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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tips and Tricks: The Indian Grocer

This is my first post and video for my new series "Tips and Tricks".  Today's tip is to explore your local ethnic grocery stores.  Specifically, for this post, I'm going to talk about the Indian Grocer.

About 9 years ago, I was introduced to a local Indian Grocery Store.  I was lucky enough to have a friend along who knew what was what and who acted as our personal guide.  I have been buying some of my spices there ever since.

I mainly stop by the Indian Grocer for Whole Cumin Seeds.  I use cumin a lot and I have found that by purchasing it this way, I not only save money but also get a lot more bang for my buck!

Here's the video:

Do you shop at a local ethnic grocer?  What types of things do you buy there?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.  Also, please do let me know if you enjoy these types of posts and videos!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tasting: Japanese Snack Pack

I have made no secret of the fact that I have been absolutely inspired by the YouTube Channel "EmmymadeinJapan" - and I submit as evidence, Article One Recipe Review: Gyoza.  This post and companion video must then be submitted as Article Two, I suppose.

Not long after viewing Emmy's Gyoza video, I watched Emmy Eats a Japanese Snack Pack.  Emmy has since made a least one additional Japanese Snack Pack Video.  This video really made me curious and excited to try some Japanese snacks and one day when I was placing an order for some cookie cutters I decided to throw in one of these packs to try for myself.

Here is the particular pack I purchased:

The fact that almost all of the labeling is in Japanese characters and that what little I could read in English was still unrecognizable to me added to the fun and adventure in trying these products out.  I was so excited when it all arrived!

There were 6 snacks inside...

This Big Katsu bar was the first snack I tried.  I realize now, that I should have made the connection to Chicken Katsu - apparently Katsu refers to the breading.

This next snack had a really interesting texture - now that I think about it post video, I guess I would describe it as being a sugary toast-like snack.  It definitely had a flavor and texture of lightly toasted bread...

My favorites in the whole pack were these rice crackers...

and these tube shaped, cheesy snacks...

I won't list all each individual snack here, you can watch the video to learn more about it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  Have you ever tried a snack pack?  What do you like to snack on?  Do you know what any of these are and where I can get more of my favorites?  Also, please do let me know if you like these types of posts and videos by leaving a comment, liking the video and subscribing or following the Channel or this Blog.

Thanks and Ciao!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Casual Entertaining: Pulled Pork

Whether I'm gaming, crafting or just hanging out with friends and family, food is almost always included in the plans of the day.  I live out in the toolies, just close enough to civilization to be convenient and just far enough from civilization to be peaceful.  But this means guests are often on the road for an hour or more to get to my home for any kind of get together so a meal time is involved 99% of the time.

We're a pretty casual couple (big surprise being from Seattle, the casual capitol, right?) and we prefer meals to be casual as well.  We're big on having our guests make themselves at home and paper plates not an unusual occurrence - after all, who wants to worry about dishes when you can be visiting...or crafting... or gaming?  I ask you, who?!

Pulled Pork is an excellent recipe for casual entertaining.  I love foods that are versatile and Pulled Pork is definitely versatile.  You can pile it on a bun or roll with some BBQ sauce and some slaw for an excellent sandwich or use it as a topping for a baked potato.  (I like mine with pepper jack cheese, pulled pork, bbq sauce, bacon, scallions or chives and sour cream - YUM!)  It can be used as a topping for nachos or a filling for a quesadilla, wrap or burrito. See what I mean?  Versatile!

The best part about recipes like this one is you put a little effort into it at the beginning and then you can set it and forget it.

I used a pork shoulder for this, and started the night before - liberally applying a dry rub then wrapping it up tightly and placing it in the fridge until morning.  In the morning, I removed it from the fridge and let it sit on the counter about 30 minutes - all the major chefs will tell you this is an important step in cooking animal proteins, assuring the meat will retain moisture.  Preheat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat and sear the roast on all sides.

Once fully seared remove the roast to your crockpot or dutch oven and deglaze the pan.  Beer, apple cider, chicken stock and water will all work fine.  Just add 1/2 to 1 cup liquid and scrape all the lovely browned bits from the bottom of the pan and let it come to a boil.  Then turn off the heat and pour the liquid over the roast in your crockpot.  Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.  The roast should be fork tender and falling apart, if not, keep cooking it for another hour and check it again.

Remove it to a shallow bowl and allow it to cool a bit.  It's easiest to pull it apart with your hands, but if it's still too hot to handle you can use a couple of forks to do the job.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Quick Fix: Lemon-Pinoli Rice Pilaf

This Lemon-Pinoli (Pine Nut) Rice Pilaf is a great way to use up leftover rice.  It comes together super-quick and is really delicious.  The lemon gives the rice some brightness and makes it perfect for pairing with fish or chicken while the Pinoli, or Pine Nuts, add a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.  I threw in some parmesan cheese, which added another dimension of nutty flavor to the mix.  This dish will work with any rice you have on hand and you can add any fresh herbs you like to marry it to your main dish.

Here's the link to the video:

Here's the recipe:

2 TBLS pine nuts*, toasted
2 Cups cooked rice
1 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 Cup parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 tsp dill* (fresh would be really lovely, I used dried because that's what I had on hand)
salt to taste

Start by toasting the pine nuts over low heat in a skillet.  Remove the Pinoli from the pan and set them aside once they are toasted to a golden brown.

Increase heat to medium high and add olive oil - allow it all to heat up a bit.  Add rice, stirring in to break up any clumps.  Stir in dill, lemon juice and salt (to taste).  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Let it hang out for about 5 minutes, until heated through.  Turn off heat.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and pine nuts.  Stir to combine and serve hot.    

*Note: you can reserve a few pine nuts and some dill (if you are using fresh) if you like, to use as a garnish.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Quick Fix: Sandwich Night Part 1

Some nights you just don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen - even when you love to cook.  I'm sure I'm not the alone either, in spending my commute home trying to figure out what to make for dinner because I forgot to think ahead (please, please say I'm not alone on this).

That's exactly how I ended up making this lovely and delicious Turkey, Provolone and Spinach on a Pretzel Bun Sandwich for dinner recently.  Sandwich Night is the perfect answer to quick week night meals - especially as the weather warms up and we are ready for less rich foods.

This Sandwich was hot, crispy with lovely, melted Provolone cheese and piled high with peppery deli Turkey.  What really put this sandwich over the top, besides the pretzel bun and melting everything in my toaster oven, and besides the fact that it took 15 minutes or less to make, was The Mayo.  No, seriously, it was The Mayo!

I took regular old, every day, spread-it-on-your-sandwiches-put-it-in-your-tuna-salad mayo and elevated it in moments by adding a few, simple ingredients.  Lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt  and pepper.  Yes, it was that simple.

I just spooned a couple of large spoonfuls (soup spoon size) into a small bowl.  Grated in the zest of about half a lemon.  Squeezed in the juice of half of that same lemon.  Then sprinkled in some Garlic Powder, a pinch of salt and a healthy sprinkling of pepper.  Mix it up thoroughly, then spread it on the top and bottom of your split pretzel rolls.

Place a slice of provolone on the bottom slice of the roll and top that with your favorite deli turkey (I used pepper crusted turkey), put another slice of Provolone on top and top it with the other half of the roll.  Wrap in foil and bake for 10 minutes in a 400 degree toaster oven or conventional oven. Remove it from the oven, unwrap it and open it up.  Add a handful of baby spinach leaves to each sandwich, place the top back on and enjoy with your favorite beverage!