Friday, July 31, 2009

A family favorite & a family visit.

source: wikipedia.org
If you're Korean, you know what these delicious frozen things are. Melona (메로나) bars are creamy, honeydew-flavored popsicles by Binggrae (also maker of BBBig red bean popsicles, banana milk, and more). Ever since I was little, these were a summer treat in the household. Grandma would buy a whole box of them when we went to the korean grocery store, and she'd open one and give it to me for the ride home. I can't describe the creamsicle except that it tastes like the real deal melon, with a hint of cream or milk. Not too sweet, full of fruit.

source: gall.dcinside.com

The consistency is really firm at first, but once it melts, the flavor is more pronounced and the creamsicle is like sherbet on a stick. I don't even knowwwwww it's just crazy delicious!

Today I was exploring our freezers, and found a gallon-size bag of cubed honeydew. I guess my mom spotted an overripe melon in the house many moons ago, cut it up and froze it. I remember my dad made an awesome honeydew smoothie two or three weeks ago (he is the smoothie master of the house-- makes one every few days without fail), so I guess this is where the melon came from. When I tasted his smoothie, I remember exclaiming that it tasted just like our favorite melon popsicle! It was even thick like a slightly melty Melona. Yumyum.
I also found some organic coconut milk frozen in an ice tray (had leftovers from pina coladas I made a while back), which I accused my mother of throwing away when I didn't see the milk in the fridge last night. Oops. Of course when I found the fruit and coconut milk, I blended up some smoothies-- er, I guess "milkshakes" would be more PC.
I threw some melon, coconut milk cubes, and mint (I had just pruned my mint plant) into the blender and enjoyed a cooling summer drink with a nostalgic touch. Gotta say, though, I like it without the mint! The flavors work (e.g. melon balls w/ mint), but I prefer the classic "Melona" flavor. The coconut milk was a nice background note, as it wasn't too strong and still let the melon flavor stand out.
"Melona" Milkshake/Smoothie
Makes ~4 cups
  • 2 cups ripe honeydew, cubed and frozen
  • 5-6 cubes of coconut or regular milk, frozen in ice cube tray
  • Some milk on standby
Throw honeydew and milk cubes into blender. Slowly pulse to get things going, adding some milk (coconut or regular; I used regular) when the blender doesn't... blend. Blend til smooth and thick like a milkshake. Taste and add a TINY bit of sugar if your melon isn't ripe enough. Serve with a spoon or stirring stick just in case.

Visiting Cousin J in Cape Canaveral, FL

My sister J and I spent a week down in Florida to visit our cousin J and her bf. Needless to say, we gorged ourselves on seafood, home cooked meals and local favorites. It was a week of gluttony. Sadly, these two photos were the only ones of food. Actually, they were practically the only photos I took while there... I didn't want to risk getting sand or water in my camera.

We hit up a place called Sandbar Sports Grill in Cocoa Beach, just a short stroll from the beach. I feel like every beach has their own "Sandbar" kinda place-- an open-ended joint, with fans whirring and AC almost non-existent. Lots of locals and tourists alike, sun-kissed (or sun-smothered) and enjoying a cold brewski and food in the outdoor seating provided.Sandbar is known for its fish tacos, which you can order grilled, baja or blackened. Blackened is by far the most seasoned. I enjoyed my tacos, though nothing screamed "BEST TACOS IN THE WORLD" to me, but who cares when you're in a wonderful place like that? It was good food, I was hungry before and full afterwards, and the fish was fresh. The seasoning/sauce is what really made the tacos: spicy, slightly creamy, and just enough salt. The sides weren't bad either. A small pet peeve of mine is being served lemon or lime slices that are hard to squeeze, such as the above.

Sandbar Sports Grill
4301 Ocean Beach Blvd
Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
(321) 799-2577
Random food fact (via the maker's site): Melona was launched in 1991, and sold 280 million bars in 1994.


Cheers,
T

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pho Ga-t about ittttt

This was my first foray into the world of homemade pho, and I chose to make the chicken version, AKA phở gà. I took "short cuts" and made what I deem a ghetto pho, and I'm still adjusting ingredient levels. Therefore, I'm not gonna post a recipe that doesn't get the VSA (Vafoodhead Seal of Approval). Mahaha. It was still tasty with that distinctive "pho" flavor, but I know it can be better.. This time I used boneless tenderloins and some organic chicken stock, but that ain't legit. So pho-get about huge shortcut pho, and stay tuned for a kosher recipe in the future.

As for now, I'll post some tips/tidbits about making pho, and specifically phở gà.
  • Don't cut corners when it comes to the chicken. Use a whole chicken if you can, because the meat will have more flavor, as will the soup (bones->stock).
  • Parboil the chicken in plain water before making the broth, to get rid of impurities. Rinse pot and chicken after boiling.
  • Skim the top of the broth often while simmering, as scum and nasties will rise and float.
  • Don't be afraid to adjust spices to your preferences. Chicken pho usually has way less spices than its more famous beef cousin, phở bò, but I like the spices that usually go in the beef version.
  • Char and rinse onions and ginger (if using) before adding to pot. This releases more flavor.
  • While you're at it, toast yo spicesssss!
  • They say the less cloudy the broth, the more superior the pho.
  • If you're using fresh bánh phở (rice noodles), you only need to put them in boiling water for half a minute. If you're using dried noodles, boil for approx 4-5 minutes, keeping a close eye on it.
  • Pull chicken meat out of the broth after it's cooked, or it'll disintegrate from extended boiling. Have your broth boiling RIGHT before plating(bowling? roflcopter), which will reheat the meat and soften/loosen your noodles a bit.


Random food fact: Star anise contains anethole, the same ingredient which gives the unrelated anise its flavor.


Cheers,
T

Monday, July 13, 2009

♫ Animal Crackers in My Toast ♫

Wait. That's not how the song goes?

Meh, I was never a fan of Shirley Temple anyway.

Ok but really, I thought it'd be a cute title (and I'm really not a fan of Shirley). I made French toast for dinner, because I never got up to see breakfast time. I made it extra special by coating the toasts in crushed animal crackers before cooking! It added a subtle crunch and layer of flavor. Making this recipe up also helped me get rid of some animal crackers that I impulsively bought by the huge bagful yesterday (I was depressed and wanted to munch, shut up).

Served with maple syrup, strawberry preserves and blueberries.

I'm slowly trying to build up my tolerance for lactose, so I ate my toast with a glass of milk. Uh ohhh..

I found that blue plate in a deep, dark compartment of our dining room buffet. I thought it was pretty neat with its "cracked" texture and all, but I bet it bothers some of you that its color clashes with the blueberries. And I bet it also bothers some of you that the title is grammatically incorrect. Whatever, don't chap my pants about it.

...Wait. That's not how the saying goes?

Dang.

Animal Cracker French Toast
Makes 4 slices
4 slices of white or whole wheat bread (or anything. Brioche is even better, but we don't have that. Oh! Sourdough or Texas Toast would be great too)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar or sugar substitute
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
a tiny pinch of salt
1 cup animal crackers
butter (preferably unsalted) for cooking

Pour animal crackers into a gallon-sized ziplock bag and crush with blunt object such as a rolling pin (I used a meat mallet on the animals because I'm sadistic like that--- but not the sexual kind, you dirty clown). Alternatively, pulse very slightly in a food processor. Pour crushed crackers into a shallow plate/bowl.
Set a pan or griddle on medium-low. Beat eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt together. Take note of the cinnamon's tendency to clump together-- you'll prob need to whisk mixture before each dipping. One by one, dip both sides of bread in mixture and let excess drip off. Then, dip both sides in animal crackers and gently press on.
Melt a small pat of butter (1 for each slice) in hot pan and place toast[s] in. It is very important to leave some elbow room between toasts, or else your crap will be as pale and soggy as... anything that's pale and soggy? Cook until golden and flip to cook other side.
Serve w/ maple syrup and jam/preserves, fresh fruit, butter, cream cheese, etc.

French Toast TIPS:
  • An alternative to animal cracker crust is cornflake crust, which I've seen floating around the intarweb. FROSTED Flakes would be even better. As a matter of fact, try a buncha different crushed up cereals. Just make sure you don't crush them too finely, or you'll end up with dust.
  • When using regular sandwich bread, DO NOT soak in egg mixture for a long time. Your bread will disintegrate. BUT, if you're using a thick bread such as Brioche, Texas Toast, French baguette, or challah, soak longer.
  • If you want a thick, rich french toast that has a custardy center, use the thick breads listed above after they are slightly old/stale. This way, soaking won't destroy the texture of the bread, and the center will retain more egg mixture when cooking.
  • If you want an eggier french toast, reduce milk to 1/3 cup. The less milk you put, the longer you can soak (especially with thicker toast).
  • Another delicious way to have french toast is by "stuffing" it; simply place a filling on top of one slice of bread, top with another slice, and continue with regular steps. Try stuffing with cream cheese + fruit/jam, nutella, etc.
  • Turn French toast into a legit dessert by adding a scoop of ice cream.

Random food fact (via Wiki): In Brazil, French toast is called "rabanada" and follows the Portuguese recipe. It is quite often used to celebrate a birth, as well as at Christmas and New Year celebrations.


Cheers,
T

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jalapeño bites & queso

Remember the jalapeños that were growing in our tiny garden? Well, they got me fiendin' for some jalapeño poppers: peppers covered in crunchy breadcrumbs and stuffed with a creamy cheese filling. Mmmm. TOO BAD I didn't have any cream cheese! I looked in the fridge and all we had was a tiny bag of shredded "Mexican blend" cheese :(

That's where these fun little bites come in. I sliced some jalapeños and coated them in panko breadcrumbs, roasting and crisping them up in the OVEN, not in a fryer. Hooray for making this pub/party favorite a little healthier! And they're not extremely hot either, which may or may not be a good thing depending on what you like. For me, it was a good thing; the lack of spicy [mainly Korean] food in my freshman year diet really KILLED my tolerance for heat. Eating a bowl of spicy cup noodles will now induce stomachaches and you know what follows. I know, I know. I am a disgrace to my roots :(

I still wanted the creamy cheese element, so I made a simple queso dip. Yo, it tastes even better than that jarred Tostitos queso dip. And beleehhh me, my dormmates and I lived off of that stuff this past year. Best with lime chips (AHHH Y, K, S, L!!! I MISS YOU ALL!). If you have Velveeta lying around, that'd be good too. It melts a little nicer and has more density/texture.

O hay. Please ignore my chipping nail polish :x

My bro, Grams and I killed all the bites right before dinner. Makes a great appetizer, football party dish, etc. etc.


Jalapeño Bites
jalapeño peppers
flour
eggs, lightly beaten (2 eggs were enough for about 7-10 peppers)
panko breadcrumbs
salt, pepper and any other seasonings you'd like (I used garlic and onion powder)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Slice jalapenos into 1/4 inch rings. Pour flour, eggs and panko into 3 separate bowls. Heavily season flour and eggs. Coat rings in flour and shake off excess. Dip in eggwash and shake off excess. Coat in panko breadcrumbs and sure to gently press it on. Spread rings onto a baking pan in a single layer and bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Queso Dip
NOTE: If you have and like Velveeta cheese, skip this recipe-- just melt the Velt and add salsa. Classic foreal
1 tbsp butter
~1/2 small onion, minced
1 spoonful of minced garlic
1 tbsp flour
milk
1.5 cups shredded cheese (I used a 4-cheese "Mexican" style blend, but whatever floats your boat)
salsa
s&p

Melt butter on med heat and saute onion and garlic. Sprinkle and whisk in flour (kiiiinda makin a roux, namsayin?), getting rid of any flour lumps. Whisk in a couple dashes of milk (just enough to make it a thin pudding consistency) and add cheese. Add more milk at this point until you get a creamy consistency, and season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and mix in as much salsa as you'd like. Serve warm/hot with your jalapeño bites :D

Random food fact (via Wikipedia): Velveeta cheese is made, in part, from whey, a by-product of cheese-making that contains a high amount of nutrients.


Cheers,
T

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Nostalgia.

Let me preface this entry by saying it's a LONG one, and maybe boring. But I enjoyed writing it because I got to share the setting of my childhood :) Also, pictures of flowers at my old house were taken with a very crappy Logitech webcam (yes, I detached it and carried it outside) many years ago when I still lived there. Old family pictures are pictures of pictures (did you catch that?) because I'm too lazy to scan.

Before my family and I moved into our copy-and-paste house in modern Suburbia, we lived in a very quaint neighborhood. Every house was a different color, shape and story. You could see the age on the roofs and paneling, woody vines creeping up sides of houses. Most importantly, each house had a real YARD, something we absolutely don't have in our new 'hood. Our front yard was full of old trees that had seen generations come and go. An untamed bush of forsythia blossomed yellow stars next to our mailbox, wild chives were as common as grass, and azaleas grew in every shade of red. Creeping myrtle grew in patches everywhere, leading me to think it was a beautiful but rampant weed (it's not). If our plot were in a popularity contest judged by ladybugs and bumblebees, it would've won.
Forsythia in the background.

Haha I'm the dork on the bottom left.

Azaleas by the front porch.

We also had a large vegetable garden. It spanned the full width of our backyard, hidden by our old pool and rickety playground that I loved so much.
Playground with cousins after church :)

My grandfather tended to the garden non-stop, nursing red-leaf lettuce, peppers, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini and cucumbers to greatness like the expert gardener he is. Now that I think about it, he even built a mini greenhouse next to the lettuce row.
The vegetable garden was just behind the wooden railing (our pool) and flowers seen in this picture. We also had pink and blue hydrangeas (my other favorite flower) to the left of these azaleas.

A ginormous heirloom from the backyard.

Grandpa planted a multi-grafted tree that would've produced peaches, plums and more on the very same tree, but the climate was never right to ripen any budlings. In the summer, wild blackberries would grow on thorny bushes that engulfed our wire fencing (it wasn't smart to place our trampoline next to them, yet we never moved it). I remember plucking the berries that were so heavy with juice they drooped from the vine, feeling them burst between my teeth, and reaching for more even though I was (and am) deathly afraid of thorns. In retrospect, I guess it wasn't very smart to pick wild things and put them in my mouth, but curiosity killed the cat. I loved taking the risk and trying things that looked tasty.

I recall trying to chew seeds that grew in velvety pods over my backporch's terraced roof (see: trying things that looked tasty). I just Wiki'd the thing, and turns out the pods are toxic. Awesome.
Virginia's ugly state flower (dogwood) in the background, as well as the back porch. Oh, and an angry looking me, but I was just squinting b/c of the sun.

Anyhow, the deathpods belonged to my favorite flowering vines (wisteria), which decades ago had climbed a support beam of our porch and taken over the terraced roof. Every spring, the hardy wisteria vines produced beautiful clusters of purple flowers that gave off an intoxicating fragrance reminiscent of ripe Concord grapes, but more floral and complex.

These web cam pics don't do any justice, trust. But I'm surprised I saved any photos at all..
I can still feel the warmth of the sun and smell the flowers this very moment. Soft, purple clusters would crowd the roof, bowing downwards to tease your nose with their delicious scent. There is nothing like it in this world, and wisteria remains one of my favorite flowers-- er, vines-- ever.

A shaky 360 of the backyard by that old webcam. I'm glad I salvaged this from an old HD that crashed years ago. The sun peeking through vines, birds chirping, the low hum from the pool filter: sights and sounds of my youth.
video

I can't believe I left our yards virtually untouched during my teenage years... Stayed indoors all the time, busy with the computer and television. I regret it now!

All's to say, moving into my current home 4 or 5 years ago was a drastic change. It is a nice, modern house and we have wonderful neighbors, but I miss my old home and yard. Stuff here seems so... sterile in comparison. So many memories of playing in the old yard with cousins, siblings and neighbors. Picnics with mom. Driving the Barbie Jeep around the cul-de-sac. Building igloos during the blizzards we never see these days. I've since driven to my old house several times since my sister's still friends with kids in the neighborhood, but it's all too creepy to walk around my former home, right? Darn.

Though we are without space for a garden, we've made do with our tiny backporch. Zucchini, cucumbers, red peppers and jalapeños are grown in little pots. I believe my Grandpa planted the stuff you see in these photos too. We eat the fruits of our labor daily, especially in Korean soups or simple salads. It's so nice to be able to walk outside, pick some veggies (well.. most aren't true VEGGIES, but you know what I mean), and make a dish with them.
The one in the front is still growing, and we'll never be able to reach the ripe one in the back -_- dangit

Ate this zucchini in Grandma's dwenjang jjigae (된장 찌개) during tonight's dinner.

Gma also stuck some jalapeños in the jjigae for spice.

I've added my little pots of basil and mint to the family, as you can see!

It just goes to show that you can grow some greens no matter how small your space is! I hope to start my own (even tinier) balcony garden when I move into my apartment back at the Univ in August.
Made a light cucumber-basil salad this evening, both elements picked straight from our "garden" right before they hit the dish. Cucumber salads are very popular in Asian cuisine, so the dressing included sesame oil and crushed red pepper flakes (Korean style). We usually use brown rice vinegar as the acid element, but I used balsamic vinegar instead, as it is commonly paired with basil, and it is nice with cucumbers as well. A drizzle of honey, some salt and pepper, and carrots for some vitamin A. You really don't need measurements, just adjust things to your liking as you would a regular vinaigrette.

So, readers, have you had your own gardens of any kind before? What did you grow?


Cheers,
T

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fruit surplus in the haus.

WE HAVE TOO MUCH FRUIT!

"Is that even possible? To have too much deliciousness?" you fruit-lovin' Fruity Mcfruitfruits might ask.

I say HAIL TO THE YES! Large quantities that even our family of 5 (plus Gramizzle) cannot finish = large rottage. So I made an apple crisp yesterday for the 4th festivities; some of our apples were even getting shrively with age :( Today, I made a white nectarine and cherry crisp. It was a good way to use some leftover topping and the not-so-sweet (and rock-hard) white nectarines we have too many of. Grabbed some cherries I saw lying on the counter and voila.

Let me tell you. The crumbly topping is so easy to put together, and the way it gets crispy, golden and aromatic (from the cinnamon) when baked is divine. Then imagine that goodness ON TOP of some sweet and tender slices of your favorite fruits bubbling in their own juices. PARTY IN THE MOUF, SON. Top things off with some ice cream (O, WOE! We were all out) and then your mouth's hostin a flippin' party with magical unicorns.


And bohemian gypsies. They know how to partay.

Ignore the background hahaha :)

Fruit Crisp

The most vague but useable recipe ever!

Slices of fruit, enough to fill about 2/3 the depth of baking dish (apples, blueberries, cherries, peaches, strawberries, etc)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cold
1 cup all purpose flour
cinnamon
a handful of oats (I have found that instant/rolled is fine)
a pinch of salt
a handful of nuts (optional, but I like toasted walnuts)
some granulated sugar (optional)
a sprinkle of cornstarch
a splash of mild-flavored fruit juice (such as apple juice) or water

Preheat oven to 375F. Place slices of fruit in a bowl with a small dash of cinnamon, a splash of juice or water, a sprinkle of cornstarch and some spoonfuls of granulated sugar IF NEEDED (as in, the fruit is sour or not ripe enough). If fruit is overly ripe/sweet or mushy, you can add a splash of lemon juice to brighten flavor. Toss until fruit is evenly coated. Pour into baking dish (I believe mine was a 9-inch) and press with fingers to ensure evenness.

For topping: Cut butter into flour until mixture has a crumbly texture. You can do this by pulsing them together in a food processor, or just slice butter into tiny cubes and mix thoroughly w/ flour. Add brown sugar, oats, nuts, about 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Mix until just combined.

Top baking dish with an even layer of topping and bake in the oven until golden and bubbly. Time depends on type of fruit, but I'd say about 30-45 minutes.


Random food fact: A hard-boiled egg will spin perfectly on its side while a raw/undercooked egg will wobble this way and that. This is definitely a trick I use when I'm not sure an egg from my fridge has been boiled by someone or not!


Cheers,
T

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Growin' that herb.

Hahaha. I couldn't help myself, especially these days when I'm anticipating the next episode of Weeds! Horrible content, I know, but the show's so disgustingly outrageous that I'm hooked.
Today, I went out to buy some organic herb plantlings (basil and mint) in order to pot and grow. Hopefully I'll be able to keep them alive and thriving til I move into my apartment back at school. I'm going to try and grow them on my tiny balcony there. As for now, they're sitting in front of a window in our library room, and I slightly pruned/"pinched" them. This helps to stimulate new growth. Just pinch off the very tops (and any flowers) once in a while, right above the "second growths." Make sure to pinch off at the stem, not just the leaves. This ensures proper growing.

I used some basil in a whole wheat penne dish (I know, finally something healthier than cupcakes and butter), inspired by some pasta I had down in South Carolina at Immaculate Consumption. Definitely check that place out if you're near USC's campus; it's located at 933 Main St. "Immac," as students fondly call it, is a coffee and sandwich type of place. Their coffees are roasted in-house, the sandwiches and pastries are fresh, and prices are reasonable. What really stood out to me was their pasta you can have as a side to your sandwich. The whole wheat penne was perfectly al dente. The dressing was simple, comprising of fresh crushed garlic, chiffonaded ribbons of basil, and olive oil. My cousin said they put a little balsamic in there too, but I didn't catch it. Everything was tossed together in a hot pan and seasoned with just enough salt. Perfect!

Where the heck did my basil chiffonades go?! I will never know...

I paired the pasta with some minted lemonade, and it was a fine day.

Whole Wheat Penne, inspired by Immac
1 box whole wheat penne (I like the thin kind)
olive oil
5-6 garlic cloves, minced (or crushed if you don't like pieces when you eat)
1 handful of basil leaves, chiffonaded
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/2 small lemon
s&p to taste

Bring heavily salted water to a boil and add pasta. Meanwhile, heat up a saucepan on medium-high and add olive oil. Throw in basil and garlic and saute until fragrant. Fish garlic out now, if you only crushed the cloves (for those who don't like pieces of garlic in pasta). Drain penne when al dente, and add to saucepan. Stir to mix, squeeze in lemon juice (to your taste), and add optional balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste (I go pretty heavy on the pepper). Serve warm, and maybe add a little grated cheese (a good Parm or Pecorino Romano).

Minted Lemonade

1 cup water
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup sugar
lemons
a handful of mint leaves, ripped up
ice

Bring water and sugar (add as little as 1/2 c or as much as 3/4 c to start) to a simmer until sugar is dissolved; let cool. In a pitcher add ripped up mint leaves and a teaspoon of sugar. Crush and muddle (add a little lemon juice if needed). Add juice of about 4 lemons and sugarwater. Taste to check sweetness. You'll probably need to add a little more water and/or sugar at this point. Adjust to your liking! Add some ice and stir. Rim glasses with raw or crystal sugar (I only had regular refined sugar hehe) because you're classy like that. Serves about 3-4 and then some.

Note: for a stronger mint flavor, rip up some mint leaves and throw them in the pot when making simple syrup/sugar water.

Random food fact of the day: The demand for lemons and their scurvy-preventing properties hit a peak during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Miners were willing to pay huge sums for a single lemon. As a result, lemon trees were planted in abundance throughout California (via Sunkist.com).


Cheers,
T