Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday Rush

Once again I've been too busy to make anything fun for report in my blog. No holiday cookies again! Which I find especially disheartening because baking sugar cookies is what started this blog back on December 6th, 2010

Wow, I can't believe I've been writing this blog for three years! It was a lot easier to update twice a week when it was just me and my kitty Memphis. He still likes to hang out in the kitchen with me, but it's much harder to fit into the cupboard now that he is a full grown cat of around 15 lbs. There are also many more obstacles on the counter to get in his way.

It would be nice to be able to go back to two updates a week rather than the current tenuous once a week. Now that the holiday season is winding down, my work schedule is loosening up considerably. I will continue to work late, however, and since Greg usually gets home before I do, he is now the one who does the majority of the cooking in our household. Maybe he should start a food blog. He is a very clever cook!

Speaking of Greg, his family has continued in the tradition of giving me cooking implements for Christmas. In 2011, I received a food processor, then the next year it was a large slow cooker, which Greg and I use quite a bit! It is so nice to come home to a hot meal all ready to be eaten. If you don't have a slow cooker (or Crock Pot, if you prefer), I highly recommend them. Check out the first thing I made here, slow cooked spinach casserole

This year, I got a four egg poacher pan so I can make poached eggs on the stove rather than in the microwave. While I was still living in California, I'd purchased a four egg plastic container to poach eggs in the microwave, which worked ok and was definitely quick! Only the eggs sometimes ended up a bit rubbery and often exploded. Thankfully, the thing had a lid. A week or so ago, Greg and I picked up some everything bagels from Trader Joe's. I am very much looking forward to having time enough in the morning to make poached eggs and spreading them on the everything bagels. So delicious! Maybe on Monday, my next day off. I also have Wednesday off, so I hope to make my first entry of the new year on time.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Tamaki Custom Sushi and Wraps Arrives in Ann Arbor

East Liberty Street is a pretty bustling stretch of fun shops, restaurants, and bars in Ann Arbor. It used to be the home and headquarters of Borders Inc, a still greatly mourned loss to the city because Borders was such an anchor for the Liberty & State district. Since Borders has dissolved, a lot of surrounding businesses have come and gone after losing the crowd of customers that once flocked to the giant bookstore on a regular basis. Well, though modest in size, East Liberty has a new draw, and I think it's a fine one: make your own sushi.

Tamaki Custom Sushi and Wraps has taken over Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's spot at 521 E Liberty, right next to one of my favorite shawarma places, Hommus Express, and across from the Dawn Treader Book Shop. Their first location is in Lansing at 310 N. Clippert, and another location has been added at 1381 E. Grand River in East Lansing.
You might be asking yourself, "What is custom sushi?" Well, it's a lot like how Chipotle is a custom burrito, or Subway is a custom sandwich. There are some set recipes you may choose from, such as Tamaki's Double Cheeseburger, comprised of ribeye steak, pickle, cheese, tomato, and red onion, or the more classic Claifornia rolls and spicy tuna rolls. But coolest thing is that they will make a custom wrap for you, just like Chipotle makes burritos and Subway makes sandwiches.

You walk up the long counter with a sneeze guard and first pick whether you'd like a roll, wrap, rice bowl, or noodle soup. Next, choose a protein, which can be either raw or cooked. I picked raw tuna. The man making my roll warned me about the tuna being raw, and I assured him that was perfect. I think he assumed that because I had taken so long looking over their menu that I was hesitant about their offerings, when really I was feeling a but overwhelmed. Also, they don't have all your choices listed right up front, so it took me a while to figure out what my 20 choices of ingredient were.

After you've picked your protein (they recommend no more than 1 or 2 because the wraps are a limited size), you decide on vegetables and other fillings. He told me no more than 4, and I chose cucumber, pickled radish, shiitake (which they misspell as shiitaki for some reason), and shaved carrots. Once again I was questioned on my choice of topping when I asked for carrots. I told him that I have used carrots in making my own sushi at home before, and that they add a nice sweetness. He answered that some people order carrots because they think they're being healthy and don't end up liking the taste. 

The final step to making your own sushi is to pick a sauce, which at first I declined because most of the choices are spicy and I don't like spicy. I didn't know what "white sauce" was, and when I inquired about it, the woman behind the register got me a sample. It's a slightly sweet mayonnaise, as it turns out, and I liked it a lot, so I had her add that to my roll. 

Without asking, the man had put sesame seeds on my roll, which is fine because I used to that with uramaki, or the inside-out roll with the rice on the outside rather than the seaweed. I did not realize until later that in this, too, I had choices. Your topping options include the usual sesame seeds and tempura flakes, but also the astounding Doritos and Flaming Cheetos. Bwuh?? I admit, I am intrigued by both of these choices. I don't like Flaming Cheetos because they are too spicy, but Doritos? I would like to try that. I just don't know what would go with them. Probably not my tuna and veggie roll, but maybe the cheeseburger roll, which I absolutely try. 

To go with your sushi, you may also order miso soup, gyoza, and more. There is also a drink bar that includes, I kid you not, a large metal drink jug with a spigot devoted to soy sauce. Brilliant! If only they had one for hot tea. 

Tamaki offers lunch, dinner, and late night specials. They also, my favorite part, deliver! Whoo-hoo! I can get fresh sushi delivered to my workplace! Or walk the few blocks to Liberty and pick it up on my way between jobs. Any way I look at it, I have a new terrific place for lunch when I am downtown, and I could not be happier.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Verde Chicken Enchilada from Kraft Recipe Makers

When I was shopping in the fresh meat section at Meijer a little while ago, I discovered the family size chicken breasts all had little coupons stuck to them for $1 off the chicken in question with the purchase of something called a "Recipe Maker." Greg and I use a few dinner kits, mostly pre-made sauce packets that we combine with fresh ingredients like chicken or beef and vegetables. This was a new one for me, though, and I thought I'd check it out. 

It actually took me a while to find since every Meijer sorts its shelves differently. I first checked where they keep the Hamburger Helper, Zatarain's, etc, and did not see it. Given that the store was essentially passing out coupons for it, I was frustrated and almost gave up. Turns out it was put next to the sauce and gravy section, which includes powdered seasoning packets, and is not to be confused with the bouillon and soup mix section, or the sauce and dressing section. (Honestly, Meijer, wtf?)

So I found the Kraft Recipe Makers at last! and discovered they were very cheap even without the coupon. The ingredients aren't horrible, either (meaning the product is mostly comprised of food and not a ton of difficult to identify chemicals). There are about 10 different boxes to choose from, divided into skillet, oven, and slow cooker mixes. I chose Verde Chicken Enchilada (oven) because it only required buying more cheese, something I'd been debating about anyway, and a bag of tortillas, which are cheap. I was already buying the chicken; that's where the coupon came from. 

The recipe first calls for shredded cooked chicken, so I boiled a couple of large chicken breasts, then sliced it rather than shredding it, because I am terrible at shredding chicken, as it turns out. There is a packet for filling sauce, which I mixed with the chicken in a large bowl. I warmed the 12 small tortillas in the microwave to make them more pliable, then scooped some of the chicken mixture into the tortillas one at a time, rolled them, and placed them in a 13x9 glass baking dish. There was another packet of finishing sauce that got poured over the top, followed by shredded cheese. 

20 minutes in the oven at 350F and dinner was done! Well, mostly done. While it was baking, I dumped some frozen peas and carrots into another glass dish and heated it up in the microwave with some garlic salt and parsley flakes. Yummy! 

I would absolutely try Kraft Recipe Makers again. These enchiladas were super delicious! Not too spicy and a little bit creamy. You could easily up the heat factor by sprinkling on some red pepper flakes before popping it in the oven, or shake on some hot sauce before or after baking.

Greg recently returned from Meijer with another package of family-size fresh chicken breasts with another coupon on it. Now I can't decide if I want those enchiladas again, which I have been thinking a lot about because they were so tasty, or something new. I do plan on being by Meijer later today... I think I will wait for Greg and we can decide together. Probably. Maybe.