Tuesday, June 26, 2012

EAST MEETS WEST: Hot dog buns

I didn't appreciate New England top-loading hot dog buns when I lived in Massachusetts. Oddly enough, in the months leading up to Independence Day, I've been jonesing for a proper Lobster Roll. But, I've been stressing (or obsessing) about where I'd source the grillable white sidewall buns.

Just as I was about to fork over $$ for my own Classic New England Hot Dog Bun Pan, Target & King's Hawaiian came to my rescue!

The soft, slightly sweet King's Hawaiian bread tastes just like their signature rolls. Plus, the buns toasted perfectly on my lighltly buttered electric griddle.

Has anyone one else in the Bay Area or other Target shoppers discovered King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Hot Dog Buns?

Buy Date: 6/25/12
Price: $ 2.49 for a pack of 6 buns; $2.79 [Sale] Hebrew National 97% Fat Free Beef Franks for a pack of 6 franks

 Split-top perfection!

On the griddle

Sriracha and ketchup-topped dog

Top-split buns do have their draw backs. If I had to name two:
  1. Greasy - if you grill up the buns, you'll need a napkin or two to shield your hands from the residual butter
  2. Less room for toppings - I think most side-split buns are generally larger, so in comparision, there's less room to stuff a bun full of toppings. Example: I topped my first dog with a fried egg. I took pictures, but they looked too obscenely ridculous to post.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cute Streak

Uber-cute, portion-controlled lunch. bacon and stir-fried Taiwanese bitter greens. looks great. feels hungry. 

Organic tart frozen yogurt on a giant bed of shaved ice. strawberries, kiwi, mandarin oranges, and mochi bits. BLUSH - Original Shaved Ice (Choice of four toppings included).

Cute may not be the right word, but it was free and delicious. RED RIBBON BAKESHOP - Pandan Macapuno Chiffon Cake.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reflection: Cooking for the church crowd

My first and only consistent experience cooking for large crowds has been for church luncheons. It's an example of service that I'm very glad to perform; after all, bringing smiles and full bellies to folks can give anyone the warm and fuzzies.

Nevertheless, it's an offering which always makes me a bit bashful. So many of the other seasoned "church moms" are so talented and well-practiced, that the kitchen standards they set seem impossibly high.

When I lived in Boston, the congregation was so small that I often times could prep and cook on my own. [Especially with the help of a miracle dishwasher.] Or at the very least, I could clearly see myself as the director of controlled chaos.

Since returning to the bay, I've gained the help of my mom as the other half of my cooking team. Mom is great. She's uber-conscientious about menu planning and prep work - This is especially useful since our congregation meets in a temporary space that lacks its own kitchen. She's always thinking twelve steps ahead about everything from ingredient shopping to the logistics of how to load the minivan to minimize the unloading time at the curb. Yes. My mom rocks.

However, I still struggle to gracefully accept the help of such a proactive and opinionated partner. e.g. "Do we ALWAYS have to serve a soup, Ma?!?"

Mom-daughter drama at my age? Sadly, yes. Pray for me; I'm still growing =/

So, when a sister called me up for one of my church recipes this week... a recipe way back from my first year of church cooking, I knew I could easily find a copy of exactly what I prepared. Why? In my mother's infinite wisdom, she used to make me write down exactly what I would prepare BEFORE our Sabbath meal.

Let that be a nice reminder to all of us: if your mommy is helpful - let her be helpful.

The original inspiration recipe from our local newspaper long ago

My handwritten Chicken Cacciatore recipe circa '03-ish

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Double Down

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Oddly enough, I learned of the KFC Double Down from an ex-pat alum's Google away message. He lamented about not being able to try it for himself and posted a link from the BBC.

Luckily for me, one of my co-workers was just as curious as I was to try it. We picked a day during the breadless sandwich's debut week at the KFC at the end of the street. Since I was trying to stick to an everything-in-moderation lifestyle (and still doing so), I knew I wouldn't allow myself to polish off the whole thing in one sitting. I pre-packed some rice w/ quinoa and petite peas to off-set eating only half the Double Down.

It wasn't bad. It wasn't great. I was pleasantly surprised at how moist the chicken breast fillet was... but I was just as underwhelmed at the lack of flavor in the sauce. The bacon couldn't even save the disappointment of the "plastic" fast-food cheese slice!

The fact that I had other accouterments on my plate is what saved this experience from being a disappointing fail, and instead somewhat enjoyable.

What can I say? I'm not a no-carb kind of gal.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

SPAM for Lunch

I wasn't sure if I'd be called for afternoon round of jury duty, so my limbo lunch plans made today the perfect day to use some left over nori sheets, leftover quinoa-laced rice, and my emergency SPAM Singles Lite pack.


While my family tends to keep a can of SPAM® LOW SODIUM as a pantry item, the slice o' SPAM was purcased on a whim when I found it at a 99¢ Only Store. This humble slice has been patiently waiting for me to rescue it from my desk and take it to the kitchenette where it could fulfill its destiny as -- SPAM Onigiri.

I would probably not have enjoyed myself as much if it weren't for the awesome Onigiri wrap sheets I found at a Fremont 99 Ranch.

The wraps are so glam-looking and come with a set of bright orange stickers to "seal" your creation. But the most fantastic element is the built in tear-line. It allows you to remove only half of the wrap, thus exposing only a first-half to your mouth.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cheese of the Year: Queso Fresco

I've had a lot of delicious cheese in my day. Creamy cheese. Hard cheese. Crumbly cheese. Stinky cheese. Fruit-filled cheese. Ash-filled cheese. Aged cheese. Fresh cheese. Stringy cheese. California cheese. Organic Cheese. :: GASP :: And I've even munched on the occasional bit of pasturized cheese product!

But, my most beloved cheese of 2009 was the humble, delicious, and stunning queso fresco.

I wasn't a total stranger to this cheese; I remembered bits of it crumbled on my ocasional order of enchiladas. However, until this year, I'd never really snacked on this queso for queso's sake.

The Salazar's introduced it to me on my brief So Cal visit in November. I was a little unsure of what I should expect from my snack of cold cheese slices served in a skillet-warmed corn tortilla. I hadn't had any sort of unmelted quesadilla before... But ultimately, I gave in to the better judgement of my hosts.

My first bite was life-changing. The unaged cheese was incredibly mild but full of fresh cow milk flavor. And because it wasn't over-salted, the flavor of the tortilla was able to really shine. I was so instantly enamored with the cheese that I made a batch of savory crepes the next morning for brunch and served them with queso fresco and ham.

After a few tries, the California-made Ranchero by Cacique is my favorite brand. The Casero by El Mexicano is also very popular and tasty, but I find that its more dry. Perhaps I'll try to make it from scratch in 2010.

My advice: Try it and share bites with your friends. If the bunch of you can't enjoy it in one sitting, make sure to store it in an odor resistant container - since it's such a mild, fresh cheese an inferior container may impart funky tastes or smells rendering your nice bit of cheese totally inedible.

Photo credits: me

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gadget: Potato Ricer

photo credit: me -- money shot of the finished mashers is by my sis

I've likely been lusting after my own food mill or potato ricer since high school. I'm sure I was introduced to them through the likes of Martha Stewart and Lidia Bastianich. Who wouldn't want to make your own crushed tomatoes for a marinara sans skins or ungluey, fluffy mashed potatoes?

Traditionally, our family has used those squigley-line stick mashers, the backs of wooden spoons, or the occasional pastry cutter to take care of our potato-mashing tasks. The results have always been tasty, but I knew I could aim for perfection. I aimed to possess a potato ricer as soon as the price was right.

It wasn't until I found a clearance potato ricer from Target [I'm pretty sure it was under the Chefmate label] for about $3 that I finally made the leap. My mom was skeptical of any true usefulness of the thing, but once I made her our first batch of riced mashed potatoes did she truly believe. Sadly, the ricer was so poorly constructed that it didn't even last through a second use.

I knew I wanted to have a heavy-duty ricer in time for Thanksgiving, so after consulting Cook's Illustrated equipment reviews and spending time window shopping on the web, I had a purchasing game plan. Time passed until it was the week of Thanksgiving. I didn't want to risk an online order, so I put my walking shoes on.

Ideally, I wanted to spend under $20 and get a Cook's Illustrated Recommended model [Bethany Heavy-Duty Potato Ricer]. Fail. Not one potato ricer or food mill was to be found at my local Target store.

My search was limited to a store I could walk to on my lunch break. Crate&Barrel. Sur La Table. Williams-Sonoma.

I already knew that Williams-Sonoma had a $30+ potato ricer that seemed superbly efficient and heavy-duty. The demo video was very convincing. W-S would be my last stop.

First, I went to Crate&Barrel. It carried one model. Blah. I wasn't convinced.

Second, I headed to Sur La Table. This store had at least three different ricers and three different food mills. $20 models were not as well-designed as the W-S ricer, and the $100+ food mills were too pricey for me. No go.

Last, I walked into Williams-Sonoma. To my surprise, my dream ricer was one of the first products displayed in the store. After holding it I was convinced. It had true heft; I didn't think it would break anytime soon. The hopper also seemed larger than the other models I'd seen. It had holes on all sides of its hopper making me believe the online demo marketing buzz that it would take less effort to mash more potatoes, too.

So without any hesitation, I paid the $34 + tax and took home the Deluxe Angled Potato Ricer, a "Williams-Sonoma exclusive." It still takes some elbow grease to get the potatoes through the hopper, but since I'm short, using the ricer on a lower counter top seems to work best. I'm pleased and am completely free of buyer's remorse. After all, it's an investment.

My Thanksgiving mashers were delicious, could-like, and lump-free.