Thursday, January 31, 2013

English Ivy's: A Downtown Indy Treasure

For dinner last  weekend, Ian and I with a couple of our friends, Andrew and Bryan, went to English Ivy's for dinner.  English Ivy's is on Alabama St. downtown.  Ivy's has been a place for my friends and I to go after shows at Footlite Musicals for around four years.  This restaurant will take any size party and make room for them.  The have a nice sized menu, which every thing from sandwiches to full dinners.  They also serve pizza!  But I didn't get that on this trip.

Bryan and his Stuffed Portabella Dinner
Bryan got the stuffed Portabella Dish.This is one of the vegetarian options at Ivy's. Bryan said this had some really good flavors to it.
Andrew with his Grilled Chicken Breast
Andrew got the grilled chicken breast sandwich. He skipped the bread and ate the chicken breast.  He said that the chicken breast had a really nice seasoning on it, which really enhanced the flavor of the chicken.
Ian and the Chicken Cordon Bleu Melt
Ian got the chicken cordon blue melt. He said that he really liked it. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. 
Artichoke Chicken Breast Dinner
I got the artichoke chicken breast meal.  This is what I get pretty much every time I come to Ivy's!  The combination of the chicken breast, cheeses, bacon,and artichokes make this an awesome dish! Along with the choice of two sides and a dinner roll, this meal is quite filling.  I actually took my baked potato home to eat later.  All main courses come with a dinner salad also.  The vegetable side was an interesting combination of broccoli, red peppers, yellow carrots, and a squash.  They were cooked just enough.
I realize that three out of four of us ordered chicken.  I don't order chicken out very often.  This is the one place I do every time I go.
I give English Ivy's three and half pizza pies out of four.  This restaurant and bar is a staple of the gay community in Indianapolis.  It has a fun atmosphere and awesome food!  The menu has something for everyone.  There's also a bar side of the restaurant if you just want to get a drink and watch the game.  The night we were there, Butler won a basketball game.  Excitement was buzzing through out the whole restaurant!  English Ivy's has a bit of an intimate touch to it.  I like going here, because I can actually hear what the rest of the table is talking about.  I want to try to go here more often!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cooking Quinoa

I started adding quinoa to my diet on a regular basis about three years ago.  There are some secrets to cooking it to make it taste really good!  I don't like it plain boiled in water. I like to doctor it up!

1 Cup Quinoa Uncooked
2 Tbs Butter
1 Small Onion Chopped
1 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Cups Chicken Broth/ or 2 Cups Water with 2-3 Cubes Chicken Bouillon
Salt and Pepper to Taste
To make it Mexican:
After it's cooked add:
Taco Seasoning of Your Choice
2 Tbs Chili Powder
2 tsp Cumin
1 Can Rotel Tomatoes and Chilies (Or an off brand. I use Kroger)
1 Pinch Cayenne
1 tsp Ancho Chili Powder

If I'm making it Mexican style, first, I throw the onions and olive oil in a pan and cook them until they are translucent. If I'm not adding onions to the quinoa, I skip this step.
Quinoa Dry
After the onions are cooked, I throw in the quinoa and let it cooked with out the water for a minute or two.  This is like some Mexican rice recipes.  If I skip the onion, I put the butter in the pan and let in melt a little.  Then, I add the dry quinoa to the butter and let it cook for a few minutes. 

Boiling Quinoa
Then, I put in the water with the bouillon cubes or the chicken broth. I also put in the garlic powder to add flavor and maybe some ground pepper. I boil this for the time it says on the box, or until the quinoa starts to look translucent and is soft.
Finished Chicken Quinoa
If I'm serving this as a side with a chicken dish, this is how it looks finished.  I think, if you did add the flavor of the chicken broth and garlic as it cooks, it can taste very plain.  I prefer it very flavorful. 
If I'm serving it as a Mexican side or as a replacement for the meat, I add the tomatoes and chilies and Mexican seasonings at this point. 
Mexican Quinoa Burrito
One day, I really wanted Mexican food, but didn't want to go out for it, and didn't want to defrost my ground beef.  I decided to make a burrito with quinoa.  I am definitely a carnivore, and I just happened to have some bacon already cooked in my fridge.  I through the bacon in with my cheese and sour cream.
I know people that use quinoa to make completely vegetarian meals.  You can skip the chicken broth and use a vegetable broth instead.  Quinoa is easy to experiment with!  You can turn it into a pasta salad type dish also! If you're trying to add something different and healthy to your diet, quinoa is a good easy place to start! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Super China Buffet: I've been going there for years!

Every town has one, that super cheap Chinese buffet!  We have one here on the north side of Indy.  It's on Keystone in front of Walmart next to the Dollar Tree.  The Super China Buffet serves some really good Chinese food!  I started going there almost 7 years ago, and I'm still going back!
My First Course
When I go to the Super China Buffet, I always start with the hot and sour soup, egg rolls, and crab Rangoon.  This is the best hot and sour soup in town!  It's my favorite!  Sometimes, I'll go for a second cup!  The crab rangoon is a lot like other Chinese restaurants. The egg rolls have ginger in them, which throws off the flavor slightly.  It's like a hint of cinnamon, which is just weird!  But that doesn't stop me from getting at least two every time! 
Ian and his Chinese Food
Ian always starts with the main dishes.  The good thing at the Chinese buffet is, you can try every thing to find something that you like!
Sweet and Sour Sauce
I get a bowl of sweet and sour sauce and dip almost every thing in it, especially my egg rolls and crab rangoon. 
My Main Dish
At the Super China Buffet, I put the main dishes on my plate first, and then, the rice.  I try to leave less room for the rice, so, I don't eat as much of it.  I get the Broccoli from the Beef and Broccoli. I get the General Tso's Chicken.  I get a few pieces of the fried chicken to dip in the sweet and sour sauce.  I get a wonton, and then, I put the sauce for the wonton on my rice.  There's something about that sauce that is so good!  It's kind of strange, because it sits on the edge of the buffet and not in the buffet.
Ian's Dessert Plate
The Super China Buffet has the known things that Chinese buffets have in their dessert area.  They also have a soft serve ice cream machine.  He got the spiral cake, the cookie, and the candy covered nuts.  
My Dessert Plate
I always get the cherry jello, the white cake spiral, and a fortune cookie.  I test the cake spiral to see if it's stale or not.  I actually love fortune cookies!  The vanilla flavor cookie is awesome!  Sometimes I forget if it's the orange jello or the cherry jello that I like better and get both to taste them.  The orange has a strange taste to me, so, I stick with the cherry.  
My Fortune
I was taught by a college friend that, for the fortune to come true, you have to eat the entire cookie before reading the fortune! I have stuck to this rule every since.  
I've always loved the Super China Buffet on Keystone.  I give it 3 and a half pizza pies out of four. The price is good at $5.95 per person.  The food is consistently tasty.  The price has only gone up once in the 7 years I have been going there.  The place is usually hopping during the dinner hours.  I recommend anyone on the north side looking for cheap Chinese food to go to this place!  



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Baked French Fries

Right now, I have quite the obsession with french fries made at home.  What started this obsession was, I bought the Pampered Chef French Fry Cutter.  I've been going back and forth between cooking the fries in oil or baking them in the oven.  So far, the ones fried in oil have been better.  This recipe is for one of the times I tried baking them.

3-4 Idaho Potatoes
2 Tbs Olive Oil or Olive Oil Spray
1 tsp Pampered Chef Garlic Pepper Seasoning or Garlic Powder and Pepper
Or any seasoning you want your fries seasoned in.

*Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

First, cut your french fries either with the french fry cutter or how you choose. Then, put them in a bowl.   Then, put on the olive oil, I used a spray, and the seasoning.  Stir it all around.
Spray the olive oil on your baking sheet or cooking spray.  Put the fries flat or in one layer on a baking sheet and put in the oven. Cook for 12 minutes, then, turn the fries with a spatula.  Be careful!  I dropped a fry on the bottom of the oven and tried to set my oven on fire! I got it out with tongs though!  Cook for 12 more or until they look golden brown.
Then, serve with your favorite dipping sauce!  Mine is Ketchup.  Ian's is Ranch.  I feel like I could have cooked these a little longer.  They still turned out way better than the first time I tried to bake them. 
Do you make baked fries?  What do you season them with?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Turkey Taco Soup

Do you still have Turkey left overs in your freezer from the holidays?  I did, and I wanted to make room in my freezer.  So, I defrosted them and turned them into Turkey Taco Soup! This soup takes very little prep time, aside from chopping up the turkey.

1-2 Cans Broth, Vegetable or Chicken (I decided to use one.)
1 Can Red Gold Chili Ready Tomatoes
1 Can Corn Drained
1 Medium Onion Chopped
1 Can of Black Beans Drained
1 Can of Tomatoes and Chilis
1 lb Turkey Chopped
1-2 Tbs Chili Powder (Can be less if you want it less spicy.)
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Ancho Chili Powder
1 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

Canned Ingredients
This soup is one of those catch all soups.  I find the things in my pantry that will go in it, and throw them in.  These are common canned goods I keep in my pantry "just in case!"
I start by chopping of the left over turkey and throwing it in the pot on medium heat with the chopped onion.  I cook these until the onion starts looking translucent.   I then start throwing in all of my canned goods and mix this all together. 

Adding Seasonings
 After all of this is in the pot, I start adding my seasoning.  CAUTION: Watch how much of the seasonings are added.  I accidentally added a little too much cayenne, and the soup was really spicy! After the spices are added, I let the soup simmer for around 15 minutes, so the flavors have time to mingle together. It can simmer for an even longer time, if you want. You can always taste test as you go and add more seasonings if needed for your taste. 

 Ready to Serve
After the simmering of the soup is done, it's ready to serve!  This soup can be served with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Turkey Taco Soup is Served!
This soup is a great soup to serve on a cold day.  It will really warm you up!  In fact, I should have taste tested this more along the way.  It came with some heat!  If you want, you can skip the cayenne pepper completely.  That's the fun with cooking.  It's an science experiment you get to taste a long the way!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Buca di Beppo: Family Dining

One night, Ian and I decided to go to Buca di Beppo.  Even though this restaurant has been around for years, I had never been there.  I don't go out for Italian often.  This night, I wanted Italian, and I found out that I could get a coupon from the Buca di Beppo web site.
Buca di Beppo Castleton Location
We went to the Castleton location.  It's a free standing building behind the Castleton Mall in Indianapolis.  When we got there, the host asked us did we want to go the long way or the short way?  I had no idea what he meant, and I could barely hear what he was saying.  I know I'm loosing my hearing, but it was a little loud in the restaurant.  I guess if you take the long way, they walk you through the kitchen to see the cooks in action.  Since I made the poor kid repeat himself four or five times, he finally gave up and took us to our table!
The Menu
The menu is a spiral bound menu with a lot of options.  It's a bit overwhelming! It did have a pretty good description of every dish in there. 
Ian and the Decor
The decor at Buca di Beppos feels like a caricature of the Italian culture. With the red and white checkered table clothes, the family photos and photos of famous places in Italy, and the mood lighting around the restaurant, I felt like I was part of "The Godfather" movies.  I've never even seen a "Godfather" movie!
Bread and Oil
The bread at Buca di Beppo was like any other bread offered at an Italian restaurant.  The waitress went ahead and poured olive oil on a plate for us. Then, she asked if we wanted balsamic vinegar in the oil.  I had never tried that before, so, I told her to do it.  Well, it was interesting, but I've decided, I prefer the olive oil with Parmesan cheese. We did get a second loaf to share.
Stuffed Mushrooms
For our appetizer, we shared the Stuffed Mushrooms.  There were stuffed with prosciutto, cheese, sage and rosemary served on pesto cream sauce.  These were pretty tasty. 
Cheese Ravioli with Meat Sauce
The cheese ravioli has mozzarella, provolone, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses in it.  The original dish comes with Marinara sauce, but we requested meat sauce for ours.  The server kindly obliged!  All of the main dishes come in small or large sizes.  The small size feeds at least two people, and the large can feed four or more people.  All of the dishes are served Family Style at Buca di Beppo.  I thought that they served "Mio" sized dishes or dishes to serve one person, but those were not listed on the menu.  Maybe they are only served at lunch now.  The flavors in this dish are good.  It was a little watery though.  I couldn't tell if the pasta wasn't drained enough before being plated, or if the sauce was watery.  
I give this restaurant 2 pizza pies out of 4.  If you go, make sure you go with someone that will agree on what dish to share!  Also, I wish they had some kind of couples special or family meal deal like other places do.  We had a $10 coupon, but I felt for two people, it was a bit on the expensive side for pasta.  Maybe that makes me a bit cheap, but in this day and age, people need to feel like the meal is worth what they are paying for it! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy New Year: Enjoy some Corned-beef and Cabbage!

Every year, for New Year's Day, I make corned-beef and cabbage.  It's a tradition that is supposed to bring good luck for the year!  I usually throw this in the crock pot before I go to bed and let it cook all night.  That way, when I wake up late New Year's Day, I have something good for lunch ready to go!

2-3lbs Corned-beef (Comes with Seasoning Packet)
3 Onions Quartered (can be more)
6 Red Potatoes Quartered (can be more)
1/2 Head of Cabbage
1-2 Cups White Vinegar
1 Tbs of Garlic Powder
Olive Oil Spray (Or Pam. I prefer Olive Oil.)
1 Stick Butter
1-2 Cups Water or 1 Can Beef Broth
2 Tbs Worcester Sauce
Pepper to taste.  I don't put salt in this, because corn-beef is already a very salty cured meat. 
*You can put in carrots too.  I'm just not a huge carrot eater.

Loaded the Crock Pot Before Bed
Before I went to bed, I put it all in the crock pot!  First, I spray the crock pot with olive oil spray.  You can use any cooking spray.  Then, I put in the corned-beef.  I open the package of meet over the crock pot and let the juices fall in the pan.  I take out the the little packet of seasoning that comes with it.  I open the season, and rub it on to both sides of the meat.  It usually sticks pretty well.  Then, I start putting the potato pieces down beside the meat and on top.  After that, I put in the onions.  I lay the cabbage on top.  Then, I put in the vinegar, Worcester sauce, and beef broth.  I slice the butter and place the pieces all around the top. I turn the crock pot on low.  Then, I go to bed.
*I usually sleep a good 8 hours.  I would say, this is probably done between 6-8 hours.
In the morning... 
In the morning, this is what my corned-beef and cabbage looks like.  I take the crock of the heating element, and let it set for 10-15 minutes.  Then, I take all of the vegetables out and put them in a dish.  I take the meat out and set it on a plate. 

Cooked Corned-Beef
Corned-beef is naturally a redder looking meat.  This is fully cooked, but to some, it may not look like it.  After it rests for about ten minutes, I slice it. 
How I Serve This
When I serve this, I put the vegetables and corn-beef on the table in separate dishes, and let people get what they want.  I put the juices from the crock pot in with the veggies.  The juices can act as a gravy without making one. 
Corned-beef and cabbage with veggies is my favorite thing to serve on New Year's Day.  It's an Irish Tradition.  I tried to find out why, but all of the answers online were, "It's an Irish Tradition, but we don't know why?"  So, if any one knows why, please tell me!  I've heard, by eating this dish on New Year's Day, one is supposed to receive good wealth and good health for the year!  I also make this for Saint Patrick's Day.
We'll see what happens!  Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Turkey Pot Pie

After a holiday, do you have a lot of turkey left over?  This year, I did.  So, I froze a lot of it.  This time with the left overs, I made a Turkey Pot Pie!

1 Pie Crust (Uncooked)
1 Can Corn Drained
1 Can Green Beans Drained
1-2 Cups Chopped Turkey
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup (Or Mushroom, Celery, whatever you prefer. I used Healthy Choice.)
2 Tb Milk
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder to taste

*Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Prep time: 20 minutes  Cook time: 30-45 minutes

The Basic Ingredients 
Chopped Turkey
I started by chopping up some left over turkey.  I've had this in my freezer since Thanksgiving, so, I decided I needed to use it up! 
Ingredients in the Bowl
I drained my vegetables and poured them in with the turkey.  I poured in the can of soup and added garlic powder and pepper.  *I never add salt while I'm cooking, unless the recipe calls for it.  Since the soup already had salt in it, I didn't add any this time.  You can use any veggies you want too!  These are what I happened to have in my pantry.  I added the milk next.  I mixed it all together.
The Guts of the Pie
This is what the ingredients will look like mixed together.  They shouldn't be too watery. 
The crusts I used say, "Get out of the fridge and let sit for at least twenty minutes before using."  I did that. Also, it says not to grease the pan, so, I didn't.  
Bottom Crust
I put the bottom crust in the pan.  I didn't do it in any special way. 
The Guts are in the Pie
I put the entire contents of my bowl of turkey, soup, and veggies into the pie.  It looked like it was too much, but it all fit! 
Top Crust
I put the other crust on top.  First I pinched it with my fingers, and then, I took a knife handle and went around it. 
Oven Ready
After I went around the pie with the knife handle, I cut a couple of slits in the top to give a place for the steam to come through. Bake this on top of a cookie sheet in case it starts to run over.  You don't want your oven to get burned guts in it! 
Put in the oven for 30-40 minutes. *I failed at realizing how long this was going to take to bake.  I originally put it in for 9 minutes, following the pie crust instructions.  It wasn't even close to being done!  I ended up leaving it in for almost 40 minutes.  
 Protecting the Edges
I realized that the edges were starting to get too well done, and the center wasn't getting cooked.  I added foil to the edges to protect them for the last 15 minutes of cooking.  You can do the opposite, and start with the foil on the edges and take it off toward the end of the time.
It's done!
When it finally got done, I took it out of the oven and let it set for 10-15 minutes.  Then, I served it!
Cutting It
Be prepared for the guts to spill out a little bit when it's cut.  This just happens!  This pie serves up to six people.  It was a pretty easy thing to do with left over turkey.  It can be made with chicken also.  
I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!   

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Joy Yee: Eating Chinese in Chicago's China Town

My friend Melanie and I went to eat dinner in Chicago's China Town.  We chose a restaurant called Joy Yee.
The Menu
The menu was huge and slightly over whelming!  The listings in the menu were extensive, from dinners with pictures, to their famous smoothies. 
Mango Smoothie with Tapioca
The big thing this restaurant is known for is their smoothies!  The first three or four pages of that huge menu were smoothie flavors. You can get just about any fruit and/or vegetable in your smoothie! I got a mango smoothie with tapioca.  This was a new experience for me. I love fresh mango, but I forgot how stringy it is.  I kept trying to pull the strings off of my tongue.  The tapioca was interesting.  I know the texture, but it's different when it's part of your drink. The taste was awesome!  My problem is, I'm a texture person, and textures can get to me when eating.  
Crab Rangoon and White Rice
We ordered a large appetizer of Crab Rangoon to share, and somehow, this is the only pic I took of it.  It was really good!  If I go back to Joy Yee, I will order the Crab Rangoon again!
Hot and Sour Soup
As I've stated before on this blog, I judge a Chinese Restaurant by their Hot and Sour Soup.  Joy Yee's did not disappoint!  The only problem, this bowl of soup was MASSIVE!  I didn't realize that until it came to the table.  I could have just eaten the Crab Rangoon and the soup by itself, but I had already ordered a main dish.
Melanie and her Shrimp Curry
Melanie ordered the shrimp curry.  As you can see, the bowl is really that big!  We could have gotten one meal to share.  I didn't know this.  Maybe the server could have mentioned it.  
Sweet and Sour Chicken
I ordered the sweet and sour chicken.  I really enjoyed that this dish had peppers, carrots, and pineapple in it.  The sweet and sour sauce was a good flavor.  It had a little bit of a kick to it, like maybe a pinch of Cayenne in it. Or maybe I just imagined that! 
If I end up in Chicago's China Town again, I will eat here!  Maybe next time, I'll just get one main dish and share it, or just get the crab Rangoon and the hot and sour soup.  I would try a different flavor of smoothie, like strawberry. 
I give Joy Yee 2 and a half pizza pies out of four.  The servers were nice, but could have been more informative.  The food tasted good, it was just A LOT!