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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


Spanish rice is one of those things that I took for granted in California — you pretty much could expect some sort of seasoning in your rice unless you went for Asian food. Even then, there were options other than plain white. Not so much a thing up here, where Finns will just toss a pat...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


I like rice. I like seafood. This recipe is two good things that taste good together, what else do you need to know? Definitely my own version of comfort food, and fairly easy to make if you don’t mind putting in the elbow grease. Back home in Cali, I’d use fresh shellfish and go...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Wow, look what I found lurking in my old to-post folder! The last batch of photos from my London work trip back in spring of 2011. Yeah, the one where it became my mission in life to order steamed dumplings from every place within delivery range that made them. Seriously, I've got the pictures to prove it. It was an obsession. Just thinking about the woeful lack of delivery dumplings here makes me sad. It's almost criminal. Why do you hate me so, Finland?

Stopped by a nice little Thai restaurant after work my first night and… guess what I ordered.
Dumplings in soup AND steamed dumplings.
Shumai from another place on another evening.

Shrimp hargao from the same place as the shumai.
Bonus shrimp crispies! I think this place was my favorite. I have their menu still somewhere.
And one night, I gave in and just got fried seafood noodles. Because they used actual large prawns and not tiny baby shrimps like in Finland.

This is what I get for not making notes — the closest sushi place to where my hostesses lived was also pretty good. I miss ikura :-(
The Warrington, when it was still owned by Gordon Ramsay. Who sold it later that year. Hey, we were curious. It was pretty inside.
The food was… okay. Not memorable, but better than the questionable meat pie from lunch. Which I actually remember better. I guess that says something.

The girls took me to this adorable little fusion dimsum place one evening. I think these are sweet buns?
Fruity drinks. The one on the right even has basil seeds. I can barely find lemonade in restaurants out here.
These might be the duck ones.

Classic charsui bun with barbecue pork.
The squid ink dumplings! So cool. They stopped making these, it seems :-(
Random squid, I think?

Fancy shumai. There were twists on all these dumplings, I wish I remembered :-I
Pretty little desserts. Mine is the mango pudding, of course.
Ping Pong Dimsum! That was the name. That’s why I took a picture of the menu :-)

Thought I’d try some fast food sushi as well, since I’ve never done the conveyor belt thing before. There was a Yo!Sushi at the mall, so I went.
This stuff was actually a half step better than Sushi Boy, the fast food sushi place we went to in Cali. Well, maybe the plates helped.
That, and they did hand rolls on demand. I miss having a sushi place.

Sweet shrimp :-D One of my all-time faves and hard to come by in non-shrimp producing places.
The conveyor belt! All the plates had time stamps on the lids, which probably helped with the freshness thing a lot.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Here is another canned delight from Sweden that brought I back from our trip this past December. Given, this one came straight from the grocery store’s prepared foods aisle and not from a gourmet food boutique. The first picture is slightly misleading, since I mixed a bowl of rice into the can o’ stuff. That disk-shaped lump of white matter on the spoon should be a clue, though.

If it helps, here’s what the stuff looks like in the can, prior to being served. Any clearer?

Alright, then. If you’re still stumped, click to go behind the cut…

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Back when I was attending UCLA, our default place for ordering pizza was Tony Maroni’s on Wilshire. While it wasn’t necessarily the best pizza I’d ever had in my life, the staff was friendly, the food was dependably good and they were really talented at remembering our orders and faces. The place is run by this sweet older Korean couple with the help of the typical parade of chipper college students. They also were really good about substitutions and special orders, which is where the Hawaiian chicken calzone here came from. T is a hardcore pineapple fan — put pineapple on anything and it’s guaranteed he’ll eat it with no questions asked. I preferred calzones over pizza because they usually made less of a mess and stayed warmer when I picked up an order before driving home from an LA trip. Rather than having to make lunch upon arriving home, I’d just toss something with pineapple on the dining table and all was well with the world.

Alas, calzones don’t really grow on trees here in Finland. The local pizza places here make two things — pizza and kebab. The Italian restaurants here are more into their pastas, steaks and pizzas. Overall, there’s a large gap in the restaurant industry here in our particular city — we have several cheap fast food places you can show up to in sweats and a healthy number of nicer upscale restaurants to take your business partners to, but almost nothing in the way of middle-ranged places you can go for a casual evening out. Which is pretty much where you see your calzones showing up. So the next item on my menu planning for the first week was to remedy that situation.

I’d just finished reading Nummy Kitchen’s Roasted Red Pepper and Ricotta post, so that was the first source that popped into my head and I used her recipes as my base. She, in turn, borrowed the crust recipe and template from Mark Bittman’s excellent vegetarian cookbook.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Back in early November, I decided to take a stab at weekly menu planning in an effort to organize my grocery shopping lists, encourage the trying out of all those recipes I had stashed in my notebook and more efficiently make use of the ingredients I already had on hand. It worked surprisingly well for a few weeks, up until the holiday season hit and I was eaten alive by gingerbread. Just started up the process again a couple of weeks ago and although it’s been hard to get back into the groove (amazing how lazy you get after a few weeks of not having to cook for yourself), I do appreciate the order it has brought to my kitchen. Looking through old receipts, I used to make random visits to the supermarket up to five times a week for a handful of things each time. After the menu regimen started, the total dropped to one large receipt and an occasional small one for when we got last minute cravings. That’s not only a lot of time saved, but quite a bit of money from not purchasing repeats, impulse junk or items that wouldn’t get used after the first time.

So what does all that have to do with fried rice? Simple — fried rice is pretty much the ultimate refrigerator clean-out dish. Just about anything you need to get rid (within reason) can go into fried rice. I know this because I’ve seen my mom put in some pretty interesting things over the course of my lifetime. So when I sat down to make my very first week’s menu, the thing that I immediately jotted for the first day was in bold: FRIED RICE. Rhymes with clean slate to my ears, it does.

I used 3 Hungry Tummies’ Fried Rice recipe as a starting point and then just tossed in whatever happened to be convenient. The beauty of fried rice is that it’s hard to go wrong with it, as long as you do a little prep work. Such as? Right behind the cut…

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Hey, wow — this might be the first time I’ve written about a recipe featuring meat other than chicken or seafood. I guess that sort of shows where our typical dining tendencies lie. (Well, if you don’t count the ground meat in lasagna, which I don’t since it’s not really the standout ingredient nor can you even tell what animal it came from, by the time the dish is served.)

At any rate, here is a pork recipe. Because pork can sometimes be underrated. It’s inexpensive, mild, and often ends up being used as “filler” meat because it doesn’t compete with seasonings. This is all perfectly fine when you’re making, say, meatballs or sausages, but can become something of a challenge when you’re trying to bring it into the spotlight. Add to this the fact that popular opinion still prefers pork to be cooked to within a millimeter of its life. That’s one rule I’m willing to bend around, however, because the steep rise in meat handling sanitation standards since this piece of advice was formed has made it somewhat outdated. Pink doesn’t bother me, though I still measure for minimal core temperatures. No dry and rubbery for me, please!

I’ve made pork chops a handful of times using AR’s Baked Pork Chops I recipe, both the way it’s written and with various small tweaks. What I did this time around followed the recipe pretty closely until halfway, then went off down a slightly different fork in the road as I tried to use up some leftovers in the refrigerator. What I ended up with was something like a chicken rice casserole lined with a layer of breaded pork chops at the bottom. Actually rather tasty, and reheats well in the pan the next day. The process behind the cut…

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Back in the late 90′s, I was fortunate enough to visit New Orleans a couple of times (I don’t really count the times my family visited back when we lived in Houston because I was far too young to have a vote in what we did there) for lavish masquerade balls. If there are two things they know how to do down there, it’s dress well and eat well. My friends and I made sure to explore both avenues as much as possible during our brief visits.

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been there, but the memories of fancy gowns, copious alcohol and excellent food are not the least bit dulled. With any luck, I will be able to visit there with the boy in the near future. Having grown up in SoCal, which was always poised on the edge of one natural (or manmade) disaster or another, you learn that sometimes imminent doom makes the will to create and shine all the stronger. Time and circumstances might have changed the New Orleans I experienced back then, but I know that the spirit and beauty still remain, and I very much want to see that again.

In the meantime, here’s a classic recipe from thereabouts that I like to break out whenever I can get my hands on a decent batch of crawfish. August just happens to be crawfish season in Scandinavia, so it’s much easier to get tubs of tail meat now than at any other time of year.

Crawfish étouffée, using the AR Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffe recipe.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

It’s been a while since I did a WoW-related recipe post, hasn’t it? My last one was pretty easy, since it translated directly to what could be found in the supermarket. This one is along the same lines — Poached Sunscale Salmon! Like last time, I’ve taken some license in what sort of species would be considered “Sunscale” salmon hereabouts. I’m going to work with the idea that despite there being many varieties of salmon, they all basically cook up the same and even a fictional species probably would look pretty much like what we have here. That being said, I have a sneaking suspicion that Sunscale would probably be a Pacific species while Whitescale would probably be Atlantic. Either way, you’re going to need a cooking skill level of 250 and some raw salmon. If you were a digital character, you’d have to go and learn this recipe from a band of opportunistic desert goblins. Luckily, we have internets instead, which are more far convenient and don’t smell as strongly of gunpowder and kodo dung.

Poached salmon with broccoli and a side of jasmine rice. Adapted and tweaked from AR’s Poached Salmon II Recipe. Fast and easy to make, as befits something that might be cooked on a portable skillet over a campfire just prior to engaging in a raid encounter with deranged orc warchiefs. Nobody should mêlée on an empty stomach!

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

I made a discovery the other day when I was buying ingredients for my weekly family dinner — alfredo sauce as we know it, typically available on grocery store shelves alongside the tomato sauces? Not really a thing here. When I asked around, I found out that Italian restaurants served it, but it wasn’t so much something that was done at home. Even when white sauce is made at home for pasta, it usually isn’t the sort with copious quantities of butter and cream that I’ve come to associate with the concept of white sauce. That is purely a North American thing, along with the name “fettucine alfredo“. Go figure.

On a side note, I once knew a guy who would only ever order chicken fettuccine alfredo or fried chicken tenders when going to a restaurant, because they were the two things he could always be sure were “safe bets”. Wasn’t so much of an adventurer when it came to food. He’d probably starve here.

Funny thing? I’ve only ever attempted alfredo sauce once before, back when I was younger and had a lot less experience cooking for myself. I don’t even remember what I did wrong, but the sauce simply would not emulsify despite using the right ingredients and stirring copiously. I finally had to dump it and use a jar of sauce for that night’s dinner. It was a rather traumatic experience. This recipe? Despite having more ingredients, steps and preparation than that older recipe, it worked so much better. A lot more flavor and personality, too. Tweaked from AR’s Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Right-o. Following the confusion that yesterday’s mention of condensed cream soup stirred up, perhaps I should have posted this recipe first as sort of a context for its use! As I mentioned earlier, we had Mexican theme night. Well, pseudo-Mexican, since we had to make do with what was available in a place which is just about as non-Mexican as you can get. I ended up going with a salad of baby greens tossed with avocado and cucumber, a pitcher of lemon-limeade, flan for dessert, and… chicken enchiladas. Keep in mind that I have never made Mexican food in my life, since there really was no point to doing so in Southern California. There were just so many good and cheap places to get it that it was completely unnecessary. Here in Finland, however, there are apparently no Mexican restaurants at all within a one hour drive of us (apparently, there is now a kiosk open in Turku) so if you want a burrito or taco, you’d better learn to make it yourself. So this is my first attempt at doing so :-)

Adapted from AR’s Angela’s Awesome Enchiladas. Because, well, with a name like that, how could I not try it? They turned out pretty good, too. I’ll need to do some further cheese hunting to find a more appropriate mix for the topping, and probably will adjust the seasoning proportions a little in the future, but it went over very well with the family.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Earlier this week, I had the boy’s family over to dinner. This is looking to become a regular thing, which I’m looking forward to because it gives me the chance to break out the larger-yield recipes which normally would leave us with a week’s worth of leftovers. I chose to do lasagna this week. Not just any lasagna, but the one that was possibly the very first homemade dinner I ever made for the boy. It’s a bit more involved than your average lasagna, but very much worth the extra time and ingredients put in.

Only lightly modified from the AR World’s Best Lasagna recipe, because it isn’t lying.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

Made dinner for the first time the other day, and decided to start out with something fairly basic. Especially since we don’t have a rice maker (the old one wasn’t electrically compliant and even though my father got us a European model, there was no room to pack it in our already jammed full bags) and I had never made rice without a machine before. Crazy, isn’t it, how you can get so used to specialized equipment that you don’t even realize it’s been done the old fashioned way for countless centuries before? We don’t have a microwave, either, but I’ve been living without one for the past three years so that’s not as big a deal and probably leads to my being more adventurous in the kitchen. Anyways…

Curried rice with pineapple (the boy LOVES pineapple), chicken, shrimp, and peas. A mellow version, since I’m a spice wimp, that reheats nicely the next day and tastes even better after a bit of flavor melding. I made a nice, big pot and had leftovers for the next two days. I used the AR Curry Pineapple Fried Rice recipe as starting point — while calling it fried rice is a bit of a misnomer, it is a great base.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

I last wrote about Spinner’s about this time last year and at the time, I didn’t do much justice to their food presentation. Which really is a shame on me, because the way they set things up when you dine in is much closer to a restaurant than most places with a walk-up counter. To be fair, this was because we lived so close that we often wanted to eat at home and so would get everything to-go. We did take the family in to eat a few times, though, and I remembered to bring my camera with me when I did. So here are the pictures I promised to put up, way back when.

Apologies for the partially eaten appetizer photo — some hungry tablemates got to the dish before I could whip the camera out in time! :-D More often times than not, when you sit down to eat, the kitchen sends out free sample appetizers for you to pick at. I’m a huge fan of their baba ghanoush (eggplant dip) in the foreground there — which is saying a lot since I usually hate eggplant in my food. I forgot what that finely-chopped spicy tomato dip is called (I think it has nuts in it), but it was really good  as well, though a bit too hot for me to have more than a few dips.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

That is, the lobster was giant, not the rice. Though that was a pretty substantial pan of food as well, come to think of it. If I remember right, I actually brought this sucker home on the same day that I had to pick up the younger cat from the vet. With the 5 pound cat in a carrier on one hand and the 7 pound lobster in a bag with ice on the other, they were feeling pretty much the same weight. o.O

The before video. But wait! Aren’t bigger lobsters less tender and thus not as good eating? Hmmm. Well, it’s true that the ideal lobster for eating plain on a plate with butter is around 1.5 pounds, while they’re still young and sweet. It’s also true that a larger (say, 7 pound) lobster has more meat by volume than 4-ish smaller lobsters equaling the same weight. And for this particular recipe, I needed plenty of lobster meat. Besides, quality has a lot to do with how you cook it — a small lobster can be botched just as badly as a big one by the right person. Or, y’know, made well. Moving along.

The after picture. Lobster fried rice. No particular recipe, this one was just one of my happy experiments in flinging things up and seeing where they landed. This one turned out especially well, but I have to give much credit to the crustacean in question. It’s hard to go wrong with a good lobster. It will be quite a while before I see another lobster, since they aren’t particularly common in stores up here and highly expensive when they do appear. *wistful sigh*

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

I discovered a nice little backlog of half-finished posts while setting up the computer, so am going to put them up now in lieu of newer stuff. Mostly because my current kitchen still has gaping equipment holes and won’t be suitable for making anything more than small portions of store-bought pasta for another week or so. And because it makes me kinda happy to see my old beat-up stuff in these photos, most of which didn’t make the journey over with us.

Chicken and dumplingless stew. Because sometimes, you’re not in the mood for chewy lumps of dough in your soup. Especially nice for putting over rice or pasta. Based on AR’s Irish Chicken and Dumplings (the original version of which I made in a seriously overflowing stewpot one fine college summer in the presence Miss Laura, if I remember…) but slightly tweaked for my own purposes.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

I discovered a nice little backlog of half-finished posts while setting up the computer, so am going to put them up now in lieu of newer stuff. Mostly because my current kitchen still has gaping equipment holes and won’t be suitable for making anything more than small portions of store-bought pasta for another week or so. And because it makes me kinda happy to see my old beat-up stuff in these photos, most of which didn’t make the journey over with us.

Chicken and dumplingless stew. Because sometimes, you’re not in the mood for chewy lumps of dough in your soup. Especially nice for putting over rice or pasta. Based on AR’s Irish Chicken and Dumplings (the original version of which I made in a seriously overflowing stewpot one fine college summer in the presence Miss Laura, if I remember…) but slightly tweaked for my own purposes.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Another West Coast favorite is the star of today’s column — the Dungeness crab. These guys are in season starting mid-November and running to summer, and that’s when they’re cheapest and fattest as well. Of course, the market I shop at has them year-round because that’s just the sort of place they are. Dungeness are great because they’re highly meaty, heavy crabs that will amply reward anybody who takes the time to crack those shells.

The best crabs are cooked right after being caught, since they will still be fat and feisty. Crabs that have sat around too long get waterlogged and sluggish. Check that they have hard shells and fight back, that’s the sign of a yummy dinner. For instance, note what happens when I bring the tongs near the little critters in my sink here.

Before:

After:
dungenesscrabs07

I’m just going to steam these guys in the simplest way possible, since the meat is delicate and best eaten just the way it is. I’ve added a twist to the broccoli rice to help augment that flavor and make it a nicely complementary side dish.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

Another West Coast favorite is the star of today’s column — the Dungeness crab. These guys are in season starting mid-November and running to summer, and that’s when they’re cheapest and fattest as well. Of course, the market I shop at has them year-round because that’s just the sort of place they are. Dungeness are great because they’re highly meaty, heavy crabs that will amply reward anybody who takes the time to crack those shells.

The best crabs are cooked right after being caught, since they will still be fat and feisty. Crabs that have sat around too long get waterlogged and sluggish. Check that they have hard shells and fight back, that’s the sign of a yummy dinner. For instance, note what happens when I bring the tongs near the little critters in my sink here.

Before:

After:
dungenesscrabs07

I’m just going to steam these guys in the simplest way possible, since the meat is delicate and best eaten just the way it is. I’ve added a twist to the broccoli rice to help augment that flavor and make it a nicely complementary side dish.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

One thing about growing up in an Asian household — we’re not squeamish about meeting our dinners before they’re on the plate. The fresher the better, my mom would always lecture, and you don’t get much fresher than when your meal is trying to crawl its way out of the kitchen sink. Surprisingly few of my friends (including the boy, who still prefers to not be around the kitchen until everything is good and dead) have had experience in the handling of live foods, though, so for them I present a brand new VK column — Food That Moves!

We begin with an old favorite of many west coasters, the California Spot Prawn. When our family went out to Asian seafood restaurants on special occasions, there would almost always be a tank full of these guys on display, and these critters were always first on the list for ordering. They’ve got this sweet, lobster-like meat which is as different from regular white shrimp as chocolate truffles from a Hershey bar. In fact, this is the shrimp regularly used in the western US for amaebi “sweet shrimp” sushi because of its excellent texture and flavor.

Before:

After:
spotprawn11

Based on my mom’s very simple recipe, and one of the most common ways to prepare these shrimp. Before we begin, though, please note that these particular shrimp must be prepared live out of necessity — there is a chemical in the head that starts excreting upon death which renders the meat mushy and inedible. So really, the only way to guarantee the best meat is to get them as feisty as possible and keep them that way up until they hit the skillet. So read on for an examination of a few local suppliers for these prawns and the cooking pictorial.

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