Thursday, May 31, 2012

Naples 45

Today for lunch I went to Naples 45, the uberly duperly upscale Italian restaurant. They have a daily half off pizza special after 2pm.

I got a gigantic corner slice of margherita pizza made with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil for only $2.45. I almost couldn't believe that was considered a slice of pizza.

Margherita DOC

The crust was uber thin and pretty chewy. It's got this nice toasty texture akin to sourdough, but without the sourness.

The tomatoes were fresh - at times the sourness could be a little overpowering, but you have to appreciate its freshness. The mozzarella was probably the best part - large chunks scattered across the thin crust. It doesn't have that much flavor, but you can shake on lots of fixings to suit your taste.

Next time I would like to try the Pepperoni flavor. They took out this freshly baked pie just when I paid.

Pepperoni pizza with spice sausage

Perhaps the best thing about it is that even for health conscious people like me, that huge slice wasn't all that much, because of the extremely thin crust. I pulled my slice apart and rolled it up for easy grazing. Hubby though didn't think it was all that special, but I liked the subtle mildness of it.

Simple Pleasures

Oftentimes the best things in life are the simplest.

Today for breakfast I had some whole wheat honey nut Cheerios with blueberry.

The best part of it is the sugary milk that is left after you finish all the cereal. There's another idea - honey flavored milk!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Funky Asian Snacks

How do you like to eat your crackers?

Apparently Kraft is catering to the Chinese population by providing funky Orea (pronounced ow-li-ow ni Chinese) flavours like birthday cake, green tea, ice cream, mango and mandarin orange.

The original peanut-butter and cheese fillings is replaced with “fantastic beef stew” and “very spicy chicken”. It’s also trying to tap into the health conscious crowd with flavours such as red date and sesame.

Reminds me of the awesome green tea and black sesame corn flakes I once had in Korea. If only they can sell them here! 

But I did find these delicacies at a Chinese supermarket:

Asian snack pack

They are in clockwise order from the bottom left:

- Crunchy spicy tempura seaweed
- Tea-flavoured tofu
- Green tea nougat
- Sesame saltine crackers
- Green tea cakes
- Cappuccino flavored wafers
- Sweet yam crackers
- Green tea egg roll

Don't be scared, they're not all for me. You know Nelly's song "I'm like a bird, I just wanna fly"? Well,   I'm like a bird, I just wanna bite of everything =)

And of course to top it all off, a giant lolly!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Buttermilk Pancakes

Memorial Day morning, I made hubby some pancakes.

Because I put some heart in it, it turned out nicely, unlike my usual ones that are charred or bruised (like the one I made for myself on this day).


Top on some blueberries and maple syrup and you get your own made-at-home dinner-style pancakes (without the lard!)


Crack Pie

Last weekend we went to Momofuku Milkbar in East Village to try some Crack Pie.

Crack Pie

The filling is insanely delish, except you can't really make out what it is other than butter and milk and cream and sugar. It's a spongy, tender, almost cheesecake-like substance. An examination of the ingredients confirms the theory - the top four ingredients matches our guestimates almost exactly.

This would really taste great with some green tea to wash down the intense flavor. But it doesn't get sickening like some other desserts. Try some, it's wack.

Momofuku Milkbar

**** (4/5 stars)

A Splash of Colour

Today after an eventful day at work where I tried my hand at something new in just about everything that I did,  I decided to venture into new territory.

Gnocchi with Soy Sauce

Half a package of gnocchi
Chicken Stock
Soy Sauce

This is basically the same recipe as the last gnocchi, except I dosed on a sugary-soy sauce mixture. About 2 teaspoons of sugar and a generous splash of soy sauce. It tasted absolutely fabulous. The slight sweetness of the chewy gnocchi pairs nicely with the saltiness of the soy sauce. 

Summer Squash

Fresh squash
Fresh/frozen green peas
Mushrooms cut into bitable pieces
Soy sauce
Hoisin sauce

1.     Boil the squash. I used the left-over stock-water from the gnocchi. Alternatively, you can steam it if you want to retain more of the nutrients.

2.     Heat up a frying pan. Put in half a tablespoon of butter, or as much as you want =)

3.     Drop in the onions. Hear the sizzling!

It’s a real simple recipe that you can whip up in minutes. The hoisin sauce really brings out the freshness and sweetness of the squash. The green peas add some nice color that's in tune with the season, while the mushrooms add some additional texture. 

Summer Squash

I did the whole meal plus tomorrow’s lunch (while waiting for the gnocchi and square to boil) in half an hour.

In order to cool off from the heat, I busted out our new blender with this:

Blueberry-Raspberry-Watermelon Goodness

Chunks of Watermelon
3-6 ice cubes (mine was green tea ice)

Flower power ice cubes (the slightly green ones are green tea)

a handful of blueberries
1 mini Dannon yogurt (mine was Raspberry flavoured)

Drop in all the ingredients

Let me stress that it is very important to read the instructions before using a blender. I however, did not.

I dumped in the watermelon and some watermelon juice into the blender alongside with the other ingredients. When I transferred it to an adjacent table near the plug, all the juice dripped out!

Yea, don’t be lazy like me. Take that out that instruction manual and read it before using. Apparently you’re supposed to turn the blender container upside-down before installing the blade part to secure it tightly.

Also because the cords in my place is not properly installed (either too short or not near the kitchen), I had to actually hold up the blender to reach it.

But alas, it was well worth the pain. Thankfully, I just had to pulse it for a few seconds and voila! This wonderful concoction can be altered however you want it to fit your taste buds.

Ahhh…relaxation…and I’m now sipping on it while writing up this blog! (Not thinking about the mountain of dishes right 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Packed with a Bang

Like all good wives, I'm constantly exploring ways to spice up my hubby's lunch to make it healthy yet exciting.

Last week I tried a guacamole-cucumber jalapeƱo beefwich, which sounds quite gourmet but failed miserably because he said the guacamole was mushy and made the sandwich taste weird.

So I looked on NY Mag's Grub Street for some ideas on yum-wiches. Being a banana-nut, I loved The Elvis - peanut butter, bacon, banana and honey on white toast - by Peanut Butter & Co. That would probably be a great breakfast hit.

Another one I'd like to try is the $2 poor man's Beijing sandwich from Chinatown- Sesame Pancake with thin slices of beef, pickled carrots, cucumbers and cilantro. One spin-off idea is Peking duck crepe - slices of duck, green onions, and the oh-so-delicious brown sauce wrapped a thin scallion crepe. I think that'll be a definite food-truck hit.

The Venezuelan patacone sounds pretty exotic, with two slices of fried plantain to replace boring slices of bread. Not exactly sure how to fry it up in the morning and keep it fresh to last til lunch though.

Men's Health has some pretty good sandwich ideas too that has been tested and tried by The Minimalist Mark Bittman (one of my fav chefs to deliver the simplest meals with the biggest bang). I'd like to try the Pear and Cheese and Eggplant Parmwiches.

Looking at these sandwiches can get you pretty hungry rather quickly, so I went to the market to experi-wich right away.

My first creation was this tuna-cucumber-hummus sandwich. It was basically made with everything I thought was edible in my fridge, namely, cucumbers, tuna, ham, cream cheese and hummus.

Cucumber-tuna-ham-hummus wich

The result?

Boo...hubby said it tasted kinda funky. He likes his dan-wich way better - ham, sausage, cheese, more cheese, and honey maple mustard.

This is a lot easier to make anyways =)

Finally there was this fruity salad, comprised of lettuce, cucumbers, yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, whew I'm getting tired listing all this stuff, onions, and some blackberries on top. I didn't have a small container to carry the salad dressing, so he brought the entire dressing bottle to work. 

Fruity salad

The verdict?

He was hungry an hour later, and went to grab some pizza. Boo. Next time I should put in some protein. 

If you've got any ideas/suggestions for healthy, hassel-free lunches, feel free to share =)

I Scream 4 Ice Cream!

The other day in Chinatown we stopped by Chinatown's infamous ice cream factory. I laughed out loud when I saw this...

Linsanity Flavoured Ice Cream

...and I immediately texted it to my Linsanity-crazed friend. I'm not too fond of sprinkles, so I didn't get it, much to her dismay.

I was feeling like something crunchy, so I vetoed all the Asian flavors like red bean, taro, sesame, lychee, green tea (which I didn't see!) and went for....

Mocha java

It was pretty crunchy and satisfied my caffeine cravings, but I regretted it after a few bites. Should have gone for the authentic Asian flavors. 

On a separate occasion, we were taking a nice long walk along Long Island City's boardwalk and saw an ice cream/frozen yogurt food truck. I wanted a crushed cookies frozen yogurt, but they ran out, so we got the chocolate peanut sundae instead.

Scenic Ice Cream

The ice cream surrounded by a bed of crushed peanuts was lovely. The ice cream itself wasn't too sweet, so the chocolatey sauce around it upped the flavor. 

We sat on the park chairs that resembled beach chairs, deliciously enjoying a scenic view of New York. Perfect way to end a summer night.


Yesterday was hubby and I went to Watawa, a hip Japanese joint in Astoria. It was already pretty crowded when we got there, but we managed to grab a seat outside to enjoy the nice weather.

Beer pitcher sized green tea

I started off with a glass of green tea. Now most green teas that I've seen come in really petit sizes, but this one was ginormous!


You can't really go wrong when you cook edemame, but the salt sprinkled on top of this was too salty for my palates. Although we cleared the dish, it was not an enjoyable experience.

Miso Soup

The miso soup that came with the scallops was worth complimenting. It was just the right combination of miso, tofu and seaweed.  The seaweed was not really fresh, as it was hard to chew and even harder to swallow. 

Scallops with asparagus, broccoli and vegetable salad

Hubby's entree looked very enticing. The scallops were nicely seared, and the color complemented the greens nicely. 

I tried a scallop, and to my surprise, it was pretty hard to chew. Probably because it was frozen solid before. That and there was not that much taste. You had to dip it in the sweet soy sauce around it. The asparagus tasted alright. 

Ocean Roll

I ordered the Ocean Roll with lobster, tempura bits, avocado, wrapped in some kind of vegetable seaweed skin. It was kind of bland tasting, and the lobster was again, hard to chew. Couldn't really decipher what kind of meat it was, just tasted kind of rubbery. 

Xsection of a Ocean Roll

While I'm not too fond of their clubby-ish decor, the service was quite expedient. From being seated down to paying, we were served by at least 5 different servers, one for each dish. They do have a well-developed system of attending to their patrons. 

This was not worth the hype, which is probably why all the people above 30 walking past was staring curiously at the restaurant. 


** (2/5 stars)
Good for small parties

Friday, May 25, 2012

Crabby Day

So it was a crabby day at work today, and what better way to relish the crabbiness than to make crab cakes!

Hubby and I both love imitation crab (we think it's better than the real deal), and we happened to pick some up last time we went grocery shopping.

I read up some crab cake recipes, and it seemed pretty easy to make. Only thing was that I couldn't find any crackers (recommended one was Ritz) at our local grocery store, so I replaced it with some bread crumbs instead.

What may be a pricy item in fancy-shmancy restaurants is actually incredibly easy to make. Here's my tweaked recipe of...

Colourful Crabcakes

3 strips of imitation crabmeat, minced into fine pieces
1/2 bell pepper (in any color), minced into itsy-bitsy pieces
1 scallion, minced into small (I'm running out of words here) pieces
3 tablespoon of seasoned bread crumbs, or you can replace with minced crackers
1 egg
half a lemon
few drops of soy sauce
pinch of salt and pepper
flour for dusting
1 tablespoon mayonaise

1. Prepare all need-to-cut ingredients.

Choppin it up

2. Combine everything in a measure cup or a bowl and give it a good mix. Squeeze in the half lemon. It would look like a festive medley of colors.

3. Shape into patties and dust both sides with flour. One tip is to use a separate plate, put a layer of flour first and then layer the (soggy) cake on top, then dust it off with more flour. It might not hold together, so use a stirring spoon or fork to move it gently transfer onto the frying pan

4. Heat up the frying pan with butter or oil. I used some butter to make it more flavorful.

Fry it up!

You can put it on high heat first, but it takes some time to cook until the white flour turns color, so make sure to turn the heat down or else the inside will be overcooked. Add some more oil if its taking too long to cook. It's done when the color turns yellowish-brown. Don't worry if it looks a little burnt.

5. Transfer onto a plate, or if you want, you can drain out the additional oil/butter first on a paper towel.

I also made some creamy mashed potatoes to complement the crab cakes. Here's my rendition of...

Christmas in May

1 large baking potato, boiled and mashed
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon mayonaise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup of green peas, steamed
1 tablespoon cranberry
salt and pepper to taste

Remember the potato I cooked from the left-over chicken stock from the instant noodle day? Well I'm putting it to good use. It took considerable work to mash up the potatoes, but I must say it was therapeutic. Since I had a crabby day, it was almost as if I was punching a smallish mashable bag.

1. Mash up the potatoes after it is thoroughly boiled. Poke it with a fork. It should be soft all around the surface.

2. Drop in the butter and continue mixing. If the butter hasn't been thawed, you may need to microwave it for 30s to melt it.

3. Mix with mayonnaise and olive oil. I went heavy on the pepper, but didn't need to put any salt because its was salty enough with the infused chicken-stock and the other ingredients.

4. I don't have a steamer, so I boiled some water, and put the frozen peas in a cup, then put the cup inside the pot and let it steam internally. It's done when the water finishes boiling.

5. Mix in the peas and cranberries. Should look like a festive Christmasy feast!

If you want a creamier version, you can add in more butter or cream cheese.

Crabby Meal

Ta-da! Here it is! 

The crab cakes turned out a little too lemony. It could have used some more flavor like teriyaki or hoisin sauce. The mashed potatoes too could have done better with some more butter. I guess it's a calorie/flavour trade-off.

We made four crab cakes and a bowl of this mashed delight, which was enough for dinner and lunch for the next day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

First day of work

So it’s the first day of work, and I’m already off to a rocky start. Let’s just say that I broke the straw on the camel’s back, and wasted some time getting rejected for something I shouldn’t have been. Not really feeling all that great, but keeping optimistic. Must be karma-elimination season.

I had to take off early to complete a physical in Chinatown. When I got to the office, I found out that I had to take a chest X-ray. I was already really thirsty, so walking 15 minutes to the Xray place didn’t really help. Thankfully, the folks there were really friendly, and there was a water dispenser.

I decided to treat myself to some bubble tea to de-stress a little bit. There was a Kung Fu tea parlor right opposite the subway, so I jumped right in. Last time I really wanted to try the Green Wow Tea, so I gave that a shot, hoping the green beans would calm me down a bit.

Green Wow Tea 
(ironically, the Chinese says "We are not uncareful in selecting tea, it takes real kung-fu to make good tea)

To my utter disappointment, it was literally green beans, jelly (which I substituted from bubbles), and 3/4 cup milk. Yup, I paid $4 for a glass of milk.

Then walking down to the subway, I bumped into a churro-stand. Remembering how good Costco churros are cheered me up. I got two churro sticks and munched happily down to the subway, except to find that I was on the wrong side. So I burned off the first bite walking back up the stairs to the other platform.

Churro sticks

The churros did the trick. And when I got through the milk, I found out that the green beans and jelly tasted just fine – chewy and sweet, just the way I like it. (Only downside is that it’s really hard to use the straw to get the beans and jelly, you really need a spoon.)

So when you’re feeling like nothing else could wrong, remember two things:

1    1. It could get worse
2    2.  There’s light at the end of the tunnel, or in foodie terms, the good stuff is hidden at the bottom of the bowl 

Snacks galore!

I'm a food junkie at heart, and cannot resist trying all kinds of funky junky foods. A friend recently brought back this green-tea flavor Kit-Kat bar from Japan. They have every flavor of Kit-Kat's imaginable - sesame, red bean, mocha, and even pizza. 

Green-tea Kit-Kat

Opening up the magic

It was just exquisite - the mild green tea is soothing and subtle, almost like eating a crunchy tea bar (now there's an idea). But you really have to savor the green tea coating to feel the flavor felt on your tongue.

Since I really like crunchy and sweet things, Loacker is another one of my favorite snacks.

Loacker Quadratini

These little cubes of happiness are great with coffee or tea. They come in a dozen flavors - vanilla, mocha, expresso, chocolate, hazelnut, tiramisu, and even unconventional ones like lemon and black currant. A choco-addict friend of mine once used black currant Loacker as a fruit replacement. The result? 5 pounds.

Mango Yogurt

I'm also a huge fan of yogurt. I picked this one up at the Grand Central Market. It's an all organic yogurt made in Long Island (yes, this means real cows!) I tried the mango flavor yesterday, and it was pretty good. Solid yet smooth, a great meal-replacement.

Giant Ketchup Bottle

And this one is just for kicks. Found this icon in the middle of City Hall Park. I was lost and circled the park, until I found this beacon of hope. And miraculously, I found my way after a sacred moment in front of this Daddie's ketchup =)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Power Brekkie

The other day I cooked brekkie for me and hubby. I don't normally bust out the egg/ham/toast for brekkie, but yesterday was a special day.

Power brekkie

The omelette was real simple to make, basically some liquid eggs, one scallion, three drops of soy sauce, a tablespoon of pancake mix (to make it more chewy), a dash of sugar, and some salt and pepper to taste. The ham was already premade, so all I had to do was heat it up.

Frying up the omelette

The only downside was that it stuck to my omelet frying pan, even though I buttered it up nicely.

While hubby had this, I had some pumpernickel bread with nutella. Since hubby loves to put everything in the fridge, the Nutella was lumpy, cold and hard to spread. So after I toasted the bread and spooned on some Nutella, I microwaved it for 20s.

The bread still turned out pretty hard to chew, but that's okay because the Nutella made up for it.


I also made some Vietnamese coffee. Real easy, real delicious. All you have to do is use a French press to brew some coffee, dump in 1/4 can of condensed milk (here I used La Lechera, a Mexican condensed milk) and some ice cubes.

Viet-style coffee

What a wonderful way to start the day.

Golden Unicorn

For the older folks, eating dim sum is akin to a Sunday get-together at a burger joint. We visited Golden Unicorn the other day for a celebratory meal.

One of the reasons why I love dim sum is because I love anything in a bun. I guess I'm just a sucker for msg-loaded things stuffed in chewy dough. Another is the fact that you can pick anything off the rickshaw you want and not have to wait for service.

Speaking of service, Golden Unicorn is quite expedient. By the time I came out from the washroom, there were these seven baskets already before us.

Dim Sum

We dug right in. The lady pushing the cart came by with some congee, so we grabbed one. It was pretty creamy like the one I made the other day with my Crockpot (that took 8 hours to cook!). The "skinny" pork as they say in Chinese was a bit on the dry side, so I had to spit it out. The pork chops at the bottom of the top picture was much more tender, and the squash complemented it nicely. The best part of this congee was the thousand-year-old duck egg, which was tender and wasn't slimy like they are normally if you eat them by itself.

Thousand-year-old duck egg and "skinny" pork congee

Here is one of my absolute favorites - shrimp-chive dumpling. It's actually a family tradition at home; we grow our own chives and use only the freshest shrimp from the Atlantic (according to my Dad the shrimp on the Pacific is all contaminated with industrial pollution).

Xsection of shrimp-chive dumpling

This tasted awesome, but then I started wondering whether that awesomeness is because of the shrimp that tasted way too fresh-off-the-boat. I quickly gulped down some tea to wash it down.

Meat zhong-zi

The meat zhong-zi tasted pretty good - it was just the right combination of sweet and saltiness. The sticky rice was cooked to perfection for a melt-in-your mouth experience. Even for a non-meat lover like me, I had to give it up for the tender pork bits inside.

Another favorite item was the shrimp wrap in XO sauce. I didn't grab a picture of it, but the sauce was out of this world. 

Eggplant with crab meat

The fried eggplant was probably the least favorite item on the table, as it took considerable rounds to finish it. It was too much on the oily side, and the stuff inside was not recognizable to human taste buds. I think it was something like a doughy crab mix. 

One of the ways you can judge the quality of a dim sum joint is by its egg tart. These came on a plate, glistening golden yellow with the oil on the custard reflecting in the light (see the heart shape below?)

Egg tarts

One bite gets approval from all my 200,000+ tastebuds. Its light, flaky crust complements the soft, mellow core nicely. Since our other two guests aren't dessert fans, I took another bite from hubby's before my calorie-counter kicked in and warned me of the consequences.

All and all, this was a perfect celebratory meal. Although our two guests didn't eat that much (one was saving his stomach for a BBQ, and the other didn't feel like eating all that much), I think I ate wayyyy more than I could handle. But the funny thing was that perhaps because of all the tea and msg, I wanted more! Can't wait to come back here.

Golden Phoenix

**** (4/5)



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gnocchi n Tomatoes

Last night I tried my hand at gnocchi. I had it once at a restaurant in East Village, drenched in heavy cheesy sauce. So I wanted to make a lighter version out of it. Here is my original recipe of:

Gnocchi du beurre

Gnocchi du beurre

1. Boil gnocchi in a pot of 1/3 water, 2/3 chicken stock (any type of stock will do). You can measure the parts according to your pot and as long as the liquid covers the gnocchi you are good.

2. After the water boils, turn down the heat and leave it in for another minute or two. This will soften the gnocchi. Scoop out the gnocchi with a pasta drainer.

3. Set the gnocchi aside. Meanwhile, heat up 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. Make sure the butter is evenly distributed around the pan.

4. Dump (for a lack of better word) the gnocchi into the pan, and swirl around in medium heat. You can spice it up with your fav sauces if you'd like, but I stuck with the original version to retain its authenticity. I added in a dash of sugar for flavor, and some salt and pepper for taste.

5. If you are a calorie counter like me, drain the extra butter out of the gnocchi on a piece of paper towel.

Draining the butter out of the gnocchi

6. Shave on some sharp-tasting cheese before serving.

You'd be surprised at how good this simple recipe tastes.

Since my hubby likes to buy things and forget about them a minute later, I found an over-ripe avocado and mango sitting around. My creativity kicked in and I decided to cook them on a whim.

Maple Ginger Mango Avocado Salad

Maple Ginger Mango-Avocado 

1. Cut the avocado in half, scoop out the flesh

2. Cut out the mango, retaining as much flesh as possible, then dice up the flesh

3. Mix with a generous drizzle of maple syrup (has to the original stuff or it ain't Canadian!) and some ginger vinegraitte

4. Add in a few pieces of pickles for crunchiness

I thought it tasted just fine, but this was definitely not a hit with hubby, who dislikes "weird-tasting" Asian-fusion food. I guess this isn't for everyone.

Tomatoes n Eggs

Tomato n Eggs

You know how people throw rotten tomatoes to boo people off-stage, and smash eggs on people's windows as Halloween pranks? You know what my Mom says to that?

"Good heavens! Why are people wasting so much food these days? I'd pick it up and cook it!"

(As a side note, my very asian Mom actually saved an egg from a parachuting egg project when I was in grade school, and made this dish out of it that night)

This is perhaps as authentic a dish as you can get in terms of Chinese home-cook cuisine. Almost everyone's first cooking project starts out with this one. There's almost no way you can mess it up, unless you're like me and didn't know how to turn on the stove the first time I started cooking.

Anyways, the recipe is really simple, but to get the right homemade taste is not. This time, I'm very happy to announce that I actually made it to the right sweet-salty proportions =)

1. Cut up some ripe tomatoes and a few slices of onions

2. Heat up the pan. I didn't need to add any oil since I still had the butter from the gnocchi, which I think acted as a mega flavor booster.

3. Dump in the onions. Wait until the onions start sizzling, then drop in some egg to cover the pan. I used a liquid egg mix, but you can use normal eggs too.

4. Turn down the heat so the eggs do not overcook. When the eggs settle down, poke it around with a spatula to break up the pieces.

5. Dump in the tomato pieces, and turn to medium heat. Then cover pan with a lid.

6. Mix together half a tablespoon of corn starch, three tablespoons of water (I used the leftover chicken stock from the gnocchi boiling), some drops of soy sauce, and a dash of sugar

7. While the tomato is cooking, dump in the mix. Continue to cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

This was a definite hit! Hubby and I both loved it. I think it was the butter that did the trick.

Although I make fun of my Mom's asian-ness, I'm a victim of the Asian stinginess too. In order not to waste the liquid from the gnocchi, I boiled a potato to make some mashed potatoes for next time =)