Category Archives: Party

Weddings, Gardens, and Aquaman?

I found these on my computer and realized that I had not shared them yet on my blog. They are on Facebook, but not in my blog. They are not things that I have cooked, so that is probably why they have not made it over here, but they are things that I have eaten so they deserve a place here.

One set of pictures is from the Concord Farmer’s Market. Concord is a city near Walnut Creek in the East Bay (east of Oakland, up the 680). My friends Cindy and Eric live in Clayton which is outside of Concord. We were visiting up there and in between painting a garden shed and attending a fantastic wedding reception in Emeryville, we went to the farmer’s market to enjoy tamales, berries, and gelato.

Strawberries and blackberries. I’m lamenting the end of blackberry season.

Chicken tamale with salsa verde and crema.

Pork tamale with salsa verde and crema

I did not get any gelato pictures. It was tasty, especially on an incredibly hot day.

Later we walked around Cindy’s garden and admired the artwork, such as the sculpture that I have dubbed aquaman.

He’s some sort of mermaid fish dude. My friend Eric made him while he was in art school.

The rest of their backyard is made up of trees, a vegetable garden, a green house, and a number of fruit trees. It’s really impressive for a suburban backyard. I miss having my garden. We have yet to start on our new one here in Santa Cruz. It was the one nice thing about our apartment back in Santa Clara.

The rest of the day was spent at a friend’s wedding. I had never met the person whose wedding it was. Isn’t that always awkward? Congratulations on one of the biggest moments in your life, it’s so nice to meet you. So I did what any self-respecting, awkward individual does, I drank a lot of wine and ate chicken heads.

Why yes the bride on top of the cake is about beat the groom. And yes this was a beautiful cake, but unfortunately it did not taste as good as it looked. It was like one of those Safeway bakery cakes if you had left it out on the counter for a couple days and then some sort of cake Bunnicula came by and stole its cakey essence.

That didn’t make any sense. I’ve been up since two in the morning, ever since my neighbor woke me up to chanting to the full moon.

The rest of the meal was fairly traditional Chinese wedding food (I think) with the exception of my favorite dish of the night: the lobster thermidor. For once, I actually enjoyed lobster. Plus, the view from this restaurant (located on the Emeryville wharf) was fantastic.

The view of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline from Hong Kong East Ocean restaurant.

An assortment of bbq meats including char siu pork (one of my favorite things on this planet, especially when put into a steamed bun).

Some sort of seafood salad in a crispy noodle bowl.

Some sort of crab croquette claw thing. It’s like a tribble ate a crab and then was deep fried. The batter around the outside (tribble flesh) was disgusting, but crab claw was alright.

The “not” shark fin soup. Fake shark fin soup. I took about one bite of it and couldn’t eat the rest.

Abalone and mushrooms. I’m skeptical that this was real abalone, but whatever it was it was one of the better dishes of the night.

I believe this was lobster thermidor. Whatever it was it was absolutely incredible, especially after three or four glasses of wine. Best dish of the night and the only time I have ever enjoyed lobster. Of course it would be a French dish at a Chinese restaurant.

The chicken head that I hate. Not bad.

 

 

Six Layer Dip: A Way to Use Leftovers

Andrew and I had much food leftover from our Saturday night shindig. There was still a considerable amount of chili verde, pulled pork and one chicken breast left. What do with it? I contemplated chili verde pork tacos/burritos, but we had no tortillas. Then it came to me: I could make a layered dip for tonight’s BBQ at Peter’s house. Starting at ten in the morning, I started cooking my beans from scratch.

Cooking dried beans either intimidates people or just doesn’t sound very exciting. Okay, I get it. Beans are not a sexy food to cook. Plus it is so easy to buy canned beans. Canned beans however are expensive (much more expensive than buying them dried by the pound) and they often contain a lot of sodium. I also find them a tad mushy. Most of the time I do used canned beans, but I did not have any left and I did have half a pound of dried pink beans in my cupboard.

Cooking beans is a lot easier than people make it out to be. It’s certainly not quick but it is not the long ordeal that it is often made out to be. From cupboard to dip the beans took about an hour and a half. That is not bad considering many recipes say that YOU MUST soak them overnight or they will take forever to cook. Simply not true.

First, I rinsed my beans in cold water. Then I put them in a pot and covered them with water. You want at least two to three inches of water over your beans. Yes, you will need to watch the level of your water and replenish it from time to time. Do some laundry, bring a book into the kitchen, do some knitting, whatever. Bring your beans to a boil then reduce to a simmer so they are gently bubbling. Cover with a lid partway and cook for until they tender. This can take anywhere from an half to four hours. It depends on how much you’re cooking and what kind of bean it is. Mine took about an hour and a half to cook.

Cover beans with at least two inches of water. 

Bring beans to a boil, then reduce heat so they bubble gently.

Partially cover and cook until beans are tender. 

Drain the beans, rinse, and let sit until room temperature. 

When the beans are tender, take off the heat and drain in a colander. You may want to save some of your bean cooking liquid for the next part of the recipe. I did not save mine and I had to use water. Rinse the beans and let them come down to room temperature.

Mash the beans with a fork. I also added spices. 

Now is the fun part. You get to mash your beans to whatever texture you like. I wanted mine chunky so I tried a fork. That was not getting me ANYWHERE. So I used my fist instead. Yes, I fisted my beans. Yes, my hands were perfectly clean and this was totally sanitary. It was also fun. You should never doubt your hands as tools. You may need to add a little water, broth, or bean liquid to get a smoother texture. You can also go a whiz in the food processor depending on how smooth you would like your beans.

Smooth out the beans with a spatula. 

The beans serve as the base for your dip. They are the heaviest and need to be smoothed out. Pour into a large bowl and smooth until level. Then I topped it with the pulled pork which I also smoothed out with a rubber spatula.

Add pulled pork. 

Next I made some rice. I took half a cup of white rice and put it in a small pot. I covered it with vegetable broth with at least an inch covering the rice. This is the correct amount and  you don’t need to measure this exactly. From there bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for about fifteen minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and your rice is cooked.

Top the pulled pork with rice. 

Chopped chicken breast marinated in Frank’s Red Hot. 

Add chicken and more Frank’s Red Hot sauce. 

Cover the pulled pork with the rice layer. I topped the rice layer with chopped chicken breast marinated in Frank’s Red Hot sauce (my friend Ian’s contribution to our Saturday night shindig) then topped with more Frank’s Red Hot. Next came chopped avocado. Then this was finally topped with some of the leftover manzana chili verde (see previous post).

The final product

Dr. Pepper Chipotle Pulled Pork

I know the title of this recipe sounds like some sort of white trashed fucked up mumbo jumbo but it’s really not. Okay maybe it’s a bit on the white trash side and maybe it is a little fucked up to cook with soda, but it is delicious. I was skeptical at first myself. Everyone around me was skeptical. They were like really, have you tried this before? I don’t know. Are you sure you want to make this for a party the first time you cook it? Yes. Parties are my favorite place to try new recipes that I would never otherwise cook. It is the only time there are enough people around to eat an entire shoulder of pork.

Roughly chop an onion and put it at the bottom of the slow cooker. 

Four pounds of pork shoulder. Fat side up. 

I love pork shoulder. Slow cooked, falling apart with the push of a spoon, it is one of my favorite cuts of meat. I used to cook it all the time with my roommate in college. This recipe is incredibly simple and was inspired by two cooks that I would never cop to liking: Sandra Lee (that creepy Semi-Homemade lady) and Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman…okay, I think she’s awesome at least).

The two recipes are pretty much the same. Pioneer Woman writes in her blog as if she was the first person to ever think this up, but really she’s not. In the southern part of the United States it’s fairly common to cook with soda pop (either cola or dr. pepper). Her pictures turned out a lot prettier than mine so definitely check her post out.

First you need to chop an onion roughly. Here is where the PW recipe deviates from the SL (Sandra Lee) one. PW calls for one onion and SL calls for two. I ended up with one onion because I accidentally put two onions in my chili verde (see earlier post). This goes in the bottom of your slow cooker. Oh yeah, PW puts hers in the oven and SL uses a slow cooker. I used a slow cooker because I didn’t want my oven running for six hours. On top of your onions goes your pork shoulder (otherwise known as a pork butt, incorrectly), which should go fat side up. Liberally salt and pepper your pork roast.

Then you should your two cinnamon sticks and bay leaf. SL also adds cloves. Cloves are expensive and I do not already have cloves in my cupboard so I did not use them. You can use them if you like. Now add your can of chipotle peppers. SL’s recipe does not call for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, but PW does. I wanted something spicy so I got a small can of chipotle peppers (these are found on the international foods aisle of most grocery stores). Let me just say I’m rather confused about the international foods aisle. Does that mean that the rest of the store is made up of white American food? It’s also not very international in my neck of the woods: kosher, Italian, Mexican and “Asian”. These are all very white washed versions of those foods as well. Okay enough of my ranting about the inherent racism found in the grocery system.

Add cinnamon and bay leaf. 

Pour your chipotle peppers on top of your roast. Now add twelve ounces of Dr. Pepper. I used Diet Dr. Pepper because I could not find a small bottle of Dr. Pepper anywhere in Safeway. I did not want a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper, so Diet Dr. Pepper it was. It works just as well. You could also use cola, Pepsi, RC, root beer, whatever dark soda you like. I think the concept is the same. You also cannot really taste the soda at the end of it.

Add chipotle peppers with adobo sauce. 

Now cook on low for approximately eight hours. You can cook it on high for 3-4 hours in your slow cooker. You can also do it in the oven for six hours at a temperature of 300 degrees. At around six hours it will start to fall apart with the touch of a wooden spoon.

The roast after two hours.

The sauce after two hours of cooking. 

The end result. Yum!

Drain the fat from the sauce, shred the pork with a fork, and then serve however you like. It’s good with tortillas or on a roll with some bbq sauce. We just ate it with tortilla chips.

Vegan Chili Verde

This is one of my favorite cook book recipes. I’ve been recently mulling over my distaste for the way most cookbooks are set up. I find reading through the list of ingredients and directions for dummies to be tedious, boring, and uninspiring. The majority of cook books are made for the lowest common denominator, which is fine for when I want to learn how to cook something that I’ve never cooked before. That is when I turn to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I’ve learned a lot about the basics of cooking from reading his book.

I think the problem boils down to this: when an author writes in his or her introduction that he/she is passionate about cooking, food, and states that they show their soul through the cooking and then write the most soulless, scientific sounding recipes then I just don’t believe them. I find it disingenuous. Give me some character, heart, and explain to me how you feel as you cook. If you are not a gifted writer, then have someone else do the writing for you and you provide the recipes.

I’m veering wildly off-topic here. Back to what I cooked this weekend. This weekend we finally made our move back to Santa Cruz from the Silicon Valley. We had a housewarming party on Saturday, the day after we moved in. Andrew and I are amazingly efficient movers; we had our entire house set up and everything unpacked by mid-Saturday morning. That was with our movers being an hour and a half late on Friday and with me having to make multiple trips over the winding mountain highway in between Santa Cruz and the bay area.

I knew that I wanted to make the chili verde from the Veganomicon. I purchased the Veganomicon when I had my foray into veganism. I still enjoy vegan cooking. It’s something completely different than recipes that rely upon meat, dairy, and eggs. It’s a challenge and it’s interesting. The Veganomicon for me is the vegan cookbook to purchase. It’s easy enough to follow if you’re a beginner while still maintaining a level of variation and interest. They give fun, pithy explanations of each dish before starting in on the recipe which makes it enjoyable to read. Some of the recipes are damn good, such as the manzana chili verde, chickpea cutlets, and vanilla pound cake, while others suck incredibly (the mustard sauce is one of the most heinous things I’ve ever put in my mouth).

This recipe is based off of and inspired by the Manzana Chili Verde found on page 171 of the Veganomicon by Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz. These are also the same ladies who brought you Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  They know what they’re doing. I forsake traditional recipe writing here. If you want to know exact ingredients and cooking times please refer to that cookbook. The result is a tangy, spicy, filling concoction that is great as a tip or as a meatless dinner.

1. First wash the following produce: one pound of baby yukon gold potatoes (I used “gold potatoes” whatever the hell those are because Safeway didn’t have baby Yukons), two Granny Smith apples, two poblano peppers (my recipe deviates here and I ended up having to use two green bell peppers. Use green bell peppers if you’re not a fan of the spicy.), and three jalapeño peppers. Set aside the apples and peppers for now.

Wash and roughly chop potatoes

2. Set yourself to work on roughly chopping your potatoes. Then put them in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil. You want them to boil for about twenty minutes at this point. Use this time to peel and chop your onion (I accidentally used two onions and this was perfectly fine) and chop the peppers. Roughly chop them. It doesn’t matter honestly because you’re going to be putting this through a food processor eventually. Leave the seeds in the jalapeño peppers if you want it to be spicy.

Peel and roughly chop the onion

Wash and chop the peppers. You want it in smaller pieces than this picture shows. 

3. Once your potatoes are tender enough to stick a fork easily in them take them off the heat and drain them. Now get some oil cooking on medium high and then add your peppers and onion. Cook for about ten minutes. While these are cooking, chop your garlic (I used an entire head. Use as much as you like. Exact measurements DO NOT MATTER), and get the cumin (I did not use cumin), chili powder (I used chili powder and the original recipe does not), a teaspoon of oregano,  and 2 cups of vegetable broth ready. Chop the apples into bite sized pieces. Prepare your tomatillos.

Note: To prepare tomatillos you need to remove the papery skins on the outside. Tomatillos are like little green apple and tomato hybrids. They can also be rather sticky. Remove the papery skins and then wash. Chop into small pieces.

Cook the onions and peppers on medium high in olive oil for about ten minutes.

Onions and peppers after 10 minutes

4. When the peppers and onions have reached a soft translucency, add the garlic, tomatillos and spices. Cook for about another minute then add the vegetable broth and apples. Cover and simmer for twenty minutes. I forgot to warn at the beginning of this that this is a rather time consuming recipe, but completely worth it.

Add tomatillos

Add apples and vegetable broth. Cook for another 20 minutes.

5. After the twenty or so minutes are up, carefully ladle your mixture into a food processor. If you have a large food processor good for you it will get done quicker. If you have an immersion blender well then you’re just super awesome and lucky aren’t you. Use that. If you don’t have either, but you have a food mill then use that, but be careful no matter because this shit is hot and can possibly burn you. Go through the entire batch and food process, blend, or mill until it reaches a rough smoothness.

Chili verde after its been in the food processor and the beans/potatoes are added. 

6. Add potatoes and two cans of beans (the original recipe calls for one can of beans but I found that meager). Simmer until heated through. I actually served mine at room temperature with tortilla chips and that was delicious.

People enjoying the manzana chili verde. 

Baked Beans and Hummus

The last time I made baked beans was a semi-disaster. I ended up losing a portion of beans when getting into Andrew’s car. This portion of beans was scalding hot and landed in my crotch. As you can imagine, boiling hot beans in your groin area is really uncomfortable. These beans tasted great and they were an awesome addition to last year’s Super Bowl festivities.

I decided to try making baked beans again. This time around I made the Veganomicon’s Cheater Baked Beans. These were a lot easier and less time consuming than the other beans I made last year. They, however, are lacking a depth of flavor that were in the Super Bowl crotch burner beans. I really think that dried beans end up tasting a lot better than canned beans and some addition of a smokey flavor is necessary for great tasting baked beans (be this from a ham hock, bacon, or hickory smoke flavoring).

The Cheater Baked Beans

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium sized yellow onion, diced as small as you can (I left this out because someone else in my house used my onion *cough cough* Andrew).
  • 3 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce (I used no salt added)
  • 1/2 cup light molasses (I used dark because that’s what I had in my cupboard)
  • 2 tsp. mustard (they call for mustard powder, but I did not have mustard powder nor did I care to buy any)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 15 oz. cans small white beans (I used navy beans)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Or be like me and put it at 375 and then change it later because you never read recipes carefully.

2. Preheat a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Saute your onion if someone didn’t steal it in the olive oil for about ten minutes. You want them to be a little browned and caramelized. Add the garlic and saute for one more minute. Add the tomato sauce, molasses, mustard, salt, allspice, and bay leaf and cook for about five minutes.

3. Then pour this into an oven safe dish. Or maybe you have one of those oven safe dishes that can be put on the stove top. I never experiment with this because things can go badly. Cover the dish and transfer it into the oven. Cook for thirty minutes, then stir, put the lid back on and then cook for thirty more minutes.

This left me with fairly runny baked beans. I like less sauce and more bean. It also has a strong tomato flavor and I’m not a big tomato person. However, it did taste nice with my bagel this morning for breakfast.

Hummus


My hummus contains one can of chickpeas and then I add tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Then I process it in the food processor until well blended. It’s not that complicated and I never measure. I prefer the consistency of hummus done in a blender, but my blender is devilishly difficult to clean so I used the food processor this time.

Three Vegetable Dips

This weekend is my friend Peter’s birthday. In addition to the usual BBQ fare that we do at Peter’s house we are also having birthday cake, baked beans, veggies with dip, and CRICKETS. Yes, we are going to have crickets. As you can imagine, I’m stoked.

Yes, I know no one uses the word stoked anymore except me.

I am responsible for making the baked beans and the veggies with dips. I have red peppers, baby carrots, and broccoli prepared. I got off work early today so I decided to make three different dips: ranch, sun-dried tomato bean dip, and a white bean herb dip. Tomorrow I will be making my standby hummus.

Ranch Dip

The first dip that I made was a very time consuming process of adding a ranch dressing packet to some light sour cream and mixing it. Tons of work but definitely worth the flavor. 🙂

Sun-Dried Tomato Dip


The next dip that I made was a sun-dried tomato bean dip. This recipe took a little more time than just adding a powdered concoction to some sour cream. This recipe came from the Veganomicon. I was super-excited to try it. It’s not for the faint of heart or those who don’t like sun-dried tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sun-dried tomatoes (the dry kind, not the kind in the oil)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup canned white beans (I used canneloni)
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour two cups of boiling water over them. Cover with a plate and let them soak for about fifteen minutes.

2. In a blender/food processor, grind the almonds to a powder. I messed this part up and added my beans and almonds together. I never read recipes correctly.

3. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the tomatoes from the water (don’t discard the water) and add them to the almonds. Add the remaining ingredients and purree, adding up to 1/4 cup of the tomato water. Cover and chill for at least an hour.’

White Bean Herb Dip

The next dip that I made was made from the leftover white beans that I had from the sun-dried tomato recipe. I added one cup of white beans into the food processor with two large tablespoons of minced garlic, a bunch of dried dill, salt, pepper, onion powder, red chili flakes, and lemon juice. This came out as a pretty tasty, creamy herb bean dip.

Then I did something super complex and time consuming: I cut red bell peppers. This was actually more confusing than it sounds because THERE WERE PEPPERS GROWING INSIDE MY PEPPERS. Seriously, in two of my peppers there were little peppers growing inside. I don’t understand why or how this happened but it did.

Chocolate Party

My friend Maddy throws the most amazing parties.  She has parties mainly to cook great food and then have people to feed it too so she doesn’t have tons of leftovers. She definitely does not skimp on the fat, sugar or flavor. She is the best cook out of all my friends and surpasses me as a cook. She is also currently writing a cookbook, which I think is amazing.

The whole theme for the party was chocolate. There was so much chocolate there. I love chocolate and I went into a chocolate sugar coma after we left. I thought I wouldn’t want to eat chocolate after that but the next day I was sneaking bites of my leftover homemade peanut butter cups, which I will do another post of.

The first item is a carrot, apple, and cocoa nib Morrocan salad. It was tangy, spicy, and had just a hint of chocolate. This was probably my favorite dish of the night because it was incredibly refreshing after all the sweetness of the dessert dishes.

The next is my friend’s black bottom pie. I did not eat the black bottom pie because I do not like chocolate pies. She serves this with a raspberry sauce. Other people really seemed to like it.

Now I apologize for the bad photo that’s coming up. Well, none of these are great photos but the next is out of focus. For some reason I just couldn’t get my hand to steady. The next item is a garlic and smoked salt chocolate spread on toast. This was amazing. I couldn’t stop eating it.

The quality of photography continues to go downhill since I had to rely on my flash. The next item is a chocolate flan that had a hibiscus sauce that accompanied it. I did not eat this either but the general consensus was that it was tasty.

The next item is a chocolate, tomatoey, spicy shellfish stew. It had shrimp and scallops in it. I tried it and I found it a little too heavy on the tomato for my taste, but I really don’t like tomato.

The next is a rice dish that was served with the stew. I did not eat it because it has celery in it and celery is my mortal enemy.

These next items are chocolate almond empanadas. They had a great taste and the texture of the crust was flaky and tender. They were a little heavy after all the other food.

There were all sorts of different chocolates there including chocolate covered bacon which I had to try even though I haven’t been eating meat. I wasn’t impressed with the flavor. The bacon was a little too hickory smoked tasting for me. I would have preferred a saltier bacon to contrast with the sweetness of the milk chocolate. There were two kinds of iced tea: one a mate and another mint. They both were refreshing and had subtle chocolate flavors, but I preferred the mint. There were two kinds of hot chocolate: spicy mayan hot chocolate and vanilla hot chocolate with rum. I preferred the spicy mayan hot chocolate.

In all it was a very delicious party.