Friday, June 29, 2012

Sushi Adventure

The weather has been ridiculously hot for the past few days, which really limited any outdoor activity. To curb my boredom in this AC-blowing-little-apartment of mine, I made sushi. I wanted to make something easy and didn't involve raw fish (I don't trust myself handling raw fish for later consumption), so I decide to make California (American-style) sushi which includes avocado, imitation crab, and cucumber. Next to Nagasaki Inn on Redding Road, there is a Japanese grocery store. I picked up a bag of sushi-grade rice, a bamboo mat, nori (seaweed mats), and wasabi that came in a tube.

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Sushi making is surprisingly easy.

Here is how to make sushi:
A sheet of nori is placed on the bamboo mat (with plastic wrap in between), then sushi rice (seasoned
with rice vinegar, sugar, and salts) is spread out evenly on top.

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Carefully flip the nori over and arrange ingredients.

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Roll, press, roll, press and roll.

This was when YouTube videos really came in handy.

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Ta Da!! 

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I love sushi. The fresher the fish, the better. I went to Japan my senior year in high school, I did a week-long hike along an ancient trading route with the school. I stayed in the equivalent of bed and breakfast here in rural country side. Every meal I had was composed of at least 5 or more little dishes. A main bowl for rice, paired with little side dishes of pickled vegetables, fish, and soup. I didn't have sushi until the last day when I was in the city. Oddly, the best and the most affordable sushi I have ever had was in Vancouver, Canada.

Lexington has several Japanese restaurants, I always wonder if that was because of the Toyota plant in Georgetown. I have been to many of them, including the well-recommended Sugano on the east side. However, my favorite Japanese restaurant is Tokyo Sushi over at Richmond Road and Man O' War Boulevard.

To pair with the California roll, I made miso soup with seaweed and a side salad.
(Please excuse my poor lighting pictures, the lights above my dining table is not made for taking pictures.)

It was quite an adventure making sushi and I feel culinary-ly accomplished. I already have more ideas for next sushi adventure, such as smoked salmon with avocado.

What's your latest culinary adventure?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's Lunch Time!

For me, thinking of what to eat for lunch usually involves more thinking than the other meals. Breakfast time I always have a carb-heavy meal (a must for me!), like oatmeal, cold cereal, eggs, and fruits on the side. Dinner time is easier since I usually plan to cook (or assemble) dishes that will turn into several meals for rest of the week. During busy work days, lunch staples are usually sandwich with deli meat and a slice of cheese, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with fruits and carrot sticks on the side. Sometimes I will have left-overs from last night, but only if there's enough for one meal.

Today's lunch:
Spinach salad (from CSA) with green apples, walnuts, and olives.

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Grilled cheese with sautee zucchini on whole wheat bread

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A few weeks ago, Jake and I watched "Forks Over Knifes", a documentary that examines the idea that plant-based diet can control chronic diseases. I was eating pretty much a plant-based diet with meat once a week, until I started cooking for two. After seeing the movie (along with "Food, Inc" from a few months ago), we decided to change some rules on food and dining.

  • Eat less meat: By starting Meatless Mondays and another meatless day during the week.
  • Eat out less: We are doing pretty good on this one already, on average we eat out once a week. We need to be more conscious about ordering more healthy meals in restaurants.
  • Eat everything in our weekly CSA (even collard greens)
  • Eat at the dinner table: Our favorite TV shows usually get us here
  • Eat less packaged food: Cold cereal is going to be a hard one
  • Drink less soda: I'm having a hard time implementing this one, since someone loves soda and claims that diet soda is harmless. It's more the habit of drinking soda than the artificial sweeteners that gets me.
  • Practice mindful eating

What food rules do you live by?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Trial and Error

I like to be creative with recipes when I am cooking. But when it comes to baking, I am clueless and I have to follow each step to a tee. There is so much food science behind baking, which makes creating recipes even harder.

A while ago, I won a $50 Bob's Red Mill gift certificate from a fellow Kentucky food blogger My McDonald Meal. I love Bob's Red Mill, they have so many types of flour that I have never heard of. I thought I would be adventurous with some of their products. I ordered 10 grain flour, rye flour, flaxseed, coconut flour, and buckwheat flour. I was most excited about coconut flour. I have never made gluten-free baked products before, and this was my opportunity.

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Coconut flour has a fragrant toasted smell, it has high fiber and absorbs liquid well. Unlike all-purpose flour, a little bit of coconut flour goes a long way. Therefore up 20% of total flour can be replaced with coconut flour. Since it absorbs liquid well, additional wet ingredients are needed. All coconut flour recipes I looked at require 3 or more eggs, sometimes up to half a dozen. I wanted to create a muffin recipe without using so many eggs.

Here was what I did the first time around: I used this honey muffin recipe as the base of my recipe. I wanted a dozen of muffins, so I doubled the recipe. Instead of adding 3 more eggs, I added 1/4 cup of fat-free yogurt.

My ingredients are:
3 eggs
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

 The batter turned out very moist and after 15 minutes in the oven, the muffins were still soggy.

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For the second time around, I used the same recipe as above but added 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour (hence, not gluten-free anymore) and omit the blueberries. More muffin-like product, but on the chewy and slightly dry side. The coconut flour flavor and honey are still there and taste was good, but the texture was off.

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Back to the drawing board.

I think I am going to use brown rice flour to make this recipe gluten-free. Then use 1/2 cup coconut flour and 3/4 cup brown rice flour. Maybe a couple more tablespoons of milk? One more egg? One more tablespoon of butter? Maybe that was the texture of coconut flour products, but what could I do to make the muffins more fluffy?

The combination is endless, only trial and error will tell.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blueberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits

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On Monday Jake and I went to our favorite Reed Valley Orchard, we picked five and half of blueberries and ate about a pound or more of blueberries each. It was a lot of blueberries, but I loved it!

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Continuing with my summer list, I picked enough blueberries to make all the dessert I want and make enough jam.
Here is my list for blueberry recipes:
- Cobbler (done!)
- Jam (done!)
- Pancakes
- Muffins
- Yogurt parfait (done!)

Imagine the possibilities if I had two of these blueberry bushes.

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Homemade jam in half-pint jars and pretty bows = pretty presents. Jake and I were thinking of giving jams in 4 ounce jars as our wedding favors. That would be quite a production in our tiny apartment kitchen.

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Today I am having trouble with the lighting in the kitchen. The fluffy cornmeal biscuits look overexposed and the blueberry sauce looks like black tar. I took more than 40 pictures for this post. I am having a bad photography day, at least my hair is nice. (haha!)

The pictures don't do justice because this cobbler is delicious. I used only 1/4 cup of sugar, which enhances the taste of blueberry natural sweetness. While the sweet cornmeal biscuits make perfect complement to the juice blueberries.

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Blueberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits

 1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cornmeal Biscuits:
1.25 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
2. Combine all filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Toss gently to evenly coat all blueberries. Spoon filling mixture into baking dish.
3. Whisk all-purpose flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in another mixing bowl. Use a pastry blender and mix in butter, cut butter until pea size.
4. Slowly add in milk and stir with a fork until dough forms. (May not need all milk)
5. Divide dough into 9 pieces and pat each piece into 3-inch disc shape. Distribute biscuit dough evenly on top of blueberry filling mixture.
6. Bake for 40 minutes or until biscuits are brown on top and filling is bubbling.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hop Gallery Hop

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Friday night Jake and I joined a couple friends to downtown for Gallery Hop Lexington. It's an event that occurs 5 times a year when lots of art galleries in downtown Lexington open until night. I am not a big fan of art galleries or museums, but it was interesting to learn about local talents and look at others' creative work.

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I wish there was a food hop of Lexington.

My favorite spot was the Artists' Attic at Victorian Square, where artists get to rent out a studio and let their creativity flow. One painter asked if I would like to rent a studio for photography. That would be a dream of mine. A studio with built-in kitchen, where I get to make yummy food and take plenty of pictures. Someday.

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I like to look at an art work and imagine the artist's thoughts when making the piece. Then I think about what is going on in an art collector's head to make them purchase this piece. The definition of atheistic is different in each of our mind, yet there are certain art pieces that become the grandest of all. For me, I am still working on creating those master-pictures with my DSLR. In time, I will have my studio displaying all of my masterpieces.

What masterpiece are you working on?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Potato Beets and Bacon Gnocchi

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Last week I got beets in my CSA share. I never had fresh beets before (shocking, I know) and I was pretty excited to try them. The only beets-product I had was pickled beets from Oasis (my favorite Mediterranean restaurant over at Chevy Chase), and they were sweet and crunchy. I thought these fresh beets would be just the same, except they weren't. The beets tasted earthy, a bit tough and with a slight hint of sweetness. I almost threw the beets out when I remembered a potato-beets gnocchi recipe I saw from Cooking Light magazine.

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I never made gnocchi before, so this was quite the experience. As expected, all the gnocchi came out different shapes and sizes. Good enough for me.

I love the vibrant magenta color!

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Boil the gnocchi, sautee the beet greens (which I didn't know were edible), add some bacon and Parmesan cheese....Ta Da!
Thanks to CSA for allowing me to show my culinary creativeness.

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To complete our dinner, Jake made a green apple-walnut-grapes salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Yes, he made something in the kitchen! All due to a lovely salad spinner that we got at Ikea, it's the best salad invention after chopped salad. No more drying lettuce leaves in front of box fans (haha!).

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Potato-Beets and Bacon Gnocchi
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine)

1 (8-oz) medium red beet with greens
1 pound medium baking potatoes
2.5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups vertically sliced onion
1 ounce freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 slices bacon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove greens and stems from beet. Chop greens and stems. Piece potatoes and beet with a fork. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
2. Peel beet and potatoes in to a bowl(when cooled, return potato skins to oven for crunchy potato skins. Excellent snack while making gnocchi). Use a potato masher to blend in. Add salt and flour one cup at a time into the mixture. Stir to form dough.
3. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and all flour is incorporated. Divide into 4 equal portions. Shape each into a 16-inch-long rope, dusting with remaining flour to prevent sticking. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece down with the tines of a lightly floured fork.
4. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a stock pot. Add half of gnocchi, cook for 2 and half minutes or until done. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon, place in a strainer to drain. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.
5. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon, cook until slightly brown and crunchy. Remove bacon, blot off excess grease with paper towel. If too much grease in the skillet, drain some until two tablespoons left. Add onion, sautee until translucent and brown. Add stems, sautee for 2 minutes. Add greens and gnocchi, cook for 2 minutes. Add pepper and salt to taste. Sprinkle with cheese.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Instagram Love

I finally gave up my not-so-smart phone and upgraded to an iPhone 4s. It was an instant love. Not to mention all the awesome apps that I can use to find restaurants, maps, blog, and more. Even better, I am in love with Instagram. A bit slow on the "look-I-can-take-vintage-photo" move, but it definitely brings in another creative aspect with photography.

Now I can take pictures of every meal I have and every place I visit, and them share with the world in a touch of the screen. Wow, I sound like I just learned how to use the Internet. 

This weekend jake and I went to Cincinnati for a friend's weekend. My iPhone and Instagram worked well in low light situations (beats my DSLR when I don't have a speedlight or prime lens).

Although some pictures I took from this weekend look like they are from an lost-and-found roll of film (remember those?)

It's more than aiming with my phone and click. Understanding which one of the numerous photo edit options takes lots of trial and error to create a life-like photo. Such small device with some genius photography mind can create this awesome app. Give it a try. You'd love it.

P.S. You can follow my daily updates at From Horses to Photography Facebook Page (Click!)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Red River Gorge - Koomer Ridge Trail

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Yesterday we went to the Red River Gorge for a 7.63 mile hike. Originally we planned for a 4 to 5 mile hike, but somehow we went a few more miles than expected. It took us 4.5 hours including breaks. We joked that this was our training for Appalachian Trail (2,180 miles!).

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Being an avid runner, I thought I would be in great shape for this hike. My gluteus maximus (butt muscle, that is) is still in pain this morning. Lola, on the other hand, was a great hiking champ. 

By the way, Lola just turned 6 years old and today marks the 4th anniversary since I brought her home from the humane society. I can't ask for a better companion and best friend :)

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During the hike, there was a few area along the stream and Lola couldn't get enough of swimming.

I can't decide which camera setting is more appropriate for taking pictures in the shade. On the left is "Auto" white balance and on the right is "cloudy". The pictures above (except the blue sky one) were taking with "cloudy" white balance, which made the green color more vibrant. However, the right one below looks like Lola turned into a Hulk-Dog.

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On to more stretching.
Tomorrow I will be traveling north to Cincinnati for a friend's wedding, updates from the road then! (follow my updates at here Click)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Summer List

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Between graduation in May and starting the dietetic internship in August, I have a couple months of summer vacation. I still have my weekend job at the hospital, but I want to enjoy myself since this might be the last time I get to do so. I don't remember the last time I get to do whatever I want in the summer, maybe since elementary school. Growing up, my parents always enrolled my sister and I in summer classes, the academic ones like math and science. Even throughout college, I took summer classes. Well, this summer I am taking it easy, so I decided to come up with a summer check list.

1. Blog every other day.

2. Make something yummy every week.

This week I made Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

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3. Read as many books as I can. Follow my reading list by clicking on Goodreads box on the left side.

4. Take pictures everyday, if possible.

Picture from yesterday's visit to Ashland.

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5. Run 100 miles per month.

6. Pick strawberries (done!), blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and peaches. Make cobblers/pies/jams with these fruits.

7. Go to lots of festivals/events in the Lexington area.

What's on your summer list?

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Woodford Reserve

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Jake's friend from Wisconsin is visiting us this week, and we took him to Woodford Reserve . I have visited a couple bourbon distilleries of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail already, and Woodford Reserve is the best I have been to. Located in Versailles, Kentucky, the distillery is the smallest and oldest one in Kentucky. Besides its fine bourbon, Woodford Reserve is also a great photo op spot.  

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Although I am not a big fan of hard liquor, I love the aroma especially when we were inside the storage warehouse and the fermentation room. I know, I can be weird.

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During the tour I kept wondering how bourbon marinade is made, and what ingredients I would use to make it. Moreover, what can I cook with a bottle of good bourbon. I am sure many of you are the same as me, always thinking about food.

This reminds me of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Bourbon Factory.

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The tour gave us a detailed insight on how fine-crafted Woodford Reserve is. Not to be biased against other bigger name brands, but the detail and care that go into making the bourbon really makes the product different. According to one of the guides, tasting bourbon should be like "chewing" and not sipping or slamming the beverage.

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Besides the barrel warehouse, my other favorite scene from Woodford Reserve is the historic limestone structures. The buildings give the distillery the rustic feel to it. Definitely worth the trip to take pictures, and I supposed the bourbon.

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P.S. Like the new banner? There's nothing I can't do with Paint and Word :) You can now follow FHTP on Facebook, click on the FB icon on the left side.
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