Monday, October 17, 2011

Sprinkles Galore: Birthday Cupcakes and Cookies

We’ve been shirking our posting duties for the past couple months, but now we’re back!  What better way to celebrate the return of Piggie Diaries than with SPRINKLES???

Sprinkles everywhere!

When I think of any celebrations, I automatically think of cookies, cakes, and ice cream – all with lots of sprinkles on top!   A few weeks ago, two of my friends were celebrating their birthdays, a perfect time for me to test out some funfetti (best word invented by Pillsbury) recipes I found.  I made two different funfetti recipes:

1) Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes with Mascarpone / Cream Cheese Frosting:  Yes – homemade!! I didn’t use the mix for these delicious morsels of goodness.  These were SO yummy I had to

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A City Gem: Yakitori Totto

It doesn’t happen very often that you walk into a place and immediately know that it is one of the best.  We knew this was such an occasion as soon as we walked up the stairs and entered Yakitori Totto, which serves authentic Japanese food in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen.

When you enter, you’ll notice that the open grill is the centerpiece of the warm dining room.  For your first visit, pick a seat by the bar to observe the chefs masterfully create the many grilled skewers of joy, ranging from

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Banana Walnut Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yes, I managed to pack all of said ingredients into one cookie. 

 banana walnut oatmeal pb choc chip goodness
What better way to spend hurricane weekend than to make cookies (that sound like they were made by a tornado sweeping up all of the ingredients together).  These cookies really pack a punch (a healthy one!) with hearty oats,

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Satisfying My Six Month Tiramisu Craving

For roughly six months now, I have been craving tiramisu.  Three months ago I got a slice from a nearby Italian restaurant only to be sourly disappointed, and so the craving continued on, unsatisfied.  I had to take matters into my own hands…the result is this giant tiramisu made by yours truly.  I think it’s safe to say I will have fully satisfied my craving after this is all gone.

 The solution to a six month tiramisu craving

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Adventures in Spain: San Sebastian and Pamplona

We promise this is the last of our Spain posts (until our next trip).  We’ve dragged on our trip to Spain for more than a month now and almost considered not posting the last entry, but we couldn’t bear to skip over our final glorious days in the Basque region!

I’m going to keep this brief because the photos will speak for themselves.  We spent one day in the beautiful beach town of San Sebastian, known to have the best pintxos (that’s what they call tapas in the Basque region) and most Michelin star restaurants per capita in the world.  Heavy rain that day prevented us from wandering the beach; however, we happily occupied our time exploring the pintxos bars of San Sebastian.  

Yay we have arrived at San Sebastian!...but booo it's raining!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Adventures in Spain: Tasting Navarra's Best Wines

During our week in Spain, we were invited to tour two of Navarra’s finest wineries.  Neither of us knew much of anything about wine other than how to empty a glass of it, so it was nice to take a closer look and see how wine is produced from start to finish.  The process is extensive: harvest and crush the grapes, fermentation, aging period, and finally bottling the wine to be sold.  The master of all things wine, or the "enologist,"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Adventures in Spain: Road Trip Through Navarra

After our evening tapas crawl in Madrid, the next morning we set off on our journey to the region of Navarra.  After four hours of driving through rather quiet scenery, we arrived at the picturesque Bardenas Reales, a desert-like natural park of plateaus formed by erosion over millions of years. 

We continued on to the historic town of Olite.  It was a very charming town housing the Royal Palace of Olite, previously home to the court of the King of Navarra during the Middle Ages.

Quiet streets of Olite

 Royal Palace of Olite

That day it so happened that there was a special youth federation event – we got to witness a mini “running of the bulls” with the young boys of Olite running with small bulls through the streets of Olite. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Adventures in Spain: Tapas Crawl in Madrid

Back in February, my string of good luck began when I won a trip to Navarra, Spain.  You can read my original post about Navarra and the dinner we attended during Navarra Gastronomic Week here

The time finally came last week for Piggie Hubby and me to embark on what we knew would be a spectacular, unforgettable gastronomic adventure in Spain.  As you’ll see from the photos, we kicked off our trip by spending our first two days eating all of the tapas Madrid had to offer. 

Our first food adventure was at Mercado de San Miguel, a covered market with over 30 different shops that offer fresh fruit and seafood and most importantly for us, beer and tapas!  We came here our first night in Madrid to have a sampling of tapas.  There was so much more we wanted to try, we came back for lunch the next day as well.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tehuitzingo – Mexico en Nueva York Señoras y Señores

Today's post is compliments of Piggie Hubby.  Born and raised in Mexico, this piggie knows his tacos.  

I have searched endlessly for a place that would remind me of the delicious dishes I grew up eating in Mexico.  My search for those treats, tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, tortas, has spanned numerous cities with the hopes of finding the restaurant that would remind me of the comforts of home with a single bite.  Hidden in the back of a tiny Mexican grocery store in Hell’s Kitchen, I finally found the answer to my quest: Tehuitzingo.

In hindsight, I should have known that my search would end as soon as I entered Tehuitzingo and found myself surrounded by the familiar décor of a traditional deli in Mexico: shelves stocked with traditional spices, salsas, sweet treats, canned goods, and friendly faces.  Beyond the groceries and after walking past a set of fridges filled with Mexican drinks (Sidral, Sangria, Jumex juices),

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

As most of you already know, or may have figured out, I have an absurdly large sweet tooth.  I have successfully managed to polish off batches of cookies and cakes by myself (probably not something to brag about).  In order to curb my excessive dessert intake, I now try to decrease my baking.

A few weeks ago, my coworker had a housewarming party - the perfect opportunity for me to bake something and not single-handedly consume all of the goods.  For two years, yes, TWO WHOLE YEARS, I have had this Mini Oreo Cheesecake recipe bookmarked but never actually made it.  On this fine Saturday in May, I finally

Friday, June 3, 2011

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread? Mac n Cheese Sandwich

Oh yes, your eyes are not fooling you.  I did indeed pile mac n cheese between two slices of sourdough bread.  This has been a dream I’ve wanted to make a reality for a long time. 

Dreams really do come true

But that’s not all folks – my mac n cheese had a spicy kick from

Monday, May 23, 2011

Patron Secret Dining Society: NYC Secrets Revealed

Last week, Piggie Hubby and I had the pleasure of enjoying a cocktail hour and 4-course dinner prepared by Chef Marcus Samuelsson along with Patron cocktail pairings by Mixologist Tomas Delos Reyes.  At no cost to us yipppeeeee!
It all started with a Patron Liqueur Double Dark Chocolate Mini-Bundt Cake.  A while ago my husband got this delicious chocolate tequila cake in the mail for his birthday, compliments of Patron. 

One bundt cake later, I signed up to be a member of the Patron Social Club so that I too could get this delicious treat sent to me in the mail.  Fast forward seven or eight months to current day – we received an email from

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pho finally in HK: ChaPa's Vietnamese Noodles and Grill

Hurrah! Pho has arrived in Midtown West!  There’s been an absence of pho around here, but lo and behold, as I was doing my weekly run to Stiles Farmers Market (that’s how I discovered Danji as well), I caught sight of the ChaPa’s Vietnamese Noodles and Grill sign.  Every day after that, I impatiently awaited the grand opening.

That day finally arrived – here’s what I had:

Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritters, Lightly battered deep-fried sweet potato and shrimp served with lettuce, pickled carrots, and daikon.  Served with Vietnamese fish sauce.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Surrounded by Culinary Greatness: James Beard Awards Ceremony & Gala

The James Beard Awards were this past Monday but already seem like a distant memory – I wish I could do it again!  Rubbing shoulders with the best chefs and TV food personalities in the country?  Sounds good to me.  We walked past the red carpet (green, actually) as Susan Ungaro (President of the James Beard Foundation), Tom Colicchio, Marcus Samuelsson, and his model wife Maya Haile were arriving.  The funniest thing was when one of the press photographers thought we were actually some kind of famous couple (see photo below - hahah in hindsight, we should have played along). 
I was no more than a foot away as Bobby Flay was getting interviewed.  James Beard Award winner Saipin Chutima (Lotus of Siam) sat two rows in front of us during the awards ceremony.  We ran into Yigit (winner of Top Chef: Just Desserts) and my husband yelled out to him and said hello.  We saw Wylie Dufresne of wd~50,

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Piggie Diaries on Twitter!

I've finally given into this 140 characters or less business and joined Twitter - so follow piggiediaries on Twitter!  I would say I'll be giving play-by-play updates on the James Beard Awards tomorrow night...but let's be honest, my hands will be full with all the food I'm going to consume =).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Eat Sandwich Feel Good: City Sandwich

I’ve been on a sandwich kick…ever since I’ve had teeth (a pretty long time).  Crusty bread, meat, and cheese stacked high then preferably toasted, pressed, or grilled in some way.  Now that’s a meal.  So you see, when I found out a new sandwich shop was opening up in the HK ‘hood in October of last year, I knew I had to try it.

With an unassuming name like City Sandwich, you wouldn’t expect it to offer anything more than your average midtown deli sandwich.  Oh, if you only knew how wrong you were.  As you step into the entrance, you immediately are greeted by the fragrant scent of golden bread, the finest meats and cheeses, and all of the other delicious fresh ingredients emanating from the kitchen. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Golden Ticket: James Beard Awards!

I’m going to the James Beard Awards on May 9!!!
By a crazy twist of fate, I somehow won two tickets to the James Beard Awards and Gala Reception (thank you SeriousEats and Green & Black's)!  For those of you who don’t know what the James Beard Awards is, it’s basically an event where all of the biggest names in the food and beverage industry (from restaurants, TV, publications) come out to honor and celebrate the James Beard Award nominees, winners, and most notably, the diverse cultures that have formed our American cuisine.  It’s only appropriate that this year’s event is themed “The Ultimate Melting Pot.”  Time Magazine calls it “the Oscars of the food world” and that explanation seems to have stuck – but psh, I say this is WAY better than the Oscars and can stand on its own. 
Allow me to enlighten you on the “melting pot” that will be showcased at the Gala Reception.  20 or so of the best chefs from around the country will be churning out beautiful dishes of some of the most amazing food I will ever eat in my life.  To top it off, I’ll be rubbing shoulders with the best chefs and restaurateurs in the country plus my favorite Food Network and Top Chef stars!!!!  Ahhhhh somebody pinch me, I’m not sure if this is real! 
Assignment for May 9: find a black-tie worthy dress that gives me plenty of room to eat =).  Stay tuned for my update after the event!
James Beard Awards 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Another Hell's Kitchen Addition: Mooncake Foods

I tried Mooncake Foods for the first time with my husband months ago at their 30th street location and was a fan right away, so when I heard Mooncake was opening up a new location in my hood, I was very excited.  Mooncake is all about doing home-cooked Asian food (with some added Spanish flare) that’s full of flavor but holds back on the grease.  Their slogan says it all: “Fun Casual Asian Comfort Food.”

My sister was around for a couple days so I decided to use this dinner date as an opportunity to stake out the new Mooncake.  It’s a much smaller location with only 15-20 seats max, but despite the limited seating, there was no wait for our Wednesday evening dinner (guess people haven't discovered this little gem yet).

Here’s what we ordered:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

I really feel bad for pumpkins.  When autumn comes around, everyone goes into full out pumpkin mode – pumpkin picking, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, roasted pumpkin, pumpkin lattes, you get the picture.  Once the holidays are over, pumpkin is out.  People turn their backs on pumpkin for the rest of the year and this beautiful, delicious squash is quickly forgotten. 

I like to consider myself an equal opportunity food consumer (technical term), and I try not to pigeonhole foods into a certain time of the year.  I love to make and eat pumpkin anything all year round.  A couple weeks ago I had a strong craving for pumpkin bread.  I decided to go with a recipe I found on Allrecipes.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tavern on the Green Truck: Free Food Giveaway

What better way to end a run around Central Park then to treat yourself to some free food from the food trucks at Tavern on the Green?  

According to Grubstreet, the food trucks at Tavern on the Green are returning to spring / summer hours.  They're celebrating by giving away one free dish per truck (that's right, you can get a free dish from every single truck)! 

Location: Tavern on the Green, 67th and Central Park West
Event Date: Saturday, April 16 (Sunday if it rains).  
Time: 2-4pm

Participating Trucks:
Ladle of Love
Pera Turkish Tacos
Rickshaw Dumplings
Van Leeuwen

Monday, April 11, 2011

Danji: Korean Tapas in Hell's Kitchen

If you were to ask someone from NYC what neighborhood to check out for a great meal, you’d probably hear East Village, Tribeca, West Village, Lower East Side, Chelsea; more blatantly, what I’m trying to say is that the last answer you would ever hear is Hell’s Kitchen.  

I am here to invalidate all of the anti-Hell’s Kitchen folks out there and open their eyes to the delights that my beloved neighborhood has to offer.  I have lived in this area since I moved to the city four years ago, so admittedly I am biased (and those who know me also realize I tend to stay in the vicinity purely out of laziness).  But all of that aside, Hell’s Kitchen is booming.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tri Tip Grill: Where Carnivores Unite

If you’re feeling especially carnivorous, check out Tri Tip Grill to satisfy your hunger.  That’s what I did when I was craving a big slab of meat (apologies to the vegetarians out there reading this).  

Tri Tip Grill definitely did the trick – take a look at what we ordered:

Little Buck – 4 oz. of thinly sliced tri tip served with caramelized onions or au jus dipping sauce

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cashew Crusted Salmon with Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta

Crunchy.  Salty.  Sweet.  Creamy.  I love meals that really tickle my tastebuds and give me a little bit of everything in one bite, that’s what I tried to recreate in this meal.  The other day I was craving salmon, specifically something nut-crusted to give it that nice crunchy texture.  I’ve crusted fish with pecans and pistachios before, but this time I decided to break open a bag of cashews I had lying around.
As an accompaniment to the salmon, I knew I wanted to make some kind of creamy polenta.  Ever since I made the polenta squares a few weeks ago, my tummy has been ready and waiting for creamy style polenta.  I found this Rachel Ray recipe for creamy polenta with butternut squash.  SOLD.  I love butternut squash.  Before I even tasted this divine squash, I knew I would like it – I mean, come on, it has the word “butter” in it, that was already enough for me. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

World's Largest Bake Sale For Food Bank at Grand Central Terminal

Where and how can you get Sandra Lee, Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali, Duff Goldman, Emeril Lagasse, and Rosanna Scotto all under one roof?

Tomorrow, March 29, 2011, from 11:30am to 7pm at Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall!

The Bake Sale, hosted by Sandra Lee, will offer goodies from 30 well-known New York City restaurants and chefs. According to Grand Central’s website, it will include Ciao Bella Gelato, Junior's Restaurant, Magnolia, Manhattan Chili Company, Murray's, Zaro's, Del Posto, and Fresco by Scotto.

More importantly, it’s all for a good cause – the Food Bank.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fuji Bakery: Best Chinese Pineapple Custard Buns

Ever since my parents brought home Chinese pineapple buns when I was little, or “bolo bao", I’ve been hooked.  Years later, I discovered the pineapple buns filled with custard filling – those have become my absolute favorite.  I tried to make them a few weeks ago (check out my version here), but from now on, I’m going straight to the professionals.
And by professionals, I mean Fuji Bakery.  Before, I used to go to one of my favorite Chinatown bakeries to get my pineapple custard bun fix, but then one day, my husband came home with this large, football shaped pineapple bun abundant with custard filling – see for yourself:

 I want one.  Now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Air France Gourmet Food & Joel Robuchon for all?

Courtesy of Conde Nast, I just learned that an Air France Gourmet Food Truck will hit the streets of NYC from this Thursday, March 24, 2011 to next Monday, March 28, 2011. Have breakfast, lunch, and dinner compliments of Air France and Joel Robuchon.

Joel Robuchon is a culinary legend that holds the title of "Chef of the Century" with a dozen restaurants that have a combined 26 Michelin stars.  I am definitely not going to miss this!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lentil-Barley Burgers

I’m a big fan of veggie burgers.  They make me feel like I’m eating healthy (or at least cancelling out my unhealthiness).   I went on this crazy health kick last year in which I went on a bit of a healthy food shopping spree and stocked up on bags of barley, lentils, bulgur wheat and the like.  The health kick didn’t last long.  After I purchased these items, they got tucked away in a cabinet never again to be seen until today. 

At last, almost a year later, I broke out the lentils and barley for some Lentil-Barley Burgers.   Instead of the fruit salsa in the recipe, I made a black bean mango salsa that went along well with the burgers.   One thing I failed to do before making these was to read the directions prior to cooking. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Francois Payard & Macaron Day 2011

I just can’t get enough macarons.  My husband and I are slowly eating our way around Manhattan’s best macaron shops.  One bakery we’ve been wanting to try for a long time is Francois Chocolate Bar, named after the chef / owner, Francois Payard.  Payard is the real deal, a French pastry chef from Nice who sharpened his skills in Paris.  Well lucky me, it just so happens that my husband came home and surprised me with a whole box!  

 Pretty packaging

Monday, March 14, 2011

Co Ba: Mediocre Banh Mi

Serious Eats, you have failed me.  Serious Eats NY recently had a post titled “The Best Banh Mi in Manhattan, NYC” that listed the top ten banh mi establishments in the city.  I foolishly believed them.  I feel swindled.  Number one on their list, Banh Mi Zon, I immediately crossed out because the photo of the classic sandwich didn’t look particularly appetizing – where was the delicious roast pork?

I decided I wanted to give number two a try, Co Ba.  My go-to banh mi place, Banh Mi Saigon, was number four on the list.  I absolutely LOVE their banh mi, so based on Serious Eats’ recommendation, I figured Co Ba had to be nothing short of amazing.

Wah.  Where to begin?  I ordered two different banh mi to go:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ode to Peanut Butter: The Nutropolitan Museum of Art

Oh yes - I did indeed go to a Peanut Butter Museum last week.

The creamy, crunchy goodness is so close to my heart that I actually bothered to venture downtown to check out “The Nutropolitan Museum of Art” (I haven’t even been to the Met yet),  a PB&J art exhibit presented by Peanut Butter & Co. and the National Peanut Board (did anyone know it was National Peanut Month?). 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this excursion.  I think I went in with expectations that were a bit too high.  I was hoping for some 3D edible art creations (maybe I was just hungry), but the gallery consisted of a small white room with various peanut butter photos hung on the walls – a peanut butter sandwich “fashion show” if you will.  The photos were cool, quirky, and some of them looked quite tasty.  Here are a few of my favorites below: 

PB & Banana "hotdog"? Count me in.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Polenta Squares with Mushroom Ragu

A few months ago I saw a recipe for polenta squares in a magazine.  Ever since then, I've been itching to make them (and eat them).  I was craving pasta for dinner the other day, so I decided I’d also make polenta squares to round out the meal.  I found a recipe from Giada with a mushroom sauce that looked delicious, so I gave it a shot.  

This was so easy to make, and the polenta squares were done in no time.  They tasted pretty good; but to be honest, I much prefer the creamy style polenta (aka lots of heavy cream and why not throw in some cheese for good measure).  Next time, I’ll be making creamy polenta!

 Chopped cremini mushrooms

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lotus of Siam: Best Thai Food?

I have a deep rooted love for Thai food.  I’m surrounded by it in my neighborhood and find myself eating it at least 3-4 times a month.  I had heard Lotus of Siam, an apparently legendary Thai restaurant in Las Vegas (some have praised it as being the best Thai restaurant in the nation), was opening up a location in New York City.  An authentic Thai restaurant over 150 dishes deep in Vegas, the newly opened NYC location had an abridged menu and higher prices.   In my honest opinion, extravagant Asian food doesn’t make sense.  It’s an oxymoron.  Traditional Thai food isn’t meant to have all these extra bells and whistles.   This is my long-winded way of saying I was initially a bit hesitant at trying this restaurant.

I don’t regret a single bite.  My friend and I shared two dishes and both were absolutely delicious.  I still think it’s overpriced for what it is, and I get that rent is high on 5th Avenue, and anywhere else in Manhattan for that matter; but in any event, I probably won’t be a repeat customer.  And it looks like the creators agree – Bill and Saipin Chutima abandoned this venture back in January according to Diner’s Journal stating it’s against their original vision: “homey and affordable.”  I wish owner Roy Welland listened. Anyways, back to the most important part, the food!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pozole: Mexican Chicken-Hominy Soup

At this time of year (although now it's March and shouldn't be this cold), it’s so chilly outside that all I want to eat is a good bowl of soup.  I saw this recipe for Mexican Chicken-Hominy Soup in Cooking Light Magazine, their version of pozole – it looked delicious and super easy to make (and is healthy!), so I thought I’d try it out. 

I went to the grocery store and picked up an already cooked rotisserie chicken and then walked around the store looking for hominy.  Argh.  They didn’t have hominy, one of the main ingredients!  I settled for sweet corn as a substitute and went back home, feeling a bit defeated. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Navarra Gastronomic Week: A Taste of Navarra

The beautiful land of Navarra, Spain - you always hear about Barcelona and Madrid, but Navarra?  Where is that?  Navarra is a region in the northern part of Spain, bordering France, with the capital being Pamplona – this is where the famous running of the bulls occurs every July.  The picturesque Pyrenees mountains and lush green plains are a focal point…but what really entices me is their spectacular offerings of food and wine.

Photo courtesy of the Government of Navarra

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Vday Part 3: PB Banana Cake with Nutella Frosting

Ah, the trials and tribulations of Valentine’s Day dinner: what to make for dessert, arguably the most important part of the meal (at least in my eyes…or perhaps my tummy).  I thought long and hard and came up with the perfect way to end the meal, with all of our favorite things.  Peanut Butter.  Bananas.  Nutella.  Honestly, if I had just chopped up a banana and threw in a generous scoop of PB and Nutella, my husband would have been more than content.  But obviously, I couldn’t leave it at that.  I decided I would make, brace yourselves, a PB Banana Cake with Nutella Frosting.

I browsed online and found recipes for banana cake and Nutella frosting.  I love cream cheese frosting, so I was sold when I found this recipe.  I’m not a big fan of the buttercream frosting varieties.  There’s something about seeing that giant stick of butter when you make the frosting that is a bit of a turnoff.  A giant block of cream cheese, on the other hand, I’m all for that.  I’ll have you know that I at least used 1/3 fat cream cheese.  Also, the banana cake recipe calls for buttermilk, instead I used lowfat vanilla yogurt.  It’s the perfect substitute for buttermilk and keeps the cake nice and moist.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vday Part 2: Sushi Rolls

Sushi rolls seem like they’d be very difficult to make, but they aren’t – come on, even I can do it.  For Valentine’s Day dinner, I made two different kinds of sushi rolls for my husband and me: a California-esque roll with imitation crab, cucumber, egg and a smoked salmon avocado roll.  When I was in high school (a long time ago), I would often make sushi rolls for lunch with my mom during summer breaks.  Basically, my mom would prepare all of the ingredients and the only thing I actually did was roll them (and I did a great job eating them too).  This is the first time I went through all of the steps on my own.  

I referenced the below recipes when making my sushi rolls, but I really just winged it based on what I remember from making them with my mom.  I cooked my rice normally as I do in a rice cooker, and once it was finished I tossed in the sugar, vinegar, and salt.  It really all depends on your own personal taste, but I like my rice a bit more on the sour side, so I added more vinegar into the mixture.  For the sliced cucumbers, I also tossed them in sugar and vinegar to give them that slight pickled flavor.  When scrambling the egg, I spread it out in the pan so it was almost as thin as a crepe then sliced it up into strips.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vday Part 1: Chicken Satay

My husband and I love peanut butter.  We eat it every single day in exorbitant quantities and should probably lock up our peanut butter supply for our own good.  Realistically, that will never ever happen.  

For Valentine’s Day dinner, I was stumped on what to make for an appetizer.  I already knew I was making sushi for the entrée per my husband’s special request (what a lucky man hah), so I figured it would make sense to stick to the Asian route for the appetizer.  We both love Thai food, so the first thing I thought of was chicken satay with peanut sauce; especially fitting for us, since the chicken skewers are dipped in what is essentially just peanut butter.  Granted, traditional Thai peanut sauce is made with ground peanuts rather than peanut butter, but I’m all for Tyler Florence’s simple Americanized version.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year: Bunches of Buns

I’ve been wanting to make Chinese buns (“baozi” in Mandarin) for a while, and what better time to make them than Chinese New Year! Baozi are one of my favorite things that my mom would make for us kids at home, so this was definitely a recipe I wanted to try out on my own. I did most of this based on memory of how my mom used to make hers with the exception of the egg custard filling and crunchy sweet topping recipes.

I made four different kinds: steamed buns filled with ground beef, steamed buns filled with red bean paste, and baked buns filled with egg custard or red bean paste – these are my absolute favorite to get at a Chinese bakery, typically called “pineapple buns” because they have a crunchy sweet topping that makes them look like pineapples.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Super Bowl of Crab Tater Tots

For me, the superbowl means pizza, wings, and any other fatty delicious food one may procure for the big game.  Besides all of the aforementioned goodness, I knew I wanted to make something to round out the typical menu.  I browsed around for recipes and lo and behold, I came across Crab Tater Tots.  Whoa.  Obviously, I had no choice but to make these so I could taste them for myself.  The original recipe I stumbled upon was from Iron Chef Michael Symon - with his method, the tots are deep fried in oil.  I like to avoid deep frying, so I found a recipe for baked tater tots - the trick the author used was breading the tots in potato chips to get that same crunchiness you would get from deep frying.  She used pop chips that are much healthier, but I on the other hand, used sea salt kettle cooked chips that aren't so healthy (probably defeated the purpose of not frying them).  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Basque-ing in Glory

Another restaurant week adventure – my husband and I wanted to check out the newest China Grill Management restaurant, Bar Basque.  They specialize in Spanish / Basque cuisine.  Having just opened in October 2010, we figured they had to have a good restaurant week menu to woo in new clientele.  And that they did.  They had a comprehensive menu with a lot of options coming straight off their normal menu.  

Often times (or it seems so to me), restaurants tend to haphazardly throw together dishes specifically for the restaurant week menu, only to turn off diners with their mediocrity.  In my past experience, restaurants that stay true to their normal menu are far more successful and leave customers with a positive impression. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

City Lobster and Steak

My hubs and I had a super early dinner yesterday (5pm, senior citizen's style) - we checked out City Lobster and Steak.  The reviews for the restaurant are mediocre, but I wanted to try it anyways.  The restaurant week menu looked mouth-watering, so despite some of the negative reviews, they had me sold.  Goes to show that putting time in to create a menu that really sounds amazing will entice customers (or maybe just me…). 

Check it out:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Brownie 'Cupcakes'

Four words.  Pumpkin Pie Brownie Cupcakes. 

Ok, allow me to elaborate.  Imagine a thick layer of fudgy pumpkin spiced brownie topped with a layer of pumpkin pie filling.  Now I dare you to maintain that image in your mind and try not to drool.

I stumbled upon this recipe in a blog geared towards vegans.  Yes, I repeat, vegans.  First thing that struck my mind when I saw this was “wow, vegans actually eat delicious food?!”  Obviously, a bad assumption on my part, as I know nothing about being a vegan and consider myself the polar opposite…someone that eats absolutely everything and anything in sight.

Back to the recipe – although I did want to see what living like a vegan was like even if only for a second, I un-veganized the recipe.  For one, I didn’t have coconut oil and wasn’t going to specially purchase it since I’m clearly not vegan, so I used good ‘ol butter.  The original recipe says it only makes 8 large brownies and 2 small, so I doubled it because I was planning to share.  Somehow the math must have gotten mixed up, because when I doubled the recipe, I ended up with 24 large brownies, and 24 mini brownies.  More brownies?  Psh, no complaints here.

After I took the first batch out of the oven, I couldn’t wait and had to have a sample.  These brownies made me speechless.  Essentially a rich, decadent brownie with gooey pumpkin pie on top, I was definitely in a happy place.  I was very confident in these pumpkin pie brownie cupcakes, but here came the ultimate test: what will the hubby think?  

And then, he proceeded to eat five in a row.  I think they passed the quality control test =).   

Amazing brownie batter

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Biscuits

One of my absolute favorite foods is sweet potatoes.  Whether I’m at a restaurant or perusing recipes, whenever I stumble upon something with sweet potatoes, I’m instantly sold.  The other day I was trying to be good and went to the gym, only to sit on the bike and read gossip magazines.  I picked up an issue of SELF magazine to read as well, and to my delight, it featured a recipe for sweet potato biscuits!  I was so excited to make these, especially since the recipe is so simple and only needs 5 ingredients – very quick and easy!

The original recipe uses whole wheat biscuit mix as the base – my grocery store didn’t have this, so I settled for Bisquick.  I had to use a bit more Bisquick than the recipe called for in order to get the dough to the right texture, otherwise it was too moist and sticky.  I also altered the cook time to 25 minutes because my biscuits were still raw at the 15 minute mark.  I had to wait a few extra minutes, but boy, these biscuits were well worth the wait!  The recipe makes a total of eight biscuits, and as always, my husband and I always split everything down the middle.  I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I managed to polish off my four biscuits within the same day.  Yes, these biscuits are THAT good.

I'm already drooling