Monday, January 24, 2011


One of my favorite snacks growing up was - like most other Asians - pocky. Since imports aren't cheap, it's become a special treat to enjoy the fancier varieties, like the matcha mousse flavor here:

These ones are often offered for a limited time only and are usually too pretty to eat. There are usually no more than four of these yummy batons in a bag, and each box only holds 3 to 4 bags - all the more reasons that these are savored rather than used for everyday consumption.

For that purpose, I highly recommend the strawberry yogurt flavour - slightly tangy and smell just like real strawberries - they make the perfect afternoon snack for a quick pick-me-up.

For the savory kind - Pretz is definitely the best. Pringles came out with a similar line of pretzel sticks in more westerner-friendly flavors like jalapeño but I still prefer plain old Pretz in the "salad" flavor.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

tea and scones

Another favorite recipe adapted from the Good Housekeeping Great Baking cookbook (a kitchen essential, in my opinion) is my tried and true orange cranberry scones - cream scones flavored with orange zest and studded with morsels of candied orange peel and dried cranberries.  I had substitued corn starch for part of the flour to give it a more crumbly texture and played around until I got the perfect porportions of fruits figured out.  I also tripled the recipe - because they always disappear so quickly - and also beause they freeze well.

A pastry blender comes in really handy when making scones.  It makes the process so much quicker in my opinion.  I still get my hand in there - but just to check for the right consistency.  Since my old one went missing mysteriously last summer, I invested in another one.

This is how I make my scones:

  • 5 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • zest of a medium orange (about 1/2 tablespoon)
  • 1 cup candied orange peel, chopped
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

  1. In large mixing bowl, stir to combine the flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  2. Cut pieces of cold butter into flour mixture until no lumps of butter remain and the mixture is crumbly in texture.
  3. Form a well in the middle of the flour mixture then add cream and eggs into the well.  Working outwards, slowly incorporate flour mixture into liquid until dough holds together.
  4. Stir in orange zest, candied orange peel and dried cranberries.
  5. With floured hands, divide dough evenly into 6 balls.  Place 2 on each baking sheet lined with parchment paper (best to leave about 2" space all around) then slightly flatten.  Brush cream over top then sprinkle generously with sugar. 
  6. Moisten blade of knife with cream then cut each round into 8 wedges.  Pull wedges apart to leave at least half an inch of space in between - otherwise when they rise they'll push against each other and the insides won't cook properly.
  7. Bake in oven preheated to 400 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes.  Check that the scones have enough space to grow after the first 10 minutes or so and seperate them if necessary.
  8. Serve warm - otherwise, let cool completely on wire racks and store in air-tight containers.  These can be frozen in a single layer and reheated in the toaster oven just before serving.

I enjoyed mine today with pu-erh tea (we Cantonese call it "bo lei") - a dark tea made from fermented tea leaves that is mellow and soothing especially in this cold weather.  A happy moment :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Glen Eden

Last night we went to Glen Eden rather than the originally-planned Horseshoe Valley Resort to snowboard because it was much closer - meaning less drive time and more play time.  It was also Feifei's first time skiing, so we didn't want to be too adventurous and Glen Eden was just big enough a mountain for her to conquer.  Night ski passes ran at $30 + taxes per person, unless you only want to stay on the beginner slopes on the other side of the road, which were short and very crowded.

The slopes were considerably smaller than Horseshoe Valley's and I absolutely loathe the lift-landings at Glen Eden - they are all really steep and really narrow, translating to a fall-off-the-lift ratio of about 9 in 10.

We still had fun though - we split off after a bit but it was the first time we got to go with my brother and probably one of the very few times that he would be able to come out and play.  I only got to snap a few shots with B though -


We made it home in about 30 minutes and there was hot pot waiting for us - it was the perfect ending to a perfect night of fun!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stone Grill: NEVER again!

To celebrate B's mom's birthday, we thought we'd treat her to something a little bit more fancy than the usual fare, and we had 60 dollars worth of gift certificates at Stone Grill that we've had for over a year that we could use up. We had been given these gift certificates last time we visited due to the hour long wait despite having made reservations prior. We didn't have to worry about the long wait time because it was a weekday. Armed with B's new GPS, we made our way downtown. It was cold and the streets were covered in snow. The lack of parking spaces at the restaurant meant we had to go over a huge pile of snow to get into our parking spot across the street.
The inside decor was the same as when we last visited - except it appeared more spacious since there were only several tables occupied. The waiter had let us choose the table, so we opted for a secluded area toward the back of the restaurant where we can see the kitchen. As the waiter was walking back toward the kitchen after we were seated and B surrendered the gift certificates to him, I saw the chef grimace - probably in response to some gesture the waiter was marking - and held up his middle finger. That wasn't a nice thing to see, regardless at what or whom it was directed to.

The menu was definitely different from what we remembered, and it was confirmed by our waiter that the menu had indeed been updated a few times. We had asked the waiter for recommendations, who suggested that the portion size would not be big enough for sharing - consistent with what we remembered from last time. So we ordered a few appetizers to share and for our entrée we each ordered a meat combination (or seafood combination in my case). I'd have to say the beef carpaccio was the best plate by far, the tender meat accented by fragrant parmasan shavings, bitter arugula, crunchy pine nuts and a sauce that was sweet and tangy. The raw sea scallop ceviche didn't taste as good as it looks, and the mushrooms to be cooked on the hot stone were scant considering the price tag.

The main dishes looked impressive - but stone-grilling wasn't quite practical because there were just too much meat and too little cooking surface. The bison rib-eye was amazingly tender and juicy, but I can't say the same about the lean kangaroo meat. The texture was rough and the flavor was mild, although there was a unique almost-buttery taste to it. I found the venison too gamey and I'd much rather prefer the tenderloin and the striploin. The wild boar, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise - it was tender and juicy - and it doesn't have that porky taste. The tuna was quite disappointing, as were the scallops. The tiger shrimps and the swordfish was delicious though. So was the lamb. But none of it came from the chef - so to speak - because everything was presented in their natural flavors: there were no seasoning or spices other than some sea salt on any of the meats and only a few slices of lemon for the fish. The food wasn't as great as we had remembered it. There was so much meat that we all felt gross by the end of it, and there was a lot of leftovers.

Then another unpleasant surprise came - after we asked for the bill, the waiter came back to tell us that the gift certificates we had give him were part of a promotion that had ended a year ago and thus are not valid. Instead, the boss was willing to offer a drink on the house. We confronted the waiter - first off, there weren't any expiry dates on the gift certificates and there were no terms nor conditions printed anywhere on them. Plus, these gift certificates weren't part of any promotions - they were more of a consolation to compensate for the horrible experience we had last time. Moreover, we had surrendered the gift certificates to the waiter when we were first seated - he could have informed us right away that they weren't valid rather than waiting until we were ready to pay. We stood firm and the waiter finally gave in after a supposedly lengthy conversation with the owner on the phone. I think he must have overheard our discussion and realized his tips was in jeopardy. We ignored his snide comments about the year-old gift certificates and left with not exactly the happiest mood.

The meal costed quite a hefty sum even after the gift certificates. But the worst didn't come until later that night - when we got so sick that B couldn't sleep until the early morn, making runs to the bathroom. For the mediocore food and horrible service, it just wasn't worth money and the drive downtown. I know they say "never say never" - but we're sure that we'll never visit Stone Grill again.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Shopping Trip and Sushi Dinner

Mom told me about a good sale Gap has put out, so my coworker and I decided to make it a girl's night out :)  We went to Square One after work and luckily the drive wasn't too bad so we had plenty of time - and we each scored some really good deals!  I picked up some really nice sweaters (a cream cowl neck and a pink v-neck cashmere blend) and an interesting gray top, and we both got the same navy blue skirt printed all over with red squares.  All for under $60!!  Walking around the mall was a pretty good work out though, and soon we were famished.

 We had decided to go to JJ for dinner since she was in the mood for Japanese food.  I've only been to JJ for lunch since my old workplace was literally right behind it - we used to walk from our office through the stairs towards the back of the parking lot and get there in under a minute.  It was my first time there for dinner though.  And boy was I surprised!  This place was totally different from when we visited during the day.  It's like it's come alive or something.  Service was a little off though - there seemed to be a mix up and we had to wait for a table while others walked right in, then we were led to a squishy table near the entrance - but the hostess finally made good on her word and led us to a nice table right by the fireplace.

The menu was definitely new to me - I've only seen the lunch sets and wasn't aware of the variety of delicious offering on the dinner menu.  However, since we've been introduced to JJ's sister restaurant Spoon and Fork, which offers all-you-can-eat menus, this was a little steeper than I had expected.

But the food was yummy!!  We ordered several dishes to share because I saw the portion size seems to be much bigger than what they serve for lunch.  I only managed to take a picture of this tuna sushi pizza though - we were too hungry and the food was too yummy to remember about photo-shooting after that.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beautiful Eyes

My thoughtful future-sister-in-law got me the Naked Eye kit from Too Faced for Christmas - and I love it!!  I've been able to make use of this palette almost every single day - since the colors are mostly neutral, it goes with basically everything.

My favorite shade is the one in the middle - "satin sheets" - although I wear "pink cheeks" a lot too.  It's got an instant brightening effect that magically transform my look from chronically tired to wide awake and perky.

And now that I've experimented with these color combinations, I've been a little bit more adventurous with my makeup based on the concepts I had learned from the instruction cards included.  This kit is every girl's beauty must-have!

 And this is the perfect flirty pink to go with the naked eyes!