2:44 PM sians 0 Comments

today's random goodness| semi-free soy matte latte from argo tea :) i have such healthy breakfast in the mornings :p

i was particularly excited last weekend. i even posted a tweet about it. what is it? ryan made jambalaya yesterday!! boy, it made the whole apartment smell so tasty i was gonna eat the whole damn apartment just like hansel and gretel. lol.

firstly, a lil bit about jambalaya. of course, i have to clarify that his style of jambalaya is the cajun jambalaya (he is quite particular about this). no tomato base deal. jambalaya is  pronounced /ˌdʒʌmbəˈlaɪ.ə/ JUM-bə-LYE-ə) which is a rice dish with spanish and french influence. the usual ingredients are meat, vegetable, stock and rice all cooked in a single pot.

an interesting excerpt from wikipedia of how the name came along:

there are many myths about the origin of the name "jambalaya." the most commonly repeated folklore is that the word derives from the combination of the french "jambon" meaning ham, the French article "à la" a contraction of "à la manière de" meaning "in the style of", and "ya", thought to be of West African origin meaning rice.

louisiana dishes usually start with the trinity: onion, green bell pepper and celery.

okay, we only had two thirds of trinity in the fresh form. for celery portion, we added celery flakes instead. haha. then we chose our meat of preference - we didn't choose just one, or even two. we decided to add three types of meat:

chicken. we mostly use dark meat cos it's less likely to be overcooked and taste dry since this has to be cooked in a single pot for quite a bit. besides, dark meat is our usual choice anyway.

broiled crawfish! these are not fresh but they are broiled from lousiana and have been frozen in the freezer. this, by itself has a ton of flavor and spice. yumm...

sausage. and the best sausage for this job is andouille sausage - spicy, smoky and flavorful which all equates to yummmmzers! it's rather difficult to find andouille sausage, what more good ones, in chicago. we stocked some of the good stuff when we went to louisiana in december last year: savoie's real cajun hickory smoked andouille sausage.

one| vegetable and meat prep is done - check!
two| search for all the spices that we need from the kitchen pantry - check!
three| chicken stock - check! we used reduced chicken broth is so we can add as much salt as we need to our taste.
four| pot of choice: my lovely blue dutch oven.

now that we've got all we need, it was time to get everything together. first step is to brown the chicken which we didn't do cos we didn't know we were supposed to (which also led to the jambalaya being a lil paler in color). the other meat, and diced onions were added next and give it a lil saute over the stove. 

a whole bunch of spices were added. wasn't too sure what or how much he added but this was when the dish started to come together and the aroma was becoming more and more familiar. (we made jambalaya twice before this)

the rest of the ingredients and chicken stock were added before putting it in the oven to be cooked for a while.

it was almost unbearable to be in the apartment cos it smelled so good but the dish was far from being cooked. :/ i just wanted taste it even if it was only a small tiny bite. we took it out occasionally to check on it and to give it a stir.

all the while i was waiting for the dish to be done, i was asking if i could have some of it. in the meantime,  i've concluded that having my laptop on the dining table, next to the kitchen is not a good idea. lol. i went through the same ordeal when i first attempted the coq au vin dish.

the time i've been waiting for: the dish is done!

which means i can nom nom nom (it's eat in normal english)
yummmmmmm. my verdict: it's good but i think we've made one that was more authentic before. the reason being we added crawfish which is quite unusual in a jambalaya. also the flavor of the broiled crawfish melded in with the rest of the ingredients giving it a different type of spicy. but taste wise it was still scrumptious. i thought it needed a kick but we didn't want to add more tony's seasoning cos it might make it too salty. a good substitute would be cayenne pepper but as luck would have it.... that was the one spice i did not have in my pantry -.- a trip to the grocery store would fix it in a jiffy.

we have a huge pot so we'd be eating jambalaya throughout the week. not that i am complaining cos it's tasty. AND i get a break from cooking :) hehe.


every girl loves a deal

11:15 AM sians 0 Comments

i haven't really been going to new restaurants lately because i'm trying to be eat in more and try out some new recipes i got from my mom while i was back at home in march. (also explains the lack of update besides being busy) but honestly, my main reason is to save some dough. in fact, i hear that saving money is quite the in-thing-to-do these days :) and people are looking to save $$$ by any means necessary.

method one | groupon
one of my favorite ways to "save" is through groupon. i've concluded that i am addicted to groupon. every morning when i get to work, it is one of the first links i check. 

i've semi blogged this before in my previous blog on wordpress but lemme give you the quick run down of what this is again. so what is it? on their website, they define it as such:
"each day, groupon features an unbeatable deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in your city. by promising businesses a minimum number of customers, we get discounts you won’t find anywhere else. We call it “collective buying power!”
wanna know how this works? you can check out the video that explains how do they make this magic happen. they offer a new deal each day which could range from 50% off at some hip restaurants that you've never tried before, spa certificates, cooking class for those who are in dire need of help with cooking, trips to local attractions or coupons on grocery food.

so far i've been getting a ton of food related coupons : (like that's a surprise.. lol)

01| $25 for $50 worth of sushi at kyoto sushi restaurant (50%)
02| $45 cooking party at bespoke cuisine (44%)
03| $20 for $55 worth of regional italian cuisine and drinks at trattoria gianni (64%)
04| $20 for $40 worth of maki, nigiri, tempura, and more at tank sushi (50%)
05| $20 for $40 worth of cuban and mexican cuisine, mojitos, and more at café 28 (50%)
06| $30 for a three-course prix-fixe menu at spring (49%)
p.s. discounts are in parenthesis

looking through these groupons i have reminds me to use them before it expires. i guess my over-enthusiasm for deals is kinda working against me right now....groupon's popularity is growing rapidly because ppl are always on the lookout to save buckaroos. and good news to a lot of ppl outside of chicago.  i remember when i knew of groupon about a half year ago, there were only about 15 states participating in this program but groupon is expanding their influence throughout united states rather quickly including these cities:

 they were even featured in a local news publication, redeye.

it was an interesting read and they have one section where it covers groupon etiquette. in a nutshell, these are the important things to know about:

01| present the coupon immediately.
02| enjoy the meal but don't set up shop.
03| tip fairly (i.e. tip on the full amount of the bill)
04| don't do it on a date.. at least not the first one.

there are similar websites to groupon such as living social and half-price chicago.

oh and also if you are interested in joining, click on the groupon link under "loves <3"and join/purchase your first groupon. (i ain’t gonna lie, i get a small reward for referring you guys.. help me save some money too!) plus if you have an facebook account (which most of you probably do), you can also sign in using your fb login.

method two| club/loyalty cards
i love me a cup of tea in the mornings. more specifically, argo tea... mmm...soy mate latte. anywho, a lot of tea/coffee cafe chains are offering loyalty club cards to their regular customers. and i have my favorites:

with my argo loyaltea card, these are the benefits: i get 11th drink of my choice for free (small size if you are wondering), a free drink on my birthday, 10% off for food and drink combo to name some of the awesome stuff. one could even load money onto the card and for every $50 one gets an extra $5 bonus.
and who can forget this:
i collect points as i purchase yummy goodness from red mango and after every 500 points, i get a $5 coupon. :) it's awesome. getting to 500 points shouldn't take too long since you get 10 points for every dollar spent.
method three| mailing lists
i don't particularly recommend this for the potential of getting spam in the mailbox, but i made and exception and joined the mailing list for noodles & company called noodlegram. (btw they have the cutest website but it takes too long to load!) doesn't it make you smile when you see this:
they are a lot nicer on your birthdays where they will usually give gift of free noodles to the birthday girl/boy.
i found a comprehensive list of restaurant websites you can join in order to get free somethings written on an article online. so check it out to see if any of them that might be your fav. and doesn't it feel nice when you get something free? i guess in this case, there is such a thing as free lunch :)
method four| online coupons
online coupons is kinda a new thing for me. i often go to dominick's for my weekly grocery shopping and before my visits, i usually check out their website to see if there are any coupons i could use  which i could either print or load in the dominick's card. it may not be a lot of coupons i could use but saving money is joy to my wallet. now if only i could remember to bring along the coupons when i go grocery shopping.....

there are actually a ton of websites online where you are able to obtain online coupons that is not only limited to groceries. just google online coupons and you'd find long lists of websites you could visit.

there are a ton more ways of saving money so you could splurge on something else. best way to save is probably not getting anything unnecessary but i can't do without shopping for a very long time. hehe.

don't think of saving money as being cheap, it's being smart :)

p.s. happy cinco de mayo. this day just makes me want to eat some mexican food although i don't celebrate the event.


red mango love.

8:57 AM sians 0 Comments

whenever spring time rolls by, i look for any awesome-weather-days as an excuse to get a cold treat for myself (regardless how full i am and how much i know i should be adhering to my diet plans). i even plan for future days in the week (based on the somewhat-unreliable-weather-forecast since chicago weather is highly unpredictable) for trips to ice cream/gelato parlor or in my case to a frozen yoghurt place called red mango.

last year my craze was this gelato place called italian coffee bar that served awesome tiramisu and pistachio gelato. their gelato has bits of the real deal in their gelato (i.e. bits of tiramisu cake in the tiramisu gelato and chopped pistachio in the latter) so it was kinda like a fun hunt for those while enjoying the cold, creamy gelato on a warm day. plus, it has less fat than regular ice cream cos gelato has more milk and egg yolks and less heavy cream. the reason for its dense, creamy taste is gelato has no air incoperated in it during the churning process. basically:

gelato = less fat + no air added = rich cremier taste.
p.s. you can read all these info here!

so how does the frozen yoghurt compare? well first, some of you might think, "ewwww frozen yoghurt. what a health freak!" okay, for one, the frozen yoghurt at red mango is yummy in my tummy and two it is good to be healthy. what can be better than a satisfying cold treat that is both yummy and healthy AND less fatty?  there is a whole lot more benefits to eating frozen yoghurt which you can read all about on their website.

p.s. got this picture from yelp.com

let's see... i think i've been to red mango three times now for the past two weeks! located fairly close to where i live in evanston, it is quite difficult to resist the temptation to walk/drive there for some of the good stuff. the store is rather small, enough to have eight to ten people to place their orders over the counter and in one corner two petite tables enough to fit perhaps six people.  but usually with good weather, a lot of the people prefer to sit outside to enjoy the sun so the small space isn't much of an issue. although i have to say, i would be more swayed to make visits to red mango even during winter if they had a bigger space. it is brightly decorated with mostly red and white, but it gives a cheery and fun atmosphere.

before i go all crazy about the frozen yoghurt, red mango also offers frozen yoghurt smoothies,  iced teas and parfait. their parfait looks really good and makes me want to order one for lunch sometime :)

now with that out of the way, back to my favorite frozen yoghurt. to order, now this is sort of the fun part. firstly, i have to choose my type of frozen yoghurt - original, pomegranate or tangomonium (or sometimes limited time seasonal flavors - this time it is madagascar vanilla). my usual choice is the original which has a creamy sweetness but a hint of tangy-ness.

next is to choose toppings! with an additional 50 cents for each topping, one can be creative with the combination of toppings they'd like to have. red mango has a variety of finely diced fresh fruits to choose from (which is what i usually go for) and they also have crunchy toppings namely cereal, granola, chocolate chips and even cookies and cream. i don't think they limit the number of toppings you can get but it would be real funny if you have way more toppings than you do frozen yoghurt. hehe.

my usual order of frozen yoghurt is usually a regular, original with mango! occasionally i also order some other fruits like strawberries or blueberries. one of my friend's favorite is original with strawberries and honey. i think what i like about theirs is that their frozen yoghurt still taste like yoghurt but at the same time it reminds me to a soft ice cream cos it's also creamy. i have friends mention to me that they have had better yoghurt places but i guess i might be biased since i've only been to this one.  everyone seems to love mochi in their reviews on yelp.com so i might give that a try the next time i go.

mmm.. the picture makes me want to get myself another cup of red mango this evening. hehe. well it is good weather today with temperatures at high 70s which is such a great excuse to spend some time out in the sun. :)

plus.. while i was checking out their website i found this!

similar to my argo tea "loyaltea" card, collect points and get something free when you get enough points purchasing the yummy fro-yo. means more red mango!!

don't get me wrong. my love for red mango doesn't mean that i have totally kicked my favorite gelato aside. i still love my doses of gelato once in a while but i'd have to make those as special treats :D

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

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