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! 

Antelope Island

Last weekend, we took a ride down to Antelope Island State Park, the largest island in the Great Salt Lake.  The island is uninhabited but it is home to lots of wildlife, including a free-roaming herd of 500 bison, antelope, pronghorn and bighorn sheep.  We drove around for an hour or so before we spotted some bison.  Can you see them in this photo?  Hahahaha, It's way out in the distance.  Unfortunately, I only had my crappy cellphone camera with me.  It's funny how there are over 500 bison on the island and yet it took us an hour to find them.  We were wondering, "where were they hiding??"
Then we saw a little herd of bison that was only about 50 feet from the road.  They actually looked much closer than this in person, but my cell camera doesn't do it justice.  From wikipedia, "The bison were introduced to the island in 1893, and the bison has proven to be a valuable genetic pool for bison breeding and conservation purposes. The bison do well because much of the island is covered by dry, native grassland."  It was such a cool experience to see the bison up close.  The most amazing thing ever to see wild bison in natural habitat.  Truly awesome!  I only wish this photo was better!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chinese Comfort Food: Part 2

The cooking up a storm hasn't ended.  This past weekend we made Lo Mai Gai or otherwise known as lotus leaf wrapped chicken with sticky rice.  This is not something we ever made from scratch before.  It's something we normally get at dim sum because it is so labor intensive to make.  And since it takes forever to make, we made a batch of 30 of them.  So that we could freeze them and enjoy whenever we are in the mood to have a tasty treat.  This is what lotus leaves look like. The recipe we followed can be found here.  Use this recipe and not my bad instruction below.
The lotus leaves need to be soaked for 10 minutes on each side in boiling water to soften.
This recipe uses sticky glutinous rice. We made a big batch of rice to stuff the leaves with.
In addition to the rice, for the filling we used chicken, chinese dried sausage, and shitake mushrooms.
Put some filling in, rice first, then meat, then more rice.
Then wrap it like a present.
Make sure when you wrap it, that it is really tight.
Put the wrapped parcels into a steamer and steam for 25 minutes.
Waiting for these babies to steam was the hardest part.
And here are half of them all done.  We froze these for future good eating.
This is what it looks like cooked and ready to eat.  Yummy yumminess!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chinese Comfort Food

Being out here in Utah with family has been awesome.  We are definitely cooking up a storm.  My sister-in-law is very much a foodie just like I am.  Her entire family, dad, brothers are professional chefs, just like my dad.  So cooking is serious business in our family. This past weekend, we spent the entire Sunday making what I call Chinese comfort food.  We made Char Siu Bao, (roast pork steamed buns) and another version with a mixture of ground pork, nappa cabbage and shredded carrots. These baos took like 5 hours to make, because the dough needs to sit for 2 1/2 hours to rise.
The recipe we used can be found here.

After the dough has risen, use enough dough to be rolled out for one bun. 
Put filling in the dough.
Then pinch up the sides up to the top and twist.
The buns go into a steamer, and this is what it looks like after 20 minutes of steaming.  Ooooh, good stuff!
We also made Chinese Egg Tarts, which is a yummy egg custard dessert.
Recipe here:
It's an incredibly easy dessert.  Next time, I think I'll use cupcake liners, though these did come out of the muffin pan fairly easily.
We had these for lunch.   Typically you'll find these goodies at any good dim sum restaurant.  If none are near you, make your own!!
And believe me, it's totally worth the effort!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hiking + Arches: Part 2

Our next adventure in Arches National Park was to find the Landscape Arch, probably the second most famous arch in the park.  It isn't quite the arduous hike to find Landscape, and the terrain is more kid friendly.  It takes about an hour to hike to the Arch.  There were lots of cars parked outside the parking lot, a sign of how popular this hike is.
This is the entrance of the hike trail.  How cool is this, you have to walk in between these large sandstone structures.
This is a view from inside, looking back.  So pretty!
Follow the signs!
We made it, in about an hour, we came across Landscape Arch.  My was it worth the hour long hike.  Spectacular!  It is the longest arch in the park and is quite thin.  It looks like it could break at any moment.
After the hike, we drove around to look at other structures.  How beautiful is this rock balanced so nicely?
We also drove to an outlook viewpoint to see Fiery Furnace.  Fiery Furnace is a series of rock formations "consisting of a maze of narrow passages created by sandstone fins".  It's hard to hike here and requires a guided ranger led tour.  We didn't have time to do this tour, so we just admired from above.
I had my nephew take a photo of me at the outlook.  My nephew is 4 years old.  It's why I have no head.  hahaha.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hiking + Arches: Part 1

I'm really behind on blog posts. I've been super busy and now I have caught the worst cold and have completely lost my voice. (sigh) At least now, I can catch up on writing about my adventures in Utah.  Last weekend, we took a drive down to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.  I took this photo out the car window on our drive to the park.  Isn't this beautiful?
Here's another photo as we were getting closer to the entrance of the park.  You can see on the right, some huge rocks balanced on top of the cliffs.
Arches National Park is known for their 2,000 natural sandstone arches.  On our first day in Arches, we did the hike to find the Delicate Arch, the park's most famous Arch.  At the entrance of the hike trail we saw an old log cabin, that used to be the home of a cattle rancher named John Wolfe.  He lived in this one room log cabin!  Can you imagine living in one room for most of your life? Amazing!
The hike is about 3 miles long, and with my little 3 and 4 year old nephews in tow, it took us a good 2 hours to get to the Arch.  Part of the hike was this steep rock structure / cliff.  It's a pretty steep incline for novice hikers like ourselves.  We took lots of breaks to catch our breath. 
We were pretty out of breath when we walked up this rock.  The elevation keeps going higher and higher.  Here's a photo of my brother's family, trekking our way up. 
To get some perspective of the elevation, check out this photo I took from the bottom of the hill.  The Arch was all the way at the top.
Along the way, we saw some amazing plants.  Here's an example of a tree at the top of the cliff.  Pretty cool.
The hike was so worth it, when we finally turned the corner, we saw the Delicate Arch.  And boy was it spectacular.  I mean, this photo really does not do it justice.
To get an idea of the sheer size of it, here I am standing underneath the arch.  It is enormous!  I look like an ant in this photo!  They say, the best time to go see this arch is at sunset.  And many say they come at night, because the stars are so bright.  Since there is little light pollution here, the sky is super dark here and perfect for star gazing.  One day, I would love to camp here.  It's spectacular!
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