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Archive for August, 2008

OMG!!!  After years of dealing with the Australian immigration, we have now been granted Permanent Resident (“Permie”) status!!!  It has taken nearly 8 months since we applied for it and after 3 different visas prior to this and thousands of dollars later, we have the right and privilege to come and go freely from this beautiful country!!  I really can sympathize with people who immigrate to any country now and can understand why there are so many illegal immigrants.  It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure.  Going through this process has been one of the most trying, frustrating, hair-ripping, financially-draining things we have had to do but it was worth it in the end.  I just don’t know why they make you suffer so much before you get your prize…especially since Australia NEEDS more people.  The thing I am grateful for the most is that I can now get access to great medical care for free, if I need it although most people (including us) have private health insurance as well to cover extras.  Still, it is something that I hope that Americans will have access to some day.  The U.S. being the only industrialized nation without the right to free medical care is sad to me.

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Recently, an American friend in Sydney told me that she had just made chocolate chip cookies.  That statement suddenly made me craving to make homemade warm chocolate chip cookies (which taste superior to anything bought in a store or cafe).

The problem with store-bought stuff is that the ingredient list is filled with crap that you can’t pronounce and the ingredients for really good cookies should all be natural to taste heavenly.  Unless you have time to melt beautiful 70% + couverture and then pipe them into chocolate chips, or to chop them into small pieces, a bag of Nestlé Toll House or Cadbury chips should do fine.  Toll-House is a household name in the U.S. but I find their chips a little bit on the sweet side but I think that their recipe for chocolate chip cookies is really one of the all-time best and foolproof.  I like adding chopped walnuts for extra indulgence.  Just make sure that you are prepared to eat about four DOZEN cookies (even more if you make them small)!

No, Nestle hasn’t paid me any cash to write and boast about them.  It’s just something I felt like sharing with people who didn’t grow up with this recipe like I did and want to do some baking this weekend (especially during the winter to warm up the house!)

For me, making homemade chocolate chip cookies is what I feel makes my childhood uniquely American…just like having homemade Jelly Cakes or Lamingtons may be to an Australian child.  What cookie / biscuit reminds you of your childhood?

Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

RECIPE:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened OR 225 grams butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or macadamia nuts are best!)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

SLICE AND BAKE COOKIE VARIATION:
PREPARE
dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.

Happy Baking!

Raw cookie dough
Raw cookie dough
Ready to be baked

Ready to be baked

Baking in the oven
Baking in the oven
The finished cookies cooling on a rack...yum!

The finished cookies cooling on a rack...yum!

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Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that Andrew Wheeler, co-contributor of Very Good Taste blog in the UK thinks that every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food – but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it.

Here’s what to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

I was surprised that I am only missing 24 items – not bad for someone who isn’t an offal or “strongly tasting meat” fan.  I think my multi-cultural upbringing and friends helped me to eat many of these things. The mixture of foods are quite interesting – from the gourmet and ridiculously luxurious to the more mundane and downright strange.  It was fun taking this quiz.  Tell me what you would eat or not and whether you have a good story for any food items here!

♥ Indicates that I LOVE it!

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding (just not a fan of offal)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
(have been known to search far and wide for a bowl – even in Paris)
13. PB&J (Peanut Butter & Jelly) sandwich (I really hate these – too sweet)
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
(with extra relish!)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns (especially the Shanghainese ones)
20. Pistachio ice cream (my favourite!)
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (why?!)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters

29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas (my dear friend Bill’s favourite!)
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (I always get the sweet plain one but not tasted the salted yet!)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
(made them for my 4th of July party here)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
(Chinese-style Oxtail soup is a childhood favourite!)
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (ate it at the end of my entymology class at UCD)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (intriguing but not sure I’d risk it)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (has to be hot!)
50. Sea urchin (not a big fan)
51. Prickly pear
(taste so…unexciting)
52. Umeboshi – great with some green tea to soothe an upset tummy
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
(yes, I will admit that I occasionally like a fast food meal)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini

58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (looks intriguing but probably couldn’t eat a whole plate)
60. Carob chips (don’t like the texture)
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (Clay?? But why?!)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (there are many varieties. I ate one from Borneo that didn’t stink and was bright orange)
66. Frogs’ legs (I really want to though!)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (I would if I was lost in the Outback and was desperate)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (ate them as a kid, tastes too artificial to me now)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini

81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
(Love the one with lots of almonds)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (most recently at the Fat Duck in Bray)
85. Kobe beef (Real Kobe beef from Kobe, Japan? No, haven’t had the $$$. Wagyu “Kobe” grown outside of Japan but marketed as Kobe – YES, many times.  I wouldn’t be surprised if many people say yes because they ate Wagyu)
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
(overrated)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate (I’m not sure…I have had so many great chocolate and it could’ve been one of them)
91. Spam (I’m from Hawaii…every respectful Hawaiian eats Spam)
92. Soft shell crab

93. Rose harissa (I’ve had harissa but I’m unsure what rose harissa is)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
(this Mexican co-worker of mine used to sell his mother’s mole, it was the best!)
96. Bagel and lox
(with capers and thinly sliced red onions please)
97. Lobster Thermidor (it’s ok but I like my lobster less complicated)
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake

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Walking around at my usual Sunday market, I passed by a stall that sells fresh duck.  I wasn’t in the mood to buy duck that day but I saw a little unassuming sign that said, “DUCK EGGS, $5”.  My heart skipped a beat but I didn’t grab the chance to buy it.  We walked back to the car and I was really regretting it so I ran back and ended up buying two dozen!!  They were gorgeous, different colours and natural i.e. with all the poop, feathers and straw on them!  As soon as I got home though, I realised that I couldn’t eat two dozen duck eggs so I sent it around to four of my friends.

I always heard that duck eggs make great custards and I now understand why.  Unlike chicken eggs, duck eggs have a higher yolk to white proportion.  The yolks are beautifully rich and creamy and good yolks are essential in making GREAT custard.  I scoured the internet to see if others blogged about duck eggs but was rather disappointed to find so few.  Any Chinese person would be familiar with duck eggs because they often use duck eggs for preservation, using them for 1,000 yr. old eggs and sometimes salted eggs.

The first night, we just pan friend them with a touch of oil and I ate it with rice and some fried shallots (like you get in Malaysia/Singapore on noodles) and a squirt of Sriracha – divine!  I have also hard boiled them but today, I decided to poach one alongside a regular free-range chicken egg.  I tell you, I ate the chicken egg first and I am glad that I did because when I bit into the duck egg, oh man, you just cannot compare the two!  The richness and deeply concentrated flavour of the duck egg was so much creamier and tastier.

How are they different?  For one, duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs.  Not only are the yolks larger, the egg white has a bizarre, almost rubbery texture that I find slightly strange.  If you pan fry it, the white sets really quickly but the yolks take a bit longer so it’s better to cook it at a lower heat than you would chicken eggs.  Be careful and don’t overindulge on duck eggs as one egg contains twice the amount of cholesterol than chicken eggs.  But definitely, if you come across them at any time, they are definitely worth it.

Don’t be scared of quail, duck, goose or even Ostrich eggs!  Next time I go to Barcelona, I am going to rent an apartment and cook one of those Ostrich eggs! 🙂

Different Duck Egg Colours - I LOVE the blue one!!

Comparing duck eggs to a chicken egg (far right). You can see the duck eggs are slightly larger and have a more transparent shell. I LOVE the blue eggs!

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One day, I’ll take a picture of a Ring-tailed Possum.  There is a whole colony that lives around here and they let us know it by leaving lovely droppings all over the place – on our fence and near the plants.  I just sweep them up and throw them in my plants as fertilizer.  These are Aussie Possums – very cute and marsupials.  They are not the weird-looking Possums you get in North America.  I wonder why they are both called Possums?  I once saw one on my fence with a baby on her back…if only I had my camera!!  Cute as they are, they wreak havoc to any garden with succulent shoots – oh and yes, they loved my David Austin roses!!  Because I hate losing my plants, I have them in pots (they look sad because it’s winter) and they are fully covered by a bird net:

My pots covered in bird netting

My pots covered in bird netting

Anyway, here is another parrot – the Adelaide Rosella, that was in my garden over the weekend while I was trying to plant bok choy, sweet peas, green onions and peonies.  Adelaide Rosellas are a cross between Yellow Rosellas and Crimson Rosellas (bright red & gorgeous).  This guy was eating the red berries in the tree next to my fence.

Aren't they pretty?

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Adelaide doesn’t have a huge Japanese population compared to the big three (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) but we do have our share of half-decent sushi places (that are actually run by Japanese, which most aren’t).  Our Chinese and S.E. Asian population on the other hand is very healthy and growing each year.  I am happily able to get a really good won ton mein or Pho or Kuay Teow but we didn’t have a ramen restaurant at all – until now!!  I was sooo excited when I heard that a real ramen restaurant arrived in Adelaide!  In Japan, there are reportedly 16,000 ramen restaurants (in a country small enough to fit into the state of California!)

Outside Ajisen

Outside Ajisen

Inside

Inside the Restaurant

Cheery Little Napkin

Cheery Little Napkin

Fried Garlic to the left, Japanese Chili on the right

Fried Garlic to the left, Japanese Chili on the right

Chashu Ramen

Chashu Ramen

Spare Rib Ramen

Spare Rib Ramen

Ajisen ramen, a chain from Kumamoto, Japan has opened a small outlet on Leigh Street (the tiny lane off Hindley St).  They are open everyday except Sundays and are open for lunch and dinner.  Every time I pass by the place, it is packed!  I had to make a reservation one lunch with two girlfriends so that we could guarantee ourselves a table and that’s rather unheard of in noodle joints!  BusinessWeek Asia says that Ajisen (meaning a “thousand tastes”) is planning to open about 500 outlets in China alone!

Ajisen’s signature broth is the tonkotsu or pork broth with its slightly cloudy, white colour.  Tonkotsu is very different from miso, shio, or shoyu ramen that you can get in Japan.  It is my absolute favourite broth in a ramen and I was very excited!  Because I was judging for authenticity, I decided on a traditional Chashu Men, or in Chinese, Char Siu Mein. Japanese style pork tenderloin sliced thin, floating on fresh noodles in pork broth ($10AU).  Yum!  My friend Katie also ordered the same but Jacqui ordered the ramen with Spare Ribs in the same broth.  Both the pork tenderloin and the ribs were melt-in-your-mouth tender and the noodles were cooked just right, with a slight bite to them.  There were about 20 different ramens to choose from including stir-fried yakisoba.

No ramen eating experience is complete without gyoza.  Although our server forgot about it until after we had practically finished our ramen, the gyoza tasted homemade, was very generous in size with a lovely crisp skin and juicy pork filling.

Gyoza w/Dipping Sauce

Gyoza w/Dipping Sauce

Don’t forget to try some of the fried garlic topping sitting on every table to sprinkle on your ramen.  Beware, it’s very strong!  What I found interesting is that the bottle is written entirely in Japanese with NO translations anywhere but I suspect that people will eventually figure it out.

All in all, you get a lot of food for very little money and I would definitely recommend it (just don’t expect much from the service) – and not because it’s the sole ramen restaurant in Adelaide.  It is definitely a great fast meal before seeing a movie.  Service was rather forgetful and confused but I usually give up getting much service in this city so it wasn’t a huge shock to me.  Definitely a tasty, inexpensive and warming meal – especially in winter!

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Thousands of people including myself have been following veteran American journalist Leroy Siever’s daily blog “My Cancer” on NPR (National Public Radio) in the U.S. and around the world.  His daily journals on his struggles and thoughts about his cancer formed a community – a community of so many people around the world who have been affected by cancer.  He brought solace and support to more people than he probably imagined it would.  Just reading comments left by readers is amazing how much of an impact he had by writing this blog.

Leroy passed away last night and I write this with a heavy heart.  Although he was told he was only going to live for 6 months, he lived for 2 1/2 years.  So many people got used to reading his daily emails and like me, probably wished for a miracle that his cancer would stop growing.

I contemplated for a few seconds on whether I should write about this on a FOOD BLOG.  But then, I thought about it and realized that this is MY blog and although food is my passion, fighting cancer is equally important to me also.  During this past year, THREE very close people to me have been fighting advanced stage cancers and it is a disease that does not discriminate and it is very sad.

This Friday, 22 August 2008 is Daffodil Day in Australia and 29 August in New Zealand.  Please buy a bunch of daffodils for $5 and/or donate to your local Cancer Council or Cancer Society.  There will be many volunteers (including myself) this week selling Daffodil Day items so look out for us please!

Links to some cancer organisations:

Canadian Cancer Society

American Cancer Society

Cancer Research UK

Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research

Cancer Society of New Zealand

Cancer Patients Aid Association (India)

and

Wiki Cancer – Stories, Support and Information

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