Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Weight Watchers Chocolate Chip Cookies

Straight off the WW website, these cookies are AWESOME! Kathleen made some for us last month, and I was really quite impressed with this "diet" dessert recipe!

The Ingredients
2 Tbsp Butter, softened
2 tsp Canola Oil
1/2 cup dark Brown Sugar, packed
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 large Egg White
3/4 cup Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

The Method
Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter, oil and sugar. Add vanilla, salt and egg white; mix thoroughly to combine.

In a small bowl, mix together flour and baking soda; stir into batter. Add chocolate chips to batter; stir to distribute evenly throughout.

Drop rounded half-teaspoons of dough onto one or two large nonstick baking sheets, leaving a small amount of space between each cookie. Bake cookies until golden around edges, about 4 to 6 minutes; cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 24 cookies
Points: 1 each

Monday, September 20, 2010

Awkward Service Situations.

On Saturday night my brother and I headed out to a swanky steak house on I Drive to take full advantage of the Magical Dining Month. While the food was great, the rest of the evening left me a bit perplexed. So I think I'm going to start a new series....about awkward servers.

First off, while the ambiance in the restaurant was beautiful, we didn't get to see much of it. We were tucked away in what I called the "kiddie room"-a small space with about eight tables. We sat amongst casually dressed tourists and, yep, you guessed it, the families with children. Why were we seated there? Who knows. Maybe it's because I mentioned the Magical Dining on the Open Table reservation. Maybe it's because we were casually dressed. I felt like I was assigned to the kid's table at Thanksgiving dinner. You know the one I'm talking about. The fold out card table with the plastic tablecloth.

But the odd part really came into play with the server. After delivering our salads, he looked down at his fingers and finding something there, wiped them on the napkin that encased our bread basket. Hmm.

During the wine service, he looked down at his fancy vest and noticed a stain. So he literally brought it up to his nose to smell it. While he was holding our bottle of Atteca Garnacha. (Which, for the record, was fabulous!)

Lastly, my brother and I split the check. Which means that he had two separate credit cards with the same last name. When he returned to our table after running the cards, he asked, "Um are you guys married? Cause I'm kinda confused."

So I guess my point is that even if you are that swanky restaurant that is all about the glitz and glory, there can always be a green piece of meat that can ruin the whole experience. Yep, your food was good and your wine was good. But after that meal I just want to eat in a restaurant that lets me sit at the grown-up's table.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

La Nuova Cucina

The written word almost cannot express how much I enjoyed my meal at La Nuova Cucina. But I'll give it a try anyway.

The Checklist: Not even open for a full year yet, this restaurant really has their act together and meets all of my requirements when looking at restaurants I'd recommend to others. Cool space? Check. Clean? Check. Good service? Check. Decent wine list? Check. Outstanding food? Double Check.

The Space: La Nuova Cucina is located on Sand Lake Road and is pretty much an independently owned and shining gem stuck between a swarm of heavy hitting chain restaurants. My first feeling when I entered the restaurant was that it reminded me of what I envision modern bistros in Italy to look like. The space is small, but it gives more of an intimate feeling rather than a claustrophobic one. Exposed brick and simple art work adorn the walls, and the floor is a rather nice dark wood. Seating is comfortable with detached pillows on each chair. I also caught a glance into the kitchen on my way to the restroom and was impressed by it's organization and what looked to be a clean environment. (And, for the record, I loved the wallpaper in the ladies room!)

The Food: But beyond the ambiance, I immediately felt comfortable and welcomed. Diners are served with complimentary Amuse Bouche between courses, that are described by servers as Gifts from the Chef. So we started our meal not only with the yummy herb biscuits, but also with their version of Caprese Salad: One bite of cherry tomato, goat cheese and a small dollop of pesto.

I enjoyed the Arancini for my appetizer-small fried rice balls that were filled with melted Mozzarella cheese. What really made the dish for me was the sweet yet tangy roasted red pepper sauce. It complimented the Arancini perfectly. After our appetizers we were treated to another Gift from the Chef-thinly sliced cold zucchini rolled around a ricotta, shrimp and dill salad. It was absolutely fantastic.

I went a bit over the top and ordered the Gnocchi al Emmenthal E Filet Mignon aka Filet with Gnocchi in an Emmental cheese sauce for my entree. A huge bowl of tender, melt in your mouth gnocchi with a subtle sauce, it was topped with a few slices of fork tender filet. This dish was amazing, and I loved the fun play on steak and mashed potatoes!

Just before our dessert we had our last Gift from the Chef: a small spoonful of berry sorbet with a spritz of a sweet red wine. And when I say spritz, I mean spritz. The server literally sprayed a bit of the wine onto the sorbet with a spritz bottle. I finished off my meal with Pera al Vino Rosso Gelato al Pistacchio-red wine poached pears with pistachio gelato. While not impressed with the pears, this gelato was delicious. Not too sweet with chunks of crunchy pistachios, this is on the list of my favorite ice cream flavors.

The wine list had a worlly variety and was not overly priced. We had a bottle of Vernaccia di San Gimigano-a well balanced and complex white wine hailing from Tuscany. I would like to see a few more white Italian options on the list as three out of the four offered were Pinot Grigio.

I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone. Families, friends and couples all seemed to be having a great time. It's centrally located on Restaurant Row for the locals. And it you're visiting Orlando, it's close to many fine resorts including the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.

So, I guess I was able to put my enjoyment of this restaurant into words after all!

La Nuova Cucina Bistro Italiano on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Faux Houston's Chicken and Couscous by Kathleen

This couscous salad is amazing! Perfect for those of use with a little bit of a salty/sweet tooth!

The Plan
Boil Water.

The Ingredients
1/4 cup Couscous
1/4 cup Boiling Water
1/8 tsp Chicken Base / Bouillion
1/4 cup Tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup English Cucumber, diced
1 Shallot, minced
1/2 clove Garlic, minced
1 tbsp Basil, minced
1 tsp Mint, minced
2 tbsp Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 oz Golden Raisins
1/4 oz Almonds, Sliced
4 oz Chicken Breast, grilled (pan spray) and sliced on bias
S&P to taste

The Method
Combine water and chix base, stir until dissolved. Pour over couscous. Stir to combine, season. Let stand 5 minutes.

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, garlic, basil, mint, lemon juice, raisins and almonds. Combine with couscous after its plumped up.

Top with Chicken and pour resting juices over the top!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oh, how I love September in Orlando.

The food is on! Orlando friends, don't forget to participate in the Magical Dining Month! For an extra bonus, one dollar from each meal sold goes to support the Art and Culture Alliance of Central Florida.

I started the month off by dining with my good friends at Le Coq Au Vin. I started with the Soupe a L'Oignon, enjoyed the Coq Au Vin with a side of Lobster Mac n Cheese for my entree, and finished up with the fantastic Crepe Suzzette.

*I wish I had a nicer picture for you guys...but some jerks broke into my house the other day and took off with a bunch of stuff, including my camera. (And my Boar's Head turkey. Urgh. They went through my fridge.) I wish I was there when they reviewed the pictures on the camera. Beautiful shots of the cupcakes from Blue Bird Bake Shop. Jerks.