Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween BOOrito - Chipotle restaurants nationwide

Here's an awesome Halloween deal. 

Run don't walk to your nearest Chipotle restaurant on Halloween, from 4 pm to close, for $3 meals - burrito, bowl, salad or tacos.  Yes, only $3.  But there's a catch. You have to be dressed in a costume. 
Here's even better news - ALL the proceeds for the Halloween promotion (up to a $1 million) will benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation

The Foundation funds initiatives that support sustainable agriculture, family farming and culinary education. Chipotle has parented with some cool foundation for these intiatives such as Jamie Oliver, VeggieU, and Farm Aid.  
Here's Thomas and I on our 1st Halloween together. We are definitely stopping by our local Chipotle restaurant but don't worry we're not wearing these costumes. 

- Charles

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Grilled Cheese and Co. - Catonsville, Maryland.

Who doesn't like a grilled Cheese sandwich, right? That's why we decided to try Grilled Cheese & Co. in Catonsville with our family.

The cool thing about the restaurant is that when you walk in, the menu is prominently painted on the wall.

The restaurant's interior consists of about nine small tables and a counter to place your orders. Although the inside of the restaurant is small, don't let it fool you.  Great things come out of the kitchen.

The ordering counter

Cream of tomato basil soup  

While there were soup and salad options, the majority of our family ordered the Grill Cheese and Co.  namesake that comes in more than 10 varieties including the Crabby Melt (the most popular), Smashed Meatballs, Blue Ox and Sweetest Thing.

However, my grandfather ordered a cup of the home-made cream of tomato basil soup as an appetizer. The soup was presented with a mountain of parmesan cheese and crouton toppings which made an excellent presentation. My grandfather liked the soup, especially the heavy hint of basil.

We ordered a variety of sandwiches, each one was a large portion and grilled to a light brown crisp.  

Veggie Delight 

The Fresco
My grandmother enjoyed the Fresco -  fresh mozzarella, provolone cheese, fire roasted red peppers, basil pesto & finished with balsamic glaze.

Kick'n BBQ Chicken 

White and sweet potato shoestring fries were 

I'm a big fan of BBQ, so I tried the Kick'n BBQ
 chicken grilled cheese.  I didn't disappoint. All the
gooey goodness of the pepper jack cheese,
diced onions and sweet BBQ sauce. It was
Kick'n ...good.

Cordon Blue Swiss 
The veggie delight sandwich has havarti cheese with a medley of roasted veggies, olive tapenade finished with a rosemary black pepper aioli grilled up on harvest whole grain bread.

My mom said it was packed with flavor. She loved the way the  roasted veggies infused with the black pepper aioli.

Charles and my grandfather ordered the Cordon Bleu Swiss, smoked ham, swiss cheese & grilled chicken finished with dijon mustard sauce. This too was a clever combination that sent their taste buds on a one-way train to pleasure town. 

Grilled Cheese and Co. has three other locations - Federal Hill, Eldersburg, and Waugh Chapel. The parking lot in the Catonsville location mirrors the size of the restaurant, and it was hard for Charles, a new driver, to maneuver into a parking spot.

We'd definitely go back and try a few more grilled cheese sandwiches, especially their popular Crabby Melt.

- Thomas

Grilled Cheese & Co. on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ravioli making - Little Italy, Baltimore

We learned how to make homemade ravioli from the experts at St. Leo's Church in Baltimore's Little Italy. Among the many experts was 95 year old Lucy Palmere Pompa who holds the title of "Ravioli Queen of Baltimore" (featured here in a City Paper story). By her own estimates, she's probably made 1 million ravioli in her lifetime.  

Thomas and I with our high school Italian Club friends and the Ravioli experts.  95 year old Lucy Palmere Pompa (far right) holds the title of "Ravioli Queen of Baltimore"  
The ravioli making event is the precursor to the St. Leo's annual ravioli and spaghetti dinner on Sunday, November 3 from noon to 6 pm, a bi-annual fundraiser that supports the church's many community service projects. 

Since the dinner requires almost 12,000 ravioli, volunteers are needed to make the pasta in the days prior to the event (meatball making is the day before the dinner). No experience necessary. The St. Leo ravioli experts are happy to share their knowledge. Charles and I organized a group of students from our high school Italian club to volunteer for this event which was held in the kitchen basement hall of the Sons of Italy lodge #2286.

The very first thing we did was wash our hands.  Then, we paired up with ravioli experts for some lessons then we started on our own ravioli making journey. 

Ms. Lucy carefully made the pasta dough in the
kitchen's oversize mixer. Then, the dough balls are cut in slices and put through the kneading machine where it spits out perfect size ribbons of pasta sheets. 

                         The pasta sheets were spread out on the tables. Then, very carefully, we put a spoonful of a seasoned ricotta cheese mixture. This may seem easy but it's not. Each cheese spoonful must be the same exact size and spaced exactly a few inches apart. Otherwise, when the dough is folded over the cheese, it will be too big or too small - this will lead to the ricotta leaking when its boiled.

Next, we folded one edge of the dough over over the cheese mixture to make what looks like a log with bumps. Then, we used a soft karate chop action to press down the dough around the scoops of filling to form a pocket. This gets all the air out of the ravioli.

Finally, we used a pasta cutter that looks like a funny rounded edged wheel to cut out each ravioli.  This too has to be precise because the goal is to have each ravioli uniform so each batch cooks at exactly the same amount of time. 

After cutting, a fork is used to make the details around the ravioli edges. 

The finished product is placed on a commercial size tray dusted with cornmeal each containing exactly 60 ravioli, six down and ten across. 4,839 ravioli were made the day we volunteered. 

 At the end of the ravioli making, all the volunteers were treated to a delicious spaghetti & meatball lunch courtesy of the event organizers.

 As we were finishing lunch, we were told WBAL TV (Baltimore Channel 11) had arrived to film a story about the ravioli making.  The organizers asked us to be part of the filming and interview.  It was such an honor to be standing next to the ravioli experts such as Mrs. Lucy.

When the TV story airs, we'll add the video here.

Don't forget - the ravioli & spaghetti fundraiser dinner is on Sunday, November 3. If you want more information, call St. Leo's church at 410-675-7275.  Click here to watch a video from WJZ TV Baltimore Channel 13 about last year's dinner.

GRAZIE to all the St. Leo and Sons of Italy ravioli experts who helped us learn the fine art of ravioli making. We really appreciated your patience and knowledge. We look forward to volunteering again. 

- Charles 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Halloween Caramel Apples for our Volunteer Fire Department's 125th anniversary

Our local Ellicott City Volunteer Fire Department is celebrating its 125th birthday this year. So, we decided to thank them for their service to our community by making something special. 

Since has a crazy amount of awesome recipes for Halloween we decided to make 's recipe for 
Caramel Apples - click for the full recipe.  

We bought autumn crisp apples at Harbin Farms but you can use whatever type you like. 

The Caramel Apple recipe is really easy.  And it took no time at all to make the caramel.  Don't forget to be really attentive to the caramel sauce otherwise it will get too thick to coat the apples. 
The most challenging part of the recipe is dipping the apples in the caramel sauce.  Make sure you have a strong and sturdy stick holder because the caramel sauce will make the apples very heavy.
Make sure you chop up all the decorations you want to attach to the
apples BEFORE you make the sauce.  Once the apples are covered
 in caramel you need to quickly adhere the decorations before
the sauce hardens.

 Get creative with the decorations. We went crazy with different things. Use whatever foods you think will taste good with apples.  You can't make a mistake.
Clif Bar Oatmeal Raisin Walnut

Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels

Newman's Own Fig Newmans and Marshmallows 

Annie's Bunny Grahams and white chocolate morels 

Ann's House of Nuts Vanilla Yogurt Dipped Pretzels 
Toasted coconut and dried apricots  

30 Flavor Jelly Belly Bean 

We labeled each apple with a "Happy 125th" tag and then we hand delivered them to the fire house station.  We had a great time meeting the ECVFD men and women.

For more Halloween food ideas, check out 's 
Halloween "Eat, Drink and Be Scary" section at

- Charles