Oven-baked Sweet Potato Chips

>>  Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins, fat free, and a great source of fiber. Baked and sprinkled lightly with some sea salt, wouldn't they make a great snack?

Yes, but I learned the hard way that TIMING is crucial when it comes to making oven-baked potato chips.
Think: super thinly sliced potatoes + hot oven = things that burn quickly if you aren't watching.

I only had one potato on hand, so I washed the skin & dried it, since the skin is where most of the nutrients are.

I would highly recommend using a mandolin slicer. It's really hard to get even slices otherwise.
Again, if your slices are different widths, that complicates baking because certain chips will bake faster than others, which means some may start burning before the other ones are done.

Lay out the potato slices in a single layer and spray both sides with vegetable oil. I use canola oil because it is one of the oils that has the highest percentage of mono and polyunsaturated fats (good fats) and does not impart flavor the way olive oil might.

Start baking. It should take somewhere between 10-20 minutes, but definitely check frequently! Other wise they will burn! You can see in the picture below that some of them are already starting to turn brown!
And if you wait too long, they turn BLACK!!! (heh heh . . some of the semi-burnt ones were still pretty tasty. It was kind hard to stop eating these chips in general while I was baking them)

Sad black chips!! Rejects pushed to the corner.
When the chips are browned and start to curl up, you can take them out of the oven.


Oven Baked Potato Chips
1 potato
vegetable oil for spraying
sea salt
(preferably) - mandolin slicer

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice potatoes with a mandolin slicer. Lay out the potato slices on a single sheet in the oven. Spray the potatoes with vegetable oil on each side and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 10-20 minutes, monitoring the chips frequently to make sure they don't burn. If you want, you can flip the chips halfway through baking.

Let cool a bit and then serve!

Oven-Fried Potato Chips With Thyme on Foodista

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Tupelo, a new New Orleans/Southern restaurant, is definitely one of the best bangs for your buck when it comes to dining in Cambridge. The ambiance is cozy and laid back, the food is pretty good, and the prices are very reasonable. Appetizers ranged between $5 and $8 and dinner entrees between $9 and $15.

Over all, the food is decent. Some dishes really stand out, and most dishes are pretty solid. Drinks are reasonably priced too, and the desserts, (especially the PIES! from Petsi Pies) are excellent.

The biggest negative might be that they don't take reservations. Since the restaurant is pretty small, you may have to wait quite a while before you can get a seat.

On Friday night, we waited about 25 minutes before getting a seat around 7:40 PM for 4 people.

Here's what we got:

Baby Spinach and apple salad with Creole vinaigrette. ($5)

This salad was fine - cheap at only $5. As Bryan said, "it's for people who want to order something healthy at a Southern restaurant." It was OK - nothing special, but nothing bad either.
Southern spiced turkey meatballs with a wedge of French bread for mopping up. ($6)
The meatballs were very flavorful, although borderline salty for my sensitive tastes (the guys thought it was perfectly fine). The meatballs are stewed in a flavorful broth, which is perfect for mopping up with the bread

Cheddar Grits. ($5)
This was my favorite part of the entire meal - deep fried grits! Fresh out of the fryer, then were soooo good! I already love corn and I love grits, so it's no big surprise that I loved this dish. Crunchy on the outside, cheesy and moist on the inside. It was sort of addictive. Definitely worth getting.
Daube of Beef: Beef braised in red wine with hominy mashed potatoes, slow cooked greens and Creole horseradish cream. ($15)

We thought this dish was quite ordinary. The beef was a bit overcooked, and thus a bit tough in texture. The flavor was OK, but nothing really stood out.
Fried Cat Fish: Crispy Cat fish with fresh green tomatoes, parsley potatoes and pickled jalapeno aioli. ($14.50)

This dish was solid, and I liked it better than the beef. The fried catfish was cooked well, and the sides were flavorful.

The desserts come from Petsi Pies, whose owner is also a co-owner of Tupelo.

Everyone's favorite - it was unanimous. The blueberry pie rocks. Full of sweet berries, flaky crust, and not too sweet. Perfect.
The keylime pie was described as a "tart" key lime pie, and it kept up to its promise. I like tart pies, so I enjoyed this pie. Some other members of our party who didn't like sour desserts did not enjoy this one as much.

The biggest disappointment of the evening: the red velvet cake. Sadly, it was quite dry, and therefore not that fun to eat. The cream cheese frosting helped, but over all it was sub-par.

Conclusion: Tupelo has good food, great atmosphere, and is a GREAT addition to the neighborhood. Especially for the price, it's definitely worth a visit. If you go - make sure to order the cheddar grits and get a piece of blueberry pie!

1193 Cambridge St.,
Cambridge, MA
Tupelo on Urbanspoon

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Hungry Mother

Update: Hungry Mother will be named one of the top 10 "Best New Restaurants In America" by Bon Appetit magazine next month. Wow, kudos to Hungry Mother, the only restaurant in Massachusetts to make that list. I feel so fortunate to live so close to such good dining.

Click here for the full list of top 10 restaurants.

We went to the Hungry Mother in Cambridge (near the Kendall Cinema) last Thursday evening. This place was recently featured in the Boston Globe, and has received raving reviews on sites such as chowhound.

We really enjoyed our meal there. The food was excellent and prices were reasonable, making this restaurant a great value.

The cuisine is a mixture of Southern American (think fried catfish, buttermilk pie, boiled peanuts, and cornbread) and French (think French-style gnocchi with mushrooms, beef tongue with gruyere and dijon).

We ordered the grilled bluefish entree with artichokes, arugula, new potatoes, olive tapenade, and sea salt ($24) and the French style gnocchi ($17). I thought the fish was excellent - well cooked, nice blend of flavors. Bryan really enjoyed the French style gnocchi, which was cooked with pea tendrils, peas, mushrooms, and parmesean. It was light yet deeply flavorful (mmmm . . . umami) at the same time. We also had one of the special appetizers - fried green tomatoes with cheese ($7) - which was excellent, and a side of cornbread, which was also very good. Dessert, buttermilk pie, was absolutely heavenly. All in all, a highly enjoyable meal.

Other than when I go out for sushi, I seldom leave a restaurant feeling so perfectly balanced and satisfied. It takes a special mixture of food quality, service, price, and ambiance. Another factor: portion size. The portions here are smaller. Despite ordering 2 appetizers, 2 main entrees, 2 cocktails, an espresso, and a dessert, we did not take any leftovers home, and we were not too stuffed afterwards (and I don't eat a lot at all, in general). Not being too stuffed and not feeling gross probably contributed to my over all "perfectly satisfied" feeling.

Over all, the hype is warranted. We *really* enjoyed this restaurant and would definitely return.

Hungry Mother on Urbanspoon

previously posted June 13, 2008 - updated July 29, 2009

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Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I love bringing Vietnamese Spring Rolls to a potluck. They are so easy to make, super healthy, and always a huge hit. Here's how I make them.

Ingredients for the Spring Rolls
1 pack of spring roll skins (make sure to buy the rice based ones, not the flour based ones)
1 pack of cellophane noodles (thin)
fresh basil (preferably Thai basil, but normal basil works fine too)
1 lb of cooked shrimp, tails removed

Soak the cellophane noodles in hot water until soft (about 2-3 minutes). Drain the water and cut up the cellophone into ~1-2 inch snippets using scissors.

Fill another large bowl (bigger than the wrappers) with hot water (not quite boiling - you don't want to burn your fingers!). Lay out on a table all the innards of the spring roll - basil, shrimp

I like to double my wrappers. Dip 2 sheets of spring roll skins into the hot water briefly. It really just has to touch the hot water.

Lay the wrapper on a plate and put 3 pieces of shrimp, 2-3 basil leaves, and a small pile of cellophone noodles.

The wet wrapper will stick to itself, so carefully wrap the sides of the roll as shown above.

Roll it up . . .

Tada - that's it. The wrapper is pretty sticky, so it should just stick to itself. Don't worry it it looks a bit wet and soggy at the beginning. It will dry quickly, and then it will look really good! I promise!

Here's the recipe for the peanut dipping sauce. FYI - this recipe is very flexible. Please just use the following measures as a guideline and feel free to modify according to your tastes. For example, if you like it sweeter, add more sugar! If you like it spicy, add Srirachi sauce! If you like it thicker, add more peanut butter! More watery? Add more water! Really - you can also add chopped scallions, chopped basil, etc. Once you have peanut butter, sugar, and soy sauce, you basically have the fundamentals of this sauce.

Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 T soy sauce
1/2 T Hoisin sauce (optional)
6 T water
2 T sugar

Mix all ingredients together and stir until mixed well. Serve as dipping sauce.

Fresh Spring Rolls on Foodista

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>>  Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fugakyu is one of our favorite Japanese restaurants to visit, especially for lunch. What's great is that they offer the lunch prices on weekends as well (unlike other places, such as Koreana, Takemura, and Daikanyama). The prices for the lunch specials are excellent deals, and Fugakyu serves delicious, fresh, and thick pieces of sushi.

Whenever we go, Bryan likes to order the Sushi Sashimi Combo No Shellfish.

The dish, which costs $14.50, comes with a 6-piece maki (tuna and/or salmon), 7 pieces of sashimi - (yellowtail, tuna, and salmon). Additionally, there are about 4 pieces of nigiri (salmon, tuna, yellowtail, and maybe one other).

I like to order the sashimi no shellfish combo ($10) which comes with the 9 pieces of sashimi (yellowtail, tuna, and salmon).

The Fugakyu bento, for $14.50, is also a good deal. It comes with salad, miso soup, beef teriyaki on a skewer, sushi, sashimi, and probably other stuff that I don't remember.

Sometimes, Bryan orders the chutoro (fatty tuna) nigiri. Although it is terribly expensive (about $7 a piece!) it is very good - quite heavenly, actually.

Favorite maki rolls: caterpillar maki, black widow maki, spider maki, and rainbow maki.

Any negatives? Well, I don't particularly care for the miso soup. It tastes a bit salty to me and lacks deep flavor. Also, the place is expensive at night, similar to many other nice Japanese restaurants.

Over all, a great, solid restaurant with consistently fresh sushi and expertly prepared rolls.

1280 Beacon St
Brookline, MA 02446
(617) 734-1268
Fugakyu on Urbanspoon
previously posted on June 10, 2007 - updated July 28, 2009

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Trip Report: Cupertino Village - A&J's Restaurant

One of my husband's most favorite foods in the world is fresh, handmade noodles. There's something about the chewy texture of homemade noodles that just cannot be recreated once noodles are dried. It's hard to find fresh handmade Chinese noodles in Boston. Sadly, Noodle Alcove, which used to be in Chinatown, closed its doors several years ago. Currently, the only place we know of in Boston that sells fresh, handmade noodles is Beijing Star in Waltham.

In California, fresh handmade noodles are everywhere, and A&J's in Cupertino Village sells both thin and thick homemade noodles. In order to fully appreciate the chewy goodness ("Q" in Taiwanese) of the noodles, I would definitely recommend that you order the fat noodles.
Beef Noodle Soup is like a national dish in Taiwan, and definitely a dish you should order if you are at a Taiwanese restaurant. Typically, beef slices are stewed for hours in a fragrant soy based broth filled with spices such as 5-spice and anise. The resulting dish contains super soft beef infused with the rich flavor of the spicy broth. At A&J's, this dish is special because it is made with fresh homemade noodles.
A&J's is also well known for their "zua bing", which translates to "grab" pastry. It's a multi-layered pancake - the layers are paper thin. You eat the pancake by "grabbing" layers of it off. It's crispy on the outside while the layers are moist and chewy. It's really good! It's sort of like a scallion pancake, but not so flat, and with many many layers.
Stir Fried rice cakes with pork and mustard greens. I love rice cakes, also because of their chewy texture.
It's always nice to order stir fried vegetables to balance out the rest of the dishes. Here, we are enjoy "A" vegetable, which is sort of like romaine lettuce.
Wontons in chile oil. This dish is typically a Sichuan dish, and thus I thought it was only OK here. It was much better at Szechuan Era, where we had gone just a few days ago.

Favorite entrees? Zua bing and the beef noodles soup with handmade noodles.
A & J on Urbanspoon

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Taza Chocolate

>>  Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taza Chocolate

I first tried a piece of Taza chocolate at Garden At the Cellar. They were included with my bill as a free gift. The chocolate had a unique, granular texture that was unlike any chocolate I'd ever had. I later found out that Taza chocolate is organic and "stone ground," and therefore retains a rougher texture. It tastes much less processed - you can almost taste the sugar crystals in the chocolate. The flavor of the chocolate was really good, and I was hooked on the unprocessed, rough texture of this local chocolate.

Taza is local to Boston, and is made in small batches in Somerville, Massachusetts. The founders were inspired by the way chocolate was made in Mexico - minimally processed and stone ground. They decided to apply socially responsible business practices to this unique way of making chocolate resulting in Taza.

I have since found out that you can buy Taza chocolate at several farmer's markets in and around Boston. I have picked up Taza chocolate at the Central Square Farmer's Market (Mondays) and also at the Kendall Square Farmer's Market (Thursdays).

This chocolate does not come cheap. A small disc (pictured above) about 4 inches in diameter costs $4 and a bar costs $6 ($4.50 and $6.50 if you buy online). This is partly because the chocolate is made locally in small batches, and also partly because Taza uses high quality ingredients.

Nevertheless, I find it's worth the splurge, and I find that I keep going back for more.

You can also order in online directly from their website.

(Note - I am in no way affiliated with Taza nor am I getting anything from my posts that promote this product. I just personally really like this chocolate!)
Taza Mexicano chocolate
You can also check out Cocoa Heaven's review on the cinnamon and almond varieties.

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Oatmeal Jook - Camping Style

>>  Monday, July 27, 2009

While camping at Yosemite a few weeks back, we enjoyed Asian twists on almost all of our camping meals. Here is our delicious oatmeal breakfast:

Oatmeal "Jook"
A traditional Taiwanese breakfast consists of rice porridge mixed with various toppings. On our camping trip, we enjoyed a twist on the traditional oatmeal breakfast by combining cooked oats with Chinese pickles, roasted peanuts, and pork sung (shredded dried pork).

On a crisp cold morning in a campground, it's the most satisfying breakfast. What a way to fuel up for the day's hikes.

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Trip Report: Cupertino Village - Hong Fu

>>  Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tea Smoked Duck

This place has the BEST tea-smoked duck I've ever had. I don't even like duck that much, but I really enjoy this dish here. Nice crispy skin, super moist and juicy meat . . . plus the rich tea-infused duck flavor is heavenly. We also had our Northern California wedding banquet here, so it sort of holds a special place in my heart.

Sizzling Rice Soup
Pork with Dried Bean Curd
Beef with Peppers and Mushrooms

Over all, the food at this restaurant is excellent. It's a great place to have banquets, since they have a separate banquet room and also various banquet packages.

Hong Fu Gourmet Chinese on Urbanspoon

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Tin Foil Chicken

>>  Friday, July 24, 2009

Being married to an Eagle Scout whose dad was a Scout leader for years, I inevitably get to experience "roughing it" first hand when it comes to family vacations.

We recently came back from a trip to Yosemite National Park. Gorgeous park, by the way. Naturally, we camped in tents and cooked many of our own meals. The following dish, "Tin Foil Chicken" is super easy, actually quite tasty, and fun to make around the campfire.

A big part of good flavor comes from having good marinade. Here, Bryan's mom mixes chicken legs with soy sauce, garlic salt, and pepper.
Next, combine the chicken with chopped vegetables. In this case, we used potatoes, onions, and celery. This is quite flexible, although I think it's very important to have the onions and the celery since they provide a lot of the flavor. Other possible additions include peas, carrots, and other roots vegetables.
Season with some garlic salt.
Wrap up the foil (nice and tight - you don't want ashes getting into your food!) and throw it into the fire!

Cook for about 30 minutes.

Enjoy! My favorite part of this meal were the soft, caramelized onions. They were incredibly sweet, fragrant, and seemed to almost melt in your mouth. There's nothing like sitting down to a hot and flavorful meal after a long, strenuous day of hiking.

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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