stuffed chicken sausage balls

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over the weekend, the wife and I caught an episode of Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals where she featured a less-than-10-item Express Lane meal. In this particular episode Rachel prepared mozzarella stuffed chicken sausage balls in tomato basil sauce, cacio e pepe potatoes and roast broccolini. The meal seemed quick and easy so we decided to try it out. The nine items needed in this recipe include: chicken sausages, baby yukon gold potatoes, can of San Marzano tomatoes, tub of bocconcini, broccolini, garlic, chicken stock, tub of grated pecorino romano cheese and a tub of pesto sauce.

here’s the link to the official food network recipe.

the recipe was very simple and pretty easy to make. But unfortunately the stuffed chicken sausage balls weren’t really a hit with the kids. The chicken sausage balls were a bit too salty and too hard for them to chew. We liked the broccolini and it’s similar to how we prepare asparagus anyway, so we’ll probably continue serving broccolini. and the potatoes were just OK. not sure if we’ll serve it that way again. but we’ll see.

So, I guess Rachel Ray’s stuffed sausage balls won’t end up on our household’s dinner rotation.

got any quick and easy recipes that are a fav in your household?

father’s day favorites

food, ramblings 6 Comments »


the wife spent most of the day sunday cooking up a storm. we had some of the family over for a father’s day get together. elaine made some of my favorites including salmon, pot stickers, Chongak kimchi, seasoned (korean style) spinach and some seasoned tofu (not sure what they call it). I simply love her cooking. … and my waistline is beginning to show it. uh-oh.


coffee roundup

food, ramblings 5 Comments »

like a lot of folks, I’m addicted to coffee. I’m not totally sure if it’s out of habit or some sort of physical dependence but it just doesn’t feel right without beginning the day with a hot cup of coffee in my hands. now I’m no where near a coffee connoisseur and I simply get my morning brew using my trusty lil’ 4-cup coffeemaker. I’ve tried out various brands over the past year and I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of them. the following are the pre-ground kind that you can get at your local supermarket (well, except for the “Fresh Market Kona Blend” which is available only at “Fresh Market”).
coffee roundup
Dunkin’ Donuts Original Blend - My current favorite. and now that it’s available at my local Super-Target, it’s more convenient to get than it used to be. More flavorful and smooth than the other brands in this round-up.

StarBucks House Blend - good flavor and my old standby. just not as good as the Dunkin’ Donuts brand.

Eight O’Clock Colombian - adequate. not that bad. I rank this high because it’s cheaper than the others in this group. if the price of coffee continue to rise, I might end up going back to this brand.

Fresh Market Kona Blend - surprisingly bland. I was expecting something more robust and flavorful. ain’t worth the premium price.

Millstone Hazelnut Blend - ugh. I totally disliked this one. tasted like old socks. avoid this one at all cost.

yes, I know purchasing whole beans and then grinding them right before brewing is best but I’m lazy and I tend to go down the path of least resistance!! .. so anyway, what’s your favorite?

but now i’m back at work and smell like indian food!

food, it's all about me!! 5 Comments »

the wife and i tried out a local indian restaurant for lunch today. it was surprisingly good. i wasn’t expecting much since the place is located in a relatively rundown strip mall near where i work and the windowless dining area was a bit too dark for my liking. but the lunch buffet of spicy indian food was the best i’ve eaten in a long time. but the thing i’ve notice about myself more and more is that I seem to sweat uncontrollably when i eat spicy food. I love eating spicy food and i never had any problems in the past but nowadays i get all sweaty eating the stuff. is this just another symptom of old age or is this something else altogether? it doesn’t matter so much when i’m eating at home but i get a bit self conscious when i’m eating something spicy out at a restaurant. hhmmmm, so maybe it was a good thing that the dining area at the indian restaurant was so dimly lit!! :P

lunch at Champps

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chumppshere’s the breakdown of what happened at lunch today.

location: Champps Americana
occasion: department lunch (23 people)

11:30AM - our group had a table reserved in a private section of the restaurant. the sectioned off part of Champps smelled like a swimming pool (chlorine?) for some odd reason and there were an unusual amount of flies buzzing about.
11:35AM - we asked to be seated elsewhere so we moved to one end of an open section of the restaurant. no chlorine smell. and no flies.
11:45AM - soft drink orders were placed.
11:55PM - drinks were distributed in a disorderly fashion. noticed the wait staff not being too pleasant.
12:05PM - placed our order. we all ordered pretty straight forward stuff. nothing out of the ordinary. i ordered the bleu cheese burger and onion rings. note how long it took for them to take our order from the time we initially sat down!
12:10PM - we continued to have pleasant conversation. we always seem to have a good time together. especially when lunch is provided for.
12:40PM - some soups and salads started trickling in. folks were looking at their watches wondering what the hold up was.
12:45PM - the waiter came back and promised that our food was coming shortly.
12:55PM - still no food. i was definitely concerned about the delay. what were they all doing back in the kitchen?
1:00PM - 1:15PM - entries started trickling in. toward the end there, just a handful of us were still without food. i started getting pissed off. we’ve been there at the restaurant since 11:30 dammit. the waiter kept on promising my burger but it seemed that he just plain neglected to properly submit some of our orders in. idiot. either that or he gave my order to some other table. in any case, i was hungry and pissed. not a good combination.
1:16PM - we asked the manager for an explanation. she gave some lame excuse about the restaurant not being prepared for a large crowd on a wednesday but that absolutely doesn’t make any sense especially when we had placed a reservation way in advance. so they knew our group was coming. plus, the restaurant really didn’t seem all that busy while i was there waiting for my food to show up.
1:20PM - with no sign of my burger, i told the waiter to just cancel the order. really. it’s just a damn bleu cheese burger. wtf! how hard can that be? the waiter didn’t seem to give a shit one way or the other. i was ready to punch his lights out. a colleague mentioned afterward that this was the first time she has ever seen me so pissed off.
1:22PM - the manager offered free desserts which the majority of the group took advantage of. me? i was too pissed off to order any dessert. i was ready to leave.
1:40PM - as we left, we all made sure to blame the colleague that made the effort to organize the group lunch and for choosing a place with such crappy service.

never again will i personally set foot in Champps ever again. the wait staff and management were totally incompetent. and i can’t even begin to imagine what was going on there back in the kitchen. Champps? more like Chumpps.

pumpkin pie recipe

food, miscellaneous No Comments »

with all the halloween decorations being put up across the neighborhood, i’m reminded of a tasty seasonal treat that my mother-in-law would always make whenever we visit her this time of year. it’s her outstanding pumpkin pie. i love pumpkin pie in general but the one she makes for us during autumn family get togethers is totally out of this world. there’s nothing like it. the mother-in-law is an all around great cook so whatever she makes in the kitchen is just totally awesome but for some reason i always think of her fabulous pumpkin pie this time of year. and she never writes down her recipes, it’s all in her noggin. so whenever we want to duplicate what she does in the kitchen, we’d get a pencil and paper ready and watch her do her thing. and just like the ol’ cliche, our attempt at her pumpkin pie never even comes close to what hers taste like.
just in case you’re interested, here’s what we do to try to recreate her masterpiece:

to make the pie dough we combine 2 cups of flour, a tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt using a standing mixer. 1 cup of butter is added to the mix. we then whisk 2 egg yolks with 3 tablespoons of milk in a bowl. the yolk mixture is then added to the flour mix and let the standing mixer turn until a dough forms. place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for a couple hours.
on a floured surface, roll half the dough into a 12 inch circle. line the pan with the dough and crimp the edges. chill the pie shell for approximately 30 minutes. preheat the over to 350 degrees. line the pie shell with aluminum foil and then add dried beans on top of the foil. bake the pie shell for approximately 45 minutes or until golden brown. discard the foil and the beans. for the filling, lower the oven to 325 degrees and mix 1 1/2 cups of canned pumpkin with 1/2 cup of brown sugar in a medium saucepan. stir the mixture over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes. away from heat whisk in 7 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, 6 1/2 tablespoons of evaporated milk, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 2 eggs, 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, a pinch of ground clove, a pinch of salt. pour over the pie shell and bake for about 45 minutes. cool and serve.

i don’t know but the secret to my mother-in-law’s pie might have something to do with the type of Hamilton Beach® Mixer she’s using. she’s got this cool Eclectrics® Mixer in her kitchen. it’s bright Moroccan Red and it looks real neat. we have an older brand mixer at home but i have a feeling we’ll be upgrading to a new Hamilton Beach® Stand Mixer real soon. we’ll give this recipe a whirl again once we’ve got the new mixer.

Shrimp ‘n Grits

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shrimp and grits yum!family budget be damned!! the wife, our youngest and i had a wonderfully delicious lunch at Michael Dean’s Seafood Grill today. yum. we had fried oysters, the seafood newberg and my favorite, Shrimp and Grits! the gravy on the grits was a tad too salty for my tastes but nevertheless, it was still *so* good. we just *had* to treat ourselves after all that we had to endure yesterday.

family favorite - chicken curry

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in my ongoing quest to be more helpful to the wife in the kitchen, I made it a point this past weekend to be around during the prep of a perennial favorite in our household, chicken curry over rice.

It’s the basic korean style curry dish but instead of a korean brand curry mix we prefer a japanese brand called Vermont Curry. I’d say the flavor is a bit milder and sweeter than a korean brand curry mix.

here’s the lowdown:
serves: around 8 to 10
ingredients: Vermont Curry Mix (mild), 1 extra large yellow onion, 2 large potatoes, 6 carrots, approx. 4 chicken breasts, water and steamed rice.

- clean and peel the veggies. cut onion, carrots and potatoes like so..

- clean and cut chicken breasts into bite sized portions.

- lightly saute the chopped vegetables over medium heat. precooking the veggies will prevent them from getting soggy while being cooked in the curry sauce.

- add chicken to the pan and then add water. the water level should be just barely over the vegetables.

- and now add the curry mix. this depends on your serving size. in our case we use 10 out of the 12 bars in the curry mix pack. cook at medium/high heat and stir as you go.

- you may need to add more water if the sauce gets too thick.

- after approx. 10 minutes at med/high heat, reduce the heat down to medium.
- please note, you may want to move the pot off the burner when stirring in order to prevent any accidental splattering.

- the wife stresses that i need to “scoop and turn” when i stir. it’s an essential technique.

- after another five minutes or so, reduce the heat down to low/medium and cover the pot with a lid slightly off center so that the steam can vent out.

- serve the curry over rice when ready.


…and voila! one of our family favorites. bon appetit!!

jason’s deli? never again!

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you know, we’ve eaten at the local Jason’s Deli off and on for the last couple years just like tons of other families do throughout the U.S. they’ve got a family-friendly menu as well as a great convenient location. but sadly, i have to announce that this past friday night’s meal was our last from Jason’s Deli. we’ve noticed a steady decline in quality both in service and in the food especially the one near us in North Raleigh. The food is now mediocre and frankly the folks that work there are just plain rude. the experience i had this past friday was just the final straw. while waiting for my to go order i sat near the counter and watched as this heavy-set, young dark haired girl (her name tag was smudged so i couldn’t make out her name) loudly bad-mouthed all the customers she took phone orders from. she was all about the drama and appeared as though she just hated to be there. when she called out someone’s order that wasn’t there to receive it, she just simply threw the customer’s bag on the counter like it was trash. the whole time i was praying that she wasn’t going to be the one to prepare my to go order and fortunately for me she got upset by a phone call (couldn’t tell if the phone call was personal or a customer ordering something) and disappeared leaving her colleague to handle both walk in customers and call-ins. once i got home i realized why i haven’t been to jason’s deli in a long while: the big chef’s salad is a joke (cold cuts, slices of cheese and mixed salad??? come on!!!), the meatball sub had some rubbery stuff on it that was supposed to be cheese, the chicken pasta was tasteless and the chicken panini was just plain awful. thanks Jason’s Deli for allowing me to waste $29 so quickly and so easily.

pork fat anyone?

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i recently participated in a twinkie eating contest. i didn’t know about it until the last minute so i didn’t train for it or anything. so as you might expect, i didn’t do so hot. gulping down twinkies is one thing but can you imagine being in a contest where you have to eat more than 2 pounds of pork fat in twenty minutes? well 51 year old Volodymr Stryhaniv did just that and is now crowned Salo King. i’m all about barbeque pork and all but slabs of pork underskin fat (which is what Ukrainians call Salo) don’t sound like something that i’d like. especially 2 pounds of it. for more info on salo, check out wikipedia.

FU KEE Express

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is it just me or does anyone else think the name of this local chinese take-out restaurant is funny?

it’s too bad the foods no good though. i get a good laugh every time i pass by there. and in this day and age, we all need a good laugh every now and again.

pei wei

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we checked out pei wei less than a year or so ago when they opened one up at brier creek. although we initially liked the casual setting (sort of a copy of mamma fu’s)
the food was pretty disappointing. we tried the place out several times
hoping the food would turn out better but it didn’t. all the entrees we
tried were simply horrible and at times inedible. and so we wrote the
place off and never looked back. well recently a new pei wei popped up down the road from us and we heard from one of our neighbors (who’s husband is a mamma fu’s fanatic) that the food was actually good. how could that be, we wondered? could our neighbors’ taste buds be *that* different from ours? could we actually have been wrong about pei wei?
our curiosity got the better of us and we checked the new location out.
and we found out our neighbors were indeed right. the food was
terrific. we don’t know what happened between the time we tried out
the brier creek location and now but pei wei has done a
complete 180. the restaurant is now the *go-to* place whenever we get a
craving for some take out. we’ve also learned that pei wei is actually
an off-shoot of PF Chang’s which is also one of our favs and basically confirms that the good food we’ve been having lately isn’t a fluke.
some of our favorites off the menu:
Pei Wei Spring Rolls, the Dan Dan Noodles, the Teriyaki bowl, spicy
korean, Pei Wei Spicy and honey seared chicken for the kids.

i don’t eat buffalo…

food 1 Comment »

had some wings for lunch today. man, them’s good eatin’. only thing is - there isn’t really a “clean” way of enjoying buffalo wings. definitely not a place you wanna take someone that you need to impress. lunch today was with the coworkers so no one to impress there. but if you’re on a date or you got the boss with ya, skip this joint. with sauce all over your hands and across your mouth, it just isn’t a pretty picture.

yes, mama Fu warned me and i didn’t listen..

food 4 Comments »

OK, you know that spicy basil noodle dish at Mama Fu’s?? well, i learned first hand last night that it actually is “spicy”! who woulda thunk it? i mean, i love spicy, i do. but man, they weren’t kidding when they wrote on the menu “double spicy”. I normally pay no attention to those labels on the menu b/c i assume they gauge it relative to the middle-american pallet so “my bad“. i’m definitely not ordering that again. i tried convincing Elaine to switch her (non-spicy) teriyaki beef bowl with mine while we were eating last night but she saw how hot ‘n sweaty i was getting and said no way! so needless to say i was in pain the rest of the night. my stomach was on fire!
lesson learned: …umm…when it says double spicy, you may want to rethink your order.

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