spacer News Feedspacer Comments

Browse > Home / Archive by category 'Food & Cooking'

Making Dumplings In Chinatown

January 19, 2012 by Puna  
Filed under Food & Cooking

1 Comment

spacer Whenever I see fresh proteins hanging up by hooks in an open air market, I always think – great authentic food.

I don’t think like this when I see frozen meats in a freezer.

spacer In front of the hanging carnage was this beautiful lady. She was making Chinese dumplings of some sort.

spacer It’s a true skill,

spacer The dumplings were perfect.

spacer The real secret to good dumplings? A cook’s delight in making them. These were made with love.

Happy Friday! – btw – started P90X last night and then did a half hour of turbo box after. The verdict on P90X? Still out… but now, I can eat more dumplings…

For Foodie Friday.


My Beef Wellington Obsession

January 14, 2012 by Puna  
Filed under Food & Cooking

Leave a Comment

spacer Years ago – too long ago – Sam Choy (renowned Hawaiian chef) made me dinner. Actually, he made alot of people dinner on that same night. It was a charity for the Boys and Girls club and I had to get a ticket. I support the cause, I do, I also wanted to eat food prepared by Sam Choy and Masaharu Morimoto (renowned Iron Chef on the Food Network).

It was a ten course meal, and yes, I wore a pretty pink flowered aloha sundress with high heeled sandles. I didn’t eat for 18 hours before hand to prepare for the meal but I was still bulging out of my pretty dress.

The two memorable dishes from that night – even after more than 10 years afterward – was the fried sushi on a stick by Morimoto (they looked like little corn dogs) and the Beef Wellington by the great Sam Choy.

It’s since remained foremost on my mind and I talk about it a lot when I’m out to dinner but for some reason, I’ve never made it. I just thought it was too time consuming. I find that it’s a common misunderstanding among us layman cooks. Food that often seems out of reach to prepare really isn’t. We just haven’t done it before so all it takes is a little bit of an adventurous spirit to attempt.

Before you know it, you’ll be making Thai food every day.

spacer And it was so with Beef Wellington – though I didn’t make it, the husband made it for Christmas Eve dinner. It was wonderful. And it will heretofore be a tradition in our home. I didn’t take many photos but I didn’t have to because -

I have become addicted – addicted – to Pinterest. I spend way too much time there. During one of my many excursions, I found some Beef Wellington recipes and then stumbled upon this beautiful food photography blog, What Katie Ate.

Oh. My. Goodness – the photography. Beautiful.

Check it out – CLICK HERE.

I think that you too will become Beef Wellington connoisseur or at least all things Katie Quinn Davies.

Happy Saturday and enjoy!

Cross posted at Vision and Verb, Our Kitchen.



Anna Maria’s Makeover

December 14, 2011 by Puna  
Filed under Food & Cooking, Restaurants


spacer I stalk celebrity chef Robert Irvine. I like his gruff style and his no holds barred approach to food. He proves that cooking good food is not for the timid or faint of heart and he’s passionate about what he does, I love that.

He hosts a show called Restaurant Impossible on the Food Network, a show that you should only watch if you don’t mind getting a mind-blowing lesson in how difficult the restaurant business can be.

Robert Irvine tweeted that he was re-making a restaurant in Dunmore, Pennsylvania called Anna Maria’s around Thanksgiving time. It just so happens that it was located on the way to my parents home. Curiosity got the better of us and we planned to stop for dinner.

spacer The outside remains humble but once you went in and walked past the bar to the restaurant, you can see the newly minted elegant dining room. It was really beautiful. Everything was newly painted and the there were candles everywhere.

I love candlelight in restaurants. Nothing sets the cozy dining mood better for me than candles and “just right” lighting. Fluorescent lighting in a restaurant is like serving wine in a red solo plastic cup.

spacer The owners came in to speak to us. They were lovely people. They told me to take as many photos as I wanted and in the name of full disclosure, I told them I was a blogger. They asked that I not show their faces until after the episode airs and I’m happy to obliged and I’ll tell you their stories next month but for now, I’ll show you this gorgeous wallpaper.

Tucker, one of the owners said they spent a total of $200 on wallpapering the entire restaurant. A map of Italy was copied over and over and pasted on the walls. It was so beautiful, warm and inviting.

spacer The chandeliers added just a touch of beautiful color. Barrel drum chandeliers – I love you.

spacer These are my kids, I love them too – and they too add some color to my life.

spacer The decor is simple and elegant but the food – was really good.

We decided that since it was Thanksgiving, we were going to try everything – or nearly everything on the menu.

I don’t want to insult the good people at Anna Maria’s by posting my really awful photos of their food so I’ll just give you this little run down of our order – just in case you make it to their establishment one day (and you should.)

The husband’s order
Mussels Appetizer – best dish on the menu! It reminded us of our time in Italy and fresh seafood from the Adriatic. Great dish.
Fried Calamari – this was also really good but somewhat unusual as it had the classic fish and chips breading you get in English. The batter was quite thick and bready but there was plenty of soft, chunky squid as well. The English do it the best!
Pork Chop & Brussels Sprouts – the husband really enjoyed this but he’s also a Brussels sprouts fan. The portion of pork was generous and was topped with homemade apple sauce. Hearty and good.

My order
Antipasta salad – the dressing was really good. The salad was fresh – thank goodness. Wilted lettuce in a salad is worse than a wine in a – well you know. The only thing I lacked in my opinion was more – well, antipasti and less lettuce. A little more cheese, more olives, more meats and it would have been perfect.
- I shared the husband’s appetizers in case you were wondering if I eat like a bird – I don’t.

The boy’s order
Penne pasta – this was offered as a side dish and since there was nothing on the menu that he wanted to eat, we ordered it as a main dish for him. They accommodated us and he said it was great. Since he’s the pickiest eater on the planet, you can take that to the bank.

The girl’s order
Unknown appetizer – I can’t remember the appetizer that she ordered but I know she did order one because she always does – she’s the eater in our family. I just remembered that she really liked it and ate the entire thing without sharing.
Spaghetti and Meatballs – I wish I could say something great about this dish but it was just a standard dish of pasta – I feel odd saying that about a Robert Irvine dish. In saying so, when I make spaghetti and meatballs, I put a secret ingredient in there that really boosts the flavor. I’m going to share the secret now.

Fish sauce. I put fish sauce in my red sauce. If you don’t have fish sauce, I suggest a few slices of anchovy. There was obviously no fish sauce in the marinara therefore – it fell short for the girl.

Sorry Robert -

Here’s a link to their website – By the way – the restaurant is no longer pink.

Bon appetito!


Grateful For ….

November 24, 2011 by Puna  
Filed under Food & Cooking, Photography, Thanksgiving


spacer We are at my parents’ home for Thanksgiving. My parents however, are not here. The circumference of the earth is approximately 25,000 miles so they are approximately 12,500 miles away, in Nakon Phanon, Thailand.

The kids were pretty disappointed, I admit. The girl said, “Who’s going to cook?” Well….

We decided that we didn’t really need to have my parents to actually be at their house when we celebrate Thanksgiving – at their house. My brother just underwent surgery yesterday so that was a good enough excuse to come and take over my mother’s kitchen and cook Thanksgiving dinner for him and his girlfriend.

So I packed all of Thanksgiving fixes, the kids, the husband, the cat and the dog and off we went.

Though I am somewhat familiar with my mother’s kitchen, I had to so some searching to find everything I needed. The challenging part now is to put everything back where they belong so she can find them when she returns. Amen!

I attempted to document the cooking while I went but found it hard to be a one woman show so therefore I have a bunch of photos out of sequence and without context. But such is life.

I do have some of the kids who decided to help with the mac n cheese after they (finally) got out of bed.

spacer They grounded the bread sticks into crumbs and sprinkled them over the mac and cheese.

spacer They ate some while they were at it.

spacer Then they crumbled and sprinkled bacon over the top of the bread crumbs.

spacer Looking pretty yummy.

spacer Thanks for the help kids.

spacer As much planning as I do to for Thanksgiving dinner, I find that there are just some things that are out of my control.

- I forgot to pack eggs. The husband drove 20 miles to get eggs this morning. Thanksgiving is saved.
- I turned on the oven in the little apartment adjacent to the house to for more oven space and a rank smell proceeded to fill both living areas. I thought there was a mouse in the oven. As it turns out, there wasn’t. The oven was turned off and the house was aired out but the source of the smell is still unidentified. Fills me with a little bit of unease it does…
- I should never check email on Thanksgiving day while I’m trying to make stuffing. Nuff said.
- All the males in the family are asleep again. And no turkey has been consumed yet.
- The girl is doing dishes as I type. She said, “This is a small sink.” I reminded her that she used to get bathed in that same sink.

spacer See? It’s the perfect size.

- I am listening to Robbie Seay, JJ Heller, and Phil Wickham as I cook. The songs remind me I have so much to be grateful for.

The mac and cheese is in the oven so perhaps it’s time for a glass of wine.

Have a magnificent and restful Thanksgiving to everyone out there in blogland.


Choices Giving Thanks Day Number 3

November 23, 2011 by Puna  
Filed under Food & Cooking

Leave a Comment

spacer Today I have a choice.

Do I serve canned cranberry sauce or make fresh cranberry sauce for dinner tomorrow night?

For the record, I love canned cranberry sauce. As a matter of fact, I’ve been eating it as dessert for the last three days. I have a head start on Thanksgiving dinner. But I understand the health benefits of the fresh cranberries. So -

I will be serving both.

Grateful for choices today. What are you serving? Or do you hate cranberries?


Girls Night In

October 29, 2011 by Puna  
Filed under Bunco, Food & Cooking, Signatures

1 Comment

I received an email a couple of weeks ago and it was so funny  that I couldn’t turn down the request.

It reads in part – ” That’s right, it’s time to bring “the b’s” back to Friday night. (It’s been a year for crying out loud.)  No, we’re not reinstating the group, no dice. Just a get-together, replete with booze and empty calories, in order to catch up with each other.  Clear your schedules.  Be indulgent. Let the dads run the kids around that night.  Be there or be talked about.”

And since I didn’t want to be talked about I absolutely cleared my schedule and made it a priority.

spacer As always Neighbor Sue outdid herself.

spacer There were plenty of libations but I don’t normally indulge in the above.

spacer I chose instead to drink this. I love the pink label. It was cheap but good – as evidenced by the name of the wine. I don’t condone the use of the word by the way, I just like the wine. Somehow that seems justification enough.

spacer I didn’t get home until a half hour before I was to be at the celebration so I stopped at the grocery store and bought this salad. Then I put it in a pretty plate and pretended it was mine. I would have gotten away with it if Neighbor Jolene hadn’t also been at the store and saw me. “Don’t get the ambrosia salad!” I yell to her. She was obviously running late as well.

spacer It must be Halloween. Look at this cake. How great is this? I didn’t hear the entire conversation on the how, why or where of the cake so Neighbor Sue, if you are here – tell us where we can get this. It was divine! To die for! Even the spiders on it didn’t deter me. The caramel icing tasted home made, it was delicious.

spacer I wanted to show you the layers of icing inside the cake. Yum. I brought a big piece home.

spacer I had such a wonderful time. It was exactly what I needed. Exactly.


Scampi With Shrimp & Anchovy

October 12, 2011 by Puna  
Filed under Food & Cooking


spacer My mother is a wonderful Thai cook but she also cooks many other types of food. Though everything she makes is delicious, I love it best when she does Italian. I copied this recipe from her.

This is shrimp scampi with anchovy and spinach. The scampi sauce is a standard and you can use chicken breast quite easily with this dish. Chicken breast is just as expensive as shrimp these days…

spacer Melt some butter in a sauce pan. This is a quarter stick of butter.

spacer And now put in some extra virgin olive oil.

spacer And then – are you ready? – a can of anchovies. Rolled anchovies are fine too.

spacer Crush some peeled garlic.

spacer And throw into the pan with the other ingredients over medium heat.

spacer Cook the ingredients together until the anchovies dissolve, and everything looks yummy and golden. The smell is incredible too.

spacer Now we add some tomatoes. These are roughly cut plum tomatoes. I like a bigger piece of tomato because I don’t like to cook it all the way down. I like to see some cooked pieces in the scampi.

spacer It looks like this – delicious.

spacer I added some pepper. I skipped the salt. The anchovies were salty enough.

spacer I put a little sugar in because the tomatoes are acidic. This was about a level tablespoon but I would always taste while adding anything to your recipe.

spacer I threw in a handful of fresh spinach. I love fresh spinach.

I also put in fresh basil here but don’t have a photo…shucks.

spacer I stir for a couple of minutes. It doesn’t take long to cook down.

spacer Then I added some white wine. Really good. If you don’t like the taste of wine, I would suggest you skip this part.

spacer This step will be controversial. I normally put in fresh peeled shrimp but in this case, I threw in frozen shrimp. It’s not the best thing, it cools the sauce down quite a bit and if the heat is too high, it may not defrost the shrimp throughly.

But if you don’t have time, have patients or is anything is like me – then this is what you do.

spacer In this case, it worked out quite well.

This was so delicious. Place some over linguine and enjoy!

Two pounds of shrimp should server about 4-6 people. In our case, the boy doesn’t eat shrimp, anchovy or spinach so we had quite a bit left over. He’s missing out isn’t he?

Ingredients -

1. 1/4 stick butter
2. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3. half a head of peeled garlic
4. 1 can anchovy
5. 3 medium sized tomatoes
6. half a bag of fresh spinach
7. fresh basil sprigs
8. 1 tblsp sugar
9. splash dry white wine (optional)
10. 1 – 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp
11. pepper to taste

The aroma is heavenly – I’m sure they serve scampi in heaven.

Follow the directions above and mange!


In My Opinion – Thoughts On EZ Thai

September 8, 2011 by Puna  
Filed under Food & Cooking, Restaurants, What's Happenin In Sthrn MD


Yesterday the husband and I had lunch at a local Thai place that just opened a few months ago. This was our second time there and I was guardedly optimistic for you see, I was there once before, two weeks after it opened.

And I was really disappointed.

But because I wanted the restaurant to succeed and really don’t like to write a “negative” review – I stayed mum. I have spoken to some others who have dined there and reviews were mixed – ranging from not so bad to not so good.

Let me say this – I really want the restaurant to do well, for them as well as for our local community. We need some spice in our little neck of the woods.

So I’m happy to report this – I left somewhat happy, or happier than when before I went in.

Before I write about the food, I want to say firstly – the restaurant was very, very clean and pleasant to dine in. The flowers on the table, even as artificial as they are, gave the place a nicely decorated feel. I like that. I like a pleasant environment in which to dine.

spacer I arrived ahead of the husband at around 12:30 pm – right in the heart of lunch hour and found that restaurant completely empty. I was surprised at this, perhaps it was the rainy weather? I was a little bit deflated. I thought – oh no, are they on the brink of closing already?

I try to remain as objective as I can, but I admit it made me more determined to like it. That being said -

The husband and I ordered different dishes than the last time. These were dishes that we were familiar with, dishes that I cook here at home and dishes that I’ve eaten many times as a child. I just wanted to review something familiar.

spacer We began with Thai iced tea. It was good, perfect.

spacer This is tom yum soup with chicken (gai or chicken). Again, it was very good, I would recommend it over this . . .

spacer . . . the tom kha (gai) which I found too coconut-y. It was heavy handed on the coconut milk.

spacer My favorite of the day was this – pork larb. It was good and the most authentic thing I’ve eaten there. The only complaint I have is that it wasn’t a big enough portion, there’s a bunch of lettuce beneath the pork.

spacer The husband ordered this prik king with chicken. Prik king is a very spicy curry and I’ve had it “dry” without the soupiness. I don’t care for it “wet” but it’s personal taste. By the way, this should be prepared with long beans, not the fat string bean but I’m sure it would have made it a more expensive dish.

I hope this restaurant will appeal to the palates in our area and become successful. I know there is a temptation for some restaurants to try to appeal to the “general masses” but my mantra when it comes to ethnic cooking is this – stick with the most authentic menu and don’t try to water down the recipe. If Thais like it, then most other Americans will too. People can tell the difference. Be true to yourself and others will love you. It applies to more than middle-school self-esteem.

Here’s another review by Dickson Mercer, our local reporter about town.

I will go back again to try their other menu items – anyone care to join me?


Basic Thai Chili Sauce – Best Condiment

September 5, 2011 by Puna  
Filed under Food & Cooking, Thai Food


I was over at a friend’s home the other day (ok, it was Kristyn) and she said she was doing a Thai meal in a pressure cooker. Hmmm…I was intrigued. Thai food is almost never done in a pressure cooker, a blender, a crock pot or any other western appliance of that type.

Not that those tools can’t be used, it’s just that – well, they’re not.

But it looked good, and as I took a whiff from the pressure cooker, I could smell coconut milk, Thai basil, lemon grass and etc. It smelled really good! Then she left a comment here saying that it was just ok, not great.

There are three basic ingredients for every meal – salt, pepper and garlic. Salt, pepper and garlic. That’s it.

In Thai food, the salt comes from fish sauce, the pepper is chili and the garlic is – garlic.

This basic Thai chili sauce will make any pressure cooker meal taste great – be it Thai or anything else.

Mark my words.

Here’s how you make it -

spacer You will need a mortar and pestle. I cannot in good conscience say you can substitute with another electrical tool because you will need to mash the garlic. It’s a very rustic and low tech method of cooking but the most effective as far as flavor profiles of Thai food goes. Notice I said mash the garlic, not blend, chop or pulverize the garlic.

spacer In addition to garlic, you will need some dry chili peppers. I have used the McCormick ground peppers that you would put on your pizza but I like to mash the dried whole chili with the garlic. It’s just better, I can’t explain it any other way.

spacer Put both the chilis and the garlic in the mortar and pestle and ground until you get a rough consistency. Don’t over ground – you might as well be using a blender if you do.

spacer Put the mashed chilis and garlic in a bowl. Add fish sauce. This is about a half a cup.

spacer Then squee in the juice of a half of a fresh lime.

Here’s the other culinary secret – taste your food. If it’s lacking in something, put some more of that ingredient in. I don’t want to make it appear too simplistic but is neither affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its contents. This is a safe-cache copy of the original web site.