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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Yalla Habibi Mediterranean Bistro/Bakery on South Padre Island - A Guest Review!

I have not had the opportunity to visit one of the island's newer, and highly acclaimed restaurants.  Yalla habibi is a favorite of friends, Stacie White Brooks and her husband Tom, so I asked her if she would consider writing a guest blogger review on this restaurant.  She said she was happy to do so...and they included some awesome photos as well!  Without further ado, here's Stacie!
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Habibi is a favorite of mine!  As some of you may know, this Mediterranean bistro and bakery is a mere two blocks from our house (located in the former Psycha Deli building on Padre Blvd).

We LOVE Mediterranean food. Before they even opened, we kept driving by to see if they were open yet (stalking a restaurant is weird, right).  When they opened, around Memorial Day, we were not disappointed.  Odetth, her brother Carlos, and his wife Selene, greeted us so warmly and were so friendly it was incredible. 
Carlos and Odetth

They told us that everything is made from scratch, and when I finished the sampler platter, I sure believed it. 

Spectacular stuffed grape leaves (dolmas), cabbage rolls, tabouleh, hummus, tzatziki sauce, rice, and yummy pastries. 
Dolmas

Cabbage Rolls

Tabouleh


While they also offer some other types of items (such as pasta, salads, and pizza), their specialty is Mediterranean.


Gyro



Greek Salad

I believe that they have a frequent diner card for locals (buy six plates, get the 7th plate free). Just recently discovered their yummy breakfasts too.  My husbands pancakes were flaky and tasty and my migas were crispy and spicy.  Just perfect.


Check out their menu at habibispi.com/menu/. If you live in our area or are visiting the island, I encourage you to go by for a lovely meal and introduce yourself to these incredible owners.  Shop local, eat local!

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Thank you so much Stacie and Tom for sharing your experience and photos.  I know I have now convinced my husband that this is a place we need to visit soon.  It seems very appealing and they having a surprising array of menu items.  Hope to see you there!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!



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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Decorated Christmas Cookies 2013

Based on tutorial from Sweet Ambs


I can't believe how behind I am this year.  I finished decorating 4 dozen sugar cookies yesterday afternoon and they are all finally dried.  That may not sound like a lot to those cookiers who do this for a living...but I gotta say, I am plum wore out!  My shoulders and back ache and I've never been so happy to be finished with a task.  That's not to say I won't do it again in a few short weeks, but with everything else that goes on at Christmas...I must say I bow before the cookie artists who take orders during the holidays, do all of their own family stuff, shop, and wrap and....just everything!  Kudos to those bakers of Christmas art!!!

I used both Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookie dough as well as Acorn Squash Sugar Cookie dough - they are my two favorites.  Printable recipes are linked.  Ian has tested one and gives them the thumbs up.  Now, before I can sit down to rest, I'm off to the kitchen to bake off the dough I froze earlier for Holiday Chocolate Chip Cookies and Mint Chocolate Delights.  I can't believe the holidays are upon me!  Yikes...so much still to do!!!

I'm so very tired that I don't think I can be much more coherent - so I'm just going to post pictures...'kay?  Just consider it show and tell of the cookie variety.

YouTube tutorial from Sweet Ambs gave
me excellent instructions for this type of cookie!  Cookie
Cutter from Etsy seller, PlasticsInPrint.



My first attempt at using a culinary silk screen print...kinda cool!
These were from Gateaux.

Stencil from Designer Stencils

A re-do of the set I did earlier this month.
Based on YouTube tutorial from
Montreal Confections.  Cookie Cutter
from Truly Mad Plastics.

Designer Stencils - unless otherwise designated,
all stencils are from DesignerStencils.com

Tree stencil in background from Salsa Sweets, sleigh over-stencil
from Designer Stencils

Royal Icing Transfers are great to make ahead.  The last
a long time if carefully stored in airtight containers.
Think "hard sugar candy"...I love to keep them on hand.




Another of my favorites this year.
This cookie just looks "peaceful".

One of my favorites - the scene of carolers in the snow
is so sweet.  I made a couple of cookies using this
stencil.

I was planning to build gingerbread houses this year.
Time got away from me - so I did a cookie house
instead.



Used snowflake stencil from Etsy seller, Artfully Designed.
 


Stencil from Salsa Stencils




My attempt at a cardinal because
Mr. Flip Flop is from Indiana.

I really love this stencil!  It works on round or square
cookies.

My silly snowmen and ladies...I just realized
I forgot to pipe their twig arms.  Oh well,
we will just assume I meant them to
look exactly as they look!
Thanks for checking out my Christmas cookies.  I hope you and your families have a warm, cozy, and relaxing holiday...eat some cookies and milk before Santa gets them all!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower



I have never been overly fond of cauliflower...until recently. 

I didn't know what to do with it.  My primary experiences with cauliflower were my Mom baking it whole in the oven and then spooning cheese sauce over the entire thing...or having it as part of a "steamed vegetable mix" alongside broccoli and carrots in a restaurant.  It was always just "meh".

However, we are really trying to decrease our processed carbs and boost up our veggies so I brought home a big (and I do mean huge) head of cauliflower a couple of weeks ago and went on an internet search for a good sounding recipe.  I landed on this Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower from Bon Appetit magazine's web site.  I gave it whirl and it was really outstanding!  After we polished off the entire HUGE head of cauliflower, I realized "hey, I should have posted that".  Hindsight...it's my routine level of vision some days.

So, today, we were having some steaks and I thought this would be a great side dish...and I wanted to post it before Christmas because I think it would be an awesome addition to a Christmas dinner if you are in search of another item to add to the table.  Mr. Flip Flop and I ran to the grocery store to get out of the house...I'd been decorating cookies since 7:30 in the morning and we both needed some fresh air.  I added the ingredients for this dish to my grocery cart...and I announced that I would be taking photos so everyone needed to be patient!

Here's the recipe - pretty much straight from Bon Appetit - the only change I made was using dried thyme instead of fresh - no luck in finding fresh thyme on our brief outing.

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower
Source:  Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

One head cauliflower
One medium onion (I used a yellow onion)
4 thyme sprigs (I used about 1/2 tsp of dry thyme)
4 UNPEELED garlic cloves
3 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not the powder stuff)

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut the head of cauliflower into florets. I sliced most of the really large florets into 3 pieces.
If you've never dealt with cauliflower before
it might feel intimidating - but it really
isn't!


First wash, then remove the outer
leaves and discard.  Then, core the cauliflower
and separate the florets

Slice the onion and slice off just the bottom end of the garlic pieces - leave them unpeeled.

I had a really large onion - so used half.
Cutting the end makes for easier
squeezing after roasting


Toss all ingredients, except parmesan cheese, together on a large rimmed baking sheet.

Toss to coat all ingredients with
the olive oil - I find hands work best!

Roast, tossing occasionally, until almost tender, 35-40 minutes.

Toss every ten minutes or so, or the onions will burn - I waited 15 minutes and they were already blackening. 
At the 15 minute mark - you can see the sides I tossed
were already browning nicely. Unfortunately, the onions
were already on the dark side of the moon.

It looks like a lot on the baking sheet in the beginning - but it does shrink during roasting.

Sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, toss to combine, and continue roasting until cauliflower is tender, 10-12 minutes longer.
30 minute mark - this batch was ready for the cheese!

Parm on the goodies and ready to melt.

Note - the huge head worked perfectly with these times.  The smaller head I got today was finished in 30 minutes and ready for the Parm, and then only needed another 5 minutes after that.

After removing baking sheet from the oven, find the pieces of garlic, squeeze them out of the peelings and moosh it in with the mixture (moosh is a technical culinary term I am certain).  The lucky people who get the roasted garlic bits are blessed with goodness!

So, dinner was delish - Choice steak, roasted cauliflower, and fresh green beans.  Outstanding!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mint Chocolate Delights

Last night I made some cookies using the recipe from the back of the Nestlé's Toll House Winter Dark Chocolate & Mint Morsels bag.  They were easy to make and are quite delicious!  I baked off a dozen and froze scoops of dough with the remaining dough to bake off next week so they will be fresh and wonderful.

Mint Chocolate Delights
Original Recipe from Nestlé's Toll House
 
 
Ingredients:
 
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Baking Cocoa (I used Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups (10 oz.) Nestle Toll House Dark Chocolate
    & Mint Morsels (may substitute Ande's Crème de Menthe
    baking chips in the non-holiday season)
 
Method:
 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in 4 cup measuring cup or small mixing bowl and gently whisk until evenly blended.  Set aside.
 
In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, add butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.  Beat until creamy.
 
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
 
Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed.  Scrape bowl as needed.
Remove paddle attachment and mix in morsels or baking chips with a very sturdy spoon.
Drop by well-rounded tablespoon (I used a medium size cookie scoop) onto ungreased baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat (that's what I used).
 
Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until cookies are puffed and centers are set.  My cookies were slightly larger from using the medium cookie scoop and took 14 to 15 minutes.  You can make them mini cookies using a smaller scoop and bake for 9 to 10 minutes.
 
Remove from oven when puffed and set, and leave on baking sheet on top of cooling rack for 5 minutes (or they will fall apart if you try to transfer too soon).  Remove to wire rack to cool completely before handling.
 
With the medium scoop, this recipe made 36 cookies.
 
The bottom of the cookie is where you find the
visible chips :-)  The top of the cookie is puffed
and tends to hide the morsels!
 
This morning I was trying to avoid eating the remaining cookies and further exacerbating my butt's holiday growth spurt.  Sometimes if I focus on dressing up the cookies, I don't feel inclined to eat them.  I'll wait for my husband to come home and admire them.  :-)

So, I had some candy melts and molds sitting out on the table, and I knew I would be using them at some point in my holiday baking.  I grabbed the never-before-tried Candy Cane melts from Wilton, along with a bag of red candy melts (also Wilton).  I got both at Michael's but you could likely find them at Wal-Mart just as easily.

For this little project, I needed:
Candy Melts
A microwave safe glass
Two disposable piping bags, scissors
A couple of twist ties
Paper towels
A toothpick or two
A small offset spatula.
Christmas sprinkles or molded chocolate shapes 

Simple clear plastic molds - I think I got these on Amazon
several years ago.  I'm sure they are available at Hobby Lobby
or Michael's as well.


You don't have to have the candy molds - I already had these on hand.  I rarely use them but, I had them out so I shrugged and decided to go for it!  I had some Wilton Snowflake Sprinkles, so I made a few cookies with those so you can see they look really cute too!

This is easy and really dresses up the basic little drop cookie!

First, if you are molding the peppermint chocolate, set that up. 
Place 1/2 the mint chocolate discs in a disposable piping bag, place it tip side down in a microwave-safe glass, and put it in the microwave following the packaging instructions.  Melt until they are quite smooth and you feel no lumps when you massage the bag. (you can use the same bag again to make more molds with the same kind of chocolate)
Remove from microwave, squeeze the chocolate down into the tip of the bag and put a twist tie slightly above the fill line of the chocolate.
Snip the bottom of the bag (less is better until you judge the flow!) and fill you molds.
Take the offset spatula and scrape the side across the back of the mold ensuring complete coverage.  Re-distribute as needed and scrape until you have a smooth back on the candy and the edges are as clean as you can get them (don't stress on that, you can clean them up after they harden).  Wipe the edge of the spatula on clean paper towels in between swipes once you get the candy evenly distributed among the molds.

When filled and smooth, place in freezer while you prepare the "striping" chocolate.  Clean the offset spatula to use again.
If you have extra melted chocolate, push the chocolate out of the tip of the bag and twist it off with a small rubber band or a twist tie.  You can rewarm in the same bag (without the twist tie of course).  Just double the tip part over and return to glass for reheating.  After warmed/reheated, replace twist tie on the top, lay glass on it's side, and carefully turn the bag tip part up so it doesn't go out onto your floor or counter!

Place the red  (or whatever color you like) discs in the second piping bag (I used about 1/4 bag for 10 cookies) and repeat the process for melting until smooth and get the twist tie on.  Wrap the bag in a cloth to keep it warm and quickly get the molded chocolate from the freezer. 

Run the edge of the offset spatula firmly over the back of the mold to get as much of the stray, now hardened, chocolate released as possible.  I found this more challenging for the little snowflakes than the big shapes.  Pop the molded chocolate out (you may have to bang the mold on the counter) and release onto a paper towel.  Clean up the edge of the chocolate by scraping your spatula edge along the edge of the chocolate...gently.  It comes right off without much effort on the larger pieces.  I gave up on the little pieces and so they have a small edge.
These are very tasty and would be great by themselves as a
Christmas candy treat!

If you aren't molding chocolate, grab some sprinkles (I used the white snowflakes from the bottle) and have them ready to go.

Re-knead the melted red chocolate bag to ensure it is still warm and loose, and snip the tip of the bag. Squeezing from the top, make a back and forth pattern across the chocolate mint cookie (cookies must be totally cooled - best to decorate these the day after baking or at least a few hours later).  Quickly decorate with chocolate shapes or with sprinkles - push into chocolate pattern on cookie to hold them in place.  If you use a big piece of molded chocolate, squeeze some excess chocolate on the cookie to act as glue.

They set up rapidly and are ready to eat within a brief period of time - maybe 15 minutes or so.
It's homemade, it's easy, and perfect for a beginner if you just use the sprinkle snowflakes.  Your family will think you are so talented!  I just tried one and they taste fabulous to boot!

Cute little dish from Ship Shape on South Padre Island!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!



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