South America Bound

Well, I leave in less that 3 hours on another adventure to a place unknown and even though I never finished posting about last year in Thailand (and I will) I plan on journaling the 2009 adventure in South America in the same manner.

The major difference, other than destination, is this year I am taking one of my closest friends with me.  Scotty has never been anywhere and is the first one in his family to have a passport so I am stoked to bust his international cherry and explore new worlds.  I imagine his eyes will be wide and his senses over-whelmed which makes it all the more exciting for me.  After traveling through Thailand and Cambodia by myself, I realized that I’ll be happy to have someone there to share the expericences with.  I do think that everyone should do a solo trip somewhere, it is true that happiness is best when shared.

Scott and I have a rough itinerary which is a little more regimented than my SE Asia trip but mainly because we are covering such a huge amount of land in such a small time frame.

Roughly we will be going in this order
Buenos Aires, Argentina tonight ->
on to Igauzu Falls ->
Buenos Aires ->
Patagonia (El Calafate and the Glacier Parks) ->
Ushuaia (Southern Most City in the world!) ->
Santiago, Chile ->
Lima, Peru ->
Cusco, Peru -> where we are spending the next 4 days hiking the Inca Trail to Machu PIcchu

back to Lima and then home at the end of the month.

Personally, I’ve never been to South America or the Southern Hemisphere (new sets of stars!) and visiting Patagonia is something I’ve dreamed about.  Hiking the Inca Trail is one of last great adventures that is yet to be completely spoiled by tourism and I can wait.  I plan on eating lots of steak, hiking a lot, winning a speedo pullup contest, doing the stanky leg on a glacier, and starting an Argentine revolution if i have time!

Motto: If not now, When?
PS- Scott is attempting to Twitter our trip to hopefully help his mom’s anxiety but if you want to follow along look -> https://twitter.com/ScottK127

Dippin’ Dots Cake!

One of my bestest buddies had a birthday recently. About a year ago we were talking about cakes and he was pretty adamant that he wanted to have a dippin’ dots cake for his birthday, so being a good little boy, I made a note of it and have been waiting to surprise him with this thing. You have to special order them from the Dippin’ Dots stands but you can check their website for the nearest location.

It was pretty good but definitely one of the sweetest cakes I’ve ever had. The base layer is crushed up sugar cookie and the dippin’ dots are held together with some sort of caramel-sugary-sweet syrups all which combine to be your daily intake of sugar for a month. While I’m a cookie cake man, its a good alternative for those looking for a unique cake idea.  Oh, and while the cake is not big for $30 it easily served about 12 of us.

Happy Birthday Scotty!

PS – there is also a pure fudge dippin dots cake that looks fantastic.
Dippin Dots Cake

Dippin Dots Cake

Baked Ziti with Bechamel Sauce

This is one of my all-time favorite dishes and probably my favorite “leftovers” dish, so much so that I make a huge portion just so I can eat the leftovers for the next few meals (breakfast included!).  The original recipe is good but I’ve added some modifications.  Swapping out the regular pasta for whole wheat pasta, prosciutto for ham (leftover holiday ham works great), 2% milk for Whole milk and adding some mozzarella to the fontina.  Also with everything, I tend to avoid enriched white flour and use whole wheat flour, it dramatically changes the taste and texture of food but to me its worth it.
Baked Ziti with Bechemel Sauce
Also, I changed the order of the steps so I could dirty less dishes and just use one 4-qrt sauce pot.  Hey, I’m all about efficiency!

Bechamel sauce:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart whole milk, at room temperature (we use 2%)
  • Pinch fresh nutmeg
  • Sea salt and white pepper
  • 1 cup grated fontina
    1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, julienned (we have also used big chunks of ham)
    1 pound dry rigatoni
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cook the pasta al dente, drain in a colander and set aside.

Bechamel sauce:

In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Always stirring, gradually add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, 1/2 cup fontina, prosciutto(ham) and season with salt and white pepper.

Into a greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pour the pasta with cream sauce. Mix cream sauce and pasta thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Smooth out top and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup fontina/mozzarella. Dot the top with diced butter and bake in oven for 25 minutes or until bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Here’s the original Giada recipe

Delicious Garlic & Five Spice Chicken

I can take absolutely no credit for this chicken it came from a friend of a friend but it is delicious and a must try.  It’s wicked easy and takes just a few minutes of prep time. Use a whole chicken, about 4lbs, and marinate it a day or 2 in advance for prime deliciousness. Garlic and Five Spice Chicken

Marinade for one 4lb. bird:
¼ Cup of soy sauce
2 tsp. Sugar
2 crushed cloves of Garlic
1 ½ tsp. Five Spice mixture
2tb. Peanut Oil

1. Mix ingredients in a gallon zip lock bag.
2. Put chicken the zip lock (try to squeeze out as much air as you can).
3. Shake it like a Polaroid picture: Shake bird in bag
4. Now leave it alone for a day or 2! But turn occasionally.
5. Place bird, ideally on a roasting pan but any baking dish will work as well.
5. Since the bird will get very crispy… move the oven rack so the bird sits in the top 1/3 of the oven.
6. Turn oven 425 degrees – takes 1.5 hrs depending on how big of a bird you have.
7. Roast bird 2/3 of the time breast down and 1/3 of the time breast up.
8. Remove from the oven and let the bird sit for 20min before carving it up.

Simple Baked Cod with Garlic and Herb Breadcrumbs

I tend to have a lot of friends that are picky eaters which makes them hard to cook for. That in itself is fairly ironic since I used to be the pickiest of eaters and now it has come around to bite me in the ass.

I have just started enjoying eating fish in the last three years, thanks to being able to get some of the best seafood anywhere during my frequent trips to the Outer Banks of NC, but I have not yet found an easy way to cook it. Until now.

I was watching Dave Lieberman on Food Network, whom I really enjoy for his simple recipes, when I saw him cook a wicked easy fish that looked really delicious. It was a Baked Seabass with Garlic and Herb Bread crumbs. Since at the time Sea Bass was pretty expensive I opted to go for Cod which was a bit cheaper but any white fish will do.

1. Preheat oven to 350o F
2. Coat at baking dish with butter or non-stick spray
3. Place the fish in the dish and season with salt, pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, and thyme
4. Melt a 1/2 stick of butter in a large skillet with 3 smashed garlic cloves. As soon as the butter starts to bubble, turn off the heat and let the garlic infuse the warm butter for a few minutes.
5. Remove the garlic from the butter. Add the bread crumbs and lightly toss until all the butter has been absorbed. Turn the heat off, stir in 1 cup parsley and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
6. Spread the bread crumbs over top of the fish and bake for 12-15 minutes.

This dish is simple and comes out amazingly flavorful and even a novice fish cooker like myself can make like a pro in very little time.

Heres the original recipe on FoodNetwork

A Healthier Stuffed French Toast

I try to cook meals that are a bit healthier for me and usually they turn out comparable to the full fat / not-as-healthy versions but this recipe plain stunk! There is nothing more disappointing then having a grand idea for breakfast the night before, get all excited to make it when you wake up, and then immediately want to throw it away. Dejected. Totally let down. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen to you as often as it does to me because I hate being left hungry in the mornings!

I’ve been following a self-modified version of the Abs Diet from MensHealth and its been going great (down 4 pants sizes!) and when I saw their Cinnamon Stuffed French Toast I thought it would be perfect for my pre-football game Saturday morning breakfast. Boy was I wrong! I really think the problem was the stuffing, the texture of the ricotta just didn’t work for french toast and it definitely wasn’t sweet enough. I think next time, I’ll try a low fat cream cheese based filling .

Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast

  • 2 Tbsp part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 slices whole-grain bread
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Pinch + 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp 1% milk
  • Handful of fresh berries

*the original recipe called for sliced almonds which I didn’t have, but i didn’t think it would have made that much of a difference in the end.

1. Spread the ricotta on your bread, drizzle with honey and a pinch of cinnamon.

2. Add your top slice of bread and proceed with your typical french toast making procedure.

It was terrible, but I ate it anyway, probably b/c almost anything is good with fresh blueberries! Is it just a bad recipe? or did I do something wrong?

At least the picture came out well!

recipe on MensHealth.com

Amazing Race in Cambodia…I was there!

One of my favorite shows, The Amazing Race, rolled through one of my recent travel destinations, Cambodia, on the latest episode.  While its really cool to see such an obscure place on TV that I’ve been to, its more saddening to hear that 2 of the contestants didn’t even know that Cambodia is in Asia, let alone where it actually is located.  The teams visited Siem Reap which is the home to Angkor Wat and also one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in SE Asia.  Maybe its just a bit of sentimental attachment that I have to Cambodia but I’m not sure they showed a good representation of what Cambodia is actually like. 

They showed cars zipping around, gas stations, and a fancy airport rather than a dirt road packed full of mopeds with people or pigs piled on top, street markets and one of the most amazing structures I’ve ever seen.  Phil, the host, described Angkor Wat as the largest religious structures in the world which helps gives the viewer some perspective but I don’t think the footage to accompany the commentary was very flattering.

Ok enough pointless rambling, just had to put my 2 cents in on the topic

I Want to Write a Book

So yea I want to write a book.  The only problem is I can’t really write very well and I don’t have the slightest clue what I would write about.  I always did ok writing stories in 4rth grade but they were usually about random aliens in the woods and shit like that, not exactly Noble Prize winning stuff.

Not only was I bad in post-4rth grade English class, my vocabulary is limited to what is in my spell check and grammatically I couldn’t write my way out of Ms Willner’s 5th grade class.  So that leaves me with the question for anyone who cares to answer: What in the world should I write about?

Delayed Thailand Post – Angkor Wat Video

If you have not seen the movie The Killing Fields I highly recommend you do so.  Although there are several gut-wrenching scenes it is a must watch movie.  The movie is mostly about a Cambodian journalist, Dith Pran’s escape from that country during the rule of the Khmer Rouge is heart-wrenching.  It’s widely considered the unknown holocaust but something people should be aware happened less than 30 years ago.

  I’ve had this web page open since before I left for Thailand and have just not posted about it because it was something I wanted to save until after I visited Angkor Wat  Its a video tribute to Dith Pran, whom you can read about here.

I imagine that when Pran made his treacherous journey, he never expected his homeland would become such a tourist destination but watch the video and you see why.

My Thailand Elephant Camp Experience in Video Form

Just in case I didn’t do that good of a job explaining the wonderful experience I had at the Patara Elephant Farm when I was in Thailand here and here, National Geographic has a video out today that almost exactly explains my experience and purpose of my time with the elephants in Thailand.

While its not the same elephant farm, and it looks a little more ‘resortish’ the point of the camp is extremely similar.  Its only a 2 minute video so check it out when you have a chance.