Pizza and Muffins and Curry and Coffee…!

Looking over my Flickr account, I’ve eaten quite a bit of yummy things and not taken the time to write about it here! That’ll change right now, then.

A little over a week ago, my sister decided she wanted to make some garlic knots at lunchtime, so we ordered a pizza to go along with them from the only place near campus that was delivering that day, Cosmos Café. The timing wound up perfect, as the pizza arrived just as the garlic knots were coming out of the oven.

Homemade Garlic Knots
Garlicky dough-knots
While they were certainly fresh and delicious, my sister and I agreed they could’ve used a bit more garlic-and-oil topping. Next time, we’ll be keeping that in mind. At the same time, we found that her baking stone makes a wonderful difference with the texture of the bread. The outside gets a nice, dry crust while the inside stays perfectly soft. While lacking a little in the flavor department, these garlic knots had truly authentic dough.

Cosmos Pizza with Peppers and Onions
Cosmos pizza with peppers and onions
The pizza was pretty comparitive. It did possess the thin crust, not-to-much cheese, and yummy veggies that comprise my pizza preferences in those areas, but the sauce was just good, not fantastic. It well-satisfied my pizza desires, though, and I would definitely order from Cosmos again.

Another Pizza Shot
I ate it–yep yep!
Here you can see that the cheese and crust are in balance. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when pizza has more cheese than crust. That’s plain just too much greasiness, ick. At the same time, I much prefer thin-crust pizza to Sicilian-style, so dramatically more crust than cheese is also in the Terrible Pizza section of my book. This pizza could’ve had less cheese and that would’ve put it into the Perfect Pizza section, at least with respect to cheesiness, but it was certainly far from disagreeable. :]

Hmm…I think if I don’t paginate this entry, it’s about to get excessively long, so continue on to the full entry page if you’d like to read more about what I’ve eaten and cooked and eaten again!

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So There’s This Bag of Onions, See…

Yesterday, I was really feeling like chicken, and I still have quite a few onions left from the 5 pound bag I got on sale insanely cheap a few weeks ago, so I made them for dinner last night.

Sautéed Chicken and Onions with Teriyaki
Last night’s dinner–envious? 😉
I took a couple of the onions (they’re small), peeled and sliced them, and sautéed them in a little butter. When they were getting caramelized, I added a little sesame oil and tossed in chunks of chicken breast. I seared that well and then finished cooking it all. Once I was confident the chicken was done, the pan was removed from the heat, and I added teriyaki sauce to deglaze the pan. Oh, deglazing…getting all those little browned bits off the bottom of the pan. You don’t get that with non-stick pans, oh, no. You need good stainless steel pans for that. And let me tell you, those tiny caramelized flecks of yumminess make me confident my $400 investment in a set of Calphalon pans was well worth it. 😉 :yum:

Sautéed Chicken and Onions with Teriyaki Close-Up
Mmm…perfection…
It was torturous giving it some time to rest and cool a bit, but it was so good I was bouncing while I ate it once I did. I’m incredibly proud of my ability to cook the chicken just right–all the way through, but still fantastically juicy and tender. And the onions…oh, the onions. I can–and have–been perfectly satisfied with a meal of caramelized onions. Balance, what? I don’t care. There’s nothing on the face of the earth like soft-but-al-dente onions that have been cooked until their natural sugars are in full force, browned and rich. It’s a guiltless treat, I say–they’re vegetables! And sweet like dessert! Woo!

Inspired by Robyn‘s recent ramblings, complaints, research, and so on about her paper on Japanese snack foods and their “kawaii” quality, I’d been wanting to try the banana-flavored Koala’s March cookies my sister had about a week ago but couldn’t bear to save any for me to try they were so delicious.

Package of Banana-Filled Koala's March
Look at the happy Koala getting full of banana–for me! Mwa ha ha!
Adorable Koala Cookie
The cuteness of these cookies is too much!
Headless Koala
…But the cuteness is not enough to save him from being DEVOURED!
Suffering the higher cost here at the campus convenience store, I had a box in my possession after class yesterday. After opening the package, I was immersed in the scent of artificial banana flavoring. For someone highly allergic to and yet also highly fond of bananas, it’s about the closest I can usually get to eating them (cooked banana is okay, but since they have to be very thoroughly cooked, I tend to err on the side of caution and only eat even cooked ones when I’ve done the cooking and can be sure it’s well enough).

The first bite of one assured me that I would be fully satisfied with banananess and yummy-cookie-ness. The Japanese have an incredible knack for making cookies that are just a million times better than American packaged cookie products. And their creme fillings are perfect–in consistency and flavor–every time. For a processed, packaged food, they seem to come the closest to what I call the “realness” quality of homemade foods. When I eat an Oreo, it feels and tastes like I’m eating something that was pumped out by some machine in a factory. When a happy little Koala jumps in my mouth, it tastes fresh and yummy and delicious and oh, how I wish I could make these myself!

Today is my sister’s birthday. 🙂 She’s turning 21 already, which means I will no longer get requests for bottles of vodka or beer or anything else when I’m going shopping. We’re going out to dinner with the rest of my family tonight, and she’ll be able to order a drink for herself instead of just tasting mine. And after we get back, dessert will be had here, in the name of an amazing creation of mine that took four and a half hours of manual labor and the suffering of blisters, a deep cut on my finger, and impossibly sore arms this morning to produce. I’m sure it will be worth it, though, and you can bet photos will be forthcoming. 😉

Terrace Diner Dinner

After getting back to my parent’s house tonight, we all went out to dinner at the family favorite restaurant–the Terrace Diner in West Babylon. As diner’s go, this is definitely the best, in my opinion; the service is consistently good, the food is consistently good (I’ve never been at all disappointed by something I ordered), and the prices are average-or-better for this area.

Being a very small fan of fried/heavily sauced/otherwise loaded with fat meals, I generally only choose from a few items I know won’t send my GI tract into a violent storm of “you’ve loaded me with too much lipid, idiot!” convulsions–their vegetable wrap is one of my favorites. However, tonight I actually spotted something on the dinner specials list that seemed like something I’d enjoy: Pasta Angelica, a mélange of sautéed chicken breast, mushrooms, garlic, onion, and red pepper in olive oil and balsamic vinegar over penne. I asked for them to go light on the oil (which they did!), and lo! I was finally able to order a meal that included dessert for once!!

<Matzoh Ball Soup
A lone little ball floating in my broth
My meal began with an appropriately diminutive bowl of matzoh ball soup. The matzoh was perfect souping consistency–firm enough to hold together in broth, tender enough to easily slice off bite-sized pieces with a my spoon. It was also lightly herbed, which was a pleasant addition to the normally plain dough. I was quite thoroughly pleased by the fact that the broth wasn’t too salty, and it was definitely well-developed, the chicken flavor was satisfyingly intense. 🙂

After the soup came a small, side-salad-size plate of the house Greek salad. I didn’t bother to photograph it because it was just your standard greens + cucumber + tomato + feta + olives salad with a little cup of the House dressing. My family goes to this diner primarily for this dressing, which really is unimpressive visually–it’s a cloyingly yellow, thick dressing almost reminiscent of custard. The taste, on the other hand, is remarkable: garlicky, smooth, and oh-so-tasty but not too rich. I never use all that they give you because of how flavorful it is; just a little bit goes a very long way.

Next up was my main event for the meal. Well, at least, what most, non-dessert-oriented people would consider the main event. 😉

Pasta Angelica
The aroma of this dish was nirvana
What never ceases to amaze me about the Terrace Diner is how they always cook their chicken exactly right–it’s never underdone, and at the same time it’s never overcooked to the point of dry, stringy unappetizingness. I’ve tried a number of their chicken dishes, and each time it’s arrived in front of me at the perfect temperature and moist, tender, delicious. The Pasta Angelica’s chicken cubes had the benefit of being covered in balsamic vinegar and a teeny bit of olive oil. Everything in this dish was fantastically flavorful, and I’ve since become convinced that nothing goes with mushrooms like balsamic vinegar. Mmm! :yum:

Because I knew that I still had dessert coming to me, and while that pasta would be very hard to top, I had faith it would be the highlight of my dinner, so I deliberately only ate about a third of the main course. I asked our server to wrap up the rest, and after everyone else in my family had finished up their dinners, I took a short stroll over to the dessert cases and pondered my options. I was faced with the choices of rice pudding, chocolate pudding, Jello, chocolate cheesecake, plain cheesecake, strawberry-topped sugar-free cheesecake, apple pie, cherry pie, bluberry pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate layer cake, chocolate mousse cake, a streusel-topped apple tart, various small pastries and brownies and cookies, and the cake I wound up deciding on: carrot cake.

Carrot Cake Side View
A moist, tender crumb sandwiched by cheesy frosting
On any given day, you’re bound to find me unable to pass up chocolate. I’m definitely a chocoholic. However, after such a filling meal as what preceded this dessert selection process, I wasn’t really up for the clearly decadent and heavy chocolate desserts (well, except for the pudding, but come on–who on earth in their right mind would select pudding of all things when faced with choices like the ones I had before me???). Besides, the cute little carrots on top were absolutely calling to me. I could here their squeaky little voices chirping my name as I thoughtfully considered all of my potential desserts.

And after all that consideration, the selection I settled on did not disappoint at all. The cake was splendidly most, with more than enough shredded carrot, walnut pieces, plumped raisins, and wintery spices to go around. Usually for me, cake is just an excuse to eat frosting, but I’d actually order this dessert with the intention of enjoying the cake in its own right the next time I go to Terrace. At the same time, this is not to downplay the glory of that frosting in any way, shape, or form.

Carrot Cake View from Above
The photo doesn’t do justice to that sweet topping
Seriously, this cream cheese frosting gets an A+++ in my book for Doing What Cheesecake Frosting is Supposed to Do. It perfectly balanced the spicy, carroty, tender cake with creamy, flavorful sweetness. It wasn’t so cream cheesey as to mislead me into thinking I’m eating a cheesecake when clearly I’m not, and at the same time it wasn’t so overly-sugared as to make my teeth hurt and my tongue go dry. It was Perfection. Except there should’ve been more; for the Queen of Frosting (i.e. me), there just simply wasn’t enough of this amazing concotion between and atop and around those cake layers. 😛 Alas, I really can’t complain too much in the face of the overal fantabulousness of my dessert.

Really, the cake in general was honestly the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. It’s inspired me to attempt my own carrot cake-baking endeavor, so not only can I have a wonderfully well-endowed cake with the epitome of greatness in the form of cream cheese frosting, but I can make sure there’s enough of said frosting. 😉

Pasta and Chicken with Lemon Sauce

For the main dish of my birthday party dinner, I put together a simple pasta dish with pieces of chicken and a light lemon sauce. Butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice comprised the simple sauce which was tossed with chicken and then some ziti. Just before serving, I added some freshly-grated parmigiano (yay for my new Magic Bullet!). Despite preparing a total of two pounds of pasta, there were very little left-overs.

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