Monthly Archives: June 2010

Green Chili Steak Fajitas

Sometimes, all I want to eat is Mexican food–for days. Rice, beans, cheese–who doesn’t want to eat that all the time? It is true, once in a while, I wear myself out on it. However, the past week, it has been all I have wanted.

I decided to try a new spin on the “fajita”. I don’t care for bell peppers at all (truth be told I think their flavor ruins everything it touches). So, most of the time, fajitas for me are simply meat and onions. I have to say, if you enjoy green chiles, then this recipe is one you will enjoy. The green chiles make a great supplementary flavor in pace of the bell peppers. Also, you can make this with any type of meat or meat substitute. On this particular day, I had steak I wanted to use.

I started with thinly cut, grain-fed, organic sirloin. I sliced it even thinner and into strips so that it would be light and easy to cook quickly. I used about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and threw the steak on. *sizzle*

After browning the steak for only a few short minutes, I added the green chiles and some basic fajita seasoning. The smell was amazing; fresh and a little spicy.

While I was browning the steak and seasonings, I decided to make some homemade guacamole, which is one of my favorite things. People make guacamole all sorts of different ways, and I don’t have special tricks except for one: I use lemon in place of lime. Lemon keeps the green color alive and vibrant for a longer period of time, and also, it gives the guacamole more of a zing than the limes do. I also use a local and fresh pico de gallo that I get from our Whole Foods market if I don’t have time to make my own. This can add the tomatoes, peppers, and onions right away. For seasonings, I use a lot of sea salt, onion powder, garlic (fresh or dried both work), pepper, and garlic salt. Of course, a major key is to pick the right kind of avocado–not too soft and not too hard and you don’t want the skin to be too pebbled. Fairly simple, and much better than anything prepackaged.

Black beans are one of my favorite things, but sometimes just cooking them from the can leaves them unflavorful. Try adding some fresh tomatoes and onions and a little sea salt for more flavor!

All you need now is some cheese, some sour cream, and some corn tortillas. If you microwave the corn tortillas, be sure that you put a damp paper towel over them so they don’t crack.

My suggestion? Add two cans of green chiles…they were an wonderful flavor on an old favorite. Oh, and make sure you have a lot of napkins on hand! This is also a great meal to cook for a lot of people. Everyone enjoys a good Mexican dish, and it is quite easy and fast to cook. The majority of what you need is a well seasoned meat (or wheat meat) and all the good condiments–but make sure you don’t skimp on the homemade guac–never EVER by the neon green stuff. EVER.

Vertical Diner–Fresh Veggie Fare Accompanied by Delicious Music

I love The Vertical Diner. This is by far, one of my most favorite vegetarian restaurants in Salt Lake City. The Vertical Diner understands the reasons I try to eat organic and natural foods as much as possible. They are health conscious and earth friendly, which is important to me. However, even more important than that, in the end, is how the food tastes. And I can guarantee you that if you are a vegetarian eater (and even if you are a carnivore), your senses will not be disappointed.

Vertical Diner offers a wide variety of textures and fresh ingredients which makes it a bit more exciting than other vegetarian options in Salt Lake City. They cook up some of the best wheat meat I have had (also knows as seitan) and even their vegetables themselves appear to have more color and flavor than other places I have eaten. For example, I am not a big fan of carrots, cooked or raw. However, the carrots that come on the side of most sandwich dishes at Vertical Diner, are so amazingly savory, that I enjoy every bit.

On this occasion, I ordered the Avocado Sandwich with the carrots on the side as well as one of my favorite beers, Lev. Vertical Diner has a wide array of beers of the local variety, as well as some of my traditional favorites. They even boost several organic beers for your enjoyment. My good friend Sara got the “chicken” sandwich (wheat meat breaded like a chicken cutlet) with french fries, fry sauce, and also their vegan cheese sauce on the side. Both sandwiches came on our choice of their seven grain bread, which is basically to die for. Everything tastes like it just came from the garden and in addition, fills you right up and satisfies your hunger pains.

After a great dinner with a delightful beer, it was time for dessert. On this occasion we got two different selections: Shoofly Cake, a traditional Dutch crumb cake with real molasses and also the Hot Brownie Sundae with Peanut butter. Both were served with Soy Delicious ice cream. The Hot Brownie Sundae with PB was probably one for the most heavenly, lucious desserts that I have eaten in a long time. The rich chocolate and PB flavors were intense and went down perfect with the soy ice cream. The Shoofly Cake was ok. I found the cake to be a bit dry, and probably wouldn’t have cared for it much without the ice cream ala mode. I did enjoy the molasses flavor and the bitterness of the dessert–I just found the dryness to be a bit unappealing.

In addition to the lovely and healthy food we were consuming, we were also enjoying the music dazzlings of one of my favorite local bands, Highway 6. This band is made of a father/daughter duo, Tom and Heidi Nedreberg. Highway 6 writes and records original music written by both Heidi and Tom which bring soul and rock together in perfect harmony. They are also known to cover some of your favorite rock and roll hits–with a little bit of an edge or twist on the original. Heidi’s vocal talents are incredible and range from soft and high to raspy and low. Everything she sings she belts with heart and passion and you can tell in every performance. Vertical Diner doesn’t have a spacious venue, but the intimacy of this diner is perfect for the music of this local talent. The food and the music made for a perfect evening out.

I highly recommend that you try out this amazing place, even if you aren’t a vegetarian. I eat meat, but sometimes I really want something light, healthy, and filling. This is a great place to branch out and try some of the wonderful flavors that vegetarian fare can offer and in the meantime, check out some of the local music they get to play on their small stage. I promise the atmosphere, food quality, and entertainment won’t be a let down.

Vertical Diner on Urbanspoon

Ahh Sushi–Mellow, Bar Atmosphere has Fresh Sushi

I am always looking for a new sushi place in the city. It seems like they are popping up all of the time and naturally I wonder how many of them can be that amazing. Salt Lake City isn’t a port town and we aren’t known for our amazingly fresh seafood. However, we do have some really great sushi bars downtown. On this particular evening, I wasn’t the one choosing the sushi restaurant, so I ended up trying something new.

I met a friend at Ahh Sushi, which shares the basement with a local bar called O’Shucks. I had been to O’Shucks once, pretty late at night, and really paid no attention to the fact that there was a sushi bar just through the brick wall. When you enter Ahh Sushi, you basically can enter one side to the O’Shucks bar, or the other for Ahh Sushi. They check your ID, so make sure you don’t forget it (and that you are 21) if you are trying out this very unique joint. When I got there, my date had already ordered a Japanese beer as well as some edamame to snack on. Is there anything better than arriving at a table that already has food on it? I think not. We went over and over the menu containing the sushi rolls and finally settled on two pretty traditional and simple rolls (I never get bizzare with sashimi or rolls that sound too crazy at a new sushi restaurant, they have to pass the simple sushi test first). Although, you will see by the menu, most of their rolls are pretty basic.

I asked for a recommendation from the server and decided on the Sunset Roll; crab, cucumber, and avocado topped with fresh salmon and a slice of thinly cut lemon wedge. John, my date, ordered the Funky Vegas Roll; salmon, cream cheese and crab with tobiko (fish eggs) and spicy eel sauce. Both of these rolls were pretty amazing. The Sunset Roll was creamy, a testament that the salmon was very fresh, and the lemon on top finished the flavor off with a very refreshing and summery citrus flair. Additionally, the Funky Vegas roll was a perfect partner to this light and flavorful roll. The Funky Vegas roll is rich and a bit heavy, with so many amazing flavors of rich seafood and cream cheese. The tobiko on top is lovely as a brilliant accent of saltiness and zing. With one roll that evoked summer and one that evoked a soulful taste, they made a great pair. And I have to say, the extra dry, cold (not hot, never hot) sake was the perfect way to wash down these two amazing sushi rolls.

If you want to check out Ahh Sushi, you can find it down the stairs off of 100 South and 22 East. The parking situation isn’t that great, but the atmosphere and the prices are worth it. I will be back to try more fresh flavors that this sushi bar has to offer!

Ahh Sushi on Urbanspoon

Z’Tejas–Mouth Watering Appetizers

The sun has finally come out in Salt Lake City, and there is only one thing I really love to do on my lunch break: walk from my hotel down to the outdoor Gateway Mall and try to forget that I am in the middle of a workday. Some very important things came together today: 1) it was payday! 2) the sun was out and it was beautiful! and 3) I was craving appetizers!

I walked to Salt Lake’s wonderful outdoor mall with my friend, Kim, from work. The patio at Z’Tejas looked mighty fine, so we decided that was the place to be. We weren’t looking for anything heavy. What we really wanted was a couple of Z’Tejas’ famous margaritas; but alas, we had to go back to work. After looking over their wonderful and varied appetizer menu, we decided on two selections: The Tejas Trio and the Grilled Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites.

Before you get your menu items delivered to your table, you are given a fresh helping of Z’Tejas’ amazing corn bread. I had a good friend whose husband was a chef for Z’Tejas and told me once that they get the cornbread so incredibly moist by using yogurt! Who would have thought? Now, I am not the biggest fan of cornbread in general. Mostly, I find it to be dry and not very flavorful. However, this corn bread is not only as moist as cake, but it also tastes delicious. Top it off with some of the whipped butter, and you are all set!

After the Cornbread, the Tejas Trio came out first. This is one of my favorite things to order ever. It has all of the good stuff: fresh delicious salsa (that isn’t too hot or too mild), homemade guacamole (not of the prepackaged or neon green variety) and the most amazing queso cheese dip! This menu item always makes me a happy girl.

Every time I order the Shrimp Bites, I am impressed with the presentation. They grill fresh gulf shrimp which is then put on top of a toasted seasoned mini tostada which is loaded with more guacamole. The entire “bite” is topped off with some perfect hot sauce and the plate is the adorned with some freshly shredded veggies (these are also delicious).

This lunch was perfect for a wonderfully warm day in the city. If you just need a quick stop off for a small bite to eat, I highly recommend the patio at Z’Tejas. And the price was just right as well–split right down the middle between two people, this appetizer heaven only cost us about $12 each. However, try to go when you can actually have one of their amazing margaritas!

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A Fresh Summer Meal

After arriving home from work a few days ago a good friend called and wanted to get together and cook. This happens to me quite a bit and I am always excited to cook something new (or something I know and love) for a friend or family member. I didn’t have much time, so going to the market before cooking time wasn’t possible. I quickly looked through my fridge and cabinets to see what I could come up with. What I came up with was easy and delicious!

First, I had some organic, free range, chicken breasts that I marinated in lemon juice and garlic. I have recently found this amazing new seasoning that I would highly recommend, California Lemon Peel, that I also used in the marinade.

I only had about an hour and a half to marinate, so I made sure that I tenderized the chicken first.

While the chicken was absorbing all that yummy lemon flavor, I started cutting the vegetables that would construct my sauce: fresh zucchini, roma tomatoes, and asparagus. After slicing and dicing, I combined the veggies in a bowl with more lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, onion and garlic powder, lemon peel seasoning, and a pinch of dried dill. I then let the veggies sit in the mixture for about 45 minutes before cooking them. This allows them to devour all of the seasonings and become a bit soft before cooking.

Once my guest arrived with the wine, I started putting everything on heat. I have this really amazing indoor/outdoor George Foreman grill (yes, it is a “girl” grill) that I used to cook the chicken and then I simmered the veggies over medium to low heat for about 30 minutes. After the veggies got soft, I kept them on the lowest heat until the chicken was done. Cooking the veggies this long gives them more of a “sauce” like quality, as well as texture. I also boiled some whole wheat linguine.

Once the chicken was done, the linguine went on the plate, followed by a large helping of the simmered vegetables, the chicken, and then a sprinkle of all natural parmesan cheese. And just because I love anything with lemon, I squeezed a bit more fresh lemon juice on top. A simple, easy, light, and delicious summertime recipe!

I also had some of the more “masculine” wine I have had in a while. My friend, Josh, brought a local Outlaw Red (that is right, we have a “local” winery in Moab, Utah) and also this Chardonnay that I had never seen before: Gnarly Head. Of course a man picked these out! So amazing. I will say this–Gnarly Head Chardonnay is delicious; very crisp and not as wood flavored as some other heavier Chardonnays I have had. It has light buttery overtones, but nothing that was overbearing. This is a great summer wine and went perfectly with the chicken. I highly recommend you pick up this reasonably priced bottle the next time you are looking for a good Chardonnay. Be aware, however, this is a heavier wine than your run of the mill Pinot Gringo or Riesling. It is in true form, a Chardonnay–just a really delicious one!

Smash Burger: A Colorful Smashing Success

It is rare that I eat a hamburger. Maybe, once every six months, I get a really intense craving for the melty cheese, the crisp lettuce, and yes, the salty taste of dead cow. Oh, and the mayonnaise. The delicious mayonnaise. This week, my mom and I had lunch plans and I was having exactly one of those days–by 10:00 AM, all I could think about was a delicious hamburger, accompanied with salted french fries and of course, Utah’s favorite, creamy fry sauce. My mom had recommended Smash Burger a few weeks back, and frankly I blew the recommendation off because, really, I knew that a hamburger wasn’t in my near future. This particular day, however, I had spent the night before cooking with dear friend and drinking wine (review soon to come), and felt a little–how can I say this delicately–suffered by the wrath of grapes. And what more could a girl ask for, then to try a new hamburger joint with Mom? (Thanks Mom).

Smash Burger is a chain that has recently bloomed here in Utah. On this particular occasion we ate at the closest location to Downtown which happens to be in the heart of Sugarhouse. Upon entering the establishment, I noticed right away that we were probably close to the only females in the joint. Don’t let that detour you though–the atmosphere is very modern and not at all distinctively masculine. In fact, from the aesthetic appeal of the atmosphere only, it might be difficult to decipher exactly what kind of food they serve. I liked this. I liked this a lot.

My mom told me what to order, as she had been there before. And, I am not one to argue with my mom when it comes to food. She usually gets it right. “Ok, Chelsea, you need to order the American Burger, a side of Smash Fries, and you REALLY need the Haystack Onions to put ON your burger.” Done. Mom ordered the “Smashwedge Salad” and of course, we got two sodas to boot. I will say, that I couldn’t find the lids for my Diet Coke, and that made me feel a little stupid. Was it my hazy head? Nah, they were hidden. The old man next to me couldn’t find them either. (Whew).

The food came out and it was beautiful…really, surprisingly pleasing to the eye. Yellows, greens, reds, and delicious textures and smells. Smash Burger touts that their burgers are cooked over a ridiculous amount of heat. Pressing on them as they cook very quickly locks in the juices, according to some customers I spoke with. I was skeptical. How would pressing on something “hold in” juices? Well, let me tell you–whatever they do–works. The basic American Burger (beef patty, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, on a hamburger bun), couldn’t have tasted better. The fries were just how I like them: thinly sliced, lightly seasoned, and hot. The haystack onions were light and barley tasted battered. Those suckers went on my burger and added a lot more flavor. In addition, dipping them in Smash Burger’s tangy twist on “fry sauce” was delightful. If you like horseradish, ketchup, and mayo, then this fry sauce is for you. For my mom, who despises horseradish, she can stick with regular ketchup. No problem there–they have regular mustard and ketchup on every table. The Smashwedge Salad looked amazing. So much going on: blue cheese, bacon, onions, all on top of a crisp light green head of iceburg lettuce. Holy refreshing–and yet, intensely hard core at the same time. You might not eat it all, but what you get through will make you smile. And all you vegetarians out there, don’t pass up Smash Burger as just a meaty burger dining establishment–they have a veggie burger that looks mouthwatering.

The burger went down easy and didn’t make me feel gross. This, my dear readers, is a big deal. Being a *mostly* organic eater, I take a big risk of eating fast food or anything on the more “processed” side because I don’t really feel so great for long periods of time after (thinking of the pizza I had a few weeks ago…). Let’s just say, I felt great. The meal was delicious and filling–but not too filling. It was also very fresh and I felt as though the ingredients used were of good quality and made specifically for me. They were decidedly NOT sitting under any kind of heat lamp, that is for sure.

Next time you get that craving–the one that you can’t kick for a few weeks–just hit up the burger of the Smash variety. You won’t regret it. Oh, and call me to come with you; I am craving a juicy burger right this very minute.

Chelsea Wonders…

Help me out by taking this poll!

When going out to dinner, what is the price point per person you usually feel most comfortable with (special occasions aside)?