Rye Molasses Crinkles

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Husbear loves molasses. I don’t get it, but my health for the past month hasn’t been that great, and he’s been a real peach to me and being extra helpful and sweet. So now that I’m feeling better, i wanted to make him some cookies as a sign of how sweet I am on him.

The recipe was okay as far as molasses cookies go. Not my finest and not super molasses-y, but totally fine. I subbed half of the flour with rye flour. The only real difference I noticed was that the crumb was slightly more delicate, since rye flour has a lower gluten content than wheat flour.

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Rolled half of the cookies in pink sugar, and half in regular white sugar. BIG FAT SUGARY COOKIES!

Any way, thanks ‘bear for being there for me. I may have been even grumpier than usual and much sleepier, but I really appreciate you.

Whole Wheat Cold Fermented Pizza Dough

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Whole wheat cold fermented pizza. I am so bad about keeping exact measurements of my dough. I just like to add water until it’s a little sticky. I used a preferment this time, and I’ve gotta say… this dough came out pretty freaking awesome. Sadly, it does require a bit of planning, what with the preferment and cold fermentation, but I think it’s worth it for the few occasions I make pizza at home.

Nicely tender and a bit fluffy. Not dense as a rock or what you’d imagine whole wheat pizza dough to be. Although I suppose when you slather the entire thin in cheese, sauce, and pepperoni, you’d imagine the dough to be secondary. But it was a delicious supporting character.

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Whole Wheat Cold Ferment Pizza Dough:

Preferment:
1 C whole wheat flour
pinch of yeast (1/8 tsp or less)
1/2 C cold water

Leave this out the night before covered with some plastic wrap. Shoot for at least 12 hours of counter time.

Dough: Preferment (all of the stuff above that’s been sitting on the counter)
2 C whole wheat
1 C AP flour
1.5-1.75 C water
1.5 tsp salt
.75 tsp yeast

Mix it all together, then stick in the fridge for at least 3 days. Start with 1.5 cups of water. If it has the consistency of regular bread dough, add a little more water so the dough is a bit shaggier.

After 3 days, pull the dough out and let sit at room temp for 2 hours before using.

Sushi Tei

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The ole husbear and I went to Sushi Tei with a large group of friends. I love, love, love Sushi Tei, but it turns out that they are easily overwhelmed with a group. 2 hours for dinner for 10, and we all just ordered main courses. I say this so if you are planning to have a large group there, plan your time accordingly and enjoy a leisurely meal.

Husbear and I weren’t super hungry when we went, so we decided to split a few things. Got an eel & cucumber roll, prime tuna & scallion roll, and two cucumber cups of tobiko. Albany John loves eel rolls & tobiko.

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We split a main and opted for a salad. Man, miso dressing is so addictive! I don’t know anything that doesn’t taste amazing dressed in miso.

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Sake don. Loving sake roe and shiso. Albany John tried to grow some, but it all of the shiso sprouts died. :'( No garden-fresh shiso for me.

Salmon was pretty good. The rice was a little warmer than I expected, and so the salmon was a bit warmer than room temp. Different texture than I’d anticipated.

Illium Cafe

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Poached eggs & pear cranberry oatmeal at Illium Cafe before the Troy Farmers Market one morning. Staff were great – very welcoming and professional.

Eggs were okay – one yolk was almost hard boiled, but the others were nice and runny. Skip the oatmeal. While the serving size was massive, it tasted like instant rolled oats with too much water in it, with some diced up pears and a bunch of dried cranberries. This would be great with steel cut oats, or if it was made the night before and left to let the flavors mingle, but this was made on the fly and was way too gluey and watery.

How To Hotpot

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Hotpot is a great meal to have any time of the year. In the winter, you get warming soupy comfort. In the summer, you can have a long & leisurely meal with minimal additional heat added to your surroundings.

I bought this Rosewill induction burner last year for $80.00, and it came with the pot. It’s okay, but it needs to be plugged directly into an outlet, and has a tendency to make a high pitched sound every now and then when heating up. The heating unit tends to cycle to keep the heat up instead of keeping the heat constant, but for an $80 induction burner, it does a pretty good job. The pot is pretty cheap and thin though, so I will probably have to replace it in the near future. The benefit to the thinness, however, is that it heats up lightning fast.

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When you eat anything spicy, you want to look for Tao Huabi’s face on the product. It’s Lao Gan Ma brand chili sauces, and everything this lady makes is AMAZING. A great balance between heat and flavor. It’s like the Chinese version of Cholula.

Tao Huabi’s story is actually quite inspiring. I wouldn’t do it justice: you can read it on Women of China for a small look into her company and life.

Albany John and I jokingly call it “Race car sauce” at home, because, ashamedly… when I first looked at her picture, I thought it was a famous race car driver in China. But then I looked up more information on this delicious product and found out how wrong I was. Her picture reminds me of pictures of my NaiNai – that time period that wanted stoic photos. And then you read about what a wonderful person she is.

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Emptied sauce packet into bowl. So many chilis! With a flavor packet like this for hot pot, you can use just water as your base. If you go for a non-spicy hot pot, you can use chicken broth to add a little extra flavor. I had a bit of extra broth left, so I put in about a cup of broth, and lots more water.

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Condiments are essential for hot pot. I don’t really ever remember using condiments as a kid, but then again, hot pot was for the parents and the kiddos got pizza when I was growing up. Partially because we were ABCs, and also partially because hot pot isn’t exactly the safest thing for energetic kids under 10 to do when the adults want to socialize. I still remember begging off shrimp from my parents when they did hotpot, though.

You may notice 2 more Lao Gan Ma hot sauces here. So good. Albany John polished off about half a bottle in 2 sittings of the “Spicy Chili Crisp” hot sauce. Which are just chili flakes in oil. I like the sting of her hot sauces, but I also like the gentle heat of chili oil. Chili oil isn’t all that hot, but it’s very flavorful. It also seems like Albany John can’t eat a meal without Sriracha, so that’s there too, in addition to some soy sauce, sesame seeds, and fish sauce. I don’t think either of us touched the fish sauce.

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Thin sliced beef. We usually buy this from the Chinese markets, so I worry about its sourcing and antibiotics/hormones in ot. I don’t really know any where else to buy beef so finely sliced, although it’s worth asking Roma, I suppose.

When you eat these, pick them up with your chopsticks and lightly dunk into the broth. You don’t want to cook it forever!

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Shiitakes! My favorite! They are so good. This is enough for several people.

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Tofu! Albany John and I both love tofu in hot pot. I’m usually ambivalent about tofu (the husbear loves it), but in hot pot it acts as a sponge for all of the flavors of the broth and becomes this delicious pillow of flavor. You can also toss in a bunch and forget about them – there’s really no overcooking them. They just keep absorbing more flavor.

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Scallions. For cooking, or tossing on raw.

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Squid, glorious squid! Hotpot needs some kind of seafood with it. I usually don’t like fish fillets because their delicate flavor often gets lost in hotpot. You want a seafood that can stand up to hotpot flavors. Squid is a good one, as are shrimp, clams, mussels, and bay scallops.

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Fresh rice noodles! Albany John got these at the counter at the Asian Supermarket (Ga Ga Lok (Cantonese)/ Jia Jia Liu (Mandarin)) on Central Ave. They also have refrigerated ones, but these were by the registers. They lasted a few days in the fridge and had a great chew to them. They’d also be great in other hearty soups.

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Fish balls! These are also great to add to your hotpot and forget about – they will just suck up all of the flavors of your hotpot. In a very good way.

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And last but not least – the greens! You have to have lots of veggies! I’d steer clear of bean sprouts because they are hard to pick out of a hotpot, but napa cabbage, bok choy, and chrysanthemum greens are great for hot pot. Chrysanthemum greens are nicely bitter and cook up very quickly. You’ll want to slice up bok choy & napa cabbage and let them cook for a few minutes.

And the most important rule of hot pot is… there are no real rules! Just cook up whatever you want that sounds tasty! It’s all personal preference.

Also, don’t forget to invite me.

Ladies & The Gym

I am an exercise and gym enthusiast in addition to being fanatical about food. I’d like to dispel some myths and provide some tips for ladies who might be a bit hesitant to hit the gym, especially ones that are mostly populated by men training to become MMA fighters or boxers like my own very nearby and dear-to-my-heart gym.

  • Lift weights or do body weight exercises! Cardio forever is just boring. Plus lean muscle mass is awesome. You might weigh the same or even increase weight, but after lifting weights, you get smaller and more toned. Seriously. You won’t look like this.
  • Be a little greedy. With the equipment, that is. Aka – don’t be overly polite, otherwise you’ll never get your workout on. If you’re just doing a few sets, don’t worry about people eyeing the machine you’re one, or the equipment you’re using. You’ll be done in a few minutes and it’ll be their turn next. Or you can…
  • Share the equipment. Don’t be shy about asking someone if you can switch off between when they’re resting between sets and you see that you can do your sets within their rest period, and feel free to say okay to someone who asks the same of you. And no hard feelings if the answer is no.
  • Just because a guy talks to you, it doesn’t mean that he’s hitting on you. Look, I’m just as antisocial as the next person, but sometimes guys are just curious about what you’re doing and how to do it themselves. I always give people a shot – you never know who you might meet and the moves you might exchange.
  • That said… sometimes you need to be prepared to tell someone to back off. Some guys like to play the “helpful/know-it-all gym guy” card as a way to talk to you. And interfere with your workout. Do not let that happen. The other day I was at the gym doing some new chest exercises. When I haven’t done an exercise in a while (or ever) I like to do the motion with a small amount of weight to get a feel for it, then increase weight. When I was testing out a barbell exercise, this guy I’ve never seen before tells me that I’m doing it wrong. There was a mirror, and from what I saw, I wasn’t, but I figured, hey, maybe I did something small that I didn’t notice. Then he tells me to ask him for help for advice for any other moves or equipment that I’m going to use. Okay, creepy flag. Correcting form is one thing, but if some guy you’ve never noticed before says something like that… it’s weird and vaguely condescending/sexist to insinuate that I don’t know how to work any of these big scary things at the gym. Once I finished with that set, I moved on to an ol’ faithful piece of equipment, and this same guy came up to me again telling me that I had the wrong form. NO. Because I don’t. Because you are being really creepy. But hey, just use that weird rage to lift heavier weights. I feel like being blunt and fairly aggressive is necessary in these situations, so I responded “Dude. I appreciate the help and all, but I’ve got this machine and I know what I’m doing.” 
  • Your dietary cravings may change. I think you should go into the gym/exercise in general with the outlook of becoming a healthier person. With that said, you may notice yourself craving healthier foods after a few weeks hitting the weights.

Honey Mustard Ham

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 I’ve been eating more protein lately, and while I haven’t been shying away from fats, it’s nice to have some leaner cuts like pork loin available. It feels like a more efficient way to load protein. Oh, by the way – I’ve discovered that a really easy way to make a small amount of wet cure for brining is to put ingredients in a quart jar with hot water, then shake until everything dissolves.

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I periodically glazed this loin with honey & mustard while smoking it over a mix of pecan and applewood. I’ve been playing around with mixing woods lately and have been really happy with the results.

And holy moly, curing really helps preserve meat. Smoked, this ham has lasted a solid 2 weeks in my fridge with no noticeable change. Still just as tasty as day 1, and just as moist, too.

Another good combo for grilling and smoking is applewood, hickory, and a bit of plum.

Ribstravaganza

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Ribstravaganza has been a long time in the making. When Daniel B. heard that SexyBeast had made his own smoker, he tried instigating a BYOR (Bring Your Own Rib) party at Chez Phairhead & SexyBeast. This was delicious instigating at its finest.

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Albany John and I had a rack of lamb ribs we’d gotten from CelinaBean. The lamb she gets is great – lamby without veering into gamey territory. We rubbed it with Penzey’s Galena St Rib Rub, some cumin, salt, & pepper a few days before Ribstravaganza.

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Picked up the Fussman, then headed to Ribstravaganza. Here’s SexyBeast loading several racks of ribs on to the smoker. Be still my heart. There were many other grills in use for Ribstravaganza, too!

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The Fussmeister with his sack of ribs. Also lamb, and also from CelinaBean. He did his all fennel pollen like.

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The heart of the smoker (bottom barrel). And now for some brevity:

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Smoked goat shoulder. This actually smoked up a bit tough for some reason.

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Beef ribs! These were like Fred Flinstone ribs! My picture does not do them justice for how big they actually were! They were so tasty, but like a small loaf of bread for each rib! I ended up jacking Daniel’s rib because I wanted some of a rib, but not an entire one. And there were so many other ribs, he didn’t really even protest my rib stealing (too much).

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See what I mean? This was the first round of ribs off of the smoker, getting sliced up (we later learned plastic knives do very little for cutting ribs).

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Dr. Pepper ribs!

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Even more ribs! The cumin & whatever is in the Galena rib rub was super tasty on the lamb ribs, and I didn’t even mind the fennel on Daniel’s ribs. The rest of the ribs were porcine goodness. So many ribs, so many beautiful rings of pink smoke everywhere.

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Daniel B. was basically a mess of grease & rib leavings. Check out those fingers! I jokingly asked “Hey, can I lick your fingers?” and he responded “No! Those are my rib fingers and I get to lick all of the grease off of them!”

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Oh, and then guess what? Someone broke out the deep fryer and made…

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Can you guess? They look like doughnuts, but infact, they were CRONUTS. But we renamed them doughsants because it sounds cuter.

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And candied bacon.

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Doughsant dough.

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Cronuts/doughsants complet.

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EVEN MORE RIBS COMING OFF OF THE GRILL!

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And one family brought GALBI!

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Zero was incredibly excited to be a part of Ribstravaganza and hoped to get a few bites and was very friendly with everyone who could hold a rib.

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Oh, and there was BACON ICE CREAM. So good.

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SexyBeast: “That dog’s got the pork sweats,”

T’was a grand day of gluttony and camaraderie. Let’s go for Ribstravaganza Part 2!

Ladies Meat Night

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I’m normally not a “girls night” or “Girls Only” kind of person. But one of my friends is, and she wanted to have a ladies only dinner at her place. Steak dinner. Well, heck yeah. I’m in.

I decided to make steak tartare. I went to Roma right before going to her place and asked the butcher what the freshest cuts of beef he had were. They’d just gotten in some eye of round that day, so I got about a pound of that, plus capers, anchovies, parsley, and onion.

The mincing of the beef was what took so long. My hands are so hot, I had to make sure that the beef was properly chilled. But otherwise it was a pretty easy affair, and now I think I’m going to start making steak tartare more often (when there is beef fresh enough). I liked the lean cut of beef – minced up it was tender, and quite beefy.

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We had strip steaks for the main event (also from Roma – $11.99/lb). They were 10-12 oz each. They seemed so big when we unwrapped them.

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I wound up cooking the beef. A bit of salt & pepper rub, and my friend has a great cast iron griddle that was perfect for 4 big steaks. Seared on the sides for a few minutes, then baked for about 6 minutes to medium rare. If you can’t tell, we were more than okay with rare beef. I would probably cook them for less time in the oven (maybe 4 mins next time) to get a rare center.

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Danika made this rad grilled radicchio salad. It was great! I had never had radicchio before, but immediately put it on my grocery list after trying this deliciously bitter veggie. It was great grilled up as a salad. Smoky & charred with that bitterness, but still having a toothy chew to it. Man, that was awesome.

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We managed to wait a whole 5 minutes before cutting into our steaks. Near the end I realized that I should probably take a picture of the done-ness level. This was also before I got a new camera, so these were just on my phone, and eh, I didn’t do such a great job of it. But it was tasty. I think I like strip steak over ribeye now. Still meaty and delicious, but less fatty.

We also finished our steaks. Like ladies.

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Dessert! Papaya, almonds, some kind of cream, agave nectar, and strawberries.

Oh, we also had this red wine which was AWESOME and I totally regret not taking a picture, because it paired so perfectly with the steak. Wine & steak both complemented each other & didn’t interfere or overwhelm the other (sometimes I think the tannins in reds can seem to sharp when paired with a steak).

You know, I might just be down with these ladies nights if it means interacting with 3 other awesome chicks and feasting like royalty. And getting quality meats in is way more frugal than going out for dinner.

Giffy’s BBQ

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Met up with Daniel B. & CelinaBean for lunch. I picked Giffy’s BBQ in Clifton Park because I hadn’t yet tried it. Okay, guys. I am sorry for this one. I’ve heard good things about Giffy’s, so maybe dinner is better than lunch. Or just avoid the lunch buffet ($6.99), which I decided to try.

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It’s a sparse salad bar with watery soup & pulled chicken & pulled pork. The pulled chicken was really dry, the pulled pork was really oily. Service was very friendly & polite. Definitely a kid friendly place you can linger over lunch.