Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Westside Bar and Grill Combo Pizza


Chewy yet crispy crust topped with everything but the kitchen sink is what you get when you order a Combo Pizza from the Westside Bar and Grill

Because I didn't have a decent food plan in order for the week, we were out of at-home options fairly quickly. So pizza came into the picture. I'd been itching to try a pie from the Westside Bar and Grill, self-proclaimed as "Costa Mesa's nicest dive bar". Yelp reviews were pretty damn good, garnering 4 stars out of 37 reviews, so why not?

We checked out the online menu, called them up thinking the kitchen would probably be closed this late, past 10 p.m. on a Tuesday. Lo and behold, they and their kitchen were open! After placing our order for a combo pizza, we headed on down to the location.

The exterior of the joint is fairly raggedy and dive-bar-ish, being at the end of an older building in Costa Mesa. However, when you walk in, the Westside Bar and Grill is a pretty decent-looking joint. Being a Tuesday night it was slow with only a couple dudes at the bar, but I can see why hipsters would want to hang out there. Clean open space, long bar, pool table, surfer adornments on the wall, full liquor license and a generous menu is just asking to be mobbed.

As for the pizza, it was ready when we arrived. After paying, we took off for home, stopping for firewater and can of Coke.

Look at what we got:
a pizza and bag

The bag contained napkins and packets of Parmesan cheese and pepper flakes.


Opening the box, we saw this beauty:


Ok, it does look a little like a Costco pizza. But I tell you what, it tasted better than Costco pizza. The ingredients were on the fresh side and, obviously, plentiful. The crust, more thick than thin, tasted ok and the toppings overall, ratio-wise, were good.

Better than Napa Valley? Better than Al's New York? Better than Massimo's? Um, no, I'm afraid not. However, considering it's pizza from a bar, it's pretty damn good.

Rodney, being lactose-sensitive thought this was delicious but suspected some lactose sneakiness in the cheese. It was pretty damn gooey.

Large Combo pizza, including pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, olives, onions, green peppers, sausage, and bacon: $30.19 including tax and toke.

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063110
Rodney suspected there was cream cheese or some other soft cheese in there with the mozzeralla after having it for lunch, due to the severe adverse effects. I'm not sure I buy that, but parts of the cheese were still "wet" even after refrigeration overnight. If you are lactose-intolerant but can handle some cheese, be aware of this one as it might do you in.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans, Take 2

Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans to eat with Roasted Chicken

Because this side dish, Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans, was so freakin' good the first and only time I prepared it, and I'm talkin' amazing good, I couldn't help but make them again to go with dinner tonight.

The "problem" is that the chicken is supposed to cook at 392°F (or 200°C) and the potatoes at 425°F.

I opted to roll with a somewhat average temperature of 400°F. This will be a test to see what will happen to the deliciousness of the potatoes and beans. The chicken, I know, can handle it.

Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans, Take 2

3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 large russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lb.), unpeeled, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3/4 tsp coarse salt, divided
1/8 tsp pepper
12 oz. green beans
5 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled

Heat oven to 400°F.

Spread 2 tablespoons of the oil in large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange potatoes on baking sheet in single layer; turn to coat both sides with oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper.

Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Original recipe was to wait 22-25 minutes for browning on bottom.

Turn; move to one side of pan. Add green beans and garlic to empty side of pan; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.


Bake 6 minutes or until potatoes are browned and beans are tender and light golden brown.
Original recipe said 15 minutes!

Squeeze garlic from skins onto cutting board; mash with side of knife until smooth.
Squeezing was the right word for it the first time I made this at the proper temperature of 425°F. This time, the garlic sort of popped from the skins and wound up minced rather than mashed as they weren't fully roasted.

Combine mashed garlic with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.


Toss the garlic and oil mixture with the beans and potatoes.



Cooking at 400°F rather than 425°F made a big difference (15 minutes) in the time it took to prepare this dish;on the downside, it also effected the outcome. While the potatoes and green beans roasted just as well (and even better) at the lower temperature, the garlic didn't handle as well. The garlic wasn't roasted, but cooked.

What that meant is that the creamy garlic-y buttery essence wasn't there. The potatoes and beans tasted great, but didn't have the creamy, buttery, garlic-y quality that made them maddeningly delicious the first time around when cooked at 425°.

When I do this again next, I'll probably follow the original recipe again. Just to affirm the absolute deliciousness of the recipe. Otherwise, I'll throw the garlic in with the potatoes and continue as described above. That'll allow the garlic to roast while minimizing overall baking time. Plus it may serve well as a side that way to many other main dishes requiring a 400°F temperature.

Cost:
  • $2.23 or $0.56 for each of four servings. 


Roasted Chicken



Since I'd come across this recipe a couple weeks ago, I have been itching to try it. The ingredients aren't extreme or numerous, basically pretty simple, allowing me to believe it will be "simply" delicious. Har, har, har! Ahem.

The reason for postponing a sooner prep of this recipe was because of the ginger juice. Yes, ginger juice. Ginger JUICE? Say what? What'd you say? Ginger? JUICE?

The original recipe calls for four large "marylands", which turns out to be leg quarters. Easy enough. The original recipe also called for a 30 minute marinade. 30 minutes? With these miniscule quantities? Say what? What'd you say?

When finally getting around to doing the recipe, I allowed an overnight marinade. If I'm going to marinate some chicken, I'm going to marinate some chicken, especially since I'd squeezed juice from a ginger root!

Finally, since it was day time and thus daylight was plentiful when I prepared the chicken for marinading, I'm going to include as many of those photos as possible. Even though I don't have a print option...yet.

Roasted Chicken
adapted from Quinn's Cooking With Love & Passion!

4 large whole chicken legs
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp ginger juice
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp light soy sauce

In a large bowl, add salt, white pepper and five-spice powder.


Then grate about 1-2" of ginger root and squeeze the grated material of it's juices into the large bowl. And then add soy sauce.


Combine salt, pepper, five-spice powder, ginger juice and soy sauce before adding and mixing in chicken legs, aka Marylands.


Cover chicken with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator overnight, turning once if you remember.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Drain the chicken and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes.


Rotate baking sheet 180° to ensure even browning; roast chicken an additional 20 minutes.


Let chicken stand for 10 minutes, loosely covered with foil.


And eat.


Squeezing juice from a ginger root isn't difficult at all! I look forward to squeezing more ginger juice from roots in the future. Marinating overnight wasn't necessary as I don't believe it imparted serious flavor throughout the flesh, though it was convenient. The chicken tasted really good, but was primarily of five-spice, where I'd hoped to have more of a ginger flavor. After all, I squoze ginger juice for this dish.

All-in-all, a crispy-skinned, flavorful recipe worth doing again.

Cost:
  • chicken legs: $2.73
  • ginger root: $0.33
  • everything else, SWAG: $1
Total: $4.06 or about a buck for each of four servings.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Food Plan and Grocery List, 062610

I'm a day early because tomorrow I'll be golfing. The list isn't anything super extensive or fancy either. It's just

Shopping, I picked up

  • cherries: $2.10/2.12 lb
  • green beans: $1.03/0.80 lb
  • chicken leg quarters: $2.73/4 lbs
  • boneless skinless chicken leg meat: $4.01/3 lbs
  • green onion: $0.30/bunch
  • ginger root: $0.66/0.39 lb
  • pineapple juice: $6/4 L
  • Total: $17.03
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070110, Stater Bros.:

  • Stater Bros. Premium Buns: $2.49
  • Lays Kettle Chips: $3.29
  • Cran-Raspberry Juice: $2.99/2L
  • ground beef, 85% lean: $6.14/1.5 lbs
  • iceburg lettuce: $1.49/head
  • Roma tomatoes: $1.68/3
  • Total: $18.08
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070210, Stater Bros.:

  • Stater Bros. Premium Buns: $2.49/8-pack
  • Apple-Raspberry Juice: $1.79/2L
  • ground beef, 85% lean: $4.87/1.22 lbs
  • pork spareribs: $6.11/~5 lbs
  • cabbage: $1.40/2.03 lb
  • carrots: $0.50/0.73 lb
  • corn-on-the-cob: $0.40/2 ears
  • onion: $0.98
  • roma tomato: $0.57
  • TOTAL: $19.11
Grand Total: $54.22

Friday, June 25, 2010

Napa Valley Pizza and Pasta Co. Traditional Works

Hot, gooey, cheesy pizza!

Considering our last pizza adventure with zpizza, we needed a redemption pie.

Who to call? Napa Valley Pizza and Pasta Co. We were absolutely gratified with their BBQ pizzas in the past. To step it up a notch, and satisfy my desire for treading new territory, we ordered something different: a Traditional Works, substituting bell peppers for black olives.

Take a look at this thing:

Plenty of toppings, including homemade sauce, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, olives, red onions and tomatoes, were evenly distributed across the entirety. And oregano, maybe basil, was sprinkled over the cheese. See?


Look at my slice! The cheese was so gooey it stretched a mile before breaking, winding up in loopy strands across my dinner.


Before inhaling this little bit of glorious heaven, I sprinkled it with the fresh grated Parmesan and crushed red pepper provided in the little Solo cups. And it was...perfection.

Priced the same as a BBQ chicken pizza, it's about $26 out the door.

Have I told you yet that I love this place?  Customer service is always excellent and the pizzas, the pizzas!


Google Reader

I discovered Google Reader a few days ago and I cannot believe how handy it is! 

Google Reader: "Read them in one place with Google Reader, where keeping up with your favorite websites is as easy as checking your email."

Um, no brainer.  Sign me up! Or, if you have a Google account of any sort (think GMail), you already are signed up and simply need to utilize this wonderful tool.

The blogs I check on with some regularity are subscribed to and Blammo!, when there is a new post to read the site name is in bold, just like when you get new mail.  Click on it and you can read the latest post(s) right there in Reader.

This is extremely handy at work when I need to take a break.  Rather than mentally conjuring the places I read and hitting them one-by-one because I have yet to use bookmarks with any regularity, I simply sign into Reader and they're all right there. It truly is as easy as checking email.  Even easier since you don't have to comment/respond if you don't feel like it, where with mail you sort of have to answer if you want to keep getting mail.

Once you sign in, you'll find a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that might scare you off (it did me at first: what the hell is all this garbage?), but that garbage is just recommendations to get you started.  Ignore those and click on the "Add A Subscription" link up at the top left.  "Google" your favorite sites, subscribe, and away you go!  

Certainly I realize that this is probably old news to anyone out there that is technologically or Google friendly in any capacity greater than mine, but for slow folks like me it's just now revolutionary. I like to think that I'm being revolutionary myself by spreading the word.

Simply Google "reader" and you'll hit it and your life will change. I swear.    

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 062510


  • Monday: Subway, 6" Spicy Italian on their new healthy omega-3 bread (which was on the stale side) with everything on it but jalapenos and cilantro: $4
  • Tuesday: Jack-in-the-Box, Southwest Chicken Salad with grilled chicken: $5.71
  • Wednesday: Jack-in-the-Box, Southwest Chicken Salad with grilled chicken: $5.86
  • Thursday: Jack-in-the-Box, Southwest Chicken Salad with grilled chicken: $5.71
  • Friday: Chipotle, Chicken Burrito: $6.36

Total: $27.64.

I really should tally how much I spend in a month and/or since I've been tallying the cost weekly. That was the point, right? To see how much it cost? Honestly, I'm afraid to look!



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How Many Blueberries Do You Put In Your Pancakes?



I like a lot of berries in my pancakes.

When that pancake is flipped you have to look closely to see that any blueberries are in there at all!

And those pancakes go well with scrambled eggs and bacon.


Just sayin'.

I used the same recipe as I did for strawberry pancakes. And they are simply wonderful.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

ZPizza


After having Grandmother Paul's Fried Chicken last night, I was ready to go on ahead and eat some cold fried-chicken leftovers for dinner tonight. After all, I fried 12 thighs when my original plan was to do six, with the intentions of leaving plenty of thighs to do something else with. Rodney's gut couldn't handle fried chicken twice in a row so he suggested we have pizza. Ever the sucker for a pizza, we scrambled to find a place that would still be open after 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night. Pickin's would be slim.

Sure we could've gone the Laventina's route, but I was in the mood for pizza adventure, some place new and thus, exciting. I remembered a place named zpizza near a grocery store we hit occasionally, Google searched, found their site, selected a pie from the menu and called 'em up. Hopes weren't high since delivery is closed at 9, but there was a chance we'd be able to pick up a pie before the doors were officially locked.

Mike answered the phone and told me it wasn't too late! I placed an order for a large American, which consists of organic tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, red onions and bell peppers, though I requested the peppers be substituted with black olives for Rodney's sake. Mike told me the pizza would be ready in 10 minutes. Rodney and I wasted no time hopping into the truck and cruising to zpizza.

The plaza looked like a ghost town, but zpizza's door was propped open, inviting me in. When I walked in, my pizza was being assembled. As I paid for the pie, the pizza went into the large oven. A few minutes later, I was out the door, hot pizza in hand.

The wonderful aroma caused me to drool a little on the ride home. I was highly excited about this pizza!

Finally, we settled in to catch up on older episodes of Lost while munching pizza, plates and napkins in hand. Opening the box, we saw this:


The ingredients looked good and smelled wonderful. Toppings reached the entire span of the pie rather than being piled in the center, which is always a nice thing. I like a little bit of everything in each bite.

Taking a slice, I got this:


Now that's some skinny ass pizza. It's about as thin as Pizza D'Oro's but not as tasty. Duped by the smell, I thought this zpizza would be fantastic and was let-down. While the toppings were OK, they weren't as good or as fresh as Al's New York Cafe and the crust was salty. I'm talking salty as hell, reminding me of that time when I made those rosemary sea salt potatoes.

While customer service was excellent, the pizza was lacking. We won't be back.

$29.91 plus toke makes it $34.91 out the door. That kills me because Napa Valley's BBQ Chicken Pizza is so much better and 10 bucks cheaper!!

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062310

I grabbed a cold slice to eat for breakfast on the way to work.  It was so salty, I couldn't finish the slice.  Considering I love pizza so much that I will eat cold Red Baron frozen pizza leftovers happily for breakfast should say something.

Don't say I didn't warn ya.  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Paula Deen: Grandmother Paul's Fried Chicken



I've been hankerin' for some fried chicken lately. And finally, when I bought a 10-pack of thighs without a real plan on what to do with them, I fried 'em according to Paula Dean's grandmother's recipe, which isn't just frying, but steaming as well. I didn't care how it was done, it just looked really easy and really tasty. Plus, I'd been looking forward to frying some chicken in my cast iron skillet.

I've never tried any of Paula's recipes, but when I saw the video of her preparing this chicken and the tear in her eye as she ate the result, it stuck with me. Let's all rejoice in Grandmother Paul's chicken recipe.

Grandmother Paul's Fried Chicken
adapted from the Food Network

Salt and pepper, for seasoning chicken
Crisco shortening, for frying
3 eggs
1/3 c water
2 c self-rising flour
1 tsp black pepper
2.5-5.5 lbs chicken pieces

Heat shortening in a cast iron skillet to 350°F. (My skillet is 10").


In an 8x8" baking dish, season flour with pepper.


Beat eggs with water in a small bowl or another 8x8" baking dish.


Dip chicken pieces in egg mixture and then coat well in flour mixture.


Carefully add chicken to hot shortening, in batches if necessary; place lid on top of skillet, and fry until brown and crisp, turning once, about 13-15 minutes for dark meat and 8-10 minutes for white.


Allow hot chicken to rest on wire rack or a couple sheets of paper towel before chowing.

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Now that we've seen the jist of the recipe and know how the process goes, I've decided to post additional images I'd collected of subsequent batches. I have a habit of documenting repeat procedures even though most of the time they just sit and hog drive space unnecessarily. This time, I was much happier with how following batches appeared and feel it's only right to show how I achieved the headlining photo.

The chicken above, when flipped, was a little darker -- ok, blacker -- than I prefer. Fried chicken should be golden and heavenly to look at and eat, not blotchy with blackness, though Rodney might beg to differ.

I thought that blackness might be due to too little Crisco in the pan, allowing the chicken pieces to sit directly on the skillet rather than floating in oil just above the skillet. To fix that on batch #2, I added more Crisco. And while waiting for it to melt completely (three minutes), egg washed and dredged a second batch of three thighs.


The three thighs were added to hot oil (notice how much more vigorous the oil-boiling action is this time compared to batch 1 above) and fried for 10 minutes in the covered cast iron skillet.


The thighs were then turned, covered and allowed to fry an additional 10 minutes.

Notice that the skin-side of the thighs browned even more once flipped.

Once batch two was removed from the skillet, I started in on egg washing and flour-dredging batch three.

The thighs were placed in the hot oil, covered, and fried for 10 minutes.


The thighs were flipped, covered and fried an additional 10 minutes.


So it turns out that having adequate oil is key to prevent blackening, as well as allowing enough time for the oil to get hot. I didn't bother with checking the temperature of the oil, but maintained medium heat for all three batches. As expected, pieces became darker as the oil was more used, so keep that in mind if you plan to do more than three batches.


What is my take on the recipe? Easy! I like that there is a cover for the skillet as the chicken fries, greatly minimizing the clean-up and fear of freak-oil spatters. I don't know about you, but I handle hot oil as I do electric fences -- I stay away: far, far away.

I also liked that there was enough breading (egg wash and dredging flour) material called for in the original recipe that I didn't have to club-finger my way into preparing more.

In the future I will allow the oil to get to temperature before adding the first batch of chicken. I'm not sure that I'll ever use white meat to fry chicken, but dark meat? No problem. Dark meat is flexible enough that even a 20-minute total fry time isn't going to reduce it to cinders, but yield a deliciously succulent moist texture, while maintaining a golden appearance.

Would I make this again? Yep, no brainer; I'd make it again in a heartbeat. I will also include a little bit of spicy-hot, say some cayenne in the dredging flour.

Cost:

  • chicken: $5.19/5.24 lb
  • everthing else, SWAG: $1
Total: $6.24 making each of five 2-thigh servings $1.25.