Monday, January 23, 2017

7 Easy Chinese Restaurant Recipes You Can Make at Home

I've got a few ideas brewing, like I'm going to be brewing some beer in the near future! In the meantime, if you're a Chinese food junkie like me, you'll enjoy these Chinese food recipes!

7 Easy Chinese Restaurant Recipes You Can Make at Home:

'via Blog this'

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Italian Sausage Zucchini Soup

I'm feeling a little nostalgic lately, so I decided to share a recipe we always made growing up. This soup recipe was past down from my aunt.

The Recipe:
Italian Sausage Zucchini Soup
Italian Sausage Zucchini Soup

  • 1 Package Italian Sausage - Sliced
  • 2 Onions - Diced
  • 2 Zucchini - Sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 1/2 Cups Merlot
  • 2 15 oz Cans Whole Tomatoes
  • 2 Boxes Beef Broth
  • 1 Teaspoon Basil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves - Diced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Chopped Parsley
  • Noodles 
Brown the Italian Sausage in a large heavy bottom stock pot. I prefer to use either sweet Italian sausage or spicy Italian sausage. The mild sausage doesn't quite fill out the flavor profile of the soup. 

Remove the browned Italian sausage from the pot. There should be about a tablespoon of grease left behind from the sausage. If not, add a little bit of olive oil. 

Sauté the onions and garlic. Add the Italian sausage back in to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Add the noodles, zucchini, and parsley and simmer another 10-15 minutes. Penne or Rigatoni pasta work the best, but I usually use whatever is lying around the pantry.

Sometimes I'll add a can of Great Northern White beans as a substitute for the noodles. Other times, I'll use both the beans and noodles to make the soup a little bit more hearty. Sometimes I'll stir in a little spinach at the end too.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Houston Essential Restaurants 2016

This is the first of what I hope to make an annual list of my top 10 Houston Restaurants. The choices and opinions are purely my own and are not meant to rule out any particular restaurant as not being great. Who knows, if a restaurant doesn't make it on this list, there is always a future list. This list is not concerned with category or genre, and my tastes may overlap with a few restaurants. I am however, working on a few Best Of categories.

When I set out to compile this list, I had one requirement. These restaurants have to be completely unique to Houston. They can't be franchises or a concept of a larger corporation. If a Houston restaurant sold its rights, they still count, just not the corporate edition. I wanted to capture the Houston experience, not the Houston experience you might experience somewhere else. Some of these restaurants I have a long history with. Others, I'm, just getting to know. 

Rosie Carrabba's
Rosie Carrabba's on Voss
As the name would imply, this is the original. It's also the original restaurant where I fell in love with the Houston food scene as a young boy. I go here, and Rosie Carrabba's on Voss as often as I can, usually for lunch. The staff is always on point, providing a solution to any situation with ease. The smell of wood oven baked pizzas and breads fills the air from the open kitchen as food is prepared. If you're lucky, there's a chance Johnny Carrabba will be there greeting each of his guests as if it was still the first day of business, 30 years ago. I still need to get over to Carrabba's newest offerings, Grace's and Mia's Table. My favorite dish: Pappardelle Campagnalo

Barnaby's Cafe
Barnaby's Cafe
Named after a childhood dog, this cafe has multiple locations with a laid back vibe. The patios are dog friendly and some locations even offer Frosty Paws for for your four-legged friend. One of my favorite things about Barnaby's is that the menu covers almost all food genres. Salads, Lasagna, Burgers - I can't make a stop there without some Sweet Potato Fries with Barbecue Sauce! There's always house made fresh lemonade and don't forget about the fresh desserts! As far as my favorite, Barnaby's one of favorite places to get a burger.

Mai's Vietnamese Restautant
Mai's Restaurant
Years ago, my fellow Starbucks baristas and I, would all gather after our shifts and make a late night drive down to Mai's Restaurant. We'd wind down after a long shift over some Vietnamese coffees and, one of my favorites, probably a vermicelli bowl. Sadly, years later Mai's fell victim to a fire. Taking the opportunity to rebuild, Mai's has a modern look and an updated menu. My favorite: Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio (Vermicelli Bowl with Grilled Pork and Vietnamese Egg Rolls).

El Rey
El Rey Cuban and Mexican Cuisine
El Rey Cuban and Mexican Cuisine
El Rey combines Mexican and Cuban Cuisines, which are two of my favorites. Both cuisines make a perfect street food, a vibe I get from going in and sitting at the counter as the food is prepared right in front you. El Rey is big on flavor. Citrus marinades and spices make these delicious foods. A can't miss is the creamy Cilantro Dressing. It goes great with chips and on tacos. I always like the Tacos al Pastor or the Shrimp Tempura Taco, and the Cuban Sandwich is a must try. But my favorite is the Havana Plate, pork marinated in lemon garlic sauce (Mojo), with rice, black beans, and plantains.

Pizzitola's Barbecue
Pizzitola's Barbecue
Pizzitola's Barbecue
Originally known as Shepherd Drive Barbecue, Pizzitola's is an unassuming building that hides some of my favorite barbecue in the city. The food is simple, just salt and pepper rubs over a Texas hickory fire for flavor. I always start off with a few ribs and go in for the brisket and sausage plate with some beans and coleslaw. I'm still a bit upset that they took rice off the menu. You can't beat the fresh lemonade either! Be sure to check out the fresh desserts, especially the Banana Pudding!

Saint Arnold
Saint Arnold Brewing Co
Saint Arnold Brewing Co
I've always loved Saint Arnold, but lately it has become a favorite for lunch. They are doing some really great things in the kitchen, mostly German inspired, but with some interesting additions. For instance, a Ginger Wurst with Fried Wontons and Kim Chi. Lunch features a daily special with two courses, served from 11 to 2, and their Wurst of Der Week. They also have the typical pub fare, including bratwursts, fried chicken, and burgers. And don't forget, your meal meal comes with all you can drink root beer!

Petrol Station
Petrol Station
Petrol Station
I don't remember exactly how I found Petrol Station, it's tucked away nicely in the quiet neighborhood of Garden Oaks, but I do remember falling in love almost instantly. In the back is quiet patio, surrounded by trees. You almost forget you're in the middle of the city. The food here is pretty straight forward, although I would call it above average pub food. My go-to menu items include the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Pulled Pork Sandwich, and The Rancor, a 1/2 lb Angus beef patty, topped with bacon, cheddar, fried egg, lettuce tomato, red onion, pickle, and mayo!

Christian's Tailgate
Christian's Tailgate
Christian's Tailgate
I first fell in love with Christian's Tailgate in its original incarnation as Christian's Totem, a dive bar on Washington Avenue. Over the years, the restaurant was updated and new locations have been added. Thankfully, the food has always stayed the same! They've added a few things since the simple hamburger and patty melt days too! Be warned if you have an adventurous side though. The double burger, now called The Giant is a full 1 lb. of beef. I was surprised when I ordered it to find myself removing the bun and eating just the beef!

RA Sushi
RA Sushi
RA Sushi
I've always been a sushi fan. The only tricky thing is trying to avoid being hungry again in an hour, without dropping $100! So when I discovered happy hour at RA Sushi, I couldn't pass it up. They have select Appetizers and Sushi from $3.49 to $8.99! Be sure to check out the Crunchy Calamari Roll and of course the Viva Las Vegas Roll!

Star PizzaEvery best restaurant list needs a pizza place, especially in Houston where there so many good pizza options. All it took for me was one trip to the original location of Star Pizza, and I was hooked! The Garlic Bread with Cheese and a side of Marinara will definitely leave you wanting more, just in time for your Starburst pizza to arrive, with its ground beef, sausage, pepperoni and veggies! Whether you go to the original location or the new one on Washington, you won't leave disappointed!

Happy eating!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Chicken Fajita Marinade

Beef and Chicken Fajitas on Cast Iron Skillet
Beef and Chicken Fajitas on Cast Iron Skillet
So I'm not usually a fan of Chicken Fajitas. Carne Asada is a classic recipe and is one of my favorites. The steak has a such a bold flavor, it cuts through all of the toppings inside the tortilla. When I do eat Chicken Fajitas, it's typically at home. I'm really picky about the way it's made and the way it's seasoned. This is my favorite marinade for Chicken Fajitas. I've been using this since my college days, and I remember a michelada being the inspiration for it.

The Recipe: 

  • 1 Mexican Style Beer
  • 2 Limes - Juiced
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 3 Boneless Chicken Breasts
Mix lime juice, salt, cayenne pepper, and beer in bowl. A good Mexican style beer like Dos Equis, Modelo Especial, or Tecate work really well. Place the chicken in gallon storage bag and poor the marinade over it. Place in the refrigerator. Let sit for at least an hour, preferably over night. 

I think the best way to cook any type of fajitas is on a hot cast iron skillet over a flame. I talk about this process here

Happy Eating.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Houston 101: Where Can I Get a Good Burger

One last throwback post to when I was the Houston Barbecue Examiner. Who wants a burger?

Sure there is a fast food restaurant on every corner, and yes they happen to serve burgers, but why get something to eat there when this great city has so much to offer? Taking a minute to veer off the beaten path, will to help to locate some of the city’s hidden treasures.

Goode Company Taqueria and Hamburgers
Goode Company Taqueria and Hamburgers
Goode Company has been around for over thirty years, always serving up great food, whether it be barbecue, seafood, or fajitas. At Goode Company Hamburgers and Taqueria, they have some of the best hamburgers I have ever found. The menu is extensive and sure to please the entire family, especially the burgers. They are all beef patties, either 1/3 or 2/3 pounds in size. They even offer a chicken burger. And the topping combinations are endless. Try a burger with mozzarella, Canadian bacon, and guacamole or maybe one with jalapeños, mushrooms, and bacon. As always, with any Goode Company restaurant, be sure to try the latest seasonal offering from the St. Arnold Brewing Company.

Christian's Tailgate
Christian's Tailgate
Christian’s Tailgate is one of those places that is just simply inviting. It is not rustic, but simple. The restaurant relies on the food, not as much as on the décor, which is something I find more inviting. The restaurant invites people to come in as they are. The burgers are huge, and well priced. A word of caution though, the double is something to consider splitting with a friend. These burgers are well cooked, well seasoned, and drip grease back into the basket of fries, adding to the experience, and to the food.

**Edit: The location shown, which was the original incarnation of Christian's Tailgate, has sadly closed.

Barnaby's Cafe
Barnaby's Cafe
Barnaby’s Café is one of those places the customers feel invited to bring a book and hang out on the patio. The menu is extremely extensive, ranging from salads, to sandwiches, to steak, ribs, chicken, and seafood, to burgers. The burgers are absolutely amazing, ranging from simple plain burgers, to Boca burgers. The highlight of the burger menu is the Green Chile Cheese Burger, which boasts a whole chile and pepper jack cheese. These flavors come together with the beef on a honey sweet wheat bun, and knock it out of the park. Along with the homemade lemonade and the daily pie and cake offerings, Barnaby’s Café is a must try.

Happy Eating.

For more information:
            Goode Company Hamburgers andTaqueria
            4902 Kirby Drive
            Houston, TX, 77098

            Christian’s Tailgate
            2820 White Oak Dr
            Houston, TX, 77007
            See website for other locations
            Barnaby’s Café
            1701 South Shepherd
            Houston, TX, 77019

            See their website for other locations.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Indian Chicken Recipes | POPSUGAR Food

Disney Pixar Crock Pot
Disney Pixar Crock Pot
Full disclosure here - I've never been fan of slow cookers or crockpots. I like the experience of hands on cooking, so the idea of setting something to cook on the counter for 8 hours isn't exactly in my wheelhouse. We got a crockpot for Christmas, so I've been checking out a few recipes out there that don't turn me off. These Indian Chicken recipes look to be ok.

Indian Chicken Recipes | POPSUGAR Food:

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Dump Cake Recipe | POPSUGAR Food

Despite what the first line says, I've never had Dump Cake. I've never heard of it either. It sounds like something I need to try out though.

Dump Cake Recipe | POPSUGAR Food:

'via Blog this'

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Favorite Way to Cook Fajitas

Maybe I'm boring, but I almost always order fajitas when we go out for Mexican. What can I say, I know what I like. It's not that there aren't suitable options. I live in Texas after all, and where barbecue does not reign supreme, there's TexMex! So I decided to learn how to make my own fajitas at home. I started out just grilling the meat, but soon switched to cast iron.  If all of the restaurants are serving fajitas on a cast iron platter, there has to be a reason, right?
The Recipe:
Skirt Steak with Onions and Red Bell Peppers  on the Cast Iron Skillet. I threw in some  Chicken too!
Skirt Steak with Onions and Red Bell Peppers
on the Cast Iron Skillet. I threw in some
Chicken too!
  • 1 Large Onion - Sliced
  • 1 Large Red Bell Pepper - Sliced
  • 1 lb Skirt Steak 
  • Your Favorite Fajita Seasoning
  • 1 Large Cast Iron Skillet 
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Heat the cast iron skillet over a flame. I use a 15 inch cast iron skillet and an outdoor propane burner.
Marinate the onions and bell peppers in a gallon storage bag with olive oil and salt and pepper. Sometimes I'll throw in a few cloves of chopped garlic.

Season the skirt steak with your favorite fajita seasoning. I'm working on my own fajita seasoning that I'll share as soon as it is ready. Drizzle the steak with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
When the cast iron is scorching, throw on the skirt steak. Put it all the way to one side. Flip the steak after just a few minutes. This is going to cook really fast. I like mine to be about a medium rare at most.

Add the onions and peppers on the other side. Make sure to stir those veggies often. You want them to blacken, without burning.

After clearing the meat and veggies from the skillet, I throw a few fresh tortillas on the skillet to warm them up. You can use the name brand tortillas, but most grocery stores make fresh tortillas in house these days so there's really no excuse. Just about a minute per side to get them to warm up
Slice up the skirt steak and pile it high on the tortillas with the onions and peppers. I like charro beans in my fajitas. Of course salsa and cheese, and sometimes guacamole. I've never been a sour cream fan. I don't like lettuce on my fajitas, because I'm not eating tacos. Fajitas go great with pico de gallo. I've got a great recipe for it here!

As always, happy eating!


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