02 April 2009

Strawberry Napoleon

Or this could be called "Easy Strawberry Napoleon" or "Low-fat Strawberry Napoleon." But I decided to keep it simple. ;) This is so easy to put together, but it looks so impressive. In fact, if you don't let you guests see you make, they'll thin you spent hours preparing it.

1 sheet puff pastry
whipped cream
chocolate sauce

Defrost puff pastry according to package. Once it has defrosted enough to handle, cut puff pastry into 9 squares. Bake according to directions on package (about 15 minutes). Remove from oven and split each square into two pieces. On plate, layer pastry, whipped cream, strawberries, chocolate sauce. Repeat 2 or 3 times (depending on how hungry you are!)

This recipe is so easy to modify depending on your needs. I make this for my uncle who is watching what he eats because fruit is healthy, then I can use sugar-free cool whip and low fat chocolate syrup. Or I can make it ultra decadent by whipping my own cream and using high-quality chocolate. Either way, it's a hit!

Garlicy Spinach

Until high school, I was an avid hater of spinach. My mother made it on a regular basis and I would rather starve than eat that nasty stuff from the box. All that changed in high school when I was invited over for dinner to my friend's house. There was an intoxicating smell coming from the kitchen so I went to check it out. What the heck was it? I asked what it was and she told me spinach. But it wasn't like the spinach my mom made; it was heaping, overflowing out of the skillet. After I explained to her my concern about not being normal spinach, she told me after eating this, I would never want spinach another way. I watched her for the few minutes; the spinach that had tried to escape the skillet had now melted into this little mound of green. It went against my whole will, I had to try it. One bite and I was hooked. You know what? She was right. That was almost eleven years ago and I have never prepared my spinach any other way. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! (There's one way thing to know, you can NEVER have too much garlic. I used almost a whole head this time!)

Yes, that white is garlic. I didn't mince mine enough this time but it was still good!

4 T. olive oil (just a guess)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bags spinach (9 oz each)

In a LARGE skillet, heat up oil and sautee garlic. Make sure garlic is completely cooked and soft. (When you add the spinach, it is more the heat from the oil that will wilt and cook it than the heat from the burner.) Once garlic is browned, add all the spinach. Keep turning spinach until all is cooked and wilted.

Grilled Chicken Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes and Balsamic Reduction

The inspiration for this dish was a combination of two things. First, I had a dish similar to this a TGI Friday's. It was so good and so simple that I couldn't forget it. I remember the balsamic reduction that was to die for but it was not nearly enough. Yesterday at lunch, my aunt had some killer lemon spinach which in turn made me crazy for spinach (MY spinach because I know I can make it better). My uncle had pecan crusted chicken that was incredibly tender. After discussion, we decided it was because the chicken was so thin. SO I decided to combine the two and the result was awesome! My aunt and uncle raved about it. I'd highly recommend it and I wouldn't change a thing. I'm going to write my directions to show you how to multi-task so hopefully it all is ready at the same time! So read everything first, then cook. ;)

chicken breasts, butterflied
salt-free lemon pepper

capellini pasta
diced tomatoes
a good quality hard cheese, grated

1 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 T. brown sugar

Preheat grill (or George Foreman in my case). To butterfly chicken, trim of all fat and skin. Carefully place on palm on top of chicken, using the other hand slice through the middle of breast. Spray George Foreman grill with Pam. Season both sides of chicken breast with lemon pepper seasoning, sprinkle top with oregano. Cook for about five minutes or until temperature is 165 (carry over cooking will take it to 170).

While grill is heating (before you butterfly the chicken), pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a gentle simmer. Let simmer while everything cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When water is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta.

Around the time you add the pasta, taste the balsamic reduction. If it needs a little bit of sweetness, add brown sugar to taste. Return to simmer while pasta cooks. The reduction should have reduced by about half and it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

To serve, place pasta on place, cut chicken into bite size pieces and layer on top of pasta. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Add diced tomatoes and cheese. Serve with crusty bread.

01 April 2009

Threadgill's, Austin, TX

Testifying before a House committee at the Capitol can really work up an appetite. After we were done, we decided to hit up local eats in Austin. Threadgill's boasts home cooking and I was bound to determine if that was true. When you walk in, the atmosphere is awesome. Gingham tablecloths, crock condiment holders and music posters plastered all over the walls makes you feel like your at a cross between your favorite country bar and your grandma's house. They have chalkboards on every wall listing a blue plate special, veggie of the day, soup of the day and dessert of the day. (Which I have to say, I LOVE a restaurant that can change their menu every day. It shows versatility, creativity and it is not your stock chain place.)

We started with fried green tomatoes because I mean, how can you NOT order fried green tomatoes when they are available? I was shocked to learn that out of myself, my aunt and my uncle, I was the only one who had ever had fried green tomatoes. So for the record, it is NOT just a movie, bt a pretty scrumptous dish. Green tomatoes are a little tangy and firmer than ripe tomatoes. Served along with a spicy ranch, they are delish!

Did I mention that they give you complimentary cornbread and yeast rolls? The cornbread is more traditional muffin style that pan cornbread. It is a little sweeter and has whole kernels of corn in it. But awesome nonetheless.

Now what every southern gal wants, Chicken Friend Steak! This was an above average chicken fried steak. Now by NO means does this mean it was bad, but a girl has certain needs and wants. I like a tender steak, crispy batter, thick cream white gravy are all a must. This CFS had two out of the three. The steak was so tender I could a fork to cut it and the batter was light and crispy. The gravy was, well different. I prefer gravy that I can eat with a fork. Threadgill's was thinner and had a sweeter taste to it. Perhaps they made it from ham dripping instead of bacon because there wasn't that smoky flavor to it. Would I eat it again? Heck yes. The sides are just like your grandma would make. They have an extensive listing of sides which all sounded too good. I finally decided on San Antonio squash and cheesy garlic grits, as you can see in the background. San Antonio squash was just another name for cheesy squash. It could have been sliced a little thinner, but the flavor was good. The cheesy garlic grits was tasty, not too much garlic, but plenty of cheese.

My aunt had grilled chicken with spinach and asparagus. It was average. The chicken was moist but not a lot of bold flavors. My uncle had the pecan crusted chicken and HOLY COW! this was good. I think I would have traded my CFS for his chicken. The chicken was so thin and the batter was not too thick. It was placed on a bed of creamy pecan gravy. I would highly recommend this dish to anyone; even if you don't like pecans, try it, it doesn't taste like it. It just has a subtly sweet taste and amazing texture.

Overall: 4/5

Eating at Threadgill's is an experience. We had a wonderful and attentive waiter with great food. The eclectic crowd that eats here is what defines Austin. So yes, I'm picky, but it was still good. I would eat here again in two heartbeats.