Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm having lunch with Stacy, Kati, and Claudia, and I am bringing dessert. I originally was just going to make yellow cupcakes and use chocolate frosting from a box. I came home, got everything out, and realized I only had 2 eggs left and the box said I need 3. I really did not feel like making another trip to the store. Got online, tried to see what I felt like doing and so I made these chocolate chip cookies instead. Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies right? There are so many different chocolate chip cookie recipes out there. I think the simple ones are the best. The one I used tonight is from another food blog. I think the biggest thing when making cookies is simply this: do not overcook them - undercooking them slightly is better than overcooking them at all.

So here is how I made them: *preheat oven to 325F*
1) sift together 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt
2) different bowl: cream together 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, and 3/4 cup melted butter
3) add 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1 egg, and 1 egg yolk to mixture
4) slowly add in the dry ingredients until it is fully incorporated
5) stir in the chocolate (about 2 cups but if you like a chip for every small part you might want to add more)
6) drop by tablespoons or use a cookie dropped like I did onto some cookie sheets
7) bake for 10-15 minutes- do not over cook these!

These turned out great. I might keep this recipe or try a new one.. not sure yet. One recipe I do want to try out one day is homemade oreos... we'll see if I ever get around to making them though..

Friday, March 27, 2009

Nothing Bundt Cakes & The Chocolate Bar

Every once in a blue moon, my ex-roomie Kathy comes down to Houston and I get a chance to catch up with her for a bit. She came down just for one day and we got to have dinner (for some reason when she comes we always end up eating at some eh place with eh food) and watch the Baylor men's basketball team lose. Kathy brought me and the boys four small bundt cakes from
Nothing Bundt Cakes in Dallas. These were really good! They were very moist too. I think my favorite one out of those would be the White Chocolate one- it had some fruit at the bottom of it which was a nice surprise. I would definitely buy more of these if there was one here in Houston.. might be a good thing that there isn't... yet.

Another dessert place that is in Houston that I visit from time to time is The Chocolate Bar. They recently opened a second location in the Rice area, but I haven't been to that one yet. Kim A. was in town for the weekend and so when we got back from Chicago, Kim A., Kim (my sister), and I took a trip down to the Chocolate Bar to catch up and have a chocolate overload. We just got two cakes- Rocky Road and the Turtle Torte. I think we would have bought more, but by the time we realized we wanted more because we were talking and stuff, they were closing on us. If you're ever in the mood for Chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate covered treats, chocolate dipped fruit, misc. objects made of chocolate, or safe chocolate treats for your dog- head over to the Chocolate Bar.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chicago - Thursday

I guess I should also mention that every day we started off with a complimentary breakfast at our hotel, the Dana Hotel and Spa. The hotel was very nice, and the breakfast was just enough to get us going - bagels, fruit, cereal, juice. I just realized how much it probably looks like they paid me to mention that, and I wish they would, but our blog doesn't get enough traffic for them to care anyway.

On Thursday I wanted to watch some of the basketball tournament since A&M was playing, and Kimmy was nice enough to watch with me since I went to Oprah with her, so after we stopped by the CTA headquarters to buy another one-day visitor pass for the trains, we went to the Rock Bottom Brewpub. It was tricky to get to because the street it's on is under construction, but we found our way in, and so did a whole lot of people. The place was packed with people on their long tournament lunch breaks, and they had some nice lunch specials there. I got a pint of their $3 "construction special" Irish Red beer - they brew about 10 different beers there, there are rows of fermenters behind the bar area and it smells like yeast when you first walk in until you get used to it - and we ordered some asiago cheese dip with bread. The dip was really strong, I liked it but couldn't eat that much of it. After halftime, Kimmy ordered a Ceasar salad and I got their lunch special slider burgers. The food was nothing special, but the Aggies won, so I was ok. Their beer was pretty good though, so I'd recommend it for that I suppose.

After the game, we rode the El over to Chicago's Chinatown and walked around there. It's not huge, about 3 blocks along one street plus a little outdoor mall area called Chinatown square, but it was fun to check out some of the shops. Our Chicago book also recommended eating dim sum at this place called Won Kow, so we stopped in there for an afternoon snack to get out of the cold and drink some hot tea and eat too many dumplings.

That night, we didn't feel like going far, and I still wanted an Italian Beef, so we walked over to a place called Portillo's. Kimmy went for another round of chicago style hot dogs (Gold Coast was still the best), and I finally got my italian beef, dipped, with hot peppers. Dipped means they toss the entire bun into jus, the sauce made from the beef drippings, which makes for a pretty soggy sandwich, which was tough to eat, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's a simple sandwich, just roast beef on a soggy bun with some giardiniera, and I'd prefer a cheesesteak most days, but it's Chicago, not Philly.

Friday was our travel day, so we didn't eat anything interesting - security took a while at the airport so we stopped and got McDonald's and rushed to eat it on the plane before we lost our tray tables to take-off time. I want to mention that I actually really like McDonald's Chicken Ranch BLT sandwich. The chicken is good and the lettuce and tomato are pretty fresh for a fast food place. We had a 3 hour layover in Detroit, had a sushi snack at the airport and ate dinner at an airport sports bar right by our gate.

We really enjoyed our trip overall. The food was good and we wore ourselves out with the sightseeing.

Chicago - Wednesday

Wednesday, Kimmy had gotten lucky and called in to get tickets to the Oprah show taping, so we woke up early and took a cab over there, waited for a while, and then got in to watch Oprah talk to Valerie Bertinelli, Marie Osmond, and Star Jones about celebrity weight loss. The topic was boring, but it was still interesting to get to see the taping of a TV show in that way. The show we saw is supposed to air on April 1.

Harpo studios isn't far from Greektown, and we like gyros, so we walked a few blocks and found a place that seemed pretty busy, so we stopped in. We each ordered a gyros plate, and it was a ton of food. The plate came with one pita, but there was enough meat for 3 of them probably. So we did our best with that for lunch and agreed that we like Niko Niko's in Houston better. I thought the meat was a little too greasy at this place.

We were still pretty exhausted, and Kimmy's ankle was hurting from all the walking I made her do the first 2 days, so we went back tot he hotel to nap, then in the afternoon checked out the museums near Soldier Field, where I grabbed another hot dog from a stand. I liked the one at Gold Coast Dogs better, and we decided that the neon relish is very important to a good chicago style dog, however wrong it may seem visually, but the pickle on this hot dog was really good (I'm very much a pickle fan).

After that, we rode a bus over to Navy Pier and got some nice views of the skyline there. We still had one more Chicago food to try, the Italian Beef Sandwich, and we wanted to get one at the famous Mr. Beef, which was a few blocks from our hotel. We made our way back over there, and they shut the lights off as we were walking there, about a block away. So disappointing. So we decided to walk back to the hotel and hopefully find some place to stop in on the way. There was actually another famous Italian Beef place on the way back, but it looked empty from a distance, and we didn't want to chance it being closed too, and we were really starving at this point, so we popped into this place that looked like a interesting called Ed Debevic's. We usually research where we eat pretty thoroughly before going there, thanks to Kimmy's google skills, but we didn't know what to expect at this place. Ed's was pretty kitschy, styled like a 50s/60s diner, they give you paper hats, and the waitstaff is pretty into the whole thing. They'll sit at your table to take your order, make little jokes about popping your food into the microwave or checking back on you in a couple hours, and even hop up on the diner counter and start doing choreographed dances (I'm not sure how well the ghostbusters theme and "shake your booty" fit into the 50s/60s feel, but they made it work I guess).

Anyway, the food was pretty good there, Kimmy got a Route 66 burger with bacon and guacamole, and I ordered a salad and Chili 6-way - chili with macaroni, beans, cheese, onions, and sour cream. It wasn't a Texas sized bowl, and it certainly wasn't Texas chili, but of course that's not what I was expecting, and together with the salad and an oreo shake, it hit the spot pretty nicely that evening.

Chicago - Tuesday

Tuesday we had a few things planned, I wanted to get up to see Wrigley Field, and we wanted to check out the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is a free zoo on the North side of town too. Over on that side of town we found a cool little bakery and decided to get a snack. I got a carrot-apricot cupcake, which was carrot cake with apricot jelly in the middle - really messy and good, and Kimmy got some raspberry angel food cake.

We checked out our Chicago book for a place to eat lunch around there, and decided on a thai place that was recommended called Penny's Noodle House. Kimmy got Pad Thai, which was good and really refreshing, especially after a squeeze of lime. I ordered Pad se eu, which I've had before at other places, but this one was a little different, the noodles were a lot thicker and starchier than I've had before, and the sauce had a charred taste to it that I actually enjoyed, though I think Kimmy likes the other ones I've had before better. We also got some dumplings and their miso soup, which was new on the menu, for appetizers, and those were nice too.

After another day of wandering around the North side of town and the zoo, we were pretty worn out again, but we finally took a chance on the bus system, and got a chance to ride back to the hotel to rest. We had tickets to go see the Second City comedy show Tuesday night, and we found a place called Bistrot Margot that wasn't far from there. It was St. Patrick's Day (and no, the river wasn't green - apparently they do that on the closest Saturday to the 17th, ugh), and I was very tempted to order the corned beef and cabbage special they had running, but decided against it and ordered some french onion soup - very cheesy and rich, and roasted pork tenderloin with a mushroom sauce and pasta gratin. Kimmy ate whitefish in a lemon caper sauce with almonds (she really can't get enough of those capers lately). It was a nice place and I was really interested in a lot of things on their menu, so if I ever make it back to Chicago, I might wind up back in there. The Second City show we went to after dinner was actually pretty funny, and I'm interested to see if any of the actors end up on SNL or movies or anything.

Chicago - Monday

So Kimmy and I decided to take a trip for Spring Break last week, and since we aren't beach people we did the next most logical thing and went to Chicago which is gloomily and beautifully chilly in spring. We had a few things planned and ideas for what we wanted to do and wanted to eat, but for the most part we were going to take it day by day and ride the wind of the windy city (and according to David Schwimmer on our multimedia tour at Hancock Tower it's not called the windy city because it's windy).

These blog posts and especially the pictures in them will focus on the food we ate, if you want to see the pictures of everything else we did, you can check out the photo albums I posted on facebook.

Anyway, we landed at O'Hare Monday, early afternoon, rode the El/Subway to our hotel to check in, and then took to the streets. We first wanted to go to Millennium Park to check out the giant silver bean, and on the way we wanted to stop and get a Chicago style hot dog. I've been eating them for a while at home, and I like them better than any other hot dogs now, so I was interested in seeing if the ones in Chicago could live up to my expectations. We stopped at a place called Gold Coast Dogs near the loop (loop of El tracks in downtown Chicago) and got a couple hot dogs and some fries. They lived up to my expectations for the most part, but I discovered that my favorite part of a Chicago style hot dog is the celery salt on top, and they don't put as much there as I usually do on my own.

After trekking around Chicago, visiting the bean, Magnificent Mile, and Hancock tower we were pretty exhausted, but decided to eat some Deep Dish Pizza. There are a few places that were recommended to us, but we decided to check out Pizzeria Uno, which is apparently where the Deep Dish Pizza was first made. We had to wait a little while for a table, but they take your pizza order and get it in the oven while you wait. We got one with everything, sausage, a little pepperoni, onions, green peppers, etc. I really liked the pizza, and it was a nice change, but I think we both decided that it's not really something we'd like to eat regularly. Pizzeria Uno was a really small place with all kinds of people there, and I think the atmosphere was pretty different from any place we've got here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Goi Cuon

So Ryan and I made spring rolls one night for the two of us and my dad. Spring rolls are really easy to make- not the easiest to roll but still. The thing that takes the longest in my opinion is boiling the pork and the rice noodles. Everything else takes no time at all. Since I come home a little late in the evening, I boiled the pork the night before so I could just come home, slice it, cook the noodles, and everything else would be ready to go.

Here's what you need: sliced boiled pork, cooked shrimp peeled, rice noodles, rice paper, lettuce, mint, bean sprouts (optional), hot sauce, hoison sauce, and peanut butter- chopped peanuts and shredded carrots are optional to top the sauce.

Boil some hot water, put it in a bowl, dip rice paper in the hot water to make it soft. Put it on a plate and load it with whatever you'd like to put in it. Ryan makes his differently than me in the order of how we put things down. When you roll it you want to make it as tight as possible.

Melt some hoison sauce and peanut butter over the stove until it's hot (thin it out with some hot water) and put some in a bowl when you're ready. Top with hot sauce, peanuts, and carrots. That's it!


I was talking to this guy I work with a couple weeks ago and we were talking about restaurants around where we live. He asked if I had ever been to Beaver's, and I hadn't. He recommended it, so we've been trying to check it out. Apparently it's right near my house, on Sawyer just on the other side of Washington. Brian and Jonathan and I tried to go there one Monday night, but apparently it's closed on Mondays, so we went back later in the week with Kimmy.

It was pretty busy on a Thursday night. It was "culture night" and some of their proceeds were going to a dance center. There was a bit of a wait, it's a pretty small place, so we waited in the bar area for a table. Brian and I tried one of their beer cocktails, a "Birch Shandy" which is Beer and Birch Beer. We decided it had a root beer taste but felt like drinking beer. Later we tried another of their beer cocktails with lemon and rum in it and it wasn't very good. Jonathan tried one of their specialty drinks called a "Current Affair" which was pretty good - a little licorice-y. I'll probably try another one of their drinks if we go back.

We got a table and ordered some appetizers, which were really good, but sounded better on the menu. Fried cream cheese and smoked pork stuffed pepperoncinis and fried oysters on a fresh fried thick tortilla chip with some really nice guacamole and salsa.

They were having a special on a "Mini" chicken fried steak, so Kimmy and Brian and Jonathan all got that. It sounded good, but I can't order the same thing as one person, much less all 3 other people I'm with, so I got a BBQ chicken sandwich that they call a Pit Boss Chickwich. It was really messy - it had some of their shredded smoked chicken, a tangy “Ring of Fire” BBQ sauce, a fried egg, fried onions, and a pickle, and the whole sandwich sat on top of a mound of some pretty good poppy seed jicama and red cabbage coleslaw, but I'm the only one in the world who likes coleslaw anymore apparently.

Nice place overall, it'd be good to go back on a night when it's quieter and less crowded.

NOTE: Posts about our Chicago trip - day by day - will be coming soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


One of our favorite places to eat sushi is Oishii - on Richmond in the Greenway area. It doesn't necessarily have the best food of all the sushi places around, but its fresh and whats nice about it is their happy hour - weekdays from like 3-7 I think. Cheap beer and $4 appetizers (including some of the basic sushi rolls) that are really $2 because it's buy one get one free!

Brian and Jonathan had just gone there a few days before, and we hadn't been in a while, so we decided to go on Monday since Kimmy had some time between work and a seminar thing she was going to that night.

I had a beer and we ate:
- Soup and salad - Kimmy got the creamy dressing and I got the ginger one
- Gyoza - pork dumplings (don't really like their sauce, but the dumplings are good)
- Ika Tempura - fried squid
- Spicy Salmon roll
- Dynamite roll - mixed fish including some peppered tuna that tasted really good in there
- Sumo roll - specialty roll, so regular price during happy hour, but we wanted to try it - it's got tempura shrimp, smoked salmon, cream cheese, jalapeno and cucumber, then the whole roll is tempura fried, topped with a whole bunch of masago.

All that for under $20, and it would have been about 10 if we hadn't gotten the sumo roll, everything else is happy hour priced.

Banana Bread w/ Chocolate chunks

So I saw this recipe and wanted to give it a try. I started baking this thing at like 1:30 in the I kind of forgot about it and let it bake too long. I'm sure if I was watching it more carefully, it would be much better. It still turned out really moist and flavorful. A recipe I would keep and use again. One year at Baylor I got into making banana bread and made it often. I haven't really made it since then.. until now.

Ingredients: sugar, butter, bananas, eggs, salt, flour, baking soda, & chocolate.

I couldn't find the electric mixer last night so I had to cream the sugar and butter by hand... I think my arms got a good work out! I also don't have a sifter and had to use a small sieve to sift the flour and baking soda three times before folding it in. Next baking purchase: sifter!

Vinh Hoa

On Sundays we often go out to eat with Kimmy's family, usually Vietnamese food. This past Sunday, we went to a place that we've been a couple times: Vinh Hoa, a Vietnamese/Chinese seafood place down off of Bellaire. As you walk in, there are huge tanks where they keep a lot of the seafood that they cook: Tilapia, other fish, abalone, crabs, and even geoduck (which we've seen and were fascinated by on the show Dirty Jobs before). This time, Kimmy's dad asked the waitress for her recommendations, and we got a few dishes and ate family style - standard at this place. We got:
- Soup Mang Cua (Crab and Fish Soup) - usually pretty good, I think I like the one with asparagus in it a little more.
- Rau Muong - vegetable, like spinach with a think stem, cooked with garlic
- Clams in a brown spicy (w/ jalapeno) sauce
- Tofu in a similar brown sauce
- Steamed Chicken with a ginger garlic sauce - I really liked the sauce, but I'm not sure if anyone else ate the chicken with the sauce.
- Giant Freakin' King Crab - had some good garlic flavor to it, nice and moist - served on a giant bed of seafood rice.

And 4 of us (me, Kimmy, Kimmy's dad and sister) ate all of that with rice, and didn't have much left.

Very nice meal, and fun experience checking out the fish and shellfish in the tanks on the way in and out. The waitress recommended the geoduck to us, and I would have been all for it, but Kimmy and her sister decided against it. I should mention that the best thing we've ever had there were their razor clams, which are very interesting: long, skinny, meaty clam in a sauce similar to the one on the clams we had this time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Old Town Spring

Quick post- went to SpringFest in Old Town Springs to visit Jason and see his new business. He has a nice office down there and plans on opening up soon. It's called Reclaimed Moments and works on improving old home videos, making videos from photos, events, etc. I'll have more info later on. Anyways, springfest was nice- lots of wine from all over Texas. Had some food from a cafe there that was your simple stuff- sandwich and pasta salad. Ryan said the soup tasted like it came from the can. We should have had lunch at a house we saw in the back serving gumbo and free beer- maybe next time. One thing we did try (even though we've had it before)- fried oreos! Still good to me!
Oreos!fried goodnessInside