Monday, September 29, 2008

Settlers of Catan in Cake Form

Husband of Food had a birthday this weekend. He wanted to have a few friends over for a day of playing board games. Inspired by friend of friend of food, I made a Settlers of Catan cake. Settlers is a popular German game which we have often played at game day.

Here is an image of the cake with some of the playing tiles that make up the board. Click on it for a larger image. Each "tile" is made from a single cupcake frosted to resemble the hexagons from the game, wood, sheep, wheat, ore, brick, and one desert cupcake.

The actual cake inside was a lemon cake and the frosting lemon butter cream, colored with different mixes of food coloring. The recipe came from Amy Sedaris' I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence under Lemon Cake for Lino. Knowing Sedaris' dry sense of humor, I feared that I might be the victim of some silliness in the recipe, but I found it to be no joke, the cake was deliciously for real.

As you may be able to tell, I sort of flew by the seat of my pants with this cake. I was rushed by the need to frost it all in secret while Husband of Food was sleeping in. Here is a close up of the "Game Board."

Those in attendance who were geeky enough knew what it was soon after the candles were blown out on the cake.

My husband ate a brick and a wood tile, he says he was working towards "longest road".

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Craft, NYC

Craft was opened by Chef Tom Colicchio in 2002, a short walk from the Union Square Greenmarket, as an antidote to some of the food excesses of the 1990s. You remember: a small hunk of flesh centered in a pool of sauce on an enormous plate with another sauce on top of it, and then a coulis in a contrasting flavor and color drizzled across the whole plate, maybe with some crispy bits sprinkled over everything. Everything at Craft, by contrast, is prepared with a few fresh ingredients, but they're the best ingredients you can get. We visited Craft for dinner last night, and I'd say the concept is holding up quite well.

Craft is a fairly expensive restaurant, even by New York standards, but having a meal like this is like attending a performance, and compared to opera tickets, it's not so bad. Grandson of food is at a stage right now (almost two years old) where going out to a restaurant is a hit or miss proposition, and I like cooking at home most of the time anyway, so we're not going out as much as we used to, and when we do, we're probably hiring a babysitter. One memorable meal at $125 a person is unquestionably worth five decent but forgettable meals for $25 a person and then some.

We started with Wagyu beef carpaccio with a vinaigrette and celery garnish as an appetizer. This was the closest any dish came to having a sauce. Before this came there was an amuse bouche in the form of two fresh mussels in a hot pepper marinade, presented on two spoons. Wagyu beef is astonishingly marbled. One can't imagine that it's very healthy for the cattle, but it is interesting, having a distribution of fat to meat that looks like a salami.

For the main course we had the roasted bluefoot chicken, hen of the woods mushrooms, roasted baby carrots with rosemary, risotto with corn and bacon. The roasted chicken is presented to the table on an oval copper gratin dish with the blue feet intact before it is carved for serving and garnished with chives. The mushrooms are just roasted with some butter and salt and maybe some garlic, so the main flavor is the mushroom. The carrots are similarly roasted and served with a sprig of fresh rosemary. The Savory New York site features an interview with Collichio on video, and you can see the chicken, mushrooms, and carrots. Everything was excellent, prepared simply but perfectly, but the risotto was transcendent. It seemed to use a small amount of very smokey bacon, and very fresh sweet corn added just at the end of the process, so that it had the texture of corn that had just been barely steamed.

For dessert we split the warm chocolate tart, which comes with a chocolate granite and Earl Grey ice cream. It came with another little extra from the pastry chef--two tiny semolina tarts. The Earl Grey was very intense and will foster some new experiments with the ice cream maker at home. That's what a good restaurant should do, isn't it?--make you want to try new things in your own kitchen.

Even the way they handle the leftovers is outstanding. They pack them up and put them into the refrigerator and hand you a number, like a coat check, until you are ready to leave. And they sent us home with another bonus--two packets of biscotti that we enjoyed this morning for breakfast as we remembered last night's dinner.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

5 Quick Low Calorie Meals from the Freezer

Anyone who has tried the Flex Plan on Weight Watchers knows the panic that happens at the end of a day or a week when all of the points seem to have been gobbled up and there is still a dinner to be had. Of course these are usually the days when one has no time to cook up a zero point soup and there is not a vegetable to be found in the house.

I've found a few great stand bys to keep in my freezer for when I want a quick low point meal. Have something like this on hand and your diet won't go out the window when time is tight and points are low.

Kroger Meals Made Simple - Shrimp Stir-Fry
3 Servings per package
140 Calories
.5 g Fat
3 g Fiber
2 Points

Dr. Preger's Veggie Burgers
1 Burger
110 Calories
4.5g Fat
5g Fiber
2 Points

Lean Cuisine
Roasted Turkey and Vegetables
1 meal
150 Calories
5g Fat
3g Fiber
3 Points

Trader Joe's Asian Style Chicken Stir Fry
8oz. Serving
190 Calories
1g Fat
4g Fiber
3 Points

Progresso Light Soups
OK, this is for the pantry, not the freezer, but it is a great option and there are 5flavors:
Italian-Style Vegetable
Homestyle Vegetable & Rice
Savory Vegetable Barley
Southwestern Style Vegetable
1 Serving
60 Calories
4g Fiber
0 Points

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hungry Little Fishies

These Bentos were inspired by the Bento Challenge blogsite. This blog eggs on the aspiring bento artist by posting a topic and inviting the public to post pictures of bento based on the theme. The topic this week was Under the Sea.

Here are my bento boxes made with this theme. Mini orange peppers stuffed with Hummus make up the hungry fishes. A small dollop of mayonaise with a dot of soy sauce make up the fish eye. Fresh Parsley plays the part of the tasty coral. The seabed is made of Cous-Cous with a rock Feta floor. Purple and yellow tomatoes are nestled in the sand. Mini green grapes from the farmer's market bubble up the Muenster sea. Muenster also is the root for the String Beans which grow up tall along the side.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back to School

Here's some food news worth writing about; Colbert University, the online school for all things Stephen Colbert related, has listed a new course,
Colbert University GAST 101 - Gastronomic Adventures.

It's a frighteningly comprehensive collection of Stephen Colbert's adventures with FOOD!

There are links to everything from Dorito’s Spicy Sweet Pennsylvania Primary Coverage from Chili-Delphia—The City of Brotherly Crunch to the classic Cooking with Feminists.

Our Family of Food loves Stephen Colbert and you know we love Food... It may just be time to curl up with a pint of Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream and catch up on our studies.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Day Two Bentō

For the Second Day of Daycare I made the twins these Bento Boxes.

They are inspired by the sun rising over the mountains.

The sun is made of an orange slice with orange pepper for the rays. Feta acts as clouds surrounding the sun.
carrot rays extend over roast beef on a bed of spinach. Fields of green grapes line the foothills below the bagel mountain. Meunster cheese brings those sun rays down to meet the Earth.

Monday, September 15, 2008

First Day Bento

The twins start daycare tomorrow, a special occasion, indeed. This is their first packed lunch and my first Bento Boxes.

The fancy details are strawberries cut like hearts over a bed of raisins, bunny crackers hopping along in a green bean patch, slices of cheese aside roast beef, and cut grape tomatoes. Click on the picture for a bigger image.

I don't know if I am doing it right, but the meal is balanced, healthy, and definitely made with love.

Thanks to the Bento Love blog for inspiration.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sorrento Italian Market

My five dollar lunch from Sorrento

I've mentioned Sorrento Italian Market before. This is an example of why I love them. For lunch I got a large turkey and provolone sub with Sorrento's delectable tomato sauce at the sandwich counter. That was $3.95. Near the checkout I picked up a bag of about 16 plums for a dollar. Delicious, nutritious, and cheap; what more could you want from a lunch?

Sorrento Italian Market
5518 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 391-7654

Frozen Fish from Trader Joe's

I'm usually a bit dubious about the idea of frozen fish, but I noticed that one of our new Trader Joe's stores here out east had some interesting selections of mostly wild caught fish that looked good in the packages and was very reasonably priced, so I thought I'd sample a few--mahi mahi, swordfish, Dover sole, and coho salmon. Modern "individually quick frozen" (IQF) processes that use vacuum packaging and flash freezing have greatly improved upon the frozen fish of yesteryear. The fish seems to be glazed with ice, which is probably part of the secret. I defrosted the fish overnight in the refrigerator, and all the selections I tried smelled fresh and had good texture when I took them out of the package, and all were very neatly cut and filleted.

I've grilled the Trader Joe's wild Coho salmon in a very hot cast iron grill pan twice now, once with garlic butter, once with a teriyaki style marinade. This kind of salmon has a good flavor, but it tends to be a bit on the dry side, so it needs to be just barely cooked through--about two and a half minutes on a side--and a marinade to add to the moisture doesn't hurt. I've had plank roasted Scottish wild salmon that was like this in England. It's very easy to overcook, but if you get it right, it's perfect.

The Dover sole was the least freezable fish of those we tried. Even though the texture was good in general, the thin frozen fillets had evidently cracked in shipping and storage. It held together well enough to roll and bake with a crab and spinach stuffing, but it would have fallen apart, if I'd tried to broil it.

The swordfish was a success--maybe not as high a fat content as the best swordfish I've had, but that kind of swordfish is hard to find in general. 4 minutes on a side in the cast iron grill pan with garlic butter and a little lemon zest was perfect.

We're used to fresh caught local mahi-mahi when we're in Hawai'i, but even with that as a point of reference, Trader Joe's Peruvian wild caught mahi-mahi made a very respectable showing, grilled about three minutes on a side with garlic butter and lemon in the hot cast iron grill pan. It's not fresh from the shores of Moloka'i, but for what we can get in New York, it's excellent.

We're fortunate to live close enough to water to find fresh local fish in the markets and from the Greenmarkets around the city, but for fish that aren't local to our waters and the convenience of being able to have fish of good quality on hand in the freezer Trader Joe's gets a thumbs up.

Update (14 May 2009): A couple others we've tried since this post are the sockeye salmon, wild halibut steaks and the Alaskan wild cod. The halibut grilled very nicely. The cod had a good flavor but was maybe a bit chewy for a grilled fish; however, it seemed to have enough substance to hold up well braised or in a stew, so we might try it again that way. The sockeye salmon was first rate.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Free Pie in Vegas

This message was left in our comments from a previous post. I'll help this PR guy out, why? Because a Friend of Food likes the show and... you might get some pie.

"Hi , I apologize for leaving this in your comments section but I could not find a way to contact you directly! :) I’m working with ABC to spread the word about their Mobile Pie Hole – a truck that’s traveling the country this month, giving away free pie for to kick off the second season of Pushing Daisies. The Pie Hole will be in Las Vegas this Friday, September 12th, at Fashion Show Mall (3200 Las Vegas Blvd.). As an local Las Vegas foodie and blogger, I thought you and your readers might want to stop by for some free pie! You can read more about the Pie Hole tour at you have any questions or would like additional information, event photos, etc, from ABC, please let me know! All the best, Miguel C. "

Send Miguel a thanks, too.

Daughter of Food

Friday, September 5, 2008

Now You Know

The studious reader of Family of Food may have noticed that many references to Weight Watchers for the last several months. I am the one on the diet. This is the second time I have seriously and successfully embarked upon weight loss in my life. I am a lover of food after all and I have never been skinny. When I was a child I tried every diet on the planet, fairly unsuccessfully, and it was not until I was an adult did I ever find the knowledge and the will to really slim down. The first time I tried Weight Watchers (as an adult), I lost over 40 pounds.

After that first time I used this program, I was for the first time in my life, within the normal range of body size. I enjoyed a period of time where I was not seen or treated as fat. Although I was the same person, others did treat me quite differently. There was a guy I worked with who had never spoken to me before the weight loss and then after was friendly. I would have never guessed that my size was the reason he shunned me previously, but another told me that this was the change that caused him to want to interact with me. This person probably did not even realize he had done this. Fat prejudice is ingrained into the American psyche. After the weight loss, I was flirted with a lot more, I got a raise (maybe a coincidence), people touched me more... that was hard to get used to. Then, I got pregnant.

I carried twins in my body and had to adjust my eating habits to the needs of two growing babies. Even pregnant, the very day before I gave birth to my twins, I weighed less than when I started Weight Watchers for the first time. After the birth, the twins needed to be fed so, I supported the needs of my nursing babies. Producing milk for two takes a tremendous amount of energy, so I was free to eat without the much worry of weight gain. I even tried getting back on Weight Watchers at that time to lose the pregnancy weight, but they could not give me enough points to fuel my milk production. After the nursing was done, however, I was still very hungry all the time, and the weight started to creep back on. At this time, the needs of my twins do not dictate my caloric intake, so I am attempting to get back down to my pre baby/post weight loss weight and perhaps get even a few pounds thinner.

When I first joined Weight Watchers, I was terrified to go to a meeting, because If I saw someone I knew, then they would know I was fat. Silly right? It wasn't top secret information. Everyone knew I was overweight, it was right there for everyone to see. At my first meeting I did see several people I knew and had always admired... the last people I would have wanted to see at a meeting. I was mortified. It turned out that they were nice and encouraging and if they even cared, would have already known that I was heavy. Going to the meetings meant that I had to recognise the flaw in myself. Up until now, I had not wanted to write much about my Weight Watchers experience, because it exposes my not-so-secret secret. My friends read this blog, my family reads this blog, you read this blog. So, I have written it and now, you know.

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