Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bees and Pumpkin [Pumpkin Truffles]

Letters appear across the screen as my fingers tap at the keyboard. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a shadow darting around. I take a look and notice a large bee crawling around the entrance to the hive. Several more bees fly in and out of the hive. A few fall down and their tiny insects legs struggle to crawl across the ground. Their wings flutter, but it does not carry them in the air. The end is near, my friends.

If you're questioning why I am heartless and destroying pollen loving insects, the bees decided to make a home out of my house walls. Yes, in between my walls. If I put my ears against the wall, I can hear low buzzing and chewing noises.

I intended to make this post Thanksgiving related, but life happens and you get to hear about it instead. I never heard about Pumpkin Truffles until I read Blunder Construction's post. The idea of a pumpkin pie in truffle form was ingenious and I ran with the idea. I added some twists that I read from Eat the Love's pumpkin pie post. I loved his idea of cooking down the pumpkin puree to intensify the flavor and adding caramel to add another layer of complexity.

I had the boyfriend bring these treats to share with his coworker. They loved the initial crack from the dark chocolate outer layer with a creamy ginger pumpkin center.

Pumpkin Truffles

Note: (1) The ginger flavor is pretty pronounced. If you aren't a fan of ginger, reduce it to 3/4 tsp. (2) If you prefer sweeter chocolate, use 2 cups chocolate chips + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to coat the truffles.

Servings 28 to 30

1 cup (220g) pumpkin puree
6 sheets (99g) graham crackers
1/2 cup (50g) sliced almonds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp vanilla
dash of nutmeg

1/4 cup (50g) sugar
2 TBSP heavy cream
1/8 tsp salt

150g dark chocolate

  1. In a skillet, cook pumpkin puree over medium low heat for 7 to 10 minutes. Stir frequently and stop when the puree has reduced by half and the color has darkened. Transfer the puree to a clean bowl.
  2. To the pumpkin puree, stir in cinnamon, ginger, vanilla extract, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. Microwave whipping cream for 10 - 15 seconds to warm it up.
  4. In a pot, over medium heat add sugar. Watch the sugar. When it first turns into amber, turn the heat off and let the residual heat heat continue cooking the sugar. When it stops turning color, return to the stove top to slowly heat it up again. Stop when it's a dark chestnut brown and it's smoking. Once the desired color is achieved, add heavy cream. Continue stirring as you pour the cream in. If caramel hardens, turn the heat on low and stir until smooth.
  5. Mix the hot caramel into the pumpkin puree. 
  6. In a food processor, process the crackers until it's a fine powder. Set aside 2 tablespoons for garnish. Do the same with the almonds, process it into a fine powder. Mix both together in a bowl.
  7. Add the pumpkin mixture into the dry powder and mix well.
  8. Form 1 teaspoon sized balls with your hands and placed on a cookie sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper. Cover with saran wrap and allow it firm up in the freezer for a couple of hours.
  9. Melt chocolate over a double boiler. When nearly melted, take the bowl of the heat and let the residual heat melt the rest. Drop a pumpkin ball into the chocolate and use a fork to pick it up so all the excess chocolate drips away.
  10. Place on parchment paper, garnish with reserved graham cracker crumbs, and allow it to cool. Store in fridge. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 + A Simple Pasta Dish to use up Leftover Turkey [Turkey Pesto Linguine]

With both kitchen doors closed, I turned on the heater and let the warm air wake me up in the gloomy kitchen on Thanksgiving Day. I didn't mind waking up early to make my Boston Cream Pie. I started with the pastry cream, followed by the sponge cakes. While the cakes were baking, I moved a table next to the window in the living room to get what light I could from our cloudy SF morning to take photos of the pumpkin truffles I made last night. Mid session, a high pitched beep-beep distracted me. My timer. I ran from the living room to the kitchen to check on the cakes. Perfect: lightly browned and a flat surface. After getting the cakes on the cooling rack, I packed up six shiny round truffles, grabbed my purse, and ran out the door.

Thirty minutes later, I arrived at my boyfriend's work place and shoved the truffles into his hand. Rambled about how it's pumpkin and to ask his coworkers to taste test for me. He tried asking me some questions, but I cut him off and said I need to get going and finish my cake and mashed potatoes for dinner.

After I arrived home, I immediately made ganache and assembled the Boston Cream Pie. Peeling potatoes was my next task. I managed to get the potatoes in boiling water and set up my next photo shoot: a mini Boston cream pie. Done. Time to return to the kitchen and finish mincing shallots, and squeezing and zesting a lemon. Another beep went off and it's time to drain the potatoes. Done. Time to mash and add warm milk and butter. Fold in shallots and lemon juice and zest. Glancing over at the clock, I realized it was 4:30 PM and I didn't eat anything all day except for a cup of milk in the morning

Strangely enough, I didn't feel hungry. I felt relaxed and happy, because I created dishes that I was proud of. I love hectic days centered around preparing food for people that I love. Later that night, my family and I brought pumpkin truffles, a Boston cream pie, candied yams, and lemon shallot mashed potatoes to my Auntie's house. She had roasted turkey, a side of nuo mi fan, and crab salad waiting for us.

A confession: My favorite part about Thanksgiving Day isn't the actual dinner, but the next day when my mom makes jook (rice porridge) with the turkey carcass. Oh god, orgasm in mouth. Another way to use up leftover turkey is to make a simple and easy turkey pesto pasta dish.

Turkey Pesto Linguine

Note: You can easily replace ground turkey with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Simply shred 2 handfuls of turkey, add the seasonings, and heat it up in the skillet. Set aside and continue with Step #2.

Serves 1

2 handfuls of ground turkey
1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/4 tsp garlic powder
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp fish sauce

1 serving of linguine/spaghetti, cooked
4 to 5 handfuls of baby spinach, washed
3 to 4 TBSP pesto

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, place ground turkey in the skillet and flatten with a spatula. Wait 2 - 3 minutes until it's brown and crispy. Flip the turkey meat over onto the other side and wait another 3 to 4 minutes. When it is cooked thoroughly, break into smaller pieces with a spatula and transfer it to a bowl. 
  2. In the same skillet over low heat, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of pesto to warm up. 
  3. When it's sizzling and you can smell the pesto, add the spinach and pasta. Add the cooked turkey when the spinach is semi-cooked. Toss the ingredients together and serve. Garnish with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NYC recap [Hawthorn Tea Recipe]

Warning: This is a photo intense post. If you just want the recipe, scroll all the way to the end.

When I visited New York last month, I was on a foodie adventure. Forget about the sights, it was all about the food. Why visit landmarks when there is a chance that a food establishment might close before you're able to visit again? I did visit a couple of landmarks... Rockefeller Center, High line, Charging Bull...that's about it...However, my friends and I did enjoy second and third lunches and dinners. Oh, shopping was a part of our day as well.

View from On Top of the Rock

Rockefeller Center

Shaved Iced Shop: So light and fluffy with awesome toppings. Perfect on a  hot day at Hester Street Fair.

This is indeed crack. I ate it for breakfast and  I was in heaven. (Yes, it is super sweet, but the crust, filling, and texture went so well together that the sugar rush wasn't even an issue)

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

il laboratorio del gelato: mango

This was my 2nd dinner. I tried the wasabi tonkotsu ramen and the broth had a hint of wasabi...oooh sent me over the edge. The ramen could use some wasn't that chewy and the order wasn't piping hot.

Over-rated. Expensive and the pizza lacked the "wow" factor.

Nuts @ Times Square (get the pun?). Those nuts4nuts carts are crazy addictive. I LOVED the cashews. I bought some to nom at the airport.

Onya: I know you can't see the udon, but the fresh udon was chewy and full of flavor. SOOOOO goood. You see all the tempera crisps? yah, self-serve so I piled it on. 

Prosperity Dumplings: it doesn't look like much, but 5 potstickers for $1 tastes amazing. You can't complain about them when it's that cheap, yo. 

Mmmm....fresh takoyaki balls

High Line was gorgeous, but People's Pop made the visit even better.  I had the golden plum pop and it was full of plum-y goodness with hints of ginger and plum flesh. I NEED to go back to NY for some more of this!!

My friend ordered the grape shaved ice. (that's his hand over there). It was pretty interesting watching the guy scrape the ice from that ice block. 

One of the most memorable moments was eating at Xi'an noodles...the noodles were wonderful and everything the reviews says it is...but what stood out for me was their hawthorn tea. It tasted like hawflakes in liquid form. WTF. Mind blowing. (It's the equivelent of Startucks's apple pie in liquid form. Say what?) I fell in love. I had NO idea that hawthorn came dried and one could make a tea out of it, it became my mission to brew tea when I returned home.

HELLO noodles.

Typical asian plating, but the chewy noodles with the spicy cumin lamb sauce was a great combo. My tea on the upper left helped kill the tingling sensation from the spicy sauce. 

When I arrived back home, the first thing I did was drop by Chinatown to purchase dried hawthorn to brew tea.

The brand I use.

Dried Hawthorn for Tea.

Dried Longan
The Tea. P.S. Please excuse my dirty window in the back ground

Hawthorn Tea (sweetened with longan)

Note: This version is much tarter and less sweet than the store version, but I prefer it that way. If you prefer it sweeter, add some rock sugar. The great thing about making Chinese teas is that you can eyeball everything, but I did weigh out ingredients for those that work better with exact numbers (and I just wanted an excuse to use my scale).

Serves 1

2 1/2 cups water
25g or 1/2 cup or 2 small handfuls of dried hawthorn
30g or 1/4 cup or 1 handful of dried longan

  1. Boil water in a pot.
  2. While water is boiling, rinse  hawthorn and longan a few times and let it soak in water for 10 minutes. Rinse again.
  3. When the water is boiling, add the drained ingredients into the pot. Turn down the heat and allow it simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. When finished, it should be lightly sweetened by the longan. If you prefer it sweeter, add rock sugar. You can drink the beverage hot or cold.

Monday, November 14, 2011

If you can't eat it, practice your photography skills. [Pumpkin Bar Fail]

I've been gorging on junk food since my trip to NYC. In an attempt to eat "healthier," I thought that I would create a hearty pumpkin bar for breakfast. The results: bland, creamy, and dense bar with an odd texture. Epic fail. Since I couldn't let the food go to waste, I took some photos so the "bar" served some purpose during it's lifetime.

I find the stringy fibers of the pumpkin gorgeous.

Oooh, dead looking bars.

On the outside, you're hot....on the inside, you're ugly. Why? =(


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