Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Best Neighbors!

When we moved into this house 3 years ago, our neighbors made us feel really welcomed. They came over and introduced themselves, and made us feel like if we needed help with anything, all we had to do is ask.  It was great to know that the block that I live on has such community.  So my first Christmas at this house, I gave each of my friendly neighbors a box of chocolates as a thank you for welcoming us to the neighborhood.  The tradition has stuck and now every year, at Christmas time, I've been continuing to give them chocolate.  The neighbors have reciprocated with giving us goodies back.  This morning, I received home baked Italian cookies.  Yum.  And a cake from a local bakery.
I opened the bakery box and inside I saw the most amazing sight!  An Eclair cake!  Oh my wow!  I've never heard of an Eclair cake before.  Doesn't this look just incredible!  I can't wait to eat this after our Christmas dinner!  I'm already drooling!  I definitely have the best neighbors!  Merry Christmas everyone!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Baking Sourdough Bread

Making the sourdough bread from the sourdough starter that Aimee from RedGardenClogs gave me was a lot of fun. The starter that she gave me is "alive" so it was bubbling with activity. 
This is the basic recipe for sourdough bread that Aimee recommended.  Note: when you make this bread, you have to plan it in advance.  You need two days to make this bread.  Here is the dough all kneaded and ready to be made into loaves.
The results of the bread baked.  The dough is enough for two small loaves.  Out of the oven, the bread is delicious.  The crusty outside is crunchy and delicious.  I realized I didn't knead the dough enough, so mine came out pretty dense.  I know now that it needs more air in the dough to make it fluffier on the inside. I sliced the bread the next day and toasted the slices, added a slab of butter and jam.  Ooooooh, amazing!  If you live in NYC area and would like some sourdough starter, I'll have some to give away.  Just give me a holler!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sourdough Starter & a Good Cause

Last week, I met up with Aimee at RedGardenClogs, a fellow New Yorker and also a garden blogger. She had contacted me to inquire if I wanted some of her sourdough starter, in which my answer was, "absolutely".  I've never been a big baker, but I love to make bread, so I definitely wanted to try this.  I also LOVE sourdough bread, it's one of my favorites. I also offered her some of my Blue Lake pole bean seeds that I saved from plants in my garden, and she asked for some more Jaune Flamme heirloom tomato seeds.  We set up a meeting time for a swap, my seeds for sourdough starter.  Sa-weet!  She also told me about a project that she is working on, to knit cat beds for the feral cats in her neighborhood.  The cat beds help the cats stay warm in the winter, and they love to snuggle in them.  She was seeking knitters to donate any extra wool yarn for the project.  I am a novice knitter and have lots of yarn, but none were wool, so I went to The Naked Sheep, a yarn store near my house.  Wool yarn she said helps keep the cats warm even in inclement bad weather.  If you have an extra wool yarn that you would like to donate to the cause, let me know and I'll put you in touch with Aimee.
I bought 4 skeins of wool yarn on my way to meeting Aimee.  I really love this color combination.
Here are some photos Aimee sent me of the cat beds that she makes.  She said they are "felted bed based on the Kitty Pi Pattern." Aren't these super cute?  It's also a nicer, soft and warm place for them to sleep.
Here is a closeup of the sides.  Aimee noted that it gets really thick with felting.
Here is the bottom of the bed.
Aimee said that this is where the feral cats used to sleep.  There is a Ginger cat sleeping in one of the garden boxes.  Aren't the cat beds so much better?
Here are 2 of the 9 or 10 kitties that are permanent residents in Aimee's Brooklyn neighborhood: "Enzo (orange) who has lost his right eye and General Sherman (gray + white tabb)y...he's missing his tail, poor guy."
Here are the cats using the cat beds Aimee made.  If you click on the photo to inspect closer, you can see two cats, Enzo and his momma snuggling in the bed. Rusty & Oscar, the other cats come in to investigate and wonder where theirs are!  Aimee are still knitting them, so soon, very soon.  As you can tell, they sure like the beds.
Here is the sourdough starter that I met up with Aimee to get.  So exciting!  I'll be writing about my baking adventures soon!
And here's another surprise!  Aimee also gave me some of her homemade spicy honey mustard!  Talk about yummy!  This is going to be amazing smothered on some toasted sourdough for a turkey or pastrami sandwich.  I cannot wait!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Blooms

Last weekend, I was asked to work at the Flower Station, in Princeton, New Jersey. A florist that I worked at when I was in college.  Now I go back from time to time as temporary help, I work there when they are busy for the holidays.  I really enjoy going back and working there because they have an amazing stock of gorgeous flowers.  It feels nice to be surrounded by beautiful blooms in the dead of winter.
In addition to flowers, they have a beautiful selection of pointsettia plants available for sale for the holidays.
This bouquet a customer purchased as a birthday gift for his wife.  Wow, wouldn't you like a pretty bouquet like this?  Love it!
After work, I went over to my friend Fabian's house for dinner and to see his Christmas decorations.  He had these gorgeous parrots on his tree.
Isn't this tree stunning?  (Click on the photo for a closer look.) This photo really doesn't do it justice, but the ornaments, lights, and bows that adorn the tree are just gorgeous.  I want him to come over and decorate my house!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Banana Plant Grows in Staten Island

I've been home for over a week and a half now, and it's been quite busy since I've been back. Being away for 2 1/2 months was great, but getting back to the swing of things at home has been crazy!  Mail to sort through, family and friends to see, clients to meet, and not to mention the upcoming holidays.  It's been a whirlwind of activity.  Even though we are well into winter, plants and gardening are still in the forefront of my mind.  I got an email from a fellow Staten Island gardener Ralph, who I met at Revel Gardener's seed swap event back in September.  At that event, I had mentioned to him that if he had other banana plants available in the future that I would be interested in getting one.  In his email, he said he had a new banana plant transplant that he split from his original plant that he was ready to give to me.  So excited!!  Banana plants are tropical so they need to be indoors during the winter.  (Another plant that I have added to the list of plants I must schlep inside!  Yikes.) I hope that I can get this plant to fruit in 3 years!  That would be so amazing!  Thanks again Ralph for such an amazing gift!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Last Day

My flight on my last day in Utah, was a red eye, so I had all day to spend with the family.  We decided to make gingerbread people cookies.  We used the recipe found here.  The recipe made about 24 cookies.
We had so much fun decorating the cookies.  We made our own royal icing to decorate with.  We did not use egg whites because we were scared of salmonella poisoning. So we just mixed water with powered sugar to make the icing.  Make sure it's pretty thick and not runny icing so that it dries quickly.
We used marshmallows and chocolate chips, and used food coloring to make pink icing.  My sister-in-law said that this one she decorated is Lady Gaga.  Hahahahaha.  She is very "elaborately decorated".
A boy and girl gingerbread couple.  We put popsicle sticks on the cookies to make it easier for the boys to eat. 
Like how cute is this right?
Poor little guy did not stand a chance.  I ate him.  Hehehehe
Nothing beats a plate full of yummy gingerbread people.  Yum.
The boys sure liked them.  Too cute!  What type of holiday cookies are you making?  What are your favorites?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

With Views Like This

I'm behind on blog posts with all the traveling. I took these photos on my last few days in Utah.  This is a view of my bedroom window at my brother's house.  Can you imagine waking up to this every morning?  It's an awesome way to wake up.  It makes you feel so alive with energy!
Here is another view from the same window.  Yes, W O W!  When I returned to NYC, this is what I'll miss in the morning.  A stunning view.
Here is a view at sunset!  How spectacular is that?
Christmas season is in full swing so we did a little shopping.  I saw these cute cucumber ornaments at Kohl's.  I was so close to buying this because it was so adorable.
After a day of shopping, we always crave some comfort food to re-fuel.  The closer you get to Salt Lake City, the more variety you get.  We decided on some Vietnamese vermicelli noodles. Barbecue pork chops, spring rolls, bean sprouts and peanuts on a bed of noodles.  Yummy.
And who would have guessed that you can find decent bubble tea too!  I ordered the honeydew melon. Yum-o!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Food Coma

We had a dusting of snow in Utah for Thanksgiving. It made for a beautiful scenic drive to my sister-in-law's family's house for Thanksgiving dinner.
As I mentioned in previous posts, we are a family of foodies and eaters, and Thanksgiving is no exception.  We cooked up a storm, literally all day. 
Holidays for us usually consist of lots and lots of cooking of authentic Chinese cuisine, especially the treats that are time consuming.  My sister-in-law's parents taught us how to make fried savory pork "doughnuts".  The batter is made out of ground soybeans and rice flour. 
A whole bag of rice flour goes into the mixture.
The dough is placed on a special metal utensil, then a pork and chive filling added.
 Then more dough to cover the filling. Final step is to add some raw peanuts on top.
The metal ladle is placed into a wok of hot oil and fried until crispy brown.
Here are the doughnuts fritters all finished.  These are not sweet, they are savory with a pork and chive filling.  They are absolutely delicious right out of the fryer.
For dinner, we had a mostly traditional turkey dinner.  The turkey was brined overnight and perfectly seasoned.  My sister-in-law carved the turkey, she did an amazing job with it.
I made scalloped potatoes au gratin.  This recipe called for 4 cups of heavy cream, cheddar cheese, Parmigiano cheese, and butter, oh my is it completely rich!!  Thank goodness we only eat this once a year, it is complete gluttony!
Table full of delicious food, crab cakes, stuffed mussels, yams, honey baked ham, stuffing, sooo good!
For dessert, we did mostly Chinese desserts. I made 2 dan tat pies, or Hong Kong style egg custard tart. 
And soybean peanut rice balls.  These are rice flour balls, with peanut sugar on the inside and crushed toasted soybean on the outside.  Oooh are these ever good.  With all this eating, I feel like eating salads for the rest of the week.   Hope everyone had a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Korean Comfort Food

Pretty much anywhere you drive near Salt Lake City, you get mountain vistas like this one of the Wasatch Mountains.  Just stunning! The Wasatch mountains are the western edge of the Rocky Mountain range.  This is the view we saw on our way to the Asian market to pick up some ingredients for dinner last week.  We have been cooking up a storm and on this night, on the menu Jap Chae, or Korean Noodles and Korean Seafood Scallion Pancake.
Jap Chae is one of my favorite dishes to make.  It calls for Sweet Potato clear noodles with julienne shredded carrots, red peppers, scallions, shitake mushrooms, spinach and your choice of meat or firm tofu.  The flavoring is a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar.  This can be eaten warm or room temperature.  Delicious!
My other favorite Korean dish to make is seafood scallion pancakes.  In a bowl I mix 1 egg, 1 cup of water and 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  Add 5 minced scallions and seafood of choice.  For this one, I used 1/2 pound of shrimp.  Cook in a skillet like any other pancake and serve with sweet soy sauce dip.  For dip, I use soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar and water.  Korean comfort food... Sooo good! 

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