Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick's Day is probably on of my least favorite holidays partly because the theme color is green (not my fav color) and that I just don't get it. I know there's a religious aspect to it but I'm not religious. Plus I find leprechauns creepy...
ANYWAYS, I still need to perfect these. Rainbow was okay until the purple closed at the bottom and a ripple effect appeared because I was too rough when rolling the dough up....and the green in the marble cookies need to be a bit darker. And the shamrock...I need to pay more attention to what I'm doing lol.
I like the rainbow ones the most though...go figure lol

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Baked Honeycomb Cake (Banh Bo Nuong)

This is one of the most signature dishes of my grandmother but her recipe and technique went with her when she passed away, waaaay before I was even born and waaaay before my mom even started to ovulate lol.
This Honeycomb cake is a very dense cake made from tapioca starch, which gives the cake a slight chewy texture. The cake must be both fluggy and chewy adn not dense enough to stick to your teeth lol. The name of the cake literally mean a "Cow Cake" or "Crawl Cake." As a fun fact from wiki, the cake is named so due to the similarities between the cake's texture and the texture of a cow's liver. Appetizing, eh?
There is a steamed version of this cake, I think, also called steamed rice cake, which originated in China, and is white in color and much softer. I have yet to make that one.
So this cake, is apparently very hard to make, and all my aunts have tried in the past and failed and though my mom loves this cake, she never even bothered trying lol. The tricky part is getting it to rise without proofing and the lack of gluten-support. So today, as a treat, I decided to try and make it following a recipe I found online that was in ENGLISH =D. It was very exciting. The instructions were very easy but, of course, being the goof I am, I forgot one critical step; the straining of the my cake had a few lumps. But besides that, the cake turned out awesome because I managed to get "honeycombs" and have the cakes still remain stable and not compacted (I realized the "honeycombs" are visible when you take a bite and look at the cake from a birds'-eye-view...another fun fact).
I am definitely going to make this again, but with coconut cream (I only had coconut milk), a little less sugar and a bit more pandan (maybe even fresh).
I bet my grandma's proud ^___^

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jalapeno and Cheese Buns

I went into my local produce shop and they had Jalapenos on sale. I usually never cook with these spicy, green and fat peppers but I had a chunk of cheese at home. So this was the equation (haha I sound smart) running through my head.
Jalapenos + Cheese = Jalapeno and Cheese Buns
Yum yum yum!! I used a simple recipe for whole wheat bread and rolled it out, sprinkled the dough with grated cheese and chopped Jalapenos. I rolled the entire thing up like a cinnamon bun and sliced that sucker up. I brushed each of the tops with milk and topped with sliced Jalapenos.
Yum, yum, yum!!!

And I also made Cilantro and Black Pepper buns because we had SO MANY cilantro bunches.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kalamata Olive and Feta Focaccia Bread

I must say that Focaccia bread, the Italian herb flatbread, is one of my favorite breads of all time. There are three reasons why I think this way: one reason is because it is so simple and easy to make. Second is it is so versatile, it can be served with soups, made into croutons, turned into sandwiches or just simply served on its own. And third, it is packed and I mean packed, with flavor. Flavors really depend on taste but my two favorites are olive and feta or sun-dried tomato with garlic. It is really up to your own preference in flavors. Jalapenos are great too, or rosemary and garlic; the classic.
I used my trusty stand mixer to make my life a lot easier but if you don't have one, your life will be a litt harder because you'll  need muscle to knead.

This recipe produces one tender, fluffy and flavor-orgasmic Olive and Feta Focaccia.

1 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast or a package
1 tsp sugar
3 ½ cup flour
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tsp kosher salt dissolved in 1/4 cup water
2/3 cup olive oil
12 extra Kalamata olives, halved 
5 tbsp or more olive oil for brushing
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1-2 tsp ground black pepper

Place yeast, sugar and warm water in a stand mixer bowl or a large bowl and let proof for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, add the flour gradually while mixing on low speed with a dough hook (or with your hands). Continue mixing until all flour is used up (it will seem very dry). Add in the olives, cheese, salt water and olive oil. Increase speed to 2 and let knead for 10 minutes (continue to mix with hands in the bowl until a ball forms then move to a lightly dusted surface and knead for 10 minutes until elastic and no longer sticky). Form the dough into a ball. Grease a large bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil, slide ball in and move around to grease the whole ball. Cover with a  kitchen towel, place in a warm area and let rise for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Grease shallow baking sheet or pizza pan with olive oil, and place ball in the tray. Press down on the ball and stretch to fit the pan (does not have to be perfect). Cover again and let rest for 15-30 minutes in a warm place. 
Preheat oven to 345 F.
Press halved olives on top and brush the entire bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
Bake for 25-35 minutes until Focaccia is golden brown.
Cool on a cooling rack and serve warm.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wonder Woman Cookies

Happy International Women's Day! Today is a day to celebrate all the achievements (big or small) made by all the women from every nook and cranny of the universe. And what a better tribute than cookies...of WONDER WOMAN?!? I felt like Wonder Woman this morning when I had to help my mom push her van out of a snow pile that she backed up into. I was the only one home at the time and she was driving out of the driveway to work. I have no idea how she ended up in the snow pile on the sides of our driveway. But I felt so awesome pushing the van out by myself while she was in the drivers seat. Hurrah for me haha!
So, I've had a piece of shortbread dough in my fridge for a week now and I was dying to make something and get creative. I used the cut-out method- individually cutting out the cookie shapes and attaching other parts to it (hair, colored areas, etc.). I then drew on her features and details with colored icing, although I'm not great at drawing faces. There were a few cookies that looked like men, but oh well lol. Total labor time was maybe around 4 hours minimum.

My Reference

First cut-outs with ref. pic as tracer

Addition of hair cut outs
Completed cookies before baking and detailing

One of the cookies that actually looked good lol

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spaghetti Squash, Anyone?

Earlier oday I wanted to have a light dish for supper but with an Italian twist. Whilst accompanying my mom in her grocery shopping, I came across...the spaghetti squash. Hallelujah, I found my craving solution! I've seen on countless cooking shows and read several recipes on how to prepare this type of stringy noodle squash and so I decided to go ahead and try it out; there is always a first for everything.
It was fairly simple, preheat oven to 375 F; slice squash in half and remove pits and seeds; brush with olive oil on skin side and flesh side (I also did some pre-seasoning with salt and pepper); place squash halves skin side up and bake for 45-60 minutes until tender. After cooking, leave to cool down a bit and using a fork, gently pull the strands of squash away to form "spaghetti noodles". And what better way to eat spaghetti than with some creamy tomato sauce, spiked with a little brandy and studded with juicy button mushroom chunks-YUM!
I topped everything up with shredded Gruyere cheese, which is very strong and savory, giving the dish that extra "kick" in flavor. I can definitely go on a spaghetti squash diet if I want to, it's simply delicious!

Pan-Fried Tofu with Woodears and Gai Lan

I have a confession to make; I dislike cooking with tofu so I rarely do. Strange for a vegetarian, no? Thus after making the homemade extra firm tofu and getting tired of eating it with soy sauce or salt n' pepper, I stored the remaining chunks in the fridge...and I had no idea what to do with it. Usually with my store bought traditional tofu, I make miso soup or eat it in hot pot. That's as far as my imagination goes with tofu. Being that the tofu I made was extra firm, I was faced with an even bigger lack of imagination. Fortunately, my mom enjoys cooking with tofu. She deep-fries and pan-fries, and boils or stews, or mushes the tofu to make savory pies and spring roll fillings. Her skills with tofu completely surpasses mine (clearly). Today, she sliced the chunks of tofu I stored into small, rectangular pieces and pan fried them with garlic then tossed it with blanched gai lan and woodear mushrooms. Wood ear mushrooms have a very crisp texture and is one of my favorite kinds of edible fungi. It's name is derived from how it grows out of trees or decaying logs, resembling ears in the wood. This vegetarian creation is so full of flavor and the tofu's crispy golden exterior was fabulous! Brava, Mom!

1-2 bunches of gai lan, cut into bite sized portions,washed and then blanched
2-3 rehydrated woodears, cleaned and cut into bite size  portions
1 cup extra firm tofu, sliced into rectangles or cubes
3 tsp minced garlic
5 tbsp oil or butter
2 tsp mushroom granules
3 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil (opt.)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a skillet and brown garlic. Add in tofu slices, browning each side to desired crispness.
Add in woodears and gently mix. Add in gai lan and remaining ingredients, gently mix on medium to low heat until all the flavours are infused and to your liking.
Serve with steamed rice and enjoy!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Homemade Extra Firm Tofu

I've wanted to try and make tofu for a while now, and after accidentally stumbling upon a simple recipe that uses the Golden Pineapple Grinder, I decided to try it out today. After the 24 hour soaking process of soybeans, I set up my machine and started the grinding. The only "hard" part of making this tofu is the boiling of the soy milk (it can easily burn if you have pieces of rind in the milk; because I've made soy milk countless times before, the whole cooking process of the soy milk was a real breeze for me: no burning or over flow. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of lime juice but I wanted firm tofu so I added an extra tablespoon or so (I also added more weight to remove as much water as I can). If you want medium tofu, I suggest following the recipe or remove a tablespoon from the 1/4 cup and lessen the weight.
It's very easy to do if you have the grinder but if not, a blender will work but you'll need to use more muscle to squeeze the excess milk from the soy pulp.
I've just been eating my tofu with soy sauce or with some salt n' pepper. Too good (and lazy) to do something else with it lol! It's very good warm, and there is a bit of a tangy-ness from the lime but it is very faint.


The curds forming after the lime juice

Straining through a cheese cloth and strainer
Weights (4 gallons of water and a few extra lbs)