Copycat Denny’s Super Birds

I grew up with many trips to the American diner, Denny’s. Their grilled turkey and bacon sandwich called the Super Bird was one of my favorite late night meals throughout high school. While I haven’t frequented a Denny’s in quite some time, I found an excellent copycat recipe for those nights I’m madly craving diner food.

These are especially good with oven fries. If you’re looking to achieve that very particular Denny’s taste, the order in which you stack the elements of this sandwich actually matters. Whenever I randomly throw this together, it doesn’t taste right, so follow the recipe: bread, cheese, turkey, bacon, tomato, bread.

These are sublime as a midnight snack, late at night or early morning, when you’re starving after a long day, right before you pass out in bed. For the best taste, indulge in the butter and salt. These are totally worth the extra squats the next morning.

Super Bird C

Copycat Denny’s Super Bird
(Original recipe: Food.com)

3 -4 slices deli turkey
2 slices bacon
2 slices swiss cheese
2-3 slices beefsteak tomatoes
2 slices sourdough bread
Butter, softened

Cook bacon and set aside.
Heat some butter in non-stick pan over medium heat. Grill the turkey breast in a stack until the meat is golden brown on both sides. Remove and set aside.
Butter bread lightly on one side of each slice, Place one piece in the hot pan, butter-side down.
Place a slice of Swiss cheese on unbuttered side, put turkey on Swiss cheese, sprinkle lightly with salt.
Place bacon strips on turkey. Stack tomato on top of bacon. Top off with remaining sourdough slice, unbuttered side toward tomatoes.
When golden brown, flip entire sandwich.
After 2 minutes, remove from heat. Serve sliced into 3 equal size pieces.

Super Bird B

Favorite travel souvenirs

My husband and I don’t ever spend much on cheesy souvenirs, but we’ve been known to bring home less traditional momentos. The newspapers from the days we were there. Travel magazines in the local language. Art we can frame and display in our home. Practical items we can use everyday, like paper notepads or reusable grocery bags. Specialty food or drinks from the region. Travel-related goodies we can use elsewhere, like passport covers or luggage tags. And almost always: a Christmas ornament. What about you?

Chateau Ste Michelle Winery concerts

Most native Seattleites know one of the best places to catch a outdoor summer concert is at local winery, Chateau Ste Michelle, in Woodinville. This year, my mother in law grabbed third row seats to Diana Krall, an excellent show filled with exceptional musicianship. When no one sat in the two rows in front of me, I grabbed my camera. If you’re ever in Seattle in the summer, check out the Chateau. There are quite a few excellent dining options within walking distance, as well.

Terracotta Warriors in Seattle

Hearing that Seattle is one of only two US stops of ten of China’s Terracotta Warriors, I knew I had to see them. At least, until I see the entire collection whenever I finally visit China. This exhibit, at the Pacific Science Center until September 4, 2017, alongside IMAX film Mysteries of China, does a great job of explaining who Emperor Qin Shi Huang was, why he had all these pieces created, and the interesting story behind the ongoing project in Xi’an to uncover and restore all the artifacts. I highly recommend this stop to everyone in or near Seattle who has any interest in history or Asian culture.

The best Beef Stroganoff I’ve ever had

I’ve long searched for an exceptional Beef Stroganoff recipe that does not use canned soup. There are countless options floating around the internet, and I’ve tried most of them. They have all disappointed. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t good, either.

And then, I found Vikalinka. She’s Russian, so she knows what she’s talking about. I gave her traditional recipe a shot, and boy howdy, this stuff is good. I couldn’t even stop myself from licking the spoons and skillet while washing the dishes after dinner. Even my hard-to-impress husband asked how soon I could make this again.

The secret ingredient is brandy. If you know as little about brandy as I did before this endeavor, I’ll share the advice I was given: use a VS (very special) cognac (type of brandy), and invest in a decent brand. I went with Courvoisier VS Cognac; it costs about $20 USD at my local grocery store. It worked beautifully; the flavor of this sauce is phenomenal.

Interestingly, Russians don’t thicken their stroganoff and always serve the thin sauce over mashed potatoes. However, since I’m an American raised on Hamburger Helper, I thickened the sauce with cornstarch and served it over egg noodles. It was what I was craving, and it worked perfectly.

TIPS: Get your pan screaming hot before searing the steak; you want those dark brown bits! Don’t skimp on the salt; the dish needs it to balance the sour cream. Oh, and don’t skip the bay leaf or mustard. They make a difference!

Beef stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff
(Original recipe: Vikalinka)

2 TBSP butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 lb beef tenderloin, cut in strips
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 cup sour cream
1 TBSP fresh chives, chopped
a dash of parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a heavy skillet; cook onions and mushrooms over medium-low heat until soft. Remove and set aside.
Turn heat up to high; add steak strips to the same skillet and quickly fry over high heat. Make sure the pan is screaming hot; you want to sear the steak.
Add brandy; deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits of flavor on the bottom. Simmer until alcohol burns off.
Add stock, mustard, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Return mushrooms and onions to the pan; cook until everything is heated through and bubbling.
Stir in sour cream, chives, and parsley.
(If you wish to thicken the sauce, add in a slurry of 1 TBSP cornstarch and 1 TBSP water at this point. Fold it into the boiling sauce, stirring as it thickens.)
Remove the bay leaf; serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Grilled Chicken and Avocado Street Tacos

I have several taco recipes on rotation, because, let’s face it: tacos. This particular recipe is especially good because it uses chicken thighs. They’re very moist and hold the marinade flavor especially well. It’s definitely been added to our list of usual suspects!

TIP: add a pinch of cayenne to the marinade to give your tacos a little kick!

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Grilled Chicken and Avocado Street Tacos
(Original recipe: Cooking Classy)

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

For serving
Corn tortillas
1 large avocado , cored and sliced
Pico de gallo
Cotija cheese

In a gallon size resealable bag, combine lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin chili powder, salt and pepper. Marinate chicken in bag for 3-6 hours. Season chicken lightly with salt and grill until chicken has cooked through, turning once halfway through grilling, about 4 – 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Dice grilled chicken into cubes. Build tacos with tortillas, fresh avocado, pico de gallo, Cotija, and any other taco fixing you prefer.