Friday, September 28, 2012

Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta for Mid-Autumn Festival? Oh Yeah!


This Sunday, September 30th, would be the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Festival or 中秋節 in Chinese.   It’s a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese, dating back over 3,000 years.  The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.   The moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest. 


The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, as shown in the picture right below.  The golden salty egg yolk in the mooncake resembles the full moon for the festival.  If you have been following my blog or happened to read this post here, you might know that I’m not a big fan of mooncake at all.

Moon Cakes

Even if I was a fan of mooncake, I haven’t master the art of baking a traditional mooncake, just yet.  Last year, I shared with you the recipe of Snow Skin Mooncakes as shown in the picture below, (you can read the post and recipe here), which are more trendy type of mooncakes with a different type of dough wrapped around different fillings compared to the traditional ones.  Those were pretty simple to make as long as you have the mold.


Since I don’t have a new mooncake recipe to share this year, I decided to make something similar to the shape of Iced-Skin Mooncakes I made last year, in a glance. They look similar in their shapes, but a LOT more decadent!  Aren’t they similar in their shapes?  No?  Not at all?  Never mind then.  Hm…..but who doesn’t like dark chocolate?  How about smooth, creamy, rich, and melt in your mouth kind of chocolate desserts? Are you convinced yet?


After a bite, I guaranteed you’ll be convinced!  I know my whole family was, that’s for sure.  We’re not going to miss the traditional mooncakes with these decadent Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta in our tummies this year! 

I made mine in two different containers, the little glasses as shown in the picture below and with a silicone mold, such as this one, to create the mini ones shown in the picture above. 


With the small glasses, you can serve them in the glasses as is.  Maybe top with a dollop of whipped cream, shaved chocolate and a spring of mint.   You can also make these Panna Cotta in traditional ramekins and invert them onto a plate when ready to serve (see instructions on recipe below).


No matter what containers they are in, they would be your best dessert, ever!  I was hoping to do a little portion control and make the mini ones, for the kids.  But guess what, they ate 3 of those in a sitting!  haha…what a way to portion control.  Smile with tongue out I think 'portion control' just doesn’t work in my house. 


Recently, an incident happened with our extended family.  I’m not going into details here.  But it’s a wake up call, or a reminder for us to cherish our time together with family and loved ones!  As life is full of unexpected events and thing might not be the same tomorrow.  So, please, go give your love ones a big hug, a kiss, and tell them you love them. Not just on this special occasion, but everyday, hopefully!  Wish you all a wonderful Mid-Autumn Festival, 中秋節快樂 and 人月兩團圓.  Take care.


Update 9/30/2012:  We had a small celebration at home with lots of BBQ.  Yes, it’s still super hot in L.A. and it was perfect to have a little outdoor activities.  I was able to capture this gorgeous image tonight (see picture below) while having some fun time with my family.  Hope you had a wonderful weekend as well.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Egg Salad and Bacon Cups


As the Football season begin, I'd bet that many of you are looking for some easy and tasty appetizers and/or finger food that you can enjoy during the games.  Honestly, I’m not a fan of the games and probably have no idea of what’s going on at all.  My hubby is more into soccer than football, that’s probably why.  But, I do love appetizers and finger food... a lot (I guess that’s pretty obvious to many of you by now).  Anyway, these Egg Salad and Bacon Cups are easy to make and they are definitely something different than the usual game day food such as chicken wings, or meat balls.  Yet, they are very satisfying and tasty, especially with that crispy bacon on top. 


The “cups” are easy and fun to make as well.  Simply use a large flower shape cookie cutter to cut out some won ton wraps, place them on the “cups” of an up-side-down mini muffin pan.  I spray with a little cooking spray to make them crispy.  Bake them at 350 degree F for 7 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown.  Fill the cups with the Bacon and Egg Salad and that’s all.  Of course, you can fill these crispy won ton cups with whatever you fancy as well.


I have another tips for you today in making the egg salad.  Since we’re going to chop up the hard boil eggs anyway, I simply cut the cooked eggs in half, and spoon the egg out with a spoon instead of peeling them one by one.  It’s way faster and no mess at all! Amen.  And you’re very welcome, my friends. 


I hope you enjoy today’s recipe and tips.  Until next time, take care.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Spicy Edamame—Quick and Easy Healthy Snacks

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Edamame is one of my favorite simple appetizers to enjoy before a meal.  Usually, we get a small bowl of these healthy and tasty complimentary beans at the Japanese restaurants before our orders arrive.  Edamame beans are immature soybeans in the pod, which commonly are found in the Japanese and Chinese cuisines.  The pods are usually boiled in water or steamed and served whole.  A while ago, I found some organic edamame from Costco that were packaged in individual bag of 3-ounces each.  The suggested serving instruction was to put them in the microwave for 3 minutes, sprinkle with salt and serve up.  Simple enough right?  Of course I couldn't resist to bring some home.

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Of course, if you know me well, I won’t just serve them as is.  It’s fun to add different condiments on them for new flavors.  What did I create this time?  These Spicy Edamame!  With a hint of sea salt, toasted sesame oil, and some Japanese chili powder!  Oh boy, so simple and so good.  Make them, seriously, and you can thank me later.

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The package suggested to microwave them, but if you oppose to using a microwave for whatever reason, you can put them in boiling water for 3 minutes for the same result.  Here’s the step-by-step pictorial on how I prepared these Spicy Edamame.

1) Place the edamame in a microwave safe bowl.
2) Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 3 minutes.  I stop the microwave half way and give the edamame a toss to ensure they heat through evenly.
3) Sprinkle with sea salt
4) Drizzle with toasted sesame oil
5) Sprinkle with your favorite chili powder
6) Toss, serve up and enjoy


Simple, right?  This is how the packaged edamame looks like (see picture below).  And the picture of the chili powder I used.  This is by far my favorite chili powder and I got it in a Japanese supermarket (you can get this in some Asian market as well).  If you have your own favorite, by all means go for it.


Edamames are low in calories, high in fiber and contain an adequate amount of healthy fats. They are packed with protein and essential amino acids.  They also contain vitamin A, calcium, vitamin K and folate.  Whatever that means, they just translate to tasty goodness to me.  Minus the chili powder, they are also my kids’ favorite snacks.  Come on, what kids don’t like food that they can pick up with their hands, bit into them and squeeze out little gems from inside the pods?  They definitely are fun to eat as well.  The big kid in me say so, at least. 

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Short Trip to New Orleans


Recently, my hubby and I took a short trip to New Orleans.  It was a quick get away trip for us.  What’s so special about this trip?  Besides it’s my very first time visiting this vibrant city, it was also our very first time travelling without the kids.  Yup, that’s right.  It’s been 5 years+ that my hubby and I haven’t travel on our own.  Thank you to my In-Laws and my parents for watching the kids while we were away.  Although it was just a short trip, it was fun and very memorable.  Here are some pictures and highlights that I wanted to share with you.  I’ll have separate posts to review the hotel that we stayed in and a couple of restaurants that we've dined at.  Those deserve their own spotlights.  Our first stop of the day in New Orleans, the Jackson Square (see picture above), isn't it beautiful?


Of course, you can’t travel to the Big Easy without having their French Quarter Beignets at Café du Monde.  They are simply a fried pastry topped with powdered sugar.  Of course, fried dough is always tasty. 


They reminded me of a Chinese fried pastry called “牛利酥”.  With a cup of coffee or latte, it’s the perfect breakfast or afternoon pick me up.


After the quick fuel, we headed to the French Market.  What I love about the French Quarter was that everything were so closed by.   You can simply walk to all the happening places without hopping into the car.


The French Market is a market and series of commercial buildings in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  It stretches just inland from the Mississippi River in the section of the French Quarter downriver from Jackson Square, with the famous Café du Monde at the upriver end, down to the flea market stalls across from the New Orleans Mint building.


Let’s take a look at what the French Market has to offer.


From nuts, essences, health food products to fresh produces.


There were a couple of shops with all kinds of spices and sauces that you can purchase as well.


If you get hungry and want to get a few fresh raw oyster, there’s an oyster bar as well.  (Sorry, this fine gentleman might looked more like he’s constipated than trying to open an oyster).  Hey, I opened my own oysters before.  It’s not easy and I'm sure my facial expression was worse than this!


There were all kinds of snacks and local food stalls in the market.  Gator, anyone?


The weather in New Orleans was just too hot and humid.  I need a frozen drink half way through my walk.  Did you know you can drink (alcoholic beverage) in the open public in New Orleans?  Boy oh boy, I just love this city!  I was so spoiled there.


Here goes my icy drink.


It’s so refreshing.  I say, it’s more like a fruity smoothie.  You can hardly taste the alcohol in it.


Here are the flea market stalls area.  You can definitely spend half a day there browsing and shopping.


After the French Market, we then walked over to the Governor Nicholls Street Wharf down the block.


A nice and peaceful view of the Mississippi River.


All these walking got us hungry.  We got a few bites to eat at The Market Café that has an outdoor sitting area with a live Jazz band.


His voice was amazing!  The Jazz music was so calming and relaxing.  It simply put you in a good mood.


At the Market Cafe, we tried the classic Gumbo. 


And the Alligator sausage.  Yup, as people say, alligator tastes just like chicken.


On our way walking back to the hotel, we passed by The W Hotel.  It’s still under construction and not open to public yet.  But there was an outdoor patio/resting area that was open.  So we went for a peek and took a few pictures.


A fire/water fountain?  How creative!?


Nice cozy chairs for you to relax right next to the pool.




Don’t you love the details of their décor?


After dinner, we head to the Bourbon Street (see pictures below). At Bourbon Street, you can find many bars and pubs that people basically party all night long.

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For the 2 nights we were there, we visited the Bourbon Street on both nights. 

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A block down the Bourbon Street, here’s the night view of the Saint Louis Cathedral (picture below).

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We also walked over to the Harrah’s Casino (picture below) to check it out.  We went inside for a quick peek but we didn't stay to play any games. 

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On the day that we were leaving, we went to Mahony’s for lunch.  We wanted to try their famous Po-Boys!

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Guess who brought us in here? Yup, Guy Fieri!  We watched one if his Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives episodes that he recommended this place along with Emeril Lagasse.

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We ordered Cole Slaw.

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Some French Fries.

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Here comes the Po-Boys.  By the way, if you have a plane to catch, like us, you might not want to come to this place for lunch!  We were “warned” that the wait time was 40 minutes when we place our orders.  We travel so far we just gotta try them.  Heck, it really took 40 minutes for these babies to arrive!

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This is the regular Po-Boy.  Very generous portion and the oysters were very fresh.  The fried oysters were crispy on the outside and very juicy inside.

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Below was the “Peace Maker” recommend by Guy.  It has the same ingredients as the Po-Boy, plus cheese and bacon.  Yum!

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The good news was, we were still able to catch our flight!  Phew!  It’s such a fun city to visit.  If you haven’t been there, go for it.  We definitely had a wonderful time.  Thank you for stopping by and stay tuned for the hotel and restaurant reviews.

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