Martha Stewart Pancakes

On Saturday I woke up craving pancakes so I decided to try my second round making them from scratch. For this experiment I tried Martha Stewart’s Basic Pancakes.

For original recipe go to http://www.marthastewart.com/338185/basic-pancakes

Because the recipe was for 12-15 pancakes I decided to quarter the recipe.

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First I whisked together 1/4 cup of flour, a few dashes of salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1 tbsp granulated sugar. For lighter and fluffier pancakes make sure you sift the ingredients together.

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Then I added one egg (the whole recipe calls for 1 but I’m not about to spend time trying to quarter an egg), 1 tsp of vanilla (I added-not in original recipe), and then 1/4 cup of milk. You could also use half-and-half or buttermilk. Then stir together until just incorporated.

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Then very lightly oil or butter a pan over medium heat and add the pancake mix. Flip once bubbles begin to form. Remove from heat and immediately top with butter. Then add your favorite toppings and dig in~

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Review: I like this recipe because it is versatile. You could easily add chocolate chips, banana or another fruit, or add some different spices for different flavors like some ground nutmeg or cinnamon. Or you can do like I did and just top it with butter and syrup and enjoy!

Potato and Cheese Pierogies

Ever since I lived in Canada and was first introduced to pierogies I’ve been a huge fan of them-particularly the basic potato and cheese kind, but after returning to the US I haven’t been able to find many places that sell them. So when I stumbled on a pierogi recipe on about.com I HAD to try them.

For recipe go to http://pittsburgh.about.com/od/recipes/r/pierogies.htm

I began by making the dough: mixing 2 cups flour, 1 beaten egg, 1/2tsp of salt, and 1/2 cup of sour cream. Then I added 1/4 cup chopped butter and mixed with my hands until it came together.

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Once dough had come together I put it in the fridge for 30 minutes while I began to make the filling. Now the recipe calls for 5 large potatoes and I used 5 medium was and I had WAY too much filling left over. So I’d advise only using 3 potatoes maximum and maybe less onion as well. But definitely don’t skimp on the cheese it really makes a difference.

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So peel and chop your potatoes then place in a pot with cold water just covering the top and boil until cooked through.

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Finely chop an onion, and grate at least 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Sautee the onions in a little butter until they are tender and white. Then mix the onion and cheese together. while the onions are hot to help the cheese get spread throughout.

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Then mash the potatoes and mix the onions with the potatoes until thoroughly combined and add salt and pepper to taste.

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Next take out the chilled dough and roll into 1/8 inch thickness on a floured board or the counter. Then take a pastry utensil or a cup (like I did) and cut out circles. The amount you make is dependent on how big of circle it is.

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Then take a small amount of the filling and place on the dough. Then pull dough over the filling and crimp the edges using your fingers, and sealing it by pressing a fork on the edges (it also makes it a little more visually appealing). Don’t worry if yours don’t look perfect-mine certainly didn’t but they were still delicious! Later when I was making more they turned out much better, so with a little practice yours will get better too.

It will also help if you press down the dough with your palm making it more into an oval than a circle-that way you can fold the longer edges to help seal it and keep a better shape.

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IMG_3996*see they certainly aren’t perfect

Then boil a pot of water and once the water is boiling add the pierogies making sure to drop them in so they don’t touch. They are ready to come out when they float to the surface and stay there.  (The recipe said 8-10 minutes but no matter what size I made mine they floated to the top within a couple minutes.

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Remove the pierogies from the water, rinse with cool water, and let dry. Once dry add them to a pan with butter (eyeball it) and chopped onions if you’d like. Then flip when lightly brown, and do the same to the other side. Also depending on how fat yours are you might want to stand them up so the bottom gets crispy too.

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Once they are lightly brown serve warm with a dollop of sour cream, or an extra topping of shredded cheddar.

IMG_4003*I ran out of sour cream so only had a small amount to dip in

In summary these are beyond amazing. They are a little time consuming but totally worth it.

Banana Bread with Brown sugar topping

Ever since I was younger I’ve never really liked bananas, but I love them in bread or pancakes. So this past week I bought bananas and purposefully let them become overripe so I could make  banana bread. But I didn’t want a basic banana bread- I wanted one that was sweeter and with a little surprise on the inside. So I decided to try Lovin’ From the Oven’s Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread, but mix it up a little by adding some brown sugar on the top for a little crunch.

For recipe go to: http://lovintheoven.com/2010/03/cinnamon-swirl-banana-bread.html

So I began by assembling the ingredients and melting 1/3c of butter and mashing 3 bananas.

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Then I added one egg and a tsp of vanilla and stirred to incorporate.

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From there add 3/4c of granulated sugar, 1 and 1/2cup flour and 3tsp of baking powder. (The original recipe calls for 1tsp of baking soda but I only have baking powder so I just substituted. Stir until just combined.

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Pour half of the  mixture into a loaf pan. The original recipe calls for a 9×5 pan but mine was bigger so I just made do. (But note the cook time will change depending on the size you use). This is where I mainly deviated from the recipe: instead of having a big cinnamon/sugar center I decided to put that on the top so I just sprinkled some cinnamon and sugar over the top and didn’t measure out the full amount the recipe called for.

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Then I added the rest of the banana mixture to the top and covered it with a sprinkling of brown sugar and a little bit of white for a crunchy top. You can add as much or as little as you want depending on how thick, sweet, and crunchy you want to make it.

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Then I baked it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean) before removing it and putting it on a plate to cool and set. To serve I cut thick slices topped with butter and put in the oven at 350 for a few minutes to melt the butter, warm the bread, and make it a little toasted. Then take out and serve immediately.

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Delicious!

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Recipe

3 overripe bananas mushed
1/3c butter melted
1 egg
1tsp vanilla
3tsp baking powder (or 1 tsp baking soda)
3/4c granulated sugar
1 1/2c flour
cinnamon
brown sugar

Blue Willow

For our final breakfast in Tuscon we decided to try Blue Willow a restaurant with an attached gift shop for a real sit down breakfast. The restaurant is an old home with a gift shop at the front with some baked goods on display. There are a lot of knickknacks and gifts which is a good thing when we waited for almost 45 minutes to get in.

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We asked to be seated outside which was a cozy and cute set up.

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The breakfast menu is a little limited but has many options for vegetarians, vegans, and those who are gluten intolerant.

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My dad chose the blue willow special-he liked it but would have preferred it without the tortilla bits since it made it heavier and carbo-loaded.

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My mom chose the huevos rancheros which were very good but the potatoes weren’t anything special and more mushy than crispy-but sans potatoes it was good

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Lastly I chose the breakfast burrito which was good but because the potatoes were only so-so and there was an overabundance of them in the burrito it was just average.

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Before we left we decided to get a Neiman Marcus cookie for the road and it was delicious- as in DELICIOUS- one of the best cookies I’ve ever had.

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Review: while not bad the food didn’t exceed our expectations and for the higher price and the wait it wasn’t worth it for us. But I would advise stopping in and trying a Neiman Marcus cookie, and I’d try the lunch- the options seemed better than what they had for breakfast.

For more information go to: http://www.bluewillowtucson.com/

Tombstone, AZ

A few weeks back we went on a terrain walk and stopped in Tombstone for lunch. The town is small and quirky, left to look the same as it was decades ago. We went to lunch at the popular and famous Big Nose Kate Saloon: http://www.bignosekates.info/

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We also stopped and grabbed delicious ice cream-somehow this is called one scoop!

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Unfortunately we were only there for long enough to grab lunch, so if you come stop in longer to see the shows and have a real cowboy experience.

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Beyond Bread

For our Sunday breakfast we decided to try out Beyond Bread a small chain bakery in Tucson. The bakery itself was large with bread lining the wall behind the cash register and freshly baked sweets tucked in the display.

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As we were planning to hike on Mt. Lemmon all day Mom  and Dad decided to have sandwiches. My dad was bummed out because he had wanted to try their award winning reuben but it was only offered once a week.

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Instead he decided to try that day’s special: Carol’s Cornucopia which is Thanksgiving on a sandwich with turkey, cranberry sauce, gorgonzola, romaine lettuce on cranberry pecan bread.

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My mom chose Carmela’s Caprese which was amazing with mozzarella, tomato, basil, roasted red peppers, and vinaigrette on foccacia.

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I stuck with breakfast and had a yummy pecan roll

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To go we bought a cherry and cheese danish and a chocolate croissant both of which were heavenly and a delicious midday snack

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Review: In one word: delicious. In more: it is a great place to stop in for a sandwich or pastry and with multiple locations it is convenient too.

For more information see their website http://www.beyondbread.com/

Frost Gelato

After a long day and a late lunch we weren’t hungry enough for a full dinner but wanted something to nibble on so we decided to try out Frost Gelato which was the #1 ranked food place in Tucson. The line was out the door even at 9pm but it was worth the wait.

The inside was cute and clean, and workers offered samples while you made your decision.

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Each of us decided to go with a medium my dad with vanilla, my mom with cheesecake and raspberry, and I with peanut butter crunch. All were decadent and flavorful-worthy of it’s high ranking. And as gelato is healthier than ice cream who could say no?

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Review: A delicious treat you know you want to try.

For more information go to their website at http://www.frostgelato.com/

La Olla Mexican Cafe

After a morning spent wandering the Saguaro National Park (to be posted about later) and also a brief stint in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (also to come later) we were ravenous and figured no trip to Tucson can be complete without some delicious Mexican food so we decided to try out La Olla Mexican Cafe.

Like many other Tucson restaurants we tried La Olla is unassuming from the outside, and the interior was like that of many other Mexican restaurants. And as it was 2 in the afternoon with only one server and one cook in the back (neither of whom was Hispanic) we weren’t too sure about what we were getting ourselves into. But we decided to trust all of the online reviews and go ahead.

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Once we were seated we immediately received a plate of chips and homemade salsa both of which were yummy. We decided to start off with an order of guacamole to accompany the chips and what we got was a huge portion of delicious fresh guacamole. Given how hungry we were, and how good it tasted,  it was hard to stop ourselves from devouring it all immediately.

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Controlling ourselves we looked over the menu and decided upon a Sonoran Dog. Yes you read that correctly-a hot dog at a Mexican restaurant. The Sonoran dog was listed as one of the must-tries when you go to Tucson and in general it is a hot dog wrapped in bacon, topped with cheese, beans, salsa, and other assorted toppings. This one was made extra special by a salsa fresca and a garlic aioli. My mother said it was the best hot dog she has ever eaten and my dad who hasn’t had a hot dog in years agreed to try it and was also impressed. For my mom this was her favorite thing she ate on the entire trip!

They were served with a side of sweet potato fries which she also loved-and she usually isn’t a fan of them!

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However the other food was also amazing I chose the bean and cheese burro (aka burrito) with a side of calabacitas which was by far the best Mexican side dish I’ve ever had-it’s a medley of vegetables in a cheese sauce and it was fresh and delicious.

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Last but not least my dad had a chile relleno and cheese enchilada both of which were delicious-particularly the cheese enchilada.Image

Review: Don’t judge a restaurant by it’s workers or appearance-this was the best, most fresh, and delicious Mexican restaurant I’ve been to. If you’re in Tucson you should definitely come try La Olla’s Mexican Cafe for some unexpected treats. Or at the very least try a Sonoran Dog!

For more information see their website at http://www.laollamexicancafe.com/index.php

Village Bakehouse

For breakfast on our first day we decided to try Village Bakehouse an adorable bakery and mini restaurant. I’ll say up front that this was by far my favorite breakfast place we went to on the trip for many reasons.

First the place itself is adorable: it’s very unassuming from the outside given its location in a strip mall but they have tables placed outside to enjoy the tepid mornings. Even at 8am on a Saturday the place was busy with couples, families, and individuals popping in to grab a coffee and pastry, or relaxing outside enjoying the breeze.

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The menu itself while not extensive had some delicious options so we decided to try fresh OJ, hot chocolate, and a frozen mocha all of which were delicious and a nice sized portion.

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For our actual breakfasts we decided to have Steve’s breakfast burrito, orange french toast, and stuffed french toast with raspberries.

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Oh my word everything was delicious the side of fruit was deliciously fresh and sweet, the burrito was well-portioned and seasoned, the orange french toast was tender, sweet, and you could definitely taste the orange, and the best of them all was the raspberry stuffed French toast: the challah bread was amazing and the raspberry and sweet cream cheese stuffing was divine.

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We also sampled a few bites of pie and it was heavenly, we had to control ourselves from not buying pie, pecan rolls, cupcakes (one with an adorable bumblebee decoration), and everything else in between.

Review: You HAVE to try Village Bakehouse if you are in Tucson, it was my favorite thing I ate the entire trip and everything they make is delicious.

For more information see their website at http://www.villagebakehouse.com/

Polish Cottage

For Labor Day weekend I was blessed by having my parents come to visit me in Arizona, and to celebrate we spent three days discovering different places in Tucson. On the night they picked me up we decided to go to a restaurant I had found on Trip Advisor ranked #9 out of all restaurants in Tucson: Polish Cottage. It being Arizona I was shocked that there was a Polish restaurant to begin with, let alone that it was in the top ten so I had to try it.

We went early to avoid a crowd and were able to be immediately seated. The restaurant is small and quaint with Polish memorabilia/antiques on the walls. The menu has a mixture of different soups, salads, sandwiches, pierogies, and traditional Polish fare.

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We decided to sample the potato and cheese pierogies, pierogies with sweet farmers cheese with sour cream on top, potato pancakes, the Polish Combo Plate (with the choice of 2 beef pierogies, and 1 sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi, and cucumber salad.

The potato pancakes were good-a little greasy- but better than your run of the mill potato pancakes

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The potato and cheese pierogies were so delicious! Hearty but also delicate and so fresh-this was by far the standout for me

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My second favorite item-the sweet cheese pierogi-  was more sweet than savory but still delicious!

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The combo plate was a huge portion with a stuffed cabbage roll, smoked sausage, hunter’s stew, and 3 pierogies. Both my mom and dad’s favorite item overall was the stuffed cabbage- my mom was so impressed, she usually isn’t a big fan of stuffed cabbage but she said the meat was light and amazing and the best stuffed cabbage she’s had.

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Lastly we had the cucumber salad. It was very small and good, but nothing so special that I’d ever order it again.

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Review: Definitely worthy of it’s high spot on Trip Advisor’s ranking, and a rare treat of delicious Polish food, and my personal favorite of pierogies. If you’re ever in Tucson and craving something other than Mexican food I’d highly advise trying Polish Cottage.

For more information on this restaurant see their website at http://polishcottageaz.com/