Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Why Has Nobody Told Me?

I just discovered the best thing since red bean paste. No, better than red bean paste. It is called dark lotus paste, and it is the bestest most wonderfulest thing ever.

I just got back from a lovely lunch with my friend Josie. She has been working in Chinatown for a couple years, and yet this is only the second time we’ve had lunch together. And now she’s switching to a new company outside of the city. But lucky for me, we got our last Chinatown lunch in today. We had shabu-shabu at a place that Google doesn’t seem to know how to find.

I was following my directions on my phone, when I hear a familiar voice call my name. It was of course Josie, and she steered me in the opposite direction I was about to head. We were ushered upstairs, where we were alone for most of lunch. Lunch was awesome, chatting with Josie was awesome, and then she suggested we hit up a bakery before I walk back to work. I am so glad we did.

Josie ordered what she wanted, while I stood confused and in wonder. She helped me find my red bean paste ball thingies with sesame that I love, so I ordered a couple of those, and then decided to be brave. I got a custard bun and a dark lotus seed pie.

We parted ways – I should be working, after all – and on my walk back I decided to take a nibble. So I tried my lotus pie, and it was just so wonderful and decadent and I just simply love it. I wish I got 5.

I didn’t know!

So delicious…

June 11th, 2010 • 1:06 pm • dinane • Posted in Food2,181 Comments »

Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving was, I believe, a great success this year. Much food was enjoyed, much friendliness was experienced, and much entertainment was had. I do have a few notes on cooking that I thought I’d jot down for posterity.

  • Adding chives to the mashed potatoes was pretty, but made several people less willing to eat mashed potatoes. I was not one of them, but I am a gracious person, and I will not add them again. I may sprinkle on some parsley for color, but only on top, not mixed in.
  • Using real garlic in the milk/butter mixture for the mashed potatoes is a great improvement over the powder. Also, using a ridiculous amount of garlic overall is a good thing.
  • No regrets from using the biggest squash in the store, especially since I found equally huge apples.
  • The replacement of the raisins in the stuffing with a craisin/raisin/yellow raisin combination was awesome. Perhaps even more crasins could be added next time. And a pear. More fruit makes for better stuffing, me thinks. Oh, and a bit of a sharper onion might be a good idea, or perhaps more onion. Something was lacking on that end.
  • Apparently I need a sign for the plain vs. good stuffing. There was confusion, and some people were disappointed. Silly people. Use your eyes!
  • More gravy. I didn’t have enough to make the soup as thick as I would have liked.
  • An alternate scheme is required for the banana pie. It goes to mush too quickly, and people get mad when I have to throw out the runny goop that was once pie. Best idea so far: don’t put the bananas IN the pie, add them afterward. Perhaps preparing it in a tart pan would be a good idea. If I just did the crust and pudding, and added the bananas and cream on a per-serving basis.
  • Don’t forget the peas.

There was one unfortunate incident involving poor innocent Mimic. He got out on the screened porch, where the pies and drinks live, some time after dessert but before we went upstairs to play dominoes. He was out there for far too long and had to go to the litter box. He was a resourceful dude, though, and used an empty cardboard box (previously left out there for his lounging on nice days). He has forgiven me, thankfully. He has also recovered from the large number of guests, having spent last night playing, pouncing, and meowing up a storm. He’s not a shy kitten, in that he’ll come out to visit with guests, and even allow pets. But he is more subdued around strangers, to the point where many people don’t believe us that he’s a chatty cat.

But aside from that, I think everything else was wonderful. We even went bowling!

I hope you had an equally nice Thanksgiving.

Now to get the Christmas stuff ready…

December 1st, 2009 • 11:57 am • dinane • Posted in Cats, Family, Food1,907 Comments »

Thanksgiving Recipes 7 – The Cream Pies

[This is part of a multi-post series on Thanksgiving. Start from the beginning.]

[A note from the blogger: I have updated this post to reflect the fact that some of my measurements were wrong. While making pies last night, I realized a few mistakes in this post.]

I am, if I do say so myself, pretty good at making pie. I have even been called the Queen of Pie. I like pie. I like making pie. And the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is Pie Day – the day on which I make at least 4 if not more pies. In this entry, I’ll discuss the easier pies.

Yes, I take help from the grocery store. No, I do not feel bad about it. Yes, I think Jell-O makes some darn good pudding!

Mike’s family is a big fan of banana cream pie. It’s not really my thing, but I think I’ve come up with a good recipe never the less. I make it in a 9-inch pie plate.

The crust is a pressed cookie crust – graham crackers to be precise. Since I now own a food processor, the whole thing is really easier than ever before. I buzzed up on sleeve of graham crackers in the food processor, and added about 2 tablespoons of sugar. I then added 4 tablespoons of melted butter, and it was done. I pressed it into the pie plate, and shoved it in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees to set up nice.

For the filling, I mix up the “for a fuller pie” recipe on the box of Jell-O’s french vanilla instant pudding. If memory serves, that’s something like 2 3/4 cups of milk for two boxes. Then I slice up at least 3 bananas, having a fourth on reserve. I slice them thin – about 1/4 of an inch. This way, there are many many layers. The first layer is a thinly spread layer of pudding. Then I tile on a complete layer of banana. Another layer of pudding fills in the spaces, and another layer of banana goes atop that. This continues, ending with pudding, until all the pudding is gone. The pie will not just be “fuller” – it will be full.

But I’m not done yet. I mix up some vanilla whipped cream, which I end up making at least 2 pints worth (that’s 2 pints of heavy cream, before whipping) by the end of the weekend. Some of it goes directly on the pudding pies, and the rest is used as a condiment on other pies. This is simple. In a cold bowl, whip the cream until airy. Then add powdered sugar (it has corn starch in it, this is important) – about 1/2 a cup per pint of cream, as well as 1 teaspoon of vanilla per pint of cream. Whip until peaky. Taste as you get close to see if you’d like it a bit sweeter. If you’re making both the banana and the chocolate cream pies (chocolate cream recipe on the way!), you’ll need almost a whole pint for topping.

To finish off the banana cream pie, use a piping bag or other prettifying device to cover the pie in whipped cream. Eat the banana cream pie within 3 days – the bananas will leach, and it will get soupy, and no one wants that.

Now, for the chocolate!

I get those chocolate cracker cookies whose name I do not know and which I have to scour the store to find every time I want them (they are called Famous Chocolate Wafers!). They are very light and quite crunchy. They come in a single stack. If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about and/or can’t find them, Oreos would probably be okay, but you might reduce the butter content. You can also get chocolate graham crackers, and treat them just as regular graham crackers.

I set aside 6 crackers, broken in half neatly for decoration, and then put the rest of the package of chocolate cookies in the food processor with a quarter cup of sugar and 5 tablespoons of butter. It makes a similar kind of crust to graham cracker – only chocolate! This will make more than you need for one crust, but not enough for two. Line a 9-inch pie plate, and sprinkle the extra on a baking sheet. Throw both in the oven at 350 for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, make up some devil’s food chocolate pudding “for a fuller pie” and some more vanilla whipped cream. Let the crust cool a bit before adding about 1/3 of the pudding – the idea is to make about an inch thick layer of pudding. Then fold an equal amount of whipped cream into the remaining pudding, making a kind of mousse-like-thing. It’s awesome. Which is great, because you’ll have extra. Add this stuff to the pie, in heaping quantities. You can even pipe it on to make a pretty design. Finally, sprinkle on some of the extra crumbs, making a gorgeous chocolate mousse pie. You can also adorn it with more whipped cream and the reserved crackers. I usually have to store this pie in a cake carrier because it’s too tall to fit in a pie carrier.

Oooh, and bonus! Snacks for the chef! Even stacked as high as you can make it, you’ll probably have extra mousse and extra chocolate crumbs. Make yourself a snack, you deserve it! (I suppose you could also just do the whole thing in a 10-inch pan… but where’s the fun in that?)

November 23rd, 2009 • 10:45 am • dinane • Posted in Food1,018 Comments »

Thanksgiving Recipes 6 – The Taters

[This is part of a multi-post series on Thanksgiving. Start from the beginning.]

I tried something new for Thanksgiving, and as you probably know, that’s not always wise. But when it comes to mashed potatoes, adjusting them at the end is always possible. And in this case, I did have to adjust. But rather than give you my jumbled mess of a recipe, I figure I’ll document how I should have done it.

Peel and cube a whole 5 lb. bag of Russet potatoes. It is helpful if you have your mom help you with this, as I did. It made the process go much more quickly. As you cube the potatoes, put them in a very large pot of cold water. This will stop them from browning before you’re done, and it will allow all of the potatoes to come up to temperature together. This is very important. Add at least one teaspoon of salt to the water, and bring the potatoes up to a boil. While the water is coming up to temperature, add about a half a head of garlic. Yes, you read that right, about a half a head. Peal the cloves and throw them right into the water so they will cook with the potatoes. You’ll mash them right in at the end, but they won’t be at all strong because they have been cooked.

While the potatoes cook, warm about a cup of half and half along with a half a stick of butter in a saucier or sauce pan. Add at least a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground pepper, more if you love pepper like I do. I then added (and I think it was a good idea!) about a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder because my sister was challenging that half a head of garlic would not be garlicky enough. I think the powder added a bit of extra kick, and I’d definitely do it again. I also should have added about a half teaspoon of salt.

When the potatoes are done, drain them, and run them through a food mill or potato ricer. I would use a potato ricer for a smaller quantity, but with the huge volume, it was nice to have the food mill. I used the middle-sized plate on the mill, and scraped backwards every few turns to get every last bit through. Then stir gently while adding the half and half mixture. Once it is incorporated, take a taste and adjust how you like it. Just make sure you have enough salt, because potatoes really need salt.

Once properly seasoned, these potatoes are awesome with a pat of butter, a spoonful of gravy (if you’re into that sort of thing), or all on their own. I really love the texture the food mill provides. Not a single lump, and not the slightest bit gummy.

November 20th, 2009 • 3:35 pm • dinane • Posted in Food179 Comments »

Thanksgiving Recipes 5 – The Veggies

[This is part of a multi-post series on Thanksgiving. Start from the beginning.]

I made two different green vegetables for Thanksgiving. One took a bit of prep and time, but the other was mighty easy. One I’d do again, the other… probably better to do on a day other than Thanksgiving, as the timing was very off.

The easy: buttered peas. All you do is put about two cups of frozen peas in a microwave safe bowl with one tablespoon of butter. Cover with some plastic wrap, but leave a corner open to vent. Microwave on high for three minutes. Stir. Serve.

Yeah, I’d do that again. It’s super easy, and quite delicious.

The fussy: shallot spinach. I love this stuff, don’t get me wrong, but the fussiness factor makes it an unwise choice for Thanksgiving. Mine ended up being done too early, and reheating it drew out some of the liquid, making it a little less than perfect. It is a good recipe, however, so I’d definitely recommend you make it – just make it when you can eat it immediately afterward.

Use a very large pan. I have a 15 inch saute pan. That worked.

Slice four shallots very thinly. Separate the rings. Add two tablespoons of butter to the pan over medium heat. Saute the shallot rings with about a quarter teaspoon of salt and an eighth of a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg until the shallots are soft. Add two pounds of rinsed but not dried baby spinach leaves. This filled my pan to the brim. Allow the heat to wilt the spinach, and start stirring as soon as you have room. Once all of the spinach has wilted, taste a bit to determine if more salt, butter, or nutmeg is needed. Serve immediately.

Veggies are a must at Thanksgiving. It lets you feel like you aren’t killing your poor body. Even if they are buttered…

November 18th, 2009 • 11:07 am • dinane • Posted in FoodComments Off on Thanksgiving Recipes 5 – The Veggies

Thanksgiving Recipes 4 – Squash ‘n’ Apples

[This is part of a multi-post series on Thanksgiving. Start from the beginning.]

Oh man, this is my favorite part. Mike’s aunt makes a pretty darn good Thanksgiving herself. But beyond any other thing in her meal, the squash ‘n’ apples are king. I love them. So, over the years, I have watched carefully as she made them, and I reproduced them to the best of my abilities.

All you need is a butternut squash, a couple of apples (I used Cortland), some spices, and a bit of butter. But it’s all how it goes together. Peel the squash and the apples. Cut the squash in half and then into about 1/2 inch slices, and keep the pieces in order so they look pretty. Then cut the apples into quarters, remove the core, and cut the quarters into quarters.

Now, simply arrange the squash in an oval gratin. I’m pretty sure it’s a standard size, about 14 inches across and 8 wide. In any case, I definitely registered for one for our wedding primarily so I’d have one that looked to be the same size as Mike’s aunt’s – purely for this dish. (Don’t worry, I’ve found other uses too.)

Once you have the squash in the gratin, slip a slice of apple between each slice of squash. Sometimes, they’ll fall down under, sometimes they’ll stay wedged above, it’s okay. And if there isn’t quite enough room, just take a few slices of squash and move them into the middle between the two rows of squash. The idea is to get apple touching each piece of squash.

Then sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg (I used freshly grated, which was exciting for me, but Mike’s aunt uses pre-ground, so I know that works okay too), and ground cloves over the top of the squash and apples. Use about two parts cinnamon to one part each nutmeg and cloves, and try to get an even but light coating over the squash and apples. Then take about two tablespoons of butter, and put dots of butter over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. I checked after 45 minutes, and it definitely was not done. It’s done when the squash is soft. The apples may be a bit mushy, but that’s good. They’re kind of like a sauce for the squash.

This stuff is yummy. You should make it.

November 16th, 2009 • 2:53 pm • dinane • Posted in Food3 Comments »

Thanksgiving Recipes 3 – The Stuffing

[This is part of a multi-post series on Thanksgiving. Start from the beginning.]

… or should I say “dressing?” I have never been a fan of the goopy stuffing that comes out of a bird. I find it mushy and generally not good. So I have always been very pleased with AB’s theory that “Stuffing is Evil!” However, that isn’t to say I don’t like stuffing. In fact, I love the stuff. I think it’s delicious. So long as you don’t actually try to stuff it into anything. So I guess the appropriate term would be dressing, rather than stuffing.

Mine starts with some help from the grocery store. I bought two bags of Pepperidge Farm “country” stuffing mix. At least I think it was called “country” or maybe “country style.” It’s the kind that has both white and whole wheat cubes of dry bread.

The next step was to spend weeks trying to convince my husband and his sister that things can be added to stuffing. They insisted that stuffing should be plain. And they felt they were caving mightily by allowing me to make one that didn’t come from a red canister labeled Stove Top. So, in a final state of desperation, I ended up making two different batches of stuffing and placing them side by side in a lasagna-sized baking dish.

First, I made the good stuff – the kind with flavor. I diced a sweet onion, a peeled golden delicious apple, and two stalks of celery into pieces about the same size as the bread cubes. I then gave a bit of a chop to about a quarter cup of raisins and a quarter of a bunch of parsley (which turned out to be a little to much – I really just wanted about 2 tablespoons chopped). I sweated the onion and celery in two tablespoons each of light olive oil and butter, with just a pinch of salt to help the process along. When they were starting to become translucent, I added the apple and cooked until the apple started to get soft. After that, the raisins and parsley were added, followed by another half stick of butter (giving about the total of one stick of butter required on the back of the package) and 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth from a box (also as required on the package). Once that came up to a simmer, I added the whole package, stirred until the bread sopped up every bit of moisture, and dumped the stuffing into one half of my big ol’ baking dish.

I scraped that out as well as I could, and put in the stick of butter and 2 1/2 cups of broth required for the second bag. Once simmering, I added the second bag, stirred until all was absorbed, and dumped into the other half of the baking dish. I then slapped on a piece of aluminum foil and stuck the thing out on the deck to wait until the turkey was done for reheating at 375 for about 25 minutes. The reheating process allows a nice crust to form on the top of the stuffing. I recommend eating the kind with flavor.

November 13th, 2009 • 10:50 am • dinane • Posted in Food4,096 Comments »

Thanksgiving Recipes 2 – The Sauces

[This is part of a multi-post series on Thanksgiving. Start from the beginning.]

How many sauces can you have at a Thanksgiving table? I’m not sure what the maximum number is, but I feel like you have to have at least two. And in my family, that number increases to three, with the addition of home made pink apple sauce. I’ll start with that.

My sister inherited… wait, that’s clearly the wrong word, seeing as my parent are still quite alive… stole the tool that my family uses for making applesauce from our dad. I honestly don’t know what it’s called. It’s conical, with holes on the sides and an opening at the wide end, and it is to be suspended over a large bowl. There is a conical stick which is used to force food through the holes. The stick is old and worn, and perhaps it is the tiny addition of wood that makes our family’s applesauce so lovely. Or maybe it’s just because we don’t screw around.

Get yourself about 5 lbs. of apples. McIntosh are good, Cortland are good, Fugi can be good, though they take a little longer to cook… Really, you can use any kind of apples you like, or even a combination. Though I would probably stay away from Red Delicious, as they tend to be a bit… weird when cooked. Wash the apples, core them, and cut them into 8 pieces. Do NOT peel the apples! If you have one of those handy-dandy apple corer-cutter devices (looks like a star pattern with a hole in the middle to get the core out), now’s a great time to use it. Then, fill your largest pot with apple pieces and nothing else. Cover and cook over medium heat until they start to fall apart.

Now, for the manual labor. If you have one of those conical devices, fill it about half way with apple pieces and start smushing the pieces against the sides. Scrape the skins away from the sides every so often to keep things moving, and add more pieces as you make room. If you don’t, because you don’t know what I’m talking about or because your sister took it, it’s time to get out your food mill. I recommend the largest setting, if you have changeable plates. Smush and scrape until you’ve got yourself a giant bowl of piping hot apple sauce.

It’s awesome hot, cold, or any temperature in between. One taste, and you will lose all love of store bought crap.

Now, as for cranberry sauce…

Um…

Let me give you a hint. You’ll need a can opener.

That’s right. I have a special place in my heart for canned jellied cranberry sauce. Yeah, I know it’s probably horrible for you. And I’m sure your recipe is “better” in every way. But I like my canned cranberries! So that’s what we have. Dumped from a can into a bowl.

Now for the star sauce of Thanksgiving – turkey gravy. I start mine as soon as I put the turkey back in the fridge after the onion and apple have been shoved up its butt. I use a heavy 4 qt. pot, heated over medium high heat. I add about a tablespoon of light olive oil, and once the pot is hot, I throw in the turkey neck to brown. Meanwhile, I chunk up one sweet onion, one big carrot, and one stalk of celery. When the turkey neck is brown, I throw in the veggies. I allow them to brown for a minute or two before adding two cloves of garlic, smashed with the paper removed, a half a bunch of parsley, a couple teaspoons of peppercorns, and a bay leaf. Note that I do not add salt, because the turkey drippings will be somewhat salty from the brine. I stir that around, and cover with water, filling the pot about 3/4 of the way. Once it comes to a boil, I reduce the heat and leave it to simmer on a back burner until the turkey is almost up to temperature.

When the turkey was at about 163 degrees or so, in other words, nearly done, I strained the turkey neck stock. At this point, the stock had been going for at least 5 hours, and was pretty dense with flavor. I have a small colander that fits inside of my mesh strainer, so I create a stack that goes, top to bottom, colander, two layers of paper towel, strainer. The strainer has little extensions that let it hook onto a bowl, so this is the most convenient way for me. It also allows me to remove the big chunks using the colander before the stock has made it through the paper towels (a.k.a. poor man’s cheesecloth).

Once the turkey is resting under its “piece of Mir,” I began the gravy preparations in earnest. I poured out the drippings into a bowl with a spout, then poured from that into a gravy separator. The gravy separator’s opening seemed narrow, and I am a klutz. You can try dumping straight from the roasting pan into the separator if you feel brave. I then gave the drippings a minute or two to separate before adding the juices (but not the fat) into the neck stock. I .then added the drippings back into the roasting pan, and put the heat under the pan on medium from two burners

It seemed like there wouldn’t be enough fat to make enough roux to thicken all of the juices and stock I had, so I added a couple tablespoons of butter and melted that in with the turkey fat. All the while, I used a flat whisk to dislodge the good bits from the bottom of the roasting pan. I then added about a quarter cup of flour and continued whisking and scraping until the roux was cooked and a little bubbly. Finally, I whisked in the broth and juices, integrating with much whisking.

I was nervous, so I poured the resulting gravy through a strainer into the gravy boat. But I was happy to find that my whisking and careful roux making had resulted in a lump-free gravy.

Funny thing, though. I’m not really a gravy person. So I left it off of my turkey. The gravy people at the table said it was good, though, and my dad teased me for spending so much effort on something I don’t even like. But a good amount was consumed and enjoyed, so I feel quite good about it.

November 11th, 2009 • 11:55 am • dinane • Posted in Food6 Comments »
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