My Favorite Things – Zilk’s Basil Pesto and Pimento Cheese

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Like many of you, I visit three food stores to complete my entire shopping list.  Here in Dallas, Tom Thumb is my primary go-to store.  Paper towels, ziploc bags, chicken broth, the standard stuff.  I use their app for discounts, I know which store brand products I like and I can be in and out of the store pretty fast.  The second store I shop at is Central Market.  Here I buy certain items that I cannot get at Tom Thumb.  They have an awesome marinated chicken at their meat counter, amazing italian meatballs with veal and they carry some of the foods I used to buy in the Northeast.  Whole Foods is the third. Of course I love all of their fish, meats and product but there are two or three items that I only buy at Whole Foods.   The first is Basil Pesto and the second is Pimento Cheese.

 Zilks Foods is a small artisan producer in Austin;  both items are available in Dallas stores and are packaged by Whole Foods – sometimes the pesto is available on the self serve bar with the olives, other times it is with the other pestos and cheeses.  Both are absolutely fantastic and come in a variety of flavors(think hatch chile!)
Zilk’s Basil Pesto:

  • mix with cream and Parmesan to make a pesto sauce for pasta.  Add chicken and diced tomato for a great meal
  • add to a turkey or chicken sandwich with or without mayo
  • Serve over grilled chicken or fish
  • Add to a tomato and mozzarella salad

Zilk’s Pimento Cheese:

  • Use instead of sliced cheese for a grilled cheese sandwich and serve with tomato soup
  • The best topping for a fabulous cracker
  • Use on a hot roast beef sandwich

Any other recipe suggestions?

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On the Road Dining Review: Houston

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Houston, TX.  Ranked Number 7 on the New York Times’ list of the 46 “Places to Go” in 2013.  I travel down to Houston about 4 times a year.  I have a lot of clients there and I am always reading about the awesome restaurant scene.  Here are a few of the spots I hit this trip.

Underbelly
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I have read about Underbelly for a while now and decided to stop there for lunch.  The server recommended the Hog & Hominy Poutine, Roasted Chicken & Butter Biscuit(a deconstructed chicken pot pie) and the Seared Gulf White Shrimp, Pimento Cheese Grits,  As much as I wanted to try the first two, I absolutely love pimento cheese(my favorite is Zilk’s from Whole Foods) and I had to go with the shrimp and grits.  I was not disappointed and will need to come back for dinner on another visit.

Caracol
Caracol was voted one of the top 5 restaurants this year by Houstonia Magazine and their happy hour got a great review.  Since I opted for an early “dinner”, it was the perfect spot for me.  I ordered a Mojito, the Taquitos Tronadores de Carnitas (slow-cooked pork, crema fresca and avocado-tomatillo sauce) and the Croquetitas de Yuca y Jaiba (yucca and crab fritters with an avocado tomatillo). The service was great and the food was absolutely delicious.

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Fountain View Cafe
I searched and searched for a great breakfast spot in Houston.  Somewhere close to my hotel, somewhere fast and somewhere inexpensive.  I came up with Fountain View Cafe. It was voted No. 1 breakfast spot and it hit my requirements.  You walk in, order at the counter, pour your own coffee and they bring your food to you.  When you are done, you leave and they bus the table.  I ordered an egg, cheese and bacon croissant sandwich and a cup of coffee.  Will I be back?  If I need something fast and filling, this is the spot.

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Lillo & Ella
I found Lillo & Ella on Eater Houston.  Options in this part of town seemed a bit limited and the menu looked interesting so I decided to try it.  My boss joined me for lunch and we were the only table in the restaurant.  We shared the chipotle and honey edamame to start, a little sweet a little spicy.  For our meals, he ordered the Blue Crab Fried Rice, I ordered the Thai Muu Noodles.  Both were delicious.  After the meal, we agreed how great the food was so we found it strange that they had NO lunch crowd.  This is definitely one you need to try!

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Any other spots you recommend for my next visit?

 

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Rainbow Dinner – Challenge #8

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Red, Green and Purple. Rainbow Dinner #8 and rather than being super creative with food coloring, I am trying to use foods that maybe I would not ordinarily cook with for our family.

What is Rainbow Dinner? Every Monday I cook a meal that has three colors from the rainbow that my daughter chooses for me. The goal? Introduce new foods to my five-year old in the hope that she will start enjoying some new foods.

Green is one of the best colors to cook with since it is not only a common color for vegetables, but a healthy one.  Red, a little more difficult since options are mostly fruit and then purple, well, not as hard as blue but not that easy.

I was able to find purple potatoes at Whole Foods.  They were mixed with other colored, small roasting potatoes so that was perfect.  Green – Spinach.  She has never tried it and I love it in salads and sautéed with garlic.  Red – I guess rather than creating my own dish I will use something that fits into the holiday week perfectly.  A cous cous dish from the Whole Foods cold case with cranberries for the red.  Add some marinated chicken and I have a full meal!

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I knew my husband would enjoy the meal so I was interested to see what my daughter thought about these new foods.  Green – spinach – “Gross”, Purple Potatoes – “they are not my thing” – (oh really?), and the cranberries – “Mom, I love cranberries!  I’ve had them before.”  As for my husband, he had never tried purple potatoes and enjoyed them.  It may have been because I smashed them and used garlic butter on top!  The good news – I guess cous cous with different colors in it can be added to the rotation!

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Mission Impossible? Rainbow Dinner

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I wanted to find a way for my daughter to try more foods.  Dinner had to be more fun.  The no-thank you bite worked well for a while but now at five, she announced she had already tried everything.  So, I offered the following to my five year old daughter.

Every Monday night, we will do Rainbow Dinner. She gets to pick three colors from the rainbow and I have to make a dinner that has those colors. The catch – she must eat everything. No excuses.

For the first dinner, I should have known that she would choose the three hardest colors. Green, NO. Red, NO. Yellow, NO.  My daughter chose pink, purple and blue.  So now I am thinking, I am crazy.  This is going to take more time and effort than I thought.  Great job Mom – you really thought this one through.  

Create a dinner with pink, purple and blue – Hmm. Well, pink was not too hard. Beets(more dark pink than red), pink lemonade for a drink(is that cheating?), a cream sauce made from marinara(I think that is more orange). Shrimp – scratch that, she doesn’t like shrimp. Maybe not so easy. Purple – got it. Eggplant, or even better, purple cauliflower. She has never tried that before.  Note to self – I must make a trip to Whole Foods or Central Market for that one. Blue – what vegetable is blue? What meat is blue? What fish is blue? Blueberries – but how do I make that part of dinner? Fruit salad?

Thank you to Pinterest for allowing me to search rainbow foods, rainbow dinner, rainbow recipes.  And off to the food store I went.

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Fresh pasta-check.  Food coloring – check.  Purple cauliflower – check.  Chicken for her – check.  Shrimp for me and the husband – check. (Must have some meat or fish, right?) Sauce-check.  Some brilliant person figured out that you can use food coloring on PASTA.  It looks really cool but I will admit, my fingers are still a shade of purple from the pink and blue combining on my hands.  It was a VERY time consuming dinner to have to steam the cauliflower, cook the pasta(although the fresh pasta did save time), make individual bags of food coloring to dye the pasta, rinse the pasta, use another pan to cook the shrimp and chicken(Yes – my Rachel Ray pan) and then make the sauce.  Then I had to put it all together.

The end result:
Pink, Purple and Blue Rainbow Pasta with Purple Cauliflower and Grilled Chicken. My daughter’s huge smile showed her excitement and she ate the entire meal(I knew the  pasta would be a hit but she ate all of the purple cauliflower – YEAH!).  She even picked her colors for next week and wow, was I happy to hear them – red, orange and yellow.  (sigh of relief!)

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Mission Accomplished!!