Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Budding Tea-rista!

My niece, Fionna, really likes preparing people beverages. I remember when she was not even the ripe old age of 2, if you were hanging out in the kitchen she would ask you, "Kafeee?", which translated from toddler-speak into "Would you like me to help you make some coffee with the Starbucks Espresso machine?". She even knew the steps involved and the correct order to perform them in. Should you deviate from the plan, she would waggle a little scolding toddler sized index finger at you and redirect.

Now she has moved into the specialty teas. My brother was having some friends over for the weekend, probably to play some nerd-tastic role playing games or something, and Fionna thought they would enjoy some refreshments!

How lovely! Everyone is amazed when they see these flowering tea balls and even more amazed when they are presented to you by a preschooler! They start out looking like this.

Kinda looks like an owl pellet if you ask me!

Then... wait for it...

Wait for it...(Fionna is looking a little anxious that her guests won't be enthralled)


What a lovely hostess!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Burnt Marshmallow Hot Chocolate (parental guidance advised)

I bought a bunch of Halloween themed Peeps intending to make Ghost Hot Chocolate, but everyone was too stuffed after eating the food that we never got around to making it. A few years ago, we inherited a culinary torch from a friend that was moving overseas. I don't make many desserts that require torching, so the torch has stayed in the original packaging until I had a very morbid yet delicious idea for its use.

I was a bit of a pyromaniac as a child. I never really burnt anything of significance down, but as my older brother will tell you, we used to spend a lot of time frying various critters of the insect kind with a magnifying glass in the backyard and also putting grapes in the microwave to start little mini-globe shaped fireworks. I also distinctly remember my brother putting a piece of raw meat near an open window with a screen and flaming the mosquitoes that landed outside with a lighter and an aerosol can. It's a wonder that we didn't turn out to have antisocial personality disorder with all the torturing of insects we did as children, but I guess that applies more to kids who torture animals that are cuter than bugs. Anyway, I digress.

I much prefer the taste of charred marshmallows to just melty ones. I know that the carbon is a carcinogen, but it's not as if burnt marshmallows are a staple of my diet, so I figure just once in awhile is okay.

So here goes, step-by-step:

1) Make some hot chocolate and buy some marshmallows (peeps or otherwise)

2) Float marshmallows in HC

3) Fire up your torch! Boooooooooo!!!

4) Ooh! A little too burnt, but smells lovely!

5) Turn crisped mallow over to get other side which will be a little harder to torch because it is wet, but will look quite lovely and inviting to drink!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Oh my! I just realized that it has almost been a month since my last post. Things have been busy at work and after reading and staring at a computer screen, I guess I haven't felt motivated to do more computer related activities once I get home. Or maybe my lack of posting was because I was so consumed with planning for my Halloween/Housewarming party!

I admit that most of my ideas for food were stolen from a Taste of Home Halloween magazine. I also admit that I was more amused with preparations for this party than a person over the age of 30 should be.

On a trip to Target, I picked up some pretty awesome Halloween themed sodas. Jones soda has several different limited editions for various holidays and themed events. Want some turkey and gravy soda for an upcoming Thanksgiving or Christmas party? Well, you may be able to find it here!

Here are the rest of my spooky offerings:

Severed Hand Punch - a big hit! Easy to make... all you need is a latex glove. Wash it out to rid of powdery rubbery taste. Turn inside out and fill with liquid. I chose a mixture of cranberry juice and water so that it would freeze quickly, but not water down the punch upon melting. Float the resulting frozen hand in whatever liquid concoction you desire. I also had pomegranate floating in to represent miscellaneous body bits!

Mummy Turkey Dogs - or Halloweenies! Any variety of tube steak will do. Simply wrap with Pillsbury bread stick dough and dot on eyes with mustard.

Bleeding Heart Brie - Brie with cherry preserves wrapped in crescent roll dough.

Eyeball Taco Salad. This was supposed to be cut into individual "faces" for serving purposes, but by the time we made this, most of my guests and my sous chef were too in the bag to care. They just wanted to shove nachos in their gullets.

Halloween shaped tortilla chips! These were harder to make than I thought they would be because my cookie cutters were not very sharp. I think metal ones would have worked better, but I only had plastic. I sprayed them with olive oil and sprinkled with a creole spice mix that I had made for something else and then baked them at about 375 for 12 minutes. They may not look so pretty, but they tasted good.

Here's some of the spread.

And some of the spread eaters!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Shrunken Head Aging Process

As promised, here are some updated time lapse photos of my apple crafts.

One week old:

And two weeks old:

The red one is especially more deflated with age. I realize I should have been more scientific about this and put in a measuring tape for scale or tried to be more consistent about the distance between the camera and the heads, but I think you get the idea.

Along the lines of science, I may have inadvertently started a fruit fly breeding colony in my kitchen as I found one little drosophila having a little snack on the green apple's face. For all you science nerds out there, my new "friend" had the cinnabar gene for eye color.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Now We're Cookin' With Gas - Seared Scallops

My new gas stove and I are just getting to know each other. Up until this point, I've never lived in a place with a gas stove and always marveled at how fast things cook when I've been at a pal's place who had one. I've had to modify my cooking timing somewhat with all this hot hot heat. The good news is that my new kitchen is a lot skinner than my old one, so I'm never too far away from what could be boiling over or burning.

To test the burn potential, I thought I'd try something seared, so picked these juicy looking scallops on my last online shopping spree at Peapod. For a great overview of the Peapod shopping experience, check this out. Some may think it is odd to buy seafood online that then spent time in a truck on the way to my house for who knows how long, but I survived with no red tide to report.

3/4 lb of fresh scallops on Peapod - $15.99/lb. Did I get ripped off here? Who cares, cause they were deeeeelicious.

Here is what they looked like searing and seared.

And what they looked like on a bed of veggies just before going to bed in my belly!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Autumnal Crafts - Shrunken Apple Heads!

I don't normally like Martha Stewart but here is something that I saw on Boston.com that was Martha Stewart inspired that I got really excited about.

Shrunken apple heads! I remember making these with my babysitter when I was a wee one. She had a little wooden rocking chair and would make little bodies for them and everything. I am not that crafty, but I thought I would try it out since I am having a Halloween/Housewarming at the end of the month and these shrunken heads would add to the decor.

Assemble the ingredients for the shrunken head making. Essential items are the lemon and the salt so that the apples don't get all brown and nasty.

Here is what my apple heads looked like on the day of their birth...

And what they look like at two days old.

The green one started to get a little mold growth because I think I didn't have them stored in a dry enough place, but I tried to salvage him by carving off the mold. (image not shown because it was a little icky) I will post their progress through puberty into ripe old age over the weeks to come...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rainy Saturday Shopper-tainment: Patriot Place

How do you get a man to go to Bed Bath and Beyond? Put it right next to Gillette Stadium! Yesterday it was rainy and miserable and we had a list of non-fun errands to accomplish. E hates going to shopping establishments on Saturdays when they are mobbed with mothers with children in tow, tweens and arguing couples. We inevitably become one of those arguing couples on Shopping Saturdays because we hate dodging the crowds and shopping makes me tired and hungry. So we have traditionally avoided it at all costs. But we may have found an acceptable solution: Patriot Place! Their very fitting slogan for us is "Everyone wins!"

As it is about a 30-40 minute drive from our place depending on traffic I was already peckish once we got there. There look like there will be many options, but so far, only Skipjack's, Dunkin Donut's and CBS Scene are open.

So of course we had to check out CBS Scene. This place was not good for my ADHD-like tendencies with screens all over the place and buttons to push at the table. I had trouble figuring out what to focus on which distracted me from checking out the menu. I was too busy trying to find a CBS TV show that I wanted to watch on our personal TV!

Thankfully our waiter saw how frantic I looked and suggested the fish and chips special. Fresh Haddock that day only. We went for the fish and chips, a baby spinach salad and a side of mac and cheese. E ordered the food and I ordered a very boozy coffee drink, which prompted the waiter to say, "... and what will you be having for food?". I responded that we would be sharing all aforementioned food which he seemed puzzled by. I guess most people tend to overeat when they go here because let me tell you we were pretty darn stuffed after we finished our food and had I eaten more I would have felt oogy.

The fish and chips was probably the best I've ever had, and I've eaten a lot of fish and chips. For a time I ate them almost every Friday because the university cafeteria always had it and I had one of those deadly meal plan cards. Now I realize that I likely had a mild fried fish addiction during 1st and 2nd year university. The CBS Scene fish were very light on the batter and very crispy thin chips, so now that I'm older I don't feel guilty eating this as it doesn't feel like the dish is immediately coating my arteries.

The mac and cheese was also spectacularly cheesy and extremely hot because of the skillety thing they put it in.

Spinach salad was also very fresh. Not floppy at all, which is a big spinach salad risk when too much dressing is applied. I wasn't expecting good food at all because when I think of football and food it's almost always greasy and heart burn inducing.

I think they are trying to appeal to the XX and the XY with this place because it had a pretty good view of the stadium, huge TVs everywhere, yet fancy pants drink menus, nice place mats and pretty darned good food. See... everyone wins!

After we were well-fed. We bought some of that foamy soap that all girls love at Bath and Body Works and then headed to the chichi movie theatre. The theater reminded me of the ones in Canada and Amsterdam. Much bigger open spaces in the lobby and it had nice plushy semi-reclinable seats and even a special "lux level", which from what I could tell from our "economy" seats just had bigger, leather seats. They also had that shaker seasoning for your popcorn that I used to love getting in Canada, although I'm told it is now not as readily available due to messiness issues. My only negative experience of they day at Patriot Place was the movie that we picked, "Eagle Eye". Avoid at all costs unless you enjoy ridiculous plots lines and lots of breaking glass.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Not too sweet" = a good dessert to me

This is probably a gross generalization, but most of the people that I know who are Asian are much more about the salty than the sweet. I find this is especially true of those of the older generation who did not grow up in the US or Canada. My possibly unfounded generalization has been anecdotally tested only in my friends or family who are Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese, so maybe this is not true of people who are of Korean, Cambodian, Filipino etc descent. If you knew me, my pet peeve is believing that all Asians look a like so we must like, do, behave the same way... uh oh, here I am falling into my own trap! Best I shut up now about this.

When I have cravings they are generally for salty snacks -- I could eat pickles and salami all day, which does not bode well for my future blood pressure. Usually if I am paying a dessert or a compliment I say, "mmmm... that was yummy because it was, "not too sweet". A lot of people think that is dessert and "not too sweet" sounds silly, but then again I'm silly so maybe that's why it works.

This place, "Bouchon Bakery" in the Time Warner Building, is for the people who like me, like their desserts, "not too sweet".

They even had a "not too sweet" beverage option! I like how they describe this as the "Grown Up Soda", because me choosing this soda is probably the only grown up thing about me.

Here is the the grown up Oreo type cookie, called the "TKO", that was not too sweet.

And an outstanding Wagyu beef sandwich which I shared so that I would have space for aforementioned grown up cookie. By the way, I got a lesson on Japanese beef terminology from my Japanese friend. Wagyu beef, generally refers to a type of cattle in Japan that has that nice marbled flesh (ie fat) that makes it taste good; whereas Kobe beef is a particular kind of Wagyu cattle that is farmed in Kobe, Japan. So all Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe. And that is our lesson in sweetness and logic for the day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Vietnamese Sour Soup - Canh Chua

This is hands down my favourite kind of soup. Lots of flavour, lots of veggies, lots of crunch and pretty healthy! What more could you ask for? I also find it refreshing, yet comforting all at the same time. Somewhat a feat for a soup if you ask me!

I must admit that I don't really make it from scratch because the soup base packages or cubes that you can get at the local Asian grocery store are pretty darn tasty and since tamarinds aren't really locally available here in New England, I don't really want to go through all that effort. I guess I could get the tamarind paste and play around with that, but I guess I'm too lazy.

One of my favourite parts of this soup is being able to use this weird vegetable that's hard to describe. In Vietnamese, it is called 'Bac Ha' and in English it is referred to by many names -- taro stem, elephant ear. See here for a much better explanation than I can give. My favourite part about putting this veggie in this soup is that the little holes take up a bunch of the soup broth so then when you crunch into a piece there is sour soup flavour explosion in your mouth! Careful if it's hot though!

I made mine with catfish, bean sprouts, tomatoes and sprinkled some fresh chopped cilantro and Thai basil on top. I think that traditionally this soup is eaten over white rice, but I had run out, so it was vermicelli noodles this time. Some people also like to eat it with pineapple, but I think canned pineapple leaves something to be desired and didn't have any fresh pineapple on hand, so left that out this time. Still tasted great!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

U.S. Open Offerings

From my last couple few posts, you may get the impression that all I do is gallivant and eat. This is not technically true as I usually prefer to cook and eat at home, but the last few weeks have been a bit of an anomaly. I'd like to chalk it up to spontaneity, but I think it's more of poor calendar manipulation techniques enforced upon me by the Y chromosome in my life (oops he may read this, but oh well...).

It was E's mom's birthday present to go to the U.S. Open and being curious about the tennis and of course the celebrities I thought it would be fun to go. Who knew they would have such great food too!

My first Flushing treat was a morning crepe! This was followed by a discussion about why North Americans do not embrace the crepe concept as much as Europeans. In Boston, there have been several crepe establishments that I have loved to frequent, but subsequently go out of business. Very sad for my belly.

Crepe Express had it down. The crepe was really easy to eat not only because of its deliciousness but also because of the nesting technique of the wrappings: sno-cone paper inside of larger outer cardboard. I can never resist getting one savory and one sweet so that it feels like meal and then dessert!

La Grand Bouffe - marinated chicken, spinach, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. I think its names translates roughly into English as, "the big bite".

La Gourmande - Bananas and Nutella. Nutella makes everything better. I'm technically allergic to hazelnuts but I like to take risks for the sake of chocolate spread!

I washed it all down with a U.S. Open smoothie. All their smoothies had cutesy tennis names. This one was called a Strawberry Smash I think.

And here is a demonstration of what my abdominal circumference was approaching after a weekend of eating through Flushing and NYC!