Monday, December 26, 2011

Mini-Italian Pot Pies

Although I did use the holidays as an excuse to make these little variations of a family favorite, by no means will I limit it to the holidays. This little concoction is what I'd like to call a 'happy accident' - a term that I commonly refer to tasty little surprises in the kitchen or of a new restaurant. Instead of the hearty meat, potatoes, and vegetables approach I decided on a little twist for the sake of my own curiosity: a white wine reduction + a combination of simple yet tasty (Italian-themed) ingredients. It's rather simple to put together and yet impressive from the outside looking in...give it a try and see what you think!

Prep Time: 1 hour 15 Minutes
12 Servings

1 Cup Spaghetti Squash, Roasted
4oz Cheese Roll, Prosciutto Mozzarella
1/2 Cup Golden Corn, Kernel
1/2 Cup Tomatoes, Diced
1 Package Pie Crust, Dough
1 Puff Pastry Sheet

8oz White Wine
1 1/2 Tsp Corn Starch
1 1/2 Cup Chicken Broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Poke Spaghetti Squash with a fork a few times and place in oven for 1 hour on a cookie sheet or small pan. Set aside to cool. Once cool, peel off outer layer and separate from seeds into a bowl for later use. Reduce oven to 375 degrees. (You just learned how to 'roast' a squash...easy eh? Same applies to butternut and several other gourds.)

Spaghetti Squash, Roasted and Peeled
Spaghetti Squash and Corn/Tomato Mixture
While the squash is roasting: Roll both 9" prepared pie crusts into two balls. Separate into a standard muffin tin (12 balls) and press dough into the tin shape. Mix tomato and corn; season to taste (depends on you, but a light dusting of salt, pepper, and minced garlic did the trick). Cut the mozzarella into 12 small slices. Unroll the puff pastry sheet and use a glass or circular cookie cutter to create the tops to the pot pies, fold in half, and use kitchen scissors (or a knife) to cut two holes. 

Pot Pie Crusts
While the squash is cooling: Bake crusts for 5 minutes until slightly (but not fully) cooked. Press a slice of the mozzarella into the crust, top with a spoonful of spaghetti squash, and a spoonful of the corn and tomato mixture. Set aside.

Pot Pies with Filling
Reduce the white wine over medium to high heat and slowly pour in 1 1/4 cup of the chicken broth; season to taste (oregano was my only addition, the wine provided the bulk of the flavor).  Mix remaining chicken broth with corn starch and pour into the glaze mixture. Heat to boiling and until thickened. Spoon glaze over unbaked pot pies and top with the puff pastry 'lids'. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until crust is golden.

Pot Pies with Puff Pastry

Nutrition Info: (1 Serving)
Calories: 276, Total Fat: 15.8, Sat. Fat: 6.9g, Cholest.: 13.3mg, Sodium: 464.3mg, Carb.: 27.6g, Fiber: 0.5g, Sugars: 2.5g, Protein: 5.8g
Friday, December 23, 2011

La Conversation Cafe


West Hollywood, CA. For brunch. For Breads. Go here. It seems like I've been on a cafe kick these past few months, but maybe that's telling. Eateries of this type tend to offer simple eats at reasonable cost yet still providing that mouthful of flavor. Why not, eh? Another addition to the cafe list is this little eatery off of Doheny.

A friend and I walked to the cafe one morning to grab a croissant. I saw the baked items and planted myself at a table and ordered a full meal in addition to my mini-croissants (is it wrong to get excited over a bread basket?: melt-in-your-mouth buttery goodness.). I wasn't the least bit dissatisfied. 

Bread Basket
Almond Brioche - baked fresh daily is their boast and claim it so. The pastry mirrored coffee cake with an almond touch and went down easy. I love my baked goods, but this felt a bit sinful...could I taste the butter? Was that my imagination? least I hope not. There were so many others I wished to try but no time and not enough stomach to make it happen.

Eggless Burrito
Eggless Burrito - an easy concoction that I ordered out of curiosity: flour tortilla wrapped around chicken, spinach, mushroom, onion and cheese. The flavors were on the neutral side for my tastes, but it was a feel-good, 'healthy' dish. A simple southern California tradition made without eggs and absolutely no frozen ingredients, needed to be tried. Of course I added some spicy then practically swallowed the burrito whole.

This may be a place you have never thought of trying but I do suggest you give it a whirl. The bakery alone warrants a visit and their cases will tease you until you order. The interior is quaint and the wait can be iffy, but after you sit down and take a bite of their mini-pastries you will find your eyes exceeding yours stomach. With an environment that cozies you up to conversation, patrons that range from locals to celebrities, all while feasting on made-to-order cuisine, what's not to enjoy?

La Conversation Cafe
638 N Doheny Dr
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 858-0950
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cafe Los Feliz


Los Angeles, CA. I walked up Hillhurst looking for a small bakery that felt homey and I was hoping for something delicious. What a treat to find such a bakery with a food menu in addition to their sweet eats! My friend and I were greeted with smiles and quickly agreed that this was worth a go. After a few minutes of studying the menu, we ordered and chose a table outside to watch the street while we indulged.

Almond Croissant - served straight from the case, I was expecting an underwhelming experience. I was wrong. The croissant was soft as I bit into it and the almond paste was a delight. The sweetened filling was spread evenly throughout the croissant, no area left missed, and was a subtle blend of almond and sugar. I was supposed to share but my friend and I decided to get our own, for the sake of the 'full' experience.

Breakfast Sandwich on Croissant
Breakfast Sandwich - featured eggs, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and mayo layered on a fresh croissant. The ingredients were hearty and were brimming beyond the oversized croissant. I took one bite, closed my eyes, and for a moment, had a moment. The sandwich quickly found its way to my heart and slowly to my belly as I took another bite to re-affirm it's tastiness. The sandwich was hard to put down and sad to see go, but exciting with each bite. Why can't all food give me this feeling?

The staff were friendly and answered any and all questions they could. They even made suggestions to the order to enhance the consuming experience. Though the space is tiny, minimally decorated with only a few chairs and tables inside and out, it has some of the tastiest baked treats I've tried. It remains one of my favorite spots that gives me an escape from the busy-ness of Los Angeles with a plate of fresh baked and a side of delicious.

Cafe Los Feliz
2118 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

(323) 664-7111
Saturday, December 03, 2011

Larchmont Bungalow


Los Angeles, CA. On a routine venture into new eats I found myself here, staring at the dimly lit patio wondering if it was actually open. It was. Oh my.  The eatery itself was quiet. A few smaller groups sat around the restaurant talking quietly amongst each other, but the place was mellow. With a set-up similar to larger franchises, the design can be considered warm, depending on your mood.

In walking inside, the first two things I noticed were cookies and pastries. I saw these cookies that were at least 5" in diameter, soft to the touch and tongue, and one of my friend's favorite indulgences. I wasn't really in a cookie mood, but the "...MmMmmMMmMmmMm" that repeatedly came from friend's mouth as we again wandered down Larchmont Boulevard certainly verified that their cookie is a pretty darn good thing. Sure, they had a host of other things, but I'm a visually stimulated person some time so their dessert display did come first...but on to the eats.

Mint Mocha
Mint Mocha - bitter, sweet, symphony of flavor but none more grand than any other. I like my coffee clean, just like most preferred palatable flavor combinations, and though this had at least that it primarily served to warm me up not wow me. Their menu was extensive enough to try again and again until I find my future coffee favorite.

Poutine - poutine, poutine, poutine...a dish my friend taunts me with every time he goes home. I've had it before, not in its traditional sense, but I've had a 'taste'. The dish is simple: fries + gravy + cheese (curds or crumbles). It's also simply tasty...the gravy and fries sandwich in the cheese and melt it into the fries which really do require a fork to consume. I wasn't overwhelmed with the fries on this particular venture, but the dish satisfied my craving for the treat. 

Southwest Grilled Cheese
Southwest Grilled Cheese - best described as a lightly toasted pulled pork sandwich with a heap of cheese melted into the bread. The taste was comforting, oddly so. I like my grilled cheese but this twist gave me a smile...and a nice smear of BBQ sauce around my lips. It was hearty for the little sandwich I expected and very easy to put down.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding - I saw what looked like bread pudding, validated with inquiry, and the server nicely went on to explain that it is one of the things the bungalow is known for...served in-house heated with a side of whipped cream. Three different flavors to choose: Chocolate Chip, Mixed Berry, Cinnamon...I asked the most highly chosen item...and Chocolate Chip (to-go) it was! The server instructed me to heat up the pudding in the oven for 10-15 minutes at a low heat (I chose 300) at home for the in-house feel and fresh taste.

Prepared as directed the bread pudding remained moist, the chocolate melted nicely, and although not terribly sweet, the sweet was enough to provide the right amount of bursts to the dish. I told myself I would only eat half, but after seeing that there were only two bites left, I said forget  rationalizing, this is mine!

This eatery is nice but not uniquely separate than so many other quaint little cafe's in the area. However, with its range of offerings and tasty bites, it is most certainly a welcomed addition to anyone's roster.

Larchmont Bungalow
107 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 461-1528

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