Food sample love

Food sample love

The highlight of our highly anticipated weekends is grocery shopping, and the highlight of that is undeniably the food samples. They say never shop on an empty stomach. But that’s exactly what we always do. Never fear though, we have an abundance of food samples to tide us over till our weekend lunch out.

I don’t always have a chance to snap pictures because those tasty morsels seem to go into my mouth faster than I can get my cellphone out. Here’s some of what we’ve sampled including Ritz cookies with a choice of salmon and artichoke dip (we bought the artichoke dip), Starbucks coffee (the homemade version), cheese and ham crackers, caramel popcorn (not just one popcorn but a whole paper cupful!) and yes, life-size Lindt chocolate candy!

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And this meatball which we’ve sampled many times. I don’t know what makes it so good but it’s, never mind, *drools*! I’ve been tempted to buy a bag more than once but not before I figure out how we plan to eat 150 meatballs (that’s how many are in a bag!).

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My first ever taste of Nutella! I see it on grocery shelves and I know many people swear by it. Well, I personally have never tried it but now that I have, I’ll have to say it makes this waffle come alive. Would I buy it? Maybe but I can’t see myself eating more than this mouthful either.

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I typically turn down food samples especially when the promoter is standing there with a pair of thongs and a tray of exposed chopped-up bits of what looks like last week’s party leftovers, waiting to plop one tiny piece on the palm of your hand as you walk by. Yuck, no thanks!

But here I’m looking forward to them every weekend. They’re life-size samples you can actually chew and taste. The gloved promoter prepares small batches of 5 to 10 samples and places them on paper cups on a tray. That way, you know they’re freshly prepared and no one has sneezed or coughed on them, for instance (eww!). The golden rule is that once you reach out and grab a cup, you can’t put it back, you have to take it. Makes sense, right?

The weekend’s coming up and you know what that means *wink*.

I’m coming for ya, tasty morsels!!!

The simplest and the best

The simplest and the best

I don’t know which is worse, the annoying songs that jar the ears or the gift contest that you know you can never hope to win. Let’s just say some of the best celebrations are the ones devoid of either.

And the best is the simplest that starts with this

The simplest and the best

rich golden ravioli and ends with this

The simplest and the best

saucy homemade shrimp linguine with a grilled salmon steak that’s too amazing to describe in words.

The simplest and the best

The simplest is really the best.

Curry and flatbread

Curry and flatbread

Every so often, you meet someone and you get to talking and inadvertently the topic heads in the direction of food. Isn’t that what usually happens? So much revolves around food these days that it’s hard to avoid exchanging notes about what’s good where.

While I’m not one to jump at food recommendations, no matter how good they may sound, there are times when we’re at loose ends and feeling a little plucky. That was the weekend we found ourselves at an Indian restaurant recommended by said someone.

Chicken curry was an obvious choice for us. The portion was somewhat smaller than expected. Still this was a curry bursting with all the traditional herbs and spices that make Indian curry so special. And the long-grained rice with distinct grains was very good.

We loved it. Our only mistake was forgetting to tell them we wanted our curry to be killer spicy. To our seasoned palettes, this curry was heat level zero although we did spy another diner drowning himself in water from eating this same dish.

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We ordered the highly recommended flatbread. It was crispy and tasted like flatbread but it didn’t jump out at us. The yogurt looked intimidating to me somehow, maybe because it’s second nature for me to dunk any sort of flatbread into curry. So dipping it in yogurt was a bit scary at first. It wasn’t bad but I still prefer the curry combination.

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And that was it. We left the place still hungry, of course. This always happens when we’re trying out a new restaurant. We like to play it safe in case the food doesn’t measure up to our expectations. After this meal, we went grocery shopping where there was ample opportunity to fill our tummies with food samples (more about this coming to a post near you).

A new word, aproncation

A new word, aproncation

It’s snowing heavily in the mountains after years of drought so folks are rushing up there in droves. As for us, we planned to take a slow, leisurely road trip to the beach. But it’s been raining (on and off from that – brrr – Arctic blast back in December) and with more rain in the forecast, we figured we’re better off having a staycation instead.

Recent months have been hectic so it’s nice getting to linger in bed longer and taking my time over my coffee when the mornings are still cold and dark. Kinda like taking our polar bear challenge up one notch but without having to drag myself out of bed so early.

A staycation is great if you believe in staying home and doing nothing and hope you don’t bore yourself silly. In the city, if you’re feeling bored, you can always find entertainment at the mall by having someone ram their shopping cart into your butt, or stand over your shoulder as you desperately dig for that one last coin at the checkout line.

But in the absence of such entertainment, I started rummaging around the kitchen in search of something to do. As luck would have it, I found half a bag of cranberries left over from the cranberry sauce I made for Christmas. A light bulb comes up – wokay, let’s make another pie!

Fueled by my recent apple crumble pie success, I couldn’t wait to get started on a cranberry crumble pie this time. Since cranberries are tart and don’t have much of a texture, I decided to put a couple of Golden Delicious apples to work. And the result was this out-of-this-world Apple Cranberry Crumble Pie, the craggy cranberry filling punctuated by the crunch of diced apples.

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Guess what else I found in the freezer? Yup, a bowl of leftover turkey stock and two bags of turkey bones from Thanksgiving and Christmas. I threw everything together and made a huge big pot of Turkey Noodle Soup – pure genius! It was so unbelievably good we’ll have to be content craning our necks out for a repeat performance next Christmas!

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And while we’re at it, why not whip up one huge batch of pumpkin pancakes? Put me in the kitchen and I’m like a heron flying over a fish pond. The possibilities are endless. It makes me shake my head to think of my clueless college days, ‘stranded’ half a planet away from home scratching my head before every meal.

And that was our little aproncation, a new word I just invented, inspired by our bonding exercise over cooking and baking projects. Aproncation! Hmm, what a great word! I like it!

 

How I like my apple pie

How I like my apple pie

Pie has been a topic of much debate since Thanksgiving when Costco was selling their scrumptious pumpkin pie like hot cakes. Everyone had at least one pumpkin pie in their shopping cart. Some folks had ten?!! Or more?!

We sampled the pie and it was delicious. One lady said it’s the best tasting pie next to homemade. But looking at the size of that pie, it would take us till next Thanksgiving (at least!) to finish eating.

We decided to bake our own pie instead. Pies are easy-peasy to make. Fine, homemade may not be as pretty as commercial. But looks aren’t everything. If an ugly pie is healthier and tastes just as good, I say – go for it!applecrumpie

Two Granny Smiths and 3 Golden Delicious later, we had an apple crumble pie coming out of the oven that we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into. This is my first time making a crumble pie and it turned out to be every bit as delicious as we had hoped.

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The nice thing about homemade pie is that you can cram it to the max with filling and tailor it any way you like. Smooth and gooey with apple chunks that I can bite into, that’s how I like my apple filling and that’s exactly how I cooked mine.

The filling turned out at the perfect sweetness level too. Surprisingly the Granny Smiths weren’t as tart as I thought. I didn’t even add much sugar but instead got to enjoy the full-blown natural sweetness of 5 apples! Joy!

Merry Christmas 2015!

Merry Christmas 2015!

Hello, it’s Christmas Eve! Here I am, hammering out a post while my rosemary turkey is roasting merrily in the oven. I’m hungry just taking deep breaths of that amazing aroma wafting from my kitchen. On a cold, wet winter’s day, having the oven on for 3 hours straight sure warms up the house wonderfully.

We bought our turkey early this time (and we got some shrimp cocktail and artichoke dip too). Not wanting to be late trying to snag that perfect sized turkey, we went last Friday on the weekend well ahead of the last shopping weekend before Christmas.

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But you know what? We shouldn’t have worried our pretty little heads. Folks are done with turkey for Thanksgiving and they’re on to prime ribs for Christmas. There was no one to fight us for that perfect sized turkey except for one man who was hovering around the turkey section for like 3 minutes and then promptly disappeared, likely to the prime rib section.

This afternoon, we had a light lunch in anticipation of our gonna-be-big dinner tonight. We polished off all the leftovers we had in the fridge to make space for the turkey dinner leftovers from our dinner later. Over lunch, we realized we didn’t have a single slice of bread in the house for our traditional turkey sandwiches tomorrow. Omg, the stores will be closing early, it’s Christmas Eve!

Hence the quick dash to the grocery store to grab 2 loaves of bread. Only a quick dash isn’t quite that when you have to pile on 3 layers of clothing and wriggle into those boots before you can head out the door. Boots are funny. While they’re not exactly flip-flops, they sure can make you do flip-flops trying to put them on.

In other news, I made cranberry sauce yesterday. In that respect, we’ve definitely moved on up!

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Yup, we’ve gone from eating those gawdawful canned cranberry rolls years ago when we didn’t know any better to the cranberry sauce they sell in jars which though pretty good, are still mass produced. To us, nothing beats homemade. So Mom cooks her own cranberry sauce and it turned out to be spoon-lickin’ good, if I do say so myself. The smell, the texture (you can see the seeds and withered cranberry skin), the taste – oh man, truly out of this world!!

Oh, and one night last week, we snuck out in the freezing cold to Christmas Tree Lane where a row of homeowners have fixed up their homes with creative Christmas light displays. The slow drive from one end of the road to the other took us one whole hour. It was raining and we were in a moving vehicle and I was shooting a video and taking pictures at the same time on my cellphone. And we were too busy oohing and aahing at each display more dazzling than the last. Hence this blurry picture.

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Speaking of which, here’s wishing everyone a Very Dazzling Christmas and Happy Holidays from our home to yours!

Lunch at BJ’s

Lunch at BJ's

Twas a cold but sunny mid-morning that we had lunch at BJ’s. We thought we were early but apparently the world got there before us. I don’t like waiting but for good food, I guess it’s worth a 15 minute wait… which as you can see was well spent taking pictures of the gorgeous architecture.

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A simple glass of water that costs nothing yet tastes so good, and always brings a smile to my face.

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Bonus, our server even asked if we wanted lemon with it. What a nice gesture! Water is a basic human right and it’s free, as it should be, so it makes me wonder why in some parts of the world, water is not an option, and you have to pay for it.

Side story: I remember we used to patronize a certain expensive (to me) Thai restaurant that wouldn’t even offer us a drink of water when clearly we were all sniffing from the exceptionally spicy dishes. Their drinks are a ripoff so I never order any. Instead, each time after a meal there, we would rush over to the nearby McD’s and drown ourselves in soda! For the record, we’ve long since stopped eating there…for obvious reasons.

On with our lunch. For starters, we had Crispy Calamari and New England Clam Chowder. Goodness knows when we last ate squid so this was nice but it could’ve been crispier. The chowder was to die for, what can I say? I’ve never met a chowder I didn’t like. It helps too that they’ve drastically reduced the sodium level. Love it when restaurants take the trouble to improve their fare.

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Next, we had the Shrimp and Asparagus Penne, and our favorite Parmesan Crusted Chicken which we order every time we go to BJ’s. I loved the chicken, of course! The penne, not so much. Not that it wasn’t good, more like penne is probably my least favorite pasta.

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And for dessert, we had this sinful Salted Caramel Pizookie which, by the way, is a dish-sized cookie topped with a double scoop of ice cream sprinkled with chocolate chips. You know me. I didn’t order this! It came free and with such a cute name, it was all the sweeter!

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