Beach Day at Gloucester

Posted by on Aug 15, 2014 in Food Review, Massachusetts Eats | 0 comments

Hello hungry readers! If you guys are like me, you love the beach, so when my Aunt invited me to join them for a beach day in Gloucester, I was ecstatic to be able to finally pull out my sunglasses and bikini and head on up.

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After dreaming of the beach all throughout my long MCAT study days during the early part of this summer, I was mega pumped. I decided to bake a simple cheesecake to bring along as a surprise (recipe to come! ;)) And boy, was it the right decision. Who knew cheesecake and the beach go along so well with each other? We all loved it, and it kept well in the cooler. Topped with the strawberries my Aunt had brought along, it was a summer match made in heaven.

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After attempting and failing to body board in the freezing sea water, I spent the rest of my time leisurely flipping through The New Yorker and eating snacks while drying out. (In hindsight, I should’ve re-applied sunscreen here, as I got the worst burn EVER! Darn it. Sunscreen is important people! Nerd Jasmine would like to emphasize this. Nobody wants skin cancer. ) For lunch, we headed to this awesome place that served only fried seafood. Can’t go wrong with fried food!

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Here we have fried: clam, shrimp, clam strips, and scallops. Along with onion rings and french fries, it was a glorious fisherman’s plate. The scallops were my absolute favorite- sweet, juicy and tender on the inside, yet remarkably crisp on the outside. Can anyone say “healthy” though or what? Heehee.

It was a long long day, but full of fun and good times. It felt wonderful to take a day away from the city and have some good ol’ R&R. Hope you guys enjoyed this short little post, and hopefully there will be more beach-y experiences for me to share soon hohoho!

 

– Jas : )

Tertulia

Posted by on Aug 10, 2014 in New York Eats | 0 comments

 

NYC’s restaurant week ends this Friday, August 15th. With three course prix fixe meals of lunch ($25) and dinner ($38), it’s a great way to dine at expensive restaurants at an affordable price.  Of course, being the family of gluttons that we are, we hopped headfirst onto the bandwagon and made reservations at Tertulia — a Spanish tapas restaurant.

Now, I was personally pretty excited to try this place out. For those of you who love watching food-related shows, such as The Next Iron Chef or Chopped, then you may know that Tertulia’s chef and owner is Seamus Mullen — one of the three finalists of The Next Iron Chef and an occasional judge on Chopped. That means his food’s gotta be pretty amazing, right? Nothing less than spectacular, right? Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to try out his specialty of modern Spanish cuisine. Nothing was going to dampen my spirits. Nothing. Not even the NYC subway system being ridiculously annoying to navigate due to construction and closed lines.

Upon arriving (miraculously only a few minutes late considering how inefficient the subway was that day), the interior was very nicely furnished. Small tables and dim lighting lend to a more intimate atmosphere. Considering how it was still noon, I found that the windowed roof above the kitchen really helped to brighten the place up. I don’t mind close and intimate, but sometimes I just want bright and cheery. The interior design allowed for a little bit of both, which is all I ask for, and an open kitchen is always a plus in my book!

We ordered everything on the prix fixe menu, which worked out perfectly since there were three of us and three selections for each course. Except dessert. That flan had our names all over it.

Of the three appetizer choices, the Pan con Tomate & Jamón Serrano (toasted bread rubbed with tomato and 24-month cured Serrano ham) won our tastebuds over. Although it was a simple dish, basically toasted bread with prosciutto, the prosciutto was not overly salty at all. Our least favorite appetizer? The Tomato Watermelon Gazpacho. To be fair, it wasn’t that we didn’t like it, more that…we thought it was Thousand Island dressing served with the Ensalada del Dia. Served in a glass, we had expected the gazpacho to come in a bowl. It was only when the waitress came to clean up our dishes that I belatedly realized she asked if we were done with the gazpacho. Wait, what? Writing up this post, I’m still a little sad that we missed out. I’m sure it would’ve tasted delicious, but I continue to blame the way it was served. >.>

We also ordered Choclo: crispy hominy with pork belly, lime alioli, and cilantro. This was not a part of the prix fixe menu but it was definitely interesting. The hominy was really quite interesting. It kept us guessing (Is it corn? No, it tastes like maize?) and eating more to try and figure out exactly what it was. The pork belly added a nice change in texture and taste; the pieces were just small enough that it didn’t taste fatty at all.

Paella del Dia

Paella del Dia

For the entrees, everything was delicious…except for the paella. This came as a shocker to all of us. Usually, when you think of Spanish cuisine and tapas, you think paella. (Or are we just weird?) Deliciously cooked rice mixed in with various ingredients, generally seafood, and brought forth in a steaming platter of goodness.

Well, this paella — I’m honestly not even sure what kind it was — was dry…like it’d been sitting in the warmer since morning, simply waiting for its turn to be brought out to expectant patrons. There didn’t seem to be any ingredients in the paella itself, but it was topped with fresh greens and…potatoes. Their housemade ‘potato chips’ were certainly delicious, but adding starchy food on top of starchy food makes for a very starchy meal. Just stating the obvious here. Focusing on the paella itself, besides being dry and unappetizing, it was quite salty and dense.

Really, really disappointed with that dish.

Thankfully, the other two entrees made up for it spectacularly. The Lenguado a la Plancha (New York fluke seared on the plancha with saffron sungold tomatoes and salsa verde) was soft and buttery, served up the way fish should be. The Hamburguesa de Tertulia (smoked pat La Freida burger with cheddar and ñora pepper ketchup on an olive oil roll with housemade potato chips and pickled vegetables on the side) was cooked medium rare to perfection; the addition of the pickled vegetables added a refreshing tangy crunch to the hamburger. But what really stole the spotlight for the entire meal? The Pulpo a la Brasa. This also was not listed on the prix fixe menu but I am so glad we ordered it. The octopus was…wow, just, wow. So incredibly soft and tender, a blunt butter knife cut through it without a problem. The black polenta was an interesting addition; cooked up moist, yet not mushy, I wonder if the black color comes from squid ink.

IMAG0919Finally, dessert. For those of you who have stuck around with us, you may know that I think dessert is just as important, if not the most important course of a meal. It’s the last course, it’s the last thing you eat, it’s what you walk away from the meal with the freshest, most lasting impression. And my family? We love flan. Heck, Jas makes some great flan, so when it comes to flan…we’re kind of spoiled. This flan did not pass the Hwang family’s taste test.

The consistency was pretty firm, which I don’t mind, but I personally prefer my custard to well…have a custard-like texture. But what really threw me off was the aftertaste. Something was mixed into that flan, I hope unintentionally, which gave it an unpleasant aftertaste. Almost like the taste of dish soap.

Yea. That’s definitely no bueno.

Overall, Tertulia’s got some good things going for it. If you plan on dining there, definitely get the seafood. I would totally go back, even if it’s just for the Pulpa a la Brasa.

~AJ~
Photographs taken and provided by AnnMarie Hwang

Tertulia
359 Sixth Ave. (6 Av/Washington Pl)
Manhattan, NY 10014
phone: 646-559-9909
websitewww.tertulianyc.com

Jasmine Eats Cambridge: Commonwealth Restaurant and Market

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 in Food Review, Massachusetts Eats | 0 comments

Hello wonderful foodsters! In case you all did not know already, I’m currently living in Boston for the summer. And what better way to spend my free time than exploring the beautiful city and checking out all the great restaurants this area has to offer? So I decided to start this new series: Massachusetts Eats, where I’ll share any yummy reviews I have of places I’ve been in Boston, Cambridge, or any of the surrounding Massachusetts area. I hope you guys will enjoy going along with me and my stomach for the ride :)

Now I dunno about you guys, but I LOVE seafood. Especially the raw stuff, like oysters and sashimi. Being new to the area, the Commonwealth Restaurant and Market was the first place my Aunt and Uncle living here brought me to, and already I’ve returned again and again. Why? Because every Sunday they offer $1 oysters (steal!!) that are locally caught and oh so fresh and delicious. Nothing hits the spot like slurping down a dozen oysters with freshly squeezed lemon and sauce on top.

Oysters

Other than the oysters, they also have pretty good brunch food, with large portion sizes at decent prices. Although everything is pretty yummy, it’s definitely the oysters that keep me coming back. They also have a pretty large drink selection and a nice bar seating area, but the drinks, albeit delicious, are pretty pricey considering the amount you get. All in all though, this restaurant has a very hip young atmosphere, and is definitely a great chill place to bring your friends during the weekends. Highly recommend you all to check it out given the chance!

Chilaquile (I believe)

Common Wealth Restaurant and Market
11 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge, MA, 02142
Tel: (617)945-7030

– Jas : )

Copy Me That: Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies!

Posted by on Jul 26, 2014 in Recipe | 0 comments

IMAG0130Have you ever spent hours searching for a recipe that you had previously saved?

After doing some major, and I mean major, reorganizing of my photos, I realized there was something equally important that I should also organize — my recipes. No, I don’t mean the (somewhat questionable) recipes that I’ve come up with…well, I do, but I mostly mean the amazing recipes I randomly come across and decide to save to try out later. 

It started out with marking up magazines and recipe books. I would tag them up with colorful post-it tabs and then I would have to go through every book and magazine later on, flipping through all the marked pages, searching for that one specific recipe. God forbid I forgot to put a tab on it. So I decided to keep a folder instead, then a notebook…and finally a binder. These quickly filled up with notes and copied recipes until I belatedly realized that the process hadn’t changed. I was still going nuts looking through everything for that one recipe.

And then I discovered bookmarks on the internet. Whoa. It was like a whole new world had just opened up to me. (Yea, I’m a bit slow when it comes to technology. But that’s besides the point!) Now I could save every single recipe I came across, and oh, I came across quite a few thanks to the interwebs, in one handy dandy folder. Now when I wanted to find a recipe I just had to squint and look through my list of bookmarks…unless I couldn’t find it, then I’d look through every single bookmarks folder hoping I’d saved it somewhere else by accident instead of forgetting altogether. In hindsight, sometimes it may have saved me time to just Google. >.>;;

Why did I just share that very long-winded story about how organized, yet unorganized, I am? Because I was recently introduced to Copy Me That, and I love it. You people out there. Yes, you sentient beings who are currently reading this babble of nonsense. If you are like me and have been plagued by the I-must-bookmark-every-amazing-recipe-I-come-across symptom only to then be tortured by the crap-where-did-it-go disease, you will adore Copy Me That. The interface is clean but cute, and it is quick and easy to use. Most importantly? It’s free.

Basically, Copy Me That allows you to copy recipes from any website and save it. You can also edit the recipe with your own preferences and changes, an option that I really like having. Another feature that I like is how you can check off any recipe in your recipe box and generate a shopping list of groceries needed. Very handy! I like it so much, that I’ve slowly been migrating my bookmarks folder over. In fact, you can eventually find all of our Snacktime Munchies recipes over on Copy Me That; just follow us here!

But this post isn’t just about gushing over my latest internet crush. I am quite proud to say that while I was -ahem- organizing my bookmarks and photos, I found a recipe that I had not yet shared. Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies. And honestly? These cookies are so good that I am quite ashamed of myself for not sharing it sooner.

Let’s fix that, shall we?

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

Mix the flour, sugar, and tea together.

IMAG0128Note on the tea: I wanted my tea to be a fine powder so I used a spice/coffee grinder and then sifted it. If you have a mortar and pestle lying around somewhere, put that elbow grease to work! If none of these are at your disposal, I’d recommend using tea from a tea bag as the tea has already been ground somewhat.

Add the vanilla and butter. Mix until the dough is ‘pebbly’, then knead together until a dough is formed. Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log, about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap it up, don’t forget to twist the ends of the plastic wrap to keep the dough from drying out, and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes until the dough is firm to the touch. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the log into 1/3 inch thick disks. (As you can see, my cookies didn’t quite come out circular as I cut them while the dough was still a bit too soft.) Line your baking sheet with parchment paper; place cookies at least 1 1/2 – 2 inches apart from each other as they will spread a bit. Bake until the edges are beginning to turn a golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy~!

By the way, have you been wondering what those delicious looking green cookies on the top tier are? Check out my Matcha Shortbread Cookies recipe! Both of these cookies are ‘icebox’ cookies so they’re terrific to make beforehand as you can keep the pre-made dough in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to slice them up for baking.

~AJ~
Photographs taken and provided by AnnMarie Hwang

Blueberry Muffins

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Recipe | 3 comments

Blueberry Muffins

Hi everyone! I recently made these pretty little muffins for our July 4th BBQ, and they came out moist and delicious. These are so easy to make, and fun to modify. I cut the sugar by 1/3 cup since some of the elders have high blood sugar levels, and the sweetness was still perfect for me. Also added a bit of lime zest since I didn’t have any orange juice on hand. The hint of citrus flavor makes a huge difference I think, but I would still prefer orange juice in the future. Hope you guys can try out this recipe, and definitely let me know how it goes!

Also wanted to give you all a heads up that I’m currently in Boston for the summer, so look forward to a lot more posts as well as exciting reviews on yummy eats I find here~will get the Boston series started soon! And here’s a completely unedited picture of the muffins, so you can get a better sense of the coloration and everything. I’m so happy with how the liners coordinate so well with the blueberries, teehee. Now on to the recipe:

Blueberry Muffins

 

Ingredients
375F, 25-30 min. Makes 12

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, soft
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • orange/lemon zest, orange juice

Preheat the oven and get the muffin tins ready. Cream butter till smooth, then mix in the sugar and incorporate. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt and mix. In a separate bowl, mash 3/4 of the blueberries with a fork and add into the batter. Then add 1/2 the flour, mix, 1/2 the milk, and alternate until all added in. Fold in the remaining blueberries by hand. In separate bowl, mix 2 tbsp sugar with cinnamon (or just use cinnamon sugar if you have it). Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle on the magic touch-cinnamon sugar, and bake. Let cool and enjoy! Delicious warm and fluffy, or even for breakfast the next day.

 

– Jas :)

Photographs taken by Jasmine Hwang

We’re Back!…Again!

Posted by on Jul 11, 2014 in Miscellaneous | 1 comment

It’s been a while since we last posted…Yep, we’re still alive and kickin’. You just can’t get rid of us, can you? ;)

Well, I’m sure none of you are terribly surprised. It’s certainly not the first time that we’ve vanished for weeks on end only to pop back out from under a rock and say ‘Hello, world! We’re still alive!’ For those of you who’ve stuck around, all I can say is…either you’re nuts or you forgot you were subscribed to us. Which, in that case, haha, surprise! Guess who’s back to occasionally poke your inbox with random newsletters?

Psst, if you’re not subscribed yet, what are you waiting for? Sign your soul away by filling out the form below (or you can find it in our sidebar) and we promise to shower you with endless amounts of uhm — Something really special.

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You may have noticed our spiffy new theme. Check out the sliding Featured Photos on the Home page! Snazzy, right? We had something similar implemented in our previous theme but this one…this one is just so much nicer. Everything’s sleek, shiny, and just wow. Even the fact that we had lost more than half our photos when switching themes, which resulted in my spending weeks painstakingly replacing those photos to their proper post locations, has paid off for the current end result. Yea, we love you too. It’s why we do this.

(Huge thank you to my awesome friend, Teman Cooke, for suggesting this spectacular theme! I spent a lot of time digging through various options but this one took the cake. Check out his equally amazing blog, T.H. Cooke: A Study in Contradictions. He recently published a must-read novel, To the Water, We Are Gods, which I’m sure you’ll all love.)

After spending some more time fiddling with the theme until it was just so, I realized I had no idea where my photos of particular things were. How am I supposed to write posts when I can’t find the proper pictures to go along with it? I can’t write about crazy delicious takoyaki without a picture of said takoyaki. Where’s the fun in reading a recipe about my latest cheesecake masterpiece when you can’t inappropriately ogle that particular cheesecake? Of course, this meant another week or so of organizing my massive collection of photos — photos full of food and places that we promised to blog about but have yet to cover. Photos of recipes, from success stories to miserable failures that I’m too ashamed to share…Erf. >.>

With my pictures organized to perfection, I ran out of excuses not to post. But really, each new season on cable seems to bring better and better shows. Watch the first episode and save the rest for later? Impossible. Catch up to the latest episode of a dozen hot dramas through sleepless marathons? Been there, done that, and now officially out of excuses. I even counted the days since our last post, which brings us…here.

It’s not that I don’t want to write and bore you all with my endless babble. It’s more along the lines that there are so many things I want to share with you all that I don’t really know where to start.

Since I don’t know where to start, why not an overview of everything instead? So here’s a quick synopsis of where we’ve been in the last few years. Some of which we’ve already covered, some which we didn’t fully touch on, and some we failed to mention at all. Till now.


2010: Taiwan & Japan – This is really what started it all. Bored one night while in Taiwan, we decided ‘Why not make a food blog? Then we’d actually have a reason to take pictures of our food instead of looking like wannabe foodies.’ Check out our ‘Eating like an Emperor – in Taiwan’ category for our posts covering all the delicious (and decidedly strange) foods from our parents’ motherland. Or, ‘Itadakimasu Japan!’ to follow us through Hokkaido. 

2011: London & Canada – Thanks to Jas’ insane planning skills, we managed to cross off pretty much everything on our sightseeing list while in London. Our short trip to Canada was also surprisingly fun. Check out ‘London Eats’ and ‘Canada Eats’ for our food-ventures.

2012: Bermuda – Who doesn’t love a cruise to the Caribbean? The endless ocean, the warm rays of sunshine, the convenience of 24 hour buffets a quick elevator ride away. Obviously the lazy relaxation of vacation in the sun and fun at the beach stayed with us because we never got around to writing much. It may be because we spent too much time lazing about and forgot to take pictures of what we put in our mouths…

2013: Germany & Japan – This is where things get interesting. While Jas studied abroad in Japan for a semester, I studied abroad in Germany for the summer. Check out Jas’ blog, ‘Jasmine + Japan’, for a sneak peek of her time in Japan. Maybe she’ll grace us with more posts? Let’s hope. As for Germany? Stay tuned.

2014: Japan & Boston – Right after Jas got back from her semester in Japan, I went for a quick vacation with some friends. We apparently love Japan. And then we tossed Jas in Boston to fend for herself. Girl’s gotta grow up sometime, right?


While we can’t promise to post regularly (Or can we? Promises are meant to be broken!…What do you mean I’ve got it all wrong?) we hope you’ll stick around to accompany us throughout our tasty escapades and (occasionally ill-conceived) recipes. 

P.S. Cooper missed ya’ll too.

"Finally! My glamour shot!"

“Finally! My glamour shot!”

~ AJ ~
Photograph taken by AnnMarie Hwang

 

Chopstick Jam Cookies

Posted by on Feb 24, 2013 in Recipe | 0 comments

Hey everyone! Let’s get straight to the point. This past winter break I made a couple hundred of these cookies. Why? Well yes, there was the fundraiser we did, but that’s besides the point. It’s because these cookies are absolutely delicious. Plus, they are simple to make and only require a few ingredients. Mix and match different jam combinations! SO MANY CHOICES. SO MUCH FUN. Get a couple of people to roll the cookie dough and press the squares and it’ll be relaxing therapy time. End result? Nutty pecan goodness that is meltingly crumbly from the confectioner’s sugar, offset by the tangy sweetness of jam. Mmmmmmm.

Ingredients (adapted from Hungry Native)

350 degrees, ~20 min, 1 batch of small 1 inch balls of dough makes ~38 cookies

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup pecans
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups and 2 tbsp flour

This cookie is basically butter and sugar held together by flour. And it is oh so delicious. Begin by mixing the salt and sugar together. Then in a separate bowl, mix the butter with the pecans until fluffy. Add the salt sugar mix and the vanilla extract. Mix until well incorporated. In parts, blend in the flour until smooth dough forms. If you like chunky pecans, then you can add some bigger chunks of pecan here. Then roll the dough into neat balls of dough and place on baking tray. It is important to well roll the dough between your palms to make sure the dough is not lumpy or cracked in any areas. If you had refrigerated the dough to use for later, this step is very important!!! Then, using the end of a chopstick holder, gently press into the dough to form an indent, and then fill with jam of your choice. I have tried using cranberry, strawberry, and orange marmalade. All came out great! Try experimenting with different combinations :) The nutty pecan flavor complements almost everything. Enjoy guys!

– Jas

Photographs taken by Jasmine Hwang

Blueberry Rare Cheesecake

Posted by on Feb 12, 2013 in Recipe | 0 comments

 

         Sometimes, I just get this intense desire and craving for cheesecake. You know- when you dream of stuffing a whole glob full of cheesecake into your mouth and get that sighing of pleasure when you feel the heavy, creamy, artery clogging deliciousness traveling down your stomach? Oh wait. That doesn’t sound so pleasant. 

        Well, that is why for those people out there who actually care about such things (I for one ignore the thought of calories when the food consumed is designated for the “dessert” stomach), I shall share this super simple recipe for making Rare Cheesecake! That’s right, you can be lazy and not even pop it in the oven if you want to be even healthier and have it without crust. The cheesecake comes out light and fluffy, not too sweet but still completely satisfying. Plus, you can use it as a base for literally any flavor. Here’s my blueberry version- full of healthy antioxidants! 

Ingredients

  • less than 1 pack graham crackers (eyeball this according to how thick you want your crust)
  • less than 2 sticks butter (also eyeball)
  • fruit of choice (blueberries, 100 g)
  • 125 g cream cheese
  • 100 g fresh cream (heavy whipping cream)
  • 3 tbsp fresh milk
  • 30 g sugar
  • 1/4 tbsp lemon juice (I tend to add much, much more- aka almost a whole lemon)
  • 2 1/2 tsp gelatin (a pack of the store bought gelatin works)
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • whipped cream or fruit to decorate

Now here’s when you all read and be amazed. Literally four easy steps :)

1) Crush graham crackers into a semi-fine texture. It helps to put around 1 pack of crackers into a big ziploc bag and sealing it, then to use a rolling pin to smush them to oblivion. Mix in the softened butter until incorporated. Then pat the buttery crust into a cake pan- it makes things easier later to line the bottom and edges with parchment paper! Now pop into 350 F oven for around 20 min or eyeball it- when it looks baked and golden brown on top.

2) Mix all ingredients EXCEPT gelatin, hot water, whipped cream and fruit. 

3) Now mix gelatin with hot water and immediately pour into batter. Make sure it is incorporated.

4) Pour batter onto cooled crust. Now you can decorate the top with fruit or whipped cream if you so desire. Here I simply put blueberries in a blender, spooned it on top, and added some whole ones for decoration. Then just put your creation into the fridge until the gelatin has set (a few hours) and eat and enjoy!

 

Hope you guys enjoy this simple recipe, try it out and have a nice relaxing afternoon tea!

– Jas
Photographs taken by Jasmine Hwang

Green Tea and Red Bean Mochi

Posted by on Feb 10, 2013 in Recipe | 0 comments

IMAG1000Happy Lunar New Year everyone~! I hope everyone made it through Nemo alright. I, personally, was thrilled to wake up and be greeted by 27 inches of snow…and miraculously still have power intact. I think our neighborhood is the most beautiful during the winter, especially when covered by snow.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Lunar New Year, today (2/10/13) is the first day of the first month of the year of the snake…according to the lunar calendar. [insert moment of enlightenment: “Oh, so that’s why it’s called Lunar New Year!”] There are fifteen days dedicated to rest and relaxation and celebrating the new year. Our family only really observes three of those fifteen days. Considering how the United States doesn’t recognize Lunar New Year as a holiday, celebrations here are nowhere as big as they are in Asia — but we make up for what’s missing in the streets in our own homes.

Traditionally, the eve (which doesn’t count as one of the fifteen) is spent with family in a big, celebratory, reunion dinner. Besides the good food, most children are more concerned with receiving red envelopes at the end of the night. The first day of the Lunar New Year is a time to honor one’s elders. The second day is when married daughters return to visit their birth parents. Since my grandpa has four children, my dad being the only son, I’m sure you can imagine how this becomes yet another big dinner. On the last day of the new year celebration, also known as the Lantern (yuan xiao “元宵”) Festival, we eat tangyuan — which roughly translates as “round [balls] in soup”. Although there are several legends as to why we eat tangyuan, our family sticks to the reason that it symbolizes the end and beginning of a new year, of how everything has come full circle and begins anew.

This brings me to today’s awesomely simple recipe! Tangyuan are very similar to mochi. It’s the soup version of mochi. Mochi is a traditional new years dessert which is basically a sweet rice cake, typically covered in sesame or sugared peanut powder or with filling inside. It’s almost always a big hit with the older folk. I have no idea why, but this particular gooey sweet hits a soft spot in their hearts. Since my grandpa loves all things red bean and is forever requesting some sort of red bean dessert (he’s also perennially asking why I don’t put red bean in my cheesecakes) I decided to make red bean mochi.  

But, being who I am, just regular red bean mochi wouldn’t be any fun. I wanted cute mochi…pastel mochi! 

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • ~ 16 oz adzuki beans
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Cook the adzuki beans until soft and tender, then mash them into a paste. 

In a separate pot, add the water and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves. Mix the simple syrup and vegetable oil with the mashed red beans. This should give you a very mildly sweet paste. Add more sugar to taste.

Mochi Skin:

  • 1 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 drops green food coloring
  • 1/4 tsp matcha green tea
  • cornstarch

Note: You must use glutinous rice flour! Other types of flour just won’t work as a substitute. You can find glutinous rice flour at Asian supermarkets.

Although this is usually mixed and cooked over the stove, the mixture eventually gets so sticky and hard to stir that it may end up burning on the stove. So instead, I used the microwave. How handy is that?

Mix the glutinous rice flour, sugar, water, food coloring, and green tea.

IMAG1003

Stir well, we don’t want any powdering lumps. If you find that the mixture is too dry, add a little bit more water. If it’s too watery, add more flour. You should eventually get a smooth even dough that is sticky and solid to the touch.

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Lightly cover the bowl in plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes. The dough will come out looking slightly dry, but that’s fine.

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Mix it well again. This time it’ll be harder to mix as the center of the dough will be stiffer than the edges, but do your best to get it even. 

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Cover again and microwave for another minute. The dough should come out slightly puffy now. If it’s not, microwave for another minute.

Lightly dust your work space with cornstarch then scoop your warm dough (let it sit for a bit to cool if too hot) onto the cornstarch. Cover your hands in cornstarch and work the dough into a log.

IMAG1007

Cut the dough into smaller portions and roll into a ball between your hands before rolling the dough flat. The dough is easiest to work with while warm, but if your dough is cooling off and becoming more firm, just put your weight behind it and show it who’s boss by squishing it out nice and flat regardless.

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Scoop 1-2 tsp of the red bean filling onto the center of the dough. Try to shape it so it’s round.

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It took me a few tries of wrapping the mochi up differently before I finally figured out a super simple and effective method of making sealed, and round!, mochi. It may take a few experimental mochi before getting it just right, but once you have the hang of it, it’s quick.

Pinch the dough up and around the filling, almost like you’re wrapping wontons. You should have plenty of dough left over on top.

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Twist or pinch the extra dough off, this will seal the dough. Simply squish the extra dough with the rest and re-roll to make more. Your mochi may seem white and powdery due to the cornstarch, but this is perfectly fine and quite normal.

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These are best eaten fresh when they’re at their softest and chewiest. If you must store them, wrap them individually in plastic wrap or seal in an airtight container and leave at room temperature. They should last 1-2 days, though they won’t be nearly as soft and chewy as when freshly made. Do not place in the refrigerator unless you want to eat rock hard mochi! I assure you, rock hard mochi is not tasty!

If you want mochi but would rather skip the filling part, try rolling/tossing the portioned warm dough in a sugared peanut powder mixture (1/2 cup peanut powder, 1/8 cup sugar to taste). Don’t place it on cornstarch since then the dough will no longer be sticky. Instead, you can wear gloves and rub a bit of vegetable oil between your gloved hands before working with the dough. Or, the mochi is great all on its own (with cornstarch)! 

What kind of mochi do you plan on trying out?

~ AJ ~
Photographs taken and provided by AnnMarie Hwang

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in Recipe | 3 comments

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Our table was cute…
And you know it ;)

First of all, a HUGE thanks to everyone who donated to our fundraiser! We managed (by some miracle) to raise a total of $1364.60 — $364.60 over our goal! Thanks to all of you generous people, we’ll be donating $682.30 each to Save the Children and Cookies for Kids Cancer. Of course, putting aside the worthy cause, we like to flatter ourselves and think that you actually bought our goodies because you thought they were simply delicious. ;)

Anyway, we had promised to share the recipes of the goodies we baked for the fundraiser and here’s a recipe so simple you’re not going to believe it. Did I mention it’s 110% healthy too? No, make that 150%! How does that even work? I don’t know.

Now that we’re all obsessed with the quick and instant, recipes calling for just two or three ingredients are getting ridiculously popular. Except one of the ingredients in most of those recipes go something along the lines of “1 box cookie/cake mix”. …Wait, what? How does that even count as one ingredient? I mean, really, c’MON people! So here’s a real TWO INGREDIENT recipe. Yep, I said it. I’ll even spell it out for you. T-W-O.

Ingredients

  • 2 large bananas
  • ~ 1 cup instant oatmeal

Note: You may have to add more or less oatmeal depending on how large and ripe your bananas are. If your batter’s too runny, add some more oatmeal.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Mash the bananas with the oats.IMAG0835
  3. Shape about a tablespoon of the mixture into balls.IMAG0836
  4. Flatten the balls. It won’t cook through in 15 minutes otherwise, but no worries! These cookies come out soft and chewy regardless of how thin you make them. They also don’t flatten out on their own while baking, so make sure to press them down!IMAG0838
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then let cool and enjoy~!

Ta da! How’s that for quick and easy?

Okay, that’s literally the bare bones two ingredient recipe. BUT! Feel free to add additional ingredients to it. I had added 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/4 cup diced dark chocolate to mine. The nuts gave it an extra bit of crunch, and the chocolate added a slightly bittersweet taste to the cookies. Even though there isn’t any sugar added, the cookies are mildly and pleasantly sweet with a definite banana taste.

These are the perfect guiltless cookies to devour. Why? Well, if you think about it, you can eat a whole batch of these and all you’ve ingested are healthy foods. Yes, that includes the chocolate. 

What would you add to your cookies? Let us know!

~ AJ ~
Photographs taken and provided by AnnMarie Hwang