bento_box: KFC Christmas (KFC Christmas)

The house we’re renovating is a giant Edwardian manor that once belonged to the town’s ‘first family’. It shares an architect with both City Hall and the Carnegie Public Library (all built around the same time). The last owner left it in a shambles (what an absolute shame!) with a roof that pours when it rains, giant monstrosities in the yard that used to be plants (many huge, vine-wound trees that look like forests all by themselves), pitifully broken windows and mirrors, two fireplaces that can’t be used and the grand and lovely wrap around porch and widow’s walk are both rotting to pulp.

Perhaps the worst thing about this house is that it’s kitchen is in a god awful state of repair. The stove barely works (judging by the foot-marks, soot stains and hole in the wall they must have taken out what would have been a beloved wood stove to put that ugly 1980s thing in it’s place), the wiring is atrocious, and all of it’s formerly-lovely vintage 1930s cabinets are rotten and disgusting.

I’ve been poking around the web, looking for counter tops and cabinets and I can’t seem to find anything to suit my tastes or the house. There are absolutely lovely cabinets jacksonville fl, but I don’t live in Florida and I have no idea what it would cost to ship and install from outside of Missouri.

They’re gorgeous – I’m really digging the great, warm and natural tones they’ve used that are so soothing – but I’m not finding anything that’s ‘vintage’ – what we want is to restore the house to it’s Edwardian roots and we’re having a hard time finding anything that works. Suggestions are welcome!

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We tried something a little different this year. We thought it would be fun to do something that’s done in Japan these days, and that’s Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas!

My sis and I had a rare and welcome Christmas alone, which meant parade and movies, lighting the Christmas tree and playing records – no family drama, how sweet is that? But we didn’t want to have just your ordinary, everyday Christmas dinner. We decided to do it the KFC way, the way so many people celebrate in Japan.

Well, we can’t get to a KFC and we don’t know all the recipes, so we just had to find a recipe for corn salad and sort of wing it then buy the chicken and cake at Hy-Vee – here’s how it’s supposed to look:

Japan KFC Christmas

And here’s what our make-shift Christmas dinner looked like:

Our Version of a Japanese KFC Christmas

Pretty close, huh? Okay, not exactly – but it was fun and tasty!

Our Version of a Japanese KFC Christmas

Our Version of a Japanese KFC Christmas

Our Version of a Japanese KFC Christmas

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Okay, so maybe not Spa-Peggy and Meatballs, but definitely a delicious plate of spaghetti with some even more delicious meat sauce.

Pasta and Meat Sauce

I can’t stand Hunt’s canned pasta sauce, there’s just something too bitter about it. So I cooked up some spaghetti, browned some ground beef and added the pasta sauce + about 2 T of honey to round out the flavor. Worked like a charm – I do so love spaghetti!

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Home made mushroom and olive pizza

Long time no see! I’ve been snapping pics of everything, but I haven’t had time to come on and post for a bit – sorry about that! I may yet still be a bit shaky getting back into it, but I’m giving it my best!

We made a couple of hand-tossed crust pizzas the other day, this pic is of the pizza with olives and mushrooms (both canned – which tasted surprisingly great on the pizza). The first pizza has cheese, the second has velveeta because we didn’t realize that Hubby had used up all the cheese in at breakfast – was still good!

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Just a tad late with this, but we went on an excursion for Mother’s Day all the way to St. Joseph, Missouri to my mother’s favorite place in the world – Ryan’s Grill Buffet & Bakery.

I’ve never been a big fan of Ryan’s, partially because I just don’t like buffet style food, but this last year I’ve been there a few times and it’s always been really good. This time was no exception!

I nabbed two big platefuls ( Mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken, potato wedges, BBQ ribs, carrots, rolls and macaroni and cheese ) and a little ice cream. I would’ve had more but one of our party got sick (as usual) and decided to be a downer the rest of the time, including freaking out because we were still enjoying the buffet after she had already had her fill and gone to the car. Women!

Ryan’s gets 3 stars out of a possible 5, the food was good but not necessarily great and the atmosphere always leaves something to be desired. Plus our service woman was rude (not just to us, to everyone).

4302 North Belt Highway
St. Joseph, MO 64506
(816) 390-9855

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We just got back from a trip to Bethany, where we stopped for dinner at Toot-Toot’s Family Restaurant and got buffet – My mom and her hubby love buffet, but I don’t eat enough to balance out the cost. I usually get two plates tops and then a little dessert – I suck at buffet, lol!

Chicken Dinner at Toot Toot Family Restaurant

Buffet was 50/50 – all the greens except for the iceberg salad (blargh!) had frigging bacon in them (including the green beans!), but the mashed potatoes and fried chicken were pretty good. The best part of the meal was the nachos I got with my second plate – I forgot to take a pic of the ice cream, but I did get a pic of one of the awesome signs on the wall!

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We did a little heavy lifting yesterday and rewarded ourselves with a visit to Dos Chiquitas Mexican Restaurante in Bethany, Missouri.

The first thing you notice about Dos Chiquitas is the great lighting in the building. Unlike China King, and some other small but great chow stops, Dos Chiquitas has softer, warmer lighting instead of florescent bulbs buzzing two inches from your eyeball for the entire meal. The next thing you notice? The super friendly, even more super attentive staff who make you feel at home from the moment you walk through the doors.

Dos Chiquitas Shredded Chicken Soft Tacos

Then comes the food. Your started off with a basket of light, crispy tortilla chips and a little cup of the best salsa you can imagine. And they keep it coming while you wait for your order.

The menu is full of combos and drinks, and even a burger or two, but what Laota and I got were shredded chicken soft taco combination plates that come with heaping helpings of rice and beans. We couldn’t finish it there, we had to take it home!

The food is fragrant, and packed full of flavor. Like our server (awesome guy, very friendly!) said about other Mexican restaurants in the area, “There’s no flavor, it’s just food.” and I agree with him. The difference between Dos Chiquitas and other places serving Mexican-style or TexMex food is that Dos Chiquitas food is infused with flavors. The chicken was delicious, the tortillas were delicious, the rice is to die for and the beans were a great balance to it all. There was a mild fruity note to the meat, as if it had been cooked with peppers or tomatoes, and the order was on our table in no time.

I can’t gush enough about this place, and I can’t wait to go back! Four out of five stars, would have been five if FoxNews hadn’t been on the televisions lol.

DOS Chiquita’s
(660) 425-4639
Bethany
3507 Bulldog Ave
Bethany, MO 64424

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Not the best picture, granted but I just had to snap one. This is too funny, it’s actually two cotto salami sandwiches for my sister and I sitting on a plate but it looks exactly like those shuffled sandwiches that Shaggy and Scooby used to make, doesn’t it? Not tasty, not a big fan of cotto salami but that’s what we had, lol.

My Scooby Doo Sandwich!

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Poppa’s Family Restaurant is a little lunch and dinner joint out on the highway that’s run by people I’ve known through my mother’s church for something like 17 years, but I haven’t eaten there all that often.

I have to admit that I haven’t had a great experience there in the past, due to the food being over priced and not that great, plus the service was a bit lacking. But tonight they get a good review from me, because it’s hard to screw up a soft taco (lol!) and our waitress was exceedingly nice and friendly.

I got the all you can eat soft tacos and an iced tea, the tacos were good (not great, but good) but the tea was bland and more like water. I like a good, strong iced tea but I wasn’t specific so I can’t imagine why they would know that and can’t dock them points for it.

The tacos came four at a time in a burger basket with lettuce, tomato, cheese and a little cup of salsa. No sour cream and no self service, which was odd, but it didn’t detour the night. Laota got a big chicken baked potato thing, but she started scarfing it before I could get a picture! (BAD Laota!)

The biggest plus was our waitress was the sweetest thing. She was too nice for words and I’m so glad we got her, she made my night! Overall, if I had to rate it tonight it would be 3 out of 5 stars, which isn’t too shabby. All of the other times it would have been two stars max.

Poppa’s Family Restaurant
1204 W US Highway 136
Albany, MO 64402-9100
(660) 726-5577

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I’ve been meaning to review this since 2006 but I’ve never had a camera that would take photos that actually look like photos, so I had to wait. This is my favorite soup cup in the whole wide world, marketed by the Instant Noodle King brand this is a huge cup of soup for not a lot of money.

Why review an instant soup cup? Well there are several reasons for this particular choice. One is that in the Midwestern United States you just don’t see lobster soup, more or less ever. The bible belt has a tendency to shy away from products they deem to be gross or odd (like kimchi, unagi, abalone, wakame, etc.) so before I’d made my first Asian Food Grocer order, I’d never had it before in my life.

The reason I take so many photos of packaging and not just the food is because when I visit food blogs that review products, especially Asian products, the packaging is my favorite part and I always wish they’d take more photos of it!

This noodle soup is in a big, hefty bowl (about the size of two ramen cups put together) and is made up of a delicious fatty lobster base that has a dreamy warm, savory taste that I could drink by the cup and not get tired of. Into that we put a really fine egg noodle that softens even in hot tap water (which is all I had, so that was dreamy as well) and some delicious veggies like cabbage, wakame, corn and chives.

The soup only has to stand about two minutes to be edible but I’d leave it in for a full 4 or 5 if you’ve used tap water. As you can see from the photos I didn’t fill it up to the inner line (I left about a half an inch), and the reason was that the last portion I had tasted a bit watered down, but this particular cup was perfect so I’ll be leaving that much room every time from now on.

For those of you who can’t buy these at the store, you can get lobster egg noodle soup at AFG along with a bunch of other deliciousness, and they’re about a buck 70 a cup with savings per unit the more you buy. They’re definitely worth the price and the week-long shipping wait!

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As you may know if you know me personally (since I can’t stop gushing), Laota and I purchased our first Asian Food Grocer package in almost two years this month, and it’s been agony waiting the 6 days for it to get here! We followed it closely on the FedEx tracking website, like children follow the Santa Tracker at Christmas time, and today it finally arrived, as always, packed methodically and undamaged – as is Asian Food Grocer‘s way.

We got some of our favorites that you can’t buy here, like prepared azuki, five spice powder, spring roll skins, bamboo chopsticks and white peach Yogu Time yogurt soft drinks. But we also got our favorite soup in the world, Noodle King’s Lobster Egg Noodle Soup, which is so addictive we tend to spend way more on it than we should!

Some new-to-us finds were a kind of low salt miso (with no MSG, which will be rectified when I prepare it lol), honey spiced umeboshi pickled plums for our onigiri and mix fruit mochi.

Today was actually the first time I’d ever had mochi and now I’m addicted! You can see some crappy photos below of all the fun things we bought – we’ve purchased through Asian Food Grocer since 2005 or 2006, and can’t say enough good things about them! We’ve never had a lost or misdirected shipment, never had missing goods, never had to pay too-steep shipping (the shipping for everything was about 7 bucks FedEx ground).

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First on the menu is my gushing over a yummy breakfast of still-kind-of-warm, egg-y Casey’s doughnuts and vanilla cappuccino, the last of the doughnuts gets to be pictured as if it’s important, lol.

Secondly, something weird happened to me last night. I was sitting downstairs with some folks and the Mormon missionaries talking about everything and the subject of bento came up. All of the sudden Lou was excited to talk, she wants to start a bento buffet here and have me come on her radio program to talk about bento.

While I love the idea of spreading some bento joy to the onigiri-less masses, it worries me that she wants to talk about this all of the sudden considering she’s kind of insane, lol.

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I reviewed this restaurant in November, I believe, because I’d gotten to treat there for my birthday (which is in November) during their grand opening and had nothing but nice things to say about the place.

Well, my tune hasn’t changed. In the last several months I’ve had take out from them a few times but this is the first time I’d been back to dine in since November.

China King isn’t a chain, or at least I don’t think it is. It’s Americanized Chinese food at it’s best. It’s clean, the staff is SO courteous, patient and nice and the food, as always, is to die for.

I went with Laota, Mom and her Hubbs and we sat in the well lit dining area (flanked by two big-screen TVs tuned to Discovery and History channels) and had a great meal, here’s some of what we had:

The only issue I have with China King is that it’s so small, and I think that limits their appeal to the locals but I love the place. The food is hot, served fast and fresh, the staff are wonderful and they have the best crab rangoon – probably the best Chinese restaurant I’ve been to in Missouri, period.

Curious? Check them out:

Tel: 660-425-8884
604 20th St.
Bethany, Missouri USA 64424

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Pasta sauce is convenient these days. What used to take hours, sometimes days, now takes only the few minutes necessary to open up a can of red sauce and heat it up on the stove top. It would be great, delicious even, if Ben didn’t continually buy Hunt’s pasta sauce.

What’s wrong with Hunt’s? Is it cheap? Well, not bad at $1.10 per can. Is it red? It’s very red, there are even scales of redness. Is it sauce? Technically, yes, it is sauce. Is it tasty? Okay, herein lies the problem. Hunt’s pasta sauce is bland, bitter and tastes a bit like the sauce they put on canned ravioli. There’s no sweet, savory love like you get with Prego (I believe it really is in there), and no fruity, juicy goodness like you’d get with a similarly sized, 20 cent cheaper can of Del Monte which, incidentally, is my choice in cheap pasta sauces.

So how do we remedy this? Apparently it’s surprisingly easy. Here’s what you need:

1/2 can of Hunt’s pasta sauce
1/4 lb of browned ground beef
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 T clover honey

Basically, after you brown your ground beef you stir in your spices and pasta sauce over medium-low heat until the sauce barely starts to heat up. Pour in your honey and stir it in slowly. Keep stirring with the heat on for about 5 or 6 minutes, or until the sauce is thoroughly heated. Serve over your favorite pasta!

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I’m starting to go a little batty. I’ve had absolutely no time to cook, and when I do get a moment I don’t have the energy. My camera is cheap and awful, the photos of the food never look right, but this is a passion of mine – so what gets in the way?

I guess the short answer to that question is dear old mom. She and her hubby keep me hopping – not only picking up after them, washing their dishes, their laundry (they’re two people who are messy enough to be 10), but also doing all of their web work. I not only maintain their online businesses, provide support and keep them afloat but I also have to design them on a whim.

My mother could never work with freelance web or logo designers – they’d kill her, lol. The general feeling between she and hubby is that everything has to be done last minute, 2 days after it’s due and has become an emergency. Instead of just getting things done when they need to get done.

Hubby says my sister and I aren’t ‘flexible’, because we like to know what we’re doing from day to day. I think, given all that’s happened? We’re very flexible, but you can’t live your life in a constant state of non discipline or you’ll never get anything done, and that’s exactly their problem. They never get anything done and everyone else is supposed to pick up the slack.

Well, I don’t have much of a choice so I guess I should go gripe on the web about it. Oh wait, I already did that! It’s not as bad as all that, really, but it does keep me from getting anything done and it’s making me miserable.

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I’m absolutely crazy about seafood, and I don’t get it that often because it’s very expensive here. But there’s one treat I do get on occasion and that’s Tilapia, a tender and mildly sweet whitefish. It’s decently priced and incredibly tasty, but unfortunately the other treat I need to do any real cooking is time off – a treat which I rarely can afford.

The solution to this was simple, but it took me ages to figure it out – you can make many small fish fillets in the microwave! While I”m not an advocate of cooking just anything in the microwave (unless you know what you’re doing), this is one dish that comes out delicious and piping hot every time! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Tilapia Fillets, 6-8oz each (frozen)
  • Lemon Pepper to taste
  • Accent! to taste. (Yes this IS commercial MSG, but I’m actually a big advocate of MSG awareness and use. If you’d rather not use it, a little salt or soy sauce will do!)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter (one tablespoon for each fillet)
  • 2 slices of lemon (one for each fillet)

  • Prep: 1 minute
  • Cook: 4-6 minutes

Place your FROZEN tilapia fillet (one at a time, please) in a microwave safe dish with a cover – I place mine in a bowl and use plastic wrap, but I’m used to doing this and if you don’t watch the fish carefully you could end up with a melted plastic mess!

Liberally season both sides with your Lemon Pepper and Accent! then place a slice of lemon and portion of butter on top of the fillet. Now cover your fillet and place it in the microwave on high for 4-6 minutes (check after 5 minutes). Let stand for a full minute then re-plate. Great with salads, soups or by itself – makes a tasty sandwich, I hear!

We like to have this by itself as a midnight snack at our house, and Laota and I have been talking about having it with some wilted baby spinach and mashed sweet potatoes. If you try this, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Yep, that’s really all there is to this dish. It’s tasty, and pretty – dinner in 5 minutes!

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Well, I know I’ve griped about Toot-Toot Family Restaurant in Bethany before, about how I don’t like buffet and they’re always crowded. The food is usually bad and they watch you like a hawk, as if you’ll steal food you just paid for.

Well, I won’t take it back, because that’s the way it HAS been every other time I’ve ever gone, but we went tonight (my mom loves the place) and I have to say, it was absolutely fun. The food was good (crab legs, BBQ pork short ribs, shrimp, roast beef, green beans, and so on), they had these little flaky napoleon things that were delicious and we got the best server – sweet guy, very polite, very courteous. It’s the single best visit I’ve ever had, and I can’t figure out why?

But it did deserve a good review, 3 out of 5 stars for good food, good service – would be 4 stars if it didn’t usually suck.

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I had such a good day and am in the best mood. I’ve gotten almost all of my work done, the doggy’s been out multiple times which means I got a nice walk away from my computer. I’m drinking iced tea right this minute. Life is sweet.

Granted, this is only a momentary lapse in horrible. It was brought on by my mother being out of my life for a day and taking her hubby with her, which means I’m free to clean, work and so forth without hearing my name hollered from downstairs eighty times a day, lol! She’s still angry with me because I didn’t make a big deal when she asked what we would be doing for Thanksgiving dinner. Honestly, I’m not a big Thanksgiving fan – for the most part I just love the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and try to watch every year, which she doesn’t like because it cuts into my cooking-for-mom time.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I do actually need to start preparing for that. I know I do, but I’ve been procrastinating! My big issue is that mom and hubby like things just so – fatty, salty and generally not very tasty. They put butter in rice…. in rice! And not just any rice, but my beautiful short grain sushi rice. I love that rice, my gorgeous Wolfgang Puck 5 cup does an amazing job on it, I think it’s my all time favorite piece of cookware and I don’t know what I’d do without it. So I spend a small fortune importing this rice, I wash it several times, soak it for 20 minutes then cook it until it’s just right and what do they do? Put butter on it! I swear they’d put gravy on it if I turned my back for two seconds, lol!

Speaking of rice, maybe a wild rice and mushroom stuffing would be a treat? I don’t know if they’d like it, though, but I think Imouto chan will be happy with it. Now, how can keep my mother from literally stuffing it into the turkey?

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I really wish my camera was working (and not an idiot, lol), because my halfway-homemade steamed pork ginger dumplings worked out to be cute and delicious! Here’s my method (hehe, I love that term – I saw it in a 1912 cookbook!):

1 pack of store-bought wonton wrappers
1.5 lb of ground pork
2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed and chopped
2 T. grated ginger (must be fresh! and yes 2 whole tablespoons)
Soy sauce to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
Dash (light dash!) sesame oil
1 tsp oyster sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
2 shallots, finely chopped
5 large napa cabbage leaves (3 shredded, one whole)

In your steamer (or the steamer rack of your rice maker, which is what I use), fill the water tray with the amount of water your manufacturer recommends. Place half of the ginger in the water and a dash of salt and start the steamer.

Save out the skins (obviously!) and the whole cabbage leaf and combine everything else in a large bowl. Try and make sure it’s as dry as possible so make sure you try not to over do it with the soy sauce.

In your steamer rack, place the whole cabbage leaf (it’s a great way to protect the rack from food getting stuck on it!). Now place your wonton skin in the palm of your hand and put about a rounded teaspoon of filling right in the middle. Remember, don’t over do it! Now make a loose fist (don’t squeeze too hard, just tight enough to close up the dumpling) and place the dumpling on the cabbage leaf in your steamer. Don’t over crowd (make sure there’s a dime’s worth of space between each or they may touch each other and stick). Now just steam them over a boil for 5-7 minutes, and take them out carefully to avoid being scalded by the steam.

You can serve these as is, but I like to let them cool for a few moments and serve them with either a good spicy mustard or a ginger-based sweet sauce. Hope that wasn’t too hard to follow without the photos!

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My mom and her new hubby took me out for an early birthday lunch (my birthday is on Tuesday), and we headed up to Bethany instead of straying too far. They surprised me by not going to Toot-Toot (which is awful, by the way – I’m not really a buffet kind of girl, though) but instead went to the new Chinese restaurant, China King.

The first thing I noticed about China King was that it was tiny from the outside, but inside it’s about as big as an average Panda Express. It was clean and cozy, with a friendly staff who are gracious even though there’s a bit of a language barrier (they do speak English very well, though, but the way I mumble they were a bit hard of understanding me!).

When you first walk into the building you’re hit with the amazing aromas of whatever the heck they’re cooking up in the row of giant, well seasoned wok in the kitchen (you can plainly see the neat little kitchen from the register). The food portions are huge, Laota and I both had Egg Fu Yung with pork and fried rice and the portion was heaped, literally heaped, on the plate. Two large patties (each bigger than a normal hamburger patty), and a portion of rice as big as both patties, plus your choice of an egg roll or the best damn crab rangoon you’ve ever had – all for about $5.50. You could easily feed three people with the portion we were given each, we had over a whole meal’s worth for each one of us to take home.

The whole thing was delicious, the food came out fast, the service was friendly. I almost wish I could dock these guys a few points because they’re so far away. I’ve got a pic or two of the Egg Fu Yung (sorry it’s blurry, low light plus crappy camera!). A-

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