In the words of Bilbo Baggins, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” And that is precisely my feeling about this new beginning. I am not intrepid, but rather shy and a little nervous at the daunting task of creating this food blog. Who knows to what end this food blog may lead. After all, I’m just a self conscious amateur baker trying to share the love, the blueprint, the anticipation of the wait (you know well what I mean oven-watchers), and the many joyous end results. But as always, failure is inevitable every now and then, but it keeps my baking ego in check. But to fellow beginning bakers, do not despair if your first batch of double chocolate chip cookies end up like lumps of poo or if your cupcake batter is a lumpy mess. Dump it and keep trying. Lord knows how many batches I’ve trashed and remade. As a close friend often tells me, “First we must stop feeling sorry for ourselves. It is very unattractive.” With that said, let’s begin. Now.
My first attempt at a food blog began right before my first organic chemistry exam, and rather than study chemical reactions and chair conformations, I went home and made lots of food. My typical meal consists of bread and hummus over the balcony as to avoid doing the dishes, but I felt inspired enough to put something a little more decent together. Afterall, college students need real food every now and then too.
Homemade Chowmein! I don’t have a recipe as I just threw things together and taste tested as I went. You should try it sometime, it makes for excellent original creations.
So basically, boil store bought chowmein noodles al dente. This particular type can be found at Asian markets in the refrigerated foods section. Spaghetti pasta works just as well. Just rinse after boiling and let it dry off in a colander over the sink.
I love tofu, so I decided to throw these in too. This could probably be done before or even while you boil the noodles. You can buy fresh or refrigerated tofu at most supermarkets nowadays. Simply slice into thin pieces and deep fry on med-high until crispy and golden brown. I like to let them dry off on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Set aside or snack on them as you go. This is usually how I end up getting full long before the final dish is even done. Oops.
Depending on what vegetables you like, chop up a bunch and throw them together. Nothing fancy. I have celery and carrots here. Other good veggies… bean sprouts, snap peas, onions, broccoli, the possibilities are endless. Yuum. Run through the sink, chop, however you like to prep your veggies. No extra seasoning needed as the meat will provide plenty of flavor I think. Also, no pre-cooking required unless you like your veggies extra wilted. I like my veggies to retain some of its natural crunch and beautiful coloring, so no additives involved. However, if you are particular about eating only the most aesthetically pleasing foods, I believe placing green veggies in cold ice water deepens the vibrant colors.
Now for the meat, which adds the wonderful savoryness to the noodles. Our family is a firm believer in improvising, so pretty much anything goes as long as it tastes good. Here I have thinly sliced pork shoulder (the butcher was nice) and quickly flavored with salt, pepper and a healthy dose of garlic. In a large pot, wok, pan, whatever, lightly coat the bottom with some oil so none of this sticks. Extra minced garlic first, and then the meat goes in until the red disappears. Throw in a spoon or so of oyster sauce for extra flavor. Not an exact science, remember? Stir occasionally just so everything browns evenly. Your olfactory organs should already have been attacked by the delicious smells at this point, if not your hands from the bubbling oil.
Next throw in noodles & tofu and cook on lower heat until soft, or just how you like them. Taste test for flavor! That’s the best part. Add more oyster sauce if needed. Veggies go in last so they keep their nice color and crunch. Done. The other pictures up there are of a common Vietnamese dish made of sheets of rice noodles, bánh cuốn, eaten with various types of ham, giò chả or chả lụa and chả chiên, with shredded parsley, mint, and cucumber. And it wouldn’t be Vietnamese food without fish sauce, nước mắm. Everything is store bought and thrown together, but the key is a good homemade dipping sauce. I’ll eventually post up recipes for great and easy nước mắm from my mom, but until then, hope the pictures suffice.
So as tradition (as of last winter anyway), I am making cookie box gifts for loved ones. I’ve been planning this menu and my wrapping scheme since pre-finals, and now I can finally execute. I have until the 21st of December to make 700+ cookies and cakes, package and send them out. The basic game plan is to start with the most durable and sturdy first, ending with the more fragile cakes and what not. So menu:
- Mocha chocolate chip cookies
- Shortbread sugar cookies
- Gingerbread men
- Jam thumbprint cookies
- Mexican wedding cookies
- Green tea cookies
- Dark chocolate toffee
- Pumpkin spice mini bundt cake
Not too ambitious I don’t think. And because my good friend Kari can’t be here to help me, I promised I would document the entire journey just for her, so here I am. Today, I managed to check off the chocolate chip, shortbread and gingerbread. As I type away at 1 in the morning, I also have a batch of cinnamon rolls bubbling in the oven. My kitchen and garage smell delicious. All the expensive spices in the gingerbread are chipping at my college student budget, but they sure double up as cookie ingredients and air freshner. Yuum. I’ve been on my feet since 9am, running around the kitchen like mad - at times stressing because a batch did not turn right… but it’s a good stress – not chem or physics related – its a therapeutic stress if that makes any sense at all. And all the while, KOIT 96.5 is jamming Christmas music in the background as visions of sugar-plum princesses dance in my head – no I’m not kidding. I’m watching the Nutcracker (I know you’re jealous) Friday night by the SF Ballet Company at the War Memorial Opera House so I’ve been annoyingly excited about it. Ecstatic actually.
These cookies I found off TasteSpotting, and I am in love with them! I always up the amount of coffee I use, as I am your typical college caffeine junky. But I promise that the extra coffee tastes and smells great. I also decreased the amount of nuts and chocolate chip as it overwhelmed the dough, and I could not taste any cookie. It’s a personal preference thing I guess. For full instructions and original recipe, visit Kitchen Parade.
- 1 cup chopped, toasted, cooled pecans
- 1-1/2 tablespoons instant expresso powder or instant coffee granules
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup brown sugar (reduced from 3/4 cup)
- 2/3 cup white sugar (reduced from 3/4 cup)
- 1 egg
- 2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips (reduced from 1-1/2 cups)
It is always good to get a second opinion – whether in regards to your health, your car, classes to take, and now even cookie recipes. I looked up several sources for a good, basic but tasty sugar cookie recipe. My first search of the FoodNetwork website gave led me to Alton Brown’s recipe, which was highly rated. But I kept searching around and surprisingly found the same recipe in The All American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett. So, two sources with the same recipe? It can’t be bad then… Well, it wasn’t the best that’s for sure. If you are using this recipe, just make sure not to bake for too long or they will become mealy and lose flavor. They are a bit on the bland side, but will be perfect for icing. I hate working with icing so I played it safe with homemade colored sugars. Just a few drops of food coloring in different types of sugar to get varied textures and what not. I used granulated and organic, but raw sugar works too I think. Experiment and tell me about it!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough
This was my first time making gingerbread cookies, and it wasn’t really that hard. A bit time consuming, but you get such satisfaction after finishing a sheet full of beautifully even and wonderfully smelling cookies. They smell delicious and look super pro. But as always, don’t bake too long or they become bitter. The original recipe says that crisp is OK, but it honestly tastes better thick and soft. Yes, I have taken them out at both extremes. Also, the recipe is too generous with the cloves, so I would say be stingy as it comes off really strong. So to offset the slightly bitter & over baked cookies, I dusted all the rest with organic sugar for looks and taste.
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp (freshly) ground nutmeg
- pinch ground black pepper (optional)
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup coffee or water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
All in all, I think it was a good first day. Several batches of each are finally done. Tomorrow I will be starting on the jam thumbprint cookies and perhaps the green tea ones. We’ll see. I will promise to update daily during my 5-week long winter break. Also, things to look forward to… Nutcracker, delivering the cookies, Vegas with the family, and of course the big one – Christmas is next Tuesday. Anyway I’m calling it a night, I was just so anxious to get a post up just for Kari. But here it is, hope you are proud of me. So good night readers, and fare thee well on thy baking adventures.