Apr 4, 2012

Wine for $4? La Finca all the way!

I threw a small dinner party last Friday night for some friends from college. It was a mini reunion filled with laughs and good times. I traditionally like serving a special cocktail, but time got the best of me. So, I decided to serve red wine and beer. We got a 24-bottle case of Yuengling for only $17 at Costco. Cheap, huh?! And for wine, I also went cheap, but still delicious. The average price for a bottle of wine is probably around $12. Well, $12 is too much for my pocket especially when you have to buy several. I recommend going to your nearest Trader Joe’s and picking up a few bottles of La Finca.

There are three types of La Finca red at Trader Joe’s — Cabernet Souvignon, Malbec and Tempranillo. I’ve sampled each one and I usually go for the Cab and Malbec. Mind you, it’s still a $4 bottle. So don’t expect this to be the best wine you’ve ever drank. It’s good because it’s cheap and sometimes, that’s good enough for me. The flavors are not bad at all, not as full-bodied as I like, but hey, it’s still pretty tasty.

This has been my wine of choice for dinner parties lately. Never disappoints. Whether you go with La Finca or another drinkable wine at Trader Joe’s, I say $4 for a bottle of wine is the way to go. People don’t even notice after their third glass…ha. It’s true! Anyways, lets hear from you. What’s your favorite super cheap wine and where can I get it?


Apr 3, 2012

Greek beauty and comfort at Stella’s

I’ve lived in Richmond for seven years now, and never stepped foot in Stella’s until now. I even lived less than five block away and never noticed it before. If you’re a Richmonder like me, and this is the first time you’re hearing about Stella’s, let me take you on a small tour. Stella’s is a rustic and modern Greek neighborhood restaurant located on Lafayette street between Monument and Patterson avenues.

As you walk inside, you’re immediately in awe of the interior design and ambiance—the wide open space, large windows with sunshine coming through, terracotta pots surrounding the ceiling, black and white family portraits displayed on the walls, wooden rustic chairs and beautiful light gray marble countertops—I was in love.

This is my favorite photo I took of the bar with the mirrored backdrop. I just love the reflection of the liquor bottles, terracotta pots and large artwork.

In the middle of the restaurant was a large family table fit for a much larger party, probably 15 or so. It would be a great place to reserve for a birthday dinner or brunch, or even a baby shower.

So, like I mentioned I never went to Stella’s until this weekend. And the funny thing is, I went twice! Once for lunch on Friday and for brunch on Sunday. I had a special guest in town, one of my best friends from college. She was visiting from NYC so I decided to take her here. Totally a great decision! But what was even better was ordering a mimosa to kick off her visit. Mind you, the mimosas were huge for only $6. It was literally the size of two traditional fluted mimosas in one large mason jar. They also had a pomegranate mimosa, which I must try next time.

Because of Lent, I couldn’t eat meat so I opted for their “Famous Grilled Cheese” with their fried potatoes for $6. It was a solid meal, a little too much carbs for my taste, but that was my fault. The grilled cheese was made with cheddar with thick slices of white bread. The fried potatoes were large wedges sprinkled with a medley of dried herbs.

My friend, Jenny, got the Souvlaki Pita chicken for $9. Just look at that massive plate of food. I need to go back and try that one!

It was our lucky day because I ran into a friend who happened to be a waitress at Stella’s. She offered us dessert…her treat. How could we say no? We tried these chocolate truffles with Greek yogurt and strawberries. Oh, it was truly decadent and delicious. The combination of the chocolate, yogurt and strawberry was the perfect trio in one single bite. It worked so well together. I’m not even a huge fan of yogurt! But I was a fan of this.

We returned on Sunday and brought Jared with us this time for brunch. I wanted him to experience this place. Brunch was equally as good. Because I had drank too much the night before, I needed coffee, which they served Carytown coffee. My liver just couldn’t do a mimosa…haha.

And of course, I ordered their Stella’s Crab Benedict with jumbo lump crab meat on an artisan roll topped with poached eggs and drizzled with a sundried tomato hollandaise. All for $12. Um, delish! It’s not your traditional benedict. There wasn’t any ham nor was it on an English muffin. It was definitely less saltier without the traditional ham, however, the roll was a little too heavy. I felt it overpowered the delicate and super fresh crab meat. But overall, it was pretty damn good.

Jared ordered the traditional Greek omelette with tomato, spinach and feta for $9.

Jenny had the Tsouresk, which was Greek Easter bread french toast with almond, topped with fresh fruit and powdered sugar only for $8.

There’s something for everyone at Stella’s, whether you go for lunch, brunch or dinner. Not only was this a beautiful place to dine, they served beautiful food. I am so happy I was able to take Jenny and Jared there, and I will certainly go back. Maybe happy hour next time to try their small plates. Thanks, Stella’s for a wonderful dining experience—food and all.

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Mar 29, 2012

Global knives and a magnetic holder, a good pair

Registering for gifts was actually a blessing for Jared and I because we literally had nothing before we got married. We both had our fair share of Goodwill finds and college-rusted utensils, and I was sick of it! It was finally time to upgrade so we gave our used things back to Goodwill and registered for anything and everything. When we moved into our new home, our kitchen was set with new and shiny things we received from our friends and family. All the other rooms were empty, but the kitchen was packed! Haha.

Not gonna lie, there was one item we didn’t use right away just because I didn’t want to ruin them—my Global 3-piece knife set. Besides the stainless steel pots & pans and Kitchen Aid mixer, these knives were the third most expensive item on the list. Man, oh man, they are sharp as hell and feels so naturally in the hand. I will never go back to my non-name brand knife. Look at these beauties…

Before I opened the knives, I needed a place to put them. From Bed, Bath and Beyond, we purchased the magnetic knife holder for a mere $16.99. It measures a foot long and attaching it to the wall was simple. The holder comes with two screws that you drill into the pre-drilled holes on both sides of the holder. Pretty sturdy. So far so good. The Global 3-piece knife set was little more pricey at $229, which includes a 5 1/2″ carving, 8″ chef and 3″ paring knives.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering why I registered for these knives. For no good reason at all, I saw chefs on TV cooking with them. Now I know why :)

As you can see, I have several other knives on the magnetic holder. It’s a great tool for those lacking cabinet space, which we do. And that’s the main reason why I waited so long to use these knives. I didn’t want to dump them in a cabinet with all my other kitchen gadgets. I needed a designated spot for the knives and for less than $20, I’d say this holder makes complete sense. So, if you’re looking to invest in a fantastic set of knives and a holder, I totally recommend these two items.

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Mar 27, 2012

Southern Pepperoni Biscuits

From the kitchen of: Southern Biscuit and Pearly Squirrely   Makes: 24 biscuits
Total time:
15 min to prep, 10-12 min to bake

I was first introduced to these Southern Biscuits during our trip to Ohio a few weeks ago for a wedding. I fortunately had a chance to talk and mingle with the bride and groom’s family. I was speaking to the groom’s grandmother, Pearly Squirrely, and the discussion of biscuits came about. Pearly Squirrely lives in Charleston, WV, a throw stone’s away from the infamous Biscuit World. She told me about her own recipe for pepperoni biscuits telling me that the secret was the flour. The next morning after the wedding, we gathered for breakfast where she baked these moist, airy biscuits with bits of pepperoni mixed in. When I asked her how she made them, she practically said, just follow the directions on the back on the flour. Haha. I guess her secret was not so much the ingredients, but the mix.

3 1/4 cups Southern Biscuit Complete Mix (found at Food Lion)
1 1/4
1/2 bag 7 oz Hormel Pepperoni, chopped
2 tablespoon butter, melted

1. Prepare the pepperoni.
Roughly chop the pepperoni, about half a 7 oz bag. Set aside. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450°.

2. Prepare biscuits. In a large mixing bowl, add the Southern Biscuit mix with buttermilk stirring with fork or wooden spoon. Stir together using as few strokes as possible, just mix until completely combined. At this point, also add the chopped pepperoni and lightly mix in with the dough. The dough will be a little sticky and loose. (We didn’t add the pepperoni until later, which was a mistake. Better to add the pepperoni at this step.)

3. Cut out biscuits. Place the dough on a floured surface using some of the biscuit mix. With a floured rolling pin, gently roll the dough 1/2-inch thick.  Using a floured biscuit cutter or glass cup, cut biscuits and place them in baking pans so the sides are lightly touching. With the remaining dough, reform and cut out more biscuits.

4. Bake. Place biscuits in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until tops are lightly golden brown. Remove biscuits from oven and brush melted butter over the tops. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Mar 23, 2012

How I freeze my meats

I am a little paranoid about being wasteful, especially because my parents taught me at a very young age not to be. We ate at home 98% of the time. We ate whatever my parents cooked and finished whatever was on our plates. My parents were born and raised in the Philippines so I can understand their parenting habits. I am the same way today, and can’t imagine not teaching my kids the same habits.

One of my ways to not be wasteful starts with freezing my meats. It would be a shame to spend so much money on good quality meat for it to be ruined in the freezer. Because of my paranoia, I have three important steps to preparing my meats for the freezer. I know this might be a little over-the-top, but I’d rather not waste my food and money!

1. Cover with cling wrap. This first step is very important when preparing meats for the freezer. Be sure to wrap the meat tightly with cling wrap ensuring the cling wrap touches the meat. Remove any air pockets.

2. Cover with foil. This second step helps keep the meat fresh. After you’ve wrapped the meat with cling wrap, cover tightly with foil to prevent freezer burn.

3. Place in freezer zip lock bag. Just to be on the safe side, take your meat wrapped in plastic and then in foil, and place it in a freezer zip lock bag. As you zip up the bag, remove any air.

So these are my three steps to keep the meats cozy in the freezer. Just place the bags in the freezer and they should stay good for a few months.  To defrost, refrigerator overnight or pop in the microwave. Taking these extra steps is worth it!

With pork chops this time, cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Cover tightly with foil.

Place in a freezer zip lock bag and then freeze! The secret to keep the freezer burn away from your meats.

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