Monday, May 31, 2010

Yummy Weekend

Another yummy weekend - I got entrusted with the task for grocery-shopping and making dinner this Saturday while B was helping out his mom in the afternoon.  I saw these mangosteens on sale and I just could not resist picking some up.

I LOVE mangosteen, which has also been called the Queen of Fruits.  They never used to be availabe in these parts of the world until recently, and when we did find them, they were outrageously expensive.  These ones here were on special for less than 4 bucks a pound at Foody's (compared to the usual $6+), and even though they are small, they were simply delish.

We also had pretty strawberry meringues from Cake One - one bite and I was in heaven!  Granted, these were quite distant from the perfect macaroon (for one, these weren't filled) - but they were addictive nonetheless.  I could never stop at just one.

I also attempted a beef brisket stew with daikon radish and chives - it was a gruesomely long process where the beef brisket had to be boiled for 3+ hours with ginger, green onion, soya sauce, rice wine, Szechuan pepper, star anise and cinnamon bark.  Chunks of daikon radish were added in the final hour so they don't get overcooked to mush, and chives went in just before the stove is turned off.  But the efforts paid off - even B was impressed - and he doesn't get impressed often by my cooking attempts.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

To undo, or not to undo?

Knitting cables involves a lot a counting - counting stitches, counting rows - and counting is noy my strongest suit - so I lost count and ended up with weirdly elongated cables.  Well, at least they are symmetrical.  I don't know if I should continue on, and just pretend that the deviation from the pattern was intentional, or if I should unravel to fix my mistake...  what to do, what to do?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yummy BBQ

With the nice hot weather upon us my parents couldn't resist to fire up the grill already - these are pictures for Andy to drool over because he didn't make it home in time:

Even better than our local steakhouse :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Challenge: No Oven Allowed - Lemon Mascarpone Cake

It was another one of my dear coworkers' birthday coming Monday, but since we are not going to get to spend it together (unless they wanted to show up at work on Victoria Day, I know I don't), we had a little celebration today.

The weather was so nice yesterday though, which meant that our kitchen was already hot like an oven and turning on our actual oven would have caused us heat strokes.  So baking is not an option, but I still had to turn out a cake nice enough to be a present for my coworker, so I improvised.

I didn't want to make Tiramisu because I didn't have good quality dark chocolate on hand, but I remember a really nice cake from Metro that was made with lemon and mascarpone cheese.  I figured I could substitute the coffee with a lemon syrup and just leave out the chocolate and make it as if I was making tiramisu, and the cake turned out quite nice:

The lemon flavour went really well with the mascarpone cream, and the ladyfingers bursting with lemon syrup provided just the right tang and balanced out the richness of the cream.  The cake was really refreshing and perfect for summer - I am definitely going to make this again.

recipe submitted to

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

my obsession

I was never really into makeup and all that, but even as a kid, I had been fascinated with nail colors and all the other pretty things you could do with it.  Of course, being thrifty as I am, I have only played around with DIY nail art - salon manicures and pedicures are overpriced, and I can't stand sitting idle while my hands and feet are being worked on.  I did want to try gel nails, which was the newest trend when I went back to Hong Kong, and all those crystals and embellishments looked so yummy (the decals were in shapes of sweets and strawberries). My vacation time was limited though and there were so many friends and families to visit so I never got the chance to sit for a gel manicure.  Other than that, I enjoy trying out new colors on my nails in the comfort of my own home, and over the years I've ended up with quite a collection of nail colors:

But how could I pass up the sale when Rexall was having a "nail event" with everything 50% off?  So I ended up splurging a bit (OK, maybe a little bit more than a bit), and picked up several new colors from Nicole by O.P.I.  That's usually a brand I don't buy because it's about five times the price of what I usually pay, even though their color selection is quite attractive.  Now why would I spend 10 bucks on a bottle of nail polish when I can get a similar color for 2 bucks, knowing that I may not even use it more than twice?  But with this sale event, they became reasonably-priced, so I figured it's the best time to treat myself.

Compared to my usual brands, Nicole by O.P.I. was easy to apply - it goes on smoothly and only needed one coat to give a vibrant color.  It also dried quickly, which is another bonus.  So I guess you do get what you pay for, but I still can't justify spending 10 bucks on one nail polish and I'd rather get more variety with that same amount of money - can you?

Monday, May 17, 2010

our sunday date: iron man 2 and ruelo

We went to the movies this weekend and Iron Man 2 was entertaining, because I only took it at face value and enjoyed the visuals immensely.  B, on the other hand, thought the plot to be lacking, but he won't disagree that he'd had a good time too.

We also stopped by Ruelo Patisserie at Times Square in Richmond Hill.  We have heard great things about it – even named as a must-try by a fellow foodie who was studying to work in the food industry.  It was totally disappointing. The décor was simple and chic, but the cake display case was oriented to the narrow side of the store rather than the spacious front. The colorful macarons were squished in long and narrow dishes and the plates of desserts on the bottom could have used a better arrangment.

The much anticipated tasting of the macaron left me feeling cheated. Maybe I was biased, but I was expecting something better when I was paying over 2 bucks for a macaroon that disappeared in 2 bites. It was too soggy and chewy – not the light, airy, crunchy crust with a moist interior that I had fallen in love with.  It must have waited just a little too long in the refrigerated display case.  B had never tried a true macaron but he wasn't impressed neither.  We also got a "ruelo" - their signaure dessert with dark chocolate mousse, creme brulee and crispy praline.  I was enticed by the creme brulee, but I couldn't taste it because the dark chocolate mousse was so overpowering.  Granted it was a nice dessert, but it's nothing out of this world.  I guess I was expecting to be blown away but it had failed to do so.  Coffee was smooth and strong, just how I like it, but it was lukewarm and by the time I got to the last sip it was cold.  Overall, Ruelo’s treats were visually appetizing but way overpriced for the quality you get.  B even vowed to never go there again.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Triple-Cable Experiment

Done in Red Heart Collage in Blue Wave.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday = Games Night

We had soo much fun playing Carcasonne and Euchre - look at my killer euchre hand!! 

I hope we don't stop meeting up on Tuesdays!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day Weekend

Mother's Day fell on Sunday of this weekend, so there were lots to do - with his mom and mine.  I managed to get some much needed time for me too.  Friday night I finished a knitted strawberry keychain for B's mom, and started to knit another amigurumi. 

On Saturday, I finally got to get shopping done - as I had been hoping to do for at least a month - only to be burdened with that guilty feeling knowing I should really be saving $$$ right now.  But I found so really good deals, like a-jacket-in-a-pocket  from Old Navy, on clearence and an extra 50% off - it's perfect as a raincoat and it's under $7 tax in!  And a hoodie - I know I'm obsessed with hoodies with zipper-fronts but my fave hoodie was quite worn out and I found a nice pink one for only 10 bucks.  I guess it suits my shopping style anyway, diving straight to the sale section before anything else, and now that money's tight I am considering and reconsidering before I make the purchase, so what I picked up must be what I really  needed.  Or really really really wanted.

Saturday night we spent with B's mom - sort of - because we went to a dinner/show and didn't get seated together.  The food was only so-so - everything was only lukewarm when served, it being held in a big banquet hall.  The show was quite entertaining though, I guess because we didn't expect much from this Hong Kong actor that we could only recognize but not put a name to the face.

Sunday was for my mom - too bad B couldn't make it because we bought live oysters (his favorite) and clams and mussels - yummm.  We had an assembly line set up - Fei cleaned them up with, Andy dug the knife into the hinge of the oysters, and I cleaned and plated them.  We are experienced in oyster shucking, and I came away from shucking oysters unscathed, but ended up with two cuts when a mussel shell broke into pieces trying to pry it open.  We also made garlic toasts to go with the tender mussels cooked with garlic, onion, tomato and basil - turned out great despite not having any white wine on hand.  Shucking the littleneck clams, on the other hand, proved difficult - probably because we haven't done it as often.  Kenneth got this great idea to pop them into hot water first and it did make things easier, but some of them got cooked and as they get cooked they turn rubbery.  After much struggle we opened those too, and they were even sweeter than the oysters.  Next time we are definitely buying clams in addition to the oysters.

For dessert Fei bought these gorgeous cupcakes from the designer cookie topped with buttons that say "Happy Mother's Day".  They were almost too pretty to eat!

We weren't too fond of the buttercream, however, because it's too heavy and sweet.  Buttercream iced cupcakes aren't really suitable for Mom and Dad - I think they would have enjoyed something from a Chinese-style bakery more.  It was a nice thought though, and Mom is quite content with just looking at these adorable treats.

I did get to finish my weekend project:

and managed to start my first cable project too!

Friday, May 7, 2010

SPRiTz CooKiEs!!

It was a rainy day and I was left home alone (i.e. I had the whole kitchen to myself) I thought I'd take the opportunity to try out my new cookie press.  Again adapted from my favorite baking book Goodhousing Keeping Great Baking, I made my spritz cookies like this:

  1. Beat at high speed 2 cups softened unsalted butter with 1 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar until light and fluffy (color becomes pale).  Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.
  2. Add 1/2 cup cornstarch and 3 1/2 cup flour and mix at slow speed, just until dough sticks together.
  3. The dough seemed dry and crumbly, so I added a few teaspoons of half-and-half cream - dough should be smooth and have a slight sheen to it.
  4. Spoon batter into cookie press and piped dough onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Top center of each cookie with quarter of a maraschino cherry or half a pecan.
  5. Bake on the middle rack of a preheated oven, 335 degrees F for 8 minutes - I had to lower the temperature and shorten the time because I was using a darker nonstick pan and 350 degrees F for 12 minutes resulted in burnt cookies >.<
  6. Remove from pan with wide spatula to cool on wire rack, bag when completely cooled.
With the extra little bit of dough that didn't want to come out from the press towards the end, I rolled it into a rope and shaped it into letters, and those turned out beautifully too!

I loved the cookie press with its sleek design and ease of use, although it was quite tricky to get the perfect shape - and the heart did not come out looking like a heart.  Once I got the hang of it though, I was churning out beautiful cookies faster than I ever thought possible.  This cookie press was definitely a good $20 investment.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

zumba blues

Last night our Zumba class followed the new soundtrack - and I'm not lovin' it.  I'm not crazy about the new musics and the new movies - they're getting a little too funky for me.  And dangerous too, considering how crowded the studio was.  I'm starting to like Body Attack more than Zumba.

And soon there will be no more incentive to go to that particular Zumba class - Mish is cancelling her gym membership, and I'm considering doing the same.  It's an expense that I can probably live without now that summer is here and there's all these outdoor activities we can do for much much less.  I don't know.  I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes

Really really wanted to bake cookies last night to test out my new cookie press, but we ended up making mini lemon poppy cupcakes and trying to decorate them without using buttercream, which as we all know, is too sweet, too heavy, and too fattening.

We whipped it up really quickly because we had used a mix, and I'm not ashamed to use mixes even though I know it's better if I had done it from scratch.  Mixes make it that much easier - no thinking and measuring and planning required.  Less cleaning too, because mixes usually only require one mixing bowl to prep.

It's so much fun to spend some time just among girls and I can't wait to bake again - this time to make cookies with my cookie press - even though the kitchen is getting a little too hot to bear in these warm summer nights.

knitting strawberries

that's what I've been doing for the past few days, knitting away with my new dpn's.

Pattern from Pezdiva was found on Ravelry.

Monday, May 3, 2010

productive weekend?

Heart (crochet) for Mo-yi-yi~ I hope this will cheer her up!

And my whale that turned out to be two-faced >.<

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Zen Gardens

Since B's good friend is a vegetarian, the choices are quite limited when we'd like to meet up for dinner.  However, she's been raving about this place called Zen Gardens in Mississauga and would really like us to give it a try.   I live in Mississauga and I have never heard of this place, and here she is, a girl from Brampton, telling us about this wonderful restaurant.  I had doubts because B is a meat eater and I like my veggies, but I don't consider myself a vegetarian.

Boy, were we surprised!  The restaurant wasn't hard to find, although it is quite remote.  (Derry and Hwy. 10 isn't anywhere close to where we frequent - there really isn't anything much around there.)  I guess a Zen garden is supposed to be secluded.  The restaurant itself is very pretty - the decor was simple yet chic and elegant.

And the food - the food!  Close your eyes and your tastebuds would trick you to think what you are savoring on your palate is a tender piece of meat or a perfectly cooked bite of salmon.  Their Sweet & Sour Bites were even better than the original version made with ribs.  The only thing we didn't enjoy too much was the vegetable curry - the sauce was too thick and heavy and it just didn't measure up against the other dishes.

We didn't miss the meat at all, and while it's good for the stomach to skip the meat once in a while, it didn't dig too deep a hole in our wallets neither.  Usually anything claiming to be vegetarian or vegan comes with a hefty price tag as well, but Zen Gardens is reasonably priced.  On our way out, we noticed that one side of the restaurant is actually partitioned into a little shop for tea leaves and equipments.  It's a shame we didn't have enough time to browse through the store, but that's OK, because we are already planning our next visit.