Thursday, April 30, 2009

Crazy Crazy Days

Yes, I've been a bit neglectful of my posts. But I have an excuse, a really good excuse. A few weeks back, we had some water damage in the house that required a major bathroom remodel. Whole room got gutted. If there was ever a time to be thankful for home insurance, this sure was one of them.

Nonetheless, it still has been a headache. In the midst of all this, we also decided to put down some hardwood (laminate, actually) flooring in one of the bedrooms. What crazy DIY bug bit us, I don't know but we piled it on. So the house has been in an upheaval state for what seems forever and slowly getting back to normal, sort of. At least we're done with the flooring and hopefully by this weekend, I'll have my office back (the Mister exercised squatter's rights), computer back up, and back to normal posting.

With everything so chaotic, not too many interesting things on the food front. We tried to go to Poway Sushi a couple times for an early dinner but guess they are so popular now that unless you get there right when they open (5 pm), there will be at least a 30-45 minute wait. We even got there at 5:30'ish one evening and there was already a 45 minute wait. I don't have much patience these days so we drove over to Buga Korean BBQ and we were happy. This reminds me that I have yet to do an official post on Buga with pictures and all.

Plans for these weekend, use the Thai Fried Chicken recipe on chicken wings and tweaking Brownie #4 recipe (been in a bit of brownie withdrawal).

Hope everyone is staying healthy and eating well.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

R & B Filipino Cuisine

I have a fondness for small, "family owned" type restaurants. R & B is one of those places and has been on my lunch rotation list for quite some time. I realized earlier this week that it's been a couple months since I've been and took the opportunity to get some take-out the other day while I was driving by (going back to work from lunch, no less). Yeah, I had lunch already but why not take something home for dinner? I also realized that I've never posted a review on them so why not knock out 2 birds with 1 stone!

R & B is a "turo-turo" place and offers quite a few entrees daily. Before I started this post, I remembered that Kirk (mmm-yoso) had posted something on them awhile back (read his review here). I chuckled when I reread his review because we ordered almost the same thing.

As a creature of habit, I get the 2 item combo: 2 entrees and 1 starch. I like to split my starch and get 1/2 and 1/2: half steamed white rice and 1/2 pancit. As far as entrees, I almost always get the lechon. And most times, it's pretty good. On this day, it was pretty good with crispy skin a thin layer of fat and not greasy, although a couple of pieces were a bit chewy. You can see all the "stuff" in the pancit and there was a decent amount of shredded chicken in it along with the veggies. The pancit was good, not soggy/mushy or greasy.

For my second entree, I chose chicken mechado. Sorry the picture doesn't do it justice but it was really good. This was the first time I've seen "chicken" mechado at R & B, typically I see beef mechado. I hope they bring this back as a regular.

I had also ordered a small side of Sisig since it looked good. But I was too busy stuffing my face and didn't realize I forgot to take a picture of it before it was too late. It had lots of tang to it and a good amount of green onions. I enjoyed it with the rice. Now a disclaimer here. I've only had Sisig at R & B so I can't give a comparison. I'll try to make a mental note to order more sisig at other places when I see it.

The total for the 2 entree combo and a side of sisig came to $8 and some change. I had enough food to feed me and the Mister. A pretty good bargain and tasty dinner. Oh, I should also mention that they do catering too.

R & B Filipino Cuisine
11257 Camino Ruiz
San Diego, CA 92126
Mon-Fri: 9:30 am - 7:30 pm
Sat: 8:00 am - 7:00 pm
Sun: 8:00 am - 6:00 pm

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Weekend Update (4/20/09)

Woo doggy was it hot yesterday! It was 96 where I was but it didn't stop us from working in the yard or eating. Unfortunately no pictures of anything we ate. Well, actually that's not true. I did take pictures but they all turned out blurry and crappy. Not a single food picture turned out. Not a one. I've had it with that Casio and now just waiting for my new camera to arrive tomorrow!! So until then, you'll have to settle on no pictures. (You suck.) I know...

Anyway, we took a drive down to Linda Vista on Saturday to have lunch at Sab-E-Lee. You can read the previous review here, with pictures. It was 11:30 am when we got there and already 4 tables full (the place only sit about 20 people at 6-7 tables). We ordered Phad Thai with shrimp (it was okay, a little sweeter than usual), Nahm Tok (love this dish), and Thai Sausage Fried Rice (another must order for me). We also decided to try something new and got the Fried Chicken Wings (how I love my fried chicken wings). I wish I had my camera for this because it was so crunchy and had bits of sauteed garlic spread on top. It came with a sweet dipping sauce but I ate the wings as is. As usual, we always order more food than we can eat so we could have leftovers!

That evening, I made chicken katsu to have with the leftover Thai Sausage Fried Rice but I'll save that for another time so I can get some pictures of the chicken katsu as well as the recipe, which is really simple. I'm still tweaking the katsu sauce so hopefully by the time I post, I'll have worked out the kinks.

Well, that's about it for today. Hope everyone has a great week. Now go and eat well, even in this heat!

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Trivia

Just some mindless Friday food trivia to help us get to the weekend!

Did you know celery has negative calories? Yup, it takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has calories.

Cabbage is 91% water.

A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continually from the bottom of the glass to the top. (Who discovered this one????)

Boiling the cork for a few minutes makes it easier to place it back into a wine bottle.

The flavor "bubblegum" is a combination of wintergreen, vanilla and cassia, a form of cinnamon.

Pineapples are classified as berries.

The most widely eaten fish in the world is a Herring.

No parts of a banana is used to make banana oil, which is a synthetic compound made with amyl alcohol, is named for its banana-like aroma. (I remember the entire O-Chem lab class sniffing this stuff.)

The literal meaning of the Italian word linguine is "little tongues."

That's it for this Friday. Have a wonderful weekend!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brownie #3 and #4

The delay in making Brownie #3 got the Brownie Guinea Pig Panel grumpy and anxious. As a matter of fact, one of them was quite demanding on getting his brownie fix, me being sick or not. Sheesh. It's not like there's crack in these brownies or anything (as far as they know).

Brownie #4 - Winner!

To get back at the demanding bunch, I decided to do something a little different, bwahahaha! Instead of tweaking Brownie #2, I decided to make Cook's Illustrated Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies. I wanted to make these not just to mess with the BGPP but to see how brownies that use melted chocolate taste compared to only cocoa powder.

I used Baker's semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate since it's what I found at the grocery store, and the Callabaut cocoa powder. Well, I was quite disappointed with the CI brownies overall on 2 counts. From a preparation standpoint, it took twice as long to make than any of the other brownies (double the amount of bowls and utensils) and the recipe's bake time was way too long to actual bake time (actual 25 minutes vs the recipe's 35-40 minutes). I can't imagine what they would have tasted like if I would have gone the full baking time that the recipe called for. Thank goodness I checked it when I did.

From a taste standpoint, it was chocolaty but it lacked depth and sweetness, and it left a funny aftertaste. This could have been a by-product of the chocolates I used. But the biggest thing, IMHO, was the amount of sugar to the amount of chocolate was not right. For me, brownie needs to have a good sweet to chocolate ratio, CI's brownies didn't have it. As a matter of fact, I rate these just slightly above Alton Brown's Cocoa Brownies, which is not very good.

The BGPP feedback was almost unanimous that CI brownies were not anywhere near as good as Brownie #2. GP2 was the only one that thought this was good. GP5 and 6 also thought there was kind of a weird aftertaste. But GP5's comments summed it up perfectly, "These brownies didn't make me want another piece."

So with my disappointment hanging over me, I had to immediately work on Brownie #4. The Mister said my reputation was at stake and I had to redeem myself. Guess I got my payback for wanting to mess with the BGPP.

For Brownie #4, I went back to Brownie #2 and decided to work on increasing the chocolate factor without losing the texture or the simplicity. I also wanted to try to simplify the ingredients list, if I can.


2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C packed dark brown sugar
1/4 oil (Canola)
1 stick melted butter (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 C unbleached AP flour
1 C dutch-processed cocoa powder (Callebaut)
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven at 350°F oven.

In a medium bowl, mix eggs and vanilla (hand mixed with a wooden spoon). Add sugars and mix. Add oil and butter, mix well.

In a large sifter (I use a large fine mesh strainer), combine flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder together. Sift directly into the wet ingredients. (Add optional chopped nuts at this point.) I think sifting the dry ingredients help with a lighter texture, I don't think it's absolutely necessary and can be skipped if you don't have a sifter. Mix until everything is combined. Try not to overwork the batter at this point.

Lightly sprayed Baker’s Edge Brownie Pan (or an 8" x 8" pan) with oil. Spread mix into pan. Bake for 22-26 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out with light crumbs. Cool completely in pan and cut into squares.

* If you want to add nuts, add 1 cup of chopped nuts after sifting dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Taste Results:

CAB: Chocolate taste is more intense than Brownie 2. Had a very good texture, slightly crunchy on top but soft and chewy in the center. Still maintained the good slight fudgy mouth feel on the inside. Very nice chocolate aftertaste.

GP1: Mmm, really good. I like the soft texture in the middle. Good chocolate flavor. Definitely better than Brownie 3, think it's better than Brownie 2.

GP2: Oh, this is good, really good. I like the texture.

GP3: (MIA)

GP4: Thumbs up on this one. Don't ever make that CI brownie again.

GP5: Wow, this one stays with you, like a brownie should. I really like the texture of the outside and then the chewiness on the inside. Really good, I think I like this one better than Brownie #2. I would make this one at home. I want the recipe. (A little later: This is good. Yup, it's good. I want the recipe.)

GP6: Really good. I like the flavor of this one.

So there you have it. Brownie #4 is the winner in taste and quick preparation. Almost as easy and just as tasty as Betty Crocker brownie in a box. It took <10 minutes from set up to final batter. Then another 24 minutes in the oven. I don't think I can streamline it to be any easier than this for homemade brownies. The hardest part is waiting for these to cool.

Maybe the future of the Brownie Experiment is to play around with variations of brownies (e.g., cheesecake brownies). We'll just have to wait and see.

Looking forward to the weekend. Now go and eat well.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday Ramblings

Just a couple of quick things today. While reading WOW Grinds upcoming Best Kalbi Challenge (I can't wait to see the results!!!), I realized that I haven't had kalbi in a while, which is unsat! Mental note, make kalbi soon, like this weekend!

Anyway, I think I was drooling when I was reading about the challenge (can't wait to see the results! Awk! I'm repeating myself.) and if it's anything like their other challenges, it'll be awesome. I was glad to see Yummy Korean BBQ on the list and not surprised it had the most votes, #2 on my list for kalbi. I wasn't surprised one bit that my favorite didn't make it on the list. That's because I think Mark's Drive Inn (Aiea/Pearl City) is one of the best kept good cheap eats secret on Oahu. You won't find a lot of reviews about Mark's, as a matter of fact, there has only been 1 write-up that I've ever found dated back to 2002. A sample of the menu can be found here. Boy, reading all this stuff makes me long for the Islands. It's been way too long since we've been back. Sigh...

Other ramble, I made Thai fried chicken a few days ago and finally got a decent picture of it. Yum, I can almost smell them just by looking at the picture. I used a Dutch oven this time versus a cast iron skillet and the results were much better. The drumsticks cooked faster and the crust turned out better. I'm not exactly sure why but I'm guessing it has something to do with the walls of the DO. The Mister had similar results with his pork chops and agrees with me. Maybe the taller sides builds up more steam and/or keeps the temperature more consistent? Maybe it's along the same concept as Cook's Illustrated recommendation for putting the cover on while frying chicken. Either way, I think we'll stick with the DO for frying chicken from now on.

Well, that's about all for today. Hope everyone is have a good week. Friday can't come soon enough for me!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Homemade Pasta

I dusted off the manual Atlas pasta machine this weekend and made sure everything still works (just like new!). Dinner plan was simple, bake some French bread, make fresh fettuccine pasta tossed with some Bolognese sauce. The only thing left was to decide which pasta dough recipe to use.

After looking through some cookbooks and searching online for some recipes, I settled on a very simple egg and flour recipe. One author in an Italian cookbook suggested not using Semolina (Durum) flour since it has a tendency to be gritty. She found that home cooks have better success with unbleached all purpose flour. Her description of gritty was exactly the experience I had with Semolina flour so I decided to follow her advice.

I followed the 1 cup of flour to 1 egg formula but also decided to add a pinch of salt to each cup of flour. Some recipes called for salt, some didn't. I chose to add salt because I felt without it, the pasta might not be as tasteful. I think salting the water would add flavor when cooking but I wasn't sure how much since fresh pasta only takes about 2 1/2 minutes to cook. The following recipe will yield about 1 pound of fresh pasta and feeds 3-4 people. I also used my standing mixer to do the initial mixing and finished with hand kneading.


2 cups unbleached all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
2 pinches of salt
2 large eggs


In a electric mixer fitted with the paddle, combine flour and salt. I used the paddle since it mixes ingredients better than the dough hook and I was going to knead by hand. Add the eggs and mix until all the flour is combined. You may need to scrape down the sides to get all the flour incorporated.

If you don't have a mixer, you can do everything by hand. Mix the flour and salt together and form a mound on a flat work surface. Make a well in the center. Add eggs into the well and lightly beat with a fork. You can use your hands too, if you prefer. Gradually beat in flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Try to keep the sides of the well intact with your other hand as you're beating. Continue until all the flour is incorporated and you can form a ball.

Flour the work surface and begin kneading the dough. There are several good videos on YouTube that shows how to mix and knead the dough. Knead the dough until it is elastic and smooth, about 8-10 minutes. Dust the work surface and/or dough with flour during kneading to prevent sticking; a bench scraper is useful to scrape sticky dough off the work surface. You can also get a plastic bench scraper for about $1, and they work great too. The end product should not stick to your hands.

Cover the dough with a cotton kitchen towel and let rest for at least 30 minutes. You can also wrap the dough in plastic wrap but you might want to brush the surface with a very light coating of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Cut the ball of dough into thirds, cover the pieces you are not using to prevent drying. Dust the work surface with flour. Press a piece of dough into a rectangle and sprinkle both sides with flour. On the widest setting (#1 on my Atlas), roll the dough through the pasta machine. Fold it over on itself into thirds (like a business letter), dust the sides and roll through the pasta machine. Repeat 2-3 more times. The surface of the dough should be smooth.

Reduce the roller width by 1 setting and roll the pasta through through 2-3 times on each setting. Continue reducing the rollers width until the desired thickness is reached (#5 on my machine for fettuccine). Dust the sheet of pasta as needed to prevent sticking to the rollers.

Once the desired thickness is reached, roll the sheet of pasta through the pasta cutter. The pasta can also be cut by hand: dust the top of the sheet with flour; starting on a shorter side, roll the pasta sheet like a jelly roll; using a sharp serrated knife, cut into the desired width. For fettuccine, cut about 1/4", wider for parpadelle (5/8" to 1").

Separate the cut pasta and dust lightly with flour to prevent sticking. You can dust with cornmeal. The cornmeal will separate from the pasta when cooked and won't affect the end result, but you'll have cornmeal floating in your pasta water. I prefer to dust with flour.

Lay out the pasta on a cotton towel to dry a bit or hang from a pasta drying rack. Finish remaining pieces of dough. An interesting trick I read on a food forum for a make-shift drying rack is to cover a broom stick with plastic wrap and then laid out on the back of 2 chairs. Then hang the cut pasta on the broom stick.

You can also freeze extra pasta. If you are going to freeze, make sure the pasta is completely dry (will take several hours) before storing in freezer bags. You can make small birds nest (like the picture below) and let them dry that way. When ready to cook, you can put the frozen pasta directly into boiling water (no need to defrost) and will take about 3-4 minutes to cook.

The results: I really enjoyed the fresh pasta, it had a very nice tooth and I thought the thickness was just right. It was perfect with the bolognese sauce. Got thumbs up from the Mister and one of the Eating Machines. I think this pasta dough will work nicely with ravioli (next on the list).

On a side note, I got a little crazy with bread making that day. I made 2 batches of French bread baguettes, 1 sourdough, 1 regular. Guess I was making up for time lost for those 2 weeks I was sick (hehe). Most of the loaves found loving homes to go to since there's no way we could have eaten through all of these.

Hope y'all had a wonderful weekend. Have a great week. Now go and eat well.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Don't Get Your Panties in a Bunch

I think food bloggers must have really tough skin. I mean why else would we put ourselves out there like a big round bull's eye, fully exposed to any half-witted Tom, Dick or Harry (or Jane for that matter) who hides behind a cloak of anonymity when posting comments? You know the old adage, "opinions are like assholes and everyone has one..."

I've got one too and here's mine for the day. Think about what you write in the comments section of someone else's blog before you post. Just because your name isn't attached to it, it doesn't mean you should be displaying your ignorance and your shoe-sized IQ openly. Well, that is unless you are too stupid to know that you're, well, stupid. (And we know who you are, we have ways, bwahahahaha!) And don't say your comments are with good intentions because we all know about good intentions, as Samuel L. Jackson will explain in one of my favorite scenes from Pulp Fiction.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pistachio Recall

Setton Pistachio has expanded their voluntary recall of pistachios. The press release can be found here on the FDA's Recall webpage. The recalls affected bulk items to commercial custormers as well as some packaged products (Trader Joe's being one of them). Check the press release for complete listing of recalled products.

Any consumers who have purchased retail products being recalled should return them to the place of purchase or destroy them. Setton Pistachio has established a toll free number, (888) 228-3717, for consumers to call for further information, Monday through Friday 8 am to ­5 pm EDT.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Recovering and Looking for Inspiration

So it's been almost 2 weeks since the start of this nasty flu and I think I might have finally turned the corner (oh please let it be so). My appetite still hasn't come back yet (no appetite? you must really be sick!). I actually had enough strength this weekend to whip together some bolognese sauce so the Mister can have a decent dinner after working all day. At least it was better than laying on the couch, feeling sorry for myself (hehe).

As the bolognese sauce simmered, my mind wandered off somewhere, la-la land perhaps (cold medicines can do that, you know), and I started to think about fresh pasta (pasta fresca). I was thinking back about 10+ years when I first made pasta using one of those electric pasta machines that extruded dough through a die. Yuck, just thinking about it makes me want to hug my box of Barilla. Ever seen Office Space? You know that scene where the guys smash that copier? Yeah, that's what I'd do to that pasta machine if we still had it (where's that baseball bat of mine?). Of course the song playing in the background from that scene is rolling in my head ("damn it feels good to be a gangsta") Oh right, back to the pasta.

Granted I am a bit more culinary astute now (funny the things drugs make you say and think!). And then my mind wandered off to the manual pasta machine I have, tucked high and away in the back of the upper cupboards, far far from sight. Heck, I can't even remember what brand it is, Atlas? Insperia? Did it even come with a cutter? It's been so long, I can't remember.

So today, sitting at work, I vaguely remember telling the Mister just before I got sick (which seems so loooong ago) that I wanted to make lobster raviolis. But sitting here in my congested stupor, I think I'll tackle a simple pasta first, like Tagliatelle or Fettuccine. Besides, I've got extra bolognese sauce in the freezer that would go well with either. Okay, so now I have a plan, a bit of inspiration to help get my appetite back. I'm going to go home tonight and dig out that pasta machine. Who knows what might come out of this. (Sing along now! "damn it feels good to be a gangsta...")

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Where's CAB?

Sorry it's been a bit stagnant here this past week. Contrary to popular believes, I'm still alive, battling back from the nastiest flu ever. I didn't get a chance to make Brownie #3 but hopefully this weekend.

Hope everyone is well and having a good week. And if you don't have this flu bug like I do, you are at least doing better than me! Be back soon (egad, I hope! hehe).

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