Friday, April 27, 2012

shopping in my fridge

homemade pasta with sausage & peppers

I have not cooked anything for over a week.  I've baked but I haven't cooked.  There is a difference.  My weakness is not for sweets.  I can make sweets anytime and not eat the whole batch.  I think I may have had one macaron and one popover just to taste test, the rest went into Josh's tummy or my coworkers tummy's. I was going through cooking withdrawal.  I needed a serious therapy session.  So my new pasta maker and I made a date with a glass of wine.  Somehow, Thursday nights seem to turn into wine night.  I'm ok with that.
I like to enjoy a glass of wine while I cook.  If there was a night to enjoy a glass of wine, what better night than Thursday night! I love me a glass of wine and a new "Grey's Anatomy!"

Remember that promise I made to myself to cook only with what I have on hand?  I was very tempted to browse the market to see what kind of goodies I can make with my new pasta maker, but I browsed my fridge instead.  I took out some Italian sausage the night before and just used whatever I had in the fridge.  The ingredients I had in the fridge were, broccoli, red peppers, mushroom, onions, sun dried tomatoes, mascarpon cheese, heavy cream and white wine.   That is what I used to make this dish.  Now the fridge is empty and I can go fill it again. Yipee!

The hardest part of this meal was trying to get the pasta maker to cooperate.  It was being stubborn and the pasta kept getting stuck.  But I think I have it figured out and it should come easier next time.  I am already thinking of all kinds of pasta dishes to make.  Lasagna, ravioli, pasta, and more pasta.  The possibilities are endless.  How am I going to make all this pasta and not eat it? 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

entrepreneurial spirit

This is my grandmother, my mother's mother.  Her name was Shin Ja Park and she was a tough lady.  She was born in the 1920's but I'm not sure of the exact year.  She was born in the north and came to the south to marry my grandfather.  I  don't know if she had any siblings or where exactly she came from the north.  She told me stories about her life during the Japanese occupation in Korea.  It was not a great time to be a young women in Korea.  She told me how she saw a lot of women her age being forced into women concentration "camps" only to be abused by the soldiers.  I don't know how she escaped but she married my grandfather and had my mother and my aunt.  Not long after my aunt was born my grandfather left my grandmother for another women.  I remember my mother telling me stories about how my grandfather was in the international trading business and that they were wealthy.  After my grandfather left, my grandmother was left to fend for my mother and my aunt.  She ran a money loaning business in the local market.  She use to have this little notebook with merchant names, debt amounts and interest rates.  She would go to the market every day with her little note book and collect the interest from the merchants.  My mother never had any interest in school so when she graduated high school she went straight into the work force where she met my dad.  My aunt on the other hand was very smart and got into college.  How my grandmother sent my aunt to college is beyond me.  She was a very resourceful women and she can somehow make $1 into $2.  Some people are just born with the entrepreneurial spirit and some are not.  I guess she was an entrepreneur.  She wasn't a drinker but she was a heavy smoker.  I remember being a child, hating the smell of smoke at her house.  She passed away of cancer when I was 17.  I was living in the states so I didn't get a chance to say goodbye or visit her.  I just wanted to remember her in some kind of way and what better way then through my blog.  I dug these pictures out while helping my mother move.

my mother is on the far right and my aunt is in the front.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Burnt bits! How poetic!

chocolate & peanut butter smore popovers

Happy administrative assistant day!  We are having a big celebration at the office and everyone is bringing in a treat in honor of this day.  I made chocolate & peanut butter smore popovers.  I followed the recipe from Joy the Baker.  The peanut butter was my own touch. Who doesn't love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate?

I made these last night after bidding my parents a good trip to Korea.  They are leaving for Korea today and will be gone for about two months, according to my mother.  If you ask my father, it's more like a one month trip.  They have finally closed a chapter of their lives and closed down their dry cleaners after 20 years in business.  It was really tough for my mother.  Why did they close the store you ask?  The business wasn't there anymore.  They could barely scrape by month to month with the handful of customers they had left.  Nobody really gets their clothes dry cleaned anymore and if they do they go to a one price type of place.  I am sad for them but also happy that my mother won't be tied down to the store and she can have more free time.

We went over to their new apartment to get the keys and instructions on what to do while they are gone.  My mother was more worried about how she would get through two months of being away from Levi.  We bid our goodbyes and by the time we got home it was 7 pm.  The popovers are not too complex or take too long to make.  But when you have a 2 year old trying to get your attention while trying to bake, it is not an easy task.  I did great up until I had to put the popovers back in the oven to toast the marshmallows.  The instructions said to toast for 1 minute under the broiler.  I did exactly that,  when the timer went off and I went to retrieve my popovers, they were smoldering.  I was so upset, Josh left me alone to decompress for about an hour.  It just drains the life out of me anytime I fail a recipe.  I contemplated for a long time whether I should bring these into the office at all today.  I got up this morning with a fresh perspective and scraped the burnt bits off.  Haha! Burnt bits! How poetic!  I brought them in.  I tasted them and they are actually really good.  Burnt bits and all.  I feel like the burnt bits adds to the flavor of the toasted marshmallows, but we shall see.

mixture of flour, eggs, milk and coco powder

They came out of the oven perfect

I spooned in peanut butter and chocolate chips in the little holes.

Place a marshmallow and put it back under a broiler for 1 minute. 
Keep an eye on it or you will burn it like I did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I like to think myself as a perfectionist

perfecting popovers & macarons

How was every one's weekend?  Mine was very busy.  Let me tell you about my weekend.  I met up with my girlfriends on Friday night for a birthday dinner.  We went to Via Carducci La Sorella in Bucktown.  We had a great time.  It's a cute little place.  Nice and quiet.  Perfect for a bunch of loud & crass ladies.  We ordered grilled calamari, sausage & peppers and bruscetta for appetizers.  I had the chicken vesuvio for dinner and ate only half and took the rest home.  Everything was delicious.  Every time I get together with these ladies, time flies and next thing you know the place has emptied out.  You know you are with a good group of friends when you don't even know how 4 hours have passed while you are catching up on each other's lives. I actually just met some of these ladies recently, not even 6 months ago, but I feel like we've become such good friends in a short period of time.

I've known the beautiful lady sitting next to me since high school. 
She is expecting and is due next month.
The birthday girl is sitting across from me and next to her is my diet consultant and motivator! 

On Saturday I helped my parents move out of their current apartment and into their new apartment.  My brother came in from Purdue to help too.  I got up at the crack of dawn and helped them load and unload the truck.  I was in the kitchen with my mom when I noticed a box.  I have been wanting one of these for quite sometime now.  I asked my mom if she used it and she said I could take it.  My dad was an ear shot away and interjected saying, " what am I suppose to make noodles with if you take my noodle machine?"  To which my mother answered, "how often do we make noodles?"  I just scored myself a pasta roller! Yahoo!  My mother also gave me the juicer too! See what happens when you are a good daughter? They reward you with kitchen appliances.  I can't wait to get my hands on these and make some proper home made noodles and pasta!

my new juicer
my new pasta roller/maker
After the move, my brother came over to my house and spent some time with me and Levi.  We went out for Thai food. I've been wanting Thai food for such a long time.  I enjoyed every second of savoring my Pad Kee Mao. When we got home I put Levi to bed  and my brother and I did shots of Whiskey and just talked about life while watching Tin Tin.  We had a great time.

Sunday morning I got up and wanted to bake.  I had made macarons for the girls on Friday night but I wasnt' quite happy with the results.  They tasted great but they didn't look pretty.  The first issue was that the macarons were too big and the second problem was that the macarons had cracked.  I like to think myself as a perfectionist and I had to perfect it.  I was obsessing over perfecting the macarons that I made 3 batches in total this weekend.  The last batch turned out better than the first but not all of them in the last batch turned out perfect.  I think I may have found the solution to my dilemma.  I was cooking the macarons at the wrong temperature and I wasn't whipping the egg whites long enough.  According to the brave tart, you are suppose to cook them at 300 degrees and whip the egg whites for ten minutes.  Check out the blog mentioned above.  If you are in the market for perfecting Macaron making, this is the place to go.

I also made popovers.  I am planning on making Chocolate & Peanut Butter Smore popovers for Administrative Assistant day on Wednesday for the office.  I wanted to get a practice popover in this weekend.  I had the most amazing popovers at David Burke's in Chicago and I've been on a mission to make a successful batch of popovers since. I have failed yet again.  I followed Alton Brown's recipe but found that there are a few thing I need to tweak.  I may try to bake them for 30 minutes instead of the recommended 40 minutes.  If you look at my popovers they are not golden brown but almost burnt. Hmmmf!  Also, I was suppose to use 1.5 teaspoons of salt but I misread the recipe and put in 1.5 tablespoons of salt.  The popovers turned out too salty and over done.  They are currently sitting in our trash.

popovers going into the oven

my overdone and over salted popovers

See the cracking on top? I was not happy.

I made this batch using a shot glass as a template. 
The batch on the left side of the oven cracked and the batch on the right side of the oven didn't. 
I'm thinking that my oven is hotter on the left side then the right.

The last batch of macarons I made with the perfect "feet" and no cracking!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Progress report 1

I'm about 3 weeks into my "look good in a wedding dress" diet.  I fell off the wagon hard last week but I'm back on it.  How has it been going?  Actually really good thanks!  I haven't been driving myself to insanity counting every calorie I consume.  For breakfast, I'll usually have some eggs.  For lunch I will have a salad and believe it or not, I have been skipping dinner all together.  I know some of you are gasping right now but there is a method to my madness.  I haven't been eating dinner because the second I step foot into the kitchen, I want to cook and consume everything.  At some point I will have to cook again but for now, I would rather just avoid the trigger than step into it head first.  The thing is, I'm not hungry for dinner.  Why eat when you aren't hungry.  I also heard that 80% of the time when you are feeling hungry, you are actually thirsty.

I also haven't been killing myself with the workouts.  I still get up and work out to Jillian in the morning and go to the gym after work to do cardio.  The difference is, I'm not forcing myself to go.  Maybe it's a mental change.  I don't know.  Yesterday for instance, I skipped Jillian in the morning, but I didn't beat myself over it.  I still did cardio after work and this morning I got up and worked out to Jillian.  I guess the difference is that I am not dragging myself out of bed.  It feels good to work out and my body feels so much better.  Well, I take that back a little, I am sore all over, but I feel my body getting stronger. 

It's a strange shift that happened this past week.  I think it's because I am not telling myself, "you have to do this or you can't eat this."  I'm just doing it.  I don't feel like I'm depriving myself of anything.  Strange huh?

I still get cravings and urges to eat.  On Monday, I had this crazy craving for some pad khee mao.  Oh Thai food, how I love thee! I was thinking about it non stop for about 3 hours.  I even programmed their number in my phone, just in case I wanted to place an order.  What did I do instead? I went to the gym.  The craving eventually subsided.  Yesterday, a coworker brought these chocolaty pastry delights to work,  I circled around and eyed my prey like a hawk. I took the smallest piece and I was done.  Tomorrow night, I am meeting up with a group of girls for a birthday dinner.  We are going to an Italian place.  What is my plan of attack? I am going to enjoy my meal.  It will be my cheat meal of the week.  If I order pasta, I will probably just pack half of it to go and eat only half.  The other half will be lunch for Josh the next day.

This morning while I was getting dressed, I noticed that the very same pants that were super snug last week were feeling loose today.  It felt really good.  Let's not focus on the numbers but FYI, I did lose 4 lbs.  It's a good start.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

pretty chairs and massive projection screens

mushroom risotto with oven roasted chicken thighs

This past weekend, Josh and I went to check out the venue where I always imagined our wedding.  This place is gorgeous.  I imagined an outdoor wedding followed by an indoor reception surrounded by a lake and acres of beautiful landscape.  For those of you who have already planned your wedding, you can understand my shock when we saw the price tag.  We were thinking of getting married in the fall of 2013.  We had harsh reality splashed in our face when we were told that there would be a $15 K min for a Saturday night in September.  Uhhh, I did not know this.  I know the guy sent me a bunch of brochures with prices, menu options, this, that and the other thing.  Who really reads through all that stuff.  I GUESS WE WERE SUPPOSE TO.  So now, we are talking about an April wedding which fits our budget a little better. 

But no worries.  I am not one to stress out about stuff like this.  The most important thing is that Josh and I will be marrying each other in the company of family and friends who love us.  That is what is most important right? Not what kind of table clothes cover the tables or if we get the pretty chairs or if we upgrade to the massive projection screen.  Who cares about all that?  I certainly don't care about that.  Do you?

Back to food and what I made.  I completely forgot that I was on a diet and made all kinds of goodies this weekend.  I didn't really forget, I chose to ignore.  As you have already seen, I made lobster mac & cheese, red velvet doughnuts, and biscuits and gravy with deep fried pork.  To add to the list, I also made mushroom risotto with an oven roasted chicken thigh.  I really went all out this weekend and I must learn how to control myself.  On that note, I will try to refrain from cooking anything deep fried or unhealthy in general for a minute ( I don't know how long it will last? ) and I am also limiting my trips to the market this week.  I am challenging myself to only cook with what is in the freezer.  I think I may have made 3-4 trips to the market last week.  YIKES! That will be difficult because I look at our freezer full of food and I always think, "I have nothing to cook."  I must have self control!

Cooking is like therapy for me.  It's just me in the kitchen (most the time) with a bunch of ingredients.  I can be creative or stick to a recipe.  Whatever I want.  It's really amazing to see what can be created from a bunch of raw ingredients. My therapy is becoming an issue because, I see all these recipes I want to try and most of them are not exactly in line with my diet approved food list.  If I do cook something that is really decadent, I try to limit my consumption.  But the real challenge here is to cook something that is delicious and diet approved.  Hugh sigh..... My downfall is pasta and rice.  I love it so much and it loves me back.  But not in the right way.   All I can do is try.  So I will.  Nobody said this would be easy. 

dried porcini mushrooms

Saute any kind of mushrooms first and set aside. 
In another pan add 1 box of chicken stock and dried porcini mushrooms and let it come to a low boil. 
Toast rice and keep adding ladles of chicken stock until the rice absorbs the liquid.
This takes about 40 minutes. 
Add the mushrooms and peas last and finish with some Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter.

Brown Chicken thighs in some olive oil in a big pan. 
Once they are  brown put them in the oven at 375 for about 40 minutes.

I will miss you decadent food! :(