Tuesday, December 3, 2013

12 Days of Polvoron: Small Batch Polvoron

To celebrate the Philippines this holiday season (and bring attention to the continued need for typhoon relief), I'm doing 12 days of polvoron.  

I thought I'd start with the basic recipe I will be using, a small batch version.   Most recipes for polvoron make large batches, which can be great for families and sharing, but what if you just want a few?

Easy!  Polvoron is simple to scale down into a small batch.  It makes about a dozen, which is good for a family snack, or just one person, if you can eat as much polvoron as I can in one sitting.  And it doesn't take very long - the longest part is toasting the flour, and that's like 5 minutes.

Small Batch Polvoron

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered milk (full fat is better than non fat, if you can find it)
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)

  1. Toast the flour on a dry skillet or saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned. 
  2. Mix the flour with the powdered milk, sugar, and salt. 
  3. Pour in the melted butter a little at a time, mixing with a spoon until it starts to clump and resemble damp sand.   
  4. Pack it firmly in the polvoron mold.  Refrigerate to harden it a bit if you feel like it.  Wrap it up in tissue paper if you feel like it.  Or just eat it straight up.  

12 Days of Polvoron

It's #GivingTuesday!  Following the crazy consumerism of Black Friday through Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is an effort to bring everyone together for a national day of giving.  

This year, the cause I will be supporting is much more personal.  My parents were in the Philippines at the time of Typhoon Haiyan, and flew out of the typhoon danger zone to safety just before all flights were cancelled.  

Not so lucky were the many people in my family's hometown of Sigma, a small, rural community in the province of Capiz.  As in many parts of the Philippines, the typhoon caused significant damage and destruction there.  Especially hard hit was the local elementary school - Ponsaran Elementary, named for my grandfather.

Right before the typhoon, my parents were in Sigma to help build a fence around the Eleodoro J. Ponsaran Elementary School, which has 120 students.  But Typhoon Haiyan not only destroyed the fence - it also destroyed much of the school building itself, including the entire roof.  Because of the extensive damage, the government is considering closing the school, instead of repairing it.  This will require the children to walk 7 kilometers to another school, in an area that is rural and mountainous.

The teachers and parents want to reconstruct the school. Local residents have volunteered to provide the labor.  They just need the construction materials to repair the roof and rebuild the walls.

To help, my family has started a fundraiser to supply the people of Sigma with the tools and materials necessary to help them to rebuild their town.  The funds will be used to purchase locally-sourced lumber and construction materials to repair damage to the school.  It will also be used for tents for temporary shelter, and to repair or construct new homes. 

So for this Giving Tuesday, I hope you will consider a contribution to the Rebuilding Sigma Fund as well.

12 Days of Polvoron Challenge!

And, to continue celebrating the Philippines this holiday season, I'm going to do 12 days of polvoron over the next month.

Polvoron is a kind of shortbread treat, a butter-heavy, milk sweet that is popular in the Philippines, particularly around the holidays.  I've posted about it a couple times already, but this time, this month, I'm going to try to come up with 12 different variations.

I've really only stuck to the basic recipe before, so I'm not really sure what I'm going to come up, or how it's going to turn out.  Me experimenting in the kitchen has the potential for really epic failure.  I'm not, by any means, a polvoron pro.  So if you have suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It Has Been Decided in Your Favor!

For years and years, I have had an alert set up on ebay to let me know when a swami napkin dispenser is listed.  What's a swami napkin dispenser?  It's the best way I could think of describe this:

Yes, it's William Shatner!  With a mysterious fortune-telling napkin dispenser at a diner in Ohio, where his car has broken down!   Does the mystic seer really know all?   Is William Shatner crazy?    Will they ever leave?

The Twilight Zone episode is called "Nick of Time", and it's a wonderful episode.  Annd Twilight Zone Shatner is my very favorite Shatner.

So naturally I've always wanted a creepy, devil-headed napkin dispenser of my very own, so I can ask it fearfully every day if this is the day I leave Ohio.

Anyway, sometimes such an item appears on eBay, but they're always rusty and cost $200, so I am pretty excited that ThinkGeek now sells these color-changing glasses featuring the ominous mystic seer for $20:

I think I'll take my beer with a moral lesson about controlling one's destiny and giving away your power to make your own choices.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Olive OIl

This sale showed up in my email, and it took me a minute to wonder ... wait, is that just olive oil?

Why yes, it is.

The moisturizer is called olive virgin oil, I guess so you think it's something different from what you have been using to cook with, and which I'm presuming you are not paying $33 (on sale!) for 1 ounce.

That being said, olive oil does make a perfectly nice moisturizer, although if we're sticking strictly to the kitchen cabinet, I prefer coconut oil myself.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Salting Eggplant

Salting has become a non-negotiable step in my eggplant preparation.  A liberal dusting of salt and an hour in a strainer to let the bitterness ooze out and a rinse has made roasted eggplant a far more tolerable dish.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Foodgoat tried his hand at making his own quesa-rito, the super secret menu item from Chipotle.

That's a burrito made from a quesadilla, and yes, it's awesome.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


I'm having a bad day.  The government has shut down, because ... well, no good reason, really.  I was kind of disappointed with Darkness at Pemberley (though to be fair, it was still a lot better than Inferno).  And now David Tennant is running around looking like this:


I need a pun joke to cheer me up. 

Or cassata cake from Corbo's (did you know it comes in 10 different sizes?)!! 

Or the new Hobbit trailer!!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cherry Amaretto

Last year, I went a little crazy during cherry season, and so when faced with one last, large bag of cherries I did the only rational thing and soaked them in amaretto in a jar in the fridge.

A few months after that, I strained out the cherries, and put the now bright red liqueur back in the jar in the fridge.

A year later, I am still taking the occasional sips of bright red, incredibly sweet, intensely flavored cherry infused amaretto on those times when I can't decide if I want candy or I want alcohol.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On Deciding Whether I Should Cook with Coke

The other day, we got some fast food, which included what seemed to be unusually large fountain drinks.  So large that we didn't come close to finishing it.  And because I sometimes have these irrational hoarder tendencies, I saved the leftover Coke.   It was almost a quart!

Of course, one doesn't drink leftover flat Coke.  So I wondered if if I could cook with it.  And the Internet said I could!

The Coke website, as it turns out, has a whole section of recipes that uses Coke or other soft drinks.  And there's this Cooking with Coke site. I had no idea you could incorporate soft drinks into your appetizers, side dishes, AND main courses!  Not to mention desserts!  

I had almost settled on the Coca-Cola cherry salad (it also calls for a tub of whipped topping!) when I started to ask myself some questions. 

Do I even like the taste of Coke?  
  •  Answer:  Actually, not really.  I like cold Coke on a hot day, but I kind of like anything cold and fizzy and sweet on a hot day.
Do I need anything contained in Coke?
  • Answer: No, it is loaded with high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, and a whole lot of other chemicals that are not only nutritionally empty but potentially harmful.
But the question that really made a difference to me:

Didn't the Coke come with ice?  
  • Answer: Yes, it did, and fast food ice machines are notoriously filthy.  FILTHY.  Those ice machines and soda fountain nozzles are rarely cleaned correctly. 
I decided that this was going down the path of madness, and so I dumped the leftover Coke and didn't cook anything with it.  And just thinking about Coke so much made me wish I didn't drink it in the first place.  

But  I'm bookmarking that Coca-Cola Rice recipe, for future reference. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My First Potato Crop

This year, I decided to grow potatoes.  I got myself some organic German Butterball seed potatoes, a Smart Pot, and a big bag of soil, and crossed my fingers.

It grew well, until I went on vacation in July, and came home to a potato plant that looked like it had been trampled by the deer. It was still alive, but never quite recovered the thriving look it once had.  

So last week we just dug it all up to see if there was anything there.  

There was, but so tiny!  The entire crop fit into one bowl, and all the potatoes were the size of cherry tomatoes. 

I was so disappointed.

But then Foodgoat decided to make mashed potatoes out of them. 

We tasted the potatoes just after boiling them, and my friends, it was the BEST POTATO I HAVE EVER TASTED.

It was incredibly flavorful.  I don't normally think of potatoes as having a pronounced flavor - I usually think of them, frankly, as a carrier for other flavors, like sour cream or cheese or bacon - but this potato was truly delicious.  I had no idea potatoes could taste like that. 

And when Foodgoat finished turning them into mashed potatoes, it was the best mashed potatoes I've ever had. 

So yes, next year, I'll be growing potatoes again.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Corn Stock

We finished up the last of the corn from our CSA.  Last year, there was so much I ended up freezing a lot of it; this year, we just ate it all.  All except the ones that had caterpillars inside.  2013 was the year I learned to always check the corn for caterpillars.

I did, however, freeze some of the corn cobs after the corn had been cut off.   Why?  To make corn stock!  

This is the part where Foodgoat rolls his eyes, because no vegetable stock can hold a candle to homemade chicken stock, and because I am taking up limited freezer space with something he would thrown away.

But corn stock is so easy it seems a shame not to get that extra use out of corn cobs. 

All you do is put corn cobs in a pot of water and simmer it for an hour or so along with whatever you have on hand, like carrots or celery or parsley or peppercorns or bay leaves.  You can use the mild, light stock for corn dished like corn chowder to get that extra corny flavor, or wherever you might use vegetable broth, like soup or rice, or you can make corn cob jelly.

And now that you've eked out two uses from the corn cobs, you can throw them out.  Or you can compost them.  Or you save them for next year's garden, to see if an old corn cob really does act like a sponge when placed underneath a tomato plant to help it grow.  Hmmmm.

Only in Cleveland

... would the grocery store have an aisle dedicated to pierogies.

I never even heard of pierogies when I lived in California.  

Of course, trying to find wonton wrappers in a Cleveland grocery store is a whole other thing.  

Lessons in Root Beer

Here's what we learned from making root beer a few weeks ago:

Lesson #1:  Pony bottles are adorable.  (Yes, I knew that already, but it's worth repeating and putting in bold.)

Lesson #2:  If you are going to replace the white sugar in the recipe with brown sugar, please measure brown sugar correctly.  The correct way to measure brown sugar is to pack it.  What happens when you don't pack it?  You end up with less sugar, and a root beer that is not nearly sweet enough.

Lesson #3.  Don't use champagne yeast.  Yes, the old-timey root beer recipes often call for champagne yeast to create the carbonation.  The problem with champagne yeast is that it can live at very high pressures and your root beer can continue carbonating far more, and far more quickly than you need it too.  Even after refrigerating, our root beer continued to carbonate, to the point where we wanted to finish up the batch sooner rather than later, or risk another terrifying episode of exploding glass bottles.  Next time, ale yeast. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Much I Spend on Alcohol & Bars

I got this analysis of my spending today:
Historically I have spent $3 a month on alcohol and bars, but the program helpfully suggested that I budget $10 a month. 

I presume that Foodgoat is more than making up the difference between my spending and the U.S. average of about $90 a month.

Fortunately there was no analysis of my monthly expenditure on juice boxes, because I suspect that would be mortifying.  

Football Started!

Football season has started! 

The dish of the season is nachos, and so far one big bag of tortilla chips from Costco has lasted three games.  But I have yet to try and make the cheese sauce from scratch.  So yes, I bought canned cheese sauce.  Because that is exactly what they serve at the stadium.   I was trying to be authentic, you see. 

The four year old did not believe me, though, and insisted that we had to go buy, you know, real cheese.  When I didn't listen she yelled, "Daddy, Mommy thinks cheese comes from a can!"

Well, kid, you are not going to like this, but Mommy also thinks corned beef, ham, and tiny sausages from a can. 

The canned cheese sauce turned out to be fine.  Although yesterday we went with jarred cheese sauce instead.  So real homemade cheese sauce may be coming up soon.  Especially since we are still working on that one bag of tortilla chips.

By the way, DJroomba made Game of Thrones sigils for all the NFL teams, and I have to say, I love the ones for the Browns and the 49ers:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

One of My Favorite Thing to Freeze: Bananas

Sometimes there is just one last banana is left, rapidly approaching over ripeness. Sometimes your kid says she wants a banana, then changes her mind after you've already peeled it. Or she changes her mind after one bite, leaving you with an impulse to talk to your toddler about the lifelong importance of FOLLOW THROUGH as well as an almost whole banana.  A banana that seems too much to throw away, but not enough to make banana bread out of.

I like to eat bananas, but I do not like to eat them under duress.  I do not want to feel forced to eat a banana just to avoid fruit flies and wasting $0.59 a pound.

Add caption

So it was a revelation to find out you can freeze bananas.  You can freeze them sliced (like if you use them for smoothies), but I just like to freeze them whole so you know exactly how many bananas I have.  You can freeze them with the peel still on, but I found it gross and slimy to try to peel it once it starts to thaw, so I freeze it peeled.  I don't even label it in the freezer bag, because it's pretty obvious that it's a frozen banana.  

Then when two or three have accumulated, I make banana muffins.  I take them out, leave them out for a few minutes, then mash them out.  When they thaw, they get mushy all by themselves, so the longer you let them thaw, the easier it is.  They also turn a weird and unappetizing brown, but it doesn't seem to make any difference in the muffins, taste-wise.

And so now, bananas are not wasted nearly as much as before, so I can buy bananas with abandon.  

I will still have that talk about follow-through with the kids though.  

Richard Simmons

I saved this screenshot of last week's New York Times so that any time I want to look at Richond Simmons in drag wearing a Medusa wig, I can.

I started to look up recipes by Richard Simmons, since he has had a few cookbooks out, but food isn't really his thing, and besides, in the recent Grantland profile I found this quote:

Winifred Morice, a nutritionist who worked for Simmons for 16 years, said, "The first cookbook I gave to Richard to look at just before it went to press, and he made one change. I'd written, 'Recipes developed by Winifred Morice.' He put, 'Recipes developed by Richard Simmons and Winifred Morice.'"

As Morice admits, Simmons made up for it with unrestrained benevolence.
In any case, let's all be thankful that Richard Simmons does not have a show on the Food Network.  That would just be too much. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How Kids Eat Lucky Charms

I realize now that sometimes you just shouldn't ask kids for their opinion.  For example, "What cereal do you want?" is a poorly constructed question.  Because the answer I got was "This one!  It has RAINBOWS!!"
I love sweet cereal but Lucky Charms has always seemed completely unappealing because marshmallows should not be shaped and colored to look like anything.  Marshmallows exists only to be melted with butter and used to bind Rice Krispies together.  Oh, and that Lucky Charms leprechaun guy was super annoying in the commercials.  But having offered to get them the cereal of their choice, I was bound to the Lucky Charms.

And here is what happened:

They ate ONLY the fake colored marshmallow rainbows.  The part that actually looked like cereal is the part they left behind.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Quail Eggs

Because they are a delicacy in many parts of the world, I assumed that my kids would treat the quail eggs as such, approaching the miniature, speckled colored eggs with trepidation and hesitation.  

But no, they just yelled, "Tiny eggs!" and gobbled up the ten hard boiled eggs in about 90 seconds.

In taste and nutritional profile, quail eggs are about the same as chicken eggs.  In size, as you can see, they are about one fourth the size of chicken eggs.  In cooking time, they take about half the time of chicken eggs.  In cuteness, though, quail eggs are at least 20% cuter than chicken eggs.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wendy's Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger

The Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger was the best-testing product in Wendy's history.  Apparently one of the test markets was Cleveland.  And it's now on track to become Wendy's best-selling new product in a decade.

Of course we had to try it!

And it is, in fact, a really good fast food cheeseburger.  The hand cut pretzel bun (no two buns are going to be alike!) makes a difference - more substantial and more flavorful than a regular bun, it wasn't just a holder for the meat and cheese and the bacon and the cheese, but a legitimate part of the whole burger package. 

Now that I think of it, the hamburger patty is actually interesting part of a cheeseburger in general.  The cheese, the bacon, the red onions, the bread ... those are much tastier to me than the ground beef patty.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Re-Growing Greens

As you can see, if you just put the cut end of bok choy (or lettuce, or celery) in a bowl of water for a week, the leaves will regrow.  Then you can plant it outside, to get even more tasty greens, unless of course you have a yard that is overrun with thieving varmints, in which case you don't even want to bother trying it for the fourth time that year.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reviving Yeast

Foodgoat found four vials of brewer's yeast in the back of the fridge that had been there for three years and was able to coax them back into viability.  He was even able to use the corn syrup that I didn't know what to do with.  

A Little Bit of Tiki Room in Cleveland

One of my favorite attractions at Disneyland is the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland.  You know, the show with singing animatronic tropical birds?   The wait time is never more than 10 minutes, it's cool and dark inside, you can sit down, and these robotic birds are just singing to you.    It's wonderful.

But it wasn't until last month that I tried another popular feature of the Tiki Room - the Dole Whip.  Outside the entrance to the Tiki Room (which has been sponsored for decades by Dole) is the Tiki Juice Bar, which serves, along with Dole Pineapple Juice and Dole Pineapple Floats, the Dole Whip, a pineapple soft serve ice cream.  It's one of the most popular treats in Disneyland, like churros and the mint julep. 
If you want to be served quickly though, order from the side of the stand that is outside the entrance, NOT the side that is inside the Tiki Room waiting area like these people.  Trust me.

The Dole Whip is light and sweet and pineappley, and a nice change of pace from the usual concession stand options. 

But now I find I don't have to go all the way to Disneyland for a Dole Whip. 

Because Dairy King has them too!

And at half the price!

Disneyland also did not mention that they are apparently lactose-free, fat-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and vegan.  Which is good, because normally such a list of attributes would make me think it's taste-free.  But it's not sugar-free, so there you go!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Fried Rice Ball Redemption

I am still not used to the idea of the Cleveland Plain Dealer only printing 3 days of the week.  It just does not seem right to drink my morning coffee while sitting with my iPad.  There is something much more satisfying about holding the newspaper right in your hands.

Last Wednesday Foodgoat noticed this article:

He had never heard of arancini, or Sicilian fried rice balls, before.  His grandfather is from Sicily, but Foodgoat doesn't remember him making them.

But he was inspired.  The next day, he and his capable kitchen assistant got to work.

He had no recipe - the Plain Dealer didn't include one - just a general idea that he would make them the way he makes breaded pork.  And that he would use up things that had accumulated in the fridge.  Hence, the leftover sushi rice (which I didn't use because it had been overly seasoned) was mixed with a shredded lone zucchini and stuffed with the last of the fresh mozzarella.  They were breaded with egg and flour and bread crumbs and parsley and fried in olive oil.

They also made a pasta sauce of a collection of various tomatoes, peppers, and some capicola.  Everything was topped with Parmesan, naturally.

The result was so, so delicious.  The breaded crust was crunchy, the rice (which didn't taste too vinegary anymore) and cheese insides were creamy and rich.  Together with the sauce, it was an unexpected and satisfying dinner.  

And as it turned out, arancini was a dish that Foodgoat's grandfather did in fact know about.  And he did try to make it.  He tried many times.  Many, many times.  And to his great frustration, it never worked.  The rice balls never held together - they always fell apart.  

It was not until years later that Foodgoat's mother figured out why - it was his use of Uncle Ben's rice, a long grain rice that advertises itself as not being sticky at all, that probably doomed the rice balls.  Since we used sticky shorter grain rice that was originally made for sushi, Foodgoat's rice balls had no problems with structural integrity.

I feel like that familial loose thread has now been nicely tied up.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Because It Seems Such a Shame to Waste Gravy

In case you have ever wondered, shrimp chips in leftover gravy from pork and dumplings tastes just fine.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

How to End a Border Dispute

So, earlier this week there was a face off between Indian and Chinese troops.  Apparently this happens sometimes, where India and China have different perceptions of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China, so both sides have patrols to their monitor their respective positions.

This particular face off ended nicely.  The Indian troops gave the Chinese troops a pack of rasgullas, soft, spongy balls of cottage cheese soaked in chilled sugar syrup.  The Chinese troops gave the Indian troops beer.

At first I thought the Indian troops won, but it turns out the beer was Budweiser, so now I think the Chinese troops got the better let's-not-start-a-war token.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Today's Groupon is a Failgate

Today's Groupon email started off promisingly enough, and appropriate since I was planning a night home watching the Cleveland Browns preseason game ...

 oooh, a patio oven!

But then came this:

Which I don't even understand.  You put your beer in a plastic cup that looks like an upside down beer bottle? 

And it's for girls night out why?

And then there was this:

At first I thought this was aimed towards women too, which is kind of offensive.  Even though I can't exactly remember what the wildcat formation is, or recognize the prevent defense when I see it. 

Anyway, it turns out this course is more for understanding football for work and networking situations.  Which is not a bad reason.  But the website for the course did make me laugh:

When they explain that it's a video course:

When you have to ask yourself if this course is for you:
When they describe what you'll learn:

 I'll stick with the oven ... actually, wait, can't you just make a pizza on any old grill?  One that doesn't cost $350?  And can cook other things too?

No Groupon purchases today.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Freshly Made Pasta

Once in a while, I wonder if I should try a gluten free diet like everyone else, but I think, OMG PASTA THOUGH.

Especially if Foodgoat makes fresh pasta again.  I forgot how different fresh pasta could be from dried pasta, and how yummy.