tasty nom nom an exception to the daily meal


Assembly required

Hi J!
It was wishful thinking on my part to make a summery dish like Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad. (But hey, it was sunny yesterday!) Instead of grilling in the cold, I substituted meat balls to accompany the noodle salad.

I started with an herb blend of lemongrass, cilantro, Thai basil, garlic, green onions, serrano, and processed until fine. Then gently tossed in mixture of half lean beef and pork, eggs, formed into little balls, and let rest for a few hours.

While the meatball rests, I took advantage of having the food processor out and made the Extra-Green Green Goddess Dip.. Mmm.

The condiments for the rice noodles included lettuce, fried shallots, fried cilantro, sliced jalapenos, pickled carrots and daikon, roasted peanuts, and Sriracha, with a vinaigrette - fish sauce, [water], lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and Serrano chillis. I like how everyone can assemble their own plates with proportions they like.

photo.jpgD's first plate ... with Sriracha drizzles

Our guest this week, D - coworkerfriend, cleaned up spectacularly. He had three helpings. I hope he liked the food.

After dinner, we tried New World (BGG link). I got this game recently on D's recommendation.  I like this variant of Carcassonne, even if we miss the rules. N said his favorite part is kicking the farmers off the board after the surveyor passed. This game seems to have more elements of chance. I would definitely play again.

Game night action shot!

And we took a break in between the games ... to enjoy some bread pudding, made with leftover pulla from last week.

Pulla bread puddingPulla bread pudding with creme anglaise

Hope you enjoy the guest appearance of D. See you next time!


It Was Chili!

Good afternoon, E!

Last week, I dug through the freezer and found a couple of pork tenderloins. I was thinking about making spiced-rubbed tenderloins for Saturday. N asked, "no no, can you please make chili instead?" I acquiesced.

bowl o' chili
bowl o' chili

Back when we lived in Snohomish, we used to go to a casual restaurant for burgers+beer, Blazing Onion. They have a Three-Bean Chili that is delicious but not traditional in the least (I swear it has pork in it). I love chili with beans but N generally does not like beans in his chili, so I suffer without. The Blazing Onion 3-Bean Chili was the first time I recall N actually enjoying chili with beans. We agreed that I could try to replicate it as long as I didn't use too many beans.

I browsed many recipes, and finally decided to start from Ellie Krieger's Three Bean and Beef Chili. The reviews and comments are all overwhelmingly positive and it is completely different from my usual chili recipes.

Odd things about the recipe: it includes carrots and bell pepper and NO chili powder and no garlic. I did add the carrots and bell pepper but I deviated from the recipe and added a few smashed cloves of garlic, a couple of tablespoons of chili powder and a couple of teaspoons of chipotle pepper powder. I also used twice as much coarse ground beef and added an extra tablespoon of adobo sauce. Per my agreement with N, I used one can of kidney beans, 1 can of pinto beans, and 1/2 can of black beans.

The chili was alright, but not what I was going for. I do love beans in my chili though -- every bite with a kidney bean made me happy.

I also made corn muffins. I have a relationship with cornbread. Back in college, when I was pulling an all-nighter or suffering from insomnia, I would bake a pan of cornbread. There was something comforting about baking while I was trying to do my calculus or circuit theory or programming homework. The cornbread was perfect every time -- unlike my homework!

broken muffin
jalapeño-cheddar sweet corn muffin

Recently though, I haven't been happy with any cornbread I make (maybe because I sleep well these days). This time I started with Albers Sweet Corn Muffin recipe but modified it as such:

1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Yellow Corn Meal
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbsp butter, melted

Then I split the batter in half. To one half I added 1/2 C of shredded cheddar cheese and 3 large finely diced jalapeños. To the other half, I added half of a can of creamed corn. After baking, the creamed corn muffins had a completely inedible texture so I ditched them. The jalapeño cheddar muffins were alright but I feel they were a little too greasy. I wonder if omitting the butter or vegetable oil would help -- I already dropped the vegetable oil in the recipe from 1/3 C to 1/4 C.

Thanks to various ailments affecting mental ability, we decided to play a few rounds of mindless Carcassonne (BoardGameGeek) with the Rivers expansion. I am not particularly good at Carcassonne but I really like laying the tiles and building. You won a game -- go you!

I'll take two points!

I apologize again for subjecting you to one of your least favorite foods -- again! Please feel free to feed me something I hate like meatballs or meatloaf or beef stroganoff or lima beans next time. 🙂

Filed under: dinner review, games 1 Comment

Welcome to 2011!

Hi J - Happy New Year!

We only made a few things for the New Years Eve meal. Really! How is that for restraint to start the year?! Gravlax, cheese straws, Wicked Shrimp with polenta, spiced pecan and apple salad, roasted brussels sprouts and new potatoes, split pea soup, and we added pasty & pulla to the menu when the brother in law and family announced they will visit.

For the gravlax, I used my usual recipe for sugar + salt + pepper  + coriander with vodka. I marinated the red onion in vinegar and sugar. G was so sweet and got my favorite Essential Bakery Seeded Baguette. Mmm.

The cheese straws were from the last Bon Appetite issue and the Wicked Shrimp recipe is from El Gaucho's. All made simpler by boxed pastry sheets and peeled shrimp. I paired the shrimp with a soft polenta. I was surprised how quickly the polenta set up. I would have preferred a softer texture.

I picked a wintery spiced pecan and apple salad from Chow. G likes the honey mustard dressing so much he requested it again for dinner. That was a first.

And to stay warm in our cold little house, I made a double batch of split pea soup, using your leftover ham hock and ham from Christmas. Added herbs and slow cooked for a few hours for the pureed consistency I like. I adore the color of split pea soup. I know. Very odd.

Pulla and pasty I added to the menu when I found out [the Finnish!]  brother in law's family will be joining us.  I tried pulla at the Parents-in-law many years ago. I thought it was dried and didn't like it so much. Since then, I tried making it a few times - too dense, too light in flavor, etc. The recipe from Manolo's food blog you shared has one less cup of flour. I added two tablespoons (instead of teaspoons of cardamon) and I was happy with the result this time. I should have known better that to suggest pasty, a contested food topic around G's family. I made a savory lard & butter crust from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. He marinated the meat and assembled the pies. I thought the texture was ok, even after being handled and rolled out by G. He is very critical about the taste of meat in general, and he did not like how this batch turned out. I am not a pasty aficionado so I will decline to comment!

We served food buffet style on the kitchen island and we all cramped into our little table!

Nye dinner at e+g's
Nom nom

After all the banter, G wanted to introduce his brother to the Bean Game. Their family game is Rook, and they have never varied. Another first! They liked it so much we went to the game store the next day to grab a copy.

Introducing people to the bean game
Happy New Year Bean!


He Himself – The Grinch – Carved the Roast Beast

Dear E --

Merry Christmas! (hey, Russian Christmas isn't until 7 January)

Just after Thanksgiving we were discussing Christmas dinner. N and G sounded like they really wanted a spiral sliced ham for Christmas dinner. I thought it was cheating -- someone else cooks the main dish? -- but when no other decisions were made about the very important meat, I ordered a 7lb ham from The Honeybaked Ham Company.

I was under the (mistaken) impression that this ham was to be heated up before serving. I have never had room temperature ham for dinner. When I found out it was to be room temperature, I admit I freaked out. What the heck goes with room temperature ham?

christmas dinner
the table

I conferred with you, N and my mom. Mom suggested that a fruit salad or applesauce was necessary to cut the saltiness of the ham. I decided that I wanted either scalloped potatoes or macaroni and cheese. N decided that he would make latkes, which left me with macaroni and cheese.

If you're making macaroni and cheese for Christmas, it better be freaking awesome mac n cheese.

Indeed. Enter Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese. Also known as "Crack 'n Cheez." Sure enough.

crack 'n cheez
crack 'n cheese

I made one change to the recipe that I stole from a different macaroni and cheese recipe. Instead of topping the crack-n-cheez with homemade breadcrumbs as Martha instructs, I used panko. I thought the panko would give it an even crustier top and I really think it was a great modification. I think I also added a touch more nutmeg and cayenne.

I'm not sure why, but every time I make a béchamel / mornay sauce, it takes me two or three times longer to get the sauce to thicken than the recipe states. Maybe the lengthier arm workout helps counter the impending caloric intake!

N and I open gifts on Christmas Eve. I had planned to make Joy the Baker's Parker House Rolls on Christmas, but Santa Mom sent me Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I decided I'd like to try out one of the recipes in the cookbook and went with the Classic White Bread made into pull-apart rolls.

E's plate

I had to add a lot of additional water to the dough -- it was incredibly dry. I believe this was because my house was extra dry with the heater running nonstop. I just kept adding water bit by bit and checked the dough look and performed the windowpane test a few times. I kneaded it in my mixer until my mixer started to smell, then I kneaded it by hand, then I kneaded it some more in the mixer (seriously). It could have had even more (!) kneading but at that point it was close enough and I was running out of time.

The dough rose while I took the dogs on a nice long walk in the cold. When I returned, I formed the dough into balls. Due to wanting to cook them all at once on a single cookie sheet, I ended up placing the balls next to one another so they rose up into one another for the second rise. I was a little worried they wouldn't pull apart as well as advertised. Before baking, I brushed them with an egg whisked with a teaspoon of water which gave them a lovely crust after baking. They pulled apart fine! I'll make this recipe again.

For dessert, you and I had some of your delicious pumpkin cheesecake. Mmm, my favorite!

After dessert and coffee, we played five rounds of our mindless default game, Bohnanza (BGG). Bohnanza is a good game to play while tipsy!

N can't wait until the next time we have ham. Any bets on when the crack 'n cheese will be requested?