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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Quantum of the Seas NYE Holiday Sailing 12/27/15-01/03/15

I've been a terrible blogger. Especially since I got promoted at my job last year, I just got too busy to post.  This vacation was booked 1.5 years in advance and I was so looking forward to a fun exciting new ship after working so hard for the 8 months (last vacation was in March/April 2014).

Royal Caribbean marketed Quantum as the technological marvel of the cruise world. Well....it kind of fell short. As a huge Royal to Royal, it was a bit disappointing that we paid top dollar for below average service that we never encountered before on Royal Caribbean.

Don't get me wrong, the ship is beautiful! It is probably the most elegant ship in the Royal fleet. However, service was not up to par. There were a lot of waiting around, mistakes with drink packages, rude and clueless servers in the Grand restaurant and mistakes with restaurant reservation system. When we went to Guest Services about some of the bigger issues, they seem clueless or gave the feeling that they are so overwhelmed that they gave up on caring. Guest Services line were insanely long for first half of the cruise. I think in the end cruisers just gave up.

I think all of this would of been avoided if Royal was more prepared and spend more time training their staff on such a brand new concept and ship. We were also told by several employees that they are extremely short staffed for this sailing.

Even though there were a lot of issues we still try to make the best of it. We had the best of time being on CNN for NYE. Yes, we were the dummies that jumped into the pool fully clothes!

We had great service and food at Wonderland, Silk and Jamie's Italian. The Northstar and bumper cars at sea are awesome experiences. Mama Mia was the best show I've seen out of all the Royal Caribbean entertainments.

I think we are going to stay away from jumping on the brand new ship band wagon for a while. We felt like guinea pigs for Royal to test out this new ship while they work out the kinks. For our next vacation, we are booked on Adventure of the Seas out of San Juan. Going back to the smaller ships and enjoy the old cruising ways.
























Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tangerine Cranberry Loaf

GTangerine Cranberry Loaf
  • 2  cups flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbs tangerine zest
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup tangerine juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries- mix with 1 tbs flour
  • 2 tbs turbinado sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degree F. Grease two 8x5 inch loaf pan.

Cream together granulated sugar and butter on medium high speed. Add in eggs and vanilla extract, mix until combined. Mix in half and half and tangerine juice and zest. Mix in flour on low speed until combined. Fold in fresh cranberries. Sprinkle the turbaned sugar on top of the loaf half way through baking. 

Pour mixture into the loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef Goulash/Stew

My Aunt Jenny really likes goulash and beef stew. Since she's not familiar with making Western foods, she asked if I can make it for her. I don't really have the patience to wait hours for my food to be cooked so this is the first time I made something like this. I figured it should be pretty similar to a pot roast. I looked through tons of recipes and came up the this recipe. This is not an authentic Hungarian goulash, more like a cross between goulash and regular beef stew. 

Beef Goulash (using a 6 quart pot)

Step 1
  • 2 1/2 lb beef shank, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups onions, cut into quarters
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil or light olive oil
Step 2
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato puree
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp smoke paprika
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
Step 3 (optional)
  • 2  cups of carrots, cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 2  cups of russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 inch chunks 
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms 
Step 1:Heat a large skillet then add in 2 tbs of oil. Add beef and onion, cook until meat is slightly brown. 

Step 2: Add all the ingredients from step 2 into the slow cooker. Stir and mix well. Add the browned beef and onion into the pot. 

Step 3: Cook on high for 5 hours (add the carrots,potatoes, mushrooms one hour before it's done). Or if you cook on low, takes 8-10 hours (add the carrots,potatoes, mushrooms 2 hours before it's done). 


Homemade Chashu Pork for Ramen

Last weekend we went to Craft Butchery in Westport and came home with $45 worth of organic pork belly. Since I love the frozen ramen from Daido (Japanese market in White Plains, NY), I thought it would be fun to see if I can make homemade Chashu Pork to go with the ramen.

I came across a great recipe from Serious Eats but instead of baking it in a very low temperature oven, I just cooked the pork belly over the stove on low heat (bring it up to a boil then reduce the heat). I cooked it for almost 3 hours. There is definitely a little adjustment I have to make but overall it tasted pretty good!




Black Forest Cupcakes

Thursday was a bittersweet day at work. It was Kelly's last day. She has been a joy to work with since I first started at my current company. She is such a sweet person and always there to offer help when I needed.  She got a better position that is closer to her new home so even though I didn't want her to leave, I am very exited and happy for her new adventure!

For her last day, I made the crowd favorite- Twinkies Cupcakes and also Black Forest Cupcakes. These were inspired by the $2.99/lb cherries I saw at Stop and Shop earlier this week.

I posted the Twinkies Cupcakes before so this post will be about these Black Forest Cupcakes.

Black Forest Cupcakes
makes 36 cup

Cherry Filling: I made it from scratch but if you can use cherry pie filling

  • 16 oz of defrosted pitted sweet cherries with the juice
  • 1 tbs sugar 
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs cornstarch with 2 tbs of the cherry juice

Combined cherries/juice, sugar, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice ingredients into a small pot. Bring it to a boil. Add the corn starch/cherry juice mixture. Bring the mixture up to boil and reduce heat to let it bubble and thickened. Let the filling cool.



Cake:
I used the trusted Ina Garten recipe for the chocolate cake- Beattys chocolate cake.

Once the cupcakes are baked. Hollow out the center and then brush with Kirsch.

Frosting:

  • 3 cups of heavy whipping cream- keep it very cold
  • 3 tbs powdered sugar-add more if you like it sweeter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Make sure everything is very cold. From whisk to bowl to the cream. I always put the bowl and the whisk in the freezer for at least 15 minutes and only take out the cream right before mixing.
Mix the cream in a large bowl on medium speed until soft peak. Then add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat on hight speed until stiff peak forms. Do not over beat. 

Assembly:
Filled the hollowed out cake with the cherry filling. Then pipe the whipped cream on top. Top with fresh cherries or leave it as is. 


Friday, July 4, 2014

New Home, New Kitchen

My life has been super hectic since I last posted. Besides being busy at work, we also bought a townhouse and renovated the kitchen. The whole home buying process was miserable, anything that could go wrong, did. We started looking at houses January of this year and finally closed on a house on June 6. 

We had 3 single family houses that fell through during these 6 months, saw like 40 houses and finally settled on a townhouse in downtown Fairfield. I really prefer a single family house but you just can't beat the location of our townhouse. J takes the Metro North Train into Manhattan for work so for him being able to walk to the train station is a huge plus. 

We knew when we first saw this place that we love the location, the townhouse layout but just weren't crazy about the 1985 bathrooms and kitchen. Most people would start with the small projects but of course being as impatient as J. We had to start with the most costly and time consuming kitchen. 

Originally J wanted to do the Ikea cabinet himself and just hire someone for the granite countertops but we decided it might be a good idea to leave it up to the professionals. I am happy with the result but will not recommend the contractor we used since they were a pain to deal with. 

For our appliances, we ended up replacing it all. We decided on all KitchenAid appliances. We bought them all from Marsillios's in Fairfield. They were great to deal with plus they price match! Our sales person was not pushy and helped us choose the ones that give us the most bang for our bucks. 




Saturday, February 22, 2014

Nutella Cupcakes

I can't believe it's been over 2 month since I last posted. It's been crazy with the holidays, work and looking to buy our first house.

My coworker Michelle sent me a pic of Nutella Cupcakes recently. I love Nutella and not sure why I never got around to making cupcakes with it. I guess it's just much easier to eat it out of the jar.

My laziness prevented me from being creative this weekend so I just made my trustworthy chocolate cake recipe with a simple Nutella buttercream.

Nutella Buttercream

  • 1 cups (2 sticks) room temperature unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 2 to 3 tbs milk*
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat the butter on medium speed with your mixer until it's light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add the powdered sugar. Start mixing with low speed and gradually increase to medium speed. Add the Nutella  then vanilla extract and continue to mix at medium speed. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the creamy consistency you desire. 


* I normally use half and half or heavy cream but today I used milk since it's all I have on hand. The frosting still tasted great!