December 28, 2008

Santa Claus Cake!

Hello! I hope everyone had a very excellent Christmas last week, with lots of food, laughter, and love. Did you get a lot of presents? It snowed in Boston a few days before Xmas come, so the 'white Christmas' was ruined by all the cars making puddles and dirty snow. :( And it became icy too.

I didn't do much, and didn't make this cake until the day after Christmas really. That wasn't laziness, I planned it that way. ^-^

Anyway, this cake has been on my "To-Bake List" forever, since I first saw it here. I was waiting so long for Xmas to come to bake it!

In the demo video, the instruction said to use white chocolate curls for the beard, but I don't have any white chocolate on hand. It would be weird for Santa to have a milk chocolate beard! That's why I used whipped cream for the beard too. It kinda looks like a scruffy beard. ^o^

What's different about this cake (from the regular recipe I use) is that this time I added orange zest to the cake batter, to lighten the flavor up more. It does taste good! I also added a thin layer of chopped milk and dark chocolate on top of the strawberries and cream filling.
Yay! Cake for lunch!! Yum yum!

Someone made a big mess in the kitchen! Booo!

December 24, 2008

Whole Wheat Honey Yogurt Loaf

100% Whole Wheat Bread

I'm so excited! I finally found a recipe that is a soft 100% whole wheat. A bread that is not hard as a brick after a few days! This one is very soft, like store-bought breads, except without all the artificial things.

One thing that I regretted doing the most when baking this bread was the decorative braiding on top. When it came of the oven... it reminded me of hair too much. But when I sliced it, the slices look better! Phew! :) This would be my go-to recipe when I want to bake a whole wheat bread, and a recipe that I'll play with more too.

The recipe below is my adapted recipe from this adapted recipe here. You can experiment, and make changes to get the texture of the bread that you like.

Whole Wheat Honey Yogurt Bread

400g whole wheat flour

1 beaten egg

94g vanilla yogurt (a bit less than 1/2 cup)*

6 oz whole milk (180mL or about 3/4 cup)
40g honey (about... 1/4 cup honey)

1 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

2 tbs vital wheat gluten
(see photo at the end)

(*Note: I used plain European-style yogurt from TJ's, thinking it'd give the bread more flavor from the sourness.)


1. In a very large bowl, combine flour with salt and vital wheat gluten. Mix well, then add in yeast.

2. In another bowl, warm up the milk a bit- warm to the touch, not boiling. Then add in honey, yogurt, and beaten egg. 3. Combine the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix well and knead it for about 10-15 minutes. It'll be a sticky dough, but try kneading it. Add the olive oil on top of the dough at this point, and it'll help make the kneading to be easier. Or, you can also add the olive oil to your hand and this will also help you knead easier- less sticky dough.

4. After kneading, put a plastic wrap on top of the bowl (or you can also put the dough in a big oiled container with a lid, like a Tupperware.) Place the dough in the fridge overnight- about 8-12 hours.

5. The next day, take the dough out and let it come to room temperature (About 1 0r 2 hours). Then punch down the dough and spread it out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Give it a business letter fold first, follow by another business letter fold.

6. Oil your loaf pan to make sure it doesn't stick. Then gently shape your dough into an oblong shape and place it in the loaf pan. (Another way of forming the loaf bread is to divide the dough in half and shape each half into a long rolls and place each roll side by side in the loaf pan. When baked, it'll appear to have a slit in the middle.

7. Oil the top of the dough a little and cover with a plastic wrap. Or you can also spray the plastic wrap and place it on top of the dough. Let the dough rise until it goes over the top of the loaf pan a bit. But when the dough has almost risen to the top, preheat the oven to 375F.

8. Boil some water and pour that in a large oven safe pan (up to about 1/3 inch of pan). Place the loaf pan in the larger tray with boiling water and bake for around 35-40 minutes on the middle rack. Remove the tray that is underneath the loaf pan in the last 15 mins of baking. The tray of water is there to create steam, to give the loaf a crusty top. Tent the bread with an aluminum foil if the bread is browning too much.

9. Carefully take bread of oven and let it cool on a cooling rack completely (about 1 hr) before slicing.

Box of Vital Wheat Gluten

I know I lack some photos in the directions, but it is hard taking photos with sticky-doughy hands. I tried to keep one hand clean to take photos, but somehow both hands were sticky with dough and flour in the end.

December 18, 2008

Hurrying = Bad Cake Decorating

This was a birthday cake for my sister back in November. I was busy the whole day and didn't have much time to decorate the cake- no writing name, no candles, no pretty decorations... The peaches were also laid out half-thought through.

Overall, everyone loved it because the inside had a thick layer of durian. I used twice the amount of durian I'd normally use. Yum yum. Well, almost everyone. One of my nephews ran up afterward to put in a request for the next cake: NO durian. ^_^

My only disappointment was that the kiwis I bought did not ripe in time. They were still sour. I wish I had some sweet strawberries like in the summer. Le sigh...

December 17, 2008

Bunny Bread

I made this awhile ago... Being in a hurry, I didn't shape the bunny ears very well.

November 29, 2008

Dried Bamboo Shoots Soup

You can actually eat this with either noodles or rice. I prefer noodles. Good with egg noodles, big flat noodles, or thin rice noodles. There are few ingredients in this soup, only dried bamboo shoots, soft tofu, and scallions.

November 28, 2008

Masala Chickpea Burger

What should I cook? What should I cook?? I want to make chana masala, but I'm also in the mood for a veggie burger too!

Let's combine the two together, and make a very spicy masala chickpea burger! I used all the spices that'd go into a chana masala- coriander, ginger, turmeric, chillies, chili flakes, garam masala, cumin, garlic, paprika, and amchoor powder! Wow! That is a lot of spice. You can make this if you have the spices available already in your/your friend's cabinet. ^-^

Spicy Chickpeas Masala Burger

1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas (TJ's brand or any kind)
1/2 cup of chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup small diced celery
1 egg
1/2 red onion, diced
1 inch of ginger- minced/small diced
1 or 2 toasted bread slices (whole wheat) OR 3/4 cup toasted bread crumbs

Spices: salt, pepper, chili flakes chopped green chilies a splash of olive oil 2 tsp garlic powder a little coriander, 2-3 tsp of cumin 1 tsp turmeric 1 1/2 amchoor powder 2 tsp paprika garam masala- to taste- i put a lot, and didn't measure.

poppy seeds
buns/bread slices

Topping ideas: Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced onions, Sriracha, hummus

1. Put the following in a blender/food processor: chickpeas, bread crumbs, egg, splash of olive oil and all the spices. Blend together until it is a chunky hummus. (Be careful not to over blend, like I did.)*

2. Scoop out chickpea mixture into a big bowl and stir in chopped parsley, celery, ginger, and onion.

3. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and also put some poppy seeds out on a large plate. Then divide the chickpea mixture into burger-size portions and form into patties. Put the patties on the poppy seeds and encrust both sides with the seeds before frying in a pan.

4. Cook for about 6-8 minutes on each side, until the chickpea burgers brown. Check occasionally. Slide out on a plate. Toast up buns and spread them with a tangy hummus. Add the chickpea burger and top each with sliced onions and tomatoes, or anything you like.

5. Enjoy immediately :D

November 17, 2008

Dinner: Braised Smelt and Stir Fried Gai-lan

Braised smelt in caramel sauce.

This is a savory caramel sauce, not the sweet kind that you usually associate with. The caramel adds a depth of flavor to any Vietnamese braised meat or fish dishes. I don't like smelt, because the fish breaks up too easily during cooking and there's too many tiny bones in it to eat. These were cooked with ginger, garlic, chili and fish sauce too. And you eat these with rice!

Pork and gai-lan stir fried.

November 14, 2008

Milky Adzuki Bean Dessert

Adzuki beans with seaweed and red jujubes in lightly sweetened soymilk. I heart adzuki bean desserts.

November 13, 2008

Braised Bitter Melon, Tofu, and Plantains(!)

I love bitter melon, I love tofu, and I love plantains! So, why not the three together in a pot?

It's actually very good, with the right seasonings, by yours truly. :D The key is to choose a slightly ripe, but not too ripe, plantain. This way, it'll not be mushy in the pot.

Critusy Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This wasn't a cake I set out to make. I just happened to have a large amount of fresh pineapple at home. Never having a pineapple upside-down cake before, I don't really know which recipes are good and which are not. I found one on the Epicurious website that look pretty good. And what's exxtrrraa good about it is that Smitten Kitchen also did the same thing. I can see how other people like it then.

I know I don't like the cake very sweet, so I reduced the amount from one cup to a half cup, and it was really perfect for me. And since I don't have any cardamon on hand, I substituted it a teaspoon of cinnamon. It was silly of me, because after mixing in the cinnamon and being busy with other things, I saw brown specks in my flour and wonder what they are. Cinnamon!

However, I figured, cinnamon alone might be a bit boring. Hence, I added the zest of an orange and it really made this cake flavorful and fresh.

The pineapple pieces are caramelized in a pan with some sugar and a teeny bit of water separately before arranging in the cake pan. That's why it's more of a golden color, and this also avoided using lots of butter too. Sweet and sour, and so good. ^-^

Oh yeah, no rum in this cake. (-___-)Booooo. The kids have to eat too.

November 11, 2008

Crispy Warm Beans and Spinach

One of the simpliest, and best side dishes ever. All you have to do is boil some beans until soft (ahead of time), drain them, and crispy them up in a pan with a bit of olive oil. This recipe is versatile too! Use any greens you like. The original recipe called for kale, but I only had baby spinach on hand.

I like to season it a bit- with garlic powder (or fresh garlic in hot oil), salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Just don't add any sauce of any kind. That would make the beans soggy. You can add an herb too, if you like. But it's sooooo good simply with some rice, and maybe a fried egg? ^-^

It is the texture that make this dish good. The beans become crispy on the outside, yet warm and soft on the inside. Crispy bits of beans also break off and cling on to the spinach. I think a drizzling of toasted sesame seed oil at the end would make it good too, but I didn't do that last time. Try it out!

November 10, 2008

Three Humps Bread

Whole wheat bread studded with sunflower seeds throughout and sesame seeds on top.
(This whole wheat is not a hard doorstop. Yay!)

Bread proofing up before the bake.

I think this a good bread, except it's a little too big to fit in someone's Pop-Up Toaster. :-( It's fine in my toaster oven. :D

When I'm done with this bag of sunflower seeds I have, I'll make walnut bread! That is, if the walnuts don't end up in my banana bread again. Or, perhaps a walnut cookie request from someone?

November 9, 2008

Soft Pretzels


I love pretzels! Yes, these may look like some weird twisted buns, but this was my first attempt at making pretzels! Yay! I'll have to practice my rolling skills. The ones above are scallion-ginger pretzels (in the dough, as well as on top of the dough itself.) I topped some with chili flakes, hoping for a spicy kick, but I guess I need to dip them in mustard or Sriracha to taste something spicy.I also made some miniature normal pretzels too, below. These have an egg wash and then topped with sea salt. I think I may have sprinkled on the salt too much, because I scrapped off some on top when eating. These are good chewy soft pretzels- definitely a recipe keeper. What I would change is using less baking soda in the poaching water.

Since I also tested a few pretzels with cinnamon sugar on top, I learned a very important matter... that is to put the cinnamon-sugar after the baking, after brushing on yummy melted butter. Because my sugar was almost burnt. ( ̄〜 ̄) Hehe
So if you have a free afternoon, make some pretzels! I made the dough a night ahead, and kept refrigerated. One thing you need to remember is to use less yeast. Because the yeast would eat up all the food and wouldn't make your dough rise the next day. I'd say, use 1/2 of the yeast called for, and stick the dough in the fridge. The long fermentation would actually make the dough taste better.

I wish I have some pretzels now, but I gave them all away. (` - _ -` )

November 8, 2008

Squared Quinoa Bread

I don't think my family like quinoa. Yes, it's very healthy and has a complete set of protein and all that. But I bought a small box of the stuff since last year, and we haven't touched it much. So where is it gonna end up? In my bread! Quinoa Bread!

As you can see, there is that same reincarnation of sunflower seeds in this bread. Well, only sprinkled on top. I have a whole bagful of sunflower seeds left. ^_^ The inside is whole wheat flour and cooked quinoa.
I was going to buy a pullman loaf pan, to make perfectly squared bread, but this one came out that way. Almost squared though. That's because the quinoa caused it to be dense and didn't rise much. Next time, I'll soak the grains and add it to the bread uncooked.

The bread tasted fine, after toasting up and with a good slathering of hummus. (+_+)

November 6, 2008

Turtle Bread!

100% Whole wheat turtle bread. I used dried currants for the eyes, because they're smaller and cuter as eyes than raisins. ^_^ But I need a sharper razor to score the lines for the shell. It didn't come out very well.

November 5, 2008

Braised Pork, Pork Belly, More Pork, and Eggs

Another go at the braised pork in coconut juice for dinner! Well, it's been a while since I made this again. Partly, because I've been busy and lazy. You have to simmer for a very long time for the flavors to come together, and the meat to be very tender. The pork is braised in coconut juice with spices like star anise, chinese five spice powder, garlic, and ginger. The eggs go in the pot towards the end, and will take on a caramelized color. You eat this with rice and a crisp salad (lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and mints).

November 2, 2008

Too Cheesy??

The Spicy 'Chi Heart Pizza- Kimchi Pizza!

Heart shaped is kinda cheesy, but I liked it! I've read a lot on the internet, and apparently, a great combination is pepperoni and kimchi on pizza. Pork goes with everything! :-(

Instead of kimchi alone, I put some crispy veggie ham and sauteed onions to give the pizza more flavor. The sauce is mixture of several different HOT hot sauces and some tomato sauce. However, thinking it over the next day, I thought it might be good to have some pickles on it. Weird, but it needs a sour or salty taste to go along with the spiciness. And some more herbs too. A kimchi pizza do over is in order, I guess!
Breakfast Egg Pizza

Second pizza that night- runny eggs, red bell peppers, chile flakes, corn, cheese, and green onions.

This is my favorite out of the two! Maybe it could use some more eggs. Maybe the kimchi pizza could have used an egg or two, too.^o^

October 31, 2008

Lunch: Curried Cauliflower and Tofu

Cauliflower tends to be bland, so not many people like it... :( That's why you gotta season the heck out of it to make it tasty! I love just sautéing cauliflower with some curry powder, chili flakes and spices to make it tasty and healthy. You don't need to deep fry it, although a veggie tempura would be good too. The important thing is not to cook it to a mushy death. Keep it crisp!

I always think that if a cauliflower head and a broccoli head were to battle each other on the nutritional level, the broccoli would win. Broccoli just seems more powerful and almighty. But cauliflower is very nutritious too!

Low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, and possessing a very high nutritional density (whatever that means).
Lunching with some rice, cauliflower, and crispy lettuce.

October 28, 2008

A Summery Vermicelli Dish

Damn! Forgot the peanuts! (-____-)

I don't know which I prefer eating- soup noodles (pho) or dry vermicelli (bun). Both is really popular in Vietnamese cuisine. I guess it depends on the weather really. In the summer, I don't pho as much, and would prefer the cooler and more refreshing dry noodle dish.

Dry vermicelli is usually eaten with grilled meats, herbs, cucumbers, and a diluted seasoned fish sauce. This is vegetarian version I made is with stir fried jicama, fried tofu, cucumbers, herbs, and spicy soy sauce.

This dish is like an unrolled version of a summer roll. ^-^ So, if you have rice paper, roll it up!

Choose your sauce!

October 27, 2008

Sunflower Seed Oat Bread

The story behind this bread is very simple, and kind of silly too. I really love sunflower seed bread, and the only good place I know where to get it from is Clear Flour Bread in Brookline, MA. They have an excellent bread called Organic Vollkornbrot (a German bread). This bread has tons of sunflower seed in it, which I LOVE. However, the bread is made with rye meal, which I HATE. So, it's basically a rye bread studded with s-seeds.

I want a whole wheat version instead. Just like the Vollkornbrot, I put lots of sunflower seeds in mine too, along with Irish steal cut oatmeal, to give it a rustic nutty flavor. This is a really dense and earthy bread.

But if you're wondering why my bread is kind of short, that's because I split the dough for one bread into two. I prefer having a higher ratio of crust to crumb for this bread because the crust is really good.

Sunflower Seed Oat Bread- great as toast strips for slathering on tangy horseradish hummus or dunking in stews. Or with some cheese, perhaps? (*^__^*))

October 24, 2008

Spicy Tomato Chicken Stew

  • olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into small pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled, cut into small pieces
  • 1 small onion, medium diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14 oz) can low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • 3 boned chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1 package (8 oz.) thawed frozen artichoke hearts, quartered if large**
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces**
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Red chile flakes, to taste
  • Crusty bread

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken in a single layer and cook, turning once, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a plate.

2. Reduce heat to medium and add in about 2 tsp more of olive oil. Add garlic first, then onion, celery and carrot and stir just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme and simmer, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, about 3 minutes. Add broth and chicken and return to a simmer. Lower heat slightly to maintain simmer, cover, and cook 25 minutes. Turn the chicken over half way and stir the mixture occasionally.

3. Take the chicken out after 25 minutes and let cool a bit. Discard bay leaf. Add in artichokes. Shred or cut the chicken into bite- size pieces. Return the chicken meat to the stew and stir in basil. Bring the stew to a simmer. Season with salt, pepper and chili flakes, to taste.

Serve with some crusty hearty bread.

** Optional:
If you don't like artichokes, you can use 1 (15oz) can of organic kidney beans instead. If you don't have basil, substitute with 1/2 a cup of flat-leaf parsley chopped.

October 22, 2008

Banana Nutella Cake

I love the combination of banana and Nutella. (I went through a phase of eating all nutella-banana sandwiches for breakfast and lunch one semester in college. But that's another story!)
So why not make a banana Nutella cake?

It was really hard to resist swirling in lots of Nutella because it's so good. I love eating through this cake- bits of crunchy walnuts, wonderful banana flavor and melty Nutella all through out.
This cake was topped with banana slices too, and as the cake baked, the bananas caramelized as well. When the cake was done baking, the top was not that brown, so I sprinkled on some sugar and put it back under the broiler for a minute or two. I love the crunchy sugary bits on top.

And each slice will get a piece of banana too!

Banana bread is one of my favorite things to bake because it makes the house smell so good! So if you need to freshen up your house, bake something! Don't use artificial Febreze! ^_^

(Not that my house smelled bad from durian or anything... :D )

October 21, 2008

A Sesame Cookie and Its Mutations

I was reading through several blogs, to find something that would be nice and easy to bake. Cookies! Awesome! The weather is cold, so I'll make sesame cookies! This recipe looked good and very easy too.

Well, the batter was a mess. It was too liquidy, so I started adding a bit more flour, and then started adding oats. Thinking, hey, I'll just turn them into oatmeal cookies anyway. Those are always good. The batter thickened, and I thought it'll be all good and done. Until I poured it onto the baking sheet. Damn, still too liquidy!

I decided to bake that messy batch anyway. About 20 minutes or so later, out comes....

Sesame oatmeal flakes! And they were awesome! So thin and crispy on the outside, yet chewy in the center.

Too bad I decided against baking any more of the liquid mess, or else I'd have more of these giant flake cookies. :(

I added more flour and sesame seeds to make one tray of sesame seed cookies. And these still came out very tasty.

Then I thought to myself- I still want oatmeal cookies! Hence, I added more oatmeal and bits of chopped chocolate into the now thickened batter. The sesame seeds on top of the oatmeal were sprinkled on to make 'em look nice. :D

And someone was enjoying lots of cookies in the end... ^_^

(Shhh.... I'm not sneaking away cookies Auntie! ^o^*)