Monday, May 30, 2011

A Guest Post by my step-daughter, Erin

Simple and Fast, Just How I Like It!

First off, let me say that I am, by no means, a chef. I like it simple, fast all the while using little ingredients and preferably staple spices such as oregano, garlic powder and parsley. Lucky for me, this recipe calls for 2 of those staples and everything else I already had in my refrigerator. This recipe was a bonus find on top of a really good day at work so, I hope you find it just as easy to prepare and serve as I did.

Garlic Cheddar Chicken

1/2 cup butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves pounded thin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, and cook the garlic until tender, about 5 minutes
In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano, pepper and salt.
Dip each chicken breast in the garlic butter to coat, then press into the bread crumb mixture.
Arrange the coated chicken breasts in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Drizzle with any remaining butter and top with remaining
bread crumb mixture.
Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Now, let me tell you just how EASY I made this for myself. The chicken breasts I used were the frozen kind that you buy in bulk. LOVE them. They always come out super juicy and delicious and I save a ton of money by buying them like this. The garlic I used was the pre-minced garlic that comes in a jar. I just scooped 1 full teaspoon in with the butter. Keep in mind, I was only cooking for two and I only cooked 3 chicken breasts. 1 teaspoon was plenty however, if you plan on making 8 chicken breasts, like the recipe calls for, then I would do 3 teaspoons of the minced garlic. The Parmesan cheese was not "freshly" grated. It was from a bag. KRAFT to be exact but it does the trick even though fresh probably would have tasted a bit better. Oh, and same with the Cheddar cheese.. KRAFT, all the way! I can't stand black pepper so, I left that out and instead of regular salt I used my favorite, Lawry's seasoned salt. To top it off, I cooked the 3 chicken breasts in my toaster oven. I live by my toaster oven! I cook everything in it since it is just the two of us and living in southern California, my house gets too warm firing up the oven so the small toaster oven is just perfect. I cook a mean rib-eye steak in there as well as salmon!

With tonight's chicken, I served sauteed fresh asparagus with olive oil and Lawry's salt along with some delicious yellow corn.

My cooking is nothing like my step-mom's, my pictures aren't as flattering, but I love to cook and I love to share recipes. I hope you enjoy my post and try the chicken.. pretty sure you'll be pleased! ENJOY!

Happy Cooking,

Friday, May 27, 2011

“Jai” (Mixed Vegetables in fermented red beancurd)

My mum get requests from us to make this vegetarian dish rather often because we love the taste and find that even if we eat a lot, we don’t feel “Lau” (stuffed). Moreover it is a one dish meal that is very quick and simple to cook.  A bowl of fragrance white rice topped up with “Jai” and soaked in the gravy is all we need for a satisfying meal. As for me, I prefer to eat it with lots of chilli padi (birds chilli) in soy sauce.

Although we eat this quite often, we never get tired of it. In fact, on the first day of each Chinese New Year, my mum will cook a huge pot of “Jai” to serve family and friends who come visit us. They all love it and I have yet to see any of them to stop at one bowl. That’s the reason why a HUGE pot is necessary. Do not worry about left overs because this dish taste better as it aged.


½ kg Chinese Cabbage
6 cubes of fermented red beancurd (nam yu)
10 shitaki mushrooms (soaked till soft and squeezed dry)
5 florets of wood ear fungus -
(soaked for 30 mins and drained)
5 florets of cloud ear fungus -
(soaked for 30 mins and drained)
3 tsp sugar
2 tbp oil
2 cubes bullion, vegetable stock

Fry red beancurd in oil till fragrant.  Add Cabbage and stir till it is soft.  Add button mushrooms, shitaki mushrooms, and stir fry for 1 minute.  Add water till it is ½ inches above the vegetables.  Add sugar and vegetable stock and bring it to boil.  Turn down heat and let it stew for about ½ hour or till the cabbage is limp. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ravioli with spinach white wine creamy gravy

This dish comes from a combination of few recipes that I found on the web sometime ago and I forgot to write down the url addresses so I could not credit the owners of the recipes.  A thousand apologies.

When I was making this, my mum walked into the kitchen and she stayed and watch a bit. She asked me for the name for what I was making, I told her "Ravioli". This is her reply in Cantonese which I have translated into English.  "Why so hard to pronounce?, Haiyah, nevermind lah, I call it Quay Lo wantan." Isn't she a piece of work?

The good thing about ravioli is that you can make a big batch and freeze whatever the balance that are not used. You can use different kind of gravy to create a new taste each time.  I used spinach white wine creamy gravy for the first batch of ravioli. Then, few nights ago, Stitch suggested that I put the ravioli in minestrone soup and he said it was fantastic combintion and he loved it.  That is so easy, just heat up a can of minestrone soup and throw in the cooked ravioli.

For the benefit of those who are new to making ravioli like me, I have also made a short video on "how to".  I hope that makes it easier to understand the method better. Please bear with me for the poor production of the video for I am a beginner. I welcome advice for improvement. 

Make 30 - 35 Ravioli (2in x 2in square)

3-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt 3 whole beaten large eggs 

2-1/2 tablespoons cooking oil 

1/2 cup of lukewarm water 

Sift flour in large bowl, make a well in center and add salt, oil, eggs and water. Mix liquid and flour gradually until absorbed. Place dough on floured board and knead dough thoroughly for 3 to 5 minutes until dry and smooth. (Add more flour if dough is still sticky). Cover and set aside 10 to 15 minutes.
For ease of mixing and kneading your dough, use an automatic bread maker or dough mixer.

Method to assemble the Ravioli:
Divide dough into 4 balls.   Refer to video on how to make the ravioli.

Method to cook the Ravioli:
Boil a big pot of water with salt and a tsp of olive oil.  When water is boiling, put in the ravioli.  When they float to the top, it should be cooked. Drain off the water and put them in the serving plates to be ready for the gravy.

Filling – Option 1
Spinach and ricotta cheese

1 lb (450 g) fresh spinach
1 lb (450 g) ricotta cheese, thoroughly drained
4 oz gouda cheese, freshly grated
salt and pepper
¼ tsp of nutmeg

Filling – Option 2
Capsicum, black olive, tomato and blue cheese

½ green capsicum finely diced
1/ 2 cup black olive, sliced into thin rings
1 medium tomato, remove seed and finely diced
¼ cup thinly sliced sundried tomatoes
¼ cup blue cheese
1 tbs olive oil
½ tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

brocolli, steamed

Method to make the filling Option 1:
Boil the spinach in lightly salted water. Place the boiled spinach in a cheese cloth and form a small sack. Squeeze the sack to expel as much water as possible. Chop the spinach finely. Place the spinach in a bowl. Combine the drained ricotta, gouda cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, and nutmeg if necessary.

Method to make the filling Option 2:
Heat olive oil in pan and add capsicum and sauté for a minute. Add black olive, diced tomatoes, sliced sundried tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper and mix well. Turn of heat and blend in blue cheese and set aside.

Ingredients for Spinach white wine cream gravy:
200 gm spinach
1/2 small onion, cut into small pieces
3 roasted garlic cloves
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp chopped thyme
1 tbs butter
¼ cup white wine
1/4 cup whipping cream
salt & pepper - to taste

Wash spinach and steam for 15 mins till soft. Add spinach, onion, garlic, to the blender and make puree.  Melt butter in pan and add puree and let it boil on medium-flame. Add the chopped thyme, salt and pepper, and let it simmer. Reduce flame to low and add white wine and whipping cream. Mix well and pour it over cooked ravioli. Garnished with steamed brocolli and fresh rocket and serve.

* Drain the filling ingredients very well to prevent the ravioli from breaking while boiling.
* If you would like the stuffing to be aromatic, add more freshly grated nutmeg.
* Sometimes the dough will dry too much while you are working, which prevents the pasta sheets from being “gluey” enough to stick to each other. If this happens, brush the surface of the bottom pasta sheet with egg whites. To prevent the pasta sheets from drying too much, cover them with plastic wrap.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spend money to save money? HUH??

Are you surprise when you hear this:  “spend money to save money”?  
Talking about this, I remembered one of my ex-bosses told me many years ago that I have to learn to spend money first as a motivation to make more money.  What do you think? I think there is some truth in it because if you do not know how to spend money, there is no need to make more money, right?

However, from many articles that I read, it is true that most Executives in big organization are very particular about how money is being spent.  They based very much importance on ROI (return-on-investment) to maximize their budget.  They are more than willing to spend money now to save money in the long run.  If the indication shows that the payback is high, they will spend as quickly as possible to realize the economic returns. They seemed to subscribe to this theory of spend money to save money.

Now, I have story to tell relating to this theory. I have a friend who told me few days ago that when his wife said this to him every time after she came back from her shopping spree, he is VERY SCARED.  She said, “Honey, do you know how much I paid for this COACH handbag?”  He said, "Of course dear, I know… must be $$$ with a DISCOUNT!!!  To him, his pocket went lighter by a few thousand $ but to her, she has saved some money for him.  When he grumbled about her spending so much money on shopping, she told him that he got to think outside the box.  She is helping him to save his money by spending it….. HOW BRILLIANT!!  So to all the married ladies, you may use this answer when your “LOW KUNG” (hubby) grumble about you spending too much of his money. If that does not work, perhaps baking him a nice dessert and serve it with an aromatic expresso in a pink smiley cup may pacify him.


Granulated sugar, for pan
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 ts[ salt
6 tbs unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 ounce
(2 tbs) cut into pieces
3/4 C plus 2 tbs packed light brown sugar
1/2 C whole milk
2 large eggs
2  apples (a little under 1 pound), peeled, cored, and cut into slices
1 C  blue berries
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
whipped cream, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, and dust with granulated sugar.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together melted butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, the milk, and eggs in another bowl. Whisk into flour mixture
3. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Arrange apple wedges over batter, and sprinkle with blackberries. Gently press fruit into batter.
4. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the cinnamon, and sprinkle over fruit. Dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
5. Bake until top is dark gold, apples are tender, and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Let cool. Serve with whipped cream if desired. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cauliflower potato salad from left over otak-otak

When you have left over otak otak, you can try making this salad.  Imagine the salad being coated with the savory fish mousse.  I am lost of words for how to describe its deliciousness. You got to taste it first hand to experience the explosive flavors that come from the spices and herbs used to make the otak otak.  I recommend that you serve this salad with some freshly baked baguettes.  If you want to make this a main meal, just add a hard boil egg to it to make it more wholesome.   

200 gms Cauliflower, cut into smaller florets, boiled
2 medium size US russet potatoes, diced, boiled
1 head of Romanian lettuce
50 gm anchovies, mashed
2 cups otak otak without the daun gadok
Salt to taste

Boil potatoes and cauliflower to just cooked but not soft. Mash anchovies. Put otak otak, mashed anchovies, cooked potatoes and cauliflower in a mixing bowl and mix well.  Salt to taste.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stuffed mushrooms with spiced couscous

Couscous brought me back in time on how I got to know my ex-neighbor, Fernand and his family and how we became best of pals.  About a week after they moved into the house on our right, my Quaylo taught me to bake some chocolate chips cookies, had them wrapped up in a nice package and included a hand written welcome note to give to them. I recalled I was rather reluctant to carry out my Quay Lo's request.  Doing something like this was unheard of to me.  It is just not in my upbringing to welcome our new neighbor this way or any way.  Since it is an American culture, and I am married to one, I did it for him. I remember as I was walking to Fernand’s house, I was very uncomfortable, I think "MALU"(shy) is the word. I was afraid that they might not open their door to a stranger or they might think that I am crazy to bring them cookies. I thought of not doing it but did it anyway. Fernand and his family greeted me with all smiles on their face and from their expression, they were very surprised but happy to see me. On the hindsight, I am glad I did not "chickened out" otherwise I would have missed the opportunity to meet two wonderful friends and not know about this absolutely delicious dish called Couscous.  The first time we were invited to Fernand’s house for dinner, he served us home cooked couscous in seafood and chicken soup. I was surprised that a French man could cook Middle Eastern dish so well.  It was divine! 

What I am going to share with you today is not Fernand’s couscous recipe but a recipe that I found in a cookbook “Great taste 30 minutes meals”.  So if you want a meal that can be ready in 30 minutes, don't search further, try this.

8 portabella mushrooms
½ cup instant couscous
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
½ cup chicken stock
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs chopped parsley
2 tbs chopped fresh mint
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black ground pepper

Peel mushrooms and remove stalks, then grill them top-side up.  Meanwhile, place couscous, olive oil, cumin, cayenne, pepper and lemon zest in a bowl.  Season. Then stir flavorings through the couscous.  Bring the chicken stock to boil and stir it into the couscous.  Cover and leave for 5 mins, then fluff the grains with a fork.  Stir in the tomato, lemon juice, parsley and mind.  Fill each mushroom cap with some of couscous mixture and pack down firmly.  Grill until couscous is golden brown.  Serve hot or cold.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Baked Brown Apple Betty

Our favorite apple dessert is the apple pie. The first time I tasted a slice of apple pie was at one of the famous Marie Callenders restaurants in California in 1996. It was exceptionally delicious and since then it became a regular dessert for us at home.

On day, a few weeks ago, I was in the mood of making a new apple dessert. While I was googling for new recipes, this name "apple betty" caught my eyes. A Betty is an old fashioned baked dessert dating to Colonial America. I wonder why Betty and not Lucy or Suzy? I googled and could not find the answer.  Hopefully someone can tell me because I am very curious to know.

This is an easy to make and flavorful apple dessert. I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Yes I am a vanilla ice cream nut and eat most cakes, pies and tarts with it.  This is not a bad choice for a change although my other half still prefer the pie to this. 

Adapted from Diana Rattray with modification

3 cups croissant crumbs or soft bread crumbs
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp rum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
A pinch of ground ginger
2 large apples, peeled and cored, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/4 cup apple juice or cider
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 sweetened cherries, halfed

Butter an 9 in round baking dish. Heat oven to 350°.
In a bowl, combine the crumbs , brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut apple wedges into thin slices. Arrange half of the apple slices in the prepared baking dish. Top the apple slices with half of the crumb mixture. Top crumb layer with apple slices then top with the crumb mixture and lastly topped with remaining apple slices and decorate with cherries in the center. Combine the vanilla, apple juice, and melted butter; spoon evenly over the top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until apples are tender. 
Serves 6.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What we did on Mother's day

An e-card chosen for me by my Quay Lo

We had a popiah party on Mother’s Day. While we were preparing all the ingredients, it reminded me of how lucky my youngest nephew is for surviving a nasty car accident on the eve of Mother’s Day three years ago. We were supposed to have a popiah party then also but it did not happen. Since then, I have not attempted to have a popiah feast until Mother's Day this year. On the positive side of that incident, I found that it had brought our family and my step-brother’s family even more closer together. Life is so precious that you really have to appreciate it every day because you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow.

I did not expect the kids to join us because I knew when they are all grown up and working, Sundays are a time that they want to spend with their partners or friends but it was a pleasant surprise, they all came unannounced and that was the most precious Mother’s day gift from all of them. There are two persons that I wish who were there with us and they are my step daugther Erin and her hubby, John. Although they are far away, they are always in my thoughts. She posted this on my facebook wall on Mother's day. It makes my day to know what I am to her.
To make popiah involves a lot of work, with much preparation, but it is rewarding because during the feast, when each person rolls their own "popiah" we had so much fun trying to compete with each other to make the best looking one. The dining hall was filled with laughter.

While we were doing the preparation, my Quay Lo took some time off to take photos of the making. He also made me a glass of ice cold sun tea, isn’t he sweet? I did not know that tea can be brewed by putting the jar of water and tea bags in the sun. It was quite good. We learn something new everyday don't we? After I cleared off from the kitchen, he continued to work on the dessert. I will let him tell you about it later.

The preparation

The ingredients
Assembling the popiah
The final product
50 fresh popiah wrappers
3 medium jicama, julilenned
1 medium cucumber, julienned
water enough to cover jicama and about 1 in above them
200g fresh lettuce leaves (wash and drained dry)

200g French beans (sliced)

2 bean curd (diced into small pieces)

200g prawn (shelled, deveined and cut into small pieces)

2 Chinese sausage, thinly diced
2 eggs omellete, thinly sliced
1/2 cup deeps fried shrimps
2 heads garlic, chopped and deep fried
20 shallots, thinly sliced and deep fried.
SEASONINGS for jicama:
4 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs sugar
3 buillion chicken stock
1 cup Hoisin sauce

¾ cup chilli sauce
In a deep pot, add in garlic oil (from deep fried garlic) until heated. Put in the jicama and the seasonings and bring to boil. Turn to medium heat and stew for 30 mins or until jicama is limp. Taste the jicama, add more salt and sugar to taste. Dish out the filling and keep aside to cool. The filling might be slightly watery.
Lay a piece of the Popiah wrapper on a flat board. Spread one teaspoon hoi sin sauce and 1/2 teaspoon chilli sauce on it (more or less up to individual). Place a lettuce leaf over the sauces. Add in a bit of each prepared ingredients. Fold up the two sides of the wrapper and roll up. If you wish, you can scoop a tablespoon of the filling juice on top of the Popiah.

Hi everyone, designated Quay Lo here.

You will need: 
One 8 inch tart pan
Your favorite pie crust, but just one side for a tart, so can be your favorite crumb crust. 
Two medium size mixing bowls 
An electric blender or a food processor An electric mixer 
A table knife and a pastry fork 
Oven, pre heated at 375⁰F (190⁰C) 

I made a ginger snap cookie pie crust that did not work out all that well but we will likely try it again. In retrospect I think it simply over baked as the pictures suggest. We decided to go ahead with publishing the recipe because the filling was delicious. (even though we sort of ended up serving it as a pudding with bits of salvaged crust). 

3 oz cream cheese, allowed to soften at room temp 
¾ cup lemon curd 
½ cup powdered sugar 
1 cup whipping cream Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (or two tsp pure vanilla extract) 
1 20 oz can of lychees in light syrup, completely drained 

Directions: Crust: 
We'll let you know the outcome of the re-attempt at a ginger snap crust. For now, if you wish to try this filling, insert your favorite tart crust here. Certainly a graham cracker crust would be fine here. 

On a clean cutting board whip the softened cream cheese until fluffy (I use a table knife and fork, alternating strokes, which seems to work very fast.) In a mixing bowl combine the cheese & lemon curd until well blended.  In a power mixer bowl combine vanilla, whipping cream, and powdered sugar and whip on high speed into stiff peaks o Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream mixture into the cheese mixture, until well blended.

Completely drain the lychees in a colander, shaking occasionally to eliminate all of the syrup which can be discarded.  Slice each lychee into half.

 Assemble the tart:
Using the rubber spatula scrape the filling mixture into the completely cooled crust, smoothing the mixture to a flattened top o Layer the top with drained lychee halves, round side up, until the tart is fully covered.  Decorate with mint sprigs, maraschino cherries Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and for added elegance and balance, a soft dry champagne such as Martial-Couvreur Green Label.