Free Burrito @ Chipotle = yum

Last night Albany John and I went out in the freezing cold to wait for some free Chipotle burritos in Clifton Park, NY.

I was hoping the bitter cold would deter people from lining up, but wow! If this was how many people willing to brave the cold, imagine what it would have been like in nicer weather? This was when we got kind of close to the front. The outside wait was only 15-20 minutes though. Not too bad. Chipotle does crowd control very well.

Since I’m a creature of habit, I got another CHICKEN BURRITO. They are so freaking awesome. I’m normally not a chicken person, but the chicken they’ve got at Chipotle is delicious. Dark meat with a little bit of char to the outside. So flavorful and moist!

And guess what? They did give me two salsas! I got mild and red-hot! Soooo good! I also got guac, pinto beans, and sour cream. Yum, yum, yum.

Albany John got a steak burrito. So good! I think I want a steak burrito next time I go. Or maybe chicken AND steak. I bet that would be really good.

The only thing about Chipotle that isn’t super-awesome is that they don’t have any extra veggies (well, lettuce) to put in their food. I am an onion fiend, so I diced up half an onion and ate it along with my burrito.

They’ve also got this mild jalapeno Tabasco sauce that BLEW MY FREAKING MIND. Oh, ‘Potle. I love you.

Chipotle – Free Burrito Day!

One of the most glorious days is upon us! Free Burrito Day at the new Clifton Park Chipotle!

I got to go yesterday because I’m awesome. Okay, and because Katherine N. Smith was super awesome and invited me to go to the neighborhood pre-opening. Thanks to Katherine!
I almost didn’t make it to this, because I had a prior dinner engagement celebrating my awesomeness, but I made it home a little early, around 7 pm.

Albany John was like “Free Chipotle tomorrow night, right? Free burrito day in Clifton Park. Right?”

I mentioned that I had gotten invited to check out this neighborhood run and he promptly chucked me into the car. “Go.” I buckled my seatbelt; don’t worry.

Now what I should have done was PRINT OUT DIRECTIONS since I saw 22 Clifton County Road, Clifton Park, NY and something about “Crossing” and it looked like it was in The Crossings at Clifton Park.


Albany John and I drove around for about 20 minutes bickering about where it could be and why I didn’t print out directions, when he decided to call the master. Err, The Profussor.

The gracious Profussor returned our frantic call tout suite and directed us to the right location. WE LOVE YOU, DANIEL!!! He totally saved the night!

Here it is, right on the corner. Underneath the gigantic Clifton Park Center. You can see small Chipotle signs on the sides. The Clifton Park Center sign is really bright. You’ll see a JC Penny in the background (to the left and behind).

Check that awesome sign of AWESOMENESS. Free Burritos today (January 28, 2010) from 11 am – 8 pm.

And now you know what it looks like so you won’t get lost and frantically call your friends 10 minutes to close going “CHIPOTLE!? WHERE IS CHIPOTLE?! PLEEEEEAASSEEE!”

Albany John got a carnitas burrito, and I got a chicken burrito (the one on the left). And we got chips + guac. Their guac is awesome. My little cup had TONS of jalapenos in it. Caliente!

Albany John’s burrito was so full that the person rolling it up had to take her plastic glove off to get a better grip on the tin foil. FATRRITO!

At 10 minutes to close, the folks behind the counter looked tired as hell. No doubt, it was a long day. Hopefully they’ll hold up okay 2 days in a row. Today is really the onslaught of free burrito lovers.


I had 2nd dinner a little later, around 10 pm. I was kind of full from 1st dinner at 6 pm, so I didn’t get hungry again until then. My chicken burrito was delicious. Albany John also gave me some munches of his carnitas burrito. He tore into that mass of burrito as soon as we got home. I think he got just about everything you could on that burrito. Guac, sour cream, THE WORKS. That was a fat burrito.

I am going back again tonight. I’m going to see if I can get TWO salsas. I love Freepotle!

And don’t be a complete mo’. If you’re not familiar with Clifton Park, BRING DIRECTIONS. Or be a complete ditz, call a friend, and then permanently remember how to get there out of sheer embarassment.

Adzuki Sprout Salad + Canned Octopus

Albany John is a sprout master. He’s so successful at sprouting whatever he puts in that sprouting jar of his. He normally hates adzuki beans (the beans that all of those Asian sweet bean desserts are made of), but he likes sprouting them. I like them too – they are really hearty beans!

They take about 5 days to sprout, and you need to rinse them 3 times a day. They’ve got just a hint of sweetness, but for the most part they are beany and dense (more so than mung bean sprouts or soy bean sprouts).

We always eat them raw, usually in some kind of salad. Albany John made a salad of mung bean vermicelli, blanched napa cabbage, and raw onion to accompany these pinky-red adzuki sprouts. He also made a kicky dressing that went really well with all of the ingredients.

I “helped” by foisting one of my new favorite foods on top of our salads. Canned octopus!

(I know, I know, Grace, you’re gonna gag lol)

I’ve had a couple of these cans of octopus already and I really like them. They’re Del Sol brand Octopus in Garlic Oil. I get them at Save-A-Lot for $0.99 per can. It works out to under $4 per pound. It’s a nice way to affordably treat myself to little bits of seafood, and I normally don’t buy octopus at all – it’s a little hard to find around here and costs more than $4/lb fresh.

The octopus might be a hair potent on first bite (I mean, it is canned seafood), but that quickly dissipates. Anything tart helps counter this (lemons, vinegar based salad dressings, etc.). I don’t find pungent fish too repugnant, so it doesn’t bother me much. Surprisingly, it’s tender. For the price, I was expecting some tough pieces, but these are tender little pieces of cut up tentacle.

For what it is, I really enjoy it. Like I said, it’s just a little seafood treat. I’m like a cat. Mewmewmew cheap seafood mewmewmew.

I also tried making mashed potatoes again. Next time I just have to work on adding less liquid. I peeled, chopped, & boiled potatoes for 10 minutes, then browned butter (it tasted like the freezer otherwise), added milk and cream cheese, and mashed them all up.

They were a little thin, but not mashed potato soup. I’ll keep trying.

The adzuki sprouts were really filling! I had two bowls of salad and couldn’t finish my 2nd bowl of mashed potatoes. Dinner’s usually my biggest meal of the day, so this was on the small side for me.

Pizza Mare

Got some fried calamari from Pizza Mare (1839 Central Ave, Albany, NY 12205). This was a large for $7.99.

Portion-wise, it was huge. The small is $6.99. I wonder what the size difference is.

Flavor-wise, the calamari were cooked well. No rubbery squid pieces, but the flour was still a bit raw tasting and I think it could have used a just a little more time in the fryer to cook more and to crisp up the breading.

The bottom half of calamari was oily (but still crispy), which made it a little hard to eat. It was probably for the best, otherwise I would have eaten the entire container. There was only a thin sheet of paper lining the box, so that didn’t really do anything to absorb leftover grease. I ended up re-heating leftovers in a pan in the oven and they gave off tons of grease, but tasted really good.

There were tentacles and rings, which I liked, and I also enjoyed the marinara sauce.
The two little slices of lemon might seem skimpy, but they were more than enough for me.
The pieces themselves were tinier than I’m used to in calamari. Just a little, but just enough for me to notice. I am thinking that’s why there were so many of them for $7.99. Good price and amazing serving size, the only trade off is that the pieces are a bit smaller (and easier to eat, haha) than you might expect.

I’d order this again. Smaller pieces of squid don’t bother me if it means I get a lot them that are well fried! I’d just tuck a bunch of napkins underneath to absorb some oil, or only eat the not-too-greasy top pieces and re-heat them at home to pull out more oil.

Soup Swap 2010

The lovely Renée of Almost Foodies hosted her 4th Annual Soup Swap! So many soup swappers showed up to her place – it was awesome. So much hubbub and movement in one space! Her kitchen is also the most awesome shade of blue.
This was my second year participating and after last year’s ho-hum entry of miso soup, I wanted to try something a little more challenging, so I tried chicken gumbo. I made way more than 6 quarts, and I loved it, so I was happy with putting this soup into the swap.

After everyone stacked up their soups – all TWENTY SIX of them! Renée wrote all of the soups up. Yum! She also cooked up these cracktacular cheese cookies. I ate at least a dozen of these tasty buggers, and near the end there was some zesty jalapeno jam that went wonderfully with them. Tasty, ja!
Here’s the all of the soup mid-swap. Some are gone, but still plenty left. Yummers! With 26 swappers I could not wait for my turn. Everything sounded soooo good.

Here’s Renée telling us to get the hell out of her damn house. Haha, we all sure had a blast! I think you can feel all the happy energy here. Renée is so bubbly, it’s easy to perk up around her.

Thank you for another great soup swap, Renée! You rock!

Once I had my sack of soups, I hightailed it back home to finish up the no-knead bread I was working on before the swap. The crusty outside and soft inside were perfect for soup.

Albany John and I both made soups this year – my aforementioned chicken gumbo, and Albany John made a smokey black bean soup. He even smoked his own onions in that smoker my sister gave us!
This also meant we had 12 quarts of soup. YAAAAY! Soup, soup, soup!

Albany John jumped on this lamb stew. He is all about anything lamb.

Meanwhile, the first soup I picked at the swap was Sébastien cress & potato soup. He actually made 2 soups, and I had to jump on some awesome-looking French soup.
It was also nice to meet Sébastien after seeing so many cool pictures posted on All Over Albany. He took some cool soup swap pics too!

Also bringing the camera goodness was Bennett! He was also really neat to meet.

Can you say yum? Because I sure did! This was so tasty. The potato part was very silky, and the cress added a nice and light vegetal flavor. This was a great starter soup since it was so light and refreshing, but warm and satisfying at the same time.

I’ve been craving corn lately, and someone folks made corn chowder! I picked the lighter sounding one and OMG!! This might be my favorite soup so far! It is milky rich and thick, but not too creamy; the niblets of corn are sweet and pop in my mouth; overall the flavor tastes so fresh and so true to corn.

I’ve been doing my best to not completely house this quart, and am pleased to say that there is still a little bit left.

And the last soup we’ve been working on this weekend has been a sausage and veggie soup, made by someone else who had not made soup before. She did a great job! It tastes great and vegetable-y, accented nicely by the sausage. I love it when the veggies in a soup are soft but not mush. Yum indeed.

Now the hard part will be seeing how long I can make this soup last. So far it’s better than last year, I think because we have 12 quarts of soup and not 6. Pretty sure we housed all 6 quarts by the end of the week last year. This year I put some in the freezer, too. We’ll see how long they last.

Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onion Dip

I spent the past week trying not to buy groceries. It was a pretty successful week – I love grocery shopping, but… you know. Budget and all that stuff. The monthly payout from my trust fund was running low and I didn’t want to have to run to Mummy or Daddykins and look irresponsible – you guys know how it is. I even had to cut back on the beluga caviar and Dom Perignon.

Albany John and I managed to not buy more groceries and live out of what we had at home. We’ve got a well-stocked kitchen, it’s just so easy to run out and grab “one more thing” to really jazz up a recipe. I know my girl CuteElla likes playing the grocery shopping holdout game, but oh man, not me! If I could grocery shop every day I totally would (I’d also be funneling seafood at every meal and swilling cheap champagne).

Still, adjustments in lifestyle of any kind (even if they are as fabulous as my own) aren’t always a peach to adapt to. Thank goodness my food coffers were way more stocked than I had initially though. This week was also probably good just to not consume as much, in both budget and in commodities.

And so I give you: blue cheese and caramelized onion dip.

Things I have had in my fridge since Thanksgiving: cream cheese and blue cheese. That blue cheese really lasts a long time! Wow. Color me impressed. It was the cheapest blue at the co-op (and really, not that cheap at $10-11/lb…) but too sharp for me to be enjoyable. The cream cheese was unopened – you know how long they last unopened (forever).

I used both of them and a little butter. Damn, that blue cheese really lasts a long time. But, Albany John pointed out: “It’s moldy cheese. What’s it going to do? Get moldier? Oh no.”

I’ve almost always got onions at home, so I caramelized 4 of them in the oven (way less work than stove top) and blopped them on top of the cheesy, buttery goodness. Also chucked in some salt. The heat from the onions softened everything up so all the ingredients blended together to the pile of dip you see above.

This was a creamy blue-y dip. It would also be pretty damn good as a non-traditional béchamel or ricotta-filling sub for lasagna. We learned this the next day when we were eating leftovers another night and Albany John was slathering the hell out of this dip all over some manicotti.

Fried Spring Rolls & Cilantro Chutney Rice

Albany John whipped up a small arsenal of fried spring rolls. Holy cow were these good. I noticed he had the Vietnamese Cooking book out and he said “Yeah, I looked at the recipe and… this is basically nothing like that, but I kind of went from there. I just used what we had.”

He’s so modest. They were super crunchy and good. I think they’d be even crunchier if we let them dry a little more. I think the excess water made them harder to fry cleanly.

What’s inside? Well, we’ve got some rice noodle action going on as the main filler, and some reconstituted dried shrimp & mushrooms (not shiitakes), some nam pla (fish sauce), and some chopped up roasted peanuts because Albany John is just crazy about me.

I’ve been on a serious peanut kick lately, and he is so sweet to indulge me. These babies were great – savory, crunchy, and really plentiful. We were wondering how much a serving should be. Maybe a 2-4? I ate about a dozen.

But I ate it with this rice, so that cancels out all negative health effects. I didn’t steal any rice from a Seuss novel, but this one was my idea. Albany John maned up and put it into action.

I have serious love for The ‘Potle. Chipotle’s cilantro-lime rice is fan-freaking-tastic. There’s a small tub of Indian cilantro chutney in my fridge. A little goes a long way flavor-wise, and what would happen if you put some in with your rice to cook?

Result = Green chutney rice! There are some dyes in the chutney, haha. I really thought it was cute. The flavor was like a milder version of the chutney, which makes sense since you’re cooking it with rice and water, not just rice + cilantro chutney. A teensy bit of butter made me allllllmost think of Chiptole’s rice, but not really.

But now I’ve got a great side dish for St. Patty’s Day!

Buh Bye Cake

One of my friends is moving soon. Guatemala or something like that. I am sad to see him go. I don’t hang out with him tons, but he is one cool dude.

He invited peeps over to hang/etc to say bye (and a belated happy bday) and made a kahlua banana cake. It was freaking awesome! He said he accidentally added 4 T or t of baking soda so the cake really poofed up in the oven and formed a crust. I really liked that since bundt cakes are usually fairly uniform in texture. This was just lightly dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with kahlua. Decadent and simple at the same time. I ate two slices!

Pie Love You

Albany John was cleaning out the pantry and found coconut jell-o pudding and chocolate jell-o pudding. I think my Mom gave them to me a while ago when she cleaned out her pantry.

Fact: If you give me food stuffs, I will take it.

So as a result of my hoarding tendencies, I have a lot of random stuff in my pantry.

Albany John whipped up a tasty pie crust, then filled it with chocolate and coconut pudding for a retro layer pie.

That dessicated coconut never really re-hydrates. It is kind of annoying to eat. But the pie itself was good.

Those Awesome Cinnamon Rolls

So those cinnamon rolls I was proofing yesterday turned out really, really well. Super sticky sweet, caramel-y, and with a soft and fluffy dough. I fuond some pecans in my pantry and tossed those in there too.

Definitely give this recipe a try, I love it tons! I was skeptical about adding the egg and butter after the water to the dough (wasn’t sure if it would fully incorporate), but it worked out very well, with a nice tender & sticky dough that rose beautifully and resulted in the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever made by a long shot.

I only made half of the recipe since this was just for the two of us (well, a surprise for Albany John) and wow – it still made about a dozen! I put them all in a small-ish glass baking dish and they rose to fill the whole pan.
The only real deviation I had from the original recipe was that I used approximately 2 egg yolks since I had some leftover yolks in the fridge. If anything, it helped create a richer dough.

Mmm, caramel glaze, so yummy. The baking time is perfect – just lightly browned all over and the bread was incredibly moist. It still is a day later, and you know how baked sweets tend to dry out. Love it. The caramel was just the right amount of sticky sweet, too.
These remind me of the cinnamon buns/rolls Papa Amherst made during Christmas – I just love that caramel coating. Sooo good.