Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crafty: Skull Hat!

Remember that work-in-progress I posted a week or two ago?


Tadaaaaaaaaa!! It's done! And here it is, being modelled by Quatchi, one of the Vancouver Olympics mascots. (The jury is out on whether the actual recipient wants his photo posted, but pssst, if you click through that photo to my Flickr stream, you can see it anyway....shhhhhhh.)


So, where've I been these past few days? Yup, you guessed it--Vancouver! And I had a great time and came back with discounted Olympic swag. Well, I did manage to just restrain myself to these two. But aren't they cute? And now I must run to work, so more on Vancouver later!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies

Caramel filled chocolate cookies

I know, you are thinking "Man, these sure are some plain and boring looking chocolate cookies." I thought so too. I mean, I've complained about this before but it's hard (for me) to photograph anything chocolate because it's just brown! But fear not, they may be plain Janes on the outside, but inside is a different story...

Stretchy Caramel Yum

Oh yeah, that's right. Molten, stretchy caramel, baby. Still think it's plain?? And what kind of fussy method do we use to put caramel in the cookies?

Haha. Actually, these are super easy to put together; it's just a crinkle cookie wrapped around a Rolo (for those of you unfamiliar with them, they are chocolate covered caramel candies). The only fiddly bit is unwrapping all them darned Rolos and resisting the urge to eat too many of them. The good news is, you need 48, and your average bag of Rolos has about 55. Yes, I counted. But what did I make these for? Here's a clue:

A Band of Brave Warriors

Can you guess? I'll just say it was a nerd-tastic weekend involving all kinds of yummy food, Mountain Dew, and lots of laughing. And, of course, cookies.

Caramel Filled Cookies, adapted from Culinary in the Desert
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (my favorite is King Arthur's Double Dutch)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
48 Rolos (or substitute peanut butter cups or plain caramels)

Sift together the flours, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a small bow. Set aside.

Combine the butter and sugars, beat until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating the first before adding the second. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir just until incorporated (I recommend doing this by hand with a big wooden spoon; the dough is pretty soft so it shouldn't be too hard on your arms). Scrape dough into a plastic bag and chill for at least 2 hours.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Divide the dough into quarters, and work with one section at a time. Divide a quarter into 12 equal pieces of dough and roll into balls. Make sure you have unwrapped all the foil from your Rolos! Seriously!! Poke a hole in the center of each dough ball and insert a Rolo; shape the dough around the candy so that it is completely covered, and then roll between your palms back into a ball. Dip the top of each cookie in additional granulated sugar, if desired, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, sugared side up. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake until the tops are firm and cookies are set, approximately 12 minutes. If you feel like the cookies are a bit too puffy looking you can press them down a bit right after they come out of the oven, but don't push too hard! You don't want to squish the caramel out. Let sit on the pan for a few minutes, and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Makes 48 delicious cookies that will keep you powered up on your next quest. Serve with milk. Or coffee. Or tea. Or Mountain Dew...I won't judge.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mr. Bento and Me

Orange o'lantern

I thought I would deviate from my usual format (wait, do I really have a format??) and show you some of the lunches I've brought to work--I love my Mr. Bento set, which is a thermos jar with several little containers inside so you can bring multiple dishes with you! Which means that I can sit there at my desk with my multi-course lunch instead of paying the $10 for a crappy sandwich. Plus it's a great way to use up leftovers and somehow they seem more appealing when served in a series of little round containers. There are some great bento groups on Flickr which are wonderful places to get inspiration: this one is Mr. Bento specific and this one is mostly more traditional bento boxes, including some really amazing kyaraben (character bento). Me, I am not so creative and the best I can do is to carve a face on my clementines. Hah!


This is one of my earlier efforts, and by effort, I mean that it consisted entirely of leftovers from a middle eastern restaurant in my old neighborhood. Man, I miss that place.

Mini calzones

Then I started getting somewhat fancier and actually made the things I was bringing for lunch, like these mini calzones and salad. When I first started putting these lunches together, I had a hard time coming up with enough food/variety to fill up all 4 containers, because I was thinking of it as a lunchbox. Eventually I realized I could pack lunch, breakfast, AND snacks and now I actually kind of enjoy the whole planning ahead aspect of putting these lunches together. It's a nice little treat in the middle of the day.

12/30/09 Claypot Rice Lunch

This is one of my favorites--claypot rice! I am lazy and make my claypot rice in my rice cooker (as I don't own a claypot yet) which is great because it's easy to plan ahead and have leftovers to pack for lunch.

11/30/09 lunch

I do tend to pack mostly Asian foods for lunch, and I'd say this is a fairly typical breakdown: rice, a stir fry (eggplant and chicken in this case), fruit as dessert, and either a soup or another vegetable.

Mr. Bento Gets Sunny

But heck, you can pack whatever you can think of! In this case, I brought pierogies, tomato sauce for the pierogies, some really good looking fruit (man, now I'm making myself hungry again), and some cheese for a snack.

3/17/10 Lunch

And this is what I had for lunch yesterday: rice, chili shrimp, roasted broccoli, carrot-ginger soup, and fruit. I think you'll agree that this beats the pants off of fast food or a deli sandwich (not that I don't like sandwiches, but the delis by me are both expensive and slightly frightening).

Maybe one of these days I'll develop the imagination and steady hands necessary for kyaraben--in the meantime, check out Soul Soup Soap, Happy Little Bento, BentoBird, and Bentolicious for some super cute and tasty looking lunches! Guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's not just baking and eating in this joint

Hat Progress

Just a quick post before I head to work--this is what I'm currently working on when I'm not baking or eating (a rare occurrence, I admit). It's the Skull Isle hat from Son of Stitch n Bitch! Woot! I love the way it's coming out and man, GGH's Merino Soft feels soooo nice. I think I'm about to run out of black though so I guess I'll have to stop by the yarn store (oh, the hardship) and pick up another ball. I can't remember the last time I knit with such tiny needles but it's looking good, so I can't complain!

Have two other hats in progress as a surprise (well actually one of them just needs a pom pom attached). Hopefully will have finished photos of them on their recipients soon!

Monday, March 15, 2010



The madeleine, one of baking's enigmas. Is it a cake? Is it a cookie? Is it the mutant offspring of a cake and cookie who got together and made sweet, sweet love?

Haha, okay, enough of that. The madeleine is actually made with what amounts to a cake batter, but is baked in shell-shaped molds so that you get individual, totally addictive little morsels that get a bit crispy and cookie-like on the edges. It's the best of both worlds, in my opinion. (My opinion may be swayed by the fact that I am currently munching on the rejects--cook's treat!) And even more so when they are MINI madeleines.


The easiest way to fill madeleine pans is with a piping bag--that way you can just squeeze the right amount into the impressions rather than messing around with pushing the batter off a spoon or whatever. If you don't have a piping bag, just put your batter into a ziploc bag and cut the corner off. Since this batter rests overnight, I just scraped it into bags and left them in the fridge to chill.


Don't worry too much about spreading the batter out; even though it'll be chilled and stiff, it'll smooth itself out like in the photo above. As you can see, I've filled the molds almost to the rim. Also! I highly highly recommend that even if you have non-stick pans that you still butter and flour them. You will thank me later when you suddenly discover that one of your non-stick pans has mysteriously become a stick pan.

Pile of madeleines

Now what's better than a pile of mini madeleines? These happen to be Earl Grey flavored, and you haven't smelled delicious until you have steeped Earl Grey tea in butter. I wonder if that's what Morrissey had in mind when he sang about sharing greased tea (anytime Morrissey, just give me a call).


Oh wait, maybe this is better--add chocolate to the mix!


From left to right, Earl Grey, chocolate, and traditional. For some reason, the traditional ones turned out very strangely and bubbly (I mean, there were a LOT of air bubbles in the finished madeleines and no humps) and um, ugly. So, those became the bits that I nibbled on, and the much better looking Earl Grey and chocolate ones were packed up and sent on their merry way (their destination being brunch at Fair Folks and a Goat--go see their site, and then make an appointment to visit!)

:Updated on 3/17/10 to include recipe!:

Earl Grey Madeleines (by way of the Washington Post, adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pans
2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1/3 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave oven. Add the tea and allow it to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Place the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl and, using your fingertips, work the zest into the sugar until the mixture is fragrant. Add the eggs. Using the stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and zest for 2 to 3 minutes, until pale and thick. Add the honey and vanilla extract and beat for 1 minute. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently fold in the dry ingredients. When they are incorporated, fold in the butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days.

When you're ready to bake, center a rack in the oven; preheat to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 12 full-size madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. [Even if you have non stick pans, you should do this in case you end up like me with a pan that has mysteriously lost its non stick abilities. If you are making mini madeleines, just make sure you regrease and flour the pan between batches.] Place the pan on a baking sheet. Pipe or spoon batter into the mold(s), until almost full. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the madeleines are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the mold by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool to just-warm or room temperature.

Makes 12 regular sized madeleines, or something like 40 mini ones.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chinese New Year Parade 2010

Happy Year of the Tiger

I wonder if I will ever be caught up with blogging? That is to say, if I will ever be timely with blogging. Anyway, this year's CNY Parade was on February 21 (so I'm not tooooo late!) and as usual, I claimed a spot on Mott St.--this year, I was smart and showed up slightly later and stood on the correct side of the street, because I knew from my experience last year that by the time the parade started, I would be in the sun. Actually just like last year, it was pretty warm! I had better photos of the lions last year and you can see those in last year's post.

Confetti showers

As you can see, it was a beautiful day, and the confetti poppers were out in full force. I just want you all to know about the insidious nature of that confetti--weeks later, you will still find bits of it everywhere, in your coat pocket, in your shoe, and mysteriously, it will start appearing on clothing that you didn't wear to the parade. And now I will stop babbling and just show you some pictures.


The veterans


One of my favorite photos of the day. You really need to see it in the large size to appreciate the details of the makeup and costumes!


A drum troupe. Red, red, red everywhere!


Hee, check out this adorable cymbal guy.

Dumpling head man

Dumpling man! (Hey, this is nominally food related.)


A troop of lanterns. I don't know, they really made me smile!


Here comes the dragon! My favorite. It's huge, with a giant long tail, which, of course, I did not get a good photo of.


You know what was more terrifying than these giant head masks? The fact that there was a whole pile of giant head masks on the float...a pile of decapitated giant head masks!! Yikes!


If I were in a parade, I would be super excited. This kid, not so much. Cute, though :)


What a ham. Lion dancing is haaaard work!


Black Sesame from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

And what better way to celebrate the end of the parade than a cup of ice cream from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory? This is black sesame, with zen butter underneath. My two favorite flavors, well worth a frozen finger or two! (One of the things I really like about this place is that they will give you half scoops, so you can try more than one flavor at a time.)

If you are interested in seeing more photos, the full set is on Flickr, here. I can't wait until the next one!

On an unrelated note, I just want to document for posterity that it's 10:05 in the morning on a Sunday and I am almost done with my laundry. A miracle? Truly. And after that, I am headed to Norma's for brunch, woohoo! And after that....maybe I'll write a few more posts. Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: Kyotofu


I am always the last to know--Kyotofu has been open since 2006, but I didn't hear about this place until late last year. Well, what can I say, I am a creature of habit, and hanging out in Hells Kitchen is not part of that habit! Although I should change that--there is some great stuff over that way, like the Pony Bar. Mmm, beer. (For a more low-brow but also fun experience, Rudy's is nearby with the bonus of free hot dogs. Actually this sounds like a better idea than it is, unless you like smelling like hot dogs for the rest of the night. But the drinks are cheap!)


Anyway, a couple of us met up there the other night for snacks and dessert. They had a nice selection of what I think of as maybe Japanese style tapas--you know, just small bites, and we got a sampler of everything, plus tofu dips. Apologies for the less than stellar photos--it's dark in there, and my hands are shaky. But above is our tray of snacks. My favorite things were the rice balls, the pigs in "duvets", and the sliders. I was not crazy about their cheese selection, but the little sesame cookie that came with the cheese was yummy! But really, the highlight here is the dessert, and we had three (we shared).


Warm chocolate mochi cake. This was good, but the mochi part of the dessert is a tiny ball in the bottom of the cake. I wish there had been more, because really I felt like this should have just been called "warm chocolate cake." I really liked the ice cream on this though.


Strawberry shortcake! This was my second favorite of the desserts, with cake cubes tossed with strawberries, cubes of strawberry jello (alcoholic!), and tofu cream. The sorbet on the side was also delicious.


And the sweet potato cake--my hands down favorite. It was drizzled with a bit of some kind of caramel sauce and came with a scoop of ice cream and a tuile. I love sweet potatoes, so this was right up my alley. Oh! And when you get your bill, they bring you some teeny, adorable chocolate cupcakes. Nice touch! On our way out, we stopped at the bakery (the restaurant is in the back and they have a bakery counter and some bar tables up front) and picked up a few things.


Macarons--black sesame in the front, chocolate with green tea, and green tea. I have to be honest--I was not crazy about these. The texture was off--macarons should be crisp and then soft. These were a bit hard.

Green tea & ginger spice financiers

Mini financiers in green tea and ginger spice. These were so good! They are really small (maybe an inch across) and totally addictive. And cute!

Sweet potato cake

And finally, imagine my joy at being able to bring sweet potato cake home. They are mini-loaf sized which is perfect for breakfast with a good cup of tea. Must try to make sweet potato cake myself now. Maybe this weekend...

I'll definitely have to go back--we didn't try any of their signature tofu desserts (I know, and I call myself tofugirl? I am ashamed.) And I think next time I'll do the sake pairings with the desserts. Who wants to go?

705 9th Ave (between 48th and 49th)
New York, NY 10019

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hong Kong Post: High Tea at the Peninsula


You'll forgive me if I get around to my HK posts in a higgledy-piggledy order, but hey, this is a food blog (mostly!) and so can you blame me for writing about the food first?? I had a very short list of things that I HAD to do in Hong Kong (most of which had to do with eating) and on top of that list was to have high tea at the Peninsula Hotel. The Peninsula is one of the best hotels in the world, and if you can't afford to stay there (and I sure can't! There were a lot of Rolls Royces parked in front of it.) then the next best thing is to go and have afternoon tea in the lobby. (For the men, apparently going up to the Felix to have a pee is a highlight for the view while you, er, relieve yourself, but we didn't do that.)

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We took the Star Ferry over to Kowloon side and on the way there, passed this junk. Isn't it neat? I couldn't tell if it was a boat cruise for tourists (my best guess) but it's a super neat looking boat. And the Star Ferry is a great way to see the HK skyline (and so cheap! It's 2.50 HKD which is like, 30 cents U.S.).

I wish I had photos of the exterior of the Peninsula to show you...or photos of the lobby, but I don't know, I guess I was just so focused on getting to that tea! That it didn't occur to me until afterwards. There was a bit of a line, but we occupied ourselves by listening to the string quartet and trying to figure out what some of the maddeningly familiar songs were (I am 99% sure one of them was Kiss' I Was Made For Loving You. It sure sounds classy when played by a string quartet!). But soon enough, we were seated, and chose our teas (served in proper style with a tea strainer), and contemplated this:


Oooh man. They bring you a three-tiered stand, the top of which is filled with sweets! You can guess which tier I was most anxiously staring at. The sweets tier had raspberry macarons, a strawberry roll cake, and a chocolate coffee layer cake.

More Sweets

Here's the other side of the tier: mini slices of fruitcake and a raspberry mousse cake. Although, before we started on those, we went in for the savory tidbits.


Here, we have ham and egg salad sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, salmon sandwich (singular), mini quiche, and some sort of vegetable pastry. Actually my one quibble is that they gave us only one salmon sandwich! I mean, we did order the tea for two...anyway, my favorite things were the ham and egg salad sandwiches and the vegetable pastry! Delicious.


Next, the scones. And these are REAL scones--I am not a fan of American scones which are usually huge and way too sweet. I like them more like biscuits--all I want is maybe a few currants and then a dollop of clotted cream and a bit of jam. These, as you might imagine, are top notch. I did think it was a bit strange that they brought out three for the two of us but as it turned out, this entire tea turned out to be much more filling than it looked, and it was with great regret that we had to leave one scone uneaten. Trust me, I was very sad about it. There is also a little pastry wafer on this tier.

Scones & Jam

See? Could there be anything better than this and a cup of tea? Oh, right--dessert!

Fuschia Cake

We slowly tasted our way through everything, and my favorites were this gorgeously colored cake and the strawberry roll cake. The macarons were okay, but having tasted the platonic deal (Laduree, with Paulette a close second)...they didn't quite do it for me. And just when we thought we were done...

Espresso Pudding

One last dessert! They brought out these cute little espresso cups with a scoop of coffee sorbet on top. Underneath we discovered a yummy tiramisu. Delicious! A perfect ending to a wonderful experience. And no, I was hardly the only one taking photos of my tea ;) This may be a touristy thing to do, but I recommend it highly for anyone, tourist or local! It's an hour or two of peace and tranquility, something that can be hard to come by in frenetic Hong Kong.

Next installment: awesome stuff around HK. And yes, more food.