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Thursday, July 31, 2008

.: double date in Annapolis :.

last night, jab and i headed down to Annapolis. he planned a wonderful dinner with another couple, his friend from college Mike and his wife Irene. he chose Pusser's Caribeean Grille. a most unfortunate name for a restaurant but what a great place. it stormed something fierce in Baltimore right after work and i had hoped it would at least break the fierce heat and humidity. it did not. but thankfully, it didn't affect the drive down to the state capital. we were seated right by the water, literally, the water was just a step away from our table.

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jab and i arrived first; we had such a lovely view. we enjoyed a cocktail. he got the Pusser's Painkiller and i settled for the Marina Cay Champagne. i enjoyed my drink immensely, it was light and refreshing. his wasn't strong enough. :)

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nutmeg garnished the Painkiller. Jab went with the #3 rank and wishes he went with the stronger one.


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my drink was just right for me.


it was such a lovely night to spend with friends, in the middle of the week. despite it being a weeknight, the restaurant was pretty busy. the bar area had an acoustic guitarist. i definitely recommend this place. parking is a bear, we paid $10 in the lot because street parking suuuuuucks.

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Barbecued Salmon Tower. jab devoured his dish, he even liked the yams!

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Steamed Lobster. i had a whole lobster to myself. i felt so decadent but at $23.50, i couldn't pass it up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

.: Inner Harbor Madness :.

took the sisters to the inner harbor for some people watching. it's always amusing to just observe. it's also very amusing to hear their thoughts and reactions to certain things.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

baking my frustrations away

it's odd to say that i am glad the weekend is coming to an end. but i am. dropping off the girls this afternoon, after i take them shopping. as a whole and as an idea, i adore my sisters. but individually, they drive me ape. it's hard to maintain any kind of sisterly relationship when they're normally half way around the world and they're so much younger than me. i just realized that the youngest is half my age. so no wonder we butt heads and i have no friggin idea how to relate to her. so i'm at the line of friend, sister, or parent. and i resent it. it shouldn't be so hard.


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so i woke up today to no bickering or talk back and took advantage of the quiet to bake. i still had some leftover zucchini but this time i wanted something savory. again, i went with What Geeks Eat's Savory Onion Zucchini Bread. i didn't have pam to boss around so i used my food processor and it actually was very satisfying to just dump the veggies in and listen to the whirl of the blade. stirring is my least fave part of cooking and that was also very satisfying. i should've looked for a recipe that required kneeding cus i'm sure i could ground/pound the hell out of dough right about now.


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Maybe some modifications for next time/ things i've learned:

  • i didn't need to add the milk
  • i ix-nayed the parm cheese, i don't have that normally in the house (i know, giada would kick my ass ...) so i just didn't put it in.
  • so far, i've kept the loaves in the oven for about 50 minutes, 30 didn't give it enough time to brown right and seemed a bit raw still in the middle.
  • next time i'll only put half an onion in because it is waaaaay onion-y as is now.

the mixture made two loaves. i can't say i'm a fan, especially when compared to the chocolate zucchini bread i made a few days ago.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Crockpot Lasagna and Chocolate Zuchinni Bread

i'm playing single parent again this weekend, but this time not just pam is with me, but the youngest pascale is in the mix too. having them with me gives me reason to play in the kitchen. they love my lasagna so i knew i had to make that for them. this time tho, i decided to throw it in the crock pot. i did a quick search to see if it were even possible. it is. but i didn't follow a recipe. i followed the basic lasagna steps: pasta, sauce, cheese layer, repeat. i used ground turkey. i did all the prep work last night, assembled it in the crock pot and in the morning, before heading out to work, set it to low. voila.

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i bought some gorgeous zucchini at the farmer's market so i decided to make use out of them. whilst perusing Make a Joyful Table, i came across a Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe. i didn't like the ingredients so i did a search. i found a better recipe at What Geeks Eat. i made a slave out of pam, she had to shred the zucchini. i also used white chocolate chips instead, because that's what i had handy.

zuch bread

both sisters and jab had seconds of lasagna and so far, pammie is working on her 3rd piece of the bread. sweet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cold Korean Mashed Potato Salad

i've always been a fan of korean food. the summer before the sixth grade, we went on vacation to South Korea and i even dated a korean guy back in college for about five minutes. bulgogi is positively, sinfully delish! if i remember correctly, my parents and i had it for lunch and dinner for the week we were in seoul. i heart me some kimchi too. anyway, Nam Kang is the only korean restaurant i've hit in Baltimore. i know there's a few more i should try out but i really dig this place. and they're open till 4am! what i like most about korean cuisine is the banchan, side dishes that i could eat alone with rice. one of my fave is the cold mashed potato salad. i guessed on the ingrediants and lord knows if i got it right. it tastes good to me so i guess that's all that matters.



my guess on korean mashed potato salad
  • potatoes to boil, i used some small reds that i found at the farmer's market
  • thinly sliced cucumber
  • thinly sliced red onions, i drenched it in cold water and sugar, to take the kick of onion flavor out
  • mayo
  • salt/pepper and sugar to taste
essentially, i combined how one would make mashed potatoes (sans the butter/milk) and how one would make potato salad. that's pretty much it. oh it's a rather sweet dish. not dessert sweet tho. just saying.



i do want to add that i do NOT know if this is the right way of making this dish, i'm totally guessing on it and looking at it, it looks nothing like the ones i've tasted at korean restaurants. the ingrediants are the same and it's a cold item. that's it.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

.: Chasing Charm City Bakeries :.

when big k came to visit Charm City this weekend, she and i decided to add inches to our hips by going bakery crawling. it spanned 3 hours and we were exhausted by the time we left the last cake spot. furthermore, the idea of the sugar makes me ill still.

i was inspired when i read Sunday Nite Dinner's San Francisco Cupcake Tasting Tour. i mean, baltimore is vast and irregardless of what people say, it's friggin awesome with it's boutiques, down to earth bars and kick ass people. not to mention, it's close enough to DC but still far enough away to retain its charm and not be tainted by politics. and for me, too far and scary for pham-ily to just stop by unannounced. face.

anyway, i came up with a list of four bakeries for big k and i to check out. initially, we were going to just sample cookies and compare them. but then it turned more into a which bakery is best, in decor, selection, customer service etc.



Piedigrotta - first stop just on the outskirts of Little Italy. LOVED it. the waiter was charming and tres attentive. however, the baker (and i'm thinking, the owner) was the best advocate for the shop. he gave us a tour of his kitchen. he was slicing the cheesecake into HUGE individual portions. we sampled the cake and hmmm... so silky smooth, creamy and moist. he gave big k pointers on how to bake cheesecake properly. sometimes, an ugly crack appears in the middle of the damned thing. it happens. but not to him. we barely understood him but damned if he wasn't flirting with us! we sampled the tiramisu. big k finished hers, i had maybe a few bites. i thought there was entirely too much cream and not enough cake to the tiramisu. it's just me tho. the shop was spacious and had quite a variety of baked goods to choose from: biscotti, pizza, bread, pastries and coffees.

Patisseri Poupon - we next went française. however, i fear Piedigrotta spoiled us with their hospitality because i HATED Patisseri Poupon. they only had two tables, one of which was being overrun by 3 women tasting wedding cakes. i guess the shop manager's attention (and manners) were on them. the cashier was not too friendly or helpful. the pastry selection was aesthetically pretty but i would say i thought they were appetizing. we shared a croissant which was moist without being greasy.

Meli - while out Friday night, we came upon Meli: Patisserie & Bistro. we figured we'd add it to the list. we arrived around 11am and we were so ready for something savory! the restaurant is spacious, transitioning from bakery, to bar to dining room. service was spotty, i had to get up to find the waitress. the quiche was delish tho. friggin amazing. the croissant was alright, buttery and sweet. i can't recall the pastry selection but i can tell you for sure that the bar was well stocked.

Cake Love - last stop. by the time we rolled into Cake Love, i was gagging. we decided on cupcakes ... but to go. the store is new, you can tell. everything is still clean and barely used. there wasn't a huge selection to choose from. we choose raspberry icing on vanilla and peanut butter on vanilla. i didn't taste any but i did try the icing, which was superb.

all in all, we were on the chase for 3 hours and hit 4 bakeries. and there are PLENTY of spots still for us to check out for next time she comes to visit. it's tiring tho! it's an enjoyable experience, not so organized in exactly alll the things we were going to rank etc but still quite fun. all those places and all other places we'll eventually hit should take note of what i said about Piedigrotta. i heart that place.

dinner spread, July Click entry included ...

dinner on friday was fun. i did a lot of the prep work the evening before so the only thing i really had to do was make the polenta and assemble the grapefruit salad, which was super easy.

Grapefruit, Red Onions and Basil Salad

  • two ripe grapefruits, either peeled or in my case, i cut out the slices, getting rid as much of the white membrane as possible.
  • half a small onion, sliced uber thin
  • sliced black olives
  • 5 basil leaves, chiffinade
  • 2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbl balsamic vinegar
  • cracked black pepper and salt to taste

assemble the slices of grapefruit on plate, add the onions and black olives as wanted. drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.




big k put in a request for the cold cucumber avocado soup, and because my friend shawn has an aversion to most veggies, i had to have a meat dish. i made a beer braised spare ribs dish and a creamy polenta to soup up the juices. recipe follows:

Beer Braised Spare Ribs
  • spare ribs, i think i used about 2lbs
  • a bottle (12oz) of beer, i used Sam Adams Light
  • 2 whole gloves of garlic
  • ginger, i think i chopped up a good two tablespoons
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of hoisin sauce, for the last 30 minutes of cooking
the morning of Big K's arrival, i put all the ingrediants (except for the hoisin sauce) in the crock pot, turned it on low and promptly forgot about it. when i got home that night, i popped the lid and poured out the majority of the liquid. i then put about a cup worth of hoisin sauce over the ribs, put the crock pot on warm and walked away. just as we were ready to eat, i made the poletna real quick, just from a box. it was a hit. both shawn and big k had never had polenta before and i think they're fans now. yay!

for dessert, i made coffee panna cotta. for the July edition of Click, the theme is coffee and/or tea. i'm a fan of coffee and sometimes tea. so i thought about it, i heart me some cà phê sữa đá but i was not about go buy the single-serving filter/brewer thinger. i just like the whole image: the thick condensed milk at the bottom of the glass and the strong black coffee slowly dripping over top it. yum. naturally, i added a few things, to make it extra special.

Strong Ass Coffee Panna Cotta
  • 1 packet of gelatin, half used for the cream layer and othe remaining half for the coffee layer
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups of strong ass coffee (i just brewed some coffee in the morning and it was left over)
  • 2 tbls espresso vodka
  • 1 tbl kahlua
  • 5 tbl sugar
for the first layer, i gently heated up the cream and milk. i added 4 tbl sugar and when that dissolved, i added half the packet of gelatine, stirring constantly. took pan off the heat and just stirred til i basically got tired, about five minutes. i then added the espresso vodka. it needed a kick, trust me. pour it into the cups and refrigerate until set. repeat with the 2nd layer, except with strong ass coffee, add just 1 tbl of sugar and the kahlua. make sure the liquid is cool, so that when you pour it over top of the cream, it's not scorching hot and bascially melts it.

it was a nice ending to dinner and what a boost for the night out.


Friday, July 18, 2008

big k weekend

just jotting out a quick post before the hoopla begins. big k's flight was delayed which gave me the chance to play a bit with the food. just simple small dishes to nibble on before heading out tonight.

the menu:

  • ~ Grapefruit, Red Onions and Basil Salad
  • ~ Cold Cucumber and Avocado Soup
  • ~ Beer Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta
  • ~ Coffee Panna Cotta (my inspiration was
    phê sữa đá
    )

i was going to make a crispy fried zuchinni drenched in oyster sauce but it got HOT today and there was no way i was going to stand next to the stove and sweat.

this is just a preview of the simple summer spread. i'll post recipes later this weekend.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Flan for Lan

on sunday i was supposed to go to VA to hang with the pham-ily but they were double booked. that gave me a day to do NOTHING! so i cooked. made some thit kho and i wanted to try to re-do FLAN FOR LAN since my first attempt suuuuuucked... my grandfather used to hook it up. then peter did. i kinda sorta not really followed my mom's recipe. she said to use milk. i used cream. she mentioned vanilla extract. i used kahlua. she also said to make sure the sugar syrup was a deep golden amber. i got impatient and it barely had color. whatever.

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i had a full stove. i had the syrup going for awhile! i was so annoyed with all the stirring that was required. seriously. meanwhile, i heated up the cream and sugar, no biggie there. on another burner, i had the thit kho simmering. it's all about multi-tasking.

the flan came out stiffer than i'd like but it still tasted good. it doesn't have the burnt caramel taste grandfather had down to a science. that doesn't stop me from eating it tho.

Flan For Lan (that's just what i call it, but it's really just Flan or Caramel Custard) as told by mom.

4 eggs, half a cup sugar, 2 cups milk (i used heavy cream, nevermind the inches it adds to my ass), 1 tsp vanilla extract (i used kahlua. no i'm not a lush)

For syrup: 1 cup sugar, half a cup water

in one sauce pan, heat the half cup sugar and cream till sugar has dissolved and the mixture is heated thru, but not hot. in another sauce pan, make the syrup. basically, mom told me to just stir it till it reached a deep gold color, at medium heat. i did end up having to add some water here and there as the concoction got super duper hot.

in a mixing bowl, beat the eggs till they're blended and slowly add the heated sugared cream. also add the kahlua (or vanilla extract). when the syrup reaches the right color and consistency (in my case, when i got tired of monitoring and stirring it), spoon some at the bottom of the ramiken, just to coat. pour flan mixture into ramikens. water bath bake the flan in preheated 350 degreed oven. i left it in there for 60 mins but like i said, i'll be shooting for 50 next time. once you take the flan out of the oven, take out of the water bath and allow to cool completely before putting them in the fridge.

flan

to serve, up-end the flan (use a knife to cut around the edges to make for easy transfer) onto serving plate. i garnished with raspberries but as a kid, i just ate it sans anything.

yarn love

i learned how to knit about a year and a half ago. at the time, i was listless and unhappy. i came across a craigslist ad for a website called meetup. this site is a social networking site for pretty much any hobby you can think of. i looked up knitting/crocheting groups. from there my love affair with yarn began. knitting takes a bit longer and more discipline (i think). so in February '08, i had a few friends over for some knitting and one of the girls taught me how to crochet. i haven't looked back since. crocheting, while is much faster than knitting, still takes time and patience. i always have some project or another going on, with my eyes moving on to other potential projects to go to. about a month ago i made a headband for big k. she started a new job, was doing well in school and i was already making a sock/glove animal for her so i figured i'd throw in something extra in the care package. bama hasn't taken a pic of herself wearing it so i'll just post a pic of it when i first finished.



i added a flower to the headband, just for giggles. the stuffed elephant came out a little odd but the way i posed it amused me. i also made her a doll from scraps that i forgot to take pix of.

for another friend, Dana, i made her a yarn necklace. i don't know dana that well but she and i have always gotten along. she was going thru a tough transition in her life so i figured this would cheer her up. it was pretty easy to make, altho it did take me two tries. i hope to make more as additional gifts in goody bags for friends this holiday.

in other crocheting news, i bought my first hat pattern today from kalurah of while they play. it's a Calla Summer Cloche. it's effing adorable. the current summer hat pattern i have is annoying the bejesus out of me so i'm going to make this one. depending on how it goes, i may have to make more for my gfs for next summer.

i know this blog has been heavy on the food lately, it's not that i'm not creating stuff in other mediums, it's just that that is taking up quite a bit of my time. i did take a breather from the crochet hook yesterday to read (i haven't read a proper book in a minute!) i bought an aloe vera plant yesterday at the Farmer's Market so i'll be experimenting on aloe soaps, facials and drinks this month. hopefully.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

.: Early Sunday Morning Jaunt to the Farmer's Market :.

i actually got my ass up early today and hauled it to the Baltimore Farmers' Market under the Jones Falls Expressway. why, in the six years that i've lived here, did i never make it to this effing awesome outdoor grocery store??? i was there for maybe 30 minutes and spent $21. i have enough fresh veggies to last me all week. this is the place i'll be hitting during warmer months from now on. they didn't have any dairy products or seafood but i did see some frozen meat. there were just so many boothes that boasted not only fresh produce, but readily made foods and crafts. it's my new favorite place.



i should've planned better. big k is visiting this weekend and i'm making a dinner spread for her. i could've made a list of all the ingrediants that i need for the dishes, but alas, i didn't think about it. so i stuck to just staple stuff i like to consume on a weekly basis.




flowers galore! LOVED IT. too bad i'm so spotty with flower maintenance.



i bought an aloe vera plant tho. the guy told me it's rather easy to keep up, the more i ignore it, the more it'll thrive. i've named her Vera (as in veeeera ... like vera wang ...) and i'm already thinking of the homemade health recipes i'll be concocting for angry asian creations.

.: Breakfast in Mt. Vernon :.

the roommate and i went to breakfast yesterday. so i took him to my favorite place in Mt. Vernon: City Cafe. i've gone to this place off and on for about six years, once for dinner but usually for breakfast. i personally love it. great cheesy 80's music and the service is usually good. we sat outside to people watch and eventually, to sweat our asses off. whatever, it was nice to just hang out.


i couldn't make up my mind between the cajun omelette or the smoked salmon eggs benedict. the waitress voted for the cajun item so that's what i went for. it was awesome with the right amount of spiciness. i was very pleased.


Samir went with the wild mushroom omelette and unfortunately, it came out rather bland for his liking. poor thing didn't want to chuck it and order something else so he made do with it.

but he liked the restaurant and neighborhood. i regret not giving him more heads up on the great places to eat in baltimore. he was only here for 3 months and that's not enough time to really explore but still. he's hoping to do another rotation later on in the year so hopefully, he'll be able to sample more of baltimore's best then.

Peanut Butter Cookies vs. Snickerdoodles

being back home has inspired me to basically go ape in the kitchen. i have aspirations to make thit kho and flan for Lan today. yesterday, i baked up two batches of cookies: Peanut Butter and Snickerdoodles. i even had the roommate participate. he's moving out today and i had to make sure he had a bag of goodies for his ride home. there's a new roommie moving in today so i had to make a welcome dinner for tonight. (any reason at all to putter around the kitchen!)

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i did the mixing for both cookies one after the other. it seemed more time efficient. for the Snickerdoodles, i followed Nigella Lawson's recipe from her book: How to be a Domestic Goddess. (it's about damn time i cracked open any of my cookbooks.) For the peanut butter cookies i followed this recipe.

the snickerdoodle batter was on the soft side and the first batch came out all funky. i rolled them into balls but they didn't flatten so subsequently i had to flatten them with a spoon for the latter batches. Samir was in charge of the peanut butter batter. once he got in the hang of rolling them into balls and then flattening them with a fork, he got all into it. it's the surgeon in him, making sure the grid design came out right.

the first batch came out ... off. they were a bit burnt on the bottom, we had to adjust timing and temp a bit. my damn oven is old and tempermental. i flip between what i need to buy next: new oven or washer/dryer set. both are old and for the most part, work fine but it'd be nice to update and upgrade.

the peanut butter cookies came out better. they were soft and much more flavorful. samir thought the same, as did jab when i brought over a few for him to sample.

this picture is of the snickerdoodle drops, from the first batch. the latter ones were flat. it came out pretty tasty, it crumbled well in the mouth and i really liked the added zing of the nutmeg.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

of DC and sisters

so my week in DC came to an end yesterday. i am exhausted; i fear that it'll take me minute to catch my breath from that trauma. but i made the most of my time away from Baltimore. i hung out with Pammie, was fortunate enough to be in a hotel that had a functioning kitchen, hit a sight in the city, and even managed a happy hour with my friend Tim (i needed the drink rather badly.) i also laid out by the pool for a few hours.

pammie has a serious sweet tooth. that girl can chow down on candy like no other. not being the one to pay for her dental work, i baked up a batch of brownies for her. i made cupcake brownies actually, and i had some strawberries hanging out so i made one with strawberry filling, just for fun.


i also made spaghetti and meatballs. i didn't go by a recipe tho. i just kinda made it. pammie was all about the meatballs and not so much the noodles.

in terms of activity, other than dragging pam to the Botanic Gardens, i also took her back to baltimore with me so i could make it to my soccer game. poor thing, she wanted to play but her broken wrists were in the way, plus, there is no way i'm letting my baby sister show me up on the field. i already suck, i don't need it to be glaringly obvious.


the ride back home during rush hour traffic on 495 and 95 suuuuucked. i hate Nova/DC traffic like how i hate jaywalkers. just saying.

cars behind me ...

cars in front of me ...

i am working on a few crafty things. i started crocheting a summer hat and i finished one skein of yarn on my basketweave baby blanket for an old high school friend. the hat is for me, heading to Puerto Rico in September and i thought i'd treat myself to one of my creations. i'm not doing such a great job of keeping to the directions so i'm curious to see how it turns out.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

.: DC's Botanic Garden :.

spent a few hours at the Botanic Garden on Wednesday with middle sister Pam. i'd never been before and since she wasn't forthcoming with what she wanted to do, i asserted what i wanted to do. not much on words today but warning, picture heavy post. i made note of some of the flowers' names but not all.

we took the metro in, it's located 2 blocks from the Federal Center SW or Capital South stations, off the Orange or Blue lines.

a rose is a rose is a rose ...

mermaid hybrid bracteata rose - 'rosa'



rattlesnake master - eryngium yuccifolium

dense blazing star - liatris spicata



i stalked these bees. i'm surprised i didn't get stung.

i wrote down that this is a dwarf tulip but the pix i've seen online show the petals to be pointy ...

these just looked like butterflies hanging out with the pink flowers ...

my namesake



asconcenda - yip sum wah



this looked like a magenta caterpiller

butterfly pea - clitoria ternatea



plumeria - hausten white

anthurium

bougainvillea

this looked like it belonged on a cake ...

oyster plant - tradescantia spathacea

blue skyflower - thunbergia grandiflora

lollipop plant - pachystachys lutea



gardenia jasminoides

i barely made a dent in seeing all the flowers so i'll have to make a trek out that ways again soon, sans teen sister who was bored the second we arrived ...