Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Break Chicago: Summary

Just got back from spring break, refreshed and ready to tackle school again (somewhat). A group of us spent the last week in Chicago and it was more of a foodie trip than anything else. We traveled via Megabus and crashed in an apartment that we found via Airbnb, and I definitely spent more money on food/drinks than all the other trip expenses combined. Overall, it was a lovely time and I got to show friends around one of my favorite cities.

Peking duck feast at Sun Wah BBQ on our first night

We got to do some touristy things

Museum shenanigans at The Art Institute

I managed to get out of a few touristy things >:D Some of them wanted to go up SkyDeck but others didn' are the party poopers, myself included.

Got to meet up with some of my favorite people! Bff reunion with Cathy at Three Dots and a Dash

Another favorite person -- reunion lunch with Will at Quartino

Had some amazing sweets during the trip :) Namely the white chocolate and pretzel pancakes at The Bongo Room, they were too crazy...

Bread pudding at Sweet Mandy B's, also quite tasty

Panino al Gelato Limone at Quartino...basically lemon gelato sandwiches

The sweets display at Eataly, holy moley

Obligatory photo in front of Eataly's nutella bar :) I didn't get anything from here though since the other sweets options were too crazy and I didn't wanna binge on everything.

Pequod's...I was a tad disappointed about this since I had heard that it's the best Chicago pizza. It was still good, but I liked Lou Malnati's more.

Sashimi bibimbap at En Hakkore, I'd like to meet the person who envisioned such brilliance...

What a beautiful city :) If only it had been a tad warmer...would've made our trip even better.

Those were only a handful of the places that we ate at. I have a couple of pending posts at restaurants that were highlights of the trip, there were some eats that weren't notable, and I had fun at some amazing lounges that were too dark for quality photos :( But stay tuned...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bulla bulla vallecula

Finally done w/ exams! Chicago here I come :) I'm a tad too excited to fall asleep, hence a quick blog post.

I made Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk one night while procrastinating for finals because a writer on The Kitchn deemed this the best chicken recipe of all time...which I beg to differ. It tasted fine...but the milk did this weird curdling thing so the sauce's texture was pretty gross to me. I ended up straining the broth so that the curds would be gone, and it was much better :) There are definitely better ways to cook chicken...

Monday, March 3, 2014

Steak and Ramen

A few posts back, I mentioned that we had an extra rib-eye steak which I had ambitious plans for. The poor little dude has been sitting in the freezer for awhile and was getting restless, so good thing these plans just happened.

Rib-eye steak, cooked Momofuku-style using the recipe here. The flavors in this rendition are very classic, and while I liked Jamie Oliver's recipe more, you really can't go wrong with either.

Dressed-up ramen, using this tutorial for very basic guidelines. I know it looks like a ton of veg but there's a heaping pile of meat and noodles hidden just beneath. I should invest in a set of bigger bowls so that my ramen would look prettier. What I did:
  • Noodles: boil up shin ramyun noodles according to package instructions (minus a minute or so since you want to undercook them a bit), then run under cold water and drain. You won't be needing the included sauce packets, so toss them. 
  • Protein: stir-fry some thinly sliced beef, onions, and garlic in sesame oil with a bit of salt.
  • Broth: add chicken broth, soy sauce, cooking wine, miso paste, and chili oil to a pot and bring to a boil. When adding the miso paste, remember to mix a few tablespoons with a little water to thin the paste before stirring it into broth -- otherwise it'll be clumpy if you add it in directly. Add bok choi, thinly sliced carrots, and an egg if desired.
  • To serve: turn your tap on the hottest setting it can muster, then run noodles under the water. Transfer noodles into separate bowls, add protein, then spoon on broth, vegetables, and egg. Top with sliced green onion and cilantro for added cool points.
I have exams coming up, so no more elaborate recipes for awhile for Helen :( Looking forward to spring break though, big plans...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Simple King Cake for Mardi Gras

Last year, a coworker brought a king cake to work for Mardi Gras to start the tradition. How it works is that there's a toy plastic baby hidden within the cake, and whoever gets the slice with the baby has good luck for the rest of the year, but he's also in charge of the cake for next year. I figured I'd start the tradition here with my school friends.

I went for the easiest recipe that I could find, and I'm a bit embarrassed by it since I'm not someone who takes shortcuts with my cooking. But this recipe just calls for two tins of Pillsbury Crescents, and since I despise making dough, this was perfect. The end result was surprisingly tasty considering the effort. We had a Mardi Gras-themed school formal on Friday so I made this for a get together before the event, and it was completely polished off. My friend who won the toy baby looked pretty nervous about having to provide the cake for next year, but I'm going to make sure he follows through. New tradition started :)

Adapted from a recipe by Holly Clegg

  • 2 (8-ounce) cans reduced-fat crescent rolls
  • 4oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp + 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons skim milk
  • Green/purple/gold sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Separate crescent rolls at perforations into 16 slices (each roll will provide 8 slices).

Line either a large cookie sheet or a round pizza pan with foil, and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Place slices around pan with points in center, and press seams together about halfway down from the points (do not press together at points/ends).

In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, 2 Tbsp confectioners sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla until creamy. Spread cream cheese mixture on dough in center where seams of dough have been pressed together.

In another bowl, combine butter (melted in microwave first), brown sugar, and cinnamon with fork until crumbly. Spread over cream cheese.

Fold dough points over cream cheese area and then fold bottom of triangle over points forming a circular roll like a king cake. Some people like to put the toy baby in now prior to baking, but I decided to hold off on it until after my cake was done in the oven since I didn't want to accidentally melt the little guy.

 Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, then remove and cool until warm to touch.

Flip your cake upside-down, cut a hole using a knife, and stick your toy baby in before flipping back up to decorate. Boo from Monster's Inc. was the closest I could get to a toy baby at the last minute...

For the icing, combine remaining confectioner's sugar, milk, and remaining vanilla in a small bowl. Drizzle on top of your cake and add sprinkles for decorations. My way of decorating was a lot simpler than other options that you can do, so feel free to scour the Internet if you don't think my cake is pretty enough. Enjoy!

Mah frands, about to go ham after sampling my cake...