Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Oasis Cafe Ocala, Florida

After having been closed for a time, Oasis Cafe reopened with new owners and a new menu and look. Located on Route 200 in a small plaza it is rather close to our home in Ocala and we decided to give it a try. We had been unimpressed with its previous incarnation after one visit and were somewhat reluctant to try again. I am very glad we overcame that reluctance.

We went there this morning at about 10:15. We were seated in the back room and soon had our coffee and orange juice in front of us. I had been told by my brother in law that two people he knows swear by their eggs Benedict. That got my attention and that is what I ordered. The eggs Benedict are served with shaved ham in place of Canadian bacon and also come with homefries, hashbrowns, grits, a tomato slice or fresh fruit. I opted for homefries which I would not order again. 

Al ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese on a hard roll. Unfortunately, they don't offer a hard roll so he had it on white toast. He also got home fries. What we really liked was they asked how he wanted the egg cooked, no one ever does that, we said medium well and Al said it was perfect. 

I was very pleased with the eggs Benedict, the eggs were cooked perfectly and the sauce was good. The homefries were not great, quite plain. I would opt for the fresh fruit next time. We did ask for the homefries well done and I don't think it was necessary. 

They had some very interesting things on the menu and I will be delighted to go back and try it again maybe get the French toast. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Freddy Frozen Custard and Steakburger Ocala, Fl

Freddy's Frozen Custard is located on Rte 200 very close to I-75. We were looking for a burger and I Googled best burger in Ocala. Last year we fell in love with Burger 21 but they have closed so we needed to find some place new to enjoy. Freddy's is the name that came up consistently. 

We dined in and the atmosphere is a combination of 1950's diner and modern fast food. You place your order then your number called. 

Burgers are not cooked before you order them, they are fresh cooked for you. That makes a big difference. The beef does not seem to be a premade pattie either. They are all cooked one temperature but ours were wonderfully juicy and delicious so it didn't seem to matter. The French fries are very thin and well cooked but frozen so nothing to write home about. 


We got a single burger meal which included the drink as well. For $11 I thought it was a great bargain for a very tasty burger. We got it with grilled onions and it was very good. 

The staff was very efficient and friendly and they give you a number and you go and get your burger when it is done a lot like 5 Guys. Now if we could get the French fries from 5 Guys and the burgers from Freddy's , we would have the absolutely perfect meal but the burger is good enough to justify choosing Freddy's. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Anyone can do it Lemony Chicken

I love lemon and chicken, especially chicken piccata. I decided that it was time to try to make it myself. I bought just about a pound a thin sliced chicken breasts. I also bought a mallet so I could pound the chicken to make it thinner. 

Since I have loads of new cookbooks I looked through several of them and combined what I liked from several different recipes. 

First I put about a quarter cup of Wondra on a plate and added salt and pepper, this you can do to taste. I used my red copper pan and heated a combination of olive oil and butter on medium. Place the chicken in the pan and cook 2-3 minutes per side until the chicken is fully cooked. 

I took the chicken and placed it on a plate in the oven at 325. I cook a bag of Barilla penne pre-cooked pasta. 

Now for the sauce. 

2 tsp butter
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup capers
1 tablespoon crushed chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Wondra

Add all the ingredients to the pan with the oil and butter and scrape all the brown bits up. 

Reduce until it begins to thicken. 

Place penne on a plate, put the chicken on top and pour sauce over.  Enjoy.

Al loved this and says he could see eating this once a month and I agree, it was delicious and quite easy. 



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Country ribs in the slow cooker

I bought a rather large package of country ribs at Winn Dixie on Monday. I thought I would cook them in the slow cooker. They are in here now on 8 hours of slow cooking. I added a bottle of Sticking Fingers Sweet Carolina BBQ Sauce and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, I would have loved to have a can of crushed pineapple to add. 

At the end of cooking time,  I placed the ribs and sauce in the fridge for dinner the next day. I warmed the ribs up in the microwave for 4 minutes and made mashed potatoes and lima beans to go along with it. 

Al's opinion of them was "excellent, excellent, excellent". From his that is the highest praise since what I usually get is "not bad". I have to agree, it was absolutely delicious. The sauce was delicious and frankly, I didn't miss the pineapple but I think next time I will try it. 

This is a recipe we loved and I will definitely be making it again. 
Leftovers

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Use a thermometer for perfectly cooked meat

When it comes to cooking meat of almost any kind, the internal temperature is very important. Not only will it guarantee that your meat will be cooked just the way you prefer, well done, medium or rare, but it will ensure that your meat is cooked enough to kill the bacteria that may be growing in and on it. It is not a very appealing thought to be sure, but meat safety has become a real issue as more and more people are sickened from e-Coli and other bacteria. This is where your trusty meat thermometer comes in.

Different meats have different requirements

Different types and cuts of meat have different cooking requirements. While one temperature may be perfect for beef it may not be okay for chicken. One of the things that every cook needs to know or at least have access to is a list of the correct internal temperatures for the types and cuts of meat that they are cooking.

Most good general cookbooks such a Good Housekeeping or Betty Crocker will have a chart to assist you. You can also use your smartphone or computer to help you. The website Foodsafety.gov is a good place for general information on meat food safety. For more specific temperatures for types of meat that can be served at different temperatures and still be safe, try this website.

Poultry
Poultry is one of the most worrisome types of meat when it comes to safety. It is important that it be cooked enough to be safe but if it is overcooked, it can become dry and tasteless. Using a meat thermometer can help you to find the perfect time to take the poultry out of the over. Cutting into the meat to check the redness allows juices to escape and is not good when you want juicy meat. With a whole bird, the thermometer should be inserted into the thigh near the breast but not touching any bone. You want it to be one of the thickest places. 

Steaks and roasts

With steaks and roasts, always place the thermometer away from the bone, but not in fat or gristle. It should be as close to the center as possible and in the middle of the thickest part.


Types of thermometers

There are several different types of meat thermometers. The traditional type goes in when the meat does and you need to check it every so often to see where the temperature is. Some have large dials can be viewed without opening the oven door if placed correctly. Digital instant-read thermometers allow you to just stick the probe into the meat and get an instant reading. Keep in mind that the meat will continue to cook after it is removed from the oven, so a couple of degrees shy of perfect is really perfect.

When purchasing your thermometer, read the packaging carefully to be sure that it is designed for meat — not all thermometers are.

A meat thermometer will help you be a better cook. It will let you keep your family safe, but still, serve juicy meat cooked just the way you like it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I Bambini Mooresville, NC

I was in the mood for Italian food and while we were stuck at the Candlewood Suites on Charlotte Highway I wanted to find one that was close to the hotel. Got to love Google, I found I Bambini which was just a little over a mile down the road. I checked the reviews on Trip Advisor and they averaged 4 which is a good indicator so we decided to go there for lunch. 

I am so glad we did. The exterior was not impressive, it is in a small strip mall and while it was neat and clean nothing made it stand out. We were, however, warmly greeted when we entered the door and soon had our seats and menus. For lunch, they offer a buffet as well as the menu so I looked that over first. 

I ordered sweet tea, which our waiter replaced without me ever asking and even offered to send me home with one, lol. I ordered the buffet and Al got the veal parmigiana. The buffet is not huge but what was on it was good. I tried the spaghetti ala vodka, the meat lasagna, meat tortellini, chicken and hamburger and potatoes. I also made a small plate with spinach salad and mixed olives. 

As some other reviewers states, the chicken was dry but the lasagna was excellent and so was the spaghetti. Let's just say my plate was empty when he took it away. Pepperoni pizza was also offered and two kinds of soup. 

I finished up with two pieces of watermelon, these little-fried dough squares rolled in cinnamon and a small piece of spice cake. All this was $7, I was much more than happy. 

Al's veal was wonderful, so tender and the sauce was good too. We liked their food enough to order more to take back to the room for dinner and I have to say, the fettucini Alfredo with chicken was a huge portion and delicious. It will go on the road with us in our cooler to eat when we get home. 

I have not one complaint about this restaurant. Was it the best Italian food I have ever eaten? Probably not but it was good and the portions are generous and the prices are ridiculously low compared to what we pay at home. If you are in the area and looking for some good home cooking, I highly recommend I Bambini

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Planning a progressive dinner

What exactly is a progressive dinner? A progressive dinner is one where each course of the meal is served at a different location. This is the kind of dinner that can work very well for a neighborhood party where guests can walk to different homes or apartments. It is a great way to plan a dinner party that has at least four courses, with each host responsible for one course.


Hosts Should Live Near Each Other

A progressive dinner will work best if homes are not located too far apart. Try to allow less than 15 minutes for travel time. This way if you go for a four-course dinner, you can allow 45 minutes for the socializing and consumption of the meal and 15 minutes for travel time. Be sure to designate drivers if you’re serving alcohol.

Plan Ahead

A progressive dinner requires some planning to gel into a cohesive meal. The hosts should get together ahead of time to agree on a theme and plan accordingly. In addition to preparing one course of the meal, each host or hostess will also want to have the appropriate d├ęcor to enhance the whole experience.

The guests and hosts should meet at the first location where the appetizer course will be served. The cooks are encouraged to travel along with the group, so all food should be prepared in advance in a way that it can quickly and easily be served.


Appetizers

Many appetizers would make an excellent first course for a progressive dinner. It is important when planning to discuss how you want to handle this course. Do you want to serve cocktails and finger food or do you want to begin the meal with a sit-down course? Whatever the decision, it should reflect the theme that has been chosen for the meal.


Salad/Soup

A salad is an easier course than soup in some ways however, there are soups that are perfect cold and others that will keep well in a crock pot or slow cooker. Be sure to consider having bread or a starch such as crackers to go along with the soup. 


Main Dish

Since a progressive dinner should be a minimum of four courses, the main course does not need to be overly large. While serving a meat, starch and vegetable may be appealing, for a progressive dinner, a casserole may be a lot easier to keep and present well. Meals such as lasagna, paella or beef stew all make excellent main courses, especially for your first progressive meal.


Dessert

The type of dessert will be determined by how heavy the main meal was. If it was a light meal, a cake or pie is an excellent choice for a rich finish. If the main meal was heavy, a light dessert such as mousse or ice cream might be ideal.

Planning and executing a progressive dinner can be a lot of fun. It works well in any season and can be created with all foods that are served cold or hot, or a combination. You can set a theme, say French dishes or Italian dishes but it isn't required.  Always check for any food allergies before deciding on the menu for the progressive dinner You get to taste a variety of people’s food and you only have to cook one course yourself — how great is that?