Food & Cooking

Me Oh My Oh!

Happy Fat Tuesday! I’ve had the song “Jambalaya” stuck in my head all day today, and the question is: Has it been stuck in my head because it’s Fat Tuesday, or because I knew I was about to make this awesome recipe for the first time!?

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To be honest, I barely followed the recipe because it called for such large portions of sausage and shrimp. I basically cut the amount of sausage and fish down to a forth of what the recipe called, and then added more veggies and rice. It. turned out. AMAZING. I guess that’s the nice thing about jambalaya–it’s a mish-mash of delicious ingredients that come together to form a delicious meal, and you don’t have to be very exact. I was especially pleased because today was my first time making it!!

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This year was also my first year trying paczki, a type of Polish donut. I found out from this informative article that back in the 16th century, paczki were filled with pork fat and fried in lard, and I would just like to say I’m pleased paczki have developed into the lard-less, pork fat-free sweet pastries they are today.

Italian Masquerade Mask

Source

Something I didn’t do this year was wear a pretty mask. Will someone PLEASE give me an excuse to wear a pretty mask? I love the colors in the one above, and the colors and style in the one below.

Masquerade Mask

Source

I’ve also never been to a Mardi Gras celebration of any kind (aside from our little culinary fun tonight). I think going to New Orleans to see the festivities first-hand at least once would be fun just for the experience. Have you ever been, or would you like to go? If so, how was your experience? If not, why would you or wouldn’t you want to go?

Food & Cooking

Fondue!

Captain America: Well, what about you and Stark? How do I know you two haven’t been fondue-ing?

Agent Carter: You still don’t know a bloody thing about women.

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I’ve been meaning to try fondue for a while now, and this weekend, we finally gave it a go! I borrowed a cute little fondue pot I brought my mom for Christmas from Japan a few years ago, and set to work making a cheese recipe I found on this fondue website.

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We dipped bread, steamed broccoli, red & yellow bell peppers, grilled zucchini and gnocchi into our cheese. I got the idea to use gnocchi from my sister-in-law, who said she had it at a recent fondue dinner party she attended. The meal was SO good, but we ate way too much!

I used the recipe below for the cheese:

Beer Cheddar Fondue: Welsh Rarebit Fondue Recipe

30 ml (2 Tbsp) Butter
250 ml (1 cup) Beer (Ale)
550 g (1 lb) Aged cheddar cheese, shredded
30 ml (2 Tbsp) Flour
2 ml (1/2 tsp) Cayenne pepper
5 ml (1 tsp) Dry mustard
Salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter in the cheese fondue pot.

2. Add beer and warm it up without bringing it to a boil. (We used Honey Badger from Short’s Brewing Company.)

3. Reduce heat. Mix the shredded cheese with flour, and gradually add the cheese/flour mixture.

4. Mix with wooden spoon and let it melt. Keep adding more cheese until all of it is melted.

5. Add remaining ingredients.

6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7. If the mixture is too hard, add beer. If the mixture is too soft, add cheese.

8. Dip toast into the melted cheese.

9. Let the toast cool off for a few seconds, then enjoy and repeat but no double-dipping!

(Recipe taken from bestfondue.com)

 

What kinds of fondue have you tried, and what kinds of food did you dip in it?

Projects · Tried

Random Enjoyment this Week

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Random things about my week:

1. I tried a new recipe called Black Bean Smothered Sweet Potatoes from the cookbook I mentioned in my last post, and it was FABULOUS. Yum, yum, yum, yum…

2. I got a new Gratitude Journal that I’ve been filling out daily. I loved looking through the one I did throughout 2013–I have so much to appreciate! I also bought a Q&A book that asks a different question every day. You can see how your answers change over five years.

3. Chad and I have been trying to have creative time together every day, even if we’re super tired! He started working on carving some nice soapstone he got for a Christmas present.

4. While he worked on his carving, I did my first WhimseyBox craft! To be honest, in high school I hated working with clay, despite loving pretty much every other art medium. But working with dry clay to make this pretty little dish was easy and fun. Plus, I have lots of leftover clay and am inspired to make other pretty things!

5. I made banana bread and it turned out super yummy! I took the first picture mainly to show my amazingly adorable Rilakkuma oven mitt.

6. I took the second banana bread picture to show you the lovely moist texture of the bread. Served warm with butter? Delish!

7. Last but not least, one of my friends in Japan sent me a care package that included cute socks! I am wearing the ones pictured above right now and they’re super comfy. Ahhhhh 🙂

What are some random things you’ve been enjoying this week?

Around Town · Tried

Detroit Beer Festival in Pictures

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Equipped with maps, sampling cups and tokens, there was no stopping us as we ventured through the Detroit Beer Festival. (Well, except when we’d definitely reached our limit. Then we stopped.)

20131030-211557.jpgWe had a lot of fun trying all of the different beers, and just being together. My favorite beer? A Kombucha Ginger beer from Unity Vibration in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Kombucha beer is not something I think I would ordinarily try, but 1) a beer festival is a place to expand your horizons, and 2) after several other samples I was feeling adventurous.

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Several samples and unintentionally stolen sandwiches later, we were still standing.

Our evening consisted of playing Cards Against Humanity, lots of laughter, and too much amazing food prepared by our friends (one of whom is the fellow pretending to be angry in the picture above). I’ve been told there will be a Winter Beer Festival in Grand Rapids, so I’m excited to potentially try more interesting flavors. I tend to be an IPA girl myself–what kind of beer do you like?

Food & Cooking · Tried

Homemade Snickers Ice Cream Cake

Last week for my brother-in-law’s birthday, he requested a Snickers Ice Cream Cake. My mother-in-law set right to making one, and it turned out great! So yummy, in fact, that I thought I’d share her creation with you here.

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Snickers Ice Cream Cake

Round cake pan
Parchment paper
Peanuts
Caramel
Fudge sauce
1 Snickers bar
Ice cream

1. Line your cake pan with parchment paper.

2. Mix enough peanuts and caramel together to coat the edges of the pan. Fill the middle with ice cream, stopping halfway through to add more caramel or to add some fudge sauce before adding more ice cream, if desired.

3. Top final layer of ice cream with more caramel and peanut mixture; freeze the cake overnight.

4. Remove the cake from the freezer, carefully remove parchment paper from the edges of the cake, and cut a snickers bar into thin slices to decorate the top of the cake.

5. Cut out a piece of the cake, add a dollop of fudge sauce, and enjoy!

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*Note: I didn’t put any exact measurements in the recipe because it really depends on your preferences and the size of the pan you decide to use. Also, my mother-in-law had a fudge sauce recipe, but you could also experiment with store-bought fudge or even Nutella or the hard-coat ice cream fudge. You could also probably swap nuts & candy for other popular candy bars. Have fun trying out different combinations!

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I loved this ice cream cake, but on my birthday I usually choose chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. What’s your favorite birthday cake?

Around Town · Food & Cooking · Monday Matters · Tried

Crane’s in the City

On Friday, Chad and I went out for lunch and for a nice long ride in the sunshine. We decided to try a restaurant that was new to us: Crane’s in the City in Holland.

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The cute little restaurant is right downtown in Holland, and happened have outdoor seating available that day because there was a huge sidewalk sale going on over the weekend. We walked inside to order, and then sat outside to enjoy our meal.20130812-172651.jpgCrane’s in the City has a lot to offer its hungry customers, with apples playing a role in everything from desserts and drinks, to salads and sandwiches. It didn’t take us long to order despite all the appealing choices; we decided to split a Peach Fuzz drink and an Apple Cider donut, and then to each try a City Cristo sandwich set.

20130812-172707.jpgWe got our Peach Fuzz (a mix of peach juice, chai and apple cider) and donut straight away to nibble on while we waited for our sandwiches. I loved the wire chairs with heart-shaped backs, the wooden tables, and the mason jar-esk mug for our beverage.

20130812-172723.jpgThe restaurant had quite a few patrons coming in and out, but in only minutes we were brought our delicious meal. I had never heard of a Cristo sandwich before, but cannot tell you how glad I am to know what one is now! As the menu on their website describes it, a City Cristo at Crane’s in the City consists of “Turkey, provolone cheese, apple slices, and honey mustard dressing, grilled on Crane’s famous apple butter bread, sprinkled with powdered sugar.” I thought we’d be taking a little bit of a chance Crane’s in the City, especially with a sandwich featuring apples as much as the Cristo, but the gamble was well worth it. The apple slices were tender without being soggy, and the honey mustard dressing was sweet without being overwhelming. Each ingredient on the sandwich plays off of the others, creating a lovely balance of flavors. I was so impressed!

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Crane’s in the City also has a display full of all jams and apple butters to choose from, along with frozen baked goods available to purchase and bring home! Crane’s in the City is located on E 8th St  Holland, MI 49423. I highly recommend checking it out!

Around Town · Tried

Hysteric Jam

The other night we went out with some friends and got into a discussion about how we tried so many foods from different cultures for the first time while in Japan, rather than in our own countries. I mentioned in my post about 10 New Foods I Tried between March 2012 РMarch 2013 that we tried a lot since traveling while in Japan, but even before that we were introduced to many delicious foods from around the world while living here. For example, before visiting Korea, we tried bibimbap in Japan. Before visiting Italy, we tried carbonara in Japan. And before visiting France, we tried cr̻pes in Japan.

I think the first time I had crêpes was while living in Kobe, and after remembering that delightful experience, I decided we should make a trip to have some as a special Golden Week treat. We headed to a lovely crêpe shop called Hysteric Jam, and stood in front of the huge glass display case, debating between flavors before finally settling on our choices.

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Chad chose one with berries, chocolate and nama cream (bottom left, above), and I chose a heavenly one with brownies, chocolate and custard.

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Someday I want to try savory crêpes, but on the rare occasion we have crêpes I can never seem to convince myself to choose savory over sweet! Have you tried crêpes before? If so, what are your favorite toppings?

Tried

Matcha Cereal

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Walking along in the supermarket the other day, I came upon Matcha (green tea) flavored cereal! I figured we should try it while we have the chance, so–despite the small portion size for quite a price–we bought a box.

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We had our bowls of Matcha Flakes with a side glass of veggie juice and coffee for breakfast earlier this week, and the flavor turned out to be really nice. It kind of reminded me of green tea ice cream! I’m going to miss all the unique flavors Japan tries with its food and beverages!

Around Town · Food & Cooking · Monday Matters · Tried

The best katsukare restaurant ever

Yesterday I met one of my coworkers for lunch at a restaurant called Nanjaro?, which I think roughly translates to, “What is it?” Chad stumbled upon the cozy diner about a year or so ago, and we just keep coming back.

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Every time Chad and I go to Nanjaro?, we order the katsukare: pork cutlet fried in a layering of flour, egg & panko (Japanese bread crumbs) with a side of rice and Japanese curry. Often this type of dish feels way too heavy, but at Nanjaro? the katsu is very light and flaky without a lot of oil, the curry has a really lovely consistency with bits of tender beef throughout, and the rice is buttery without being overpowering.

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I recommended the katsukare to my coworker, and as you can see, she enjoyed it–she gave me about the cheesiest smile ever! 😉

The atmosphere in Nanjaro? is comfy–there is a checkered wall in the kitchen and wooden walls throughout the rest of the place. There is seating at a counter or at one of three big wooden barrels, without much space between the counter and the barrels. The staff always remembers Chad and I, which could be because foreigners probably don’t frequent the restaurant often since its outside the main part of the city, but I like to think it’s because they truly just remember and appreciate our business. And man, do we ever appreciate theirs!

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Nanjaro?, please come to Michigan?