Oatmeal Cherry Cookies

cherriesFor the last few weeks I have been on a bit of a cookie kick. I already have most of the stock ingredients like sugar, flour, baking soda, and the like laying around, so I have been doing a bit of experimenting. The recipe that follows was me trying to balance my desire to be healthy with my sweet tooth but the sugar and butter in these cookies aren’t exactly healthy. They’re still delicious though! (No surprises there…) Continue reading

Vegetarian Lasagna Southwestern Style

lasagnaRecently I met up for lunch with a vegetarian friend of mine. She is health and cost-conscious (successfully so, I might add) so she makes meals at home over the weekend to freeze for the week ahead. She told me about what she made in her last round of cooking and it sounded so awesome that I asked for the recipe to share here.

So I bring you… Vegetarian lasagna, Southwestern style! The beans, corn, cheese, and salsa layered between classic lasagna sheets give this dish a Mexican flavor. Whether you are vegetarian or not it is certainly worth trying. Continue reading

Magazines for the Taste Buds: Top 5 Cooking Magazines

food magazineIf you are guilty of watching Food Network on a daily basis, you have indeed earned the foodie label. If you visit restaurants and attempt to dissect each seasoning nuance, you’ve got a discerning palate. Finally, if your ultimate goal is to cook well enough to land on an episode of Cut Throat Kitchen or Chopped, you need these 5 magazines. Continue reading

It’s been a while…

gone awhileFinally, I started blogging again. This time around, I created a space which is more like a personal photo blog. Yes, can’t quit taking pictures. How about cooking? Still loves it but can only do food photography occasionally If you have time, you are most welcome to visit me at Droplets.

Strawberry Bubble Tea and Sweet & Salty Popcorn

popcornRelaxing Sunday afternoon, mostly overcast sky with lucky sunny breaks in between, I revisited Finn Slough, a place not so far away from where I live, a tiny community with distinct looking wooden houses built along a marshy river bank. Every time I go there, I can’t stop imagining how life would be like in the old days when it was still a robust fishing village. The Finnish fishermen may be long gone, but what’s left are the remnants that merged with the landscape to create a unique place. Here are some of the pictures taken.

After a joyful afternoon with some new photos to process, I’d like to have something fun and refreshing as snack. Got a box full of local strawberries the other day. They were so juicy but still a bit tart. I also have some tapioca balls that I wanted to try out. So, I make some strawberry bubble tea, with all natural ingredients, no artificial milk and fruit powder as in a lot of other recipes suggested. Continue reading

Caribbean Chicken Wings

chicken wingsFinally got some time to finish off this post!. Once again, I rely on the food and its taste and color to make the bad weather go away. I am getting tired of this gloomy wintery spring. I want the bright and blooming sun, not the timid and shy one. I believe this Caribbean chicken can perform its magic. The sweetness and spiciness compliments each other perfectly, with the use of the citrus to brighten up the flavor, these chicken wings are scrumptious and addictive. Don’t be scared by the long list of ingredients. Just gather all the seasonings and put it in the food processor and the marinate is done. You do need some time to marinade the chicken, but the reward for waiting is big. The cooking process is hassle free. What can be simpler than baking and glazing!

I hope you will enjoy this easy recipe and let’s hope for better weather everywhere!! Continue reading

Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce

Lemon and chocolate desserts are two types of desserts that I love dearly. Lemon cheesecake is especially light and refreshing. Well, ‘light’ in terms of its flavor and month feel. But it still a cheesecake. To cut down the calories, I made four small lemon cheesecakes. I put the other three in the freezer and will test out different toppings later. The original recipe is using the classic lemon curd as topping. But I wanted to use up some of the frozen blueberries that I still have from last season, so I made this sauce that compliment the lemony flavor impeccably.

Recipe: Individual Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce
Modified from Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham & Alison Miksch
Make four 4″ wide, 1″ tall cheesecakes

Ingredients

Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 Tbsp lemon zest
2 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream (better to use full fat ones)
1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs

Blueberry sauce for 1 cheesecake
A handful of fresh or frozen blueberries, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp or more water

Directions:

For the crust:

Place the rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F.

Stir graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Mix well. Press crumb to the bottom of four 4″ wide non-stick spring form pans. To get a cleaner edge, use the bottom of a small spoon to press the crumbs firmly together and clean up the edges.

Bake the crust for 8 to 9 mins, or until the crust is set. Remove crust from oven and place it on the wire rack to cool.

For the filling:

Reduce oven temperature to 325F.

Boil a kettle of water to use as water bath for baking.

Process the sugar and lemon zest together in a food processor until the sugar turns yellowish and the zest is finely ground.

Using a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese in medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the sugar-lemon mixture gradually and continue beating until smooth. Scarp down the side occasionally. Add the sour cream an lemon juice, beat until combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated. Don’t over beat the batter after the eggs are in.

Wrap each of the spring-form pans with foil to prevent water from the water bath to go in. Pour batter into spring-form pans and then put them in a small roasting pan or tray. Put the pan in the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until water reach halfway of the height of the spring form pans.

Bake for 35 to 40mins, until the surface of the middle part of the cake is still jiggly and the surface of the cake loss the grossiness. Don’t over bake. The internal temperature of the cake should be around 160F to 165F.

Take the cakes out from the oven and water bath and let them cool on the wire rack When they are completely cool, remove the foil. Refrigerate them for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Remove the ring of the spring-form pans. Serve it plain or with your favorite sauce or toppings.

For the blueberry sauce

Heat sugar, blueberry and water together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolved and the sauce reaches a consistency you like, about 4 to 6 mins. Mix in the lemon juice off heat. Let it cool down before serving on top of the cheesecake. Adjust the taste and consistency by varying the amount of sugar and water.

Red Rice, Beef and Beans Burrito

My mom used to call me “rice bucket” when I was a kid. In Chinese, that means a person who like to eat a lot of rice. I could have lots of plain rice with just a little amount of other food. Rice was not a side dish to me, it was my main dish. But, this was no longer true. Having too much rice in the past made me opt for other type of staple food whenever possible. Until one day, I found out that there were so many other ways to cook different types of rice in other parts of the world. The result is usually extremely flavorful rice with distinguished texture depending on the type of rice you use. Having rice is not boring anymore. And once again, I become a “rice bucket”.

One of my favorite types of rice is Mexican red rice. I love the tomato flavor with a bit of spiciness from the jalapeno. To make a complete meal and also to please N, I usually make the bean and beef burrito. But at anytime, I can just have the red rice by itself.

The following recipe is coming from Cook’s Illustrated. I have tried a few red rice recipes. The amount of tomato and onion is just right in this recipe, not too overwhelmed. As usual, the measurement showing is half of the recipe as this was how much I made. I have also modified the cooking method. This is a straightly stove-top method, in contrast with the oven method in the original recipe. But perfect cooking rice turned out every time!

Red Rice (Mexican Rice)

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, September 2004
Serve 3 to 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

1 1/2 ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1/2 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 medium jalapeno, minced
1 cup long grain rice
1/6 cup canola oil
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Directions:

Process tomatoes and onion in food processor until smooth and thoroughly pureed, about 15 seconds. Transfer mixture into measuring cup. There should be around one cup of mixture. Pour one cup of chicken broth into mixture. Put it aside.
Rinse rice through strainer under cold running water for 1 to 2 mins, drains and put it aside.

Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium-high eat, about 1. When you put 3 to 4 grains of rice in the pan and the grains sizzle, the oil is ready. Add rice and saute, stirring frequently, until rice is translucent and light brown, about 5 to 6 mins.
Reduce heat to medium. add garlic and jalapeno, saute for a min.
Add the tomato mixture, tomato paste and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover the rice and let it simmer for about 10 mins, until water is mostly absorbed by the rice.

Uncover and let it cook under low heat for another 8 mins.
Remove from heat, cover and let it stand for 5 mins.
Fluff up the rice with a fork, stir in minced cilantro and serve.

The following is a really quick and easy way to make beef with beans to accompany the rice in the burrito. I am not sure if this is authentic or not, but it certainly taste good.

Beef, Bean and Rice Burritos
Adapted from Bon Appetit, found on epicurious.com

Ingredients

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cummin
3/4 14 oz can black beans or pinto beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 14 oz can beef or chicken broth
1/2 can diced green chilies
2 green onions, chopped

Red rice, see above recipe

Directions:

Heat heavy 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add beef and cook until brown, breaking up clumps with wooden spoon, about 4 mins.

Add chopped onion and garlic, cook until onion is transparent, stirring frequently, about 3 to 4 mins.

Stir in cumin and cook for 1 min. Add beans, broth and green chilies. Cook until beans are softened, about 10 mins. Press and crush beans with back of spoon, continue to cook until beans are creamy and thickened, about 5 more mins. Mix in green onion.

Assemble burrito by wrapping in a tortilla with any combination of beans, red rice, cheese, salsa, gucamole and sour cream.

Blueberry Drop Scones

When I was young, I owed very little. All my precious things could be put in a shoebox. They were some stickers I exchanged with my friends, some letters from friends, some cassett tapes and sheet music with songs I loved. I told myself at that time that, they were the things that would be taking with me if there was a fire at home.

As you grow older, your belongings grow with you as well. Besides the basic necessities, I have all these things spread around the house. I’m amazed that during the last 20 or so years since I started to earn my own money, how much properties I have accumulated. Piles and piles of clothing, shoes, books, magazines, cds, dvds. Some of the stuffs are hiding in the corner of the closet, some tend to form clutters around the house. I looked around and began to wonder, how much of these stuffs I truly treasure, what are the stuff that I would be taking with me if there was a fire in the house. I realized that, I still have just a shoebox of things. The shoebox may be a little bit bigger, like the one for boots. All the stuff I loved when I was a kid should still be in the box. Plus additional items from friends and family. That’s it! I seem to have spent a lot and own a lot now, but in the end, only a shoebox of things is all I need to keep!

The blueberry scones I made today is quick, simple, and no fuss cooking. It’s a drop scone and no shaping and cutting of the dough is required. I have been making this for several years and N doesn’t seem to get tired of it. With the use of buttermilk, minimum amount of butter (2 oz) is required but the dough remains moist. I wish everyone will try this!

Blueberry Drop Scones
Adapted from recipe of Tyler Florence from Food Network

Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk*
1 egg
2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries*

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Sprinkle and toss 1/2 tbsp flour on blueberries and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Spread cubes of butter on top. Cut in butter using a pastry blender until the butter pieces are coated with flour in pea sides and resemble crumbs. You can also do this step in a food processor. Just process the butter in flour in 5 to 10 one-second pulse.

In another bowl, mix buttermilk with egg. Then add to flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated. Don’t over mix the batter. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Be careful not to work it to hard because the blueberries can easily bruised.

Drop large tablespoons on an ungreased cooke sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 mins until brown

*Kitchen notes:

Original recipe uses only all purpose flour. As usual, I tried to incorporate as much whole wheat flour in baking as possible. And this is one of the recipes that it works
.
You can replace buttermilk with cream, of course. Or you can substitute buttermilk with 3 Tbsp buttermilk powder and 3/4 coup of water.

Every summer I would freeze 2 or 3 bags of blueberries when they are at their peak. The scones taste the best when the blueberries are sweet and juicy.

The original recipe is with orange glaze. I never made the glaze because I don’t want the additional sugar. I think the scone is delicious just by itself.

Salmon, Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Took an afternoon walk. The warmth of the late summer evening sun was soothing and comforting. All my stress accumulated through the week disappeared.

You don’t have to travel far to find beauty. This community farm around my neighborhood looks differently under different lights and weather.

Wish the summer color can last forever.

After the walk, I made this simple soup for the evening. With the abundance of salmon in Vancouver this year, this is a quick and delicious way to make use of the fish. I especially like the lemon zest and juice added at the end. It freshen and lighten up the soup. Please don’t skip it!

Recipe: Salmon, Shrimp and Corn Chowder
Adapted from Epicurious.com, original author Mary Karlin
Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 stalk of celery, cut into 1/2″ slices
2 unpeeled small red potatoes, cut int 3/4″ cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2-3 green onions, coarsely chopped, including the green parts
1 ear of corn, cut out the kernels
2 cups fish or chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
1 lb salmon fillets, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1″ pieces
8-10 shrimps, shelled grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp minced fresh dill

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the celery for 2 mins. Add potatoes, salt and pepper and cook, saute and stirring occasionally for about 3 to 5 mins.Add green onions, corn and 2 cups of stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 12 mins or until the potatoes are almost tender.

Add half and half, uncovered, simmer until potatoes are completely soft, about 3 mins. Stir in salmon, shrimps and lemon zest. Simmer gently until the seafood are cooked through, about 3 to 4 mins. Add more stock as needed. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle dill on top when serve.

(P.S. This post had been in progress for a while and only until now did I have time to complete it. Fall is upon us now. But the memory of summer still stays on…at least in the pictures)