31 August 2011

Honeydukes Sherbert Lemons

My brother went to Harry Potter World in Florida over the summer (lucky him!!) while I was growing cells in a lab. Fun. He didn't take any pictures of Honeydukes :(. In fact, he didn't take any pictures of Harry Potter World, which is not only a huge letdown, but also gives me more incentive to actually pay the exorbitant entrance/travel fees just to visit Honeydukes.
I emailed my brother and called him a bunch of times just to make sure that he bought some food from Honeydukes, because I really wanted to try something! He ended up getting Sherbert Lemons, Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, and a Chocolate Frog. I'll blog about the Sherbert Lemons today because I didn't get around to the other stuff yet; I will when I go home for October break
They're lemon-shaped, covered in sour-ish sugar, and taste just like lemon lollypops. The lemon itself isn't sour enough for my taste (or for the expense). Everyone buys it for the jar, I guess, which is pretty ugly. I'm really upset about the Honeydukes logo, because I've always imagined a wooden-style logo. Chocolate-coloured, at least!!

29 August 2011

College Pasta

So, cliche 5-college-friends-get-together-and-make-pasta-for-dinner-at-10pm. This is a whole week before college actually starts...
I'm handing out CFL (energy saving light bulbs) to the frosh, so I get to live NSO all over again!
TJ thought that I diced the onion and tomato really well.
We bought garlic bread and the sauce.
So. College.

27 August 2011

Pirate's Booty - Chocolate

So. Chocolate flavoured puffed corn/rice...melts in your mouth, but in the characteristic soggy way particular to puffed corn snacks. The texture is quite intriguing.
The taste? Bizarre. Slightly salty, yet smothered in slightly bitter, powdery cocoa powder. Not sweet. Not entirely remarkable. No corn flavour either (predominately unsweetened rice puff; although I don't mind it, I think some people will unearth descriptions that include the word "cardboard")...it's rather bland.

26 August 2011

Tokyo Hibachi Asian Cuisine & Sushi!!

Today was spiffin'! I hung out with friends and I didn't stress out about anything (I will, later, though, while I lie in bed worrying about the past/future). We went to Secaucus and had sushi!!!
It was scrumptiously delicious and there was a lot of avocado sushi!! My favourite! I picked off the crab/shrimp from the sushi. I guess my brother would've been psyched to eat salmon sushi. I would be too if I still ate salmon (I'm still questioning why I don't, actually). So the Philadelphia roll (north east of image below) has cream cheese... I think, except that it was more savoury.
Also, I ate the fish egg sushi. As a not-really-strict-anymore vegetarian, where do I draw the line? I eat chicken eggs. Is it incorrect for me to eat fish eggs, then? Hm. As a joke, "genocide" was mentioned. Hehehe.
The online reviews seem to be more negative than positive. Obviously, people have too high standards (or, I just have too low standards?), because Tokyo Sushi people aren't rude, there is a huge (yes. huge.) selection of sushi, raw sea critters, dumplings, dim sum, and even mozzarella and tomatoes, and the environment was nice (bamboo frosting on the windows, live fish in the indoor waterfall/pool). Dude... if a vegetarian can find a niche here, why can't other food snobs? (Was that question out of line? Eh, doesn't matter.)
And all that lunch for the price of one meal at a college dining hall ($10, plus tax/tip=$13).
... and another thing: it was bright. I could actually see the people at the other tables. I wasn't in a dimly-lit room. THERE WERE SKYLIGHTS. Definitely a plus for photo taking and for admiring food.
Super-gelatine-ful mango pudding and orange cake and peanut mochi! They had tinned longans.
So, this is maybe my second favourite restaurant (owing to both the restaurant and to the experience I had today with friends), after Govinda's.
Tokyo Hibachi Asian Cuisine & Sushi Buffet
700 Plaza Dr. Secaucus NJ 07094

25 August 2011

Oreo-style Cookies

UPDATE: My brother claims that he adores these cookies. He even asked whether I blogged about them! He thinks that they're amazing and sweet and cookie-ish. My sister also likes them too. Therefore, I will make these for them at some point in the future.

I like Oreo cookies, even though I generally prefer soft cookies over crunchy ones. Oreos, however, have a specifically... dusty, gritty, cocoa taste. I think that I'd make these again, but I'd let them be soft/bake them for a shorter amount of time. I'll just continue to eat Oreos from the packet (without the filling. I don't like Oreo filling much.) I got the recipe from a website (*insert bitter rant here, into which I will not divulge*) that got it from Smitten Kitchen but I changed some of it to include whole wheat flour and less butter.

INGREDIENTS for about 36 flat cookies 6 cm in diameter
100 g white flour
35 g whole wheat flour
240 g caster sugar
120 g butter
pinch of salt
0.25 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
50 g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg

1. Let butter soften in a bowl.
2. Throw everything into the bowl except the egg.
3. Cut butter. Keep cutting. You will start off with a powdery mixture (west of image below), but over time, you'll get something that looks like cookie crumbs and and SMELLS LIKE OREOS!! (south east of image).
4. Crack an egg into the crumbs and mix until you get a thick, scoopable batter. Each cookie is about one sort-of-heaped teaspoonful of batter. Remember to grease the pan with the butter wrapper!
5. Bake in an unpreheated oven at 182 degrees C/360 degrees F on the lower rack for 8 minutes if you want soft cookies or 10 minutes if you want hard cookies. They will be shiny.
6. Let cookies sit in oven for 10-15 minutes.
7. Take cookies out of oven and stick them on a cooling rack. They may seem really soft when they come out of the oven, but they harden slightly over time. I find it easier to put the cookies upside down on the cooling rack.

After step 4: microwave the scoops of cookie dough for 45 seconds. Take out of microwave, flip over, and microwave for another 30 seconds. The cookies from the microwave are crispier (for sure) and taste a little more greasy. However, they cook ~4 times as fast, so that's a plus, right?

24 August 2011

"Cows Make Delicious!"

Australian meat pies are, to me, originate from either an inexpensive restaurant, or the freezer. I did make them from scratch two weeks ago, but, ironically, the "real" version to me is the frozen kind I used to stick in the microwave, or the hot, fresh kind I got a Penrith Plaza (or my primary school tuck shop). The Australian meat pies that I knew weren't made with whole-wheat flour or American cows.

So I've decided just to make meat tarts because:
1. I had a pound of minced cow pieces and I didn't feel like making meatballs
2. Tarts use less pastry than pies.

Fortunately, one pound of minced cow filling fit perfectly into 19 pastry shells!

For 19 egg-tart-sized pastry shells:
180 g of butter/1.5 sticks cut into about 320 g whole-wheat flour/2.5 cups and 1 tsp salt, with some water added to make the crumbs stick to each other to form a dough.

The top of the filling hardens/crisps a bit when cooking, while the inside of the tart remains moist and delicious (I'm assuming).

Along with apparently being a good spaghetti sauce...
1 large diced onion
40 ml ketchup
1 tsp Vegemite (optional, since this is not an Australian meat pie, after all)
6 heaping tbsp steak sauce
2 tbsp barbecue sauce
450 g minced beef
1 tsp salt (optional)
1 tbsp cornstarch/cornflour
250 ml water (or tomato juice, if you have any)

1. On high heat, cook onions, ketchup, Vegemite, steak sauce, barbecue sauce, and salt for a few minutes.
2. Throw in minced beef and listen to it sizzle for a few minutes.
3. Mix the cornstarch with a little bit of water, then dilute with remaining water. Pour water+cornstarch into saucepan.
4. Simmer on medium heat for around 20 minutes. A little less is fine. Just make sure the mince is cooked. If you are a vegetarian, use your eyes.
5. Scoop about 1.5 heaping tbsp of filling into each pastry shell. The filling will look very liquidy, but the liquid will congeal to a terrifically juicy meat filling thing in the oven.
6. Bake in an un-preheated oven on the lower rack for 15 minutes at 221 degrees C/430 degrees F. Let sit in oven for an hour or so. OR, just let them bake for 20 minutes. Either way, you just want to the crust to be cooked.

Something that's been on my mind recently is Chowder saying "Cuz cows make delicious!" from the episode "The Garage Sale". It goes something like...
Mung: We're going to-
Chowder: gettin' a cow?
Mung: Why do you want a cow?
Chowder: Cuz cows make delicious!
Mung: Delicious what?
Chowder: A garage sale, huh? Why would anyone want to sell their garage?
(this is paraphrased)

23 August 2011

Potato Cake/Bread

With sundry scrumptious potatoes, what better thing to bake than potato cake/bread?! Banana bread and pumpkin bread exist; surely potato bread (NO, NOT THE LOAF/SLICE VERSION AT THE STORE) is the next best thing ever? Carbs on carbs? I found a banana bread recipe and used it as the basis for my potato bread/cake. My sister says that it looks more like a brownie than a bread (true, because it doesn't really rise), but it has banana-bread-like crumbs, and is very moist, so I would be inclined to say that it's a muffin... even though it's not muffin shaped.

The best part? Everyone in the family, INCLUDING MY SISTER, eats it. My sister, the most fastidious person in the house when it comes to food (she has to have her dinner arranged EXACTLY, has to eat certain foods with a FORK ONLY, won't eat in the presence of the smell of mustard etc.) eats potato cake/bread. Whoo!!!

Below are two versions; the normal version, and the lower Calorie version. The lower Calorie version... surprising tastes the same and has a similar texture to the higher Calorie version!! Wonderful! I've made four of these breads/cakes so far, so I've had time to experiment and make adjustments.
INGREDIENTS for a 3 cm tall x 20 cm square pan of cake (1200 cm^3)
120 g butter
30 g brown sugar
40 g white sugar (more if you want something sweeter)

300 g freshly mashed potato
0.75 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt

40 ml water from the pot you used to boil potatoes
1 tbsp vinegar (optional but highly recommended)
100 g whole wheat flour
100 g nuts, chocolate, dried fruit etc. HIGHLY OPTIONAL.

1. Boil water and potatoes. Mash potatoes with baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt. Keep hot water in pot.
2. Cream sugars with butter. The result is a soothing, creamy, beige substance.If you feel like it, throw in an egg BUT IT IS NOT NECESSARY, and DO NOT ADD WATER in STEP 3.
3. Mix creamed butter with mashed potato, water, and vinegar. Note that the butter melts.
4. Fold in 25 g flour. Do this 4 times. You should have a rather light, gooey batter the consistency of pudding. Throw in OPTIONAL nuts/chocolate etc.
5. Spread evenly into a baking dish (greased with the butter wrapper).
6. Bake on the bottom shelf of an un-preheated oven at 177 degrees F/350 degrees F for 22-25 minutes.
7. Let bread/cake sit in oven for an hour or two or whenever you think it looks cooked.
8. Eat, or freeze it for later.

ALTERNATIVE METHOD if you are running low on time
1. Mix everything in a bowl. It will look ugly and lumpy. Just keep mixing. It will get much smoother.
2. Bake on the bottom shelf of an un-preheated oven at 177 degrees/350 degrees for 25-28 minutes.
3. Stick a fork into the bread/cake and if it comes out clean, it's done.

Because I'm kind of upset with the celerity of butter consumption due to this recipe (120 g of butter within 2 hours...), especially for my mum, I tried to make a lower calorie version that would still neatly crumble, stay moist, and be bready/cakey-textured. It looks the same:
60 g butter
20 g brown sugar
6 sachets of artificial sweetener

300 g freshly mashed potato
0.75 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt

120 ml water from the pot you used to boil potatoes
1 tbsp vinegar
100 g whole wheat flour
100 g nuts/chocolate/etc. (OPTIONAL)

1. Boil water and potatoes. Mash potatoes with baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt. Keep hot water in pot.
2. Cream sugar and artificial sweetener with butter. The result is a soothing, creamy, beige substance.
3. Mix creamed butter with mashed potato, water, and vinegar. This will look ugly.
4. Fold in 50 g flour. Fold in another 50 g flour. You should have a rather light, gooey batter the consistency of pudding. Throw in OPTIONAL nuts/chocolate etc.
5. Spread evenly into a baking dish (greased with the butter wrapper).
6. Bake on the bottom shelf of an un-preheated oven at 177 degrees F/350 degrees F for 22-25 minutes.
7. Let bread/cake sit in oven for an hour or two or whenever you think it looks cooked.
8. Eat, or freeze it for later.
Again, the lower Calorie version tastes the same as the higher Calorie version, although it looks uglier when you're mixing the ingredients together. Both have similar textures; if you get something that's more gooey than crummy (so, more like coconut pudding than like a cake), you should bake it for a few more minutes.

I made a coconut version, which wasn't as tasty as the plain version, surprisingly (too chunky). The walnut/pumpkin seed version was pretty good, though, and I enjoy encountering chunks of potato, so my next potato recipe will most likely be something sweet with huge chunks of potato.

I know that my opinion doesn't count for this, but the potato bread/cake looks, tastes and feels like banana bread. I think it's the nutmeg, vanilla, and potato texture that sort of... give off a banana-y aura. Neither my mum nor my brother agree with me. Maybe I'm just going bananas. (haha!)

22 August 2011

Potato Gnocchi

With a surplus of potatoes, I've been thinking of ways of eating them (other than mashed potato, even though I love mashed potato), and one of the ideas I found was potato gnocchi. I'm not really a gnocchi fan, since I don't have an emotional association with it. In addition, since we lack sauce in the house, the gnocchi is just another carbohydrate at dinnertime that pairs well with spicy stir fried Chinese food.
I agree with the recipe; the potatoes should've been baked instead of boiled because that way, they would've been drier and I wouldn't've obtained soggy, gruel-like gnocchi. Ah well. At least they stayed in shape (irregular) and didn't disintegrate in the boiling water. Maybe I should've baked them or fried them.

I don't think that this was the most appetising way of using potatoes, so I'm never making potato gnocchi again. Instead, I'm just going to make a freezer-shelf full of potato cake (tomorrow's post), which everyone, even MY SISTER, enjoyed.

800 g mashed potato
~140 g whole-wheat flour (just keep adding until the dough is malleable and not too sticky)

1. Mix everything.
2. Pluck small balls from the dough and stick into a pot of boiling water.
3. Take out after a few minutes.

21 August 2011

Fairy Cakes

As a reward for being less of a whining brat than usual (she's "only" cried twice in the past 12 hours!), I taught my sister how to make fairy cakes. Basic fairy cakes, without creative fillings.
I got a... mini fairy cake recipe here but I modified it tolerate a stick of butter. I ended up with 10 really buttery fairy cakes, though I did make them in egg tart containers so they were slightly bigger than the conventional fairy cake. And, yes, fairy cakes are essentially cupcakes but the phrase "fairy cakes" sounds better.
My sister followed the recipe, weighed out ingredients (with my help), mixed everything (with my help), and went to read when I stuck everything in/out of the oven.

If an 8 year old can do it, you can. Don't ever revert back to those putrid cake mixes!!

To me, the recipe looks like it's for pound cake.
120 g butter
120 g caster sugar
2 eggs
120 g self raising flour
0. Let butter sit outside fridge for a (few) hours.
1. Cream butter and sugar.
2. Beat in eggs and add vanilla.
3. Fold in flour and drop a huge tablespoon into a paper case.
4. Bake at 177 degrees C/350 degrees F in an un-preheated oven, on the second-top shelf, for 22 minutes. I usually use the bottom shelf but today I had potato bread baking down there. The bottom shelf calls for less cooking time, obviously.
5. The top of the cakes should be cooked and a fork stuck into cake should come out with no crumbs or goop. (The fork test always prevails!!) The cakes may look a bit soft and gooey when you take them out, but once they cool, they harden a little but still remain moist (due to the butter).

Usually I'd be done now, but my sister wanted to put icing on four fairy cakes so she made the despicable butter-sugar mixture (with my help).

I made 1/4 of the icing recipe listed here, which was enough to liberally ice 5 fairy cakes.
So, my sister loved the cake. Obviously.

20 August 2011

Tio Juan's Margaritas Mexican Restaurant

This is the first time I've been to a restaurant without being able to actually see the food I'm eating. I lost my glasses at the beach today, literally 8 minutes after entering the water. So, when we went to dinner some 8 hours later, I gazed longingly at my past, when I had neat vision (with glasses). Anyway. My dad thought it was a good idea to go to the new Mexican-themed restaurant nearby. I didn't really want to go, actually, because the reviews seemed pretty negative and the menu looked overpriced (compared to Chipotle). We went anyway, because I think it gave my dad some satisfaction. I'm not really sure why, and I can't tell, but I guess it might just have to do with how "going out to eat" frequently is an integral part of the "American Dream". I don't know. It just doesn't make sense that my dad eats any non-Chinese food-at-home with reluctance and much complaint, but tries Mexican-themed (and other) restaurant food with zeal.
So, we got free tortilla chips. They were warm.
My sister got a plain flour tortilla filled with melted cheddar with fries. She also got chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream. Oh, sure, this is so "Mexican". So, problems I have with this Mexican-style place:
1. Fries? Really?
2. American cheese...?
3. Where are the soft corn tortillas?
4. Chain restaurant... is quite distinctly American.
5. American portion size. American restaurant prices.
6. American operating hours.
7. Looks and feels like TGIF/Applebee's/Outback Steakhouse.
My brother got a steak make-your-own-taco kit.
Appetisers filled with chicken. The sauce with cilantro-y and tasted pretty nice.
Spicy fish tacos. The dip was... smokey. It tasted like smoke from the bustling, polluted streets of Wuhan. I'm not sure how it could taste like something that I used to smell, but it definitely tasted like that.
Ice cream.

The place was nicely decorated, but as people who read this blog know, I don't care about plating, the customer service, or the restaurant atmosphere. There were a lot of lights but the place was dark. There was a lot of music, including a loudspeaker playing a hearty tune to the car park, devoid of people but full of cars. The food arrived quickly but at twice the price and half the speed of that at Chipotle. I don't know why I'm comparing food here to Chipotle burritos, but I'm guessing Chipotle burritos taste better than the vegetarian ones here. I don't know since I didn't order anything (AND WE STILL WENT HOME WITH LEFTOVER FOOD. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS.)

372 West Mt. Pleasant Ave.
Livingston, NJ 07039

19 August 2011


The last time I had dorayaki was some point 4 or 5 years ago, from Maxim's Bakery in Hong Kong. It was something like $4.50 or $5.50 HKD for a big red bean or peanut butter filled dorayaki. So, you can imagine my excitement before trying these mini chocolate dorayaki! For those who don't know, dorayaki is a Japanese pancake thing; there are two cakey, moist pancakes, with red bean paste (or something else) sandwiched in the middle. Doraemon loves dorayaki. I don' really have an emotional attachment to them, though.
The name of the brand is "very cute", which is kinda ... well, cutesy.
Unfortunately, this dorayaki was too crumbly and dry. The filling tasted nothing like chocolate; instead, it tasted of red bean paste (which is still good, though).

18 August 2011

Lime Lays Potato Chips

One of the intriguing things that I asked my uncle to buy for me in China was lime flavoured potato chips. I don't understand why Lays doesn't sell these in the U.S.

They tasted like the "Hint of Lime" Tostitos, except that instead of a corn chip, we have a starchy potato chip. It's slightly sweet, has a neat clean lime taste that I would associate with really sweet limeade (but NOT anything creamy like key lime pie). I definitely prefer this flavour over the Original/salt flavoured potato chip (why are those so popular?! If there's a market for salt flavoured chips in the U.S., why isn't there a market for lime flavoured chips?!??!?)
My brother agreed with the package; he said, with a modicum of sarcasm, that they were "Cool & Refreshing". I would like to consume this flavour frequently. I suppose this is the upside to microwaving potato chips (I'll get to that tomorrow).

Cute translation, by the way. "Lays" got translated into 乐事 (le4shi4) which means "joyful things/events" in Chinese. My parents briefly called me 乐乐 when I was a baby. Obviously, it's not a suitable name for me.

17 August 2011

Walnut-Cranberry-Pepper Tea Muffins!!!!

After much deliberation, planning, postponing, and messaging, we finally managed a 6-person get together. A super mini high school reunion, if you will... 1.4% of my graduating class. I decided to make muffins for the occasion. I've been wanting to try something with pepper and cranberries for a long time, since four years ago, I tried this snack mix that had cranberries, pepper, and pecans, and it was sensational! Who knew that pepper and cranberries went so well with each other?! So, using this honey bread recipe [link deprecated...but it was the Honey Association in the UK] as a guide (funnily enough, though, I didn't use any honey), I made these muffins with a simple sugar glaze. I think I should've put more batter into the muffin cups.

50 g dried cranberries/raisins (I had raisins in mine too)
100 g walnuts (about a cup)
70 g sugar
300 ml cold spiced chai tea
2 eggs
1 tsp black pepper
cinnamon, if you wish.
275 g 100% whole wheat flour
1 mounted tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp water

1. Mix dried fruit, walnut, sugar, cold tea, and pepper together. Gently beat in eggs.
2. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
3. Add 1/3 liquid mixture to dry mixture. Mix. Add another 1/3. Mix. Add the last third. Mix. You will have a thick, sticky batter that plops rather reluctantly.
4. Scoop tablespoon amounts into un-greased muffin liners (I reused egg tart shells because I don't have a muffin pan). I ended up with 18, but I think that squeezing the batter into 12 liners would've been better because the muffins would've been more voluptuous.
5. Bake on the lowest rack of an un-preheated oven at 177 degrees C/350 degrees F for 13 minutes and let sit for 10 minutes in oven. If you have 12 muffins, you may need to bake for 15 minutes. Stick a fork in a muffin, and if the fork doesn't have goo sticking to it when it comes out, it's done baking.
6. Furiously mix icing sugar with water and lightly glaze muffin tops.

I think that everyone thought that the muffins were a bit strange, but not in a bad way. I really enjoyed them though, so I'll probably make them again for myself. Perhaps I will use stronger tea, and add 2 tsp of pepper. This has very little saturated fat, compared to conventional muffins!!!