AoA 2 Year Party!

Let there be cupcakes! A big HAPPY FREAKING BIRTHDAY to All Over Albany, who is now two years old. In internet years, we’re talking at least tweens. But I bet they’re reading at a college level.

Mary and Greg do a great job running Albany’s best news source. You can find out about all of the newest goings on in the area in the blink of an eye. And they’re always adding more cool features because they are chained to their computers work so hard.

Greg’s gorgeous wife Chris made the cupcakes above with the help of a friend. Chris, I need that recipe. Seriously moist, but still incredibly light. They were AWESOME and everyone loved them.

Here was a table of snacky things. The party was held at the Midtown Tap & Tea Room on New Scotland Ave. I have no idea what the things on the left were (maybe literal egg rolls?), but they were awesome. Like a thin, omelet outside and shrimp, ground pork, and veggie filling with a peanut sauce. FREAKING GOOD.

I got there a little on the later side…

But just in time for Mary’s time honored standing-on-a-chair-AoA-rocks speech. Go Mary – two years in a row, now it’s a tradition!

I like how friendly everyone is at these AOA celebrations. I think the thing is, we’re all just a bunch of dorks from the internet (I mean that in a good way, promise), so it’s not like anyone’s got a super huge ego or anthing. Unless you’re the former Lt. Governor of NY, of course. Other than that, the usual fabulous cast of characters you’d expect to be present at such a fete were there and also in jovial spirits.

Poor R & M got there way late because of all of the crappy plow jobs on the highway up here. Can we give R an award for most miles travelled? Cause girlie came all the way up from down state for this!

Cupcake close up. For real, these were great. Light, fluffy, moist crumb (how do you do it?!) and not one browned edge. The icing was also deliciously buttery. Yum!

Sadly, Ellsbells wasn’t there, but Ed pointed out the Battle Star Galactica lookin’ vase:

February Food Spending

It’s about time I looked over my finances and checked out my food spending trends.

February was a month I needed to start buckling down on expenditures. I think I did pretty well, but there is always room for improvement. For example, you can probably tell when I got a lil‘ tipsy there – Popeye’s was an allowable purchase, hah ha.

Total expenditures for food/dining for the month were $246.73 This is inclusive of all spending I did on food, and that Albany John spent at the veggie cart.

Dining out:
$56.95, or 23.1% of total spending

$44.75, or 18.1% of total spending

Food for House:
$145.03, or 58.8% of total spending

Other points:
I got a head cold near the end of the month, and for some reason that really triggers the food craver in me (I really wanted fresh fruit & veggies). I don’t think my household really needed some of the purchases from the 20th on. So I could have scaled back there, but instead that was going on in my head was (imagine whiny voice) “But I’m siiiiiiick.”

We scaled way back on drinking. Drinks are like food in my house – if it’s there, I would like to have some. That said, it’s not like I chugged that bottle of cheap gin, so there’s still over half left. Gin’s also one of my least favorite spirits, so it’s worked in the whole theory of “No, you don’t need to buy more booze because you already have some at home”. I also have been lazy in the cocktail making department, so that also helps. I am not a gin on the rocks kind of gal. If I ever become one, maybe you should hand me an AA pamphlet or something.

And while I scaled back one vice, I forgot one of my other vices… when I get antsy I start baking sweets in the middle of the night. I consider it calming, but on the other hand I’ve been eating a few more cookies before bed time than I probably should.

Lord, I love the Capital District Community Garden’s Veggie Mobile! They make fresh veggies affordable. Carrots galore, hooray! Fresh veggies make me smile. I like to eat a lot, so when I’m on a budget I tend to chub up, as more affordable foods like beans, rice & some occasional dairy fats can be calorically high.

I didn’t buy much meat this month. Meat is expensive, so I’ll order it when I dine out, but if I’m at home I’ll get some (primarily canned) fish for a non-veg treat and that’s about it. Other than that, I splurged on 1/2 a pound of deli turkey at Shop Rite.

I also feel like I bought much more dairy than I normally would have this month, and the wrong kinds of dairy. Next month (March) will have yogurt not half-and-half.

However, I guess at the end of the day (err, month), even considering my errors, I didn’t do too poorly. The USDA’s most recent food plan from December 2009’s “Thrifty Plan” lists a budget $345.60 for a family of two. And for actual food spent for the month, we averaged under the “Thrifty Plan” for a single female in my age range.

I’m also really thankful for the other points in the month that my family fed me. Chinese New Year with my Dad’s side of the family & CVS/Manhattan Maka, and dinner at my Mom’s. At some points in the month I felt a little socially deprived – I am used to having people over at my house for dinner, but when I’m not sure I am able to feed them… well, I don’t have people over.

February Food Expenditures:

SCCC Dinner for two people – $44 (I had already made plans and squirreled away the funds to go. I think it would have been improper to cancel going to dinner after having initiated the plans)

2/22 $26.51 Asian Supermarket – 1 jug Kikkoman soy sauce ($5.99), ~ 2 kilo Nishiki Rice ($6.49), Marukan Rice Wine Vinegar (green outline, large bottle $2.99), 2 cans Dongwon Kimchi Tuna ($.179 ea), Hong Lian Dried black rice ($2.99 Add a little to rice and it dyes the rice red. Mis-purchase, I thought it was akin to wild rice), 4 Ya Li pears ($2.49 think asian pear with a hint of starfruit!), Discounted “Vegitable” $0.99 ea – 1 # of white button mushrooms (2-8 oz packages) and 6 lbs 7.25 oz of zucchini!
2/20 $8 Save-A-Lot – 1 red delicious apple, 1 gallon 2% milk, 20 taco sized flour tortillas ($1.99), Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips ($1.99), something else I forgot

2/20 $2.79 Stewart’s – 1 dz medium eggs ($1.19), 1 can Hershey’s syrup ($1.59)

2/20 ~$15 Big Lots – 3 guava juices, 1 mango juice, 4 packet 2-Qt mix of Raspberry Ice Crystal Light, melting white chocolate, Chicken of the Sea canned wild salmon, Chicken of the Sea canned crab meat

2/18 $7 Veggie Cart – garlic, potatoes, cauliflower

2/15 $43.41 ShopRite. ~$7.50 wild salmon, $1.99 horseradish, $1.79 ShopRite beet horseradish, 3-1# mozzarella cheese ($1.99 ea), 12-pack Yuengling Beer ($9.99), Land O Lakes Unsalted Whipped Butter ($2.49), Ba Tampte Pickles ($2.99), 2-1# sweet frozen corn ($0.69 ea), 1# frozen black eyed peas ($0.69), lemon-ginger-honey tea, $3.44 1/2 # honey turkey, 4-5 L seltzer, 2-24 oz Francesco Rinaldi pasta sauces ($1 ea – highly recommend)

2/9 $6.27 Hannaford. Concentrated lemon juice ($1.59), Worcestershire sauce ($1.69), 5# King Arthur Flour ($2.99)

2/8 – $5.02 Deli Warehouse. $4.02 for 2# McAdam Munster cheese ($1.99/lb) & 3 lemons @ 3/$0.99.

2/6 – $16.15 Empire Wine & Spirits. 1.75 L bottle gin.

2/6 – $12.95 Popeye’s. 14 pieces of chicken. Spicy & Original.

2/5/ – $8.64 Save-A-Lot. Tater tots, 1 # frozen corn ($0.99 – very woody), 2 cans of tomato sauce ($0.99 ea), 2 packs of hot dogs (2 / $1), dry popping corn

2/6 – $11 BJ’s. 1 gallon whole milk ($1.89), 1 quart 1/2 & 1/2 ($1.99 – Save-A-Lot has it for same price, Garelick farms brand), 4# butter, $7

2/5/10 – $20 Veggie Cart. 7 macintosh apples, 1 head cauliflower, 1 head of romaine lettuce, 1 bag of spinach leaves, 2 turnips, 5 heads garlic, 10 oz box of mushrooms, 1 lime, 1 lemon, 1 red onion, brussesls sprouts, scallions, collard greens, 5 packs of carrots.

Early Feb/Late Jan – $17 & change, Sobieski 1.75 L vodka.

2/4 $2.99 HannafordBreyer’s fat free vanilla ice cream. $2.99.

Afghan Grill

Albany John and I stopped by Afghan Grill this weekend. It’s located in the Peter Harris Plaza – 952 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s beautiful on the inside. It smelled great, too.

We also grabbed a menu from neighboring restaurant Kabuki, which serves Japanese & Korean food. Kabuki was dead empty, and smelled kind of like a hibachi grill. I was intrigued by the Korean food, but those dishes were mostly in the $14-16 range, which was more than I felt like paying at the moment.

So we went back into Afghan Grill and Albany John placed an order to go. He ordered Kebab Murgh for $10.95, which came with a salad. I am really loving Afghan salads – yogurt dressing, and lots of mint and dill. Both refreshing and filling without seeming too heavy.

The Kebab Murgh looks like tandoori chicken. Actually, Albany John thought he was ordering the Lamb Tikka Kebab – the way their take out menu is written is a little hard to read. The spacing is really close together, so we got confused with what we were ordering with the layout.

There is a LOT of turmeric in this chicken. My fingers got super yellow when I touched a little bit of it in the car, something I wasn’t too happy about.

While we were bummed about the mis-ordering on our end, it turns out that this was a tasty dish in the end. Very juicy white meat chicken that had WAY more flavor than tandoori chicken. The menu says it’s marinated in turmeric, garlic, and cayenne pepper, but I think there’s more to it. The spices had such a deep flavor.

They were really generous with the amount of brown basmati rice & Afghan bread, too. I still am not a big fan of Afghan bread – it just reminds me of so-so focaccia.

I’d like to go back and try some other dishes. I think the lamb would be nice to try. On the whole, though, $11 for 6 pieces of white meat chicken (a breast and a half at the very most) is a little steep when they have half of a tandoori chicken on their menu for $13. Many other menu items look more affordable, and if this chicken is any indication of how they prepare their food, I would like to try many of the other dishes at Afghan Grill.

Engeline’s in Woodside & Nina in Middletown

Albany John and I made it back to my car in time to not get a ticket. Woo woo! My sister was already waiting for me because I got us lost on a few wrong trains because the 7 train wasn’t running between Queens and Manhattan my sister is very timely like that.

One place I’ve been jonesing to visit was Engeline’s a Filipino bakery and restaurant located reaaaally close by at 5828 Roosevelt Ave. It’s closer to the 61st Street exit on the 7 line, but the 52 nd street exit is really close too, just walk the other way. I walked us down to Queens Blvd and then we realized it was the wrong direction.

Like this? I used the Lucky Money I got from my dad to order a Crispy Pata ($9.50), which is a deep fried pork knuckle. It came with this awesome garlicky vinegar and white rice.

This puppy is like 65-70% pure fried bones, fat ,and skin, but there are some meaty bits as well. Seeing as how I would eat chicharrones 24/7 if given the option, the Crispy Pata really appealed to me. I think they must have boiled or steamed it to prep-cook it, and then fried it to order. The meat was very tender, and the skin was piping hot and crackling.


Engeline’s is also a bakery. They’re open crazy early, like 8 or 9 am EVERY DAY.

It was Sistah’s birthday (not to be confused with my Sister, who was catching a ride back), and she loves Filip food, so I picked her up some cute purple sponge cake rolls they had up front. She said they were totally awesome.

Here’s a shot of what the pork knuckle looks like inside the take out bag. Very knuckle-y.

I’ve got to go back to try… everything else. Their menu was very affordable and everything looked really good. Did I mention my deep fried pork knuckle was delicious?

After I got the goodies from Engeline’s I hightailed it through Queens and Manhattan up to Orange County. I almost got hit a few times, but having some pork knuckle bits in my mouth was really comforting – like a meaty pacifier. I know I’ll be hard pressed to travel out of Woodside without it the next time I’m leaving.

I managed to make it to Nina just in time to celebrate Sistah’s birthday.

Albany John was still tired, so he napped in the car. Sister came in with me and we had a grand old time with Sistah and her Mom.

If you can believe it, my Sister didn’t see anything she wanted on the menu, so she just ordered a water she didn’t drink and chatted with us. (Sarcasm – remember, she’s got like 80 million food restrictions, it was pretty obvious there wouldn’t be anything she could eat there).
Anywho, the rest of us gals ordered the Nina cocktail ($10 each)- vodka, cointreau, cranberry juice, topped with chambord. Holy mother, these packed a punch. I was buzzing through lunch just off of one of these bad boys. I added the lemon wedge from my water – I needed a little bit of tartness to liven things up.

Sistah ordered the San Remo Salad ($9.95) which came with grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, and fresh mozzarella. She ended up taking some of it home because she is super skinny like that.

I was nervous about how much lunch would cost. Nina’s a $26+ entree kind of place for dinner, but most of their lunch items were in the $10 range. Nice!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a burger, so I ordered a rare burger with provalone cheese. Their burgers are $7, plus $0.75 for cheese. And they’re TWO THIRDS OF A POUND. Wow, it’s a lot of meat. Served on a kaiser roll, which was a really good vehicle for this beheamoth of a burger.

The shoestring fries were okay, but mostly limp and greasy. I’d have preferred them crisper.

Check THAT – perfectly rare in the center! The burger was really well seasoned – I’m guessing a little bit of garlic & onion powder plus some salt and pepper. I didn’t even need salt. Me. I passed on the salt. It also came with some slices of tomato and lettuce.

I forget our waiter’s name, but it started with a J. I totally suck for forgetting it, especially ’cause Sistah said his name eleventy bajillion times. He was awesome. He had a retro 50s vibe going with his hair (super awesome) and was a genuinely nice guy who seemed happy to be taking care of Sistah on her birthday.
Thanks, man, for being such a great server. If I ever go back to Nina, I’m calling Sistah and asking for you.
I showed some restraint and only ate half of my burger (the smaller half!) even though I wanted to eat all of it. But I figured I probably shouldn’t eat 2/3 rds of a pound of beef in one sitting. Albany John had some later and he agreed with me – gooood burger.

We kicked it with Sistah at her place for a while, but eventually had to muck on back to Albany. Le Sigh.

My Sister & I both love grocery stores. I wanted to go to Shop Rite… it was only a little detour, but I didn’t want to add to the drive time if no one else wanted to go, so I left it up to Sister.

Thank Blippy we’re related, because she said “GO”.

So I maybe went over my food budget goal for the month, but I don’t care because Shop Rite is freaking awesome and I got wild caught salmon for $4.99 per pound and the best pickles I’ve ever eaten.

Sometimes I just get wrapped up in the holiday “oh, what the hey” momentum when I go down state. It’s not always a bad thing.

The little sign under the Santita chips gave me a laugh. I wonder if it’s filed under “Wow, Ai Que”.

Thanks folks, I’ll be here all night.

Year of the Tiger

Whew, what a trip! I am wiped out. Well, let’s start at the beginning – Albany John and I left for NYC to celebrate Chinese New Year on Saturday night. We made it into Woodside and then drove around for about 20 minutes looking for some free street parking. Managed to find it at 52nd street, which also happens to be one of the 7 line’s stops. I took a picture to remind me when I had to be back to move my car on Monday.

However, before continuing on our trip to the UES, we took a quick pit stop at the taco truck located on Roosevelt at nights and ordered a chorizo &… some other kind of taco. They were $2 each. My chorizo was nicely spicy, and the other kind Albany John ordered was pork & beef. Really good stuff, too.

They even packed little hot sauce containers. Albany John liked the smoky red hot sauce, while I liked the milder tomatillo sauce better. Either way, I have got to try everything else at the taco truck the next time I can.

We even got some pickled radishes – pickley goodness.

After we spent an awesome night kicking it with Manhattan Maka and CVS, we made our way down to Manhattan Chinatown. But I had some covert ops planned along the way.

My little sister is a strict vegan and has been planning on going raw. She’s also gluten-free, sugar-free, and caffeine-free. While I don’t think raw is necessarily the most viable diet at times for the northeast, I still wanted to give her a meal to eat with everyone at Chinese New Year dinner since she’d mentioned before about how it was nice to be social, but kind of bummed that she wouldn’t consume anything.

So I searched on teh intarwebs and found a few viable restaurants that served raw food. I mean, it’s freaking New York City. They’ve got just about everything you can think of to eat there. A lot of places were closed on Sundays, yipes! And then I found One Lucky Duck – a smaller offshoot of Pure Food & Wine that served only raw food. And a good amount were also only open past 5 pm. But One Lucky Duck was open in the morning, so we hopped off the 6 train before we got to Chinatown and stopped in.

It’s small. Like, REALLY small. Since I’d already looked over the menus ad nauseum online, I knew what I wanted to order. I figured I’d order her two entrees since the serving sizes looked really small.
This was kind of harder than I’d thought, or maybe easier, depending on how you looked at it. I could really only order her two entrees anyway, since there were only two that were gluten-free on their menu. I’m just saying, if you’re vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, and stimulant-free, it’s really hard to find something to eat. My sister was also thinking of going nut-free, so I kept calling and asking her what her restrictions were all last week to double check, but she’d never get back to me, so I crossed my fingers and and ordered the lasagna, which had nut pestos in it.

She’s yelled at me in the past when I’ve asked her what her restrictions are and why. I’m just always curious about food and things I don’t understand, like self-imposed restrictions, but for some reason she always takes it negatively after I’d ask some cursory questions and then start screaming at me about being some expletive for not supporting her lifestyle. She’s mellowed out a little bit, but I was nervous that I’d screwed up again somehow.

I could tell this would be a good restaurant – the store was rife with hipsters. Unfortunately I wasn’t wearing a hat, multi-purpose bag, and looked for the most part Squeaky-Clean and polished, so I stuck out like a sore thumb. I am sure the stilletos didn’t help either.

It’s a nice little space, but wow, is it ever tiny. Still, the small space helped make it seem homey, and you got close to your neighbors.

Food in bag, we hopped back on the subway and made it to Chinatown. It was a complete mad house of people, bang snaps, and confetti poppers.

We visited a Buddhist temple and prayed a bit in front of this gigantic golden Buddha.

Then saw a lion. All of the really good lions always ended up being on the other side of the street, but isn’t that always how it goes?

Right before we went to dinner I gave my sister her CNY gifts. They got a little pushed around on the subway rides and in the crowds. Here are the tacos. Three per order, and I was not quite prepared for how tiny they would be, or why they would put them in such a large container. They could each have fit in my hand.

It was mostly guacamole (a whole LOT of guacamole. So I guess even tho it’s small, it’s still filling) placed in raw taco ‘shells’ that were made of sundried tomato. I liked the guac, but the shells reminded me of a savory fruit leather. The cashew ‘sour cream’ was awesome! It had the exact texture of sour cream, and while I wouldn’t confuse the flavor of the real stuff and raw stuff any time soon, I thought this was a really impressive alternative.

The famous lasagna from Pure Food & Wine (they share a kitchen) is a teensy bit cheaper here, and consists of raw zucchini, tomatoes, and nut creams, pesto, and sundried tomato sauce blops. I tried a bite and also liked this. I would like to try and make something like this myself in the summer, when it’s hotter.

Both of the entrees were $19 each, so after tax it was a little over $41. Steep. I think it was worth it for a special treat for the new year. My sister really appreciated it, and hopefully she will keep an open mind about her diet. I had fun since I like trying new stuff, and maybe if I have a little extra scratch this summer I’ll give a recipe a try.

We went to Mellie’s in Flushing for Chinese New Year Dinner – it’s right on Northern Ave and also has a tea bar in the front. Cute. We were the first ones in, and had reservations, and for some reason they sat us at what might have been one of the crappier tables. It was way in the corner, had folding chairs, and our lazy susan had dish washer soap stains on it (you can see it a little above, next to the spilled tea).

I really never care about where I’m seated in a restaurant, but this just made no sense to me. They had lots of other tables with nice chairs that were already set… just… weird.

Started off dinner with the jellyfish + cold cuts appetizer. The jellyfish was seasoned well, and these were some of the best cold cuts I’ve eaten. They were very moist – not tough and chewy or anything.

Shrimp and snowpeas. The large shrimp pleasingly popped in my mouth, but didn’t really have much flavor. The white sauce was a little thick on the cornstarch making it gloppy, slippery, and not very flavorful. I thought it could have used some salt. A Chinese dish needing SALT.

Salt & Pepper pork! One of my faves, but unfortch this was not some of the best I’ve had. There were a LOT of bones in these small pieces, and several pieces were mostly bone. A little on the oily/greasy side too. They were kind of like salt and pepper pork poppers in size.

Lamb casserole. Yummy – the soupy liquid was thin but had lots of flavor. Impressive. I especially liked the bean curd skins that soaked up lots of lamby flavor. Yum, yum.

Fried tofu stuffed with shrimp. I really liked these. Super-soft tofu with a nice crispy edge and a shrimp on top. Yum. Sauce it with the stuff in the back and you’re good to go.

We also got snow pea tips, and a whole fried chicken. Lots of food and moving chopsticks here!

Whole fried chicken in some kind of sauce. The crispy skin was good.

Overall I liked all of the dishes, I just didn’t have a particular favorite. I’m not sure I’d jump to go back with all of the other great options in Flushing. I was most happy to spend time with my grandfather and the rest of my family. We had a great time talking and chatting, and at one point my dad and his best girlie got up and danced around a little bit. They were super cute.

The music they were playing was really random – Linkin Park, Chinese metal band, and then the Girl from Ipanema. Ecclectic, to say the least.
And, free red bean soup. My grandfather tried to make Albany John eat it (we only wanted a few bowls, not everyone wanted some), but I ate it for him. Albany John hates sweet red beans. I thought it was a little watery, but the tapioca pearls were quite nice.
Okay, I have loads more to tell you guys, but right now I need to go bang my head against a wall, so I’ll be back when I’m done with that.

Gluten-Free, Vegan brownies

I like experimenting with my food sometimes. I tend to be a creature of habit, but every once in a while I’ll get something in my head I just can’t shake out.

Brownies are something I’m so-so on. I’m not a big chocolate fan, but I really like fudgy brownies. Weird, right?

Well, the other day I decided to try making some fat-free brownies by substituting applesauce for the oil. And I also figured I’d use up some of the [TONS] of rice flour in my pantry by making it gluten-free.

It was… eeeeeee eerrrrr…. Um, well. It was something. Fat-free, gluten-free, vegan brownies. Nothing particularly good, but it sated my sweet craving.

It really reminded me of those crappy chocolate covered marshmallow Easter candies. Kind of. The texture was really gummy and squishy. Really monotonous. The edges crisped up nicely, but wow. It’s a dense, fudgy, gummy brownie for sure. Next time I’d only do 1/3rd of a cup of sweet potato starch at most.

I tossed in half of a chopped up dark chocolate bar in as well, which helped change up the boring texture.
Marshmallow-y Brownies

2/3 C Sweet Potato Starch
1 1/3 C rice flour
1/2 t baking powder
3/4 C cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
1 C sugar
1 C applesauce
1 C water
1 T vanilla
Mix all of the dry goods together, then add in liquids. Stir until combined.

Pour into a greased & floured 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. The top will be glossy.

Chili Gougeres

I had a potluck to attend, and I thought I’d mix things up a bit and bring chili cheese gougeres. They’re like the savory brother to cream puffs.

The only thing is, I’d never made these before. Heck, the closest I’ve ever gotten was eating un-frozen cream puffs (which are always soggy and meh [they are WAY better frozen. Like tiny ice cream filled cakes!]). But for some reason I had a good feeling about it, so I just went with it.

Just look at the cheesey goodness oozing out of a hot puff (that I smushed chomping into). Don’t tell me it doesn’t look pretty.

So you make cream puffs by making a pate a choux. It’s your doughy base that you incorporate everything into. Above, I already added some chili powder.

The basic formula for Pate A Choux is:

3 T butter
½ C water
Pinch of salt
½ C flour
2 eggs

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a pan, bring it to a boil. Turn the heat off and dump in flour. Mix well, until it looks smooth and shiny. Let it cool off for a few minutes before adding eggs, one at a time.

Add any other fillers you want after the eggs. I added cheese!

Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then 375 F for 25 minutes.

Minced bits of cheese incorporated in the final dough. The dough is going to be gloppy and shaggy.

You can put the pate a choux dough into a bag to pipe out onto sheets all pretty-like, but I am terrible at piping, so I just used two spoons.

I don’t think the two spoon-method turned out too badly. I sprinkled chili flakes on top of one batch. The chili flakes added a nice little kick!

And the other batch I left as-is. This recipe is super easy to make, and I promise you won’t fuck it up. Really, really easy. Just give it a go. The results are totally worthwhile.

Here’s what the ‘plain’ gougeres puffed up to!

The chili gougeres got really big as well!

I actually liked these so much, I ran to the grocery store in the middle of the night to buy more flour to make more. Very worthwhile.

For a potluck, I’d recommend making these day-of. The next day they were soggy and not crispy and delicious like they were here. They still disappeared quickly, so I guess there weren’t too bad!

Cooking The Tree of Life: Sweets

Update: Here are the pictures from Albany John’s camera!

The two chefs prepping!
Sugar consumption chart. I’m a huge fan of the evolution of man at the top.
My favorite honey shot – watching the chef pour honey over fruit salad. Notice how the honey curves as he pours – it perfectly frames his face.
Fruit carvings.
Young Mr. Cryan helps serve out the fruit salad. Great job!

So many people help make this possible – not just the scientists and chefs listed. Other staff members and family members help to make this night a huge success.
Grilling shrimp in a pan.

Professor & chef working together to peel bananas.
Melting many, many cubes of butter on a large pan. It’s an induction burner – the pan gets hot by being on the element. The element itself is not hot. Very cool.
Flambe! Bananas foster is lit!

Last night I went to the Wednesday night series, Cooking The Tree of Life, at the New York State Museum. Yesterday was about sweets and was presented by the awesome Dr. Jason Cryan, the NYS Museum’s Evolutionary Biologist. Tim Warnock of US Foods was the chef de nuit.

Albany John and I got in a few minutes after it started, and they had lots of samples of sugarcane. This was fun to munch on, a woody piece of sweet sugar. Nice! Heh heh – it looks like a french fry.
As you can see, I had to do a little bit of reading while I was there. It was either that or not go at all, and I’d already missed the first week’s presentation.

The snacking didn’t really help me concentrate. There were TONS of samples – I think everyone in the very large crowd got to sample each dish. Way to go with the supplies, US Foods!

Here was the first dish, a honey-coated fruit salad. Obviously not an in-season type dish, but more than welcome to me. With it being winter and all, I certainly haven’t been eating as much fruit as I’d like. It had blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, apples, grapes, mango, & pineapple in it.

You should have seen some of the neat graphs Jason had on display. Very cool stuff about sugar consumption over the years. Albany John got some awesome pics with his super-pro camera, so I’ll try and get those up, too.

Shrimp in habanero-mango. 2 per skewer, pls share with your neighbor. Wow, the habanero was hot, but it did go well with the dish. The smell during cooking this dish was wonderfully fresh. I might cook this myself. It wasn’t too sweet at all.

The shrimp passed out to the crowed tasted like it was the pre-cooked frozen kind of shrimp that was marinated & lightly grilled in the sauce. It was a bit mushy and flatly flavored, but I can see how this would be great on untreated shrimp (or other seafood that pops with flavor). The sauce was a real stand-out.

And here is Chef Warnock making bananas foster at the end of the presentation. There was a LOT of liquor poured into this very large dish, ha ha. The cinnamon & ginger spices really perfumed the auditorium. Lovely, lovely smells.

And here is the line of folks waiting from one side of the auditorium for bananas foster. There was a chocolate fountain on the other side. Holy moly! It would have moved a little faster, I think, but there was also vanilla ice cream being dished with the bananas. But it was sloooow for us folks in the back.

I was really hungry and didn’t feel like waiting, so I went home and ate two grilled cheese sandwiches and some enchiladas. And peanuts.

Definitely check them out next week when they discuss birds. With Chef Tony! Every event is free and open to the public. It’s a boon to Albany’s slower, often bleak, winters.

Kitten Apron!

Hello Kitty Sis in Tampa, FL sent me a surprise package in the mail. She has a great eye for aesthetics – look at what she drew on the outside of the box! Valentine’s Day present!

When I opened the package up, I saw two cute aprons! It took me a few days to bust out the iron (I haven’t ironed in years), but check out this first one:


The whole design is one pattern. So the squiggles aren’t separately sewn on, they’re actually part of the fabric design! For the record, if you have those plastic librarian glasses that are all the rage now, Albany John will flip for this apron-glasses combo.

I love, love, love this apron! Thank you oodles and bunches, HK Sis! I love you! You’re beyond awesome!

I’ll show you guys the other apron in a bit. It’s so Suzy Q. Homemaker, I feel like I have to gussy up to show it to you.