No Ass, No Choke-That’s What He Said!

Nut Juice

“I don’t eat anything that starts with ‘ass’ or ends in ‘choke.'”

Translation?

“I won’t try asparagus or artichoke.”

The moment that cracked me up most, though, happened during a holiday at my mom’s house. She’d made the mistake of asking my hubby something about preferences for veggies.

As most of my regular readers have deduced, my hubby is a bit of a smartass. Let’s be real. You kind of have to be when you’re married to me. For me, his sense of fun and his sharp sarcasm are all part of his charm.

He also likes to cook and bake. He’s actually got some pretty impressive kitchen skills, and he’s creative with his culinary attempts. In fact, he’s often lamented about how he’d love to try his hand at something like the show “Chopped.” The random boxes of ingredients that need to be used to create some sort of masterpiece intrigues him.

But….

My man is picky. In fact, one of the few nods to “non-traditional” ingredients my hubby enjoys is almond milk. Hence the meme. Thus, I keep telling him that were he ever on the show, he’d have to pray for the perfect storm of ingredients or he’d lose.

He doesn’t believe me when I say these things to him, but he is…. And I partially blame it on his dad and the fact that he comes by his smartassery naturally.

Example? I’m half Asian. I love ethnic food. Until I’d met hubby, and he was 21 at the time, I’d never met a guy who hadn’t at least tried Chinese food. I mean, it’s practically a holiday staple with certain people. Yet I learned that my guy not only said “I don’t like Chinese,” he’d never given it a chance.

Why? Two reasons. First, was a combo of his dad and a scene from The Lost Boys. His pops called fried rice “flied lice.” And then he saw this scene….

And it didn’t help that his dad called soy sauce “bug juice.”

Thankfully, back then he was still working to impress me and tried the food. He got over his dislike really quickly once he tried it.

The thing is, when we conned him into trying the cooking tables at a Japanese restaurant, he found a new favorite. When he was peer pressured by colleagues to try seared ahi tuna or my grouper when we were in the Bahamas, he found there’s actually fish he would eat.

Because we went to a restaurant that made guacamole tableside, he tried it…and flan for dessert…and found he liked them both.

But most of the time? He balks like a big baby at anything he deems to be strange. And yet I’m still entertained by him….

Now it’s your turn. What foods kind of squick you out? Or even more interesting…if you’re in a long term relationship, what quirk does your significant other have that you find both entertaining and frustrating?

Enjoying Epicurian Diversity Chicago Style

My Sweet Home, Chicago!

My Sweet Home, Chicago!

 

There isn’t much that rejuvenates and inspires quite like a trip back to a place where you feel roots and strong ties; to land, community, and the general life. Going back home to Chicago is always a special treat for me because I get the opportunity to explore so many different ethnic foods (that I miss when I’m away). I also get the chance to spend time with people I love, who love me back and know the me I used to be and appreciate the person I’ve become. The above view is the Chicago skyline taken from the balcony of my sister’s condo where I was staying.

Mmmm.... Sushi!

Mmmm…. Sushi!

I got to do all of the above on this trip…and also had the chance to enjoy the musical mecca that Chicago becomes in the summertime. I knew this trip was going to be foodie fantastic when my sister picked me up from the airport and we started our weekend with sushi. Neither her hubby nor mine are big fans, and neither were with us, so we indulged at this fantastic place called Kamehachi. Our server was wonderful, the food was beautifully prepared, and we were able to enjoy outside seating in mid-70 weather.

My sister was also a big fan of their hibiscus tea. Me? I believe you don’t fruit the salad and you don’t flower the tea…LOL! But it worked for her, and it was refreshing. Did I mention we also did not have a wait to be seated? Heck, in Chi-town, the Open Table app is all the rage to prevent wait times, but it never became a concern. We still used it several times, though. Better safe than sorry.

Tapas and Café Iberico

Tapas and Café Iberico

Dinner that night was later, so we decided on some fun, not too heavy fare. One of the beautiful things about Chicago means being able to WALK to many of the places we visit. This beautiful evening was no exception. After my brother-in-law got off work we headed to Café Iberico for some tasty tapas!

For those of you who don’t know the history of tapas, it’s kind of interesting. This was Castillian Spain’s version of bar food. In fact, even the word tapas is a reference to lids….often used to cover the food to keep fruit flies away. 🙂 Want to know more about the stuff? Click HERE for your Spanish history lesson!

Lemon Pancakes and Asparagus, mushroom, and bacon omelet

Lemon Pancakes and Asparagus, mushroom, and bacon omelet

The following morning my sister introduced me to the joys of brunch at Kingsbury Street Café. Nestled next to the VIP Lounge (Yes, Phil, it’s a strip club), it served the most luscious lemon pancakes. Because my sister’s sweet, and I’m a bit savory, we decided to order stuff we could share. Their multigrain toast baguettes were fresh, with a sweetness that did not require any jams (at least in my opinion). The omelet? To die for…AND they didn’t overcook the asparagus. Did I mention they had fabulous coffee as well?

What was really awesome was that one of my childhood best friends had left her kids with her hubby and come into the city to spend the weekend with us…just like we did when we were kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have loved to hang out with her munchkins, but this was some much needed grown up unwinding time, complete with booze.

Drinks and Indian Food

Drinks and Indian Food

Breakfast at Hotel Sister

Breakfast at Hotel Sister

Yup! Once she got to town we decided it was the perfect time to pop her cherry. It turned out, she’d never had Indian food, so we took her to Jaipur Indian Restaurant and introduced her to the joys of things like naan, samosas, chicken tikka masala, dal, and the ever so tasty gulab jamun!

And when we’re eating all sorts of flavor exploding dishes, it only made sense to enjoy some lemon-tinis. 🙂

Of course, the morning of the concert I had the pleasure of enjoying familial hospitality at my sister’s place. She made the most amazing baked French toast with a caramel praline topping. She even had home made/tapped syrup that a close friend of theirs harvests on his own. How cool is that?

She also pampered me with awesome cappuccinos and lattes that she made, herself. The only thing missing was the fancy froth designs, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t really miss it. I mean, who am I kidding? It’s not like the folks at Starbucks bother decorating my froth before they put lids on my drinks, either…and hers were even tastier (and FREE!)

Me and a childhood bestie

Me and a childhood bestie

After such phenomenal home service we decided to chillax a bit, catch up, and enjoy the day. We took my sister’s dog for a walk, visited their local animal shelter, the Anti-Cruelty society. It was pet adoption day and I thanked my lucky stars that I live far away, because it helped prevent me from coming home with every puppy they had up for adoption. How cool is it, though, that they had Darth Vader and some Storm Troopers to help get all those adorable furry friends into new, loving homes? Yeah….there were a lot of folks doing just what my friend did. Selfies with the Star Wars villains. 🙂 Me? I stuck to the huggable, loveable Dalmatian. My sister’s pup got plenty of love and attention from everyone. In fact, their official professional photographer insisted on taking a pic of her dog with the white storm troopers. (While I’m thinking on it, please hold a good thought for him. He’s been having some eye issues that are going to need to be resolved with doggie surgery. We’re hoping they won’t have to take his eye.)

A couple of friends stopped to by to surprise me!

A couple of friends stopped to by to surprise me!

Fish and Chips with Cider

Fish and Chips with Cider

That afternoon, after our dog walking adventure we got ready for an early supper, then the Blake Shelton concert. We decided to head to Duke of Perth for the best fish and chips in town, and some cider to wash it down. What was really awesome was that because I’d checked in on my phone app, a couple of childhood friends stopped in to say hello and give hugs! Don’t you just love surprises like that? It made my day to know that they went out of their way just to stop and say hi.

Although Duke of Perth is quite well known for their whiskey, we wanted to be sober enough to enjoy seeing Dan + Shay, The Band Perry, Neal McCoy, and, of course, Blake….at the legendary Wrigley Field! Now, I’ve always enjoyed Neal McCoy’s music, but after catching his sense of fun and humor, I’ve decided I’d be perfectly okay with being in the center of a Neal and Blake sandwich. 😉 Next to Blake, he was my favorite part of the night.

When the time came to say goodbye to my sister and my favorite town, it was with a heavy heart. There’s something about my home town that uplifts me. I love that no matter how often I come back I discover some new gem either while still being filled with nostalgia. What do you love most about going back home? Or, if you never left, what places would you recommend to someone visiting your home town?

I’ll leave ya’ll with this awesome song… Tell me how many famous guitar players you can name. 😉

Wink, Wink…Holiday Healthy Eating Habits (Humor)

Okay…. I live in Florida, so dietary health restrictions are hardly unheard of. Add the fact that my stepdad has a gluten intolerance…and so many people have gone on all sorts of different health kick diets that this one just tickled my funny bone! Let’s be real… In this day and age this could totally happen!

C’mon…. Ya’ll know it was hilarious. The humor is right up my tongue-in-cheek alley.

 

Sharing Dreams, Playing Together

When we got engaged, I became like most women.  I started looking at bridal magazines.  I bought a bridal book/organizer. I tuned in to those wedding related shows you can now find on tv.  What shows? My Fair Wedding, Say Yes To The Dress, Platinum Weddings and Amazing Wedding Cakes. This meant I started tuning in to channels I’d never watched before.  I drove hubby crazy.

Then one day I found Cake Boss. This show wasn’t strictly about wedding cakes.  It was about all sorts of cakes and an Italian family who owned a bakery. The star is a guy named Buddy. Why am I telling you all this? Because while I was watching an episode, my guy happened to pop his head into the room.  He became just as enthralled as I was. How could he not, when Buddy’s catch phrase is “I’m Buddy, and I’m the boss!”…which allows any guy to change the name and claim the role…LOL! Coming from an Italian family, he could relate…and the cakes were cool! It became a regular part of our dvr list. We watched it together.

I didn’t think much of it until after our wedding. I guess hubby had been so interested that he’d started going online and looking up cake decorating. He found out that Michaels, the craft store, taught cake decorating classes for a reasonable price! It was usually a 4-5 week course for a couple hours a week.  He asked me if I’d like to sign up for classes together. I thought it was kind of romantic! I mean, seriously…  It was a guaranteed date night…and fun!  So we signed up.  As it turned out, he had talent!  Check out his cakes from our first set of cake decorating classes.

This was his first cake.  They call it the rainbow cake.  You learn how to make buttercream icing, to color your icing, and to use your basic cake tips…specifically, the star tip.

Next is the “clown cake” where you learn how to create 3d characters with buttercream icing…and how to do shell designs.

Graduation cake was the where we made the “Wilton Rose”.  Wilton is the name of the company who teaches the cake classes held at Michaels.  This was the only class where hubby was a little frustrated.  It turned out that THIS was the one part I did better than him.  I had a better hand/eye for the roses…. The above is his cake.  The below is mine.  Feel free to weigh in if you like…;-)

After graduating from Wilton’s first class, we found out they had a “Wilton Cakes 2” class.  This was where you learned how to make more complicated cakes and to make “Royal” icing & gumpaste flowers.  This is the stuff they use to make the harder edible flowers, etc for those cakes that you see at the grocery store.  For these cakes I worked more as his assistant instead of making my own cakes.  At this point there was no question who was more talented with the decorating.  Him.

For this one, most of the classes were spent creating all the flowers and decor you see on this cake.  The actual basketweave cake was done on the last day of class…along with placement of everything we made. Everything on this cake was edible.

Wilton 3 & 4 brought us to fondant, gumpaste and tiered cakes.  Let me show you what he created…

I thought this cake was awesome…and he did a pretty great job with the draping around the cake. In case you didn’t know…it’s not an easy thing to do.

Check out this fondant Christmas present cake.  He even quilted it around the edges and added candied pearls for effect.  🙂

Between all these cakes, we also took a one day only “castle cake class”. It happened to fall around Halloween…so we did a Haunted Castle Cake…complete with cobblestone walk up made of snickers bars, dirt along the sides with worms crawling out…

That one was fun… By the way, the turrets?  Made with Ice cream cones.  🙂 We had so much fun doing these classes together. What kinds of things outside of the home do you enjoy doing with your significant other?  Do you have any shared hobbies?  Do you feel that it’s strengthened your relationship?

Anyway, those classes were years ago…but somehow word got out with our family about his talent.  So, when our nephew, his godson, was getting ready to turn three, Uncle got a call.  We were going to be heading back home to Chicago for a visit and to help celebrate his birthday…(he shares it with hubby’s sister, then a couple weeks later is hubby and mother-in-law’s birthday). Apparently, our adorable nephew was having a themed birthday…and he loved Thomas The Train.  He wanted his uncle to make his birthday cake.  Hubby was nervous because he didn’t want to wreck a 3 year old’s birthday, but I could’ve told him he had nothing to worry about.  Here’s nephew admiring Uncle’s finished product…

He was enthralled!  There is no question who the favorite uncle is.  LOL!  By the way, if you have young children who are Thomas fans, this one isn’t very hard or very expensive if you’ve ever done anything cake related.

Since then, hubby’s gotten into all sorts of things…he’s made his own barbecue sauces from scratch, he’s made a cherry chipotle marinade for chicken…and lately he’s been experimenting with a pressure cooker.  But I still think he makes kickass desserts.  Take a look at some of these!

Chocolate pecan pie…Yum! It’s a new family favorite, requested on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving.

 

Pumpkin swirl cheesecake…with Ghiardelli chocolate.

His first couple cupcake attempts…chocolate mint on the left, peach on the right (and they’re filled…one with chocolate ganache, the other with peach cream)

And last, but certainly not least…these three.  The back right is key lime, the front is chocolate peanut butter, the third is chocolate malt ball…and yes, they’re all filled.

So, what started out as a fun little wedding interest turned into a passion for him.  Thank goodness he doesn’t only do sweets or I’d be a house…LOL!  The reality is, though, by indulging me in my wedding show watching, he found a passion for himself.  And I help…  Just call me his sous chef. At least when I’m holed up writing in my “cave” (really it’s an office), I know I won’t starve…  He’ll make sure of it.  How does your significant other take care of you?

One day, I’ll be able to repay him for enabling me to pursue my dreams by being able to support him while he chases his…maybe all the way to culinary school.