December 31, 2008

Pignoli Amaretti (Pine Nut Cookies)

I had this cookie for the first time in an Italian cafe and had since tried to find the perfect recipe for it. Vance was highly amazed that this cookie recipe does not require flour. Make sure that you get "Almond paste" not "Marzipan" because they are not the same. Also, make sure you get the canned almond paste instead of the tube ones.

2 cans (8 oz.) almond paste
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoon honey
1 cup pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper (I ran out of parchment paper and used non stick aluminum foil, which was a bad idea because it browns the bottom of the cookies faster so try only using parchment paper to line the cookie sheet).

In a food processor, pulse almond paste into small pieces. Add in confectioners sugar and salt. Pulse until it turns into small crumbles. Add in honey and egg white and pulse until well combined.

With a bowl of water next to you, wet your fingers. This is to prevent the sticky batter from sticking to you. Spoon a teaspoon full of batter and with your wet fingers loosen the batter into the cookie sheet. Place cookies about 2-inch apart. Sprinkle some pine nuts on top of the cookie and flattened it a little bit.

Bake cookies in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of cookie sheets halfway through baking until golden. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until lightly browned and soft and springy. Remove from oven and and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

December 27, 2008

Hazelnut Tea Cookies

I haven't been cooking lately especially since December is finals week. I just don't have any time! However, finals are over and now it's time to cook (or bake) again. I was going to bake this for Christmas but I was just too overwhelmed by final exams and papers. I'm making this today to de-stress myself from writing my research proposal the whole day.

I got this Hazelnut Tea Cookie recipe (by Aida Mollencamp) from Food Network's 12 Days Of Cookies 2008. It is also known as Mexican Wedding Cake or Cuban Wedding Cake. Once you have a piece of these light, buttery and nutty cookie you will not stop eating them!

2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups hazelnut, toasted and finely chopped
Additional confectioners sugar for rolling cookies in

Preheat oven to 325 °F. Sieve flour and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter in a mixer for about 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add in confectioners sugar, vanilla essence and half of the nuts. Beat for another 2 minute, until whipped and light. Add in remaining nuts and flour combination into the mixture. Mix well.

Shape dough into 1 teaspoon balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the underside of cookie is brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Place some confectioners sugar in a medium bowl. Roll cookie in confectioners sugar and tap off excess. Let cool completely about 20 minutes. Coat again with confectioners sugar. Tap off excess sugar before serving.

December 13, 2008

Pecan Pie

I love pecan pies. It's actually not that hard to make. Just make sure the pecans are roasted to avoid being chewy.

1 frozen pie crust (9 inch)
2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon molasses (optional)
3 eggs

Roast pecans in the oven on 350°F for 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Thaw pie crust. In a bowl, mix white corn syrup, brown sugar, salt, melted butter, vanilla and molasses until it turns into a smooth batter-like consistency. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add eggs into the batter. Mix.

Pour mixture into pie crust. Sprinkle pecans on top. Place pie on top of a cookie sheet and bake on a 350°F oven.

After 30 minutes, take pie out and line the edges with foil to prevent it from burning.

Put pie back into the oven and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes. Insert a knife into the middle of the pie, if it comes out clean then it's ready. Let it cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve. YUM!

November 27, 2008

Vegan Maple Pumpkin Pie

What is Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie? This is a vegan recipe that will satisfy your vegan and non-vegan guests. A hint of maple syrup does the trick.

1 frozen 9" pie crust (deep pie dish)
1 box silken tofu (14 oz.)
1 can pumpkin puree (15 oz. or about 2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Cream pumpkin puree and sugar with a hand mixer. Add mixture into a blender and blend with tofu. Add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and maple syrup. Blend until mixture is smooth. Add some water if it is too dry. The consistency of the mixture should be that of a thick smoothie.

Preheat oven to 425 °F. Pour mixture into the frozen pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn temperature down to 350 °F and bake for another 45 minutes.

Chill and serve with soy whipped cream or as is.

November 26, 2008

Easy Cranberry Sauce

This is an easy cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries, orange and sugar. It has no gelatin so it's vegetarian and vegan friendly. After making this, you'll never go back to those canned jellied ones. I'm pretty much known in the family for this cranberry sauce.

1 bag cranberries (12 oz.)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Let it sit for at least 12 hours or more in the refrigerator before serving.

October 20, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

Here's a recipe for Pumpkin Bread that I got from the "Pumpkin lady" we met when we were in upstate NY. One of the best ways to utilize the homemade pumpkin puree. This recipes makes two 9 x 5"loaves.

2 cups homemade pumpkin puree (or 1 can 16 oz. can pumpkin puree)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs (beaten)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup water (or 2/3 cup water if using canned pumpkin)

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in a mixing bowl. Add pumpkin puree, sugar, oil, egg and water. Mix until a smooth batter is formed. Add in raisins. Mix.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two loaf pans. Pour batter into the pans and bake for about 1 hour. Check to see if it is done, you might have to bake for a few more minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate. It taste better overnight. Stay relatively good in fridge or freeze for a few weeks.

October 19, 2008

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

We've all used Libby's canned pumpkin puree and we've all often pondered if we can make our own pumpkin puree. Some of us might have even been tempted to buy those pumpkins they see in the supermarket but the only thing they knew what to do with it is carve it into a Jack-O-Lantern. Guess what, your fear is over! Making homemade pumpkin puree is as easy as using a microwave oven ... I'm not joking. Just make sure you buy "pie" pumpkins, they are round and darker in color.

I got some organic pumpkins when I was upstate with Lonnie and this might be the best way to use up the pumpkins before they go bad. You can use the puree to make pies, breads, cheesecakes, cookies, soups, etc. Freeze the puree inside ziplock bags or plastic containers. Also save the seeds for roasting, it makes a good quick snack! Thanks "Pumpkin lady" for giving me the link for some great pumpkin recipes. Check out more Pumpkin recipes at Pumpkin Patches and More

Cut 1 medium sized "pie" pumpkin into quarters. I find using a serrated knife much easier to cut pumpkins, I used my pumpkin carver for that. Scrape the insides with a big spoon. Save the seeds for roasting and discard the stringy stuff.

Line pumpkin skin side up in a microwaveable bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or if the bowl has a cover, cover it. Microwave on high for 25-30 minutes. Check to see if it's fully cooked, if not microwave for another 5-10 minutes. Skin should slide right off when it is thoroughly cooked. Let it cool for about 5 minutes.

Beat the cooked pumpkin with a hand mixer or a hand blender until it turns into a smooth consistency. The puree is now ready to use.

October 18, 2008

Fried Stuffed Tofu Pok

This is one of my favorites, and I remember grandma used to slave over herself making those fish paste from scratch. It's good that they sell ready made fish paste nowadays or I'd be the one slaving over it. Most Chinese supermarkets in New York City have them, either fresh or frozen. Make sure you read the label or ask if there are salt added (there usually is) so you don't over salt the fish paste. This is an easy recipe to make, stuffing fish paste into tofu pockets. It's THAT easy. There are different techniques to stuffing tofu pok and this is what my grandma taught me.

2 packets of tofu pok (2 oz. each)
1 lbs. fish paste
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt (if fish paste is not salted, omit if it is)
Enough oil for frying

Cut tofu pok as shown below. Invert to make a pocket.

Stuff a teaspoonful of fish paste into tofu pok.

Heat oil. Fry tofu pok stuffed side first. Fry until golden brown, a few minutes on each sides.

Drain on paper towel. Serve with chili sauce.

Sweet Baked Butternut Squash

I got some butternut squash with Lonnie last week when we were vacationing in upstate NY. They look really nice and they were organic so I couldn't stop myself from not buying any. Vance told me that his favorite butternut squash recipe is to bake them with brown sugar and butter. This is an easy recipe. You can make this as a side dish or an entree. I'm planning to make this again for Thanksgiving.

2 medium sized butternut squash, cut lengthwise
6 tablespoon butter (or margarine for vegan)
1/2 cup brown sugar

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil, non stick preferably if not spray some cooking spray to prevent it from sticking. Place squash cut side down and bake for 30 minutes on 350 °F.

Combine butter with brown sugar. Turn squash over and glaze with brown sugar mixture. Bake for another 30 minutes, baste regularly.

October 8, 2008

Minced Chicken with Basil (Gai Pad Gra Pow)

This is a quick and easy recipe that only takes minutes to prepare. I used to make this for my mum and we would serve it with white rice and fried eggs.

1 lbs. minced chicken
1 tablespoon chopped Thai chili peppers
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 small onion, sliced
2 cups holy basil leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoon oil

Heat oil on high flame. Add garlic, Thai chili peppers and onion. Fry for about a minute, be careful not to burn the garlic. Add minced chicken. Fry until chicken is dry, about five minutes on high heat. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar and white pepper. Continue frying for a few minutes minute. Add in holy basil. Stir and mix well. Cook for another minute. Remove from heat. Serve hot with white rice and fried eggs (optional).

October 5, 2008

Curry Noodle Soup (Mi Kari)

This is an all time Malaysian favorite, a bowl of piping hot curry soup served with noodles and toppings such as chicken, pork, cockles, shrimp and tofu. It goes with the name Mi Kari or Laksa Kari. I used to eat it at least once a week and I see that Vance is catching on with my childhood craze. While this is not a traditional recipe, it's the closest I can get without buying a plane ticket back to Malaysia. This recipe is quite easy to make, the hardest part is to stop eating it! I've only tasted Ipoh style Curry Noodle Soup so there might be some other variations out there.

Ingredient A:
1 onion, sliced
1 cup red chillies, sliced
1/2 cup dried chillies
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water

1 cup curry powder
1/2 cup Massaman curry paste
1/2 cup oil
1 cinnamon stick
2 sticks lemongrass, halved
3 cans coconut milk (400mL)
2 vegetable or chicken bouillon (2 1/8 oz.)
2 1/2 qts. water
Salt to taste

Chicken breast, poached and shredded
Shrimp, shelled and cooked
Fried tofu cakes, sliced

Yellow noodles, blanched
Bean sprouts, blanched
Mint leaves
Lime, cut into wedges
Fried Onions

Add ingredient A into a food processor or blender and puree into a paste. Mix curry powder and curry paste into the puree. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large pot. When it's hot, add in cinnamon stick and lemongrass. Fry for a minute. Turn heat to low. Add in the pureed spices and fry until it is fragrant, for about 20 minutes. Make sure you stir constantly or the spice would burn. Add in water, coconut milk and bouillon. Turn the heat back up to high. Cover the pot and let it boil. Turn the heat to medium when soup is in rolling boil. Simmer for about an hour and add salt to taste.

To serve, put enough yellow noodle and bean sprouts in a bowl. Top with toppings of your choice (omit chicken and shrimp for vegetarian option) and mint leaves. Pour enough curry soup into the bowl. Sprinkle some fried onions on top. Serve hot with lime wedges.

September 22, 2008

Sweet and Spicy Tofu

Vance stumbled upon this dish in a Chinese grocery store, interestingly enough. It was one of those prepackaged cold food that they sell in a container and he immediately fell in love with this dish, a combination of sweet and spicy sauce on cubes tofu. I did my best to recreate this dish and it came out pretty similar. It is really easy to prepare.

2 boxes medium firm tofu (cut into 1"x1" cubes)
1 teaspoon oil
2 tablespoon ketchup
3 tablespoon Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce
1 tablespoon Huy Fong chili garlic sauce (add more to increase the heat)
Enough oil for deep frying

Deep fry tofu cubes until golden brown. Drain well.

In a wok, heat 1 teaspoon of oil. Add in ketchup, sweet chili sauce and chili garlic sauce. Turn the heat to high and cook until sauce thickens. Add in fried tofu cubes. Toss and cook for a minute. Serve warm or cold.

September 8, 2008

Stir-Fry Chicken with Ginger and Mushroom

I've been really busy since school started and I haven't had the chance to cook especially since now I get home in the late evenings from school and work. This is a quick fix meal that I like to pack to school lunch. Sometimes college food is just plain nasty. I find that some Asian grocery stores refer to "King Oyster mushrooms" as "Prince mushroom". I have no idea why but whatever the name is, it is tasty and meaty (surprisingly).

2 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (about 4 cups)
King Oyster mushroom, cut into bite size pieces (about 8 cup)
4 inch ginger, julienne
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 large shallots, sliced
3 stalks scallion, sliced into 1 inch sticks (about 2 cups)
4 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (optional)

Heat oil in wok until hot. Add shallot, garlic and ginger. Fry until they start to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add in chicken piece. Cook for a few minutes until all sides turns white. Add in mushroom. Stir evenly and add in oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, water and Chinese cooking wine (if you're using it). Stir and fry for a few minutes. Cover the wok for about 5 minutes. Take the cover, cook until sauce thickens. Stir in scallion and turn off the heat. Serve with warm rice.

August 28, 2008

Oven Baked Fried Chicken

I'm been craving fried chicken a lot lately but we all know it's full of grease and has tons of calories! I came up with this recipe by experimenting with my favorite spices and instead of frying it in grease, I opted on baking it on non-stick aluminum foil with some non-stick spray. Marinating chicken with milk before frying will make more tender and juicier, no one wants to eat a piece of dried chicken!

3 chicken breasts, cut into 3 pieces each

Ingredients (A) :
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2 cup milk

1 egg
1 cup Bisquick Original Pancake and Baking Mix
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
non-stick aluminum foil
non-stick cooking spray
ziplock bag

Marinate chicken pieces with ingredient A in a ziplock bag for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight in the fridge.

Take chicken out of the fridge and let it stand until room temperature. Preheat oven to 450 °F.

Whisk egg and pour it into the ziplock. Mix well with chicken pieces. On a plate, combine Bisquick mix, salt and black pepper. Dredge chicken pieces on flour mixture.

Line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil. Spray enough non-stick cooking spray on top of the foil. Arrange chicken pieces on top of foil. Spray more cooking spray on chicken pieces so that it helps to brown and crisp the chicken pieces. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn chicken and bake for another 15 minutes. Check to see if chicken is cook, if not bake for another 5-10 minutes.

August 23, 2008

Banana Cake

Banana cake or kek pisang in Malay is one of my favorite cakes. It brings back memory of childhood where my aunt would bake banana cake for me. Banana cake is much moister than banana bread and best eaten with a cup of tea.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
4 bananas, mashed
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
A pinch of salt

Cream sugar, butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Add one egg at a time into the mixture and beat for a few minutes. When mixture is light and fluffy, add flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt and bananas. Mix.

Preheat oven at 350 °F. Pour mixture into a lightly greased loaf pan. Bake for about an hour. Cake is done when skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

August 22, 2008

Ray's Chicken Curry

My mum loves this curry and it's sorta like stuff of legend in the family. Imagine how devastated she was when I turned vegetarian 3 years ago and would refuse to cook meat. Well good news, I'm not a vegetarian anymore (I can still remember my parents cheering in the background) and I decided to make her this curry for her birthday party since she's been deprived of it for years. This recipe was handed down to me from my grandmother (my mum is a lost cause, ha ha). The curry is much darker but the flash from my camera makes it almost whitish.

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces.
8 medium sized potatoes, cut into large chunks.
Oil, enough for frying.

1 medium sized onion, chopped.
1 tablespoon chopped garlic.
2 cinnamon sticks.
1 teaspoon cloves.
1 teaspoon cumin seeds.
Curry leaves, about 1/2 cup.
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into pieces and bruised.
1/2 cup oil (oil from frying potatoes and chicken).
2 cans coconut milk (480 mL).
1 cup water
Salt to taste

Mix into curry paste:
1 cup Mae Ploy Thai Panang curry paste.
1 cup curry powder.
1 tablespoon turmeric powder.
1 tablespoon red chili powder.
1/2 cup water.

Heat oil in a pot. Fry potatoes until slightly browned. Set aside. Fry chicken pieces in the same oil until slightly browned. Set aside. When oil cools, reserve 1/2 cup of oil and discard the rest.

Heat the reserved oil in a wok or pot on medium heat. Fry cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds and cloves for a few seconds. Add in curry leaves, onion, garlic and lemongrass. Fry until onions are brown. Add in curry paste. Lower the heat and fry curry paste for about 20 minutes until fragrant and oil starts coming out from the curry paste. In Malaysian cooking, this technique is call pecah minyak. If the paste is too dry, add a little bit of coconut milk. Stir constantly so you don't burn the paste.

Add potatoes, chicken, coconut milk and water into the wok or pot. Turn the heat up back to medium. Cover the wok or pot and cook the curry for an hour, stirring frequently so the bottom doesn't burn. Serve with rice, naan, roti canai or nasi kunyit.

August 21, 2008

Turmeric Rice (Nasi Kunyit)

This is one of the Malaysian favorites, usually serve with curry. It's brilliant yellow color comes from turmeric (where this dish's name comes from). I love nasi kunyit a lot when I was in Malaysia, and would eat it quite frequently. This "easier" version uses a rice cooker instead of a steamer. The most important thing to remember when making turmeric rice is not to add too much water or it will stick together like a huge blob.

5 cups glutinous rice (also called sweet rice)
Water (enough to soak the rice)
1 tablespoon turmeric powder

Water (enough to cover the rice)
4 pandan leaves, knotted
1 stalk lemongrass, cut and bruised
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon peppercorn
1 tablespoon salt

Wash and soak rice in water with turmeric powder in a large bowl. Soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Rinse rice and drain well. At this point, the rice should all be stained yellow from the turmeric powder. Add rice, oil, pandan leaves, lemongrass, peppercorn and salt into rice cooker. Add just enough water so that the water level is the same as the rice. Let rice cook. Remove from rice cooker when cooled and serve with curry.

August 20, 2008

Chocolate Frosting

This is one of the two frostings (the other one is Magnolia's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting ) Vance made for mum's birthday cupcakes. This recipe produce enough frosting for 1 dozen cupcakes.

(Magnolia's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Frosting)

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift sugar and cocoa into a large bowl. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, vanilla extract, 1 cup of the sugar cocoa mixture and 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Add another cup of sugar cocoa mixture and heavy cream, beat well. Continue until all ingredients are combined and frosting is smooth and fluffy. Use and store icing in room temperature, it will set if chilled.

August 19, 2008

Magnolia's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

This is one of the two frostings (the other one is a Chocolate Frosting) Vance made for mum's birthday cupcakes. It is the same buttercream frosting used by the famous Magnolia Bakery here in New York City. This recipe produce enough frosting for 2 dozen cupcakes.

(Magnolia's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Frosting)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
8 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
food coloring (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, add butter, milk, vanilla extract and 4 cups of confectioners' sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and creamy. Gradually add in the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time and beat for about 2 minutes every time you add sugar into the mixture. Beat until the icing is thick enough with a good spreading consistency. You might not need all 8 cups of confectioners' sugar. Add a few drops of food coloring if you like. Use and store icing in room temperature, it will set if chilled.

August 9, 2008

Grandma's Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

This is one of the quintessential Chinese sweet dessert soups or tong sui (meaning sugar water literally). I remember shelling and skinning these ginkgo nuts for my grandma before she would make me this dessert. Though I cherish the memories, I am glad that they now sell packaged shelled and skinned ginkgo nuts. Even though this is a Chinese sweet dessert soup, the use of pandan (screwpine) leaves makes it truly Malaysian. Not only is this dessert soup tasty it is actually good for your health as well. I remember my grandma telling me that the ginkgo nut, barley and bean curd sheet lower bad cholesterol, improve memories and rejuvenate skin. All the ingredients below are easily available in any Asian grocery stories.

6 quart water
1 1/2 cups ginkgo nut (shelled and skinned)
1 cup barley
14 oz. rock sugar or to taste
3 pandan leaves (knotted)
2 cups bean curd sheet (break into small pieces)

Soak bean curd sheet in water for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Wash barley and ginkgo nut until water runs clear. Set aside.

In a large pot, add water, ginkgo nut, barley, pandan leaves and bean curd sheet. When mixture boils, turn the flame down to low and cook for 2 hours. Add in rock sugar. Cook for another 30 minutes. Discard the pandan leaves. Serve hot or cold, depending on your preference. This dessert soup keeps for about a week in the fridge.

August 4, 2008

Spicy Chicken Cacciatore

I love Chicken Cacciatore and I remember making it for the first time when I was in Malaysia about 10 years ago. I jazzed the recipe up by adding red pepper flakes to make it spicy. Just omit the red pepper flakes if you don't want the stew to be spicy. This stew is even better a day or two after it's made. Add some sugar into the stew to cut the tomato's acidity down.

5 chicken thighs and 2 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoon oil

1 medium onion, sliced
2 green pepper, sliced
2 cups mushroom, sliced
2 cups baby carrot
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 can tomato puree (29 oz.)
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Marinate chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Coat with flour. Heat oil. Brown chicken pieces and then set aside.

Saute onion and garlic in the same oil. Add red pepper flakes. When the oil turns red, add in basil, oregano, mushroom, green pepper and baby carrot. Saute for a few minutes. Stir in tomato puree, chicken stock and bay leaves. When sauce starts boiling, add in the browned chicken pieces. Cover and let it simmer on medium heat for about an hour. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Stir occasionally.

Serve warm with pasta and Parmesan cheese.

August 3, 2008


This is my first attempt to make Pflaumenkuchen, a German Plum Cake that is good with whipped cream and a cup of coffee. Pflaumen in German means "plums" and kuchen means 'cake". I have been wanting to make this cake for a very long time but weren't able to find the plums used in this recipe. It calls for "Italian plums" and it is usually in season around June. The cake is not too sweet and it highlights the plums tanginess and freshness. If your plums are too sour, you should sprinkle some powdered sugar on top of the cake before serving. Makes 10 servings, about 300 calories per serving. Here's the recipe:

1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 lbs Italian plums
1 cup walnut, chopped
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cream butter with sugar. Add eggs and mix. Fold in milk, vanilla, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix evenly until it becomes a batter. The batter should look like a slightly thicker cake mix batter.

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Grease a jelly pan and spread batter evenly in the pan (You don't have to grease the pan if it's non stick).

Wash and pit the plums. Cut them in halves or quarters. Place plums skin down in close rows, pressing slightly into the batter. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of the plums and then add in chopped walnuts. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is done.

July 29, 2008

Aloo Gobhi

This recipe is for Kristen, a friend of us who lives in Connecticut. She's not tolerant at all with spicy food but would like to try a curry/Indian dish. This dish is not too spicy, and is very forgiving with the amount of chillies used. Aloo Gobhi literally means potato (Aloo) and cauliflower (Gobhi) in Hindi. This dish is really a spiced potato and cauliflower dish, not SPICY potato and cauliflower dish. So, for those that can't stand the heat of curry or Indian food this is the dish for you. This dish is good with chappati, naan, rice or even toast.

1 medium sized cauliflower, cut into florets
5 medium sized potatoes
1 green chili, sliced (adjust to taste)
1 cup frozen green pea, thawed
2 cup cherry tomato or 1 cup chopped tomato
1 medium sized onion, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

Boil potatoes with skin on in a pot. When potatoes are cooked, peel skin and cut into bite size pieces. Set aside. Boil cauliflower for 3 minutes, or until al dente. Set aside.

Heat oil on medium heat. Add cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds. Add onions, garlic, ginger and green chillies. Fry until onions are translucent. Add curry powder and turmeric powder. Fry for 1 minute and then add potatoes, cauliflower and tomatoes. Add water. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes. Add green peas. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in coriander leaves. Serve.

July 28, 2008

Easy Strawberry and Cream Tartlets

I bought 2 boxes of strawberries last week and it seems like they are not gonna make it in a few days. So, I chopped them up and use them to make a filling. It's less forgiving than slicing them and using them on top pies. You can make the tartlet shells from scratch but then it wouldn't be "Easy Strawberry and Cream Tartlets". The tartlets came out a bit browner than I would have loved it to be but nonetheless, tasty.

24 frozen tart shells
Whipped cream for topping

For strawberry filling:
3 cups strawberries, roughly chopped
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 lime, for zests and juice

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until filling thickens, about 20 minutes. Set aside and let filling cool. This makes about 2 cups of filling.

Bake frozen tart shells according to instructions. Remove from oven when shells starts to turn brownish, usually about 15-20 minutes. Fill shells with a tablespoon of strawberry filling.

Turn oven to 375 °F and return the tartlets into the oven for another 10 minutes. Let tartlets cool. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

July 25, 2008

Mushroom Gravy

This is my favorite gravy recipe for meatless meatloaf, mashed potato or anything that calls for gravy! It is thicken by roux, a French sauce thickening technique where you fry flour with lard or oil to create a thickening base. Some people are afraid to make roux sauces but trust me, it is easy. Two tips to remember: Always keep the flame low so you don't burn the flour and stir constantly. If you remember to do both then you will have no problem making roux sauces. Here's my recipe for Mushroom Gravy. To make this a vegan recipe, simply omit milk and use 3 cups of water instead of 2 cups.

1 box baby Bella mushrooms (10 oz.), sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoon chopped garlic
5 tablespoon olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1 can (14 oz.) vegetable broth or chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a saucepan. Sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add bay leaves. Cook until onion starts to brown in the edges. Add in flour. Lower the heat. Stir constantly until it turns into a paste consistency.

Keep stirring constantly and fry the flour paste until it turns brown and smells nutty (it should have the same color as a pie crust and smell like one). Set the roux aside.

Using the same saucepan, add in sliced mushrooms. Sweat mushrooms until they are soft. Moisture from the mushroom will deglaze the saucepan, so don't worry about bits of roux stuck in the saucepan. Add broth and let it boil. Return the roux into the saucepan. Stir and combine the roux with the broth. Add water and milk. Keep stirring so the sauce doesn't burn. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Meatless meatloaf or mashed potato.

July 24, 2008

Meatless Meatloaf

I’ve been making this vegetarian meatloaf for Thanksgiving substituting a turkey for the past 2 years now and everyone loves it. Of course you don’t have to wait till Thanksgiving to make this tasty and easy dish. Don’t be scared by the list of ingredients either, all you need is to assemble them and the rest is mix and bake! What's easier than recipe with pictures, right?

This can be modified into a vegan recipe by substituting eggs with cornstarch. You can make this for dinner and use the leftovers for sandwich with ketchup and mustard. It keeps for about a week.

Ingredients (A)

2 cups celery, chopped
2 cups green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups baby Bella mushroom, chopped
2 cups carrot, shredded
2 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon dried pepper flakes
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients (B)

2 boxes silk tofu (19 oz. each), mashed
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 cups instant mashed potato flakes
2 eggs, slightly beaten (for vegan recipe: substitute eggs by mixing 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoon of water)
1 packet Lipton Onion soup and dip mix
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Heat oil and sauté onion and garlic. When onion looks translucent, add basil, oregano and pepper flakes. Fry for a few seconds and then add celery, green pepper and mushroom. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrot and fry until the mixture is dry. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and let it cool.

Combine Ingredient (B) in a large mixing bowl. If your mashed tofu is lumpy, you can whisk it for a few seconds until it smooths out.

Fold in Ingredient (A). Preheat oven to 380 ºF. Grease two loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. Fold mixture into the loaf pans and bake for an hour or when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve with gravy or ketchup and mustard.

July 23, 2008

Kabocha Curry

Vance once had kabocha curry before in a Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant in Chinatown and has been craving them ever since. The restaurant is no longer in business and I have never tasted the dish before so recreating it is rather difficult. Here is my version of the kabocha curry. I don't want to make it too spicy so you can actually taste the sweetness of the kabocha. Vance hates Japanese curry because it is thickened by "roux" instead of coconut milk and he doesn't like the consistency. So, this is a modified Japanese curry that's thickened by coconut milk instead of roux.

1 small kabocha, leave the skin on and cut into cubes.
2 cups baby carrots.
1 cup celery, chopped.
2 cups frozen green peas, thawed.
1 medium sized onion, quartered and chopped.
2 cloves garlic, chopped.
2 cups water.
1 can coconut milk (480 mL).
3 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon sugar.
salt to taste.

Ingredients (A)
1/2 cup water.
1/2 cup curry powder.
2 tablespoon red chili powder.

Heat oil on high heat. Add onion and garlic, fry until onion is translucent. Combine ingredients (A) into a curry paste. Lower the heat to medium and add curry paste. Fry for a few minutes until aromatic. Add kabocha, carrots, celery and 2 cups of water. Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Add coconut milk, sugar and salt. Cook for another 15 minutes. Add green peas and cook for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Serve warm with white rice.

July 21, 2008

Mushrooms and Shrimp Stir Fry

I love mushrooms, any kind of mushrooms. My favorite are to make stir fry out of them or sauteing them. Just omit the shrimp if you want to make it vegetarian. Marinating shrimp with corn starch and sugar will prevent it from becoming dry and chewy. Instead, it gives it a nice and crunchy texture. The corn starch also act as a thickening agent when it's returned into the dish. This is a great dish to eat with steamed rice. You can get Lee Kum Kee Oyster Sauce or Vegetarian Mushroom Flavored Stir-Fry Sauce from local Asian supermarkets.

4 cups of mushrooms (I used a variety of fresh Shiitake, Oyster and King Oyster).
3 cloves garlic, chopped.
1 inch fresh ginger, sliced thinly horizontally.
1 cup onions, sliced.
2 tablespoon oil.
2 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Oyster Sauce or Lee Kum Kee Vegetarian Mushroom Flavored Stir-Fry Sauce.
3 tablespoon soy sauce.
2 tablespoon sesame oil.
3/4 cup water.
salt and white pepper to taste.

1 lb. peeled shrimp.
1 tablespoon oil.

Ingredients (A)

1 tablespoon soy sauce.
1 teaspoon sugar.
1 tablespoon corn starch.

Marinate shrimp with ingredients (A) for 5 minutes. Heat wok or pan on high flame. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add marinated shrimp when the oil is hot, fry for a few minutes until shrimp turns pink. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp (We're returning the shrimp into the dish so don't worry if it is not fully cooked). Set the shrimp aside.

Heat wok or pan again on high flame. Add 2 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add ginger, onion and garlic. Fry until onions are translucent. Add oyster sauce and soy sauce. Fry until the sauce is bubbly. Add mushrooms. Fry mushrooms for a few minutes. Add water and cover for about 5 minutes (this should sweat the mushrooms and you will end up with more than the initial liquid added into the wok or pan). Return the cooked shrimp and stir. Fry for about 5 minutes until shrimp are fully cooked and sauce thickens. Season with salt and white pepper. Serve warm.

July 7, 2008

Mum's Quick and Easy Onion Soup Dip

Vance's mum, Debbie Marks lives in Woodstock Valley, CT and every time we went up to visit her she would make this dip for us with a bag of potato chips. Vance loves this dip. It's simple and easy, and takes less than 5 minutes to prepare.

Mix 1 tub of sour cream (12 oz.) and 1 packet onion soup mix in a dip bowl. Let it stand for about an hour so moisture inside the sour cream rehydrates the bits and pieces of dried onions in the soup mix. Serve with potato chips, crackers or vegetables (cut into sticks) such as celeries, carrots, peppers and cucumbers. This dip can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

July 6, 2008

Alex and Kristen's Pancakes

Our friends Kristen and Alex made us really good pancakes when we stayed over at their house in Andover, CT. She e-mailed me this recipe from The Joy of Cooking. Enjoy.

Prepare and preheat your griddle (or skillet)
Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk together in another bowl:
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until combined. If you wish, fold in one of the following:
1/2 cup plump raisins or other very finely dried fruit
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries or rasberries
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts, toasted
1/2 cup thinly sliced bananas
1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup shredded semi-sweetened dried coconut
1/4 cup grated semisweet or milk chocolate

Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake, nudging the batter into rounds. Cook until the top of each pancake is speckled with bubbles and some bubbles have popped open, then turn and cook until the underside is lightly browned. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you finish cooking the rest. Serve with maple syrup or honey and pats of butter.

Makes 12, 5 inch cakes.

June 30, 2008

Taco Stuffed Peppers

I made this stuffed peppers recipe with my partner in mind. Since he is a vegetarian, I have to stuff them with something that would hold the flavor of taco seasoning yet has the same texture as cooked ground beef so I crumbled firm tofu to mimic the texture and consistency.

10 green peppers, halved and deseeded.
1 package firm tofu, crumbled (19 oz.)
1 can corn (11 oz.)
1 can small red beans (29 oz.)
2 package taco seasoning (1.25 oz. each)
2 cloves garlic, chopped.
1 medium onion, chopped.
1 can tomato sauce (29 oz.)
2 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp chili powder
1 cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil and add in garlic and onions. Cook until onions are translucent and then add in crumbled tofu. Add tomato sauce, water, taco seasoning and chili powder. Mix and cook in medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add in corn and beans. Stir and cook until the mixture is dry. Add chopped cilantro. Set aside and let it cool.

Stuff peppers with cooled mixture. Bake in a covered casserole dish at 400 °F for 30 minutes and uncovered for another 10 minutes. You can serve stuffed peppers with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese or just eat them as is if you want to make this vegan.

June 29, 2008

Ray's Easy Cocktail Sausages

One of the two appetizers I made for the Pride potluck.

3 bags cocktail sausages (450g each)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sesame oil

Combine everything in a baking dish. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens and sausages are browned.

* Some cocktail sausages are very high in sodium. If they are, substitute 2 tbsp of soy sauce with 2 tbsp of water. You can omit sesame oil if you don't have them, it's really just for the flavor.

June 27, 2008

Ray's Baked Chicken Wings

I made this for a party and it was great! If you can't find Chinese five spice powder, you can omit it but it gives it a more complex flavor.

5 lbs chicken wings (disjointed, discard wing tip)
1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup curry powder
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp Chinese five spice powder (optional)

Combine everything except the chicken wings. Pour the marinate mixture into chicken. Cover and marinate overnight, or at least 3 hours.

Arrange chicken in a baking dish. Bake at 425ºF for about 20-30 minutes, baste frequently until cooked.

June 20, 2008

Grandma's Vegetable Soup

My grandma used to make this soup for me when I was a kid and she would tell me that if I finish them I'll grow up to be a handsome kid. Of course I was 6 so I bought the idea and would look forward to her making this soup. She wasn't really wrong, this soup is packed with nutrients and vitamins from the vegetables. She made this soup with chicken but I'm modifying it to be vegetarian recipe. If you were to add chicken into the soup, cut vegetables into larger chunks and increase the cooking time to an extra hour. Serves 5.
  • 8 medium sized potatoes (cut into large chunks)
  • 6 medium sized carrots (cut into large chunks)
  • 8 stalks of celery (cut into 2" sticks)
  • 1 medium onion (quartered)
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes (quartered)
  • 2 quartz of water
  • Salt to taste
  • *1 tablespoon white peppercorn (optional) [White peppercorn gives the soup a spicy kick. If you can't find them, you can just add some grind pepper before serving.]
  • *2 pieces of skinless chicken thigh or a piece of skinless chicken breast (optional)
Add all the ingredients into a pot and let it boil on high heat. Once it boils, lower the heat to medium. Cover the pot. Let it simmer for about 3 hours, 4 hours if you add chicken. Add salt to taste.

June 17, 2008

Macaroni and Veggie Casserole

I made this with cauliflower and broccoli to bulk up the macaroni casserole. It's one of those days when I try to make something quick with things in my pantry yet trying to keep it low calorie. This recipe serves 6, about 285 per serving.
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli (16 oz.)
  • 1 bag frozen cauliflower
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoon dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Microwave frozen broccoli and cauliflower on high for 10 minutes. Cook and drain macaroni. Combine broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and macaroni in a casserole dish.

Heat saucepan on medium heat and put in the margarine. Add garlic and onion and saute until onions are translucent. Add in dried basil. Add flour into mixture and stir constantly. Be careful not to burn the flour, stirring constantly. Cook the flour mixture for about 2 minutes. Add water and milk. If the mixture becomes lumpy, use a whisk to smooth it out. Add in shredded cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce mixture on top of the vegetables and pasta. Mix evenly. Sprinkle bread crumbles and paprika on top of the casserole. Bake at 350 °F for 30 minutes.

June 16, 2008

Chocolate Cherry Cake

I love a good Black Forest Cake but most of the time the ones they have at the diner or the Italian bakery near my house is pretty gross. I modified the recipe by putting cherry pie filling into a chocolate cake mix for an easy, quick and lower calorie twist. I'm using "light" cherry pie filling to reduce the calorie but regular cherry pie filling would do just fine. This recipe makes 20 servings, 131 calories each.
  • 1 box Devil Foods Cake Mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can 20 oz. Cherry Pie Filling
  • Whipped cream
Preheat oven at 350 °F. Mix ingredients and pour the batter into a greased loaf pan or a cake pan. Bake for about 60 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream.

June 7, 2008

Ray's Easy Pineapple Cake

I first made this cake when I threw a party and wanted to make a dessert but I'm short on time. So I mixed yellow cake mix with crushed pineapple to give a plain old yellow cake some flair. I am, and still are a huge fan of Rachel Ray so just like her I hate baking. This recipe is quite easy even for someone who hates baking like me. It's a fairly low calorie and moist cake. Makes 10 servings, each slice has 275 calories.
  • 1 (18.25 oz.) box any yellow cake mix (I’m using French Vanilla)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple with pineapple juice (instead of heavy syrup)
Preheat oven to 325 ºF. Grease the sides and bottom of pan or bundt with nonstick spray. Dust a little flour on the sides and bottom as well.

Mix all of the ingredients except crushed pineapple in a large bowl for about 2 minutes. Add in the crushed pineapple and mix.

Pour batter in pan or bundt. Bake for about 55 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for about 20 minutes before you take the cake out of the pan or bundt. Make sure the cake is completely cooled. This is a really moist cake so no need for frosting or icing. Enjoy!

June 4, 2008


My first Omusoba was at Go Japanese Restaurant in Astor Place. For those who doesn't know what it is it's an omelet with yakisoba filling topped with Tonkatsu sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, dried seaweed flakes, bonito flakes and gari (pickled ginger).

This is a fairly simple recipe, you can substitute yakisoba noodles with ramen noodles and bean sprouts with julienne carrots and cabbage. You can also add in julienne pork or chicken. Just use 1/2 cup of vegetables 1/2 cup of meat instead of a cup of vegetables. To make this a vegetarian recipe, just omit the bonito flakes.
  • 2 packets yakisoba noodles
  • 2 packets yakisoba seasoning (comes with the yakisoba noodle)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon oil
  • Tonkatsu sauce
  • Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie brand)
  • Dried seaweed flakes
  • Bonito flakes
  • Gari (pickled ginger)

Add 1 teaspoon of oil in the wok. Turn it on high heat. Add in the yakisoba noodles, the seasoning, bean sprouts and soy sauce. Fry the noodles for a few minutes, if it is too dry add some water. Add in some Tonkatsu sauce (add more if you like your noodle saucy). Set aside the yakisoba.

Add the remaining oil into the wok. Break 3 eggs into the wok on medium heat to make an omelet. Put the yakisoba on the omelet and fold it into a semi circle.

Serve the Omusoba with more Tonkatsu sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, dried seaweed flakes, bonito flakes and gari. Dig in!

May 31, 2008

Ray's Vegetable Curry

I learn how to make this from my grandma when I was living in Malaysia. I'm modifying the recipe to suit Vance's taste. If you like eggplant and okra, you can also put them into the curry.

The cast of the vegetable curry
  • 4 cups cauliflower (cut into florets)
  • 3 cups string beans (cut into 3” pieces)
  • 4 carrots (cut into chunks)
  • 5 potatoes (cut into chunks)
  • 4 oz. fried bean curd
  • 5 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 medium sized onion (chopped)
  • 3 stalks lemongrass
  • ½ cup curry leaves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup curry powder
  • 1 cup chilli paste
  • 1 tablespoon red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 cans coconut milk (480mL each)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste
Heat oil in the wok or pot in medium heat. Add in chopped garlic and onion when the oil is hot. Fry until it turns slightly brown. Add in lemongrass, curry leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves and cumin seeds. Fry until the onions turned brown but be careful not to burn them.

 Stir in curry powder, chilli paste, red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Add 1 cup of water and stir them into a paste. Turn the heat to low.

Stir occasionally for about 15 minutes until the spices are fragrant. You can add in a little bit of coconut milk if they spices are too dry.

Add in string beans, potatoes and carrots. Pour the remaining coconut milk and 4 cups of water. Cover the wok or pot and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Add in cauliflower and fried bean curd. Stir. Cook for 5 more minutes. Season with salt. You can serve the curry with rice or bread.