Kelly the Culinarian: May 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My New Obsession: Oatmeal

I'm not really sure why I love oatmeal more than chocolate right now, but it seems kind of healthy, so I'm going to go with it. Today, I baked all things oatmeal for the week ahead. Take a look at my oven -- I made my standard baked oatmeal with mashed bananas, oatmeal cookies and awesome granola.

This granola was the tasty thing ever. When we were at the store the other day, my husband threw granola in the cart, but I knew I could make it cheaper and better at home. I was right! Here's my recipe:

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup sliced roasted almonds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup flaxseed meal

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, honey and brown sugar until incorporated. Drizzle evenly over the oat mixture, then stir to combine. Pour onto a large roasting pan and spread to make an even layer. Cook for 40 minutes at 300 degrees, stirring every 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then break into pieces. Enjoy the deliciousness.

On a completely unrelated note, can you believe we're had this puppy face for two years? We brought him home two years ago today and he's been in our hearts ever since. I never had pets as a kid and couldn't really understand the connection, but I can't imagine my home without a dog now. He's a furry little member of our family.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ladies who brunch

Brunch is my favorite entertaining option. It's delicious, can be as light or decadent as you desire, takes just a little bit of prep and can look super impressive. I recently had some of my favorite ladies over for brunch, which included mimosas, tons of food and gossip. I love my ladies!

I served blueberry scones, banana bread, cinnamon glazed scones (my favorite!), turkey bacon, fruit salad, an egg casserole and a baked oatmeal. Here's the banana baked oatmeal recipe:

1 cup quick oats

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup splenda

1/3 cup raisins

1.5 large bananas, mashed

1 teaspoon baking soda

1.5 cups skim milk

1/4 cup egg whites or egg substitute

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal

Mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then combine. Place in a greased 8x8 baking dish and bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees or until the top is brown. This makes nine servings.

Napoleon was not so pleased about this gathering. I had to move his cage out of the way, and he expressed his displeasure by somehow getting on top of his cage and staying there. Yes, that is a bold statement, sir.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Villa Park Fruit Market

I am so happy I wandered into this place over the weekend. I went into the Villa Park Fruit Market a looong time ago, probably when we first moved in. Back then, it was a hole-in-the-wall ethnic market with a small meat counter and rows of fresh produce. That was then, and now it is sparkling and lovely.

The market underwent a renovation at some point since my last trip in. The store is now spacious, sprawling and impeccably clean. It even features a juice bar, deli, upscale bakery and expansive meat and fish counter. I saw some of the most amazing pastries and cakes available for far less than I would expect to pay. Of course, the main attraction is produce. There are aisles of fresh produce, specializing in in-season items peppered with exotic finds such as prickly pear leaves, aloe vera leaves, jicama, apple pears and more. Best off, it's cheap, cheap, cheap!

I picked up a watermelon for $.99, a dozen eggs for $.99, a large bunch of cilantro for $.40 and a 3-pound bag of onions for $1.49. My entire cart of produce ran me less than $10. Here's a look at just a couple of the items from my cart after I washed everything.

The quality of the produce is great and the price can't be beat. I was impressed by the selection as well. I don't think other items there, such as dried goods, dairy or beverages, are that great of a deal, but that's not where I end up spending the majority of my money anyhow. I'll definitely be heading in again and I would suggest you do too if you're in the area.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So many lessons learned ...

Where to even start. Note to self: the next time you're craving one of those fancy coffee drinks because it is absolutely lovely outside and a Sunday blended coffee sounds awesome, take your cheap ass to Starbucks and pay the $3 for the drink. It is not worth the time or mess to try and make one.
Also, a food processor is not a blender. Liquids are not supposed to be in the food processor. That's what a blender is for. Write that one down, self.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Fabulous Frozen Chocolate Delight

The title is a little deceptive. There is no cooking required for this fabulously impressive cheesecake-like dessert. I've made it twice now, once with a ganche top, and once with a shredded dark chocolate dusting. You do need specialized equipment for this concoction. Get yourself a springform cheesecake pan, which has a removable bottom for lovely presentation that tricks your coworkers into thinking you actually can cook. You can find these things at Goodwill on any day of the week.

Here's the recipe:

12 oreos, crushed

1/2 stick butter, softened

2 packages of cream cheese, softened (I use one regular, one reduced fat)

1 tub of whipped topping (can use light or regular)

1 can sweetened, condensed milk

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons butter

Chocolate shavings (optional) or chocolate ganache

Mix the softened butter and crushed oreos together and press into the bottom of the pan. Place in the freezer to help it set up better. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on the low setting, whip together the cream cheese until fluffy, then add the condensed milk. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave, heating for 30 seconds at a time on reduced power. Add the melted chocolate, scrapping the sides of the bowl as needed until all the ingredients are smooth. Move the mixture into a large bowl, the fold the thawed whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Gently spoon over the oreo crust. It should fill the pan to the top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight, then top with chocolate, if desired.

To serve, allow to thaw for 30 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edges before removing the springform sides. Use a sharp knife to portion.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Our second anniversary at Texas de Brazil!

And of course, I'm going to talk about what we ate. For our anniversary, we decided to go to Texas de Brazil. We only go there if we have a coupon since it's somewhere around $37 per person without drinks or dessert. Luckily, they sent us a buy-one-get-one coupon.

The concept of the place is a Brazilian-style steakhouse where they bring a variety of grilled meats to each table until you you've decided you've had enough. They have a massive, totally delicious salad bar that always has lobster bisque, a variety of cheeses and of course, a plethora of salads and toppings. But I wasn't there for the salad.

Every table receives these awesome cheesy bread bites, garlic mashed potatoes and cinnamon-sugar bananas (which I will try to replicate at home soon). Each diner gets a little card -- green means bring me more meat and red means I'm crying for mercy.

My advice? Skip the chicken wings and ribs. Go for the bacon-wrapped filet, sirloin and flank steak. Really, steak just has a special place in my heart. We never get dessert or even drinks (side note, make sure to order TAP water or else they'll get you good on the cost of bottled water ... lame). Also, skip lunch before this. There's just so much to eat and it's so expensive, I like to get my money's worth.
Strangely enough, even after gorging myself on delicious, velvety steak, I needed to get my wedding rings resized. Two years later, I'm nine pounds less than when I got married and went down 1.25 sizes in rings. Exciting times!
It's been a wonderful two years of marriage and I know we're both looking forward to celebrating many more anniversaries and milestones. Love you, dear!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Restaurant review: Wilde Bar and Restuarant in Lakeview

I don't get to the city very often, but my sister does live there. We recently stopped to have lunch in Lakeview, and our picking were very slim because it happened to be Easter. Even worse, we missed brunch by two minutes. Seriously?!

So we stumbled into Wilde Bar and Restaurant and grumbled about the lack of pancakes in our future. And how that was totally lame. Anyhow, this Irish pub and eatery is very cute, but a little dark on the inside given all the dark wood and stained glass fixtures and quite noisy.

We started our meal like all great Irish meals ... with booze. And just because we missed their famed brunch, we had to settle for brunch drinks. My sister got a mimosa, I got something called a greyhound -- it was grapefruit juice with vodka. I wasn't a huge fan, but for $6, I was finishing the damn thing. Next, our waiter brought out a plate of muffins. We devoured them before anyone told us what they were, and even when I asked, the server told me they were muffins. Very helpful. Whatever they were called, they were delicious and the kid sister and I both decided they tasted like fruit loops, but in a good way.
Together, we split and Angus burger with Irish cheddar, sweet potato fries and their house macaroni and cheese, which included thick-cut bacon chunks, a white cheddar sauce, tomatoes and caramelized onions.

The verdict? Very generous portions of delicious comfort food hit the spot, but the slow service left something to be desired. We got the appetizer-sized mac and cheese and it was huge and soooo good. The sauce was downright velvety and the onions were very sweet. The tomatoes were an unexpected touch and added great texture. The burger was a bit bland and I was disappointed with the Irish cheddar (I should have ordered a sharper cheese), but I really enjoyed the fries. It was quite pricey, ringing it at more than $50 for lunch, and it's not like we ordered the lobster. It was extra for the sweet potato fries and extra for the Irish cheddar. It's my own fault for ordering a $6 cocktail before 5 p.m.