Friday, February 27, 2009

Quick movie night snack - fudgy chocolate chip cookie

I can be a pretty cheap date...LOL... We were staying in for a Sunday night movie, and then I remembered that I've had a couple of the Betty Crocker instant desserts. I made the fudgy chocolate chip cookie, not the best cookie but its something to satisfy my sweet craving at the moment, without me having to interrupt our moving watching. These instant desserts can be bought at any Target. I'm not going to post the instructions here because it is very straight forward and you can find the instruction on the back of the package.

I enjoy browsing the Target's grocery section, by the way. I usually don't end up buying much from there, typically just pick up a pack of Activia yogurt, but its just fun browsing the different ailses. The frozen lunches look so tempting too (especially with the unpredictable work schedule, skipping lunch or late lunches seem like the norm for my project group nowadays). But so far, I still cook for both of us, and eat dinner left-overs for next day's lunch. We live close enough to work that I am able to go home at lunch time, eat and let my 2 dogs out and sometimes able to squeeze in some simple house chore like dropping the laundry into the washer so that it'll be ready for drying after I get home from work, etc. My 2009's resolution is to strive for work life balance, that means to maintain a work schedule that is non-interfering with my regular everyday life and activities. In even simpler words that means "screw work" ...LOL...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Vegetarian five-spice duck egg noodle soup (Mi Vit Tiem chay)

I've been wanting to try out WanderingChopstick's recipe for Mi Vit Tiem Chay (vegetarian five-spice duck and bamboo shoot soup with egg noodles) for a while now. A few weeks ago I asked the hubby to especially take me to the San Gabriel's market to buy the mock duck :-) hehhe the cans come in smaller than I thought, so I bought two. I also picked up the dried bamboo shoots. These have been sitting in my kitchen cabinet for a couple weeks, but I just haven't had a chance to make them.
Last week with the cold raining weather and all, it just seemed like a perfect time to make noodles for slurping dinner.

I didn't follow W.C.'s recipe axactly (well, you can read my post on my cooking philosophy, you'll see that I'm quite informal when it comes to cooking measurements). Anyways, I used
+ 2 cans of mock duck meats.
+ 1 package of dried bamboo.
+ 10 fresh shitake mushrooms.
Turned out it was a bit too much bamboo and mushrooms for our pots....but we both liked lots of mock ducks the way it was. So for next time, i'll scale down my bamboo and mushroom, other than that everything else seemed perfectly good. For vegetable and garnishes, I had beansprouts, watercrest, cilantro and green onion, and a little bit of siracha chili sauce gave it that spicy touch which helped bring out the spiciness of fivespice and ginger in the broth.

The hubbie asked why didn't I use real duck ? Um....I answered, well...b/c it's a vegetarian version! But I guess the truth is I never realy care for real duck that much, a mock duck version is perfectly fine for me. Hubbie liked the Chinese crispy duck for the greasy crispy skin, but other than that I guess he doesn't care much for a simmered duck in a noodle broth that much either. So yeah, this recipe is good for us, satisfied, I say two thumbs up !! Thanks W.C. !

Chayotte stirfry (su su xa`o) - and a little bit on my cooking philosophy

Chayotte has its natural sweet taste and provides for a light, refreshing vegetable. Vietnamese uses chayotte (chouchou, or "su su") in alot of our vegetarian dishes and soups. Chayotte wasn't cheap in Vietnam since only certain region with cooler climate (like Da Lat) can grow it. I remember the couple times our family got to go to Da Lat, you could tell who the tourists were because they were stocking up chayottes, potatoes, beets, strawberries, etc. L.O.L. The excitement was like when one goes to Hawaii and finds the heaps of fresh locally grown tropical fruits.....well, perhaps not so much for Californians since we do have many tropical fruits available locally, but say for an Asian who's been living in the midwest for a long time for example, anyways you get the idea. I remember growing up as a kid in Vietnam, we didn't get to eat such "cool-climate" vegetables very often, since it is rather expensive at the local market in Saigon, due to the transportation I supposed. So when we did, I enjoyed it immensely. Here in the US, chayotte is widely available in grocery stores, American and Asian markets alike. My family always likes it, my Mom often incorporated chayotte into her home cookings. And because of its refreshing sweet taste, chayotte stir fry has always had its place in my list of favorite home-cooked foods.
I didn't "learn" this dish from my Mom, but watching her cook it plenty of times was enough for me to pick up on the recipe, which is very simple and isn't much of a recipe at all. Hahah...but that's perfect, didn't I admit that most of my home cookings are simple recipes and easy to make? and mostly healthy, just what home foods are supposed to be :-) For me, it doesn't take a chef and everything doesn't have to be made from scratch, as long as I put some time, some care, and some consideration into the loved persons that I feed, it'll be all good :-) Though I try to put some measurable quantities in my recipes, in reality I don't usally measure my recipes axactly to the tsp, alot of times it is taste-and-feel, if I like it more salty, sprinkle on some salt, or if I like it a little sweeter then add a dab of get the ideas. Cooking is about feeling the foods and create it to each person's taste, a recipe is a guideline but in no meaning should it be a formula.

Back to the stir fry dish, here's the simple cooking instruction for it. Enjoy!

+ 3 large chayotte, peeled.
+ 2 tbsp of dried shrimps
+ 3 stalks of green onions
+ 2-3 tbsp water, depends
+ 1tsp salt or less
+ 1tsp soysauce
+ 1 tbsp oil
+ Sprinkles of ground pepper
+ 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced OR 1/2 tsp garlic powder.

+ Cut the chayotte into halves, scoop out the seeds. Then cut into thin strips (sized around the diameter of a chopstick, length about 2-3 in)
+ Cut green onions into 1/2 inch lengths, seperate the green and the white.

Cooking Instructions:
+ Heat up the oil in a big wok. If you use fresh garlic, add it now.
+ Add dried shrimps and the white parts of onions, stir occasionally for 1 minute to let the shrimp, onion and garlic brown a little bit.

+ Keep high heat, add chayotte strips. Then add soysauce, a little bit of water, sprinkle salt (and garlic powder if use powder) evenly onto the mix.
+ Stir occasionally for 5-7 minutes so that the strips can cook evenly.
+ Add more water and salt if needed. The chayotte itself yields some juice, you don't want it too dry it'll burn the chayotte, but don't want too watery either. About 3 tbsp of "juicy sauce" left at the end is about what we want.
+ Lastly, stir in the green parts of onions and sprinkle some ground pepers. Let it cook for another 1 minute.
+ Turn off heat, keep it covered for another few minutes.