Seaside in Winter: Aegean Sea

travel

Today, the sun made a rare occurrence in Turkey’s skies as it peeped behind grey, stratus clouds. Understandably, people set foot outside of their rooms, cameras around their necks and phones in one hand, eager to snap photos of the sun and sky, which resembled an orb against a painted sky. I happened to be staying at the Pine Bay Resort which was one of many resorts in the area on the coast of the Aegean Sea, decorated with swimming pools, beach chairs, cabanas, and bars next to its backyard beach area. Due to off-season, Pine Bay’s beach resembled a ghost town with sand covered in thick sheets of dried sea grass, trashed with plastic products, and home to stray cats and dogs who scoured through the bits and pieces on the beach to make a living. The scene was no paradise to the public, but it was paradise to me. I get to enjoy a private beach without paying thousands of dollars? Call it a dream.

6:01, my watch read. Approximately 25 more minutes until sunset as the sky made its way through the left side of the color spectrum and the thick, dark, yet clean waves washed up against the sand. The sounds of nothing but water traveled to my ears and I called out to the two stray dogs who were joyously chasing each other along the coastline. They were clearly best friends as they refused to leave each other’s side, and thankfully they accepted me as they elegantly sat next to me. One looked like a mixed golden retriever and the other was likely part-cocker spaniel along with many other breeds. They could have been dangerous, but I immediately gained their trust as they took me on an unforgettable adventure along the Aegean Sea which included climbing up an incompletely-built dock, finding unique items hidden in the beds of sea grass, and using wood bark as chew toys. Amongst the conglomeration of items on the beach, I found a message in a bottle, conch shells, and washed up jelly fish. At the moment, I wished to read the message in the bottle, but figured I would leave it for the next person who finds it. I was in too good of a mood to read a message that possibly could have been despondent. Besides, there was a big chance that I wouldn’t even be able to read the message.

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Close up

The minutes were passing by as the sky transformed from shades of pink, purple, and blue ’til nothing but city lights miles away could not be seen anymore. When the daily evening prayer rang across the sea and cities, I knew it was time to head home. With the two dogs leading, I ran quickly, splashing sand onto my legs and allowing the sea’s wind to blow through my hair….

Traveling in Turkey: Ephesus

travel, winter

It is surreal to admit to myself that I am in Turkey- a country in the Middle East (Never thought I’d be here), a country in both Europe and Asia, and a country so full and rich of history that I find myself living in an AP World History textbook. History was never my strong subject, but visiting the places we learned of make me want to read so much more about it.

To begin, I am in Turkey in the Winter for a few reasons: I am more free than I am in the Summer, travelling to Turkey in Winter is cheaper since it is not prime season, and there are a lot less tourists here.. I try to avoid tourists as much as I can, and oh the irony for myself being a tourist! Yes, but I leave minimal trace behind and I keep to myself, watching the culture around me rather than chasing destination hot spots and snapping photos non-stop.

With constant blizzards and grey skies, I finally visited a place that was blessed with a cloudy blue sky and shining sun: Ephesus. In all honesty, not many people know of Ephesus because these ruins are overshadowed by the Acropolis of Athens or Rhodes. When people think of Turkey, “ruins” just don’t quite come in mind… mainly Hagia Sophia does. However, Ephesus is absolutely worth the drive. It lies in Southwest Turkey, about a 9 hr. drive from Istanbul, and is home to structures such as the Temple of Artemis and the Library of Celsus. The entire site is breathtaking and magnificent since many of the ruins remain intact, unlike the site of Troy (Troia), which is also in Turkey.

The overall view at Ephesus is overwhelming, and time is a factor to consider. I recommend reading into its main sites and figuring out which ones you would like to focus on. Ephesus Breeze gives a detailed summary of the site and what you may expect to see. It is important to note that there are many stray cats around the site. However, they will not bother you as long as you do the same.

There is an admission office outside or Ephesus where you may purchase admission tickets. As of January 2019, the admission fees are as followed:

  • Ephesus: 60 Turkish Lira
  • Basilica of St. John: 15 Turkish Lira
  • Museum of Ephesus: 15 Turkish Lira

I purchased the first ticket for 60 TL and was able to visit the majority of the sites. I did not feel the need to spend any additional money for the other sites as the most important locations like the library and the amphitheater were included in the Ephesus fee of 60 TL. The ticket looked like:

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Ephesus entrance ticket

In terms of transportation, rather than immediately driving South to Ephesus from Istanbul, I recommend planning a round trip around Turkey beginning in Istanbul and visiting Ephesus on the way back to Istanbul. A complete round trip of Turkey would include Istanbul to Ankara (can visit Ataturk Mausoleum), to Nevsehir (to visit Cappadocia), to Konya (visit Mevlana Museum), to Denizli (visit Pamukkale), to Ephesus in Selcuk, then to Turkey. A detailed map of a round trip or Turkey is shown below:

Image result for cappadocia in turkey map

However, if time does not permit for such a trip, I still highly recommend squeezing Ephesus into your trip for it is relatively close to Pamukkale, and you would be able to visit both places within a day.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Colorado National Monument (What to Know Before Going)

travel

Do NOT underestimate this gem based solely off of its name. Although not deemed a national park, Colorado National Monument is worth the drive West from Denver and has one of the cheapest entrance fees for parks in the Southwest at $15/vehicle or $25 for a 7 day pass.  However, I highly recommend purchasing the annual park pass for $80 which lasts for 1 year and allows you to visit any National Park Service- affiliated park in the U.S. It was a great investment and definitely worth the money.  Continuing on… The monument includes multiple hiking trails that differ in difficulty and bike trails as well. There are no bodies of water in the monument and is mainly for hiking, photography, and scenic driving.

For the 1 day visitor who simply wants a summary of the monument, a drive through would take 1-2 hours, and this includes stopping at the major impressive points and taking photos quickly. For those who want a more in-depth summary of the monument, it would take approximately 3.5-5 hours, and this includes stopping at every point, taking photos, and walking down to the photography points (which are at the most a 5 minute walk). There is only one path to drive through the monument although a couple stops may require divergence into a smaller road. There are two entrances into the monument, a West entrance and an East entrance. Those who are entering from Colorado would likely enter from the East and those who come from Utah are would likely enter from the West. As I entered from the East, I exited from the West and a complete drive through the monument would take you towards the town of Fruita and Highway 70 on the way to Utah. The drive to Arches National Park from the monument takes approximately 1.5 hours and the drive there is barren, with only miles or crude land, so I highly suggest getting a full tank of gas before going into Colorado National Monument and filling the car up with snacks and water. Using the restroom in the monument before heading out would be a smart move.

From personal experience, I highly recommend the following stops, as they are extremely breathtaking and worth the stop, but of course if time allows, all stops are worth the stop.

1.) Cold Shivers point: the first major point when entering from the East side. The spot is just as it sounds. It will give you the cold shivers due to its high elevation and massive drop below your feet that was carved out from rapid waters. Beautiful and daunting photography spot.

2.) Echo canyon at Upper Ute Canyon Overlook: This one stop is the most memorable and fun stop in the entire monument; it is also not written on the monument map or labelled anywhere so this is sort of a hidden gem. There is a mummy-like statue that lays on the opposite canyon walls, but beyond that, the walls have the best ability to echo your voices. It is surreal and enigmatic in a way because it truly does sound like your twin is thousands of feet away from you, repeating your words a couple seconds after. I spent about 10 min here, yelling at the walls. This is a must!

3.) Artists Point: A very photogenic spot due to its array of rock colors, hence the name. The vibrance of colors will depend on weather conditions of the day, and is most colorful to the human eye on a day when clouds partially cover the sun.

4.) Independent Monument View: Stop here to see an odd rock formation that looks as if it were carved by humans.

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side view of Independent monument

5.) Grand View: Why would you even skip this stop when the magnificence is IN ITS NAME? It’s Grand.. no further explanation needed.

Thus, these are my top 5 stops, but once you visit the monument, you, of course, will eventually come up with your own top list.

Additional spots:

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Ute Canyon

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Balanced Rock

 

 

Healthy Chewy Brownies (GF, Vegan, Low Fat)

food, healthy

Honestly, I’m just drooling over here because I made brownies that ARE HEALTHY and GLUTEN FREE??? How is that even possible? I mean fats and eggs make a brownie good; they give it texture. A plant based one honestly sounds unappealing. I honestly am very impressed with my experimentation because I have failed numerous times attempting to make healthy dessert. Somehow, this turned out to be a miracle and it somehow worked. My mind is blown and I want you all to try these brownies some time!!! I love chewy brownies, so I used my knowledge of food science to make the brownies quite chewy. The chewiness comes from the maple syrup used, and gives the brownies amazing texture.

 

The only downside to these brownies was that I did used granulated sugar. If I attempt making these with a non-refined sugar, I will post an updated recipe. I was hoping maybe dates could be use instead, but I have yet to test that out.


Healthy Chewy Brownies (GF, Vegan, Low Fat)

yield: 8 x 8 pan brownies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. oat flour (I used homemade; flour must be very fine)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cocoa powder
  • 1/3 c. + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup + 1 tbsp warm water mixed together
  • 2 tbsp flax meal + 1 tbsp water mixed together
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp chopped nuts (almonds OR walnuts) OPTIONAL
  • 2 tbsp dark chocolate chips OPTIONAL
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl. Whisk until combined, and then add the coffee powder. Whisk to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, add the granulated sugar, syrup and water mixture, flax and water mixture, and vanilla. Whisk to combine thoroughly.
  4. Pour the dry mixture into the wet bowl in 2 or 3 batches. Whisk gently but do not overmix the batter. Toss in the nuts and chocolate chips, if applicable, and stir in. _DSC0275
  5. Pour batter into a 8 x 8 baking pan and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until baked completely.
  6. Take the brownies out and cool for approximately 10 minutes. Dust with some espresso powder, sugar, or ganache and enjoy!

Shrimp Ravioli w/ 10 Minute Tomato Blender Sauce

food

Homemade pasta is quick and easy to make, and is seriously a game changer. Even without a pasta maker, one can simply make it utilizing a rolling pin and a few minutes of kneading! Keep in mind, pasta dough does not need nearly as much kneading as bread dough. Additionally, marinara sauce takes hours to cook, due to the necessary time needed to break down the fibers and sugars in the tomatoes. However, I have been testing for a quick tomato sauce and have found the perfect way to make homemade marinara sauce. It surely isn’t the same thing as stewed marinara sauce, but it is just as delicious, flavorful, and it’s difficult to even notice the difference. Now, let’s get down to the gist of it. The Ravioli dough can be found HERE and the shrimp filling and tomato blender sauce is down below:


Shrimp Ravioli

yield: 35-40 medium ravioli

ingredients:

ravioli filling:

  • 8 jumbo shrimp
  • 6 oz. ricotta
  • 1/4 c. packed frozen spinach (drained and water squeezed out)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp salt

NOTE: Garlic bread seasoning OR Italian seasoning mix + garlic powder can be substituted for garlic powder, oregano, parsley, and basil.

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and dollop 1 tsp of mix onto ravioli dough.
  2. Form the ravioli and allow it to set out at room temperature for 45 min. to dry.
  3. Once ravioli has been set out for 45 min, boil a pot of water with 1/2 tsp salt. When the water is boiling, throw in the ravioli and let them cook for approx. 6-8 min, or until dough becomes see through.
  4. Serve the ravioli fresh with a delicious pasta sauce! My 10 minute tomato blender pasta sauce is a savory sauce blasting full of flavor.

Tomato Blender Sauce

yield: 2 c. sauce

ingredients:

  • 4 roma tomatoes cut into chunks
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. In a blender, blend the tomatoes and basil leaves until smooth.
  2. In a pot, melt the butter and sautee the garlic until lightly browned. Add in the blender mixture, and allow it to simmer on low for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour in all the other ingredients and stir. Cover the pot with a lid and allow to simmer for an additional 4 minutes. Turn the heat off, and serve over the pasta or let the sauce sit in the pot, as it will thicken up.

Fluffy Chinese Bakery Bread (Sweet & Savory Fillings)

food

Bread is my rock. I can survive with bread and some butter (maybe cheese), and the beautiful thing about bread is that it comes in all shapes and sizes and is a staple in every single country. I believe in the it is said that bread brings people together, because people sit down, break bread, and just talk to create bonds and meaningful relationships.

As a result of my love for bread, it is also my favorite thing to make. The texture of dough is fun to work with and the science behind bread making is stunning. Every single bread I’ve made up to this date has been homemade because I have not yet invested in a stand mixer. It certainly cuts production time by about half, but whenever I consider buying one, I just know that I can do it all by hand, and why let a machine do something that I can do? Plus, kneading dough is a FANTASTIC workout, so why not burn a few calories while at it?

As I move on to discussing Asian bakery bread, in particular, from Taiwan or China, I just want to state that Asian bread rocks. It’s unique in that it much softer, butterier, and fluffier, and often filled with combinations of unique flavors such as 1.) mayo, corn, pork sung, and green onions 2.) pudding and sugar crust 3.) ham, onions, and garlic sauce 4.) Red bean and sesame paste…. The combinations are infinite and as bizarre as some sound, they all end up working well together. Asian bread is famous for using a tangzhong method, but I found that it’s not necessary to making fluffy bread. Simple ingredients and the proper technique can result in a successful bread.

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Ham, pesto, and cheddar loaf

I’ve failed in making bread a plethora of times before I fully understood the science behind bread. My failures were tough, but I want to post my tips below to ensure the proper bread is made.

My mistakes:

  • Must use lukewarm water: about 105 F. I always had my water too hot, and the yeast died, resulting in flat bread.
  • Always add sugar to yeast to activate yeast efficiently. A 1/2 tsp of yeast is sufficient.
  • Do not add flour to yeast mixture until there are plenty of bubbles. Takes about 15-20 min. This will help rising and ensure the bread is nice and soft.
  • Room temperature for rising is sufficient (around 80-85 F). BTW 83 F is room temperature for my family 🙂  I always killed my yeast by placing it in a warmed oven. Unnecessary waste of energy and resulted in failure.
  • Adding excess flour when the dough initially seems wet is a NO NO. I’ve dried out my dough several times because I was impatient to knead the dough more, and I added flour which dried the dough. If the dough is sticky, continue to knead and add 1/2 tsp flour slowly at a time until the dough is smooth. If the recipe is followed correctly, not much extra flour will need to be added. TRUST ME ON THIS! I’ve made bad breads too many times due to this mistake.
  • Hand kneading can take up to 30 minutes. Dough must bounce back, feel springy, and pass the windowpane test, otherwise bread will not be as fluffy! I cannot stress HOW important this tip is. It’s a must.
  • Patience is KEY. Most of my failures arose because I was impatient. I didn’t let the bread rise for 1-2 hours, I couldn’t wait for my yeast to activate, and I didn’t want to knead until the windowpane test was passed. My first successful bread took me 45 min to knead, but now that I have become more skilled, it takes me about 10-15 min, which is not bad at all. Just listen to music or watch a show, and time will pass by quickly.

Fluffy Chinese Bakery Bread (Sweet & Savory Fillings)

yield: 2 loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 c. bread flour (loosely packed)
  • 3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp softened unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 c warm milk (2% or whole milk works)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp yeast
  • egg wash: 1/2 beaten egg

For sweet taro filling:

  • 1 c. mashed taro
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar or honey
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp water
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp white sesame seeds for the top

For savory filling:

  • 4 slices ham OR turkey
  • 3/4 c. shredded mozzarella OR cheddar
  • 4 tbsp pesto sauce or tomato sauce
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp garlic bread seasoning for the top

NOTE: the filling recipes EACH make 2 loaves. Because I wanted variety, I did one sweet and one savory but typically most people would just make both loaves the same flavor. I’m just going for variety here.

Directions:

  1.  Grease two loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, yeast, and warm milk until completely dissolved. Let the yeast activate for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Pour in the bread flour, salt, and egg, and mix until sticky and combined. On a floured surface, pour out the dough and knead for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add in the softened butter and knead for an additional 10 minutes OR more until the dough passes the windowpane test and springs back when pressed. The dough will temporarily separate due to the butter and seem like it won’t come together, but keep kneading and the dough will slowly incorporate.
  4. Lightly grease the bowl, place the dough (shaped into a ball) in the bowl, cover it with a larger pot or plate, and place in a warm area to rise for 1-2 hours. I placed my dough outside which was the perfect mix of heat and humidity.

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    dough has tripled in size

  5. Meanwhile, to make the taro filling, heat a small pot on low and pour in the water, sugar or honey, and cornstarch in and whisk until simmering. Pour in the mashed taro and whisk until combined (about 3 minutes). Turn the heat off and set aside to let the mixture cool. Add purple food coloring if desired.
  6. Once dough has risen, pour onto a lightly floured surface and divide dough into 8 even pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll one dough piece into a long oval shape. The dough should be about 1/8th of an inch thick. Spoon the taro onto the oval dough and spread from top to bottom, but do not get too close to the edges. Roll the dough like you would a cinnamon roll and lightly seal the edges. The edges do not need to be completely sealed._DSC0098
  7. If doing savory, lay half a slice of deli meat, spread 1/2 tsp pesto or tomato sauce, and sprinkle some cheese and roll dough like you would a cinnamon roll.
  8. Repeat the process and place 4 rolled dough into each greased loaf pan._DSC0106
  9. Beat an egg well and use a pastry brush to brush the 2 loaves of bread with egg wash. Sprinkle white sesame seeds onto the taro bread and sprinkle garlic bread seasoning onto the savory bread. Cover the 2 loaves with plastic wrap and foil and let the dough rise for an additional 20 min.
  10. Preheat the oven to 340 F.
  11. After the second rising, place the dough into the oven and bake for 22 minutes, OR until the tops are golden brown due to the Maillard reaction. The bread is delicious right out the oven but will get softer once it has set for about 15 minutes covered.

As I have concluded that this is my best bread dough up to date, I’d like to experiment with different shapes and fillings. This was a simple loaf recipe but Chinese bread is known for its beautiful shapes, so until next time, Stay tuned :’)

Low Fat Lemon Poppyseed Cake (Vegan)

food, healthy

Experimentation comes with frustration, wasted time, and wasted money. When attempting to make non-conventional recipes, trial after trial is crucial to get the perfect amounts of ingredients since food is all about the science and measurements behind it. Vegan baking is particularly difficult since eggs aren’t allowed and the animal fats are not able to make the baked product moist. Instead, alternatives like plant oils are utilized, and plant based butter simply isn’t as fragrant as animal based butter. With that being said, I truly appreciate all the vegan bakers out there, in making delicious recipes that are harmless to animals and better for the body overall.

Today’s lemon poppyseed cake is a delicious dessert that typically would require eggs and loads of butter or oil, but not today. You have stumbled upon a much healthier recipe that you can indulge on day and night!


Low Fat Lemon Poppyseed Cake (Vegan)

yield: 1 loaf

ingredients:

  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. vegan yogurt
  • 3 tbsp. vegan buttermilk (recipe HERE) OR 3 tbsp vegan yogurt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c.  + 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds

For lemon frosting:

  • 1/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 355 F.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, poppy seeds, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice and let the mixture sit for a couple minutes.
  4. Pour the flour mixture into the wet and whisk until fully incorporated. Do not overmix as this could result in a tough cake.
  5. Pour into a 8 x 4 loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake the cake for 25-30 min.
  6. Take the cake out of the pan and let it cool on a rack for about 30 min. Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice and spread the glaze onto the cooled cake. Optional: sprinkle some lemon zest on the glaze.

 

lemon cake 2

The cake is best enjoyed after it is made, served with a cup of hot coffee or tea.

In making healthier dessert options, I’m hoping that more people can stop giving dessert a negative connotation. Dessert doesn’t have to be overly sweet and fattening. I believe that any store bought dessert tends to be far too sweet for my liking, which is why I no longer purchase desserts. I simply make them at home, alter it to cater to my tastebuds, save money, and have fun. It’s a win-win for me and I hope you all attempt to bake more at home.

Happy baking!

Tri Color Egg (A Taiwanese Specialty)

food, healthy

egg1

I could talk for hours after hours about my love for Taiwan; from its mountains and seas to its night market and decadent dishes, there is just something so impeccable about this island. Taiwanese snack foods have become a billion dollar industry all over the world, from bubble tea, to bubble waffles, from Asian bakery bread to braised pork rice… people of all colors love Taiwanese snack food. With that being said, there’s much more to Taiwanese food than bubble tea and bread. I’m ecstatic to share a Taiwanese specialty called “Tri Color Egg”. The three colors are black, yellow, and white. As you may have guessed, yellow and egg come from an egg (of course), but what about the color black? There’s a unique oriental egg called the “century egg” which CNN and many other news outlet report as one of the most disgusting foods ever. It’s such a wonder how tastebuds differ from people to people, because I think the century egg is delightful. Perhaps growing up with the egg in my cuisine has been an advantage, but it’s really not as foul as it sounds. It looks horrid, like something the devil would produce, with its translucent black outer skin and its gooey, vomit-like yolk, but I recommend everyone to be adventurous and try it!

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century eggs

Perhaps you’ve been grossed out and don’t want to read anymore….. but tricolor egg is a beautiful dish that will WOW your friends and family. Come on, give it a try 🙂


Tri Color Egg

yield: (9 x 9 x 2 in circle or square cake pan)

Special equipment: steamer OR a large wok-like pan to steam, steamable plastic wrap, cake pan or casserole pan

Ingredients:

  • 10 eggs
  • 3 century eggs
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp michiu (rice cooking wine)
  • 8 tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Line the cake pan with steamable plastic to prevent the egg from sticking.
  2. Separate the 10 egg yolks from white. In the egg whites, combine 1/2 tbsp sea salt, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp michiu, and 4 tbsp water. Whisk until combined, but do not whisk until too frothy. egg3
  3. Pour the whites into the cake pan. Cut each century egg into 8-10 long slices and line them in horizontal lines in the egg whites. Steam the egg covered on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the edges have hardened and the middle is still jiggly.
  4. While the whites are steaming, whisk the egg yolks and add 1/2 tbsp sea salt, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp michiu, and 4 tbsp water. Take a chopstick or skewer and poke small holes on the edges all around the egg whites to release some steam and  so that the egg yolk does not separate from the egg whites when poured in. Pour the egg yolk onto the egg whites and then let the eggs steam covered, on low for an additional 10-15 minutes. egg6
  5. Once complete, remove the eggs from the steamer and let it cool for an hour before serving. when slicing the eggs, you want to slice vertically or against the way the century eggs were placed. Since the century eggs were placed horizontally, cut the eggs vertically to get the bejeweled effect from the century eggs.

Tri color eggs are best eaten with rice or noodles, accompanied by vegetables and other dishes!

Handmade Ravioli (No machine)

food

rav12

Who doesn’t like pasta? It’s practically the noodle version of pizza, and if you dislike pizza, you should go get your tastebuds checked… like right now. Yikes! That was totally rude and I’m joking, but seriously!! As an Italian food lover, I prefer pasta over pizza in that the varieties of noodles and sauces are infinite. The Italians utilize different ingredients to create divers colors, flavors, and shapes of pasta and I am beginning to explore the world of noodles, by making them by hand.

I’ve only eaten handmade pasta noodles a few times, with my favorite, so far, being Patrizi’s , a hole in the wall restaurant in Austin, Texas. Handmade noodles are a game-changer. I disliked splurging on them because it’ll cost about $5-6 more and my mentality is driven by value. Thoughts in my mind may look like: “Buy store brand; same quality but cheaper” OR “why go to that restaurant when you get more bang for your buck at this one”. I balance value and quality, but when it comes to pasta, I have indeed concluded that handmade, fresh pasta is worth the extra bucks. Why? Well, for a few reasons that I shall note below:

1.) It’s chewy and tender, considering that it contains eggs and has a higher moisture content.

2.) It has more flavor because it absorbs sauces better and has a rougher texture that’ll trap sauces and seasonings in its minute crevices.

3.) It’s better for you; dried pasta comes with additives and preservatives to fortify the product. While the fortifiers aren’t fully harmful, I like to steer away from additives as much as possible.

Storing dried pasta in the pantry is difficult and it often gets chewed up by flour weevils. I no longer have any more dry pasta in the house, and am ready to make fresh pasta from now on. It’s cheap, simple, and the only tool you need is a wooden rolling pin, which I got from Chinatown for $1 🙂 Promise me, handmade pasta will change the way you eat Italian food.


Handmade Ricotta Ravioli

yield: 20 ravioli

Ingredients:

For dough:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour PLUS approx 1/4 c. more for kneading and flouring surface
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. lukewarm water
  • 1/4 tsp egg

For Filling:

  • 3/4 c. ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • pinch pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning OR 1 tsp fresh chopped Italian herbs (rosemary, basil, thyme)
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/8 c. frozen spinach, thawed + pat dry

Directions:

  1. To make the filling, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix until incorporated. rav2
  2. To make the dough, pour all the flour onto a clean surface and make a well. Crack the egg into it and beat with a fork, carefully working in the flour gradually.
  3. Once the mixture is chunky and dry, gradually pour in the warm water and combine the mixture with your hands. Keep working all the water in until the dough is sticky and incorporated.
  4. Gradually dust board with additional flour, and kneading dough ball at the same time. Continue kneading for about 8 minutes until the dough is sticky, but not too sticky that it sticks to your fingers.
  5. Wrap in clingwrap or place in a bowl with a damp paper towel and let dough rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Once dough has rested, lightly flour a surface and cut the dough in half. Making the dough can be done in many ways, but due to limited counter space, this is how I did it: Roll one half of the dough using a floured rolling pin into a long rectangle, until it is thin, almost enough so the dough is see through, but just ALMOST. We don’t want the dough to break. Carefully remove the dough and place on piece of parchment paper of non-stick baking mat.
  7. Lightly flour the work surface again and roll out the second half of dough in the same manner and size. Dollop the filling, about 1 tsp onto the dough as shown below. Once finished, place the second rolled out dough sheet and place over the first dough and its filling. Seal the edges with your fingers. Seal tightly so the filling does not come out.
  8. Using a knife, pizza cutter, or a cucumber slicer (like I used), cut the edges of the ravioli to form the squares. Set the ravioli on a floured on non-stick surface and allow them to dry for 45 min. Excess dough can be re-rolled to make more ravioli, or thrown in as pasta.
  9. Once ravioli has been set out for 45 min, boil a pot of water with 1/2 tsp salt. When the water is boiling, throw in the ravioli and let them cook for approx. 6-8 min, or until dough becomes see through.
  10. Serve the ravioli fresh with your favorite pasta sauce and fresh herbs. I made a crema rosa sauce, which I will be posting a recipe tomorrow! Watch out for it:)

My Foolproof Cream Puff Recipe (Red Bean and Sesame Flavor)

food

These light, eggy, and airy puffs of joy can often lead to a kitchen conundrum, but I have one simple-to-follow recipe that results in the perfect crowdpleasing desserts at any dinner party! OR just a dessert that you can devour on your own :’). Typically a vanilla or custard cream is used to fill puffs, but I highly recommend taking an extra step to make a flavored cream such as oreo, chocolate, or strawberry. I followed a more Asian flavor and made red bean and black sesame cream.


Foolproof Cream Puffs

yield: 20 large puffs OR 60 small puffs

Ingredients:

For the sugar crumb topping:

  • 2/3 c. cake flour (I made my own cake flour; ratio= 1 c. All-purpose flour to 2 tbsp cornstarch)
  • 1/4 c, granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. unsalted butter (softened)

For the puff:

  • 2/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. cake flour
  • 4 eggs

For the red bean cream:

  • 1 tub store bought whipped cream topping
  • 3/4 c. canned red bean paste

For the sesame cream:

  • 1 tub store bought whipped cream topping
  • 1/4 c. black sesame paste (store bought or homemade)

Directions:

  1. To make the sugar crumb topping, combine all ingredients thoroughly with a spatula and roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper into any a square or circle (the shape doesn’t matter) until it is about 1/4 cm thick. Place in the fridge so the dough hardens. puff 5
  2. In a saucepan, melt water and butter until simmering. Then add the salt and flour and stir with a spatula until the dough comes together. Cook the dough for an additional 2 min. and then remove from the heat.puff 1
  3. Spread the dough out with a spatula in the pan so that it can cool faster. After about 10 minutes of cooling, crack in the eggs one by one, mixing them in completely with a spatula before adding another egg. puff 2
  4. Once the dough is smooth, completely incorporated, and a thick, viscous consistency, place in a piping bag or sandwich bag with the corner trimmed.
  5. Preheat the oven to 355 F.
  6. Pipe the dough onto a lined baking tray with parchment paper of a silicon mat. For large puffs, pipe a circle 2 in. in diameter and for small puffs, pipe a circle 1 in. in diameter. Remove the sugar crumb from the fridge and cut out either a 2 in. or 1 in. circle from the dough (depending on what size puff you are making) with a cookie cutter or a shot glass, or any circular device. Place the sugar crumb dough on top of the puff dough a gently press down. Repeat for all puffs and then place in the oven.
  7. Bake puffs for 25-30 min or until lightly golden brown.puff 8
  8. Once the puffs are done baking, cool for 10 min. Take the whipped cream and manually whip the red bean or sesame paste into the cream. Place back in the fridge.
  9. Using a piping bag or plastic bag with the corned tip cut, place the cream in. For each puff, cut a small half circle with a small knife and pipe in enough cream to fill the entire puff and then cover back the small half circle up. Repeat for all puffs and enjoy immediately or place in the fridge until ready to enjoy.

The puffs can last up to 5-6 days in the refrigerator. They taste best fresh out the oven with cream so I advise snacking on some after immediately baking! I’ve made these for a few parties and have received compliments from many many people so I guarantee that this foolproof recipe will be one for the books.