Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Very Special Moon

So the Mooncake Festival is coming up, and what better way to celebrate than to make your own mooncakes!

I haven't made them yet, but I plan to with my new (Hello Kitty) mooncake molds (

I'm actually not a huge fan of Hello Kitty, but that was the only design available in a 5in diameter cake mold. I didn't want to get one of those wooden ones because they are way too big for my liking. And it would take a lot of people to eat just one mooncake.

Also a nice thing about these molds is that they double as cookie molds as well, and they come in a package of three to help distinguish different flavors.

There were some really cute mooncake cookie molds that I considered getting.

Currently I plan on having red bean, black sesame and taro. I think for the red bean and taro I'll just get the canned ones and smush them into paste. Black sesame I've tried making before - basically mixing black sesame paste and flour and then frying them up a little bit so they stick together.

Plus, I found some awesome mooncake recipes online that I want to try out. So I'll keep everyone posted on the results!

(Hopefully mine will end up like this...or this... =)

Mooncake Ice Cream!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homemade Dumplings

Sorry everyone - first an apology for the entries that are long due. I recently got food poisoning (that entry is coming up), which has unfortunately spoilt my appetite and my willingness to talk about food. I've since recovered from that horrible episode, and will be resuming (hopefully) my (daily) entries about food!

So during my weekend back home (now three weekends ago), we had our traditional Dumpling Sunday.

When I was young, we used to make dumplings every single Sunday. I would ask my parents why we can't just go to McDonald's, and they would tell me that when they were little, dumplings were a rare like McDonald's (imagine back then, in a widely un-Westernized communist China).

In my household, we make everything by hand, starting from the chives that are grown in the backyard. Except this weekend, we didn't use chives because my cousin can't eat it. So we used cabbage instead.

Being non-pork eating Muslim, we replaced the usual pork filling with shrimp, a higher cost but definitely worth it. Shrimp is not only pork-free, it also acts as a sticking agent to add some stickiness to the filling. I think the filling is the hardest part, because you have to make sure that it's seasoned right, and there's no way for you to try it, unless you want to eat raw meat.

The only thing we don't make is the thin dumpling cover, which we get from the grocery store.

The rest is pretty easy to make. First you wet the edges of the dumpling cover with water so that it will become sticky after you add in the filling.

Then you add in about a tablespoon of filling in the middle, and fold up the edges, mincing to make folds by pressing together the gap between your thumb and index finger.  

You have to make sure that the whole dumpling is completely sealed, or else it will fall apart during the cooking process.

We ate pretty much most of the dumplings between my mom and dad, my cousin and myself. We make around 50 dumplings in batches. Btw, boiling dumplings is a technique too - you have to make sure you stir in the clockwise direction every so often so that it wouldn't disrupt the cooking and burst the dumpling skin.

The filling was uber delish. Apparently my Mom made another filling with eggs, shrimp and chives, which was really good because you get a dense texture in the dumpling.

Ying-Yang disk of balsamic vinegar and olive oil

A note on the dipping sauce - this can make or break a dumpling. If your dumpling is not good enough stand-alone (like the frozen ones you get from stores), try mixing up a dipping sauce with 1/2 balsamic vinegar and 1/2 olive oil. This will enhance the flavor of the dumpling skin without diluting the flavor of the filling inside. When I was little we used to have this sweet balsamic vinegar which was really really good, and I would just eat the skin by dipping it into the sauce (and giving my grandpa the filling hehe).

A feast of dumplings

We also fried a batch after boiling it. My mom tried to make the crispy dumpling cover that you find in restaurants, but it doesn't work. It was still pretty good though, because that batch we used our own dough, which was much more chewy that the normal dumpling skin.

Finally, to top it off, we ate some frozen yogurt pops to get rid of the garlic-ky taste (since we eat dumplings with raw garlic). It was raspberry-vanilla ice cream pops, which was really tasty and less than 100 calories!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Quiche n Pasta

The day before taking my 8 hour Megabus ride for a visit back home, hubby and I grabbed some quick quiche (ha, get it?) at a deli.

It was one of the most typical delis you could find in the city, albeit quite clean. The floor and window displayers were all super shiny.

There weren't that many customers (we and another person were the only ones in fact), so we were greeted by all the employers, who were pretty friendly.

They have an extensive salad bar selection, everything from chives to radishes to pistachios. They also have a nice pasta/stir-fry selection cooked right in front you.

I asked the chef if the display dishes were real, and to my surprise they actually said yes. But I guess you can't eat it after a day of gathering dust and grease.

Here's another look at that amazing salad bar, located all the way at the back.

Did I mention they have an awesome selection of lasagna and paninis? These all look pretty delish, but not sure how fresh they are having been in the fridge all day.

I got a mushroom and spinach quiche, which was packed in a plastic package around the counter. It was $5 for a huge pie! You just grab the one you want and they'll heat it up for you.

It was pretty good for the first couple of bites. Hot off the oven, it was soft like egg tart. I really liked the bits of mushroom and spinach scattered around like islands in the ocean.

But soon the egginess kicks in, and you're left wandering how in the world you are to finish this giant egg pie. That and the fact that we were eating at 5pm. Not recommended unless you just had a huge workout. It was also kind of bland without much seasoning.

Hubby on the other hand was a bit smart and ordered some penne pasta with pesto sauce. It was cooked in front of your eyes, with the peppery green sauce and green peas and a generous helping of parmesan sprinkled on top. It was actually pretty good, but I probably wouldn't pay $7 for a bowl of pasta that I could reproduce at home for much cheaper.

Somehow, I managed to finish my quiche. Perhaps it was thanks to the 5 packets of ketchup I squirted over it to give it some flavor. Hubby helped by finishing a quarter of it.

In the time we were there, there were two regulars who got giant bowls of salad. I shoulda went for the greens I guess.

But this meal is enough to last you until well into the wee hours of the morning when I woke up in Canada.

(Forgot the name of the place!)
*** (3/5 - mostly for their blandish taste on the quiche)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Best Buttered Pecans

I'm jumping a bit in time right now because I really want to share this simple, easy-to-make recipe.

Basically, this is your ole fashioned buttered pecans. Real. Simple.

So you start off with some pecans. My Dad loves to get the huge bags of nuts from Costcos, so that's what motivated to cook this (cuz if I don't, no one will bother to eat it).

Using a high-speed mixer, whip up one egg white. Don't waste - use the yolk for fried rice or an omelette for your next meal.

You have to whip it until it's nice and foamy. I've never done this before, only read it in cooking blogs. But it's real easy - just whip, whip and whip away, and you've got yourself a nice, foamy egg white mixture.

Then dump your pecans or walnuts in there and coat evenly. The recipe called for 4 cups of pecans, but I just eyeballed it according to the size of my bowl.

Then mix in around 1 cup of sugar - here I used 1/2 cup of brown sugar to camouflage with the pecans - and a teaspoon of salt.

Spread it out evenly on a greased baking sheet, and pop it into the oven at 250 F. It's done in an hour, and you don't even have to poke it around every so often.

And the taste is delish! I was actually really surprised at how salty it was with a pinch of salt, but I figured later it's because of the egg whites that made it even saltier. It was also a bit spicy for some reason, possibly because of the pecan's skin coating that reacted to the coating. I wished I had put a bit more sugar in, but alas, for the sake of the waist line.

It was a huge hit - both my cousin and Dad loved - and I mean loved - this. My cousin even told my Mom to put it away before it's all demolished. I didn't even manage to save some for hubby (as evidence that yes, I can roast pecans! So please buy them for me at Costcos ;).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dig Inn

Two weeks ago, I grabbed lunch with a colleague near Union Square. It was drizzling that day, so we didn't want to walk very far from the subway.

Thankfully, there's a couple of restaurants along Union Square's farmer's market. I suggested the ubiquitous sandwich place, but my friend who had studied in London was turned off by the production-line sandwiches.

So we went into Dig Inn, which looked like a really fresh and healthy place.

And indeed it was. There's not that many choices, just a buffet of healthy food choices. You start with a type of protein like tofu or meat, then your type of rice, and then add in up to three veggies as the side.

I got a small sized package, and chose veggies as my main dish. In retrospect, I should have checked out the tofu had I seen it.

I picked the roasted carrots, sweet potatoes and cauliflower and broccoli as my three veggies. The rice I picked is a yellow-ish rice that looked like it was seasoned.

Hubby, who is a vegetarian, chose tofu as his main dish. He got some cucumber salad, mixed veggies and mushrooms as his sides.

The rice was a little on the dry side. I would have preferred a more softer, fluffier texture. The sweet potatoes were right on - with just the right amount of sweetness. The carrots were pretty nice, even though I didn't really like the taste of steamed beta carotene. I would have liked more flavor in the broccoli and cauliflower, but oh well, you can't get all the bang for your health.

Dig Inn

*** (3/5)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tomato, Noodles, Eggplants

One night during the hecticness of the wedding week I settled down to cook some dinner for hubby. I wanted to throw together something quick and simple, so I boiled some pasta and threw together some eggs and tomatoes.

The pasta is uber easy to cook - just add in some noodles to boiling water, then transfer over to a heated pan. Add in some butter, tomato sauce and hoisin sauce (or any other sauce to your liking).

Since we got an eggplant the weekend before, I decided to cook half of it with some canned corn to add in a splash of color.

I marinated the eggplant in salt for half an hour before hand, reminding myself to not over do it since the eggplant easily soaks up the salt. Afterwards, I just dumped the marinated eggplant into the pan and threw in the corn plus some of the sweet corn juice to balance the saltiness.

Unfortunately, I didn't expect to cook the corn for such a long time, so it ended up a little undercooked and hard to bite. Eggplant cooked the Chinese way is supposed to be soft, mushy and tastes like soy sauce.

Hubby really enjoyed the spaghetti with the eggs and tomatoes. He managed to finish the entire bowl, minus the little chunk I took for myself.

Easy dinner that can easily be replicated any time =)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

La Guli

Two Saturdays ago while hubby and I were feeling pretty sick, we went to La Guli for a pick-me-up in the morning.

This is our friend's fav bakery, and last time when my Mom came to visit we went inside for a visit. When you looking at the front window, there's a barbie doll cake that attracts you right now (or maybe defer those who are not into the pretty skinny doll image).

Inside, there's a huge counter lined up with pastries, and then a couple of tables. There was only one person when we got in sipping his coffee and enjoying a breakfast pastry. We grabbed a table and got a small coffee.

They sell a huge assortment of Italian cookies and pastries that are worth a try, at least once in a lifetime.

...such as the pignoli tart, which is a tart sprinkled with pine nuts. The pecan tart looks like a miniature version of pecan pie...yummmm. Only downside is that it's pretty expensive.

I was a bit overwhelmed by their huge variety of cookies. Personally, I'm not a fan of hard cookies, so I probably wouldn't buy these unless it's for someone who does.

I wanted to try an almond horn, but was looking for something softer to chew.

So I opted for the mini-oreo cheesecake instead.

Just kidding. I went for a French cannoli. (But I would have loved to try the Oreo or turtle mini-cheesecake!)

This was perhaps the best pastry I've ever had. Soft, flaky crust wrapped around a creamy filling of well, cream. It was oh-so-delicious, and topped with a cherry on top (literally). Plus, it tasted so good with the strong scent of coffee. Absolutely divine.

Hubby, on the other hand, got a giant chocolate elephant ear, which was extremely hard to bite (and given his state of tooth conditions, I have no idea why he picked it). Plus, it was hard to decipher just what was covering it, the chocolate I mean. It had a weird plastic-y taste, and when you bite into the cookie all you could really taste was the almost chemical texture.

I swapped half my cannoli with his weird elephant ear because I felt sorry for his poor teeth. Sigh, that's why men are from Mars. Next time I'm picking his pastry for him.

La Guli
*** (3/5 - mostly cuz of the elephant ear)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Three weeks ago (yes, I'm still that behind) we went to Onya for lunch. It's a Japanese noodle joint tucked away in the corner of 47th and Lexington.

Being midtown lunch-hour, it was bustling when we got in around 1pm. We managed to grab some seats in the upstairs seating area. There was an outdoor patio with a lovely little garden, but too bad there were only two tables for two. 


I liked the ambiance in this little joint. The upstairs area is not as small as I imagined, and neither is the downstairs seating area, possibly because it is well lit and painted in a cute white pattern, making it seem taller and more spacious than it appears.

I also liked their Japanese-style lamp shades that reminded you that this is, after all, a Japanese noodle joint.

So basically you line up, pick out any tempuras you want in a dish, then order your main dish, and by the end of the line you can pick up your orders. Everything is open kitchen, so you can see the thick noodles being scooped out in bowls and poured into boiling broth. You can also appreciate the efficiency of Japanese production lines, because everyone was working so quickly that orders are clocked in around plus/minus 3 minutes.

It didn't seem that complicated to run a noodle/rice joint, especially when everything was premade - the noodles, the broth, and the sides like eggs and meat. Maybe I should start one too.

You can also add some condiments like soya sauce, crisp fried tempura bits, and any seasoning you'd like.

We picked up some tempura at the beginning of the line for everyone to share.

I've never heard of this sauce before...

...probably something to do with chili oil because La Yu means spicy fish in Chinese.

I'm not sure what everyone ordered because I wasn't feeling well that day, so didn't feel like eating anything =(

Everyone said the noodle was pretty al dente, and the broth was well seasoned as well. No one was really that hungry, but everyone slurped their noodles in less than half and hour. Possibly the shortest lunch ever.

**** (4/5 - mostly for their ambience)
Kids-friendly (sort of)