Buttermilk Fried Fish and Lemony Tartar Sauce

Son had been asking for "Fish and Chips" for a long time, and for my boy to ask for fish instead of steak or fried chicken was just music to my ears. Of course, I had to give in. But I didn't want to make the beer-battered type that is usually served in fast foods and restaurants.

Enter Guy Fieri and his show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." He featured a restaurant which uses cornmeal in their fish fry, and I thought it would be a great idea. I mean, we love it in corn dogs, why not in fish, right?

So I started slaving in the kitchen, and after preparing the dish, I noticed that we didn't have tartar sauce. Drats. No problem, I'll just make some. I quickly scanned the fridge and realized that we also didn't have pickle relish (a main ingredient in tartar sauce). Ugh. So I grabbed the lemon and prayed that they wouldn't notice the difference.

Well, what do you know... they loved it. Made me very proud and happy.'Nuff said.

What you need: 

2 fillets (about 10 oz) haddock (or any white fish)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons flour
oil for frying
seasoned salt
freshly ground black pepper

What to do: 

Rinse and pat dry fish with paper towels. Season with freshly ground black pepper and seasoned salt.

Place the fillets in a quart-size resealable bag then pour in the buttermilk. Seal the top and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, combine cornmeal and flour.

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high. Dredge the fish in the cornmeal mixture, then slowly lower into the hot oil. Fry for about  2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Serve hot with lemony tartar sauce (recipe follows).

Lemony Tartar Sauce 

What you need: 

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 Vidalia onion, chopped 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
dash of kosher salt
juice of 1/4 lemon 

What to do: 

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Easy peasy.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Don't skimp on the buttermilk - aside from adding flavor to the fish, it also takes away the "fishy" taste.
2. Instead of seasoned salt, use Old Bay seasoning. It is great on seafood!
3.When dredging, make sure you don't overcoat your fish. A light breading will make for a light and flavorful dish.
4. No buttermilk? Make some! Put a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a (1 cup) measuring cup, then top with regular milk. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Voila! Buttermilk!


Garlic Meatloaf

This dish was actually a happy accident. Before I left for work this morning, I pulled out ground meat from the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw. When I got back, I realized that I took out the ground beef instead of the ground pork that I meant to cook. 

So I made the first thing that came to mind - meatloaf. There are a million meatloaf recipes online, but I decided to tweak Alton Brown's recipe (yeah, I'm an Alton geek!). Being a "science" guy, his recipes are always complicated (not to mention the ingredient list is almost always impossibly long), but I haven't made anything of his that didn't taste good.  So I decided to copy his meatloaf recipe. With a 5-star rating from 713 reviews, I could bet my left leg that it was good.

Thyme from my garden
I read several reviews and realized that his recipe might be a tad spicy for us, so I planned on toning it down. Also, I didn't have garlic croutons at hand (original recipe called for it) and was too lazy too make some, so I did some substituting. I was really happy with how it turned out. The meat was very flavorful, and the glaze was just so yummy that I had to make another batch as dipping sauce.
Nope, not from my garden  :-(

What you need: 

1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
6 tablespoons bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
dash of powdered cayenne
dash of crushed red pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 Vidalia onion
1 carrot
3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg

For the glaze:
1/4 cup ketchup
dash worcestershire sauce
a squirt of sriracha
1 tablespoon honey

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a big bowl, combine breadcrumbs, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, crushed pepper and thyme leaves. Set aside.

A food pro just makes life a bit easier!
Using a food processor, finely chop onion, carrot, and cloves of garlic. Add the chopped veggies to the breadcrumb mix, along with the ground chuck. Add the egg and season with kosher salt. Mix well with your hands, being careful not to squeeze the meat. 

packed tight!

Place this mixture in a loaf pan, packing it tight so the meatloaf would hold its shape. Flip the loaf pan on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and place it in the preheated oven.

Flipped loaf pan
Remove the loaf pan and...taaadaaaa!

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Combine all the glaze ingredients in a bowl and mix well. When the meatloaf has been cooking for 10 minutes, brush the glaze onto the meatloaf with a basting brush. Continue cooking for about 30 more minutes, or until the temperature of the meat reaches 155°F. Let sit for a few minutes before slicing.

glaze + meat = deliciousness!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. A food processor will really come in handy for chopping stuff. However, you can always do it the old-fashioned way - with your hands and trusty knife!
2. If using dried thyme, just use 1/4 teaspoon. 
3. Yes, there are a lot of peppers in this dish. If you think this would be a problem, lessen the amount of cayenne. 
4. For the glaze, I just used about 4 drops (yes, drops!) of Sriracha. Add more if you can take the heat.
5. I know what you're thinking - one egg would probably make a dry meatloaf. But it actually worked. Alton Brown mentioned something about using just one egg in meatloaf - I didn't catch it, though. I might have to watch that Good Eats episode to find out why.
6. This recipe did turn out garlicky. If you are not a big fan, just use one clove of garlic!
The aftermath


We're Going to Disney!

So I was watching America's Funniest Videos last week and they showed some clips of kids' reactions when their parents told them that they were gonna go to Disney. Some of them squealed and screamed with delight, some did crazy (but funny) things, and some even cried. 

I was amazed at these kids' reactions, and then I realized that they probably live somewhere far (read: not in Florida or California) where Disney is a plane ride away.

So I turned to son and said, "Son, we're going to Disney tomorrow." And the response I got was "Ok. Can I wear my monkey shirt?" No hoopla or fanfare. Just asked if he can wear his monkey shirt.

Really, we are so blessed to be living in Florida, where we can just hop in our car and go to Disney (and its gajillion resorts/theme parks), Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, Sea World, Legoland, and whatever park you can think of. 

So true to my word, we did go to Disney the next day to mark the end of our Spring Break. It was fun, and we enjoyed it.

Here are some pics that we took, mostly of the "Dreams Come True" parade. Just click for larger images.

The banner carried by Disney cast members (yes, they call all their employees "casts"), with Pluto and Chip (or was it Dale?)

No Disney parade will be complete without Mickey and Minnie! (Aaaarghh, the Mickey Mouse March keeps playing in my head!)

Snow White and The Prince. Did you know that his name is Prince Ferdinand? Yeah - I never saw that coming too. Anyway, talk about square-jawed. Works for him, though.

Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio. Now you better not drink what's in that keg, or you'll turn into a donkey like what happened to poor Pinocchio!

 John Worthington Foulfellow was trying to trick us like he did Pinocchio!

Disney Dancers. They danced and sang all throughout the parade. Some of them were sweating like crazy that I almost wanted to offer them a drink!

 Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl looked like she was digging for gold! ;-)

 Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen. This was the first time I saw them included in a float.

 Goofy (in his dazzling purple tux, nonetheless!), Chip and Dale, Donald Duck.

 Cinderella and Prince Charming. He blew me a kiss. Eat your heart out! ;-)

Cinderella's Fairy Godmother. If you are ready to drop some serious moola, come to her Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. For only $189, she will make you look like any princess you fancy!

They were my favorites in the parade! That sneer never left Lady Tremaine's face - even while dancing! Anastasia and Drizella were also in character the whole time! In fact, there were popcorn on the ground and Anastasia kept pointing at them and motioning for Cinderella to pick them up! Hilarious!

Beauty and the Beast.

I really couldn't tell what Ariel was doing here... but Prince Eric seemed to be in-sync with her! 

Is Disney cost-cutting? Why are these characters sharing a float? Peter Pan, Wendy, Alice and the Mad Hatter.

Captain Hook, Tweedledum, Mr. Smee and the White Rabbit. Another hodge podge of characters.

 The Queen of Hearts. She got sooo close to us!

Mary Poppins and Bert. It's a jolly holiday with Mary!

Aladdin trying to show off his flying skills. (Good luck with that!)

 The genie, of course!

 We were giving Jafar thumbs down signs when he was passing by, so he gave us the stare down!

This was NOT from the parade. This was from the Hall of Presidents. I was impressed at the animatronics.

These were from the Magic Kingdom park. As mentioned above, Disney has a gajillion parks here in Florida. You can't really finish one in a day. My favorite is Epcot. Maybe someday I'll post some of our Epcot pics!


Krab Topper

It was one of those days when I really didn't feel like cooking for lunch. But who was I kidding? I ended up making a bigger mess in my kitchen because I was too lazy to make a "formal" meal. 

I thought that since it was one of those lazy days, I could get by with crackers and maybe a little dip. Boy, did I think wrong. Once I got the imitation crab (or krab with a K) out from the fridge and started flaking it, my "simple lunch" turned into a full blown kitchen experiment. I knew it was getting serious when I even went out to my herb garden and grabbed a few sprigs of parsley.

The result was a delicious appetizer/lunch that I couldn't stop eating. Even when I ran out of crackers, I just spooned the krab mixture into my mouth. I promise - it's that good!

What you need: 

4 oz Neufchatel cheese, softened
6 oz imitation crab (or "krab")
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
few drops of Sriracha

What to do: 

Mix everything in a bowl (except the crackers). Make sure the Neufchatel cheese is evenly distributed. Spoon the mixture on top of crackers before serving.
paper plate = snowman love!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Substitute Neufchatel with cream cheese. I only used Neufchatel because it has less fat (and it was what I had in the fridge!)
2. Parsley has a very strong flavor. Reduce the amount if you don't like it. Or better yet, skip it!
3. Tabasco can be used in place of Sriracha.

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Product Review: Royce Nama Chocolates

It even comes with a mini spatula!

I have wanted to try Royce Nama Chocolates after reading it from my friend Guia's blog. Sadly, it is not available here in the States. I tried eBay, Google shopping, even the official Royce website - they just don't sell/ship here.

Well, I recently found out why. Nama chocolates contain 20% cream, and as such, shipping to the US from Sapporo, Japan wouldn't be feasible. I mean, it would, but the chocolate won't be as good as people rave about. And personally, I don't think cream would survive that long a trip without refrigeration.

I had the chance to travel to Asia recently and sample these sweets. And wow, the Nama totally blew me away. I tried their other chocolates like the Pure Chocolate and Bar Chocolate, and they are also good - comparable to Dove (and maybe even Godiva), but the Nama (which is Japanese for "fresh") is something else. Read on.
Sorry - bad lighting.

What I liked: 

The chocolate just melts in your mouth. Literally. No kidding.
"Velvety" and "smooth" is an understatement when describing Nama.
The chocolates are pre-cut (sort of!) in bite-size pieces. Makes for easy mouth-popping.
They are rolled in dark cocoa powder. 
Fairly inexpensive. $12-15 is a good bargain for chocolate this decadent.
The taste. Just absolutely amazing.
Hubby said what he likes about it is that "Nama" rhymes with "Mama" which he finds very comforting. (Don't ask.) 

What I didn't like: 

Much as I like the dark cocoa powder, it sticks to your fingers when you pick a piece of Nama. Let's just hope your hands are clean when you do that, because trust me, you would want to lick those cocoa powders off your fingers!

The Verdict: 

All I really have are raves for this product. They are so delicious. I would recommend it to everybody - and if you don't love it, then you probably should live under a rock (no disrespect, Patrick). The Royce crew is even kind enough to put your Nama purchase in a special aluminum bag with a piece of dry ice to make sure it gets to you fresh. Would I buy it again? Yes. In fact, in a span of 3 weeks, I bought several boxes of Nama chocolates in 2 countries. I loved it that much (and wanted my son and in-laws to have a taste of it too!).

The Bitter variety is our favorite!


Thanks a Bunch!

Feeling inspired by my recent Monkey Bread post, I decided to make a monkey card!

 Head on to my Etsy shop to purchase this! :-)

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Semi-Homemade Monkey Bread

Well, hello raisin and walnut! Welcome to the party!

Lo and behold - the Monkey Bread. This was my first time to try this delicious bread, and I loved the oooey gooey sticky goodness. The monkey bread pictured above was actually my mother-in-law's. She brought it to a school breakfast several weeks ago, and it was gone faster than I can say "save me some more!"

To eat monkey bread, you have to pull it apart using your hands. That is why some people call it "Pull-Apart Bread." Aside from those two names I mentioned, they are also called sticky loaf, pinch-me cake, golden crown, bubble loaf, and monkey brains. Now the last one kinda' gave me the creeps - I would hate to think that the delicious thing that I so eagerly ate would actually be brains. 

But there's still something gnawing at me - why MONKEY, of all animals? Surely, there has to be a logical answer, right?

Well, thank you Google for telling me the answer. Actually, I looked at several websites and found a number of explanations. 

Some said that the act of pulling it before eating resembles monkey behavior (although I have never seen a monkey pull apart a banana!). Others said that it requires a good amount of "monkeying around" to prepare the dough (this won't happen in this recipe because I am using pre-packaged dough!).

The one I am most inclined to believe in is that baked monkey bread resembles the monkey puzzle tree. So judging from the picture below, what do you think?
Monkey Puzzle Tree bark Picture Credit

This recipe is adapted from the Pillsbury website. Yet again, it is semi-homemade because we used pre-packaged biscuit dough. Trust me, you would want to make this as quick as possible so you can get your hands on those sticky morsels of yumminess! 

 What you need: 

2 cans (16.3 oz each) Pillsbury Grands! refrigerated buttermilk biscuit
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon

What to do: 

Heat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a fluted pan (or Bundt pan) with butter or cooking spray. In a large resealable bag (like ziploc), mix granulated sugar and cinnamon.

Remove the dough from the cans. Separate them, and slice each biscuit into quarters. Place all the pieces in the resealable bag and shake well, making sure that each piece is covered with cinnamon sugar.

Arrange the pieces in the pan, adding walnuts and raisins among the biscuit pieces.

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and melted butter. Pour this mixture over the biscuit pieces.

Bake for 28 to 32 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate, serve warm.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Raisins and walnuts are optional in this recipe. (I recommend it, though)
2. Pecans (or your favorite kind of nuts) can also be used for this recipe.
3. Add a tablespoon of vanilla to the sugar-butter mixture to give it some depth.

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