Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway

Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway! 
It's the Labor Day Weekend in the States.  Which means, it's time to firing up the grill and enjoy some BBQ goodness.  Today, I have a very special recipe for you, Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub.  Most of us relate vanilla, or vanilla beans, with desserts or sweet treats only.  However, vanilla works just as beautifully in savory food, in my opinion.  This Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub is one of them!  I’ll get into the details in just a minutes.  But first, I want to introduce you to some wonderful products that I used in this recipe.

Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway!

Still remember my Vanilla Dream Cake recipe?  If not, you've got to check out that recipe here.  In that recipe, I used Singing Dog Vanilla Bean Paste and infused their Vanilla Blackberry Sage tea into the cake.  Boy oh boy, that was really one dreamy cake to indulge.

Recently, the kind folks at Singing Dog Vanilla sent me the Organic Ground Vanilla Coffee and Vanilla Salt to try out.  You might wonder, how did the vanilla infused into the coffee beans?  Well, that was the same question I had in mind.  And quoted from Singing Dog’s website, Our Organic whole bean/ground coffee is flavored with real organic vanilla beans.  No fake sugary flavors or syrups - just real vanilla beans.”  Click here to check out their site for more information.  I really love the fact that there are real vanilla beans in each bag (ground or whole, respectively), and nothing artificial!  I used the ground vanilla coffee to make the spice rub for my Ribeye steaks.  If you use this vanilla coffee for drinking, the whole house would be infused with vanilla and coffee fragrant after brewing.  I love the subtle vanilla aroma in my coffee and it brings a kind of gourmet sweetness that you can’t get from sugar at all.  

Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway!

Up next is the Vanilla Salt.  Check out the ingredient of this salt. Ingredients: Murray River Salt from Australia and Organic Ground Vanilla from Indonesia.  And let me tell you, this is the perfect example of “less is more”!  The salt itself is super flaky and you can see the specks of vanilla beans all through out the salt.  It’s saltiness is softer than kosher salt and you get the distinct sweet aroma from the vanilla beans. 

Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway!

Want to find out how I prepare the Vanilla Coffee Rub for the Ribeye steaks?  It’s super easy and the flavor is wonderful.  The coffee rub developed the most fragrant crust on my steaks and sealed in the juices; leaving my steaks juicy, tender and succulent.   

Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway!

Here’s what you need for the coffee rub: Vanilla coffee (of course!), smoked paprika, brown sugar, granulated garlic, vanilla salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.  (Please check the measurements of each ingredient in the recipe at the end of the post.)  

Ingredients for Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway!

Mix all the ingredient with a fork and you’re done with the rub!  Super easy, isn't it?  Yup, my kids can do this too.  And let me tell you.  This rub is so good that I doubled the recipe and keep it in an air tight container for future use.  That way, I can have them on-hand at any time and they sure will make a wonderful homemade gifts!  Your friends will sure be impressed with this coffee rub for sure!

Ingredients forGrilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway!

Up next, give the steaks some love.  Gently rub some olive oil on the steaks.  We can all use a massage any time of the day, right?!

Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway!

Then, sprinkle on the coffee rub, all over the steaks!  Be generous, it’s all good stuffs!  Then, let the steaks hang out in the fridge to get happy, I mean to marinade, for 2 hours, before grilling.

Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub

Isn't that a lovely crust of grill marks on the steaks?  Make sure to let your steaks rest for 10 minutes before cutting so the juice stays inside the steak and not running all over your board!

Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway!
I simply serve this ribeye steaks with a side salad, some lettuces, and homegrown tomatoes.  It was one satisfying meal.  Of course, I always have room for dessert.  But that will be covered in another post. 
So, are you ready to make your own Vanilla Coffee Rub and indulge in some succulent steaks?  Of course, you can purchase the vanilla coffee and vanilla salt here, if you can’t wait any longer.  However, I’m hosting a giveaway, courtesy of the generous people from Singing Dog Vanilla.  This is one giveaway you don’t want to miss out!  Check out the giveaway details below.
Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Vanilla Coffee Rub and a Giveaway!
Giveaway Details:
2 (Two) readers will win a Vanilla Lover's Gift Set, one set to each winner (as shown in the picture below. Each gift set values at U.S.D. $31.25). Each Vanilla Lover’s Gift Set includes:

1 Organic Vanilla Coffee (2 oz) flavored only with real vanilla beans;
1 Organic Vanilla Lip Balm;
1 Organic Pure Vanilla Extract (2 oz.) for cooking; and
1 Vanilla Salt,2 oz.

Lover set

This Giveaway is open my Readers worldwide.  Deadline to enter is September 15th, 2013 by midnight PST. Winner will be selected through and announce shortly after the giveaway is closed. Prizes will be shipped out directly by Singing Dog Vanilla.

To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me what is your favorite cut of meat.  Is it a ribeye steak, a New York steak, a Porterhouse, or something else?  If you are a vegetarian, or don’t eat beef, simply leave a message just to say hi, or tell me you want to win this giveaway.

This giveaway is now closed!  Thank you everyone who participated in this giveaway.  Please see the winner announcement post for names of winners.

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

1) “Like” Singing Dog Vanilla on their Facebook Page, click here.
2) "Like"'s Facebook Page, click here.
3) Pin a picture from this post onto your Pinterest board.
4) Follow Singing Dog Vanilla on Pinterest, click here.
5) Add me to your Google+ circle here.
6) Share this giveaway on Facebook (with a link back to this post please)
7) Share this giveaway on Twitter (with a link back to this post please)

Good luck everyone! And stay tuned for an awesome dessert recipe on my next post featuring the Vanilla Coffee and Vanilla Salt.

Disclaimer: I received the Singing Dog Vanilla Coffee Tea and Vanilla salt free of charge for the purpose of this review. And Singing Dog Vanilla is sponsoring the prizes for this giveaway.  All opinions are 100% my own and always will be. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lychee Martini (荔枝馬丁尼)

Lychee Martini (荔枝馬丁尼)

It’s almost “back to school” time for most of us!  I can’t believe Summer slipped by in the blink of an eye.  That’s just too quick, in my opinion!  I sure will miss spending time with my Kiddos.  On the other hand, I also look forward to the “me” time when the Kids are at school.  So it’s a mixed feeling.  Since my Kids will be going to a new school this year, there are quite a few things that we need to adjust.  Adjustments such as a new school schedule, policies, and a long list of school supplies!  Yeah, I’m totally not used to that since the previous school took care of most of the supplies.  Let’s just say, I’m glad that I tackled the list quite early on and I only have a few more things to get before school starts.  Certainly, going back to school could be a stressful event, but proper planning definitely helps to ease some stress…and a cocktail in between wouldn’t hurt either.  Whether you’re in the middle of “back to school” stress, or about to celebrate having the “me” time back.  I have the perfect cocktail for you.  Ladies and gentlemen, check out this Lychee Martini (荔枝馬丁尼)!

Lychee Martini (荔枝馬丁尼)

This Lychee Martini is a sweet and fragrant cocktail that’s packed with the fresh lychee flavor.  I added a little lemon juice to balance out the sweetness and a splash of vermouth for depth and to round out the flavors.  Lychee ( 荔枝in Chinese) is a tropical fruit native to southern China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. The fresh fruit is delicate with a floral and sweet fragrant. When ripe, the skin turns brownish-red (from green), and the flesh is super juicy and sweet. Since the perfume-like fragrant is lost in the canning process, I certainly prefer fresh Lychee way better than the canned ones.


Lychee is one of my favorite fruit to enjoy in the late summer!  I always buy them fresh whenever they’re available in my local Asian markets.  And now, is the prime season!  So, if you visit your local Asian market, see if you can find these gems!  The outside of the fruit is covered by a brown-red, slightly rough textured rind that is inedible but easily removed to expose a layer of sweet, slightly translucent and white flesh.

Love the Snow White flesh from the Lychee

There is a round, smooth and hard seed in the middle that’s also inedible (as shown in the picture below).

Love the Snow White flesh from the Lychee

And before you head over for the recipe below, I have a tip for you today.  I guess my memory is getting worse as I aged became more matured.  So, forgetting to put the martini glasses in the freezer before I make the cocktail is not surprising to anyone, anymore.  Good news is, I have this trick for you.  Simply fill your martini glasses with crushed ice, while you prepare the cocktail, works just as fine.  So, whether you’re as forgetful as I am, or you simply couldn't find any space in the freezer to chill your glasses (unfortunately, I’m also in this category), this tip is for you! 

How to Chill a cocktail Glass

For those of you with kiddos, whether your own kids or grand-kids, going back to school this Fall, I wish you a wonderful school year!  I hope you enjoy today’s recipe and tips.  Stay tuned for some “back to school” friendly recipes in the near future.

Lychee Martini (荔枝馬丁尼)

Please drink responsibly.  Health and General Disclaimers.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes (香橙雪芳蛋糕)

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes (香橙雪芳蛋糕)

Growing up in Hong Kong, I had my fair share of a very famous bakery’s chiffon cupcakes.  They were individually packaged and available in most supermarkets (yeah, I know, they were packaged cupcakes, not even freshly baked from a bakery!  What was I thinking, huh?)  Their orange flavor chiffon cakes were my favorites.  I couldn't recall how many times I had it for breakfast or as afternoon pick-me-ups, probably too many and too often.  But they were good, at least, I thought so when I was a kid.  I craved for this childhood favorite every now and then.  Of course, I won’t be flying back to Hong Kong any time soon just to ease my craving for a chiffon cake, worse, a packaged chiffon cake!   Fortunately, I can recreate this childhood favorite in my own kitchen now!  Plus, freshly baked chiffon cakes are better than packaged ones, yes I know better now! 

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes (香橙雪芳蛋糕)

A chiffon cake is a light  and fluffy cake usually made with vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, and flavorings.   To achieve the light and fluffy texture, the egg whites and egg yolks are separated.  The egg whites are whisked with sugar until stiff peak.  The egg yolks are incorporated with other ingredients, then a folding technique is used to combine the two into one batter before baking.  In my recipe, I used butter instead of vegetable oil for a richer flavor.  As always, I like my cupcakes not overly sweet.  However, my Kids do have a sweet tooth so I created an orange glaze just for them to drizzle on top for extra flavor and sweetness.   

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes (香橙雪芳蛋糕)

In case if you wonder, yes, I used the oranges from my In-Law’s garden.  They were super sweet and juicy.  I used both the orange zest, which was extremely fragrant, and the orange juice in these chiffon cupcakes.  These chiffon cupcakes will stay soft and fluffy for a few days….that is, if they last that long in your house.  Now, I don’t need to fly back to Hong Kong for the chiffon cakes, but I do wish I have any orange tree in my own garden!  

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes (香橙雪芳蛋糕)

Below is how the cupcake looks inside, soft, light, spongy and fluffy, which is exactly how a chiffon cake should be.  So, when you fold the egg whites into the egg yolk batter, make sure you do not deflate too much air from the egg whites.  Using a soft silicone spatula such as this one for the job will definitely help.  Also, I used these paper baking cups to make this batch.  Not only they are beautiful, but they are also very sturdy.  Unlike traditional baking cups, these stay in shape and keep their color even after baking, so they are perfect for parties and gatherings.  Plus, you don’t need a muffin pan when you use these baking cups.  I highly recommend them.  But then of course, you can always use the traditional cupcake pans and paper linings for these cupcakes, they will taste equally good. 

Note:  I won these paper baking cups from the giveaway at Carol’s beautiful blog not long ago.  Thank you again, Carol.

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes (香橙雪芳蛋糕)

I personally can’t decided if I like this Orange Chiffon Cupcake better with or without the orange glaze on top.  The glaze adds a little sweetness and more orange flavor as it’s packed with orange zest.  Guess I’ll have to do a little bit more taste tests before I can decide!  My Kiddos definitely love these cupcakes with the glaze, especially when I let them pour their own glaze on top of the cakes.   

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes (香橙雪芳蛋糕)

Do you have a childhood favorite treat that’s not available to you anymore?  Were you able to recreate it in your own kitchen like I did?  I would love to hear from you and maybe try your recipes too.   
Hope you enjoy today’s post and recipe.  Until next time…..

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes (香橙雪芳蛋糕)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream With Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream With Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts

You might still remember the heart shaped Nutella Macarons that I made a while ago and my confession for the love of Nutella from that post.  No?  Never mind. Because I've got something even bigger, and better.  A bigger confession, and a better recipe compared to the macarons.  If this Nutella Swirl Ice Cream With Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts is wrong, I don’t want to be right.  There, I said it.   My confession.  Why?  Because this ice cream is probably one of the best ice cream I've ever tasted, period!  Store bought or homemade, nothing can compare to this!  Even though if you’re not as crazy as I am for Nutella, I’m sure you’ll still be crazy for this ice cream.  That’s how good it is. 

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream With Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts

I used my favorite vanilla ice cream as the base, then, add swirls and swirls of creamy and nutty nutella into the mix while the ice cream is churning.  The Nutella slowly infused its flavor into the ice cream, yet, some remains as beautiful swirls throughout the ice cream.  Drooling yet?  Get a box of tissue paper ready because there’s more.  At the last minute of the churning, I added some Dark Chocolate covered Hazelnuts with Fleur de Sel into the mix, churn just until the hazelnuts are evenly distributed.

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream With Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts

Boy oh boy, that’s totally drool worthy, isn't it?  The Chocolate covered hazelnuts add a lovely crunch in this ice cream.  The nutty aroma of roasted hazelnut enhanced the flavor tremendously.  The slightly salty Fleur de Sel balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the ice cream and the Nutella.   Each spoonful is heavenly, the smooth and silky texture of the ice cream melt slowly in my mouth.  Made me want to close my eyes and enjoy this concoction slowly and savor each bite.  The flavor, the texture, the aroma, all so vivid on my palates and imprinted in my memories.  If there’s one dessert that I would dream about tonight, this would be it.

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream With Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts

Now, ready to join me in the kitchen to prepare this drool-worthy ice cream?  Follow me.

1) Heat the milk, sugar and salt until the mixture reaches a simmer.
2) With a paring knife, scrape off the seeds of the vanilla bean.
3) Place both the seeds and bean pod into the milk mixture, cover and let it steep off the heat for an hour.
4) In a heat proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks together.
5) Reheat the milk mixture.  While whisking, slowly add the re-heated milk mixture into the yolks.
6) Pour the egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan and cook the custard on low heat until thicken and coat the spatula.
7) Place a strainer on a large bowl with the cream.  Strain the custard into the cream.  Stir in vanilla extract and liqueur (if using). Cover and refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.
8) Churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  5 minutes before the churning is done, with a fork, add the Nutella into the churning ice cream in a slow steady stream, a tablespoon at a time.
9) Add the Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts right before churning is done. Enjoy the ice cream as is for a soft serve texture. Or, place ice cream in a freezer safe container overnight for a firmer texture.  Enjoy!


Pretty straight forward, right?  It really is.  I usually make a big batch of the chocolate covered hazelnuts and keep them available in the fridge.  They make a great snack and perfect when I need to churn up this ice cream.  Check out the most sexy ice cream on earth here, the Nutella Swirl Ice Cream With Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts!

The Most Sexy Ice Cream On Earth!

And the best part of photo shooting ice cream?  I have to act fast and get the job done before it’s all melted!  Then, I get the sweetest reward at the end, which is... I get to enjoy what I just shot!  

Eat Me!

Yes, that fast, and it’s totally awesome!  This ice cream is absolutely my latest guilty pleasure of all time.  Do you have a guilty pleasure treat that you simply couldn’t resist?  Either homemade treats or store bought ones? I would love to know what they are, so please share.  Stay cool and have fun churning!

I Obeyed!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What We Did This Summer….

I can’t believe Summer is almost coming to an end, well, almost!  We still have less than 2 weeks left before school starts.  Of course, we’ll continue to make the most out of it.  So far, we had a blast, a little drama, a few tears, an E.R. visit, lots of laughter, lots of food, and lots of fun.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  So, I’ll show you some pictures and less talking in this post.  Please excuse the quality of the pictures as most of them were taken with my Android phone.   

The Kids took a swimming class this summer.  It’s offered by the local YMCA.  Let’s just say, there are still a lot to learn and practice!

You Jump, I Jump...we all jump into the Pool!

We visit the library and the parks quite often, both the regular parks, and theme parks.  This is my Baby Girl with Duffy at Disney's California Advanture.  Aren’t they both adorable?  So cuddly!  But I feel bad for that guy in that furry outfit when it’s 90+ degree F outside!

Baby Girl with Duffy

We went to the Orange County Fair, it was fun but the tickets for the rides were quite expensive.  We started off visiting the barn and farm animals.  Picture below is my Little Boy with the Moo Moo Cow.

Moo Moo Cow

This picture below was taken from the top of the Ferris Wheel Ride at the Fair.

OC View from Farris Wheel

I used to love crazy rides like this one (see picture below), key words here are “used to”.  Guess I’m getting old and can’t bear too much excitement from these crazy rides anymore.  Do you love crazy rides like this?  I feel dizzy just by looking at it now.

Crazy Ride at OC Fair

Of course, you’ve got to enjoy some 'Fair-Food' when you are there!  What’s your favorite 'Fair-food' to have?  Funnel cake is definitely on top of my list. 

Fair Food

If you follow me on Instagram here, you might remember this picture below with the “Sea of Turkey Legs”!  What a magnificent sight!

Ocean of Turkey Legs

We also went to the Orange City Night Out Event organized by the City’s Polices Department.  It was pretty fun.  We enjoyed some free food, some games for the Kids, talent show, and I even won a free dinner at a local restaurant from the drawing!

Orange City Night Out Event

The highlight of the event would be the K-9 performance.  They are super smart!

K-9:  I do bite!

Unfortunately, we also visited the E.R.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to stay long before we were discharged.  It was more of a precaution than anything else.  Don’t worry, we are all fine now.  It was just a minor accident at the playground.  But I have to say, this is a top notch hospital, from equipment to customer service!  The Kids were even offered Lego, coloring pages, stickers, and so on while we waited.  I felt like I was in a 5-star hotel more so than in an E.R.!


Still remember my cherry tomato plants?  There are so many tomatoes now.  But somehow, they were taking so long to ripen this year.  Did that happen to you too?  Or is it just me, again? They stay green and orange for the longest time, I swear!

Cherry Tomatoes

The good thing is, they are worth the wait!

Little Harvest

These Cherry Tomatoes are super juicy and super sweet.  We've been harvesting 5 to 10 tomatoes a day.  Most of them went to my Baby’s Girl’s tummy as these are her favorites.  I’ll share a recipe using these tomatoes if I get enough of them in a day.

Little Harvest

Last but not least, we've been out so often that we dine out more often too.  This little dumpling house is my Kids’ favorite.  We dine there so often.  But then, I realized I haven’t do a review for this restaurant yet.  So, stay tuned for the review.  I promise, I’ll show you lots of good food. 

I hope you’re enjoying your summer so far.  Any activities or event that you want to share?  I would love to hear what you did this summer too. 

Ding Tai Fung Dumpling House

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnut with Fleur de Sel

Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnut with Fleur de Sel

If you’re a dark chocolate lover, you’re in for a treat today.  Okay, basically, you can make these with milk chocolate, or white chocolate, if you like those over dark chocolate.  But I highly recommend that you give the dark chocolate version a try first.  A while ago, I shared a post and a video on how to peel hazelnut easily.  You can read more about that post by clicking here.  Or, simply click here to watch the video.  They will make your life much easier and happier if you’re as crazy about hazelnuts as I am.

Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnut with Fleur de Sel

These Dark Chocolate covered Hazelnuts with Fleur de Sel are simply amazing and super addictive.  Now you’re officially warned.  I keep these little gems in an air tight container in the fridge until I’m ready to pop them, one after another like no one’s business, or when I am watching Sophia the First with my Kids.  Okay, if you’re not sure who Sophia is, it’s perfectly fine.  I just needed something to cheer me up when I watch that same episode of Sophia by the 8945th times since the premier of the show this year.  I use 70% cocoa dark chocolate for dipping.  Please refer to this post, here, for tips and pictorial on how to temper chocolate.  As you can see, I topped these nuts with Fleur de Sel, one of my favorite ingredient to use in desserts to balanced out the sweetness.  

Fleur de Sel

Fleur de Sel ("Flower of salt" in French) is a hand-harvested sea salt collected by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans.  They are a little pricey compared to your daily kosher salt or table salt, but it worth every penny.  Plus, you only use a tiny little bit in a batch.  It adds a subtle crunch on top of the chocolate and the mild and smooth salty flavor is amazing with the smooth and slightly bitter dark chocolate.  Now, you see why they’re so addictive, right?

Note: you can get Fleur de Sel in most specialty bakery supply stores or click here to order yours online.

Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnut with Fleur de Sel

Besides popping them as is, I’ll share a recipe on my next post using these delectable little gems.  But for now, let me show you how to make them so you can start enjoying them as snacks before the next post is ready.

Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnut with Fleur de Sel

1) Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.

2) Then, have one of these chocolate dipping tool ready if you got one.  Click here for more details.  If you don’t have one, have a spoon and a fork ready.

3) Melt your chocolate, and let it cool slightly.  Add the toasted and cooled hazelnuts into the melted chocolate.

4) Give them a quick stir with a spoon to coat them evenly.  Then, use the dipping tool to fish the chocolate covered hazelnuts out.

5) Or use a fork and spoon to fish them out.  It works just as fine.

6) Place the chocolate covered hazelnuts on the prepare baking sheet with a little space between each one.  Sprinkle a little Fleur de Sel on each of them before the chocolate sets.  You can put the baking sheet in the refrigerator to speed up the process.  Usually 15 minutes will do.  Once the chocolate is harden, you can transfer them to an air tight container and keep in the fridge until ready to serve. 

pictorial Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnut with Fleur de Sel

The toasted hazelnuts are super crunchy and the well tempered chocolate adds another little crunch, then, melt in your mouth in no time.  The sweet, salty, and nutty combination will lead you craving for more.  I hope you enjoy today’s recipe, tips and pictorial.  Stay tuned for the next post to see how I use these little gems besides enjoying them as snacks. 

Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnut with Fleur de Sel

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Azuki (Red Bean) Ice Cream (紅豆雪糕)

Azuki (Red Bean) Ice Cream (紅豆雪糕)

As you can tell, I’ve been making ice cream left and right this summer!  Actually, I’ve been making ice cream all year round since I’ve got this baby!  It’s probably the most utilized kitchen tool right after my stand mixer.  Not sure if you’ve tried my Azuki Paste recipe just yet.  I’ve been making one batch right after another to keep the red bean paste inventory in-check so that I can prepare the Red Bean Ice Desserts and this Azuki Ice Cream (紅豆雪糕) anytime I want.

Azuki (Red Bean) Ice Cream (紅豆雪糕)

Besides the Matcha Ice Cream, Azuki Ice Cream was another must-get item when I visited the Asian supermarkets.  Noticed the past tense from the previous sentence?  Yes, that’s a thing in the past.  Now, I can make my own at home any time I crave for it.  Besides, I can control the quality of ingredients I use in the recipe and adjust the sweetness in it to suit my preference.  That’s the art and benefits of home cooking/churning.  Plus, my favorite Asian supermarket isn’t that close to where I live now.  So, making a batch of ice cream at home is way more fun than driving in L.A. traffic.  See, I think making homemade ice cream should be considered a “green act” because I can skip that trip to the grocery store, which translates to less driving.  Does it make sense?  No? Never minded, at least I've tried.

Azuki (Red Bean) Ice Cream (紅豆雪糕)

In this Azuki Ice Cream, I used my favorite vanilla ice cream as the base.   Then I simply stir in the cooked and cooled red bean paste right before churning.  It’s amazing how the red bean paste can transform the plain old vanilla ice cream into this rich, creamy, flavorful, and delectable concoction.  When the Azuki ice cream just finish churning, it has the soft serve texture.  If you want a firmer ice cream, simply transfer the ice cream into a freezer safe container and keep it in the freezer until it firms up.  Just keep in mind, the red bean will also firmed up a little after freezing.  I totally enjoy biting into the beans because the firmer texture contrasted well with the soft and creamy ice cream.  And the frozen red beans are slightly more starchy and icy than the creamy base.  That totally reminds me of the red bean Popsicle that I enjoyed so much as a kid. 

Azuki (Red Bean) Ice Cream (紅豆雪糕)

I hope you’re inspired to make some homemade ice cream this summer instead of driving to the store for a tub!  That’s totally good for the environment, and your tummy!  Stay cool and have fun churning.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Asian Summer Noodle With Dijon Sesame Dressing (夏の中華冷麵配芝麻芥末醬汁)

Asian Summer Noodle With Dijon Sesame Dressing (夏の中華冷麵配芝麻芥末醬汁)

It’s the middle of Summer and the temperature sure is keeping us hot!  Are you also getting high 90s degree (F) in your area like we do?  I often found myself craving for something cold for lunch and dinner.  Yet, I want something substantial that would keep me full and packed with energies.  So when I need to chase the kids at the park or play that extra 10 minutes of soccer, I don’t feel weak and hungry.  Or maybe it’s just me getting old, I feel that I’m out of breath after just 15 minutes of run.  Okay, walk is more like it, who am I kidding!?  Anyhow, I make pasta salad quite often in the summer.  But I found myself always go back to this Asian Summer Noodle With Dijon Sesame Dressing (夏の中華冷麵配芝麻芥末醬汁).  This truly is my family’s favorite lunch and dinner when the weather is too hot to have a bowl of steamed rice or hot noodle soup. 

Asian Summer Noodle With Dijon Sesame Dressing (夏の中華冷麵配芝麻芥末醬汁)

You might remember the Chicken Cold Noodle from my Little Girl’s birthday party (see picture below).  It’s basically the same idea of a cold noodle but with slightly different ingredients.  The version I made for the party has the same dressing and noodles, but I used slightly different toppings.  For the party, I used rotisserie chickens, Baby cucumbers, carrots and green onions.   

Asian Summer Noodle With Dijon Sesame Dressing (夏の中華冷麵配芝麻芥末醬汁)

The recipe that I’m sharing today (see picture below) includes ham, red/orange bell pepper, carrots, baby cucumbers, and green onions.  I garnish it with a couple of bird’s eye chilies that I crafted into flowers blossoms.  This chili is extremely hot so if you don’t like spicy food, you can omit that.  But you can always use a milder chili and make the same garnish if you’re serving it at parties and gatherings.  I omitted the bell peppers in the noodles I made for the party because some guests are allergic to them.  But the bell peppers really adds a nice crunch and sweetness to this dish.  So, if you are okay with the bell peppers, use them!

Asian Summer Noodle With Dijon Sesame Dressing (夏の中華冷麵配芝麻芥末醬汁)

Want to see how I prepare this refreshing and scrumptious Asian Summer Noodle?  Follow me to the kitchen.

For this Asian Summer Noodle recipe, the main ingredient of course is the noodle.  I used this fresh spaghetti noodle (see picture below) that I bought from the Chinese supermarket.  I know, I think my local Chinese market is getting very diversified!  I totally love that!  You can also use any fresh egg noodles you have on hand.  I love this particular one because the texture is wonderful.  It remains “bouncy” and el dente even after chilling in the fridge overnight without turning starchy.  Maybe I’m picky?  But I really dislike starchy noodles.  If you’ve ever tasted some chilled white rice straight from the fridge, you know what I’m taking about.  Yeah, I don’t recall how I got that experience to begin with, but I did.  So, using fresh noodles is very important for this recipe.  It’ll make a difference.  This is a two pound bag noodle and my recipe only calls for one pound.  You can keep the unused portion in a freezer bag and only defrost it in the fridge overnight before use.  They will be as nice as fresh.   

Fresh Spaghetti

Now, onto the garnish, the curled green onions and chili blossoms.  This is a trick that I learned as kid, watching my parents cook.  I was so fascinated by how the ingredients transformed themselves with just a simple trick. 

1) First cut the green onions into 2 inches sections.  Then, thinly slice them vertically.
2) Split the chili vertically and carefully into 5 or 6 sections, depending on the size.  The bigger the chili, the more number of incision you can make.
3) Soak the cut up chili in a small bowl of iced water and watch the “blossom” opens up one by one right before your eyes.  Speaking of eyes, no matter what happens, don’t rub your eyes after you’ve handled the chili.  Especially if you have forgotten to use a pair of glove, like me!  Oh my!
4) Soak the green onions in a separate bowl of iced water.  They will curl up in no time.  By he way, the darker part of the green onion will curl up better than the white part, and they are milder in taste compare to the white and light green parts.  So, use the whole green onion and don’t waste any piece! 

Pretty easy, isn’t it?  Now, you can make your own edible garnish at home easily.   Not only they are pretty to look at, they add lots of flavors to the dish as well.

Pictorial for Garnish

Let’s move on to the dressing.  This dressing couldn’t be more easy to prepare, yet packed with wonderful and complex flavors.  Here’s how I made it.

I) First, place the toasted sesame seeds in a small food processor.
II) Process the sesame seeds alone until it’s powdery.
III) Add the rest of the ingredients (see recipe below) into the food processor.
IV) Blend until everything is smooth.  And that’s it.  Keep the dressing in the fridge until ready to serve.

Since my kids love this noodle, I keep the dressing on the milder side and only used 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  But if you love a little more kick, by all means add another teaspoon of Dijon mustard or whatever amount you preferred.  Just taste the dressing along the way and adjust it to your own liking.  Add a little at a time because you can always add more, but you can’t remove an ingredient from the mix.  

Note:  Please click here to see the bottle of the Japanese Mayo that I used.

Pictorial for Dressing

Now, onto the main ingredients.  Here’s how I prepared them.

A) Julienned the cucumbers, bell peppers and carrots and keep them separated.  I cut all of them in approximately 2-inch length. Set aside.
B) Prepare a large bowl of ice water and have it close by.
C) In a large sauce pan, bring the water to a boil.  Blanch the carrots for a minute or two until crisp tender, depending on the thickness.
D) With a slotted spoon, remove the carrots into the prepared bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
E) Place the carrots onto a clean kitchen paper towel and gently pat them dry.  Set aside.
F) In the same pot of hot water, let the water return to a boil.  Cook the noodles until el dente, according to the package’s instructions.  Mine were done in only 3 minutes.  Remember, fresh noodles cook a lot faster than dried ones.  When the noodles are done, drain them in a colander and pour iced water over the noodles to stop the cooking process.

Pictorial for Noodle

Last but not least, toss the noodles with the rest of the ingredients along with the dressing and enjoy.  Keep in mind, the noodle taste even better when it’s well chilled.  So, they actually taste better the next day.  The Dijon and Sesame Dressing is truly amazing.  It’s fragrant and very flavorful.  The light soy sauce (生抽)gives the dressing the depth and complex of flavors.  Remember to use the light soy sauce and not the dark one.  The dark soy sauce (老抽) is less salty, thicker and much darker in color compared to the light soy sauce.  I usually use the dark one for marinade only or when I need a deeper color in a dish.  Most Chinese supermarkets carry both, so make sure you get the right one.  Quite often, I only see the “light” soy sauce in American market. 

Asian Summer Noodle With Dijon Sesame Dressing (夏の中華冷麵配芝麻芥末醬汁)

This recipe is perfect for summer parties and gatherings.  Be prepared that your guests will all ask you for the recipe after they’ve tried it.  One last tip before you go, if you’re serving this for parties, make it a day ahead of time.  But instead of tossing all ingredients together.  Do what I did.  Spread the cooked noodles on a large plate or platter, then place all the ingredients around the plate in sections as shown in the picture below.  Place the green onions and chili blossom in the middle, then cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.  That makes a more beautiful presentation.  Place the dressing in a bowl, covered and keep refrigerated.  For the party, I doubled the whole recipe.  Also, I serve the dressing on the side for the guests to drizzle as much or as little as they want. 

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try because I know you’re going to love it as much as my family does.  Stay cool and happy cooking!

Asian Summer Noodle With Dijon Sesame Dressing (夏の中華冷麵配芝麻芥末醬汁)