Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tuna and Orzo Bento

Harris Teeter had yellowfin tuna steaks on sale for $4.99/lb the other day! I was going to buy salmon but decided last minute to get a pound of the tuna. I've never cooked fresh tuna before so it was interesting to experiment. I wanted an Asian marinade, something with soy sauce and sesame oil. As I started to pull out the ingredients, I noticed in my fridge an unopened bottle of Gyoza dipping sauce from Trader Joe's! It had most of the ingredients I wanted in my marinade so I saved lots of time and measuring by using that, with the addition of a squeeze of honey and a teaspoon more of sesame oil (love that stuff).

The steaks marinated for an hour before being pan-fried over high heat. In retrospect, the honey mixed with high heat was perhaps a bad idea as the tuna got a bit too dark on the outside. They tasted pretty good though, especially topped with the remaining marinade (boiled to kill any germs) then paired with orzo and fresh corn on the cob. One pound of tuna was definitely too much food for me and my boyfriend so I put the remainder into a really cute bento!

Top: orzo with garlic, onion, and zucchini, topped with toasted slivered almonds
Bottom: Sliced fresh tuna, skewered cornichons, adorable mini sweet pepper, bottle of gyoza dipping sauce for tuna

I've been experimenting with the settings on my point-and-shoot digicam (Canon SD1000) to find the best combination for indoor food pictures using the flash. These didn't come out too bad. I lowered the exposure setting, set the color scheme on "vivid" to bring out the colors of the food, and used the macro lens. Still not the greatest though. I'll have to experiment some more...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Texas Food!

If the food I ate this past weekend was indicative of what Texans eat all the time... well, all I can say is that I love Texas. It wasn't the most healthy food, not by a long shot, but boy was it tasty. My girlfriends and I pigged out in San Antonio and Austin with BBQ, Mexican/Tex-Mex, and multiple trips to Sonic. And, of course, I have pictures of every meal we ate!

Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q

We stopped at the side of a highway for this authentic no-plates BBQ joint. It wasn't until I saw the "sause" bottles that I realized it was the same Rudy's from a coworker had bought me a bottle of BBQ sauce. We ordered a bit of everything... beef brisket, pork ribs, half a chicken, sausage, creamed corn, baked beans, and potato salad. My favorites were the ribs and creamed corn.

Although I'd seen it on TV, it was my first time eating piles of barbecued meat on waxed paper. We sat at picnic tables surrounded by Rudy's "kitsch" including this hilarious yet disturbing sign:

La Fogata

This Mexican restaurant had quite the flashy and tacky decor with hundreds of strings of lights woven in and around the outdoor patios, bubbling fountains, and neon signs. But the food? Well, I only have one picture of my meal (beef quesadilla), which is evidence of how good it really was.


What is it about Sonic that makes it sooo good? Maybe it's because there are none in DC (always want what you can't have, right?) or because the drive-in concept is so quaint yet novel, or maybe it's because they serve one of my favorite foods - tater tots! Whatever the reason, we went there twice in our brief weekend trip.

Chili cheese tator tots

Chili cheese Coney

I read about this place on both Chow and Yelp, so I recommended that we go there for brunch. The restaurant is in kind of a sketchy neighborhood at the side of a highway, and the building is extremely ramshackle on the outside. Inside, your senses are assaulted with pink walls and slanted floors that feel somewhat fun house-esque. I could tell my friends were skeptical but the food definitely upstaged the decor. I particularly loved the scrambled egg-covered tortilla chips that were still slightly crispy with a hint of smokiness.

Hibiscus and mint iced tea with ginger and white grape juice

Refried beans, guac salsa, scrambled eggs with tortilla chips

Guac salsa and refried beans on a special roll with garlic sausage

Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill

I'm pretty picky about choosing a restaurant so I felt a bit uneasy letting a friend of a friend book us reservations for dinner in Austin. But we likely never would have found this affordable and delicious place on our own so I'm extremely grateful! The decor was very nice with stone walls and low lighting, and our waitress was the friendliest server you could ask for, even going out of her way to ring up separate checks for our party of 13. Everything I tried was good and the complimentary cornbread, which had its own huge box advertisement on the menu, was out of this world especially when paired with creamy honey butter.

Chorizo-stuffed pork tenderloin

Five-cheese macaroni and achiote chicken

Miso-grilled salmon

Seafood enchiladas

The infamous cornbread

Casa de Trimi

This last meal was a hearty breakfast lovingly prepared by one of my best girlfriends after a long night of drinking and only 4 hours of sleep. Sometimes you just can't beat home cooking.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Bentos

I made three bentos this weekend in preparation for the week's lunches (and dinner to take with me to class). The colors are pretty but I'm not quite satisfied with the taste of raw veg by itself. I need to get some sort of container for ranch dip or hummus. Also need to work on my lighting techniques... *grumble*

Leftover Pasta and Veg Bento
Top: veal-stuffed agnolotti with bacon, mushroom, and peas; cherry tomatoes
Bottom: carrot sticks and snap peas with spreadable Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese
(Notes: microwaved the pasta with the tomatoes on top, making them hot and bursty; not enough cheese for all the veg)

Ravi Kabob Bento
Top: Rice with stewed chickpeas; cherry tomatoes and spreadable Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese
Bottom: Chicken Tikka Kebab
(Notes: antibacterial grass food divider between tomatoes and rice; forgot a food pick and had to scrounge for a fork!)

Grilled Chicken and Sweet Potato Bento
Snap peas, cherry tomatoes, chicken, sweet potatoes
(Notes: antibacterial grass food divider between veg and chicken; love my elephant food pick!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Strawberries and Cupcakes - Together!

I had a craving for coconut cupcakes over the weekend, so I sent the bf on a mission to procure coconut flakes, coconut milk, and powdered sugar. Unfortunately, Trader Joe's has a very limited baking section and had only one of the above items (coconut milk). He did, however, bring back a nice quart of strawberries, so I changed plans completely and made chocolate cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting.

The cupcake recipe was adapted from Joy of Baking, but I may have taken a wrong turn when I substituted milk for water when dissolving the cocoa powder. Also, I fear I overcreamed the butter and sugar, making for an extremely dense batter (looked like mousse). The cupcakes turned out okay but rather dry and had an odd bouncy texture rather than being crumbly. I had better luck with the frosting though, which was 1 bar of cream cheese mixed with a stick of butter, strawberry puree (blended and sieved strawberries), and powdered sugar. I used a resealable plastic bag to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes and got some ugly ones that were eaten immediately, and some rather pretty ones like the one below:

I also had some cut up strawberries with lunch this week and used two of the adorable animal food picks I got for bento! My coworkers are at a loss for words when looking at my lunches lately.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Making Use of Leftovers

I love leftovers. For some reason (probably the thrifty voice ingrained in my head by my mother), I derive immense pleasure from turning leftovers into delicious next-day meals. The best leftover is roast chicken, which can be shredded and reused in a variety of cuisines from Mexican (quesadillas) to Italian (filling for ravioli).

This time, I purposely ordered way too much Peruvian rotisserie chicken (it's so cheap, how can you not buy more?) and shredded 3/4 of a chicken for meals throughout the week. As a full time consultant and part time student, I take all the help I can get for fast meal preparation. Some of the chicken went into the standard quesadilla with store-bought tortillas - they last forever in the fridge, shredded cheese, and sauteed onions. Most of the chicken, however, was saved for delicious chicken salad sandwiches in which I mixed the chicken with its accompanying mayonnaise (not sure what's in it but it's light yellow and phenomenal), a bit of the green pepper sauce (very spicy so a little goes a long way), and some sliced green onion. I topped sourdough bread with smoked provolone and the chicken mixture, popped it in the oven for a few minutes, and had myself a gorgeous, scrumptious open-faced sandwich.

Speaking of leftovers, ever since my experiment with onigiri, I've developed a fascination with bento boxes! What a creative and clever way to use up leftovers. I always have small amounts of leftovers too, not quite enough for a full meal but too much to let go to waste. After reading many many posts on, I visited the online store for Ichiban Kan and bought way too many bento supplies! I have yet to use the cutesy food dividers, sauce containers, and food picks, but leftovers from dinner last night yielded this adorable version of a bento box:

Left: broccolini sauteed in garlic and shallot
rosemary rib-eye steak
Right: buttermilk mashed potatoes with green onions

Here's to many more adventures in bento-making!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Yes, I like food.

I think all I do lately is think about food, read about food, look at pictures of food, cook food, and take pictures of my food. Oh, and eat food, of course. Here are a few more delicious meals from the past week.

Penne with prosciutto, mushroom, zucchini, and parm

Cute mini quiche with rosemary, prosciutto and parm

Grilled chicken drumsticks with Vietnamese marinade from Kim O'Donnell

I'd particularly like to point out this hash brown stirfry (below). This delicious-looking creation came about the other morning when I wanted a diner-esque breakfast and had only frozen tater tots, no potatoes. So I put some oil in a pan, tossed in the tots, covered the pan, and let cook for about 5 minutes until thawed. Then I mushed them all up, pushed them to the side, and added my other ingredients (bacon, onion, some broccolini). Once everything had cooked through, I pushed the whole mess down flat into the pan and turned the heat up to make the bottom nice and crispy, then tossed it around and repeated several times. Oh man, was it good. Tater tots may have to be an emergency staple in my freezer from now on!

Awesome hash brown stirfry topped with an egg over easy