Tuesday, March 16, 2010

La Parrilla Suiza

13001 N. Tatum Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 85032

:):):):):) (5 smiles out of 5!)

La Parrilla Suiza (which means "the Swiss grill") has been our favorite Mexican food restaurant for the past 10 years. (The "Swiss grill" is, I believe, the metal tray they serve some dishes, like the fajitas, on which has a compartment to hold pieces of hot coal from the grill, to keep the food warm or sizzling. We do not know the story behind how the Swiss influenced the owners of the restaurant chain, or how they came to use the device.) We have also tried to remember how we came to discover Suiza (as we call it for short), and we cannot remember if someone recommended it, or if we just saw the sign for Mexico City food and decided to try something new, which we like to do and have done often.

As Super Dragon has been our favorite Chinese restaurant, Suiza has been our favorite Mexican restaurant. Again, the food is consistently good, and the service is great. The food IS different than regular Mexican fare. They do have the usual - burritos, tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, chips and salsas. But, they also have different or unexpected dishes.

According to the website, Suiza's tacos, meat and cheese dishes are all grilled or cooked on charcoal. One of my favorites is called Shrimp Alambre. It is grilled shrimp with bell peppers, and a sort of pico de gallo salsa (of tomatos and onions and peppers), which gives the dish a slight kick. It is served with flour tortillas and buttery white rice. I love to eat it with the chips. My daughter loves their flour tortillas, so when I order this dish, more often than not she gets the tortillas.

My husband loves their corn tortillas, which are fresh and hand-made right there. The Tatum Blvd. location has a window into their grill area, and we can see them making the corn tortillas, or grilling up the meat. Sometimes it is quite a show!

I like to think that their food is healthier, although I don't know at all what their calorie counts or fat contents are like. But, they serve grilled meats, not breaded or fried, and lots of veggies, including bell peppers, onions, tomatos, and a wonderful cabbage salad they have recently started serving as a side with some of their meals. Of course, they have fried foods, and full fat cheese, I'm sure, and serve sour cream, but I feel they have better options than traditional Mexican restaurants if you are watching what you eat. The Shrimp Alambre is one meal that seems relatively healthier to me than, say, a beef burrito. Lean protein, grilled, and lots of veggies, with a small serving of rice - sounds good to me!

I have raved about the Shrimp Alambre - sorry! Can you tell it's my favorite dish there?

The restaurant itself is enjoyable to just sit and look around as well. There is a beautiful mural painted inside, and there are brick and rock arches, as well as Mexican tiled art on the walls.

La Parrilla Suiza's Tatum Blvd. location received an average of only 3 stars out of 5 from the Yelp.com review, and if you read the reviews, they vary from 2 to 5 stars. I did notice that the two most recent reviews - one from February this year, and one from December last year - were 5 stars though. Some people thought the food was bland and nothing special. Others thought it was right on in representing Mexico City food. I suppose expectation can be something to consider. I've never been to Mexico City, so I have no idea how the food is different there from what we Americans think of as traditional Mexican food.

I think La Parrilla Suiza is a fantastic place to eat when you want Mexican food, but are tired of the usual fare. We've been going for 10 years, so obviously we think it's pretty good!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flax and Oats Pancakes

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it is said. I fully believe it. I have been enjoying sourdough pancakes lately, and added organic flaxseed meal from Bob's Red Mill to them for added nutrition and good stuff. I had been making a huge batch on the weekends and freezing them to eat during the week. This has worked out wonderfully because the pancakes don't take more than 2 minutes in the microwave to thaw, so they are quick, easy and delicious. And, you can top them with anything from honey to peanut butter and jelly - whatever you like, they are really versatile - or even eat them plain, which is how I usually have them actually.

Eating breakfast does provide me with energy throughout the morning. I'm more focused and feel less tired after eating breakfast. Flax is high in fiber and I have noticed when I eat the flax pancakes, I am not hungry one hour after eating (as sometimes happens when I eat cereal for breakfast). The pancakes hold me over longer, and I am not STARVING (and grumpy!) when lunch rolls around. :-) All good things!

This afternoon I decided to make another batch of pancakes. But, I did not have any sourdough starter pour-off, so I just made them without it, following the Better Homes and Gardens recipe for pancakes. And, I added oats and ground flaxseed meal. They turned out great, slightly sweet, a little crunchy from the oats, and slightly nutty from the flaxseed meal.

Flax and Oats Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup 1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup 1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal (When I made this I actually doubled the recipe, and 1 cup of oats and 1/2 cup of flax is what I put in when it was doubled. Ooops! Sorry!)
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons cooking oil

1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, oats and flaxseed meal.
2. In a second mixing bowl beat the egg and add the milk and cooking oil, and stir. Add egg mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy - and will be even more so with the oats).
3. Pre-heat a pan or griddle over medium heat. Using a ladle, spoon batter onto griddle to whatever size you like. Watch for the bubbles at the edges of the pancake to pop and remain tiny holes. Once that happens, the pancake is ready to flip. Cook for another 2 minutes or so until the pancake releases easily from the surface of the griddle.

These are really fast, easy and healthy! Flaxseed meal is high in fiber, Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids. Oats also are high in fiber and are a whole grain. Oh yeah, they taste good too, with a minimal amount of sugar. Enjoy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fruit Salad

Doesn't look very appetizing, but, oh, it was yummy!

The weather here in Phoenix has been absolutely gorgeous, sunny and mid-70's. I want to be outside all the time. Also as a result of the warmer temps, my body has moved on from craving warm soups and stews and hot tea. It's just not that cold anymore! (Not that it ever was THAT cold, compared to our friends that had snowstorm after snowstorm!)

Fruit salad fills the meal bill perfectly. I don't have to spend a lot of time in a kitchen getting warm over a stove or oven - you know when it's 110 degrees here, that's the last place I want to be! I made a fruit salad a few nights ago just with stuff I had on hand - no special trip to the store - and thought it was so yummy I had to share this quick, light, healthy recipe.

Hmmm . . . don't have a name for this recipe . . . but here goes anyway!

1 small banana, sliced
1 small fuji apple (or any sweet apple I'm sure would work), chopped
2 heaping tablespoons Ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon Agave nectar
1-2 tablespoons shredded coconut, toasting optional

Combine the first 3 ingredients, stirring to coat the banana and apple with the Ricotta. Drizzle with the Agave nectar and top with the toasted coconut.

The coconut was leftover from a previous dessert. I toasted it by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. I spread the shredded unsweetened coconut on a cookie sheet. Then, I baked the coconut just for about 3-4 minutes until golden brown. I let it cool a little before handling.

Voila! There is a very tasty, easy, quick, simple and healthy fruit salad to whip up on a night or afternoon when you'd rather be outside playing. The Ricotta cheese is made with skim milk, so less fat, and the Agave nectar is supposed to have a lower glycemic index than sugar, so you don't have the highs and lows associated with sugar.

Alright, back outside to play some tennis I go!! :-)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Super Dragon, 1212 E. Northern Ave., Phoenix

:-):-):-):-):-) 5 smiles out of 5!!

Let me just get that out of the way, because Super Dragon is absolutely my most favorite Chinese restaurant in Phoenix. And, I gather we are not the only ones who think it is SUPER! Phoenix New Times has Super Dragon in its "Best of" for its Cantonese-Style Duck. On Yahoo! Local, Super Dragon is given 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

We have been eating there for the past 10 years, and it is consistently delicious, and they do not use MSG. Nothing I have had disappoints. The vegetarian fare is good, and has a wide selection of dishes. The shrimp is always excellently cooked, not rubbery or mushy. The staff is friendly and they get to know you and what you like. We sit down and they automatically bring hot tea to our table. (I guess after going there for 10 years, they'd know, huh?!) The restaurant is comfortable and clean. And, man, are they fast! Once at lunch, my former boss timed them, just to see how fast they are. From the time we ordered to the time our food was brought to us was 6 minutes! That is really awesome when I am really hungry. ('Cuz I get really grumpy when I'm hungry! ;-)  )

The lunch specials are wonderful, they offer a lot of food for not a lot of pennies. The lunch specials are served from 11 to 3pm, and include a cup of soup (Egg Flower - or Egg Drop - Soup, or Hot and Sour Soup), an egg roll, fried rice and your chosen dish. The prices range from around $5.00 to $7.50 or so. More often than not, I'll bring half of my lunch home, unless I'm really hungry, then I can eat it all!

Dinner there is wonderful, too. The prices are extremely reasonable, and the dishes are delish!! Lo Mein, Moo Shu, Garlic String Beans, Walnut Prawns, House's Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork - it is all awesome!

Do not pass up Super Dragon. You'll be missing the best Chinese food in town!

OK, now I'm hungry. Writing about all this yummy Super Dragon fare has me salivating! Better go eat before I get grumpy. :-)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Baking - Biscotti

Biscotti seemed so exotic and fancy to me. The first time I saw biscotti was at Starbuck's, wrapped in the pretty cellophane and ribbons, being sold for $2 a cookie. I never thought it was something that people could make at home, nor did I think it was something EASY that people could make at home. Nor did I think people would WANT to - when I had biscotti, it was always rock hard and difficult to eat. I always wanted to dunk it in my decaffeinated white chocolate mocha, but was never sure that was socially or gastronomically acceptable. (Still don't, but at this point in my life, I'm beyond caring. If I want to and it's yummy, I'm doing it!)

During Thanksgiving, my mother brought a new recipe to try - Biscotti! She saw the biscotti on the Food Network Channel, thought it would be something different for her Pinochle group, and found it was REALLY EASY. So, she decided to share with me. It was a lot of fun baking together, I must say. Baking is something relatively new for both my mother and I, and we are connecting on a whole new level with it. It's really great.

Her biscotti recipe is from Rocco DiSpirito - click here to get to it. It WAS really easy, but I am really glad my mom did it with me the first time. When we mixed the dough, the dough was really wet and sticky. If I had been by myself, I would have added more flour to make it less sticky, which would have likely been a huge mistake! So, be forewarned - it's supposed to be extremely moist dough. When we made it, we mixed it with our hands, and the dough - or batter really, because that is more what it was like - was all over our hands. We tried and tried to get it off our fingers, and it never seemed to come off or be any less!

I made it again, by myself, and used utensils (a plastic rice spoon and a rubber spatula) this time. It was much less frustrating and annoying, and the utensils wiped of the dough/batter much easier than my hands!

Here is a picture of the biscotti after the initial baking.

After it was cool enough to handle, I began slicing it for the cookies.

Back on the cookie sheet they go for toasting each side!

Here are the finished biscotti cookies!

They are really easy, and tasty, too. Anise is a strong scent, just like black licorice, but the anise flavoring is not strong at all in these cookies. The recipe does not require a lot. And, they are NOT rock hard! They are actually enjoyable to eat without wondering if I'll need a dentist! We have enjoyed the biscotti with our morning coffee or tea, and also at night, after dinner as a light dessert. Biscotti is no longer this exotic, fancy thing that I can find only in coffee shops! I can make it any time I want to, right in my very own home! How cool is that?!


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