Siri Chuaindhara

Holiday Cocktails Sure to Jingle Your Bells!!!

It’s holiday time!! Holiday parties mean it’s time to serve up the festivities. Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite time of the year. It’s the time of the year that it’s acceptable to gorge on food like you’re one of those snakes that has to dislocate their jaw to eat their prey.  Christmas is my second favorite holiday. That’s where your extended relatives come over and remind you of how much weight you’ve gained the whole year. It’s a great time to be had by all! Christmas can be a joyous occasion, but it can also be a bit stressful. The pressure of attending and/or throwing a holiday party can be stressful. Well, fret no more! I recently whipped up some cocktails at my sister’s restaurant, Atchana’s East West Kitchen at the Mutiny Hotel (www.atchanas.com) in Coconut Grove, Florida and we came up with some libations that will surely jingle your bells!

 

“Whipped Gold”

drink

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Flavored Whipped Cream Vodka or regular vodka
  • 1 oz. Grenadine
  • 1 oz. Pineapple Juice
  • 1 Wedge of Lime
  • 1 Marshmallow
  • 1 Tbs. Gold Sugar (Commonly used for sugar cookies)

 

Directions:

Using a clean dry martini glass, spray the rim with gold spray mist. (Or if you have gold rimmed glasses, you can use those too!) Set aside to dry. In a shaker, pour the pineapple juice, grenadine and whipped cream vodka. Throw some ice in there as well. Squeeze in a wedge of lime. Throw the lime out – do not put it in the shaker. Shake vigorously all the ingredients and strain into the martini glass. Take a marshmallow and lightly wet the surface and dredge into the gold sugar. Cut a slit in the bottom of the gilded marshmallow and place on the martini rim. Voila!

 

“Santa’s Helper”santas helper

  • 1 Tbs. Orange Colored Sugar (Can be found in the baking section of most major grocery stores)
  • 1 oz. Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka or Regular Vodka
  • 1 oz. Pumpkin Vodka
  • 2 oz. Apple Juice
  • 1 Lime Wedge

 

Directions:

Taking a martini glass, take a lemon or lime wedge and rim the glass with the juice. Place the orange colored sugar on a plate and turn the glass upside down and dip onto the plate with the colored sugar. Set aside. In a shaker, pour the whipped Vodka or regular vodka, pumpkin vodka, apple juice, and some ice. Next, squeeze the juice of one lime wedge into the shaker. Throw the lime out. Shake vigorously. Strain and pour the drink into the prepared martini glass and enjoy that holiday cheer!

 

“Ginger Bells”

IMG_0412low


Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. Green Colored Sugar (Found in the baking section of most major grocery stores)
  • 1 ½ oz. Vodka
  • ½ oz. Chambord
  • 2 oz. Cranberry Juice
  • 1 oz. **Ginger Simple Syrup or Canton Ginger
  • Splash of Prosecco or Sparkling Wine

 

(Served in a Highball Glass)

 

 

 

IMG_0416lowDirections: 

Take your highball glass and moisten the rim with your lime or lemon. Place the green colored sugar on a small plate. Turn the  glass upside down and dip it into the sugar. Now, pour the Vodka, Chambord, Cranberry Juice, Ginger Syrup into the glass. Gently stir with a drink straw. Now top off with a splash of prosecco and serve immediately! Enjoy your Ginger Bells!

**To make Ginger Syrup, Take equal parts of sugar and water ( 1 cup water: 1 cup sugar) in a small sauce pan. Peel some fresh ginger root and cut into 2 inch piece. Throw in about 3-4 pieces of the ginger in the simple syrup mix. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer until all the sugar granules are melted. Set aside to cool. Can be refrigerated.

 

“Rocking Around the Coffee Bean”

rocking chair

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Brewed Espresso Coffee
  • 1 oz. Kahlua Liquor
  • 1 oz. Bailey’s
  • Steamed Milk
  • Shaved Chocolate

 

 

 

Directions:

In a thick Snifter glass, or clear cappuccino glass, pour your espresso coffee first. Then pour in the Kahlua. Next, take a spoon and slowly pour the Bailey’s over the spoon into the drink. This will layer the dark coffee with the cream of the Bailey’s. Yum! Next, top off with some steamed milk froth and top off with shaved chocolate. This is perfect for Christmas morning, or after you’ve eaten a little too much Thanksgiving turkey!

 

Hope your holidays are joyous and from the IMUSA family to yours…Happy Holidays!!

Midnight Pasta and why you need to be good to yourself…..

One night this past week, I had a particularly long day. It was a great day, but nonetheless, it was a long one. The boyfriend and I had entertained quite a bit this week and subsequently, I feel like a Sumo wrestler with everything I ate. So, one night, the boyfriend was out running errands and I was by myself watching reruns of Law and Order, my guilty pleasure. And well, because no one in my life will watch it with me. I love cooking, but sometimes when you’ve cooked a lot, you can become what I call “overcooked”. Know what I mean? So, I’m at home, tired, and watching Law and Order, wishing some elves would just show up at my door and make me some homemade Fettuccine Alfredo and a martini. Well, that didn’t happen, so I had to do the next best thing…what the Barefoot Contessa and many chefs calls “Midnight Pasta”.

Todays menuIna Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, is a cooking personality I’ve always admired. When I was married, all I knew how to make was Asian style noodles and curry! I armed myself with her cookbooks and I gradually learned how to make some classic dishes, that in my opinion, everyone should master. She doesn’t have hundreds of recipes with a dizzying ingredient list. A lot of her recipes  have ingredients are interchangeable and simple. That is also the same way I try to create recipes as well. I don’t believe in intimidating, high maintenance recipes that take 10 hours to comprehend.

I also believe that you just need to unwind after a long day and make yourself something low fuss, comforting and not give a damn whether it’s “healthy” or not. I’m not suggesting you pig out on pizza and beer every day, but once in a while, it is stress relieving to not stress out about food and what you’re consuming. Every now and then, I’ll meet someone who has a hang up about food. I don’t want to judge here, as there are definitely some things I don’t eat, but what in the world did a good ol’ plate of pasta ever do to you?! Goodness…so many of my friends act like pasta was the devil and their stomachs will instantly inflate into monster truck tire size after one bowl of some spaghetti. Single ladies and men, listen up: Men (and women) would rather you eat what you want at dinner than be that “boiled breast of chicken with a side of steamed broccoli” person. I’m certainly no expert on what guys and girls want, but my unscientific survey of my friends has shown that all people, men or women, would rather not deal with a food “hang-up” person. You know who you are, if you’re one of them.

Therefore, this is my ode to the almighty pasta. When you’ve had a long day, pat yourself on your back for doing all the things you do for everyone else. Enjoy a luscious bowl of delicious pasta and don’t worry about whether you’re going to gain 1000 calories. You probably spend half that just worrying about it. I once saw a group of my girlfriends have a 30 minute conversation about artificial sweeteners and which one was evil vs. good, while they were lunching over fried rice, dumplings and martinis. They probably could have better spent their 30 minutes building each other up, instead of vilifying some random ingredient. So, here’s an idea: When you’re in the mood for something comforting, and a bit too lazy to have a big production in the kitchen, cook up some midnight pasta and zone out watching some brainless TV and be good to yourself for all that you do!

 

 

Midnight Pasta

Ingredientsmidnite pasta

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup pasta water
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Parmesan for grating, optional.

 

Directions:

garlic-wok

1. Put the spaghetti in your large IMUSA stockpot of well-salted rapidly boiling water and cook only until firmly al dente. (About 8-10 minutes)

2. While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil in your IMUSA caldero over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, without letting it brown. Next add the pasta water. Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook for a half-minute more, then remove from the heat.

3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and place in the IMUSA caldero with the garlic mixture, add the parsley and toss well to coat. Serve with grated Parmesan if desired.

How to survive a dinner party like a champ!

 

Always make fun…of yourself. Strategically using self-deprecating humor will disarm even the most shy dinner party guest. Perhaps point out how fabulous the host’s homemade cookies look and recall the time you tried to make cookies yourself and your husband put them in the charcoal grill to light the BBQ. This is exceptionally important if you have enviable abilities that might be off-putting to another party-goer. Like, say, if you designed rockets for NASA, have been on The Voice, or if you’re just freakishly beautiful.  However, use self-deprecating humor sparingly. No one needs to know that you had explosive bowel movements last week either.

–  Don’t pull the “Oh! Yes! I met you at Sean’s BBQ last week!” when meeting your friend’s new boyfriend or girlfriend. Conversely, don’t go to a party, see your friend with his girlfriend and say, “Oh! So great to meet you!” when it’s the 100th time you’ve seen her. I have no tips here for how to remember people. Just don’t do either of these!

–  Divide and conquer. Couples, you don’t need to be attached at the hip at dinner parties. Increasing your circle of friends will make any relationship healthier and more dynamic. Spend a few minutes mingling separately and reconvene throughout the night. And ladies, don’t be that bat shit crazy girl that has to sit on her boyfriend’s lap and caress his hair while he’s trying to reach for the beer nuts to mark your territory.

– Don’t ask for food items when they’re clearly not out. I once hosted a UFC watch party, with a full spread of slow cooked ribs, Buffalo wings, sliders and other various yummy dude-approved items. Well, a guy friend brought a date and she eye balled the table, looked at me like I was the maid and asked, “Do you have anything sweet?!?”  My response: “No Princess Annoying, I do not have an assorted dessert platter to tickle your fancy”.

– Always bring a gift for the host. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…always bring a small token for the host. It can be a bottle of wine, a bottle of fancy olive oil, or flowers. Be creative, you can even bring a small potted herb like parsley or a kitchen gadget for the host that loves to cook.

I recently hosted a dinner party this past weekend and it made me think about how life is about new beginnings and how we’re constantly changing. It was five couples and almost all of the guests were once divorced. Although everyone knew my boyfriend and me of course, a few of the couples were just meeting each other. Luckily everyone really got along like champs. It was a winning moment for me and the boyfriend, where we ended the night high fiving each other on a successful dinner party. It wasn’t about what we served; it was about how well everyone got along.  It’s always a risk introducing new people to each other and you always hope and pray that everyone gets along and doesn’t tell stupid jokes or gets excessively drunk. As a host, it’s not about having a menu of obscure fancy dishes and you needn’t slave over a stove all day to make a successful dinner party. Conversely, as a guest, you don’t need to wear the fanciest clothes or bring the most expensive bottle of wine. Just show appreciation for other guests and a genuine interest in getting to know them and you’ll make memories for a long time to come. At this dinner party, I decided to cook something simple and what I like to call “fit for a dinner party”. I made a few dishes, but the ones that I was quite proud of were the Shrimp and Veggie Tempura and Soba Noodle Salad with Edamame, Cilantro and Red Bell Peppers.

As guests were arriving, we chatted at the bar and I made the veggie and shrimp tempura and served it hot. It was such a hit, that I wanted to eat it all and not share any with the guests. I generally don’t like cooking while guests arrive. However, I used my IMUSA electric wok, and plugged it in on the counter and it made a remarkably amazing fryer and I was able to chat and face my guests and leisurely make the shrimp tempura. I used an IMUSA bamboo steamer as the serving ware and it made for a great presentation. The noodles also were a nice light balance to the tempura and can be served room temperature or cold. They’re also a dinner party workhorse…they’re vegetarian, healthy and high in protein. You can also make the noodles hours before and just store in a Tupperware container in the fridge and just serve once everyone’s ready to eat! Make these at your next dinner party and it’ll give you time to do more important things, like actually talk to your guests!

 

Shrimp and Veggie Tempura tempuraaa

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of tempura batter
  • 1 ½ cups of cold water
  • 1 lbs of large raw deveined shrimp
  • 1 onion, cut up into slices
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into slices
  • 3 cups of vegetable oil

 

Directions:

Using your IMUSA electric wok, or IMUSA Caldero, pour in the oil and turn to Medium High to High Heat. While it’s heating, pour the cold water over the tempura batter in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until it’s all blended, about a minute or so. When the oil’s nice and hot, take each piece of shrimp and thoroughly coat on all sides and dip into the oil using a pair of tongs. Don’t overcrowd the shrimp, and fry only about 4-5 at a time, working in batches. Follow with the veggies pieces, working in batches. Once it gets a nice golden brown, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Serve on your IMUSA bamboo steamer with a side of store bough tempura sauce and voila, you’re done!

 

Soba Noodle Salad with Cilantro, Bell Peppers and Shelled Edamame

Noodles-b8


Ingredients

  • I lb of Buckwheat Soba Noodles
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of cilantro
  • ½ cup of shelled edamame
  • 1 tablespoon of white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of black sesame seeds

 

 

 

For the Sauce:

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons agave
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic

 

Directions:

Using a large IMUSA stock pot, take about 2-3 quarts of water to a boil. Put in the soba noodles and cook according to package directions, usually about 4-5 minutes.

While the noodles are cooking, make your sauce. Pour in all liquid ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together. Lastly throw in the ginger and garlic and whisk together. Once the noodles are done, drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Once the noodles are cool, put in a large bowl and pour the sauce over the noodles. Using a pair of plastic tongs, mix thoroughly. Add the bell peppers, cilantro and edamame. Mix some more and finally add the sesame seeds until blended together. Serve immediately or you can store in a Tupperware container, until dinner time! Enjoy!

By |Bio, Siri Chuaindhara|Comments Off on How to survive a dinner party like a champ!

Don’t Be One of These Restaurant Customers

My parents opened up their first restaurant when I was nine years old and it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. I would go to the restaurant right after school in elementary school and have my afternoon snack, beg my parents to fold some napkins or squeeze lemons, or some other chore and go home with my siblings. Growing up in a restaurant has taught me invaluable lessons in dealing with many different types of people with grace. I started waiting tables in high school. Most customers were always generally pleasant, but now at age 40, I can safely say that you can’t take the good without the bad. There was that one time that we had a girl threaten to call 911 because she thought she was being overcharged $2. Reflections from a chair and table

But then there was this other time, I was serving a group of teenage girls at the restaurant, clearly dressed like they were on their way to their high school prom. They were also clearly without dates. There were about eight of them, and they were the nicest group of girls. Some gentleman eating by himself asked for his check, and also asked to pay for their bill.

I asked, “Their ENTIRE bill?”
He replied, “Yes”.
I asked, “Do you want me to let them know that you paid for it?”

And this is the part that floored me….he said, “No. Please don’t. You can let them know after I leave if you want.”

I then handed the gentleman his bill, as well as the bill for the group of dateless prom goers, and he quietly paid the two bills, and left. When I told the girls that the gentleman “that was eating by himself, that just left”, paid for their bill, they started crying. It was one of the grandest acts of kindness I’d ever witnessed. So, experiences like that negate all the rude customers, so to speak.  However, I compiled a list of certain customer “types” that one should avoid being for the sake of peace in the world. Now that I’m not so much in the restaurant business anymore, I can make fun of everyone! I’m kidding, I would never speak publicly on the internet about any particular customer; however, there are certain “types” of customers that can be lumped together in different groups. Don’t be one of these!

10. The “multiple request” customer – For goodness sakes, if you know you like salt and pepper, lemon in your water, tabasco and ketchup on your eggs, and a warm hug, ask for it all at once. Don’t make like your waiter’s purpose in life is for making multiple trips and make multiple requests for multiple items every 5 minutes.

9. I’m “allergic to life” customer – I’m going to upset a lot of people here. I get that people don’t ask to have allergies to food. But if you’re allergic to seafood, maybe you should avoid going to places called “The Seafood Shack, the Place with LOTS of SEAFOOD”, and demand that your chicken never make contact with knives or cutting boards that might have once touched a shrimp.

8. The “exaggerated hand signal” customer – If you’re going to sign your name in the air to signal that you want your check, then just do you initials, and not the whole alphabet in cursive with your air pen.

7. “I know more than you” customer – If you’re dissatisfied with your dish, don’t proclaim that you can “make steak medium rare with your eyes closed, hog tied and sick with the flu”. If that really is the case, then go right ahead!

6. The “It takes me 20 minutes to make up my mind but I want you standing next to the table anyways” customer – The waiter doesn’t need to stand at the table while you’re mentally tallying up the caloric content of 20 Buffalo Chicken Wings and wrestling with your inner skinny to decide if you want it or not.

5. The “We’re a party of 20, but hey let’s wait until after the meal to announce we need separate checks” group of customers – The waiter will spend the rest of his natural born life trying to figure out what percentage of the $6.99 Chicken Wings gets to be split up among the 20 people that shared it. Then he has to remember, out of 20 people, who had the Chardonnay and who had the Rum and Coke, and which bill to add it on. Just make life easier for everyone and announce it at the very beginning.

4. Romeo and Juliet – the couple that sits in a corner making out while the lights are all on and the wait staff is mopping the floors.lemonnn

3. “I carry hand sanitizer in my purse, but will demand lemons in my water because they were obviously washed first and thrown into my water using tongs!”  – Bar lemons can sometimes be cut in some establishments earlier in the day, so watch your bartender next time you ask for a Vodka and Soda, topped off with lime. My guess is that he didn’t grab that lemon using a set of tongs. Think about how many times throughout the day he’s been dipping his fingers in that lemon bowl. Blech!

 

2. “I’m at a large table, let me order food for a small third world country and throw in $10 when the bill comes!”  – Used to see this all the time when I worked in the restaurant. Never gets old!

1. “I’m at a restaurant, this means I’m at a daycare for my kids and they can pretend it’s a bouncy house!” – Parents, giving the message to your children that it’s OK to run around a restaurant buck wild will backfire when they get older. Children naturally want to explore their world. It’s nothing they’re doing wrong. However, it’s up to parents to set limits and be firm with boundaries. Additionally, it’s one thing for a child to still be developing their eating skills. However, it’s another thing to have food under tables that are 20 feet away.

Curried Chicken Pot Pie

I always said that my mom and sister taught me how to cook, but they never gave me one recipe.  Meaning, they just told me, “oh just put in a little this and a little that…” while pointing at the ingredients with a lightning fast Kung Fu movement like I was Daniel Son from Karate Kid.

In Asian cuisine, sweet always balances out salty and vinegars always balance out sweet. More importantly, the lesson was to just have the confidence to throw things together and you’re only limited by your own fears. Fear not, because you can always add ingredients to a dish, but you can’t take away once you’ve overdone it. So just take it easy, be creative and experiment! Sometimes when I’m going for a quick lunch, I’ll just grab a rotisserie chicken and make a quick salad. But then I usually have more chicken than I know what to do with. So this recipe is a great recipe for using your leftover rotisserie chicken using some staples you might already have. This went over very well at a recent dinner party and my best friend from Trinidad, who usually isn’t nuts over pot pie cause he feels it is usually too bland, LOVED it!!! Nothing, I swear, is as gratifying as changing someone’s perception about a particular dish, just by altering it by a pinch. This is so easy to make and you can pop them in the oven right as your guests arrive for a small dinner party, while you relax as they’re all getting settled…..eat some salad with your guests with a bit o’ wine while those bad boys brown on top and make sure you use oven mitts to take them out! They’ll be HOT!  Nobody wants an injured host! Serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • Shredded chicken from 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry thawed
  • I can of coconut milk (19 oz)potpie
  • 1 cup of preferably homemade chicken stock, if not available, canned ok
  • 1 Yukon potato, cubed
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1 small carrot peeled and sliced
  • ½ cup peas
  • 1 egg beaten with ¼ water for wash
  • 2 tablespoon yellow curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • Pinch of Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:

Pre-heat oven at 350.

First remove all chicken meat from your rotisserie chicken. Shred the chicken into big pieces and throw out the carcass. Place in a medium bowl and set aside. In your IMUSA sauté pan, put a cup of water and bring to boil. Parboil the potatoes and when cooked, set aside. About 5 minutes. Put the 1 tbs. vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When oil is sufficiently heated, put the sliced onion in the pan and gently stir until thoroughly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Next, throw in the garlic and ginger and continue stirring, making sure the garlic does not burn. Lower heat to low-med. Then, add the curry powder, thyme, salt and pepper. Incorporate until all the ingredients have melded together. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock. Bring to a low boil, then add the chicken, potatoes, carrots and peas. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the liquid reduces a bit at low heat, uncovered.

While the chicken curry is cooking, cut your sheet of puff pastry with a pizza cutter into 4 equal squares. Brush both sides with egg wash. Once the chicken curry has finished cooking, equally portion out the serving into 4 bowls and put one square (can you spare a square?) over each bowl, gently pushing the sides down and sealing the bowl with your fingers. Slit a small inch into the top to vent the steam. Put the 4 bowls onto a sturdy cookie sheet and place in the oven for about 15 minutes. Keep checking for a golden brown top without opening the oven! Turn the oven light on! No cheating! When the pot pies get that gorgeous golden brown top, remove from oven with oven mitts….careful….VERY hot! Place the curry chicken pot pies on plates and serve while hot! (may have to let cool down a bit, but, I like to go crazy and just dig in, like scalding hot pizza that’s going to burn the roof of your mouth!) This seems like it has a lot of steps, but trust me, once you do it once, you’ll be doing it over and over again…it’s so rewarding also, cause, really….. when was the last time you had homemade chicken pot pie?!