Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New Restaurant in the Neighborhood

I like to try new restaurants out when they crop up in our neighborhood. This has worked out well (Niko Niko Sushi is to-die-for) and it has sometimes not worked out so well (the Mexican restaurant around the corner where my husband and I decided it was absolutely the worst food we'd ever been served). We had an idea that the latter might not be so great when they came out with our food about 2 minutes after we placed our order - and yes, we had ordered hot meals.

Recently, a new restaurant opened in the food court of my nearby Japanese store. Yes, in the grocery store. There are two japanese stores in my city, and both of them have food courts. Most of the restaurants in them are Japanese, but there are a few oddballs. There is the Italian Tomato, which is, of course, Italian food. There is a Hawaiian barbecue place and a Chinese restaurant. The great thing is that I've loved almost every single dish I've ordered from any of these places, which I think is pretty amazing.

The new place that opened is a Korean restaurant. Having a Korean background, this just made my day when I discovered it. Because if I'm not up to making a huge Korean meal at home, then that used to mean that I'd have to drive several cities away to get to a decent restaurant. Now, I can walk to one in less than 5 minutes.

This soup was so delicious, with mandu (dumplings filled with a meat and veggie mix) and green onions in an amazing broth. It is called mandu guk (pronounced "mahndoo gook").

One of the other dishes I tried was the chap chae (pronounced "chop chay"), which is clear noodles with some veggies and a sesame oil type dressing on it. It is served cold and has a great flavor. Sorry for the slightly fuzzy picture here.

If you've never tried Korean food, I would highly recommend it. They eat tons of vegetables, soups and delicious marinated meats. Whenever you eat at a sit-down Korean restaurant, they serve your meal with a bunch of side dishes that accompany every meal, called ponchon. Sometimes it is various kimchees (pickled, often spicy vegetables), sometimes it is a marinated crab (the crab is raw, but safe to eat, just FYI), and sometimes just cooked vegetables like steamed and seasoned spinach or bean sprouts. I've even had a whole baked fish as a side dish.

While some people may feel intimidated because they don't speak the language, I hope that this won't stop them from trying out their local Korean restaurant. I think that overall it is a fun food experience, not to mention delicious!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas Project: Family Cookbook

My coworker Kathy just gave me the recipe for one of my favorite cookies. It's for Fairy Drops: wafer thin sugar cookies that just crisply melt in your mouth.

Kathy brings these in every once in a while. They are about 4" around, but because they are so thin, I usually eat about 5 or 6 every time I pass the kitchen. In fact, I can't help myself!

It reminds me of when I was in second grade. I used to sneak in and eat several little marinated mushrooms from the tiny Cara Mia jar in the refrigerator. I knew they were expensive, so I would creep in like a thief (ok, so I was a thief). The point is, however, that it was a compulsion. It was one of the very few things in my life that I felt powerless to control. I guess that you would call it an "addiction." Ha. Mushroom Addiction. (I guess I needed Mushroom-aholics Anonymous. Ok, I'm done torturing you with bad jokes...back to the topic at hand.)

This morning, I was lucky enough to find a recipe card on my office chair for those heavenly Fairy Drops. When I went to thank my friend, she was explaining how she injured herself getting that recipe for me. Opening her bag, she pulled out a worn, yellowing paperback cookbook and showed me how one of the staples inside was pointing up, thus giving her the cut on her finger. (She sacrificed so that I could have light-as-a-cloud sweetness!)

The cookbook was a family cookbook that two of her aunts had put together. Photocopied, along with some pictures, are "90 Great family recipes." What a treasure. Some of the recipes show their age, such as the one I noticed that calls for "two cubes oleo." Adorned with a photo of one of the ladies cooking at the stove, big smile on her face, the cookbook is called Down-home California Cookin'.

And what is the first thing that pops into my mind? I need to make a cookbook with family recipes! I want that! So, it is only November 29...hypothetically enough time to put together a little gem and share it with the rest of my family. I don't know if they'll appreciate them or not, but I will. It will be a snapshot in time, showing what we were all cooking in 2005.

In 2010 and 2020, I want to look back and laugh at how much bacon we ate and how we all got sucked into the latest food fads. I want to reminisce about my young son's favorite foods. And I want a little treasury of best recipes that my son, sister, and hey, maybe my grandchildren will be using to recreate those dishes they grew up loving.

Food, to me, is about several things. It is about taste. It is about fun experimentation. It is about broadening your horizons. And it is about tradition.

I think my new tradition will be the family cookbook.

Be sure to join us for this Friday's Holiday Cookie Exchange!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving (aka "My Stomach Hurts-Day") and QOD #9

Wow. It is really hard to get up for work the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend. I stayed up past midnight last night, trying to get as much out of the long weekend as possible. Now, I feel groggy and my tummy is upset! But it was definitely worth it.

I caught up on Lost, watching crazy Ana Lucia struggle with her demons from the past. I also watched Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, also so much fun! But enough of my TV ramblings, back to Thanksgiving.

I was lucky enough to be invited to my sister's house, who baked the turkey and had prepped a lot of the meal in advance. I helped prepare a bunch of the dishes. We had: squash casserole, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, dressing, corn casserole, persimmon bread, and other various snacking items.

We discovered two things about turkeys. They hide that little pack of organ meats in its should find and remove prior to baking (well, next time, I guess). And second, with the help of a dictionary, we confirmed that giblets are pronounced with a "j" sound and not a hard "g" sound at the beginning.

The only thing I made (prior to arrival) was that fabulous pumpkin cheesecake. BTW, I figured out what makes my cheesecake crack on the happens when I use the instant read thermometer to check the temp in the center. Next time, I know how "jiggly" it should look and I won't make that mistake!

My favorite foods this Thanksgiving were the squash casserole and the gravy. The gravy made everything better! The squash casserole is just so yummy that even my son who does not like squash ate it. It is basically this recipe from Allrecipes, with one added ingredient: bacon. And not just a little, but about 1 slice per squash. It has squash, cheddar cheese, bread crumbs and bacon. How could this not be good? Cook the bacon and onion together a little, then add the squash a cook until softened (don't overcook, it will finish cooking in the oven). Follow the rest of the recipe as directed.

Also very good were the pomegrantinis that my sister-in-law made. It is basically a pomegranate martini using POM. They were delicious. I'm not sure if this is the exact recipe, but it sounds right:

2 parts vodka (use a good one, we used Belvedere)
1 part pomegranate juice
splash triple sec
orange rind for garnish
Combine first 3 ingredients with ice in shaker. Shake, strain and serve in a well-chilled martini glass. Garnish with orange rind.

My sister used this menu mailer from Saving Dinner. It helps you get organized for the dinner. It provides you with a shopping list, a timeline on when to buy your groceries and when to prep different components for the meal, and then of course the rest of the instructions and recipes to finish off the meal.

I will add some photos soon from this lovely feast. Hope that everyone out there had as tasty a holiday as I did.

QOD #9
It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it.
-Julia Childs

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Caramel Apples and QOD #8

Well, with my son's birthday rapidly approaching, I have been spending much of my free time planning and wondering. I have the bounce house ordered and will be getting a pinata. I hope and pray that will keep the kidlets entertained. But then, I have to focus on the serious side of any party: what food to make.

The parents and other adults will probably be satisfied with anything I make, it's the kids I have to worry about. Yes, children can be difficult to please. Most of the difficulty comes from the fact that I refuse to be one of those parents who order 15 pizzas from the cheapest pizza store around. I have been to many birthday parties like that and I am now practiced enough to completely hide my disappointment. It's like a pizza-poker-face.

I think that my son should grow up remembering all the great food at his parties. Food that I prepared, recipes that he'll want to make when he's throwing a party for his own kids. At least, that's what I hope will happen.

That said, the question remains: what do kids want to eat? More importantly, what do kids not want to eat?! Well, sometimes I go too overboard for kids this young (about 5-ish), so this year, I decided to go simple. I am going to provide a selection of cold cuts, breads, and assorted other items (pickles, pepperoncinis, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.) and let them make their own sandwiches. For the parents, however, I am making a pot of chili with lots of toppings to choose from: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, and avocado.

But I think that the hit of the party will be the caramel apples. I made a sample this weekend, just to see how they would turn out, and it was beautiful! I could've killed myself making caramel from scratch, but instead, remembered that the kids weren't going to critique the apples, they were going to gobble them down!

I used squares of caramel candies and a little half and half in a double boiler, gently stirring until melted completely. I used a spoon to help pour the caramel over the apple, then quickly rolled in chopped peanuts. Next, I drizzed some melted dark chocolate on the top. I did this the simple way. I took my good dark chocolate and put it in a ziploc bag. Then, I microwaved it on a reduced power setting until melted. Then, I snipped the tiniest corner off the ziploc and used it like a piping bag. It was so fast and easy!

Oh, and just to make them cute, I used baby Granny Smith apples!

Foodie Quote #8
Even though this quote is for Christmas, I think that it is more appropriate for Thanksgiving:

A three-year-old gave this reaction to her Christmas dinner: "I don't like the turkey, but I like the bread he ate."

-Author Unknown

Monday, November 21, 2005

Foodie Quote of the Day (QOD) #7

There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won't, and that's a wife who can't cook and will.

-Robert Frost

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Parmesan Risotto

I've never ordered risotto at a restaurant. And, frankly, I've often wondered why it cost so much when I see it on a menu. I thought, it must be difficult to make. It must taste like heaven. It must have expensive ingredients.

So, after much wondering and a little recipe reading, I set out to try my hand at making risotto. First, I read recipes. I often do this as a way to try to familiarize myself with a process before actually attempting to create a dish. It helps me understand what will be going on and alleviate any concerns that a dish might be too difficult. (Sometimes, it helps me see that a dish will definitely be too difficult...I usually stop reading recipes at that point.)

But, after looking at a couple of risotto recipes, I found that the process appeared simple. There are a couple of rules that you are advised of (that is, if you have a decent recipe). First, you must stir continuously. Second, you must stir at the correct speed: not too fast, and not too slow. If you stir to quickly, the rice will become slightly gluey; stir it too slowly and it will be watery. The last thing you should know is that you will be stirring and cooking, cooking and stirring, for at least 15-20 minutes continuously. (Ahhhh...must be why it costs so much! Don't get discouraged, though, this is not like whipping egg whites to stiff peaks by hand.)

The result was a lovely, rich flavor. It was quite filling, and I think that I enjoyed it more the next day when I reheated it. The ingredients are simple, direct, and best of all, I get the impression that you can make many variations without having to be told what to do.

Here are the Oh-so-fancy ingredients that I used:

Parmesan Risotto
Serves 4

Stirring the rice too vigorously will make your risotto slightly gluey; stirring too little will make it watery. Rice should be only thinly veiled in liquid during the stirring process.

6 to 8 cups homemade chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 to 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for grating or shaving
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat stock in saucepan over medium heat; keep at a low simmer. Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots to oil, and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add rice, and cook stirring, until rice begins to make a clicking sound like glass beads, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add wine to rice mixture. Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed by rice.

3. Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to rice. Using a wooden spoon, stir rice constantly, at a moderate speed. When rice mixture is just thick enough to leave a clear wake behind the spoon, add another 3/4 cup stock.

4. Continue adding stock 3/4 cup at a time and stirring constantly until rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in the center. Rice should be al dente but not crunchy. As rice nears doneness, watch carefully and add smaller amounts of liquid to make sure it does not overcook. The final mixture should be thick enough that grains of rice are suspended in liquid the consistency of heavy cream. It will thicken slightly when removed from heat.

5. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, Parmesan cheese, and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture among four shallow bowls, mounding risotto in the center, and grate or shave additional Parmesan over risotto. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Holiday Cookie Exchange #1

Calling all food bloggers!

Announcing the first Holiday Cookie Exchange! In the spirit of the holidays, I thought we could all get together and do some cookie recipe blogging. I know that most of us will be baking anyway, so this will be a great opportunity to show off those sweets as well as get some new recipes.

I hope that this will be the first holiday cookie exchange of many to come! After all, there are plenty of holidays that warrant cute and delicious cookies: Valentine's Day, Easter, and Halloween, to name a few. Vickie at The Moveable Feast has graciously offered to host a future exchange.

The event will be held for the three Fridays following Thanksgiving: December 2nd, 9th, and 16th (I have no illusions about any of us having time to do this on the 23rd!) Post your entry on your blog by Friday and submit a comment with the permalink on my site under the HCE #1 posting. I'll try to get all the links up by Friday evening so that everyone can check out the recipes all weekend long.

This is my very first event, so I hope that it all works out! (I'm a little nervous, though I am not sure why!) With all of these great cooks out there, I bet we'll have some really great recipes to share!


Monday, November 14, 2005

Foodie QOD #6

I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead - not sick, not wounded - dead.
-Woody Allen

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Happy Birthday, Daniel!

My little brother (who towers over me, he's so tall) is 23 years old today! Happy birthday from the three of us here!

I have a bunch of family photos that I borrowed and scanned, with the hopes of being able to order prints and make some scrapbook albums with pictures from when we were growing up.

This was one of my favorite photos of my brother Daniel. I don't know why I liked this so much. Maybe it was the fact that he looks happy. Uncomplicated, simple happiness. No other family members to associate this photo with. No special event with other memories competing for the spotlight.

Just a simple photo of a boy sitting on dirt outside looking content.

Happy Birthday Daniel, wish we were there to celebrate with you.

Love, Dawn and the boys

Friday, November 11, 2005

WCB #23 - Cats for Claire

Well, it was hard to think of an appropriate picture to cheer Claire up. So, I opted for a simple photo that makes me feel happy, and hopefully it will do the same for her!

Here are Toejam and Earl (Earl is the bigger one with his back against the couch) napping together. It's not too often that they opt to sleep so cozily next to each other; usually they just get together for a cleaning/biting ritual that leaves everyone unhappy. So when they settle down for a peaceful nap together, it is definitely a photo op.

Feel better soon, Claire!

Pre-WCB Foodie QOD #5

My WCB will be going up soon (I hope this evening), but in the meanwhile, here is a foodie quote of the day:

The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote because of it's unusual tempo. I slow down to be sure that I understand what he is saying, and in that process visualize the true meaning of the words.

I rarely stick to any one project for too long, but every summer when I get that itch to grow something new, tend to it, and then enjoy its bounty, I recognize that it is one of the most rewarding things in my life. I feel a sense of accomplishment. And as I sit there, pruning tomato bushes, I feel peace. Forty five minutes can easily slip away after work while I play with the plants.

This year, I grew yellow pear tomatoes, jalapenos, anaheim peppers, and carrots.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Succulent 1

Succulent 2

I got these beautiful little plants from a house in a nearby neighborhood. The house had recently been sold, and the two sons of the woman who had lived there were cleaning it out. I didn't ask, but I am pretty sure that she died. She was really interested in succulents and cacti, and I was lucky enough to snag 11 of these little potted beaut's. They all have different textures and they are mainly all green. They are a low maintenance plant (oh, my favorite kind!).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

QOD #4

I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly. Tuna fish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock.

Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

Food fact: A cucumber can be up to 20% cooler than the surrounding air. Hence the phrase, "cool as a cucumber."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Culinary Confessions

This blog idea was found with Ilva...who in turn found it on Cooking with Amy, who states that she "brazenly bloglifted" it from David Lebowitz. I find myself wondering if he snatched it from somewhere else, too.

My confessions:

I regularly cook "in a box" items: pastas with sauce, rice-a-roni, etc. (in my own defense, I work full time, often while taking college classes, and I have a 5-year-old)

I don't like a ton of sweets. Not that I don't like them, but I don't often crave them.

I wash my mushrooms in running water.

I sometimes judge a person by what they eat.

I am very leery of any food that might be 'old.' As a result, I don't eat many leftovers and am extremely cautious with milk, cream, sour cream and cheese.

I have a bunch of cans of tuna and tomato paste that have just been sitting there. For quite a while.

I really dislike meringue.

I really, REALLY dislike salmon. Yecch.

I don't like to eat caviar, no matter how expensive, because I just don't think it's that good.

I have spices in my cupboard that are more than 6 years old. *sheepishly grins*

I have whisks, pots, pans, colanders, silverware and who knows what else that need to be thrown away and replaced, but I can't bring myself to spend the money.

I have thrown away a dish, in the middle of preparing it, after several things have gone wrong and frustration took over.

My food has to be piping hot. Even if I have to microwave it.

My kitchenaid mixer is stored under my sink.

I get one appliance/gadget/tool obsession after another.

I used to want to collect cookbooks. I recently gave away almost all that I had.


I collect Boxtops for Education from my cans and boxes.

We don't recycle.

These are my confessions, to name a few. Now it's your turn to confess!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Textures in Nature

Ilva at Lucullian Delights inspires me with her simple, beautiful photos of the nature around her. I found myself wondering where does she find the time?! Well, I certainly had plenty of time as a took a walk with my son. We found some great textures and had a fun time as well. Enjoy.

Eucalyptus trees

Pine tree with sap

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Potato Leek Soup

Well, after seeing potato leek soup mentioned on a couple of other sites, I couldn't wait to dust off my recipe card and get to work. It is finally cool enough to get into warm soup and I am very happy about it. This is one of my favorite soups. The seasonings are fragrant and meld beautifully together.

Here are the fixin's for my bouquet garni. It includes bay leaves, rosemary, flat leaf parsley and peppercorns. A bouquet garni, for those who don't know the term, is simply a little pouch full of spices/seasonings that you want to infuse your food with, but don't want to actually eat. This way, when you are done cooking, you simply pull out the little pouch and discard - no fishing for sprigs of rosemary or little pearls of pepper.

Here are most of the remaining ingredients. Leeks, potatoes, shallots, celery all contribute to the lovely layers of flavor that give this soup such depth.

And here is the delicious finished product, complete (in my book anyway) with some shredded sharp cheddar and crisp bacon.

Everyone has a different way of making potato leek soup. This version is favorite so far.

Potato Leek Soup

Serves 6 to 8

2 dried bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp. crushed dried, but fresh is SO much better)
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
6 leeks, white parts only, washed well, thinly sliced
4 shallots, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Make bouquet garni: first wrap bay leaves, rosemary, parsley, and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth. Then tie with a piece of kitchen twine, and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil and butter in a medium stockpot. Add celery, leeks, shallots, and garlic; cook on medium-low heat until very soft, about 45 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Do not brown. Add potatoes, stock and reserved bouquet garni. Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until potatoes are very tender, about 40 minutes. Remove bouquet garni and discard.

3. Working in batches, pass the half of the soup through a food mill, fitted with a medium disk, into a large saucepan. Add the remaining chunky soup. Place the saucepan on a medium-low heat to warm soup. Slowly stir in milk and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

As a side note, I did NOT pass my soup through a food mill. I used my immersion blender. I have also in the past used my food processor. Anything goes.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Halloween Pumpkins

Halloween Pumpkins 05
Originally uploaded by dawncfrost.
Well, I am quite a bit late...but you know what they say. I have to hand it to my husband and son this year. They had to single-handedly take over the Halloween spirit. I apparently have been affected by the time change this year more than years past. I kept falling asleep directly after dinner as the sun was setting for a while last week. I think that I've finally adjusted! Anyway, they did an excellent job with the pumpkins this year. Very spooky! The skull had an awesome stem and vine still attached, all dried out and overhanging it.

Friday, November 04, 2005

QOD #3

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.

Henry David Thoreau

Another lovely quote from Thoreau (non-food-related):

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

QOD #2

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.

Garrison Keillor

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Quote of the Day (QOD) #1

If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh