Sunday, December 1, 2013

Vola! Thanksgiving 2013!

A day and half spent in the kitchen, one 10 pound turkey, and a pound and half of butter later, a great Thanksgiving feast was born. There is something about being busy in the kitchen brings about a sense of calmness in me. I love being able to juggle several recipes at once and tackling the most complicated recipes. 

My friend's fresh mozzarella, tomato crostini with balsamic vinegar reduction, and another crostini with prosciutto, arugula, and goat cheese as appetizers.

I started brining the bird Wednesday night (see my Thanksgiving menu here), and made two pies, and a pot full of stock. This year I used Bon Appetite's Herbed-Roasted Turkey and Apple Cider Gravy recipe. The meat came out juicy, tender and flavorful. I am going to brag a little bit, but this was the best turkey I have ever had. The gravy was a great balance of slight hint sweetness of the apple cider and savory herb flavors.

The great Thanksgiving feast with my new Fiestaware.

Honey Pecan Pie from Cooking LIght

Wilted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple from Joy of Cooking

After doing lots of research on stuffing vs dressing, I am 100% behind dressing. The thought of bacteria infested raw turkey juice seeping into the stuffing gives me the chills. This Italian Mother-In-Law Dressing recipe from Bone Appetite calls for lots of ingredients, some odd ones like green olives. I included mushrooms into the dressing. The different ingredients came harmoniously together and created a perfect meatless dressing with the meat.

As great as the pictures look, not everything turned out all perfect. At least not my left index finger. An hour before guests were about to arrive, in the middle of chopping flat leaf parsley like a mad woman, I chopped off half of the top of my nail along with some fleshy part. Ouch, yes! I immediately bent over the kitchen sink and watched drips of blood turned into trickling stream down the drain. Disgusted? I was, The sight of blood made my knees wobble and light headed. Jake cam running down the stairs just as I was lying on the floor.

Don't worry, none of the my fingernail or flesh made their appearance into this plate.

One of the few things I had Jake help was adding the bourbon into Bourbon Cranberry Sauce. An hour later, I noticed the streusel of Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole had a hint of bourbon smell. Turned out the Jake added bourbon into the streusel mix, instead of the cranberry sauce. What's a Kentucky Thanksgiving without some more bourbon?

Half a bottle of bourbon, a chopped finger, and a food baby all made another successful Thanksgiving. Cheers to another year and looking forward to the next one. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving Menu 2013

My favorite holiday is sneaking upon me. I look forward to this one time cooking extravaganza, when fine ingredients, painstaking cooking and time will pay off with the grandest meal of my year. Yes, I love hosting Thanksgiving. This year I am hosting for 5 people, just the right amount of food preparation before it gets out of hand.

Working full-time and planning a made-from-scratch Thanksgiving meal is another job itself. Every year I take great pleasure in doing some serious search for the perfect menu. Although this year's menu may need more decision making, I narrowed down to the following:

The Bird: Herb-Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy from Gourmet

The choices are limitless, from cornbread and oysters to wildrice. Yet the one thing I don't comprehend is why must there be another meat in stuffing when the purpose of stuffing is to be paired with another meat?

Italian Mother-In-Law Dressing from Bon Appetite
Wild Rice Dressing with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Candid Pecans from Joy of Cooking
Corn Bread Stuffing with Bacon and Greens from Food and Wine

Stuff or not to stuff is another question. Are a food safety police (me, for one) or who-cares-I-just-want-juicy-flavor-stuffing person?

Wilted Brussels Sprouts Bacon and Apples from Joy of Cooking
Sweet Potato Casserole  from Food and Wine
Roasted Brussels Sprout and Apples from McCormick

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's the Deal with Pumpkins?

Like many million of Americans, I go crazy with pumpkin during this season. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream/shake/custard/pudding, pumpkin seeds... In my pantry, there are 5 cans of pumpkin puree waiting for my next what-can-I-add-pumpkin-to food creation.

People have become so in love with pumpkins that there are pumpkin-flavored everything in the store. Bloggers around talk about their pumpkin obsession and what new creations they have made with pumpkin. Huffington Post has a slide show on what pumpkin products out there. But if you eat a spoonful of pumpkin puree out of the can, it kind of tastes like nothing. Like baby food with a mild distinct taste. Actually no pumpkin flavored food taste like the real deal. Especially Starbucks' PSL. My pumpkin obsession is limited to the real stuff, not some pumpkin spiced chocolate, or even Pumpkin Spice Pringles.

Last year I got a sugar pumpkin from my CSA basket, which I used to make a pumpkin pie. The real deal. It heavenly, made me no longer want to look at a can of pumpkin puree. But let's face it, who has time to make pumpkin puree out of real pumpkin everyday. I would need at least one sugar pumpkin a week.

So what's the deal with pumpkin?

NPR has a article, "Why Americans Go Crazy For Pumpkin and Pumpkin Flavor Stuff", it says that Americans love pumpkins for the sake of farm life nostalgia. I highly doubt Starbucks' PSL lovers think of farm life before they snap a classic picture of themselves holding this signature fall drink.

To me, pumpkin is not only the quintessential ingredient of autumn, but also the start of a cerebration time. Although as a dietitian, I am biased to this super food packed with fiber and vitamins. This bright orange squash of various sizes kicks off the season of eating festivities, of which my  favorite: Thanksgiving.

Whether it's nostalgia or not, pumpkin brings the fond memory of comfort food and cozy sweater. Sound cheesey? Well it is, aren't we all suckers for pumpkins?

Pumpkin Pancake
(Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

1.5 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 1/3 cups pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, whole milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vanilla.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Stir dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just combined. 
3. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or nonstick frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, about 1 to 2 minutes. Using a thin spatula, carefully flip each pancake and cook until browned on the underside, about 2 minutes more. Transfer cooked pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Continue with more oil and remaining batter. If desired, top with additional toasted pecans, butter and high quality maple syrup.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Incredible Food Show 2014

One of Lexington foodie's (me for one) highly anticipated event was the Incredible Food Show last Saturday. To be honest, I was not all too excited about the Deen Brothers as the special guests of the event. That was until a few weeks before the event, the show producer asked me to one of the judges for the show. I was delighted and accepted the challenge as a judge for the savory category. With 37 booths on my list to judge, I thought I was in foodie heaven...until I was sampling the 11th beer cheese and cracker.

Here are some of my favorites from the show:

Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese from Barren County, Kentucky has handmade artisan cheese. It got the Honorable Mention of Savory category at the show. My favorite product of all the samples was their Wheel of Awesome which was a Brie cheese. It was an awesomely and creamy soft cheese that melted in my mouth.

Started by Sylviana Herrin in early 2013, La Petite Sucre is a handcraft macaroon boutique that only cater customs orders for private events. This booth won the Best Booth Display of the show. I think Herrin has not only delivered beautiful presentation, but also perfected these small and colorful French desserts. When I tasted the blackberry macaroon (not knowing this at the time), it was no doubt the ingredients used were the top notch, as well as the painstaking efforts put into making these delicate sweets.

My favorite Kentucky Proud producer, Sadistic Mistress. Her hot sauces are one of a kind. Sadistic Mistress knows her peppers, with a line of 13 hot sauces, each pairs well with various food items. We got "The Safe Word Is" and "She Ain't Pretty; She's Hot". Creative names and spicier than hot sauce, that's Sadistic Mistress for you.

I have a secret. Instead of tasting First Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil with a piece of bread, I drank it. I would drink a cup of this olive oil if I could. It's California blend was named "One of the World's Best Olive Oils" at the 2013 New York International Olive Oil Competition. Their olive oil has a fruity aroma and buttery taste, yet without the overwhelming "greasy" flavor. I can't believe it took me this long to find this.

Nevertheless, I skipped the Dean Brother's presentation..twice. But I was super excited to meet one of my favorite chefs from Bravo's Top ChefChef Edward Lee. His new cookbook "Smoke and Pickles"  blends in Lee's Korean background and a twist of Southern cuisine. From making Korean style pickled vegetables to Kentucky's distinct bourbon and Southern cooking, as well as Lee's stories of growing up and becoming a Chef, the cookbook is worth every penny. Instead of asking him intelligent questions like "How did being on Top Chef help you start your restaurant", I started talking endlessly about Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese. Cheese? Really?

Being a judge at the Kentucky Proud Incredible Food show was a great experience in learning and tasting what Kentucky has to offer. I love talking to the food makers to find how they come about making their products. Although I think it comes to a point when too much beer cheese just starts to taste the same. Even though each beer producer has his/her distinct spin on the cheese, I think Dad's Favorites has the most unique and distinct beer cheese of all.

Besides beer cheese, bourbon this and bourbon that was another trend of the show. Bourbon hot sauce, bourbon barbecue sauce, bourbon salsa... Let's see what else we can add bourbon to and make it more "Kentucky". What's wrong with a good ol' fashion straight bourbon?

I enjoyed this year's Incredible Food Show, I met lots of enthusiastic Kentucky food producers as well as another fellow Kentucky Food Blogger  Rona Roberts of Savoring Kentucky (check out her blog, Rona is an excellent food writer). Till next year, for another stuffed belly.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Share the Lex

This video came out a few weeks ago. Since then, I can't stop watching the first 30 seconds.

The video has a quirky sense of humor that I love. It also makes me think about my life in the L-E-X. 

Today is the 1008th day since I move to Lexington. Growing up in a busy and crowded city like Hong Kong, it was hard to imagine there's a place called Bluegrass somewhere in America. When I first moved here in January of 2011, I didn't think I would fall in love with this city. This Love Letters: Lexington, Kentucky by Megan Smith of The Art of Homemaking and this video were just reminders of how much I love this place. 

It is in Lexington where I got engaged, married, bought a house, and kicked off my career. Where I met several of my very good friends. Of course, it is where how this blog got started. On the days when I take Paris Pike to work, I am amazed at the beauty of the Bluegrass, a place that I now call home. 

It is in Lexington where I learn how to bet on horses and appreciate bourbon. Where I found a deeper love with (Southern) food, from barbecue to cheesy grits to fried chicken. With all the new restaurants and food events popping up around Lexington, this is becoming my foodie heaven.    

Watching the video makes me want to Share the Lex and my love for it. As I head into the third year of living in this love city, I am anxious to see what it has to offer. Whether it's stuck in traffic on Nicholasville Road or heading downtown to tryout a new restaurant, in the end, what matters is the city I am in. I embrace what the LEX has to offer and happily becoming a tiny part of it. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CRAVE Lexington 2013

For weeks I counted down to the first Crave Lexington. This outdoor foodie event was organized by the Simley Pete Publishing with partial of its proceeds to the amazing aquaponics system FoodChain in downtown Lexington. It was a fabulous food and music event featuring several of Lexington's top notch restaurants, such as Cole 735 MainAzur, a la lucie, to name a few. I got to try food items from my restaurants-to-try-when-I-am-rich list without breaking the bank.

My favorite dish of the night from Nick Ryan's Saloon: Shrimp and Grits.

Wonton chili beef nachos from Thai Orchid Cafe

Hummus and chips, followed by tiramisu from Shakespeare & Co.

With numerous new restaurant popping up around Lexington area, this event adds another notch to the local foodie scene. It was indeed a celebration of "all things from scratch", nothing says "local first" than this event. It was a chance for Lexingtonians to get together and learn about not just FoodChain, but also culinary techniques and new upcoming restaurants.

Besides sampling gourmet hours d'oeuvre for the price of $1, $3, or $5, there were cooking demonstrations throughout Saturday. I missed the bigger cooking demonstrations in the early afternoon. Together with the Kentucky Cattleman's Association, the Slice and Save demonstration with Dr. Gregg Rentfrow, brought a whole new level of meat cutting to our lives. It's all about portion control with a hunk of rib eye, those cattlemen are smart.

My new hubby participated in apple streusel demonstration with Jim from Bluegrass Baking Co.

Nutella and banana crepe from La Petite Creperie.

One restaurant I am anxious to try is Graze Market and Cafe, a Winchester-based restaurant that has local meats as its main ingredients. The handmade South African recipe-inspired sausage that I sampled was to die for.

To my surprise, it was very well organized event for a big debut event. I love that it was like eating and touring the finest food bites of Lexington, and I got to meet chefs from several restaurants through live audience demonstration and interactions. 

I look forward to Crave 2014 and filling my gullet with local delicacies. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I'm Back!

After seven months of a chronic blogger's block, I'm back!

It has been a crazy summer, this is what I have been doing:

I finished my internship in Huntington, West Virginia, and moved back to Lexington. What a great relief. Best news of all, I passed the registration exam and became a registered dietitian! Years of school and hard work finally paid off.

I went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and watched the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary Reenactment. It was quite a scene, watching 3000 plus men marching on the field.

Oh, meanwhile I got married and became the MRS.  It was the best day of my life.
Photo by Adam Padgett Photography

With all these happenings this summer, time flies. I am already collecting new fall recipes, and here's one for you. This is Jamie Oliver's Store Cupboard Lentil Soup. All ingredients are staples in a cook's pantry and with an hour of prepping, voila, here's your hearty soup for cool autumn days. I found a ham steak in the freezer, which made it into the soup instead of bacon. Not going to lie, last night we had this soup with the AC (with a hunk of bread, as ordered by Jamie Oliver) on but it was delicious.

Hearty Lentil Soup
Adapted from Jamie Oliver Store Cupboard Lentil Soup

6 slices bacon or 1 ham steak
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 cup dried beans, cooked prior)
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
5 cups vegetable stock (or more if you like it soupier)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat, add bacon. Cook until bacon gets crispy, remove bacon, drain grease until you have 2 tablespoons left in pot. Add dried thyme, dried chili, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. If using ham steak, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add ham and onion, cook for 5 minutes until onion is translucent, add remaining vegetables.

2. Cook vegetables with lid on for 15 minutes, add lentils and stock. Bring to boil and simmer until lentils are soft. (Add cooked cannellini beans here if used dried beans to start with)

3. Add cannellini beans, bring back to boil and simmer for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and ground pepper as needed. Serve with hunk of bread.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Guinness (Extra) Stout Cake

Feeling Irish? This is the cake to make.

Ever year around March, I always buy a six-pack of Guinness and see what creative recipes I can find. This year, the I opted for the Extra Stout Guinness and Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake. There's something about the taste of stout in food that makes meals hearty for a cold day, wondering when winter is going to end. Especially Beef Stew with warm buttered homemade bread.

Two more days, then we embrace the First day of Spring.

Two weeks ago I began the clinical part of my dietetic internship. I started with the pediatrics unit in a hospital in Huntington, WV. Last week, I saw a baby who died because of his parents negligence. It was the saddest case I have encountered as a dietetic intern. I guess that's a part of life, especially living in West Virginia. Twelves more weeks of the internship, counting down to the end...

Guinness (Extra) Stout Cake
Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake

1 cup Extra Stout Guinness
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3oz cocoa powder
14 oz (2 cups) granulated sugar
1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 medium eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
10oz all-purpose flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder

11oz cream cheese
5oz powdered sugar
4oz (1/2 cup) whipping cream

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 350, and butter and line a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter - in spoons or slices - and heat until the butter's melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and bicarb.
  3. Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
  4. When the cake's cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the icing. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the powdered sugar and then beat them both together. 
  5. Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.
  6. Enjoy cake with left over Guinness.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Art of Slow

The art of slow is the length of time for me to update this blog. Seven weeks fo food service management rotation for my dietetic internship came and went like a flash. My big project for the rotation was to come up with Wizard of Oz theme food for more than 2000 people. Another intern and I came up with the following snacks: Follow the Yellow Brick Road Rice Krispie treats, Over the Rainbow Fruit Salad, Munchkin Donuts, Melted Witch Green Punch, Ruby Red Fruit Punch, Rainbow  (M&M) Cookies, and Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. See a trend here?

During the two days of the Wizard of Oz event, I was working 12+ hours cutting up rice krispie treats and refilling endless trays of cookies and donuts, in a lullaby league costume. That's right, the ballerina munchkins with pink ruffle skirts and pointy hat.

The art of slow is also me falling in love with my new slow cooker that I got for my birthday last month. There are numerous discussions on whether to use a slow cooker or dutch oven. Here's my take:

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalya

Dutch Oven:
Besides from durability and the feeling of like a real cook, dutch oven allows that searing to brown the (mallard reaction) protein which adds flavors to the meal. One pot does it all. Dutch oven slow cooking can be done on stove top or in oven, but increases the chance of fire hazards if you plan on leaving it to cook for hours . Cooking in dutch oven allows the liquid to reduce and becomes a nice thick sauce for stews. You can cook everything in one pot, reduce the number of dishes you have to wash. Moreover, dutch oven is such a versatile cookware, especially when I make Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread once a week.

Slow Cooker:
This is very much a common household appliance, can't go wrong with this when you got a busy life like me. The only drawback is that some ingredients need to be seared/cooked prior to adding back to the slow cooker. Otherwise, the fancy ones allow cooks to set cooking time, control the cooking temperature, and keep warm. Plug it, forget it.

Although I love cooking in my dutch oven, still hands down to the new slow cooker. Can't beat the convenience when it comes to busy life. I have made many slow cooker recipes since its arrival in my apartment, so far, my favorite recipe is this easy pulled pork. Next slow cooker recipe, corned beef and cabbage. 

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Recipe from My Baking Addiction

1 large Vidalia onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (4-6 lb) boneless pork butt or shoulder
¾ cup cider vinegar
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoons dry mustard
½ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Rinse pork roast under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Place onions in crock-pot. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, paprika, kosher salt and pepper; mix thoroughly. Rub mixture all over roast and place the roast on top of the onions.
3. In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, Worcestershire, red pepper flakes, sugar, mustard, garlic salt and cayenne pepper; whisk to combine. Drizzle about 1/3 of vinegar mixture over roast. Cover and refrigerate remaining vinegar mixture.
4. Cover crockpot; cook on low for 10-12 hours. Drizzle about 1/3 of reserved vinegar mixture over roast during last ½ hour of cooking.
5. Remove meat and onions; drain. Chop or shred meat and onions. Serve with remaining vinegar mixture or your favorite barbeque sauce.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year!

I remember as a little girl in Taiwan, I would try my hardest to stay awake until midnight on Chinese New Year Eve to welcome the first day of New Year. On New Year's Eve, my grandmother and aunts would make a feast including a whole chicken, a couple steamed fish (with heads and tails still attached), roast pork, and enough side dishes to feed a crowd of 50. People greeted each other with "kong xi fa cai". I would get red packets filled with money from relatives and family friends. My uncle took my cousins and I to nearby park and we would put on what we thought was the greatest firework show on earth.

Since I moved to the United States eight years ago, I miss the sounds of firecrackers, family gatherings, and of course, the feast. 

I can never have the culinary skills like my grandma, but I always try to cook up something special for the New Year. To celebrate the Year of Snake, I made dumpling (shui jiao or "water dumpling").

Dumplings are eaten year round, like one would have a burrito as meal once in a while. Having dumplings at mealtime brings prosperity and symbolizes family togetherness. The filling vary among regions, in Taiwan, ground pork is the most common ingredient. There are also vegetarian dumplings filled with cabbage, chives, and don fen (cellophane noodles). Dumplings are often boiled in water, these are called shui jiao or water dumpling. The common pot stickers in the U.S. are guo tei, which are pan fried (or sometimes deep fried, which is unheard of in Taiwan) dumplings. Soy sauce is the most common dipping sauce, and I like to add some chopped green onions and dash of sesame oil. 

On Sunday afternoon, I sent over an hour making just 60 dumplings. I was not feeling adventurous to make my own wrapper, and I was surprised to find them in Krogers.

Taiwanese Pork Dumplings
Makes 70 dumplings

2 pounds lean ground pork
4 dried Chinese mushrooms
3/2 cup finely diced cabbage
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
70 round wonton or dumpling wrappers (can be found in Asian grocery stores, or selected Krogers)

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 green onion, chopped

1. Place dried mushrooms in 2 cups of hot water for 20 minutes, or until soft. Dice mushrooms finely. Reserve water.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and add 1/2 cup of reserved mushroom water
3. Follow this video for instructions on how to make dumplings (skip to 2:30 Use remaining of the reserved mushroom water to seal dumplings. Dust all surface of dumplings with flou, place dumplings evenly spaced on a lightly flour pan. Dumplings freeze well, reserve some for cooking or place the pan in the freezer and remove from pan when dumplings are frozen.
4. Boil enough water to cover however many dumplings you are making. Add dumplings to boiling, bring water to boil again. Once boiling, add a cup of cold water, bring to boil again; repeat process three times. Remove dumplings with a slot spoon.
5. To make sauce, combine all ingredients.

Happy Year of the Snake!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb

I stated the dietetic internship food service management rotation two weeks ago. Hairnets and the smell of oil in deep fryer, it only gets better. Seriously. I didn't think I would like food service at all, but turns out I look forward to going back to the kitchen. First day at the rotation at a local Huntington Hospital, the food service director asked an intern and I to create a 5-week menu for the cafeteria. This sounds like a dream project for foodies/cooks/chefs out there, planning menu for 500+ people everyday for 5 weeks? Heck, yes! At least that was what I thought it would be like.

Here are some of the "criteria" and "must haves" for creating menus targeting a West Virginia population: deep fried liver, something deep-fried everyday, something cheesey or covered with cheese, a healthy entree would be nice but also offer a not-so-healthy one as well, leafy greens are cooked to preferably the color of green olives, and ranch dressing. Oh and friend chicken every Sunday because church goers stop at the hospital cafeteria after church for lunch (who would think a hospital is known for friend chicken after church?) wonderful dietetic intern partner and I came up with menu for the first week fairly quickly, then we ran out of ideas. I suggested we have a themed week, like Italian, Latin America, and Asia for rest of the weeks.  Thanks to big recipe websites out there, we managed to come up with a 5-week menu within deadline. First week of dietetic-intern-made-up-menu trial went well since we chose "standard" American comfort food. This week's theme is Italian, the executive chef already made several changes to our proposed menu...I will keep you posted on how this week's menu goes.

On to a different subject. This delicious Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb is made in yours truly's tiny apartment kitchen. No deep frying involved.

With the ease of accessing all sorts of recipes on-line with a click, I hardly buy cookbooks now. This book Rustic Fruit Dessert by Cory Scriber and Julie Richardson has great recipes on my favorite type of dessert. I love fruity desserts, and this book described the difference between buckle, cobblers, crumbles, etc...perfectly. The recipes are grouped by season, which is great for all the fresh cranberry I stocked up after Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb
Recipe from Rustic Fruit Dessert by Cory Scriber and Julie Richardson

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for pan
1 cup Vanilla Crumb
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (5 ounces) sour cream
2 cups (8 ounces) cranberries, fresh or frozen

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
2. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer withthe paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and orange zest together on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, then stir in the vanilla. 3. Stir in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
4. Fold in 1 cup of the cranberries. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.
Distribute the remaining 1 cup cranberries over the cake and sprinkle the crumb topping over the cranberries. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm on top.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Things with Eating Out

Korean, anyone?

I love eating out, especially when I am at a new area and trying out different food/cuisine. Luckily, Lexington has a great variety of restaurants and there are still many I'm itching to try out. Although I am far (very far) from notable and influential food critics like Gael Greene, Anton Ego, and Ruth Reichl, to name a few, I like to think of myself as somewhat of a food critic foodie. Mexican food. Ever. At Nopalito

As I learn more about the world of food, ingredients, and the art of cooking, I begin to take more notice of what I am eating when dining out. My palate has changed over the past few years. I pay more attention to how the ingredients fit with each other, the menu items,and most importantly, the taste of each bite. By all means I am a chef or claim to know everything there is about cooking and food. But I do want to share my thoughts on eating out.

Chocolate tasting at TCHO, where sharp palates are trained.

 Lovin' some Indian food at Taj India

The thing with eating out is finding where to go. When I first moved to the United States, I loved those big chain restaurants around the mall. Today, you might as well give me a block of salt to lick on. With the exception of all-day road trip and some much-needed quick meal, I do stop at fast food chains for a bite. I also can't pass up an ice cream cone during a day trip. What am I suppose to do when I go on a road trip and all I see are those big name restaurants around gas stations?

Hot dog, jalapeno poppers, fried pickles at a well-known West Virginia restaurant. What was I thinking? Those trips to the bathroom afterwards certainly taught me a lesson.

Eating out is not only to be social but also an exciting experience. Here comes the thing with eating out: eating with a group of friends who are not adventurous. I am sure some of you have friends like that. Those friends do not like to branch out of their food comfort zone. The ones who like to go back to the same bar and the same dining joint. I love my overnight oatmeal every weekday morning, but sometimes I want pancakes for a change. If you know what I mean. When you suggest a new place to try, you get shut down. Then you murmur underneath your breath wondering when you can go to that awesome restaurant you've been reading so much about, but still go to that same place, again.

Being in nutrition some doesn't help eating out either. Should I worry about getting my 5 fruits and vegetables a day or order the lamb shank with that amazing sauce that I know I will never achieve at home?

The things with eating out are complicated.
This is a matter of shaping one's culinary experience and expanding the food horizon.

I love my food adventures, what about you?
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