Category Archives: Uncategorized

Appetite for Good — Cosmo Jello Shots


 

Editor’s Note: Following the wonderful POM event last week and the New York City Wine and Food Festival, which POM was a proud sponsor in joining the fight to end childhood hunger by supporting Share our Strength and the Food Bank for NYC], we decided to use POM to make awesome recipes!

Check out my post at Appetite for Good where I feature POM jelloshots in celebration of the POM charity dinner last week in New York.  I admit for this post I time traveled to my college days — the endless nights studying in the library, the glorious freshman 15 and the oh so popular…jello shots.

Artizone is coming to Dallas!



For the past few months I’ve been working on an awesome project for an international company called Artizone.  It’s been very hard to keep this a secret but now that the launch is near, I can finally tell the whole world.  Artizone is coming to town in November 2010, Dallas get ready to have your mind blown.

Soon residents will be able to purchase artisan goods from various top vendors in Dallas and have it delivered in ONE convenient package right at your doorstep.  That’s right, I know, it’s freaking awesome. 

No more being stuck in annoying traffic, or rushing around town to plan that perfect dinner, forget dealing with lines or wasting time driving across town — artizone has it all taken care of so sit back, relax and shop.  (aaaah…my favorite word!)

Well what the heck will artizone going to be selling?   Let me introduce you to the vendors!

 Owners Nancy and Gary from Flavors From Afar carries the best imported products from Italy (as well as local products) for everyone to share. You will find delicious homemade pasta sauces and dried pastas, and the best olive oils you’ve ever tasted both from local farms and imported from Italy. 

Nancy and Gary personally tour different olive vineyards in Italy and around Texas every year to discover new products and to make sure that the flavors are always spot on.  Flavors From Afar always aims to make entertaining elegant and simple through a wide selection of antipastas, dips, oils and spreads.  Zero hassel entertaining?  Sounds like my kinda party 🙂

 

Aaaah cheese, the perfect partner for wine.  Having a girl’s night?  Order the perfect cheese plate at Scardellos where you can choose from over 200 different varieties of cheese!  Talk about endless possibilities people and if you’re a cheese newbie, head over artizone’s community page for reviews and tips for guidance. 

Rich not only carries every cheese imaginable but has the perfect pairings to go along — dried fruits, canned vegetables (personally made by Rich), a variety of crackers, mustards and honeys. Melt yourself into a cheesy heaven and indulge after a long day’s work with a little lot of wine, cheese, and bread — what could be better?  Oh right, nothing.

Time and time again I’ve reiterated the importance of a good butcher.  Artizone not only found the best butcher in Dallas but one of the best in the state of Texas.  If all-natural quality meat is what you love, VGs butcher shop is where you go.

No artificial colors, flavors or ingredients here — just free range chickens, dry-aged steaks, tender veal and lamb chops.  Greg cuts his meat fresh every day, ensuring top quality every time.  Beautiful isn’t it?  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I usually buy my herbs from the grocery store and it wasn’t until I met Tom that I learned the true beauty of fresh.  At FM 1410 you will experience the art of a constant gardener — the flavors of his herbs and vegetables are so powerful and bold it will leave you speechless. 

Tom shows you the true experience of fresh produce — where the fruits and vegetables you eat actually taste alive.  No genetically altered, pesticide ridden produce but wholesome, naturally happy produce.  Why happy?  Because Tom is also a talented musician — you literally taste the passion in his herbs and vegetables which he cleverly instills through his music. 

One of my favorite snacks is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Pump it up a notch with one of JJ&Bs artisan creations like the Plum Jam or Apple Pie Jam — which goes perfectly on vanilla ice cream and pairs great with a juicy pork chop.

 

At JJ&B, Kathy makes her jams, jellies and butters in small batches so every experience is fresh, delicious and wonderful.  Using widely organic ingredients and locally farmed produce, the spreads at JJ&B will leave your mouth happily intrigued and begging for more.  Don’t believe me?  There’s only one way to find out!

And of course I save dessert for last!  My rule of thumb every time I go out to eat is always save room for dessert.  Artizone has found the best pastries and desserts at La Duni — which currently holds the title for Best Chocolate Cake in America ranked by Food Network. 

Are you drooling yet?  You should be!  Make any day sweeter by choosing from a variety of delicious cupcakes, like the Nutella or Quatro Leches.  Party it up like rockstars with one of La Duni’s decadent layer cakes like the Triple Truffle Chocolate cake (Chocolate lovers it’ll put you in heaven) or the moist Venezuelan Rum cake.  The perfect ending to a beautiful meal. 

Stay tuned for recipes from yours truly made from the products purchased from these vendors.  It’s going to be wild yall so get ready, get set and go to Artizone to sign up now for early registration!

Hawaiian Pork Sandwiches


 

I had a wonderful housewarming party this weekend — complete with a 40 pound roast pig, a keg full of ice cold beer and a feast of epic proportions from salads to fried rice to cupcakes.  Life is good, what can I say?  Granted most of my girlfriends were completely grossed out by piggy, I happily enjoyed sneaking pieces of the crispy pork skin and sandwiching it between those delicious Hawaiian rolls that every one likes…don’t judge me, it’s delicious.

I guess the entire concept might’ve seemed a bit barbaric to some but I had to do it big, because finally having our house at a presentable state was a huge accomplishment — a feat that seemed merely impossible just 6 months ago is now finally completed.  I needed a centerpiece that would scream VICTORIOUS!, because frankly I am ready for a vacation from anything house-related for awhile.   

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes anyone?  Someone didn’t wash their hands before eating… I would continously make these little treats throughout our house building process as a way to convince Collin to keep working — “If you finish building the deck I’ll make you those cupcakes you like…” poof, deck is done.  He deemed me the nickname “slave-driver Zhang” but in my defense, if I didn’t crack the whip every once in awhile how would we stay on track? (just kidding boo!). 

When Babe finally arrived, his massive size took me by surprise — this sucker was big, almost as big as my friend Sonya here.  Perhaps I might’ve over estimated the pig consumption among 40+ people as I am currently holding 20lbs of leftover pig in my freezer.  Hey, no worries!  Just don’t question why my site will be posting pork recipes for the rest of the month…

 My friend Heather captured these shots of me cooking fried rice — I made Pineapple Fried Rice with cilantro, cashews, onion and of course, PINEAPPLE!  I didn’t mean to have a cooking demonstration at the party but I’m not gonna lie, it added some pizazz.  It was as if I had my own miniature cooking show right in the comfort of my backyard — Cooking with Joy — it has a nice ring to it.  As a result, the rice actually became the favorite dish of the night and thanks to my trusty apron, I didn’t get a spot on me. ( Win! 🙂 )

So what does one do with 20 lbs of excess pork?  Make Hawaiian Pork Sandwiches that’s what.  I had a bunch of those sweet little Hawaiian rolls left over, I put two and two together and came up with the tastiest little sandwich combination.  For those of you who don’t order a whole pig just for shits, you can go to your local asian market that sells BBQ pork, peking duck, etc and more than likely you will find pig that’s fried, cooked and sold by the pound.

Ingredients for Hawaiian Pork Sandwiches: (serves 2-4)

  • 1/2 lb cooked pork, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons bbq sauce
  • 8 miniature Hawaiian rolls
  • 1/4 c mandarin oranges
  • 1/4 c red onions, small diced
  • 1 teaspoon jalapeno, small diced (you can increase the quantity if you like spicy food or omit it all together)
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime wedge, squeezed

Place chopped pork and bbq sauce into a bowl and mix thoroughly.  In another bowl, combine the mandarin oranges, jalapeno, onion and cilantro with the fresh lime juice and allow to sit for 20 minutes or can be kept overnight.  You can toast the buns if you choose –or eat them as is.  Split the buns in half and top with the pork mixture and relish.  You can use some fresh field freens as shown or leave them out completely.  Serve immediately with a glass of ice cold beer.

Drooling yet?  You should be.

So onto the cool stuff…the before and after pictures of our house makeover!!  The past 6 months of bitching complaining was for good reason…see for yourself.

Check out the swirly retro ceilings!  Check out the crusty old carpet and linoleum!  How was this stuff ever in style??  We raised the ceiling, knocked down a few walls, put in wooden floors and got a new door.

And here is the master bedroom…YUCK.  Please note the heavily yellowed close doors, apparently the tenant before us was not a fan of cleaning supplies *shudders* and those retro curtains…tsk tsk.  We tore down the weird light fixtures, fresh paint, hardwoods and installed a nice ceiling fan (excuse the messy bed).

Boy, were the bathrooms a nightmare.  I’d say crappy would be an understatement in this case.  I mean who even has sinks like that anymore?  We knocked out more walls, found some hidden space that we later made into a shelf in the living room, dressed it up with new tile and new fixtures and VOILA! A master bath fit for a stud.

We also raised the ceiling in the guest bath, gutted the old fixtures and replaced it with new ones.  My aunt Lori and mommy Wells actually tiled this entire bathroom by themselves, what talented ladies!

AAAAAAH my dream kitchen tranformation — looking how undreamy it was when we first started.  You can’t see very well from these pictures but the old stove top was activated by BUTTONS…I don’t even think my parents used buttons on their stoves in China.  Collin is convinced someone will buy this “vintage” stove, I give it 3 months or else it’s outta here (*insert whip crack here*).  We pretty much kept NOTHING from the old kitchen except for the old cabinets which we made into Collin’s workbench in the garage.  We put in granite counter tops, stainless steel applicances and custom made cabinets — a wonderful change from the past elf kitchens I’ve been cooking in for the past 4 years. 

And finally the living room.  We knocked down a lot of walls, put up a beam, new hard wood floors and some fresh paint.  Most of the furniture is courtesy of my mom, she gave us most of her belongings before she moved to Shanghai so that helped out a lot when we moved in.  As you can see Layla made a point to get into some of my shots, what a boob.  Though I have a lot of decorating left to do, like I said, I’m going on vacation from house chores for the next couple of months :).

None of this project would be possible if it weren’t for the help of family.  Collin’s parents put in hundreds of endless hours of blood sweat and tears to make our house to what it is today.  Aunt Lori and Uncle Dave made a trip down especially to help us renovate bathrooms and clean up debris.  We worked Carter all Summer helping with installations and texturing (I made sure to feed him well during this time so he wouldn’t quit on us) and Layla…well she just sat there and looked cute the whole time, what a HAM.  I think our first home will always be my favorite home — solely because of all the different people who helped us along the way.  I can’t begin to express my love and gratitude to everyone who took part in this huge project, a part of me is even a little sad that this project has come to an end.  It’s crazy even now for me to look through these before and afters, I just can’t believe my eyes.  WE DID IT! Through the stress, the unexpected challenges, the countless late nights — our first home is complete.  And it’s perfect. 

Creme Brulee with Citrus, Cardamom and Star Anise


I apologize for the lack of entries lately — I’ve been completely invested in spending most of my time with my mom, because she’s my favorite.  It’s hard to believe that her visit is soon coming to an end, a week to be exact.  The entire situation still seems surreal to me.  I’m hoping that the day of, I don’t have a complete mental meltdown and cling to my mother’s leg screaming “NO DON’T LEAVE DONT DO IT!” as she’s trying to get out of the car to catch her plane, but I’m not making any promises.  ^_^

It’s been a blast though — we’ve been sharing recipes, she’ll cook her Chinese dishes and I’ll cook her some French American dishes — one of her favorites discoveries has been the creme brulee.  She kept Ooooing and AAAaaahing over this recipe so I figure I’d share it with yall, it’s pretty epic not gonna lie.  Aside from that she’s been feeding me traditional Chinese medicines that make my stomach churn but I take it anyways because apparently it’s good for me (or so she claims). It’s just unfortunate that most of the concoctions she makes taste like feet…   just kidding mom, you’re the best! But seriously, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out her secret of staying forever young.  I’ll share pictures soon, you’ll see what I mean…

One of the first desserts I learned working in at a French restaurant was the Creme Brulee and Souffle.  Souffle is definitely the more temperamental dessert and the failure rate is much higher than creme brulee — so we’ll warm up to that recipe later.  I love this creme brulee recipe because of its soft delicate texture and of course everyone’s favorite part: the crunchy burnt sugar on top, hence it’s latter name — burnt cream.   Plus it always adds a dash of sophistication and excitement to any dinner party when you bust out the torch!  I mean seriously guys, who doesn’t like a little fire show?

Ingredients for Citrus Cardamom Creme Brulee:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 4 tablespoons raw sugar

Preheat oven to 260 degrees F (150 degrees C) and line the bottom of a large baking pan with water.  Bring a large pot of water to boil. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, cardamom, citrus zest and 1/4 cup sugar and salt stirring occasionally 4 to 5 minutes, until steam rises. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla until smooth. Pour hot cream into yolks, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until all cream is incorporated. Pour mixture into four 6 oz. ramekins.

Place ramekins in the baking dish with water and cover the whole pan loosely with foil.  , and place dish on oven rack. Pour boiling water into dish to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover whole pan loosely with foil. Bake 60 to 75 minutes in the preheated oven, until custard is just set. Chill ramekins in refrigerator 4 to 6 hours.  Before serving, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of raw sugar over each custard. Use a kitchen torch or oven broiler to brown top, 2 to 3 minutes.

The Value of Friendship


Life. A confusing concept, widely unknown, highly unpredictable and often challenging.  I remember how simple it use to be, when days use to consist of coloring in the lines, playing with barbie dolls and going on field trips.  Then time slowly takes it away and you wake up one day and it’s been replaced by bills, family and relationship problems, and all the other “fun” forks in the road that life throws at you.  That’s when friendship comes in.  But not just any friendship, a true friendship.  One that saves you when life can be unjust and difficult or just plain crappy.  One that will always tell you the truth, even when no one else will.  One that truly understands you inside and out and will never judge you despite all the stupid things you’ve done.

I’ve known Courtney since the 6th grade – and we were inseperable with our stirrup pants, bad perms, questional haircuts and bright blue eyeshadow – don’t deny it, we were hot.  We spent so much time together you’d never see one without the other, and even after spending the entire day at school together the first thing we’d do when we got home was call each other.  We never ran out of things to talk about, and we deemed each other as “sisters”.  We’d always tell each other “You’re my other half!” and even to this day, that holds true to my heart.

Though we never attended the same school together after middle school, we still remained best friends for many years.  But with time and the distance we slowly began to drift apart.  The phone calls became less frequent, we both became too busy to visit each other and eventually it became the occasional “hey what’s up? how’s it goin?”.  I think we both felt it but didn’t want to admit it because after all these years of being best friends, how can you suddenly not be?

A few months ago, Courtney finally said “Joy I don’t think our friendship is the way it use to be.”  I felt an extreme pang of guilt because I knew she was right and I should’ve said something earlier.  How stupid to think I could’ve potentially have lost one of my closest and dearest friends ironically because of my fear of losing her.  But I guess that’s what best friends do.  Step up to the plate and say something, break down the facade and delusions and face reality, and fight for each other because it’s not easy to find a sister, your other half, your ever lasting rock.

So we made a commitment to each other we would work together to strengthen our friendship back to what it use to be but better — because all relationships take work.  It had been so long since we both did anything together so we booked a room at Lakeway Resort and Spa in Austin, and enjoyed a beautiful weekend catching up right where we left off.

There’s something special about the friends you grow up with.  You know each other’s deepest darkest secrets, you’ve been through hell and back, and after all these years (13 to be exact) there’s invaluable comfort and familiarity that you have with each other.  I honestly couldn’t imagine life without her, it’d definitely be a much more scary place that’s for sure.  The value of a friendship, a true friendship, is priceless.  There’s nothing in the world like it and to be fortunate enough to have it, I’ve learned now to never ever let it slip away again.

Thank you Courtney for always being a wonderful friend, for loving me despite my faults and flaws and for understanding me when no one else could.  I am looking forward to a lifetime of friendship and taking the journey through all the trials and tribulations in this so-called life together. I love you best friend, forever and always!

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I’d like to thank Tammy from Lakeway Resorts and Claudia from Big Noise for setting the two of us up in such a wonderful room!  It was exactly what we needed: relaxation, good food and a great view.    The staff was extremely cordial and I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone who is looking for a private getaway from the city!