English Muffins on Griddle


From the way I’ve been blogging about bread lately, you might think I spend every day in the kitchen kneading up these carb-y lovelies.  I wish that were the case but unfortunately it’s not.  It’s been a crazy hot, and uncomfortably humid, summer and the last thing I want is to convert my apartment into a sauna.

I did make English Muffins recently but that was because the recipe didn’t require me to keep the oven on for hours (they cook on a griddle!) and I was in the mood for some homemade breakfast sandwich with fried eggs or toasted ones smothered in Bonne Maman strawberry jam.


The English Muffins was the third creation from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (first was Baguette, and the second was Focaccia).  I’m not sure if I should call this book a cookbook or a text book but either way, it’s excellent with detailed instruction and explanation.  During my Konmari decluttering phase, I got rid of almost all the cookbooks I owned, but, of course, this one stayed.  It was no brainer. I truly think this is the best bread-making book ever written.


I think one of the most valuable tips I got from my recent bread-making adventure at Surfas Culinary District was mise en place, or “putting in place” in French, to have all the ingredients measured and prepped beforehand to ensure a smooth maneuver around the kitchen come cooking time.  I had the yeast, flour, and all the equipments ready to go and I’m amazed at the amount of time I was able to save!

And I’m so in love with the items that I picked up from Surfas Culinary District — plastic dough rising container, bench scaper, yeast, and a can of Vegalene.

I can’t wait for the weather to cool down so I can do this more frequently.

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English Muffins
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It’s still way too hot to write a detailed instruction, so … please enjoy these photos!


IMG_0762 IMG_0763 IMG_0764 IMG_0766 IMG_0771 IMG_0774 IMG_0776 IMG_0782  IMG_0804 IMG_0808 IMG_0823

Yep, strawberry jam!

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bread #5: Brioche


I think it was my mother who once told me that if I want to quit eating sweets, I should make them myself. She said that if I see, first hand, how much sugar and fat are in it, I will surely quite eating it. Her point was valid because I no longer consume buttercream frosting after learning how much artery-clogging butter went into making the frosting during my cupcake-making days.

Because of that reason, I was very hesitant to bake Brioche at the bread workshop at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City. I just wanted to forever stay in a sugar-coated world where I was completely oblivious to the amount of butter and eggs that were packed in those cute, seemingly innocent French pastry.

But I suppose I can’t stay sheltered forever. It was time for me to face the music.  Here I go!


A stand mixer definitely comes in handy in making the dough. I can’t imagine trying to do this by hand.

First you need to dissolve the yeast by whisking it with milk. Then add the flour and mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add eggs and mix for 4-5 minutes.

Increase the speed to medium, and slowly add the butter (BUTTER!), tablespoon or two at a time. Continue to mix for 15 minutes to develop the gluten for a light, airy structure in bread.


Now add sugar and salt and mix for 5-8 minutes. Conduct the “window pane” test (spread a tiny dough piece with your fingers into a thin translucent layer). If you can see through the layer without it ripping, you are ready to transfer the dough onto a buttered sheet pan and cover it with a plastic wrap.

Let it sit for at least 6 hours, or overnight.


After the dough has rested for at least 6 hour, or overnight, turn the cold dough onto a greased pan. Divide the dough in half.  Then press one portion of dough into an even rectangle about 2 inches thick.


Take the rectangle in half lengthwise and cut it crosswise into 6 equal portions. The recipe makes a total of 12 equal pieces.


Roll the dough into balls.


You have many option to shape the Brioche (i.e. in a loaf pan) but we made many small ones with little 2-3 balls per baking cup.

Place the Brioches in a pan.  Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and set them aside for about 45 minutes until the dough has risen to the level of the pan rim.


Unwrap the dough, brush them with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 350 degree F for 30 minutes, rotating the after 20 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degree F and continue to bake or 25-30 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top.


Transfer to cooling rack and let them cool completely.


Look at these cute little Brioche!  They look like baby’s little bums!

So making Brioche wasn’t as scary as I thought.  Yes, there are quite a bit of butter (almost two sticks, to make two 8-1/2 inch loaves) and eggs (three altogether) but it’s not that bad as long as you just eat only one or two of the little ones.  It’s difficult to stay disciplined though because these little morsels are lovely, so lovely that you really can’t decide if they are bread or actually pastry.


I ate one in class while it was still warm, and another one with a cup of coffee when I got home that afternoon.

Everything about Brioche was a music to my ears … and my tummy.

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bread #3: Cream Biscuits


The second quick bread we made during the two-day bread workshop at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City (the first was Irish Soda Bread) was Cream Biscuits, perfect vessels to deliver gravy or honey into your salivating mouth. I don’t eat biscuits much at home but I do love me some of those crumbly goodness drizzled in honey, with an occasional (yes, occasional!) fried chicken from KFC.

The best part of it all is that these biscuits come together in a cinch, possibly quicker than trying to figure out how to safely unwrap Pillsbury’s air pressured can without exploding in your face.


For the recipe, we used White Lily brand flour. According to the recipe, “The soft bleached gluten in the flour results in light, tender baked products.” If White Lily flour is unavailable, you can substitute it by simply adding 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt to each cup of White Lily flour.


To start, make a well in the center of the flour ina bowl and slowly pour in the heavy cream.  Mix by pulling the flour into the liquid.


Stir to form a sticky dough. The texture you’re looking for here is “shaggy” and “wettish.” These adjectives make me chuckle.


Turn the “shaggy” and “wettish” (hee hee) dough onto a work surface.


Fold the dough into half …


… and roll it into a 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick round.


Cut the biscuit using your favorite cookie cutter.  Make sure to flour the cutter and work swiftly, as the dough is super soft and crumbly.


Brush each biscuit with cream.


Finally, place the biscuits onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake in a 450 degree F oven for 10-14 minutes or until golden brown.

So, a little lesson learned here:


My group partner Heather and I both fell in love with the square cutter with ridges and made our biscuits using it.  Big mistake.  The biscuits came out thick and doughy, and the finished product wasn’t as cute as we’d envisioned.


We agreed that our biscuits would have came out crispier and more flavorful using the regular round kind, like the one you see here being used by Chef John.


Despite our little hiccup, the biscuits were still very yummy.  We smeared the fresh butter and strawberry preserves and devoured them while they were piping hot!  Heavenly!


All I needed to make these biscuits even more perfect was a bucket (or two) of KFC!

Next up:  Ciabatta!

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bread #2: Pain de Epi


I love baguettes. For me, they are the epitome of bread, and Pain de Epi is just another variation, and perhaps the most visually appealing, of the famous French loaf family.

Its shape resembles an ear of grain, thus the name “wheat stalk bread,” and you can just place it in the middle of the dining table for everyone to tear a piece while they gather for supper.  No serving plates necessary. It’s so romantically rustic. Needless to say, I was most excited to bake this crusty bread during the two-day bread-making workshop at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City.


Making a Pain de Epi can be a two-day process because you need poolish that needs to be set aside overnight. Poolish is the French version of its Italian cousin, biga (or also goes by other names like starter and sponge), a fermented starter made out of flour, water, and yeast. Lucky for us, Chef John had already prepared poolish for us so we were able to go through the entire baking process in less than three hours.

To begin, mix bread flour, warm water, yeast, salt, and poolish in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook for 3-4 minutes in low speed, and speed it up to medium speed for another 2-3 minutes.  Let the dough rest in a greased bowl, wrapped in plastic, for 45 minutes.

Two things I learned during this process is that: 1. Don’t mix salt with the yeast, as it can kill the bacteria, and 2. It takes about six minutes for the mixture to develop gluten.


Remove the dough from the bowl and turn the dough onto a floured surface. Now, gently stretch the dough and fold it in third, then in third again, like you’re folding a letter. Repeat, this time starting with the bottom edge closest to you.


Return the dough to the greased bowl, with seam side facing down and let it sit for another 45 minutes covered in plastic wrap.


Place the dough in a floured surface and divide it into four equal portions (sorry, you only see three here). It’s best to use the scale to create an even portion. Gently pat down each dough to remove any large gas bubbles.


Shape the dough, according to Chef John’s instruction,” by rolling short edge of dough toward center, then wind dough from the back edge forward to from a short log.”


Place the dough log on a linen dish towel, with seam side down. Lightly cover the log with plastic wrap or the towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.


Return the dough to the work surface, seam side up. Gently but firmly press the dough to release large gas bubbles. Shape the dough “by turning up the bottom edge of the dough, then winding the dough from top down to meet the bottom. With heel of a hand, work from left to right to seal the same into the dough. Then using palms, applying even pressure, working from the middle of the baguette outward, roll the dough until it extends to approximately 14 inches in lengths. Pinch the ends of the loaves to taper them.”

I wish I can paraphrase it to make a simpler explanation but I’m not even going to attempt.


Now, place the baguettes onto a baking pan. To create the Epi design, make a 3/4 cut through the baguette at a 30 degree angle and turn each piece of dough to alternating sides.


Place pan filled with water on the bottom of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the baguettes become golden brown. Let them cool to room temperature before serving.


Aaah, look at these beauties! The freshly baked Pain de Epi was absolutely incredible.

Up next: Cream Biscuits!

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bonus: Fresh Butter


I used to think that the only way to make fresh butter at home was by shaking the jar filled with cream vigorously until your arm falls off, but thanks to the bread-making class I took at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City, I now know that churning a melt-in-your-mouth spread is as easy as turning on the food processor!

In addition to five amazing breads I baked in class, I also learned how to make fresh butter from scratch during the two-day workshop!  There are only two ingredients you need here: fresh heavy cream and crushed ice cubes. That’s it! You’ll need some sea salt or herbs if you like to add a dash of flavor, but those are optional.


To make butter, simply pour the heavy cream into a food processor and “process the cream until the butter begins to separate from the buttermilk and the butterfat granules are about half the size of pea,” according to Chef John’s instruction. “With the machine running, pour in the ice cube.”

You can also listen for the changes.


Once the large mass is formed, turn off the machine.


Then transfer the entire content into a container lined with a cheesecloth.


Let the mass drain for a few minutes.  Just a quick caveat here.  We took out the mass slightly too early from the food professor, hence the white color.  If you let it process a little longer, the mass will produce a more, yellow hue that’s much closer to the actual butter.  Ours ended up tasting pretty good but was definitely a little too watery and too “fluffy” in texture.


Squeeze out all the water.  The strained liquid is buttermilk.


Optional:  If you want additives, like salt or herbs (or even fruits and preservatives for sweet butter), this is the time to add them in.  We added a generous amount of coursed sea salt in ours.


Tada!  The fresh butter is made!  As I mentioned, ours wasn’t the best (and our group ended up going to other tables to sample other’s creations frequently) but it was still pretty darn good.

And I’m happy to report that my arm is still intact!

Third Time’s A Charm

I’ve been pursuing the best recipe for banana and other autumn-inspired bread loaf lately, hoping to concoct the best combination of spice and fruits / veggies to create the fluffiest loaf fit for this beautiful fall weather. I’m open to any combination, as long as the loaves do not contain white flour, white sugar and butter. I would like to someday create a recipe that are completely plant-based (no eggs) and oil free (perhaps replace the oil with apple sauce) but I’ll settle for the hybrid version of the old classic for now.

Pumpkin Bread

pumpkin bread
I have a go-to banana bread recipe that I’m very happy with. It gives me wonderful results every time, so of course my logic is that if I substitute the mashed bananas with pureed pumpkin, I’ll be able to recreate the same, amazing result, right?

That would be too easy.

The loaf came out more pumpkin pie filling than pumpkin bread, and since pumpkin puree doesn’t have the same sweetness ripe bananas naturally bring, the loaf lacked the cloying punch. Unfortunately, even the generous amount of chocolate chips weren’t enough to emulate the dessert-like sweetness. It wasn’t at all terrible and a big red “fail” stamp might be a little too harsh but this recipe definitely needs some fine-tuning.

Zucchini Walnut Bread

zucchini bread
I go nuts for zucchini walnut breads. I still remember the first time I bit into one from Starbucks, which went ridiculously well with my cup of café soy misto during the long commute on the 101 freeway. It was incredible, but as in all good things, I had to bid farewell to it when I discovered that the seemingly innocent-looking muffin contained 28 grams of fat and 52 grams of carbohydrate (28 of them sugar).  The muffin has been discontinued since, by the way.

Anyway, my attempt to recreate my favorite loaf, bread, muffin, or whatever, was a big fat fail as well. I played around with flour to make it denser and increased the amount of maple syrup, etc. but the result wasn’t as extraordinary as the ones I remembered from the mega coffee joint. I’m really going to need to study up on the science of baking so I’ll be able to create the fool-proof version of this yummy delight!  But I’ll get there.

Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Bread

banana bread

It’s true what they say – third time’s a charm!

I just made some small tweaks to an already-delicious banana bread recipe, but those little things made a huge different in the finished loaf. I might have perfected the recipe for the best banana bread!

Here’s the 2.0 version of the banana bread (See other posts on banana breads here and here).

1-3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon baking power
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/3 cup olive oil
3 ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla

The changes I made from the original recipe are:

  • I replaced the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour. I no longer keep the white flour at home.  You can definitely taste the different but not enough to turn you off.  I actually like the nuttiness of the whole-wheat more.
  • I reduced the amount of flour from 1-3/4 cups to 1-1/4 cups.
  • I changed the oil from canola to olive since that’s what I have in my pantry almost always.
  • I blended the bananas in a Magic Bullet blender instead of mushing them with a fork. I initially did this because the bananas I was using weren’t as ripe and it was hard to mush them by hand.  I think it resulted in a fluffier loaf.
  • I also put the eggs, agave nectar, oil, vanilla extract, and cinnamon together in a blender. Again, I think this helped create an airy texture. If you have a large blender, you can mix everything, including bananas, together at once.
  • I increased the amount of cinnamon from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon.  I just can’t get enough of the warm spiciness!
  • I added ¼ cup each of milk chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and coarsely chopped walnut. It’s no longer healthy banana bread but the combination makes the loaf so desert like and satisfying!
  • I slightly under-baked the bread for a less-dense texture.

I’m loving this fall weather!

Waiting for Anpanman …

anpanmanThere is a kid’s cartoon character in Japan called “Anpanman,” translated in English as “Bean Bun Boy.” He’s a superhero version of a popular Japanese confection anpan — a sweet bread roll (pan) filled with red bean paste (an) — dressed in a dandy cape. He helps the needy by letting them eat a part of his head (don’t worry, the new head is subsequently replaced by his creator and baker, Uncle Jam). His friends are Currypanman (curry bread man) and Shokupanman (white bread man), and his enemy is Baikinman (bacteria man).

I once heard that many Japanese baby’s first word is not “mama” or “papa” but is “anpanman,” because kids respond to all things round, like Anpanman’s perfectly circular face. lol  I’m not too certain how scientific that study is, but I can totally believe it.  Go up to any kid in Japan and show them the picture — they’ll definitely know who he is.

I’m excited to find out what Pon Pon’s first word would be. I hope it’ll be mommy or daddy, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if it’s food related, considering who her parents are.


I tried making this popular Japanese sweet from scratch the other day, by making the bread and red bean paste at home.  I must admit that the baking universe is extremely complicated and often humbling.  The moment you think you’ve got the hang of it, the yeast God drops you down to earth and make you modest.

My anpan came out a-okay but certainly didn’t have the light fluffiness and the golden surface that make this confection so special.  Mine came out pretty dense and flat, and totally pale.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong here (my other bread attempt came out pale as well ) but it never comes out the way I like.  cry  It’s not that my bar is high – it’s just that bread-making is a complex art that takes years to master — and I’m still a complete rookie.  But I think that’s why I’m so intrigued by it.

You can find the recipe for Anpan bread from Runnyrunny999’s Youtube video!  My breads didn’t come out perfect, but his did on the video so the recipe must be good!  I won’t re-post the recipe, but here’s the recipe for the homemade red bean paste instead!

Homemade Anko
Inspired by another wonderful online cooking show, Cooking with Dog

Note:  What you see in the following pictures are for a larger batch. I tripled the below recipe so I can freeze the rest and use it later. If you’re not a crazy anko lover like me, the single portion should suffice your sweet tooth.


200 g dried azuki beans
180 g sugar
700 ml water
A pinch of salt


Put the azuki beans in a large saucepan or pot and cover with water.


Bring the pot to boil in high heat, then reduce it to medium-low heat and simmer for 5 minutes.


Dump the water using a mesh colander.  Return the beans to the pot and add enough water to cover.  Bring the pot to boil again in high heat, then reduce it to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Repeat this one more time.


Add the measured water and cook the beans until tender.  You should be able to smush it with your fingers.  The Cooking with Dog’s instruction directs to use a drop lid while cooking the beans but I skipped the step because I was too lazy to make one … lol


Drain the water, reduce the heat to medium-low, and add in ½ batch of sugar.  Stir constantly until the sugar melts.  Add the remainder of the sugar and stir.  Add a pinch of salt.  Be careful not to burn the beans (or yourself, as the beans are piping hot from sugar).  After the beans soften, turn off the heat and let it cool completely.

Optional:  After the beans cooled, I mushed the beans using a hand-held blender.  If you like anko strained with no lumps (koshian), blend completely.  I like mine with some texture left (tsubuan) so I left half of the beans unmushed.


Make anko balls by taking a small amount and rolling it in your hands.  Make eight anko balls to be used for anpan.  I froze the rest of the balls, along with the leftover anko in a freezer, for future use.


(Please follow the video’s instruction for the next steps!)


Still waiting for Anpanman to rescue me …

Leek and Potato Soup with Homemade Roll


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)


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)


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).


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


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)


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.


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!


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.

30-Day Dine at Home Challenge and Green Pepper

June is going to be an exciting month here at the Time for Dinner household. I’ve decided to put myself on a little challenge called “The joy of dining at home for the next 30 days.” I initially thought about calling it a “No dining out for 30 day” challenge but I didn’t like the negative connotation of it. I don’t like words “no” and “anti.” I heard somewhere once that Mother Teresa never participated in anything that was called “anti” something, like an anti-war rally; rather, she committed to something that brought positivity, like a pro-peace march. So, instead of feeling like I’m depriving myself, I’m going to cherish this as an opportunity to flex my cooking muscles!

I’m also doing a little bit of a social experiment to see if I can survive on a $100 / month food budget. I know it’s pretty extreme, especially for someone like me who can easily spend that much on one meal, but I want to see for myself how little I actually need to sustain a comfortable living! Oh, and lunch is included in the $100 budget so I need to plan strategically so I won’t end up going over … or worse, go hungry! 😯

For lunch today, I made a dish called “Piman no Nikuzume,” which translates to “meat-stuffed green pepper.” It was one of my favorite dishes my mother made growing up because I just love green peppers. They can be a little bitter when eaten raw but they become sweet and deliciously luscious with a bit of cooking. Every Japanese family has different recipe for this dish and this is ours (or more accurately, my interpretation of my mother’s recipe) .  Lucky for me, I had one green pepper sleeping in a fridge (from who knows when lol) as well as a leftover beef filling from my last homemade gyoza adventure so this meal pretty much cost nothing! YAY! So far, Hirono 1: Challenge 0.

Piman no Nikuzume, aka Meat-Stuffed Green Pepper
Serves one

1 large green pepper, quartered
¼ lbs. ground beef filling (recipe to follow)
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ cup water (or adjust based on the consistency of the flour-water mixture)
Olive oil

For the sauce:
Soy Sauce
Sriracha or chili oil


1. Quarter the green pepper.

2. Make the beef filling by mixing ground beef with finely chopped green onion, grated ginger and garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and pepper. Let your imagination go to work about how much ginger, garlic, and green onion you want to put in, but don’t go overboard with sesame oil and soy sauce. A little bit goes a long way.  You can simply go with ground beef with salt and pepper, if you don’t want to be bothered with going the extra mile. It works just as well.

3. Put the beef filling in each pepper slice. Make sure to pack it tightly so it won’t fall apart when cooking.

4. Mix all-purpose flour and water in a bowl or a plate. The texture should be very close to a pancake mix.  Dip each meat-stuffed pepper into the mixture until both sides are well coated.

5. Heat a pan in medium heat and add enough olive oil for shallow frying. Drop the peppers in the pan. Cook for about 7 minutes until meat is cooked through. Turn over and cook the other side for about 5 minutes.

6. When cooked, let the peppers rest on paper towel to rid the access oil.

7. Cut each pepper in half, it it’s too big to eat.

8. For the sauce, I recommend the simple “sujyoyu,” a soy sauce and rice wine vinegar concoction that you often get when you order gyoza at ramen places. I like to add either a drop of hot chili oil or srriracha for some heat. Serve with a bowl of rice and miso soup and you can turn this into a satisfying dinner!

Brownies for All the Lovers Out There!

I wonder if it’s just me, but I feel like February is the most uneventful month of the year. It is often overshadowed by two, action-packed months preceding it and noone really seems to get excited over what happens on the second month of the year. Sure, there are Super Bowl for men, Valentine’s Day for gals, and the President’s Day holiday for the kids, but if a year were a boy band, February would be that unknown kid quietly standing alongside breakout starts that noone cares about.

But then again, it may just be me. I don’t particularly care for Super Bowl, my boyfriend and I think Valentine’s Day is a hoax, and my work doesn’t even recognize the President’s Day as a company holiday. With exception of my father’s birthday (and this breathtaking song by Josh Groban), February is a relatively uneventful month at my household.

But I’m not going to rain on your parade, if February is a special month for you. Instead, I will share this wonderful brownies recipe that is perfect for the football-loving couch potatoes and lovebirds who cherish the Hallmark holiday. Happy February!

February Brownies
Makes about 16

This recipe was inspired by Martha Stewart’s Fudgy Chocolate Brownies recipe, with slight alterations by me. I swapped the regular white sugar with agave nectar and evaporated cane sugar and reduced the overall amount from 1-1/2 cups to just one. I also reduced the amount of chocolate chips and added some later for that chocolate-y consistency. I also added instant coffee mix to bring out the intense chocolate flavor. Both recipes are equally delicious. Try both and let me know what you think!

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (to be melted)
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (to be added later)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup Agave Nectar
1/2 cup Evaporated Cane Sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant coffee
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Grease the 9 x 9 baking pan with butter and line with bottom with parchment paper (don’t skip this step, otherwise you will cry when you try to get the brownie out of the pan later).

Melt together the 6 oz. of chocolate and butter in a double boiler on a medium high heat. Make sure to stir regularly to ensure that chocolate doesn’t burn. Once everything is melted, remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir with a whisk. Add agave nectar, evaporated cane sugar, vanilla, and instant coffee and mix well. Add the flour and salt. Do not over-mix once you add the flour, as it produces a tough brownie. Simply pour the flour into the mixture and mix until everything is well incorporated.

Pour the mixture onto the lined baking pan and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it cool before serving.

These brownies will last for about 3 days in a refrigerator but I promise you that they won’t last that long.

This is a recipe for those really ooey gooey brownies, closer to a chocolate fudge than a cake-y kind. If you like the dense brownies with intense chocolate flavors, this is the recipe for you! 🙂