Missions Accomplished: DIY projects and plenty of Pok Pok

Sweet braised pork/Pok Pok cookbook

Muu Waan, Thai sweet pork, with coconut rice. Made from the Pok Pok cookbook.

While I have slacked on blogging these past few months, I can say — at the very least — I have been successful at some of my food goals for 2015.

Back in February, I made homemade Fritos (Faux-itos?), using a recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen DIY cookbook. My corn chips weren’t an immediate win, but the more I ate, the more I craved “just one more.” They were very crunchy and full of corn flavor. The downside was that the texture was a little too gritty from the cornmeal rendering them a bit tough on the teeth. Some day I’ll have to give them another go — though I have doubts they will ever reach the greatness of the packaged kind.

Masarepa and corn meal

Masarepa and corn meal

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Lemongrass Chicken & A “Wish it was Summer” Cocktail

Ginger Lemongrass Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs marinated in coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass.

I almost titled this “Mother Nature is a bitch” but I didn’t want to get on her bad side.

See, I’m a summer person; I tend to daydream about sunshine from October all way until June. So it’s no surprise that last week my mind was on white sandy beaches when Portland got buried under 7 inches of snow.

Within the first hour of “Snowmageddon,” most of Portland was in a panic. People left work in droves, restaurants closed and the roads were flooded with cars as everyone tried to make it home before the worst of the storm hit.

I, on the other hand, was simply mad.

Sure snow can be pretty, but come on — I got through all of December and January marveling at how mild the weather was only to let my guard down in February. It was just cruel, and the cruelness continued for three days, ending with a stint of freezing rain that coated the streets in a layer of ice.

And even as the days finally warmed up and the snow began to melt, I continued to give in to thoughts of tropical beaches, palm trees and fancy umbrella drinks. It was not a good mental path to go down when the city you live in is covered in dirty slush.

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Here’s to High Hopes & Caramelized Ginger Chicken

Caramelized Ginger ChickenFirst I must make a confession — I made this chicken a while ago. It’s just now making an appearance because I couldn’t decide what to write about it. Honestly, I can still look at these pictures and be confused. I enjoyed eating it, but was it something I’d ever make again? Would I recommend it to someone? Would I recommend it to someone I like? Am I bitter at Food & Wine? I don’t know. I have never felt so torn about a recipe before.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Back in September, I flipped to this recipe for Caramelized Ginger Chicken in the most recent issue of Food & Wine and stopped in my tracks. The picture that accompanied the recipe looked perfect — tantalizingly drool-worthy, both sticky and succulent. I mean really, go to this link and ogle the picture up close. That chicken is so saucy that it practically looks lacquered.

But even though I couldn’t get the recipe out of my head, I managed to wait a month or so to let some other people try it out first. I’m a little obsessed with reading recipe reviews so if the “guinea pigs” discover a problem, I can make adjustments accordingly. The first review I found for this recipe was from Garrett of Noodle Therapy who had clearly been just as seduced by the picture as I had been.

What I read made me nervous. He reported that the flavor was good with a nice hint of fish sauce and the chicken was tender, but the final result looked nothing like the picture, even though he followed all of the directions. WTF? The picture was the best part!

But even with that knowledge, I couldn’t let it go. Finally in mid-December, deciding it still sounded too good to pass up, I bought some chicken legs and got to work.

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A Cooling Heat: Ginger Ice w. Pineapple and Condensed Milk

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Ginger Shaved Ice with Sweet & Spicy Pineapple

I am behind. Way behind. We are moving into the first week of December with the speed of a freight train, and here I am still working on my Thanksgiving posts. Oh well, sign of a busy life, right?

That’s what I tell myself anyways.

So here’s a tidbit to tide things over. Since our Thanksgiving theme veered toward Asian cuisine, I wanted to make something complementary for dessert. I dug through my recipe binder and came up with this recipe for Ginger Shaved Ice, which was developed by Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule and Revel restaurants in Seattle. I ate (and loved) some of their food at Seattle’s Cochon 555 a few years back so I figured this would be a winner.

And it was! A spicy, icy winner at that.

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Triple Threat Ginger Cookies

Ginger three ways: freshly minced, crystallized and ground.

I love ginger in all forms but it seems to really taste best when mixed with butter and sugar. Well, to be fair, most things seem to taste best that way.

These ginger cookies were made because it was a Saturday and I had just bought some crystallized ginger. Yes, it really was that simple. I had been craving ginger and spice since I read this delicious blog post by Dinners for Winners and finally I had all the ingredients needed to make some yummy ginger treats of my own.

Or at least I thought I had all the ingredients. *Sigh*

It always seems to happen that I’m missing something. In this case it was a few things — though nothing important enough to prevent me from baking. I settled on a basic recipe, one I’ve used before and enjoyed, these Triple Ginger Cookies from Bon Appetite. They are from the Dec. 2009 issue, which by the way, had a pretty incredible pictorial spread of holiday cookies. There were cardamom crescent cookies and peppermint bark squares all very whimsically placed in a winter wonderland. I kept that issue around for much longer than necessary. It was just so fun.

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