Monday, February 23, 2009

Chrysanthemum Tea

These days the weather temperature had gone up quite significantly. It is indeed nearly summer! (Summer in this country starts mid-March to May). However, with the changes in the weather, many children are getting sick - cough, colds and fever or flu.

My son has terrible cough and colds. He has enough thick mucus that blocks his nasal passageway. He has trouble sleeping at night and difficulty concentrating in school. And the syrups seem not to have any effect. What to do? I turn to the age-old remedy of Chinese medicine. Actually, I forgot all about this until mother-in-law reminded me. :)

Chrysanthemum flower tea is one very common type of Chinese tea. Drunk with meals it helps to aid digestion, especially of greasy foods. It is also commonly taken to help strengthen the lungs and relieve head congestion. It has cooling effect that is very appropriately taken during hot weather. According to my mother-in-law, it can help in the early stages of feverish type of flu. It may also help relieve certain types of headaches, blurred vision and dizziness. (But the effect on those symptoms will vary dependent on the underlying cause, of course.)

This tea is very easy to prepare. Take fresh yellow chrysanthemum flowers. Clean them well, and brew with hot boiling water. Since fresh flowers are not available here, what we have on hand are dried flowers. We usually have a supply since we really stock up on this flower tea when somebody goes to China. We can also brew the dried flowers. Boil a tablespoon or two of dried flowers for every cup of water, strain and drink. (In my photo above, I deliberately did not strain eveything so that you can see what the chrysanthemum flowers look like.) The resulting tea is yellowish in color with the fragrance of chrysanthemum flowers. This tea is very mild and safe, with no side effects, this can be taken regularly.

But for my son's aggravated condition, mother-in-law recommends the salt-infused chrysanthemum tea (Kiam Kak Hue in Fookien.) We also have this on hand, anytime in the refrigerator. When a batch of dried chrysanthemum flowers arrive from China, my mother-in-law would personally make the salt-infused chrysanthemum. She would take a lot of flowers, and sprinkle a handful of coarse sea salt. (Sorry, she also do not have accurate measurements. She simply says, the more salt, the better it would be.) Then she would fill up and pack a sterilized glass jar with this salted dried chysanthemum flowers. We keep this in the refrigerator and use it when needed. Like today.

This traditional Chinese tea should be brewed fresh everyday, and we should expect a relief from the colds symptoms in a few days. I certainly hope my son gets better soon. It is exams week next week!

Sharing this Chinese herbal flower tea with the Weekend Herb Blogging community, now headed by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once. This week, the event is hosted by Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.

Friday, February 20, 2009

WholeWheat Loaf

I am so very, very excited! Yes, I am! This is the first time I have made my own (yeast) bread! Yay! :)

I know, this might not be an exciting thing for many of the baker-bloggers in the food community. I mean, this is a very simple loaf with a very simple recipe. But I am more of a cook than a baker. I am only "trying hard" to conquer my fear of "yeast" baking, which is an "unknown" territory for me. I am so inspired by the many beautiful bread and cakes and pastries by the many great food bloggers out there, that I promised myself, I am going to do this one day. And now, I did!

I followed the exact recipe and exact instructions of "The Bread Book" by Sara Lewis. Fearing that the bread might not come out correctly. I kept watch during the rising time, feeling very relieved seeing the dough rising up bit by bit. I have my heart in my throat all throughout the baking time.

after 5 minutes, dough is still rising

1 and 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 and 1/3 C all-purpose flour
2 t caster sugar
1/2 t salt
1 and 3/4 t instant dried yeast
1 T canola oil
1 C warm water

1. Mix the flours, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the oil and gradually mix enough warm water to make the dough soft.

2. Knead well on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth. Put in the greased loaf pan.

3. Cover the pan loosely with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes or until dough reaches just above the top of the tin.

4. Remove the clingfilm and bake in a preheated oven, 400F for 25 minutes (small loaf). Check after 15 minutes and cover with foil if overbrowning.

5. Holding the loaf pan with oven gloves, loosen bread with pallete knife. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Being a newbie baker, I do not know what a 1-lb loaf pan is, or a 1 and 1/2 lb loaf pan, or a 2-lb loaf pan. The ingredients in the book are listed according to the final product weight. My only loaf pan is 9 x 5 x 4. Since I do not know what is the corresponding weight of my loaf pan, I opted to use the ingredients for the smallest loaf. I figured that it is safer to have a small loaf inside a big pan rather than to have a big loaf overflowing a small pan. Of course, not much ingredients will be wasted if my bread came out inedible. :)

Yup, my pan is too big for the "1-lb" ingredients. That it why, my bread didn't turn out to shape like a bread loaf! :) I know now that I have to use the "2-lb" ingredients for my loaf pan. Next time, my bread is going to look a lot better! :)

But I promise you, this bread tastes a lot, lot better than the store bought bread! The texture is a bit denser than the store-bought ones, because I used part- whole wheat flour. Besides, the store bought ones incorporate a lot of air, making them softer and fluffier. But we think ours is more flavorful and healthier. Without additives and preservatives, home-made bread is definitely better.

The recipe uses instant dry yeast (not active dry yeast), that is why it does not require the initial immersing in warm water, and can be added directly to dry ingredients. However, it is still a type of dry yeast that needs warm water to be activated.

I sliced the bread with a serrated knife, slathered a side with cream cheese spread, added slices of mushroom and olive lyoner, added slices of tomatoes and lettuce. Yummy and healthy "brown bag" to-go-breakfast for Hubby and kids. This small loaf fed 4 people for 2 breakfasts. Definitely worth the effort!

Guess what? Baking bread is not as hard as I thought. :)

Sharing my first bread with BYOB - Bake Your Own Bread community, launched by Sandy at the Baker's Bench. Sandy and her blog is one of those who inspired me to stop procrastinating and start baking. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Greek Chicken

Have you ever had the feeling that a recipe is calling out to you? In this case, this Greek recipe was shouting "try me! Try me!" I love to try out another country's dishes. I love the particular combination of these ingredients. I can imagine this dish being so deliciously tasty and tangy. And best of all, this looks easy to prepare.

I have been busy. But that does not stop me from checking out the recipes of fellow food bloggers. I saw this recipe from Pam of For the Love of Cooking, and happily, I have all the ingredients.

Some minor tweaks I made: I used whole chicken legs, skin removed. Pam used boneless chicken thigh meat. If you will notice all the chicken dishes that I cook have skins removed. Hence, they do not look good in pictures. However, removing the skin drastically reduces the amount of fat and cholesterol. So even if I do not use boneless cuts, this dish is still healthy. The bones also added to the flavor.

I also used lime instead of lemon. I think it contributed the same tangy-ness except that the scent or aroma is different.

2 T olive oil
1 to 2 shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 K chicken thighs, skin removed
salt and cracked pepper to taste
a sprinkling of garlic powder
a sprinkling of dried oregano
grape tomatoes
pitted green and black olives, sliced in half
1 lime, juiced
zest of 1 lime
2 T feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Heat 1 T olive oil in an oven-safe skillet. Add shallots and cook stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside.

3. Add remaining olive oil in the same skillet. Season chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano on all sides. Once the skillet is hot, add the seasoned chicken to the skillet. Cover for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown on one side.

4. Flip the chicken and add the tomatoes, olives, shallots, garlic, lime zest, lime juice. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Place in the oven and roast for 9 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven and sprinkle with feta cheese before serving.

straight from the oven without the feta cheese

Guaranteed so deliciously good!

So, I am sharing this dish with Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen, with my best wishes for her coming wedding. Weddings are such an exciting event! She is calling for recipes that are tasty, delicious and yet easy to prepare for her out-of-town wedding guests. So this recipe goes to Tried, Tested and True 3: Wedding Edition.

Sharing this dish with the Bookmarked Recipes community, headed by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen's Experiments. Please check out the round-up by Monday. To see last week's delicious dishes, please check out the round-up here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Curried Mussels

Finally! I was able to buy some fresh, nicely sized mussels! I was looking for fresh mussels last week when I wanted to try out an interesting French recipe. Since I was not able to find some mussels last week, I substituted with Pacific clams and the dish turned out very good! You may want to try the recipe here. It is truly highly recommended. :)

Of course my first impulse is to cook these mussels the way I cooked the Pacific clams. It was delicious! But that was just last week. I would not want to immediately repeat the same recipe on my dinner table and on this blog. :) So, I tried to make this curried mussels dish that I was able to taste (and hopefully recreate) from a restaurant.

Mussels are known to be "poor man's oysters." I am not surprised because mussels are indeed a lot, lot cheaper than oysters, and even cheaper than clams. But their meat is very tasty. I am not sure if I am simply biased, but I prefer the ones with the orange meat rather than the cream meat. Maybe I am simply attracted by the bright orange hue, that is why I "think" they are more delicious than the cream-colored meat. Later on, I learned that the orange meat are females and the cream colored ones are males. So, maybe the orange meat are indeed more tasty. Is it not that the female crabs are tastier than the male crabs as well?

1 kilo live mussels, shells brushed
5 slices fresh ginger
5 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
100 gms lean ground pork
3 -4 pcs jalapeno peppers or green peppers (siling haba)
1/2 C coconut milk
3 T curry powder
1 T sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat up some oil in a wok or cooking pan. Add in the ginger and saute until fragrant. Add in the onions and garlic. Saute until fragrant but not burnt. Add in the tomatoes. Let simmer for a while until softened.

2. Add in the ground pork. Let cook until meat changes color and is done, stirring once in a while.

3. Add in the mussels, coconut milk, curry powder, jalapeno peppers, and curry powder. Let boil and cook until mussels open. Stirring once in a while. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Discard mussels that did not open.

Even if mussels are not expensive, they are good food. They are quite tasty and delicious and they are full of good nutrition. They are low in fat and high in protein. They are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids. It is rich in iron, manganese, phosphorous, selenium, zinc and vitamins C and B12.

Sharing this curried mussels dish with Kitchen of Love Food event hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte. This event is featuring aphrodisiacs food and dishes as a way of celebrating this most romantic time of the year. Mussels, which are high in minerals such as zinc, and phosphorus are considered aprohodisiac food. Check out her blog in a few days to see the round-up of dishes we will serve our special someone on valentine's day.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tofu with Spicy Minced Pork and Mushrooms

Are you familiar with the spicy canned minced pork with mushroom? In Hokkien (Fujian Chinese dialect), we call it "Ba Chiu." This canned product is very versatile. Though, I would usually stir fry the spicy pork in a little garlic and then top it on tofu for a quick deliciously spicy dinner.

One day, I had this one good block of tofu and I wanted to make this "Ba Chiu." However, my pantry ran out of this canned pork! What to do? I made my own home made version of Spicy Minced Pork - "Ba Chiu."

300 gms lean ground pork, marinate in
2 T soy sauce
dashes of ground pepper (as much as you like)
a few drops of sesame oil
1 T cornstarch

5 T canola oil
5 pcs dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 1 hour, drained, sliced
5 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
2 pcs green long peppers (siling haba) or finger chillies or bird's eye chillies, chopped
1 T soy sauce
1 T oyster sauce
dash of sesame oil, optional
salt and pepper to taste
green onions, chopped

1 block tofu

1. Heat up the oil in a wok or a cooking pan. Saute the onions until caramelized and soft. Saute the garlic until fragrant.

2. Add the marinated ground pork. Cook for a while until meat changes color. Add in the mushrooms. Stir for a while and add in the chillies (more or less, depending on your preference). Add in the soy sauce and oyster sauce. Sitr for a while. Cover and simmer until meat is cooked through.

3. Add in the chopped green onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with sesame oil.

4. In a microwavable serving dish, heat up the tofu for 30 seconds; until just warm. Top with the cooked ground pork mixture. Serve hot with jasmine rice.

No more canned spicy pork for me. This is a very healthy and delicious dish, made with all natural ingredients. The kids love this dish. It is flavorful and fragrant. Soft and easy to chew (yes, my kids are lazy;)

This is also an easy to prepare dish, made with ingredients readily available in our pantry. Well, probably except for the dried mushrooms. You can omit the dried mushrooms or substitute fresh mushrooms. The dish will still be delicious! Dried mushrooms are easily available in Asian groceries.

Sharing this healthy tofu dish with the Monthly Mingle community, a foodie event by What's Cooking and What's For Lunch Honey. This month features healthy family dinners. Please check out the What's Cooking blog for the round-up after February 9.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Seafood Winter Melon Chinese Soup

This soup is often considered a superior soup in Chinese restaurants. It has the natural goodness of winter melon or white gourd (Dong Gua) and the natural sweet flavor of seafood. Yum! In restaurants, it is often served like this: in carved winter melon bowls.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Even if I did not carve my own winter melon bowl. I assure you, this soup tastes like the soup served in restaurants and maybe even better. I have more seafood than "fillers" that's why!

In restaurants, they also claim that they serve double boiled soup. That is, after cooking the soup, they ladle the soup into the winter melon bowls and then steam the whole bowl (with soup and all) for several hours. If they really do this, then it is the authentic Cantonese soup cooking. However, sometimes, I wonder if they really do that, because if they really steam the whole winter melon and the soup, how come the ingredients are not tender as expected, and the soup is not as flavorful as expected?

Anyway, what I did is not the double-boiled technique. But it tastes just as good. If you want the double-boiled technique, just ladle the soup into the winter melon bowl, or another bowl if you do not have the winter melon bowl. And then, steam the whole bowl (with the soup) again. But then, this is a busy mother's kitchen, so simmering the soup once is enough for now. :)

250 gms, shrimps, shelled, deveined, chopped
5 T dried scallops, soaked in hot water for an hour
200 gms fish fillet, chopped

3 slices of ginger, shredded
4 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
salt and pepper
2 T Chinese cooking wine
250 gms winter melon, skin removed, pitted, chopped into small cubes
6 C chicken or pork broth

5 T cornstarch dissolved in 5 T water
2 eggs, well-beaten
drops of sesame oil
green onions, chopped, for garnish

1. In a hot wok or cooking pan, saute the ginger until fragrant. Saute the onion and garlic until fragrant.

2. Add in the fish fillet, dried scallop and shrimps. Saute until they change color. Add in the winter melon pieces. Add in the Chinese cooking wine. Wait until the sauce boils and some alcohol evaporates. Add in the broth.

3. Let boil and simmer for 30 minutes or more.

4. When ready to serve, bring the soup to boil. Add the cornstarch solution while stirring continuously. Let boil and let the soup thicken. Add in the beaten eggs while stirring continuously to get the "dispersed flower" egg effect.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat. Add in drops of sesame oil and garnish with chopped green onions before serving. Serve hot.

Winter melon is actually a big melon, usually more than a foot long. A small family cannot finish one entire melon, so I do not usually buy this fruit. (yes, ma'am, it is a fruit even if it is cooked as a veggie.) It is just fortunate that I was able to spy a grocer who was selling cut-up winter melon slices. Winter melon is favored by my grandma, because, according to traditional Chinese medicine, it can help alleviate mild urinary tract problems. According to Wiki, it is high in Vitamin B and dietary fiber.

Maybe, if I have more time, I will cook this the traditional double-boiled method in that winter melon bowl. I'm sure it is going to be a wonderful experience.

Sharing this delicious, hot and flavorful soup with the Weekend Herb Blogging community, now headed by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. This week's hosts are Dee and her crew at the Daily Tiffin. To see last week's delicious round-ups, please check out Marija of Palachinka.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pacific Clams in Wine Sauce (Palourdes Marinieres)

This dish has been waiting in queue for a long time. Simply because I could not find nice and fresh, large mussels! The recipe I have is actually for mussels (moules). But I so want to make this French dish, so I settled for clams instead. I wonder if they have this dish in France so I googled, and yes! They do have this dish. This is an authentic French recipe! Even if I made the substitution first before doing the research. :)

When I first attempted to try French recipes for the Regional Recipes event, I wanted to make this easy to prepare dish ever since I found the recipe. It sounds so delicious! It has to be, clams are flavorful enough, and then you add a cup of wine!

From my corner of the world, French dishes are always associated with intricate preparations or hard to find ingredients like foie gras, or escargot. But happily, as I try to explore the world of French cooking, I am able to find several recipes which I think are full of flavor and yet easy to prepare. This dish is one of them.

1 kilo fresh Pacific clams
1 C dry white wine
3 T butter
1 onion, chopped
1/4 t dried thyme
1/2 bay leaf
dash of ground black pepper
2 stalks green onion, chopped to 2 inches lenght

1. Clean the clams very well by brushing them under running water.

2. Heat up the cooking pan, and melt the butter. Add in the onions and cook until caramelized, around 3 - 5 minutes. Add in the wine and thyme and bay leaf. Let boil for around 3 minutes.

3. Add in the clams and boil over high heat until shells open. Add in the chopped green onions. Stir once or twice to move the clams from top to bottom.

4. When the shells open, stop the fire. Add in a dash of ground pepper. Discard any clams that have not opened.

I have some prawns on hand, so I added the prawns together with the clams. And everything tastes so good!!! So, the title of this dish should be Seafood in Wine Sauce. I just wanted to show you that it is okay to do substitution with other kinds of seafood and this dish will still taste great!

This dish is super flavorful! You can serve this with bread, or rice just like we did. But you know what? I think this (specially the flavorful sauce) is perfect with pasta. The next time I am cooking this, I will top this on pasta.

I am sharing this dish on our foodie virtual tour with Joan of Foodalogue. We're going to meet in France today. Oh dear, I hope I am not too late. I have not been to France but hoping that this dish will give me a taste of France. The Culinary Tour Around the World is an event that aims to raise awareness about world food hunger, and what you can do about it. Please visit BloggerAid for more details.

Also sharing this dish with the Bookmarked Recipes community. I got the recipe and modified it from Bookmarked Recipes is a weekly event launched by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.
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