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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

brunswick stew

i woke up at the ass crack of 7am Monday morning to start cooking. i had a long day of work, a dentist appointment and then my first night at the restaurant. i wanted to be sure that i made at least one sufficient lunch for jab this week (it looks that i'll be able to make 2!) hopefully the stew i made yesterday will last two days for him.

i decided to do chicken this week, since we already had beef last week. naturally, i had intentions of following the recipe but i ended up going fresh with some of the ingredients and omitting quite a chunk of stuff out. oops!

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Brunswick Stew
adapted from Linda Doeser's One Pot Recipes

4lb chicken pieces
2 tbl paprika
2 tbl olive oil
2 tbl butter *
1 large onion, chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped *
12 oz canned chopped tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine *
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbl worchestershire sauce *
1 tbl finely chopped parsley*
11.5 oz canned corn kernels, drained*
15 oz canned lima beans, drained and rinsed *
2 tbl all purpose flour *
4 tbl water

* i either omitted these ingredients or forgot. instead, i added carrots, celery and green beans, seemed fresher than canned corn and beans. also, rather than using chicken on the bone, like thighs or drumsticks, i just used chicken breasts, cut in big sizes. i finished cooking the stew in the crock pot so i wanted to make sure the pieces remained intact, somewhat.

1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and dush with paprika.

2. Heat the oil and butter in an ovenproof casserole or large pan. Add the chicken pieces and cook over medium heat, turning, for 10-15 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the chicken to a plate using a slotted spoon.

3. Add the onion and bell peppers to the casserole. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the tomatoes, wine, stock, Worcestershire sauce and parsely and bring to a boil, stirring. Return the chicken to the casserole, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

4. Add the corn and beans to the casserole, partially cover, and let simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Place the flour and watere in a small bowl and mix to make a paste. (i totally forgot this step). Stir a ladleful of the cooking liquid into the paste, then stir it into the stew. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Serve, garnished with parsley.


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what i learned:
seasoning with just salt and paprika is awesome! i just did the seasoning of the chicken in the first step and that was it. i didn't have to adjust the taste again. i stewed everything in the crockpot on high for 2 hours. then i let it cool before putting them in individual containers, two for jab to eat on tuesday and wednesday. i had a bowl for lunch and it was so good, warm with a slight kick from the paprika. i thought of making some sort of bread as a side but i just had too much going on. i'd think a sourdough biscuit would go well with it. there's always next time!

Today's soundtrack: John Butler Trio, What You Want to Say.

Last, but most def. not least, please don't forget about the upcoming month of October, it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. this is for a good cause. if you can't participate in the walk, bake for the Boob Off. you can read about it here.


Monday, September 29, 2008

fancy schmancy scrambled eggs

as i've stated before, breakfast when i was a kid was a big thing. my grandparents made the best sunny side up, or so i thought. until i started living with peter in Manila. my nanny made the best sunny side up sandwiches ev.er. after a strenuous saturday morning swim lesson, i'd be so weak with hunger but sandra would make me a late breakfast of sunny side up, and a dash of soy sauce between two pieces of white bread. and the world would be set right. then i went on a i-hate-eggs phase. i didn't touch the stuff outright for a couple of years. thankfully, i'm back on the i heart eggs bandwagon, especially since it came out a few years ago that they're not that bad for you. when i came across the hoity toity eggs dish in Bon Appétit i knew i had to make it. and make it i did. sorta.

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Truffled Scrambled Eggs with Crème fraîche and Caviar
adapted from Bon Appétit, September 2005 issue, page 139

6 uncooked large eggs in shells *
5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream *
2 tbl chopped fresh chives *
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp (scant) freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp black truffle oil *
3 tbls butter
Crème fraîche or sour cream
caviar
whole fresh chives to garnish

* so i didn't have all the ingredients handy so there're a few substitutes. i only made 3 eggs, i used buttermilk instead of heavy whipping cream, ran out of chives so i used green/spring onions instead and i omitted the truffle oil. so i guess i didn't follow the recipe at all.

using egg topper or tip of small knife, cut top 1/2" off wide end of each egg. empty 4 eggs into medium bowl (empty remain 2 eggs into a small bowl and reserve for another use). Rinse out the 6 eggshells and carefully wipe insides dry. Stand 6 shells, cut side up, in egg holders.

Whisk cream, chopped chives, salt, pepper and truffle oil into 4 eggs in medium bowl. melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add egg mixture. Stir gently until mixture just begins to set but is still very soft, about 2 minutes. Spoon egg mixture into shells. Top with crème fraîche (i used sour cream), then caviar. garnish with whole chives. serve immediately.

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what i learned: eggshells make good tiny bowls. i would make this dish again but i can't think of anyone i know who'd be into eating soft eggs (most everyone i know likes their eggs done to the point of crispy) or caviar. i'll aim to have all the proper ingredients, even the truffle oil. i liked the salty kick of the caviar too. also, despite not having an egg topper or egg holder, i made do with what i had handy. fancy that!

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Last, but most def. not least, please don't forget about the upcoming month of October, it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. this is for a good cause. if you can't participate in the walk, bake for the Boob Off. you can read about it here.

Today's Soundtrack: Oasis, what's the story, morning glory.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

stalking

today's post will not be about crafting or cooking, not directly anyway. just some random updates, blog shout-outs and preview of the week to come.

i fear that my blog posts are going to be scarce and/or short in the coming weeks. it's been a slow summer at work, it seems the economy has put a damper on all things and as a result, i have not made commission since the spring. my role has shifted a bit, and while i am grateful that i haven't been laid off, it's a role that does not include the extra oomph that HR sales provides. i am not complaining, i realize that i am very fortunate to be a part of a company that has the foresight to work around such things as Hiring Freezes. having said that, i decided to take on a part time position with a neighborhood restaurant. my neighborhood is a growing one and when i found out about this place, i was excited. it gave me hope that it would draw more business to the area, as well as gently introduce Vietnamese cuisine to the Baltimore public. my review of their menu is less than favorable but i am hopeful that the joint will improve. plus, i need the tips. i am trying to see this position as good exposure to food prep and customer service. as most of my friends know, i am not a warm and fuzzy person per say but i think this will teach me to be more tolerant and ...gasp... helpful. let's see if any beer will be dumped on anyone's head...


so without further ado, i present some of my week's blog hawking:

Mama Blog is hosting a Giveaway. Check it out.

Soy and Pepper. i love her bento lunches, very pretty and innovative. don't be surprised if some of my lunch-in posts are inspired by hers! :)

Apartment Therapy. My cousin Kim introduced me to this site. living in the city, the space is slightly smaller so decorating can be a bitch. jeez, this website can show you the light! i prefer the down home country comfort look and yet i dwell in the city, go figure.

James Starmer - Food. he's local. and he eats squirrel. you have to check out his waffle sandwich. i would break down and buy a waffle maker right.now. if i wasn't so broke and needing to take a damned part time waitressing job.

Monster Crochet. She has a Gollum Hat Crochet Pattern. Need i say more?

My Kitchen, My World. sigh. i wish i could join this. what fun! every week someone comes up with a country and you just create a dish from there. it's like a passport to eat. but i'm already overextended. i'm bummed. damn economy.

Operation Baking Gals. i did however join this. i bake at least one batch of cookies a week. rather than go to my thighs, they may as well go to our troops overseas, so they know we're thinking of them. won't you join in too?

Fashion is Poison. my cousin buu is an obnoxious fashion whore. the way i am with yarn and food, she's that way with shoes and clothes. she sent me this link some time ago and this girl is so fresh and fierce. and she's asian. :)

Last, but most def. not least, please don't forget about the upcoming month of October, it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. this is for a good cause. if you can't participate in the walk, bake for the Boob Off. you can read about it here.

Today's Soundtrack: New Kids on the Block, Single


Saturday, September 27, 2008

daring bakers is like crack... ers.

this month marks my first ev.er Daring Baker's event. i had tried unsuccessfully TWICE to sign up but i think the timing was off or whatever. all water under the bridge cus now i'm a member and i've learned SO MUCH in just one challenge. this month's challenge was Lavash Crackers & Toppings. i could make whatever toppings i wanted but had to make the lavash crackers recipe provided. loves it: flexibility but still some guidelines.

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Lavash Crackers & Toppings
from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough, satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.


i seasoned with salt, garlic and thyme. i must not have rolled the dough thin enough because it came out some parts bread-y and other parts cracker-y. either way, it tasted good right out of the oven but as it cooled, it became hard and this metal mouth had a tough time. i did shape a few of them into hearts, just for giggles.

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for toppings, i made two: hummus and black olive tapenade, both recipes adapted from party food by Linda Doeser.

Hummus

1 1/2 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup tahini (i didn't have any so i omitted this item, it really doesn't make a difference!)
4 garlic cloves
6 tbls water
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (i used thyme instead)

place all the ingredients in food processor. process until smooth, adding water and/ more olive oil as needed.

Black olive tapenade

1 cup chopped black olives
6 bottled or canned anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained (i had some anchovy paste in a tube that worked well)
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
ground black pepper
4-5 tbsp olive oil

place all the ingredients in a food processor and process for 20-25 seconds, or until smooth.


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while i enjoyed the challenge of making my own crackers, the likelihood of me ever making them again is slim. it was the first time i'd ever played with yeast and the whole kneading thing was different. i'm not much of a cracker person anyway, with or without braces. but i liked trying something new. and plus now i'm addicted to daring bakers. :)

Last, but most def. not least, please don't forget about the upcoming month of October, it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. this is for a good cause. if you can't participate in the walk, bake for the Boob Off. you can read about it here.



Friday, September 26, 2008

brit-ish beef stew

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it's getting cold here. i hate it. i love that my ac is off and i can sleep with the windows open but i still hate the fact that i have to burrow under my comforter and i detest the early morning crispness. however the cooler air does relieve the heat in the kitchen when i'm baking and/or cooking. and i made a lot of stuff this summer. it doesn't look like i'll be slowing down for autumn. for a warm supper and jab's lunch i made a hearty beef stew. he loves him some beef stew and corn bread.

Beef Stew with Anchovies and Thyme
adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat

3 tbls olive oil, plus more if needed
3 1/2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into chunky strips about 1.5 - 2.5 inches
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut in fat matchstick-size pieces
4 inner stalks of celery, finely sliced
6 anchovy fillets, well drained and minced *
2 tbls dried thyme or 1.5 tbls fresh
2 tbls Marsala *
2 cups robust red wine
1 1/4 cup beef stock
2 heaping tbls all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp mace *
1 tbl tomato paste
freshly milled black pepper
salt if necessary

Preheat oven to 300degrees.* Put a casserole on the stove with oil. heat and then brown the meat briskly in batches; do not overcrowd the casserole or the meat will steam rather than sear. Remove the meat to a plate and then, first adding more oil if necessary, toss in the vegetables, anchovies, and thyme. Cook, turning frequently, on medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is beginning to soften. While this is going on, heat the Marsala, wine, and stock in a saucepan and remove when it reaches boiling point.

Return the beef to the pan and then stir in the flour. After a couple of minutes or so, pour in the wine mixture and stir well, then stir in the tomato paste and then mace and some pepper. Taste and add salt, if you want.

Put on a lid and then cook in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Remove, cool and then keep in the fridge until needed.

* i omitted those ingredients or skipped that cooking process. reason being, i don't use Marsala at all to warrant buying it and it'd just fester in my pantry and i think jab would balk at the thought of anchovies in his stew. i am not a red wine drinker and wouldn't the know the first thing about buying a bottle so i just added more stock to the stew. i did not cook the stew in the oven, i let it simmer on the stove top for about 2 hours. also, i added some potatoes, which i cubed and fried like the beef to have a thick outer layer. this prevents it from crumbling and mushing in the stew.

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Cornbread
from the Goya Cornmeal package

1 1/2 cups Goya Yellow Cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbls double acting baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 tbls butter or margarine melted

Preheat oven to 400degrees

1. Grease muffin pan (12 molds) or line with paper cup (altho, i just used a round pan)
2. In a bowl, sift together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and butter.
4. Combine the west and dry ingredients until just mixed.
5. Distribute batter evenly among the cups (or in my case, to the round pan). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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Today's soundtrack: Priscilla Ahn, Dreams

Last note, don't forget about the Save the Boobies Project, aka Boobie Bake Off!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

.heart.lunch.

recently i spotted a blog that highlighted how moms make brown bag lunches special for their kids. while jab is not a child, i still want to make his lunch special. i made him some homemade potato chips, sprinkled with thyme/garlic salt and a regular turkey/provolone sandwich. ok. so it's not exactly the most original lunch but i put a lot of effort into it...


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so with Rachelle's awesome idea of fun shaped sandwiches, i cut one of jab's sandwiches into a heart. :)

Oven Baked Potato Chips, sprinkled with thyme/garlic salt
olive oil
couple of potatoes
kosher salt, minced garlic and 1/2 tsp of thyme

preheat oven to 350degrees. i don't have a mandoline so i had to slice the potatoes by hand. line the potatoes on the cookie sheet and drizzle liberally with olive oil. bake in oven til golden brown (check frequently as they brown at different times... i burned a few...). once they're out of the oven, transfer to some paper towels, just to get rid of excess oil. sprinkle them immediately with the thyme/garlic salt.

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Today's soundtrack: John Legend, Green Light

last note: please don't forget about the special month of October. not only is it autumn and soon to be halloween, but it's also breast cancer awareness month. Saving Boobies has the details on what you can do to make a difference.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

homemade calzones

one of the lunch items i made for jab was calzones. the first time i'd ever had this tasty treat was in college. it's like a cross between a burrito and pizza. how cute! i wish i could say that i made the dough from scratch, i was certainly tempted, but this past weekend with kneading dough for my respective food challenges for the month, i'm a bit worn out. i pulled a semi-homemade and bought the dough from the store. i think it still tasted good.

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Homemade Calzones
store bought dough (you could be hardcore and make your own dough tho)
green peppers, diced
ricotta cheese
mozzarella cheese
marinara sauce (also for dipping)
spicy sausage, cooked
pepperoni
shallots, diced

i assembled it in layers, like a pizza. i laid out the dough on the cookie sheet. stretching it out a smidge. layer it how you would like. i layered it all out in this order: marinara sauce, ricotta cheese, spicy sausage, green peppers/shallots, mozzzarella cheese and topped with the pepperoni. folded over the dough to make a pocket, securing the edges. i poked holes on top and drizzled with olive oil. i baked in the oven according to package instructions. so easy! he's eating this two days in a row.

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personally, i would've liked more veggies, like mushrooms or black olives, but jab doesn't like them. he wanted more meat. i'll definitely make this again since he's a fan. but i'm not telling him what the fillings are, i'll let that be a surprise!

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how do you like your calzone?

last note: please don't forget about the special month of October. not only is it autumn and soon to be halloween, but it's also breast cancer awareness month. Saving Boobies has the details on what you can do to make a difference.


Today's soundtrack: Lady GaGa, Just Dance!



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

homemade granola bars

last week jab asked me to make him lunch for work, not only to save money (he eats out everyday!) but also to be healthier. i don't know that the logisitcs would work out since we don't live together, he'd have to stop by every day after work to pick up lunch for the next day, but food that had been prepared the night before. plus, he doesn't really do leftovers, so i'd have to figure out a menu that calls for small quantities and items that he'll actually eat and not be tempted to go out to lunch. but we're giving it a go this week. there are some changes brewing for me in the near future that might put a damper on my cooking and crafting time but i could give an honest try to make him lunch at least a few times a week. it's a start.

my first item is more of a snack or breakfast treat: granola bars. my cookbooks were fairly meager with recipes so i asked my friend Jen if she had any recipes handy. she did. so with her suggestions and what i had gleaned from my own granola bar consumption, i came up with something i am quite pleased with.

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Homemade Granola Bars
adapted from Jen Johnson and what i had handy in the pantry

2 cups old fashions oats
handful of coconut flakes
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of honey
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
handful of raisins

preheat oven to 350 degrees. in a pan, spread out the oats, coconut flakes, and both nuts. toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, stirring every so often so it's evenly browned. in a saucepan, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar and peanut butter until fully incorporated. add the toasted ingredients to the sauce pan and mix thoroughly. put in the raisins at this point. in a pyrex dish, spray with oil (or you can use butter). once done, transfer the granola mixture to the pan, packing it all in neatly and tightly. bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. remove from oven and allow to cool. when it's cooled down enough, with a sharp knife, cut into bars. fin.

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what i learned:
i either have too much or zero patience. the first time i made these, friday night (or really, saturday morning), i kept them in the oven too long and they came out hard. when i made them yesterday, i yanked them out sooner than maybe i should've cus they weren't golden brown, just slightly tan. also, i didn't wait for it cool completely, i went in to cut and they kinda crumbled on me. but they taste damn good. jab doesn't like the raisins, even tho i tell him they're good for him (the high fiber content etc). and i don't know how i'd be able to keep chocolate chips intact, they'd melt in the oven.

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any suggestions on what else i can make for jab's lunch and/or snack? what do you snack on or chow down on for breakfast?

current soundtrack: Joshua Radin, Today.

last note: please don't forget about the special month of October. not only is it autumn and soon to be halloween, but it's also breast cancer awareness month. Saving Boobies has the details on what you can do to make a difference.



Monday, September 22, 2008

button and yarn bracelet

a few weeks ago i received my pay it forward package. while i looooooved the caramels elizabeth sent me, i was really excited about the doing the actual paying it forward to my first 3 commenters. i knew i was going to include my homemade soap. but i wanted to also include a yarn project. so i came up with a simple bracelet. i'm not even going to claim it as mine, it's so simple, i'm sure it's been done before but it's a pretty pattern.



i used my smallest hook, the F hook and just some pretty, light weight yarn.

row 1: chain 8, turn
row 2: sc in second chain from hook, continue til the end (7sc)
chain 1, turn
row 3: sc in backloop til the end, chain 1, turn (7sc)

repeat row 3 til desired length.

Last row: sc in next 3 backloops, chain 4, sk 4th backloop, sc in remaining 3 backloops. fasten off.

on the opposite end of the bracelet, sew on a button (keep in mind, depending on the size of the button, you may require more or less chains in the middle of the last row...) voilà! it's kinda a ribbed texture, really cute.

note, in the picture, the purple bracelet follows that pattern but with the white bracelet, i made it slightly wider. i had a 3rd but i whipped that one up fast and didn't get a chance to photograph it.

in the parcel, i made some cards (which i'm getting back into, what with the holidays coming up!), alicia received a few asian ramen noodles and Jen and Jessica, i made yarn cupcakes. for Jen, since i knew she was a sewer, i filled the cupcakes extra snug to turn it into a pin cushion. for Jessica, it's just a cute little ornamental decoration. the thing is, the stuffed cupcake is so cute but i must've done something off with it because the pham cousins didn't know it was cupcake, they thought it was a faceless head with a mop of hair. i admit, the bottom is slightly round ... i'm going to have to find another cupcake pattern.


Last note, don't forget about the Save the Boobies Project, aka Boobie Bake Off!


Saturday, September 20, 2008

hawking blogs

so my blog mama does a weekly blog surfing post of random reads she's done during the week that might of be interest to her readers. i think it's a great idea. i know i hawk some blogs and thru them i find more reads and yet more inspiration. so i am going to try to do this somewhat regularly. it'll probably give some insight to my frame of mind during week. and hopefully i'll have some random pix that didn't make it to my other posts to share.



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Food Loves Writing - i really dig her writing and her creations are beautiful.

this is my heart. it is a good heart. - random quotes, which i'm a fan of.

MadeByGirl - i just love her style. what girl doesn't love decoration inspiration?

My Tien Tran - a woman on a journey to find her biological family. need i say more? it's a bummer i can't be of assistance, but i know what she is going thru and i feel for her.

Sass & Veracity - her food looks so good. the post i'm looking at right is the bacon - 3 cheese mother loaf. i'm on a major bread kick right now but i am not doing internet recipes this month so it's hard. i make do with licking my computer screen.

Smashing Cook - another food blog, but oh so worth mentioning.

PostSecret - some of these secrets are so true!

Army of Dude - regardless of how you feel about our current president, support the troops. they fight for us, the least we can do is be respectful and grateful to them. enough said.

One Sentence - just one sentence to sum it all, how perfect.

happy things - she's finally back after a summer away. yay.

pink penguin- she is so cute with her enthusiasm and her latest project, the reversible drawstring bag is adorable. once i figure out how to sew, i'll be working on her patterns, hopefully.

Last note, don't forget about the Save the Boobies Project, aka Boobie Bake Off!



Friday, September 19, 2008

Ginger-chip Cookies

when my sister pammie was born i was in 7th grade. she was a pudgy little thing, so squishy and precious. i think from birth tho, she's had a serious sweet tooth. of us four sisters, pammie has more cavities than the rest of us combined in all our lives. but in addition to her cavities, pammie is good natured. scold her one minute and giggle with her the next. i identify with her most because like me, she has a listlessness in her. she's away from home for the first time now. so for her i made a batch of cookies. simple sugar (altho i did cut back the amount) cookies with pieces of ginger chips.

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Ginger-chip Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart Living (Holiday Cookies 2005), Snickerdoodles

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup pure vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups of sugar (i only put in 1 cup)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup diced sugar'd ginger (in lieu of the cinnamon)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper; set aside. (actually, i cut back the temp to 350)

Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, shortening, and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.

Use a small (1 1/4-ounce) ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough. Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after 5 minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack.

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Last note, don't forget about the Save the Boobies Project, aka Boobie Bake Off!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

how i class up ramen noodles ...

my new blogger friend Alicia of The Slacker Kitchen asked in one of her posts what people eat when they're hungry RIGHT THEN AND THERE and there's nothing in the cupboards. well, i always have an inventory of mì gói, instant noodles or just the generic term ramen noodles. growing up, they were sold in boxes, not individual selections. in a pinch, grandma would make this for me to eat on a saturday, just to shut up me while she was busy cooking an actual proper meal. then living in manila and eventually bangkok, i definitely had a lot to choose from.

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it was when i started living with the parents that i realized you can spruce up a boring bowl of mì gói. peter would put the most random things and it would come out so good! Lạp xưởng (chinese sausage), lettuce, spring onions, chicken... the sky was the limit for him! and what really wowed me: the EGG. once the noodles were cooked according to package directions, he would put the noodles in the bowl, positioning everything around it. then, in the middle, make a hole and crack open an egg into it. the broth would be at a boil and he would slowly and gently pour it over the egg. in essence poaching it. and to be on the safe side, he would continuously spoon the hot broth over the egg to cook it further or blanket it with noodles over top before digging in. i've always liked my yolks runny (sunny side up is my favorite way to have my eggs).

i've outgrown the whole packaged noodles thing, i don't eat it as often as i used to, but still, i have a handful of them in my cupboards. you just never know! late night from being out, having the munchies... an evening of not wanting to cook a proper meal... cold winter Saturday and missing grandma... that is what i usually eat when i'm hungry RIGHT THEN AND THERE and nothing else would do.

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as promised to Alicia, i made myself a bowl last night for dinner to showcase how i class up my mì gói. i had some left over chả lụa, black fungus and bean sprouts. garnished with some green onions and i was good to go!

do you spice up your bowl of instant noodles?

Last note, don't forget about the Save the Boobies Project, aka Boobie Bake Off!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

homemade cream of tomato soup

i tried tomato soup for the first time in college. big k and i used to trek it to Dalton Hall and without fail, grab a salad (to counter the beer we were drinking!) and soup. it's a wonder that she and i met, we are so alike but had it not been for a frat boy, we wouldn't have been friends. one night, grilled cheese sandwiches were on the menu and the accompanying side was campbell's tomato soup. you would've thought she and i had been starved for weeks the way we were inhaling that soup! it was just so comforting, two hung over girls in the corner of the cafeteria, dipping our grilled cheese in the soup and wondering if we could pull ourselves together for another night out. i always think of that night when it's cold and i'm craving some grilled cheese and tomato soup.

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and so, with the last of the tomatoes bob gave me last week, i made a gorgeous pot of tomato soup early in the week to keep in the freezer. i know that the colder nights are coming and i want to be prepared. i tend to hiberate in the autumn and winter months and having choices in my freezer would be nice.

Cream of Tomato Soup
(i made this on the fly, and with what i had handy)

two large ripe tomatoes, diced
couple sprigs thyme
1 leek, diced til up to the dark part of the stalk (be sure to wash!)
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup of cream
1/2 cup of milk
olive oil

in a soup pot, heat up the olive oil. when it's heated thru, add in the leeks and garlic, til translucent, about 5 minutes. the tomatoes go in next and allow to simmer. season with salt and pepper. at this point, i started picking the thyme leaves off the stem and threw them in as i went along. finally, i poured in the cream and milk. i brought it a slow gentle boil, adjusted the seasoning and turned off the heat. allow the soup to cool before blending it. blend it till the desired consitstency. i like mine nice and smoooooooth. :) serve with a nice chunky bread (if you're able to eat it...) or of course... grilled cheese sandwiches. :) i curled up on my favorite chair with a bowl and plate of caprese bread, and i wasn't even hung over. yum.

Last note, don't forget about the Save the Boobies Project, aka Boobie Bake Off!



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Saving Boobies


Next month is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. i am very lucky to not know anyone directly who has suffered from this disease. last year i participated in the walk. this year i am taking part in not only supporting Big K's Team Fun Bags on their run, but also, i'm going to join in the Boobie Bake Off.

the economy sucks right now. i'm not going to lie, i've been doing some adjustments to my budget and it's still pretty tight for me. planning ahead to get all my errands done in one run so i'm not constantly driving to wherever. foregoing the movies. cutting back on my sports (no dodgeball for me this season!) and i haul ass past the yarn, books, magazine, makeup and baking aisles at target, walmart, michaels and joann's just to avoid temptation; sticking only to must-haves. it blows. but for this cause... well. boobies are important.

my Blog Mama is hosting this event. Basically, bake something Pink and post the recipe and picture between Oct. 1st and 15th on your blog, linking back to the event. Marye will then post the round up on Oct. 17th. Then voting begins til Oct. 24th. the cost to vote is $1/vote, paid via Paypal. you can vote as many times as you want, but it is $1 every time.

Here is my spin:
Email me an image of the receipt of your donation/vote and i will put your name in a hat. if you voted 1x or 100x, that's the amount of times your name will go in the hat. at the end of voting, i will pick out a name from the hat and the winner will receive a crocheted item, you can pick what. i will ship anywhere. in.the.world. and anyone can participate, as long as you email me proof of vote(s). pham-ily, friends, coworkers, neighbors, bloggers, whoever.

fyi, henceforth, i will be reminding readers (all 2 of you) of this post til the end of Boob Voting.

for your view pleasure, last year's entries.

basil pork

the other day i had it in my mind to make a vietnamese rice flour crêpe dish called bánh cuốn . 2 hours later i had to admit defeat. it's a tempermental beast, that damn batter; and one day, when it's not so hot i will conquer it.

so the batter didn't work out. however, i had the filling to figure out what to do with. so i made a stir fry with it to eat with steamed white rice.

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Basil Pork Stir Fry

about a pound of ground pork, probably less
1 shallot minced
1 glove of garlic minced
dried black fungus, reconstituted in warm water, julienned
2 tbls oyster sauce (maybe less... this is based on your taste)
1 tsp garlic chili sauce
basil leaves

basically there is no order in which to cook up this dish. i cooked the ground pork first since it takes the longest. add in the garlic, shallots, and fungus at your leisure. just before serving, add in the oyster and chili sauces. tear up some basil and fold into the hot stir fry. serve over rice.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Caprese Bread

my old co-worker Blobert gave me a bunch of ripe tomatoes from his garden friday. i had hopes to make cream of tomato soup but it was so hot this weekend i ix-nayed the idea. instead, i decided to bake some bread. i'm a huge fan of caprese salad and i figured that could be the inspiration.

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Caprese Bread

about a cup of tomatoes, deseeded and diced. dry it as much as possible
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 stick of butter, melted
2 eggs
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar & olive oil, equal parts
3 cups whole wheat white flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
milk as needed

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Preheat oven to 350ºF. grease a loaf pan or line it with parchment paper.

Stir together the tomato, eggs, butter, and balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together. Depending on the amount of juice, add some milk to the batter if it is too thick to combine. i didn't measure how much milk i used, but i just splashed it in slowly to loosen up the batter. just before putting the batter in to the pan, i tore up a few basil leaves and folded it in gently.

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Put the batter in the pan and bake for about 30 minutes. be sure to test with knife/skewer to make sure it comes out clean.

the bread came out well, albeit slightly bland. next time, i'd add a tad bit more salt. it's not a sweet bread. i topped it with some sliced tomatoes, drizzled a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then a dash of salt and it's just perfect.

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this just might be my new favorite bread. what's your favorite kind of bread?



Friday, September 12, 2008

Honey-Lavender Lemon Cake

the office held a mini breakfast thinger today and my contribution was, of course, a baked item. now that the weather is cooler, baking isn't such a sweaty ordeal. plus, the aroma. the cake was only in the oven for 15 minutes and my condo started smelling so good!

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i came across a recipe for a chocolate chip coffee cake in an old issue of Bon Appétit. i was going to bake that but then i decided to take out the main ingredients: the chocolate chips and walnuts. instead, i added honey lavender and lemon. it's what i had handy!

Honey-Lavender Lemon Cake
adapted from the Chocolate Chip coffee cake recipe in Bon Appétit, November 2005 issue
12 servings

1/3 cup Lavender infused Honey (i just heated up 1/3 cup of Honey and added 1 tsp of dried lavender. i let it steep for an hour. i did strain it before adding it to the batter)
2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar (i actually only put 1/3 cup of sugar since i was using honey and i generally don't like my cakes sweet anyway)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream (i used yoghurt)
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 2 lemons

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350degrees. Butter and flour 10" diameter tube pan (i used a 9" spring foam pan, it's what i had handy!), then spray with nonstick spray.

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Stir in flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with yoghurt (which i had added the lavender honey) in 3 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Transfer batter to pan, smooth top. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack. Cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic.)

for a topping, i made a lemon icing, similar to what i made for the buttermilk cookies, except i added zest and lemon juice. drizzle on top and there you go!

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i had a coworker ask me if this dish really was a breakfast item. my answer is an empathatic YES! um... it's better and healthier than donuts, furthermore, i made it, so i've deemed it as such.



what i learned:
it's very lemon-y. i'd lay off the juice a bit next time around. and it'd be a prettier presentation had i made it in a tube or bunt cake pan. fine, i'll go out and buy myself more pans, so i have even more stuff handy! :) and substituting out stuff isn't so bad, as long as you keep the flour, baking soda and powder components in tact.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

i've been virtually adopted ...

sweet. i signed up thru Dine and Dish to be adopted by a veteran blogger. i've been blogging for awhile but this year i decided to do more happy writing, it was one of my new year's resolutions. what came forth was quite bit of happy writing and actually... happy photo taking too. so now i maintain 3.5 blogs that all make me smile. anyway, i've been adopted by Marye of Baking Delights. how fun is that? she's my blogger mom for 3 months now. henceforth, i'm calling her Mama Blogger. i know big k is going to be so jealous, she's the baker in our relationship.

the purposes of this project varies. i started my blog just as a creative outlet, i was so inspired by all the food and craft blogs out there. from there, i started on the picture taking. i blame FoodGawker and Tastespotting. i wanted to take pretty pictures of my creations and share it. that started my photography craze. then Daring Bakers and Recipes to Rival came along and pushed the boundaries, making me think beyond what i kinda sorta not really knew about food and cooking. and i am so pleased to say that i've made a few blogger friends who give me plenty of encouragement. but sometimes i wish i heard from the people who read my stuff. and i thought about it. i don't know why i feel this way! it's just. nice. i guess. so i'm hoping to learn from Marye about garnering new readers and having them visit often, and actually commenting. and looking at her page, i hope to learn new recipes and techniques. i think this is going to be fun. i know i have lurkers (my stat counter says i have quite a healthy flow of traffic...) so please head on over to her page and check out what she has to say. :)

travelling shell hat

when i met my half sister Suni in April, i noticed a few things. First, she's taller than me. by quite a lot. she has great skin, tan but with a rosy hue. and she's active. she plays tennis and skis. (she also has a weird sock thing going, which i highly approve of.) anyway, it gets cold in japan. so for suni i made her a skull hat. nothing fancy, just something to keep her head warm. i chose a shell pattern because i thought it was pretty and the texture added just a little something. i ran out of yarn at the end so i had some random skein of purple/blue that matched and used that. i still think it's rather cute.

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the pattern was easy to follow, no mishaps, other than running out at the end. i also didn't do the last row, three rows of the ribbing seemed sufficient. i also did not use the K and I hooks, i used J and H instead. it's a rather bulky hat at the end so don't use too thick of a yarn.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

.: Peppers Tavern :.

the long weekend in ocean city not only netted me plenty of photography opportunities but also gave me the chance to PIG OUT. jab and i arrived friday afternoon. we walked, hand in hand, on the boardwalk until basically we were ready to eat dinner. Peppers Tavern was recommended by the hotel staff and it looked laid back and had a great view of the ocean.

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i've said it before and i'll say it again, i am not a fan of mexican food. what enticed me was their jamaican fare, even tho i eventually ordered a mexican dish. yeah, i know, contradictory. i just had a hankering for some fish tacos and boy was their version excellent. the fish was hot, fresh, firm and just the right amount of seasoning. i only ordered one taco, which was more than enough because it came with a side of beans and rice. i did not finish my plate.

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jab ordered the beef enchiladas and he must've liked his alot, because he demolished his dish, which also came with the same sides. i had a bite and i have to say it was delish.

the service was typical beach stuff, casual and laidback, not in your face. we came back later in the evening for drinks with a friend and i had their fried ice cream for dessert.

i really liked this place and i'd definitely come back for their mexican dishes, which is saying a lot!


Pay It Forward

i'm a lucky girl. actually, i'm not lucky, i'm just spoiled. :) last week i received a cute package from jen, jab sent me flowers and this week, coming back from a long weekend, i had yet another package waiting for me to open.

in my office mailbox i had a cute little package from elizabeth, someone who i've admired from afar. i came across her page thru the Shutter Sisters and basically i have a blog crush on her. we mainly converse thru my photography blog but since i don't get much traffic there i thought i'd post about the gift and pay it forward fun here. she sent me some yummy, chewy (my orthodontist is so going to hate me, haha!!) caramel squares with pecans that i have since devoured 2 and it's only 10:30! Thank you, thank you, thank you Elizabeth!

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here's how it works:
I agree to send something fun, cute, and nice to the first 3 blog owners who post a comment on this entry. In turn, those three will post this information and pick 3 people they want to send something to and so on. Unfortunately, due to postage costs, I can only pay it forward within the United States. If you are interested in participating, be one of the first 3 blog owners to leave a comment!

You have to promise that you will then post about this on your blog, link to me, and then send something to the first three people who comment on your blog so that this continues. When the first three have commented I will email you a request for your shipping address and I will send out something that I hope will make you smile!


how fun is that!? i do have to put one stipulation tho. the bulk of my readers are my actual, real life friends (i heart you all!) and being as how you'll more than likely receive a little something from me during the holidays or when it tickles my fancy, you guys don't qualify. anyone in my pham-ily, the broads, jew-crew or all around entourage are out. everyone else is fair game.

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twisted cable scarf

i started early on xmas gifts this year. i actually started in january, making a mental list of things i'd like to make for a select few. i have always been a proponent for handmade, homemade presents. there's just something so quaint, and damnit, THOUGHTFUL about those kinds of gifts. granted, i like all kinds of gifts but when i know that someone took the time to make something, that's special.

having said that, i rarely, rarely offer to make someone something. that is just an added pressure to produce, and to do so in a particular timeframe. and i only allow certain people to make requests from me, and even then, it's still an added pressure. i find there's not much enjoyment in making anything when there's a deadline attached to it, when there's an expectation. just saying. now off my soap box ...

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so for grandpa, i made him a twisted cable scarf. for as long as i can remember, grandpa liked to look his best. he ironed his clothes every morning, his slacks had straight, sharp creases and his hair was always combed accordingly. so i had to make sure that the scarf held up to muster. i kept it relatively short (45") because i don't ever recall grandpa ever doing the whole wrap around the neck thing, he would just fold it over and keep it under his coat.

he lives in san jose, ca now, which does get kinda nippy. despite his advancing age (i think he's around 86) he likes to take walks everyday. and now he can sport this scarf. :)

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just a note ... i had a hard time with row 8. i emailed the person who wrote the pattern but she didn't get back to me. i had a friend help me:

(3 sc, sk 2 FPdc below(here they are just telling you to skip two front post double crochets on the row below), FPdc around third FPdc below (Then front post double crochet around the one all the way to the left in the first set of three), FPdc around middle FPdc, FPdc around FPdc on the right, sk 3 sc) three times. 3 sc, ch 1, turn.

for some reason, i had the hardest time understanding this row. i put the project down in frustration for a week but once kirby explained it all to me, it just made perfect sense and it was smooth sailing from there.
what crafts are you working on?

Monday, September 8, 2008

back from vacation

it was more like a long weekend but exactly what i needed. jab and i were suppose to go to Puerto Rico for a long weekend but some hurricane or another busted up those plans. we hit Ocean City instead, a place i've been to quite a few times but surprisingly, jab had not. it was a great weekend, albeit wet and windy on saturday, but overall, just fan-tab to be with my sweetie.

we arrived home this afternoon and i promptly took the pork out of the freezer to defrost. was thinking about making some thịt kho but eh. i wanted to try something different. my token vietnamese cookbook has a sautéed frogs' legs or chicken wings with Lemongrass (Dui Ech Xao Sa Ot) that looked yummy. plus, i had all the essential ingredients. except for the frog legs and chicken wings.

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so i used my thịt heo (pork) instead. it's all good.

Sautéed Pork with Lemongrass
adapted from Authentic Recipes from Vietnam
by Trieu Thi Choi and Marcel Isaak
(rather than putting in the ingredients listed in the book for chicken wings/frog legs, i put in what *i* used instead.)
serves 4 to 6
preparation time: 10 minutes
cooking time: 15 minutes (altho for me, it was closer to an hour, i let it simmer for awhile cus i wasn't hungry yet and i wanted the pork to be tender)

about 1 lb of boneless pork loin, cut into just slightly bigger than bite size pieces
1 stalk of lemongrass, thick bottom part only, outer layers discarded, inner part minced (i used 2 tsp of dried lemongrass instead, cus that's what i had handy)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 finger length red chili, deseeded and minced
1 tsp meat curry powder
1 tbl fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 finger length red chili, deseeded, cut into strips, to garnish
Oil for deep frying

1. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat until very hot. Deep fry the meat for about five minutes until crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels (**note, i skipped this part, but if you're using this recipe for the chicken wings/frog legs, i thought i'd include this original recipe...)

2. Drain off all but 1 1/2 tbl of the oil in the wok. Reheat the oil over medium heat, add the lemongrass, garlic, chili and deep fried meat, and stir fry for about 30 seconds (i stir fried for a bit longer, til the pork was fully cooked). add the curry powder, fish sauce, sugar and pepper, followed by the chicken stock. Mix well and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes, and remove from the heat.

3. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with chili and serve with steamed rice.

it's good to be home.

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