Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day/ Weekend. I started the Holiday on Thursday by going out to lunch with a friend to an area known as “Little India” (http://littleindiasd.com/). It’s located off of Miramar Road on Black Mountain Road, and it’s close to I-15, so it’s easy to access. “Little India” consists of a few restaurants, some Indian stores, and a grocery store. Miramar Road is a little crazy. There are probably hundreds of stores on the street, and everyone is driving at least 50 miles per hour, so if you are looking for a particular shop or side street (like Black Mountain Road), it can be a little daunting. But if you are in the market for furniture, car window tinting, a growler from AleSmith or Rough Draft Brewing Company, or an Indian feast, look no further than this area.

Mart
If I had to rank my favorite cuisines, Indian would be in my top 3. There’s something so comforting about it. I love the smell of the spices, and the heat of the food combined with lighter components like coconut and cucumber just scratches me where I itch, to quote Kramer.

We decided to have lunch at Surati Farsan Mart which opened in 1986. I was overwhelmed when I looked at the menu. Take a look at their website and you will understand. My friend, Christin, advised that I order Dosa. I had never had one before, so I was excited to try something new. It’s a thin rice crepe that is somewhat crispy. There are a few filling options, so I opted to copy Christin and I ordered the Mysore Masala Dosa. It is stuffed with vegetables that have a little kick that is tamed by the coconut chutney that is served under the Dosa. When you lift it up, you will find the chutney and your silverware. On the side, a delicious vegetable soup is served which can be poured over the crepe, but I opted to dip my Dosa into it. If you have any soup left over, take it with you and pour it over some rice for another great meal at home. We easily could have split one between us, but I didn’t realize just how filling one would be. We ordered an appetizer, Chole Samosa, that was so full of flavor. If you haven’t had a Samosa before, just go here and order any one listed on the menu. You will love it! Just don’t be like Michael Scott from The Office and confuse Samosas with S’mores.

Mysore Masala Dosa

Mysore Masala Dosa

Chole Samosa

Chole Samosa

The one we ordered was topped with a sauce containing chickpeas and onions. The flavors were so fresh and bold. If you want a meal that will wake up your mouth, this is it.

Coconut Chutney - SOOOOO Good!

Coconut Chutney – SOOOOO Good!

I must say that I am so disappointed with myself. I feel like I’m an adventurous person food wise . I must note that in any other aspect, I am not adventurous. I did a zip line over Fremont Street in Las Vegas, and I thought I was Evel Knievel. Anyway, I’ve never ordered an Indian dessert. I never liked the look of them. Again, I’m so mad that I acted that way. Christin ordered a few desserts to take home to her husband, so she let me taste a couple. My hesitation with Indian desserts was that they look super sweet, like baklava. (And I like baklava, it’s just not a favorite of mine.) First, she had me try Jalebi. The orange color was what discouraged me from trying this item. It is coated in honey, which was another deterrent for me. Surprisingly, it wasn’t super sweet. It feels like you are holding fried air, if one could deep fry air. What a wonderful place that would be!

Genius Jalebi

The next dessert my friend introduced me to, which in the past I always passed right by because of the look of it, was Barfi. It had just a hint of sweet from the condensed milk and sugar. It had some crushed cardamom on top that gave the dessert some complexity. I loved it! I bought a box of assorted desserts to share with my husband, and he thought Barfi tasted somewhat similar to cheesecake, possibly a Ricotta Cheesecake because it isn’t creamy at all. I could eat this all day long!
The Chocolate Rose Coconut Roll was my favorite. I loved the color, and Franz loved that they tasted like one of his great loves: Strawberry Zinger.

Chocolate Rose Coconut Rolls

Chocolate Rose Coconut Rolls

Barfi and Rose Kaju Anjir Barfi

Barfi and Rose Kaju Anjir Barfi

The only treat Franz and I did not enjoy was Kaju Badam Roll. Unfortunately, the appearance reminded us of a dog treat. But that wasn’t what we disliked; it was the flavor. It is a cashew roll with an almond filling, but for some reason it had a smoky flavor which reinforced the dog treat idea. It is just not for me. I was happy I tried it though!

Kaju Badam Roll in Foreground

Kaju Badam Roll in Foreground and Rose Anjir Barfi Behind on the Right

Chocolate Badam Barfi was just in the middle of the road for me. It was an almond square layered with chocolate and almond slivers. There was nothing wrong with it, I just preferred some of the other desserts more.

Box of Goodies with Chocolate Badam Barfi on Top Near the back

Box of Goodies with Chocolate Badam Barfi on Top Near the back

The most interesting dessert was Rose Kaju Anjir Barfi. It is similar to a cookie, and it is cut into quarters. You can opt to order just a quarter which would be one bite for most people. It has a fig, cashew and almond filling. Apparently nut allergies are not a problem in India. It is flavored with rose-water, and I am usually not a fan. However, the rose-water was very subtle and it went really well with the other flavors. What I particularly enjoyed was the silver coating. It flaked away so that the bright red of the cookie shows through. I thought it was gorgeous, and I thought it was cool that it was safe to eat! If you go to the store’s website, you can order any of these desserts and have them shipped.
Visiting Surati Farsan reminded me to be open-minded. Sadly, I thought I was! I love when something surprises me!

Have You Tried These?
If you are in the mood to cook an Indian meal at your house, and you are not close to a Little India where you can buy spices, another option is Penzeys Spices ( http://www.penzeys.com/). There’s one in my neighborhood of Hillcrest, but they are located throughout the country (http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/penzeysstores.html). The first one I visited was in Cleveland, Ohio near the West Side Market.  I love visiting this store because they have sample containers around the store so you can smell each herb and spice. See how long it takes before you sneeze. And if you prefer someone else creating a certain blend for you, they sell that as well. For example, they sell Old World Seasoning which could be compared to Lawry’s. Take a look at their online catalogue or, if you are lucky enough to have a store near you, stop in. The people who work there are always happy to help.

I Love This Section of the Store!

I Love This Section of the Store!

They have cute gift packages for special occasions, like a wedding or house-warming party. If you go, let me know what cool stuff you found!

It's Fun To Compare!

It’s Fun To Compare!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Surati Farsan on Urbanspoon

3 Men and a Baby?? Whatever!! Try 1 Lady,1 Review and 1 Recipe!

This is how my mind works (Stick with me. It does go somewhere!) : I knew I wanted to review a particular restaurant. I checked my email first thing and saw that Adam Ant is coming to San Diego’s Balboa Theatre on July 17th. I started thinking about how I LOVED Adam Ant. I proclaimed to my mother while she was driving way back around 1982 that I will love Adam Ant forever. My sister, Beth, was a high school photographer and was lucky enough to go to his concert in Cleveland, Ohio, and she took photos of him backstage. Beth was already a god to me; this just solidified it. It must have been around 1983 when I had a gym routine requirement with Miss MacDonald. God, I did not like that lady. Sorry, but it is true. Miss McDonald, if you are reading this, you were probably a nice person, I just never got a chance to see that side. Well, I picked the song “Antmusic” by Adam Ant, of course! Like, totally! This was back when there were no Ipods, not even a CD! The horror! I asked my sister to borrow her record, Kings of the Wild Frontier. Beth knew that I, being the little sister, had a horrible track record when I borrowed her stuff. Any articles of clothing were bound to get at least one stain on it, so she was wise to tell me I couldn’t bring the record to school for my gymnastic routine. The problem was that I had choreographed (I use that word loosely) and practiced my routine to that song. I couldn’t change it. What could I do? I had to put a cassette recorder next to the record player and record the song. When I played the cassette tape at the St. Christopher gym, you couldn’t hear it at all. Huge failure. And my routine? Let’s just say I was not Olympic bound.

Check out this classic 1980s video.  Aahhh, good memories! Is he wearing lip gloss?


Thinking about Adam Ant made me think about the 80s and all of the stuff I loved back then. For some reason the movie Three Men and a Baby (1987) came to mind. I started thinking about how if three grown men couldn’t take care of baby, that would be really sad. That led me to think that I shouldn’t just write a review today, I should include a recipe. If it took three men to take care of a baby for a month (or however long they had the kid), I could write a review and a recipe in one post. Yep, all of this from seeing an ad for Adam Ant’s concert.

Project Pie 2
My husband and I checked out Project Pie in Hillcrest this past Sunday. Unfortunately, most of our families are in Cleveland, Ohio, so we were on our own for Mother’s Day. We walked in, and we immediately greeted by the pizza makers. There is a list of pies and a description of each when you enter. It’s kind of cafeteria style. You pick a pie, tell the first person which number you want, move down a bit, tell the next person which additional, and free of charge, toppings you would like. They get your name and the pizza details, and the next person writes it on parchment, and the pie is placed into a big pizza oven. I ordered the #2: Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, Crumbled Meatballs, Mozzarella and their Signature Red Sauce. I added Ricotta and Artichoke Hearts, but I wasn’t paying attention and the guy didn’t hear me, so I didn’t get the artichokes I requested. Next time I will speak up and watch which topping are on it before it goes into the oven! Franz went with another option and got a ton of extra toppings. Both pizzas were great. What I love about this place is that everyone gets their own pie. No arguments because one person in the group always wants pineapple on the pizza. You know who you are! Also, they offer a gluten-free crust, and I heard from a friend that it was super tasty. The red sauce was really fresh, and the toppings were flavorful.  The crust was perfect as well.  Great taste and I loved that it wasn’t too thin but not too thick either.  My only tiny complaint was that the center of the pie could have been hotter. It was fine, but I like it a little on the well done side. Oh, I almost forgot, you can order a Nutella and Banana pie. Don’t think I haven’t stopped thinking about that bad boy since Sunday! Currently there are only 2 locations: San Diego and Las Vegas (at The MGM), but Project Pies will be opening soon in Atlanta, NYC, Boulder, D.C., and the Philippines.

Pizza Pies are Being Made to Order!

Pizza Pies are Being Made to Order!

Franz's Choice: #6 With A Bunch of Tasty and Free Toppings!

Franz’s Choice: #6 With A Bunch of Tasty and Free Toppings!

My Creation - And I Requested Extra Sauce on Top. YUM!

My Creation – And I Requested Extra Sauce on Top. YUM!

I promised a recipe, too! This is the kind of recipe that would work after a pizza dinner because it is sweet and light in texture.

The recipe, Angel’s Kiss Baci Cupcakes, from Baci was created by Lidia Bastianich. Who doesn’t love Baci??  If you never had one, finish reading this post, and immediately get your booty to a grocery store and buy some.  They seem to be carried everywhere nowadays.  Thank god!

With the first batch, the batter never got stiff and glossy.  I baked them anyway, and they turned out perfect.  With the second batch, the batter was as it should have been – stiff and glossy.  However, the cupcakes baked horribly.  The tops were uneven and shrunken.  The next time I make these, I will stop before the batter gets stiff and glossy.

Angel’s Kiss Baci Cupcakes

Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 Baci, finely chopped

Glaze

  • 4 ounces dark chocolate bars, finely chopped (I went with the recipe recommendation and used Perugina Dark Chocolate Classic Bars)
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (optional)
  • 4 Baci, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and salt.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar to form soft peaks.  With the mixer at medium speed, gradually add the sugar.  Beat at high-speed to stiff, glossy peaks. (**As I noted above, when I achieved the stiff, glossy peaks, the cupcakes did not seem to turn out for me.  You can try either way, but I will stick with keeping the batter at the soft peak stage.  Let me know if you make this recipe, or have made this in the past, and tell me what you did and how it turned out.  Thanks!!) Lower the speed and mix in the vanilla.  Fold in the flour mixture in 3 additions, taking care to deflate the batter as little as possible.  Quickly fold in the chopped Baci.  Divide the batter among the cupcake pan and smooth the tops.
  4. Bake until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean, about 15 minutes. (**I never wait for the toothpick to come out clean. The cupcake  will continue cooking for a brief period after it is removed from the oven, so I always remove cupcakes when some crumbs are still attached to the toothpick. If you do this, check the cupcakes after 10 to 12 minutes.) Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes from the tin to cool completely
  5. While the cupcakes cool, prepare the glaze.  Put the chopped chocolate in to a small bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer and pour over chocolate, shaking the bowl to submerge the chocolate.  Let sit 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth.  Stir in hazelnut liqueur, if using.
  6. Spoon the glaze on the cupcakes and smooth to the edges.  Sprinkle with the chopped Baci.  Refrigerate until the glaze is set.  Serves 12

So take that Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson! Try doing that!

Take Tubular Care, Totally Happy Eating, and Don’t Gag Me With A Spoon!

Project Pie on Urbanspoon

Bake Sale Success?

Another year, another great bake sale for the San Diego Food Bloggers. I participated last year, but I wasn’t there to see all of the action. This year I was able to watch it transpire. It was fun to see so many friends and random people filling grocery bags full of desserts. Awesome job!! I’m still waiting for the final amount raised for Share Our Strength‘s No Kid Hunger campaign.  However, the sale isn’t officially over.  You can still make a donation on-line.  If we raise the most money, Duncan Hines will donate an additional $10,000 to our total!  Atlanta has been winning this bake sale every year, and we, the San Diego Food Bloggers, would love to put an end to that streak!  If you can, please go to http://join.strength.org/goto/SDFBBakeSale2013 and make a donation. Thank you so much for all of your help!!!

This year I opted to make Chocolate-Banana Whoopie Pies. Choosing what to make is a daunting challenge. I wanted to make something that would appeal to the most people, and something that can be consumed on the spot or in a couple of hours. Chocolate is always a big hit, and once I saw a preliminary menu of what other bakers were planning to bring, I made the decision to make Whoopie Pies. Sadly, I’d never made them before. I looked over various recipes, and decided upon one from Good Housekeeping, February 2012.

Whoopie Pie 2013

Here’s the recipe (any changes are noted with **):

Chocolate-Banana Whoopie Pies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 6 Tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg

(** The recipe states to fill the sandwiches with marshmallow crème.  You could do that, but that didn’t sound exciting to me.  I found a recipe that I liked better which is below.  Also, I made another batch of these that I didn’t sell.  I added cinnamon to the batter, and I wish I had done that to the bake sale batches.  I love cinnamon!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  From bananas, mash enough for 1/2 cup; finely chop remaining, and reserve.  (**I mashed 1 banana, and I chopped 1 to add to the filling.)  In another medium bowl, mix mashed banana, sour cream, and vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl, with mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until well combined.  Beat in egg until well blended, scraping bowl occasionally.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until batter is smooth, scraping bowl occasionally. (**Don’t over mix! That’s probably the biggest mistake when baking.)
  4. Drop 1 rounded measuring teaspoon batter onto prepared sheets. Repeat with remaining batter, spacing 2 inches apart.  With wet fingertips, flatten tops of balls to form rounds. (**I tried making rounds with a 1/4 measuring cup, and I baked for about 10 minutes.  I got about 7.5 cookies (sandwiches) out of it.  They were really large, especially when you consider it is 2 cookies and filling.  It made my belly kind of hurt after eating one.  The next batch I used a tablespoon of batter, and I cooked them for about 8 minutes.  I was able to get 15 sandwiches out of the batter.  It was a much more reasonable size, and it is that size I sold at the bake sale.)

Banana Crème Filling

  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening (**I used Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening Non-hydrogenated.)
  • 1.5 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups marshmallow crème
  • 1.5 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 chopped banana
  1. Whip first 4 ingredients together.  Fold chopped banana into filling. Fill sandwiches with as little or as much as you like, or just eat by the spoonful.  It’s all good.  I preferred the pies after they had been refrigerated.  In general, I would suggest to keep the pies refrigerated.

Whoopie Pie 2013(2)

On another note, it was my brother’s birthday on Monday.  Brian turned 50 on Monday.  A HUGE “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!’ goes out to him.  Even though a few miles are between us, I’m thinking of you!!  I hope this is a great year for you, Brian.  The photo below is from my dad’s 80th birthday last year.  I picked the photo below for 2 reasons: 1) Brian was looking quite dapper and 2) for all of the special people present in the photo.  The best birthday wish is to be surrounded by people you love.

Family

Take Care and Happy Eating (and Please Consider Making a Donation)!

Who Doesn’t Love a Bake Sale?

What are you doing this Saturday? Do you want to enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather forecasted for this weekend? Would you love to enjoy that weather with a delicious homemade dessert in hand? And wouldn’t you love it if you knew all of the proceeds went to an amazing cause like helping hungry children? I can make all of your dreams come true! And if you can’t make it, or if you live out-of-town, there’s still a way you can get involve and help out a worthy cause.  Keep reading!

Food Blogger Bake Sale 2013

I participated in the San Diego Food Blogger Bake Sale last year for the first time.  It was a truly professional bake sale organized by an amazing blogger (and person – yep, she’s real), Marie of Meandering Eats (http://www.meanderingeats.com/).  Once again, Marie has organized another awesome event.  However, she will be off to Medical School soon, so wish her good luck when you see her Saturday!  If you haven’t gone in the past, let me explain that you are getting yourself into a situation.  The desserts look great, the labeling and packaging are so cute, and there are samples just to make sure it tastes as good as it looks (and it does!).  The problem will be that you will want to buy a lot of stuff, maybe even buy some things to eat before you leave the parking lot, and maybe you’ll buy some things to take into the office to share with those silly people who missed it!  It’s alright because the money goes to Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry (http://www.nokidhungry.org/).  This is a national bake sale, as well, so help us beat other cities!  Take that, Pittsburgh!  Just kidding. Or am I???

The bake sale takes place this Saturday, May 4th, at Great News! Cookware and Cooking School in Pacific Beach (http://www.great-news.com/) from 10am-2pm.  The people at Great News! have been awesome supporters of this bake sale, so a huge “THANK YOU, GREAT NEWS!” goes out to them .  If you haven’t had the opportunity to investigate the store before, this will be a great time to do so!  Make sure to sign up for their newsletter so you can get additional discounts every so often!  And there is a Starbucks super close, so go ahead and make a day of it!  Finish it off by driving down to the beach with the family afterwards.  Seriously, can a Saturday get any better?

If you can’t make it, there are other opportunities to get involved.  Simply go to: http://sdbloggersbake.wordpress.com/  There you can enter raffles, donate money, see a tentative menu, and read more about some of the individual bakers who will be offering their goods.

This is such a fun event!  Please pass this information around to friends, family and co-workers.  In 2011, $1750 was raised, in 2012 we raised $3151, and we are hoping to surpass our goal of $3000 this year.  I’m not suggesting we are a competitive bunch of bloggers, but come on!  We want to raise the most money for this organization out of the entire country!  Again, no competitive bone in our bodies.

Take Care and Happy Eating!