Posts Tagged ‘food’

Happy Passover

Seder Plate

Wednesday and Thursday, I went to two very different, but fun Passover Seders. The first one was at my aunt and uncle’s house. There were about 50 people there, and they always use a custom-made haggadah written by a friend, which has lots of funny asides. There were lots of young kids there, who did most of the reading, though I did take my turn, too.

Mom and Dad showing off their Carpas (greens/parsley)

Mom and Dad showing off their Carpas (greens/parsley)

Suzie and Danny were in town, and Michelle got back the next day, in time for the Thursday-night seder at my parents’ house. It was a much smaller affair, of just 8 people, but that’s still more than enough to have a successful seder. We had some new family friends over with their two young children, who were absolutely adorable, and they sang songs for us and had a blast running back and forth from the door, opening it for Elijah and checking out his cup to see the wine level was any lower.

My mom made her fantastic matzo ball soup, haroset and matzo farfel along with asparagus, latkes and other passover dishes. She also baked two cakes, and our friends brought over matzo candy — a delicious combo of matzo, chocolate, caramel and almonds. Yum!

Playing with Silly Putty (btw, this picture was taken by a 4-year-old!)

Playing with Silly Putty (btw, this picture was taken by a 4-year-old!)

We also played with Silly Putty, which was one of the Afikomen prizes for the kids. It was much more fun than just giving out cash and worked well since we were a small group. We took a bunch of funny photos, and I managed to get orange Silly Putty all over my iPhone case. That stuff sure sticks! I think I’ve finally scraped it all off.

Thanks, Mom, and everyone else who had a part in cooking all that food, setting all those tables and bringing everyone together.

Check out some more of my Passover photos on Facebook.

Playing a Little Catchup: News and Reviews

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I figured I should do a quick catch-up for anyone who feels they’re missing out. Things have been busy over here in the past few weeks, so there’s plenty to catch up on.

One of Evan's first pictures of Pittsburgh

One of Evan's first pictures of Pittsburgh

The biggest change is that Evan took a job that will bring him to Pittsburgh for 3 months. This pales in comparison to leaving for Budapest nearly two years ago, back in the time when I didn’t even know exactly how long we’d be apart, but it’s still a bit sad for me and it will be an adjustment. He just left this morning — on a 6 a.m. flight — and I’m going to be heading out for my first visit April 22.

Evan also just launched a new site about assistant editing and Avid tips and tricks. It looks really professional and clean and already has tons of useful information.

Though this week was busy workwise and I’ve also started a design class at UCLA Extension, there were some fun events leading up to Evan’s departure, like playing with his cousin’s new King Charles Cavalier puppies (so adorable!), seeing a movie and going out to eat. Here are some of the highlights.

villageidiotWe went to The Village Idiot twice. Once to check it out before deciding to have Evan’ going away shindig there (I’d been there, he hadn’t), and the second time was for his party. This gastropub, which is unusual for LA, offers interesting dishes — I had a beet and horseradish greens salad, acorn squash risotto and ginger bread budding with Guinness gelato (amazingly delicious and different) — a nice wine and beer list, and a fun atmosphere. The wallpaper in the back rooms is covered in stags, and as we found out, it gets quite crowded on a Friday night, so if you want to enjoy your food, have dinner there earlier in the week.

The goodbye party was a nice gathering of lots of friends. It was tough to get to talk to everyone and the room was realy bustling, but we were there until closing time, enjoying the company and the beer.

We also went to eat at the Gardens of Taxco, which we’ve been meaning to try out for months. This Mexican restaurant is quite the experience. With no menus — just a choice of meats and veggies for your five-course meal read off by an animated, showboaty waiter — you’re surprised at every step along the way of your dinner. And it just makes ordering that much easier. We had quesadillas with delicious quacamole, soup, tacos and enchiladas, and Evan had carne asada while I had a chile relleno and a zucchini taco, along with rice and beans, of course. There were also the requisite chips and salsa, as well as some pickled vegetables. I was also serenaded by the guitar player, singing a very sweet song Evan requested.

We were surprised to find that the restaurant doesn’t serve hard alcohol, which meant no margaritas, but they make their own guava-wine margaritas. It wasn’t a perfect replacement, but they were pretty tasty — and they come by the liter! (We shared, of course).

For Evan’s last day in town, we went to the park and played some frisbee. I have very little talent when it comes to throwing or catching things, or sports in general, but I’ve been improving. Then we ran some errands and went to dinner. Evan didn’t want anything too stuffy, so we headed over to the Panini Cafe. As we were walking toward the restaurant, I had the strangest sense of deja vu, and then it hit me — this is the last place we ate before he left for Budapest. Strange that it was completely unintentional. When he was leaving for Budapest, we went for lunch with his grandparents; this time we went for dinner on our own. We like the place, with its relatively quick service and tasty sandwiches, salads and kabobs. I just couldn’t believe we were really back there again, in nearly the same situation.

I’ll try to post a bit more regularly, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to talk about after my first trip to Pittsburgh and to Syracuse (we should be heading up there the weekend I’m in town). After 2 and a half years, I’ll finally see Evan’s hometown. I think it’s about time for that. And I’ll finally get to check out the ever-mysterious Wegman’s.

If you have any recommendations for things to do or places to eat in Pittsburgh, we’d love to hear them.

Light and Fluffy Yogurt Pancakes

This morning, Evan and I wanted some pancakes for breakfast, but we realized we didn’t have any milk. I wasn’t sure if water would be a good replacement, since most of the pancake recipes I saw that used water also used baking powder, which we don’t have right now. I searched a bit more online but got frustrated by the many variations which didn’t quite work with what I had in my kitchen. Then turned to my trusty “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman, which I always use for crepe recipes.

It has a great section on pancakes, and one recipe is a cottage cheese and sour cream pancake recipe, which sounded intriguing. It also says plain yogurt is a fine replacement for sour cream. I still wasn’t sure what I had would work since I had to modify the recipe, using vanilla yogurt instead of plain, and no cottage cheese, but the pancakes turned out marvelously well — sweet and fluffy and wonderfully light. We didn’t even need any syrup or butter to top them off.

My modified recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups vanilla yogurt
  • .5 cups water
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Directions

  1. Mix together the yogurt, water and egg yolks, then add in the flour, baking soda and sugar.
  2. Whisk the egg whites until they form peaks, then fold them into the batter very gently, leaving lots of egg white still visible.
  3. Heat some butter or oil in a pan or on a skillet, over medium-high heat. Spoon the batter into the pan in heaping tablespoons, making sure to get some of the egg whites in each spoonful. Flip pancakes when they are bubbling on top and browned on the bottom, and brown the other side.
  4. Serve immediately. They’re fluffiest when right out of the pan.

We tried a few batches with chocolate chips, but liked the plain ones better. They were really different from the standard egg, flour and milk pancakes, and had a more souffle-like texture. And these pancakes were so decadent, nobody would have ever known they were made with nonfat yogurt. We could have probably even done without the sugar since the yogurt was already sweet. We ate most of them plain or with a little powdered sugar on top.

The recipe makes enough for 3-4 people, so we had some leftovers. They’re going pretty fast, though. Maybe we’ll try them again for Pancake Day — it’s this Tuesday!

Have Extra Cream? Make Butter!

I was having a slow night tonight. Evan’s out of town, as are a lot of other friends, and I was just relaxing at home along. I started perusing my Google Reader items, and came across a post on Lifehacker that caught my eye: Make Your Own Homemade Butter. It didn’t give instructions, but I was intrigued, so I followed their link to Slashfood, then looked up some more detailed instructions on Instructables. The project was perfect for me–I even had leftover cream from some soup I made that only needed a quarter of a cup, so I pulled out the blender and got to work.

All I needed was the cream–I had half to three-quarters of a cup; a mixer (apparently a stand mixer makes it go faster, but I only have a hand mixer); a spatula; and some very cold water (not pictured, but I put some ice in my Brita). I also used a bit of sea salt to flavor the butter at the end. Check out how pretty the butter turned out!

To start, beat the cream for about 10 minutes. It will start to get foamy, turn into whipped cream, and then start to thicken even more. Then, it will start to separate into buttery bits and buttermilk. You want to make sure the buttery bits are nice and thick, and the buttermilk quite watery, then just use the spatula to gather the butter bits into a blob and pour off the buttermilk.You can save it and use it for cooking apparently (I didn’t since I don’t think I’d use it right now).

It will look sort of chunky, and it will need to be cleaned with some cold water. Pour a bit of water into the bowl, and beat the butter on low with the mixer for 10 or so seconds. Gather the butter together in the bowl and pour off the water. Repeat this cleaning process until the water doesn’t get cloudy when beaten. It took me 3 times.

Then just take your butter, pack it all together, and mix in some salt if you’d like. Put it in a dish, a mold, a jar… however you’d like to keep it, and enjoy! I tried mine out on some toast. And I even found a real butter knife. Buttery!

Quick and Deilicious: Lemon Chocolate Chip Cake


Lemon chocolate chip cake without frosting

My mom’s lemon chocolate chip cake has been one of my favorites since I was a kid. The combination of lemon and chocolate go perfectly together, and my mom seems to always have a supply of cake mix on hand. It’s become one of Evan’s favorite cakes, too, so when faced with the prospect of bringing dessert to a friend’s house tonight, it was easy for us to settle on this tasty cake. I don’t know where my mom got her recipe, since she’s had it memorized for ages, but last night she wrote down the recipe and helped us out. Using a Cuisinart, we were able to mix all the ingredients together in about five minutes — the time it took the oven to heat up. I imagine mixing by hand would work just fine, only take a little longer.

Ingredients

  • 1 box Duncan Hines lemon cake mix (you can try other brands, but Mom says DH has the best lemon cake)
  • 1 box Lemon Jell-O Instant Pudding mix
  • 0.5 cups oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips — about 1 to 1.5 cups, though you can really add as many as you’d like

Directions

Using a Cuisinart, start by blending the dry cake and pudding mixes. Add the oil and blend, then slowly add in the water. Mix in the four eggs until everything is well blended, then add the chocolate chips and mix them in. Pour the batter into a greased cake pan — we use a tall one with a hole in the middle. Bake in a preheated oven, if using convection, bake at 325 degrees, if just baking, bake at 350 degrees. Check the cake after 45 minutes and test to see if a cake tester comes out mostly dry. If not, bake another 5 minutes and retest. Our cake last night took 50 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes.

The cake tastes great on its own, but it looks much prettier with a coat of chocolate frosting. Also, the chocolate chips tend to sink to the bottom, though this creates a tasty chocolaty sort of crust and the cake will still taste delicious.


The cake with chocolate frosting — we’re done!

Learning to Make Tamales in Vegas

Friday, Evan and I headed out to Vegas to visit his friend Adam, go to Adam’s girlfriend’s birthday party, and just get out of LA for a bit.

I never knew Vegas could be so relaxing: We stayed at Adam’s house, we only went into one casino, and we never drove down the strip. We had some relaxed dinners, made about 300 tamales for Rosie’s party, and learned how to make gourmet jello shots.

For me, making tamales was one of the high points of the weekend. I’d never made them before, and I was very happy to learn with Rosie’s family in the kitchen. We started with premade masa in giant bags, various meats (pork, beef and chicken, all cooked and seasoned before I arrived) and corn husks soaked in water.

We got into an assembly line: one person washed the corn husks to make sure they didn’t have any hairy tendrils left; another person made balls of masa into little pancakes, then put some meat in the middle, folded the pancake over and pinched the ends closed; another person took the finished masa-meat pockets and folded them into a corn husk, by first wrapping the husk around the sides of the mixture, then folding up the bottom of the husk, while leaving top end still open.

I stayed on husk-folding duty until it was time to make some veggie tamales — for those, we put strips of potato, carrot, green peppers and queso fresco in the masa pocket.

When the tamales were all prepared, we arranged them, open end up, in giant steamers on the stove, poured in boiling water, and steamed them for a few hours. Surprisingly, they stayed hot for hours after they were done cooking.

The tamales were a hit at the party, and we got some leftover veggie ones to bring home — thanks for the care package!

Note: I know I should just take my own pictures so I can stop staying this, but photos of the tamale-making process should be coming soon.

A Peaceful Day in Santa Monica

Evan and I have been back in LA for about two weeks now, and we’re working on getting back into the swing of things. I’m working on some freelance projects, Evan is looking for editing work, and we’ll start figuring out where we’ll live soon. Evan also just bought a car — a used Audi A4 he found on Craigslist. He’s only had it since the weekend, so we were surprised to see that it was leaking oil yesterday, after it had already been checked out. We took it to his mechanic in Santa Monica today and it needed some work done — nothing major, but enough to leave us without a car (mine was at my parents house) for the day.

We started by walking down to the Lazy Daisy, one of our regular breakfast spots before we left. We grabbed a small, blue mosaic table in its closed-in patio, which does a decent job of making the restaurant feel removed from busy Pico, and perused the breakfast selections. I settled on an omelet and Evan chose a breakfast sandwich. We got our waters in big, thick plastic cups (the only thing that really bugs me about this restaurant — I don’t really like using plastic dinnerware — thankfully it’s only the cups, not the plates, too), then relaxed in the cool LA morning while enjoying our leisurely breakfast.

When we were done at the Lazy Daisy, we needed to brainstorm what to do next. It was still early — not even 9 a.m., so we had some pretty limited options. We thought we could find a matinee for 10ish, or maybe go down to the beach or the public library. We thought about getting a cab or a ride from the mechanics (they’d offered earlier), but then we realized something pretty revolutionary for us car-centric LA folk — we could take the bus.

We started walking down Pico, which has plenty of bus stops, and realized that though there were stops, there weren’t any route maps. Finally, after passing a few stops and making it to Santa Monica College, we found a route map, made sure we were headed to the right place, and hopped on the Big Blue Bus. It cost 75 cents for each of us, and we were at the 3rd Street Promenade in about 10 minutes. We also found out that SMC students can ride the bus for free — and plenty seemed to be taking advantage of the deal.

We walked to the library, but we were a bit early for its 10 a.m. opening time, so we checked out the movies — not much we wanted to see and nothing that started before 11:20 — and wandered around until we could head back to the big public library, a bright, airy, two-story building built around a courtyard with an arid garden, shallow and sparky fake stream, and a cafe.

At the library, we started by getting new cards, then went to use the free internet. There was a rather creepy guy sitting next to Evan who was staring at a picture of a girl in a low-cut shirt for at least 30 minutes. We mostly just read the news and checked our email.

Then we went down to the sunny downstairs reading room (the sun finally burned off the haze by 11), where we read and relaxed on a comfy bench. What a nice and peaceful way to spend the morning! And a lot of other people had the same idea — the library was full of people working, reading, researching and eating.

We headed back to the mechanic’s because we were told the car would be ready, but alas, it wasn’t, so we decided our next excursion would be a walk to a cafe by Evan’s old apartment called Bolivar. We walked down the tree-lined streets, past a corner where a small accident took place — everyone was calm and just waiting for the police — and a high school field getting covered with astroturf.

At the cafe, we ordered arepas — little Venezuelan sandwiches in hot cornmeal pouches. Yum! We each had one with mango and cheese, called the Pacifico, and one with black beans. They were delicious, especially when we added the extra cilantro-flavored sauce they added on the side. I’d only had salads and sandwichs here before, so this was quite a treat.

We walked back to the mechanic’s and still had a bit of a wait for the car, but being without the car for the day actually ended up being a lot of fun. We didn’t spend much money, we weren’t stressed by traffic and we had a good time rediscovering Evan’s old neighborhood.