Browsing articles from "June, 2012"
Jun 26, 2012

3-ingredient ice cream sandwich

From the kitchen of: Isabel  Makes: as many as you’d like
Total time: minutes to prepare

Three of my favorite ice cream truck treats were Super Mario Bros ice cream bar, the Bomb Pop and the ice cream sandwich. Whatever few coins we had in our pockets, my siblings and I would hear the truck roll through our neighborhood and we’d run out, literally, and hail them down. Life was so incredibly simple back then. Not a care in the world when we’re savoring our ice cream. If we didn’t have enough money for ice cream, we’d get a box of Lemonheads just to get something sweet, or in this case, something tart. I will say that the Super Mario bar was my top choice. However, I would occasionally break out of my box and get an ice cream sandwich. The basic ice cream sandwich was simple. There was no fuss involved. Everyone had their own way of eating it, but I always licked the vanilla off the sides and then I liked to squish the ice cream out and ate the chocolate part last. It was the best.

The recipe is a tribute to my childhood and to the classic ice cream sandwich. I cut some corners mainly because when I entertain I like to enjoy my company and allow them to partake in making their own dessert. With store-bought Italian pizzelle cookies that can be purchased at specialty stores, mini chocolate chips and vanilla bean ice cream, I made my own version of an ice cream sandwich that literally took minutes to prepare. This is certainly a twist to my childhood favorite, but still just as delicious and memorable.

Italian pizzelle cookies
mini chocolate chips
vanilla bean ice cream, or your favorite flavor

1. Gather ingredients.
Create an assembly line with all three ingredients. Remove the Italian Pizzelle cookies from the packaging and set aside. Next to the cookies, place the mini chocolate chips onto a plate, and then have your ice cream ready with an ice cream scoop.

2. Scoop ice cream. Lay two cookies on the counter. Scoop a large round of ice cream and gently place it on one cookie. Take the other cookie and lay on top of the ice cream applying a little pressure to flatten it. Be gentle, the cookie will break.

3. Add chocolate chips. With your fingers, sprinkle the mini chocolate chips around the edge of the ice cream while pressing the chips down so that they adhere to the ice cream. Make to serve and eat immediately. Enjoy!

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Jun 21, 2012

Charlottesville “Lipstick” Wine Tour

If you haven’t done this before, I highly recommend it. First things first, pick a person who doesn’t drink that much. They can be the driver. Haha. Pick 3-4 wineries in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. Map them on Google, copy and paste the map into something like the “Paint” application on your computer. With the spray can tool, which comes out looking like lipstick, connect the wineries. That’s how we designed our wine tour with our friend, Aaron, coining the term, “Lipstick Map.” Not as complicated as you think.

We went on our wine tour with another couple. It was actually their fabulous idea to go to Charlottesville and check out a few wineries with a brewery mixed in there. Our journey started with Veritas, then Blue Mountain Brewery for lunch, King Family and saving the best for last, Pippin Hill Farms. It was one of the best Saturdays with good wine, good friends and some beautiful Virginia mountains you’ve ever seen.

First stop: Veritas Vineyard & Winery {151 Veritas Lane  Afton, Virginia 22920}

I know a few people that have gotten married at Veritas. They have a beautiful indoor reception covered in lace drapery. I’m also very familiar with their wines because Veritas always makes an appearance at wine expos in the Richmond area, and I’ve actually bought a bottle or two of their red. The winery was really nice and sweet-looking. There was a wrap around deck that allows guests to sit outside to enjoy the scenery and weather. We went inside because it was a hot May day and we needed some wine to cool off. When we walked inside the tasting room, it was a drastic change from the exterior. The colors were bold. The atmosphere was very rugged and quite masculine. The wine itself was quite impressive. We sampled 8 very lovely wines, all I really enjoy. One in particularly we loved and got a glass of was the Mousseux. It’s a sparkling wine in a deep pink color. It was crisp and refreshing on a very warm day. The strawberry, cherry and raspberry flavors were clean and fresh. I could have drank a whole bottle.

Verdict: The wine here definitely didn’t disappoint. I highly enjoyed both the whites and reds, especially the Mousseux. The flavors were bold and distinct. The scenery though was not my favorite of the trip, mainly because it was a little hilly. Other than that, I’d go back for their wines! One recommendation, I wish they had ceiling fans outside…note that Veritas!

Second stop: Blue Mountain Brewery {9519 Critzer Shop Road  Afton, VA 22920}

As far as food and beer experience are concerned, Blue Mountain Brewery was our least favorite on the tour. We rolled up to the Brewery, packed as can be for a typical Saturday. They even had parking attendants directing traffic. Getting seated was not an issue, which was surprising. We ordered a flight of beer for everyone to share and ordered lunch. Well, sadly the beer was very very disappointing. I’ve drank my fair share of beer, good beer, and these Blue Mountain beers were terrible. There were about 8 different brews, all of which we did not enjoy. Jared, Mr. beer drinker, had to fight through to finish the beers. The food itself was just OK. My crab cake sandwich was tasteless. Didn’t have that fresh crab cake flavor that I love so much. Jared thought the description on the menu was tastier than his actual burger. The couple that did score was Aaron & Cyndy who ordered the pizza. If you do go there, just stick with the pizza.

Verdict: Not a place I would recommend nor have any desire of returning. Sorry, Blue Mountain. I wish your beer and food were better!

Third stop: King Family Vineyard {6550 Roseland Farm Crozet, VA 22932}

One of the coolest thing about this vineyard is the fact they have polo matches on the property. So, off behind the building were the horse stables. I was surprised as hell to see actual horses just chilling in the stables. It was pretty entertaining. But back to the wine. We arrived at the vineyard and immediately went inside the tasting room only to be bombarded with tons of people. It felt very touristy especially with the several bachelorette parties and tour groups. It felt crowded inside, so I wish it was a little larger and not as cramped. I guess we weren’t in the mood to compete with the loud crowds. But, we found a spot at the bar, started to taste and soon we couldn’t care less about the noise. The wines were solid. They went with fewer wines and perfected them really nicely. In this situation, their philosophy was “less is more.”

Verdict: The wines were solid, maybe not that memorable, but enjoyable. I think the bachelorette parties inside the winery annoyed me a bit. I did love the endless view. The mountains and a well-maintained property with the greenest grass would probably make me give this place another shot.

Fourth and last stop: Pippin Hill Farms {5022 Plank Road North Garden, VA 22959}

There aren’t any words to describe my love for Pippin Hill Farms. Literally, I am in LOVE with this place. Pippin Hill Farms is probably two years old. Because my day work involves weddings, I’m always looking at wedding photos and I’ve seen some gorgeous ones taken at Pippin. First off, the owners definitely designed this vineyard correctly. They were smart about the placement of the building. It sat on a hill overlooking the most breathtaking view that I take for granted living in Richmond. They certainly planned this place with weddings in mind. When you arrive, they have a deck overlooking the mountains with chairs facing outward. Couples can get married right on the lawn. There’s a reception area inside the barn. And then a tasting room where you can eat, drink and relax. If you don’t believe me, just look at the photos!

Verdict: If I were to renew my vows, I would do so here. If I were to get married for the first time, I would do so here. If I wanted to visit just one winery in Charlottesville, I would go here. Everything about this vineyard is absolutely breathtaking. From the views, décor, furniture, food and wines, this place is freakin’ unbelievable. Hands down, Pippin is my ultimate favorite.

We decided not to do a tasting of all their wines, rather just ordered a glass and ate more food. They serve small plates with seasonal local items designed to pair with their wines. We ordered a cheese platter which had some candied nuts, several fig jams and an orange marmalade. Besides the portions being a little small, there was nothing to dislike. I just wish there was more! We also ordered the hummus which was incredible fresh. Definitely tasted like it was made that day. As you can see, we left nothing behind. I will be honest with you, this place is not cheap. A glass of wine was $9. I recommend buying a bottle and splitting it.

Thanks so much Cyndy and Aaron for inviting us to Charlottesville! We had a wonderful time and I’m already thinking about the next 3-4 I want to visit next. This time, Jared can drive :)

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Jun 19, 2012

Roasted Balsamic Vinegar Red Onions and Blue Cheese Burger

From the kitchen of: Isabel  Makes: 4 burgers
Total time: 10 min to prep, 30 min to cook

The combination of blue cheese and balsamic vinegar packs a huge punch in this burger. Literally. I took a bite of it and the flavors were unbelievable strong, but so amazingly delicious. I love blue cheese. It has a very pungent taste. The blue/green veining in this cheese may not look too appetizing, but don’t let that scare you. The cheese is texturally creamy, it has a sharp and tangy bite. Blue cheese has an acquired taste, so if it’s not your favorite, there are hundreds of other cheeses to choose from. The red onions roasted in balsamic vinegar adds another dimension to the burger. The slight crunch from the onions gives it more texture. The roasted balsamic vinegar adds some sweetness and tartness, which help cut the sharpness of the cheese. Everything about this burger is bold and flavorful. So, if you love blue cheese and balsamic vinegar, this combination is for you.

1 large red onion, sliced
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar, plus a few more dashes
1 pound ground sirloin
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic power
blue cheese
olive oil
salt + pepper

1. Roast red onions.
Preheat oven to 350º. Meanwhile, slice the red onion about 1/4-inch thick. Place the onions on a baking sheet and season with 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/8 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix to combine and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Once the onions are roasted, remove from oven and add a few more dashes of balsamic vinegar. Mix together.

2. Grill the burgers. While the onions are roasting, heat a grill pan at medium temperature. Place the ground sirloin on a cutting board. Season with worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix together and then divide the seasoned beef into four equal parts. Flatten each portion to desired thickness. Place the patties on the hot grill pan and cook for 3-4 minutes each side.

3. Assemble burger. While the burger is cooking, slice the blue cheese into relatively-thick slices. It will crumble, but no worries. It’s good either way. On a toasted hamburger bun, place the burger and top with sliced (or crumbled) blue cheese and balsamic vinegar roasted onions. Add a touch of mayo and enjoy!

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Jun 12, 2012

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

From the kitchen of: Isabel  Makes: 6-8 servings
Total time: 10 min to prep, 15 min to fry

My very first recipe on Pretty Tasty Things was a Tilapia Fish Taco. It’s been a year and a few months since then and I still consider it one of my favorites. A few weeks ago when I asked my mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day, she replied “All I want is a meal cooked by you.” That is one thing I can certainly do. Plus, I’d rather make her a great meal than buy her something she’ll never wear or most likely return. Haha. Sorry Mom, you’re just very particular!

She came into town for Mother’s Day, and I made her, my sister who became a mom earlier this year, and my brother a throwback meal of my first recipe, but done slightly different. If you’ve been following Pretty Tasty Things, I’ve made a number of different tacos such as Carne Asada Tacos and Carne Adovada Tacos. They’re just so versatile that you can incorporate your own flavors and style. This time, I made my family Beer Battered Tilapia Fish Tacos topped with a sweet roasted corn salad, spicy chipotle aioli and red cabbage. Oh, speaking of beer, I definitely should drink less of it and include it in more of my cooking. The beer made for a crispy outer shell allowing the fish to stay moist and juicy.

6 fresh Tilapia fillets, or any firm white fish
1 1/2 cup flour, for batter
1/2 cup flour, for fish
1/4 cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bottle of beer, preferably an ale or lager
vegetable oil, for frying
salt + pepper
flour tortillas

1. Prep the fish.
Slice each Tilapia fillet into 8 equal portions. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

2. Make beer batter. In a medium-size bowl, add the dry ingredients — 1 1/2 cup flour, cornstarch, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in one bottle of beer. I used Fat Tire since that was already in my fridge. The batter’s consistency is similar to pancake batter.

3. Fry the fish. In a large pot or dutch oven, add vegetable oil about 2 inches deep. Heat oil to 350°. Meanwhile, lightly flour the seasoned fish portions in 1/2 cup of flour. Pat off the excess flour. Taking one fish at a time, dip it in the batter. Slowly drop the coated fish into the hot oil cooking 5-7 pieces at a time. Fry each side for 1 minute or so until the batter turns golden brown. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel lined tray. Season with salt and pepper while the fish is still hot. Repeat process with the rest of the fish portions.

4. Assemble tacos. Warm flour tacos either by microwave or oven. Add about 3 fish portions to each taco and top with roasted corn salad, chipotle aioli and red cabbage. Enjoy!

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Jun 7, 2012

Sampling Broad Appetit $3 at a time

One of the best food festivals that I love the most in RVA is the annual Broad Appétit. I look forward to it every single year. My sister from D.C. even makes it down for this event. I’m serious when I say, it’s one of the best. The concept of this festival is very simple. Each restaurant prepares $3 mini-dish favorites for you to try. You go up to to a booth, read their menu and pay $3 if you want to sample. It’s a great way to try restaurants that you’ve never been before and finding some gems that you would definitely revisit.

My mother-in-law was in town for the weekend, so this was one event Jared and I brought her to. From past experience, getting to Broad Appétit early is important. As soon as it starts at 11 a.m., we were there. That way, we can get our sample with no line and hang out for the rest of the afternoon. They even had local beer to sell, which I would have partaken in, but was full from all the eating. We tried 9 different dishes, lets take a look at each one!

1. Korean barbecue on a scallion pancake from Ginkgo:
Our first sample of the day wasn’t too bad. It was a good idea, but the scallion pancake needed some work. I’m assuming it was prepared the night before or the morning of, so it tended to be on the dry and tough side. However, the Korean barbecue on top of the pancake was super tender and sweet. The relish was crunchy adding a nice texture overall.

2. Pulled pork over a bed of gnocchi and apples from Community Kitchen:
This was our first time eating gnocchi and it was heavenly. I believe they were making the gnocchi on the spot. All the flavors in this dish were nicely balanced. It was salty and sweet with a creamy, light sauce.

3. Spicy shrimp and grits from Mansionfive26:
So highly disappointed about a dish I typically enjoy eating. Really lacked on spice and flavor. The shrimps were small and the sauce was too watery. I wanted it to be good, but I’ve had better (at Balliceaux). The grits were cooked very nicely though.

4. Ribeye taco and Teriyaki beef taco from Boka Truck:
I’m not a Boka truck virgin anymore!! All the times I wanted to try a taco from the Boka truck, the line was a mile long. This time, it wasn’t! The tacos were very different in taste than the typical Mexican-style. These were more Asian-inspired with loads of spice and texture. Solid tacos!

5. Salmon over rice from La Parisienne Bistro & Cafe:
Not one of my favorites, but my mother-in-law enjoyed it a lot. For me, there was just too much going on. There were so many different kinds of flavors in the rice, sauce and salmon that I felt a little overwhelmed and sadly, underwhelmed at the same time.

6. Crab cake from Martin’s:
One of my favorite foods is a well-made crab cake. Surprisingly enough, the crab cake from Martins’ (of all places) was all crab and done really well! The presentation lacked, but the aioli and side vegetables complimented the crab really nicely. The cake was lumpy with lots of crab and not a lot filling, which is my kind of crab cake. Very nice.

7. Salted Chocolate Caramel cake from Shyndigz:
Best damn slice of cake I’ve ever eaten. Hands down. The combination of chocolate, salt and caramel was UNBELIEVABLE and inspiring. They also had a key lime cheesecake to sample, which was equally as good. I will honestly check their bakery shop on Patterson to try more! LOVED IT.

8. Pork belly with slaw on a steamed bun from Sticky Rice:
It was our first time eating pork belly, and boy, I’m in trouble. May not be the healthiest, but ironically, it wasn’t too salty or oily. I do wish the cut was a tab larger because the steamed bun was kinda big.

9. Seared scallop with roasted corn and bacon from Spoons:
Can’t leave the festival without eating a perfectly cooked scallop. Spoons offered this super fresh scallop that just melted in my mouth. The sweetness from the corn and saltiness from the bacon added so much flavor. A favorite.

And so that wraps up our food experience at Broad Appétit. If I had to pick my favorite dish from all that I sampled, it would be the salted chocolate caramel cake. I know it’s a dessert, but it was to die for. My second favorite would be pork belly buns. If you missed out this year, definitely make an attempt to remember next year. Look, even this kid (my nephew) had a great time at his first Broad Appétit experience!

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