Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Ram Restaurant & Brewery

If you know me, you know not only do I take my food seriously, but I take clothes seriously. I mean, how can I pass up a shopping trip to the Tulalip outlets, about 40 miles from where I live. If that opportunity is there, I'm going.

Even though the outlet was pretty far, I didn't eat before the trip. I don't know, I've never been really good at eating breakfast ever since high school. So you can guess, by the time we arrived, I was starving.

The choice was simple, either eat at the food court or eat at an actual restaurant, and might I add, this was the only restaurant that was walking distance! Literally in the same parking lot. The Ram Restaurant & Brewery just began popping up everywhere in the Northwest and they have various locations in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Indiana and Illinois.

We decided to eat at The Ram since we never ate there before. The atmosphere in the restaurant is pretty cool. High chairs, high tables, a huge bar with a ton of beer selections and beer and sports decor everywhere.

I ordered The Stadium Burger which contained a beef patty w/ bacon, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, lettuce and mayo on a Kaiser Bun. Of course, it came with fries and choice of dipping sauce and I chose ranch.

Now, I had a few problems with my meal. First off, the fries were way too salty! Whoever was seasoning them in the kitchen went overboard. You know it's a bad sign when two-thirds of my fries are still on the plate at the end of my meal. Second, I didn't like how the burger wasn't wrapped in parchment. Every time I took a bite and placed it down, it was land slide central because of the lettuce on the bottom. The burger itself was decent in flavor. The Ranch on the other hand was BANGIN'!

In terms of service, it was decent as well. The waitress came around every now and then and asked how we were doing. However, I've never been to a restaurant where they set down the check as you're eating your meal, about 5 minutes after they just served us what we ordered. Is that normal? I just didn't like that. Oh well...maybe a different location will have a different experience.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The Ram Restaurant & Brewery
10520 Quil Ceda Blvd
Tulalip, WA 98271
Telephone: (360) 653-7721

-Aaron John

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thai Red Chicken Curry

With my vacation ending before I begin my last year at UW-Seattle, I figured I should make a dish that is abundant along what we huskies call "The Ave". You see, "The Ave" is nothing more than a street with blocks upon blocks of restaurants in the University District. It seems every time I walk down The Ave, there's always a new Thai place popping up out of the woodworks.

Thaiger Room, Thai Tom and Banana Leaf are just a few and the list goes on and on. Yes, I do have my favorite place to go to but it seems my favorite place varies with a different dish. From Chicken Pad See Ew at Thaiger Room to Pad Thai at Thai Tom, I felt it's time to do something else than just a noodle dish. This is where Thai Red Chicken Curry comes in.

This is my version of Thai Red Chicken Curry. Trying to stay true to the original but putting my own spin on it, I read pages and pages of recipes and watched various videos to get an idea on what to do and to stay authentic. I knew I didn't want to make a dish that is overly consumed in coconut milk because of its richness, so I added chicken stock to thin it out. I also thought I would need a Jalapeno just in case the curry wasn't spicy and let me tell you, red curry paste is SPICY! BE CAREFUL!! Good thing I didn't use the Jalapeno. Overall, this is what I came up with!

AJ's Secret:
  • When you add the Red Curry Paste to the oil, you need to be attentive! It can burn quickly so you need to stir constantly. Immediately add in the chicken to the pot once it becomes fragrant and has a slight change in color.
  • When you open up a can of Bamboo Shoots, they have an interesting smell. How can I describe it? When I was in elementary school, we took a field trip to the pumpkin patch. At the pumpkin patch, there were many animals from goats to cows. Bamboo Shoots smelled exactly like being at the pumpkin patch; it was that barnyard kind of smell. To remove some of the smell, I drained and rinsed the bamboo shoots with cold water a couple of times. Then I brought a small pot of water to a boil with about 1 tsp of salt. Blanch the Bamboo Shoots for about 2-3 minutes by adding the Bamboo Shoots to the boiling water. Drain in a colander and rinse w/ cold water. Submerge them in cold water until ready to use.
Thai Red Chicken Curry
Recipe by Me

2 tbsp Vegetable oil
2-3 tbsp Red Curry Paste
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
4 Chicken Breasts, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cups Coconut Milk
3/4 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
2-3 tbsp sugar
1-19 ounce can of Bamboo Shoots in water, blanched
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
4-5 leaves of Thai Basil
2-3 slices of Jalapeno if the dish isn't spicy enough

In a medium sized pot, add the oil and begin to heat on medium. Once hot, add in the Red Curry Paste and shallot. Stir constantly for about one minute until the curry paste has become fragrant. Once fragrant, add in the sliced chicken breast and mix. Cook until the chicken begins to turn from a translucent pink to white and opaque in color.

Once most of the chicken has become opaque and is halfway cook, add in the coconut milk. Mix until the curry paste has been dissolved into the coconut milk and the coconut milk has taken on an orange hue. Finally add in the chicken broth, mix and bring to a boil. Once to a boil, boil for about 5 minutes to cook the chicken.

After the 5 minutes are up, add in the fish sauce and sugar to season. Finally, add in the blanched bamboo shoots and red bell pepper. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.

When done, turn off the heat and add in the Thai Basil. Serve with rice.

 -Aaron John

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Quick Pickled Red Onion

Onions. Red, white, yellow, sweet, and even shallots. Some people love 'em, some people hate 'em. Which one are you? I personally love onions. They give a little somethin' somethin' to foods. Just think about foods that need onions. Philly Cheesesteaks! Sausage w/ Peppers and Onions! Burgers! Tacos!

I think the main culprit as to why people dislike raw onions is not only the harsh flavor, but the aftertaste. I can totally understand that. Sometimes, it's even too much for me if a restaurant doesn't take care of removing some of it. But I have a solution and it's pickled onions! Sweet, tangy, crunchy, oniony but the harshness has magically disappeared!

Remember to vote for "AJ's Cooking Secrets" for "Best Food Blog" in Washington state! Thanks!

AJ's Secret: 
  • The key to pickling, in my opinion, is to have your pickling liquid extremely warm to just before boiling when adding it to the desired vegetable, in this case onions. It slightly blanches and cooks the onion a little bit to remove more of the harsh flavor and penetrates the onion better yet at the same time, maintains the crispness of the onions. Just dissolving the sugar in the vinegar at room temperature, which would happen over time, and adding it to the onions will take much longer and doesn't take away much of the harshness
  • What vinegar should I use? Well, different vinegars have different intensities. Some people say to not use white vinegar because it's too intense...but sometimes all you have on hand is white vinegar! Just remember, because vinegars vary, your sugar will vary! A rice vinegar will use much less sugar whereas white vinegar uses a lot. You're looking for a combo that is tangy and sweet at the same time.

Quick Pickled Red Onion
Recipe by Me

1 red onion, sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5-8 Peppercorns
Fresh Herbs such as thyme or rosemary
Red Pepper Flakes
1 Garlic clove, sliced

Remove the outer layers of the red onion to reveal the smooth and clean flesh. Slice the onion down the middle along the root, and then into strips about 1/8 inch thick (alternatively, rings can be made by cutting the onion, "onion ring style"). Place the cut onions into a bowl. Rinse the onions under cold water while separating the individual layers, about 3 times, to remove some of the harsh flavor of the onion. Drain any excess water and set aside the bowl of onion slices.

In a microwavable measuring cup, measure out the vinegar and add in the sugar. Microwave the mixture for about 1 minute or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add in any optional flavorings desired and mix thoroughly. Pour the warm liquid over the onions and mix. Allow to sit for at least 20-25 min. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They should last a couple of weeks.

-Aaron John

Friday, September 13, 2013

Please Vote for Me!!!

I've been nominated once again for Evening Magazine's Best of Western Washington Contest for "Best Food Blog" in Washington State!! I'm excited about this opportunity and never thought it would happen again for the second time! Now I need your help in the form of votes! It only takes a minute or two! Let's win this!! Here are the steps!

1. Click the picture above, or on the top right corner of the blog or just this link:

2. Connect through Facebook, twitter, email, etc. This is to ensure no one abuses the system and votes excessively for themselves.

3. Vote for "AJ's Cooking Secrets" for "Best Food Blog" in Online & Social Media

4. Spread the word, share the link on Facebook, twitter, etc.

That's it!! I just want to thank everyone that has supported me and read my blog. Winning this would be amazing and I can't do this without you!

-Aaron John

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pasta Salad

What's new you ask? Well, I've finally started volunteering at Swedish Hospital in their pharmacy! If I've been on this path to becoming a pharmacist, I better get some experience don't ya' think? It's better late than never is what I always say!

Let me tell you, volunteering at Swedish is 10X better than working at Macy's. No more sales goals, no more managers breathing down your neck to get sales when they took away commission and no more following customers around helping them find jeans and then being forced to up-sale and say "You should buy a belt as well." Maybe I'm just crazy but I tend to like to browse and look at clothes myself without a sales associate following me around and suggesting things that they "think" I need. Am I the only one that feels that way? That's why I hated retail because I hated having to follow customers around when I personally wouldn't want that as a customer myself.

I'm just glad I'm finally working in an environment with professionals that have reached the goal that I want to reach. I still have a lot to learn but I love volunteering at Swedish so far! Not to mention, it brings me back to my high school days because my high school is just across the street.

Now, let's get back to the food. This post is all about Pasta Salad, pasta meant to be cold. Add in anything on hand with pasta and some dressing and it's a great accompaniment to a protein like chicken, for lunch.

Last post I introduced my idea for a cooking show and because of that, I will now feature a new segment at the end of each post called "AJ's Secret". Really, it's just a tip to have a fool proof dish. So, here goes!

AJ's Secret:
  • Cook the pasta not to "al dente", but past it until it's fully cooked. Because the pasta is eaten room temperature or cold, the pasta will firm up in the fridge because of the starches present in the pasta. An "al dente" pasta is just too firm.
  • Before mixing the dressing with the pasta, make sure the pasta is completely at room temperature or cold. With creamy dressings, I notice that if you add in the dressing while still warm, it eventually causes the dressing to separate especially when making it ahead. Vinaigrette type dressings can be added warm or cold however.
  • Red Onion can be a bit strong in flavor. To take away the intense flavor, I pickled mine with vinegar and sugar. Blog post on Pickled Red Onion will be up soon!

Pasta Salad
Recipe by Me

1 lb Rotini Pasta
1/2 cup Caesar Dressing
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/4 Red Bell Pepper, roasted and diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup Sundried Tomatoes packed in oil, drained and sliced
1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced (I pickled mine)
1/4 lb Feta Cheese, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley (for color)

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add salt and the dried Rotini Pasta. Cook the pasta until it is past the "al dente" stage. Drain and rinse with cold water until the pasta is no longer hot. Set aside.

The following ingredients are nothing more than cubing, grating, slicing and dicing. 
  • Grate parmesan cheese
  • Use jarred roasted red bell peppers or roast off a fresh one. I used a fresh one, only cutting a 1/4 piece from the pepper, rubbing with olive oil and popped it into a toaster oven on broil until the skin turns black. Remove and place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 5-10 min. Remove the skin and dice.
  • Slice sun dried tomatoes
  • Thinly slice red onion
  • Cube the feta cheese to bite sized pieces
Assembly: Toss the pasta with the Caesar dressing, salt and pepper. Then add in the parmesan cheese and toss. Add in the roasted red pepper, sun dried tomatoes and red onion, toss. Finally, add in the cubed feta, being careful not to break the cheese too much. Finish off with a sprinkling of parsley.

-Aaron John


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