English Muffin Bread from Cook’s Country

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My new obsession: America’s Test Kitchen from Cook’s Illustrated, on American Public Television’s Create channel.

I just can’t get enough of Christopher Kimball and his wicked dry humor. He reminds me of a slightly more cynical version of Alton Brown — both equally scientifically geeky. And I also can’t get enough of the recipes! Every time I watch the show, I get the urge to go into the kitchen and cook up whatever I just saw. And that’s exactly what I did with the English Muffin Bread.

It probably wasn’t the wisest thing to heat up the oven to bake this bread when it was over 100 degrees outside, but the result was well worth the sweat. The recipe is super easy and this yeast dough comes around in no time. And the best part – there’s NO KNEADING INVOLVED!

The end result – a perfectly soft and chewy bread, with every nook and cranny waiting for a slather of strawberry jam. It may not look like the round and thin disk that we might be accustomed to, but it’s English muffin alright.

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English Muffin Bread
From Cook’s Country

The original recipe made two 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pans but I cut the recipe in half to make just one loaf. What you see below is for one loaf. The instruction was taken directly from the Website.

Ingredients:

Cornmeal
2-1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast (one packet)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups whole milk, heated to 120 degrees

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Grease  8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan and dust with cornmeal. Combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Stir in hot milk until combined, about 1 minute. Cover dough with greased plastic wrap and let rise in warm place for 30 minutes, or until dough is bubbly and has doubled.

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Stir dough and divide between prepared loaf pans, pushing into corners with greased rubber spatula. (Pans should be about two-thirds full.) Cover pans with greased plastic and let dough rise in warm place until it reaches edge of pans, about 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.

Discard plastic and transfer pans to oven. Bake until bread is well browned and registers 200 degrees, about 30 minutes, rotating and switching pans halfway through baking. Turn bread out onto wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Slice, toast, and serve.

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Is it fall yet?

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread

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I finally baked My New RootsThe Life-Changing Loaf of Bread that I had my eyes on for … well, as long as I can remember. If you Google the bread, you’ll see hundreds of satisfied bakers raving about this nutty loaf. There’s no need for me to go on and on about the goodness of the bread, except to say that I’m now one of them.

When I posted a photo of this bread on Facebook, I received two kinds of comments: Half were from health conscious friends who salivated over the loaf full of nuts and seeds, while other half were puzzled. They wondered, is this a bread or just one, giant granola bar?

For all the skeptics out there — if you aren’t sure about this bread, just bake one and try it for yourself. You’ll be hopping on the life-changing bandwagon in no time.

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Baby’s First Birthday!

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It was Pon Pon’s first birthday (insert happy dance here!) and we celebrated this special day with our family over the weekend.  We wanted to invite a bunch of our friends but we settled on having a small, intimate gathering at our apartment instead.  We figured she won’t remember a thing now and it’s best to keep our sanity (planning a party is hard work!) and save a few bucks until she starts asking for it in coming years.

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Because we hosted a party here at our home and cooked our own food (except for birthday cakes), we were able to keep the cost somewhat low (and it was relatively stress-free because I was able to prep most of the dishes the night before).  The entire ingredients set us back about $100, but it’s not bad considering that we were able to feed 15 people, with lots of leftovers to feed us for days!

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Salad Nicoise-Inspired Platter

Instruction:  Arrange boiled haricot vert, red potatoes (cut into halves, quarters, or even sliced, depending on the size), and eggs (sliced, preferably using a nifty egg slicer), with mix greens and smoked salmon.  Decorate the platter with lemon wedges and some capers sprinkled on top of salmon.  I made a simple dressing with grated garlic (more flavorful than minced), olive oil, vinegar (1:1 ratio), Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper.  Put all the ingredients into a small bottle and shake vigorously.

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Arugula and Prosciutto Pizza

Instruction (Kevin made this pizza so I’m assuming this is how he made it but I can be wrong):  Follow the instruction on the pre-made dough before proceeding (it usually asks that you leave the dough out 30 minutes before baking).  Spread the dough onto a baking pan.  Smear garlic-infused olive oil onto the dough and bake until the dough is golden brown.  Top the pizza with handful of arugula, prosciutto slices, and shaved Parmesan cheese.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar.

Kevin made another pizza with pepperoni but I forgot to take pictures!

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Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Canapé

Instruction:  Slice a baguette loaf.  Smear a generous amount of goat cheese, and top it with sliced cucumber (two slices, if they’re small) and smoked salmon.  Top each canapé with capers.  I like to make these about an hour before serving to soften the baguette a bit.  If you’re using crackers, serve immediately before they become soggy.

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Greek Salad

Instruction:  Chop tomatoes and cucumbers into small cubes and toss them into a bowl.  Add minced garlic and onion, and mix them with vegetables.  Add a crumbled feta cheese, olives (preferably pitted), olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well and let it sit overnight before serving.

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Osekihan:

This was a courtesy of my mother, who made this auspicious Japanese “red” rice to celebrate the baby’s first birthday.  We eat this on special occasions like anniversaries, graduations, and of course, birthdays!   Check out this video by Cooking with Dog for instruction on how to make this rice, if you’re interested!

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We’re so grateful to have an amazing family (and my BFF Maya who flew from PDX to attend the party!) who spoiled us rotten with love and gifts.  And we’re incredibly blessed that our baby is growing up healthy.  We’re the luckiest people in the world.  Thank you.

Salmon Cakes

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I am trying so hard not to pass judgment or make assumptions about others. I recently read a story about a certain celebrity couple who left their three-month-old baby home to fly to Paris, to attend a certain celebrity event. The former self would have judged and said, “Dude, what the #%@#? They’re such #$@%-ing awful parents for leaving their newborn, just to satisfy their own vanity!” (By the way, I’m trying hard to curse less too.) But the new self now thinks, “Everyone is entitled to their own choices, and if going away and taking a little vacation from parenting actually makes them better parents, let them to fly to a foreign country and flaunt those mega post-baby boobies!” It’s not easy, but I’m trying!

So, in the spirit of positive thinking, giving the benefit of the doubt, looking on the bright side of life, and glass is always half full, give Salmon Cakes from a canned salmon a try! Canned fish often gets a bad rap but these flaky cakes are delicious!

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Salmon Cake
(Adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners, as well as Food Network)

Ingredients

2 strips bacon, cooked until crispy, crumbled, bacon fat reserved
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 egg
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon, zested
1 (14-ounce) can wild salmon, checked for large bones
1 baked or boiled russet potato, peeled, and fluffed with a fork
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Cool the onions for a bit.

Mix the bacon, onion, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the salmon and potato, mixing gently after each addition. Form the mixture into 12 small patties. In a shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and pepper, to taste. Coat the patties in the bread crumb topping. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, and cook the salmon cakes in batches until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add more oil, as necessary. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

I didn’t make the recommended side dishes. Instead, I served the cakes with pasta salad and string beans.

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Orange Carrot Soup

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I developed a culinary crush on Melissa D’Arabian back in 2009 when she won the Next Food Network Star with her down to earth and wallet friendly menus, with a dash of her tenacious spirit. Then I cancelled cable and we went our separate ways … until we reunited when I purchased her cookbook, Ten Dollar Dinners!

I love buying cookbooks but I rarely cook from them (I read them like a literature), but this one is different. All the recipes look delectable and approachable. They are the culinary version of a girl next door – non-assuming and accessible– just like Melissa herself.

My first attempt from the cookbook:  Orange Carrot Soup (you can find the recipe on the FN website, under the name, Orange-Scented Soup).  The soup is infused with orange zest, which gives this lovely earthy soup a special twist.  I used a lemon zest instead but it was still very lovely.  My husband enjoyed it too, and this will surely become a go-to soup in chilly fall / winter nights.  And yes, the soup cost next to nothing, delivering on her promise.

We paired the soup with Salade Nicoise with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigerette (p.93) from the cookbook for dinner. 

Orange Carrot Soup
Adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons light sour cream, divided

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and the onion and sweat until the mixture starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, orange zest and oregano and cook until fragrant, another 1 to 2 minutes. Raise the heat and deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the stock and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the mixture for about 5 minutes before processing.

Process the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into serving bowls and swirl in a heaping teaspoon of sour cream before serving.

I love this cookbook and Melissa’s recipes so much that I created a new categories for it! 🙂

Leek and Potato Soup with Homemade Roll

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I spent a wonderful afternoon with my friend D who I call the future mother-in-law for Pon Pon.  She has an adorable son born just two weeks after our daughter and we are hoping that they’ll get married when they grow up.  lol

On the way home, Pon Pon and I took a field trip to Whole Foods Market in Pasadena.  A trip to this giant farmer’s market for mommy is like a trip to Disneyland for kids — it’s an ultimate adventure.  I think she knew this because she slept in her stroller the entire two hours that we were there and gave me the freedom to roam through each aisle for unique finds (LOVE her).

This particular Whole Foods is pumped on steroid, a two-story affair packed with amazing things you never knew we needed but you suddenly can’t live without, like organic leeks.  I brought home two stalks of these green onion-looking vegetable (among few other items which cost me $100) and made leek and potato soup for dinner.

Leek and Potato Soup
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

2 large leeks, chopped (Only use the white part.  Make sure to wash thoroughly.)
2 medium-size potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 cups water
1 cup milk (I used 2% fat)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 teaspoons all-purpose flour (optional)
1 teaspoon green onion, chopped (for garnish)

Direction:

Saute the leeks and potatoes with olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until the leeks become translucent.

Add water and bring to boil. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to medium low.

Using an immersion hand blender, puree the vegetables until completely smooth. If you don’t have a hand blender, you can use the regular kind. Be careful, as the liquid is piping hot.

Reduce the heat to low and add milk. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: Since this recipe doesn’t use cream, the soup is a little on the smooth size … but you can use flour to thicken the soup, if you like. Simply temper the flour by adding a ladle-full of hot liquid to it and stir. Stir quickly and make sure to get rid of all lumps. Add the liquid back into the soup slowly while stirring. The soup should thicken up a bit after a few minutes.

Sprinkle chopped onion before serving.  Serve with crusty baguette or a roll (recipe follows).

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Homemade Dinner Rolls
From Esse, March 2008
(Makes 6 rolls)

Ingredients:

300 g bread flour
5 g dry yeast
100 g granulated sugar
5 g coarse salt
195 g water (at 35 degrees celcius)
10 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)

Direction:

Combine the sugar, salt and water in a bowl, and stir until everything is dissolved. Add the flour and dry yeast and mix with hands. When the mixture thickens a bit (and not too watery), pound it on the side of the bowl until you’re able to form a dough.

Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it on a floured kneading board for about 10 minutes.

Rub butter onto the dough. Fold the dough and slap it onto the kneading board. Repeat several times.

Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a plastic wrap. Let it rest, until the dough doubles in size, about an hour.

Insert a finger into the dough. If the hole closes up, you need to let it rest a little longer.  Release the gas by pushing down on the dough.

Divide the dough into six portions using a pastry cutter or a knife. Roll each dough into a ball and line them on a floured surface.  Cover with plastic wrap and let them rest for about 25 minutes. Insert a finger into the dough. If the hole closes up, you need to let it rest a little longer.

Roll each dough into a ball again and line them on a baking pan, an inch apart. Bake at 390 degree F for about 15 minutes until golden brown.

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Okay, I will admit – these finished rolls aren’t supposed to look like this.  They were supposed to have a lovely golden brown crust … but instead, I got these pale-looking things. I was so bummed when my rolls didn’t brown properly, and they became as hard as a hockey puck!  cry  I still haven’t figured out why that happened, but I’m going to try this recipe again to troubleshoot!

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Other than the outside, the rolls came out pretty good!  Once you slice into it, the crust was perfectly chewy and the inside pleasantly moist.

Italian Sausage and Brie Frittata

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After getting pampered by my incredibly kind and supportive husband who cooked, cleaned and nursed me back to life after returning from the hospital (as well as change the baby’s diapers and swaddle her after each feeding like a champion that he is), I decided to return the favor by cooking him a hearty breakfast.

I had some good Brie and Italian sausages hidden in the refrigerator (since I could not eat them during pregnancy) so I decided to toss them into a Dutch oven and make a frittata! I love Le Creuset because I can cook everything on the stove top and throw it into the oven, without having to transfer everything into an oven-safe casserole dish! These days, a quick and easy cooking is the only way to go!

Italian Sausage and Brie Frittata
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 head of broccoli
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
3 large tomatoes, diced
10 eggs
¼ cup milk
2 Italian sausages (you can dice, or remove the meat from the casing)
4 oz Brie, or your favorite soft cheese, chopped into small pieces
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instruction:

① Pre-heat the oven to 375 degree F. Beat eggs and milk in a bowl and set aside.

② Sauté Italian sausage, broccoli, onion, and carrots with olive oil in a Dutch oven, over medium heat, until slightly tender. Add garlic. Salt and pepper to taste.

③ Add Brie into the egg mixture and pour it into the Dutch oven and cook for about 25 minutes in medium-low heat. Gently mix the egg mixture with vegetables. Be careful not to make it into a scramble egg and burn the bottom.

④ The egg should be slightly cooked on the side and bottom. Add tomatoes (I like to add the them at the end so that they keep their shape and texture) and Parmesan cheese and put the Dutch oven in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the eggs are completely cooked. Sprinkle parsley and serve with toasts.

The verdict:  I thought the frittata was delicious! It was very hearty and satisfying, thanks to all the delicious vegetables packed into this dish!  I especially liked that I can use any leftover veggies and meats sitting in the refrigerator for this, which makes it perfect for the much needed fridge cleanup.  I would love to make one with mushrooms, cauliflowers, spinach and perhaps corns next time.

Scarlet Goodness

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If I can give beets a huge hug for being so cute and delicious, I totally would. I love beets – with its uniquely sweet flavor and lovely texture — but I don’t like cooking them much at home. It’s difficult to rise off all the red color that bleeds after cooking these little root vegetables! But I learned recently that I can reduce the mess if I roast them in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil instead of boiling them in hot water (which I used to do), so I’m not as intimidated as I was before.

I picked up three medium-sized beets at a local Asian market the other day and turned them into a quinoa salad, inspired by a lovely scarlet quinoa side dish from M Cafe de Chaya.

Scarlet Quinoa

2-3 medium size beets
1 cups dry quinoa
2 cups water or your favorite broth
Handful of parsley, chopped

For the Dressing:
¼ cup vinegar (more if you like)
¼ cup olive oil (more if you like)
Salt and pepper

Beets:  Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Wash the beats and wrap them individually in aluminum foil. Put the beets in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes, or until they are tender. Take them out of the oven, peel and cut them into medium-size cubes.

Quinoa:  After rinsing the quinoa, toss it in a pot with 2 cups of cold liquid (I usually use water). Bring the liquid and quinoa to a boil in high heat. Once the liquid comes to a boil, cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer, until the liquid is gone (about 15-20 minutes). Turn off the heat, and let the quinoa sit for about 10 minutes, with the lid still on.

Putting it all together:  Add the beets and cooked quinoa in a bowl. Add the parsley and the dressing. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss well.

Takoyaki Weekend

Here’s Kevin, making takoyaki, using a recently-acquired aebleskiver pan.

Kevin was always opposed to me buying an aebleskiver pan. He thought I’ll use it once to make the Danish pancake balls and the cast iron pan would eventually make its way to my kitchen graveyard, along with a crock pot, heavy-duty mandolin, and other appliances that I no longer use. He’s probably right,but we bought it anyway on our recent trip to Solvang. We couldn’t resit … it was $12.

To make sure that we are using our new pan to the fullest, we make the Japanese octopus pancake balls every weekend with it. Well, it’s actually Kevin who makes them, and it’s me who devour them.

Takoyaki
This is Kevin’s creation

1-1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking power
1 teaspoon dashi
1 egg
About 2 cups water (it should be runnier than the regular pancake batter)
2 tablespoon green onion, chopped
1 octopus leg, chopped
Some red ginger
Some tenkasu (tempura batter scraps), optional
Salt to taste

Here’s a little wacky but informative instructional video on how to make these balls.

We love to dress our takoyaki with bonita flakes, aonori, Japanese sauce, and mayonnaise.

Happy weekend! 🙂

I Heart Broccoli

Day 3 of a 15-day cleanse

Breakfast (10:00 a.m.): I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to no strange cravings, especially since I went to bed last night pretty hungry.  I had a glass of juice for breakfast, with kale, cucumber, celery, carrots, pear, apple, and ginger root. I love the sweet drink to kick-start the day!

Snack (11:30 a.m.): A bowl of fresh strawberries and blueberries. I’m totally addicted to these berries.

Lunch (1:30 p.m.): I wanted to try something other than the usual leafy salad today, so I made a broccoli salad with some of my favorite veggies.  I love broccoli but I don’t like it in a juice so this is a perfect way to take in all the nutrients of this super vegetable.  Below is the recipe.  It was really delicious — I hope you give it a try!

Broccoli Salad
(Serves 2 — but I ate the entire bowl myself)

1 head of broccoli, thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ avocado, chopped
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
¼ cup cherry tomatoes
2-3 tablespoon olive oil
3-5 tablespoon rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.

I see a hidden happy face in the salad bowl — can anyone else see it?razzYep, on the yellow cherry tomato!  Veggies are smiling.  

Snack (4:00 p.m.): Sliced yellow paprika, carrots, strawberries, and hummus. I think I like paprika in a juice form better.lolAnd a cup of rooibos tea.

That’s what’s so fascinating about vegetables and fruits — some completely change their flavors based on how they’re served.

Dinner (7:15 a.m.): A huge bowl of salad with romaine lettuce, carrots, red cabbage, red onion, tofu, avocado, and cherry tomatoes, and dressed in Japanese ginger dressing (ginger, garlic, soy sauce, olive oil, and rice vinegar).  I enjoyed the dinner with a few more warm cups of rooibos tea.

My hands and feet have been freezing the last two days … but I can’t figure out if it’s from the all-vegetable detox diet that I’m on, or it’s just cold outside. Maybe it’s both. Other than that, I’m feeling good!