Friday, November 30, 2012

Favorite Restaurants

I don't go out to eat too often, but when I do, I typically head to my favorites. I do try new restaurants on the occasion especially if recommended by friends and family. I will almost always pick a local restaurant over a chain (unless travelling when local choices are limited). So here are my favorite restaurants in and around Lexington, KY with one in Louisville, KY. I highly recommend these restaurants; they have excellent food and superb service!

Taqueria Aguacalientes--Unfortunately, this restaurant doesn't have a website/facebook I can link, but they are located on Alexandria Drive.  This restaurant is very authentic Mexican food; it was recommended to me by a native Mexican, and now I cannot go any where else because the food is no where near as good as this place!  Ben and I had their fajitas in October; I've had their tacos, burritos, sopas, tortas, etc (haven't had the quesadilla yet...).  The chicken soup makes me feel better when I feel under the weather.  They make everything in the restaurant or buy it from the local tortilla maker or bakery across the street (all are owned by the same family).  Watch out though: some of the waitresses speak a bit English so you might have to dust off the high school Spanish!

Sutton's--The food is mostly Italian with an American twist.  Interesting food (pizza burger, Hot Brown pizza, to name a few!) and fantastic service.  The owner comes to each table to make sure everything is fabulous, and he's made a few recommendations that I have tried and has not failed.  Their bread pudding is TO. DIE. FOR!  I have been commissioned/challenged by a friend to make bread pudding like that, and I won't lie when I say that I don't know where to begin!

Le Matin Bakery--This is a classic French style bakery.  Their sweets are superb!  My family stops by for coffee and cake on the occasion (or else we would be VERY fat!).  In fact, the last few times we were there, we might have had two rounds of desserts....  They also serve lunch items which I haven't tried yet because I can't get past the counter cases full of croissants and cookies and cakes and tarts and tortes!

Cover Photo
{How can you walk by that without trying EVERYTHING?!}

Oasis Restaurant--I love Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food (it's my favorite!), and so naturally I would scout around for an excellent place to get some in Lexington.  This place was recommended by a chef instructor, and I have been going there for years!  Excellent hummus, chicken shawarma (my favorite EVER), falafels, tabbouli, and I could go on and on!  The owners are a husband and wife team; one is from Turkey/Lebanon and the other Greece.

The Pub--The pub-like atmosphere, the bar right when you walk in stocked to the brim with various beers, wines, and liquors, and the hearty food all have made this one of my favorite places!  It's a small chain, but it's still very good with unique menus items like Scotch Eggs, Pretzel Beer Cheese Burger, Shepard's Pie, Bangers and Mash, Fish and Chips, Tipsy Laird, just to name a few!  A great place to hang out and cut up with friends!

Pho BC--This is a Vietnamese restaurant.  I love the clean flavors of Vietnamese cuisine especially in their soups, which is called Pho in the native language.  When I say 'clean' I mean light and crisp--green onions, lime juice, basil, and cilatnro.  I LOVE pho, and that's all I usually get at the restaurant.  They do have other dishes which I have yet to try.

J Alexander's--This is the restaurant located in Louisville.  My grandmother and I stopped to eat on one of our trips to the city, and we got hooked on the Braised Red Cabbage with Goat Cheese (it was a seasonal vegetable although we wish it was on the menu permanently!).  Whenever we go to Louisville, we stop and eat.  The food NEVER disappoints, and everything is cooked to perfection.  The service is superb!

What are your recommendations for restaurants in Lexington?  I'd love to hear them!

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012


My husband LOVES chili.  It's his favorite food, and he recently made the comment that I don't have to wait for cold weather to make it (yes--I got the hint that he wants it to be an year-round staple).  When I do make it, I make a HUGE pot and freeze half of it so if I can't make dinner one night, he can pull it out and heat it up.

{I snuck some  :o)}

The chili I make is very simple, easy, and quick--exactly how I like it!  I personally couldn't eat it all the time, but I try to make my husband happy (it's the little things).

{Getting everything ready to throw into the pot}

{Rinsing off the beans}

{Adding the spices--if you want it spicier then add more!  Ben loves his chili REALLY hot (hotter than the recipe I will give you)}

{Simmered and ready to consume!}


Makes 8 servings


2 pounds ground beef or deer (deer is the preferred meat for chili in my house!)
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons steak seasoning
2-8 oz cans tomato sauce
2 cans petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 can tomato paste
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  1. Saute beef, onion, and garlic until done.
  2. Add steak seasoning to beef.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour.
I love the cumin in this recipe--it gives the chili a subtle smoky flavor.  Serve with cornbread and the usual toppings, and you are ready to go!  

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Ravioli Lasagna

Ben loves lasagna, and I love to make him happy (cheezy yes, but what can I say?).  However, lasagna is a lot of work even with most of the shortcuts.  A few weeks ago, a brilliant idea hit me: why not make lasagna with ravioli?  BINGO!!!  A new recipe was born!

{Ravioli Lasagna}

This recipe can be made with pre-made spaghetti sauce.  However, since I am still swimming in tomatoes, I made my sauce from scratch.  Otherwise, this recipe is as easy as brown beef, add sauce, layer, bake, and ENJOY!

{Easy tomato sauce--cut tomatoes and throw in a pot with olive oil, onion, garlic, parsley, and black pepper.  Simmer until sauce consistency.}

{Cheese raviolis!}

{Layering the lasagna--always start with sauce for easier clean-up!}


Ravioli Lasagna

Serves 4

1 pound ground beef
16 oz spaghetti sauce
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
9 oz cheese raviolis
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Brown beef.
  3. Add spaghetti sauce and warm through.
  4. Mix ricotta and parmesan cheese together in a separate bowl.
  5. In an 8x8 dish, place half of sauce mixture into the bottom; top with cheese then ravioli.
  6. Repeat layers ending with sauce on the top.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until raviolis are done.
  8. Srinkle cheese on top and bake another 5 minutes to melt.
  9. Enjoy!
Yummy lasagna made in less than an hour!  What more could you ask for?

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Casserole

To wrap up our Thanksgiving series, I wanted to share my beloved sweet potato casserole recipe.  It's light and fluffy sweet potatoes baked with a nutty-sugar-butter topping (see--told you I have a slight obsession with those ingredients as toppings!!!).  My family requests it from me every year, and I am more than happy to oblige!

{So I *might* have made myself a small container--I HAD to take a picture for the blog! LOL}

This recipe is definitely easy--the hardest part is peeling and dicing the potatoes!  I do not have a full casserole completed photo because this will actually be consumed at my families' (BOTH will be together again this year!  YAY!!!!!  LOVE IT!) Thanksgiving on Thursday night.  So I had to make a small bowl to show the finished product.

{Mhmmm sweet potatoes!}

{Is it me or are these MASSIVE?!  SCARY!!!}

{Making the topping}

{Finished topping!}

{Mashed the sweet potatoes and added all the ingredients--it will not fit in my professional stand mixer so please don't try!}

{Put casserole in a container, put topping on top, and bake}

Sweet Potato Casserole

Makes 18 servings


10 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar in the raw (can use regular)
4 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup milk, room temperature
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  1. Cook sweet potatoes until tender using whatever means you prefer: microwave, boiling, or baking. Cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Put sweet potatoes in a bowl and add sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk, and butter until smooth(ish).
  4. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish.
  5. Combine brown sugar, pecans, flour, and butter until crumbly; sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
Thanksgiving bonus:  Definitely make this casserole a few days before and store in the fridge.  On the day of your Thanksgiving feast, make topping and bake an extra 10-15 minutes if you put it in the oven straight from the fridge.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving: Apple-Cranberry Bars

Need an alternative to pumpkin pie for your Thanksgiving feast?  A fantastic fall dessert is the Apple-Cranberry Bar.  Apples and cranberries and crumble-like bottom and topping?...  YES PLEASE!

{Apple-Cranberry Goodness!}

I am also a sucker for crumble-type recipes (as if I haven't demonstrated that with the two crumbles I made this year!).  Something about baked butter, sugar, and flour is irresistable to me *sigh*  I am eating one as I write this....  FOR BREAKFAST!  :o)  It's got that cereal-bar texture and taste that is perfect for breakfast or just a snack too!

{Apples waiting to be peeled and diced}

{Mixing the filling ingredients}

{Time for the apples and cranberries!}

{Just a dash of cinnamon}

{My favorite part--the CRUMBLE!!!}

{Everythin's betta with butta!}


Apple-Cranberry Bars

Makes 18 bars


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup sugar in the raw
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
8 oz sour cream, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
8 cups apples, diced into bite-size chunks
10 oz dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Mix flour, salt, baking soda, oats, and brown sugar until blended.
  3. Add butter and mix until crumbly.  Remove 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture to a small bowl; stir in pecans and set aside for topping.
  4. Pat remaining mixture into the bottom of a greased pan.
  5. In a small bowl whisk sugar, cinnamon, sour cream, and eggs together.
  6. Toss apples and cranberries together; pour sour cream mixture over fruit and stir to coat.
  7. Spoon filling onto crust; top with topping.
  8. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender.
Thanksgiving bonus: this can certainly be made the day (or days) before your feast!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving: Garlic Roasted Chicken with Gravy

The crowning glory of Thanksgiving: the turkey, chicken, ham, duck, or whatever your family makes the centerpiece of the feast!  It can be intimidating, but you CAN do it!  I suggest practicing a few times a year, especially if you've never done it before.  The logistics of roasting are easy: coat the item in fat, 'bake' at a high temperature (typically above 400), and baste every 10-15 minutes for a moist product.

{Garlic Roasted Chicken with juices soon-to-become gravy!}

Roasting a chicken or turkey is easy because the 'fat' is already on them because the skin houses fat for you.  I personally love to roast meat; it gets such flavor when it roasts in its own juices (plus I have a weak spot for crispy skin!), but it does make the kitchen hot.  In the middle of summer--not ideal to say the least! 

So I made a chicken instead of turkey because it is just Ben and myself eating it, and it was a $5 whole chicken--can't beat it!  The same principle will apply to a turkey though!  Are you ready?  Let's get started!

{Lay down a beautiful bed of carrots, celery, and onion (potatoes too if you want!) with some chicken broth}

{I stuffed my chicken with garlic because roasted garlic tastes delicious without the offensive breath!}

{Chicken is stuffed!}

{Gently lay chicken on the bed and season with salt and pepper}

Garlic Roasted Chicken

Makes 2 servings


1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound potatoes, cubed (optional)
1-5 pound chicken
2 heads of garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Butter or olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Place carrots, celery, onion, potatoes (if using) and broth into the bottom of a roasting pan.
  3. Rinse the inside and outside of the chicken; pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Place all garlic cloves and oregano inside the chicken cavity; place on top of vegetables in pan.
  5. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; place lid on top of chicken.
  6. Place chicken in oven and roast until done (165 degree internal temperature), about 2 hours, basting with pan juices every 10-15 minutes. During the last 30 minutes of roasting, remove lid and place butter pats or olive oil on chicken skin to get it crispy.
  7. Let chicken stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Stuff the chicken/turkey with whatever you desire: stuffing or even the carrots, celery, and onion.  The main point I want to stress is to PLEASE make sure that the internal temperature of that poultry is at least 165!!!  We don't want anyone to be sick Thanksgiving weekend.....

We can't forget the GRAVY!!!  I am the official, undeniable, proud Gravy Queen in my house.  I am not ashamed to admit that I eat gravy like soup sometimes because I love it THAT much.  I am not kidding--ask my family and husband!
{Make a roux}
{Ready for the boat!}

Gravy is pretty simple too: make a roux, add the pan drippings, and let the sauce thicken!


Makes 6 servings (with me it's more like 4--if you get it before me!)

4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups pan juices (if you don't have enough then add chicken broth until you get 2 cups)
  1. Heat butter over medium high heat.
  2. Add flour all at once whisking vigorously. When mixture thins and starts to bubble, reduce heat to low and cut back on the whisking.
  3. Cook until you smell a toasty aroma then cook 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add pan juices slowly, stirring constantly.
  5. When all pan juice is added, allow the liquid to simmer (not boil) until desired thickness is reached.
I prefer thick gravy so I cook it until it's thick.  I also included the celery, onion, carrots, and garlic from the chicken because I prefer it.  If you would like a smooth gravy then you can puree it or strain those out.  I do not recommend using cornstarch to thicken sauces because it makes it hard (less stable) when you reheat it.

There you have it!  Simple and easy way to make roasted chicken/turkey and gravy!  You can do it!!!Pin It

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving: Roasted Cauliflower Gratin

Macaroni and cheese is one of those quinessential holiday recipes.  However, when you are *trying* to be good and watch what you eat, mac & cheese is not on the 'nice' list....

Don't get me wrong--I LOVE macaroni and cheese--well any pasta and cheese in general, but it needed an upgrade to "somewhat healthy swimmming in cheezy goodness".  Lo and behold, The Shiksa came to my rescue!  I was looking through her archives, and I found a recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Gratin which looked easy and delicious, and guess what?  It is!!!

{Look at that bubbling, cheesy goodness!!!  The husband said it was terrible--teriibly good!  (He does that to me a lot--it's his thing.)}

This recipe is made with cauliflower which is MUCH healthier and nutritous than pasta; plus roasting it beforehand?  GENIUS!!!  Next time I have a craving for mac & cheese--this is definitely my go-to! 

{Roasted cauliflower!}

{Making roux to thicken the sauce}

{Getting saucy!}

{Mhmmmm....  CHEESE!!!!}

{Personal preference to add garlic powder, onion powder, mustard, and cayenne pepper--experiment for your own twist!}

{How do you like my one-handed shot?  Nice, huh?}

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin

Serves 4


3 pounds cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese (or your choice)
3 tablspoons bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. In a bowl, put cauliflower and oil together; toss to coat.
  3. Spread on a baking sheet and place in oven for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes, stir cauliflower with a spoon and return to oven for another 15 minutes.
  5. While the cauliflower roasts, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add flour and stir to combine.
  6. Cook this flour mixture (roux) for 2 minutes; add milk slowly stirring constantly until all the milk is added.
  7. DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM SAUCE! This sauce burns incredibly easy; keep stirring until it is thick.
  8. Add cheese and optional spices stirring until combined and melted.
  9. Adjust sauce seasoning with salt and pepper.
  10. When the cauliflower is out of the oven, reduce the heat to 375.
  11. Place cauliflower florets in a 9x9 casserole dish.
  12. Top cauliflower with cheese sauce.
  13. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top; place in oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until cheese sauce is bubbling.
  14. Optional--if you have a broiler, turn it on and place gratin underneath it for 1-2 minutes for a more browned top.
Thanksgiving bonus--the dish can be made ahead, refrigerated, and then popped into the oven on Thanksgiving!  I would give it about 45 minutes to bubble, and make sure you put it in a cool oven or get it to room temperature before going into the oven.  We don't want to clean broken dishes!Pin It

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving: Smashed Potatoes

The holidays are almost upon us!  It's officially the week before Thanksgiving, and what better way to celebrate than by posting 5 quintessential Thanksgiving recipes?  NOTHING!  So here they are!  We will start with Smashed Potatoes, then Roasted Cauliflower Gratin, Garlic Roasted Chicken with Gravy, Sweet Potato Casserole, and Spiced Oatmeal Cookies!  Get out the stretchy pants!

First up is smashed potatoes!  I prefer to use Yukon Gold or Red Potatoes for my mashed potatoes--it takes a lot LESS cream and butter to make them smooth and velvety (which means less calories per serving!).  If you prefer to use Idaho Potatoes then be prepared to at least double the amount of the other ingredients.

Side note--If it were up to my husband, we would have potatoes with every meal, mainly mashed potatoes.  It's a great thing that he LOVES my mashed potatoes (seriously--he claimed them "better than mom's"!). 

Anyway--During my tenure in a banquet kitchen, we used real cream and butter to make them.  It was like taking the potatoes and just putting on your hips and thighs, but they were soooooo good!

I've lightened the recipe slightly by using cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and milk.  Still delicious just not so many calories!  I prefer to leave the skin on my potatoes and to 'smash' them.

{Yes--I actually had to weigh the potatoes because I usually make this recipe by sight rather than actual measurements, but I did it for you!}

{Boil potatoes!}

{Make sure everything is close to room temperature so make mixing/mashing easier}

{That yellow stuff (besides the butter) is garlic; we are garlic smashed potato people!}

{Adding salt and pepper}

Smashed Potatoes

Makes 4 servings


2.5 pounds potatos, diced and peeled if desired
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature
1/4 cup milk, room temperature
  1. Boil potatoes until tender; drain.
  2. Place boiled potatoes in a boil; add remaining ingredients on top.
  3. Mix, mash or whip potatoes until desired consistency is reached (chunky, smooth, etc).
  4. Add any additional ingredients like garlic, 'loaded', etc.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Thanksgiving bonus:  You can make mashed potatoes ahead of time!  Just keep them in a casserole dish, and on Thanksgiving, pop them in the oven for about an hour at 350 or until heated through!

What kinds of extras do you like to add to your potatoes? 
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