Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chicken & Pea Aspic


Aspic is a French dish where a type of meat is first boiled down to release its gelatinous collagen content in stock or water and that stock is then molded together with the meat and other ingredients to make a jelly like dish which is served cold. In the Chinese restaurants, this dish is served as part of a large appetizer platter which can contain more than 5 dishes. Gelatine is added to coagulate but not so much as to produce a firm encasse to the filling but rather a soft support that can be gently sliced and served. The flavor of the stock that makes the aspic is very important here, therefor a long simmering of the meat and water is essential.

This dish is Asian flavored as it contained soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine and scallion in the simmering of the chicken. The chicken drumsticks were first boiled in 3 cups of water for 10 mins and then flavored with the seasonings to simmer for another 40 mins. As collagen is present on the skin, bones and dark meat, using breast meat is not a good choice for this dish. The meat was then let cooled to room temperature before shredding them and randomly scattering them in a glass container or a long pan. The stock from the simmering was then added with dissolved gelatine and cooked for another few more minutes to cook the gelatine. Peas are to be added at this time as they cook really fast. The stock is then poured into the container containing the shredded chicken and let cool at room temperature before chilling it in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours. As the jelly is quite soft, gentle cut measuring at least 1/2 inch per slice is required to ensure that it doesn't fall apart. Serve with soy sauce and grated ginger.


Recipe

Ingredients
4 Chicken Drumsticks
3 cups water
1 Tbsp Rice Wine (Chinese cooking wine)
1 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp Salt
5 stalks of Scallion, only the white part is used
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 Tbsp powdered gelatine
1/4 cup water (room temperature)

Method
1)Boil the 3 cups of water. Put in the 4 Drumsticks and turn down to medium heat and let it simmer for 10 mins.
2)Add in the Rice wine, Soy Sauce, Salt and scallion stalks. Cover with lid and continue to simmer for another 35 mins.
3)Remove the drumsticks and let cool to room temperature. Reserve the stock water and turn off the heat.
4)Dissolve the gelatine in the 1/4 cup water and let it stand while you prepare the chicken meat.
5)Shred the meat from the bones and scatter in a long pan or rectangle glass container.
6)Heat the stock water again to a rolling boil, pour in the dissolved gelatine and stir. Add in the peas and let it cook for another 3 mins.
7)Remove from heat and slowly laddle into the container containing the chicken. Spoon in and don't pour so that the peas are evenly distributed.
8)Let the contents cool to room temperature. Cover and let it chill and settle in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight. Run a knife around the edges of the container to release the Aspic, just as you would for molded Jello.
9)Cut to thick slices and serve with fresh garden salad and soy sauce with grated ginger for dipping.

Serves: 4 to 6 person

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Egg Tofu with Mushroom & Minced meat

Egg Tofu is basically tofu  made with added egg in its making. Back in Malaysia we called this "Japanese Tofu" as the Chinese Tofu is simply made from soy milk, processed from soy beans soaked in water and added with coagulating agents. I like both types but this egg added version can only be bought at bigger  Asian groceries and whenever I go down to Chinatown, I will get 2 packs or more. Slightly more pricey than the usual block tofu but flavorful with the egg and with silky smooth texture. These tofu comes in Tube packaging, weighing about 250g for each tube and yellowish in color.

Cooking method for this tofu is the same as the plain tofu and good as a vegetarian choice for the added egg protein. As with any tofu, this egg tofu will taste better if cooked together with other ingredients and served with some sauce. I am not a very big fan of gravy and so I opted for a slightly wet beef mixture with oyster flavored sauce. You can add more water to the beef during the cooking if you like. This dish is best served hot with white rice.


Recipe

Ingredients
250g Egg Tofu (1 Tube), cut into disks, about 1/2 inch (yields up to 15 disks)
250g Minced Beef or pork or Chicken
100g Enoki or Small mushrooms
1 small Shallot, minced
2 pips of garlic, minced
1/3 tsp salt
1/3 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
1/2 tsp Corn flour
1 tbsp Oyster flavored sauce
3 to 4 tbsp water
scallion for garnish
2 to 3 tbsp corn flour (for coating)
Cooking oil

Method
1. Marinate the minced meat with the salt, white pepper, sesame oil and corn flour. Stir to mix thoroughly and let it sit in the fridge for 20 mins.
2. Heat a frying pan with 3 tbsp cooking oil. Coat the tofu disks in the corn flour. Pan fry them for 3 mins, turn and continue to pan fry the other side till slightly brown. Dish up and arrange on a large platter.
3. Using the same pan, add 1/2 tbsp to the same frying pan. Put in the minced shallot &  garlic and let them sizzle and fry for 30 seconds. Add in the minced meat and stir to mix in. Add in the oyster flavored sauce and water, cover and let it simmer for 7 mins, stirring occasionally.
4. Add in the mushroom and stir to mix. Cover and let simmer for another 3 mins.
5. Spoon up and pour over the arranged tofu. Sprinkle with chopped scallion and Serve immediately with rice.

Serves : 3 person

Food Generation

When I first started my blog LilyAnette , I had no idea on what I wanted to write about. As with the ever developing savvy tech world, I wanted to be part of it at that time. And then, it shine on me that I do one thing everyday as a stay home mom. I cook! Whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, I cook everything from scratch and coming from Malaysia with an Asian palate, the area around me then don't have much Asian cuisine to offer except for those greasy and fattening take out Chinese. Sadly to say, the authentic home cooked Chinese food suffer much of the same reputation as the outside take outs, which is unhealthy and greasy. I don't blame the consumers, rather than the marketing and bastardization of a certain cuisine for fast, cheap and profitable channel of income that makes all these misunderstood concepts.

And through my Blogs, I also have gradually learned to eat healthier. For the first year, I was kind of swing towards making cakes and followed any recipes I fancied blindly. As with any novice bakers, I haven't then notice substitutes on butter, cream and milk in my bakings. Hence while enjoying my passion of creating marvellous mousse cakes, I tend to forget the fattening part of it that affected my weight. Comes second year, I noticed the substitutes of low fat yogurt, fat free sour cream and canola oil in my baking and started using them.And finally, last year, I totally changed my perspective in all types of food. It was also last year that I decided to lose my excess weight and I went and studied on certain types of food that will help me. And I finally come to this conclusion: it is not really what you eat that makes you fat, but it is really the Amount and quality of the food that you eat which contributes to the excess weight and which spirals into the dreadful onset of certain known health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure.

I am very proud of myself to have done this trimming down of 24lbs off my weight since I started in January 2010. With only a treadmill, an Ipod, a calories chart and alot of info on food and its effect and calories, I did it on my own with no intervention. And as I restart my commitment to lose my remaining 6lbs to make up to a total of 30lbs this spring, I am more determined than ever as my diet and exercise regime were all natural and no Yo-Yo effect at all. I don't believe in Fad diets as there are too many out there and I think they all confuse me more rather than of any help.

I am very excited about Jamie Oliver's new Season show of Food Revolution which will be airing next month in USA. I watched his works in UK, on how he set out to revolutionize and change the food served in schools and now he hopes to bring that idea here. It takes a star power like him to spread the importance of good and healthy eating habits and being a Bento mom, I think what he does is very important to our next generation. These days, most kids only know french fries as vegetables and anything green seems yucky and alien to them. Not that I am saying parents are not doing enough, perhaps not persistent enough and we really need a food revolution concept to educate our young ones. Eat and Be Healthy!









Saturday, March 26, 2011

Asparagus Cauliflower & Bell Pepper Whole Wheat Tartlets

I have been cleaning out stuffs from my kitchen. All this time I have accumulated alot of things from cookie cutters, pans to all sorts of tools and gadgets that I am simply overwhelmed with everytime I take them out to  re-arrange the whole cupboard. This year, I am not skeptical anymore to let go of things that I seldom or never use as the clutter has got to me and affecting my efficiency in the kitchen, not mentioning building stress in my head everytime I cannot look for space to store them. Possibly it was an Epiphany or the fear in me after watching a few episodes of Hoarding:  Buried Alive! There are simply too many things in this little house of mine and perhaps some are not meant to be and needed to be discarded or given away so that I can gain my space and sanity back!

As with the spring cleaning, I didn't have much energy nor mood to cook the whole week but these Tartlets of which I made today for a light Saturday dinner.With one kid sick, there was absolutely no where to go and so what better to de-stress than bake something simple and delicious for a quiet weekend night in. With a glass of Pinot Grigio, I am happy already. Oh yes, throw in a few Episodes of the Korean Drama I am currently hooked on to, who needs going out!

These Tartlets are very simple to make and you can substitute any vegetables that you have on hand. I used Asparagus as it is in season now and they are really tender and exceptionally lovely with a slight sweetness after baking. For a reason, I really like cauliflower and my kids love it too.  Perhaps too much of broccoli, the taste and color of the white cauliflower is a welcome change. And I find myself starting to like Bell pepper alot despite professing my detest for it since young! Perhaps the green one is the obnoxious smelling one but I love this orange one, and also the red and yellow types. I added 2 tbsp of low fat Ricotta cheese to give the egg custard more body with a slight sweet flavor.Other than that, no cheese nor flour required. This recipe can be made into a 6 or 8 inches tart size (depending on the thickness of the tart crust).  I made it into 8 smaller tartlets measuring slightly less than 4 inches each, which took about 35 mins to bake. The egg filling resembles a firm custard and lovely served warm. I like to use whole wheat flour in most of my baking now as it renders a more flaky crust in tarts and of course for health reasons in terms of breads. I added some All purpose flour for a bit of structure to the crust and rolled out the tartlet cases thinly.



Recipe

Ingredients

Tartlet Cases
100g  Whole Wheat Flour
50g All Purpose Flour
85g cold butter pieces
1 large egg

Filling
100g Cauliflower, cut into smaller florets
75g Red or Yellow Bell Pepper, julienned & halved
75g Asparagus (about 8 stalks) , cut into 2 inches length
2 large eggs
2 tbsp Ricotta Cheese
150ml Heavy Cream
Salt & Pepper

Method
Tartlet Cases
1)Stir the 2 types of flour together. Put it into the food processor with the butter pieces and pulse briefly just to mix. Beat in the egg till the ingredients come together, do not overmix.
2)Grease one 6 or 8 inches pan or small tartlet pans.
3)Take out the dough and roll out on a floured surface.To line a 6 inch, you can roll it thicker while an 8 inch pan will yield a thinner crust. Patch up any left over onto the lined pans as this dough is pretty easy to work with.
4)Place the lined pans in the freezer for about 20mins.Heat the oven to 400F.
5)When the oven is ready,  take out the lined pans, poke the bottom with fork and bake for 10 mins. Take out and let it stand while prepping the filling. Turn down the oven to 375F.

Filling
1)Beat the eggs with the Heavy Cream and Ricotta Cheese to mix. Season with salt & pepper.
2)Arrange all 3 vegetables into each of the tartlet pans or scatter randomly into the 6 or 8 inch pans.
3)Slowly spoon the egg & cream filling into the tartlet pans. Leave some of the vegetables revealing for a nice presentation.
4)Bake at 375F for 35 mins for tartlets, 45 mins on the 6 or 8 inches tart pans. When the time is up, turn off the oven and let the tartlets sit inside the oven for another 10 mins. This will dry up excess moisture in the crust.
5)Serve warm with your favorite soup.

Makes: 8 small 3.5 inches tartlets/6 inch/8 inch tart

Me & My Money

I am nearing 40 soon and I am not very sure what to expect or anticipate when I am really in my 40s. Almost all my 30s have involved in moving to live in a foreign country, adapting to marriage and family life, learning the most I can about being a suburbanite soul with changing perspectives in seeing things and giving up on old habits while sowing for a slower pace and yet sometimes mundane albeit relaxing attitude. And now with 2 kids, the younger one reaching the mark of 5 years old soon and the older one moving on to the 2nd Grade after this summer, my mind starts to race again as if I need and am indeed chasing something different and new again.

With growing kids means growing need for financial reserves and expenses. I have started to learn more of the stock market world beginning this year, with emphasis on researches, analysts says, companies financial datas and the more challenging technical stuffs involving charts, graphs and intimidating terms like EPS, P/E ratio and so on. With more time on my hands and massive info available on the internet, the art and science of stocks trading doesn't seem so daunting anymore. Infact I find myself a bit late to get on board this very thrilling cycle of money world and now I really believe that money rules and no matter how I want to believe this is an idealistic world full of simple stuffs and easy thoughts, everything seems to be related in some way or another and without money, nothing seems to work in proper sense.  So I think it is best to have some knowledge about how investment works rather than following blindly on other's choices and making my own judgments on which stocks to invest. For beginners like myself, I find this site very informative and able to explain to me almost everything on the subject: http://www.investopedia.com/  

It is never too late to learn anything but as age catches up with you, focus and emphasis will be more on the essentials rather than on wishy washy ideas that occupies but doesn't benefit one much. For a start, I love to read blogs written by people who are money conscious and doing things of which they cared to write about and share with me and everyone else on how to utilize my money resource to the fullest capacity and at the same time learn something about life that I never realize. For a starter, I recommend this blog of which I follow as a fan : http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tiffin Box , Melamine 4 Tiers

My favorite food container is this 4 tier Round Tiffin box which I got at Target early spring last year. One year after, I still get excited everytime I think of using it again for our spring and summer weekend picnics. I love the different green and blue hues which is so appropriate to carry food out and dine al fresco on a beautiful warm summer day.

My family don't get to travel away far for every school vacation period and we always go to local parks and out of town but remain in the nearby States surrounding ours to spend the day. Being in New Hampshire and surrounded by lovely State parks and also neighboring States' hiking and picnic spots with lakes and plenty of stop by local attractions, we are truly fortunate to be able to hop into our minivan and drive to a destination and be back home for bedtime. I don't mind getting up early to pack these lunches as they bring so much joy and meaning to my kids to be able to eat outside.

As with any Tiffins, this one comes with a latch to lock in all 4 together. The amount of food that can fit into all tiers is enough to feed 2 to 3 adults with 2 kids. I always love the original stainless Tiffin and when I saw this colored one in my local Target, I just had to have it! This design was from last year and the new ones which are 3 Tiers with a flowery and Stripes motifs are now available as I write. Most of the food that I have packed are finger food, easy to eat and dry. I carry additional plastic bowls and utensils with boxed juice in another bag and these Tiffin fits nicely in an insulated carrier bag. The disadvantage though is that these tiffin containers are not leak proof and must be utilised in all 4 to allow the latch to lock up all in place. Usually one of the containers has a built in separate compartment sections for condiments. I like the idea of carrying all the food in one stack and really fuel up my family of 4 for a nice picnic lunch and get us ready again to travel on. Try out one today and you will have a fabulous picnic this summer!




Friday, March 18, 2011

Fillo Pastries with Ricotta Cheese Bacon & Vegetables


For the whole week, my mind was flooded with all the devastation and aftermath images from Japan. There is simply no adequate nor appropriate words to describe on how I feel at times. I stayed for a brief time in Kyoto once and Hubby worked there for a period of 3 years. During our times there, we have come to know a number of friends and appreciated the Japanese people's way of life which is highly focused on civic conscience and their dedication in all aspects of life taught me much about focus in my life's choices. And now seeing their resiliance in this very hardtime, especially those who survived to mourn the death and having to go through a very uncertain future amidst the fear of nuclear radiation exposure, their stoic faces simply cannot hide their sorrows. I respect the Japanese people for their calmness and despite in time of uncertainties, they are still able to uphold their core values of consideration for others without news of looting or disorder which I find  both strange and believable. All our friends and my cousin are alright but I cannot say all is fine until the nuclear crisis has settle down and all we can do at the moment is donate for rescue funds. I hope everyone reading this will donate to a reliable fund for Japan.

Taking a break from all the TV coverage, I made up these Fillo pastries to use up some leftover Fillo in my freezer. Despite all the over concern about working with Fillo, I find it not that daunting to use when all my other ingredients, oven and tools are ready. Covering extra Fillo sheets with a damp wet towel is a must as you work with one sheet at a time and the applying of melted butter is to keep the Fillo from turning brittle and dried up while you are finishing up. I like using Ricotta cheese for its slight sweetness which pairs well with vegetables like bell peppers. I used 5 sheets of the rectangular Fillo sheets to yield 10 of these triangle pastries. You can substitute the bacon and vegetable fillings with anything as long as the ingredients are not greasy and wet. And if meat is included, it must first be cooked prior to wrapping into the Fillo. I pan fried the Bacon without any additional cooking oil as its own fat will ooze out and this is done so that during the baking of the Fillo pastries, no liquid will ooze out from the fillings.


Recipe

Ingredients
5 to 6 sheets of Fillo (rectangle large)
1/2 Red or Orange Bell Pepper, about 1 cup (julienned and cut to smaller cubes)
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 cup Fat Free Ricotta Cheese
3 streaks of Bacon, cut into small pieces
Pepper
2 tbsp butter, melted

Method
1) Heat a pan, pan fry the bacon pieces for 2 mins. Add in the frozen peas and stir fry for 2 mins.
2) Lastly add in the bell pepper and stir to mix, let the contents cook for a further 3 mins.
3) Let the contents cool. Preheat the oven to 350F.
4) Take 1 sheet of the Fillo, unfold into a rectangle. Brush melted butter on half of the rectangle, take the other half and fold onto the brushed half to fold like a towel. Cut this into half to yield 2 strips. Lightly brush butter on both of these half strips.
5) Take 1 tsp of the Ricotta cheese, put and flatten it out on the bottom right hand corner of 1 strip. Spoon 1heap teaspoon of the bacon & vegetable filling onto the Ricotta Cheese. Lift up the bottom left hand corner of the strip and bring it upwards to enclose the filling forming a preliminary triangle. Use your fingers to push and tuck in the filling if they ooze out a little.
6) Then, take the bottom tip (previously the bottom right hand corner) and fold it up (180 degrees fold). And then take the bottom tip and fold along the lines and continue to fold following the lines till you finish up enclosing the filling. Lightly brush the edges to seal in. Place this on a non stick pan. Continue with the next strip in the same way and then with the remaining 4 sheets of the Fillo in the same way.
7) Lightly brush butter on the surface of each triangle and bake for 25 mins till lightly browned.
8) Serve hot.

Yields : 10 pastry triangles

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate with Peanuts

I love Trader Joe's! A small place but indeed, you will find all that you ever need to cook with, to nibble on and to bake ahead. Everytime I go in there, it feels very comfy and I am a big supporter of generic goods that are solely marketed under one store's brand name. Compared to the general grocery stores I go to, Trader Joes gives me the peace without having to browse and compare too much among tonnes of different brands for the same product and that saves me alot of time. And so far, I don't have much complaints from the products that I have been buying from there.

I love chocolate in its original state, meaning I don't really go for chocolate cake, chocolate tart or anything that makes chocolate as the secondary and complementing ingredient only. And these days, I only prefer dark chocolate. I highly recommend this huge 1lb plus chocolate bar to everyone. Chock full of peanuts, with the hint of dark rich chocolate without all the sugary taste on it, it is simply lovely. The only danger is that you might not stop eating it. Priced at $4.99 (Massachusetts), it is really a good deal for a good tasting bar of chocolate. They have other varieties of milk chocolate too. Good for sharing.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Banana Oat Bread

I have been following the news on Japan's earthquake & Tsunami for the past weekend and I felt really sorry for the people there. It is true when nature unleashes its wrath, it doesn't hold back and seeing the devastation on TV and how all of it unfolded to the latest images of wreckage and sorrow looming, all I can think of now is life is really precious and everyday counts. You never know where and when will be your last day and the only thing you can do is live everyday to the fullest. Love your spouse, kids, parents, siblings dearly.

It is another Monday and I dare not complain anymore. The clock has changed and everyone feels the lack of sleep effect and myself too, feeling lethargic and a bit out of focus. A bit cold today despite the spring atmosphere and I just felt like baking something that is simple and easy. My kids are spoiled with many types of fruits and when all they see are apples, kiwi and mangoes, they will never ask for the banana. With 2 left on the countertop and turning very soft and ripe, I made up a Banana Bread with Oat added. This recipe yields a small loaf which cuts into 6 to 8 slices and lovely served warm and on the day it is made.


Recipe

Ingredients
125g All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/8 tsp Salt
60g butter, cold malleable
50g Light Brown sugar
1 Large egg
2 very Ripe bananas (use 5 if baby bananas), mashed
25g  rolled Oat & 2 tbsp extra for sprinkles on top of loaf

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a small loaf pan.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda & salt together. Stir in the rolled oat to mix.
3. In another bowl, beat the butter with the brown sugar till creamy. Beat in the egg. Lastly fold in the mashed banana to combine.
4. Pour the flour & oat mixture into the butter & banana mixture. Fold in to mix. Pour this into the greased pan. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tbps rolled oat on top.
5. Bake for 35 to 40 mins. Check doneness with toothpick.
6. Turn off oven and leave the loaf inside the oven for 5 mins to firm up.
7. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

Serves: 3 to 4 (cuts to 6 to 8 slices)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wilton Food Markers

Most of the time, I like to make plain looking cookies and no extra decorating on it. I use sprinkles sparingly because of the amount of sugar and I am not very keen to make up Royal icing and pipe it.

But of course, kids love colorful stuffs and true can be said that they will deviate to the colorful cake or decorated sugar cookies more than a plain chocolate chip cookie. And so I was happy to discover these new Wilton Edible Color Markers at my local craft store and grabbed a pack containing 5 of the Primary colors. I used them to decorate the Sugar cookies for my son's school birthday party and they were so easy to use. Drawing and writing like using a colored pen was a kid's work and I just wrote all my son's classmate's names on each of their names' first alphabet and drew pictures on it. The colors did not fade at all after 3 days and they stayed on clearly! The kids and teachers enjoyed them.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Steamed Taro Cake


One of my favorite ingredient in Asian cooking is Taro. Back in Malaysia I always see purple Taro but over here all I ever get is white ones with speckles and light purplish strands. In my opinion, I find the purple one has more of the Tuber vegetable in depth flavor while the white ones have a more milder taste but both equally starchy. I have cooked with Taro many times but never attempted this Asian style steamed cake till now, for the reason my family always ask for the steamed radish version. With about 1 lb of Taro left in my fridge, I cannot think of anything else but to try out this recipe.

As the water content of Taro is less than Radish, the quantity of water to be added in the cooking of this dish is basically more. As with the Radish cake version, other ingredients like shiitake mushroom, dried shrimp and Preserved Chinese sausages are added to complete this Taro version. The Taro must first be cut into small cubes, cooked & simmered in water and then mixed in with the rest of the ingredients and a combination of rice flour,Tapioca Flour and water before steaming it for a total of 45 mins to cook through.  Usually, the Taro cakes you find in Malaysia are quite firm in texture and I think taste better if pan fried later and I prefer something more soft, slightly gooey and chewy.


Recipe

Ingredients
850g Taro, cleaned and diced to cubes
250g Rice Flour
75 Tapioca Flour
700ml water
Seasoning: 1 tsp Chicken Granule powder; 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp White Pepper;1 tsp Sesame Oil

2 Chinese Preserved Sausages, sliced to small round pieces
30g Dried Small shrimp
4 Large Dried Shiitake Mushroom,  re-hydrated & sliced to small pieces
2 small Red Shallot, sliced
2 Pips Garlic. minced
Seasoning: 1 tsp Dark Soy Sauce; 2 tsp Chinese Cooking Wine; pinch of White Pepper; 1/2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder

Cooking Oil
9x9 oiled square dish

Method
1. Heat 1Tbsp cooking oil in a large skillet pan. Put in the garlic, shallot and dried shrimp and fry for 30 seconds.
2. Add in the Chinese sausage and mushroom.Stir in the seasoning and stir fry to mix. Cook for 5 mins. Dish up and put aside.
3. Using the same skillet, add 1 Tbsp of cooking oil and tip in all the Taro. Mix in the seasoning and cover and let sit for 1 min. Add in 400ml water and bring contents to a boil and turn down the heat and cover to let contents simmer for 7 mins. Stir occasionally during this time.
4. Prepare a large steamer with hot water.
5. Mix the remaining 300ml water with the rice flour and tapioca flour. Dissolve the flour into a thick watery paste.
6. Remove the skillet from the heat. Pour in the flour and water mixture and quickly stir to mix with the taro contents. The texture will become heavy and thick.
7. Spoon this mixture into the greased square pan, spoon out and flatten with a spatula.
8. Steam on high heat for 45 mins. Check the content of the steamer water and add more if necessary.
9. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 mins before cutting and serving.

Serves: 6 person (snack size)


Monday, March 7, 2011

ButterBraids Pastries


With same yearly fundraising events at both my kids school, it sometimes gets tiring to me. Every year, it is the same kind of item and I look forward to something that I can use more or eat besides candles, mugs and key chains.

And then Hubby bought something from his colleague who was fundraising for his kids school, which I absolutely loved! He brought home this Apple & Soft Cheese filling Pastry Braid. It is one of the many lovely pastry products from Butter Braid, which provides most of its product for Fundraising purposes through local dealers.  It has been in my freezer for over 3 months till I decided to pull it out for a late breakfast on Sunday morning.

At first I thought it was just another bread like product and didn't expect much. It comes neatly braided with a small packet of icing for drizzling over like hot Cinnamon rolls from Pillsbury. The product was opened and thawed first for about 12 hours at room temperature and as it thaws, it rises like a usual bread. Nothing much needed to be done, only put it on a lightly greased large pan and bake for about 27mins.

The taste was so good that my kids were begging for more. The outer crust was flaky and layered like Puff pastry while the inside texture resembled a soft bread, containing not overly sweetened apple chunks and creamy cheese. So lovely that I ate it for lunch too! Next year, I will make sure I get more of these. If your school or any organization is looking for the next best thing to fundraise, try this out. Everyone will love it.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chiffon Cake: Grenadine Chiffon Cake with Rose & Lavendar

Spring air with the occasional rain weather is finally here  and soon it will be time to change the clocks. That means longer days and I get to snap more pictures of what I cook and bake. Spring season is the best time to try out new recipes with abundance of vegetables and summer fruits appearing in the markets and of course, the beautiful flowers and trees starts to brighten up the surroundings again. It is such a wonderful feeling to know the snow and cold will not dominate our lives again for the next 6 or 7 months, isn't it?

I haven't made a proper cake for sometime now and I kind of forgotten some of the skills applied for making different types of cakes. The last cake that I made for Curry's birthday was copied from the back of the Cocoa Powder container, which I admit is not really up to my expectation. And so, I am on a quest again to bake lovely cakes for this Spring and Summer, trying hard to spun my imagination and get inspired from everywhere.

My Blogger friend Terri made a Lovely Rose Chiffon Cake last year and following her recipe with a bit of tweaking I made this chiffon cake for teatime today. Chiffon cake is the loveliest and lightest cake that you will ever eat and in Malaysia, it is simply flavored with Pandan, Orange or Cocoa and sold plain without any decoration. For the reason that it is basically constructed of eggs and with very little amount of fat of butter or vegetable oil, those who are health conscious can eat this cake with a peace of mind. I find the Angel Food Cake sold in my local bakeries a bit too sweet for my liking and I like Terri's version. With a lighter appetite on a warmer spring day, I think this cake is preferred by anyone compared to the more heavier version of butter cake.

The recipe turned out lovely. I substituted Grenadine syrup for the Rose water recommended and steeped lavendar in hot water to obtain the Lavendar water to add into my whipped cream for the frosting on the cake. Indeed, everytime I attempt a lovely cake, my mood is romantic and I thought of incorporating the lovely dried rose buds together with the sweet smelling Lavendar together into this cake. The only thing that didn't turn out was my expectation of the purplish hue from the Lavendar which was lightened once added to the whipped cream. To make up, I crushed some of the dried rose buds and sprinkled onto the cake. I also steeped the dried rose buds in hot water to bloom them open. And later dehydrated them again in the toaster oven .

For the Recipe, look here. Use 70ml Grenadine syrup instead of rose water, increase the baking powder from 1/2 tsp to 3/4 tsp if you are Not using double action Baking powder and use self rising flour.

For the frosting Whipped Cream, Steep 3 tbsp of Lavendar in 10 tbsp of hot water for 20 mins. Strain the lavendar water and cool completely. Add 4 Tbsp of this into the whipped cream during the whipping.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Merrimack NH Dim Sum Spot

South Garden Chinese Restaurant
Location: 559 DW Highway, Merrimack NH 03054
Days: Saturday, Sunday & Monday
Time: 11:30am to 3pm
Tel: (603)4294289

I don't eat out alot but if I do, I usually patronize the same places if I find their food good and reasonably priced. Of course I would love to dine in top restaurants in downtown Boston but having kids and the need to drive down there for an hour journey already kills my appetite. For the meantime, my choices are limited to family friendly places and I love to recommend good places to eat to all my friends. Afterall, being a suburbanite, we need to share info to support our local neighborhood businesses.

I first discovered South Garden from the Yellow Pages. Believe it or not, I really took the time to go through the Yellow Pages to look up for everything before I became hooked to the internet and since then anything printed on paper was desolated by me. I patronize this restaurant for the past 6 years and I still find their quality of Dim Sum recommendable. I am very sure most readers have heard about "Dim Sum", the Tapas version for the Chinese community and very popular in every single Chinatown in the whole wide world. As you may have seen clips from Food and Travel shows, Dim Sum consists of  small sizes of food morsels which are either deep fried, steamed, braised, baked and pan fried and of which you order at your own pace from cart ladies who go around the larger restaurants. 

If you are in the Southern NH area and have not tried Dim Sum before and would like to, South Garden is a good choice to start. Although the choices of the Dim Sum spread is not as many as those in downtown Boston Chinatown, the good thing is they prepare your selections fresh upon ordering and the staffs are always ready to explain on the dishes. The restaurant is family friendly and so far, we have been able to go and get a seat instantly with food on the table by 10 to 15 mins. Nothing fancy about the decor inside nor outside, it sits about 14 tables and has a serving Bar. The followings are just a few that I recommend and there are about 25 listed Dim Sum items on the menu list.



Deep Fried Shrimp Taro Patties

. Shrimp is first minced and seasoned and coated with julienned Taro sticks, then deep fried.

. Crispy & Crunchy. Serving size for 3

. Comes with a soy sauce vinegar Dip

. Taste: 5/5 ($4.25)






Steamed Pork & Shrimp Dumpling

. Pork & Fresh Shrimp are minced together & seasoned. Mixture is then wrapped into Wonton/Dumpling wrappers & steamed.

. Decorated with a piece of red bell pepper & serving for 4

. Moist and taste like chewy meatball. Taste of the pork is more prominent than the shrimp content. Generous in size

. Taste 4/5 ($3.50)





Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce

. Pork Ribs cut into small pieces, seasoned and steamed with fermented Black Bean

. Moist meat with sauce

. Not suitable for kids as the bones attached may cause choking. Serving for 2

. Taste 2/5 (lacking black Bean) ($3.50)










Steamed Bun with BBQ Pork

. Roasted Pork in special Red sauce is wrapped into a bread dough and steamed.

. One of the very popular Dim Sum dishes and most children like. Easy to eat with hands.

. Filling is the right combination of sweet & salty. Moist and complement the steamed Bread.

. Serving for 3

. Taste 4/5 ($3.50)








Traditional Sticky Rice

. Made from White Glutinous Rice which is sticky and more starchy than usual rice. Fillings consist of Chinese Preserved sausage, shiitake mushroom, chicken meat and BBQ pork pieces Everything is then wrapped in a large Lotus leaf and steamed till the rice is cooked.

. Very Filling . Serves 2

. Taste 4/5 ( a very tricky Dish as sometimes the rice do not cook properly) ($5.50)










Custard Egg Tarts

. Sweet & served Hot out of the oven

. Traditionally, the crust is made of short crust but this version is made from Phyllo crust. Custard is not wholly set and real taste of eggs rather than custard powder

. Serves 3 and caution when eating as this particular crust is brittle and caves in when one bite is taken

Taste 4/5 ($4.25)






Beef Chow Fun

. Flat & large Rice Noodle wok fried in black soy sauce with beef slices, white onion & Bean sprout

. Although not really categorized as Dim Sum for the reason it is ordered from the main menu rather than picked instantly from the Dim Sum carts in restaurants, this Dish is very popular to end a meal of Dim Sum

. Very oily dish and napkins required. The character of this noodle dish is that it is wok fried at a very high temperature and absorbs the aroma of the burnt from the hot wok

. Dim Sum size serves 3 and Menu size serves up to 5

. Taste 3/5 (too oily) ($5.95/$8.95)




Yang Chow Fried Rice

. Another Dish from the main Menu.

. Basically fried rice with chicken meat, beef meat pieces, green onion, garlic and egg. The best will tastes slightly oily and the rice is finely blended into with the beaten egg. The original version from Boston has salted fish added into the dish to make it slightly salty.

. Serves 4 to 5.

. Taste 5/5 ($7.95)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Egg Molds

I bet the Japanese never expected their culture of packing O-Bento will grow into such a big hit outside Japan. Everywhere I click now on the cooking websites, I see a big group of followers of this art of packing lunches and boxed meals. I didn't grow up with lunch boxes as my mom deemed it more convenient to buy lunches from our hometown's coffeeshops and gave me the daily lunch money to get something from the school canteen and stuffed myself within the 20 mins break.

I have been making simple Bento for Hubby for a few years now and only this past 1 year I began to develop interest in kids Bento. So many tools out there that I wish I can get hold of and yet whether I really need them all the time is another consideration as to whether I should spend so much on tools that I might only use sometimes. Frankly speaking, making cute Bento for kids everyday can be tiring! And I salute those moms out there who goes out in everyway to please their kids with beautiful Kyaraben, as I deemed it a very energy draining thing to do to have to carve out pieces of cucumber, apple or Nori seaweed to make a pattern to garnish the bento.

Egg Molds is another tool that I have more than one in my Bento tools collection. But sad to say, they are the least used as I seldom pack a boiled egg into my kids lunchboxes. I have both Big and small sizes ones and I find the small ones are difficult to use. Unlike chicken eggs, quail eggs don't come in small, medium or large sizes! So it is pretty tricky to insert them into those standard little molds without at times breaking them or squishing them flat. For the big molds, I used large eggs and they fitted well. The trick is to place the pointed top of the egg facing about 30' slanted facing upwards and molding the egg when it is still hot.

1. Get ready and wet the egg molds.
2. Place the eggs in cold water and boil. Quail eggs boil for 12 mins and large eggs for 15 mins.
3. Peel eggs immediately under running water and place in molds. For the quail eggs, they fit perfectly , for the large molds with shapes, place the pointed top of the egg facing upwards and slightly slanted to the side as in Picture 3 (see large green mold). Slowly press down the lid and lock it.
4. Place all the molds in ice cold water for 5 mins.


If your eggs are molded like the above, use a small knife to gently cut around the sealed edges. If you like you can dye your eggs now in coloring. Place into bento box with the rest of your lunch.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Deep Fried Chicken Roll

Miss E is in that phase where her baby teeth are coming off one by one. The problem is they don't come off fast enough and linger on wobbly on her gum and so far she had only lost one since the last week before X'mas! I fear nothing but I fear anything to do with the teeth and the dentist, so it is really kind of freaky for me to help Miss E brush her teeth every morning if Hubby doesn't do it.

As today she was complaining slight discomfort of eating, I made congee for dinner and thought up of this Roll to complement the white plain gruel.

I used white meat for this dish and I pounded the breasts flat before rolling up the filling. You can use any filling but it must be compact and skewered with a few toothpicks to keep the fillings in place during the deep frying. 

Don't over pound the meat as breast meat can break down easily and this will result in difficulty in rolling up. After pounding the meat, I just seasoned both side with salt and white pepper and placed a large piece of Nori Seaweed sheet on top of it and place the julienned red pepper and cucumber on one edge and rolled it up. Once rolled up tucked inside, the roll is skewered and let rest in the fridge for 30 mins.

I like to use the usual breadcrumb rather than the Japanese Panko for this one as it gives a lovely brown crust and doesn't crumble with flakes everywhere during the pan frying. There is nothing difficult about this one except that you must have patience during the deep frying. Of course a deep fryer will do the job easily.

Recipe

Ingredients
2 large Chicken Breast (cleaned & skin removed)
2 Beef Frank
1/4 red pepper, julienned
1/3 cucumber, julienned
2 large sheets of Nori Seaweed wrapper
salt & pepper
1/3 cup Bread crumb
1 egg, beaten
Mustard for dipping

Method
1) Cover the 2 breast meat with plastic cling film and pound the meat slightly thin. Do not over pound, as long as you still can lift it in one piece with your hand, it is fine.
2) Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
3) Place the breast meat on a piece of plastic cling film and on the cutting board. Place one nori on top of the meat and arrange one Beef Frank with half of the cucumber and red pepper on the edge nearest to you. Roll up slowly with the help of the cling film like rolling up a sushi roll. As you go along use your hands to compact the roll to contain the fillings tuckly. Skewer with toothpicks and remember how many you used.
4)Cover with plastic and let the rolls sit in the fridge for 30 mins.
5)Heat up about 4 to 6 cups of vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Test readiness by dropping some bread crumb into the hot oil, if you hear sizzling, it is ready.
6) Without removing the toothpicks, Coat the rolls with the egg all over and the bread crumb after. Doing one at a time, slowly hold one roll with chopstick or tong and hold it for 5 seconds immersed in the oil before dropping the whole roll into the oil. This is to avoid the roll sticking to the bottom of the sauce pan. Scoop some of the oil and pour over the top part while deep frying. Deep fry for about 12 mins , turning the roll as you go to get an even browning.
7)Remove and pat oil dry with paper towel. Let the roll cool for 5 mins, remove the toothpicks and cut up to 1-1/2 inch thick. Continue with the other roll.
8) Serve with mustard.

Serves: 3 to 4 person

Cookies by Martha Stewart

As much as you may have heard negative vibes on Martha Stewart, I personally like her for a fact. She epitomizes the successful Domestic Queen of good husbandry and housekeeping and through her shows, magazines and books, I learned to be a more creative and interesting home manageress myself. She was able to propel the idea of good housekeeping to a marketing business sector which becomes the everyday talk among housewives and homemakers alike. One amazing and very successful woman that I follow daily.
I don't own alot of Martha's books but I particularly love one that helps me get through my yearly X'mas cookies gift boxes and school birthday parties. Martha's Cookies : The Very Best Treats to Bake & Share is my go to cookies book all the time. What attracted me to buy this book 3 years ago was on how the lay out of the pages were and it was not stingy with all the beautiful and big sized pictures of all the recipes. So far, I have tried a few recipes and they worked, which prompts me to recommend it to new bakers and lovers of cookies. The good thing about the recipes are that their quantity of dough and ingredients are recommended for cookies swap parties and if not, there will be plenty to pass around your neighbors and colleagues. And I particularly love the first few pages where the book compiled all the cookies under different categories of texture, to name a few like Soft & Chewy;  Cakey & Tender; Crisp & Crunchy. It makes it easy for me to plan my X'mas Cookies gift box with different texture cookies and plan my baking timeline. The following cookies were made by me over the years using this book , sometimes following wholly with the recipe and sometimes tweaking the ingredients.




1. Spiral Ice Box Cookies
2. Earl Grey Tea Cookies
3. Citrus poppy Seed Butter Cookies
4. Cranberry & Pistachio Biscotti
5. Cream Cheese Rugelach
6. Shortbread cookies

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