FOOOOD. May 4th, 2019: almost officially listed: Updated

I’ve been trying my best to keep busy, with emphasis on activities that really require my focus and wholeheartedly occupy my time.  The main activities have been alternating between cooking, baking or making ice cream, and playing Mario Kart.  I’ve also been somewhat obsessed with tiny house videos on Youtube.   However, my parents are now marathoning Game of Thrones, partly due to peer pressure and curiosity from hearing about it, and partly because my brother managed to get my mom hooked last weekend when she visited him.  Even though she doesn’t approve of the gore and the nudity, the story is just too good to ignore.  So now we are binge-watching when we can, and it’s nice to be invested in something together.  My parents are also amping up on gardening, and full out mulching, buying plants, a gate for the deck, and decorating the backyard.  I guess it’s our way of dealing with all that’s happening and trying to continue living life as well as we can.  I’ve always had to see the doctor about once a week for vaccine updates (hepatitis b, ugh, 6 doses total), and for my weird hives allergy.

Otherwise, I’ve also been reading up on books I’ve saved on my list for awhile now, especially regarding Pulitzer Prize, or New York Times bestsellers.  I don’t know why, but my curiosity with learning more about the Holocaust has now expanded to other war-related topics, such as Iris Chang’s book regarding the Nanjing Massacre and Chinese history in America, and currently I’m reading “Gulag: A History“, which I had no idea was about Russian concentration camps, but it’s weirdly interesting, although appalling to realize this is real history that happened to people.  How can so much suffering exist?  It’s almost like what’s the point of living a life of constant starvation, imprisonment, and fear?

Back to baking and ice cream making, which are the newest and least experienced activity I’ve taken up.  On the plus side, we have fresh desserts all the time now since I make it a point to attempt one recipe per day, or every other day (cooking counts too though).

I’ve made korean cold somen noodles with the sauce and cucumber and eggs, SO GOOD, my fav new dish to eat for the summer.

Baking:

  1.  Matcha Mochiko Cake:  3.8/5, 3.2/5
  2. Matcha mochi with red bean:  3.5/5
  3. Pound cake muffins:  3/5
  4. Sugar cookies:  4.5/5
  5. Golden raisin oatmeal cookies:  4/5
    • criticism:  not bad, not particularly exciting either
  6. Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting:  4.5/5  (2x)  
  7. Japanese cheesecake:  3.7/5
  8. Dark chocolate brownies:  3.5/5
  9. Castella cake (Japanese honey cake):  4.3/5  (2x)
    • https://www.justonecookbook.com/castella/
    • criticism:  slightly dry.  brown sugar visuals isn’t as clean as white sugar
    • made twice, second time used white sugar, and also it took 50 minutes, not 35 minutes for my oven.  Leave oven ajar for about 5 minutes.
  10. Jenn’s chocolate chip cookies:  4.6/5
    • criticism:  inconsistency in choco chips, and too few. a couple slightly overbaked
  11. Chocolate Crinkles II:   2.8/5
  12. Japanese cheesecake again:  3.9/5
    • used springform pan this time, better.
    • criticism:  didn’t rise as much as expected, fluffier than first time, but still not fluffy enough- oven temps are possibly too low, and/or took too much time to set up parchment and pan after whipped egg whites.  sides were overgreased, a bit oily/soggy, and flipping it, it fell apart, but overall success.  Would not do 300-250 degrees again.  Try 320-285 degrees instead.
  13. Sopapilla (Mexican cheesecake pie): 3.5/5
  14. Jjinppang (Korean red bean steamed buns): 4/5
    • https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/jjinppang
    • criticism:  didn’t wait 30 min for buns to rise and become fluffier before steaming, did not close buns successfully, flour slightly got dry
    • very ugly but delicious
  15. Scones + Lemon Curd:  4/5, 4.5/5 
  16. Japanese purin custard:  3/5
    • House brand – Instant mix, uses gelatin, which I don’t eat anymore (animal parts)
    • Just doesn’t look that appetizing, yields 3 mini portions; parents liked it though
  17. Chocolate chip cookies: 2/5 
  18. Pumpkin Bread:  3.9/4
  19. Quiche with Sweet Onion + Sharp Cheddar Cheese:  4/5
  20.   Tres Leche:  4/5
  21.   Cheesecake (Cheesecake Factory recipe):  3.9/5
  22. Pinwheel cake:
  23. Almond Jelly:
    • using agar agar

Ice Cream:

  1.  Vanilla ice cream with dark choco chips :  A-
  2. Matcha ice cream :  C+ 
    • 3 eggs recipe
    • fatty, with 1 cup milk, 2 cup heavy cream
    • criticism:  failed to temper eggs properly, ruined texture.  overhardened from churning inconsistency, and too much matcha (3 tbs).  Also should not use egg whites
  3. Mocha ice cream with dark choco chips:   A-
    • 3 egg YOLKS
    • fatty, very rich, custard-like, creamy with 1 cup milk, 2 cups heavy cream
    • criticism:  not enough chocolate flavor, personally too creamy for me, also didn’t like dark chocolate I used
  4.  Strawberry ice cream:  A-/A
    • eggless recipe
    • lowfat, with 2 cup milk, 1 cup heavy cream
    • delicious fresh strawberry flavor!  half pureed, half diced
    • criticism:  not creamy consistency enough, slightly icy
  5.  Godiva dark chocolate ice cream:  A                                    
    • 6 egg yolks
    • very rich and creamy
    • added cheesecake and toasted almonds
    • criticism:  slightly too heavy for me
  6. Badam ice cream:  A
    • eggless
    • 2:1 heavy cream ratio, less icy!
    • added brownies
  7. Coffee milk tea ice cream:  B-
  8. Mint chocolate chip ice cream:  B
    • eggless
    • mint extract + vanilla extract
    • criticism:  a bit too sweet (1 cup sugar, less than 4 cups ratio… error)
  9.   Red bean ice cream:  A+ 
  10. Watermelon Sherbet:  B+ 
  11. Vanilla Ice cream II :  B-
  12. Cookie dough Ice cream Sandwiches:  C+
  13. Mango Sorbet:  A-
  14. Ube Ice cream:  A
    • used 1 cup milk, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp ube extract, about 5 oz. sweet condensed milk ( I eyeballed it)
    • first batch was burned with coconut milk, dumped 😦
    • deliciousss, even though the ube is imitation and a really small bottle
  15. Upcoming ice creams:

Other:

  1.  Shakshuka:
  2. Spiced Naan

P.S.  I hate how insurance companies and random coordinators from hospitals call me up whenever, so it’s like I have to work extra hard to stay distracted and occupied with other things.  They could call me at 8am, 10am, 2:30pm, 5:00pm, really now.  And not that I’m exactly “busy busy” but I’m sometimes in the middle of sleeping, or washing dishes, making dinner, or in the bathroom, and I just have to drop everything and set aside 15 minutes or however long to discuss things.  I should be officially listed Monday.  A part of me thinks I’m insane for willingly sending myself in for this kind of surgery, the other part of me can’t wait.

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Attempting to Make a Korean Dinner Pt. 6

Ok… I am done with Korea at this point LOL.  I made japchae again for lunch, and then a quick cucumber pickle and baked the remaining fire chicken, and added a few soft boiled eggs to the fire sauce.  I also redeemed myself with the eggplant dish this time, simply by stir-frying it and adding a bit of water to my sauce in the pan, ensuring that it was well-cooked and saucy and delicious (just realized I forgot to add fish sauce… oh well).

Today was supposed to be seafood pancake day… so I planned and prepped for the simple potato pancake, the kimchi pancake, and the green onion pancake.  I added some chopped shrimp to the last two… the potato pancake turned out quite delicious, although I had a wee potato left, and grating it as well as the onion took forever.  The kimchi pancake broke and never solidified, so each time I tried to turn it over, it just ended up becoming scrambled.  I think this is due to me using the smaller pan, using the bigger pieces of kimchi that I bought instead of chopping it finer, and not adding enough oil.  I even tried to save it by adding an egg on top.  Bless my mother, she said it still tasted good though.  The last one, I kept adding oil, and it ended up looking like a sad mushy oily mess 😦  It still tasted okay, but I think I added too much green onion, even though I tried to add more batter, it just didn’t work out proportionally correct.  I’m also not good at flipping things in the air, so I pathetically kept scraping at the bottom and using my spoons to turn them over.

28276086_10156248855058960_396464713_o.jpgI think I just don’t want to attempt this dish for a good while  because the prep work exhausted me and the result was less than decent, definitely unsatisfied.

Attempting to Make a Korean Dinner Pt. 5

I followed this recipe to make buldak, aka fire chicken!  It’s a popular dish that I’ve seen on Youtube mukbangs and also on some select menus at korean restaurants.  It’s always piqued my interest, and I wondered what it tasted like, especially with a combination of mozzarella cheese on top. Turns out, it tastes amazing.  I followed Maangchi’s recipe here:

https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/buldak

28208336_10156246513673960_898021416_oFirst of all, the sauce that Maangchi gives is DELICIOUS:  sweet, tangy, spicy.  Also very simple to whip up, although very messy particularly with the vivid bright red color. It also took a long time to control the cooking and baking of the chicken, especially since I had to use what was in my fridge, which was chicken drumsticks instead of 1-inch breast.  I’d say I spent total around 50 minutes in the pan and also in the mini oven.  I also added a bit more water to let it simmer longer, but it could have used a bit more time actually.

In addition, I found mini rice cakes and went ahead and boiled that and threw it in there on top after rinsing in cold water.  Lastly, topped it all off with a generous heap of mozzarella cheese to toast and melt.  The combo is very interesting and surprisingly delicious!   I’d def crave this dish again!  There’s a few more drumsticks marinating in the fridge as I just couldn’t fit anymore into the pan.  This yields 8 drumsticks, and we ate it over plain white rice.  My family enjoyed it very much!  Maangchi is great.

Tomorrow, Korean green onion and seafood pancake time.  My mom also wants me to make Japchae again.  I may also attempt to make korean fried chicken, and red bean buns too next week since my mom loves those.  We’ll see.


P.S.  I was disappointed because my friends are all out in NYC and Jersey City celebrating their birthday, and I couldn’t join, partially because it’s too much walking and cold, and it’s also snowing.  But, as I’ve had to learn many times over, you gotta try to make the best of what you have through your disappointment and try to still do what you can.  It still turned out not a bad Saturday, and I still feel like I can go to bed having accomplished something productive and new.

Attempting to Make A Korean Dinner Pt. 4

We are almost nearing the end of Korea Week!

Today I made Bibimbap, which apparently means Mixed (Bibim) Rice (bap)!

28275312_10156243886508960_1054264151_oBefore and After Pics:

Again, I followed Maangchi’s recipe, and altered the ingredients a bit according to what I had left in my fridge.  I used:

-1 Cucumber

-1 Large Carrot

-12 oz. beansprouts

-8 oz. spinach

-1/2 a portion of enoki mushrooms

-whatever of the red bell pepper I had left from the previous day for japchae

-green onions for garnish

-gochujang (red pepper paste)

-1 portion of steak (marinated first with sesame oil, garlic, sesame seeds, and honey)

I’m very proud of how it turned out!  I attempted to fry the bottom of each serving of rice before serving and topped it off with a fried egg as well.  I think the process is simple enough, just a lot of chopping, mincing, and prepping.  It simultaneously makes me appreciate the food I’ve eaten at the Korean restaurants before, admiring it as a dish I had no idea how it happened before, to making it in my kitchen, but not being as excited by it anymore now that I understand the process.  Never thought the day would come… but I think I’m actually ready to leave Korean cuisine and won’t be super hyped by the idea of going to a Korean restaurant from now on.


I believe the remaining to-do lists that I will most likely target next will be some version of Korean pancake, as well as the Korean Fried Chicken.  Since starting this cooking journey for Korean food, I’ve used up most of my bottle of sesame oil and at least 2 bunches of garlic lol!   In the future at some point, I’ll try making cold spicy noodles as well as the pine nut porridge.  Perhaps I should redeem myself in the eggplant and potato banchans as well…

Trying to foodventure my way through the tastes of each culture is pretty fun, and I have ready guinea pigs at home to try them out 😀

Stay tuned for next week as we enter Japan, and I attempt to make dishes like Chicken Katsu and Tamagoyaki!  I think after that, it’ll be soul food or Indian cuisine.  Not a huge fan of Mediterranean, but my dad likes it and it’s quite healthy so I may try some falafel wraps or something like that.

Although I have not been successful today in finishing all the tasks I wanted to do, the bibimbap still leaves me with a deep satisfaction since it was always a really colorful and delicious dish that caught my eye on the menus at restaurants… and especially since I was really hungry heh.  It makes me happy to make my parents eat healthy dishes hehehe.  Lots of veggies, all tasty.

Attempting to Make A Korean Dinner Pt. 3

My chopping and mincing skills are getting better I noticed! Regardless, I roughly followed Maangchi’s recipe for japchae and it still took me a long ass time to prep everything.  I had to utilize 1 pot, 2 pans, 2 chopping boards, and prep 9 different components of veggies for my japchae cause I’m greedy.  It was fun though, and the result was quite delicious! My parents seemed to genuinely enjoy it which made me happy ^_^

Yields 4-5 generous servings

Ingredients:

(All medium heat unless otherwise specified)

-1/2 bunch of enoki mushrooms (20-30 sec. cooking time)

-1/3 lb beansprouts (20 min. boiled with cover on –> idk why so long but Maangchi said so)

– 1 egg, yolk + white separated (matchsticks)

-5 green onions (2-inch chopped, 40 sec. cooking time)

-1 generous handfuls of baby spinach (30 sec. blanched)

-1/2 cucumber (matchsticks, 20 sec. cooking time)

-1/2 onion (fat matchsticks, 2 min. cooking time)

-1 red bell pepper (matchsticks, 20-30 sec. cooking time)

-1 carrot (matchsticks, 30 sec. cooking time)

-1.5 cloves raw garlic, 1.5 cooked garlic

-16-20 shrimp, deveined (1 min. cooking time maybe, or whenever color has turned orange immediately)

-1/2 lb. japchae (boiled for 8 min, taste test)

-adjust soy sauce and sesame oil, roughly 2-2.5 tbsp each, 1 tbsp sugar

-sprinkle roasted sesame seeds on top


Other mini accomplishments for today:  Used up my spoons on folding laundry and cooking.  Tomorrow will be gym, data science, cooking bibimbap, wash hair.  Hopefully I won’t run out!

Attempting to Make A Korean Dinner Pt. 2

I’m very happy with the dishes I whipped up today for my family!  It was much faster since I only focused on 3 dishes, and we ate it with shin ramen.  I think the thing about Korean food that makes me happy is how colorful and playful it is with the variety of each small dish.  I made:

-Steamed Egg with green onion

-Pickled Cucumber <– honestly could devour a giant bowl by myself

-Beef Pancakes

I’m only going to follow Maangchi’s Youtube recipes from now on… hers seem to work better.

I’m not really a fan of grating, shaving, or frying things because it’s annoying, so I try to avoid those.  But today I tried coating my beef slices with flour and egg before pan frying it, and it was quite successful in my opinion!  My parents enjoyed it, and you can tell it’s good when most of it’s finished by the end of the meal.  I did remember to take a quick picture… here’s me with my game face on and my lucky Harry Potter shirt on, and then the actual dishes, topped with leftover bean sprout banchan from the day before:

27939794_10156231878993960_449260070_n

28081171_10156231878928960_1009116257_o.jpg

Notes to self:  need to do the steps more carefully for the beef pancakes, and coat with more flour so there’s a clearer egg casing on the outside, also try to slice the steak thinner.


Tomorrow’s Banchan Attempts:

-Potato Redemption

-Eggplant with a different recipe

-Seafood / veggie pancake

 

Attempting to Make A Korean Dinner Pt. 1

I need to write up a quick documentation so that I can refer back to this when I do succeed in making the utmost DELICIOUS Korean food 😀

So today, courtesy of HMart I attempted to cook a few banchans to accompany our rice, stir it up to excite our tastebuds!  My parents and I have gotten chubby and eaten one too many donuts lately, so we’re trying to eat healthier and lose some weight together.

What I made:

-beansprout and cucumber dish (Success)

-green sprouts from sweet potato with red pepper flakes (Success)

-Korean egg roll (Not bad) –>  add less salt, more sugar next time

-chilled eggplant (Fail)  –>  too much acidity, more sugar

-sweetened potatoes (Fail)  –>  burnt… add more water next time, cook potatoes longer

I took one poor quality Snapchat photo, and will post a better version of the final perfected dish one day and post it here.

What I discovered:  sesame oil and garlic are THE essential items for banchans, not actually red pepper flakes.


Attempting tomorrow:

-Steamed egg https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/ttukbaegi-gyeranjjim

-fix the eggplant…  or make a different dish with leftover eggplantshttps://www.maangchi.com/recipe/gaji-namul

-Korean egg-beef pancakes
https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/soegogi-jeon
—————————————-

Attempting another day:

-Korean style coffee https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zNKal3PI_Q&t=122s

-Japchae

-Chicken Bulgogi

-Pine Nut porridge

-Kimchi Seafood pancake

-Kimchi fried rice

-Korean Fried Chicken

-Kimbap

-Bibimbap


 

My dad’s friend joked once on learning how to make Taiwanese food for himself once moving to America alone:  “It’s not hard… first time, too salty, second time, not enough salt, third time, got it just right.”

This ^ proved true for me in attempting something that is known for being easy to make… pancakes.  I bought pre-mixed buttermilk pancakes that you only need to add WATER to… yet somehow, it tasted kind of gross the first time I made it.  I used a pan since I couldn’t find a griddle, and my friend overmixed it so that it was too watery of a consistency.  So the second time it was a bit better, but still kind of thin and wimpy looking.  Third time, PERFECTO.  So delicious and what I had craved since I first bought the mix.  Fluffy, thick, and tasty.  Here’s how: a little less water than the instructions say so that the batter is thick when you pour it onto the griddle, lumps are completely fine, even good.   I added Jacques Torres dark chocolate pieces into it and drizzled maple syrup, whipped cream, and sliced bananas on top.  Yeah… maybe not losing weight anytime soon.

 

 

 

Foodventures: Cooking Chronicles

I had started a segment called “Food” on my blog, but never got around to it.  It still needs a lot of work in terms of organization, but for now I just want to get started on making a list of things I’ve tried to make over the years.  I grew up on Asian food my parents made, and that meant mostly fried eggs and stir-fried rice.  Now that I’m older, I appreciate the food more, but back then I always had eating problems and wasn’t a fan of some of the food I ate.  My brother, probably sometime during my freshman year of college, would occasionally make baked penne when he came home, and it was so delicious.  Our whole family was impressed, wondering how the magic of non-Asian cooking came into being.

It wasn’t until one day I was craving the pasta that I casually googled it, and a million recipes came up on the internet that I realized, hey, the ingredients aren’t that difficult to get, and although 40 minutes seemed a long time to spend on making dinner, it flew by.  One of my favorite websites is allrecipe.com, mostly because of its simplicity and its detail on serving size, total time, and exact ingredients laid out with precise steps and photos.

My style of penne vodka was a bit different from my brother’s, but I actually prefer my version because I think it’s less heavy and more healthy.  The real difference is using fresh produce, and the recipe I started off with called for 5-6 tomatoes cut up to be left on the pan for about 10+ minutes:  the point of this was for it to melt into juice, and then create part of the sauce.  At college, when I didn’t have access to tomatoes, I could only rely fully on tomato sauce, and that absolutely did not taste as good.

The second secret to penne vodka’s sauce, was the heavy cream.  This was a huge thing, as heavy cream is not a familiar ingredient in Asian cooking at all.  But really, the gist of good penne vodka is very simple.  You mostly need tomatoes, tomato sauce to compensate for extra flavor or viscosity, heavy cream, a splash of vodka (or rice wine), and some spicy sausage/chicken bits, and finally, the penne. That’s it, only 6 ingredients!  Salt and pepper to taste, but not absolutely necessary since the sausage and tomato sauce often adds salt and spice.

And ever since then, looking up recipes was a fun pastime, and when I had the energy, cooking new things became a hobby.  Turns out, apparently I am quite talented in spicing my food!  I am super picky about overcooked foods, so when it comes to pasta or meats in particular, I stand over my cooking food like a hawk.

That said, I tried a bunch of things and tweaked or changed a lot of the recipes I made, sometimes improvising.  If they tasted bad, I completely dropped the dish from my list of foods to keep (such as avocado chocolate pudding, white chocolate pudding, and a weird lemon chicken pasta).

Here are another two basic cooking tips besides fresh produce:

  1.  On the fiscal spectrum, stock up on versatile ingredients you make often from Costco in bulk:  for example, the steak at Costco is amazing, and usually can be used for 8 meals for an average of $30 total, which comes out to roughly $3-4 per piece. Just freeze them.  Same thing for salmon, or chicken stock
  2. Foods taste best when there is a balance of flavors and textures (maybe I learned this from the multiple cooking shows I watch like Chopped):  Generally, food tastes great when you have a component of
    1. Acidity, sourness (Lemon juice, vinegar)
    2. Sweetness (Honey, sugar, mango, caramelized onions)
    3. Saltiness (salt, soy sauce)
    4. Others
      1.  Spiciness (chili flakes, sriracha, hot peppers)
      2. Spices (cumin, sweet or smoked paprika, chile, garlic powder, a little nutmeg, salt/pepper)
      3. Oils (sesame oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil)
    5. Textures- Creaminess/softness (avocado, mayo, mango  vs. Crunchiness (alfalfa sprouts, red peppers, raw onion, cucumbers)

NEVER OVERCOOK. You can never go back and fix something overcooked.  Never.  The only times this is acceptable is if it was meant to become mush, like porridge or bread pudding.

  1. Penne vodka
  2. Mango Rigatoni
  3. Asian-inspired Stir Fried Linguine with soy sauce, sesame seeds, broccoli, peppers
  4. Shrimp Linguine with butter and wine
  5. Pad Kee Mao (Thai)
  6. Avocado pasta with black bean and salmon
  7. Oven-cooked spiced salmon with honey and lemon juice, accompanied by vegetables (kale, bok choy, peppers, broccoli)
  8. Tortilla Wraps with variations on steak, salmon, mango, red pepper, onions, tomato, lemon juice, cilantro, avocado
  9. Chicken Thigh Burgers
  10. Halal Guys imitation attempt with turmeric
  11. Popcorn Shrimp Sandwich with cucumbers, mayonnaise, avocado, honey, lemon juice, arugula, alfalfa)
  12. Alfalfa-Avocado and Cream Cheese Sandwich
  13. Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Colby Jack, cream cheese, and butter)
  14. Crab Creole
  15. Crab Cakes
  16. Lobster Salad (layered in a martini glass, avocado, lime mayonnaise, red peppers and mango, cilantro, lemon mayonnaise, topped with lobster pieces
  17. Lobster Bisque
  18. Pumpkin Soup
  19. Hummus and Guacamole
  20. Sweet Potato fries
  21. Panna cotta (vanilla with strawberries or blueberries, low-fat almond extract with red bean topping, orange, green tea, and attempting mango with fresh mango nectar and pieces soon)
  22. Creme Brulee
  23. Sabayon
  24. Mango-Strawberry smoothie
  25. Lychee-chocolate milkshake (learned from Lindt)

 

My favorite foods I would say are:

Taiwanese-

  1. Beef noodle soup via my dad
  2. Ba-wan (taiwanese meatballs) when the outside is all wobbly and fresh with the sauce
  3. Oyster pancakes
  4. Coffee black tea with vanilla ice cream and bubbles
  5. Kong Xin vegetables

Others-

  1. Jia-jiang noodles via my mom.
  2. Penne vodka, because that’s the signature dish that I first made, and the one that inspired me to continue trying other things.
  3. Korean food, particularly the banchan dishes along with their BBQ.

Next, I want to attempt not just the mango panna cotta, but also buy an ice cream maker and try out some recipes I’ve come across.  What are your top three favorite foods?