Monday, October 10, 2011

Matcha Tsubu'an Macaron Pops & Congratulations!

Tadaa!  Did you guess it right?  Did you did you did you??? :D

Matcha Tsubu'an Macaron Pops, or Green Tea Powder Sweetened Red Bean Paste Macaron Pops.  Goodness!  What a mouthful!  haha  The recipe for this one will be up on the next post.  =D  I promise that the marriage of these two flavors are sooo wonderful, you'll be dreaming about it.  At least I did, and I am now again...

Here's the congratulatory part...  I don't have a cake, I couldn't be there, and I don't have a bouquet of flowers, but I have a bouquet of macaron pops for a dear, dear friend who just recently got married.

Pei Pei, I just wanted to say congratulations again, and sorry for the botched surprise, all thanks to a certain Ms. K.  ahem ahem...  Here's to wishing you a life full of wonderful sweetness, all rolled up into a colorful bouquet of happiness!  xoxoxoxoxo  p/s:  Ms. K, regardless of any botched surprise or not, I still love ya!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Take a guess??

Do take a guess, what's coming up next? ;)

Hint:  It's a culture crossover XD  heheee 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rahmschnitzel mit Pommes Frites und Kirschtomaten

Guten Tag!  I love me some schnitzel, and that recent German trip was a blast in that sense!  All sorts of schnitzels, more than I could count.  However, I'm still terrible when it comes to cooking a good schnitzel wiener, or pork schnitzel.  So back home here, I used chicken, which technically should be called Hähnchenschnitzel, instead.  So why didn't I call it Hähnchenschnitzel then?  Well, see, I also serve it with mushroom cream sauce, as I have previously promised darling hubby during his recovery from wisdom teeth extraction.  We seem to crave what we're not allowed to eat.  Anyway, I was torn.  I almost named the title "Marrying Hähnchenschnitzel und Rahmschnitzel", but that doesn't sound quite correct...  Hence the above name, Cream Schnitzel with Potato Fries and Cherry Tomato. 

1- If you pound your chicken steak into a more consistent thickness, it will cook more evenly.
2- I prefer panko, Japanese bread crumbs, for its crunchiness, but you can use any types of bread crumbs you prefer.
3- I prefer chicken leg meat for its tenderness, but feel free to substitute with chicken breast meat if you prefer.

Rahmschnitzel mit Pommes Frites und Kirschtomaten 

2 pieces chicken leg meat
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup panko
1-2 cups oil for frying

2 cups store bought french fries
Cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste

Clean and de-fat chicken leg meat.
Using a meat tenderizer, pound the meat until roughly similar in thickness.
Lightly beat salt, pepper, and eggs together.
Heat up frying oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
Dredge leg meat through all purpose flour, egg, and panko (in this order).
Pan fry leg meat until golden brown.

Oven bake/fry french fries according to box instructions.

In a small pan over medium heat, melt butter and mix in flour, and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring all the while.
Stir in milk and mushroom.
Stir constantly until you have a consistent and smooth texture.

Ladle sauce over chicken and serve with cherry tomatoes and french fries.  Best served with German beer ;)  Personally I prefer colabier (mixture of cola and beer) or radler (mixture of lemon soda and beer).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Banana Cointreau Pancake

I was on the Ruby Princess last year.  At dinner one night, there was this delicious dessert.  Simple, yet wonderful.  Don't ask me the name though.  Seriously, I don't remember.  What I remembered, was it was made with just a few simple things really.  Vanilla ice cream, banana, lemon, sugar, and Grand Marnier.  How delightfully simple and delicious.  

When I first came home, I realized that I didn't have vanilla ice cream, and substituted it with chocolate ice cream scoops.   Nope, that did not work!  The chocolate flavor in the ice cream totally overwhelmed the delicate and subtler flavors of citrus and banana.  Nope!  After that however, I didn't remember trying to do this when I had a full tub of ice cream in my fridge.  What a silly silly person!  Yup, that's me alright!

One weekend morning, I decided that I wanted to make pancakes, crepe-like pancakes.  Ya know, like the one over here, for Strawberry Crepe Rolls.  I love just munching on the slightly sweet pancake just as is, and I love it with a crispy edge.  While she's making them, I'm always hanging around, pulling the crispy edges off from the pancakes, and leaving the softer center parts on the plate.  She would scold me, but I think deep down, she probably found that amusing.  Or at least I hope she did! hahaha

I went off on a tangent didn't I?  Ok ok, I'm back I'm back.  So, I had banana in my pantry, and I was just thinking what I should do with my Cointreau again...  Need I say more?  Let's jump in! 

1- Instead of Grand Marnier, I used Cointreau.  You can substitute with any orange liqueur you have or prefer.
2- The alcohol in the liqueur should have mostly been evaporated by the time it's done.  However, if you don't wanna take any chances, do try and substitute with juice from a full orange with 2 tablespoons of orange zest.
3- Pair it with lemonade would bring out the citrusy flavor even more.
4- Avoid anything too strong, like strong coffee, for it will overwhelm the softer flavors of the pancake.  I like it paired with latte however.

Banana Cointreau Pancake 

1 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg
pinch of salt
water (about 1-1/2 cup)
butter for pan frying (about 3 tbsp)
Banana Topping
2 bananas, sliced
3 tbsp sugar
1 lemon
3 tbsp Cointreau
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and egg in a 2-cup measuring cup.
Then fill the measuring cup with water to the 2-cup line.
Whisk and combine well.
Heat up a frying pan over medium heat with a little butter.
When the butter has melted and started bubbling a little, pour some crepe batter into the pan (about 1/4 cup).
Tilt the pan around so that the batter forms a rough circle.
Fry until the edge both sides are lightly browned.
Repeat the frying until all batter has been used up.
Combine sugar, juice from a lemon, and Cointreau in a pan, when sugar has melted and starting to bubble, add in sliced bananas.
Cook until banana slightly soften around the edge.
Plate banana and sauce over crepe and serve.

Enjoy and have a good week to come!  If you try this, let me know what you paired it with and how you like it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bartlett Pear Preserve

Does anyone have any memories of tasting something just once, and it stuck so deeply in your mind, even after a decade?  That happened to me.  That happened to me and pear preserve.  The most common jams and preserves I've had are berries, apricot, and orange marmalade.  Prior to making this baby myself, I've only tasted pear preserve once.  Just once.

It was Autumn 1996.  I went on a 10-day Japan home-stay exchange under the LEX Language Research Foundation and Hippo Family Club program.  It was my first trip to Japan, and I still remember it like it happened just yesterday.  When I was staying with the Muto family, okaasan (mother in Japanese, that was how I addressed her) bought me sushi for dinner one evening.  Unfortunately, I was having a bad spell of migraine and any smell seemed to multiply itself by 10.  Needless to say, the raw fish didn't go down well that night.  I felt really bad, having wasted her warm hospitality.  Even now when I think back upon it, I still hope she understands that it wasn't the food or the culture, it was me and my horribly-timed migraine.  See, I couldn't speak Japanese back then and she didn't understand English very well.  All I knew was arigatou (thank you), konnichiwa (greeting), hai (yes), and samui (cold).  So I couldn't tell if she understood what I was saying.  Anyway, I went to bed earlier that night after some medication and woke up feeling much better in the morning.

When I went seeking for okaasan in the morning after brushing and cleaning, I found her in the kitchen with two dictionaries on the table and a note.  She had taken the time to look up words between two dictionaries and wrote a note for me.  The gist of it saying that she hoped I'm feeling much better and actually apologized for the food upsetting my stomach.  Instantly, I felt a warm and fuzzy feeling spreading all over me.  Then, she sat me down on the table and brought out a simple breakfast for me that tasted so good, I remember it to this day.  It was a thick slice of toast, covered in slightly melted cheese, and had a kind of jam spreaded over it.  Warm melty cheese toast with cold jam/preserve?  One bite was all it took.  I had to ask her what it was.  She looked up the dictionary and smiling, said: "Toast, cheese, and pear jam."

It's been more than 10 years now, but that simple breakfast stuck in my mind, unwilling to let go.  I tried looking for pear preserves, but they really aren't that common.  So, I decided to do my own research and make them myself.  And here, is one of my most cherished memory of Japan and okaasan, all wrapped up in one simple recipe.  It is my wish that you'll have beautiful memories with this pear preserve recipe as well. 

1- Jam and preserve are slightly different in a sense that preserves have bigger chunks of fruit whereas jams are mostly finely pureed.
2- If you prefer you may use pectin instead of lemon pith.  I just prefer using lemon pith because since I'm using lemon juice, there's the pith right there with it!
3- Sitting the pear slices in sugar overnight allows the fruit to release its juices.  I've also read that it helps the pears not to float up on top of your jar after cooking.
4- While preparing the pears, immerse the sliced pears into a bowl of cold water to prevent browning, especially if you have a large batch of pears.
5- If you prefer, do throw away the pith after cooking, or you can put it in a teabag or a tea-strainer for easier removal post-cooking.
6- To see what part of lemon is a pith, please see my Peach Preserve recipe.

Bartlett Pear Preserve

1-1/2 lb Bartlett pear, sliced
1 C sugar
1 bowl cold water
Juice from 1 lemon

Wash, peel, and core the pears.
Cut pears into thin slices.
As you are cutting, immerse the pear slices into the bowl of cold water to prevent browning.  (Tip #4)
Drain water from the pear slices and toss well with sugar.
Cover tightly, and leave overnight or at least 12 hours.
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 pear 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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Curry Curry Night: Chicken Curry, Bak Kut Sooi, & Five Spice Tofu Stirfry

Anyone else cooked curry on August 21st?  For those who aren't familiar with news in Singapore, where many of my friends are from, here's a quick summary from Temasek Review Emeritus.

I'm not trying to get political on any sides.  I'm not a Singaporean, I'm not associated with any event creators or any parties directly involved in the original hoo-ha.  I'm merely a fellow Earthling, who has Singaporean friends and relatives, who enjoys different sorts of curries, who believes that anyone has the right to cook whatever cultural dish they want to.  I'm writing this from a stand point of a cook.

I'll make and eat nato (Japanese fermented soybean), kimchee (Korean fermented cabbage), sauerkraut (German fermented cabbage), stinky tofu (a type of Chinese tofu dish), menudo (Mexican dish made with beef stomach), or curry if I like.  It's not as if I'm going cannibalistic and start eating fellow human flesh here.  So what's up with eating what I want and most importantly, cooking something that's intimately linked to my culture?

Anyone who knows belacan knows how strong it smells.  Belacan is a type of shrimp paste, an essential ingredient used in many Southeast Asian dishes.  Its smell can be described as pungent or fragrant, depending on if you like it or not.  On occasion, I still cook with belacan.  I'm lucky I don't live in HDB flat (flats are the English equivalent for the American apartment), where every many units are in close proximity.  However, I dare anyone to try pan frying belacan or making sambal belacan in their home with windows closed and then tell me their house does not smell.  Regardless of how great your love for belacan, you will find not only your hair and clothes smells like belacan, your whole house will smell like it.  That is why we love our stoves near the window.


I'm not Indian by ethnicity, I can't imagine being told not to cook curry, or in this case, only cook when the neighbors are not around.  But I can imagine being told not to cook with belacan, or only to cook belacan when my neighbors are gone.  If that were to be the case, that would mean I would almost never get to cook it.  Cripes!  Can you imagine being told not to cook a dish that's so intimately linked to your culture?  It's like being told to BBQ only when your neighbors are not home.  Or being told to cook chile relleno only when your neighbors are away.  Or being told to cook (insert cultural dish here) only when your neighbors are away.

Anyway, my point is, food is one of the most unifying factors that crosses countries and boundaries.  In fact, in my humble opinion, it is the factor that can unite people across the globe.  There are steakhouses in Asia, sushi restaurants in America, pizzas in Australia, kebob sold in Europe, crepes sold in Japan.  Let's cook and eat to be friendlier with each other, not against each other.  So here's a pot of curry that I share with all who visits this page.  Let's be friends, not enemies.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cherries: Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (cheat version)

What do you do with leftover chocolate cake layers?  I love schwarzwälder kirschtorte, also called Black Forest Cake, Black Forest Cherry Cake, or Black Forest Gateau.  After making one just a few weeks ago, I was left with one, single layer of chocolate cake.  That's just too little for a full cake, but to throw it away would have been so wasteful.  So, I decided to do a little cheat version of the cake I love so much.

1- If you have leftover cake layers, wrap it tightly with plastic wraps and it should store in the freezer for about two weeks.
2- It doesn't necessary have to be a heart-shaped cake, go for anything you have or like.
3- Personally, I prefer using Kirschwasser, it literally means cherry water in German.  However, if you are serving this to a child or pregnant ladies, you can substitute it with syrup from canned cherries mixed with simple sugar syrup (see recipe below).
4- You will see multiple choices for the soaking liquid.  You can chose any versions you prefer depending on your own liking and who you are serving the cake to.
5- I'm using fresh Bing cherries which are sweeter, but you can also substitute with canned cherries if you prefer.  Sweet, tart, pie filling, any kind of cherries you have are fine.  Marachino cherries, however, does not go so well if used as the filling, decorations are fine though.
6- If you don't have piping tips or piping set, you can spread it with a knife and spoon, or cut a 1/4 inch tip out of a zip top plastic bag and pipe.
7- If Chantilly cream on the cake turned soft due to surrounding temperature, do chill it in the fridge for about 10 minutes before serving.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (cheat version)

1 Chocolate chiffon cake layer
Arrange and using cookie cutters, cut out 3-6 shapes of the cake.
If the thickness of the cake is at or more than 3/4 inches, half it, so that it is about 1/2 inch thick.

Cherries, halved and pitted 
Depending on the size and shapes of your cake, you may need less or more of the cherries.

Chantilly Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
Whip all three ingredients to stiff peak and store in refrigerator until it is ready to be used.

Soaking Syrup:
Choice I)
1/8 cup kirschwasser

Choice II)
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
Boil the two ingredients until dissolved for a simple syrup.
Cool the syrup and set aside for later use.

Choice III)
3 tbsp simple syrup
3 tbsp kirschwasser
Mix all ingredients and set aside for later use.

Choice IV)
3 tbsp simple syrup
3 tbsp syrup from canned cherries
Mix all ingredients and set aside for later use.

Choice V)
2 tbsp simple syrup
2 tbsp syrup from canned cherries
2 tbsp kirschwasser
Mix all ingredients and set aside for later use.

After cutting out cake shapes, immediately brush with your choice of soaking liquid so that the cakes does not dry out.
Set first layer on a plate and pipe a thick later of Chantilly cream around the border.
Set cherry halves on the cake.
Add a little more Chantilly cream to fill the spaces between the cherries.
Place another layer of cake on top of the first layer, with soaked layer facing bottom.
Brush the top of the second layer of cake with soaking syrup.
Repeat procedure of piping cream and placing cherry halves on cake.
Place third layer of cake over the second layer of cream and cherries.
Decorate top of the cake with Chantilly cream, and decorate with more cherry halves.
Dust with cocoa powder if you wish.

You can also cover the whole cake with cream as shown in the picture below.  Whatever you wish, you can make em!  As the title of the blog suggests:  PLAY!  Have fun, enjoy! ^^

Sunday, August 14, 2011

For $2.50 at Farmers' Market...

That's what I got for $2.50 at the Farmer's Market this past weekend.  Ten picking cucumbers, four yellow onions, and three bell peppers (green, purple, and light yellow).  I've never seen a purple one before.  I'm excited to try it out.  Hopefully tomorrow.

I've never been to a farmers' market before this year, and my first experience was way more expensive than I thought it'd be.  Then, my friend who pens Little Corner of Mine, asked me if I wanted to join her visiting a local farmers' market a few weeks ago.  During my first trip there, I came out with pickling cucumbers, squashes, and carrots.  In fact, we both came out with similar produce.  She couldn't make it this weekend, so I went with hubby.  Again, I came home with another big bag of goodies.  More picking cucumbers this trip.  I've already sliced em all up and pickled em in a couple jars.  Now I can't wait for breakfast tomorrow morning with tri-colored bell pepper omelette.

Anyone had good or bad experiences at their local farmer's market?  I'm a newbie and if anyone has any good tips or things to look out for at the market, please do share, I would love to know. =)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Of Cherries and Pears

Phooey...  It HAS been a while since I've posted anything...  I feel bad, I really do.  Sorry everyone.  I was a stay at home wife for more than a year, and just recently started working as an interpreter.

I've always had a penchant for languages.  I grew up in a family speaking Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hokkien, then learned English and Malay in school.  Tried picking up German and Japanese along the way, and now I'm trying to learn Spanish.  I'd say I'm a pretty strong Mandarin language user.  However, since about 10 years ago, English has slowly but surely overtook Mandarin as the stronger language.   Thanks to a recent German trip, I've got some of those German words coming back to me.  It was really fun trying to use my really-touristy-broken German.  Let's see, I accidentally ordered a large beer instead of a small one?  Or paying 60 cents for a 70 cents ice-cream and had the lady behind the counter laughing as I sheepishly dug out another 10 cents to cover the difference.  I'd like to think of it as I made her day better with a laughter.  I hope...

As for my Japanese skill, well, let's just say that if you drop me anywhere in Japan, I'll manage to find my way out fine.  Not strong, just very child-like Japanese, but I won't starve to death in Japan.  After three years of weekly Japanese classes, I almost gave all of it back to my teacher.  Thank goodness for animes, mangas, J-pops and dramas.  Now I'm picking up a little Spanish here and there.  Hmm let's see, I can do a simple greeting and order food from restaurants or at the mercado (market/marketplace).  I really need to be better at my Spanish.  haha

Anyway, have you ever had that feeling that you can do more?  That you can somehow contribute more to the society, to your community?  For over a year, I held fast hoping that I could find another job in my previous engineering field, but that didn't happen.  I was just feeling that I should be doing more for my community when this interpreter thing dropped in my path.  By "thing", I mean a good thing!  I was a little skeptical when my lady boss said that she had a good feeling that we'll work along very well.  Maybe because I was going into a new field?  Maybe because I will be working mainly in medical settings?  Maybe...?  There may be a lot of "maybes", but I did it anyway.  I've taken a course, I've drilled myself in medical procedures and terminology, and also on what being a professional medical interpreter means.  It can be hectic sometimes, but so far, I like it!  Even though there are days when I felt that I could've done better, could've been better, deep down, I know that even just a little, I'm contributing to my community.  And I like that!  I've got this skill that can be applied in this way to serve my community, so why not?  But, on the downside, that means weekly drilling of medical terminologies and procedural names so that I can be better at what I'm doing.  Good way to keep my brain going I suppose.  And a very good way to bring back all that Chinese language skills that I have into tip-top shape.  YAY!

So, that's what's up with me as of late.  And finally I'm able to get a better foothold of my schedule and come back to my little blog.  Yes, I HAVE been playing with my food.  Still am, and probably always will.  I have been cooking, baking, and having fun in my kitchen, I just didn't have enough time to put everything together and present them out to the world.

Thus far, it seems like nothing's related to the title of this post "Of Cherries and Pears".  Sure does seem like it huh?  Fear not!  This is just the beginning.  *wink*  What's coming in the next couple posts will be cherries and pears related.  I'm SO excited!  I'm in love with cherries this season.  Bing, rainier, montgomery, or marachino, I love em all!  And pears, I have this little secret love for pears.  Umm hmm.  Yup!  I will be sharing a pear preserve recipe and what to do with leftover chocolate cake layers and some cherries.  How did I end up with a leftover chocolate cake layer?  Well... here's why...

Black Forest Cake!  My all time favorite...  Now I'm craving again.  *sigh*  I'm hopeless.  Hopelessly addicted to this little baby.  Now this?  I'm not so great at it yet, and my measurements are sorta in the trial and error stage, without any proper measurements, so I won't be a good source for this recipe for a while at least.  Meanwhile, I leave all of you with a beautiful photo auf Palais im Der Großer Garten (of Palace in the Grosser Garden) und Guten Tag!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Red & White: Strawberry Crepe Rolls and Aid for Japan

This past week, me and darling hubby checked CNN and BBC on a daily basis to follow the crisis in Japan.  Sometimes we even checked the news a few times a day.  My mom asked me if I still kept our Japanese friend's contact information.  I managed to reach one of them in Yokohama and knew that he was fine.  It was then that I wished that I had kept in touch with every single one of them, that I updated their phone numbers.  I didn't and I wish that I did.  For days I felt helpless.  You know that feeling that you wish you could do more although you're so but one person?  

Spring is almost here and Japanese Cherry Blossoms will be flowering soon, but what will be in the people's thoughts this year, I wonder?

While we have enough to eat and drink,
In our hearts -
Are those who do not.
While we are surrounded by families and friends,
In our prayers -
Are those whom you have lost.

I would like to dedicate this post to my friends in Japan.  I'm not even sure if all of you are alright and safe, but here's to all of you, your friends, your families, and your fellow country men and women.  Most of us can't be there in person to help, but know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

There are plenty of ways in which many of us can lend a hand.  Times are tough for many of us, but I think right now, many Japanese who've lost their homes, work places, and most importantly, their families, are having a tougher time than we do.  I have given some, but through this blog, I am hoping that I can help even more.  Many groups and corporations have donation pages where you can donate to the charities that are currently helping in Japan.  Below are some links where you can help.

Some of the charities in the list:  American Humane Association, Doctors without Borders, International Medical Corps, The Salvation Army in Japan, IFRC, and UNICEF

Helene of Tartelette is selling her prints through her etsy's shop to help the effort in Japan.  Her photos are just wonderfully beautiful.  
"For each of my prints purchased through my etsy shop, I will donate $20 of its amount to the Red Cross for Japan.  ~ Tartelette"

For everyone who have clicked on the links or donated or helped in any forms, a big THANK YOU!!! from the bottom of my heart.  For everyone who have sent a little prayer to them, another big THANK YOU!!!  I have little to thank you but my words and my recipes, and I will do my best to keep posting and hoping that they're good enough.

1- When selecting strawberries, look for deeper colored ones with as little white areas around the top.
2- The crepe is made with a pancake recipe that's slightly modified from my grandmother's.
3- If you prefer, use half-and-half or whipped cream, instead of heavy cream.
4- Slice the strawberries as thinly as you can with a sharp knife, this will help the rolling part of the recipe.  Be careful when slicing, wear rubber gloves if you are new or not familiar to slicing food very thinly.
5- If you prefer, substitute cranberry jam with strawberry jam or raspberry jam.  I'm only using cranberry just because I have that on hand.
6- When pan-frying the crepe, do not worry about not having a perfect circle, it'll still look wonderful.

Strawberry Crepe Rolls
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg
pinch of salt
water (about 1-1/2 cup)
butter for pan frying (about 3 tbsp)
1 cup strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup cranberry jam

Combine flour, sugar, salt, and egg in a 2-cup measuring cup.
Then fill the measuring cup with water to the 2-cup line.
Whisk and combine well.
Heat up a frying pan over medium heat with a little butter.
When the butter has melted and started bubbling a little, pour some crepe batter into the pan (about 1/4 cup).
Tilt the pan around so that the batter forms a rough circle.
Fry until the edge is lightly browned and crisped.
Repeat the frying until all batter has been used up.
Smear a very thin layer of jam over half of the crepe.
Place the strawberries over the jam in a thin layer.
Drizzle over with about a teaspoon of heavy cream.
Fold the crepe into half along the jam line.
Smear another thin layer of jam on the crepe.
Place another thin layer of strawberries over the jam.
Drizzle another teaspoon of heavy cream over the strawberries.
Then, starting at one corner, slowly roll up the crepe.
Repeat until all strawberries and crepes have been used up.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Smoked Mozzarella Toast Breakfast

One of my favorite places to shop for groceries is Sunflower Market.  It used to be the place I shop for tidbits like dried apricots or peanut butter filled pretzels.  However, since I've been in charge of my own kitchen, it became the place I shop for cheap and fresh fruits.  Strawberries has been on sale for two weeks in a row.  I couldn't help getting a couple pounds of those babies of course.  One special spot I love to linger around looking for new finds is the cheese section.  They have a small basket filled with small leftover chunks of cheeses.  It is here that I found smoked mozzarella.  

I've always loved mozzarella, but smoked mozzarella was a first for me.  It was smoky, with a slightly browned outer layer.  Texture-wise it is similar to fresh mozzarella, except it's slightly more yellowish and has a full smoky flavor.  It lingered in my fridge for a couple of days, waiting for me to slice it up and do something with it.  I wanted to do something with it and strawberries, so here's my little adventure with it.  The result was a toast with crunchy sides and smoky, melty-cheesy center, accentuated with the sweetness of tomatoes and strawberries.

1- When selecting strawberries, look for deeper colored ones with as little white areas around the top.
2- I used white bread slices, just because I had some that needs to be finished.  Whole wheat works just as great.
3- I served the toast along with a slice of smoked mozzarella on sunny-side-up egg, sauteed mushrooms, and tomato slices.  You decide what works for you :D
4- If you do now own a rolling pin, use the flat side of a big serving plate, or a big bottle works too.

Smoked Mozzarella Toast Breakfast

~1/4-lb smoked mozzarella, sliced
2 strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
4-6 slices of bread, crust removed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 roma tomato, sliced

Place a slice of bread on a flat surface and roll to flatten with a rolling pin.
Repeat to flatten all slices of breads.
Lightly brush the flattened bread with olive oil, and pan fry til lightly browned.
Place a slice of tomato over the center of the bread, then a slice of mozzarella, followed by a couple slices of strawberries.
Place the bread slices on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil.
Place the tray in the oven under low broiler setting for about 3 minutes or until cheese is slightly melted.
Serve while the toast is warm.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pan-fried Glutinous Rice Cake Fans (Nian Gao/Tnee Kueh)

First of all, to all a belated
新的一年新的希望, 新的开始,新的展向
身体健康 龙马精神

This year, we celebrated Chinese New Year in Arizona with our family and friends who are living there.  As usual, I visited my aunt, and received glutinous rice cake as a gift.  Glutinous rice cake is made of glutinous rice flour.  In the olden days, they would actually have to soak the rice over night, then grind it the next day into a fine flour, or take it to the mill to be grounded, before making this sticky cake.  This is the Vietnamese version of glutinous rice cake, which I was not used to when I first moved to the States.  That's because my grandma used to make it herself and hers came out like bricks of dark, caramel colored jewels.  Oh, did I mention it always smells so, so wonderful when she's making em?  Oh, those good ol' days...

Having been gifted with a round of glutinous rice cake, I decided to do what my aunts do, pan-fry it with egg.  It's simple, it's sweet and slightly salty, it's chewy, and it's delicious too, although different from my grandma's.  And here's how...

1- Any shape is great, just slice it about 1/4-inch thick so it doesn't have to cook as long.
2- Eat it while it's warm, because it won't be as chewy when it's cold.

Pan-Fried Glutinous Rice Cake Fans

Glutinous rice cake, sliced into 1/4-inch thick, and slightly triangular in shape
1 egg
Pinch of salt
A little oil for pan-frying (about 1-2 tbsp)

Heat some oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat.
While the pan is heating up, break an egg in a small bowl and lightly beat with a pinch of salt.
Dip and cover the glutinous rice cake slices in egg, and place in the hot frying pan.
Turn the glutinous rice cake slices over in the pan about 30 seconds later.
It is ready when the egg looks golden brown and the glutinous rice cake slices are soft and bounces back when you poke it with your spatula.
Serve hot!

Happy Chinese New Year again to all, and best of wishes to everyone in the coming year!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cranberry Sauce and Swedish Meatballs

We don't have cable TV at home.  Yup, we only watched four out of over 50 channels:   Discovery Channel, Food Channel, History Channel, and National Geographic Channel.  On top of that, the only time we watch TV is probably around meal time.  So we've cut off cable service.  Since then, PBS and Create are almost permanently on our TV when its on.  Well, except when we're watching our favorite dramas at night or during World Cup season.  hehe...  Anyway, when I was tuning in to Create one morning, I saw this lady making Swedish meatballs.  My mind instantly skidded to a halt in front of the blue and yellow building of Ikea.  Sadly, there are no Ikeas in Colorado, but not for long though.... heeeeh!  A new Ikea is coming to town this fall.  Yay!

Now, I haven't had Swedish meatballs for quite a while now, and was just missing it quite a bit.  The show must have read my mind.  Seriously!  Although, I must say that as I was getting ready to jot down the ingredients they used, I realized that the ingredients were (to me) "some" this and "a little" that.  I gave up trying to write anything down, and went online instead to look up some recipes.  I did finish watching the show to learn the basic process and techniques used for the dish.  After comparing some online recipes, I decided on Scandinavian Cooking's recipe.

Now, the other dilemma I had, was the sauce.  I like pairing the meatballs with lingonberry sauce.  Again, sadly, no Ikea, thus no lingonberry sauce.  sigh...  I was almost giving up and going to make a brown sauce for it instead, when Eureka!  Cranberries!  Cranberries went on sale after new year and I got a bag of it sitting in my fridge.  Gave myself a little imaginary pat on the back, and went straight to the kitchen, feeling pretty happy with myself.  Maybe even humming a happy little tune on the way down the staircase...

1- You can either choose to pan fry it or oven bake the meatballs.  According to Scandinavian Cooking's article, pan frying will give you a "better result".  I baked them this time, and it came out pretty alright.
2- If you are baking, remember to adjust your baking time to complement your meatball size.  I made two batches, the first batch was about 1-1/4" in diameter and the second batch was smaller at about 3/4" diameter.  The first batch came out okay at about 13 minutes in the oven.  While the second batch, came out too dry because I forgot to readjust the baking time.
3- If you made too much, just freeze them up and save them in airtight containers or ziplock bags.  Heat up the meatballs when you need some Scandinavian Cooking suggests that the meatballs be reheated for 10-15 minutes at 375°F "in a single layer on an ungreased rimmed baking sheet".
4- Certain recipes will call for a mix of beef, pork, and/or veal.  You can decide on the types of mixture you prefer.  However, this meatball recipe is supposed to be quite tender.  So I would suggest trying to avoid using meats that are too lean.  
5- Using fresh bread as filler gives a pretty good result, so if you have some fresh breads, use those if you have them, otherwise, bread crumbs, flour, or mashed potatoes works too.
6- When baking, use a baking tray with rims, not baking sheets, because there will be some liquid bubbling out during the baking process.
6- If you're making them at the same time, start with the cranberry sauce, and while it's simmering and cooling down, make the meatballs.

Swedish Meatballs (slightly adapted from this recipe)

1lb minced meat (pork, beef, and/or veal)
1 egg
1/2 cup half and half (milk, cream, or water is also fine)
1 cup torn bread or mashed potatoes, or 1/2 cup bread crumbs or all purpose flour
pinch of salt and pepper to taste
1/2 onion, finely minced
mustard to taste (about 1/8 tsp)

Mix all ingredients together until well-mixed, then form into balls of about 1-1/2 inch diameter.
Pan fry over medium high heat in a little oil until browned on all sides.
Place the meatballs about 1 to 1-1/2 inch apart on parchment lined baking tray, and bake in 450°F oven for about 13 minutes.

Cranberry Sauce

1 bag  (12 oz) cranberries
1-3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cinnamon stick (~2 inches long)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Rinds and juice from 1 orange
Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan.
Boil over medium high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until thickened.
Remove from heat and cool on cooling rack.

Enjoy and hopefully you'll enjoy this recipe as much as I did ^.^

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bak Kwa - Chinese BBQ Pork

[Updated on Feb 16, 2011:  Updated final baking time, see below
After making over 10 lb of bak kwa this past CNY, and having a chance to bake it at a friend's apartment as well, I had some enlightenment and realized that a couple more tips are in order as well as a slight change in baking time might yield better results.  The updates are all in light plum color and in italics. ]

Darling hubby and I proudly love our bak kwa.  Bak Kwa, Bak Kua, Chinese BBQ Pork, Chinese Pork Jerky, Yoke Gone, Rou Gan, Lung Yuk... Regardless of what you call it, its fragrance and flavor is addictive.  Its slightly sweet, slightly salty, moist yet chewy texture is nicely complemented by the addition of Chinese Rose Cooking Wine, 玫瑰露 (Mei Gui Lu or Mei Kuei Lu).

It has always been a luxury item.  At least it has always been so for me.  Although the ingredients are simple, the traditional process of making this delicacy is long and arduous.  My mom made it once when I was quite young.  I remembered helping her take it out to sun-dry, and retrieving it before it rains or when the sun sets.  Okay okay, grandma did most of that.  For days, this continued, until finally, she dragged out the charcoal and started BBQ-ing it.  Oh, it smelled heavenly!  Did I mention that she spent hours bbq-ing the batch?

Years after that, being in the States, bak kwa is hard to come by.  If you are lucky enough to find it in the Asian grocery store, be prepared to pay a high price for a few slices.  Being me, I did not have the heart to spend my hard earned money on just a few slices of this.  Thus, many of my day dreams consisted of bak kwa.

It wasn't until recently that a friend told me of a simple recipe that does not include days of sun-drying and hours of barbequeing.  Wooohoo!  The madness begins...  I made a few alterations from the original recipe(s) though.  

1- The original recipe calls for cooking wine, but I remembered my mom using Mei Gui Lu.  It was that distinctive flavor of this particular chinese cooking wine that made the pork taste and smell so good.  So if you can find Mei Gui Lu, by all means, use it.  Otherwise, you can also substitute with any chinese cooking wine you have.
2- The original recipe called for plastic sheets or cling wrap to roll or press the meat down into a thin layer.  But I find using a spoon to do it was just as easy, less of a waste, and less things to clean.  (a big YES from me)
3- The original recipe used a pair of chopsticks to stir, but hey, I just used a spoon, it works too.  Again, less things to wash.  Yay!
4- Both Little Corner of Mine and Tazz in the Kitchen insisted that aluminum foils not be used because the meat will stick to it.  I followed the words of the wise, and so, no aluminum foils :)
5- Where I live, the weather is rather dry, and this dries out the cooked meat pretty quickly.  So an airtight container or cling wraps are helpful here.
6- My first batch dirtied my oven like nothing else did.  It bubbled over.  So for the rest of the batches, I used a slightly larger sheet of parchment paper and stapled the corners up.  This seemed to work really well so far.
7- Depending on your oven, you might need slightly different baking time, do adjust slightly if you need to.
8- Try baking the trays in the middle of the oven, in one layer.  If that is not possible, do watch the trays, and switch the upper and lower trays around during the last 7 minutes of baking so that they brown more evenly.
9- If you managed to procure minced meat with more fat content, do omit or reduce the amount of oil used.  The minced meat I find at my local stores are rather lean, that was why I added oil to up the oil content.

Bak Kwa (Adapted from Little Corner of Mine and Tazz in the Kitchen)

1 lb. minced pork
1-1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rose cooking wine (Mei Gui Lu)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp oil

Line two medium sized baking sheet with parchment papers.
Place all ingredients in a big mixing bowl.
Stir with a spoon or pair of chopstick in one direction until gluey or well mixed.
Preheat oven to 255°F (125°C).
Spoon half of the meat mixture into each baking sheet.
Using the spoon, gently press on the meat until it is consistently about 1/8-inch thick.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Switch the oven temperature up to 355°F (180°C).
Continue to bake for about 15 minutes.
Retrieve the trays from the oven, and with the help of a pair of scissors and tongs, cut the meat from each tray into 6-8 pieces.
Flip the meat over (so that it bakes more evenly on both sides) and bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove trays from the oven and cool slightly, then immediately store in an airtight container or cover with clingwrap.
While the oven is heating up to 355°F (180°C), proceed to cut the meat to the size you prefer, and flip it over so that the initial side that was facing upwards (rough side), is now facing down.
When the oven has reached 355°F (180°C), bake for about 8 minutes.
Then retrieve and flip it so that the rough side is now facing upwards.
Continue to bake for another 7 minutes or so, watching the batch for the last 3-4 minutes.
Remove trays from the oven and cool slightly, then immediately store in an airtight container or cover with clingwrap.]

Enjoy and hopefully this saves you tons of money!!  And if you tried making it and made any alterations that you love, I'd love to hear from you.  :)