Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's not "Goodbye" - It's "See you soon!"

Classy&Sassy and FoodiePrincess, c. 2005 (pre-blog)

With a heavy heart, we're sad to announce that we'll be retiring DallasEats, effective today.  It's been an amazing two and a half years, and we've had more fun than we ever thought possible sharing our explorations, insights, cravings and observations with all of you on the blog.

This announcement comes on the heels of major developments in both of our lives.  For starters, little Miller Brant is now the apple of FP (a.k.a. Robin Brant)'s eye - and the primary focus of her time and energy. Between family fun, her day-gig and finishing up with her MBA, her moments to herself are few and far between these days.  You can stay current on the Brant
family's continuing adventures at http://robinbrant.blogspot.com.

And C&S (aka Lisa Petty) will now be blogging for the Dallas Observer's City of Ate.  Tune in for news, trends, first looks, and events every day - your comments are welcome!  Also, beginning July 15, you can find her at NBCDFW.com as well, reporting on style and shopping around town in a new daily feature entitled "Want This".  Fun stuff!

So, as you can see, we're not saying "goodbye"...in fact, we might just see more of each other now than ever before.  Thank you all so much for reading, and remember:  Don't be a stranger!

With love,

Robin and Lisa

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Brownie Points

In the humble opinion of this chocolate-obsessed blogger, there is no better treat for morning, noon or evening snacking than a perfect little brownie.  Or perfectly HUGE brownie, depending on the demands of my sweet tooth that day.

Over the years, I've tried just about every brownie recipe (and box mix) known to man.  I've made them with baking chocolate, milk chocolate and chocolate syrup.  I've stirred in nuts and chips and candy, topped them with glazes and icings and frostings.  I've spread batters thin for a chewier result, and piled them high in the pan for a cake-like consistency.  High heat, low heat and everything in between - I've done it all, but now I'm done.  You see, I've finally achieved brownie Nirvana.

The following recipe is the result of meticulous testing and tasting and it incorporates elements from all my favorite brownie recipes.  For instance, the addition of honey recalls a recipe for "Honey Bear" brownies that was a favorite of mine years ago.  The sweet, sticky stuff keeps the brownies incredibly moist for days on end.  My preference for cocoa powder as opposed to bar chocolate also goes back to my teenage years.  I love the dark, earthy quality it lends to the end result, as well as a slightly more rustic texture in the crumb.  Finally, the pan dimensions are key - you may even have to buy a pan especially for these brownies.  Trust me, it's worth it.  This formula makes for a thick, chewy, fudgy brownie that will also satisfy any cake-like brownie fans in the house.  

Oh, and you'll also note there are no "stir-ins", as they're sometimes called, and that, my dears, is also by design.  I like my brownies straight-up, but you can throw in some nuts or something if you must.  They don't need 'em, though.  In fact, all these little beauties need is a tall, cold glass of milk or a warm cup of coffee - morning, noon or night.

Lisa's Perfect Brownies

¾ cup best-quality cocoa powder
¼ cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
1 2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare an 11 x 7" baking pan by lining with a double-thickness of aluminum foil (or single layer of heavy-duty foil) and then spray with neutral flavored non-stick spray.

Combine cocoa powder, vegetable oil and butter in a large bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  Whisk in sugar and honey.  Add eggs, vanilla and salt and, again, whisk until smooth.  Add flour all at once, and using a wooden spoon or large spatula, stir only until just combined.  In fact, a few threads of flour running through the batter are fine - they'll find their way when you put the batter in the pan.  I repeat:  don't overbeat.

Bake 40 - 45 minutes, or until a pick or paring knife inserted in the center of the pan comes out with just a wee bit of fudgy crumbs.  Cool at least 30 minutes before cutting.  (Here's a tip:  If you're serving these at a party or just want them to look perfect, cool the pan completely and then refrigerate for a few hours.  You can then cut the brownies into neat squares with no mess.  Allow them to return to room temperature before serving, or just eat them cold - that's how I like 'em.)


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lion Coffee: Big Island Buzz

"High above the Pacific, cradled between the world's largest mountain, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai, are our Kona coffee groves...If ever a place existed to produce the perfect coffee bean, then Kona is surely it."

This quote is from the Lion Coffee website, and after waking up with Kona's finest for the past few days, I'm inclined to agree.  

At the recommendation of a friend, I ordered from Lion last week, seeing as I'd reached the end of my rope with the coffee selection at my usual stores.  I always seemed to find myself in a Goldilocks situation with the brands available at Kroger and Whole Foods - either the coffee was too bitter or too mellow, too expensive or too hard to find in-stock.  I've just never been able to settle on a favorite.  Exasperated, I posted a Facebook update, which lead me to Lion Coffee.

Based in Hawaii, Lion Coffee offers a wide range of 100% Kona varieties, as well as flavored coffees, teas and cookies.  For my first order, I chose the Original Lion blend, the Diamondhead Espresso and the Vanilla Macadamia decaf.  As for the Original Lion, it is indeed flawlessly smooth and subtly sweet, as described.  To tell you the truth, I don't believe I've ever tasted coffee quite so smooth as this.  And at $7.95 for 10 oz., it's a bargain to boot!  

The ordering process was also very easy, and delivery via UPS was inexpensive and prompt.  I'm now a big fan of Lion - in fact, I may add a t-shirt to my next order, so I can be a walking billboard for my new favorite coffee.  


Monday, June 15, 2009

Salsa Sunday at North Haven Gardens: The winners!

Salsa Sunday at North Haven Gardens was a hit!

I had the pleasure of tasting and evaluating more than 20 delicious entries in the North Haven Gardens salsa contest yesterday, along with fellow judges Eddie G. of Dallas Vegan, Jeffrey Kowitz of Taco Joint and the lovely Miranda Martinez, actress and Bliss Raw Cafe representative.  What a spicy day!

The vegetable garden

Before we got down to the serious business at hand, North Haven's own Nikki Crain gave us judges a tour of the gorgeous grounds.  My favorite stop was a peek inside the veggie garden, just about to explode with fresh tomatoes, peppers, herbs and flowers.

Me and Nikki

Here's a shot of me and Nikki on a sweet foot bridge over a patch of colorful Swiss Chard.  North Haven Gardens is overflowing with happy, thriving plants.  Perhaps they can tell me when to expect my own little harvest?

The contenders

After the tour, it was time to taste.  We set to sampling the salsas in question, taking turns around the table to dip and discuss our reactions.  Entries ranged from familiar, Tex-Mex restaurant-style chip dips to Italian-style salsas to downright head-scratchers (Crab meat?  In a salsa?).  But as it turned out, some of the judges' faves were in this unexpected category.  A Pina Colada Salsa, for instance, featuring pineapple, coconut chips and a surprising kick of spice, was quite popular with our selective crowd.

Eddie, judging away

My picks tended toward those salsas with a blended texture (as opposed to pico-style), concentrated tomato flavor (often found in canned tomatoes rather than fresh) and a good kick.  Kowitz, known for his own kick-butt cooking, had more specific criteria, and his knowledge of peppers and cooking styles gave us all some interesting insight.  As the contest progressed, however, it became more and more difficult to converse, what with all the running noses and water breaks!

The winners' circle

Finally, our points were tallied and Nikki announced the winners:  John Romero took 1st Place honors with his Berta's Best Salsa, a traditional tomato salsa with a moderate heat level and lots of fresh cilantro.  2nd and 3rd Place both went to Carol Castillo, a salsa-whiz who entered five different recipes altogether.  Her Pineapple-Mango and Jalepeno Salsas were both a little different and a lot delicious.  All the winning recipes will be up on the North Haven Gardens website by the end of the week.

Whether to stock your own salsa garden or just wander and wonder at all the amazing growing things, I highly recommend North Haven Gardens for anyone with a thumb (green or otherwise).  There's also a great gift shop and reading area and lots of events and education.  Happy gardening!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Salsa Sunday: Be There or Be Square!

This Sunday June 14th is Salsa Sunday at North Haven Gardens!

Join me, Eddie G., and the awesome folks from Bliss Raw Cafe and Taco Joint as we judge this spicy showdown.  Enter your favorite recipe to win, or come on down to cheer on the contenders.  Winners will be announced at 1:30 p.m., and samples will be available for taste-testing.  Sweet!  ...Um, I mean Hot!

North Haven Gardens
7700 Northhaven Rd, Dallas