Monday, February 18, 2013

Chocolate Cream Pie (with Pretzel Crust)

Like Carol Han of Milk & Mode, I needed to know how to recreate Rachel's Chocolate Cream Pie after sampling it at Smorgasburg last year. Lucky for me, she already beat me to it and posted the recipe on her blog. I really wanted to test the entire recipe, but played it safe with the tried and true Chocolate Cream Pie recipe from Epicurious for the filling and topping.  Below, you'll find the Epicurious recipe with Milk & Mode's pretzel crust as an option, and my modifications.

Note, the dulce de leche takes two hours, so plan ahead. I set a timer and checked on it every few minutes while I watched TV. It's best to make the crust and filling the day before and then the topping right before serving.

This pie was made happily for our friends, Aaron & Amy, who shared the inspirational slice at Smorgasburg.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

K has made various kinds of meatballs over the years, but apparently these Pork-and-Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce from Food & Wine were the easiest to make even though they took three hours. He tested the recipe as is a couple of nights ago, but made a few changes for his second batch. Obviously, the tweaks only made them better. By adding veal and beef to the mix, as well as the Pecorino Romano, the meatballs have more flavor. Also, you can't go wrong with using San Marzano tomatoes and adding butter to the sauce. For details, click on the link below.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Dinner

K fulfilled my heart and belly with his Stuffed Artichokes for Valentine's Day this year. He added porcini mushroom tortellini to make the meal heartier. I would post the recipe for the five-spice beet soup, but it didn't come out as I had hoped. It tasted fine, but the texture was a little chunky and raw. Next time, I will roast the beets instead of cooking them in the microwave—I should have known better!

For dessert, we had K's favorite, Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce.

Valentine's Day Card & Banners

Valentine's Day "pop-out" card for K. It came together as I went along, stemming from the photo printed on card stock.

And, a festive banner made with card stock, wrapping paper, tape, glue, and string. Because I don't own a sewing machine, I went the laborious route and taped and glued together each and every double-sided heart. I think there are more than 70 total. With the amount of free time I have these days, it wasn't a problem at all. It's amazing how much small pieces of paper and string can transform a space. (The Instagram photo I took isn't great, but you get the picture.)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chinese Almond Cookies

With yesterday being Chinese/Korean/Lunar New Year, I made these Chinese Almond Cookies. Since I seem to always have almonds on hand for the Sweet Almond Bread Pudding I love so much, it was the logical dessert to make.

The recipe is pastry chef and cookbook author Anita Chu's recipe, found on Asia Society's site. I chose it because it used only butter, not shortening. Also, it didn't require almond flour, which I didn't have nor know where to get. To make sure it had enough almond flavor, I added more almond extract.  

Apparently these cookies are very common, but I've only had them once before. So, I can't say whether these cookies are authentic. However, I can say that K and my family were pleased with them, especially my dad (the baker).

b girl b knits

My sister, Beautia, is the girl behind b girl b knits. She's the one who taught herself to knit and crochet several years ago and hasn't stopped since. Her knitting blog and previous food blog Gastronomic Exploits, that she co-authored with her boyfriend, Davneet, were the inspiration for paper and plates. Their food blog hasn't been active in awhile, but is worth viewing for the mouth-watering recipes and well-written reviews.

Within the past month, the three of us joined forces and gave Beautia's blog a facelift. We're working on providing her readers with a knitting chart generator eventually. Hopefully that'll be ready in another month. In the meantime, go check out the blog! It even includes some original patterns for sale if you feel inclined to knit, as well as some sewn and beaded pieces.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Vegetable Tea

No, that's not a typo. My mom introduced me to vegetable tea a few months ago. I was in my parents' kitchen and she offered me some. When I asked her what was in it, she listed a bunch of vegetables in addition to water. I took a sip, told her that it's vegetable broth, and dismissed her. I didn't consider making some for myself and drinking it seriously until I heard that my dad recovered from a flu within three days of my mom's tea and getting lots of rest. 

My mom has a history of adding anything to hot water and calling it "tea." Several years ago, she served me pear honey tea to get rid of a cold. It's essentially hot water and Asian pear that has been steamed with honey. She insisted that or ginger, lemon, and honey in hot water would cure me. I was skeptical, but preferred to drink those teas rather than take medicine. While I can't guarantee that it got rid of the cold 100%, I don't recall being sick for very long. I've been drinking honey lemon ginger tea almost every day and I can't remember feeling under the weather since then. 

I quickly looked up "vegetable tea" online to see whether other people were drinking it and found several sources, much to my surprise. Most of the sources were blogs dedicated to homeopathic remedies and macrobiotics. They of course claimed that it has huge health benefits, including "Crohn's disease, Colitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Inflammation, Constipation, Diabetes, Hypoglycemia, Sugar Cravings, Metabolism Disorders, Cleansing, and Weight Loss" (according to Megan's Mind). Having been raised by a mom who firmly believes in the medicinal properties of food, I do believe in this stuff. Still, I can't help but remain somewhat skeptical... So, I am going to set a trend for the new lunar year by drinking it every day (when possible). This is more doable than going on a juicing cleanse or turning vegan.

You can find various recipes online, even by Food & Wine. My mom just boils whatever vegetables she has onhand. Finally following her advice, I did the same. Mine consists of:

acorn squash
beet stems
kale ribs
napa cabbage
oyster mushrooms

Roasted Napa Cabbage

Inspired by a photo of roasted lettuce in Bon Appétit awhile back, I baked an entire cabbage tonight. We've roasted all sorts of vegetables, but never the leafy kind. It just seemed like a bad idea—causing it to burn or wilt. But, the gorgeous photo convinced me otherwise. After tonight's attempt, I think I'll be doing it more often. It produced a deep nutty flavor that is missing when you braise or sauté vegetables.      

For guidance, I followed's Roasted Napa Cabbage recipe, but made enough edits to rewrite it. My instructions are after the jump. 

(Photo taken by myself again, but without Instagram's aid. Sorry, this is why I need K's help.)

Yachae Mandoo (Korean Vegetable Dumplings)

I wish I could say that this recipe is my grandmother's or even my mother's, but it's just one that I made up last night. Sure, it's based on dumplings they've made and ones I've had at Korean establishments. But, when I called my mom for her recipe, all she could offer was a list of a few ingredients and to use whatever I have on hand. For a woman who never cooked from a cookbook, I can't blame her. It's difficult to share a recipe when it's in your head and there is no exact formula. As a result, I looked up a few recipes online and modified them to match what I remembered. 

Although my family typically makes beef dumplings, I opted to make vegetable dumplings because I think they're the best. Unlike Chinese or Japanese dumplings, they're distinctly Korean, even with similar ingredients such as tofu, vermicelli noodles, and sesame oil. For me, the flavors are all there, so you don't really need a dipping sauce. However, if you want a sauce, the Korean Tofu Salad dressing doubles as a dip.

What follows is what I consider yachae mandoo, or Korean vegetable dumplings. It was made for the first time yesterday, so it's not tried and true. Feel free to let me know if there's room for improvement.

(Photo taken by myself, with the help of Instagram. K was unavailable.)

Rigatoni with Lentils

Among the five things I made last night was Lidia Bastianich's Rigatoni with Lentils. It was my first time making any of her dishes. We haven't had Italian food in awhile and I wanted to make something with the lentils on hand. Since my dad has mentioned that he liked her recipes in the past, I thought it'd be worth trying. It turned out pretty well, especially after adding lots of extra-virgin olive oil and salt. K likened it to a stew, which makes sense, given the tomato base, lentils, carrots, and celery. It's an easy, hearty dish, perfect for vegetarians! And, it's a cheap meal. 

I followed Lidia's recipe for the most part. There were some things I did differently, mainly because I misread the instructions and didn't measure ingredients like oil or salt. Hence, I only noted what I changed intentionally. For example, Lidia tends to add A LOT of butter and cheese. I know this from her PBS show, so I cut down the amount of cheese as it seemed excessive. As always, you're more than welcome to follow the original recipe. To see my amendments, see below.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Teacup Bouquet Pop-Up Card

Noriko's birthday is coming up, so I made another pop-up card based on the teacup bouquet in Playful Pop-Up Cards, by Takami Suzuki. If you've been following the blog, you'll notice that I used the same Japanese silk-screened paper to make the paper wallets. The pattern is so pretty, I didn't want to do much for the front.

Oven-Fry Poutine with Garlic Gravy

Poutine, Disco Fries, or simply cheese fries with gravy is one of my favorite things to order at the diner, especially in the winter. With one last block of Gruyere in the fridge and just the right amount of garlic soup left over from the previous week, I had all the excuses I needed to make my own version and call it dinner. I would have posted the garlic soup, but it wasn't the best—mostly because of the homemade vegetable stock I used. Anyhow, it made a better gravy and companion to the Gruyere. 

I tried to make the meal a smidge healthier by baking the fries in the oven and eating it with a huge parsley salad with a mustard cider vinaigrette. No recipes today since it was cobbled together. I will post them in the future if the stars align again for poutine :)