Friday, March 31, 2006

Shredded Carrot-Ginger Pancake

The new recipe for yesterday night was Shredded Carrot Ginger Pancake. I cooked it as side for our dinner, with Kraft Shake & Bake Parmesan Chicken. Big mistake! The chicken was dry and very salty. And the pancake? I think it tasted weird, but OCT thought it was ok. He is definitely the most accomodating person I have ever known, when it comes to food....

Ok, I must admit that I made a few modification to the pancake. Maybe that's why it didn't taste as nice as I thought it would be. Nevertheless, I used the leftover of the chicken and carrot pancake to make beehoon tonight and it turned out really delicious. OCT even said that he has not had food this nice for a long time. Now, what is he implying?

You can try the Shake and Bake from Kraft, at your own risk. But I strongly discourage you to do so, unless....I don't know! Unless you have nothing to do with your money and chicken breast?
As for the carrot pancake, maybe it's the user error, but judging from the effort and time of shredding carrot, I think I probably won't repeat it.

Shredded Carrot-Ginger Pancake

1 cup coarsely shredded carrot (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
3 eggs
3 tablespoons cracker meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
Cooking spray.

To prepare pancakes, combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine eggs, cracker meal, and salt in a small bowl. Add egg mixture to carrot mixture; stir to blend.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a nonstick griddle or large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-low heat. Using about 1/4 cup batter per pancake, spoon 4 pancakes onto hot pan, spreading each to a 4-inch diameter. Cook 4 minutes on each side or until bottoms are lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate; keep warm. Heat remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in pan; repeat procedure with remaining batter. Transfer to a plate; keep warm. Garnish with green onion strips, if desired.

After dinner, I felt really lousy and finished a tub of Edy's ice-cream. I decided to bake something to give my confidence a boost. So, I went for a recipe that I have eyed on since last week : Tiger Cake. This is how the final product looks:

Pretty huh? It looks exactly how it is supposed to look. BUT, a big tasted awful! So awful that I contemplated to throw it out of the window. What a bad day. First I had a lousy meal, then a recipe, which was recommended by 2 reliable sources turned out worse than mediocre.

Oh, and I must add that I had a really tasteless crumb cake from BN's Starbucks. It felt like a brick on hand, and tasted.....I can't find a word to describe it. In short, I felt cheated for what I paid. Though it's not a lot, but it's enough for me to get another cup of coffee. Whatever, yesterday was definitely not my day!


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Salmon Teriyaki Bowl

I couldn't believe it when OCT said he had never heard of Yoshinoya. So, just to show him what they served back in Singapore, I decided to cook him the Yoshinoya style teriyaki salmon bowl. Why salmon? Because it's sitting conveniencely in the freezer and I love salmon.

This time, I tried Teriyaki sauce recipe from another source.

1/4 cup thin soy sauce
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon mirin
1/2 tablespoon white sesame seeds
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

Preheat broiler.
Combine all but sesame seeds and salmon in a saucepan. Bring to boil and slowly simmer until a syrupy consistency is achieved, about a 50 percent reduction. Let cool completely.
Add sesame seeds and salmon and marinate for 1 hour. Remove salmon from marinade and bring sauce to a boil.
Broil Salmon until flesh flakes easily. About 10 minutes.

When I asked OCT for his comment on this teriyaki sauce as compared to the previous version, he has unfortunately forgotten how the first one tasted....So, he was happy with this version too. I especially like the addition of sesame seed, for the subtle nutty taste.


Aglio e Olio

After hunting for cherrie blossom in the afternoon, I decided to cook something easy for dinner. For me, easy = pasta. So, we had bacon aglio e olio yesterday night. Just nice to use up my bacon and flat leaf parsley.

It's the simplest recipe for pasta. Just remember to use lots of fresh herbs,(parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, whatever) extravirgin olive oil and garlic. Because this recipe is so simple that it doesn't need a written instruction, I decided not to include it here. (ok, it's my recipe. and I don't know the exact amount of all the ingredients used)

In case you really want to know:
First, cook the pasta, as you normally would, until al dente.
Add plenty of extra virgin olive oil (this will be your pasta sauce) to a non stick skillet. When the oil is hot, add in minced garlic. I like garlic. So I used a lot. Fry until fragrant, stir in fresh herbs ( about one palmful). Season with sea salt and red pepper flakes for some heat. At this point, stir in the pasta, and coat well with extra virgin olive oil. Add in at least a palmful of freshly grated parmesan cheese.Stir well.
Serve it with more salt and cheese to taste.

See, simple right? Oh, I also used bacon. Just fry the bacon until crisp before the abovementioned procedure. And drain bacon on paper towel. Stir them in before serving.

OCT's lunch box


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cherrie Blossom Hunt in the Botanical Garden

I have never seen cherrie blossom in my life, so you can imagine how excited I must be when I know that cherrie blossom is blooming in the botanical garden. This afternoon OCT and I went to check out the garden and started on a "cherrie blossom hunt". I was ecstatic and forced OCT to snap photos of me with cherry blossom.

"Is this cherry blossom? Never mind, just take la~"

"Take one more...."

"one last one......"

"See, there's another one by the lake!"

"How to pose?"

"Like this?"

"How about this?"

"And this?"

"Or should I go closer?"

So much about cherrie blossom. Actually other plants in the botanical garden are blooming too.

"See my garden?" (just kidding)

"OCT, what is this?"

A rabbit! And he wasn't moving. He must had thought that we didn't see him. I went quite close to where he was, but he was still not moving, gave me enough time to take a good shot of him. Hey rabbit,nice shot!


Chicken Edamame Bowl

It's Sunday night, we came home late from shopping. But that didn't deter me from cooking a proper dinner, and the next day lunch for OCT. Not to mention I have to catch up with my "to try list", from my subscribed cooking magazines and other library books. So, we have Sesame Chicken Edamame Bowl, stirfry spinach and broccoli for dinner.

Sesame Chicken Edamame Bowl reminded me of the rice bowls served in Yoshinoya, where they have chicken/beef/seafood served on a bed of soft, sticky sushi rice. One of my friends like it a lot, but I think they are over-priced for what they offer. Maybe I should get the sushi rice and top it with teriyaki chicken/salmon, and invite friends over for a Yoshinoya meal, just for fun.

Coming back to the Sesame Chicken Edamame Bowl. OCT said it's tasty, but he didn't like the edamame. Too bad. The dish had SO MUCH edamame that he was bounded to get some onto his plate. hehehe.... Though it's yummy,it was definitely not a "WOW" to me. I have cooked chicken stirfry with similar ingredients before, but not with edamame. Anyway, edamame didn't lend any assertive taste to the dish, but was sweet and nutty itself. It's a good addition, in term of nutritional value, but I think the dish won't suffer much without it. I guess the best part is all the ingredients come from the freezer. (Chicken breast, edamame, stirfry bell pepper) So, you can pull it out whenever you run out of fresh ingredients or time, or both.

Sesame Chicken Edamame Bowl

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh lemongrass
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans)
2 cups frozen bell pepper stir-fry mix
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (*I also added some dark soy sauce for colour*)
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut green onions
2 teaspoons dark sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add ginger, lemongrass, and garlic; sauté 1 minute or just until mixture begins to brown. Add chicken; sauté 2 minutes.
Add edamame and bell pepper stir-fry mix; sauté 3 minutes. Combine soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, and cornstarch, stirring with a whisk. Add to pan; cook 1 minute.
Remove from heat. Stir in green onions, sesame seeds, and salt. Serve over rice.

Yield: 6 servings (*I halved all the ingredients for just the 2 of us. Even that, it can easily serve 3/4 people if you have other dishes too*)


Monday, March 27, 2006

Weekend Baking: Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I am still trying to adapt to some terms/names used here that doesn't make sense to me. Coffee cake for example, doesn't mean that the cake has any coffee taste. It's just the name of the cake. Strangely, a bite of this coffee cake reminds me of my mum's walnut butter cake! I must tell my mum that her walnut butter cake has another name here in the State.

This recipe is from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties. Because I couldn't find the recipe from the internet, I decided to type it out; OCT and I like this homey cake so much that we believe we will do it again with other variations! I must tell you that I made some adjustment on the amount of sugar, but it still turned out a bit too sweet. So feel free to cut down on the sugar to your liking. The original recipe also called for a maple glaze. But I thought it was nice enough to eat it on its own, so I skipped that!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

12 tablespoon unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar ( *I used 1 1/4 cup*)
3 extra large eggs at room temperature (*I used 4 large eggs*)
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream ( I used fat free sour cream, but added 1 more tbsp of butter*)
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising) * if you don't have cake flour, substitute 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour plus 1/4 cup corn starch*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the streusel:
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed (*I used 1/2 cup*)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnut


Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan. ( I used a 9x9 square pan)

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment for 4-5 mins, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumbles, mix in the walnuts.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out waith a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50-60 min, until a cake tester comes out clean. (Mine took about 40 minutes.)


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Shrimp Arrabbiata

We didn't go out for dinner yesterday night. OCT decided not to go last minute even though I was already waiting for him downstair, in the cold, all dressed up. He sounded indecisive when he called to ask me to come down our apartment in 10 min, to meet him in his colleague's car. Little did I know that he changed his mind again in 10 min later!

In case you wonder if I got mad. I didn't. I think it's better for us to skip the dinner as he was really tired waking up very early for conference yesterday. So, I did what an understanding wife would do: cook a speedy dinner for us!

Shrimp Arrabbiata is fast and simple to put together. We had our dinner ready in 30 minutes, included defrosting the prawn. It's bright, tasty and healthy, and a bit spicy...But we both liked it a lot and not a single strain of linguine was left. I am sure it will come back to our dinner table soon! Maybe with more sauce next time.

Shrimp Arrabbiata

"This dish's name--arrabbiata--comes from the Italian word for "angry" because of the spicy tomato and red pepper sauce. If you want, double the tomato sauce and freeze half for a jump start on a future meal."

6 ounces fresh linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup prechopped onion
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
*I added some white wine to the sauce*

Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with salt; add shrimp to pan. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done. Transfer shrimp to a bowl.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Add onion, minced garlic, basil, and crushed red pepper to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes or just until sauce begins to thicken. Return shrimp to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.

Add parsley to the pan, stirring well to combine. Serve over pasta.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup shrimp mixture and 1 cup pasta)


Friday, March 24, 2006

Vegetarian Day

I was a Vegetarian yesterday! I didn't realise that until I lay on bed, trying to recall what I had eaten for the whole day. Ok, morning I drank coffee, ate 2 milano cookies, lunch was 1.5 scones, snack was a bowl of chips and dinner was tomato & avocado sandwich! Wow, so it's not that hard for me to be a vegetarian!

Speaking of why a vegetarian day. It was definitely not because I was trying to lose weight, though I am sure I need to.... The reason was:OCT had a free lunch. So he didn't bring the lefover to school and ate it as dinner last night instead. Since the portion was just enough for him, I decided to eat the almost expired bread with tomato and avocado. There's no point to cook because he is going to have another free lunch and dinner tonight. Spouses are invited to the dinner too! So we will dine out with the rest of his colleagues tonight. His boss choose a Chinese Restaurant though :( of course, it's always cheaper to eat in a Chinese Restaurant, especially when he needs to pay for 40 people! I know I shouldn't complain. But I have secretly hope that we will go to some interesting places for some exotic cuisine......Anyway, dining out on other people's expense is always good. (I am a cheapskate,hehehe)

Coming back to our yesterday's dinner. I also roasted some edamame with mixed spice. As usual, OCT didn't eat anything that he wasn't familiar. Eventhough the edamames and his wife smiled encouragingly at him. We failed to coax him to try any. After dinner, I cooked a pot of gingko beancurd barley dessert soup. (what a long name) Again, OCT didn't want to drink. He said he had already brushed his teeth. (What a clever excuse). But I was persistent and didn't take "NO" as an answer. Although he really had brushed his teeth. Being a good husband he is, he meekly drank a spoonful of the liquid, but still refused to eat the barley and beancurd.

"It's good for you, you know. You said you feel heaty right?"
"But I never ate the barley last time, I only drank the liquid."
"The bailey is cooling, you must eat some. Drink the liquid itself will not help to relieve the heatiness"
"But mum said you can not force me to eat things that I don't like"

So, I won. He ate some reluctantly, with tears in his eyes (I am just kidding on this part). Sometime men and children must understand: we women know more about nutrition, and are only forcing them to eat or do certain things for their own good. hahaha

Later, OCT had another cup of the drink, with no barley and no beancurd. At least he now knows that (1) Barley is edible (2) Barley doesn't taste as dreadful as he thought (3) His wife is a good wife (4) His wife will be a good mother next time. hahaha


Thursday, March 23, 2006

cheapskate me....

I think the BN's Starbucks store in OCT's school will close down if they have more customers like me. Basically, what I like to do, is to get a cup of tall Cafe Mocha and sit there to read food magazines for hours. This is my favorite thing to do lately :) Sometime I even copy down the recipes from the magazines. Especially the expensive ones which I didn't subscribe. hehehe. You can call me cheapskate, but I find tremendous pleasure in doing this.

You see, I have already subscribed to 5 magazines, 3 being food-related, so I can't possibly subscibed to another 3 more magazines of this sort....Emm...ok, actually I can, but I need to justify for my purchase, and get clearance from my bank (OCT, that is). To me, that's a lot of trouble! Plus lately I found out that I can actually browse the tonnes of magazines displayed on the magazine stands inside the BN's Starbucks. (Initially I thought browsing was prohibited, since the food or drink might stain the magazines until I saw many customers had done so!)

In short, I read free magazines in Starbucks.....Nonetheless I still pay for the coffee. And I will buy their cheesecakes/scones.... once in a blue moon. When I am really really curious. I tried their Godiva Double Chocolate cheesecake from Cheesecake factory once. It was very nice! The cheesecake just melted in my tongue and glided through my throat. It was that nice.

Little treat like this keeps me happy for the whole day. What a easily satisfied girl I am!


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Baking and cooking again!

It took me sometime (in fact days) to recover from our last trip. I felt tired to do my weekly house-chore on Monday, let alone try out new recipes. So we didn't have anything interesting till tonight.

I wanted to make something with chicken breast, with a twist. So I decided on a recipe from Giada's Everyday Italian -- Chicken Saltimbocca.Saltimbocca means "leap in the mouth", as in the dish is so nice that it will just leap into your mouth. Sounds good for dinner? The process was a bit tedious, definitely not my usual quick and easy stirfry dish....but in the spirit to try something new everyday, I dived right in and got my hands dirty..

Chicken Saltimbocca

6 (3-ounce) chicken cutlets, pounded to evenly flatten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 paper-thin slices prosciutto
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 (14-ounce) can low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Place the chicken cutlets flat on the work surface. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 1 slice of prosciutto atop each chicken cutlet.

Squeeze the frozen spinach to remove the excess water. Season the spinach with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, toss the spinach with 1 tablespoon of oil to coat.

Arrange an even, thin layer of spinach atop the prosciutto slices. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over each. Beginning at the short tapered end, roll up each chicken cutlet as for a jellyroll. Secure with a toothpick.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and cook just until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Add the chicken broth and lemon juice, and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Cover and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter.

Simmer the cooking liquid over high heat until it is reduced to about 2/3 cup, about 5 minutes. Season the cooking liquid with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove toothpicks from the chicken. Drizzle the reduced cooking liquid over the chicken and serve immediately.

We thought it was a nice alternative to our usual chicken stirfry. I like the idea of stuffing spinach in the chicken breasts. It is one of those simple, but look impressive recipe. Taste wise? Sad to say, it's so so only...Ok, at least, I tried.

For the whole day, I have been binge-ing my "Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies". I must have eaten 7/8 cookies for breakfast and lunch and snacks. I baked these yesterday night, following the recipe from America's Test Kitchen. The host sounded authoritative and seems to know what he was talking about. So I proceeded, following the recipe to the T, eventhough I have a thousand and one questions at the back of my mind.

As it turned out, I managed to get the desired texture, i.e crispy on the edge and chewy in the center. But the taste was a bit different from what I have made before. Probably because of the nutmeg used. OCT said it smelt like Indian food.....The recipe that I made before called for cinnamon, vanilla and sometime maple syrup. This supposedly "Ultimate" recipe used none.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter(1/2 pound), softened but still firm
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raisins

1. Adjust oven racks to low and middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl of electric mixer or by hand, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.
2. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together, then stir them into butter-sugar mixture with wooden spoon or large rubber spatula. Stir in oats and raisins.
3. Form dough into sixteen to twenty 2-inch balls, placing each dough round onto one of two parchment paper–covered, large cookie sheets. Bake until cookie edges turn golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. (Halfway during baking, turn cookie sheets from front to back and also switch them from top to bottom.) Slide cookies on parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.


Belated St Patrick's Day meal

I intended to cook something Irish on St Patrick's Day. Since we were out of town last Friday, I thought maybe I should cook the planned Corned beef with cabbage as planned on Monday night. This was a very simple dish, almost the same as the cabbage that I can cooked with my eyes shut. The Irish version just add corned beef to my usual cabbage dish. Even though it's simple, I have achieved my mission to cook OCT a St Patrick's Day meal.*guilty*

Corned Beef and Cabbage

4 slices bacon
4 tablespoons butter
1 head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 can corned beef

Cook the bacon in large pot over medium heat until almost crisp. Remove the bacon from the pot and set aside. Melt the butter in the pot with the bacon grease. Add the cabbage, stirring well to coat the cabbage in fat. Add about 1/3 cup water, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cover pot with a lid, and cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the bacon into small pieces.
Remove the lid from the pot, and scatter chunks of corned beef and chopped bacon over top of the cabbage. Cover and cook until desired doneness. I personally like a little bit of crunch left to the cabbage.

Tip: Cabbage is one of those vegetables that naturally contains water in its leaves. Begin by adding just a small amount of water. As cabbage cooks, if it needs more liquid, then add more water.

Maybe I will try the Chocolate Stout cake and the Beef & Stout pie after I get hold of some Stouts. I don't remember seeing them in the grocery store case you wonder why I suddenly become interested in cooking Irish food, I must tell you that I like Irish a lot! I have never met an Irish that I don't like. My ex- supervisor was a cute, funny Irish guy, so was my best client in the last job! Irish are fun loving, down to earth and unfeignedly friendly people. They are talented at music too.( I like Corrs), and they created my favorite Bailey Irish Cream!

I should seriously think of cooking a proper Irish meal again. Meanwhile, I can only contrive to come up with a week's of "normal homecook meals" with my limited ingredients....


Monday, March 20, 2006

I am back...

Some shots taken during our last trip:

Yeah, we spent a wonderful time at the Lake of the Ozarks over the past weekend. We stayed in an apartment, facing the lake which I can only dream I owned. Check out the view from the apartment balcony

Guess what! The main draw to the place is not nature, but the outlet shopping!

There're Calvin Klein, Polo Ralph Lauren, Coach, Tommy Hilfinger and 100+ other stores to satisfy the need of shopaholic of every age. OCT got himself 2 pair of cK jeans, while I bought some Tees from Aeropostale.

On the second night, we went to the Fishermen restaurant for dinner. A friendly, family run business that served generous portion of fresh seafood. I ordered a fish & chips while OCT had seabass. Absolutely yummy and filling.

On Saturday afternoon, we went for a 2-hour hike in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. What a good way to burn off some calories before a full meal at night.
OCT reading a map of the trail, which I have absolutely no idea whatsover he said. Bottom line is, he and our friends guided us to whenever we were supposed to go.

For some reason, I can't upload more photos onto this entry to show you the view from the Overlook. But trust me, you didn't miss much, as during this time of the year, the trees were all bald..... Quite a dreadful scene indeed.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

We are going to Lake of the Ozarks!

I am not very motivated to blog about what we had for dinner for the past 3 nights. Because I didn't try any new recipe :(

For Tuesday and Wednesday night, we had the weekly usual beef stew, which could normally last us for 2 meals. However, this time, I used my new dutch oven instead of my old pot. it tasted much better even though I used the same ingredients! I am thrilled and hooked! Can't wait to try other soup and stew recipes in the dutch oven!

Tonight, we had fried beehoon. Oh no, again! OCT wanted something that will leave us no leftover because we are going to Lake of the Ozarks tomorrow! So he suggested fried beehoon. simple and nice. We both enjoy it!

In the afternoon, I did some baking and packing for our 2 days trip. I managed to bake some scones and thai tuna rolls. I hope I could have baked some banana bread, but I was just too lazy to go down the grocery store to get bananas.

Our friends who had been there told me that the resort has a very nice kitchen. I can't wait to cook there! Hmmm.... it sounds weird, I know. Look for more updates when we are back!


Monday, March 13, 2006

Oven-baked Salmon with Toasted Almond & Parsley Salsa

Tonight dinner was oven-baked salmon with toasted almond & parsley salsa. OCT said it reminded him of Greek food. I didn't chop the parsley fine enough, so the salsa didn't turn up as smooth as it was supposed to be. But I liked the toasted almond. It had a smoky and nutty taste, and added a different texture to the salmon. I used sea salt instead of table salt to season the salmon which the taste really stood out.

Oven-baked Salmon with Toasted Almond & Parsley Salsa


For Oven-baked Salmon:
12 ounce salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
Coarse-grained salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For Toasted Almond & Parsley Salsa:
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Coarse-grained salt
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon, skin side down, on a non-stick baking sheet or in a non-stick pan with an oven-proof handle. Bake until salmon is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes.

To prepare the salsa:
Combine shallots and vinegar in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and let stand 30 minutes or as long as time permits. Add the capers, parsley and almonds. Toss until well combined. Add olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with Salmon.

After dinner, I had my Chocolate Espresso Tart with pistachio ice-cream. OCT had his share before dinner because he was very hungry then.


Family Cooking Tradition

Apparently, many people learn cooking from their mothers at a tender age. While for me, the tradition in my family is to learn on your own. My mother didn't teach me how to cook. And my grandma didn't teach my mum. My father's mum didn't teach any of her children too, although she was once a very a good cook. That's why I feel so envious when someone tells me that they learned cooking/baking from their mum or grandmum. Also, one thing I observed: All the celebrity chefs learned cooking from their parents at a young age!!!

My mum once told me that she couldn't fried an egg until I was 9 years old. ( She was 33 years old then) That was after our maid left and grandmum decided to retire from our kitchen. You can imagine how stressed out my mum must be. She had to cook for the whole family, including her parents in law. My mum later admitted that she had secretly threw away food that was hardly edible, and recooked the dish again... Well, she was using that as an example to encourage me to cook in the US.

We have a very well equipped kitchen back in Malaysia (including an oven,kitchen mixer and other accessories a competent baker needs) This is because my mum is a good baker. She has been baking since I was 10 years old. But she never really teach me how to bake. I remembered begging her to let me bake a cheesecake on my own, or rather teach me how to bake a cheesecake, so that I can bake one on my own one day. She would only show me how to beat the egg whites, how to fold etc, but forbid me from getting my hands dirty. Mum doesn't allow me to go near the oven either even after I grow up. She still worrys that I will hurt myself if I am not careful enough.In short, the spacious and fully equipped kitchen (including the lovely oven)was out of my reach. My intimate relationship with oven only started when I came to St Louis. I LOVE to use oven to bake my food, from breakfast waffles to a decadent dessert. Mum was so worried when I told her that I used the oven almost everyday...

Last Saturday and Sunday night, we had Fried Beehoon as dinner. I told OCT that this was the kind of food that reminded me of my mum's cooking. But the irony was that it tasted absolutely different from my mum's fried beehoon. I used tamarind paste and fish sauce, while mum's used soy sauce. I wished I could have learned more dishes from my mum before I came....But on the other hand, it could be a blessing in disguise. For I wouldn't have tried some many different condiments and combination in my cooking, if I have already mastered mum's recipes. In retrospect, what I have cooked for the past 6 months are so different from what my mum cooks. For example, mum doesn't cook beef stew and salmon. And I don't cook steam chicken and fish.....

This gives us chances to trade recipes the next time I go home. Or maybe not.... Mum is not the most patience person when it comes to cooking in the kitchen. She couldn't stand the sight of me peeling potatoes. She said I worked like a snail(too slow to her).....and she always accomplished so many things in a short time, while I was still struggling in step 1 of a recipe.Maybe I am never a patience student too. For everytime I was being criticised, I would storm out from the kitchen and give up on learning from mum. I can't remember a single time we both worked happily in the kitchen together. We are always the most critical critic for one another when it comes to cooking. So we always leave each other alone when one is cooking. Maybe that's why I never have a family recipe from my mother. The thought of this makes me sad. I pray that one day God will give us both patience to be teacher and student in the kitchen.

I think I will continue to use tamarind paste and fish sauce to fry beehoon. It will be my own family tradition that I will past down to my next generation. It's simple and different from what you will get anywhere else.....


Saturday, March 11, 2006

weekend baking: Chocolate Espresso Tart

I like to bake during weekend or on Friday night, when OCT is at home. I like to have someone around to provide opinion and suggestion when I need one. Being a scientist himself, I must admit that OCT can give very good advice or creative solution in time of need.

Yesterdat night for example. I was making a Chocolate Espresso Tart. A rectangular pie plate was required but I have none. Nevertheless, I proceeded, hoping that the tart dough can fit into my round disposible pie pan. After rolling out the dough between 2 pieces of parchment papers, it was so wet that I couldn't move it into the pan! It was a disaster, for the dough was so wet that it refused to be lifted from the parchment. OCT took one look and asked if I could just leave it on the parchment paper and bake as usual. It was unconventional, but logical. And it worked. Instead of a pie tart, I got a "cookie base" for my Chocolate Espresso Tart.

It was very time consuming, but I liked the chocolate espresso cream. OCT thought it was too bitter for the espresso taste was very distinct. (exact reason for why I like the cream so much! this is the kind of cream any coffee lover will like)

Chocolate Espresso Tart

Better than a box of chocolates, this dessert is triply indulgent. The cocoa shell forms a crisp rectangular foundation for two decadent fillings: creamy, tangy mascarpone cheese and generous rosettes of silky-smooth espressoflavored chocolate ganache.


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent cacao), chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons good-quality ground espresso beans

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for parchment paper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese

1 large egg


1. Make the ganache:
Put chocolate into amedium heatproof bowl, and set aside. Bring cream and espresso to a boil in a small pan. Pour through a fine sieve over the chocolate; discard solids. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours.
2. Make the tart shell:
Sift flour, salt, and cocoa powder into a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, and mix until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the cream. Shape dough into a thick rectangle; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350°. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment paper to a 16-by-6-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Press dough into a 14-by-4 1/2-inch rectangular flan frame set on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Trim dough flush with top edge. Prick all over bottom of shell with a fork. Bake until firm, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Unmold.
4. Put ganache into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (such as Ateco #828).
5. Smooth mascarpone cheese over bottom of tart shell with an offset spatula.
6. Pipe ganache rosettes, one next to the other, on top of mascarpone to cover. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 day.

Great Ganache: To turn out smooth ganache every time, make sure the mixture is at room temperature before whipping. Any warmer or colder, and its cream is likely to seize or become grainy.

Serves 8

This morning, I baked some ham & cheese calzones using the Pillsbury breadstick dough while OCT went for his haircut. He came back just in time when the calzones were freshly out from the oven. This is definitely a great snacks for everyone!

Mini ham & cheese calzones

1 can (11 oz.) refrigerated soft breadsticks
1/2 cup KRAFT Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
12 slices OSCAR MAYER Shaved Honey Ham, cut in half
2 Tbsp. KRAFT 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese
(make 24 mini calzones)


PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Unroll dough; separate into 12 breadsticks. Cut each breadstick crosswise in half; flatten dough to 2-inch width.

SPOON 1 tsp. cheese onto center of each ham piece. Fold ham over cheese to create a tight roll. Place ham roll near the end of each piece of breadstick dough, leaving a border. Fold dough over ham, pinching edges to seal. Repeat process for all ham pieces. Place calzones on baking sheet. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

BAKE 12 to 15 min. or until golden brown. Serve warm.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Barbecue Meatloaf

We have Barbecue meatloaf with rice tonight. Another fusion meal. Meatloaf is popular in the US. So popular that there are so many different versions of it. I tried the basic ones before, in whick ketchup was used. This time, I do a BBQ version using my new meatloaf pan.

I like it better than the ketchup version. OCT has no preference. He said he can't remember how the other version taste, but he is sure that two versions are equally nice. I prefer to eat meatloaf with bread. It simply tastes better, than eating with rice. We have so much leftover that I don't have to cook dinner tomorrow. Perhaps I should bake something tomorrow?

Barbecue Meatloaf

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, extra lean (raw)
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped onion (I also added finely diced carrots)
1/3 cup barbecue sauce, divided1 tablespoon
prepared mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (I used paprika)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine the beef, breadcrumbs, and onion, 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce, and remaining ingredients except cooking spray in a large bowl.

Shape meat mixture into a 9 x 5-inch loaf on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Spread remaining barbecue sauce over top of meat loaf. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a thermometer registers 160°. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut loaf into 12 slices.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 2 slices)


Balsamic Glazed Salmon Fillet

I tried this recipe yesterday. I remembered watching a TV show where the host used balsamic vinegar to glaze her meat. She persuaded her viewers (including me) that although balsamic vinegar has a strong pungent smell while cooking, the taste on the dish would be really nice. Believing in her professional advice, I followed a similar recipe from the internet.

I didn't manage to capture the picture when the dish was out from the oven, but this is OCT's lunch box with the salmon fillet on the left compartment.

I think I probably won't repeat this dish as it was too vinegar-y to our liking :(
I don't understand why it received such rave reviews from other readers....anyway, if any of you have tried this recipe and love it, please let me know if I have done anything wrong. Oh, OCT added some cilantro to his fillet, which smell and taste I can't stand. But he said they goes well.

Balsamic Glazed Salmon Fillet

6 (5 ounce) salmon fillets
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon white wine
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Coat a small saucepan with non-stick cooking spray. Over medium heat, cook and stir garlic until soft, about 3 minutes. Mix in white wine, honey, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for about 3 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Arrange salmon fillets on foil-lined baking sheet. Brush fillets with balsamic glaze, and sprinkle with oregano.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 14 minutes, or until flesh flakes easily with a fork. Brush fillets with remaining glaze, and season with salt and pepper. Use a spatula to transfer fillets to serving platter, leaving the skin behind on the foil.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A different kind of dinner

Today, we have Taco and tortilla for dinner. It is both fun and healthy to prepare our own tortillas. We can add the amount of veggie and minced beef we want, together with cheese and sour cream.Unlike those sell in Taco Bell, which is often than not loaded with sour cream and excess sodium, ours are the healthier version of course. (not to mention: cheaper! hehehe)

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