21 December 2011

Season Greetings 2011

Happy Holidays fellow bloggers,

This is Joe, I am the virus Yen previously mention. :) I just hacked into her account and would like to share holiday greetings. Her laptop is back to optimal state so she will be able to blog again when she has time.
During the next few weeks, we will be enjoying the beauty and pageantry of the holiday season. We hope all of you likewise with your love ones.

I recently glanced at Yen's blog and noticed many well wishes upon her eyes procedure.
I am glad to update that everything went well and she is very happy and no longer required
contacts or glasses. I would like to thank all of you for supporting her blog and providing Yen with positive encouragement.  She is a very creative and inventive; willing to try all sort of combination of ingredients and cooking techniques. Sometimes I feel like a crash test dummy (food junkie) but it is my way of supporting her endeavor. I have to admit the only dish on her blog that strike fear into me is the "Bitter melon" incident. Perhaps it the horror of my youth or the taste just doesn't suit me. Everything else is as the Dutch say "Lekker Lekker" !!!

In closing I would like a share a short piece about my wife. Sometimes a reminder of how special we are can provide us with the extra step in our daily walk in life.

My "secret trophy" wife

When I close my eyes,
my senses are awaken
I can hear her laughter
I can feel her joy
Her sweet whisper
drops upon my ears
Can no one else hear?

When she enters the room,
her scent fills each breath
My memories are a playback
to when we first met.

Her gentle touch
confirms her presence
The sweet taste upon her lips
plants reassuring thoughts
that only we share.

My eyes open and I realize
It is best that others
can only see her as my wife
A secret I'll gladly keep
for the remainder of my life.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone

01 December 2011

The mini series: chocolate flower cups

After making apple pie I still had a bit of dough left. It was sitting in the fridge waiting for me to come up with a smart idea. Although the apple pie was good I didn’t want to make more. I decided to roll the dough out as thin as possible and to put them in a mini muffin tin till I figured out what to make.
I used a peanut butter jar to roll the dough out. Who needs a fancy rolling pin anyway =) 
And yes, I left it in the same plastic bag I stored it. I was watching tv and didn’t want to dirty more stuff.  

With a cutter I cut cute little rounds and put them in the muffin tin. I barely had enough for 24 cups but I made it. Now what? Chocolate is always a good idea. And chocolate with some orange zest is just heaven; 24 pieces of heaven it is.
I melted one bar or dark chocolate (about 100 gram) and added about a teaspoon of orange zest. I just love the smell of those two together.

Then I mixed 2 eggs and one tablespoon of flour with the chocolate. That wasn’t a good plan at all. The chocolate turned from smooth to lumpy. I didn’t want to throw it out (of course not!!) so I had to stir till my arm fell off. It got a bit smoother, but since I would bake it in the oven I thought I would be ok.

I preheated the oven on 180C and in the mean time I scooped a bit of chocolate in the cups. You see that lump? At least it’s a lump of chocolate, could’ve been worse. I lucked out cuz again I had enough.
I baked them for 10-15 minutes till the chocolate double in volume.
They were so cute when they came out! Like little flowers...the best time to eat them is when they are still slightly warm.

Ps: I want to thank everyone for their support during the eye surgery process. It’s very much appreciated! One more eye to go next Tuesday.

19 November 2011

Not your granny’s apple pie

You know when time flies when you check out your blog and find out that it’s been almost 20 days since your last post. The past 20 days went by in a heartbeat and I wonder where they went. I could still remember the beginning of 2011 and now 2012 is almost knocking on the door.

I know my American family and friends celebrated Thanksgiving last Thursday and I hope you all had a great time with your loved ones. I wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner but the hubby didn’t want me to; too much trouble for just the 2 of us. So instead of having turkey we ate Vietnamese goi cuon.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since I got my first eye done and things are going just great. The whole procedure wasn’t as bad as I thought and after about 30 minutes later I was ready to go home. After the check up the next day I went straight to work.
So if you are thinking about having your eyes done, you should go and see what the possibilities are. Just to see if you are a candidate, because not everyone is. They first have to check if your eyes are suitable for it and then they have to determine what works for you. All you hear about eye correction is lasik or lasek, but there is more. And maybe better suitable for you. Yes it was a lot of money, but so far it’s been worth every penny.

I haven’t made apple pie in ages and I had about 4 Jonagold apples that had to be eaten. You know your apple has past the expiration date when the skin is getting somewhat oily. When that happens I normally lose my appetite in eating it raw, but for an apple pie they are still good enough.

So apple pie it is. I know the title is “not your grandma’s apple pie” and it’s not to offend any grandmas. Not that my grandma ever made apple pie, but I can imagine some grandmas do. Ok enough rambling let’s get baking!

I even made my own dough using:
-       350 grams of flour
-       1 teaspoon of baking powder
-       Zest of one lime
-       100 grams of sugar
-       200 grams of butter
-       ½ teaspoon of salt
-       2 eggs (1 extra egg for brushing the top)
-       ½ teaspoon of cinnamon

The stuffing had:
-       4 big apples + 1 small one
-       Zest of one lime
-       1 tablespoon of sugar (or more if you have tart apples)
-       2/3 cups of raisins
-       ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
-       1 handful of grapes
-       2 tablespoons of lemon curd
In a big bowl I put in the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter and used my finger (tips) to mix the butter with the other ingredients. It’s like making crumble but without junks. Then I added the zest of one lime.
I beaded 2 eggs and slowly added that to the dough. You can slowly see it come together and form a nice ball of dough. After kneading it for a couple of minutes the dough was ready!
Normally now it’s time to chill the dough before you roll it out, but I thought I would be easier to put my dough in the mould first and chill it later. Because I don’t have a rolling pin I had to do it slightly different.
I took a piece of dough and flatten it out between my hands. Then I used something with a flat bottom to flatten it out more, in my case a drinking glass. I used the same glass to flatten en smoothen out the sides. It wasn’t the fasted way, but it worked.
There was enough dough to cover the bottom and the sides but make sure you keep some aside for the top.
Now it was time to chill it in the fridge while I make the stuffing.
I peeled, cored and sliced 4 apples in big junks and put time in a pot with the cinnamon, the sugar and the lime zest.
I washed the raisins (yes, you always should wash them first!) and added them to the apples.
I turned the heat on low so the apples could release some liquid and the raisins could soak in it for a bit. Then I found a handful of grapes and thought they would taste good in the pie as well so I peeled and deseeded them.

I just wanted the apples to soften so I didn’t cook them for long. The small apple I kept aside was added to the rest of the apples raw, just to give it some more texture. As the apples released some liquid I added one big tablespoon of flour and gave it a good sire. This will bind it all together.  
After the apples were cooled down a bit it was time to put the pie together. I scooped 2 big tablespoons of lemon curd on the bottom and made sure the crust was covered before I poured the apple mixture in.  
I used a bottle to roll the dough out and with a cutter I made nice ribbons.

Then to make the top nice and shiny I brushed it with a bit of egg wash.
I preheated the oven on 180C degrees and baked the pie for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The pie came out beautifully!
It’s been ages since my last apple pie and this one was sooo good it was gone in 2 days!

Ps: I still had a bit of dough left…wait till you see what I did with that.


09 November 2011

Sup mang cua (chicken crab asparagus soup)

I realize that it’s been quite some time since my last post. To be honest it’s been quite some time since I’ve been online and reading other people’s blogs as well. But today I tried to keep up with some of my regular blogger friends. I’ve been missing so many great recipes! But I’ll try my best to keep up from now on.
Remember I went to the clinic for a check to see if my eyes were suitable for lens implants? About 2 days after they called me and they had the lenses in stock. I am scheduled to have the first eye surgery next Wednesday. I’m exited but super scared as well. The other day I had to come back so they could make tiny small holes in my iris to prevent any pressure on my eyes. Of course I was scared, but everything went well and looking back it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I hope I can say this after Wednesday also. The second eye will be done on 9 December and I know I will be so relieved after that.
About a week ago I hit a nasty computer virus again. And again all the pictures I took were gone….*sigh*. I don’t know what the deal is with those viruses, but after hitting 2 after another it wasn’t much fun anymore. Luckily I already added the picture for this post in a draft. I’ve made this soup about 2 weeks ago. We normally eat it at special occasions but I just make it whenever I crave it. That’s one of the advantages of being the “chef” in the house.

For a big pot of soup I started boiling some chicken with some slices of ginger and salt. I used 3 chicken thighs and 2 legs and scooped all the foam out to get a clear broth.
In the meantime I shred 400 grams of crab sticks (imitation crab) and put it aside. Since it’s already cooked it will go in last.
When the chicken was nice and tender I took them out and shred them in pieces.
To the broth I added the juice of 4 small cans of white asparagus and the asparagus cut in 2-3cm pieces. Also the shredded chicken went back in.
After boiling it for a couple of minutes I added the crab sticks. Those are the white/pink “strings” you see in here. If you have fresh crab meat you can add that now. Make sure you taste the broth to see if it is to your liking and add salt if needed.
To make the soup thicker I used some potato starch. As far as I know this is the only starch that binds and stays clear so make sure you use this and not let’s say corn starch.
In a bowl I poured some broth, let that cool down a bit and then added some spoons of starch. Don’t add it straight into the hot broth otherwise you’ll get lumps. The starch always sinks to the bottom so you will have to mix it well before you add it to the soup.
I normally make sure the soup is boiling and with one hand I’m stirring the soup and with the other hand I slowly add the starch mixture. I keep stirring it till all the starch is in. You can instantly see the soup thicken. I cooked it for another couple of minutes and then it was time to eat.
I scooped some soup in a big bowl and added some coriander and spring onions on top. Just some grounded fresh pepper on top and it was time to dig in!
We all ate like 2 big bowls so there were barely any leftovers. Even with the imitation crab it was that good.
Hope you all enjoyed the weekend. I'm getting mentally ready for work tomorrow...

03 November 2011

The mini series: chocolate lava cupcakes

After the teaser pics in my last post I just had to make the chocolate lava cakes. It just wouldn’t be right not to. Besides I have something to celebrate. Well it might be a bit too soon to celebrate, but hey, any excuse for making lava cakes works for me.

As you all know I’ve been wearing my glasses for a bit more then a month now. Yesterday I had a check up and my eyes are suitable for a lens implant. WHOEHOE! I’m so exited! Especially since the doctor will num my eyes with drops in stead of needles. I’m a big chicken, super scared of needles but the drops are awesome. They gave me one drop during the check up and I didn’t feel anything!
The only down sight is that if they don’t have the lens in stock it will take up to 12 weeks to custom make it for me. That would mean I can’t have it done this year, but have to wait after I come back from my holiday. Oh well, I can wait…another 3 months won’t kill me. I’ve taken the first hurdle…another 2 to go.

So back to the mini lava cupcakes. I bet you’re all exited…here goes:

As I don't remember what I did the other day I tried to remake it. It was tasty, but didn't quite taste/looked the same.

For 20 mini cupcakes I used:
- 100 grams of room temperature butter
- 4 table spoons of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
- 4 big table spoons of all purpose flour (3 if you like it soft and moist)
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 bar of dark bittersweet chocolate
I stared with mixing the butter with the sugar, salt and the cocoa powder.
Then the egg and baking powder went in. I mixed it till the sugar dissolved.
Last but not least I added the flour. I added it spoon by spoon, making sure all the flour was well incorporated before I added another spoon.
I chopped the chocolate bar in little bits, small enough to fit the molds, but big enough to have it "run" out of the cake. This bar was a bit too much so I still had some bits I could snack on.
I preheated the oven on 180C degrees and while that was doing its thing I filled the molds with one scoop of batter.
In the middle I pressed one piece of chocolate. It’s ok if it’s still sticking out for a bit. The cakes will rise and the chocolate bits will slightly sink.
After about 20 minutes they were done.
They didn’t rise as much as I though they would and they weren’t as moist as the first time.
But that sprinkle of sugar dust does make them pretty =)
The outside had a nice crunch like a cookie, but the inside was moist and had that running chocolate. It was good, but not like the first time at all. Luckily I know what made the difference. It was that extra scoop of flour. So if you like your cake soft and moist, add 3 tablespoons of flour instead of 4.

27 October 2011

The mini series: lemon poppy seed cupcakes

Have you missed it? I know I have. It’s been way too long since I did my last mini series and now since I started yesterday I can’t seem to stop. You all know I’m not a much of a baker. I like to “wing it” too much and I can’t seem to follow a recipe. On top of that most recipes call for bigger quantities that good for me. So that’s another reason why I love my mini cupcake mold so much. I don’t feel so bad if I pop one or two or more in my mouth.
Yesterday I made chocolate lava mini cakes and they were great!! Wait there’s more…
They were so great we finished one whole batch in a couple of seconds. Unfortunately since I wasn’t planning on blogging about it I didn’t make notes of the measurements. I know it had some butter, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, 4 tablespoons of sugar, 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour, some baking powder and of course some bits of dark chocolate. I mixed everything together and baked it for 20 minutes in a preheated oven of 180C degrees.

Voila mini chocolate lava cakes!

I’m going to remake these and write down the measurements, promise!

After yesterdays adventure I thought about making it again today. You can’t have enough chocolate, but I was craving something else. Something tangy with a bit of a twist. I looked in my cabinet and there it was…one jar of poppy seeds. That together with some lemon makes a terrific combo for these cupcakes. So I grabbed a pen and paper and started writing things down.

This recipe only makes 21 mini cupcakes so don’t invite too many people over:
- 100 grams of butter
- 4 tablespoons of sugar
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons of all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds 
I started with mixing the room temperature butter with the sugar and salt. Then I added the lemon juice, lemon zest and one egg.
When everything was combined and the sugar dissolved I added the flour and the baking powder and gave it a good whisk.
Last but not least I added the poppy seeds. 
Did I mention that I didn’t use a mixer this time but did everything by hand? It was a good work out; 2 cupcakes more for me =)
I preheated the oven on 180C degrees and started to fill the molds.
I baked the cakes for 20 minutes till they were golden brown and put them on a rack to cool.
Of course one or two mysteriously disappeared. But they left a nice sweet, tangy and nutty flavor.
Don’t you just love the poppy seeds just pops in your mouth when you bite them?

I called my sister down and some more cupcakes disappeared. I don’t think they will survive the night. I better get some before they're gone.

26 October 2011

Sweet and sour bean sprouts

I had it all figured out; for dinner “thit kho” wrapped in rice paper with some sweet and sour bean sprouts. I bought a big piece of pork belly and put my thit kho together. It was a huge pot and it tasted so good I shared some with my parents and two sisters. At the end I only had enough for one meal; it wasn’t even enough to wrap it in rice paper so we ended up eating it with some rice. The thing that really made the whole meal was the sweet and sour bean sprouts. Funny how something so simple can lift the whole meal to a different level.

It was so easy to make. I cleaned the bean sprouts by removing some of the dark parts of the root. You can leave it as well, but it will look cleaner without. Then I boiled some water and added a bit of salt, some sugar and plain vinegar. It’s like making lemonade but then with vinegar.
Once the mixture is to my liking I poured it in a container right on top of the bean sprouts.
For some more flavor I added some thinly sliced onion.
Because I had too much vinegar I had enough to make some sweet and sour leeks as well. At first they were in a different container, but once there was room I added them to the bean sprouts.

Depending on how sour you make it, it takes a day or 2 to have picked bean sprouts. It keeps for about 5 days after the first day you start eating it.

It pairs great with some rice and thit kho. Here I made some fried rice with some left over thit kho. I enjoyed it so much I wish I could share it.

19 October 2011

The Seven Links Challenge

I’ve been tagged by Adora from Adora’s Box and I haven’t had the time to write about it. Adora is this lovely lady who lives in London and makes the prettiest pictures of her food. Her blog is great and she’s really good at food styling!

Today after eating my leftovers and while watching Master Chef Australia I thought it was time. Of course it helps that I’m home alone and there’s nothing interesting on tv today. Oh wait I’m following a new show called Camelot and it’s on today. Guess I have to make it short then =)

The most beautiful post:
I have so many post I’m proud of and it was really difficult to pick one. I decided to go for this “Bo kho” dish. Just because I manage to make it almost look like the dish I had in the restaurant when I was in Vietnam.
The most popular post:
I don’t know which one it is so I actually had to have a look. Looking at the comments the “Pesto Artisan Bread” got a lot of comments, but the one that got the most views is “Pickled eggplants”.

The most controversial post:
I don’t think I have any, but something that comes close I think is “Ruoc thit heo (shredded pork)”.
In Holland we have a saying “wat de boer niet kent, eet hij niet”. Whatever the farmer doesn’t know, he doesn’t eat. It actually hits the spot. Whatever Dutch people don’t know they just don’t eat and they won’t try it either. Because this looks kinda funny I don’t think I can sell it to people here, unless I get them to try it first.
The most helpful post:
Another difficult one. I would say “Lemon Curd”. Just because it shows how easy it is to make it yourself.
The post that was surprisingly successful:
Although it didn’t get any comments at all I got a lot of views on my “Better then sex tiramisu”. Yes some things are so good you would choose it over physical contact. Just too bad the picture doesn’t show how great it was.

This recipe was for big parties. For a party of 2 I wouldn’t even make it: just too much work.
The post that didn’t get the attention it deserved:

I would say “Banh Chung test drive”. Banh chung is the dish we eat during Tet and this was my very first attempt making it. It was a great experience and the whole family loved it lots. The only down thing is that you will have to cook it for 7-8 hours! Even so, I will have to make it again soon.

Adora thank you for tagging me. I had so much fun going through my old post again. When I first started was mainly for me to be able to remake my dishes again. But after I joined foodbuzz a whole new world opened up for me and my blog was becoming something more then just an archive for recipes.