Wednesday, December 27, 2006

And I'm telling you...

I am going...TO DREAMGIRLS. Friday, J and I have a girly movie date with girl married where we will be watching Dreamgirls. Am I excited? You bet I am. I don't even care if it's bad (and we all know that Beyonce can't act for shit). I am dying to hear Jennifer Hudson sing "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going."

Southern Cooking

So it's the last day of our sojourn in Texas and I'm sad to go. I spent yesterday in an orgy of Texas womanliness, accompanying J's mother on her trips to Jo-Ann's Fabrics (I'm making her a quilt), Hancock Fabrics (more quilting), Michael's (Half price wrapping paper and gift labels), and World Market (gift basket fillers). My only regret is that we can't stay until New Year's and crash the Gourmet Club progressive dinner where my in-laws will host the salad course and someone who hates cooking will host the entree. BTW if any of y'all have a suggestion on a salad that will knock the socks off of the Adult Active Living Community Gourmet Club, send them over.

I have cooked every single day of our eight day trip to Texas and loved every single minute of it. We arrived Tuesday night at midnight so that doesn't count.

Wednesday - Made pie crust for apple crostadas and blueberry pie.

Thursday - Made spinach and ricotta filling and chicken sausage and pepperoni filling for calzones. Made the blueberry pie. If any of you are out in the Dallas area, hit the Gaylord Texan buffet. Unlike normal troughlike buffets, this has a focus on traditional Tex-Mex dishes ewhich leads to a consistency of quality that most buffets can't acheive. I highly recommend the pork mole and the tortilla soup.

Friday - Made the apple crostadas for Saturday's lunch. Dinner with friends. On the menu was a salad with cranberries and sugared pecans, two kinds of calzones (actually four if you count the ones made with Pillsbury Crescent Dough), and a blueberry pie for dessert.

Saturday - The lunch with the BIG family that included all of J's cousins and their families. There are two forms of jell-o salad.

Sunday - Made won tons and Barefoot Contessa sour cream coffee cake for Monday. Repurposed leftover calzone filling to make a deep dish Chicago style pizza. Made an heirloom tomato salad with a balsamic reduction (mmmmm reduction!). Dessert was a calvacade of Christmas cookies.

Monday - Christmas with the immediate family. MIL make her famous cheese grits along with roasted fruit and what is just called "egg dish." Won tons and coffe cake are eaten.

Tuesday - We had all this leftover shrimp from the won tons so I made Paula Deens shrimp croquettes with homemade aioli and sauteed some sugar snap peas in butter, garlic and a touch of maple syrup.

It's been nice to have the time and the kitchen and the mother in law who keeps the kitchen spotless. No seriously, I haven't had to do any cleaning this entire week. I just keep cooking and the kicthen get magically cleaned. Merry post Christmas y'all. We'll give a report from New Year's!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Things You Learn in Texas

While I can keep the swearing down to a minimum, I use the phrase "oh my god" a whole ffing lot. I have been put in time out by our nephew about eight times.

On the food front we highly recommend El Fenix in Grapevine where the enchiladas are remarking ungreasy and the sauce is strongly spiced.

It's Christmas Eve and I am dying to see the looks on all our loved when when they open our presents to them. HEE!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

All I want for Christmas is...

A lot. This is my Christmas wish list. I am intentionally writing it fiove days before Christmas with full knowledge that J has already bought my present and am sure said present will be fabulous.

1. Another bunch of vanilla beans (although that is less a possibility now that vanilla beans are a million dollars a pod)

2. A subscription to Fine Cooking Magazine

3. Another bunch of Meyer Lemons.

4. A cooling rack

5. A splatter screen

6. A cast iron skillet

7. Barefoot Contessa at Home.

8. Barefoot Contessa Family Style

9. Prosecco and a wide variety of fruit purees for bellinis

10. A lot more generosity of spirit in the world to let ourselves and each other off the hook.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006



I think people who love to cook are the best people to give presents to since there are many inexpensive things you can get us and those things will usually end up being used to make things for the giver. So gimme! Gimme! Gimme! In all seriousness, I am the easiest person to shop for since I love to cook and I also quilt and $2.99 fat quarters are always welcome in my Christmas stocking. But this is a food blog not a quilting blog so here’s a list for you.

Best Food Related Gifts I have Ever Gotten:

5. 12 place settings of Pottery Barn’s blue Asian square plates that includes a dinner plate, salad plate, and teacup. All courtesy of my mother’s cousins, the children of my Great Aunt, Ba Yi. It’s certainly nice to have formal china. BTW, one of the best pieces of advice we were ever given was by J’s sister, JDD. She told us not to register at Crate and Barrel for dishes because they had a tendency to chip. So we registered at Williams Sonoma for everyday white Bistro place settings and Pottery Barn for our formal china.

4. Vanilla Beans given to me as a stocking stuffer from J. I hoard them like they were diamonds or something and only use them when I REAAAALLLY need them because I love them so. The aroma that real vanilla beans give to a dessert is incomparable. I simply cannot imagine make a crème anglaise without them.

3. The 200 spring rolls that my mother bought for me at the Vietnamese deli in Little Saigon (in the O.C.) and packed in a Styrofoam ice chest for me to bring home to DC. My mother insists the Vietnamese food is better in Orange County and I’d have to agree. For our rehearsal dinner hosted by my uncle in Great Falls, my mother brought ice chests of Vietnamese food from the O.C. The 200 spring rolls were gratefully and heartily consumed at this year’s post-apple picking potluck.

2. The stand mixer that J’s parents gave to us for Christmas 2002. I use this ALL THE FREAKING TIME! I seriously cannot imagine life without it. Does that make the stand mixer my baby? At what point does it become real like the Velveteen Rabbit because I love it so?

1. Also comes from J’s parents, our dining room table. It was a horse race between this and the stand mixer but having a real live dining room table to have dinner on has changed our lives. I love it when we make a nice multi-course dinner and can set the table. I love how many dinner parties we’ve had on it. And I love the dinner parties to come.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A few mini-reviews

Sorry for the radio silence the past week. I was in Houston and New Orleans for the past week, eating exclusively Asian food in Houston and exclusively southern food in New Orleans. It was certainly a food extravaganza.

In Houston, I was organizing a community meeting for Asians on the issue that I work on. Therefore we were staying near the Hong Kong Market and what is eseentially the Eden Center of Houston. If the Eden Center were on steroids. Huge huge strip malls with tons of Asian supermarkets, restaurants and stores. The shining light of all of this? Lee's Sandwiches!!!! I got my co-workers hooked on Lee's and we went there three times in two days. Lee's, a chain started in Alameda, CA, is a kind of 50's drive through of Vietnamese delis. They have various stations of Asian food. One for bubble tea and sweet bean dessert. One for French pastries and gelato in Asian flavors such as lychee and mango. And finally, one for Vietnamese savory items such as spring rolls, pate chauds (essentially Vietnamese empanadas filled with the Vietnamese cousin to shu mai filling), and finally the sandwiches. Oh the sandwiches. Let's start with the bread because that stuff is good. The bread is kind of a cross between a rustic ciabatta and a soft on the inside/hard on the outside baguette. It's light and crusty without having too hard of a crust. Like most sandwich shops you can choose between various fillings that include cha (Vietnamese spam, don't knock it till you try it!), Vietnamese headcheese, shu mai meat, Chinese BBQ pork, and Vietnamese chicken. The sandwiches are stuffed with pickled carrots and daikon radish, pate, homemade mayonnaise, cilantro, and jalepeno peppers. The sandwiches run about $2.50 and you can buy huge croissants for $1.00. Dear Lee's Sandwiches, please come to Chinatown!!!!

In New Orleans, the standout restaurant was Deanie's a local seafood restaurant with a large a vocal following. From my hosts who lived in New Orleans for the past ten years (excluding the time they spent in Miami due to a Hurricane Katrina), this was pure New Orleans food. The decor was pure local dive complete with fake paneling and formica tabletops. From listening around, my friends and I were the only people not talking in Southern, if not cajun accents. I was gleefully looking forward to my meal. The food didn't disappoint. Rather than bread, we snacked on boiled new potatoes. I don't know how they did it but the potatoes had a warm earthy flavor of their own. They only needed a bare sliver of butter. We split an order of BBQ shrimp. Forgot the sweet tomatoey sauces (which I love), this was a sublime mixture of butter, lemon, spices, thymes and shrimpy goodness. The flavorful succulent shrimp were almost beside the point. We were dipping shrimp, breead, and finally, onion rings into that mess of shrimpy goodness. The biggest compliment I could give, if it were socially appropriate, I would have licked of plate of shrimp clean to continue to taste that sauce. One of my friends wisely ordered the BBQ shrimp pasta which was the BBQed shrimp with pasta and a touch of cream. I regret not ordering it but if I were at Deanie's I simply had to order the Giant Seafood Plate, which I shared with a friend of my hosts. Actually we ordered the HALF SIZED Giant Seafood platter, that consisted of a foot tall mountain of soft shell crab, crawfish balls, shrimp, oysters, catfish and french fries. All fried. If this restaurant could batter fry water, it would, and it would have tasted SOOOOO good. I am not a food waster but we could finish only half of the half sized giant seafood platter. The only down side was the horribly slow service. We saw three other tables that were seated at the same time as us, come and go before we even got our entree.

Back at home, J and I went with our friends the Marrieds to Rustico last night. The food was its usual wonderful self. We went to Buzz afterwards, an oh so trendy coffeehouse and dessert place across the street. Apparently, it's the only place open past 11:00pm in all of Alexandria. Anyway, I had the most bizaare service there. When I went to place my order and asked for a creme brulee, the person behind the counter asked in a snippy voice, "Well HOW are YOU?" Not a perky "how are you doing tonight?" But a hostile, "how ARE YOU!" Umm, fine? Then when I went to pay, I was trying to give the guy exactly change and he just gave me a dirty look. I'm sorry for ordering the creme brulee!

Anyway, we are off to J's parents tomorrow where hopefully we will have much to write about.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Griddle cakes from Thanksgiving

This was the standout from Thanksgiving. I love them unabashedly.

Herbed Griddle Cakes with Pear and Blue Cheese Topping

1 cup of self rising flour (or 1 cup regular flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of milk

2 tablespoons of any herb mixture (the recipe called for parsley and sage but I used parsley and chive)

For the topping

3 1/2 oz of gorgonzola or any kind of blue cheese
2 1/2 oz of cream cheese
For both of the cheeses, you don't have to be exact
2 teaspoons brandy (I substituted marsala)
1 large ripe green skinned pear
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and milk and mix until combined. Add the herbs. Heat a large nonstick frying pan overm edium heat and spray with cooking spray. Drop heaped teaspoons of batter into the pan and flatten them to give them 2-inch circles. Cook until bubbles appear in the surface of the cake and flip them over. Lift to cool on a wire rack.

To make topping beat the cheeses and booze together until smooth. Season with pepper. Cut pear in half and peel and core one half, then dice it into 1/4 inch chunks, leaving the other half untouched. Stir the diced pear into the cheese mixture. Core the other half of hte pear but do not peel. THinly slice the lear lengthways and cut each slice into 1-inch triangles with green skin on one side. Squeeze some lemon juice over the sliced pear to prevent discoloration.

Spread 1 teaspoon topping over each cake and arrange pear triangles on top.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Station Break

So have you seen the Jennifer Aniston St. Jude's Children Center ad? It's hilarious. J and I cannot stop laughing. So Jennifer Aniston is in some well-appointed living room hanging out with a little bald girl. The bald girl is all kinds of adorable and Jennifer is very warm and friendly to her, speaking in the singsong voice you do when you're trying to let a child know you like them. Like "HEL-LOOOO Susie! THAT'S a pretty DRESS you have on!" So the little girl is talking about how she would get headaches all the time because she hit her head on a trampoline. So Jennifer Aniston goes into a sad little girl voice and says "but it wasn't the trampoline." She then turns directly to the camera and says "IT. WAS. CANCER!" The sudden switch from singsong and sad to "germs in hotel beds will kill you" voice is so hilarious. I really wish we had a reaction from the little girl with cancer to Jennifer Aniston's voice of doom because J and I kept rewinding the TiVo five or six times to hear Jennifer Aniston go "but it wasn't the trampoline (small sad voice), IT WAS CANCER!" You can't pay for that kind of comedy. Since then, J and I have been using that phrase in our everyday life.

For example -

J: Honey, we're out of toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom.

Me: But it wasn't toilet paper. IT WAS CANCER!!!!!

Pure comedy gold I tell you.