"A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body." - Benjamin Franklin

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin Cheese Cake

I know it is relatively late since Thanksgiving has come and gone. However, my craving for a Pumpkin Cheese Cake has never left. Last weekend, I decided to make one my own. I find Pumpkin puree is a good favor to use in cheese cake. After browsing through many dessert recipes on the Internet, I have noticed so many wonderful selections out there for me to learn from. Decision! Decision! Finally, I found the recipe in “JoyofBaking.com” attract me the most.
This is the first time I have ever bake a cheese cake and the outcome is better than I expected. My family loves it and compliment on my baking. One downfall on this is - we cannot finish the whole cheese cake in time before it goes bad. My family is concerning about the calories’ and fat intakes as they are watching out for their figures (…so they said). They request for a “calories free” cheese cake from mom next time. I am happy and looking forward to bake again as this gave me a wonderful experience.

**Joy of Baking’s recipe:
·         1 cup graham cracker crumbs
·         ½ cups finely ground ginger cookies
·         1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
·         4-5 tablespoon unsalted butter (melted)

·         2/3 cup light brown sugar
·         ½  teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
·         1/8 ground cloves
·         1/8 ground nutmeg
·         ¼ teaspoon salt
·         1 pound (454 gram) cream cheese
·         3 large eggs
·         1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·         1 cup (210 grams) pure pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)

·         1 cup (240 ml) sour cream
·         1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·         ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degree and place the rack in the middle. Butter an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan.

For crust: Combine the cracker crumbs, ground ginger snap cookies, melted butter and sugar. Press the mixture onto the bottom of the spring form pan. Put in the fridge while you are making the cheesecake filling.

For cheesecake: In a separate bowl, stir to combine the sugar, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixture on a separate bowl with low speed until smooth. It’s best to have the cream cheese in room temperate. Gradually add the sugar mixture to the cream cheese. Add one egg at a time while beating the cream cheese with the mixture. Beat everything well for about 5 minutes. Lastly, add the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. Pour the filling in the spring form pan. Place a cake pan in the oven to moisten the air. Bake the cheese cake for 30 minutes and then reduce to 325 degrees and continue to bake it for 20 minutes until the edges are puffed but the center is still wet and jiggles. Bring the cheese cake out to add topping.

For topping: Whisk the sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract together. Pour the topping over the baked cheese cake and return the cheese cake in the over for another 8 minutes. Remove the cheese cake and set it on the counter to let it cool off. Loosen the cheese cake by running a knife around the inside ring of the pan to prevent cracking. When completely cool, place the cheese cake in the fridge overnight before serving.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Vietnamese Beef Stew

The title of “Beef Stew” seems to shows commonly across many different cooks books. The definition of “Stew” means to cook food by simmering or boiling slowly. Beef Stew is common that everyone can cook for their family. Different varieties tradition of cooking undergone changes all this year and has developed different recipes and their own style of cooking. Some like it to cook with potatoes; cauliflower, carrots or I have seen some put sweet potatoes in beef stew.  This dish considers as easy to cook meal, healthy all-in-one ready to go in a stew form. You can cook a big pot; freeze it, and thaw out for the next day to re-use it again. It’s simple, fast, and full of nutrition and most importantly - the family like it.
Lala's Vietnamese Beef Stew
In the United State, beef stew considers as one of the comfort food. This usually is cook in a slow cooker, slimmer it slowly so it’s more favorable.  In French, “bœuf à la bourguignonne” beef slowly simmering in red wine is more like their signature dish. Overtime, this has become a standard dish for them. Since Vietnam was once rule under the French, they copied many cuisines and altered them into their own cuisine. Vietnamese Beef Stew’s idea was originated by the French. The dish is made with tender beef; simmer it slowly until the beef becomes all tender. Carrots are usually the vegetable of choice in this dish. Some like to add potatoes to the stew to create the starchy texture. In my family, I like to cook this dish often especially in the winter months. This dish gives the warm and comfort feeling.

**Lala’s recipe:

Ingredients: (serving for 4)

        .805kg boneless briskets (use veal briskets if you want  low fat stew)
        1 small onion (chopped)
        1 clove garlic (diced)
        3 carrots (medium size)
        1 can tomatoes paste (medium size)
        2 tsps salt
        1 tsps black pepper
        1 tsps five spices power
        1 tsps soya sauce
        2 tsps olive oil


Boil the brisket in a separate pot until it’s 50% cooked. Scope the briskets out on a plate. Do not throw the water away. In a separate pot, put the olive oil in and bring the garlic and onions to sizzle. Put the briskets in the pot and pan fried it until it’s 70% cooked. During this process, add the salt, five spices power, soy sauce and pepper in. Mix the carrots and the tomatoes paste very last. Once everything is stirred evenly, add two cups of the remaining boiled brisket water to the pot. Cover the stew and simmer it for about an hour on medium heat or until the carrots are soften and the beef is tendered. This dish can be eaten with rice noodles, rice, or French bread.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ong Choy with preserved Bean Curd Sauce

Ong Choy (aka – Ipomoea aquatica, Kung Choy, Morning Glory, Water Spinach, Swamp Cabbage etc.) is originated from East Indian, this type of vegetable fall under the member of the Convolvulaceae (morning glory) family. Their different varieties of Ong Choy; some grow in water and some grow in soil. The most common varieties are bright green and grow up to 14 inches tall. This type of vegetable is hollow in the middle; and because it’s hollow in the middle, the Asian call it “Empty Heart Vegetable”. Ong Choy is extremely popular in Southern China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Raw Ong Choy
There are many ways to cook Ong Choy. In SouthEast Asia, Ong Choy is usually stir-fried with shrimp paste, ginger and garlic. Another way of eating this is to have it stir-fry with preserved bean curd sauce. The above two styles of cooking are very popular and common in a Asia. You can get almost evey restuarant as long as they are in season. The favor is quite strong for the stir-fried Ong Choy with shrimp paste dish, not too many people can stand the strong aroma. Mainly Chinese like this dish the most and like to cook it at home. Some people like it just plain stir-fry with garlic and ginger; this cooking method create a lighter favor. The vegetable itself is tasteless; it’s all depending on which sauce and  how you cook it to enhance different favours.  The Vietnamese likes to eat them raw; they shredded the Ong Choy in thin slices and put them in Seafood Noodle Soup (Bun Rieu) as a vegetable add-on.
Ong Choy with preserved Bean Curd Sauce

You can buy Ong Choy in any Asian Market and the price is usually on a higher end comparing to the common vegetables (ie; Bok Choy). In the west, the modern chief likes to eat this like spinach with sautéed butter and garlic or with bacon. For my family, I like to eat this stir-fry either with shrimp paste or with preserved bean curd sauce. 

**Lala’s recipe:

Ingredient: (serving for 4)

  •     1 bunch of On Choy (washed and cut in slice to approx.4 inches long)
  •     ½ clove of garlic (diced)
  •     ¼ cup of preserved bean curd (4 cubes - mashed)
  •     1 tsp of salt
  •     1 tbsp of sugar
  •     1 pinch of black pepper
  •     ½ tbsp of fish sauce
  •     2 tbsp of olive oil

Bring the Ong Choy to boil in a separate pot. Drained out the water completely, make sure there is no extra water trap in the Ong Choy. Pan fried the garlic in olive oil until sizzling. Mash the preserved bean curd with the sugar. Turn the heat to medium and put the Ong Choy in the wok and slightly stir-fried and mixed the sauce and the Ong Choy together. This must be cook in medium heat or the vegetable will burn. The cooking time for this dish is approx. 20 minutes. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lemongrass Curry Chicken:

As per my husband’s request, dinner of choice tonight is “lemongrass curry chicken”. He is such a curry lover and wants to eat curry at least once a week. The recipe originated from Vietnamese cuisine. You can see this dish on the menu of any Vietnamese or Thai Restaurant.

Lemongrass is native of Indian (aka – Takrai, Cymbopogon citrates, Bhustrina Sera, and Bai Mak Nao etc.). It is very popular in Thai and Vietnamese style cooking. Lemongrass fall under the type of aromatic herb and perennial (which means you only need to plant it once and it will comes back yearly). The light lemon flavor blends very well with garlic, curry powder, chilies and cilantro. Because of that, this herb has become very popular in the United States. Lemongrass can also be used for medicinal purposes. It considered as a type of diuretic (cure: Hypertension and Diabetes), toxic and stimulant. It’s also good for digestion, menstrual troubles and nausea.

The way I like to cook with Lemongrass is to dice them into fine pieces and mix with the meat of choice (i.e.: chicken, steak, pork chop etc.,) with diced garlic, salt and pepper. This can be done on BBQ, grill, roast or just stir fried in a wok. Meats that are coated with Lemongrass will bring out the lemony favor.

**Lala’s recipe:
Ingredients: (serving for 4)
·         1 ½ lbs of chicken breast
·         3 scallion of green onions
·         3 stalk of fresh lemongrass (diced) (frozen premade lemongrass will work)
·         ½ of English long cucumber
·         1 large tomato
·         1 small onion
·         1 tps of curry power (prefer Malaysian style)
·         1 clove of garlic
·         2 tbps of olive oil
·         ½ tps of soya sauce
·         ½ tps of fish sauce
·         1 can of instant chicken broth
·         1 pinch of salt
·         1 pinch of black pepper
·         A few shredded carrots and mango for garnish

Marinate the chicken with the curry power, ¼ tps of fish sauce, salt, black pepper for half an hour prior. Pan fried the garlic, onion and lemongrass in olive oil until sizzle. Put the marinated chicken in the wok. Stir fried it until cooked. Place the remaining spices with the chicken. Pour the can of chicken broth in, cover it and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. This can be served with rice or French bread of choice.  Bon Appétit!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ham & Macaroni Noodles Soup (Hong Kong Style)

Ham & macaroni soup noodle is a popular dish in Asia, especially Hong Kong. You will find this dish on the menu at any Café Style Restaurants. Some people like to eat this as part of their breakfast where some like to eat like congee with a dinner bun. It is very light and easy to intake. This dish is also known as “the recovery” food for the one who is feeling under the weather or just recovered from illness This dish is so common that the majority of all Asian mothers know how to cook this for their love one at home.

Lala's Ham & Macaroni Noodle Soup
In my family, we eat this dish very often. My son likes noodle in soup and not too keen on rice in general. I prefer not to use the instant can soup for the broth because they are so high in sodium and MSG. I like to make my own broth from scratch.
The vegetables I used are: peas, corns and carrots. Turkey neck bones and 1/2lbs of pork is what I used to make my broth with and high quality black forest ham for meat. Occasionally, I would add an fried egg for extra protein but this is optional. This is atypical home cooked meal with full of nutrients. In a simple dish like this we've covered; calcium, carbohydrates, proteins and fibers. It is much better and healthier than a pack of instant noodle. My family loves this dish and it is easy for me to make. The cooking time for this is approx. 45 minutes and we will have ourselves a nice tasty dinner.
*Lala’s own recipe:
Ingredients: (serving for 4)
·         4  cups of dry macaroni noodle (Scoobidoo noodles in the picture)
·         1/2lb of black forest ham
·         4 cups of Green Giant frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corns, and peas)
·         ¼ bunch of Chinese Cilantro (diced)
·         ½ lbs pork (sliced)
·         1 pack of turkey neck soup bone
·         2 tps of salt
·         1 tbps of fish sauce
·         1 tps of chicken stock powder
·         1 pinch of pepper (the pepper is optional if made for children)


Create the soup based with turkey neck soup bones and the pork. Cook for about 30 minutes until its more favorable.  Put on a separate pot of hot water, boil the frozen vegetables on the side (don’t over cooked the vegetables or it will get soggy). Set the vegetables aside, do not mix with the broth. Boil the macaroni noodles separately. Once the noodles are cooked, drain it well and run it under cold tap water for about 3 minutes so that the noodles won’t stick together. Cut the ham into slices and place them on the noodle at the end. To serve this, place the noodles in a bowl, put the cooked veggies on top than place the ham and cilantro on last. Finally, pour the broth over the whole thing. The macaroni and ham noodle soup is ready. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The origins of curry chicken

Curry chicken on rice is the most popular dish in my family. Both my husband and son is a curry lover. Curry originally comes from the South Indian, “Kari” which means sauce.
Curry powder has a long history dated back 3000 BC, the powder consist of turmeric, cumin, seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, salt, five spice powder (cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, bay leaf and cumin) and red chili powder.  Curry leaves is a plant with small, dark green leaves (about 1 inch long) that give a mild flavor to Indian food; they usually like to eat it fresh, not dried. The definition of curry are varies from different culture. For example; India refers them to a spicy stem or gravy with a sauce base. It’s one of the most common and most generally categorized dishes in India but the original recipe for meat in spicy sauce with bread was discovered near Babylon in Mesopotamia and dated back in 1700BC. 
There are no standard ingredients which go into the making of curry. It all depends on the culture, nationality and country. Today curry cuisine wide spread across cultures. Different tradition cruise would have its own way of cooking curry. Below is my way of making curry…
Lala's own recipe:
Ingredients: (serving for 3)
·         1kg chicken pieces of your choice (I used chicken thigh we love dark meats)
·         ½ pounds of small potatoes (preferably nugget pototoes)
·         5 stalk carrots (cut into cubes)
·         1 small onion (diced)
·         1 glove of garlic (diced)
·         1 pack of pre-made curry powder (Yeo’s brand-Malaysian)
·         1 can of pre-made curry gravy (Yeo’s brand –Singapore)
·         1 tsp of five spice powder
·         1 tsp of salt
·         1 pinch of sugar
·         1 tbsp of fish sauce
·         1 tsp of soya sauce
·         1 tsp of cooking wine
·         2 scallion of green onion
·         2 tsps of olive oil


Pan fried the diced garlic and onion in olive oil until it sizzles. Put the chicken in first and pan fried it for 15 minutes. During this process, put all spices in. Once the chicken looks 80% cooked, put the potatoes and carrots in together with the chicken. Mix the curry powder and the gravy together with the chicken and vegetable. Cook for about 10 minutes. Bring it down to medium heat and simmer it with a cover for about 30 minutes and the curry chicken is ready. The complete cooking time is less than an hour. You can eat this with bread, rice noodles or just over a bed of rice. It’s delicious!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens is one of the world’s premier floral show gardens and we are so fortunate to have it located in Victoria, BC of Canada. The landscape established in 1904. Many features in this garden have breath taking view and magnificent landscapes; including Sunken Garden, Japanese Garden created in 1908, Italian Garden created in their former tennis courts and the Rose Gardens replaced a larger kitchen vegetable patch in 1929. The public area of Butchart Gardens covers 22ha (55 acres).The Butchart Gardens remains a family business and has been very successful since. It becomes one of Victoria most famous tourist attractions.
Each year over 1,000,000 bedding plants in some 700 varieties are used throughout the gardens. Different season, the tourist offered a full bloom of beautiful flower plantation. In spring, the perfumes of tulips, daffodils fragranced throughout the gardens. During the peak of the summer’s season, we will see flower such as; Acanthus, Amaranths, Roses, Dahlia, Fuchsia, Germania, Hydrangea - just to name a few. In winter, we will see berries type flowers such as; Cotoneaster, Holly, Pansy and occasional Bellies (English Daisy). Close to a million people visited the garden each year from all across the world.
Firework entertainment is offered to the tourists every Saturday night during the summer between July and August. People would just visit the garden just for the magnificent firework entrainment and it has becomes famous. Between the month of December and January, a phenomenal display of colored lights and decorations with an outdoor ice skating rink. Christmas light-up ceremony starts in December 01 of each year. Ten thousands of lights and decorations spark up the entire gardens which created a Christmas spirit atmosphere.
Butchart Gardens open every day of the year from 9:00am-9:00pm except on Christmas day, they open at 1:00pm. Admission rate rank: adult (18+) from $16.00-$29.00, youth (13-17) from $8.00-$14.50 and child (5-12) from $1.90-$3.00. I would recommend this tourist attraction to anyone who visited Victoria. It’s definitely an eye opening experience of a life time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Seafood Noodle Soup (Bun Rieu)

My son doesn’t like to eat the traditional Chinese dinner with rice and three courses meal. So I decided to cook something really light and yet it's not filling for dinner. Its cold out and we need something that is warm and tasty. Seafood noodle soup fit perfectly for this occasion.
 This soup noodle is very easy to make and take no time. One pot of soup fills with all the ingredients and with another pot to boil the noodles. The time to create this dinner approximately 1 hour and the serving is adjustable to however many people

Ingredients:  (serving for 3)
1 egg
1 can of crab/shrimp paste
4 large tomatoes
1 bag of fish tofu
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 small onion (diced)
1 bag of dry noodle (thin noodle type)
1 tbsp of fish sauce
1 tsp of salt
3 scallion of green onion
4 cups of water
1 lbs of pork neck bone

Cooking instruction:

Bring the pork neck bone to boil in 4 cups of water. Pan fried the garlic, onion, fish tofu and tomatoes on a separately pan. Put all spices. Cook it for 15 minutes until tomatoes become all soggy. Mixed them with the boiling soup stock and cook it together for 45 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix an egg to the crab/shrimp paste together. Wait until the soup is almost ready (approx. 45 minutes later); put the crab/shrimp in the soup base. On a separate pot, bring the water to boil and put the dry noodle into the water.  Boil it until the noodle is softens then drain out the water in the sink. Place the noodles in a bowl and pour the soup over it. Finally, put some chopped green onion on top.  Wah-la! Dinner is served!