Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October Daring Bakers: Pizza

My first challenge as Daring Bakers. Am I out of my mind?!! I have said million times that I just don't bake (much). Cause I am scared. Too many unknown factors. However, I love challenges. What's better way of challenging my baking skills (or lack off) by joining Daring Bakers? And of all things I fear most to bake, yeap...bread type of baking and surely, my first challenge just has to be pizza!

That said, I do make pizza dough quite often; my aunt's recipe and I have been sticking with that very one recipe for years. So I was both excited and nervous when I see this month's Daring Bakers task. For this challenge, we are using a recipe by Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.

The first step of kneading went great. Did not use mixer - cause I don't think my hand held mixer can take the abuse. I was bit worried when my dough did not seem to be sticky (supposedly, the dough in this recipe would be somewhat sticky) but it seems completely fine, based on my minimal knowledge of 'bread' dough. Next day though, smells heavenly, a tad of yeast smell. The dough looks delicate and just right (whatever 'right' is)

Problem arises when I was hoping that Vik would take picture of me tossing the pizza - it was somewhat of a rule in this challenge: toss the pizza and take a photo of flying pizza. He called from office and said he'd be running late. And he has a soccer match to catch within 1.5 hour. Factor in: getting ready, eat, catch up for a bit - I just couldn't wait for him. I tempted using the recording button - but might end up recording just the ceiling or my feet or something.

Anyway, so move on to the last few steps. Now the dough becomes kinda super soft, softer than what I accustomed to. Did some knuckle stretching, rotating, flip about 1/8" to the air. Actually I did send it to the air and guess what, somewhere in midair, it decided to fold itself together. Take a deeeeeppp breath. Okay, so..that's the reason I took out 3 parts of dough from the fridge, knowing that some trial and errors may occurred. It turned out okay though, I 'repaired' it - by stretching and patting it back together.

Hence, I had 2 pretty good round shape pizza and one splattered looking oval. Did not use any rolling pin!! Usually I used rolling pin for pizza. I have decided on topping early on. First one is inspired by our favorite pizza from Terroni (it's one of our favorite places) - Polentona. Tomatoes, speck (smoked prosciutto), fontina, mozzarella and pine nuts. I used smoked mozzarella and was so smokey, so sweet. The sauce is just a simple tomato paste with chopped up garlic and basil, the whole idea of this pizza is to showcase the rich smokey salty flavor of prosciutto.

Second one, I have always loved mushrooms in my pizza. So I went ahead and do vegetarian pizza of creminis, capers, artichokes, olives with goat cheese and basil pesto as sauce. Then I did the last one, half and half for Vik's lunch the next day.

I have another 2 doughs in freezer and so tempted to whip up sweet one this weekend, after seeing so many great inspiration on other DB posts.

The verdict: This pizza sure worth the effort!! The process is slightly more complex than the other recipe I got, but the result is super rewarding. Vik ate 3/4 of the prosciutto pizza and about 1/4 of mushrooms one. When he got back from soccer, he did second round dinner.

Thank you Rosa for hosting this month Daring Bakers!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pumpkin Choco Chips Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Cinnamon Frosting

Work was normal last week and I was planning to blog more often. Obviously, it simply did not go as planned. Practically, I have been sorting through my work 'zone' - if I may say, I am quite organized person (on the verge of obsessive) however there are days that my desk is covered from one corner to another. As well as floor space...and sometimes, wall. So I had to do some shuffling. Then closet swap - winter/fall clothing out from the box, summer goes in. With tiny closet, there is no other way of doing it.

All that and enjoying fall colors - I run better during fall and winter. I know it's different for everybody, but I have always thought there is something magical about fall and winter, hence I have upped my miles and at that, sore factor. Meeting up with girl friends for catching up. Enough excuses. A week late, but this is what I whipped up as dessert for our Thanksgiving dinner. I did not get to take photos of everything, trying not to make it into habit for asking our friends to sit on the table and wait around until I am done taking photos.

Vik came up with the idea of cupcakes. No extra dessert plates to wash, see? Though I thought, cupcakes for Thanksgiving dessert?? It does not fit the bill - Thanksgiving! Not bake-sale. Then of course, as I give it some thoughts. I know I wanted to do something with pumpkin. Know I don't want to roll out pie dough, so pumpkin pie is out. Something I can make ahead. When I saw a block of cream cheese in my fridge. Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting sounds just about right.

Do I have a recipe on my own though for pumpkin cupcakes? Of course not. I google-d around and found few different ones. However this one was actually from my pilates instructor. Well..she got it from Canadian Living magazine and changed some of the ingredients. How do I get a recipe from an instructor, long story short - I took her session for a while then switched to another instructor, we bumped to one another, she asked and I explained. Two months ago she started new class and as promised, I went in to check it out and I have been diligently going to her class since then. And couple weeks ago, we established another working relationship, she becomes my client. Gotta make back all the money I paid for membership!! The cream cheese frosting is finger licking good! It's what my host family used to whip up for their carrot cake and red velvet cake.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I don't have any, so I just mix in nutmeg, ground cloves and cinnamon)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk (original recipe: buttermilk)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (original recipe: vegetable oil)
few tbsp of chocolate chips (I added this simply because I have some in my pantry)

6 oz cream cheese
2/3 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

- For cupcakes: Mix all dry ingredients together with fork. In another bowl, whisk all wet ingredients together. Pour wet ingredients to dry and mix just until moistened. Fill muffin cups to the top. (Surprise surprise, I don't have muffin baking cups/pan, but I do have assorted brioche molds I got from Indonesia, so I used that instead)
- Bake in 375° oven for about 20-30 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- For frosting: Cream together butter, cream cheese, salt and confectioners sugar until smooth. Add in cinnamon and vanilla.
- In my dream, I'd have pipe the frosting to make it all nice. But in reality, I just spread it with spatula. It yields 11 cupcakes and all of them have different frosting design. Not because I have excessive talent in cupcake decorating, but simply couldn't decide which one could win 'the laziest effort of frosting' event. ;) So there was swirly kind, spikey, zagged, et cetera.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bowl of Quick Chicken Noodle Soup at 2 AM

Alright, I think work life is somewhat back to normal phase and hopefully now I can post more regularly and able to check out everybody else' blogs as often like I used to. ;)

I don't think most of us inspects photos very closely, do we? I mean...other people's photos. Unless it happens to be a passion - photography or such. That said, what do I know?! Photography is not exactly a passion of mine. I may even consider it less interesting than gardening - and everybody knows how I feel about gardening! It hates me. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy beautiful photography, but not with me fiddling on the lens and buttons.

However, out of habit, I pay lots of attention on images (photos, drawings, art, etc). I am that annoying friend you have who will point to your wall arrangement and says 'That one frame there..I think it's 1/4" crooked" Keyword: FRIEND. I will never be that rude with new people - I may just pretend looking and admiring and when you are not looking, I'd nudge it a bit just for the sake of leveling it. ;) Kind of a person who installs toilet by looking at the diagrams, and not at written instructions.

Visual and all, this photo of noodle bowl. I took it at 2 am this past Thursday in my kitchen. It does not look very bad, I guess. And really, if you make some food at 2 am, you ought to be pretty desperate for food and photo taking shouldn't even an option, no? But the camera just sits there on the shelf so..might as well. Also, I am intrigued to see how it'd turns out - since natural light is not going to stay much longer anymore. Hmm...the result, I dunno. Maybe this is the time for me to start finding better spot somewhere else!! Can't count on natural light all the time, right?

Now the food..this is kinda food if I were to live in Indonesia, I can get it from roadside vendors at 2 am or 4 am. But since that is not the case, my kitchen it is then. It's comforting dish, homey and quick to whip up. Not as quick as PBJ, but I need to be away from my desk for a while and at 2 am..where am I gonna go to take a break? I guess, the right question is, where in the city that I can go in pajamas?

- rice noodles, cook as instructed in the package, drained and toss in dash of oil
- 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded to chunks (I usually have some cooked chicken in fridge; for exactly this type of quick dish)
- 1 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2" ginger, finely chopped
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
- pepper
- handful of bean sprouts, rinsed
- few sprigs of cilantro
- 2 cup of chicken broth (Into soup pot, I dropped in half a tray of ice cubes frozen broth I made not too long ago, add some water, dash of salt and pepper - let it comes to boil)

- Toss in chicken, garlic, shallots and ginger to pan. Fry for few minutes.
- Add in both soy sauce (salty and sweet). Dash of pepper.
- This is the 'street fare' version of assembling such bowl:
- Add small dash of sweet, salty soy sauce and sesame oil to the bottom of serving bowl.
- On top of that, put noodles (either let it that way for now, or toss noodles to soy sauce, I like to leave it alone just as is)
- Top with shredded chicken mixture and tons of bean sprouts.
- Laddle boiling hot soup on top. Garnish with cilantro or green onions or...ohhh...fried shallots!
- Add some hot sauce just before eating.

Happy Thanksgiving to fellow Canadian bloggers! Can't wait to catch up with blogs to see what's on the table.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Tofu Meatballs (You read it right, TOFU)

Been few days since I blogged last. I don't know how most of food bloggers can post everyday..hats off to you guys! :) Work has been up to my neck lately, I love my job very very much (thus, I will never complain about work load) and love food and cooking. However, these past few nights, by the time I hit home and done cooking, eating and cleaning up - and sometimes work for couple more hours. I just want to crawl under blanket in my pjs and not to move a single finger. I want to blame the weather. Yet, I secretly love cold weather. Odd, huh? Anyhow, I am truly impressed with fellow bloggers who manage to blog everyday.

Well, so I was doing some fridge purging over the weekend. With Thanksgiving coming, I got to empty up my fridge so that I have space you put Thanksgiving related food. Been thinking about whipping up Derby Pie. Though it is way up there on 'too sweet, too sugary' stuff for my taste buds, Derby Pie has such a special place in my heart. Growing up, we made apple pie and some savory pie but that's basically it. It never occurred to me that there were gazillions different pie out there. Long story short, the family I stayed with during my early years in the States always make one or two home-made pie a week. Derby pie was 'our' first pie together. That was my first time even seeing pecans!!! Derby pie just brings back good memories.

Anyway, not sure why I am rambling about Derby Pie!! Maybe because I want a slice at this very moment...

So after major wiping, disinfecting, et cetera - there were not too many random things actually, but enough to make couple meals. I have half block of tofu and some 1/4 cup of ground chicken in freezer, yeap..1/4 cup, it was a leftover from some dumplings I made last week. Almost sad looking chives. Few packets of plum sauce - from those Chinese take out joints. 2 wrinkly looking long red chillies. Hmm...Vik is not a huge fan of tofu. I LOVE tofu, it's one of very few things I can eat in daily basis. However, I long learned that if I mix up the tofu with something spicy and almost like hiding it - he would not mind as much. Tofu meatballs then!! My gradma used to make a version of this with shrimps and we'd dunk these meatballs to sweet sour sauce. It was so good that we would keep counts on how many the other person has eaten, just to make sure it's all fair and square!! Hey, we were kids!!

Tofu meatballs
- 1/4 cup ground chicken
- 1 cup of tofu, mashed
- 5 sprigs of chives, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp five spice powder
- 1 small egg, lightly beaten
- salt and pepper

Spicy Sour Sauce:
- 1/2 small onions, chopped
- 1 tomatoes, quarters
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 red chillies, slit to half
- 1/2 " ginger, julienne
- 4 packets of plum sauce
- 1 tbsp hot sauce/ sambal ABC
- 1/2 cup of pineapple nectar
- dash of sugar
- salt and pepper
- 1 green onions, chopped (for garnish)

- Make meatballs by mixing all the ingedients together, shape into small balls. Either deep fry it, or panfry with little oil. It will be okay to bake them, but for not having no fat in this meatballs mixture (tofu and ground chicken), baking may dry them up pretty badly.
- While frying up the meatballs. Pour 1/2 tbsp oil in another pan. Toss in garlic, chillies, tomatoes, and onions. Stir until they get all soft and nice.
- Add in plum sauce, hot sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir and let it gets to quick bubble. Pour in pineapple nectar.
- Toss in tofu meatballs. Stir and when it starts to boil, turn off heat. Garnish with chopped up green onions.

We opted to sit outside on our balcony for dinner - regardless it was about 11 celcius. Told ya I love cold weather. It wasn't too bad with such spicy hot dish and steaming bowl of jasmine rice. Oh, and I made quick broth (tips: when making home-made broth, always always freeze them in ice cubes tray, they work wonder!) with some random chopped up veggies. Soup slurping, spicy tofu meatballs. 11 celcius...was alright. Though few minutes after we done eating and all the heat from chillies were all gone, we literally pushing each other trying to get back inside. Hee..

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fenugreek Crisps / Methi Methia

My previous entry talks about 100th posts anniversary and so on, and I did not think much about it, except replying to all the nice comments, of course. However, Vik checked it out later this afternoon, called me up and says 'What did you mean by 100th posts? The blog archive only shows 89' - Oh so much for my passionate entry about our courtship!! ;) Shouldn't he be oohhing?! EEEEeck. But of course to my own horror, OMG!! So why did I think it was 100th posts? I ran to my desk and ..huh..the 'Dashboard' section does show 100! Oh silly me, it counts those entries that has not yet being posted, isnt it?! There are times that I just load the photos and put a title, so I can work on my posts during breaks.

Thus in case any of you DO check on my sidebar, I was not making up about 100 posts in trying to lure and trick you guys in reading a little bit of my story!! :D

Anywaayyy, this was going to be my submission for Think Spice Think Fenugreek food event at Kittie's blog, I knew instantly that I'd love to participate. Just to quickly note though, I did not get to submit it - I was way behind the deadline and just couldn't type the entry soon enough.

At the time, I was thinking of making Oondhiyu, very hearty vegetables stew with morsels of methi dough. But did not get a chance to hit up Indian grocery store to get all the ingredients. However, methi methia in this dish is perfect as snacks as it is part of Oondhiyu. Seriously, it's like a thick crisps/chips bursting with exotic flavors. Serve with masala chai or just plain hot jasmine tea, yumm..for afternoon snack outside the balcony in this rainy weather.

For Oondhiyu, the making of methi methia is super easy, just mixing of fenugreek leaves with besan/ chickpeas flour and several other spices. As snacks, I have always added some extra this and that to jazz it up, whatever looks good at the time in my pantry. Still fairy easy thing to do.

- 1 cup of gram flour/besan flour
- 2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 jalapenos, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 red chillies, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1" ginger, grated
- pinch of turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- few tbsp of water

- Mix everything thoroughly with fork (except oil and water).
- Add in oil. Mix. Add water by tablespoon, just until it forms into soft dough.
- Knead for couple minutes. Shape into thin rounds or logs. Dust hand with some flour (any kind of flour is fine) while shaping if dough is a little bit sticky.
- Arrange on baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400°F oven for about 20 minutes until it's golden brown.

Mixing it with some chopped up cilantro and ajwain seeds give this snacks another dimension of flavor. Or even some coarsely chopped almonds. But I thought since the fenugreek should be the main spice, I try not to mix too many other strong flavor herbs/spices to it.

Like mentioned, I did not get to send this entry for the event. One, procrastinating in making this until last minute. Two, with my cold last week, there were only couple entries I managed to post. Next time. In mean while, chomp chomp chomp.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

100th Posts and Award!! And some more..

Perhaps this will be the most personal entry in this food blog. I was going to post either dessert I made last night or chicken rice I made last week, or only about the Award. However, I just realized that this is my 100th posts!!! And it is our 3rd wedding anniversary. October 1st, 2005. Oh, and it's Eid Mubarak and half of my family celebrating this Festive Day, which by default it means everybody chime in to celebrate all the yummy goodies. Selamat Hari Raya! Minal Aidin Wal Faidzin.

One hundred posts - this food blogging has been nothing but fun. I enjoy being able to 'meet' so many talented, creative and food-passionate people. Many different styles: recipes, food, ingredients, dislikes and likes, baking, cooking, but the bottom line is that we all love FOOD!

So yes, the E Award! I got my first one from Elra and few days later got another one from Alexa of Artsy-Foodie. Good things do come in multiples huh? :) I was not sure about being awarded back to back that I had to read Alexa's blog twice, just to make sure it was 'Cecil - FoodCraze' and that I was not imagining things.

I came across Artsy-Foodie blog not too long ago, but seeing her profile illustration, oohh..I know I am hooked! I think anybody who has the humor to draw up herself just awesome!! My line of work requires a lot of doodling, thus I am always drawn to drawings and hers are just fun to look at. Then as I follow her blogs and recipes, I found such innovative dishes and always so beautifully presented. Thank you, Alexa!

Now, it's time to pass along that Award. I am newbie (will use this as an excuse until ....perhaps the 200th posts or something) so I may read too much into the ideas of passing awards. Like, I seriously give some thoughts to it! That's why it took me a while before posting this! Sorry! Anyway, so I would like to pass this award, in no particular order, to:

Mochachocolata Rita, such a great sense of humor with her food posts. Simple dishes injected with tons of spicy stories and oh, how could I not love her illustration sketches? Yeah yeah, I love any kind of drawings and completely enjoy her illustrations very much. Love her funny tales, from putting buckets and pots to catch leaking water to whacking up coconut and adorable loving comments about her Sous Chef. Her blog makes cooking sounds fun, a comical Manga style!!

The Mediocre Cook, fairly new blogger but I have been tuning in his blog since Day One and love his writing. He is cooking 'The New Best Recipe.' When he posts about his adventure in cutting up a whole chicken, far cry from ahem, not so long ago green peas cooking episode resembling more of green peas popcorn! I just have to give him this award! Surprise me more when he whipped up Pad Thai, with his trip to find tamarind and oh the perfumey unique smell of dried shrimps. His often honest remarks of not having a clue what he is doing makes me laugh and remind me that learning new things can be such a good thing.

Erica of Itzy's Kitchen, let's just say I don't know how she can lift a finger to cook or bake after all her work - as analyst and group fitness instructor. The keyword is 'Fitness Instructor' and all that classes she is taking! See, before I go for my run or dance studio, I will make sure the food is ready and waiting. Otherwise, I'll just grab......I don't even want to go there. But she manages to make all these healthy food after work. And still sounds so bubbly!

Prudy of Prudy Pennywise, Prudy's blog was one of very first blogs I religiously visit. I love her cooking, straight forward and such a 'real life, real people' food. Adore her budget saving tips and the first time I saw the phrase 'Prudence Pennywise' as her alter ego, I knew instantly I will continue reading her blog. And oh, her background music, it makes my day.

By the way, this award comes with rules, here they are:
Please find at least 10 more blogs of any kind which you deem to be excellent; but hey if you only come up with 3 or 5, I don’t mind.
Post about the blogs you picked, linking back to me and to them.
Once you’ve posted, return here to let me know your post is up, and of course let your 10 award winners know too.

Thanks again Alexa!

As I mentioned earlier, this is our 3rd anniversary. And yet, it's 9 pm and I just walked in to my studio a while ago to finish up more work. Vik too is working. Oh so what am I doing blogging away then?! :) Well, one is that I am waiting for the other person to tie up loose end's my 100th post, award post...and just thought let's celebrate with people who love food!! :)

I am not a good writer so I don't know how to tell it in any better way. It was a special day - wedding gown and chania cholis. A month later, come another special shocking day where I had to put into hospital gown, was diagnosed with Leukemia and honeymoon was a hospital suite. The bright side was that I got the biggest private suite there is. Not only honeymoon, we spent Thanksgiving - which was a complete haze, I was so drugged to combat all the nasty side effects of chemo, and Christmas with tiny tree and Christmas songs. I said we because Vik stayed the entire 34 nights sleeping on the hospital chair. I had a small duffel bag. He reeled in a suitcase for his stuff. And that was that.

First anniversary was a little bit surreal, my hair grown back some and we made a point to revisit our photographer and had our picture taken professionally. I was still in oral chemotherapy and looked just a shade darker than bright white printing paper.

Last year, we asked a stranger on the street to take our picture after dinner. It was a fresh start and we made many toasts literally for everything, moved to Toronto and finally able to start our own company. I had to wear my flats though, not so sexy huh? Had bone marrow biopsy couple days prior and it always left my hips with funny feeling for few days. Either try to look cute in high heels and walk wobbly like a 90 years old or pretend I don't care that flats make me..short (-er than already am)!! Truth is, I did not wear wigs when I was bald, so..looking short is not that big of concern in my fashion list. ;)

Now it's 2008, we are not going anywhere tonight to celebrate. Work load just won't allow us, it sounds sad, but when deadline is slapping from right and left, there is not much we can do. Vik has been doing his 6 am - 2 am. Mine is not so rough but enough that four hours dinner is not an option.

I am not sure how many of us remember friends' anniversary. Best friends, parents', siblings', favorite aunt's, maybe. Even that, not many of us manage to...what, I have to remember birthdays, and now anniversaries too!? Come on! :) I remember because my parents' is 5 days after mine, best friend's - 10 days. Aunt's, a week after my birthday. Easy to remember.

Yet this morning, Vik and I got quite a bit of Happy Anniversary emails and messages. From former co-workers, friends we have not seen for a while, etcetera. It's a little bit weird (in comforting way) - be that they remember because of the 'dramatic' row of events or it was indeed a memorable wedding. Either way, I am thankful. Because they think of us and take the time to wish us best wishes. I know quite a few of them are silent lurker here and I just want to say...please don't count on us to remember yer anniversary dates as return!! ;)

Which come to this point, I am sharing this here because we all take the time to post something we each so passionate about, it requires time, labor and love. On top of that, we take the time to read (sometimes, learn and study) and comment on others' blog. Thank You! I so appreciate that.

Now, I need to get back working so we can have some real deal anniversary date this weekend!