Thursday, December 27, 2012

I am late on my posts X's two.

I have two posts to catch up on, the first is the Daring cooks challenge of Pate Chinois a Canadian sort of Sheppard's pie.

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook! Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the Paté Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!

Between being sick, the holidays, and well just life in general it has been near impossible to get on here and get things posted. I was not terribly crazy about this because I dislike this type of meal, but I did it. I did a sort of Mexican inspired Pate Chinois with taco meat, beans, corn, tomatoes, and a mashed potato with Mexican blend cheese. It was okay. Here is a photo.

Meat mixture cooking.

Meat and veg in the casserole.

Ooey Gooey Cheesy.

A little too watery, but okay.
For my Daring Bakers Challenge we completed Panettone, an Italian fruit bread.
Blog-checking lines: The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!
I love this challenge, and in light of being sick, and super busy I made two batches! I did the traditional fruit filled one, then one that I filled with chocolate pieces both milk and white, as well as some dried cherries. The Chocolate Cherry was my favorite though less traditional is my guess.
I did the traditional version first and tried to do it all in one day! It was time consuming and it turned out, but for one day it was a lot of work! I started at about 8am on Wednesday, and finished at 2am on Thursday. I will never try and do something like this in one day. So initially I could only find a fruit blend, then I located the citron and candied orange peel; I learned that I dislike citron. I also realized after the fact that I neglected putting in the orange and lemon extract, not that this took away from it. I took the bread to work and shared with many friends and co-workers. One of my girlfriends who I cook with regularly felt the bread was a bit dry; she was right. I think I over cooked the first batch. The other thing that was frustrating, is that I tried hanging the bread upside down in some stock pots, I was so excited to check on my work when I woke that I was near devastated when I found that the breads had broken away from the skewers and the tops had crashed into the bottom of the stock pot causing a slight collapse.
The many ingredients.

Blooming yeast.

This is incredibly sticky dough.

Doubled in size.

The dough laid out with fruit filling.


Waiting for the final rise. 
This is after cooking, before falling into bottom of pan.

This is what the final looked like from the bottom, also a bit too done.

Here is the bread with a slice out of it.

I do have to say that I was thrilled with the end results as I had a friend who came by to drop of a cookbook and I had her try a piece. She is Italian as in her parents immigrated to the US shortly before her birth, anyway she has had a number of Panettones and i am pleased to say that she reports it tastes just as it should! I was pleased about that.
The last version I did was with, as I said, Chocolate and Cherry. This was my favorite version. I took the two days to complete this one, did not rush it, and used the alternate cooling technique where I rotated the bread every 30 minutes. I used the recipe above but substituted the cherries and chocolates for the dried fruit, and I used cherry and almond extract instead of the citrus extract and I left out the zest. Additionally made three smallish panettone instead of two largish. The Chocolate Cherry was perfect not dry at all!
The three rising.

Three baking.

Three after baking.

Such a rich slice!  

This is a whole loaf sliced in half!

YUMMM, with a warm cup of coffee or cold glass of milk this is how one should end the day!
So I have a large amount of both left over and I plan on trying the whole bread pudding or French Toast casserole. I will have to keep you all posted about the outcome.
So sorry to have two challenges in one post, hope you all don't mind. I can't wait for the next challenges in both areas cooking and baking. Hope that your winter and New Year are fantastic. Fun cooking to you and yours! 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dining out around our town.

So while I was home after Thanksgiving enjoying time with my family my dad made a suggestion to help me with posting more frequently on my blog. Then after we returned our monthly version of Community Impact Newspaper (Impact) arrived; there was a supplement in it that reinforced the suggestion my dad had made. He suggested that I do a weekly blog about the local restaurants; I took it a step further and thought about just starting with the A's in the phone book and going down the list. Well when the Impact arrived that little publication made it so much easier with the supplement listing most of the restaurants in the Hutto, Pflugerville, and Round Rock part of central Texas. So I decided why not just go for it.

This week Ashley and I went to dinner at one of our quick and easy restaurants in Hutto, Rio Grande Tex-Mex, I feel like they are moderately priced and we generally can have dinner for the 2 of us between 25 and 30 dollars, depending on a couple of things, do we get an appetizer and do I order a cocktail.

There are a couple of things to know about this place, it reminds me a bit of the Mexican food I grew up eating in South Texas, now it is not a perfect reminder but it is close. I get their cheese enchiladas often and while it is not perfect I am not disappointed. I have tried the chicken enchiladas and those are actually very good. Ashley gets the fajitas or the nachos most often. The fajitas are just okay in my opinion, but he seems to like them. I will eat their queso however it is not my favorite appetizer at this restaurant. We have recently discovered their Mexican Egg Rolls, which are not bad at all, they are a gooey combination of taco meat, cheese and rice; rolled in a spring roll wrapper and deep fried; they serve them with a jalapeno ranch dressing. These things a pretty good. Their salsa seems to be made homemade as the quality changes regularly, some days it is great others it is not; so if you are a salsa fan and you are trying them out, just know that it is hit or miss.

This week while we were there Ashley ordered his regular chicken fajita for one, and I decided to try something new, the stuffed avocado. Ashley was appropriately satisfied with his fajitas and seemed to enjoy them as normal; a trick we have learned is you need to ask for a few extra tortillas when ordering other wise you will not have enough to go with the meat you get.. Since I was contemplating starting my new weekly topic with the restaurant blog I thought I would order something I have never had before and went with the stuffed avocado. I had very high expectations as I had seen this thing before on other diners plates causing intense plate envy. It with a giant avocado which I had stuffed with chicken and cheese, then deep fried with what appeared to be the same batter used in the chili relleno (stuffed pepper). The difference with the avocado is that it appears to have cheese around the exterior of the avocado and then the breading, initially I thought the batter had not been cooked all the way. The avocado was okay actually, not great and I do not have any great plans to order it again. The chicken that was used in the center of the avocado seemed to be chunks of fajita chicken that the spooned in with the queso, again this is not my favorite queso. The meat to avocado ratio was very off, as the avocado was a giant one. The whole meal came with rice, beans, queso, and a cheese enchilada.

The general thoughts on the restaurant are these, we always have great service, we feel like it is an affordable quick place to grab dinner that is very close to where we live, the food is just okay, and there are many dishes we would order again, but really nothing that makes me say I have to go to Rio to get "X" dish. Here are a few photos from our dinner.

Ashley's Chicken Fajitas
 This is the dinner, stuffed avocado on the left, cheese enchilada in the back right.

A cross section of the stuffed avocado.

This is the end result of my plate.
As always we will return to Rio Grande as it is a close restaurant, affordable, and we generally enjoy our dinner. The meal I had has an "I would not order this again" feeling with a caveat that I would try it one more time with the beef filling. I hope that you are willing to go out and try a few restaurants in your area and I hope you find something new to taste. Not sure where Ashley and I will go next, but I do have a lengthy list, hope you enjoy.