Friday, January 30, 2009

Adventures in Bento

Bento - side view

I used some Christmas money (thanks, Mom and Dad!) to buy myself a Bento-style lunchbox.

Bento - top view

This is supposed to make me more excited to eat leftovers for lunch.

Hats off

Three layers of eating

It's working!

Jet Blue cookies

The lunchbox is a little bigger than I need, so there's plenty of room for snacks.


Tortilla soup and tortilla chips never have to touch until they're ready.

Jan 30, 2009

Beyond work, I'm thinking the beach and the park would also be good destinations for me and my portable foodstuffs. There's a smaller bento box available, too, if you're looking for a kid- or snack-sized version.

p.s. I just learned (the research way, not the hard way) - don't microwave these.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Shopsin's Tortilla Soup
(photo by the chef)

The household dined on Dan-made tortilla soup (recipe by Kenny Shopsin). Blue tortilla chips were undeniably pleasant on top. The recipe said to put them at the bottom, but they would have been soggy immediately had we done that.

I have no photo of it, but I would like to mention that there was also a "Nutella Milk" experiment performed after dinner. It was not unpleasant, but I'm going back to the drawing board!

Snacks I Found in Bowls at Work Today

Gum I found

Gum (Winter Fresh is my favorite flavor of Extra, except for when I prefer the original pink kind). However -- who puts gum in a bowl? This is not a rhetorical question. I would like to know.

Fish of Gold

Goldfish Crackers (Not shown: bowl).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chicken Pie, oh my.

(photo by Dan)

At some point I wrote down a simple recipe for Deep-Dish Chicken Pie. Today I took it for a test-drive. Here's a photo that looks like it was taken in a cave (that we ate it after dark was not the fault of the photographer).

Chicken Pie in the dark
(photo by Dan)

To Do
Have: dough for 1 pie crust (top crust only)
Cook and dice: 3 carrots
Cook and cut into bite-sized chunks: 2 1/2 - 3 c. chicken breast
Melt: 1/3 c. unsalted butter
Add: 1/3 c. chopped onion and cook until soft.
Stir in: 1/3 c. all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper
Add: 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
Then add: 2/3 c. half-and-half while stirring until mixture is thickened and bubbly.
Remove pan from heat and add: chicken breast chunks, carrots, 1 c. thawed frozen peas, and 1 (drained) 6-oz. jar sliced mushrooms
Butter: 9-inch pie plate (deep)
Transfer filling to pie plate. Top with pie crust. Cut slits in the top of the pie with a paring knife.
Bake 30-40 minutes at 425 degrees F, until crust is golden brown. Allow to settle 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

I thought I could improve upon the recipe as given. First of all, I knew I'd make my own crust rather than buy one. It's not hard and it's much cheaper. Also, I never eat jarred or canned mushrooms. If I can't afford fresh (or dried, in recipes that call for it), I'll go without. The canned and jarred varieties always seem slimy, rubbery, or both. So for my pie I cooked up sliced baby portobello mushrooms (same price as regular white mushrooms) with the onion.

To improve the experience of putting together my dinner, I also decided to watch Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, starring Ellen Burstyn, while I made the whole thing. These were all good decisions. [By the way, I stopped getting much pleasure out of watching The Academy Awards in 2000 when Burstyn didn't win for Requiem For A Dream (I don't know that I loved the movie, but she was a force to be reckoned with and no one should have beaten her that year).]


My best, recipe-improving decision of all? I cooked the chicken using my all-time favorite method, which I'd like to share with you. It's adapted from Nigel Slater's lovely and inspiring Kitchen Diaries, which can be read like a food-heavy-but-plot-light novel. He roasts whole chickens this way, but since I'm member of a small household I use it with individual chicken breasts (for this recipe, I used three). Bone in. Skin on.

To wit: Choose an oven- and stovetop-safe pan that will just fit the amount of chicken you're making. You don't want it to be too large. Don't give your chicken room to breathe. Massage olive oil, sea salt, and pepper into your chicken breasts or pieces (or whole chicken). Place the chicken in your pan - a whole chicken breast-side down (personally, with only the breasts to work with, I chose skin-side down). Whack this into a 400 degree F oven for just over an hour (could be less time for less than a whole chicken). For the last 20 minutes of cooking, flip your chicken over. Check your internal temp (if you have a meat thermometer) and make sure the juices run clear from the thickest part of your meat to know when it's done.

I threw some rosemary sprigs in the pot to add flavor for this chicken pie, but normally I don't add herbs. Here's something I do add to the chicken every time I make it (this is also Slater's suggestion): Right after you put the pot with the chicken into the oven, break apart but do not peel a whole head of garlic. Drop the unpeeled cloves into a small pot of boiling water. Boil 5 minutes. Drain the water and chuck the unpeeled cloves into your chicken pan in the oven.

When the chicken's cooked, remove it from the pan to let it rest somewhere warm. Mine had to cool so I could cut it into chunks for the pie. Meanwhile, squeeze the roasted garlic out of its papery shells into the bottom of the (unwashed) pot you just used by crushing them with the back of a spoon.

Then put the pot on a burner, add about 2 cups of white wine or vermouth or whatever -- I used some leftover sake, crazy as that seems -- and stir or whisk until you get a lovely gravy. Cook for several minutes, sieve to rid yourself of garlic paper and lumps, and serve over chicken. It's charming on rice, too. For this pie, I used the gravy in place of some of the chicken broth required in the recipe.

Oh, yum, you guys. Seriously do this.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Salad Days

Crunchy Thai Salad
(photo by Dan)

I have an old Jamie Oliver cookbook, dating back to when he was The Naked Chef on the Food Network. One of my favorite things about it is that many of the recipes are described quite casually, in a free-form-cooking sort of fashion. Last night's "Crunchy Thai" salad was that sort of recipe. Oliver offered a list of ingredients one might like to be in one's salad and encouraged his the readers to pick and choose. Yes, of course, we always have a choice to change up recipes, but I have a tendency to be a strict recipe-follower to an unnecessary degree, so I appreciate the nudge to make a dish my own.

I chose:
baby spinach, scallions, red chili, green bell pepper, sugar snap peas, cucumber, toasted cashews, toasted black sesame seeds, sprouts, mint.

The suggested dressing was terrif. on top:
brown sugar, (Key) lime juice, olive oil, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, fresh chopped basil.

Jamie's Thai dressing
(photo by Dan)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Do you think Obama would like some Doritos?

(photo taken and uploaded by lawnwrangler4ever, AKA my good friend, M.)

Because I would like some Doritos.

p.s. Poetry Tuesday was to be suspended this week in honor of Inauguration Day. Or, more accurately, because I didn't write a poem (Which was the case last week, too. We'll be back to form soon). BUT, in light of this important occasion and in keeping with yesterday's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday, please consider this non-snack-related poem I wrote in college:

Unfinished: Kansas City

just one block from Troost is the park
and historic buildings
and smaller cars with Other drivers
but on Troost I am nervous despite myself
and try to smile (more than I would at white pedestrians)
at the black men and women catching the bus
and I do not make fun of the names of soul food restaurants
to prove I am not racist.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Slice of Life

After braving the horror of Trader Joe's (aieee, the lines!), we deserved slices of pizza at Artichoke on 14th Street.

Margherita slice
(photo by Dan)

Pizza Margherita was my choice. It was delicious and the crust was nicely crispy. The basil tasted very fresh.

Artichoke slice
(photo by Dan)

Dan chose Artichoke (which had a kind of creamed spinach on it, too). The toppings were quite rich. The crust was thicker than that of the Margherita slice.

The crab slice and Sicilian squares also looked excellent. Dig the painting of three Kennedys over the eat-in bar as bonus. I think I'll have to get off the L train at 1st Avenue more often.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

While we watch

Snap and Hum

Oh, lazy days, I love you. The only productive things I did today were to clean the kitchen, knit a hat, and make some food. Otherwise, it was breakfast with Tony and a TV Carnage DVD, sugar snap peas with hummus during a viewing of Man on Wire, a long nap, and dinner with episodes of 90210 (the original, not the remake).

Dan, on the other hand, not only ate and cleaned (and made some killer grilled cheese) but also built a fort and went to a bar. His productivity puts me to shame.

Happy Cola makes me happy

Happy Colas

Haribo Happy Colas are the bee's knees. They have a peculiar sweetly spicy flavor that suggests cola without actually tasting like cola. The density of gummy-ness is just about perfect, too - never sticky, never wimpy. And I love the ombré effect of the coloring. They're my gummi of choice.

Rip into cola

Key Lime Time

Coconut Banana Bread

I bought a bag of Key Limes on a whim, but Key Lime Pie seems such an "easy" answer. Today's snack was Coconut Banana Bread with Key Lime Glaze (recipe here).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Biscuit Delivery

Action shot
(photo by Dan)

Just before noon and already wearing my coat and scarf, I whipped a double batch of buttermilk biscuits out of the oven, threw them in a basket (covered by two cloth napkins) and ran them over to our friends' house a few blocks away (brr! cold outside!) to share the feast. Lingonberry and currant jellies went well with these.

(photo by Dan)

Biscuit lesson learned: When you double the recipe, don't double the salt. They were good, but could have been divine.

Cream of the Crop

Cream of...

Ah, leftovers. Our kitchen is filled with foodstuffs in varying stages of decomposition. I'm only willing to eat the not-that-decomposed stuff, of course. Tonight, cream of celery soup sounded better than eating a bunch of celery and carrot sticks.

What to Do
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 6 ounces celery, sliced thin
  • 2-3 medium carrots, sliced thin
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
Heat in another pan:
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
Add to hot cream, whisking until combined:
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups hot milk
Add hot cream to vegetable and broth mixture, along with:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
Boil everything 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use immersion blender (or regular blender) to mix to a creamier consistency (it's okay if it isn't completely smooth).

Garnish each bowl with a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.

(adapted from an Allrecipes recipe)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lava Love


Volcano Sauce is a mixture of Kewpie Japanese Mayonnaise, Sriracha sauce, and vinegar. It is excellent on oven-baked sweet potato fries, even when some of those fries are a little burnt. I hear Kewpie has MSG, but it's also delicious. So there.

(photo by DanF)

p.s. Thanks to Jane, who told me about the Kewpie mayo.

"That'll be fifteen dollars."

Cinnamon-Apple Coins with Whipped Peanuts, created by Dan.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Shopsin's Brown Rice Special
I made
Kenny Shopsin's Brown Rice Special.

Brown rice! Muenster Cheese! Carrots! Broccoli! Baby Portobello Mushrooms! Walnuts! Romaine! Soy Sauce! Rah! Rah! Rah!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Don't call it a resolution.

Greens and Polenta

Cream of Tomato

I made an informal pledge to myself to eat out less, meaning I want to make food at home (and lunch on the leftovers) more often. Tonight we made a terrific cream of tomato soup with homemade croutons and served it with bright, wilted baby greens on a bed of polenta. Good stuff.

However, along with the benefits of our tasty dinner came:

  • A depressing number of dishes to do.
  • A last-minute shopping trip to the farmer's market and store, inclusive of quite a bit of money spent on ingredients (slightly more than an average eating-out or ordering-in bill would have been), a lot of time wasted searching for basil, and a very heavy bag to drag home from work.
  • Less time for non-cooking/cleaning activities.
  • An extra loaf of bread (due to clogged communication channels) to go stale overnight.
  • A general weariness.

This is going to even out eventually, right? I love to cook, but I can't do this every night.

Coffee for the coffee-less

My dad's visiting Vietnam for the first time. Like me, he's no coffee drinker, but we're a polite family (especially when traveling abroad). I found his description of Vietnamese coffee intriguing:

Breakfast was noodle and beef soup, with vegetables, followed by Vietnamese coffee...[T]hey brought hot tea before the coffee. Then the coffee came in individual percolators -- small metal pieces that fit on top of a coffee cup. The hot water dripped down through the top unit, which held the coffee grounds and into the cup. Luckily (for me) Vietnamese coffee also contains milk. it was down in the cup for the coffee to drip into. And the milk had some chocolate in it. It was still pretty strong coffee, but the flavor was actually pretty good. I attached a picture of the table.

The close up [below] is very blurry but I wanted you to see how much sweet milk is in the bottom of the cup. I'm sure it is the first time in my life I have had coffee two days in a row. And I may have it again tomorrow.

Thanks, Dad! Here's more Vietnamese coffee info, for interested parties.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The all day sucker (c'est moi)

My new Daddy

The Sugar Daddy (sent by Tia) is a "Milk Caramel Pop" that used to be called the "Papa." It's a big guy, too. Looking at it, I thought it might be the only thing I get done all day.

I put the thing in my mouth at 11:26 am.

11:26 a.m. -- It's quite sticky when moistened, so I am trying to keep my teeth off of it. I have some more dental work in my future and I don't want to get into trouble. Chewing it is unpleasant because it worries me.

11:41 a.m. -- The top is melting and distorted, but I don't feel like it's getting smaller. I have to take a shower. I've got stuff to do!

12:02 p.m. -- Seriously. I have to catch a train. My mouth will never taste anything but caramel ever again.

12:07 p.m. -- I can finally fit the whole thing in my mouth relatively comfortably. I am very distracted by this sucker. When will it end?!

12:18 p.m. -- Guess I have to take it with me. It's still bigger than my thumb. I thought my tongue might be brown, but I looked in the mirror and it's still pink/red.

12:23 p.m. -- Finally smaller than my thumb.

12:27 p.m. -- One hour and one minute after unwrapping this baby, I have - at last - sucked the last sliver off the stick and scraped the last bit off the back of my teeth. Need a one-hour, 200 calorie snack? I've got an idea for you.

In conclusion: It tasted classic, if the experience was a bit epic. I enjoyed the milky, caramel flavor, and I appreciate how caramel melts slowly in the mouth, but the Sugar Daddy is far too big for a lolly. I think I would go for the junior size pop (or Sugar Babies) in the future.

Ooh, and they should make a version with sea salt. I'm so in love with salted caramels right now.

Pennsylvania Chip Face-Off

Hot and BBQ chips
(phone photo by Dan. pardon the shadow!)

R., who likes things spicy, brought 4 kinds of potato chips (1 BBQ and 3 Red Hot) back from a recent trip to Pennsylvania (all are made in PA). We found time to taste-test them this week.

Utz Red Hot Potato Chips - I think Utz brand chips almost always have an inferior texture, but the spice builds properly (the more chips you eat, the hotter they taste in your mouth). I believe R. preferred the flavor of this one.

Gibble's Red Hot Potato Chips ("Nibble with Gibble's) - This one was intriguing and a bit complex - my favorite of the three Red Hot chips. R. thought it had the best texture. I felt the heat was duller than in the Utz chips (the only drawback with this brand, in my opinion), but the flavor less sweet than the next two chips (which I appreciated). We identified the flavors of cayenne, onion powder, and paprika.

Munch With Martin's Red Hot Potato Chips - Everyone agreed that these were very sweet. Right away, I could taste cinnamon. C. felt these tasted like pumpkin pie spice. R. identified the flavor as identical to Red Hots candies and felt the company was going for that comparison.

Middleswarth The Weekender Hand-Cooked Bar-B-Q Old Fashioned Ket-L Chips - It's hard to compare these to the others, as they were true BBQ chips, and therefore not spicy in the same way that the "Red Hot" chips were. Most of us liked the flavor. R.F. felt that they were too sweet. He didn't seem to care for them much, comparing the taste to that of "a stale beer." I didn't mind the sweetness, and did think the kettle chip texture ("Made from carefully selected potatoes") was superior to the other varieties. The Weekenders managed to be a little spicy, too, but the Red Hots stole the show.

Everyone likes to Nibble
(phone photo by Dan)

p.s. unopened, smaller-sized bags of chips make a decent baby toy in a pinch.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Snacking as sustenance

Pixie flat Hershey brownie bar

I have a deadline to make a few gifts for nearly-born babies, and in order to do that I needed to have a day of knitting. Of course, when knitting on a deadline one must snack a lot to keep up one's strength.

A new find

Brownie back

I found Limited Edition Hershey's Brownies 'N' Chocolate ("Creamy Milk Chocolate with Brownie Morsels") at Zerns. The bar had no bloom when I unwrapped it, but tasted a tad old. That could have been my imagination, as there is no expiration/sell-by date on the wrapper and it is only my suspicious nature that feels it may have been out of date. Still, there was a good brownie density to the thing, even as individual "brownie morsels" were hard to identify on the tongue.

Nutty singles


Nutty Bar Singles - same great Nutty Bar taste. New, less-satisfying, 100-calorie size. This was a silly idea. Don't make the Nutty Bar slimmer (and therefore lower in calorie) by cutting down on its delicious layers. Dieters can eat something else. I ate two. So there.

I also had a handful of KeyFoods roasted, salted peanuts. For a grocery store (and cheap) brand, they were not bad at all!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Oh, my avocado tree...

Miami Breakfast exist only in my head, for I live in the cold North, but were I further south and avocado treed, I would snack on your fruit (salted, peppered, and hot-sauced) as often as possible. And I promise I would never climb your fragile limbs or tire of your delicious ripe offerings.

Oh, my imaginary avocado tree. I dream on.

Knock knock. Who's there? Tap Tap. Tap Tap who?

After-dinner Chiclets

I had dinner at Tap Tap near South Beach and it was good.

Best: citronad (limeaid), natif (Haitian lime and rum alcoholic beverage), unnamed spicy slaw-type condiment, watercress sauce, fried malanga, rice and peas, the company, a taste of R's whole fish, friendly service, large group accomodation.

Fair: yucca fries (the best ones are creamy on the inside, and these were not), live music (Latin band playing Hava Nagila?), fried grouper with avocado and lime sauce (dry; couldn't taste any lime sauce), slow service and bill processing, after-dinner Chiclets.

Did not try: Pork chunks, Goat bits, tostones (mine were missing, plus I like them sweet).

South Beach Diet


Refreshing; a bit mild for my taste. Overripe?

Pita Chips

Delicious! I'll buy these for myself. Also good with hummus.

I didn't get a photo, but I have to mention the new beverage ground I covered - despite not really being a coffee drinker. I enjoyed a cafe Cubano the other evening (it's tiny, but comes with tinier plastic shot glasses so that you can space out your doses if you wish) and a Cuban cafe con leche post-beach. They're hot, sweet, and available all over town. I hear Farm Stores (drive-through convenience centers) make the best Cubanos in Miami.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: A villanelle for Hero

What, you didn't get me any curly fries?

A Missive from the Miami Metro Zoo

Are you sure that babies don't eat curly fries?

We're small and cute and teething is a pain;
Ah, ah. I must swallow these, my sighs.

And yet I tried a clementine - that flies?
I'm telling you that french fries rarely stain.

Are you sure that babies don't eat curly fries?

A baby, such as I, a baby tries
To be the cutest yet - with little gain.
Ah, ah. I must swallow these, my sighs.

A frozen carrot answers not the whys -
The whys, I mean, like why must I refrain;
Are you sure that babies don't eat curly fries?

I know there's milk, but have you seen my size;
Must I not grow? Eating is not in vain!
Ah, ah. I must swallow these, my sighs.

And you, my father, hear you not my cries?
If I may not eat that, shouldn't you explain?
Are you sure that babies don't eat curly fries?
Ah, ah. I must swallow these, my sighs.

Zoos have fried food

(What's a villanelle?)

Monday, January 5, 2009


Day One

  • An afternoon snack of homemade frosting (made by Rusty):
Dark Chocolate

  • Dessert of frosted dark chocolate cake (made by Geddes and Eli) and strawberry ice cream (snack-trend-scouted at Whole Foods by me and Rachel):
Cake and ice cream

Day Two

  • After-breakfast dessert of frosted chocolate cake (see above).
  • Mid-afternoon snack of frosted chocolate cake (see above).
  • Dessert (after dinner) of frosted chocolate cake (see above).
[Note: sizes of cake slices varied.]

  • Late-night snack of strawberry ice cream:
Alden's - front

Alden's - reverse

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