Restaurant Review: Pasha Mezze

Veteran’s Day. While every other couple in the world that is or was military affiliated was flocking to a chain restaurant in search of a free meal, G and I just wanted a hassle free breakfast. And most of the places that were offering free food (for veterans/active duty) had long lines out the door. And we don’t like to wait. And I’m pretty passionate about supporting local businesses.

Which is how we ended up at Pasha Mezze. We were trying to figure out where to go, and since there weren’t very many breakfast spots on the free food list, we decided to head to Norfolk and try a place that’s been on my “to try” list for a while: Handsome Biscuit. Only we get there, and the line is out the door. They weren’t offering free food, but it’s an already tiny place in a very trendy college/military heavy area. Neither of us felt like waiting, so we headed a few miles down the road to another spot on my list, Pasha Mezze, a family owned Turkish restaurant.

There wasn’t a wait at Pasha Mezze. In fact, we were the only customers in the place. We had obviously hit the sweet spot where the breakfast crowd had already come and gone, but it was still a little too early for lunch. The inside of the restaurant was very charming. Lots of cool light fixtures, exposed brick, an industrial ceiling and cute, decorative touches everywhere.

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Since we were the only people there, the service was excellent. Our server quickly took drink orders and brought us their house bread while we looked over the menu. The bread came with oil and balsamic vinegar, which I’ve never had with breakfast, but it was delicious. I love carbs…

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The one thing that annoyed me was that they had several breakfast/brunch items that sounded wonderful, but they were only available on Saturday and Sunday. It wasn’t that annoying though, because before I even set foot in the restaurant I knew I was going to order the Turkish breakfast platter. It was scrambled eggs, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumber, feta, spicy walnut dip and Kalamata olives. And more bread. It was wonderful. Other than the eggs (I’m typically pretty meh when it comes to eggs), it was all of my favorite things on one plate. And even though I don’t love eggs, these had great flavor. A warning though, the olives did have pits in them. I do hate that I ate the bread we had before our food came out, because the walnut dip was so good, and I would have loved to use it as a spread. However, I am trying to lose weight, so four slices of bread is definitely a no-go. Luckily, it was just as good on cucumber slices.

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G went with the South Side Chicken Omlette. It was loaded with spicy, grilled chicken, onions, and spinach, and topped with black beans and corn and a jalapeno tomato sauce. It came with a salad & yogurt sauce on the side. This was really, really good. All of the flavors worked together so well, and the salad and the yogurt sauce helped cool everything down.

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I will definitely be back. Definitely, definitely, definitely. Mediterranean food is my all time favorite, and there are so many more delicious sounding items on their lunch & dinner menus that I can’t wait to try.

What I’m Loving Wednesday

I love Wednesdays, and one of the reasons I love Wednesdays is that I get to share some of the fabulous things I’m coveting with you guys!

How pretty is this flat ware from West Elm??? I’m in love with it. There is one problem with it though… It sells out about every other day. I saw it on Facebook, went to the website and it was sold out. It was back in stock a couple of days later, and then sold out again Monday. It’s back in stock right now, but in about 5 minutes… who knows. But I seriously, seriously love it.
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I bought this wine at Whole Foods on Saturday, and it is so, so good. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet. And it still has a little bit of a bite to it. They offer a sweet white (moscato) and a sweet red (Shiraz). I’m not a huge red wine fan, bit I enjoyed the white so much, I may buy a bottle of the red next time as well. Even better than being delicious, it was delicious and inexpensive (about $10 per bottle).
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The lady day coat from J. Crew is my absolute favorite cold weather article of clothing of all time. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it. It has a layer of thinsulate in it (a very thin insulation), so the coat is incredibly warm, but still sleek and sophisticated. It’s a great investment piece if you live in a colder climate. I have one, that I got in 2008, and I’ve worn in maybe 20 times. It’s not nearly cold enough in the south…
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This scarf… I looooove this scarf. I love the colors, the prints, the shape, the style… I love it all! I mean… Y’all know I’m a sucker for quatrefoil ;)
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How cute is this shirt? And it’s so appropriate for this wonderful season of gluttony. I mean, I definitely want to lose weight… but I’ve made about six dozen cookies in the past week. And apple-cranberry biscotti and salted caramel chocolate cookies just are so hard to resist…
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Earlier in the year I went to the Sweet Tooth Festival in Charlotte. There were tons of vendors there giving out samples of their sweet treats. One of the vendors there was Nothing Bundt Cakes. I had a lemon one, and fell in love with the idea of little bundt cakes. I’d love to have this mini bundt cake pan, and make a few different flavors of cakes for the upcoming holiday season. And, it’s only $10! Score!
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More pie crust cutters from Williams-Sonoma! I’ve had so much fun with the fall/leaves pie crust cutters, that now I want the Christmas ones! Not only do they make really, really gorgeous apple pies, they also make really pretty dog treats.
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Recipe: Chicken Tikka Masala

Bake.Create.Love.-Chicken Tikka Masala

I have made this dish so many times. So. Many. Times. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long to blog it, because it is so good.

I wish I was more adventurous when it comes to ethnic foods, but I’m not. The only Indian dishes I’ve ever had are chicken tikka masala and chicken vindaloo, and those are also the only ones I’ve ever made at home. I’ve only made chicken vindaloo once, but it was so hot it was almost inedible. Since then, I’ve typically stuck with the tikka masala. And I’ve stuck with this recipe. It seriously comes out perfect every time (as long as you don’t use italian style tomatoes with basil… Then it comes out a little bit weird.).

This dish has a long list of ingredients and a lot of steps, but it isn’t at all complicated. I’ve made a few modifications based on my personal preferences (less yogurt stirred into the sauce, a lot more spices) and I’ve ended up with a truly delicious dish.

Bake.Create.Love - Chicken tikka masala 2

My favorite thing about this recipe is how the chicken is cooked. The chicken is rubbed with spices, slathered in plain yogurt and broiled. The chicken comes out unbelievaby tender and flavorful each and every time. And since grilling is a pain since we live in an apartment, I love the beautiful charring this cooking method gives the chicken.

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And I will ask you not to omit the cilantro. Some is stirred into the sauce, and I use a little extra as a garnish. Don’t use it as a garnish if you don’t like it, but please stir it into the sauce. It gives it a pop of freshness and I think adds a lot to the recipe. My cilantro hating husband never even noticed it was hidden in there.

Chicken Tikka Masala
(Recipe adapted from this one, originally found in Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon table salt
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves , minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1″ chunk of fresh ginger; grated
2 fresh serrano chiles (ribs and seeds removed), minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoon garam masala
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 T. plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish

Directions:

Step One:
For the chicken:
In a small bowl, stir together cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt. Spread out a piece of plastic wrap and place chicken on it. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture and roll up in plastic wrap. Sit on a plate (to catch any mess) and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. While chicken is in fridge, in large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger.

For the masala sauce:
In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste and garam masala and continue to cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat off and stir in yogurt. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

Step Two:
For the Chicken:
While sauce is simmering, Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack over it. Spray rack with cooking spray. Adjust the oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heat) and pre-heat broiler. Dip chicken into the yogurt mixture (you want a thick coating of yogurt) then lay chicken on the wire rack. Throw out any remaining yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is charred in spots (about 10 minutes on each side).

To assemble:
Let chicken rest for 5 minutes and then cut into 1-inch chunks. Stir into the sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, season with salt to taste and serve over rice with warm naan.

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And the leftovers? They just get better & better!

Restaurant Review: Mizuno

A couple of months ago we were in need of a sushi date. We had planned to go to Mizuno then, but while I was sitting in a waiting room I read a magazine article that said Hayashi was the best sushi in the area. Hayashi is MUCH closer, so we changed our plans. Unfortunately, dinner at Hayashi was a complete disappointment. So, when I started craving sushi again, I made a reservation for Mizuno, and this time that’s where we actually ended up.

Mizuno is in Virginia Beach, and it’s in a really pretty shopping center. We went inside and were instantly impressed with the very cool decor. Especially the bar. I LOVED the bar.

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We had a reservation for 8:00, but our table wasn’t ready yet, so we had a drink at the bar while we waited. G had a beer, and I had an Asian pear ginger-tini. It was made with Absolute Pear, fresh ginger and Ji sake. It was delicious, and I was happy I couldn’t taste the sake.

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The wait & the quest for a decent table was the most annoying part of our evening. I make reservations so I don’t have to wait. A few minutes is one thing. 25 minutes is another. Also, an employee (I’m guessing a manager, although she never said) kept trying to get us to sit at the bar. She asked if we just want to eat at the bar twice, and then while we were waiting, she asked if we’d like to eat at the sushi bar. Not to sound like a spoiled brat, but no. I want a table. So, that was annoying. When we finally got a table, it was VERY tiny, wedged in between two parties (one was a HUGE party of drunk, loud, rich, obnoxious white people). Keep in mind that this was a really small table (a two top)… So small, they apologized for the size of the table twice. And the size of the table would have been fine if it hadn’t been missing a chair. So, they sit us in a very crowded area, and make us both sit on the bench on one side of the table, because they don’t have a chair for the other side. Seriously? SO annoying. I love my husband, but I need a little room to breath. We ask for a different table and end up being moved. Our new table was much, much better; so we were finally able to order.

We were both starving, and none of the appetizers were jumping out at us, so we both went with salads. G ordered the house salad with the ginger dressing, and I ordered the seaweed salad. Our server told me that the seaweed salad was different from what I was used to, but I ordered it anyways. She was 100% right. It was large chunks of seaweed, on top of a bed of greens, and then served with the ginger dressing. It was okay, but I prefer the what you typically get when you order a seaweed salad, and I probably wouldn’t order it again.

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Once the sushi came out, my annoyance with the wait and the game of musical tables went away. The sushi was absolutely delicious. They had a pretty creative sushi menu (they even have a selection of Atkins/low carb sushi!), but we narrowed it down to three specialty rolls, and two smaller, ordinary rolls. We had a spicy tuna roll, a yellow tail roll (the small, cheaper ones), a rainbow roll, the Tuna Crunchy Crunchy, and the NYPD roll. They all tasted fresh, and the except for the two small rolls, they were all pretty large.

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The rainbow roll was my favorite, because it is always my favorite. The combination of fish, avocado & cucumber just speaks to me. And this one was excellently done. None of the flavors overpowered the others, and there were HUGE chunks of avocado in the roll. I prefer that to a slice of it on top, since when it’s on top, some pieces always end up avocado-less.

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The NYPD was my second favorite (and G’s favorite). It was pretty spicy, due to wasabi in the roll, and a thin slice of jalapeno on top of the roll. I love spicy foods, but after one piece my lips were burning, so I picked off the rest of the jalapeno.

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The tuna crunchy crunchy was our least favorite. The “crunchy” didn’t add anything to the roll, it just made it messy. And the roll itself didn’t have a lot of flavor. I definitely wouldn’t order that one again.

The two small rolls were nothing special. The spicy tuna was really good though. It had heat from different sources, and although it was small, it was good. The yellow tail was very meh. There wasn’t much to it, and it lacked flavor.

All in all, I liked this place. I liked their creative bar menu, I was pleased with the quality of the sushi, but I don’t know if I’ll go back. I didn’t like it anymore than I like Kero, and Kero is a better value, and a heck of a lot closer. If you’re in the Hampton Roads area and have a sushi restaurant you think is the absolute best, let me know! (And I already know about the all you can eat place on Jefferson. That’s our next spot…)

Recipe: Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

 

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Y’all… this soup. Holy crap.

A few weeks ago G and I had dinner at Salt in Virginia Beach. To start our dinner, I ordered a bowl of their Asian chicken noodle soup. It was comforting, delicious and just perfect.

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Wanting to add a new soup to my repertoire, I decided to try to recreate this soup at home. Luckily, their menu was descriptive and listed most of the ingredients that I would need: Rice noodles, carrots, oyster mushrooms, cilantro, scallions, Napa cabbage and broth scented with lemongrass, ginger and garlic. The commissary had nearly everything I needed, but I had to make a stop by the international grocery store for the lemongrass, chilies and oyster mushrooms.

Side note: if you have never been to an international grocery store, find one in your area and do it! I was a little intimidated by the variety of merchandise the first couple of times I went, but now I’m just in awe. They have so many things I have never heard of, and so many things I want to try.

Back to the soup. Other than the fact I had no clue what to do with the lemongrass, I was ready to get started. Google said you need to bruise it first. One of my neighbors, who is an amazing chef, said to take a heavy knife and beat it. I used a meat pounder, and it worked great. Once the stalks were in the broth, I made the declaration that I wanted to put lemongrass & ginger in EVERYTHING for the rest of my life. It smelled AMAZING. The chilies added a lot of heat to the broth initially, but after straining all of the aromatics out, and adding in all of the vegetables, chicken and noodles, it cooled down a good bit. This soup was completely amazing, and G and I devoured this.. There were so many levels of flavor and textures, and it was just perfect! I absolutely can not wait to make this again. And again. And again…

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Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

    • 6-8 cups of chicken broth
    • 4 stalks of lemon grass
    • One inch piece of ginger
    • 1 head of garlic
    • 4 hot chilies
    • 2 T. of low sodium soy sauce
    • 2 chicken breasts; thinly sliced
    • 8 oz. of oyster mushrooms; roughly chopped
    • ½ cup of shredded carrots
    • 4 cups of chopped Napa cabbage
    • 1 small onion; diced
    • ¼ cup of finely chopped cilantro (plus more for a garnish)
    • 4 oz. rice noodles (or any noodles you prefer)
    • 2 scallions; chopped
    • 2 T. of olive oil
    • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add the chicken stock to a large dutch oven or soup/pasta pot.
  2. Remove the tough outer leaves from the lemon grass and “bruise” it (beat it with something heavy). Cut into three pieces and add to the stock. Roughly chop the chilies, slice the ginger into thin slices, slice the head of garlic in half (don’t worry about peeling or separating the cloves) and add all of that to the stock as well. Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let hang out for a while (at least 1-2 hours).
  3. When you’re ready to make the soup, strain the broth to remove all of the aromatics (lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilies). Throw those away and set the broth aside. I used the same put for this whole process, so I just dried it out, added the olive oil to the (empty) pot and raised the heat to medium.
  4. When the oil is hot, add the carrots, cabbage & carrots. Saute for about 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the stock back to the pot and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat, and add the soy sauce, cilantro, sliced chicken, the mushrooms and the noodles. Let simmer for at least 10 minutes (if you use a different type of noodle, you can wait to add those so they don’t get mushy) and then test for seasonings.
  5. Serve with a little extra cilantro and some slice green onions.

What I’m Loving Wednesday

What I’m loving the most this week (by a loooooooong shot) is our vet. We took Buddy & Charlotte to the vet last Monday for their annual shots, and the doctor detected a heart murmur when she was listening to Buddy’s heart, so I took him in again on Friday for an echocardiogram. Luckily, his heart is fine. No defective valves or any signs of heart disease. I was super relieved…. until Sunday when we noticed that he was having trouble urinating. So, I took him back Monday morning. They kept him for the day so that they could get a urine sample. When she called me to tell me he was okay, I hauled ass back to their office to pick him up. And when I got there, everyone was telling me how amazing he was, and what an awesome cat he was. That always makes me happy to hear. They truly care about my animals. The first time we went there, the doctor spent an hour talking to us about a bump on Hermione’s nose & her behavioral problems. The doctor called me at 9:30 last night to check on Buddy. They never act rushed to get to another patient, or act like my questions are crazy. So, if you’re in the Hampton Roads area and are in need of a vet, check out Salty Paws Veterinary Hospital.
2014-10-31 07.16.17-1 How adorable are these bowls from Target? I noticed them about a month ago, and when I was at Target on Saturday I noticed them again. Only this time they were 75% off! It was impossible to resist them when they’re only $1.18. I really have no place to put them, but I couldn’t leave Target without them .
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This apple pear sangria was absolutely delicious. It was fruity, sweet, and so refreshing. I omitted the lemon zest, just because I didn’t want to deal with tiny pieces of lemon, but otherwise followed the recipe as posted. It was my first time making sangria at home… and since I have a whole bottle of limoncello left, I can’t wait to make another pitcher of it.
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Lazy Sundays. Usually I fill our weekends with activities. Whether it’s hiking or beach days, we never spend a whole day at home. This Sunday we did. We woke up, decided to go out for breakfast instead of cooking at home, and once we came back we just sat on the couch all day watching movies. We watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (since I had never seen it). That gave me the urge to watch National Treasure. We then continued our day of quest movies and watched The DaVinci Code. It was amazing and something we need to do more often.
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On my Civic I had a similar sticker, only it said Potter/Weasley 2012. When I bought my new car, I immediately emailed Christine from GoodMommyLtd to order a new sticker. Only this time, I requested a special one. Because we all know the REAL dream team is Harry & Hermione, not Harry & Ron. Christine is awesome and accommodating, and I really love her decals.
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These pie crust cutters from Williams-Sonoma are a total Thanksgiving pie game changer. How cool is this pie??? Unfortunately they don’t sell these exact shapes anymore, but they sell some on eBay. And these are so easy to use. The shapes hold their form perfectly, even the ones that stuck to the cutter. I love them and now I want to make a 1,000 pies with leaf cutouts. This pie turned out SO pretty. The recipe was adapted from this one from Four and Twenty Blackbirds. I wasn’t completely pleased with it though. The pie had great flavor, but was kind of runny. I’m going to try again with a few modifications, and share my recipe soon!
Bake. Create. Love. Salted Caramel Apple Pie (2)

Recipe: Shrimp Couscous Salad

 

Bake. Create. Love. Shrimp Couscous Salad 2

A couple of weeks ago we had an excellent lunch at Venture Kitchen & Bar. After indulging on the most amazing tater tots, I needed a lighter lunch. So, I ordered their salad special for the day, a shrimp couscous salad. It was arugula, topped with a mixture of couscous, feta and tomato, red onions, and then topped with the most amazing shrimp. It was really good, but I felt I could make it even better. And I did.
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I made a few simple changes (more, bigger pieces of tomato, more feta, omitted the onions and tossing the arugula in a vinaigrette before serving) and made a really healthy dinner that my husband and I went crazy over. I was worried he wouldn’t enjoy this, since he didn’t really like the original, but he loved it! Besides being delicious, this dinner came together really, really quickly. From start to finish, it took less than 15 minutes, so it’s a perfect weeknight dinner. Seriously, the part that took the longest was waiting for the dressing to un-solidify (I love Tessemae’s dressings, but I do hate that the oil hardens when they’re refrigerated).

Bake. Create. Love . Shrimp Couscous Salad

Shrimp Couscous Salad
(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

    • 4 cups of argula
    • ¾ cup of couscous
    • 1 cup of chicken stock
    • 1 t. of chicken base
    • 1/3 cup of crumbled feta
    • ½ cup of chopped tomato
    • 2 T. of your favorite vinaigrette (I used Tessemae’s Green Goddess)
    • ½ lb. of jumbo shrimp (about 12 shrimp)
    • 2 cloves of garlic; minced
    • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
    • 2 T. of olive oil
    • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Add the chicken base & the couscous. Turn the heat off, cover, and let sit while you prepare everything else (at least 5 minutes).
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are done, about 3-5 minutes. Toss with lemon juice just before serving.
  3. Toss the arugula in the vinaigrette and season with salt & pepper.
  4. Mix the couscous with the chopped tomato and feta. Season to taste.
  5. To serve, plate the arugula first, top with the couscous mixture and then the shrimp.

DONE. Super easy, delicious, weeknight dinner in less than 15 minutes.

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