Better Than Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

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I’ve mourned the loss of our local Krispy Kreme for years. The husbear jokes that I probably kept them afloat for an extra few months with my frequent trips in. Now I get my fix when I visit states that are so lucky as to have Krispy Kremes. But I may have a fix. Actually, I think I have something even better.

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These Wanna be Famous Doughnuts from From Cupboard to Cupboard are phenomenal. They are airy and tender, and seem to melt in your mouth. They disappear in an instant.

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This recipe yields quite a few doughnuts, and works just fine with powdered milk, which is all I seem to ever carry in my pantry. The best part is the glaze. It really is just like Krispy Kreme. That soft, yet hardened shell. And a buttery sweetness encasing the delicate fried dough. I wound up doubling the glaze, as mine were really coated in it.

Much poof.
Much poof.

Bring these to a party. You’ll make some friends.

CNY at Hong Kong Bakery and Bistro

Gung Hey Fat Choy! I kicked off my Chinese New Year Festivities at Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro with a bevy of local bloggers. Daniel B. organized the dinner to try the set menu featuring two dishes he’d never tried before. Set Menu A was on our hit list.

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Seafood & Fish Maw Soup was up first. A nice light fishy soup with egg white bits, thickened with cornstarch. If you’re wondering what fish maw is, it’s the gas bladder that helps the fish go up and down in the water. It’s pretty flavorless. Overall, good light start to the meal.

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Next up was the fabulous salt and pepper PLATTER. My family usually gets salt and pepper shrimp, so this was a real treat. It featured (from bottom clockwise): tofu, squid, bait fish, ribs, and in the center… jellyfish. Oh man, I want this platter all of the time! It was great! Salt and pepper tofu makes tofu automatically delicious, even if you’re not a tofu fan. Salt and pepper squid is an automatic win (though these were  bit small so they got a teeny bit overcooked/chewy). Salt and pepper bait fish. This was delicious, and not something I see very often in Cantonese/Hong Kong cooking. IMO very under-utilized because these tasted fantastic – briny and simple. Just tell squemish people that they’re fish strips, nuggets, or more squid. They won’t be able to tell.
Salt and pepper ribs. Where have you been all my life? Man, if there was a star, this was it. Crispy exterior, savory interior. Yes. Total win.
Jellyfish is a CNY mainstay dish, and it was nice to try the s+p riff on it.

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Abalone course. Abalone slices over bok choy and shiitake mushrooms. Abalone is another popular Chinese New Year dish because it’s expensive and symbolizes prosperity. But overall it doesn’t have a lot of flavor going on by itself, so it picked up a lot of the shiitake flavor. I wasn’t crazy about the thick brown sauce over it, but I liked how tender they got the abalone. This stuff can be prepared differently, and I’m not a fan of the texture when it’s rubbery and not cooked as much. This provided a lot of give. You know it’s a traditional dish when it’s expensive and the best you can say is that it wasn’t tough.

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Lobster, my love! Gotta love double ginger scallion lobster. Coated in a light cornstarch startch ginger scallion sauce, this fried lobster is another mainstay, and I was surprised to hear that Daniel B. had never tried it before. I’ve failed him as a friend! This was a great preparation of the dish. The lobster was juicy and succulent, and chopped up to dig out easily. “Easily” is probably a relative term, as part of the fun of this dish is getting messy eating it!

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Crispy Chicken is another traditional dish. This was covered in a garlic sauce, but the garlic flavor was pretty mild overall. Mmm, adorned with garlic crispy bits, too. This is a great dish any time of the year. Juicy plump chicken, crisp skin, simple chicken flavors. It’s a real crowd pleaser.

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Ultra blurry pig feet dish. Another first for Daniel B. This preparation was a bit tougher than other versions I’ve had. I prefer softer versions, but overall the flavor was good. Rich and meaty without getting too funky. The pieces were chopped up into easy to grab bits to gnaw on. There’s a lot of gnawing in Hong Kong/Cantonese Chinese food culture. 20160209_203636

Dessert time! What a pretty fruit platter!

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Red bean and tapioca soup  for dessert part two to end it on a sweet note.

Whiskey Dinner at City Beer Hall

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“Hey m’dear, any interest in going to a whiskey tasting dinner tomorrow night at City Beer Hall  (in collaboration with The Speakeasy)?”

There’s something to be said for good friends who bring you food when you’re sick, generally check in on you while conquering the world, and take you as their date to a whiskey dinner. Deanna Fox is one of those friends and then some. *swoons at succinct offer of one of my favorite brown liquors*

City Beer Hall’s chef Dimitrios Menagias and Robert Mack, the man behind the Speakeasy’s cocktail program, teamed up to pair food with drink from Brown Forman (an American owned spirit and wine business). It was a good night.

We had a popcorn amuse atop a truffled mousse with mushrooms. Paired with the fun amuse drink below whose name I’ve forgotten because this happened a week ago and I have the memory of a fly.

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CBH Course 1 Drink Indian Candy Corn cocktailCBH Course 1 Drink Woodford White Corn Bourbon

Course 1: Indian Candy Corn cocktail (left) featuring Woodford White Corn Bourbon (neat, on the right).
The bourbon itself had a strong caramel scent, and was a real kicky type bourbon. The cocktail was equally punchy.

CBH Course 1 Winter Salad

Course 1: Winter Salad. Grilled prawn, carrots, starfruit, napa cabbage, persimmon nuoc chom. A few kernels of freeze dried corn on the right that paired very well with the meal and bourbon. This made me realize how underutilized napa cabbage is in its raw, salad-y form. A great winter salad with bright notes from the persimmon nuoc chom.

CBH Course 2 Charcuterie

Course 2: Charcuterie. My notes on this dish are covered in hearts. Duck pastrami, foie gras mousse, venison, sweet corn mostarda, pickled green tomatoes. I was talking with some folks recently who said they just didn’t “get” foie gras, and I had to reconsider our friendship for a moment. It’s fat, rich, and delicious. What’s not to like? Duck pastrami was deliciously smoky, aand was great paired with the pickled green tomatoes. The sweet corn mostarta also contained some toasted corn.

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I just couldn’t help but take  bunch of pictures of this plate. There was so much to love!

CBH Course 2 Drink Lion's Tail

Course 2: Lion’s Tail with Old Forester 1870 (which I forgot to take a picture of, and the cocktail picture isn’t much better. sigh). I LOVED the Lion’s tail it was tart and smoky with clove flavors. More hearts drawn around this cocktail. The Old Forester 1870 is the founding brand. 90 proof, spicy, and burns just a tad when sipped neat.

CBH Course 3 Intermezzo

Course 3: Intermezzo, with a cocktail reprieve. Pomelo sorbetto, aperol, candied pomelo peel. Dimitrios knocked this out of the park. The skill alone in candying the pomelo peel deserves respect. They were so thin, and so perfectly candied. Covered in sugar, and not too dry or too chewy. One of our table mates wasn’t familiar with pomelo, and remarked that it tasted “kind of like weed smells”, which is actually kind of accurate with its dank tartness and pungent citrus oils. It’s great to see this citrus featured front and center, especially as a plate cleanser.

CBH Course 4 Manhattan

Course 4: Manhattan with Old Forester 1897, where I have clearly crossed over from sober to jovial as I’ve forgotten to take another shot of the bourbon in its neat form. This may have been my favorite to drink neat or with a few drops of water in it, despite my forgetfulness. It had a tart nasal note, a bit milder than the white corn bourbon in the first course, with what I can only describe as having  great spicy afterburn. Definitely something to warm you up on cold winter night. The Manhattan was also expertly executed, using charred bitters and rhubarb vermouth. And that cherry. Or as my notes read “Oh my god, that brandied cherry”. It’s juicy and delicious and I love saving it to chew with the last few sips of the drink at the end. I think I could just load that Manhattan up with those brandied cherries and be a happy woman.

CBH Course 4 Wild Boar

Course 4: Wild Boar. Smoked corn relish, spaetzle, baby kale, red pepper oil. The corn was smoked over apple wood, the spaetzle was made with parsnip and mustard seed which added a lightly sweet and vegetal note to the spaetzle. All of this worked wonderfully with the boar, and sipping the Manhattan along with this dish made me feel like a very lucky woman to be eating such a fine dish, and to have a friend who’d invite me along to even try this.

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I had to use every ounce of willpower to resist picking up the bone and sucking every bit of delicious cartilage and tendon off of the bone.

CBH course 5 Jack Daniels Howard St. Scaffa

Course 5: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Barrel Proof (left); Howard St. Scaffa (right). Wow, barrel proof. 130.8% alcohol. Holy caramel smell, with a subtle note of cinnamon. “Drinkable fire” someone noted at our table. Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was playing in my head drinking this, in very enjoyable way. The Howard St. Scaffa featured a mellow cointreau noir and one drop of Angry God ghost pepper bitters. A definite way to turn up the heat.

CBH course 5 Stuffed Figs

Course 5: Stuffed Figs. Harbison, pecan, Shiva’s wrath bitters, dark chocolate. Harbison cheese stuffed into a Greek dried fig which was reconstituted in cointreau noir. The pecans were toasted and tossed in Shiva’s wrath bitters. This was a delightful way to end the dinner on a high note. The Harbison was creamy (a triple cream to be exact) with grassy, funky, rich notes that worked well to counter the heat of the drinks and complement the sweetness of the fig.

Way to end dinner on a high note. Mic drop Dimitrios and Robert.

Van’s Vietnamese – Albany, NY

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It’s been a while since I’ve been to Van’s Vietnamese Restaurant. Seems like every time I’m on that stretch of Central Ave, I inevitably wind up going to Taiwan Noodle, but this time I managed to resist that siren call as my sister called for a dinner at Van’s Vietnamese on account of their menu having a good selection of vegan and low gluten/maybe gluten-free dishes (I’m not really sure about the gluten-free part, but the sister unit says they are and I don’t have a gluten issue so if she’ll eat at a restaurant with lots of dishes like Van’s then I’m not going to argue).

For some reason I don’t remember the portions being as large as they are! Holy cow, these crappy camera phone pics don’t do the size justice. These dinner plates were like hubcaps.

Above is Banh Xeo Chay (Vegetarian Vietnamese Crispy Pancake) – $17.99 which has tofu that is textured like meat! I seriously thought that we accidentally got a chicken or duck one, but nope – just tofu. The yellow pancake is crispy, true to its name. This is kind of like a Vietnamese dosa in that you’ll be breaking bits off to eat with the filling. Seriously, it’s a massive size portion and comes as a dinner, though we split it as an appetizer for our table.  0

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Another vegetarian/vegan-approved meal we ordered as an appetizer was Bun Cha Gio Chay (Fried Vegetarian Spring Rolls over Vermicelli) – $12.99, which seems like a much more reasonable price to me. Also, it’s freaking DELICIOUS. Great texture contrast between the soft and pliant rice noodles and the crispy, crunchy vegetarian spring rolls covered in nuoc mam chay, mint, peanuts, scallions, and carrots. I’ve gotta get more mint on in my savory dishes.

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Canh Ga Tom Chien (Fried Stuffed Chicken Wings) – $8.99 for the meat eaters at the table, because how can you resist trying deboned chicken wings stuffed with crab meat? Overall, okay, but I think I prefer regular chicken wings. Kind of overwhelmed the crab flavor, IMO. Still, gotta admire those skills. No way in heck can I debone a chicken wing and leave the skin intact like that.

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Okay – one meaty main for me! Ca Hoi Nuong (Grilled Salmon with Ginger) – $15.99. How is this less than the banh xeo  chay? Our waiter laughingly told me how he’d ordered this dish for a month straight because it was so good.
This dish worked for me – light tasting but satisfying, and tons of veggies! Even a few spears of asparagus in the winter. The veggies all were lightly steamed and still had a firm texture, which I liked. I wound up bringing half of this home because it was so much food and I’d gorged on the above mentioned appetizers.

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One of my friends also got the duck, Com Vit Quay Dzon (Van’s Own Crispy Roasted Half Duck) – $19.99, which was quite tasty, though not very crisp. More taught and roasted but still quite enjoyable.

Any way, sorry to be vague about the gluten-free and vegan attributes of this restaurant. I get that it’s a concern if those are your dietary needs, though they’re not a need for me. Food has always been an issue with me and my sister, so I’m always happy when we can go out to a place where we’re both happy eating (and if you ever find out that the above definitely-vegetarian dishes aren’t vegan please don’t tell me so I can keep going here with my vegan sister, hahaha!).

DIY Coconut Oil Cleansing Pads

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So, I know I’m supposed to wash  my face before bed at night. But sometimes I just don’t want to. But guess what? Laziness wins out! I’ve made these DIY coconut oil skin cleansing pads and they are WONDERFUL for cleaning your face before you go to bed, and great at removing make up. I’ve got oily skin, and these leave my skin moisturized and clean without clogging my pores. It’s so easy – all you need are cotton pads, coconut oil, and a mason jar and you’re ready to go!

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I know what you’re thinking – “Oil to clean your oily skin? This sounds like a bad idea!”. I thought the same thing. At first I was looking for a good makeup remover, and figured if I just used this on my eyes it’ll be fine. FYI – this is a great eye makeup remover if nothing else, but so much more. I’ve tried oil skin cleansing methods before, and my skin was never happy with it.

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The difference here is that we’re only using a bit of oil – 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil for an 8 oz mason jar. It’s enough to clean and moisturize without being a skin-clogging oil slick. Look at that. It’s not much at all. Especially when you realize this will be dispersed between lots of cotton pads.

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So we take the tablespoon of coconut oil, add some hot water (hot water from the tap is fine, too. Just need to get the coconut oil to melt if it’s not already in a liquid state).

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Add in any other oils you want. Rose hip seed oil is supposed to be a good oil for skin repair. I’ve just noticed it’s light and easily absorbed into my skin without any issue. I add 1/4 teaspoon at most. Or a very unscientific few bloops from the bottle. Lavender essential oil has some antibacterial and antiseptic properties as well, and hey, when I’m tossing stuff on my face, why not add a little of that to the mix? Just a few drops now, it’s strong stuff.
Also double check your oils before adding them since the jars look alike. I once mistakenly grabbed a bottle of jasmine essential oil and slathered it all over my face thinking it was rose hip seed oil. That was a painful mistake, haha! My face turned bright red, but it smelled great.

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You’ll want to mix the oil and water combination. Swirl it up so it mixes up as best as it can. Have your cotton face pads at the ready on the side, and when your oils look fairly evenly dispersed in the water (i.e. not just sitting on top of the water), gently add in the cotton pads.

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Slowly add in the pads until there’s very little liquid left. You’ll probably add pads to your jar at least twice. I like to add pads that are about the height of the jar first, and then once those have absorbed the liquid, add in a few smaller segments of cotton pads. Push down on them so they absorb all of the liquid. You don’t want to have a lot of liquid left. You want to have each pad absorb just enough to be moist, but not soaking wet because then the pad will absorb a bit too much and may deteriorate a bit. You’ll figure it out, don’t worry. They’re still good, they just might be a little difficult to get out. If this happens, make a mental note to add a few more pads next time.

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Once you’re happy with all of the pads you’ve added, seal the jar. I like to flip it upside down sometimes to make sure the top portion of pads gets as much liquid as the bottom portion of pads.

These are so great and best of all, cheap! Let’s do a list of ingredients per batch:

$0.18 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil  (I got this 14 oz jar of coconut oil at Aldi for $4.99)
$0.20 1/4 Teaspoon Rose Hip Seed Oil 
$0.02 5 drops Lavender Essential Oil  (this is such a minor amount of Lavender essential oil, I’m estimating on the high side).
$0.45 Cotton Pads (Big Lots sells sleeves of these for $1.00, Target for about $1.50. You’ll use less than half a sleeve per jar)
$0.85

Wow! A grand total of $0.85 per batch of super awesome better-than-the-store skin cleansing makeup removing coconut oil pads! Let me know if you try this – I’m curious what changes you make to make this your own!

Adult Braces

It seems like I usher in the new year by getting dental work. It’s a tradition I’d like to ditch, but that seems fairly unlikely. This year’s dental project is adult braces! Why? Well, I had an upper tooth extracted, a dental implant put in, then the tooth next to it shifted significantly, and braces are the least damaging method to get enough space to to put in a new tooth on the implant post. At this point I’ve exceeded the down-payment on my house dealing with one tooth, and it’s probably close to buying a new car.

I recently had a transpalatal arch hooked up (put in? installed? is there any less awkward wording? Haha). It’s like a harness or bra in your teeth. For me, this is step one, which will help straighten out the one wonky tooth, and slowly push it back to where it should be. Eventually I might get brackets if there’s a lot of shifting with the rest of my teeth to even it out. My teeth are fairly straight, though I’ve got some crowding just beyond the front. Braces were suggested as a kid, though I never got them and for some reason I always wanted them since a lot of my friends had them and got cool rubber bands put on their brackets. I was a weird, and incredibly stupid kid. Braces suck. I’m barely a week in to this non-bracketed set up and I already can’t wait to get them off.

Let’s go to the beginning. What’s it like to get adult braces on?

First, they put teeny rubber bands between your teeth to make room for the metal. That was the most painful part of this so far. After a week they remove the rubber bands and put in the metal gear. It’s still a bit sore after slapping in the metal parts of the arch/braces, but only when eating. The arch lays above the tongue/just below the roof of the mouth. It makes eating fairly difficult. So far leafy greens get caught up in it very easily. My tongue also keeps rubbing against the arch, which wasn’t really noticeable until about day 5 when it started getting a little sore.

I’ve been able to mow small bits of meat with more ease than I thought, but soft foods rule for the most part. I though this would result in weight loss, but my fast reliance on pudding, ice cream, and soft cheese is starting to indicate otherwise. Even bread is a bit difficult to eat, which is weird. It gets caught in the side bracket of the arch in a way that bothers me and isn’t easily removed.

The other side of this is that for some reason the arch makes me feel thirsty, so I’m constantly drinking water, so I’m very hydrated.

Overnight French Toast

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Waking up to breakfast smells is probably one of the best ways to wake up. I don’t have a personal breakfast chef, so if I want breakfast at home, then it’s up to me. Overnight oats are terrible lie of a breakfast, but overnight French Toast (which is really just a lightened up bread pudding with a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg) is a fantastic alarm clock for your olfactory system.

Enjoy a scoop with some greek yogurt and maple syrup and you’re pretty golden.

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No hard and fast recipe:
Half a loaf of old bread, sliced.
Whole Milk
A little bit of sugar.
2-4 eggs. I probably settled in the middle at 3. Also a good way to use up yolks.
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Vanilla extract if you want it.

Heat the milk and sugar up, temper the eggs and add to the milk & sugar. Toss in vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg.

Butter/oil up a baking dish. Layer the bread slices.

Pour milk and egg mixture over bread slices. Cover, let soak overnight.

If you don’t have an oven that you can program to bake at set times, sorry, you’ll have to wake up in order to bake this. Otherwise bake it at 325-350 for an hour before you want to get up. Take off the foil 20-ish minutes at the end of baking to firm up the top.

Cream Cheese Cut Out Cookies

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It’s starting to snow, so today seems like the perfect time to share my Breaking Bad snowmen from Christmas. The mister saw me icing the top hats and thought they bore a striking resemblance to the pork pie hats Heisenburg wore in Breaking Bad and requested some custom cookies on the fly.

I think I have found a new form of expression – royal icing on cookies. My kind of art – edible and not too serious. I’m not usually a fan of cut out cookies. I usually find their flavor to be lacking for the amount of effort involved. Mix the dough, chill the dough, clear off a counter, roll the dough out, cut the cookies out and hope they don’t break or morph while transferring them to the sheet, re-roll and repeat until dough is gone. Hope cookies keep shape and don’t brown while baking, cool, make frosting, decorate, let dry. So much work for what isn’t much flavor other than carb and sugar. A drop cookie is usually so much more satisfying!

But a friend made cut out cookies using this recipe for Cream Cheese Cutouts from Taste of Home, and I liked them enough to endure the process of sugar cookie baking.

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I baked them and froze the baked cookies a few days before I needed them, to make the process easier on myself. I find it so much more relaxing to prep and bake stuff ahead of time and have “fun” assembling and decorating at a later date. Plus it seems like less dishes. I know it’s the same number of dishes, but it’s less at once.

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These are my sugar goth children. Black powder coloring for this. Oh, and by Royal icing, I mean I used water and powdered sugar until it was viscous, then let it dry. I also used some of the buttercream from the recipe, but the royal icing was more fun to play with and came out easier.

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Oh, shooting stars! All nice and red, white, and black. It’s a vaguely goth Christmas in my house.

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Bite sized cookies. These would be perfect for a tea party. The nice thing about these cream cheese cut outs was that they didn’t brown in the oven while still baking up firm and not soggy. Any way, I like food I can paint on. This was fun.

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The cream cheese cutouts provided a nice base layer to the tiered cookie platter. Vegan toffee on top, pumpkin gingersnaps and chocolate chip cookies in the middle, and cream cheese cutouts on the bottom. It’s not the holidays in my house without a side of possible diabetes.

Cream Cheese Cutouts
8 oz butter3 oz cream cheese
7 oz sugar
1/4 t salt
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
10.625 oz all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)

Cream together butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract & mix. Add flour.
Chill a few hours in the fridge.
Roll out, cut, and bake at 375F 7-10 minutes.

ShrimpFest 2015

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One of my earliest memories was having Shrimpfest with my dad. Kitchen table, shrimp, shells piled high. It felt like we were at the table for hours laughing and eating shrimp. I picked up some gulf shrimp, and while my dad was in town just after Christmas, we had a shrimpfest to end the year. Butter for me, soy sauce + sesame oil for dad for the most part.

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Albany John was kind enough to boil up some shrimp, and pop them in some ice so they didn’t overcook.

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Big ol’ stack of shrimp shells. Maybe it was nostalgia, but I felt just like I did when I was little this time. #feels

The Ultra Busy

Erhmagerh so much busy lately. No time for writing. Any who, here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

 

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Coconut dino coconut panna cotta. Vegan-ified by using agar agar. This stuff is good. I’m on a huge coconut kick lately.

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New hot water heater installed (not by me). Yay hot water that lasts longer than 10 minutes and doesn’t make loud sounds after use. This is especially nice in December when it’s all chilly.20151126_144157[1]

Gingerbread Ninjas Maka brought up for Thankgiving in Amherst, MA.

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A blueberry pie by Papa Amherst. I think I ate half of this (don’t worry, there was another pie for other people)

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3 roasted ducks for 6 people. No turkey this year. Duck all the way.

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One of the most beautiful plates ever.

20151126_172439[1]20151128_104202[1]And duck cracklins for breakfast. Be still my fat-filled heart.