Archive for November 2010
Last night, I had some time to myself and decided to make a couple resolutions for the upcoming December month. I know the usual habit is to make resolutions for after the New Year, but I’m not one for waiting and I think it’d just be an excuse to put it off for another month. I’m more of a carpe diem kinda girl, so that’s exactly what I did.
1. Restrict eating out to only a couple times a week
I find that meeting with friends and going out with Frannie means that I eat out more than I’d like, so one resolution is to eat more at home, which means more home-cooking (yay). Last night I came home and ate fried rice with peas and an assortment of Korean banchan from the market. We go to this glorious Korean market every so often and buy some of their banchan to snack at home with our meals. Most of the time, I’ll just eat some kimchi and fry up some rice and that’ll be a meal. Ha. Kinda ghetto, but it gets the job done and it’s healthy as hell too. I love cooking extravagant meals, but I also love feeling healthy.
2. Write down three good things that happened to me
I plan to do this every night before bed in a paper journal that I keep at my bedside (rather on the fake fireplace’s mantel above our bed). Instead of writing some general stuff like, "Work wasn’t too stressful," I plan to write specific good happenings like, "I receive a nice compliment on my new specs from a co-workers." I hear that if you write specific events down it’s more meaningful than generic events.
I used to do the 5 Gratitudes thing everyday, but fell out of the habit, so this will be a way of tallying up the positive experiences of each day and going to sleep thinking about some good things that happened.
Wow, I’m such a hippie.
You know how I was making a resolution each month? November turned into a no-resolution month. I finally decided to improve my handwriting in November, but now it’s ended up as bad as when the month started. Ah so.
I have a lot of personal goals on my list, but I don’t seem to make a lot of progress on them, probably because I can’t seem to keep concentrating on the same goal for more than a few weeks at a time. I have the attention span of a cat, I swear. I’ve been wanting to learn another language or bone up on my French and neither has happened yet. I’ve also wanted to somehow streamline this blog into something more than the random stuff in my life. Maybe I should focus on cooking or on photography, or just restrict this blog to both of those subjects. Then I can think more about what kinds of entries to write instead of just spouting off about anything that comes to mind.
But wait, this might work well since I’ve also been meaning to get back to cooking more from recipes. Seeing as there are so many food-centric holidays in late autumn/early winter, it seems that I should try to stay healthy by cooking my own food at home. When I cook at home, I am more likely to:
- Use quality ingredients
- Use a healthy amount of fats (basically, I don’t deep-fry anything at home)
- Add a lot of vegetables
- Cut back on the amount of meat
- Cut back on the general volume of food I consume
- Generally be more conscious of what I’m eating
- Be more aware of my food habits
- Save some goddamn money
As much as I love eating out, I love feeling healthy too and quite often I will come home from eating out feeling heavy and bloated. It’s probably a combination of the sheer volume that restaurants serve (yes, I have a hard time stopping myself and maintaining portion control) and all the things that make restaurant food taste so good, e.g., fats and calories.
The thing is, I am almost positive that I can make tasty delicious food all by myself at home (ok, with a little help from Franny sometimes) that will leave me feeling lighter and healthier than eating out at a restaurant. And this is where I completely admit to the Type A control freak inside me that thinks it’s a better idea to eat my so-so tasting, nutritious, homecooked food than glorious tasting, probably fatty restaurant food.
(Maybe I just need to go out to nicer restaurants.)
But anyway, I’ll leave you with a few photos of eateries we visited in Los Angeles.
Our very first meal there was Ethiopian at Merkato Restaurant on Fairfax near Pico. We hadn’t planned anything in advance, and I figured we would just do the research when we got there and had cravings (this often turns out to be the best way to plan our meals, with the exception of must-eat or fancy dinners out). We showed up at the hotel, freshened up a little, read the little "Los Angeles" magazine in the room, and discovered that Ethiopian food sounded like just the right thing to eat. I perused the Chowhound boards for a little bit and decided that we would show up and check out Messob, Merkato, and one other place whose name escapes me. Parking was rather easy and we quickly walked past all three places (they’re right next to each other) and decided to hit Merkato for no reason other than it looked not-too-trendy.
The first thing we ordered were two bottles of Hakim Stout, our Ethiopian beverage of choice. If I am ever able to find these beers at the store, I will probably buy a case or two. Then we quickly settled on the vegetarian combo and gored-gored, chunks of raw beef in spices. I think they seared cook the beef to medium for us and it was simply delicious.
We went to Daikoku-ya Ramen and ordered (you guessed it) ramen! I quite enjoyed the springy noodles and the thickly flavoured broth that still tasted quite light. The pork slices melted in my mouth and the tiny glop of pickled ginger I added on top really made a nice foil to the super meaty broth. And to top it all off, we stopped at the manju shop ahead of time and brought 4 small manju back to the hotel room to share while watching television.
If you’re in Santa Monica/West LA area, Bite Bakery is a very cute little shop. They have a nice array of sweets, from fruity ones to decadent chocolate ones. I believe they are known for their salted caramels, but we didn’t order any when we were there. Maybe next time we’re there, I’ll insist on getting it, since it sounds quite amazing and I adore the mix of salty-sweet.
There are more photos of LA to come; I’m simply slow at uploading. I’ll probably post about my cooking ideas. Maybe I’ll do some recipe and photo posts with whatever I’ve been mixing up at home. I’ve thought about keeping a bit of a homecooked-dinner journal, but I don’t know how many times you guys really want to read about my sad meals like "sardines from the can on toast" or "vegetable tofu stir fry over rice" or "buttered toast with apple slices." I don’t know that I would like to tell the world exactly how frequently I eat those meals as well.
Uh huh… ANYWAY… I’m off for now. xoxo
Last night I got home from work and made up the matcha tiramisu. Luckily, I’d done all the shopping the previous night so I could just go straight home and start the whisking.
And my, what a lot of whisking it was!
So here we go.
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1/2 c marsala wine or rum (but I used orange juice this time)
- 1 lb mascarpone cheese (mashed until smooth)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1-2 cups strong brewed green tea
- Matcha powder
- Enough savioardi for 2 layers in your serving pan
- A couple small bowls large enough for separating the eggs and mashing the cheese
- 2 large bowls for whisking
- A whisk or two (I like having two for this recipe)
- Small flat bowl to dip the cookies into the tea
- The serving dish (can be a lasagna tray or square pyrex pan)
First thing to do is separate the four egg yolks from their whites. I usually crack the eggs into a small bowl and use then use my fingers as a sieve to remove the yolks and plop them into the whisking bowl. I usually make an egg white omelet for a nice light meal after I make the tiramisu.
Oh, a small note on the whisking bowl. Since you’ll be using this whisking bowl as the top of a double boiler, you need to make sure the bowl is the right size to sit on top of a pot of boiling water. The bottom of the whisking bowl shouldn’t touch the hot water (it should be a very light boil, just more than a simmer). The idea is that the heat from the boiling water will heat the bottom of the whisking bowl.
Now that you have a pot and the bowl, put an inch or two of water in the pot (enough so that it can boil, but not too much that the bottom of the bowl will touch the water) and set it on the stove to boil. I put it on medium-low flame and let it heat up while I take care of the egg yolks.
Using a whisk, mix the egg yolks with the 1/2 cup sugar.
Whisk and whisk and it’ll change from a deep yellow to a lighter yellow colour. It’ll be noticeable. Make sure you whisk long enough for it to become the pale yellow colour. I’m not sure what’ll happen if you don’t whisk long enough, but I’d encourage you not to waste your time and forearm power finding out. I think it has something to do with the fat molecules wrapping around the sugar crystals and some magic chemical process happening.
Add in the marsala wine or rum or orange juice in and pop the bowl on top of the boiling water. Remember, the water shouldn’t be boiling too hard, just gently enough and giving off some steam to heat the bottom of the bowl. Keep mixing the bowl while it’s on top the pot. What you’re trying to do here is keep the liquids moving so that the egg yolk doesn’t cook. This can take a while, 5-15 minutes, but persevere. You are making zabaglione, a traditional Italian custard.
Again, make sure to keep whisking while the custard is heating. You should feel it thicken and see small bubbles forming on the surface. When your whisk is pulling ribbons that still disappear, the custard is ready, so take it off the heat. Congrats, you’ve made zabaglione! If you don’t want to continue, you can just pour this over some fruit and serve this as a dessert. It will continue to thicken in the icebox if you want or you can serve it warm.
While it cools down, whip the heavy cream in another large bowl. By the way, you can do all this by hand but you can also use a stand mixer or hand mixer. I like doing it by hand since it’s not that difficult and doesn’t take too much longer than getting the stand mixer out. Besides, I have 2 whisks and 2 mixing bowls, but only one stand mixer, so I’d have to clean the whisker attachment and bowl between uses.
Hopefully, you’ll also have mixed the mascarpone cheese until smooth as instructed in the ingredient list. Add the cheese to the zabaglione and whisk until smooth. Plop the whipped cream on top and gently fold it in with a spatula. Once you’ve done all this, the mixture should be soft, but still have enough strength to stand up on the end of your finger just like this:
If this is the case (and I hope it is), then you are ready for assembly. Pour the green tea into a flat bowl and get your serving dish ready. I dip the savioardi into the green tea bowl one by one, rolling it around in the tea until I can feel them start to disintegrate in my fingers. Before the cookie starts to fall apart, pull it from the tea bath and line the bottom of the serving dish. Depending on the shape, you may want to trim the cookies to make them fit. After you finish the bottom layer of cookies, spread half of the filling on top.
When you do the second layer of cookies, I advise turning the dish 90 degrees so that the two layers of cookies are oriented perpendicularly from each other. I don’t know that this does anything, but I like to think it helps the cake retain some kind of structural integrity. It’s in a dish and all, but I dunno, I can’t help it.
Before you lay the second layer of cookies, you may want to dust the surface of the custard with the matcha powder. I didn’t do it this time because Franny hadn’t brought the powder home yet. Anyway, finish that second layer of cookies and top with the rest of the custard cream. Smooth it to make it pretty and dust the entire top with matcha. If you have leftover cream, you can mix it with a couple more cookies in a small bowl and have a “taster” version of the tiramisu. I usually do this to make sure the flavours came out just right. It would probably make more sense to make the “taster” before assembling the entire cake.
Well anyway, you’re done! Now put it in the fridge overnight and enjoy it the next day with someone you love.
When I get invited to a potluck, I usually try to avoid bringing desserts since it always seems like there are always too many. The last potluck I was at, there were actually 4 trays of brownies. Four!! Not to mention, whenever I show up for my family’s Christmas party, other (more trusted) people are always taking care of the desserts. I’d hate to bring a mediocre dessert when my aunt provides 2-3 of her delicious homemade pies. She’s taken pastry classes and can do fancy stuff, so I stay away from the dessert arena.
Instead, I bring something savoury and usually vegetarian. My usual go-to item is an herbed beer bread with a crunchy buttery crust. I’ve pretty much nailed down the recipe by now and I usually pre-slice the whole thing and wrap it in alu foil so it looks pretty homemade.
This Thanksgiving, we’re crashing a friend’s family dinner, so I asked him what we should bring. Of course we could always bring wine if he was set for everything else, but I’d prefer to contribute something more labour-intensive to a meal that’s already going to be labour-intensive for the hosts. Also, I figure that if they have one less thing to make/worry about then that’s better for everyone. When my friend mentioned that he didn’t have a dessert yet, I was so utterly happy!
Finally, I can bring a dessert to a party! Finally.
I gave him my usual choices (like my go-to potluck item, I do also have trusted go-to desserts). I’m always willing to try a new recipe, but I’d rather not experiment when I’ll be bringing the only dessert for a holiday meal, so it’s best to just go with something I know will turn out tasty than have a new recipe turn into disaster and have to run out for a store-bought pie at the last minute. You should also know that I prefer to make desserts ahead of time and let them sit in the icebox overnight, so all three of my go-to desserts are preferably made this way. I think sitting overnight lets the flavours mingle together, and it also frees me to do something else the day of the party, like sit around at home or go for a bike ride.
(None of the three photos below are my own. I’ve borrowed them from other sites and provided links to them.)
1) Peanut butter pie
[link] Now, the peanut butter pie is usually something I reserve for my birthday party or for when Franny wants to host a smoked meats party. Yeah, it’s the perfect heavy ending to a ridiculously meat-laden meal. Don’t judge us. It’s good, but perhaps a bit too heavy after a Thanksgiving meal.
2) Berry trifle
[link] Sometimes I forget that people don’t know what trifle is. My friend had to look it up and then declared that it looked really amazingly good. It can also be quite alcoholic depending on the chef, so it can be a really nice ending to a meal.
For those who have never heard of or eaten trifle before, it’s basically layers of pound cake, pudding, and fruit all placed into a nice bowl (yes I have a trifle bowl). I soak the cake in a mixture of rum and juice, the ratio of alcohol to juice depending on how “adult” I’d like to make it. It’s a nice dessert and the fruit makes it light. The presentation is usually really pretty, but mine is definitely not as pretty as the photo above.
3) Green tea tiramisu
[link] This is perhaps my most favourite dessert to make, mostly because it seems more impressive than it is. It has only three main components: zabaglione filling, savioardi or ladyfinger cookies, and a liquid dip for the savioardi. Ok, is this already sounding too complicated? It really isn’t, I swear.
The zabalgione filling can be made ahead of time and is basically the same recipe for any flavour of tiramisu. I’ve seen some recipes where you forgo making the zabalgione and just mix whipped cream with some eggs and wine without cooking it to a custard, but I don’t really trust those. I usually use Anna Maria Volpi’s basic recipe and then customise the flavour for green tea instead. You could probably use any other flavour you like, perhaps fruit or something.
The zabaglione filling is simply a zabaglione custard (egg yolks, sugar, and wine cooked until thickened) mixed with mascarpone cheese and freshly whipped cream. I use store-bought savioardi since I’m simply not trustworthy enough to make consistently good ones myself. For the green tea flavouring, I brew a couple cups of very strong green tea and add a couple teaspoons of sugar and let cool to room temperature.
To assemble, dip the savioardi into the green tea (you can also arrange the cookies in the pan and brush the tea over if you prefer) and arrange as a single layer in the bottom of your pan. Shmear half of the zabaglione filling on top. Then repeat with a second layer of cookies and filling. If you happen to use a taller pan, you could try for three layers if you have enough filling and cookies. I usually whip up the leftover cream, spread it on top of the whole thing and then sprinkle with maccha powder. Put the whole thing in the fridge and let it sit for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight if you can.
I don’t really know why tiramisu sounds so impressive when it’s really so simple, but it is what it is. Oh, and if you don’t have the savioardi lying around, you can also just make a very simple zabaglione custard (just the egg yolks, sugar, and marsala wine) and serve it layered with whatever fresh fruit is in season for a light dessert with even less fuss.
This is the dessert I’ll be bringing to Thanksgiving dinner at my friend’s place this year. I might also include some cut fresh fruit as well for those who don’t want it.
Blogs have become so prevalent that it seems that the only way to have a "popular" blog is to stick to a single topic and write about that most of the time. Well, that is unless you have a super-interesting life or you’re famous and people read your blog because of that. Unluckily, most of us aren’t famous (or even internet-famous), so blogs that talk about specific things like cooking, humour, photography, celebrities, etc are more likely to garner hits than blogs about people’s lives.
Tumblr seems to be a perfect example of this. There are lots of tumblrs based on quite specific interests like girls on bikes, pretty girls, vintage clothing, menswear, interior design, etc. It’s pretty interesting how specific they can be.
Well this doesn’t mean that I’m going to start blogging about some specific subject. I’ll probably keep writing whatever I feel like writing and posting whatever I like on here. Or maybe I’ll stop posting altogether. I don’t know that people still care, and most of my online friends probably follow me more on Flickr or Twitter anyway. Or maybe no one follows me at all and it’s all just in my head. Yeah…
Maybe I should stick to posting photos and writing little stories to go with them, but I do that on Flickr and maybe it should stay there instead. Eh… what to do about this little blog space… maybe just keep it and keep doing whatever I’m doing with it, popular or not. I can’t worry about promoting my blog or driving traffic to my site. Ha. It’s just too much trouble.
And with that, I’m off to go read some other people’s personal blogs that I subscribe to. They also don’t really write about anything very specific, but somehow I still find it interesting.
It’s true: I am one happy morning commuter. I get to ride my bike to the train station, sit on a train and watch the sunrise, and then ride my bike for another 25 minutes along a nice bike boulevard. Sure, sometimes it rains which isn’t so pleasant, but it’s still not that bad. A nice commute puts me in a good mood, and I typically get into work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to laugh at coworkers’ early morning quips.
We can be an odd bunch. But a fun bunch!
Oh, and it’s the Bicycle Film Festival this weekend here in SF. I volunteered last night, helping set up for the free show and got myself a very cool (and comfortable) hat in exchange. I could have gotten a t-shirt, but honestly, I will probably never wear it except to sleep in, and I already have a ton of those shirts. The hat is Cinelli and is a nice 3-panel design that has a kinda long brim that’s great for keeping the sun out of my eyes.
Anyway, thought I’d share five things that tickle my fancy just about every morning. It’s been a wonderful week, and it’s leading into what promises to be a fun-filled weekend (we be celebratin’!!!).
1. Small dogs, big dogs, and everything in between
Since I’m out early everyday and at about the same time, I see the same people walking their dogs before they leave for work. Man, I love pets.
2. That sailboat by Oyster Point
There is a sailboat that is perpetually parked just perfectly by Oyster Point such that the sun is behind it in the morning and it’s just… pretty. Some morning, I’m going to wake up early and ride my bike there and take some photos while the sun rises. So nice. I haven’t even tried taking photos from the train since I usually only have my mobile and the train’s usually going way too fast. But yes, the sun is riding and the water is so pretty and the boat is just.. perfect. Yep.
3. Traffic lights with bike sensors
I used to pass through one intersection in San Jose that had a little marking on the road to tell a cyclist where to wait, but it wouldn’t trigger the light unless there was a car waiting with you. If you were there alone (as often happened in the mornings), you had to go press the crosswalk signal for pedestrians. Lame. Luckily, I pass through several lights in Palo Alto with cyclist markings that actually work, and that is pretty great. It makes me happy to know that I can just sit and wait got a minute or so and the light will change even without a car waiting for it.
4. Crisp morning air
My ride in the morning always seems more enjoyable to me because the air feels crisp and fresh. It doesn’t get very cold here even in the winter time; it’s just cool enough that you want to put on some gloves and maybe woolen socks so your toes don’t get too cold. Generally, I prefer to ride when it’s slightly cool outside since I can usually generate just enough heat to keep myself from getting too cold.
5. Kids biking to school, especially the little ones
I really like seeing families riding bikes to drop the kids at school. They usually go pretty slowly, but generally the parents are very careful and I see a lot of parents encouraging good cycling skills with their kids (ride in a straight line, use the bike lane, stop at stop signs).
Sometimes, if I see an elementary or middle school kid riding to school alone, I’ll sort of act like a quasi-chaperone for however long our routes intersect and make sure that the kid can make it across intersections, especially ones with cars. I figure, I’m bigger and more easily seen than a kid on a small bike, and it doesn’t add much time to my commute, so I might as well make sure they’re safe if I can.
I’ve been sick for the past few days, with whatever’s been "going around" to everyone. Even Frannie got sick with it too, and it lasted for more than a day. As for me, I actually decided to take care of myself and stay home from work for a couple days, instead of just suffering and ending up with a cold that lingers for a week or more. As a result, I’m feeling pretty darned good, except for a tiny bit of a cough left over. Hopefully that’ll be gone in the next couple days and I’ll be 100% soon. Yay.
In the meantime, America has decided to go back to standard time, so it means our mornings are bright once again and the afternoons are dark. It sure seems to me that people lament this change every frickin’ year, but seriously guys, can you just quit complaining about it already? If we used standard time all year round, I’d be just fine with it, but we don’t. We have that wacky daylight savings time during the summer, and you know what, the time on my clock dances forward and back each spring and winter and I don’t frickin’ complain about it. But I guess it’s inevitable that people will complain about something. If it wasn’t about that, it’d be about the weather or the stock market or the price of things these days.
Right. Enough complaining about people who complain. Seriously, it doesn’t help anything really.
Anyway, we’re headed down to the LA area to relax and eat and get away from the Bay Area for a few days next week. I’ve only really been to LA once before and we visited friends and stayed with them. This time, we’re on our own, so we’re taking suggestions from everyone on what to do and where to eat. I think the current list right now is:
- USC campus
- Exhibition Park
- Pastrami at Langer’s Deli
- Daikokuya Ramen
- The Getty Center or the Getty Villa
- Little Tokyo
- The beach
We’re still working on what the heck we’ll actually be doing, but I imagine we’ll end up just walking around a lot, eating wherever, maybe sitting on grass if we can find it, and then going to a pub at night. That’s what we seem to do every time we go on vacation, no matter how much planning I do.
Better to over-plan and under-accomplish than to feel extremely bored and not know what to do, right? So anyway, please provide any suggestions, especially food-related if you haven’t already.