Monday, August 30, 2010

A Hearty Meal in a Goodie Bag - Carrabba's Italian Grill

From my previous post, you will know that I had a fantastic time at my 1st food blogger's event at Carrabba's Italian Grill. It was a afternoon well spent with new foodie friends served with superb food and amazing hospitality from all the staff at Carrabba's. Do check out my previous post on the enjoyable time I spent there.

I am not saying this because Carrabba's fed me well, but I sincerely think that this is a restaurant worth checking out if you want some good, fresh Italian food.

After feeding us a ton of food, we were given each a goodie bag filled with food for us to create the Carrabba's experience at home. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to peek at what's inside when I got home.

Oh my! Oh my! It was totally impressive. Firstly there was a thank you card written personally by Carrabba's proprieter Josh Goldschmidt whom we met and so graciously served us for lunch. I think these little details make me feel very at home with Carrabba's. Inside the goodie bag there was a packed full meal with appetizers - bread and salad, entrée - pasta and even a little dessert. Looks like dinner is set!

With such an impressive spread, I decided to re-create a homely Italian dinner and enjoy the food delights with Hubby-D.

First let's start with Carrabba's Bread. It was delicious, hard crust on the outside but soft bread in the inside. All I had to do was warm it 5 mins in the oven. Carrabba's even provided the bread dip - Carrabba's own Olive oil and a mix of Carrabba's special herb mix. The herb mix was yummylicious and I think I would have to ask for the recipe the next time I visit them.

Next on the menu - Fresh salad with croutons and mediterrean dressing on the side. I decided to pick out the croutons and bake for 5 mins too so that it has a nice crunch and it did!! Can you see how fresh the salad is even after 6 hours!!

And then came the entrée - Penne Franco which is the dish made during the cooking demo in Carrabba's. It is penne pasta mixed with pesto, fresh mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and black olives with ricotta cheese, topped with absolutely delicious grilled chicken. Oh my!! Delicious!!

By the way, this is only half serving of the entree. Hubby-D and I are still full from lunch and thus we shared an entree.

And if that was not enough, they even packed a little dessert for us. So sweet! I am not sure what it is but it was a chocolate delight filled with chocolate cake, Chocolate mousse and walnuts. Super yummy!

Carrabba's have a Large Party Carry Out Menu perfect for family dinners, office gatherings or any special occasions. Check them out at their resturants and visit their website for more info.

All in all, Hubby-D and I were totally impressed with Carrabba's food and hospitality. We had a lovely Italian food experience both at their restaurant and at home.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My 1st Food Bloggers Event @ Carabba's Italian Grill

When I got invited to The Tastemaker Event - Carrabba's Italian Grill, I was ecstatic! My first food blogger's event!! This validates that I am indeed a food blogger and now I am enjoying the perks of being one. :) Woohoo!! LOL!

Hubby-D and I were really looking forward to see what the whole event entails but more so meeting new friends who share the same passion for food. The event turned out fantastic, the food was great and the people we met were all fun, engaging and talented. It was a great way to spend our Saturday afternoon.

We were greeted warmly by Josh Goldschmidt (the proprietor of this venue) when we arrived and immediately introduced ourselves to the other food bloggers who were there while we waited for more to arrive. First stop, a cooking demo by one of their chefs in the open kitchen. He showed us how they make their pesto & one of their signature pasta dishes Penne Franco . It was nice to know that Carrabba's made everything from scratch and serve fresh even their pasta. They have strict standard whereby pasta only had a shelf life of 2 hours and it will be discarded if not served.

Penne Franco was a dish made with their signature pesto, fresh mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and black olives with ricotta cheese. The dish looked absolutely delicious and I think some of us were ready to dig in. But Josh told us that we are going to be able to try this at home as they will be preparing goodie bags for us to take home. Goodie Bags??? We have not even started eating yet! This is turning out to be a great day :)

We were then seated to the table with our fellow bloggers and the conversations flowed. It was great to get to know each other and naturally the conversations revolved around food and more.

It was really a nice touch from Carrabba's to have our names printed indivually on the menus. I was extremely pleased and reminded myself that I have to bring it back as a momento.

The staff were extremely friendly and ready to serve and take our orders. And then the food came.

To start our meal, there were nice warm breads on the table served with bowls of extra virgin olive oil with an house special herb mix.

For Appetizers, we were served Bruschetta Con Pesto - Grilled bread topped with fresh pesto, diced Roma tomatoes, ricotta salata cheese and basil. The crispy bread with pesto was a little warm and it was the perfect blend with the fresh vegetables on top. Yummy!!

Next we offered choices of soups and salads selection. Hubby-D choose Minestrone Soup and I choose Caesar Salad so we get to sample each other's food. The Salad was extremely fresh and there was a great texture to the soup. It was indeed a hearty meal. Do I even have space for entrée ?

For entrée I selected Tag Pic Pac with Shrimp - Fresh anglehair pasta tossed with crushed tomatoes, garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil, toppped with grilled shrimp. I must say the shrimp was so fresh and juicy and perfectly grilled. Hubby-D had the Pasta Carrabba which is Fettuccine Alfredo tossed with sauteed mushrooms, peas and grilled chicken. I must say it was really well done too as I found myself leaning over and taking more and more bites.

Hmmm, I didn't mention drinks did I? I nicely saved it for last but not the least mention. Initially we choose red wine and when the drinks came, some of my other fellow bloggers were gushing about how delicious the BlackBerry Sangria they ordered. Note to self - "Quickly finish my red wine and order the Sangria." Around the table, everyone commented how it was the best sangria they tasted. Alrite, midway through the meal, I could not wait any longer, I ordered the Sangria and it was fantastic. This is a must order if you ever visit Carrabba's. Absolutely delicious. Infact, I forgot to take a photo. So a near empty glass is all I have.

Needless to say, we could not finish our entrée as it was just too much food. The servers immediately packed it for us to bring home.

We had a wonderful time at the Carrabba's Food Blogger event. Besides the great food, the new friends we met were great. Best of all, Josh and his staff made us feel really welcomed, and I would recommend you to visit Carrabba's in your next Italian food outing.

Thank you Josh! We all had a great time!

Carraba's Italian Grill
3400 N. Central Expy, Plano, TX 75074
Phone 972-516-9900

And that's not all, before we left, each of us were given a big goodie bag filled with food for us to create a great Italian meal at home. It was fantastic and I will be sharing with you exactly what was in the goodie bag in my next post.

Till then, say hello to my new foodie friends :

The Manly Housewife

Just Food Snobs

Dinner and Conversation

Cookie Loves Eating

Sweet N Spicy Comforts

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Char Kway Teow (Stir-Fried Rice Noodles)

Char Kuey Teow is basically stir-fried flat rice noodles with shrimps, cockles, chinese sausage (lap cheong), eggs, bean sprouts and chives / scallion in a mix of soy sauce with tinge of sambal chilli . Now, it sounds really easy but it is not so easy to get a well stir-fried Char Kway Teow. The key is to get the charred aroma when stir-frying over a high heat in a well seasoned Chinese Wok. We call it "Wok Hei" or "Aroma / Breath from the Wok". I guess when done right, the wok gives out a well blended charred aroma that fuse all the ingredients together. And the result, an irresistable plate of Char Kway Teow done right!

This dish is extremely popular in Malaysia sold in every hawker stall, restaurants and hotels too. It is almost like the signature dish of Penang island. Infact, the good ones all over Malaysia would name the dish as Penang Char Kway Teow.

There are techniques required to ensure you can make a delicious Char Kway Teow at home. I am still learning and sometimes I get it right, sometimes not. I can only impart some techniques I know of but even with that, it takes practise to perfect this dish.

Tips to make a great Char Kway Teow :-
1. Ensure wok is hot before even adding oil. Throughout the stir-fry, it is important wok is very hot. If wok is not hot enough, you cannot get the ingredients to penetrate fast on the noodles and hence your noodles may end up a bit soggy.

2. You have to be fast to stir-fry the noodles. Don't let the noodles sit in the wok for too long. If not, you may burn the ingredients and then you will get a burned taste vs charred aromatic taste.

3. Prepare all ingredients on hand (nearby your stove) so that you are able to pick and reach for them easily.

4. Secret Ingredient to make it really tasty - what else but Pork Lard!! For those who really know the best Char Kway Teow will be able to taste the different if the dish used pork lard or not.

5. Also be prepared for a smoky house if you are cooking indoors :). Best to cook outside and lure your neighbours with the wonderful smell.

But when the craving for Char Kway Teow calls, I will risk to have the smokey charred aroma linger in my kitchen. Infact, when I made this, I didn't even have some of the basic ingredients eg, cockles and chinese sausage. But it didn't matter, I was determined to eat Char Kway Teow.

Simple Ingredients :-

1 . 1/2 lb fresh flat rice noodles. If you are not in Asia and can't find find the fresh ones, you can buy the slightly frozen ones from Vietnamese Supermarkets. You just need to microwave it for 30s and break it up to strands.
2. 2 TBSP of lard ( Substitute - 2 TBSP of peanut oil)
3. 1 TBSP of finely chopped garlic
4. 4 - 6 shrimps shelled, de-veined, and tails left intact if you like.
5. 150g of fresh cockles, scalded and shelled (Substitute: more shrimps or add squid)
6. 4 - 6 sliced Lap Cheong (Chinese sausage),
7. 2 eggs
8. A handful of beansprouts - washed and drained
9. 5 sprigs of chives (Substitute - Scallions)

Seasoning -
2 tbsp light soya sauce (Substitute - 1 TBSP of fish sauce and 1 TBSP or light soy sauce)
1 tsp of dark sauce sauce - optional if you don't want it dark
1 tbsp Chilli paste(sambal) - optional if you don't like it spicy
1 TSBP of water
Salt and Pepper to taste

Simple steps : (Apologies, I can't post any photos as it is impossible to shoot the photos and cook this dish to the desired results - remember my tips - the wok is very hot and my hands must be fast to stir-fry. I will need a 3rd hand the next time I cook this)

1. Heat wok with lard or oil until hot and fry the Chinese sausages until fragrant. I like to start with the chinese sausage as it lets some oil out from the meat. Next, add the chopped garlic. Add about prawns and fry until cooked.

2. Make a space in the wok by pushing all the fried ingredients to one side. Add in the noodles and then add the seasoning. Stir-fry the noodles and all the side ingredients together, you can sprinkle some water which helps to further bind the ingredients in the hot wok.

3. Again, spread the ingredients to the side to create an empty space in the centre. You can add a little oil if you like. Then crack an egg (or 2) in. Let it sit for 3 seconds before you put all the ingredients to cover the eggs. Stir-fry evenly.

4. If you have cockles, add in. And then take the handful of beansprouts and add in the chives / scallions. A quick 5 seconds stir should do it and the dish is ready.

Serve the char kway teow and eat immediately. Careful, it's hot.

You will find that the noodles are soft but with strong charred aromatic taste and the bean sprouts provide a nice crunch to the dish. Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Christmas in August?? Best way to serve Watermelon

Oh Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree..Of all the trees most lovely. Oh Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree, la, la ,la, la....

Snap, Snap*** Oh man!! It's too hot to be Christmas!! With the summer heat at above 100'F, I am melting. Thank goodness for air condition. Maybe I am dreaming of cool and snowy Christmas. It will be my first Christmas in US this year and I am kinda looking forward to it.

So I wanted to share this easy and fuss free way of serving watermelon. I learned this neat tip when my good friend Tiffany brought this wonderful presentation of watermelon - perfectly sliced to a shape of a "Christmas Tree". Now, she brought this to my Christmas party last year in Malaysia and everyone gushed at what a beautiful idea it was. I thought I might share it on my blog nearer to Christmas but then it would be winter here then, do we even get watermelons?? Hmmm....

Well, Christmas is still a couple of months away. Watermelon is are so lovely during summer... the refreshing fruit is priceless during these hot summer months and a neat way to present them is something I could not wait to share.

The best thing about this presentation is that it it so easy to eat, no mess, no need to have watermelon juice running down your mouth, hands, shirts etc when you eat them.

Simple Steps :

Cut your watermelon into triangles. And then all you do is to cut off the stems at both left and right sides and just leave the middle part of the stem intact.

And Voila! You have a perfectly easy to hold watermelon (almost like a popsicle). Don't you think it is bursting with Christmas spirit? :) And so easy to just munch it down too.

You can have these cut in advance and just store it in the fridge. Just lay it down in a container. The stems will face slighlty upward and it is so easy to just pick it up.

There you go. I hope you like this neat tip to serve your watermelon. And your guests would most definitely marvel at this wonderful idea too.

Till December, while I wait for Jingle Bells, I would just enjoy my "Christmas Tree" inspired watermelon. Cheers!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Almond Tuiles (Almond Curls)

Oh my! I am so excited to share this recipe as it is absolutely divine. So easy and delicious to eat that you can't make enough as it disappears in seconds. It is perfect as a snack or for afternoon tea but heck, you can have it anytime of the day.

This is one of the many recipes learnt at my baking course. I have since made it twice on my own and it is absolutely lovely.

In French, “tuile” means “tile,” and it is a reference to the shape of the classic tuile, which is typically allowed to bake and then molded while it is still warm and pliable. I just lift it up and it just curls enough for a slight curled shape.

Even as I am writing this, I am munching down these lovely Almond Tuiles.

Simple Ingredients :
1. 160gm Egg White (6-8 eggs depending on size)
2. 80gm Sugar ( I have reduced it by half as I prefer less sugar in my baking)
3. 80gm All Purpose Flour
4. 1/2 stick or 40gm Salted Butter (melted)
5. 120gm Almond Flakes / Pumpkin Seeds / Sunflower Seeds

Simple Steps :
1. Use a hand whisk, gently whisk egg whites and then add suagr. Whisk for 1 minutes until sugar dissolves.

2. Add all the flour and mix for another minute. Fold in the melted butter. Whisk until smooth.

3. All the almond flakes. You can also add pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds of your choice.

4. Take one spoonful of the mix and spread it thinly on a well-greased tray. I have a silicone baking mats and trust me it is worth the investment to get these mats for baking. You don't need to grease your pans for baking anymore.

5. Bake at 350'F for a few minutes and remove when golden brown. Use a fork to lift up the tuile and let it cool down on a separate tray. Continue and finish up the whole batter.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Baked Char Siu Bao (Baked Roast Pork Bun)

Char Siu (Char Siew) is a popular chinese roast pork often found in Chinese restaurants, eaten with rice or noodles. Personally I prefer Siew Yoke (Crispy Roast Pork) than Char Siu. I especially am not a fan of Char Siu if they are reddish in colour.

You are probably asking " What is she talking about?? Char Siu is reddish in colour!!!" Ok, precisely why I don't prefer it. Something about food coloring and extreme sweetness of the meat that is not to my liking but if I can find char siu which is baked and caramelized well to dark brownish...hmmm I prefer that a lot better. :)

The Char Siu I find here is Dallas are mostly reddish in colour. The taste is pretty ok but I would opt for "siew yoke" anytime. Just the other day, Hubby-D and I decided to order take-out of Siew Yoke for dinner, however as most Chinese Restaurant goes, Siew Yoke typically goes out by lunch time. Furthermore, it is better to order Siew yoke for lunch since it will be at its best, fresh and crispy out of the oven. Ok, no Siew Yoke so we order Char Siu instead. We only managed to finish half of the 1 lb portion so the next day, I decided to surprise Hubby-D with some baked Char Siu Bao.

We usually order this when we have dim sum so I thought it would be nice to attempt it at home and see how it turns out.

A quick search on the Internet and looking at various recipes, gave me a rough idea on how to make it.

Simple Ingredients :
Ingredient A : Char Siu Mix
1. 500gm of Char Siu (cut fine)
2. 1 large onion (Diced fine)
3. 1 TBSP of oyster sauce
4. 1 TBSP of Hoisin sauce
5. 1 TSP of Sesame oil
6. 1 TSP of light soy sauce
7. 1 TSP of dark soy sauce
8. 1 TBSP of Chinese Rice Wine
9. 1 TBSP of corn starch mixed in a bit of water

Ingredient B : Sweet Bun Dough Mix
1. 250gm of All Purpose Flour or Bread Flour
2. 7gm or 1 packet (1/4oz) Instant Yeast
3. 100gm of cold Water and 10gm of milk
4. 4gm of Salt
5. 50gm of Sugar
6. 1 Egg
7. 30gm of Butter (1/4 stick)

Simple Steps :
1. Dice Char Siu into small cubes and also dice the onion.

2. In a pan with a bit of oil, saute the diced onions first for 5 minutes. The add the char siu on top.

3. Add all the seasonings of oyster sauce, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, chinese wine, light and dark soy sauce. Mix well and let it saute for 10 minutes in low heat until all ingredients are well mix. Add, a bit of water if your ingredients are too dry. Add corn starch mix last to thicken the sauce. Set it aside to cool.

4. For the sweet bun dough mix, add all the dry ingredient into mixer and mix on slow speed for 1 minute. Add eggs and water and mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add butter and mix for further 10 minutes on medium speed until dough if fully developed. Ferment for 1 hour until dough doubles in size.

5. Scale the dough into 8 - 10 pieces of ping pong sized balls (about 50 - 60gm)and round up with the palm of your hand on table.

6. Rest dough for 10 minutes and then flatten dough (edges flatter). Take a spoonful of filling and wrap onto dough. Turn upside down for smooth surface.

7. Place of baking tray and prove for 1 hour.. Brush eggs on the surface and bake at 350'F for 15 minutes until buns turn golden brown.

What do you think? :)
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