Friday, January 24, 2014

Carrot Cake

Ingredients for the cake:

two and one third cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
One and half teaspoons ground cinnamon
half teaspoon of ground nutmet
pinch of salt
3 large carrots grated - approximately 2 cups
1 cup granulated sugar
half cup brown sugar
4 ounces of softened butter - I used olive oil spread
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vinalla extract
half a cup of low fat buttermilk
one third a cup of crushed walnuts (optional)

Ingredients for the frosting:

6 ounces of whipped cream cheese
1 ounce of marscapone
2 table spoons of olive oil spread (or butter)
half teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3 cups of powdered sugar
toasted pecans to decorate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour into large bowl
add baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
stir with a whisk.

In another bowl, beat the sugar and butter till blended
add eggs one at a time and beat well.
add teaspoon of vanilla and stir well.
add grated carrots and nuts (if using)
Add half the flour and mix
add the buttermilk and mix
add the rest of the flour and mix till blended

use olive oil spray to oil cake pan. I use a muffin pan
place mixture in pan
cook for 30 minutes

Cool on a wire tray

Prepare the frosting :

Soften cream cheese and butter
mix all the ingredients with the exception of the powdered sugar
beat  with a mixer until fluffy
Add the powdered sugar and beat until combined.

Spread on cake and decorate with halved pecan nuts.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bolognese Sauce

..  a la Aideen.

For this sauce I use fresh tomatoes, a jar of ready made pasta sauce such as Neuman's own or any you fancy yourself, and McCormick's sauce mix, plus assorted seasonings.  I like the mixture of flavors it produces.  See what you think.

Ready to eat


quarter cup of olive oil
6 cloves of garlic
2 cups of chopped onion
half a green bell pepper chopped
half a red bell pepper chopped
12 roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pound of ground bison
1 pound of ground beef
1 large carrot grated
8 ounces of shallots chopped
2 cups of mushrooms chopped
3 x 14 ounce cans of peeled and chopped tomatoes
1 x 12 ounce can of tomato paste
1 jar of ready made pasta sauce
half a bottle of red wine
2 packets of McCormicks thick and zesty spagetti sauce mix
1 tablespoon of ground paprika
1 tablespoon of italian seasoning
1 teaspoon of salt
fresh ground pepper
1 cup of chopped fresh parsley
half a can of black olives halved (approximately 1 cup)
2 sachets / cubs of beef stock


heat the oil in a large skillet
add the crushed garlic
add the finely chopped onions and mushrooms
when cooked, but not browned remove from skillet
add the meat and brown
add paprika
add the cooked onions and mushrooms
add italian seasoning
add the chopped vegetables and stir
add the canned tomatoes, pasta sauce and tomato paste
stir well
add wine and bring to a boil
reduce heat and add salt, pepper and McCormicks sauce mix
bring back to a boil
add oilves and chopped parsley
stir well
simmer for 1 hour.
ready to cook

This makes approximately 15 servings and freezes well, in fact I think it tastes better after it has been frozen.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Shea's Place - Leander

Shea's Place in Leander recently reopened. We had eaten there a few times before they closed and were not very impressed. The food was only OK and overpriced. The premises are really impressive, they took an historic old building, originally the post office in Leander, and maintained the outside appearance while totally remodelling the interior. They also have an outside patio.

Clearly business was not good, so they reinvented themselves as Tex Mex and we stopped going altogether as the food was awful, and still over priced. Situated directly across the road from a genuine Mexican restaurant with incredible prices and good food, they were fighting a losing battle. We were not surprised when they closed down.

We were surprised when they reopened and decided to give them another try. We went along on a Friday evening. As we parked the doors were opened and not one, but two staff members greeted us, it seemed somewhat desperate rather than friendly or courteous.

The new menu was extremely limited, but good, however once again somewhat pricey though there are a few items that are reasonably priced. I believe they do extras on Wednesday and Thursday ( I couldn't find a web site for them, but see their facebook page here).

We started with the Portobello Mushroom Fries with Wasabi Cream - good but not at all spicy. There was only one left on the plate when I remembered to take a photo. As you can see, they were served on a large bed of shredded lettuce, definitely a bit of a waste.

I went with the Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Parmesan Grit Croutons, it was very good however I question that the dressing was fresh made, I suspect it came from a jar, definitely didn't have much in the way of anchovy flavor. I couldn't fault the chicken though, it was definitely cooked to order and perfectly so. I had a glass of red wine - well, it was actually half a glass, but at $3.50 I felt it was reasonable.

Seriously, this is what I was served, I had not taken a drink when I took the photo, and it was not a large glass either, in fact it was more like a white wine glass.

Larry was very disappointed that chicken fried steak was not on the menu so both he and Mildred had the sliders, Larry had beef and Mildred had pulled pork. They were both happy with their choice, the fries were very good and the rolls were also good.

The service was excellent, however we do eat early and so they were not at all busy.

We will probably return. I would like to try their mid week specials, but with our work schedule we very rarely eat out during the week.

The reopened Shea's Place is worth a try.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

We went back to Chili's

When we walked into the bar area we were delighted to see Amber had returned.  Amber is one of the really good servers, both at the table and behind the bar, we have had the pleasure to be served by over the years.  Maybe, just maybe, this is a sign that Chili's will return to their past glory.  Our hopes were short lived.

Justin served us and he is a good wait person, not as good as his sister Heather was, but definitely up there. We got our drinks immediately because Amber was behind the bar and had started pouring as soon as she saw us, but we had a 20 minute wait before the food came out and sadly none of it was hot enough. 20 minutes might not seem very long to wait, and certainly wouldn't be at say, 6 p.m.  But we placed our order before 5 p.m. and the kitchen was definitely not busy at that time.

Chili's nachos are one of our favorites, but if there is a delay from kitchen to table and they are not served hot, the chips start to get soggy and the cheese becomes rubbery and greasy.

As we grumbled through our meal we spotted a Manager on the floor! Something we had not seen in a long time. Unfortunately it was not Stephanie who had been so proactive when we had such a disappointing meal for my birthday in September.  It was the bearded wonder and he spent most of the time he was on the floor chatting up young girls, some of them his servers, thus delaying them from waiting tables while at the same time he was ignoring those same tables.  He also spent some time sitting at the bar with a few of the regulars, and we even saw him clean a table after some customers had left.  We never once saw him speak to any diners, and he didn't even make eye contact with us.

Amber, did ask us how our meal was and we told her that it was almost cold when served.  We stopped her from heading to the kitchen to register a complaint on our behalf.  To our minds, it was too late and we no longer believed anyone other than Amber really cared at all.

The list of restaurants we have returned to and still been disappointed in continues to grow.