The working life---the dawn of a new era

Or so it seems to two college graduates. And so it is with trepidation and excitement that we venture into this world, armed with a handful of recipes and an old spatula. Two women from both ends of the world, bonded by years of friendship and a newly discovered passion for cooking and baking. Care to join us?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cooking Jambalaya Together


I've been looking forward to Cyn's visit since she planned it earlier this year. We've been talking about cooking something together and we decided on jambalaya since Cyn has always wanted to try it and I just wanted to learn to cook something. It was a relatively fast dish to prepare since we used cooked rice instead of cooking the rice with the broth as the recipe called for. It was also simple -we only needed one pot that we added all the ingredients into. However, we had to transfer pots once we added all the rice because it was very challenging to mix the ingredients thoroughly in a full pot.


Click here for the recipe.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Guacamole!

A couple of months ago, two of my coworkers were exchanging recipes. One of them was sharing his guacamole recipe with the other, and I was (while on the phone), taking copious mental notes. I've been itching to try it out ever since I heard him claim "it's the best guacamole I've ever had," and finally got around to doing it. Unfortunately, since I was a little distracted (seeing that I was on the phone during the recipe exchange), I didn't quite remember the measurements, so I just decided to wing it and do it by taste. Here's what I did:
4 avocados
approx. 1/2 Tbsp garlic (minced)
approx. 1/3 c chopped onions (my coworker specifically said white onion, but unfortunately, I didn't have any of those at the time)
approx. 1/4 c cilantro
1 jalapeno (minced)
1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste

The reason I love guacamole so much is because it's so easy to make! The hardest part is prepping for it, and it's more tedious than difficult. So I just mixed all the ingredients together, and I guess it's up to you how you like guacamole--I like mine chunky, so I didn't go too crazy mashing it. Here is the final product:
The only thing I would change is, I probably wouldn't take out all the jalapeno seeds (I got scared it would be too spicy and took them all out), since I could barely taste it even after adding one whole jalapeno! Otherwise, I think this was definitely a success! Got a lot of compliments on it, and will definitely make some more again. After all, I have to use that other 1/2 lime before it dries out, right?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Arugula salad with Lemon-Romano Dressing

Wow! After such a long unintentional hiatus, I finally made something I haven't made before--completely unplanned and last minute too! I wanted some salad, and have always been a huge fan of arugula. The only dressing I had at home was one of those asian kinds, which didn't really go super well with arugula (not too bad, but not amazing either). So, I decided to try and make my own dressing!

It was actually relatively easy, I just tossed everything into the Magic Bullet and let it do all the work. The salad itself is just arugula, some chopped tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. The dressing was pretty easy to do also, but I didn't have any Parmesan, so I used Romano instead, and it still tasted good! It was just basically some olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and Romano (Parmesan) cheese. Will definitely try this again--delicious! :D

Here's the end result:


Friday, August 27, 2010

Chocolate Chunk Deep Dish Coookies


Chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven are one of my favorite things. I tried a variation by baking the cookie dough in a ramekin. The result -a larger serving of soft, chewy and barely-baked cookie dough in the center. If you like your cookies crunchy this is not the recipe for you. I used a 4" ramekin and filled it halfway with cookie dough, only the top of the 1-inch high cookie was crisp. You could use a wider skillet to bake a flatter cookie if you prefer a crisp cookie.

Click here for the recipe.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chocolate Pistachio Almond Tart

I loved the warm chocolate tart I made before and decided to try something similar. I found this recipe for chocolate pistachio almond tart online and everything in the name appealed to me. It's more time-consuming to bake since there's an additional layer of pistachio almond filling. The end result however, was well worth it! 

Just a tip, read through the ENTIRE recipe before doing anything. I knew I would have to pre-bake the tart shells so I did the prep for that in the morning; however, I was not expecting to have to chill the filling before baking them in my pre-baked tarts. After all the prep and waiting, my finished chocolate pistachio almond tarts were very satisfying. 

These are by far, my favorite chocolate dessert. It had the rich chocolate flavor of the warm chocolate tart plus the crunchiness and sweetness of the nut filling. It was much easier to eat a larger serving (though I haven't decided whether this is a good thing or not). I highly recommend you try this recipe out. I have received positive raves from family and friends and was even asked if I would sell them. Although it was time-consuming, it is an easy recipe and simple enough for new bakers (such as myself) to do.

Click here for the recipe.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bittersweet Brownies

Brownies were the first thing I learned how to bake. They're quick, simple and can satisfy my chocolate craving anytime. As I've gotten older and as the trend for chocolate has been towards the healthier dark chocolate, my taste in brownies have changed as well. I prefer a bittersweet chocolate so I found this recipe and decided to try it. It did not disappoint! My one regret was forgetting to grease my pan so I had to scrape brownie chunks off the bottom of my pan. The brownies were moist, fudgy and very rich. I cut them into 1x3 inch rectangles because any larger and I would have gotten a sore throat. Make sure you cool the chocolate before adding in the eggs so you don't cook the eggs while you're incorporating them. I baked only half-batch of the recipe but in the same-sized pan as in the recipe so I had 1/2 inch-thick brownies. I left them in the oven for 35 minutes and it was enough to get the crunchy top without over-baking the brownies. 

Click here for the recipe.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bittersweet Chocolate and Cardamom Cupcakes

While searching for ideas for chocolate desserts, I came across quite a few recipes that used bittersweet chocolate and cardamom as the main flavor combination. I was curious to try a dessert that was flavored with a spice and chose this cupcake recipe. I couldn't find ground cardamom so I grounded my own with a mortar and pestle (I don't have a spice grinder). I had less than the 1 1/2 teaspoons called for in the recipe but I found that it was more than enough to be able to taste it in the cupcake. My palate is probably  not sophisticated enough to appreciate the cardamom in the cupcake because I did not enjoy the spice in my sweet cupcake. However, it was a good recipe, the cupcake was moist and the whipped ganache frosting was not too sweet.

Click here for the recipe.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Asian Pesto Chicken Salad



Remember the Asian Pesto I used on the sandwich two weeks ago? Well, I had a whole bunch of leftover pesto sauce, and decided to use it on one of Ming's recipes--Asian Pesto Chicken Salad.


It was relatively easy, the most time consuming part was deboning the chicken, but that was only because we didn't have any boneless chicken, so I had to make do. I didn't really tweak anything in terms of the recipe--to summarize without giving away the whole recipe, he just asks to mix together chicken that you've sauteed, orzo, tomatoes (chopped), and spinach with the pesto sauce.


I got mixed reviews from the family:
Mom - good, but too spicy
Sister - good, but can get old pretty fast
Cousin - alright, too sour


So overall, I think the recipe was not bad, I might do it again, but maybe use a little less jalapeno and not add as much lemon. Good try!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tomato-Basil Bruschetta



My sister and I were invited to a dinner at a friend's house, and my basil plant was growing at an alarming rate, so I decided to make some bruschetta to bring. It was pretty easy to make--Again, I didn't really rely on just one recipe (looked up quite a few online), so no link, but here's roughly what I did: 


5 roma tomatoes (diced) - the recipes I found online asked for plum tomatoes, but we just had roma at home, so I made do with what I had
appox. 1/3 c onions (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
approx. 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
approx. 1 c fresh basil (chopped)


I basically just mixed all the ingredients together and added salt and pepper to taste. I already had some toasted bread at home, but if you're interested in making some, the recipes I found just asked to slice a baguette, brush some olive oil on top and bake for a few minutes. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Apple Turnovers

Cinnamon and apples -one of my favorite flavor combinations. I'll try making anything with this combination -muffins, pancakes, pies, crumble. On a trip to Montreal, I had the best-tasting apple turnover at Olive+Gourmando. The filling was copious, puff pastry -crunchy, and the outer coating of cinnamon sugar -just right. I have yet to find a place in Manila that serves an apple turnover as satisfying; so, I did what anyone with a serious craving would have done -I made my own.

Unfortunately my apple turnovers did not turn out as well as I had hoped. I did not have enough turnovers to find the perfect time, somewhere between 18 (under-baked apples) and 25 (burnt puff pastry) minutes. I used 4 apples as the recipe called for but found that I had enough to generously fill 10 turnovers; I had trouble sealing my turnovers as can be seen in the picture above. I made cinnamon sugar with fine sugar and sprinkled it over my turnovers before baking. The sugar did not crystallize as I had hoped and I found that the apple filling was sweet so there was no need for the outer sugar coating. However if you really like cinnamon sugar, I suggest using coarse sugar.

Click here for the recipe.

Individual Hot Chocolate Cakes

Whenever I see an individual warm chocolate cake in the dessert menu of a restaurant, I have to try it no matter how full I am. There are times when it disappoints -the cake isn't warm, there is no molten center or it is simply over-baked so the sides are burnt. I found this recipe from David Lebovitz's blog and was pleased with the results. I stored my ramekins in the fridge and just popped a cake in the oven whenever I was ready for dessert. I tried different baking times and found that 12 minutes will bake the cake entirely while 10 minutes was just right to leave a molten center.

Click here for the recipe.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cashew Curry

I tried my hand at cooking again. This time I wanted to make something I could eat with rice. I chose cashew curry because I figured vegetables would be easier to cook than a meat dish. The recipe was taken from 101cookbooks.com, the writer of which focuses on cooking natural and whole foods and ingredients.

I overcooked my cauliflower and I got mixed reviews on the amount of curry powder used. My brother thought there was too much and my other brother thought there wasn't enough. I highly recommend adding the cashews after the dish has cooled for longer so they don't cook and lose their crunch. I would make this dish again. It was healthy and easy to cook -only one pot was needed.

Click here for the recipe.

Warm Chocolate Tart

I had leftover cream and chocolate from making a chocolate-coconut cake so I looked for a recipe that listed  these as the main ingredients. Luckily, Francois Payard's Simply Sensational Desserts (the same book I took the Chocolate-Coconut Cake recipe from) has a delicious and very simple recipe for warm chocolate tart.

The most time-consuming part was making the sweet tart dough from scratch since you will need to refrigerate the dough between steps. After I pre-baked my tart shell, there was a crack in the side so I patched it up with some bread. It would have been better to just not throw out my excess tart dough.

This is definitely one of my favorite desserts. It was easy to make and the chocolate ganache was rich and creamy.

Click here for the recipe.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Turkey Pesto Sandwich



This past Friday was more of a low-key event--sandwiches and some Wingstop (yum!). I made asian pesto sauce the night before from the book Simply Ming (delicious!--pesto made with fresh basil, mint, cilantro, peanuts, jalapeno and lemon zest). I toasted ciabatta bread with pesto sauce slathered on one side, and slices of Yancey's Fancy Jalapeno & Peppadew Cheese on the other. Afterwards, I put some turkey slices, lettuce, onions and avocado, and voila! Delicious! I would have to say, best sandwich I've ever made--best dish out of everything I've posted (except the pizza :P which reminds me--I might make some more pizza... with the extra pesto sauce I got!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Marinated Tofu with Edamame Stir-Fry

Another Friday night, another night to experiment with recipes that look good.  This past Friday, I decided to try making Asian Ginger Soup, Marinated Tofu with Edamame Stir-Fry, and Cold Soba Noodles. While the last Friday dinner was a success, this one was, sadly, more mediocre than great (hence, the short post).


I got the recipe from a magazine, so unfortunately, no links for today! Basically, I marinated the tofu in a mixture of rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, chopped ginger and chopped garlic for 30 minutes. After frying the tofu, I stir-fried edamame, sliced mushrooms, bok choy, bell peppers and onions, added the marinade (thickened with cornstarch) and finally, topped it off with the cooked tofu. I've thought of a few tweaks I can make to the dish--when I've perfected it, I'll definitely post!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Asian-themed Dinner Part 1: Miso soup

(photographer: Kelvin Chu :P)

I decided to have an Asian-themed dinner this Friday to wind down after a long week--Miso soup, Garlic Soba Noodles, Garlic Parmesan Flatbread (leftover dough from the pizza), and some Almond Jelly (courtesy of my sister)


To start our Asian-themed dinner, I made some simple miso soup using miso paste and some firm tofu (forgot to buy some seaweed). I didn't really have a specific recipe that I followed, just had some boiling water, added some miso paste to taste (the trick is to mix the paste to boiling water in a separate bowl to avoid clumping), and some dashi granules (which is basically fish stock). Once the soup tasted like I wanted it to, I added the firm tofu, which I already cut into cubes and let it boil. Done!

Asian-themed Dinner Part 2: Garlic Soba Noodles



For the main course of the night, I decided to try a recipe I saw online. This recipe looked good from the first time I saw it--simple, quick and tasty. I didn't exactly follow it step-by-step, just sort of went with my gut (whoops--slightly tasteless there... maybe I should've measured). But it didn't turn out so bad!


To summarize the recipe, I fried firm tofu that had been dipped in egg, then covered with a mixture of breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder and salt. After boiling soba noodles, I stir-fried it with garlic powder, some chopped garlic, and parmesan cheese for flavor. I also added some green onion, and topped the dish with the firm tofu (sliced). Delicious!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Experiment #3: Pizza (with homemade dough)




The pizza itself was really easy to make, just choose a sauce and toppings. I used pesto sauce (from Trader Joe's) and varying toppings (I made 3 pizzas, all with different combinations of the following: stir-fried chicken, avocados, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, olives).


For the pizza dough, I used this recipe (although, as you can see, my dough did not turn out as delicious looking as this website's). Instead of 4 1/2 cups of flour, I used 50% whole wheat flour and 50% all purpose flour. And instead of the instant yeast, I used active dry yeast, but only 75% of a teaspoon (approximate) according to this.


The pizza dough takes the longest time--after letting it rest overnight, bring it out 2 hours before baking and knead it a bit to form mini pizza-sized dough. Let rest.


When the dough is ready, spread the pizza sauce of your choice onto it (I don't like crust, so I tried to put pizza sauce as close to the edge as possible) and add whatever toppings you like--don't forget the cheese!

Experiment #2: Quiche

This is actually a pretty late post (I did the quiche a few weeks ago), but I still wanted to share:

So, this was, again, another relatively easy recipe, with pretty good results. I'm not the biggest fan of pie crusts, especially the pre-made kind. In my opinion, they just get in the way of flavor! So I used phyllo dough (2 sheets, folded in) instead of pie crust, to get a little bit of crust, but not TOO much. The trick with phyllo dough is (as I've learned the hard way) to cover the crust with some aluminum foil to prevent from burning while you bake the quiche. You also need to brush each sheet with some oil (I used oil embellished with some salt, pepper and other spices to give the crust a little bit of taste. I have to say though, this is either a stupid idea, or a brilliant idea that I didn't take too far, because the crust just tasted like crust).

This particular quiche I made with mushrooms, bell peppers, meat (can't remember what type of meat I put), spinach (not too much), fresh basil, and some avocado. Here is a more detailed recipe:

6 eggs (beaten, with salt, pepper and approximately 1 Tbsp milk)
1 Tbsp milk (approx.)
1/2 avocado (cut in small, even pieces)
Basil (few leaves)
1 c spinach
1/2 bell pepper
1 c chopped mushrooms
1 c meat (your choice!)
2 sheets phyllo dough

1. Follow phyllo dough instructions on defrosting. Place phyllo dough on desired baking pan.
2. Stir fry spinach, bell pepper, mushrooms and meat. Let cool.
3. Beat eggs, add milk. Add salt, pepper, and other spices to desired amount.
4. Preheat oven to 400 F
5. Once cool, add cooked ingredients to baking pan. Add basil and avocado.
6. Pour egg mixture on top evenly.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes, checking quiche at around 25 minutes.

The recipe is based on this, but you can mix it up and change ingredients here and there (like I did). Enjoy!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Penne alla Vodka

I spent a year in Beijing to learn Mandarin; to eat healthy, I bought a ceramic cooker so I could "cook" my own meals rather than eat the greasy food from the school cafeteria (or any restaurant in Beijing). Truth is, the only dishes I could cook was anything I could boil (i.e. pasta) or steam (i.e. frozen dumplings). Since getting home, I have wanted to cook a dish that did not come from opening a jar and simply pouring the contents out onto a pan for heating. I found this recipe for Penne alla Vodka on the 101cookbooks.com website. Reading the recipe, it sounded simple enough for a virgin-cook to pull off; moreover, it was quick, healthy and delicious. I usually can't eat much of a cream-based pasta but this tomato-cream sauce was flavorful and rich without being too heavy.

Click here for the recipe.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chocolate Coconut Cake

As part of my goals for the year, I decided I would expand my range of baking skills past cookies and apple crumble. I decided on a Chocolate Coconut cake for my dad's birthday. The recipe was taken from Francois Payard's book, Simply Sensational Desserts. There are only a few ingredients needed so I would not advise skimping on the quality of the ingredients. It's a coconut macaroon cake layered with chocolate ganache. I found that the sweetness of the coconut is balanced by the richness of the dark chocolate. The recipe calls for 10.5 oz of dark chocolate and 3.5 oz of milk chocolate, I decided to use only dark chocolate and it turned out quite well.

Click here for the recipe.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Experiment #1: Egg Breakfast Crepe/Wrap


This is actually my 3rd run on the recipe--I just didn't get a chance to take a picture the first 2 times. Yes! Definitely a success: It's basically scrambled eggs cooked quiche-thin (or in my case, however thin I could make it) with some fillings to make a wrap. Extremely easy--I highly recommend it to other newbies.

Here is my inspiration: Skinny Omelette Recipe

Next up... Quiche!