May 25, 2014

Hobbit Diet Day 1: Braised Chicken with Baby Artichoke

I'm currently working on a food challenge of eating like a Hobbit for 30 days. That's seven meals a day! If there's any outstanding recipes I made during this crazy journey, I will share with you here. 

When I scheduled a test kitchen day at work, I didn't think about it being the first day of the Hobbit Diet. Not that it would change anything but it was interesting for me to try to log what I just made into MyFitnessPal app.

What was I going to test? Braised Chicken with Baby Artichokes, originally from Williams-Sonoma blog. 

Braised Chicken with Baby Artichokes


Fortunately, someone else made a similar recipe--actually, one of the recipes I considered testing--and added the calorie counts to the database. Surprisingly, this recipe is quite a healthy one at 280 calories per serving (if serving 6).

My lab rats...I meant, coworkers...were VERY happy with the results. The sauce. Oh my god the sauce! It's just awesome.

Easy one pot supper, I tell you!

I made it again for on Day 17 at home so Brandon could try Baby Artichokes. I served it with leftover rotini pasta, and that was a great idea. Brandon like the preparation but did not care for the artichokes...or the tomatoes (of course). That is fine because now I have all the leftover to myself.

For the next few days, I ate the leftover tossed in with the pasta. I think I like that even better than the chicken by itself.

May 1, 2014

Going on the Hobbit Diet

I haven't updated the blog since LAST YEAR? What?

I guess that's what happened when most of the new recipes you made are for work.

So, hello friends! I'm happy to see you are still hanging around. ;-)

This year, I set a goal to eat like a Hobbit, seven times a day, for a month out of curiosity. Right. Who else would try to follow a fictional diet!

The internal debate (between me and the voices) became where I should post the progress. While OakMonster.com is the main blog, it will be a little bit about the food I eat too.  So, I'm thinking a compromise is in order.

How about I post any new recipe I cooked during those 30 days here? Wouldn't that be nice?

The journey started today. And there is a recipe I tested for work and ate for lunch. But I'll have to find a photo I can use for that since I didn't even think about snapping a photo for myself. I will update soon!

Keep up with my #HobbitDiet 30-day challenge here.

May 14, 2013

Starfruit Upside Down Cake with Cardamom Rum Glaze

Disclosure: At press time, I am a contracted employee of Frieda's Specialty Produce. Some products are given to me as samples, some are leftover from a photo shoot, and some I purchase from an employee sale for personal use.  My opinion on this blog whether it's about Frieda's products or anything else are all my own and does not reflect that of my employer's. 

I've known Starfruit my entire life, having grown up in Thailand. I've seen them around all the time. But frankly, I don't recall having eaten any.  At least not in the past 20 years.  I got to taste it for the first time in recent memory a couple of weeks ago as we tried in vain to make a Vine for Star Wars Day.

Darth Stitch and the destruction of Starfruit

We're now producing the new Specialty Produce 101 YouTube video for Starfruit and I was tasked to see if we can make something different with them outside of blending them into a smoothie or adding them into a fruit salad.

To be honest, there are not a lot of recipes out there for Starfruit that look appetizing or are simple. But then I read that Starfruit can be used instead of pineapples in some recipes.  And it seems I've stumbled on a winner on Epicurious.

The recipe calls for ground cardamom and comes with a warning that many people feel that 3 teaspoons of ground cardamom are too overpowering.  I already have cardamom PODS--green AND black!--in my pantry from my faux-Indian cooking, but I thought I probably should pick up a thing of ground cardamom anyway.  Then I saw the whopping $13 price tag. Never mind!

There has got to be a way around this!  Suddenly, I remembered my cardamom-infused bourbon I made a while ago for a cocktail.  So I did just that with the rum needed for the recipe.

The result is just a hint of cardamom that lets a little bit of pineapple shine through, a warmth that compliments the refreshing taste of the cooked Starfruit, and something just a tad savory to cut through the chewy sweet caramel.

Vacation on plate, I tell you.

Food.OakMonster.com - Starfruit Upside Down Cake

Starfruit Upside Down Cake with Cardamom Rum Glaze
Adapted from Epicurious Pineapple Upside Down Cake

You'll need a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet for this.

Cardamom-infused Rum

Crush 3 cardamom pods in a small bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of rum. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Discard the pods and seeds.

Topping

1 large Starfruit or 2 small ones
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Thoroughly wash Starfruit and slice it crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Melt butter in a cast-iron skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat until sugar is melted and the mixture is sticky, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Arrange Starfruit on top of sugar mixture.  Set aside.

Starfruit Upside Down Cake

Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon cardamom-infused rum (recipe above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice*
2 tablespoon cardamom-infused rum for sprinkling

*I used the juice from in a can of pineapple rings in pineapple JUICE--NOT the syrup!  Brandon loves pineapples so I just poured out my 1/2 cup of juice, and dump the rest of the content into a container for him to eat later. :)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Sift together flour, making powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually add sugar, and eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of cardamom-infused rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. (Batter may appear slightly curdled.)

Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet 5 minutes. Put a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate. Replace any fruit stuck to bottom of skillet. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of cardamom-infused rum over cake and cool on plate on a rack.

Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.

Starfruit Upside Down Cake

I think next week I might repeat this recipe but using Zululand Queen Baby Pineapples instead!

March 16, 2013

I'm with Frieda

I now work for Frieda's Specialty Produce and loving it. It's not permanent yet, but I'm telling you guys anyway for full disclosure.

This job is a foodie's dream comes true. I get to hear about exciting fruits and vegetables every day, and once in a while I get to take something home to play with.  Employee sales also yield a bounty of great loot and there is always something new to discover.

For example, I was sent home with some Kale Sprouts, a hybrid of Red Russian Kale and Brussels Sprouts. Essentially, combining Brandon's favorite new vegetable and my all time favorite vegetable into one!  I grabbed a recipe suggestion for Brussels Sprouts from Girl + Fire Paulette and cooked up these little purple-tinted beauties. A rough "add this and that for that much" recipe is below.

Food.OakMonster.com - Pan-roasted Kale Sprouts with Bacon and Brown Butter

Food.OakMonster.com - Pan-roasted Kale Sprouts with Bacon and Brown Butter

I mentioned the employee sale a minute ago.  The staff in the warehouse loves me now because I'm an easy target. With a little nudge, I'd buy the farm!

My very first order for the sale, I didn't order correctly so there was no produce set out for me to pick up. The guy in charge just had me take a peek at all that was still available.  I intended to only buy Baby Potatoes and Lady Apples. I walked out with Lady Apples, Meyer Lemons, Zululand Baby Pineapples, and Heirloom Tomatoes!  The following week, I didn't have exact change, so the same guy showed me some Rambutans, and instead of trying make some change, I ended up ordering more stuff.

My safety jacket for the warehouse might as well just say, "SUCKER" on the back! LOL

Needless to say, I went ahead and canceled my Tanaka Farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription. I really did love that program and it was a tough one to let go of. As I told you guys, we eventually reduced our subscription about a box a month and we still can't keep up.  There are only two people in this household, y'all, and one of them can be a picky eater at times. The produce just kept piling up.

Going forward, Brandon and I can still have a culinary adventure whenever we feel like it, and we'll supplement the rest with the Farmer's Market on Sundays in Long Beach. That's good too because I really miss going to the market.

Anyways. My new cooking adventures will be a very interesting one indeed. I hope you'll come along!

Now, the "recipe" for a very addictive Kale Sprouts dish.

Pan-roasted Kale Sprouts with Bacon and Brown Sugar

This recipe is not measured in anyway. Be brave and trust your judgement! :)

Ingredients:

  • About 3-4 oz. of Kale Sprouts. You can get them in bulk at some places and prepackaged in the other. You can just use Brussels Sprouts for this.
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • A splash of water or chicken broth
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced. (Just press it through a garlic press.)
  • A pat of butter
  • A generous pinch of brown sugar - about a tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First, cook up your bacon in a skillet until crispy. Save about a tablespoon of bacon dripping. (Some would cook whole slices then crumble them later. I like to chop mine up first and fry up the bits.)

While the bacon is cooking, prep the Kale Sprouts. Give it a wash then trim of the bottom like you'd do with Brussels Sprouts. Halve the larger ones. Leave the little ones whole.

Add Kale Sprouts to the hot bacon dripping, season lightly with salt (bacon is already salty!).  Saute for a few minutes until the Sprouts wilt a little.

[Now, if you're doing this with Brussels Sprouts, you cook until they're nice and brown.]


Food.OakMonster.com - Pan-roasted Kale Sprouts with Bacon and Brown Butter

Add a splash of water/broth to de-glaze the pan. Add garlic.  Once it comes to bubbling/sizzling, let reduce a bit, [if using Brussels Sprouts, until they're fork tender]. Add the pat of butter, brown sugar, and the bacon. Toss to coat.  Season to taste.

Voila! (Sorry. We were so hungry I didn't stop to plate it for a photo!)

Food.OakMonster.com - Pan-roasted Kale Sprouts with Bacon and Brown Butter

January 23, 2013

I'm not dead yet

Well, just so y'all know.


I'm still getting the CSA box but with less frequency. Even with every other week delivery, we still couldn't go through that much produce.  You know how it is in this mood-eating household.

Having said that, we have had some great experiments with mystery vegetables like kohlrabi, and veggies we never had before like rainbow and Swiss chard.  It's been quite fun.

I've taken tons of photos but I haven't blogged about them yet. I'm a horrible blogger.

But...I'm getting back into it. Promise! :)

October 11, 2012

Farm Box Adventures #7 and #8

I apologize for the lapses!  Box #7 came is just as we were going away on a trip so it was a little hectic. And I had forgotten that I didn't post about it until I went to pick up #8....which I also forgot to pick up on Friday.

I know. For somebody who doesn't have a job, I'm crazy busy.

There are also many factors to contribute to my slight disinterest in the past few boxes. Firstly, there was not much to be excited about. The selection hasn't been all that challenging.  And then there is the weather.  I know for most people cooking in the summer isn't such a big deal. But to be in an apartment above the garage with a small A/C that only cools down your general living area, turning on the stove means turning up the A/C.  At some point, the $200 electrical bill really doesn't justify the cooking. And finally, we had been quite busy with just about everything else we barely stayed home for dinner.

With all of those factors, I found myself having to throw out a lot of produce.  A head of lettuce from Box #6 which was already a bit banged up when I got it didn't stay around long enough for me to process.  Two sweet onions, one from Box #6 and one from #7, waited for French onion soup weather patiently in the fridge until mold took them along with a bunch of carrots and green beans from the same boxes.

My tailgate at USC rescued my zucchinis and some of the carrots a few time as I tossed them in some zip-top bags with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little garlic powder and salt and pepper, and the boys grilled them.  I did change them from "Vegetables? What's that?" to "Wow, those were the best zucchini I ever had!" My mission here is done.

From Box #6, cantaloupe got very ripe. I found a recipe to turn it into a sorbet by pureeing the flesh and added a little simple syrup, then freezing the mixture like you would ice cream.  It is really a refreshing treat to have in this heat we have. Box #7 cantaloupe is sitting in the fridge, waiting its turn any day now.

Anyways. Here's Box #7


Zucchinis. Heirloom tomatoes. Green beans. Swiss chard. Cantaloupe. Sweet onion. Carrots. A jar of Tanaka Farm strawberry jams.

I gave Olaina the tomatoes and half of the green beans.  The jar of jam will be coming with us to New Mexico for Thanksgiving. Brandon loves to treat his nieces to the taste of California. :)

Swiss chard was new to me. I decided to braise it with bacon and beer like I did with the kale. I didn't care for the earthiness of the chard though. Brandon didn't mind it too much. Surprise!

And here's Box #8 from a few Fridays ago.


Purple lettuce. Kale. Carrots. Grapes. Tomatoes. Potatoes. Apples.

Olaina once again took home some tomatoes.  The grapes were eaten almost immediately. They were so good!  I used 2 potatoes in this wonderful Ina Garten's potato fennel gratin which I tweaked to do half portion and added a little garlic. Super addictive. As a matter of fact, I'm going to make some tonight!




Oh, and the kale. I made kale chips this time. And oh my gosh, I can NOT stop eating them!  Why do I even bother braising this every again? LOL  Just trim off the stems. Toss with olive oil and salt. Bake at 300F for 20 minutes. That's it. That's all.

Well, there you go. Tomorrow I'm getting Box #9 and I'll be back on the bi-weekly track to post about them.

God help me...

September 5, 2012

Farm Box Adventures #6

This week's bounty:
  • Cantaloupe
  • Avocados
  • Sweet onion
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Corn (given away)
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans


Box #5 Report

Again, I stayed mostly out of the kitchen during these past few weeks of hot Southern California heat. Box #5 didn't get the love it deserved.

The cantaloupe and grapefruits were the first ones consumed.  Brandon is a big fan of the melon and it's so refreshing to eat, cold out of the fridge. As for the grapefruit, I experimented with a new cocktail recipe to great success. Who knew St. Germain and grapefruits were made for each other! I will post that recipe very soon.

As the only consumer of avocado in the household, I use a whole one as "spread" for my turkey sandwiches during the week, mashing them up with garlic and onion powders and the awesome Bacon Salt. Yum, yum, YUM!

I wasted broccoli and lettuce this time around before I can get to them.  I managed to save carrots, green beans, and zucchini before they expired though. Carrots were glazed to go with store-bought rotisserie chicken.  Green beans were once again blanched and froze.  Zucchini was saved by the college football season as I tossed them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a little salt and pepper and garlic powder and took them to Psychogate, my usual tailgate hangout with Roy "USC Pyscho", to get grilled off.

Meal Ideas for This Week

You'd think I'd have more ideas for simple ingredients like this box. But I have to tell you, I'd rather like getting the "mystery" vegetables! LOL

With this batch, I probably will make French Onion soup with the sweet onion again. And I might be able to be creative with the zucchinis.  Not much to get excited about, really. *sigh*

What about you? What have you cooked up lately that is new and exciting?

August 22, 2012

Beer Braised Kale with Bacon

The fun part of getting a different Community Supported Agricultural farm box every other week is that I don't know what's in the box.  Pretty much this is me on my way to pick up the box from Whole Foods.


Kale made an appearance in my CSA Box #2.  A fellow CSA subscriber had mentioned to me that his wife made dark beer braised kale with bacon.  That sounds like a winner right there!  I looked around online and couldn't find such recipe.  So I found a couple of basic recipes for inspiration then just winged the rest.  The result was not only beautiful but it was delicious.

Food.OakMonster.com - Beer braised kale with bacon

Beer Braised Kale with Bacon


Adapted from this recipe from Food & Wine Magazine and this one from Epicurious.
  • 1/2 lb. of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • Optional: Half of a small onion or one large shallot, diced.
  • 1 cup chicken stock, broth, or just water
  • 1 bottle dark beer. I used Red Trolley Ale. 
  • 3 pounds kale, stems and inner ribs discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
  • A splash of apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

1.  Cook bacon in a large pot until crisp, then transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.

2. Pour off and all but 3 tablespoons fat from pot, then cook garlic (and onion/shallot) in remaining fat over moderately low heat.

3. Add kale and cook until wilted and bright green. Add beer and water/stock and simmer, partially covered, until just tender, 6-8 minutes.

4.  Remove the lid, and add bacon.  Cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 3-5 minutes longer.

5. Season with salt and pepper and a splash of apple cider vinegar to taste.

Note: You can go longer with braising if you don't care much of kale's fibrous texture. It's up to you. I like it fine, just done.  On the other hand, Brandon didn't want anything to do with it at this state. "It was like chewing on leaves!" he said.  I guess this is one of the recipes I should aim to always overcook. LOL

August 19, 2012

Farm Box Adventure #5

This week's bounty:
  • Lettuce, of course
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Avocados
  • Grapefruits
  • Cantaloupe

OakMonster Farm Box Adventure

Box #4 Report

The challenge with the last box was the cabbage.  I attacked that with a summer kimchi recipe I found.  Being a lazy bum that I am, I didn't get to the Korean market to purchase the actual Koren chili powder (gochugaru)--I experimented with my own blend with arbol chili, chili powder, cayenne, and paprika. It was a success to a degree, but after I portioned it out for a few folks to try, I decided to toss it out. Just not up to my standard. Next time, full scale recipe!

I did make colcannon-- sauteed cabbage mashed in with potatoes--with frozen cabbage from a few weeks before to go with the bangers I got.  I never knew that cabbage and potatoes would take THAT good mashed together!

However, Southern California weather had heated up considerably these past few weeks. I barely cooked anything! The green beans and the carrots ended up getting blanched and frozen because I just didn't want to slave over the stove in this heat.

Meal Ideas for This Week

I am going to test out a new cocktail recipe for the grapefruits. As tasty as the margarita has been, it's time for a change. :)

I will definitely re-do the awesome beef and broccoli recipe again. This time I will take a picture of the end product and will post recipe...eventually.

The carrots will get glazed. The green beans will get steamed. I'm unsure of what I'm going to do for the protein yet but that's the game plan so far.

Zucchini is this week's contender.  I have done zucchini soup two ways before, so I might revisit the hot zucchini-leek soup as I wasn't a big fan of the chilled one.

Do you have any good zucchini recipe that does not involved turning on an oven?

August 4, 2012

Farm Box Adventure #4

I was so happy that I didn't get any cabbage last week. I knew that it was too good to be true...

This Week's Bounty
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Oranges
  • Watermelon
  • Cilantro -- already given away so it's not pictured here.
  • Lettuce
  • ...*sigh*... Cabbage


You gave away cilantro? Aren't you Asian and supposed to love that stuff?

I do like cilantro. Cilantro/Coriander is almost Thailand's national vegetable! We incorporate the roots into marinades and curry bases (yes, back in our country, they sell them WITH roots.). The leaves are used like parsley here, sprinkled onto a dish or used as garnish.

Heck, we even have a saying based on cilantro! When you do something poorly but you make it looks nice and presentable, Thai people call that "sprinkling cilantro on top". (ผักชีโรยหน้า)

Unfortunately, Brandon doesn't like cilantro. Well, not liking is a part of it. He is also one of those people to whom cilantro tastes like soap. Some studies said it's a genetic thing. Some people are sensitive to a certain aromatic chemical of the cilantro. And so on.

I just settled at the fact that he doesn't like it. My next door neighbor was very happy to take it off my hands along with a fistful of green beans.

Before we discuss this box, let's talk about the last one.

Box #3 Report

Box #3 was not too big of a challenge to cook. After all, it didn't have cabbage.

I gave one avocado away to a friend visiting from Colorado who has missed California avocado so much she was going to smuggle some back on their drive home. The other, I made a ghetto guacamole for a snack by mashing it with chopped tomatoes and a pinch each of garlic and onion powder, cayenne pepper, and salt, and a splash of rice wine vinegar because I didn't have any lime on hand.

Tomatoes are also one of the things Brandon doesn't eat. To my delight, actually. All the yumminess is mine! Muwahahahah! :-D I have been cooking up a whole tomatoes with eggs for breakfast on my Meatless Tuesday for a great and filling meal.

Beef and broccoli was also a major success. My dad back in Thailand sat our family's housekeeper down to get her recipe for the beef marinade. He even typed it up for me himself--a feat for someone who actually doesn't know how to type ("That's what my secretary is for!")--so I can make dinner that same night. And boy, was it worth the trouble. While I did take some pictures for you guys, I did not take picture of the finished product. We were hungry. So very, very hungry...

Also as planned, I made Caesar salad, French onion soup, and that cabbage soup with some green beans and carrots in it. And I still have a quarter of frozen cabbage left.

I used the carrots to make carrot cake instead because Brandon was craving some. I bought a few more carrots just in case but I actually didn't need them. I even had extra! I use Tyler Florence's carrot cake recipe for the cake which turns out super moist and NOT overly sweet at all, and the cream cheese frosting from Nigella Lawson's Guinness Chocolate Cake recipe. Should've made double batch of the frosting as my filling was a little bit on the skimpy side. But over all, it was yummy.

Box #4 Meal Ideas

Carrots and tomatoes are never a challenge around here, and lettuce and green beans are not too hard to figure out either. This time around, though, I'm going to introduce Brandon to tuna-less Nicoise salad since I have some lovely brined olives from the farmer's market in the fridge.

Aaaand we're back to the cabbage. I'm starting to feel like the Cabbage Guy in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Instead of losing the cabbages, I keep getting them!

I did buy some pork bangers on sale from Whole Foods today. So I grabbed a couple of potatoes so we can do bangers and mash with a side of sauteed cabbage. So that'll take care of half of one. I can probably throw the other half in the freezer...to join yet another quarter of cabbage...for future soup making enterprise.

I also wonder if  I can make kimchi out of the non-Napa cabbage.  I need to do a little research on that.

Any thoughts on what else I can do with cabbage? Please don't say cabbage roll. I read that recipe to B and he made a face. LOL