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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sesame Cold Noodles-芝麻涼麵

My family and I used to go back to Taiwan every summer and one of my favorite dishes is Sesame Cold Noodles. It gets stupid hot and humid in Taiwan 6 month out of the year so cold noodles are very popular there. It's one of those dish that you can customize to your liking. You can eat it plain with just shredded cucumbers and carrots or add whatever ingredients you like (ham, eggs, chicken, etc...).

Last summer I posted a recipe for Peanut Cold Noodles since I didn't have sesame paste on hand, well I finally bought a jar of sesame paste from the Asian market and couldn't wait to try it out. After looking at several Taiwanese food blogs and my mom's Taiwanese cook books I could't believe how many different variations of dressing you can make. I decided to use the my peanut sauce recipe from last summer and make some changes to it to make it taste more like the sauce I had in Taiwan. 












Sesame Cold Noodles
serves 4-6

Sesame Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup Chinese sesame paste*
  • 2 tbs creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup hot water*
  • 1 1/2 tbs Chinese black rice vinegar*
  • 1 tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 minced garlic (or more if you like)
  • 1 tsp chili sauce (optional)
Noodles/Toppings:
  • 1 lb Chinese egg noodles or spaghetti
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame oil* (optional but highly recommended if you are making this ahead of time)
  • 1 cup julienned cucumbers
  • 1 cup julienned carrots
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
Cook the noodles according to package instruction. While waiting for the noodles to be done, add all the ingredients listed under "Sesame Dressing" in to a small bowl. Mix until all the ingredients are incorporated. Drain the cooked noodles and rise the noodles off couple times with cold water. Make sure the noodles are well drained and in a large bowl, toss with the sesame oil to keep the noodles from sticking to each other. 

Serving-
You can toss all the dressing, noodles, toppings in a large bowl ahead of time keep cool in the fridge or make individual servings. To make individual servings, top your desire portion of noodles with toppings and spoon some of the sesame dressing on top. I happened to have some rotisserie chicken on hand so I shredded some chicken and add them to the noodles. 

* If you don't have Chinese sesame paste, you can use Tahini but keep in mind that Tahini is milder in flavor. 
* Chinese black rice vinegar has a deep, smoky flavor while rice wine vinegar is a very mild and sweet vinegar. Think of the black rice vinegar as the Balsamic vinegar of Asia. 
* Pending on the brand of sesame paste you might have to adjust the amount of water to get to your desire dressing consistency.
* I like using toasted sesame oil since it doesn't effect the flavor of the sesame dressing. You can use any other mild flavor oil you like since it's only for tossing in the noodles to keep them from sticking.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Homemade Bathroom Cleaners

Since I've been on this "Homemade Solutions" kick, I've found tons of great blogs/websites for green/homemade remedies. One of my favorite is One Good Thing by Jillee. She has tons of great homemade solutions from cleaning to beauty products. I have tried her "Miracle Cleaner" on caked on cookie sheets with good results.

I found a mildew and soap scum soft scrub recipe somewhere and used to to scrub off all the tough soap scum build up in my shower/tub about 3 days ago. Today I noticed some light build up and since I didn't feel like spending more than 5 minutes cleaning the shower/tub, I decided to try the Tub and Shower Spray Jill had posted. 

All you need is a spray bottle and equal parts of heated distilled vinegar and Dawn Original "Blue" dish soap. In her post she mentioned that the 1:1 ratio of soap and vinegar took too long to rinse off so I just use 1 part soap and 2 parts vinegar. Since my show/tub area is not that big I cut the recipe in half. Just a heads up, the smell of vinegar is VERY strong, I just opened the window to ventilate the room. I rinsed off the solution after about 10 minutes instead of an hour since I just scrubbed the shower/tub with my homemade Mildew and Soap Scum Buster (recipe below) not too long ago so the soap scum wasn't too bad. 

I'm so impressed with this spray! It is so easy to make and works very well. I will definitely be using this on a regular basis. 



Shiny fixture without using elbow grease.


























* It seems like Dawn Original "Blue" is highly recommended for a variety of homemade remedies so it's good to keep a bottle on hand. 

Bathroom Cleaner: Mildew and Soap Scum Buster
  • 1 2/3 cups baking soda
  • 1/2 cup liquid soap
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
1. Mix baking soda and liquid soap in a bowl. Dilute with water and add the vinegar. Stir the mixture with a fork until any lumps have been dissolved. 
2. Apply the mixture to area you want to clean and scrub with a sponge. Rinse off with water. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent Update

Back in end of April I posted about making my own laundry detergent (recipe click here-laundry detergent). I'm still hesitant to use it on my darks so only been using it on my whites and lights. So far it's been working out quite well. I noticed that I have about 1 1/2 cup left so I decided to put the Fels-Naptha (don't remember the exact cost but was less than $1 a bar) I got at Walmart to use.

Fels-Naptha has a very strong fragrance comparing to the Dr. Bronner's castile bar soap so I made sure I grated the soap in a well ventilated area. Fels-Naptha was a lot harder to grate than the castile soap so I had to work my arm muscles extra hard. I also added extra 1/2 cup of OxyClean to the mixture since several bloggers had done the same and thought it boosted the cleaning power of homemade detergents. I just dumped the mixture into the same container with the remanning castile soap based detergent. 

I found no difference in cleaning power between using castile soap vs. Fels-Naptha. The only difference is that Fels-Naptha has a very strong detergent smell but then it kind of fades after the washing cycle. There is however a small price difference in cost since the castile soap cost about $4 per bar. 

I told my mom about making my own detergent and she was really impressed. She mentioned that maybe when my brother Josh comes home for Christmas I should make him a batch to take back to CA since it will be more gentile on his skin due to him having Eczema. If I make a batch for him I will stick with the castile soap since Fels-Naptha has a lot of chemical in it. Dr.Bronner's comes in different scents so I think I will try lavender or citrus scent next time. 

The yellow specks are grated Fels-Naptha.





















** For J and I, a batch of this homemade detergent will last us about 4 months.  I normally do about 3-4 loads a week. 
** Keep in mind that I only wash my whites and lights with the homemade detergent, for darks and bright colors I use Woolite Extra Dark Care/Tide.
** Since I wash my whites and lights in warm water I just use "regular" size grate. If you wash your clothes in cold water you should use the "fine" size of your grater or use your food processor to get it to a very fine powdering texture or it won't dissolve completely in your washer. 




Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ridiculously Easy Nutella Cookies

By now most of you are familiar with Pinterest. It is the It Girl of social networking at the moment. I have gotten countless recipes, tips and inspirations from items that others have pinned. One recipe I kept seeing was the very easy Nutella cookies with only 4 ingredients. Flour, egg, sugar and of course the delicious Nutella. After looking over the recipe, I thought the mixture might come out to be too dry so I added some milk to it. 

Easy Nutella Cookies
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 to 2 tbs 2 % milk (or any type of milk you like)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a medium size bowl, mix flour, sugar, egg and Nutella until combined. Add the milk 1 tbs at a time until the mixture come together into a thick cookie batter. Shape the mixture into balls (I used a 2 inch diameter cookie scoop) and drop onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper then lightly press on the balls to flatten them. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the middle is slightly set and not too doughy looking. 

Verdict-
The end result was tasty but not mind blowing since I expected more hazelnut flavor. The cookies just tasted like chocolate cookies with hint of hazelnut. Maybe I should add 1/4 tsp of hazelnut extract next time? Also since the dough doesn't spread as much as a regular cookie dough I should of press it flatter. 

 I also found a 3 INGREDIENTS (!!) Nutella cookies on Sugar Crafter's blog which might help with the flavoring since it only consist of Nutella, egg and sugar. I think I will try that next time. 


Should of flatten the dough a little more. 


The Sparkly Red Dress

Almost 4 months ago I pinned the Marta Sequined dress from BCBGMAXAZRIA on Pinterest. Last Saturday I was browsing on www.lordandtaylor.com and saw that it was on sale. Without hesitation I ordered the dress plus a pair of somewhat dressy flip flop from Nina Shoes. I thought it would take at least 5 business days but I got the shipment on the following Monday! 

The dress is just as pretty in person as on the website. J thinks it's nice but a little too sparkly for his taste, however, the dress is a hit amongst the girls. I think that's the difference between guys and the gals, most of us gals LOVE anything that sparkles. 

The only downside is that the dress is a little big. The smallest size Lord and Taylor have left is a small but I normally wear XS in this style of dresses from BCBG. I will have to bring it to my tailor to do some minor alteration. 






















Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Black Sugar (Muscovado) Mantou-黑糖饅頭

After my success of making Milk Mantou, I decided to tried my hands at making Black Sugar Mantou-黑糖饅頭. Out of all the different types of Mantous, Black Sugar Mantou is my favorite.

Black Sugar also known as Muscovado is a kind of raw cane sugar that is unrefined with a high mineral content. You can find it at most Asian markets. It is much darker in color than dark brown sugar (almost black, hence the name Black Sugar). It normally comes in small bricks but you can get it in powder form. The kind I used is the brick type from Okinawa. If you don't have Muscovado you can substitute with dark brown sugar.

The recipe I used is based from Vivian Pang Kitchen. I omitted the Pandan leaves because the Black Sugar mantous in Taiwan doesn't have Pandan flavoring in them. I also extended the rising time. For some reason my first batch came out denser than I like when I followed her rising time. For the first rise I extended the time to 40 minutes and for the second rise I extended to 20 minutes.

Ready to steam. 

First batch, looks good but too dense for me. 

Comparing batch 2 (left) to batch 1 (right). 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lemon Blueberry Loaf

I was at ShopRite yesterday and got a pint of fresh blueberries for a dirt cheap price of $1.99. Since J has been bringing my bake goods to work, I thought a Lemon Blueberry Loaf would be great for him and his co-workers for breakfast on a Friday. I know I say it all the time but J is one picky eater. He doesn't really like berries since most of the berries have seeds; however, he will eat bake goods with berry coulis since the seeds are sieved out of the berry sauce. Blueberries have no seeds so occasionally he will eat a blueberry muffin.

Surprisingly he was all for the lemon blueberry combo since he's not a huge fan of anything sour. He loves pound cakes but I find them too dense so I made this cake into a cross between a pound cake and loaf cake. The difference between a pound cake and loaf cake is that the pound cake doesn't include any leavenings (baking soda/baking powder) thus you end up with a denser cake.

Trader Joe's Fresh Pizza Dough and All Natural Ground Beef

There were two new things I got from Trader Joe's yesterday. The All Natural Ground Beef and the Fresh Pizza Dough. I made meatballs yesterday and saved some for the pizza tonight. The ground beef was the same price as the one I got from Saugatuck Craft Butchery but I think I prefer the taste and texture of the meatballs made from the Saugatuck Craft Butchery. 

Not that the ground beef wasn't tasty from Trader Joe's, in fact the meatballs were pretty good. I just feel the grass-feed ground beef was definitely superior. For some reason the meat is super red and even after cooking the meatballs (they were rather small in size) for an hour the center was still really pink even though it was fully cooked. 

Since J is picky when it comes to pizza so we don't normally make it at home. We have frozen pizza on occasion but that's only when I'm too tired to cook which is not often. I understand where he's coming from since nothing beats a good brick oven pizza. Our favorites are from Via Sforza in Westport and of course Pepe's.

 I got a log of fresh Mozzarella so I made stuffed crust pizzas. To prevent the crusts from being soggy since I loaded the pizzas with insane amount of toppings, I pre-baked the crust for about 8 minutes before piling on the toppings. 

Today I also committed one of the Cardinal Sins of Food Blogging. Forgetting to take a picture of the end result! We were so hungry that we quickly wolfed down the pizzas. The homemade pizzas weren't bad at all, obviously not as good as the ones we get from Pepe's or Sforza but better than some homemade pizzas we had in the past. The pre-baking really helped. 

Mozz stuffed crust!


Toppings.

Pre-bake the crust for about 10 minutes for a
crunchy thin crust. 

J's super loaded meat pie: ham, fresh/shredded Mozz,
tomato, green pepper, meatball and pepperoni. 

My Hawaiian pie.