Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Zucchini Bites

Since it’s been awhile that we’ve had zucchini bites, Zen Mum started craving for some.

When I make it, it’s just dipping it into an egg wash and rolling it around a dry mix of panko and seasoned bread crumbs.  Then I drop them into the fryer for a few minutes until soft.  Serve hot and with marinara sauce.

Yummy.

But Zen Mum saw a healthier version of zucchini bites on Maryland Public Television.  It was baked, rather than fried.

Defeats the whole point to me, because everything fried is always quite yummy.

But baked?

So she whipped up a batch with her own recipe.  Instead of egg wash, she threw together mayo and mustard, dipped the zucchini bites into it and then coated them with straight-up panko.  Baked it for a few minutes until soft and served hot.

Verdict?

I only gorged on them.

Okay, so baked beat the pants off fried in this round. 

I’m tall enough to admit when I made a mistake. 

As my punishment, I’ll have to finish off the rest of the zucchini bites.

Tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Happy Friday!

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Visiting Family

While I was out and about in New Jersey, in the evening, I went visiting family.

This is my brother, David and his wife, Evelyn. 

Since I dropped by out of the blue, I caught David in the middle of cooking dinner.  And it was rather exciting to see him in action because I can’t remember the last time when that happened.

And then I remember that he’s always been the cooker, me the taster.  He would be able to remember the ingredients that Zen Mum would put into her meals, while I couldn’t retain a thing.

In our younger years, he would be in the kitchen while I was seated at the table, drooling and anxious to get eating.

I watched him make Lobster Bisque, which was quite tasty.

 Steamed fish (I forgot to ask what kind) with ginger and soy sauce.

Really tasty baked chicken, which he brined for eight hours.  I recall the ingredients being salt, sugar, water, herbs and other spices.  The brine made the chicken quite moist and flavorful.  Two thumbs up!

Roasted red potatoes, seasoned with olive oil, salt and other herbs. 

Steak, medium rare, and green bean casserole.  The recipe for the steak was inspired by a trip to Ruth Chris.  David made his own recipe and he said that it was pretty darn close.

If I were a beef-eater, I would have sampled because those were bold words.

 But what captivated me for most of the evening was this cake. 

Evelyn had baked what looked like vanilla cake with confetti sprinkles.  I sat next to it while I watched David cook dinner and the cake kept calling me.

Cake:  Sally…eat me…I am tasty…you know I am…

Me:  Damn you, Cake!  Stop looking at me!  Stop talking to me!  I have will-power.  I am a strong woman.

Cake:  You will be mine before this evening!

And who won?

Sally-in-the-Zen, of course!  (by the skin of my teeth).

But I have to confess, after the really tasty dinner, I had to book out promptly and I forgot to take a bite out of that thing.

David and Evelyn are cool, and they have a nifty side business going. 

And it involves CAKES.

To be continued.

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Home Sweet Home

The first thing I did when I stepped into my house was a carpet angel. 

Yes, that’s right.  You heard right.

I did a carpet angel.

Just think snow angel but on carpet.

I threw my bags down, then threw myself down and promptly began to flutter away. 

Zen Master and Zen Mum were standing over me and I have but one word to say about the looks on their faces.

PRICELESS.

Here’s a preview of my adventure last week.

Visiting Weehawken, New Jersey.

Dining at a tasty place that I’ve never been to before.

Visiting family. 

And the highlight of the adventure…the David Cake. 

And let me sum up my feelings at this very moment with one final picture!

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Baltimore Lovely

It dawned on me some time ago that I never posted about the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore.  I’ve lived here for so long that I didn’t even think to describe my lovely city in at least one posting.

The things I take for granted. 

Well, let me fix that oversight right now, and give an abbreviated tour because I actually have a specific destination to attend to in this post besides doing the touristy-thing for you.  So I’m killing two birds with one stone.

Excellent.

First stop.  This is our National Aquarium.  I’ve been in there once with Zen Master and Zen Mum and it’s a definite must-see when you’re in Baltimore.

Next stop.  The Power Plant Building that holds numerous eateries, and a multi-story Barnes and Nobles.  This view is the backside of the building because I wasn’t thinking to catch the frontside. 

I just wasn’t thinking.  Sometimes you just have to go with your impulses.

Okay, final stop.  This was the reason for my trip to the Inner Harbor yesterday morning.

I break for Miss Shirley’s.

Let me toot my little horn for this Baltimore lovely.  If you want a real taste of Baltimore flavors, this is the place.

I mean, where else can you get lump crab meat — the Mac Crabby — for breakfast?

I met up with a couple of old friends over a really tasty brunch.  Good friends, good food, I mean what else can a person ask for, right?

Absolutely.

And being in a place that serves breakfast all day long is my idea of a really good time.  Breakfast food for lunch and dinner is an under-appreciated habit, I think.

Susan opted for the Coconut Cream-Stuffed French Toast.

Adrianne went for the Make It Your Own Omelet filled with spinach, turkey sausage and brie cheese.  The sides that came along with it were a biscuit and hash browns and onions.

The hash browns kept calling my name but I played it cool.  I wasn’t about to jeopardize my friendship with Adrianne by reaching over and helping myself to her tasty-looking hash browns.  But she probably would’ve let me because she’s just that kind of friend.  

I opted for my usual, the Benne Seed Chicken ‘N Waffles.  I have just one word for this dish.

OUTSTANDING.  BREAKFAST.

Okay, so that was actually two words, but oh well.

Besides Charlotte, I also get together with Susan and Adrianne during this time of year for Christmas.  Our lives have taken separate directions in recent years but we make it a habit to keep in touch once in a while, especially for Christmas.

In an insane world that’s 24/7, it’s nice to know that sometimes the world can stop for a spell for good friends sharing good food.

Definitely good times.

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Dinner with Charlotte

Charlotte and I have been longtime friends, and through the years, we have a seasonal winter tradition of eating out together, usually around this time of year.  So last Saturday we went and dined at our most favorite place – Bonefish Grill.

Charlotte and I have similar tastes and we usually end up getting the same appetizers and meals.  Definitely a case of great minds and stomachs thinking alike!

For our appetizer, when we’re at Bonefish, a must is the Bang Bang Shrimp.  Always a delight!

I have a habit where if I have time, I would Google the restaurant and its menu so I can take my time and decide what I want to eat.  That way, once at the restaurant, I don’t need to even think about it. 

What can I say?

I like being prepared.

So that night’s dilemma for me was between: (quoted from their menu)

the Icelandic Wolf Fish Francaisesauteed with wild Rock Shrimp + garlic lemon wine sauce, served on garlic whipped potatoes.

or

the Lobster Thermidor Dorado (Mahi)topped with sweet lobster, lump crab + a velvety sauce with a hint of sherry, served on garlic whipped potatoes.

Decisions, decisions.  And what the heck is Wolf Fish?

After consulting with the waiter, who was quite helpful, Charlotte and I chose the Lobster Thermidor Dorado.  The two sides that came with the meal were spaghetti squash with a sprinkle of brown sugar and garlic whipped potatoes.

It was my first time sampling spaghetti squash and it was quite tasty.  The potatoes, on the other hand, was good but quite garlicky.

My friend Charlotte is a lovely person, and just finished radiation therapy.  She is a breast cancer survivor and I’m so glad that she’s here to share another tasty meal with me.

Here’s to many more years of continuing our lovely dining tradition, Charlotte.

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Happy Carnivore

Because I’m Buddhist, the only thing I don’t eat is beef.  And let me point out the obvious.  Strictly speaking, true Buddhists are vegetarians. 

Suffice it to say, I’m not that type of Buddhist.  I’m quite a happy carnivore.

So let’s talk about our Thanksgiving dinner last night. 

Zen Master, Zen Mum and I aren’t too crazy about turkey for Thanksgiving.  We’re crazy about the fixin’s and dessert, of course, but that bird…

…not our first choice in fowl.  Chicken is our usual thing but that’s for normal everyday meals. 

For Thanksgiving, Zen Master and Zen Mum went shopping earlier this week for our holiday dinner and chanced upon a goose. 

A fresh 12-lbs goose.

It’s been…umm…how long…hmm…a while…quite a while…

…since we’ve eaten this delight.

It’s chewy, wonderful exercise for the mouth, but the flavor is a mix between a chicken and a duck to me.  It’s definitely a bit gamey.

And it’s delish!

Unfortunately the best I could do is show the after-pictures of the goose already carved up.  I had ran out of batteries and in the few minutes it took me to run to Rite Aid (which was opened!) to get fresh ones, Zen Master attacked the bird in my absence.

Oh well.

When Zen Master used to work in a Chinese kitchen many years ago, if he had a goose, he would drop it in the deep fryer for a bit because of the fat content of the goose.  After awhile, he would then take it out, let it drip dry and then slowly cook it all the way through in broth seasoned with vegetables like onions, celery and carrots.  This is actually how we cook our chicken.  We don’t normally bake or roast the meat; we slow-cook it on the stovetop.

However, since we don’t have a deep fryer, Zen Master ended up slow-cooking the goose on the stovetop for a long while, and it was not a pretty sight to see just how much oil ended up floating on the water afterwards. 

In the end, the goose was alright, but it would have been better if it had been deep fried a little bit.  Zen Master was not unhappy with the end result, but according to him, it definitely could have been more tastier.

Oh well.

And our fixin’s.  Green bean casserole.

 Freshly shucked corn with butter.

Cornbread stuffing mix from Trader Joes’s.  This is our first time trying it, and it wasn’t too bad.  It was decent.

And a little apple tart cake for dessert.

And oatmeal raisin cookies, recipe from Quaker Oats

And although I didn’t take a picture of it, we also had a thing of fried rice.  Zen Master always needs his rice no matter what.

I had to be rolled from the table, I was so stuffed.

Even Zen Mum admitted, “My eyes were bigger than my stomach.” 

Zen Master didn’t say anything throughout most of the meal, he too busy plowing through two full plates of everything.  He did say that my oatmeal cookies this time was the best batch yet.

Yea me!

And now?  What’s literally right around the corner from us?

You guessed it!

Now I’m ready for the 24-hour Christmas music radio stations!

Something about hearing that music before Thanksgiving is just so wrong.

The End.

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A Family Treat

Occasionally, we treat ourselves out to a special dinner.  A family treat.

So Zen Master, Zen Mum and I went to the Cheesecake Factory

Planning for an early dinner, we got to the restaurant around 3:30, thinking that we’d be early birds and there’d be plenty of parking outside and plenty of tables inside.

Ah, nope, not quite.

They were both packed. 

So after snatching a parking spot from this other car, we being the faster draw, we arrived triumphant into the Cheesecake Factory. 

And stopped short at the line of other early birds waiting for their tables.

We had a 15-minute wait, so with a table pager in my hand, I wandered over to the prized possession in the joint.  It being Fall and all, they had their seasonal pumpkin cheesecake.  I haven’t had that since…

…since…

um…

I don’t remember.

Well.

We’ll have to fix that tonight.

So for appetizers, we got the fried calamari.  It came with garlic dip and cocktail sauce.

The garlic dip wins, hands-down.

I ordered a Chicken Bellagio, which came with prosciutto, basil pasta with Parmesan cream sauce and arugula.

Zen Mum ordered the Factory Combination Chicken Madeira and Steak Diane.  Sitting in between the two meats was mashed potatoes.

Zen Master, on the other hand, went straight for the seafood and got the crab cake dinner with mashed potatoes.  There were actually five crab cakes, but he inhaled one before I was able to get a picture of the complete dish.

We saved room for dessert, because when one is dining at the Cheesecake Factory, one absolutely must get cheesecake for dessert.

It’s the LAW.

“How about pumpkin cheesecake?”  I asked Zen Master and Zen Mum.

“I’m kinda full.”  Zen Mum said.

And before I can recite the LAW to her, Zen Master piped up, “Gotta have cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory!”

“Pumpkin?”  I looked at him.  “What do you want?  Oreo?  Strawberry?”

“The Original.”  He replied with no hesitation.  “Forget the foo-foo nonsense!  Go back to basics!”

And we did.

This is an excellent picture before the carnage.

And after.

Are we plate lickers?

Yup, yup, yes, we are.

Did we enjoy ourselves?

Yup, yup, we sure did.

Thanks for asking.

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An Epiphany

Here’s a question that I’ve been tossing around in my head for awhile.

Does my love for food, for all things related to it…the taste, the texture, the utter marvel of food…

…the writing and the constant talking about it…

…the constant thinking of its loveliness…

…most especially the eating of it…

…does that make me a cook?

The most ironic thing is that I never really cooked.  I love eating, that goes without saying.

But I never really cooked.

Never had an interest in cooking, especially when I was younger.

Obviously something changed along the way. 

Nothing earth-shattering.  No moment of clarity that I can just point to and say, man, this chicken is slamming!  I gotta cook me one of these!

Rather, I think it’s been a gradual process.

Kinda like fine wine.  Or brining a chicken or a turkey overnight or so.

Uh, not that I’m saying that I’m a chicken or turkey.

Anyhoo.

But that’s the question I’ve been pondering in the back of my mind.

Until I discovered the answers to my question when I went to the library one recent day.

I love Mireille.  I’ve read all her books, and just finished this one.  Her writing is easy to read, keeps your attention and really relatable. 

My long-suffering question was finally answered when I got to the last section in the book called Cuisiner Dans La Cuisine or Cooking in the Kitchen.

Here is where she lists her many observations of cooking, among which are these three:

*  “Cooking is reading from a recipe in a cookbook or on the Internet, thus absorption and learning.”

*  “Cooking is time; like writing, it demands that impalpable seasoning.  It takes time, but then time is something we can control.  It is an investment, a brilliant use of time to feed and nurture ourselves and those we care about.”

*  “Cooking is a contemplative experience reaching and probing deep in our thoughts and emotions.”

Wow.

An epiphany.

Hi, my name is Sally and I’m a cook.

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