Sunday, April 6, 2014

Durian Pancake!

Sunday brunch! I've been meaning to make pancakes for the longest time now. Growing up in a very Asian family, pancakes were definitely not a breakfast item. Pancakes were rare and so growing up and even nowadays, I rarely have pancakes. Its a shame I know. 

Recently however, I've been craving these fluffy little things but keep pushing it off and forgetting about it etc, and finally yesterday my mom goes "we have these durians and we need to eat them" I looked at them and honestly they looked kind of gross at that point. She had them frozen and when they defrosted there was some ice and water...so it got watery is where I'm getting at. If you've never had durian fruit before its textured like a banana so imagine a semi mashed banana sitting in some water, gross right? So I made a face and she said "well maybe they can be mashed up and put into a pancake batter." Genius!

Durian are native to southeast Asia and so the fruit we get in the store are all blast frozen and then sent to the States. I have to admit, I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to eating durian and only because I've had fresh ones before. Again if you've never had them before and if you're trying them for the first time, you either hate them or love them. Some people hate the smell but love the taste, others love both, or hate both. I'm one of those people who loves everything about it! It has a very distinctive smell that can make some people cringe, I'm weird, I just breathe it all in! My uncle in China shares the same love so when I used to visit them in the summertime, that would be our bonding thing. If I land during the day, we'd go shopping for one of those suckers that day. If I land during the night, it's on the to do list for first thing the following day. It's that important.

No one else in the family really likes it, they'll eat a piece or two but hey that only means more for us!

Same goes for pancakes! My brother and dad are not durian fans, so even for this recipe, I had to make a batch of regular pancakes and then a batch of durian ones for my mom and I to devour. These were heavenly! The pancake was light and fluffy, the durian was well incorporated and the fruit is naturally sweet so you can eat the pancakes pretty much as is without any syrupy needs. Even my non-durian eating brother couldn't help himself and had a couple of those pancakes after I made him try a piece. Now the only problem is where to get more durian....the pancake recipe without the durian is good too, but honestly durian version rocked!
 
Durian Pancakes
adapted from Arthur Flour's simply perfect pancakes

Ingredients:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk 
  • 3 tbsp melted butter or vegetable oil
  •  2 tbsp sugar or malt milk powder
  • 1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup mashed durian fruit (or bananas)
Procedures:
  1. Beat eggs and milk until light and fluffy (approx 3 minutes on a mixer). Stir in butter or oil.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients 
  3. Gently and quickly mix dry ingredients into egg and milk mixture. Let batter rest for about 15 minutes. Stir in mashed fruit
  4. Heat griddle or flat pan to about 375F degrees and scope approx 1/4 cupful of batter onto heated surface. Cook for approx 1.5 minutes per side or until golden brown and fluffy.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Balsamic Glazed Spice Rubbed Chicken Wings!

Being a girl can sometimes be extremely difficult, by no means am I a girlie girl (though I do have my moments from time to time) but man certain times out of nowhere (and sometime we know when), suddenly its like you have no control over anything! Emotional sparks everywhere! Its like a can of shaken up soda being popped open: mess everywhere!

Here I was happily running along on my treadmill at the gym and listening to music while semi watching whatever may be on the nearest TV which happens to be a show on animal rescue. Running, running, running... "aw they rescued a baby whale and nursed it back to health, that's so sweet" 

Running, running, running...then it happens:

The program caption displays (when they're about to release the baby whale back into the wild): "she (baby whale) has grown so much and now she's finally ready to go back into the wild. Here we have a harness with a quick release so she'll be able to just swim out after we release the sides" 

They push release...hook is stuck

Me: "oh no!" 
Program Caption: "there seems to be a mishap with the hook release but finally she is free and there she goes as she disappears back into the ocean, just the way we like to see her go"
Me: " that's so touching" 

and then I got teary eyed! What!?! What is this?? It was like I was emotionally attached to the baby whale and I was so sad and yet so happy to see her go.... what is happening here? I have known this baby whale for all of 10 minutes (from watching her on TV!) and I am getting teary eyed. I'm pretty sure the only logical explanation for this is I'm crazy. Of course, I also suspect its because I'm a girl and we are sometimes naturally crazy, this must be one of those moments. Never saw it coming. This might have been a "too much information" moment but I feel as though its an insightful moment as well, as stereotypes go, women are crazy however, I don't think anyone really knows the other part to the story: we can't control it! It just happens on its own sometimes! 

Nonetheless the baby whale is now happily swimming along and back in its elements. Now its time for me to get back to my elements, the kitchen!

Featured in this post is one of the goodies I got in my Hatchery Box, Ole Man's Spice Rub & Seasoning. The tasting guide it came with suggested a spice rubbed-chicken, so I scoped out the recipe and it sounded really delicious so I decided to give it a go. The recipe uses a whole chicken, that's a lot of chicken, so I opted for something smaller, chicken wings. Yum.

Upon opening the spice rub seasoning, there was a very distinct smell of cumin so I'm positive that is part of the blend. Probably some paprika and cayenne pepper as well. The package didn't list specific spices, so this is all guess work. As for spice rub seasoning is concerned, I'm sure you can apply any spice rub seasoning you want to this recipe and it'll work just fine. I suggest maybe marinating it longer (maybe overnight) because though it was good, I wish the flavors was more integrated into the meat. Overall, very tasty. The balsamic reduction is a definite winner, sweet and tangy but not over the top. I had a little of the reduction leftover and it makes a great dipping sauce! Put it on some bread or salad by thinning it a bit with some olive oil...yum!

Balsamic Glazed Spice Rubbed Chicken Wings
adapted from Hatchery: Spice Rubbed - Chicken

Ingredients:
 For balsamic reduction:
  • 1/2 balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp spice rub
  • 1 tbsp honey
Procedures:
  1. In a large mixing bowl (or a large zip lock bag) toss chicken, olive oil, and spice rub seasoning together until chicken is coated and let it marinate for 30 minutes
  2. For balsamic reduction: in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, combine balsamin vinegar, spice rub, and honey. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 5 more minutes or until thick and syrupy. Set aside. (note: while warm its not very thick so make sure not to completely reduce it dry, it will become syrupy when cooled)
  3. Bake wings at 375 F degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with balsamic reduction and return to oven for an additional 8-10 minutes. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chocolate Chunks Pecan Cookies!

More rain to California! Unfortunately hearing its going to rain on the day you're about to go hiking is not the best of news. I've been craving a good hike for the last couple of weeks and certainly didn't want to give up the opportunity... so when I woke up and realized the rain hasn't started yet, I thought perhaps there is a chance I can squeeze it in before it comes. Luckily since I have to wake up at the ungodly hours of 6am during the week, waking up at 6:30am is like a dream on the weekend so after accessing the sky and the weather gods, my friend and I decided to chance it. If it rains, we'll turn back. Turns out, we hiked the entire trail and had lunch before any water fell. 

I was pleased. Not only did I get an awesome hike in but I got an awesome meal afterwards. Food after hiking is always like the best thing that's ever happened to you since birth. Okay... maybe a bit of exaggeration but that only shows you how much I love food. 

Once the rain started though, there was nothing that says relaxing than being indoors with a hot cup of tea or hot beverage curled up with a book or baking in the kitchen. I decided since it was early enough, I could probably do both. What a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Gosh I sound like a retired 70 year old lady...which is why I can't wait! Some people dread being old but I'm looking forward to being 70... if I get there that means I've made it! Everything: whatever it is, whoever I'll meet, whatever I've made myself, its all done! Now I just sit back and enjoy the show. 

For the time being, I think its safe to come back to reality. So here is a warm cookie recipe to share for when you are spending a cold afternoon indoors or needing to curb a cookie craving.  

Chocolate Chunks Pecan Cookies!
makes approx 36-40 cookies, roughly 120 calories via myfitnesspal

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups chocolate pieces (I used white chocolate chunks and dark chocolate chips)
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, macadamia, walnuts, etc)
Procedure:
  1. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside
  2. Mix together with mixer, butter, brown sugar, and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time and then add in vanilla. Mix until combined. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in nuts and chocolates
  4. Bake at 350 F degrees for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are light brown.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wanderings (eyes) - March 2014 Hatchery Box!

Through reading one of the blogs I follow (Lovin' From the Oven), I came upon this niffy little subscription box of tasty treasures known as Hatchery. Then upon more research aka Google, I realized there is a whole world of monthly box subscriptions from cosmetics to puppy chow, there is a box for everyone and a box of everything!  

Here is a little background in case anyone who's never heard of these monthly box subscriptions before (like me): the subscriptions range from about $20-$80 a month depending on the program/company and each month you get a box of goodies in the mail, generally samples and tad bits of products that fits the genre of that particular subscription. It's a rather brilliant idea, sometimes we just want small samples to try things out, test the water if you will. Anyways not to get carried away, lets get back to this particular box.

Curious and quite intrigued by its contents, I decided to give Hatchery a try. Their cute packaging might have had something to do with that too but for $20 a month, its not that bad. So what is in the box of goodies? From what I have gathered through numerous blogs reviewing it, each month you'd get about 5-6 sample sized items of artisan ingredients or condiments. Its a pretty neat program, they go around different places gathering goodies from all over the country and then you get the sample sized version for trying. If you happen to like something, then you can purchase the full sized version on the website and if not, well its a small size so you won't feel like the rest will go to waste because there may not be leftovers. This not only allows the kitchen enthusiast like myself to try things I'd otherwise not come across, but it allows the small businesses to get more face time across the country. Each box also comes with a tasting guide that describes each of the ingredients, its origins, where to get more, and recommended recipes for each item. All the items are neatly wrapped and stuffed into a lively bright red box so you can't miss it!

Now what are we waiting for!? Let's see what's in the box for the month of March shall we? 
For my very first box, I recieved:
  • Strawberry Chipotle Jam (Potlicker Kitchen, Bethal VT)
  • Causey's BBQ Sauce (Causey's BBQ, Atlanta GA)
  • Ohia Lehua Honey (Big Island Bees, Captain Cook, HI)
  • Jalapeno Garlic Olive Oil (Calivirgin, Lodi CA)
  • Original Blend Spice Rub (Ole Man's, New Orleans LA)
  • Fuego Salsa (La Fundidora, Brooklyn NY)
There will definitely be future posts for when I play with these but for the time being, here is some eye candy. Though all of the stuff combined is probably not valued to $20 but if you think about it, you're also saving yourself time because under normal circumstances, how long would it take you to hunt down all these things and it'd cost you way more if you wanted to try them because you'd have to get the actual size. I also like having small samples sizes because it allows me to try more different things without having to "finish" a certain product first before venturing out to another new product.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Filled Cookies!

There comes a time when no matter how much we try, we are forced to grow up and though reluctant to do so, I have reached a new milestone, buying my first car!

I should be excited because everyone else around me seems to be...but personally its the most stressful and daunting thing I've ever been faced with... well okay maybe not to that degree but it has become somewhat stressful as the only thing I know about cars is that it has wheels and it moves faster than walking on two legs. It takes me from point A to point B (with the occasional unexpected C and D when I make the wrong twist and turns) and that's the extent to which I care for them (sorry car lovers, that's just the honest truth).

Ask me about cooking and what type of different kitchen gadgets there are, etc, oh man that'd be my excitement but car shopping... drag...unfortunately because all of the cars in my family except my car has driven their last leg and as I commute the most (nearly 100 miles a day), it made sense that I am the one who takes the leap for the new car and leave my dear old car at home for whoever wants to just drive it around town. My car (who I've named Carlos because he is a car and sometimes slightly loco) is 22 years old with 260k+ miles on it, which means in human years, its 120 with barely any ability to see or hear... still it runs and I am so reluctant to let it go, perhaps because he's my very first car or because we've been through so much together...

Despite this, I decided to make a list and drag myself to a few dealerships to test drive some vehicles to see which ones I liked and to get an idea of how cars move nowadays. A lot has changed in the past 22 years since the making of my car. I have to admit, some of those cars felt pretty good. 

That said, customer service wise, it was hit and miss. The first place I stopped at was awesome, if anyone knows they want to get a Honda and in the south bay area, go to the dealership in Morgan Hill and find Brian, he was extremely helpful and friendly. If anyone looking for a Toyota, don't go to the one in Gilroy. Not only were they unhelpful, they were almost trying to convince me to just go away. Just because I am a girl in her twenties looking at cars by myself does not mean I am not looking to buy or cannot afford a car so don't treat me like I'm a waste of time/effort. Terrible.

I have to say, as a girl, customer service will make or break the deal. We women are emotional creatures, get on our happy side and you are set. Get on the bad side and suffer the wrath! I may or may not still be a little bitter about the way the dealership treated me... needless to say I didn't even get to test drive from another dealership after that trip because I was so upset. I went home and decided I needed something to cheer me up so I went to the place that makes me most excited and happy, the kitchen! Whipped up some delicious cookies!

According to my brother they taste like a Reese's Peanut Butter cup but in the form of a cookie, can't go wrong there! All you peanut butter+ chocolate lovers out there, this is a must try! Its crunchy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside... heavenly...

Chocolate Peanut Butter Filled Cookies
(adapted from Magic in the Middle Cookies from Six Sisters Stuff)
makes approx 26 cookies, 141 calories/cookie via myfitnesspal

Ingredients:
for chocolate dough
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt (pinch)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar + extra for rolling the cookies in
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (creamy)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg + 1 yolk
for peanut butter filling
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (may be creamy or chunky)
  • 1/4 powder sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Procedures:
  1. In a mixing bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt
  2. In another mixing bowl with a mixer, cream together sugar, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla and egg, beat to combine. Stir in dry ingredients (i used a mixer to mix it in)
  3. For filling: mix peanut butter and sugar, roll into 1" balls (I didn't bother with rolling them, I kind of just pinched them into 1/2" blobs, it came out fine)
  4. To shape cookies: scoop approx 1 tbsp cookie dough, roll into a ball, flatten slightly, make indentation with thumb for filling, place filling into groove, fold the dough around the filling, roll into ball. Roll in some sugar, flatten slightly into cookie shape. Repeat
  5. Bake at 375 F degrees for 7-9 minutes

Monday, March 10, 2014

Rice Pilaf!

Have you ever noticed that when things are working out perfectly that the sun shines brighter, the air is more fresh, the clouds fluffier, food tastes like magic, wind is more refreshing and so forth... on the other hand when things take a slight dip towards the other way... well no matter how bright the sun is shining, something seems to be missing.

That's life for you, a bit of sweet and a bit of bitter. But without the bitter how would we know what is so sweet. If it were up to me, I'd prefer more sweet than bitter but life is funny that way, you don't get to pick but you do get to decide what you make of it. 


So sometimes life throws you a curve ball ...or two, doesn't mean you should stop playing. Of course that doesn't make it any less discouraging, especially when it happens. Picking up the pieces is hard but no one but yourself can do that. Two options: stop playing or keep going. Neither decision will change what's already happened, so what's it going to be?

I pick keep going but I definitely won't be moving very fast. There is something about this time of year that I am always hit with some type of a curve ball, right in the chest, it is definitely getting to be a bit overwhelming and cumbersome. 

I guess when you want strawberries and life hands you lemons, instead of making some sweet strawberry jam, you make lemonade instead. Its just a matter of adjusting to a result you don't quite have control over, its not the end of the world...though sometimes you wonder...


Can't say anything is constant in life anymore. As you get older, things just keep coming at you. Long gone were the simple days of cartoons, toys, and what did you bring for school lunches. One thing I know that will remain constant, at least for now, is my love for cooking. Something about it always provides comfort. I know for certain that I love food and I'm sure it loves me back (because bits and pieces of it are clinging onto some parts of me inside that no matter how much running/hiking I do, it won't let go!)  

With that bit of life ramble said, here is my experiment on a rice pilaf. I was craving this a few days back so here it is:


Rice Pilaf
adapted from Alton Brown: Rice Pilaf and Rice Pilaf with Carrots and Parsley
200 calories per serving based on 5 servings 

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup basmati rice (I used brown basmati rice from Trader Joe's)
  • 2 cups of water or stock ( I used chicken stock)
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 lb of carrots (approx 2 large), peeled and thinly sliced
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley 
  • 1/4 cup hot water (to steep saffron)
  • pinch of saffron (optional: I bought some at Trader Joe's for $6)
  • 1/2 cup of mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin (optional)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar (optional)
Procedures:
  1. Rinse rice or soak for 30 minutes to remove any starch. Drain through strainer
  2. Heat stock or water to bare simmer
  3. Steep saffron in hot (but not boiling) water, set aside
  4. Heat butter and oil in a saucepan (approx 3 quarts) over medium heat: add in carrots, onions, mushrooms, salt to taste. Cook until vegetables are soften (approx 3 mins), add in rice. Cook, while stirring, until grains of rice are separate and start to crackle (I did not experience this...). Add in hot water or stock, saffron with its water, cumin and brown sugar (I did not add cumin or brown sugar; they were added onto this recipe because I think it would enhance its flavors). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until liquid is all absorbed
  5. Uncover rice and place a wet clean towel over the top of the pan (without touching the rice). Replace with towel there and allow rice to sit for 10 minutes undisturbed. (I didn't have a clean towel handy so I skipped this step, I just let the rice simmer a bit longer in the previous step at a lower temp
  6. Add parsley and gently fluff rice. Pile pilaf onto a platter to serve.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hazelnut Coffee Crescent Cookies!

Sometimes there is nothing more enjoyable than blasting your favorite tunes in the kitchen while you whip up something delicious, oh! and don't forget a nice warm beverage of choice (which I decided on tea). Especially when it's gloomy/slightly drizzling on and off all day.

These cookies have a very subtle hint of coffee after they finish baking but that's what makes them so great. The original recipe called for instant cappuccino which I didn't have so I did the next best thing and sub for instant coffee and threw in a little bit of cocoa powder to give the coffee flavor an extra boost. The nuttiness from the almond meal paired perfectly with it as well. 

Hazelnut Coffee Crescent Cookies
adapted from Kitchen Nostalgia: Cappuccino Crescent Cookies
makes approx 24 cookies: 93 calories per cookie

Ingredients:
  • 40g instant coffee ( I used hazelnut instant coffee)
  • 1 1/4 cup of flour (150g)
  • 1/8 tsp of baking powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of cocoa powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (or ground walnuts/hazelnuts)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar (50g)
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 g of butter (roughly 7 tbsp)
  • 50g of dark chocolate chips (for glaze)
  • 25 ml of hot water (roughly 1 1/2 tbsp + 1/4 tsp)
Procedures:
  1. Mix instant coffee with hot water until smooth and set aside to cool
  2.  Combine flour, baking powder, almond meal, sugar, and salt. Add in coffee mix and butter to make a dough. Form dough into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Shape cookies into crescents and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for approx 12 minutes or until slightly brown at 350 F degrees
  4. Melt chocolate using by double boiling and then dipped the cooled cookies.