Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving #1

(First off, I would like to say that whoever is taking my photos and putting them on myspace.com, please either stop, or at least let me know who you are.)

Hi all! I hope you guys had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday, whether you spent it gorging on food, skiing or snowboarding, or what have you. I had the fortune of having TWO fantastic Thanksgiving meals. The first, being with my family. There was a huge table with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and of course, a giant 16 pound turkey!

So my roommate and I drove down to my parents place. First off, I would like to say that the autumn colors are just gorgeous right now.

There was a whole day of cooking and cleaning, there were a few of us stacked up in the kitchen, with anything from maple sweet potatoes to clam chowder. Needless to say, there were definitely many cooks in the kitchen.

Click below to see more of the Thanksgiving feast!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cupcakes and cakes, oh my!

Hi all! Okay, okay, I'm still alive, I promise. I'm sorry for being so MIA this month... thanks and apologies to those who have been continuously checking without anything exciting and new to see.

Honestly, it's been a kind of a dragging much in terms of productivity. This whole job search thing is extremely frustrating and I'm getting sick of typing up cover letters. So I have kind of avoided anything that involved typing a copious amount of typing and thinking. I feel guilty because I've been wanting to write a few posts about food and politics, but I just can't seem to bring myself to do it. Eventually, eventually.

But enough whining, it's still been a good month regardless. I've made some awesome friends, I'm actually getting out and being social, how exciting is that? I had a chance to watch my fellow dance girls perform once already!

Aren't they beautiful? It's an epic dance, "Ode to the Plum Blossom," and it was an awesome performance. :)

So the past month has involved a decent amount of baking, including a cake for an order, a vegan cake for a fellow vegan friend, and 5 dozen cupcakes for a young girl's birthday!

Click the jump for more cakes and cupcakes!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween has come and gone.

So Halloween this year was pretty awesome.

First, there was going to a pumpkin patch and actually carving pumpkins! I went with a few guys... two of them from India, so this was their first Halloween! Our pumpkins were awesome.

Mine was the Scarecrow! Do you have any idea what a pain it is to care thin slices out of a pumpkin with dull blades from a Safeway pumpkin-carving kit?! Anyway. What an awesome day last weekend!

Then there was this past weekend! It involved dry ice, Twister, music, costumes, and, oh yeah, FOOD. We had about 15 people over, and, of course, I made way too much food. I think people might have filled up on the appetizers. :| There were vegetarians and vegans, and there was enough food for everyone. I didn't have much time to make anything especially Halloween-themed, but at least I had enough food to feed everyone!

Unfortunately, since I was so busy with food and actually hanging out with people, I didn't have a chance to take many photos of the food. I had a chance to take a photo of the table before the craziness all began!

Those are some of the appetizers (all home-made): hummus with seasoned pita chips, bruschetta with tomato and basil, cinnamon apple challah.

The final menu went as follows (and I actually finished most of it on time... amazing, I know!!) I'll post recipes to a few of them in the up-coming weeks. :)

* Hummus with home-made pita chips (vegan)
* Cinnamon apple challah (vegetarian)
* Parmesan zucchini sticks (vegetarian)
* Parmesan breaded chicken
* Bruschetta with tomato and basil (vegan)

Main Course
* Spinach feta quiche (vegetarian)
* Turkey pasta bake
* Peanut soba noodles (vegan)

* Pumpkin pie (vegetarian)
* Caramel apple bites (well, it was partially successful?) (vegetarian)
* Persimmon pomegranate salad (vegan)

I hope all of you had a fun and safe Halloween!

Photography courtesy of Debanshu (Chinu) Singh

P.S. I hope you had an awesome birthday, little brother, even though you probably don't read this!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chocolate Sushi and Tofu House

Another restaurant review! A group of us have been trying to have a dinner out maybe once a week (or once every two weeks...), and so two weeks ago, when I was house-sitting, we all went out to the Chocolate Sushi and Tofu House in San Jose.

Not sure why it's called Chocolate Sushi, but the place is a Japanese and Korean restaurant, including pretty good sashimi and tasty Korean tofu soup. Click below to see more!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Photography, pound cake, and so much catching up

So for any of you living in California, or more specifically, the Bay Area... seriously, what's with the weather? Pouring rains, ridiculous humidity and mid-70s the next day, and "afternoon showers" that flood streets and burst pipes in the 5 hours it rains. Seriously? However, it has led to some great opportunities for photography and playing around with my camera.

The nights in the past few weeks have been amazingly clear, and the previous photograph and the next ones are a result from playing around with my shutter speed.

Look at how amazingly still that water is! This is the bay... all summer it was ridiculously windy, and it was definitely a lot colder at night back in July and August. Again, I'm not the biggest fan of scenic/still photography, but it's still fun to capture the weather and light is always fun to play around with... like when the sky opens up on the Bay with San Francisco in the background.

The sunset on Monday night after the afternoon "showers" was gorgeous. I was waiting at the bus stop on the way to an Owl City concert in the city, and the sunset was just so gorgeous that I couldn't resist.

But enough pictures of the bay (I promise there won't be too many anymore... I mean, you can only have so many pictures of the same place before you get sick of seeing yet another pretty sunset or "Jesus beams."). I have a backlog of photos of the food that I baked 2 weeks ago, and I totally forgot about the cranberry cream cheese pound cake that I baked for the tea party!

So, for some carrot cake, celebration challah, and cranberry cream cheese pound cake, click below! I apologize for the half-photographed steps, but I was in a constant rush making all of these. (Recipe for pound cake below as well!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

High Tea!

So I've wanted to have a tea party for the longest time... finger sandwiches, warm tea, scones, and the works. Finally, this past Sunday, I was finally able to put together a tea party with some of my dance girls. :) Aside from not having the time to put together petit fours, I'd say it was awesome... because we're worth it. ;)

Sooo much food! And I even had a bouquet of flowers from TJs to arrange on the table. :)

Click below to see all the beautiful food!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Baking Fiasco, House Sitting, and Restaurants

Jambo! Habari za leo? Mzuri sana. That's Swahili for Hi! How are you? Very good. Yeah, I'm drawing a blank for how to start out my entries, and I've been missing Swahili, so I figured why not. This past week has been ridiculously oh my goodness so freakin' crazy busy. Yes. I'm currently at my parents' house house-sitting and have been so since this past Thursday night. This means that any baking that is to be had required driving and hour up back to my apartment, but making sure that I ended up back at the house to walk the dog and such. Oh! So yes, even though it largely sucks, and I can't really bake or process photos or anything, I have a chance to play with the dogs... m... fuzz therapy. :) Second, I get to play the piano which I've missed oh so much. &lt 3 ...Clearly, I just need to learn to play a more portable instrument...

So this past week (and change), I've worked on an order for 3 dozen oatmeal raisin cookies, those moon cakes I posted about earlier, snickerdoodle blondies, vegan chocolate raspberry cookies, celebration challah (it's like a two-decker challah, SO AWESOME!), carrot cake, more snickerdoodle blondies, and food for high tea at my apartment (Yes, I had a fancy, home-made tea party at my place with dance girls because WE DESERVE IT :D). I've also managed to fit going to the SF MOMA, Exploratorium, and eating out! I've been trying to hang out with my friends once a week--usually this means a late dinner, since everyone is working. Hopefully I will be too, soon...

Aren't they so cute?!

But enough about me... food! While I currently don't have any pictures ready for most of the things I've done in the past week. However, I like to introduce people to new restaurants that are different and exciting. A couple weeks before, we went to one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the South Bay. It's called Tong Soon gardens, and is a Schezuan/Mandarin/Korean restaurant, and it's fantastic. No pictures of the food, but I'm sure I'm going back at some point, and will write a review then.

But, this past week, we went to Layang Layang, a Malasian-Indonesian place. Apparently the name means "kite," and the interior is beautifully decorated, albeit, a little dark. I don't have a picture of the outside, but here's a picture of their beautiful tablecloth!

I apologize for the poor quality of these pictures... the lighting was dim, and my camera was on some wonky setting that I didn't realize, making the exposure time way too short, leaving me with dark, not so pretty photos. Alas. But see more photos and reviews after the cut!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Moon cakes (and Blogger finally has jump breaks!)

So a couple of nights ago (Saturday, October 3rd, to be exact), was the Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie). It's an excuse to eat delicious moon cakes! Just kidding. (But it's definitely a bonus!) The Mid-Autumn Festival is on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, which generally falls on a day late September/early October, when the moon is all it fullest and roundest.

Hopefully some of you had a chance to enjoy the full moon... I did! I walked down the pier near my apartment, and had fun playing with my camera and my lenses in the sunset and watching the full moon rise.

Photograph courtesy of Mike Ross.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is usually celebrated by eating pomelo, observing the beautiful moon, eating mooncakes, lighting lanterns, and, of course, vibrant celebration! I kind of did two of the above? I saw the full moon rise, made mooncakes, and performed with my Chinese dance group (for Homecoming at Cal, but it still counts, kind of?).

Photography courtesy of Mike Ross.

As with every Chinese celebration, this one comes with its on myth/folk tale. Of course, there are many various versions of the story of the moon, but the one I'm most familiar with is the one that I used to read as a child--the public library near where I grew up had this fantastic selection of Chinese-English children's books which recounted lively stories of the Monkey King, or told how things like the moon or the parrot-shaped rock came to be in Taiwan, or why we celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Dragon Boat Festival, or even told us tales warning us of our own laziness and selfishness.

Oh! Oh! So. Blogger finally added an entry cut jump breaks! Huzzah! So, finally, I'll stop hogging all your internets when you're trying to load up this silly page. So, for more about the Moon Festival and beautiful pictures of said mooncakes, click below!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Peanut Soba Noodles

Here's a little bit of non-baked vegetarian food! I was to have lunch with a grad student who had worked on the safe water and hygiene project in the slums of Mumbai--in fact, she became the head project manager. She's been locked up in her little office on campus, and has vowed to have lunch outside every day. So we met up for lunch... she's been traveling non-stop for the previous 7-8 months in India and Asia for her research, so I haven't really talked to her for a while. She's vegetarian, so I decided to make a soba noodle salad/pasta with a slightly spicy peanut sauce.

Here are some of the ingredients!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cheesy Crusty Loaf and failure.

So perhaps an explanation of my little cheesy bread monster is called for...

So my volcano of bread and cheese (i.e. the CHEESE SQUID MONSTER!) was an attempt of making the King Arthur's Hot Cheese Bread. Unfortunately, aside from amazingly tasty cheese, the bread dough itself didn't turn out well. It looked like it wasn't completely cooked thoroughly, but I don't think that was the problem... maybe I added too much gluten protein? I had substituted some AP Flour for the bread flour (since bread flour is more expensive!), and it usually works out well, but maybe I put too much? Or kneaded it too much? Not sure. Anyhow, click below for a step-by-step.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Volcano of Bread and Cheese!!!

Okay, so I know I just made a post, but this just came out of my oven, and I'm too excited, because it looks like a fountain (or a volcano) of CHEESE AND BREAD!!! And apparently, my life just doesn't get more exciting than that:

Although, doesn't it kind of look like a cartoon squid monster thing? It's really reminding me of a cartoon, but for the life of me, I can't remember what. So, I'll just show you a picture of how I see it. :P

More on this later. ...When I'm a little more sane.


Zucchini Turkey Lasagna

Hi all.

So it's been a few days, and there's a backlog of baking to write about, including that zucchini turkey lasagna I made. I haven't quite been in the mood to write much... the insane amount of cover letters going out and the few responses, much less callbacks for interviews (read: basically none) has been getting to me. Still, I feel like I owe it to my zucchini turkey lasagna to write about it! That, and my friend had introduced me to Matt Costa, who is currently rooting me on the write something. That, and my kitchen currently smells of baking bread and melting cheese, and is begging me to write about it, and I don't want to have to write a thesis worth of food blogging in a couple of days. :P

So last week I made a zucchini turkey lasagna, which can be easily transformed into a vegetarian zucchini lasagna. Honestly, I didn't follow any specific recipe... I kind of tossed together 4 or 5 various lasagna recipes together, and came up with this one. I didn't exactly take notes, but I plan to make it again (and make it better!), and I will let you guys know the recipe later. :)

But until then... look at the layers building up!

And look at the beautiful zucchini slices all lined up and pretty! ...It took a few tries to figure out how to properly slice the zucchini all nice and evenly (zucchini are not uniform in size, boo!)

The top looked pretty after baking!

Okay, so it was really hard taking pretty pictures... hot lasagna falls apart really easily! Especially when it's got giant layers of cheese in between the zucchini. Basically, a general ingredient list is:

* tomato/pasta sauce layer: tomato paste, diced tomatoes, ground turkey, onion, dahs of brown sugar, oregano, basil (I got to use my fresh basil from my sad little abused basil plant... yay!)
* cheese layer: ricotta cheese, egg, grated Parmesan, shredded mozzarella cheese
* zucchini layer: zucchini!

I wasn't completely happy with it... I'm not sure if it's because of the cheese to zucchini or tomato sauce, or if it's because I didn't think it was flavorful enough. I might try and add a little spicy kick to it, or add a starch to it... either brown rice or some quinoa (I bought a bag of quinoa... I'm still finding something awesome to make with it!).

That's about it for now... I did have a chance to bake some chocolate chocolate fudge cookies and some chewy oatmeal raisin cookies.

I have also had a chance to hang out with some of the old (and new!) Chinese dance girls! And, of course, it's not an FTD gathering unless we have food:

I made a casatiello and a batch of cinnamon buns. :)

So much home-made food, eating, and laughter. ^_^

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Camping and Flourless Cakes

Hi all! So I was hoping to update more than just once a week, but the past week has been ridiculously crazy, some of which involved doing this whole hiking up Half Dome thing. It was awesome.

Yes, that's the top of Half Dome. That pose is a lot harder in hiking boots and on top of an uneven rock. :| Oh well.

Don't want to say too much, because hopefully I'll update my travel blog some day... some day... (As I said earlier--I'm notorious for not updating these things, but I'm trying!) The night before we summit Half Dome, we car camped at Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley (by the way, I've decided I despise car camping, and I hate RVs even more... backpacking is definitely the way to go!). At least with car camping, you can go a little more gourmet with food. We opted not to really focus too much on the fine foods:

We just prepared one-bowl foods and just dug in... I mean, who really wants to wash more bowls than necessary, especially while camping? Not me. But we just made sure we had a more or less balanced meal... protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables/fruits/fiber... all in all, it wasn't too horrible.

I mean, who can deny this beautiful pot full of whole wheat rotelli pasta with marinara sauce?

At least we don't have to chow down on pine cones, right? Although, this little dude seems to be enjoying it a whole lot.

Well, fat squirrels aside, back to the whole baking thing! I received a food processor that I ordered in the mail last Tuesday night... so of course, I just had to use it! That, and it was Ezra's birthday (the guy who helped push for the generous gift certificate at my old work place!) on Thursday, so who needs more of a reason to try out this lovely flourless chocolate hazelnut cake??

I was running low on ingredients, but I found a bar of good dark chocolate, and bought some whole hazelnuts from Trader Joe's.

First, I prepared all the ingredients--separated the eggs, measured out the chocolate, the brown sugar, the butter, the cocoa powder, and the water. I even toasted my own hazelnuts!

Then, I ground the hazelnuts in my spanking new food processor!

To do this, take the toasted hazelnuts, and add a few tablespoons of sugar per cup of nuts in order for the sugar to absorb the fats released, so you don't end up making hazelnut paste (which could be good, but probably for something else). Just don't be like me, and think that you put in all the sugar when you really didn't, because I realized I forgot about half the sugar until after I folded in the egg whites...

And yes... hand-beaten egg-whites!

What a very tiring process... my right arm was definitely about to fall off, especially after the first dance class after a whole month of nothingness. But look... still peaks, yay!

Another thing that made me so excited was to use my fair trade cocoa powder!

I used Green & Black's organic fair trade cocoa powder! If you don't know what fair trade is, look it up. I just received Black Gold, an awesome documentary about the coffee industry and how fair trade works. I originally saw it in my global poverty class, and hope to make everyone I know watch it. ...I'll be sure to discuss it along with so many other food issues some other time.

Anyhow, so after mixing everything together and folding the laboriously hand-whipped egg whites and pouring it into one prepared 6" cake pan and one prepared 3" sprinform cake pan, I realized that I had about 3/4 of the brown sugar left that I had forgotten to mix in.

Well crap.

What I did was mix in the brown sugar with what was left of the batter (about 1/3 cup?) to incorporate it, pour the batter from the cake pans back in, and fold the two batter together. That way, you won't over-mix the batter even more than necessary, flatten all the egg white bubbles that you so tiringly created, and come out with a hockey puck for a cake.

It still turned out delicious.

And more or less pretty... the final cake had a piece that fell off.

I wanted to make a layer of dark chocolate chocolate ganache to pour over the top to set, partially because it would hide the ugliness of the cake, and because chocolate ganache is oh so tasty. Unfortunately, I was out of heavy cream, and basically had no time to run/bike to the store and get some. So, I improvised, and just melted some left-over chocolate from making the cake with butter, and made a drizzle pattern over it. Then, I topped the cake off with some candied rose petals and candied mint leaves that my roommate had bought me a while bag because I was eying them at The Pasta Shop in some ritzy place in Berkeley. They didn't quite go with the cake, and I would have preferred to do a really dark chocolate and a white chocolate drizzle pattern... that would have been fun, but I was already running late, and I had a lecture I wanted to go to, and I wanted to add some color to the otherwise monochromatic cake, so the candied floral would have to do. ...In the end, I think it turned out. (If I were smart, I would have put the candied petals and leaf where the hole was but no... I'm not that smart.) In the end, I ended up with one 6" cake, and two 3" cakes. ...They were all well-received. :D

A final close-up.

So I made this cake bright and early in the morning... so it was ridiculously rushed. BUT, at least I was able to use natural lighting for my pictures, buahaha!

Anyhow, the past week also involved another Anadama bread that a wonderful fellow friend ordered, but that's about it. Last night, I made a Turkey Zucchini "Lasagna," which turned out okay, but definitely something I want to play with more. I'll write about it later. For now, I should probably step away from the computer and tend to my poor, ache-y muscles.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cinnamon Buns and a Humble Dinner

So apparently I was inspired enough to bake last night after all. I think part of it has to do with the fact that, since the only people that end up eating my baked goods are people at my roommate's office, I needed to get the baking out of me since he's not able to have any modes of transportation up here for basically the rest of the week.

First, I just wanted to show off a picture of my humble dinner, a simple pork soup.

This tends to be generally what I go for when I make dinner... often it's a nice pot of soup or stew, or the simplest stir-fry ever. I actually missed my simple home-cooked meals a lot during the mini road trip down south... I hadn't eaten out so much in such a short period of time in a while. Home-cooked meals are so nice, and can be so simple... not to mention healthier and cheaper, too! This soup is very simple. Beforehand, you get some pork ribs/bones from the market (in about 1-2" cubes) and parboil them to get rid of some of the excess blood, fat, and marrow, and then freeze that for a later date (or, just use right away). On the day you want to cook it, you boil a nice big pot of water with a slice of ginger. After it comes to a boil, you toss the pork in, let it come back to a boil, turn it down to a medium-low, and let the meat stew enough to make a tasty broth (use a ladle to scoop away the frothy bone marrow that floats to the top). Season with salt to taste. In the mean time, when it gets close, prepare your noodles. This time around I used... thick green bean noodles (also known as cellophane noodles, glass noodles... I think? I know the Chinese name...! English names are so confusing!) which I soaked in water first. Tossed the noodles in for a few minutes, tossed in (many) handfuls of spinach, and voila, it is done!

Meanwhile, there were tasty things on the rise...

Now it should start looking familiar...

Especially after being baked...

And finally, glazed!

Yes, if you can't tell already, those are cinnamon buns. :d

I used Peter Reinhart's recipe this time around. I used to use just a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com which was fun, but a lot messier. Comparing the two... honestly? I don't know if I can tell the difference. It's been over half a year since I made the other cinnamon buns, though, and I wasn't as good at baking with yeast back then either. In fact, cinnamon buns were the first yeast breads I made! I think, in the end, Peter Reinhart's dough recipe stood up to the test, though... just with regards to how it tasted after it cooled down and how well it stood together. Another big difference between this cinnamon bun and any others I've seen is that the filling isn't overwhelmed by butter. Most other ways I've seen it done is rubbing softened butter all over the insides before sprinkling it with cinnamon and sugar. Personally, I like this way better, but that might be because I don't like butter. It's definitely a lot less rich and a lot less gooey and sticky, but it tasted wonderful, especially still warm. I decided to use a simple white glaze, which hardened beautifully. I usually prefer a cream cheese frosting, but since these were going to be eaten a whole day later by people running around the office... I figured this would be a nice solution... and it was great! It hardens ever so slightly when cooled, making it less messy (even though working with it was kind of messy!).

I heard reception at my roommate's office was good. :D This shall be my new go-to cinnamon roll recipe. ...I want to make the sticky buns some day. :D

Does it look amazing? (And so cute! It's like a little snail shell...)

(order some now! :P)

Oh yeah! And I baked another banana bread again... low fat, again, as usual, with whole wheat flour (half white whole wheat, and half whole wheat), and this time, with sugar cut down and replaced with agave nectar. That stuff is interesting... I need to experiment more with it at some later point. I also added some extra spices, and I think that they added a nice touch without really being over-powering, or even discerning. Must play around with that more as well... I have another 3 bananas frozen in the freezer...

Also, I totally need to just bake during the day instead of at midnight... my pictures turn out so much prettier with natural lighting, sigh.