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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

I've been really bad at updating this blog...then again, I haven't been cooking much lately so please bear with me :(
It's Christmas Day and since I'm now on winter break from school and on holiday from work, I have enough time to concur up some deliciousness!
In the late morning and early afternoon, I made a simple Eggs Benedict Brunch for the family to enjoy before we opened up our gifts.
Like so many times before, I did not have English Muffins or crumpets on hand so I cut circles out of thick, Texas Toast bread slices. The rest is self explanatory, shaved ham, poached eggs, homemade Hollandaise and a pinch of cayenne.

 
 The Fam and I settled down to open gifts with hot cups of Bailey's Coffee topped with a unhealthy delicious dollop of homemade whipped cream. My lil' brother had a nice hot mug of hot chocolate since he doesn't like alcohol. 

After wrecking mayhem on the wrapping paper and boxes, I hit the kitchen to prep and make our Christmas dinner. Our turkey was very small, weighing less than 5kg. I buttered the bird up real good with garlic butter, making sure to spread the fat under the skin to lock in as much moistness as I can during roasting. Since I was not cooking for a crowd, I had enough time to experiment with heat settings, basting and glazing. The bird was small, so cooking time was around 2 hours and 40 minutes and a resting time of at least 50 minutes. I used a Mustard glaze with hints of maple and orange to add extra flavor and color to the bird. I found that by cooking the bird covered with a lid (or a roomy tin foil tent) for 40 minutes at 220C/425F will help keep the moister from being lost and also accumulates more juices to flow back into the pan for gravy. After 40 minutes, I turned the oven down to 180C/350F and roasted the bird for 2 hours, making sure to baste the bird every 10-15 minutes. For the last 20 minutes, I glazed the the bird twice with my Mustard Glaze (in 10 minute intrevals). After that, let the bird rest for at least 50 minutes (if you have extra time, rest for the amount of time you cooked the bird). The turkey turned out amazingly moist, the most moist I've ever cooked a turkey!

 

The stuffing was made of a gourmet mix of wild rice and a variety of other rice types (red, brown, long grain etc.) As I cooked the rice with vegetable broth in my handy-dandy rice cooker, I sauteed together white onions, garlic, grated carrots and grated apples then celery. After the rice was cooked, I added it to the vegetables, seasoned and stirred in a small cube of butter (around 1/4).
I roasted some family-favourite veggies like Brussels Sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. A new addition was parsnips, which my family went crazy for a month or so before, when I made soup with it. There were also dirty, roasted garlic mashed red-potatoes
I used a recipe for Ginger-Roasted Parsnips and Jerk-Spiced Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower and Chickpeas from the magazine (and website) of Food & Wine to bring the faves to light. As for the broccoli, I roasted them and simply toss them in some lemon juice, lemon zest and a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.
I also made the cranberry salsa that I served for my Thanksgiving dinner because the leftovers that I stored in October is all gone (my brother ate it all). The salsa keeps for a very long time in an airtight container, stored in the fridge. I'm never going to make traditional cranberry sauce anymore because the cranberry salsa is both exciting and different to the palette (plus I love the spicy kick I get from the jalapenos and spices).

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner


Oh my goodness, it has been forever since I made a post -bows in apology-
I have been very busy with school and work so I have not had enough time to cook anything.
 This month, we had an early Thanksgiving dinner on the same day of my great-grandmother's memorial...so...there was a lot of food! Along the veggie dishes my mom and I made, there were also pork roast, turkey and all the fixings! I even attempted a pumpkin chiffon pie but I think I'll just stick to cheesecakes and fruit pies from now on hehe ;)


Some things on the menu were crab soup, veggie curry, veggie chicken and mushrooms, Korean vermicelli stir-fry and some spring rolls.
The Thanksgiving menu included Herb Roasted Turkey, Apple and Cheddar Stuffed Pork Roast (adapted), Scallop potatoes, mashed Sweet potatoes (1:1 yam and russet), Tex-Mex cornmeal cheese scones, red rice stuffing, cranberry salsa, and turkey gravy.
The chiffon pumpkin pie I made is a 'light' twist on the traditional, heavy custard pie which I turned into a sheet pie. However, I think I'll stick with cheesecakes and fruit pies...enough said haha! 


Herb Roasted Turkey; parsley, cilantro, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme
Apple and Cheddar Stuffed Pork loin, wrapped in bacon ;)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vegetarian "Bún Riêu" or Tomato Noodle Soup



Bún Riêu cua, a noodle dish that is one of the top vendor foods in Vietnam. The original vendor dish is made with grounded paddy crabs, tomatoes, deep-fried tofu and an egg and shrimp paste mixture. The dish is sometimes known as tofu-curdle noodle soup, since the chunky eggs in the soup resemble curdled milk. The broth is colored with annatto seeds to produce a bright orangy-red color to the broth. In this quickie veggie version, I used my home-grown tomatoes and crushed tofu to create this "replica." The dish is accompanied with a variety of condiments ranging from chili pepper paste, fermented shrimp paste, limes, bean sprouts, shredded banana flower, spearmint, shiso leaves, and/or exotic leaves called rau kinh giới (Elsholtzia ciliata).


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Steelhead Trout with Mango Salsa


 I haven't cooked dinner in a very long time and today I whipped up a trout dish for the fam. I picked up a steel-head trout fillet at Costco and a box of mangoes along with some corn, bell peppers, and avocados.
In around one hour after getting home, I served up a dish full of delish; trout fillets cut into individual portions, lightly seasoned, grilled and glazed with a my favorite mesquite sauce (a raspberry chipotle mix). Served with a refreshing mango salsa and placed on top of red rice and corn and black bean medallions. Yummeh!

Mango Salsa

1 large tomato, pulped and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 tbsp sugar
1 mango, diced
handful of cilantro, chopped
1 medium avocado, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne powder to taste (optional)

Place tomatoes, peppers, red onion and sugar in a medium boil. Mix it up and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients.

Corn and Black Bean Medallions

2 large russet potatoes, peeled, chunked, boiled and mashed
1/4 cup corn
1/4 cup black beans
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
handful of cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Sautee corn, beans, peppers, cilantro and onion until slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into mashed potatoes and stir in bread crumbs and cheese. Form into little patties and pan fry until both sides are golden browned.




Mango Salsa without avocados because my brother does not like avocados

Mango Salsa with avocados for the rest of the family

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Omurice


Omurice- A Japanese fusion dish consisting of fried rice wrapped in a thin omelet and usually topped with ketchup.
I made some for lunch today, and I was a bit skeptical with the recipe I used that called for ketchup in the fried rice, which would make the rice saucy (not what traditional fried rice should be). However, it's what goes into "traditional" omurice, so I went ahead with the recipe. And my, oh my, it was not bad at all. The rice actually soaked up the ketchup and bonded all the savory flavors of the veggie bacon that I used and the sweetness of the peas. It was very good.
Setting the rice aside, I made a thin omelet, placed the rice filling in and wrapped the omelet around it. Served with a little ketchup and I fell in love with this dish. The flavors are so well balanced; sweet, tangy and savory, which all ties in so well with the fluffy omelet wrap. I will definitely be making this again.
Recipe: Chicken Version



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Beer and Smoked Gouda Bread


As you may know, I've always loved making bread since I find it so relaxing and exhilarating. So far, all the breads that I have made are done so by hand (KitchenAid cheat here and there lol) and baked through an actual oven. However, I do own a bread machine and have put off using it for around 5 years now...I don't know why but I think it has something to do with the indention of the built-in kneading blade...
Anywhos, this time around, I decided to bake a few loaves in the machine and see how it goes. My tasty combo; beer and smoked Gouda cheese. One thing you should know is that I am absolutely NOT a beer fan. I dislike the taste and idea of it being a party must-have. Unfortunately, with all the men in my family, beer shows up here and there but seldom do I have much left over...
At a recent party, around 14 cans of cheap beer were left over and finding it a waste of an ingredient to pour down the drain, I decided to use it as the liquid ingredient in bread.
After placing all the ingredients conveniently into the bread pan and waiting 3 hours, a beautiful, golden and aromatic loaf emerged. The crust was so glorious and the crumb was deliciously fluffy, changing my perspective on bred machines.
I will definitely be using the machine again for future breads.

1 can of light beer
1 2/3 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese
2 tsp salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast

In order, starting at bottom of bread pan, add beer, cheese, salt, flour, and sugar. Make an indentation in the flour and add yeast. Make sure the yeast does not touch the liquid. Close the bread machine and press the Basic setting or Plain White Setting. Wait for the cycle to complete and there you have it-a loaf of freshly made bread.

 





Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Avengers Birthday Cake!


I have always been a soft-core, Marvel fan and since watching The Avengers by Marvel, you might say it has become an obsession. On my quest to have everyone I know become obsessed with the Avengers, I bought tickets for my mom, dad, brother, and myself to watch the movie in 3D.
Carrying my obsession over to the culinary arts, I made a cake for my brother's birthday featuring the heroic group.
The cake is an Asian styled cake, layered with vanilla chiffon, pandan agar and a taro filling. The entire cake is covered in whipped cream then drawn on with homemade piping gel.
Homemade piping gel is so worth it to make because you get exactly the color you'd like and you can flavor it with whatever essence you'd like. The only downside is using it after it has been stored; the gel congeals and when you try to break it up, it becomes lumpy and is very hard to pipe. One of my foodie cousins helped me smooth out the gel so that I could pipe it out; it was a painstaking process and I would have lost my head if she didn't help me.
I had found a photo online that I modified and used as a template. The piping gel transfer did not work very well for me but it did enough for me to retrace the picture. After that it was just a matter of precision and patience. Since smaller details were very hard to pipe on, I omitted the eyes and some minor lines.
I was nervous of the outcome but near the end I was quite proud of my accomplishment. And not only that, the cake was a hit amongst the guests and Tommy really liked it. Success!

Homemade Piping Gel  (about 1/2 cup)*

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch (cornflour)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup water
Gel Food Coloring of choice (opt)
Whisk sugar and cornstarch (cornflour) in a small saucepan.
Gradually add juice and then the water. Make sure there are no lumps.
Stir over medium/high heat until mixture boils and thickens.
Color as desired.
Will last about a month or so in the ‘fridge but will need to be at room temperature or reheated until smooth.

For the opaque white gel, I used 2 tbsp skim milk and omitted the lemon juice (cause it will curdle the milk). I also added a pinch of white vanilla powder for flavor.

I doubled the recipe for the primary colors, which was WAAYY too much. I have left over gel...what to bake next?



  

   



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cream of Broccoli Soup


While I made the Rabbit and Mung Bean Congee for the family, I quickly made a creamy and vibrant broccoli soup for myself, using a recipe I adapted from Gordon Ramsay but turning it into a cream-of soup. So good. I flippin love Broccoli.

 




Rabbit and Mung Bean Congee (Viet Dish)


Before I was a vegetarian, approx. three years ago, I was in Vietnam one summer and my cousin and I dropped by a local congee/rice porridge street vendor and ordered some rabbit and mung bean congee. Since I had been a fan of gamey meats, the rabbit was right up my alley. The restaurant served piping hot congee topped with mung beans, minced rabbit meat, scallions and a vegetable that I cannot find here nor know what it is called. It is similar taro stems, an ingredient used to make the delicious Vietnamese Spicy and Sour Soup. Since I did not have that particular ingredient, I omitted it in my version of the dish.
The rabbit was purchased at a Chinese supermarket, frozen and creepy looking as heck. Thawed and unpackaged, it looked even worst hahaha! This was my first time ever cooking with rabbit so it was a little nervous but the thing was dead, so whatever hahaha. (God I am a bad vegetarian...)
Instead of mincing the meat like the street vendor did, I chopped the bunny up and seasoned it slightly before adding it to a pot of water to create a Bugs Bunny stock. I had toasted some rice in my conventional oven before adding it to the boiling pot to slowly cook and break down.
Mung beans are amazing and these little green pellets were given as a gift to me on my last trip to Vietnam. Mung beans are so versatile as an ingredient. They are used to make savory and sweet dishes as well as bean sprouts, providing a good source of fiber and protein.  I placed 1 1/2 cup into my slow cooker the night before so that they would be nice and tender the next day. As soon as the rice cooked down and the soup was getting thicker because of the starch, I drained the cooked mung beans and added them to the pot.
Served piping hot with sliced scallions and fresh ground black pepper.


Silly Rabbit...

http://www.greengardenorganics.net/store/images/certified_organic_mung_bean.jpg
Mung Beans (photo from the web)

 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Grilled Halibut and Lemon-Dill Quinoa


So...it has been a VERY long time since I last posted anything on my blog, so my apologies. My schedule was very busy and I never had enough time to cook. I have also been away on a trip to Victoria, BC, visiting my best friend and some pals. Since Victoria is an island on the west coast of Canada, seafood is a must in local cookery. On the day I headed back, I dropped by Fisherman's Wharf and purchased some fresh crab, halibut, and smoked tuna for the flight home. As soon as I got home, I boiled the crab and served it to my family with a salt n' pepper with lime dip, which they LOVED. Mom said that the crab was delicious and coming from someone who does not enjoy crab, that means a lot.
For the halibut, I sliced it up into three portions and marinated it in a soy and sesame mixture. I grilled the slices on a hot griddle. I cooked up some quinoa and tossed it in some lemon juice, olive oil and chopped dill.  I drizzled a sweet soy and red vinegar reduction on the dish before serving it with some local Pinot Gris from the Vancouver Islands. Yummeh! :)

 



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Polenta with a Mediterranean Twist


Polenta; cornmeal cooked to a paste and can be served in a variety of ways. I cooked up some today, seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper before serving it with a poached egg, chopped kalamata olives, chopped mint leaves and crumbled feta with a drizzle of olive oil. I boiled mine in water, so my polenta is VERY yellow and not creamy looking...and thick :C I gotta add more water if I'm doing something like this next time but whatever is left will be good to experiment on (Polenta Fries!!)
This was fairly quick to prepare plus it was light and VERY filling...less is more? :)


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Broccoli-Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells


I absolutely love pasta and whenever I have enough time to make it, I really do go all out. As usual, all my cooking frenzies begin with a craving and, what do you know, I had a craving for pasta with ricotta. Usually, ricotta cheese would be a filling for my lasagnas but I did not feel like making the time-intensive dish so instead, I decided to use it as a stuffing for some pasta shells that I had in my pantry. I had a ridiculous amount of broccoli and spinach in my fridge which I decided to quickly blanch in boiling water, chop up and mix with the ricotta cheese, an egg and around 1/4 cup of Parmesan and some salt and pepper to taste. I also pureed a can of whole, peeled tomatoes, seasoned with more Parmesan, olive oil, pepper, a bit of my homemade hot sauce and of course, basil (dried because I couldn't find fresh, boo-hoo!)
I boiled up the pasta shells to al dente, filled it with the stuffing, placed into a casserole pan with the sauce, topped with shredded mozzarella and baked in the oven at 350 degrees C until the cheese melts and the sauce is bubbly.

Sooooo goood.



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ube and Pandan Kaya Birthday Cake



Today was my mom's birthday and instead of ordering a cake, I thought I'd try my hand at one of the complex exotic cakes that is enjoyed in South/Southeast Asia. The cake is a fusion of Pandan Kaya Cake and Ube Macapuno Cake. Pandan is a tropical plant that is used as a flavoring for food and especially desserts. It gives off a green tone when used and is attractive in desserts. Ube is basically purple yam that is sweet and holds a magnificently rich, purple color. Macapuno is just young coconut meat that has been sliced and preserved in syrup. It is used as a filling paired with ube in Filipino cakes.
Since my mom loves pandan cake, coconut and the color purple, I fused the two together to create a green and purple-layered cake via an inspiration photo I found online. The layers of cake are filled with a buttercream and macapuno frosting. The entire cake is enclosed in "kaya," a solid, gelatinous casing made of coconut cream, pandan, sugar and agar-agar. Once chilled, the kaya keeps the cake moist and adds an extra bit of coolness to the cake to be enjoyed on hot days.
I decorated the cake with some whipped cream roses, which are hard as heck to make! I should have used a stiffer frosting or a stabilized whipped cream recipe but I didn't think of it...darn; next time.
This is also my first time to ever do any fancy-schmancy piping work on a dessert...so cut me some slack! Ahahaha! (I need to go get some lessons on piping >.<)

The cake took me two days to complete, with baking and chillin time or whatnot. Because I used preserved ube jam, the ube cake layers were too sweet for my liking, so I will get my hands on fresh purple yams for next time.
My mom was pretty stoked that I knew how to make this cake because it's always been a hassle to pre-order one.
I will try to make a taro-filled chiffon cake in the near future (which will be purple). :)

Makeshift mold extension for the kaya mixture.

Mommy cutting the cake!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hong Kong-Style Sausage Buns (Minis!)


I absolutely love making these! I had an entire bag of unopened cocktail smokies in my fridge and I did not want them to go bad. So I searched up a recipe for the Hong Kong-styled buns that the Chinese bakeries always sold because my brother loves to snack on them. The bread dough is a sweet, milk-based dough unlike the bread or pastry dough that pigs-in-a-blanket are usually wrapped in. The result is moist, sweet and yummy goodness!

They were so good the first time I made them, I decided to make a larger batch for a little Spring Party that I hosted at my house for the family. Recipe is an adaption of the recipe provided here.


Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten and divided
  • 2/3 cups lukewarm milk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 hot dogs or around 20 cocktail smokies
  • sesame seeds (optional)
Method
  1. In a stand mixer bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add in 1 of the lightly beaten eggs and the milk, stirring until it starts to come together. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer.
  2. Using the dough hook attachment, knead on medium-low speed (#4 on my KitchenAid) for 5 minutes. Add the softened butter and knead another 3 minutes or until the butter has been completely and thoroughly absorbed into the dough. The dough should feel smooth, satiny, and not sticky. If it's sticky, add more flour in tablespoon increments until you reach the right texture. The dough should pass the windowpane test (you can stretch it out very thinly without it breaking). Knead until it does.
  3. Spray a good size bowl with cooking spray. Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and form into a ball, pulling the sides down so that it becomes taut. Place the ball of dough in the greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise in a warm area for about 90 minutes, until about doubled in size.
  4. Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into 8 equal pieces, .
  5. To form the poofy rolls, roll out one of the dough pieces between your hands until it's about 2 to 2 1/2 times the length of the hot dog. If you want the center to be bigger than the ends, make sure you roll your dough accordingly, so that the middle of your long piece of dough is bulkier than the ends. Wrap the length of dough around a hot dog; it should be enough to make 3 loops, with the tapered ends at the bottom of the hot dog.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the shaped buns on the paper, leaving enough room in between each for the dough to have a place to go while it's rising.
  7. Cover the buns loosely with plastic wrap or a clean cloth (you don't want to ruin the rise by having to peel anything off them). Let the dough rise again for another 90 minutes or so, until it's about doubled in volume and look nicely plump.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400°F.
  9. When the buns have risen, gently brush egg wash (the remaining egg) generously onto each, making sure to get the sides as well, and sprinkle sesame seeds on top, if desired.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 5-8 minutes, until the buns are an attractive golden brown
I find that if you will be using hot dogs, it is better to cut the wiener in half so that it is the perfect snack/appetizer size!



    The ones for the party!