Sunday, December 19, 2010

Korean Lunch

Yumyumyumyum. I am still eating but I had to post this so you (Bunny, my only reader (gawd ok and kara!! geez)) can make this as soon as possible. It turns out bulgogi is pretty easy to make at home. I followed the recipe at use real butter (who in turn got the recipe from the Kitchen Wench); since I couldn't find any beef chuck roast, I ended up getting some new york strip roast (whatever that is) which was on sale from $25 to $9 (woot!!) and it worked beautifully. Actually it worked so well that I will be returning to safeway the second I can switch into my contacts to buy up all the roasts they have left while they are on sale.

2 lbs thinly sliced beef sirloin, sliced 2-3 mm thick
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and grated
1 Asian pear, peeled and grated (I used bartlette)
1 sweet apple, such as fuji, grated
2/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbs toasted sesame seed oil
2-4 tbs sugar (depends on sweetness of pear)
2 scallions, finely sliced
freshly ground black pepper to taste

You're supposed to squeeze the apple grating and only add the juice to the marinade but I accidently added the grated apple to everything and it seemed ok. Combine all ingredients, and massage the meat into the marinade. Let it sit in fridge overnight. Cook in nonstick pan (no oil required). In between batches, scrape off the burnt bits with wooden spatula.

To make thin meat slices, freeze the meat, let thaw in fridge halfway (see more precise instructions at use real butter) and slice with sharp knife.

Kimchi: storebought, but I want to try making my own sometime

Cucumber: cube english cucumber, toss with leftover scallion pancake sauce (1 tbs soy sauce, 1 tbs rice vinegar, grated ginger)
Tea: green tea
Rice: cook brown rice in rice cooker

Easy piece!
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pork Dumplings

I've been longing for dumplings for a while now but since I've yet to discover a Chinese grocery store in Portland that wasn't 45 minutes away via bus, I've been thwarted. You say TJ has dumplings but I'm not partial to the thin wonton skin of the TJ dumpling. I want a thicker, chewier skin - a proper Chinese dumpling skin. So with that in mind, I decided to give making my own dumplings a try. But I wanted to do it completely from scratch, the way my big aunt used to do. A quick search on the internet came up with a few promising recipe; I mixed and matched until I found a combination that seemed reasonable. It really wasn't hard at all and I will definitely be doing this again, with adjustments (noted below).

I actually made the pork filling first, but since I can't be bothered to reorder the pictures now that they're in blogger I will discuss dough first. But it really is best to make filling first because I noticed the dough started drying out.

So for the dough, mix 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of hot water and mix to make a dough. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth (I think I will use a bit more flour next time to hopefully achieve a chewier dough, I found an alternate recipe that calls for 2 cups of water for 1/2 cup of water). Divide the dough into two and roll each piece out into a cylinder 12 inches long. Cut 1/2 inch sections as shown:

For filling, combine the following:
1 pound ground pork
a bit more than 1/2 tbs freshly grated ginger (I would definitely use a lot more next time)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs minced scallions
2.25 tbs soy sauce
a bit less than 2 tbs sesame oil (I might add less next time actually, maybe just 1 tbs)
a bit more than half an egg
shy 3 cups of finely shredded napa cabbage
dash of ground white pepper
(next time add a couple of dashes of salt too)

You may wonder why these measurements are so peculiar, but I had to halve a recipe that would have generated 100 dumplings. Making 34 dumplings took about 1.5 hours and that was quite enough for me.

To make wrappers, roll out each little nubbin of dough to 3 inch circles. My attempts at circles were approximate at best, but it didn't really matter as long as you can stuff some meat in there and scrunch it up. The entire process would have been faster with a helper of course. But if you are a single girl (or boy), roll out 4-5 wrappers at a time and fill with meat. This prevents the wrappers from drying out. To make a dumpling, put in about a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper (this will vary depending on the size of the wrapper you rolled out, used best judgement here), dip a finger into water and wet the edge (half the circle) - there is no need to go crazy here, the dough is pretty soft. Then pinch the edges together and done! Next!

I think it's pretty obvious which ones were my first attempts:

And a closeup of some of the better lookings ones:

For the sauce, I usually combine three items: rice vinegar, soy sauce and a generous dollop of chili garlic sauce. I can't can't can't live life without chili garlic sauce.

I tested out fried dumplings and boiled dumplings and naturally fried won hands down. Since these were pretty big, it was easy to fry on all sides. The rest of the dumplings I lined up on a sheet of wax paper (not touching) and froze. When they are frozen I will stuff them in a bag and enjoy them in the days to come. Happiness!

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Living Room

I realized I never put up a picture of my living room so here it is. I love it during the day when all the light spills in. Even on cloudy days it's lovely to look over and see the doors and the lines of the metal fence through the doors and windows. And I love how the floor gleams. The one thing I don't love is the blue milk cart my TV is sitting on but since my postdoc budget is not going to be able to cover an alternative for quite some time it is something I can definitely live with. On weekends I like to sit on one side of the sofa and flip through my New Yorkers, or when I'm industrious, flip through papers. Tony can usually be found sitting on top of a cushion or curled on the other side by my feet. Or curled on my tummy while I read. Just as he is lying next to my laptop now...

Making Soap

Because I'm a girl with a lot of hobbies I decided the only thing to do is to add to the list. I made my first batch of soap yesterday using the following recipe that I devised with the aid of this very nice lye calculator and the instructions at the simple dollar:

70% olive oil (11.2 oz)
20% coconut oil (3.2 oz)
10% crisco (1.6 oz)
handful of ground oatmeal
handful of lavender buds

Melt oils together (not too much, try not to exceed 120 degrees or it takes forever to drop back down) and then toss in the oatmeal and lavender. In a separate bowl combine:

2.2 oz lye
6.1 oz milk (previously frozen and then broken up into a bit of a slushy)

(Note to self: I found this mixture reached near 120 degrees)

Once the temperature of both reaches near 100 degrees, combine lye mixture into oil mixture (NOT the other way around) and then stir for a million years with a spoon or spatula until it becomes thick. Then pour into molds (any kind of container really) and leave somewhere to cure for a few days (I'm not sure how long yet, it was certainly still too soft today) and then remove from mold and cut up with a knife. Then leave to cure for 6 weeks before use.

Obviously, use some common sense with the lye and don't re-use anything that has touched the lye for food. I highly recommend looking at the tutorial on the simple dollar since they provide very detailed instructions and have pictures to boot! I was watching a baseball game at the same time and could not be bothered to take pictures of this process.

Update 12/4/10: I've started using the soaps and am enjoying it a lot. I do feel it could use more lather though so next batch I will try 70% olive oil, 25% coconut oil (4 oz) and 5% crisco (0.8 oz). I will also not use milk (to see if the soap will be white) but will retain the lavendar buds and oatmeal for texture. I have to say I've been looking forward to my showers just for an opportunity to use soap. Once my bathroom sink soap is done I will replace with a homemade bar I think.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I did it! I made a soymilk that was free of unpleasant grittiness with the right amount of salt and sweetness. Now I shall jot down my notes so I can remember it next time.

Make soymilk in machine according to instructions. 1/2 of a rice cup of dried soybeans works out well for a single batch (75 grams according to manufacturer's directions). Fill water to JUST above the bottom line. After it is done, strain through muslin cloth to remove residual grit. Add the following and boil for a few minutes. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

Two batches of soymilk
1/3 cup sugar (and a dash more perhaps)
1/4 tsp salt

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Yesterday was my 30th birthday (I keep on feeling I should be making a bigger deal of this or freaking out or something but I really don't mind being in my 30s at all. In fact I'm looking forward to it) and I had a lovely day full of electronically sent well-wishes and phone calls. One thing that did come via mail was this:

The very nice Bunny got me a new TV! It's funny because she has been the source of all the TVs I've ever owned (ok two so far). The first she gave me when I was moving to Philly. She had gotten it free from one of her friends and passed it on to me. I don't even know what those TVs are called, tubes? It had a thick back. (Look how smart I sound! Thick back!) Anyway, I am completely delighted with my present and finally got around to watching Ponyo last night. It was a beautifully drawn movie, but the story was pretty boring I thought. I didn't think it was one of Miyazaki's best efforts. I still have Firemen's Ball to watch and then I'll be back on track with my Netflix.

For my birthday dinner, I decided to make myself cupcakes (using the recipes from allrecipes for Simple White Cake and Chocolate Frosting) and they turned out exactly the way I hoped. I'm pretty basic when it comes to sweets, and all I wanted was some old school easy-ass cupcakes. And these were it.

Dinner was homemade pizza. Now, I love all kinds of pizza: fancy thin crust pizza, Papa John's pizza, Pizza Hut pizza (which is sort of like pizza but is really it's own thing), New York style pizza, deep dish pizza, etc. But I have a special soft spot for the pizza I make myself in my little cast iron pan. It's taken me a few tries to get it to how I like it, but now it is something I fix fairly often, as you can see from previous blog posts. So after several weeks of not having a kitchen at my disposal, I was very eager to make pizza for my birthday:

Might I say too, what a joy it is to cook in my new kitchen?? I still find myself using small bits of counter at a time because I'm sort of used to being scrunched up, but even still it is more space than I've ever had for cooking before. And I love that I can throw stuff into the dishwasher after instead of facing a giant pile of messy dishes and measuring cups and bowls. Woohoo! So far being 30 is great!
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Living Alone

The Bunnies left yesterday before first light (literally) to catch their 6:30 AM flight home. I spent the day doing minor home things (organizing, cleaning, putting things away, snacking, grocery shopping, etc) but also made my first loaf of bread using the bread machine that Ferret and Tortoise bought me as a graduation present. I followed Ferret's Amish White Bread recipe that he adapted from and it turned out fabulous. I wasn't hungry at all when it came out but how could I resist fresh warm bread? Alas, I could not, and ate a slice promptly with a bit of brie.

For breakfast, I had another slice topped with cheesy egg. I'm trying to be good and not waste any food so am being very careful with my food purchases. Had a bowl of peach and a big mug of earl grey tea with milk. I love homemade bread.

And here is a last picture of a Tony cat sleeping peacefully and companionably by my side. This was taken last night but as I look to my right, I see there he is again in the same chair, fast asleep in almost the same way.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Moving to Portland

I moved to Portland officially on Saturday (Sept 4) with Tony in tow. I was a little stressed about he would do on such a long journey so did not have the presence of mind to take any pictures of the trip, but I'm happy to say that he made it just fine and had zero accidents despite being shut up in his carrier for 11+ hours. Incredibly, he didn't make a fuss and even napped on the plane. Because my flight was delayed and Jess's flight was early, there was only a 15 minute difference between our arrivals. I was on the train ahead of hers and ended up meeting her at the station closest to my new place. My new landlady, Kristine, kindly met us at the same stop and she (even more kindly!) dragged my suitcase to the apt. She was already exceeding all kinds of records for kindness to a stranger, but an all-time high was hit when we arrived to the following welcome package:

Please note that there was also a small wheel of brie in the fridge, along with a 6-pack of pomegranate-blueberry spritzer. Jess and I basically survived on these items for the first two days here. She had previously offered up an air mattress and a ride from the airport, but I felt too bad about taking her up on this since we hadn't met yet. Which explains why Jess and I have been sleeping on the extremely hard floors of the bedroom:

I'm hoping this will improve my posture; I'm certainly now very aware of every bone and protrusion I possess in my body. To sum up, so far Portland has been extremely pleasant, I adore my apartment, I adore the new items I bought from Ikea (to be shown after assembly) and am awaiting the arrival of the rest of my stuff. We've been eating at various places around the neighborhood and taking little walks. I think I will really enjoy living here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Breakfast at Monkey's (and Tortoise's)

I bowed to peer pressure and ended up lifhing today. Except there was no labbing done and one nap taken. The day started off perfectly, a cheesy egg toast (on Ferret-made bread) and a mug of coffee with milk.

Tortoise was the one who kicked off this whole lifhing thing so upon hearing I was taking pictures of breakfasts he quickly sent me over a picture of his breakfast. I promised to post but regretted it when the pictures kept on rolling in. So in addition to Tortoise's breakfast here (black coffee with buttered english muffin):

we also have Tortoise's cat Riley (a nemesis of Tony's, while incredibly large for a cat, Riley possesses the heart and will of a baby mouse. Tony could box him around the block easy despite being half his size):

and finally, Tortoises's dinner (what he calls polenta puttanesca fra diablo, apparently this is not a real dish and he winged it):

Patchy Cat

Right before I left for my first interview, Tony became extremely ill. He lived at the cat hospital for a day and was diagnosed with pancreatitis. Ferret very kindly cared for him for me while I was away and Tony made (I think) a full recovery. About a week after I returned however, I got a call from the vet saying that Tony's blood work results were back and showed that he did not in fact have pancreatitis. I was a bit stunned because he fit the symptoms to a T and then I was worried because they wanted to give him an ultrasound to check for cancer. The mother was visiting so I didn't get a chance to take the little cat in until this week. To give him the ultrasound they had had to shave off most of the fur around his tummy. The test came back more or less normal, but now, in addition to the patch they shaved on his side for a pain patch and the two empty patches on his forepaws for the IV and blood drawing, he now has no fur on his tum. I present the patchwork cat:

I don't believe Tony is much affected by the loss of fur. Given the sweltering temperatures we've been experiencing lately, he may even be thankful. In any case, he is still up to his usual activities. Such as this:

Tony's favorite napping or sitting spot is between me and the computer. I could be using my laptop on the couch and he will oust it and settle into my lap. I could be using my desktop and he will lie over my hands, over my arms or on the keyboard. Basically, there's nothing I can do about this and am completely resigned. In any case, look how cute he is, how can I say no?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wings and Things

This wing recipe is probably the most treasured of any recipe in my possession. I first had these sometime in junior high or high school. Kara's mom would make them in batches and if I was especially lucky, she might send me home with a few. Each wing would be doled out carefully, and eaten with special care. For years and years, these wings were an obsession with me (frankly they still are), but Kerry would never divulge their secret. It wasn't until a few years ago that I unexpectedly earned the right to this recipe, when I helped Kara edit her essays for business school. Since then, I've made this many many times, sometimes for myself, sometimes for others, but always to great acclaim. They're Asian inspired, yet I've never eaten anything close to them anywhere else. Crunchy exterior, juicy interior, spicy, sweet and salty, they are the perfect balance of flavors. The recipe is deceptively simple, but still top secret so there will be no revelation here, but you can see what they look like and dream...

And because I can't gratify with a recipe, here is a picture of the little cat. If you look carefully, you can see his little shaved patches.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

City Bag II

I've been meaning to make a city bag for my aunt forever and bought the appropriate fabric at Joann's ages ago. One thing led to another though and I somehow never got around to it. Since I was a person of leisure these last two weeks and was fueled by the admiration of the Mother for my first city bag, I decided to tackle this project. It ended up being surprisingly enjoyable and simple; I had forgotten how much I liked to sew. I vaguely remembered my first bag being a bit challenging to cut and assemble, but I think it was because I was doing everything on the floor. Since then, I have acquired a slightly wobbly but overall wonderful cutting table and this time around I was astounded by what a difference this makes. Patchwork squares were cut easily and neatly and all the pieces posed no difficulty at all.

This yellow wasn't what I had originally chosen at all. I believe it had been earmarked for a city bag for the Bunny, but I ended up making a rabbit stuffy for her instead. I forget what I had chosen for this bag, but I'm very happy with how the yellow fabric looks against the pinks.

The interfacing gave me a bit of trouble. I don't know if it was because the stuff was cheap, because it was old or because it was creased, but I know that my fabric had some trouble sticking to it. I also somehow ended up getting the glue all over my iron and had to spend some time cleaning it off. I plan on finishing the straps tonight (I will add interfacing to the straps, which was something I did not do for my own bag) and then the bag will be all done.

One thing I always like to do is put in a pocket. The pocket is looking more red and orange than pink, but you can tell by the pattern that it is the same fabric as the outside patchwork. The lining fabric is different of course and the straps will be made from the same material. Unfortunately I had cut out my first strap piece oddly so the second strap had to be cobbled together from two pieces. Hopefully this will not be too noticeable. Overall, a very fun project and I will be making one for the Bunny in the future.

Eating on Easy Street

The mother left this afternoon so I will be focused on eating many leftovers for some days instead of cooking new things. Overall, I felt the visit was a great success, from an eating point of view. I tried to cook things I thought she hadn't had and would enjoy; this was actually quite easy to do because the mother loves to eat and is also very willing to try all kinds of new foods. Lunch one day was salad with candied walnuts and roast beets (from TJ of course, I'm too lazy to start roasting my own beets). The highlight was a Roquefort cheese dressing from The mother was initially "not hungry" but after one bite of this dressing she was soon on her way to a second helping of salad. The salad and dressing is also very tasty if one include some wedges of clementines as well, as I did the following day. I really like it best with romaine lettuce. In fact, I may be generally tired of mesclun mixes for a while.

The night of graduation I fixed a rich man's dinner. Rich man's dinners are composed of filet mignon steaks with red wine sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. This meal is generally fixed for Ferrets for celebrations or repaying of favors. I never have much of a hankering for steaks so I am perfectly happy to make this at home ($) instead of trotting out to some disturbingly priced steakhouse ($$$$).

For the mother's last dinner in town, we went to Audrey Claire. Naturally I forgot my camera, but basically we ate a bunch of things and they were pretty tasty. The end.

Roquefort Cheese Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large shallot, minced
1 tbs Sherry wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar with no problems)
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
3 tbs whipping cream (I used half and half)

Whisk everything but the cheese and cream together. Fold in cheese and cream.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life on Easy Street Continues

I'm beginning to sense that Easy Street for me involves a lot of napping and cooking and eating. And there's nothing wrong with that. While the mother is here I am trying to prepare nice foods for her that she probably doesn't eat much of on her own. So for lunch yesterday, I stirred together a mushroom risotto (see below), which looks kind of gross but is one of my favorite easy meals. For dinner, I fixed my standard pesto/tomato/goat cheese pizza but didn't bother to take any pictures because I already have so many pizza pictures on this blog. Also because I forgot to.

This morning, I got it into my head that a tasty diner breakfast was in order. The first three slices of bacon stuck to the pan and had to be chipped loose, but as more fat was rendered, subsequent slices remained intact and pretty. Naturally, the sensible thing to do is to scramble eggs in the bacon fat, so this was carried out more or less successfully. I'm sure I lost at least one egg to the bottom of the pan, but I had adjusted for this and am pleased to report that my scrambled eggs emerged creamy and full of bacon flavor. Ferret nicely brought over a freshly baked loaf and this together with the eggs and bacon accounted for a marvelous breakfast. (Oh, he also brought over extra eggs because of course at the last minute I realized I only had 3 eggs to serve to 3 people. This would not do).

After breakfast, Ferret was a good sport and tried on a jacket we bought for my cousin Ping while my mom angled her laptop precariously so the image could be sent to Ping's mom in Taiwan. This was not quite successful so I took a picture to send instead.

After a couple of hours in lab for a meeting, I sprinted home (umbrella aloft) and literally threw together a dinner of baked salmon, red quinoa and green beans with candied walnuts. For once I managed to have everything finish cooking at around the same time. This was helped by the fact that I hardly had to prep anything. I believe dinner came together in half an hour. And that's my life on Easy Street.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life on Post-Defense Easy Street

Yesterday was my first day back in lab since my defense. Since I wanted to minimize my hours in lab so I could rush home and spend some time with the mother, I woke up pretty early and had a nice mug of coffee with the Tony. As you can see, the mother is still on California time. Our days are sandwiched between some morning conversations with the relatives in Taiwan (usually about one particular delinquent cousin) and evening conversations with the same relatives (again, about this cousin). I try to stay out of these skyping sessions since it involves a lot of speaking at massive volumes to be heard.

I was able to wrap up my work in 6 hours or so and rushed home to drag the mother out for her daily walk. After some resistance on her part (walking makes me tired!), I successfully bundled her out of the house, although I was unable to get her to wear my cute gray peacoat that fits her perfectly in place of this horrifying baggy jean jacket she brought with her. It's really testament to the mother's adorableness that she can pull this look off at all.

Our first stop was at the neighborhood community garden. It was a lovely day and there were a couple of people out tending their plots. I'd expected to see more veggies and herbs, but perhaps it was still too early in the season for that.

After this little stop the real walk began. By real walk, I mean a nice slow amble about 2 miles long. One mile there and another mile back. We wandered up the Schuylkill River trail to the Waterworks and took a few more pictures. By the end of the walk my mom had somehow broken out in a sweat despite the brisk wind and very moderate temperature. So the walk was a great success!

After a bit of rest and some frantic eating of rice cakes and banana/blueberry smoothies, the mother decided to attempt a yellow pudding. Unlike the Bunny's tasty flan, this pudding consisted of a similar sugar syrup combined with a bland egg/milk custard. The end result was kind of a disaster as the mother burned the sugar syrup and refused to start over but cooked it together anyway. We ended up having to pour it away and eat the pudding with a separate sugar syrup I had previously made for my burnt sugar cake (despite the title, there is NOTHING that is actually burnt in the recipe). All in all, the texture of the pudding was lovely, but the flavor left something to be desired. I think the ideal compromise between the Bunny flan and this recipe may be the use of half a can of condensed milk with a dash of vanilla. Attempt number two will take place this evening perhaps.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Here is my little cat after two different photoshop manipulations. I think the first picture is the soft and faded action and the second is the seventies action (both from pioneer woman). I'm still not sure how much I like the seventies one but I'm really into soft and faded. Mostly, I like the cat and have been blowing kisses into his tum all night long. I'm just glad he's getting better and I hope to still be companions for at least ten more years.
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Tasty Fried Rice Cakes

This dish has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. I would try to order it at dimsum places but whatever they served before me was never as good as my mom's. The last time she was here (3 years ago??) she made them for me but I had since mislaid the recipe. Now that she is visiting again, I lost no time pestering her to make these for me again. They are as good as I remember and this time I will engrave the recipe in as many places as possible to mitigate against potential loss. I had planned on taking an artistic picture to please the Bunny but my mom piled so many on my plate and they were so mouthwatering that all I ended up with was this hastily taken picture. Oh well. A new camera does not a photographer make, obviously. Better luck next time!

Tasty Fried Rice Cakes

Some taro, chopped to small cubes
Some dried onion
Vegetable oil

Cook the above together until soft. add a splash or two of soy sauce for color and a hint of flavor.

1. In separate bowl, mix 1 package of rice flour with 8.5 rice-cups (this seems to be a typical unit of measurement amongst my relatives. i believe 1 rice-cup is about 3/4 of a normal cup) of water. Add this mixture to the pot and cook until thickened (sort of mashed potato looking). Stir constantly during this time.

2. Scoop up thick mixture into containers, cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave. For the containers i used (a 8x8 glass baking dish and another smaller dish) and my microwave it was 15 min.

Sorry about the vagueness of this recipe; this is often what happens when I learn how to make something from my mom. It's all "some of this" check it, add "more of that." Most importantly, I know how to make this dish for myself now. Too bad for the rest of you!

Update: The next time we made this we used 9 rice cups of water and fit it all into the glass dish and microwaved for 18 minutes. Perfection!

Note: The microwave I used here is weaker than the normal microwave.  You basically want to poke the rice cake with a chopstick and see if anything sticks.  When I make this again in a normal microwave I will update the time.
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