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Friday, May 22, 2015

Banana Cream Pie

I love banana cream pies but have never attempted to make one. I found a recipe by Emeril and modified it after reading the reviews. Here's my version:

Banana Cream Pie
(Adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

Graham Cracker Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I had Keebler's at home but I prefer Honey Maid)
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter and stir until mixed. Pour into tart pan and press down.

3 egg yolks
2 Tbs cornstarch
1 cup cream

1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

3 ripe bananas

In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, cornstarch, and 1 cup cream. Whisk to blend well. Set aside. 

Combine 1 cup cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk to dissolve the sugar and bring to a gentle boil. Continue gentle boil for another 7 minutes. 

Slowly add 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Return the egg yolk mixture to the hot cream pan and whisk at low heat until it thickens, about 5 minutes. 

Cut the bananas and lay into bottom of tart. Pour filling over it and smooth. Cool in refrigerator.

If desired, make a meringue topping with the 3 egg whites. Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon over pie and broil until meringue is brown.

I thought the cream was too sweet. Next time, I'll use 3/4 cup. There weren't enough bananas so next time, I'll use 5 bananas.

2015 05 18

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tzatziki Sauce

Here's the recipe for tzatziki.

Tzatziki Sauce

8 oz Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated, drained

Mix all ingredients and add salt & pepper as needed.

2015 05 18

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stuffed Grape Leaves

I found fresh ground lamb at Lunardi's and couldn't resist making stuffed grape leaves.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
(Adapted from Frugal Gourmet)

1 8-oz jar grape leaves
1 ½ cup uncooked long-grain rice
½ cup olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ lb lean ground lamb
1 tsp allspice

Mix all ingredients except grape leaves.

Cut the stems off the grape leaves.  Spread a leaf on the counter, bottom side up, stem side toward you.  Place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of the leaf.  Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold the sides over to secure the filling.  Roll toward the tipe of the leaf, forming a small cigar.  Do not roll too tightly.

Place a layer of grape leaves in the bottom of a large stockp[ot.  Place the rolled leaves up against each other.  Cover with a layer of leaves and then add another layer of rolled leaves.

Place a medium plate over the top of the leaves, as a weight.  Mix 1 can chicken broth plus 1 can water and add to the pot.  Make sure liquid covers leaves.  Cover and bring to a light simmer.  Reduce heat and cook for 25 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 1 hour before removing the lid or the leaves will darken.

Serve with tzatziki sauce--recipe tomorrow.

I used Roland's Grape Leaves but the leaves were tough. I'll try a different brand next time.

2015 05 18

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ramen Yamadaya

I read an article that claimed Ramen Yamadaya was better than Orenchi's. With a claim like that, I had to check it out. It's located near Japantown in San Jose, at 1516 N. 4th Street. It opens at 11 am and it doesn't get crowded until after noon on a weekend. No need to wait in line before the restaurant opened.

Karaage (fried chicken)--10 pieces for $6.95. The skin was crisp and the meat was juicy but there wasn't much flavor. I prefer Orenchi's.

Yamadaya Ramen--$12.00. I chose the tonkotsu broth. Other options included tonkotsu shoyu, tonkotsu kotteri (black garlic oil), and tonkotsu spicy. The Yamadaya included 2 kinds of chashu, dried seaweed and egg. The egg was hard boiled and I prefer soft boiled eggs in my ramen. The chashu was good but there was too much meat. The noodles were on the thin side but still had a good bite to it. I thought the broth was too thick and still prefer Orenchi's. I was thirsty for the rest of the afternoon and wonder if the broth included MSG.

2015 05 17

Monday, May 18, 2015

Shaved Hawaiian Ice

It was a hot day and shaved ice sounded good. We drove by this place, which was packed, so we stopped. It's located at 1597 Meridian Ave., Suite E in San Jose.

Large shaved ice with passion fruit and cherry flavoring. A large (16 oz) with up to 3 flavors was $3.99. The ice was light but the syrup was too sweet. I prefer shaved snow.

2015 05 16

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Kong Tofu & BBQ Korean Cuisine

Kong Tofu & BBQ Korean Cuisine, located at 19626 Stevens Creek Blvd in Cupertino, is one of my favorite Korean restaurants.

The banchans served with each meal--potatoes, chap chae (I love the glass noodle dish), fish cakes, bean sprouts, kim chee and seaweed. 

Soft Tofu Soup with Clams--$11.99. This was served with white rice or mixed grain purple rice (additional $0.39 and worth it). You can order it extra spicy, spicy, medium, mild, very mild or white. I had it mild and it was spicy enough. You can crack a raw egg in the soup. I couldn't taste the egg in the soup and not sure I needed the extra cholesterol.

Beef Noodle Soup--$11.99. The noodles were glass noodles. My husband thought the broth was not flavorful enough.

2015 05 16

Saturday, May 16, 2015


I've driven by Canevari's but never stopped. I needed some ravioli for dinner and stopped to see what they offered. They're located at 695 Lewis Road in Santa Rosa.

You can buy frozen ravioli or already cooked ravioli, with or without sauce

48 frozen Regular Ravioli--$6.49. These were small ravioli and were just the right amount for 2 of us. The dough had a nice chew but it was hard to tell the filling had meat in them. They were made of beef, pork, French breadcrumbs, spinach or Swiss chard, soy proteins, onion, cheese, salt & pepper, parsley and their special blend of spices. Overall, I still liked them.

The deli had a small sitting area and you could get sandwiches or pasta to eat there.

2015 05 12

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thursday Night Dinner

Another great dinner at Flavor Restaurant in Santa Rosa. 4-courses with wine pairing for $24.95.

Calamari E Fagioli--Local Calamari & Cannellini Beans Served in Brodetto Di Vino Bianco Flavored with Garlic, Sweet Basil, Toy Box Tomatoes & Extra Virgin Olive Oil, paired with 2013 Sean Minor Chardonnay, Central Coast

Risotto Al Savor--Arborio Rice Cooked with Homemade Pork Sausage, Organic Spinach, Ricotta & Parmigiano-Reggiano Topped with Walnut Gremolata, paired with 2012 Navarro Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir Méthode à l'Ancienne, Anderson Valley

Agnello Alla Griglia --Grilled Lavender-Marinated Lamb Loin Chop Garnished with Slow Cooked Sweet Red Pepper Ragù & Creamy Black Olive Polenta Topped with Herb Gremolata, paired with 2012 Easton Wines Zinfandel, Amador

Crostata Di Ciliegie--"Cherry Pie" Served with Toasted Almond Vanilla Custard, paired with 2010 Novy Family Wines 'Oley' Late Harvest Viognier, Russian River Valley

2015 05 14

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mountain Mike Pizza

Mountain Mike's Pizza has a lunch buffet for $7.95. This includes all-you-can-eat pizza, garlic sticks & salad bar. It's probably one of the cheapest lunches you can get.

The salad is nothing too exciting. In addition to your usual salad offerings, there is macaroni and potato salad. I liked the sunflower seeds.

I'm a big fan of pineapple on pizza. I know it's not traditional but anything with pineapple makes the pizza better. They also had garlic sticks with cheese and dessert pizza with cinnamon. 

2015 05 12

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mexican Rice

I have been trying to make fluffy Mexican rice forever. I finally got instructions on how to make it right.

Mexican Rice

1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic salt
2 cups long-grain rice
3 Tbs oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 cups chicken broth

Drain tomatoes and reserve juice. Puree tomatoes and onion in blender. Add cumin and garlic salt. Set aside. Measure and add enough broth to get 2 cups.

Rinse rice until water runs clear. Saute in pan until dry then add oil and garlic and brown. Add tomato mixture and 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to boil then turn heat to low. Cover and steam until liquid evaporates (around 30-45 min). Fluff with fork.

2015 05 05

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Almond Jello

I love almond jello. It's so light and refreshing.

Almond Jello

2 envelopes Knox gelatin
2 cups water
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp almond extract

In a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin in 1 cup water. Stir until gelatin is partially dissolved. Set aside.

Put 1 cup water in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and slowly add partially dissolved gelatin.

Add milk, sugar and almond extract. Stir until sugar and gelatin are completely dissolved.

Pour mixture into 13 x 9 inch glass pan. Refrigerate until firm (3-4 hours).

Cut almond jello into small squares.

Serve with canned lychee and mandarins in juice.

2015 04 19

Monday, May 11, 2015

Simply Vietnam Express

I go for a walk during lunch and I pass by Simply Vietnam Express on the walk. It's located at 3381 Cleveland Avenue. I stopped in to have lunch one day. I'm always in search of good Vietnamese in Santa Rosa and this isn't bad.

Beef Combination Pho--$9. This was a huge bowl with a lot of noodles. It included 3 sliced meatballs  and loads of rare beef, well-done brisket, fat brisket and flank steak. The meatballs were flavorful but it needed tendon and tripe. The broth includes cilantro, green onions and sliced white onions. The broth is flavorful and as good as it gets in Santa Rosa.

2015 05 07

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Green Music Center

We attended the Santa Rosa Symphony's performance of Mahler's Third Symphony at Weill Hall, part of the Green Music Center at Sonoma State. This is a 1400-seat hall with beautiful wood interior. From July to September, the back doors are opened and you can dine at tables on the terrace or bring your own blankets and chairs to sit on the lawn.

2015 05 04

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hurley's Restaurant

I've tried a lot of restaurants in Yountville but had never been to Hurley's. It's located at 6518 Washington Street. They have a Vintner's Menu--2-course lunch for $22 or 3-course lunch for $28. This is served every day of the week. As a bonus, they never charge corkage.

Rosemary foccacia and Ciabatta bread served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The foccacia is delicious, especially with the salt on top.

Puree of Wild Mushroom Soup with Roasted Garlic Crostini, scented with Madeira. This was delicious. The soup was creamy and full of mushroom flavor.

Crisp Calamari Salad in a Butter Leaf Lettuce Cup with Chopped Romaine, Bell Peppers, Sugar Snap Peas, Carrots, Tomatoes & Cucumber with Soy-Yuzu Vinaigrette and Toasted Sesame Seeds. The vinaigrette worked well with the calamari.

Saffron Scented Risotto with Mixed Seafood--Mussels, Clams, Shrimp, Scallops, Salmon & Halibut with Tomatoes, Peas & Basil. The risotto was not al dente but it had a nice saffron flavor.

Oakwood Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Rosemary Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Sauteed Blue lake Green Beans, Portobello Mushroom Red Wine Sauce. The steak was well cooked as were the beans. They were cooked through but still had a snap. The potatoes were creamy and reminded me of Paris.

For dessert, you could choose anything off the dessert menu, except the cheese. Warm Chocolate Fudge Cake with Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Bean Gelato. This was a huge portion. It was a little too sweet for me. 

Banana Cream Pie with Valrhona Chocolate, Candied Macadamia Nuts & Butterscotch Sauce. This was delicious. The pie shell was flaky. There was great banana flavor and the cream was smooth. Loved it!

2015 05 06

Friday, May 8, 2015

Thursday Night Dinner

This was last night's dinner at Flavor Bistro--$24.95 for 4-courses with 4-wine pairing.

Asparagi Alla Griglia--Local Organic Grilled Asparagus, Garnished with Warm Cheese Brûlée & Shallot-Herb Salsa, paired with 2014 Elena Walch Family Estates Pinot Bianco D.O.C., Alto Adige, Italy. The cheese brûlée was delicious and just the right size.

Quaglia Arrosto--Pan Roasted Garlic-Herb Marinated Quail with Ratatouille Served in Zinfandel Jus, paired with 2012 Preston Farm & Winery Zinfandel, Estate Bottled (Organic), Dry Creek Valley

Anatra Al Forno--Stone Oven Roasted Duck Breast Garnished with Homemade Butternut Ravioli, Crispy Sage Butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano & Organic Alba Mushrooms, paired with 2013 Vietti Winery Barbera d'Asti, Tre Vigne D.O.C., Italy. The ravioli was delicious.

Tiramisù E Tartufi Di Cioccolato--Espresso Lady Fingers Layered with Rum Flavored Mascarpone Cream Garnished with Homemade Chocolate Truffles, paired with 2014 Vietti Winery Moscato d'Asti, Cascinetta D.O.C.G., 

2015 05 07

Thursday, May 7, 2015

New Port Restaurant

I also hadn't had dim sum in a while and went to New Port Restaurant, 1686 S. Wolfe Rd. in Sunnyvale.

Glutinous Rice Puff--$2.80. Shrimp ball with steamed rice on the outside. One of my favorites.

Deep Fried Taro & Meat Dumpling--$3.50 and Steamed Fried Tofu Stuffed with Shrimp--$2.80. I sent back the taro dumpling because it was greasy and the oil tasted old. The tofu with shrimp was nice and juicy.

Scallop Dumpings--$3.50 and Siu Mai (shrimp & pork dumpling)--$3.50. Both were delicious.

Baked BBQ Pastry--$3.50. These were my favorite. The pastry was flaky and the BBQ pork inside was tasty.

Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce--$6.50.

XO Sauce Rice Noodle Roll--$5.50. These were spicy but didn't have much flavor.

Sesame Sweet Rice Ball--$3.50. This is my favorite dessert. The inside is filled with sweet black sesame paste.

2015 05 03

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Taylor's Sausages

It'd been a while since I went to Taylor's to pick up boudin. Taylor's Sausages is located at 907 Washington St. in Oakland and they make the best boudin--sausages with liver & rice. It was the day after the May Day demonstrations but it was worth risking life & limb to pick up some boudin.

Boudin--mild or spicy for $5.95/lb. Each link weighs about 1/3 lb.

2015 05 02

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lagunitas Brewery Company

We were invited to a private party at the Lagunitas Brewery Company. It's located at 1280 N. McDowell Blvd. in Petaluma. Free tours are offered every day. They also offer live music every day except Mondays & Tuesdays. There's a large covered patio with picnic tables. Beer and food available for purchase.

Room for private parties. It's filled with beer cans from all over the world as well as every imaginable kitschy item. We had the room for 2 hours and they poured free beer and told stories about the history of the brewery. Afterwards, we got a tour of the brewery.

2015 05 01

Monday, May 4, 2015

Barley, Mushroom & Grilled Asparagus

This is another easy yet delicious dish.

Mushroom, Barley & Grilled Asparagus

3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1 tablespoon minced leaves
3 stems fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/3 cup chopped leaves
1 bay leaf
2 lemons, zest peeled in large strips
10 ounces button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking the asparagus
1/2 medium shallot, minced
2 bunches medium asparagus, woody stems trimmed (about 2 pounds)

Put the barley in a medium pot with water to cover by a few inches and salt it generously. Tie the thyme sprigs, parsley stems, and bay leaf together with a piece of kitchen twine and add to the pot, along with the lemon peel. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and remove the herbs and lemon.

Meanwhile, toss the mushrooms with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining lemon juice with the mustard, remaining salt, and pepper, to taste, in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream to make a smooth, slightly thick vinaigrette. Add the shallots.

Toss the mushrooms, barley, and the dressing together. Stir in the chopped herbs. Set aside at room temperature for about 1 hour for the flavors to come together.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread the spears in a single layer in a shallow baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roll to coat thoroughly. Roast the asparagus until lightly browned and tender, about 10 minutes, giving the pan a good shake about halfway through. Spread the roasted asparagus on a serving platter. Spoon the barley salad on top and serve.

2015 04 10

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Penne with Sausage & Broccoli

This is a better sausage and pasta recipe. The broccoli goes much better with sausage than the spinach and tomatoes.

Penne with Sausage & Broccoli

1 lb Italian sausage
1 bunch broccoli
3/4 lb penne

Take the sausage out of the casing and brown. Break up into small pieces.

Blanch broccoli for 3 minutes in boiling salted water and immediately dunk in ice water. Drain and add to sausage.

Prepare penne as directed by package. Drain and add to sausage & broccoli mixture. Heat through and season with salt & pepper.

My husband prefers a little crushed red pepper in it.

2015 04 11

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Sausage Florentine Pasta

The Pioneer Woman had a recipe for Chicken Florentine Pasta. I had sausage on hand so I substituted it. I think this dish would be better with the chicken. The sausage, while flavorful, wasn't the right flavor for this dish.

Chicken Florentine
(the Pioneer Woman)

1 pound penne
4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
Ground pepper
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup low-sodium broth, more if needed
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 bag baby spinach
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
4 ounces Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler, plus more for serving

Cook the pasta according to package directions in lightly salted water. Drain and set aside.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and olive oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add the chicken chunks in a single layer and do not stir for a minute or two in order to allow the chicken to brown on the first side. Flip the chicken and brown on the other side. Cook until done, and then remove the chicken from the skillet.

Turn the heat to medium. Add the garlic and quickly stir to avoid burning. After about 30 seconds, pour in the broth and wine, stirring to deglaze the skillet. Allow the liquid to bubble up, and then continue cooking until it's reduced by at least half (most of the surface of the liquid should be bubbling at this point).

Turn off the heat. Add the spinach, tomatoes, chicken, cooked pasta and Parmesan shavings to the skillet. Toss to combine; the spinach will wilt as you toss everything.

Add more Parmesan shavings and serve immediately! Serve with extra Parmesan shavings.

2015 04 06

Friday, May 1, 2015

Thursday Night Dinner

Here's last night's dinner at Flavor Bistro. $24.95 for 4 courses with 4 wine pairings.

Tortino Di Granchio--Sautéed Dungeness Crab Cake, Basil Aioli & Crispy Shoestring Yams, paired with 2014 Revolution Wines Chenin Blanc, Sutter Ranch Vineyard, Clarksburg

Ravioli Di Pollo--Homemade Pasta Filled with Chicken-Prosciutto Mousse Served in Roasted Garlic-Thyme Jus, Finished with a Touch of Cream & Topped with Organic Mushrooms, paired with 2012 Quivira Vineyards & Winery Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley. This had a really nice mushroom sauce.

Agnello Ai Ferri--Grilled Marinated Local Lamb Loin Chop Garnished with Roasted Radicchio, Sweet Corn-Fontina Polenta Served in Sugo Di Olive E Maggiorana, paired with 2012 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbières Old Vines A.C.C., Réserve La Demoiselle, Estate Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bomba--Italian Style Ice Cream Float, Chocolate & Vanilla Gelato, Espresso, Sweet Cream & Almond Gremolata, paired with 2010 Novy Family Wines 'Oley', Late Harvest Viognier, Russian River Valley

2015 04 30