Friday, August 29, 2008

First Food in the NewHome

Well, that was a brief hiatus.
Now that I've unpacked as best I can without much furniture (and no fridge, geez!), I can get back to what I do best: making goofy little meals and then telling the internet how yummy they were. If only I could get paid to do it!
In any case, since arriving in year-long-growing-season-land, I've been inundated with tons of perfectly ripe, local fruit at pretty reasonable prices. Without a refrigerator (it's on backorder), though, these goodies need devoured quickly. Thus, we have fruit snacks and fluffy,
 blueberry pancakes.
TheBoy works really hard for really long hours, but he doesn't really need to bring a lunch because they typically have catered food all over the studio. Unfortunately, most of that food is take-out style and devoid of veggies
 or fruits. So, yesterday, I sent him in with one third of  a nectarine, a handful of blueberries and half a banana packed in one of my brand-new Lock-n-Lock containers and a cute little bamboo pick (came in a pack of 200 for $2.99 at World Market in the Hollywood Farmers' Market). He doesn't always have time in the morning for a real breakfast with me (especially since they provide him a free one of instant oatmeal/granola bars/bagels/donuts), but I'm happy to be able to give him some positive nutrition for his hectic days.

Because I'm still searching for a job and reliable transportation, I spend a lot of time in our apartment by myself -- deep cleaning everything, relining all the cabinets with cute new paper, unpacking, and assembling furniture. During this time yesterday, I had a craving for sweets, but I didn't feel like walking 
twenty minutes to the store just to pick up some starbursts. But, having tons of fruit,
 I filled a coffee mug with some delightful, sweet blueberries and bursting-with-flavor bing cherries. Oh! So good, but so healthy too. Later, I had that same craving, but instead of giving in (no!), I made a happy little orange sun to entertain me and my tummy. 

This morning, I used some of our enormous quantity of very ripe blueberries to make some really fluffy, scrumptious blueberry pancakes. I couldn't wait to eat them, so the picture pallet is a little messy, but I think you get the idea. Even though these pancakes look super fluffy and fancy, they're really just the generic Kroger mix from the box. By stirring the water and mix together only just enough to get it evenly moist (very little stirring!) and then letting it sit a few minutes, I gave the batter time to rise. Giving it a quick stir after throwing in the blueberries just made it a tiny bit fluffier before I used a big spoon to drop about 1/4cup worth of batter into my non-stick sprayed skillet. I only turned them each once, because if you turn them more than that, they tend to get tough. I also did not squish the pancakes with the spatula to make them cook faster. It's worth the wait to let them cook slowly. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Unfortunate (for you) Hiatus

So, I guess I forgot to mention, but.. yesterday, I moved to California. 
For now (at least until our NewHome has internet), I'm putting the bento blog on hiatus. (I'm leaching 'netz from my future in-laws right now).

Expect to see tons of delicious Mexican and vegetarian food in the near future, but, in the meantime, check out this killer picture from Ocean City, NJ -- Sesame Street cupcakes! This won't be a long break, promise!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Zucchini Post

I forgot one little thing from the previous zucchini post: 
the dog loved it! He devoured the frosting. His subsequent sugar high was.. adorable?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

So Much Zucchini from the Cheap Produce Place!

So, on my way back from the dentist (my mostly sugar free bentos have been paying off!), I stopped at the produce market. Usually, I try to hit the farmers' market, but I haven't had much luck finding one lately, so I took the lesser of two evils (the other evil being the supermarket).  Well, that was a great freakin' choice! I got a bag of four zucchini for .99, a pound of green beans and carrots, each for just .99. Not to mention the blueberries, green pepper, and organic black plums (YES!). 
Last night, one of those zucchini, the pepper, some green beans, and some carrots found their way into a delicious stir fry. I bought some tofu, but ended up 
using chicken because I wanted my family to actually eat it. Overall, I made a tasty meal with pretty minimal prep: mostly just lots of cutting (made quick by using a giant knife for the veggies and kitchen shears for the chicken). 

I called up my obligatory Asian college roommate (she was at an anime convention,
 no lie!) to make sure that I had all the right sauce ingredients; of course I didn't. So, one quick trip to the store later, I had the essentials: soy sauce, ginger root, and garlic. I used about two whole (enormous) cloves (not heads!) of finely minced garlic, along with about a teaspoonful of minced ginger. I put the ginger and garlic into a cereal bowl and covered them in about half a cup of soy sauce plus a good splash of white vinegar and a little shake of white sugar (great amounts, right?) and stirred 'em up before pouring half the concoction over the chicken in one bowl and the other half over the veggies in another. 

I let the mixtures marinade for about two hours while I got jiggy (yes!) with the next project: cake!
 Well, after the two hours, I stuck the chicken in a giant frying pan and, once it was more or less cooked, I poured in the veggies, plunked the lid on, and let them go for a bit while I played with the other project.

The other project: another two zucchini had an encounter with the grater and became a zucchini cake! A lot like carrot cake, but more green. 
I found the recipe here, but made a few variations. Well, really only two 
variations: instead of using a $300 stand mixer for four minutes of mixing, I used a $20 hand mixer (rhymes!) for about two minutes -- same fluffy, eggy result. I also didn't have a tube pan (wtf is that?! sounds like a 
toy!), so I used a bundt pan. So far, 
I think it's turned out well -- homemade cream cheese frosting and all. I used whipped Philadelphia cream cheese instead of regular... I don't know if it changed anything at all, but the frosting is sooo good! The lemon extract makes it taste lighter than most cream cheese frostings, but doesn't take away from the rich texture. Ultimately, the cake turned out a winner. Everyone in the family's been devouring it (even the diabetics... yikes!) and I've had entirely too much of it. 
One of the best things about this recipe is that, despite the layered flavors and divine taste,
 the ingredients are simple and even pretty healthy... I guess. 
The zucchini and walnuts help to balance out the sugar. Another great thing about this recipe is how easily it changes from a cake to a bread. Just omit one egg, up to one cup of the sugar, skip the frosting and, voila, bread!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chicken Nuggets and Home-Cooked Baltimore

Last week was super busy. Not only did I take a trip to the Goshen Fair with a friend (and had a lovely strawberry mojito after leaving), but I also got a chance to hold a precious little chicken nugget in my hand. Of course, we did the other usual things at the fair: rode the ferris wheel, watched my brother make a fool and a pig of himself at the pie-eating contest, ate delicious funnel cake to support the Goshen fire company.. overall, a great trip and a perfect treat to reward me for skipping out on vacation this year (I'm moving to L.A., but I haven't been to the beach yet this summer). 

Though I can legitimately complain about my complete lack of tan, I certainly can't whine about last weekend's awesome mini-trip to Baltimore to visit some great friends (TheBoy's best man and his wonderful wife, along with his brother and our mutual buddy). Because "TheWife" is a vegetarian and I am aspiring to renew my veggie-vows, I had a great 
vegetarian weekend: frozen veggie burger lunch (great with salsa on whole wheat bun), gazpacho of delicious Doom (homemade by TheWife as a chilled, perfectly suited-to-Baltimore's-glut-of-humidity soup), cardamom ice cream (are you kidding!? it was so amazing! like cold, creamy chai with a cone and fat and dribbles down my hot little hand). She made the gazpacho without tons of spices to account for varying spice-love, which made the final result that much more exhilarating when we added some fresh cayenne directly from their garden. Oh. Yes. 

We had more food, of course, but I thought I'd split the posts into Home-Cooked and Eaten-Out food (though the cardamom ice cream was purchased at the ice cream shop). 

Easily the best dish of the weekend was the delightful homemade paella. This was my first journey into yellowy-looking rice + veggies, but I will never regret it. She again left out most of the spiciest bits in favor of letting us spice our own dishes with fresh cayenne -- do I have to point out that I love the interactive idea of cutting my own pepper from a good friend's garden? I love the wholesome idea of knowing exactly who raised it and how they did it, 
and there is absolutely nothing tastier than fresh produce -- especially when the produce comes from only 10 yards away. Of course, we accompanied our classy meal with some red wine -- Gnarly Head (I brought down some Funky Llama Shiraz as a housewarming gift, but that was set aside to age more... even on the wine rack that MyBoy and I gave them a
s a wedding present. I felt so appreciated!) 

Now, that fuzzy looking green stuff on the plate is a licorice-smelling garnish of fennel (the bulb went into the paella) and that cute placemat came the same day from The Village thrift store (go if you can -- 40cents for placemats? uh, yeah!)

So, the food... wow! I've never eaten such a yellow food that I love so much. For such a quickly prepared and fairly simple and inexpensive dish, paella is beyond delicious and so filling. Arborio rice + turmeric + canned diced 
tomatoes + fennel + artichokes (not a lot, though) + magic (um, the stove) = the amazing, creamy-starchy, healthy dish that you see in the picture. Recipe to follow, when I finally get it.