A fresh new year

It's been quite a while since I've posted to this blog; forgive me followers, I've been remiss. A lot has happened, but perhaps the most significant life change has been that I moved to NYC. The siren calls of the West Coast lure me back now and then, but for now, home is NYC.

A friend asked me which city, in my humble opinion, had a better food scene: NYC or SF? Oy, that's like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. I'm an equal opportunity eater, so I'll answer...Paris!

Paris?! Yes, that's my convenient sidestep to the bi-coastal question and an even more convenient segue  into a recent trip I made to Paris. The Japanese use the term "Paris Syndrome" to describe feelings of intense disappointment or disillusionment from visiting Paris -- that the city somehow didn't live up to their expectations (you know, how it's like in the movies). My own experience can be summarized by what I'll refer to as the "Paris Withdrawal Syndrome"; I long for Paris with every bite of a dry baguette,  imposter macaron, or kitschy bistro I find on the streets of NYC.

And now, without further adieu, the food photos:

A Breton crepe

A humble, yet exquisitely prepared omelette

A Nutella palmier - why? Because everything tastes better with Nutella.

A spread in my hotel, foraged from the streets of La Marais.

C'est magnifique - all of it! I can't wait to go back to Paris.


Recipe #33: Smores bars

Smores bars are exactly what they sound like - smores in bar form. It's intense, to say the least - graham cracker crust, a chocolate chip cookie-dough like concoction as the middle layer (with the addition of mini marshmallows), topped by Hershey's chocolate squares.

I brought it over to my friend's house, thinking it would go over pretty well with her adorable kids. It did. Her little girl's exact words to me were, "Can you bring this every time you come over?" I'd say that's a ringing endorsement. I wasn't a huge fan of it, but it'll definitely stay in my recipe book for sheer popularity factor (adults raved about it too, when I brought the leftovers to work the next day).

Edits to the recipe: 5 oz of graham crackers isn't enough to cover the pan. Omit the sugar, too - why add more sugar to the crust, when the rest of the recipe contains a lot of sugar? 4 ladles.


Recipe #32: Apricot oat bars

I have little respect for Giada de Laurentiis - mostly because she really plays up her overt sexuality on her cooking show. Because we all need to wear a plunging shirt to cook a lasagna, right? (Insert groan and rolling of eyes). Nevertheless, I found myself watching an episode where she was making these apricot oat bars, and I was compelled to give them a try.

A few tweaks: I reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup, used lower-sugar apricot jam, and doubled the number of apricots.

3.5 ladles: I wasn't thrilled with the result, but my co-workers really seemed to like it. I think this would be better with a different kind of jam - maybe strawberry rhubarb - with chunks of fresh strawberry in it. Might have to experiment with it further.


Recipe #31: Whole wheat sweet potato muffins

One of my favorite sites is foodgawker.com. I love looking at the pretty photos and usually find a number of recipes I want to try out. The site makes me realize the following:
A) there are a lot of dedicated home cooks out there
B) there are a lot of dedicated home cooks who blog
C) my blog really pales in comparison, especially my photos
D) how on earth do some of these people claim to have full-time jobs?!

I really wish I had more time to devote to my blog, but...I don't. When I look at the professional quality photos, I'm envious, but realize those people take this whole food blogging thing way more seriously than I do -- I simply want to share things with my friends.

Anyways, the reason why I mention Foodgawker is because I come across really interesting blogs and recipes. Like this one -- for whole wheat sweet potato muffins, by some bodybuilder named Becky. I definitely wouldn't have come across her blog since I have zero interest in body building, but...I was looking for something easy to make with some cans of organic sweet potato that I had laying around.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, though I added a splash of vanilla extract and a pinch of nutmeg.

Here they are:

I'd give them 3.5 ladles. Pros: Moist, easy to make. Cons: Not too much flavor, and can definitely taste the wheat flour. Considering it doesn't have too much sugar or oil, this isn't a bad recipe if you feel like healthy muffins.


Recipe #30: Chicken adobo

Recipes, like just about everything else, require good writing. I discovered this when I tried out a recipe for chicken adobo recently. Having grown up with many Filipinos, I love Filipino food. I've always wanted to try my hand at a few Filipino recipes, but never had the nerve to (you know when something is so good, you know you won't replicate it as well)? Well, I had very little in my fridge but I really wanted to get dinner on the table. So, I dug up this recipe for chicken adobo. While it seemed easy enough, the directions were lousy.

I can often look at a recipe and tell if it'll turn out well, or if it's missing something critical. That was definitely the case here -- I mean, how good can something taste if the only main ingredients are large amounts of soy sauce and white vinegar? So I adapted the recipe by adding thinly sliced onions; a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar to cut the saltiness of the soy sauce; water; and crushed red peppers. The end result was very tasty and very easy dish that came together in minutes (bonus points for not having to run to the grocery store). I served it with some rice and flash sauteed garlic spinach.

I have to say that I was really happy with my first attempt at chicken adobo. I might try it with pork next time. I'll also have to ask E. for her mother-in-law's recipe for chicken adobo, since she's a Filipina and an amazing cook.


Recipe #29: Vegan crepes

I could never survive as a vegan. Life without butter and cheese...I can't continue.

I really wanted to make crepes last weekend, because R. loves them! But, I didn't have any eggs (this is when my friend E.'s chicken coop could really come in handy), and I didn't want to buy an entire carton right before leaving on vacation. So, I looked up an eggless crepe recipe and came up with a vegan one.

It. Was. Disgusting. 0 ladles. Why? The batter was so thick and lumpy that I actually put it into my blender and blended it until it was a little smoother. Bad batter = bad crepes. Here, it doesn't look so bad, right?

But despite only using a little bit of batter, the crepe was still too thick. And the end result was a very gummy, thick, pasty round of dough. Cue the pizza delivery.


How to cut a pineapple

A friend recently confessed that she had no idea how to cut a pineapple. I assured her it was easy, and always worthwhile to cut your own pineapple (instead of buying pre-cut slices at the store).
Here's a brief picture tutorial:

Make sure you have a sharp, hefty knife and a stable cutting board (put a damp cloth under your board so that it doesn't move around).

Cut off both ends, top and bottom.

Cut into the sides, putting your knife at the top and working it to the bottom (follow the curve of the pineapple).

Here's how it should appear:

Next, cut it in half, and lay both halves (cut side down) on the board:

Cut each half into 4 pieces, vertically:

Now, take each sliver, lay it on its side and cut the tough, woody part off at an angle:

Final step: cut into bite-size chunks. You're done!

See? Easy.