Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chinese Tea Eggs (糖心茶葉蛋)


Tea egg is a typical Asian savory food commonly sold as a snack.  It is also known as marbled egg because the cracks in the egg shells create darkened lines with marble-like patterns. Chinese Tea Eggs are commonly sold by street vendors or in night markets in most Chinese communities.  This Easter, why not try some Chinese Tea Eggs instead of the traditional dyed eggs?  These Chinese Tea Eggs are flavorful snacks and just as beautiful as other dyed eggs, don’t you agree?  Plus, the lovely colors are all natural from the tea, soy sauce and other spices used in the marinade. 


I personally love a soft egg yolk in my boiled eggs.  So, this is how I prepared mine.  If you preferred a hard boiled egg instead, by all means go for it.  I’ll put the cooking time in details in the recipe for both “doneness”.  I think the soft egg yolk (糖心蛋黃) is gorgeous, don’t you agree?


These Chinese Tea Eggs are super simple to prepare, here’s what you need to do.  First, place the eggs in a medium pot and fill with cold tap water to cover the eggs by 1-inch.  This step is important because if you add cold eggs into hot water instead, the egg shells will crack.  Yes, we’ll be cracking them, eventually, but not now.  When the eggs are still raw, you know what will happen when they cracked.  Not pretty, not pretty at all!    


Cover the pot and bring to a boil on medium low heat and let the eggs simmer for 3 minutes for soft egg yolks.  (8 minutes for hard boil eggs)


Rinse the eggs under cold tap water until cooled.


Here’s the fun part, with the back of a spoon, gently tap the eggshells to make cracks all over the shells.  See, you do get to crack the shells; as much or as little as you wanted.  The more you tap, the more marbles and patterns you’ll get on the eggs.  I love lots of cracks because that also means lots of flavors.  But please be gentle, you still want the egg shells intact.  Then, set them aside after you had the fun.


My Mom gave me this black tea leaves called Pu-erh (普洱茶葉 in Chinese).  It’s a type of Chinese black tea that’s really dark and quite flavorful.  Or, you can simply use any other black tea varieties that you have on hand.


With the same medium pot, add 4 cups of water, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, star anise, tea leaves, cinnamon stick, sugar, and five spice powders and simmer the liquid for 15 minutes. 


Remove from heat and add the cracked eggs while the liquid is still hot. Cover and let them steep overnight.


I personally love to serve these Chinese Tea Eggs with a sprinkle of Szechuan Pepper Salt (椒鹽).  Not only it adds a punch, but also a little crunch from the flaky salt. 


Simply heat the cracked Szechuan pepper and flaky salt (kosher or sea salt) in a small dry pan for a few minutes until fragrant and that’s it.  These Chinese Tea Eggs are best serve warm or at room temperature.  I simply reheat the number of eggs that I’m serving in the pot of tea-marinate, until they are slightly warmed through.  


My hubby and the kids love them plain without the pepper salt.  Either way, you can taste the spices and black tea in these eggs.  I hope you’ll give them a try because they taste even more amazing than their look!  Happy Easter everyone.  I’m going to do some “egg hunt” in my pot of tea mixture!  


Monday, March 25, 2013

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Photography Backdrops


Are you ready for summer?  No?  But it certainly feels like summer here in Los Angeles!  arh….so, I prepared some ice cream to cool things off.  This is one of my favorite ice cream to make, besides the Dark Chocolate, French Roasted Coffee, Coconut, and Roasted Strawberry ones.  Boy, I do have quite a few favorites and I think that shouldn’t surprise you when it comes to ice creams. 


I love this Vanilla Bean ice cream recipe because it’s pretty much the base for all great ice cream before you can add any other of your favorite ingredient to turn it into flavored ice cream such as those I mentioned above. 


Many years ago when I was still living and working in Santa Monica, my Hubby, then boyfriend, and I loved to visit this Italian restaurant near the 3nd Street Promenade, called Lacanda Del Lago.  One of the items on the dessert menu was Affogato al Caffè Espresso (translated as Drowned in Espresso).  It’s basically vanilla bean ice cream drowned in espresso.  As simply as it sounds, it’s totally decadent.  It’s a dessert, and it’s also your after dinner coffee at the same time.


Of course, you know I always like to recreate restaurant favorites in my own kitchen.  It’s very simple to prepare, just scoop a couple of vanilla ice cream in a glass, and pour a shot or two of freshly brewed and slightly cooled espresso over the ice cream and enjoy.  As always (with my clumsy self), I pour the espresso with my left hand and tried to capture a shot with the heavy camera on my right hand.  So…as you can guess, this is what happened….espresso everywhere!


By now, I would have been in “panic" mode!  Because coffee would stain my photography backdrops!  And that had happened numerous time in the past.


No, that’s not a pretty sight!  But wait!  I’m so happy that it happened today.  No, I’m not kidding!  But why am I so happy?  Because this is not my usual real wood photography backdrops!  Check this out.


Use a damp paper towel and simply give it a wipe.


The espresso is gone and the backdrop is like brand new again!  Yay!  Magical?  I certainly think so.  Some of you had asked me in messages and emails in the past on how I made my photography backdrops.  I was going to do a post with pictorial along with the steps by steps instructions, blah blah blah; until one day, I discovered Swanky Prints


It was like a photographer’s dream came true.  Because Swanky Prints carry these vinyl photography backdrops.  Realistic, light weight and waterproof! 


It was shipped to me rolled up as show in the picture below and all ready to use!  No sanding, gluing, staining, painting, and waiting (for the paint to dry) compared to making my own wood backdrops.


The one I got from Swanky Prints was a 2 x 2 ft.  Same as the black and white real wood one I made long time ago.  And I also have a bigger one in blue (as shown in the picture below).  See the difference?  Not only the vinyl one is light weight, easy to carry, it’s also a space saver!!! 


And guess what, you’re in luck today.  Swanky Prints is kindly offering all readers a 25% off on your orders!  Simply use the code UTRY25 at check out to receive the discount.  Thank you Swanky Prints!


So, while I’m enjoying my Affogato al Caffè Espresso, I’ll be very busy browsing through Swanky Prints’ Etsy store and decide what to order next!  See, told you I have a tough job to do here! 


Disclaimer: I receive a 2 x 2 vinyl backdrop free of charge for the purpose of this review.  I occasionally do reviews and share with you on brands/products that I've tried and love.  It was a pleasure to have the chance to work with Swanky Prints on this review.  However, I am NOT affiliate with Swanky Prints in any way.  All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vanilla Bean Easter Bunny Macarons and Carrot Cake Macarons

I love Easter.  It symbolized new life and reborn.  Easter is also filled with pastel colors things and furry bunny ears headband that my Baby Girl adores.  Easter also includes the fun Easter Egg Hunt and chocolate eggs that my Little Boy loves.  Ever since my kids could take their first step on their own and held onto a basket, I planned and organized little Easter Egg Hunt at the backyard for them.  This year is no exception.  By the way, Easter falls on March 31st this year.


For the Easter Egg Hunt, I usually prepare plastic eggs filled with treats and hide them in the backyard.  I also prepare big beautiful baskets for the kids to carry their treasures as they search and continue their "hunt".  I really enjoy seeing the smiles on their little faces as they discovered each egg.  Wait, I see something hatching from an egg below.  What is it?


Oh, it’s an Easter Bunny!  Wait, it isn’t just any Easter Bunny, it’s a Vanilla Bean Easter Bunny Macaron!


Wait, there’s another one hatching out…..


And another….


Wait, there’s more.  Shhh….this one is still asleep!  She’s just so cute.  Let’s call her Sleeping Beauty, shall we?!


Oh…and Mr. Grumpy is here too!


I hear someone whispering….


So, here goes the Easter Bunny Tea Party.  Care to join?  Oh, and Sleeping Beauty is still sleeping, shhh…..


Of course, you can’t have a Tea Party without some treats!  Can you?  What do we have?  Oh, Carrot Macarons with Cream Cheese Buttercream filling, of course.  Those are Easter Bunnies’ favorite treats!


These sure look tasty and perfect for the Easter Bunnies.


This is such a fun party, let’s taste some carrots, shall we?


How was it, then?


Everything was in harmony, peace and quiet, until my kids decided to join the Easter Bunny Tea Party.  Of course, you know how it ended.


The kids couldn't resist for a taste test.   And yes, the Easter Bunnies were as delicious as the Carrot macarons.  The End!


Have you ever wonder, what’s inside of an Easter Bunny Macaron’s head?  Creamy Vanilla Bean Buttercream, that is.  I’m not dare to watch!


Carrot Macaron Shells and Cream Cheese Buttercream fillings.  I’m telling you, they taste just like a carrot cake, in macaron form.


In case you wonder, I sliced and dried some carrots in the oven for the shells.


Until they look like this (below).  Then, I ground them all up with almonds, powdered sugar to make the shells.


Here are the Easter Bunnies before they went into the oven.  Oh…sorry, that just doesn't sound right. hahaha…..I hope you’re looking at the picture below too and not just reading the paragraphs alone.


Here’s the Easter Bunny being filled with Vanilla Bean Buttercream.  Oh so yum! 


Do you celebrate Easter?  What's your plan for the Easter weekend?  I would love to hear from you.  I hope you all enjoy today’s special Easter post.  Until next time...


P.S.:  After I was done editing the pictures for this post, I found out that Baby Girl has a sweater with a bunny that looks very similar to “Sleeping Beauty”.  So, my Baby Girl was my model that day and I snapped a few fun shots.  Say goodnight, I mean goodbye to "Sleeping Beauty".  She’s living happily ever after in my Baby Girl’s tummy!     


Disclaimer: No Easter Bunny was hurt during the production of this post.  We all had a fun tea party and a happy tummy!