30 January 2011

Food Landscapes Calendar!

TS gave me a Food Landscapes Calendar for my birthday [no, today is not my birthday].
I have seen some food landscapes before; this specific calendar art was made by Carl Warner. I highly respect the creativity of using food to make art. I once painted a cup of coffee and included real ground coffee in it [and it smelled good, momentarily!].

I like the reciprocating relationship in which food can become landscapes/photographs/art, and art can become food [food items made out of yarn, crocheting, pencil and eraser, etc.] The landscapes are really pretty and are interesting to look at after a weary day of looking at other items in biology.

Every time I look at the January landscape, I see something new. Today I saw the hot air balloons.

Now, food is permeating pop culture. Think about it. At Hot Topic, they have pizza and potato chip cloth bags that you put your change in. There also is a huge influx of food-shaped erasers. There are tons of jewelry out there that depict food; I have cupcake earrings and pasta [farfalle] earrings.
Food is becoming a serious topic.

28 January 2011

Green Tea Ice Cream!

Xenophobia has been, and still is, a major issue everywhere in the world. The sad part is that while some people shun others because they are of a different ethnicity/race/religion/etc., they still reap the benefits of that ethnicity/race/religion/etc. Now, that sounds confusing, but here is an example that comes to my mind: Green tea.

A lot of people like tea. A lot of xenophobic people like tea. Perhaps. I don't have statistics, but judging by the fact that tea is mentioned so frequently and drunk so often, one can assume that at least one xenophobe has enjoyed tea in this world.

Tea is originally from Asia. There are plenty of stereotypes about Asian people.
Yet, I'm sure during WWII, some people liked green tea, although perhaps some among thaose green-tea-consumers detested the Japanese for I'm-not-sure-what [I don't want to delve into facts about war. It just irks me.]

Also during WWI, sauerkraut was named "liberty cabbage".
Oh, then there were "freedom fries" and my spin-off, "freedom kisses" and etc. in 2006 when something happened between the U.S. and France.

I suppose my question is, why do people judge and hate and despise people of other ethnicities/races/religions/etc. while they still enjoy those places' foods? I'm not sure French fries are "French" though. At least, not the ones at McD.

Either way, why blatantly say "I hate those primitive/sneaky/dirty/cheating/useless _______s" when one drinks tea, eats chocolate/xocolatl, chews samosas, bakes macarons, or indulges in latkes?

Food unites us all, it's something we all need, and such diverse foods by so many cultures should be appreciated. And, it is appreciated; people love to try exotic food.

So why do people hate other people based on their culture? Culture should be appreciated.

Actually, a side note I have is that yesterday I saw a website detailing the weirdest foods or something, and thousand year egg was on it, as were other foods, and they were all really scorned upon, which angered me. I personally don't like the taste of thousand year egg, but I still appreciate it exists. The fact that the website degrades cultural food just makes me mad.

At least thousand year egg doesn't have freakin' propylene glycol in it, like chocolate cake you can get at the store these days.

The reason I bring this topic up is that THERE IS GREEN TEA ICE CREAM AT COMMONS. Green tea ice cream at a school cafeteria.
Green tea ice cream.
Sure, there's green tea ice cream at the Asian food mart, and at Asian restaurants, and perhaps even some groceries [I don't think Shoprite stocks it, though]. But, at a school cafeteria? I found this surprising because green tea is getting incorporated in American food culture, which is pretty interesting.
Actually, chocolate mochi, or coffee mooncakes are also an Americanization of Asian food culture, but that stuff is usually reserved to sort-of high end retail.

Green tea ice cream at Commons indicates a larger acceptance of different cultures, I suppose. Maybe they'll have red bean ice cream one day, although I really doubt it.

The ice cream itself looked like green tea ice cream, and it did taste like green tea, although the flavor was extremely weak. It mainly tasted quite sweet and not that bitter. However, I tend to prefer tea without sugar and super strong, so I suppose other people may have liked it.

23 January 2011

Supermarket Specials 1

I decided to blog about some quirky stuff I found at the Chinese supermarket, Kamman, "near" [har har! Not say how near] my house. I've never noticed it before, but they sell umami seasoning. I suppose after writing that paper about umami. All of a sudden, umami seasoning popped onto the shelves at Kamman! I honestly don't recall ever seeing it before, when I combed the store all those times. Well, it's quite interesting to see cute shakers of this stuff, just as described in those articles I read for my Writing Seminar class.
They even come in economy size! By the pound! One note of irony, I suppose, is that the brand name is meant to be Japanese, yet it quite clearly states that it is a "PRODUCT OF U.S.A." In addition, there is a French translation ["glutamate monosodique", "produit des etats-unis d'amerique" - pardon my lack of accents]. Now, this is notable because the stereotype is that French cuisine is flavourful, gourmet, fresh - whatever you like - yet the translation happens to be in French. The French are not known to use MSG. Yet, the package, in an Asian supermarket, has a French translation [not even a Chinese translation, which would be expected since the [false] stigma is that all the Chinese use MSG by the bucket]. Perhaps this is saying something about the way the world is heading; after all, MSG makes stuff taste good without having to cook stocks for 17 hours. I would be pretty upset if all soups tasted umami though. What about the hint of celery, or hint of broccoli?
MSG is much cheaper to buy and use than cooking a stock for 17 hours. The gas/electricity price of cooking stock costs more than a pinch of MSG crystals, I'm guessing.
So, another thing I saw, this time at Target, during the Winter sale, was garlic. Sure, Target now has a whole section selling fresh food, but this was found in the sale section, among the wrapper paper, holiday cards and chocolate. It was a box of garlic.
I have never seen garlic packaged in a cardboard box, wrapped in plastic before. This is completely novel to me. Of course, it begs the question: why did a company decided to sell garlic in a box during the holiday season? [Especially when vampires are loved, in this Twilight era...?]
I suppose since I was happy to get a pie pan for my Holiday present, maybe some people enjoy getting 57 g of garlic.
Then again, I would really love 57 g of garlic if I didn't have much money, or if I hadn't eaten garlic in months/years.
So perhaps it IS rational to package garlic that way, for easy wrapping and giving during the holiday season.
The last thing I will talk about, which I actually bought, is the canned coconut milk. I plan to use this when I go back home for Spring break, but I definitely will not be throwing away the cans that hold the two coconut milks! If you can't figure out why I think the cans are funny, it's ok; I suppose it's not that funny except for immature teenagers/young adults like me.

19 January 2011


I had lunch at Pod today, with 6 people from the lab at the Monell Center for Chemical Senses where I'm volunteering, and Stephanie Lucianovic. Stephanie is a food writer [which made this lunch even more amazing!, which is certainly intriguing since I've never met a professional writer/blogger at lunch before! She also likes Alton Brown, so that's cool.

I've walked past this restaurant a lot with TJ when we go to Kings Court for dinner, and from the outside, it looked pretty amazing; everything was red and the furniture was interesting.

I walked in today and remarked that...
Firstly, it looked swanky. There is no other word to describe it - it was swanky [but then again, I don't know much about upscale-ish restaurants, except Chinese ones]. They had matches next to the door, in little pieces of card. I'm not sure why, since I'm sure they don't want the place burned down. In close proximity was a wine bar. It was all rather red and pretty.
Note the buttons that look like chocolate candies; they were about the size of a hand, and once pressed, made the lighting in the booth change colour. There were only two booths with these lights; the rest of the restaurant was nicely laid out as shown below:
Note the conveyor belt sushi! That reminded me of Genki Sushi in Hong Kong, which I sorely miss right now.
There were booths by the window which were pretty cool too. I blurred out the faces of people.
Since we had lunch under green lighting [until dessert], my photos look green. At the time, my eyes had adjusted to the green lighting, so I wasn't aware of the fact that my sushi looked... green. I don't think that green makes food that photogenic; the best lighting is evidently white light from the sun. Then, I suppose it's the yellow that I'm used to from incandescent light bulbs. Green light... well, I suppose it adds to the mood, right? Neutral, relaxing?
I got the TnT sushi roll, which was eight pieces of vegetarian sushi.
Vegetarian sushi that surprising looked and tasted un-vegetarian.

1. It looks like there are raw tuna slices on the top, but it actually is slivered tomato. It's the part of the tomato that's between the skin and the seeds. I'm wondering what the did with the other 90% of the tomato... because each ovule takes up a LOT of the tomato [the seed, the liquidy part, and the segments between them], and what I had here was merely the outer part of the tomato...

2. The chopped garnish at the top, which reminds me of walnuts, is actually a jalapeno cucumber salsa. It was a bit spicier than the ginger on the side, which, unlike the ones I'm used to seeing, were cream coloured rather than salmon-coloured. I suppose they didn't add the FD&C Red, which is good to know. However, I still didn't like the taste of pickled ginger. Maybe I will one day.
[So, I used flash a lot because the lighting was rather dim. To compensate, my photos now make the rice look like it lacks detail.]

3. The filling tasted fishy. Perhaps I am confusing umami with fishy. There was tamago, which I learned was the Japanese-style egg that I used to eat a lot in Hong Kong. Some of the tamago was crispy, which gave off that Japanese-style-eel flavour. There was also carrot, cucumber, and avocado. I truly think that the avocado makes any sushi taste fishy. I'm not sure why; perhaps the soy sauce enhances it, although soy-sauce-free avocado sushi tastes just as fishy. It could be the texture; the smooth, fatty, melt-in-your-mouth feeling reminds me of raw salmon. So, yes, avocado definitely makes sushi taste fishy.
A dissection of the filling. I suppose I was being kind of inappropriate at the lunch table since everyone else was eating their food, and there I was, prying it open with a scalpel - I mean, with a fork. After my third piece of sushi, I decided to use the chopsticks, because I realised that using a fork to eat sushi [my first time, I daresay] was a bit clumsy. So, you can see the vegetables.

4. I'm not sure what the yellow-orangey mixture, which looks like fish roe, is. It tasted like fish. It definitely was not carrot or tomato. I'll have to ask next time. It tasted nice and savoury though.
5. This is a really bad picture, but if you look closely, you can see that I've taken apart some of the rice in the front, leaving only a thin, white membrane. I could not tell what this membrane was. I tried to eat some by itself, and I noticed a hint of soy. I think that this is the soy wrapper thing that my mum cooks all the time - I'm not sure what the English name is, but it's used a lot in stir-fries with wood ear. Next time I make sushi, I will definitely incorporate some soy wrappers!
Another image of the membrane.
I tried some hibiscus tea, which arrived in a cute little teapot, which appears green under the lighting. I've tried hibiscus bubble tea before, which was tons sweeter than this, but this tea gave off such a nice aroma!! I've never seen or smelled a live hibiscus flower before, and now I'd really like to.
A close up of the stuff in the tea, which turned out pink or purple...I couldn't tell in the lighting; it almost looked light blue for a while.
Desserts! This was a Chocolate Bread Pudding, which in my opinion did not taste like bread pudding [well, I suppose if the bread was crumbled into 1mm pieces...]. It tasted like a chocolate brownie, but lacked the oily residue that commercial brownies possess. I'm not sure how the garnish thingy [A chocolate flake?] tasted.
Butterscotch Brown Sugar Cake, with panna cotta. Panna cotta is amazing! I'd never had it before, so it was new, and it did make a normal cake look pretty and taste interesting ["Butterscotch Brown Sugar Cake" is basically a sponge cake made with brown sugar...the name just makes it sound elite]. The gingersnaps were super delicious. I like ginger cookies, and these were super crunchy. They should make gingersnaps cereal. They really really should - not with reconstituted-corn-and-corn-syrup, but with actual gingersnaps. Hm... next time I buy gingersnaps, I guess I'm going to eat them crumbled up in milk, with a spoon and a bowl...
4 sorbets on a chunk of ice: pineapple, coconut, mint, and guava. One of them had a peppercorn in it, but I'm not sure whether it was the guava or the pineapple. The coconut ice sorbet had a nice refreshing taste to it, BUT THE MINT SORBET WAS... ... The mint sorbet reminded me of three or four winters ago, when I got snow, added milk and sugar to it, and added dried mint flakes. As in, the one from the shaker from the grocery store. It tasted like mint, not peppermint, and it tasted just like my snow ice cream. It just looked prettier. This was pretty surprising, because most people would expect the conventional mint-chocolate type sorbet... so this one wins at being "cool". Haha... cool mint...

But this means that I can make my snow ice cream and sell it for $2/scoop.
I lack plating and customers, though.

Oh, some pictures were taken after people had taken chunks out of the food; the desserts weren't served to us half-eaten. The servers were really nice.

One last remark: the fries that came with the hoagie were literally shoe-string fries. Sure, they were only 5cm long, but they were, maximally 2mm thick. It was an amazing sight. I should just order those next time.

12 January 2011


In an attempt to make its environment more swanky, 1920 Commons has decided to refurnish and update its locations of foods. The fruit bar has moved to where the nacho bar used to be. The nacho bar and soup have moved to where the fruit bar used to be. They're both displayed rather prettily, and they look less cluttered.

The bread section has switched with the dessert section; now, the dessert has a black-table backdrop rather than a white-table blackdrop, which I suppose more elegant too.

They've also stocked Original flavoured ["Original" has been a flavour for a long time] soymilk rather than Vanilla [read: sugar] flavoured soymilk.

The ice-cream bar now has to share space with the waffle maker [which used to be next to the soup, because it, of course, was completely logical to put a waffle maker next to the chowder...], but I think this makes college kids squeal with happiness. In addition, there is now caramel syrup, marmalade [labelled "pineapple"], strawberry jam, chocolate syrup, SHREDDED COCONUT, and walnuts in syrup stacked in sticky containers near the ice cream.

This change took me quite by surprise.
I ate at Hill today and there was no noticeable change there...so why did Commons decide to ka-boom and polish everything?

It did seem to make people happy, especially the ice cream area.

That was Tuesday night. Yesterday night and tonight at dinner, Commons had moved stuff around again; the dessert, nacho, fruit and soup had all switched places. Commons also has delicious pre-packaged breadsticks from NJ, even though they claim to be "Real Italian" or something...

I think they're trying to test out where the best placement is for... themselves [i.e. best places to put food without having a huge mess to clean up from us students dropping stuff]? For us [so that we walk more and use more Calories]? It's true that changes make people more interested and more likely to lurk longer/more frequently. That's why companies always make new flavours of stuff, and restaurants always have different "FEATURED!" or "SPECIAL!!" items.

At the beginning of my first semester here [what?! Second semester already!?!?], I figured, hey, if I eat ice cream using a cone, I will "save" a bowl and a spoon. That means that energy will be saved, because dishwashers won't have to use energy to clean the bowl and spoon, and chemically cleaned water won't have to be pumped and used and re-cleaned.

However, my logic was pretty bad because the cone itself took a TON OF WATER AND ENERGY to make, not to mention package and transport! Think about it.
The cone: grow flour and other ingredients on a field from a seed to plant. Pick plants, process them, cook/shape them.
The packaging [in a giant cardboard box, with plastic wrapping, perhaps]: grow trees, cut trees, process trees, shape card, fold/glue/staple card.
Transportation from factory to dining hall: more energy.

Now, if we used a ceramic bowl and metal spoon [not disposable!], the energy to create the spoon and ceramic bowl would be invested evidently [synthesising, packaging, transporting], but once it is in the dining hall, every use only uses, say, 1L of water and a bit of dish soap. It is much less than the energy used to synthesise a wafer cone.

However, a paper/plastic [and, please NO, styrofoam] disposable container would be the same as using a wafer cone, although I think that the wafer cone would be more energy efficient because the wafer cone is digested, leaving no trace of garbage.
The digested cone is excreted as heat, water, and in poop, perhaps, and consumed by bacteria and someone cycled back into the soil or water.

So, I suppose the way to conserve the most energy in this circumstance would be
1. Consume less of everything and stop wasting stuff!
2. Use a reusable bowl and spoon.
3. If there are no reusable utensils, use the wafer cone.
4. As the last resort, use disposable utensils [oh how I dislike them!]

11 January 2011

Victoria Sandwich Cake

I decided to tackle the Victoria sandwich cake again. This time was NOT going to be a half-baked attempt to recreate something that I knew worked 7 years ago. This time, however, I creamed the sugar and butter first, and I used bleached flour. The result? The second-best Victoria sandwich cake, ever! [The best one was the first one I made, because it was less burnt and more jammy].

150 g caster/granulated sugar
150 g unsalted butter
150 g self-raising white flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
Powdered sugar!

1. Cream sugar and butter. This takes a long time, but it is extremely worth it. I suppose softened butter would be easier to cream, but I'm guessing the butter I used was around 18 degrees C.
2. Add 3 eggs and mix. You will get a lumpy mixture. The original recipe called for the use of an electric whisk, but I don't have one. I don't have many sleek kitchen utensils... so I just mix. Please, Victoria sandwich cakes were invented wayyyyy before electric whisks were [Victoria = Queen Victoria, right?]
Yes. Lumpy.

3. Add in flour one tablespoon at a time. By the last three tablespoons, you will have a really thick batter. The batter should ALMOST be cookie-dough-dense batter. The batter will have little lumps.

4. Separate batter into two pans. The whole point of the Victoria sandwich cake is its sandwich-ness. It is perfect for females to make for males, as it is a sandwich, but offers all the cakey goodness that men crave [ JUST KIDDING!].

5. Anyway, bake at 355 degrees F [or, 180 degrees C, as the original recipe says] for:
8 inch/20cm pans: 25 minutes [says the original recipe] on...the middle rack
9.5 inch pans [the pans I used]: no more than 20 minutes!! on the lowest rack

For me, I used the lowest rack and after I baked the cakes for 20 minutes, I let them sit in the oven for another 20 minutes. When I took them out, one was perfect and the other was a tad burnt. Ah well. Next time I'm putting them in for 15 minutes and letting them sit for 30 minutes.
6. Spread with jam. Warm jam is more easily spread, but cold jam is good too. Then, SANDWICH!
Victoria sandwich cakes are usually thicker, and the recipe I had was meant for 20 cm pans. So, my Victoria sandwich cake was rather thin. However, the taste, texture, and smell were not lost! It was rich, crumbly [big big big big big crumbs!], buttery, crusty on the circumference but spongy in the center, pure, fresh, and mouth-watering. It was not vanilla-y, small-spongy-holes, artificial, super-sweet, or like any of those yellow cake mixes at the store.
You will NOT find a cake like this in a box or frozen in a tin in a store in the U.S. You won't even find this in the bakery section! It doesn't taste moist like Boston cream pies-cakes, and it doesn't taste at all monotone like those *ahem* various "just add half a cup of oil and 3 eggs and mix and bake!" cake mixes. Victoria sandwich cakes are delicate, flavourful, and clean-tasting. One interesting aspect of it is that when you first bite into it, the cake doesn't feel that great; it's dry and crumbly [but not crunchy]. However, as you chew, you feel a bit of "juice" flow out of each thick crumb. Yes, this "juice" is sugary butter. How succulent.
The powdered sugar isn't necessary, but it adds a nice touch to the sandwich cake. Notice that the sandwich cake is not "yellow" or "white" or one uniform colour; it is composed of beautiful shades of caramel; it demonstrates elegance and hard work. Yes, I'm being dramatic, but this cake was definitely the most meaningful cake I've ever made [I'm... bad at making cakes...]
My sister started taking chunks out of it from 11am to 1pm. I told her to just take a slice already! She loved it.
This is going to be her birthday cake! It's going to be better than last year's! It's going to be eight layers tall! [Maybe?]

Victoria sandwich cakes are also really photogenic in sunlight. Look at these pictures! No flash! Perfect!

09 January 2011

Spaghetti and Cheese

I like whole wheat pasta.
We don't have any whole wheat macaroni at home [and I don't think we have any macaroni], so I made some whole wheat sphaghetti with cheese sauce today.

I started looking through allrecipes.com to find a nice cheese sauce to make, since I've only made legitimate cheese sauce once before in my life [I think it was during Food Tech class? I'm not sure...]. I got sick of looking through recipes though, because the comments irked me and... I guess I just didn't feel like following instructions.

So here is my recipe, and it makes enough sauce for one pound of spaghetti, approximately. If you really like cheese, make more sauce!

1. 1 tbsp oil [highly unnecessary, actually, if you use normal-fat cheese].
2. 1 c fat-free milk
3. 1 c whole fat milk
4. 2 tbsp mustard
5. Old Bay seasoning, pepper, garlic, herbs, pepper.
6. 3 tbsp flour
7. Whatever filling you want, e.g. TVP, salmon chunks, ground-up flesh, lettuce etc.
8. 3 cups of shredded cheese. Or 4 cups. or 5. or 6. However much saturated fat you can handle.

1. Mix all the ingredients except for the flour in a saucepan. Put it on high heat until you start seeing bubbles.
2. On lowish heat, add flour, 1 tbsp at a time, and mix until there are no more lumps.
3. Turn off heat and mix in shredded cheese, one cup at a time. If you want, add in fillings.
4. Add in cooked pasta.
5. EAT WHEN HOT. When the cheese sauce gets cold, it tastes grainy and... cold... and not comforting at all. The image below is cold pasta because no one was ready for dinner at 5:30pm. After it was heated again, it was nice and gooey again. I know it doesn't look like the cliche "mac 'n' cheese" because I didn't use cheddar cheese and I used whole wheat spaghetti...

08 January 2011

Gooey Cheese "Biscuits"!

Well, I finally removed myself from Penn's food blog [I never posted on there anyway] because its style was very different from mine, and I prefer to vent out everything on this blog. Sure, they get more readers [do they?], but this blog was made by myself. Also, there's a lot of Penn-Dining-Hall- bashing/insulting/burning in effigy on there. While I disagree with the meal plan that we are forced to buy, I do like the food.
I had about half a jar of mayonnaise remaining from the potato salad I made last week, so I decided to use it to make something. But what? I'm not particularly fond of mayonnaise in the first place, so I had to make something that everyone else in the family would eat.

I found a recipe for mayonnaise biscuits written by someone who I don't think I like [judging by her writing style and comments and the fact that she uses mixes for basically everything; okay, I'm being narrow-minded and mean here].

I used it as the basis of what I made, but I made it better! You know it! Sure, they are "biscuits" in the American conventional definition, but they're definitely pretty good. A bit oily, but kind of like cheesy potato patties [without the potato]. The picture below is the batter made following her recipe.
The following is my version! Note that these are not British biscuits. Those are sweet, and a synonym for those is "cookie".

Ingredients for 12 patty-type-American-"biscuits"
1. 14 to 16 tbsp mayonnaise [Please. Get. The. Fatty. Original. Kind.]
2. 1/2 cup of fat-free milk
3. 1/4 cup whole fat milk, put into jar and swirled around so that the last globs of mayonnaise can be used
4. 1 cup of self-rising flour
5. 2 big tbsp of 100% whole wheat flour
6. 1/2 tsp baking soda
7. 2 cups of shredded cheese!
8. Lots of garlic powder and herbs! No salt is fine in my opinion.
1. Mix everything except ONE CUP of cheese. You will get something that looks like the image above^ [the dark spots are dried herbs; I used oregano, basil, and thyme]. The dough should be like muffin dough, and very sticky. It doesn't taste that great when it is uncooked.
2. Spoon evenly into 12 muffin cups. Since I don't have muffin cups, I spooned them into tart shells. And a pumpkin-shaped mould.
3. Sprinkle remaining cup of shredded cheese over each spoonful of batter.
4. Bake for 14-16 minutes at 400 degrees F in an un-preheated oven. I never preheat my oven...
5. Leave everything in the un-operating oven for 15-20 minutes.
These biscuit-patty-gooey-thingys taste very cheesy, gooey, and a bit oily. They are not the conventional dry American biscuit that you get at fried chicken restaurants. The texture is extremely spongy [like a sponge cake!]. They are a bit puffy, but they didn't rise much in the oven.
Now it really looks like a pumpkin...