Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Ideas

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner.  For those of you who don't speak Spanish, like I do, it's on the fifth of May.  Aren't you glad I'm here to be your translator?  Apparently it's a "regional holiday" in Mexico primarily celebrated in one state.  Um, what?  Am I the only one shocked by the news that not all states of Mexico celebrate this holiday?  I don't know if I know any holidays in the U.S. only celebrated by part of the country.

I'm usually not thinking far enough ahead to post recipes before a holiday actually happens, but for this most important of all holidays (celebrated in only part of one country), I got my act together.  I haven't made too many Mexican recipes on the blog, but I have posted the classics.  Steak tacos are delicious, and taste authentic in a way the Old El Paso boxed tacos never will.  No Cinco de Mayo is complete without salsa and guacamole.  Cheesy chicken enchiladas are not to be missed either.  What are you guys cooking for Americans'-Excuse-to-Cook-Mexican-and-Drink-Coronas Day?

Fremont Diner

Welcome to Fremont Diner, otherwise known as the best place to get California-fied comfort food in the cutest setting imaginable.

A chalkboard menu is not the least bit out of place at a diner like this.  Luckily they had printed menus for those of us who were too lazy to remember how to read cursive.

Everything about this place is well thought-out.  Every element is chosen with care and heightens the vibe.

They sell all kinds of jarred goodies like Blacktop Molasses BBQ Sauce.  Why did I not bring this home??

Uh oh, I just noticed they had Swedish fish and I didn't buy any for John.  I still love you, honey!

If these glasses were for sweet tea instead of water I would have been even happier.

Can I please own a place like this one day where I can spend my free time buying knick knacks to fill it with.

Baked goods sat on the counter near the register looking irresistible, yet somehow I resisted.

This is how lunch should be: pulled pork sandwich, baked beans, and a nice cold bottle of Cheerwine.  I have a feeling most of my readers aren't familiar with Cheerwine, but it's a soda native to the South that tastes like Cherry Coke and Dr. Pepper mixed together.

Everything is purposeful - mismatched chairs and aprons along the wall.  You can't help but take photos of a place like this.

I'm not sure if this antique car ever moves from this parking place, but I have no problem giving up the VIP spot.

Picnic tables in the sun are the perfect place to enjoy comfort food.

What a beautiful view.  This is the perfect time to go to Wine Country because the hills are green and it's nice and warm.  And when you go, make sure you go to Fremont Diner in Sonoma.  Just don't forget the Swedish fish.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pad Thai

John and I consider Mountain View to be the largest host of Thai restaurants outside of Bangkok.  Downtown Mountain View has the potential to be quite fun and cute, but it's vibe is dampered by the fact that every other restaurant is a Thai place.  I'm sorry but if I didn't want to go to Thai-phoon then I probably don't want to go to  either.  And sadly for all those Thai restaurants, I'll be visiting them even less frequently now that I've learned how to make the item I consider the only reason to go to Thai restaurants to begin with (other than Thai iced tea)...pad thai.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to discover pad thai on the menu of Thai restaurants.  I kept screwing around with basil chicken this and peanut chicken that.  What a freaking fool.  After discovering my love for this delicious peanut noodle dish, I only order other things from Thai restaurants when I know their pad thai version is disgusting.  Sadly, this happens more than you might expect.

In order to make pad thai worth eating, you need some legit Asian ingredients for the sauce.  Red pepper flakes and honey are pretty white bread, but fish sauce, tamarind paste, and rice vinegar might not be in your kitchen.  I went to the Asian market for most of my ingredients (man, it was cheap), but I guess tamarind paste is more of an Indian thing, so the Chinese grocer didn't carry it.  The fish sauce I got at Whole Foods too, because they only sold Oyster sauce at the market.

Put 2-4 tablespoons tamarind paste, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1/3 cup honey, and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar in a small saucepan.  Heat the sauce over medium-low heat until until it simmers.  Then remove it from heat and add in 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or however much spice you like).

Here are the vegetables you need.  These were so ridiculously cheap (about $1 each) from the Asian market. And no, you don't need five heads of garlic.  You just need one clove.  Mung bean sprouts.  Cilantro.  A small head of napa cabbage.  2-4 scallions.

Cut up 1/4 cup of scallions and place them in a matching bowl.

Napa cabbage has such beautiful frilly leaves.

I went a little crazy taking macro pics of the cabbage frills.

Shred the leaves (or cut into strips) until you have about 4 cups.

If you want your pad thai to taste authentic, you need to use rice stick noodles (they sell these at Whole Foods or at Asian markets).  Make sure you buy the fettuccine width, if you can find it.  They are almost clear to start and then they turn white when cooked.  The fun thing is that you don't put them in boiling water.  Instead you boil some water on the stove (I used a tea kettle) and then you pour it over the dried noodles in a large bowl.  Mine took about 8 minutes to cook.  Drain the noodles and let them sit in the colander until you need 'em later.  Pour in about a tablespoon of peanut oil to keep the noodles from sticking.

In a large skillet (I used a wok) heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking.  Then toss in your chopped scallions and 1 clove of chopped garlic.  Stir it around to make sure the garlic doesn't burn.  Cook for about a minute.

Throw two eggs into the super hot pan and once they start to cook stir it around to scramble them.  I love eggs in my pad thai, so I might even suggest throwing in an extra one if you're like me.

That looks about right!

Now toss in your 4 cups of shredded cabbage and 1 cup mung bean sprouts.  It's amazing how much this cooks down, so don't get chintzy on me here.  Cook until the cabbage wilts.

If you are using shrimp or tofu, you can add them directly to the wok, but since I was using chicken and it takes longer to cook, I cooked it in a separate pan and then added it in once it was cooked.

Once you have your meat added to your vegetables (and the meat is cooked), add in your drained noodles and your sauce.  Stir it all together.

When you plate your pad thai, top it with lots of chopped roasted peanuts, some extra mung bean sprouts, and chopped cilantro.  Serve with a quarter of lime on the side.  I cannot tell you how much I loved that lime flavor in this.  I'm not one to top my food with citrus too often, but I promise you, that this is a must.  I added a tiny bit of salt to mine too since there isn't much in the recipe.

If you like pad thai, then I promise you will like this recipe.  It creates a completely authentic flavor without much work (other than searching the grocery store aisles).  I had it the next day too, and it tasted even better - don't you love leftover surprises like that?    

Pad Thai

4 oz. fettuccine-width rice stick noodles
1/4 cup peanut oil, divided
2 - 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on your taste)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 pound peeled shrimp, pressed tofu or chicken
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered

Fill a large kettle with water and place dried noodles in a large bowl.  When the water boils, pour it over the noodles and let stand until noodles are fully cooked (mine took about 8 minutes).  Drain noodles and toss with 1 tablespoon peanut oil to avoid sticking.  

In a small saucepan add 2-4 tablespoons tamarind paste, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1/3 cup honey, and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar and place over medium-low heat.  Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat.  Stir in 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on your taste).  Set sauce aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet/wok until almost smoking.  Add in 1/4 cup chopped scallions and 1 minced garlic clove and cook for about one minute.  Crack two eggs into your pan and once they start to cook, stir the eggs to scramble them in the pan.  Add 4 cups shredded napa cabbage and 1 cup mung bean sprouts.  Cook until cabbage wilts.  Add tofu or shrimp to the wok and heat until cooked (or add chicken cooked in a separate pan).  Stir in cooked noodles and prepared sauce.  Plate the noodles and top with mung bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, and chopped cilantro.  Serve with lime quarters and top with lime juice just before eating.  

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poker Face

Eek sorry, I didn't mean to scare you with my "poker face."  This thing isn't actually my poker face, it's John's.  At our poker party last week one of his coworkers brought this thing as the trophy.  Hooray, John won the poker game, which paid for the party (and then some), but I did not want Mr. Poker Face in my home.  Luckily, John was willing to bring that guy to work to show it off.  Phew.

The party was on a Tuesday at 6:00, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it home in time.  Is it weird that I left notes all over the house telling John things that needed to be done and where certain items were to be laid out on the table?  His friend Ray was giving him a ride home so he could get there early and set up.  Luckily I managed to beat them home and remove the little notes (yes, the paper has shoes all over them - my mom knows me well) before Ray realized how crazy I was.

Sadly, I was too busy to really go too crazy with this party like I'm known to do.  So we had some XXL bags of chips and kettle corn to keep the masses fed.  I also made a fruit salad because I was too lazy to make cole slaw or potato salad.

I'm sure the tulips really mattered to most of our guests (read: guys).

John took control of the main "dish" - sliders.  Why are sliders much more fun to eat than regular sized burgers?  We ate them on those delicious Hawaiian rolls - yum.  People went crazy for them.  We only made two pounds worth at first and had to make the last pound on the fly.

What I did go all-out for was the desserts.  Probably because that's what I care about most.  Everyone went nuts, as always, for the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  These are universally beloved, and Kathy-beloved.  If you haven't tried these cookies yet, you really need to - you will not be the same afterwards.

Cookies weren't enough, so I had to make cupcakes too.  With Magnolia Bakery buttercream of course.  As it turns out, guys playing poker aren't that into cupcakes getting icing all over their hands.  Oh well, more for me!  

Oakland Farmers Market

We had a beautiful, warm, and sunny weekend out here in California.  Unfortunately, John was out on the East Coast.  I got to tag along with Natalie and Mitch to occupy myself and on Saturday morning we went to the Oakland Farmers Market.  Clearly I'm always up for trying a new FM.

Since I wasn't planning on buying any produce, I was free to snap pictures of the mandarin oranges and scallions.  A few years ago these type of pictures wouldn't interest me, but I guess your view of beauty can change.

These were baby carrots, and not the kind ground up by a huge machine (did you know that's how they make baby carrots - by sawing off and rounding their edges in a machine?).

I can't imagine ever buying an orange when there are mandarins you could buy instead...but maybe when I have a juicer I'll feel differently.  John, can I have a juicer yet?  Thanks!

So far I've never had a reason to buy leeks, but at least I know what they look like.  That's an accomplishment.  I always think of the scene in Bridget Jones where she makes leek soup and ties it with blue string.  Good one, Bridge!

Can't say I've had a reason to buy radishes either.  These type of vegetables go for bargain-basement prices I've noticed.  Things like tomatoes cost three times as much because you don't have to rack your brain trying to come up with a reason to use them.

I'm not sure if this is called rainbow chard when the ends are just yellow.  I'm guessing it has some other cute name like lemon chard.  Sunshine chard.    Golden chard.  Let's just say that's it.

I bought a head of butter lettuce the other week and I think I'm going to stick to the baby mixes I usually buy. The heads are so dirty.  And you have to go through the trouble of cutting them.  I'll spend 3 hours cooking dinner, but I'll be damned if I have to spend an extra minute cutting lettuce!

No dogs allowed in the farmers market, so this hipster dude sat on the sidelines rubbing his pup's back watching everyone in the market.  Maybe if he was lucky his girlfriend was inside buying leeks and radishes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fort Funston Strikes Again

At a work happy hour last week, all of the new people had to introduce themselves to the group and say something that people don't know about them.  There are plenty of things that people at work don't know about me (that I write this blog, for instance), but it's hard to come up with a work-appropriate factoid that isn't already listed on my firm bio.  So I said the one thing I could think of: "My social life revolves around my Dalmatian."  That's the sad truth, my friends.  Well, not sad if you are content doing dog things every weekend, like I am, but I admit it's a little pathetic.  Last weekend was no exception to my factoid and we headed to Fort Funston yet again.

We've been to Fort Funston a couple times in the past month or so, but it always takes me ages to go through and edit all the pictures.  John is at a work dinner tonight, so I have plenty of time to edit photos, eat kettle corn, and watch Biggest Loser.  So now the internet can be graced with photos like this one of a beautiful Ridgeback.

Don't she look amused I am taking her photo?  Kind of "Oh, sigh, just be quick about it."

This place is so beautiful.  It isn't just the dogs that knock your socks off.

Honestly I'm not a bulldog person (though frankly, everyone I know seems to be), but this little guy (gal?) was pretty adorable.

Trevor and Tucker joined us for one of our trips. Tucker is the pup, not the friend, by the way.

Trevor was a good sport collecting tennis balls in the water that Tucker was too lazy to get.  I don't think I'd be so accommodating.

The great thing about playing fetch at a dog beach is that you never know what dogs will be interested in the your dog's tennis ball.  It's easy to make new friends with a grungy tennis ball!

We've been seeing a lot of puppies lately, and needless to say, I haven't minded a bit.

It's impossible not to laugh when you see a dog do something like this.  I'm sure his owner was thrilled by the new addition to their stick log collection.

Tucker loves the water.  Maddie got her toes wet, and that was about it.  What a priss.

Don't you wish you lived in California?

These kids had a grand time digging a hole with their Golden Retriever puppy.  Is there anything cuter?

John and I are big Portuguese Water Dog (the kind the Obamas have, btw) fans, but their traditional haircut, shown above, is pretty much chart-toppingly ridiculous.  I promise if we get a Portie, we won't be making her a laughing stock.

Just a quick stop at the watering hole before heading home.

This dog was about Maddie's size and the owners said she/he was a Labradooodle.  Hello, Labradoodle, welcome to the list-of-dogs-I-will-own-one-day.

Nothing like a grin at the end of wonderful day at the beach.

On dogs and men alike.  (John should consider himself lucky I didn't swap his seat in the car for that Bernese Mountain dog.)
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