Saturday, January 30, 2010

An Honest Award

Earlier this week, the lovely Ms. K. Hamilton from The Geeky Gourmet shared her award with me. Thank you, thank you. This award requires me to reveal 10 honest things about cooking and blogging. Here goes...

1. I secretly wished that instead of Julie & Julia, it was really Pocky & Julia. Doesn't sound as good but you get the picture. I can only dream of ever becoming that popular.

2. I'm not 100% happy with my food pics sometimes. I need photography lessons and learn about the whole white balance yadda, yadda technical stuff. I still use my crappy iPhone camera every now and then when I'm taking pictures at restaurants. Then it's Photoshop galore.

3. I'm a noob cook and am terrified of making dishes that require more than 5 steps. One day I will conquer that damn macaron cookie recipe!!! Until then, I will continue to pay out the nose for crushed, mail ordered macs.

4. Almost everything I post about is made in very small batches or quantities. I always cut the recipes down to one or two person servings. The picture I post is usually it. So if someone eats it before I can get my shot....it's all over.

5. I treat my cookbooks more as pretty coffee table books than reference/instructional books.

6. I get 50% of my recipes from Food Network, 25% from the Internet, and the other 25% from cookbooks.

7. I use a big glass punch bowl as my universal mixing bowl. Heh! Yeah I need to invest in some proper mixing bowls.

8. I'm jealous of all the lemon squeezers, zesters, and cheese graters that Down Home with the Neely's have.

9. When I'm making a dish specifically to blog about, I'm so obsessed with getting the perfect picture that my meal will actually be cold by the time I get my shot. Most nights I'm eating a cold dinner because I'm too lazy to reheat it.

10. I have 6 cats. 5 indoor cats and one outside. Thought I'd throw that in.

Thanks again Ms. K for sharing this award with me!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cinnamon Chip Scones

I love scones and the only place I can get any around here is from Panera Breads . This bakery/cafe is a 30 minute drive from my house. It's located in the center of a very crowded outdoor mall, located in the heart of golf course and retirement country. I really have to work up the courage and patience to venture out there. The traffic alone takes 5 years off your life. Apparently some people have no clue how to drive through a roundabout. Usually I'm too late getting there anyway and the scones are brick hard from sitting out all day. Not wanting to deal with road rage today, I stayed home in my pajamas and made my own scones. I found this easy recipe from RecipeZar.com.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup cinnamon baking chips
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • cinnamon sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in mixing bowl. Add butter slowly, mixing well.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients, mixing completely. Stir in cinnamon chips.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out dough (with hands only) to 1/2" thickness. Cut into scones, place on ungreased cooking sheet. Brush egg white over scones and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over scones. Bake 18 minutes.
  5. Cool scones 5 minutes, move to plate and cover until completely cool.
These came out surprisingly well. My breads/dough come out heavy sometimes. Over kneading maybe? I didn't have any buttermilk. I had to make my own. One cup milk, one tbsp white vinegar, mix, let sit for 5 minutes. My boy Doug was really nervous about it. He thought it was too "home remedy-ish". I think he offered to go buy some buttermilk about 10 times.

I proved him wrong as usual. Haha!!! Homemade buttermilk works well.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Island Spice Grill and Lounge

Today some friends and I grabbed lunch at a new Caribbean place that just opened recently called Island Spice Grill and Lounge. The atmosphere is really fun and the food is pretty good.

On Fridays they have live reggae, Saturdays a DJ, and jazz musicians for Sunday brunch.

This is one of my lunch buddies, Zackanarnius. It's not her real name, but only a Twitter alias. Feel free to follow her. She loves to tweet about funky stuff. Zack enjoys Internet stalkers as much as I do. Heh!

I started out with some Jamaican Johnny Cakes. I've always heard my co-worker (who's from the Virgin Islands) talk about her mom's Johnny Cakes. What can I say?? They're little fried dough balls of goodness. My friend and I took up dipping them in granulated sugar. I'm sure if the chef had seen us, he would have been shaking his head.

My other camera shy lunch buddy ordered the Curry Goat with sauteed cabbage and carrots, white rice, and a piece of fried plantain. Apparently it was really good because he was sucking the bones dry and was tempted to lick the plate.

I ordered the Curry Fish with white rice, and sauteed cabbage and carrots. I'm not exactly sure what kind of fish it was. I'm thinking Tilapia. The curry flavor wasn't too strong. I'm not all that familiar with Jamaican cuisine, but I think it would have been even better if it were spicy. But then again, I'm known for hitting the hot sauce bottle. Sometimes I even like a little food with my hot sauce. Next time I go back, I'll man up and try the curry goat.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Movie and a Mexican Lunch

Doug and I went for round two of the movie Avatar. This time we saw it in 3D IMAX. For all the tweets I received....Yep! Avatar is that good in my opinion. There are a couple of over the top, mustache twirling, bad guys, but I can overlook it. Awesome graphics and there's nothing like gigantic, blue, half naked people swinging out at you through cheesy 80's looking 3D glasses.

First we stopped for lunch at Don Pablo's, a Mexican restaurant chain. I ate here once before about 10 years ago. We started with the Shrimp Queso Blanco Dip and tortilla chips. I try not to indulge too much in big bowls of melted cheese but hot damn this was good. They take creamy, white Monterey Jack cheese sauce, chopped green chilies, jalapeño peppers, little shrimps, pico de gallo and mix it all in one hot bubbly bowl.

For my entree, I ordered the Carnitas. This comes with rice, beans, 3 flour tortillas, a big pile of carnitas, and garnishes...salsa, cilantro, red onion slices, tomatoes, lime wedges, and half an avocado. It's a "build your own taco" dish. I enjoyed it, but I still prefer the ones I used to get from the roach coaches in Southern California. ;)


Show all

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hot Chocolate, Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, and more Chocolate

I've been on a search for the perfect Mexican hot chocolate for several years now. It has become my white whale. I'm really beginning to sympathize with Captain Ahab. :(

It started when I first saw the movie Chocolat with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. There's a scene where hot chocolate is served with a sprinkle of chili powder. I knew right then that there was more to this drink than mini marshmallows and whipped cream. And so began my quest...

My latest purchase is Mariebelle's Aztec Hot Chocolate. I read about this one from Our Adventures in Japan. If you've never had this before, it's not a powdered mix like most hot chocolates. They're actually little shards of chocolate. It almost looks like tiny chocolate garden mulch. This hot chocolate has a thick and velvety texture. It's very good, but I didn't get the same spice kick in the throat like Kat did in her post. I must not have used enough. I admit to being stingy sometimes. Heh! I picked up this 20 oz can at Williams-Sonoma for $25 USD. My next cup, I will follow the measurements on the canister.

While in the store, my boy had to get this...

Serendipity's Frrrozen Hot Chocolate mix. This 18 oz canister sold for $16 USD. When we were in Las Vegas last month, Serendipity 3 had opened up in front of Caesar's Palace. Doug wanted to try their famous drink/dessert but we didn't have enough time. So here it is served in the Pocky kitchen.



All you need for this mix is a heavy duty blender, whole milk, ice cubes, and whipped cream. We can't compare it to the real thing served at the restaurant but this was pretty tasty.


One last chocolate item, Chuao Chocolatier's Firecracker bar.

This has got to be the strangest chocolate bar I've ever eaten. It's dark chocolate with chipotle, salt, and pop rocks. Yes I said pop rocks, although they call it "popping candy". I've never had chocolate that popped and frizzled in my mouth before. Think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Remember the scene right before Violet Beauregarde turns into a big blueberry, she chews on a piece of "3 course dinner" gum? This chocolate reminds me of that dinner gum. I tasted the dark chocolate right away, and next the pop and fizzle of pop rocks, then the saltiness, and finally the kick of chipotle. Doug of course experienced everything in reverse order from me. Sheesh!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cooking with Dog

No, no...I'm not cooking dogs or anything funky like that. I'm referring to my favorite cooking series on YouTube. The "host" is a poodle with a bad accent named Francis. Francis narrates the cooking segment as a lady stands next to him doing the actual cooking. If you haven't seen it before, check it out. It's pretty entertaining.





Francis inspired me to make my own croquettes. I didn't have the exact ingredients so I altered the recipe. Instead of the ground beef and pork, I used leftover grilled salmon that I flaked up. The potato patties were a bit soft but held up surprisingly well during frying.



These were good but next time I'm going by the recipe and using ground pork and beef. I bet chopped up ham would be really good too or mixed veggies if you didn't want to use meat.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Buster the Cat

I don't have any dishes to share tonight. It was leftovers Monday. So taking a cue from Bob's Sunday Cats......I present to you my cat Buster.

This is how a lazy Florida cat chills hammock style. Kinda cute, eh?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Rum Toffee Sauce

Every now and then my boy breaks away from his MLB Network and watches Food Network with me. On this particular day, Paula's Best Dishes was on and Ms. Deen was making her million calorie chocolate bread pudding with a rum toffee sauce. Doug was hooked. He turned to me and whispered...."I want"

So, here's my crack at it....


Ingredients

  • 1 loaf Hawaiian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Rum Toffee Sauce, recipe follows

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.
Add the bread cubes to a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the cream, the milk, 1 cup sugar, butter, and eggs. Add the cream mixture to the bread cubes, stirring to combine. Let stand for 15 minutes. Stir in the chocolate and pecans. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup cream and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until the center is set, about 1 hour. Serve with Rum Toffee Sauce.
Rum Toffee Sauce:
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar and butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, stir in the cream and rum and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Let cool. The sauce can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
This is my first time making bread pudding. It's not on the same level as a restaurant's but it wasn't too shabby. Instead of pecans, I substituted chopped almonds. I also added a handful of cinnamon chips along with the chocolate. Doug really liked it but asked I skip the rum next time.

On another note , the cold streak is still going strong here. Yeah!!! There were some snow flurry sightings today in Central Florida. I didn't get any in my area, but I did get pelted with some tiny ice pellets.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Crustless Quiche

A few weeks ago I was on a low carb crash diet to lose about 10 pounds before going on vacation. It's probably not the smartest thing, but it was a quick (and very temporary...booo) solution. One of the recipes I enjoyed most was the crustless quiche. The recipe can easily be customized by adding any ingredients that you like . Without a crust to fuss over, the cooking process was easier and faster. Besides, I don't think anyone really eats the crust anyway.


Ingredients

8 slices bacon, cooked crisped and chopped
1 cup cheddar or swiss cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup spinach
5 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
Salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to taste


Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft. Stir in spinach and continue cooking until excess moisture has evaporated.
  3. In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, heavy cream, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add spinach mixture and stir to blend. Scoop into prepared pie pan. Sprinkle bacon bits evenly
  4. Bake in preheated oven until eggs have set, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
I also added a cup of chopped ham and some sliced mushrooms to the recipe. It was one loaded quiche.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Smoky Veggie Chili

Florida has been having some unusually freezing cold weather this year. So cold in fact, an article from the Associated Press today wrote "It was so cold in Florida, freezing iguanas were seen falling out of trees. Experts say the cold-blooded reptiles become immobilized when the temperature falls into the 40s and they lose their grip on the tree." Poor little guys, but I just can't help loving this weather!!! Fellow Floridians enjoy it now before the 90 plus degree weather comes back.

This kind of weather calls for something hot and comforting for dinner, like a hearty bowl of smoky veggie chili. I'm cheating a bit with this post because I didn't have enough time to cook up a pot tonight. I snapped this picture when I made some a couple of months ago. It came out great. This recipe is one of Aida Mollenkamp's No Recipe Recipe. It's definitely worth sharing.


Ingredients


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • Carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 (15.1/2-ounce) cans kidney or pinto beans
  • Dried herbs and spices - dried oregano, cumin, coriander, chili powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • Few cups water
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Avocado, sour cream, and cheese, for garnish
Directions

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook for a few minutes to soften.

Add the beans, oregano, and spices of your choice.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook, stirring frequently, until you can smell all your spices.

Add the tomatoes with juices, water, and cilantro, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper, if needed.

Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve with avocado, sour cream, and cheese

I had to skip the avocado and sour cream..none in the house. As for the corn muffin, it's just a regular box mix that I threw in a handful of jack cheese and sliced green onions. Hmm....maybe I'll manage my time a little better tomorrow and whip up a pot. Looking at the picture makes me crave it now.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mushroom and Celery Salad

I saw Avatar in 3D tonight. Great movie!!! I usually start squirming in my seat if a movie passes the 2 hour mark but the time flew by during this one. I hardly even noticed that Avatar was almost 3 hours long. I won't spoil it with details of the plot. Let's just say James Cameron makes you experience all the human emotions in 162 minutes of pure entertainment.

Anyway, we got home a bit late. Dinner had to be a quickie. I threw together a mushroom and celery salad to go with last night's left over baked chicken.

I got this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. Her recipe actually calls for Pecorino Romano crumbles. I only had shredded Parmesan on hand. It was a quick and light dinner.


Ingredients

  • 1 pound white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 4 large celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup (about 5-ounces) crumbled Pecorino Romano
Directions

Place the mushrooms in a medium bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Layer the mushrooms on the bottom of a straight-sided glass salad bowl.

Place the celery in the same medium bowl used to toss the mushrooms. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Layer the celery on top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle the parsley over the celery. Sprinkle the crumbled cheese over the parsley. Serve.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Every year I make a list of 4 to 5 resolutions in hopes of keeping at least one of them for more than a month. The top two resolutions are always the same.

#1 Eat better and lose 20 pounds
#2 Save money

This year I've added:

#3 Stop texting and checking messages on my phone while driving. I know!!! It's a horrible and dangerous habit. *bows head in shame :(

#4 To keep my blog updated as best I can, even if it means a post consisting of only one sentence and a picture

#5 Be on time for work...... I already broke this one on my first day back to work. Oh well. there's always next year.

For resolution #1, tonight's dinner was baked chicken. I marinated the chicken overnight in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic powder, ground black pepper, sugar, and just a teeny tiny bit of MSG. I heard all the gasps. You can leave the MSG out if you're allergic to it.

For a side dish, I roasted a bunch of brussels sprouts. I like brussels sprouts, but they're not my first choice in veggies. I had these sitting in the fridge for almost 2 weeks. They were on their last leg. I had to use them up.

I used the exact same recipe for Tyler Florence's roasted broccoli. I just substituted sprouts for broccoli. I overcooked them a bit and a few pieces got burnt. But then again, it wouldn't be me if I didn't burn something. It actually tasted pretty decent. I'd eat brussels sprouts cooked this way again.


Ingredients

  • About 1 pound of brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 lemon, juiced
Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Trim tougher outer leaves from sprout. Cut in half. Arrange the brussels sprouts on a nonstick cookie sheet, drizzle with some olive oil and season with a little bit of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Transfer to the oven and roast for 10 minutes.
Remove the sprouts from the oven and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and bake until the cheese melt and forms a crisp shell over the sprouts, about 10 minutes. Lift the brussels sprouts out onto a platter with a spatula and drizzle with fresh lemon.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Vosges Haut-Chocolat

During the Las Vegas leg of my trip, I made sure to stop by the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace to visit Vosges Haut-Chocolat boutique. This was my first time here. I'm more used to the homey feel of See's Candies. The boutique was really trendy looking, almost intimidating. Their truffles were displayed like jewelry in the glass case.


I HAD to get a couple of their famous chocolate applewood bacon bars. I've read way too much about these babies not to try a couple. I picked up one bar in milk chocolate and one in dark chocolate.


Vosges had a mix and match buy 5 bars, get the 6th free deal. I hadn't planned on getting more than the bacon bars, but all the exotic flavors sucked me in. Along with the two bacon bars, I picked up a Matcha bar (green tea, milk chocolate), Goji bar (Tibetan goji berries, Himalayan salt, milk chocolate), Naga bar (Indian curry powder, coconut flakes, milk chocolate), and Red Fire bar (Mexican ancho chipotle chillies, Ceylon cinnamon, dark chocolate) for about $43 USD after tax.

So far I've tasted two bars, Mo's Bacon Bar in milk chocolate and the Naga Bar. I loved the sweet and salty combination of the bacon bar. It reminded me of when you order breakfast at a diner and the syrup from your pancakes slightly drips onto the bacon. The Naga bar was interesting. My mom makes chicken curry sometimes using canned coconut milk, so I knew sweet could mix well with curry. The aroma of curry from the bar was very strong. The curry flavor definitely wasn't shy but not overwhelming either. It was a nice mix. Not too sweet, not too spicy. I couldn't taste the coconut flakes though. I must have gotten a naked square of chocolate. :)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Yogurtland...Go Now!!!

After a few days in Las Vegas, we drove to California to spend Christmas Eve with the family. Family was priority # 1. Yogurtland closely followed at # 2

I first read about Yogurtland last year at one of my favorite food blogs called Burp and Slurp. I'm sure everyone has already eaten here, especially if you live in California. But for me, I live in Port St. Nowhere, FL where the only frozen yogurt chain, TCBY went out of business a couple of years ago(the froyo sucked anyway).

Yogurtland is not your boring froyo joint with only chocolate or vanilla, m&m's and sprinkles. They offer a huge selection of flavors from your ordinary strawberry to Taro and Gingerbread. This awesome self-serve yogurt store charges by the weight. You grab a cup, fill it with whichever flavors you want, load up at their large topping bar, and place your cup on a scale by the register. The price is only 30 cents per ounce.

During my one week stay, I visited 4 different Yogurtlands around the SoCal area. These are shots from our first visit.

My cup - Taro, Toasted Coconut, and Eggnog yogurt topped with strawberries, kiwi, mochi, sweet red beans, and cheesecake bits.

Doug's cup - Double Cookies and Cream, Gingerbread,and Pumpkin pie topped with almonds, chocolate chips, and cheesecake bits

Lucky me, I got there just in time to catch the tail end of their Tokidoki promotion. The stores had Tokidoki themed cups and were giving out "limited edition" plastic Tokidoki spoons with each purchase. Big thanks to my family who all accompanied me on one of my froyo trips and helped get all these spoons. Actually, I don't really know what I'm going to do with them now, but we all had tons of fun digging through the trash cans and mugging people in the parking lot for their spoons. Just kidding!


Friday, January 1, 2010

I'm Back and Ready to Blog

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday. I just came back from my annual year end trip to Las Vegas and California. I love Vegas more for the sights, shows, and of course the eating than for the actual gambling. I don't think I touched a single slot machine this trip. My boy on the other hand came out $20 ahead on Blackjack. Can you tell we're high rollers? Just kidding.

Caesar's Palace

New York, New York

Unfortunately I don't have any food pictures to share. The restaurants were all very dimly lit. I felt weird setting off my camera flash. I probably would have annoyed nearby tables too. This year's trip was shorter and on a tighter budget compared to previous trips. We didn't go crazy and overindulge like usual. :( We limited ourselves to the usual eating spots, breakfast at Le Village Buffet in Paris, Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood, FatBurger (apparently under new management now), and off the strip....Sushi Mon "All You Can Eat", and my absolute favorite place for tapas, FireFly* Tapas Kitchen and Bar.

Firefly is where I was first introduced a couple of years ago to stuffed dates, (bacon wrapped, smoked almonds, red wine reduction, with blue cheese crumbles). It's so wicked good! I also love their Crispy duck rolls, and you CANNOT leave without getting the Chocolate "tres leche" cake and Chocolate cherry bread pudding. I'm so mad I don't have any pictures to show. But, anyone that's been here can tell you the place is practically pitch black except for the little red tea candles on each table. You'll just have to go and check it out for yourself. :)

Scary Statue lady inside the Venetian.  She moves if you give her money

I usually stay at the "Big Green Beast"...MGM Grand Hotel. On this trip MGM gave us one day's worth of free Internet ($15 per day) and a $36 voucher to any of their restaurants. The down side of going to Vegas during Christmas are the blackout dates for many of the restaurants. We ended up using our voucher for dinner at the MGM Grand Buffet. HUGE mistake! This has got to be the worst buffet in Vegas. The regular price for two people is a little over $50 after tax and before tip. I don't know but for that price, the food seemed like glorified frozen dinners. Hmmm.....