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Sitzpinkler

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Sitzpinkler: noun; German

1. Literal translation: someone who sits to pee

2. Wimp

I recently finished rereading one of my favorite books: An Abundance of Katherines. It’s about a washed-up child prodigy (Colin) who has just gotten dumped by his 19th straight Katherine. To cope, he goes on a road-trip with his overweight slacker best friend; they spend the whole summer in Gutshot, Tennessee while Colin tries to get over his heartbreak and prove his mathematical formula of Underlying Katherine Predictability. The book is a fun and silly YA fiction and the author (John Green) is fantastic; the third-person perspective is very witty and readers learn fun facts that Colin knows (like the definition of sitzpinkler and what a pupillary sphincter is). I first read it several years ago; I loved it and loaned my copy out and never saw it again, until I ran across one for $1 at a book sale last week.

Ok, now for the food.

You have seen pictures of my “kitchen” at our hotel so you know what I am cooking and prepping on but I wanted you to know what I have to cook with: one pot, one pan, spatula, slotted spoon, ladle, and 2 each sharp knives, large plates, small plates, and bowls. Everything that I make in this hotel will be made within the confines of the kitchen space and equipment (or lack therof).

Alrighty. Since I am dealing with these restrictions, for our first meal in our new home at the hotel I decided make something that I am familiar with. Dorm-dwellers and those with small kitchens rejoice in the chicken souvlaki gyro.

Chicken souvlaki gyros and tzaziki

Adapted from a recipe at The Novice Chef Blog

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, in bite size pieces (or, to minimize work, 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken strips)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons Greek Seasoning (or garlic/herb seasoning)
  • Paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Whole-wheat pita bread
  • Optional: Lettuce, tomato, red onion, feta cheese

Directions:

1) Combine all ingredients except chicken, and mix well; place in a Ziploc bag, and add chicken. Shake to ensure the marinade is covering chicken and massage into chicken. Allow to marinate in refrigerator 1 hour to overnight.

2) Remove chicken from marinade and toss leftover marinade.

3) Add 2 tbsp olive oil to skillet over medium high heat; cook chicken 7-8 minutes or until cooked through.

4) To assemble the gyro: heat up one whole-wheat pita bread in either a skillet or the microwave. Add chicken, lettuce, tomato, sliced red onion and feta cheese and top with Tzatziki. To serve as a salad, omit pita bread and serve chicken over vegetables with feta and Tzatziki on top.

***To make this meal vegetarian friendly, use seitan, tofu, or other source of protein in place of chicken.***

Tzatziki

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz Greek yogurt
  • juice of  ½ of a lemon
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Garlic salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste

My cutting board: a small, plastic lid.

Directions:
1) Slice cucumber in half, length wise. Using a spoon, scrape out seeds.

Or ignore the directions and spend twice as long cutting the seeds out. Doh!

2) Finely chop cucumber and place in paper towels and squeeze out extra moisture.

3) Combine Greek yogurt, lemon juice, shredded cucumber, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper; refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

 This is meal is easy to make while still being fairly healthy; I didn’t have any real problems even working with limited tools and counter space. The chicken reheats well and the leftovers don’t take up much space in our little fridge. The whole-wheat pita bread has more fiber and less sugar than white pita bread so it keeps you full for longer. The chicken is lean and all of the vegetables add nutrients without adding many calories; and don’t feel bad about piling on the tzaziki: real Greek yogurt is naturally fat-free and chock full of heart-healthy garlic!


Speaking of healthy, have you ever seen the MTV show I Used to Be Fat? It’s a reality show with real high school graduates who are overweight and want to go into college being a different person. MTV sends them a personal trainer/nutritionist and a camera crew captures the entire summer while these teens learn how to be healthier individuals (think MADE without the lame drama). At the end of the show, there’s a “reveal” with before and after pictures and clips from the summer. I’ve seen a few episodes here and there and didn’t think much of it until a marathon came on this weekend. I watched one episode where a girl lost 45 pounds in 80 days which was pretty impressive; even more impressive was that MTV had a follow-up with her a year later and she was keeping up her healthy lifestyle. I think MTV might have actually done something kind of good with this show; college is a pretty pivotal time in your life especially because it is the first time that most people live on their own. You become an adult as you do your own laundry, clean your own house or dorm, and cook your own meals. I think it is really kind of cool that MTV is stepping in and teaching these soon-to-be adults about nutrition and fitness; yeah, it would be better if their parents were the ones teaching them but I do think it’s cool that MTV has made a show about transformation and health and it is relatable to teens. There was one particular episode that got me thinking about it, a boy who lost 117 pounds in 110 days; he went from 315 lbs down to 198. And he did it by working out and eating better, in a way that is sustainable for him (surfing as a form of exercise, swapping chicken sandwiches for chicken salad, etc). If you’re looking to make a transformation in your life (and you’re tired of seeing those “I lost 30 lbs without sweating!” ads) then check out I Used to Be Fat: their journey is tough and pretty inspiring.

And now that I’m talking about TV shows, it’s about that time for all those fall premiers! Are you excited for the premier of new TV shows and return of old ones? Or are you not really a TV person? I’m looking forward to the start of Grimms and Once Upon a Time next week; both of them look a little dark and fantastical. Some of my old favorites have just started up again too and having cable in the hotel means I can actually watch them when they come on rather than having to wait 24-hours and catch them on the internet. I just got my mom hooked on Pretty Little Liars—she watched all 22 episodes in the first season this weekend as she was recovering from her surgery. Oh, right! My mom got her port put in on Friday. The surgery went well and she’s fine, just sore. After we get the chemo-sensitivity test back sometime in the next few weeks, we should be ready to start IPT. The chemo-sensitivity test is a test that they can do in Europe; basically they see what type of chemo (because there are a lot of them) is most effective on my mom’s type of cancer. That way, when we start IPT we know that the chemo is going to be as effective as possible.

One more recipe and then we’re done for the day. There is a fantastic Thai restaurant across the street from my mom’s clinic; I’ve eaten lunch there a few times and I’m especially gaga for their coconut curry soup. Since I can’t justify paying $3.50 for a bowl every day, I decided to whip up a batch of my own.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup

Adapted from a recipe at Pink Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 piece of ginger, peeled, about 2 inches
  • 8 oz boneless, skinless chicken
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • Juice of one lime
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 3-4 green onions
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

 Directions:

1) Prep all of the ingredients: cut the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces; finely chop ginger, slice mushrooms and chop green onions.

2) Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; add curry paste and cook for about 30 seconds stirring constantly.

3) Add the stock, coconut milk (1 full can + the cream portion from the second can) and ginger and bring it to a boil.

4) Add the sugar, lime juice, lemon juice, and fish sauce; reduce by 1/4 to 1/3, about 30 minutes,

5) Add the chicken, cover and reduce heat to medium-low; cook until chicken is almost cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

6) Add vegetables; turn heat up to medium-high and cook until vegetables are just cooked, about 5 minutes.

7) Ladle into bowls over rice (optional); top each soup bowl with cilantro.

I wish my camera was cool enough to catch the steam rising from the surface. Mmm…

***For the non-meat eaters, this one is practically vegetarian as is! Swap vegetable stock for the chicken stock, omit the fish sauce and use salt or soy sauce (or vegetarian fish sauce, if you can find it), and add your choice of vegetables or tofu to the broth.***

Ok, that’s it for today. Tune in again in a few days for:

  • Pictures and stories from Alchemy, the GA burn
  • Cool things to do in Atlanta (Korean tacos, pretentious hot dogs, and Rocky Horror). Will you be shivering in  antici…pation tonight?
  • Bangin’ BBQ chicken wraps and crab-stuffed salmon!

Until next time…






Feasting

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Feasting

If you’re sensitive to pictures of dead animals, you might want to avoid this blog post.

Man, I am still behind on recipes! I’m sorry that I’ve been slacking on the blog-front; it’s been a little busy around here and I’ve not been in the blogging mood. But before I cook anything else, I want to catch you up on everything that I haven’t posted. So I’m going to start a while back with the feast that we had. A few days after The Boyfriend’s party, he and I started kicking around the idea of doing a feast.

We usually had a feast as a celebration for The Boyfriend’s birthday but we hadn’t this year. The feast would have a $10-$15 buy-in and there was usually six or eight of us who would buy in. We’d buy crab legs and shrimp and scallops and sometimes lobster tails. It’s always been a good excuse for a fun night with friends and a fancy dinner at low cost. We wound up deciding to do a small feast with just a few friends in Albany; with our $40 budget, we bought shrimp, lobster (tails and claws), sea scallops, and a duck. Roasted duck is one of my favorite things to make in part because it’s so easy. And, besides also being really delicious (it tastes like the dark meat of chicken), it also yields duck fat. Duck fat is a fat that can be cooked in; it’s a liquid at room temperature, it is less bad for you than butter, and it gives a light, smoky flavor to food that is cooked in it. In short, it is a miracle elixir of magical proportions in the kitchen.

Back to how easy duck is to prepare: the first time I made a roast duck, it was under the supervision of a close foodie-friend of mine, Wilco. Whenever I was got insecure that I was doing something that was going to ruin the duck, I’d ask Wilco. Wilco always responded the same way “The worst that can happen is you’re going to have a roast duck.” And that is pretty much true. If you cook the duck too long, yeah, the meat might be a little tougher but the skin will be all the crispier. If your rub isn’t flavorful enough, you can always add more salt once it’s cooked. Trust me, a duck is one of the easiest things you can make but it sounds so fancy that it will impress people. AND it tastes great. What more could you want from dinner?

My favorite rub is a barbecue-style rub; it is salty and smoky and sweet and spicy.

Crispy BBQ Duck

Ingredients  

  • 1 whole duck, 5.5 to 6 lbs
  • ½ white onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, whole and peeled
  • 1 cup boiling water

Spice rub

  • Butt rub
  • Brown sugar
  • Spanish paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Italian herb seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

 Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Remove duck from packaging; drain blood and check to make sure there is nothing inside the duck (like the duck’s organs in a bag).

3) Using a knife, score the duck skin or poke shallow holes into the skin; make sure you get all over the duck, both sides.

4) Pour 1 cup boiling water all duck.

5) Mix up seasoning in bowl; adjust quantities to taste.

Rub seasoning all over duck, making sure to get every part.

6) Shove onion and garlic cloves inside the duck; place duck on broiler pan in oven.

7) Cook for 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the duck (2 hours for a 4.5-5 lb duck; 3 hours for a 6.5-7 lb duck). Turn the duck in the oven every half hour. Duck is done when skin is brown and crispy and juices run clear.

 Pouring boiling water over the duck after it’s been scored loosens up the fat under the skin of the duck. When the duck roasts, the fat melts off making the skin crispy (and creating quantities of  wonderful duck fat).

Our duck really was whole this time: head and feet included! You can get frozen duck at the grocery store; these will likely have head/neck and feet removed. Or you can buy refrigerated ready-to-cook duck from an Asian supermarket; this duck will more likely have head/neck and/or feet still attached. It is just a matter of preference. For me, I prefer being able to eat the whole duck; the meat on duck feet is delicious and extra crispy.

We bought ¾ lb of scallops at our local Asian supermarket. They were very fresh: large, white, very round.

 Bacon scallops with butter sauce

Adapted from a recipe at http://www.spotsfordates.com/07/2008/recipes/bacon-scallops-with-butter-sauce-recipe

Ingredients:

  • 8 sea scallops
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp white wine (or sub for a mixture of light beer and white vinegar)
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tooth Picks

Directions:

1) Start by making sure that your scallops are completely dry: set the on paper towels to drain and blot the tops with another paper towel.

2)  While the scallops are drying, cook up the bacon; cook the same number of slices as you have scallops. Blot grease off bacon and set aside.

3) When the scallops are dry, season both sides with a little bit of salt and pepper.

4) Put 2 tbsp butter in a different frying pan over medium high heat.

5) When the butter has started to bubble, add the white wine (or beer/vinegar) and lemon juice.

6) Add scallops to pan and cook 3-4 minutes per side; remove from pan to a plate.

7) Cut bacon strips in half; to plate, slide one slice bacon (2 halves) onto a toothpick. Stick a toothpick with bacon onto a scallop. Pour butter-wine sauce over all scallops onto the plate; serve immediately.

I made the bacon-scallops this way rather than the “traditional” method (wrapping uncooked bacon around raw scallops and cooking them in the oven) to ensure that the bacon was crispy and the scallops weren’t overcooked. And it worked great! The scallops were very juicy and the chewy, saltiness of the bacon complimented them nicely. Also, this whole recipe took about 15 minutes start to finish and again, looked fancier than it really was. Double bonus.

The other two things we made were boiled shrimp and lobster tails and claws. Unfortunately the quality of the seafood was bad in this case—the seafood was frozen when we bought it and it suffered from freezer burn. The recipe is still solid so I’m going to post it, but I recommend using fresh seafood.

Seafood boil with butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 3 lbs lobster claws and tails
  • 3 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • Large pot
  • Garlic butter (1 clove garlic, chopped mixed into 2 tbsp melted butter)
  • Lemon butter (2 tsp lemon juice mixed into 2 tbsp melted butter)

Directions:

1) Heat up a lot of water in a huge pot; add Old Bay and vinegar.

2) Once the water is boiling, add seafood; cover and cook 5-7 minutes or until shrimp is pink and lobster is bright red.

3) Serve with garlic butter and lemon butter.

And so we feasted! And it was glorious.

And they say money can’t buy you happiness

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And they say money can’t buy you happiness

I didn’t do much cooking last week as I was on Spring Break and in New York(!) but I still managed to eat some good stuff.

If you’re a foodie and you have never been to New York City, I highly recommend it. There are endless options and the only problem is that it is unlikely you have the amount of money or the tummy-space to try everything. They have food in carts on the streets, in chain stores, in hotel lobbies, and even in train stations. Case in point: Grand Central Station.  There are over 35 places to buy food in Grand Central alone. One of the first things I saw was this bakery:

This is one-half or so of the bakery; I couldn’t get the entire establishment in one shot. Whoa.

The Boyfriend and I tried our best to cross  off as many eateries as possible off of our “Places to Eat in NY” list, starting with the Shake Shack!

I have heard that the Shake Shack is one of the quintessential places to go for a burger while you’re in NYC. Had I known that the Shack was outside, I probably would have skipped it, seeing as it was in the upper 30s that day; but boy am I glad that we went! The Boyfriend and I got our first taste of NY by sharing a burger, a NY style dog, fries, and a chocolate shake. Talk about burger nirvana; so good that I forgot to take a picture! The burger was everything a cheeseburger should be: melty, chewy, soft bun, secret sauce. The hot dog was different than any one I’d ever had: it had texture, you had to chew it! It clearly wasn’t liquefied meat piped into casing. And topped with sauerkraut and mustard, it was just the way I like it. After tasting the shake, I understand why they are called Shake Shack. The chocolate shake was creamy but not too much so, and tasted like decadent slightly dark chocolate. It was perfectly balanced so that it was sweet enough that you wanted the whole shake, rather than the average fast food milkshake: so sickly-sweet that you only want a little.

We didn’t get to eat here but I really wanted to. We were on our way to Katz’s when we ran across this place. They serve pomme frites (or as us commoners call them, french fries) with a ton of different mayo-based sauces. This place is definitely on the check-list for next time.

We made a stop at the infamous Katz’s Deli.

We got the classic pastrami on rye. It was pricey but definitely worth it. Layers and layers and layers (do you see how tall that sandwich is?) of pastrami with just a little bit of mustard. It may not sound like much but Katz’s does simple perfectly; no bells and whistles needed. The two pickles served alongside it were great too; the light green pickle in front tasted more like cucumber than pickle (and yes, I am aware that pickles are pickled cucs). The Boyfriend wasn’t a fan but I found it interesting and refreshing.

On our second (and unfortunately last) day in the city, we hit up China Town.

China Town is a culinary dream! So many markets with seafood, spices, fruit; I wish I could have done some food shopping here, but unfortunately we were on our way to Albany that evening.

I have never seen so many dried (theoretically) edibles! What does one do with dried sea cucumber?

Our last stop was at Grimaldi’s Pizza in Brooklyn. We had been advised by a friend of ours that this was where to go for the best pizza in Brooklyn. On the way from Manhattan to Brooklyn, The Boyfriend and I got pretty lost; as we were bumbling around sniping at each other, hungry and worried about the train we had to catch at Penn Station is just a couple of hours, it started to hail. Never has anyplace looked so good as when we saw Grimaldi’s and got to go inside out of the cold and hail.

Unfortunately, the first sign we saw said “No slices.” The second sign read “Cash only.” Thankfully we had enough time (and enough cash) to grab a whole pie. And I think I know why those 2 signs exist: no one should ever have just 1 slice of Grimaldi’s, it is just too good. And if we didn’t have to pay cash, I’m pretty sure we would have bought a second pizza to take with us. As it was, we had to be content with a large pizza (with pepperoni and mushrooms).

We were halfway through the pizza before I remembered that I needed to get a photo.

And then of course we had to get dessert.

Easily the best cannoli I have ever had (and the only one that The Boyfriend has ever had! When he saw it arrive, he asked me if it was some kind of deep-fried tortilla with ice-cream filling).

We spent much longer in Albany than we did in the city and we found a few good eateries there as well, but nothing that really compared to the food in NYC (but really, what can?). Well, I will make an exception for Cheesecake Machismo. Apparently it is one of Albany’s highest rated restaurants and it exclusively serves cheesecake. The Boyfriend and our 2 friends and I decided to split half of a Frankencake: a cheesecake made up of any 6 slices of their flavors-of-the-day.

We chose (from left to right): Purple Nurple (black raspberry Chambord cheesecake with double chocolate ganache on top); Chocolate Chip Fasciana; Sponkey Monkey; Coconut Smores; Chocolate Buzz (rich chocolate coffee cheesecake, double chocolate ganache, oreo crumbles, and a dark chocolate covered espresso bean on each slice); and Hazelnut Black Cherry.

It was glorious. I don’t know that I have ever had such delicious cheesecake. Going into it, I was most suspicious of the hazelnut-black cherry slice; it just sounded like all of the bad fake flavors from a candy store rolled into one. I was happily mistaken and it wound up being my favorite slice!

We tore our way through those 6 slices like we were cross-country skiers tearing down a mountain. We immediately felt over-full and sleepy and kind of ill; symptoms of a cheesecake hangover.