57 Things Series · Food & Cooking

57 Things Series: Turban Squash

Have you ever seen turban squash at your local farmer’s market or grocery store? I was pretty intrigued when I came across some earlier this fall, and decided in the spirit of the 57 Things Series, I’d bring home the unfamiliar and find a way to prepare it for dinner (#40 on the list!).
These guys are pretty tough to crack open–I actually had to enlist Chad to help me, and even he had to cut it from the side instead of cutting off the “top of the hat” as most recipes suggest. He said the trick is to start at the bottom with your knife and to wedge it back and forth a bit. When raw, the squash smelled a lot like pumpkin. Its seeds looked a bit like pumpkin seeds too, but rounder.
After scooping out the seeds and pulp, I baked the squash. In the meantime I sauteed some veggies to mix with couscous and seasoning. From there I added the tender turban squash and mixed well before baking it altogether inside the shell of the squash. The verdict? Delicious!! It was a little labor intensive, but I definitely want to make it again soon. See the recipe below, adapted from this recipe, and try it for yourself!
stuffed-turban-squash-recipe                                                        Click to download

Have you tried any new foods lately?
xx Caitlyn

 

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Food & Cooking

Epicurean Baristas Presents…!

Hello everyone! Sorry for the week hiatus–Chad’s cousin came to visit, and we were very busy sightseeing and eating delicious food. Hope you were able to see a few pictures on instagram in the meantime, though! To make up for the short break, I’ve got exciting news for you: Epicurean Baristas is up and running! In case you didn’t read about the vlog here before, Epicurean Baristas is a youtube channel created by myself and a close friend consisting of video letters that share our adventures in the world of food and drink. We’ve already got five videos posted, which I’ll include below. More should be coming weekly!

Hiroshima Style Chips
About: In this first video letter between the Epicurean Baristas, Caitlyn talks late at night without makeup on, but with a buzz. Classy, or bold and daring? Or perhaps just silly? You can decide and let us know.

A Pretty Piece of Cake
About: Caitlyn starts off going to a chocolate celebration, and ends up getting distracted by pretty cakes. She tries a pear-shaped cake that is subtly sweet with just a hint of pear flavor.

Pizza in My Hood
About: Tia and her son JJ have lunch at a new pizza spot in their neighborhood.

Taiyaki
About: Caitlyn tries a new version of one of her all-time favorite Japanese sweets: Taiyaki. Watch how they’re made and drool!

Karumeyaki
About: Caitlyn discovers a unique traditional Japanese sweet called Karumeyaki. It sort of resembles sea foam or honeycomb toffee. Caitlyn has a lot of fun watching it being made!!

I think the videos are already improving, but please let us know what you think of our videos so far in the comments!

Enjoy your weekend!
xx Caitlyn

Autumn Bucket List · Food & Cooking · Party

Let’s Make Gyoza!

Hi everyone! Last Friday we decided to have a ramen party on Halloween. Not necessarily the most traditional approach, I’ll give you that, but it was definitely awesome. When I posted pictures from our last ramen party, several people asked me about the recipe I used for the gyoza, or pot stickers. I’ve decided to share the recipe with you today, as well as the system my friends and I used to make the gyoza together!

IMG_1419Add a bottle of sake and some nappa cabbage, then subtract the bananas and you’ve got a good start with the ingredients above.

For my version of gyoza filling, I took parts from a few different recipes to create a version that seemed most similar to what I had while living in Japan. IMG_1421What’s really nice about this recipe is that you basically combine all of the ingredients, let them sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to let the flavors meld, and then you’re ready to start preparing the gyoza. Pretty easy stuff!IMG_2963While setting up an assembly line for the gyoza, I remembered the first time I ever made gyoza at a music party in Matsusaka, Japan. (I wrote a rather lengthy post about that Golden Week back in 2009 that was fun to revisit when writing this post 🙂 ) Ariel was in charge of putting water around the edges of the rice paper wrappers, my friend Tia added a spoonful of filling, and I pushed the dumplings together with a gyoza mold I had brought back from Japan.

IMG_2965Sorry for this terrible picture. I blame my brother because he took it 😉

If you don’t have a mold, you can always just assemble the gyoza by hand, pinching together the edges. The mold does make things go much more quickly, however, so you could consider either buying one or being really nice to me so that I send you one. They are pretty inexpensive!

IMG_2966We made an awesome gyoza-making team!

Once you’ve assembled your gyoza, you just heat up a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan, fry for a couple minutes, add hot water, and simmer until cooked through. Meanwhile, you can prepare dipping sauce and snack on other available treats (I made crab rangoons and Amanda made rice balls). IMG_2968                                        Here is our first finished batch of gyoza. So yummy!

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Also, because I know you want to drool a bit, above is a picture of one of the bowls of ramen Chad prepared. Now for the gyoza recipe!

Pork Gyoza

Ingredients
8 ounces ground pork
1 large egg
1 Tbs finely chopped ginger (or about a tsp dried ginger)
2 tsp grated garlic (from about 3 large cloves)
1 1/2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sake (you can also use dry vermouth)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c. shredded napa cabbage, blanched until tender yet crisp in boiling salt water
1 green onion, diced
34 gyoza wrappers or round dumpling wrappers
4 Tbs. vegetable oil

Directions

1. Mix together the pork, egg, sesame oil, ginger, scallion, soy sauce, sake, cornstarch, sugar, napa cabbage and onion together in a bowl and refrigerate for twenty minutes.

2. Once the flavors have melded together, place a small bowl of cool water by your work surface and prepare plates on which to place wrappers before and after you’ve assembled the gyoza. Place several wrappers on your first plate and brush the edges of each with water using your finger or a pastry brush.

3. Put a mounded teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper, bring the edges together, and seal the edges by using a mold or by making 4 to 6 pleats. Set the completed gyoza on a separate plate, and repeat until you’ve used all of your filling.

4. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet, and quickly arrange half of the gyoza, cooking until golden brown on one side, about one minute. Add 2/3 cup water to the skillet (it will spatter, so be careful!), cover tightly, and let the gyoza cook until tender, about six minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until both sides of the gyoza are crisp, and then repeat with the remaining prepared gyoza.

5. While the gyoza are cooking, you can prepare a simple dipping sauce by combining two parts soy sauce, one part white rice wine vinegar, and ginger to taste. Then once everything has been cooked, you’re ready to enjoy!

I hope you like this recipe, and that you try gyoza-making at one of your future get-togethers!
xx Caitlyn

Autumn Bucket List · Food & Cooking

Autumn Bucket List: Apple Roll Cake

I am so excited to share a new recipe with you: Apple Roll Cake! To make this uh-mazing cake, you will need to use this cake recipe, apple butter (I used the apple butter I made and it was fantastic, if I do say so myself!), and whipped frosting (recipe follows).

IMG_1217To start, you’re going to beat eggs with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until nice and frothy and lemon-colored. Then you beat in sugar before turning the mixer on low and gradually adding water, vanilla, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, all spice, ground cloves, salt and powdered sugar. IMG_1224Once you’ve got your batter ready, pour it into a pan lined with parchment paper and spread into the corners. I carefully dropped the pan a few times on the counter to get out some of the air bubbles, too.IMG_1227Bake the cake for 12-15 minutes, preparing a powdered sugar-dusted towel in the meantime. IMG_1228Invert the cake onto the prepared towel and carefully peel off the parchment paper…

IMG_1229…then slowly roll up the cake and let it rest for 30 minutes before topping.

IMG_1233After the resting period, it’s time to add your yummy apple butter. I used about a cup and a half (nearly a pint jar full).

IMG_1234Because of the strong spices in the cake and the apple butter, I decided to compliment the flavors already present with a nice fluffy frosting.

IMG_1226To make the frosting, I whipped together the following ingredients in a small bowl over another bowl filled with ice water:

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream

IMG_1235After spreading a layer of the whipped frosting over the apple butter layer, it is time to roll up the cake.IMG_1238I frosted the outside of the cake and dusted a little cinnamon along the top to make it look pretty.IMG_1244Finally, your cake will be done! Make sure to store your cake in the refrigerator–it tastes even better cold and served with a complimentary coffee.  IMG_1241I brought some of the cake to work and we paired it with Starbuck’s Anniversary Blend. The cake was really good; one of my coworkers described it as an apple version of pumpkin pie. Once you try it, you’ll understand: the apple roll cake has lovely fall flavors, and the texture is moist yet light. Let me know if you try this recipe, and what your favorite cake recipe is in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to check out my Maple Roll Cake recipe if you’re looking to have more roll cakes in your future 🙂

xx Caitlyn

Around Town · Food & Cooking · Seen/Heard/Tried · Summer Bucket List

Our Anniversary Weekend <3

Yesterday night marked the end of a relaxing, love-filled three and a half-day weekend spent celebrating our sixth anniversary. We had so much fun lounging, going for a 4-mile run to Grand Haven’s beautiful beach, enjoying our niece Lydia’s fifth birthday party, and even crossing some things off my summer bucket list!

On Friday, we started the weekend by driving to Battle Creek and going to Binder Park Zoo. It was a nice, sunny day, so the ride was really enjoyable.IMG_0781 IMG_0782I really appreciated how much space the animals had at Binder Park. For the most part, none of the exhibits really surprised me (perhaps because we saw a lot of the animals abroad, sometimes even in the wild), but I was still really impressed with the giraffes. I got to touch one for the first time, and it just blew my mind how big it was. I also really liked all of the peacocks roaming around (though I failed to get a pretty picture!).

IMG_0785This llama was actually kind of terrifying. You can’t see it in this picture, but it had really huge bottom teeth and could swing its head around at an alarming speed. I suppose I do that sometimes at the prospect of chocolate or good beer, but that’s beside the point.

IMG_0801Mugs at Dark Horse Brewing Company hanging from the ceiling

Speaking of good beer, the next place we headed was Dark Horse Brewing Company. We enjoyed a beer in the beer garden.

IMG_0802This table looked nice from a distance, but it was really awkward to sit in because the top came up above our chests. We felt like little kids trying to reach above for our beverage, and so we moved to another spot.

IMG_0804 IMG_0805 The next place we were headed was Arcadia Ales, but we ran into Sweetwater’s Donuts on the way and (obviously) had to stop.

IMG_0806So many choices! IMG_0807They have a coffee club with mugs!

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Chad helped me eat a New York cheese cake donut that tasted exactly how it looks: like SUGAR. (I’m not complaining…)

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Nom, nom, nom

Finally, we made it to Arcadia Ales, where Chad tried a reuben:

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I tried the Garden and Goat Quesadilla, which was fabulous. Pesto, tomato, red onion, spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese in a flour tortilla with a jalapeno salsa and sour cream on the side. *drools*

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The next morning, we went to Starbucks and finished off a Turtle donut (above) from Sweetwaters that was delightful. We read and talked in the sunshine before heading around town to do some shopping.

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Next up was lunch at a restaurant called Taste of India. We were a little worried at first because the diner was completely empty, but it was nearly 2:00 in the afternoon. We tried the buffet, and enjoyed the curry and other options. I had a yummy mango lassi, and particularly enjoyed the rice pudding offered.

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After lunch, we headed out to see Godzilla at a Cheap Flix theater. I was glad the film only cost $3 to see as I wasn’t too impressed, but I was still filled with a longing for Japan (minus the crazy creatures, obviously).

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Next up, we drove home, and biked around town (Chad ran) before getting some groceries for a picnic dinner.

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We chose proscuitto, fresh mozarella, tomatoes, a warm baguette and fabulous Santiago Olive Oil.

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We also prepared sliced pear, apple and plum.

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It started thunder storming outside, so we decided to have our picnic inside on our living room floor. I reminded me of when we first bought our house and sat on the floor in the dining room with champagne.

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Cheers! Happy Anniversary ❤

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The next morning we lounged around the house, enjoying coffee and nutella croissants (which you know I love!)

These are just a few of the fun things we did over the weekend. I was so happy to have days devoted exclusively to hanging out with my sweetheart, who I am grateful for every day. Looking forward to so many more years with him ahead.

xx

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Good news! My long-time friend and sister-in-law Ariel will be joining me on Little Snail with occasional blog posts! She’s always up to creative and clever things, so I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us 🙂

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Food & Cooking · Summer Bucket List

Bucket List: Watermelon Pickles

So when I put “Make pickles” on my bucket list, I sort of meant traditional dill pickles. While I am hoping to make some of those, too, I was super intrigued by a recipe I came across in a Better Homes & Gardens canning magazine I picked up last summer for Watermelon Pickles. Earlier this week, I finally got around to making them, and I can’t wait to try them!

To be honest, making watermelon pickles is kind of a time investment (but what kind of canning or jamming doesn’t take a bit of time?). The recipe suggests that it takes about an hour of prep time, plus standing overnight, plus 45 minutes of cooking, plus 10 minutes of processing time. I figure that hour of prep time and the 45 minutes of cooking time can be combined with listening to your favorite podcast or music (I chose Dinner Party Download and Radio Lab 🙂 ), and the overnight part can just be spent sleeping!

IMG_20140707_123816_286To start, you’ll need a watermelon that weighs approximately 10 pounds. I cut it into slices, and then cut out chunks of the watermelon and put the chunks in a big bowl. I probably ate about half of the watermelon in between cutting it up and getting the rind ready, and I admit this openly.

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Next comes the tricky part of removing the pink flesh and the green outer portions of the rind. I found that placing the rind as flat as I could on the cutting board and sort of pulling the knife toward my hand was the easiest, but you’ll obviously want to be super careful and find what works the best and in the safest way for you.

IMG_20140707_132332_666From this point, things get quite a bit easier. You chop the rind into squares or other 1-inch shapes, put them into a large nonmetal bowl, and add water and pickling salt.

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IMG_20140707_133714_412Then it’s time to let the rind soak overnight…

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The next day, you’ll rinse and drain the rind, transfer it to a pot filled with enough water to cover the rind, bring it to boiling, and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, you can prepare your syrup. I used cloves and cinnamon sticks from a local spice shop in Grand Haven. It was so much cheaper than going to the grocery store, and I could choose exactly the amounts I wanted.

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Combine sugar, white vinegar, water, cinnamon and cloves, bring to boiling to dissolve the sugar, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

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Then strain the mixture through a sleeve, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids. Add the tender, drained rind to the syrup, and bring to a boil before simmering, covered, until rind is translucent. Above, you can see the stage my rind had reached before I canned it.

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Lastly, you pack the hot rind and syrup into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving headspace, and processing for 10 minutes. I got three pint jars out of my rind with some leftover syrup, though the recipe suggests using 6 half-pint jars.

My favorite suggestions I’ve seen online for eating watermelon pickles are trying them in a salad with goat cheese and walnuts, making hors d’oeuvres by wrapping a half a slice of bacon around them and baking them in the oven until the bacon is crisp, using them as a little decorations on sugar cookies or cupcakes, topping ice cream or yogurt with them, using them as a condiment, or just eating them straight out of the jar! I also found a recipe for Sparkling Pear Floats that I am going to try with some of my leftover syrup. I’ll keep you posted on how I consume my delightful watermelon pickles, and in the meantime, leave you with the recipe!

Watermelon Pickles

(from Better Homes & Gardens 2013 Canning Magazine)

1 10-pound watermelon

6 cups water

1/3 cup pickling salt

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

15 inches stick cinnamon, broken

2 tsp whole cloves

1. Cut rind from watermelon (you should have about 4 1/2 lbs rind). Trim off pink flesh and the green outer portions of the watermelon rind. Cut rind into 1-inch squares or other 1-inch shapes. Measure 9 cups rind.

2. Place the 9 cups rind in a large nonmetal bowl. In another large bowl combine the 6 cups water and the pickling salt; pour over rind (add more water if necessary to cover your rind). Cover bowl and let stand at room temperature overnight.

3. Rinse and drain rind mixture. Transfer to a 4-quart pot. Add enough water to cover. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until tender; drain.

4. Meanwhile, for syrup, in a 6 to 8-quart stainless-steel, enamel, or nonstick heavy pot combine sugar, vinegar, the 1 1/2 cups water, the cinnamon, and the cloves. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve, reserving liquid. Discard solids; return liquid to pot.

5. Add rind to syrup in pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until rind is translucent. Pack hot rind and syrup into hot sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims: adjust lids and screw bands.

6. Process filled jars in a boiled water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks. Makes 6 half-pints.

Enjoy!
xx

Around Town · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Around Town: Hodgepodge Bakehouse

A couple weeks ago my mom and I decided to try a new-to-us bakery in Muskegon called Hodgepodge Bakehouse!

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When we first walked inside, we were greeted with a case of enticing baked goods.

IMG_20140429_124253_198It’s difficult to choose, believe me. My mom and I decided to go with Apple Fritters. Since each one was about the size of my face, I double-checked with my mom: “Do you want a whole one, or to split one?” She replied in a very matter-of-fact way that she wanted a whole one and I was like, “Yeah. Of course. Go big or go home. Totally makes sense.” On the inside I was like, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to finish this!”

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I soon found out that you can do anything you put your mind to, however. I got about halfway through the fritter and felt super full, but it was just. so. good. All will power was lost. As if the fritter itself wasn’t enough, having delicious Ferris coffee to pair it with did nothing for my lack of inhibition.

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Glazed on the outside with a fluffy, light inside, the apple fritters had a perfect balance of sweetness. The apple filling was spread throughout the filling like a delicate, almost creamy surprise, occasionally delighting you with a tiny apple wedge. In one word: fabulous.

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My mom and I enjoyed our Hodgepodge experience amidst fun signs like “Donut Worry, Be Happy” (which could be my motto), and “A good baker will rise to the occasion… It’s the yeast he can do.”

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Since going with my mom, I’ve already been back to Hodgepodge Bakehouse again with a friend (last time I indulged in a more reasonably sized donut with a cookie crumble topping). Hodgepodge Bakehouse also serves pizzas, soups, sandwiches and salads, all of which look really yummy from across the coffee and sweet-filled tray that tends to grace my table when I go. I’m so glad I got to try someplace new, and would recommend giving Hodgepodge Bakehouse a try if you’re in the area!