Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Favorites

My favorite holiday foods:

  1. Stuffing with gravy
  2. Juicy turkey
  3. Broccoli and cheese casserole (I tried it for the first time this Christmas)
  4. Sugar cookies with frosting
  5. Thimble cookies
  6. Mint hot cocoa
  7. Rum cake
  8. Milk chocolate truffles 
  9. Warm rolls with jam (none this Christmas - sadness)
  10. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast

Thursday, December 20, 2012

First Christmas

Christmas has always been a multiple event affair for me with different parties for different parts of my family. This year included another festivity to the mix: Roommate Christmas! Since Kimmy is leaving this Sunday to join her friends and family in California for Christmas and New Year's, the three of us decided to exchange presents on the 16th, one of the only days this season all three of us would be available at the same time with our busy schedules.

While listening to my New Orleans Christmas CD, Kimmy rolled out beignet dough in the kitchen, using Christmas cookie cutters to make star, tree, and snowman shaped beignets. I've only ever made beignets in the traditional square shape. It never occurred to me to cut them into fun shapes for different special occasions. They were just as tasty as any beignet, if not quite as big and fluffy as those from the Cafe Du Monde. (They never are made at home. Sigh. But I refuse to buy a deep fryer!)

When Bri returned home around noon, she got started on making biscuits and gravy with turkey sausage. Biscuits and gravy is not a dish that I grew up with, but I find it absolutely delicious. In fact, I devoted a whole blog entry about how much I ate biscuits and gravy on my roadtrip with Kimmy across the U.S. last year. I think that I need to learn how to make them for myself. Just the memory is making my mouth water...

My contribution to our special brunch was simple: 100% Florida orange juice and a bottle of Seccola Frizzante, a sparkling wine similar to Prosecco that was produced in Germany with Italian grapes. I believe this is a Trader Joe's exclusive, but I am not sure. You can read a fellow customer's review of the wine here, Seccola Frizzante at Trader Joe's. I don't think that the resuloting mimosas were as sweet as those made with certain champagnes I've had, but the crispness of the wine came through, and I found it to be an excellent pairing with the sweetness of the orange juice.

Relaxing with my roomies over mimosas, biscuits smothered in turkey sausage gravy, and festive beignets piled with powdered sugar was present enough, but the beautiful new earrings from Bri and my new DVD of Hocus Pocus, a movie that I haven't seen in years, but always loved, were very much appreciated, of course.

I'd say this was a great start to the gift-giving season!

Monday, December 17, 2012

I Need A Break

I'm sorry that I wasn't able to update last Thursday. I was busy working 6 days in a row at both jobs, totaling over 50 hours. This week isn't much better. I work 8 days in a row, my next day off being Christmas. I hope to have an update this Thursday, but for now, this is my week's vacation from blogging which doesn't pay nearly as well as either of my other "real world" jobs. I'm sorry. There just isn't enough time during the month of December to do everything (or much of anything) I want. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mixing My Own Drinks

One of my favorite things about working at a bookstore with a tea room is the free stuff I get due to "expiration." Expiration is a myth perpetuated by the food industry in order to get the public to buy more stuff. The best way to judge whether or not food is expired is to check for mold, discoloration, or a bad smell. If you detect none of these things, chances are good that your food is just fine. A magic number printed on the package is the worst indication of food spoilage that I have ever seen.

Anyway, moving along. The expiration date on products works in my favor because it means I get to take home perfectly good food and drinks that I don't have to pay for. Yay for scrounging! Today's find: flavored syrups. 

The obvious thing for me to do with flavored syrups is to make Italian sodas by mixing syrup with tonic water. I don't have tonic water, though, and I didn't really want to buy any, so I just brought the caramel and sugar free vanilla syrups to Game Night to see what people came up with. 

The first - and my favorite - suggestion was to add the caramel syrup to hot chocolate. Oh man. Best hot chocolate I have ever made at home. (It wasn't my home, but it was still a home, so it counts.) No one had brought pop for dinner, so a few people ran out and bought some 2 liters to go with the syrup. People started mixing vanilla colas and vanilla with root beer for homemade cream sodas. I did not try this, but the reports were favorable. 

The next week, I brought the vanilla again, but instead of caramel, I brought cherry syrup. (I would honestly just do shots of the cherry syrup by itself. *cough*) This time I made cherry Pepsis, which were so delicious, and my boyfriend Greg mixed the vanilla with orange pop. He said it tasted very much like an orange creamsicle. 

I have yet to mix the syrups with alcohol, but this seems like another natural combination to me. I fully intend to mix the other syrups with hot chocolate, as well. I think the cherry syrup in hot chocolate would be especially delightful. I used to have them make this for me at Denny's when I was in college by adding a shot of Grenadine (which is technically pomegranate flavoring, not cherry). 

The other flavors I have are blueberry, blackberry, and some others that I can't think of because I am tired. Blackberry hot chocolate might be interesting. I actually don't think blueberry hot chocolate would taste very good, but I am willing to give it a shot. It would probably taste pretty good with vodka, however, or maybe chilled sake. 

All right, I am sleepy, and I think it is time to rest for the night. Happy Hanukkah, everybody!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Latkes!

I love potatoes. I especially love potatoes fried in a pan. This is why latkes - also known as potato pancakes - will always hold a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, I am terrible at making them. And they look so easy! The main ingredients are shredded or mashed potatoes, flour, and egg. (I also like mine with onions.)

My first attempt was from a recipe I got off some recipe book-on-disk for the computer that my mother had. I failed so miserably at making latkes that my friend and I ended up going out to a restaurant for dinner. I don't know what went wrong! They just refused to stay together once they hit the oil. 

I tried again to make them a few years later, and this time they more or less stayed together, but they were thin and very oily. I was one sad panda, let me tell you. I just could not figure out what I was doing wrong.

Then I discovered frozen potato pancakes at Trader Joe's. Technically, they are a seasonal item, but I have yet to figure out which season since they are usually around for both Hanukkah and Passover. Which is fine by me, because I will eat them any day of the year! 

Random Trivia: Latkes are the national dish of Belarus. 

Now, I will eat latkes plain, but my favorite way of consuming them is with sour cream and chives. It took me a little time to come around to eating latkes with apple sauce dolloped on top. I can say now, though, that this is also a perfectly acceptable way to eat them. I do like to use room temperature apple sauce rather than cold out of the fridge because if the apple sauce is too cold, it makes the latkes cold, too, and cold mushy latkes are sad latkes. 

I read somewhere about latkes made with cinnamon. I don't think that sounds too bad, though I think the addition of sugar might be a bit weird. I am just too used to potatoes being on the salty side, I guess. Latkes made with carrots or parsnips and onions also sound terribly delicious. I would love to hear other people's latke suggestions!

I know it's a few days early, but I don't think that matters.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Food in Jars

My very first entry in this blog was about baking sugar cookies to give to people for Christmas. I've done this a lot for people both for the holidays and as birthday presents, which is a great way to save money when you are low on funds, or simply don't know what else to get someone. Baked goods like cookies and brownies are rarely greeted with sadness.

This year, though, I wanted to try something a little different. Like cookies in a jar. Or brownies in a jar. Or maybe hot cocoa in a jar. During the holidays season, people really are inundated with cookies, cakes, pies, sugary breads, and candy. Some relish it, some get a little sick of it, figuratively and sometimes literally. So why not give them something that doesn't need to be immediately consumed? Something that can wait for a blustery January day when the warmth of an oven accompanies by the enticing aroma of baking sugary treats will be well appreciated.

Here are some of the various cookie and brownie recipes that I found while searching Pinterest and Bing:
One addition I thought was a cute ideas, especially for sugar or gingerbread cookies, is to tie a little cookie cutter around the jar. This could be holiday themed, or tailored to the people you are giving the gift to. Use a pirate shaped cookie cutter, for instance, or a dog or cat for animal lovers. Don't forget to include instructions on your jar. A few moist ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter will need to be added by the recipients. 

If your prefer drinking your sweets to nomming them, here are some hot cocoa in a jar recipes:

With all of these choices, I don't quite know what I am going to do! Maybe I will make a few of each kind and then let people choose what they prefer. Presents are all about making people happy! Have fun with your own gifts this year!

Bonus:
It isn't food, but I came across this super cute mason jar craft on Pinterest. If you fill a mason jar partway with Epsom salt, then place a tea light atop the salt, it will look like a candle sitting in snow! The linked site decorated the mason jar with twine and a very neat old fashioned key, but a holiday theme could be used instead, which I think would make a really neat center piece for the dining table!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Turkey Bologna Revisited and Thanksgiving Leftovers


This time of year is all about the turkey. Leftover turkey sandwiches from Thanksgiving comprised of most of the my lunches this week. Last week, I picked up some 100% Whole Wheat Everything Bagel Slims from Trader Joe's that I haven't actually been eating as bagels, but rather using them to make some kick-ass sandwiches.

The first sandwich I was making before I had the luxury of Thanksgiving leftovers was comprised of one everything bagel slim, mustard, mayo, a slice of Muenster cheese, and a slice of turkey bologna. I reported on turkey bologna last year, and this year I decided to give it another shot because it was on sale for $2 at Meijer. This time, I got Oscar Meyer brand rather than Applegate Farms, so I can't vouch for the humane treatment of the turkeys involved in making the bologna, nor the lack of chemical crap. But hey, $2 is in my price range, and this package will make a lot of sandwiches. 

They were really pretty tasty sandwiches, too! I'm a little skeptical of the whole "slim bread" movement considering a regular slice of bread often has less calories and more fiber than its trendy slim cousin. I am, however, a huge fan of the everything bread movement. The only bread I will order from DiBella's Old Fashioned Submarines is their everything bread. It's like a party in my mouth! 

Trader Joe's sells everything bagels that are absolutely delicious and make excellent sandwiches. They are also a bit large, so I was actually happy to see the slim version. The taste is, admittedly, a bit different from the regular everything bagels, though this didn't really bother me since I was slathering them with mayo, mustard, meat, and cheese anyway. 

Once the turkey leftovers entered my fridge, I immediately had to try some on the everything bagel slim. I forwent the mayo and mustard this time, instead simply layering on the turkey and a slice of Muenster. Then a brilliant idea struck me. I put the sandwich in the microwave for 30 seconds, just enough time to melt the cheese a bit, warm the meat, and soften the bread. The result was utter perfection. 

Turkey breast on everything bread with cheese is my new favorite leftover sandwich. I think it could only be improved by the addition of a layer of leftover stuffing. C'est magnifique! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Make Easy Herb Butter

I spent Thanksgiving this year with my boyfriend Greg's family. He and I both had to work the day after, so it was nice to stay close to home. (Though I did then visit my family in Kalamazoo on Sunday, which is still sandwiched between work days. C'est la vie.) 

I went over to Greg's house at about eleven in the morning, and we headed over to his aunt's house just down the street soon after to see if we could help her with dinner preparations. While Greg chopped parsley for the stuffing, I made herb butter for the rolls. There was a recipe to follow, but we decided to modify it. My favorite thing!

First, I started with one stick of unsalted butter that had been set out on the counter to soften. I creamed this with a spoon in a small glass mixing bowl. Then I mixed in one tablespoon of lemon juice, which I think might have been too much. It left the butter quite tangy. Next, I took two pinches of the parsley that Greg was chopping and mixed it with the creamed butter. Then I told Greg to chop up two cloves of garlic for me. 

I tend to go overboard with garlic by my mother's reckoning, but I think this was a good amount of garlic for everyone. The chopped garlic was then creamed quite thoroughly in with the butter and parsley mixture. This was important, I think, because it crushed a lot of the little garlic pieces and better spread the flavor throughout the butter.

The resulting herb butter was fluffy, a bit tangy, as I mentioned above, and deliciously full of garlic and parsley, my two favorite seasonings. Everyone enjoyed it, which made me very happy considering I really didn't know what I was doing, which, honestly, is most of the time.

This is one recipe I will definitely have to make again, perhaps experimenting with different flavors. It looks fancy, but it is really easy! Try it!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving Poem

Baked apples with cinnamon,
Or roasted Belgian endives.
Cauliflower covered with cheese,
And pumpkins baked into pies.
Figs and cranberries
Make wonderful desserts,
As do pomegranates,
And don't forget pears.
All of these things ripen,
Are harvested in Fall.
That is why we give thanks,
And eat them one and all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

Instead of doing a new recipe today, I thought that I would pull together a few of the recipes that I have already done during the course of this blog that would make great additions to any Thanksgiving feast, especially if you have special food needs. Here is the breakdown:

Side Dishes

Meat Dishes

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Baked Acorn Squash Makes a Comeback

Last year, I made baked acorn squash for the first time. It was delicious! Nutty and buttery and sweet. (I used butter, baking walnut pieces, and brown sugar to flavor the squash.) I decided that this year, since I enjoyed it so much last year, I needed to make more, only this time, change it up a bit and use different toppings.

Since I wasn't following any one recipe, I first preheated my oven to 400F, later lowering it to 350F as the sticker on the acorn squash suggested. After cutting the squash in half, I added a little water to my pan and sprinkled some over the squash halves. What I forgot to do was put them squishy side down while baking them. Oops!

I don't think that could have affected the texture, but maybe since it came out very fibrous. It also might have not been ripe enough. I don't think I know enough about squash to really make an informed judgement here.  It also took longer to cook - maybe an hour. I ended up zapping my dish in the microwave for 30 seconds, too, since it still didn't seem quite done enough to me. 

My flavorings this time were butter, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. Since I used brown sugar last time, I was going to use maple syrup this time. I couldn't remember if I actually had any maple syrup, though, and before I checked the fridge, I noticed the bottle of Alaskan wildberry syrup that I had yet to do anything with. So instead of maple syrup, I drizzled some wildberry syrup over the squash instead. 

The taste this time around was quite different from last time, but I still enjoyed it. I think I'd enjoy it more if the texture were less stringy (and yes, I did scoop out the innards). I was thinking that perhaps I should cook it a bit longer and use a masher to mash the squash like potatoes, and that might take care of the texture.

Probably not a flavor combination I'd make for Thanksgiving dinner, but good enough for my lunches made of leftovers. I need to eat more vegetables and such. My body demands it! So between the two acorn squashes that I have made, I think I prefer last year's, but that could just be the texture thing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Fleetwood Diner

The Fleetwood Diner is one of the only 24 hour restaurants that I can think of in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the only one that isn't part of a chain. (Though there is another location in Lansing, I don't think that makes it a chain.) It is also the home of the Half & Half Burger, made up of half ground beef like a normal burger and half ground bacon. Yes, bacon. Naturally, my boyfriend Greg had to order this, and I believe he said it was surprisingly bitter. I couldn't bring myself to ask for a taste. I was quite happy with my bacon-free cheeseburger.

The Fleetwood Diner also lays claim to Hippie Hash, comprised of hash browns, grilled veggies, and feta cheese. Really, it doesn't sound half bad, except that it has peppers in it, and peppers and I don't get along very well. I guess being vegetarian is what makes it "hippie," and, this being Ann Arbor, the hash is not the only vegetarian option on the menu. They also offer tempeh burgers, among other things.
Again, this being Ann Arbor, and since Ann Arbor is located on the eastern side of Michigan, the Diner's menu also includes gyros and coneys. Mmm! (Though I haven't tried either yet.)

To me, the coolest thing about the Fleetwood Diner isn't its menu. I love that it's a freaking diner! It's shaped like my grandpa's old camping trailer, and about the same size. The counter inside is lined with round stools with vinyl cushioned seats. And the guy - there's only one - cooking your food is standing at the grill right being the counter. You can sit and watch him make your food and even chat while he does it. Outside are tables with folding chairs clustered around the door beneath the striped awning.

If the time is right, you can hop across Liberty for a nightcap at Bill's Beer Garden. Or vice-versa. The two establishments are owned by the same person. In fact, the two owners of the beer garden met while working together at the diner decades ago. (Click the link for a rundown of their brainchild.) 

Newcomers to Ann Arbor should really check this diner out. Sure, there are lots of fancy and fun restaurants on Main St, but off-Main has a lot to offer, too, and must be tried, too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ann Arbor's Very Own Beer Garden

From the creators of Mark's Carts, I introduce to you Bill's Beer Garden located in the parking lot of Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor on the corner of Liberty and Ashley. Mark Hodesh partnered with Bill Zolkowski to bring us yet another unique Ann Arbor landmark-in-the-making.

I had heard rumors months ago about a beer gardening opening up in our kooky little city, and it was with great excitement that I texted my boyfriend Greg one night while walking back to my car from work that there was a sign up advertising Bill's Beer Garden. When Greg met me downtown tonight, we found the garden open.

Apparently it opened in late October - right before my birthday! - and somehow managed to escape my notice. It is open Thursday through Saturday from 5pm to 11pm and Sunday from 4pm to 9pm until December 2nd. And if you're thinking that it seems a might cold to be sitting around a parking lot drinking beer, fear not! There are two fire pits set up and given a constant supply of wood to keep the blazes going strong. So grab a beer, pull up a chair, and get cozy in front of a warm fire. Now that is a good time!

Don't like beer? Me neither, really. While Greg enjoyed his beer, I was quite pleased with my mulled wine, delightfully served in a little mason jar. Both the beers and the wines on the menu are Michigan-made and include brews and vintages from all over the state. My wine was from Leelanau. 

While we were there, old big band era music was playing over the stereo, but I've seen it rumored that live music will also occasionally pop up. 

So if you are looking for a new and unique drinking experience, jog on over to Liberty and Ashley and give Bill's Beer Garden a try. There's no cover, just be 21 years of age or over. And have a good time!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cranberries

No, not the Cranberries, though I do really enjoy their album No Need to Argue, this blog is, in fact, about the little red superfruit packed with fiber and antioxidants. I was inspired by my two recipes recently that both involved cranberries, the pumpkin bread and the shredded Brussels sprouts mixture

First off, there are many health benefits to cranberries, as I mentioned above. Pure cranberry juice and eating dried cranberries have been shown to prevent and relieve various infections, making it a natural antibacterial that, when consumed on a regular basis, can act as an alternative to antibiotics. Cranberries are also an anti-inflammatory.

But that isn't why I really wanted to look into cranberries. I wanted to know how cranberries became associated with Thanksgiving. If one buys into the fairy tale about the First Thanksgiving (and it is a fairy tale, believe me), then it seems logical that we would eat cranberries along with turkeys and blah-blah-blah because that's what the Pilgrims ate. Yeah, no.

I mean, yes, the Pilgrims probably did eat cranberries because they found them growing all over Cape Cod, but why would, say, Virginians eat cranberries? Or Floridians? If the idea of the early real Thanksgiving feasts was to give thanks for the local bounty, cranberries would have no place outside of their native region. I've always heard that turkeys being a tradition came from turkey farmers trying to push their product, and I believe it. Maybe the same thing happened with the cranberry?

The world may never know. At least, I may never know. All of the website I find simply say "Native Americans probably shared cranberries with the Pilgrims, so that must be why it's a tradition." The problem with this is that this is not how traditions are actually born. Cranberries are harvested in the fall, which also happens to be when Americans celebrate their Thanksgiving, so I suspect this plus clever marketing is why we eat cranberries every November.

Since I can't seem to actually get a satisfactory answer to my question "how did the cranberry become a Thanksgiving staple," I will share with you some interesting facts.
  1. The name cranberry comes from "craneberry" because early settlers allegedly thought the flowers looked like the heads of cranes. The native people tended to call them names that translated to "bitter berry."
  2. History credits Henry Hall for first farming cranberries in 1816.
  3. It is claimed that ripe cranberries bounce. (I need to test this.)
  4. Native Americans used cranberries to dye fabric in addition to using them in food and medicine.
Okay, so there aren't very many facts, but I'll bet the average person wasn't aware of at least one, if not all, of them before reading this blog.

And now you know a little more about this traditional Thanksgiving food. Feel free to talk about it over your own feast. And, by all means, direct people back to this blog. Seeing is believing!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pumpkin Bread Remix

My friend Robin makes the best pumpkin bread that I have ever had. In fact, among me and my friends, Fall is synonymous with Pumpkin Bread Season because Robin makes us all little pumpkin bread loaves as presents. And there is much rejoicing.

After Robin, the best pumpkin bread I have is actually from a box. Seriously, Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread Mix is fantastic! It's fluffy, flavorful, and oh-so-easy to make. I usually pick up a few boxes every Fall when it comes out. 

This year, Trader Joe's also got in Pumpkin Cranberry Scone Mix, which is also super tasty, but more expensive than the regular pumpkin bread mix. I was talking about this to my mother and wondered aloud if I could just get the regular mix at the lower price and add my own dried cranberries. She stood up, went to the cupboard, and pulled out a half-empty bag of dried cranberries. 

And so, for my apartment's Halloween party, I made two loaves of Trader Joe's pumpkin bread. The first I made according to the box's instructions. To the second, I added a handful of dried cranberries and mixed them into the batter thoroughly before pouring it into the bread pan. 

The result was, indeed, quite delicious, adding a nice fruity tang to the sweet pumpkiny goodness. It did, however, take another 15 to 20 minutes to bake than the regular mix had. 

I realize Halloween is the holiday we usually associate with pumpkins, but I see no reason why pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins shouldn't be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving feast, especially with the addition of the strangely traditionally Thanksgiving-y cranberry.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tasty Shredded Brussels Sprouts

I was inspired by the demo at work and a couple of crafty coworkers to make up this dish. I didn't have the exact ingredients they had at demo, so I improvised. 

First, I bought a bag of shredded Brussels sprouts. I could have bought a bag of unshredded Brussels sprouts for perhaps less, but I didn't want to attempt to shred them with a handheld cheese grater. My electric food processor might have been up to the task, though it is rather small and I probably would have had to cut up the Brussels sprouts in order to fit them in the food processor. Buying the bag of pre-shredded just seemed easiest.

Next, I pulled out of my cupboard the half-empty bag of dried cranberries that my mother had given me for a pumpkin bread experiment that will be described in another blog. Also found in my cupboard was a mostly empty bag of slivered almonds. The original recipe I was using as inspiration included spicy chopped walnuts. 

Ingredients assembled, I poured canola oil into my large frying pan, heated it up under medium heat, then poured in the entire bag of shredded Brussels sprouts, which really did turn out to be a lot and I had to turn them over carefully to be sure they were evenly heated. 

The Brussels sprouts weren't in the pan for too long before I added the cranberries and slivered almonds. The idea wasn't to cook everything thoroughly, just to sort of soften the sprouts so they were a little darker green and tender, and heat up the rest. 

Once it was all warm and done to my mind, I turned off the heat and drizzled some balsamic vinegar over-top, mixing it all together so the sprouts etc were coated. I had thought about tossing it all in a Tupperware with a lid and shaking it like a tossed salad, but decided I didn't need to. 

This can be served hot or chilled. I had it both ways since there was enough for leftovers for the next day's lunch. I didn't bother adding salt or pepper since I find Brussels sprouts to be naturally quite peppery. With the cranberries and nutty flavor of the sprouts and almonds, I think this would make a fine dish for Thanksgiving. Which reminds me that I need to make baked acorn squash. I might do my own version of Thanksgiving dinner pre-Thanksgiving again this year, just so I can eat all this awesome stuff. Again. Together in one sitting?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sauteed Squash

A few weeks ago, I wrote about making scalloped squash with a new kind of squash that I'd never encountered before, pan squash (or pattypan, button, sunburst, scallopini, etc). I had one more squash and needed to use it up before it shriveled in on itself, so I decided to do a very simple recipe.

First, I sliced the squash, scooping out the seeds in middle when I got that far, rather like scooping out a pumpkin's innards, or back when I made baked acorn squash (which I should totally do again). 

I prepared the frying pan with canola oil, or possibly olive oil, I honestly don't remember now, with garlic salt sprinkled over-top and dried parsley flakes. If you hadn't noticed, garlic salt or powder and dried parsley flakes are pretty much my standard now. It's such a delicious combination!!

Anyway, once the oil was simmering a bit, I added the slices of squash. I covered the pan with a clear glass lid to help them cook faster. After a few minutes, I flipped them over to be sure both sides were cooked through. Since the squash was rather large and yielded a great number of slices, I had to do a few batches before it was all done.

I love the texture of the pan squash. The skin isn't nearly as tough as the yellow squash turned out to be. I think I prefer the flavor, too. It's a bit nutty and reminded me of acorn squash, from what I remember of the acorn squash. 

I don't think I've ever seen pan squash in the store, but if you should come across it, or find it at your local farmers' market, don't be put off by its unusual shape. It's really a very tasty squash that I don't think you'll regret buying. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

On one of my rare evenings home, I decided that I needed more protein in my diet. The only two meats I have at my disposal right now are canned tuna and frozen chicken thighs. I picked the chicken and decided that I hadn't made fried chicken in far too long. This was the first time that I made it with dark meat, which definitely gave it a distinctive flavor. Still tasty, though! 

First, I thawed the chicken thighs in the microwave because that made the ensuing process a heck of a lot easier. Then I rolled the raw thighs in a small bowl of raw egg that I had scrambled with a fork. I really don't see the point in wasting the yolk by only using the egg white. 

Next, I plopped the thigh onto a plate that I had covered in Italian style bread crumbs. Yes, the same bread crumbs I've been using over the past two years - they're still good, I swear! Sometimes I have been known to mix grated Parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs, but I did not do that this time.

Lastly, I put the coated chicken thighs into a preheated pan of canola oil - just a little to help keep the chicken from burning. When the chicken was about half cooked through, I flipped it over to brown the other side, as well. That's all! Pretty easy fried chicken, and healthier than deep-fried.

While the chicken was going, I boiled some potatoes and made mashed potatoes with the peel still on since that is where most of the nutrients are. To the potatoes, I added grated Parmesan cheese and garlic powder. In retrospect, I think I should have also added dried parsley, but the potatoes were good even without it, and a wonderful companion to the chicken.

I was sure to make enough for both dinner and a packed lunch later in the week. I really wish I had more time so I could do this more often. Buying food at work can get expensive when done too often, even with an employee discount.

Monday, October 15, 2012

And we're back!

I apologize for my unannounced week-long absence. I was in a car accident last Monday, rendering the ensuing week extremely busy with insurance details, getting a rental car, and a doctor's visit to ensure my neck wasn't damaged. Most of the time I ate leftover pizza and bread sticks that Greg bought me Monday night, and occasionally leftover tomato bisque that the Crazy Wisdom tea room let me take home. (It was a very tomato-y week.) 

The only update I have now for you is to warn you away from a restaurant called Royal Kubo in Clawson, MI. The website claims they have the best Filipino karaoke, food, and drinks, but unless nachos, lo mein with jalapenos, and hamburgers are native Filipino fare, I think not. (I briefly dated a Filipino young man years ago, and I think I have enough memory of his mother's cooking to be suspicious.) 

I've been to Royal Kubo twice now. The first was for the new goth club night that they host on Tuesday, which is definitely worth going to, just don't go hungry. Seriously. Eat before you go. We ordered nachos, thinking they would be a good snack, and it took about 45 minutes for them to arrive, and I've had fancier nachos homemade in my microwave. And the place is not exactly hopping. There were maybe a dozen people in the restaurant at the time, and few of them were ordering food. 

The second time I went was to see "San Francisco-based cellist-singer-songwriter" Unwoman. She was fabulous! I'd never seen a cello comprised solely of the neck before, which she had strapped around her waist while she played. She also did her own accompaniment by playing a bit and recording it with the use of a pedal at her feet and having it replay that part while she went on to play a different part. I've never seen that done before, and it was really cool. At one point, I think she had 4 going at one time.

Since the doors opened at 7pm and I worked until 6pm, Greg and I went straight there deciding to order dinner from their kitchen that we hoped would still be open. It was. We both ordered interesting fusion versions of lo mein. When the food arrived over an hour after ordering it, I was so sick with hunger that I didn't wait for the server to bring silverware and dug in with my hands. I had ordered beef lo mein because I wanted the protein, but the tiny nuggets of beef were so few and so hard that I couldn't stab them with my fork, it wasn't worth even the nominal extra cost. The noodles had obviously been boiled too long as they were mushy and fell apart in my mouth without needing to be chewed. 

I think only once before in my life have I been so unhappy with a dish from a restaurant that I couldn't eat it even when desperately hungry, and that was, believe it or not, at Walt Disney World in Florida (never opt for the vegetarian entrees in their parks - seriously!). I texted my roommate to see if she would eat it, and when she answered that she would, I asked for a to-go box. 

Sadly, between being hungry and frustrated over both the terrible food and my on-going car accident insurance claim difficulties (my agent told the adjuster that she didn't have my phone number (which is absurd), thereby making it impossible for the adjuster to get a hold of me outside of snail mail, which would have taken weeks), and the poor acoustics and too high a volume for the dance music played between Unwoman's sets, Greg and I left early because my head hurt and I just wanted to go to bed. Greg did buy one of her CDs because she is really talented, and we listened to it on the way home. 

The summation of this story is don't eat at Royal Kubo and do go check out Unwoman. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Squash By Any Other Name

As I have mentioned before, a few coworkers have had very productive gardens this year, which has come in handy with the prices of food having gone up and the sizes of much produce gone down in size due to bad commercial harvests this year from lack of winter snow and rain.

One day, on the break room table, next to a "free" sign, were some very unusual looking gourd. The person who grew it was little help, and I suspect he didn't even know what it was or what to do with it. Another coworker called it a pan squash and said it was tasty. Not being the least squeamish about unusual vegetable material (animal is a different story; I've seen Andrew Zimmern), I picked up two of these alleged "pan squashes" and took them home.

And home is where they sat for a few months. Ahh, the beauty of squash - it lasts! But one day I noticed that the one squash was looking a bit shrunken, so I decided the time had come to figure out how to cook it. After a somewhat exhaustive search on the internet, I learned that it is more usually called a "pattypan squash" (sometimes sunburst, button, scallopini, among many other names, including UFO as my friends termed it). I also found a recipe that looked not only tasty, but could be made with what I had on hand in my kitchen: scalloped squash

Naturally, I did not follow the recipe exactly. For starters, I still had half of a yellow squash in my fridge, so instead of thinly slicing both pattypans (such a stupid name), I sliced just one and then added to it in the baking dish the sliced up remainder of the yellow squash. I don't think that I would do this mixture again. The skin of the yellow squash tends to get hard and almost chewy when baked, and the pan squash was much softer in texture, which lent itself better to scalloping. (Hey, what do you know, spell-check says that's a word!)

Here are the steps:
  1. I preheated my oven to 350F.
  2. I sprayed my largest glass casserole dish with canola oil.
  3. I sliced up the squash and spread them on the bottom of the pan.
  4. I sprinkled sea salt and ground black pepper over the slices in the dish.
  5. I shook out a good helping of dried chopped onion over the squash slices in the dish, as well.
  6. I poured the remainder of my grated Parmesan cheese evenly over the squash in the pan. There was about 1/4 cup.
  7. Poured 1/2 a cup of milk around the pan, as well, which wet the cheese, then gathered on the bottom of the pan.
  8. I put the pan in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
When the half hour was up and I took the pan out of the oven, I decided it needed more cheese, so I sprinkled a handful of grated Mexican blend cheeses over-top. This is the type of cheese I happened to have on hand. When my mother makes scalloped potatoes, I believe she uses straight up cheddar. Depending on the oven, one might need to stir the pan of squash intermittently while baking to make sure it cooks evenly.
My roommate Kimmy and I agreed that the texture of the rind of the yellow squash was a bit off-putting, though I could still eat it, unlike her. My boyfriend Greg thought nothing of it. I would actually like to make this again with the remaining pan squash and perhaps with freshly grated Parmesan cheese rather than the shelf-stable stuff from the can. I found so many interesting recipes, though, it's hard not to try something new.  I guess time will tell what I end up doing. If it's something new, rest assured it will appear on this blog.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Season of the Pumpkin

Pumpkin latte.
Pumpkin? Oh, hey!
Pumpkin ice cream,
Pumpkin, we scream!
And pumpkin bread-
Pumpkin, I said!
With pumpkin beer
Filled with pumpkin cheer,
And pumpkin pie.
Wait, "pumpkin why?"
Get into the pumpkin swing,
Pumpkin is in everything!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chicken Thighs and Peas

First off, let me apologize for the quality of the pictures. My phone decided to drown itself in a gutter, taking with it all my pictures, and I activated my old phone as a replacement. The old phone seems to really, really like the color yellow, and the pictures are blurrier, despite having a higher pixel count. Sigh. Moving right along...

I bought a bag of frozen chicken thighs from Trader Joe's last week both because dark meat is a whole 50 cents cheaper than white meat, and because, unlike Meijer, Trader Joe's doesn't plump its chicken with salt water "to ensure juiciness." For this, Trader Joe's has earned my chicken loyalty. 

I wasn't sure what to do with the chicken, but I wanted to make a good amount of it so I could have packed lunches for later in the week. (My work week starts on Tuesday and ends on Saturday.) I ended up thawing the chicken first in the fridge all day, then the microwave for a bit because it takes sooo long to thaw chicken completely in the fridge. 

While the microwave was going, I put my larger frying pan on the stove over medium heat, and poured in some olive oil, sea salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley flakes. I let this simmer for a few minutes before adding the three chicken thighs - three because I couldn't fit more than that.

The cooking process was simple. I let the chicken cook halfway through on one side, flipped it over, and let it continue cooking thoroughly on the other. I don't have a meat thermometer, so I rely on the old fashioned sharp knife to cut into the middle and make sure that the chicken is no longer pink. When it wasn't pink, I turned off the heat and there was dinner!

Since I do strive to make a "complete" meal, I grabbed an open bag of frozen peas from the freezer that was more ice than peas, and cooked them in the microwave with garlic powder. While that was going, I decided I wanted more for the peas than just garlic powder, so I scooped about one teaspoon of flour into a little cup, then added a bit of chicken juice from the frying pan, blended, added more chicken juice, stirred, etc until I had a nice, loose paste that I added back to the chicken to make sauce that I then poured over the peas once they were cooked. 

Maybe it was that the chicken came from Trader Joe's and not Meijer, or maybe it's simply that dark meat is fattier than light, but whatever it was, this chicken was quite juicy and delicious! Also, it didn't take long to prepare or cook, one of my favorite features of a meal. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Pizza Tradition

While my boyfriend Greg and I were set to run errands yesterday, it occurred to me that pizza sounded really good. Ann Arbor is overflowing with pizza places (it is the birthplace of Cottage Inn), and though I have sampled a good deal of local fare, I thought I'd look for some place that I hadn't tried yet - some place that was also along the route of our planned errands. 

Turning to the internet, especially to Yelp, I found a place I couldn't recall ever seeing before, though I know I have driven past it dozens of times. It's called Pizza Bob's, and it comes highly rated. Kalamazoo has a small local fast food taco chain called Taco Bob's, so I was immediately curious about this pizza counterpart. 

The restaurant is quite small. There are two booths, a high table with a few stools around it, and a counter, much like a diner. It really does have quite the diner feel to it, which I enjoy. There is a television, as well, which is sometimes on, and sometimes muted. While we were there, we listened to big band music over the store stereo until one of the two employees decided to turn on Family Feud, a show I used to watch a lot growing up. 

They offer two kinds of pizza crust, white and wheat, and the list of toppings is more than adequate. Their mushrooms are thick, meaty slices, which made me very happy. They also offer subs, salads, shakes, and something called a Chipati that was invented at Pizza Bob's and seems to be a signature dish "often imitated, but never duplicated."

If I had to compare the pizza crust to anyone else, I'd say the crust consistency is like Papa John's, but the bottom is thin, rather like I remember Domino's being. The flavor of the wheat reminds me of Bilbo's Pizza In A Pan in Kalamazoo. What does all that mean? That Pizza Bob's is unique! (At least I thought so. Greg was less impressed, but I don't think he's as big a pizza connoisseur as I am.) 

I gathered from my time sitting at the counter, and later from the website itself, that Pizza Bob's has quite the history in Ann Arbor. The man himself was well known in his day and quite the established city figure. The restaurant has won numerous awards over the past few decades, including 3rd best pizza in the Detroit area. Pizza Bob's also runs daily specials, so you may want to check them out before deciding on what to order.

I don't think anyone could really be disappointed with Pizza Bob's. The prices are reasonable, the food is good, and the atmosphere is pleasant. The rich history adds a little smile while you eat.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Paprikas VS Goulash

When my new roommate moved in, she brought with her a tub of paprikas. I'd never heard of paprikas before, so I was very happy to give it a try. Basically, it reminded me of chicken and dumplings - only chicken and dumplings. No vegetables. The sauce was delicious, and the dumplings were good (much like my own mother's homemade), but cut a little too big for my personal tastes (also often like my mother's homemade). 

Naturally, after enjoying a few nice lunches of leftover paprikas, I looked it up in the internet. My first stop was Wikipedia, which redirected me to "goulash." Interesting. The paprikas in my fridge was nothing like the goulash my mother made as I was growing up. So I kept digging. 

It turns out that goulash is one of those terms that actually doesn't mean anything terribly specific, like stew or ramen. Goulash started in Hungary, then spread, obviously, to the rest of the world. Consequently, it also changed, hence a million different kinds of goulash. The basic ingredients, however, are meat, noodles, vegetables - particularly potatoes - and paprika. The original word gulyás means "herdsman," and I'm guessing these ingredients are something that herdsmen would have have had handy while they were, you know, herding. If you want to see the dozens of varieties, just scroll down Wikipedia's entry. I want to try every single one.

Goulash is not typically made with chicken, nor is it thickened. That's all paprikas, or chicken paprikas, to be most specific. The recipe on Recipes Wiki that I found includes tomatoes, something I am used to from my mother's goulash, but was distinctly lacking from the paprikas in my fridge. I can only conclude both goulash and paprikas are whatever you want to make them, like soup or stew. Take the basic ingredients and make it your own. My favorite way of cooking!

Incidentally, my mother's goulash recipe is something along these lines: cooked macaroni, ground beef or turkey, canned tomatoes, and a bit of brown sugar to sweeten it up. There may be more involved in the sauce than tomatoes. Maybe she just used the spiced canned tomatoes. It has been many years since I had it. I once had some while I was sick with the flu, which was a terrible mistake. I haven't eaten goulash since.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Food Carts in Ann Arbor

The nice thing about working in downtown Ann Arbor is that I get to learn about all the cool stuff that's there. This includes some cute little shops, but mostly is means food. And believe me, people are more than happy to share their favorite food finds. This is how I found about Mark's Carts, a gathering of food trucks in a little courtyard on Washington between Ashley and 1st St, maybe a block and a half west of Main. At night, there is live music, so it's a groovy place to hang out for a quick and easy dinner. (Hours vary by individual cart.)

There are  eight carts to choose from, and range from ethnic deliciousness to simple things like pizza and grilled cheese. Yes, there is an entire food truck devoted to grilled cheese. Most of the food is locally sourced, and there is a kitchen on-site where they can prepare their dishes. The pizza cart actually has an outdoor wood-burning oven where they cook their pizzas in two minutes. (You can watch them cook. It's neat.) Many will offer free samples to help you make the difficult decision of where to eat. 

This last Saturday was Mark's Carts 2nd Annual Cook-Off. Customers were invited in to try free samples of dishes from all eight carts and then to vote for their favorite. Last year the winner was Hut-K Chaats. I tried a sample of the winning dish, and it was very delicious! I was sad not to be able to participate in this year's event, but I look forward to eating the winner.

On my first trip to Mark's Carts, I was with my boyfriend Greg, and we settled on sharing a pizza Margherita  with ice cream for dessert. Both were very tasty. Greg wants to go back and try the grilled cheese truck, Cheese Dream, and I want to try the mysteriously named duck fries from Debajo del Sol, which Greg tried when he found their cart before at another location.

In case you adhere to a specific diet, like veganism or vegetarianism, there are also plenty of options for you. In fact, I think every cart has at least a vegetarian option, and some, like the Lunch Room, are completely vegan. 

So if you're in Ann Arbor, and you're looking for a different kind of place that is more than reasonably priced, totally check out Mark's Carts. If you park in the neighborhoods just two blocks to the west, you don't even have to pay for parking. It's totally worth the walk. In fact, it's probably closer than the parking garages that cost $1.10 per hour. Just keep an eye on the time of day and which side of the street you need to park on when - signs are posted.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Original Coney Island Hotdog(s)


Way back in history, in Detroit, Michigan, the coney island hotdog was born. The restaurant that served it was American Coney Island, and you can eat there today. You can also eat next door at Lafayette Coney Island, which was started by one of the brothers of American Coney Island when they had an argument over the best way to make a coney island hotdog.

While Greg and I were in Detroit last week, we decided to stop by and give one of them a try. I chose American because it was bigger and flashier and technically there first, though I peeked into Lafayette right next door. It looked smaller, but fuller with customers. One day I would like to eat at Lafayette to compare styles. Maybe when I am really hungry and can order one from each location to see them side-by-side.

You may have heard of American and Lafayette from the many food and travel shows that have featured it (there are pictures of people posing with the TV show hosts taped to the walls of American), and if you should ever vacation near Detroit, you may want to stop by for lunch. The prices are low, the menu is simple, the staff is friendly, and service is quick. We even managed to park right out front at one of the meters. Next door is a lovely community garden, so you may take your coneys to go if you like and enjoy a pleasant walk, weather providing.

And if you are familiar with coneys, you may be wondering how a coney can be taken to go (they are often quite messy). The coneys at American are actually on the dry side, and though they provide forks, I had no trouble picking mine up and eating it like a regular hotdog.

Back in March, I was on a coney kick and made coneys with cheese quite often at home. You can read about that here! Well, that's all there is this week. That's two restaurant reviews in a row. I guess I should re-acquaint myself with my kitchen this weekend. If I have time!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bison, Poutine, and Wojapi - Oh My!


Just a few miles west down I-94 from my apartment is a bar and grill that I've had my eye on for most of the year called Spirits Restaurant and Lounge. It first caught my eye when my roommate Kimmy and I were driving by on our apartment hunt last winter because it has a large pretty feather design as part of their logo. We gathered that Spirits had a Native American theme, a subject quite close to Kimmy's heart. We never made it there, however, as we both tend to be very low on funds.

This is where my wonderful and loving boyfriend Greg comes in. He and I like to explore and try new places, so much of our time together is spent prowling all over Southeast Michigan looking for new thrift stores we haven't visited before, sights we haven't seen, and restaurants where we have yet to eat. So one night, we decided to visits Spirits. Unfortunately it was closed, probably because it was a federal holiday, and we ended up at Johnny's on the Lake instead.

A couple weeks ago, however, we decided to try again and not only found Spirits open and ready for our business, there was a band setting up to play live that night. The restaurant wasn't very full that night, but it was a midweek night, so it didn't raise any red flags for me, as they say. We sat a little close to the band, so as they started up, it became a little difficult to hold a conversation, but the music was good, and I found the songstress/violinist to be quite talented.

Next to our table was an interesting little room partitioned off by thick curtains, rather like you find in a theater, with a couch and blank white screen up on the wall. Greg and I wondered if the room could be rented out for parties. We never asked, though, as we had no parties to query after.

Now for the most important part: the food! I decided immediately that I liked Spirits menu because right at the top of the appetizers listing was poutine, a poster child dish for Canada comprised of french fries, cheese, and gravy. I think it sounds delicious; Greg disagrees. The dessert menu also included a rare find, wojapi, a native fruit pudding that I attempted earlier this year. (There are still a few frozen jars of it in my freezer because it made so much. I need to make corn biscuits or something to go with it so we can finally eat it up!) Mine was made with strawberries. I don't know what Spirits used.

Sadly, we did not order the poutine nor the wojapi, but we did build our own bison burgers. I love restaurants that let me build my own sandwich. I don't remember what Greg had on his, but I got mushrooms and cheese with garlic mayonnaise, and it was phenomenal. In addition to bison, you may also choose ground beef, chicken, possibly turkey, and I'm pretty sure there was at least one vegetarian option. (They don't have their menu online, and my memory isn't that great.) You also get to choose what type of bun you want! There truly some excellent selections when you want your burger done your way.

Spirits is, admittedly, a little out of the way being located way out on Rawsonville Rd. Really, though, it isn't such a far drive from Ypsilanti or the surrounding cities if you want to give a unique bar and grill with some different menu items a try. Oh, and don't forget the live music. You may want to check for that before you go, though since their website isn't fully up yet, it will probably just be a surprise. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sorry It's Been A While

I just realized today that I haven't updated this blog in over a week. I've been pretty good about updating the haiku blog, though some have to be back-dated because I couldn't get to the internet that day, and I had to change my Life From A2 blog to Sunday updates because it was just too hard to update two blogs one right after the other without easy access to the internet. 

We should be getting internet at out apartment this weekend, but I've just been informed that although we have all of the pieces of equipment, the modem came without a power cord. That might explain why it was such a good deal, but really, the seller should put that in the description when he puts it up for sale. 

I'm sorry this update is a bit rambling, I am on my lunch break at my job, so I only have so much time. Hoping to be able to return next week with a more substantial entry. This week, I will report on my new diet.  

I'm not sure if I mentioned it here (I'm pretty sure that I did at my other blog), but for the last month or so, I've been drinking lots and lots of tea. I find tea much easier to drink than water because water tastes boring and tea usually tastes pretty awesome. (I've made some bad blends lately, though, I admit. Chocolate tea is just a bad idea. It tastes like coffee.) Drinking the tea alone helped me lose 3 lbs in one week. 

I was pretty happy with these results, but I figured I should probably address what I was eating, as well, so I dug out my old Weight Watchers kit from 7 or so years ago, and I started using the point system and daily food journal. I've lost another 5 lbs since then. 

My problem is sort of the opposite of what Weight Watchers and other diet plans are meant to address - eating too many calories. I eat too few calories, which puts my body into starvation/hoarding mode. When I force myself to eat more, though, I just get nauseated. The food journal and point system help me plan meals that include fruit, vegetables, protein, and carbs, and allow me to eat more when I think I've eaten too much. 

The last time I was ordered to eat more calories (by a dietitian in college; I was eating 600 a day when the human body needs at least 1200 to properly function), I started eating at McDonald's because that was the only way I could get the right amount of calories into my stomach without vomiting. This way is much better balanced and better for me. (Even if I did instantly drop 10 lbs on the McDonald's diet.)

So that is my progress so far, 8 lbs and counting. I highly recommend drinking tea to everyone. It doesn't have nearly as much caffeine as people seem to think it does, and actually helps me sleep better as opposed to being interrupting. My favorite is sakurambo by Lupicia, which, sadly, does not exist near me. Lipton has a vanilla caramel that is pretty good, too, and helps curb a sweet tooth. As I said before, the chocolate tea was a bust. Yuck!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pizza: Detroit Style


Once upon a time, when I was still living in California, my roommate at the time, Sherelle, and I were discussing the various types of pizza. Not entirely sure what defined Chicago style versus New York style, we went to a definitive source: Wikipedia. It was there that we found a style of pizza neither one of us had ever encountered before, Detroit style. Being in California, neither Sherelle nor myself could really investigate this further, so I put it in the back of my mind to seek out this mysterious Detroit style pizza when I was back in Michigan.

Now that I've moved to the edge of Detroit, I've discovered almost no one has heard of Detroit style pizza either, even my friends who grew up there. My boyfriend Greg could only imagine that Detroit style must mean Buddy's Restaurant Pizzaria, a native pizzeria chain that isn't found outside of the metro area.

(Fun fact: Numerous pizza chains have their headquarters in the Detroit metro area, including Little Caesar's and Hungry Howie's. Cottage Inn and Domino's Pizza are headquartered in Ann Arbor specifically.)

Once again, Wikipedia was turned to, and this time, instead of looking up pizza in general, as Sherelle and I had, Greg looked up Detroit style specifically, and we found a modest entry that did name Buddy's as specializing in the Detroit style. (It also mentioned Cottage Inn, based out of Ann Arbor, and one of my favorite local pizza places.) Since Greg lives not far from a Buddy's, we headed over for dinner one night after running some errands.

It turns out that Detroit style is similar to Chicago style, but still distinct. Detroit style is square, often has a twice-baked crust, giving it a really yummy, almost fried texture, and has the sauce on top of the cheese. Greg and I ordered the Detroiter (we didn't think it could get more specific than that), which also had pepperoni. (We also ordered an appetizer of fried mushrooms, cauliflower, and zucchini that I highly recommend.)

When I posted about our trip to Buddy's on Facebook, a friend who grew up just outside of Detroit found a more in-depth description of Detroit style pizza at DetroitStylePizza.com. This site includes a lengthy description of both the style and the history of Detroit style pizza. In short, Detroit style pizza was created when World War II ended, and returning soldiers had broadened their horizons and palates, by Gus Guerra and his wife, Anna, who used her Sicilian mother's dough recipe. The original Detroit pizza was layered with pepperoni, then cheese, then sauce (hence the above mentioned "Detroiter"). 

Wikipedia says that Detroit style pizza can be found outside if Michigan, but the locations are few and very far apart. Go figure Austin, TX is one of them, though. The city's slogan is "keep Austin weird," after all. If you are one of the lucky people who can try Detroit style pizza, I recommend that you do so. It's a part of history that is sure to tantelize your tastebuds.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mild Japanese Vegetarian Curry


For a while now, I've had half a package of Japanese curry roux in my cupboard. It's something I usually keep around the house because it's easy to make and quite tasty, but it also makes a lot of food and I can't eat it all by myself. When I made the first half of the package over a year ago, I froze half in Tupperware for later use, then ended up throwing it away when I moved because it looked incredibly freezer-burned.

Since we were hosting game night at our apartment last weekend, I came upon the curry roux when I went rooting around in my cupboard for ideas. Easy and makes a lot of food. Perfect for a dinner party!

The first step was deciding which kind of curry to make. There is a recipe to follow on the back of the box that basically involves potatoes, carrots, onions, and a meat of your choosing (or not, if you prefer vegetarian, which is what I usually do). I also have two recipes in my homemade recipe book, one for vegetarian curry, the other is chicken. I decided on the veggie one, which requires one eggplant, one yellow pepper (again, I change this to orange since I think it is sweeter and more flavorful), and an onion. Since they're in season, I picked up a Vidalia onion, which are just plain awesome. Sweet and don't bother my stomach. Win!

First, I chopped up the eggplant into little cubes the size of croutons and put them into my wok with a bit of oil to cook down in over medium heat. Next, I chopped the pepper into bite-sized pieces and threw them in with the already simmering eggplant. Last went the chopped up onion – the whole thing, a rare occurrence for me. And since curry isn't any good without some garlic, I cut up three cloves of fresh garlic and stirred it all together to simmer for a bit.

After a few minutes, I added 3 cups of water with some dashes of salt and pepper. The vegetables needed to simmer for quite a while in the water. I think I had them on there for nearly 30 minutes. I also ended up adding another cup of water because the mixture seemed too thick.

Once the vegetables were mushy enough to my taste (it's really up to you how much you want to cook the vegetables), I broke up the chunks of Japanese curry roux and plunked them into the wok, stirring as the roux melts quickly and immediately begins to thicken the sauce. Once it was thoroughly stirred in, I let it sit a couple of minutes before turning off the heat.

While the curry was cooking, I had my rice cooker going. I ended up doing two batches of rice. Since it was Japanese curry, I chose short grain white rice, the same used to make sushi and onigiri, or really anything Japanese. I serve the curry over the rice in a bowl with no extras. Some friends were kind enough to make homemade delicious egg drop soup (my favorite!) to go with it. Even without any meat, everyone agreed dinner was quite tasty!

Now that I'm out of curry roux, I need to find a Japanese market so I can buy more. Oh darn!