Noodles Ranch

This RESTAURANT is a sweet gem. Most who go in are regulars….we are regulars and the service is incredible when we walk in.

Chef Andre’ Nguyen owns the restaurant and runs it with his wife, Noel and a few other Nguyen’s to keep costs down, which means it’s not an expensive, nor is it a pretentious restaurant. Chef Andre’ hails from Seattle, working menial chef jobs until he found his passion and his following at Noodles Ranch. (which we affectionally call “Andre’s House of Yum-Yums). But just knowing that Andre’ is indeed an extremely competent chef, makes his food taste all the better.

Generally during the wintertime there is a wait; for everyone knows that Noodles Ranch specializes in “Pho” (pronounced “Fuh”) When you enter the restaurant there are some 5 booths and approximentally 12 or so tables. There is a large tv, which seems to be out of place but yet guests do check out the scores or whatever else may be on.

The ambience is quaint, warm and charming. There are Asian umbrellas hanging upside down and my favorite part, the gorgeous replica photos of Vietnames people from days of yore. The tables are always set, the sauces (brown duck-like sauce and Sriracha) are down.

We always set the pace with an order of spring rolls. BEST spring rolls I’ve ever had. The shrimp is crunchy but not overcooked, the mint very, very fresh….every element, including the peanut sauce goes together so well. They are well thought out, consistent and we get them every time.


Anyone who knows me well enough know I can eat soup anytime of year. If it’s 4th of July, I’ll gladly belly up to a bowl of clam chowder. The same goes with Pho.
Pho is a traditional Vietnamese Soup that is made from broth, seasonings (peppercorns, anise and other secrets that not even I could get out of Chef Andre’.) It has a heavy licorice or anise flavor which makes it unique.
You can order whatever protein you want. I always get the meatballs and tendon; but there is beef brisket, meatballs, tendon, steak,tripe, chicken and an array of seafoods.
The trick to eating Pho is dressing it up how you want….and in our 5 years of going there regularly, we’ve seen it all.
I usually opt for some of the brown sauce, which is dark, sweet and sticky….some Sriracha and then I top it off with the small plate of goodies they bring with it: Basil, Mint,Limes, Bean Sprouts and not the jalapeno’s, but one of these days I’ll venture outside my box. I just don’t like it that spicy unless I’m sick.
Which brings me to my next observation. Pho is immersed in anti-oxidants, vitamins and anything that ails you goes away quickly…..Sometimes when I’m sick I’ll go in, get a bowl full of broth, a scoop of rice and slurp my cold away.


My husband, Joe likes to mix it up. His favorite thing in Bahn Mi (“Bahn-Me) which they only serve at lunch time so on this evening he opted for grilled beef, shrimp and egg rolls. It was a delicious looking plate.


So in this world of where to go, stuck in a rut, eat the same thing everyday, I urge you to give Noodles Ranch a hand. It’s family owned (local), is run by a true chef and the food is amazing.
Are you still reading? Shoo! Off to Noodles Ranch you go! 🙂

Ballpark Pretzels


Who doesn’t like a Ballpark Pretzel. This recipe is as close to one as I’ve got and I hope you enjoy it. Don’t overthink it. The recipe is easy when taken step by step. ENJOY!

1/8 c. active dry yeast
2 t. white sugar
1 1/2 c. warm water

5 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. white sugar
2 t. salt
2 T vegetable oil or EVOO

1/4 c. baking soda
2 c. hot water

Let’s start with the beginning. In a nutshell you’re going to make a dough, twist the dough, dip the dough and cover with before baking it.

In a bowl, mix the yeast, sugar and warm water. It will fizzle and foam up, this should not take more than 10 minutes. If it’s not foaming up, start with putting the bowl bottom in a warm water bath. If it still doesn’t foam up, you’ll need to get fresh yeast and start over. Yeast needs to foam up before you can start with it.

Add the flour 1/2 c. white sugar, 2 t. salt, 2 T. EVOO. (You can sub vegetable oil for your EVOO, but I highly recommend EVOO) Mix the batter until it makes a dough that is dense and snaps back. You will need to let the dough rise until double in size or 1 hour, whichever comes first. If your dough doesn’t rise that go back to the yeast preparation and try again. Remember: the yeast must be fresh in order to react to the sugar and water, in order for it to let your dough rise.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 6 portions. Each portions makes 1 pretzel. You’ll need to make “snakes” at first and then twist the pretzel into your desired shape. There is no easy way for me to express it, other than to say, “take both ends, make a circle and with the excess, cross over”. Google it if you need better ideas, pretzel “sticks” also make great treats.

After you mold the first pretzel, dip into a bath made of baking soda and warm water. It’s very important that you do each pretzel individually because the dough needs to be wet in order for the salt to stick. Twist each pretzel, dunk in the baking soda bath, lay on your baking sheet and top with salt.

While I’m thinking about it, if you don’t have any Silpat brand cookie sheet covers, get some! Aerosol non-stick will add unnecessary chemicals. I own about 7 Silpats which are non-stick sheets made of silicone which prevent any sticking. They are great for cookies, breads, candies or just about any other thing that you don’t want to stick.

You’re going to put 6 pretzels on a cookie sheet. If you double the recipe, it will be 6 on the next one and so on and so forth.

The outcome will give you a soft, rich in color, pretzel. I’ve always chosen mustard/whole grain mustard for my dipping choice, my husband opts for cheese. Either way you’ll be the talk of the town with these wonderfully, delicious pretzel.

As always, ask me questions if you have any! 🙂

Restaurant Review: Cornish Pasty Co.


When entering into The Cornish Pasty Co. in Old Town Scottsdale it was easy to see how this small, once a one trick pony restaurant has grown into several locations. While the Tempe location has more of a “dive” ambiance, the Old Town Scottsdale location has generous seating, a patio and seating at the pass where you can see all of the kitchen action happening. Don’t get me wrong about the Tempe location….it’s near ASU so it has a college vibe and its’ cramped yet cozy seating makes for easy conversation with your neighbors.

I went to The Cornish Pasty Co., not just for lunch but also to take advantage of their free wi-fi….I could work, have a a beer or so and have lunch. It was easy to find a spot to seat, seeing that it was early afternoon….I chose one of 2 long bench-family style tables they had along the back wall. It was in a corner, I wouldn’t be fussed over so I could get on the computer and work.


My server, who may have forgotten to introduce himself, was easily forgiven when I saw his “Goonies” t-shirt. It’s that casual of a work place so I felt comfortable in my own jeans and tee. My server was attentive, cool and very kind. I asked for a recommendation for a “snack” while I worked and he suggested the chicken pate’ which came with toast points, butter (?) and a side of greens. It had a lot of flavor, was not diluted with too much seasoning and if you like pate’ this one is for the purist. It is very livery tasting, delicious but has a strong flavor. (I would later realize the butter cuts the pate’ taste making it very palatable). Overall a great start to my experience and a good suggestion.

Looking over their cocktail/beer/wine menu I found they had many handcrafted cocktails which looked tasty but one look at their beer menu and I knew I had to get a Boddington’s. (“High five for Boddingtons! Yow!” -Friends) The pour was exactly as it should be, slight head, not too cold, not too warm….it was the perfect addition to my meal.

Now perhaps I have no one to blame but myself for my lack of computer knowledge, but for the life of me, my server and even the GM, we could not get my laptop connected to their wi-fi; which is the main reason I chose to go to TCPC. They went above and beyond (especially their GM) to do everything they could to get me connected but no avail. Lucky I had plenty to do on my desktop so I focused on that….nibbling all along the way.

My pasty is by far and large one of my favorite foods in the world. I always get “The Pilgrim” which is stuffed with turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes. Yes, you heard me right: it’s like a hand held Thanksgiving treat. It comes with a side of cranberry sauce (of which I ordered extra) and a side of gravy. If they threw a plop of mashed potatoes on my plate and ended it with pumpkin pie, I’d be in heaven.

But in all seriousness, there was so much flavor (sage) in it….every element was perfect, from the way the cook shaped and crimped my pasty to the exact ratios of turkey to stuffing to sweet potatoes. The crust was light, flakey and stayed together while I ate it, not showing any temperament to falling apart and making it impossible to eat and enjoy. There was a bit of everything in every bite and the crust, while sometimes can be over salted was terrific.




Above you can see the process: lay the crust, add filling. (They did an egg wash before the next step) Egg wash (not shown) and closed up and then the crimping. The cook I was chatting with said they have a way of marking them so they know which is which and if you order a vegetarian/vegan the crimping isn’t on top, but on its’ side. It was super cool to watch this gentleman work….he was generous with his time and how things are done.

There is a rich history that correlates with why a pasty is what it is and why it’s shaped the way it is. It’s my understanding that back in the day, miners would leave early in the day to go to work; they would take a pasty because it’s an all-in-one meal. The crimping and the way it’s shaped allowed for them to grab on to their pasty without it falling apart; it also prevented them from having to pack a whole lunch (before “igloo” days)….it was a simple, all-in-one, “grab and go” meal.

I will say that the menu at The Cornish Pasty Co. is extensive; there is something on that menu for everyone. They have Greek Pasties, a Philly Pasty and they even have a Vindaloo Pasty which caught my eye for next time.


There are so many versions of custard, varying on different cultures. I grew up with Flan….learned to love Créme Brulée from watching Amélie, especially as I practiced making it during culinary school and now, for a change of pace I’ve mastered the love of Panna Cotta. I love this recipe because it’s so easy and delicious! 1/2 c. 2%  milk 1 packet (.25 oz) plain gelatin (near jell-o, etc) 2 1/2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream 1/2 c. white sugar 1 T. vanilla beans or Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. I have to talk about (Nielsen-)Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. Hands down, one of the best things to have in your pantry. I have several favorites and one of these days I’ll do a post of “My Favorite Things”….but the blessing about Massey is that it takes the place of vanilla beans AND it’s in a paste form, so it’s pre-sweetened. If I was to estimate, I would guess that the cost of 4 single vanilla beans equals the cost of one bottle of Massey. One bottle of Massey easily has 100 bean pods plus again it’s sweetened. It’s just a well worth investment and once you go to Massey you’ll never go back. IMG_2253

Sorry to digress, but as a Chef, if you have something you love and that you want to share, like Massey….you share it with everyone! Now on to Panna Cotta! Mise en Place: (French for “Everything in it’s Place” pronounced “mees-en-plahs”) This is a fancy term for getting all your prep in order
Gelatin and 2% milk. You can use 2% or Whole, but never go over or under those ratio’s. Skim and 1% are too skimpy and the recipe already calls for Cream. You’re going to add the packet of. IMG_2249
When you mix the gelatin with the milk as it rests (you still have to work with the cream, sugar and vanilla)….the mixture turns into a grainy, thick mixture. It’s supposed to do this, so don’t panic. Pretty soon you’re going to add it to the main recipe. IMG_2256
Get your ramekins ready!
Your cooked ingredients: the cream and sugar. You will cook this until it comes to a boil and then for 1 minute more. I use a whisk to keep things moving, prevent things from boiling over and from burning.

. IMG_2250
Keeping it moving with a whisk while I wait for it to boil. IMG_2251
Now is a great time to add your Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. If you don’t have that, use 1 vanilla bean pod and 1 t. vanilla extract.
Using a measuring cup, carefully pour the mixture into the ramekins. The recipe yields 6 ramekins worth, I actually got 7. BONUS!
Ready for the fridge! They take about 4 hours to set before their ready. IMG_2260
Let me talk with you about the release of the Panna Cotta. Frustration with this product will make it not a fun recipe if you can’t get the product out. I have a resolution: hot water. I used a knife, a thin knife, to release the product around the edges and I let it sit in warm water for about 10 seconds at a time until it lets go. It will let go….but it just needs a little nudge to get it there. As always, I encourage your comments, questions or concerns. I’m here for you!

Fresh Herb Care

Herbs are awesome especially when you can get them fresh!! For the longest time I had so much trouble keeping them, tossing them out was a bummer so I figured out this great easy and cheap way to keep them in that lovin’ feeling:

I started out with Tarragon since it can be a bit unruly, typical market package…..



I cut it about 1/4-1/3 down the way to give it plenty of breathing room. We’re going to add a damp cloth to the party so it’s important to give it air. Mold = not good eats.



I used those paper towels that tear off in 1/4’s and halves. A half a paper towel does just fine. Lay the herbs with the tops sticking out a bit:




In order to make a small bundle, fold up the bottom of the herbs as shown below:




Roll it up with the herbs safely in their new home….




Once it’s back in it’s plastic carton home, you’ll splash enough water to generously dampen the paper towel. It will be important to keep this up as long as you have your herbs, before the “turn” (go bad). I dampen mine about every other day.




Happy Herbs!





Southern Style Peach Cobbler

I recently (before this post) did a how-to on peeling peaches. Once you have your peaches ready to go, this fabulous recipe is one you’ll repeat over and over. The tasks are a bit daunting, but I promise you that the end result is well worth the effort.

This recipe calls for 7-8 fresh peaches. Here are my “naked” peaches after I’ve removed the skin. For a review you can check out the post before this one for a “how-to”. You are going to slice the peaches in thin, 1/2 ” slices and set them aside in a 2 qt. bowl.

There is a lot of prep to do to get everything ready:


This is just the first part of the recipe….these ingredients cover the peaches and give it a wonderfully peachy sauce:

7-8 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. fresh ground nutmeg (if you choose, ground nutmeg is in your spice aisle)
2 t. fresh lemon juice
3 t. cornstarch

The recipe calls for nutmeg and that is not something I take lightly. Buying fresh nutmeg “nuts” are a great way to ensure you’re going to get that nutty, fall flavor. (and it’s great way to show off to your friends when you make coffee drinks)

The actual “grater” that I’m using is called a Microplane. They come in different shapes and sizes….this one has the smallest blades….I recommend everyone have at least the smallest one and perhaps a bigger one for blocks of hard cheese (i.e.. Manchego, Parmesan, Pecorino). I can’t stress enough that the best place to shop for your culinary needs is Williams-Sonoma. They’ve got what you need!


Peaches ready to become Cobbler


Adding the first set of ingredients to make sure the peaches have a nice thick sauce (and aren’t too watery)


Once the peaches have been coated with their thickening agent, it’s time to make the dough which tops the Cobbler:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 c. white sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
7 T. unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
1/4 boiling water (I use the water that I skinned the peaches with)


The dough at first will be crumbly, but when you add the Peach Water, it will all come together. While the recipe calls for 1/4 c., you don’t have to add it all….just enough for it to come together so you can spoon it on top of the Peach Cobbler:


You’re almost there! I know it’s been a lot of work, but you will reap the delicious rewards!

Mix 4 T white sugar with 2 t. cinnamon and sprinkle it over the Peach Cobbler until it’s well covered.


Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 25 minutes. (Keep your eye on it, everyone likes their Cobbler different.

Not that it needs it (of course who doesn’t want it)….ice cream or whipped cream is a wonderful way to top it off.




Peaches: to Peel or not to Peel

This is a “how-to” on peach skin removal. (This works for tomatoes as well)

Peaches are a pain to peel. As with other fruits, it’s the one thing that prevents me from wanting to make something, knowing I have to peel them. (i.e.. apples)

By the grace of Google I found a quick, easy and cool way to peel them without the timely potato peeler way.

Get your peaches ready to go by rinsing them and taking off the little label.

You are going to “score” or gently cut an “X” at the bottom of your peach such as this:


Once all of your peaches are scored, you’re going to drop each one in BOILING water for about 45 seconds. If they are not ripe, they will be hard and the peeling will be more stubborn to get off….don’t fret. Let them sit in the water a bit long (1 minute or so) and the peeling should slide right off:


I thought that was the coolest thing (too bad it doesn’t work on apples)….but I do know that it works on tomatoes and nectarines as well! It should take you less than 5 minutes to peel 7 or so peaches to get them ready for your recipe.


NAKED peaches!!!!


I was all in the know about quinoa before it became a staple at upscale deli’s and a part of people who had Celiac. It’s a versatile grain, it is gluten free and the nutty taste makes for a craveable twist on something that would otherwise be boring.

Quinoa is served warm or cold….with cold being the more popular option. In my quinoa today I did a very basic salad that went along with some quiche I made (see recipe before this)


This quinoa had a balsamic/evoo dressing. I added feta, kalamata olives, dried cranberries and a sprinkle of oregano on top. It would be a great addition to any picnic and I always get kudos for making leftovers.

Ham & Broccoli Quiche

I love eggs. It doesn’t matter which way, shape or form they’re made, I love them….and one of the ways that I love them best is as a quiche. There’s always something in the fridge you can add to it, making it always changing and delicious.

When it comes to a crust, you can venture into making it from scratch (I’ll post the recipe for it at the end) or you can buy pre made crust, of which Trader Joe’s makes the best. If the crust seems cracked or broken…..let it sit out to room temp, then you can ball it up when it’s pliable and workable and reroll it out to fit your pie pan. (As I did below)


A lot of people have trouble with pre-baking their crust. It bubbles up, it shrinks and sometimes it even breaks. The best way to handle such matters is to do a “blind bake” which, simply put, means your baking the crust ahead of time. If you have the time and endurance….it’s always fun to play with food and learning how to make crust is one of those treasures. Once you make it, you’ll always know that scratch is the best way to go.

A blind bake requires something to weigh the dough down. This prevents bubbling up, which can cause holes in it. Many stores sell “pie beads” (heavy ceramic beads that don’t affect the product’s flavor)…..I recommend Williams-Sonoma when it comes to buying any culinary items, but especially baking items. Their staff is incredible and they know what you’ll need.

I should mention that beans are also a great way to have pie beads. They’re in your cupboard already, cheap and ready to go. Once you use them as pie weights, they are no longer good eats so pitch them at your first chance.

Here is my crust ready to go into he oven, below is my crust with the pie beads:



1 pie crust, thawed out, rolled out and in a pie pan.
-Pie beads or beans for weighing down the crust

6 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups cheese (I used a Monterey Jack/ Cheddar blend)
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. salt

****PLEASE NOTE THAT THE TOP 5 ITEMS ARE A BASE. WHAT YOU ADD FROM HERE IS UP TO YOU! GET CREATIVE! TRY PROSCIUTTO! TRY FETA! TRY SUN DRIED TOMATOES!!!! Your culinary life is a blank palette and just as with a quiche, it’s all what you make it!

1 1/2 cups diced ham
2 c. steamed broccoli (it’s not enough to just bake it in a quiche, it needs to be precooked.)

*note: I did forget to put onions in it, which adds another layer of flavor. If you decide to add onions, just 1/2 c. will do.

My mise en place (prep):


I steam the broccoli ahead of time in the microwave. I put water on the bottom (about 1/2 c.) and put a wet paper towel over it. About 3 minutes will do the trick….if your microwave runs hot, make sure you pull it before it starts to turn that yucky brown color.


Here we go!!! I should note that after I filled my pre cooked crust, I did  put broccoli florets on top.


It was tender, cheesy and wonderful. Quiche is part of my culinary genetics!


As promised, here is my treasured pie crust recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour (not sifted)
1 t. salt
3/4 c. butter
1/4 cup COLD water, slowly added

Start with a big bowl, put flour, salt and diced butter. You’re going to “cut” the butter in which just means you’re going to add it, by using a fork until it comes together in small pellets. Slowly add the cold water, adding just enough for it to come together.

Makes 2 crusts. You can freeze one if you’d like.


We love breakfast for dinner. Today I opted to make homemade Challah for the french toast along with sausage….here’s the play by play for making Challah….(SO easy!!!)

1 1/4 C. very warm water
1/3 C. sugar
1/4 C. oil
1 t. salt
1 package (2 t) active yeast

2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 drops yellow food coloring
4 1/2 C. flour

1 egg yolk
1 T. honey
1 T. water

This recipe is simple….3 steps and you’ve got gorgeous Challah!

This is what you’re aiming for….a golden, lovely loaf of Challah….


It all starts with the yeast. I’m quite careless with temperatures and such, so I start with warming the water until it’s very warm to touch. Add the sugar, oil, salt and yeast. The sugar makes the yeast dance and bubble up. If you’re making bread, ANY kind of bread and your yeast doesn’t bubble up….start over. It must bubble up to show it’s active and ready to go to work.

Here’s all your prep.


After the yeast gets busy and happy, you’re going to add the rest of the bread ingredients: 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 2 drops yellow food coloring and the flour. Use the paddle to get things going and switch to the dough hook after a few minutes to knead the batter.


Bread needs to “proof” (spend some time in a warm environment) so that it can rise. I usually run it for 1 1/2 hours. When it’s finished I punch it down and start the braiding process.


Dough is ready to be divided and braided


Cut in thirds to make a braid


There are MANY ways to braid your challah. Some people do it with 3 strands (me), some 4 and even some 5. If you choose you don’t have to make a loaf of Challah, you can make rolls as well.





The egg yolk, honey and water are used for an egg wash. You can use sesame seeds, poppy or even coarse sea salt.


Time for the oven. Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the pick comes out clean. ENJOY!