Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas!

To any who celebrate Christmas, a happy one to you! and season's greetings to all!
When I was very young, we used to spend winter break with extended family from TX. We'd either make the long drive down to TX, or they would haul the entire clan up to IL. As we grew older, we took to the slopes -- Santa Fe, NM; Breckenridge, CO. Then we stopped spending the holidays together entirely as each of my cousins went off to college.

These days my parents' daily routine doesn't change much during the holidays. Christmas is a very important holiday for FH's family, however, so the past 5 years have found us flying to NJ for the holidays. This year is no different, except that FH has to work tonight. We'll be off on the 27th.

In the meantime, I decided I would finally try my hand at another amazing delicacy from across the pond: Welsh Cakes. Had them all of once, and they were VERY nice. Unfortunately, my skill with breads is basically 0 for 0, and continues to be so after today's attempt...(didn't have real butter on hand and had to go with margarine, despite knowing it was a bad idea...).

Welsh Cakes
[modified by flook from and Jamie Oliver]

Ingredients (Serves 24)

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
6 tablespoons lard
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups raisins
4 eggs
8 tablespoons milk

  1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Put in butter and lard and mix until resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in sugar and currants or raisins. Beat the eggs lightly and add to flour mixture with just enough milk (~2 tbsp) to make a firm dough similar to shortcrust pastry.
  2. Chill dough 1 to 2 hours. (Some recipes omit this step, but I did it since I had used margarine instead of real butter.)
  3. Roll the dough to 1/4 inch on floured surface (~1 cm thick) and cut with 3 inch rounds. Bake the cakes on a greased griddle or frying pan (I use my electric skillet with just a little non-stick spray) over low heat until golden brown (~4.5 min ea side). Cool and sprinkle with sugar. These also freeze well.
  4. Variations: Use all butter instead of part lard; form the dough into balls and press down to the appropriate thickness instead of rolling out and cutting the dough; add 1 tsp nutmeg; Jamie Oliver: Whip double cream and marble-in vanilla bean paste. Slice welsh cake in half, add dollop of cream + a few fresh berries and make a sandwich.
Notes: Do NOT substitute margarine or oil for the butter (though butter for lard is OK). Texture will be terrible. Don’t be afraid to flour very well -- the sides will brown more softly and evenly. About ½ cm thickness is good; it will puff up a little bit, and if it’s too thick it won’t cook through fully. I cut the sugar by ¼ cup and it was still quite sweet with only sprinkling caster sugar on one side. If you use the roll-and-pat method, pay attention to the edges of the cake otherwise it will look very uneven.

Still working out the ideal formula; will update with future attempts! Tips or advice are welcome, as always.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Crêpe attack!

I spent the summer of 2006 with a wonderful family in Putney, SW London. The family took in short- and long-term lodgers -- some coming to the UK to work or to study, others for travel. A pair of girls from France came to stay for a few weeks and made the most delicious crêpes I'd had in my life:

Unfortunately, I was never able to get the recipe. Thus we come to today, wherein I remain a complete amateur on the making of the perfect crêpe. It normally wouldn't matter, except that I offered to make a millefeuille crêpe cake for a friend to celebrate the conclusion of 2011! So, by trial and error, I'm still trying to figure out how to replicate those crêpes...

Batch #1: The key to the perfect crêpe, in my opinion, is the texture, which is also something I've always struggled with in the past. This time I allowed the batter to rest overnight then come to room temperature before cooking in hopes the gluten would relax. I don't know if I let it rest for too long, or if I overmixed it, but the texture turned out terribly. Not only were the crêpes rubbery, but they tasted both too floury and too eggy simultaneously!! Not sure how I managed that, but needless to say that method was out...

Batch #2: Mixed very minimally and allowed the mixture to rest in the fridge for about 45-60 minutes. The texture was much, much improved! However, I think it could have used more sugar and salt, bc the flavor was very flat despite having used salted butter. Also, it was slightly dry or spongy, like store-bought crêpes. Not the end of the world, but still not that perfect moist, slightly chewy authentic French crêpe I've been dreaming of! At the same time, however, this lighter, foam-like texture may be more suited to millefeuille anyway. Some pics and the method (including adjustments to sugar and salt) follow:

This method enabled me to get very thin crêpes. Pictured here is probably a stack of 5, though it doesn't look it!
The fun thing w/ crêpes is that they are so versatile -- these were very plain in taste, so they probably would've been better with a savory filling. Pictured here as the filling and topping is the strawberry sauce that normally goes with shortcake.

[recipe as modified by flook from,, Alton Brown, and others]

2 eggs
1 cup milk (skim or 1% is ideal)
2 tbsp. butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Large pinch salt -- I would even go to 1/8 tsp.
1-2 tbsp. sugar (as needed)
1 tbsp. vanilla

  1. Melt butter over low heat until caramel in color (note: you can use oil, but the authentic taste of a crêpe should be slightly caramely, and you won't achieve this with oil). Add the milk, stir for about a minute, then turn off heat and let stand to warm. This allows the fat to suspend and mix more thoroughly in step 2.
  2. Sift flour together with the salt and sugar. If using a blender, combine with milk liquid, eggs, vanilla, and mix on high until completely combined, about 30 seconds. If using a whisk or hand mixer, whisk until just combined (do not overbeat or your crêpes will turn out rubbery). Cover and let mixture rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (If the batter separates, mix it again just before cooking the crêpes.)
  3. When ready to cook the crêpes, melt enough butter to coat a 10-inch nonstick skillet or an 8-inch crêpe pan over medium heat. Pour in about 1/4 cup of the batter (about 3" diameter) and immediately swirl and tilt the pan to create a thin, even layer. (If it sets before you have a chance to swirl, lower the heat slightly. However, note that the heat should be high enough to cook the first side of the crêpe in approx. 1 minute.)
  4. Return to heat and cook until the crêpe is golden around the edges and dry in the center, about 1 minute. You'll notice that the edges will start to curl in, away from the pan. Use fingers or spatula to flip and cook for about 20 seconds more.
  5. Slide the crêpe onto a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, buttering the pan as needed (approx. per 5 crêpes). Serve immediately.
If you have that elusive "perfect" crêpe recipe, do share! Bon appétit!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Your favorite cheeses.

When most people think of Wisconsin, they inevitably think of cheese -- yes, among other things, but I'd bet the most consistent association is cheese, even for the Wisconsin born-and-bred. I recount a real conversation from class a few months ago:

Prof: What's one major natural resource Wisconsin lacks?
Class: ...
Prof: Natural gas. There are no natural gas basins beneath the state of Wisconsin.
Prof: Alright. But what's one resource Wisconsin has that no one else does?
Class: ...
Prof: Come on guys...
Class: (unanimously) ...cheese?

(At which point everyone broke out in laughter. The real answer was water...Madison alone sits on the edge of 5 lakes, not to mention state borders on Lake Michigan and Superior).

So, in honor of the great product of my current state of residence, my current top 5 favorite cheeses:

1. Smoked Gouda
2. Mozzarella
3. Harvati (cream-style)
4. Camembert or Brie
5. Muenster

Most interesting cheeses of 2011:

1. Juustoleipä, aka 'bread cheese' (love this post just bc they mention Wegmans AND Carr Valley)
2. Stilton (tasted a bit like cheesecake, imo)

Some cheeses I would like to try:

1. Gruyère
2. Cave Aged Marisa
3. Cardona

What are YOUR top 5 favorite cheeses?

[UPDATE: Cardona is fantastic (goat cheese)!]

ไข่เจียว - The frying process.

M wanted to learn how to make ไข่เจียว, so I took the opportunity to ask him to record the frying process in photos. The product:

Prepare your rice beforehand. Heat the oil until the pan is quite hot and slightly smoking.
The edges should puff up immediately (note: if you put too much oil, it will splatter -- be careful!).
Moving too quickly for the camera :)
Push the edges in with a heat-resistant spatula and tilt the pan to let uncooked egg run to the edges.
Repeat all the way around.
Until most of the runny egg has been diverted to the edges.
Flip! If you're making a very large omelette or find this task difficult, you may consider heating a 2nd pan and flipping the omelette into it.
Flip again onto your bowl of rice. I always think the underside browns more beautifully than the first side!
Unfortunately, our apartment isn't very well lit, and please ignore the various splatters on the stove, but hopefully you get the idea! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The perfect sauce for ไข่เจียว

I'm a weakling when it comes to spiciness, despite my Thai heritage. A few years ago, I was introduced to a mild sweet/sour/spicy sauce akin to Sriracha to use on Thai fried omelette (kai jiew -- ไข่เจียว). I searched high and low both in Bangkok and in the US, and so far no luck.

The below sauce has been so far the best substitute. What sauces do you use on your eggs?

As far as the ไข่เจียว recipe goes, it's one of my favorite comfort foods and very much an organic process. Make sure to review the steps before you start bc with the pan so hot, it goes pretty quickly -- quickly enough that I can't take pics during the process. I may ask M to help me out next time.
  1. Put a small frying pan or wok on the stove with about 1 tbsp oil and heat it on medium-high to high. The hotter the pan, the better the texture of the eggs...but also the faster your eggs will overcook/burn, so with practice you'll find the right heat level for you.
  2. Beat a few eggs with light soy sauce and fish sauce to taste; I usually use a 1:3 ratio. 2-egg omelette is good for 1.25 cups cooked rice.
  3. When the pan is nice and hot / lightly smoking / the oil is very runny, it is ready. Dump the beaten eggs into the pan. It should crackle and puff up immediately on the edges.
  4. Use a heat-resistant spatula to push the edges in and let the uncooked runny egg on top rush to the edges. Let it set a little bit, then repeat a few times until most of the runny egg has been redistributed to the edges.
  5. Carefully flip the omelette to cook the other side. It should puff up a little bit more, but if it doesn't don't worry. 
  6. 30 seconds should be enough if your pan was properly hot, but you can check the underside. It should be a nice golden brown.
  7. Flip directly onto a bowl of steamed rice and serve with sriracha sauce! Yum!

Another favorite, and far more dramatic Thai dish:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dinner Party - Part 2

Dinner party went fairly well. The cooking timeline I put together prior to the day of the event REALLY helped; in fact, I don't think I could have gotten everything done in time without it. Left my parents' place at about 7:30am, hit Costco before home, then immediately began preparing around 11:30am. Was just about finished when the first guest arrived at 6pm. Phew!

Overall, the menu was feared, some of the guests may have gone hungry hungry. I had backups purchased and available, but for whatever reason failed to serve them. Some photos (no pics of the inari or the full spread on the table. Alas. Next time!), followed by recipes:

Cooling the yellow cakes and banana bread.
Possibly the simplest Thai recipe ever.
The makings of Thai namya sauce.
The more-or-less completed namya sauce.
Chocolate ganache for the boston cream pie.
Parchment paper is hella expensive but seriously makes baking & cleanup MUCH easier. Genius moment!
About to assemble the pastry cream with the yellow cakes.
Want to work on making a pastry cream with more structure, to make a thicker cream layer to offset the bitter of the chocolate and sweet/dryness of the cake. Taste was fine.
Waited a little too long to spread the ganache...meh.
Mis-shapen khanom jeen. My dad's going to demonstrate how to make them prettier next weekend.
Tomato caprese w/ baby spinach posing as basil.
Boston Cream Pie: I used the following recipe (but w/ 3oz 72% dark cacao and 1oz semi-sweet nestle chips):
Tomato caprese: I used 4 vine-ripened tomatoes and store-bought mozzarella with a drizzling of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Didn't have fresh basil so used baby spinach leaves instead.

Thai namya noodles: 2 cans Maesri brand namya curry paste, 1 can solid white tuna in extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 can coconut milk, and a few tbsp of water. Mash the tuna until fairly fine, mix with curry paste, then combine w/ remaining ingredients in a pot over medium heat until it boils. Serve warm over khanom jeen noodles wound into little bundles.

Inari: 1 can inari tofu, approx 3 cups Japanese white rice (I use Nishiki medium-grain). Make sure the rice is warm; it makes the process of stuffing the tofu a lot easier.

Enchiladas: These I've made before --

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dinner Party

This weekend, M and I will be entertaining a few guests in our apartment for the first time since moving here. Tentative menu:

Starter - Chips & dip
Appetizer - Tomato caprese
Appetizer - Inari
Entree 1 - Thai namya noodles
Entree 2 - Chicken enchiladas
Dessert - Boston cream pie
Dessert - Apple something

You'll notice there's no real cohesiveness to this menu...Italian to Japanese to Thai to Mexican? Unfortunately, I will be out of town the day/night preceding, so the apartment must be turned upside-down and inside-out TODAY, and the meals must be simple, fast, tried and true. However, for the enchiladas, I want to try making my own enchilada sauce. I found this fairly simple recipe, and may give it a whirl...though it may mean sacrificing the most complex item on this menu (Boston cream pie).

Ten-Minute Enchilada Sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons New Mexico or California chili powder (or mix. Best New Mexico chile powder is the 69 cent "Chile New Mexico Molido" in the red, white, and green package by the company "Mexico Spices Corp")
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water (or chicken stock)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or fresh garlic)
1/4 teaspoon onion salt
Salt to taste
Optional: 1-2 oz dark chocolate
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and chili powder, reduce heat to medium, and cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning flour.
  2. Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water, cumin, garlic powder, and onion salt into the flour and chili powder until smooth, and continue cooking over medium heat approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt. 
  3. Optional: Dip corn tortillas in sauce while still hot. Pour sauce in bottom of baking dish before placing rolled enchiladas. Sauce thickens in the oven. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pure Komachi 2 Knives

In Chinese tradition, receiving sharps as gifts isn't really a good thing. I had no awareness of this superstition until I received a pencil sharpener as a souvenir from one of my friends and my mother demanded I give him a quarter in return. Apparently if you receive a sharp as a gift, you're supposed to offer money to the giver (in essence, "buying" the knives from them) to keep bad luck away!

At any rate, ever since that transaction I've been afraid to receive sharps as gifts, and we never really had the funds set aside to invest in a good knife set (and why bother spending on a bad one?). We finally invested in the pleasantly affordable Pure Komachi 2 set by Kershaw. Not exactly as pictured above, but the 6-knife version as offered by Costco for a fraction of the listed cost. The price was right, and the reviews strong, so we're excited to try them out and hopefully spare our fingers any of the horror stories out there about how sharp Shun blades are. Big bonus points to Kershaw for letting customers send their blades in to be resharpened once a year -- for free!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Laughing Cow Light Swiss

Oh, the horrors of the grade school lunchroom. I remember throwing my plastic lunchbag into the trash can by accident, and crying about it...the teacher on duty was so angry after the custodian fished it out for me, thinking that it must've been some really fancy bag for me to be carrying on so (it wasn't). And then the year I had a fever and immediately barfed my Campbell's chicken stars soup back up onto the table, in near-perfect condition...

Anyway. As a kid, I spent most of my lunches either wishing I could have a tin pail like Laura or Addy (even though I probably would've hated mince pie), or jealous of my friends who had normal, "American" lunches (and they jealous of my lunches, which for several years of my life consisted of the aforementioned soup in a Thermos made of dubious plastics). You know, the "standards" like PBJ, a cheese sandwich, a Cosmic brownie, string cheese, fruit snacks, salami, etc. One more special item on the list included those little Babybel cheese rounds...not so much bc I liked the taste of Babybel cheese (I didn't, back then), but it was always super fun to unwrap the cheese from its wax coating (and then, of course, to play with the wax).

The Laughing Cow company also manufactures "light creamy swiss" cheese wedges, which I suppose is the product they market to the adult "low fat" crowd. Costco sells these wheels in a multi-pack, which is amazing bc they're so versatile. Tuck a wedge into your lunch for a handy, tasty, quick-n-easy snack, open it up and use 'em as a spread on crackers, fruit, eggs, or as a substitute for cream cheese. Pre-portioned at 35 calories per wedge, you can't go wrong. I'm using one right now in combination with a parmesan-crusted bagel. Awesome!

Bread Pudding

Happy OCTOBER everyone! :D

With morning temps in the 30s F, it's time for some hearty, warming dishes. As luck would have it, we had a woeful old loaf of bread hanging out in the fridge, so I decided it was time to make some bread pudding. The recipe posted here includes the adjustments I made to the original (taken from


7 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons (salted) butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins (soaked)
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup (scant) white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture. 
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.
The only thing I want to try for next time is to reduce the sugar (since the raisins are quite sweet) and try a thicker bread. Also, let it sit for a bit before passing judgment on the texture -- it's initially a bit more custardy in consistency than I normally like, but firms up especially after being chilled. Tastes good though, and smells heavenly. Enjoy!

Lemon syllabub

Posting to save this recipe, to hopefully make one day!

Non-Alcoholic Lemon Syllabub

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eggplant redux

I could have easily finished off the enchiladas, but decided to play nice and let M have the last serving. Eggplant it is...probably one of the least photogenic dishes out there, but mmm mmm good!

So this time I didn't bother measuring, and as a result learned something new: yes, it's important to test the flavoring and adjust accordingly, but when working with absorbent vegetables, perhaps it's better to wait a little bit before making any additions! (with the added complication that I eat it plain. It's meant to be served over rice!).

At any rate, I also managed to take photos before the entire thing vanished into my belly. Voilà ici:

Just these 4 ingredients plus eggplant!
I really don't use much of each ingredient; the eggplant adds about 1/2 cup of its own liquid, so there's really no need.
Dumped the freshly steamed eggplant into the bowl of sauce...
And gave it a stir! The color of the eggplant darkens a bit after 10-15 minutes, which indicates that it's probably OK to test the flavoring. Plus if you wait, it won't burn your mouth as much!
Btw, does anyone out there have first-hand experience w/ the inflammatory properties of eggplant/vegetables in this family? I'm really curious!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


There's a quote in Nichols' "One Day" that includes the word "enchilada" (but not "the whole enchilada") and I can't remember exactly what it's driving me crazy!!!

Anyway, after seeing A's taco pics I was seriously craving tacos. But I refuse to pay $6 for ground turkey, so I ended up making enchiladas. Since I could only fit 8 in the baking dish, there was quite a bit of extra filling, which then of course ended up in my stomach while the enchiladas were baking... So now I haven't tasted my own enchiladas bc I'm too stuffed to even think about it!

On to the method:

In a big bowl, combine 1 can drained corn, 1 can drained diced tomatoes, 1 can drained & rinsed black beans, 1/2 can enchilada sauce, 1/2 cup salsa, 2 cups shredded chicken (cooked), and 1-2 tsp cumin. Spoon filling onto 6-8 tortillas, sprinkle shredded cheese (Mexican mix) over each, then roll and place in greased baking dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the rolls, then sprinkle w/ remaining cheese and bake uncovered at 375F for 20-25 min. Voila!

I think I was probably supposed to use a different type of tortilla, but then I wasn't sure when I bought them whether I'd be making tacos or enchiladas. Next time!

[UPDATE] The flour tortillas were fine -- YUM! I'm sure I could've sliced and diced and done everything freshly (including the "enchilada sauce"), but for a quick meal, this method definitely delivers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fall is my favorite season!

I remember posting bentos on this blog last Fall. Very few bentos these days -- more likely to find the traditional American sandwich (slices of processed deli meat and a little mayo between machine-sliced processed bread) or a thermos of soup. Much easier/faster, albeit less nutritious...

But that's not the reason I'm posting. I'm posting bc I am SUPER excited! Sometime this winter, A & I and possibly D and M may put together a big holiday multi-course dinner topped off with a dessert spread. I don't know why I'm so excited about the prospect, but I am. A bonafide dinner party!!!! <-- SUPER excited. Not kidding!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cantonese-style steamed eggplant

Today I ate an entire eggplant. By myself, lol. I also ate it so quickly that I never got a photo of it! But here's how it went down: I took this simple recipe ( and made it even simpler:

1 eggplant (maybe 10"x5"?)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp light soy sauce or to taste
1/2 tsp sugar or to taste

Cut the eggplant into pieces (I did 4"x0.5") and place them in your steamer (I used the steaming tray of our rice cooker). Depending on your steamer, the timing may vary. I'll include an approximate cooktime next time I make it; this time it was slightly overcooked (thought still tasted great). Transfer eggplant to a big bowl. Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour over the steamed eggplant in a big bowl, stirring to ensure the sugar dissolved.

Then, eat it all! YUM! :P

PS. Adding garlic would probably be more authentic.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An early birthday gift from A+D!

A+D were in town for a wedding this weekend, and surprised me with an early birthday gift! The neatly wrapped package was rectangular, and fairly heavy, but bendy. The bendiness threw me off of the trail...usually books of this size and weight are hardcover. So I didn't immediately think "book" (note: I tend to get inordinately excited about books of any kind :P).

But, voila!! THE FOOD OF THAILAND: A JOURNEY FOR FOOD LOVERS. These two could not have selected a better book for me!

This book is a party for the senses!
First of all, the photography is GORGEOUS. I may love books, pictures or no, but cook books without photos?? Well, this one has it in spades -- every recipe is paired w/ at least 1 glorious full-page photo. The photographer traveled to Thailand to capture each dish in its authentic clime. Also, the recipes are given w/ both UK and US measurements (the author is Thai but lives in England), which is great -- no conversions necessary. The food selections are fantastic -- from standards to street fare to regional dishes -- "I love this dish. And this dish. And this one. Wait, I love all of them!" There's additionally background about regional differences in Thai food, which is where I'll start. AND the book stays open on its own.

Reviewers have applauded the book as inspirational, and I quite agree. Can't wait to try some recipes out and compare w/ my dad! Thanks A+D!!! My future taste testers :P