Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Halloween 2010

So...I never posted about these cookies that I decorated for Halloween...My bad. I made eyeball cookies for a church gathering.

I didn't have time to make sugar cookies, so I bought some fake oreos (foreos?).
Then, I mixed up some cookie icing. I use this cookie icing from Allrecipes, but sub vanilla extract for almond.
I like for the icing to be a bit thick, because it's easier to spread around on a cookie that way. (I spread it on using a fork.) Decorating with sugar icing will take patience and practice, so bear with it if you're just starting!
P1140437After the cookies are iced with the white layer, let them dry.  I think these dried in 45 min or so.
P1140445Add some blue food coloring to some of the leftover white icing. Place in a piping bag with a tip, or just snip the corner of a bag and go at it.
I would recommend icing a few at a time, and then immediately adding a chocolate chip in the middle of the blue layer, so that it doesn't dry before you can add the "pupil."
Once these babies are dry, you can leave them as is, or for a creepier effect, use a toothpick and some red food coloring to add vein or pools of blood around the iris...

I hope you'll consider doing this for your next Halloween party!

Festive Drink Idea

Instead of the same old fireworks, we're going to be celebrating the New Year with these:

Cranberry Sparklers
These Cranberry Sparklers are simple, cheap, festive, and seasonal! Rather than mixing the frozen juice with water, you can substitute vodka, or whatever else you'd like! For a nonalcoholic version (really? but why??), you can sub sparkling white grape juice for the champagne. Happy drinking, everyone!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays

Season's Greetings from my nephew and dog, Toto!

We really hope your holidays are wonderful!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What happened to my post T-giving posts???

Here are two great things to consider this Christmas:

The Advent Conspiracy:

And cookies. With sprinkles!!!
"Let It Dough!" by Christoph Niemann

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Post dedicated to Greg

Thanks to Greg for sharing this with me. Let's discuss how motherloving disgusting this is...

Photo by Amy Wisniewski for

This cake contains: ground turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, marshmallows, and cranberry sauce. WTF. I don't like food touching. I've gotten much better at "being ok" with some things touching on my plate, but the KFC Famous Bowl still grosses me out. This just takes it way overboard for me. Sorry. I. Just. Can't.

One more thing about dessert...

Watergate Salad Photo: Taste of Home

What is watergate salad? The picture doesn't really help, does it? I encountered it for the first time in Virginia when I was 15 years old. My sister and I went to our first "southern bbq," and watergate was on the dessert table. Curious, we checked it out...It was fluffy, like Cool Whip, but with chunks of fruit and marshallows...and it was green. Watergate salad may look/sound interesting, but it's actually delightful. We like it because it's not too sweet, and it's fast to make. The first time I ever made it for a family gathering, my cousin became obsessed with it. After getting the recipe, she made a batch for herself, and ate the whole dang tub. What an amazing feat.

I'm not sure if they eat watergate salad in the Pac NW. I've only seen it served in southeast US, but I don't actively look for watergate salad when I'm traveling, either. It's nice to have this as a light dessert. Refrigerating it for 2 hours will also make it a bit more refreshing during the hot summers months. It will be on our Thanksgiving dessert menu, and I hope you'll try it too.

There are many different variations on watergate, but here is ours:
1 tub of whipped topping (I use the reduced fat version)
1 package of instant pudding, pistachio flavor
2 c. mini marshmallows
1/2 can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 sm. can of mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions: Mix everything together really well. Eat. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sweet Talk

Oh, Natalie Dee.
There are plenty of pumpkin pie recipes out there, so I won't be sharing one. Truthfully? I can't stand pumpkin pie. I know. It's a beloved and classic pie, and most people change their positive opinions of me once they hear that I don't enjoy it. You don't know shame until you've lost a friend over pumpkin pie. I think it's the texture I don't like, but can't really be sure. I like custards, and pumpkin pie is just a big round custard, isn't it???

Pumpkin swirl brownies
If there are any readers out there who share my dislike for pumpkin pie, this is my reconciliation dessert. Pumpkin swirl brownies are great because: 1. It has seasonal flavor of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. 2. It has chocolate. 3. It's not pumpkin pie. According to my friend Jonathan, these are great because "you can only eat so many brownies." The pumpkin adds a balance to the deep chocolate flavor and dense texture. Use any brownie mix you want. (I subbed a small portion of the oil for the brownies with pumpkin puree. It didn't change the texture/flavor at all, but added nutrients and reduced some of the fat.)

I love carrot cake, because...well, because it's DELICIOUS. This Joy of Baking recipe is pretty standard, but I feel like carrot cake is under-appreciated, and wanted to share the love.

Pecan Tarts
I made these last Christmas. Pecan pies are one of my all time favorites, and these tarts are perfect. With a cream cheese crust, and a filling that's not so sweet it overwhelms the pecan flavor, I just didn't have the heart to even try to make this into a lower fat recipe. (I keep telling myself that they're smaller portions, so it's ok that they're full fat.) These are absolutely fabulous, and let's be honest, mini-pies are cute.
*Edit: Do those look like poop pies to anyone else?*

I hope you'll try some of these desserts for your post-nap Thanksgiving treat!

Monday, November 22, 2010

More turkey talk

Champagne Basted Turkey Photo: Taste of Home  
How gorgeous is that??? When I first saw the recipe for champagne basted turkey in the November 2010 issue of Taste of Home, I was thrilled. It seemed so fancy, yet so do-able for any kind of cook. I want to try this recipe, but fear that I'd end up drinking all the champagne, rather than cooking with it. I can really imagine it--in my champagne induced state, I'll forget to actually baste the turkey. I really hope that someone out there does use this recipe, and tell me how it goes. 

Sausage Snack Wraps Photo: Pillsbury
Every time I'm home for the holidays, my nieces, nephews, and older brother ask for these. Pillsbury calls them sausage snack wraps, but in our home, they're known as "pigs in a blanket." Easy is an important adjective on such a big cooking day, because the less time you need to focus on appetizers and sides, the more you can focus on the main courses and desserts. I'm telling you, these babies are easy and tasty.

Corn and Bacon Chowder Photo: Oxymoor House

This recipe from Cooking Light requires few ingredients, and comes together beautifully. Assuming that you already have most of these ingredients on hand for your other T-giving dishes, this would be an easy, fast, and delightful addition to your menu. 

Guys...I really love Thanksgiving. Can you tell??? - I'm thankful for a holiday that doesn't require atonement or starvation

Sunday, November 21, 2010

2010's Best Cookbooks according to NPR

Butternut Squash Salad, Photo: Lis Parsons (NPR
Thought I'd share this link I found this morning.  2010's Best Cookbooks according to NPR 

I don't have any of those books...Does that make me a bad food blogger?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Halloween are way too commercial, and 2 out of 3 of those holidays involve dressing up in order to: 1. get a boyfriend/girlfriend 2. get laid. Thanksgiving, though, is about being thankful for what you have, and about food. Those are my favorite things, y'all.

The main meal:

Alton Brown's recipe for brining and roasting is fan-freaking-tastic. (Food Network's photo)

I've used Alton's method many times, and it consistently produces a beautifully browned, moist, and flavorful turkey. Every. Time. This recipe converts a turkey carcass into a vessel of warmth, comfort, and deliciousness. Though it is a bit time consuming to brine a turkey, the results are well worth the effort, and actual cooking time is reduced (which is great for when you have other sides/breads/desserts you may need the oven for on Thursday).

Cornbread Sausage Stuffing. My oldest sister Kim made it last Christmas, and it was out of this world.

Oat bread rolls. This is a great bread recipe. It always comes out light and fluffy, and oat adds nuttiness, iron, and fiber.

Giblet gravy with egg. I believe this type of gravy is a southern thing. I know what you're thinking...It sounds gross, but it tastes like little fairies carried happiness and joy and magic straight to your taste buds. I learned this recipe from my oldest sister, who learned it from her southern mother-in-law. Even though we're Vietnamese, my sister married a good ole country boy, and we've enjoyed this recipe in our family ever since. Why eggs, you ask? Why not? Don't you like the taste of happiness and joy and magic???

Mashed cauliflower (Food Network's photo)
A lot of people on the internet will tell you that pureed or mashed cauliflower will have the same taste/texture as mashed potatoes, but they are LYING. It's similar, yes, but not the same. Still, I really appreciate that it's a healthier alternative, and whenever I've made this dish in the past, I mixed it with a bit of garlic mashed potatoes. Doing that gave it more of the texture and flavor that I enjoy in regular mashed potatoes, but with added vitamins and fiber (46% DV of Vitamin C!!!), and can cut calories by 25%. Suggestion: If you're trying to cut fat/calories, do not add a huge dab of butter onto your serving, the way that Food Network did in that photo. More nutrition facts here.

To be honest, I started planning for this year's big meal in August. I have a pile recipes ripped out of Sunset, Taste of Home, and Better Homes and Gardens magazines, and bookmarks on my browser that lead to recipes that I thought might be good for when T-giving finally rolls around. Now that the time is almost near, I feel like my menu is still lacking. There are only 3.5 of us, so there really will be plenty of food, but I feel like I'm missing an important staple that everyone should have on T-giving. We won't be having green bean casserole (even though I LOVE it!), because my sister doesn't think it's that great...Maybe a broccoli casserole? Mac and Cheese? Lumpia??? Any suggestions?

Next post...Thanksgiving desserts!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The most important question you'll ever have to ponder...

Cake or pie? Watch Betty White, Tina, Steve Carell, and other funny folk tackle the question...

Watch the full episode. See more Mark Twain Prize.

I love me some desserts. Cake or pie is not an easy choice...That's why I usually make sure that my dinner mates are all choosing different things so that we can all share without having to choose. I enjoy eating both equally.

However, when it comes to making either one, cake is usually the winner. I always have the ingredients for cake, but may not always have the fruit/pudding mix/flavoring/cream/etc. needed for a pie. Also, I've made some simple but pretty cakes in the past...Pies are usually more challenging for me to make. The crust has to be just perfectly flaky and golden, and the bottom crust shouldn't get soggy during baking, and you can't just stick frosting all over it to cover any mistakes! That being said, I do enjoy making pies, and they do usually come out quite tasty...It's just that they never come out looking as pretty as a well frosted cake.

Which do you prefer? Cake or pie?

Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting
Most success I ever had with an apple pie. It just looks like poop.
4th of July Flag Cake     

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What has happened to the time?

It's been such a long time since I posted at all, and even longer since I posted about anything that I've cooked. It's not that I've stopped cooking, taking photos of food, or thinking about this blog, but that I've been pretty busy. Here are some things that have happened recently:

-changes in job responsibilities, both good and bad
-I turned 26, and died a little
-I freaked out about the direction of my life
-Halloween, and I didn't get drunk, dress inappropriately, or gorge on candy

Although I don't have much time to do a real post about any of the food I've been eating or cooking, I will share some recent photos...

Apple dutch baby

Warm, cheesy goodness of a breakfast casserole with sausage.
We harvested the last of our cucumbers from the garden.
I think the plastic fork adds some class.
Eat the Gilbano sandwich at Grinders. Trust me, it's excellent.

I confess, I love Spam. Do NOT try to tell me what's in it!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NPR's interview with Harold McGee

To further pollute your minds with my obviously socialist/left wing agenda, here is a link to NPR's interview with Harold McGee. It's about how to make your food more liberal...Actually, it's about the science of cooking, and perceptions of flavor. Enjoy.

Link here:
"Keys to Good Cooking."

Listen here:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quick + update = quipdate

There are so many recipes and pictures that I want to share with you, but a combination of laziness, a cold, and a need to enjoy the last few days of sunshine in Seattle have slowed me down a LOT. I'm sorry. Please, forgive me.

Being the snooty, Christian, liberal that I am, I was at today and found this:

Sweet potato fries!!! Photo by T. Susan Chang for NPR.
Tips and recipes for oven frying. I've done oven friend chicken before, and loved it. It means that I can eat all of my southern food favorites, without feeling like I'm going to diiiiieeeeeee.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Braised chicken with lemongrass and curry (Ga Kho Cari Xa)

We all have our own images of what makes comfort food. In America, the taste of creamy mashed potatoes, oozing cheesy lasagna, or fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookies may be accompanied by images of grandma/mom standing in the kitchen. For me, comfort food can be a variety of things. It is spiced with the flavors from my Vietnamese ethnic heritage, the Cuban/Mexican tastes of central Florida where I grew up, or it can taste as full and hearty as the good ole American southern culture.  When I think of comfort food, a warm, happy feeling settles in the pit of my stomach, and stretches outward to my entire body.

It was a late dinner night, so no sunshine for good photos. Sorry.
Braised chicken with lemongrass and curry was one of my favorite dishes as I was growing up. I requested it at least once a week for dinner.

Braised chicken with lemongrass and curry (Ga kho cari xa)
Note: This is probably not the recipe for you if you don't like fish sauce!

3 lbs boneless chicken (cut into bite sized pieces)
3 tbs vegetable oil (separate 1 tbs oil) 
4 tbs fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1 small onion, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed, chopped finely
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbs chili garlic sauce (add more to taste)
2 tbs Madras curry powder (add more to taste)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Marinate the chicken pieces in fish sauce for 20-30 min.
2. In a non-stick pot, heat 2 tbs oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add chicken. Brown the meat, then remove chicken from the pot, and set aside.
3. Add 1tbs oil to the pot. Then, add the onion, lemongrass, and ginger. Stir frequently until onions are soft.
3. Dump in curry and chili garlic sauce. Stir.
4. Add in the browned chicken. Reduce heat to low, and cook covered for 20-30 min. 
*Once the chicken is cooked, I like to taste the sauce to see if the balance between the spices is right. I usually have to add more fish sauce/curry powder/chili sauce, depending on the spice brand that I used. It's all a matter of experimenting until you find the right flavor.

We like to eat it over steamed rice, with cool slices of cucumber to balance the heat of the spices. It's such a simple dish, but I really love how the flavors fight together without overpowering each other. Now, my sister requests that I make it at least once a month.

Halloween cupcakes

How cute are these cupcakes from Karen Tack and Alan Richardson?

I just finished reading the latest issue of "Taste of Home" magazine, and they have a really great article on how to make these yourself. (I've also included instructional links/videos from the magazine's website below, just in case your latest issue has not arrived yet.) I'm thinking about making these for the youth group at church. Anyone want to help me?

All photos: Taste of Home

Picture 1: "Orange You Spiky?"
Picture 2: "Purple People Eater"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blackberry syrup

A few weeks ago, I set out to use up some of the blackberries harvested from our backyard. Since we already had full containers of both strawberry and blackberry jams, and because I was craving pancakes at 11pm, I made blackberry syrup.

Quaker Oats Oatmeal Pancakes, still working on my pancake technique

Here's the problem though, I don't have a recipe. I kind of just made it up, and didn't write down any measurements. It is similar to this recipe. I mashed the berries through a colander first to remove some of the seeds, boiled it with some water and lime juice, and added Splenda rather than sugar a bit at a time until it was sweet enough, but not overly sweet. Because of the reduced sugar amount, I also added in a teaspoon of cornstarch to thicken it. It was nice!