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California Spring Mix Salad

Lamb is a delicious entree, but every meal should be balanced.  Keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak, this salad is in the same league as the flavors of pistachio crusted lamb.  Spring mix lettuce can seem a little extra pungent to some, so adding fruits and nuts helps to mellow out the greens.  August’s birthday dinner yesterday, and subsequent dessert, were very flavorful and therefore very memorable.  Some of her coworkers got to snag a few cupcakes today, but there were no leftovers of the lamb or this bright salad.

bday meal 030

Makes 2

4 cups of spring mix lettuce

8 thinly sliced strawberries

1/2 of one Granny Smith apple, sliced thin

1/4 cup of blue cheese crumbles

1/4 cup of chopped and toasted walnuts

3 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs. of fresh orange juice

1 1/2 tbs. of blackberry balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Finely minced shallots (optional)

To make the vinaigrette dressing, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.  Toss all ingredients in the dressing, and serve.

Billionaire’s Bacon Blue Cheese Dates

We thought about naming this recipe Blue Cheese Stuffed And Bacon Wrapped Dates, but Billionaire’s Bacon Blue Cheese Dates is more alliterative.  Plus, it makes use of our famous billionaire’s bacon.  These bite-size wonders achieve the ever-pleasing combination of salty and sweet, along with a bit of smoky and a smattering of spicy.  They are so easy to put together, it’s a task you can give the kids to contribute to a pot luck or upcoming dinner party.

billionaire's bacon blue cheese dates

billionaire’s bacon blue cheese dates

Makes enough for 4-8 people, depending on how many other appetizers are served

20 Medjool dates

10 pieces of bacon

1/2 cup of blue cheese crumbles

1/4 cup of Inna Jam pretty spicy Fresno chili jam

3 tbs. of brown sugar

1 tbs. of water

sliced and seeded

sliced and seeded

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.  Slice the dates in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.

Open up the dates just a little bit, enough to stuff with blue cheese crumbles.

secured

secured

Slice the strips of bacon in half.  Wrap a half-strip around each stuffed date, and secure with a wooden toothpick to make sure the bacon doesn’t unfurl.

painted

painted

Combine the jam, brown sugar, and water in a small bowl, and paint on the exterior of the bacon; use the toothpick to hold a date, paint the bacon, and then transfer to a rack placed in a sheet pan.

Bake for 2 hours at 275 degrees F, but you can crisp them up slightly by increasing the temperature to 375 degrees F and baking another 8-10 minutes

Texas Roadhouse, Tracy CA

Corporate restaurants tend to forgo quality for profits.  Shipments go out to each establishment with boxes and crates of frozen, canned, and hyper-processed ingredients.  Oftentimes, that feeling you get after eating somewhere like the Cakecheese Factory or Backout Steakhouse is an indicator of your body reacting poorly to what you’ve just fed it, and you’re getting charged a hefty bill for the damage.  But dear reader, we have found that Texas Roadhouse, a corporate restaurant, makes nearly everything from scratch at each of its 300+ restaurants across the country.  The only items not made in-house are the applesauce, light ranch dressing, and steak fries.  And to sweeten the deal further, this casual eatery doesn’t put nearly the same dent in your wallet as some of the other corporate places do.

killer ribs

killer ribs

The award-winning ribs are very popular and there is an entree option, but we wanted to show you variety so we got the appetizer version.  Served on a bed of steak fries, the rib meat was smoky, sweet, and fell off the bone like it was waiting to let go.  There was a great bark enhancing the smokiness, which also helped to highlight the sweet side.

cactus blossom

cactus blossom

The fried onion’s crispy batter was not at all greasy, nor was the onion overcooked.  With the crispness of the batter plus the slight crunch of the onions, the texture of the “cactus blossom” appetizer was ideal.  The onion was slightly sweet, and the creamy, tangy dipping sauce, called “Cajun horseradish,” offered a tiny bite of heat.

house salad

house salad

“Each plate is served with your choice of two sides.”  We each got a house salad with blue cheese because we both wanted some greenery.  Remember that (almost) everything is scratch made, so that includes the dressing and the croutons.  The house salad is also piled with cheddar cheese, fresh tomatoes, and hard boiled egg, making for a simple yet satisfying salad.

bone-in ribeye with loaded sweet potato

bone-in ribeye with loaded sweet potato

August went for red meat, since this is a steakhouse after all.  “Hand-cut to perfection,” this is Texas Roadhouse’s “most flavorful steak.”  With just the right seasoning, an excellent char, and cooked to the desired temperature, this was a great hunk of meat with a nice bone to take home for Bea the Dog.  August’s second side was a baked sweet potato, and she upgraded to the option of loading it.  In fact, any of the potato sides can be loaded in its own way (sweet potato as you see here, regular baked potato that you’ll see below, and even mashed potatoes and fries have their own treatments).  For the sweet potato, “loaded” means it is topped off with caramel sauce and marshmallows.  Baked to model doneness, the creamy sweet potato with such toppings was a side and a dessert in one.

loaded baked potato

loaded baked potato

Zach’s second side was also a potato, but savory and, as Zach says, “loaded to the gills” with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and bacon.  The skin was rubbed with salt, a nice touch to add greater depth of flavor.  The potato insides were fluffy, and when mixed around with the toppings, this was a hearty and delightful side.

country fried chicken

country fried chicken

Zach’s main dish was this massive country fried chicken, pounded from an all white meat chicken breast, then hand-battered, fried, and topped with cream gravy.  The chicken was crispy from the light breading, yet tender and moist – tender enough for a fork and no knife.  The cream gravy was rich and pepper-based, which was “perfect with the chicken,” according to Zach.  It could have been very easy and convenient for the kitchen to throw together a frozen chicken breast and powder-based gravy, but Texas Roadhouse takes the time to make real food with real cooking techniques.

There are significantly more locations in the eastern half of the country, but there is at least one restaurant in every single continental state.  If you’re out of your area, maybe doing a road trip for the summer or a business jaunt, look for a Texas Roadhouse nearby and you can trust in the quality.