Banana Scones

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Star Scones!

Whilst browsing through my many food blogs I came upon this delectable dish with perfect timing, for beside me was an ever-ripening bunch of bananas that needed to be used up!

From Flavorthemoments.com came this simple banana breakfast pastry. (I didn’t make the glaze because I wasn’t feeling the sweet factor. And I was lazy. XP )

The making was simple enough and definitely took me less than the predicted half hour prep time. I halved the recipe, not having many people to help me eat the finished product, which made the prepping even quicker.

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I quickly mashed up the banana, added a splash of almond milk (just to thin it out since I was already at the 1 cup mark) and mixed in the greek yogurt. Then I mixed the dry ingredients, cut in the butter and combined with the ‘naners.

I’m not sure how you’d be able to spread out the dough and cut out rounds because it was just a little too sticky for easy handling. As it was, I got messy enough just partitioning the dough into my adorable (and thoroughly greased and floured) star tins.

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Popped them in the oven and after the 16 minutes they were perfect!

I let them cool and in the morning enjoyed a lovely (and rather healthy!) breakfast with a fruit smoothie. It still wasn’t very scone-like (maybe because I only used white all purpose flour?). It was more akin to a dense (almost tough, but not in a bad way!) muffin. Anyway it was really good and still moist.

I’m going to make these again and play around with some additional fillings (chocolate or cinnamon chips, anyone?) and maybe adding a bit more flour to see if that makes it more crumbly and scone-ish.

Ethnic-ly Confused Chicken, Rice and Salsa

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This was a meal I made with my good friend who is now living in L.A. pursuing her dreams of writing for TV and films. Before her trip we were hanging out a bunch and cooking – one of our many common interests. This Mediterranean/Hispanic/Asian inspired is really hard to describe, so I’ll just give you the basic recipes. But trust me, the flavors go perfectly together!

Salsa Chicken – Though cooked in salsa this dish turned sweet and rich in flavors. We were using Pace so there wasn’t much spice, another brand might make it less sweet. The chicken was tender and the cinnamon gave a nice warm background to the tangy tomatoes.

Chop up some raw chicken breast and pour in enough salsa to cover the poultry completely. Add cinnamon/nutmeg and some chili powder and stew/simmer on medium until cooked through. About 20 minutes.

Coconut Lime Rice – If you simply substitute half the amount of water you would normally use with coconut milk or water, it creates a slightly sweet and tropical tasting rice. We added further dimension by squeezing some lime juice in the rice while it cooked as well. Once it was done in the rice cooker, we mixed in some chopped parsley to give it a fresh zing to further counterbalance the sweetness of the coconut.

Avocado, Blackbean and Corn Salsa – depending on the ripeness of the avocados this will either be more creamy or more like a salad side dish. But it’s such a vibrant mix of veggies, legumes and flavors that it works either way. It’s also really good spread on a sandwich with turkey (or leftover chicken!)

Mix 2 avocados, diced, with a can of black beans (drained), a can of corn (drained), half a diced onion, a bunch of chopped parsley, and some lime juice to taste.

Jason’s Deli

Ah, Jason’s Deli. It has been a family favorite for a good decade now. And the reason we like it so much is because it is quick, simple food but with quality flavor and craft. You can order pick-up or pop on in for a sit-down meal and enjoy everything from the salad bar to turkey wraps to salmon sandwiches to baked potatoes to soup!

And don’t forget the complimentary ice cream cone at the end of your meal!

The Jason’s that we always frequent, across from the Tucson Mall, has that fun and quirky cafeteria feel to it – it’s open and the furniture is normal black tables and plastic chairs. There really never was much decoration (till lately when they added some AZ spirit-filled black and white wall posters of various locations across Tucson) except for the red and white color theme.

But it was always pleasant and comfortable and clean. And the food has always been enjoyable. My longtime order is the turkey wrap with swiss (heated) and a side of fruit. The wrap is never dried out and they fill the sandwich with enough meat and cheese to make it worthwhile. Also the fruit dip. I have to rave about this creamy concoction.

From what I can tell from my exacting scientific taste experiments (aka, eating it in insane quantities and with zealous delight) I have deduced that this dip is made out of… magical ingredients! I really haven’t been able to tell. I’m guessing it’s either cream or a thinned out cream cheese with vanilla and some brown sugar. But there is this zing to it that I have only ever been able to describe as alcoholic. Whenever I asked though, I would get a different answer. So it very well may be an alcoholic fruit dip (or the dip may be nearly entirely comprised of vanilla extract – which if you ever look closely enough is 41% alcohol. That is a LOT.)

In either case I always enjoy the dip more than the fruit and use the strawberries, grapes or melons they give me to swipe every last drop of deliciousness off the plastic container it comes in. And then you have to lick clean something THAT good.

I’m sure by now, though, you are wondering what the pictured sandwich is! And that would be the Wild Salmon-wich featuring guacamole and chipotle aioli sauce on focaccia. It was really good. I was even able to not think about the fruit dip waiting for me for a good half a sandwich. The salmon was flaky and not overcooked, it held together nicely. And the sandwich was very flavorful and fresh. Exactly the type of thing I like to order – that which I would not have the patience or ingredients to make.

So next time you drive by a Jason’s Deli. Go ahead. Take a pit stop and refuel with some quality deli(cious) food!

La Olla Mexican Café

Up to this point I have had only positive reviews for restaurants. That’s because they are either old favorites and I’ve been really lucky. Unfortunately, that luck has run out because this is not going to be a rave review.

But it wasn’t BAD. Just not… Good. I guess mediocre is the term I’m looking for. But maybe it was just the circumstances that hung over my dining experience, and I should give it another shot sometime.

You see, my dad decided that he’d buy a coupon for this place. $25 for $10 deal. Not bad at all. Until, that is, you read the fine print saying you have to spend at least $45 during your visit.

That’s a big problem for only two people! Luckily one of my friends from college was coming down soon to visit, so we were going to take advantage of the extra mouth to feed.

We are driving the 20ish minutes it takes to get to the restaurant from my place of residence. I’m expecting a somewhat elegant restaurant – simply because of the deal. It must be pricey food if you need to spend 45 dollars to get half off! Lo and behold when we walk in… it feels like a Mexican place in the Midwest or Europe (as in it doesn’t feel authentic at all).

I was so disappointed. I don’t know how they think they can get by with such horrible themeing and decoration. There are COUNTLESS Mexican cafés all over Tucson. They range from the cheap to the posh and trendy. Each and every one feels authentic though. It’s easy when you live only a few hours from the border.

The owners must have TRIED to look fake. The decor is terribly sparse and the little they have is stereotypical. The dining area is too open and feels like a quick serve restaurant but with a bar in the back. I simply don’t understand how they managed this disaster.

Enough of the ambience criticism. Time for the food review:

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Chips and salsa are always a hit or miss. This was a miss. Thin easily broken tastes-from-a-bag chips accompanied spicy but bland salsa.

Then we ordered a queso fundido for an appetizer. This actually wasn’t too bad. Not mind blowing, but it was a nice combo of cheeses, beans and chorizo. Pleasantly spiced and surprisingly filling for the small dish it was served in.

Our main meals were:

The green enchiladas – a nice sauce, a fun variety of vegetables inside with the chicken, the calabacitas were decent if a bit overcooked. However it was a specialty item, so it’s not always available.

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The carnitas dish – really good carnitas, actually, they were tender and flavorful, the “tamale pie” was decent too with a good texture and decent corn flavor.

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And finally, a harvest salad with chipotle chicken. It was a good salad and the chicken was nice. Not much to be said otherwise.

After this satisfactory though not entirely pleasant meal, we had to order dessert to go to reach the bill minimum. Ugh. We got a cobbler with ice cream. It had a nice crumble, the filling was nothing special though.

Overall, I don’t really want to go back. It just doesn’t seem worth it. The only thing I enjoyed were the plates. As you can see from the pictures they were colorful and fun and actually felt hispanic.

But if you are in the Silverbell area and want to give it a try, the food wasn’t terrible. Let me know if you have a more pleasant – or worse – experience than I did!

Thunder Canyon Brewery

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This has been a long time favorite  — especially for their Lightening Lunch specials. TCB is a local pub and brewery that offers a fun and varied selection of lunch and dinner foods, as well as delicious beers.

For dinner this week, my dad and I went to get some good ol’ pub food. I ordered the Scottsdale Salad: mandarin oranges, raisins, cranberries, walnuts and I picked the raspberry vinaigrette to go along with it all. It was refreshing and light and just sweet enough to satiate my sweet tooth.

My dad ordered the fish and chips. They are coated in a crispy beer batter and served with a light tartar sauce and malt vinegar. I’ve always enjoyed ordering the fish here!

I didn’t order a drink this time, but I was eyeing the Strawberry beer they featured. They always have at least one fruit beer and several homebrewed beers on tap. It’s great for happy hour!

Chodang

Bulgogi and banchan

Look at that glorious spread of my most favorite ethnic cuisine!

Chodang is a tiny hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant on the East side of Chandler. Parking in the lot is limited and spreads out into the neighborhood streets and it really doesn’t look like much on the outside. Or the inside, for that matter. But you can tell it’s really authentic because of the small scale, the amount of Koreans (and other Asians) in the restaurant and the amount of English in the menu (just enough to get the idea of each food across.)

My dear friend and I set out on this lunch excursion because we are both huge fans of Korean food. We decided to split the Bulgogi platter. It came with the above pictured banchans — dried seaweed strips, a dish of spiced sliced radishes, soybean sprouts, house kimchi, what I can only assume is potatoes cooked in sugar and soy sauce (the taste is similar to kongjang) if anyone knows what this dish is called please let me know!, and what tasted like sliced apples and mayo.

All the banchan were delicious (even the apple salad was surprisingly addictive) and the bulgogi was as tender and flavourful as I could hope for! It was served on top of caramelized onions and left steeping in its natural juices. Which I naturally mopped up with my leftover rice. It was a filling meal and at a really affordable price.

While the staff wasn’t overly friendly, neither were they neglectful. They took our order, served us food and let us be. And sometimes that is all one desires out of a restaurant experience. Much less annoying than the owner or waiter who visits your table every ten minutes (until you finish your meal, then you are left waiting and waiting for the check!)

All-in-all I recommend Chodang for an inexpensive and utterly delicious Korean meal!!

Kalina Russian Restaurant and Tea House

I came across this small family owned restaurant by way of Groupons. Kalina features a high tea meal and a brunch on Sunday. It is tucked away on the East side of Tucson and when I said small, I meant it. It is very intimate and has maybe ten tables in the whole place. Half the space is partitioned off and used for the kitchen. In the front are the tables with whimsical patterned plates and tea sets and the bold color themes of red and white.

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Because of the size, the website recommends making reservations – in case there is a rush of customers. I believe it can get quite crowded, but around 2pm on a Friday my cousin and I were the only customers in the restaurant.

We were quickly attended to by an adorable waiter (though no older than twenty-something he was clearly in charge of the whole restaurant, seeing as the older women were busy cooking or didn’t speak much English.) He saw to it that we quickly got our two teas – Cherry Sencha and Raspberry Green Tea. After letting them steep for about 5 minutes we tried them in our fanciful cups and thoroughly enjoyed the flavor. The cherry was fruity but light and the raspberry tasted like raspberries mixed with a light green tea.

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Then we made our order of appetizer, side, entrée and dessert. It sounded like a lot of food, but wasn’t overwhelming. In fact the mushroom stuffed peroshki (the fried dumpling type shape in the middle left), the cold Borscht, and salmon egg salad sandwiches all fit on one plate.

I really enjoyed the meal. It was my first time trying peroshki and borscht and I was not disappointed. The piroshki had a chewy dough and a lovely warm mushroom filling. The borscht I would describe as being sweet and refreshing. The broth was surprisingly clear (though very deep red) and the vegetables stewed in it were died a beautiful red shade (so as to make discerning which was which a near impossible task without tasting). It was a light summer soup and the sour cream really added a subtle creamy and tart addition to the flavour palette.

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Finally our desserts came. I ordered the Russian Tea Strawberry Jame Cake and my cousin, the Apple Fondant.

The jam cake was a bit disappointing, seeing as it tasted like one of those Quaker Oatmeal breakfast dessert bars. Same texture and flavor.

Though both good, the Apple Fondant was the best of the two. It was warm and light dough baked around crisp and sweet caramel baked apples. And it was just the right size to satisfy a sweet tooth without being too filling or overbearing.

Overall, it was a pleasant and quaint experience. I’m not sure I’d go again for tea (though I might be interested in trying the brunch options). But I appreciate Groupons for helping me to learn about this neat restaurant.

(Groupons by the way is an interesting mode of payment. When you buy the groupon it seems like it pays the restaurant, so when we got our bill we only had to pay tax and tip. An interesting, if off experience.)