Ho Ping House Review

There is a new Chinese restaurant in town. I find it intriguing that Dale and I were completely on the same page with regard to the service and the food. He said, “Well, the customer service makes up for the food.” DH was like, hush! be polite! And I was thinking to myself, exactly! The jumbo shrimp was overcooked and bland. My entree, which sounds good in principle, was kind of awful. Prawns wrapped in bacon and eggs and fried. Served on a platter of vegetables in hoisin sauce. I think I’m going to reschedule my trip to the lab to get my cholesterol checked. Now, the rest of the food was actually quite good. Bob ordered the Honey Chicken. O. M. Gosh. Amazing lemon and honey sauce on batter fried chicken. The beef sticks were also good, and the crab rangoon was EYE ROLLING delicious. I mean, get a room. DH had the Dragon Meets Phoenix, (General Tso’s chicken and a seafood that he can’t remember). He said it was very good. Dale had Orange Beef; he said it was pretty good. Farley and Tori ate bits and pieces of every one’s food. We had a very sweet and competent server.

The ambience of the restaurant was very nice. Simple but elegant decor. It wasn’t overdone. Pleasant music barely audible, just the way I like it. Beautiful place settings and white tablecloths.

Ho Ping means peaceful harmony, and it seemed to work, because Farley and Tori, neither one known for their patience at restaurants, were very well-behaved. Seriously, if you can take your child with Autism to a busy restaurant, and not have a meltdown the entire time, you’ve got Peaceful Harmony going on. It was, however, pricey. It made me glad we haven’t eaten out for the previous two weeks, because that’s about how much it cost for the one meal out. Oops! So, good service, substandard shrimp/prawns, but heavenly Crab Rangoon and Honey Chicken with Lemon Sauce. I’ll give it a four out of five stars.

The International Language of Chocolate

Alice came back this week. It’s a long story, but I’ll give you the version of pertinent parts. Parts that pertain to food.

Last week, Alice wouldn’t eat any of our food. Since she has only been in the States for a couple months, I can’t really blame her. I was scarfing down my homemade Five-Way Chili, an internet knock-off of Steak N Shake’s chili, mmm good. She politely sipped water. So when I knew she was coming back this week, I wanted to feed her. It was going to be supper time; I knew she would be on the bus for a few hours, and what do you do when you want someone to feel comfortable in your home? You feed them. So I went online and actually found a recipe for the Huushuur. I made it, and ‘Alice’ was so delighted, that she called the interpreter just to tell him that I made it.

Also, when I got her at the bus station, she gave me a package full of Mongolian chocolate. I had no idea. I’m so naive. I thought South Americans invented chocolate and only shipped it to North America. Oh wait, I have also heard of Swiss chocolate, and Belgian chocolate and German chocolate…I just had no idea that Mongolians might also enjoy that heavenly dark brown bliss. DH had a good description for it. He called it ‘earthy’. I agreed with the assessment. It was kind of chocolate covered brittle, with just a hint of melamine. Okay, that was probably unkind. I mean, I’m still eating the entire bag, so it can’t be that bad, right? Or is it the fact that I haven’t had a decent candy bar in like, three weeks. But while Alice doesn’t speak a lot of English, and I don’t speak a lot of Mongolian (Huushuur, Buuz, Benno Benno), we both love our chocolate, and our meat pies.

I was exceedingly happy and gratified when she asked for four more Huushuur to eat after she tasted the first one. Here it is:

2 1/4 cups regular flour

half teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water

Mix that up into a dough, roll into sixteen small balls and let rest for two hours.

Mince garlic and onion (I used my MINI-CHOPPER!) Mix in with your ground beef. When your dough is done sitting, you roll the balls out into cute little pancakes. You put a couple tablespoons of your meat mixture on half, fold over into half-moon shape, crimp edges, and deep fry. They were pretty easy, and pretty tasty. It suggested serving with soy sauce, but we just ate them plain.

My Kitchen Gadgets

My son ‘Kevin’ informed me that he would prefer to be called ‘Bob’. Anyway, I was telling him that I needed to write a post about my fave kitchen appliances, and he told me that he would put a headcounter on my blog for me. So look out. You will be counted.

My fave appliances: First, let me just say that I vowed a long time ago to either get rid of unused appliances, or use them. No storing appliances that don’t get used; they’re taking up too much space.

Bread Machine: I use it once a week for dough (for scones!) Sometimes more often if I want to make bread or stromboli. What a feat of engineering. Put the ingredients in, and just like the Star Trek replicator, bread comes out. Love it.

Ice Cream Maker: Once a month. This bad dog makes the most buttery ice cream ever. But, I make slushies with it way more often, because I don’t usually have heavy cream in the fridge. We love our Flavor-Aid (love Aldi brands!) slushies. Red is best.

Mini-Chopper: Once every two weeks or more often, depending on what Stage of Cleanliness my kitchen is in. ha ha I got this mini-chopper at Aldi for seven bucks. What a little workhorse this unit is. It’s like the Burro of the kitchen world.  Onions, potatoes, fruits, veggies, cooked beans, salsas, and so on and forever. It doesn’t hold more than two cups, probably less, but it’s so easy to use and clean, and it halves my work time. Love it.

Waffle Iron/Sandwich Maker: Twice a month. Neat story about this. When I was preggers with ‘Farley’, I borrowed the neighbor’s waffle iron. As a baby gift, she gave me this Waffle Iron/Sandwich Maker. It triples as a waffle iron, panini maker and pudgie pie/sandwich maker. Also easy to use and clean. Very fun, and it has happy memories associated with it. I sent my neighbor a very lovely thank you note for it.

Rice Steamer: Once or twice a month. Glen bought this for me many years ago, and it has proved very versatile. I love Alton Brown’s mantra that kitchen gadgets should have more than one use. I discovered a couple years ago that I could steam eggs in my steamer for hard-cooked eggs. Awesome! I’ve cooked fish, chicken and of course, rice and vegetables in it. Also very easy to use and clean. Plus, I feel healthy when I eat food I cooked in it.

Fondue Pot: Once every six months. I know, this borders on not using it enough to justify owning it, but I have a very big kitchen with lots and lots of cupboard space, so leave me alone. We have made consommé, cheese and chocolate fondue in this pot. We use the skewers it came with too. This is a fun family tradition. I think I posted earlier about the cheese recipe. (Cream cheese, a bechamel sauce, maybe some chicken broth and some Parmesan). The best thing is the homemade French loaf I make to dip in the cheese. (Thank you, Bread Machine!)

Toaster: At least every other day.I had to include it, even though you pretty much can only do one thing with it. Toast things. Bread, English Muffins, Bagels and infrequently, “Toaster Pastries.” My family just eats those cold. And we don’t buy the toaster strudels or toaster scrambles very often.

Blender: Once a week. DH makes shakes all the time. If I have fresh fruit AND yogurt on hand, I will make fruit smoothies. We bought the kind of blender that can handle ice cubes. Yum. I want a smoothie right now.

Mixer: Once a month. I especially don’t like baking unless my kitchen is Stage One Clean. ‘Nuff said.

George: Once a month. I used to really love George, but I realized I haven’t used him in a while. You know, George Foreman grill. I bought him for five bucks at a yard sale. Great for burger patties, chicken breasts and fish. My favorite is to marinate IQF chicken breasts in a honey mustard glaze (read: dump honey and mustard into the bag the chicken came in) and let it thaw in the fridge overnight. You really have to ‘fillet’ the breasts to be about the same thickness so that you cook them evenly. But the grill gives them that nice grilled appearance and flavor, and then I slice the chicken and toss with a bagged salad. Grilled Chicken Salad!

Deep Fryer: Once a week. I know. I should be using the steamer once a week, and the Fryer once every six months. Oh well. My favorite thing to make, because believe it or not, scones have gotten old for me, is homemade tortilla chips. I use my butcher knife, cut corn tortillas into quarters, and fry a basket at a time. The house smells heavenly, and the chips are oh so delicious with a sprinkling of salt. But we fry chicken wings in it too, then douse with butter and buffalo sauce: Instant Buffalo Wings. Also make fries, chips, onion rings, scones, tator tots (you haven’t lived ’til you’ve even a deep fried tot, as opposed to a baked tot.) Etc. You could justify that if you cook at a hot enough temperature, you’re actually ‘sealing’ the food item to oil penetration. So it’s not as fatty as you would think. That’s what I tell myself.

Crock Pot: Once every two weeks. Who can argue against the use of this esteemed appliance? Fix dinner in the morning, eat at supper time, enjoy the smell of home-cooked food all day long.

Major Appliances: Every day. I am SO thankful for modern refrigeration and freezing. I love my cooktop and my oven. But most of all, I am thankful for my dishwasher. I have been without a dishwasher for three years. We have seven people in our family! We are talking two hours, at least every day, to keep up with the dishes. Finally, we went to a “Restore”…this place that is involved with Habitat for Humanity and accepts all kinds of donations and sells items at a reduced cost. We found a dishwasher for fifty bucks. It works like a dream! It’s a miracle of modern technology! I love it! I use it TWICE A DAY, sometimes THREE TIMES in a day. It is so cool.

And finally, thanks go out to the little people. The little simple gadgets that make my life better and easier every single day of the year. The vegetable cutting board, the meat cutting board, the very sharp kitchen knives DH bought me last Christmas, the pizza cutter, the pie server, the potato masher, wire whisk, the spoon…both large and small, the butter knife, the fork and last, but not least, the zip-top bag. Harbinger of leftovers, preserver of cheese freshness, purveyor of lunch snacks: Clear plastic encasement with zip-top closure, I salute thee. May you live a thousand years in a landfill.

Sunday Night Scones

One of the things I love about being married is the meshing of two separate lives, pasts, memories and of course, dinner repertoires. Some foods I don’t recall ever eating in my youth that DH introduced me to: Fondue, avocado, butternut squash, poached eggs in milk with toast, corn chip taco salad, asparagus, eggplant, and our family favorite, Scones. Some of these things I just tried because I’m the mom, and I can do that now. I didn’t want to give the wrong impression…DH would never voluntarily try new vegetables just because. Anyway, back to scones. Every Sunday night I make a batch of  roll dough. (Recipe to follow). Fire up the deep fryer, and when DH comes home from counting the tithing money at church, he rolls out the dough and fries scones for us. Our daughter who has Autism, I’ll call her Tori, LOVES scones on Sunday. And really, all of us look forward to the meal. It’s casual, and we can put whatever we want in them. The dough puffs up and there is a lovely hollow spot inside that is just right for Redi-Whip, blueberry pie filling, butter, syrup, powdered sugar, yogurt, jelly and so on. Cream cheese is also good. I’m more of a savory meal person, so deep-fried rolls and butter are my favorite. I will occasionally have a token sweet scone just to fit in. The fillings don’t matter; it’s the sense of tradition and family togetherness that is most important. Here is the roll dough recipe I use; feel free to start your own traditional Sunday meal!

  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons yeast

I put all the ingredients in my bread machine and push the dough cycle button. An hour and a half later, the dough is ready to roll. DH rolls it out flat and uses the pizza cutter to make two-inch square pieces. He puts the pieces in the fryer basket and lowers them into the oil that has heated up to the  ‘doughnut’ setting on the fryer. I know; it’s too easy.