Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cheddar Ranch Chicken


One of my go-to recipes when I need something fast and easy to make is this yogurt parmesan chicken – it’s pretty much impossible to mess up, and the chicken turns out moist and delicious.  I tried out this variation last week and it was great!  The ingredients are pretty similar, but this one used Panko bread crumbs, dry ranch mix, and cheddar cheese. 

I substitute Greek yogurt in any recipe that calls for mayonnaise.  In the half cup needed for this recipe, mayo would have 748 calories, while the Greek yogurt has 155.  Plus instead of 1 gram of protein, you get 8 grams.  I get the full-fat yogurt, but it still only has 11 grams of fat compared to 83 grams in the ½ cup of mayonnaise (there have been studies that consuming full-fat dairy products is actually associated with LOWER body weight…).  You get some calcium too as a bonus. 

Serve it with some simple sides and you’re good to go – I made potatoes and broccolini with ours. 

Cheddar Ranch Chicken (adapted from Buns In My Oven)

·        8 boneless chicken tenders (the original recipe called for 4 chicken breasts)
·        ½ cup plain greek yogurt
·        2 T dry ranch dressing seasoning (1-ounce packet)
·        ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese (plus a little extra to melt on top towards the end)
·        ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
·        Cooking spray
1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

2. Spray a large baking dish and place your chicken in it. 

3. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, ranch seasoning, and cheddar cheese. 

4. Spread over the chicken and sprinkle with panko.  Spray lightly with cooking spray. 

5. Bake for about 25 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked through.  In the last few minutes, sprinkle a little extra cheddar cheese over the top.    

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pane Rustica – Tampa, FL


A week or so ago, I went out to dinner with my Grandma Anne to celebrate my new job and engagement.  One of my favorite restaurants is Pane Rustica – but somehow I had only ever made it there for lunch (you can read about their lunch here).  We decided to try it out for dinner and it exceeded my already high expectations.  Dining for lunch is a more casual experience, but at dinner, they transition over to table service and dim the lights for ambiance. 

Their owners Kevin and Karyn Kruszewski are some of the nicest people, and I have several friends who work there.  Pane has catered the Christmas party at my parents’ condo the last few years, and I’m hoping to have them cater our wedding! 

We were served a fresh loaf of their in-house baked bread with hummus, olives, cherry peppers, and olive oil while we decided on our entrees.    

I tried their special – Herb Grilled Hawaiian Opah – since I’d never had that fish before.  It was served with root vegetable puree, roasted fennel & Brussels sprouts, Florida peaches, micro arugula, and pomegranate coulis.  The fish had texture like salmon, but was milder in flavor.  I was served a huge portion – and the accompanying vegetables were perfect.  I love Brussels sprouts, but I think even someone who didn’t would have enjoyed these. 

Grandma had the Pan Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops.  She opted out of the chorizo that normally is part of that dish, but it included crispy potato coins, local snap pea shoots, creamy corn fondue, and chile oil.  The scallops were enormous – and very flavorful.  She cleared her whole dish. 

I ended up taking some of my meal home so we could have room for dessert!  I’ve had their espresso cookies several times before – crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside.  This time we had the cookies in a sundae with ice cream and fresh fruit.  Yum!!

I took my leftovers home, but when I went to unload them I had a surprise!  I was sent home with an extra box of pastries – a scone, muffin, and cupcake.  We enjoyed those over the next few days.  The cupcake frosting tasted like it was made with Oreo filling. 

Can’t wait to go back again – you really can’t go wrong with anything you order there.  Super happy with our meal! 

Pane Rustica is located at 3225 S MacDill Ave, Tampa, FL 33629 and is open from 8am – 5pm on Tuesday, 8am – 10pm Wednesday through Saturday, 8am – 3pm on Sunday, and closed Mondays.  11am – 11pm.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Urban Brew and BBQ – St. Pete, FL

We kept hearing great reviews about Urban Brew and BBQ, which opened about 2 years ago on Central Avenue in St. Pete, but unfortunately we didn’t check it out until a few weeks ago.  We are thrilled to have finally tried it because it is AWESOME. 

The first time we went, Lance and I had a date night on a Sunday.  It wasn’t very crowded that night, so we had the patio to ourselves, which has nice string lights hung and wood-slat planters.  I love the design of this place – they did a great job making it casual yet sophisticated.  They even took the time to tile the bathroom floors in pennies, which they individually placed, taking over 30 hours to create. 

We were impressed by their wide craft beer selection – we were told that each brewery is only allowed one beer at a time on tap.  I had Barley Mow’s Maven On Cocoa Nibs Chocolate Milk Stout which was almost like a dessert.


The barbeque there is amazing.  We started a dish they called “The Thing” – a cornbread waffle topped with pulled pork, cheese, bacon, and an egg over easy with house made pork gravy.  It wasn’t anything pretty – pretty much a blob of food – but wow it was tasty! 

Next we split the half rack of ribs served with a fresh baked roll and our choice of side.  We upgraded our side to the Urban Mac ‘N’ Cheese, baked in a skillet and featuring smoked gouda, parmesan, and cheddar with prosciutto and crispy bread crumb topping.  We cleaned the whole metal tray.  Lance has decided this is his new favorite restaurant (although Datz is still a close second...)  

And just since we felt like splurging that night, we split one of their desserts – bacon s’mores.  It was baked in a skillet too – if you like sweet & salty combinations, it’s the perfect dessert.  The bottom had a graham cracker crust topped with chocolate and marshmallows, then sprinkled with chunks of bacon. 

While we were eating, we read on their chalkboard about a 5 course dinner paired with 5 Green Bench beers.  We enjoyed our dinner so much, and we love Green Bench, so we invited friends to join us to check it out!

The 8:40pm seating was the only time available, but that worked out well because before dinner, we actually ended up booking our wedding venue just a few blocks away in St. Pete at Nova 535.  It’s a really beautiful building with brick walls, wood floors, and a courtyard with 30’ high bamboo – so excited!

Our friends Pate and Katie joined us for dinner.  We sat at the bar inside with the small crowd that was able to get tickets.  The food was actually a preview of some possible menu items for a new sister restaurant, Urban Comfort, which is meant to open this summer.  They are repurposing an old autoshop and adding all sorts of fun games like horseshoe, volleyball, and even a shuffleboard court (which was funded by Kickstarter). 

Urban Comfort will not only have great food like Urban Brew and BBQ, but it will also brew its own beer.  I had sampled a preview of their Kumquat Hefeweizen back in February at Localtopia.   

At the food and beer pairing dinner, Khris, the brewer from Green Bench, gave us a background about each beer we sampled. 

We started off with their Les Grisettes – a low-alcohol farmhouse ale.  Khris explained that this style of beer was originally brewed as refreshment for coal miners.  “Grisettes” comes from the French word “gris”, which means grey.  The women who delivered the ale to the miners often had grey clothes.

The first course was a deviled egg topped with pork rinds.  I really liked having the crunchy addition to a typical deviled egg.  Urban Brew makes their own bacon, so they said they use the leftover skins to make their own pork rinds. 

Next we had the Skyway American Wheat Ale – brewed with four different kinds of hops.  I’m not normally a fan of hoppy beer, but the citrus in it actually balanced it out so I liked this one.  This was paired with black eyed peas with braised pork shoulder – they explained that it’s a long process to make this dish, but it was so flavorful.  It was pretty rich though – and I wanted to save room for my other courses, so I couldn’t finish it all. 

After that we had the May The Fort Be With You – an American IPA.  Again, pretty hoppy, but citrusy.  It’s a reference to Star Wars, as well as a local group called the “Tampa Bay Beer Nerds Hide Out Blanket/Pillow Fort” – which apparently has a top secret facebook group for extreme craft beer enthusiasts in the area.  This was served with a biscuit and sausage gravy – made from scratch with lard and sea salt.  The biscuit was a bit dry for me, but very traditional southern style. 

Next came the Happy Hermit Pale Ale – another hoppy yet light beer.  This came with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and rosemary gravy.  The chicken was brined for 24 hours in herbs and spices so it was extra juicy and herby. 

Finally, we barely had room, but we finished with the Maximo Milk Stout – named after Maximo Park on Boca Ciega Bay.  This sweet beer went perfectly with the skillet bourbon pecan pie.  It was served a la mode and was seriously decadent. 

If you want to check out the last Beer Dinner before they take a break to focus on opening Urban Comfort, Urban Brew will be pairing food with JDubs Brewing on May 26th.  You’ll need to call to make reservation since tickets book quickly. 

Urban Brew and BBQ is located at 1939 Central Ave, St Petersburg, FL 33713. They are open Monday – Thursday 11am – 10pm, Friday – Saturday 11am – 12am, and Sunday 12pm – 10pm.