Sticky Toffee Pudding

This year Christmas Eve’s dessert was Sticky Toffee Pudding.  I first had and fell in love with this dessert at the Golden Tea Garden in Hayward, and had made it once before.  It was a good choice.  I served it with vanilla ice cream.  I followed the instructions from this epicurious recipe pretty closely, but if I made it again I’d follow the advise of one of the reviewers and double the amount of sauce, pour same half of it on the cake the day I make it and then top it with the other half.

I made the cake the day before and the sauce a few hours earlier.

Ingredients

For the pudding

  • 1 pckg (~6 oz) pitted dates
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

For the sauce

  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp brandy
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

For the pudding

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a bundt pan or 6 ramekins.

Place dates and water in a small sauce pan and heat until it starts to boil.  Remove from heat and add baking soda.  Using a blender, puree.
In a separate bowl, sift flour.  Whisk in the baking powder and salt.
Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.  Mix in the vanilla.  Mix in one egg, then half of the flour mixture and half of the date puree.  Repeat with the additional egg and rest of flour and puree.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry, 30 to 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for 30 minutes. Unmold.

For the sauce

Put the sugar, butter and cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Continue cooking for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Turn off the heat and mix in the brandy and vanilla extract.

Pour sauce over the cake and serve.

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Mushroom Marsala Gnocchi

This was probably my favorite dish of my 2017 Christmas Eve dinner.  And no wonder, I love gnocchi, I love Marsala sauce, and the two together are just dynamite.  Indeed, even my husband who hates gnocchi couldn’t stop eating it – even though this was already the 8th course of the night!  I used a combination of

Ingredients

 

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • dried sage
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 pckg (~1 lb) vacuum-sealed gnocchi

Directions

Melt butter in a wide sauce pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms, turn heat down to medium-low and cook until soft, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add marsala, borth and cream and cook for a few minutes.  Sprinkle sage and black pepper and mix in the lemon juice.

Meanwhile, book the gnocchi according to package instructions.  Add gnocchi to sauce in the pan and mix well.  Serve.

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Pear & Goat Cheese Salad with Caramelized Walnuts and Cranberries

I wanted to make a different salad for Christmas this year and finally decided on a pear and goat cheese salad.  Alas, I couldn’t decide on any particular recipe, so I ended up making my regular Mixed Green Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette and simply adding the ingredients I wanted to use.  It came out delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
  • 5 oz mixed greens
  • 1 bunch of green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 1/4 cup caramelized walnuts*
  • 3 Tbsp. goat cheese

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and raspberry vinegar. Set aside.

Toss together mixed greens, green onions, cranberries and walnuts in a salad bowl.  Add vinaigrette and mix well.  Crumble goat cheese on top and mix again.

* To caramelized walnuts, place 1/4 cup walnut pieces, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. butter in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter and sugar melt and the walnut pieces are well coated with it.  Pour onto parchment paper and quickly separate the pieces.  Let cool. Store in an airtight container.

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Spiced Chickpeas

I wanted a light snack with Middle Eastern flavors to accompany the mint pomegranate lassi I served as a first course for my Christmas 2017 dinner.  This recipe for chickpeas hit that spot.  They are good, easy to make, and they will keep for at least a couple of days in an air-tight bowl or jar.

Ingredients

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Drain, rinse and pat dry the garbanzos.

Heat oil over medium heat in a frying pan.  Add chickpeas and spices. Mix well and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas pop, about 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towels and serve.

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Pomegranate Mint Lassi

I discovered this delicious drink at All Spice restaurant in San Mateo, and I was hooked.   I’m a big lover of sweet lassis, and I couldn’t believe I had never had a mint one before – when it seems like such an obvious flavor combination.  I wasn’t sure what the pomegranate contributed – I still don’t know – but the drink at the restaurant was so delicious I just had to try it myself.

I did as a first course for my 2017 Christmas Eve dinner – and it was a big hit.  The recipe is very simple, you need:

  • plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • pomegranate juice
  • honey
  • dried mint

I can’t tell you the proportions as I simply combined the yogurt with the lassi until it had the right consistency and then added honey until it was sweet enough – beating with an immersion blender, but you can just put everything in a blender.  I then added mint until I could taste it.   I tried it with both fresh and dried mint, but dried mint works far better.  The key to this lassi is to let it rest for at least half an hour before serving, as the flavors need time to combine.  But make it, you won’t be disappointed.

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Cooking What I Missed: From Aguascalientes to French Guiana

I have been working on my International Foods Project for over 17 years.  I’m making my way through the world cuisines cooking alphabetically and I have yet to get to H!  And this, despite the fact that I have skipped many cuisines on my way here.  I am taking this as the opportunity to visit them – albeit cooking just one dish from each instead of a full meal.  So far, none of these dishes have wowed me: perhaps there was a reason why I skipped the cuisines in the first place.

What we had were:

I have ten more “make up” cuisines to go before moving on to finish the “Gs” (I thought I was finished, and then I found six more G cuisines!).  My hope is to start H at least by the end of the year.

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Review: Angelina’s Pizzeria, Las Vegas

I ordered pizza from Angelina’s Pizzeria while staying at The Signature in Las Vegas.  It was an OK experience.  The pizza is thin crusted and pretty generic.  One of my daughter’s loved it, the other one wasn’t happy with it.  I thought it was OK.  I also got a meatballs sub which was very generic as well.

Delivery was $4 and it took over an hour – but they delivered all the way up to the room.

I would probably try a different place next time, but this was one was adequate enough. Angelina’s has five restaurants in Las Vegas.

Angelina’s Pizzeria
5025 S Eastern Ave
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 597-9056
http://www.angelinaspizzalv.com/

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Review: India Oven / Indian Masala, Las Vegas, NV

We stopped by India Oven / Indian Masala for lunch on a Thursday night in late July, 2017 and enjoyed their lunch buffet.  It was pretty generic as far as Indian lunch buffets go, which is not a bad thing.

The restaurant is a fusion of two different Indian restaurants, Indian Oven and Indian Masala, and it does not seem to have decided upon a name so it’s using both.  Hey, it’s Vegas, why not?  It sits in a small strip mall but the inside is rather nice, it could even pass for elegant if it didn’t have a buffet.

The buffet included a small salad bar, made-to-order naan (choice between plain, butter or garlic), had a couple of appetizers (vegetable pakoras and samosas), soup/daal (if I remember correctly), rice and vegetable rice and four each vegetarian and meat entrees.  It most certainly did not have all the dishes they claim to offer in their website, not even close.   I tried the four meat dishes and was fairly pleased.  The chicken tikka masala had a very nice flavor, slightly spicy, but deep.  I enjoyed it.  The goat and chicken curry both seemed to have the same sauce, it was good but not a favorite.  The chicken tandoori was juicy and very flavorful.  My daughter was less happy with the paneer dish she had, but it wasn’t one she usually eats (there was no paneer tikka masala).

The buffet also includes drinks, and my daughters liked the lemonade and the mango lassi, which was more like a thin mango drink than a lassi.

Service was fairly good, though they initially tried to charge my husband for a buffet even though he had clearly not eaten anything (he was sick).  Dinner for the four of us (I was there with three tweens), came up to a little over $50 after tax.

Given the plethora of Indian restaurants in Vegas, I’d probably try a different one next time, but this is certainly good enough to visit again.

India Oven Restaurant
India Masala & Bar Grill

1040 E Flamingo Rd
Las Vegas, NV
http://www.indiamasalalasvegas.com
Open 11.30am to 3pm –  5pm to 10pm

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Review: Paradise Garden Buffet at The Flamingo, Las Vegas

Every year we get a Buffet of Buffets deal when we visit Vegas, and it’s become our costume to go to the Paradise Garden Buffet for a light lunch.  I like visiting the Flamingo Habitat, and the buffet overlooks it.  Really, the view is the best thing about this buffet.  The food is terrible.

The Flamingo is now offering a weekday brunch buffet, instead of separate breakfast and lunch buffets.  The offerings are mostly breakfast stuff, pancakes and eggs, sausages and breakfast meats (ham, turkey and sausages – no beef) but they do have made-to-order omelettes and pancakes as well as one cold-cut sandwich, which was rather good. They also have pizzas, which my youngest daughter absolutely loved, and not-bad fried chicken and pork loin.   They have made-to-order crepes, but they only offer sweet crepes and the quality of the ingredients left much to be desired. They cannot be compared to those at the Paris’ buffet.

The Flamingo no longer offers a chocolate fountain.  It was awful and my daughter doesn’t like chocolate, but she loved seeing it.  She wasn’t happy it was gone.

All in all, this is a buffet I would not pay to go to.

Paradise Garden Buffet
3555 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV
website
Weekday/Weekend Brunch 7 AM – 2 PM daily: $22/25, Children 4-9 yo: $11
F-Sa Dinner Buffet 5-10 PM: $30

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

 This review is from our trip to Las Vegas in August 2014.

The Flamingo hotel is one of the cheapest of Caesar’s properties, and its buffet gets some of the worst reviews.  However, it has large windows with views of the flamingo habitat outside, and who doesn’t love flamingos? So armed with our buffet of buffet passes, we headed there – via taxi – a Friday around 3:30 PM in August 2014.

The restaurant was open (it now closes at 2 PM), but the server in charge of the section by the windows had not shown up and they didn’t want to seat us there.  After quite a lot of pleading and a request to speak with the manager, they made do and sat us in that section.  Given that we had come specifically for the flamingo experience, I really was not willing to accept anything else.   The first dining room – the closest to the entrance -, where we were seated, has the best view of the habitat as that’s where the flamingos hang out.

Other than the view, there is absolutely nothing to recommend this buffet.  First of all, it’s fairly small consisting mostly of American fare.  Nothing looked particularly appetizing to me, so all I got was some prime rib and a cilantro chicken wing.  The beef was surprisingly good for a buffet – better than the one served at the Paris and Planet Hollywood – in that it wasn’t dry.  The chicken was also tasty.  So if you do go for the flamingos, these two items are safe to eat.

One of my daughters did enjoy the sushi and the cold shrimp and the other one did fairly well with the pasta, but they are kids.  My dad, found both the roast turkey with gravy and the fried chicken very dry.

Desserts were a little better.  Skip the chocolate fountain if it’s working. It may look cool but the chocolate syrup tastes like cocoa powder.  The cupcakes weren’t a big hit, but the little pudding cups were good.  Some of the pastries were also OK.  My youngest daughter liked the cotton candy.

All in all, we wouldn’t go back for the food, but the view made it worth it – at least as part of the buffet of buffet deal. I would not pay for it otherwise.

 

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Flavors at Harrah’s, Las Vegas – Breakfast buffet review

We visit Las Vegas every year, tagging along with my husband who goes to a conference, and we start our visit by getting a Buffet of Buffets pass and hitting several of the buffets that are included.  Flavors has never been a favorite, but this year Spice Island at the Planet Hollywood was mostly closed and the Rio’s buffet didn’t seem to be worth traveling to.  We hit Harrah’s buffet for dinner, and it was worse than I remembered.

I started with the New York steak, though the roast was so grayish that I wasn’t particularly sure that’s what I was getting when I asked for a slice.  It was flavorful enough, but it lack juiciness.  I had a slice of roasted pork which was as pedestrian, a very generic piece of beef with snap peas, and not much else.  My daughter was very disappointed with the pizza. My husband ate mostly shrimp.  The bread pudding wasn’t bad for dessert, but the ice cream was so low quality that even my daughters (who are not exactly picky in this department) rejected it.  Instead try the canoli, which was actually quite tasty.

My favorite part of this buffet is that you can actually get your own drinks so you don’t have to wait for them to be refilled.  That’s sad.

Again, this is not a buffet I’d pay for or bother going to again.  Others seem to feel the same way.  We got there around 6:15 PM on a Friday night and we didn’t have to wait in line to get in.

Flavors The Buffet
Harrah’s Las Vegas
475 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV
Website
Weekday Breakfast $21/12, Weekend Breakfast $23/12, Weekday Lunch $23/16, Weekend Brunch $28/16, Weekday Dinner $28/16, Weekend dinner $30/16. Groupon deal often available. Children price = 10 & under, Total Rewards members save $1.  Available with the Buffet of Buffets pass.

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

This review is from July 2012.

This is probably the first breakfast buffet I’ve had aside from those that are complimentary at some hotels, and I was very happy with it. It offers plenty of choices – your standard American fare, some Mexican and Chinese stuff (though the latter seemed like left overs from the night before) and plenty of sweets.   That’s what I went for, and I was quiet happy.

The mini lemon cheesecakes, raspberry pudding cups, cheese blitz and apple crepes were all excellent  – you’d be happy if you got them at a 5-star restaurant.  Also nice were the bread pudding with vanilla sauce, the cinnamon roll and the brownie.  Less successful was the custard (not sweet enough), the croissants (a bit dry) and the bacon (good flavor but dried out).  The sausages, on the other hand, were great.  Skip the heavy, cakey doughnuts and the chewy bagels, though there is lox if you want them.  The pancakes and French toast could have been better, I wouldn’t bother with them.  The biscuits were good, but look for the ones in the warm tray.

Don’t skip the fruit, while the strawberries were tasteless, the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon were perfectly ripe and sweet – they were a hit with my husband and kids.  The pineapple was the canned type, but my youngest enjoyed it.

There is also a carving station (ham, I think) and make-to-order omelets, which we didn’t try.  You can order ice cream as well – I wasn’t too fond of the strawberry one.

As for drinks, the coffee was fine, the hot cocoa standard, I felt the chocolate milk was weak but my daughter liked it.

The minus part of the buffet is that we got it as part of the “Buffet of buffets” deal, but we were so full after eating it that we couldn’t take advantage of the lunch buffet that was included in the price.

 

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