Hidden Gems: Nong’s Thai Cuisine

nongsthaicuisine
The Sukiyaki Soup Bowl at Nong’s Thai Cuisine

John and I traveled to Thailand last summer and fell in love with the fascinating culture and the stunning food climate. Since that experience I have been craving Thai food regularly.  While I do plan to do a lengthy blog post on that trip, today I am writing about a hidden gem of a restaurant that I found tucked away in an unassuming strip mall in Golden Valley.  My oldest son and I try to meet for a meal when I am in his neck of the woods . Usually those outings take place in Golden Valley, close to his job.

The desire to try something new for lunch last week had us yelping nearby restaurants.  Nong’s Thai Cuisine popped up.  The restaurant was close in proximity to our location and the reviews were consistently above average so we gave it a try.  My impression: insanely good!  The incredible menu made it hard to choose just one dish. I’ve found that a long menu doesn’t always correlate with high quality, favorable food choices but at Nong’s I truly could not decide what to order because there were so many fantastic options. I ended up with the Sukiyaki Soup found on the noodle page.  Ingredients included: glass noodles, egg, Napa cabbage, onion, green onion, celery and special sukiyaki sauce.  The flavors were addicting.  The choices on the spice scale were mild, medium, hot and thai hot.  I am a spice girl so I opted for hot and loved it.  The portion was extremely generous which I appreciated as I had the remaining soup for lunch the next day.  I don’t refer to that as leftovers, I call it: same soup, different day….

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Yeast Bread Chronicles: Lisa’s Kitchen

So how is it that I have been baking (cakes, cookies, quick breads) and writing recipes for the better part of 25 years and I’ve not had more than one or two attempts at working with yeast breads?  I was intimidated, plain and simple.  Turns out it’s not that scary.  After watching the James Beard Award winning Nancy Silverton’s episode of The Chef’s Table on Netflix I was instantly inspired to dive into the yeast bread game.

Here are a couple of interesting facts regarding the types of yeast to keep in mind before you get started:

Active Dry Yeast – This is a dormant form of yeast.  It needs to be rehydrated prior to use. Ideally, the yeast is dissolved in warm water that is approximately 110 degrees F.  Tip: a pinch of sugar helps with the activation of the yeast.  Look for the yeast/water/sugar mixture to bubble and foam after a few minutes.  I used active dry yeast in both of the recipes presented in this blog post.

Instant Yeast: There is no need to dissolve in water prior to use in a recipe.  The yeast granules are smaller that those in active dry yeast.

Both varieties of yeast can be frozen in a covered container. The yeast can be used right from the freezer, there is no need to bring it to room temperature prior to incorporating it.  I bought the yeast used in my recipes in packets but it is available in bulk at many grocers, big box stores and online at amazon.com.

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Destination: Pinot Noir Tasting in the Willamette Valley

Maya: “Why are you so in to Pinot?  I mean it’s a thing with you.”

Miles: “Uh I don’t know, I don’t know.  Um, it’s a hard grape to grow as you know.  It’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early.  It’s , you know, not a survivor like cabernet, which can grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it’s neglected.  No, pinot needs constant care and attention.  You know?  In fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, only the most patient and nurturing growers can do it, really.  Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinots potential can then coax it into its full expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they are just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and…..ancient on the planet.”

~Quoted from Sideways, one of my all time favorite wine themed movies.

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Game Day Recipes: Roasted Jalapeno Peppers

Those interested in effortless game day snack ideas will love these roasted jalapeno peppers.  This appetizer has been a perpetual crowd-pleaser at our parties. The melodious combination of the heat from the jalapeno peppers & smoked chorizo, along with the spicy blend of cheeses, makes this recipe a superb addition to your menu for Super Bowl Sunday and fiestas beyond.  They can easily be assembled the morning of the gathering and popped in the oven when your guests arrive. If you prefer the make ahead method simply cover and refigerate until it’s time to roast them. Serving while the cheese is still hot and bubbly is your best bet.

Ingredients

12 large jalapeno peppers, sliced in half lenghwise and seeded

4 ounces of cream cheese, softened

1 cup of shredded pepper jack or other Mexican cheese blend

2 ounces of crumbled feta cheese

1/2 lb of bulk smoked chorizo sausage, cooked and cooled

4 ounce can of chopped green chilies, drained

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place sliced jalapeno peppers open side up on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Mix the cheeses, cooked chorizo sausage and green chilies in bowl until well combined.

Spoon the cheese & sausage mixture into the peppers.

Roast for 15-17 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is golden & bubbly.

Serve immediately and preferably with an ice cold cerveza!

Yield: 24

Pizazz: exuding charisma and magnetism.  Something catchy and immediate.  This appetizer has it!

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa’s Spicy Chili Recipe

Super Bowl Sunday is just a few days away!  The ease of preparation as well as the versatility of chili as a vehicle for comfort food makes it a perfect addition to the game day menu.  There are not many recipes where personal preference can dictate the final product the way chili does. Are you a traditionalist? Do you prefer red or white chili? Chunky tomatoes or smooth? Beans or no beans? Spicy or mild? Heat from cayenne or chipotle seasoning?  The options for additional ingredients including the meat, pork or protein are vast.  Our family and friends enjoy things a little higher on the spice scale but this recipe can be adjusted to your taste.  I suggest a good, long simmer as the flavors become brighter with time.

Ingredients:
• 2 lbs ground beef (not lean) or ground sirloin
• 1 Vidalia or other sweet onion, chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 4 tablespoons chili powder
• 2 tablespoons cumin
• Pinch of cayenne pepper (I am generous with this but I suggest starting small depending     on your food audience)
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 2 large cans crushed tomatoes ( I use the 28 ounce cans of San Marzano or Cento)
• 2 14 ounce cans of red gold chili ready diced tomatoes
• 1 8 ounce can of tomato sauce, any brand

*Season with salt to taste

Directions:
• Brown beef and onion until meat is no longer pink.
• Add garlic cloves and all of the spices. Stir just until fragrant.
• Add all of the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, stir well.
• Simmer all afternoon!  Keep the spices at the ready, continue to taste as you go.  Season as it cooks. I generally end up adding more chili powder and cumin but I use the above as a starting point. .

Optional toppings: Chopped onions, sour cream, chopped cilantro, shredded cheese, guacamole, sliced jalapeno peppers

The day after: I love to use leftover chili as a topping for fried or scrambled eggs, chili nachos, or spread a thin layer in the center of a cheese quesadilla before popping it in the pan.  Let creativity be your guide.

This makes a large pot of chili, cut the recipe in half for a smaller group.

Enjoy!!

Out and About: The Sparrow Cafe

Sunday’s seem to the best day for John and I to venture out and explore the coffee scene in the Twin Cities.  This was our first visit to the Sparrow Cafe on Penn Avenue in Minneapolis.  I love the bright wall murals and the sparrow theme.  On a January day in Minnesota this cafe was a definite spirit lifter.  Friendly baristas, amazing pastries (We split the Pan Au Chocolat) and oh yea, the Fair Trade Coffee made the Sparrow Cafe worth the drive.  We’ll definitely return again.  Bonus: it’s across the street from Broder’s Pasta bar and just around the corner from Terzo restaurant and wine bar.  The location is prime.

Address: 5001 Penn Avenue S, Minneapolis

Website: The Sparrow Cafe

Welcome to the Empty Nesters Kitchen Blog

Empty as defined by Merriam Webster:  containing nothing, not having any people, not occupied.  Having no real purpose or value.    For many, the idea of being an empty nester conjures up images of a quiet household, void of activity.   For us it means that even though our children are no longer living at home our culinary and social lives remain active.  Empty is not the word we would use to describe this stage of life.  We have transitioned to a new and different kind of busy.  While there are times when we are cooking for two of us, there are many days where we are creating meals for our children who return for a home-made dinner or for a group of family or friends.  Sometimes formal meals, most often casual.    We spend a lot of time traveling and exploring restaurants throughout Minnesota and beyond. The goal of the empty nesters kitchen blog is to post about unique recipes, wines, travel experiences, favorite restaurants, entertaining and home & garden tips.   I look forward to sharing our empty nester adventures with you.  Stay tuned for more, way more….