Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dinner Out to Lunch In

Asian food is a particular weakness of mine. Eating out is also a favorite. TheBoy similarly enjoys Asian food, so long as it is cooked thoughtfully. Consequently, we try new Asian restaurants pretty frequently. Thus, this post. Here we have some delightful Thai barbecue from the fantastic Original Thai BBQ on Hollywood Blvd. at Western Ave. Being nearby, this was a restaurant we were destined to try -- and, now that we've visited, one we'll likely revisit time and again. TheBoy had their yelp-favorite BBQ pork ribs and I enjoyed the Crispy Duck (pictured). We shared a delightful order of (I think) Combination Soup -- served in a soup tureen over a flame. Awesome! We loved the soup and the leftovers made a great breakfast for the me the next day. Back to the restaurant review, though... I love duck, but I'm pretty picky. This duck was moist without being greasy and had the best accompanying sauce. Verdict: A+ TheBoy loved his ribs and we both really enjoyed the accompanying shrimp-fried rice.
About the restaurant, itself: friendly, helpful service in a pretty nice environment. I didn't take especially careful note of our surroundings, but the place wasn't packed, had great prices, and gave us our food quickly. Another bonus: they didn't use styrofoam (boo, hiss!) to package our leftovers. Instead, they used the semi-compostable Chinese take-out boxes that A) take up less room in the fridge and B) make me feel like less of a chump for not finishing my meal.

Our bento boxes also enjoyed this restaurant. While I neglected to picture TheBoy's leftovers, mine ended up accompanying me in high style. I used leftover shrimp-fried rice and leftover brocolli to form my main carb base and popped in some pre-made stir-fry to give me some protein. I made a big stir-fry Sunday night specifically for our weekday bentos. Definitely something to continue into the future, as our jobs are picking up and we're getting busier and busier. Taking the time out Sunday evening to make a quick stir-fry saved me mucho time throughout the week. Though the stir-fry was my main protein portion in this lunch, I didn't think it was enough protein (being vegan, only the mushrooms actually had any solid protein), so I added some rolled up lunchmeat and a container of peanuts to complement. Frozen grapes and a tiny Hershey bar rounded out this fantastic meal. I was so full midway through this lunch that I couldn't finish and I ended up saving a good portion of the rice to compost later. Despite not finishing the meal, I had enough energy to last me through my entire, grueling 5-hour shift of outdoor canvassing in the Hollywood Hills (I worked as a door-to-door canvasser for a political party... guess which one!).

Another Hollywood restaurant we've been enjoying lately is YenYen at the corner of Sunset and Bronson Ave. This tiny little restaurant hasn't been around very long, so it hasn't gained much popularity yet, but I predict that it will quickly skyrocket in the eating polls due to a whole variety of reasons. Number one is its adorable decor (super chic deep orange-colored walls, sleek tables, long padded bench with throw pillows for some of the seating -- ultra hip). Number two is the delicious food (um.. duh) which is a great combination of Thai and Japanese foods ranging from Pad See Ewe (my first dish eaten there) to Spicy tuna with crispy rice. Number three is the price. Totally reasonable prices for this great place -- great food + affordability = WIN.

The meal pictured here is actually from our second visit when I had some Thai fried rice with chicken. Obviously, we like the place -- otherwise, it wouldn't have gotten a return visit. TheBoy had eaten at work before coming home, so he hadn't been terribly hungry during either of our two visits, so he's stuck to sushi while I had a real meal each time. Despite his small appetite, he's a huge fan of YenYen and we'll be going back sometime when we both need a full, afforable meal.

TheBoy's lunch the next day reflected how much we loved my meal -- leftovers! I even kept one of the cute cucumber slices specifically to adorn this lunch box. I didn't have a lot of time when I made this lunch, so I left the leftovers looking pretty plain and only added color on the right side of the box. Some strawberries and celery made me feel like I was feeding TheBoy healthy food while the (hidden) hummus, cheese, and peanuts added an extra punch of protein. A quick and dirty lunch that was as easy to eat as it was to assemble. Easy, but a win in terms of healthiness and tastiness.

In general, I love using leftovers from eating out to make our lunches. They're easy, but they can pack quite a visual and edible punch. These specific lunches don't exemplify how fun leftovers can be in terms of visual appeal, but they definitely shined as far as the eating was concerned. I look forward to using up more out-overs in the future and sharing them with my lovely audience! Do you have any favorite places to take leftovers from? If so, share them in the comments.

Monday, November 3, 2008

French Onion Soup, and Friends

Once upon a time, a few weeks ago, I made French Onion Soup and forgot to take pictures of the finished product, though I did manage to snap some images of the onion transition from point A, on the left, to point B, on the right.

I'm not really a big fan of French Onion Soup, really, but TheBoy and TheUpstairsNeighbor are, so I thought I'd "sacrifice" for their sake and have a lovely evening with the two of them. Instead, I found a new love for cooked onions and instilled in my loved ones a new respect for my cooking skillz. See the bottom of the post for the remarkably easy recipe.

Alongside newfound respect, this recipe also produced leftovers to feed to TheBoy. Instead of trying to slop soup into a regular bento box, I used a thermal jar (OK, a Campbell's soup thermos that I stole from my mother's pantry) to hold the soup and packed a normally too-small bento accompaniment. I didn't really need to use the thermos for the soup -- I could've used an uninsulated container -- but it was exactly the right size and it's cute, compact, and, best of all, leak-proof. Why didn't I need the thermal capacities? Several reasons:
  • I pack lunches at night and refrigerate all the food for safety. Refrigerating thermoses is both counter-intuitive and not food safe (because the thermos doesn't keep the food hot enough to be safe, but it does insulate it enough from the fridge to keep it from getting cold enough for safety).
  • We don't have a microwave! So, heating up the soup in the morning would've been a challenge of stove-heating soup in a pot while it's still to early to see clearly.
  • TheBoy has microwave access at work and a glass bowl that lives in the cupboard at work for just such occasions that he should have to heat up some lunch.
To accompany this thermos, I sent TheBoy a smallish bento filled with soup-appropriate needs. This bento features some toast to float on the soup, peanuts for added protein, and a tortilla filled with hummus and a lovely assortment of whatever veggies we had on hand (probably sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce). Acting as gap-fillers are a steamed jalapeno (leftover from a taco truck dinner!), a dried mango slice, one mini vegan brownie, and grapes and strawberries. Surprisingly, this lunch ended up as a vegan meal for TheBoy, though it ideally would have contained some cheese to sprinkle on the soup. TheBoy is not at all interested in vegetarianism or veganism, but I sometimes spring lunches like this on him... without any complaints. Overall, a big win and he requested an immediate repeat, though I think he may have to wait until I have the motivation to chop up half-a-dozen onions again.

French Onion Soup Recipe
adapted from Simply Recipes

  • 6 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar (or just some, like I did)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of broth (I made vegetable broth using better than bouillon paste)
  • 1/2 cup of white wine (I used white wine that we would drink... so should you!)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Spices (I used Basil and "Italian Seasonings, though the original recipe calls for Thyme and a Bay Leaf... I'm poor and can't afford to by spices just for ocassional use)
  • 8 slices of toasted bread (French bread is canon, but we had wheat on-hand)
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Mozzarella cheese with a little Parmesan (Gruyere is the standard, but, again, poor! and Mozzarella is fine, anyway)
1. In a large pan, sauté the onions in the olive oil on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30 minutes. Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help with the carmelization.

2. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock, wine, and spices. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Ladle the soup into serving bowls (if you have oven-proof bowls, like Corelle, as I have. If not, use an oven-safe casserole dish). Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.