First In First Out, or Last In First Out – what’s your fridge stocking and cooking methods?

FIFO and LIFO are businessy terms. FIFO means the first thing in gets used first. LIFO means the latest thing gets used first and the earlier things wait until the newest stock gets used before they get used up. I’ve been pretty bad about LIFO-ing my fridge, leaving a lot of extra… stuff to build up in the back crevices and corners. I found a twee jar of corn jelly I got at a food swap from the lovely Deanna Fox I couldn’t remember the year I got it.

I’m trying to embrace Spring (I hear it’s coming) and I’m trying to work on combining FIFO and Just In Time practices in my meal delivery systems (i.e. cooking).

So this meant a thorough cleaning out of the fridge. Remove ERRYTHANG. Take stock of what you use – open those mystery jars (hold your nose if you must), check the expiration dates, and toss the leaky things. Once all the food substances are out, take out all the shelves and wash them so they’re sparkling clean. Then clean the heck out of the inside of the fridge (I’m partial to hot rags for the stuff that’s really stuck on and melamine/magic sponges for stains).

And then it is time to organize.

I am in awe of folks who have nothing in their fridge. Where are the shelves overflowing with condiments, jams, and jars of miscellany? How are they not tempted by these wee delights? I will try to be one of them. I will USE my jars and containers and not let that last little bit linger for something special. This is where I’m combining JIT and FIFO.

It requires a bit of meal planning. And just a wee bit of forethought. But best of all, it gets me excited for leftovers. My tactics have been to buy less in bulk (hey, it’s just two people and the occasional guest in my house) and buy a few fresh ingredients I definitely want for the week. Try to plan a few meals for the week, and then go around that. If I tried to get super specific, I’d drive myself nuts (ZOMG, you didn’t use that half a cucumber!!), but I’ve found this works for me.

For example, this week, I bought some fresh¬† broccoli, asparagus, and chicken. Chicken’s got brined last night, it’ll get roasted tonight along with some asparagus, and I’ll cook some wood ear with the broccoli. Tomorrow = some variation on the leftover chicken, plus some more fresh veggies.

So, I have a lot less stuff in my fridge, and I’m pretty happy with it. Crazy, how it’s easier to find stuff, eh?

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Gung Hey Fat Choy! I spent Chinese New Year in Flushing with some of the family. Eating, obviously. Squid Salad from Cutting Board (37-20 Prince St, Flushing, NY 11354). This place wasn’t super packed despite the CNY weekend crowds, but service was sl-oooowwww and flighty. Salad was ok, except for the tip of the squid which was charred on their gas/propane grill. Bleh.

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Ok – main event! Dinner with my whole family! We wound up once again at Jin Cheng (142-38 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354), and no one knows why. When Yeh-Yeh was alive, we would go here because it was literally the closest restaurant to his condo. It’s good for lunch, but they can’t handle a crowd. All of us “kids” bemoaned this like the whiny little food brats we are “Ugh, why are we going back?! Yeh-Yeh’s not here! Why didn’t we make reservations somewhere else?!” to which my frazzled dad (and now patriarch) responded “I don’t know! We just somehow keep ending up back there! Hopefully next year we’ll go somewhere else.”. But we lucked out with a 6 pm (early) reservation, so dinner was surprisingly not terrible.

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Ginger scallion lobster. A little rubbery and overcooked in places, but not too bad.

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Platters of food. The big bowl on the left had steamed/boiled chicken, shrimp, abalone, and some veggies. Whole steamed flounder, some sickly sweet crispy pork dish, “crispy” skin chicken (not very crispy), beef, and walnut shrimp were also on the menu. Nothing really stood out as great, but we were all happy nothing was as bad as it has been in years past.

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Snacks from Tous Les Jours on the way out. Croque Msr, and some baos.

So it was awesome seeing family, but I needed another “good” lunar new year dinner. So once I came back up, I gathered a few friends to join me at Ala Shanghai for Chinese New Year part 2.

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Some freebie fava beans as an app when we first sat down. It was bustling when we went on a week night. We even had to wait! I like it when local small restaurants a busy like that.

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Scallion pancakes!

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Har gow like whaaat?

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Salt & pepper squid. I was never super crazy about Ala Shanghai’s salt & pepper batter before (it was a poofier type of batter), but it’s now a thinner batter that I think is just a bit crispier. Mmm.

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Spicy beef, too!

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Vegetarian pork chops, though I think they taste more like vegetarian fish. Either way, can’t go wrong with battering and frying layers of tofu skin. So good!

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From the specials menu: Rice cakes with jalapeno and scallop. Holy moly, they were not messing around with the jalapeno! So good, but so spicy! This was the dish I saw on the lunar new year specials list and thought “I MUST HAVE THIS.” It didn’t disappoint. Chewy rice cakes, scallops, and spicy jalapenos – very good combination.

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Tofu noodles, edamame, and salted veggie also a must.

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Broccoli with black and white fungus – this was the dish that caught Albany John’s eye from the specials menu, and it was also a hit. Ala Shanghai gets their woodear so tender. All of this covered with a light, clear sauce. I wish this would go on their regular menu – it was so good! Very fresh, with a lot of texture.

Happy New Year! I wish you lots of prosperity!

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There are many perks to living in Latham. Close to a bunch of grocery stores, bikeable, my favorite restaurant, and now I can add “Best Pizza Delivery in the Area” to the list. Jon in Albany, our local pizza expert. He will deny such a title bestowed upon him, I have yet to meet another person with as much knowledge and passion for pizza. Also, he is incredibly scientific in his pizza making processes, which I appreciate immensely. He texted me one night asking if I was home and if I wanted pizza. The answer to either of those is generally yes, if you’re curious.
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I was rewarded with TWO KINDS OF PIZZA delivered right to my door. IN BOXES, even! First one was pepperoni, which was… perfect. And has now officially ruined me from any more take out pizza in Latham. The crust was so perfectly burnished, and light and fluffy on the inside. The perimeter of the pepperoni were also nicely crisped up.

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SAUSAGE! Oh, delightful sausage pizza. I managed to not eat both pizzas in one sitting. And these were so good, so this was harder than you’d think.

Dear Jon,

Thank you very much for your delicious delivery pizza. Next time I’ll have a tip ready.

You may not have realized how much of a monster you’ve created now.

XOXO,
AJ


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When Deanna Fox asks you on a date, you say yes. And maybe you put on something nice, and brush up on your table manners. Deanna asked me if I’d like to accompany her to one of Heather Ridge Farm‘s Supper Clubs and this beautiful golden orb of butter was greeted us at the table when we sat down. This could have been my entire dinner. It was so delightful – Rich cultured farm-fresh butter.
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If you can’t tell, I’m still working on my photography. But here’s a shot of the menu we had for dinner. Dinner is served at a trio of communal tables seating about 16 people in total. The chairs even have soft fuzzy pelts draped over them.
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Hello darling. While the butter was a darling of dinner, really, you should get to Heather Ridge Farm for a meal, because everything was just so deliciously thought out and prepared.
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First up was a rosemary infused seltzer with blood orange garnish. Delightful, and a nice refresher to accompany dinner.
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Everything at the supper club was prepared on site, with as many ingredients coming from the farm or locally as possible.
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Butternut squash soup with with Heather Ridge Farm’s own lamb merguez and harissa infused yogurt. Wow. I never get excited about butternut squash soup, but this was great. Hearty without being heavy, this soup brought a bowlful of rich flavors – the harissa and moroccan spices added depth and complexity to the butternut squash, which brought it closer to the savory side. Great harbinger of flavors to come.
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Warm winter salad of potatoes, parsnip, sauerkraut, Heather Ridge pancetta, and some lightness from parsley. The potatoes could have been a touch longer, but this was overall a great salad for a cold winter night, and the parsley was a nice punch of greenery and contrast. I was surprised by how much I really liked the parsley in this dish (normally I think it’s good for countering garlic in its raw, chopped form, but this was just so good on its own).
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Charcuterie plate! Farm made weisswurst, pork liver pate, red wine gel, honey mustard, raw milk cow’s cheese. Ciabatta crisps were also served on the side (which I may or may not have loaded with a bit of that delicious butter at a few points).

Let’s talk pate. For me, not all pates are equal. My ideal pate is smooth, maintains a bit of lightness while still feeling rich and creamy. Heather Ridge’s pate fit the bill nicely for me and paired well with the wine gel as a contrasting sweetness to the richness of pate. The weisswurst were also lovely with the honey mustard and raw milk cheese. Not too smooth, and a nice bite from the casing .
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Sorrel is a highly underused ingredient in upstate NY. I normally think of it as a summer drink for its tart, refreshing flavor. Heather Ridge Farm made a Spiced Caribbean Sorrel beverage, that tasted closer to a mulled winter beverage. It was great to try a different execution on this dish. And also a great way to clear the palette before eating…
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Root beer braised short ribs served over polenta, with roasted endive and leeks. This is a dish that is sure to beat the winter blues. The root beer flavor added a supporting sweetness to these hearty beef ribs. The portion was also incredibly generous for grass fed beef. I was expecting about half as much (yet somehow I managed to finish every last bite).
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Dessert was honey caramel panna cotta – what made this special was that the panna cotta was based on egg whites in a nod to how panna cotta was made before gelatin was as widely used as it now is. And wow, was this delightful. It was a rich dish that left me incredibly full, and yet wanting more. the chocolate shortbread on the side was also great – like a crumbly sable, it was a great accompaniment to the honey caramel panna cotta.

Heather Ridge Farm also has breakfast/brunch on the weekends. Their prices are incredibly reasonable (and dare I say, just a wee bit low?) for the quality they serve. The dining room is small, but worth a wait and drive.

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Dear Winter,

It’s you. Not me. Normally I love you, but this year, you’ve just been a bit too much. Please go back to being just below freezing, at say, 30F and having some fun snow around.

For those of you in the same boat, I recommend roasting up some beef brisket. I used about 4 lbs of beef brisket, salted the exterior generously, stuck in a roasting pan at 325 for a few hours with some water on the bottom, put the top on for a few hours, tossed in chopped carrots for the last 30-60 minutes of cooking.

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Sliced up and ready to eat. Fattylicious. So, this is what I’ve been doing with my winter besides hibernating. EATING ALL OF THE FOODS.

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My big Christmas present from Albany John was dinner at The Crimson Sparrow. The Crimson Sparrow has a frequently changing tasting menu with the occasional Asian influence. It’s headed by owner John McCarthy, and the experience was thoroughly satisfying. We were there for a little over two hours – the meal was paced so well we didn’t even notice how late it was once we left!

To note, the lighting in the dining room is a bit low, and I’m still trying to figure out how to work my new macro lens, so I’ll include a link to Crimson Sparrow’s IG account with much better pictures of these dishes.
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First up was the smoked octopus on uni puree, lardo, and shiso micro greens (Insta Pic). This was a two bite affair and I could have easily done with a plate of this. The octopus was perfectly executed – smoky, tender and meaty, and the uni puree was a deliciously rich pairing. Just an outstanding dish.
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Brussels sprouts with snails, charred leek, miso, honey, cashews, and parsley (IG Pic). The brussels sprouts were deliciously crispy and nutty, and a welcome vegetal dish. I couldn’t discern any snails, but didn’t realize it until I was done with the dish. I really enjoyed this, just didn’t pick up on all of the flavors noted.
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Sunchoke soup! (Instagram Pic) Sunchoke puree with date, chestnut, hazelnut, pickled cauliflower, black truffle. Oh. My. Gosh. Truffles. I go gaga for truffles. Albany John, not so much. This was a rich and creamy puree of sunchokes. One where, if you made it yourself, you’d be hesitant to serve seconds. The cauliflower, dates, and pickled cauliflower were judiciously portioned out in a wee mince beneath the shaving of black truffle. The black truffle added a lovely rich earthiness to the soup. So wonderful, Albany John even enjoyed the truffle aspect. And darn, I was hoping to get an extra slice of truffle from his portion – tee hee. Just kidding – I’m happy he has found one iteration of truffle that he enjoys.
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Scallop on top of salsify puree with masago (IG Photo is slightly different, but you get the delicious idea). Yet another dish that I could have very easily eaten a lot more of. A perfectly seared scallop, still soft and briny, and hugged with black masago.

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Pork belly with white beans, fennel, bay, mustard, rye (IG Pic). I heard fennel and my ears perked up. Uh oh. I’m not normally a fennel fan. But however this was made – yes. I am a fennel fan. The pork was meltinly tender, and the beans were a nice contrast.

Main Course time! Salmon and beef were the two main course options, so we got one of each.
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Skirt steak with broccolini and black bean peanut sauce underneath (No IG photo). This was one the only *womp womp* dish on the menu. The black bean and peanut sauce was just too much – the fermented black bean too present, and oddly out of whack with Crimson Sparrow’s normally judicious portioning. The beef was well cooked, but compared to the rest of the menu this seemed, well, just too normal.
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King salmon on a bed of black lentils, with bonito, sweet potato, maitake, sweet fern, and rock chives (IG Photo). Oh, sweet heavens, yes. Yes a thousand times over. The salmon was so wonderfully (minimally) cooked. The crisp maitakes were a nice textural contrast while also acting as a meaty complement.

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And then there was my favorite of amouses – the dessert amouse. Mulled spice anglaise, red currants, pistachios (IG Pic). What a nice surprise! It was a sphere of mulled spice anglaise, which had me wondering how I could recreate this flavor at home. Maybe reduce some mulled cider and mix it with anglaise? J
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Dessert also featured two courses, and Albany John went with the cheese course – a sheepsmilk soft cheese, I believe, with Bonfiglio bread and some honey on the side.
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I went with the sake lees ice cream on top of green tea cake mountains with some preserved fruit. I realized after ordering that I generally don’t care for sake, so this ice cream on its own didn’t quite sing to me, but as it melted, it made a nice sauce for the cakes to sop up. The cakes were a bit dry and dense and seemed intentional to resemble parts of earth. Admirable to look at, that’s for sure.

Each tasting menu is $75, with wine pairings available for $55. They also have brunch on the weekends, and Sunday Supper (a paired down and more casual tasting menu for $45). I can’t wait to return to try brunch and supper.

 

Hi,

Welcome. Are you new? Well, it’s good to have you here.

It’s January, when folks typically start on the new year’s resolutions and going to the gym more often.

Consider this your pep talk – you can stick with it! You can find something you like. Maybe you take a few classes and decide you love kickboxing. Or maybe you’re a dance queen.

Maybe you want to branch out into weights. I think taking a few weights classes¬† are good to learn form on your own, or find a friend (hiiii) who is comfortable in the gym. I really like the BodySpace app on Bodybuilding. You can search for a variety of workouts and programs, and track them in one place on your phone. I’m incredibly lazy, so I’ll never be one of those people in the gym with a sheet of paper or a notebook with my workout ready to go, but it’s easy to follow a program for a few weeks, or pickout a workout by whim.

But hey – good job! Keep it up! And you know what? Half-assing it in the gym is better than no-assing it. So when those inner voices start in on you: “You are so fat. These shorts look ridiculous. Seriously, what do you think this is going to do? You can’t do this.” you don’t listen to them. If you don’t feel up to a big and crazy workout, do something to get yourself moving, and tell those inner voices to suck it. This takes a while, but you can get over that negative self talk. I went to the gym earlier this week feeling pretty blah, and the negative thoughts started “Ugh. Why am I here today? I don’t want to be here. What, you’re going to wear *that* to workout in? Everyone will be looking at you, and then they’ll notice how much you suck at working out.” And then the other part of my brain retorted “You know what, I don’t know what I’m doing here, but I’m going to figure something out. It might not be super hard, but it’ll be challenging. You know what – lats, back, and shoulders. And yep, I am going to wear this ridiculous outfit because it’s also kind of hilarious, and maybe it’ll make someone else smile while they’re working out, so shut it.”

So keep it up, keep with it. I’m not a resolutioner, but tis the season. Scale your resolutions down if you have ’em. Focus on getting healthy, not the numbers on the scale or your clothing size.

And holler if you really need a workout buddy to keep you motivated. I promise I won’t make you do a 2 hour workout the first time we pump iron.

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