Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter Fun 3: Pumpkin Pie Bars

Nov 24, 2009

CVS of all places fulfilled my Autumn/Winter holiday dreams! On the sale rack after Halloween, they had a small pumpkin on sale for only $1.30 or something close to that. I immediately grabbed it. With my cute pumpkin in my arms, I went home and stored it until I was ready to make some legit pumpkin baked goods!

When the time came around, I found how hard it is to cute a pumpkin, cook it until mashing consistency, and puree - all without a real steamer and food processor. I chopped up the little thing with much exertion, scraped out the seeds inside, steamed it in a rice cooker, and tried to mash some of the pumpkin flesh in a small blender. This was way too much work with little result. The little blender could not blend anything that wasn't liquidy enough, So I had to semi mash it and eventually gave up and settled with semi-mashed pumpkin puree. The rest of the pumpkin, I lightly sauteed in olive oil and ate with spaghetti and spaghetti sauce. This I made for my housemates and friends as a Thanksgiving dinner.

I don't have the exact recipe with me now, but it's something close to this recipe. When I get the exact thing, I repost this later. What I did differently was halve the the pumpkin part of the recipe and baked the thing in an 8 by 8" pan. the crust was REALLY yummy. The pumpkin part was delicious too, and I actually lacked having some pieces of un-pureed pumpkin to chew on. It was pretty good, but I don't think I ever want to mash a pumpkin myself again. Thank you Libby's!

Winter Fun 2: Ganache Topped White Butter Cake

Nov 22, 2009: R's Birthday
I wanted to make a cake for my roommate's birthday, so chose the white butter cake from and made a dark chocolate ganache topping. It was so beautiful before I drizzled it with white icing! The icing was too liquidy over the also-liquidy ganache, and the two flowed into each other to make a funky mess. I could call this a Messy Zebra cake, but that would just be a sad attempt to cover up a mistake. Nevertheless, the cake came out very good: rich and sweet under the dark chocolate. The hardest thing was whipping up the egg whites. I don't have a beater or hand mixer in my Berkeley home, so I used chopsticks to try and whip it up. Man, my arms were so tired! Baking is a serious form of exercise, I'm telling you!

Cake Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp cream of tartar (or fresh lime/lemon juice if you don't have it, like me all the time :P )

Cake Directions
See recipe

Dark Chocolate Ganache
Dove dark chocolate squares, chopped up
Whole fat milk

Ganache Directions
Add a small amount of milk to a small saucepan and heat on medium low, stirring constantly. Add dark chocolate and mix in until you have a thick consistency. Pour this over the cooled cake. I don't recommend putting icing on top unless you have a very thick ganache and a very thick icing. If you want icing, just mix powdered sugar and a small amount of milk until you get the desired consistency.

A Cornucopia of Winter Fun

Disney Downtown, New Years' Eve

Winter Break is a blessing in the middle of the school year. After a long semester of studying and work (along with bits of fun thrown in here and there for good measure), it's nice to come back home and not worry about the next onslaught of midterms and homework. Even better is the warmth of my hometown compared to Berkeley. Down south, it feels like a warm spring! I remember the chilly air on those sunny Berkeley days reading out 50 some degrees Fahrenheit. Despite it all, it was a refreshing walk through the city and campus, but once I got inside a warm classroom, nothing else could have felt better.

Now, back home, I watch the news and see the weathermen talking about subzero conditions elsewhere in the US (frozen lizards falling from trees, people dying from cold), and then compare it to our wonderful conditions here in SoCal. Wonderful 70-80 degree weather. My insulating-lacking body loves it! But, I just saw that there will be cooler weather coming in soon, along with some rain on Wednesday. It'll be a nice change, I suppose, and the dry SoCal terrain needs it.

In my long hiatus from blogging, I've done a lot of experimenting and taste-testing. As is the usual case with me, I felt too lazy to post; rather, I read other bloggers' posts and went on Facebook to pass the time. This morning, I decided it's finally time to post up my collection of Winter experiences. These will follow in subsequent postings after this one. Enjoy!

Nov 8, 2009: Asian Christmas Veggie Mix-Up

Ha, my attempt at an original name for something I made. This is something I quickly cooked up in Berkeley to replicate a dish my mom always makes. I didn't have the par-fried tofu we usually get from the Asian supermarket, only the silken tofu from the American stores. The problem with this tofu is that is crumbles at the slightest touch, which really changed what I was going for. Nevertheless, the dish came out still good and refreshing, as my mom's is. The other thing I was lacking at that moment was green onion and cilantro to garnish with. I served this with brown rice for a very healthy yet delicious lunch.

Garlic, minced
Frozen or fresh green beans
Plum tomatoes, sliced into thick wedges
1 pack firm tofu (if you want to do it like in the picture) or semi-fried firm tofu
Soy sauce
Olive oil

Saute the garlic in olive oil until yellowish-brown. Add the green beans next if using fresh, otherwise, add both the green beans and tomatoes. Saute for a bit longer until the juices of the tomatoes comes out and the vegetables are soft. Add in the tofu. Add in some soy sauce and sugar to taste, not too much sugar. Saute until tofu is cooked as well. Garnish with sliced green onion and cilantro.