Monday, June 18, 2012

Hello Again!

Wow!  It has been a long time since my last blog.  I guess I was getting bored with the food thing.  However, I now have a burning desire to bring you reviews of household products that I use every day.  So stay tuned for reviews of products I like to use around the house.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Western Spaghetti

I came across this awesome video today.  It was a joy to watch.  Very creative!  Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Publix's All Natural Tuscan Minestrone

Well, I'm back.  It's been a sad and long couple of months since our beloved Bobbi passed away.  For 19 years she gave me and my husband such joy and happiness.  We are devastated and will miss her forever.

We now have a new member of our family and his name is Merlin.  He's an 8-month-old Maine Coon mix and is full of energy.  I didn't realize how much I missed having a pet around the house.  He's a good boy.

Okay, on to the review.  I went to Publix yesterday with my mom just to pick up a few things.  I wandered over by their premade sandwiches in the deli and saw the all natural soups in the same case.  I've known about their soups for a while but never really wanted to try it.  You see, I am the Soup Queen which means I make the best soups you will ever eat.  So, how can a store-bought soup be any good?   You'd be surprised.

I'm always looking for new things to try for lunch.  I'm usually not hungry during lunch but know I need to eat something or I will pig out at dinner.  I absolutely love soup but can't always make fresh soup.  Quite frankly, I have a problem with frozen soup also.  I don't know what it is but I feel like it has a strange taste after it has been frozen and is not as fresh. 

So, for lunch today I open up a can of the Publix All Natural Tuscan Minestrone.  Before I bought it, I searched the label for MSG or other nasty things and found none.  Then I noticed today as I was eating it, the container says "no preservatives."  Doh!  It is convenient too.  You open the container, slide the included safety sleeve over the container, and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes, stir, then another 1 1/2 minutes.  I like really hot soup, so I microwaved it 30 seconds more and it was perfect.

I have to say this is a fine soup.  It is very flavorful and full of veggies.  There is no weird aftertaste and it is very hearty.  I did add a pinch more salt and a tiny bit of onion powder.  I put onion powder on everything.

So, I'm impressed.  I was not expecting a store-bought soup to be this good. I can't wait to try their others.  I believe I saw cream of tomato and cream of broccoli.  This is a great lunch-time meal.  Oh, and I could only eat half the container.  There are two servings in a 16 ounce container which, for me, was plenty.  I'll give the rest to George for his lunch.

Here are the vitals on this awesome soup:

1 Cup serving size; total fat 3.5g; no trans fat; 140 calories per serving; 19g of carbs with 5 gm fiber; 460mg sodium;

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


It's been a while since my last post.  I have a poor sick kitty and have been a little down lately.  So, to take my mind off of things, I'm going to tell you about a few awesome restaurants you must try if you are ever in Las Vegas.

I visited Las Vegas (for the millionth time) with my husband and mom near the end of February 2010.  We had a wonderful time and our vacation seemed too short.

Of course, Las Vegas is known for it's gambling, night life, and shows.  Also, Las Vegas can be a mecca for the gormand.  Here are a few picks of my must-eat restaurants of Las Vegas.


We stayed at Sam's Town Hotel and Gambling Hall for the first time.  It's a nice place to stay where the food is great and the people are friendly.  We only paid $22 a night for a nice room overlooking their atrium.

I had been craving a nice juicy steak and read about Billy Bob's online.  The reviews were great and I was not disappointed.  The restaurant has a very manly western theme and our waiter was prompt and attentive.  We started with a shrimp cocktail which came with a fantastic remoulade sauce.  Bread was brought to the table hot right out of the oven.

I ordered a 12 ounce rib eye, medium rare.  It was perfection.  Very tender and juicy.  I ordered mine with a loaded sweet potato which was enormous.  The meal also comes with a salad.  My mom had the same thing but had a regular potato with her steak.  George had beef tips over something.  I honestly can't remember what he had because I was so focused on my meal, I didn't notice what he was eating.   Overall, we were impressed with Billy Bob's Steak House.

More Las Vegas reviews to come!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Restaurant Review - Fresh Harvest Buffet at The Hard Rock in Tampa

Last week was my birthday and I decided I'd like to go to the Hard Rock here in Tampa for some buffet action and gambling.  I've been to the Fresh Harvest Buffet before a few years ago and was very impressed.  I was interested to see if the quality had remained the same.   I was not disappointed.

The Fresh Harvest Buffet at the Hard Rock is located through the casino (of course) and up a set of escalators.  We decided to get there around 4:30 p.m. to beat the crowds.  Seems that everyone else had the same idea.  The line was quite long and I think we waited over an hour in line.  However, I noticed that by 6:30 p.m., the line was almost down to nothing.  So, next time, we will go around 6 p.m.  Oh, and most importantly, bring your Players Club Card or get one if you don't have one.  Dinner is $22 with card and $27 without.  Lunch is $15/$20.  There are also daily specials that can be purchased for $2 to $3 at each station.

Our party of seven was shown to nice tables and our drink orders were taken almost immediately.  Our wait person, Jeff, was efficient and very friendly.  In fact, he had us laughing and made the evening quite special.   He really went above and beyond the call of duty.

We were starving, so everyone scattered in all directions.  There are seven different kitchens to choose from.  There's an Italian section with fresh brick oven pizza, an Asian section with wonderful dim sum, and crab legs, crab legs, crab legs.  Make sure you get the hot crab legs toward the back of the buffet.  There are cold ones too but the hot ones are my favorite.  These are the freshest snow crab legs I have ever had!

Also, in the middle area, there's a real fire grill which serves meat dishes to order along with the most wonderful grilled flank steak I've had in quite a while.  There's sausage and awesome homemade rosemary chips with this amazing dip.  FRIED CHICKEN!!!!  OMG...the best fried chicken ever!  Red bliss mashed potatoes, wonderful green beans...I'm sure I'm missing a whole lot of other amazing things.

The dessert area is unbelievable.  My favorite thing is their bread pudding with vanilla sauce.  This is weird because I am strictly a chocolate person.  However, this bread pudding is out of this world.  If I could make this dessert, I would weigh three times as much as I do now instead of just twice as much. 

Last time I was at the buffet, about two years ago, I called the manager over to tell him how pleased we were with the meal.  If I remember correctly, he said that nothing is cooked in the back.  Everything is prepared out front to ensure quality and freshness.

Overall, I have to say that The Fresh Harvest at the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa has truly earned their name.  Thanks Jeff for making our experience a pleasant one!

Open Daily: 11AM - 10PM
11AM - 4PM

4PM - 10PM

4PM - 10PM

10AM - 10PM

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Most Awesome Sesame Chicken in the Universe

Okay, I know the title of this post is a little over the top but hey, it's true.  This is one of the best new recipes I made in 2009.

Now, I loves me a new recipe ... but I love Chinese food even more.  So, when I saw this wonderful web site, Blogchef, from Bobby in Recipes, I was really excited.  It lists all the fabulous dishes I love to order from Chinese takeout.  The only thing it was missing was Shrimp with Lobster Sauce but I already know how to make that.  So, now I have my own little Chinese takeout in my very own kitchen. I doubled the sauce since I-like-a-the-sauce.  Also, for a little veg, I added finely chopped broccoli.  For the cooking oil, I used half vegetable oil and half coconut oil.  Yes, coconut oil is good for you!  I fry almost everything in coconut oil.  It gives everything a wonderful taste.  More on coconut oil later.

You will need:

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
2 green onions (sliced)

For the Marinade:

1 teaspoon chicken base
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
ground white pepper to taste
1 tablespoon raspberry wine (or any fruity flavored wine)

For the batter:

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg (beaten)
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
salt to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil


3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sugar
salt to your taste
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
black pepper to your tastes

Cut the chicken into 1 inch chunks.  Combine the marinade ingredients and mix well.  Add the chicken and coat evenly.  Cover this and put in the frig for 30 minutes.

In a separate bowl combine all of the batter ingredients and mix.  The batter should be the consistency of really thick pancake batter.  If not, just add a bit more water.

Remove the pieces of chicken from the marinade and dip them into the batter to coat.  Deep fry the chicken in batches for about 10 minutes until golden brown.  Drain.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a pan and warm over medium heat.  Bring to a boil while stirring and simmer until it thickens.

I placed my chicken in the pan to coat with the sauce but you can just put in a serving dish if you like.  Coat the chicken with the sauce and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pecan Praline Crunch - Salty and Sweet Goodness

To me, this recipe means Christmas.  Every year during the holidays my good friend Carolyn would make this wonderful snack and bring it to work.  I now try to make it every Christmas.  It's crunchy, sweet, salty, and full of flavor.  It may even be good for you because of the Quaker Oat Squares.   There are quite a few variations of this recipe on the internet but this one is the original given to me.  You might want to buy more than one box of the oat squares because people will be wanting more.  I used one whole 12-ounce box and doubled the recipe and had more than enough.  You will need:

1 6-ounce box or larger of Quaker Oat Squares
1 cup pecans chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup light corn syrup
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used sticks of margarine)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Apply cooking spray onto a 13 by 9 inch cookie sheet.  Combine the brown sugar, the light corn syrup, and the vegetable oil in a microwave bowl.  Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir.  Microwave again for another 30 seconds.  Combine the cereal and the wet mixture together along with the pecans.  Gently mix and spread onto the cookie sheet.  Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring the mixture every 20 minutes.  Immediately spread the mixture out on parchment paper and break into pieces.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Yamato Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar - A Restaurant Review

George, my mom, and I were out one weekend before Thanksgiving looking for a new dining room table.  We went to a few stores and decided it was time to eat dinner so we tried to go to Texas Roadhouse.  It was packed and their computer was down which made for a very long wait.

We then decided to go to Grillsmith at the Wire Grass Mall in New Tampa.  I really enjoyed my last meal there but my husband wasn't too keen on it.  He doesn't haven't a favorite dish there, so he doesn't consider it as a place he would like to eat...pppffftt.  We swung by there and saw people standing outside, so that really put the breaks on Grillsmith.

I remembered seeing a new Japanese steak house which had newly opened a few weeks prior.  It is all the way down at the end of the mall, so I figured, maybe it will be less crowded.  We swung by there and opened our car window to talk to my mother in her van.  And then it hit us.  The most delicious smell coming from behind us.  Well, what was behind us?  Yamato's Japanese Steak House.  Of course, George did not want to go to a big fancy place where you sit with other people at a grill.  However, I remember that my other favorite place, Wasabi's, has a separate restaurant area.  We all agreed to try it out.

When we walked in we were greeted immediately by a very nice hostess.  The decor is modern Japanese with lots of wood, hardwood floors, and adequate lighting.  I asked the hostess if they had a separate restaurant area which they did.  We were immediately showed to a nice cozy booth and could see out a large window.  The atmosphere was kind of romantic and I could see how it would be a nice place to bring a date.

The menu is extensive and it took us longer than usual to pick out our food.  I decided we should have spring rolls for appetizers and George picked out tempura sushi as an appetizer.  The three of us shared these which were absolutely delicious.  The sushi was particularly good.  The shrimp inside the sushi is tempura fried and then the whole piece of sushi is tempura fried.  The spring rolls were fresh and very good.

My mother ordered a chicken Bento box.  I ordered grilled shrimp and scallops with veggies and rice.  George ordered teryaki chicken and rice.  Of course, I had to taste everyone's meal and all were extremely good.  George even said it was on par with Blue Samari which is really saying something!

Each meal comes with an onion broth soup and a salad.  Both were very good.  My mother's Bento box was enormous.  We all had to take home leftovers.

I was curious what the Teppanyaki area of the restaurant looked like, so as I made my way to the ladies' room, I took a look.  It is a very large area and very open.  Most Teppanyaki places tend to be overly warm but this was just the right temperature.  By the time we left, most of the Teppanyaki tables were almost full.  I'd like to come back and try it some time.

As I was sitting at the booth eating, I noticed there was a word on the window which said otamay.  I was trying to figure out what that might be, then George told it was Yamato spelled backwards.  doh!  Now we call Yamato otamay.

I would have to say that Yamato Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar is a real winner.  We will definitely eat there again.

Yamato Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar
The Shops at Wiregrass
28211 Paseo Drive
Wesley Chapel FL 33543

M-F: 10am-9pm
Sat: 10am-10pm
Sun: 11am-9pm

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hickory Hollow Barbeque - A Restaurant Review

My mother-in-law lives in Sun City, Florida.  And to tell you the truth, there are not a lot of restaurants in the area.  So, on our bi-monthly visit, we decided to find something different around the area.  The closest area to us with a good amount of restaurants is Ellenton.  There's a big outlet mall there and a nice fish place where we have eaten many times.

A couple of days before we visited, I looked on the internet for somewhere different to eat.  I'm not a huge barbecue fan but occasionally do enjoy it.  Searching for any restaurants within the Ellenton area, I came upon a restaurant called Hickory Hollow.  I was disappointed it did not have its own website but was able to read some reviews left by previous diners.  All reviews were quite positive and raved about Hickory Hollow especially their vegetable choices.  One reviewer went so far as to say it was the best barbecue on the west coast of Florida.  Well, this certainly peeked my interest, so I googled the address and printed a map.

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, we drove to Sun City, picked up the mother-in-law, and proceeded to Ellenton.  My husband brought along his Garmen thingy to help us find the restaurant.  We got off at the Ellenton exit and proceeded west passing our favorite fish restaurant.  The Garmen guided us further down the road and suddenly said to make a right turn.  Well, the right turn would have taken us into a subdivision.  Wrong!!  So, we kept going noting the address numbers were going in the wrong direction.  So, we turned around.  I told everyone that we may have to eat at the fish place after all.

As we turned around the addresses started to go in the correct direction.   And then, all of sudden, there it was...a very tall sign said, "Hickory Hollow."  We made it!  Funny thing, it is almost directly across the street from the fish place.  I don't know why I never noticed Hickory Hollow before but it is right off Interstate 75.  The restaurant is very unassuming on the outside and kind of looks like a house.  The inside decor was nice with lots of little lights.  They still had up some of their Halloween decorations but were phasing into Thanksgiving.

We sat down at a booth and were immediately greeted by the waitress.  She took our drink order and we began to pick out our meals.  I decided on baby back ribs.  My mother wanted country style spare ribs.  My mother-in-law also got the baby back ribs.  My husband ordered the pulled pork.  The waitress also pointed out the selection of sauces on the table; a sweet hot sauce and a more traditional tangy barbecue sauce.  By the way, this is North Carolina barbecue which I believe is a vinegar base. 

Vegetables are listed on a separate menu.  The menu is actually a piece of wood shaped like a pig.  The selection of vegs was huge.  Selections ranged from creamed spinach, fried corn, zipper peas, squash casserole, backed beans, etc.  There were probably about 20 different offerings.

The meal came and we dug in.  I had the zipper peas and they were outstanding.  I also had macaroni and cheese which tasted homemade.  My baby back ribs were excellent.  I got a whole rack and could only eat half.

My mother-in-law let me taste her squash casserole.  Now, I have to tell you, I hate squash with a passion.  However, this was the best squash I have ever had in my life.  It had cheese and onion in it and was very flavorful.  She also let me taste her creamed spinach which was really good.  My husband has the fried corn.  He wasn't talking much except for the occasional "mmmmm."  I tried his corn and I have never tasted anything like it.  It was absolutely awesome!  All the different meats were fall-off-the-bone perfect and the sauces were excellent.  By the way, every meal comes with two gigantic corn fritters which are the best I have ever had...seriously.   We were too full to eat dessert but heard that their strawberry shortcake is to die for.  They only have it when it is in season around February/March.  They had other selections that sounded great like cheesecake and some others I can't remember at the moment.

If I had to rate Hickory Hollow, I would give it a 10 out of 10.  It was that good.

So, if you are ever in the Ellenton area of Florida and would like some North Carolina style barbecue, try Hickory Hollow . . . and order the fried corn.  Oh, and very important, they don't take credit cards.  BRING CASH!!  Here's their info:

Hickory Hollow Barbeque
4705 US Hwy 301 N.
Ellenton, FL 34222-2871
(941) 722-3932

Hours of Operation:  ? to 8 p.m.  (better call first)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kitchen Bloopers and Canned Pumpkin Hoarding

Okay, I'm the first one to admit that I am not perfect in the kitchen...sometimes.  Here is an example.

It's Sunday morning and I decide to make the recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes from my friend's website over at The Novice Chef.   I print out the recipe and start.  Mix dry ingredients...check.  Separate eggs...check.  Mix wet ingredients...check.   Whip egg whites and fold into batter.  WHOOPS!!!  I had separated the eggs...and placed the whites in a dirty bowl.  I broke my cardinal rule.  Always read the recipe all the way through before starting.  Doh!!  So, I went ahead and cooked the pancakes.  And you know what?  They were fine.  In fact more than fine.  They were delicious.  And think how even more delicious they will be the next time I make them correctly.

Now for an explanation as to the pumpkin hoarding.  In October, I wanted to make pumpkin cream cheese.  So, I went to the store and there was not a can to be found.  I kept going back week and after week and nothing.   I mentioned this to Jess over at The Novice Chef and she told me there was a canned pumpkin shortage going on.  I told my mom.  She found some at her store.  Then, the hoarding began.  She bought four cans and gave me two.  Then, just last week, I was passing by an end cap in my grocery store and there it was...piled high like a great orange pyramid of pumpkiness.  I grabbed four cans.  I even thought about getting more.  No, I have a small pantry.  Thus, pumpkin pancakes for Sunday breakfast was born.