Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

battle of Chocolate Semifreddos

the last week and a half i've made two chocolate semifreddos. i made one for the bbq on saturday and another one for a coworker's bday.

i had made semifreddo earlier in the summer, it came out... ok.


the first recipe i tried was from i shot the chef who was a professional chef and whose husband is a professional photographer, (he takes amazing pix!). it was a painfully easy recipe, simple ingredients and steps. good thing too because i was fixated on making my bbq meatballs. essentially, it came out very well. my friends loved it and it was gone in minutes. the lighting wasn't the best so i only snapped a few pix.


the second recipe i chose was from one of my favorite bloggers, use real butter. seriously, i sweat this woman. her recipes are awesome and she's never steered me wrong. i made this monday afternoon. i went to TWO different grocery stores looking for marscapone cheese and let me tell you, at the 2nd place i damn near threw a hissy fit. i would've liked to have come across this on monday but oh well. i made do with whipped cream cheese instead. verdict: it tasted good too, albeit slightly heavy. my coworker liked it and really, that's all that matters.


i think i'm done with semifreddos for now. the weather is getting cooler and all the desserts i've been making this summer is burning me out.

hot tamales

i'm not gonna lie. i'm not a fan of mexican-latin american food. i'm just not. and having two events with that general theme this month had me at a slight disadvantage. i just didn't have any experience in making anything like it before (taco out of a box doesn't count...)

this month's Recipes to Rival's theme was TAMALES. it's actually an item that i've had before and it's quite good.

Basic Tamale Recipe
by Chef Jason Wyrick of The Vegan Culinary Experience
Serves: 24
Time to Prepare: 1 hour

12 cups of masa harina flour
10 cups of water or veggie stock (see below for some tasty stock options,
this amount may also vary depending on the type of masa you use)
1 tbsp. of salt
3 cups of vegetable shortening (Option: 2 cups of oil or margarine
instead of the shortening)
24 dried corn husks
Water to soak the husks
Option: 1 tbsp. of baking powder

1. Warm the stock. Combine the masa harina flour with the salt (and optional baking powder.) Stir the vegetable shortening rapidly until it is creamy.
2. Pour the stock into the masa mix and stir until it is thoroughly combined. Beat the moist masa mix into the shortening until you have a paste that will spread with a knife without breaking apart. You should end up with a semi-thick paste. If you do not have this, you can add more stock in 1/4 cup amounts to the mix until you have the right consistency.
3. To check the consistency, spread the masa on a corn husk and if it spreads easily while staying together, you have the right consistency.
Option: If you use oil instead of the shortening, add it to the dry masa and then add the stock to the masa.
4. Soak the corn husks for at least 2 minutes. (Some husks may still have the silks in them, make sure you remove them before using)
5. Spread masa paste over the top half of a corn husk (the top half is the wide half.) Spoon a line of your filling of choice in a line on one side of the masa paste. Roll the tamale from the filling side to the other side. You will end up with one half of the roll that has masa paste and one that does not. Fold the half that does not have the masa paste against the tamale, folding it in towards the flap of the roll.
6. Repeat this process with the rest of the ingredients.
7. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes. If you have a lot of tamales and a tall steamer, you can place the tamales vertically in the steamer.

please note that i quartered this recipe, i was not about to have a boat load of leftovers to eat.

for fillings, i got a little creative. i used grilled chicken doused in bbq sauce and a spinach concoction i made for my asian-inspired raviolis a few weeks ago that were hanging out in the freezer. i'd have to say that was my favorite filling. at the farmer's market i bought some salsa mix. i chopped up some cute cherry tomatoes, cilantro and mixed it all together to top off the tamales.

the main challenges for me were i could not for the life of me find corn husks or banana leaves, even when i hit the spanish and asian markets. i also do not have a steamer. i had to get creative with that.

on saturday, i went back to the asian market and found already made tamales which got me really excited. i grabbed the package, walked around the market till i found a spanish worker who spoke english and basically begged him to tell me where i could find corn husks, either in the market or the city of Baltimore. he said they didn't have any (i thought i was going to cry) but he said they had banana leaves (the tear ducts dried up immediately). he took me to the frozen section (which i had COMBED for 15 minutes) and hidden behind the frozen seafood were the banana leaves. i was THRILLED! FINALLY.

on sunday, i tackled the steamer issue. i put two round pans of water on the lowest level in the oven. that first batch came out kinda on the dry side. then i remembered i had a big frying pan, a big colander and a lid. i made a makeshift steamer that way. that batch came out the best. soft and moist, and i think i was much more comfortable with the whole rolling and putting stuffing/filling in etc.

what i learned:
~with perserverence, i am capable of finding the most random ingredients
~i still don't like food from that region of the continent
~my makeshift steamer can do the job, i'm not going to bother buying a fancy steamer
~banana leaves are awesome, reminds me of bánh tét.

i'm looking forward to next month's theme. whew, what a month!

For other entries, check out:
Canary Girl
High on the Hog
A Good Appetite
Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness

Complete Blogroll

won't you join the fun?

Monday, August 25, 2008

hungry hungry hippo

another crocheted animal for another baby. early in the summer big k asked me to make two baby gifts for her. i completed a sock/glove elephant for her and this time, i made a hungry hippo. SO FREAKING CUTE.


just a note, the snout part is tricky and the author/creator does expand a bit more in her comments section, due to quite a few bloggers asking for assistance. that helped me a lot.

hungry hippo

what i learned:
i'm just not all that great with the sewing thing. i didn't bother with sewing in buttons for the eyes and nostrils, i just used black yarn. i have this fear that any button i sew would come undone and then, BAM, the baby swallows it. my lack of sewing skills is also evidenced by how crooked the snout and head are but i think it's charming.

big k isn't sure if the baby is a boy or girl and even tho i chose pink, i think it's still a rather uni-sex stuffed animal, don't you? (good grief, now i'm wondering if it is...)

editted to add:

how hilarious is this? pat totally reminded me that i had this massive hippo as a kid. that thing was bigger than me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

nem nướng ~my spin

nem nướng has always been my mother's signature dish. it's grilled pork meatballs that is wrapped along with herbs in rice paper, very similiar to summer/spring rolls. even tho my mom is now a vegetarian, she still busts out the nem nướng when guests are over. she has a secret dipping sauce too that is absolutely to die for. i remember as a pre-teen seeing her kneeling on the kitchen floor just pounding the mother out of the pork to give it a special chewy texture. the likelihood of me inheriting her nem nướng recipe and dipping sauce is very slim; she guards her cooking secrets which is cute when she's trying to convey cooking prowress to strangers but not so much to me.

nem nuong

i made my version of nem nướng yesterday for a friend's cookout. i was pretty excited. the recipe calls for a pork fatback, which i know what it is but Lord me help if i knew where to find it! so i had to make adjustments. the recipe also called for the use of nuoc mam as the dipping sauce which kinda surprised me. really? fish sauce? i've never dipped it in fish sauce before and i really didn't think my friends would like it anyway. i decided to make a simple peanut dipping sauce. recipes follow.

Nem Nướng ~ Grilled Pork Meatballs
adapted from Authentic Recipes from VIETNAM
1 lb (500g) ground pork
1/2 tsp salk
7 oz (200 g) pork fatback
2 tbls sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 finger-length red chillies, deseeded and minced
1 tsp salt
3/4 tbls ground white pepper
12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 1 hour before using
2 tbls ground roasted unsalted peanuts (optional)
Fish Sauce Dip, for dipping

Combine the ground pork and salt in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Pan-fry the pork fatback in a skillet over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool, then slice into very thin strips. Season the pork strips with the sugar, garlic, chillies, salt & pepper and mix well.
Wet your hands, spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the pork mixture and shape it into a ball. Repeat until all the pork mixture is used up.
Thread the meatballs onto bamboo skewers. Grill the meatballs, a few skewers at a time, on a pan grill or under a preheated broiler using medium heat for about 5 minutes each, turning frequently, until cooked.
Sprinkle the grill meatballs with ground peanuts (if using) and serve with any accompaniments and a bowl of the dipping sauce on the side.

Makes 12 sticks.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

** just a note **
i did not use porkfat, i know that it's used to add moisture to the meat and maybe some flavoring. instead, i minced up some onions so the meatballs would still be moist. i also did not use chillies, i wasn't sure if there were going to be kids in attendance and i knew the hostess is preggers and i *think* spicy food could induce heartburn or something. i just was not taking any chances! i did not grill these bad boys, i shoved them in the oven at about 400degrees for about 15 minutes and they were fine.

Peanut Dipping Sauce
(i'm sorry, i did not pay any attention to exact measurements, it's all to taste)
4 tbls creamy peanut butter
3 tbls hoisin sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp of sesame oil
dash of sugar
1/4 cup of warm water to loosen

put it all together, adding to loosen up the mixture. you could probably garnish it further with chopped peanuts and add color with cilantro or chives (or whatever herbs/veggies you're using as accompaniements.

i served these just on skewers with the dip right in the middle of the plate. they were great hot/warm or at room temperature. and i'm happy to say, they were a hit! :)

nem nuong & peanut dipping sauce

Friday, August 22, 2008

.: Baltimore Pho :.

Baltimore Pho on Urbanspoon
warning: long post.
i've been trying very hard to like this local pseudo Vietnamese restaurant, Baltimore Pho, as evidenced by my visiting them 3 times this week!

i love that it's local, as in i could walk there from my condo. having bought my place over 2 years ago on the west side of the city, some thought i was crazy with a death wish. my block is beautiful, i love Franklin Square but i can see how some people are a bit leery of the westside. i used to take the bus into the city for work and there were some days i was slightly scared on Baltimore St but for the most part, people are friendly. but that is neither here nor there.

my friend Shawn sent me a link last week for Baltimore Pho and i was immediately psyched. i've been frequenting Pho #1 for over two years now (i almost cried when i first discovered it and for my vietnamese fix, i'll still be showing up at this joint as often as i can.)

as noted earlier, i've been to Baltimore Pho 3x already so i will just chronicle each dish i've had.

Saturday, jab and i went. they had fried prawn chips to nibble on. which is a nice touch but dipped in nuouc mam? whatever, i still dug in. i let jab pick the appetizer and he opted for the safe egg rolls, cha gio. at a price of $7 i was expecting to have some crazy crab meat in it but no dice. it was crispy and hot but nothing special and the meat on the inside was kinda ... soft, didn't really hold up very well. the garnish plate had sliced apples. i chose to order the ca kho to (caramelized fish stew) and a side of eggplant in garlic, while jab went with the bbq chicken. he liked his selection. the eggplant was good, slightly different from how my mom makes it but it's definitely got potential. the ca kho was a disappointment. it came out soupy, not much caramel in color (which should be almost burnt brown and thick) and i don't know what fish they used but it was not regular ca kho fish. there were no bones (which while annoying to fish out, is a requirement) and had a slightly sour aftertaste to it. the best part of dinner was dessert. Naturally, i chose Flan for Lan. total cost for dinner and drinks (and one of the water glasses was chipped) and tip: $75. a bit steep for not that great of a meal. but the staff was friendly and attentive, the decor reflecting baltimore (exposed bricks and tin ceilings and old prints of old school Hollins Market) and some vietnamese culture with rice paddy hats, red lamps and 3 wise men statues. however, to compare, jab paid the tab for a recent dinner at Pho #1 for 5 people and that tab came out to $60 and the food was superb.

Wednesday, the roommate and i went for happy hour. they advertised drink specials with complimentary appetizers. we did not see any apps but the drinks were good (pomegranate mojito and white chocolate martini). we ended up ordering some dinner. we started off with the goi cuon which was ok, but not $7 ok. the fish cakes were a bit on the thin side and i thought chewy and tough. (i do wear braces tho so to be fair, my teeth don't work as well as they used to). we decided to go all out and get the bo luc lac and the menu translates it as cubed beef in garlic. which is exactly what was served. it was not served on a bed of lettuce or watercress and did not have a touch of vinegar dressing or even any carmelized onions dancing around the plate. so to me, that's not bo luc lac. and the beef was not cooked medium, it was more well done and tough. at $14 a plate, i was expecting more and i got much less. furthermore, the servings? piddly. dessert once again saved the meal. i almost went for the flan for Lan again but instead got the chocolate cake that was gynormous and decadent. (not very vientamese tho and is it really Baltimore-ian?) crystal got the fried ice cream that was good too.

Thursday, crystal went for her interview at the restaurant. afterwards i met up with her for drinks. i needed a drink, i had discovered a dead mouse in my kitchen and i wasn't able to go into the room to make my espresso semifreddo. crystal just wanted to take advantage of the Ladies' Night drink specials of $4. the bartender/she-seems-to-do-everything was training and suggested the 800 which is like a lychee vodka martini. i went with the lemon drop martini (which somehow ended up with the shots instead) and crystal got a gin/tonic. we also split a bowl of pho. the drinks were good, for $4. the bowl of pho for $10, not so good. the serving, was, dare i say it? stingy with a rather bland broth (altho i'm sure for the american palate, just fine). we skipped dessert this time around.

i know that this review seems to really bash Baltimore Pho. i just think as a vietnamese person with certain standards, this establishment just does not meet them. i get that it's supposed to be a fusion of baltimore and vietnamese cuisine. i get that the decor highlights both cultures. i get that it's supposed to be a more elegant restaurant with the slightly higher prices. but the thing is, Pho is not an elegant dish. it's the type of dish that requires lots of napkins, huge amounts of steam and noodles, loads of dipping sauce and bold flavors that you can tenuously balance out with the accompanying herbs. i did not get that chance last night.

i will still support this place, i want it to do well, for selfish reasons. if they do well that means the neighborhood is doing well. plus, finally a bar that i can walk to (but will have to take a cab home... it's all about safety.) there's room for improvement and hopefully they'll add more baltimore flair to the menu and make all the vietnamese dishes more authentic.

to read more reviews of Baltimore Pho:
Metro Mix: Get Served
Baltimore Sun: Baltimore Pho lights up Hollins Market area
Baltimore City Paper: About Pho-ing Time
Dining Dish

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sương Sáo is where it's at ...

i had a fierce hankering for grass jelly last night while watching the summer olympics. i grew up eating grass jelly or sương sáo. grandma always hooked it up and when i got older, i took over the making of this dessert. it's actually the only vietnamese dessert that i really like. which is odd because normally, the color black is just not appetizing to me. um hello? licorice is icky. squid ink (which i saw on Iron Chef America last night), gag. let me know if there's any other black foods that could potentially make me shudder, i could only think of 2.

anyway, to make this is quite easy. grass jelly is sold in cans at asian markets. it's over by the canned fruit stuff. when it comes out of a can it reminds me of the store bought cranberry stuff found on most Thanksgiving tables. i usually cut them into bite size cubes. i hold the grass jelly in the palm of my hand and cut and drop right over the bowl. not the safest and that is why i use a dull knife. i add a few tablespoons of sugar, half a bottle of water and a splash of lemon juice. done.

semi-cut grass jelly

this is supposed to keep the body cool during the summer months.


what do you eat to keep cool?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Taste & Create: sausage/squash pasta

for this month's Taste & Create event, i was partnered with abby of eat the right stuff. this food event pairs you with another food blogger and you just make a recipe from their blog, take pix and write about it. voila.

i chose the Chorizo & Butternut Squash with Penne dish. i heart squash. i heart chorizo. what a combo! however, my local Giant did not have chorizo, and i was not in the mood to hunt some down. i settled for the spicey Italian sausage instead. i hope it's ok!


i also used angel hair pasta instead of penne. i have quite an inventory of pasta at home already and i thought had some penne. no dice. great. two rules broken right off the bat.

regardless, the dish was delish. the combo of the sausage and squash is phen-nom! i had two bowls. oink oink much? the dash of lemon juice added something extra and the parsley made it all seem brighter. i made my roommate have some (again, this happens when you live with me!) and she enjoyed it too.

the rules say that this has to be done by the 24th, which is a week away but i have two other food events to focus on and a bday custard request, as well as a hippo to crochet. i hope it's ok that i'm posting so early.


i'm curious to see what abby decides to make. i didn't realize i'd get such a kick out of all this! :) won't you join in the fun?

family of ladybugs

a fellow recruiter in the office is expecting his first baby this month, a girl. normally i bust out a bootie or blanket but i'm a little worn out with all that. this time around, i decided to make a stuffed animal. one of my favorite yarn lovers, Kirby made a hungry hippo a few weeks back so it inspired me to make something. Dan told me that his wife has chosen a ladybug motif so i did a quick search for patterns and found something quite simple and easy, but still cute.

lady bugs


i made three, a little family of ladybugs. so cute!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Citrus Love - August Click Entry

i was so excited when i checked out the click photo event for the month, not only to see what the theme was, but to see who had won last month's coffee event even with all the gorgeous entries , i didn't do too horribly (i made the top 25 entries!). i admit, it put me on high for an afternoon. :)

so. this month's theme is citrus , very summery and fresh and up my alley. this summer i've been all about the yellows and oranges and what a more perfect way to end out the season than with these bright and tart fruits? sweet. or sour.

slice of jello

i initially wanted to make a lavender infused lemon-tea sorbet but the damn machine was not cooperating. don't get me started. so at the last minute i decided to make jello and for cups, use the emptied cored out lemons. just a note, i essentially made regular lemonade, used about a cup of it with 1.5 packets of unflavored gelatine. i wanted to make sure the concoction was definitely firm. i also added 7 drops of yellow food coloring, purely for looks.

happy clicking!

Chocolate Tofu Pie

Today is Madonna's 50th Birthday. Happy Birthday to my #1 Idol! i have loved madonna since kindergarten, circa 1983. and my love for her has never wavered. i may not agree with everything that she does (as portrayed by the media) or even like the new stuff she spews out. the last album i enjoyed was Ray of Light. that is neither here nor there. this year my girl turns half a century. regardless of anything, she is a dynamic woman who continuously reinvents herself and makes no excuses for it. she obviously enjoys herself, or else she wouldn't have lasted as long as she has. "Poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another.”

for her birthday, i made her a Chocolate Tofu Pie. She follows the macrobiotic diet part time. as a result, my pie is a reflection of that. i used uber soft tofu and organic and local raspberries but the crust (which was originally suppose to be homemade but i flubbed) is store bought and processed.


Happy Birthday Madonna!


the pie was absolutely delish. the tofu was silky and i had 2 slices, knowing that the stuff was pretty good for me. my roommate loved it and the select few in my office who dared tried it liked it too. i had some leftover chocolate tofu after the pie crust was filled and i poured it over the berries and it was absolutely yummy. i'll def. make this pie again.

Friday, August 15, 2008

hats off to summer


my trip to puerto rico is in 3 weeks and i finally finished my summer cloche that i will actually wear around. my first two attempts were disasterous. the hook wasn't big enough or my head was too big. even this version is a tad off... not sure if the pattern is for a kid and not an adult head. whatever. i still liked it. i think i'll make an attempt at another summer hat this weekend.

i used a super soft yellow in light weight yarn and black trim. i also used an M hook. this project took me about 3 nights.

what i learned:
i have a big head.
i hate working in rounds
crocheting for myself is a lot more fun than i expected. it's like xmas and i'm santa clause

Thursday, August 14, 2008

stuffed zucchini soup

zucchini soup

it's been unseasonably cool lately. which makes me despair. i don't want summer to end! although autumn and winter brings my fave food: soups or in vietnamese: canh. last night i decided to make a variation of a stuffed winter melon (canh bi bau nhoi) or bitter melon (canh khổ qua) soup, both of which i'm a fan of. i used zucchini instead. (yes, i love zuchs, if you can't tell, and it's in season right now as evidenced by the inventory of them at the Farmer's Market.) i actually waited for the soup to cool down to about room temperature before eating. it was very refreshing and kinda homey.

i did not follow a recipe. i just put all the ingredients together based on availability and memory.

2 good sized zucchinis, cut in half and hollowed out left over ground pork, maybe 1/4lb worth
a few chinese wood ear mushrooms, reconstituted in some warm water and julienned
small handful of vermicelli noodles, reconstituted in some warm water, crudely chopped when soft
chopped onion, not too much tho
fish sauce, to taste, i think i put like 2 squirts

add everything in a mixing bowl. because zucchini cooks faster than the other melons, i was concerned that the meat would still be raw but the vegetable be soft already. so i cooked up the meat halfway in a frying pan. let cool and then stuffed the zucchinis. then i made the broth. you can just as easily use canned stock/broth but i decided to make it the way grandma and my mom always made it. in a big pot, add a drizzle of oil (any will do, i used olive oil). when hot, add some chopped garlic and onions. i also had maybe a teaspoon's worth of the meat mixer, added that. let it all marry together and get happy. when i got tired of waiting around, i added 5 cups of water. brought it to a boil, took the temp down a bit and gently added the stuffed zuchs. the water should just cover over the zuchs. i put the lid on, and ignored the pot for about 15 minutes.

after about that amount of time, the soup is at a gentle boil, the zuchs are still in good shape. added a bit of fish sauce to the soup for taste and i was done. the zucchini came out cooked but still firm. success.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

.: Volleyball at Oregon Ridge :.

haven't really been jazzed to play volleyball this summer but i did make it out to snap some shots of my coworkers. we play at Oregon Ridge Park.

Monday, August 11, 2008

what's for breakfast?

buttermilk bread.

still had some leftover buttermilk from the week before and rather than throwing it out with the garbage, i surfed around for a quick and easy recipe for bread that didn't require me to knead or have a kitchenaid mixer.

came up with this. i actually followed the directions completely, and i made it sans the nuts. the smell was incredible. it's too sweet to have with my shumai but it does the trick for a quick breakfast. i drizzled with honey rather liberally and washed it down with a cup of coffee. yum.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grandma's Shumai

i called my grandmother on friday during my lunch break, not only to touch bases with her but to see if she could hook me up with her recipe for shumai. i think she thinks i'm inept in the kitchen or something. and the viet-english conversations we have is hilarious. i don't fully understand what she's saying and i highly doubt she gets what i'm saying.

Me: you want me to put what ...?


Grandma: i don't know how big your teaspoon is but mine is ...

(i didn't realize that there were different teaspoon sizes?)


anyway, grandma hooked it up. it just reminded me of when i was kid.
Homemade Shumai sans wrapper, Grandma Style

1 lb ground pork
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp pepper

combine all ingredients. ball up (i came up with 12) and assemble in cook safe dishes. steam in water bath on stove top for about 30-40 minutes. also, just for asthestics, i dabbled a dollop of tomato paste on each ball. it's how grandma always made it.

serve with white rice, sides of crisp veggies like cut up cucumbers and pickled daikon/carrots. i purposefully went ultra conservative with the seasoning, so my shumai came out bland. i just like to dip the pieces of meat in chilli nước chấm, just like how grandma and grandpa ate it.

now i have something yummy to eat all week. i baked some buttermilk loaf bread earlier so i'll have my version of bánh mỳ shumai.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sew Yellow

i've been trying to take up sewing for some time now. there are only two Jo-Ann Fabrics in the Baltimore area that offer Creative University and it is tough to get into one of their classes, it fills up so fast.

i am happy to declare victory this month. it's just a 2.5 hour class. i went last night after work to buy my fabric. the list only called for a yard of fabric. i have no idea what we're going to sew. i'm assuming an apron? it doesn't say on the schedule. i was hoping to learn how to make a tote bag but i'd settle for an apron.


i chose a happy yellow floral cotton piece. i couldn't resist the cheerful hue, plus, it is the summer of yellow for me.


in other crafting news, i completed my summer cloche, altering a tad to fit my big ass head (i'll take pix of it this weekend). i'll make another one, this time in yellow with a bigger hook to see how that turns out. i have yet another summer hat i'd like to give a whirl before i turn my sights to warmer head gear. the baby blanket for my friend in Thailand is coming along nicely, much better than i expected. i have one other baby item that shouldn't take me long to do. i started on a ladybug stuffed animal for a coworker last night. he's expecting a little girl later this month and he mentioned the nursey was in a ladybug motif. i've already completed the body, i just gotta sew on the head and spots and i'm done!

the end of summer is coming in a few weeks, i'm debating on whether i should make some cards or if i should wait till Halloween. we'll see!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Buttermilk Cookies

i had some leftover buttermilk hanging out in the fridge (i have a lot of things hanging out in there, trying to come up with ways to get rid of it all without chucking in the garbage is exhausting). i also had some coconut flakes and pecans leftover from the Tim Cake. so i decided to make a batch of cookies.


i found a quick and easy recipe for soft buttermilk cookies from here. upon further research, i saw that the person who submitted the recipe is another foodblogger i've admired for awhile: Dine and Dish. half the batter, i left plain and the other half, i folded some coconut flakes and crushed pecans.

i actually liked these cookies. i rarely eat any desserts i make and last night, i had two, WITH full on icing on top. today, i had three at work. can we say yum-o? i left the rest for my coworkers to consume.


slightly funny story... well it's kinda funny now but at the time i was more annoyed than anything. the recipe makes a lot of icing. as in, way more than enough for the cookies baked and then some. well, i always keep my containers... take out plastic containers, the sour cream or cream cheese containers. you just never know when you need it to store something. i stored the icing in a sour cream container, it was just the right size. i left the container of cookies and the separate container of icing on the kitchen counter at work. um. one of the girls came by, and somehow didn't realize there was actually frosting in the sour cream container, saw the way past due date stamped on the lid and promptly chucked it in the trash. nevermind the sticky note that listed the types of cookies on the counter and that there were two cookies already frosted to demonstrate how to assemble the sweet treat.


hodgepodge thai dish

i need to take a break from all this eating. if i'm not eating out (it was restaurant week last week) then i'm scheming up new things to make in the kitchen. if i keep going like this, i won't be able to wear a bathing suit in PR next month and that would suuuuuuck. had some leftover veggies from the farmer's market hanging out in the fridge: zucchini and red potatoes. sliced those up. next, i had some frozen chicken boobs. diced those up.


in my pantry i had a bag of red curry paste. it's not exactly an authentic thai dish but whatever, close enough. cooked up a pot of white rice that instantly made me feel warm and cozy. i let the curry simmer on the stove for a half hour. now i have something to come home to this week after work.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Timothy

today is my friend Tim's 30th Birthday. He celebrated on Saturday. this year he asked me to make him a cake. some random conversation we had a few weeks ago resulted in me finding out about the Tim Cake.

When Tim was 5, his grandmother asked him what kind of cake he wanted her to bake. He listed some ingrediants and she baked him a cake with those items. and hence, the Tim Cake was created. i forget how long it's been since his grandmother made him this cake but i decided to attempt to re-create it for him.


the ingredients are as follows:
all four must be in the cake, specifically the batter. Big K and i brainstormed for about a week and come Friday, i had decided on what i was going to do.
warning, gripe coming up so i will be slightly sidetracked. i've tried, unsuccessfully, to join the Daring Bakers' blogroll. i've given up. gripe over. but i enjoy reading other people's/baker's entries every month. it's always educational. having said that, the most recent challenge was the Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from Great Cakes by Carole Walter. i decided to make a ganache to coat the cake, as well as incorporate some of the assembling methods from this challenge. i used Use Real Butter's ganach glaze recipe/tips. her stuff always looks so tight and her instructions crystal clear. next, i used Vanilla Basil's Pecan Pralines recipe, in the hopes of using it as decorations and to munch on. i assumed it was going to be like brittle but i guess my place was slightly on the warm side and it didn't turn out right. that's ok, it reminded me of caramel and it tasted good, which was fine with me. for the cake itself, i chose François Payard's Charlie's Afternoon Chocolate Cake from his Chocolate Epiphany cookbook. naturally, i altered it to include the necessary ingredients.

Recipe modified from Francois Payard
Makes one 9-inch cake
Serves 8 to 10
  • Vegetable cooking spray, for the pan
  • All-purpose flour, for the pan
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 oz 60 percent chocolate, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray the sides and bottom of a round 9-inch cake pan with vegetable cooking spray. Dust it with flour, shaking off the excess, and set aside.

2. Bring the butter to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir a couple of times to prevent it from burning. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate to the pan. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

3. Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Add the flour mixture and mix well.

4. Add the chocolate to the batter and stir until the mixture is just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

5. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 300°F and bake for an additional 8 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the pan. Unmold, and serve.

**My notes:
i used 1/2 cup of cocoa. i also took out 2tbls of sugar to add in the cinnamon. i folded in a cup of coconut flakes and 1/4 cup of chopped pecans in the end before baking. buttermilk was added to the batter because i wanted the cake to be nice and moist. i ix-nayed the fifth step, i'm not structured enough to pay attention to the time and temperature. i baked the cake for about 40 minutes, till a wooden skewer came out clean and the sides pulled away from the pan.

after the cake's cooled off, cut in half. try to be as even as possible. i made a simple concoction of rum and sugar water to spray the two layers, nothing crazy tho. i also made a filling of coconut, cinnamon and crushed pecans. just a touch of cream and sugar, mix well. spread evenly on bottom layer. the filling wasn't too wet but just to be on the safe side, i let it rest for 30 minutes and had a fan blowing on it to dry up any excess liquid (i would've been mortified if the bottom cake was soggy!). in the meantime, i made the ganache. when it was ready, i put the top layer cake on. then, with a baking sheet below and the cake itself on a rack, i poured the ganache over the cake. for some reason, that was really exciting to me. i don't know why.

just watching the glaze ooze over the sides and then with minimal help with my spreader, it all evened out. in the fridge it went for two hours while i started the cleaning process. prior to leaving the house, i added some toasted coconut flakes to the side and cut up the pecan pralines on top. fin.
the cake came out well. very well. Tim loved it, which was the whole point of making it. his friends liked it and thankfully, there was some leftover for him to enjoy today.

what i've learned:
baking takes forever, in my case, most of my saturday. decorating is not my forte.


Happy Birthday Timothy!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

homemade beauty facial masque

i was in mad need of a beauty facial so rather than using one of my store bought masks or scrubs, i decided to make one. a few weeks ago, i bought an aloe vera plant so i did a quick search on quick and easy homemade scrubs. i did a bit of omitting and adding and came up with something:

  • 1/2 cup of cornmeal (i used leftover polenta mix)
  • 1/4 cup of yogurt (or enough to make a paste)
  • 10 drops of lavender oil
  • the white flesh of the aloe vera leaf


mix it all together and refrigerate. it came out to a lot, i may have to give some away to some broads cus i do know that it's not good to do a scrub everyday, i *think* once a week suffices.


anyway, a spoonful is more than enough. now that i think about it tho, i could probably use it as a body scrub. hmmmm... don't let dry too long, maybe leave on face for like 10 minutes. rinse off with warm water and moisturize as usual.