Saturday, January 29, 2011

Restaurant Review: Roxy Dawgs

Where: Roxy Dawgs (1425 NW Monroe) Corvallis
What: Sausages and Salads
Niceness of Staff: Very Nice (We appreciate nice staff!)
Rating: Super Tasty

I had no idea Roxy Dawgs existed until last night when Z. found a copy of the OSU student newspaper featuring a story on Roxy Dawgs. Z. made sure to take me their for lunch today. I had a great experience and look forward to returning.

For my first Roxy Dawg adventure, I had their lunch special for $5.95. I had a Double Smoked Sausage (made with bacon!) topped with sauerkraut, red onion, pepperoncini, and brown mustard that came with a soda and a small bag of Kettle Chips. Let me start with the most important part of this: the sausage. It tasted great! The menu mentions the sausages at Roxy Dawgs are made in Portland and they offer eleven different varieties, including a vegan sausage made with soy and wheat (if you're interested). The sausages I am looking forward to trying are the Blonde Bockwurst, Louisiana Red Hot (a beef sausage made with three kinds of peppers), and their Chicken Apple Gouda sausage. My guess is I will get the Double Smoked Sausage, again, it was that tasty. I loved that the sausages were cooked on a flat-top grill right in front. My sausage came very nicely browned (very appreciated on my end) to which I added my own toppings from their topping bar. Driving by the restaurant last night, it seemed like there wouldn't be much seating but there were more seats than I was expecting. When it's a little warmer, sitting outside at the picnic table will be very pleasant.

A couple of things that really clenched my appreciation of Roxy Dawgs were their attention to cleanliness, making sure the sausages were the correct temperature (yes, they used a thermometer), and they serve Dr. Pepper. If you enjoy sausage, definitely try Roxy Dawgs!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Warm Lentil Salad: My Lentil Journey

My experience with lentils prior to college consisted of opening a can of lentil soup, and warming up the can's contents, most frequently in the microwave. I mention the microwave because I feel the need to point out I was too lazy to wash the dirty pan. Once I got to college, now responsible for buying my own groceries, I was on the prowl for ingredients that were healthy to start with, quick cooking, and could easily be carried home. I left my car back in Wyoming that first year and mainly walked to and from the grocery store. I left a household that had 1.3 vehicles per person and walking the dog was the only reasonable explanation for walking outsides (hiking while hunting is not walking, that is a spiritual experience). So plodding a few blocks, much of the time in precipitation, carrying some bags seemed like a whole lot of work. I was lazy, I know. I bet a shiny nickel that someone, I'm not going to say who but their name might start with a Z, will make a sarcastic remark later about how this is still true.

Obnoxious boyfriends aside, my family's dinners normally consisted of (still do) grilled steak, most often wild meat killed by my dad or younger sister, a form of potato or boxed flavored rice, and vegetables. This was not how I envisioned or desired to cook for myself. Lacking a computer at  home, or even the foresight to do some online research, I spent a lot of time wandering the nearby grocery store aisles looking for inspiration and ideas. Eventually, I had a rough outline of what the cheapest items were and how willing I was to eat those items. One of these ingredients was lentils. Lentils became a staple in my pantry.

My lentil adventures had humble origins: a pot of boiled lentils. In an effort to not be so boring, I figured out I like my lentils, still intact, with chunks of fresh tomato. I thought one day, since I enjoy tomatoes and balsamic so much, I might like my lentils and tomatoes tossed with some balsamic.Why, yes, the balsamic was enjoyable. Why not add a drizzle of olive oil and some salt? I thought I was onto something. While I enjoyed many bowls of lentils and fresh tomatoes with balsamic vinaigrette, this dish didn't pass the Sharing Test. While I was perfectly content to eat my concoction for an occasional meal, I would not serve it to anyone or share the recipe. I could do better. Since tomatoes were so good, wouldn't other vegetables be yummy, too? I know, duh, right? I found bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, onion, and a touch of fresh garlic, in addition to the tomato and vinaigrette was my favorite combination. Now this I could share with others.

I began to get burnt out on my lentil salad. I started thinking about what was dampening my lentil salad enthusiasm. I needed a lentil salad when buying tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers was not an option. If I couldn't get those vegetables, I would use extra carrot. All that raw carrot was getting boring. One day I decided to lightly saute my carrots, onion, and garlic as the lentils were finishing cooking. I combined the warm vegetables and warm lentils with the vinaigrette. It was great!

Since then, I have enjoyed Warm Lentil Salad many times thinking I was being clever. Well, I have read a lot since the first warm lentil forays and have discovered I'm not original at all. The French have been doing a warm lentil salad for quite some time. I came to a dish on my own that a great food culture had already figured out. I am okay with that.

P.S. Warm Lentil Salad is great on its own or can be served over rice for a more complete meal. Enjoy!

Ace's Warm Lentil Salad Ingredients

Diced vegetables
Vinaigrette waiting to be whisked. Trust me, if you combine them all at the same time, it will be thick and smooth.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Sauteed vegetables  waiting to meet the love of their life: Balsamic Vinaigrette
Lunch: Ace's Warm Lentil Salad

Ace's Warm Lentil Salad
1 cup brown lentils
3 cups of water, enough to cover the lentils
1 carrot, diced
1/4 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic
1/2 tablespoon Dijon
  1. To cook lentils: Bring water to a boil, add lentils, a pinch of salt, reduce heat, cover. Simmer until desired texture. I like a little of bite still left, which takes about 12 minutes of cooking. Drain well and set aside.
  2. While lentils are cooking, prepare vinaigrette. Place vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, Dijon, and about 1/8 tsp of salt (or to taste) in a bowl. Whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside.
  3. Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over medium or medium-low heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt. After onions have cooked for a minute or two, add carrots. Turn down heat if still at medium. Saute for another minute or two, add garlic. Saute until garlic is cooked..
  4. Combine lentils, vegetables, and vinaigrette. Adjust salt to taste and add pepper if desired. Enjoy!
Price Breakdown
 .39 lentils (.89/pound)
.08 carrot
.08 onion
.06 garlic
.23 olive oil (purchased on sale + coupons)
.21 vinegar
.03 Dijon (Trade Joe's brand)

Total: $1.08

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dinner for One: Creamy Garbanzo Soup and Tomato Bruschetta

I knew that I would be spending the evening alone, while Z. slaved away at work until late tonight. Normally, on nights like this I take out a can of free (thank you coupons) soup and heat that up. Well, those are all gone. Why am I eating canned soup? Laziness and I had them; I know the soup we make ourselves is way better. I wanted something creamy and smooth that wouldn't take forever to prepare. I started by looking for inspiration in Best-Ever 400 Budget Recipes. I found it in their Bacon Chickpea Soup recipe. I modified it to work with what was in my pantry and my goodness, am I glad I found this recipe. I'm sure I have already professed my love for garbanzos before, let me refresh your memory. I love beans! And I love garbanzo beans! I've seen several versions of soup that I am dying to try that centers around garbanzos but none of them threw the soup into the blender. I was concerned that this would turn into warm, thin hummus. Warm hummus is great, take a look at this recipe but I didn't want to drink it. Trust me, this didn't taste like hummus, this was delicious, creamy soup (without any cream!).

To go along with my soup, I made tomato bruschetta since roma tomatoes are on sale in my part of the world for $1.00 per pound. My recipe calls for 2 teaspoons or less of balsamic, depending on your taste. Being a vinegar-holic, I may or may not have added extra so I could drizzle a little extra on my bread. I took the step to peel my tomatoes. I figured that they needed a little extra care and attention since it is January, definitely not tomato season. Also, peeling the tomatoes meant I could play with my food longer. I love fresh basil. I think it is absolutely delicious. Why, yes, it is impossible for me to talk about food without using superlatives. I have never purchased fresh basil. I did happen to have a bunch of fresh parsley in the fridge. I really enjoyed the parsley in the bruschetta. I will be doing that again.
Creamy garbanzo soup ingredients

Waiting to be blended

Creamy garbanzo soup waiting to be reheated. Yum!

Toasting cumin seeds

Finished soup

Creamy Garbanzo Soup (serves 2)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14 oz.) vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic, finely diced or grated
1 carrot, finely diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper

2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed 
  1. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add carrots and onion with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, add garlic, and saute for another five minutes, or until vegetables are beginning to soften. 
  2. Add drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, vegetable broth, turmeric, and bay leaf. Raise heat to medium, bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Take off the heat and cool.
  4. Using an immersion blender or blender, blend until smooth.
  5. Return to pan, turn on heat to med-low, and gently reheat. Add additional water to reach desired consistency. I needed to add about 1 cup. Taste soup. Adjust salt and pepper.
  6. For garnish, heat oil in a small pan, add cumin seeds, and fry about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Drizzle over soup.
Fresh ingredients for tomato bruschetta

Finished tomato bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta
about 1 pound roma tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling bread
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (optional)

1/4 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper (or in my case, chili flakes)
  1. To peel tomatoes: Slice an X on the bottom of the tomato (not the end that was attached to the plant). Bring a pot of water to a boil, remove from heat, drop in tomatoes for 60 seconds, remove from water, and immediately rinse with cold water. Use fingers or paring knife to peel skin.
  2. Slice tomatoes in half, scoop out seeds, cut out stem portion. Dice tomatoes and place in a bowl.
  3. Mince garlic or use a grater or micro-plane. Add to tomatoes.
  4. Add parsley.
  5. Mix tomatoes, garlic, and parsley with olive oil, vinegar, plenty of salt, and black pepper (or chili flakes).
  6. To toast bread: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice bread, drizzle olive oil on one side, place bread olive oil side down on a baking sheet, and bake 5-7 minutes. Don't forget the bread!
  7. Spoon some of the tomato mixture onto the toasted bread. Enjoy!

Price Breakdown: Creamy Garbanzo Soup
.14 olive oil
.58 garbanzo beans
.50 vegetable broth 
.10 garlic
.05 carrot (.99/pound)
.10 onion (.48/pound)
.05 (a guess) bay leaf, turmeric, cumin seeds, salt and pepper

Total: $1.52 or $.76 per bowl

Tomato Bruschetta (about 5 pieces)
.30 bread (on sale for 1.00)
1.10 roma tomatoes
.06 garlic
.15 olive oil
.05 balsamic
.12 parsley

Total: $1.78 or .356/piece

My dinner (soup + 3 pieces bruschetta -just being honest): $1.83
A little on the pricey side for us but it tasted gourmet and was well-worth it. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rosemary Potatoes

If you're interested in yummy potatoes that are creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside AND covered in olive oil and rosemary, you have come to the right place. Roasted potatoes are old-school, what else is there to add? After many years of making rosemary potatoes, I have perfected my technique to getting them golden brown. What I have discovered through trial and much error are these following suggestions:
  • Make sure the baking sheet is well oiled. Don't skip the olive oil on the potatoes, either.
  • I like to cut the potatoes different sizes. Ok, I'll be honest. I can't manage to chop vegetables the same size. But for this, differently-sized pieces are great because some of the potatoes are creamy and the smaller pieces are crunchy. Don't like crunchy, cut the potatoes slightly larger.
  • Do not touch the potatoes when they first go in the oven. If they are stirred too soon, part of the potato will stick to the pan. They are much easier to flip when the bottom is brown. This usually takes my potatoes about 40 minutes. 
  • Do make sure to drizzle a little extra olive oil on the potatoes when you stir them. My frugal side told me not to do this step a couple times before because it seemed like I was using a ridiculous amount of olive oil. Well, my potatoes turned out dry and beige, not nearly as yummy as they could be.
  • At this point, bump the oven up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes the browning magic happen.
  • If the potatoes seem a little dry when they come out of the oven, add another splash of olive oil. 
Potatoes coated in lots of rosemary and olive oil with salt and pepper. 
Potatoes that have cooked for 40 or so minutes, waiting for their extra drizzle of olive oil and a flip.

Rosemary Potatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil baking sheet.
  2. Wash potatoes if leaving skin on. Chop. The bigger the pieces, the longer they take to cook but will be creamy in the middle.
  3. Coat chopped potatoes liberally with olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
  4. Place in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes. 
  5. Drizzle with olive oil. Stir or flip potatoes to brown the other side. Turn oven up to 400 degrees.
  6. Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy!