Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Love The Pork Shop

...but not for their pork!

Just a quickie, my lunch today, a caprese salad. Fresh Mozzarella from The Pork Shop, located across the street. Styling courtesy of my room mate.


Caprese Salad for 2

2 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced in wedges
1 bunch of fresh basil
1 lb ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

~Slice the mozzarella to an appropriate size in relation to the tomatoes and basil.
~Arrange nicely on a plate. Or don't.
~Drizzle with olive oil.
~Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cakes and Pies and Cookies, Oh My

It's been a busy week of baking...

First there were vegan chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting, for a playdate my sister had with a friend who was allergic to eggs...

plain for the adults...

...rainbow sprinkles for the kids!

...and then a peach blueberry pie...


...and last of all, a lemon-thyme shortbread, recipe courtesy of Elissa of 17 and Baking. I made these with my sister, too, and she had a great time picking out which cookie cutters to use. The bunnies and bears were her choice. A jar went to my boyfriend; the rest were reserved for me.


My week in sweets.

Friday, June 18, 2010

We Are So Asian

I think everyone has figured out by now that I have a baby sister. She is 3 years old, small, Asian, and adorable. Strangers who see us together seem to automatically assume I am a teenage mom. Guests who come to our house are only too quick to mistaken my baby pictures for photos of her. Everyone who meets her loves to hug her, talk to her, and play with her. Except me.

Is that horrible? Probably. But it doesn't change the fact that the thought of "playing" with my sister, running after her on her tricycle, changing the outfits on her Polly Pocket dolls, pretending to be princesses together, makes me inwardly cringe. For everyone who thought that my love for cooking and baking (and eating) means I'm a motherly, domestic type, I'm sorry to crush your hopes and dreams. It's not that I dislike children, but I am really more of the book-reading, creepy-movie-watching, note-book-doodling type than anyone you really want babysitting your kids.

Naturally, this fact horrifies my father, among many other things about me which would if he only knew about them. He's always pestering me to spend more time with my sister, and doesn't believe that making bentos for her is an admissible expression of my care for her. So, recently to placate my father and simultaneously get some bonding time with my baby sister, I have been cooking and baking with her. She can now crack an egg cleanly on her own, a feat that I didn't accomplish until I was 13, and I am very proud. Dinner tonight? Wontons.


Wonton Soup
Okay, so here's a most Chinese cooking, there is not so much a "recipe", with exact measurements and whatnot, as we just chuck the correct ingredients in in the amounts we feel are right. I've tried to approximate it down for this blog...but basically assume that everything here is "to taste", because I did not actually measure any of this.

1 lb ground pork
1/2 cup chopped scallions
3/4 cup portobello mushroom caps, diced fine
1 tbsp salted butter
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 package of wonton wrappers

~Mix the ground pork, scallions, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, and pepper together in a mixing bowl.
~In a small pan, melt the butter and saute the portobello mushroms until brown(er). Mix in with the pork.
~Go here to learn how to fold wontons, oldschool style.
~Bring a pot of water to boil, and drop the wontons in one by one. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Wontons will be done when they float to the surface.
~Serve immediately in a bowl with soy sauce and sesame oil to taste.

Makes enough for 5 people.



Thursday, June 17, 2010


A lunch request from my mum: Crab Cakes.


An Alternative to Fish Sticks

1 lb can of lump crab meat, drained
1 egg, well beaten
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp whole milk
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup diced onions
1 clove of garlic, minced
panko bread crumbs
1 lemon

~Mix all the ingredients except the panko in a large mixing bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.
~Form the mixture into whatever shape or size your little heart desires. Just keep in mind the bigger the cake, the longer it will take to cook, and you risk singeing the breadcrumb coating by frying it too long.
~Roll the cakes in the panko until it is well-coated.
~Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
~Heat up enough oil to completely submerge the cakes. When the oil is hot (it should sizzle enthusiastically when you flick a drop of water into the pot), drop the cakes into the oil and fry until golden brown.
~Squeeze the lemon over the crab cakes and serve with whatever sauce you want...which, my my case, was ketchup.

My sister ate them, reluctantly at first and then with greater enthusiasm when she discovered they were somewhat like fish sticks.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Obento for a Picky Eater - Week 2


Contents: Rotelle-cheese pasta with shredded carrots and broccoli, watermelon and mango fruit salad, corn, kidney bean, and chickpea salad, and three cherry tomatoes.
Verdict: She ate some of the pasta, most of the fruit salad, most of the corn salad, and one tomato.


Contents: Seven cucumber and cream cheese heart sandwiches, one crab cake, bottle of dressing, corn, kidney bean and chickpea salad, piece of banana, mini apple bunny, two cherry tomatoes, blueberries and raspberries.
Verdict: She ate four of the sandwiches, half the crab cake, and the fruits (tomatoes excluded).


Contents: Four shiitake mushroom onigiri, egg-sheet rolls tied with spaghetti, cucumber and cherry tomato flowers, blueberries and raspberries, mango cubes, corn and chickpea salad.
Verdict: She ate two fo the onigiri, the egg rolls, the fruit, and one of the flowers.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Obento for a Picky Eater - Week 1

For the last two weeks of my little sister's preschool class, the students are required to bring a home lunch. She's been enrolled in the school lunch program for most of the year because my parents can't be bothered to pack her a lunch every day, most of which she won't eat anyway. I have no clue what they serve for school lunch, except for one day when she informed me that they'd had pizza for lunch.

I was excited when my mother told me that I would have to make my sister lunch for two weeks, because it would mean I got to use all the adorable bento gear that I've bought. I was hoping that the cuteness factor would get my sister to actually eat the lunch (have I mentioned she's a picky eater?). Plus, secretly, I was hoping that the mega-cute lunches would inspire some envy among her classmates and help with my sister's 3-year-old self-esteem...let me explain...

A week or so ago, she came home from preschool and told our mom and me that she had to have something called a "silly band". Neither of us knew what she was talking about. We offered her a pink elastic hairband, which she rejected, saying it wasn't the right one. We asked her to explain, and she replied "it's not shaped like an animal!". Instantly I knew what she was talking about. Those colored silicone bands molded into the shape of an animal. They'd first started appearing in our local supermarket a couple years ago. We asked her why she wanted one, to which she whined "everyone has them but me!". I tried asking her why she cared that everyone had them, and she could only mumble "Because...everyone else has one..."

Shit. The peer pressure bug had bitten. It's not so much that I'm completely opposed to random trends (am I turning into a hipster?), so much as I'm opposed to the really stupid ones (green movement = good trend, uggs = stupid trend. In my humble opinion). "Silly Bandz", while far from the worst trend ever, symbolized to me the start of her awareness of what "everyone else was doing", and possibly of a journey that might lead to cookie-cutter clone-dom, a journey I was determined to stop. My worst nightmare is my baby sister growing up to be a stereotypical, spoiled, trend-slave princess who wouldn't be happy with herself unless she had the latest "in" thing. I refused to let that happen.

I knew my parents could not be counted on to raise her to be an independent, free-thinking individual. Indeed, I discovered, my mother had considered buying a packet of "Silly Bandz" when she chanced upon them in our local CVS, to be turned off only by the price.

So...hence the reason for the bentos. My reasoning is that she'll probably like it, even though it's not like everyone else's, and hopefully it will help her be okay with not having the same things as everyone else. It's only a small part, but...I figured every little bit counts.

And onto the bentos. Monday was Memorial Day, so there was no school and thusly no bento that day, but starting Tuesday I got up at 5:30 to start preparing.

bento1 by you.
Contents: Three onigiri (rice balls) filled with scrambled eggs and topped with ham cut out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, one octopus hot dog, three tulips made out of watermelon and cucumber, one mini silicone cup filled with diced avocado dipped in lemon juice, and some broccoli florets to fill up the space. Not pictured is a little container of buttermilk herb dressing to dip the broccoli into.
Verdict: She ate the hot dog, the avocado, the tulips, one and a half of the rice balls (although she did pick off all the hearts) and one piece of broccoli. I asked her what she liked about the lunch, and she said the watermelon, the ham, and the octopus. Of course.


bento2 by you.
Contents: Half a ham and cheese sandwich cut into four triangles, two flowers made from egg sheet, three sliced cucumber halves, two pieces of heart-shaped watermelon, two broccoli florets, and one apple bunny.
Verdict: She ate two of the sandwiches (and picked the ham and cheese out of the remaining), the egg flowers, the watermelon, and the apple bunny.

bento3 by you.
Contents: Three carrot yaki onigiri, one mini silicone cup of potato salad and one of cubed peaches, one storebought frozen meatball, some cucumber sticks, and a mini jello cup.
Verdict: She ate one yaki onigiri and most of another, the meatball, a one of the cucumber sticks, all but two of the peaches, and the jello (duh). The potato salad appeared untouched ;_;

bento4 by you.
Contents: Seven grilled-cheese hearts (a little more than half a sandwich), one mini silicone cup of cocoa-dusted almonds and another with chicken cubes with tomato sauce, a little container with extra tomato sauce for dipping, carrot sticks, broccoli florets, watermelon balls, grapefruit segments, and two mini apple bunnies.
Verdict: She ate all the grilled cheeses and the almonds, half of the watermelon balls, one apple bunny, and a couple of pieces of grapefruit. She didn't eat any of the veggies or chicken at all! The almonds and grilled cheese must have filled her up.

Conclusion for the week: Not bad. I know I probably pack her too much food (she's 3 and a half and doesn't have a very big appetite) but I want her to have some choices. For a toddler who usually had to be coaxed into eating every bite and shuns new food, this was pretty good. One more week of preschool lunches, and then a break before summer camp starts.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,

Do you know the muffin man,

Who lives in Drury Lane?

Yes I know the muffin man,

The muffin man, the muffin man,

Yes I know the muffin man,

Who lives in Drury Lane.

lemonpoppyseedmuffin by you.

Lemon-Poppyseed Muffins
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's recipe in Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted cooled
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

~Preheat oven to 400°F.
~In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar and lemon zest and use your fingers to rub it together to get the sugar good and lemony.
~Whisk in the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
~In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, eggs, butter, vanilla, and lemon juice until smooth.
~Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula.
~Add the poppyseeds and stir them in evenly.
~Grease a muffin pan (or cupcake pan, which is what I used) with vegetable oil. Use a paper towel to make sure the insides of the cups are well oiled.
~Fill the cups about 3/4 full.
~Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are nicely golden.
~Let them cool for about 5 minutes.
~Run a butter knife around the edge of the cups to loosen the muffins, then turn the pan upside down over some paper towels and shake. They should come out fairly easily if you greased the cups well enough.
~Promptly devour warm, with a pat of butter.

Okay, so I say "adapted", but what I really mean is I accidentally added three 1/3 cups of sugar to the bowl instead of just the 2/3 called for. This made the batter a bit too dry, so I added an extra 1/4 cup of sour cream to remedy it. The muffins came out great, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to try to actual original recipe, either.

A few days ago, for dinner I made lemon gnocchi. You can find the original recipe on the Food and Wine website. The gnocchi was delicious, even though I wasn't anywhere close to following the actual recipe (Ha). What was more intriguing for me was how calm I was throughout the entire process, which if I'm being honest was a whole bunch of screwups of my own devising. I didn't have baking potatoes, which are starchier and fluffier than boiling potatoes (which I did have). I also didn't feel like skinning two lemons for their zest when I needed only a tablespoon of lemon juice. So I used only one lemon-full of zest. And I added some cornstarch to the boiling potatoes, thinking it would make up for the lack of starch in the potatoes themselves and help the dough come together. One teaspoon ought to be enough, I thought. I was wrong.

One teaspoon turned out to be far too much. The potatoes were so sticky that I had to add about three times as much flour as the recipe called for, and even with my hands generously coated with flour the dough still stuck to my palms. Usually this is the part where I freak out and chuck everything in the bin. Except...miraculously, I didn't. I rolled the sticky dough into balls and threw them into a pot of boiling water. One thing I loved about gnocchi, I decided, was how easy it was to tell they were cooked--the dumplings float to the top of the water when they are done. They were scooped out one by one, dropped into a pan and sauteed with some olive oil and baby spinach, and served in a soup made of chicken stock, butter (!) and lemon juice.

gnocchi raw by you.
Boiled, unfried gnocchi.

gnocchi by you.
My sister's bowl. She wouldn't even try it at first, but then after much coaxing took a bit and decided she liked it enough to eat three.

Random food from the rest of the week...

watermelon by you.
Butchering a watermelon makes me nervous because cleavers are very large and sharp and watermelons are very round and roll-y and my fingers are very small and hackable. There were no accidents this time, thank god.

bunnyegg by you.
My very first try with the egg mold! This is an extra large egg. Unfortunately my sister refuses to eat egg yolk (although she will eat scrambled eggs), so I haven't put this in her lunch.

eggflip by you.
My second attempt at making an egg sheet. The first attempt failed because I used too much water to dissolve the cornstarch, and had to turn it into scrambled eggs instead. I'll show you what I did with this later.

Next up: My little sister's bento stream.