Tag Archives: food

Focus on the Fish Balls!

30 Oct

After my family’s great adventure to DC’s Eastern Market, we returned to Ellie and Dave’s fabulous apartment for an amazing meal prepared for us by their good friend, Cheech, who introduced us to the unique culinary experience that is Chinese hot pot.

Hot pot, also known as Chinese fondue or steamboat, refers to several East Asian varieties of stew, consisting of a simmering metal pot of stock at the center of the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, and seafood.                –Wikipedia

To get us started, Cheech produced two blue crabs to lay the foundation for the flavor of the hot pot broth. Of course, we didn’t quite expect live crabs (!) but apparently that’s the way they sell them at the Chinese grocery store. Our slight guilt was quickly washed away when we tasted the wonderful broth.

One blue crab showing his spirit by holding tight to the bag of scallops.

The other crab making a last plea for mercy.

Since most of the actual cooking of the food occurs during the dinner, most of the prep work beforehand is just getting all the various ingredients ready. One of the best parts of hot pot is the variety of food that you can try, making each dinner a unique experience. Some of the items that Cheech brought for us included slender slices of beef and lamb, succulent scallops, shrimp, beef and fish balls, and various vegetables.

Prep work in the kitchen.

Laying out the table before the feast.

After everything was set out, we got down to business and started choosing what to put in the hot pot. As you can tell from the picture below, we had a good time.

The hot pot was definitely a hard act to follow, but we successfully ended our meal with some tasty baklava and pumpkin bread from one of the Eastern Market vendors.

A delicious meal and an entertaining experience; a win-win situation for my family.

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Exploring the Eastern Market

16 Oct

Last weekend, I made the trek up to Takoma Park, Maryland with my parents to visit my sister and her husband. They moved there after getting married in May so Dave could start his residency at Walter Reed. I hadn’t been able to visit them in their new place yet and I knew I wouldn’t be able to in the next few months with work, so I took advantage of the free ride with my parents to take a much needed break. This is the first of three posts detailing some of my adventures of the weekend.

 

On Saturday, we ventured to a legendary D.C. establishment, the Eastern Market. Founded in 1873 and located in the Capital Hill neighborhood of the city, it is home to many vendors selling a variety of goods, from fresh produce to prepared food to handmade crafts to antiques. Below are a few photos from our trip there.

I was drooling over these hand spun yarns.

Some of the delicious looking produce for sale.

Inside the South Hall Market

The only bad part about visiting the market was that there were so many things I really wanted to buy! This was especially true inside the South Hall where a lot of the amazing looking meats, produce, seafood, baked goods, pasta, and cheeses were being sold. The most drool worthy were all the different types of handmade pastas, from gnocchi to spaghetti to about ten different types of ravioli. I cursed the 6 hour drive home that prevented me from buying some.

After going through the whole market, I ended up with a nice pair of black pearl studs and one truly amazing find. My sister was talking to this really cool artist who had a booth full of great, unique art. He takes photographs using Polaroid 669 film, which is no longer made, and then transfers the image to water color paper before coloring in the image by hand with pastels. I was flipping through some of his stuff, which was mostly scenery around DC, when I suddenly found an image of the Hatteras lighthouse. When I remarked about how cool it was to find an Outer Banks image among all his other stuff, the artist told me that he spends 2-3 weeks in the OBX every year and loves it down there. When I shared that I had lived and worked there for a couple summers to hang glide, he jumped up and starting rummaging through a stack of his art before pulling one out and handing it to me. My jaw dropped when I realized I was looking at a gorgeous scene of a hang gliding lesson on Jockey’s Ridge around sunset and I quickly bought the piece. Hang gliding art is kind of rare so this is definitely a treasure.

My amazing new piece of art.

Overall, not a bad trip to the market.

Birthday Brownies

2 Oct

Brownies are one of my favorite things to bake, mainly because I am lazy  (which should be apparent from my last post). I love brownies because all you have to do is mix everything together, pour it in one pan, and stick it in the oven. Cookies and other treats that require multiple baking sheets and trips to the oven are often too much of a time commitment. As a result, I bake brownies… a lot.

One of my favorite recipes to use is the Tasting is Believing Whole Wheat Brownies.I love love love this one because it’s on the healthier side (compared to normal brownies), fairly simple to whip up, and it’s so versatile. I’m also a huge fan of King Arthur Flour. Here’s what they have to say about their recipe:

These whole-wheat brownies are the treat we serve when we’re trying to convince folks that baking with whole grains doesn’t have to be an exercise in deprivation! Moist, rich, and deeply, darkly chocolate, these brownies are the ones to go through life with. We discovered something interesting when sampling these. Their texture is greatly improved if you wait 24 hours before cutting them. Why? The wait gives the wheat bran a chance to soften and “disappear,” texture-wise.

I tried this recipe out for the first time near the beginning of my first summer at the Outer Banks working for Kitty Hawk Kites and I brought in a big plate of the final result to the hang gliding school the next day. I later learned that one particular instructor (*cough* Eric *cough*) ate four of the brownies and pulled the empty plate out of the trash can to finish off the crumbs. I think those brownies are the reason we ended up together.

Anyways, Eric’s birthday is tomorrow, though he doesn’t want anyone to know, and these brownies immediately came to mind when I started thinking about what I should make him. So I whipped up a double batch to bring some into work and send the rest to Eric in New Hampshire. These brownies are always delicious, but I added about a cup of peanut butter this time and it definitely took them up a couple of notches. They turned out so great it was a little hard to give them all away!

After baking, I started work on a birthday card, which became the perfect opportunity to try a quick project. I’m a big fan of the website Craftgawker and had found a really cool entry that gave a short tutorial on how to make a crocheted heart. So I dug into my stash to find some red yarn and came up with a cute accessory for the card. I’m really happy with how it came out. What do you think?

So everyone wish Eric a happy birthday and try out these brownies yourself! They taste the best when you make them for someone you love.

Lazy Enchiladas

25 Sep

One thing that everyone should know about me is that I love love love Mexican food. Seriously, just ask one of my friends. Our favorite cure for a bad day is to hit up our favorite Mexican joint to talk over a bowl of queso dip.

As a result of this love, I have put more effort into trying more Mexican recipes. One of the first I mastered was a fairly simple chicken enchiladas recipe that I still love to share and it was the perfect choice for dinner when I had my dad over last week.

Lazy Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • Corn tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 (4 oz) cans green chilies, chopped
  • 1 pound cooked chicken, shredded
  • 3 (10 oz) cans enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

 

The first step is cooking the chicken. After preheating the oven to 375 degrees, I start with a pound of good organic chicken thighs (from Costco of all places) and rinse them off. I then like to rub taco seasoning onto them to add a little extra flavor, but I didn’t have any on hand this time so I used Old Bay instead. It turned out quite tasty so use whatever you happen to have in your spice cabinet. Lay the seasoned thighs in a baking dish and fill it up with water until there is about half an inch in the dish. Then bake for about 30-40 minutes. After they’ve cooled, shred the meat and you’re ready to start the sauce.

Shredded chicken

Start the sauce by sauteing the onion and garlic over in a large oiled skillet over medium heat for about 4 minutes until cooked. Then add the green chilies, the shredded chicken, and most of the enchilada sauce (saving about half a can for later) and cook for 2-3 minutes. Fold in most of the cheese, again saving some for later, and remove from heat.

Now, I believe that the secret to making excellent enchiladas is all in the tortillas. I had a life changing experience a little over a year ago at the Outer Banks when I first tried Green House Tacos. There’s a Mexican family that lives in this little green house that sells tacos out of their kitchen made with fresh meat and herbs and toppings straight out of their garden. But the best part was watching the little old grandmother cook the corn tortillas right in front of us. After taking a bite out of my first homemade tortilla, I knew I could never buy them from the store again and went out and bought a tortillas press the very next day.

Tortillas are actually incredibly easy, though a little more time consuming, to make and so worth it for the extra taste. Just get a bag of masa corn flour (I use Masca) from the Mexican section of any grocery story and follow the directions on the back to make tortillas. You can even fashion a makeshift press out of a cutting board and pie dish or rolling pin. Don’t be afraid to try!

My tortilla making station.

Now I call these my lazy enchiladas (despite the extra effort for the homemade tortillas) because I assemble them in what I have been told is the Spanish style where, instead of filling each tortilla individually, you spread the enchilada sauce between layers of tortilla in a way very similar to lasagna. I put four tortillas in the bottom of a 9×9 baking dish, spread half the cooked sauce over them, and repeated the process. I laid the third and final layer of tortillas on top and then poured the plain enchilada sauce I had saved earlier over them, topping everything with the remaining cheese. Then bake for 10 minutes at 375 and broil for another 5 or so minutes to turn the cheese on top a nice golden brown.

The assembled dish ready for the oven.

You don’t have to go out to a restaurant to enjoy delicious Mexican food. Enjoy!

The final product served with refried beans and broccoli.

Festival Calories Don’t Count

18 Sep

Or at least that’s what a friend told me after he encouraged me to eat a piece of baklava for him when I mentioned I was on my way to the annual Raleigh Greek Festival.

Whether or not it’s true, I did happily consume quite a few calories at the 30th annual festival hosted by the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Raleigh. It brought back some very fond memories of the Winston-Salem Greek Festival that I had attended almost every year, but hadn’t been able to make since starting college and I’ve really missed the experience. I only learned about the Raleigh festival on Friday night and was able to quickly recruit a couple of friends to go with me the next night.

Once there, we skipped the more expensive (what do you expect from three poor recent graduates?) though delicious looking dinner options and instead chowed down on the hamburger of Greece, the gyro. I don’t typically enjoy lamb, but the seasoned meat in gyros is simply deletable, and I can never get enough of it and Holy Trinity’s did not disappoint.

My delicious dinner minus a few bites.

After we finished the main course, we had to choice from the vast selection of Greek pastries, most with unpronounceable names such as Loukoumades or Karithopita, and we ended up sharing a bowl of the slightly non-traditional baklava sundae. The treat consisted of superb vanilla ice cream sprinkled with bits of baklava and topped with chocolate syrup.

The mouth-watering dessert.

After we had stuffed ourselves silly, we went for a stroll around the booths selling a variety of “Greek” wares ranging from carved Nativities to Russian nesting dolls to beautiful icons. I fell in love with a beautifully hand painted ceramic tile and I quickly bought it to bring some more color into my kitchen and use a trivet.

My new beautiful trivet.

So it was a great experience with great friends and great food. Can’t wait till next year!

School Pride & New Homes

17 Sep

Growing up, I was never that invested in traditional sports at either the professional or collegiate level nor did I have any loyalty to a particular team or school. I got dragged to my sister’s basketball games for 8 years and would occasional cheer for any professional North Carolina team due to state pride, but that was about as far as my interest went in most sports.

Then I was accepted into UNC and the strangest thing happened. As soon as I put on my first Carolina blue t-shirt, I began to develop an irrational hatred of that school down the road, the epitome of evil, Dook University. It started with a few harmless “Go to hell Dook!”s while singing our fight song, but quickly developed into something much more. Any mention of the school or a glimpse of its ugly emblem would make my vision go red.

So imagine my surprise last spring when I ended up apartment shopping in none other than the hometown of the devil himself, Durham. I had just accepted my job offer and was looking for housing near the Research Triangle Park when I glumly accepted the fact that living in Durham made sense for a number of reasons. Having never really been to the town despite its closeness and unsure of what to expect, I started packing and prepared for the worst.

After moving to Durham almost three months ago, I am happy to admit that most of my fears have thus far been unfounded. I found a great apartment in the heart of Old West Durham, one of the city’s more vibrant neighborhoods and I couldn’t be happier. I’m within walking distance of great shops, restaurants, and bars with only a 12 minute commute to work. I’m close enough to Chapel Hill that I can go visit anytime I feel homesick and am nicely situated between my second homes, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Outer Banks. Though I still feel the urge to run over Dook students when I’m driving past East Campus, I am overall proud to call myself both a proud Tar Heel and Durham resident.

I use friends visiting me in my new home as an excuse to go out and explore the town and a night with my foodie hero, Meghan of the previously mentioned nestMeg.com, was no exception. After much debate, we settled on The Broad Street Cafe, a Durham staple providing great food, drinks, atmosphere, and music.

I knew we made a good choice when our waiter was surprised that we needed menus to order, a sure sign of frequent repeat customers. Torn by the many delicious sounding options on that menu, we finally chose the sweet potato fries with a roasted red pepper aioli for a starter and picked the shrimp (with bacon and pesto) and the spinach (topped with ricotta and fresh tomatoes). What followed was pure foodie bliss as we feasted on the simple yet delicious fare. Though I am not normally a fan of sweet potato fries, I eagerly eat my half of the basket and we had to ask for a second serving of the aioli. Meghan couldn’t decide on her favorite pizza, but the spinach had the slight edge over the shrimp for me, yet both were outstanding and their thin crusts are bound to inspire replica experiments in both our kitchens.

Overall, a great experience and a hopeful sign of many more in my new hometown of (gulp) Durham.



Both images from The Broad Street Cafe's website.