Spice Blends that Make Me Smile

Heellloooo there!

Happy Friday!  I am so ready for this week to end.  Tomorrow starts an amazing 3 day weekend.  Amazing might be too strong of a word.  Pretty good? Yes. Super fun? Yes to that too.  Amazing?  We’ll see.  Last weekend I had zero days to do nothing and since doing nothing is my favorite activity, it was especially troubling.  I have purposefully made no plans for Sunday or Monday so Doing Nothing is going to happen.

Saturday should actually be filled with somethings.  My mom is finally cashing in on her Christmas gift.  I got her tickets to a dance performance at the Kennedy Center.  It’s some type of modern Brazilian dance troupe.  I don’t really know that much about it.  She asked for tickets to a modern dance performance and this was the best I could find.  Actually what she asked for was tickets to see “krumping, popping or something like that.”  Somebody’s been watching too much So You Think You Can Dance.  I jest.  I thought it was adorable and was happy to oblige.  Except that I have no idea where to go see things like that.  So the Kennedy Center will have to do.

In other random news, I got out of work early yesterday so I made a quick detour to Penzey’s.  Oh my golly!  That store is freaking amazing.  Dried spices may not sound all that exciting but I completely nerded out in there.  They have some really great spice blends that keep the cooking interesting.  They aren’t paying me to say this (although if they want to pay me in spices, I’d be ok with it), I just really love it!  Here’s what I bought. Penzey's Spices

The Sunny Paris and Aleppo (great alternative to crushed red pepper) are staples in my kitchen and I was really just restocking.  The other two were new to me.  I love that you can smell all of them in the store.  The Trinidad is a blend of salt, lemon zest, garlic, cloves and ginger.  Holy heck!  I was so excited by the smell that I actually busted open the bottle in the car just to try it.  And… delicious.  As Rob put it, it would be so good anywhere you put garlic.  Garlic bread?  Why not , lemon garlic bread? I almost could eat it straight out of the bottle.  Actually, that’s exactly what I did do, so I guess there’s no almost about it.

I also loved the Tsardust Memories.  It is a unique blend of salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, and marjoram.  Sounds a little strange, tastes great.  I made it into meatballs last night for dinner and I cannot tell you how excited I am about the leftovers I brought with me for lunch.  <<Happy sigh>>

I ate about 6 of these lettuce wraps.  No shame!

I ate about 6 of these lettuce wraps. No shame!

Last but not least, here’s an adorable picture of my favorite basenji.  What a cutie!  Dingo

I just found out a coworker had a basenji growing up.  Makes me like him even more.  Like we now have a special bond!

I just need to talk about Crossfit a little bit.  I love to talk about Crossfit and for some reason I never do it on the blog.  I don’t know why that is but it needs to change.  Crossfit is actually a pretty substantial part of my life right now.  I go 4 days a week!

It’s actually the only exercise that I’ve been able to stick to lately.  I usually kind of fade out, but so far I’ve been sticking to it.  The last few weeks have been a little tough, not for any particular reason, just because for some reason I’ve had other obligations that made it tough to go four times a week.  This week I’m back at it.  I went four days and honestly if my schedule had allowed it, I would have gone 5 days.  I just can’t get enough!

So maybe stupidly, I signed up for a sprint triathlon on June 1.  It’s not stupid because I think I can’t do it.  It’s stupid because I have no real way of swimming between now and then.  Enter Crossfit.  I’m hoping that my gained strength is going to carry me through the swimming portion with exactly 0 meters in beforehand.  When I say it out loud, it does seem like sort of a dumb idea.  Luckily, it’s only a sprint.  I just need to get my running and biking back in gear.  This weekend is when it begins.  My goal is 2 runs per week, 1 bike per week and keeping up with my 4 days of Crossfit.  I’ll let you know next week how realistic this is….

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Ramen 3 Ways

So my first teaching gig was a success!  I got very nervous right before.  They had predicted this big snow storm to hit so I worried that lots of people wouldn’t show up.  And then I worried that they would and I would have a full class of people that were looking to me to be the expert.  In the end, there was only one no-show and everyone seemed to have a great time, including me.  And then I had a whole snow day to recover!

But I know what you really want is the recipes, right?

Tantan-men (Chicken Sesame) Ramen

chicken ramen

Shrimp Ramen  (Wish I’d taken a picture of this one)

Sesame Tuile Cups & Green Tea Ice Cream  4

Marinated 6 Min Eggs

Marinated 6 Min Eggs
6 eggs
1 C Water
1 C Sake
½ C Soy Sauce
½ C Mirin
½ C Sugar

1. Poke a hole in each egg with a pushpin.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Turn down to medium and immediately add eggs. Cook for 6 minutes. Be careful to not let it boil too vigorously or eggs may break.
3. After 6 minutes, remove eggs and put in ice bath. When cool enough to handle, gently peel eggs. They will be soft, but the whites will be set.
4. Whisk remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Add eggs. Make sure eggs a submerged.
5. Let sit for 4-12 hours. After 12 hours, remove from marinade and store covered until ready to use.

Sesame Tuile Cups & Green Tea Ice Cream

Sesame Tuile Cups Sesame tuile cups
4 oz Sugar
2 oz Butter, softened
2 oz Egg Whites
2 oz Flour
2 T White Sesame Seeds
2 T Black Sesame Seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 ⁰.
2. Whisk together sugar and butter. Add egg whites in stages, whisking to incorporate between each addition. Whisk until smooth and clump free.
3. Add flour and mix with a spatula. Add sesame seeds and mix to incorporate.
4. Spread evenly and thinly into a circle onto a silpat using an offset spatula. This will work best if you use a plastic stencil. This could be the top of a takeout container.
5. Bake until edges start to brown, approximately 5 minutes. Watch carefully!
6. Pull out of the oven and let sit for 45 seconds. Remove from pan and drape over a glass with a small opening to form the cup shape. If they cool too much while doing this, put back in the oven for 30-60 seconds to soften again.
7. Let cool completely and remove from the cup. Fill with you favorite ice cream or berries.

Green Tea Ice Cream 4
Makes 1 quart
4 C Milk
Green Tea Matcha*
3 oz Sugar
5 Egg Yolks

1. Whisk together the milk and matcha. Heat to a simmer. Turn off the heat.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar and egg yolks until the yolks lighten in color.
3. While continually whisking the eggs, pour a small amount of hot milk mixture to the eggs to temper the eggs.
4. Add the warmed egg mixture to the milk mixture while whisking vigorously. Put pot on over medium low heat.
5. Stir continually with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to let it boil or burn. When the mixture has thickened slightly and coats the back of a spoon, remove from the heat.
6. Cool mixture over an ice bath. Add to ice cream maker and follow instructions on freezing ice cream.

*Amount of Green Tea Matcha will vary by brand. Use the amount recommended on the package for the amount of milk being used.

Tantan-men (Sesame Chicken) Ramen

Tantan-men (Sesame Chicken) Ramen
Serves 4chicken ramen

Sesame Tare, see recipe below
8 C Vegetable or Chicken Stock
1 knob of Ginger, sliced
2-3 cloves of Garlic, smashed
4 Baby Bok Choy, halved
3 T Vegetable Oil, divided
1 lb Ground Chicken
Soy Sauce
Sambal, or other chili paste
2 knobs of Ginger, minced
1-2 cloves Garlic, minced
8 oz Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
3 packages of Ramen Noodles, preferably fresh
Marinated 6 min Eggs
For Garnish:
Scallions, thinly sliced
Chives, thinly sliced
Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half

1. Heat stock to rolling boil. Add sliced ginger and smashed garlic. Remove stems from mushrooms and add to the pot. Keep stock at a simmer while preparing the rest of the items.
2. Heat 1 T vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add boy choy, cut side down. Let sear for 2 minutes until golden. Add 2 T of water, cover and reduce temp to low. Let steam until cooked and slightly wilted, about 3 minutes. Season to taste. Remove from pan and set aside until ready for assembly.
3. Heat pan back up over very high heat. Add 1 T of oil and sliced mushrooms. Let cook with moving until they brown on one side and start to release moisture. Toss and let cook for 1-2 minutes more. The goal is to get them crispy without being dried out. When finished cooking, season with salt and remove from pan. Set aside until ready to assemble.
4. Heat pan back up over medium high heat. Add 1 T of oil and ground chicken. Cook chicken through, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon. When fully cooked, drain off excess oil. Add back to pan and add soy sauce, sambal, minced ginger and minced garlic. Season to taste.
5. Cook ramen according to package instructions.
6. Strain the stock and keep very hot. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.
7. When ready to serve, spoon a heaping tablespoon of the sesame tare into each bowl. Whisk with hot stock. Add noodles, bok choy, mushrooms, egg cut in half, and chicken. Top chicken with chives and add scallions and tomatoes at the last minute. Serve right away.

Sesame Tare
½ C Sesame Seeds
¼ C Soy Sauce
2 T Sugar
2 T Chili Oil, to taste
1 knob Ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 Spring Onions, roughly chopped
½ C Sesame Paste (tahini)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process until fully combined. This will keep in the refrigerator for at least one week.

Shrimp Ramen

Shrimp Ramen
Serves 4
8 C Vegetable or Chicken Stock
1 knob of Ginger, sliced
2-3 cloves of Garlic, smashed
Shrimp Shells, optional
2 T Dried Seaweed, kombu or wakame
3 T Vegetable Oil
1 lb Shrimp, large, peeled and deveined
1 t cayenne
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
8 oz Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
2 ears of Corn, cut off of cob (can substitute frozen)
3 packages Ramen Noodles, preferably fresh
Marinated 6 min Eggs
For Garnish:
Scallions, thinly sliced
Furikake * You can buy this at an Asian market or in the Asian aisle of some grocery stores
Bean Sprouts

1. Heat stock to rolling boil. Add sliced ginger, smashed garlic, shrimp shells and seaweed. Remove stems from mushrooms and add to the pot. Keep stock at a simmer while preparing the rest of the items.
2. Lay shrimp on a plate in a single layer, close together. Sprinkle with cayenne and lemon zest. Drizzle with 1 T of oil. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Heat a sauté pan over very high heat. Add 1 T of oil and sliced mushrooms. Let cook with moving until they brown on one side and start to release moisture. Toss and let cook for 1-2 minutes more. The goal is to get them crispy without being dried out. When finished cooking, season with salt and remove from pan. Set aside until ready to assemble.
4. Heat sauté pan to medium heat and add 1 T of oil. Sauté corn until it is golden in spots and begins to pop. Set aside until ready to assemble.
5. Preheat grill pan or outdoor grill to high heat. Brush lightly with oil and grill shrimp about 1-2 minutes per side until just turning pink and opaque. Remove from grill pan and drizzle with lemon juice. Set aside until ready to assemble.
6. Cook ramen according to package instructions.
7. Strain the stock and keep very hot. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.
8. When ready to serve, divide stock among bowls. Add noodles, mushrooms, corn, egg cut in half, and shrimp. Add scallions and bean sprouts and sprinkle with furikake at the last minute. Serve right away.

Ramen anyone? Anyone?

Eek!  I’m teaching my first cooking class in two days.  I’m very excited about it but I’m getting nervous too.  I have such a flight mentality, as in fight or flight.  If there is something I don’t like or scares me, I’m so tempted to run away.  I know this class will be great.  It’s on one of my favorite topics – ramen!  It should be very do-able, but since I’m scared a little bit, I’ve been sitting here aggressively procrastinating writing up the recipes for the recipe packet that I need to hand out to the class.

Yes I know that my procrastinating is only hurting me.  The class will happen whether I’m rushing at the last minute or if I plan ahead.  And I will be so much happier and more relaxed if I get to work writing it all up.  So instead of doing what I logically know to be a the right thing to do, I’m sitting here typing up a blog post.  What a knucklehead!

Here’s a preview from some of the recipe testing I did over the weekend.  Not quite a Cup o’Noodles is it? 2

If I ever get around to writing the recipes for class (I will get around to it – my job depends on it), I’ll probably come back and post them here.  You should have the advantage of the recipes too, right?

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Sugar & Champagne

I love my job sometimes!  I probably complain as much about it as the next person, but nights like last night have a way of reminding me that I have it really good.  On a whim, I decided to help out at the Sugar & Champagne Affair, hosted by the Washington Humane Society.  I actually agreed to help out a couple of weeks ago and to be honest, yesterday morning I was feeling tired and a little annoyed that it was a Wednesday night, but I had made a commitment to go, so I told myself to suck it up, buttercup.  So glad I did!

The school I work for participates in events like this several times a year.  Essentially these are DC area food events that help get the local foodie population interested in our school.  We have a table and our professional students make little treats to give away, usually gerbet macarons and various chocolate truffles.  I (or one or two of my coworkers) go and talk up the school, hand out coupons and mingle with the people.  Then the best part is there is always an opportunity to walk the room, sample other restaurant’s eats and talk to the area chefs.  Last night just had the added bonus of having tons of adorable dogs roaming around too.  What could be better?

Here’s your chance to drool over the pictures.  I think I ate about 100 of these.

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These are the professional pastry students hard at work, setting up.

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They had a cake decorating contest that one of our professional students entered.  Here’s her cake.

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And here she is with the woman that won it in the auction.

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Look at this adorable dog.  Not sure how I feel about the wild dye job, although it certainly brought him lots of attention.  How do you think Hudson would look with a little pink in the mix?

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These are other cakes from the contest.  The one with the pug ended up winning the competition.

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And lest you think I have totally abandoned my Crossfit ways, this was how I started my morning.  Life’s a balance…

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