Monday, February 28, 2011

Holy rainy day Batman!

I had a training class this afternoon at the Knoxville Association of Realtors. After driving in a torrential downpour to the class, this is what we came out to after the class! There is a creek that runs right by their offices and it was overflowing. All over Knoxville roads were closed, including Cedar Bluff Road, right by the interstate, the main way we get to our house. They are saying on the news that this is the worst flooding in 18 years! Cars have been stuck in parking lots that have flash flooded and people have gotten stranded driving through the deep water. One school couldn't dismiss the students because the school was surrounded with water.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak

One of Dave's favorite foods is chicken fried steak. He doesn't eat it very often, but lately he has been talking about it pretty frequently. So when I was at the grocery store recently I saw that cube steak was on sale (Not that it's expensive in the first place, but on sale? Even better!) and picked some up. We, of course, had to have mashed potatoes and gravy to go with the chicken fried steak. It's not chicken fried steak without mashed potatoes and gravy! (Side note, Dana's favorite cafeteria food in high school was chicken fried steak! Yes, really.)

I used The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Fried Steak recipe from her cookbook. It's a pretty basic recipe that I probably could have done with out the cookbook, but the last time I made chicken fried steak (years and years ago) it didn't turn out very good. The breading is just flour, seasoning salt, pepper, Cayenne pepper and paprika, but it still yields a great flavor with the steak. It was nice to have her gravy recipe. I make gravy for Thanksgiving and a few other times a year, but it still intimidates me when I make it. I am always worried it will turn out lumpy or bland. NOTE: You must season your gravy with salt and probably lots of it or it will be super bland, that's what I have learned. You're welcome. So after adequate seasoning the gravy was perfect as were the mashed potatoes. I prefer to use Yukon Gold Potatoes for mashed potatoes, but only had Idaho on hand and they did turn out really good. I also use a potato ricer to make my potatoes, then I don't have to worry about lumps!

My only complaint about the chicken fried steak was that is was a little tough. I am blaming the meat, it was tenderized, but I should have probably beat on it some more to help it out a little.

Here's the finished product:

I was going to put a link up to the recipe for Chicken Fried Steak on her website, but I don't see it on there. UPDATE: The Pioneer Woman just put her chicken fried steak recipe online!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two-Fer Tuesday

 Dylan loves to pose for pictures and have me take pictures of him with his toys!

Eating at cookie at the UT Basketball Game.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How to Cook Without A Book

My favorite cookbook is my Cooks Illustrated New Best Recipe book. It has everything you need and more. Have a pork roast in the refrigerator and don't know the best way to prepare it? Want to make homemade BBQ sauce? Whatever you are looking for, it has it. Really, I'm not kidding, and everything turns out just the way it should.

BUT I really want this book, from what I've heard it's awesome. I think it would add nicely to my bag of cooking tricks...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Restaurant Review: Cafe 4

Dave and I were lucky to go out to dinner twice last week without Dylan! While it's always interesting to go out to dinner with the little guy, we don't do it very often because generally he would rather run around the restaurant than sit and eat. (Unless we are at Chez Guevara, he is usually good when we go there for some reason...)

Anyway, Dave and I met up with our friends Matt and Julie at his amazing loft in the old Chocolate Factory building. Matt has a great view of the sunsphere and World's Fair Park. We all caught up over a drink before walking over to Market Square for dinner at Cafe 4. Matt and Julie had been to Cafe 4 a few times before, but this was the first time Dave and I had been there. We love going downtown, but we just don't go there very often for dinner, something we are certainly working on changing!

Cafe 4 features traditional Southern comfort foods with a twist and have a frequently changing "seasonal-menu". Although we were a little late for our 7:30pm reservation we were seated right away. After trying a couple of options for red wine we settled on a bottle of Parducci Pinot Noir. (I am not a red wine fan so I had a glass of CA Sauvignon Blanc). It was a difficult decision to pick an appetizer with Sweet Corn Cakes, Chipolte BBQ Quesadillas and Parmesan and Truffle Fries on the menu. We decided to go with the Flash Fried Calamari and it did not disappoint. The sriracha aioli was a great spicy compliment to the lightly battered calamari.

With so many different options for entrees it was not easy deciding what to have for dinner. Cafe 4's selection of Flatbreads including a Lobster and Bacon option; Sandwiches namely the Fried Pork Tenderloin & Braised Short Rib and Grilled Cheese, Burgers, Entrees and Market Square Mini's all sounded delicious. I chose the Braised Short Ribs with roasted root vegetables. I have made the Pioneer Woman's Braised Beef Short Ribs before and they have been amazing, so I probably should have ordered something different. But I don't generally see short ribs on menus so I had to try them. They were excellent, cooked perfectly, fork tender. The vegetables were also cooked perfectly and while I am pretty sure zucchini is not a root vegetable it was excellent with the baby potatoes and carrots. Dave and Julie had the filet Mignon with asparagus and whipped potatoes. They both ordered their steaks medium-rare and that is just how they got them. Most restaurants overcook the steak when it is ordered medium-rare, but that was not the case at Cafe 4. Matt also had steak with asparagus and whipped potatoes (I think his was a ribeye though). They all raved about how excellent their steaks and vegetables were!

While we all said we were too full for dessert, we did have some wine to finish so we decided to at least check out the dessert tray. You know what that leads to, dessert! And ours was excellent, chocolate cookie crust, layered white and milk chocolate mousse and cheesecake, TO.DIE.FOR! Cafe 4 does have a bakery, so the wonderfulness of the dessert shouldn't have been that surprising, but I am still thinking about that awesome dessert!

I would certainly recommend Cafe 4 to anyone, their prices are reasonable, you could spend a lot or a little and have an exceptional dinner. They are also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. Their Sunday brunch is supposed to be out of this world, and with outdoor seating that just might be something we do this weekend with the great weather Knoxville is going to have!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday to my wonderful Mom today! I hope you are having a great day! Thank you for everything you have done for me over the years. I don't know what I would do without you! Love you!

Zoo day!

We are having great weather in Knoxville today, so Dylan and I went to the zoo this morning! We had a lot of fun in the Wee Play Zoo and checking out all the animals!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Restaurant Review: The Foothills Milling Company

Dave and I always go out for our Valentine's dinner the week before the actual day. So last night we dropped Dylan off and Meredith and Chad's and drove to Maryville to The Foothills Milling Company. We have heard from lots of different people that this restaurant is excellent and one of the best in the area. Their menu is constantly changing since they use local, seasonal and fresh ingredients.

Our reservation was for 7:15pm and we arrived a few minutes early. We were seated right away and our water glasses were filled. After a short wait our server arrived and took our drink order (wine for both of us). We had some time to look over the menu (even though we had both looked at it online before we left!) and decided to start with the charcuterie sampler that featured the sausages of Germany, brockworst, currywurst and pate maison served with mustard, bread & house made pickles. This was AMAZING, the sausages were flavorful and moist and paired perfectly with the mustard and pickles.

Next up was the salad, a baby spinach with warm bacon and Dijon dressing masterpiece complete with locally made Benton's bacon, goat cheese, oven roasted tomatoes and crispy black eyed peas. This could be the best salad I've ever eaten. The warm vinaigrette on the cool spinach leaves combined with the tangy goat cheese and crunchy black eyes peas was out of this world! Such a great combination of flavors and textures! The salad course was also served with home made bread and butter. We had a rosemary focaccia and sourdough in our basket. Normally I am the one devouring the bread, but last night it was Dave's turn. I don't think I've ever seen him eat that much bread in one sitting, you know it was excellent if Dave was eating all the bread!

Before we got our entrees we were served a refreshing palette cleanser of apple cider sorbet. Cool and refreshing!

Now for our entrees! Dave ordered the Braised Beef Cheeks, here is the description from the menu, it's guaranteed to have your mouth watering! All natural Piedmontese braised beef cheeks braised in red wine until tender, served with sourwood honey mustard vinaigrette, truffle macaroni and cheese and asparagus. I know you may be thinking beef cheeks? Ewww, but seriously these were so tender and flavorful, they really reminded me of braised beef short ribs in the texture, flavor and richness. The truffle mac and cheese also had Benton's bacon in it. The truffle oil was definitely present in the mac and cheese, but not overpowering. We both thought the asparagus was grilled, a perfect way to cook it, at home I always roast it in the oven so it gets a little crispy and you don't find it cooked that way when you order it in a restaurant.  My choice was the Horseradish Crusted Grouper, it had a panko horseradish crust and was served with mashed new potatoes and asparagus. The fish was cooked perfectly and had that great crunchy crust that panko breadcrumbs are famous for. The mashed new potatoes were rich and creamy and as I said above the asparagus was grilled perfectly.

The Foothills Milling Company also has a wonderful dessert menu and we were seriously considering dessert, but we were too stuffed. They had an apple tart, creme brulee, chocolate cake and a few other options that looked really good. We decided when we come back we are ordering dessert no matter what! We don't want to miss out again! We did bring a piece of their famous chocolate cake to Chad and Meredith as a thank-you for watching Dylan for us.

This is hands down one of the best (if not the best) restaurant in the Knoxville area (it's located in Maryville). Prices range from $5-$10 for appetizers, salads, and desserts and $21-$32 for entrees. While not cheap, the prices are well worth it, there are large portion sizes and the food is cooked perfectly. If you live in the Knoxville area do yourself a favor and check out The Foothills Milling Company, you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Two-Fer Tuesday

This week's Two-Fer Tuesday takes us back to our London & Oxford trip in 2008. We just made a photo book of this trip on Shutterfly (thanks to a free photo book coupon!). It was such a great trip and I loved looking back at all of the pictures. These pictures are both from Oxford and are of the two pubs we visited while we were there, The Turf Tavern & The Bear. The Bear is one of the oldest pubs in Oxford. The Turf Tavern was made famous by Bill Clinton, it's apprently where he "did not inhale". :)