Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Images from Hong Kong & Beijing

I just spent the last two weeks traveling with two of my best childhood friends throughout Hong Kong and Beijing. We hiked, we ate, we drank tea, we ate, we explored, we ate...see a pattern here? As I'm getting past this jet lag, I thought I'd post some of my favorite photos from the trip. I'll follow up with one or two more detailed posts, specifically about my favorite meal of the trip, Uyghur food (hint to leave you hanging: deep fried lamb leg, I die).

Get ready to drool. They say Virginia is for lovers. Well, China is for meat-eaters. Which means I obviously had no problem finding food.

 Beef Noodle Soup with Vermicelli Noodles, Hong Kong

Uyghur food: Tofu with 100-year egg (Hong Kong)

Uyghur food, by far my favorite meal in Hong Kong (full blog post to follow). The aftermath.  

 Thai Red Duck Curry, post-hike reward in Hong Kong

Afternoon tea at The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong (scones, sandwiches, desserts)

 Chinese Hot Pot-sauce mix-ins (Hong Kong)

The Great Wall of China, Beijing

 Chinese dessert in Hong Kong: Watermelon, dragon fruit, and mango with jellies

Chef prepares to carve the roasted duck in Beijing at Dadong Duck (thank you NY Times)

 Traditional Dadong Duck dinner in Beijing. You better believe I ate that crisp duck skin, dipped in white sugar (it works, trust me). My love for duck seriously challenges my love for pork.

Julie, me, Miriam: stuffed after Hot Pot dinner. Actually, we were stuffed the entire trip. We really did eat our way through Hong Kong and Beijing. And I wouldn't have it any other way.  More to come!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spicy Eggplant Stir-fry with Kelp Noodles

I don't have a story about eggplant. Or stir-fry, for that matter. And I don't want to bore you, so I'm just gonna say what's on my semi-delusional, sinus-infected mind. Bare with me.

Ben, from Felicity. 

You know. That extremely underrated show that totally aired from 1998-2002 starring Keri Russell and perhaps the most handsome man ever (sorry Matt Damon) Scott Speedman aka Ben. He'll always be Ben. Not that I have an opinion or anything.

I might have seen The Vow recently and he was totally in it. I was transported back to the college days of watching Felicity dvds nonstop. During The Vow, as I watched Ben get punched in the face by Channing Tatum, I thought, oh Ben. Let me get some ice for your bleeding nose. Let me help you off the floor. Let me take you home or actually, to my apartment. I'll make you some Spicy Eggplant Stir-fry. Because you just got punched in the face by an ex-stripper (rumor has it Channing used to strip...how do you think he got those moves?). I'll take care of you. I find you extremely attractive.

Ben has kind eyes.

I seriously contemplated calling this "Scott Speedman Spicy Eggplant Stir-fry." Then, I realized, the NyQuil had kicked in and I should probably just keep this post simple. But let's be honest. I totally wrote this entire post drugged up on NyQuil.

Creepy yet?

This Spicy Eggplant Stir-fry is the perfect weeknight meal, with enough leftover for lunch the next day. The Kelp noodles are completely optional. You can find Kelp noodles at your local health food store; they are essentially tasteless and adapt to the flavor you give them. They're crunchy and add texture to any dish, and I especially like to sub them for rice or rice-noodles because they essentially have no carbs. Can be made gluten-free with Braggs instead of soy sauce. Makes about 3 servings.
Spicy Eggplant Stir-fry (with Kelp Noodles)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 chicken breasts
1 yellow onion
3 big handfuls of spinach
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon soy sauce or Braggs Liquid Amino (gluten-free soy sauce)
3 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon pepper flakes
2 teaspoons garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
fresh ground pepper
sea salt
1 pack Kelp noodles (optional; can be subbed with rice or rice/wheat noodles)

1) Salt your eggplant: Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut into 1/2 inch thick circles. Place on a paper towel or cutting board. Sprinkle sea salt on top of each eggplant slice, about 1/4 teaspoon per slice. Flip over and sprinkle the salt on the other side. Let the eggplant sit for 20-25 minutes or until the eggplant starts producing sweat...or tears...however you want to view it. This is a key step in this recipe; salting your eggplant will allow for the eggplant to cook down into that melt-in-your mouth texture.

2) Chop your veggies, chicken: Thinly slice the yellow onion. Then, slice the chicken breasts into 1-inch slices. When the eggplant is ready/salted, chop it into 1-inch cubes.

3) Sautee and simmer: Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a wok or frying pan; turn heat to medium and heat the oil for a minute or so. Add in the chopped onion and chicken. After a 5 minutes, add in the eggplant. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir everything, over medium heat, for 5 more minutes.  Then, place a lid on the pan, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes.

4) Measure and add spices, spinach: In a small bowl, measure the pepper flakes, garlic powder, cayenne, and add a few rounds of fresh ground pepper. After the stir-fry has simmered for 5 minutes, add all the spices in, as well as the spinach. Cook until the spinach wilts. Set aside, away from heat.

5) Heat the kelp noodles: In a wok or frying pan, heat the teaspoon of olive oil and add the kelp noodles into the pan, as well as a teaspoon of soy sauce. Cook, on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. This is just to simply heat them up.

6) Serve! Scoop the kelp noodles into a bowl and top with the chicken stir-fry mixture. Chopsticks, optional!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Brown Sugar n' Bacon Brussels Sprouts

I believe in chocolate for breakfast.

I believe in putting my noise-cancelling headphones in and listening to this, this, and this while chopping away in my kitchen on a Monday night. Listen. Chop. Repeat.

I believe in killing people with kindness.

I believe in breakfast for lunch. And breakfast for dinner. And breakfast for breakfast. Fried egg sandwiches all day, if you ask me. Don't forget the avocado.

I believe in brussels sprouts and bacon. Together. Sauteed in bacon grease. Oh yes, and a sprinkle of brown sugar.

Have you tried that combination before? No? Please try it immediately. Seriously. I may or may not have eaten a pound of said brussels sprouts, cold, out of the fridge last night.


#getyourgreens + #passionateaboutpork = love

Brown Sugar n' Bacon Brussels Sprouts

1 stalk brussels sprouts or about 4-5 cups chopped, chopped into halves or thirds, depending on size
4 slices bacon
1 tablespoon butter (I used Earth Balance, but regular butter will work fine)
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
sprinkle of sea salt to taste

1) In a frying pan over medium heat, cook the bacon on each side until done (not crispy). Set aside the bacon on paper towels to soak up the grease. Keep the bacon grease IN the frying pan; do not dispose.

2) Wash the brussels sprouts; chop them and then put them into the frying pan with the bacon grease in it. Over medium heat, sautee the brussels sprouts until they are evenly coated in the grease. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until they begin to soften.

3) Chop the bacon into small pieces, about 1/4-inch or so. Add the butter, brown sugar, and bacon pieces. Cook everything until the butter and brown sugar fully melt. Sprinkle with one or two pinches of sea salt and remove from heat.

Serve immediately, with anything, everything, or nothing. Me: putting bacon grease to good use. I always hated pouring it into a jar to avoid clogging my sink...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

'Lets Just Be Friends' Rice Krispie Treats

You ask me out for a drink, break my larger bill, and still don't pay for my $5 beer?

Lets just be friends. 

You wink at me. 8 times during dinner. I try to give you the benefit of the doubt; perhaps you have an eye twitch? Nope. Definitely a winker.

Lets just be friends.

You want to spend all day watching the Superbowl? 

Lets just be friends. I'll bring these sweet treats and you bring your cute friends  the booze.

I grew up with a football-loving dad. He was a linebacker in college and when I was younger, made me run plays with him in the backyard. "Ready! Hook n' Go!" I'd run, fast. And although to this day, I could really care less about football, you better believe that this girl can throw the pig skin pretty damn well. It spirals and all that jazz.

I actually do enjoy the Superbowl tradition. But obviously, the main reason why I enjoy it so much is the amazing spread of food and the good company. If you are going to or hosting a Superbowl party this year, I highly recommend making these. If you aren't convinced, then just know, two years ago, I brought them to my old friend's (a very brotherly friend) Superbowl Party. I heard someone moan loudly from the kitchen and shout something along the lines of "whoever made these, I want to marry!" I curiously walked into the kitchen, only to find my friend stuffing his face with one. 

Lets definitely just be friends.

'Lets Just Be Friends' Rice Krispie Treats
Rice Krispie
6 cups rice krispie cereal
6 tablespoons butter
16 oz bag of marshmallows

1 cup peanut butter (preferably smooth)
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
12 oz butterscotch chips (this is the ingredient that keeps people wondering what the heck is in these things)

1) Butter or grease a 9 by 13-inch pan. Over medium heat, melt the butter and marshmallows, stirring constantly. Once melted, add the cereal in and stir, coating evenly.

2) Pour the cereal mixture into your greased pan. Pat down the mixture, spreading it evenly into the pan. If doing by hand, I like to butter my hands (don't knock this method til you try it), so I can pat down the cereal mixture without it sticking.

3) Over low heat, melt the peanut butter, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips, stirring frequently, until smooth. By the way, in my dreams, this is what heaven tastes like...

4) Pour the melted mixture over the rice krispies and evenly spread with a knife or spatula. Put the rice krispies in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until the topping has hardened. You'll want to let them sit out a bit before cutting into them. These are best stored in the refrigerator. 

Enjoy these on Superbowl Sunday, while pretending to watch the game.