Friday, June 30, 2006

Homemade Granola, Tuna Pasta Salad and Lemon Cake

It is a productive day for me! I made half a batch of Granola, as recommended by the kind people on Cookinglight forum in the morning. They are so easy to make, and yet so tasty! I must have eaten more than one cup after they came out from the oven. They are simply addictive as snack! It reminds me of the expensive breakfast I used to have with my ex-colleagues at Coffee Bean, where they served yogurt parfait. It is basically milk + yogurt + granola. I have known the staff so well that I managed to fish out the brand of everything they used to make the parfait. It was definitely more economically to make it myself at home. Eventhough the price of the granola they used was still quite expensive....

This granola recipe I used came from here. It is an oil-less recipe. You won't know that it's low fat from its taste. Since OCT doesn't eat granola, so I only make half a batch. (still I think it can last me for more than 10 breakfasts) And I added slivered almond, raisin, and chocolate covered cranberries to my basic granola. Yum~~

OCT is helping his colleague to move house tonight, so I am eating dinner alone. I decided to try another pasta salad because of the hot weather. Judging from the ingredients list,which has all my favorite ingredients; I believe it will turn out well. And sure it does! This is another Rachel Ray's recipe that will be made over and over again! The best part is: it doesn't use mayo or Italian dressing. Which means it's low fat. The pesto and lemon juice used gives the salad a refreshing taste that belongs to summer.

For dessert, I make the famous Ina Garten's Lemon Cake. I never have a more lemon-y cake than this, in a good way of course. There was only a second of hesitation, as to whether I should try another lemon cake recipe, but Ina prevailed. So far, I have not tried any Ina Garten's recipe that I don't like!


Eggless Chocolate Chips Cookies

My oven has been resting for sometime now, and I think it's the perfect time to make it work before its owner goes on vacation next week!

This is a recipe I saw from Anna's blog. It was supposed to be a vegan recipe. In case you are unfamiliar with the term Vegan like me, the following is its definition on Wikipedia:

"Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle that "seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment."

In practice, a vegan (an adherent to veganism) commits to the abstention from consumption or use of all animal products, including honey, eggs and dairy products, as well as articles made of fur, wool, bone, leather, feathers, pearls, mother of pearl, coral, and other materials of animal origin. Many vegans also avoid products that have been tested on animals. People who avoid eating all animal products, but who otherwise use animal by-products (for example, leather shoes) are commonly referred to as dietary vegans."

Uh...I guess I can never be a Vegan. Because I love my chocolate, cheese and ice cream. I am sure there must be Vegan versions of chocolate and ice cream, just like the mock meat that my vegetarian friends enjoy. My vegetarian friend ML who happens to be a good cook used to cook "Chicken soup" for us back in College, using mock chicken, of course. But I guess, I like the real thing better...

Because I used dairy chocolate chunk in the recipe, I guess I can't call this recipe Vegan Chocolate Chips cookies nor "Almost vegan chocolate chips cookies", so I call it Eggless Chocolate chips cookies! It's a pretty healthy recipe, using whole wheat flour and maple syrup, without butter and eggs.

I really need a healthy cookies recipe to quench my cookies crave. Did I tell you the fate of half batch of the chocolate chips cookies I made for last Sunday's picnic? They were all gobbled up by me! OCT tried to stop me but to no avail. He grumbled that I have finished all up without leaving one or two for him. But I really couldn't stop myself! The first night when the cookies were baked, they were so so only. After refrigerated overnight in the fridge, they had transformed! I don't know why, but they tasted better on the subsequent days....

Needless to say, the last recipe wasn't the healthiest cookies I have ever made. This recipe sounds healthy enough though, and I am really curious of its texture and flavor, without the fat from eggs and butter, and the substitution of white flour with whole wheat flour.

Because it requires no butter and eggs, this has shorten my baking process tremendously. I don't have to wait for the butter to come to room temperature, and beat with mixer etc. From start time to pulling the cookies out from oven, it took less than 40 minutes.

It has an interesting nutty flavor and chewing texture. A healthy recipe that certainly worth trying. One thing to note though. The cookies spread quite a bit because of the lack of structural support from butter and eggs, so be sure to leave enough space between the doughs.

Eggless Chocolate Chips Cookies ( Adapted from Cookie Madness and Vive le Vegan!)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (see note below for wheat-free version)- I used WW flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup unrefined sugar (I used white sugar)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp blackstrap molasses (omitted this)
1 - 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil (a little generous 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup non-dairy chocolate chips ( I used dark chocolate chunk!)

Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). In a bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, and stir until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup with the molasses and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined. Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the chocolate chips, and stir through until just well combined (do not overmix). Place large spoonfuls of the batter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten a little. Bake for 11 minutes, until just golden (if you bake for much longer, they will dry out). Let cool on the sheet for no more than 1 minute (again, to prevent drying), then transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 8-10 large cookies.

Note: Unbleached all-purpose flour produces a cookie with a very classic taste and texture, but you can use whole-wheat pastry flour and still have delicious cookies! For a wheat-free version, use barley or spelt flour. With spelt flour, you may need to add an extra 2-4 TB of flour, if it is a refined spelt flour.

Idea: Make a really special dessert treat... ice cream cookie sandwiches! Using two cookies that have been completely cooled in the refrigerator, spread some softened soy ice cream on the underside of one cookie, then place the other cookie on top. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until firm!

Makes 12 cookies


Kindness of the strangers

After knowing that the food in DC are appallingly expensive, I crack my head to come up with snacks that we can bring to eat for our upcoming trip. You have to understand that my husband has bottomless pit, so we really need to bring something that's filling, doesn't require a fridge, and economical. Yes, economical. I sort of feel guilty for making OCT to stretch his budget and bring me to visit Washington DC.

So, in desperation, I posted a question on the Cookinglight forum, a forum that I like to frequent but never contribute much. To my surprise, the kind people there have come up with all sort of creative and do-able ideas! One suggested that I bring my cooler bag, which I can fill with ice that hotel provides, so that we can buy milk/ yogurt to eat as breakfast. Another suggested me to make homemade granola to eat with the milk/yogurt. And others provide test and true recipes, ideas and tips for cheap eat and must see places.

When I told OCT about this, he was quite surprise. He said he didn't know why people could be so helpful to someone they never met. For me, I am touched. And I know I will do just the same for people that need my help. I think sometime we are too involved in our undertaking that we fail to see other's need. We become self centered and selfish and think everyone should fend for themselves and mind their own businesses. Kindness becomes rare, and deems as stupid, and to be taken advantage of.

I don't know. This is not the way I was brought up. I grow up in the part of the world where people help one another. Neighbours will help you to look after your house, water your plant when you are away and give you whatever extra fruits that they harvest in their backyard. Friends give you rides even it's out of their ways without you asking. People look after one another.

Sorry if I have bored you with these. It is just that the kindness of these people on the forum has suddenly reminds me the warmth of my hometown once again. Of course I must not forget to count my blessings to be in the midst of the helpful Singaporean community here...


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More rice on the table....

Bring on the rice! For the benefit of my rice-deprived husband. We have been feasting on Chinese meal since last Sunday. ~ Boring~

However, I manage to inject a bit of surprise every night, so that we can have something to look forward to for dinner. Actually, OCT is easily satisfied with the sight of rice, regardless of the dishes. And I am not particularly motivated to try out new dishes, because I have more EXCITING things to do!

We are going to Washington DC this coming Sunday! I have been busy in doing research on the "must see, must go and must eat places in DC". And I am overwhelmed by the vast information the ever wonderful Internet provides. I have our flight and accomodation booked, and itineary planned. Now I only need to think of what cake/ cookies to bake for this coming trip.

Allow me to digress from my usually food related entry. I am really excited about this trip. Incidentally, we will be in the nation's capitol on its National Day! I have heard so much about its marvellous firework at night, which attracts tourists and citizens to the Capitol for the event itself. A certain must see! Afterall, we will be conveniencely there, staying just 2 blocks away from the White House.

Because of the research I am conducting, I have somewhat throw my apron aside and digress from my daily baking related internet sites to other travel sites...Nevertheless, I managed to try a new recipe yesterday, and it was a good one! OCT commented that the dish was " refreshing". How true! With the combinations of a few acidic ingredients, the sauce turned out to be surprisingly refreshing. Almost making me succumb to another helping of rice....

It's a fish dish, which we seldom eat due to the lack of fresh fish here. Or rather the expensive price tag that comes with the fish. Well, I used frozen tilapia for this dish, and it turned out nice! And I promise that no one will know they were frozen. I don't have the five spice powder, so I just sprinkle the fish with some salt, pepper and paprika before saute. The highlight is really the sauce in my opinion.

Five- Spice Tilapia with Citrus Ponzu Sauce

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon bottled ground fresh ginger (such as Spice World) (I used fresh ginger)
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder (substituted with paprika)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
2 teaspoons canola oil

Combine green onions, juices, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and ginger in a small bowl.
Combine five-spice powder, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of fish evenly with spice mixture.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from skillet.

Add the sauce into the same skillet to deglaze the skillet. Pour the sauce onto the fish once it comes to a boil. It should take less than 10 seconds.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Rice on plate like rain after drought...

We didn't go to the Winery again. OCT was not feeling well this morning..Sigh, what can I say? Hope we can go another time.

We have rice tonight, after OCT complaint that he hasn't had a single grain of rice for 4 days. It's a record for him, apparently. He normally cannot survive without rice for more than 3 days. He said that his dizziness was a signal his body sent, to remind him to eat rice....

So his wish is granted. We have rice along with two rather uninspiring dishes. But the glow on OCT's face is obvious...


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Oatmeal Chocolate Chips Cookies

I make a batch of cookies tonight for our picnic tomorrow. After many delays, we are finally going to the winery with our friends! Not that I am an alcoholic, but I am always curious of the wine making process.

In fact, I am curious about everything that have to do with food! That's why I chose Applied Chemistry as my university major. How ignorant. The course had absolutely nothing to do with food. And all the chemicals that I dealt with were not edible....

After graduation, I found myself selling poison to professional. Ok, it's not what you think. I was only doing medical sales. If you look carefully, all the medicines are labelled poison on their insert. So, I can tell people that I made a fairly good living selling poison.

I have always wanted to do something related to food. In Uni days, applied Chemistry was the closest thing I could get...Ok, maybe not really close, but definitely closer as compared to Physics or Mathematics or Literature. Poor me who spent so many nights breaking down the complex organic structures into its simplest form; and cracking my head to think of the shortest pathway to make another meaningless chemical structure.

I wish I could use some of the knowledge I learnt in my baking. Some people say baking is a science. You must use the exact ingredients to get the exact outcome. I know this too. Did I tell you that I worked in a pharmaceutical plant before? I know how important the exact weight of a certain ingredients, the exact temperature and the exact mixing time are to the final products. Medicines are unlike cookies. No mistake is allowed. And nothing should be wasted. The last drop of liquid may well worth 10- 20 dollar.

I don't know why I suddenly digress and talk about my previous life... Back to the cookies. They are not as nice as I remembered.I think the last batch tasted much better. Maybe it's the Hershey Kissable chocolates that I used to replace part of the bittersweet chocolate chunks. The kissables are milk chocolate, which makes the chocolate tasted milky. Yike! I don't like the profound milk aftertaste! However, they look pretty interesting. Maybe kids will like them...


Tomyam Soup and Instant Noodle

Not exactly a healthy meal, but we need to find a way to use up the expiring tofu. Hmm..actually it has expired 2 days ago... Nowadays, I am in constant race with the expiration date of our perishable produce...


Friday, June 23, 2006

Bowtie Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper and Ham in White Wine Sauce

Yesterday was another hot summer day. And I didn't sleep well for the past 2 nights, so I wasn't in the mood to cook a Chinese meal with different dishes, not to mention the extra plates and bowls that needed to be washed after the meal.

I cooked pasta in the end. With the simple combination of white wine + vidalia onion + roast red pepper + lemon juice that guarantee success. I don't know why, but this simple combination will just work! The white wine gives the dish a sophisticated taste that couldn't be achieved using other condiments. Juice from half a lemon added towards the end also brighten the flavor of the sauce!Nowadays I always keep some lemons in the fridge for various uses. Like in the banana cake, pasta dish, sauce and iced lemon drink!


Thursday, June 22, 2006

ST, this is for you: Potato Salad

I want to tell you about this potato salad I made yesterday. It was so good so good so good!
I have no idea that it will be that good judging from the simple list of ingredients. Maybe because I actually follow the recipe, and bother to use my measuring spoon and cups to measure the ingredients. I even use a scale to weigh the potatoes! All these are worth the effort. The potato salad turns out perfect. Maybe my standard is low, but this is exactly how I like my potato salad. It reminds me of the potato salad I had at Starbucks. I know this is weird. It's Starbuck that I found my favorite potato salad, of all places. So, if you like Starbucks' kind of potato salad, have a go at this. It may not be exactly the same as theirs, but it reminds me of them.Not any Starbucks, I am referring to the Singapore Starbuck...The only modification I make is to reduce the mayonaise. Oh, and I used the light Mayo. I can hardly wait to make it again.

While doing the research on a potato salad, one site mentioned that the key is to mix the potatoes with the dressing while they are still hot. The reason is because the dressing will coat on all surfaces of the potatoes.

Another reviewer, however, mentioned that chilling the potato salad for a few hours is important for the favour to mend.

I would have tried both suggestions, if I was not rushing out after the potatoes are cooked. But I did chill the salad for 3 hours! No pics for this recipe though. I don't think the picture do any justice to the potato salad. It just look like the normal, humble potato salad.

Potato Salad

2 pounds Idaho potatoes (about 5 potatoes, I used russet potatoes)
2 jumbo eggs, hard boiled
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise (I used slightly less than 1 cup light Mayo)
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large pot, add potatoes and water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender. Drain and cool. Peel cooked potatoes and cut into small chunks. Put in a very large serving bowl or container. Peel and finely chop hard boiled eggs and add to bowl. Add mayonnaise, green onions, celery, mustard, white pepper and salt. Mix until just combined. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours before serving.

Serves 5 as side dish.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Martha's Banana Caramel Cake

I have been eyeing this recipe for as long as I have the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. The only reason that I have not tackled it till now is because of lack of patience. The recipe requires the usual baking of 2 banana cakes, cooking bananas in caramel sauce, and frosting! And I don't really have a special occasion to make a celebration cake.....

Still, here I am, making the cake nevertheless, because I have plenty of time to kill, and a bunch of very ripe bananas to use. And I thought I can ask OCT to bring the cake to his lab meeting on Friday. Later, he told me that his colleague has just bought a banana cake to the lab on Monday. Think I better make something different for his Friday meeting....

Martha's banana cake tastes nice even without the frosting! In fact, I think it will be better off without the frosting. The cream is a bit too sweet and milky. It is a mascarpone frosting. But I think the only way for mascarpone cheese to shine, is with kahlua and coffee. In the Tiramisu. Not in any other recipe. Well, that's what I think.

But I like the caramelised banana in the middle of two cakes. It gives the banana cake its character. The visible banana flesh screams "I am a banana cake, come eat me!", to me, at least.
As the recipe is not found online, I will have to type it out sometime later....

But here's the picture of the banana cake:


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Spareribs with Black Peppercorn Grill Mix

Yesterday night we had spareribs for dinner. I turned my oven to 425F despite the hot weather, and roasted the spareribs for an hour. You can probably imagine how sweaty I was after the cooking.

I got the spareribs last week when they were on sale. Nowadays our dinners are pretty much determined by what is on sale that week. I am not complaining. In fact, I find it quite fun to plan for a week's meal based on that. Of course there's exception...Like our last trip to Trader Joe, we actually bought some smoke salmon, black forest prosciutto, Gruyere cheese and Provolone cheese! All of which are crucial for scrumptious picnics.

Coming back to the spareribs. Usually I like to roast the spareribs "Haiwaiian style", using BBQ sauce and canned pineapple. That is a tried and tested way. But yesterday I was in a spring cleaning mood. So I searched through OCT's box of condiments that he has accumulated before I came. He used to rely on all these ready made, all in one package spice/ sauce before the arrival of his wonderful wife (that's me!!) Since I seldom use any of those, some that he bought from Singapore have expired. I made a mental note to use up some of them as soon as possible. (Like the bak kut teh mix to use up the rest of the ribs) But for yesterday's dinner, I found a packet of Black Peppercorn Grill Mix, that only required 15 minutes of marinate time. And only need to add some vinegar, water and oil. How nice. Normally I will have to marinate the spareribs overnight.

It was not bad. In fact, it was quite delicious, except that it's a bit too dry and spicy. But this can easily be rectified by shortening the roasting time by a few minutes. Definitely something that we can make again when we have guests. I only hope that my memory will not fail me, the way it always do. Either it's the temperature, the cooking time or the ingedients. Most of the time, if it's my own recipe, I can't remember what I have added to the chicken or beef or veggie to make them nice. It's always something extra, which I reckon I will not forget, but forget, and later sulk that I didn't meticulously pen down the recipe. It happens all the time, and if you think I have learnt my lesson, I haven't! Sigh.... Maybe I will start now..Maybe next meal.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Using what is in season : Strawberries Tart

I made a strawberries tart to bring to a friend's house warming last Saturday. When whatever fruits are in season, they are often cheaper and tastier! Noticing the arrival of strawberries season, I have accumulated a few recipes featuring strawberries. Can't wait to try all!

But first, this Strawberries Tart that I made. The recipe came from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. I noticed a few bloggers have tried the tart with rave reviews, so I thought I would join the band! Because I need to bring this to a gathering, I decided to use the frozen tart dough. You know, just in case I couldn't make the tart shell right from scratch. Maybe I should be more adventurous next time. For the frozen tart dough was a bit too thin to my liking...

I like the idea of using light cream cheese rather than the pastry cream that other recipes suggested. Guess I am not a custard person... Another simple yet tasty recipe from MS, how can I not adore this woman?

Strawberries Tart


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled) plus more for handling dough
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt


1 bar (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 to 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 cup seedless red currant jelly

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350°. In a food processor, blend flour, butter, sugar, and salt until moist crumbs form (this may take up to 1 minute). Transfer dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom.

2. With floured fingers, press dough evenly into pan and up sides. Dip a dry-measuring cup in flour, and use it to press dough firmly into bottom and against sides of pan. Freeze crust until firm, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Using a fork, prick crust all over. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes, pressing down gently once or twice with a spoon during baking if crust puffs up. Cool completely in pan.

4. Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth; spread mixture evenly in bottom of baked crust (still in tart pan).

5. Starting from outside edge, arrange strawberry halves, stemmed side down, in tight concentric circles on cream cheese.

6. In a small saucepan, heat jelly on medium-low until liquefied. Gently brush strawberries with jelly; let set at least 20 minutes. Chill in pan at least 1 hour (and up to 6 hours); remove from pan just before serving.

Note: To hull strawberries, insert the tip of a paring knife below the strawberry's stem. Gently cut around to remove only the base of the stem and the white core.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Summer BLT Pasta Salad

We have a bit of leftover built up in the fridge from previous dinners. So I opt to cook something simple tonight, just for dinner. ( normally I will have to cook enough for the night's dinner and OCT's next day lunch).

Tonight's recipe is also suitable to bring to picnic too. Did I tell you how much I love to go picnic? Last Friday we had a picnic with a group of friends before the Julius Caesar play. It was so much fun! Everyone brought something different, and we nibbled a bit of everything. It was quite a feast. Before we knew, we were too full to finish the rest of the food.

Uh....That's just part of the food....

Since we are on last Friday's picnic, maybe I should share some more photos here:

Guess what was OCT doing?

He was washing his hands with the water dispenser!( actually I don't know what it is called!) There's a pedal where you can step on to get tap water. And there was soap and even papers to clean your hands! What a genius design!

I keep pestering OCT on having another picnic soon. "Because," I reason to him, "that now we have the picnic mat, cooler bag, gorgeous weather and thousands of picnic recipes!"

Coming back to the BLT Pasta Salad.

It's more like a recipe to use up all the odds and ends in the fridge to me.

BLT Pasta Salad

8 oz fusilli, cooked rinsed and drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes -- or grape tomatoes cut in half
6 scallions -- white and light green parts, sliced thinly
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to
6 slices smoked bacon -- thick cut, cooked until very crisp and crumbled
Shredded Parmesan cheese

In a chilled bowl, combine pasta,celery, tomatoes and scallions.

Whisk oil, mustard, lemon juice and vinegar together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add vinagrette to the pasta and tossing warm bacon and shredded parmesan to the pasta just before serving.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Playing with a new condiment: Chipotle- Orange Chicken Cutlet

Tonight dinner features a new condiment- Chipotle Chile in Adobo Sauce. I have seen this being used in a few recipes but never got round to buying it until a grocery trip lately.

Chipotle Chile is known for fiery hot, so I am actually expecting something really spicy for tonight's dish. Maybe Malaysians are more attuned to spicy food, I don't find the chipotle chile to be overly spicy. On the other hand, I kind of like the sweetness that the chile added to the dish.

OCT thinks the dish is quite good, but he doesn't want to know what condiments I have used. After living with me for 9 months he is finally confident that I am not going to poison him with some exotic ingredients...or rather, he has come to accept his fate. He has to wash down whatever I cook anyway, poison or not. hehehe. I am just kidding on the last part.

When I told OCT that I don't really like tonight's dish, he insisted that it was very delicious. To prove his point, he even refilled another bowl of rice. Well, what can I say? One man's meat is another man's poision? Maybe it's good that we have different likings. So that we won't fight for the same food. And let the other have MORE of what he/I likes. This will then lead to the deception that "She loves me so much that She gives up her delicious share for me" and vice versa. Who says couples must have the same taste?

Chipotle-Orange Chicken Cutlet

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup thawed orange juice concentrate, undiluted (I used orange juice and hoisin sauce)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons finely chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce (about 1 chile)
2 tablespoons water (optional)
2 cups hot cooked rice
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (omitted, i hate cilantro!!!)
Cilantro sprigs (optional)

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound each piece to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet.
Melt butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat.

Combine flour, cumin, and salt in a shallow dish. Dip chicken in orange juice concentrate; dredge in flour mixture. Reserve concentrate.

Increase heat to medium-high. Heat pan for 2 minutes or until butter starts to brown. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Stir in reserved concentrate, 1/2 cup water, and chile. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes. (Thin sauce with 2 tablespoons water, if needed.

Serve with chicken. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Serves 4.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Linguine Alla Carbonara

Tonight's dinner is Linguine Alla Carbonara. Something I really like to order in Italian restaurant. The extra creamy and cheesy sauce with crispy bacon bites = very fattening. Because of this reason, I have put off the recipe for some time until tonight.

Apparently, this expensive Italian pasta dish is pretty easy to put together, judging from the instruction and ingredients on the recipe. Man am I wrong! It is not as easy as I thought! My supposedly creamy Carbonara comes out a tad too dry, and is not as tasty as I remembered it. The recipe is from Martha Stewart. So it has been to be the user's error.

I guess I have to pay more attention to the instruction.....if I ever made Carbonara again. I doubt so. But on the other hand, I really want to master this dish...

Linguine Alla Carbonara

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2pound spaghetti
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
2 large egg yolks
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese(about 5 ounces), plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and bacon to skillet, and cook until the bacon is browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, and keep warm.

Cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. While spaghetti is cooking, whisk cream, egg yolks, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Drain pasta, and return to saucepan. Immediately stir in egg-and-cheese mixture until well combined. Add warm bacon and fat from pan. Toss well. Thin sauce with additional cream, if necessary. Serve immediately, garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 2.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Carrot cupcakes

Our church friends Gary and Jenny invited us over to pick raspberries today after Sunday service. I am thrilled, as this is my first raspberries picking experience. They also invited us over for lunch! So, I thought I should bring something. Maybe some dessert.

Initially, I wanted to make a Strawberries Tart, but we have run out of strawberries. After searching through some tried and tested recipes, I decided to make a batch of Ina Garten's Carrot Cupcakes.

I ended up grating carrots the whole night yesterday!I need a pound of the grated carrots for the recipe. Not to mention the time spent on sieving powder sugar using my sieve that's way too small for the job. When I finally finished baking and frosting the cake, it was past midnight...

The recipe yields 12 cupcakes and one 9" x 9" square cake. We brought the cupcakes to the lunch and wonder what we should do with the square cake..

Our friend Melvin took a nicer photo of the cupcake here:

The cakes are very moist and tender. But we know we could never finish them on our own. So we cut the cake down into several portions and pass them to our friends.

Afterall, friendship is about sharing, right? That should include the calories, which would otherwise be consumed by the baker herself....


Friday, June 09, 2006

Picnic Food : Chicken Satay, sushi and banana cake!

I made satay sauce using Ina Garten's recipe yesterday.And it tastes quite like the real thing I had in Sabah. Isn't this ironic? Learning my own country's food from a foreigner? Considering the sauce is made from scratch, Ina Garten's version is really quite authetic.

Satay Sauce (makes 1.5 cups)

1 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
2/3 cup small diced red onion (1 small onion)
1.5 tsp minced garlic (2 cloves)
1.5 tsp minced fresh ginger root
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp dry sherry
1.5 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice

Cook [A] in a small pan on medium heat until onion is transparent. Whisk in [B] and cook for 1 min. Cool and use as a dip for the chicken. This can be kept in refrigerator for a month.

When I excitedly present the sauce to OCT, he said it was not as good as the Singapore's version. Well, what can I say? An American's recipe + Malaysian's interpretation is not going to taste anything like Singapore Satay! We then spent some time arguing which country has better satay...quite pointless actually.

My point is, the satay sauce I made, taste like the Malaysia's version. And I am happy about it! I put the chicken strips that I marinated overnight under broiler just now, and this is what I get:

Nothing close to the BBQ version, but better than none for the time being, until we go back Malaysia / Singapore for the real thing....

And I also make some sushi, to finish up the nori sheets. I think I won't have the craving for sushi for sometime after eating sushi twice this week.

And a banana cake, using Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe again.

Apparently, OCT's colleagues like my banana cake with dark chocolate ganache! Yeah! And now, I have a few bananas being frozen to be used at a later time. Guess I will stick with this banana cake recipe in the future.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Olive Fried Rice with Kielbasa and Roast Cherry Tomatoes

Tonight's dinner is something familiar with a new element as a twist. We have olive fried rice with kielbasa. The essence of fried rice is really on using whatever you have on hand, or simply using what's leftover. Along the way, I get to try different combinations because everytime we have different leftover food. And I find today's combination is not too bad! I shall keep this combination in mind....


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A bag of pistachio

Yesterday, I received a small packet of pistachios and a recipe book from California Pistachios Commission. Yeah! I love samples and I love pistachios! I can't wait to incorporate them in my baking soon.

I will be happier if the sample packet could be bigger. Still, a small packet is better than none, right?


Tuesday Dinner: Fine Shrimp Sauce stirfry chicken + eggplant with spicy soy paste

Yesterday OCT brought the not so yummy penne to school for lunch and dinner. He reckoned that he will need to stay back to prepare his presentation for today's committee meeting. However, my highly efficient OCT called around 7:15p.m and told me that he has completed his work and can come back for dinner instead. He said he would be back by 8 p.m and was REALLY hungry.

Uh-oh, I didn't have any plan for dinner...and all the meat was in the freezer. I quickly pull out 2 pieces of chicken breasts and immersed them in cold running water. And ran through all the options in my mind. Something fast and simple......That got to be stirfry. Now come to the sauce. What sauce? We just had the hoisin sauce not long ago. It's too late to marinate it for the scallion & ginger chicken stirfry....Maybe, I will try the shrimp sauce. But has anyone use shrimp sauce to stirfry chicken? It is normally used to fry kangkong, as far as I know.... Time was ticking, I need to take make a decision. So I went ahead to prep the chicken and tossed it with some cornstarch before sauteing. A tablespoon of the greyish shrimp sauce was added, together with a dash of sambal oelek and dark soy sauce. Oh, and some sprigs of green onion and diced ginger.

The eggplant is pretty easy, and always a guarantee winner. In case the chicken doesn't turn out well, we will have the eggplant to go with the rice at least. Surprisingly, the chicken turned out to be not too bad. It wasn't a "wow" dish, but OCT seems to enjoy it. He even refilled his rice twice. I suspect he would not eat the chicken if he knew I added shrimp sauce, so I only smile politely and nodding my head when he complimented the dish.

Sometime it's funny that I try so hard to make different dishes and yet he could hardly remember what he has eaten. On the contrary, a simple repetoire can make him the most satisfied diner of the world.


Monday Night Dinner: Penne with Tuna and Tomato Sauce

The meal is so-so only. Not worth to mention at all. I thought I should still post a photo, so that I will remember what I have eaten. By the way, the recipe is from Everyday Italian. For some reason, I seldom get impressive result from most recipes I tried from this book. I wonder why I keep on giving it chance after chance....


Banana cake with dark chocolate ganache

I went grocery shopping yesterday and found OCT favorite fruit- banana on sale! Usually, it's selling at 59 cent/lb. But I got a full bag of almost 6 lbs bananas for $1.99. The bananas are all in good condition, except a few with dark spots on the skin. A hint of ripeness. For some reason, people here don't like their bananas with spots. But you know what? I like that! Afterall very ripe bananas are what I need to make banana cake / bread!

There are of course other fruits like strawberries, mango, grapes etc going on sale. I picked some seedless grapes for OCT's committee meeting tomorrow. Afterall, that's the main purpose for me to go grocery shopping yesterday. After picking up the 6 lb bananas, 2 lb grapes and 2 gallons of milk, I have reached my weight limit and it's time to go. I guess I have to go back sometime later for the red wine that "has a hint of chocolate". I saw that on my way to the cashier.

After home, I searched through the piles of cookbooks I have for the perfect banana cake recipe. I kind of like the one I made sometime ago, but I didn't jot down the recipe....So, I got to hunt for another recipe again. The one from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook seems nice, but it requires 16 oz of mascarpone cheese. I only have 8 oz left. I flipped through Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess". Her version requires rum, which I don't have either.....

The search continued for hours until I settled for Rose Levy Beranbaum's version from The Cake Bible. The same one I made sometime ago. The next question, is whether to frost the cake or not. It isn't an easy one for me. Weighing between health and taste.. In the end, taste won. I decided to make a frosting. With dark chocolate!

The end result is pretty sinful. I think I will just have a piece and pass the rest to OCT's labmates....

Banana Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

For the cake:
2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large ripe bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
10 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the ganache:
1/3 cup (3 oz) heavy cream
4 ounces best-quality bittersweet/dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch round springform pan with cooking spray, line the base with a round of parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium bowl, mash the banana,and add in sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Stir them until they are all well mixed together.

Add the softened butter and about 2/3 of the banana mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl. Beat to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula; then add the rest of the banana mixture, beating just to combine.

Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and dry. Remove the cake from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and then remove the other rim of the pan. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, and carefully remove the base of the pan and the parchment paper. Allow the cake to cool completely.

For the frosting:
Bring 1/3 cup of heavy cream to a near boil in a small saucepan.When it is steaming well, remove it from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir or whisk until the chocolate is melted. The mixture should be smooth. Let stand until the ganache is warm enough to be poured over the cake.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Crepe with Strawberries

This week, I experiment to make crepes. I got the recipe from this month's cookinglight. The magazine offers a few variations using the simple crepe recipes. I think it will be a fun project. I remember ordering the ham and cheese crepe everytime I visited Marche back in Singapore. It costed 7-8 dollar for one. Can I reproduce the same thing in my humble kitchen? That's a question I wanted to know too!

I gladly put this simple recipe to test and am plesantly suprised by how fun and relaxing the crepe making process turn out to be! I could have make a savory crepe but I wanted to try the original flavor before making the variation version. So I go for the basic crepe recipe and paired them with strawberries and maple syrup later.

OCT has three crepes with bacon and cheese filling, and one with his favorite Neopolitan flavor ice-cream. With one recipe, we tried it with savory ingredient, sweet ice cream and simply fruit. One conclusion from this experiment: crepe is nice to be eaten with other ingredients but not alone.

Basic Crepe

1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat 1% milk
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons butter, melted
2 large eggs

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Combine milk, water, melted butter, and eggs in a blender. Add the flour mixture to milk mixture, and process until smooth. Cover batter; chill for 1 hour.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick crepe pan or skillet over medium heat. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into pan; quickly tilt pan in all directions so batter covers pan with a thin film. Cook about 1 minute. Carefully lift the edge of the crepe with a spatula to test for doneness. The crepe is ready to turn when it can be shaken loose from the pan and the underside is lightly browned. Turn crepe over, and cook for 30 seconds or until center is set.

Place crepe on a towel; cool completely. Repeat procedure with the remaining batter, stirring batter between crepes. Stack crepes between single layers of wax paper to prevent sticking.

Yield: 13 crepes (serving size: 1 crepe)


Weekend Baking: Pineapple tarts

I never thought I will have a chance to bake Pineapple tarts again before Chinese New Year. Frankly, I have quite a thick pile to " to try list" which could last me for months. But a friend called and asked if I am interested to help to bake some pineapple tarts for an upcoming event for a good cause. What can I say? I am more than happy that she finds my tarts worth selling!

So, before the actual sale, I need to make one batch again. Just to be sure I get the proportion of the ingredients right. Anyone who made pineapple tarts before know that these goodies are real time and labor consuming. First, I have to cook 2lb of crushed pineapple into a thick jam. That took me one and a half hour. I am only thankful that I don't have to grate the pineapple myself. But then of course, if I am willing to go that extra mile, the pineapple tarts would have turn out even nicer...

On the next day, I made the dough, and rolled the pineapple jam into same size balls. Normally, I am not too particular about making all tarts into the same size. Because I need to tell my friend the amount of ingredients needed and also the yield, I painfully scooped out equal size of filling and dough onto the baking sheet....

After all this work, I am rewarded with 56 pineapple tarts. 2 days of work and only 56 tarts. No wonder the tarts cost a bomb....


Sushi after 9 months

I haven't had a single sushi for 9 months since I came to St Louis! Today however, I have make up for it by eating more or less ten pieces on my own. And I didn't buy them, I made them. Yeah! I have almost forgotten my love for Japanese food. Not that there isn't any decent Japanese restaurants here in St Louis. In fact, there are at least 3 Japanese restaurants just below our apartment. OCT is lovely enough to wanted to treat me to one of these places but I didn't really get around trying them. Maybe because I am more $$ conscious nowaday because I am not working....


I reckon it would not be too difficult making them myself, since I saw Ying Ying making them back in Singapore before. So I borrowed the bamboo mat from my friend, and gathered all the necessary ingredients needed for sushi making.

It's my first time. I am pretty satisfied with the result. OCT however think that they are so so only.....:( ok, there's still plenty of room for improvement..


Small Talk

"OCT, help me to open the new red wine I bought. I need to use it to make beef stew"
"OCT, this wine is delicious, you want to try?"
"OCT, you know, research showed that red wine is packed with antioxidant and 8 oz a day is good for your heart too. Maybe I should drink red wine more often. Moreover it's so cheap in the US!"
"Do you know research ALSO shows that regular exercise benefits your health?" OCT answered smugly.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Curry Turkey Burger

Sunday night, I tried Rachael Ray's Curry turkey burger. It was really delicious! The curry poweder, red pepper and other condiment added a sophisticated taste to the otherwise bland and dry burger. I am only too happy to find an alternative for mince beef. And in my humble opinion, this is even better than the turkey meatballs I made earlier on. Seems like things are getting better over here.

Curry Turkey Burger

1 1/3 pounds ground turkey breast, the average weight of 1 package
2 scallions, thinly sliced
A handful cilantro, chopped very fine, about 2 tablespoons, optional (I omitted it)
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated or minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped (I used roasted pepper)
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons mild curry paste or a handful of curry powder (Preferred brand: Patak's Mild Curry Paste)
Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil
5 crusty rolls, split ( I used whole wheat bread)
Toppings: (optional)
Bib or leaf lettuce
Sliced vine-ripe tomatoes
Mango chutney (preferred brands: Major Grey's or Patak's Mango Chutney)
Serving Suggestions: Thai Slaw Salad, recipe follows and root vegetable chips (preferred brands: Terra Chips)

Combine first 8 ingredients and form into 5 patties.
Brush or drizzle patties with extra-virgin olive oil. Grill patties 6 minutes on each side on indoor electric grill or pan fry for same amount of time in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.
Pile patties on split crusty rolls with lettuce, tomato, and chutney spread liberally on roll tops as a condiment. Serve curry turkey burgers with Thai Slaw and root vegetable chips.

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