Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bridal stuff

Unfortunately the Bridal Fair was a snooze fest. It was small so there wasn't anything to keep us busy for more than 30 minutes but on the bright side I got to spend time with Trevor away from our apartment and away from his computer. Next time I probably won't drag Trevor along and I'll probably just drop in towards the end.

In semi-wedding related news I got my attendants gifts in the mail. :) I just got gifts for my bridesmaids and I know...I know...it's way too early for that, but I wanted to make sure that I could get 4 of the same thing. If you wait too long and try to shop bargains you'll never be able to get four of a kind of anything and if you do it'll be wildly lame.

Speaking of bridesmaids, Emily went down and tried on the bridesmaid dress I liked since she's closer to good merchants in NYC than I am in CT. And she even took a picture with her camera phone for me to see :) What a great friend, huh? I won't post it though because the dress they had didn't fit her very well and it wasn't in petite so it was way too long however she'll be able to order the right size online.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Shopping Memories

It's been a sleepy rainy day for me.

I don't like to complain about real life too much (mostly because I don't like hearing other people do it) but after working 4 1/2 hours of overtime in addition to my normal 40 hours I felt a little overextended and decided to sleep in.

Today was very uneventful. I didn't bake a single thing! I did however throw together a nice dinner of Seafood Risotto.

I'm a huge risotto fan. I think it reminds me of a mix between mashed potatoes and rice. It's creamy, but flavorful. Not just mushy overcooked rice. For 2 cups of arborio rice there were about 5-6 cups of chicken stock slowly mixed and cooked in with clams and shrimp and topped with fish. It turned out pretty well considering I'm a novice with this kind of rice. I'm much more acquainted with Jasmine rice and I could probably cook Jasmine rice in my sleep. The only thing I was missing was wine. Not being a big wine drinker I didn't have any white wine on hand to add to my risotto.

The joy of risotto though is that you can add in anything you want and make it as interesting as you please.

Other than that I bought a bunch of clothes at Aeropostale since they were taking 70% off clearance. Yup, you read that right, 70%! I have many good memories of being in college wearing Aero sweatshirts, going to the Aero box sales with Emily and she and I having the most adorable Aero teddy bears. Aeropostale came to our school campus once every semester or so and sold their wares at a discount to us poor college kids. I think we got hoodies for $15-$20, as opposed to going to the Co-op and droping $60 on a hoodie with our school name emblazoned on it. It was a good time. And I feel I get to relive a bit of that Aero fun when I go to the store and spend some dough on a great sale.

It's weird how the little things will bring on good memories.

Tomorrow I heard there is a bridal fair going on, so I'll be taking Trevor along with me in hopes of obtaining some inspiration. We still don't quite agree on centerpieces. I don't know what to do with place cards. We don't have a photographer. We have a cake idea, but I'd personally like to see it in action. And while I have part of my favors I'm not 100% sold on whether I'll give away candy or if there'll be something else better that goes with my vision. Candy's good, but I'm not much of a candy eater so I'm not excited about buying pounds of it. Maybe there's something new, cool and chic I haven't thought of yet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Almond Pie Crust

It's taken a few tries, but I have finally figured out how to make a pie crust that is tasty, tender, flakey and practically fool proof!

Now, I don't consider myself a great pie-chef. In fact, I often leave pie crust on the plate because it's not my favorite part of the whole pie experience, but with a few tweaks it's actually quite yummy.
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 tsp almond extract (or any complimentary extract to our filling
Mix, or sift together the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. I don't think it makes too much of a difference. Try your best to mix in the shortening until it's crumbly. I personally like to cut up the shortening first into tiny bits before mixing. Slowly add in water and almond extract until it all comes together into a ball.

And this is the greatest trick for dough I never thought of. Tear a big piece of wax paper and place it on your counter and dislodge your dough onto the wax paper. The wax paper makes it less apt to stick, but you'll still want to dust it with flour a bit so you don't stick to your rolling pin. I had a little trouble keeping the wax paper from not slip sliding all over my counter, but once it was all rolled out nice and thin it was a breeze to get it into the pie plate.

I place the pie plate upside down on top of the rolled out dough and slide to the edge of the table. Support the dough & plate with your hands and flip the whole thing over. Press the dough down into the plate and peel the wax paper off. Voila! Perfect pie crust with no cracks.

Now just cut off the loose ends and flute the edges so everything is pretty. I then toss the whole thing in the fridge while I'm preparing the filling. You really want to keep it cold and not to overwork the dough, but that's all there is to it. I personally like the addition of extract so the dough, even on it's own has flavor and substance. I think it'd also be really great to mix in really chopped up nuts to add some crunch.

And now you're probably wondering what I filled my pie crust with, huh? Well since I bought pounds and pounds of apples at the store I decided on a Caramel Walnut Apple Pie. And instead of a second crust on top, I put together an oatmeal crunch topping like you'd find on an apple crisp. Yes, I know it's decadent sounding but it actually came out perfect and just sweet enough.

Mmm...warm apple pie.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jen's Goodbye Get-Together

I'm a self-described shut-in.

I'm busy enough keeping my apartment ship-shape, spending time with my fiance, cooking our meals, running errands, going to work full time, sneaking in time for my family and planning my wedding. I simply haven't made it a priority to go out and party and do the things I used to do when I was single. Overall I lead a very simple, but fulfilling life and I wouldn't have it any other way. The only downside is that I spend significantly less time with Kim than I did before when our lives were less structured.

She works a ton of hours in an attempt to dig herself out of debt. I entirely commend her efforts; it's never too late to take an aggressive stance and take control of your life before you feel defeated by debt and limitations that it puts on you. I think Kim realized that she needed to be more proactive in order to achieve some of her long-term goals like getting a new car, buying a home, getting married...etc.

But this Saturday Kim set aside time out of her already confusingly jam packed schedule to have a little going-away get together for her friend Jen from college who is moving to Washington D.C. next week. Having not seen Kim in the better part of a month I agreed to tag along, and us girls with Vicki and her friend Martha got together. First the girls watched the Red Sox game. I'm not a baseball fan so I just chatted. Much later on we hit the town and went to The Salty Dog in Springfield.

I'm not a huge Springfield nightlife fan, but it was fun. We had a few drinks and then Vicki wanted to go to Fat Cat's across the street. It was packed and we had to wait in line but then Jen realized she lost her cell phone and Kim took her back to The Salty Dog in an attempt to try and find it. Meanwhile we inched towards the front of the line, but the door-people refused to let Kim and Jen cut the line and made them wait at the back. They did in fact find Jen's phone since some guys had picked it up and were trying to locate Jen to give it back to her. Meanwhile, the rest of us are inside and I run into some of my old co-workers, Tony and Glenn. They have both since left the company in favor of other positions at other insurance/accounting type businesses. In any case, Tony bought Glenn & I a round of Jager-bombs; it was really sick. In any case I was just playing catch up with Glenn and talking about being engaged and life and work. After our drinks I had to re-find my friends so I wandered up and down the very crowded bar, got into a semi-open place and dug in my purse for my cell phone. Kim had texted me that she was at The Salty Dog again because the line was too long to get into Fat Cat's. So I run across the street back to The Salty Dog and find Vicki and Martha (they were probably outside smoking since I couldn't find them inside Fat Cat's) and then we scoop up Kim and Jen and were on our way out because it was closing time.

Kim was unusually plastered and begged for food. We went to a diner and Kim unfortunately spent most of our meal in the bathroom. By that time it was late; well after 2am and Trevor called to make sure I was okay, which I felt I was, though apparently I sounded very drunk too. Vicki got a massage from some 40-something guy at the table next to ours that decided to make fast friends. We boxed up Kim's uneaten breakfast (I stole a sip of her coffee) and we were on our way back to Kim's home to drop that girl into her bed, which I might add she was more than happy to be in because she didn't even bother to say goodnight to anyone.

Trevor, being a thoughtful amazing person, picked me up so I wouldn't drive and I got into bed around 4 after talking to Trevor, having a bottle of water and winding down. I woke up tired, but other than a sore throat from yelling didn't experience anything more painful as a result of my night on the town. I had fun. I guess I'm a little surprised I had fun because it's been so long since I've gone out and I've sort of lost my desire to fight for parking, have weird guys hit on me and then negotiate the city at night trying to find the right offramp to get home.

Not to say I'll make it a regular habit to go out on the town; I do have to save my drink money in favor of using it towards my wedding, but I think that it was nice to be around so many other girls. I spend so much time with Trevor and I think part of me forgot what it was like to just have girl time, get prettied up and have fun. I think most women need to have excuses to get dressed up and smear on some lipgloss.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Motown Philly back again

Trevor & I went to Philadelphia this weekend to visit his brother Devin. I actually haven't ever visited Devin in Philly, and Trevor had promised to help Devin with some computer building issues he had anyway so we took the opportunity to drive down this past weekend. We went down after work on Friday.

It took a few delays before we actually made it out of the apartment for once and for all. I think Trevor was so nervous about traffic that it entirely slipped his mind to make sure everything else was ship-shape first. I just assumed he took care of everything since my parents always made it a point to walk circles around the house before they left, to make sure the stove was off, the garbage was taken out, the thermostat wasn't on high...etc. I suppose I just thought that it was common sense and that Trevor had taken care of it since he kept on bugging me to hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry up.

But we still got to Philly just fine. We played on Devin's Wii (which was pretty cool) went out to eat a lot. Devin's living bachelor style so even if we wanted to eat in we couldn't because there was nothing but water in the fridge. I brought some samoas with me, and by samoas I mean the cookies that girl scouts sell every year and not the stereotypically large boned people of the same name.

I can't admit that I made everything from scratch because I was simply too lazy. I bought the shortcake cookies with chocolate drizzle they sell at every grocery store and I topped them with a caramel mixture from my stove top and flaked toasted coconut on top. I think it's really all about the combination of caramel and coconut that pulls the cookie together and makes it so decadent, but since girl scouts only sell their cookies once a year I figured it couldn't hurt to try and emulate them and it was very tasty. Unfortunately the caramel makes it very sticky so the cookies couldn't help but become stuck to each other and form what I can only describe as one giant super samoa.

We walked around Philly a bit the next day. We walked up the iconic steps where Rocky ran up during the movie. We had peking duck with steamed buns (which I love) among a seemingly endless family-special for lunch that included at least 2 other entrees. And we finished off by having Philly cheese steaks for dinner. Trevor helped Devin put together a desktop computer since his laptop is on it's last legs. I watched many episodes of wedding related programming and rested my weary feet.

Sunday we had sushi because Trevor couldn't survive without sushi at least once a week. And shortly thereafter we started on our trek home. Unfortunately we ran into some traffic so we didn't get home until 9pm and we were a tad grumpy and a lot tired. We were exhausted from the drive back and forth, plus driving through the East Coast is incredibly confusing and congested.

So since I was away all weekend I didn't cook, though I've already whipped up some Nem Nuong Vietnamese meatball mixture for tomorrow and I just finished baking up some bread pudding with some leftover stale raisin bread I couldn't finish eating last week. Drizzle that with a little fat-free caramel sauce I got for apples and it's really good. Bread pudding is far too humble a name for a food so rich and creamy.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Mei Tzu Restaurant Review

Mei Tzu in 4 Prospect Hill Road, East Windsor CT.

Trevor and I had sushi there on Sunday after realizing that Oishi was closed that evening. So perhaps we didn't start off on the best foot since we wanted something else.

I got the fried dumplings and fried shrimp tempura. The tempura was way over-battered and the oil seemed to have lingering aroma. It didn't taste bad but I had the feeling the oil was tainted by something they fried beforehand, like fish or some other seafood. It was all cooked but it was just too thickly battered up so you could hardly taste the shrimp. Good tempura should have a very light crisp coating and not mask whatever food it's encasing.

The dumplings I had were pretty good, but a tad too gingery. On the other hand, I got a very generous portion of 8 fried dumplings instead of the usual 4 or 5.

Trevor had sushi because he can't go to a new place and not have the sushi. It was mediocre. I'd say 2 1/2 out of 4 stars for the overall experience. It wasn't Oyama-bad, it just wasn't satisfying. Trevor was particularly upset that the soy sauce they served was all sweetened. There wasn't a bottle of regular, non adulterated soy sauce available anywhere in the dining room and Trevor had to ask specifically for regular soy sauce from the kitchen. The rice was really glutinous and chewy. It was beautifully plated, but it wasn't good enough to warrant going back for. They do however also serve a number of Chinese and Thai dishes we did not try. If we go back we'll probably be having Chinese instead.

The tendency for Chinese-Japanese restaurants is that the Japanese food is 2nd fiddle to the Chinese fare. The owners are always Chinese and I think they have a small Japanese offering just to satisfy an under-represented market of Japanese food. If they can mark-up some fish and rice to $5 a roll and get away with it, they're just walking away with nothing but profit. I'm sure that they see it as a great way to line their pockets with pretty minimal input. The unfortunate result however is that there is a lot of pretty horrific sushi on the market that happens to thrive because many people don't know good sushi from bad.

I'm really not some sort of crazy gourmet. I'm actually only picky about Asian food. I probably couldn't complain at length about American food because I don't really have a lot to compare it to. I've eaten my mom's Asian food since I was a baby and she mashed up my baby food in the food processor whereas my American food exposure comes from pre-packaged food, eating out and eating over at other peoples' homes.

In my mind I still kind of think all American people eat stuff that's fried, covered in cheese, covered in chili, covered in gravy, doused in ketchup or equivalent tomato based sauce and/or smeared with butter.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Oyama Restaurant Enfield CT Part 2

Restaurant Review time!!!

Oyama, Enfield CT. We went back last weekend because Trevor wanted to give them a 2nd chance. Our first experience was particularly horrible, but perhaps their hot food would be better. Hot food has a tendency to be easier to throw together than sushi which is entirely dependent on a good fish distributor. They had hibachi grills set up and we thought that at least we could be entertained with an interesting chef.

The first thing that hit me was how expensive it was. The menu listed one price, but once the bill came each entree came up being a few bucks more each. For around $20 an entree, it's pretty steep. I had the salmon and Trevor went for the steak.

We had to wait around 10 minutes for a chef to come and start tossing food around. When you're at a restaurant with nothing to look at it feels like an eternity. Soup and salad came. Soup was pretty much just water and 4 paper thin mushroom slices; it was probably the sorriest excuse for soup I've ever had. The salad was supposed to have ginger dressing on it, but it ended up having a mayonnaise creamy tang to it, which was weird and gross. The waitress we had was again brash, unfriendly and seemingly uninterested in even working that night. It took at least 10 minutes before I got a refill.

Then the chef came. He was mildly amusing, but certainly didn't blow our socks off. He set some fires, made a few jokes, juggled his utensils...but he didn't do a lot of it. And he didn't toss anything into anyone's mouth. The rice was...rice with onion, soy sauce and sake. It had flavor from the soy sauce but it was pretty lackluster for fried rice. Then there were noodles that were prepared almost exactly the same way with the same sauces. I was aching for some more color. It was all beige and brown food so far apart from the gross mayo-laced salad.

My salmon was pretty good but I could certainly do better at home any day. Trevor's steak was much better, but the portion was pretty small. The veggies were okay too, but again after being let down all meal long I don't suppose anything could have taken that meal and made it better. The other couple at our table agreed with us about all the food too so really, I'm not just being a giant snob about Japanese food.

In short, don't go to Oyama for food. If you want to go and buy an overpriced beer be my guest, but do not actually consume their food. It's got another branch in Cromwell, but if this restaurant is any indication of the quality of food or service then I suggest running in the opposite direction and doing so as quickly as possible. The quality of their food is a distant afterthought and you'd be better served simply saving your money.

Since any skill-less chef can stir-fry up some meat, rice and noodles with some teriyaki sauce, I'm going to have to give Oyama 1 star for complete lack of even the most basic of food preparation ability.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Duck Duck...

I also have this innate Asian mentality of showing my love with food. So I want to make food, and I want to feed my loved ones to show how much I care about them. I don't know a single Asian woman that doesn't want to make sure all of her loved ones are well fed. I guess it's just part of one's desire to nurture.

I made some Chinese BBQ Pork on Wednesday (just the meat part of the recipe; I didn't have the patience to make the dumpling dough) and it was really good. I wouldn't say it's like the Char Siu you'd get at the Asian market with the pink-y sauce but still very savory and moist.

Trevor insisted on having some duck this year so I brought home a duck and we baked it with some of his favorite teriyaki sauce on each side and then finished it with some time on the grill. I can't say duck is terribly healthy for you, but I think it's important to indulge yourself once and so often so you don't feel like you're just a robot. You should enjoy the food you put into your belly. As a side I sliced up some eggplant and lightly pan fried with garlic, some red onion and some duck drippings to give it some flavor. It was quite a rich but delicious meal.

I'm still very much on my cereal for lunch diet. When I'm at work all I eat for lunch is a bowl of cereal and milk. I try mix up the cereal I eat each week just so I'm not entirely uninterested in my food. I'm surprised I've kept it up for this long actually, but my parents can't stop commenting on how I'm losing weight and part of me is vain enough to keep it going for as long as I can. Plus, what could be easier than pouring some cereal and milk? Even when I'm a zombie in the morning I can put that together for myself. And that humble cereal might not seem like a lot, but it's much better than going out to buy a value meal combo at the local fast food hut. Plus the holidays will be here before you know it and the pesky weight that comes along with the holidays will follow shortly after. I guess you could say I'm bracing myself for the inevitable over indulgence come November.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Ahhh my face!

I haven't threaded in a while. If by chance you aren't blessed enough to know what it is, you can read up on it right here. I have to say that I've been doing it for years and I still don't entirely like it. Long story short, it hurts a lot but it's effective and cheap and thus the reason why I do it. I probably don't do it enough, but it's hard to muster up excitement in regards to ripping out hair from your tender face.

My mom does it and through a bit of mimicry I eventually learned how to do it myself. It's simple enough in principle but it's pretty tough to get your hands to want to cooperate. In any case, I've subjected many an innocent friend, family member of loved one to threading because I think that it's the best way to rid yourself of facial hair. Unless you're a guy I don't think you should ever run a razor across your face, and I've heard too many waxing horror stories where someone's eyebrow gets accidentally taken off or they get some freaky rash because of the hot wax irritating their skin.

Yeah...I think I'll pass on that kind of traumatic experience.

I actually kind of get a kick out of hair removal. It reminds me of when Amanda, Kim & I were still really close and we tried to wax Kim's legs and dye her hair red. The hair worked out fine, but the wax was sticky and disgusting and somehow it got on all three of us. At the time we tried out Veet's wax and it sucked. Later I tried out Nair Sugar wax with Amanda and it worked like a dream. (On a side note I don't think they make it in the tubs anymore...very sad.) When it was just me and Amanda we actually were sitting on a giant plastic tarp in the middle of her kitchen so we wouldn't create quite as much as a mess as we did with Kim.

Looking back it makes me smile that we could have so much fun doing something so....un-fun together. So in my mind, it's somehow a positive activity. Plus your legs aren't half as sensitive as your face so eventually you get a high enough pain tolerance to not mind it.