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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Post of 2011

It's been a while since my last post.  A lot has happened and due to unforeseen circumstance, J and I are back in CT and I started my temp to perm position at a green energy company north of New Haven.  2011 has been a bitter sweet year and it's one of those years that I will not miss. It seems like 2011 has not only been rough on J and I but also those around us. It really doesn't help since I'm having a milestone birthday in a couple of days. With everything that had happened, I really didn't feel like going out for NYE so we decided last minute just to hang out with family. Since my birthday is coming up my mom got me a cake.

As shitty as 2011 has been, what matters most in the end is that I still have my health, husband, family and friends.

Hopefully 2012 will bring a new beginning and not be so shitty! Happy New Year!







Friday, December 2, 2011

My Very First Pot Roast

I've shy away from cooking anything that takes a long time because I just don't have the patience. I know it sounds silly since I can spend a whole day/night making a 2 tier cake. When it comes to cooking, I prefer anything under an hour.  I've search countless recipes for pot roast and can't believe how many variations there are. Some are cooked stovetop, some are in the oven and quit a few uses a slow cooker (which is probably the easiest method). Don't even get me started on the ingredients, seems like everyone have their own recipes. Since I don't have a slow cooker or a pot I can put in the oven and I have all the time in the world since I'm a temporary stay-at-home wife I chose the hardest method which is stove top.  It took about 2 1/2 hours but it was worth the time. J definitely cleaned his plate. Next time I think I'm going to try the oven method.


Pot Roast
  • 2 lb Chuck Roast
  • 1 medium onion (quartered)
  • 1 cup of carrots cut into 1 inch pieces. 
  • 1 tsp ground sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1tsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 3 or 4 grinds of Trader Joe Everyday seasoning
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups beef broth (or 1 cup red wine and 1 cup beef broth)
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
First let the Chuck Roast rest in room temperature for about an hour to take the chill off. 

Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Seasoned the Chuck Roast with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil to the heated pot and lightly brown the carrots and onion in the pot. Remove the carrots and onion to a plate or container (will add them to the pot during the last 30 minutes of cooking time) but leave the residual olive oil in the pot. 

Let the pot come up to temperature and seared the Chuck Roast on all sides on medium heat (brown not burnt!). Remove the roast and put on a plate. Deglaze the pot with the beef broth until all the brown bits left over from searing is loosen and the broth is boiling.  

Add the seared Chuck Roast back into the pot along with the Italian seasoning, bay leaf tomato sauce, TJ's Everyday Seasoning, garlic, Worchestershire sauce, carrots and onion. Make sure the seasonings are evenly distributed. If the liquid doesn't cover the meat half way, add more beef broth or water.  

Turn the heat down to low and simmer for at least 2 hours or until the pot roast is tender and can be pulled apart with a fork.  


Added the Chuck Roast to the broth. 
After simmering with the veggies for 1 hour. 



























After 2 1/2 hours, it's do

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Post T Day Update

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Since I'm normally the only one that helps my aunts cook for Thanksgiving J and I normally don't spend the whole day together since he has to go to his family's. He would go during the day and then come back to my family's for desserts. This year I didn't make as much desserts as I used to. I made carrot cake whoopee pies and a vanilla bean cake with chocolate frosting for J to take to his family's and made a berry trifle, cheesecake and apple pie for mine. I have to say the item that was the biggest hit was the trifle. After stuffing our faces with food, J, my cousins Sam and Angela all went to the bowling alley and met up with Eli, Jocelyn and two of their family friends. We were there for almost 4 hours! Not only was it fun but at least we got to burn a few calories. I can't wait until Christmas and do it all over again!




Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Almond Caramel Shortbread Bars

I normally have a bag of Trader Joe's Just Almond Meal on hand. Sometimes when I make cookies I replace some flour with almond meal to keep it moist and adds a subtle almond flavor without overpowering like almond extract. I was looking for a bar cookie recipe and found one on Hershey's website. The one on the website is Chewy Toffee Almond Bar. Not everyone likes coconut and I wanted to use caramel instead of the toffee bites so I tweaked the recipe.


Almond Caramel Shortbread Bars


Shortbread:

  • 1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or almond extract)
  • 1/3 cup almond flour or meal
  • 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Caramel layer:

You can use the caramel recipe I posted previously: Click Here or melt 14 oz bag of store bought caramel with 1/4 cup of cream. 

Topping:

1 cup of sliced almond. 

preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Greased an 8 inch square pan. 

In a medium size bowl add almond meal, flour and salt. Mixed. In another medium size bowl, cream together butter and sugar until white and fluffy then add vanilla then mix. Mix the combined dry ingredients into the butter mixture until well incorporated. Press the dough evenly into the greased 8 inch square pan. Bake on 350 for 20 minutes or until the shortbread looks light golden brown. 

While you are waiting for the shortbread, prepared the caramel layer. 

Pour the caramel onto the baked shortbread. Topped with the sliced almond and bake on 350 for another 10 minutes. Make sure you let it cool completely before slicing into bars. 







Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lemon Lime Pound Cake

This recipe is a cross between a pound cake and butter cake. I used lemon and lime zests but you can just use one kind of citrus if you like. It's also amazing with some fruit compote and whipped cream!
Lemon Lime Pound Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Greased and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Cake:
  • 13 tbs room temperature unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbs lemon zest
  • 1 tbs lime zest
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tbs milk
  • 1 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
Lemon syrup:
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combined milk, vanilla and eggs. In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking powder, lemon and lime zests. Add the dry ingredient mixture to the large bowl with butter/sugar. Mixed until combined then add the wet mixture, then add lemon juice.  Mix on medium for 1 minute. Pour mixture into the loaf pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until when you insert a tooth pick and it comes out clean. When the cake is done, removed from oven poke holes into the cake using a tooth pick and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Then use the time to prepared the syrup.

To make the syrup, you all need a small pot. Add the sugar and lemon juice into the pot. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolved. pour the syrup into the pan with the pound cake and let the cake cool for another 30 minutes. Once all the syrup is absorbed into the cake you can turn the cooled cake out and eat! To store the cake I wrapped the cake in plastic wrap and put it in an air tight container. You should eat it in a 3-4 days if you don't refrigerate it (a week, you can microwave it for around 10 seconds to warm it up before serving). 



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Very First Attempt at Making Caramel Candy.


 Soft, chewy caramel. Who can resist? When I was young I used to eat A LOT of candy (have the cavities to prove it!) but the older I get it seems like I stopped eating so much sweets. I know it sounds crazy since I bake all the time but most of the time I only have one or two bites. One thing that I can not resist is caramel.  From chewy sweet caramel with tart Granny Smith apple to the Fleur de Sel Caramels from Dean and Deluca or William Sonoma, I seriously love them all. I've always been hesitant to make any sort of candy involving hot molten sugar since it just seems dangerous. While I was doing my usual browsing for new recipes I found a super easy sounding recipe from Science of Cooking.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hectic but Joyous Time!

It has been absolutely craziness for the past two weeks. Due to my cousin Tina getting married on the 23rd at the Inn at Longshore in Westport, a lot of family and friends came visit from out of the country and state. Since I have a pretty big extended family, I don't always get to see all my relatives yearly since we are spread all over the place. I really cherish times like this when all of us get together for a joyous event. Fortunately we got to do this for the past two years (my wedding was last year). Since I'm the resident baker in the family, I got to baked lots of goodies to share. I also made a Barbie cake for my niece  Lorelai's early 4th birthday.




I made Tina's favorite Jam Thumbprints and also
Coconut Macaroons(forgot to take a pic).

Barbie! 

Back of Barbie


Took the Adams to Norwalk Maritime Aquarium



Hot dogs at Super Duper Weenie. 























Congrats Tina and Ian!



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mid October Updates

The week of the 10th has been very busy for J and I. J and my brother Josh's birthdays are on the 13th and our one year anniversary is on the 15th which is also my brother Cliff's birthday. On the 13th, I made a meal of J's choice which happens to be a semi Thanksgiving dinner. I made turkey cutlets, stuffings, green beans. We did have cranberry sauce but it's the gelatinous kind that comes in a can since J doesn't like "real" cranberry sauce. I also baked him a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. He didn't want it to be fancy so I just frosted the cake and sprinkled some colored sugars on it. I also made banana bread and oatmeal raisin/cranberry/cherries cookies for my cousins and grandma who's back from Taiwan.  On Friday J took the day off so we can drive back to CT early (and he can get his iPhone 4S). The weekend wasn't all play, J had to visit two clients to make some extra gambling money since for our anniversary we went to Mohegan Sun. We had dinner at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse and then met up with some of J's family. It was such an exhausting week with J having to drive all over CT and then back to MA but I'm so glad we did it. I got to see my grandma and my extended family since everyone's back for Tina's wedding which is this Saturday!






Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chicken Katsu and Korokke

Korokke are Japanese potato croquettes that are breaded then deep fried. There are countless ways to make them. You can add meats or keep them vegetarian by only adding veggies. Today the ones I made includes bacon.













Wednesday, October 5, 2011

R.I.P. Steve Jobs

Today is a sad, sad day for all of us Apple lovers. The great innovator in black turtleneck passed today.  For our friends and family, they know how much Apple means to us. J is a certified Apple Computer consultant, he's got pretty much all the professional certifications for Apple. J has been working on Apple Computers since he was in his early teens and been getting paid for it since he was 17. Thanks to Apple,  he's able to make a comfortable living (at the same time meeting celebrities and famous figures) without having a college degree.

Steve Jobs, you will be greatly missed!!

below are pics of J fixing my MacBook Pro after coffee spill.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dried Longan (Guiyuan) with Banana Cake 桂圆蛋糕

Besides Lychee 荔枝, Logan 龍眼 is another one of my top fruits to eat when I'm in Taiwan. I'm lucky to spent better half of my childhood in such a beautiful island that is famous for all the yummy fruits it produces. After we moved to the U.S., our family would go back to Taiwan every summer and I would stuff myself with all the DELICIOUS Taiwanese snacks and of course all the fruits (lycée, longan, mangos, etc...). Guiyuan 桂圆 is the name for dried Longan, kind of like raisins are to grapes. It is often use in Chinese desserts or used to make tea. You might be able to find dried Longan in Chinese markets, I got mine from Taiwan. It also has medicinal value in Chinese medicine.


You can make these into little muffins or in a cake pan. The cake pan I'm using is an 8''x8'', greased with butter. 

Dried Longan with Banana Cake 
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried Longan (first soaked in 1 cup of hot water then drained the water) 
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees F. 

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a medium size bowl. In another bowl, Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs, vanilla extract and mashed bananas, dried Longan and mix until smooth. Slowly add in the flour mixture until the batter comes together. Pour in a greased 8''x8'' cake pan and bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If you decide to make muffins, bake for 13-15 minutes.



Friday, September 23, 2011

Apple Banana Bread

I've notice I make a lot of Banana Bread. I think it has to do with the fact that I'm not a big fan of ripe bananas. My perfect banana for eating is yellow with a little green in color and J's favorite are the ones that are borderline overripe. But since the window for the banana to turn overripe is very small normally we end up with a few bananas that are too mushy for his taste. I hate wasting food so these overripe bananas end up being banana breads. Today I made Apple Banana Bread which has chopped Granny Smith apples in them. Sometimes I would make a Streusel topping but today I just sprinkled White Sparkling Sugar (coarser than sanding sugar) for the extra crunch. You can also use Sugar in the Raw if you don't have Sparking Sugar in hand.


Apple Banana Bread

  • 1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cup mashed overripe bananas
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, chopped 
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsb cinnamon 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon in a bowl. In a different bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add sour cream, mashed bananas, vanilla and eggs until combined. Add the flour mixture to the wet banana mixture and then mix until combined, do not over mix. Stir in the chopped apples into the batter. Pour the mixture to the loaf pan then sprinkle the sugar on top and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Moving=Frozen Pizza

We are all settled in the Boston Metro area. All the boxes are unpacked and pretty much all the rooms are all set up. Since we've been busy with the move, I have not cook much. We were at Stop and Shop and J wanted frozen pizza. Normally we get the Newman's Thin Crust Pepperoni but we wanted to try something different. I really like the BBQ chicken from California Pizza Kitchen but since J doesn't like onions we decided on the garlic chicken instead. It was really delicious! Lots of chicken and roasted garlic. We will definitely get it again. I'm also posting some pics of my new kitchen since I will be spending a lot more time in there while I'm on my FUNemployment.




Saturday, August 20, 2011

Big Changes & Cold Peanut Noodles

It's been a while since I last posted and a lot of changes happened. J accepted an offer in the Boston area so I put in my notice at work and we will be moving up there next week. I have not been actively seeking work in Boston because I want to take some time off to get settled in. Anyways, this week has been hell at work and I was also busy prepping for Tina's Bridal Shower cake and for our going away party at J's parents' house today.


Tina Cake: Two tier fondant covered cake. Bottom layer is a chocolate cake with buttercream and raspberry filling. Upper layer is Funfetti cake with buttercream. For decoration I stick to her wedding colors which were navy blue and fuchsia.  I used navy blue ribbon and white and pink gum paste flowers.

Our going away party: I made cheesecake, carrot cake whoopee pies and cold peanut noodles. It's similar to my previous post of the cold Japanese noodles but it's less vinegary. I grew up eating cold sesame noodles in Taiwan but since I didn't have any Chinese sesame paste I just used peanut butter and sesame oil. It definitely tastes more authentic with the sesame paste but it's not bad with the peanut butter.

Cold Peanut Noodles (Vegan) serves 8 as a side dish
Sauce:
  • half a cup of peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
  • 2 tbs rice wine vinegar 
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 3 tsb toasted sesame oil 
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbs chopped green onion 
  • 1-2 tsb of Sambal chili sauce (optional)
Noodles:
  •  14 oz. package of udon soba (or any noodles you want)
  • 2 cups of julienned English cucumber
  • 2 cups of julienned carrots
*For the noodle toppings, besides carrots and cucumbers you can add pretty much whatever you like such as ham, eggs (scrambled the eggs, turn into egg sheets and julienned slices), shredded chicken. 

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl then set aside. Julienned (French cutting technique to cut the food item into thin stripes) the cucumbers and carrots then set aside. Boil the udon soba according to the package instruction. Drain the noodles then run it under cold water until cooled then make sure you drain the water throughly. Add the sauce and veggies to the drained noodles then toss until the sauce is well incorporated with the noodles then top with the chopped green onion. 


Bridal party minus Lauren and Jenn

Tina's cake









Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐

It's a popular and easy to make spicy dish consists of ground beef or pork, tofu and a spicy chili sauce from the Szechuan Province in China. There are different variations but this version I'm making is my mom's recipe.

This recipe serves 4-5 people.

  • 1/2 lb ground pork or beef
  • 1 lb medium firm tofu, in 1/2 inch cubes (no silken tofu since it will turn into mush)
  • 1 tbs veggie oil or any light tasteless oil
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 3 tbs thinly sliced scallion/green onion
Sauce:
  • 2 tbs spicy chili bean paste 辣豆瓣醬 (add more if you like it more spicy)
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsb sesame oil 
  • 1 tsb dry sherry or sake
  • 1 tbs corn starch dissolved in 2 tbs cold water
Mix the ingredients for the sauce and set aside. Brown the minced meat in the veggie oil on medium heat. Add minced garlic and stir-fry for a minute. Add the sauce, tofu and 1 tab sliced scallion then stir gently. Let it simmer until the sauce thickens (10 minutes). Serve in a big enough bowl then sprinkle the remaining 2 tbs of sliced scallions on top. Serve with steamed white rice or pour some over ramen!















Since J won't eat Mapo Tofu I made him Filet Mignon instead.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Shake Shack Review

Yes, it is the same Shake Shack that originally started at Madison Square Park in NYC. The MSP location even got a webcam so you can see how long the line is in the summer (sometimes over an hour!). A lot of people in the area (lower Fairfield County) were extremely excited about it opening in Westport, I think more than Tarry Lodge. Me on the other hand had my reservations. Having grew up in Southern California I'm naturally bias to IN-N-OUT. I tried my hardest to have an open mind. We got there around 7 PM and the line was almost out the door. I was impressed by how fast the line went.

Here is our order: 2 Shake Burgers ($4.75 each and doesn't even have bacon), 1 large root beer ($3.40), french fries ($2.75) and a strawberry shake (tiny cup for $5). The total with tax came to $21.97.

So was it worth the $$?? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! The burgers were small and tasted average. French fries taste like the average fast food crinkle cut fries and the shake was ok. IN-N-OUT totally blow Shake Shack out of the water. Heck, even Duchess' is better. I really do not understand what all the hype is all about. I will go back again but not for the burger; for the frozen custard since by the time I was done with the burger the line got way too long (out the door on the deck).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Westport Restaurant Openings

One of my earlier posts was about Mario Batali opening a new restaurant in the Saugatuck section of Westport (down the street from where we live). Well it's here! It's called Tarry Lodge which has another location in Port Chester, NY. It is a joint venture of Batali and Joe Bastianich, who is the son of Lidia. I remember I used to watch Lidia's cooking show on PBS during college between classes.  J and I were on the Harley today and saw there were people dining in there. We went in and found out today is their soft opening. The grand opening will be next Tuesday the 19th. Which is one day before Shake Shack (opening Wednesday). We only took a quick look but so far the interior looks nice but I found it to be a little dark. Our goal for next week is to eat at both restaurants. I'm more excited about Tarry Lodge since the menu looks simple and delicious. Having lived in Southern California, most burgers can't compare to In-N-Out. To me Shack Shake is just another burger joint, maybe it will change my mind but I guess we will find out next weekend.














A side note. Tonight for dinner we went to the new Asian Buffet in Orange with J's family and Father Seraphim and his family to celebrate Father Seraphim's birthday. Being a food snob, J refuse to eat anything there so I had to make him dinner when we got home. I have some Kobe beef patties from Trader Joe's so that's what he had.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trash the Dress Preview

Our photographer posted some of the teasers on their Facebook page so here they are...




Beef Lo Mein & Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

My sister in-law Dawn is having her second child this coming Monday. I can't say I know how she's feeling but I know that being pregnant in this crazy hot weather is not easy. I wanted to bring her some noodles since she really likes the Asian foods I make. For the Beef Lo Mein, I used the recipe from Steamy Kitchen since it's very similar to the noodle my mom makes. I added scallions and swap out the Chinese broccoli with frozen stir fry veggies. For the noodles, instead of dry noodles I used the fresh Chinese egg noodles from the local Chinese grocer.   I also made Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge since I was craving chocolate. I used recipes of peanut butter fudge and regular chocolate fudge then cut each recipe in half since I didn't want to end up having 5 lbs of fudge.