May 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Pizza?

Another one of my odd pizza creations.  My first Thanksgiving pizza! Why not?  Since I'm a vegetarian, I don't eat turkey and the same o' Thanksgiving sides do seem kinda boring... Hence, pizza with Thanksgiving toppings is awesome!  They are awesome in general. ^_^

Squash, feta, caramelized onions, chive pizza?

Or... Squash, feta, caramelized onions, chive, and dried cranberries pizza?

I like the first one better!  Without cranberries!  The squash was good in its own way, but I think cranberries would be better with  a sweet potato pizza for Thanksgiving.  Sweet potatoes are sweeter, so they can contrast better to the sour taste of cranberries.

This will be what I'm making this upcoming Thanksgiving!

May 24, 2009

What's that cake?

This was Cake X!  It's not a mystery cake anymore, but it was one that I contemplated in making for someone's birthday.  The name of this cake is Mille Feuille Crêpes Cake.  Mille Feuille means thousand layers.

The cake is simply layers and layers (21 of them, specifically) of sweet and soft crepe, with sweet vanilla pastry cream sandwiched in between each.  I decided to play with the flavors a bit by adding fresh slices of strawberry between every five layers of crepe.

This was my first time making a crepe cake, so I was quite afraid that it would turn out very badly.  But hey, a cake's a cake.  Julia Child once said, "the grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes."  And I concur.

In NYC, there is a bakery named Lady M, and its signature dessert is a Mille Crepe Cake.  People have swoon over this bakery, and truthfully, I'm very interested in trying it too.  But since I'm not in NYC, and at $40 for a 6" cake, I think my mille feuille crepe cake tasted pretty darn good too, even if I need more practice making it. ^-^  

If you are interested in making this cake too, then here is the recipe.  It is fun and easy to make; however, time consuming.  Try it out if you have time, and the best part is you don't even have to turn on the oven on a hot summer day.  The recipe also called for making the crepe batter and pastry cream the day before serving the cake.  Yay for do-ahead prep work!

So why didn't I go with this cake, instead of the normal sponge cake for the birthday cake?  Because I didn't really know how to frost it to make it nice and grand.  Also, I  didn't really want to frost it because you wouldn't be able to see the layers and layers of crepes.  This is more of a casual cake.

At least my little nieces and nephews got to enjoy a test run of someone's b-day cake!  ^o^

May 11, 2009

Bear calzones!

Calzone fillings:  grilled eggplant and green squash, onions, feta, tomato sauce, lots of black pepper.

May 4, 2009

Happy Birthday to Chi!

Happy Birthday!  Happy Happy Birthday to you!
3> 100% Homemade from PinkCat's Bakery! <3

Lessons learned from this cake baking experience:  

A.  TRY to sketch out a plan for what the cake will look like.  Don't try to come up with the design last minute as you are assembling the cake together, because the mind will just go blank.  (Like mine did! And I tried to think and think and think....)

B.  If you want to do some handmade chocolate design, then it's best to do it ahead of time.  You need time for the chocolate to harden up again.  

C.  Don't know if anyone tasted the difference, but I whipped my frosting with sweetened condensed milk instead of powdered sugar.  I think it's actually better, because sugar is kind if flat tasting.  I'll try that again next time.

D.  To make fruits shiny, just brush them with a simple fruit glaze.  That is a ratio of one part raspberry or strawberry jam to one part water (or half water and half liqueur).  See recipe here.  These are just minor details, but it does make a cake more attractive, even if you make it hours ahead.  The fruits are not going to look dried up from being in the fridge.
My only disappointment with this cake was that it was not very orangey.  I think I got a bad orange!  I used the zest of one orange just like the last time I made it, but it wasn't as fragrant...  

Sponge cakes can sometimes be plain, which is why I thought of making a different kind of cake for this birthday.  I happened to do a test run of this other cake (Cake X) when my nephews and nieces came over.   They liked it, but I didn't so much.  Maybe I'll give Cake X another chance, since I still have left over creams and fruits in my fridge right now.

I'll tell you more about it in the upcoming post!

May 2, 2009

Piggy Bread (Burger Buns)

Slice it in half and make it a sandwich or a burger!  These are healthy (100%) whole wheat piggy bread.  I wish my other niece was here, she'd love these so much.  I remember the last time I made her piggy shaped buns, she loved it so much and wouldn't eat it.  Instead she'd keep kissing it all the time, until she bit of its nose accidentally and cried.  (^o^)

For these piggies, the dough was different than from the previous time.  This was whole wheat, and the other was white flour.  I'll need do more piggy testing.

2 dinners, 1 night.

Both dinners, all homemade.  

I think I'm very indecisive sometimes, and very gluttonous always.  Or vice versa...?  Hehehe

So, the first dinner that night was a baigan bharta, which is one of my favorite indian dishes.  It is comprised of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and lots of spices.   This was a lot of fun to make, but took a bit of a long time.  

The second dinner that we also made simultaneously was... pizza!  Having indian eggplant with a side of fragrant saffron rice and cheesey roasted tomato pizza.  It was delicious! ^-^  There was a lot of leftovers from both dinners  for the next day.

Grilled vegetables... It looks like a flower, doesn't it? (Pic Above)
I was the grill master- keeping an eye on my veggies!  I don't know why I did the criss-cross grilled marks, when the veggies will all be blended up anyway!  But it looked cool!  

It was strange, because a few nights later, we unconsciously made italian food with a side of indian, drinking chai... and eating with chopsticks.

I've been very undecided lately...

April 23, 2009

Stinky Heart Crackers

Salty blue cheese crackers!  
These were so smelly when they're in the oven baking!!  Maybe I'll try another version- with Stilton and walnuts next time.  This time, it's just blue cheese, garlic powder, and black pepper.

April 17, 2009

Chickpea and Black Beans Wrap

 Homemade chickpea patties, black beans, rice, and hummus wrap.  This was suprisingly very good, especially with a bit of hot sauce and pickled jalapenos.
Pan-fried chickpeaa patties, with garam masala, garlic, onions, cumin, and lots of parsley!

Coconut Ginger Tofu Pudding

I know that tofu pudding can never replace the real creaminess of regular pudding, so think of this as a lighter, more tropical dessert that you can eat 2 or 3 bowls of in one sitting (without much guilt). 

This dessert is really simple:
1.  Buy unsweetened tofu pudding.  It'll actually say 'tofu pudding' on the container, NOT soft tofu.
2.  Bring a can of coconut milk to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes, and then let it cool down.  Store in a container until ready to use.
3.  Julienne about 3/4 cups of ginger.  In a small pot, over medium-low heat, melt about 7 oz of rock sugar with 1  1/2 cups of water.  Add ginger to the sugar syrup and continue to  simmer until the syrup is reduced down and thickens up to a consistency of honey or maple syrup.  Let the syrup cool down and then transfer to a lidded container too.  

Now you're all set to have tofu pudding at anytime!  Store the ginger-infused syrup, coconut milk, and tofu in the fridge.

When ready to eat, take 1-2 TBS of the ginger syrup,  2-3 TBS of coconut milk, and scoop out about 1 cup of tofu pudding.  Try to mix the 3 of them together and careful not to break up the tofu pudding too much.  Adjust the sugar and coconut milk to your liking.  If you like to eat the pudding warm, then reheat it in the microwave for a bit, but not too much, or it'll melt into a puddle of sweetened soy water.  

I personally like to eat this cold on a hot afternoon, with lots of ginger from the syrup and light on the coconut milk (maybe just 1 tablespoon for the coconut essence).  Now that you know the recipe/technique, anybody wanna make it for me?? :D  :D  :D

April 15, 2009

Eight Treasure Congee

Did you know that congee can be made with other grains, other than rice?  Like millet, barley, and sorghum.  These types of congee are common in the north of China.  Here, I've made an 'eight treasure congee.'  The eight treasure really just means 8 ingredients that you will put in the congee (excluding water), and those are any 8 ingredients that you have on hand.  

For my eight treasure congee, I put in red kidney beans, glutinous rice, raw peanuts, lotus seeds, barley, red jujubes, dried logans, and grated ginger.  This is a sweet congee instead of a savory one, so I seasoned it with rock sugar (or jaggery).  I guess that'll make this a Nine Treasure Congee and not eight?  I can't count!  This is sort of like a mixed up Vietnamese sweet dessert soup. :)

April 9, 2009

When you have left over noodles...

... those noodles will appear in  different forms for days and days after.  Noodle stir fry with meat, with veggies, noodle soup, noodle with fried eggs, fried noodle patties (my creation), etc.

All thanks to SOMEONE (whose eyes are bigger than her stomach), who decided to boil SIX packages of noodles for 5 people.  We barely ate half the amount.

So this is the first reincarnation of those noodles- a veggie stir fry with homemade fried tofu.  If you can fry tofu at home, it is definitely MUCH better than those in the supermarket.

Pongal with Spicy Cashews

Pongal- saffron, cracked pepper, peppercorns, moong dal (mung beans), and basmati rice cooked together in lots of water (like congee).

Toppings:  Spicy cashews and fried shallots.  

April 8, 2009

Happy Happy Cake!

Happy Birthday Happy Birthday!  Someone got a Hana-made cake recently!

However, too bad this time, my whipped cream melted after being refrigerated for a few hours.  I still don't understand why.  That's why the frosting is bad looking. :(    Oh well, it looks like a pillowy cloud of cakey goodness!

Cake: scented with the zest of an orange.
Filling: strawberries, whipped cream, and shaved chocolate.

What I did differently this time:  This is a 3-layer cake!  The cake to filling ratio is much better; and hence, yummier!  Really!  :D  Also, the chocolate icing is mixed with coconut milk instead of regular milk or cream.  I tasted the icing, and just wanted to drizzle that all over an ice cream sundae.  

Maybe my next cake will be a coconut cake with chocolate coconut icing.  Mmm... I'm gonna dream of that tonight.

March 23, 2009

Stilton Pizza-Dessert Pizza

What's on this dessert pizza:  Apricot Stilton, bosc pears, caramelized onions, walnuts.  Too bad I didn't have time to toast the walnuts, to get more flavor out of them.

And yes, I have a whole in my pizza.  That's because I stretched the dough too thin in that area, and it burnt as the other parts were still cooking.

March 20, 2009

Flat noodleees!

Veggie-tofu stir fried flat noodles.... with a fried egg!

March 19, 2009

Coconut Sticky Rice

On the right (green): pandan-flavored beaten sticky rice with fresh grated coconut.  
On the left (yellow): sticky rice cooked with split mung beans and fresh grated coconut too.

Festive looking, aren't they?  I used to make a pink color sticky rice too!  You eat these as snacks with sweet and salty roasted peanuts on top.

March 16, 2009

Congee and pot sticker dumplings

Warm congee on a chilly day.  Here, this congee is accompanied with homemade veggie pot stickers and sauteed cabbage and carrots.  I actually enjoyed making pot stickers, and it might be something that I'll play around with on a rainy day.

So some additional add-ins that I used and you may also like in your congee too: sesame oil, scallions, fried tofu puffs, hot sauce, parsley, thousand year old eggs, quail eggs, chicken eggs (yolk only), etc.

I used the Shanghai Style dumpling wrapper, because it's the right thickness and the right texture too.  They're crispy and chewy at the same time.

March 14, 2009

Spicy Scallion Corn Waffles!

These corn waffles are definitely my favorite so far from all the waffles that I've made.  They actually got more crispy as they cooled down from the heat.  I was going to add some mexican cheese to the batter too, but I didn't have any and was too lazy to run to the store.  Ahh, well.  They still taste very good!  The scallions work well with the cornmeal batter and bits of jalapeno and sambal oelek sauce.  

The batter I used was a mix-n-match of things I have on hand.  Only one jalapeno!  So I used some sambal for more heat.

March 10, 2009


Black bean brownies with walnuts.

Truthfully, I don't like brownies. At all. Except the one time I had this AWESOME sour cherry brownie from Clear Flour bakery in Brookline. MMm! I actually still think of that today.

This recipe
was very interesting and intriguing. However, I'd rate it 7/10. I guess brownies are just not my thing. For my preference, I'd like my brownies very fudgey, not cakey. This came out pretty fudgey, but I still didn't like it. :(

March 9, 2009

Braised pineapple chicken

How do you select a pineapple? And how do you tell if it's ripe and ready to use? You sniff it! If it has the sweet smell of pineapple, then it's ready to use. When you buy it in the store, it's probably not ready to be eaten, so just store it in a cool and dry place for a few days.

Pineapples are one of those fruits that will continue to ripe after being cut off from the tree. Well, not really. Pineapples don't grow on pineapple trees,, but on short bushes about two feet tall.

If you must... then use canned pineapples. If not, then definitely go the fresh route. It doesn't take much work to slice into one. There are recipes for orange chicken, so there's nothing strange about chicken 'n pineapples together. ^-^

March 3, 2009

Spicy Stir-Fried Pork Blood with Chives

Stir-fried blood pudding with chives, bean sprouts, lots of garlic, ginger, and chilies. I didn't eat it, but I think it was good! :D

My mind thinks the blood pieces taste better if it's a little crispy on the outside when stir-fried with garlic first, which was what I did.

March 2, 2009

Rice Cooker Banana Cake

You've heard of people baking bread, chocolate cake, brownies, etc. in the rice cooker, right? I've been really intrigued with this method for a while now, so I decided to test it out. I actually baked this banana cake in a rice cooker.

This is just a regular whole wheat banana bread recipe that I like, but I adjusted it by adding some yogurt to make it more moist. To be honest, this experiment was not entirely successful for me. I have 2 rice cookers in the kitchen currently, one for cooking brown rice (for myself who likes brown rice) and one for cooking white rice (for others who likes eating white rice) ^_^. One of the rice cooker is more modern, with a timer that you can set to cook congee or other things for an extended period of time, and the other rice cooker has only a switch for cooking and keeping warm.

Anyway, since the batter I made was way too much for rice cooker baking (the recipe was for regular baking in a loaf pan in the oven), I decided to divide the batter in half, one for each cooker, so that it'll bake faster.

This successful cake picture is from the modern rice cooker. And the one from the other cooker? Well, it was burnt (badly)! It was my fault actually. The switch from that rice cooker flipped from "cook" to "keep warm" after just 7 minutes! I didn't believe the cake was actually cooked, so to "override" the control button, I held down the switch by plugging in some paper towels. Very high tech. After a little while when I was cleaning up the kitchen mess, I smelled smoke... Wha??

Ahh, my burnt cake! :(

If you're wondering how I got the cake to be nicely caramelized like that in a rice cooker, it's because I put it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes after the baking. I think this saves more energy, because you're cooking in a smaller enclosed space, as opposed to heating up a big oven. Though, turning on the oven to bake on a cold winter day does make the house feel nice and cozy.

March 1, 2009

Lunch: Rolls, rolls, roll it up!

Crisp apples, creamy avocado in maki rolls.

I want some more now!

February 28, 2009

Dill Encrusted Salmon

I think one of the best herbs that go well with salmon is dill. It has a citrusy taste that brightens up the taste of that fish. I use dill often when cooking (after parsley), even in vegetarian food. Herbs just freshen up and bring a whole other dimension of flavor to a dish.

Here, before pan-frying these pieces of salmon, I seasoned and then encrusted them with dill. When cooked, the herb will stick to the fish. However, be careful not to flip the fish too many times (I flipped it once, twice the most), because the fish will break and the herb will fall off. Just fry one side for a few minutes and then repeat for the other side.

Before serving, squeeze a bit of lemon juice over them and enjoy with rice.

February 27, 2009

Aloo Tikki Burger!

Aloo tikki burger with lots of Indian spices and encrusted with poppy seeds before cooking.

In the picture, I topped it with tomato and black bean salsa, but I had another tikki burger the next day, and I topped that with horseradish hummus, a fried egg, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Both versions were good.

What I liked about this burger are the spices. It is one of those food that gets better with time, because the burger I had the next day was so awesomely spicy. To make it, I think you should mix the aloo with spices the night before, or at least a few hours ahead. That would give time for the spices do its thing- the garam masala to release its flavor, the chilies to mingle with the cumin and potatoes, etc.

Sticky Rice Cake- Baby Banana Filling

This cake is called 'banh tet' and you have it with tea during the Vietnamese New Year (Tet). However, I felt like drinking chai, so I made a REALLY spicy chai to have with the sticky rice cake. Even though I used regular Tazo chai mix, the brewing, the milk, and the ginger made it into a great drink. The sticky cake had a banana/tea flavor on the outside, and had freshly grated coconut and black beans mixed into the sticky rice part. Baby bananas made up the filling, and it became red from braising for hours.

This is one of my favorite things about Vietnamese New Year- making AND eating sticky rice cake. I prefer this sweet banana filling to the dense savory filling of mung beans and pork.

Though, the savory version is also very good when pan-fried up and served with pickled shallots, thai chili peppers, and pickled crunchy cauliflower. Mmm!

February 26, 2009

Lunch: Tomatoes 'n Eggs

Tomatoes, onions, and eggs. Very good with rice, and nothing complicated.

February 25, 2009

Challah French Toast Waffles

What to do when you really want a waffles for brunch, but also really want to make french toast, because you have Challah bread? Well, if there are lots of people around, I'd make both (to eat both) because I'm a little piggy. But since it's just my sister and I, I made challah french toast in a waffle machine. It turned out really good too!

I gave the french toast extra flavor by adding the zest of an orange and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. For the sauce, there wasn't any maple syrup in the house (not a fan of it much anyway) so I made some dulce de leche to drizzle on top. You can buy it in a jar, or just slowly cook it on the stove. It is very simple.

The orange zest added a taste of freshness to the french toast. I think I made a bit too much dulce de leche though. There is still too much left in the fridge currently, and I may need to turn that into dulce de leche cupcakes... ^_^

Soaked challah, with flecks of orange zest, ready for waffling!

The challah bread I used was simply a knotted challah bread bun from TJ's. I split it in half, so that each piece is about 1/2 inch think. It's the right thinkness to make french toast waffles.

This is just a technique post, so I don't think there's a need for a recipe. You can flavor the french toast anyway you want. With chili flakes, stuffed with cheese, encrusted with herbs, cinnamon-banana, different bread, etc. Limitless. I know I'll be having fun with the waffle machine.

P.S. Thanks again Kiwi, for the waffle machine. :)

February 18, 2009

Sunday Crepes

It's been over a year since I last made crepes, I think. I made these again a few weeks ago, and they were very good with chili sauce and herbs. The cucumbers were there to cool me down, in case I couldn't handle the spice. :D

NO, no! Actually, you eat crepes with cucumbers, mustard greens, and herbs. I love having them with mustard greens, because you get the different kinds of spice in just one bite. Hot and sour from the Sriracha-garlic-lime sauce and a peppery wasabi taste from the mustard greens.

The crepes were awesome, but I made too much... Took 3 days for 2 people to finish them. I think I'm all creped out 'til next year. Too bad I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the meat crepes my sister also made side-by-side on the stove next to me. Those meat crepes had minced pork, shrimps, bean sprouts, and mung beans in them. She, too, was sick of crepes, still having to finish them 5 days later. Next time, we'll scale back the portions. :)