Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Tropical Caramel

January 30, 2012 - 12:54 am 1 Comment

Or as I like to call it, the mouthgasm.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a food blog, and I don’t think I’ve ever blogged anything sweet even though my friends would insist I’m a much better dessert chef than a savory chef, which is especially weird because I only very rarely enjoy sweets.

Tonight was one of those nights when I wanted something sweet.

I hope you do too.

What It Is:

Tropical Caramel, an amazing topping for… Fuck, I don’t know, everything ever? I used mine to top some right-out-of-the-box just-add-hot-milk banana oatmeal.

What You’ll Need:

1/2 banana, sliced into coins
3 tablespoons canned pineapple chunks(reserve some juice)
1/4 cup sugar (I used white)
1 tablespoon butter
1 dash cayenne pepper, powdered
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
A small non-stick frying pan

How to Do It (No Not Like That):

Heat yo’ pan, yo’. Put your frying pan over medium low heat, until it’s hot enough that when you drop your butter in it, the butter immediately sizzles but does not burn. If it doesn’t sizzle, turn up the heat.

Add the sugar into the melted butter and add just enough of the pineapple juice so that the sugar is damp. You won’t need very much at all. Let that ooey-gooey mixture bubble a bit. The moment it starts to take on any color, any at all, add the banana coins and the pineapple chunks.

Now wait. Okay, don’t just stand there. If you’ve got teh skillz, you can saute the fruit – and I do mean saute; make sure all of the pineapple bits and banana slices get flipped over at least once. If you ain’t got the skills, you can use a spoon or a fork or something I guess.

Once the fruits have taken on some nice, brown color, add the cayenne and the vanilla.

But wait! It’s time for science!

Why are we adding the vanilla now? Why don’t we just add it at the beginning when the sugar needs more moisture anyway?

Vanilla extract, as you probably know, is like 99% alcohol (okay, it’s actually a minimum of 35% and unless you’ve got the extra-strength stuff, it’s probably not much more than that) and if you paid attention in science class or have ever had a bonfire, you know that alcohol is pretty darn flammable. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean your caramel will catch fire (well, not if you’re careful) (I mean, unless that’s what you’re going for, but I wouldn’t attempt a flambe in my non-stick cookware), but it does mean that if you add the vanilla too soon, not only will all of the alcohol cook out, the flavor will as well and you just wasted, what, a buck fifty’s worth of vanilla.

That was science!

After you’ve added the pepper and the vanilla, another 30 seconds at a slightly-higher medium heat should give your fruits a nice color and a little bit of a singe.

It should look a bit like this:
Tropical Caramel
…but it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit darker.

That’s it. Seriously, that’s it. Use it like I did to top some really boring oatmeal, pour it over ice cream, or, fuck, eat it with a spoon.

Oh, and for the record? You’re welcome.

Allow me to bring you joy.

June 29, 2011 - 6:35 pm 1 Comment

Toasted garlic lemon chick peas.

Let me show them to you.

I got so many inquiries about this on Twitter I decided to devote a whole post to this delicious concoction so that you can make them in your own home and stop pestering me about them.

Whatcher gonna need:
1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp dried lemon zest OR the juice of one lemon
1 tsp margarine/butter
1/2 tsp olive oil
A pinch of salt and pepper
Large frying pan and lid
Paper towels

First things first – prep:

Open the chick peas and dump them in the colander.  Shake them around to get them as dry as possible.  Then line a bowl with a paper towel and pour the chick peas into the bowl.  Let them sit a moment while you put the frying pan over a medium heat and put in the 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/2 a teaspoon of margarine – not the whole teaspoon, just half of it for now.

Fun fact: Why butter AND oil?  Butter or margarine is for taste.  Oil doesn’t absorb as much into the food and takes a much higher temperature to burn.  A little of both is delicious and a better environment for your food!

At this point you can also chop up your four cloves of garlic.  Do them to a consistency you like: if you don’t want to actually eat any of the garlic pieces, halve them.  If you don’t mind munching some (absolutely delicious) roasty-toasty garlic, chop it up fine.

Let’s get cooking:

At this point you can go ahead and pour the chick peas into the hot pan.  A word of warning: they’re going to sizzle, since they’re very moist on the inside, and sometimes they even pop with enough force to escape from the pan.  Just chuck ‘em back in.  Add your lemon zest or juice now as well so it has enough time to integrate well into the chick peas.  DO NOT COVER, since you want the peas to become as dry as possible.

Depending on the size of your pan, you can let these guys toast up for between ten to fifteen minutes.  Every few minutes, put the lid on the frying pan, hold it down tight, and give those chick peas a good hard shake.  Flip ‘em all around, take the lid back off, and let them toast a little more.

Once the chick peas are looking dry and significantly darker than when they started, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter and your garlic.  Let it toast up, continuing to put the lid on every now and again to give your chick peas and garlic a proper saute.  This step should take between five and seven minutes, and you can consider your garlic good and done when it’s toasted brown on all sides.

Take the chick peas off of the heat and sprinkle with salt and pepper to your own liking.  Let them sit in the hot pan for another moment or so, and then put them in a bowl lined with a paper towel to absorb any remaining moisture, butter, or oil.  Give ‘em a good shake, pull away the paper towel, and enjoy!  Careful: those little buggers are very hot right out of the pan!

If you want to mix it up, here are some other ingredients you could use (some of these I’ve tried, some I’ve not):

Add these ones at the same point you would add the lemon:
Red pepper flakes
A favorite salad dressing (this could get messy if it’s a creamy dressing, and might burn, but oil-based ones should be fine)

Add these when you would add the garlic:
Fresh chili peppers
Baby spinach
Mint leaves

Or anything really.  Just be aware of the burning times of the things you want to add: chick peas are extremely resilient, where as herbs and vegetables burn quickly, but dried ones take a while to re-hydrate and release their flavors.  If you come up with something good, let me know!

Bonus round:

If you like a little more salt and don’t mind getting a little messy, while the chick peas are still hot in the bowl, add a little Parmesan cheese – nothing fancy, just the sprinkly kind out of a canister.

So there’s my magic snack time recipe – super filling, and super healthy.  Now you can stop bugging me about it and add a whole new level of delicious to your life.

All sushi is good sushi. I guess.

June 20, 2011 - 9:39 pm No Comments

Well, I was gonna clear out all my spam comments but I got really bored with that so instead I’ll talk about two things I really love:

Food and Pittsburgh.

More importantly, food in Pittsburgh.

A good friend of mine had a birthday this past Friday and since nobody doesn’t like hibachi, he held his party at Saga, which is that new sushi/hibachi in Settler’s Ridge (that’s where the Giant Eagle USS Market District Starship Food Emporium is, and that is another tale for another time).

I’d mentioned the gathering to my boss, and though he had not personally eaten there, many of his friends had, and he had… well, let’s just say, not heard good things.

And now I know why.

Let me say on the face of it, Saga is not a bad place to eat by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’ll say up front that the hibachi chefs themselves are the best I’ve ever seen.  Those who ordered hibachi (see: everyone but me as I am a pescatarian, though I regretted my decision upon finding out there was swordfish hibachi and I’ve always wanted to try swordfish) said it was good, though I’ll get into that more in a moment.

First I ordered iced tea.  Let’s forget I’m a tea snob for a moment, but when my iced tea arrived it was very much warm tea and very little ice, and I was the only one at the table who didn’t get a lemon.  The waitress also forgot to mention that the tea is unsweetened and you have to ask for sugar and you’d better damn sure want that sugar because it’s gonna take a good ten minutes for you to get it.  It also tasted less like black tea and more like burnt.  That about set the tone.

I ordered sushi, two different rolls, with a sashimi appetizer.  My sashimi arrived with everyone else’s appetizers and was possibly the most gorgeously plated dish I’ve ever seen.  It came with the standard bean sprouts and ginger, but the whole thing was served on a sasa no happa (a large bamboo leaf) with an orchid bloom and was arranged immaculately.  It was cheaper than most sashimi plates at only $9, but for obvious reason: I only got nine pieces of fish, which I considered reasonable.  But though all the garnish was beautiful, there was a hell of a lot more of it on the plate than there was food, and it left me thinking I’d missed something somewhere.

Though I got my appetizer at a reasonable time, I also got my first sushi roll at… exactly the same time.  Now, I’m not a fan of warm sushi, and I’m also not a fan of being done with all of my food by the time everyone else has, well, started, and I wanted to watch the hibachi being cooked, so I had to sit, and let my sushi get warm.  That was the first real problem.  The second was that the sushi was far too huge.  Proper sushi etiquette (and if you don’t care for that, simple ease of eating) dictates that you don’t take bites, you put the whole slice in your mouth at once.  Let. Me. Tell. You. What.  I would have to have been a tyrannosaurus to fit one piece of this sushi in my mouth at once.  They were huge!  Bigger may be better, but when your sushi is the width of a pepperoni roll and so loosely configured that if you do try to take a bite it all falls apart in your soy sauce dish, you become aware that there may be a problem.  These, despite the impossibility of such a maneuver, were three-bit pieces.  And that is not cool.  I’m sure they would have been delicious if I could have fit them into my mouth in one go, but as it stood, I had to pick them apart and eat them bit-by-bit.  Warm.

I also stole the husband’s ginger-dressed salad since he’s anti-ginger (but loves red-heads, I promise), and I have to say…  Well, there’s good ginger dressing, and there’s bad.  They tried to make this gingery enough to soothe those who actually know what ginger is supposed to taste like but palatable enough for those more familiar with ranch dressing, and they failed.  The dressing tasted like nondescript orange vegetable mash.  And that’s bad.

The husband, having ordered hibachi, informed me that the food was fine but had perhaps a bit too much teriyaki.  Take that with a grain of salt, as he likes his food a bit blander than most.  What he was right about were the sauces.  The traditional sauces, being the shrimp and steak dipping sauces, were both a little bit off.  The shrimp sauce was not creamy enough and a bit too tangy, in an effort to be more akin to cocktail sauce.  It didn’t work.  The steak sauce was a good sauce all around, but not a shining example of hibachi by itself.

I was left with the feeling that Saga had gone out of their way to hire the very best chefs they could get their hands on, who put on the best food-related show anyone had ever seen, and hoped that that would cover for the mediocre nature of absolutely everything else in the restaurant.  So if you want a good show, by all means, give Saga a try.  But if you just want some delicious and reasonably-priced sushi or hibachi with good service and a good atmosphere, for heaven’s sake just go to Yokoso.

It’s time for SCIENCE!

December 2, 2010 - 5:08 pm No Comments

Well, almost.

First I’m going to share with you a delightful but simple wintertime treat (for those of you north of the equator) that you should enjoy while reading this blog.  I hope you like coffee.  And joy.  It doesn’t have to be covered in bees.

FIRST!  Set a cup of coffee to brew or press it or use your espresso maker or however ya fix your caffeine fix.

Get a cup, a teaspoon of sugar, and a packet of cocoa.  Preferably with marshmallows.  Dump cocoa and sugar in cup.  Pour coffee on top.

Scrape marshmallows off of top, eat, mix thoroughly, be happy.  Oh, yeah, then read the rest of this blog.  Which starts now.

I. Love. Science.  I was an English major with a creative writing concentration, I only took my mandatory amounts of science in high school I belonged to the English, drama, and jazz clubs, and I. Love. Science.  You will never not find me watching The Universe or crushing on Michio Kaku or wearing my Periodic Table of the Elements shirt or reading about Einstein.

Which brings me to installment’s book: The Quotable Einstein collected and edited by Alice Calaprice.

This is a quick read.  Yes, yes, it’s several hundred pages long, but it’s exactly what it purports to be: a collection of quotes by the man himself, Albert Einstein, who was generally a great guy except he was really bitter about women so don’t take anything he says about us at face value.  He was also a friend of Sigmund Freud so let’s blame his mom and move on (I’M KIDDING).

This collection paints a deeper picture of Einstein as a man who realised he was just a man and did his best to quell any sort of belief that he was anything more than human.  It also portrays how firmly Einstein stuck to his beliefs, many of which were unpopular at the time.  He believed women should be allowed to have abortions up to a certain point, much as we do now.  He believed homosexuality should not be punished, he loved America but saw how it suppressed it’s minorities and spoke out against it, and he was an avid pacifist, believing only in violence when it was to protect oneself.  This isn’t surprising giving the atmosphere he grew up in: pre-WWI Germany was already a hotbed of conflict, more so than many of us realise, and for Einstein, himself a Jew, it was imperative he leave that behind.  Indeed, he rescinded his German citizenship and became a Swiss citizen very early in life, before he was naturalised in US many years later.  For many of these beliefs, though weak and obvious they may seem now, he was suspected of Communism and questioned in the McCarthy hearings, to be subsequently dubbed by Mr. McCarthy as an “enemy of America.”  Incidentally, that was about the time that America decided they weren’t buying that shit anymore.  Einstein had already said previously in a letter, “I have never been a Communist.  But if I were, I would not be ashamed of it.”

The book also delves into more personal subjects: Einstein had an amazing sense of humor, loved music, played the violin, and enjoyed the company of his family pets very much.  Once, during a particularly bad rainstorm, his tabby “Tiger” was upset that he could not go outside.  Einstein commiserated with the creature, saying, “I know what’s wrong, dear fellow, but I don’t know how to turn it off.”  (That’s right, Doctor.  Everyone talks to cats.)  The volume also includes snippets of his letters to his first and second wife, including the period in between where his first marriage was falling apart and he sought comfort in an affair with his soon-to-be second wife, Elsa.  Clearly he was not a perfect man, but if he was, I doubt half of us would be able to relate to him at all, for as hard as that can be already.

My only complaint with the collection is that, in an effort to be thorough, Ms. Calaprice has included several iterations Einstein made of the same quote.  While it’s good to see an attempt to be sure that the most important quotations were included, there are several occasions where this gets distracting.  This is perhaps most obvious in the case of the “God does not place dice” quote.  While it is true that this is something Einstein believed firmly and repeated so often that Niels Borh was prompted to respond, “Stop telling God what to do!”, it is not necessary that the reader see every single instance wherein Einstein restated his belief.  The most eloquent or succinct iteration would have been just fine, and this is a problem which occurs with several other quotes in the book.  It is a problem which becomes very distracting very quickly, causing the reader to pause and say, “Wait, I caught that and the editor let it slide?” which is never something you want to hear said about a book.

Beyond that, though, the book is a good, clear insight into the mind of Einstein through the man’s own words, and I recommend it to anyone interested in his science, life, or personality.

With that, I leave you with these choice Einstein-ian quotes (and hopefully some of that cocoa left over):

  • “With fame I become more and more stupid, which of course is a very common phenomenon.”
  • “Personally, I experience the greatest degree of pleasure in having contact with works of art.  They furnish me with happy feelings of an intensity such as I cannot derive from other realms.”
  • “I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.”
  • “That worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor…  this plague-spot of civilisation ought to be abolished with all possible speed.  Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them!  How vile and despicable seems war to me!  I would rather be hacked into pieces than take park in such an abominable business.”
  • “I do not believe that civilisation will be wiped out in a war fought with the atomic bomb.  Perhaps two-thirds of the people on earth would be killed, but enough men  capable of thinking, and enough books, would be left to start out again, and civilisation could be restored.
  • When asked why people could discover atoms by not the means to control them: “That is simple, my friend: because politics is more difficult than physics.”

Vegetarian Japanese Polka-Dot Rice

June 15, 2010 - 8:41 pm No Comments

Welcome to a segment I’m going to call Adventures in Being a Dirt-Poor Foodie.  Today I bring you a recipe I just concocted.  The inspiration for this was how much I love veggie dogs and how lazy I truly am.  What it is is pretty much the title: white rice with Japanese clear soup mix and polka-dots (maybe this is a Pittsburgh thing, but ‘polka-dot macaroni’ is when you cut up a hot dog and put it in a bowl of mac n’ cheese.  For this, I used a veggie dog, being the meatless sort I am, and put it in rice instead. Because, that’s why).


1/2 cup white rice (though I’d imagine any grain or variety of rice would work just fine)

2/3 cup water

1 veggie dog (if you’re a veggie person, go ahead and use whatever hot dog you please)

1 packet Japanese clear soup mix (though, once again, I’d imagine you could use miso mix or even a packet of ramen powder, butthat would seriously up the sodium content.  Additionally, it may make a difference that this mix is one packet to eight ounces of water.  It’s Sushi Chef brand, if we’re getting super technical)

Baby spinach leaves (as many as you like; I used four big’uns)

White mushroom caps (again, as many as you like, and probably whatever mushrooms you prefer. I used three)

1 medium garlic clove, chopped

2 tablespoons shallots, chopped (or onions, though you may want to use more, especially if you’re using white or sweet onions)

A pinch of habanero (if you’re into spicy food like me)

Margarine or butter (or vegetable oil or non-stick spray, it’s not really the flavor that matters here, it’s the fact that garlic is sticky)

Sounds yummy, now what do I do?

In a small to medium sauce pan, melt about a tablespoon of margarine (or butter).  Over a medium-low heat, saute the shallots, garlic, and habanero lightly.  Add as much margarine as it takes to keep the herbs scootin’ across the pan.  As they begin to brown, chop up the mushrooms and put them in.  You may need more non-stick.  Saute them, but only very lightly, since they’re going to continue to be cooked.

Splash in your 2/3 cup of water.  Now, I know most rice only requires as much water as rice, but there’s a lot going on in this pan already, so it might get soaked up.  Let the veggies mix in a bit with the water, then add the rice.  Mix it up, and add the packet of soup mix .  While that cooks, prepare your veggie dog.

Cook the hot dog however you prefer; boil it, fry it, grill it (though that would be a lot of work for one stupid hot dog).  For the record, I put mine in the microwave wrapped in a wet paper towel and nuked it for 45 seconds, because i am truly lazy.  Then, just let it hang out and cool.

Now, de-stem the spinach and chop or tear it up, and put it in with the rice.  Don’t forget to stir occasionally.   Let the spinach cook down just a smidge, and turn the heat down to low.  While that last bit of water is cooking away, get a bowl.  Chop up your cooked veggie into bits (I like mine dime-sized) and put it in the bottom of the bowl.  Then just pour the rice on top and voila! Dinner!  With plenty of food groups!  Enjoy with a spoon or chopstick and milk or Coke or whatever.  I’d imagine this would also be good as a side for something, though perhaps sans hot dog.  It might even be good with fish.

Now, as you figured, pretty much everything in this recipe is optional except for the rice and the soup and the hot dog, hence it being Japanese Polka-Dot Rice (don’t even hafta be vegetarian).  It’s really whatever you like; add carrots, celery, potatoes, whatever, just be mindful of individual cook times.  Pretty much everything in this recipe cooks up fast, but say, potatoes, not so much.

Since I am a giant foodie (read: a huge pig), I’m hoping to include more recipes in here, of my own styling, and maybe even of yours!  If you want to send me a recipe to try and/or post, just email it to me or even leave it in the comments (though if it’s got meat in it I can’t promise I’ll try it, though I may use Chris as a guinea pig).  And, if you’d like to be on my much neglected blogroll, hey, just drop me a line and let me know.  I’d love to get some affiliates, which I’m under the impression are internet friends.  I love friends!

That’s all for now.  I’m off to continue playing Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure on my pink DS, because secretly I’m nine years old.

The n00biest n00b, and a tea review.

May 17, 2010 - 4:53 am 2 Comments

You guys, you guys.

I just figured out how to reply to comments.

I will now reply to you.  I promise.

I won’t, however, be replying to ALL past comments (well, the ones that I would have, at any rate), just ones I receive from now on.  Okay.  Now tea.

I’m house sitting for my grandmother through next week, and I have discovered she has a cupboard full of wonderful-sounding teas.  The one which first caught my eye was Duchess-brand Peach Apricot Pure Ceylon tea.   I am a big fan of Republic of Tea’s Ceylons, and I thought this might be similar to the mango Ceylon that they carry (yes, I am aware that mangoes, apricots, and peaches are all entirely different fruit; it was just the only thing I had to compare to).

It was not.  I let it steep for about 4 minutes, added one teaspoon of sugar and one teaspoon of honey.  It was terribly, terribly bland, which was not what I was expecting, since the color was so dark and the smell upon opening the can was so rich, and, well, peachy.  All I could figure to do was add a little more sugar, and when I did, all I tasted was sugar.  Honestly, Lipton’s little tea bag peach tea was better than this (admittedly, I think Lipton has very good teas, but they’re not very adventurous, and yes, they are a little bland unless you let them steep a good while).

I had never heard of Duchess Teas before, and after this, probably won’t go out of my way to find anymore.

If you’ve had a different experience with them, let me know! In the comments! Which I now know how to reply to!

On a final note, a few hours ago I started reading Brock Clark’s (what a name) An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England.  I’m about a third of the way through, and if I have my way (read: if I don’t fall asleep on the couch) I’ll comment on it, and the final book in Christopher Paolini’s final book in the Inheritance trilogy, sometime tomorrow or Wednesday.