January 28, 2009

Bacon is the new black

You can't turn around without seeing another fast food place adding bacon (and ranch dressing) to everything on their menu. It seems like this is the year of America's love affair with bacon. It's everywhere, but once in awhile, I still find some shocking combinations:

Who doesn't like bacon and eggs? Candied bacon ice cream

You've heard of Turducken, right? A chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. Wrap it in bacon, a Turbaconducken.

Found this gem in the NYTimes: "This recipe is the Bacon Explosion, modestly called by its inventors 'the BBQ Sausage Recipe of all Recipes.' The instructions for constructing this massive torpedo-shaped amalgamation of two pounds of bacon woven through and around two pounds of sausage and slathered in barbecue sauce first appeared last month on the Web site of a team of Kansas City competition barbecuers."

Or try:

Bacon and Chocolate

Bacon Cupcakes, Cookies, and Donuts

Bacon soap

Bacon bra

Bacon of the Month Club

I really wanted to get a Bacon of the Month Club subscription for Dad for Christmas, but at $190 for only six monthly bacon deliveries, I decided to go with Bacon Peanut Brittle instead. Wrapped his gifts in Bacon Wrapping Paper.

Bacon-ify Any Webpage with Bacolicio.us. Type the URL for any website after "http://bacolicio.us/" For example, see

Bacon Hamburger Fatty Melt (a Bacon Burger with Two Bacon-Stuffed Grilled Cheese Sandwiches as a Bun)

Sorry, it's hard to stop. This video makes me uncomfortable, yet I can't look away.

If you can't plan your Super Bowl party menu after this, I give up.

January 27, 2009

Crazy like an Ox

Xīn nián kuài lè! Happy New Year!

Chinese life is centered around food. They celebrate all occasions at the table, and the kitchen is the center of Chinese family life. Feasting is a symbol in China that all is well. That's also the way my life operates.

When we were in Taiwan, Katie taught me the common Chinese greeting, "Chi bao le ma?" which translates as "Have you eaten yet?" What better question to ask someone upon seeing them? I learned a couple of Chinese sayings as well:
Chinese will eat anything with wings (except an airplane).
Chinese will eat anything with four legs (except a table).
Hopefully those weren't meant to perpetuate mean racial stereotypes, because I think they're endearing.

We started celebrating Chinese New Year last night with a big meal. Katie was in her element, cooking and telling us what the foods were called in Chinese. Dad said it smelled like Taiwan in the kitchen. "Like stinky tofu?" I piped up. It did remind me of our trip to Taiwan last March. That was the trip of a lifetime. I wish I had done a better job cataloging my travels.

It was all too much fun for Scott, who in the picture below is still pouting because I asked him to swing by my house and grab a can of coconut milk, and I yelled at him when he brought me cream of coconut instead. I'm a terrible older sister.

Chinese New Year 2009

This is a food photographer's nightmare. A plate full of food and the only colors present are white and light tan. I added some chili sauce to my green onion pancake in desperation. Katie, what are the Chinese names for all this stuff? Clockwise: Fried wonton chips, chicken vindaloo, rice, steamed bun, potstickers, lychees and rambutans, green onion pancake with fried egg, bacon, and cheese, pork and beef egg rolls, and cabbage dumpling. I gave up trying to clean my plate. I contributed the chicken vindaloo, which isn't Chinese. I know.

Chinese New Year 2009

We're continuing to live dangerously by ignoring warnings about eating peanut butter products. These peanut butter popsicles were pretty good. With these, the danger was probably not so much salmonella as melamine or lead or industrial waste. Mmmmmm. The Jarritos Capitán made an appearance at the party, too.

Chinese New Year 2009

We opened fortune cookies after dinner like good little Americans. In the Chinese Zodiac, this is the Year of the Ox, so we let our resident oxen go first. Porter opened his cookie, and it had two fortunes. One for him, and one for Katie, of course. He read his aloud first, then Katie.

Chinese New Year 2009

My fortune was lame, but I checked out my Chinese horoscope for the year which said:
...you may notice some digestive discomfort. The source of this ailment is probably excess acidity caused by stress. Rather than popping a handful of chalky medicines every four hours, why not try acupuncture? You are disquiet by nature and rapidly fearful about elements in your life which are out of your control.
I don't like the sound of that! But it says that love re-enters the picture, too. To which I say, it's about time! That's probably the source of my digestive discomfort.

January 24, 2009

Africanized Dinner

Last week I cooked a few dishes for a North African dinner menu. I feel that I have almost no experience eating North African foods and even less experience cooking such cuisine. Consequently, the results were mixed. Anyway, here's the menu:
Spicy Eggplant Dip and pita chips
Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Honey and Apricots
Garlic Couscous
Yogurt with Cucumbers and Dried Mint
Pistachio Cake
Muhallebi: Fragrant Rice Pudding

African Dinner

Let me first say, I'm crazy for ethnic cuisine. If I'm going out to eat, it's most likely to eat Thai or Indian food. Both cuisines are known for their depth of flavors and especially their spiciness, and I can never get my food spicy enough. My problem is that the waitstaff engages in racial profiling. No matter how much I beg for them to kick the heat level of my food up to max, I think they just see this goofy looking white girl and decide I can't handle it. When they ask, "Mild, medium, or hot?", even though I say "hot hot hot hot," "fiery hot," "as hot as you can make it," I'm usually disappointed.

African DinnerI had high hopes for the Spicy Eggplant Dip recipe. It passed the litmus test for new recipes. It contained lots of stuff I like: eggplants, yogurt, cumin, garlic. There was an intriguing ingredient: harissa chile sauce. As I couldn't find harissa sauce for sale in town, I tried this recipe. I was very disappointed with the heat level. That recipe called for New Mexico chiles, and I don't think they're using New Mexico chiles in North African cooking.

African Dinner

I was happier with the main dish, an Emeril recipe for Moroccan-spiced lamb. I seared seasoned leg of lamb pieces on the stovetop and then slow cooked them for another hour and a half with chicken broth, saffron, and cilantro. I really cannot convey how strange my house smelled for a couple of days afterward. I liked this dish overall. The lamb was tender and sweetened by honey and apricots, with a kick from cinnamon. A dash of cayenne and good dose of black pepper would have helped it, though. It tasted good with the couscous (the grain with the coolest name on the block), and Gul brought some yogurt with cucumbers and mint that also complemented the lamb nicely.

African Dinner African Dinner

Dessert was a little off, too. I tried a recipe for Muhallebi rice pudding. A very simple recipe, calling for only rice flour, milk, sugar, and orange blossom water, then it's topped with cinnamon and nuts. I've only made one other recipe with rice flour, the Filipino bibingka. The bibingka had a spongy and strange texture, and this rice pudding had an almost stretchy texture. I compared it to Gak, that weird flubber-like stuff that came out in the 90s. It actually tasted pretty good, but like Gak, I'd rather play with it than eat it. Luckily, Gul had brought a Pistachio Cake which saved the day.

January 23, 2009

Peace O'Cake Cupcakes

I read this story in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on Sunday:
Karen Lane tells me she and her partners Shelagh Aycock and Jan Tankersley are preparing to open Peace O'Cake Cupcakes - a specialty cupcake store.

The tasty confections shop will feature five daily scrumptious flavors that will be sold from Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until the little morsels run out.

The store, located at 3412 34th St., opens Jan. 27. Call 771-CAKE. Now that's an enterprising idea.
I really thought that cupcakes were on the way out, popularity-wise, having maxed out in the last few years. Oh, but no. I can't turn around without reading about some cutesy new cupcake bakery, cupcake cookbook, or cupcake recipe contest.

I decided to become part of the problem. I made my usual dark chocolate cupcake recipe but with a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup baked inside, then topped that with peanut butter buttercream frosting and another Reese's Cup. The FDA & CDC will probably shut my kitchen down for putting that much peanut butter in anything during this time of crisis. Honestly, I wish I had put more peanut butter in the frosting, so deal with that!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Last night I took a jar of Peanut Butter & Co. Mighty Maple to my granddad and told him it was so wonderful that he had to try it. He looked at the label and said that when he was young, he came home from school and made his own peanut butter, mixed in some maple syrup, and ate a bowl of that before going out to do chores. And these were actual chores like splitting logs. When I was young, I came home and mixed peanut butter and chocolate chips and melted that in the microwave and ate a big bowl of that before watching cartoons or Small Wonder or Mr. Belvedere or whatever was on television, whether I liked it or not. So it's fair to say that I set different goals for myself. Sometimes for variation I'd add jelly to the PB and chocolate chips. I was also extremely fond of peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches for awhile, which is my favorite gross-out story now. Perhaps my love for the peanut butter and maple combination is genetic, but also, my mom fed me toast with peanut butter and maple syrup for breakfast almost every day when I was in elementary school. Just opening the jar of Mighty Maple and smelling the peanut/maple combination makes me feel like a child again.

January 20, 2009

Inauguration Eats

Happy Inauguration Day! I'll take any excuse to party, but this one is probably legit.

If you're trying to brainstorm what to serve at your party, I've seen a few ideas floating around the Interwebs.

The 2009 Inaugural Luncheon Menu with recipes is here. I read that the three-course menu is the same as that served after Abraham Lincoln's inauguration in 1861. Hopefully only the menu is the same, and the food is fresh. I'd hate for the president and friends to get sick after eating some Civil War surplus rations. Update: Ted Kennedy left the luncheon in an ambulance.

I've been nagging Chester to send me some of these cookies from Eleni's to no avail. But priced at $59.50 (plus shipping) for 16 cookies, who could blame him? Maybe they'll be in the thrift sale tomorrow with the day old stuff.

Cosmic Chocolate Shop makes these Barack Obama espresso cognac chocolates.

Obama Cupcakes and Red, White, and Blue Obama Bars courtesy of The Food Librarian. You must check out the presidential cake wrecks.

Baked goods not your thing and you crave ice cream in the dead of winter? Try Baracky Road Gelato currently available from Zingerman's.

January 19, 2009

PB Loco

I'm a person who gets a food craving and can have no peace until it's satiated. Even over a few weeks, I'll still remember that desire for say, good seafood, chicken vindaloo, khao soy (better at Thai Thai than at Thai Pepper), a medium-rare steak, and lately, peanut butter by the jar and this cannelloni recipe.

It's a hard time to be a peanut butter lover. The news out there is just not good:
CDC: Tainted peanut butter, three deaths may be linked.

Kellogg Company announced it is recommending that consumers not eat some of its peanut butter crackers because they may be tainted with salmonella.

'Little Debbie' Snacks Recalled After Peanut Butter Probe

Is My Sandwich Safe?
News coverage exasperates me. These stories point out that the tainted peanut butter was not sold directly to consumers at the end of their report, effectively putting it in fine print. This is reminiscent of the tomato salmonella scare, which turned out to be a false alarm.

Dad said it would stink to be a peanut farmer right now with all this bad press. I'm trying to do my part to help out the humble farmer. I bought three jars of peanut butter last time I was at the store, including a jar of Jif Extra Crunchy, Jif Creamy, and my second jar of Peanut Butter & Co. Mighty Maple in as many weeks.

I saw the Eggplant and Four-Cheese Cannelloni recipe on the Bakers' Banter blog back in August, which speaks to my good memory or good procrastination skills. I finally made it Sunday, and it got rave reviews. Cannelloni melanzane ai quattro formaggi. I made that up, but it sounds cool.

Eggplant and Four-Cheese Cannelloni

That blog always has a handy dandy cost comparison for buying something vs. making it at home. The cost they list for their baked goods is so low, they've got to be buying ingredients in bulk at Wal-Mart. At those prices, they're certainly not buying name brands at United or Whole Foods. For example, they list -

Buy vs. Bake:
  • Buy: Beretti’s Italian Restaurant, Coos Bay, Oregon. Your choice of meat and spinach filled crêpe or a ricotta & Parmesan cheese spinach filled crêpe, covered with a creamy white sauce, $13.99
  • Buy: Jacks Grill, Housatonic, Massachusetts. Grilled Eggplant Cannelloni Appetizer, $7.00
  • Bake at home: Eggplant and Four Cheese Cannelloni, $1.46 per cannelloni
I thought I'd do a little comparison of my own. Cost of the ingredients I used to make a pan of cannelloni (6):
Parmigiano Reggiano3.50
Tomato Sauce1.00
Okay, it's an approximation based only on my memory of the price I paid for all that stuff, but my memory is pretty good. Remember how long I can hang onto those cravings! And I probably used more cheese than the recipe called for.

Eggplant and Four-Cheese CannelloniBuy vs. Bake:
  • Buy: Café J, Lubbock, Texas. Any one crêpe, $5.75, but you aren't going to be getting anything like the cannelloni.
  • Bake at home: Eggplant and Four Cheese Cannelloni, over $3.00 per cannelloni
Bake at home! How much would you pay for this? Is there a place in Lubbock where you can actually buy something like this? Carino's?

SundaeTried to quell the peanut butter cravings with a chocolate ice cream sundae with chocolate peanut butter fudge sauce and whipped cream. Mix half a can of sweetened condensed milk, 4 oz. chopped dark chocolate, and 1/2 cup of peanut butter in a heat-proof bowl and melt mixture in microwave or over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Thin sauce with water to make it pourable. Thank you, Nigella, for the recipe. Thank you, Katie, for contributing the ice cream. And thank you, Mom, for contributing the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate, peanut butter, and Reddi-Whip. Not bad for a quick sweet fix, but this is my favorite hot fudge recipe.

From America's Test Kitchen:

Hot Fudge Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup water
Pinch table salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Microwave chocolate, whisking often, until melted and smooth, 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk in cocoa until dissolved.

2. Meanwhile, simmer corn syrup, sugar, cream, water, and salt in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 4 minutes.

3. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Cool mixture slightly, about 2 minutes, before whisking in melted chocolate until smooth. Serve warm.

*The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 10 days. Reheat in a small saucepan over low heat or microwave, stirring often, until warm and smooth, 1 to 3 minutes.

January 17, 2009

Memory Lane

So I've been going through the boxes in my "office," also known as the junk room for the three-plus years I've been living in my house. Pretty much all the bedrooms became storage rooms, because I only had the funds to decorate the rooms that people were actually going to see, and believe me that no one but me was going to see my room. I've found all kinds of little treasures in there, seeing as those boxes contain everything from my birth announcement in the paper all the way up through memorabilia from my undergrad days.

I found this letter, a rough draft, but as I recall, very similar to one I later mailed.
Around the House
Dear people, citizens of O.F. [Orlando, Florida],

Since I live in TX, and rarely get out, go east, I would like to know more about Flor. (especially Orlando). It would be my dream to go to Or. I want to go to Disney [World, as indicated by the hand drawn icon of a world], Sea [World, (another world icon)], & just spend some in Orlando. I hope I can tour Or. soon.


Helpful Info. such as:
1) Brouchures
2) Pictures
3) Pins, Buttons, Items to Wear
4) Letters
5) A Pen Pal

Age 9
Even at a young age, my literary prowess was already obvious. How can I throw that kind of quality away? Even better is that on the back of said letter is another note crudely scrawled in red ink that reads something like: Mama, Can you and me go to TX Water Rampage? Check Yes, No, Maybe So. (Mama circled "Maybe So," which was definitely not per the instructions to check her answer, but as no check boxes were provided, who could blame her?)

I wanted to be a travel agent when I was that age. I meticulously planned imaginary vacations to Disney World. I surveyed the family on their opinions, planned which resort our family would stay in, researched what time of year would be off-peak and therefore, cheaper. It should have been obvious way back then that my parents had a control freak extraordinaire on their hands. Today I found folders and envelopes full of touristy information that I requested (à la the letter seen above) from places as cool as Prince Edward Island and uncool as San Antonio. I found a couple years' worth of saved Travel & Leisure magazines from the 1990s.

I found a whole slew of medals and ribbons from my school days, including fifth place for Soccer Goal Kick in the 5th Grade Olympics. It's nice to know I had that much athletic talent at one time in my life. Many of the medals were identical, gold spray-painted general issue; I kept one and threw the rest out. I guess I went by Kim for a period of time, which is amusing since it's now a personal pet peeve of mine when people call me Kim, seeing as it isn't my name.

There are a lot of spirals full of my art and bizarre stories that should go in the shred box. I get the feeling that I created those long after the time it was socially acceptable to be doing so, which surprises no one. I also have a larger collection of Star Wars memorabilia than is socially acceptable for someone who works outside the I.T. department. There's especially a lot of Yoda figures, including a Pez and a puppet.

I found a stack of $2 bills. Okay, it was only five bills, but still the most cash I've held in awhile. Are $2 bills worth more than $2 yet? What about those Sacajawea dollar coins, because I found a couple of those, too? Found a big plastic bin of M*A*S*H episodes on VHS. Pictures of boys that didn't love me. Wedding announcements for my friends and birth announcements for their kids.

Around the HouseThe best find was probably this pair of black heels that I have been trying to find for a couple of years. My house is the Bermuda Triangle for clothes, socks, and shoes.

I'll probably try to sell off some of this old stuff. Interesting trades considered!

January 2, 2009


I wouldn't necessarily characterize my most recent trip to New York as a voyage of foodie discovery. I mean, of course I scoped out restaurants and bakeries and the like for weeks before flying up. However, I was so happy and anxious to see Chet after ten weeks of being separated from him that I couldn't eat for a couple of days. (See honey, when I said, "You make me lose my appetite," it was out of love.) Also, I tried to keep my shrewishness and control freak tendencies in check to a certain extent, so as to appear as a fun, carefree, spontaneous girl who had not already drawn up the trip plans like a dictator. Okay, I'll admit that there was a Google doc created to house a detailed itinerary, and I don't think Chet was fooled.

The first night I was in Brooklyn, we went to dinner at Black Iris (menu), a middle Eastern restaurant. We had babaghanouj as an appetizer. I ordered the Chicken Ouzi, a fragrant puck of flaky dough filled with rice, raisins, almonds, vegetables, and meat with yogurt sauce. The server was very nice and brought us some extra homemade hot sauce. Pretty good eats.

I had time during the day to myself while Chet was at work. I spent some time at Kalustyan's where I bought some Korintje Cassia Indonesian Cinnamon and Indian Tellicherry Black Peppercorns, among other things. I think most ground cinnamon tastes like dust, but I've used the Kalustyan's house brand in a couple of recipes (that I'll share soon) and it is wonderful.

One of my favorite finds during the trip was City Bakery at Union Square. It was snowing outside and I trudged in bundled up in my coat and scarf, toting my umbrella. I ordered a pretzel croissant and some hot chocolate. The croissant was flaky, buttery, sweet, and salty. The hot chocolate was thick and dark and topped with a fluffy homemade vanilla marshmallow. They were both really good on their own, but after awhile the hot chocolate started to taste funky after a bite of croissant. This was definitely a place I could frequent.

I met Chet for lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar. We ordered pork steamed buns (I think) and some chicken ramen. It was good. Then I tried to add some chili sauce to Chet's bite of ramen and accidentally squirted it all over his pants. Because my moves are smooth. Then we went back out into the snow, and since poor Chet didn't have a hat, I tried to hold my umbrella over him, but just kept hitting him in the forehead. Because my moves are smooth.

We had some good pizza at a place near City Bakery. I ordered a slice with fresh tomatoes and goat cheese, and it put any pizza I could get in Lubbock to shame. We hit Bombay Masala again before a Broadway show.

We tried Grand Sichuan in the East Village. We got an appetizer of pork soup dumplings. Delicious! I tried those in Taiwan and I distinctly remember dropping the giant dumpling from my chopsticks into a bowl of soup, splashing my shirtfront in the process. No such bad luck at Grand Sichuan. I ordered the Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken for my entrée; Chet got General Tso's chicken.

Grand Sichuan Grand Sichuan

I went to Jacques Torres' chocolate shop in Dumbo under the auspices of getting chocolate to bring home as Christmas gifts. Ended up getting a cookie, truffles, and chocolate bars, which were mostly consumed by me in NY. Look at these truffle flavors! I liked caramel best.

I spent a nice afternoon with an almond croissant from Choice Market, which was probably the best thing I ate on the trip. Also dragged Chet to a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education, where a little Sicilian lady taught us how to make Italian desserts with Pan di Spagna (more on that later).

Okay, so if that wasn't a voyage of foodie discoveries, my standards are impossibly high. I'm glad I could manage to fit all that eating into my schedule, despite two days of butterflies in my stomach. My New York trip already seems like a faraway dream, even though I haven't even been home for two weeks yet.

January 1, 2009

Welcome 2009

I hope this year is your best yet, filled with health, happiness, and most importantly, good food.—