Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Genki Sushi Seahawks Sunday

Surprisingly, for his birthday dinner, Ed chose to go to Genki Sushi -- a cheap conveyor belt sushi place in Lower Queen Anne, Seattle -- over the fancy, five-star Metropolitan Grill for fancy, five-star steak. Part of it is was finance. Part of it was good food fast. Have you been there? The sushi variety is made even more enticing by its democracy, everybody can have their heart's desire, simply reach out and pick plates you desire.

That is, unless you're me and at the Genki Sushi earlier tonight. Right after a Seahawks game. Outgoing crowds causing traffic jams, prolonging our inevitable. Clogging up not just the arteries of the road toward nirvana (it took us twice as long to get there than usual) but inside the restaurant itself.

The Sunday Genki staff wasn't prepared for the influx, apparently. They were understaffed. Two guys out front had to fill so many special orders from the booths and the tables that there wasn't much variety of sushi on the conveyor belt--the whole reason for Genki's existence and fame.

Do I sound bitter? I am, a little.

I was staring daggers at the large party seated after us in the large booth still attached to the conveyor belt. Instead of picking plates off the conveyor belt, they immediately ordered off the menu, monopolizing the two sushi makers out front. So as a result, the conveyor belt had NOTHING new put on it for the entire time we were there for dinner.

After starving on just two pieces of sake (salmon), even I was forced to order off the menu--if I wanted to eat. But I did so begrudgingly. If it hadn't been for my friend Raquel and the special orders our sons required (mine is a picky eater who only goes for edamame -- which wasn't on the conveyor belt for once, miso and rice), I'd have starved to death.

At one point, I got excited because I saw one of the sushi guys preparing tuna and salmon with mayo and a blowtorch. Thinking they were for the conveyor belt, I felt my hope rise. Then, my hope dashed when my husband found out that ALL that sushi he was preparing was for a booth of 70,000 in front of us. The conveyor belt continued to circle with the same 10 sushi we saw coming in.

Call me nutty, but I go to Genki Sushi to pick off plates of sushi from the conveyor belt. That's the whole reason for going there. Otherwise, I'd go to a sushi restaurant. Dig? If people would just recognize Genki Sushi for what it's supposed to be, we wouldn't be sitting around starving because nobody on the staff has time to bother loading up the conveyor belt. Why not just close the restaurant down, dismantle the conveyor belt and just call it something else, like, Sushi Toyama? Stupid people.

In Hawaii, for the longest time, Genki had seats around the conveyor belt and a waiting line. If you wanted a booth, you went to Yanagi. Everybody understood the conveyor belt allure. Everybody endured terrible parking and long waits JUST to sit at the conveyor belt counter and see what was there to pick from. Very few people special-ordered, and only if everybody at the conveyor belt was taking your favorites. Other people special-ordered for catering or takeout, but they were very few and they were considered stupid. If you couldn't find a seat, you were out of luck, just go wait like everybody else, tough luck.

But I bet some bad apples started complaining to management about their fat butts needing booth seating and pretty soon you have the stupidity you have today at all Genki Sushi establishments. Idiots who come in with their ignorant entourage and treat Genki Sushi like it was a regular sit-down Japanese restaurant.

These are the stupid idiots who prevented me from plucking out my favorite treasures from the conveyor belt. I hope they're happy. Popularity destroys another institution.

On the only bright note, not having a lot of variety on the conveyor belt forced me to try new specialty sushi, like the one with cream cheese in it. Normally I disparage such haole-ized sushi and those who try it, but I did and it's not bad. It's not loaded with cream cheese. Just enough to flavor the rice and brightly colored raw fish (ahi, salmon). I even had rainbow roll, which was very good.

Other than these, some tempura rolls, scallop (not the pieces, the whole layer), and the kid drinks that taste like orange sherbet, there really was nothing else going on, like usual. No Tamago. No Ebi. No spicy tuna roll. They all went to the greedy pigs in the booths and tables too stupid and lazy to go to an actual Japanese sushi restaurant to be served.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Original Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies (for Barnaby's birthday)

I thought to augment Barnaby's (James' soccer friend) birthday gift card with a paper sack full of my homemade chocolate chip cookies. It's a Tollhouse specialty and my personal favorite. I've gotten fairly good at baking these cookies, as long as I watch the clock (they bake a shade longer than 11 minutes but not too long). If I don't, even if it's one minute longer than 11 minutes, I'm in trouble.

The first batch was, to me, a little underbaked. The cookies were cooked through, but paler than I normally prefer. The second batch was overbaked, just shy of burnt. I finally got the swing of things in the middle. But, I must say, I was caught up singing to Sara Bareilles' "Gravity" on my iPod (I bake listening to music through my earphones) and pulled the last two cookies out too late. They were smoking, their little bottoms blackened. I ate those, reserved 3/4ths of a bag for Barnaby and saved the rest for my cookie jar, which for sure my son and husband will lay waste to in one to two days.

Like they did to the two bags of Pepperidge Farm's Brussels cookies yesterday.

Chocolate Swirl Pound Cake (for Eddie's birthday)

I'd run across Evil Shenanigans' recipe for Chocolate Swirl Pound Cake months before. But being lazy, I dismissed using it to satiate my husband's lifelong craving for his mom's swirl bundt cake, because it required a 10" loaf pan and I only had the 9".

Today's officially my husband's 48th birthday, so I wanted to surprise him with a chocolate and vanilla swirl pound cake of some sort and went back on this initial recipe. It's almost foolproof. There's no swirling the chocolate batter (cocoa, water and batter) into the vanilla batter, no muss, no fuss.

Just layer some of the vanilla batter on the bottom, spread the cocoa batter on top leaving 1/4" edge all around, and then top with the remaining vanilla batter, covering the chocolate. Real easy.

Target and Fred Meyer didn't have the 10" loaf pan. But Wal Mart did. The pound cake just came right out, smoothly, leaving no crumbs or pieces of cake behind. But I'd really greased the loaf pan well.

Best of all, Eddie came home before 1 a.m. tonight to enjoy a slice. He deemed it just as good as his mom's bundt cake. But I'll store the bundt cake idea for a future recipe hunt.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chicken and Basil Dumpling Soup

--or, "damn near perfect" dumpling soup, as my husband deemed it after his bowl's worth tonight. He quibbled just a little about whether the dumplings should fall apart like these do or if they should be sturdier. The dumplings were finally cooked through and firm enough to flip over (my test) -- after longer than the seven minutes the For the Love of Cooking blogger prescribed -- that's all I cared about. I liked the hint of sour in the buttermilk and the dash of dried basil (very money-saving over fresh).

They're right though, the experts in food land. Make the effort to make chicken stock from scratch. It's really no bother. If there's a sale on whole chickens, dump a whole one in the stock pot, throw in leftover ends of leftover raw veggies, like onion, garlic bulb halves, carrots plus the greens, all those herb stubs, fill with water with about two-three inches from the top, and let simmer for two hours at least.

If you're lazy like me, just pick up some Costco roast chickens, strip those clean while listening to talk radio or the ipod, and prep for the soup to come with the required amount of veggies and herbs. I threw in a Yukon gold potato, just 'cause I like potato.

The hardest part of making your own chicken stock (for me, anyway) is draining the stock, then sorting the trash from the treasures (chicken meat that falls apart). I solved that problem tonight by leaving the stock in its pot on the stove while I went to work on the chicken and basil dumplings (mine was more soup than stew, because I used triple the stock called for). Whenever I needed the stock, I just helped myself with a ladle and a four-cup measure.

Eventually, I had to drain the rest. It was easier to do with less stock. I just sorted out the garbage (bones, fat, skin, carrot/onion/garlic/celery chunks, herbs), threw it into a plastic bag (that carried the carrots), and put the chicken meat in a bowl to dump in later.

With the extra chicken meat--and there will be a lot unused--I'm planning to make chicken salad tomorrow. Thumbs up from my husband. I may do one with apples or with grapes. Depends on my mood.

I had to double the corn starch slurry on the fly, after realizing nothing would thicken with triple the amount of stock required. You should've seen the corn starch flying on my second round. I only had a cylinder container with holes and a half shape; hard to get 1/4 cup out of that without tearing the container apart. I also didn't mix the buttermilk and the egg together before mixing in with the flour/baking powder etc. But I did mix the egg a little, like the recipe says to do.

There's something immensely soothing about spooning out homemade dumpling dough into simmering stock. I felt the weight of a million housewives before me. Watching the dough plop and float made me smile. It's times like these -- even with cramping legs and toes from standing so long -- I understand why so many of us enjoy our alone time in the kitchen with our pots, pans, and recipes.

Maybe I'm finally becoming a cook, as well, able to use my experienced judgment on when to follow the recipe by the book and when to stray, improvise. This recipe is an improvisation from the original, a Cooking Light Best Chicken Recipes magazine using rosemary instead of basil. I could see dill too, instead of basil. Or even parsley.

I'm proud of the fact that my soup resembles the For the Love of Cooking picture. Except for the thickness of the stock. Next time, I think I'll do a chicken and dumpling dish, straight out of Everyday Food, strictly by the book. See how it turns out.

In the meantime, I have tons of chicken and basil dumpling soup left. Maybe some friends would appreciate soup in this rainy weather. Would you?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Banana Cookies (?!)

Maybe it's me. I simply don't care for soft cookies. These banana cookies from Simply Recipes are soft, like muffies (cross between cookies and muffins). My son James, 8, tried one, making a face at first, then asking for the other half of the cookie back to finish it on second thought.

If he likes it, it has to be good. I just think he's pecans.

The weird twist about this recipe is, you don't put the baking soda in with the sifted flour and spices, you put it into the mashed bananas, which help the cookies puff up and rise. I may have put a little extra mashed banana (3 instead of 2 1/2), because I was too lazy to measure.

It's a rainy weekend. I may go pecans and make homemade stock, then a basil dumpling chicken soup tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brooklyn Bros Pizzeria

Many pizzerias outside New York purport to be authentically East Coast style, with the NY-speak and the NY logos. Including Brooklyn Bros Pizzeria in downtown Everett, WA.

Are they? Authentic, I mean? Sort of. But I'm a very hard judge of pizza character. I originally came from N.J. and Connecticut, raised on the best pizza, hoagies, and spaghetti and meatballs. Brooklyn Bros is decent enough pizza (they don't yet serve pasta, unless the owner, who's from the East Coast, comes in special). It's just not, say, an original Joe's or even Bizarro's in Melbourne, FL.

Because I'm such a fan of Pagliacci, we hardly ever go downtown to Everett for Brooklyn Bros. We did last night after a family soccer practice, at my husband's suggestion. He likes the place slightly better than I do. When we arrived, one of the staff asked us to test-taste garlic knots with marinara dipping sauce they were trying out. Not bad. In NY, the garlic knots have more butter and way more garlic, but the marinara had a light coating of Parmesan (which I love and Eddie hates) and was sufficiently, deeply tomato in flavor. Maybe a little too greasy.

We came here for the cheese pizza, and cheese pizza we had. My husband and son inhaled about three slices each, while I was still working on my small mixed greens. I barely finished my slice and two garlic knots before I was full.

The clerk came over to chat. He told us that nobody, not even he knows the ingredients of the marinara sauce they use for the garlic knots, only that it's different from the pizza sauce. He gave us more before we left.

If I remember to come here again, I might break the mold and try their Sicilian slices, with something more than just cheese on top.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chang's Mongolian Grill

For the past week and a half, I could've eaten nothing but Chang's Mongolian Grill. Seriously that good, that addictive, that improved from last year's renovation. Nothing in the ingredient list changed as far as I could see. The cooks still water down everything after all the trouble picking out the right sauce combination (I use everything except the oyster sauce). But somehow at the end of it all, there's a plate full of delicious goodness that almost replicates the awesomeness of the one, the original Mongolian Barbecue in Kaimuki.

That one disappeared in the '90s. It was originally in a dingy, dirty downtown Honolulu dive, before moving on up to Kaimuki. When my mom dragged me and my brother to it (I was in high school), we protested the dirty- and sweaty-looking cooks around this huge, round cast-iron-looking disk emanating the hottest heat, stewing in their own juices standing there over the food in their own sweaty little room surrounded by windows so the customers like us could stare in like they were caged animals. ...Until we had the food for ourselves. After that, we were addicted.

Nothing compared for the longest time after we moved to Seattle until we moved up more north into the suburbs, about 15 minutes away from Everett, and Chang's.

My favorite mix is the raw chicken and shrimp from the meat bar, shredded cabbage, green onion, onion and cilantro from the fresh vegetables bar, and then three ladles of soy, one ladle of everything else, hold the oyster sauce. I don't go for the noodles or the pancake wraps. Just give me a bowl of rice, and let me go to town. I can on average go to town on two helpings in the all-you-can-eat buffet, until I'm close to throwing up.

I craved this so badly last week that I made do with Panda Express drive-through. Tomorrow, I'm going to try a hybrid of it by stir-frying chicken and broccoli at home, with tons of rice.

Psst. After my period is over, I'm back on the dietary, nutritional saddle.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Zucchini Chocolate Banana Breads

I still had three zucchini in the fridge. A week had elapsed and they'd still held up. Amazing. I could've fried them up with panko or made an elaborate squash casserole. But I made a batch of zucchini bread instead, from two different recipes -- Martha Stewart and For the love of cooking -- for two different friends at two different times. I also threw in a chocolate banana bread from Kirbie's Cravings for church this morning. (Maybe they'll repay me next Sunday by buying up raffle tickets for my son's soccer league. Ha.)

Oh yeah, I enticed some of my friends to ante up for those raffle tickets by offering to bake for them if they bought the most tickets. One of my friends did, so she got some of the best homemade zucchini bread money could buy. Maybe I should offer lumpia next...

I'm proud to say I used up most of the zucchini. I have about six inches left, insert joke here. I used up the three overripe bananas, too.

For one of my friends, her husband has a severely restricted diet (no chocolate, no eggs, no peanuts). I don't think eggs in baked goods count, but the zucchini bread I made (Martha Stewart) for her family only required two. I used that one from the three options, because there weren't any nuts or chocolate. Plus, hey, it's Martha Stewart, it's bound to be fancy with all that fall spice (nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon).

To spare the church a zucchini overload, I switched it up with the chocolate banana bread. This recipe was weird, with the 300 degrees and the 7x3-inch loaf pans. Mama don't use 7x3 disposable cheap loaf pans. I just used my usual 9xwhatever glass loaf pans and baked the darned things for longer, way longer, than the one hour. If I had to guess how long total, it'd be about one hour and 20 minutes. Nothing left after the service; that should tell you something.

The For the love of cooking zucchini bread took up the last granule of sugar I had. I didn't, however, have enough walnuts so I threw in some chocolate chips to make up the difference, which my other friend and her daughters will sure appreciate tomorrow morning for breakfast.

FYI: We were unaffected by the egg recall. Use Eggland's Best for all baking and for all breakfasts. Trust me. They really are different.