It’s Pi(e) Day

If there is anyone who would appreciate a punny holiday, it would be me, right? So celebrating March 14th, or 3.14, as Pi(e) Day is happening here with Chicken Pot Pie… {{click for full recipe below…}}

balls out. seared baby bok choy + ginger scallion meatballs + roast chicken stock.
My version of Ginger Scallion Chicken Meatballs was inspired a year ago by Bon Appetit magazine. Their recipe is neither the original nor remarkably unqiue, but it was the first one that caught my attention because of they way it’s served — in a shallow pool of light stock rather than smothered in a sticky sauce.

I added grilled baby bok choy to the bowl my second attempt, then shiitake mushrooms on a third attempt, and finally soba noodles with double the soup. With all of that, Ginger Scallion Chicken Meatballs becomes a light, yet filling (God, I hate that qualifier) meal. I might stir a little spoonful of miso into the next iteration, but let’s just take it one step at a time here ok?

The key to my version is that you’re supposed to make a generous batch of Ginger Scallion Sauce for something else first. If you happen to have Ginger Scallion Sauce leftover from whatever this other first thing is — I’d be shocked if you did, but there is a chance — and you need a way to use it before its phantom expiration date — though again I’d be shocked if you didn’t consume all the leftovers in their entirety the very next day because you can use Ginger Scallion Sauce for pretty much anything including massage oil and currency in some countries — you stir a few spoonfuls of it, drained of most of the oil, into a bowl of ground chicken or turkey, add minced garlic, maybe some tamari, and go from there.

If you don’t have the patience to chop 742 bunches of scallions and grate a dozen “knobs” (almost as hateful a word as “moist”) of ginger to make the Ginger Scallion Sauce first, then entertain the idea of making the meatballs by following the Bon Appetit recipe, which I’ve directly copied and pasted word-for-almost illegal-word here, but with a link so that makes it ok. Then suck it up, loser, and make the Ginger Scallion Sauce anyway because unlike 2/3 of the decisions in your life, you won’t regret it.

Then, follow the Bon Appetit recipe for the rest of the dish, which is just to put the meatballs in a bowl with warmed stock. Add grilled baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and cooked soba noodles.

Of course, I highly encourage you to make your chicken stock yourself instead of using “2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided,” which sounds like it comes gurgling out of a $2.99 box from Whole Foods, NOT THAT THERE  IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT CHEAP, CHEATER SUBSTITUTE.

Gosh, and to think I said that there wasn’t going to be some sort of tie-into my life.

Happy Birthday, Mama! Happy National Meatball Day, Everyone Else!

Bon Appetit’s and my recipes in full, below. Links to some other versions after.
ginger scallion meatballs

Ginger Scallion Chicken Meatballs, Baby Bok Choy, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Soba in Broth {recipe}

The Delicious Life, March 2015

serves 4

INGREDIENTS

½ cup Ginger Scallion Sauce, as much of the oil drained off as possible {recipe}
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 lb ground chicken, with some dark meat and fat
1 tablespoon gluten-free tamari
4 cups rich chicken stock {recipe}
2 tablespoons vegetable oil for cooking
6-8 small baby bok choy
6-8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 ounces soba noodles, cooked
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
For serving: chili garlic sambal, sweet chili sauce {recipe}, extra Ginger Scallion Sauce, light tamari

DIRECTIONS

Gently stir together Ginger Scallion sauce, garlic, and ground chicken in a bowl. Form into 1-inch diameter meatballs, about 1½ tablespoons per meatball.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and cook until brown all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess cooking oil.

Turn down heat under skillet to medium. Add a little extra cooking oil if necessary, then add sliced bok choy, cooking until slightly charred. Remove bok choy to plate and cook shiitake mushrooms. Divide Ginger Scallion Meatballs, baby bok choy, shiitake, and soba noodles among serving bowls.

In a separate pot, heat chicken stock. Season stock with salt and pepper. Ladle boiling hot stock into serving bowls over meatballs, vegetables, and noodles.

Serve along with Chili Sambal, Sweet Chili Sauce, extra Ginger Scallion Sauce, and light tamari to season each individual bowl at the table.

HEALTH NOTES

~ Ginger is at the very top of my Anti-Inflammatory Favs List
~ Choosing ground chicken over beef for the meatballs isn’t necessarily a “healthy substitute.” Red meat can, and is, healthy depending on the person’s individual health needs. Chicken has a different fat content and of course, very different flavor — generally milder so it means you can use a lot of ginger and scallions to flavor the meatballs.
~ Bok choy is a cruciferous vegetable so it has similar nutrition profile as broccoli, cabbage, and kale
~ Shiitake mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D.

RESOURCES

~ Ginger Scallion Sauce: recipe coming soon
~ Chicken Stock: recipe/how-to coming soon
~ Sweet Chili Sauce: recipe coming soon
~ Chicken: ACA Butcher Shop, Santa Monica
~ Tamari (a type of soy sauce without wheat): San-J organic, gluten-free tamari
~ Buckwheat Soba: normally, I use whatever soba I find at the market, but note that most “buckwheat soba” has some wheat flour in it. Buckwheat soba that is 100% gluten-free is brittle and breaks down easily, but a soup/broth preparation is probably the best place to use it with more success (still going to be mealy/soft). The gluten-freesoba I’ve used in the past is from Eden Foods.
~ Chili Garlic Sauce: Lee Keum Kee (has gluten from the rice vinegar ingredient) or Huy Fong (has sulfites as preservative). They taste the same to me; you pick your poison.
~ Produce: from local farmers’ markets, or organic from Whole Foods Market

Ginger-Chicken-Meatballs-with-Chinese-Broccoli-940x560

Ginger-Chicken Meatballs With Chinese Broccoli {recipe}

Bon Appetit, March 2014
SERVINGS: 4

INGREDIENTS

1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 lb ground chicken
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 bunch Chinese broccoli, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS

Using your hands or a rubber spatula, gently mix garlic, chicken, soy sauce, ginger, 4 scallions, and ½ cup broth in a medium bowl just to combine. Scooping out by the tablespoonful, form mixture into 1”-diameter meatballs.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown all over, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Combine broccoli and red pepper flakes in same skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat until broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add meatballs and remaining 1½ cups broth. Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through and broccoli is tender, 5–8 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with more scallions.

sesame ginger meatballs

MORE RESOURCES

New York Times, December 2009: no ginger, adds cilantro (blech)
Food & Wine January 2015: adds breadcrumbs (also blech)
It’s All Good, Gwyneth Paltrow: garlic and ginger, serve with bottled hoisin sauce

PRE-DATING

Hold up.

Let’s take more than a few steps backward first.

The first guy I went out with after signing up for online dating was actually not someone who had winked, poked, nudged, or otherwise digitally harassed me. He was one of several friends of several friends who I had never even heard of before but who seemed to have materialized out of nowhere as soon as I went online. Where were these guys before I went and spent three months’ salary on a subscription that would hopefully end up in a ring, huh? Now all these guys suddenly decide to show up? Wait your turn, buddy. Get in line. Behind the throngs of guys who, um, you know, haven’t actually hit me up online yet.

Anyway.

I agreed to meet him even though he was, of all things… [click to continue…]

"I found you when I searched for 'Gjelina'..."

SEARCH

It’s the kind of opening to emails that I used to receive, not necessarily often, but enough times that it was wasn’t unusual. Someone would google a restaurant, then end up on my stupid little blog… [click to continue…]

While we’re on the subject of waiting in excruciatingly long waits on opening day (or week) of a new restaurant, let’s talk about Dunkin Donuts, which opened its first West Coast location in Santa Monica last summer.

Less specifically, let’s just talk about “Friday doughnuts in the office break room.”

In the corporate world, companies have this things called “building morale.” When numbers are low, expenses high, the future looking grim because “in the red” is not the same as “rosy,” the boardroom makes a call. The phone rings in the HR office. Judging by faint background static and the hollow echoes of pens tapping and blackberries buzzing, it’s speakerphone. The entire board in some plush penthouse boardroom that isn’t really a room at all but a NetMeeting of CXOs from around the globe, seated in their respective wing chairs made from the hides of people they stepped on, gathered in cyberspace.

“Do something to build morale,” the command will come flying down the org chart.

“Give them a bonus. Half days every other Friday. Take them out to a company-sponsored Happy Hour. Have a Hawaiian Shirt Day. Do something to increase productivity. Something. Anything.”

Have doughnuts on Fridays.

Perhaps Friday morning doughnuts wasn’t a tradition started as some overpaid HR manager’s grand scheme to build morale, but I wouldn’t be surprised, would you? Regardless, the Friday morning doughnut tradition is a hallmark of a corporate office and makes me want to write a Memorandum and post it all over the “public areas” of the office asking, “Why do we have doughnuts on Friday? Why not Monday? Why not any other day? My morale is just as low on Tuesday as it is on Friday! In fact, my morale on Friday is the weekly highest because it’s fucking Friday!” And why the hell does it have to be doughnuts, of all things? I’d prefer a burrito. Why can’t we have breakfast burritos on Fridays?”

Doughnut-driven emotion is the unfortunate byproduct of business.

FMD (Friday Morning Doughnuts) is bad, but there is, in fact, something worse. You may not believe that there is something worse than the hot pink, flimsy cardboard box full of doughnuts from the grocery store because Krispy Kreme is too expensive to build morale, but there is, and it isn’t the vending machine that is often my lunch cafeteria. What is worse than the FMD?

The HDB, aka the Half Doughnut Bandit.

Someone in the office inevitably takes half a doughnut. Half. Who eats half a doughnut?!?! Apparently, the Half Doughnut Bandit does, but you will never unearth his or her real identity (thus the name “Bandit”) because he or she halves when no one else is in the breakroom. Especially if the Half Doughnut Bandit halves without a knife, leaving a crusty thumbprint dent in the half of the doughnut s/he leaves behind.

Why? Why does the Half Doughnut Bandit exist to eat half a doughnut? Has the Half Doughnut Bandit been dipping too frequently into the front lobby’s candy bowl that she should only take half a doughnut? To save fat and calories and half an hour on the treadmill, does she take half a doughnut? No. Because if she thinks that, she should walk right past the doughnuts and go for a couple of walking laps around the office suite. Besides, half a doughnut lasts a moment on the lips, but I believe 420 calories jiggles 90 minutes on the hips.

Perhaps the Half Doughnut Bandit is trying to be thoughtful by leaving half of a doughnut for the next person who happens to prey upon the pink box. First of all, thoughtfulness doesn’t work when there are whole doughnuts still in the box. Second of all, no one wants to eat the squashed half of a doughnut because again, who the F eats HALF a doughnut?!

I went to Dunkin Donuts during its Grand opening week and waited for over an hour starting at 7:45 AM and bought a box of a dozen doughnuts “for the office.”

I work from home.

Alone.

I ate half a doughnut.
dunkin-donuts-santa-monica-opening-day-line

dunkin-donuts-box-coffee
I would not go out of my way in any capacity (distance traveled, drive-time, wait-time) for Dunkin Donuts, doughnuts, coffee or otherwise. However, if Dunkin Donuts are in front of me, I will still eat them with enthusiasm because my god, they’re still doughnuts.

Dunkin Donuts
1132 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310.576.9200
www.dunkindonuts.com

pink strawberry glaze doughnuts with sprinkles - fashion blog

Hope your weekend is full of juicy little dumplings. Xiao long bao, or otherwise.

Spicy Wontons | Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza

Favorite. Of all time. Ok, until…see below.
Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - spicy wontons

Stir Fried Sticky Rice Cakes | Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza

Never had Stir Fried Sticky Rice Cakes at Din Tai Fung before. Taste like a non-spicy Korean Dduk Bok-ki. Didn’t even know they were on the menu. The more you know…
Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - stir fried rice cakes

BLACK TRUFFLE Xiao Long Bao | Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza

NEW FAVORITE, though it does seem a little extravagant to pay MORE than $20 (?) for only five (5) dumplings. Worth it at least once.
Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - xiao long bao black truffle

Fresh Ginger and Black Vinegar | Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - fresh ginger and black vinegar

Chili Oil, Soy Sauce, Black Vinegar Condiments | Din TaiFung, South Coast Plaza

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - condiments

Spicy Cucumber Salad | Din TaiFung, South Coast Plaza

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - spicy cucumber salad

Garlic Sauteed Broccoli | Din TaiFung, South Coast Plaza

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - broccoli

Chicken Fried Rice | Din TaiFung, South Coast Plaza

What is this? Panda Express? I know. Don’t ask. (Ok, if you must know, we had kids with us)
Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - chicken fried rice

Dumpling Cooks in the Kitchen | Din Tai Fung, South Coast Paza

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - cooks

Boba Milk Tea | Din Tai Fung, South Coast Paza

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza - boba tea

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Paza

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza
Went Din Tai Fung Dumpling House in South Coast Plaza within a week of its opening.

We got into the line outside along the driveway, not knowing that we were in line to get into another line, to put our names on a list. The wait was a little more than two (2) hours. The opening hype has died down, but the wait can still be that long, if not longer. If you plan ahead though, you can arrive early enough to put your name down then shop around South Coast Plaza until you receive a text message alerting you that the restaurant is ready to seat you.

Airy, clean interior, with outdoor seating as well. Efficient service (once you actually get to sit down!) Food at any location has never disappointed.

Din Tai Fung Dumpling House
South Coast Plaza – Sears Wing, 2nd Floor
3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.549.3388
www.dintaifungusa.com

dintaifung-southcoast-tabletopspread

More Din Tai Fung and Xiao Long Bao
~ Din Tai Fung, San Gabriel Valley, LA – Putting the “FUN” in Fung
~ Dean Sin World, San Gabriel Valley – Dim Sum Dumplings, and Dating
~ ROC Kitchen, Sawtelle – ROC Star

buckeyes, chocolate peanut butter balls
Okay. Sooooo.

Iwasn’tahotcheerleaderinhighschool.

*thud*

That was my forehead hitting the keyboard because this little masquerade of hotness is over.

Old high school yearbook photos revealing pre-cosmetically-enhanced eyes framed in embarrassingly oversized, UglyBetty-ized mauve plastic spectacles, hair ultra-tightly permed into an Asian gheri curl, and the physique of an 11-year-old boy, can very confidently attest to that.

(On a side note, how many people can say that, at the age of thirty -*coughcough,* they still have the body they had in high school? Huh? How many women you know have the body shape of an 11-year-old boy?!?! Wait, uh, never mind.)

No, I wasn’t hot in high school.

I was, however, a cheerleader.

I was. No, really, I was. I can prove it. I still have my old blue and white varsity letters with little gold megaphone pins that I pull out every once in a while to relive my glory days, which I now regret blogging out loud because it reveals a little bit more about me than anyone needed to know. At least I didn’t admit to doing all the cheer routines in front of the mirror with Friday Night Lights playing on my laptop.

Gawkward appearance in high school as mentioned above notwithstanding (because everyone, no matter to what clique they claim to have belonged, was weird-looking in high school), is it that shocking? Is it that much of a surprise that the sweet sparkling smile, perfectly perky personality and everpositively fucking cheerful outlook that manifests itself now as The Delicious Life was a goddamned cheerleader back in high school? Why do you think I am awash with nostalgia every time I watch Bring It On?

Oh, the bubble-headed blondeness of it all!

As unlikely as it may seem, I am, by nature, a cheerleader type. On the inside. It’s less about the happyhappy clap!clap! cheer-y personality, less about an interest in the sport, and more about the activities associated with being a team’s biggest fan. That’s why I was a cheerleader in high school. I loved planning pep rallies and parties for the entire student body. I loved coming up with ideas for signs and banners that were perfectly themed with the opponent. I loved putting Good Luck signs on the players’ lockers. I loved getting up early on Game Days, preparing for “showtime,” cheering for the boys, and of course, watching them win.

It explains why I love things now that, when I think about it, are basically adult equivalents of being a cheerleader in high school. I love throwing dinner parties, coming up with themed ideas for stories and blog posts, making and wrapping up pretty little gifts. I love getting up on weekend mornings in the fall and having the game on in the background while I blog about tailgating. Most of all, I love being someone’s biggest fan.

I also loved parading up and down the halls in a tiny little skirt and crushing on hot quarterbacks, but that has nothing to do with anything right now except that sometimes I wear an apron even when I’m not cooking, and I often refer to myself as Mrs. Manning.
buckeyes_cornerplate

But Peyton, that’s the NBA! This is college football and though technically, I am a Golden Bear first (Cal undergrad) and a Bruin second (UCLA grad), this past fall, I rekindled a keen interest in the Buckeyes. Oh, the inter-conference horror! I didn’t actually attend “The” Ohio State University, but I did spend the latter half of my pre-college life in Cincinnati. Naturally, I associate high school, cheerleading, and football with Ohio – funny how this whole story seems to work out so well – so it’s enough to say that historical association (and personal, but I’ll get into that another day) made me a very enthusiastic Buckeyes fan this fall.

buckeyes_dough

In fact, my inner high school cheerleader (from Ohio) was so enthusiastic that in advance of The Big Game — Ohio State vs. Michigan, not Cal vs Stanford nor UCLA vs USC — I did what any good food blogging football fan worth her weight in pizza and Buffalo wings would do.

buckeyes_nakedballs
I made buckeyes (the peanut butter kind) that look like buckeyes (the inedible horse chestnut kind) in support of the Buckeyes (the Big Ten kind (also inedible, for the most part, but again, I’ll get to that another day when I’m not putting parentheses inside parentheses)).

Ohio beat Michigan, but that’s not the real problem.

Somehow my perfect little balls cheered forward and now Ohio State is playing in the G*d***ed national f**king championship game, so LOOK INTO WHAT MY CHEERY F**CKING CHEERLEADERY SUPPORT HAS GOTTEN ME!

I am going to New Orleans in January.

buckeyes_nakedbaby
As a recently renewed Ohio fan, going to the Superdome is awesome. As a food blogger, eating my way through muffulettas, oyster po’ boys, bananas Foster and beignets is again, awesome. As an aviophobe, getting to the Crescent City IS NOT A BIG EASY because last I heard, even if John Madden’s bus were heading down to the Crescent City, it wouldn’t make a detour through LA to pick up one Delicious, terrified of flying.

Hopefully buckeyes have the same effect as Xanax.

buckeyes_plate

Buckeyes | Chocolate-dipped Peanut Butter Balls {recipe}

Put Bring it On in the DVD player. You will need to watch something while you spend nine thousand hours rolling 2 bazillion 1″ balls by hand.

Beat 1½ c. peanut butter, ½ c. softened butter (that’s 1 stick or 8 Tbsp for the people who don’t do conversions), and 1 tsp vanilla until smooth. Stir in a 1 pound box of confectioner’s sugar. You can dump the sugar as is, but I sifted it because I’m a freak and sifting something makes me feel like I’m actually baking.

The “dough” is supposed to be crumbly. Take about 1 tsp of the crumbs and roll into a 1″ diameter ball. Place balls on sheet or tray lined with waxed paper. Chill peanut butter balls in refrigerator for at least an hour. I got lazy and put off the next step until the next day.

Melt 1 12 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chips with 1 Tbsp vegetable shortening in a double boiler. Using a toothpick, dip each peanut butter ball in the melted chocolate, letting a small circle of the peanut butter show through the top. Place dipped peanut butter ball back on waxed paper to cool and set.

{originally published December 2007, in advance of the 2008 BCS National Championship Game at the SuperDome in New Orleans LA, the game in which The Ohio State Buckeyes lost to LSU}