tasty nom nom an exception to the daily meal


Anniversaire Frite

Happy Belated Birthday, E!

It is always a good bet that you will request something deep fried for your birthday (beignets, cannoli). N did not want to make your first request Chicken Fried Steak (though he did a year ago and the year before that) and denied you! How rude.

Undaunted, you requested Boston Cream Churros like the ones S had (here). I decided I would make them. How hard can they be?

But first we had to figure out dinner. We considered Thai before finally deciding on shrimp + grits.

shrimp & andouille & grits
shrimp, andouille & grits

Rather than making my usual shrimp creole, I loosely followed this recipe from Bon Appétit. It included a hot sauce made from green pepper hot sauce (I used Green Jalapeño Sauce by Tabasco), shallots, white wine, vinegar, lemon juice and cream.

spinach salad
spinach salad

I complained to N that we needed a light green salad to go along with the shrimp, andouille, and grits. He came up with this spinach, caramelized onion, goat cheese, and candied pecan salad. Sorry about the dried cranberries in the pecans (held aside).

We took a short break to clean up and then I started heating up the oil for the churros.

I followed this churros recipe. I had no idea churros dough is just like pâte à choux dough! Boil water and butter, add flour, then add eggs individually and mix until smooth. Fun dough!

team effort dessert

I read a lot about the filling in Boston Cream Pie while researching. Some recipes used vanilla pudding. Other recipes used a very thick custard. Others said to use a thin pastry cream. Since we were not filling the churros and didn't need the filling to be so thick, I opted for a pastry cream.

I made pastry cream (CIA recipe - I only used 3 Tbsp of cornstarch based upon comments that the 1/3C of cornstarch made the pastry cream taste like ... cornstarch) for the churros early that morning. I made a quick thin chocolate dipping sauce while we were frying the churros.

boston cream churros
boston cream churros

While you created food architecture, N and I fried the dough. Next time we'll try a closed star tip instead to see if we can get more crunchy bits.

artful cards

After all!the!birthday!food! we only had enough brain for Uno. Maybe we'll try a new game next time... (do I say that every week?)

I hope you had a lovely birthday, E! Thank you for celebrating it (belatedly) with us!


Happy New Year!

Happy 2013, E!

I usually make something special for the new year but I did not this year. No hoppin' john, no sauerkraut, no cake, no pork. Maybe the cookies I made for Christmas can carry over to the new year. No? I guess Chinese New Year is coming up and I can ready my house for that.


I made four types of Christmas cookies this year that we shared during our Pre-Christmas dinner.

  1. The usual 7 layer bars, aka magic cookie bars. A favorite of N's.

  2. Ginger molasses cookies, the type you roll out and ice. My favorite cookie, but I tried a different recipe this year and I didn't like it as much.

  3. Cranberry-Pistachio Biscotti, a last minute addition. I should have baked them longer the second time.

  4. Rugelach, two flavors. Bleuberry-marcona almond-white chocolate and orange-pineapple-coconut. The orange-pineapple-coconut ones were universally appreciated and I think my new favorite. I always use Lora Brody's dough recipe.

Hibiscus drinkie

For a festive drink to go along with our celebration, I made what the hibiscus jarring company calls a wild hibiscus royale -- muddle mint, remove from glass. Put hibiscus flower in bottom. Add 1/2oz rose water. Add a bit of the hibiscus syrup. Top with champagne (I used a dry cava that had good reviews, Segura Viuda Brut Reserva). Add some more mint as garnish (which I didn't do). It was pretty!

As a side, roasted brussels sprouts in a mushroom sauce was much tastier than I expected. I guess you can't go wrong with mushroom sauce and roasted vegetables.

Maybe next time we can try another new game...


Meat and Pie

Dear E,

Please excuse my tardiness thanks to this awful cold. Just over a week ago we got together to continue our celebration of G's birthday month with grilled meat and pie!


N marinated some flank steak in Moroccan spices and grilled it along with some bell peppers and onions. Easy peasy, as Jamie Oliver would say!

I made a quick harissa using this recipe. We really like this harissa with everything from fish to beef to chicken. I double the cumin and coriander and use 1-3 jalapeños depending on how spicy they are.

Knowing that we had pie in our future, I opted to make two salads instead of anything too heavy. I threw together a quick raw carrot salad and an arugula-feta-mint-orange salad (inspired by this recipe).

The carrots were a bit of a miss -- I thought they would go well with the flank steak, like do chua. Unfortunately they did not really work out that way.

I liked the arugula salad (not sure about anyone else). I'm on a kick of adding mint to salad greens. Next time I hope to remember to supreme the oranges, though!

G Birthday Pie!
G's Birthday Pie!

You carefully carted G's birthday pie all the way up to our house without any major failure! It was a banana cream pie (basic recipe), with addition of a 2 oz of white chocolate in custard and a salty caramel sauce. Yum!

No games tonight due to super-full tummies. We have a few new ones to try, like the full version of Nuclear War (BGG).


cake, rhymes with steak

Hi J - G thinks "cake rhymes with steak" is incredible silly, but it made me laugh.

To celebrate the Double Rainbows, I made N's request - plain chocolate cake, no infusion, no layer of anything, just chocolate. He did allow a red velvet variant. So I went for it - Red Velvet Cake.

IMAG0188cake cutting

Many years ago, I made red velvet cake for the first time for GD and Sh's Mardi Gras party. It was quite a hit. The recipe I used is a modified version from Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook. I used trusty Valrhona chocolate powder - two tablespoons, instead of two teaspoons called for in the recipe. I also substituted my favorite whipped cream cream cheese frosting instead of the one-stick-butter frosting, and 1/4 cup of yogurt for equal amount of buttermilk. (Previous times, I used sour cream. But I had yogurt on hand.) Lastly, I was very light on sugar in the frosting and just a little light in the cake. The cake turned out more sour than I anticipated.

IMAG0169mmm, un-natural color for food

For no reason, I did not use parchment circles for the bottom of the cake, and two of the layer's centers stuck to the pan. Doh, the centers were glued back on with frosting.  I was surprised how much N likes the cake. But come to think of it, his favorite ice cream is chocolate, and we like sour tart acidic food, a lot.

IMAG0189frosting fixes everything

I was very happy N had a second slice, judgement on the cake.

And ...

to supplement N's request, I made some canelés to go with your morning coffee. There are endless articles, recipes, and lore on the Interweb for this confection. Canelés is fussy. I made them the first time from a recipe in a Martha Stewart Living issue over a decade ago. I bought the budget aluminum version of the mold at Sur La Table and coated the molds with butter timidly. They were tasty but most of the pastry stuck to the molds. Super fail. Then I had them at Essential Bakery in Fremont many years ago.  Mmm. I have not seen them there the last few times I was there.

I attempted them a couple of year ago, with more commitment to the butter and sugar coating. I remember N really liking them, and you recently made a "try it again!" comment. So ....

I stw to see what I can learn. I found one very helpful extensive write up Canelés (Cannelés) de Bordeaux – the recipe, the madness, the method and also How to make (almost) perfect canelés using silicone molds.

I was happy to find Sur La Table carry the molds again. These molds are a little shorter and just slightly different shape.  I also went all in and bought beewax (and silicon molds to try). Following the recipe, a side by side of silicon and aluminum mold trial we did. I learned a few things: the crust on the side was light but the top (bottom) was dark. The silicon mold, while easy, produced only a passable crust. Too thick of the beewax/butter coating negatively affect the crust, and I had a real difficult time coating the silicon mold.

When I made them your batch, I kept the temperature high, covered the top (bottom) with foil when they are golden,  and extended the cooking time to 1/5 hrs.

IMAG0183hi, we are getting ready to go to N & J's house

IMAG0178this one poofed weirdly and was sacrificed to test the texture

Let me pause here and say .. the beewax butter mixture, while worth the culinary result, is a giant pain. Only rolling boil water takes the goo off. A bowl, two pair of tongs, a silicon brush, and a measure cup is still coated with this stuff.

IMAG0191second class silicon baked caneles

I hope you enjoyed them. They are quite a project. For a quick hit, I would use the silicon mold. For a better deal, I would use the aluminum molds with beewax butter coating. Maybe someday, I will pony up and get the real copper molds.

Happy April. Glad you and N enjoyed the cakes.

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Marked on the calendar

G, inspired by N's smoked salmon, immediately got some trout to make smoked trout (one of his favorite, who would have thought you can get trout here?!). While that experiment failed, this one worked out well. I present evidence below.

The fishes was brushed with maple syrup & brown sugar, seasoned with salt, stuffed with lemon and onions, layered with bacon, wrapped in aluminum and steamed on the grill. And he did it all by himself, by which, I mean, he found the trout, selected the recipe, prepped, and grilled/steamed. We won't mention how his helper always do the prep and finish - recipes, marinates, brines, sauces, plating, etc.

Exhibit A: trouts

The trouts separated from the aluminum foil nicely, minus the tails.  With no experience serving fish, I fumbled through it. N did a great job with his. Although the maple flavor was only on the skin, the fish was tasty.

The fish was served with simple grilled yellow squash, zuc, and bell pepper, cucumber tomato salad, and couscous. For the salad, I chopped up some refrigerator pickled sweet peppers, onions & zuc, along with beefsteak tomato and English cucumber, tossed with parsley, lemon juice & zest, and a touch of olive oil. I seasoned the salad at the table with G's new fancy balsamic infused salt. N requested cilantro instead of parsley. Hmm. Does he always prefer cilantro?

G, fished (pun intended), for compliments for most of the evening. So I am marking this occasion. Beers and meade later, we were allowed to move on, but we will come back to that.

Last week, you and N introduced me to crème brûlée Imperial Milk Stout from southern tier brewing company. It is a yummy dessert beer. Is it also a good dessert?

DSCN2009 frosting fail and out of practice cake decorating

I chose Chocolate Stout Cake from epicurious over numerous other recipes due to the sour cream content. IMO, addition of sour cream improves the cake texture from good to yummy. I made the cake on Friday night and let the cakes cool over night. Saturday morning, I mixed up 3(?) cups of frosting for the layer and crumb coat. Let rest in the fridge for an hour. Then mixed up a few more cups for the final coat.

For the frosting, I improvised a cream cheese frosting, instead of the ganache. Previously, I followed a whipped cream frosting recipe, that makes a good looking, tasty, pipeable, stable frosting. I wanted to try a more chocolatey and denser frosting to go with this cake. So I increased the chocolate proportion ~12oz + 1 cups of cream cheese + 2 cups of cream.  While tasty, it was not good looking. Also, there was an alchemy fail with the frosting. I was juggling the temperature of the various componets of the frosting. I melted the chocolate with a little cream, let cool a bit, then mixed with room temperature cream cheese. Separately, whipped the cold cream until soft peak, folded all together. Somehow, bits of chocolate appeared. I may try cocoa powder next time.

After over indulging, we played a round of Bohnanza. When we saw one card in the last draw, you wisely asked for a card count. Turns out my deck is missing a Wax Bean and a Blue Bean. Sad. I will put it on my list to replace.

And ... the last words G said after you and N left,

'What did you think of that trout?"

The first words G said in the next morning,

"That trout was pretty good."


P.S. Thanks for the yummy beer and meade. I liked Avatar Jasmine IPA and Tricerahops Double IPA. I was sad I did not get any Ranger IPA. There is always next time. Thanks for another hobby!


Community Dinner

Good evening!

This time around, we had family in town -- two more adults and a kid! You contributed to the meal at the bookends -- drink, appetizer, and dessert. Yum!

After a bit of a problem with the pitcher for the sangria, you adjusted it to taste and we all had a bit to relax... I could use some sangria right now, as a matter of fact.

We started noshing on your gravlax, which was delicious. I am happy to know that it was easier to slice semi-frozen and it tasted as good out of the freezer as fresh cured (oxymoron?)! I am going to make some soon, I swear.


For dinner, N made pork ribs (for K) and beef brisket (for his brother E). He changed up the brisket preparation and injected it with a mixture of beef broth and butter -- the butter in part because he accidentally trimmed off more of the fat than he meant to! It turned out well, I thought.

The ribs were a usual N special. He used apple wood from your + G's tree to smoke them!


I was in charge of the cabbage slaw and N requested that I add jicama. I amazingly managed not to stab myself with the knife while julienning it. That success was tempered with me completely messed up the slaw dressing such that it ended up less punchy than I wanted. I forgot that I normally add both apple cider vinegar and a touch of plain ol' white vinegar to the dressing. That probably would have brightened it up a bit. I may try adding buttermilk next time around but we tend to go for a more vinegary than creamy dressing. I do like using both caraway and fennel seed in the dressing.


I also threw together a super quick salad with a bunch of the vegetables in the house -- corn from the farm share, pear tomatoes, an avocado, lime juice, and tossed with a bit of cotija. It was nothing special.

I also fixed my cornbread by buying fresh baking powder. That was my only change. It rose quite a lot and I liked it much better than the last few times I've made it (though a little sweet; I will cut back the sugar next time). The texture was what I wanted.

Finally for dessert, you brought something specifically targeted to my niece N: strawberry shortcake!

strawberry shortcake

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that N and E broke into the leftovers the following morning for breakfast. Strawberry shortcake for breakfast? Yes, please! They have both requested the biscuit recipe -- I believe you said it was this recipe at epicurious.


We finished the night with a few rounds of Uno and you won! Success!


Too much of a good thing…

...  = scrambled egg. Oh, Hi J!


Happy Cake Day to N!

Last few times I made pastry cream (custard, creme anglaise, etc), the recipes call for and I used whole milk. This time, "I wonder if there is a really good recipe for an exceptional custard". So, I tried the Bostini recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum. The recipe calls for heavy cream. Twice, the mixture [at the last step] turned from liquid to scramble egg in a nano second. I went back to a whole milk recipe for the custard for this Boston Cream Pie.

I did make the orange chiffon cake from the Bostini recipe,  and a whipped ganache to crumb coat the cake (from a tip in the Nick Malgieri Chocolate book).  Then I used another Nick Malgieri chocolate glaze recipe of heavy cream and chocolate.  One day, I will have a perfect smooth cake, with shinny glaze (without the corn syrup)...

Whoops, back from the cake-dream. I almost forgot the Chevy's Fresh Mex Sweet Corn Tomalito. Mmm Ymm ... Chevy's Tex Mex. When N said fajitas was on the menu, I couldn't help myself and had to make the corn pudding. Sadly, I did not produce any stale cactus to decorate the pudding. I am a slacker!

I also tried my hand at marinated mushrooms, recipe from chow.com. We added more salt and more balsamic vinegar and it was passable. I guess we like salt and balsamic, a lot.


N's mom is always a lot of fun. I love how she told you that since I like avocados, I must be from California! Thanks for inviting us!

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Sandwiched cookies

Dear J -

Here is the link to the recipe for the sandwiched cookies we had after Lamb Dopiaza.

I was on a citrus kick. I wanted to make orange curd ... (after making blood orange and meyer lemon marmalade). You came up with a great idea to serve it with shortbread. So I found this Dark Chocolate Shortbread recipe from Epicurious. I followed the reviewer's recommendation and added additional flour and corn starch. Next, I wanted a more stable and thicker filling to make sandwich cookies. I did not want any oozing. I found Lemon filling recipe from Joy of Cooking (p 998). I used all orange juice. It turned out to be this unreal orange color.

The cookies turned out chocolaty and looks awfully unattractive. The filling has not really set as expected. It was gooey and runny. But citrus makes me happy! I hoped this sunny cookie chased away some blues.

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Does cake make everything better?

Dear J -

Happy Birthday Week! I borrowed the Birthday Week concept from G - celebrate birthday for a week, and cake on the closest weekend to birthday. Your birthday posed a challenge for me, since well... two days later, is someone else's birthday. Speaking of that someone ...


... only cake(s) eaten on birthdays can be called Birthday Cakes. So, this cake is just cake, for you. I hope you liked it. It is the Chocolate Charlotte from Alice Medrich's book Cocolat. I followed the recipe, with the exception of piping tips malfunctions.

For dinner, G requested Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast stuffed with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil. I did not realize I so zealously stabbed the chicken with toothpicks. Whoops. Five toothpicks in N's chicken! G is a little rusty on his grilling too. Double whoops dinner. Good thing the salad of romaine and arugula (thanks!), pears and bleu cheese, with pistachios in mustard vinaigrette was safe to eat.

photo.jpg(I don't know about you, but the Hipstamatic pic of the food does not look appetizing to me!)

What do you think of the card game, Euchre, G suggested? I feel like I got the hang of the rules by the end of the night. It is a fun and fast game. We will get real playing cards next time. N's positive re-enforcement helped me let go of some of the baggage I accumulated playing cards with G and his family. Ahem.



Hi J -

You have the cutest flower mugs!

(Hi Cute Flower Mugs!)

N causally mentioned cream puff a few weeks ago, and that idea has been stuck in my head ever since. Not that I think we need more to eat after the Cincy Style Chili.

In the pass, I used pâte à choux recipe from Nick Malgieri's Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers. This time, I tried the Pierre Hermé recipe, which has milk (the Nick Malgieri recipe does not). I bombed the puffs - big ol fail. They fell down when they were cooling. So I went back to Nick Malgieri's recipe.

I made the new-to-me chocolate glaze from Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme ( available here ) and pastry cream from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Pie and Pastry Bible to go with the puffs. Mmm... can't go wrong when paired with coffee and flower mugs!

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