Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Not Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

Today I bought myself a snack.  Two of my very favorite things, licorice and chocolate, combined to make one treat.  It sounded very promising!


My instinct was very wrong.  Chocolate coated licorice is NOT greater than the sum of its parts. 

I ate one piece and hated it, the flavor was too sweet and very strong.  It tasted a little bit like a chocolate covered cherry, but in a very bad way.  I ate just one more piece to see if I could get used to it.  No, not at all.

I asked 5 people in my office if they wanted to try.  4 of them looked at me like I was crazy!  Why did they know it would be gross and I thought I'd love it?  1 person tried it.  She took the smallest bite I've ever seen, then said "it's very strong!"  I assured her I wouldn't be mad if she threw it away, and that's exactly what she did.

I don't like to waste food.  After this lovely description - does anyone want a bag of chocolate coated licorice?  There are only 3 pieces missing!

I was going to take a picture of the actual candies, but they look like... you can use your imagination!  That's why they used an illustration to make them look so cute on the front.  Maybe that should have been my warning!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Benihana Birthday Party!

My good friend Chris turned 25 this weekend.  On Friday night he thought he was going to Benihana with his roommates, but when he showed up ALL of our friends were there!  We filled up 2 entire tables, what a great surprise!

Honestly, who doesn't love hibachi?  I remember how excited we were in 8th grade when we whole class got to go to Benihana and I'm 99% sure that I still have the Buddha mug to prove that I went.  (Now that's silly - getting a Buddha souvenir on a Catholic School field trip!)  People love Benihana in Pennsylvania and even here in Hawaii, where you can get good Japanese food on every block!

As expected, there were lots of veggies and the onions were stacked up like volcanoes.  That's even funnier in Hawaii!  Our chef was clearly not too happy and didn't care to show off so our volcano eruption was mediocre.

I snuck a picture of some of the food waiting to be cooked: noodles, shrimp, sauce, and veggies.

Tons of minced garlic, eggs, and veggies for the fried rice.

Benihana's famous garlic fried rice, sure to keep the Cullens and the Volturi away!

Scallops, lobster, and calamari - yum!  Who says you can't have more than one fish in the sea?

Jumbo shrimp and several steaks.  Of course, I was made fun of for ordering mine medium well.  Does anyone else prefer their steak actually cooked?!

The grand finale - green tea ice cream!

Happy Birthday, Chris!  We hope you enjoyed it.

Next year, we're going somewhere cheaper! With love, your friends :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pley-time with Yelp

Well, I am now officially an Elite Yelper!  I'd let you know that they asked me to be elite, but never told you that it was made official, which it was :)  I have the cute little '11 Elite tag on my Yelp page and I consummated the relationship this weekend by going to my first event as an Elite :)  The event was Come Pley with Yelp at the Children's Discovery Center.  Isn't the paint just screaming "this place is somuchfun"!? 

The crazy part is that it used to be an incinerator!  You'd never know it used to be something so yucky.

The place was filled with Yelp Elites (adults only) ready to "Pley" like kids, but eat and drink like grown ups!  First we enjoyed yummy lettuce wraps from P.F. Changs, one of my favorites.

These lovely fried delights are from Paul's Poppers.  Look at all that oil!

The 2 varieties we tried were pork, jalapeno, and cheddar and spinach and artichoke with Parmesan and mozzarella.  You know how I feel about peppers of all sorts, so Bryce got the pork & jalapeno one to himself and he loved it!  The spinach and artichoke was delicious by both of our standards.

A place called Tower 10 was there.  I'd never heard of it before and just found out today that it's not open yet!  They served these 2 dishes: a deconstructed Elvis [banana custard, puff pastry, moussey peanut butter, and bacon] and seared ahi tacos.  I took only one bite of the taco and don't remember what the hell it tasted like because I was so excited about the Elvis. 

I put on my blue suede shoes and jailhouse ROCKED the Elvis.  Did I give Bryce a bite?  I don't remember or care, really.  Bryce are you reading this?  I don't have to share, I'm an only child and you're not the boss of me!  Back to Elvis - it was heavenly.  The light and fluffy puff pastry and the cool banana custard complimented each other perfectly in my first bite.  It got even better when I got the full experience with the creamy peanut butter fluffiness and savory, crispy bacon!  The Elvis get the award for best thing I ate all night.  The King is ready for his close up.

Camille's on Wheels, a popular food truck, served these delicious little Thai chicken tacos.

Camille's other offering was their famous (on Yelp, at least) Mango Pie.  I'd been meaning to try this for months and it certainly lived up to all the hype, although the pieces were quite small!  I must secure a whole slice pie for myself.

Fairy Cakes was appropriately stationed in a little, magical playhouse.  They served tiny little desserts through a window.

This "fruit sushi" was a surprisingly great bite!  It consisted of grapes and pineapple topped with lychee, yum!

So we ate, and we ate, and we drank, too.  I blame the lack of drink photos on my hands being entirely too full!  We also got to PLEY (which is Yelp spelled backwards if you haven't yet figured that one out) throughout the Children's Discovery Center with no kids in the way to stop us!

Bryce cheated on his height measurement in the doctor's office!  I wish I was a little bit taller...

We got in touch with our reggae and Asian roots, mon!

My personal favorite part of the night was getting my face painted with a beautiful, glittery, magical design!  I didn't have to beg my Mom or spend any of my allowance money, either :)

We had far too much fun in the reading room with the giant chair.  Check out my reading material!

Leave it up to Bryce to incorporate sports when he should be reading!

We got quite carried away while on the clock at the market!  Bryce's apron was made for a toddler, by the way.

It wasn't all fun and games - Bryce learned all about the importance of fighting fires with a trustworthy companion!

The event was AMAZING!  I knew being an Elite Yelper was going to be awesome and this night was a very good start.  In all seriousness, it wasn't all fun and games, free food and drinks - Yelpers were encouraged do donate to the Children's Discovery Center and I hope they raised a mint!  It's a great place for kids to learn and grow, and for adults to party and PLEY at during after hours!

Stay tuned for many more great Yelp events!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Anniversary #3

On August 14, 2008, I went on my first real "grown up" date - which meant dinner at a nice restaurant and drinks (legally).  [Remember, I was only 22 and fresh out of college at the time!]  Bryce and I had met a couple weeks earlier and he asked to take me to dinner.  Ummmm yes please, cute guy!  He chose the restaurant, Uncle Bo's.  I asked the girls at my office if they knew the place.  They did and they warned me: "It looks like a chicken shack from the front, but don't be scared it's really nice inside!"  That statement couldn't be more true.  The restaurant is located right on a busy street and is painted yellow and red, yuck!  Inside it's very classy, trendy, and fun :)  It's nothing like a chicken shack.

The first date was great, thankfully!  Now here we are, just one day shy of 3 years later!  We decided to celebrate year #3 with another dinner at Uncle Bo's last night.  We enjoyed drinks, pupus (appetizers), and dessert!  

I never had escargot before and decided that it was time to snack on snails!  Uncle's escargot are broiled with garlic butter and melted mozzarella.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Farmer's Market in Hawaii - Part 2

On Saturday, I took my first trip to the KCC Farmer's Market.  You can read all about it here, if you'd like!

Believe it or not, I didn't just eat and take photos while I was there.  I bought some great stuff, too.

Let's play a game!  I'll show you what I bought and you guess what I made using these ingredients:

Beautifully colorful little tomatoes.  What's the difference between cherry and grape tomatoes anyway?

Red, orange, yellow, and purple!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Farmers Market in Hawaii - Part 1

It's Saturday, woooooo hooooooo!  (Well, it was Saturday when I started this post!)  Saturday morning is the best part of the weekend if you ask me - you have no worries, can finally relax and enjoy a nice cup of coffee knowing that you have the whole weekend ahead of you.  This Saturday I woke up at 8 am. 

What should I do before going to work at 1 pm? 

Go to the Farmer's Market, of course!  I'd been meaning to go for at least a year now.  The particular Farmer's Market I had in mind (at KCC - Kapiolani Community College) opens very early in the morning and closes at 11 am.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Red Velvet Mini-Cupcakes

A few weeks ago, I hinted that I had a BIG life change in the works.  Well, now I can tell you the BIG news: I got a new job!  After 3 years at my former job I was ready for something new, different, and less stressful.  This new job is all of that, less hours, and more money!  I'll have more time to enjoy living in Hawaii, try to get a tan, and cook and blog, of course!  To celebrate my BIG life change, I decided to make mini red velvet cupcakes!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me tell you that I don't like baking.  Baking makes me feel frustrated, incapable, and defeated.  I'm immediately flustered and panic at the slightest hiccups while attempting to bake in the kitchen.  Baking only happens because my sweet tooth demands it!

For example, before making this recipe I opened the (very high) cabinet that contains all the baking ammunition - sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, food coloring, etc.  I pulled the things I needed down and put them on the counter.  These items were not placed neatly in one area upon being removed from the cabinet, they were all over the place.  I found a bag of sugar that contained less than a single cup of the small, sweet substance, and I needed 2 1/4 cups.  I went ballistic!  It was past 8 pm and the next day was my very last day at my job, I needed to have homemade cupcakes.  End.Of.Story.  Now in a state of major panic and self-pity, I begged Bryce to go get sugar for me.  He was comfortably lounging on the couch and looked at me like I was asking him to part the Red Sea.  So, I took my pity party to the car, then to the grocery store for more sugar.  I ended up also buying pre-made cream cheese frosting so that I'd be able get to bed at a reasonable hour.  I returned home with a forced positive attitude, I had everything I needed and was ready!  Back into the kitchen I went with the sugar and frosting in hand.  That's when I saw the HUGE bag of sugar sitting on the counter.  >>Sigh<<  I was so eager to panic that I didn't look around to see that I, in a moment of prior wisdom had acquired, had a back-up sugar!  If you need sugar you now know who to ask.

I started making my I-got-a-new-job-but-I'll-feed-you-one-last-time cupcakes for the office around 9 pm, using a Red Velvet Cupcake recipe from Better Homes & Gardens.  

Red Velvet Cupcakes

3 eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup butter (room temperature)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons red food coloring (an entire 1-ounce bottle)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk - I didn't have any so I made "buttermilk" using milk and white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line mini cupcake pans with paper liners.  My apologies, I don' t know how many cupcakes this recipe makes.  I made 24 minis and a small cake!

Combine flour, cocoa powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.  Hey... salt wasn't on the ingredient list!  I'll add it. 

In another bowl, beat butter for 30-seconds on med-high.  Add sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating batter after each.  Add the food coloring and beat on low to combine.

Side note on the food coloring - I was shocked when I found out that red velvet cake is red because of dye.  Anyone else?  It almost takes away all the fun, until you realize it's cuter than your average cake, delicious, and still contains chocolate!  My red food coloring wasn't completely full so my "red" velvet was more of a reddish-pink velvet.

Next, add flour mixture and buttermilk - alternately - to the egg mixture, combining on medium-low after each addition.  In the smallest bowl you own, stir together baking soda and vinegar, then add that to the batter and beat until just combined.

See - mine is pink!

Spoon, scoop, or pour the batter into the mini-cupcake papers, filling about 2/3 full.  This photo demonstrates how awful I am at making each cupcake equal in size.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.  I swear that each cupcake is a totally different size!

Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely.

I put the cream cheese icing into a ziploc bag and plopped a tiny bit of icing on each.  The icing distribution is almost as inconsistent as the cupcakes!  They still managed to be cute, despite my lack of equality.

The cupcakes and I ventured to our last day in the office (first and last day for them).  Needless to say, they were much more well-liked than I was!  Just kidding.  Everyone is just upset because they're going to miss me, right?

After 3 years with my very first "big girl job", I hope I left lasting impression filled with memories of hard work and a positive attitude.  If I didn't, I hope they remember me by these adorable sweet treats!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pink Bakery Doughnut Holes

Throught my childhood, my Mom would get the best doughnut holes in the world for special occasions where there were many children who needed to be fed.  Birthday slumber parties and early morning volleyball tournaments always meant doughnut holes from the "little pink bakery" a mile or 2 away from our house.  The side of the house-turned-bakery simply reads "fresh donuts."  [Donuts - are they serious with that spelling?!]  They bake during the wee hours of the morning and are only open until they sell out, keeping it simple!  As an adult, I found out that this little pink bakery does indeed have a name, Better-Maid Donut Co.
Earlier this year it was featured in the local Pittsburgh newspaper and I was made aware that doughnut holes were absolutely necessary during my July trip home.

My trip was short - just 5 days - and Saturday was the day of Grandma's big party at my parents' house.  Hotel Anderson was jam packed and I woke up at 8:30 am, smooshed on the love seat.  The first thought to cross my mind was "Is it too late for doughnut holes?!"  I jumped out of bed off of the mini-couch, and found that my Dad was awake, too.  "Dad, can we go get doughnut holes?!"  I don't know why I asked permission, maybe I thought I was still too young to drive and pay for things... Well, he said yes and we took his spiffy new Mustang convertible (that's a totally different story!) for the 3 minute ride.
The good news is that the doughnut shop remained exactly as I remembered it.  The great news is that the OPEN sign was shining brightly! 

The inside smelled delicious! There were, of course, plain doughnuts. Thank you, plain doughnuts, for providing my doughnut holes for all these years! (Sorry I've never tried you, just reaped the fruits of your labor.)

There were so many other delightful sweets there!  They looked so delicious, but we came for one thing and one thing only.

Then we saw the glorious doughnut holes, clumped together on the cooling rack with their dripping icing stuck in time surrounding. 

That was the last photo that was taken.  Our whole family, myself included, attacked the box of doughnut holes!  We all enjoyed them with coffee on that Saturday morning and managed to snack on them throughout the next 2 days. 

Surely, this bakery will still be the same, steadfast, doughnut making wonder that it always has been the next time I travel home.  I'll stop by to make sure though :)

They say to live with no regrets... but if I had the chance to go back in time I'd celebrate the 18 birthdays of my life that I spent in Pittsburgh with candles in these doughnut holes, instead of cake!