Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Time I Made Poutine for Labor Day


Since how else would you want to celebrate an American holiday by making an iconic Canadian snack and drinking Canadian beer?


Irony aside, remember when we were on the hunt for the best poutine in Montreal?  Well since then, we haven’t found a comparable poutine in the States.  We’ve come across some poor photocopies at some questionable diners and bars, where they use a brown gravy you’d find on meatloaf, and (gasp!) mozzarella cheese.

So when J. and I came across fresh cheese curds at the farmer’s market, we thought it would be a fun project to make poutine at home.  And by “we,” I mean, mostly me. J. did help with the eating, though.  And washing the dishes.

When we got home, I did my “research” (i.e. google search for poutine recipes), and found this recipe from the Food Network, seemed to be the most straightforward, and authentic.

And then I got to work.  First cutting up the potatoes into french fries….


(The recipe says to cut them into 1/4 inch slices.  I do not have a mandoline or the patience to do this with a knife so I cut them more into 1/2 inch slices. This yielded not as crispy fries as I would have liked.  Next time, I will cut the potatoes thinner.  Or buy a mandoline.)

And then I soaked the potatoes in cold water for a few hours.  (According to the recipe, this makes them nice and crispy.)

I went off to do some boring lawyerly work at a coffee shop. (Zzzzz….)

And came home to start making the gravy!


Here is another point where I strayed from the recipe.  The recipe says to let the gravy simmer for 20 minutes.  I found that after 20 minutes it was still very thin.  So I let it simmer for close to an hour.  Which made for a very tasty, but thick sauce that was hard to strain the peppercorns and onion bits. I also felt that it did not yield enough sauce at the end. If I were to do this again, I would probably strain the gravy after 20 minutes and then bring it back to a simmer to thicken up, but not as thick as it was this time.


What the gravy looked like after simmering for close to an hour.

While the gravy was simmering, I deep fried the potatoes in batches and drained them on paper towels….


And then fried them again for extra crispiness.


Lightly fried up some chopped up Canadian bacon.  (This was an addition that I added from the recipe).

And plated it up!


Another note for the next time is, to figure out how to keep the fries warm so that the cheese curds will become nice and melty. 

Since there will be a next time.


Because how could you not try this again?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Fifty Shades of Green


I couldn’t say no to the big zucchini.

Really, when I eyed the overgrown squashes at the farmer’s market today, I couldn’t resist them.  It was… a challenge.

I felt the heft of the green squash in my hands.  Its girth was so wide, I couldn’t even get my hand around it. 


When I approached the cashier, “I’ve never seen such a squash this size before,” I said as I paid my 85 cents for it.

The cashier was unimpressed. “We’ve had bigger,” she yawned.

When I got home, I put it on the kitchen counter, running my hands on its smooth green skin.  I wasn’t sure what to do next.

So I went on the internet, watched a few videos, and then I knew what to do….

I turned them into zucchini boats!


Yup, that’s right, I hacked it in half lengthwise, scooped out its insides, and stuffed it with leftover chicken.  (I had leftovers of this Santa Fe Crockpot Chicken from Skinny Taste in the freezer). 

Then I baked it in the oven for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Sprinkled some shredded cheddar cheese on top, and back in the oven it went for another ten minutes to melt the cheese.

And dished it up with some salsa and avocado!



Oh, and I know what you were thinking I was doing.  And quite frankly, shame on you.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

What I Learned from Blue Apron {review}



Note: I was not compensated for this review. I spent my own money to try Blue Apron for three weeks (minus a $20 coupon I found on Facebook, which was available to anyone on Facebook). 

When I first heard about Blue Apron, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea.  What it is, for those you who haven’t heard of it yet, is an online subscription service that delivers you a box all the ingredients you need to prepare three meals each week.  It comes with step-by-step instructions, complete with photos on how to cook each meal.  They have two plans to choose from – a two-person plan and a family plan.  It works out to cost about $9.99 per person, per meal. 

My initial thought was that it was a service for people who didn’t know how to cook, and I believed I already did.  So why would I pay for a service to learn how to cook?  And I can cook a decent meal at home for less than $9.99 per person.

It was actually at the tasting for our wedding reception, when the venue manager, who has a culinary degree, mentioned that he and his wife used Blue Apron.  (Oh, btw, J. and I got married last October! That’s why the blog has been on a hiatus for awhile – but more on that later.)

Now, I have no formal training in cooking. I have learned to cook mostly from watching the Food Network (back when they actually had cooking shows on it), reading a lot of food blogs and cookbooks, and a lot of trial and error. So if this guy with a culinary degree used Blue Apron, I could give it a try too.  Plus, once I went on the Blue Apron website, I saw the recipes they were offering looked really cool! There was an interesting variety of cuisines, ones that caught my eye were Indian, African, Cajun Creole, cuisines that I would never bothered to make on my own because the spices would be too hard to find. 

So with the start of the new year, and in turn, the new year’s resolutions, I found a coupon for my first two meals free on Facebook, and signed up.

I have to admit, I was actually really looking forward to the delivery. On the first night, when the delivery man rang the doorbell, I ran down the stairs to get the package.  It felt like Christmas all over again as I tore the package open.  The package was very well packed with layers of cardboard and ice packs to keep the perishable meats and vegetables fresh. I had picked the recipes that I wanted to make online, but I didn’t  look too carefully at the ingredients, so I only had a vague idea of what I was getting.   The first package had some vegetables that I didn’t even recognize at first, like jicama and lemongrass. Fortunately, all the vegetables came in a little plastic baggie with a label identifying what it was.  (Though I did feel labeling  the “carrot” might have been unnecessary.)  Since the first package had come around 7 pm, I hadn’t starting making that evening’s dinner yet.  I so intrigued by the new ingredients, I scratched whatever I had planned to make that night, so I could get started right away on the first recipe, Thai Shrimp Soup.

I found the recipe instructions to be easy really easy to follow.  Each recipe breaks down every step, right down to washing and cutting the vegetables.  It was actually a handy reminder for me to cut all the vegetables ahead of time for me, since I have a tendency to miss something, and find myself chopping a vegetable when I am already in the thick of the cooking process.  And it was great to have all the ingredients pre-measured for me, so there was no guesswork (I tend to eyeball spices and condiments rather than measure). 

Here’s what the finished product of the Thai Shrimp Soup.


Looks pretty close to the picture, right? This was the first time I had ever used lemongrass, which added a nice bright flavor.  I loved the silky smooth texture of the soup, and the bright perfectly cooked shrimp.  When I cook shrimp, I sometimes overcook it, but this time, following the directions, they came out just right.

Here’s another one that I was particularly excited to try, Chicken Mulligatawny Soup. 


I had never made Indian food before because I was always intimidated by the spices.  But having the spices shipped right to my door definitely made it more accessible.  While I liked this soup, I did find it to be a lot milder than I expected.  I guess I’ve been spoiled by all the great Indian restaurants we have here in Jersey City!

Here is another one that surprised me, Pulled Chicken Tacos.


Unlike the Chicken Mulligatawny, the tacos turned out to be a lot spicier than I expected! This recipe had a new-to-me ingredient – jicama! It was sliced and made into a salad with red onions, and brought cool crunchy contrast to the spicy tacos.

This is another one that I was really looking forward to making – “Korean-style Tteok” – what Blue Apron calls a pork “ragu” with Korean rice cakes.  What caught my eye with this recipe was like the Mulligatawny, that it was something totally different that I had never had eaten before, so it was an adventure to make it.


But one thing I did notice was like the Mulligatawny, it was spicy, but not nearly as spicy as I expected it to be, and I had used all of the gochujang, Korean chili sauce, that came in the package.

So here’s my takeaway from Blue Apron…

The pros:

  • it makes new-to-me recipes more accessible.  I never would have made Indian food or Korean food on my own because I never would have gone through the trouble to find all the ingredients.  It really got me out of my cooking rut, where it felt like I was making stir-fry every night.
  • It’s convenient – can’t get more convenient than having groceries brought to your door!
  • The meals are relatively healthy.  Plus, when you know what you’re going to cook that night, you are less likely to eat out or order in.
  • It’s cheaper than eating out or ordering in.
  • The meals are fun to make.  For me, at least, because I like to cook. Believe it or not, while I was driving home, I actually looked forward to what I was going to make that night, because each meal was a recipe I never made before.
  • I learned to cook new foods and even picked up a few pointers.  Cooking is always a learning process, and no matter how much you know, you can always learn more!

The cons:

  • The courier service they use in my area was inconsistent. When you sign up, they give you certain blocks of times that you have to choose for delivery.  The first week, we chose Wednesday from 6pm to 10pm, and it worked out fine.  For the two weeks after that we switched to Tuesday nights and had some issues with delivery.  Maybe their Tuesday night driver was different?
  • You could buy your own ingredients and make your own meals for less than $9.99 per person. (But you would probably have to buy the spices and things in much larger containers, and have a lot of obscure spices that you don’t know what to do with left)
  • You might end up with duplicates of things you already have.  Since I already have a pretty well-stocked fridge and pantry, I found that that I wouldn’t be using up things I already had. For example, limes, garlic and onion were common ingredients in the delivery boxes, which I almost always have on hand.  So I found that I was using the Blue Apron garlic and onion, but then my own lime, garlic and onion would go bad.  It’s a minor problem, but I hate to waste food, so it irked me.

Minor issues notwithstanding, I actually had a lot of fun using the service and it was a treat for me to try new recipes.  Because of the cost $60 per week, though, it would get pricey to do every single week.  Plus, I like having flexibility to cook whatever I want.  That said, going forward, I would probably order a box once a month, whenever I see an interesting recipe I want to try on the menu, or when I am in a bit of a cooking rut and want to mix things up.  Fortunately, it’s easy to skip deliveries, but you have to remember to do it at least six days advance.  What I would like to see is an option to subscribe to a once a month plan, which would fit more for my schedule and budget.

How about you?  Have you tried Blue Apron?  Would you subscribe if they had a once a month option?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Valentine’s Day Massacre




On Valentine’s Day, most couples will make reservations, eat at a fancy restaurant with a pricey pre-fixe menu, exchange a few gifts, and eat some chocolates.

But Jeremy and I are not most couples. 

This Valentine’s Day, we were assassins.


Lobster assassins that is!

Every year for Valentine’s Day, Jeremy and I opt to stay in and cook dinner together.  We plan to cook something special that we wouldn’t normally eat.  In past years, we’ve made steaks, another year it was shrimp scampi and chocolate-covered strawberries. This year, I wanted to do something a little different. As I’ve mentioned before, I am was afraid of cooking live lobster, but wanted to one day get over my fear and try it.  And what better activity to do with your significant other on Valentine’s Day?


After all, nothing says “I love you” like murdering a crustacean together. 

We actually cooked two lobsters.  I bought two lobsters, in case one did not work out, we would have a spare.  And if it turned out to be success for both, I anticipated I would not be inclined to have to share a lobster. 

So after work last Friday, I stopped at a Shop-Rite by my office to purchase said crustaceans. When the clerk pulled the first one out of the tank, it didn’t move much, which made me a little worried, but he assured me  that it was alive and plopped it on the scale.  I watched it crawl around on the scale, which confirmed to me it was still alive.  The second one put up a fight coming out of the tank, which gave me a good feeling that it would be nice and tasty.  (I read that according to lobstermen, the feisty ones are tastier).

Now, Jeremy and I had both thoroughly researched did a google search on the preparation and cooking process of lobsters.  We had some disagreements on how to kill them.  He wanted to kill them just before dropping them in the pot of boiling water – supposedly this is more humane and reduces the chance of getting splashed with boiling hot water.  But the idea of stabbing a lobster in the head with a knife skeeved me out a little.  So we opted for steaming instead because it only involves boiling an inch or two of water, and less likely to splash.  But we both agreed that we should put them in the freezer for 20 minutes before cooking them because that will cause their body temperature to drop, and they will essentially go to sleep and be easier to handle before dropping them in the pot.

So into the freezer they went.  Jeremy also had prepared a wet cloth that was soaked in salt water to use to handle the lobsters for when we took them out of the freezer. 

While the lobsters were taking their last nap, we took our biggest pot and filled it with about two inches of water, added a generous amount of sea salt, and set it to boil. 

After about 20 minutes, we took out the first lobster from the freezer. 


Hello, my pretty.

The lobster was pretty sluggish (I think this was the first lobster that came out of the tank, which was more docile to begin with).  So Jeremy held it down with the wet cloth while I snipped off the rubber bands from the claws with scissors.  I was expecting the lobster to fight back, but it actually didn’t really move much.

So into the pot it went. And 8-10 minutes later, it was done!


Once it was done, we put it on ice to stop the cooking process.

While the first lobster was cooking, we moved the second lobster into the fridge.  I was worried that, if we kept the second one in the freezer for too long, it would die in the freezer.  In retrospect, this was probably unnecessary, and only meant that the lobster had a chance to thaw before we put it into the pot, and this was the feisty one!

For the second lobster, I added to the cooking water a few sprigs of fresh thyme, two bay leaves, juice from half a lemon, and the lemon rind. We also cooked this one for about a minute less.  The second one turned out to be the tastier of the two. I think the herbs and lemon helped, as well as the shorter cooking time.  (The first one was a little overcooked).  Also, if what they say is true, the feistier ones really do taste better.


The feisty lobster is ready for its close up… and to be eaten!

For the sauce, I melted a stick of unsalted butter, with some sea salt, a few sprigs of thyme and juice from about half a lemon.  It went well with the lobster, but next time I would add less lemon since it was a bit overpowering.  We also had a lot of sauce leftover, so the entire stick of butter was probably too much.

On the side, we had steamed broccoli, which I stirred in some of the lemon butter sauce.

Overall, this was a fun couples cooking adventure to do on Valentine’s Day! We both admitted that it is a little weird to see something moving, and then later cook it and eat it.  I imagine fishers and hunters must be used to that, but it was a first for both of us.  On the plus side, the lobsters were about a pound a half each, and ended up costing about $16 each.  I recognize that they would be much cheaper in the summer time, but still $16 per person for a lobster dinner + plus sharing a fun cooking adventure = one great Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mahi Mahi with Corn and Black Bean Salsa



This was a completely improvised, but healthy and delicious meal I made tonight! When I came home tonight, I already had frozen mahi mahi filets defrosting in the fridge, but I wanted to do something a little different with it.  We also had half a can of black soy beans in the fridge, so I rummaged around the fridge and freezer to see what else I could do with this.  I had seen restaurants serve fish with corn and beans before (like at Chandler’s Crabhouse during our trip Seattle), so I whipped together this mild salsa with odds and ends I had in the fridge and steamed some broccoli to go on the side. The result is what you see here, a colorful, tasty dish!


For the fish:

  • 4 mahi mahi filets
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the salsa:

  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup corn (I used frozen which I defrosted in the microwave, but if it’s in season, fresh would be best)
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, finely chopped
  • handful of grape tomatoes, chopped (or a whole plum tomato would work nicely here too)
  • 1 Tbs grated onion
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 Tbs parsley, finely chopped
  • seasoning salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • juice from half a lime (or more to taste)


  • Substitute parsley with cilantro, if you are not cilantro-averse like me
  • Substitute bell pepper with a finely chopped jalapeno for a spicy kick
  • Some cubed avocado would be an excellent addition, but my avocado was not ripe yet


Preheat oven at 450 degrees

Prepare the fish: lightly oil a roasting pan with olive oil.  Place filets in pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle a little more olive oil on the fish.  Roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is cooking, prepare the salsa by combining ingredients into a bowl.  Set aside.

When fish is cooked, plate it and top with salsa, and an extra drizzle of lime juice.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl Recipe Ideas



Happy Groundhog’s Day/Super Bowl Sunday! For those of you who are coming to Jersey City for the big game, there’s still time to check out the guide Jeremy and I put together to watch the game here in town.

Since I’m actually not a huge football fan, my favorite part about the Super Bowl is the excuse to eat yummy party food and enjoy a few drinks with friends.  Here are some of my Super Bowl party-friendly recipes:

And here are some fun Super Bowl party recipes from around the web:

No matter which team you are rooting for tonight, I hope you all have a happy and safe Super Bowl Sunday!

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Super Bowl-Goer’s Real Guide To Downtown Jersey City (And Beyond)

Jeremy (or J. as I have called him on this blog until now) and I are proud to announce that we co-authored a guest post on our friend Kevin's blog, Inside Jersey City. Super Bowl XLVIII coming to New York has been all the buzz lately, but of course, the Seahawks and Broncos will actually be playing for the coveted ring in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  And what many people don't know is that the players are staying in hotels in Jersey City.  So Jeremy and I put together a Super Bowl-goers guide on our favorite places to eat, drink, and hang out in the beloved town we call home.

So go on over to Inside Jersey City to check it out! While you're there, check out all the tips, helpful information on local businesses, and other useful resources about Jersey City on Kevin's blog!

Special thanks to Kevin for hosting our guest post!