Posts tagged ‘houston’

October 10, 2012

Black Pepper Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

I have an influx of oatmeal in my pantry…  every time I go to the store I seem to think I’m out so I buy more.  And of course when I get home I realize I have pounds of it!  (I’ve had the same experience with foil and butter…. )  So I needed to find some ways to get through it apart from my morning breakfast.

Black pepper oatmeal cookies with cranberries and walnuts

Thankfully, oatmeal can be used for a variety of healthy and tasty treats… granola and cookies being two of my favorites.  The change of seasons also makes me warm up to those heartier breakfasts and the cold harsh winter in Houston.  OK, harsh is probably overdoing it but we did get snow my first winter in Houston!  After a few not-so-subtle hints from my husband I finally had a free evening to bake up some goodies.

Home-baked cookies seem to be the perfect vehicle for little warm nuggets of heavenly pecan, walnut and macadamia.  It’s the perfect amount of crunch to balance the chewy exterior, and helps level out the sugary sweetness of plain cookies.  These are buttery, chewy and indulgent, and the hints of black pepper and nutmeg give this traditional recipe an interesting twist.  The tart cranberries contrast well with the black pepper and allow both flavors to spark while not overpowering one another.  You’ll friends will know they’re different, but they won’t know why…

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted (1½ sticks)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method

  1. Remove butter from fridge and let warm to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Place chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 mins.  When you kitchen smells like heaven they’re ready.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool on the side.
  5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Your cookies turn out so much better with parchment paper. I don’t know why but it works and then there is less to clean up!
  6. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and black pepper; set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until it becomes a light cream color and fluffy in texture.  The color should significantly change from when you start, so just turn up that mixer and let it go!
  8. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
  9. Mix in the flour mixture until just blended.
  10. Add the oats, walnuts and cranberries and mix with a wooden spoon. Mix until just blended.
  11. Use a tablespoon and scoop out small balls of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes. Do not over bake. The edges should turn very light brown, which is sometimes hard to see in the oven light, so I think I over baked these the first few times I made them.  The centers should still be slightly soft.
  12. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack (I usually try to eat one right off the tray and always burn myself… but it’s so worth it!
  13. Repeat and enjoy!
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September 13, 2011

Aka Sushi, Best Sushi in Houston

Salt and vinegar potato chips, molten dark chocolate cake, fish and chips, bacon, and stick to your ribs homemade macaroni and cheese.  We all give into our cravings. Lucky for me, one of mine happens to be healthy.  There aren’t many places that make me as happy as a trip to my favorite sushi place in Houston, Aka Sushi.

You will not find better sushi for such a good price anywhere in Houston, let along anywhere in Texas.  I grew up in San Francisco, a mecca for fresh fish and great produce, so I think I can say with conviction I’ve tried my fair share of sushi.  Through all my travels, Aka is still at the top of my list.

Upon my first visit, I was eager to try about 20 different rolls on Aka’s enormous menu. They’re certainly on top of some of the better Japanese fusion trends.  I took some recommendations from the welcoming and very informative waiters, and was extremely pleased with all my selections.  Ask for Tony and Jay (they are my two pals and know me too well), they will steer you in the right direction.  Whether you’re the adventurous type, or a beginner sushi lover, they’ll be able to help you navigate the multitude of choices.

Here is my number one tip.  If there is anything you remember from this post, it has to be this.  Ask for a side of their creamy ginger dressing to go along with your sushi.  This is essential to enjoying the ultimate sushi experience.  It has a smooth, rich consistency and the combination of spicy ginger and tangy vinegar makes a perfect addition to any roll.  It’s heavenly, pure bliss!

I’ve tried most of their sushi rolls, and here are my top picks for both the adventurous and timid:

  • Tony’s roll a.k.a. flamin’: spicy salmon, tempura crunch, pepper tuna, avocado, tobiko, sesame seeds, eel sauce, honey wasabi To die for…probably the best roll I’ve ever had.)
  • Ninja roll: spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado; topped with blackened tuna, crumbled goat cheese, honey wasabi, balsamic soy (ask for it “Tony style” and they’ll add some fresh apple slices)
  • Crazy: spicy tuna, shrimp temp., cucumber, jalapeño, masago, sesame, spicy mayo
  • Spicy crunchy salmon: spicy salmon with tempura crunch
  • Spicy crunchy tuna:  spicy tuna with tempura crunch

Aka’s lunch and happy hour deals are unbeatable.   If you get a chance to visit please let me know how you like it and your favorite roll, I’m always looking to try something new!

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