Beyond the Bento Box

Independence Day brownies! I thought of doing something with red, white, and blue, but then I thought, what’s more American than chocolate, peanut butter, and cream cheese? The pillars that our independence was based upon, eh? My husband didn’t notice what I was doing until I started melting peanut butter in a sauce pan. That smelled good! I tried to melt the cream cheese in the microwave but it did liquefy as much, resulting in pockets of cream cheese in a marbleized swirl of chocolate and peanut butter. Not complaining. 

48 brownies to celebrate independence from all the healthy stuff I normally eat. One day of fat, sugar, chocolate, dairy, nuts, and gluten isn’t that bad…

Icelandic Cod. Since returning from Iceland, I have been craving some baked cod. So this past weekend, I got some frozen cod and went to town. I skipped the marinade and seasoned the cod fillets with lemon juice, salt, and ginger. I lined the bottom of my baking dish with chopped white onions and layered the fillets on top. I baked them for about 10 minutes at 400F, threw the chopped chives on top, and then baked for another 15 min. These fish turned out nice and tender.

And the third picture is an actual cod dinner that my husband and I enjoyed in Iceland. I couldn’t quite replicate the presentation (I’m not a huge fan of tomato right now) but I’d say my fish turned out pretty well. I’m contemplating how I can modify this recipe for the future….maybe instead of chives, some scallions and squash? 

Spaghetti Carbonara. Last night, I was making some breakfast eggs for my husband (so he can take it to work on his early shifts) and while I don’t normally eat eggs, I…was tempted. Hence, this breakfast for dinner idea was born. Why not make some spaghetti carbonara with our leftover pasta and sauce? And yes, I had a piece of artichoke heart, to keep things healthy. Pretty tasty meal and a fun alternative to fried rice with eggs. I held back the cheese this time but may add some Parmesan in the future…

Spaghetti Carbonara. Last night, I was making some breakfast eggs for my husband (so he can take it to work on his early shifts) and while I don’t normally eat eggs, I…was tempted. Hence, this breakfast for dinner idea was born. Why not make some spaghetti carbonara with our leftover pasta and sauce? And yes, I had a piece of artichoke heart, to keep things healthy. Pretty tasty meal and a fun alternative to fried rice with eggs. I held back the cheese this time but may add some Parmesan in the future…

Beautiful Reikjavik!

The Blue Lagoon, or the Blaa Lonio in Icelandic. We had to learn the Icelandic name because all the signs were in Icelandic. As well as all the place names in the GPS. Good thing I pick up foreign languages fast…sort of. 

Anyways, this famous geothermal spa was about a 30-minute drive from Keflavic airport, where we landed.

At 6:30am local time. The spa didn’t open till 10am.

People were lining up outside the door when we got there. I decided to save some money by bringing our own towels and bathrobes. Turned out to be a smart move because everything in there was very expensive. 

Now I’ve been to Japanese onsens and they require showering before entering the spa. This was very much the same, except you do wear a bathing suit.

We spent about two hours at this very hot geothermal spa, though we maybe only soaked for 30 min. There’s an inside pool which is very small, and an outside pool, which is huge. The water outside was so warm that you could literally feel “hot spots” and see the steam rising from the water. The water itself was very rich in minerals, and I had o shower for a long time afterwards. 

The sun was very bright so we brought sunglasses. They served drinks at a little booth wedged under a bridge in the middle of the lagoon. Wonder what it would be like to work there for a summer…

We were very relaxed afterwards and enjoyed some pure Icelandic water from the water fountain. They also had a bar and restaurant, and hotel rooms in the upper levels. 

Afterwards, we walked around the lagoon; there was a walkway through the cooled lava field, which is called basalt. I tried to recall everything I learned in Environmental Geology, about rock cycles and basalt formations. Overall, a good experience and now I want to visit other geothermal spas around the world. Maybe Taiwan…

Lemon bars! Ok fine, I baked them from a box of mixes, but I did squeeze some lemon juice into the filling before I baked it. These are really good but I can already think of some ways to make them better. My husband says they taste like lemon candy….I’ve had to limit myself to no more than two bars a day. Yum!

Iceland! The historical name for Iceland is “Island.” Maybe that’s how we should be pronouncing the word “island,” without the “s” being silent. 

Anyways, finally have a moment to blog about our week-long adventure in this peaceful country of mountains, geysirs, and volcanoes. We looked for a lighthouse near Keflavic airport and we found one! Sadly, we couldn’t go up in it.

Then, we grabbed breakfast (it was still so early, only the gas station was open) with sandwiches and a donut. Yumm. It wasn’t till after I got back that I was told Iceland uses glucose sugar instead of the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup. Not sure if this was the case everywhere, but the sweets did taste better…

Seaweed salad, egg nigiri sushi, and chicken teriyaki. So good!

Rice with Furikake, Kyoto Tofu, hibachi veggies and tempura bento box, shao mai, and green tea ice-cream. Did I mention I love authentic Japanese restaurants? 

Spinach pesto pasta. So I just finished reading an Italian cookbook/memoir, which I will review in a separate entry. I was very inspired by the simple Italian recipes, so I came home one day and decided to give this a while. Sauteed spinach and pre-cooked linguine noodles in olive oil, with a pinch of sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Add a bit of Parmesan and pine nuts at the table. So good! I roasted the pine nuts myself and the whole house smelled amazing. My husband kept saying that roasted pine nuts tasted like KFC….but healthier!

Country Apple Dumplings! No joke, these were easy and good. A slice of apple wrapped in a wedge of refrigerated pie dough, drenched in a syrupy sauce and baked for about 20 min. The apple becomes tender while the dough gets crusty. I read a variation of this recipe that uses biscuit dough instead of pie dough. I wonder how that would turn out…

Here’s the recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/country-apple-dumplings/

And as always, a spoonful of ice-cream makes these dumplings disappear!

Apple Turnovers!

Ok, I confess, I watch the ABC drama “Once Upon a Time.” But I like the new take they give to traditional fairy tales. Anyways, this is my attempt at the Regina Mills/Evil Queen Apple Turnovers. Non-poisoned version, of course. I have to admit, Lana Parilla’s depiction of our favorite Evil Queen really takes the cake. 

So in my last post, I baked apple bread but had way too many chopped apples. I threw them into a plan with some brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cooked till tender. Then I thickened it with some flour before stuffing them into some pie dough. I used the store bought variety to save time, but someday, I would love to make my own pie dough! I loosely followed this recipe: http://re-marked.tumblr.com/post/22782803896

They turned out really well! Nice and crusty with a gooey apple filling. Perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Can’t wait to go apple picking in the fall!

Apple cake! And great with vanilla ice-cream. I loosely followed this recipe from Smitten Kitchen: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/09/moms-apple-cake/

Mine doesn’t look quite as golden, but it was good. I substituted oil with apple sauce, cause it’s apple cake I say! It ended up having more of a bread consistency, which was still good. Now I ended up with way too many chopped apples, so I had to improvise by making Apple Turnovers. Stay tuned for my next post!

Vietnamese Roast Chicken! I followed Stephanie O’Dea’s slow cooker recipe and left out the black pepper (I don’t like spicy food). I tried the balled up pieces of foil, and like she said, it didn’t really give the chicken a crispy finish. Oh well. But the taste was amazing! The combination of fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar was super delicious. I stir fried some green beans and rice in the sauce served everything together. My husband loved it and so did I. My only concern is, will the “fishy” smell stink up my microwave…. 

Onigiri! So delicious. I picked up a few at Sakura Matsuri this past weekend, and love the salmon flavored ones. Just like the ones they sell in Tokyo! I’m still getting used to the plum ones, and I know they’re more traditional. I should make some of my own…