22 April 2011

Snow White -- Pancake-style!!

Today, I am going to blog post about a social event that seriously lacks anything science-y or thoughtful. It is just a story that shows how food brings people together. I actually have a systematic review to write up too for Nutrition, but I'll get to that later today. Now. Storytime!!
Once upon a time, there were 8 people. They weren't dwarves though. They were named Popcorn, MC, MK, MA, MM, KB, CL, and me. MA never turned up though. Anyway, the 7 remaining people decided to make some pancakes on the Sunday after Fling.
There were delicious and plentiful pancakes with a whole box of batter to spare! There were sticks of butter and packages of frozen fruit! There was jalapeno jam and a packet of peanut butter.
MK accidentally poured some oil onto the electric stove. It was a terribly funny but terribly terrible move. The first batch of pancakes were also literally dripping with oil, but that was okay because it meant that they were easy to flip. (When I make pancakes...I add oil to the batter instead...) The first experimental batch were filled with orange/banana/strawberry juice and strawberries and KB and Popcorn loved them. Thus, we were happy.
The second batch of pancakes were filled with M&Ms, and MM and I loved them.
Some of the pancakes were ugly, but the others were beautiful. No one cared, no one judged, and no one said no to more.
The jalapeno jam was delicious!
The M&M pancakes (3 of them) shared between MM and me were the best; they were fluffy and rainbow-coloured and made by Popcorn. Popcorn, CL, KB and I made many of the pancakes.
Popcorn also made some mini blueberry pancakes, and we ultimately also had some blackberry ones.
And so, we were all happy and sated college kids, so KB and I started to do the dishes.
Suddenly, Popcorn exclaimed that she wanted a blueberry pancake!
When KB offered to make one for Popcorn, Popcorn declined the offer because we had already started the dishes. KB, however, decided to make some batter and to make an extra-nice blueberry pancake for Popcorn, because Popcorn had cooked the majority of the pancakes.

So, as we all relaxed and I washed dishes, KB prepared blueberry pancake batter and poured it on a pan.

Suddenly, I turned to see smoke billowing out of the pan and an acrid smell filled the room! The batter had fallen onto the electric stove, and it was bubbling! To make matters worse, the pancake on the pan was smoking too! I immediately opened three windows and KB turned the pancake onto a plate, and we both stood next to the window, with our arms outstretched, letting the smoky pancake and the smoky pan emit their smoke and repugnant smells onto those outside on the street. As we waited for the pancake to cool, we all laughed at the silly situation. Please. Laugh. Make us feel less stupid about this situation.

Now, the Snow White part sets in.
As I went back to doing the dishes, Popcorn ate some pancake...
...and realised that it tasted soapy.
So she ran to the sink and started to get rid of the soapy taste from her mouth, while we all laughed hysterically while our friend nearly choked/got poisoned/got hospitalised/died.

For that pancake, KB had used a soap-filled pan that hadn't yet been washed.

16 April 2011

Spring Fling 2011!

Spring Fling 2011. The yearly event that everyone loves, because of the blatant alcoholism and horde of people wavering around drunk. The event in which alcohol is in every bottle and cup. The event in which wearing neon is purely acceptable, and wearing those huge sunglasses and no pants is classy snazzy.

Despite missing the Fling concert, my friends and I did have a lot of fun with a lightsaber fight with glowsticks, and walking around, eating food, and watching movies. We went to the Burger Fling, an event right before the Fling concert. It was advertised as a huge barbecue, but it was nothing of the sort; all we did was stand in line indoors, get a plate of food, and disperse. Because I asked for a veggie burger, I had to wait an extra 11 minutes for them to cook it :( but it was pretty good, and I got an extra slice of cheese with it. I also got a pretty fresh and yeasty pretzel. It wasn't bland, airy, and untextured.
Tonight, I present you with the carnival! The carnival was supposed to be on College Green, but since It's been raining for the past 12 hours, it was moved into Houston Hall. Somehow, they managed to stick in a whole bunch of food samples, a jumping castle, two mechanical bulls, and over the fire-hazard-limit number of people&umbrellas onto two floors, and everyone actually seemed happy about it!! I had arrived a bit early, and there were already lines forming. I got some key lime water ice, and the best part was that it was a full container of it! It was delicious, although I think that the cookies and cream flavour was way better (I tried some of CC's. He actually preferred the fruity ones since mixing cream and water didn't seem to be his thing).
I also got some Chipotle, but they didn't really offer what I wanted; it was just a flour tortilla with cheese, tomato, and lettuce. Dude. Where're the beans? The guacamole? The salsa? Where are all the things that make a Chipotle burrito a Chipotle burrito? Yes, I understand that they had to feed some 1000 or so of us with a limited budget, but this gave TJ a bad impression of Chiptole. As I am already biased towards Chipotle, I don't really mind but now TJ will value Qdoba over Chipotle :(
Actually, I did try some Qdoba tortilla chip dip. It was pretty good-cheesy, spicy, drinkable like soup, so I ended up chugging most of it since we ran out of chips. My friend took a picture of me drinking it, and that's the closest picture I have to the cliche plastic-red-cup-filled-with-vodka image. Haha.
Boxes of...
Costco churros! This is the second (?) Costco churro of my life, and although it tasted rather stale and dry, the inside was quite delicious and spongy!
Samosas from...someone, filled with potato and peas and spicy stuff- Amazing! (still vegetarian although it looks like there's cow mince in there)
...And the grand finale...THE MAGIC CARPET MEATBALL PITA! Delicious mustardy cheesy something light kinda sauce (Not sure what it is), seedy nutty delicious falafelish smooshed non-meat meatballs with crunchy lettuce and a crusty pita - AMAZING! I really have to advertise Magic Carpet now! Next year... Gonna buy from this food truck!

12 April 2011

berkshire bark - Tropical Heat

So here's a funny story.
The Uncommon Market unintentionally sells a lot of expired food.
There is expired vegetarian sloppy joe sauce, pasta sauce, curry sauce, noodles (okay, the noodles will expire on May 11th this year), and other stuff. It's not as though the Uncommon Market is AWARE of this situation, though, since the same jars and packets of sauces have been sitting there for at least 3 months. Yes, I've been checking for 3+ months, because I've felt inclined to buy vegetarian sloppy joe sauce, and I've been waiting for a new shipment because the packets sitting on the shelf have been expired since February 2011.
No one else really checks expiration dates, but it's become a habit of mine ever since I bought some chocolate from the Uncommon Market in January, only to find that it had expired on December 17th, 2010. When one purchases a small bar of chocolate for $3.99 (Yes. Everything's price is jacked up), one expects high quality chocolate. One does not desire expired chocolate. In general, I don't mind eating relatively expired food - expired pasta, expired chocolate, expired rice (stuff that isn't perishable), but in this case, I had to make a stand. I'm already buying overpriced Dining Dollars, which I end up spending on overpriced food, so I'd BETTER get fresh food out if it
Sometimes I aspire to work for the FDA's Food Safety department so that I can research what "expiration" means, and whether one would drop dead after consuming some pie one hour post-expiration. Then, I wonder what life would be like being a freegan. If you push back the expiration date by ONE day - 24 hours - much more food (especially milk, yoghurt, ham, cheese, pudding, canned goods) would be saved in this world. However, I can't support any of this because there doesn't seem to be much research concerning food expiration.

Anyway, I ended up switching the chocolate for a new bar that will expire in June (but I've already eaten it), and I suppose the expired bar was thrown away, although it was perfectly edible (yes, I'm a hypocrite, right? Perfectly edible, yet I was so bothered by it that I had to exchange it).
The bar was called Tropical Heat, by berkshire bark, and the impression I got is basic, chunky, wholesome, and...spotty. It contained macadamia nuts, pineapple, mango, papapya, coconut, chili, and cayenne, and I couldn't wait to try it because I do like spicy chocolate.

The coconut texture was very pronounced, but I couldn't really taste its flavor. The pineapple, mango, and papaya were indistinguishable from each other (which is a bad thing, because...they're different fruits) and they all tasted flavourless and had a weird texture. I've had dried pineapple, mango, and papaya before, and those instances never made me think, "Wow. Am I chewing gillyweed? Stale gum?" The chocolate was normal dark chocolate, and yes, there was a hint of spicyness, but nothing too hot. It reminded me of the spicy chocolate drink from the Penn "Chocolate" Festival, so that was good. I honestly don't think it was worth $3.99, especially when I can buy really high quality pure chocolate, or just plain ol' cocoa powder, for $3.99 at Shoprite, or even Trader Joe's.

Back to buying noodles, rice and polenta, because at least those prices are only jacked up by 10-30% rather than 50-70% at the Uncommon Market.

02 April 2011

Progressive Dinner!

My dorm house prepares a Progressive Dinner every year. "Progressive?!", you exclaim! Doesn't that sound pedantic? Is this dinner some kind of ceremony involving juniors progressing into seniors? Or, did some professor in this school donate a ton of money to a dinner fund (I wish) in his/her name? Contrary to the typical nomenclature here at Penn (every festival, building, public area, and urinal is apparently In Memory Of or In The Name Of), the name "Progressive" simply means that you start off on the first floor, with salads prepared by the people/RA/GA on the first floor, and move progressively up each floor to scavenge for food! The second floor is soup, the third floor is pasta, and the fourth floor is desserts. And desserts galore! GALORE! You know why it was desserts galore? We made a lot! Myriad! We didn't just stop at two or three varieties of baked goods; we flipped the fridge inside out, along with flipping some crepes!
Since the fourth floor was in charge of making desserts, and since I honestly have not been able to focus on academic subjects (exam in 24 hours...), I decided to devote my afternoon to mixing and decorating desserts. In all honesty, we made way too many chunks of sugary dough; the other floors didn't have multifarious dishes (I'll get to that later).

Since my Victoria sandwich cake was already in the oven when I went to the kitchen, the GA asked me to start making a white chocolate and hazelnut (well, walnut, because we didn't have any hazelnuts) cake using a recipe that TM had submitted, in which the ingredients were listed with the metric system. This was alright, because I had submitted a Victoria sandwich cake recipe which was originally in grams. By approximating everything through comparison (mathematics!), I managed to get a pretty thick cake batter (much like the Victoria sandwich cake batter, actually, although fat-free yogurt was used instead of butter). While I was debating whether or not the chocolate chips should be melted, TM came in and we finished making the cake together. He actually was going to make it himself since he had emailed only the ingredients and no method (and no amount of baking soda either...). We did melt the white chocolate chips in the end, and the cake turned out dense, not too sweet, tasty, and had a rather gluey texture.
The one failure adventurous part of this baking event was the German chocolate cake icing. I used a recipe from online, but it called for three raw egg yolks. Since this didn't seem like a good idea, I just decided to make the icing without it. Unfortunately, there was too much milk in the mixture (I suppose the egg yolks would've made everything thicker), and the butter was melted. In other words, I ended up with a fatty sugar soup, with coconut and pecans as garnish. After adding 2+ cups of confectioner's sugar, I poured half the "icing" on the cake to see whether it would dry and glaze.
It didn't. It just made half the cake soggy.
I didn't to waste the other half of the icing soup, so I decided to stick it on the stove, and hopefully evaporate some of that liquid. After a bit, I realised that I could make caramel! However, I've never successfully made caramel before; somehow, I always end up with something like the image above: a sugar crumble. It's delicious, yes, and a great cake topping (I ended up sprinkling this on top of the German chocolate cake and it looked really pretty. I also used it for the macaroons. I'm telling you; people loved this! People ate it! Fast!), but it isn't caramel. This summer, I WILL make legit caramel. I think it has something to do with the time I add the baking soda; as soon as my sugar mixture started to caramelise, I poured in a LOT of baking soda. Since it didn't look like it was going to set, I dumped in A LOT MORE baking soda. Then, it looked like the mixture was turning into custard, so I poured it into a pan...
Then, I tasted some, and it tasted bitter and salty, so I was upset. I started to stir the "custard" to hopefully allow the CO2 to escape (?) from the mixture. The "custard" then started crumbling, and shrivelling...and I ended up with a crumble. I will definitely go more in depth with caramel-making when I actually get to make caramel this summer...anyway, digression.
My GA made almond cupcakes with amaretto poured into them. I decorated them. I also ate one; there definitely was an almond taste, and it was really moist. Technically I'm not supposed to consume alcoholic substances. I'm not sure what amaretto tastes like, so I really can't say whether it enhanced the flavour of the cupcake. People actually seemed to like the German chocolate cake more than these cute cupcakes, which is saying something about how plating doesn't really matter for college students, haha.
Banana cupcakes (above) and banana bread (below). The ones on the left are decorated with my glaze icing, and then topped with my awesome-crumble-icing.
Cakes decorated by someone else. G4! That's where I live.
We also dipped delicious, moist coconut macaroons (that were really irregularly shaped) with melted chocolate, and the crumble-topping. They are beautiful!!
And finally...here is my Victoria sandwich cake! I didn't bake it, but I jammed it and added powdered sugar. Someone else added the strawberries. I suppose the point of this post is that the Progressive Dinner is about teamwork.
As a side note, this Victoria sandwich cake was less rich, with more evenly shaped holes in the sponge part. I think this is due to the fact that the butter was melted (read = completely liquid) before being mixed. The one I made before was made with solid butter, and the uneven globs, spread throughout, perhaps created a more homemade/less uniform texture while baking. This one was still delicious, though.
Cookies made with leftover toppings, some in muffin pans! That's why they are so round and/or irregularly shaped!
Now to talk about the actual dinner! I started off on the first floor, with the salads. There was pasta salad (with two types of pasta), which was pretty oily, and not really salty, which was nice. The leafy salad had tangerines inside, which was pretty neat.
...And then there was potato salad! FIVE huge containers of potato salad! It was absolutely amazing! I've decided to fall in love with paprika now.
The second floor was soup, and the only vegetarian one was creamy tomato soup, and I got literally 750ml of it. It was only a bit creamy, which was wonderful because I've had a really negative experience with the too-creamy-it's-almost-weird-it's-sour way like the one made by Pacific Natural Foods (you know, the one in the carton).

The third floor included many trays of pasta. I don't have pictures of these because the lighting was terrible, and, although the pasta and soup were delicious, they weren't that exceptional or photogenic. The main focus = dessert!!