Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Night Like This

I know it's been a while. I actually had a beautiful macaron post typed up and it somehow got eaten up by the internetz. I was pretty bummed out and I'll try to rehash it sometime next month.

I've decided that I am going to trim down my monthly posts from 9 to 5. I can do more but I want to do at least 5. Today is the last day of January and it's my 5th post of the convenient! It just seems less daunting plus, I don't want to start sounding tired.

It has been so darn cold these past few days. We had a wave of warm in the middle of the month (the temps were in the 40's) but for the past few days, it hasn't gone above freezing. I was looking back at some of my pictures from our last trip to Germany and came across the Gleuhwein shots. This stuff was all over Vienna as well. Every place we tried it was a little bit different.

It's a seasonal beverage in the German speaking countries and it's made with mulled wine. My friend Andrew used to live in Germany and he made it a point to tell us that we should definitely try some. The way it's pronounced, I thought he was saying blue wine and the mental image was not pleasant. What was in the wine to make it blue!? How could it possibly taste good!?

When I saw the tent, I felt silly. Gleuhwein! It's served up nice and warm in a commemorative cup. You pay a deposit fee of about 2-3 euros for the mug and the beverage itself is about 2. If you want to keep the cup, you've already paid for it so you're more than welcome to do so. We kept the pretty cup we shared in Vienna. It had a nice picture of the Rathaus which is a huge and gorgeous building. The picture below was the drink we shared in Germany.

As you can see by the pink froth, it isn't blue. :-) It's served up nice and hot but not scalding so you can drink it right away. I didn't expect to like it nearly as much as I did. Even if I did hear it correctly and didn't imagine it to be the wrong color, mulled wine just sounded strange to me! I managed not to write it off and I'm glad I gave it a try. While we were walking around and taking in the sights, this stuff did an excellent job of taking the edge off of the cold weather. It smells really strong but it's quite smooth! Not too sweet with just a hint of spice. Sehr gut!

With the weather being as miserable these past few days, my heart ached when I saw these pictures. I'd give anything right now to warm my hands and kick back with a nice mug of Gluewein! I should try to see if I can dig up a recipe. I did get a lovely German cookbook for Christmas.....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tastes Like Chicken

A while back, I promised a follow up for dinner at Kaya's Kitchen to accompany the brunch post from a few months ago. Last weekend, Chris and I finally got around to it. We don't live very close to Kaya's which is both fortunate and unfortunate. I'd probably have even more weight to lose than I am already dealing with if we weren't an hour away!

We basically save it for special occasions. Chris' parents live close by so sometimes we head over if we are visiting them and my mother-in-law doesn't plan on cooking one of her fabulous meals. There are a lot of great choices on their menu. My favorite thing to order would have to be the fake chicken legs! I have to say that it's one of the most convincing off all of the faux meats I've ever had. The texture is almost scary! Honestly, I do not remember chicken ever tasting this good. This is moist and full of flavor. You have a choice of either BBQ grilled or fried. The meal comes with four legs so I usually do two of each. They're both awesome so it's difficult to say which is the best. Texture wise, I love crunching into the fried but the flavor of the BBQ is tough to beat. The meal came with a veggie medley but I always get the kale here. It's fantastic. Kaya's loves their gravy and I am having great difficulty coming up with a sight that is more delightful than that of a boat. In fact, this blog was almost The Gravy Boat. True fact!

I've had a few of the appetizers. The "ribs" stand out as a favorite. Of course, you can blame my southern upbringing for my strong love of anything with barbeque sauce on it! The soups are always good too. I can't remember going there when Chris hasn't ordered the burrito for dinner. He's a man who knows what he likes. (That's why he married me) The dessert menu usually changes around depending on what they have. They're homemade and delicious but I rarely have room for it! Almost their entire menu is vegan but if you order something with cheese (like the burrito), you have a choice of dairy.

Kaya's Kitchen uses the finest quality organic ingredients so don't allow the relaxed atmosphere fool you. It isn't cheap. I am pretty sure the chicken leg meal was $16 but it was worth every penny. I've never had a meal at Kaya's that didn't result in a deep down soul satisfaction.

Kaya's Kitchen
817 Belmar Plaza
Belmar, NJ 07719

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Lunch Date

Last week Chris and I had a whole week off together! My daughter was visiting her dad so we had a lot of time to ourselves. Earlier in the month, I made him promise me to take me to Makeda! This is one of the few, if not the only Ethiopian restaurant in New Jersey. It is an absolutely amazing and delicious experience and I cannot implore you all enough to go!

The best time to hit it up is for lunch. Dinner can get kinda pricey. You can have your choice of four different dishes if you chose the vegetarian sampler and it will only set you back $9. This comes with injera so you can dine in traditional Ethiopian fashion...
...with your hands!

Injera is a crepe like fermented flatbread made from teff. It has a slightly sour taste that envelopes the complex flavors of the meal perfectly. Ethiopian food is usually served in a stew form called wat. The menu at Makeda is full of them which are made from many different sources and combined with a variety of seasonings. I've tried several from the lunch menu I definitely have my favorites. I usually always order the same four.

Starting clockwise from the left: Gomen Wat which is made from collard greens. Mesir Wat is at the top and it is made from lentils. Atakild Wat is probably the most popular. It is a stewed combination of potatoes, green beans, cabbage and carrots. Last but not least is the Shiro Wat made from split peas. All of these are seasoned traditionally with garlic, ginger and a magical blend of spices. I've been told by members of the wait staff that the cooks are quite guarded when it comes to their methods.

Treat yourself to an adventure. Call in sick and go to Makeda for lunch. It's rarely crowded. The atmosphere is relaxed while still accomplishing a sense of eloquence. You can enjoy the view of the art gallery through the windows that divide it from the restaurant. Don't go if you are in a hurry. Even if you are one of only two or three tables, the pace is quite slow. Let yourself relax with a cup of spiced tea (a favorite!) or a glass of Tej which is an Ethiopian wine made from honey. Drop me a comment to rub it in my face a little bit if you do decide to go and even if I don't reply, know that I'll be jealous!

338 George Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Southern Tradition

Where I grew up, every year had to start out with some black eyed peas if you want it to be a good one! I decided to get a solid leg up on my beans by soaking them last Tuesday and then slow cooking them over the next three days in my crock pot. I seasoned them up the way I do all of my beans: an onion (the color doesn't really matter), at least four cloves of bruised garlic, 3-4 small bay leaves and some sea salt. This never fails to yield a satisfying pot of grub.

The black eyed peas are traditionally accompanied by greens. Some say collards but I don't really know for sure if your choice is limited. Since I did such a good job with my peas, I let Trader Joe's give me a hand with the rest. They sell a bag of chopped mix greens so all I had to do was dump them in boiling water and let them simmer. My bases were covered because it was a mixture of collards, mustard and turnip greens. They turned out absolutely fantastic and I will definitely be buying those guys again!

The cornbread....not so much. I made it from a TJ mix that only called for an egg, milk and oil. I let my pan preheat in the oven with some ghee and then added the batter once it was nice and hot. This was total yankee cornbread. Way too sweet for me. This is a common problem up in these parts. McCaffrey's also has incredibly sweet cornbread. It tastes like it should have chocolate icing on top. The best place I've found to buy cornbread, so far, has been Wegmans.

There is an important detail in the second picture that must be discussed: pepper sauce. As hard as it is to find cornbread up here, it was even harder to find pepper sauce. I think we scored some at Shop Rite but it's difficult to remember because we bought it a long time ago. I just refill it with white vinegar. It tastes absolutely awesome on greens. You don't need pork fat to knock those guys right out of the park.

The peas are supposed to bring good luck and the greens are for money. Here's hoping for a healthy and prosperous 2010 for all of us!

The Journey (Part 4)

The end is the beginning!

First of all, this post is a bit late and I'm sorry. I'll follow my apology with a Happy 2010 to you few but faithful readers. The holiday season was a bit busy for me so I didn't meet my mark for last month but I have so many inspirations for posts that January should be hopping!

My fruitcakes were ready on 12/21 and I gave a few of them away. Two of Molly's teachers got one and I brought the bigger cake that I made to work to share with coworkers and knitters. There is a little bit of that one left and I've been nibbling on it at home. It tastes better and better as time passes. I have one more to share with my Tuesday knitters who are eagerly looking forward to it and then I have decided to lock the rest away! Someone told me that there are actually those who bake fruitcakes and let them sit for an entire year. One of the reasons it was developed was the shelf life so it makes perfect sense. I can testify to the fact that it truly does taste better when it sits for as long of a period as possible. After I deliver on my promise to share, I will still have two small cakes and one large one. I am going to try to let them sit until the holidays come back around this year. I'll occasionally baste them so they keep moist while trying my best not to eat them! I've had one after it sat for a month and it was amazing so a year should really be out of this world. You and I both know that despite the fact that the new year is still so fresh, Christmas will be here before we know it.