Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

(Not the greatest of pictures. We had hotpot with friends and family that couldn't make it home this year.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Soba Noodles with grilled Miso Abalone mushroom

Finally a food post! I'll admit this one has been on the backlog for posting but with all the travel it's been very difficult to get back on track.

In my quest towards a healthy low calorie lunch box I was inspired with my previous use of soba noodles and Abalone mushrooms (King Oyster). Here I aimed to use the mushrooms as my protein and grill it to give a visual appeal of grilled tenderloin. The meaty texture of the mushroom is often used to substitute for animal protein and it's also a huge savings on calories.

Here's a shot of the ingredients used.  (see recipe below for explanation)

I cut the mushrooms into 3/4" thick rounds and marinaded them over night. The abalone mushrooms give the dish a nice meat-y texture without all of the calories. I let the mushrooms marinade overnight hoping to have the mushroom really get some of the flavor and maybe draw out some of the moisture with the use of the miso and salt.

I then grilled the mushrooms on a grill pan with the green onions to give it some color. Since there was no raw meat involved I used the leftover marinade to baste the mushrooms while I grilled them. The mushrooms came out beautifully, but be warned that the marinade was really hard to clean off the grill pan.

The noodles were cooked according to package and tossed with a light dressing. This recipe is vegetarian (and depending on where you stand on honey, vegan in some definitions. I suppose you could substitute with sugar if you wanted). Not too bad for 350 calories!

Edit: Oh wow, I just noticed, this was my 300th post.

Soba Noodles with grilled Miso Abalone Mushroom 
8 ounces uncooked soba (buckwheat noodles)
12 ounces Abalone/King Oyster Mushroom cut into 3/4" rounds
4 green onions (greens chopped keeping white stem intact)
2 tablespoons white miso (soybean paste)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey, divided
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sesame seeds 
1. Combine miso, water, vinegar, honey, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.
2. Toss marinade with abalone mushroom rounds and store in a plastic bag for at least 8 hours up to overnight.
3. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.
4. Combine Sesame oil and lime juice add toss with noodles. Sprinkle on sesame seed on top and toss.
5. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Grill mushrooms in one layer 3 mins per side until mushrooms are soft. Grill onions until wilted. Baste the mushrooms with marinade while grilling.
6. Plate noodles with grilled mushroom and onion. 
Nutritional Information (from one of those calculator things)
Serves 4
Amount per serving
Calories: 353 Fat: 4.5g Saturated fat: 0.5g Monounsaturated fat: 1.3g Polyunsaturated fat: 1.4g Protein: 26.5g Carbohydrate: 59g Fiber: 5g Cholesterol: 107mg Iron: 2mg Sodium: 646mg Calcium: 77mg

Friday, October 10, 2014

TRIP: Sydney 2014

It seems that I'm doing more travel than I'm doing cooking this year. Heck, I still have a couple of posts from the last trip that I never finished. (One features a visit to a chocolate museum in Belgium) I still have a couple of cooking posts that I haven't managed to post either. I'm a bit behind.  As you can tell from the title picture we're in Sydney, Australia! This is a view from a harbor ferry of the opera house.

This was a two week visit but I'm going to consolidate it into one post and skipped a few of the places we ate at (I left my camera in a few instances). We landed 6 am and since we had time to kill before checking in (and had to keep ourselves awake) we walked down to Chinatown and got some Yum Cha (Dim Sum) at the Emperor's Garden. It was ok, the fact of the matter is it was the only thing open so we couldn't be too picky and since we didn't have a fridge we couldn't order a lot to check out the variety.

Here's a picture of a crab at another restaurant window (not open) pictured is my wife's fist to give you a sense of the enormous size.

We hit the Taronga zoo and sprung for the "Koala encounter" we were allowed into the pen where the Koala's slept, no touching allowed but we did get close enough to be within inches of the cute little fuzzy ear animals.  This is a picture of the mother, I twitter posted a picture of the 1 year old baby. I have a picture of us next to the baby it was literally the size of my head. So cute. I highly recommend visiting the zoo especially the Bird show, they managed to train birds for an interactive show it was simply amazing we blew a whole day there. We had fish and chips at one of the restaurants in the zoo, nice but didn't warrant a picture.

The hotel had a basement area with a Pizzeria, seafood restaurant, sushi, greek and Tapas restaurant. I hit most of them but did get pictures of what we had at the tapas bar. Featured in the picture: Grilled chorizo, salt cod croquettes, sautéed mushrooms with manchego, pork belly with honey, Pan fried scallops wrapped in Jamon serrano,  and Grilled lamb served with confit garlic and green olives.  "Pro Tip" (or don't make our mistake): if you want water like in America ask for "tap water" or get charged for an expensive bottle.

After the Zoo we figured the Aquarium would be an equally impressive place to visit. Here's a picture of a Dugong it's a relative to the American Manatee. They are highly intelligent and cute as hell. You can't resist smiling back to that face. We elected to take a behind the scenes look at the aquarium it was neat but you don't get to take pictures.

My friends suggested that I try some kangaroo so we went to Meat and Wine Company. Apparently kangaroo are much like deer at home in Texas, a cute but enuisance animal.

For appetizer we shared African Sausage with Mielie pop (a hominy porridge) and Quinoa and Snow Pea salad with sunflowers and white wine vinaigrette, this was delicious and something my wife asked me to replicate.

Finally the Medium Rare Kangaroo fillet. I have to say it was pretty tough and had a very iron/liver-y/gamey flavor very distinct and unique. Glad I tried it, I might have to try sous vide and different marinades and preparations.

Again, off the recommendation of my friends I hit the Sydney fish market.

It was a bit smaller than I expected but it was chuck full of oysters.

and other Amazing shell fish

Freshest possible sushi


super fresh fish (Look at those eyes!)


Live abalone (which I've never seen)

I settled on lunch picking a box of my favorite Uni (sea urchin) and some fresh abalone. The uni was very clean tasting with a hint of salt water the abalone was very crunchy without a distinctive flavor. I was in heaven eating the uni!

Finally, I was very excited that Sydney hosts one of my favorite restaurants Din Tai Fung. Not just one of them but three! I visited their Taiwan branch with my inlaws and had to stand in a 2 hour line to get they're famous Xiao Long Bao. The production photoed above is in the "mall food court" the guy on the left was rolling out the elastic dough, the lady in the middle was putting in the filling and measuring it on a scale and the last guy was pinching the dumplings together occasionally someone would help him as that seems to be the bottle neck in production.

I ended up going a total of four times while I was here. Above was a meal of Red braised beef noodle soup. Xiao Long Bao, and Fried taro dessert.

It was a lovely visit to Sydney, the weather was spectacular and there is so much to do. Be prepared for a lot of walking if you come to visit but the land down under has a lot to offer we didn't even get to the beaches!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TRIP: Amsterdam Part 2

Our cruise finished where it began, back in Amsterdam. We had one extra day in Amsterdam before we head to Belgium for our friends' wedding. The Amsterdam flag is the triple X which is part of it's coat of arms, I had originally thought the triple X marked the red light district.  I was further mistaken to think the locals were really proud of the red light district as I started seeing the triple X everywhere but was able to get a clarification from a tour guide. Well now that is out of the way....

Something I highly recommend if you take the cruise we were on is to take the Anne Frank House tour. Unfortunately no pictures allowed, so I got one of a statue of Anne Frank outside the house. The tour lets you bypass buying tickets a month ahead online and standing in a crazy 4 hour line. We basically shuffled in before the museum opened and got to see the whole thing.

You can't go to Amsterdam without taking a picture of a windmill. I was only able to snap this picture of the back of a windmill as we were driving around. There's a lot more to these windmills than I figured. Yes a lot of the original windmills were a local place for people to bring grains to be milled but others used the wind power for other functions such as powering pumps to keep the city (which is below sea level) from flooding. A lot of the old wind mills have been decommissioned and the remaining are now protected historical sites (that still function). People are trained to operate and maintain the windmills and are commissioned to live there. When not in operation the wind mills are locked in the "X" or "+" configuration. In the old days mills that were in need of repair were locked in the "X" configuration so that repair people could easily see who needed help.

The other must see from my wife was the Van Gogh museum. Again no pictures allowed but it was neat to see some of the classic paintings I've read about and seen as photos in person. I'm not usually one for museums but this was pretty spectacular. The museum was laid out chronologically to his body of work so the audio tour was really neat to fill in the historical gaps between paintings or what was going on in his life to influence the works.

To finish our we wandered into the sister hotel of the one we were staying. "Art'otel". It was a very modern hotel we actually randomly walked into the restaurant not realizing it was a hotel. It wasn't until after dinner that one of the hotel staff happily took us on a quick tour.

The hotel has a basement for art gallery installation as well as performances. There were large windows to allow passerby's to see and hear performances or rehearsals. Upstairs featured an interactive video display cameras watch for motion to affect the light display. The rooms were very modern and beautiful, if we come back we'll be staying here.

The restaurant "5 and 33" is the main restaurant for the hotel it features italian tapas and all of the ingredients are  locally sourced. The host was super friendly and gave us the run down on the place and it's inspiration. It's only been open a month or so but from our dining experience I'm expecting it to be here a while.

Just like the rest of the hotel the decor was very modern and beautiful. We ordered a bunch of small plates, the food was so awesome I decided to show each dish.

Burrata, heritage tomatoes and basil - their take on a caprese salad. The Burrata cheese was delicious and generous and the tomatoes were sweet and juicy. An impressive first start.

Asparagus, quail eggs, pecornio and Truffles

Green pea soup. The soup had a very "vibrant taste". We loved this dish, there was clearly some cream in the soup however the soup was light and airy so they probably put this thru a blendtec or vitamix to give it that clean and smooth texture.

Grilled Octopus, olives, and artichoke

Seabass ravioli, olives and thyme. Our opinion was that the fish was too dry alone to be in a ravioli might want a little fat to go with it.

Braised ox cheeks, mashed potatoes and wild mushrooms. Wow.

We were barely able to finish this last dish, Pork belly with peperonata.

This was an amazing meal. The hospitality an service was great. Definitely go visit this place, it's right across from the Amsterdam Central station right on the square.

Monday, September 15, 2014

NHK World: Bento, Global Lunchbox Project

I was invited to join NHK World's Global Lunchbox project on Japanese TV. I filmed a submission and sent into photos. The episode apparently aired 9/14 but I was unable to view it so I have no idea whether they used any of my video. They did feature me in the gallery with a shortened version of my video on making this bento here. Eating in a box goes global :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

TRIP: Copenhagen Denmark

Our last port of call before returning to home port, Copenhagen Denmark. I'm not sure whether to classify this as our last stop or the stop before last.

I saw this sign on while we were walking down the street.... 'Nuff said yarr.

The big attraction we decided to hit was Tivoli Garden. This amusement park/regular park is very popular destination (especially with the beautiful summer weather) it has a lot more green space sitting area for people to lounge on unlike the amusement parks in America. This is the second oldest amusement parks in the world (built in 1843).

In fact Walt Disney modeled his Disney world parks after the Tivoli park. This is a shot of the Asian themed area of the park.

There were lots of green spaces and where park go-ers can sit and listen to music (a couple of open air theaters). This is a shot of the Mrs. Peacock herding her babies.

Denmark is the home of my favorite toy Lego! Lego seems to distribute all of its models all over the world so I was disappointed that I wasn't able find anything unique to bring home. I hope to come back one day and visit the factory.

Troll goblin thing. I don't know, it was just out there on the street.

We ended our tour with a late lunch at Cafe Norden. One last chance at a Smørresbrød (danish open sandwiches): Egg and shrimp, Homemade chicken salad, Pork loin with red cabbage. Once again very filling. I liked the rye bread, it was more like a multi whole grain shaped into a toast like thing rather than "bread".

I got the "three burgers": smoked salmon, beef and salmon.

I wish we had a little more time to explore Copenhagen, we missed out on Royal residence and crown jewels, but it was a short port call so we had to pick and choose. We'll just have to come back.