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^*)

October 20, 2008

Lunch: Peanut Buttered Tofu and Long beans

Spicy sauteed long beans with carrots and peppers.

I like cooking them with lots of chilies and garlic, and another version with shrimp paste. They're crisp and tender when eaten young, which is what you should be looking for when shopping for them. The Chinese long bean, also known as the yardlong bean, is actually only about half a yard long.

Heheh.. Such a messy bowl. This is fried tofu in peanut butter sauce (nothing special). Hey, I kind like it... Eat with some noodles or rice.

October 19, 2008

Homemade Kimchi

Even my 3-yr old niece knows what this is.

Today, when I asked her, "Liz, what is this? You know?"

In a squeaky voice, she said: "KiM-CHEEEEE!!!"

Auntie: "Can you eat kimchi?"

Liz: "No! Hot! Too hot!!" ^-^


You can buy kimchi in Korean stores, but it's so easy and cheap to make.
And as spicy as you want it!

So you know what's gonna come out of this?

Hmm... Kimchi pizza, anyone? ^_^

October 16, 2008

Meringue Cookies

These may be the best cookies ever for me. They are light, airy, and SO easy to make. If you want to impress someone and bake him or her cookies, definitely make meringue cookies.

All you need to do is whip up egg whites with a bit of cream of tartar and powdered sugar until stiffed. That's it! Then you can add any flavoring you want. Here's a recipe that tells you about the basic technique of making meringue cookies. Most recipes call for 1/4 cup of sugar for each egg white, but I find that to be a bit too sweet. Maybe it's just with the additional chocolate chips that I mixed in. Experiment and see what you like.

Above is a green tea meringue cookies that I made, though you can't really see the green matcha tint. A few of them I topped with sesame seeds and nuts, and some I topped with raspberry jam. The jam was a bad idea! It deflated the meringues as it melted down into a puddle. :( See why the cookies are flat?!

Below is my meringue with chocolate chips and nuts. These were very good, my favorite out of the two. My nephew loved both and asked for more the next day, even though I hated the green tea version. ^_^ I just mixed chopped chocolate chips and nuts into the meringue after it's been whipped up. My most important tip for you is not to pipe out the meringues with the nuts. The nuts got stuck in the nozzle and it was a pain in the ass to take out. :( It will be much easier and faster if you scoop out the meringue and put dollops of it on the baking tray (non-stick Reynolds). Topped with some more chocolates and nuts. Yay- a free form look!

There are two ways of baking meringue cookies if you search around on the net. One is baking them at a high temperature for a short time, and the other is baking for a long time at a low temperature. I prefer baking them at 225F for about 1 3/4 hrs- 2 hrs. You don't have to worry about them burning! The cookies will be dry, crispy and airy. This is a good cookie to make to warm up your kitchen on a cold day.

October 15, 2008

Dinner: Chicken and Soup

I was tired (or lazy)! So, a simple dinner it was! What's faster than pan-frying some chicken on the stove? It's fast and easy. No need to wait for the oven to preheat.

What I did was simply de-boning chicken thighs (yay! dark meat) in the morning, then marinated them with spices. With what ever style you like- just don't make it bland. For me, this usually means Chinese 5-spice powder, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, pepper, minced garlic, ginger and onion, and some curry powder blend I've got in my house. That's it! Prepare it in the morning before work, and you can cook quickly in the evening. (*You do need to plan ahead.*)

As a veggie option, I made cannellini beans with green veggies, any kind that you have on hand (kale, swiss chard, Chinese broccoli, etc.). Tonight's lucky green was... collards! Then throw in some other veggies that you like, to have a variety in the soup. I don't like eating plain old collards and beans. Season it up, spice it up!

And of course, enjoy everything with brown rice.

October 13, 2008

Extra Banana-ey Banana Walnut Bread

I used 6 ripe bananas in this bread! These look like big loaves in the picture, but it's actually one batter divided into 3 mini loaves. Cooking time is quicker, and each being mini, it is cuter too! I love it!

This is actually a good and healthy banana bread recipe that I adjusted, using only 1/3 cup of olive oil and no butter. I added in 2/3 cup non-fat yogurt, because it would prevent the bread from drying out. Yogurt or apple sauce is a good substitute for fat in baked goods. I just prefer yogurt... because I don't like apple sauce! :D Instead of regular white flour, I used whole wheat flour (either white or traditional brown is good). Also, don't add a lot of sugar. IMO, I think 1/2 a cup of brown sugar is perfect. You get lots of sweetness from the ripe bananas, and you want to taste the banana flavor too.

After adjusting all the ingredients to make a healthier banana bread, it may seem like it doesn't taste good anymore, but I assure you, it does. Extra banana-ey, extra good, and healthy! (Don't mind the sesame seeds on my b'nana bread, I like the extra crunch.)

Just find your favorite banana bread recipe and tweak it to your liking!

October 12, 2008

Curried Noodle Stir Fry

I don't think curry flavor/powder should be confined to making curry alone. I like it with fried tofu and noodle stir fries too! I also added turmeric powder, because I like the flavor. It's good for your health and goes well with curry powder too. (Even though some people might not agree that there is such a thing as curry powder.) :-)

Cucumber Apple Roll

Snacking: Cucumber, apple, horseradish hummus and red rice roll. Hey, it tasted good to me! ^_^ Though I think avocado apple combination would be much better.

(And yes... Very shitty cutting on the pieces.)

October 10, 2008

Banana Peanut Butter Cookies

Sometimes I just have an urge to bake something... Maybe I'm stressed out, maybe I'm sad, or just plain bored. Two weekends ago, it was a combination of all three. :-( In the mood for some sweets, I thought cookies were the easiest to bake.

Cookies then! Soft, crunchy, chewy, chocolatey, nutty... Everything I like, I will put in a cookie!

This is not a recipe from any master chef. I just made it up, approximating the amount of each ingredient to my liking. (Another way of saying it is, I was too lazy too look up recipes.) ^_^

Banana Peanut Butter Cookies

1 banana (well mashed)
1 egg (well beaten)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda + 1 tsp baking powder
1/4-1/3 cup peanut butter (I think I used 4 big scoops of a soup spoon. Whatever, it's just pb.)

B: 2 cups rolled oats (oatmeal) + 2 TBS whole wheat flour

1/3 cup chopped chocolates or chocolate chips (dark chocolate is best)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Optional: Smarties or M&Ms

1. Combine ingredients of A together well first, then add B.
2. Mix in chocolate chips and walnuts (from C).
3. Roll out the cookies into 1.5" balls and flatten them out a bit. Press a Smartie candy in the center.
4. Bake 350F for 12-14 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozens, depending on how big you want your cookies.

p.s. You don't really taste any banana in these cookies at the end. Only the peanut butter. The banana is only there as a binder (like the egg) for the dry ingredients. It also keeps the cookies soft on the inside, and adds a natural sweetness, so you don't have to use as much sugar.

October 9, 2008

Summer is Gone

But I still want all the juicy bountiful fruits of summer... Strawberries, cherries (my favorite), sweet cantaloupes, refreshing dragonfruits...

I wish summer is still here.

Tofu and Zucchini Blossoms

My simple lunch: Red rice with braised tofu, ginger and pineapple, and sauteed zucchini blossoms on the side.

Some people like to stuff the blossoms with cheese and then fry them. I just like to prepare 'em simply and healthy.

Turmeric Sticky Rice

Because turmeric is good for you! And turmeric tastes good too!

Sprinkle some sesame seeds on the sticky rice, and it makes a delicious afternoon snack! When eating sticky rice, I especially loooooove eating the burnt crunchy rice at the bottom. Everyone thinks the good part is the soft cooked rice on top, but the best part is the bottom. ^_^

And no sticky rice in the rice cooker- because it never gives you that crispy bottom rice. Stove top is the only way to make this!

You can read about all the benefits of turmeric here.

October 7, 2008

Plantain-Tapioca pudding

This Vietnamese dessert (Chè Chuối) is usually made with bananas, but I prefer using ripe sweet plantains. There is more texture to it after cooking. Soymilk is substituted for coconut milk, because it's just better health-wise.

Ingredients in this pudding: diced sweet potatoes, tapioca pearls, plantains, milk, sugar. Very simple, but very good. Oddly, this is one dessert I only like to eat hot or warm.

Basically, you boil diced sweet potatoes, drain and save for later. Then in a pot, simmer plantains in milk and sugar first, then add tapiocas. Put potatoes in again when tapiocas are cooked.

October 6, 2008


The name of this bread is Speja Apricot Raisin & Walnut Bread, one of my baking failures. Why? Because it's so short and dense! It didn't rise properly, probably because of my too many add-ins to it. Also because I modified the recipe without properly baking it as directed from here.

It's supposed to be very good with cheese with all the nuts and apricots! I will bake this again properly (without any mashed potato add-ins)! ^_^

October 5, 2008

Pork and Collard Greens Soup

A pretty hearty dish for the cold season.

What's in it: pork (with bone is more flavorful), carrots, collard greens, cauliflower, and a few left over green beans.

For non-vegetarian soups, I always poach or boil the meat to cook them first, to get a broth. If you don't want the meats to get tough, simply remove them and then add back at the end. Sometimes I will saute them in oil and garlic before adding water to make the soup broth.

In my opinion, I prefer not to cook the collard greens to mush. I've found that the stalk part of the collard greens are tougher, so you should cook those ahead for a few minutes before adding the leaves.