Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Trivia - What is Pectin?

What is pectin?

Pectin is a gelling/thickening agent.  You can generally buy it in powder or liquid form from stores.  But what it is, is actually a complex form of carbohydrates called polysaccharides.  It's found in the cells of certain fruits and plants.  Wikipedia has more info on the chemical information as well as a list of common fruits and vegetables, and their level of pectin.  Citrus peels has about 30% of pectin, which is a lot compared to, say, cherries, which has only about 0.4%.
So when one is making jam/jelly/preserves from a fruit that does not have or does not have enough pectin in it to thicken, one adds pectin. 


More info on Pectin:
Pectin - Wikipedia

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Cupcake

Never liked pumpkin much.  Couldn't understand all the hoo-ha behind pumpkin pie, didn't understand what's so great about spiced pumpkin latte that comes out every fall at coffee stores.  For twenty over years, it stayed that way.  All it took was a cheesecake to change my mind. ^.^  Hehe...  A couple years ago, I had a slice of pumpkin cheesecake at a friend's place and that changed my mind about pumpkins.  Heeh

So this year, to start off this fall on a pumpkin-ish tone, I made spiced pumpkin cupcakes.  After grating my nutmegs, I went bonkers, and took out my mortar and pestle and started pounding my cinnamon and cloves into powder.  Yeah, I did went bonkers that night.  lol...

1- You don't have to pound cinnamon and cloves, but if you can, try grating your own nutmeg.  It smells so awesome and it's so easy, you'll do it again after you've tried it once.
2- Soaking your cranberries before mixing and baking helps to keep them moist and plump through the baking process.
3- This recipe is for about twenty 2-1/2 inch cupcakes.  If your muffin trays are larger or smaller, remember to adjust the baking time and check for readiness.

Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Cupcake

Cupcake ingredients:
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup water
2 tbsp brandy/kirsch
2 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cup pumpkin paste

Cream cheese icing ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese, softened (1 pkt)
4 oz butter, softened
1-3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
a couple drops of red, yellow, and green food dye

Boil the cranberries in water and brandy/kirsch mixture for 5 minutes then switch off the fire and keep the cranberries soaking for about 10 minutes then drain.
Preheat oven to 350°F and line muffin tray with paper cups.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients until well mixed.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in the wet ingredients (oil, eggs, pumpkin paste).
Whisk together the wet ingredients and slowly draw in the dry ingredients until well mixed.
Stir in the cranberries.
Pipe or spoon the batter into paper cups and fill to about 3/4 full.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool on a rack for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine and cream all ingredients for icing. 
Mix a couple drops of food dye into part of the icing until you achieve the color you want.
Pipe or spread cream cheese icing on the muffin.

Oh, and have fun with the icing design.  ^.^

Good luck and hope you fall in love with pumpkins.  heehee
Oh, and yes, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!!!!  Go get drunk on candies!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Peach Preserve

Finally the weather is cooling down much more, and leaves are turning bright golden yellow and all shades of red.  Beautiful really... ^.^

Of all the shades, the golden, reddish, peachy color of peaches reminds me best of fall. So here's one peach preserve to be shared with everyone! ^.^

1- Really ripe peaches are best for preserves in my opinion.  The aroma are just too awesome to say no to...
2- While cutting the peaches, it is best to immerse the cut peaches into a a bowl of cold water to prevent browning.
3- Instead of using pectin, I use lemon peel/pith as a gelling agent.

Peach Preserve

4 peaches
1-3/4 cup sugar
juices from 1 lemon
lemon pith

Wash and cut peaches into small pieces.
Place peaches and sugar into a mixing bowl and mix well.
Cover and let it sit overnight.
Next day...
Half a lemon and squeeze out the juice and set aside.
Cut off the tip of the lemon and open up the lemon peel.
Carefully, place your paring knife between the pith and peel, and cut out the pith from the peel.
Place all peach and sugar mixture, lemon juice, and pith into a medium sized sauce pan.
Heat the pan over high heat until the mixture boils.
Once the mixture is boiling, turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for 2-3 hours until thickened and fruit pieces have all softened.
*Do not worry too much if it still seems slightly watery, it will continue to thicken as it cools.
After the preserve has cooled, transfer the preserve into a clean jar and store in fridge.

Good luck and hopefully the weather where you're living is treating you well. ^.^

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Trivia - What is Allspice?

What is allspice?

Ever wonder what makes up the allspice?  It sounded like it's a mixture of all different kinds of spices doesn't it?  At least that's what it seems to me.  However, in truth, the real thing is only made up of one thing:  the dried pepper of a Jamaican pepper tree known as pimento (not to be confused with pimiento chillies).   The flavor of the dried berries smells like a combination of cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg, hence the name allspice.  Some store-bought allspice are made up of a combination of the spices mentioned above and not the real bean, but they mimic pretty closely.  So you can look for a substitute if you need to :)

Have a good Sunday and a great start to the week ahead!!

More resources on allspice:
Encyclopedia of spices on The Epicenter

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vegetables and Squid

I was chatting with my mom the other day, and she told me that looking at the galette made her hungry but she can't make it, because they're going through a period of vegetarian diet.  Sorry mommy...  But here's something to make up for it? :D

This was actually an adaptation of a recipe my mommy gave me - tri-colored capcicums and seafood (will post this up another day).

1- Instead of squid, just use vegetarian squid or any time of vegetarian gluten ingredients.
2- Instead of chicken broth or chicken granules, feel free to reach for vegetarian broth. 

Vegetables and Squid

4 baby bok choy (xiao bai cai), quartered
8-10 baby carrots, halved
1 small capcicum (bell pepper, or any red pepper of choice)
1 cup carved squid (or vegetarian gluten of choice)
1 clove garlic, finely minced (omit if your diet doesn't allow)
1 tbsp dark vinegar
1 tbsp shao xing wine
1 tbsp corn starch/tapioca flour
4+4 tbsp water
2 tbsp oil
sugar to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and prepare bok choy and baby carrots as instructed above.
Arrange bok choy and carrots onto a plate and steam on medium low heat for about 10-minutes or until vegetables slightly softened.
Remove from heat but keep the plate of vegetables in the pot of hot water to keep it warm.
Mix cornstarch with 4 tbsp of water and set aside for later use.
Heat a pan at medium-high heat with oil.
When the oil is hot, saute garlic until fragrant and immediately add capcicum and squid.
Stir fry for about a minute and add 4 tbsp of water, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, and shao xing wine.
Stir fry for another minute or so, and taste the sauce, then adjust to your own liking.
Then stir in the cornstarch mixture until the sauce is thickened.
Remove the plate from the steaming pot and dish out the squid into the center of the plate.
Spoon some sauce over the bok choy.
Dish is ready to serve.

Good luck and have fun changing it up to your needs/liking.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Plum Galette

It's monday morning, the and weather is getting cooler, and cooler still it will get.  Need something to warm up my heart...  It's pastry time!

Galettes are essentially a free-form pie in a way.  Rustic and elegant in its own way that a pie could never be.  What's not to love? 

1- Have fun with the fillings.  Change it up with whatever's in season or whatever you like.
2- To cut a plum, half it all the way around, then twist the two halves to remove half of the flesh off.  Using a spoon or the edge of a small paring knife, take out the pit carefully.
3- Adjust the sweetness according to your batch of fruit or fruit of choice.

Plum galette

1 9-inch store-bought pie crust or pate brisee
4 plums
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp water

Preheat the oven at 400°F (205°C).
Wash and cut the plums into wedges.  Then toss it well with the sugar.
Roll out the pie crust onto a flat surface.
Place the plum fillings onto the center of the pie crust.
Then fold the pie crust inwards, overlapping as needed to finish.
Mix the egg with 2 tablespoon of water, and beat lightly.
Using a soft brush, brush a layer of egg wash on the folded areas of the crust.
Sprinkle just a little sugar over the galette.
Bake it for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling softened.
Remove the galette from the oven, and dust powdered sugar on top.
Cool it on a rack before serving.

Good luck and enjoy a slice! 

Trivia answer...

D)  They're called stone fruits.
Also called drupes.  According to wikipedia: "The definitive characteristic of a drupe is that the hard, lignified stone (or pit) is derived from the ovary wall of the flower."
Oh, and I forgot, they all tastes fabulous!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Trivia

Apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums are all summer fruits.  What else do they have in common?

a) they're very pungent
b) they always taste sour
c) they're all dark colored fruits
d) they're called stone fruits

Answers will be provided tomorrow.
Good luck, and wishing everyone a beautiful week ahead!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Omelette and Ham with Salsa

Omelette and ham w salsa breakfast


They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Although, for many a years, I did not have mine, simply because...  Okay okay, I did not have a good excuse.  However, I've started eating breakfast, and now it's a ritual, be it a quick slice of bread with coffee, or something more elaborate, breakfast is there.

Living in the Southwest for almost 10 years left a mark on me.  I've fallen in love with the complexity and flavor of Mexican food.   So here's a little tip o' the hat to that love of mine.

1- Do not over cook the egg(s).  Slightly undercooked will do, it will continue to set after taken off the heat.

Omelette and Ham with Salsa
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 slice ham, cut into strips and cooked
2 tbsp butter (or any oil of choice)
3 tbsp fresh salsa (recipe below)

Heat a pan over medium-high heat.
Melt butter in the pan. (This will take a minute or two, so meanwhile...)
Beat the eggs with salt and pepper.
When the butter begins to bubble & foam, add in the eggs.
After letting it sit for a couple seconds, start jerking the pan towards you.
(And no, do not worry about it looking very pretty, I promise it'll be prettified at the end)
Keep jerking, and at the same time, let it form into a sort of "puddle" at the end of your pan.
Grab your pan with one hand, and a plate on the other, flip the omelet over onto the plate.
Using a sharp paring knife, make three slits on your omelette.
Place the cooked ham into the slits.
Spoon the salsa onto the omelette.

Fresh Salsa

6 roma tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/2 onion (medium sized)
1-2 jalapeƱo pepper
1 fresno pepper
juice of 1 lime
2 stalks cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Wash all ingredients.
Quarter the tomatoes and onion.
Chop tomatoes, garlic, onion, peppers, and cilantro finely, and combine with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl

(To make things easier, you can also chop up all your ingredients in your food processor or mini chopper)

Good luck & Good day! ^.^