Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pizza Bananza

My favorite food is pizza. Enough said. And when you have friends that make it for a living, that's like, going to pizza heaven.

This hunk of a pizza is made by my baker friend. It's oven roasted with handmade crust, gourmet toppings like pepperoni and chicken that's melted into a pool of pull-apart cheese.

The end result is this. Doesn't look that conspicuous of a flavor bomb, but in fact it's layers of meat that tastes like it has been marinated in tomato sauce. And as much as this sounds disgusting, the flavor intensity actually increases the longer you leave it. I had a leftover slice two days after, and it was like eating soft bread soaked in tomato sauce, with layers of chicken and pepperoni. (The pepperoni, however, was bathed in a thick layer of oil.)

They also offer vegetarian options like the one above, which is mushroom and eggplant. The one below is a cross between meatlovers and veggie-lovers: a pepperoni eggplant pizza. The cheese they use is grade-A mozzarella, the kind that tastes like real cheese but not stuck-up like European cheese that can only be eaten as dessert.

I like their crust because it tastes more like bread than pizza crust. It's not as hard, but a softer texture like New York slices. Below is a pineapple ham creation with sprinkles of peppercorn.

So you can customize your pizza according to your own preferences, which is really nice. Next time I would like a brocolli artichoke asparagus pizza - veggie delight!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blueberry Chocolate Cupcakes

Blueberry. Chocolate. Cupcake. What's there not to like about this? Unless you're like me, and hate cupcakes, you'll be in heaven after eating one of these babies. I mean, just look at it. It's eye-candy/dessert. 

A baker friend of mine actually makes this from scratch, including the chocolate frosting. 

I love how it's topped off with a real chocolate chip, and a real blueberry as well. It almost seems like it's healthy. You can even see the blueberries inside the cupcake, which is made from scratch as well.

The frosting is actually not that sweet, I think I can handle it by downing some coffee. I think I would probably cut through the cupcake and mix the frosting inside like a surprise muffin. The cupcake itself is surprisingly light, which is enhanced by the real blueberry bits.

I'll bet I can sell six of these in six seconds. Too bad there weren't any customers when I visited. Wouldn't you like one?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monkeying Around

Not a lot of people are fans of monkey bread, I actually didn't even know what this was until I tried some at a friend's bakery. It's like this crazy sweet and chewy bread layered with a healthy dose of cinnamon.

The cinnamon and sugar is encrusted on the top of the bread, making it a caramelized layer of the "muffin" top, which makes it incredibly tasty. A friend of mine who hates cinnamon swears by monkey bread, particularly this one:

Ultimate Breakfast Pairing - Korean coffee with Monkey Bread

After bringing one to the office, it was gone in 5 seconds flat. Three of my friends ripped it apart. Thankfully, they saved some of the bottom, which is especially nice because it soaks up all the sugary and oily goodness. Now if only I can learn how to make them at home...

Btw: This Korean instant coffee mix is out of this world! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Leftovers: A Radical Transformation

The other day we were at a loss for lunch. So looking at the very full fridge that we had (not), I pulled out the egg fried rice and the myriad of random left overs we had. 

I decided to fry them all up. Everything (excluding the plastic boxes).

It actually started looking pretty good after five layers of leftovers. I know, that sounds disgusting. But honestly, it looked decent, or at least edible.

I even dumped this inside. Guess what it is:

That's right - marinated lamb liver.

Chuck in the morning's leftover eggs.

See? Looking pretty decent now.

Pair with two other leftovers: cucumbers and beet salad - and voila! You have a complete meal!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cookie of the Day

I don't know about you, but one of my favorite things is jam. And cookies. And fig.  Maybe three favorite things. But one thing that I especially like are fig jam cookies.

I had the pleasure of consuming such a product the other day. A friend made it with a shortbread recipe that tasted uber, uber good. He used real fig jam in the center, and you can actually see the seeds inside. The fig jam is baked until it has an almost plastic-y glaze, and the cookie is a light golden color, making it look like a ripe fruit.

The rest of the cookie was made from a shortbread cookie recipe. It's really nice and soft, like a cross between a chewy choco chip cookie and a crumbly shortbread cookie. The dryness was just the right degree so you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee while you're munching on this.

Be careful though: you need to save at least 10 minutes to savor this cookie. I didn't have the liberty of doing so, which meant stuffing my face with the chewy jam and shortbread between gulps of coffee. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Juice Mania

If you're like me and love to drink freshly squeezed OJ, I've got the solution for you. Yes, this sounds like an informercial, but I was so glad that I had a chance to finally crack out my big mouth juice extractor to beat the summer heat.

I actually received two of these last year as presents but never got the chance to use it. Perhaps it seemed too daunting to use. I mean, the name speaks for itself - big mouth juice extractor. I was afraid the mess this thing would leave behind.

Okay, I have to admit that my learning curve in new appliances does not work to my advantage. It took me quite a while to assemble this machine, because I kept on getting the direction wrong (I actually read them this time). I was actually about to give up when I kind of slammed the lid in semi-anger, and it fitted perfectly! (Of course, that is not to say that anger works in all situations =)

So I peeled two oranges and turned on the power. It sounds like a lawn mower that can spit out a yard full of grass. But don't worry, after you get used to the cacophony the rest is easy as pie.

All you need to do afterwards is stick in the fruits (can be whole or sliced). Make sure you drop it in slowly before sticking in the plastic cover, as the mesh finely grates the fruit to extract the most juice of out it. If you're like me and was scared it would chop off a finger or two, then you'll probably end up wasting part of the fruit or vegetable because the pressure tends to "explode" (for a lack of a better word) part of the poor plant before tearing it into fibre.

I can't really describe how delicious and fresh tasting this is. I was surprised that orange juice can taste so foamy. But really, it does. Foamy, creamy and delicious.

Unfortunately, the returns to fresh fruit is not that much. Two oranges got me that much of juice. You'll need at least 8 to fill up the cup that comes with the juicer. But trust me, it is worth it.

I also tried some other combinations, like orange and carrots, cucumber and blueberry, celery and watermelon. Everything tastes so good when it is freshly squeezed, and with a machine like this at home you'll have limitless possibilities of fresh juices without digging a hole in your pockets.

Tip - keep a plastic bag inside the dispenser bin to avoid having a huge mess for cleanup. I forgot to do this a couple of times and ended up wasting a lot of time cleaning the sticky bits from the machine.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Full Fridge = ?

You know, there's nothing I like to see more than the sight of a full fridge. Unfortunately, I don't often get to see it that often at home, because I don't cook that much now (double whammy).

But when I was home visiting the parents, I was treated to a full fridge almost every day. There's nothing more refreshing than seeing a whole section of condiments on the side panel, stuffed to the brim. So much so that you can't even close it sometimes.

And of course, there's nothing more satisfying than a home-cooked meal (that you don't have to cook). My fav dish is this eggplant, cucumber and peas, a lovely concoction of soft and crunchiness drenched in a bed of soy-saucy peas. It goes great with rice or pita bread.

Did I mention pita bread? Our family loves - absolutely LOVES - pita bread. I sometimes think we're not very Asian in this regard, because we're willing to ditch rice for this stuff any day.

The stuff next to the pita bread are scrambled eggs with a bit of flour. So like an egg and green onion pancake.

We always make sure there is a soup with our meal, something lighter tasting that can soak up the bread. This one is our staple - the cabbage and mushroom blend. Not much taste, just makes you feel warm and tingly inside. (We do drizzle a dash of extra virgin olive oil in it to give it some life.)

Our family loves veggies. Lots and lots of it. At any given meal, you'll be sure to find some collard greens and julienned cucumbers stirfried in a minimal sense. Just some oil, salt and a little pinch of sugar. This helps to retain the vegetable's original taste, and keeping its freshness for consumption.

My Mom marinated some tofu with soy sauce and sugar. This is made with firm tofu, and you can make it many days beforehand and let it sit in the fridge to take out for every meal. I sometimes have it as a light snack, because the tofu soaks up all the flavor, so the longer you leave it, the more flavorful it becomes.

Oh yes, and let's not forget the beet salad. This Russian dish has been a keepsake at our dining table for as long as I can remember. All you have to do is boil the beets, cut it up and add a spoon full of mayo. The beets are naturally sweet for flavor, and the mayo adds some tang.

And to top it all off, how about a lovely berry yogurt popsicle? Courtesy of Costco, of course. This one tastes so healthy that you can feel the berries as you're licking it. Also, it's made out o soy milk, so you can taste the soy milky bits as well.

Moral of the story - a full fridge = a good time = a lot of food = food coma = I'll let you figure out the rest =)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ice Cream Overload

Due to the overwhelming heat wave, I went full out to experiment with all the flavors of the season…of ice cream, that is. 

The ice creams that I rigorously tested were: green tea, green tea mochi, blueberry cheesecake, pistachio, cookies n cream, and coffee java chip. Today I'm giving you the low-down on my results, with ratings out of 5 stars.

Green Tea
The green tea was from a friend - a really solid ice cream that's not too sweet. It's perfect for people looking for a healthy alternative to the overwhelmingly sweet ice creams that's been inundating our grocery stores. This one had an almost bitter aftertaste, which is probably an acquired taste that not everyone would like right off the bat. Although I liked it, I wish it were a bit sweeter to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Rating: ***** 4/5 stars

Blueberry Cheesecake

The blueberry cheesecake is about as American as you can get. It's like 20 cups of sugar in one scoop. Everything about it screams, "Oh my dear gosh, I'm getting the sugar rush of my life!". It's not that bad, but again, probably not everyone would like it. I had to finish half of my friend's scoop because she thought it was way too sweet. I liked it though, especially the cheesecake bits intermingled with the sticky sweet ice cream. You can't really taste the blueberry all that much (a bit too artificial), but the loaded cheesecakes give it some texture and bite.

Rating:  ***.* 3.5/5 stars

Next up is a special treat - a white chocolate frozen yogurt with mochi and mango. This one almost tastes like the ones in the stores, except there are only two flavors. I wanted to try the original Californian tart flavor, but that one ran out. The white chocolate was a bit too artificial tasting in my opinion. But the toppings were nice - mochi and freshly cut up mango definitely spruced things up.

White Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Rating: ***.* 3.5/5 stars

Speaking of mochi, our next subject in question was the green tea mochi ice cream. Actually my fridge stopped working for a while right when I took it out, so it liquified and became a ball of droopy cream. I had to fight the urge to eat it before stuffing it back into the fridge. 

After all that considerable effort (and a whole lot of willpower), the ice cream became a lot more enjoyable. I really liked the mochi skin on the outside which was chewy and melt-in-your-mouth good. The ice cream too was rich, like the previous green tea ice cream, except with a bit more sugar. The whole thing is powdered in some white coating, which gives your mouth a little mustache after eating it. It's also portion controlled for the weight-concious - one package comes with 6 little balls (though you also have to fight the urge to eat at least three). This was by far my favorite ice cream, at least so far. Oh yea, you might want to wait a bit to let it thaw before you bite in, or else it'll be like a mini-tooth freeze.

Rating: *****.* 4.5/5 stars

Double Cookies n Cream

Next up was the Turkey Hill Stuff'd collection. This suspect in question was double cookies n cream. Just looking at its birds-eye view gives you a glimpse at its awesome cookie and cream mess. The cookie tastes more like brownies than Oreo cookies, and the vanilla cream is pretty darn sweet. It tastes good right out of the fridge, but if you leave it around for more than 5 seconds it melts into a sugar slush.

Rating: *** 3/5 stars

I was pretty excited about this next one - Talenti coffee chocolate chip gelato. I really enjoy the Talenti series, especially their Blood Orange, which I sampled once in a grocery store. I had to find an excuse to take two more samples that day because it was so delicious. We've tried the pistachio gelato before, which is full of real pistachio bits and really rich in nutty flavor. 

Talenti Coffee Choco Chip Gelato

This one is also well-balanced in terms of the sugar to cream ratio. There's a rich coffee flavor that you can even smell, and the choco chips add some crunch to that, which I really enjoyed. It tastes a lot more artisan (Brooklyn style) than the regular ice cream brands.

Rating: ***** 4/5 stars

This next one is your grocery friendly ice cream - Friendly's Smooth Churned series - Purely Pistachio. With only 1/2 the fat, you can still taste a lot of sweetness. I'm not sure what they're cutting down because it was like a mouth full of sugar and some pistachio. The flavor and color were too artificial to be real, and the only thing I liked about it were the pistachio bits (even that's kinda rare to dig out).

Friendly's Purely Pistachio

Rating: *** 3/5 stars

On a side note, I mixed together the latter three ice creams together in one tasting. Due to the heat, some of it melted before I could probably savor it, resulting in a really, really sweet sugar slushy. Probably not the best way to eat ice cream, so from now on I'm either going to eat it out of the tub (for ice creams that melt easily), or scooping it into nice rounds (for ones that are rock solid and need a while to thaw).

Finally, there's a tub of an Asian mango ice cream that my friend got me that I haven't opened yet. Will let you know the results. 

Asian Mango!

Btw: What's your favorite ice cream flavor? Let me know in the comments section!