30 April 2009

Two Fun Things to Read

I came across two great reads today - an article on Gourmet magazine's website, and my friend Jenn's new food blog!

The Gourmet article is all about dispelling myths regarding foods traditionally viewed by Americans as taboo during pregnancy. It's well-written by a foodie who did some research, so please don't accuse me of trying to play doctor. I just think she makes some good points for those of us who have been or someday may be accused of caring "more about her hedonistic ways than the life of her unborn child."

Much more exciting than a magazine article is Jenn's new food blog!!! That's her beautiful Loaded Baked Potato Soup in the photo above. Please check it out - penned by the Dangerous Brownie herself. Jenn has some great budget-friendly ideas, weekly meal plans, and she even tallies her grocery spending for your voyeuristic consumer enjoyment. Her blog is the perfect combination of Southern belle and cutting sarcasm with a little bit of adorable dorkiness. Definitely bookmark this one!

Yesterday was my mom's birthday, and tonight was the birthday dinner, so I'll be posting soon with the recipe and a couple photos. Happy Birthday Mommy!

06 April 2009

Restaurant Review: Sakura Garden

My friend Kristi and I met at Sakura Garden in South Windsor, Connecticut to sample their Happy Hour menu. Offered from 4-6 pm Monday through Thursday, prices range from $2-$4 for everything on the menu, including full size appetizers, sushi rolls, domestic beer, wine, and well drinks. Check out the full Happy Hour menu.

For $17 each, including tax and tip, Kristi and I each had a glass of wine and shared several courses.


Seaweed Salad

Pork Dumplings

Eggplant Miso

Spicy Crunchy Yellowtail Tuna Roll

California Roll

I was surprised by how large the portions are. I assumed that the Happy Hour dishes would be scaled back to reflect the drastically reduced prices, but they were excellent portions. Especially notable was the Eggplant Miso, which was marinated in a rich and delicious miso sauce, then served in a steaming tower with a salad of carrot strings. The Spicy Crunchy Tuna Roll was also fantastic - flavorful with great texture, there may have been some chopstick jousting for the first piece.

As you may recall, I love eating out with Kristi, and Sakura Garden was no exception. Over drinks and Japanese food, we had a great time and some fantastic food.

Definitely check out Sakura Garden, whether it's for Happy Hour, lunch, drinks, or hibachi.

photo courtesy of Evergreen Walk

Breakfast Muffins

My mom cut a recipe out of The Hartford Courant for Breakfast Muffins. We decided they would be a great breakfast to grab and eat on the way to work.

Whenever I go to the trouble of baking, I want to make it worth my while. It’s rare that I turn the oven on and drag all the ingredients out for six muffins. Since we wanted three people to eat these muffins for a week plus have some to freeze, we opted to double the recipe. Through some synergistic cornmeal craziness, we ended up with way more than double the muffins the recipe promised to yield – 16 instead of 12!

Breakfast Muffins

adapted from Meal In A Muffin from The Hartford Courant

2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix

2 eggs

1 c. fat-free milk

1 c. chopped cooked ham

1 c. finely chopped onion

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of muffin tins.

Stir first three ingredients to combine. Fold in ham, onion, and cheese. Allow batter to rest 10-15 minutes. Stir gently, then spoon batter into muffin cups.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

*Note: My sister said the batter picture looks gross, but I wanted to show you the thickness and consistency of the muffins. So hopefully you're not turned off by the photo!

If you’re questioning some of the directions, such as greasing the bottoms only of the muffin tins, I'd like to invite you to check out Bridget’s research on The Way the Cookie Crumbles. Through experimentation, she discovered that greasing the bottom only caused the muffins to rise much higher. The Jiffy box actually suggests resting the batter, and through my own trial and error, I have found that allowing muffin batter to rest before spooning it out helps the crowns rise much higher, producing muffins that are fluffier and less dense.

These muffins are a great breakfast on a busy weekday morning. I microwave mine for 20 seconds, wrap in a paper towel, and take along in the car. These muffins are very filling – I eat one in the car around 7:30 and I don’t get hungry again until 10:30. Next time, I might add some tasteless fiber powder to make them even more filling.

This recipe is well suited to any number of ingredient swaps. Some good combinations would be crumbled sausage with Monterey Jack cheese, or bacon with crumbled Gruyere. The original recipe called for chopped apples instead of onion, which I didn’t want to do. I was concerned the sweetness of the cornmeal combined with the sweetness of the apple would be overwhelming, and I love onions, so that was an easy switch.

03 April 2009

April Goals

-Blog 1-2 times per week
-Eat more healthfully on weekends
-Go to yoga once a week
-Make homemade pasta

When I mentioned that I was planning to
make monthly resolutions rather than just one New Year's resolution, I was serious. I've been trying to set goals for myself each month and systematically check them off my list. I did really well in January, but I wasn't as committed to my goals in February and March due to my job transition. As my sixth week of my new job winds down, it's time to get back to my goals and try to focus on them.

So, as you can see, I have a list of four goals for myself.

1. Blog 1-2 times a week.
Blogging has been tough since I've been away from home - I'm not in my own kitchen, can't use my husband's camera, and I've actually been eating a lot less lately. That being said, this blog is something I do for me - a place I can chronicle my successes and failures as I get more ambitious in the kitchen. I don't want to let it fall by the wayside just because I've been busy, so it's back on the goals list for April.

2. Eat more healthfully on weekends
I have been doing so well at eating healthy during the week. I have a small but filling breakfast, eat lots of fruits and veggies, very little meat, and drink tons of water. I've cut back big time on white foods and alcohol, and I gave up alfredo for Lent. Really, you would think I'd be losing weight, but I've had a lot of stress throughout the job transition, and if there's one thing
The Biggest Loser has taught me, it's that stress can keep the pounds on. While I don't really need to lose weight, and the diet changes are purely due to my change in living circumstances, I definitely let my healthy eating fall by the wayside on the weekends - usually eating out every day, skipping breakfast, having dessert with every meal, and just generally being a pig. So, while my healthy eating goals aren't directed toward weight loss, they are definitely directed toward my own health, and I'm hoping I can curb some of my carb-bingeing tendencies!

3. Go to yoga once a week
Going to yoga once a week shouldn't be a problem. I love yoga, but had to stop going, and haven't been in a couple of months. So I'm really looking forward to getting going again - in fact, my first class is tomorrow morning!

4. Make homemade pasta
Last on the list is to finally make homemade pasta. I've been cooking with homemade pasta for years, but never attempted my own. I have some vague memories of standing on a kitchen chair and turning the crank on my grandma's pasta machine, but other than that, I've never actually made pasta myself. So I'm planning to give it a try. If you have recipe suggestions or favorite methods, please feel free to leave advice in the comments section of this post.

I'll try to keep you all posted on the progress of my goals - please feel free to share any monthly goals you've set for yourself. Sometimes, being held accountable for your goals makes it that much more likely that you'll complete them.