Friday, March 25, 2011

New Website for Kara's Cuisine

Kara's Cuisine can now be found at this address:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cocina del Barrio Take II

After reading my original review of Cocina del Barrio, Tyler Lindburg, General Manager, gave me a call.  He apologized profusely for the service my girlfriends and I received that night, and offered dinner for two on the house.  Courtland and I decided to make reservations this last Tuesday.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a very pleasant hostess.  She seated us immediately at a table with full view of the kitchen.   The crowd was not as busy as my previous experience on a Saturday night, yet most of the tables were full.  It felt lively.  We were welcomed to the restaurant by our waiter.  Tyler came to our table shortly after. We were off to a good start.

Courtland ordered The Trinity Margarita.  It tasted just like a top-shelf margarita should. 

I ordered a glass of the Spanish Cava.  Light and refreshing.

We decided to share the guacamole and  some small plates (Pork Carnitas Tacos with Salsa Verde, Skirt Steak Tacos Al Carbon, Lobster Empanadas,  Roasted Pablano Pepper Stuffed with Shrimp and Chihuahua).

Guacamole was delicious and pretty garnished with radishes, jalapeno peppers, and cilantro.

The Pork Carnitas and Skirt Steak Tacos Al Carbon

The Lobster Empanadas

Roasted Pablano Pepper Stuffed with Shrimp and Chihuahua

Of the small plates, my favorites were the Pork Carnitas Tacos and  Lobster Empanadas.  The pork on the tacos was so tender and full of flavor.  The Lobster Empanadas was a crunchy dish that matched well with the salsa verde and citrus salsa.  The Roasted Pablano Pepper was tasty, albeit on the heavier side with the cheese sauce.

For dessert, we went with the recommendation of our waiter and ordered the Pumpkin Cake - Cajeta Ice Cream/ Pepita Brittle/ Pumpkin Yogurt Puree. The cake was served warm, topped with a cinnamon spice crumb and a pepita brittle.  It was nicely paired with the cajeta ice cream (made with cajeta caramel and lightly salted) and the pumpkin yogurt puree.   It was a nice and spicy alternative to the typical chocolate dessert we usually order.

Last but not least, Tyler brought over a shot of Asombroso Tequila to end our meal.  He explained it was a reposado aged in old Bordeaux barrels, which gives the tequila a pinkish hue.  It had hints of chocolate and was meant to be sipped. Not being a big Tequila drinker myself, I took a few sips and found it to be very smooth.   Courtland went for the gusto and drank his whole shot in one:)

Bravo Cocina del Barrio!  You made things right. . .and there's something to be said for that in the industry.  We will be back again:)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Thai One On Wrap

I love this wrap recipe.  It's a super easy, healthy, and satisfying recipe to make for lunch or a week night when paired with a side salad or vegetable.   The directions are for 1 wrap, so add ingredients accordingly depending on the servings needed.  I've been making these quite often;  particularly on evenings when we don't want to eat out during our kitchen remodel.  You can use any kind of leftover chicken breast (chopped or shredded), or deli chicken (which is what I had on hand this time).  Almond or cashew butter could be substituted for the peanut butter if you've got an allergy to peanuts.

Thai One On Wrap
Adapted from "," 2009

1 Joseph's Whole Wheat Tortilla Wrap (or any other preferred tortilla)
1 1/4 Tbsp. Natural Peanut Butter (or alternative nut butter)
2/3 cup precooked chicken, shredded or deli slices
1/4 cup matchstick carrots
1/4 cup mixed greens or spinach
1 tsp. chopped cilantro

Warm tortilla slightly in oven, toaster, or microwave.  Spread peanut butter on top of tortilla.  Add chicken, carrots, greens, and cilantro.  Fold outside edges in and roll.  Cut in half before serving.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cocina del Barrio

Crab and Poblano Enchilada

I'm still trying to comprehend all the events of the dinner I had last night with my girlfriends at Cocina del Barrio in Edina, MN.  I've been to Barrio downtown and have enjoyed their food and the atmosphere, so was thrilled when Cocina del Barrio opened close to our home.  Girl's night out was scheduled.   We had reservations at 8:00 pm, arrived at 7:40 and were told by the hostest, "Your table is almost ready, their just paying their bill."  So we thought 15-20 minutes tops to wait.  The crowd continued to fill in, other parties were seated.  Eight o'clock rolled around, and we went back to the hostess.   She questioned who's name our reservation was under, and again told us our table was almost ready.   At 8:30 we asked her again.  We were asked our reservation name a second time and told that our table will be ready soon.   Additional parties continue to be seated.  By 8:45, my girlfriend asked to speak to the manager.    The manager came over and listened to our concerns about the hostess and apologized profusely.  She reassured us that if we waited a bit longer, we would be seated soon with drinks and guacamole/chips on the house.

Twenty minutes later, we were finally seated and our waiter was attentive in getting our drinks and appetizers right away.  And this is where it gets good:  the food.   It was all delicious.  We shared the guacamole with chips (which were crispy and seasoned well).

We each ordered a few small plates of our own.  No complaints.  The ladies all said their food was great.  I especially enjoyed the Crab and Poblano Enchilada above.

 Grilled Flatbread

Fried Mahi Mahi Taco.

Grilled Shrimp Taco

Fried Jalapeno Pepper

Sweet Corn and Mushroom Tamal

Roasted Poblano Pepper

Steamed Mussels

This is where it turned sour again:  A few of us ordered a second round of drinks, that didn't come. . ..and didn't come.  We were almost done with our food.  The waiter came back and said that the bartender didn't see the drink ticket and he would bring our drinks over asap.  By the time our drinks arrived, we were done eating and ready to pay or bill.   We were comped for the bad service with our bill, as we should have been.
Then . . .I got up from my seat and noticed I had salsa on the shoulder and alongside the back of my sweater. . . .and on my winter coat.  Yes, red sauce was spilled on me when our dishes had been cleared from the table.   We were all baffled and the thought of telling the manager about my clothing was just too daunting.  At this point, I'm washing my coat and hoping the dry cleaners will be able to take the red stains off my sweater.
So there you have it. . .good food, lousy service.  I understand that this is the new hot spot in Edina, and the staff is trying to keep up with the pace of the crowd.  I certainly hope that Cocina del Barrio re-trains their hostess and wait staff.  Good food can be found elsewhere.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Cups

Valentines Day is coming up next week.  Make these for your sweetie and it won't break your diet. It's a modern-day version of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (without the chemicals, additives, and preservatives).  This recipe is from Alicia Silverstone's cookbook, The Kind Diet.  Yes, the actress.  The cookbook is quite informative and makes you feel healthier just reading it.

Peanut Butter Cups
Adapted from "The Kind Diet," by Alicia Silverstone, 2009

1/2 cup Earth Balance butter
3/4 cup crunchy unsweetened Peanut Butter (I used Parkers Farm)
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (10 graham cracker squares crushed), preferably Health Valley
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips
1/4 almond milk
1/4 cup chopped pecans (or other preferred nut)

Line 12 muffin cup tin with paper liners. 

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.  Stir in peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and brown sugar.  Mix well and remove from heat.  Divide mixture evenly (2 Tbsp./cup) among muffin cups. 

Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan.  Stir over medium high heat until the chocolate has melted.  Spoon sauce evenly over the peanut butter mixture.  Top with pecans. 

Place muffin cups in fridge and let set for at least 2 hours.  I like to put mine in the freezer:)  Delish!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

BBQ Beef Sandwiches

Since our house has been under construction, I have been able to pull off making a few meals in my crock pot in our makeshift kitchen.  I've made this recipe several times, and it's always great.  Don't let the long list of ingredients fool you.  Once all of the ingredients are in the crock pot, you're nearly done.

BBQ Beef Sandwiches
Adapted from Cooking Light Slow Cooker Cookbook, 2004
2 flank steaks, (1 1/4 lb. each), trimmed of fat
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, divided
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tube of tomato paste
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 cup organic ketchup
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
Sesame seed buns, warmed or toasted
red onion slices (optional)
bread and butter pickles (optional)

Cut each steak in half crosswise.  Combine 1 Tbsp. of the dark brown sugar with the pepper.  Rub the mixture over the steaks.   Place the steaks in a crock pot. 
Combine the next 12 ingredients in a bowl.  Pour mixture over steaks, turning to coat.
Cook on high setting for 1 hour.  Reduce to low setting and cook for another 7 hours or until steaks are tender. 
Shred steaks (can remove or just keep in crock pot while shredding) with 2 forks.   Keep on warm setting in crock pot until ready to serve.
Place desired amount of beef on top of warmed bun.  Top with red onion slices and pickles.   Serve with a green vegetable or a salad, and dinner is done!

Meal #2

I froze the leftovers and made BBQ wrap sandwiches the second time around.

BBQ Wrap Sandwiches

Heat up leftover BBQ and place on top of pita bread (I used Josephs Bakery).  Top with shredded cheese and microwave for 20 seconds.   Yummy!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sandy's Tavern

As much as I enjoy fine-dining, I'm a sucker for a night out at a dive bar with a good burger and a pitcher of beer.  Sandy's Tavern in Richfield, MN has been on my list of places to try, especially after getting voted as Best Burger in City's Best Burgers.  Along with a handful of friends, we decided to check it out.  It certainly lived up to our expectations.
When we arrived, we were greeted outside by our waiter who was outside for a smoke break:)  He was very pleasant, opened the door for us, and assured us he would be "right in." He was very attentive and friendly throughout the night.
The interior is classic neighborhood small town tavern. . . old chairs and tables, booths, beer lighting decor, pool-table,  and video games.  Most of the patrons appeared to be from around the neighborhood. 

We started off with a few pitchers of beer, Grain Belt Premium and Blue Moon for the MN and WI folks. . .served in ice cold mugs. 

The menu is classic bar food, served in baskets.   No silverware is needed.  This is finger food.  We ordered a basket of onion rings, cheese curds, and fries to share.

 My favorite of the 3 was the onion rings.   Unlike most Minnesotans, I'm not the biggest fan of cheese curds.  But I tried one: pretty good.    Fries were ok.  Crinkle cut isn't my favorite, and they were a little underdone. 

I had the Olive Burger  pictured above (with cheese and sliced green olives, no sour cream).   It was served with pickles.  The bun was soft, small, and squishy; just the way I like it.  The burger was delicious and not overly greasy.   A cheeseburger with olives. What a brilliant idea.  I"m stealing it. 

Trycia, who's not a big fan of of ground beef, had the fish sandwich. . .she claimed it was similar to the fast food restaurant that claims a clown as it's mascot. 

Everyone else had variations of cheeseburgers, and we all seemed to empty our baskets. 

Tip:  Bring cash. . .no credit cards (although they do have an ATM).

If you're looking for a good burger bar with friendly wait staff, a local crowd, and affordable prices, then Sandy's Tavern is your place.  We'll be back:)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cole's Raspberry and Fig Cake

Hi! I am Cole, Kara’s guest blogger for the week while her kitchen is undergoing an Extreme Makeover! Since it's cold outside and we live in Minnesota, I figured I should make a dessert that represents the great Scandinavian culture that surrounds us 9 months out of the year. This Raspberry and Fig Cake is a big favorite of my boyfriend Nick and mine.  The great thing is that it can be enjoyed with coffee or your favorite dessert wine (I suggest a Riesling or a Moscato, yum!).

** WARNING: This cake is not for the figure conscious, but for those who don’t mind. . .there is a stick of butter and 1 ½ cups of sugar in their cake.

Raspberry and Fig Cake
Adapted from Food and Wine, March 2010
Dry bread crumbs, for dusting (crumble 2 pieces of whole grain bread, bake at 400 for 5-8 min.)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I use Splenda sugar)
3 large eggs (I use Omega 3 brown eggs)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Finely grated zest of 3 limes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 pint raspberries
4 figs, cut into eighths (I use California style figs)
 *additional 1/2 pint raspberries
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch cake pan (I personally use my pampered chef round stone cake pan) and coat with bread crumbs. In a bowl, using a handheld mixer beat the sugar and eggs at high speed until fluffy, 2 minutes at the most. Beat in the butter and 2/3 of the lime zest. Lastly, at low speed, alternately beat in the flour and lime juice until almost completely mixed.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the surface. Gently press in the raspberries and figs (* if figs are not in season you can replace them with an additional ½ pint of raspberries).

Bake the cake on the bottom third of the oven for 40 minutes. Transfer to the upper third of the oven and continue baking for 35 minutes longer, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.

Transfer the cake to a rack to cool. Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan.

Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar. Sprinkle with the remaining lime zest, cut into wedges and serve.

I promise you will love this cake!  It’s a little sweet, a little tangy, and a whole lot of moist goodness!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pumpkin Curry Pork Tenderloin

This recipe really couldn't be any easier.  I purchased a jar of Pumpkin Curry Sauce prior to the holidays.  The directions say to add it to any meat or vegetables, and simmer for 20 minutes.  I've made it a few times with pork tenderloin in a crock pot dish.  It's always a success.  It has a hot and spicy Indian-like flavor, can be paired with a variety of side dishes, and freezes well.   It was the perfect dish to take out of the freezer this morning, and prepare in our makeshift dining room kitchen this evening.

Pumpkin Curry Pork Tenderloin
2 pork tenderloins, average size, trimmed of fat
salt, pepper
1 cup of water
1 jar of Williams Sonoma Pumpkin Curry Simmering Sauce (or a similar curry sauce)

Place 2 pork tenderloins in a crock pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add 1 cup of water and cover.  Cook on low all day (6-7 hours).  Remove any unwanted fat from the liquid and shred tenderloin with 2 forks in the crock pot.  Add pumpkin curry sauce for last hour on "keep warm" setting.  

Serve on top of noodles, basmati rice, or spaghetti squash.

First meal 2 weeks ago:

Second meal on top, weeks later (excuse the necessary paper plates). . .pork served on top of brown basmati rice, with golden raisins and feta cheese. My favorite of the two meals.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kitchen Makeover

This is my kitchen:

Cabinets from circa 1970, old appliances, wainscoting, recessed ceiling, and laminate counter tops.  Our kitchen is falling apart and is getting a huge makeover.  We've been in our house for 6 years, and it's time for an upgrade.  This has been no small feat. Making decisions on contractors, design, and appliances has been quite the process.  We're finally taking the plunge.  I've been cleaning out cupboards and boxing everything up. Construction starts next week and will last at least 2 months. 

This means we'll be making quick and easy meals (and sometimes not from scratch).  I refuse to make TV dinners.  I bought a  Breville Panini Press, thinking we'll put it to good use. My crock pot will be on standby. And I'm sure we'll be frequenting Linden Hills Co-Op and local restaurants for takeout.

The remodel is going to be a challenge, but the end result is going to be so worth it:)

So, my friends. . .I'm asking you to share a favorite recipe or a dining experience (along with a photo or 2).  If you are willing and interested to be a guest blogger, please let me know!   And I will keep updating as the construction comes along.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Crock-Pot Chicken

This is not the healthiest recipe and it certainly isn't gourmet. . .but it sure is comforting during this cold weather blast we've had this winter.  I do use light cream soups and sour cream to lighten it up.  It's easy, and cooks all day long.

Crock Pot Chicken
Adapted from "If It Tastes good, Who Cares, Part II," Pam Girard, 1992
4-5 chicken breasts
1 can low fat cream of chicken
1 can low fat cream of mushroom
1 small container of light sour cream
1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Parsley (fresh or dry)

Place chicken breasts in crock pot and season with pepper.   Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and place on top of chicken.  Cook on low in crock pot all day (8 hours).   Periodically throughout the day, pour off the moisture that has accumulated on the lid. 

Serve on top of brown rice or noodles and top with parsley.   Add a vegetable as a side dish and dinner is complete.  Makes great leftovers and gets a thumbs-up from the kid in the house.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Victory 44

We ventured out to Victory 44 in North Minneapolis last Saturday night with our friends, Keith and Tycia.  The restaurant doesn't take reservations, so we went fairly early in the evening.  We got the last available table when we arrived around 6:45 pm.   The interior is very cozy. . .and full of pictures of pigs.

 Shortly after sitting down, we were greeted by our waiter (who shared he is also a chef, but would not be cooking our meals that evening).  He made a few recommendations from the menu, which is featured on chalkboards along the walls. We decided to share a few smaller dishes and then get one of our own.   Prices were very reasonable, which allowed us to order quite a bit.  Servings were on the lighter side for most dishes.  The wine and beer menu  offered a small yet nice selection, most under $10/drink.   

We started off with the Mixed Greens and the Beet Salad.  By far, the most interesting Mixed Greens and Beet Salad I've ever had.

 We also had the Cheese Agnolotti.  Deliciously rich.

Trycia and I both ordered the Scallops, which tasted very good.  They were on top of  sausage-stuffed ravioli and a blood orange sauce.  Unfortunately, the temperature was lukewarm.  In all fairness, we didn't let the waiter know about the temperature of our dish.

Keith had the Perfect Burger, which also came with fries topped with bacon powder.  He raved about it. 

Courtland had the Reuben, which also came with the fries.  I had a taste. . .divine. 

We decided to order dessert.  This is what arrived first: The Pre-Dessert.  An adult version of smores.

 And this is what came shortly after:  The Dessert Platter.  I cannot remember what each dessert was called, but they were all creatively crafted (with chocolate powder) and tasted incredible.

 When the chef brought out and explained our dishes, he seemed rushed and talked fast.  That being said, we will definitely go back to try Victory 44 again. . .particularly for the comfort food with a twist and affordable prices to go along with it.