Friday, December 19, 2014

Hang Ten Poutine Fries

A couple of months back, a Hang Ten Boiler opened up in the next town over.  However, since I try not to consume shellfish right after getting shots and I just gotten a flu shot that day, I ended up going for all the Hawaiian items instead.  I heard about a somewhat almost secret item on the menu which turned out to be the H10 Fries that was suppose to be amazing.  Fries, good, kalua pork, even better!!  Add them together with their special sauce and you got yourself a party in the mouth!!

When I was looking in my freezer of what to make for dinner, I saw my last package of TJ Poutine and a tub of kalua pork that I picked up at Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley when I was getting my fresh ramen, as many small Japanese stores will now get Hawaiian products shipped in weekly.  So after just some steaming and reheating, I even had time to make some spam musubi - http://www.cookwithzee.blogspot.com/2014/11/spam-musubi.html to serve along with this Hawaiian inspired dinner. 

Fully Cooked Kalua Pork – Steam for about 15-20 min until heat through, pulling the meat apart halfway through

Poutine – follow direction on the TJ’s bag – found in freezer section

Price:  $12 for 3 servings = $4 per serving with a serving of kalua pork still left to have over rice. 


My version
 
Hang Ten Boilers
 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ramen Noodle Soup

No, this is not your college days Top Ramen from the package but fresh ramen like Ramen houses that has been the craze resulting in hour long waits in line for a taste.  With the practically continuous rain that we have been getting in the Bay Area for a week now, a bowl of ramen in front of a crackling fireplace was exactly what I needed to warm up. 

Ingredients
1 qt chicken broth
2 pk of fresh ramen noodles
2 tsp soy sauce
Green onions chopped
Sesame oil
6 Quail eggs
Bean Sprouts
Roast pork

Preparation

  1. Hard boil your quail eggs using the same method as regular eggs but keep the cover on for only 4 min after bringing water to boil.  If you want it softer boiled, try 2-3 minutes.  Rinse under cold water and remove shells when cool. 
  2. Rinse off the flour from the ramen noodles in a pot of hot water
  3. Add rinsed off ramen noodles into a pot with the qt of chicken stock, cover and bring to a boil
  4. Once boiled, remove cover, reduce heat to medium, add soy sauce and bean sprouts and simmer for 5-10 min. depending on your preference 
  5. Serve in bowl topped with green onions, 2 cooked quail eggs, pork, and a drizzle of sesame oil
Note: 

  1. I picked up my ramen noodles from Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley but you can find ramen noodles at many Asian Markets now. 
  2. I cheated and just used roast pork vs. making my own pork belly
Price:  $6 for 3 servings = $2 per serving 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Fudge Wreath

When I saw how simple and versatile this recipe is, I knew I had to make it.  You can bring this as a hostess gift for a holiday dinner party so they can keep it all to themselves to enjoy later, as a dessert contribution for the party, or better yet, double duty sliced to give in a small rectangular tin for a gift supplement AND the leftovers sliced and spread out for a festive sweetness to your Xmas dinner. 

Fudge Wreath - Rachael Ray Recipe -
http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/recipe/16933_5_Minute_Fudge_Wreath/

Note: 

  1. I just added walnuts to it which I prefer to cut down on the sweetness as it is very rich and sweet
  2. Since I did the double duty sliced for gifts and a sweet complement for Xmas dinner, I skipped the fruits on top and it was still pretty enough.  Repeat it is super sweet and rich so a few slices a person would probably be sufficient for dinner party.  As gift in a tin, about 10 slices would look pretty…just make sure to get a thin rectangular tin. 
Price:  Less than $5 total



Friday, December 12, 2014

Apple Farm – You Had Me At Pie

Our Love Story

I have always had a soft spot for Apple Farm in San Luis Obispo ever since seeing it for the first time in person in 1997.  Maybe subconsciously it was because it was that trip that I met my future husband who was going to college down there and he drove my friends and I to Apple Farm so I can pick up an apple pie that I heard so much about. 
 
 
 
Although I was only there for a few minutes to pick up the pie back then, I vowed that one day I would return to this quaint place for an overnight stay.  Fast forward to 2004 after years of staying at more economical places along the Central Coast for our yearly jaunts, I finally had my first stay at the main inn at the Apple Farm.  We had a room with blue and white décor as each room is different, that overlooked the parking lot but also the restaurant and gift shop which when lit up at night is almost as quaint as the inn itself. 
 
Gift Shop
 
I have always thought of the Apple Farm as a large scale B&B as it has the amenities of a hotel but the personal touch of a B&B. 
 
 
 
That memorable experience does come with a price tag as it is not the most budget friendly place, averaging about $200-$300 per night on the weekends so I had to go back to staying elsewhere and satisfy my Apple Farm fix with at least a stop at their restaurant and gift shop for their apple butters and frozen apple cider to bring back each time. 

In 2011, we returned to stay at the queen room at the Trellis Court twice which has the same coziness as the main inn but at half the size and without the evening turndown service.  It was a bit too close for comfort for me but if it meant I get to be at my Apple Farm without the main inn price tag, it was worth walking sideways to get to certain areas and the private hot tub helped offset the space issue.  Our second time at the Trellis Court that year was the day after Christmas when it was still festive but seeing the decorations quickly disappearing off the tree and around the property as they were snatched up for 50% off by shoppers sadly reminded us that the holidays were over. 

Apple Farm is always welcoming any time of the year but even more so during the holidays as it is decked out in the warmest festive decorations I have ever seen.  It is so easy to put up a tree, throw on some lights outside and call it a day but it takes meticulous care to pull off what they do which is create this amazing cozy and warm feel whether you are in the lobby, slowly walking down the hallways to your room and back, or the beautiful rooms itself. 
 
The last two years, we finally returned to the main inn to celebrate our anniversary, this time arriving the first weekend of November when the decorations were going up (except for the tree) vs. coming down and was quickly reminded of why I fell in love with this place just walking down the hallways in each floor during the evenings.  

Apple Farm Christmas Experience

Finally this year we had a Monday free so was able to do a Sunday night stay which is much more affordable and got to finally experience the full effect of an Apple Farm Holiday and it continues to exceed our expectations.  As soon as you walk through the doors to their lobby, you already start getting warm and fuzzy inside. 






Upon check in, you are greeted with both a glass of wine and fresh baked cookies from their bakery literally just steps away.  Coffee and hot apple cider awaits the non-drinkers or those not of age.  Then you slowly make your way through the hallway where you cannot help but stop and admire the care that went into each of the displays. 
 
 
 








 


 
 
Upon arrival to your room with its door festively adorned with a jingle bell
 
 
 
You open it up to be greeted by a souvenir wooden apple that is yours to keep. 
 

 
 
A couple of steps in, a beautiful room that is all unique, but with a fireplace that if you request for the evening turndown service is lit and waiting your return from the cold after dinner. 
 
 
 
The complimentary waters and sparkling apple juice with chocolates you see in your room are all included in your facility fee. 
 

 
 
Before long, it is already time for the evening reception which is temporarily but I hope will be permanently housed in the Millhouse with a choice of red or white wines or Martinelli apple cider paired with cheese breads, Chex mix, and often another special hor douevre (this time cucumber slice topped with smoked salmon and crème fraiche) from their restaurant.  Their bakery, restaurant, and gift shop is just on the other side of the parking lot and you will find yourself easily getting lost for hours just admiring everything.  This year they have 25 Days of Christmas where each day they have a different holiday related activity planned until Christmas whether it is roasting marshmallows by the fire or crafts but the one daily thing they have been doing for years is Find the Missing Elf Contest.  This year I was determined to find Dash and for a prize most fitting, a T-shirt and a choice of a whole pie.  Needless to say, I chose Apple just like I did 17 years ago. 




A picture is worth a thousand words and although I cannot help raving about our experience using up the thousand words, I will let the pictures tell the story as well.  If you want to experience it for yourself this year as there is still time or next, check it out at http://www.applefarm.com/. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Phyllo Wrapped Chicken with Mushroom and Camembert

I had bought phyllo dough about a month and a half ago to make the Spinach Artichoke Ricotta pie twice - http://www.cookwithzee.blogspot.com/2014/10/spinach-artichoke-ricotta-pie-go-giants.html but still had more than half a box left that I refroze.  So I was trying to think of an idea of what to make with the rest.  During the holidays is the only time that Trader Joe’s carry camembert cheese so I always pick one up to spread on baguette and had half a round left.  So all I needed to do was defrost some Mary’s Free Range chicken breast I stocked up on and picked up a pack of cremini mushrooms from TJ’s. 

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

2 boneless chicken breast butterflied but cut through so you should end up with 4 pieces

Salt and pepper

Dried thyme

8 oz crimini mushrooms sliced

Splash of white wine

8 sheets of Phyllo dough (defrosted)

2 tbsp melted butter

Camembert cheese sliced (about 8 pieces)
 
Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper
  3. Heat olive oil in large skillet and add chicken breast
  4. Brown chicken on both sides for about 2-3 min on each side until golden brown
  5. Remove and set aside on plate
  6. To the same pan, add the mushrooms, season with the dried thyme, and cook until tender
  7. Add the splash of wine to deglaze the pan and cook off until no liquid left
  8. Remove mushrooms from pan onto another plate
  9. Lightly brush the baking sheet with some melted butter
  10. Place sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with more melted butter, place a second sheet of phyllo and brush again with more melted butter
  11. Place 2 slices of camembert in the middle
  12. Place 1 piece of pre-browned chicken breast on top of cheese
  13. Place ¼ of the pre-cooked mushrooms on top of chicken
  14. Fold up the phyllo around the chicken to create like a pocket
  15. Brush the top with the rest of the butter
  16. Repeat for the other 3 chicken pieces
  17. Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes until it is lightly brown on the outside and chicken is cooked thoroughly
Note: 

  1. Camembert cheese usually comes in a small round so you can just slice in wedges or thin slices
  2. If phyllo dough is frozen, make sure to take it out and defrost for 5 hours before using
Price:  $14 for 4 servings = $3.50 per serving 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shop and Support Local or Small Businesses this Holiday Season

As I had mentioned during my time in Maui, I try to be as much of a locavore as I can while over there to support the local farmers and sustainability.  Back home, it is more of a challenge to find the time to buy solely local since admittedly the big chain supermarkets and Trader Joe’s offer me the convenience and pricing that is usually more budget friendly.  So our Farmer’s Market run and what I grow in my backyard is about as local as I get at home with the occasional trips to Farmer Joe’s for Mary’s Free Range chicken and Clover Stornetta and Straus Family dairy products. 

So as I was making my Christmas list this year, I decided to buy more local or small business products from some of my favorite food related places from the Bay Area or the two places (SLO County and Hawai`i) that calls me back annually, enough for me to consider them almost like home. 

Bay Area Ideas

You must buy this in person and only accepts cash but you will be the hit with the host or anyone if you walked in with a box of handmade mochi from family owned Benkyodo.  Perishable especially the fresh blueberry which is consume day of, so plan accordingly. 

Top Recommendation:  Fresh blueberry mochi

Three Trees - http://threetrees.com/
You must buy this in person as nut milks are another perishable product so plan accordingly if gifting this.  A recent discovery of mine and a relatively new company, it is a fun gift for the vegans in your life or anyone to be honest. 

Top Recommendation:  Pistachio milk

V Sattui Wines - https://www.vsattui.com/

Okay wines may not seem local but for those of us in the Bay Area, it is and although it has become the “it spot” that almost everyone visits when they are in Napa Valley, it is not without merit that it has become so popular.  Still run by the family that their great grandfather had built, their wines are still only sold at the winery or from them direct...proof of that is the lack of UPC codes. 
 
Top Recommendation:  Gamay Rouge

Other Location Ideas
The following are just a sample of what I will be buying in person/online this year or have purchased within the last year. 

Central Coast

Top Recommendation:  Persimmons nougot

Top Recommendation:  Frozen Apple Ciders if in person, Apple Butter if ordering online


Hawaiian Islands

Top Recommendation:  Mika Passion Chocolates

North Shore Goodies - http://northshoregoodies.net/
Top Recommendation:  Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter

Top Recommendations:  Sweet and Spicy Pineapple
 
Maui Fruit Jewels - http://www.mauifruitjewels.com/
Top Recommendation:  Mango Fruit Jewels

The Cookie Corner - https://www.cookiecorner.com/
Top Recommendation:  Lilikoi Tropical Fruit Bars

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Vanilla French Toast

French toast is probably my favorite breakfast/brunch item that I make mainly because it is pretty fool proof and is super easy to make with just a few ingredients.  My non-cooking friend even made the perfect French toast with this recipe and tips. 

Ingredients

4 slices of white bread

2 eggs beaten

Dash of vanilla extract

Dash of milk

Preparation

  1. Beat the eggs, add a dash of vanilla extract and milk and mix it in
  2. Big tip – Pour only the amount of egg mixture needed for ONE slice onto a plate before dipping both sides of that slice.  If you dip into the full egg mixture, the first few slices will absorb most of the egg, barely leaving enough for the rest. 
  3. Heat a 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium to med high heat in skillet and add pre-dipped slice(s) into the pan
  4. After about 2-3 min, flip the slice(s) to cook the other side (it should be golden brown) for another 2 min. 
  5. Repeat for remaining slices
Note: 

  1. Since you can only make 1 or 2 slices at a time, place the finished slices onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven at 250 degrees to keep it warm until ready to serve
  2. You can skip the vanilla extract if you add maple syrup to your French toast as it would overpower the vanilla flavor.  I can eat these on its own so like the hint of vanilla in it.
  3. Add a little olive oil to the skillet in between slices/batches so you can fully cook the egg into the toast without burning it
Price:  $1 for 2 servings = 50 cents a serving