A Taste of Asia to Celebrate the Lunar New Year

When I was planning our special meals to celebrate the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, I realized that the Lunar New Year was going to fall right in the middle of the festivities. China is probably the first country that comes to mind when you think of Lunar New Year celebrations, but Korea, Vietnam, and several other Asian countries also observe this holiday. I also discovered that while it no longer is, it also used to be on Japan’s calendar, too. With that information in mind, I decided to make not just a Korean meal, but a whole “Taste of Asia!”

I did most of the cooking from scratch. I made shrimp egg rolls (which I’ve done once before) and Japanese pork gyoza, as well as more of the Korean fried tofu we enjoyed last week, and some light Vietnamese shrimp spring rolls. We also bought a package of frozen pork buns from the Asian market, and I used my bamboo steamer for the first time to prepare those. And Ryan went out and bought some crab rangoon from our favorite Chinese restaurant…they make them so well, there was no way I was going to bother trying to replicate them at home!

It was a nice selection of foods, from a good variety of Asian countries!

I even tried some Japanese sake for the first time:

I confess…I didn’t make any of the dessert from scratch. But we found two varieties of mochi (red bean and green tea) at the Asian market, and I bought a bag of fortune cookies, as well:

This was another fun meal, and gave us all the opportunity to try some new things. I’m planning one more big Korean dinner before the end of the Olympics, so stay tuned!

A Korean Feast for the Opening Ceremonies

The Opening Ceremonies of any Olympics are always reason for a feast!

I have been so excited all week, because I have been planning a Korean dinner to celebrate PyeongChang 2018. I spent a lot of time looking through the Korean cookbook I purchased just for this occasion, and choosing the things I wanted to cook for our Korean feast. When I finally came up with the menu, I realized there were quite a few ingredients in the meal that were new to us:

I had fun cooking all of the various components of our dinner…especially those that required me to work on my wok skills:

We had sweet potato starch noodles with stir-fried vegetables and beef (japchae), panfried tofu with spicy seasoning sauce (dububuchim-yangnyeomjang), and kimchi. I made everything except the kimchi, and originally, I had planned to make that, too, but I think I’ve watched too much Food Network, and it scared me a little!

It was a delicious dinner, and to my surprise, everyone enjoyed the tofu, which was probably the most foreign item on the menu!

For dessert, I had planned to make panfried sweet rice cakes with edible flowers (hwajeon) to go with the pear punch (baesuk) that has been steeping in the fridge all week. When I couldn’t find the necessary edible flowers, I bought a package of Korean rice cookies instead. But then Ladybug and I decided that mint leaves might work instead of the flowers, and you know what? They were delicious!

We had a really fun time trying out some very new-to-us Korean foods, and not only did I love cooking some new foods,  I was pleased with how much everyone enjoyed the things I made. We have a few other fun foods to try during the Olympics…I hope they’re as popular as tonight’s dinner!

Tasty Tuesday–Schnitzel Platz

When we were in Chicago recently, we had the opportunity to go to dinner at Schnitzel Platz in Glendale Heights. For those of us anxiously awaiting the opening of the Hofbräuhaus downstate here in Belleville, an authentic German meal was very welcome!

The inside is just what you’d expect in a German restaurant, and I loved it! It also smelled like a German restaurant (so pretty much like beer, sauerkraut and pork), even before we walked in the front door!

The menu is amazing. One look at the extensive selection of schnitzels was all I needed to know that I would be able to find something fantastic!

I tried to photograph all of the German foods at our table, from the pre-dinner pretzels to the soup and salad selections, and of course the main courses! I personally enjoyed the liver dumpling soup, which is something I had never tried before and is way out of my comfort zone, but I shouldn’t have worried…it was delicious! I also had my favorite preparation of schnitzel…the Jäger Schnitzel, which has a nice mushroom sauce. In addition, I chose Spätzle (of course!), and sauerkraut to complete my meal. I had a Spatenbräu with my dinner, and some of the children enjoyed Sprecher root beer (they loved that it was served in a mini stein!). Also pictured are the German salad plate, which had beets, red cabbage, and cucumber and carrot salads, Wiener schnitzel with Spätzle and red cabbage, Panierte Schweine Koteletten (fried pork chops), with red cabbage and a dumpling, Goulash, and Käse Spätzle from the children’s menu.

We especially enjoyed the live accordion music that accompanied our meal:

There was also a lovely dessert selection…unfortunately, we were all too full from dinner to try anything, but it sure was nice to look at!

Our meal was amazing. Everything tasted just right, and the portions were quite generous. The only downside was how busy it was on a Saturday night. Even though we had a reservation, we had to wait to be seated, and we waited even longer for our food to be prepared. But between the live music and the great energy in the restaurant (various diners were singing and/or dancing most of the time we were there!), even that wasn’t too big of a deal, and I’d definitely go back if I had the chance…just maybe on a week night next time!

Tasty Tuesday–Llywelyn’s Pub

It occurred to me recently that even though we’ve eaten at two different Llywelyn’s Pub locations (St. Charles and Webster Groves), on several different occasions, I never actually wrote a restaurant review. So even though I haven’t been there lately, here’s a look at one of our favorite St. Louis area pubs!

There are nine Llywelyn’s locations, and like I said, we’ve only been to two of them. I can’t imagine any of them having a better atmosphere than the St. Charles location, though! Not only is it located right on historic Main Street, it is in a former bank building, and if you’re really lucky, you can even eat in the old vault!

Let’s start with the important stuff…their pub chips are AMAZING. The burgers are good, too. They don’t quite measure up to my gold standard (Seamus McDaniel’s), but they’re close:

I’m not sure that the colcannon pictured with the burgers is on the menu anymore, but it was so good. They definitely know what they’re doing with the traditional pub fare…they also have other favorites, like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips on the menu, and everything we have tried over the years has been excellent. And don’t let the word “pub” scare you off…it’s a very family friendly restaurant, with a full kids’ menu. The Fab Five love eating there, too (especially the one time we were seated in the vault!).

This is a great local spot, and it really has that neighborhood pub feel. The Soulard location even offers a trolley that runs to Cardinals and Blues home games, which is just another great reason to stop by Llywelyn’s for a bite to eat and a beer!

The IKEA Swedish Julbord

We had so much fun learning about Santa Lucia Day and Christmas in Sweden last week that I didn’t want it to end. Lucky for me, IKEA hosts a Swedish Julbord in their restaurant every year, and even luckier, we managed to get tickets even though we got there less than 30 minutes before the event began!

As soon as I saw Santa Lucia, the Lucia brides, and the lovely decorations, I knew it was going to be a special event.

And the food! There were so many options…thick-cut ham, Swedish meatballs, lingonberry sauce, gravlax with mustard sauce, pickled herring with a sour cream sauce, deviled eggs topped with shrimp, poached salmon under cucumbers, Swedish cucumber salad, red beet salad, sautéed red cabbage with apples, boiled potatoes, Swedish potato salad, Jansson’s Temptation, Swedish cheeses, fresh fruit, bread (including crisp, thin, and soft), hot Glögg, and lots of desserts, including apple cake and spiced ginger cookies.

I tried as many new-to-me foods as possible, and it was all good. Some things I loved, and some I enjoyed even if I wouldn’t seek them out intentionally on their own, but it was all quite tasty.

I don’t know if this is something we’ll try to make a part of our annual Christmas traditions, or if it was something fun to do just once, but I’m really glad we got to go, try some new foods, and celebrate Christmas in a fun and different way!

Thanksgiving 2017

Around here, Thanksgiving is really a three-day event. It started yesterday, with the baking of all of the pies, and it won’t end until tomorrow, when we eat pie for breakfast, build our new Christmas Lego set, and have turkey soup for dinner. But today is the Big Deal…the Thanksgiving feast!

I love making the table look pretty:

Thanks to Ryan, we even had flowers this year!

We had a nice selection of beverages:

And our traditional Thanksgiving dinner:

It’s a lot of food!

No Thanksgiving is complete without pie(s) for dessert!

There was a rumor going around that I was under the weather this year. But seriously…if I wasn’t feeling well, do you really think all this could have happened? I’m not allowed to be sick on Thanksgiving ever!

Tasty Tuesday–Nutella Pie

Just when you think I’ve run out of new pies to try!

Last year, I found a recipe for a Nutella pie, and Turkey immediately decided he wanted it to be “his” Thanksgiving pie. He liked it so much, he decided he wants it again this year, and I don’t blame him…it’s delicious. Of course, I’ve made my own little tweaks in the meantime, so here is my updated recipe!

For the filling:

  • Pre-made Oreo pie crust
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Beat cream cheese, Nutella, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. In another bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form; fold into Nutella mixture. Add to crust and chill for 30 minutes.

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

In small saucepan, bring the cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; let stand five minutes. Stir until smooth; cool to spreading consistency. Spread over pie; sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts. Chill for at least one hour.