Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pumpkin Treat in the Summer

Last-minute, I decided to make pumpkin whoopie pies since my friend invited me to go have wine at the beach at night, and I had a can of pumpkin puree leftover from Thanksgiving sitting in my pantry. I love pumpkin so I could really eat it anytime of the year and this was no exception. These didn't really go too well with red wine, but there were no complaints from anyone since these are pretty addicting! I got the recipe that was for Libbys mini pumpkin whoopie pies, but I did make some minor changes to it. I added more cinnamon and pumpkin than the recipe calls for, and also used marscapone cheese (©©©) instead of cream cheese (therefore using less butter) and granulated sugar, since I didn't have any powdered sugar in the filling. Oh, also my whoopie pies were not "mini" ones, they were pretty much regular sized. The verdict?

So, yea, they did not turn out that perfect looking, but they did taste really good. I thought that they would rise in the oven but, instead, the cookies pretty much retained the same shape as I had scooped them onto the baking sheet (whoops!). Next time, I will have to use one of those mini ice cream scoopers for a more attractive cookie. I also was rushing while putting the filling on, so I didn't really have enough time to whip it to the consistency that I would have liked to have. Piping the filling on the cookies would have also been more attractive than piling it on with a spoon. NONEtheless! These whoopie pies turned out to be delicious, and I have to say pretty successful for the first time baking these. I will definitely make them again - simple to make, addicting to eat.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Real Japanese Food in South Florida!

I was really happy when one of my friends brought me to Hiro's Yakko-San for dinner last night. I haven't had some really good authentic Japanese food in a very long time, and this was exactly what I was looking for. Served izakaya style, these small dishes are meant to be shared - similar to having spanish tapas. The food was delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed eating at a Japanese restuarant where sushi is not the main concentration of the menu.

Here's the damage that we did for a 2-person meal:

Mixed single pickled vegetables

Dried Kawahagi - trigger fish jerky

Mixed seaweed salad (served with miso and ponzu dressings)

Takoyaki - with grilled octopus inside

Hamachi Kama - grilled yellowtail collar (SO GOOD)

Shoyu Ramen

The hamachi kama was by far my favorite and the ramen was disappointing. I cannot wait to come back and try other things on the menu!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gotta catch 'em all!

Current lip balm obsession from EOS!

(These really remind me of those Pokémon balls.)

These super-cute, conversation-starter lip balm spheres are made from all organic and natural ingredients, smell great and don't weigh you down. When you put it on, it feels almost like you don't have anything on your lips. There are currently only 4 unique flavors being sold, and I have seen them packaged in 1- or 3-packs. Honeysuckle has a sweet melon and floral scent. Summer Fruit is very tropical, and apparently has blueberry, strawberry and peach fruit extracts in it but it's hard to distinguish them from the overall fruity scent. Sweet Mint reminds me of the peppermint Burt's bees lip balm but milder in comparison and not as tingly-feeling. It also has some tiny brown flecks in it, while all the others are uniformly one color and texture. Finally, Lemon Drop smells like lemon bars and it is different from the others in that it contains SPF 15. I'm guessing for that reason, it's the only one that has an expiration date sticker on the bottom of it.

From left to right: honeysuckle, summer fruit, sweet mint, lemon drop

Each lip balm goes on colorless and work really well to wear underneath lipstick. They have really helped moisturize my dry lips and keep them smooth. My lips used to peel very often -- not anymore! I've only used the sweet mint one so far, so I'm assuming the other 3 feel the same. I highly recommend anyone to stop by their local Walgreen's and pick one up to try (although they are usually placed in the most unexpected places so they are bit difficult to find sometimes)! I also picked up one of their shave creams, but haven't used it yet. Based on how much I like these lip balms, I bet I will love their shaving cream just as much.

Aren't they so cute?! Yes, they are a little bulky to carry around,
but they're really easy to find in your purse.
You can see how much of the sweet mint I've used up already, compared to the other perfectly round spheres that have not been used yet.
It will be interesting to see what happens once I use half of the sphere up.

Can't wait to see if/when EOS will add more flavors to their collection!


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Birthday Luxe

Are true foodies supposed to avoid chain-restaurants? Is that an unspoken rule?
What about when you are desperately in need of a place to go to for your 20-something birthday?

It was either Cheesecake Factory or Grand Luxe Cafe, both just happened to be owned by Cheesecake Factory Inc., who has been reporting increases in 1st and 2nd quarterly earnings for this year.
Sounds like people still like their cheesecake...
(And guess who had cheesecake for breakfast this morning?)
So how did I pick between the two? Simple.
The last and only time I went to Cheesecake Factory I couldn't even see my food. They must really dim the lights so your brain wouldn't even register the fact that you're eating fried cheese and a gazillion calories. Don't be surprised if you walk out 200 lbs heavier. And the fact that my dad refused to eat in a mall also helped...

So Grand Luxe it is!

Grand Luxe is known for their Klimt's golden phase decorations that prompted "oohs" and "aahs" from my parents. Yeah, ever notice that the restaurant was one colored? A muted gold with serpentine patterns and Chihuly inspired lamps that is suppose to evoke this "luxe" atmosphere. Whoever designed this restaurant must be earning the big bucks.

I was sorta BLAH about it, since I've been to the one in Chicago overlooking Michigan Ave. And this one was the same, except there was no second floor. Darn, land here is cheap!

My PREVIOUS impressions of this restaurant was that the decoration definitely took away from the quality of the food. In other words, the grandeur of the place made you think that your dinner actually tasted better when in fact it was just "okay" American-fusion cuisine.

But as you get older and wiser, your preferences also change. So it is only appropriate that my views of this restaurant changed on my birthday.

Here's what I chomped on:

Mediterranean Mahi Mahi: two filets of grilled Mahi Mahi plopped onto golden mashed potatoes in a caper, fresh tomato and sun dried tomato sauce with some pesto drizzled on top.

My birthday cake: molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. I waited 30 min for this baby and it was well worth it!

I must say, maybe it was my birthday and I was happy but this meal tasted better than the 5 other times I've been there. Perhaps the Chicago one is not as good?
(Ruh-oh looks like Cheesecake Factory Inc. has some quality issues that they need to worry about...)

But I think it's about ordering the right thing.
My friend and my fellow blogging partner, J, suggested that I order the Mahi Mahi...
I was skeptical...Mahi Mahi tasting good? Are you serious?
I've never really understood this fish because it basically tries to be a piece of steak and I hate it when some form of protein tries be someone

But this fish was special. The acidity from the double dose of tomatoes and capers made the fish more fish-like, light, but just enough to fill you up for the rest of the day.
It was rich and delicious. I ate it ALL! My dad stole most of my potatoes, he was addicted to that thing!

And let's just take a minute and rejoice in the fact that Grand Luxe serves Sourdough bread with their meals...let's just take a minute here...

The service was exceptional. I didn't remember Grand Luxe having such great servers...
Jill props to you! You are awesome and it was one of the best experiences I've had at a restaurant, it's like she knew it was my birthday without me telling her so.

Do I even need to mention molten chocolate cake? It's basically good anywhere as long as it "molts". And it molted alright. The above picture was me in action! Gone in 5 min...

So my advice? Next time you are going to Grand Luxe don't order the usual big salad bowls, let's just admit that there's nothing special in those...Go Luxe and order some Mahi Mahi.
I think this might become a birthday tradition. :)


JUICE: Watermelon + Cucumber

Today, I wanted to make something refreshing to drink, and I've been noticing some other blog posts on this juice so I decided to give it a shot. It was pretty delicious! The ratio of watermelon to cucumber juice was off, too much watermelon juice. Nevertheless, it was worth it and I'm definitely going to try making it again! There weren't any lemons/limes in the house so next time I will add some of those, it would probably be a nice addition. I also need a finer strainer or some cheesecloth as some tiny bits still went through the strainer into the juice and made it grainy.

How beautiful is this green cucumber juice?? I tasted this alone, and it would work nicely just diluted in some water or as an agua fresca, blended with some ice.

Straining the watermelon juice - there was surprisingly not that much pulp from the watermelon, we had a really juicy and ripe one, so that probably helped.

Before mixing!

The finished product. Haha, it pretty much just looks like watermelon juice. I was expecting the color to be a bit muddy, mixing pink and green together but the watermelon juice definitely overpowered the overall color of the juice. Next time I'll add some lime juice and mint to make it even more refreshing :)