Friday, December 25, 2009

Daring Bakers - Dec. 09 - Gingerbread House

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.
Making gingerbread houses from scratch was never my thing. I've always been too lazy and have either bought the kit or used graham crackers. So I was pretty excited about this month's challenge.
Instead of making one big house, I made four small houses so my kids can each decorated their own.
Here's Sage's...
and Emi's...

...and there was dough left over so we made some gingy bears. ^_^

Holiday Goodies

Something about the holidays makes me crave sweets. Is it nature's way to add fat in preparation for winter? ^_^
Peppermint Toffee Bark... saw Almond Roca had one with peppermint candy in it which gave me the idea for this one.
Homemade Caramels dipped in Dark Chocolate...Trader Joe's carry this and for the longest time has been my indulgence every holiday. Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot in there and is always gone way too fast, so I learned to make my own caramel and just dipped them in chocolate. Haven't quite gotten the tempering thing down so it's not the prettiest of things, but still tastes oh-so-good!

Sugar Cookies by the kids... I'm not a fan of rolled cookies so I never make them, but the kids wanted to so it worked out. ^_^

Turkish Delights...bought some rose water just for this. The texture was a little softer than I expected but the kids still loved them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Butter Mint Pillows

I found this recipe for butter mint pillows in the December issue of Woman's Day. It didn't require cooking with a candy thermometer and had just a few ingredients, I just had to try it. It was very easy and tasty too!


(makes 1 lb, about 225 mints)

1 stick (1/2 c.) salted butter, softened
1 box(1lb.) confectioners' (powedered) sugar, plus extra for dusting
2T heavy cream or milk
1 t mint extract
red and green liquid food color

1. In large bowl, beat butter until creamy. With mixer on low, beat in sugar, cream and extract until creamy and smooth.

2. Turn sugar mixture out onto a work surface lightly dusted with confectioners' sugar; knead until smooth and satiny. Divide mixture into thirds: Tint one pastel pink (2 drops red color), one pastel green (2 drops green color) and leave remaining portion white. Cover each portion with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

3. Line 2 baking sheets with nonstick foil. Lightly dust work surface with confectioners' sugar. Working with one color at a time, roll out 1/4 cupfuls of the mint mixture, using your fingers, into a 1/2-inch thick rope. Cut rope into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pillows. Transfer mints to prepared baking sheets with a spatula (be careful--mints are soft and will squish easily). Repeat with remaining mint mixture.

4. Let air-dry at room temperature for 1 to 2 days until firm enough to handle. Transfer mints to covered containers.

STORAGE TIP: Store in an airtight container at cool room temperature up to 2 weeks, or keep in refrigerator up to 1 month.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Simple toasted pumpkin seeds, soaked in salt water for a few hours and drained and dried overnight, tossed in melted butter and salt, baked for about 40 minutes, then sprinkled some sugar on them, giving them that salty-sweet "kettle"-like taste to them. The kids said these were the best seeds I've made so far!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Caramel Apples

Daring Bakers - Oct. 2009 - French Macaroons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.


Macaroons are something new to me, I've seen them at stores but are always coconut so I never bought them. Turns out coconut macaroons are a US thing, in Europe they are almond based. So glad, since I'm not a fan of coconut. ^_^
The ingredients were only almond flour, powdered sugar, regular sugar, and egg whites. They were fairly simple to make. My only problem was that they stuck to the non-stick liner so the bottoms tore a little. Fortunately, I only had one liner so I used parchment for the other sheet, sprayed a little baking spray on it and they glided right off. The cookies taste like butter/sugar cookies with a chewy texture. I sandwiched them with some chocolate ganache, they look like little hamburgers!
Not all of the batter fit on my two sheets so the last batch went straight into the 375*F oven because I didn't have time to bring it back down to 200, then back up to 375. These cookies, in my opinion, came out looking nicer. They don't have their "feet" but look smooth and nice.
Check out the recipe and the creations of the rest of the Daring Bakers here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Roasted Peppers

Tried roasting my own peppers instead of buying those little cans. Used a stove top grill and roasted some Anaheim peppers. I'm not too familiar with peppers (except the usual bell) so I was surprised that these weren't spicy at all (aren't all Mexican peppers supposed to be hot?) The ingredients on the can simply state: green peppers. That doesn't help too much! I'll just have to keep trying different varieties...unless anyone out there knows???

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hot & Sour Soup

One of the best things about chilly weather is having a good bowl of soup. I used a recipe from, pretty much kept the seasonings for the broth but changed the veggies since I didn't have them. I kept it pretty simple, the broth with some sliced bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms, and eggs . It was a tad too peppery but was still very tasty.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup & Achiote Chicken

It's that time again for slow cooker cooking. I love how you can just throw everything in the crockpot in the morning and dinner is done. Oh, and the great smell throughout the house all day is wonderful too. ^_^

Made some Chicken Tortilla soup from to go with my chicken cooked in Achiote paste.

I was watching a Rick Bayless show and he was in the Yucatan going through a market with all the different kinds of pastes they use in cooking. One of which was Achiote paste, so when I found it in a Mexican market I grabbed it hoping to try something new. The recipe on the box was quite simple, chicken, potatoes, onions, achiote paste, oil, and water. Put them all into a pot and cook for 50 minutes. The sauce looks like it would be strong in taste, but rather the opposite. It was light in flavor and different. I wasn't sure if the kids'll like it but they ate it all so that was good.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Nametake is Japanese seasoned enoki mushrooms. They're delicious but rather costly. Found a recipe on (a Japanese recipe site) that was very simple, just four ingredients: enoki mushrooms, soy sauce, mirin (cooking sweet sake), and rice vinegar. If possible, I prefer using mirin instead of sugar so I look that in recipes. Overall, it was very easy to make, however it was a little too soy-saucy. Next time I'll decrease the soy sauce amount or try "lite" soy sauce. It turned out a little runnier than the store-bought kind so I might add a little corn starch next time. But given the simplicity and cost to make this, I'll definitely try this one again when I eat these up!
Original Recipe:
2 sm. pkgs of enoki mushrooms
5T soy sauce
5T mirin
1T rice vinegar
Put enoki, soy sauce, and mirin in pan, bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vinegar. Pour into sterile containers, let cool, and store in refrigerator.
I usually eat these on top of rice, but I've seen them in salads as well as mixed with spaghetti pasta, even on top of hiyya-yakko (chilled tofu.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pizza Wontons

I made some gyoza but ran out of the filling and had some leftover skins. So I tried making pizza wontons, just some mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce. They were actually pretty good!
My only gripe is that they get so puffy that it can cause the skin to break and the sauce and/or cheese oozes out causing the oil to start popping. So next time I might just bake it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Kakiage (Mixed Tempura)

Kakiage is my go-to substitution for tempura. Regular tempura is usually too much work for me so I make kakiage instead. Kakiage is basically mixed tempura. All the ingredients are combined with the tempura batter and deep fried. Today's kakiage: gobo (burdock roots), carrots, onions, and a little shiso (Japanese perilla leaves, aka Japanese Mint or Basil) with a little tempura sauce poured on top.

Gourmet Rice Krispy Treats

Good ol' rice krispy treats with some add-ins: a little granola, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries. The seeds didn't go as well as I had imagined but the dried cranberries added a nice tartness and flavor and was quite good.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

DB August 2009 Challenge: Dobos Torte

This month's challenge was a Dobos Torte, a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. Doesn't that sound fancy?

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
Overall, this challenge wasn't as difficult as I had imagined it to be in my head. I did forget to add the sugar to the buttercream frosting but I realized it right before I was going to use it so I saved it just in time. The caramel wedges didn't come out as I thought they should. It was pretty hard and chewy. Like I'm-afraid-it-might pull-out-my-teeth kinda sticky chewy. But the cake does look kinda fancy, and my kids were "oooh" and "aaah" when they saw it when they came home from school. ^_^

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mexican Hot Carrots

My brother gave me a bunch of carrots the other day and I wanted to make something other than carrot cake or carrot bread so I tried making some Mexican Hot Carrots. I found a recipe on Recipezaar, I used this one because it calls for more than just vinegar and jalapenos. It has oregano, garlic, and bay leaves in it too, and the oregano specks makes it look like the ones at the restaurants. ^_^

Monday, August 24, 2009

Melon Yogurt

I tried mixing in a little melon syrup when I made my homemade yogurt. The yogurt tastes just like the syrup!

Friday, August 21, 2009

No-Fuss Focaccia

I don't know why but I've never really been successful at making focaccia. I tend to roll them too thin, thinking they will rise and I didn't want to end up with a really thick focaccia. And because it was thin, they end up crunchy and dry. So when I saw this recipe from King Arthur Flour, which was baked in a 9x13 pan (I can't roll out too thin!) and doesn't require kneading, I had to try it. Living at altitude (6100') often means that flour is drier and thus absorbs more liquid. So I usually decrease the flour amount or add more liquid when I bake bread. So I decreased the flour 1/4 cup. Batter looked fine, so I had high hopes. Not sure if that was the reason, or I just overbaked it, but it came out dry. I think next time I'll try making focaccia using pizza dough if I don't try the recipe again. Check out the recipe here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pita Chips

Why does something so simple to make cost so much? I got a bunch out of one bag of pitas, all for under $3. I cut them up, brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled some Italian seasoning and garlic salt, and then bake for 10-12 minutes at 350*F. The flavor wasn't as strong like the ones in the store, so I'll just a little more seasoning next time. The next step will be trying to make homemade pitas. ^_^

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I had a bunch of mint that needed to be eaten so I made some tabbouleh. Very simple, some couscous, tomatoes, mint, lemon juice and olive oil. Now I gotta go get some pita chips to eat this with. ^_^

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mint Wine

Well, not the typical "wine" per say, more like Mint Liquor. In Japanese, this recipe was called Minto-shu, the "shu" part meaning alcohol or liquor. So plum wine is called "ume (plum)-shu". Japanese people make all sorts of "wine" with mainly only three ingredients. The alcohol, usually shochu (a distilled beverage similiar to vodka in the states, but with lower alcohol content, usually around 25%), sugar or rock sugar, and fruit (or in this case, mint.) I've made plum wine many times, as well as others such as concord grape wine and granny smith wine. My parents and their friends have made some with cherries, apricots, pomegranates, kumquats, whatever they have extra of.
This mint wine recipe called for 1 1/4 cups of alcohol (I mixed half and half of 25% alcohol shochu with 40% alcohol vodka since I had a little of each), a handful of mint, and 1 T sugar. In one month I'll be taking the mint out, and in two months I'll be able to have a taste, although it is recommended I wait at least six months (which ain't bad because the plum wines are a ten year wait...not that I'm going to wait that long. ^_^)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mapo Nasu (Eggplant)

Something a little different from my usual mapo tofu. I used Chinese eggplant instead of the tofu. I usually don't see Mapo Eggplant on Chinese menus but it's actually pretty common in Japanese household cooking. Ground pork, eggplant, ginger, garlic, a little miso, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

Curry Korokke

One great way to use up your potatoes is to make Korokke (Japanese Croquette.) I kept mine pretty simple with just potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, curry powder (both Japanese & Indian) and Japanese pre-made curry roux.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

We got a bunch of mint growing wild by our local creek so I made some Fresh Mint ice cream, another great recipe from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop. I was never really a fan of mint chocolate chip ice cream although it's one of Sage's favorite. So I wasn't quite sure how this would turn out, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Wow, it tasted REALLY, REALLY GOOD! Very mild, yet creamy and just MMMMM. ^_^ The recipe calls for two cups of lightly packed mint, which is a whole lotta mint. If I didn't have access to a lot of mint, I don't think I'd buy that much mint to make this. It'd be some really expensive ice cream!

Fresh Mint Ice Cream- makes about 1 quart (1 liter) -


1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
Pinch of salt
2 cups (80 g) lightly packed fresh mint leaves
5 large egg yolks


1. Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup (250 ml) of the cream, and salt in a small saucepan. Add the mint leaves and stir until they're immersed in the liquid. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Strain the mint-infused mixture through a mesh strainer into a medium saucepan (the milk will be a lovely shade of emerald). Press on the mint leaves to extract as much of the flavor as possible, then discard the mint leaves. Pour the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream into a large bowl and set the strainer on top.

3. Rewarm the mint-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mint liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

4. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

5. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. Then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Beef Stroganoff

I don't know why but I've been craving beef stroganoff. It's been at least five years since I've had this dish but somehow it's been in my head lately. My kids also claim they've never had it before (although I know I've made this before long, long time ago) so it was a new dish for them to try. Found a recipe from Allrecipes that I used as a base. Tweaked it a little as the reviews suggested and it came out really good and the kids liked it too. I'm good for another five years. ^_^

Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - July 09 - Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies & Milano Cookies

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.
When I read that this month's challenge was cookies, I was pretty happy. New cookies are always fun to try and Milano cookies have been something I've always wanted to try, as well as homemade marshmallows so I was pretty stoked.

The chocolate covered marshmallow cookie... the chocolate was a little soft and didn't set. So they ended up sticking to the paper. But they look great.
I wasn't quite sure how the marshmallow part would turn out. I forgot to add the gelatin to the syrup so I ended up microwaving the gelatin with a little of the syrup/egg white mixture and then blended it back in. Luckily they turned out alright. Piping all those marshmallows sure made me feel like a pastry chef. ^_^

This recipe made A LOT of cookies. I didn't even get to use 1/3 of the cookies. I noticed I was starting to run low in the chocolate for dipping so I drizzled them onto the remaining third. These ended up better (not to mention a whole lot easier) cuz they didn't stick.

The milano cookies...looks great but they didn't come out as I had hoped. The cookie part was nice and crunchy but after a few hours they turned chewy.

This recipe also made a whole lot of batter so I turned some of them into regular cookies.

And then drizzled some of that leftover chocolate from the filling.
This challenge wasn't hard but with all those little steps and wait time it turned into an all day ordeal. Started around 10 am, and finished dipping around 8pm. And now we have a lot of cookies, but with three kids I'm sure they won't be around long!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs

David made these on our last camping trip, bacon wrapped hot dogs. They were pretty good. Funny that I've lived here in the states for about 32 years and never had one of these before.


I tried growing radishes from seed this summer. It has a short growing season so it meant that chances of it not turning out was slimmer. At first the growth looked promising, a lot of them sprouted and started growing. But before they started getting big it started to flower. All the energy was going into the flower so I decided to pull some of them out. So here's three radishes, my first and probably last harvest. But it was exciting to see them grow.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Abby's Culinary Creation

We went to the creek the other day and found some mint growing abundantly. So we picked some and Abby wanted to make something with them. So she made what she called a "salsa" but it's more like a salad/side dish. I let her pretty much put in whatever she wanted. So in went some mint, green onion, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro, salt & pepper, lemon juice, and feta cheese. It was actually pretty good.

She cut everything herself (with a steak knife.) Future chef? She did say she wanted to be a pastry chef when she grows up. She's going to be like me, she'll cook/bake cuz she wants to eat it! ^_^