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?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Elliott's Happy Hour

"Our happy hour is one of Seattle's best-kept secrets," said our server. It really is. We were over at Elliott's Oyster House in downtown Seattle's Waterfront (me, my husband, our son, my mom) during the ungodly hour of between 4 and 5, where nobody else was inside and I mean nobody. Stupid, stupid, robot-trained lemmings.

If they would just release their iron-clad grip on conformist dinner hours, come a little bit earlier, they'd avoid the crowds and score 50 cent-oysters on the half-shell. We had three dozen Chef's selections. Sure, by the time we were on our third tray, the selection began to deteriorate with way-too-briny oysters, but it's still a screaming deal (considering primetime prices are like $2 per).

You can also score deals on the Happy Hour bar menu: fried calamari, oyster stew, mussels in tequila-lime cream sauce, Blackened Rockfish tacos, salmon sliders. Crazy.

Happy Hour is 3 p.m.-6 p.m.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Korean food

When my mom visits from Hawaii, it's Korean food for me. There's nothing like homemade Korean food to warm my stomach, even though my grandma's was always better. Before my mom headed off to gamble at Tulalip Casino, she left me some favorites, including sesame leaves--a childhood staple I hadn't had since childhood. At $1.40 a package, sesame leaves are an expensive treat. When seasoned with soy and some other Asian ingredients, it's like savory spinach and mint rolled into one.

The fish she fries up stinks up the house for a month afterwards, but the taste of the succulent morsels (usually Corvina yellow fish) is worth the strong smell. Then, there's the tofu jigae flavored with octopus, shrimp and crab. It needs salt, and more tofu cubes, but I'll take what I can get.

I could eat this everyday for the rest of my life.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Turkey Soup (with the big, fat egg noodles)

Something about just throwing vegetables in a pot of simmering stock seems wrong to me. I'm used to sauteing in butter and olive oil first, to bring out the flavors, then adding stock. But tonight, very late tonight, I had to kind of work backwards. I didn't want to dirty another pan after using up one huge metal bowl, a huge metal colander, and a stock pot for the turkey stock. Anyway, here's the turkey soup I made with homemade, after-Christmas-turkey-dinner stock (which reached half the stock pot without the bones, carcass, and veggies).

The making of the stock is easy. Throw everything in a pot, fill with water. Flavor with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, parsley, walk away to simmer for three hours or more. It's the turning the stock into soup that's a little time-consuming, mostly because I have to figure out an economical way of draining the stock liquid from the leftover chunks, sort through the good turkey meat from the bone, carcass and fat without burning my hands, and put the turkey meat into a bowl to put into the soup, while putting the trash into a used plastic Ziploc bag. This time, I also had another receptacle, the plastic Ziploc filled with turkey slices.

I wound up just using a mini-colander with a handle to scoop out the carcass/bones/used-up veggies, to put in a large metal colander over the sink--before putting a large metal bowl underneath that to catch the stock drippings. Then sorted through each bit, putting smaller pieces of turkey meat in a small metal bowl, bigger slices from the turkey legs and such in with the slices of turkey I stored in a plastic Ziploc the previous night, turkey used for leftovers and sandwiches, and then another plastic bag for the trash. Cut my time in half.

I'm never sure whether to add noodles, rice, what size noodles or just leave it plain. I do know from past experience that potatoes don't really go texturally with old-fashioned turkey soup. If I have to, just one Yukon my husband saved for me. I was torn between medium-sized egg noodles and the little teeny ones. I went with the medium-sized in the end. And I'm glad I did. It looks legit.

My husband came home late from a gig and had a chance to taste-test. He said it only needed salt, because the turkey he roasted did. I added some salt, garlic-salt, and a little loose chicken bouillon.

Most people I know don't salt the turkey soup enough. So it's better to under-salt and they can add if they like. The stock is magic, turning water into soup and it feels like I'm cheating someone out of something very valuable and getting it for free. Best of all, I don't waste any bit of the turkey. This was 80 percent of the reason we did turkey for Christmas, for the soup the day after. Now I have lots to freeze for when I don't have time to make turkey soup, it's ice-cold outside, and I need warming up.

I couldn't find leeks anywhere, or I'd have added those. Next time.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiv-- er, Christmas!

I'll tell you a secret about me. I hate saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or heck, even good night. I feel so stupid and cliche.

This Christmas, I really felt like pulling the covers over my head and sleeping it out until the new year. All of us have colds that last longer than seven days, two of us were drugged up on Nyquil when we were dragged out of bed way too early just to follow the mindless, materialistic ritual of all American consumers: opening the presents in a frenetic flurry. Then, onto making way too much fancy food that we'll have to throw out a year from now.

I really, really wasn't in the mood.

After cussin' the world out for five minutes, I finally went about the business of helping my husband cook up the Thanksgiving feast we'd missed making on Thanksgiving (we were invited to a friend's). All the cussin' in the world won't change the fact that we had a 14-pound thawed bird waitin'. Nobody cares that we were sick and tired and fed up. Bad timing and what-not, we were stuck.

Once I focused on chopping celery, onion for the bread stuffing my dad used to make when he was alive and my husband/mom clamor for, my outlook improved. How could it not? The smell of onion and celery sauteeing in butter and olive oil would put a smile on anyone's face. They should use this scene to cheer up inmates in solitary confinement and mental institutions.

What did we have? My husband made his creamed spinach--a family recipe, mashed potatoes (rinse potatoes before boiling), cranberry compote with Mandarin oranges, gravy and turkey--using the foil technique this year, whereas I finished up with my dad's bread stuffing, at my husband's and mom's request, and green bean casserole.

My dad's bread stuffing is the easiest in the world to make. The trick is to season the heck out of it. When in doubt, season even more.

It helps if you have a small saucepan of water and giblets/turkey neck simmering in the background all this time. Use the stock to help flavor the stuffing, which is basically chopped celery and onions in butter/olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, a bag of bread cubes (we like Franz in the NW), more stock (from a can is okay), adjust seasoning to taste. That's it. To crisp up the top, leave in oven warming.

Personally, I'd rather have the recipe with apples and cranberries in it. To lighten an already heavy feast.

I ate an overstuffed plate full of good tidings. Now, I'm done until New Year's Day, when we decided to do a Christmas dinner of prime rib, cucumber salad and roast potatoes.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve Pupus, Resurrected

It's been awhile since we had our traditional family Christmas Eve pupus. We used to put out a modest spread of finger foods, just me and Eddie. It was a tradition he got from his family, where his mom would make little sandwiches, including ones with liverwurst, green olives, deviled eggs, fried hot dog chunks with mustard, bagels and lox. Okay, we may have added the bagel and lox after we married.

Anyway, because Ed got involved with a church band eight years ago and the worship pastor held a Christmas Eve party at his home right after services (to thank the musicians for sacrificing their Eve), we stopped doing it. Last Christmas we didn't do it, because we were at our son's friend's house for their annual Christmas Eve party. We'd planned on coming back home after and having our pupus as usual. But we didn't know that we'd be fed a full-on Christmas meal at the friend's house. By the time we got back home, we were stuffed.

Anyway, I was determined to have us go back to the family tradition, just the family. Who cares if the family is usually just us three. Plus, my mom visiting from Hawaii. She booked the trip last minute, so my husband had to pick her up at the airport at 6:25 in the morning. This morning. This Christmas Eve morning.

Most of us are sick with a cold, too, so that precluded us from going to any parties. No matter. We enjoyed ourselves in our casual atmosphere, hanging out in our pjs, grazing on my husband's spicy deviled eggs (I won't eat deviled eggs unless it's his), shrimp cocktail, a new addition of tempura shrimp (which I saw on a friend's Facebook wall from her Thanksgiving), another new addition of mini-crescent roll dogs, smoked oysters, crackers, Triscuits, a Hickory Farms cheddar block I picked up at Target just when I needed to pick up more cheddar anyway, stuff like that.

I didn't graze much. This cold has been wiping out what little appetite I have. But of all the appetizers in the spread, my favorite were the deviled eggs. They were the only things I could actually taste, to tell you the truth.

My mom couldn't get enough of the mini-crescent roll dogs. I must say, this is a huge favorite. When I served it for the soccer team last month, they ate it all up. Even cold.

I was planning on smearing my smoked oysters on freshly baked baguette, but all we had left was crusty, crispy fall-apart leftover Albertson's pieces. Ed was about to go to the store one more time to get the baguette, but I stopped him. All that for a tiny tin of smoked oysters, not worth it. Turned out, I didn't eat much of it anyway. Appetite sucked.

I will have a tall, cold glass of Emergen-C though.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Giada's Oatmeal, Cranberry and Chocolate-Chunk Cookies, Martha's Double-Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Any variation on the oatmeal cookies--the fatter the better--is fine by me, even if it's baked by Giada de Laurentiis, who's been on my naughty list for her obsession with sugar (really, how does she not have diabetes?!). I like that these were big -- she uses an ice-cream scoop -- and contained chocolate chunks in addition to dried cranberries, old-fashioned oats, and cinnamon.

They were fairly easy to make until I got to the part where I scooped out the dough. The dough fell apart on me. I had to pack each roundful with my hand to make it stick together before plopping out onto the parchment-lined baking pans. Otherwise...

A normal person would have saved the Martha Stewart double-chocolate chunk cookies for the next morning. It wasn't as easy to make. It's Martha Stewart after all.

The part about melting the stick of butter with four ounces of coarsely chopped chocolate (I almost missed this part and put the entire eight ounces of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips in the bowl to simmer above a small pot of water). I didn't bother trying to find fancy chocolate bars to coarsely chop. Ghirardelli should be fancy enough.

Mixing very warm butter/chocolate sauce with eggs is always tricky. You don't want sweet scrambled eggs (unless you're Giada). But I tempered that by making sure I put the sugars in there first, then the eggs and vanilla. It worked. Flawless chocolate batter that doesn't have a lot of flour, so it's really delicate and dense coming out of the oven.

I made a mistake with the first batch by immediately dragging it by its parchment paper corner onto the rack and nearly had chocolate mousse, as the chocolate cookies started separating. They're almost raw-looking right off. You really need to leave them alone ON THE PAN to cool first. That's when they harden, then transfer each cooled cookie to the rack to finish cooling. Don't bother with the recipe telling you otherwise. It's Martha Stewart. She always has to over-complicate matters.

Now, I have two different kinds of cookies in my cookie jar for my family to enjoy closing in on Christmas. I will probably make more, from other recipes. Since my husband is always on the lookout for something sweet to end his day, this is a good thing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Around the World Class Christmas Party

I admit I wasn't looking forward to another school function. A lot of that's because I'm fighting a cold (I'm winning, btw), which has brought on this utter fatigue. When you're utterly fatigued and sleep-deprived, you don't even feel like going to Disney World, much less lifting a finger to even turn off the lights.

I buckled down and went, bringing my assigned rice pudding (for the Denmark group my son belonged to--each group did a Power Point presentation on a country and how its people celebrated Christmas) bought from Fred Meyer. Bought, because you're no longer allowed to make your own foods to share with any school, which sucks, because home-made always beats store-bought. Although, I must say, the rice pudding was very very flavorful. I'm glad we still had one unopened container left to take back home for the holidays.

The school isn't Hawaii. So a little of the warmth and acceptance, pride and joy in diversity of cultures were lacking. Except by me. I ignored the cool stares, cliquey attitudes, and quiet stances of the other parents and just dived in, marveling out loud--mostly to myself and the children--about this dish or that, or joking to nobody in particular that my son just tried something that wasn't a dessert. He really loved the bratwurst a father made, cut up in chunks and skewered with toothpicks. He loved them so much he ate them all, leaving none for the parents when it was our turn at the buffet table. Oh well.

I did manage to have one of the last pieces of home-made (take that, you stupid schools! and your stupid rules!) chicken tamale, even though it wasn't the spicy ones (those were already eaten). A lot of the food went in a hurry. I'm surprised. The party was at 2 p.m. and we were eating by 2:30 p.m. You'd think we were all starving to death the way the kids and the adults went at it.

I was surprised that a lot of the kids helped themselves to the sushi. I was also surprised that the person bringing the sushi did not bother to put together a wasabi/soy sauce mix. Sushi isn't sushi without dipping into at least the soy sauce. By the time I got around to the table, I remedied that by putting together the mix myself. But by then, there were only a few pieces left. I enjoyed myself some sake (raw salmon) nigiri. Not bad, either. Like they ordered and bought it from a real Japanese sushi restaurant instead of a supermarket. Supermarket sushi on the Mainland is horrendous.

My son left me some Danish cookies, which I really didn't want to eat but ate anyway. I had a banana, which was supposed to be boiled for Jamaica, and a bit of orange (for China), to balance off the cookies, the Stolen, and the Yule log chocolate cake.

We ran out of time so only a few eager students had the hot cocoa. The rest of them will enjoy it tomorrow in class.

I tried hard not to miss Hawaii and the tremendously diverse, bountiful buffets that would've been on those tables. Oh, imagine if they had lumpia, musubi, and pork hash...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Butterscotch Chip Spice Cookies

I wasn't planning to baking any cookies for Christmas. It was going to be Martha Stewart's gingerbread snacking cake all the way--even if you and you got sick of it. Gingerbread cake is my favorite dessert of all time. But then I was reviewing the latest recipes on Food Gawker (a must during the holidays for ideas) and found Sweet Pea's Kitchen and her awesome-looking, doable Butterscotch Chip Spice Cookies.

I had bought a package of butterscotch chips for an oatmeal recipe I never got around to baking, so I figured this was kismet. I would just prepare these -- all the way up to forming the batter in a disk and then refrigerating it overnight -- after the gingerbread snacking cake. Nothing too hard. I wound up not having enough time anyway last night to finish with cookies in the oven, so it was good that you could leave the dough to chill overnight.

This morning, I took the cold dough out for 10 minutes while I puttered around the kitchen, preparing other baked goods as gifts, coffee and Mila. These remind me of chocolate-spiced crinkle cookies. Same procedure. Roll 1 1/2-inch balls of dough in powdered sugar, bake for 14 minutes. But I kind of rushed the packaging. The cookies were cooled completely, but they may need a little more time for the powdered sugar -- like snow -- to firm up.

Alas, I don't think my husband minded the sticky powdered sugar, when he tried one. You won't either. Visit Sweet Pea's Kitchen. She has a wonderful mix of easy, but delicious and classic recipes for all occasions, and not just dessert.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chocolate Banana Gingerbread

Somehow I had two bananas way past overripe I needed to use or get rid of. Of all the recipes I had or looked up, I found this one for chocolate banana gingerbread at How Sweet It is that required only two. Others required three or more. I wasn't about to go out and buy more overripe bananas just for one banana bread. Plus, it's close to Christmas time, which means everything gingerbread. Throw in chocolate chips, and a friend's Christmas-colored sugar sprinkles (instead of raw turbinado sugar--I didn't have any left and I couldn't find any in the limited time I had) as a gift from last year, and my other friend Christina is going to have a very lovely holiday gift from me, indeed.

Quite festive-looking, huh. Quite easy to make, too.

Only quirk is in the beginning when you mix the scant 1/4th cup of butter and 1/3rd cup of sugar together in the stand mixer, it doesn't seem volume enough to mix into a light batter. Unless you use a hand beater.

And I had to taste the liquified, thawed, almost blackened bananas several times to make sure I wasn't going to poison her. I read on another food blog somewhere that the darker and almost black with overripeness, the better for baking.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gingerbread Snacking Cake

The strangest part of Martha Stewart's classic gingerbread snacking cake is actually the common act of dissolving baking soda in boiling water. Otherwise, it's simply a matter of having all the ingredients sifted, measured and at the ready for mixing.

I had all mine laid out on the kitchen counter yesterday, ready for baking by early afternoon. Yet, I found myself in the family room most of the night with my family absorbed in our common activity: watching game shows on TV. Minute To Win It is insanely addictive. I'm surprised my son hasn't tried out half those everyday at home games by now.

By the time the last game show was over, it was 9:15 p.m., and I wasn't in much of a mood to tackle baking. I was only in the mood to sleep, deeply--for about a week. But I pressed forth and was rewarded by a light-as-air, moist gingery (both powdered and grated gingers) classic cake that almost floated in my mouth.

Most of the snacking cake will go to friends as part of their Christmas present (don't you wish you were my friend, too?). But I will make this again for other friends' presents and our own, as part of Christmas Day dessert. It's a keeper. Gingerbread cake is one of my all-time favorites.