Friday, January 30, 2015

A First Round in Albuquerque

Since I moved here last July, I have eaten at so many new places. Although Albuquerque was always a place we visited growing up, we never strayed from the usual handful of restaurants we always went to. Now that I live here and have all the freedom in the world to explore different restaurants, there's so much more to eat! Here are a few restaurants I visited.

Bob's Burgers is a favorite around here. It's nothing pretty, but these sad looking burgers are packed with greasy goodness. They have that tasty slightly burnt crust with melty American cheese everywhere. Their green chile sauce is savory and spicy. Watch out, I heard sometimes it can be really hot. They have a burger taco.  It's weird and I couldn't imagine myself making a meal of them. The fries taste like McDonald's fries (Yum!).

Pueblo Harvest Cafe at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center has a Native fusion menu. I'm talking frybread, Pueblo bread, chilies and fried Kool-Aide pickles. I was able to go in the kitchen and get a look at their frybread making skills and chat with the chefs, as an associate producer with Native America Calling radio program. We tried three dishes, a breakfast Frito pie, Pueblo eggs Benedict and chakewe con huevos. My favorite was the Pueblo eggs Benedict because it's made with a foundation of Pueblo oven bread, turkey sausage, eggs and a homemade green chile hollandaise sauce. That sauce makes the dish. Hear more about Native American food in this show I produced for Native America Calling.

Samurai has a nice environment, but it's very  noisy once the chefs start clinging and clanging their spatulas on the teppanyaki grill in front of you. They offer a flawless and entertaining show. You can easily fill up here. In fact, you may be taking some friend rice and noodles home with you.

Yes! Albuquerque has a Pro's Ranch. This cafeteria style taqueria is the business. Inside this grocery store, you will find the best street tacos you ever bothered to tilt our head at. Sometimes, the cooks look so careless and bothered in their jobs, but each time, the tacos are just awesome. You get to add your own extra onions, cilantro and chips and salsa. 

San Pedro Market is a tiny Middle Eastern joint inside of a nonchalant gas station. If you're looking for environment, it's not here. You're stuffed in an odd, makeshift corner where shoppers come in and look confused until they see the rest of the store isles in the back. It has some good food though and it smells great. I had a dinner and tried tabouli for the first time. Although I leaned that I don't like tabouli, I enjoyed the yellow rice and hummus. My lunch partner's gyro was so tasty, we took an extra one home. They make their own pocket pita bread here. 

Holy Cow is a ridiculously busy place at lunch time. There's a large burger menu — because that's their thing. I went straight for the green chile cheeseburger because when in Rome. It was OK. I didn't enjoy the pink in the middle of the burger. I think that's dangerous but I didn't have a choice. A tiny sentence at the bottom of the menu says that all burgers are cooked with pink in the middle. As you can see in the picture, there's pink coming out of the burger. Ew.

My boyfriend and I were feeling a little romantic. We searched the Internet for nice date places to eat out and we came across this place. Trombino's has one of the best lasagnas. My boyfriend should know. He's like Garfield (but he still makes the best lasagna). And the price wasn't anything to complain about either. The only thing is it was full of a bunch of old people on a Saturday night. I don't have anything against old people, but gosh we felt like teenagers taking daddy's car and credit card out. I don't know if it's like that all the time, but that was just something we noticed right away.

Speaking of lasagna, Buca di Beppo! This is a hotspot for large families and volleyball teams celebrating anything. We waited for 40 minutes one Friday night but it was worth it. The next time we went, we made reservations and did our VIP walk right up to the front of the line. The portion sizes are huge and the environment is classy and homey Italian. I love it. The lasagna here is also on our top lasagna list. It's stacked high with a thick layer of ricotta cheese in the middle.  The complimentary bread is weak bread, don't bother.

Steak in the Rough is a classic diner with a big menu. Their specialty is steak fingers and it's definitely something you want to try once. It's expensive for what you get, I thought. Three steak strips surrounded by cheap ingredients (potatoes, coleslaw and a dinner role) was about $11. But the burger was oh so good with that slight burnt crust from the flat grill and melted cheese stuck to the bun.

Rock & Brews kicks ass. If you start with the spicy Asian wings, you're in for a hell of a good meal. The burgers are hearty and huge and the music and art on the wall add spice to your experience. That's if you like good music. During our first visit, we were disappointed to see all the TVs playing sports channels. My boyfriend complained about that and said there should be more music. I think that's why 90 percent of all the TVs were playing rock-n-roll music videos the second time we visited. As it should be in a rockin' place with guitar door handles.

Anatolia's in downtown is a small place. It's plain and you can see the cooks in the back. I don't know about you, but I like that. I like it when you can hear the kitchen. When we visited, it just so happened to be belly dancer night. With a speaker the size of our table blaring ethnic music, pretty girls in front of us and a big plate of Turkish food on the table, we had a good time. That was until my taste buds were destroyed by a bite of lava-hot green chile. The spiced meat was delicious, but the rice on the bottom was very generic; a pilaf that I've tasted in many a hurried banquet meal.

We have many more places to visit. We plan out our meals every week and have an ever growing list of Albuquerque restaurants to visit. Until next time!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Impressing the family with food

Since my boyfriend and I moved to Albuquerque a few months ago, we're now living in the same city with his family. They're really good people and they're very nice. I get along with all of them pretty well although there are some language barriers. All of them speak Farsi because they're from Afghanistan — except the kids.

So since we've been here, I've been spending more and more time with them, especially around the dinner table. I absolutely love everything my boyfriend's mom and aunts make. They make mounds of rice with all kinds of qormas, marinated meats and stewed vegetables. It's almost every week now that I have authentic Afghan home cooking. I haven't been able to remember all the names of everything I eat at their house because it seems I never have the same thing twice. All I know is I get extremely full when we're there and they never run out of food.

I have started making some of these items at home although I haven't been able to make rice like they can — because I don't think I'm bold enough to use that much oil. So far, the only person I've been cooking these things for is my boyfriend and he approves of most of it. He's not afraid to tell me that his mom can make it better than me.

I made a pot of aush (Afghan soup) for my boyfriend and I the other week and it was so good. His eyes lit up as he slurped it down and he gave me an 8.5 out of 10 in comparison to his mom's. That was close enough for me. I decided to make a huge pot for the family last week.

I gathered all the ingredients after work and we went to his mom's house. Beans, noodles, chicken bouillon, ground beef, spices, yogurt and sour cream in the back seat and I got sort of nervous. I don't like cooking in someone else's kitchen because I like my knife in my own kitchen, you know? I was afraid that it wasn't going to be good because I just wasn't familiar with a lot of stuff in that kitchen.

But as I got into it, everything went smoothly. It started smelling the same way it did in my own kitchen. I was afraid I might have forgotten something but I didn't. I was a little afraid of the dark color at first but it lightened up later. I panicked when I added the garlic at the wrong time, but, hey, it's a soup!

An hour later, it was done! I was satisfied with that last test taste and I sat down, confident that everyone would like it.

When the large pot of soup was uncovered and word went around in Farsi that I made it, everyone was very impressed. "Good job" and "it's very good" from my boyfriend's aunts, uncles and siblings made me feel good. I'm glad they approved.

Now that I'm thinking about it. I don't know why I wanted to make aush for them. I wonder how I would feel if some non-Navajo person came in my house and made frybread for me. I guess I would be impressed if it complemented the rest of the meal and it tasted good.

But anyways...

I made cakes and pies that impressed this family before, but to make aush was something else. I went off a recipe my boyfriend's mom gave me over the phone and through text messages. I went off of instructions like "a little bit of this, a little bit of that and you boil it. It's easy." I watched online videos and searched for recipes, but it didn't taste like her's. I made quite a few varieties of this soup before I was really satisfied with it enough to have the whole family taste it.

So I guess I did it for approval. And in cooking I think that's something you always want and should strive for every time you make something for yourself and others. I guess I also did it for their approval of me. This is one way I can assure them that their son is in good hands. I may be a Navajo girl from another world who can't speak Farsi, doesn't know their culture or their religion, but I can cook.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I took it up north!

Hello from Albuquerque!
I recently moved to Albuquerque from Las Cruces and I'm having a good time getting settled in. Moving and packing was quite a task, considering all the kitchen supplies I have and won't let go. Eating became necessary for a while, meaning we ate at a few fast food places and scrounged up some turkey slices and lettuce for a quick sandwich. But now my boyfriend and I are starting to look around for some really good and unique stuff — and I know Albuquerque has it.
It's Friday, I'm off work, let's see what we can find!

I'm now an associate producer for Native America Calling, a national call-in radio program.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Farewell Las Cruces

I have been a member of the Las Cruces Sun-News newsroom for three years. I was a features writer who wrote stories on music, art, people and health. Along the way I met so many great people and had the absolute pleasure of telling their great, sad, awesome and triumphant stories through words and photos.

I also got to eat at almost all of Las Cruces' restaurants and meet dozens of enthusiastic restaurant owners and chefs. I would say that part of my job was the most fun. I especially love taking gorgeous food photos and making everyone hungry.

But my journey is taking me elsewhere. I'll be moving to Albuquerque to work in radio. As excited as I am for this opportunity, I'm sad to be leaving Las Cruces. It's such a great city that I've grown to love.

I found my love for food here after trying a few of Las Cruces' Mexican restaurants (this coming from a northern New Mexico girl who hated Mexican food for most of her life). You can't go wrong at any restaurant here. They all have something special and delicious. Every time I eat something amazing here, I think to myself, "I'm going to make this at my restaurant." Because my menu will include only the best, of course.

So now I am leaving. But not before I visit my favorite restaurants for my favorite dishes. I will be updating this post so you can follow my journey to 11 of my favorite Mesilla Valley restaurants. I will try to visit all of them before I actually move away at the end of June.

[X] Delicias — I had to order the chicken enchilada plate. It's creamy, fresh and the chicken portion is generous. I like the welcome soup they have before their big entrees and the festive look in the new and colorful furniture. I'm glad there's one of these in Albuquerque.

[] Ranchway -- We missed Ranchway because the family took a vacation on the last week I was in Las Cruces. I was sad but I know I'll have to visit again for the steak and the best refried beans I have ever had.

Instead, we went to La Guadalupana, a Mexican seafood place that has a good tilapia with a white wine sauce to melt the heart.

[X] Double Eagle — My boyfriend and I went for the brunch buffet on a Sunday morning. It was great! So much food at a high standard is almost too much to take. I had to try a little bit of everything: barbecue chicken, steak, enchiladas, eggs, sausage, potatoes, mashed potatoes, salmon and a bunch of different cakes and pies. We both went into a food coma afterwards.

[X] Piasano Cafe — Oh, my goodness, I had the Cuban torta and it was the best thing I've had in a long time. It's a whopper of a sandwich filled with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, very juicy and tender pork and slices of ham. I couldn't put it down. Heath, my lunch partner, had the carnitas and it looked just as good because it had the same juicy pork meat.

[X] Pho Saigon -- I choose this place to eat at with the Sun-News staff for my farewell lunch. About half of them haven't been to Pho Saigon, but the all seemed to have a good time trying different foods. I, of course, had the pho.

[X] Third Floor Bistro -- I heard the Third Floor Bistro was coming out with a new summer menu and I just had to give it a try before I left. I ordered the shrimp tacos made with New Mexico-grown shrimp from an NMSU hatchery. It was a very fresh and satisfying two tacos. The plump shrimp was grilled and seasoned perfectly with a lot of smokey flavors, while the NMSU chile sauce added a lot of heat, just the way I like it. It's always a pleasure to eat at the Third Floor Bistro! Where else can you get a nice view, table clothes and a filling lunch for about $8? Only at Third Floor Bistro, that's where. My favorite place.

You have to finish with dessert! Pictures is key lime pie.

[] Tiffany's -- I thought we would have time to visit, but the last day we moved out turned out to be a hectic rush to get to Albuquerque. We'll be back for that giant gyro and that giant Greek salad!

[X] El Patron — I ordered the huevos rancheros, because I think it's the best rancheros I've had. Dave, my boyfriend, got the large order of brisket nachos because he's been craving for it since we ordered that a few months ago.

[X] Caliche's -- I like to go on Sundays because that's when they have the banana split as the special. You get a whole plastic boat load of bananas, ice cream, pecans and sugary toppings for about $4. Caliche's I will miss you.

[X] International Delights — For my last time at International Delights, I didn't have too good of a time. One of my chicken thighs in the baked chicken dish was very overcooked and tough. But the other was just how I imagined it; soft, juicy and packed full of so much baked chicken flavor.

[X] Rockin' BZ Burgers — I ordered The Champ burger. It's a large green chile cheeseburger that won first place in the state Green Chile Cheeseburger challenge in 2012. I think it's the best burger in town because the bun is perfectly toasted with butter, the burger has a nice beefy taste, but it's seasoned just right. The green chile is always perfect and not too hot or not too mild. Their homemade fries are great too.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Places to eat in Las Cruces

Visiting Las Cruces?

If you're looking at this blog because you're thinking of visiting or are already here and Googling in your hotel room, welcome!
I bet by driving into town you didn't see much and are thinking about going to McDonald's or Denny's for dinner. You don't have to do that. I know I've done that in a few cities because; there wasn't enough time to explore; I had no idea where anything was; and I've had bad experiences in restaurants that have a huge online presence (you don't want to be adventurous after you have a terrible dinner at a place the Internet says is the greatest in town).
Allow me to be your guide.

Any of the local Mexican restaurants that serve breakfast — There are breakfast burritos smothered in chile and huevos rancheros — I think the best at El Patron Café,1103 S. Solano Drive, a tiny place that pushes out a pretty good breakfast and lunch. If you've never had chile like ours before, ask for it on the side, it could get really hot sometimes. 

A Bite of Belgium — I know, right? Belgian food in Las Cruces? Yeah, we have it and A Bite of Belgium has great things for breakfast including Belgian waffles, pain perdu (French toast) and a great sandwich called the Belgian Breakfast Brioche, a buttered brioche bun topped with eggs, ham and cheese. They also have the best fresh pastries and sweets such as apricot chausson, cinnamon rolls, Danishes, cream puffs, cake, ect. They also have a great lunch menu that includes sandwiches, one burger, soup and salads. Everything is homemade, even the breads for lunch.
Read a review here.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day
Location: 741 N. Alameda St.
Info: 575-527-2483,

A waffle from Bite of Belgium is a good snack and can be found at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market.

Old Town Restaurant — This is a good ole' fashioned diner with good ole' fashioned breakfast plates with Mexican influences and Mexican items. One of my favorites here is the pork chop breakfast. It comes with two chops that are to die for. They're the kind of pork chops only your dad can make. They're not dry, they're full of flavor and the tasty little fatty ends top it off.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. every day
Location: 1155 S. Valley Drive
Info: 575-523-4586

Pork chop breakfast special at Old Town.

The Third Floor Bistro — Try not to get lost finding this place. Even the locals call in asking for direction. Get directions to the NMSU campus and the NMSU Aggies football stadium (called: Stan Fulton Center). On the third floor of this building, which is connected to the stadium, is a very nice restaurant that's only open for lunch. Picture: table cloths, full-length windows over looking the stadium, water goblets, cloth napkins and shiny silverware. A pulled pork sandwich with green chile aoili costs around $7. It's a small menu, but they do it very well. It's classy — and they serve alcohol.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Location: From University Avenue, take the Frontage Road south onto campus. Take a right on Payne Street until you come up to the football stadium. At the south of the stadium is the Stan Fulton Center and on the third floor is the Bistro.
Info: 575-646-4763.

 Pulled pork sandwich at Third Floor Bistro.

Rockin' BZ Burgers — They have the best green chile cheeseburger in town."The Champ" is what you want to get because it came in first place at the state Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge in 2012. If you've had as many green chile cheeseburgers as I have, you'll find that each restaurant does it differently and every burger has a unique taste. You can practically blindfold me and I can tell you where that burger came from. And I can also tell you BZ's has the best green chile cheeseburger in town.
Read a food review here.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Location:3961 E. Lohman Ave.
Info: 575-521-9336

A 1/4-pound burger from Rockin' BZ's.

Tiffany's Pizza and Greek Cuisine — Tiffany makes the best gyro and hummus in town! The meat is juicy, their bread is soft and the Greek salad is tops. One order of the gyro sandwich is enough to feed two people, so make room for leftovers. This place is well-lit with a very friendly atmosphere.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday
Location: 755 S. Telshor Blvd.
Info: 575-532-5002

A gyro with Greek salad from Tiffany's.

Pho Saigon and Pho A Dong Vietnamese restaurants — If you're looking for something a little different, we have two Vietnamese restaurants that are very much on par with each other. I eat at both of them and they serve up some of the same items. They have more than 100 items on their menu to choose from including traditional Vietnamese items to plates that unadventurous Americans might be more comfortable with. And they both have giant bowls of pho. You can't go wrong at either of these restaurants.
Read a review of Pho Saigon here. And read about A Dong here.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day at Pho Saigon. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at A Dong
Location: Pho Saigon, 1160 El Paseo Road and A Dong is at 504 E. Amador Ave.

A dish from Pho Saigon.

Perfume chicken from A Dong.

Blakes Lotaburger — Home of New Mexico's favorite burger. We love this place. The burgers are large and strictly come with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mustard. You can add green chile too! They have hot dogs and chicken on the board too. Lotaburger also has breakfast and they have a great breakfast burrito.
Locations: 700 S. Solano Drive (take-out only), 2915 N. Main St. and 1300 S. Valley Drive

Ranchway BBQ — They have the best refried beans and ribeye steak in town! That is, if you like a juicy steak that's a little on the fatty side — hey, if you're going to have a steak, have a steak. That's my favorite kind of steak. Rancheway has the oldest barbeque in town where they smoke meat in an old iron oven with mesquite. They have Mexican favorites, barbecue and great chips and salsa. It's a little cramped, but it's comfortable and homey. You may want to call ahead and ask if they have steaks available (I have their number saved on my phone). They're so popular, they always run out of them.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Location: 604 N. Valley Drive
Info: 575-523-7361.

De La Vega's Pecan Grill and Brewery —This place is higher on the scale than most places here. They have a fancy menu that includes steaks, chicken, seafood, salads with a unique Las Cruces twist (which mostly means added pecans and green chile: i.e. green chile macaroni and cheese). Everything is delicious and tastes expertly made. Lunch is around $10. And they have a full bar that serves a brilliant pecan beer. It's a sweet, savory and nutty brew and one of my all-time favorite beers.
Hours: 11 to 2 a.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Location: 500 S. Telshor Blvd.
Info: 575-521-1099,

A lobster bisque from Pecan Grill.

Double Eagle —  If you're looking for a special place to spoil yourself and your dining partner, Double Eagle is the place to do it. It's the home of aged steaks, baked Brie cheese and juicy pork chops. Sit in a very elegant dining room with gold ceilings, oil paintings and low light. It's the fanciest place in town and probably one of the oldest.
Read a food review here.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and Sunday brunch seating at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Location: 2355 Calle de Guadalupe
Info: 575-523-6700

Delmonico steak from Double Eagle.

Paisano Cafe —Spanish cooking. Don't get that mixed up with Mexican cooking, it's a whole different animal. Their menu items are almost all in Spanish, but reading the translations and descriptions makes your mouth water. It's really a culinary adventure when you go there. Everything on the menu has a special Paisano touch to it that makes it unique and memorable. It's one of my favorite places in town.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Location: 1740 Calle de Mercado

 A smothered burger from Paisano Cafe.

St. Clair Winery and Bistro — I had a fantastic chicken Marsala here with the best side of fresh vegetables I've ever had. These vegetables were so very tasty, I could have a plate of them with nothing else. The chicken and pasta was good too. I like their healthy servings of bread sticks and the elegant look of the dining room. You can fill yourself up here and it's actually not that pricy.
Read a food review here.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Location: 1720 Avenida de Mesilla
Info: 575-524-2408

Chicken Marsala from St. Clair.

Caliches — If you're not tired of green chile getting into everything, Caliches has a green chile sundae. I've had a sample of it and it was weird, though I can see how some people may love it. But there's lots more here. It's a local drive-up joint with the best frozen custard in town. I rarely get ice cream anywhere else because once you have Caliches, you can't go back to anything else. Items start around $4. And they put giant, salted, warm pecans on almost everything!
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Locations: 590 S. Valley Drive and 131 S. Roadrunner Parkway
Info: 575-647-5066

 Pumpkin pie and Gizmo Caliche.

Monday, May 19, 2014

National Vegetarian Week 2014

National Vegetarian Week, May 19 to 26, has officially started! I'm going vegetarian all week and I'm already three days in because I don't want Vegetarian Week to run into my family's cookout extravaganza this weekend. I hope we have barbecue chicken (my favorite meat item in the whole world) and grilled hamburgers. Forgive me, if I'm not true to May 19 to 26.

Naturally, I can be a vegetarian easily. When I lived by myself I ate very little meat. Now that I live with my boyfriend, I rarely have a day without meat. It always sneaks it's way onto my plate somehow every day. I get very annoyed when I declare a day of the week to be a vegetarian day, but it almost always never works out. We have some kind of meat because he kind of believe that a meal is not a meal without meat. Now I actually keep track of the days that I don't eat meat, when before it was so often, I wouldn't bother to take note.

I've been annoyed and angry that my dietary style has changed since Dave moved in, but I've got to say that we don't eat as much meat as other people might. "We eat like kings," I said the other day as I bit into a mushroom burger. We eat very good food with lots of vegetables, sauces, rices and breads. Meat is somewhere on the top of our food pyramid. Rarely do we have a large chunk of protein covering half of the dinner plate. It's because I push for vegetarian and he pushes back with meat. We meet somewhere in the middle with lots of flavor and lots of salads.

I challenged Dave to Vegetarian Week, that's part of the reason why we had to move Vegetarian Week up a few days. He fought it, complained and nagged about how boring and tasteless it's going to be. Quite the opposite. We've turned National Vegetarian Week into a culinary adventure. It took a lot of planning and shopping, but we've got everything for a week full of flavor and I'm enjoying it a lot.

Day 1 

We had cheese enchiladas from Pepe's Restaurant, a place we never been to before. They were surprisingly delicious. I want to put this plate somewhere at the top of my Favorite Enchiladas list.

For dinner we fired up the little charcoal grill and had ourselves a feast. We had roasted, buttery corm, grilled green bell peppers, onions and potatoes.  I put some vegetarian chili beans in the solar oven and we had a small bowl on the side. We grilled some portobello mushrooms for burgers with mozzarella cheese, homemade aioli and cilantro. The burgers were better than beef patties. They were so juicy and hearty, all noise and conversation stopped at first bite.

Day 2

I made some French fries, Dave mashed up some chili beans, we heated up some 505 green chile salsa and made chili cheese fries topped with jalapeños, onions, tomatoes and cilantro. It was a guilty pleasure all around.

For dinner we had fried egg plant with hallomi cheese and basil. It's an Aranian dish we decided to try out after looking through a Middle Eastern cookbook. It's very tasty, but the expensive cheese sort of got lost in the strong fresh basil and the savory egg plant. We had these with a side of steamed snow peas.

Day 3

Lunch was very colorful. Salad. Half of a peanut butter sandwich. Caprese salad. My mother always said that good food gives you gas, and man-oh-man, was she right. I can't have PB&J without milk, so I had a cup of it and I felt bloated and gassy all day after this lunch. But everything was so very delicious.

For dinner I dirtied up the kitchen and made a few falafels and dahl.

Day 4

I took to work some leftover dahl and a small bag of vegetables to dip in salad dressing.

For dinner I made a small strawberry and green apple salad and baked up some stuffed bell peppers. Between lunch and dinner my stomach was just not cooperating. In fact, it's been sort of out of wack since I started Vegetarian Week. It's a change from normal foods with breads and meats to a diet with little bread and no meats. My body is finding it hard to adjust so it feels like I'm on some sort of cleanse. I'm sure it will pass but I'm sure that means when I go back to my old ways, I'll have stomachaches again. I should try to keep as much of this healthiness in my diet since I already started to change it.

Day 5

We went to the Third Floor Bistro on the NMSU campus and ordered some vegetarian dishes. I ordered the open-faced pimento sandwich with a side salad. It was pretty good, but very rich and salty this time around.

Dave got the Veggie Po Boy sandwich with homemade chips. the veggies were perfectly grill and took on a nice smoky flavor. The pickles in the little cup were very good and had a special spice (allspice, or autumn/pumpkin pie spice) to it that I liked.

Day 6

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nine pieces of cake

I celebrated my birthday last week on March 14 and, boy, was it a delicious couple of days. 
I started with some pho at the new Vietnamese restaurant, Pho A Dong. I ordered a Vietnamese pizza and shared some of my boyfriend's chicken fried rice. He had never had pho before so I brought him around to be a pho lover. Also that fish sauce with the pizza is fantastic on anything.

My boyfriend and I skipped breakfast and worked hard at the gym to have loads of stir-fried veggies, rice and noodles at Katana Grill. We love the $10 lunch buffet there and the fried rice is one of my favorite rices because it's peppery, savory and not weighed down with any spices or vegetables; it just tastes like rice.
My family drove into town to help celebrate my birthday and we decided on pizza at Dion's for dinner. I like Dion's because they have the best Ranch dressing and their pizza is very good. I like that the pizza is not as spicy or salty as they can be elsewhere.
My family got so complicated all of a sudden. They are on this no-carb diet (they cheated a little bit during my birthday week), one can't eat pork and another can't eat gluten or dairy. It was never like that before and eating with them became annoying. Four different pizzas came to our table of six people and the restaurant still got our order wrong.

My mom and dad came to my apartment with a bag of vegetables and eggs. My dad made an awesome omelet with spinach, peas, peppers, mushrooms and cheese. It didn't have carbs and it was great. I also had a giant box of salad that I needed to get rid of so we also had a sweet, apple, pecan and blueberry salad. We ate al fresco in my tiny back yard, which was really nice.
My dad, my boyfriend and I then took off to El Paso to pick up a new table set for our kitchen. We stayed there late enough to run into the lunch hour so we stopped for lunch. I don't know anything about El Paso restaurants, so we decided on something quick. It was my first time at Taco Cabana and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had street tacos because I'm a fiend for street tacos. $20 filled all three of us up pretty good.
Then we all took off to Mescalero to the Inn of Mountain Gods. It was not what I expected. Everyone was saying "camping! camping!" but we ended up at an RV park that looked like someone's drive way. I slept outside, in the cold, in a small leaky tent with my boyfriend on a bunch of gravel. I thought it would be a camping area in the woods, but we "camped" out right under a neon sign on the side of the road. I didn't like that. And I didn't like the very late dinner we made in the RV. Meat, with meat and more meat on the side.
From my previous posts, you can see that I am an aspiring vegetarian who doesn't eat that much meat in the first place. When my family took us camping they made chicken, steaks, hot dogs and turkey chili. No carbs; no buns, no macaroni salad, no potato salad, no chips. It was kind of gross to look at the amount of animal flesh everywhere but the carnivore in me told me to eat as they do. So I did and I had serious gas for the rest of the night.
Cake No. 1: Simple white cake with real frosting.With a cold cake like that I enjoy a sweet and heavy icing like that. It turned all our teeth red.

I had a surprisingly good night's sleep in that tent on the gravel. I got up quick, washed my hair and helped pack up because we had plans to eat at the casino.
When our family is together and we do something like this together, it takes a long time to get ready. It's usually me and my parents all ready and waiting for the others. I don't like that.
So close to noon, we arrived at the Inn of the Mountain Gods buffet. It was fantastic. I started with a bit of breakfast; eggs, enchiladas, scrumptious salsa and a sweet pecan cinnamon bun that made me melt. I had a wonderful, creamy seafood roll, a piece of a calzone, garlic bread with pesto and a few other things I can't remember now. I saved a lot of room for dessert and got a plate full of cakes for all of us to share.
Cake No. 2: Pineapple cake with an intricate design and purple chocolate art on top.
Cake No. 3: Lime cake with a clean white frosting.
Cake No. 4: German chocolate cake with chocolate shavings.
Cake No. 5: Chocolate rum cake with a thick, dark chocolate finish. I liked this one better than the German because it was richer in chocolate and wasn't so sweet.
Cake No. 6: Carrot cake as tall as my spread fingers.

When we arrived back in Cruces, we had about two hours to get ready for my big prize. Back up: last year I won the Ticket to Taste Dining Passport contest in Las Cruces. My sister and I ate at 20 local restaurants and got our passport stamped at each one. My prize was a dinner for eight with Kelley Coffeen, local cookbook author and food guru.
Her house is beautiful and if I had the space and money, my house would look like that too. It was colorful and spacy in that homey Mexican/Southwest way.
We started with chips, salsa, seafood guacamole and a cheese ball. We also had virgin bloody Marys and mango smoothies.
Our second course was a fish taco with a refreshing white, jalapeno sauce, cabbage and cilantro. It was good, but it was messy.
Our third and main course was a chicken taco with a number of toppings to choose from; salsa, that white jalapeno sauce, cilantro, onions, lettuce and cheese. It came with rice and beans and I thought the rice was amazing (can you tell I love rice?) because it tasted like rice. Usually rice is so bogged down with spices and oils that you can't really taste the actual rice itself. I loved the grainy taste of this particular grain. The tacos were amazing as well. They were so simple, too.
For dessert Coffeen made a:
Cake No. 7: A beautiful homemade two-decker chocolate birthday cake surrounded with chocolate covered strawberries and topped with whipped almond frosting.

Cake No. 8: Coffeen also made a strawberry cheesecake over a simple white cake drizzled in strawberry syrup and served in a martini glass.

She also made a biscochito in an almond pudding, which, I thought, was very delicious.
I had an amazing dinner at Coffeen's house. There was roaring wind outside, but from her dining room we saw a full moon rise over the Organs as we finished up a great meal.

My dad made another egg omelet and we had left over pizza for breakfast.
For lunch we ate at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The fries were my favorite part. I thought the burger was small for the amount of money we paid for it. I definitely wasn't anywhere near my top burgers list.
My family left Las Cruces.

St. Patrick's Day!. It was just my boyfriend and I in our messy apartment. I worked and came home from lunch to a festive, green, two-person St. Patrick's Day party. My boyfriend is cute like that. He'll go all out with balloons and streamers for holidays like St. Paddy's even though we're two grown adults.
Cake No. 9: He made a beautiful, tall and round green cake with green frosting and green sprinkles.
I didn't know he had it in him, but he pulled off a pretty vibrant green cake.

My birthday week was quite delicious. It didn't quite go as planned, but I had a relaxing time. I totally support my parents on their no-carb diet. Together they have lost a lot of weight and have really cleaned up how they eat. They're doing it for their health and it really seems to be working for them. I would like to try no-carb or low-carb, but it's actually very difficult. As I said, I love rice and I love cake. My goal this year is to clean up my diet and get healthier.