Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Chicken Salad

I came late to the Pioneer Woman party.  Ree Drummond, otherwise known as The Pioneer Woman, is a former city girl who married a cowboy, lives on a ranch, and writes a very popular blog about her life.  I'd seen her name floating around on a couple other blogs I read, but only recently started reading hers and I'm hooked. 

I came across one of her recipes the other day and it looked so different and delicious that I decided to try it.  I am not generally someone who follows recipes exactly, they're more like guidelines, but I stuck fairly close for this one.  I made her Grilled Chicken Salad with Feta, Fresh Corn, and Blueberries.

Mine isn't nearly as pretty as the picture on Ree's website, but it was very tasty!  It is basically chicken, blueberries, fresh corn just cut off the cob, red onion, sour cream and mayo, feta cheese and a little dill.  BJ originally thought this sounded like a disgusting combination of ingredients, but once he tasted it, he was sold.  His friend Mike stopped by to pick something up while we were eating and he insisted Mike try it too!  I made a couple of changes:

1.  I used pieces of rotisserie chicken instead of grilled because we had it on hand
2.  I used only 4 oz. of feta and used fat-free
3.  I left out the celery because I don't like it

Fairly minor changes overall.  I loved this.  I will definitely make it again and I would take it to a party or serve it to guests.   This is such a great dish for summer too, as it uses seasonal ingredients like the corn and blueberries - perfect to make after a trip to the local farmers' market!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chronic Crafter - Etsy Site

Not too long ago, my friend Jenn opened her very own Etsy site, ChronicCrafts.  Jenn is very talented with her sewing machine and has put together a line of notebook computer, e-reader and tablet covers.  She has a plethora of great fabric choices and allows her customers to choose the trim color they like best.  As my mother-in-law was getting a new Kindle, I thought a cover for it would be the perfect Mothers' Day gift.

Jenn responded to my order very quickly, had the cover made and mailed in a matter of like 36 hours.  She is fast!  I requested that she mailed it directly instead of to me, which she did, and it arrived safely.  My mither-in-law loved it and on her recent trip to visit, she brought it with her.  It was very well-made and the colors matched perfectly.  A lovely sleeping bag for the Kindle! 

Photo Courtesy of Chronic Crafts

If you live in the DC area, Jenn also allows customers to come pick up their items - score!  She does great work, so go order from her!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

La Caraquena - Falls Church, Va

We were driving around a couple weekends ago looking for somewhere interesting for lunch and remembered a place my dad had tried and loved.  La Caraquena is a Latin American restaurant specializing in arepas.  An arepa is kind of like a fat corn tortilla, stuffed with various fillings.  They come fried or grilled and resemble a sandwich version of a pupusa.

The restaurant itself is kind of odd.  It is housed in the same building as a run-down motel, right next to the check-in office.  There are a few tables and booths inside and a patio area, where we sat.  Arepas were featured on the menu and we knew we had to try them.  I ordered one with shredded beef and cheese and BJ ordered one with a traditional chicken and avocado salad.  We shared an order of fried plantains to start.  They were outstanding.  They were perfectly cooked and came with picadillo and a hot pepper sauce.  The combination of flavors in your mouth was perfect.  The Luce even loved the plantains, without the sauce of course.  The arepas came and I was a little disappointed in the size.  The menu clearly states that each arepa comes solo and you can buy sides or sauces to go with them.  Mine was around $10.  It was literally the same size of the English muffin you eat for breakfast with maybe 1/3 cup of filling.  Luckily, it tasted great.  The beef had wonderful Latin flavors and the cheese was the perfect compliment.  BJ found his chicken salad arepa great as well and was enthusiastic about it. 

Photo courtesy of restaurant website

The service here was also excellent.  If I owned this restaurant, I would add sides to the dishes.  If my arepa came with a side of plantains or yuca or something else, it would be a much better value.  To compare, I happened to recently see the menu for an arepas place in New York.  Their similar dish was at least $3 cheaper.  How many times does Falls Church cost more than NYC??  That being said, La Caraquena was recently featured on the Food Network, so I guess they think they can jack up the prices and curious people will still come.

Confections Cupcakes - Woodbridge, Va

Last weekend, my mom and I decided to check out the Occoquan Craft Fair, which is a bi-annual event that has been happening my whole life, and probably longer.  I have fond memories of going as a child and was always on the lookout for new doll clothing or hair accessories.  Nowadays, I prefer the jewelry booths or baby things for the Luce. 

One of my goals for the day was to sample the wares from Confections Cupcakery, which is a business owned by the sister of a childhood friend of mine.  I learned through Facebook that they'd have a booth at the fair and as BJ and I had been wanting to try these for a while, decided this was the perfect opportunity.  At the lovely booth, I bought a dozen cupcakes and shared them with my parents as well.

photo courtesy of the Confections FB page

In general, we really enjoyed these cupcakesThey are fairly different from the other ones we've tried in the area, in that the cake is very light.  A lot of other bakeries use very heavy cake recipes with lots of butter and these were quite the opposite, in a good way.  The cake was light and moist and almost angel food-like, so if you like that consistency, this is your place!  The icing was sugary and delicious.  I really enjoy a cupcake when the entire bite is good and the cake and icing work well together and these definitely fit that bill.  

The flavors we tried included vanilla vanilla (obviously), chocolate chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, coconut, vanilla blueberry, oreo, and red velvet.  My parents tried some of the above, as well as strawberry and lemon.  The consensus all around was that they were solid cupcakes.  If I were to tweak a couple of things, I would make the chocolate frosting more chocolatey and to use cream cheese icing instead of vanilla on the red velvet.  My parents enjoyed the fruit flavors, though they were a little too sweet in their opinions.  Everyone agreed that Confections has a lot of potential and the fact that it is in Woodbridge AND delivers make it a great option if you're not in the city.  I think they will keep expanding and improving and we will certainly order from them again.