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Doughnut Day 2014

5 Jun

It’s The Salvation Army that gets a big thanks for coming up with one of our more scrumptious food holidays – National Doughnut Day – to honor the people who served donuts to soldiers during World War I.  Every first Friday of June, we get to celebrate the good works and good taste of the men and women volunteers who helped out during the First World War.

This ring-shaped humble treat is easily maligned by diet gurus, when it’s nothing but a fried and sweetened dough, big on calories and character because one can do so much with donuts.  When it comes to getting creative with donuts, we like to make sandwiches with ours.  An easy one for us is a peanut butter and bacon donut.  A PB and B donut sandwich!

Donut Sandwich - Donut Day 2014

Donut shops usually get in the spirit of this food holiday and two popular national donut franchises: Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme will be offering free donuts.  The promotional page for Krispy Kreme currently says June 7th (maybe someone will change it) so you might want to check with your choice of Krispy Kreme location first before you go in expecting a free donut.

I think donuts are dangerous to make at home and we also have our trusted donut shop so we have no need to make our own.  There are tons of good donut recipes out there and I wish I have a personal one to share.  If you’re looking for an easy one, here’s a donut recipe that’s REAL SIMPLE (wink!).

Happy Doughnut Day!

Crown & Anchor

8 Jan

Last stop for my and my girlfriend, Jess’, second year of Holiday chow and chat circuit.  This is what goes down during our get together: we eat, we catch up, we eat, we talk about science topics, we eat, we talk smack about ginger guys, and we eat and talk some more.  Thus, it’s only fitting that we ended up in a pub to end the evening.

Crown & Anchor claims to have been voted “#1 Pub in Monterey County”.  Monterey County has 29 cities and census-designated places, with only a small number of actual pubs, so being #1 is an easy feat.

Crown & Anchor

The bar was packed and so we found ourselves in the dining area of the pub.  The décor is dark, heavy, and overly decorated for the Holidays.  Crown & Anchor feels like a “man cave” restaurant with the man going overboard and overly macho.  Having lived, studied, and visited various cities in England, I consequently have patronized several pubs so I know that a British pub should feel like a casual hangout place, not a cultured macho man’s lair where whiskey flows like a fountain and smoke from fine Cuban cigars covers the room like a heavy cloak.

The service was friendly and courteous.  Our server knew what he was doing and his social skills are not too shabby.  He did not belong in a pub.  Even if the pub is the “#1 Pub in Monterey County”.  So to our server, “GERIC”, if by some unlikely probability that you’re reading this review, take this advice: get your polite self in a fancy joint.

inside Crown & Anchor

Dinner was okay.  The appetizers we chose were edible and fit for a bar (how else can I make my sarcasm known), but I don’t think they should be standard for the “#1 Pub in Monterey County” (ah, yes).  I wish I tried the pub foods but I already felt stuffed.  At least, we walked out with leftovers.

shrimp ceviche

The shrimp ceviche had puny shrimps.  I’ve made ceviche before and I was not stingy with the size of the shrimps.  Maybe if the ceviche was my first meal of the evening, I’d have done less grumbling but given everything else before this, well…

spicy wings

Spicy wings…  Pass.  It was too acidic for my taste.  The cook who made it got a little too happy with the vinegar.

Mussels in a Spicy Curried Sauce

This has got to be the saltiest mussel dish I’ve ever tasted and also the first time that the curry spices of a dish were hard to taste, and being that it’s called Mussels in a Spicy Curried Sauce, the curry should have been obvious.

What would make me return to Crown & Anchor?  My verdict is that I shan’t be returning any time in the future, unless a VIP in my life asks to go to the “#1 Pub in Monterey County” to which I would roll my eyes and go along to make her/him happy… even if it makes me unhappy.

Crown & Anchor on Urbanspoon

Popcorn Indiana Kettlecorn

17 Dec

What makes popcorn so popular during the holidays?  I have no idea – from Harry & David’s moose munch to a slew of all things popcorn at The Popcorn Factory (where else, eh?), popcorn is a part of holiday traditions.  If you’ve received popcorn holiday tins for a gift, then you understand.  I’m surprise that we don’t leave a bowl of popcorn for Santa instead.

I like popcorn but I like it even more when it’s kettlecorn; so it takes serious discipline for me to avoid the kettlecorn booth at farmers’ markets.  But it’s the holidays… so indulgence is in and discipline is still sort of in but not totally.

Popcorn Indiana Kettlecorn

Whole Foods in Redmond has Popcorn Indiana on sale for 2 for $5 until 12/25.  So if you’re like me and other sweetened popcorn lovers out there, then this sweet deal is for you.  I don’t know if Whole Foods in other cities have the same sale, but why not check it out?  All the bags have the Whole Trade Guarantee seal so by buying the product, you’re supporting a program that promotes “quality, premium price to the producer, better wages and working conditions, and the environment”.  It’s a feel-good buy.  How you’ll feel about all the calories after your indulgence is another subject.

Love the sound of popcorn kernels popping?  Go here.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

A Thanksgiving Story

25 Nov

Weeks before the grandiose day of cooking and eating we all know in the US as “Thanksgiving Day”, I made very strong requests to The Hubby that we order a Thanksgiving meal instead of making the turkey and trimmings ourselves.  I knew he wasn’t enthusiastic about my idea and so gave constrained answers.  But after last year when we pulled an Iron Chef Thanksgiving and cooked everything on the day of, I was ready to throw in the towel and not ever enter the Thanksgiving meal cooking foray ever.  Never ever.

One week plus away from Thanksgiving, I was chatting on the phone with a girlfriend, whom I dotingly call “Meet” (because she reminds me of “Geet” a character played by my fave Bollywood actress), to set up a get-together when we got into the topic of turkey day.  Maybe it’s the spirits of Thanksgiving past, present, and future that got to me but I unexpectedly invited our family friends to join us for a meal that I’ve been promising myself all year not to cook.  My initial reaction was one of dread and I wondered what I got myself into; but Meet’s excitement was contagious and within three days of Thanksgiving, I found myself looking forward to the meal… the opposite of how I felt last year.

To accommodate Ayaan, one of our special visitors (who will be turning one this December), we timed the meal for lunch instead of dinner.  Ayaan is Meet and Ajay’s handsome little boy who has been a Prince Charming since when we first met him less than a year ago.

Please baby girls, please… pipe down the screaming.  Yes, I know he’d make a great prince to your princess selves, but he’s not even a year old yet.  Give him and yourselves a few years.  He still needs to gain several feet and complete his set of teeth.  He also needs to learn how to uncork a bottle of red.  Or white.  You know what I’m sayin’.  To the Bollywood agents out there scouting for a cute baby, feel free to get in touch with me.  This boy could be the next Shahid Kapoor.

As Ayaan’s first Thanksgiving, I wanted to make our Thanksgiving meal extra special by bumping up the veggie side dishes.  On our menu for the big day were: glazed carrots, French beans with bacon, embutido, sautéed mushrooms, sausage and bread dressing, mashed red potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the mega star roast turkey.

I have two winners for favorite sides.  Last year, my side winner was the dinner rolls.  This year, the award for yummiest sides go to: glazed carrots and French beans with bacon.  My dinner partners could disagree all they want, and that would be all right with me since there’s only one room for judge and I’m it. [smiles]

As for the turkey, The Hubby and I were more than satisfied with how it turned out: juicy, moist, and tasty.  All that glistening goodness you see on the photo is not due to Photoshop.  Finger-lickin’ good can now be used to describe this bird that’s usually known for being dry.

Dessert went just as wonderfully as the main course.  We made pumpkin mousse, pumpkin pie, and mashed sweet potato.  Ajay and Meet made berry cobbler pie, brownies, and chocolate raspberry cake.  While Noel, our friend Mike’s comely lady made his favorite dessert: éclair squares.  The lovebirds joined us later in the day for a casual dessert potluck since they were busy doing great things by volunteering at a Seattle shelter earlier in the day.

When our friends left, I couldn’t pull myself away from the brownies, sweet potato, éclair squares, and more turkey.  How I didn’t end up with heartburn from all the Thanksgiving goodies, I have to chalk up to good genetics.  Thank you parents and ancestors.  And since it’s not Thanksgiving without giving thanks to all my loved ones and friends, here’s an acknowledgment to all you superb folks… to my family, thank you for being fabulous; to The Hubby, thank you for being supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; to my gal pals and dude friends, thank you for being da bomb.  To my dear readers, a humongous thanks for visiting my blog and checking out the entries!

Now that the cooking fiasco and the gluttonous eating sessions are over, I look forward to no food shopping for a few weeks.

HERE’S TO THE HOLIDAYS! CHEERS!

Kourambiedes

31 Dec

There’s nothing like celebrating a holiday, like ringing in the New Year, with a favorite baked good.  As a Greek food fanatic, meeting Elena (squished with five other girls in a London phone booth pictured below) during grad school in London was like meeting Lady Luck and being handed one of my favorite cookies… in a literal sense since Elena actually shared the kourambiedes (also spelled as kourambiethes) to all her friends at Ifor Evans, our residence hall.  After Hammad and I returned from Heathrow (he was an awesome friend who took the time to pick me up from the airport), Elena presented two pieces of what was left of a previously filled tray of cookies to each of us.  She was very thoughtful and saved what was left of the kourambiedes for us.

I first learned of kourambiedes from a cookbook I discovered when I was an undergrad.  I knew I’d love kourambiedes before I even made it from just reading the recipe and learning that the end product is a light cookie dusted with powdered sugar.  That was enough of a hook for me.  Though really, the cookie had me at brandy.  Somewhere in my disorganized room at my parents’ is the recipe; although possible to find, it’d be improbable to find it within hours.  Maybe even days.  Given that I have a Greek friend whose mother knows of the traditional recipe, I figure it’d be a great experience to learn it.  Elena graciously came through with a recipe that made me happier than a kid on Christmas morning.

We had a few back-and-forth Q&A email sessions regarding the ingredients.  Specifically, an alternative to lye and the type of vanilla used.  We concluded that baking soda can fill in for lye and that vanilla powder, if available, should be used instead of vanilla extract.  Elena mentioned that it isn’t a significant ingredient and that’s a good point since vanilla powder is expensive to come by.  The Hubby found the flavoring in Whole Foods but the price was steep as it was $11 for 1.1oz of it.  Needless to say that it was a frivolous buy.

Here’s an edited version of the recipe.  I converted the metric system units to US customary units and also included the ingredient changes Elena and I discussed.  Also, it’s good to keep in mind that if cognac isn’t readily available,  brandy makes a fine substitute.

Kourambiedes

2.2 lbs (roughly 8 1/2 sticks) butter
2 eggs
5 tsp granulated sugar
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cognac (or brandy)
Vanilla powder, 1 tbs (optional)
Almonds (as many that can fit in 1 1/2 cups)
4.4 lbs (9 1/3 cups) flour
2.2 lbs (4 2/3 cups) of powdered sugar

Preheat oven at 355˚F. Beat the butter and the granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl, until it’s evenly mixed and creamy. Add the eggs and continue beating. Combine well.  Add the cognac.  Carefully add the vanilla powder, almonds, flour, and baking soda. Beat the mixture after adding each ingredient.  Not all of the flour may be needed, only add enough flour so that the dough is moist and not dry, almost a putty-like texture.  Shape the dough into round or half-moon shaped kourambiedes and bake them for approximately 15 minutes.  Cover the the kourambiedes with powdered sugar while they’re still hot.  Smile and serve.

The Hubby and I had a good time making the kourambiedes together, and eating them separately.  I’m not much of a cookie monster unless the cookie is kourambiedes, so tonight The Hubby has competition.

Elena, dear friend, Ευχαριστούμε.  To everyone, a Happy New Year!  May everyone’s New Year be filled with all things good and yummy.