Thursday, January 31, 2013

Matcha Shortbread Cookies (抹茶酥餅)for Chinese New Year 恭喜發財!


February 10, 2013 marks the first day of the Chinese New Year.  Chinese New Year is the biggest Holiday in many countries in Asia, pretty much like Christmas or Thanksgiving in the United States.  I love all kinds of holidays, which gives me more excuses reasons to share wonderful treats with friends and family and indulge a little bit more without feeling guilty (although the feeling guilty part seems like never happened.)  It is the tradition that on the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families.  On the New Year morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year (Gong Hay Fat Choi), and receive money in red envelopes like those from the pictures below.  Last year when my hubby’s cousin visited us, she got us some newer design “red” envelopes with our family name printed on them (those with the purple background and red Chinese characters).  We loved them as we know those are quite impossible to find in the States.    


Another tradition on the Chinese New Year is that the families are to visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended family, usually their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents and so forth.  Along with our visits, we always bring some delicious treats.  Boy, our culture really value sharing food and treats with our loved ones!  I created these Matcha Shortbread Cookies to celebrate this special time of the year. 


With the same cookie dough, I made two variations of these cookies; one with vanilla sugar coated on top and one without (see the close up picture below).  They are both lovely.  The one with the sugar coated gets an extra crunch from the sugar and just a tad sweeter.  These cookies are not overly sweet to start with, so, even with the extra sugar coating, they are still pretty well balanced.  I can’t decided which one I like more.  They are equally good to me.


Since it's the holiday season, I'm feeling extra generous.  Sorry, it's not that I have a red envelope for you,  I've got to save those for my kids.  But, it's a great tip that you'll love to know for making rolled out cookies, such as this one.  Here's my tip: Roll your cookie dough between two plastic wraps.  That way, you can roll the dough easily without using extra flour on your board or rolling pin.  Why is that important? Without adding extra flour to your dough, it means that the rolling process won't change the texture and taste of your dough.  You can roll and re-roll the scrapes from the cut-out dough as many times as you like, which means no wastage!  As your dough getting softer from re-rolling, you can simply pop it back to the fridge to harden it up a bit and roll it again. Additional advantages of rolling dough between the plastic wraps are that it's super easy to roll  and the dough won't stick on the board/roller which minimize tearing of the dough.  So, there you have it.  I think the tip is way better than a red envelope!


Are you ready to come into the kitchen with me to make a batch?  Here’s what I did:

1) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the powdered sugar, matcha and butter together until light and fluffy.

2) Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract until fully incorporated.

3) Scraped the sides of the bowl if necessary. With the mixer on low, add the flour slowly until just combined.

4) Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disk. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until it is firm.
Pictorial A

5) Preheat the oven to 345°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Place the vanilla sugar onto a small shallow dish, if using. Roll the dough between two plastic wrap to 3/8 to 1/2-inch thickness.

6) Use a small cookie cutter (I used 1 ½-inch ones) and cut shapes from the dough. Place cut out dough onto prepared baking sheet, at least 1-inch apart.

7) If using sugar coat, gently press cut out dough onto sugar before placing on the baking sheet.

8) Bake 10 to 14 minutes, or until the bottom and edges are slightly golden. Cool completely on wiring rack and enjoy.

Pictorial B

Pretty simple right?  The Matcha aroma really shines through in these little cookies.  I truly enjoy the flaky texture and buttery taste as well.  I hope you’ll give them a try soon.  Before we go, I would love to wish all of you a healthy and fruitful new year (Gong Hay Fat Choi!) 祝大家恭喜發財, 龍馬精神, 身體健康, 步步高升!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

NuNaturals Giveaway Winners Announcement

Thank you all for participating in the NuNaturals giveaway.  The four lucky winners  are:

Random Winners
Grandmereb Lovestobake who commented:
“Shared on facebook too. donnabardocz (at) savance (dot) com”
Geraldine Sandoval who commented:
“my favorite thing to bake is Coconut Cream Pie
heartnsoulcooking at gmail dot com”
Pretend Chef who commented:
“I don't have a go to recipe for special occasions. I really enjoy trying new recipes. Your panna cotta looks so delicious. I tried panna cotta for the first time when I went to Disney World. I'm hooked. Can't wait to give yours a try. Yummy!”
Last but not least, Cheap Ethnic Eatz who commented:
“Shared on facebook”

Yay!  Congratulations to all the winners.  I’ll be contacting the winners by email on how to claim the prize.  Thank you again NuNaturals for providing the prizes for this giveaway. 

If you haven’t enter the Pure Vanilla recipe book giveaway (U.S.A and Canada only).  You have until 2/2/2013 to do so.  So, don’t miss it.  Stay tuned for more fun giveaway in the near future. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Vanilla Bean Dutch Baby Recipe and a Giveaway


Oh Boy!  Or should I say, Oh Baby!?  I can’t believe it’s my first time making a Dutch Baby.  And I can certainly assure you that I’ll be making it again and again.  A Dutch Baby pancake, sometimes called a German pancake, is a sweet popover that is normally served for breakfast.  It’s made with a light batter using just a few simple ingredients, such as milk, eggs, flour, vanilla, sugar and baked in a pre-heated cast iron pan.  As you can see from my pictures, the edges of the Dutch Baby popped up quite a bit and were super light and crispy.  The center is tender, slightly flaky and moist.  


I love vanilla bean, it’s probably one of the spices that I use most often in baking and desserts.  Even when I’m making chocolate or lemon cakes, a little dash of vanilla adds depth to the flavor and enhances the whole flavor profile of the dessert.  This Vanilla Bean Dutch Baby Recipe is adopted from the recipe book Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever.  In addition to the 80 recipes accompanied by dozens of mouthwatering full-color photos, Pure Vanilla also explores the history of vanilla from orchid to extract and provides the fascinating origins and helpful tasting notes for all of today’s varieties.  Before I read through Shauna’s book, I didn’t know the seeds from the vanilla beans don’t impart lots of flavor, but it’s the pod that carries most of the flavor and fragrance.  It’s always awesome to learn something new while drooling over some delectable recipes at the same time.  Don’t you agree?

Shauna’s recipe suggested to serve this Dutch Baby with Crème Anglaise, which I know it’s going to be awesome.  Since I already have some Homemade Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream in the fridge from the day before, I used that instead and added a ton of fresh berries as well.  Oh baby, it’s heavenly!  Another change that I’ve made to the recipe was the amount of salt used.  Since my family is on a low-sodium diet, I cut down on the salt in the recipe by quite a bit.  I’ll clarify the amount in the recipe below. 


This wonderful breakfast recipe is perfect when you have companies over.  It’s so gorgeous and with such a “Wow factor” that your guests are going to be really impressed when you bring this baby to the table! 


Of course, my kids were excited to see this for breakfast.  It’s so good that you can even have this as dessert.  No one is going to complain, for sure!  Winking smile


Are you interested to win a copy of Pure Vanilla and learn everything about Vanilla?  I’m giving away a copy of the book Pure Vanilla, courtesy of Quirk Books and Shauna.  Here are the details:

One lucky reader (with an U.S. or Canada mailing address) will win a copy of “Pure Vanilla”.

This giveaway is now closed.  Winner has been announced and contacted.  

To enter, simply leave a comment and tell me what’s your favorite recipe using vanilla.  Deadline to enter is February 2nd, 2013 by mid-night PST.  Winner will be selected through and announce shortly after the giveaway is closed.

For extra entries, do any or all of the following (leave a separate comment for each extra entry):

1)  Add me to your Google+ circle here
2) "Like"'s Facebook Page, click here.
3) Share this giveaway on Facebook (with a link back to this post please)
4) Pin a picture from this post onto Pinterest.

That’s all and Good Luck everyone!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Pure Vanilla” free of charge for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated in any other way.  All opinions are 100% my own and always will be.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas


As some of you might remember, I don’t always like dining out on Valentine’s Day.  I think it’s one of the most crowed day of the year at any restaurant.  So, I've always prepared Valentine’s day dinner at home.  I think it’s a sweet and warm gesture to take the time and prepare something delectable for our significant others, don’t you agree?  Here’s what’s on the menu: Raw oysters (picture above), serve with a splash of lemon juice and hot sauce.  To ensure freshness, I bought the oysters in their shells and planned to open them on my own when I got home.  Ahem…after 30 minutes, a curved butter knife, a few beat-up kitchen towels, and a cracked shell, here we have 6 super fresh oysters chilling on a bed of ice.  I say it’s not bad at all, for someone opening oysters for the very first time.  But I think I’ll leave that to the experts next time around. 


Up next, we have a mixed green salad and avocado, served with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette.  In the dressing, I used both Dijon and whole grain mustard this time.  I love serving salad.  It’s simple and easy to put together.  Plus, you can basically put any ingredients you like along with your favorite dressing.  If you haven’t done so, you should check out this Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette.  It’s always been my favorite.


For the entrée, I have prepared this gorgeous black pepper crusted filet mignon, served with blue cheese cream sauce and chives, mushrooms stuffed scallops and homemade French fries.  Oh my, what a feast!


For dessert, you can check out the latest Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Lemon Gelée recipe, these Strawberry Sweetheart Macaron (picture above) or these Nutella Macarons (picture below).  These desserts will ensure a sweet ending to any meal.  What’s on your Valentine’s day menu?  Are you planning to cook at home or to rather dine out?  I would love to hear from you. 


Friendly Reminder: If you haven’t enter the current giveaway, please check it out here.  You have until the 28th to enter.  Good Luck! 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Lemon Gelée and a Giveaway


It’s only a few more weeks from Valentine’s Day.  If you do celebrate, I have a fabulous dessert recipe for you today.  Okay, even if you don’t celebrate, you can still make this gorgeous desserts, right?  Who knows, if you make this dessert for that special someone, after just one bite (of the dessert of course), that person could be falling in love with you.  Worse case scenario, that person only falls in love with this dessert. Smile with tongue out


After tasting this Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Lemon Jelly, my Little Boy named it “Bouncy Jelly with Cream”.  Open-mouthed smile Very descriptive and to the point!  My Little Girl was too busy eating and she didn’t even say a word until the whole cup disappeared in less than a few minutes.


Just like how my Little Boy described it, the Pomegranate Lemon Gelée was quite bouncy, yet tender and smooth.  The perfect texture for Gelée.  It’s sweet and tart at the same time.  Super refreshing and packed with fresh lemon scent because of the NuNaturals Lemon NuStevia that I used as the sweetener.  The Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta was creamy and decadent.  The vanilla aroma was wonderful.  Please note that I don’t normally use sweeteners because of the after-taste that is often associated with most of them.  I have to say, I was very surprised there’s no after taste from these natural liquid sweeteners at all.   I also love the fact that these sweeteners are made with natural ingredients, alcohol free and gluten free.  It’s a great way to reduce or eliminate refined sugar from my diet, yet still satisfy my sweet tooth cravings.

Want to check out how to make these Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Lemon Gelée?  Please follow me to the kitchen.

1)  In a medium saucepan, heat the cream, vanilla seeds and pod on medium-low heat until simmer. Cover, remove from heat and let mixture steep for an hour.

2) Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk in a bowl and let stand for 5 minutes, or until the gelatin softens. Reheat the vanilla cream mixture and add the gelatin mixture into the hot cream, stir to dissolve. (sorry, I forgot to take a picture of that) Add the Vanilla Sweetener, taste and add more if needed.

3) Strain mixture into a measuring cup with beaker.

4) Equally divided the mixture into 10 3-ounce ramekins or glasses, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferable overnight or until set.

Pictorial A

5) In a small heat proofed bowl, place 1/2 cup pomegranate juice and powdered gelatin and mix well. Let it sit for 5 minutes.

6) Place the remaining 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice in a measuring cup. Heat the gelatin mixture in the microwave for 30 to 45 second, or until gelatin dissolved. Add gelatin mixture to the measuring cup, add Lemon Sweetener and adjust to your own taste.

7) Evenly divided the pomegranate mixture over the panna cottas and refrigerate for at least two hours, or until set.

8) Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds and mint leaves when ready to serve.

Pictorial B

Simple enough, right?  I hope you’re convinced to give this dessert a try.


Here’s a closer look of that perfect bite.  The fresh pomegranate seeds on top add a little crunch and the juice will burst in your mouth when you bite into one. 

Great news for you, my friends!  Here’s a chance to win some of these NuNaturals products of your own to create this wonderful dessert, courtesy of NuNaturals. 

This giveaway is now closed.  Winners were announced on this post.

Giveaway Details:
1) NuNaturals generously offered 4 readers a bottle of each of their new all-natural sweeteners (as shown in the picture below):
  • Chocolate NuStevia Liquid, Alcohol-Free, 2 oz. Bottle
  • Lemon NuStevia Liquid, Alcohol-Free, 2 oz. Bottle
  • Orange NuStevia Liquid, Alcohol-Free, 2 oz. Bottle
  • Peppermint NuStevia Liquid, Alcohol-Free, 2 oz. Bottle


2) This giveaway is open worldwide

3) To enter, simply leave a comment on this post and tell me your favorite thing to make/cook for a special occasion.

4) Deadline to enter is January 28th, 2013 (my mid-night PST). Winners will be randomly selected and notify by email. So, please make sure to leave your email address in the comment so that I can contact you if you’re one of the lucky winners.

5) For extra entries, share this post (with a link back to this post) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any social media that you like.  Simply leave a separate comment for each action that you did to let me know you’ve shared.

NuNaturals is also offering a special discount for’s readers as well.  At check out, enter the SPECIAL DISCOUNT CODE of  BLG0613 to receive a  -15% discount on your entire order. This Discount remains effective until  June, 30, 2013.

That’s all. Good Luck everyone.

Disclaimer: I received NuNaturals products free of charge to try.  I was not required to write a review at all, nor a positive one.  I was NOT compensated in any other way.  All opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)—A Quick and Easy Recipe


Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) is one of the Chinese dishes that I make all the time.  It’s a quick and easy weeknight dish that’s packed with wonderful flavors and nutrients.  It’s totally my kind of comfort food.  Many of my friends and readers had been asking me to post more easy, Asian, savory recipes so they can prepare for their families.  So here we go, my friends.  Smile  Best of all, this is one satisfying dish to prepare that won’t break the bank!  Forget about the take-outs.  You’ll have this on your family table before you finish placing an order over the phone!  Winking smile


There are a few tips about Chinese stir-fry.  It’s quick, easy, and everything cook in a rather fast pace over high-heat.  So, the key is to have all the ingredients pre-prepped.  That way, the ingredients are ready whenever you need to add them to the wok/frying pan.  Don’t worry, you don’t necessarily need a wok to make Chinese stir-fry.  In this particular recipe, I prefer a non-stick pan over the wok. 
One of the main ingredient for Mapo Tofu is the chili sauce.  Different recipes might call for different type of chili sauce.  I personally prefer this (see below) Chili Bean Sauce (ToBan Djan 辣豆瓣醬).  It’s made with chili and fermented soy beans.  The fermented soy beans add a wonderful depth of flavor that you can’t get from the regular chili sauce.  


Of course another main ingredient in Mapo Tofo is the Tofu.  There are many choices and brands out there.  I grew up with the Vitasoy brand when I was in Hong Kong, so it’s my choice of Tofu whenever they are available.  When cooking Mapo Tofu, I personally prefer to use Silken Tofu.  Silken Tofu, as it’s name suggested, is silky, smooth, velvety and melt in your mouth kind of tofu.  It’s also very fragile.  As suggested on the package, it’s better to use in cold dishes, such as salad, soup, or steaming.  These types of recipes/cooking methods require less stirring.

On the other hand, my hubby always prefers the Soft Tofu, it said “soft” on the package, but actually it’s pretty firm.  If you get it with any other brand, it’s the “firm” one that you want to use.  As suggested on the package, this type of Tofu is good with cooking methods of pan fry or stir fry because the firmer texture in this tofu can withstand the mixing and stirring in the pan without falling apart.  Firm tofu also has a stronger tofu taste because it contains less water.  So, the choice is yours, there’s no right or wrong Tofu.  Smile with tongue out  I almost always use firm tofu for Mapo Tofu now, since that’s what 'the Boss' prefers. 


As you can see from the pictures below, the tofu holds its shape pretty well even after all the stirring.  So, I guess 'the Boss' is right in his choice of tofu.  Open-mouthed smile 


Are you ready to get into the kitchen with me?  It’s going to be quick, I promise.  So, here’s what I did:

1) In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients of the Mapo Tofu sauce together until sugar dissolved and there’s no lump from the corn starch, set aside.
2)  The fresh tofu usually packed with a bit of water, drain it well.
3) Cut them into 1/2-inch cubes.  This will be a good time to chop the green onions, if using.
4) Heat a teaspoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat.

Pictorial A

5) Sauté pork until golden brown and cooked through; with a wooden spoon/spatula, break ground pork into small pieces when browning.
6) When the ground pork is cooked through, pour the Mapo Tofu sauce into the meat, stir well and cook until the sauce is thicken, about 2 minutes. The sauce will be thick, do NOT attempt to add any water.  After the tofu is in, it’ll create enough sauce, trust me on this one.  Winking smile
7) Fold in tofu and be careful not to break them up too much.
8) When tofu is heated through, remove from heat and stir in green onions.

Pictorial B

See, quick and easy right?  This sauce is simple and divine!  So, stop spending/wasting $3+ for a small package of Mapo Tofu sauce when you can easily make your own at home.  I used to spend that money for the longest time, until I realized how easy it is to create the sauce from scratch.  The good thing about building the sauce from scratch is that you'd know exactly the ingredients that were used.


I make this for my kids all the time, minus the chili sauce.  So, I always double the ingredients and make one that’s non-spicy for the kids.  It’s just as wonderful.


If there are any particular Asian dishes that you would love me to post on the blog, feel free to leave a comment or email me directly. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Jasmine Tea with Honey and Lemon


How’s your 2013 going so far?  I hope you’re all staying warm and healthy.  With the cold temperature and changing season, many of my friends and loved ones are a bit under the weather lately.  I hope you will all feel better soon.  Whenever I’m not feeling too well, this Jasmine Tea with Honey and Lemon is one hot beverage that I like to make.  It’s warm and soothing; it’s perfect in this cold weather.   


It’s really easy to prepare as well.  Simply brew your favorite Jasmine tea.  You can use tea bags or loose tea leaves.  Add one or two slices of lemon into the tea cups, muddle with a spoon to extract some juice and oils from the lemon peels. 


Then, drizzle a teaspoon or two of honey, stir well and enjoy with your favorite cookies and cuddle up in a warm blanket.  (The cookies in the picture about were Almond Cookie Crisps.  Please click here for the recipe.)


I guaranteed that you’ll feel better in no time.  Please stay warm and dry my friends.  Until next time, please take care.