Sunday, January 27, 2008

Is It Can Be...

...tres leches cake tiem now plees?

I have been bugging Bug for at least 6 months to make this recipe that I had uncovered in an Everyday Food issue from 2003 while going through a stack of books to see if we could sell any.

He finally caved in.

This recipe had a segment that was poorly described, so that ticked Bug off a little. Oh, and he couldn't find the attachments to our food processor so he had to hand uhh do each part. So let's just say that regardless of how this cake would have turned out, it would have been the best cake in the world.

I've taken the liberty of abbreviating certain words in the recipe below.

Tres Leches Cake
from Everyday Food, Issue #5, September 2003

Serves 12
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

unsalted butter, room temperature, for baking dish
6 large eggs, separated
1 c sugar
1 c all-purpose flour, sifted
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1 c whole milk
1-1/2 c heavy cream
1 Tsp confectioners sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9"x13" baking dish. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. In another bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold whites into yolks until almost combined. Gently fold in flour (do not overmix).

2. Spread butter in prepared dish. Bake until golden and pulling away from sides of dish, 20-25 min. Using a small knife, scrape skin from top of cake; discard. Cool cake 20 min.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the 3 milks; pour evenly over cake. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 1 hr and up to 1 day.

4. To serve, prepare topping: In a mixing bowl, whip heavy cream with sugar to soft peaks. Chill cake and cut into squares; serve topped with whipped cream.

(image from Everyday Food -- Pastel de Tres Leches)

Because Bug did everything by hand, the prep time was doubled. :(

He didn't really know where to use the confectioners sugar, since the recipe lists using "sugar" twice but does not mention what to do with the "confectioners sugar." He made the assumption that it was for the whipped topping. It worked. I'm sure he would have wanted to kick it in the editor's a...elsewhere.

The cake turned out mmm excellent and the texture was what I had hoped. I'm not just saying that because he'll read this blog one day. The cake was very airy and almost gushy. It was not soppy like the initial picture in the video of this recipe I just found.

The cake and milk settled so magically. The top part was moist, airy, textured, and fairly sweet. The middle was very moist, sweet, and a little creamy. The bottom layer was like a custard. It's not a dessert you can eat copious amounts of in one sitting, but it sure curbs that something sweet-creamy-custardy-cakey craving all in one scrumptious bite.

Oh yeah, I'm a sucker for sweetened condensed milk. I have always had this compulsion to stick my finger into a freshly opened can, much to my mother's, and now Bug's, dismay with a threatening growl chasing me out of the kitchen.

Oooh, there's also a recipe for Baked Alaska in this edition as well! ;)

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Serenity Now!

Sarah, John, Cameron
(Image taken from IMDB)

No, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" wasn't that bad. I quite enjoyed it. I certainly hope the series goes somewhere instead of pew pew, "come with me if you want to live," pew pew, run, time machine, pew pew.

From what I've read, the series takes off after "Terminator 2," and pretty much writes off the "Terminator 3" storyline. I'm not a Terminator universe purist and the last time I saw "Terminator 2" was when it came out in the theater in 1991. I adored "The Terminator" (1984) when it came out. Michael Biehn, ooh lala! For me, as long as the show is engaging, I really don't care whether Sarah Connor should or shouldn't have clear nails, wear blue shoes with white pants, etc.

The women characters, Sarah and Cameron, seemed a little weak; Cameron being the weaker of the two. The acting is not convincing enough yet. There aren't very many tv series that start out strong anyway. "Babylon 5" was an excellent tv series that started off a bit washed and then tightened up extremely well until the very last episode in its 5 year arc...which brings me to another thought. I hope that this series has a story arc so there is a direction - a beginning, middle, and an end - instead of being an action version of "insert soap opera here."

What amazes me about the show thus far is, despite my stable employment in a decent paying job, I still can't afford to get a house, yet they seem to. Granted, they have "funds" but even then...

- Cassaendra

Friday, January 11, 2008

In a Barbie World

Our trip to Smokey Bones! It's been a long time since our last trip there. It wasn't for any reason that we've avoided returning to the restaurant; just time flying by so quickly.

We ordered corn bread with honey pecan butter to start.

The restaurant is running a "Happy 'Que Year" meal special until the beginning of February on a few dinners. Included with the platter, you also get a dinner or caesar salad and a half order of doughnuts (3) for dessert, minus 1 vegetable side, for the price of the standard version of the platter.

The selection:
- baby back ribs (full rack)
- pulled pork
- smokehouse chicken
- St. Louis style ribs (half rack)
- honey glazed salmon

Decisions, decisions! I love salmon and don't really eat pork much. The baby back ribs sounded great, since I don't care for tough ribs. I was feeling lazy (and cheap), so I got the pulled pork for $10 and my one side was fire-roasted corn. Bug ordered the baby back ribs with onion rings and fries.

The corn bread arrived in all its beauty...until we mauled it. The round top was perfectly golden and gleaming. The bread was moist and wonderful on its own, but with the honey pecan butter, it was heavenly. As the whipped butter caressed my tongue, it melted away and left a very light, nutty sweet essence. Shortly after the sweetness, it trailed off into a soft saltiness. The sensation reminded me of eating cotton candy.

The timing of the dishes wasn't excellent, but I would rather have my food sooner than later. Before I could finish my quarter slice of corn bread, still enamored, my salad came. I was startled at the size of the salad. Lately, I've been craving crunchy lettuce and grape tomatoes, so this hit the spot almost dead on. If it had cucumbers, it would have been right-on. Hey, it was just a thought - this salad was free after all.

As I was 2/3 through with the salad, our dinner arrived. Our table looked cluttered, even though it initially had placesettings for 6 people.

The portions were huge. I shared with Bug 1/4 of my pulled pork. He shared some of his ribs. I...tested a french fry...y'know, to see if it was worthy of my husband's taste buds. They were amazingly good. First, they were freshly made, but they were seasoned with something that I couldn't quite pinpoint. Not seasoned salt, not Old Bay (didn't have the celery seed flavor)...something invisible that made it a little salty with a slight tang. Maybe it was mixed in with the potatoes when the fries were made.

The pulled pork was oooh smokey and moist, and very easy to eat. The fire-roasted corn was indeed roasted. It was sweet and, THANK ALL THAT IS GOOD, didn't have onions. It was mixed with small bits of red pepper, so it wasn't pepper-flavored corn. I was quite happy and was getting quite full. I was only able to eat 1/4 of my pulled pork serving, while I polished off the corn. I thought, Bug could have a delicious pulled pork sandwich for lunch the next day!

Bug's baby back ribs were sweet, but not sickeningly sweet. Despite the charred piece that he gave me, the meat that wasn't charred was very moist and pink. *grumble* I guess it's payback for all the times I've fed him burnt Dorito chips. Our server brought more napkins, wet-naps, and a cute brown bag to put the bones in.

Of course, I can't comment on the onions rings. >.> Bug ended up only finishing half his ribs.

Our order of donuts arrived in a white paper bag. She gave us 6! We quickly ate two. I kept burning my fingers and tongue because they were really hot and delicious. They were dusted with cinnamon and sugar and arrived with both dips, warm chocolate and cool strawberry. It was an excellent cap to a great meal.

As Bug reached into the bag to get another doughnut, I slapped his hand, and it dropped back into the bag. As much as I would have loved to split the 3rd doughnut with him, since we couldn't take the dips home, we had to draw the line somewhere!

I look forward to my next meal there!

- Cassaendra

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Know a Guy Who's Tough but Sweet

After several weeks of scouring the area for gifts that scream Americana, or at least Ohioana?...Heartland, for my stepmother's birthday giftbox, we finally ended up at the entrance of a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.

Ohio really has nothing unique that can be wrapped into a box that isn't ridiculously-sized, like Amish furniture, or illegal, like an animal or plant. We've done the Amish chocolate, maple syrup, and even halvah. No, not Amish halvah.

Walking through the large space cluttered with gifts, surrounded by wood paneling, built-in wood shelving, wood tables, and wood crates, this was easily a Mecca of Americana.

We didn't get an Ohio State University rocking chair. We passed up the sequined red sweaters and sweatshirts of apples. My stepmother would never wear anything like that. She's a sleek, elegant, and sophisticated woman who wears European designer clothing. With that in mind...


We couldn't stop picking up stuff, because everything was just so nifty, from the nostalgic retro box of 1950s candy to the key lime coconut clusters. We even got a fiery red gobstopper (maybe it was a gumball) the size of a fist. It gave me a headache thinking of eating that.

I guess there's one minor drawback to these gift selections. My stepmother is not a candy fiend.

*blink blink*

While standing in line with our purchase, Bug peered at a map of all their restaurant locations and read that there were over 570 restaurants! Jeez! I didn't realize how prevalent Cracker Barrel was in certain areas.

We were feeling a bit peckish and I was curious what the restaurant was like. This was my first *real* visit to a Cracker Barrel.

I was surprised that at 9:00 p.m. you are offered a choice between the breakfast menu and the lunch/dinner menu. Too bad I'm not a breakfast person, I probably would have taken advantage of the breakfast menu offer.

My first surprise was the price of the platters. Most platters were in the $7-8 range and included 3 sides.

Because I couldn't decide what to get, I decided to try their dinner sampler, which consisted of chicken 'n dumplings, meatloaf, and country ham (smoked). For my sides, I couldn't decide between fried apples, various vegetables, and potatoes. Out of the ~15 choices, I decided on macaroni and cheese, turnip greens, and breaded fried okra. All for $8-something. Bug got country fried steak with mashed potatoes, breaded fried okra, and turnip greens.

I peered at other tables around me and was surprised at how filled their plates arrived.

Our dinner arrived with buttermilk biscuits and corn bread. They were a touch too salty for me, but that really doesn't mean much since I don't cook with salt, nor do I add salt to my food. The buttermilk biscuits were the better of the two. The corn bread was a little dry. It was probably sitting out for a bit.

My order came on a large dinner platter, with my three selections and the macaroni and cheese brimming along the edges of the plate, and two smaller bowls with heaping servings of greens and fried okra.

I became full just looking at all the food.

The one slice of ham may have seemed sparse compared to the other 2 selections, but there was a lot of food on my plate that I couldn't imagine brooding over that. It was a smokey slice of ham. Not bad.

The chicken 'n dumplings were amazing. The generous portion of tender chicken chunks were delicious and the sauce creamy. It was almost like eating a really thick creamy chicken noodle soup.

The meatloaf was like...well, I never eat meatloaf so it was what I would expect meatloaf to taste like - peppery oniony meat with a touch of ketchup. Not bad at all. I didn't expect the meatloaf to crumble like okara or instant stuffing though.

Bug liked his chicken fried steak. The mashed potatoes were pretty good with white gravy. (Maybe I'll get that the next time we're there!)

We waddled out of there spending less than $20 for both our meals and a big bag of leftovers that lasted as my lunch for work the next day and an extra side for dinner.

On my next trip, I'll probably choose the chicken 'n dumplings, turnip greens as one of my sides, and try 2 new sides. The fried apples sounds intriguing!

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bad News Bear

Yes, I was the secret reason why UH lost against UGa at the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. I was waiting for the fire to cool down before making this startling admission.

I cursed the team by watching a few minutes of the first quarter on tv. I was impressed that it was a close game near the end of the first quarter with UGa ranked #4 or 5 (not sure why I heard different ranks on the same day - different ranking system?) and UH ranked #10. After the first quarter, I have no idea what happened, as the game blaring in the background became fused with the rest of the ambient noise. The tv is in the living room and my computer, where I was sitting, is in another room. My back faces the living room when I sit at the computer.

The same thing happened last year with the Browns and the Indians. I rarely watch tv, let alone watch sports on tv. When I do, the teams lose the game each and every time. Looks like I start the New Year with the same curse as last year! =)

- Cassaendra

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Squeal like a Pig

Bug saw a recipe online for a dish he had at Asia Cuisine a few weeks ago, jae yook bokum. I loved what I sampled from his plate that I told him I'd order it the next time we were there.

This is the recipe he used from My Korean Kitchen:

Marinatied Pork Stir Fry with Gochujang sauce

Ingredients for this meals are (for 2 people)

For Marinating Pork

-Getting rid of smells
Pork 360g -You can use Neck bone meat (”Mok sal” in Korean) or Bacon slices from the Belly (”Samgyeopsal” in Korean)
Refined rice wine 15 ml
Pepper 2 Sprinkles
Soak the Pork in cold water for about 20-30 minutes to get rid of the blood.
Cut the meat into about mouthful size pieces.
Put the meat in a big bowl and add refined rice wine and pepper. (mix and leave it for about 30 minutes)

-Making Gochujang sauce
Gochujang 2 tbsp
Soy sauce 1 tbsp
Sugar 2 tsp
Chili powder 1 sprinkle
Ginger powder 1/2 tsp
Finely chopped garlic (one medium size)
Plum Extract 15 ml -This is good for getting rid of oily tastes of the meat. You can buy it at the local super market. However it is very expensive, so you don’t have to use it, though it makes a very big difference in the meal I noticed.
Get a bowl ready. Pour in all the ingredients I mentioned above.
Mix them well. Then add this on to the meat.

For side vegetables
1/5 of a medium cabbage (If you use too much of this, it will make too much water in the wok.)
5 Sesame leaves
1/2 a medium onion
1/2 a medium carrot
1 stalk of big spring onion

Thin slice the cabbage, onion, and carrot.
Slice the sesame leaves and spring onion.
Put all these vegetables into the meat bowl (with the meat).
Mix them throughly.

Pre-heat the wok for about 20 seconds.
Put some olive oil in the wok.
Add the veggies and meat mix.
Stir them and cook it thoroughly.
Serve it on the plate.

Bug had to change a few things because we didn't have everything. Also, we quadrupled the recipe, if that says anything about our appetites! Actually, we wanted it to last, so this wasn't downed in a single sitting! I'm eating it right now while I'm on my lunch break, along with some kim chee and namul.

- meat: we ended up buying pork loin
- refined rice wine: we assumed this was the same as Japanese sake and cracked open our 47 Ronin tokkuri of Gekkeikan sake
- ginger: used fresh ginger
- oil: used vegetable oil

- plum extract: We were kind of SoL on this one. We couldn't find this on our own and no one understood me when I asked.
- onions
- cabbage
- sesame leaves

What a delicious dinner!

What could have made this superb dish flawless would possibly be halving the amount of sugar. This preparation was a little too sweet for my palate.

I can't wait to get home after work to have more! Yummy!

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

The year started with hearing the ring of my father's voice a few minutes past midnight. What a wonderful way to start the New Year!

For our New Year's feast, we ate a few dishes that Bug and I made the past few days and things we picked up along the way shopping at our regular 3 Asian grocery stores on New Year's Day.

Gumbo. Phenomenal. It was extra spicy this time with the addition of spicier than normal andouille sausage. Miles Market was selling it for pretty cheap - four large sausages for just over $4. Oh, he also added habanero Tabasco sauce. The shrimp was decently priced at the West Side Market - $7/lb for 21 ct raw shrimp. I am also glad that we found a recipe for roux that doesn't require oil! (Blasphemy!) No, I can't tell the difference in flavor or color.

Rogan josh. Very tasty and spicy! It was Bug's first time making this from scratch. My tongue got fuzzy-numb when I ate this. I wonder if it's from the cardamom. I blame everything wrong with a recipe on the cardamom since our pho disaster. I wonder how different this dish would have tasted had we used ghee (clarified butter) instead of vegetable oil.

Namul. It took me an hour to pick the roots off of each sprout, but it was worth it. I also strayed from the recipe by adding chili pepper flakes. I tapped the bag of flakes and 1/3 cup spilled out over about a pound of the bean sprouts. It looks pretty...yeah.

Sardines. We received 2 cans of Mega sardines Afritada style as a gift while shopping at Good Harvest. We love this place, even though their parking lot SUCKS, because they give out treats to customers. In the summer, we often get those cool tubs of lychee cups! I am not really familiar with what Afritada style is, but whatever it is, it tastes great! This tiny can, the size of one of those tiny cans of tomato paste, had around 5-7 sardines, potatoes, peas, and tomatoes. The nutritional fact box said this was 3 servings though. It made me feel like such a glutton since I ate the whole can by myself.

Fukujinzuke. This tasted great with the rogan josh. The crunchy texture and the slight sweetness balanced the brown herbal flavor of the rogan josh. I suppose that's why it goes so well with Japanese curry.

Kim chee. We cheated and bought a jar instead of making it, since I wanted kim chee jjigae this week instead of waiting a few weeks for the homemade kim chee to cook.

Bok tong go (steamed rice cake). You never know how much you miss something [fresh] until you can't have it anymore. The Star Bulletin has a great article on this treat. It's hard to get this out-of-the-steamer fresh here. At best, we get it a day later. I've bought them where it's so dry, it feels like I am eating dried up Elmer's glue. It's $1.25 for two slices, each piece is about 2" x 3" x 1" (short, yeah?).

Pork buns. I was never really fond of these while growing up. I still am not totally sold on it. The slightly sweetened bread is what I LOVE. As a child, I would eat the bread edges off the manapua, like one would eat an apple or pear, and leave the middle part with the meat for my mother. I wanted to do it this time, but Bug wasn't fond of it and I didn't want to waste my 59 cents.

Mixed bag of treats. I love the bags of mixed Japanese pastries. I picked up one that had dorayaki and monaka. Mmm were they good. I was tempted to instead buy some mochi to heat up and roll in kinako powder, but I didn't. I'll save that for a later date. I miss eating fresh kinako mochi at the buffet at Tsukiji Fish Market.

Full belly! *collapse*

- Cassaendra

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