Saturday, June 30, 2012

Potato Tomato Bake







Fruits and veggies are neglected from time to time in this household, so I thought I would create something that would not let potatoes and tomatoes go to waste: a potato tomato bake.

Since this was my first time making it, I anticipated making a few mistakes here and there. Here we go:

*I used six small Russet potatoes in lieu of four big ones, and three large tomatoes instead of two small ones. The small onion was more like a medium-sized one. (The recipe doesn't specify what kind of onion; we had white, so I used white.) I figured it would all balance itself out in the end.

*Knowing full well I should have used real butter, I opted to use a spread instead. The end result does not make the bake look pretty. I'll spare you the details.

*Instead of 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream, I used 1 cup whole milk.

*I did not have enough shredded cheese, and I refused to make a grocery store run just for more shredded  cheese. Believe me, it tastes better with the cheese than without!

I would probably follow the directions better the next time around. I kept eating the potatoes and tomatoes over the onions (guess I'll have to caramelize them in the future). It wasn't bad... it just wasn't great, either. Eh, I tried.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Buckhead Chili Pepper Fest

Buckhead Chili Pepper Fest - a perfect opportunity to see and do something sorta new with my friends. :o) For future reference, you don't have to purchase the tickets in advance online. I ended up spending an extra $1.50 on the processing fee thinking that the pay-at-door price was going to be higher. Nope! The pay-at-door price was exactly the same as the one advertised online. >.> I was not amused.


We arrived around 6 or 7pm. It was so humid - I immediately wanted to know where the King of Pops guy was! They have delicious homemade popsicles and are a cash-only vendor. I got the blueberry lavender which was eh. There was hardly any flavor to it; I wish I had gotten one of the peach flavors instead. Oh well.


One of us picked up a slider (not pictured), ribs (pictured), chili (not pictured), and spicy drinks (pictured)! The food menus seemed a bit disappointing on the spicy factor but the drinks were definitely unique. I only had sips of the drinks but, man those lived up to the 'spicy' name!


Later that evening, there was a chili pepper eating contest and a speed-taco-eating contest. Two of us signed up for the taco-eating contest. We had a bit of time to kill until then, so we played cornhole! It was pretty difficult because the set we found was plastic, not wood, so the bean bags kept bouncing off the board. Er, now we know! =___=" We ended the still-humid evening at Yogurberry. PERFECT!


Blueberry lavender 

The ribs were okay. I tried a bite but it didn't seem to have much flavor to it. I'm not sure whether that was an off-day for me or whether the food was really just so-so!  




Chili eating contest 

Speed-taco-eating contest 

Left to right: Taro, Georgia Peach, and Strawberries 'n Cream
I always get taro, so that's that. If I had to rate the next two, I'd favor Strawberries over Ga Peach. :o)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Varasano's

Fontina Mushroom - Mild Fontina with earthy mushrooms and herbs 

Salumi - Thinly sliced Italian cured meats with Mozzarella, tomato sauce, and spiced olives 

Caramelized Onion - Sweet onions with a sharp Emmenthaler cheese 

Margherita di Bufala - Imported Bufala Mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce, and basil 

Blueberry gelato 

Nutella pizzette - Doughnut stuffed with hazelnut and cocoa

I'd been to Varasano's last year but made a poor pizza selection. I avoided that option like the plague this time around! (Menu here.) Recently, I met up with several friends there for a birthday dinner. One side of the ginormous table comprised five people, so we decided to evenly split four pizzas and two desserts. (O_O) Yep, we had a couple of big eaters in the group, haha.

All the pizzas came out in thin slices so it doesn't feel as if you're eating a lot - this can be good or bad, depending on the person! And you do have to follow the instructions on the table about folding the slice in half length-wise to eat it. I definitely had at least one slice of each pizza. I lost count after that! I also had the pleasure of having a doughnut to myself. The description said the Nutella was inside, so I was a little dismayed to see it on the side. :o\ But I love Nutella regardless, so I wasn't upset for long. The doughnuts are a bit messy if you use your hands, so I'd recommend a knife and fork, if possible. There was a Nutella gelato option but I thought two Nutella desserts would be too much, so I suggested we get the blueberry instead. The blueberry was really refreshing, especially after all of the pizzas and doughnuts. :o)

I liked all of the pizzas we ordered for different reasons, none of which I can remember because I ate SO MUCH. Just be assured that if you order one of them, you'll be okay. :o)

Five Guys



So, this was only my second time at a Five Guys. My friend and I were attempting to get some work done at a nearby Barnes & Noble but we ended up chit-chatting the whole time. Yay, productivity! >.> Soon enough, we were starving, so we headed to this Five Guys for a cheap-o lunch. Now, I know Five Guys isn't really cheap for a burger but it was a better option than McDonald's! Plus, I hadn't been to a Five Guys in over a year.

I ordered the little cheeseburger with everything except mayo. [Random side note: I have not included mayo in my diet for at least four years now, and I don't miss it much. I'll have it from time to time, but I don't go out of my way to eat it.] I knew I couldn't finish an order of fries by myself, so my friend and I split an order. PERFECT! The regular order of fries was ginormous - too much for one person anyway. Mwah ha ha!

The burger was all right - it certainly hit the spot. But I think I was just so hungry that it almost didn't matter what kind of burger I got; I don't remember savoring it. I did like the fries though - they were salted just enough, which was refreshing because fries are normally super salty. Don't be fooled by the picture though - they were greasy to some extent.

Desta Ethiopian




Meat Lovers entree with lamb, ribeye, and filet mignon

Collard greens (L) and cabbage

Sorry for the blurriness!
Spicy split red lentil soup (L) and chickpea stew

After

Tiramisu

Baklava

This was my first time dining at Desta Ethiopian. At first I wasn't sure this was the correct restaurant because there's literally another Ethiopian restaurant 50 feet away. O_o I was only given the address, not the name, so I waited until another friend showed up to figure out which restaurant we were going to. Haha... looking back on it, I could have just called someone to confirm. >.>

Anyway! We were a small group which was perfect because the restaurant is rather small itself. We were seated pretty quickly and greeted within seconds by the waitress. I suppose we got lucky because a few tables had left before we came and, considering the size of the place, we could have waited a while. We decided to dine family-style, which was made easier with their entree selections. As long as there was meat involved, the plan was a go. :o) So, the three components of this entree are: meat; veggies; and injera. Man, there seemed to be a never-ending supply of injera! That stuff fills you up so quickly! >.<" Make sure you wash your hands before eating, hehe.

Everything tasted great. I'm pretty sure I liked the lamb best but the ribeye and filet mignon were good as well. I preferred the spicy red lentil soup that really had a kick to it - I knew I couldn't have a lot of it though, otherwise my stomach would revolt. Sadness. All the sides were pretty good as well. I know we all combined a meat and a side using a piece of injera and gobbled away. Dericious. But, like I said, the injera fills you up quickly.

Defying odds, a couple of people had room for dessert! (O_O) I took perhaps one bite of the tiramisu but I left the baklava alone. I couldn't handle any more food that night. Desta's menu is definitely good for small groups; we saw a few couples there, too. This is like a hole-in-the-wall spot that people seem to know. I'm surprised I haven't heard of it before! I'm glad a friend introduced me to this place though. I already knew about Queen of Sheba, so it's nice to have more Ethiopian options to try. :o)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Speedy Huevos Rancheros

I was hungry for something with more protein and few(er) starches, so I put on my thinking cap. I was craving something similar to huevos rancheros but (a) had limited ingredients and (b) didn't want to make a run to the grocery store to fill in the blanks on the recipe. So, I threw what I had together and improvised a version for myself. It's really simple and filling - if you end up making it, let me know how yours turns out! Recipe after pics.




1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, half drained
1 ripe avocado
2 eggs
tortilla chips (as desired)
shredded cheese (as desired)
cumin
garlic salt/garlic pepper
red pepper flakes
couple of garlic cloves (optional)

1. Bring water to boil in a pot.
2. Break eggs individually into a small bowl, and gently drop eggs from bowl into pot of boiling water. Let boil for a couple of minutes - shorter time for runny yolk; longer time for cooked yolk.
3. In a saucepan, sautee garlic cloves and diced tomatoes on med-high heat. Add cumin, garlic salt, and red pepper flakes to taste. Add black beans. Cook until majority of the water has evaporated. Remove from heat.
4. Sprinkle tortilla chips (I used only a handful of chips - you're welcome to use more) on bottom of serving plate. Add tomato-bean mix on top. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.
5. With spoon, remove poached eggs from pot and place on top of tomato-bean-cheese mix.
6. Halve one ripe avocado. "Whack" seed with knife and twist to remove. Using knife, "dice" avocado in its skin. Use a spoon to scoop out pieces onto tomato-bean-cheese mix.

Voila!

Cafe Intermezzo Lunch

Iced coffee (I almost thought it was sweet iced tea! I had to look closely, haha.)

Santa Fe Cobb Salad - Romaine lettuce topped with smoked turkey, avocado, hard-boiled egg, diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, red peppers, and feta cheese

Yep, I went to Cafe Intermezzo again! I met up with two different friends, and we chose to eat here after discovering that Eclipse di Luna was closed for the day. I cannot remember what holiday it was, but we were fortunate to have other dining options in that area!

I opted for a salad because I knew I wasn't going to have a healthy dinner that evening, haha. It looks small for an entree salad but it was more than enough. There is a specific dressing that comes with this but I cannot remember what it is. I do remember that I had forgotten to order the dressing on the side, like I usually do, so I had to ask the waiter where the dressing was. >.> It was at the bottom of the salad! And, oh my goodness, it was really GOOD. I'm ashamed I don't remember the name of it. (O_O)

Vallarta

San Jose Special - One tamale and one chili poblano served with rice, beans, and a salad

Vallarta is a family favorite. It's super affordable, close to home, and has endless margaritas. (My parents love the margaritas!) I always enjoy going because it's cheap and fast, like a hole-in-the-wall should be. They serve mostly a business crowd during lunch, so if you want something more low-key, you should go during dinner. The menu is easy to read, the owner's pretty nice. It's a small place though, just sayin'. 

Cafe Intermezzo

Spinach-Cheese Dip - Spinach with Parmesan and cream cheeses, roasted red, cayenne, and black peppers, served with crackers and/or bread



Margaret's Hope Darjeeling tea

I met up with a couple of friends at Cafe Intermezzo for tea, and we ended up getting something to eat to boot. Haha, you can't deny hunger pains! My friend suggested the spinach-cheese dip, which was super yummy. Normally, I don't eat here because the food's a bit pricey but we were splitting the tab, so it was all right. ;oD The dip is sooo delicious and a bit rich. The three of us finished it easily, though I could have been persuaded to order another one. >.> It was getting late though, so I stuck with the tea. I'm afraid I can't describe the tea all that well - I was going to rely on the menu's description only to find that it isn't really described in the menu. O_o Oops. From what I remember, it did have a nice, light flavor to it. And it was definitely decaffeinated! The French press ultimately made three cups' worth, which was nice. Sometimes the press only supplies two cups' worth, for some reason. I've yet to discover why.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Seoul to Atlanta

I had to leave at 7 am on my last day in Seoul to get to the airport on time. Do; Fortunately, there's an express train from the station closest to my hostel that runs directly to the airport! It could have been worse than 7 am. ;oP

I always have to check in at the airport counter when returning from an overseas trip. I always seem to forget that part! It was fine, particularly since I only had carry-on luggage. I swear, half the stress I get from international travel is from checking luggage. It still takes me a while to figure out where and when I need to re-check my luggage. -____-" I might only take carry-ons from now on!

I had two layovers on the return flight, one through Tokyo's Narita Airport and the other through Detroit again. I have never been to Japan, so I guess I can say I've been there, technically speaking. I had a fabulous seat assignment from Seoul to Tokyo and from Tokyo to Detroit - all thanks to my friend at Delta!

Funny story about my time in Tokyo's Narita Airport: Once I arrived in Tokyo, I made my way through security to the appropriate gate for my flight from Tokyo to Detroit. I got extremely lucky with security in two ways: (1) The line was split between economy passengers and premier passengers. The economy line was ridiculously long and comprised of older mainland Chinese tourists who surely do not travel often, so they would take longer getting through security because they are unfamiliar with the procedures. I told one of the employees that I was on a standby ticket, and he allowed me to go through the premier passenger security line, which was significantly shorter. Score! (2) When my carry-ons went through the scanner, I was stopped and asked to open my purse. The female employee specifically wanted to see my manicure set, in particular the small scissors within. OMG, these scissors were a replacement for the scissors that were confiscated from the Cairns Airport (Queensland, Australia) from last year's trip to Australia. I was relieved to see that they weren't confiscating them nor anything else from the manicure set. :oD I've never had any issues with this set going through airport security  - I take it everywhere! Cairns was the only bump in the road. I was glad I didn't have to worry about Tokyo. This manicure set was given to me by my paternal grandmother a number of years ago; she passed away earlier this year, so it has extra meaning to me now.

Another short story about my time in Tokyo's Narita Airport: I fell asleep at the gate! I didn't set an alarm or ask anyone to wake me up - I just thought I would take a short nap. O_o Fortunately, !!!!, I woke up exactly when the plane was boarding. Since I was flying standby, I needed to get a seat assignment from the gate agent. So, I hightailed it to the gate agent, got my seat assignment, and boarded. PHEW!!

One last story, this time about the in-flight food menu. So, we had a Japanese selection and a Western selection for dinner. I could not figure out which one I wanted. The Japanese selection had several interesting seafood appetizers but chicken as the main entree while the Western selection had okay-sounding appetizers with a few main entree options, one of which was red snapper. I waffled a bit and decided to order the snapper. Unfortunately, by the time I decided to place my order, the red snapper had been snapped up (pun intended). I was resigned to getting the beef tenderloin entree until my seat partner spoke up. As soon as we got situated in our seats, he was ready to knock out and go to sleep, so I was surprised to hear him say something. [To be completely honest, I had already overheard him order the snapper but with the caveat that, if he were sleeping at dinnertime, he should not be disturbed and the snapper should be given to someone else.] But, just as a reminder, I was going to go with the beef tenderloin instead. He freely offered his snapper to me, which I accepted. And, yes, he did end up sleeping through dinner service. He was an older gentleman who, I gathered, had been awake for most of his business travels, so he was in desperate need of sleep. He was also kind enough to get my luggage out of the overhead bin for me when we landed in Detroit.

The flight from Detroit to Atlanta was full, so I got bumped to the next outbound flight, which was two hours later. I was so fortunate to get on the plane; that flight allowed me to get home at a semi-decent hour. PLUS, even though I was randomly assigned an economy seat in the last row of the plane, there was no one sitting in the middle seat. Ha! Someone was watching over me throughout all my flights, I swear. So lucky!

I'm glad to be back in Atlanta! I did have jet lag on my return - it's always worse coming back from, rather than going to, my destination. I wouldn't have it any other way, really. I'm so grateful for my friend at Delta who allowed me to have the best flight experience ever! I've never felt so spoiled. :oD And an even bigger thanks to my sister for showing me around Seoul amid her hectic school schedule and without the use of a phone for communicating! I rediscovered what life was like pre-cell phone. :oD Hope you enjoyed the stories and pictures!

 Incheon Airport


Aisle seat from Seoul to Tokyo; empty window seat beside me and empty seat behind me during the flight

Dak Galbi - Roasted chicken thigh with assorted vegetables and steamed rice


New York Cheesecake with blueberry sauce 

Gate at Tokyo's Narita Airport




Window seat from Tokyo to Detroit. The seat does not lie flat but the head reclines significantly and the feet can come up.


Top: Butter (L), Cream of onion soup (R)
Bottom: Tofu spring roll and salmon 





Fresh Mesclun Salad with sweet peppers, radishes, and walnuts 


Red Snapper with tarragon cream sauce, sauteed vegetables, and penne pasta with creamed mushrooms 



Chocolate tart 

I know it's blurry. :o\ Sorry!
Spinach and feta cheese omelet with pork sausage, potato cake, and grilled tomato and seasonal fresh fruit 


Can someone please tell me how parents can afford to get these seats for their families? I'd love to know! Or maybe they have friends at Delta, too. :o)

Flying over Detroit 

At the gate in Atlanta 

International trip for the year 2012, done! :oD