Friday, April 30, 2010

Cheese Cake Factory Tostada Salada, Fish & Chips

I love Cheesecake Factory. As you may know, their menu is huge and I bet many people have hard time deciding what to have. For me, it is quite easy because I normally eat one of the three same dishes at Cheesecake factory. My absolute three favorite dishes at Cheesecake Factory is "Bang Bang Chicken & Shrimp" "Tostada Salad" and "Skirt Stake".

This time, I wanted to eat fish & chips for some reason so my husband and I ordered fish & chips and tostada salad and shared them.

Here is the photo of fish & chips

The outside was crispy and the fish was pretty thick and juicy. I really liked their fish & chips. This might rank into one of my favorite from now on.

And this is my favorite "Tostada Salada"
Normally, it comes with beans but since I am not too keen on beans I always ask them to make it without beans. I think this salad is one of the best salad I have ever eaten. The creamy cilantro dressing and the juicy grilled chicken and crispy salad leaves are the great combinations.

Their portion is super big so we always take half of the dish home and eat it next day. They were really good and I was really happy that I am able to enjoy good food :-)

During the dinner, I was telling my husband about the book I am reading right now. It is a Japanese book called "1Q84" from Haruki Murakami. I think many of you might know him since he is a pretty famous Japanese writer. I like his books and I have read many of his books before.

Sometimes what he writes are very mysterious and bit confusing. This book consist of two different story  in parallel and I am still on the first book of three so I don't even know what is happening or what is going to happen. So it was quite a challenge to explain the story to him. (I guess I should have read more before I start telling about it )

The character he writes are so unique and I love them. I always wonder how he come up with all these crazy characters. I think writers are very imaginative people and whatever they see and hear inspire them to create characters. I would like to ask Mr. Murakami what inspired him to create some of the characters in this book and also in his other books :-)

So, after trying the telling the story to my husband for 30mins or so, he finally said to me that he thinks that he needs to read the book to fully understand this kind of complicated story. I agree. (I really appreciate my husband for listening to me for 30 mins even when my explanation is not quite great :-) )

I am sure that it will be translated in English. (It seems like it has not yet translated into English) And this will be interesting for me to read in English because I am curious about how they will translate some of the terms which I can not think of a good translation for it.

Anyway, when the English version is released, I will let you guys know!

Today's such a beautiful day! My plants are getting sunshines! I feel so alive today :-)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cheesy broccoli rice casserole

When I tried to make Chicken Tikka Masala the other day, I realized that I was supposed to marinade the chicken overnight so I decided to make Chicken Tikka Masala next day and made Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole on that night with the broccoli I had in the fridge.

I used the "America's test kitchen" magazine for this dish. (I used this same magazine for the cinnamon roll also) I really like this magazine becuase it is very detailed and always come out great. (so far)
The issue I bought was "best recipe 2010". If you are interested in, here is the link.

Saute onion and broccoli stem (I like that the recipe doesn't waste the stem part. )

Microwave broccoli

Add rice and chicken stock and milk and boil till rice is soft.
Add broccoli and transfer to casserole dish
Sprinkle the topping and bake in the oven until golden brown.

It was very cheesy and awesome.

By the way, it was my birthday yesterday. I thanked that I had a great life so far and wished for a healthy happy long life :-) I think birthday is a day to remember to appreciate your body and life and of course people around you and everything you have.

I received a lot of birthday wishes from my family and friends. It really made me happy. I am really a lucky person to have all those people in my life. All the nice birthday wishes made me very emotional. I have a great life because of all the people I have in my life. I appreciate everybody and everything I have. That is including all the people who read my blog and enjoys my blog :-) Thank you!

So I started my day with a Yoga class in the morning to show some respect and appreciation to my body.
My body is working hard everyday and this fact is somehow forgotten most of the time so I wanted to honor my body on this special day and give lots of appreciation :-) (does it make sense??  It is hard to explain)

About a year ago, I read a book called "the secret". I think many people know about this book because it was a bestseller. I watched a video of this recently.

For people who are not familiar about this book, this book tells you about "law of attraction" and whatever you think about will manifest to the universe and the universe will bring them to you. So if you think about whatever you want and actually feel like you already have it, then, you will get it. But if you think about something negative, the universe will think that that is what you want and you will get that also.

I think that this is somewhat true. Sometimes, good things happens one after another and bad things happens one after another and maybe we can manipulate this by thinking positive or negative.

So I am trying to think positive and trying to feel the things I want in life and enjoy my life everyday. I try to find small happiness in my life and enjoy them and appreciate them. One of the happiness in my life is eating good food and writing about it on this blog :-)

For me, it is not easy to think positive all the time because I always worry about many things but I would like to think that I am getting better at thinking positive and manifesting good vibration to the universe.

I hope everybody is enjoying life as much as I do!

It is such a nice day today. Let's think about something which makes us happy and enjoy our day!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan

I love Indian Curry. When I was living in California, I used to live with this wonderful Indian lady and she was a great cook so I was able to eat delicious Indian food all the time. Even after I moved out from her place, there are so many great Indian restaurant around so I was always eating great Indian food.

Now, there are many good Indian restaurants in NY also but there is not one really close to our place. I think the closest Indian restaurant from us is about 30mins away. I always say that we need a good Indian restaurant in my city! but until then, I make my own Indian food at home.

Anyway, the popular dish in American Indian restaurant is Chicken Tikka Masala. I am not sure if this dish is actually eaten in India but it seems like this dish is also popular in UK.

I borrowed this curry book from the library. This book have many curry dish recipes from all over the world such as India, Thai, Africa, and so on. I wanted to make Chicken Tikka Masala and I found it under the category of Britain. It seems like the origin of this dish is under discussion among many people. No matter where it is from, I love this rich creamy dish.

If you are interested in this book, here is the amazon link.

First, I marinade the chicken with some yogurt, garlic, jalapeno, ginger and so on. I had to marinade this overnight. Since I realized this when I start cooking, that night dinner quickly became something else and Chicken Tikka Masala was postponed for the next day :-) (I should learn that I need to read the whole recipe before I start cooking!!)

Since it is marinated overnight, the chicken soaks up all the flavors.
Then I grilled this. I was supposed to use a broiler but it was not grilling as I planned so I used frying pan instead. I think I should have cut the chicken bigger. Since it is well marinated, the chicken started to fall off a bit.

I mixed canned tomato, cilantro, ginger and so on in the blender and heat it up in the pan with some cream. The color of this sauce in the book was more bright orange but mine came out a bit dark. I think it might be because I add lots of cilantro.

Add the chicken and heat up. Serve with basmati rice.

Since my husband loves bread, I also made Naan. This was also in the book. (The book had a regular Naan but I added garlic and cilantro and made garlic Naans)

The dough was too soft and it was difficult to shape so the shape was not great. I added chopped garlic and cilantro on top because I had this kind of nann in Indian restaurant before and I loved them.

This is before baking

After baking

Does it look like Naan? This recipe did not have yeast in it so it was very quick bread. I personally like the one I made with yeast. I liked the texture of that one better. (Here is the link for the post for the Naan I made before with yeast)

Despite the color of Chicken Tikka Masala and the shape of Naan, the taste was great. I loved it and my husband loved it even more! It was worth spending time making this. The one thing I would change a bit next time is that I would make it little bit spicier since it was not much spicy.

Indian curry is great. It might take some time but the flavor is there. I guess in order to create this kind of big flavor, I need to spend some time. And for these delicious dishes, I have no problem spending more time in the kitchen. Actually, I love spending time in the kitchen anyway!

This book is due return soon but there are many more things I would like to try from this book. I think I will renew it and extend my due date for this book :-)

By the way, it seems like Avatar DVD is released. I watched it twice at the movie theater. If you would like to go back to the world of Pandora, here is the link to Amazon :-)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Container Garden 2010 started!

Every year, during spring season, I go to nursery and buy some plants for my front porch garden. The time has come this year also and I am excited to show you all my garden.

Mostly, I buy nursery plants which are already started to grow since it is much easier than starting from the seeds. I tried growing from the seeds but it is much more difficult, I think. This time, I bought mostly already growing plants and some seeds.

The weather was nice on Sat so it was great to feel the soil and re-plant all these vegetables and herbs. I carefully transfer those plants to my container and wait for them to grow.

This time, I had some mints. This is great when you cook middle eastern food or of course for Mojito!!

The one closer to you is Cayenne pepper and Jalapeno pepper. I love the way pepper plants look. I think they look adorable. I can use these when I cook Indian food.
The one behind them is Italian parsley. This is very useful for any kind of cooking.

Then, basil. This is also a must item since my husband and I love basil. We use them for tomato& mozzarella salad, pasta, or Thai curry. This must be a most used herb in my household. The best part is that basil is very easy to grow.

The one in front of the photo is tomato plants. We always buy tomato plants also since this is also pretty easy to grow. This time I bought a package of three different kind of tomatoes. Beefsteak tomatoes, grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.

From seeds, I will be growing Shiso (Japanese basil) and garlic chives. Those are good for some Japanese cooking. I grow shiso last year and it was a great success so I am hoping that I will be able to harvest a lot this year also. Garlic chives which I never tried growing before is very useful vegetable for making pot-sticker and so on. Normally, I would have to go to a Japanese super market in order to buy those vegetables so if I can grow them at home, this will be perfect!

My husband bought lavender and seeds of sunflower. I buy all the stuff that I can eat later and he buys flowers which smells good and look beautiful. We ran out of soil for the sunflower. We have to get more soil.

Every time I open the door, I see all those beautiful plants and this makes me feel happy. My husband loves them also and both of us were looking at the plants smirking. I am very happy to know what my husband and I have same value and we feel happiness about same things. We might be too simple to feel great happiness from those small things but I think it is great that we have hearts to find happiness in small things like this. It is important to recognize those small happiness in every day life.

Sometimes, we are too busy to see small miracles in life. I see small miracles in those plants. I highly recommend gardening for everybody. I hope your plants also makes you feel happy every day!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stuffed Mushroom recipe

I found these beautiful big Shiitake mushrooms at supermarket the other day. Since I am a mushroom lover, I couldn't just walk pass them. I had to buy them :-)

I had been thinking about what I can make with these Shiitake mushrooms. It will be great if I can use it as it is since it was big and pretty.

I decided to make stuffed mushroom. This is quite common dish in Japan. It's kind of like the stuffed peppers but with mushroom instead of peppers.

It is normally made with ground pork but I had organic ground beef in my freezer so I used ground beef instead of pork. Also, I had Shiso (Japanese basil) in the fridge so I use it also to flavor the meat. It came out really good so here is the recipe.

Stuffed Mushroom (for 2 people)
Big Shiitake Mushroom 7
Ground beef      350g (about 0.7lb)
Shiso (Japanese basil)    6~7    chopped
Onion              2 (medium size) chopped
Celery             1 rib                   chopped
Soy Sauce       2 table spoon
Oyster sauce    1 table spoon
Nutmeg           1 tea spoon
Garlic Powder   1 tea spoon
Egg                   1
Panko (bread crumbs)  2 table spoon
Corn starch       about 1/2 cup
Salt & Pepper   little bit
Water               little bit
Vegetable Oil     6 table spoon

1. Put the ground beef in a bowl and mix with chopped onion, celery and shiso. Then add soy sauce, oyster sauce, nutmeg, garlic powder, egg, bread crumbs and salt & pepper and mix well.

2. Cut the stem out from the Shiitake mushrooms and sprinkle corn starch inside of mushroom. Then, sprinkle some water.

3. Take some of the beef mixture and stuff it to inside of mushrooms.

4. Repeat this and stuff all the mushrooms. This is how it look from the side.

5. When it is done, lightly cover the stuffed mushroom with corn starch.

6. Make a slit on the outside of mushrooms.

7. Heat a pan with vegetable oil and add mushrooms, meat side down. Cover with lid and cook for 3~4 minis.

8. When one side is done, flip them over and cover with lid. Cook for about 3 min until the meat is cooked well.

9. Serve.

We had these with some tempura sauce but since the meat is already seasons, you don't really need any sauce for it.

Even my husband loved it! (He is not a big fan of mushrooms) If you find some big Shiitake mushrooms, please try this :-)

By the way, our friend told us about this website game (?) which we played a few times and had quite fun. So I would like to introduce this game to you guys. It is called Akinator and you think of some character in your head and then, the Akinator will ask you questions so you answer and the Akinator will guess whom you are thinking about.

Sometimes, it misses and does not guess it right but often times he is correct. It is just a game so it is just for fun. If you are interested, here is the link for it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Big Big Sushi Cake!

Have you ever heard of Sushi Cake? This kind of sushi cake is getting popular at Japanese household. In March, we have girls day in Japan (March 3rd) and many people eat sushi on this day. I was looking at some people's blog and some of them were making beautiful sushi cakes for their daughters on this day.

I never made sushi cake myself but I wanted to give it a try. I used ingredients which are easy to purchase in the U.S. (such as smoked salmon, avocado, imitation crab, egg and picked ginger)

Here is how I made it.  Of course, you can use whatever ingredients you like. I think the point is to make it colorful.

1. Cook sushi rice and mix with sushi vinegar and white roasted sesames.

2. Place an plastic wrap in a cake mold.

3. Spread sushi rice at the bottom of the cake mold in a thin layer.

4. Spread imitation crabs and some mayonnaise on top of the rice.

5. Spread some more sushi rice on top.

6. Place sliced avocado on top of the rice.

7. More rice on top.

8. Place thinly cooked egg slices on top and spread more rice over it.

9. Add picked ginger on top

10. Then, cover it with sliced smoked salmon.

11. Decorate with mayonnaise and lemon.

12. Cut as you cut cakes and serve.

It turned out looking pretty good but there is so much rice in it and this cake is pretty big. I think this size was little too big for 2 people.

Needless to say, we had to eat this sushi cake for a few days...

Well, my husband had never seen anything like this before so he was pretty excited. I am glad that I was able to surprise him :-)

Next time, I would like to try with smaller individual size.

The taste was good but a bit too blunt. I added some mayonnaise in between but maybe it was not enough.

The great thing about this cake is it looks pretty and you can use whatever ingredients you like if you have rice. You don't even have to make sushi rice if you don't want to. You can also use meat (such as cooked ground meat for filling). In that case, it will no be sushi cake, though. It will be a rice cake!

I hope you liked my sushi cake and hope some of you try this sometimes. It is fun dinner!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Manhattan Dinner @ TriBeCafe

It has been a while since I had dinner with my friends in Manhattan last time. So it was time again to see them and have lots of laughter. This time, we went to this new restaurant in Tribeca area called "TriBeCafe". It seems like they opened on Feb this year so it is quite new place.

The food they serve is what they call "Tokyo Casual" cuisine. It is not Japanese traditional food but more like fried minced beef, curry and different kind of pasta which you can find in Japanese western food restaurant. We call this kind of food "Yoshoku". Those food are not originally from Japan but it was arranged in a Japanese way.

Anyway, here are some of the appetizer we ordered.
Banbanji salad. It is a chicken salad with sesame dressing. Quite poplar dish in Japan. The sesame dressing was great and I like the crispy wonton on top!
And, my favorite food. French Fries! This one is quite a lot! I love it. Oh, I love French Fries so much.

Then, fish capriccio. I forgot what kind of fish this was but it tasted really fresh and I loved it!

Those appetizer were awesome!

They also have many different kind of liquor and special cocktails. I ordered Bellini and this was awesome. They use homemade peach sorbet. I had to have two Bellini :-)

It has been a few months since I met them so we just talked and talked. We were so into talking, it took a while for us to order main course. They always makes me laugh. I love having dinner with them.

After two Bellini, we finally ordered main course.

We had Menchi Katsu which is fried minced beef. This is also a popular dish in Japan.

We also ordered a few pasta dish. One was mushroom pasta which is my favorite. This is exactly I remember from Japan. It is pasta dish but the flavor is kind of Japanese because they use soy sauce. I always loved this dish when I was living in japan. I am so happy to find it in NY! I make mushroom pasta at home all the time but somehow I cannot make it the way they do at the restaurant. I want to know the secret!

Another pasta dish. Red Thai Curry Pasta. This was something new to me. I never had thai curry as pasta sauce but it was surprisingly good! It was not super curry like and it was light and tasty. I loved it!
We also had some other dishes but I don't have pictures of those. One of them was Mentaiko Pasta which is very popular pasta dish in Japan. Mentaiko is fish roe and we loved this one also. We ordered some bread to scrape off the sauce we had on the plate!

Oh, such a wonderful night I had. And I liked this restaurant. The food was really good (it reminds me of  food I used to eat in Japan) and the price was reasonable. There were quite a lot of Japanese customers there that night. I think Japanese people definitely would like this restaurant. I did. I wonder how non- Japanese people think. I will bring my husband next time :-)

If you are living in NY, try this restaurant and let me know what you think :-)

277 Church St., New York, NY 10013
(212) 343-0277

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Weekend BBQ! Skirt Stake marinated in Chimichurri sauce

On the weekend, we had a visitor and the weather was pretty nice so we decided to have BBQ! I love BBQ!

The main dish was skirt stake marinated in Chimichurri sauce. Skirt stake is one of my favorite cut of beef. I think they use this a lot in Mexican food also. I remember that when I went to Anthony Bourdain's restaurant "Les Halles" in Jan, I had skirt stake there also. 

Chimichurri sauce is from somewhere in South America (Argentine, maybe?) It is oil and vinegar base sauce with lots of parsley and garlic. When I went to a Cuban restaurant (I guess they use this sauce in Cuba also) I had stake with Chimichurri sacue. (Click here for that post) Then, when I made roasted pork, I made chimichurri sauce. (click here for that post) Then, a few days later, I was using leftover chimichurri sauce for mashed potato. (click here for that post)

Looking back at those entries, I think you can tell that I like this chimichurri sauce. Yes, I love it. It is really good and you can pour them over to many things. If you are interested in chimichurri sauce recipe, here is the recipe on Food Network website from Tyler Florence (of course!). 

I believe you are supposed to make chimichurri sauce with parsley but I had cilantro in my fridge so I used cilantro this time instead. I wanted to make it really green but since I used food processor to mix everything, the oil got milky and it was not the green I wanted. Oh well. Next time, I will use hand to mix all the ingredients.
I marinade stake in this sauce for 2 hours and them BBQed. I also took half of the sauce on the side before marinating the meat for pour them over the cooked meat.

On the side, we had arugula salad with maple syrup dressing. (please click here for maple syrup dressing recipe ) 

Garlic bread which I posted recipe yesterday. (Well, it is too easy to call it a recipe but click here for how to make it) 

American classic, Tater Tots!!!

The meat was grilled perfectly.

We also made hot dog!

And, we also ended up buying this huge coconut cream pie from Costco. It has lots of cream and very rich. Our friend said that he feels dizzy after he ate this cake. You can see how big this cream pie is when you compare it with my hand. Of course we couldn't eat them all so my husband brought it to his office next day :-)

Oh, we ate good! Did I tell you that I am trying to eat light to loose weight? Oh well. My weight is back to where I was before I go to Germany so I guess now it is OK to eat heavy food sometimes. I will eat less lunch. Does it work? Yeah, why not!

I love marinated meat. They are so juicy and tender. I am going to make perfect chimichurri sauce next time. BBQ season is here. I hope everybody is enjoying BBQ!