Archive for January, 2008

Obento, packing lunch…

japanese food pyramid
(This is a Japanese food pyramid poster sponsored by some major food corporations, I believe the official government one is far larger and includes categories for fermented foods and sea vegetables.)

    I usually just pack leftovers as a lunch for the hubby. When there are no leftovers, he sometimes leaves in morning with a banana and an orange and calls it a meal. With our families always insisting he’s too thin, I try feed him as often as I can. Usually in addition to dinner, he eats most of my baked goods and I pack him lunch when he’s substitute teaching. Here’s an example of my obento (not the cutest or most elaborate).

    lunch
    1 1/2 cup cooked short grain rice
    1 tsp red shiso furikake (rice seasoning)
    1/2 sheet nori (cut into small strips)
    1 egg (beaten w/ dash of salt & pepper)
    3 shitake mushrooms
    1 korean pepper
    1 tsp sesame
    2 tsp mirin
    1 tbsp oil
    handful of (1 cup) baby spinach
    4 cherry tomatoes (halved)

      Cook rice according to package (I used a rice cooker and added some mixed grains). Cut mushrooms and peppers into strips. Heat up a small pan, add oil and then sesame seeds. Give it a few seconds for the sesame seeds to toast up and then throw in the mushrooms and peppers. Cook till mushrooms have shrunk and the peppers soften, then add the mirin and the spinach, stir till they wilt. I put the veggies in one corner of the dish, and the rice on the other half. With a hot pan coated in oil, pour the beaten egg in and swirl around. It should spread out thin like a crepe, and fold it over on itself twice to get a wedge. Stick in the egg and tomatoes, and sprinkle the rice with nori and furikake. You can make it completely vegan by replacing the egg with tofu or natto (for the adventurous). I think I got in a good chunk of the food pyramid, and I applied the principles of washoku (balance of colors and flavors). Made me feel like a Japanese housewaifuu.

      lina-sm.gif L

      January 31, 2008 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

      Steak a la Veggies

      My doc told me the other day to cut out the carbs and sugars in my daily life. She said I could eat all the meat and veggies I wanted, but no to the other stuff. I decided it would be a good idea to listen to the doc. I made a steak salad, and it was supposed to be a thai steak salad, but yeah, I don’t like that spicyness.

      Ingredients:

      • 1/2 lb. rib-eye steak (about 1 to 1.5 in. thick)
      • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
      • 2 tbsp. olive oil
      • 2 tbsp. lime juice
      • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
      • 2 tbs. of your favorite vinaigrette (I chose a roasted garlic vinaigrette)
      • and your own measurements of the following veggies: baby spinach, mushrooms (sauteed or raw), carrots, & tomatoes, or whatever else you like in your salads

      Note: I say your own measurements, because you might like some veggies more than others. Who am I to tell you not to add more mushrooms or what not. ^___^

      Procedure:

      • In a mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, olive oil, lime juice & sugar. Use a whisk or fork and stir well. This will be the marinade for your steak. Place steak in bowl and allow to soak for 30 min., flipping the steak over after 15 min.
      • After marinade time is over, cook steak in any pan, but it’s real pretty with grill marks. Start with heat on high, searing the steak on each side for about 5 minutes, if you prefer your steak a bit more pink/red.
      • If you’re the medium well to well done kind of person, like myself, remove steak from pan, cut in 1/4 in. slices and return pieces back to pan and cook till the pink is almost gone.
      • In your salad bowl, add your veggies and toss in your dressing.
      • Once steak is cooked to your liking, slice (if not already) and place nicely on salad.

      It’s a real simple and healthy dish. Go for a leaner meat if you’re not a fan of the rib-eye. That just happens to be my favorite kind of steak. ^_^ It was definitely what I needed for lunch, as it’s been a hectic busy season already.  Wish this accountant luck. It’s only January.

      reina-sm.gif –Chelle

      January 30, 2008 at 5:32 am 1 comment

      Restaurant Week NYC, a wonderful dinner at Dévi

      books
      My trusty cookbooks (by Suvir Saran owner/chef of Dévi)

      First off, I didn’t bring a camera with me, and even if I did, it was really dark inside so I doubt I could’ve gotten any good shots. This week (and last week) is New York Restaurant Week. It’s a great opportunity to eat at some restaurants that you were saving for a special occasion but never got around to. Dévi (8 E. 18th St., New York, NY 10003) is a really nice though pricey (for moi) Indian restaurant near Union Square. I’ve been dying to go there for the past year, ever since I bought Indian Home Cooking.

      This is the first time I ever ate at a Michelin star rated* (1 star) restaurant (I’m frugal). The Hubby and I got the prix-fixe three course dinner (menu). I had the Grilled Scallops (with roasted red pepper chutney, Manchurian cauliflower, spicy bitter-orange marmalade), the scallop (it was just one) and roasted pepper chutney had a great smoky flavor combo, followed by Tandoori Prawns (yogurt marinated with crispy okra salad and spicy eggplant). The Manchurian cauliflower was a great surprise, it was mind-blowing. You can definitely taste a Chinese influence and made me a cauliflower convert. The Pawns were succulent and the crispy okra was equally great.
      The hubby had the Goan Shrimp Balchao Bruschettas (with onion-tomato marmalade, red chiles, vinegar, on brioche bread) and Poori aur Tari Wale Aloo (puffy bread, spiced potato curry, fenugreek chutney). We ordered extra sides of Garlic Naan (bread), Saag (spinach) with mushrooms, and Ragda Chaat (potato cakes, white peas, tamarind and mint chutneys), which were completely unnecessary but we wanted to taste as many things as we can in one go.
      We were pretty stuffed before we moved onto desserts but that didn’t stop me from enjoying my kulfi falooda (Indian ice cream, falooda noodles, rose milk) and the goat cheese ice cream from the hubby’s fig cake (with wine macerated figs, mascarpone, ginger caramel sauce, goat cheese ice cream). We also had to try the mango lassi along with some Mint Lavender tea to go with dessert. At the end I was happily full and dying to try recreating the Manchurian cauliflower at home. In fact, we went straight to Whole Foods afterwards and picked up a head of cauliflower (I bought other stuff too, I’m sane, I swear!).
      * but Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery might count. Their pastries are heavenly.
      lina-sm.gif L

      January 29, 2008 at 6:38 am 1 comment

      The Chocolate Bar

      No, not a bar of chocolate, but a bar for chocolate. I first visited The Chocolate Bar ( 1835 W Alabama St., Houston, TX 77098) a few years ago when a friend of mine mentioned it to me. Since that one time, I have absolutely loved the place and take anyone who hasn’t been there yet. So, when an out of town friend told me she liked chocolate, I thought what better place to go than The Chocolate Bar.

      This place has its own chocolate shop adjacent to the “bar” area where you can find an assortment of chocolates, from seasonal designs to your chocolate covered bon bons. But, I must say my favorite area is the bar area. The walls are a bold purple, adorned with candy inspired movie type posters and randomly placed disco balls hanging from the ceiling. There’s plenty of seating, although it doesn’t seem like plenty on a busy Friday night.

      So since we were full from dinner, we decided to share a slice of cake. Do you see how gigantic that happy slice of heaven is? Do you see the bottle of milk behind it? You’ll surely need it to get through your decadent dessert. We decided on a slice of Uncle Darryll’s chocolate cake. This moist, 4 layer chocolate cake had the richest, yet lightest chocolate filling. It was covered with what seems like a chocolate ganache and then topped with toffee bits. It was fantastic. Between the two of us, we still couldn’t finish it.

      Besides their different varieties of cakes, they also serve their own home made ice cream. I’ve had it in the past, and I think the one I’ve deemed my favorite is the one with white and dark chocolate bits in it. It was just all sorts of yum, and if it wasn’t so chilly, I probably would have had some tonight. I have yet to try everything on their menu, but one of these days I will. There is also fresh brewed coffee and a killer hot chocolate. The staff has always been friendly and helpful and my trips have always been pleasant. I believe the desserts are moderately and reasonably priced, anywhere from $6.95 and $9.95, for the portion of cake/pie you get. Others may disagree, but I have no problem throwing down for some good old chocolate cake.

      The Chocolate Bar is a place “Where every hour is happy hour” (yups, that’s their motto). It truly is. Sitting there and enjoying good chocolatey desserts and good company makes a cold Friday night feel remarkably warm.

      reina-sm.gif –Chelle

      January 26, 2008 at 6:56 am 2 comments

      Homemade Girl Scout Thin Mints

      plate
      full
      I was a Girl Scout for 8 years, and it has been 4 years since I had last bought a box of Thin Mints (which has always been my favorite). Inspired by these homemade Do-Si-Dos, I decided to try my hand at making some Thin Mints. I made up the recipe just today. I originally had only used 1/2 cup of shortening and 10mins of baking time, but I adjusted the recipe from my first attempt.
      To make a thin chocolate wafer/biscuit, the dough will need rolling (which I never do, hate the extra clean up). On the plus side, this makes use of my abundance of cocoa. Did I mention these will also be vegan.
      minty11.jpg
      Vegan Homemade Thin Mints
      1 cup cocoa powder
      1 cup powder sugar
      1 cup flour
      1 tsp of baking powder
      1/4 cup sugar
      2 tsp mint extract
      3/4 cup melted organic shortening
      1/4 cup water
      1/8 tsp salt
      5.3oz bittersweet chocolate (for melting) 
      bowl
      (already smelling like Thin Mints)
      Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add in the mint extract and melted shortening, stir for a minute before adding the water. Finish mixing with the mixer, it’ll probably still look loose and crumbly. Pour out onto a surface and press/knead together into a ball, cover and leave out for 15-20mins. Roll it out to about 1/8 inch, and use a small cookie cutter to cut out rounds. I don’t own any cookie cutters, but found a tea tin lid that worked out fine. Place on parchment lined tray and bake for 15-18mins (depending on thickness, maybe longer). When it comes out of the oven, move them to a cooling rack. When the cookie is cooled, melt the chocolate on low heat or by microwave. I only dip the tops of the cookies. If you wanted to fully coat the cookies, you’ll need more chocolate.
      cut
      (makeshift cookie cutter)
      chocolate
      (Green Black’s Organic 72% Baking Chocolate)
      meltyy.jpg
      (try and wait for the chocolate to cool and harden)
      lina-sm.gif -L

      January 24, 2008 at 4:21 am 3 comments

      Té House of Tea

      Té House of Tea (http://www.tehouseoftea.com/ 1927 Fairview St. Houston, TX 77019) is snuggled between Montrose & Shepherd, right on the corner of Woodhead & Fairview. The ambience is very mellow, and I noticed that the second we walked in today, with the soft reggae playing over the speakers. There’s a butterfly hanging from the ceiling, photos (for sale) hanging decoratively along the walls, and the cutest tea pots/sets/cups displayed throughout the cafe. The seats are comfy and the whole place gives off this cozy vibe.

      It’s definitely a place I’d go to on a relaxing Saturday morning or afternoon for some tea. However, as I learned today, it’s not somewhere I’d go for my quick one hour lunch from work. This place is really just somewhere you go and meet friends, have a good talk, share a crepe (or get your own, because those things are DELICIOUS). I had eyed the menu before heading over there, and decided on the roasted chicken & brie panini, which comes with a salad, all for the lovely price of $5.95. I did not know there was going to be cranberry sauce on my panini. I’m not a cranberry sauce kind of girl, so my friend was kind enough to share her margherita panini with me (pictured above). It was divine. The fresh tomato, melted mozarella, and basil served on a perfectly herbed foccacia bread really hit the spot. OH!! The salad was great too. I’m not sure what type of vinaigrette they used, but I really liked it.

      I should have gotten tea, but didn’t this time. I wanted to be able to enjoy it, and not be in a rush to finish it. My friend did get a small pot of their Strawberry Fields Green Tea. She’s not a tea drinker, so it really wasn’t her cup of tea. It did smell fabulous, though.

      So I leave yall on a happy note. The highlight of my meal was the crepe with chocolate spread, topped with fresh strawberries, whip cream and powdered sugar (see below). It was like a taste bud orgasm. You can choose from a variety of spreads and fresh fruits. That crepe was certainly the best I’ve had. I’m definitely going back for more.

      reina-sm.gif –Chelle

      January 23, 2008 at 5:00 am 5 comments

      Cocoa cravings…

      choco
      For a change of pace from all the recent eating out entries, here’s something homemade.

      On Amazon I bought some baking items in bulk. I got 4 containers of Spectrum Organic Shortening, 4 bars of Green Black Organic 72% Baking Chocolate, and 5 canisters of Ghiradelli Cocoa Powder. With these, I can start my own chocolate truffle business. But instead I’ll be baking chocolate goods for months to come. I was going to go all organic but they didn’t carry Green Black Cocoa Powder and the other organic brands weren’t ones that I’m used to baking with. The Ghiradelli was great price for the quality and quanity, I gave one to my cousin (also an avid baker).
      I mainly use Spectrum Organic Shortening for my baking because the hubby refuses to eat butter. Sometimes I like to use Earth Balance Whipped Spread for a buttery flavor or as a ghee alternative in curries. Here’s a quick brownie recipe I threw together to use some of that cocoa.

      brownie

      Quick Brownies

      1 1/4 cup organic shortening
      1 1/2 cup sugar
      3 eggs
      1 cup cocoa powder
      1 1/4 cup hazelnut flour
      3/4 cup flour
      1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
      pinch of salt 

      These are moist soft fudgey dense brownies, so you don’t have to worry about leavening agents. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream the shortening and sugar till smooth then add in one egg at a time incorporating fully before adding another (using a mixer). Then gently fold and stir in the cocoa powder with a spoon or spatula (it can fly everywhere using the mixer).  Mix in the vanilla and pinch of salt, then add the flour and hazelnut flour and finish mixing with mixer. Pour and spread out the thick batter evenly onto a greased 8×8 inch pan. Bake for 20-25mins, test with a toothpick after 20mins and determine if it’s done or needs another 3 or 5mins. It shouldn’t come out completely dry and clean when you poke it. After taking it out of the oven, let cool for 10mins and you have warm brownies.

      lina-sm.gif -L

      January 22, 2008 at 6:26 pm 2 comments

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