Tag Archives: wordpress

Chez Carey! Healthy Pad Thai recipe

Standard

pad thai 1

I believe I have come up with a TOTAL winner. I LOVE Pad Thai, but the calories and fat in a normal serving make it very hard for me to justify- especially with an upcoming wedding and a commitment to stay on track with Weight Watchers allowances.

I’m a BIG fan of PB2 by Bell Plantations http://www.bellplantation.com/. It’s basically powdered peanut butter than you can reconstitute with water. It removes all of the oils and fats and you’re left with very peanut buttery tasting yumminess for very few calories. I have used it in as regular peanut butter, but haven’t really done a lot of cooking or experimenting with it yet, except for mixing it in with frozen bananas to make pb/banana ice cream, or making awesome smoothies with it. I had been looking at recipes on their website for inspiration and after reading a few of their Thai Noodles recipes, decided to take that idea and run with it….and my experiment was a major success. It will definitely be repeated soon. As always, my recipes are just loose guidelines since I don’t really measure anything out…Interpret and adjust it however you’d like.

Here’s the concept!

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

PB2 (about 6 Tablespoons)

Sesame Oil

Sriracha sauce

Hot water

Brown rice vinegar

Ginger

Garlic

Cilantro

Bragg’s Amino Acids (or light soy sauce if you don’t have Bragg’s)

Honey

Mix all of that up in a bowl or measuring cup and keep adding hot water in tiny bits until you get to the consistency you want. It should be semi-thick so it will coat the noodles.

Meanwhile, stir fry the following in a wok with a little coconut oil. (I julienned all of the veggies, but you don’t really have to. It just looks prettier that way.)

Carrots

Baby Corn

Scallions

red peppers

Shiitake mushrooms

Shrimp

And then throw in a bag of WELL- RINSED and lightly boiled (for 1 minute) kelp noodles like these: http://www.kelpnoodles.com/

or miracle noodles like these: http://www.miraclenoodle.com/

I can’t stress enough how important it is to rinse either of those noodles before cooking them.

Toss everything together and then pour the sauce over the top and mix well.

Thinly slice some cucumbers and chop some peanuts to top each dish with and VIOLA! Low fat, low cal, AMAZING tasting Pad Thai. Enjoy! You’re welcome!

I should really open a cafe one of these days 🙂

Jacks on Marion: 201 W Marion Ave, Punta Gorda, FL

Standard

jacksonmarion1jacks on marion 2

I was SO excited that my old friend Betsy- who was my restaurant buddy when I lived in NYC, was here for a visit last weekend. Her parents have a condo in Sanibel Island, which is about 3 hours from where Gabriel and I live in Sarasota. We checked Google maps and found that Punta Gorda was about halfway between us and off I went to check Yelp for a place to meet for lunch. We found Jacks on Marion, took a look at their menu online, and thought it would be a great place to try.

We met there and were seated immediately. The waitress brought over water and menus and made some suggestions for us. The three of us decided to share the ‘Island Goat Cheese’ appetizer, which is described as; ‘warm macadamia nut crusted, apricot coulis served with flatbread Crostini ‘. It was okay, but not as spectacular as the description made it sound. The macadamia crust really just tasted like deep-fried breading to me. The cheese inside was warm, creamy and gooey. The apricot coulis added a nice sweet touch, but was nothing more than apricot jam as far as I could tell. The bread was fine, but not particularly fresh. It was basically just corners of pita-type bread.

For my entree I ordered the ‘Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella’ and added grilled shrimp to it. It was fairly basic greens with slices of not-very-ripe tomatoes and mozzarella on top. This is clearly not truly ‘fresh’ mozzarella as it had that sort of rubbery/chewy texture. I’ve had homemade mozzarella that melts in your mouth- like the amazing creation from Mozzerella Fella in Sarasota, https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/09/13/mozzarella-fella-1668-main-st-sarasota-fl/ and I guess it’s pretty much ruined me for any and all store-bought, not-homemade, cheese at this point. The shrimp on the salad were fresh and cooked right, and the balsamic glaze and basil were well-balanced and flavorful, but the salad overall was pretty boring and not particularly creative or high-quality.

I guess my summary of Jacks is that it’s fine. It’s okay. It’s nothing really special or worth re-visiting. There aren’t a ton of great lunch options in this sort of sleepy tourist community, but I think it’s worth a little more searching if we go back. We DID however find a fantastic homemade ice cream place that I forgot to photograph…and I would STRONGLY urge you to go eat your lunch in a cone if you are in the area 🙂 It’s called Cubby’s. Give it a shot! http://www.yelp.com/biz/cubbys-homemade-ice-cream-punta-gorda

Solorzano Bros Pizza, 3604 Webber St, Sarasota, FL

Standard

solorzano 1 solorzano 2 solorzano 3

As a New Yorker who moved to Sarasota a year ago, I’m constantly on a quest to find pizza that comes close to what I know and love. Most pizza places around here, to put it bluntly, really suck. A few months ago, I found G’s Pizza (https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/07/25/gs-pizzaria-7119-s-tamiami-trail-sarasota-fl/) and have been pretty happy to satisfy a craving there when the need strikes. It’s very close to work which is great, but it’s pretty far from where I live- and we are definitely NOT in their delivery zone. I think it was my review of G’s which prompted the owner of Solorzano’s to email me suggesting that I give them a try. Well, a pizza craving hit hard yesterday so Gabriel and I headed over to their Webber St. location which is less than 10 minutes from our house.

When we arrived, we found that their choice of slices was limited to plain or pepperoni only- apparently they’d had a busy day already and sold out of everything else. The boy behind the counter told us he’d be happy to make us slices of whatever we wanted anyway, which we were happy to hear. The very reasonable $6 lunch special I ordered included any slice, a house salad, a drink and 2 garlic knots. (Well, I’m actually not entirely sure that it normally includes the garlic knots or if that was something he threw in after I mentioned that I’m a food blogger. Either way, nice touch.)  I ordered artichoke and mushrooms for my slice of pizza and sat down to wait for my meal. A few moments later, a lovely salad with perfectly ripe, red, tomato slices, red onions, fresh cucumbers, romaine lettuce and a great balsamic dressing came out, along with my slice and a couple of huge garlic knots.

Everything looked awesome and I was ready to dive in. The salad was a generous portion of fresh and colorful veggies, and the slice looked VERY New York. My first bite was promising. Yes! The cheese was full of flavor, hot and bubbly and the sauce was slightly sweet and the right amount. My only gripe was the crust. The texture and taste were spot-on, but it was just slightly too thick for me. I personally like a good, thin, fold-over-able NY style crust over one that’s really bread-y.  Even so, this is pretty damn close to what I want in a slice, and I will definitely give it my stamp of approval. The garlic knots were really oversized compared to the typical NY ones, and they tasted great. Crusty outside and doughy/chewy inside. They could have used a little more garlic, but I’m admittedly a garlic freak. I am very curious to go back to try the other types of pizza- there were SO many appealing choices, like ‘Farmer’s Market made with fresh local produce, the ‘Sinatra’, a white pie with fresh tomato slices and basil, as well as the ‘Margarita’ with fresh basil and mozzarella. I’d also like to try the eggplant parmesan at some point.

The setting itself was very authentic and made me feel like I was back up north. I liked the Rat Pack music playing on the speakers and thought it added a cute touch to the old time-y Italian feel. There are plenty of tables outside which I would have enjoyed except that it happened to be a very windy day. We decided to sit atop the red stools inside and were comfortable there. We thought it was interesting that there’s another supposedly authentic NY pizza shop in the same plaza, and after seeing 4 stars on Yelp figured that now we’re gonna have to try that one too. That said, I am quite sure our next delivery order will be from Solorzano’s regardless. I’m very happy to be able to throw away the delivery menus I’ve collected and rejected so far and replace the subpar choices near me with the very good Solorzano Bros. instead. Bravo! We will be back!

Tandoori Indian Restaurant: 3440 Clark rd. Sarasota, FL HAS MOVED TO 8453 Cooper Creek Blvd

Standard

mango lassipappadum and 3 sauces, tamarind etcchickpea potatoes patties appnaanrotieggplant entreesaag paneerbasmati rice

I feel like I’ve said this a lot more times than I ever expected to, but WOW, great ethnic food in Sarasota?!?! Amazing! Who knew?

Gabriel and I bought a coupon deal to go to Tandoori Indian Restaurant based on a recommendation from my boss. We decided to go a few nights ago when I had a serious craving for Sag Paneer. (Fresh homemade cottage cheese cubes cooked in fresh creamy spinach gravy, very delicately spiced.) This is one of those dishes that I get intense cravings for every so often, and since I’ve recently cut meat out of my diet and am finding less options on most menus, I am so happy to say that this favorite of mine is still a-okay.

When we arrived, it was a fairly empty restaurant but we noticed quickly that a lot of their business seems to be in take-out. Quite a few people came to pick up their ‘to go’ orders while we ate. The waitress came over and brought menus and water and made some suggestions at our request. She also brought out the delicious, creamy, sweet, mango lassis we ordered, as well as some crisp popadom with the 3 classic sauces: tamarind, mint chutney and onion. My favorite is always tamarind and I always ask for extra to use on the rice and entrees as well.

We decided to try the Ragda Patties (crispy fried potato patties topped with chick peas cooked in onion & tomato paste spiced with ground spices and finished off with our house yogurt and tamarind & mint chutney) as our appetizer. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it WAS really delicious. It was mainly chick peas, spiced with really interesting flavors, and the patties it sat atop were decadent, creamy, potatoes. They didn’t really seem crispy to me- as described in the menu, but they were very flavorful and the texture contrast with the chickpeas was interesting.

For our entrees, we shared the Sag Paneer, which was perfect, and the Baingan Bharta (roasted, de-skinned and pureed eggplant, cooked with turmeric, onions and tomatoes, seasoned with herbs & lightly flavored with a hint of freshly ground fried spices) which was also really wonderful. The basmati rice that came with it and the Tandoori Naan and Roti we ordered were the perfect platforms for the complex flavors of our entrees.

Overall, I am really happy to have had a chance to try Tandoori and will definitely be back. The owner came out to chat with us to tell us that they will soon be moving to a new location in Coopers Creek off of University Drive- and we are glad to know they will be in an area that we frequent. As a New Yorker who used to think that Jackson Heights, Queens is really the best place outside of India (not that I’ve actually been there) to eat Indian food, I am VERY pleasantly surprised to find awesome, authentic, Indian cuisine right here in Sarasota, Florida. Bravo Tandoori!

 

UPDATE: Tandoori Grill has moved to 8453 Cooper Creek Blvd and is STILL awesome. Gabriel and I had dinner there last week and the food was FANTASTIC. YAY!! It’s so close to where I live now and the $9.99 buffet still has tons of vegetarian options.

Saigon Hibachi: 935 N Beneva Rd. Suite 701. Sarasota, FL

Standard

saigon hibachi2 saigon hibachi3 saigon hibachi5 saigon hibachi4 saigon hibachi6

 

Saigon Hibachi was another ‘Pho Cali was closed so we looked elsewhere’ kind of discovery for Gabriel and I. We happen to live 2 minutes away, and when we found some good reviews online, we thought it was surely worth a try. What a totally pleasant surprise to find another very good Japanese/Vietnamese restaurant in Sarasota– and this one is easy to get into with normal hours and no wait times! Awesome.

We were both rather hungry and decided to order a bunch of things to try. We assumed we’d eat half of everything and take the rest home for lunch or dinner on the following day. What we didn’t expect was to find everything so tasty that we finished it all right then and there.

We started with a small salad that came with the Hibachi Special. The salad was the only part of our whole meal that wasn’t impressive. It was just boring iceberg lettuce with some shredded carrots and a couple of slices of cucumber. The dressing was very nice and light though- and we ended up holding on to it to use with other parts of our meal.

Next, the waitress brought out the fresh cilantro, sprouts, scallions, lime and jalapeno for us to add as we pleased to our Clear Soup with Shrimp. The soup was wonderful. It was flavorful and had beautiful, large shrimp floating in it along with mushrooms and lots of rice noodles.

Our Saigon Pancake came out next. It wasn’t quite what we were expecting, but it was also very tasty. A huge rice flour crepe was stuffed with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, onions and lettuce. It also came with a delicious dipping sauce, but we found that using each of the different sauces with each bite made it even more interesting.

Our Hibachi special came with lots of sides including fried rice, noodles, and mixed vegetables. The chicken, steak and shrimp were all really excellent. All were cooked perfectly and in very generous portions. There were two sauces for dipping. One was a white, creamy sauce called ‘yum yum’ and the other was a more typical ginger Hibachi sauce. Both were delicious and we enjoyed seeing which was better with each item. I personally liked mixing both together.

Overall, this was a great ‘stumble-upon’ meal for a very fair price. The amount of food we got (and finished!) was an excellent value and great quality. The service was friendly and fast and the location is super convenient. We will most definitely be back soon!

Drunken Poet Cafe: 1572 Main St. Sarasota, FL

Standard

soup seaweed salad drunken poet shrimp entree

 

I was supposed to meet my father at Pho Cali, one of my favorite downtown Sarasota Restaurants, but it was closed- as it often is when I attempt to go. Their hours and days are sort of weird and never seem to coincide with my cravings. Grrrr. We decided to give Drunken Poet a try since it’s a couple of doors away, had a menu that sounded good, and neither of us had been there before.

We sat at an outside menu and looked at the menu. They had Japanese and Thai lunch specials to choose from and we both ended up picking Thai. I ordered the Shrimp Pad Pak: Shrimp with assorted vegetables in oyster sauce. We also shared a seaweed salad. My entree came with a chicken/rice soup that came out first in a chipped bowl. I was going to take a picture of my father’s soup instead, but his bowl was also chipped. The soup itself was not good. It was very salty and the flavor was just off. I left it aside after having 2 spoonfuls. The seaweed salad was standard and we both enjoyed it. Nothing special, but I always love seaweed salad and this time was no different. My entree was enjoyable. There wasn’t a ton of shrimp in it, but the shrimp that was there was cooked well, flavored lightly and fresh. The veggies were also light and fresh. This tasted like a healthy meal to me, without a ton of oil, or unnecessary chemicals or seasonings.

Overall, this was a lovely lunch- not the best Thai I’ve had, but not bad. I’m not sure if I’d go back, but If you’re in the area and want a reasonable priced Asian lunch I would recommend it.

 

Carrabba’s Italian Grill: 5425 University Parkway, Lakewood Ranch, FL

Standard

carrabas sangriacarrabas breadcarrabas italian salad with blue cheese crumblescarrabas chicken parm carrabas homemade pasta (penna 'franco?'')

 

I do not have high hopes when visiting chain restaurants. I think of Bonefish, Applebees, Chili’s, Olive Garden etc in a category that I like to call ‘not really worth my time or money’. I will now add Carrabba’s to the list. My mom and step-dad enjoy eating here and invited us to join them for dinner a few weeks ago. Never being people to say no to a meal out, my fiance and I met them there and we were seated in about 10 minutes.

We ordered sangria to share for the table and it was brought out along with some warm bread and herbed olive oil for dipping. The sangria was basically grape juice with some fruit floating in it. It may or may not also have had some red wine mixed in. I’m really not sure.

I started with an Italian salad with a side of crumbled blue cheese and vinegarette. The salad was fresh and had a nice mix of veggies and the cheese, though it did cost extra, was a nice addition. I probably should have stopped there as I would have been perfectly happy with a nice salad and warm bread.

For our entrees, Gabriel and I shared two. We ordered the Penne Franco and asked them to use the homemade tagliarini instead of the pennee thinking, ‘why have boxed pasta if homemade is an option?’ We also asked them to add shrimp to that one. For our other dish, we ordered the chicken parmesan with steamed garlic spinach on the side. When the pasta dish was brought out, apparently no one got (or gave?) the message that we’d asked for the tagliarini. The waiter took it back with apologies and said he’d be right back with the correct dish. We started working on our chicken instead. The chicken was totally overcooked and dry and the cheese on top was somehow flavorless. The sweet tomato sauce didn’t disguise the chicken enough to not notice how much it was lacking in any moisture content whatsoever. The spinach had so much oil on it that any nutritional benefit we’d hoped to gain from eating it was definitely lost. I love garlic, but it was too much, even for me. Just then, our pasta dish came out and we looked forward to switching over to that one. Sadly, this too was way over oiled and over-salted. The shrimp and veggies were ok, but other than that, the dish was a big fail. The answer to my ‘why not have the homemade pasta’ question was answered when we realized that their homemade pasta sucks. It’s mushy and overcooked and simply not good.

Sigh.

This meal was the night of a half marathon that I’d run that morning. I SO deserved an outstanding, carb-laden, pasta and bread filled dinner and this was a pretty big bummer. Don’t get me wrong, I ALWAYS appreciate when my generous parents take me and my honey out for meals…but usually they take us to places we love and this one will definitely NOT get another visit from me. Booooooooo.

Chez Carey! Carrot/coconut/dill soup

Standard

I cannot believe I forgot to take a picture of this soup but it was SO good that I thought I’d add my recipe…well, it’s really just a ‘concept’.  As many of you know, I really don’t write recipes. I don’t like to measure. I don’t like to do things the same way twice. I like to do things by taste, feel, mood and sense.

 

The carrot/coconut/dill soup:
Saute some garlic, shallots and onions in a little olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot.
Add a pound or so of carrots (I used baby carrots, but you can use chopped, peeled regular ones instead)
Add about 5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
simmer for an hour or so.
add a handful of fresh dill and some salt and fresh pepper.
Use an immersion blender to blend it all up.
Add a cup or so of coconut milk
add some more chopped dill if you’re like me and can’t get enough of it. (but don’t blend too much of it in with the immersion blender or it will turn the soup into an ugly color)
Serve each bowl with a spoonful of plain greek yogurt, chopped chives and a sprig of dill.

Enjoy!

Jose’s Real Cuban Food: 8799 Cortez Rd. West. Bradenton, FL

Standard

sangriaplantainspaella 2

My father invited a bunch of us to meet at Jose’s for dinner a couple of weeks ago. Bradenton is a trek and a half from where I work, but since a few family members were in town visiting, it was definitely an invitation I didn’t want to pass up.

When we pulled into the parking lot, it really looked like a dive. Knowing that my father doesn’t mess around about awesome food, I trusted that looks would be deceiving and it would be a great meal. Apparently, Jose’s was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives not too long ago. Ever since then, the local devotees are probably a little pissed off that the secret is out.

My dad had pre-ordered the paella, sangria and plantains for all of us so as soon as we sat down, everything was on it’s way out. The sangria was poured and I immediately noticed how different it looked from the sangria that’s served in most (way less authentic) places around here. It was a rich, dark purple-brown and had a wonderful cinnamon flavor to it. It tasted much more complex, with spices and different layers of flavor, than the fruit-juicy mixes I’m usually served.

The HUGE tray of paella was incredible looking. The menu says it will feed 8. There were 8 of us and we ended up taking almost half a tray home with us, and we are all pretty good eaters. Piled on top of a mountain of rice were mussels, lobster, shrimp, chicken, and sausage. The amount of food was really pretty insane. It seriously was enough for at least a dozen people- then again, we DID each have a side of plantains, so maybe without that we could have made a bigger dent. The plantains were delicious. Crisp edges, perfectly cooked, slightly caramelized. This side dish really could have been dessert.

There really wasn’t enough room left for dessert, but we were all dying to try the flan. We were only slightly disappointed when we were told that there wasn’t any left. We were really ready to go anyway, all feeling pretty sleepy from carb overload. I guess they felt bad that they were all out because the next thing we knew, they’d brought over a bread pudding for us to share. We all silently groaned looking at a dense, bread-y dessert that none of us really wanted or had space in our stomachs for. We each had a bite, and frankly, it kind of tasted like a heavy muffin wet with caramel sauce. Not really my thing, and not worth trying to stuff it in my already too-full belly.

Overall, the whole meal was really quite good. I’d love to go back to try some of the other dishes on the menu- especially the black bean soup, which the menu claims is ‘the best in the world’. I actually believe that might be true and will have to make a point to go find out!

 

 

Veg: 2164 Gulf Gate Dr. Sarasota, FL

Standard

veg kale saladUpdate! I felt that it was important to add an undated entry for Veg. I actually go there pretty frequently on my lunch breaks from work and decided that my first review of it really didn’t do it justice- especially because at that point, I’d only tried take-out. This photo is of the amazing 2164 Salad: chopped kale, shoestring carrots, shredded raw beets, purple cabbage, toasted sunflower seeds, avocado, organic pea shoots; papaya seed citrus dressing. This salad has become my favorite at Veg and I can’t seem to stop ordering it. It makes me feel SO healthy and tastes seriously amazing. As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes first, and the beautiful colors of the beets, carrots, avocados and kale make for an incredibly tasty display of color. There are tons of awesome choices on Veg’s menu, and I still have a long way to go before I’ve tried them all. I find it very difficult to move on to new choices when I get so easily hooked on the ones I’ve had so far. Bravo Veg! Thank you so much for giving me such a great place to go to for lunch. See you again soon!

Here’s the original post:

I had take out lunch from Veg a few days ago and it left a great impression on me. The menu had so many wonderful sounding, healthy and reasonably-priced options that I wasn’t sure what to order. When I called to place my order for pick up, I decided to ask if the women answering the phone had any recommendations and was told that the special of the day was looking excellent. I took her word for it and ordered the shrimp/lobster cake sandwich. It had a definite seafood taste, but was not filled with chunks like I was hoping for. It really could have been shrimp, lobster, fish, crab or anything else- but for under $10, I had a VERY filling and flavorful lunch on a hearty roll with a side of great cole slaw and a little slice of watermelon. Great deal, easy, peasy, done. I will definitely be back soon.