of hot greasy wedges on top of a batch of wedges that has been cooling for awhile.  If you do that, the wedges on the bottom will get soggy.  Put new batches next to older ones to allow excess grease to drip off before lumping all the chips together for serving.

When I was trying to find a recipe for beer battered chips, most recipes I found said to microwave the wedges before freezing them.  By accident, I discovered that the microwaving part isn't necessary.  We forgot to microwave them first, so we decided to see if the frozen wedges would still fry through without getting too greasy.  They were prefect.

The reason you need to freeze the wedges is that it helps the flour and batter stick to them better.  I know it requires some planning ahead and quite a bit of space in the freezer, but it's worth it.  Otherwise, you'll have great chips (or fries) but they won't be beer battered.

If you want an easy way to chop up the potatoes, may I recommend this nifty gadget pictured to the right.  It makes the process very easy.  I got mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Warning: these are addictive.  Not good for diets.  Great with grilled food or your favorite meat.

Most notably, we made these for Easter dinner this year.  We decided to have an Australian themed meal, so we made beer battered chips, a leg of lamb and a salad.  I've mentioned in other posts that when we were in Australia a lot of the meals we had consisted of chips, a salad and some kind of meat.  It really is a great combination.

The fries are amazing and addictive on their own, but they're also delicious with your favorite dip.  There's a rosemary dip that we made to go with the lamb, and we ended up eating it with the fries too.

Happy eating!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Star Bar

One of the best meals my husband and I had while visiting Sydney, Australia was at a Star Bar.  It used to be Planet Hollywood, and it still has all the movie memorabilia inside.  It could use a really good cleaning and a little upkeep, but you get what you pay for.

Eating out in Sydney can get expensive, and we were often told that bars are best for reasonably priced food that's also really good.  Star Bar fit the bill.  For only $40 A.U.D., we shared a bottle of wine and each got a meal.  Really, how can you beat that?

We tend to like sweet wine, so we shared a bottle of pink Moscato.  I don't remember it being the best wine I had ever tasted, but I also don't remember us having a problem finishing the bottle.  If we went to Star Bar again, we'd probably get the pink Moscato again too.

I ordered the chicken schnitzel.  There was a free upgrade to add shrimp on top of it, and it came with a salad and chips.  One thing that I found to be pretty common in Australia was for a typical meal to consist of some sort of meat, a salad and chips (or "fries" as we call them in the U.S.).  It's a great combination.  I had never had chicken schnitzel before, but it was so good.  I really enjoyed it.  It wasn't too greasy.  It was lightly breaded and juicy.  I'd definitely order it again.

My husband ordered the chopped steak which came with chips (no salad this time).  It was a juicy, tender, flavorful steak.  I wouldn't be against ordering that next time.

If you're traveling to Sydney, I'd definitely recommend checking out some of the bar menus for dinner.  Star Bar is kinda fun if you like Hollywood props.  Since it's a former Planet Hollywood, it seems kind of like an alternate universe...like you're in an end of the world type movie.  It wasn't very crowded when we were there, around 6pm on a week night.  I saw a few people come in to share a pitcher of beer and a basket of chips.  I saw some couples eating dinner together and a few people on their laptops or reading a newspaper. 

Happy eating!


I usually tend to avoid airport food.  It's overpriced and usually not very good.  Airport food to me usually means paying over twice as much as usual for McDonald's.

Well, there's one exception to this rule.  The best airport food I ever had was at the Brisbane airport.  My husband and I were in Australia this past December, and we had a layover in Brisbane while flying via Virgin Australia from Sydney to Proserpine.  It had been an early morning, and we were both pretty hungry by the time we arrived in Brisbane.  We also needed to kill time during the layover.  After glancing at a couple menus, we grabbed a table at In-Bar-Go.  First of all, the name is perfect for an airport bar.  We ordered several items to share assuming that the portions would be small.  We got a garlic bread pizza, wedges and satay chicken skewers.

We ordered way too much food.

The garlic bread pizza would've been enough on it's own.  It's probably the best pizza crust I've ever eaten.  I don't know if garlic bread pizza is a typical Australian thing, but I'd never had something like that in the U.S. (or, in "the States" as everything in Australia seemed to refer to the good ol' U.S. of A.).  The crust looked like a typical pizza crust, but it really tasted just like garlic bread.  That crust with cheese on top was amazing.  The closest comparison I can make is to cheese bread...but this was better.

The wedges were beer battered potato wedges, and they came with sour cream for dipping.  They would've been enough on their own too.  Beer battered chips (or fries as those of us in "the States" call them) are amazing.  I ate them every chance I got in Australia.  Now, you have to make sure you get the "beer battered" chips and not just "chips."  Chips are the same as fries.  They're fine...but with beer batter...they're amazing!  The wedges at In-Bar-Go were probably the best beer battered chips I had while in Australia.  They were thick and crispy and delicious.

The satay chicken skewers were okay.  They came with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce if I remember correctly.  It was nice to have some meat along with all the carbs we ordered, but next time I'd probably just get the garlic bread pizza or the wedges.  One order of one of those is plenty for two people to share during a layover lunch.

I really look forward to going back to Australia someday (hopefully soon), and I'm going to make a point to fly out of the domestic terminal of the Brisbane airport so that I can eat at In-Bar-Go.  It's that good.  Seriously.  I'm not exaggerating.

Since returning to the U.S., I've made a point of learning how to make beer battered chips, but I have yet to figure out how to recreate that garlic bread pizza.  Australia, I love you for so many reasons, but you sure get bonus points for amazing airport food!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Turkey Kofta with Tahini Sauce

For dinner tonight, we tried a recipe I found in the latest issue of Eating Well magazine, Turkey Kofta with Tahini Sauce.  Here's the link to the online recipe:

We made the recipe almost exactly as described.  I managed to squeeze the turkey onto 3 skewers instead of the suggested 4, but that's the only change I made for the turkey.  For the tahini sauce, I used a 6-ounce container of plain nonfat Greek yogurt and doubled the other ingredients for the sauce.

The turkey kofta had a slightly middle eastern taste but wasn't as spicy as I usually like.  It was good though, and we'll probably make it again.

The tahini sauce was the real standout.  My husband especially loved it.  It kind of tasted like hummus because of the tahini paste, and he's a huge fan of hummus.  For lunch, my husband often spreads hummus on flatbread, fills it with mixed greens and rolls it up like a wrap.  He plans to substitute the tahini sauce for hummus in his future wraps.  We'll probably make the tahini sauce much more often than the turkey kofta.

I didn't know what tahini paste was before making this recipe, but it's basically like natural peanut butter (where it separates and you have to stir it) with sesame seeds instead of peanuts.  It was even in the peanut butter section of the grocery store.

If you like middle eastern food, you'll like this meal.  It'd go well with rice or a salad.  We had it with a grilled wedge salad (see the recipe here) and some grilled baby potatoes.  The potatoes were really good with the tahini sauce too.  At the very least, make the tahini sauce.  It's so good!

I always love trying new recipes, and it's especially fun trying grilled recipes in the summer.

Happy eating!