Friday, January 29, 2010

International Wine Festival - Hollywood ( PART I)

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the International Wine Festival held in the Renaissance Hotel located at the famous Hollywood and Highland Complex ( thanks to the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program).

The even was open from 5 pm to 8 pm. Luckily, my fiancee and I arrived at 4:55 pm and the event had already begun. The registration table was lined hundreds of wine glasses waiting for the attendees to pluck them and venture into the banquet hall set up with wine from around the world.

Though it wasn't very crowded upon our arrival, within fifteen minutes, the venue was swarming with wine connoisseurs eager to find a new favorite.

Ironically and surprisingly, my favorite tasting of the night was not a wine, but a version of sake.  In fact, it was a sparkling blueberry sake -- made from rice.

 Besides the various spirits to available to imbibe upon, there were to food vendors. One was bitterSweet treats, it featured homemade versions of classic American comfort sweets such as marshmallows and Oreos (see below). The other was a catering company called Viva LA Foodies (see below).

First, I'll start with my favorite drink. It is manufactured by the Banzai Beverage Corporation.  The company was founded in 2003 by Takahiro Tokura. He prides himself on finding the finest premium sake available, and importing it to the United States. Often this means the sake you purchase from the Banzai Beverage Corporation truly comes from a small family owned microbrewery, whose product would have never had the opportunity to find its way to your dinner table otherwise.

Granted, I must warn you, my preference in these drinks is skewed by my sweet tooth. I am not  particular fan of dry wines, or dry sake for that matter. Instead, I enjoy the delicate Riesling -- or in this case, the slightly bubbly blueberry sake.

This particular beverage goes by the name "Banzai Bunny". They have the "natural" variety and the "blueberry" variety. This drink comes from the Umenoyado Sake Brewery Co. located in Nara, Japan. The Sake is referred to as "Sparkling Junmai" and has an alcohol level of 6-7%.

Its aroma was inviting and the taste was delighting. So much in fact that we went back for seconds and if we weren't shy, we would have gone back for thirds and fourths.

The table we wandered over to next was serving Broquel Malbec made by TRAPICHE, an Argentinian wine.  This wine is perfectly paired with grilled red meats and cheeses. It offers slight glimpses of vanilla, chocolate and smoke.

As expected, the wine had more alcohol than the sparkling sake -- 14% to be exact.

The grapes are harvested from 25 year old vineyards located at altitudes between 900 and 1200 meters above sea level. After being hand harvested and fermented for a minimum of 25 days, the wine is aged for 15 months in new French and American Oak barrels.

As promised, the delights offered by bitterSweet treats ( yes, they spell their name with a lower case b). At the top you will find the home made marshmallows. The bottom left are mini chocolate cupcakes with meringue topping -- I thought that was creative. Among the other offerings were home made oreos and red velvet whoopie pies.  I have to say, the spread was very inspiring for me. Don't be surprised if I attempt to replicate these myself.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unconventional Vegetarian Thai Red Curry

I say unconventional because I have never seen a Thai Red Curry made with these ingredients, perhaps you have ?  Either way, this was a simple recipe, full of vitamins and antioxidants which I am sure you will enjoy.

First, compile the following ingredients:

3 baby bok choys
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
1 can light coconut milk
2 tables Thai red curry paste
2 small sweet potatoes
1 cup diced mushroom
2 tbsp sliced basil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Serrano chili
1-2 cups chicken/vegetable broth ( depending on how much you like coconut, and how thick you want the sauce)

First, as  usual with many recipes, sautee the onion and garlic and Serrano chili in the olive oil. Just warm it through so that it is translucent.  Next add the coconut milk and curry paste, stirring until it is well combined.  Now you can add the remaining veggies and herbs, top with the broth and let it simmer until sweet potatoes are fully cooked and the sauce has reached a consistency pleasing to your palate.

I served this with simple basmati rice, but of course the traditional option would be jasmine rice.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Five Ingredient Friday

So, I spent the last day or so very excited about my new idea for the blog, " five ingredient Friday".  How hard could it be to make a decent recipe out of five ingredients after all... isnt there a show on Food Network that does it afterall?

Well, I looked at those recipes and none of them peaked my interest. In fact, they were rather boring for my taste. Cocktails?  Flavored chicken?  Really???

Well, Ralphs is having a sale on their Jennie-O ground turkey this week... for $1.99.

I like deals, so I let this be my inspriation.  The result?  Turkey burgers, sweetpotato/potato fries, and coleslaw.

Now I know what you are thinking... that is way more than five ingredients. But my goal is to give you several recipes each made of five ingredients each. You can choose to put them together to make a meal, or just make one on its own.

** Note, I also decided ( convenient im making up my own rules eh? ) that condiments and spices will not count as ingredients. I discovered I'm just not that kind of cook. Rather, when I'm making up a recipe, I fly by the seat of my pants so to speak -- a little of this, a dash of that.... a pinch of paprika ( it always finds its way in)... until I am completely satisfied. **

First up, the coleslaw. Neither I, nor my fiancee like mayonnaise so I knew the dressing would have to be different - hence the sour cream.

Most coleslaw recipes call for vinegar of some sort and celery salt. I substituted both those items with fresh squeezed lemon juice and fresh celery ( save the lemon skin etc after you have squeezed the juice out... we'll use it later).

I place the prepackaged coleslaw mix into a big tupperware and topped it with sliced celery ( thats two ingredients...) Then, in a separate bowl I made the dressing:
8 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp lemon juice 
1 tbsp horseradish mustard (condiment)
1-2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp garlic salt ( spice)
a few turns of freshly cracked pepper (spice)

That brings the grand total to 5 ingredients... yay!

I made the coleslaw about an hour prior to dinner so the veggies would have time to marinate and absorb the sauce. I served it along side the other items.

I promise you there is a turkey burger patty underneath all the romaine lettuce and veggies.

Next, I prepared the sweetpotato/potato fries. Preheat the oven to 430F and line a pan with foil.
Slice three small sweet potatoes into "french fry" like pieces, along with one small potato. Place these into a bowl and top with just enough olive oil to coat the root vegetables when stirred. Then add garlic salt and paprika.  Ok... if my spice/condiment rule applies, this one isnt technically 5 ingredients. But including the spices it is. This is going to be a work in progress, I will master this soon -- I promise. Spread the potatoes evenly on the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Then broil on high for about 5 minutes until golden and crispy.

Finally, came the turkey burgers themselves. I chose to use pre-made turkey patties by Jennie-O. Specifically, the garlic and onion seasoned one.  As many of you know, Southern California has been blessed with a deluge of rain this week. As a result, barbequing outside was definitely out of the question. So, I came up with something innovative  (sort of). (Disclaimer: only attempt this if you have a high powered ventilator about your stove because there will be smoke) I simply place a "cooling rack" on top of the gas stove. This placed the turkey a decent distance from the flame, while allowing them to get enough heat to cook.

Remember I told you to keep the lemon peel from earlier? Thats because the lemon halves work as miracle cleaners. While the burgers cook, they will inevitabely drip onto the stove and make a "mess". But, after the stove has cooled, simply take the lemon halves, rubbing them on the tough spots -- they literally make the stove back to brand new. I love it!  Even better, its completely environmental and chemical free.

I assembled the burgers by topping the patty with romaine lettuce, fresh tomatos, white onion and freshly sliced avocado ( ketchup and mustard). It was heavenly.
Yes, technically that is six ingredients, but it was well worth it. The burger is versatile, what can I say you could make it a 10 ingredient recipe or a two ingredient recipe. Make it unique, make it delicious and enjoy.

Close up of the fries and coleslaw, while the burger waits patiently in the background...

 A slightly different view, but just as delicious.

 What do you think... is "Five Ingredient Friday" a keeper?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Announcements and a look inside my salad...

First, announcments.

I'm happy to announce that I was one of the Foodbuzz featured publisher's who won a pair of tickets to the International Wine Festival this Saturday in Los Angeles.

I am super excited and I could definitely use the break from my studies to go enjoy some good wine, great cheese and take a lot of pictures to come back share with you all!

Second, starting this Friday I will be starting a new weekly post called " 5-ingredient Friday". Like the alliteration there?  Stay posted for this week's posting.

Finally -- my salad.

A short while ago I posted about the Pace Salsa I received from the Tastemaker program available through Foodbuzz. Well, I put it to good use!  I simply mixed 1 part salsa with 1 part lite bleu cheese dressing and pourded it over romaine lettuce and sliced cucumbers. It tasted great and there was no guilt involved.... plus it looked pretty. See!
{ Warning... I sort of got Camera-happy}

Monday, January 18, 2010


Pictures which were supposed to be part of a recipe, but didnt make it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

You no longer have an excuse not to have a healthy breakfast in the morning. Sorry, no more processed junk, no more poptarts, croissants with nutella, no more bagel and creamcheese... step away from the fast food egg mcmuffin!

It is so easy to make healthy, pure, simple steel cut oats in your crockpot and just warm it up in the microwave every morning.

Simply put 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of steel cut oats in the crock pot, set it on low and it will be done in 3-4 hours.

This morning, I warmed my oats up, added a splash of organic milk, a drop of vanilla, a teaspoon of light brown sugar, a dollop of pumpkin butter and a spoon of almond butter.

My favorite part? THE ALMOND BUTTER

Wow. Just wow. When it warms and gets all liquidy on top of the oatmeal it tastes amazing and is the perfect combination. You have to try it. ASAP.

... and then tell me what you think :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A foray into the exotic, but simple

served over a bed of basmati rice and topped with oven roasted potato bites


1 cup yellow split peas, dry
1 medium onion
8oz tomato sauce
at least 3 cups of beef broth
1 tsp granulated onion
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp paprika
3-4 dried lemons, broken (sold at middle eastern markets)
2 tbsp olive oil

Either soak the peas overnight, or boil them for about 30 minutes before moving on with the remainder of the directions.

Sautee the diced onion in the warmed olive oil. Next, add the remainder of the ingredients , stir and simmer until the liquid thickens into a sauce and the peas are fully cooked.

I told you it was simple ;)

Granted, this is a meatless version. Others make this with ground beef or stew meat, but this is my personal preference.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Asian Pickled Cucumbers

A light, refreshing amuse bouche. A marriage of crisp cucumbers, tart rice vinegar and spicy ginger.

For this simple dish slice and seed 3 large cucumbrs ( results in about 4 cups worth). Place them in a large tupperware and nearly cover with rice vinegar. I used the plain unseasoned variety. Next julienne some fresh ginger root. I like my ginger, so I added at least 1/3 of a cup if not more. Now, sprinkle in about 1 tablespoon of sugar. I used brown sugar but granulated will work just fine. Finally, add as much red chili flakes as you would like, depending on your spice tolerance.

Let this mixture sit overnight, and enjoy for days to come.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

KooKoo - a vegetarian's perfect meal

Armenians traditionally celebrate Christmas on the Epiphany. The 5th of January is the "Eve" and the 6th is the day of.  This practice makes complete sense to me. After all, the wise men brought the gifts on the 6th, not on December 25th.

Anyways, traditionally Armenians make smoked fish and KooKoo as part of the holiday meal.

Since we don't eat fish, I just made KooKoo and rice for dinner last night. Think of it as a healthier quiche.

Ingredients ( 1 bunch = about 1 cup depending on the grocer)

1 bunch of parsley ( I used 1/2 italian, 1/2 curly)
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch of leek
1 bunch dill
6 eggs
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon flour

Directions :  Wash and dry all the herbs. Then finely chop all the herbs and place them  in a large mixing bowl. (I don't recommend using a food processor because it gets all mushy) . Next add the salt, pepper and flour. Mix it well.  In a separate bowl, whisk the 6 eggs together , then add to the herbs and mix thoroughly.

Prepare a large sautee pan by pouring just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Then pour the mixture into the pan on medium high and cover. When moisture collects on the lid, take it off and dry it with a paper towel. This prevents the water from dripping onto the KooKoo.

When it has firmly set and the bottom as browned cut into four quarters (this makes it easier to flip). Using two spatulas, flip each quarter and allow the other side to finish cooking.  This can be served with rice and/or plain greek yogurt.

The best part is, the entire recipe is 560 calories, making 1/8 of it ( 1 serving) only 70 calories.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One Pot Spanish Rice and Chicken and what to do with leftovers

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program I recieved two jars of Pace Picante sauce, one medium and one mild.

Using the Pace chunky milk sauce I came up with an easy one pot meal that will feed the hungry men at your superbowl party. The best part.... i came up with a way to revamp the recipe the second day too!

The basic ingredients: 1 jar of pace chunky salsa, minisweet bellpeppers to taste, 1 medium onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 boneless skinless chicken breast, dried red chili pepper, and 3 cups chicken broth

In a pot add one tablespoon of olive oil. When it is warm add the sliced onion, garlic, red chili pepper and bell pepper, allowing it to sweat on medium heat.

Next add the diced boneless skinless chicken breast and cook it just long enough so that it is no longer pink on the outside. Now add the 2 cups of rice ( I like to rinse the rice before hand, it prevents the dish from getting too sticky). Allow the rice to toast a little and release its aromatic flavor/scent.

Since the Salsa already has spices and jalapeno's in it, your job is easy - just add one jar of the salsa and 3 cups of broth to the above mixture. Bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. It will be ready in 25-30 minutes.

This recipe makes about.9.5 1-cup servings. Each serving has about 200 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 8-9 grams of protein.

Now, its the day after the Super Bowl, you are tired but the family is hungry ( and im assuming you are like the rest of us and is trying to adapt a healthier lifestyle this new year hehe). Just pull out the leftovers from yesterday. I personally don't like chicken leftovers so I scooped out one cup of the rice only and set it aside. In a small pan, I sprayed some pam and sauteed 2 egg whites. I then added the rice and some chopped cilantro warming it through.... the result?

New Year, New Inspirations

Say hello to my yummy friend.

A simple banana shake to start of your day ( for the days where you don't want the green monster) :  one frozen banana, 1 cup lowfat organic milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Blend and top with 1 tbsp ground flax seed. Not only is it good for you but it adds an awesome nutty flavor.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sky City - Lunch from the top of the Space Needle

Have any of you eaten here before? It is the restaurant at the top of the Space needle which makes a complete circle every 47 minutes. Basically you get an amazing view of Seattle while eating a gourmet meal.  The Space Needle was construct in 1962 for the World Trade Fair.... and it only took nine months, amazing. According to our waiter, the concept was sketched by an architect in Germany on a lunch napkin.

I have to note, I really liked the fact that everything on the menu was with local items.

This butter , plain with sea salt ( left) and lavender maple ( right), was from a local creamery and was served with bread made at a local bakery. Both were amazingly delicious. They also had a bottle of hazelnut oil ( also local) to dip the bread into. Very different from olive oil, but the nutty flavor was refreshing  -- slightly reminiscent of nutella, without the chocolate.

My friend ordered this lentil soup with wild boar bacon ( local) which actually looked like small chunks of meat instead of the fried  version. I tried a spoonful - it was very flavorful, balanced and light. A perfect start to a meal.

It had simmered soft onions and carrots and was topped with fresh sage.

Something about Seattle's weather had us craving soup almost every day. That doesnt happen to me often in southern Cali.   ( No it didnt rain every day we were in Seattle - only one day out of six.)

My friend also ordered the Autumn Vegetable Gateau. The menu describes it as " Roasted seasonal vegetables layered between herb scented crepes, lemon bechamel and Rosecrest Farms herbed garlic swiss, and roasted red pepper coulis"

It was served with an array of baby vegetables includung : carrot, brussel sprout, and beets. The waiter referred to it as their "vegetable lasagna" , but I have a feeling the chef would not have been too happy about that.

My dish was the "All Natural Stuffed Breast of Jidori Chicken"  it included " Beecher Flagship Cheese, Prosciutto, gnocchi and tomato ragout"

Honestly I was drawn to this dish by the word " gnocchi". It is something I havn't made at home yet . However, I was disappointed with this batch. It was too rough and chewy, and was served in what tasted like a browned butter sauce. It didnt match well with the remainder of the meal. I think for gnocchi, i will have to stick to Maggiano's.
On the other hand, the roasted Jidori ( a local organic brand) chicken was perfectly roasted and just juicy enough. The "stuffing" did seem like an afterthought, snuck in under the bottom layer of the chicken, not really what i would consider " stuffed". Actually, the chicken would have been just fine without it.  The tomato ragout was delicious, it reminded me of a dish my mother used to make with a similar ragout, and an eggs. Again, thought this component tasted good, it wasnt the best match with the meal.

Nevertheless, I was satisified with our lunch experience.  Everything balanced out and it was a unique experience you cannot mimic in many places.