Friday, October 29, 2010

Banana pudding fail ... again

Posted By on Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 9:41 AM

If there is one thing I can't make in the kitchen, it's banana pudding. Every time I try, it turns out to be a failure.

You'd think I could master something as simple as banana pudding, which only requires one to layer a few simple ingredients — bananas, Nilla wafers, and pudding. Alas, I cannot.

Last time I made it with boxed banana-flavored pudding and it came out tasting like banana Runts candies. This time I tried making my own pudding, and it came out brown, grainy, and looking like apple sauce.

Though the pudding portion didn't look right after cooking on the stove top for 20 minutes, I forged ahead and assembled the banana pudding anyway – bananas, Nilla wafers and all. I believed something magical just might happen if I allowed the assembled banana pudding sit in the fridge.

Silly me. After a night in the refrigerator, the pudding was still a grainy mush with the texture of cooked squash. Arg. Just stamp me with a big, fat "FAIL" stamp. Nothing makes me angrier than a failed cooking project.

I got the recipe from the Charlotte Observer a few months ago. It's titled "The Best-Ever Banana Pudding." Mine turned out to be "The Worst-Ever Banana Pudding." What did I do wrong?



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bacardi's Halloween punch recipe

Posted By on Tue, Oct 26, 2010 at 12:47 PM

Bacardi shared this Halloween drink recipe with me, so I'm sharing it with y'all.

Hope you have a safe and "Spooki-licious" Halloween!

Picture 5

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Braised short ribs

Posted By on Tue, Oct 26, 2010 at 12:23 PM

These braised short ribs are good. Like so good.

The recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Like most of her recipes, this one was deeeeeeeelicious. Ree had named this recipe as one of the top dishes you must try before you die. She calls these short ribs "heaven on a plate." After eating these last night, I am in agreement.

Set aside a lazy weekend afternoon for this dish. From start to finish, it took me about 3-4 hours.

After checking at two Harris Teeter stores, I had to go to The Fresh Market (in Strawberry Hill) to pick up the beef short ribs, which sell for $5.99/lb. At The Fresh Market I was also able to acquire some beautiful Italian pancetta ($9.99/lb), a type of dry cured meat which is like the fattier and tastier cousin of bacon.

To start, the pancetta is cooked down and a good helping of fat is rendered, then the ribs are seared in the fat, and then the veggies are cooked in all that goodness along with red wine. Then after 2.5 hours in the oven, the short ribs come out oh-so-tender with the meat just falling off the bone. I served these over a bed of garlic mashed potatoes with a huge scoop of the juice from the ribs on top.

Make these. You won't regret it. Here's how...

(Sorry for the crap photos. I was too into cooking and devouring than my usual food styling and lighting.)


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Friday, October 22, 2010

And the winners are...

Posted By on Fri, Oct 22, 2010 at 4:33 PM


Congrats to the following people who were randomly selected in the contest to win $50 gift certificates to Taco Mac. Beer and wings for all!

1. Glen Altman

2. Jerome Yeh

3. Eva Galuszka

Now, who's taking me out for dinner? (kidding.)

I'll be mailing your prizes out, so check your mail box soon.

Thanks to everyone for participating. I hope to have more giveaways soon.


Fancy pants sablé cookies (aka. French butter cookies)

Posted By on Fri, Oct 22, 2010 at 3:39 PM

These cookies sound all fancy pants because they are called Sablé Cookies, but they are actually just butter cookies ... of French descent. "Sablés" is French for sand.

Despite their foreign fancy-sounding name, these cookies are quite plain Jane, but not to say they aren't extremely good.

The dough is rolled into logs and chilled for a few hours or overnight. When you are ready to bake, simply roll them in sugar before slicing and baking them.

Each round cookie is tender, slightly sandy, and delicate due to the use of confectioner's sugar. They are crisp and buttery too.  Jazz them up with different flavor extracts and sugar coatings. Here I used almond extract and pink decorating sugar.


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

This cake tastes like fall

Posted By on Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 3:22 PM

What does fall taste like? It tastes like apples and spice, and everything nice. Which is exactly what this Double Apple Bundt Cake is.

This recipe comes from my Baking: From My Home to Yours book by Dorie Greenspan. It's called "double" apple because it calls for both fresh grated apples and apple butter.

Each slice of cake is moist and dense, studded with raisins and chopped pecans. Though it contains no carrots, a few people commented that it tastes similar to carrot cake.

The cake is easy to make, but like all bundt cakes, it takes 50 minutes or so to bake. You have the option to glaze the finished cake with a simple confectioner's sugar and lemon juice glaze, but I thought the cake was plenty sweet by itself. It beautify it though, I just dusted it with just a tad of confectioner's sugar.

Serve it for breakfast or dessert. Or both. It makes for a good snack too.

I made a few edits to the recipe: I used whole wheat flour for half of the flour content. I also used cranberry apple butter instead of regular apple butter because that's all Trader Joe's had. The cranberry flavor wasn't noticeable. It turned the batter a bit pink, but the color was gone after baking. You can find the original recipe below (as well as nutrition facts).


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Photos: Mellow Mushroom

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Mellow Mushroom has returned to Charlotte and they are now open in Myers Park, across the street from Yoforia on Selwyn Ave.

The psychedelic-colored restaurant is fun and family friendly. With a big patio, booth tables, tables in buses (see photo below), and a bar area, the restaurant can seat quite the crowd.

Flat screen TVs can be found scattered around the restaurant, along with bobble-head style mushroom figurines.

On my visit on Tuesday night, my party was seated promptly and there was no wait. A bit worried I'd eat my hand off before our order of garlic Parmesan pretzels ($4.50 for a half order of 3 pretzels) made it to the table (the menu said they take 20 minutes), I was pleasantly surprised when they arrived in just 10-15 minutes.

The Mega Veggie 14-inch pizza was large enough to feed at least three people, I'd say. Topped with a ton of hefty toppings, the pizza was easier to eat with a fork and knife than to pick up and eat. The crust isn't too thin or thick, but the edges were nice and chewy.

In addition to pizza, their menu offers salads, sandwiches, calzones and more.

The service was friendly and the food was delicious.

Welcome back to Charlotte, Mellow Mushroom!

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Solé Spanish Grille to close Saturday

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Solé Spanish Grille will close Saturday, October 30, 2010, after nine years in business. The ownership at Solé originally worked for entrepreneur Rudolfo Montero at his renowned Tio Montero, a few blocks up on East Boulevard (now Brixx), in the late 1980's. The team then opened Olé Olé on Kings (now closed) and Miro Spanish Grill, 7804 Rea Road in the Stonecrest Shopping Center.

Sibling restaurant Zen Asian Fusion, 1716 Kenilworth Ave, also in Dilworth, will offer some of Solé’s more popular dishes such as paella, berenjena rellena, and the tre leche cake. Zen’s menu will morph to include Spanish tapas while maintaining their line of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes and sushi. Zen and Miro will honor any Solé outstanding gift certificates.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Win a Taco Mac $50 gift certificate

Posted By on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 2:13 PM

If you love beer and wings, you are in luck. I've got three Taco Mac $50 gift certificates to give away.

To enter to win, email me at with your name and mailing address, as well as your favorite Taco Mac beer and food combo.

I'll select three random winners on Friday.

Good luck!

*10/22/10 UPDATE: Contest is now over. Thanks for playing. See who won here.

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Free Fruista Freeze from Taco Bell

Posted By on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 2:03 PM

What's a Fruista Freeze? Heck if I know.

All I know is that if you print this coupon, you can a free Orange 'n Créme one at Taco Bell. Offer valid until 11/25/10 or until online coupons run out.

Let me know if it's any good.

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