Friday, March 7, 2014

#My Hometown guide- The 5 Houston Food Scene

Click to Win a Getaway at My Home Town Guide Contest. Enter here. Just click on the link.

This is a sponsored partner post on behalf of my blog, Honest Cooking, and Fiji Water. I was given the opportunity to write a post about Houston food scene by Honest Cooking and the #MyHomeTownGuidecampaign by Fiji Water.  I can’t pass this offer of showing my home Houston’s food Scene. Also note that I was compensated monetarily but if you read my blog with any regularity, you’ll notice that I mention Houston in my post.  Thanks for reading!
 Houston, the 4th largest city in the US, is also best known for its diverse cultures. You can experience all kinds of food here whether you are looking for Tex-Mex, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cajun or a Brazilian steak house, you will find it here. You can also get sizzling fajitas,  biriyani  or the best texas style barbeques in this city. Here is a list of my favorite places that I love to eat as well as get my favorite ingredients.

  1. Grand Prize Barbeque Restaurant

My hubby is the one who goes out eat in lots restaurant as part of his meeting with clients, and he gives me an idea of best dining places in Houston.  Houston has great barbeque restaurants, however  Grand Prize Barbeque Restaurant stands out for its great taste of the special barbeque sauce.
During a recent visit to this restaurant, my hubby got, barbeque chicken, ribs,  potato salad, coleslaw and Jalapeno cheddar bread.
His friend got this Boudin with barbeque chicken, Marconi, beans and jalapeno cheddar bread. 
Boudin with barbeque chicken, Marconi, beans and jalapeno cheddar bread.
 3002 E. Pasadena Frwy. Pasadena, TX 77502 Phone: 713-473-3355

2.Phoenicia Specialty Foods
I am one of those persons who only goes out to eat occasionally, but would try all the international cuisines from the comfort of my kitchen.  One of the stores where I like to shop for lots of my specialty ingredients is Phoenicia Specialty Foods, a 55,000-square-foot food market for international gourmet foods. Phoenicia now carries more than 10,000 products from more than 50 countries.

Best thing is that you can also get fresh Middle Eastern bread and a wide variety of Middle Eastern food in their deli. I occasionally buy the wonderfully fresh tannour bread from there as well as Tabouli salad.  On some days I get to see the breads being made and going up and down the conveyor belt and get packaged, with people standing by to pick it up as soon as it reaches the aile.They have a very nice sweet shop too, and love to get my share of baklava, coconut Namoora/ Basboosah  and knafeh from there. 
 12141 Westheimer Road

 Houston, TX 77077

 (281) 558-8225

3. Fiesta Supermarket
When I need any vegetables, fruits and Latin American ingredients my one place stop is Fiesta. I can get fresh mangoes throughout the year (which is not even possible in India). When it is Jackfruit season I get them fresh too. I can get small yellow banana (called apple banana) and plantain both raw and ripe my favorite while growing up I can get it from there.
If you are seafood as well as meat lover you can find there.  I can get different flavors of Latin American Coffee from there too. If you are fan of Mexican food, cheese you get it from their deli too. In this store there is also a small restaurant where I can get Mexican food. They even carry spices from several countries of spices and ingredients, but I am a big fan of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Fiesta has more stores in Houston than any other Texas cities.


14315 Bellaire

Houston, TX 77083

(281) 568-4149

4.Goody Goody
 If you make good food, you tend to enjoy the food with some good drinks to go along, and since we have two small kids going out to restaurant or bar is not always possible. We like to have small drinks at our home; mainly it will be a glass of wine or a bottle of my favorite beer. 
And the job of finding a good wine was made easy with the opening of the Goody Goody liquor store near our house. This is a beautiful store covered with murals depicting the history of beer, wide aisles and an inventory that includes thousands of types of wines, liquor and beer from all over the world.
If you are planning for candlelight dinner, then I think this will be best place to get your favorite drinks.
Goody Goody Liquor
2680 Hwy 6 S, Houston, TX 77082
(281) 497-1862

Website: Goody Goody

5. Food Trucks

If you are street food lover, then Houston has best offer for you. In Houston the street food are served mainly by food trucks, and they serve both lunch and dinner. And you can find these trucks all over the city with some of the food trucks have a large fan following.  Some of the popular food trucks are the Waffle Bus (serving up both sweet and savory bites), Bernie’s Burger Bus (specializing in all-natural burgers crafted from scratch), and Kurbside Eatz  (delivering yummy wings, wraps, tacos and much more.). Because of the popularity of the food trucks, the City of Houston has designated couple of places as food park for trucks.
Houston Food Park

1504 St Emanuel St

Houston, TX 77003

My Food Park HTX

800 Highway 6 south

Houston, TX - 77079
Facebook page: My Food Park HTX

Since I cook my own healthy and delicious food from scratch, these are important food scene, I can think off.  These are my opinion and post is sponsored, I didn’t receive any compensation from any of the store I mentioned here. 

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Monday, January 13, 2014

My Best Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

My kids are chocolate lovers; daughter always asks for chocolate chips cookies, and my son also wants cookies with chocolate. I tried and tested vanilla cupcakes, so decide to try chocolate cupcakes. This recipe turned to be my best dark chocolate cupcakes.
Please take a look at following link how you can make this best dark Chocolate cupcake recipe
 Before Christmas, Rizzi from The New York Baking Company contacted me if I am interested to review silicone baking cups.   I thought why don’t I give it a try and I told him yes. And he sends me a dozen silicone baking cups and told me he wants honest review. My daughter got really excited seeing the package as it is different colors. She told me she needs cupcake in all these. Since I tried vanilla cupcakes, I decide to try chocolate cupcake. I was searching the internet for best recipes. Most of the recipes are with buttermilk, some are with sour cream, and recently I discovered that if you use sour cream in baking cakes, you will get a good moist cake.
On searching I found this recipe, and when I checked my pantry I have only Hershey’s special dark chocolate in my hand, so decided to modified the recipe a little bit.  I changed oil to butter, instead of ½ cup cocoa, I used 1/3 cup special dark cocoa, ¼ cup sour cream and ½ cup coffee made with ½ teaspoon instant coffee and ½ cup water. I was able to get 12 cupcakes with this recipe. They are delicious my kids started to eating as soon coming out the oven.
I made the chocolate ganache frosting to go with these dark chocolate cupcakes. It is easy to make I made with semi sweet chocolate bars and heavy cream.
Regarding the silicone baking cups, I have used it twice, first time for eggless Pina colada cupcakes, the recipe turned out to be disaster.  However, cupcakes comes of the baking cups every easily. Next time I used was for the chocolate cupcake recipes, they turned out be delicious, and I will not search for any other recipe.
Pros of the silicone baking cups. are that they are BPA free; you don’t need to grease them before baking. You can also handle them while they are hot. Cupcakes come out very easily. Baking cups are very colorful, so kids will love them. Washing these cupcakes turned out to be little harder, you need to hand wash them by flipping and use a brush to clean all those little grooves. Even after soaking in soap water for overnight, I found this step is necessary.  I don’t think you can wash them in dishwasher as they so light, it will scattered around the dishwasher and also dishwasher can’t wash the food sticks out of the tiny grooves. You can use this for you daily baking schedule, however if you are keeping these cupcakes for a party or you want to give the cupcakes as a gift, you have to make sure you to get back your liners back. I haven’t tried any jelly recipes with this; I will try it in future. It sells in Amazon, for  at $ 9.95 a dozen.
I was provided with 12 baking silicone cups from New York Baking Company. All opinion mentioned here is mine.
Here comes the recipe.

My Best Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
    Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup Hershey’s special dark cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup Sour cream
  • ¼ cup butter (soft at room temperature)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • Chocolate Ganache frosting
  • 9 ounce of semi sweet baking chocolate
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Place silicone baking cups in muffin tin.
  3. Mix ½ teaspoon of instant coffee powder in ½ cup boiling water and set aside.
  4. Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  5. Add sour cream, butter, egg, sugar and vanilla cream well then add flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add coffee to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
  6. Evenly distribute cake batter. Each cupcake liner should be about 2/3ths full.
  7. Place in the oven and bake 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow the cupcakes to cool completely.
For the Chocolate Ganache Frosting:
  1. Place 9 ounce of chocolate and heavy cream into microwave safe bowl and heat for about 30 seconds high, then  and mix very well. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes to thicken the chocolate a little bit so that it will easy for piping.
  2. Transfer the entire content in the piping bag and pipe according your wish on the top of chocolate cupcakes.
Copyright ©2014 Zesty South Indian Kitchen by Swathi( Ambujom Saraswathy) All Rights Reserved
I am linking this to Hearth and Soul and Treasure box Tuesday
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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Rúgbrauð: Icelandic Thunder Bread: North Festival

NORTH Festival  
This post is a sponsored post as part of NORTH Festival Food Blogger Outreach by online food magazine, Honest cooking.
 Among countries I would like to visit includes Iceland, a beautiful Nordic island country marking the juncture between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge formed as result of volcanic action. It is a sparsely populated area; the capital and largest city Reykjavík, is the highest populated area of Iceland. Iceland is almost the size of Kentucky and 2/3rd of population stays in its capital city Reykjavik.  If you are in Britain, you can catch flight to Reykjavik on Friday evening and spent the weekend there in Iceland and come back before week day’s start.  Both I and my friend planed the trip duing my Britain trip.  However, I got sick and need to spend the entire holiday in London and was not able to make it to Iceland or France as planned. May be some time in future
I got very happy as I am selected to write a post on North Festival conducted by online food magazine Honest Cooking.  As a part of my post doctoral studies, I was able to stay and visit Nordic countries. My stay in Stockholm, Sweden taught me lot. I was able to visit Finland, Denmark, but missed Norway and Iceland as they were slightly expensive to my budget at that time, still made a plan, but was not able to fulfill as I wish. I understood that even though I would blame the sun during about hot and humid weather in South India, I missed him in the winter months when I was in Sweden. I read that in Iceland during summer months sun doesn’t want to set and he sets in various times on plains and valley. 
Iceland during the Midnight Sun is in sort of a permanent state of sunset. The sun never fully sets and travels horizontally across the horizon throughout the night. In 2012, the earliest sunrise was at 2:53am on June 18 and the latest sunset is at 12:06am on June 23. The latest sunrise is at 11:24am on December 25 and the earliest sunset is at 3:27 pm on December 16.
During the Arctic summer, sunset was at midnight and sunrise was at 3am. The Arctic summer sun provided 24 hours a day of light, with as much as 6 hours daily of "Golden light". Once the sun had set it wouldn't even get dark enough for the stars to come out, and they don't start to reappear until August.
watch around 0.51 video courtesy from here
I know if sun treats you like this during summer, then he will play hide and seek during winter months making you depressed, bored etc.
Just like it scenic beauty, Iceland has its own food culture, they eat plenty of sea food  thanks  to its island, and also eat lamb as they are abundant and busy grazing the grasses of the plains and valley. Fruits and vegetables are grown in green houses, rest they import from other countries. As winters are long and harsh vegetables are grown for few months.  Most sturdy grain rye is prominent in their breads, pancakes etc. According to this serious eats article about Iceland, if you been to Iceland you will be asked these questions, did you eat Rúgbrauð: Icelandic thunder bread/ hot spring bread? Did you eat Skyr? Their cheese which looks like yogurt, they love to add it in everything, dip, dessert etc. I try to find one here, and I got one version from Whole foods, and it is more like a sour cream. Their hotdogs are made with lamb meat. In a YouTube video I have seen people standing in long line to buy that hotdog. Host of the show says that this is the best selling hot dog store in Iceland. Also read that their smoked salmon is best.  Icelanders like to snack dried fish, especially haddock with butter on the top. They also tend to eat birds, whale and even fermented shark. After eating fermented shark they drink their national drink Brennivín. Nicknamed "black death," the caraway-flavored schnapps is reminiscent of Aquavit . I also read they make very thin pancake, very see through version. pönnukökur, which is rolled up with sugar, jam etc. Iceland has its own cookies most famous is Air cookies
While searching for a recipe to try, I found that Rúgbrauð: Icelandic thunder bread is the most commonly tried recipe, there are other recipes that you can find here and here. I am a bread loving person, so decide to try this bread. Brought Skyr from the store, even though recipe I adapted says it is sweet bread, I reduce the amount of molasses and used rye flour, bread flour and white whole wheat flour along with butter milk, yeast and salt.  I read that this bread is baked in hot springs for long hours. First I thought I will try with pressure cooker without putting weight on; but then I decided to bake it in steam filled oven with a water bath. I baked this bread for 1 hour and 30 minutes until it registered internal temperature of 200 °F. It is brown color bread taste delicious.
My husband told me he likes the bread as such not with skyr. I too find the same way. My kids enjoyed this bread also. Traditional way to serving is to well-butter on the side with soðning (plain boiled fish), or with cold pickled herring on top. Eat it with sliced ham or spread it with cream cheese, and if there is anything left, use it to make bread soup.
If you like rye bread, then give it a try, I think it taste more like Boston brown bread .This bread has long shelf life; you can store it for month. I don’t think it going to last that long.  Especially try to toast them with butter it will be awesome.

 Bon appetite / Verði þér að góðu

 Here comes the recipe, 

Rúgbrauð: Icelandic thunder bread: North Festival
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Fermentation: 60 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Yield: 1 loaf
Print Recipe
 1.6/167g cups rye flour
1 cup /150g White whole wheat flour
1cup/160g Bread flour
11/2 tsp/6g Instant yeast (if you are using active dry yeast, you must proof the yeast with 1 tsp sugar and ¼ cup luke warm water)
1 tsp/6g salt
1 tsp/6gbaking soda
1/3 cup molasses
2 cup/460g buttermilk
In a bowl of kitchen aid stand mixer, add flours, salt, baking soda, yeast. Blend together molasses and buttermilk and add to flour yeast mixture with gradual mixing.
Mixture will be fairly thin, more like a cake batter than bread dough.
Transfer the batter into a lightly greased pan ( I used 9x13 inch loaf tin)  and smooth the top. Set aside for 60 minutes covered with plastic wrap and a damp towel.  You may or may not see any yeast activity at this time.
 By the end of 60 minutes, preheat oven to 360F.  In the lower rack of your oven place a roasting pan filled with hot water for about half while the oven is preheating. This will create a hot steamy oven.
Bake, uncovered, for about an hour and half or it register an internal temperature of 200F or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges to loosen, let sit for just a couple minutes, and then turn over onto a cooling rack.
 Once it is cooled completely cut the pieces and brush with warm butter and enjoy.
 This recipe is adapted from this blog   Iceland bound which in turn an adapted from   Almar Grímsson’s recipe and also from  Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir’s Icelandic Food and Cookery
Tips to remember
If you are using active dry yeast make sure to proof the yeast before making to the dough.
You can also bake this bread in crock pot, I haven’t done this
Make sure to fill the roasting pan with half full of water so that steam will retain through the entire baking. If you find water is low add more hot water.
Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is collaboration between the blogger and NORTH Festival 2013.