Saturday, November 25, 2006

New Restaurants Coming To Winter Garden! Restaurant Listings for Winter Garden Village at Fowler's Grove

What's the first thing you think of when you see shopping center construction in your neighborhood? Probably, "I wonder what new restaurants are coming?" -- well, that's what I think of! There is a huge new shopping center going in around the corner from me (at the intersection of 535 and 429 in Winter Garden) that is called Winter Garden Village at Fowler's Grove (it used to be an orange grove). Buildings are starting to pop up, even though the signs say the center won't be open until October 2007, and I got curious as to what eats might be opening up soon.

So, I checked out the developer's website and found this -- It's a listing of all of the stores and restaurants. It looks like we will be getting: Chili's, Macaroni Grill, Uno's, Longhorn, Mimi's Cafe, Cracker Barrel, Coldstone Creamery, Starbucks (what a surprise), as well as fast food places, some that are still listed as "Restaurant" and one that says "Sushi". Mostly chains but I'm sure the smaller ones will be Mom & Pop restaurant that might bring some new food concepts to the area. Only 11 more months to go!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Do you know how old your cinnamon is?" - Restaurant Mom Tries Baking

Okay, I'm not a cook... that's why I'm Restaurant Mom, not Chef Mom or Baker Mom. But, for Thanksgiving this year, instead of picking up one apple and one pumpkin pie from Publix and bringing them to my parent's house, I decided to make two pies instead. I somehow was inspired when I saw the recipes for Vanilla-Walnut Pie and Mile High Ginger Pie in the Orlando Sentinel's Food section last Wednesday. One was a no-bake recipe (hey, how can I mess that up?) and the other one didn't look too scary and used common ingredients. So, I perused my cupboard to see what ingredients I had. Vanilla extract - check, sugar - check, ground ginger - check (I use it a lot in stir fries), cinnamon - check. Hmmm, this looks like an old bottle of cinnamon. In fact, I don't think I've seen this brand of spices lately. Maybe I'll check the expiration date. Any guesses out there? Okay, get this... October 1998. Yes! 1998! Which means, this little bottle of cinnamon actually made the move with us from Miami to Orlando six years ago! Since I didn't think I should add what is probably now just brown dust to my pie, I added cinnamon to my shopping list. I'm scared to look at the expiration dates of the rest of my spices. Maybe next month.

So, I made the pies tonight! And they look good! The Vanilla-Walnut Pie looks like a pecan pie (but with walnuts) on top of a cheesecake. And the Ginger Pie looks good too! I changed a few things, for instance, I don't think I want to add the whipped topping and almonds on top of the Ginger Pie, it looks pretty good as it is and that will make it too... um... fluffy. For the Vanilla-Walnut Pie, I used a frozen pie crust instead of a refrigerated pie crust, because, well, the refrigerated pie crust looked scary to make. It required rolling out and "flute"-ing the edges which I know I would have messed up. The frozen one came ready to go, just needed to thaw first. Of course, the proof will be in the tasting -- so I'll update this post tomorrow with the tasting results! If you want to make these pies, I posted the recipes below.
Updated 11/23/06: Okay, here are the tasting results from Thanksgiving. The Mile High Ginger Pie was an "eh". Creamy, yes, but kind of tasteless. No one could really taste the ginger. I thought it could have passed for an egg nog pie as well, that's how "unknown" the flavor of the pie was. The Vanilla-Walnut Pie, though, I thought was a winner. Grandma thought it just tasted like walnuts but I thought it had a good taste - similar to pecan pie. The cheesecake at the bottom broke up the sweetness a bit so it wasn't too sickly sweet. I'm going to try making the Vanilla-Walnut Pie again for my department's potluck holiday lunch.

Mile High Ginger Pie
Yield: 8 servings.

1⁄4 cup caramel dessert topping
1 prepared vanilla cookie crust
2 cups half-and-half
2 (31⁄2-ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
1⁄4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. Spread caramel topping in crust.
2. Pour half-and-half into bowl. Add pudding mixes, ginger and cinnamon. Whisk 2 minutes or until blended. Mixture will be thick. Let stand 5 minutes.
3. Stir in 1 1⁄2 cups of whipped topping. Spoon into crust.
4. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight to set. Top with remaining whipped topping before serving. Garnish with nuts.

Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 386, Fat: 18g, Carbohydrates: 52g, Sodium: 439mg, Protein: 4g, Fiber: 1g

Vanilla-Walnut Pie
Yield: 10 servings.

1 refrigerated pie crust
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups walnut pieces, toasted

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Prepare crust as directed on package for one crust pie using 9-inch pie plate.
2. Beat cream cheese, 1 egg, 1⁄4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spread in crust. Bake 15 minutes.
3. Beat 2 eggs and remaining sugar with whisk until smooth. Add corn syrup, butter, 3 teaspoons vanilla and salt. Sprinkle nuts over baked cream-cheese layer. Slowly pour corn-syrup mixture over nuts.
4. Bake 35-40 minutes or until set in center. Cool on wire rack.

Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 510, Fat: 34g, Carbohydrates: 43g, Cholesterol: 99mg, Sodium: 285mg, Protein: 8g

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Restaurant Review - Salsa Taqueria & Tequila Bar, Florida Mall next to Macy's, Orlando, FL

Last Saturday, the boys and I were at the Florida Mall shopping when I decided they needed to let off some energy at the playground. After nearly an hour of chasing each other around, my Big Boy (BB) declared he was hungry for lunch, and my Little Boy (LB) seconded the notion. BB looked over and pointed at Salsa Taqueria and asked if we could eat there since we hadn't been there in a while.

Salsa Taqueria is conveniently located right next to the playground at Florida Mall (and between Macy's and Harry & David's) and is brought to you by e-brands, the same folks who manage Timpano's and the Samba Room on "Restaurant Row" (Sand Lake Road). Salsa presents a somewhat "nouveau" traditional Mexican experience. So, don't expect the crunchy yellow tacos that you get at Tex-Mex restaurants. Here, the tacos are made with white corn and they are soft, thick, and well, small. Think of the size of silver dollar pancakes and that's about the size of them. They are also filled completely with meat, no need for fillers such as lettuce and cheese. Also, you'd better like cilantro. It's the seasoning of choice here and if you are wondering why the rice is green, I'll give you one guess (p.s. it's called cilantro rice on the menu).
Salsa Taqueria does a nice job with the space they have at the Florida Mall. It is designed with big open windows and a patio inside the mall which makes for some nice people-watching. We were seated promptly at a table looking at the Harry & David's next door, with enough room to store our stroller and our packages without being in the way. Kids get their own paper menu with crayons and all kids entrees are $3.95 and include french fries and a soft drink or milk. Warning: I asked for a lemonade for LB and wasn't aware that they charge extra for that since it is a special "homemade" lemonade. It cost the same as my iced tea - $1.99. The server didn't let me know so I'm letting you know - stick to sodas, iced tea (that's included with kids' meals), or milk. Juices would have been extra as well I found out. There are lots of good choices for the kids: chicken tenders, mini dogs, cheese quesadillas, Mexican pizza, and then chicken or beef taco. Both boys picked the Mexican pizza which I was told was more like a open-faced quesadilla. For adults, there are lots of choices from appetizers, salads, sandwiches, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, fajitas, as well as other entrees. If you are going for lunch, though, I've found the best deal to be the Salsa lunch box. There are three to choose from, ranging from $10.99 to $12.99, and include a sampling of entrees, salad, black beans and cilantro rice, and a small tres leches (a cake soaked in three types of milk - yummy!) for dessert. I went for the South of the Border lunch box which came with two chicken tacos (remember, they are small), a chicken flauta and the rice, beans, salad, and tres leches. After taking our order, our server brought over fresh chips and salsa. The boys were happy to munch on that and color until our food arrived.

The boys' pizza was indeed an open-faced quesadilla with no red sauce so don't expect it to be like a pizza. Also, I think the cheese had some cilantro in it - what a surprise! However, both said it was good and BB finished all of his. The french fries are great - really thin and crispy and not too salty. LB apparently was more interested in my black beans than anything else so I scooped up a big portion and put them on his pizza in the hopes that he would eat then. My lunch box looked great! The salad comes as part of the meal so don't look for it in advance. The salad had a nice mild vinaigrette and had mandarin oranges and pumpkin seeds in it - very tasty. The chicken tacos were wonderful as well - very flavorful bite-site pieces of chicken tucked in the soft round tortilla. The only problem is that the juice from the chicken tends to make for a messy taco experience so I opted for the knife and fork. And, I actually like cilantro so the rice was nice with the black beans. As we were finishing up, the server came by with my slice of dessert. It was topped with raspberry and mango sauce and looked great. The boys hovered over it so I had to share. Everyone loved it. It was sweet (one of the milks is sweetened condensed milk) but the fruit sauces helped to even it out. All in all a very nice, relaxing lunch at the mall without having to go near the crowded food court.

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