Monday, January 28, 2013

We love Trader Joe's!

As you can see everyone at our house loves trader joes, or at least the awesome paper bags that they pack their groceries in. Here is a photo of nuzzers chilling out and rascal head first inspecting his new hobo home.
Also since my blood pressure has been all out of whack lately this little photo made me smile. It's actually true, they've done studies about how the sound of a cat purring effects your mood and health.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Worlds best thank you

So a couple weeks ago I cat sat for some friends, a very nice couple with a pure white cat called miss kitty. Miss kitty is always well behaved and affectionate so I don't mind at all. When they got back from their trip to the Carolinas Diane had made this amazing penguin cake for me!
I agonized over cutting into it for a day or two, but it tasted delicious when I finally did. A video of me cutting into it exists, but I don't think I'll share it, I turned him facing away from me so he wasn't looking at me while I cut into his head though.
I can't believe Diane made him herself! She's an amazing cook and baker, but wow, this just blew me away, I would have babysat miss kitty for free!

Who wants some squid and snails?

On the upside my lack of sleeping ability is great for my blogging. When I went to the Asian market I picked up some interesting things for dinner. I got bok choy and garlic to make my favorite recipe and this time I actually added in some of those amazing oyster mushrooms that I bought. (looking for my bok choy recipe? Click on the recipes tag at the end of this post and look back a few posts, it's super yummy) Essentially you slice up the bok choy, garlic, and mushrooms, then sauté them in olive oil and soy sauce.
Then I took the cleaned squid (yum!) and sliced the tops (not sure what they're called lol) into strips, then made sure to remove the eyeballs since they gave me the heebes and just chopped off the tentacles (can't skip out the on the tentacles).
Then I tossed the squid and snail meat (remember the snail meat I bought?) into a hot wok with some soy sauce and mix them around. If you cut thin strips like I did you only want to have them in the pan for about 3 minutes or they will get rubbery and chewy. Also snail meat is pretty rubbery to begin with so you don't want to over cook it, otherwise it will taste like you're munching on rubber.
Then I put the squid and snails over some nice jasmine rice and plated it with the mushrooms and bok choy. I separated them on my place for easier photos, but you can mix them together not he plate if you choose. The other reason I chose not to cook them together is because I made extra bok choy and mushrooms to use for dumpling filling a night or two later and wanted to use a different meat in them.

Redneck wine glasses

Well since its 6:20 in the morning and I just dropped my father off at work and can't fall back to sleep, I figured I might as well do something more productive than just trolling the Internet for hilarious cat photos. It doesn't help that the cats are all snuggled up next to me and snoring.
But on a positive note, here is my tutorial for redneck wine glasses. I made these as a Christmas present and packaged it with a bottle of torrey ridge winery's redneck red wine. It's a great wine from the finger lakes and one of my favorites actually, they also have a redneck white. It is also only about $12 a bottle so the whole present came in at about $30 including the glue which I have extra of.
I picked up the candle sticks (and could have gotten the mason jars if I didn't have a ton laying around already) at the dollar tree for $1 each. The glue I picked up at lowes and it was $6, I can't vouch for any other brand or type of glue, but I chose the lochite glass glue based in some research. It's rated for glueing glass to glass and is also dishwasher safe. I would still recommend to hand wash the glasses just in case, mostly because I'm paranoid, but the package said you can put them in the dishwasher.
Now on to the tutorial, sorry I don't have better photos, but since you only have a minute or so to get the glueing done I couldn't take many pictures. I will try to describe it as best I can though.

Step one: assemble your supplies, as noted above you don't need many items. Also make sure you have washed and dried the mason jars and candle sticks and removed the price tags because once you glue them they need to sit for 24-48 hours to set so you won't be able to wash them after for a while. Don't forget to make sure the glass is dry before you add the glue or it won't set right.

Step two: Before you put on the glue make sure you put the pieces together just to et the feel for how it will go together. Apply the glue to the top(the side where you insert the candle) of the candle holder. Just around the top rim and don't go crazy with the glue. Also make sure you only apply glue to one of the surfaces, too much glue is not your friend in this craft! Before you use it read the directions on the back of the package on how to apply the glue, trust me it's worth the two minutes of reading. Then attach the candlestick to the bottom of the mason jar keeping it centered on the bottom of the jar. It should be pretty easy to keep it centered. You also have to hold the pieces together for about 60 seconds (again read the package!)

Step three: after that you need to let the glasses set without moving them for 24-48 hours. I let mine sit for 48 hours without moving them again because of my paranoia, but it seemed to work very well. Also let them sit like that upside down so that the candlestick is on the top, that way you don't have to worry about an inquisitive cat wandering around knocking them over..... Or anyone else.

I hope this helps! If you've got questions feel free to ask away in the comments section and I'll do the best to answer with my experience. These were a fun craft to make and as I said including the wine and glue it cost me $30 or less to make the set of 2 glasses. I have seen these glasses sold in stores ranging in price from $15 each to $30 each depending on the store and quality. Yay for crafty Christmas!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I should be sleeping

But for some reason I can't seem to make myself pass out so enjoy some amusing photos from me.
Also I would really like this kitty who seems to think he's a penguin....l

My Culinary Hero: Anthony Bourdain

So I'm camped out in bed watching no reservations with Anthony Bourdain. If you're looking to read a great book by a chef and I've read many, his is at the top of my list, followed closely by Gordon Ramsey's, but really read Bourdain's first, i promise you wont be disappointed if you like food and debauchery. He's one of my favorite chefs and hosts and it's the San Francisco episode. This is a city on my culinary bucket list so I may be taking some notes here via my blog so I don't forget. I think the best quite I just heard which pretty much sums up why I love him is when he arrived he said "I'm famously unenthusiastic shall we say about vegans, but I enjoy bacon" if you can't read that sentence and immediately understand why I love Bourdain than I can't help you. So his first stop is Pirate Cat Radio where they have a maple bacon latte. It takes 10 pounds of bacon to make four ounces of refined bacon that goes into this beverage. I'm in!!! Wen I visit San Fransico I insist on beginning my day with one of these and god help anyone who tries to stop me.
Also I was unaware they love bacon so much in SF...l but obviously this is my Mecca. So many hippies... But also so much bacon, who would have guessed!
Oh boy he's hitting up the food trucks on international blvd, I'm so in. The food truck scene is so much different on the west coast than here on the east coast. I grew up here on the east coast where you start out thinking of NYC street food, usually something you aren't sure if you want to eat, but you always have to try it anyway. I can't go to NYC with out getting a dirty water hotdog and a soft pretzel, it's just one of those rules. While the gourmet food truck scene is just taking off here in the last 2 years they've been killing us with amazing street food on the west coast for years.
Also adding to my bucket list because everything he ate there looked amazing!! He also heads to japantown looking for dungeoness crab, one of my favorite things on the planet so where ever he ends up I'm in. Omg it looks amazing... Salt and pepper crab just eating it straight up... Sadly their website is under construction, but I'm bookmarking this for later .
Wen I finally make it there this is going to be an expensive food trip... On the upside not as bad as Vegas or Austin, Texas.

Plum Dandy!

More froyo have I mentioned that's one of my new weaknesses, it's so yummy and fun, plus since its low to no fat I don't feel so horrible. Also there are always so many toppings to try out. There is a great place in downtown Saratoga springs called Plum Dandy. The yogurt was kind of meh, basic flavors euro tart, chocolate, strawberry, cake batter, vanilla, the standards so nothing to write home about there. Feel free to check out their website but it doesn't really list flavors. Where they did stand out was the atmosphere, as you can see I took a bunch of photos of the decor because it was really nice. They also offer a lot of discounts, open mic nights, etc so you can tell they're really working to get a good crowd in there. They also had waffle bowls! I love a good waffle bowl, they always make me smile.
I'm not going to rush back there right away , but when I'm in downtown Saratoga I would consider stopping in again, though I won't lie. There is a great gelato place across the street so it might be kind of a hard sell.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Adventure! To the Asian supermarket part 2

So part two revolves around all the snack food I bought at the Asian supermarket. As I said in my previous post, I often can't understand the labels other than the pictures, so I just need to hope that what's on the package is actually what's inside the package!
I picked up some pocky, always a good treat, I like to keep them in my desk drawer because they're a little sweet treat without being overwhelming. Pocky is something I picked up while I was attending UAlbany because they used to sell it at the student union, they had a very large Japanese population at UAlbany.
I also got a box of meltyblend which is a super smooth piece of chocolate. I think I am in love with meltyblend because the pieces are small, but they really do melt in your mouth. I not going to lie, I bought 2 more boxes when I went back to pick up some more dumpling wrappers a couple days later. They were a little pricy... $3.99 a box, but not bad. They had a couple different flavors, I got the milk chocolate the first time, the second time I got another milk chocolate and one strawberry covered chocolate so the outside of the candy was chocolate flavored and the inside was strawberry. They also had a dark chocolate and a coffee flavor that I haven't tried yet.
I also decided to try some crispy nori sheets. I got the teriyaki flavor, and they also had some wasabi on them as well. I really don't like spicy stuff, especially wasabi, so this really wasn't up my alley at all, but it was neat to try. I won't be buying it again though, I'm not gonna lie....
I also bought some mango gummies, those were awesome! I could not stop eating those, they really tasted like mango, not like artificial mango. Then I also picked up some gummie clown fish. That's right, I bought gummie nemos. I didn't even know they existed, they were pretty lackluster and kind of stale, but it was really more of the wow factor, lol.
I hope you enjoyed part two of my shopping trip, I can't wait to share what I made from part one of my trip!

Lemondrop froyo

Decided to try out one of the new frozen yogurt shops that have popped up in the capital region over the past year. It seems like they've sprouted up like weeds, there are two TCBY shops, plus one of the malls has 2! Frozen yogurt places, plus a few random ones that are in strip malls. Lemondrop frozen yogurt happens to be one of those contained in the strip mall, actually conveniently in the same strip mall as trader joes!
Like most frozen yogurt shops Lemondrop is a chain, from the research I did it looks like it costs about $250,000 to open a franchise. This is the only one of this chain in the area, but it was nice and clean. It had the standard froyo shop where you have the row of soft serve machines and a bar of toppings and hot fudge, caramel sauce, etc.
It was very clean, I was a little dismayed that they only had one employee on at 6:30 on a Saturday night. That meant she was just running the register as it was relatively crowded. Normally when you go to a tcby or most of the froyo places they have an employee placed right by the machines just to offer you samples of the flavors so you can test them out. Since there was only one employee wedding have the benefit of testing out the flavors first.
We decided to wing it and go with what looked good. We got one bowl of euro tart and lemon tart with some fruit. That was the healthy bowl... Now on to my bowl of yummyiness!
I went a little more hardcore. I decided on the sea salt caramel pretzel yogurt and then a little bit of chocolate frozen yogurt. Normally I don't really like chocolate frozen yogurt, but with the pretzel flavor it really paired well. I also added caramel sauce, hot fudge, mini chocolate chips, and graham cracker crumbs. It was the perfect combination!
I love the frozen yogurt bars and their pay by the weight concept as well, I love getting to choose a bunch of toppings, plus I like getting a sundae, but can rarely eat the whole thing. I always feel bad ordering a $5 sundae knowing I will probably only eat half of it so to me this is the perfect solution. While I have tried many of the different shops and and many different flavors, my favorite still goes to one of the seasonal flavors at TCBY. This summer they came out with a toasted marshmallow flavor, which topped with some hot fudge, marshmallow topping, and graham cracker crumbs made me unbelievable happy. I was so sad to see it go away at the end of September and I'm hoping it will reappear next summer.
Sadly now after writing this I'm debating wether a trip to get some froyo is out of the question this evening..... It's only about 15ish minutes away.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A treat

This last week has been kind of rough, I've been going through some medical stuff that hasn't been super fun, nothing too major, but I had to have an EKG and an ultrasound of my heart. Nothing too major, I'm trying to convince myself it sounds scarier than it really was, but it was a bit scary. They also changed around some medications so I will probably be out of whack for about 2 weeks. O the upside this weekend is a long 3 day weekend so I'm trying to recuperate. The mess have been making me very sleepy though, I actually slept until 9:30 this morning, I know that doesn't sound like much to mot people, but I'm usually up by 7:30 everyday so it's late for me.
Enough about my scary medical crap, let's talk about the treat I got to enjoy because of all the stress I've been getting through. It's taken me forever to eat this pint of fancy gelato because I only eat like 8 spoonfuls at a time and then put it in the freezer where no one else's an find it.
It's taienti gelato, double dark chocolate and it is spectacular. It's very rich, hence why I can only have a few spoonfuls at a time. Like most gelato it is very smooth, it is a dark chocolate gelato with dark chocolate chips mixed into it.
I addicted and want to try other flavors, but I have to finish this pint first. There are only so many hiding spots in the freezer. If I leave it out in plain sight I won't get more than a spoonful, and that's if I'm lucky, lol!

Eggnog cheesecake

For Christmas this year I made eggnog cheesecake! It was one of my best cheesecakes ever, and even people who don't really like straight up eggnog (even I only like it in small doses) ate it like nobodies business. Since this is one of my made up recipes, but it's a variation on my regular cheesecake, I'll share my recipe here! As I've said before one of the secrets to my cheesecake is mixing all my ingredients in a food processor to make it extra smooth. For this cheesecake I used a gram cracker crust (normally I prefer vanilla wafers) I just grind them up in the food processor and mix it with some melted butter before spreading it out in a greased springform pan. Then I toast the crust in the ovens for about 10 minutes at 400 to get it golden brown.
So here is the eggnog cheesecake recipe, it was super yummy and a bit addicting. Just combine all of the following ingredients into your food processor and blend. 3 bricks of cream cheese, 2 eggs, 2 cups of eggnog, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, and a generous pinch of nutmeg. I did the nutmeg to taste so to speak and it was probably two good size pinches since this will make a large 10" cheesecake. I also don't water bath my cheesecake, I just cook the, in the oven at 425 for 25 minutes and then turn the oven off. Don't take the cheesecake out, don't open the oven, just leave it in there for 45 minutes. At that point you should be able to pick it and have the pick come out clean and as long as you don't move it I don't tend to have cracks.
Sorry I don't have a better photo of the cheesecake, it got eaten and devoured and then divided up for people to take home. I was told it tasted just like eggnog and better in some cases because it was appreciated by people who don't even normally like eggnog.
I hope you enjoyed, this is as close as you will ever get to my cheesecake recipe, because that's one I plan to save until I have my own kids to pass it on to, I won't even tell my mother or family members exactly how I make it!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Movie night!

I'm camped out on the couch watching the Casey Anthony lifetime movie on the couch with dad doing some blogging. Dad made me some popcorn (light butter) and I sprinkled old bay on it. It's awesome, don't knock it till you try it, but if you enjoy Maryland crabs with old bay you'll like it. I got the tip from my former foodie pen pal at she's from Maryland and loves old bay as much as I do.
Now for some fun stuff!

Adventure! To the Asian supermarket part 1

This is a couple days old, but recently I took a trip to the Asian supermarket (that's literally the name) I had a fret trip, they had some cool stuff and I always love their produce section. I bought some ramune to drink (melon flavor of course) and also restocked my supply of soy sauce. Then I came across ponzu sauce, which I had heard chef morimoto use on iron chef so you know I had to pick some up. It's actually pretty good, it's a citrus infused soy sauce, I ended up using it like a soy sauce on strips of zucchini where it really brightened up the dish.
From the meat and seafood sections (they have a great meat and seafood section) I picked up some duck wings to roast, some cleaned squid, and snail meat. You can also see in this photo I picked up some dumpling wrappers (more about those in a later post). They have great seafood, everything from fresh fish (some of it still swimming in tanks), turtles, crabs, shrimp, and lots of sushi grade fresh fish. The meat section is also nice, they have whole cleaned duck for 3.99 a pound (usually double that and frozen at a regular store) they also had pork belly, which I've been dying to try and cook. I didn't have the guts to pick it up this last trip, but it's on my radar for future trips.
Next over to the veggies! I bought tons of bok choy for only 99 cents a pound, some mini eggplants, garlic, and a giant bag of oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms were gorgeous and again if I haven't stressed it enough the prices were great. I got all of this stuff on my shopping trip (including the snacks you will see in part two) for only $55.
They had whole sugar canes, which were almost as tall as me and really pretty looking dragon fruit. They also had sweet longan out to try. I had never had it (obviously) and figured why not give it a shot. It was interesting because it had a hard shell, the outside kind of reminded me of a peanut shell in strength not in texture. I took a whole one and broke it open and tasted it. It was pretty good kind of meaty texture and not too sweet. It reminded me of a grape on the inside, and it has a big seed in the center.
Part two to come, that details all the yummy snacks and junk food I bought on the trip.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Roasted artichoke hearts

Part of my trader joes shopping trip was picking up a bag of frozen artichoke hearts. They're a great healthy vegetable that doesn't need to be saved just for dips! I let them thaw and laid them out on a foil lined cookie sheet and drizzled them with olive oil. Then I sprinkled them with some sea salt and some minced garlic. I roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes or until brown and toasty, not too crispy. They made a great side dish and were very healthy!
I also made a London broil steak and sliced some zucchini on the mandoline at 1/8 thickness and sautéed them in a pan with a very small amount of olive oil and some soy sauce. All in all it was a great meal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Smokey roasted potatoes

One of the cool things I picked up while at trader joes was a couple bags of "trader joes tiny potatoes" essentially they are yummy little fingerling potatoes. I always love working with fingerling potatoes because you can roast them whole pretty quickly and they're like little bite sized bits of happiness. They're also great because you can roast them whole with the skins on maintaining most of the nutrients.
I decided I wanted to do something a little different than my usual roasted potatoes with rosemary and thyme so I looked through my spice cabinet. I decided to make some smokey fingerling potatoes!

2 lbs fingerling (or trader joes tiny potatoes)
Some liquid smoke
Coarse sea salt
Powdered Garlic

Step 1: preheat oven to 400 degrees and wash the potatoes, make sure you clean the first off since you won't be pealing them.
Step 2: put all your potatoes in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and about 5-6 shakes of liquid smoke. Then take a spoon and mix them up in the bowl so that each potato is coated evenly.
Sep 3: sprinkle with a three pinches of sea salt (potatoes are one of those veggies that eat sea salt like nobody's business and you need to use a little more than you think you normally would. Then sprinkle with garlic powder and mix again making sure they are evenly coated. Feel free to add extra sea salt and garlic to make sure the potatoes are fully covered as you stir.
Step 4: at this point they should begin to smell great and you haven't even put them in the oven yet! Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and then spread the potatoes out on the pan. Try to make sure they lay flat not piling them on top of each other. You may need two cookie sheets depending on how many potatoes you make.
Step 5: toss the pan in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes. They should get a nice brown and they should be fork tender.

These potatoes were a huge hit, and a bit addicting. Im known in my family fro making the best herb roasted potatoes, but I even had requests for people to bring thee instead. I bed they'll make a great summertime side during picnic or backyard bbqs.