Saturday, February 28, 2009

La Casa Del Mojito

...Is where we went to dinner tonight.

What a great day I had today! After a quick meeting this morning, I went to get a pedicure. I then went home, had lunch, got my dog, and we went shopping. It was one of those great shopping days- the kind where I browse as much as I fancy, while refusing to look at the time since no one and nothing is waiting on me.

Imagine my surprise when at 6:00 I realized I had no plans and no desire to cook dinner! So, with little persuading, Raj agreed that we should go out to dinner. We wanted a casual, mid range dinner out, thought about our usual go-to's, and then decided to try something new.

La Casa Del Mojito (Spanish for "The House of the [alchoholic beverage]" is not a Mexican restaurant, but rather "Latin American" food.

Sangrias: 8/10. Super good, they had a hint of cinnamon!

Appetizer (Tortilla Espanola): 7/10It was a eggy, potatoey, layered thing. Reeeally good, also.

Raj's dinner (Parrilla De Luigi): 9/10. He loved it, and I tried the steak. It was moist and tender, and cooked nice and rare.

My dinner (Lechon Asado): 7/10 As tasty as it was, I think I ordered the wrong thing. I don't know why, in my mood for something light, I ordered pulled pork. Waaay more that I could eat, and I kinda wished I'd had a salad to go with it.

All in all, it is definitely a place I'd recommend, and for sure a place we'll go back to.

Total bill with tax: $54

Annika's overall rating: 8.5/10

La Casa Del Mojito

IMPORTANT TIP: There are 2 locations of this restaurant. The one we went to is on Lake City Way, and it was tiny. I mean seating for 15 people tiny. The servers repeatedly let us know that there is another, bigger location on University Way. I think they want people to go there more.

Friday, February 27, 2009

I Forgot to Mention

I was asked to make and ice cream cake for a tenth birthday for last weekend. I knew instantly what I wanted to do:
This is a baked alaska. I swear to you, this is sooo easy- truly one of those you-don't-have-to-be-a-pastry-chef-to-impress-everyone-desserts. There's not even a recipe, but here's the instructions.

How to make a baked alaska:

1. For the cake base every recipe is different. Choose whatever cake you or the person you're making the cake for loves best. For the cake I made, I chose a brownie base. Whatever you choose, bake it in a 8" cake pan.

2. Find about a 2 1/2 quart glass bowl with an 8" rim (tres important!), and line it with plastic wrap, leaving about 2 inches of the plastic wrap to hang over the bowl.

3. Choose 3 pints of your favorite ice cream. My birthday boy chose mint chocolate chip, strawberry, and french vanilla ("Not the kind with the beans," he said, "Just the vanilla flavor.") Let them soften on the counter until spreadable. Begin layering each pint in the bowl, letting each layer freeze thoroughly before putting on the next one.

4. Remove cake (or brownies) from cake pan. Carefully line the cake up on the top layer of the ice cream and wrap the plastic wrap around the cake. Freeze for at least four hours.

5. To remove ice cream from the bowl, place bowl in warm water for about ten seconds (careful not to get water in the cake). Invert bowl onto cake plate and if you need to gently shake or tap to remove the creation.

6. Make meringue using 1 cup egg whites (about 8), 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. Whip in a stand mixer for 4-5 minutes until it forms medium-stiff peaks.

7. Spread meringue over ice cream, creating waves and peaks all over.

8. THE BEST PART- I would suggest you all get a kitchen torch so you can do this: take your torch and begin to lightly move the fire around the cake (keeping the actual flame 1 1/2-2 inches away from cake), to toast the meringue. It's a beautiful finishing touch.

And there you have it!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Try This

I used to not be a fan of magazines- I never really bought or subscribed to them. It now seems that all of a sudden my magazine collection has gotten seriously out of control. I think that between Raj and I we subscribe to six, err, no seven magazines. Some of which are weekly. If we are not careful, all too soon we are going to be like one of those old couples who are watching Jeopardy! buried in our recliners underneath our stacks of 23 year old magazines. I can just see it happening.

Luckily I am conscious of our tendencies, so I am always sure that, unless the magazine is super special (like my Gourmets or Dominos) that as soon as the new addition comes, the old goes in the recycling. Before tossing, I always go through and pull out whatever I find interesting or inspiring (usually good recipes or something I want to buy). I was reminded today, as I was reflipping through an old Sunset magazine, of an awesome recipe for braised lamb.

I don't know why I forgot about it. First of all, it was super easy. I tweaked the recipe a little, so that it was basically a throw into the oven at a low temp, go to work, and dinner was ready and perfect when I came home eight hours later. Second, we were all like, "Wow! This is amazing!" and we really enjoyed it. Third, we had leftovers all week to do great things with like make greek yogurt and lamb sandwiches. Seriously, I'm not sure why I haven't made it once a week since.

I'm giving you my own version, since I think the prep and cleanup is easier this way. If you want the original, it's here.

Coffee Braised Spoon Lamb (adapted from Sunset magazine)

  • 6 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 bone-in leg of lamb (about 4 lbs.), trimmed of outside fat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 large carrots, cut into chunks (or half a bag of baby carrots that are getting not-s0-crisp)
  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • 1 tomato, quartered
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups freshly brewed strong coffee, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 250°. Mince 2 garlic cloves and rub onto lamb, spreading evenly. Heat a dutch oven or oven safe covered pan on stove to medium-high heat. Braise lamb on all sides in olive oil, making sure that each side is a nice, deep brown.

2. Transfer lamb to a plate. In pan over high heat, add wine, and boil until it has reduced by half. Stir in 2 cups coffee. Add all other ingredients, including the lamb. Cover pan and put in oven.

4. Cook until lamb is tender and pulling away from the bone, about 5-8 hours.

5. Transfer lamb to a platter and cover with foil. Reheat remaining 1 cup coffee and pour with liquid and vegetables from pan into a blender, working in batches if needed. Pulse until smooth. Pour sauce through a strainer set over a bowl, using the back of a spoon or ladle to push it through if needed. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour half of sauce over lamb and serve the rest in a bowl. Sprinkle lamb with parsley.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some Good Little Bars

It's funny- one would think, one would hope that when a body is in healing mode that it would crave only and all of what is good for it. Personally, all I want is sugar. Now, I am an admitted sugar addict, but I am even more ridiculous right now than I normally am. It makes me afraid of getting pregnant...

Right now I am craving one of my favorite sweets to eat and bake. Unfortunately, I am certain to not be able to make them with one arm indisposed. Call them raspberry almond bars, raspberry streusel bars, mazurkas, whatever. They come from my ever favorite Macrina Bakery Cookbook from my ever favorite Macrina Bakery downtown. She calls them "Fruit and Oat Bars," which makes them sound altogether much more healthy than they actually are.

They are on my mind because I have been asked to make them for a women's luncheon for this Saturday. Don't worry, Friday night I will have the help of a dear friend to do everything I cannot.

So here you are:

Leslie Mackie's Fruit and Oat Bars from the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook

For the sweet almond dough crust:

1/4 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup granulate sugar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Roast almonds for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees, cool, and finely grind in a food processor. Measure out 2 tablespoons, and combine with sugar and flour in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together vanilla extract, almond extract, and melted butter. Add mixture to dry ingredients and mix until coarse and crumbly. The finished dough will stick together when squeezed.

Reduce oven to 325 degrees. Using your fingers press dough into an oiled 13x 9 1/2 inch baking pan, covering the bottom and 3/4 inch of the sides with 1/4 inch of dough. Chill for 30 minutes.

Line the chilled crust with parchment paper and fill with dried beans. Bake crust for 20-25 minutes until edges are golden. Remove paper and beans.

For the topping:

2 1/2 cups raspberry preserves
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups rolled oats

Using a rubber spatula, cover the crust with raspberry preserves.

Cut butter into 1/4 inch pieces and place them in a medium bowl. Add sugar, flour, and oats. Using your fingers, mix the ingredients, working the butter into the flour until the ingredients are combined and the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the preserves.

Bake on center rack for about 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the preserves are bubbling around the edges. Cool (if you can!) at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I have no official evidence to back this up- on the internets at least- but I have heard more than once over the past few weeks that Costco's brand Kirkland Signature has some of the best quality food products that one can buy- in the US, that is.

Now, I'm sure you will roll your eyes and say sarcastically "Boy am I surprised" when I tell you that I don't usually support buying the most food money can buy for the least amount of dollars. Truly you usually end up losing in quality what you gained in quantity. With that said, I am a Costco member and I do quite a bit of shopping here.

When I go shopping at Costco it usually puts me in a bad mood because of it's bad parking, long lines, too many pushy people, etc., so I want to get in and out as quick as I can. Because of this I have gotten my Costco runs down to a science. I know exactly what I want and need and get in and out pretty quickly. This took a few looong trips of going up and down each aisle, seeing what they sell, trying a few items that didn't make me very happy (Nancy's pita chips, for example, are a great deal but they always staled before I could eat them all), and then memorizing the location of the stuff I like so I can run through the store.

I won't tell you the locations of the items I buy, but I will tell you what I buy to save you the trouble of Costco trial, because Costco error can leave you with 15 packages of macaroni and cheese that you don't really like (I don't care if Annie's in natural, it's juts not good) and nothing to do with them.

Here is my list:

Earthbound organic spring grean mix- I kid you not, it's like the neverending salad tub. You take some out and then an hour later it's filled up again.

Kirkland signature organic peanut butter- Ingredients: peanuts. I like that you get two normal sized jars instead of one ginormous one. And for $7.00 for two, I find it to be my favorite even over peanut butter that costs $7 for one jar.

Tillamook 1lb cheddar baby loaf- By the way we go through cheese in this house, you'd think that it was a sorority full of girls on PMS.

PJ's organic burritos- Raj likes to take these to work

La Brea Demi Baguettes- They come in a pack of 5 or 6, and I freeze these right away. They stay fresh enough that I can just heat one up when I want a baguette with dinner or a yummy sandwich. La Brea, by the way, is a brand also sold at whole foods, and you will pay $2 for just one of these baguettes.

15 Pound bag organic brown rice- I don't really buy this every time I go. In fact, I purchased this just one and I don't think I'll have to buy another one as long as we live. It's huge!

C&H white, brown, and powdered sugars- not for everyone, but for bakers, yes.

Kirkland signature organice butter and organic eggs- Best deals on organic both.

Charmin toilette paper- TP is one place that I just can't bring myself to go organic.

Bounty paper towels- See above

Scotch bright sponges- Again, such a great deal for how many you get. And they have coupons for this one alot.

Kirkland signature organic instant oatmeal packages- because I never get up early enough to make a good breakfast on a work day, and neither does Raj. The taste is OK, the convenience is great.

Lastly, sometimes I supplement with brown rice chips, Kashi granola bars, or Izzi sodas.

And that's Annika's approved list!

Oh, and since there is no picture today, I am giving you this token for next time you want to swing by the food court on your way out:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What to do when you can't do anything.

Good news- I can type with both hands again! That's about all I can do, but it's a big step from where I was a couple of days ago. It's amazing how hungry one gets while sitting around and doing nothing....

So I can't cook, and all I've really been able to do is read. The good news is that I am reading cookbooks and magazines, and I'm getting very excited to try new recipes and to share them with you. When I am able to. Two recipes that I have flagged are a provencal chicken and tomato roast and this Bourbon Banana Pudding with Glazed Pecans. Mmmm.

It's driving me crazy not to be able to cook, but in the mean time my mom is here and she just made pineapple upside down cake to cheer me up. I think before she goes back home she is going to make a big pan of my favorite chicken stew with biscuits from the Barefoot Contessa. If you ever don't know what to make for dinner- make that.

So that's what I've been up to. I'm sorry it's not super exciting, but I will be sharing some great things in the next few days, so check back.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Feeling a Bit Useless, and The Remedy

So, I fractured my shoulder skiing...yup. That's it. There is nothing I can do now but wait to heal. No prescription to make it go away, nothing to
make me feel better....or is there????

Yesterday- the day after the "incident"- my wonderful husband/nurse took off of work to take me to the doctor, and to just take care of me in general. While we were out and in between appointments, we went to the Coastal Kitchen for some sustenance. Now , the Coastal Kitchen in Seattle is best know for it's continually changing menus. Every season or couple of weeks or so, they focus on a certain coastal region (Peru, Casablanca, Crete, currently Tunisia, etc...) and build a small menu around the local fares and flavors of that region. This is super fun, tasty, and exciting, but to be quite honest at $17-$25 per entree I find it a bit overpriced (even for seafood) and it's not what draws me in.

What I do love about the Coastal Kitchen is that the offer what I think is "perfect meal". For about $9 you can get a bowl of seafood chowder, a salad, and a nice hunk of delicious bread. What makes it even more great is that like the regional cuisine, these recipes are always changing. Sometimes the chowder is New England, sometimes it's Manhattan, sometimes the bread is sour dough, sometimes it's a get the picture. I find this meal to always be delicious, healthy, satisfying, just enough in quantity, and a great value. That gives it "perfect meal" status in my book (or my blog, I guess).

However, when one breaks an arm let us not forget that only one prescription can make it all better- a hot fudge sundae.

Sorry about the phone picture- but that's me in the background with my arm in a sling.

Anyways, if you go to the Coastal Kitchen for no other reason, go for the hot fudge sundae. They make the hot fudge in house, use real whipped cream, and cover it with just the right amount of nuts. It is soooooooo good! And what's great is that the small is not sickeningly huge, and only costs about $4. Which means you don't pay $10 for a dessert that you only eat half or less of.

Well, it didn't heal my shoulder, but it definitely made my countenance feel better for the present.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Thoughts of the Day (from Pastry School)

I know I have let a few days pass without dropping you a note, and I apologize.  Sometimes, it seems, that time just runs away from you doesn't it?  That can be a good thing is some cases such as when the winter is dragging it's feet and seems like it's never going to end! It's times like these that I want to jump for joy when the high even hits 50 degrees, and then I put on my bright yellow flip flops in my futile attempts to will spring to come early. Here in Seattle, it never does.  

Does it sound like I'm in a funk? I am.

I really wanted to have a nice recipe to share with you, or a clever article about a wonderful ingredient for you to try.  But honestly, today I am simply uninspired.  My mind is, sadly, on many non-food things.  Fortunately, this does make me realize something interesting.  Hopefully interesting enough to fill up a blog....

My education at pastry school was very specified in the art of baking and pastry.  Since I have not had time to enjoy either, I have been dwelling on some funny little thoughts in my mind about what I learned in pastry school that applies to every day life.  Things like:

How to eyeball 1/4 of an inch
So many things in baking need to be cut, filled or frosted a quarter inch thick.  I have gotten pretty good a recognizing exactly this width.  I proves helpful in many ways around the house.

The many uses of an electronic scale
I used to think scales were for kitchen use only, but I am so glad my school required me to buy one of these.  I end up weighing all sorts of things like packages for mailing or my dog (he weighs 5 pounds 8 ounces now!)

How to speak French
So many culinary words come straight from the French language.  When I went to Paris for the first time a year and a half ago I surprised myself at how it helped me be able to get around- and more than just around the menus!

How to work in teams
This is a little more broad, but when stuff needs to get done it needs to get done.  If that means tag teaming, assisting, switching tasks, or letting someone take over.  There is no room for egos at that time.

How to write a little nicer
I can still write nicer on a cake than I can with a pen, but my hands have gotten more artistic and my cursive has improved greatly.  This really goes beyond script to all abilities in the visual arts category, of which I am not naturally inclined.

How to get dirty
Messes happen and they can always be cleaned up.  I once spilled about 20 cracked eggs in a church kitchen.  Everyone gasped, but I was able to laugh, clean up, and move on.  Whether it's flour, sugar, or cocoa powder, getting dirty is fun!

Well, that made me feel better!