National Eat Your Noodles Day

Another gem from Steff Dechenes’ Eat the Year is today’s holiday. When I saw this on the calendar, I knew I had to do a post about noodles. Noodles are one of my favorite foods. Mushrooms will always take the cake on that, followed closely by garlic. Noodles are up there, though. Pasta with marinara, buttered noodles, Chinese lo mein, Thai pad thai noodles, it’s all good. Also, ramen! Which brings me to what I wanted to share most for today’s holiday.

On one of my recent trips to Whole Foods, I came across Annie Chun’s Spring Vegetable Ramen. It’s a packet of soup base and soft-dry noodles that you can customize yourself with protein and veggies.

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The first time I made it, I had just made my snow pea and mushroom concoction the night before and had some left overs. I added those after I tried the ramen on its own. The ramen and broth are really flavorful. Without any veg or protein, it definitely doesn’t feel like a meal, so that’s something to consider when you make it. Adding the snow peas and mushrooms, plus the bit of their sauce/juice they created was a very nice addition.

I’ve made it a second time now and ventured to add a protein. I had some leftover rotisserie chicken, so I hand shredded one of the legs and added it in with yet again leftover snow peas and mushrooms (they really are good!). All in all, a really good meal. I’ve seen the ramen at my local Fred Meyer (Kroger group grocery) in the natural foods section. If I remember correctly it also comes in two other flavors, but I don’t remember what they are. I’d say they’re worth a try.

My 100th post!

Holy cow, I can’t believe I’ve hit 100 posts on the blog. It’s been a crazy six months of sharing recipes and tips and stories from my kitchen. The blog has been through a lot:

  • Seen in 22 countries around the world
  • 721 visitors
  • 36 blog followers (not including other sharing platforms)
  • 23 categories written about
  • Thousands of words written, dozens and dozens of pictures
  • Plate upon plate of great food

You guys are awesome and I can’t wait for the next 100!

Here are a few of the top posts from the first 100:

Cheers!

BBQ in March

it may still be very much winter on the East Coast, but here in Oregon it was high 50s yesterday. So what are you going to do with weather so nice? Break out the propane grill of course!





Dad cooked up some steaks and a grill pan full of asparagus, red bell pepper, and some red onion. We also cooked up some of my favorite steak companions: mushrooms. 



It was nice out by the grill with dad.



In the end, one of the best dinners I’ve had in a while.



National Cereal Day

Raise your spoons with me! Thank to Eat the Year, I know that today is the day to celebrate my love of cereal! Cereal and I go way back. Like every kid, I picked out the marshmallows from Lucky Charms, listened intently to the snap, crackle and pop of Rice Krispies, and begged my mom to buy the way too sugary Cinnamon Toast Crunch. That being said, my favorite cereal for the longest time (and still in my top five favorites) was Honey Nut Cheerios. They’ve got the perfect amount of sweetness, crunch, and nuttiness. Since I’ve had to switch to dairy alternative milks-primarily soy milk-my taste in cereals have changed.

Things do taste a bit different with soy instead of dairy. I think I taste the sugar more than I did before, which can be a plus for some of the more “serious” cereals-your Raisin Bran, Chex, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes-but can kill the joy of the likes of Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms. As of late, my go to is Honey Bunches of Oats (neatly abbreviated to HBOO on my grocery list-ha). It’s just serious enough for my 25 years (it’s got granola!), but still a bit irresponsibly sweet.

What’s your favorite cereal? Will you celebrate today with a bowl?

New me, new coffee

The last couple of months have brought about a bunch of changes for me. I chopped off a huge bunch of hair (6-7 inches), got new glasses, and started making an effort to learn to drive. Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m a writer, so I’ve been working on a big novel project. While I write, because I’m impervious to clichés and stereotypes, I like to drink coffee.

My previous go to (besides the annual bout of pumpkin spice lattes) was always a decaf mocha frap with soy milk, even on cold rainy days in January. But as I was spending more time in Starbucks to write, which is an expensive habit unless you’re one of those people who just goes in and buys water, I thought I ought to switch it up.

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I noticed one of the boards said you could create your own latte, so I thought I’d give that a go. I ordered a decaf hazelnut latte with soy and added nutmeg, cinnamon, and chocolate powder on my own. It was so good! But I knew I wasn’t going to get too many of these, so I’d have to figure out how to replicate the flavor profile at home.

I started with the coffee. I usually drink Diedrich decaf morning blend at home, with a bit of brown sugar and a hazelnut coconut creamer. I picked up a box of Green Mountain Coffee K-cups in the decaf hazelnut blend, as well as the smallest bottle I could find of hazelnut flavor syrup. The nest time I made coffee, I used the new K-cup, added two tablespoons of the syrup (per instruction of the bottle), my creamer, sugar, and a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. This mug smelled amazing! But it could not have been a bigger disappointment. The coffee was weak, and it was not nearly as creamy as my Starbucks version. The one good part of it: it was definitely hazelnut flavored, but not as strongly as you’d imagine. It wasn’t overpowering.

One try down, I ventured again. This time I used my usual Diedrich K-cup, soy milk (realizing that this is how I ordered it in the shop, so it was reasonable to assume it would yield a closer flavor and creaminess than my creamer), brown sugar, the hazelnut syrup, and sprinklings of nutmeg and cinnamon. My first thought looking into the mug was how gross it looked. The soy milk blended with the brewed coffee created this weird gray-green-brown color that was highly unappetizing. I have no idea how to foam milk, so I couldn’t hide it that way. So I closed my eyes and took a sip. It was leaps and bounds closer to the coffee shop version.

It’s still not quite the same. I think that may be for a few reasons. First, Starbucks is using a decaf espresso so there’s a deeper, bolder flavor to the coffee to start with. Second, when I add sugar after they make the latte, it’s that Sugar in the Raw packet stuff, not the brown sugar I use at home. I’ve noticed a big difference in the type of sugar used on other occasions (mostly between brown and white), so I know I’ll have to pick up some of that to get things just right. Third, I have no idea how much hazelnut syrup they use to make my latte. I always order a grande size, which I’m guessing calls for about two pumps, but I don’t know what those pumps would measure out to be. It can’t be far off the two tablespoons I’m using because that part of the flavor profile isn’t that different. I’m going to continue to mess around with my formula and see if I can come any closer.

Do any of you have an tips or know of any good recipes for a creamy hazelnut latte? Cheers!

Review: Annas Ginger Swedish Thins

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One night, I was at the grocery store, sort of cruising the aisles. I was on a mission for chocolate. Sometimes you just get those cravings, so you slip on whatever shoes are handy and head out. It was one of those nights. On my way towards the checkout, I passed the coffee aisle and decided to check out what syrups and things they had. Nothing struck my fancy, but tucked away under the dispensaries were two stacks of these cookie boxes.

Now, I may or may not have mentioned that I am a writer (and not just of this lovely blog–you can check out my author page at rebeccalallen.wordpress.com). You may be asking yourself, what does my being a writer have anything to do with these cookies? I’m coming to that very quickly. One other thing I probably have not mentioned is that I am not a fancy person. I occasionally pretend I am, what with elaborate menus and the odd well put together outfit. But make no mistake, I am a highly unfancy person. It so happens, though, that one of the ways I let myself pretend to be fancy is when I drink coffee. I don’t know why, but drinking coffee has always seemed a very sophisticated, adult thing to do. (Being an adult is also something I occasionally let myself pretend I am, also. Ha!) It’s probably pop culture and watching my dad at work that has led to me to think of coffee this way. Here’s where the cookies come in. As I was standing looking at the boxes, it occurred to me that having something a little dainty, but still flavorful, to have alongside my coffee would be the epitome of sophisticated adultness. So I picked up a box of the ginger flavor (they also make an almond flavor, which I’ll talk about in another post) and headed home.

The mug features Shakespearean insults! A gift from my undergrad thesis advisor.

The mug features Shakespearean insults! A gift from my undergrad thesis advisor.

The next day, while I worked on my novel, I made myself up a hazelnut latte to pair with my new find. The cookies are very thin, light, and crispy. The ginger isn’t overwhelming at all, which is nice. They’re actually much more like graham crackers than ginger snaps (which is what I was expecting). They worked well with my latte, and even the cherry tea I made the next day. I would recommend trying them if you like spice cookies. Plus they come with a little desert recipe that I’ll write about in a separate post.

National Cabbage Day!

When I got Steff Deschenes’ Eat the Year for Christmas I went a little post-it crazy and marked up the whole book (really, the whole book) with all of the days that I wanted to write about. Today is absolutely one of them.

Cabbage is amazing. It is second to only mushrooms as my favorite veg, likely because I grew up eating a lot of cabbage. Cabbage is a staple in Russian and German cooking, which is where I find my heritage. In honor of that heritage, I will celebrate today by sharing my family recipe for halupsi (the rest of my family spells it haloopsi, in case that’s any more familiar for you). Halupsi are cabbage rolls. The name, we think, is a corruption of the Russian word “galupsi,” which is what they call their cabbage rolls. My ancestry is all German, but several of the recent generations were German nationals living in Russia before immigrating to the US (I’m third and fourth generation on my mom’s side; dad’s side goes back to almost pilgrims). The recipe sort of straddles the two cultures, but whichever it is, it is soooo good. I usually make a double batch (leftovers of this are amazing).

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  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 1/2 cup of rice, cooked and cooled
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes in the juice
  • 2 small cans of diced tomatoes in the juice
  • 1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste
  • Canola or other vegetable oil

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Soften cabbage leaves by cutting off of head and immersing in boiling water for approximately 2 to 3 minutes and then drain.  Mix the ground beef, rice, chopped onion, part of the diced tomatoes (the large can and part of 1 of the small cans) and salt and pepper together.

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Spoon the mixture into the cabbage leaves, fold the leaves around the filling.  Place in a covered roaster or large frying pan, add approx. 1/4 cup oil (I usually do this on the bottom of the pan) and the rest of the tomatoes.

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Bake in a 350º oven for 1 to 1½ hours until rice is tender (the cabbage may brown a bit, I usually cook them for about 1 hour 15 mins and they’re prefect).  Check for moisture as it is baking and add more tomatoes and juice as needed.