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  1. Behind...

    Thursday, January 31, 2013

    - Old photo, from this past Christmas -

    I'm so behind posting recipes on here it's not even funny. Like at least 2 months behind. My problem is I take photos of the food, copy them onto my hard drive, and then they sit there until I have time to edit them and post them. That's the part that takes the most time and going on the computer with an awake 2-year-old is not very feasible. She just wants to do everything that I'm doing, and it doesn't help that she's fascinated with anything technology related.

    So I'm sorry about not posting very regularly, the only times I get on the computer are after she's asleep for the night, and there is always something else to do besides update me blogs.. like the mega-pile of dishes in the sink, fresh laundry that needs to be put away... and all that fun stuff. 
    So until next time... 


  2. Potato Latkes

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    This was the first time I'd made latkes, although I've always wanted to make them since they seemed pretty easy. And sure enough, very easy. Very few ingredients. I used a recipe from my December 2012 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine. I bought a subscription for myself for Christmas last year. 


    - one large baking potato [about ten oz.], peeled and quartered
    - half an onion, peeled and quartered
    - 1/4 cup flour
    - one egg
    - 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    - salt and pepper
    - oil for frying

    Using a food processor or a hand grater, like I did, grate the potato and onion, discarding any large end pieces. Transfer the potato and onion to a sieve and let it drain. 
    Wring out the potato/onion mixture in a kitchen towel to remove any excess moisture and transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the flour, egg, baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. 
    In a cast iron skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.
    Working in batches, drop 2 tablespoon-sized scoops of batter into the pan a couple inches apart. 
    Using a spatula, flatten the batter into disks. 
    Cook, turning once, until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes.
    Drain on paper towels.

    I also sauteed some asparagus spears in lemon-pepper seasoning salt to serve alongside the latkes.


  3. Homemade Masala Chai

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

     Chai is commonly referred to as Chai tea, although this is incorrect seeing as "Chai" translated literally means "tea". So when you say Chai tea, you're actually saying "tea tea". There are many other countries that call their tea "chai". And in each of those countries, every person who makes it, makes it slightly differently with their own spin on the spices and flavors. This recipe is based off of India's Masala Chai. 

    My father grew up in India so as kids we grew up eating and drinking a lot of Indian food, and we even visited India as a family for a couple weeks when I was about 16 years old. My whole family loves Indian culture and food. I grew up with my mom making this in big batches about once a week, and my friend's mom makes it just as often. My friend, Nanda, is adopted from India and her mom makes really good Masala Chai. I actually got this recipe from her because she uses stronger flavors than my mom uses and I really like the accent of the ginger flavor in this Chai.

    Ingredients like cardamom and Tea India can be found in an Indian grocery store for less money than in a specialty store. Chicago has a large Indian population and there are many grocery stores in "Little India" that have these ingredients.

    Masala Chai

    - four cups of water
    - four cups of milk
    - one teaspoon ground cloves [or about 10 whole cloves]
    - one cinnamon stick
    - two inch piece of peeled ginger cut into slices*
    - 20-25 green cardamom pods
    - eight rounded teaspoons sugar
    - eight rounded teaspoons of Tea India [loose leaf]


    First you must lightly crush the cardamom pods to release their flavor. If you have a mortar and pestle you may use that. I use a ziploc bag and a hammer. :] I place the cardamom pods in the bag, zip it shut, place it on the floor and lightly smash the bag with the hammer until the pods look like this:

    In a large pot combine the milk, water, ground cloves, cinnamon stick, ginger, and crushed cardamom pods.
    Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower it to a simmer. Let it simmer for five minutes.

    Turn off the heat and add in the sugar and Tea India. Stir to combine.
    Let it steep for ten minutes.

    Strain and serve.

    *I like lots of ginger, you can change the spices to your liking. My mom makes Chai without cinnamon because my dad doesn't like it, so feel free to change it up. Cardamom is a must though, it's what gives the Chai it's special flavor.


  4. Mint Oreo Truffles

    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    I'm sorry I haven't been posting too regularly. It's not because I haven't been taking photos or making food, it's because I keep forgetting or don't have the time to post. I am about a month behind in my posts, I made these truffles about a week before Christmas, so that should tell you something... I am not the most organized person, as anyone who knows me can tell you as well.

    I had truffles like these at a birthday party I went to with my daughter. Her friend Andrew was having his 2nd birthday party and his mom is a great baker and cook as well. She made a rich and delicious chocolate cake along with these truffles for dessert. I especially liked these because they taste so light and chocolate-y. Like you can keep eating them and the chocolate flavor doesn't become overwhelming.

    This is probably the easiest recipe ever. Does not require a lot of skill and it has simple ingredients. Although I do not feel that the mint flavor was strong enough for my tastes, so I'm going to make them again and add some peppermint extract - I'll let you know how it goes after I make them again.

    Mint Oreo Truffles

    - eight ounces softened cream cheese
    - one package of mint oreos
    - semi-sweet chocolate chips, about a cup and a half
    - white chocolate, or candy melts
    - sprinkles [optional]

    To start making the truffles, crumble up the oreo cookies and crumb them in either a blender or food processor. If you use a blender, like me, you may have to do it in batches. Pour the oreo crumbs into a medium sized bowl and add in the softened cream cheese, with a mixer on medium mix until well combined. 
    Place the bowl in the fridge for an hour to chill.

    While the oreo mixture is chilling, melt your semi-sweet chocolate chips. I used a microwave-safe bowl and put in for fifteen seconds at a time, taking it out and stirring it between each one until it was smooth.
    Take out the oreo mixture after the hour is up and roll into one-inch balls.
    Place them on parchment paper lined pans as you roll them. 
    Put the pans in the freezer for a quick chill, about thirty minutes.
    Take out the pans and dip the balls into the melted chocolate and place back onto the parchment paper.

    If you want to decorate your truffles with melted white chocolate, melt a small amount in the microwave like you did with the semi-sweet chips. Scoop the melted white chocolate [or green white chocolate] into a ziploc bag and snip the tip off. I had to hold the bag with a pot holder since it was pretty hot, but squeeze zig-zags of the chocolate onto the truffles. Sprinkle with sprinkles quickly after, if the chocolate cools before you get the sprinkles on there they won't stick.

    I used green and red since Christmas was coming up, but feel free to use whatever colors you want.


  5. How to Clean Silver

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    I had been seeing a lot of silver looking dishes at the thrift store, but I wasn't sure how to check yo see if they were real silver or not. So I just searched it online and found out that any real silver piece will have an engraving on the bottom saying if it's solid silver or silver plated. So the next time I went to the thrift store I checked all the pieces that looked like silver and found some cute dishes.

    The ones above were probably once part of a tea set, probably used for cream and sugar. These ones are silver plated copper. The two of them only cost me $3! You can see that they were super tarnished when I got them, the one in the back shows you what they look like when they are all polished and clean. 

    Cleaning silver is super easy and all you need is toothpaste and a toothbrush! Things you definitely already have in your house. Use an old toothbrush, one that isn't going to be used for brushing teeth anymore. Just be sure to use paste toothpaste, not gel toothpaste. 

    Just squirt a couple centimeters of toothpaste on the toothbrush and start scrubbing away at the tarnish! Add more toothpaste as needed. I rinsed as I finished one section of scrubbing so I could see how well it was being cleaned. You may have to scrub the entire thing a couple times depending on how many nooks and crannies there are in the dish. And don't forget to clean the inside as well!

    That's it! Good as new. 

    Below is a different silver dish that I found and cleaned and am now using as a sugar bowl.

    I just love silver, so simple to keep clean and so beautiful!

  6. Coconut-Almond Muffins

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. I'm not going to re-type the recipe since I really didn't change that much. The only changes I made were to add half vanilla extract and half almond extract and to add sliced almonds to the topping. These muffins are delicious. I will definitely be making them again, especially since I don't use the coconut oil for many other things. 

    I had always seen the coconut oil on the shelf at my grocery store and so I actually went looking for recipes in which to use it. My next coconut oil recipe will be Coconut-Almond Granola. 

    I will say that my kitchen smelled absolutely fabulous while these muffins were baking. It nearly made my whole house smell of coconut. Delicious.

    We had some friends over the same day I made these and they disappeared in a flash. Be careful who you make these for. They may not want to leave... :]

  7. I love checking out the thrift store on half-off Mondays  I always find the best stuff. I mostly find shoes and kitchen supplies, but I do get the occasional clothing item, toy or DVD.  I have found and bought THREE Pyrex glass baking dishes [on separate occasions] for under five dollars a piece. As well as a Pyrex glass pie  pan. This time I found a small, white ceramic pitcher and a tiny handled jar with a screw-on top with holes. 

    I went to the thrift store to looking for plain white mugs so I could do this project. The mugs I got didn't match but I think I like them better this way. As they said in their instructions, some people had problems with the marker washing off. I didn't have that problem until I accidentally left one of the mugs sitting in some soapy water that had bleach in it.. oops. It only slightly faded the marker, which I was able to correct by re-writing on the words and baking the mug again. Presto. All fixed.

    We are tea drinkers for the most part, the only coffee either of us consumes is the occasional Starbucks. And I'm really the only steady tea-drinker. My fiance really only drinks tea when he's sick. I love tea. I have collected a great amount of tea, all varieties, although my supply is starting to get low. I've already requested my father buy me some Jasmine tea pearls in China when he goes there next for work, but I won't be getting that until the summer. Otherwise we have a variety of herbal and fruit teas, Indian loose leaf black tea, and from China, lychee and rose tea. And then of course honey/lemon tea and Chai are made from scratch. 
    Chai recipe coming soon.


  8. Cardamom-Infused Chocolate Fudge

    Thursday, January 3, 2013

    I bought a jar of marshmallow cream to make this, so technically it's fantasy fudge, not true fudge. I don't currently have a candy thermometer [although I have one on its way from amazon] so I couldn't make REAL fudge - but this turned out pretty good too.

    I absolutely love the flavor of cardamom and I don't have any ground cardamom so I used whole crushed pods and then strained them out at the end. If you put in too much cardamom it can taste kind of soapy, so I was afraid to use too much - but I think I should've used more because there was only a slight aftertaste of cardamom, not enough for my taste. So next time I make this I will definitely use more.

    Cardamom-Infused Fantasy Fudge
    adapted from Joy of Baking

    - one can [5 oz.] evaporated milk
    - four tablespoons unsalted butter
    - two cups sugar
    - 1/4 teaspoon salt
    - one [7 oz.] jar marshmallow cream
    - five crushed green cardamom pods
    - two cups [about one bag] of semi-sweet chocolate chips
    - one teaspoon vanilla essence*

    Line the bottom and sides of a 9x9x2 inch pan [I used a pie dish since I don't have any pans this size and it worked fine] with aluminum foil.
    Pour the evaporated milk, butter, sugar, salt, cardamom, and marshmallow cream into a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes to a boil. 
    Adjust the heat and allow mixture to boil for five minutes, stirring constantly.
    Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract.
    Pour through a strainer - to remove pieces of cardamom - into the foil-lined pan and smooth the top with a knife or spatula.
    Let stand at room temperature until cool [this took several hours, so plan accordingly]. Once cooled, remove fudge from pan by lifting out by edges of the foil. Since my fudge was still pretty soft at this point, I put it in the freezer until it was hardened. Then cut the fudge into squares using a sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water. 
    You can store the fudge in the refrigerator or freezer, well wrapped, for several months. Let the fudge thaw to room temp, unwrapped, before serving.

    *I use vanilla essence as opposed to vanilla extract. Vanilla essence has a lower alcohol content, only about 5 percent instead of 35 percent in most extracts - because of this I can use less since the vanilla taste is stronger. If using vanilla extract, use 1 1/2 teaspoons instead.


  9. Honey-Mustard Pork

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    The original recipe for this is actually "Honey Baked Chicken", which is equally delicious and I grew up eating that, cooked by my mom. I got the recipe from her a couple years ago and my fiance and I put our own spin on it. My fiance likes to have lots of extra sauce which is what happens when you make it this way. 

    I've taken to writing down recipes in this notebook that I've either adapted from online or from family, or simply made up myself. 

    The crayon artwork is courtesy of Aria, who had gotten a hold of the notebook when I wasn't looking.

    I have fallen in love with this orange blossom honey. I found it at our grocery store and thought I'd try it, as opposed to the regular clover honey. I'm never going back to clover honey. This orange blossom honey has a much lighter, fruitier, floral flavor. Delicious. If any of you get the chance to try some, I highly recommend it.

    Honey-Mustard Pork

    - two to three pounds pork chops, boneless
    - salt and pepper
    - 1/3 cup butter, melted
    - 1/3 cup honey
    - two tablespoons mustard
    - one teaspoon salt
    - one teaspoon curry powder

    Season pork chops with salt and pepper and brown in a hot pan on both sides. Brown in batches, setting browned pork chops on a plate as they are finished.
    While the pork chops are browning combine butter, honey, mustard, salt and curry powder in a bowl and whisk together.
    Once all the chops are browned, put them all back in the pan and pour the honey-mustard sauce over the top. Continue to cook until the pork chops are cooked through.
    Serve with rice.

    We are partial to jasmine rice, which is delicious and I grew up eating it in Cambodia. I make it in our little rice cooker, much easier than making it on the stove top. When you make jasmine rice, just be sure to rinse the rice several times before cooking it so it doesn't get too sticky.