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Dot's Foody Ramblings

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In hunger, truth. [11Mar12 8:38am]
[ mood | sad about foooood ]

I can't believe it's been almost three years since my last entry here and the account still exists. Thanks, LJ! I was worried I wouldn't have a subject-appropriate place to whine about food.

Yeah, whine. It's a dark time for me and food these days.

No money (and I mean NO money) means no going out to eat, no exotic/gourmet groceries, no snacks, no treats. Cameron has treated me a few times in the past couple of weeks.

I have so little money (and who knows for how long this time) that I only eat what I can find in the house or what people give to me. Needless to say, it's been an eye-opening journey through my kitchen. I've thrown out less food than I should have, and I've forced myself to try eating lots of questionable things -- things without expiration dates that obviously should have them, for instance (and yet my steel stomach still does not yield to food poisoning).

Perhaps the best find in my pantry were a couple of lentil soup mixes; after adding some brown rice, herbs, and spices, I was able to eat from this lentil soup for about four days. Sometimes a bowl of cereal and a multi-vitamin is all I will afford myself for a whole day. You'd think I'd be losing weight, but I'm not. My body knows I'm in survival mode. It's holding all the reserves I have stored up. My stomach is shrinking, though -- the actual organ, not my abdominal area (unfortunately).

Coming here to for the aforementioned whining, first thing I did was read my last entry. I sure do wish I were THAT kind of broke, that last entry! I have more bills now than before, and less money stored up . . . and my kitchen hasn't had anything gourmet in it for an eternity. Still, the sentiment is the same -- I have to make the best of what I have. It makes me laugh how much more I want to eat when I don't have any money. It's just like us humans to desire most what we simply can't have.

And without further ado, a cathartic list of the foods that I sorely miss:
- Indian, Thai, Mediterranean, even higher-end Chinese food
- all-American steak dinners with all the trimmings
- barbecue, especially pork ribs
- shrimp, any preparation
- quality ice cream and/or gelato
- a damn good burger from a schmancy sit-down burger joint
- gourmet cheese, the kind that they sample out in Whole Foods
- pretty much everything in the produce aisle besides bananas and lemons

The thing that also kills me is that even if I decided I COULD afford to pay in the double-digits for one single meal, gas is so frickin' steep that I'm practically adding $10 to the price of said meal by even driving to the place. I love finding a place that's just far enough to be a treat to drive to, something so special that convenience is wholly unimportant. So here's another depressing list of longing and regret . . .

Specific eateries and experiences that I miss:
- Sushi Delight, my favorite sushi joint in the universe
- Bombay Tandoori in Redondo Beach
- Canter's Deli in Fairfax, which I miss as soon as I leave anyway, so whatev
- Porky's in San Pedro (I miss Muggy's chicken so bad, I tear up a little)
- Green Field Churrascaria in Long Beach
- Creme de la Crepe in Riviera Village
- The Cat and Fiddle in Hollywood
- Mashti Malone's, also in Hollywood

I also miss having the money to go out for a drink or two. I don't even drink that much, but I miss having the option to eat/drink as I please (hovering within the $-$$ Zagat range, natch). That's all this really amounts to . . . I miss having options.

i feed!

Aspiring budget gourmet seeks like palates. [25May10 10:16pm]
[ mood | creative ]

It's been another long while since the last update, and as usual, I have more coming when I finally get around to uploading pictures from my camera. I have a few more bentos to show, fancy ones that display my foray into maki (rolled sushi), plus some dishes that are both delicious and cleverly plated. I'm so silly in the kitchen. Cameron always gives me friendly flak for my inclination towards fanciness, but I never make apologies.

What prompted today's entry was a post-dinner discussion with Cameron about our strengths and weaknesses in kitchen affairs. He certainly can wield a mighty spatula, that man, with an admirable (read: sexy) understanding of building flavors rather than forcing them. I concede to him as grill-master for his grasp of heat application and meat-handling (lol). And of course, Cameron fears no foods. This is important if you're an American interested in dating a Filipino.

My strength, it seems, is my ability to scan the contents of a fridge or pantry and come up with something inventive. I don't mean that stoner inventiveness wherein you make a sandwich using every jarred item in the fridge. When I rummage through the kitchen -- even when I stroll down the aisles of a grocery store -- I think with a five-star appetite and a five-dollar budget. The results generally remain to be seen, but more and more consistently I've been knocking it out of the park.

This week I'm dog-sitting, this time for someone who is practically a stranger. After getting over being thoroughly baffled at these people's ability to trust me, I set to work taking over their well-equipped kitchen. These people are major Trader Joe's fans, evidenced by container upon container of TJ-brand EVERYTHING. That's encouraging, since TJ is big on showcasing different flavors and meal concepts. As Cameron said, "Trader Joe's is the most like, 'hey, have you tried so-and-so?'" Thus, there are lots of great kinda-exotic ingredients at their disposal -- sri racha chili paste, soy sauce (WTF kind of house doesn't have soy sauce anyway), pungent cheeses, etc. Following suit, Cameron and I filled in other TJ ingredients that would complement the household's existing selection. Here's what we came up with:

cheesy chicken, Thai chicken, and pancakesCollapse )

Pictures to follow on the Thai chicken dinner and strawberry-pancake breakfast, by the way. I'm quite overdue for a photo redux entry.

Overall, I'm very pleased with my kitchen adventures. They always serve to excite me, get me thinking about how I'm going to stock my own future kitchen. I've begun building a mental list of essentials so that with a sizable initial capital and a little forethought, every meal can be done on the cheap but still taste (and look!) like a million bucks. That's how I roll, and Cameron may tease about it but he still knows my kitchen ish be bomb as eff.

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Bento Journey Update #1, wherein I contemplate a better title. [2Mar10 4:10pm]

+ bento pictures!Collapse )

The photos can also be found at my Flickr, where the components are pointed out in notes.

Since the last update here at the food blog I've gone headlong into bento creation. No, I haven't yet approached the über-kawaii realm of karabento -- there are just some things I don't want to make time for -- but I have been putting all of the wisdom I've accumulated from bento-blog-stalking to very good use.

There are plenty of trials presented in bento craft, but all of them make for the moment of consumption to be pure satisfaction. That's what I love about cooking in general; I love exercising skills and reaping the rewards afterward.

Of all the challenges presented in bento, the most prevalent one is engineering your meal to minimize spoilage. I have to consider the foods' sensitivity to moisture and temperature, which usually means nothing greasy or milky goes in. To reduce condensation as much as possible without rendering my foods brittle and inedible, I usually make my lunch the night before. All the food is cooled (not chilled) thoroughly before assembly, and after it's done I usually just lay a paper towel over it, stick the lid on over that, and put it in the fridge. First thing in the morning, the food gets removed from the fridge and is allowed to sit on the counter to get back to room temperature. The less temperature change in transit, the better. And since I don't feel like seeking access to a microwave at lunch, everything I put in a bento has to be at least palatable at room temperature.

My bentos have been able to sit in the front seat of my car, in the parking lot, under a magazine or something, for nearly five hours without even a hint of spoilage. Twice I've seen absolutely no condensation in the clear box. Bento is SO tek. I admit to playing it super-safe, though, with the food choices. My next bento goals will be successfully incorporating other culinary styles so that I don't do overkill on the Japanese food. I currently can't find any reason NOT to eat Japanese food every day, but I don't want to reach the point of boredom.

For a girl who, like many Americans, believes that convenience is a serious consideration one must make about her food choice, it's been an exciting task keeping up the bento habit. I have to carve time out for it, seeing as it's not exactly slapping a sandwich together and throwing it in a bag with an apple. Semesters prior, I couldn't even be bothered to brown-bag it; now twice to three times a week I spend the time and effort necessary to have healthy, interesting, and cute lunches. It's a sign of the times, me having discipline. Any day now the Four Horsemen will come.

FYI, my favorite bento blog resources:
JustBento, bento from a more health-conscious perspective
Lunch in a Box, chock full of efficiency tips & tricks
AnnaTheRed's Bento Factory, the undisputed Western master of karabento
2 mouths | i feed!

Bento returns, and we introduce the "health conscience" tag [16Feb10 4:44pm]
[ mood | excited ]

Lately I've been thinking about my eating habits because I know I eat like crap (anyone who glances at me could guess that). Eating like crap has finally bothered me, started to worry me in the form of physically manifesting symptoms. Not one to discuss wholly unappetizing topics in a food journal, let's just say I'm trying to get my life together by actually, honestly, trying to eat lighter and more balanced fare.

With that said . . .

It's been nearly a year since I announced my interest in bento and my intention to, at some point in my life, jump headlong into the cult of kawaii-ing one's food. That desire hasn't gone away; it's simply waned in the wake of overwhelming winter laziness. Today, after awakening prematurely to a very urgent need to go to the local Mitsuwa Market (follow your dreams, amirite), I've finally begun to collect very basic ingredients and tools for making bento happen.

Here be a quick rundown of the goods I picked up:
- a . . . thing - not a proper bento box, but a nice container
- baran - little grass-shaped food dividers
- tiny sauce bottles - shaped like fish, pigs, etc. *w*
- ajinori and mochigome - rice and seaweed, the absolute necessities
- tamago furikake - rice seasoning with bits of egg
- tamagoyaki - sold in $2 slabs at the market, 'til I get my pan
- dashi miso - flava, sho' nuff
- cubyrop - because a little bit of candy is awesome

I probably got some other stuff but I'm too lazy to go check my bag, much less put them out and take pictures for posting.

And like I said before, I know that jlist sells a lot of naughty things but they're also fine and reliable purveyors of quality bento goods. Next check will definitely have a portion dedicated to an order with them. Lace-pattern baran and strawberry- and pepper-shaped squeeze bottles sound too awesome to resist, as does a pair of Hello Kitty lunch totes for $3 each. Plus, I am absolutely butt-crazy for food gadgetry in general. If you've seen it on TV, I probably want it.

If I'm doing this final semester at ECC right, I'm going to be at school for two long days a week. And aside from being bored with the local options as far as proximal eateries, I'm not all that interested in spending money at crowded junk-food dispensaries. I could just be nibbling marginally healthier food in my shaded parking spot, music playing and my required reading close at hand.

Followers of this journal (all one of you) can expect to see more regular updates as I try to get a grip on what I eat and how I handle my food. I'm going to be logging my diet for a while to see what changes I need to make, and I'll probably talk about that a little, and I'll certainly include some photo-posts of especially fun decobento lunches I put together.

i feed!

Long time no cook. [31Dec09 6:30am]
[ mood | inspired and nostalgic ]

It has been two years to the day since this journal was first turned from a secret layout-tag testing site to a rarely-updated, well-meaning, foodcentric journal. Two years, 12 entries? I guess that's one way to ensure your blog fails, a lack of entries.

Anyway, I decided that on the second anniversary of this journal's re-christening, an entry would be appropriate. Despite having few of my own kitchen exploits to discuss, I still had an interesting culinary year. In 2009 I added a few notorious dishes and exotic animals to my list of things I've eaten, by way of a three-week trip to the Philippines and the dear friends of mine with an eye -- and a stomach -- for unusual foods.

I'll start with a necessary cut-tag over a necessarily long-winded, loving overview of my dining experiences in the Philippines.

January 2009: Eating the Flora and Fauna of da MuddarlanCollapse )

On the home front, more of the same had been consumed. A few good restaurants were confirmed (like Lomita Thai, and Nazelie's Lebanese Cafe in San Pedro), and a few were lost (like Nancy's By The Beach). I tried okonomiyaki -- Japanese savory pancakes -- for the first time this year, as well as the "herbal snow" ice treat at Los Angeles's legendary Mashti Malone. Simply put, 2010 had better have more than a few of those experiences in store.

Most shockingly, however, was experiencing a Century Egg. Our resident egg fanatic, Erich, located a pack of them at an Asian market, and in the late-night munchie spirit we ate these pretty, pungent things. Good God, it's not a taste but a burn. The ammonia and sulfur tastes in the yolk burn into your ears, your nose, your throat. But I must say, as far as art, these things were a wonder. Again, I say, pictures to follow. I have some great macros of the snowflake-esque designs on the darkened, toughened egg white.

So in 2010, if I don't get around to cooking as much as I'd like to (which is always a lot), I'll at least make a point to look for those odd menu items. The stories, the knowledge, the experience of it will always be worth a couple extra bucks. I'm a brave gourmand in my own tastes, and I hope to translate that someday in my own kitchen exploits. So long as there are willing guinea pigs, there will be food.

2 mouths | i feed!

Hah, Mexican sweet pole [13Jul09 3:30pm]
[ mood | corny ]

I had a dream about a particular food last night. Whenever this happens I wake up starving. And because I only ever have dreams about foods that are (a) exotic, (b) unusual, or (c) difficult to find, I wake up a starving woman possessed.

Last night's dream was about elote -- Mexican corn on the cob.

I dreamed that I found out about an elotero who Twittered his locations for the day -- how L.A. is this dream, by the way -- and in said dream I made a great deal about going to find this guy, who was supposedly responsible for the most incredible elote north of Mexico. I ended up finding a lot of Mexican-run hot-dog-and-burger stands like the one that used to be parked by student services at El Camino. They all said that the guy I was looking for was in the garage. Long story short, I never found the guy, but I woke up with a mean-ass craving for elote!

Luckily, it's not hard to make, as we demonstrated on our camping trip last month. While the adventurer in me would love to scout for an elotero in East Los or while navigating through the Fashion District downtown, I know that if my friends and I picked a day to fire up the grill we could easily make our own. As an added bonus, we wouldn't have to worry about too-scant toppings, unwashed hands, or the dubious integrity of sun-warmed mayo.

If you're making this for people who have never had it before and are not squeamish about food, then feel free to mix your own sauce comprised of mayonnaise, lime, and chili powder. Then you can just take the corn right off the grill, smear that concoction on it, and roll it in the crumbly cheese of your choice. So without further ado, the following is how to make elote so that everyone can control his/her own destiny as far as levels of char and condiment saturation.

¡Elote!: recipe cobbled together from food blogs and personal experience

- Good, fresh corn on the cob, pref. with husks still intact
- Butter
- Chili powder
- Lime, quartered into wedges works best
- Mayonnaise
- Cheese -- parmesan is good, but cotija is probably better
- Salt & pepper to taste

Steps to deliciousness, if you have husks on:
1. Soak the corn, husks on, in cold water for about 10-20 minutes. Prep your toppings while you wait.
2. Throw them suckers on the grill -- medium heat -- and let them cook a few minutes on each side. I'd say it's edible after a total of 15 minutes, turning only every couple of minutes or so.
3. For yummy char action on the corn, carefully peel back the husks, leaving them connected to the cob on the bottom so you have a handle. Dab a little butter on 'em. Put them back on and char to your liking.
4. Smear and sprinkle toppings to your heart's content.

Steps to deliciousness, if you bought husked corn in a pack at the grocery store:
1. Butter, salt, and pepper the cobs and wrap them in foil. Stick a wooden skewer in each of them if you like, makes things easier down the line.
2. Throw them suckers on the grill -- medium heat -- and let them cook for a few minutes on each side.
3. For yummy char action, I simply recommend leaving it on longer. That's what worked for us, and it's safer than trying to peel hot foil.
4. With that said, allow the foil to cool before handling your elote. Then disrobe it and smear it and sprinkle it and love it.

Sounds SO goooooood. If I successfully talk my grillin' buddies into an afternoon of elote, I'm posting a picture.

i feed!

Bento culture, the unholy union of foodie & otaku [26Mar09 5:41am]
[ mood | creative ]

It's been a while since my last entry in this here food blog, but I have been uninspired and out of practice as of late. I ought to have had something interesting and food-related to say about the three weeks I spent in the Philippines this past winter . . . perhaps another food-post will come when I've finally stopped being too lazy to upload the billion pictures from said trip to the Motherland.

Today's entry, and the new icon that goes with it, was brought on by a strong urge I have been experiencing lately: the urge to join the cult of bento.

Now, I'm not normally big on cuteness for the sake of cuteness, and I usually kind of detest food with faces (you can blame Threadless for that). But I can't help but be attracted to the bento stuff because it's all about playing with your food -- both while you make it and while you eat it. And no, I don't plan on becoming one of those psycho stay-at-home moms who blog their competitive bento designs on a daily basis. At least, I don't plan on staying at home, being a mom, and "bentoing" competitively. Design, well, how can I resist?

In fact, there are tons of pluses to the bento lifestyle besides having cute, accessorized food. One big part of the bento philosophy, at least in the western examples, is balanced nutrition. You're encouraged to pack energy-dense foods, use plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, and think thrice about whether your fatty leftovers will keep well at room temperature. Those relatively tiny bento boxes are great for portion control, too.

Another bento bonus would be the potential savings, crucial "in this time of economic crisis." There would be initial capital investment in bento kits, and if I really wanna get crazy, in accessories like tiny soy-sauce bottles and cute little "furoshiki" lunch bags. After that, though, I'd be able to make at least a week's worth of lunches on $10-$20 spent at an Asian market.

The biggest challenge I face in entering the bento world is the discipline that it will take. I have a very low-maintenance morning routine that rarely exceeds a half-hour and doesn't often involve much more than rolling out of bed. In short, I'm lazy. Thus, I'm a little daunted by the amount of discipline, budgeting, planning, and actual elbow-grease that even semi-regular bento preparation would take. But since I'm headlong into an obsession, I'm sure I'll have that same manic morning energy that happens when you're a kid who's going to Disneyland. After a night of anticipating the morning, I'll jump out of bed at the sound of my alarm, run to the kitchen with my bento plans and get creating. Hopefully I'll do that often enough to form a habit.

So to start, I've been studying a lot of bento guides and blogs online, and I've been window-shopping at JList. Ugh, I know JList has a reputation (you won't believe some of the things they carry -- NSFW) but they also have a very extensive collection of bento boxes, books, and accessories. A trip to Mitsuwa is in order, certainly, but the range of potential deals and super-cute designs online is tough to resist.

Hopefully this will actually come together, not like my other half-plans borne out of obsession. ^_^

2 mouths | i feed!

What I'm eating right now. [12Oct08 4:22pm]
[ mood | distracted ]

This post also originally appeared on my blog.

This afternoon's pick is sort of a bachelor's chow mein made from very simple ingredients. See, the ingredients are simple, but the key is the method of preparation. Perhaps even the tools are key. But I can imagine a real-live bachelor can pull this off with naught but a single soup pot, a frying pan, one big bowl, and one of those pairs of free wooden chopsticks swiped from his favorite takeout joint.

Bachelorette Chow Mein, Basic

- One pack of instant ramen, any flavor
- About 2 tbsp tangy sauce i.e. soy, oyster, or Korean BBQ marinade
- About 2 tbsp vegetable oil or butter
- Garlic and/or onion if you like

Steps to deliciousness:

1. Get a pot of water boiling! While it heats, fill up a large bowl with cold water.
2. When water is boiling add the ramen noodles without the flavor packet. Let it boil for maybe a minute.
3. In the meantime, mix tangy sauce with flavor packet and start heating the oil/butter in a pan on high heat.
4. Turn the ramen noodle brick once -- don't break it up. Let it boil another minute.
5. Take the noodle brick, now softened, out of the boiling water and blanch it in the bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. This is what gives the chow mein its stiffness. Drain the bowl of almost all the water -- a couple teaspoons left of the starchy water is okay.
6. When the pan of oil is hot, add the tangy sauce, onions, garlic, and, finally, the noodles!
7. Be sure to stir thoroughly, frequently, and swiftly to evenly distribute heat, moisture, and flavor.

That's the super-simple recipe, really, just to show how you can use instant ramen to make pan-fried noodles. Of course, they won't be as crunchy or thick as good chow mein, but as a bachelor, you shouldn't complain anyhow.

To snazz it up and make a real hearty meal out of it, you can add meat and/or veggies. Sauté slices of meat in tangy sauce, garlic/ginger/onion and whatever if you like; steam and add some Asian-dish veggies like broccoli, snap peas, or bean sprouts. Bear in mind that because ramen's preparation is, by nature, quick and dirty, if you do add meat and/or veggies you should make sure they are prepared to nearly edible before added to the noodles in a stir fry. Better yet, steam and cook veggies and meat and serve atop the noodles to ensure both are cooked to proper doneness.

Addendum: About a half-teaspoon of sugar and a little bit more soy sauce, stirred in and around quickly, gives a nice little teriyaki glaze to noodles also. Or you can go Filipino style and top the whole thing with sliced boiled egg and crushed chicharrón.

Hooray for ramen!

i feed!

A repost, for the sake of keeping things alive. [6Oct08 4:02pm]
This post originally appeared on my blog.

This couscous pilaf recipe, though doctored and switched up quite a bit by me, comes chiefly from Still Eatin' It by Dana Crumb. The former Mrs. Robert Crumb has written two of the most amazing, most hilarious, most inspirational and indispensible cookbooks I've ever come across. She understands, and communicates, a genuine love for food as it exists. She must've been a big woman if Crumb was in love with her, but the way she cooks, she was still doing all right.

Couscous Pilaf a là Dana & Dot

- 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable, if you prefer)
- 1 cup uncooked couscous
- About 2 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves (or more, or less, whatev), minced
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup red flame raisins
- 1 tsp lemon or orange zest
- salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Steps to deliciousness:

1. Start the broth boiling in a saucepan.
2. In a pan with a tight-fitting lid, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic in it.
3. After the pan contents get fragrant, toss in the couscous, citrus zest and raisins, and season to taste -- careful with the nutmeg! Stir frequently.
4. When the broth is bubbly and hot, turn the heat down to very low on the pan, dump the hot broth into the pan, stir briskly, and put the lid on it. This allows the couscous to soak up the broth and flavors. Fluff it every few minutes with a fork.
5. Serve topped with pine nuts. *

*Tip: I like to toss the pine nuts in just a little bit of light olive oil, spread them on a piece of foil and pop them in the toaster oven for maybe a minute.

Tasty, light, is great alone or as a side dish to, say, chicken tikka masala or some other Eastern chicken dish. The recipe is very flex -- you can use less broth or more couscous if you prefer it drier, or vice versa if you prefer wetter. You can have it saltier, less salty, with meat, without, with raisins, without. Add vegetables if you like. Maybe try the three Cs for something more ethnic (curry, cumin, and cardamom).

i feed!

Uncle Alan's Friday Gravy [17Jun08 9:00pm]
Last weekend was a big one for playing house, particularly in the kitchen. I love working in Grandma Evelyn's kitchen because it's well-organized, well-stocked, fully functional, and clean. I will make no compromises on my own future-kitchen, and I take inspiration from that kitchen for sure.

Alan's choice for Friday Dinner was a giant lasagne served alongside oregano garlic bread and storebought-kit salad, with Alise presenting her simple peanut butter cup-cakes for dessert.

The night before, Alise whipped up peanut butter cup-cakes in two shakes by adding a generous dollop of creamy peanut butter to a boxed vanilla cake mix. She might have omitted some other oil or liquid ingredient but I did see the butter, eggs, and water go in. Batter filled each lined cup about halfway. Then, we nestled a whole (unwrapped, duh) mini peanut butter cup into each, being sure not to push the cups to the bottom. The remaining batter covered the peanut butter cups and the whole thing went in the oven; two dozen perfectly moist, delicious, peanutty cupcakes emerged eventually.

While we did this, Alan prepared and pan-browned a bunch of uniformly-sized meatballs to go in the sauce/lasagne. He sure did a great job handling his balls!

Friday morning I was charged with the task of finishing dessert and starting dinner while the two were at work. I was responsible for (a) frosting Alise's cupcakes and (b) remaining on call to start the sauce should Alan be unable to sneak out of work early.

When it came time to frost those cupcakes, making the frosting was as simple as mixing the remaining creamy peanut butter with a canister of vanilla whipped frosting. I meticulously applied this mixture to each cupcake, topping them with a pinch of pastel sugar stars. I would have preferred to make the frosting from scratch at least, but the ingredients were provided to me. And anyway, it turned out cute AND delicious.

Evening approached and Alan called to tell me to start the sauce. The sauce was essentially a modified version of Uncle Junior's Sunday Gravy, and all I did was open a bunch of cans, dump them in a pot, and stir . . . but a good hour of simmering before Alan came to take it from there helped develop the sauce plenty. The whole fambly gathered to assemble the beast when the noodles, sauce, and cheeses were ready.

With impeccable timing, the entire meal was good to carve up and serve just a few beats before our Dear Uncle Erich came in from work. Success! Everyone helped in some way, and we all ended up well-fed and very happy.

Saturday night was a lot less populated, a lot less organized, but a lot simpler anyway: Breakfast For Dinner. Alan whipped up pancakes, bacon and sliced strawberries. I made scrambled eggs to order. I admit my weakness when cooking bacon -- Patience. I lack it, and I hate that I need it for bacon. Breakfast came with Simply Orange country-stand orange juice and Johnny Cash.

I learned some important lessons.Collapse )
4 mouths | i feed!

Introducing the "cooking boner" and "sausagefest" tags [14Apr08 11:19am]
[ mood | inspired! ]

The past week was bad enough, being sick during my spring break, but what was really horrible was being cooped up in my house with a cooking boner. Cooking would've been pretty much the last thing I could/should do, having no groceries of use, no energy, no appetite for solids, and no ability to taste. And since all I could stomach was hot liquid, who else would eat my food with all my germs all over it? T_T

I've been wanting to play with ground beef lately, thanks to a conversation among friends and an episode of that Sarah Moulton show on PBS. I'd like to make burger patties of my own experimental recipe, maybe Hawaiian style like at Islands or something more Cajun-inspired. I dunno. If that's what I'm going to be doing, I had better get to know my dad's barbecue grill, since frozen patties and relatively finicky palates have the monopoly at Chez Little. Well, more on that in the far-flung future when it's safe(r) for me to cook.

Coming up soon is our third annual fête de manger, Sausagefest. I leave it up to the men to handle their meat (hubba hubba) but I've historically been the Bringer of Watermelon. I like to bring the produce since most people prefer not to, opting instead to bring chips or cookies or something. That's definitely a role I will assume again this year, but I have a better idea than just watermelon. No, it's not another year of skewering, buttering, and foiling a ton of half-ears of white corn. That was good and all, but it probably needed to be prepped the morning of instead of the night before.

I'm gonna bring various fresh fruits, like delish summer strawberries washed and kept on ice, maybe red and green grapes, cantaloupe, pineapple. And what to match fruits but veggies? How about the burger fixins! That's right, fixins. I'll be in charge of stuff like tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and onions -- and if we bring a skillet, I might be able to caramelize onions to order!

Any suggestions on what produce I should bring?

2 mouths | i feed!

Cuppy cakes, part two. [19Mar08 1:23am]
All right, so I was so excited about making the cupcakes leading up to Baking Day. Then I got excited at how pretty they turned out.

And then I ate them. T_T

The strawberry ones, though not as pretty or fragrant as the lime ones (and the frosting was still too runny, ugh), turned out better in texture and general cupcake-ness. The cake part was moist and fluffy, and the frosting had more of a strawberry-yogurt quality to it.

The lime ones turned out dense and kind of chewy, with the frosting quite a bit more overbearing than I had thought. Perhaps the flavor intensified as the frosting set? In any case, if I do lime cupcakes again -- which I probably will, just to get my kicks -- I'm going to do a much subtler flavor for the frosting and actually use the dang electric mixer on the batter.

So, I could lie and say they were beautiful in taste, texture and decoration, but the high scores really only landed in the third category. I told you baking was not my strong point!

That bastard delicious chocolate cake I made for Dylan's 22nd birthday party (see), however, was a fortunate fluke and the exception to the rule. It wasn't the prettiest thing, but at least it was ass-kicking delicious.

So, my first venture into cupcakes, upon post-taste re-evaluation, was more like a C.
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Cuppy cakes! [17Mar08 11:32pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Remember when cupcakes were just the little yummy things that kids ate (and adults ate guiltily in the shadows after midnight)? Apparently they're super huge now because you can make them pretty, you can make them exotic, and you can limit yourself to one. Everyone says "cupcake." Everyone makes cupcakes. Everyone loves cupcakes. It's a CUPCAKE CULT out there.

Today I made my first foray into the chic world of cupcakes. For this week's Tuesday Foody Get-Together, we're skipping restaurants in favor of a Mexican-themed potluck. I figured it was as good a time as any for me to volunteer to make cupcakes.

I put a couple more pictures up on my Flickr, check 'em out here if you like.

In keeping with the Mexican food theme -- the way that white people do, anyway -- I decided to try making lime cupcakes, and from the way it smells, I did great. To provide an alternative, I made a batch of strawberry cupcakes. Both recipes were jotted down from somewhere on the Internet, and what appealed to me about them was (a) that they were both from scratch and (b) they utilized the fresh fruit in the batter (strawberry in the frosting, even).

When it comes to the kitchen, my biggest weakness is in the realm of baking. I do not like to cook with precision and measurement -- I like stuff that can be thrown together in a pot or pan, the end. But baking? It's all chemistry! If ingredients are not perfectly measured, I might be up Crap Creek with mushy cupcakes for a paddle. So I get nervous when I bake.

The lime cupcakes required zest and juice, so that batter smelled SOOOO good. Also, because I'm stubborn and I don't want to use bottled key lime juice, I had to juice, like, a freaking dozen key limes. Not with a juicer, no -- with a GARLIC PRESS. It worked PERFECTLY, because key limes are so tiny. And delicious.

For the strawberry cupcakes, I had to make a flavorful strawberry puree. I simmered halved strawberries and sugar for about 15 minutes, then threw 'em in a blender and chilled the puree. This would go in both the batter and the frosting. I slightly overcooked the strawberry cupcakes, so they kind of taste/look like a frosted strawberry muffin instead (I ate the strawberry one that I accidentally plunged my thumb into -- it was a sincere accident).

One major problem I encountered was that I couldn't find the electric mixer so I had to mix two batches of batter and two batches of frosting with my poor, persevering right arm. I couldn't get enough air into the frosting this way, so they ended up more creamy and gooey than light and fluffy. Still delicious, though.

The decorating part was the most fun, even though I was disappointed with the slight runny quality of both batches of frosting. It was pretty and glossy frosting, though -- both batches of frosting were made chiefly of cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar, with little flavor-relevant tweaks to each, of course. I dropped dollops on top and went to town with the leftover fruit and sprinkles my mom had tucked away in the pantry. I love the way the blue crystals look against the soft green of the lime frosting. And the teeny-tiny wedges of key lime! HOW CUTE!!!

Tomorrow I have to haul them carefully in a cooler, so they don't melt and sog all over the place while sitting in my car for five hours. If they do melt and sog in my car anyway, this journal will hear all about it, and so will everyone else. I'll be crying like a Rancor master.
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Albondigas, or sopas de los comfortadores [20Feb08 11:34pm]
[ mood | midnight-snacky ]

Last night Adam and Sierra made use of the "Albondigas" potted herbs from Trader Joe's, and it was pretty damn good for a first-shot at said Mexican meatball soup. I didn't have much of a hand in the creation of this soup, but it did inspire an entry in me so it's worth a mention.

The single pot contained fresh oregano, thyme, and monster mint, and affixed to it was a card containing a recipe for albondigas. Nice idea, though it's hardly the best idea to allow mint to share a pot with pretty much anything. In the brief period between the plant set's purchase and its use, the mint had already started to take over the whole damn kitchen.

Though the recipe came with the pot, Adam decided to riff on it a little loosely. Hey, it's soup. It's easy. Here's a rough recollection of what we/they used, as I was not really present in the kitchen the whole time:

- 1 pound ground beef
- pre-soaked basmati rice
- cumin
- chopped fresh mint and oregano, cilantro maybe?
- egg

Other stuff in the soup
- 6 cups chicken stock
- small yellow potatoes, quartered
- chopped carrot, celery
- diced tomatoes
- crushed garlic
- pinches and palmfuls of fresh potted herbs
- perhaps some salt and pepper to taste

The former was mixed together and made into 1" balls, which were then added to the chicken stock with all the latter goodies. It stewed for about twenty minutes to a half-hour, to ensure that the meatballs and potatoes were cooked through and tender, respectively.

Our later evaluation of this endeavor was that though it was still delicious, it was easy to see where to improve the recipe.

For one, needs moar tomato! I thought I remembered albondigas involving more tomato-fication, but Adam did throw in diced tomatoes so I figured maybe that was all it needed. While cross-checking recipes online well after finishing the bowl, I found that many recipes have a strong tomato presence -- one on the Food Network site even described albondigas as "meatballs in garlic-tomato sauce." Tomatoness ranged from spoonfuls of salsa to full-on cans of stewed or crushed whole tomatoes and even tomato sauce and/or paste. For next time, I say we can definitely up the tomato ante without turning this into Mexican marinara.

Also, once Adam began to pour the chicken stock (Trader Joe's organic chicken stock, FYI) we all were a little unnerved by its thickness and yellow color. I thought maybe we should try Swanson's chicken broth next time, something I've used many times that is less seasoned, less opaque, and less bright. One recipe I read suggests thinning the stock with water anyway, because the meatballs further distribute flavor (mmm, fat).

Another big comment was that the meatballs were good, but a bit lacking. I proposed that we mix in some crushed/minced garlic, black pepper, and more salt into the meat next time. Also, perhaps instead of basmati we ought to use white rice, the arroz far more familiar to Mexico. It is likelier to drink up the juices and become one with the meat. And also, adding some breadcrumbs or cornmeal will give the meatballs some more cohesion and perhaps better texture. Lastly on the meaty morsels, several recipes suggest lightly browning the meatballs before adding them to the soup. I can see that working out well.

'Til the next time we embrace the soup pot, I will certainly have albondigas en el cerebro.

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Packets [18Jan08 11:28am]
[ mood | my back hurts ]

Such an odd thing to take for granted.

My dad made home-fried potatoes, you know, those peppery little diced potatoes that are fried up and fantastic. I wanted some with my breakfast, but since they were left-over potatoes they could have used a little help. I decided to reach for my old friend Ketchup.

We're out of ketchup in this house! OUT of ketchup! How long had this been going on!?

No 98% empty bottle in the fridge, no unrefrigerated-but-otherwise-ready-to-go bottle in the pantry, nothing except for ONE MYSTERY KETCHUP PACKET I found in the bottom of a little plastic container full of those little cream cheese containers that my mom steals from her work cafeteria.

So, here's what I've learned from that episode:
1) We're the type of family to neglect a good 80% of our kitchen at any given moment.
2) At some point we were the type of family to save ketchup packets for a rainy day.

These are but two exemplary reasons why I have resolved to only stock my future kitchen with necessary condiments and quick-fixes (you know, like Top Ramen, Kraft Mac & Cheese, that stuff), and to buy everything else on a need-to-cook basis.

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Busy on vacation [1Jan08 10:16pm]
Since my parents went out of town for the holidays, I've been cooking (and eating) a blue streak. Can you imagine eating a blue streak? I'm thinking the dinner scene in Hook.

Anyway, yes, I rather enjoy cooking at home and eating at home, and feeding people in my home. When I actually have my own home, I do intend to keep that up. I don't even remember the last time I ate out. Wasn't that long ago, but it's so totally forgettable.

Here's what's gone down in my kitchen via one big chicken purchase:

- Fried chicken legs and breast strips a la Cameron, with honey mustard a la Dan
- Store-bought mac & cheese casserole, doctored with English cheddar
- Store-bought toss-yer-own Caesar salad

Okay, so a minimum of the work in the above set was done by me. But I was happy to host it and happier to eat it. I just hated cleaning up after it.

- Roast chicken marinated in balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, rosemary, other stuff
- Spaghetti tossed with store-bought pesto
- Garlic-herb bread (gotta love Trader Joe's premade doughs)
- Spring mix salad with raspberry (or balsamic) vinaigrette

- Thai peanut chicken, atop a bed of . . .
- Bean thread noodles

I'm especially fond/proud of the Sunday meal, because it came from a last-ditch effort to squeeze use out of the last of the chicken. Fortunately in this Filipino household we always have an abundance of soy sauce and fish sauce (which we Pinoys call patis but I think the Thai call it nam pha). I mixed that ess with some peanut butter, some sri racha chili paste, some crushed garlic and a little brown sugar. What I really wish I had at the time, though, was some cilantro and lime. Every household worth its salt should always have cilantro and lime handy, or at least limes, for chrissakes. And I also wish that I had some of that fresh-ground peanut butter instead of Albertson's creamy junk. At least I know what to do next time I go the Thai peanut route. I'm thinking satay beef skewers.

Monday was spent gorging on traditional black folks' New Year food. I could go on.

Tonight at my house, it's TACO NIGHT! You KNOW you wish you were here, if you aren't already. ♥
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Preheat. [31Dec07 7:35am]
[ mood | newborn babe! ]

This is my first entry, more or less to serve as a placeholder while I start thinking up stuff to write in here, or at least improve upon with the layout and icons and whatnot.

I have had this particular username for almost three years now, and it has primarily served as a guinea-pig account for LJ layouts. It's also been a place where I sent myself notes-to-self or wrote up portions of NaNoWriMos or homework while, say, at work or a friend's place. Who knows why I decided to add the extra step of putting it in another LJ when I could've just emailed myself stuff. I like complication, I guess. You'll learn all about that when I talk about my culinary methodology.

WTF it's almost eight in the morning?! I told myself to be in bed before sunrise, and here I am making a new LJ instead! Christ. The sun's coming through my windows and everything. Ugh. I'm so bad at properly navigating the intended dichotomy of sleep and consciousness.

So yeah, hi everyone!

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