Monday, January 31, 2011

Recipe Review: Sun-Dried Tomato and Artichoke Dip

Recipe Review: Sun-Dried Tomato and Artichoke Dip


1 box (9 ounces) frozen artichokes, thawed and chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed), chopped, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Whole-wheat baguette slices, for serving


1.     Combine in a food processor; 1/2 cup artichokes, 1/4 cup feta, garlic, lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons water. Puree until smooth.

2.     In a medium bowl, combine sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, basil, remaining chopped artichokes, remaining 1/4 cup feta, and the artichoke puree from step 1; season with salt and pepper.

3.     Garnish with sun-dried tomatoes, if desired, and serve on baguette slices.

Ease of Preparation: This recipe was quick and took about 30 minutes to prepare and even quicker to devour! The most strenuous part of the recipe was chopping the sun-dried tomatoes, which was a little difficult because of their gummy texture. I suggest using a small food processor rather than the usual large-sized ones. The amount of ingredients that must be blended is so small that if put in a traditional sized processor, the blade can’t reach the ingredients.

Quality of Recipe: This recipe was very good quality. I found it a little bland at first so I added an extra teaspoon of chopped garlic and an extra teaspoon of lemon juice.  That was my personal preference, but I suggest you alter the seasoning to your own taste. I opted to serve the dip with tortilla chips rather than on a baguette, but once again its personal preference.

Taste: This dip was both refreshing and flavorful at the same time. The lemon juice, garlic and feta were a great compliment to the artichokes while the sun-dried tomatoes provided a base flavor for the dip.  Like I stated before, I found the dip to be a bit bland with the seasonings as is, so I would suggest adding a touch more garlic, lemon and salt. The dip had a good consistency, especially served with baked tortilla chips. I did not try it on a baguette, purely for nutritional reasons. 

Overall, I would suggest this recipe to anyone! It is easy to prepare and a fairly impressive appetizer to serve friends or family. This recipe is under 200 calories but tastes just as good as its taste alike and calorie-packed, spinach artichoke dip. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Restaurant Review: Shula's American Steakhouse

Name: Shula’s American Steakhouse
Location: 2845 Center Valley Pkwy
Ste 700
Center Valley, PA 18034
            Dinner- Monday thru Sunday 4 p.m. - 11 p.m.
            Lunch- Sundays 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Atmosphere: The décor at Shula’s is minimalist. From the awning out front to the foyer to the main dining room, the only two colors present are black and white. The walls are white but clad with framed black and white photos of football games, players and coaches. The tables are covered in crisp white table clothes and the chairs are jet black. Dark colored hardwood floors give the restaurant a very classy yet manly vibe. Sleek and simple chandeliers hang from the ceiling and provide a dim lighting throughout the place while a full bar sits off to the side in a more well-lit area. Shula’s exudes class from every nook and cranny and, although simple, the atmosphere makes any night here seem like a special occasion.

Score- 5

Service: Shula’s offers valet parking every night and the attendant is always ready at your service. We chose to park our own car considering there was a spot 10 yards from the front door. Upon entering, we were greeted by the hostess and seated right away. Our waitress came right over and got the night started off great! She was energetic and fun, which was perfect for my family.  She joked around with us from start to finish and made our Shula experience a memorable one. Her loud personality was appreciated by my family; however, if on a romantic date or a business dinner, it may not have been so well-accepted. Not only was she a great time, but also she was attentive and helpful throughout the meal.

Score- 5

Food: Shula’s American Steakhouse is, obviously, famous for its steaks. The restaurant prides itself on serving only Premium Black Angus Beef and sets itself apart from other steakhouses by requiring all meat reach “Shula Cut” standards, a process more selective and discriminating than USDA prime or choice. Besides a long list of different cuts of beef, Shula’s offers a variety of traditional appetizers, entrees, sides and a to-die-for dessert menu. Appetizers include things like crab cakes, French onion soup, BBQ shrimp and lobster bisque. Entrees include items such as French cut chicken breast, mahi mahi, surf and turf, and lamb loin chops. My preference was shrimp cocktail to start, an 8 oz. filet mignon and the chocolate soufflé. Also popular at my table were the Kansas City Strip steak, oysters on the half shell, mozzarella and tomato chopped salad, chocolate molten cake and the apple cobbler. There are side dishes available to order a la carte including grilled asparagus, baked potatoes, steak fries, crab mac and cheese and sautéed mushrooms. Keep in mind these are all huge portions and can be shared with the table. Other items on the dessert menu include cheesecake, key lime pie and crème brûlée

All of my items were delicious. The shrimp was ice cold and very fresh. My steak was cooked to perfection and very tender. The dessert was light and fluffy and mixed perfectly with the whipped cream and crème anglaise provided as a side.

Score- 5

Pricing: There is no doubt that if you’re headed to Shula’s you’re going to be shelling out some cash. A three-course meal including two cocktails and tip will cost you, per person, around $100. This is no cheap date and is best kept for a special occasion.

Overall, Shula’s is perfect for special occasions or when you’re craving a steak cooked and prepared to perfection. This is not a place to hit up every week; however the bar could be a great place to meet someone for a drink or to stop in and enjoy a quick appetizer or dessert. My Advice: don’t get too attached to this place or you’ll be broke in no time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Industry Trend 2011: Whey Protein Powder

Although whey protein started to show itself as a useful product over the past few years, researchers are finding that the ingredient’s popularity will take off during 2011.

What It Is: Milk consists of two types of protein, viz. casein protein and whey protein. Whey protein is the most nutritious protein available and is produced when the casein protein is filtered out of the milk and the remaining liquid is purified and concentrated using the ion-exchange process. This liquid is then dried and transformed into power that can be sold at supermarkets and vitamin retailers all over. Whey protein is considered to be a superfood.

Who Might be Interested: Not only is whey protein a healthy option for athletes and bodybuilders but also for those looking to loose weight and for people with a variety of medical conditions.

Just the Facts:

Whey protein is the best source of amino acids, which are vital for bodily functions and are essential to muscle growth and recovery.

Whey protein is absorbed more quickly than any other source of protein.

This type of protein has amino acid content greater than that of milk protein, egg whites and soymilk.

Whey protein can help with type II diabetes because it is said to help insulin release and reduce post-meal blood glucose spikes.

For those trying to loose weight, whey protein takes more energy for the body to process than carbohydrates and fats. This means it requires more calories to transform protein into energy; therefore, more calories are burned and metabolism speeds up.

Whey protein is available in “tasteless” powder, which can be added to any recipe.

Whey proteins help in the regulation of the secretion of hormones.

Not only does whey protein help support a healthy immune system, but it encourages bone growth and thus helps prevent osteoporosis.

Availability: Whey protein powder is available to order online as well as at vitamin stores such as GNC, the Vitamin Shoppe and a variety of pharmacies.

Try It Out:

Recipe: Fruity Whey Protein Smoothie Recipe

1 banana cut into pieces
1 or 2 scoops of whey protein (according to brand)
3 large strawberries
¼ cup blueberries
½ cup of skim milk
½ cup of ice
½ cup of yogurt


Blend the banana with the milk, ice, whey protein and yogurt until a slushy texture is formed. Add the strawberries and blueberries and blend until slushy. Serve.

Pictures courtesy of:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Recipe Review: Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Brownies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Brownies

2c Peanut Butter, natural, creamy
2c Sugar
4   Eggs
2tsp Vanilla extract
1/4 tsp Salt, table
1/4c Molasses

Preheat oven to 350

Mix all ingredients together.
Pour into greased 9 by 13-inch pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Let cool and cut into 4 by 5-inch pieces.

Ease of Preparation: This recipe could not have been simpler. It took approximately 10 minutes to prepare and mix all of the ingredients. Molasses might be something the average person wouldn’t have in their kitchen, like in my case, and might require a trip to the store. The cooking time was a little off however. The recipe said to cook for 20-25 minutes but it ended up taking around 30 minutes to fully cook the brownies.

Quality of Recipe: The recipe was easy to follow and the instructions were clear. I added a ½ cup of melted chocolate to the recipe, just to make things more exciting. Like I said before, the cooking time was incorrect and would need to be adjusted to 30-35 minutes.

Taste: I was interested to try gluten free cooking, in particular, baking. I was curious to see just how different the taste and texture was from traditional baking. At first glance, the brownies looked very appetizing; however, after cutting into them I realized their dense and somewhat oily looking texture. As I took my first bite I was pleasantly surprised by the consistency of the brownie but the taste was not good. The molasses used in the recipe overpowered the peanut butter and the chocolate and created an unpleasant taste.

Overall, I would not recommend this recipe but it will not be the last time I try gluten-free cooking. Hopefully I’ll have better luck next Sunday!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Restaurant Review: White Orchids

Name: White Orchids Thai Cuisine
Location: 2985 Center Valley Pkwy # 200
Center Valley, PA 18034-9034
(610) 841-7499
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
            Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
           Sunday 12 p.m.-9 p.m.

Atmosphere: White Orchids is located on the outskirts of the promenade shops veiled in a purple awning. Inside there are clearly two main rooms: one is primarily booths and small 4-person tables, while the other room has a bar with stools and also a few booths. The dim lighting emerges from chandeliers on the ceiling and walls. The furnishings are dark, warm colors like plum and cayenne and the floor and tables are all dark wood. 
Score- 5

Service: Per our own fault, we went to White Orchids on a Friday night with no reservation. We ended up waiting for over an hour for a table and found ourselves constantly reminding the hostess that we were STILL waiting to be seated. Once we were at our table our waitress was very friendly and quickly listed the specials without even one glance at her notes. We quickly were delivered our drinks and our appetizer; however, after placing our entree orders we found ourselves waiting for close to 45 minutes for our food. Our waitress apologized multiple times claiming that the kitchen was backed up however due to all of the waiting we ended up missing the movie we had planned on seeing.
Score- 3

Food: There is no doubt that the food at White Orchids is flavorful and tasty and always a refreshing change from the usual. The appetizer list includes fried spring rolls, lettuce wraps, calamari and Thai "money bags," a type of deep fried pot sticker served with lime chili sauce. The entree lists stir fry dishes, curry dishes, and noodle dishes which can be bulked up with your choice of chicken, shrimp, vegetables, tofu or steak. There is also a list of White Orchids "specialty dishes," which ranges from fish dishes and chicken dishes. All dishes can be altered to your desired spice level: mild, medium, medium-hot or hot.

I ordered fried spring rolls to start, which were nothing special. As my entrée, I ordered red curry with chicken prepared with medium spice. The flavors were delicious; however, I had to search to find the smallest few pieces of chicken.
Score- 4

Pricing: White Orchids is fairly pricey for a quick casual restaurant. Appetizers, soups and salads range from $8 to $12. Stir-fry, noodle and curry dishes range from $12 to $20, depending on the protein added to the dish. White Orchids specialty dishes start off at $19 and go as high as $24. The bill for four of us was $96 which included two sodas, a glass of wine, one appetizer, pad Thai, red curry, soup and a fish specialty.

Overall, it was a good dining experience at White Orchids. The service was the weakest part of the night while the food was the strongest. My advice: make a reservation!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Run Down of the Culinary Corner

So since I am such a foodie, and consider myself fairly well educated on the topic, I decided to study and blog on three various aspects of food.

I will post every Wednesday night on a new trend in the food industry. I will include details such as why the trend came about, what the product or ingredient is, details on the taste of the product, price details, health benefits or health precautions and availability of the product. I will also include photos of the ingredient or product.

The second portion of my blog will include restaurant reviews that will be posted every Friday or Saturday night. I will dine at a variety of restaurants in the surrounding area as well as a few a little farther away. In these reviews I will include photos of the restaurant, details regarding the menu, price range and service. This will hopefully help educate Lehigh students as well as promote local businesses.

The final part of the blog will be recipe reviews. Every Sunday night I will try a new recipe ranging from baked goods, to healthy and quick snacks, to dessert splurges. I will include video footage of the cooking process along with details on the taste of the dish, quality of the recipe, cooking time and ease of cooking the dish.

What I hope this blog does is inform Lehigh students of restaurants in the area, educate people on cooking techniques and illustrate to them how easy cooking is.

Get hungry and get excited!