Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Warm-Your-Belly Drinks

Starbucks has the red cups out, people are wrapping themselves up in non-hipsterish scarves and we've finally had our first winter storm in the area. We're officially in snuggle season as we finish our reserves of Halloween candy, get out the down jackets, turn on the heaters and begin to nest. I like to stand about three inches directly in front of the fireplace during the autumn and winter. You can find me there toasting my butt most of the day when I'm at home rather than just wrapped in a blanket on the couch. In fact, I am there now.

As you are prepared to wrap yourselves in wool and shut yourselves in for the season, cozy up to a warm beverage that's different from your normal latte or Swiss Miss hot chocolate packet routine. Ditch the powder and drink something real that warms your belly. Here's a list of my picks along with simple recipes. The first few are sans alcohol and the rest of the recipes are cocktail-rific:

Spiced Cider
This is incredibly easy to make and your house will smell like autumn. Making it yourself on your stovetop is oodles and oodles more fabulous than those icky sugary spiced cider packets. Hit up a local farmer's market for fresh cider and you'll thank me.

Vietnamese Coffee
You can drink it iced during the summer and hot during the winter. It's perfect. It's how I started drinking coffee in the first place. This recipe is for a perfect, step-by-step fancy version; just simply skip adding ice. Otherwise, all you need to do is flavor your espresso with sweetened condensed milk.

I mean real tea. Loose leaf tea like the hippies drink. When's the last time you took a few minutes to heat water in a teapot and steep tea that doesn't come in little paper packets stapled to a cute little paper tag? Did you even know you're supposed to heat water to different temperatures for different teas? Buy some fine tea - like jasmine tea, some vanilla rooibos, or some really good earl grey like you're Captain Jean Luc Picard and make it correctly like it's a ritual. You'll relax and thank me later.

Mexican Hot Chocolate
Ever since we tried this chili, cinnamon, chocolate stuff, our hearts have gone pitter patter. The recipe I listed is pretty involved but if you want to cheat, I highly recommend the Theo chocolate drinking chocolate. The chili warms your tummy from the inside out.

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate
WHAT? Yes, you can drink the equivalent of a Reese's peanut butter cup. No, you can't microwave a peanut butter cup with some milk for the same thing. However, you can be an extra fatty by topping a cup with some whipped cream and crumbled peanut butter cup. You're welcome.

Hot buttered rum (or lemonade)
Hot buttered rum is one of my favorite cold-weather drinks of all time. It's satisfyingly rich, not too sweet and warms your belly with rum! For a non alcoholic version, add some fresh lemon juice instead of rum and it's a hot buttered lemonade. But seriously, who doesn't want rum? Substitute brandy or whiskey if you're out of spiced rum. If you want the premade batter, Harvey's is the best and not because it has a demented-looking bunny on the package.

Mulled Wine
Black Walnut Manhattan
It's just winter's sangria, right? Bring some to a party instead of the usual obligatory bottle of wine and your friends will love you.

Tom and Jerry
This is not drinking a cartoon cat and mouse but if you happened to have a Tom & Jerry mug, you could be super hipsterish when you drink this fabulous cocktail.

Hot Toddy
A hot toddy is for folks who prefer whiskey and think a hot buttered rum is too rich and sweet. This warm drink is brighter and zippier than a hot buttered rum.

Black Walnut Manhattan
A Manhattan seems like a winter-appropriate cocktail but a dash of black walnut liqueur adds an autumn or winter earthiness improving upon the standard.

Winter is Coming
Nick's favorite drink of all time was enjoyed at Art of the Table in Wallingford for a SRW many moons ago. Tons of "Winter is Coming" drinks abound but this one takes the cake. We only have a dark, grainy photo of the description but it contains rye, Fernet, Cocchi Di Torino (a vermouth with a moscato base), lemon & chili bitters. Report back if you get the proportions right.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ultimate Noms: Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookie

COOKIE!!! Ahnomnomnomnom!

This cookie is courtesy of Momofuku Milk Bar. It has the same sort of sweet, crunchy, salty blend of flavors as the infamous Crack Pie. This is one of those cookies that will become your next obsession and they are even better when you microwave them for a few seconds to heat them up before noshing. This will be you, munching on the cookies:

 An important component of the cookie to make first is the cornflake crunch. Let me tell you, this stuff is like crack - or at least what I imagine the addictiveness of crack to be. It's a tasty salty/sugary/buttery snack unto itself. I've eaten so much of it on hand and had to stop myself for fear of not having enough to bake the cookies.

The recipe is here. Important recipe notes:
  • Do make a ton of cornflake crunch in advance but beware its addictiveness. Mix lots and lots of this and have some on hand for extra snacking.
  • Beating the egg and vanilla along with the butter and sugar for 7-8 minutes is an important step. You can even beat the butter and sugar for longer than that.
  • Do not flatten the cookie dough rounds like the recipe says. You really do need to separate the cookies on the baking sheet by 2-3 inches or so. They might be nice flattened mounds when they go in the oven, but they spread generously while baking.
  • It says to refrigerate the cookies on parchment sheets for at least an hour before baking. I highly recommend keeping them in the icebox for an hour or two or perhaps overnight. The very first batch we made spread like crazy and burned slightly after only baking in the oven for 10 minutes which is half the suggested baking time. If you're baking and swapping out cookie sheets in and out of the oven, put the sheets back in the fridge or freezer before you put the raw dough rounds on to bake. If you put the cookies on warm or still-hot cookie sheets, they will spread or burn.
  • I find that using an 1/4 cup measure for the dough is a better cookie size than 1/3 cup. You get more cookies and can bake 9 cookies per sheet.
  • After 7-8 minutes, keep the oven light on and keep your eye on the oven. I don't care what the recipe says; none of our cookie batches have taken 18-20 minutes to bake at 375 degrees. They are temperamental. They take between 10 to 14 minutes to bake if you use the 1/3 cup measure and 8-10 if you use the 1/4 cup measure. If you don't bake them enough, they will crumble and fall apart. Bake them too much and they will be a little too hard.
The dough itself is pretty irresistible as well.  

The cookies spread a lot while baking. This batch is probably a tad on the overdone side. This cookie is tough to bake correctly!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wait... What Happened to Restaurant Week?

Pretty much what you're going to eat
It's Seattle Restaurant Week. So why haven't you seen tweets, photos and Facebook updates about Nick and I gorging ourselves on fancy bits and pieces? Why hadn't you received a giant Excel spreadsheet with spots and dates to sign up for a new restaurant you've been dying to try? WHYYYY?

Nick and I have been going to SRW and writing about it twice a year ever since we started dating (except when we ate our way through Vietnam). Each time, we had gone to at least four or five different spots, sometimes more. But we mutually decided to skip it this time around and instead explore some new restaurants the old-fashioned way - by paying the regular price. So why have we decided to eschew the popular event this time around?
  1. Nothing new to see here. There weren't a lot of new restaurants to try on the list. Nick and I use SRW as an opportunity to try new places or revisit a spot we haven't been to in a while. Many of the new restaurants listed were from familiar chefs like Maria Hine's Italian spot, Agrodolce. We've already frequented Tilth and Golden Beetle. We've already reveled in the sake slushy from Tanakasan.
  2. You're not even trying. With the exception of a few notable places like Poppy or Art of the Table, many of the restaurants sort of phone it in. A lot of the SRW menus are almost the same across the board and restaurants often feel forced to participate in this two-week event. So they offer a bisque, an apple fennel salad or a beet salad with pumpkin seeds or a roulade of some sort as a first course, usually a roast chicken or lamb, a seasonal pasta or risotto along with a seared cod or trout as course number two and pretty uninspired crème brulee, a chocolate cake, or a seasonal crisp and house-made gelato as the dessert. Remember our complaint about the spaghetti o's sauce from Cicchetti? It's banquet food for the most part. It may be executed well, but it's nothing to write home about. Guess what you're having to eat at our wedding? It's not like we can knock your socks off at that either.
  3. Service sucks sometimes. Once you mention you are there for restaurant week, many times you get lackluster service because servers think you are not "real diners". Again, this isn't true across the board and we've enjoyed lovely service at some of the best places but many places are overbooked and understaffed so guess who's going to be a tad cranky or absent?
  4. I could have bought two GTA V's with that money. It's not really that inexpensive. Plus, you are packing in the calories. Every time we go to restaurant week, we feel the need to eat like kings. We share bottles of wine or delicious cocktails with our friends and clean our plates. Multiply that by 4-7 times over two weeks and you realized you overindulged way too many times. When Nick and I go out for a nice dinner, we'll typically share an appetizer (if at all) and each have an entrée. We both tend not to drink during the week. That means (sans tax and tip), we'll have spent $8 + $16 + $18 = $42. If we happened to each have a glass of wine say me a glass of bubbles and Nick a house cab, then it's now $8 + 16 + $18 + $6 + $9 = $57. However, make it restaurant week and we go hog wild. Let's say I'm driving home so I'll have a fabulous cocktail. Nick will have two. We aren't having a rum and coke or an IPA because their seasonal cocktails are probably amazing, like Art of the Table's Winter is Coming which was Nick's favorite SRW cocktail of all time. This is now $28 +28 + $10 + $12 + $12 = $90. Let's talk tax and tip now. For a normal date night, we have 10% tax and a 20% tip which means $57 is now $74.1. For SRW, $90 becomes $117. That's nearly a $43 difference and is about a third more expensive than a typical night out when we both drink. It's twice as expensive as the nights out when we don't drink. Plus, I'm not a dieter or anything but it's a huge difference when you split an appetizer or a dessert with friends or another person than when you're eating all of the food by yourself.
  5. We are lazy busy. It's a lot of work to do research, make a ton of reservations and wrangle a gaggle of pals. We have a wedding to plan and things to do this time around.
If you are going to Seattle Restaurant Week this autumn, let me suggest trying to get a table at some of our favorites who never let us down for SRW:
Or take an opportunity to go against the grain and try a new restaurant that isn't doing SRW. More on that later...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mexican-Inspired Potsickers and Queso

I invented a monstrously delicious dumpling during cook club: the Mexican potsticker. It's like a more refined version of the Totino's cheesy taco pizza roll or a potsticker with a burrito/taco filling. As classy as I'd like to think I am, I've kept it real by dipping it queso. Sure, you can dip it in guacamole and salsa but the queso is a winner.

Here's how it went down:

Dumpling wrapper dough:

Feel free to use store-bought wonton or potsticker wrappers. No one will think less of you. If you are ambitious, make your own dough:
  • 2 qt AP flour
  • 1/2 cup cilantro and green onion puree (or anything you'd like to puree)
  • 2 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp salt
To make a puree, you just need to throw in a bunch of stuff in a food processor with a little water. A bunch of cilantro and some chopped green onions should work fine in a food processor.
Mix all dry ingredients together first, then add water.
Knead until the dough is smooth and add flour as you roll out in long sheets with a pasta maker. You can cut it up into squares or use a biscuit or cookie cutter to cut rounds.

Dumpling Filling:
  • 2 cups ground beef, pork or beef substitute
  • Spices - chipotle powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder or taco seasoning - all to taste
  • 1 can refried black beans
  • 1 small diced onion
  • 4-5 diced radishes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • Chopped cilantro to taste
  • Diced green onion to taste
For veg people, using soyrizo is great. It's already spicy so you don't need to add very much additional spices.
Sautee the onion until soft, then cook the meat. Season it to your liking with Mexican spices and feel free to add your choice of hot sauce. If you have taco seasoning, you can use it as a shortcut.
Add the refried black beans and cook through.
Let the mixture cool or feel free to refrigerate until you want to complete your cooking. It's easy to prep the filling early.
Mix in the diced radishes, cotija cheese, cilantro and green onion. Some people dislike cilantro or a lot of green onion so taste the filling.

Fill the dumplings and pan sear to cook it. If your wrapper is thick or if your filling was really cold, pour a tablespoon of water into the pan and cover the pan with a lid after searing it on one side.


Use whatever queso recipe makes you happy. I found this recipe for queso blanco but couldn't find white American cheese at the two stores I went to. I modified the recipe by using good old Velveeta along with white mild cheddar instead since the Velveeta melts and blends so well. I also dumped it into a crock pot which kept the queso melted and warm.

Monday, October 7, 2013

New Seattle Brunch Spots to Try

Brunch can be legend...wait-for-it...dary. There is something very American about going to brunch, stuffing your face early in the day and not eating again until the evening. Like Ted Mosby and Marshall Ericson, we adore brunch. Just don't go alone.

Unlike folks in Portland and San Francisco, we Seattleites are desperate for the first cup of coffee and loathe waiting in line for brunch. We've been hitting up new or not-new-but-different brunch spots in Seattle and here are some picks for spots you should try as an alternative to the standards or the long lines. Trust us. They are tasty.  

This spot boasts a gorgeous open space with plenty of natural light, reclaimed wood and Pacific Northwest-y nature photos; just the space alone makes you fall in love with the restaurant. The menu has a little something to please everyone including melt-in-your-mouth caramelized apple ricotta beignets with a vanilla anglaise, rich shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, wild mushroom scrambles and eggs benedict.


If you want elegant portions and artful food to share, this is your jam. Assemble a table of small plates, tasty egg dishes, veggie sides and share with a group of your best pals over spicy bloody marys. And yes, the breakfast cocktails are delicious here.


Why have you not enjoyed Joule's awesome brunch dishes and even more amazing cold buffet yet? GO STUFF YOUR FACE THERE NOW! I'm salivating just thinking about the amazing Asian-inspired dishes starting with black sesame waffle and chicken fried steak reminiscent of chicken katsu and shrimp and grits with Chinese sausage. But they have an amazing themed buffet that includes an assortment of cheese, house-made crackers, seasonal salads, pickles, danishes and pound cakes. Bring your eating pants or wear a muumuu to hit this brunch hard.

TNT Taqueria

We don't have a Torchy's and it's sad. However, this place is perfectly acceptable when you're craving breakfast tacos heaped with delicious chorizo or papas dulces and kale or an assortment of yummy things smothered in any number of salsas - even an extra spicy habanero radish salsa. Bonus are the rich horchata lattes.
Mushrooms and eggs - yummy!

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Ramen Burger: The Closest You'll Get to Feeling like Jabba the Hutt

Whoa oh oh oh. Ahahahaha. Yes, that was the Jabba-esque chuckle I made when I sat down at the counter in front of a homemade ramen burger. It's the fad food monstrosity that's come into being in the wake of the cronut and other strange food mashups, birthed in none other than Brooklyn. Unlike the cronut, it's easy (albeit time-consuming) to make in your own kitchen and I just had to have one.

I was lazy. I didn't get out of my yoga pants all day long - a day which was devoted to watching Breaking Bad, some reruns of Top Chef and the Huskies beat down Arizona while a monsoon raged on outside. It was a perfect day to be gluttonous when all I needed to do was walk to the corner market for a few packets of Top Ramen and some burgers. I used Mashable's recipe as a guide and here's how I made this delicious gut bomb:

Ingredients (serves one)
  • One packet of top ramen 
  • A hamburger patty of your choice - painted hills beef for Nick and a veggie quinoa patty for me
  • 1 egg
  • Cooking oil
  • Toppings of your choice. Here is what I used:
    • Greens - Mashable used arugula but I used a baby swiss chard, spinach and baby kale mix
    • Sliced green onions
    • Shallots
    • Ketchup
    • Wasabi Mayo
    • Sriracha
    • Tomato
    • Avocado
    • Soy sauce
1. Cook the Top Ramen according to directions and drain the noodles. Rinse noodles in cool water and let it cool. I did NOT use the seasoning packet but in hindsight, I recommend either using the seasoning packet or seasoning the ramen with some salt and pepper when you form the buns. Otherwise, the ramen is slightly bland.

Don't overcook it. It's nice when it's al dente.
2. Beat the egg and mix throughly into the ramen. If you didn't season the noodles yet, now would be the time to do it.

I beat two eggs for two servings here.
The egg is a binder so the bun stays together.
3. Make the ramen buns. Find bowls with flat bottoms that are bun-sized. Oil the bottom of the bowls and add half of the noodle mixture to each of the bowls. Press the mixture gently into the bottoms of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

You can spray the bottom half of a bowl with cooking spray.
4. Ensure the noodles are pressed evenly and add a weight to the top of ramen like a heavy mug, ramekin or can. Refrigerate for half an hour. 
Don't let the noodles spill up from the weight too much - even it out.
5. After half an hour, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Remove the weight and plastic wrap and invert the bowl over the skillet to remove the ramen. Using a spatula, move any stray noodles back into place so it retains its circular shape.

The noodles don't absorb much oil - it's not too greasy.
6. Pan fry for 4-5 minutes until golden brown on one side. Flip and cook for 3-4 minutes longer until seared on the other side. Remove and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. If you're making a lot of buns, you can keep them warm in an oven at a low temperature while you finish cooking the rest.
Watch the temperature and turn it down if the noodles have burnt spots.
7. As a ramen bun is cooking, heat oil in another pan. Cook the shallots until translucent and add in the green onion. Saute until onions are softened and shallots are slightly browned. Set aside. 

8. Cook the hamburger patty. I added some soy sauce to season ours but season to your liking.

9. Assemble the burger. I put sriracha and ketchup to one of the buns and wasabi mayo to the other. I topped my burger with the green onion and shallots along with some sliced avocado, tomato and greens. However, the veggie burger has a thinner patty so you can add more toppings whereas Nick had to remove the tomato from his in order to bite in. The ramen bun is a bit dry so I do recommend condiments and textural contrast like avocado or sauteed mushrooms. I think a fried egg would have been awesome.
My veggie burger & toppings
10. Enjoy! Have some Tums or Pepcid handy.

The ramen burger is a crunchy, gluttonous and savory not-meant-in-nature combination that makes you a little ashamed to enjoy in public. Something about it feels slightly wrong and deliciously right. However, it was a complete gut bomb. I've been known to down an entire plate of Matador nachos by myself and I've indulged in Red Mill onion rings, double-fried kennebec frites and tatchos. However, the last few bites of burger were a bit difficult and I pretty much passed out a couple of hours later on the couch while trying to watch some more college football. I woke up with a food hangover the next day. I haven't eaten ramen or that much processed modified starch in years and it hit me like a crunchy truck. 

Beware the ramen burger. Eat with caution. Rub your belly and chuckle like Jabba.


Monday, September 16, 2013

If You Left Home, What Food Would You Miss?

Salmon with basil sauce, beets, blueberries and a baguette from Boat Street.
If fortunes took you away from your hometown, perhaps away from your geographical region (the US West Coast for me) or even away from your home country, what kinds of foods would you miss? What restaurants would you like to visit when you ventured back during a holiday?
A few of my friends' lives and careers have taken them abroad and the types of foods or specific restaurants that they crave have become very apparent. The overwhelming culinary request is for Mexican food when friends go abroad and come home to the US. For the majority of the US, Mexican food is fairly common and may have distinct regional variations. Texans will miss Tex Mex, SoCal natives will miss street tacos while Bay Area fans might miss sloppy mission-style burritos and so on. My friends will ask for Mexican food, even if it's a pile of chips and salsa or a mess of carne asada. Regardless, Mexican food has yet to make a giant culinary impact around the world in the way Italian food or pizza has. My friends in Europe crave it as their mouths water at the smells of tacos al pastor and my pals from Asia will lap up guacamole like it's water.
My friend Skye is happy with her Serious Pie.
Here are the top requests from friends who move abroad and miss the culinary delights Seattle has to offer:
Halibut tacos from La Carta de Oaxaca
  1. Salmon. Let's face it, Atlantic salmon is just not the same. I don't care if Europeans love their Norwegian smoked salmon but proper Pacific Northwest salmon tastes different. Also, the easy access to Alaskan halibut, Dungeness crab, Puget Sound oysters and such help make the Pacific Northwest a seafood mecca. But feels like home more than a perfectly cooked and simple filet of salmon.
  2. Mexican food. Unless my friends relocate to Latin America or elsewhere in the states, the resounding requests are always for good Mexican food. My pals are eager to hit up La Carta de Oaxaca or El Camion or even the Matador happy hour. My friends in Taiwan tell me that there are two Mexican joins in Taipei run by America expats and some friends in London say that efforts have been made to try to bring Mexican food to the UK. Nonetheless, there probably isn't going to be lengua, mole, posole or Tapatio outside of the western hemisphere.
  3. Burgers. The kinds with American toppings, oozy cheese and tater tots or French fries on the side. I know what you're thinking... they have burgers everywhere! There are burgers in Europe, burgers in Asia and sometimes they come with excellent toppings like fried eggs or weird sauces and alternative buns. But Americans are attached to their burgers - whether it's a simple Dick's Deluxe or the Red Mill Val Verde burger dripping with jack cheese and spicy with roasted poblano if you are from Seattle.
  4. American-style barbecue. Barbecue purists might be in shock, but any regional variation will do once you've been abroad. Don't get me wrong - ethnic barbecue may be one of the best things you can possibly experience while traveling such as Vietnamese barbecue, Korean barbecue, anything roasted on a spit in South America, etc. My friends still want a Texas-style brisket or rack of ribs with KC sauce when they are home.
  5. Asian food unless you're in Asia or on the West Coast. Sweet and sour chicken and soggy noodles drenched in soy sauce is available just about anywhere. But access to a variety of Asian standards from very fresh and authentic sushi to Korean soondooboo spicy soup, northern pho is severely lacking when you're in the Midwestern US, smalltown Canada or most areas of Europe. My friends who have relocated to Asia pretty much avoid this cuisine like the plague when they visit since they can get cheaper fare overseas but friends who have spent too much time in the bowels of Europe make a beeline for pho when at home.
  6. Northwest mash ups. Northwest-y food has its own flair that is hard to pinpoint. A lot of it is fusion cuisine or features use of local or unusual ingredients. Friends who hit up an Ethan Stowell or Tom Douglas joint know that there is a little added something that kicks those restaurants up a notch from being strictly authentic to Italian, Greek or Japanese food, depending on the spot. Revel and Joule impart Korean and Asian flavors and Northwest ingredients to refined dishes and Duke's features distinct chowders and seafood that differs from seafood anywhere else. It's comforting to Seattle natives.  
What would you miss if you left home?

Serious Pie is serious business

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Rule of Cook Club... Enjoy Dumplings!

The first rule of cook club is to brag to everyone about the awesome things you're cooking. The second rule is to have a fun time cooking and eating what you've cooked with your friends.

My pal Michele had emailed out a list of cooking classes a local restaurant was offering and asked if we wanted to join in. I realized that Nick and I already knew how to cook many of the things that the classes were offering: pasta, ramen, dumplings, etc. Why not invite friends over to cook something together rather than spending $75-$100 on a cooking class? Each friend contributes some ingredients, a snack, some beverages and you've got yourselves a cooking party. Best idea ever.

We decided to make dumplings which ended up being a delicious idea. We made three different kinds of dumplings: an Indian-inspired chickpea ricotta dumpling, a Vietnamese-inspired shrimp dumpling and my own creation of Mexican-ish dumpling. We started making the dough and prepping the filling as we noshed on crackers, cheese, dip, drank wine and gossiped. Upon hearing the loud and obnoxious girl talk, Nick buried himself in some HBO Hard Knocks, far away from us ladies.

However, the recipes for the dough were rather watery so it ended up taking a long time to mix enough flour, knead it, let the dough rest and knead it to the proper consistency so the glutens set up properly. Nick usually makes the dough while I tend to the filling and the cooking of the dumplings. A watery dough is actually good because once you make pasta or dumpling dough, you can add flour to dry out the dough but you can't add more water. A dough that is too dry must be scrapped and you need to start all over again. At this point, I had to appeal to Nick for assistance to help make the dough and roll it out because it was too wet.

Due to the dough fiasco, our chitchat and our own inability to stay on task, it wasn't until 9pm before we actually were cooking, wrapping and eating the dumplings and they were fantastic! We boiled the shrimp dumplings which were chewy and delicious like dim sum and we pan seared the rest of the dumplings. The Mexican dumplings were surprisingly amazing and Nick noted that they tasted like fancier and Mexican versions of those Totino's Pizza rolls. We dipped them in salsa but we're going to make them another time and serve them with queso. Nothing beats making your own fusion cuisine that turns out well.

I can't wait for the next cook club!

We enjoyed leftover dumplings at the summit of Mt. St. Helens!
The recipes for dumplings and wrappers are listed on our Revel dumpling class blog. Here are some recipe notes:


I followed the recipes for the ricotta chickpea and shrimp fillings. Taste the chickpea mixture and season it well with salt and pepper. Our first batch was a tad bland until we seasoned it more. For the Mexican dumpling, I mixed refried black beans, soyrizo (or spicy chorizo or ground pork works), green onions, cilantro and minced radish for crunch. I've also made stuffing and turkey dumplings dipped in gravy for Thanksgiving. Feel free to improvise.


When you make the dough, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a little well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the water. Mix it with a spoon and add a little more flour until it's combined and smooth. Flour a wooden board and dump out the dough. Knead the dough until smooth, adding more flour if the mixture is too soft or watery. When you knead the ball of dough, turn it 90 degrees each time so you're folding it over in different areas.

Once you're done kneading, wrap a cloth or plastic wrap around the ball of dough and let it set for 20 minutes to half an hour for the gluten bonds to be right. When you finish kneading, if you poke at the dough, you should leave a little hole/deep finger print that stays in the dough. After 30 minutes when it's set, when you poke the dough, it should spring back halfway.

Resting dough
Roll it out in a pasta roller or pasta rolling attachment to a stand mixer on the widest setting. Each time you roll it out, fold the dough into thirds like an envelope fold.

1. Lay out rolled dough
2. Fold a third over in the middle
3. Fold the other third over
Each time you feed it into the roller, rotate the dough's orientation 90 degrees. This means sometimes you will feed the dough fold-first into the roller and the next time you fill feed the dough packet with the folds facing left and right, like in the photo above.

You will lacquer the dough by continuing to fold it up, roll it out and fold it again. Once it's completely smooth, you can simply decrease the thickness and roll it out until you have a long stretch of dough to cut. You can cut the dough into dumpling wrapper squares or circles if you have a cookie or biscuit cutter.

Rolled dough, ready to just be rolled out thinner

You can prepare the dumplings a few different ways. You can boil the dumplings and scoop them out once they float, ravioli-style. You can pan sear them, which is one of my favorite ways of serving them. You can also deep fry them to a golden brown which works best if you have a deep fryer.

Make sure you have enough flour and don't stack the dumplings or they will stick together. It's best to cook them right away after wrapping them.

Wrapping shrimp dumplings into round packets for boiling
Pan-seared dumplings potsticker-style
  • Mix soy sauce or tamari with a dash of sesame oil and sriracha for a dip for the shrimp dumpling.
  • Serve the ricotta chickpea dumpling with an Indian fruit chutney.
  • Dip the Mexican dumplings in salsa... or if you're in love with Velveeta and cheese sauce, queso.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Homemade Granola... It's Not So Granola After All

Nick and I have been hiking nearly every weekend to get in tip top shape to tackle Mount Saint Helens. While the vast majority of the hikes have us down and back in a matter of hours without needing much more than water, we've been tackling more difficult hikes that might require a break at the summit and a few more calories. If you're like me, you may have an overabundance of rolled oats, nuts and dried fruit laying around in the pantry that seem to never go away. Why not make granola?

It's not as difficult and hippie as it may seem. Granola is super easy to make, even for the baking-challenged. It's an incredibly simple and delicious way to get rid of excess oats, raisins, nuts, dried cranberries, coconut and even the extra 1/4 cup of chocolate chips that you have laying around in a plastic baggie and managed not to consume during a late-night, sweet tooth binge.

Here is a great basic recipe that you can use with stuff you may have laying around the house:

However, you don't need to follow this recipe exactly as long as you have the proportional measurements right. I replaced the cashews with peanuts and pecans, nixed the coconut and sprinkled in cinnamon and nutmeg. In addition to raisins, I added dried apples to make an apple crisp granola. You can take an basic granola or granola bar recipe and make it your own with leftover bits of baking stuff around the kitchen, which I somehow seem to magically accumulate.

I'll be enjoying some of my homemade granola plain and on top of a mountain, but you can eat it as cereal or sprinkle some on top of yogurt or oatmeal.... either on top of a mountain or in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Did the Chicken Have Friends?

Some pretty & yummy produce from the QA Farmer's Market
Delicious and exotic smells waft from trucks off in the distance. You amble closer to be delighted (and perhaps slightly annoyed) at the giggling children running around underfoot. You come across to a neat row of white shelters containing rows of rainbow-colored produce, freshly baked bread and pastries, homemade jars of jam and fresh pasta. Everyone around you is happy and unusually chatty for a more reserved Seattle. Somehow a farmer's market can make change your mood and make you instantly happy.

I'm a huge advocate of perusing your local neighborhood farmer's market - and it's not just because you want to make sure your chicken was free-range, organically and vegetarian-fed and had plenty of happy chicken friends. Here's why:

1. You eat with the season. Eating seasonally is healthier for you in many ways. Apparently eating crops grown during the right growing seasons help the produce present more nutrients than those not grown during the appropriate season. Since the product was from local farms, the produce was harvested closer to its peak freshness which helps make it yummier and more nutritious. Also, local produce has less of a carbon footprint which means it didn't pollute the planet more on its way in a truck from Peru.

2. You try vegetables and things you might not otherwise cook with. Last week I saw interesting produce like lemon cucumbers, two different varieties of kohlrabi, cute clumps of romanesco and garlic shoots and flowers. This isn't stuff you would find at your corner Safeway and you can expand your palate by trying it. If you don't know how to prepare some of the unusual produce, you can ask! The folks who work there always have recipes and recommendations of how to use their product. Aside from fresh vegetables and fruit, some market butchers have unusual cuts of meat, fresh fish, artisan cheese and breads that you might not normally encounter. Markets can help you eat adventurously without getting beyond your comfort zone too much.

Colorful and awesome things!
3. You get to meet local farmers, bakers, artisans, musicians and awesome people. You learn so much about the produce, products and farms which brings you closer to what you eat. It's nice to know that the purple potatoes and kale you bought were grown in Fall City - only 15 minutes away from your office at Microsoft in Redmond. Plus, you know that they were grown from a small family farm rather than a giant industrial conglomerate. The chicken and speckled eggs you purchased were from happy chickens that roamed freely and were chased by toddlers and bumbling puppies rather than put in impossibly tiny cages in a stressed environment. It's nice to meet your neighbors and realize that one of them bakes specialty pies at the market from a recipe handed down to her from her great aunt. We ate Mexican food on the grass the other day and realized that the small acoustic band was performing great covers of 80's and 90's hits. My pal Beth commented that had I not already figured out my wedding music already, they would be a great option for a band during the cocktail hour. Meeting these wonderful people not only connects you to the food you eat and cook, but also introduces you to wonderful people whom you can support.

A bunch of rainbow carrots & romanesco I purchased
4. The food trucks and vendors use market ingredients. Many of the food trucks and stands selling tacos, Indian rice bowls, grilled cheese sandwiches, falafel and pizza utilize the fresh ingredients found from the market. Have you ever tried a quesadilla brimming with kale, fresh squash, beets, peppers and onions? It's AWESOME. I can't exactly go to Qdoba and get the same, can I?

5. You get to dine al fresco for cheap. Most farmer's market fare is reasonably priced and is delicious. I think it's super fun to hand Nick a $20 bill and tell him to bring us back with something tasty to eat and drink. He comes back with something mouth-wateringly yummy, brimming with market ingredients and often oozing with cheese, along with fresh lemonade. There is always change... just in case we feel like sharing some ice cream for the walk home.

Nachos from Los Agaves. Oh so much yum.
Check out where and when your local farmer's market is and go to it with an open mind and a hungry stomach.

What's in season right now?

Washington Farmer's Market Association:

Seattle Farmer's Markets:

Our local market!

Roasted ginger carrots, roasted romanesco and an heirloom tomato gratin - served with meatballs. The only thing not from the market were the meatballs.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shunning Restaurants or Giving Feedback

My friends think I'm a bit harsh sometimes but there are a handful of restaurants that are "dead to me." Perhaps I am really silly and childish for shunning restaurants but I don't do this lightly. I only decide never to dine at a spot again when my experience has been so terrible, I cannot in good faith support the establishment any further. Here are a few things to think about before writing off a restaurant - or just being rude:

1. Give restaurants the benefit of the doubt. I am pretty patient; sometimes restaurants are new and they need to work out some operational kinks and sometimes they are busier than normal. I don't know if a line cook suddenly came down with the flu at the last minute or a place is lacking an expediter that day. If you dine at a place with great service, more often than not, the server will give you a status check and mention that the kitchen is running behind or apologize for a late order. If not, you're entitled to ask for a status update on a late item. Most servers are sweet about it.

2. Speak up rather than passively aggressively seethe in annoyance. Give feedback politely when it is warranted. However, always think about things from a restaurant's or server's perspective before lashing out. Ask yourself, "Is this really worth complaining about? Or am I just super hangry?"
I tend to keep my opinions to myself, but Nick is very good at providing constructive feedback to the server. When a server checks in on us with a, "How is everything?" Nick may kindly mention, "Well, this salmon is perfectly cooked and it's delicious. However, you might want to mention to the chef that there still are some big bones in the fish. Not a big deal - just thought he should know." Usually, the server apologizes and asks if we'd like something else, comps the offending entrée or provides a discount. We do not ask places to take a dish back unless something is inedible or undercooked.

3. If you have an egregious issue that a server cannot handle (or perhaps the problem is the server), politely bring it up with the manager. Never demand anything; the best question is to ask the manager, "I have this problem. What can you do?" Managers usually figure out how to make things better for you in a way that can appease you. But be fair! Your whole meal shouldn't be comped just because an entrée was lukewarm or because an appetizer was too late.

4. Don't provide a negative Yelp (or other) review about the service until you do those things. It's not fair to flame a restaurant when they've had no chance to try to explain a situation or make you happy. You can definitely critique the food in a fair way but a one star review for a poor parking situation, slightly slow service or a trite issue makes reviews useless. Also, you should never use a review or a blog as a threat to a manager to give you free things.

The reason why I have shunned a few spots in the past is because I had such terrible and disappointing experiences that could not have been improved and because quite frankly, there are so many awesome restaurants in Seattle, skipping a few won't kill me. If you hate a place, you never need to go back. Perhaps all of this seems like common sense but Seattle folks are really good at being passive aggressive.

So why have I shunned places at all?  One Belltown Mexican spot was so terrible, my friend almost got into a physical altercation with a manager and our poor server was in tears from the situation. I'm happy to say that the restaurant has since closed down. Another restaurant provided abysmal and slow service which was almost forgivable until they decided to give the last piece of a dessert I ordered to a local celebrity chef who was dining there - and then proceeded to tell me about it! The last I have shunned since prom because prom is supposed to be a special lovely night for a group of well-behaved teenagers. Despite making reservations well over a month in advance, the restaurant screwed the whole thing up and provided us such poor service, the diners next to us noticed and commented. My date ended up stealing a tall pepper mill to exact some revenge. I guess my restaurant grudges last a long time. But with age comes maturity and my friends and I no longer steal from restaurants when we're unhappy. :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Best Vegetarian Dishes and Restaurants

Meat-eating haters can hate but going veg doesn't mean you're growing out dreadlocks and growing your own hemp and wheatgrass. Plus, even some of my most carnivorous pals have to admit that eating less meat can be good for you. Seattle is a super vegetarian and vegan-friendly town; even our steakhouses like El Gaucho can make a killer mushroom risotto. But after years of being a semi-vegetarian in a vegetarian family, I think I'm pretty qualified to make a list of what to eat and where to eat. My velociraptor meat-eating pals can even enjoy the food at these spots.

Best place for bún bò Huế: Moonlight Café
Sure, it's definitely a dirty hole in the wall with sticky seats but if you're craving Vietnamese, this is the spot for you. They offer both a meat-loving and vegetarian/vegan menu and their soups are top notch - like the vegetarian bún bò Huế. Their rice dishes, salads and summer rolls are amazing as well. An added bonus is that it's super inexpensive. One of my carnivorous pals loves it, craves it and suggests it as a lunch often almost every time we see him.

Best all-around bistro: Café Flora
This place has stuck around for years because it is really good and meets the "I don't crave meat afterwards" bar. It's not a hippie, earthy, shoot-me-in-the-head-I-need-real-food type of place; it's a place for vegetarians and vegans to go when they miss some dishes few vegetarian spots have. Their French dip and Portobello wellington are winners and they often have these artichoke cakes that are perfect for folks who miss crab cakes.

Best Magic Dragon Substitute: Bamboo Garden
Admit it. We all crave that not-found-in-nature and not-really-Chinese orangey-red sweet and sour chicken every once in a while. Bamboo Garden's is top notch and served with pineapple and bell peppers. They have other delicious dishes and stir fries; try the smoky, sizzling smoked salmon with black bean sauce (it's not anything close to smoked salmon but it's yummy), the chili pepper fried bean curd if you like fried soft tofu, the tofu skin hot pot in peanut satay sauce, almond fried chicken or the sautéed eel (really great mushroom). This lower Queen Anne spot has its own parking lot which is always a plus in Seattle and for my extra crazy friends, everything on the menu is vegan except for the fortune cookie.

Best quickie: Veggie Grill
Imagine my delight when I realized that I could get spicy buffalo wings with a side of ranch and celery. This fast-ish food joint is delicious and super nutritious with tasty "All Hail Kale" salad with blackened chickin (yes, that has an I and not an E), a chicken fried chickin dinner plate with gravy and cauli-mashed potatoes and other yummy snacks like crispy sweet potato fries. Avoid the school lunch-looking vegan and gluten-free mac and cheese because it's as disgusting and horrifyingly orange as that gluey school lunch mac and cheese. Unless of course, you're craving that.

Best weird-looking vegan mac and cheese: Plum Bistro
Plum Bistro is a vegan newcomer and it's amazing for those of us who don't indulge in the magic of cheese and dairy. Unlike Veggie Grill, their "mac n yease" is fantastic, even though it looks like a yellow, weird, chunky oily mess. Somehow when you eat it, it has a great texture. They also have a wealth of other delicious and fake-steaky dishes targeted at vegans who miss their meat.

Best seasonal "whatever the hell I feel like" menu: Sutra
Sutra's dining experience is a little on the slow side since they only do one or two seatings a day and you enjoy a reasonably priced multiple-course meal. The menu changes every couple of weeks and is hyper-local, seasonal, as organic as possible, entirely vegan and therefore super fresh and healthy. This place is definitely a tad on the earthy-hippie side and not a restaurant you'd stop by all of the time. However, it's worth a try when you're feeling like you want to eat something that tastes fresh of the garden and is uniquely prepared or if you think you need your aura cleansed.

Best watering hole with a side of pinball: Georgetown Liquor Company
I drank at this place several times before I tried the food and realized it was a vegetarian spot. It's a quirky bar with pinball, Donkey Kong, classic video game consoles and a ton of personality. Who'd have thought that they could serve up tasty sandwiches and enchiladas chock-full of fake beef?

Best "my meat-eating friends order it" burger: The Innkeeper
This Belltown joint has amazing guac and chips for everyone and super delicious pulled pork tacos for the meat-eaters. But I've been searching for the best veggie burger in town that has a generous patty (rather than those thin, crappy disks), a texture that doesn't crumble and fall apart with each bite and a patty that isn't just oats and hemp and crap because no one likes that shizznat; this place is it. I have no idea what they put in it but I don't care because it's ridiculously good, especially with a side of their veggie green chili. Every time I order it, a newbie asks me if it's really a veggie burger and then the next time, they order it. And order it and order it.

Best "say what?" BBQ: RoRo's
Vegetarian barbecue? WTF? Yes. Not a joke. RoRo's makes some pretty tasty barbecue in general but it's a place a vegetarian can get behind with their smoky pulled Portobello sandwich along with sides like cornbread, fantastic Seattle succotash and tangy, vinegary coleslaw. Sure, they only have one vegetarian main but most BBQ joints would like to shoot and serve up a vegetarian rather than offer a barbecue dish but this one is delish!

The Seattle Met's Nosh Pit also listed some of their fave spots. Check them out here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Introducing the family to my fancy food nonsense: wd~50

My family is well aware of my penchant for great restaurants and fancy food but I don't often get to share the experience with them. When I'm with my parents, usually one of us cooks and we spend happy times cooking, prepping and eating together in the kitchen. Not everyone gets their mom to make them bún bò Huế but I do!

In December, I went to NYC with my parents and my brother to check out the city during Christmastime and to celebrate my brother finishing up his master's degree. I happily made reservations in one of my favorite foodie towns to introduce the fam to the food experiences I love.

It's been a while so I don't exactly remember what we ate at those places and some of the dishes are the family's vegetarian options. My mom did take home a menu at wd~50 but I don't have possession of it. I asked my family if they had wanted to partake in a tasting menu, knowing that this would be a special experience. To my delight, my family agreed to pulling out all of the stops there or as my dad enthusiastically exclaimed, "Let's go for it!"

Here's a photographic journey of an incredible meal.

A hamachi nigiri starter

The vegetarian starter

Sweet shrimp with chesnut, cranberry and these delightful, slightly crispy straws.

Cheese puffs... not sure what the rest is but I remembered the puffs were great!

Soup with caviar

This was awesome. I think it was mackerel with carrots.

My family's vegetarian option

Tender, delicious octopus baked with risotto

I also don't know what this is since it was the vegetarian option...

Crab toast with mint. It was crunchy and light.

Black bass with Asian flavors and root vegetables 

Vegetables, mushrooms & parsnip puree for my vegetarian family
Fish version of the dish for me!

Braised vegetables with these cheese puffs

No idea what this was... I see bok choy.

This was a palate cleanser but perhaps one of our favorite dishes of the night! A sorbet was hidden below a frozen cucumber disk. It was reminiscent of a refreshing pie in sorbet form.

A fluffy ice milk meringue and fruit presented like a fruit tart with nut crumbles.

S'mores! Recognizable but utterly and delicously different.

It was a memorable, enjoyable experience. My mother, who normally doesn't drink even had a little wine!  We had a lot of fun and I can still taste the food in my memories. Thanks Wylie!