Saturday, January 21, 2012

I can take you to Cheddar Bay.

I've been there. And it is glorious.

Even haters will admit that Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits are bomb. And if you haven't tried them, you'll just have to trust me. Believe in the Biscuit.

RL's biscuits are more scone-shaped blob-shaped, but I personally love using a biscuit cutter for these. They puff up to reveal the cheesy, flaky and buttery layers. The baked biscuit is also easier to split for adding a dab of butter. Not that it needs it really, but who doesn't like their biscuit buttered?

Definitely use both a baking mix for the base AND buttermilk.

Take Me Away to Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Yield: 12-14 Biscuits

2 ½ cups Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Pancake/Baking Mix
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons cold butter (1/2 stick), cut into small pieces
1 to 1 ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
¾ cup cold buttermilk

To brush on top:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Stir together baking mix and garlic powder. Add pieces of cold butter to mix and combine using a pastry cutter or two knives. Do this until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with small pieces of butter throughout. Add the shredded cheese and stir to combine.

Add buttermilk to the mixture, a little at a time, while stirring together with a fork. Stir until just combined; do not over-mix. Use your hand if needed to help the mixture come together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured workspace and knead the mixture gently a few times. Roll out the dough using a well-floured rolling pin to ½-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart. Knead leftover scraps together and repeat until all dough is used. (This is where you'll have an opportunity to get a couple blob-shaped biscuits. I hate wasting biscuit dough! Just don't do it.)

Stir together melted butter, garlic salt and garlic powder in a small bowl and brush mixture on top of biscuits using a pastry brush. If desired, sprinkle top of biscuits with a little freshly ground black pepper.

Bake for 11-14 minutes, or until tops and bottoms of biscuits are golden brown.

Serve warm.

Next stop: Cheddar Bay. Bon voyage/appetit!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post back in March, but didn't publish it because I wanted to explain where the heck I've been all this time first. Well it turned out that I didn't even have time to tell you I haven't had time to blog (except I just did, I guess). So here's a post about mangoes instead.

A couple weekends ago I was suckered into buying 11 mangoes while making a trip to Kmart for some necessities. As one of my favorite fruits, mangoes could be considered a necessity. Probably not 11 of them, but that's how the guys were selling them.

Yes, I bought them from guys that were selling them out of the back of a van along with oranges (they are there every weekend and seem to have more fruit offerings every time I go -- this past weekend, they had pineapples!).

They were all extremely ripe (in fact, that's why I bought them -- I couldn't resist after sampling a wedge), so I had to figure out how to use them up before they went bad. I took this as an opportunity to use them in dishes I've always wanted to try out but never have because every time my family has bought mangoes, we just cut them up and simply eat them as is, or with mom-made rujak, as Indonesians often do.

Because I've mentioned it: Rujak is a spicy and sweet condiment/sauce made from ground tamarind and hot red chilies. It looks like brown sludge, but is terrific with juicy and fresh veggies and fruits, like jicama, pineapple or mmmango. Also, it is best when made by Indonesian moms that are related to me.

Anyway, since I didn't have any rujak on hand, I decided to make the following with my mango bounty:
  • Mahi-mahi tacos with mango-cucumber salsa
  • Mango-tango sorbet
I also made tandoori chicken with mango-jasmine rice, but basically followed this recipe. And I cut up the rest of the MMMMANGOES to eat as is. So sweet and juicy and delicious.

Recipes after the jump!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Veggie storage.

Today in Totally Unnecessary But Irresistible Kitchen Splurges:

These adoooooorable containers from Cost Plus World Market.

They actually weren't that much (I can already hear the scoldings from my sister and boyfriend); they were $12 for all three and you can buy them separately! And I can use them to store salads and things I make using veggies and herbs from my garden! For a picnic or potluck! Yay! Exclamation points!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Where I've been.

Because it's obvious I haven't been here, at my blog.

Well, I took a trip to Seattle.

Pike Place was my Favorite Place. More photos from my Seattle foodventures soon!

Spent a weekend sipping wines in Santa Barbara.

Beautiful Sanford Winery. And delicious Sanford wines.

But mostly, I've been in my little balcony, tending to my little garden.

Now, I'm notoriously terrible at gardening -- an attribute that is known by former roommates, old co-workers, friends and family. But I love the concept of growing one's own food. I love working the soil with my fingers, planting a tiny seed, and waiting patiently for it to grow into a beautiful plant. I love thinking about Mother Nature's amazing ability to do this. And I love semi-frightening people with my hippie talk.

Many, many times I have tried and failed to grow plants (and keep them alive). Herb garden kits, tulips, even bamboo plants have suffered and died from my gardening inability. But with a little inspiration and encouragement from my co-worker, whom I now call my "garden godmother," I decided to give it another go.

I started with edamame seeds I had bought in Japan a year ago. I was amazed and encouraged when they germinated quickly and grew so rapidly (considering they had been dormant for more than a year). They were doing incredibly well for a very long time, until...

Still clinging to life.
They got attacked by what I later figured out were leaf miner bugs (awful tiny things that burrow inside the leaves of the plant). I also read somewhere that edamame plants apparently need a soil depth of at least 13-15 inches. My poor plants, which were in a 5-inch planter, were seriously suffering from lack of soil nutrients. And I probably overwatered them, too. Oops.

BUT I was able to harvest four little pods from my entire set of plants. I steamed them quickly in the microwave and the beans were so sweet and tasty. They may have tasted just as good as a frozen bag of edamame from Trader Joe's, but I had to give myself a little pat on the back for keeping something alive long enough to produce something that was actually edible.

The edamame plants eventually died, but I've learned from my mistakes and I'm totally encouraged to try again. In the meantime, I've been growing, from transplants, strawberries (regular and alpine), purple basil, Italian parsley, piquin peppers and a variety of succulents.

My sempervivum tectorum began flowering!

I'm also growing daisies, sweet pea and cilantro from seed, and sweet basil from cuttings. One of my strawberry plants even produced a baby plant from a runner!

So, I guess the point of this post is: I'm sorry I haven't been blogging because I've been gardening, but really I'm not sorry because gardening is awesome and everyone should totally feel encouraged to garden and grow their own food.

Also, I'll post a wrap-up of my Seattle trip next.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Sooooooo. This post is a week late. When does the busy craziness end? Please someone tell me so I can comfort and reassure my lonely blog.

Also, now I'm in Seattle. Vacationing and enjoying the lovely city, the clean air, the trees (SoCal is SoNot as green as Seattle), and of course the FOOD. More updates on Seattle later. First: Back to OC.

Thanks to an invite from awesome OC blogger and food blahg reader Suz (Alive in Wonderland), I attended a BlogCrush event at Lazy Dog Cafe in Irvine, where we were treated to menu items selected by executive chef Gabriel Caliendo.

Favorites (and definitely things I would get again):
Togarashi edamame - soybeans made even more addictive with a slightly spicy seasoning
Shanghai tacos (lettuce cups) - savory and refreshing
Wok-fired calamari - crispy, spicy and sweet
Spicy Moroccan chicken and couscous - only tried the couscous, but would have been content laying my face in the plate

I was also at Lazy Dog for lunch that day (inadvertently booked lunch and dinner plans at the same restaurant) and got -- and loved -- the chicken salad sandwich and parmesan zucchini fries. I'd probably have no problem eating at the Lazy Dog Cafe for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Too bad they're not open for breakfast.

Now: Back to Seattle! Food updates soon, hopefully.

* * *
Lazy Dog Cafe (The Market Place)
13290 Jamboree Rd
Irvine 92602

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I want to hug my Crock-Pot.

I've been trying hard to get into the habit of posting more frequently, but have been distracted with my TV show obsessions as of late. Luckily, they've all finished up their seasons, so I can finally get back to my LIFE. And this blog.

This slow-cooker stroganoff was something I made a while back, when it was probably a bit cooler. But with June gloom in full swing, a warm, meaty plate of slow-cooked beef and pasta is totally appropriate for dinner, I say.

Beef Stroganoff (recipe adapted from Everyday Food)

2-3 pounds beef chuck (with decent marbling), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 sweet brown onion, chopped
2/3 pounds white button mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1/3 pounds cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sour cream, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Cooked egg noodles, rotini, or other short pasta
Chopped fresh dill, for garnish

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, toss beef, onion and mushrooms with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Turn off or keep on warm.

In a 2-cup heatproof measuring cup, stir cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water. Ladle about a cup of cooking liquid into measuring cup, whisk to combine. Pour mixture into a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 minute, until smooth and thickened. Pour cornstarch mixture into slow cooker and stir well. Stir in sour cream and Dijon mustard.

Serve beef over noodles and garnish generously with dill and a dollop of sour cream, if desired (and you will desire it).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Things I would do(oo-oo) for a Neapolitan Klondike bar:

1. Tweet about craving it after hearing about Neapolitan Klondikes from the helpful mustached fellow employed at my local Paper Source.

2. Visit and use its store locator in an attempt to find the Neapolitan bars, only to discover the closest store that carries them is located 50 miles away; tweet about my disappointment.

3. Say YES PLEASE after the kind folks at Klondike offered to me, on Twitter, a "free one-time shipment" of Neapolitan Klondikes in response to aforementioned tweet.

4. Stumble out of bed the next morning to accept a big cold package packed with dry ice while addressing my mother's quizzical stares.

5. Completely disregard my dentist's recommendations to eat only soft, lukewarm foods after getting my wisdom tooth pulled that same day.

6. Substitute my breakfast for one the following day.

7. Begin working on a strategy to somehow obtain future boxes of Neapolitan Klondikes.

Monday, May 3, 2010

(Unique) LA day.

Being primarily an OC gal, I don't get to explore LA all that often. But my cousin lives and goes to school there, and she is the perfect excuse to visit. Also, she knows her way about town, and I get to be her chauffeur for a day. It's a win for all.

I had scheduled an "LA day" on my calendar not really sure what was in store. But I did know that we were going to start the day with grilled cheese. I had been looking forward to this for weeks. Clementine was having "Grilled Cheese Month" specials the whole month of April, and I was lucky to make it for the final weekend.

Behold the baked potato melt:

Potato, bacon, broccoli and cheesy goodness between two slices of potato dill bread. I was able to eat about a third of the sandwich before my appetite succumbed to its richness and I could not take one more bite. Eating a tuna-cheddar salad and part of my cousin's ham and Gruyère on pretzel bread probably had something to do with that, too. 

Also, the sweet homemade pickles. Delicious. Take it from someone who hates pickles. Or don't. It's up to you. (But seriously, eat the pickles.)

Our bellies quite content, we boxed our leftovers and were headed to our next stop: the Unique LA expo. This show features clothes, art, jewelry, awesome things, etc. from hundreds of independent local designers and artists. And, of course, it's fun for foodies, too.

Yummy things we saw:

Friggen' cute plush fruit by Janie XY.

Graze reusable sandwich/snack bags.

Sugars and herb packets by Backyard in a Jar.

Yummy things we ate:

An avocado vanilla popsicle from the Popshop. My cousin had lime mint mojito.

A CoolHaus snickerdoodle and candied bacon ice cream sandwich. (Yes, we had ice cream and ice cream.)

Flying Pig's smoked chicken and short rib "tacos." I had only a bite of the chicken, and all I can say is: This truck better be coming to OC soon.

P.O.P. Candy's rich, buttery toffee. The thyme, walnut and cherries one was my favorite.

Yummy things I brought home with me:

An adorable steppie art print for my kitchen.

Strawberry chipotle jam by Backyard in a Jar. It's sweet with just the right amount of heat. It's been a little over a week and the jar's almost finished.

A Subeco shirt. For every shirt they sell, they plant a tree in the rain forest!

Yay LA!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Identity crisis now averted.

Question: What do you think Val is short for? Valerie? Valkyrie? Val Kilmer?

If you guessed any of these, I'm afraid you are incorrect. (I bet a few of you out there were kinda maybe hoping for Val Kilmer. Don't lie.)

The truth is, Val is a pseudonym. Well actually, it's kind of a pseudonym. It's a pseudo-pseudonym. Because it isn't completely fictitious.

Val is short for Valentina, my middle name. My first name is Inez.

There. It's out. You know my real first name.

I know it may not seem like that big of a deal (and many of you have already known), but it has been kind of a big deal for me. When I created this blog, I wanted to keep it completely separate from other aspects of my life (namely, my job). I wanted to be almost anonymous. That's why I went with Val: a shortened, ambiguous version of my middle name. Val was an alter ego, an online identity I hid behind to allow me to indulge in, without holding back even one tiny bit, what has been a serious passion of mine for years: food. Cooking food, eating food, rambling about food, food and more food.

But I'm outing myself now for these reasons:

  1. (Most importantly,) I realized Val, this blog, and @myabsentmind do not make up an alter ego. This is me. And I don't want to be anonymous anymore. This is who I am, and I'm proud of it. YAY.
  2. People in my personal life who later found my blog kept asking me why I posted as Val. I'm over explaining it, and the reason is no longer valid (as previously stated).
  3. Many of the people I interact with at work already know about this blog anyway.
  4. I was getting seriously annoyed with myself and my Val/Inez inconsistency in posting comments on other food blogs (Food Frenzy, Monster Munching, Furey and the Feast -- my favorite OC blogs). Sidenote: My photo of smoky beef stew with blue cheese and chives was totally on Food Frenzy a couple months back.
  5. I love my first name. Kudos to my mama on that one.

So, that's pretty much it. Thanks for putting up with that, and sorry I kind of rambled. But that's how I do. That's why this is called food 'blah'g. (blah blah blah blah..)

This is my last blog entry posting as Val.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wait for it...

This blog is coming back on or before May 1.

Get ready.