Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Chinese Soup

I decided to try this package of healthy soup ingredients from T&T the other day, there were several different ones, each with a different set of ingredients, giving a different effect based on the ingredients, and I made it finally. According to the package, this soup is designed to strengthen spleen and stomach. What you got in the package, was an amount of meat (2 lbs. maybe), which was pork shank with bones, a large carrot sliced in thick coins, a quantity (3 large pieces) of mountain gobo (burdock root), two honey dates, and about a half-cup of Job's Tears seeds (Chinese pearl barley). Throw it all in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer for two hours, and you get a delicious tasting soup. As easy as that. I removed most of the bones from the meat, there were a few left, I discovered, but it was quite tasty. The mountain gobo is a white starchy root that, similar to carrot, became kind of mushy after two hours of cooking and thickened the soup. The Job's Tears seeds, according to my research on the Internet, are used in Chinese medicine, the seeds strengthen the spleen and counteract "damp heat", and are used for edema, diarrhea, rheumatoid arthritis and difficult urination. They can also be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, or brewed into beer, and can be used as part of a macrobiotic diet. I found them okay, a little crunchy still, which I didn't expect after the long cooking time.

Monday, September 25, 2006

My new Basil plant

I was tired of having the fresh basil grow black very quickly sitting in my fridge, so I thought I'd try this live basil plant I got from Whole Foods. Just $4! I just need to keep it in direct sunlight, which may be a problem, given that I really only get a little morning light, the other light is indirect, how my condo is situated. The leaves seem to be very tiny. It'll be interesting how long it lasts, and especially how it tastes! It definitely smells like basil!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Honey Snaps

The original recipe called for half the amount of ingredients, I just scaled it up, though it works well with the original amounts. The second different thing I tried with this recipe, was to boil the sugar/honey/butter mixture, my inspiration came from the Banana Honey Cake recipe I posted earlier, the boiling caramelizes the sugars and gives it a toffee flavour. Both versions turned out quite well, I don't know which one I prefer, though I think that the toffee flavour works quite well, if subtle. The gingeryness of the ginger powder underlines the honey flavour superbly. These are easy to make, in small batches, though I think they would be eaten just as quickly as any of the other delicious cookie recipes I've brought in to work. I like how it uses honey as its main sweetness, it's sometimes hard to find a recipe that is easy to make, that also incorporates honey, but there were no problems with this. Watch at the end of the baking time would be my only precaution, they tend to go from golden to brown quite quickly.

Honey Snaps
(adapted from a Edmond's Cookery Book recipe)
7 Tbsp butter (approximately 100 g)
4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons honey (approximately 1/3 cup)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Melt butter, sugar and honey together in a saucepan on medium heat. (Optional - bring to boil and let boil for one minute - sugar and honey will caramelize, giving a toffee flavour.)

Remove from heat. (Let cool for five minutes if brought to boil)

Whisk flour, baking powder, ginger together, then add to the liquid portion, and stir until mixture is smooth. Let sit for a minute or two to cool and thicken.

Drop teaspoonfuls of batter onto a cold oven tray, leaving enough room for each cookie to spread to double its size.

Bake at 180C/350F for 10-11 minutes or until golden.

Leave on tray for a few minutes to cool before removing to a wire rack.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Wiener Schnitzel

The secret to these schnitzel, is the marination, the soaking in milk overnight or lemon juice for one hour tenderizes the meat. One could use buttermilk as well, I've heard that works well. The best way to prepare schnitzel, be it pork or chicken or veal, is to make it paillard-style, very thin slices of meat. To make the paillard, you can either cut the cutlet in half horizonally, or leave it thicker, then place it between two sheets of clingwrap and pound it till it's thin. The meat cooks quicker being thin.

Wiener Schnitzel
2 lbs veal cutlet (or pork, or chicken)
lemon juice, or milk (or buttermilk)
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
2 Tbsp water
1 cup bread crumbs
butter for frying

Soak veal slices in milk or buttermilk overnight, or in lemon juice for 1 hour. Pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Dip cutlets in flour; shake off excess. Dip in eggs beaten with water, then dip in bread crumbs, again shaking off excess.

Saute in butter in large skillet over low heat until cutlets are golden brown on both sides.

Malaysia Style Rice Noodle

My sister made this for me one time, she gave me the recipe, because I liked it very much. The original recipe from the TV show she got it from, has prawns in it, you can add them if you like, but this tastes good as it is, mostly vegetarian.

Malaysian Style Rice Noodle
1/2 pkg flat rice noodle
2 eggs
1-2 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, small
2-3 dried chili peppers
2 green onions
1/2 cup rice wine (or apple juice)
2-4 Tbsp oyster sauce
2-4 Tbsp soy sauce
2-4 Tbsp chili sauce
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Prepare rice noodles according to package.

Meanwhile, beat together eggs and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Mince garlic, chop onion, cut up dried chili peppers and green onions. Set aside.

Heat wok. Add some oil. Stirfry egg mixture until it sets. Take out, chop up and set aside.

Reheat wok. Add more oil. Add garlic, onion, chili peppers and green onions. Stirfry quickly. Add in rice noodles. Flavour with rice wine or apple juice, oyster sauce, soy sauce and chili sauce. Mix together well. Add chicken or vegetable stock. Let simmer until most of the liquid has gone. Mix in scrambled egg and serve.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Trio of Cookies

I was in the mood to make some cookies, and I had a bunch of recipes that I've been wanting to try, so I ended up making three different recipes. These all turned out quite tasty, and were quite well received at work. The Double Chocolate Shockers and the Chocolate Chunk Skor Bar Cookies turned out like cookies should, soft and chewy. The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie was less soft, though the oatmeal makes it chewy. Still delicious.

Double Chocolate Shockers
2-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Cream butter, sugars and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chips by hand. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets, or lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are puffed. Cool on baking sheets for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from The Frog Commissary Cookbook)
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups oats
2 cups chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars until mixture is light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk and the vanilla extract.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat the flour in to the sugar mixture until just incorporated.

Stir in the oats and chocolate chips by hand.

Drop 1-inch balls of dough onto the cookie sheet, placing about 1-1/2 inches apart so they have room to spread.

Bake at 350F for 10-13 minutes, until golden brown at the edges and light golden at the center.

Cool on baking sheet for at least 1-2 minutes before transfering to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Chunk Skor Bar Cookies
(adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe)
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
2 Skor bars, chopped into small pieces

Preheat an oven to 375F.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter and vanilla. Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Mix in the chocolate and toffee by hand. Spoon the batter by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.

Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes, switching the pans and rotating a half turn halfway through baking. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.

Baking Technique - Toasting Hazelnuts

Toasting hazelnuts is relatively simple, there's just a few things you have to watch out for. Hazelnuts, once its outer shell is removed, have a thin dark skin surrounding the nutmeat. This can be removed after they are toasted in the oven. For best results, place the hazelnuts loosely in a single layer on a baking sheet, then put the sheet in a preheated 350F oven. Bake for seven to ten minutes, watching them closely, as they tend to burn easily, even shaking the sheet several times, until they are fragrant. The nuts will be hot when you take them out of the oven. Place them in a towel, draping the towel over a bowl makes it easier to dump them off the sheet. Cover the nuts with the rest of the towel until they have cooled enough for you to be able to touch them without burning the ends of your fingers. Rubbing the nuts vigorously in the towel for a couple of minutes will separate most of the papery skins from the meat. Open the towel and rub with your fingers those nuts where the skins are tougher to rub off. Some of the skins will stick, no matter how hard you rub, these will still be okay, the toasting removes the bitter tannins, and they add a little colour and depth of flavour to the nuts.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Two recipes I would like to make

If anyone knows of a recipe somewhere on the 'Net that's similar to these, I would appreciate being pointed there. In the meantime, I'm going to soon take a crack at making these, figuring out the ingredients and how they are made should be quite interesting.

The Island Oat Bar is the best dessert I've tasted so far of Starbucks' products, I am hooked on them. It looks to be a mixture of mainly rolled oats, some butter, some honey and flour. Looks simple enough.

These mango butter cookies I bought at the T&T Chinese superstore. They taste excellent, like mango, though, given that there are no ingredients on the packaging, a practice in many Chinese stores, I would suspect that they use mango flavouring and orange colouring rather than actual mangos, though it may be mango juice. Looks simple enough to make.

Gin Gins

These double strength ginger hard candy, made by The Ginger People, are designed to freshen your breath. I don't find them as hot as the Ginger Chews, perhaps I'm getting used to them. Again, you can drop a couple in with your teabag, to enjoy the taste of ginger alongside your favourite flavour of tea.

Quick Fruit Shake

With the bounty of fruit available these days, I thought I'd make fruit shakes, something my sister has been doing. Really, it's just some fruit and yogurt, a dollop of honey and some milk, but thick and delicious. Use any fruit you want, pears, plums, whatever is in season. Aim for about 1-1/2 cups of fruit.

Quick Fruit Shake
2 peaches, freestone
1/4 cup wild blueberries
1 cup yogurt
good dollop of honey, to taste
1/2 cup milk

Remove the pits from the peaches. Add all the ingredients into a blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds or so, until it looks like there are no longer any chunks, then serve in a tall glass. Makes two small servings or one large one.

I Heart Milka

I found this on sale at this European delicatessan the other week, they are milk chocolate filled with hazelnut praline, so I had to try them. I guess they've been around since last February, given the shape of them, but they were still delicious.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Nabisco Cream of Wheat Puzzles

I came across these opened bags of Nabisco Ready to Serve Cream of Wheat in the back of this cupboard at my Dad's place, I don't know why they were kept, but we hadn't looked in there in a long time, and these weren't the only hidden treasures we found. On the back of each of these Apple Cinnamon flavoured packets, there is this fun puzzle. I just thought they were so interesting, that I'd share them with you.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Stewed Mutton

This last week, the last in August, the first few days in September, the weather turned cooler, mostly because of the after-effects of the first hurricane of the season, of which we got only a little rain. Because of this, my brother-in-law thought to make this wonderfully flavoured dish, one better served to heat the body internally, in times of cold. The ginger gives this dish a nice bite, though feel free to cut it into smaller chunks. The ginseng too is warming, he did not add it this time. The white daikon, or chinese radish, is a very large specimen of the radish family, it definitely smells like a radish when cut, it's 100 times the size of its smaller cousin. There is also a green version, slightly smaller. The daikon marries quite well with the mutton. If you are making soup, feel free to cut the daikon into smaller chunks, they will disappear into the soup.

Stewed Mutton
2.5 lbs mutton shoulder (or lamb)
1 white daikon (chinese radish)
splash of alcohol
2 Tbsp sugar
3" piece ginger, sliced thickly
3-4 star anise (optional)

Cut mutton into thick slices, then into large chunks. Bring water to boil, just enough to cover meat (or more, if you want soup). Add splash of alcohol, sugar and ginger once water boils. Add star anise, if desired. Remove scum from top of boiling water as it forms. Reduce heat to medium high. Clean skin of daikon well, if you don't peel it off. Slice daikon into thick slices (or thinner slices, if desired). Add daikon to simmering meat, with 20 minutes left. Add salt to taste. Turn down heat to medium low. Daikon is done when it becomes translucent.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Restaurant Review - Kaarma Restaurant

I usually take the opportunity given when on vacation to go to certain restaurants in Mississauga. One of them is Kaarma Restaurant, located at 801 Matheson Blvd., just west of Mavis Road. On weekdays, they have a buffet-style lunch, where they serve a mix of Chinese and Indian foods. There are two main reasons I return to this restaurant, one of them is the great Naan bread. To me, the mark of a good Indian restaurant, is whether it takes the time to do its meals properly, and with the proper tools. Naan bread should be cooked in a tandoor oven for it to taste good. It should be served hot and fresh out of the oven. Kaarma Restaurant does both, and their naan tastes wonderful. The other reason I like this restaurant, is the Gulab Jamun dessert they serve. These wonderful fried balls, made with flour and milk powder, are then soaked in a heated sugar or honey syrup. They taste divine! I have to stop myself from eating too many of them! And filling up on the naan, so I don't have room to try any of the other dishes. Or feel too stuffed the rest of the day!

Of course, there are always other selections to sample in their buffet, today they had mutton curry, which tasted great, spicy hot, also a noodle dish with garlic, yellow daal, a spicy eggplant and potato dish, a chicken dish, and sauteed vegetables in a white sauce. There is also a section for cooling salads. For each person, with a drink, it would come to about $14-15. But well worth it. Check it out.