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Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

Cupcakes and Pineapple Cakes

In Food, Food Product for Home on July 31, 2013 at 10:51

Doof Home

My friend (thanks VN!) bought the delicious Vancouver Asian cupcakes again from Luv Cravings!
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This time, we had Asian flavors such as lychee, taro, black sesame and tropical (pineapple, coconut and banana). There were also classic flavors of red velvet, chocolate and coffee.  Our friend bought us green tea flavor last time.

All the cakes were very moist and had nice subtle flavors.  My favorite was chocolate, taro, lychee and black sesame.  The chocolate one I loved because it had very intense dark chocolate flavor.  The icing tasted like ganache.  The lychee and taro flavors were very authentic and real and did not taste like flavorings.  The black sesame really tasted as if I was having the Chinese black sesame soup.

I also tried their teas.  Generally I would not choose flavored teas.  However, their lychee green tea called Shanghai Lychee Jasmine, was delicious.  The lychee flavor did not overpower the jasmine green tea; the green tea itself was smooth and non astringent.  Another tea we got was the Long Island strawberry, which was a strawberry flavored black tea.    There was real dried strawberry pieces in the tea and very tasty.

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Also got my supply of pineapple cakes from Taiwan.  Pineapple cakes are considered one of the delicacies from Taiwan.  Traditionally the filling is made with pineapple and winter melon, wrap within a buttery pastry.  I do not like pineapple cakes until my aunt introduced me to this particular pineapple cakes.  These particular cakes’ filling were made with real pineapple only, resulting in a sweet/tart taste with very strong and nice pineapple flavor (as compared to traditional ones had much subdued pineapple flavor because of  the winter melon, and also lack of tartness from the pineapple).  The texture was chewy as one could chew through slightly dried and sweetened pineapples (where as traditional ones had smoother texture).  The outer layer was also done superbly — buttery, crumbly and melts in your mouth.

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Sunscreen – First Skin Post!

In Skin on July 30, 2013 at 09:57

Niks

Every time I had to buy new skincare product, I ended up spending huge amount of time researching for products that did not contain harmful chemicals and would not break my bank.   My information largely comes from the non-profit Environmental Work Group.  They have tremendous amount of information on many consumer products.  Products are rated from a scale of 0-9.  0-2 products are low hazard, 3-6 is moderate and 7-9 is high hazard.  I used them to understand the toxicity of consumer products and then compare many online vendors for pricing and product reviews.

Sunscreen is the first topic.  I mainly purchase sunscreen that has physical blocking agents (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) rather than chemical blocking agents (for example, oxybenzone is particularly hazardous).

Nearly finished the Beyond Coastal Mineral Sunscreen.  It is unfortunately not listed on EWG.  Looks like the company may have reformulated or repackaged as Beyond Coastal Natural Sunscreen (a rating of 2 from EWG; $8.99 for 4 oz. or $2.25 per oz.).  It is a decent physical sunscreen and repels water really well.  It is easy to apply.  The only downside is that it does turn a person ghostly white.  This is, however, a far superior product then the Goddess Garden Natural Sunscreen ($12.79 for 3.4 oz. or $3.76 per oz.; with an EWG rating of 2 as well).  The products left white specks grains on the skin and it was curdly.  It was difficult to use and did not smell particularly pleasant.  Vanicream ($14.95 for 4 oz. or $3.73 per oz.; EWG rating of 2) is excellent as well.  It is very easy to apply and does not turn the person white.  It does feel greasier on the skin.

Of course, there are other brands that are very good.  Badger sunscreen ($14.19 for 2.9 oz. or $4.89 per oz.; EWG rating of 1), California Baby ($17.99 for 2.9oz. or $6.20 per oz.; EWG rating of 1 or 2) are all excellent products, and they are at the pricey end for me.

Mistral Kitchen and Northwest Chocolate Festival

In Eating Out, Food, Home Creation on July 29, 2013 at 11:30

Doof Out

A pleasant visit to Mistral Kitchen last night.  We had several small plates and 2 large plates to share among friends.

For small plates, we had clams with chorizo, which was very flavorful and we used up all the juice/sauce with the lovely bread and butter!

They prepared our Maine dive scallop exceptionally well.  The scallop was huge and It was seared crispy on the outside.  Came with a dashi broth with radish and mushrooms.

Lastly, we had seared foie gras.  It was served on a small waffle.  It was again seared excellently but the foie gras itself taste a little bland.

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For Large plates, we had duck breasts and pork loin.

The duck breast was tender but the most delicious part was the curried lentil on the side.  It had strong curry flavor without the runny sauce.  However, the pea vine on the side was a little undercook.

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The pork loin was done very well as well.  I generally do not get pork loin cuts just because it is too lean.  This one was prepared pink in the center.  The outside was seasoned with lovely flavors and was dry and crispy.  The inside was tender, but because of the cut, it still felt lean and drier than my liking.  I believe one who likes pork loin will find the dish very well prepared, tender and tasty.

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The Northwest Chocolate Festival will be happening on September 20-22 this year at the Washington Convention Center.  Tickets will be on sale early August!

Doof Home

Smoothie of the day:  carrot, kale, apricots, strawberries

Mistral Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Pizza and Chocolate Cookies

In Eating Out, Food on July 28, 2013 at 15:49

Doof Out

A long-waited experience!  Pizzas at Serious Pie.  They were fantastic!  The pizza crust bottom was crisp and chewy, the middle part was airy and fluffy.  We ordered one with sweet sausage and peppers, one with clams and one with soft eggs and prosciutto.  We also got the beet salad with cherries which was very tasty.  Never thought of beet and cherry combination and it was delightful!

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My favorite was the soft eggs with prosciutto, garlic and arugula.  The overall flavor of the pizza was mild.  The runny egg yolk added creaminess to the pizza.  All the ingredients just worked really well together!

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The sweet sausage with peppers was very spicy.  Opposite from the soft eggs pizza, this pizza’s flavors were very strong.  Sausages were well spiced.

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I was really looking forward to the clam one but was a little disappointed that it was salty.  The cured meat chunks were very salty, and I wish there were more clams as well.  Nonetheless,  the pizza had intriguing ingredient combination and it was worth the try.

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Stopped by next door to Dahlia Bakery to introduce my out of town friends the wonderful coconut pie (I was too full from the pizza to have any!).  When I got to the bakery and saw the chocolate truffle cookies, I could not resist but to buy a few!

Comparing this chocolate truffle cookie to Grand Central’s similar triple chocolate cookies, I prefer Grand Central’s.  Both chocolate cookies were for serious chocolate lovers — strong, dark and very chocolatey.  Both cookies’ texture were soft.  However, Grand Central’s cookie had good sweetness but Dahlia’s was way too sweet for my taste.

Serious Pie on Urbanspoon

Ewe cheese, Bolani and Chinese Cook Books

In Books, Food, Food Media, Food Product for Home on July 25, 2013 at 16:42

Doof Home

Had Ewe cheese for the very first time and it was so out of this world!  Bought the cheese from Calf and Kid in Seattle and they have a large selections of cheeses and some very unique ones.  “Ewephoria” was the cheese I got and it was addictive as advertised!  The cheese was from Holland and it was in the gouda category.   It was very smooth, nutty, and with a hint of cereal flavor.  It was not gamey at all.  Reminded me a little of Manchengo except a lot creamier and minus the sharpness.

Costco is selling an Afghan Bolani.  Bolani is a wheat based vegan flat bread with vegetable fillings.  Costco is selling ones with spinach, pumpkin and spicy potatoes.  The ingredients are clean and they are delicious!  They also sell the sauces that compliment the Bolani — eggplant pesto, cilantro pesto, sweet jalapeno, sun-dried tomato pesto, basil pesto and curry lentil.

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Doof Media

Highly recommend these 2 Chinese cookbooks:

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I generally don’t read cookbooks — open cookbook, flip for a recipe that is appealing, follow instructions, and put cook book away.

I READ these 2 books like novels!  Every recipe has tips on preparing different ingredients, and tricks to make the dish better (softer meat for steam meat, how to make congee smooth, how to pick crabs etc.).  The recipes are very authentic Cantonese and easy to follow.  Better yet, it is in both Chinese and English!

The 2 chefs who wrote the books are decorated Hong Kong chefs who are teaching at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education.  Anyone who loves to cook authentic Cantonese Chinese Food will find these 2 cook books very useful.

Without a trip to Hong Kong, I was able to find the books available on Yes Asia

Green Onion Pancake and H mart

In Food, Home Creation on July 24, 2013 at 21:20

Doof Home

Spring Onion Pancake is on the menu tonight!  This recipe was from my Hong Kong high school Home Economics class!

For the dough:

10.5 oz plain flour

2/3 cup warm water

1.5 tbsp. vegetable oil

Other ingredients:

2 stalks spring onions (or green onions)

3 tsp salt

oil for frying

Clean and dry spring onions.  Finely chopped.

Sieve flour into a mixing bowl.  Make a well in the middle and add warm water and oil.  Mix well.

Flour a work surface and knead dough lightly.  If it feels too dry, add little bit of water at a time until the dough comes together.

Divide the dough in 6 portions.  Work with one small dough at a time and keep the remaining dough covered with a damp towel.

Roll each dough into a long tube (I also find squeezing with my hands works very well), about 1/2 inch diameter.

Flatten the tube using fingers.  Brush the top of the dough with oil.  Sprinkle salt (very lightly)

and green onion on top of the dough.

Fold the dough long-way in half, taking care to stuff the green onions inside as they will fall out.

Starting from one end, roll the dough into a spiral, resulting in a round flat cake.  Make sure the opening of the dough is facing inwards towards the center.

Once the dough is rolled up, press down from the top with your hands evenly until the cake is about 1/4 inch thick.

Proceed with other dough balls.

Heat oil in pan.  Reduce to medium heat and fry the cakes one side at a time until brown.

I like to use an easy dipping sauce with the pancake:

1/2 tbsp. soy sauce

1/4 tbsp. white vinegar

1/4 tbsp. chili sauce (preferably Chinese kind with sediments)

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H mart is going to open in Bellevue, WA!  They also have plan to expand into Seattle.  The Bellevue location is slated for late Fall, but physical location is still unknown.

Sausages, Eggs, Toffee and Apple Cider

In Food, Food Product for Home on July 23, 2013 at 16:44

Doof Home

Making an effort to replace my otherwise carbs heavy breakfast (bread and fruit smoothie) with protein.

I tried sausages.  Whole Foods has really great in-house sausages made with healthier meats such as turkey and chicken, and also traditional pork.  Another note worthy product is Trader Joe’s chicken sausages.  Overall, I found sausages on the heavy side for breakfast, and consumption of sausages increase my meat intake (which for future health, sustainability and philosophical reasons I am trying to decrease).  The alternative is Tofuky’s Italian sausages.  I choose this product among many soy fake meat products because it is made with real tofu and not soy components (textured soy protein, protein isolates, soy protein concentrate etc.).  It most definitely needs to be consumed hot with crispy skin, and it is decent feel good option.

The next easy protein source is eggs.  I was dreading it because I only like eggs prepared 1) sunny side up or soft boil — for the purpose of having running yolks to consume with toasts or rice (which will not help with reducing carbs) 2) Chinese steam eggs with pork or Tortilla Espanola (both will require significantly more time to prepare for breakfast!).  I finally found my magic — truffle salt!  Now I can just do scramble eggs with truffle salt sprinkled on it.  Simple and delicious!  I got the truffle salt from Whole Foods.  It is a bit expensive, but a little goes a long way!  Whole Foods also offers a white truffle salt which is on my list to try!

On an entirely different note, one of the great finds at Greater Seattle’s farmers market is Pete’s Perfect Toffee.   I love the dark chocolate and espresso toffee (made with Starbucks coffee) in particular.  The chocolate to toffee ratio is perfect and the texture of toffee is brittle and light with fantastic caramelly flavor.  The chili toffee was not spicy enough in my opinion.

Another one of my favorite farmers’ market vendor is Rockridge Orchards.  We have excellent apple cider made with different kinds of apple (I have honeycrisp, and another one called Country apple ) and their dessert wines made from berries are excellent and very sweet.  Check them out!

Le Pichet Revisited and GMO labeling

In Eating Out, Food, Politics on July 22, 2013 at 19:49

Doof Out

It was wonderful to visit Le Pichet again.  It had been a very long time.

Loved the great baguette with really delicious room temp butter (the refrigerated butter some places served really put a damper in the bread eating experience!  By the time I was able to smear butter on my bread, I would already destroy the bread itself!).

We had brandade for appetizer.  It had great flavors (although it was on the runny side), and the bread was grilled nice and crisp.

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I got the special octopus and it was excellent!  The octopus was very tender and in a lovely saffron broth.  It was light and delicious.

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DH got the no-thrill, wonderfully fresh and tender whole grilled trout.  The natural sweetness of the fish was fantastic.

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Doof politics

Initiative 522, the labeling of genetically modified food, will be on the WA ballot in November this year.  As consumer, I believe we have the right to know when our food contains genetically modified or engineered ingredients or that it comes from genetically modified organisms.  When the food is properly labeled, consumers can make an informed decision on our food choices.

However, there are flaws in I522. Plenty of products including dairy products, alcohol or meats are exempted from labeling (if the animals themselves are genetically modified, labels will be needed, but if the animals eat GM feeds, labels are not required).  I wish these products will be included as well.

I believe I-522 is a good start for consumer.  Perhaps more aggressive approach can be taken in the future to encompass all foods that are genetically engineered or modified.

To read about stories from both sides, here they are: “Yes on 522” and “No on 522

Doof Home

Smoothie of the day: carrot, apple, watermelon, ginger, aprium

Le Pichet on Urbanspoon

Book Bindery Finally!!!!

In Eating Out, Food on July 20, 2013 at 16:36

Doof Out

Finally went to Book Bindery last night!  What a treat!

We started off the meal with a corn panna cotta amuse-bouche.  It’s the first time I had slightly savory panna cotta!  Sweetness and flavor of the corn came through nicely, and the panna cotta texture was creamy and thick (I do not enjoy panna cotta with too much gelatin, this most certainly wasn’t the case!)  It was garnished with ripe cherry tomatoes, a very nice olive oil and chives.  It was wonderful!

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I had a Maine Lobster risotto starter and a smoked cavatelli entrée.  DH had salad to start and Halibut as entrée.

My risotto had a ring of sweet corn puree surrounding a lovely black truffle flavored risotto topped with very fresh lobster pieces.  The risotto was a little on the salty side but flavors worked really well together.

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The smoke cavatelli was fantastic!  The texture of the pasta was perfect.  Came with lots of mushrooms and foie gras emulsion, plus the amazing smoke flavor.  The dish had very dense flavors and yet was able to be delivered in a non-gut bomb way.  It was, however, on the saltier side for me as well.

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Finally on DH’s halibut dish.  WOW!  The fish was prepared perfectly.  The star was in the sides!  The young pickled artichoke was delicious (I wished there were more!), and the brandade crouton was out of this world!  There were many flavors in the bite and I decided to just enjoy and stop trying to figure out all the flavors in it.

It was a fantastic dinner and I will certainly go back again!  Especially that we did not get a chance to try dessert as we were really full!  next time!

Book Bindery on Urbanspoon

Cornish Game Hen

In Eating Out, Food, Home Creation on July 19, 2013 at 17:40

Doof Home

Prepare Cornish Game Hen last night for the very first time using a modified Jamie Oliver’s recipe.  The hens turned out very tender and the recipe was easy to follow!

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Ingredient:

3 Cornish game hens

3 sticks of Rosemary (1 stick for each Cornish game hen)

2 sticks of marjoram

2 beef steak tomatoes

1 small onion

3 cloves of garlic

1.5 cups of cooked heirloom beans

3 slices of prosciutto

1 glass of white wine

8 tablespoons of olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

<It is better to marinate the hens for more than an hour before cooking.>

Preheat oven at 400F.

Chop 2 small stick worth of rosemary leaves and mince garlic.  Reserve the rosemary sticks for later use.

Mix rosemary and garlic with oil.  Mush the ingredients in the oil with your hand to release the flavors of rosemary and garlic.

Rub sea salt on the game hens.  Then, rub the flavored oil with rosemary and garlic outside and inside the hens.

Sharpen one end of the rosemary sticks and push one stick through each hen’s thighs to keep the legs together while roasting.

Cut tomatoes in segments and slice onions.  Place them in a roasting pan.

Chop the marjoram leaves.  Add to the roasting pan with cooked beans.

Mix the ingredients in the roasting pan, add black pepper, and rest of the rosemary garlic oil if there is left from the hens.  If there is no flavored oil left, add another tablespoonful of olive oil.

Place the hens on top of the bean mixture.

Place a slice of prosciutto on each breast of the hen.

Total cook time is 60 mins.  At the 30 min-mark, pull out the roasting pan and pour the wine onto the bottom of the roasting pan.  Take good care to avoid pouring wine on the hens to keep the skin crisp.  Cook for another 30 mins.

adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Simple roast spring chicken with tomatoes, cannellini beans and rosemary”

Doof Out

Kirkland Uncorked is going on this weekend (thanks AB!)!  Enjoy the wine, enjoy the food and enjoy the sun!

Wings lovers in the Seattle area must check out Wingstop!  It is a chain store but the wings are exceptional!  They are slow if one does not call ahead — but well worth the wait!!!  My guilty pleasure favorites are the Louisiana Rub and lemon pepper.  The wings are crispy, juicy and well-flavored.  Currently Bellevue is this only store in the Greater Seattle area.  Seattle Seahawk Sidney Rice is partnering up with Wingstop owner in Bellevue to open more stores soon in Kent and Tacoma.