Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Funky Foods: Wineberries and Finding the Motivation to Weed

My mother is brilliant. No, seriously, the woman figured out how to get me to weed, to intensely, energetically. How you ask? what secret weapon did she acquire to finally get me to spend hours in the yard and sun? The answer is wineberries. A whole new set of questions just came up didn't it?

Wineberries? what are those? Well, funny should you ask.
Not quite raspberries not really blackberries, wineberries are sweet-tart bramble berries. They are apparently from Japan, Korea, and China, so I'm guessing these delectable loves of my life are unfortunately invasive. Last year a bush took over part of our yard. By took over I mean spanned roughly a 7 foot dome. But, that was last year and now new ...friends have entered the fray. Not excluding the two 15 foot saplings and patches of poison ivy, there are wild thornless blackberries, pokeberries, wild roses, Virginia creeper, wild grape, ramps, and many other things that I couldn't even name, including that which is pictured in third image.

My mom doesn't want any of it there,
so she figured that once wineberries came into season (for about 2-3 weeks towards the end of June and beginning of July) that she had
her angle. You see the really good plump, juicy, sunwarmed, and sweet wineberries are always in those clumps just out of reach ... and just beyond the hundred of impeding weeds.

My rules for weeding are simple. Unless you:
  1. were deliberately planted
  2. can feed me goodness (wild thornless blackberries are really seedy)
you're out.

So, I ripped out branches longer than I. It's not all just fun and games though. See this thing to the left? That mystery plant is VICIOUS. It has thorns 1/4-1/2" long which break off once they get into you. It hurts like crazy and then once you take them out, you bleed (also like crazy). Please understand, these berries were sweet for many reasons.

If you happen to find them, I highly encourage you to go pick some and enjoy them yourself. Here are some
tips and warnings:
  • Look out for poison ivy, it grows where bramble berries grow, but is not as fun.
  • We love berries, but mice also love berries, and snakes love mice. For this reason and for the poison ivy, wear long pants or boots if you can.
  • Mosquitoes!!!! 'Nuff said.
  • Thorns, be dexterous, there is an art in berry picking and it requires precision
  • If you find wineberries, be forewarned that the berries are sticky on the outside, so don't be too surprised
  • Not all berries are edible, so don't just go eating whatever...please don't
While I will put up a recipe or two relating to wineberries, don't feel that they have to be eaten with other things. Wineberries are great just by themselves.

So go find some berries and Om Nom!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Frozen Treats: Korean Edition (Bing Soo!)

The shopping trip started out as a collection of smoothie ingredients, but as so often happens in Asian supermarkets before breakfast, I quickly ended up with items not really for smoothie making....You see, the fresh fruit got me thinking, what I really wanted wasn't a drink at all, but a frozen fruit salad of epic proportions; what I really wanted was Bing Soo.

Bing Soo (or bingsu, or patbingsu, or paht bing soo, any combination of those really) is a Korean dessert often compared to a snow cone (although I have yet to see any snow cone that comes
even near to the complexity of bing soo). The basic ingredients are shaved ice, milk, sweetened condensed milk, and rice
cake. Depending on personal taste then, one can add fruits, fresh or canned, red beans, syrups, nuts, marshmallows and small candies, and sometimes ice cream. Normally this concoctions are served in big bowls and tower above the table. Bing Soo is essentially my favorite dessert of all time.

To make this bing soo you will need:
  • 2-3 cups of ice
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • rice cake
  • strawberries
  • bananas
  • canned mandarin oranges
  • red beans (yude azuki)
Cut up all of your fruit in bite size
pieces and strain your oranges. If you have dehydrated rice cake then put some balls/slices/pieces in a microwavable bowl and add water until there is about 1.5" above the cake. Microwave the bowl on high for 3-4 minutes until the cake is gummy; drain and let cool.

Now, be careful, if you have a really intense blender then you can add your ice and milks and blend everything until you have a slushy like mixture, add milk if it starts freezing though. If you don't have a strong enough blender, or if your mix starts freezing, then you run a high chance of burning out your blender's motor. Been there, done that, it sucks, avoid at all costs. Usually, bing soo is made with and ice shaving machine (ice is shaved and milks poured on top). However, if you have neither of this things nor a refrigerator with an chipped ice setting, then you can always use the mallet and bag method. Fill a ziploc bag with ice and smash it (preferably on a not important surface) with a rubber mallet. If you lack this item, then go for a heavy pan. Put the ice in a bowl and add milks.

Once your ice and milks are in a bowl, then add the fruits, rice cakes, and the red beans. Ready set? Om Nom! So good...and despite its dessert status, awesome breakfast.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Frozen Treats: Some Other Fruits Edition

Ah! have you ever been driving at a good clip above the speed limit and someone decides that what they want to do more than anything is to tail you??! Isn't it infuriating?!!? The answer is yes, yes it is. Well, past that rant, if that does happen to you ... you could probably really use some refreshing frozen treats (coming up with segues, just one of my many talents).

I know that frozen grapes are classic. Nearly everyone has made them, marveled at their gorgeous ice crystaled skin, and crunched through one before. However, most people eat them alone, when they could be enjoying them in a whole new way. You see that green that kind of looks like mint in the picture? Le
mon Balm. Just take a leaf of the lemon balm and eat it with a grape. Delicious. This discovery courtesy of my friend who got bored one summer in a kitchen near an herb garden.

If you have not made frozen grapes here are the directions:1) Wash red grapes
2) Pick off all the grapes
3) IMPORTANT: Dry the grapes
4) Put the grapes in the plastic bag and freeze till hard
It's complicated, I know.

In honor of those distant and delici
ous Pina Colada pops, I've started trying making new popsicles with fruit. My first attempt was Cantaloupe and Mint. You will need: a cantaloupe (or musk melon or tuscan melon...one of
those orange fragrant melons), several spring of mint, yogurt. Take 75% of your stock of melon and throw it in the blender with the mint and yogurt. You want a fairly thick consistency with a balanced melon and mint flavor, the yogurt should not be the prevailing taste.

Cut up the rest of the melon into cubes and stack them loosely in the popsicle containers. We didn't have popsicle molds, so we used juice glasses...which worked, but were HUGE. Also, if you don't have popsicle sticks, as seen in the frozen bananas, you can use plastic silverware. Pour the melon yogurt mixture in around the melon cubes and freeze. Om nom!!

Also, completely not made in the microwave, but it was the first time I'd ever made nachos and I am really excited.

I had very few of the required ingredients, so these were made with mozzarella, American, and Dubliner cheeses with pickled pepperoncini peppers. Somehow though these nachos fought through all of that and became delicious!

Frozen Treats: Banana Edition, dedicated to my Pina Colada friend

We made Pina Colada popsicles, I swear. They were beautiful, delicious, created with leftover coconut milk and a quick trip to the supermarket for pineapple juice. However, quite suddenly the summer raided Philadelphia and left us with little choice other than to eat the pops. So, needless to say, they did not make it on to Mini and Micro.

Inspired by our new found love of the freezer, though, we planned to make frozen
bananas. And then school ended! In honor of our ambitions, however, I dedicate this entry of frozen treats to my Pina Colada friend and our dreams; maybe next year, when I have a freezer which can actually hold things

The frozen banana basics: Take a banana cut it either in half or at least up to it's widest diameter. The insert a popsicle stick a couple inches into the flat base of the banana. Try not to follow the banana's segments, or it will split apart. If you don't have popsicle sticks (like me!) then cheap, thin, plastic knives work, too. Put the bananas on a plate and freeze.

Chocolate dipped frozen bananas have been done, so I thought I'd jazz them up a bit. The first requires chocolate and marzipan (aka almond past + sugar, which is a delicious snack all by itself). Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute on high, take it out stir, and then put it back in for 30 seconds (Do not just put it in for 90 seconds or it will fry). Cut up or crumble your marzipan. Now, I added it to the chocolate and then chocolatified my banana, but because of the marzipan chunks, the result had more chocolate than I wanted. If you like less chocolate, first spoon on and spread out the chocolate on 1 side (so the chocolate doesn't freeze to the plate) of the banana and sprinkle on the marzipan. Put the banana back in the freezer until the chocolate is frozen. Remove and repeat on the other side. However, if the banana is really just an edible spoon for your chocolate and marzipan, throw the almond paste into the chocolate and then spoon it onto the banana.

The next banana is the classic salted caramel and chocolate.
I had Werther's Original chewy caramels, which were harder than expected. I probably should have resolved this by microwaving them until they were just melted (i.e. still pretty viscous) and spooning the caramel on the
banana in the half-half style. But, I, Playdoh lover that I am, decided to roll the caramels out into long skinny snakes and wrap them around the banana. I think lightly sprinkled salt on the banana, before spooning on the chocolate (remember, half-half). I was informed by my tasting crew that the salt was a bit spotty and that the fluctuations in salinity messed with the flavor, so word to the wise, try to make it even.

Freeze and Om Nom! Stay cool everyone! More Frozen Treats to come.

Question: got a favorite summertime snack?

Oh!! And, to all of you who posted comments and never got replies, my apologies!! I have now added comment notification (who knew that existed?) and should be able to keep up with y'all from now on =)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kinda Sushi, Kinda Kimbap, but Definitely Rice in Seaweed

Ok, finals are over, summer is here, and a large number of my friends have started getting on my case about updating (thank you friends!). How is everyone's summer so far?

Let's get started! I've had the grocery store variety of sushi and I found it delicious. Rice, cucumbers, carrots, and avocado all wrapped up in strips of seaweed. However, it wasn't until my wonderful hosts in San Francisco introduced me to real sushi that I understood just how complicated sushi and its culture are. While I'm learning more about all things sushi (for starters try The Nibble's Sushi Glossary), at heart I am still in love with those veggies.

Which is why this version is probably more aptly called kimbap. Kimbap is a Korean version of sushi which normally is filled with vegetables such as cucumber, carrot, spinach, and pickled radish. Often it will also have skirt steak called bulgogi and/or strips of egg.

For this recipe you will need:

~ Rice
~ Sushi nori or other seaweed (sometimes it's hard to figure out which seaweeds work, especially taste-wise, for sushi, my hint is to see if the back of the seaweed bag has a sushi recipe. Those which do, usually work pretty well.)
~ Vegetables of choice; for this I used carrots and cucumbers
~ Protein of choice; I used egg
~ Sesame oil and/or rice vinegar
~ Soy sauce and wasabi paste

To cook the rice The trick with sushi rice is that it needs to be sticky without being mushy. In the microwave this is a bit hard to get down pat. However, try starting out with about a cup of rice in a microwavable bowl, add enough water so that there is a about 3/4 inch on top. Microwave on high for 2 more minutes, stir and let the water and rice settle. Repeat this process until the rice is tender, and all of water is absorbed. Add a little LITTLE bit of your sesame oil and/or rice vinegar to the rice and mix it in. Put everything to the side and let it cool.

To cut the vegetables The key is long and thin. Japanese food especially is very delicate, so the thinner the vegetable slices the better.

To cook the egg Stir up an egg until the white is mostly broken. Then microwave it in the handy dandy microwave bowl for 1 minute on high. Take out the egg and slice it up into strips.

To assemble You can spread a thin, thin layer of wasabi on the seaweed sheet before adding the rice. Take enough to spread about 1/4 inch of rice on half of the sheet. Spread it out (I use my hands) on half the sheet. Lay out the vegetables and strips of protein along the rice and tightly roll it up until the circle is just complete. Tear off the remaining seaweed leaving about a centimeter of seaweed. Take a bowl of water, dip your finger in it and spread it along the centimeter, then lightly press it on to the roll. If your seaweed tears, don't panic, merely finish rolling it up and then add another seaweed sheet, pressing it lightly to the original roll.

Use a sharp knife to cut the sushi, cleaning the knife on the side of your cutting board after each cut.

Voila! Eat with wasabi and soy sauce or kimchi.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Philly Foods: Famous 4th Street Delicatessen

Happy Easter! Fittingly my friends and I decided to go to Famous 4th Street Delicatessen, a fantastic, pretty, very Jewish diner. One of my friends had gone there at the beginning of the year and reported that the food was mind-blowing and the portions humongous. Both of these rumors were proven to be true.

Famous, as they refer to themselves, had some of the best food I have tasted in Philly so far. I first found them in the Philadelphia Magazine. They were voted Best of Philly for
Desserts in 2009. I looked over the menu then, skeptical about why anyone would spend $8 on an eclair. The reason is, as we discovered today, that the eclairs are each a foot long, about three inches across. These Jurassic dimensions apply to the rest of the dishes as well.

I got the pastrami Reuben (first picture), which was stuffed about five inches high with thick, hot, and delicious pastrami.

There was just a layer of Swiss, sauerkraut, and thousand island, but you could taste everything perfectly. The exciting thing is that there is a whole list of Reubens on the menu. My goal (my friends have yet to be convinced) is to try each type of Reuben they offer and determine which is the best there.

One of my friends got the bacon and cheese omelet with breakfast potatos. He reports that it was "as good as an omelet can be," which is pretty good. This was also huge, and he had to bring back about half of it.

Next came the John St Turkey Club. To the orderer's surprise the turkey club was a good eight inches high, packed with lettuce, tomato, bacon and turkey. Only half of that got eaten as well.

We had been slowing down our consumption for awhile, and our waiter (who was so nice) came over with our receipt and the complementary chocolate chip cookies, but we had our hearts set on the infamous chocolate eclair. We split the eclair into thirds and tried to eat the pieces before gravity pulled out the pastry cream. The choux, chocolate, and cream were all wonderfully yummy and balanced. As my friend said "it's surprising that in an eclair with so much cream, the chocolate can still be a star."

Overall, the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen was amazing. The prices were pretty steep, but the amount of food you get for each buck is worth it. The atmosphere is sunny and busy; the loads of families and couples seem all smiles and the staff is nice and responsive. So if only for the HUGE eclairs go to the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen.

I hope that Passover and Easter are/have been great for everyone and that Spring Break is not too distant a memory. Omnom!

Famous 4th Street Delicatessen
700 South 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

P.S. Apparently the University of Pennsylvania (I gotta respect all Philly schools) has a food magazine and blog called Penn Appetit. I am pretty sure that every school should have a food mag/blog. Anywho, cheers to them for having one and check it out!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango and the most beautiful weather Philly has ever known

Spring is here! Not officially, but today it was 72 degrees here in Philly. People are out in shorts and sunglasses, tank tops and flip-flops, and huge smiles. The sun and grass are fantastic. I snuck away some rice from home over break and have been waiting to try this recipe ever since.
Logically, rice should be able to cook just like pasta or boba. However, know ahead of time that this is not the case; rice takes a lot longer to cook and has different rules.

Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango is a delicious and sunny dessert (although, from personal experience, I can say it also works well as dinner). The recipe is Thai, and it is fantastically simple and great for sharing.

Here are the directions, loosely based off of the recipe from Thai Table. You will need:

~ About a cup of rice
~ A mango
~ Half a can of coconut milk
~ Water
~ 3 tablespoons of sugar
~ salt

Put the rice in a handy dandy microwavable bowl, and pour the coconut milk, sugar, and salt on top of it. Microwave it on high for 3 minutes, take out and stir, then add enough water so that there is a about 3/4 inch on top. Stir again and let sit for about 2 minutes. Microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Repeat this process until the rice is tender, and all of water is absorbed. Serve the rice hot next to a cut mango. For tips on cutting mango see this about.com post.

Sprinkle salt and sugar on top of the rice and Omnom! Everyone enjoy the incredible weather!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Custard Diary: Tapioca Pudding

Wow. So, this blog was derailed for awhile... however, I think enough things have been moved around that we are back in business.
How is everyone!? Is anyone on spring break and such?

Alright, so one idea with which I have been playing is custards. While home for break I found tapioca pearls and decided that tapioca pudding was the way to go.

Now, the reason that this is the first entry of the Custard Diary is that custard can be hard enough on the stove; the microwave adds an new twist. The problem is to not let the egg cook too much.

Anywho, here's what you need for the recipe (taken somewhat from the box of Bascom's tapioca pearls):

1/4 cup of tapioca pearls
3/2 cup of milk
dash of vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
dash of salt
dash of cinnamon
1 egg

First, beat the eggs until the whites are completely broken/liquified. Mix in everything but the pearls. Proceed to cook for 1 minute on high and then stir. Repeat this 5 more times or until some eggs bits separate. Then strain out the cooked egg and add the tapioca. Cook on 1 minute for high and stir for 3 more times or until the tapioca is tender. Cool in the refridgerator and serve.

So now for the future revisions for this recipe. This recipe will leave you with a good custard, but will not leave you with a smooth custard. Possible changes would be to add a little bit of lemon juice or vinegar to keep the egg from coagulating. Also, you could potentially add the egg at the end and stir it in then.

anyway, Omnom!

Sunday, January 31, 2010


A blender should be used for, if nothing else, smoothies (cheers, Valerie). Now, smoothies and I go way back. My household went through about seven years during which making fresh fruit smoothies was a twice a day occurrence. Our blender and a pack of bananas also traveled with us on vacation all over the country. Therefore, it is only fitting that my first blender post should be about smoothies.

By smoothies, though, I do
not mean ice cream or sorbet with a couple cuts of fruit. No, by my definition that would be a milkshake or a freeze. There is a reason that smoothies are marketed as healthy things, even if a lot of the time the commercial versions are not. In a very simple form smoothies are healthy.

So for this post I have three smoothie recipes: the classic apple, banana, carrot, and orange, the mango lassi, and the (ok, a little less healthy, but great for after workouts) chocolate banana smoothie.

Apple, Banana, Carrot, and Orange (or the ABC ..O)
  • 2 medium sized carrots washed or peeled with the ends removed
  • 1 sweeter apple like a fuji
  • 1 banana
  • about 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • about 3/4 cup of orange juice
The instructions for smoothies is really part of their beauty: put everything in the blender, put on the cap, blend until liquefied. If you live in a place like a dorm where the walls are practically nonexistent, try putting a thick blanket or towel around the base of the blender to muffle the sound somewhat.

Mango Lassi
  • 2 mangoes, peeled and pitted
  • sugar to taste
  • about 1 cup plain yogurt
  • milk or water until desired thickness
  • cardamom (if you have any) to taste
Those of you who read this blog often know I really dislike adding sugar to things, but when you are dealing with plain yogurt it's sometimes necessary. So...yep, put it all in the blender and go.

Chocolate and Bananananana
  • 1 banana
  • 1 packet of hot chocolate mix
  • 1 cup of milk
  • some ice cubes if it's warm enough...it was 19 degrees today, so no ice cubes.

Anyone else have favorite smoothies?
Omnom! and yay for blenders!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Philly Foods: Square 1682

It's Restaurant Week here in Philadelphia. Some of the people in my dorm and I went out for brunch at Square 1682, a new restaurant on 17th street. The Restaurant Week "deal" was two courses: either breakfast or lunch course and a dessert. I use the sarcasm of quotation marks because the only person who saved money on the Restaurant Week offer was the girl who got the steak. So, get the steak or don't get the deal.

I got the Poached Eggs with Truffle
Oil "atop brioche toast, wild mushrooms, and guanciale sauce." I didn't know what guanciale was, so I have looked it up: Guanciale is bacon from a pigs cheek. Yum. Actually, the dish was really good (especially the bites with all the truffle oil). It was in the plainest of terms, good bread with a poached egg and the typically delicious mushrooms in butter and some herbs, chopped bacon, cream sauce, and parsley. Oh and of course truffle oil. How could one complain?

My dining compatriots enjoyed the French Toast with bananas, pecans, and good old Pennsylvanian maple syrup, the blackened chicken sandwich with bacon, pesto aioli, pepper jack cheese and house-made fingerling potato chips (pictured), and the Texas Longhorn burger with blue cheese. From what I heard, all dishes were highly satisfying. After some sneaking of potato chips, I can personally vouch for their deliciousness.

Next up, dessert. Chocolate tart with ginger and orange ganache. Reportedly very good but very, very chocolatey. Others had apple tart with cinnamon ice cream. Also, said to be sensational, but the ice cream is for cinnamon lovers only. I then had the vanilla ice cream cream puff with caramel and pecans. It was very nice. The caramel was warm, but freezing on the ice cream, and the puff was crispy in just the right places.

Overall, the consensus was that the brunch wasn't bad. However, it was far from sensational. If we had the choice to try somewhere new, we probably would. If you are looking for a solidly vogue and stylish place with food certain to be good with decent presentation, then head on over to Square 1682.


121 South 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Tel: 215.563.5008


Has anyone else tried some memorable meals during Restaurant Week?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gajar Ka Halwa (and India)

I'm back! India was fascinating, beautiful. The food was delicious, not actually that spicy, and replete with butter. French cuisine has nothing on that of the Indians. Also, Valerie, I'm glad you got to drink chai. Go to India and you will consume gallons just from casual visits. I was staying with my friend's family members (and in India it seems as if everyone's a family member), so I didn't get too many photos of food. However, what I took, I'll post as I get them from my friend.

While maybe not providing many food photos, India did offer many ideas for Mini and Micro. For instance, the first dessert I had while in India was Gajar Ka Halwa. According to my friend, "halwa" applies to anything (usually a dessert) that is small bits, like a porridge . Gajar Ka Halwa uses carrot strips as these small pieces. Like most Indian desserts the basis is milk, butter, sugar, nuts, and cardamom.

Now as a caveat that the idea of making an Indian dish, something fairly revered, in the microwave is highly unorthodox. One can reheat in the microwave, but cooking in the microwave? near heresy.

Alright, so roughly off the recipe found at India Food Forever, I have put together a pretty decent Gajar KaHalwa recipe.
For two to three servings, you will need:
- two carrots
- a handful of pistachios, shelled, and cut up
- a handful of raisins
- pat of butter about 1"x1"x3/8"
- two tablespoons of sugar/to taste
- 4-6 cardamom seed pods
- milk enough to cover the carrots

First, soak the raisins in water, set them to the side for about 20 minutes. Now, after you peel the carrots, you're supposed to grate them. However, being with a grater in college, I got to cut up the carrots. If you're also in this position try to cut them very thinly; the thinner the slices the more delicate and flavorful the dessert will be.

Put the carrots in a bowl and pour the milk over it, OR, you can add some milk and some sweetened condensed milk (though, you may want to skimp on the sugar later). Microwave the carrots on high for 5 minutes or until the carrots are completely tender. Add the sugar, raisins, and pistachios. Microwave the mixture for another 2 minutes.

Crush the cardamom pods with the flat of a knife and add them to the bowl. Mix and let sit for about 10-15 minutes or until the flavor is as intense as desired. Take out the cardamom and drain any excess milk. If the carrots are still hot then add the butter and sugar to taste. Otherwise microwave and then add. Serve warm and omnom!!!

Oh! for Christmas I got a blender, so will be looking into recipes for that. Any ideas?

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Hey everyone.

Sorry I have not been updating, but at the moment I am in India! Internet has been kind of hard to find. However, I will be back and ready for updates in about a week. I hope everyone's winter breaks are going well. Have there been any to-die-for foods this season?