Albany John made a curry from the fuzzy squash I bought and also tossed in some onions, flax seeds, yellow mustard seeds, napa cabbage, and a roasted acorn squash with some curry flavoring and coconut milk. It tastes like it’s creamy, almost like he plopped in a bunch of romano cheese, or sour cream. But nope, none of that.
Acorn squash is usually a little too sweet for me in savory dishes, but it is great here – with all of the other flavors going on it adds just a touch of sweetness to round out and enhance the heat and complex spices.
I was just over at Empire Wine yesterday to pick up some boxed wine when a box of Crown Royal Cask No. 16 caught my eye.
I love Crown Royal and the $29.00 price tag also caught my eye. Evidently, it normally retails for much more. Empire Wine priced the retail value at $80.00 per 750 mL bottle.
You can probably see how it caught my eye. It’s encased in a sturdy black container and has shiny golden writing on the outside of it. It’s a blend of whiskeys that have been aged in cognac barrels. Or so the pretty writing tells me.
After you open the black container up, the bottle is also swathed in a Crown Royal bag with gold colored embroidery, but the bag itself is black instead of the usual purple.
I popped the bottle open and poured them into my snifters. I think it looks cute. I doubt it’s proper, but oh well. Cuteness reigns supreme in my house.
Taste-wise, I am not a fan of it. It was a little smokier than I would have liked and had a very harsh acidic finish. I was not expecting that kind of a finish. The overall mouthfeel felt lighter than the regular Crown Royal. The overall flavor was more floral than sweet, which was a bit of a surprise given how sweetly it smells. More of a cognac than a whiskey, I suppose.
An ice cube in the drink mellowed out the harshness – let it sit a few minutes to water it down just a bit.
At any rate, it was worth a try for that price. It would also probably be an impressive gift to someone for only $29.00 since it normally retails for much more.
Ho, ho, hooo oh boy am I wiped out from so many Christmases! The first Christmas started on xmas eve at Bro and Margarita’s casa. My dad also came up and joined up for dinner – Margarita made shrimp gumbo!
First up were salads. And bro’s big mitt.
We had just enough gumbo to go around. It was a great turn out, too. Albany John laughed at us because we didn’t put in things we didn’t like or find. So we left out the okra and bell peppers? So what? This was just delicious. Thick, shrimpy, and great over a heaping bowl of rice.
I can’t wait to make gumbo myself. It wasn’t too hard, just time consuming.
The next morning we had another Christmas by picking up my sister from my Mom’s to hang at my place with my Dad until Christmas with my mom. We unwrapped a few presents with my Dad and sister, and my dad seemed surprised to get so many presents to unwrap. They were only a couple, though. Get used to it, Pops!
Dinner was later that afternoon/early evening. Mama Amherst set the table and here you can see her pouring some vino for all of us.
For dessert Papa Amherst made panna cotta with apple cider on top. You can tell I couldn’t wait to tear into it – mine’s the one with a cookie jammed into it.
See the pretty layers? Mama Amherst has a good eye – she told me to take this shot. You can really see the orangey layers and white panna cotta.
After that, we went to our friend’s place for a house party. It was an okay house party, but some cliquey or antisocial (I can’t really figure out which) folks so I ended up falling asleep in a bedroom around midnight. Party animal, eh, notsomuch.
The next morning we were also being lazy and slept in until noon. Then we headed to Antonio’s in the center of Amhesrt for some slices.
I got this incredibly bland pesto pizza. I have no idea why it was so bland, it just was. Okay, maybe tomatoes in December aren’t a good idea, but pesto… pesto! I even saw pine nuts. I just can’t figure out why there was zero flavor. I launched a full on condiment assault, which doctored it up enough for me to eat.
While the toppings were oddly bland on my slice, the crust was very good. Crisp and crunchy on the bottom it was reheated very nicely. The bottom crust was thin, with the outer crust being pleasantly chewy and soft.
They have a whole lot of slices to order from, and this one appealed to me the most. I forget how much it was, but three slices cost a little over $9. Yowie. But then again, pesto ain’t cheap.
For dinner, Mama and Papa Amherst took us out to Arigato. They had a new lower place that was open. Lots of shiney lights. Me likey! The menus alone were impressive.
Albany John ordered the teriyaki Chilean sea bass. It seemed a little on the small side, especially for $16.95, but it was perfectly done. Very moist – falling apart and tender. We also realized after leaving the restaurant that our menus had mentioned something about salad and ‘milk tofu’, but we never got either of them. Didn’t really matter since we were both pleasantly full from our meals, but be aware.
Mama and Papa Amherst ordered Hibachi and we got quite the show! Here you can see some teriyaki sauce being cooked down. Wow, it was very syrupy sweet. Maybe ask them to cook it down less if you also prefer it more on the salty side.
Grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do, but I am trying to reign in my monthly food budget. It has gotten a bit inflated in the last couple of months, and I need to bring it back down to something more manageable.
Here is what I’ve spent in December thus far on grocery shopping: Approximately $238.
That does not include any meals out for the month. Just groceries bought at the store. Below is a list of food I have bought this month and some photos of grocery store trips. I have tried to be as detailed as possible.
I also bought some wine and a liqueur once this month for $30, so it would be $268 if I include that. However, if I subtract the beer purchases, then the food portion is only about $200, which is right about where I want it.
That said; I could play around with numbers all I want. I feel good about the results of this month since it was a “bring it in” month. Reflecting – I ate very well, and am able to see room for improvement.
I thought it would be neat for you to see what I buy.
You might think “Geeze. She buys the cheapest eggs she can.”
It’s true. I go through a lot of eggs – about 6.5 dozen for this month at a total of $7.34. It would be more than double that, around $16.50 at the Co-Op for their Cornell Farms eggs, which I am calculating at $2.75 each. That price may have gone up. The difference overall in what I spent VS what I would have spent in this pricing is $9.16. It will be something to consider in the future.
Grocery shopping is something that reveals some personality, I suppose.
I would love to buy local, conventional everything, but sometimes I cannot. I could compromise by becoming vegan or vegetarian. That would certainly solve my budgetary problems. But there is also part of me that loves meat, hence the factory-farmed chicken and the more ethical ground meat from Cardona’s. I try when I can, but ultimately, sometimes I make less than ideal purchases. I didn’t buy much seafood at all, though. That was a big personal accomplishment. I love seafood.
I also did not purchase much booze this month. So that’s pretty good too. At any rate, here’s the stuff:
Stewart’s: $1.19 1 dz medium eggs
12/17 $30.21 All Star Wine and Spirits: $6.99 Ballatore supmante bubbles, $12.99 Praline Liqueur, $7.99 1.5L Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon (ended up giving cab sauv to Sistah)
12/19 $23.60 Hannaford: 30 pack Labatt beer, 1 tray chicken breast
12/20 $6.50 Aldi: $3.50 meat, $1.99 10# potatoes, bacon
12/21 $45.70 Hannaford: $3.49 Cabot Cottage cheese, $3.96 4 32 oz cans diced tomatoes, $1.98 2 cans crushed tomatoes, $3.96 4 cans whole tomatoes, $1 2 tiny cans tomato paste, $1.98 2 packs frozen spinach, $1.98 2# Orzo, $6.98 10# spaghetti, $3.89 Ricotta, $1.50 2 tropical sparkling waters, $2.69 Minute Maid Low Acid Orange Juice, $3.99 Smart Options grated cheese, $3.49 chipotle Tabasco sauce, floss, $4.44 whole chicken, $1.19 kraut $5 off coupon
12/22 $7 Dollar Tree: 4-3 oz Feta cheeses, Ssips Iced Tea, WestSoy Soy Milk, Dessert Topping
Fresh pasta and ragu time! Blogger decided to get picky about posting pictures, but I think you’ll get the idea.
First is the onion/garlic stage, where you cook them up before doing anything else. I also tossed in some minced shallots when the onions were nearing cooking completion before adding the garlic.
I chucked in some meatloaf mix ground meat with the onions. I got this at Roma Importing in Latham, NY. They have a special, where if you buy 3 or more pounds, it is only $2.99/lb. They have hormone and antibiotic free meat, so this is a good deal.
And when you cook it up, it smells fantastic. This meatloaf mix is made from a mix of pork, beef, and veal. Much better than just one of them.
While the milk is being cooked into the meat, pop open a bottle of red wine. Sistah gave this to Albany John and me as a Christmas present. It is a bottle of The Show cabernet sauvignon. She had a whole bunch of wines to choose from, and let me have my pick. Naturally, I was drawn to the one with the brightest label and coolest font.
I really liked cabernet sauvignon. I should remember to use it again for a red cooking wine. Not too sweet, and not too dry to cook with. Drink-wise, I let Albany John have at it. It was a wee bit too dry for me.
Then once the wine’s cooked off you can finally add your tomatoes. I got a large can of whole tomatoes with basil from Cardona’s Market for $5.99. I think it was 108 ounces. I squished each tomato with my hands, and then added the rest of the liquid. And a bit of water. And the dry herbs to season it up a bit.
I usually use crushed tomatoes, so this sauce was a little thinner than I am used to, but I like it. The other creations I’ve made of ragu sauce were so thick.
Oh, and while it was simmering away (I mean, you do cook bolognese sauce for at least 2 hours), I made fresh pasta with semolina flour. I used entirely semolina flour and found it added a nice chew / bite. Much less mushy than AP flour. AP flour noodles seem more like goulash and suited to Western European cooking than Italian dishes.
Semolina all the way, baby. I like 1.5 C semolina flour, 2 large eggs, bit of olive oil, dash of salt, and water to combine. Let it sit 20 minutes and then you can start rolling it out. I rolled mine out to level 5 (pretty thick) and cut out chunky pappardalle noodles by hand.
Fresh pasta cooks up really quickly – normally it’s only 3 minutes or so, but since these were thick and fat noodles, they were about 6 minutes to cook. I plunged them in ice water and then topped them with piping hot bolognese sauce. And some bowls got slatherings of fresh pecorino romano (also from Cardona’s, at $9.98/lb)
I don’t remember exactly how much meat I used, but if I am being generous, I would say 1.75 lbs. So $5.24 for the meat. $5.99 for the gigantic tub of tomatoes. Herbs are negligible since I’ve always got them in the pantry.
This Incarnation’s Ragu Recipe:
5 yellow onions, diced
6 shallots, diced
1 whole head garlic, pressed
1.5-2 # ground beef, pork, and veal mix
¾ C milk
½ C cabernet sauvignon
1 large can of whole tomatoes (108 oz) canned with basil
Dried parsely, marjoram, oregano, basil, salt
Heat olive oil over low heat in pan. Add diced onions and cook until almost translucent. Add shallots, cook until both are translucent.
Add garlic. Cook until fragrant (just a few minutes).
Add ground meat and turn heat up to medium/high to brown.
Add milk and reduce heat to low, so the milk is at a simmer. Stir occasionally until milk is absorbed by the ground meat.
Add wine. Stir occasionally until the ground meat absorbs it, too.
Add tomatoes – squish and crush the whole tomatoes by hand into the pot, and pour all the liquids in once finished. Add a little bit of water to the can to get all the tomato out, and pour that into the pot as well.
Add dried herbs and salt to pot. Stir to combine.
Once everything barely comes to a simmer, leave it to cook on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring every 20 minutes.
Friday night Bro, Margarita, Albany John, and I drove down to Orange County, NY. We were planning on going into Queens the next day, but after seeing the weather reports; it looked like we might have gotten stuck in the city on our way out.
We changed our plans to stay in the Orange County area for Saturday. It ended up not snowing much at all, but with our luck if we had gone into NYC a blizzard surely would have hit it.
Albany John and I spent the night with Sistah. It was a good time. She made these really good chocolate nugget cookies and put a little Hershey’s chocolate syrup in the batter, too. I thought it just tasted extra buttery. Yummy, crunchy goodness.
The next morning we reconvened in Florida at the diner in town. I think it is called Marina’s Diner/Deli. Bro, Margarita, and I ordered coffee, my Dad got tea with milk, and Albany John ordered the manliest drink on the menu – a hot cocoa. They even delivered it with whipped cream, which was when I started calling him princess.
Here’s what Bro ordered – Sweet Pippy was it ever good. The fried clams. It looked like those frozen ready-to-eat clam strips you can buy at the store, but boy did they taste great! The clams were all soft and nicely clammy – not rubbery/chewy and vaguely like seafood. These were delicious. I stole a few from his plate.
I would definitely vote this dish the star of all of our dishes.
After that, we headed over to our old hometown, Washingtonville, NY. It is also home to Brotherhood Winery. America’s Oldest Winery. Which is now owned by a Chilean grape master guy who bought it from the last owners in the 70s who didn’t take care of it.
Bro, Margarita, and my Dad. We got a tour all to ourselves. Very neat. Our tour guide, Dennis, was very knowledgeable. For instance, I never knew that Brotherhood was one of the only wineries allowed to keep producing during the prohibition because of the amount of sacramental wine they made for the churches. Hunh.
It was very dark and I am a moron with my camera, so even after Albany John looked at it, I still had trouble taking pictures. Here is Dennis walking us down a hallway. OF DOOM!
This was my favorite room because they were aging wine in casks. It smelled so sweet! Here are some labeled barrels, likely too fuzzy for you to make out. Just pretend they all say “Awesome Wine in Here”.
We only bought the tour ($6 per person) instead of the tasting flight with it ($5 per flight, or $10 for tour and tasting with free glass), but Dennis still gave us a few samples of wines to try. Not as much as a full flight would have been, mind you, but still, it was good to try some wines before buying them.
After buying a case between us all (it’s 15% off!), we headed over to the Christmas House on Helms Hill Road. It’s right behind Round Hill Elementary School. My Dad remembered how to get there. Here he is either taking a picture or shooting a video.
Also in the same area is a drain pipe. It’s been there for as long as I can remember, and it pours off water from some water bottling company in the area. YehYeh used to like getting it when he was in the area when we were little.
I had an empty growler in my trunk, so we filled it up to have later on that evening with dinner. It’s clear and crisp. But still, it’s just water. It’s mostly nostalgia.
My Dad ordered some takeout from Tin Lune in Florida, NY when we got back. For Chinese takeout they do a pretty good job. They do low-salt, low-oil, which I just think tastes better. Too much grease in takeout Chinese food, you know?
Dad also broke out the good tea for us! Tie Guan Yin. This tea is really expensive, but after they steep, the little curls of tea release into whole leaves. It’s got a great flavor and you can get many cups out of one initial serving of tea.
Overall, we didn’t get to do what we initially planned, but I think that just hanging out as a family for the weekend was a nice way to spend our time together. I had a really good time. Margarita is really a sister to me, it’s always a good time when we hang out. Bro can really come up with some hilarious stuff to say, too.
Have you ever tried lotus root before? It might look like some weird, strange veggie, with all of its holes. Like a vegetable swiss cheese. But it’s not weird at all. It’s mostly textural. Lotus root is a delightfully crunchy vegetable. Not as dense as a raw carrot, but with the same feeling of crunchiness.
This is what a whole, fresh lotus root looks like when you buy them in the store. You can also buy them vacuum-sealed or canned ready-to-eat. It looks kind of like a two connected potatoes. I just opted for a small amount. These two segments were just under a pound and cost $1.72. I purchased it at the Asian Supermarket on Central Ave, Albany, NY for $1.79 per pound. They were very fresh looking, and wrapped in plastic.
I rinsed the skin off (it was a little slimy/tacky) peeled the skin using my handy, dandy vegetable peeler.
Normally you see lotus root as thin slices. I’ve actually never seen it cut up any other way. I broke out the mandoline and sliced them through. Now we’ve got some uniform, pretty lotus root slices!
You can also boil them for a few minutes to cook the mouth-puckering-ness out of them , which is what I did. Just put some vinegar with water in a pot, bring to a boil, and add lotus roots to cook for 3-5 minutes. Not long at all.
After that, they’re all done. You can eat them as is for a crunchy, vegetal treat, or add them to other dishes like I did to Albany John’s salad. Other applications for lotus root can be soups/stews, stir fries, or just plain frying. I have yet to try fried lotus root slices. Since it’s so bland in flavor, I wouldn’t hesitate to add it to non-asian dishes as well. The slices are just so pretty!