Monday, April 28, 2008

Apr 28: Noodles with Pork and Mushrooms

I was looking in the refrigerator and found some mushrooms I had purchased a week ago. I don't remember why I bought the mushrooms so I improvised. Also, I was craving fresh noodles.

The Fixins'

3 or 4 C of mushrooms, cut into quarters
1/2 onion, 1/2" dice
1/2 C carrots, sliced thin
1 C cabbage, shredded
9 oz fresh noodles
8 oz thinly sliced pork, marinaded with a little soy, garlic, green onions and a little corn starch

The mushrooms were washed and quartered. There was about 3 cups. I purposely left them chunky so they would add some texture.

The cabbage, carrots and onion.

The noodles were cooked in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drained and rinsed.

Before pan-frying, I gave the noodles a coating of soy sauce (about 1 tablespoon), some green onions (2 small, chopped), about 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, a dash of garlic powder and 1/2 Tablespoon of oyster sauce. The noodles were mixed and tossed in a hot pan with oil.

I like pan-frying the noodles. The noodles crispy up slightly which adds a little extra flavor.

The noodles were set aside.

On medium-high heat, the pork was sauteed about 5 minutes before the mushrooms were added. Afterwards the rest of the veggies were added and cooked about 3 to 5 minutes.

Finally the noodles were added back to the mixture and incorporated.

The Final Dish

The stir fried noodles were plated and topped with a spoonful of chili paste.

The dish was flavorful and the noodles were dry and flavorful. Just the way I like it. If you like your noodles and stir fry a little saucy, you can add some chicken broth and a little corn starch to form a sauce.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Apr 27: Biscuits and Gravy in a Box

I grew up on the West Coast where biscuits and gravy was not a common breakfast item. Biscuits and gravy is typical of the South and Midwest. In fact, I didn't know such heavenly goodness existed until my senior year in college. At least, I don't remember having biscuits and gravy before hand.

In my senior year, I was part of a group that went to Cleveland to present our aircraft designs in a student conference.

Why Cleveland? The city with the river that caught on fire? The city that's known as the "mistake by the lake"?

The funding for the project was provided by NASA. Each year a different NASA facility would host the student conference. That year NASA Lewis* (in Cleveland) was the host site**.

What does this have to do with biscuits and gravy?

Well, we were in Cleveland for about a week so we ate out daily.

One restaurant near the hotel was a Bob Evans. Bob Evans serves classic American food.
That's were I experienced my first order of biscuits and gravy. The sausage gravy was creamy, savory and peppered with little bits of tasty sausage. Gravy was served over crunchy on the outside, yet tender and fluffy on the inside biscuits. That entire week I ordered biscuits and gravy every time we went to the Bob Evans.

Imagine my surprise when I was walking through the supermarket and I spied the Bob Evans name on frozen Biscuits and Gravy. I had to try it out. It was on-sale for $2.50.

There were instructions for the microwave and the oven.
The gravy was heated in the microwave and the biscuit in the oven.

Overall, the gravy was flavorful, but a little salty/msg tasting. Indicative of a processed food. I was worried that the biscuits would be little dense, hockey pucks, but they turned out well. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Also, ample amounts of gravy to coat the biscuits.

Although I know how to make gravy, I just haven't been able to create a decent batch of sausage gravy. I think it has to do with the sausage available at the local market. Even the much advertised, nationally known brand is plain and flavorless to me.

I'm still searching for a good breakfast sausage to make my own country gravy, but in a pinch and for $.250, it's not bad. One thing I'd do differently next time is not microwave the gravy the full 5 minutes. My microwave would get the job done in 4 minutes. I did notice a drop-off in flavor at 5 minutes compared to the stir I gave at 4 minutes.

Food evokes pleasant memories...
Comfort Food: food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal

Comfort Food: Food that is simply prepared and associated with a sense of home or contentment.

*Note: NASA Lewis is now known as NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field or just NASA Glenn.

** Note: The following year, the senior class went to Florida. Although I had a great time in Cleveland, I still would have preferred going to Florida!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Apr 24: Teriyaki Take-Out

When I lived in New Orleans, poor boy sandwich shops were a common sight in neighborhoods. In the Puget Sound, the common corner restaurants are teriyaki places. There's probably just as many teriyaki joints as Starbucks. That's a lot! lol!

Some are Japanese-owned, Chinese-owned, Filipino-owned and Vietnamese-owned. However, a majority are Korean-owned family businesses.

Today, I was feeling tired and lazy. Also, I haven't had a chance to shop for groceries or as they say in New Orleans, "make groceries".

The special of the day - Chicken Teriyaki and Gyoza.
A container of teriyaki sauce (sweet and thick) and gyoza dipping sauce (not as sweet and thinner).

Comes with a simple lettuce salad. The dressing is a simple slightly sweet poppy seed dressing. At least, I hope those little black dots in the dressing are poppy seeds. :-)

I also supersized the meal by ordering a side of stir-fried vegetables. Mainly shredded cabbage with a (one) brocolli spear, sliced zucchini and shredded carrots making a token appearance.

Overall, you can't go wrong with grilled meat and dumplings. The stir-fried veggies were a bit on the oily side and had a weird flavor. However, the meal hit the spot and I'll have enough for lunch and the start for dinner the next day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Apr 23: Dang Expensive Dog Treats

I have two dang mischievous dogs. The one thing about having dogs, especially dogs with sensitive noses, is you need to put stuff up. Many parents know this as "baby-proofing".

They do have names, but today they're known as D.D. and D.D.D.

The younger dog on the left is called, "D.D." for Dang Dog.
The older dog on the right is called , "D.D.D." for Dang Dirty Dog.

Imagine my surprise when I found some chewed up cash upon returning home from work.

A chewed up $1 - almost half devoured.

A $5 with pieces missing.

Finally, a $20 with a couple corners gone.

Doing the math... A bill weighs about 0.9 grams where 1 gram = 0.0022 lbs
$1/0.9/0.0022 = $505 per pound
$5/0.09/0.0022 = $2,525 per pound
$20/0.9/0.0022 = $10,100 per pound
Total = $13,130 per pound

That's some dang expensive dog treats.

I know D.D. chewed the cash. He's done that in the past.
D.D.D. is more interested in trash cans. Hence, the extra D in his name. :-)
Of course, it was my bad for leaving the bills out, but dang it.

On the upside, at least DD knew to chew up the less expensive bills first. He barely touched the $20. Also, I can probably exchange the cash at the bank for the full value.

Dang dogs! lol :-D

I also have a D.C.

Dang Cat... didn't do anything, but I believe in sharing the dang love.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Apr 20: Red Egg and Ginger Party

Baby CT had a Red Egg and Ginger Party.

A Red Egg and Ginger Party is a Chinese tradition where a baby is introduced to the world at his one month birthday. In our modern times, the party can be held at a later age.

Red represents happiness and good luck.
Eggs represent fertility and life renewing.
Ginger goes back to the belief that our bodies when in harmony contain a balance of male/female energy. Also, sometimes called yin and yang, or hot and cold energy. Our bodies can be rebalanced by the food we eat since foods have male and female energy, hot and cool, yin and yang. Giving birth is female energy and ginger contains hot/male energy that rebalances the energy in the body.

CT resting the night before the party. Awww.... cute chubby cheeks. :-)

CT at the Red Egg and Ginger Party.
Note: the red eggs and red ginger - doubly lucky.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Apr 18 - A bad case of dandruff?

Is this a horrible case of dandruff or what?

Fortunately, not this time.

It's April 18th in the Spring and it's snowing!
What's going on here?
I thought we were actually going to get more than 5 days of sunshine for April.

Looks like my carrots and beets are going to be coming in later than expected. I'm sure the snow has put the seeds in hibernation mode. Also, I'll probably have to resow the seeds, but now it's just wait and see. I should start some indoors, but I was hoping to just "set it and forget it" outside.

The tulips are taking a beating... not to be confused with a beeting. However, tulips bloom and die back which is part of the natural cycle.

Even the rosemary is feeling the chill.

Update: Al Pastor
As I cooked the Al Pastor pork over a few days, I noticed that the flavor was definitely sweeter than the first day. If I'm making al pastor on short notice, to be cooked that day, I'll probably use pineapple juice, but if I'm going to let the pork marinade the tamarind juice wasn't bad. Also, I'll use less marinade so the pork has a lighter coating instead of swimming in the sauce.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Apr 14 - Al Pastor ?

I've been craving Mexican grilled pork - Al Pastor.
My first taste of Al Pastor was in college. The local restaurant cooked it on the griddle. It was a reddish flavorful meat. Not really spicy hot and faintly sweet. The griddle gave the meat a little crispiness.

Finding a recipe online was difficult. Also, reading online, traditional Al Pastor is roasted on a vertical broiler like a gyro - traditional Al Pastor.

After working my recipe, I looked up Rick Bayless. Rick Bayless is an American Chef who specialized in Mexican cuisine. I became aware of him through his PBS cooking show. Rick Bayless Al Pastor

The Fixins'

2 Guajillo chiles
2 Ancho Pasilla chiles
Soaked in hot water until soft.
Dried Chile Info

1/2 Onion
Juice of 1 Lemon
1/2 to 1 t Dried Basil
1/2 to 1 t Dried Mexican Oregano
Achiote - red annato. I think it's mainly used for color

I didn't have pineapple juice or pineapples. I remember reading that tamarind was used. This is the closest I could find for tamarind. Tamarind is a sour fruit that's often used for flavoring. Tasting this juice. It's not really sweet or that sour. I'll give it a shot.

The easy part was throwing every thing into the blender. The chiles were seeded and stemmed. The mixture was poured onto thinly sliced country style ribs. Hmm... I should add more pork, but I didn't.

I let the pork marinade for about an hour. Afterwards, I cooked a small portion in a hot skillet.

The Final Plate
I had a cheese bagel so I made a Sorta Torta. Tortas are Mexican sandwiches made on a roll.
I kept it simple... Well, I didn't have any avocado, lettuce or tomatoes. It was still good.

Overall, the flavor was good, the chiles were not hot, but added flavor. However, it did lack the sweetness I remember. Maybe some pineapple next time around... Also, more garlic.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Apr 12 - Gardening: Spring Planting

The weather is getting better and we actually had some sun today. A 70 degree heat wave... lol

The neighbors were out in force these past two days mowing their lawn. Of course, I'm the last one to do it. I wonder what my rep in the 'hood is like.

The dandelions dotting my lawn have pretty yellow flowers. Also, the tulips are adding some color to the neighborhood.

I can't resist looking into the flower.

What's all this have to do with food and eating?

Well... this seasons project is to plant beets and carrots. I can't use the backyard because the dogs will trample the garden. Also, the sunlight is better in the front of the house. Container gardening to the rescue! :-)

Beets seeds. Apparently, beet seeds are actually cut up pieces of pod that contain more than one seed.

Carrots seeds. These seeds are tiny. One sneeze and I'm growing carrots in my lawn. lol. Of course, I can't stick with normal looking carrots. I picked these ball looking carrots. I'm such a rebel. lol.

My container and the el-cheapo potting soil. See the dandelion flower sneaking in the photo. :-)

I added some perlite to the potting soil in an effort to lighten it up and help with drainage. The potting soil contains perlite so I'm not sure if this is pointless step.

For the beets the package recommends 4" spacing. The top of a drinking cup was used as a guide. Again, probably overkill again, but I'm a geek and measure things out. Of course, this assumes all the seeds will germinate. Typically, people just sow the seeds and thin to 4". Not me, I have faith.

After the beets seeds were positioned. I covered them with a 1" layer of potting soil. For the top layer, I mixed in a handful of lime to "sweeten" the soil... push the pH level to the alkaline side. Beets apparently like alkaline soil. We'll see how it works.

For the carrot seeds, since they are so small I just scattered them onto the soil and covered with a light layer of potting soil. For the carrots, I'll eventually thin to 2" spacing... according to the package.

Red Container for beets... White container for carrots.
Hopefully, my cat will keep the squirrels away.

GERMINATION: 2 to 3 weeks in warm weather.
Approximately 59 days to maturity.

GERMINATION: Approximately 2 weeks in temperatures of 60 degrees.
50 to 60 days to maturity.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Apr 10 - Bonus Post: SNL Parody of Top Chef

I enjoy watching the reality cooking show Top Chef on Bravo - Top Chef Season 4.

Reading Chowhound, Saturday Night Live did a parody of the show with Christopher Walken.

This clip is posted on the food website Serious Eats.

I noticed on the clip there was an "embed" button.
Being new at this blog stuff... I decided to give it a try to see if it would work... It appears that it does. If you don't see the video image on my blog, click on "s n l - t o p c h e f" and it will take you to the Serious Eats website.


Edit... Apr 26, 2008. The clip has been moved off of the Serious Eats website so the link is deleted. However, Serious Eats is still an enjoyable website so if you get a chance check out what else they have.

Apr 10 - Unique Ramen

Awhile back I was at an Asian market, I was amazed at the variety of ramen noodles - different flavors, manufacturers, packaging colors and from different countries.

This is only 2/3rds of the aisle of noodles. There's more!

For ramen, I'm familiar with chicken, beef, pork and oriental flavors. For the noodles in a cup, there's also a shrimp flavor. For my purchase I wanted to try something different.

I found a Kimchi flavored ramen from Korea. Kimchi is fermented Nappa cabbage that is usually a little tart, savory from the salt used to kick-off the fermentation process and fiery from the red chili powder.

Noodles look typical.

Cooking was simple. Bring 2.25 cups water to boil. Add the seasoning pack and noodles. Simmer 4 minutes.

The finished noodles, unadorned so I can get the flavor of the ramen without additions.

The ramen was actually quite tasty. The noodles seemed to be just a little thicker than my typical brand. This gave the noodles a little more texture and firmness which I liked. Better than the mushy regular stuff.

The flavor was slightly oniony and the red peppers added a nice little punch. Fortunately, there was no tartness like real kimchi. I think that would have made for a very weird bowl of noodles if the taste was exactly like kimchi.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Apr 8 - Ribs

Roasted the other half of the rack of spare ribs from the other day.

Really simple...
Sprinkle salt and black pepper on the ribs.
You can also use your favorite seasoning mix or dry rub.

Also, I had some about 1/3 to 1/2 bottle of hard cider leftover... poured that into the baking dish.

Bake 350F for 2 hours starting with the meat side up.
After an hour flipped so bone side is up.

Last 30 minutes... gave the ribs a brush of bbq sauce and finished meat side up. I don't like sauce on my ribs so I gave it a very light coating.

The finished results

Cut down the bone.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Apr 5 - Ribs, Sausage and Sauerkraut

I had sauerkraut leftover from my Reuben sandwiches and was trying to figure out what to do with bag of fermented cabbage.

I was not craving sauerkraut as a condiment but craving sauerkraut in some type of braised dish. In college, I remember the dining hall served sauerkraut and sausage, but the stuff that the dining hall served was pungent and quite sour. If memory serves me right, I seem to recall that didn't finish my lunch that day. Huh! Yes, I know that's a shocker. However, cooked sauerkraut sounded appealing to me. Maybe something stuck in the back of my mind from the cooking shows I watch.

I knew I wanted to use pork and sauerkraut. I looked on allrecipes for sauerkraut recipes. The recipes all seemed straight forward so I winged it.

Another bonus, I was looking in the back of my refrigerator and found a bottle of hard apple cider. Hard apple cider is similar to Martinelli's sparkling cider but with alcohol and a little on the dry side, which makes sense since some of the sugars are converted to alcohol. I was hoping the apples/sugars would help mellow out the sauerkraut.

The Fixin's
1/2 slab (6 or 7 bones) Spare ribs - I used half a slab just in case the recipe turned out terrible
2.5 C (about 20 oz) Sauerkraut - rinsed and drained
1/2 lb Kielbasa Sausage
1 Fuji Apple, chopped - I like Fuji's for their firm, crispy flesh and are very sweet
Garlic powder
Salt and Pepper
4 cups (about) Russet Potatoes cut into 2"/3" chunks

Ribs are cut and seasoned with a little garlic powder (1/2 teaspoon), salt and pepper.

Lightly browned the ribs in a Dutch oven. Added the apples on top.

Layered in the sauerkraut and sausage on top. Simmer on the stove top for 2 hours.

My idea with layering was the apples would flavor the pork, the sauerkraut would flavor the apples and pork and on top the sausage would flavor everything below. Does it really make a difference? Probably not. Just a wild hair.

After the first hour, I gave the mixture a stir to mix all the ingredients.
I added and mixed in the potatoes for the last hour.

After two hours of simmering the dish was plated.

The Final Dish
Sausage, sauerkraut, potatoes, ribs and buttered dark rye bread.

Overall, the dish turned out very good. The sauerkraut was very mellow. You could taste a little sourness, but was not overwhelming. In fact, I was a little underwhelmed. The potatoes were soft and mash-able on the plate. A little butter and the juices from the braised mixed very well with the potatoes. The pork itself was a little stringy. The half slab was from the portion away from the breast bone. The meat away from the breast bone (sternum) tends to be from the diaphragm which can be stringy.

The sauerkraut - when the dish was simmering there was no stinky odor permeating the house. Probably due to the fact that the sauerkraut itself was mellower to start out with and due to the rinsing. In fact, if I make this dish again, I may not rinse the sauerkraut in order to get a stronger flavor.

The pork - depending upon the recipes different cuts were used: ribs, loin roast, pork chops... etc. I picked spare ribs. I was craving ribs and ribs were on sale. Next time, I'd stick with chops or a roast. Country style ribs would probably work too. For spare ribs, I would use the end towards the breast bone or back ribs.

The apples - the flavor the the apples were cooked out. There was no hint of apple in the dish. I'm sure the sugars added to the flavor of the whole dish, but definitely no apple taste. Maybe a teaspoon of sugar would work if you have no apples or a granny smith if you want an apple flavor.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Apr 3 - Spring Flowers

After a few days of snow followed by rain, the sun made it's appearance for a couple days. Just enough for more tulips to bloom.

The blooms seemed to open up, reaching out to absorb he rays from our yellow sun.

What's so fascinating about the tulips is that these bulbs have been very hearty. I leave them in the ground and they have been coming back in spring. Each year has been a different color. This year is a vibrant, bright yellow.

Another fascinating points is the tulips open up. To absorb heat? By evening the tulips close back to a tight bundle.

Absorbing the rays and taking a breath of fresh air.

Wow! So yellow!

Solar collectors deployed... lol! I'm a geek!

PS... I think we got our quota of sunshine this month. :-)