Saturday, September 26, 2009

Happy National Pancake Day!!

Before I start I just wanted to let all the Facebook people know that, my blog doesn't show up on Facebook very well and the videos don't post at all. So it's best to just go to the actual link to check out my blog.


So I was doing a search online for "strange holidays" and I happen to come across a small article that talked about National Pancake Day. Unlike the more popular IHOP Pancake Day, this celebration is supposedly more celebrated in your own kitchen. Who comes up with these?!? Never the less, I love a good obscure reason to make some food. I'm actually glad it is National Pancake day because this week I happen to go to a local restaurant called Amato's Cafe, which is featured on the Food Network as a good place to eat. Reading reviews, everyone mentioned the Ricotta Cheese Pancakes. I thought it sounded interesting and despite the numerous greasy Italian sandwiches that were available on the menu, I opted for these legendary pancakes. All I can say was... YUM!! It was a little different than I imagined, but basically it was two thick slabs of fluffy pancake infested with gooey blueberries and random chunks of Ricotta Cheese. Having eaten this type of flapjack phenomenon for the first time, it inspired me to try this at home. And what better day to do this than NPD!!!

I decided to be adventurous and make my own recipe. Since I never measure anything when I make things myself, I'll give you a description of what I did:

First I made the batter by taking whole wheat organic pancake mix (the cheapo version), fat free half and half, egg beater, pumpkin spice, allspice, walnuts and some sliced prunes and raspberries. While the frying pan was heating I took some fat free Ricotta Cheese, which I ALWAYS have on stock, and mixed some sugar free white chocolate pudding mix with the cheese to sweeten it and give it a more firm texture. Then I placed the batter on the fry pan and immediately put chunks of the white chocolate ricotta cheese into the batter. While this was cooking I made some homemade syrup using sugar free syrup, some more white chocolate pudding mix power and skim milk. Btw my homemade syrups are bomb! What! So after the pancake was done, I garnished it with some raspberries and prunes, poured the syrup, and voila!!

So how did it taste? While I did like the pancake I had at Amato's Cafe... I am afraid to admit I LOVED mine!! The pockets of sweet ricotta cheese with the prunes and raspberries made a perfect combination!! And the syrup gave it that extra creamy sweetness. So when with the Food Network be at my house is all I have to say!!!



Sunday, September 20, 2009


I'm not Muslim nor have I partaken in Ramadan before. For those of you who know me, I can't stop eating and I'm afraid I wouldn't last long with fasting! However, since I do love to cook I will find any reason to try something new and I thought the end of Ramadan, otherwise known as Eid-Ul-Fitr, would be a perfect opportunity to try out (or horribly botch up) some traditional foods eaten during good ol' Eid!

I outsourced some brainstorming and recipe searching to my good friend N who is Egyptian and who's mom makes the BEST homemade Egyptian food! I was able to get my hands on a recipe for Fattah, yummy layers of lamb, rice, and bread... only one problem....

The recipe was in German!

You see, my friend is from Switzerland and so her mom e-mailed her the recipe in German. Equipped with basic German skills, I told my friend that I will translate the recipe myself and try it out. Well let's just say I couldn't translate it all so I looked up another recipe for Fattah creating a strange hybrid of b
oth recipes. I wanted to also make some thing sweet so I found two more recipes. One is called Arcia Mahshia-Bil-Goz (for simplicity sake let's call this Walnut stuffed prunes) and Sheer Korma, which is typically eaten in the Asian-Muslim countries like India.

Want to hear something amusing? I was telling someone about my cooking obsession which eventually translated into this blog. He asked me who I eat all my meals with and I just paused and laughed because I make these big feasts, but I'm the only one that eats them!! Of course I don't make tons of food, but I'm definitely selfish and need
to share the wealth! So how did the food turn out??!? Since there are three different recipes I will post the ingredients and cooking steps in other posts. But here are my reviews:

1. Fattah - A little bland but yummy! The rice was really good since it was cooked in broth of the lamb-cardamon-onion stew. I'm pretty sure the recipe was nothing like how my friend's mom makes it so once I get the correct recipe I will definitely try this one again!!

2. Walnut Stuffed Prunes - MMMMMMM!!! I was worried that soaking the prunes in strong black tea would take away the sweetness, but with the combination of nut flavor and the cream to dip it in... Mmm Mmmm Mmmm!

3. Sheer Korma - Three words...
DI... SA.... STER! Let me throw in another word.... gross!!

Ok it is not the fault of the recipe, but more the cook! For some reason the recipe didn't say how much vermicelli to use. Thinking I'm the best chef ever I decided to eyeball it... unfortunately this sweet soup like dessert basically turned into mush... like when you cook pasta too long... like that mush. And the flavor not sweet and I could only taste the vermicelli instead of all the yummy things I put inside. I'm actually not even going to post the recipe for this because I would never want anyone to mimic this monstrosity I created!! In order to hide the grossness I placed cardamon seeds in the shape of a cute star :)

And what's Ramadan without some Arabic music?!?! Here is a video from Nancy Ajram. When I was in Egypt I saw lots of her music videos and here is one of my fave songs! Enjoy and kudos to all you faithful Ramadaners out there!!!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reuse - Recycle - We are the World

I'm green... I mean, I use those 99 cent reusable bags when I go grocery shopping. It's the same when it comes to forgotten treasures lost in the back section of my fridge. Going through my fridge today I came across two items I wanted to recycle and renew into a new glorious form of culinary delight... provided I don't botch it up...

First is Japanese beef curry. For those of you unfamiliar with the difference, Jap-cur does not use coconut milk and can be prepared to be more viscous than its Indian or Thai cousins. Usually I make a big batch of it and eat it throughout the week... BORING! So I decided to combine two of my favorite things into a new hybrid creation that I will call Curry Rollup! When I make curry I also make homemade naan. So for this creation, I made the dough for naan, flattened and cut it out to make a nice rectangle, pasted curry on the dough, rolled it up, and baked it for 30 minutes. Of course I didn't want the naan to get out of control so I didn't use yeast so the thickness of the naan remained constant. Here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS (yields two fatty Curry Rollups)
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 5 tbsp minced garlic (I always make garlic naan to keep the vampires away...)

- 1/4 cup milk

- 1/4 cup plain yorgurt
- pinch of salt

- 1 egg

- left over curry (I'll save this recipe for another time!)

1. mix above ingredients, sans curry, and form dough.
2. once dough has a nice consistency, use a rolling pin to flatten, cut into rectangle
The dough should be as thin as you can make it without it falling apart - try for 1 cm thick
The rectangle size can be up to you but I made it 3in x 9in (do you like how I switch up measuring units?!?)
3. take the left over curry (should be cold and thick) and paste it onto top of the rectangle dough. Be careful not to use too much curry or it will come out the sides. Also, leave room at the end of the rectangle with no curry because it will be oozing toward the en
d as you roll.
4. carefully roll the dough going the long way making sure you don't push out the curry
5. place on a greased cooking pan, with the end of the rectangle side face down, and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes

The second item I had were pitted dates. I bought them a while ago for a snack to eat at work. Unfortunately these naturally sugar snacks became a bit of an addition, so I took it home to take the temptation away from my work desk! Since I already had the flour out and the oven on, I decided to bake something. I looked up some recipes and found an African recipe called Banana and Date Squares. Here is the recipe with my modified twist :)

- 2 cups of whole grain flour
- 2 eggs (or 1/2 cup of egg beater)
- 1 1/2 cup butter (I use fat free butter because I'm allergic to normal fat...)
- 2 tbsp of Sugar-Free vanilla pudding mix

- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tsp pumpkin spice
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar (I don't like things too sweet so add as much as you'd like!)
- 3 ripe bananas
- 12 pitted dates

1. mix all ingredients except for banana and dates. The texture should be runny like your nose when you get level 7 Thai food.
2. peel and cut bananas into 1/2 in cubes or slices
3. mince the dates into little pieces
4. pour half the mixture into a 9x9 greased pan
5. spread chopped banana and dates evenly over mixture
6. pour the remaining mixture over bananas and dates so they are no longer in sight
7. bake this African craziness in 250 degrees for 25 minutes
8. Just for fun, I took Sugar-Free Banana Creme pudding mix and mixed it with Sugar-Free syrup to make a nice banana syrup to go over the B&D Squares.

I must say that both dishes turned out great and I really need to recycle a lot more things in my fridge!! I wonder what I can do with molding leftover Chinese take-out....

Of course food isn't the only thing you can reuse! One thing I really like when musicians do is when they take old music and incorporate it into something new. One example of this that I really enjoy is a Japanese singer who took a symphonic piece called Jupiter and made a song of it. Jupiter is part of a seven-movement composition called The Planets written by Gustav Holst back during World War I. The entire piece is really good but by far Jupiter is the most recognized movement of the seven. So Hirahara Ayaka decided to take this classic, puts some words to it, and sing as as her debut single. Turns out she was right on track because it was a hit and instantly put her on top the Jap charts for a good chunk of time. Enjoy and go Captain Planet!!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Define Labor...

So today is Labor Day which normally equates to a three day weekend for most of us. But for all you cooking fanatics out there I'm sure it was an excuse to make some good food! Now I'm fully aware that Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, but I know there are many more hard working people... or dare I say children out there. After a little research I was able to find the country with the highest percent child workforce. While it may sound insensitive to make a special culinary tribute to 4-16 year old children around the world, at least I am being aware of the problem instead of pretending it doesn't exist. So the winning country with a whopping 60% child employment rate goes to....


Chad??? Yeah that's what I was asking myself too. With all my garments and electronics carrying a label of "Made in <insert Asian country here>", their numbers pale in comparison to this interesting country in Central Africa. Looking up Chadian recipes, I was afraid there wasn't going to be too many, but I was surprised to find several appetizing recipes to try out. Since 60% equates to a lot of kids, I decided to make two dishes. The first being a meat dish cooked in a peanut sauce and then a dessert that uses millet. Apparently millet is the "mashed potato" in many regions of Africa and each country has very different recipes using ground millet. Chadians have an interesting snack made of millet which I decided to try. So how did things go?? Let's go over the recipes first!

Peanut Sauce Meat (I couldn't find the real name to this so if anyone knows, help a brotha out!)

- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 lb beef cubes (1/2 inch - 1 inch cubes)
- 1 cup whole grain flour
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tbsp chili powder
- 2 medium onions chopped (size is up to you)
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 3/8 cup tomato paste
- 2 cups water
- red pepper flakes (You can be a wuss or put your mouth on fire... up to you!)
- 1/4 cup peanut butter (natural or freshly ground is best)
- cooked rice of your choice

1. take beef cubes and roll in whole grain flour
2. heat oil in large skillet and add beef cubes
3. as beef is cooking add nutmeg and chili powder
4. after meat has browned add garlic, onions, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and water
let this simmer for 30+ minutes. (the longer you simmer, the more tender the meat will be)
5. heat peanut butter with 1 tbsp oil and mix
6. add peanut butter/oil mixture to the beef cube mixture, stir, and let simmer for 20 minutes

So what did I think? Making this dish was fairly simple and just by looking at the ingredients you can tell this dish will be on the bland side. Luckily, I LOVE peanut butter and would eat it every meal if I could. It really made this dish worth making!! When you first take a bite, the peanut sauce is the first flavor detected by your taste receptors. Once you bite into the meat, you start to taste the subtle hint of chili steak. The peanut sauce is far less overwhelming like peanut butter chicken over at Hong Kong Cafe, which makes the dish all the more enjoyable. So while I don't imagine myself making this dish too often, I would recommend it and even make it for other people to try. Now on to the millet snack...

Millet Snack

- 1 cup ground millet
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg

1. mix millet, wheat flour, and melted butter
2. blend sugar with egg
3. add sugar/egg mix to flour, mix, and kneed
4. cut into ribbons and fry in peanut or sesame oil

So the directions look pretty simple right??? Well I will let you know that I am horrible when it comes to any kind of bread recipe as I can NEVER get a good consistency of dough when following recipes... So I did everything the recipe stated below and instead of dough I had batter... like I wanted to take my beef cubes, dip them in my new batter and fry them.... NOT GOOD! So I decided to add more millet. I thought why not? If the Africans love them I will too...

Still runny...

I add more of millet....

Still runny...

I get a little tired of adding millet so I add more wheat flour...

I'm starting to not like this...

more millet...


After several iterations (because you never want to go overboard with dough) I finally got the right dough consistency. I probably added an extra cup of millet and an extra half cup of wheat flour. After my endless battle with the dough, the rest was simple. The directions said to cut it into ribbons... I'm not an arts and crafty person so I translated into "cut dough into 1 inch wide strips of dough". I guess ribbons makes it sound more cool? I opted for sesame oil as I feel it has more flavor and the final result???


Yeah... just average. I liked the crispiness and subtle sweetness but I felt like it needed a little more. I actually dipped it in the peanut sauce from the meat dish and that was good! I actually made a lot more than I should have so I'm going to add a cinnamon/sugar mixture to it and bring it to work tomorrow. Anything fried goes over well where I work :)

So there you have it! If you're ever in need of some Chadian cuisine try these two recipes (and make sure to double the dry ingredient portion for the Millet Snack!!!) And with that, I leave you with a song from a Brazilian band called Marina Gasolina. What does Brazil have to do with Chad you ask? Well in the song they say something like Africa Africa... so it works. And the video is so weird it makes me giggle like a Japanese school girl eating a Hello Kitty cupcake. Enjoy and Happy Labor Day!!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Un Jour, un Enfant, un bagel!

On my team at work, Fridays always start with breakfast provided by someone on the team. Because I like to stick with my normal eating schedule, I don't indulge myself in this weekly tradition. This week's breakfast was the standard assortment of bagels and donuts. I did the normal "I want a donut but I don't want one" ritual and ended up cutting 2/7 piece and eating it. (Yes I am THAT person...) I'm a big fan of asiago cheese bagels, but I decided to take the multi-grain bagel and store it for later. Work was pretty busy that day with not too much time to eat so I decided I would save the bagel for the next day. Of course the next day being Saturday and me having some time in the morning I refuse to have just a normal bagel. So I decided to create my own recipe I like to call Scrambled French Bagel.

Disclaimer time!! If someone has made this dish before and you think I'm copying you...
1. you don't know me! take a seat!
2. mine was probably waaaaaay better. sorry!!
Oh and as a second disclaimer you will soon learn that I'm a nutcase when it comes to fat-free (FF) and sugar-free(SF) items which I know isn't good... but if you have already forgot please refer to #
1 above :)


- one bagel (day-old stale works well)
- 1 egg (I usually use egg beaters)
- 1/8 cup half and half (FF)
- 1/8 cup almond milk (unsweetened)

- 1 tbsp vanilla pudding powder mix (SF/FF)
- 1 tbsp peanut butter powder (or real PB)

- 1 tsp pumpkin spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp brown sugar (Splenda version)
- pinch of ground nutmeg

- 1/4 cup of pecan pieces

1. Cut the bagel in half, and then into 1/2 - 1 inch cubes
2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl

3. Let the bagel soak up the mixture for 30 minutes (bagels take longer to soak than bread)
4. Heat up a skillet and fry mixture
5. Garnish with some whip cream (FF), fruit, or whatever you'd like

This was my first attempt at this and although it was a fairly safe mixture of ingredients it turned out really good! I don't like to use a lot of sugar or butter because I think it makes meals too heavy and sweet. This was a very subtle and light breakfast that is fairly simple to make at home!

Of course you cannot have Scrambled French Bagel without some french music!
I stumbled upon this song because a friend of mine was explaining Eurovision to me and how it's a music competition with mostly horrible singers that is held every year in Europe. I was interested in hearing how bad these performers are so I downloaded a list of Eurovision winners for each year starting in 1956. As I listened to the recent winners my friend was right in that you wonder how they could have possibly won a music competition. As I started going down the list and listening to older songs, they got better and better. BY FAR the best Eurovision song that I listed to was the 1969 winner from France, Frida Boccara. She sand a song called Un Jour, Un Enfant (A Day, A Child) and it's really really good! I'll post the video for it and you just have to keep in mind this is old. One thing you'll enjoy is how she flips her hair in order to emphasize the climax of the melody. Enjoy!

Friday, September 4, 2009

You want to work in Lybia?!?!

An acquaintance of mine, who shall be called R, has decided to pursue a career in Libya. As I am half way across the country from R, I cannot tell her in person how excited I am that she has chosen this path. Instead, I decided to show my support by cooking a Libyan dish. The taste of the dish will decide the fate of R...

After looking through several online recipes, and looking through my fridge to see what I have available, I decided to make Fish Kofta in Tomato Basil sauce. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kofta, it is part of the meatball family and mainly prepared in the Mediterranean and middle eastern countries. I have made different variations of Kofta and it is interesting to see how different regions make their version of Kofta. I have never seen a Kofta r
ecipe made with ground fish so I thank the Libyans for being creative and trying something other than beef and lamb!

Since this is my first cooking post I will make the disclaimer now that I am NOT a chef and haven't had any training. In fact I've made some pretty heinous dishes and have learned from my mistakes!

Below is the recipe I found off of

- 1lb of white fish (of your choice)
- 2 eggs
- 2 slices of white bread soaked in water then water squeezed out
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic chopped
- 1/4 cup of fresh parsley
- 1/4 tsp tarragon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- flour
- 1/4 cup oil
- hot pepper flakes, salt, pepper (at your discretion)
- 1lb tomato diced
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil chopped
- 2 tbsp of tomato paste
- hot pepper flakes and black pepper (at your discretion)

1. In a food processor, mix all KOFTA ingredients except for flour and oil
2. Once KOFTA ingredients are finely processed, make egg sized balls and dredge in flour
3. Heat oil in skillet and brown all sides of KOFTA
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
5. In food processor, mix all SAUCE ingredients until a tomato paste is formed
6. Place KOFTA in pan and pour SAUCE over and back for 30-35 minutes

Of course no home recipe is unique unless you make your own slight modifications!

1. I thought I had enough fish in my freezer but I didn't so I used a mixture of fish and scallops. It all comes from the same place people!

2. Tarragon.... hmmm.... Tarragon... ??? WTF is Tarragon?!? (I told you I'm not a cook!) I had to google Tarragon only to find it is one of the four sacred spices in French cuisine (probably should make do that next). Since I'm lazy and didn't want to go to the store I also googled Tarragon substitutes and Marjoram, which I do have, was listed... done!

Other than that everything was followed per the original recipe!
So how did it turn out? Will R's career path be forever ruined by my feeble attempt at Libyan cuisine?!?

It looks like R will be living it UP in Libya!! As soon as I open the oven, I'm greeted by a seafoodesque basil smell! I decided to garnish the dish with some chopped spinach and kim-chee and voila! It is hard to describe the flavor as it is not fishy, but definitely not meaty either. The texture is soft and fluffy and every bite has a subtle hint of herbs. I went a little too far with the red pepper flakes but it was still very flavorful and delicious. I give myself two thumbs up and highly recommend this recipe to anyone looking to make some balls of seafood yumminess!!


New Blog!!

I've been meaning to create a blog for some time now, but never knew exactly what I wanted to blog about...

Today at work a co-worker asked me what I was doing for labor day weekend. I explained to them that I am a complete hermit and have no plans and want to keep it that way! She paused and tilted her head with a look of confusion much like when you talk to dogs knowing they don't understand. She then proceded to tell me that it must be boring sitting at home all day. Of course I don't just sit and stare at the wall all day long but you might be wondering what a hermit like me does??? I can basically sum it into two categories:

1. food
2. music

Allow me to elaborate.

I LOVE to cook and even more than that I love to eat. A couple of years ago my cooking style was limited to cooking rice, limited Asian style meat preparation and little to no vegetables... Fast forwarding to today, I've made it a hobby to try preparing foods from all around the world and I'm loving it! Not only is it fun to find recipes and use strange and sometimes questionable ingredients, I've also started eating more balanced meals which has actually helped me shed some unwanted body fat. In this blog I will be logging my culinary endeavors complete with recipes, where I found them, and my review of the food. Of course there will be failures which I have no shame in admitting! If anything they will make for a more interesting blog.

You might think this strange but a lot of my time at home revolves around music. I am a pianist so I spend a couple of hours either practicing pieces I am aspiring to play or simply playing anything I randomly select from my music library. If I'm not playing music, I'm searching for new music. I think there is a whole world of music out there and I'm determined to discover songs that trigger my musical fancy. The other purpose of this blog will be to share with the world my discoveries. I do have a strange sense in musical preference, but open to anything and everything!

I'm excited to get started and see how this goes!