Chang's Garden, not magical, but tasty

Pin It I don't recall if I've mentioned it here before, but my husband is a fan of Jonathan Gold and his 99 list. So slowly, we've been eating our way through the restaurants selected by Mr. Gold in this year's list (Babita is also on there). If you're not from the LA area, Gold writes about food for the LA Weekly, and has been putting out an annual list of his favorite 99 restaurants.

Last night, we went to Chang's Garden. This place is in the same shopping center as our local asian market, Arcadia Super Market. We've driven past it many times, it never looked very exciting. But it's on the list.

We started with some delicious 5-spice beef pastry, pictured above. The dough was a little oily and delicious. Then, came the pork and chive dumplings, and pork in lotus leaf.

Dumplings were rather tasty, and the pork was even better. A Gold recommended dish.

There were also noodles in peanut and chili sauce. Good, but I could have done without them.

And our last two dishes were eel, not my deal, no matter how much I looked them over, they did not call to me, and fried fish with seaweed. Both Gold recommendations.
I can't say anything about the eel, because I didn't try it, but no one seemed very enthusiastic about it. The fish however, was very good, and there was plenty of it, for three people that is.

I'd definitely go back and try more, the menu had some pretty good options. Maybe next time we can go in the winter time so I can try some soups and their Christmas ornaments won't look so out of place.

Mad Men Youself... and I Did

Pin It I'm two episodes away from finishing season 2. And I'm scared. I cannot imagine waiting another year to see what my Don Draper is going to be up to.

I've preliminarly secured to watch the new season, starting next month, at a friend's house. But we were pretty drunk when this arrangement was made, and I'm afraid he's going to back out when he realizes we'd be at his place every Sunday evening for 12 weeks. But maybe not. I mean this would be a true test of the friendship, that's for sure.

In the meantime, you can Mad Men yourself online! That's me to the side, and me with Don below. I'm so happy to see Don, I'm floating over to him, can you tell?


Monday Lobster Meal

Pin It After being ignored in the fridge since Friday, the lobster finally received some attention today. I decided to go for a no-fuss, simple meal -- a nice hearty salad and broiled lobster.
I first scrubbed yellow and red beets and wrapped them individually in foil.

They baked in the oven for about an hour, at 400 degrees. I let them cool for about two hours. Tonight, I used only two, the rest, I kept in the foil, placed them in a ziplock and will refridgerate and use throughout the week.

I sliced the beets thinly and added them to romaine lettuce, along with some heirloom tomatoes and cesar dressing.

Before broiling my lobster, I heated butter with a glove (or clove, thanks for pointing out my typos readers) of garlic and a little bit of grated ginger. I brushed the butter mixture on the lobster (twice, once at the beginning and once, half-way through cooking). It takes no time at all for two small tails to cook, about 10 minutes at 550 degrees. Quick, delicious, and fancy.

Sunday Brunch: not as indulgent as promised

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The plan was to have lobster for Sunday brunch. We had some we wanted to cook up, and didn't get to them on Friday. But, seriously, lobster for lunch is a little much, we decided. At least during this past weekend, after lamb and fillet mignon on Saturday.

Instead, we went for a simpler mid-day meal, potatoes and eggs. Whenever I make potatoes in the morning, I always microwave them for 5 minutes or so, just to speed things up. I first cooked up some white onions and bell peppers, and then added the potatoes.
I seasoned the potatoes with salt, pepper and paprika, for a nice taste as well as some color. And added the green onions, ham and garlic at the end.
My husband made me a fried egg (since I don't really like eggs, just the yolks, I'm not good at preparing them), and I toasted some of that sweet marble rye bread. A little less glamorous than lobster, but pretty damn satisfying.

Organization is very important

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On Saturday morning, I decided to clean the kitchen. All I really did was clean the stove, with my exacto-knife blade. It was pretty dirty, and took a lot of time. But, I also got a chance to reorganize and clean out my kitchen drawers. It's something you should do every six months or so. And if you're too lazy, you should still clean them, it's pretty quick and satisfying. Trust me.


Quick Saturday Lunch

Pin It I make a good sandwich. I used to make sandwiches all the time for lunch in high school, and my husband would always tell me how good they are and eat them, leaving me with no lunch. I guess that's how I stayed so skinny back then. But I was so dreamily in love, that I didn't need to eat lunch.

Well, times have changed. And lunch is important, especially since I don't eat breakfast.

Today, I made a quick lunch for myself -- a turkey sandwich and a heirloom tomato salad with some mozzarella, cucumbers and basil.

I spread some artichoke and Parmesan cheese spread on one side, and some whole grain mustard on the other.

I like loads of greens, the more the better. I used sprouts and cucumbers, which give the sandwich a nice crunch.

And of course my salad was topped off with some good balsamic vinegar and coarse ground pepper. I ate my lunch in front of the TV, watching "Spain... On The Road Again" which features the most beautiful woman ever, Claudia Bassols. Yes, I have a little crush. But have you seen her?

Anyway, it's now time for some Nashville Skyline and kitchen cleaning. Tomorrow, we're planning on a decadent lunch. So stay tuned.


Simple Chokes and Simpler Sandwiches

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I love artichokes. Prepared in any way. But I really haven't spent too much time at home cleaning and sauteeing or baking fresh ones. It always looks so time consuming and tedious. So instead, we usually steam them, and then dip the ends in mustard, until we get to the heart, which we smother with mustard and devour in a few bites. It's a fun process.

Last night, to accompany my left over soup, I decided to steam some jumbo artichokes, and make grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on rye marble bread. My favortie bread of all. It's not only pretty, but it's delicious and good for you. I discovered that the new Henry's Market in Monrovia has it in stock almost all the time. For a deal too.

I used black forrest ham and Kraft Singles Select, since they melts really nice. Now, I'd normally use a better cheese, but let me tell you, I have fooled some friends with the Singles Select, so, it's really pretty good for grilled cheese. And unlike the deli cheese I buy, it keeps well for a long time.


Much Awaited Cookie Update

Pin It I'm sure you're all wondering about my reunion with Castle Press Cookies. Well, let me tell you. It was fantastic. Everything I remembered about them was still true. The packaging does not lie. They are truly a treat. A treat I will not be sharing.

Soup and salad: 'cause it's not really hot in our condo

Pin It It's been hot, but not in the cave that is our condo. Not only does it naturally stay cool in there, but on Monday we finally put on the air. So it's been nice and chilly.

Despite the weather outside, last night I decided to make some soup, 1) My husband is battling a cold and 2) I had some yams that I didn't want to go bad. I'd like to think reason 1 was the true motivator, but I can't be sure.

I made some sweat potato soup. I looked at some recipes and then decided to not follow any. I first sauteed some onions, celery and a couple of baby carrots. I then added some yams, a few red potatoes, chicken broth, salt, pepper and curry powder. Everything cooked for about 30 minutes and was pureed, with my lovely and mess-free immersion blender.

And my husband made a nice tomato, mozzarella, heart of palms and basil salad, topped with some fancy balsamic vinegar from our Italian honeymoon.


Flowers from Don Draper (Well, not really. But I'm going to pretend.)

Pin It This is Don Draper. He's a dream. And he's the main character in my favorite show, Mad Men. I'm kind of a sucker for dudes in nice suits, with minimal words, an a drinking habit that is borderline alcoholism.

Today, I look really pretty. I wore a nice dress, took time to put on eyeliner, and some uncomfortable heels. Three people told me I look nice. And all because I was hoping to meet Don Draper. You see, they are filming Mad Med at my work today. I have been excited. Super excited. And yet, after getting to work, I quickly learned the scene didn't star my true love. I was devastated.

But then, Don Draper gave me the flowers you see below. But not the apple.
Actually, he gave me nothing. Sigh. The set decorator did. I hear, the director didn't like the color of these roses. But, I'm going to pretend they came from Don. Because if he was here, I am convinced he would have given them to me. And then offered me a cigarette (which I would have politely refused because I'm allergic) and a drink (which I would have gladly accepted).

Kern Camping, Eating and Tubing

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For a while there, we went to Kern River annually. It was fun, because they have bathrooms with showers. And I got to sit in the stream and read and drink beer, before I could legally drink beer. Then we stopped going. A few of us missed it, so this year, my friend flew out from Texas just to recreate the magic. We gathered some fun folks, lots of hot dogs and sausages and drove north to Kernville.

Our campsite was right along the river, which was nice, except for the lack of shade. And we spent a good amount of time either swimming (sitting in the river with beers) or tubing down the river.

We also spent a lot of time eating. With the town a few minutes away, we didn't bring much food with us. Instead, we had broasted chicken, hot dogs, sausages, burgers, pizza, more burgers, more hot dogs and sausages. We even had sausages for breakfast on our last day. I'm a little sausaged out.

Our friend, a little genius, made us roasting sticks with the tiny little metal skewers we had. He used some wiring from the wood bundles we bought and constructed the above sticks for us, part wood, part metal. Then his car broke down, which totally sucked. And even though it had to be towed and cost a fortune, we thought of him when roasting our hot dogs and were really glad he came.

Kern River '09 successfully survived by us.


Anniversary Dinner

Pin It Being married is hard. You have to share all kinds of things you don't want to: finances, feelings, the bed. But once a year (or twice for us), we get to forget all of that, spend a couple of minutes appreciating each other, and go out to a nice dinner.

Our July anniversary is actually our legal marriage date. Some of you will remember hiking up to the Whittier Hills (saved single-handedly by my brother-in-law) and witnessing our friend marry us in a monk robe. There was no abundance of food, booze and dancing, like wedding numero 2, but ring pops were exchanged and the collapse of the Soviet Union referred to in the wedding vows. It was fun, and we parted at night to go to our respective parents' homes, to sleep in our own comfy beds.

So last night we celebrated our love and our short time on this earth together (which is actually forever) by an outting to Babita's, which I have already mentioned here. We took with us a nice, expensive bottle of Savignon Blanc, and ordered all kinds of delicious food, starting with a tequila-cured salmon sope and the soup of the day - roasted yam and tortilla, pureed to perfection.

I then ordered and enjoyed a delicious sea bass with Veracruz risotto.

My husband ordered the "super hot" shrimp (that's according to the menu). The lady said,"It's hot, you know?" He noded along, and said that was fine. However, it was not fine. Those little bastard shrimps (below covered in salsa) were from hell. Sure he still enjoyed the dish, but was not only covered in a sweat after 2 of them, he started hallucinating after 4. I tasted one and almost passed out. I just don't like being that hot unless there's a pool nearby I can jump into.

And we had to get dessert just to get the hotness out of our mouths. We enjoyed some chocolate flan, which made me feel much better, but it was too late for my husband, he was in a different world. Unable to drive home, or talk coherently, he blabbed a bit on the drive back and fell asleep within minutes afterwards.

He came to this morning and went to work, but I'm not convinced permanent damage has not been done. I asked for his verdict, now that he makes sense again, and in his words, "Loved it, as an experience, an event, like climbing a mountain." He continued to say that this different kind of meal took him somewhere else, as all good food should. I wonder if eating some crazy shrooms wouldn't have accomplished the same thing, at a cheaper price.


Reasons to be Jealous (of me)

Pin It Going to Spain in September for 16 days.

Going camping this weekend (river, beer, lounging)

Getting a 45 minute massage tonight for $20 (because my insurance is covering it)

That's it for now. But it should be enough to hold you over.

Monday Pasta for One

Pin It I made some quick and simple pasta on Monday. Lots of garlic, lots of fresh and dry basil, some hungarian bacon and artichokes. I used a thin spaghetti. I found several boxes in my panty, not sure what my reason for buying so much thin spaghetti was, but I'm sure I had something in mind. Which I no longer remember or care for.

Taking advantage of eating alone, I sauteed butternut squash (since someone I live with can't handle eating any kind of squash, even though he has no good reason for it).

It all turned out pretty tasty, and you'll just have to take my word for it, since I was the only one there.


Castle Press Cookies

Pin It At my last job, as the Communications Director, I took care of the printing of our newsletter. It was a pain, but we worked with Castle Press for a long time, and they were great. They are local to Pasadena and bake cookies daily on-site, which they then deliver with your order. These were the best cookies I have ever tasted, they were chocolate chip, with walnuts and a hint of oatmeal, and love.

Every time my Rep would visit me she'd bring a single cookie, which I would devour as soon as she left the office and think about it the rest of the day. And every time an order was delivered, I'd get a box of 6. At first, I shared these with my co-workers, or took them home to share with others. But then, I got smart. I'd hoard the whole box and savour a cookie a day. It was great.

Then time came to leave and switch printers. I was sad.

But now, I am once again in charge of printing. And it just so happens we are working with Castle Press. Next week we will receive an order. I can not help but wonder if there will be cookies. I hope there will be cookies.


Ah the Whittier Greenway, 10 years too late

Pin It As young high school lovers, we used to often walk on the abandoned railroad tracks running near our school. It was cute, and dusty. We heard stories about how one day this would become a beautiful greenway trail, for the residents of Whittier to enjoy.

Then, we graduated high school. And college. We got jobs. We got married. Twice. We bought a place, not in Whittier. Did a lot of renovation. We travelled. My husband's greying hair got a lot greyer. My eyesight prescription got worse 2 years in a row, then it eventually became stable. We started a container garden on our balcony. It did pretty well. And finally, the Whittier Greenway was completed and opened to the public.

Now, when we visit our parents in Whittier, we ride the trail from one set of parents to the other. It's about 4 miles each away. There's nothing too special about it. Except our friend was in charge with the public art along the way (which is nice), but she has since moved away, turning her back on the trail. But not us. Sometimes I feel a need to ride it. I'm sure you'll agree, we kind of waited a long time for this trail, so maybe that's why that desire is there.

My meals last week

Pin It I hope the last post didn't give you the impression I did nothing last week. I unhappily went to the gym and an evening hike, and cooked as well. A real multi-tasker!

Anyway, I made some Alaskan halibut with a tomato, basil and mustard vinaigrette and some veggies on the side.
Then, on Friday, before our pirate bar adventures, our friend came over and I cooked up the ravioli I had frozen a while back. I made a quick creamy pesto for it, and a nice hearty salad. It was pretty delicious, and filling. But my husband was apparently still hungry, so he kept eating random stuff from the fridge. And lets just say the next morning he didn't feel so good. Lesson here? Don't eat cottage cheese and salsa after a dinner made by me. That's just dumb. Oh, also, don't drink a lot of different drinks either.

I think tomorrow I want some spaghetti with a nice garlic and basil sauce.