Monday, March 31, 2014

Easy Chicken Soup

It’s hard to think that anyone can catch a cold during our ‘cold’ season, but this past week, my fiancĂ© was sick so soon enough I was too. And that’s where “Jewish Penicillin” comes in – Chicken soup.

Chicken soup by itself is a rather boring affair especially when it’s from a can. Apart from the Andy Warhol art that came out of it, the world is not better off for it. The good news is that while we still can’t eliminate the common cold, we can still fight it with chicken soup.

So here is how to take your can of soup and make it into a meal that your grandmother would be proud of. First we’re going to take the can of soup as a base. The best can for this is the ‘double pasta’ can; alternatively you could use any pasta and cook it in. Next, you can get a roasted chicken at the supermarket for even less than the cost of an uncooked whole chicken. Cut about a quarter of it into very small pieces.
Next, open a small can of carrots (the half size can) and a (small) can of mushrooms; you can pour in the liquids directly. You could also have a chopped onion and celery mixed in.
The spices I use for this are rosemary, cumin, curry, and just a small amount of salt. I also use enough garlic to scare away any vampires.

If you want to take this recipe to the next step, skip the can and use fresh chicken and you can cook the chicken and pasta at the same time.
An important “ingredient” in this mix is time… let the soup simmer for at least 30 minutes if not more, it’s essential that flavors blend with each other. You may also have to add water from time to time so that your soup does not dry out while on the stove. Enjoy and feel better.

Schnitzel Haus

In the deep snow covered mountains of North Miami, there is a small German outpost that brings a culture from another continent to our fair metropolis. I would have never heard of such a place even though it seems like the restaurant and pils bar has been here since, well it’s certainly been here a long time.

So I am thinking that this will be Sausages and bratwurst and strudel, and indeed it is all that and a bit more. While Germany is known for its beer and the glorious consumption of it, its old world wines actually are some of the finest available. To my surprise the Schnitzel is not in any kind of sausage or sausage looking product, mine was simply breaded chicken and potatoes and a side sauce.
Though I will choose another product next time I come here, I would highly recommend trying out this very different food. One of our party did have the sausage type products and he seemed very happy.

The beers here seem incredible. Though beer was not invented in Germany, it might as well be. Actually, beer dates back some 5000+ years but never mind actual history. The Germans simply do beer right and I am sad to say, or perhaps happy to say that the rest of the world needs to follow them much more closely. The beer selection here is simply incredible and diverse. The wine selection comes in a close second. Though I am more a fan of Bordeaux I still would add a few of their bottles to my future wine cellar.

This German embassy is located on the 79th street Causeway in North Miami.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Age of Cheap Sushi…

So in a departure from the ordinary, I decided to talk a “long walk” and by long walk I simply mean a long walk, in this case according to our friends at google about 4.5 miles.  Now Broward can be a fun place at times, but it would be hard to find a place where you could still be urban and still be walking.

And that brings me to South Beach. South Beach is an ideal place to walk, and walk and walk. Oh, and watch all the other walkers and bikers and such. And that brings me to tourist central better known as Lincoln Road. Aside from the beach this is what South Beach is all about, exclusive dining, small boutique shops and people watching.

Naturally walking all around town one develops an appetite, but living the life of a poor but humble blogger, I decided to go off the beaten path (away from the tourists) and spend a little less for lunch.

All over South Florida the era of cheap sushi has arrived. Maybe it’s like the MacDonald’s of sushi but small little “hole in the wall’ places are seeming to pop up everywhere. And that’s a very good thing for those of us who are tight on our budgets or our time.

Less than a block south of Lincoln Road is a small sushi place whose name is perhaps Fuji Sushi. It’s not much on the eyes but it is good on taste. Very good in fact for its looks. For just a little more than $6 I have the plate here which is quite filling and as fresh as any higher end sushi place. There is a time for sushi socializing but my walk is calling me.

The next time you’re in South Beach just to be there and not for the party, stop in here and save the $$$ you would have spent so that next time you’ll have an even better time. Welcome to the age of cheap sushi!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Clean Food – Chicken Chili

Yummy Chili Goodness!
Clean food is the idea (movement) that food should have the least amount of fat and calories possible. It’s simple and clean cooking. Of course simple and plain does mean your food has to taste quick and easy.

One of my favorite big dish cooking projects is what I like to call Chicken Chili. It’s not actually chili, which would have ground beef or at least ground chicken but it does carry the same concept.
The recipe for this is simple and rather inexpensive. Take a pack of boneless chicken breast meat or boneless thighs, and boil them for about 10-15 minutes. Be sure not to overcook them and even undercooking them is fine as they will be cooked again. The next ingredient is brown rice, save the water from the boiled chicken (now you have chicken broth) and use it to cook the rice. A good ratio is 1 or 1 ½ cups.  Next I add diced tomatoes, canned spinach, and Chickpeas.

After that put the rice in, followed by the (cut up) chicken and add the rest of the ingredients. From the spice rack I put in chili powder, cumin, curry, and chopped garlic. Then simmer, the longer the simmer the better the flavors get integrated.

This typically makes about 4 good size servings which could come out to be about $3-4 per meal… Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

La Bamba II Mexican Spanish Food

Well it’s a friend’s birthday party, and these particular friends, friends of my fiancĂ© actually, and thus by extension me, live way out west. I’m talking that if you went just a few miles west you could see cows and such, or at least the marsh that passes for a state park.

Some 40 minutes later we arrived at La Bamba II Mexican Spanish Food, located at 5452 W. Sample Road in Margate. (Previously known as cow land.) Now, ironically cows are eaten here. The cycle of life continues.
The restaurant itself is a large “Latin” style restaurant featuring Mexican and Spanish style food. More about that in a few. The drinks here, in the small bar pictured were good and reasonably quick. We went on a Saturday evening and though the bar and the restaurant itself was packed, the service was excellent.

So excellent, that they accommodated a birthday party of 30 with just ½ hour notice. I’ve worked in restaurants large and small, and that is no easy task. The waiters gave us plenty of time and explained everything. I would even have to apologize as some in our party were a bit rude to them, demanding to know where their food was, when it was just about to be served. A large party is no easy task. So indeed the service here was top notch.
The Food however, and I do understand it was a quick notice party, was a bit understated. While my dish of chicken fajitas was done very well, a few of our party noticed some of their dishes were a bit dry or otherwise a bit overcooked or at least under the hot lights for little too long. I think however in a smaller party everything would have come in at the correct time in the correct way. If I find my way back out in the hinterlands I might just return.

Close by the restaurant is Coconut Casino. As a place for a good after party, it did not fail to entertain us. Laura and I lost just a little bit in the casino, but had a great time the bar/club in the back of the casino. I’m a much bigger fan of the Hard Rock, but I would come back here anytime. In fact next time one of my ‘out west’ friends wants a birthday party I would suggest going here instead.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Miller's Ale House

It’s sort of a mystery to me exactly what the Miller's Ale House (formally known as the Hollywood Ale House) is supposed to be. I would think an “ale house” would feature and promote a wide variety of unique or at least craft beers. Sort of like Tap 42 located in Fort Lauderdale does so very well. But Miller's ale house features your basic bar beers, albeit a large selection, but regular bar beers none the less.

As a sports bar I could imagine the potential, since big screen TV’s, especially in the bar area are more common than seniors at the bingo hall. I’m sure they are packed on game day. But this is not a game day… It does seem to be a good gathering place however.

Next to me and my soon to be bride two roofers are planning their business strategy, while in back of us a few Hollywood officers are enjoying their lunch break together. Yes they get lunch breaks too, and deserve it.
While choices here are plentiful, I think their chef(s) could step it up a few notches. Everything I have had so far seems to be processed in Idaho and then simply re-warmed in the back. It’s definitely not horrible, but I do think they could do a lot better.

My choice here was the lower calorie baked (?) salmon with a side of rice. Again not bad, but it could be a lot better, my bride to be had the veggie burger which again was frozen at its most recent point in life.
I think though that as long as it tries to be all things to all people, it will not be much to any particular person… But that being said I’ll definitely come back. It’s local, the service is good, and it’s just easy to be in. And sometimes easy is all you need.  Stop in and enjoy.

Miller's ale house is located in the Oakwood plaza shopping center, just south of the Home Depot.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

At Home – Sizzle Steak

I love my future wife 100% but she does not like to eat any 4 legged animals. So, out of respect I don’t eat any of that around her. Tonight however she is out and it’s time for Steak.  A steak dinner in a nice restaurant could set you back $20-$30 or more, but cooking it at home is not only more relaxing, it’s a lot cheaper.
12 Ounces of Goodness & Veggies!
Sure you could and should go out, but when it’s just you, you could do it better on your own. My steak recipe is rather simple and can be summed up on in just one word… “Broiler.” OK, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

You need a few ingredients to make it extra special, my go-to add on's for steak would include an onion (yellow), a small can of mushrooms, and a small can of carrots. Then there is the steak itself, a T-Bone or a NY Strip Steak are my best recommendations for you.
While your oven is reaching operational temperature, make sure you have your top shelf about 5 inches away from the burning element (being that you are broiling the top element will be lit), and then the bottom one should be 5 inches below that. Yes there is a reason for this. What I do is “sear” it, not actually but it works the same way, by getting the outside very slightly charred (time about 12 mins or so) then I transfer the steak to the lower level to finish the cooking process (time about 12-15 mins or so).

Preparation is easy… at the bottom of the baking dish pour about 2 spoons of oil, and shake pepper on top of the oil, then put the steak on top, make sure it gets covered by the oil and pepper, and then reverse on the other side. You could also add a touch of cyan or other red spice to perk it up. But don’t go overboard. Steak should taste good on its own without extra spices.
i cut up one whole onion into 8 pieces, and drop the carrots and mushrooms. You want to situate those on the sides of the steak, not on top. Try not to use Salt as that will dry out the steak, you can add salt after you are done or even better try putting on some garlic. You could also add brown rice, they have easy packs that you can put in the microwave for just under a minute. If you’re more traditional try some baked potatoes.

Since each oven is slightly different you will have to learn your times, so you can pick your degree of rare to well done. Enjoy! And yes it will look like that!

A night of serenading

A random Saturday evening finds me and my wife to be at Patron Azteca Mexican Restaurant in Hollywood Florida for a romantic dinner for two. Though I often find Mexican food to be a bit heavy, it’s something I can’t resist, and apparently neither can she.  Patron is located at 5181 Sheridan St. Hollywood, FL 33021.

I love tequila, and who doesn’t love patron, and I hope to gain knowledge of it like I understand scotch and whiskey. But tonight I don’t want to get to crazy so I’m just sticking to the sangria, which I suspect has some tequila in it. Portions here are large and together with the chips and salsa, Laura and I decide to get one dinner sized dish.

Not exactly sure of what to do, our waiter recommended what amounted to larger size chicken taquitos. They turned out not to be to heavy and with a portion size that was just right for the both of us. Combined with the sangria the dish could have made our night…

Could have I say,  but the Mariachi Band really took it to the next level. I felt as though I was back in Mexico, or at least Southern California, which is Mexico anyway. They were true and authentic.

The bar was a bit empty for a Saturday night, but the restaurant itself had plenty of customers, but service was still good, and wait staff was attentive.

Tell all your amigos to “vamanos” on over and enjoy… next time I’m going for the tequila.

It takes 9 months

Really you have to wonder how long it takes in this town to get things done. I've lived here for just about 9 months, the time it takes from conception to childbirth. And the construction on the I-95 overpass and Sterling Road has gone on the entire time. I wonder if the Mayor of Hollywood, Mayor Peter Bober, could actually use some of his political influence to speed up this disaster.

Now I understand that maintenance work on bridges and overpasses need to be done to continue to have safe roads. (I wish that we could also have safe drivers as well, but that's a whole different story). But why not simply do ONE overpass at time, then get it done, instead of working on it for a few hours a week and interrupting traffic patterns for months... OK, enough of that, this is a food blog so back to the topics at hand.