Verdict: Win

I boiled chicken thighs yesterday for my pasta that's going to feed me through finals week. I decided to save the stock and make egg drop soup today. I always knew homemade chicken stock was super easy, but I never made any until now. It's unbelievably EASY - you have to do it; plus it's practically cost free.The chicken stock I made was already salty enough, so I only seasoned the soup with a bit of ground white pepper. I also added some carrots and yellow peppers for texture as well as nutritional value.

Verdict: Win

My "cheater's" pizza when I'm craving fatty foods. Best part is that it used up ingredients I already have that I may typically not use (Swiss cheese? bought that a while ago just for cubans...found out later I much preferred the Parmesan I hand on hand for this) and it was super quick to make.

Verdict: Win

I love egg tarts, but my bar has been set quite high after growing up with Mrs. Wu's famous egg tarts and family visits to Chinatown. These satisfy my craving, but I wish the custard was a little thicker. Next time I'll also roll out the dough for the crust thinner. A cupcake pan makes an adequate substitute for pretty tart tins.

Verdict: Win

Another recipe from DY's mom used for the pharmacy thanksgiving.

Verdict: Win

Brussels sprouts may just be my favorite vegetable. Easy and delicious. Non-Brussels sprouts eaters have known to convert to Brussels sprouts lovers with this recipe from DY's mom.


Photo next time...
Verdict: Win

I love pumpkin desserts. This was an extremely easy, one-bowl kind of dessert to make. Pumpkin bread in a bar form. Pictures and a better description next time - it's going to be a busy month :(



Verdict: Win

Char siu bao (or pork buns as some people know it) are my favorite kind of buns. I prefer the steamed bun over the baked ones, but these baked ones are a lot more homemade friendly. Steamed char siu bao, featured in so many dim sum restaurants, are have a distinct soft and fluffy texture from the use of low-protein flour (and other ingredients that were hard for me to find). They're filled with a characteristic red-colored Cantonese-style pork that contrasts deliciously with the stark white bun. These baked ones are equally tasty and are easier to make since all of the dough ingredients are usually found in anyone's pantry and more people own ovens than they do steamers. This dough is also robust and results in a light, slightly chewy (but still soft) bread.

One thing to note is that I used a bread machine to make my dough without a problem. I set it on the dough setting for 8 minutes, then took it out to rise in a separate bowl. Don't let your dough rise too much longer than the first 45 minutes, because it'll compromise the second rising and then the buns won't be as fluffy. I also topped my buns with sesame seeds just because it made them that much cuter.

Verdict: Win

I opened a bottle of wine this week that I knew I couldn't finish within three days all by myself. The solution? Make this red wine chocolate cake. The result was a rich, complex cake with an unbelievably moist crumb and pronounced red wine flavor. It was delicious on its own, but with the slight bitterness from the wine I found it best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (although the mascapone topping that came with the recipe sounds divine). I used a Cabernet Sauvignon by Cupcake Vineyards, just because that's what I uncorked yesterday, but I'd like to experiment with other varietals.

photo next time...

Verdict: Win

I usually have bad results with roasting eggplants, but this recipe worked like a charm and satisfied my eggplant parmesan cravings. My only problem with this "easy" recipe is that it still takes nearly 2 hours to cook and the result is kind of one-note due to the store bought marinara sauce (so much salt...). I didn't have cute round gratin dishes, so I used a regular baking pan and it turned out just fine.

Bah, not my best photo. I made poor lighting choices. But it was delicious.

Verdict: Win!

I'm officially a chicken thighs convert. They are so much juicier and tastier than chicken breasts as well as much more forgiving if you accidentally overcook them. This chicken dish satisfied my craving for perfectly crispy chicken skin...as you basically fry the chicken skin in its own rendered fat. The best part is that it only takes about 35 minutes. Quick (kind of) fried chicken dinner? Yes, please!

The only problem I ran into was with my new cast iron skillet, which, ironically, trying out the new skillet was the reason why I chose this recipe in the first place. First, the 12-inch cast iron skillet is a little big and therefore a bit heavy for me to lift with one hand. Second, I forgot it was cast iron and went to touch the handle...and now my right hand hurts from a slight burn :(


Verdict: Win

Definitely bought too many groceries this week as I was left with a surplus of ripe/edging-on-too-ripe bananas. Looks like I'm still adjusting to cooking for myself this semester, but at least it led to some more opportunities to bake. I wanted to go for a traditional banana bread, but this recipe had me hooked at the nontraditional addition of crystallized ginger. On a whim I bought an ounce of crystallized ginger from The Spice House in Evanston a few weeks ago, and it was just enough for this recipe. I didn't have yogurt on hand, so I subbed in 2% milk plus a little extra butter and it turned out just fine. The bread was perfectly moist and just sweet enough to serve for dessert or breakfast. The best part was that each bite had morsels of smooth chocolate that melt on my tongue and a spicy little kick from the ginger.

I bought >12 bananas today...partially because they were on sale for $0.39/lb, and partially to accidentally end up with too many overripe bananas and thus "forced" to make more banana bread.

Verdict: Win

I've described these cookies to my friends as soft and chewy gingerbread cookies. There's something so magical about the combination of ginger, allspice, cloves, and molasses. In baked goods, they transform each bite into warm memories. You know, all of that spicy, homey, Thanksgiving-ish goodness? I was just in that mood. I can't wait for Thanksgiving.


Verdict: Win

I love all of the recipe writers on Serious Eats, but one of my favorite SE writers is Kerry Saretsky of French Revolution Food. She writes a column for SE where she takes pre-made spreads or sauces and "repurposes them as cooking agents." I love it. I love that my dinner can be quick and classy (aka with a French flair).

The only problem I ran into was that the skin didn't crisp up as much as I had hoped for. Next time I'll play with the broiled settings at the end. I also need to try using my oven thermometer and roasting thermometer. I think my oven doesn't get as hot as it says it does, as the chicken took a little longer than 25 minutes to fully cook.

Verdict: Win

First real solid food (okay, maybe I nibbled on some donuts earlier) after getting my wisdom teeth out was mac and cheese. It was actually more like chopped up lasagna and cheese (hence no picture because it wasn't the prettiest), but it did the job. I like this simple recipe because it only has 4 ingredients, but it's so tasty. I love the combination of the tangy greek yogurt and sharp Parmesan. Make sure to grate your own block of Parmesan, because that Kraft stuff isn't going to cut it.

Verdict: Win

This is the third time I've made flourless peanut butter cookies this summer, and I think that these will be the biggest hit at work. The first time, I made plain cookies. I found them rather boring, but I've never been a big peanut butter cookie fan myself. The second time, I thought it'd be brilliant if I stuffed caramels in cookie for a ooey gooey center, but of course the gooeyness didn't last once the cookies cooled. This time I went for a "payday" cookie, dipping the cookies in a makeshift caramel sauce and pressing nuts into the caramel. The resulting cookie was dense and crumbly with a crunchy caramelly top. I'm pleased.

Another thing that I do like about this recipe is that it is simple and versatile. The ingredients and quantities are easy to remember, and the sugar content can be tweaked to one's preference.

Best attempt, but could've been better

Verdict: Win

At first, I didn't know how I felt about these cookies. Straight out of the oven, the aroma of butter overwhelmed me and the taste didn't sit well on my tongue. It didn't help that the stench of meringue powder from the royal icing lingered on my palate even after the smell was long gone. I thought the meringue powder made the icing almost unpalatable. However, after tasting the cookies one day after the other, I find that these cookies taste much, much better after letting the flavors mellow out (which is good because the royal icing takes forever to dry). On Monday, I actually liked them. On Tuesday, I now agree that they probably are the best sugar cookies that I've ever made.

Verdict: Win!!

I made mini cheesecakes again for work, but this time I used this recipe for my ideal fluffier cheesecake. This one is "the one" among all cheesecakes. I've never cared too much for cheesecake until I tasted this. My favorite part was how the cool sour cream topping pairs amazingly well with the sweet, smooth cheesecake. I've copied the recipe for the whole cheesecake is below so I won't lose it, but take a look at Simply Recipes to see more tutorial pictures.

Verdict: Win

Quick, tasty, and gluten free. I played with the crust with and without butter, and I prefer the more crumbly texture without butter. The problem lies with the type of cookie I used, a soft cookie. I couldn't find a gluten free hard cookie on the shelves though, so these'll have to do. The cheesecake is best served chilled, otherwise I found a slight eggy aftertaste when I took a bite out of one straight out of the oven. Next time I may look for a fluffier, NY-style cheesecake.

Verdict: Win

I had chicken thighs in the freezer that I needed to use up before I left, so I whipped this up to bring to Dafang's cook out. The recipe calls for the chicken to be broiled, but we grilled the chicken then put on the glaze, and it was great! You know that a recipe is a keeper when DY says we should've made this more often.

Verdict: Win

I've never made gravy before. This was the fastest and easiest recipe I could find, plus it didn't call for any milk or heavy cream (good for lactose-aphobe DY). Rule of thumb: 2 tbsp each of flour and butter for every cup of chicken stock. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Served with the buttermilk biscuits and chicken :)

Verdict: Win

I don't typically like biscuits, but these were perfectly fluffy and had a nice sweet and salty balance. Wes dipped his in honey too, which was tasty, but I liked them plain.

Verdict: Win

This was the first recipe that really began my cooking education. DY and I made this several times last semester, and now that it's warm out it was time to take out the grill. I love the spiciness paired with the sweet and salty jerk flavors. One day I might try the original recipe that calls for a habanero pepper.

Verdict: Win

Since I still had a lot of pumpkin puree left in the can after making the pumpkin scones, I had to make more pumpkin baked goods, right? These were quite simple and delicious. The spices could have come out a bit more, but that may have been my fault since I winged my own "pumpkin pie spice." I did not use her recipe's glaze and instead used the glaze from Annie's pumpkin scones. I've listed her exact recipe with the original glaze below though.

Verdict: Win

The butterscotch + pumpkin flavors are phenomenal. Also, these are more like cookies. LOVE.

I omitted the glaze that she calls for in the recipe as I thought it was plenty sweet, but I've listed it below just in case.

(Sorry, not the best picture. Guess who took it?)

Verdict: Win!

I've tried this recipe before, but had mediocre results due to some poor decisions on my behalf. I marinated the chicken overnight and had DY grill it for reals this time and it was absolutely Perfect (yes, with a capital P). Follow her recipe to the tee (and splurge on red and orange bell peppers!) because it really makes a difference. The surprising star of the recipe was the red onion: the grilled red onion slices were slightly sweet and tasted amazing. DY and I topped these off with a scoop of pickled jalapeños, a smear of avocado, and a dollop of sour cream. I was planning on only eating one, but I ended up eating three :)

Verdict: Win

Sarah made these scones earlier in the week and they are to die for. They are soft and flaky and have just the right amount of chocolate chips in every bite. I had leftover heavy cream, so I whipped these up tonight. God knows I need them to get through biochemistry!

Verdict: Win

I love how quickly this dish came together with so few ingredients too. The chicken slightly sweet with a refreshing numbing from the Sichuan peppercorns. I roasted 3 chicken leg quarters at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes on a rack near the top of the oven and it came out juicy and perfect. I accidentally added too much honey, but it turned out for the better. Next time I'll add more salt and grind and sift the Sichuan peppercorns. The bigger pieces of the Sichuan peppercorns became burnt and bitter from being cooked too long. I'll also place the chicken on the rack closest to the top and switch the the broil on low for the last 5 minutes to crisp up the chicken skin even more. Make sure to foil the bottom of the pan because the burnt honey will never come off otherwise.

***note to self: use triple the amount of honey. Changes are adjusted below.

Verdict: Win

Even though I forgot to marinate the chicken overnight, the dish still turned out well. It was slightly spicy and slightly sweet. I substituted the red rose potatoes with yukon gold potatoes (what I had in the pantry), as well as the Korean red chili powder with 1 tbsp cayenne. I added 1 extra tbsp of gochujang to thicken the sauce and increase the flavor (since I forgot the overnight marinade). After the 5-minute fry, the recipe didn't say what to lower the temperature to. I found that 45 minutes on medium heat (or possibly even lower) was sufficient.

Verdict: Win

Easiest and fastest chocolate cake ever. In a mug!

The cake doesn't have a cake like texture, though. It's more like a sponge cake. 1 minutes in the microwave on high is sufficient time for this cake to cook. I may add more sugar or add a richer chocolate to it next time. For now, I'm satisfied with the mug cake drizzled with chocolate sauce and accompanied by a cup of cold milk.

Verdict: Win

These were great. I personally found them a little too sweet for me with the frosting and ganache, but that chocolate and Guinness cake batter was divine.

Verdict: Win

Need I even say anything about these cupcakes? They were great! Even Keith said that they were the best cupcakes he ever had. I made sure to use clear vanilla extract so it wouldn't interfere with the red dye. I messed up the frosting, but I'm not a big fan of too much frosting anyway.

Verdict: Win

I wanted to serve noodles at David's birthday because in the Chinese culture noodles are eaten during birthdays to symbolize longevity. I used the sauce from the recipe and winged everything else. I had thin egg noodles with several choices for toppings: shredded boiled chicken breasts, eggs, grated carrots, julienned bell peppers, matchstick cucumbers, and blanched bean sprouts. All of the ingredients were unadulterated and needed that sauce to bring it all together. I loved how the "lao gan ma" chili sauce (that Dan bought me!) completed the sesame sauce. I enjoyed it, but others who aren't fond of peanut butter didn't use the sauce which I think then made the noodles kind of bland. Alternatively, you can just add a dash of soy sauce, lao gan ma, and sesame oil to flavor the noodles.

Verdict: Win

DY isn't too fond of breakfast, but he does love hash browns. I used Yukon gold potatoes instead of Russet potatoes and they were great. Just don't leave the grated potatoes out too long because eventually they turned purple. I squeezed the moisture out using a lemon squeezer. They turned out perfect! I made a second batch that Sarah and I gobbled up as an afternoon snack :)

Verdict: Win

Cami made these pancakes last semester and they were hands down the best pancakes I had ever eaten. They were big, light, and fluffy. I asked her for the recipe right away and she pulled this up on the Food Network website as well as told me her secret: adding a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon. I tried to make this myself the following weekend, and they didn't turn out nearly as good as hers. I finally tried to tackle them again after doing a bit of research and they turned out great. The key to what I did was separate the egg and whisked the egg whites until they formed a soft peak. I then mixed the dry ingredients, added the wet ingredients (mixed separately from the dry ingredients), and folded in the egg whites. The batter seemed dense, so I added a tad bit more buttermilk. I made about 16 pancakes after doubling (don't go beyond doubling) the recipe. The texture was perfect and they tasted great with syrup, but next time I may add more sugar because I don't like to add much syrup. The recipe below is not doubled.

Verdict: Win

I can tell that this dish is great, but I botched it up due to my cooking skills:
1. The chicken needed to be marinated for longer than 20 minutes, even though that's what the recipe called for (next time I'll marinate overnight).
2. I didn't properly brown all of the skin before I put the chicken in the oven.
3. I didn't separate the thighs from the legs from the chicken leg quarters I bought, so they needed nearly twice the time in the oven to cook through (roughly an hour).

The chicken was fine, but the flavors never melded through so I had to dip the chicken in the marinade to get the proper flavor (which was actually great!).

Below is the original recipe. I'll play with it more later before I adjust it.

Verdict: Win

This is my kind of comfort food. I love the way the soft sticky rice cakes (nian gao) pair up with the Napa cabbage and chicken, all smothered in that velvety sauce. I'm sold.

Changes: Remove chicken after cooking to make room for more food as well as to avoid over cooking the chicken. Add sauce to taste, as I felt like the dish was salty enough with only half of the sauce. Substituted the yellow onion for the white parts of green onions. Also omitted the red pepper.

The original recipe is below without my changes.

Spaghetti al Limone from Food Network

Verdict: Meh

I was so excited to use this recipe after seeing it in Giada's cookbook. Unfortunately, the lemon sauce that coated the pasta just wasn't my thing. The parmesan made the pasta sort of grainy. DY said it was fine. I probably won't make this again.

Just goes to show you can throw any leftovers into fried rice.

again, blame the blurriness on DY

Verdict: Win

Easy and tasty! Caution with the salt, as all of the salt ends up on the almonds and it's easy to oversalt the dish.

blame the blurriness on DY

Verdict: Win

Perfect and easy as is, except I used pork tenderloin instead of pork loin. This recipe calls for a total of 45 minutes in the oven, but really it only needs about 15 minutes for a tenderloin. Too bad I didn't know this ahead of time, as my pork turned out a kind of dry :( Still tasty, though!

Verdict: Win

Sigh, I really wanted this to turn out perfectly with that crackling crispy skin on top. Unfortunately, I'm not as familiar with my oven as I could be, so I didn't get the crispy skin. it still tasted great, but how can pork belly (aka what bacon's made of) not taste great? Next time I'll set the broil setting on low and adjust the rack higher.

Verdict: Win!

I just so happened to have a lot of yogurt and a lot of lemons, so this was a perfect way to use them up. I love how this cake uses yogurt instead of any butter. I omitted the glaze because I thought the cake was sweet enough without it. The sugar-lemon mixture that is poured over the cake is what makes this cake.

Neely's Wet BBQ Ribs from Food Network

Verdict: Win

Ugh. DY and I are both suffering from an upset stomach, probably from all of the greasy St. Patty's Day food (and Jake's hot dogs...) from yesterday. So while I call this a win, my upset stomach prevented me from properly enjoying these ribs.

Changes: For 4 lbs of ribs, I halved the sauce, substituted molasses for light corn syrup, substituted Dijon mustard for dry mustard powder, and added red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. I also baked the ribs in the oven at 300 degrees F for 2 hours covered with foil, then half an hour uncovered. I did not care for the dry rub mix, so next time I'll probably just make these oven-baked spare ribs again. It's also so much easier.

Verdict: Win!

Bi bim bap is basically a deconstructed fried rice. The first time I ordered bi bim bap, I didn't know how to enjoy this dish. I made some of the greatest faux pas - I didn't mix in the bi bim bap sauce (gochuchang/gochujang/etc sauce, an amazing sweet and spicy sauce) nor enjoy the runny egg yolk from the over easy egg that tops this delicious dish. My favorite way to eat this dish is as "dolsot bi bim bap," which is just bi bim bap served in a hot stone pot. It doesn't sound special, but in a hot stone pot the rice on the bottom crisps up and is absolutely divine. I've ordered bi bim bap twice this past month (first @Kibu Cafe and second @Maru Sushi, which was the best...and now they also deliver!)

Alton Brown's recipe for bi bim bap satisfied my craving for this dish. I made some considerable changes, though. For the bulgogi I substituted 2 kiwis for the Asian pear, used ancho chile powder for the red pepper powder, used closer to 10 oz of 7-Up, and marinated the meat for about 20 hours since I used a cheaper cut of beef (angus chuck roast). For the actual construction of the bi bim bap, I didn't dizzle/sprinkle any soy sauce, sesame oil, or sesame seeds on the rice. Next time, I'll make sure to blanch the bean sprouts and add spinach and shiitake mushrooms. The julienned carrots were great raw, and do NOT omit the over-easy egg. For the gochuchang sauce, I only omitted the sesame seeds.

Verdict: Win

I helped Kevin finish off the rest of his deli turkey (how did you end up with 2 or 3 boxes of it again??) by making this coconut fried rice. I winged this recipe and it didn't turn out too bad. I didn't think that eggs would pair well with coconut, but the coconut was subtle and fragrant that it actually paired up with the rest of the hodge podge of ingredients rather well. Below is my very rough recipe, just so I can remember some things that I did. Basically, you can add whatever you want to fried rice.

Indian Chicken Curry from Allrecipes

Verdict: Meh?

I'm not sure how Indian this is, but if there is one thing I've learned from this recipe it's that cooking curry is an art. I felt like this curry turned out rather grainy, but when paired with the rice noodles some of the graininess was hidden (which was a good thing). The curry powder I used was super hot, so if I do make this again, I'd use less curry powder to reduce the heat and graininess.

Verdict: Win

I love pumpkin muffins. I've used this recipe countless times, yet this time I tried to cut back on the sugar and up the spices. Bad idea. Well, not that bad. I cut the sugar to 2 cups (vs 3 cups) and the pumpkins muffins had a nice taste and a lingering sweetness that is more pronounced once the muffins have cooled. I may try to make this with apple sauce instead of oil some time. The actual recipe is for pumpkin bread, so I've adapted the recipe to make pumpkin muffins below.

Verdict: Win

Super fast, super tasty. This was basically a hodge podge of whatever I had in the fridge (I think celery would be a nice addition too). I loved the slight heat from the cayenne. One thing I learned was to either slowly cook a whole chicken on low, or if using chicken breasts, to add them at the end so they aren't overcooked. Otherwise, you'll end up picking out the chicken pieces to salvage them like I did :(

Verdict: Win

I needed a low maintenance meal while I studied biochemistry. I decided on this recipe as I barely had to do anything and only had to buy a package of country style ribs, 1 18 oz bottle of sweet baby ray's bbq sauce (sweet and spicy flavor), and OJ. I didn't use all of the bbq sauce and used less OJ, but the sauce still turned out a little watery in the end (but it was perfect to use as a dressing on my spinach). Two hours in the oven was sufficient to get nice, tender ribs.

Aroy-D Green Curry Chicken

Verdict: Win

Aroy-D is a brand of curry paste. I picked it up because it was a cheap way to get all the spices required of green curry. All the dish calls for is to fry the paste, add coconut milk, then boil cubed chicken breast in the curry until done. It takes less than 10 minutes for the chicken to cook all the way, and the chicken was very tender. The taste of the green curry was pretty good, though a little spicier than I expected. Next time I do want to try the Mae Ploy brand, as I've heard really good things about it. I'm also going to make sure I get a hold of some more Thai chili bird peppers and Thai basil. I couldn't find kaffir lime leaves anywhere, though.

Verdict: Win

This was so tasty! Especially with the crusty french bread. DY says that this is his favorite tilapia recipe to date. I cut the recipe in half and made a few changes. My adapted version is below.

Verdict: Win

Again, I didn't have the time to do this Vietnamese dish the "right" way, so I opted for a quick version by using store-bought beef broth. I had to make all sorts of improvisations (my real onions sprouted, so I had to use pearl onions, I bought cheap beef versus flank or sirloin, cinnamon powder over a cinnamon stick, etc etc) to suit my budget and what I already had. Below is my quick recipe.

I didn't have a cute bowl to put this in :(

Verdict: Win

Normally, I don't like recipes that don't do it the "right" way and are instead quick short cut versions of the original. Call me a snob, but I like food done right.

Well, today I don't quite have that luxury. No one wanted to go get ice cream/red mango with me and with an immunology exam looming, I had to whip up something quick to relieve this huge sugar craving (how do I not have any desserts in my house right now???). I don't even have milk, so I subbed with "milk" made from nonfat instant dry milk powder and a dash of heavy cream. It turned out pretty well and it isn't sickening sweet, which is nice. I had a taste of it and it was good, but what's killing me is that I have to wait for it to cool before I can gobble the rest of it down...

...Just had another bite out of the fridge. It's good. Why do I not have my camera right now?? Got it :)

Verdict: Win!

So easy and so good. It says "oven-roasted" kale, but really they turn out to be kale chips. They were as satisfying as regular potato chips, but felt like a nice, healthy vegetable side dish to accompany the lamb shank and rice I had tonight. Surprisingly, this needs less oil and salt than one would think, so don't go overboard like I did! My first batch was a little limp from too much oil, as well as a tad too salty. The second batch was divine :)

Verdict: Win!

So. Satisfied. This was exactly what I needed tonight/this week! This mochi cake combines the best of the East and West: sweet crunchy outside with a soft, chewy inside. The recipe was so simple that the hardest part about everything was just waiting. 90 minutes in the oven? Wait 30 minutes to cool? Hedonistic me could not wait during the cooling time and so I cut into the cake much too soon. Sarah literally had to pull me away to prevent me from damaging my cake further. The cake is still delicious (even though I was worried that it was burnt - it wasn't), but it could be a lot prettier. Next time I will definitely let my cake rest (I just might need some will power).

Verdict: Win

Woah, creamy. DY's not much a cream/cheese fan, and I'm only an occasional fan. I tried to roll back on all of the cream by reducing the amount to 1.5 cups (I guessed, so I'm not sure if I really did reduce it...). I added the whole 6-oz can of tomato paste, which made the sauce way thicker. I definitely held back on the parmesan as I only added about a 1/2 cup. I tossed in chopped green peppers and chicken to make it a more filling one-dish meal, and it was great. The only thing was that the mushrooms were lost in the thick, almost grainy-creamy sauce. Next time (not for a while though, there's only so much cream I can handle in a year) I'll add even less heavy cream, less tomato paste, and substitute with some tomato sauce.

The recipe below is the original. I'd like to play with this more before I make changes.

Photo taken by Rachael :)

Verdict: Win

I couldn't resist Marsh's buy 1 get 1 free promotion on the bags of apples, so I ended up with way too many apples. Luckily, DY loves apple crisp so I knew what to do with them. I used a 3 lb. bag of apples and multiplied the topping recipe by 1.5 [because that's the best part :)]. Unfortunately, I added way too much sugar which made it too sweet and slightly grainy. Next time I'm halving the sugar, as well as reducing the butter. I'll also bake the dish less because I like my apple crunchier.

Verdict: Win

I didn't have beef on me, so I sliced up some pork tenderloin. This satisfied my craving for some chow fun, but next time I will add more salt to the noodles and less black beans to the meat. I substituted yu choy for the gai lan too. I love mung beans, so next time I'll be sure to add more than I added tonight.

Verdict: Win

This was like having breakfast for dinner. I unfortunately over cooked the egg yolk a little. My proudest addition was that I used the leftover bacon fat to toast the bread (a french boule). The bacon-toasted bread, slightly spicy/salty kale, and runny egg yolk were quite delicious all together. The recipe calls to be liberal with the salt, but I accidentally over salted the kale, especially since I served bacon with the dish too. Still, it was a great breakfast/dinner! If anything, I over ate (the second egg I ate is not pictured...).

Verdict: Win

I was skeptical about fish and parmesan, but this was really quite good. The recipe called for mayo, which DY and I don't particularly like, but you could hardly taste it so that's a plus. I cooked the fillets on a rack for 10 minutes on one side, then flipped them and cooked for another 8 minutes to make sure the bottoms weren't soggy. The result was very nice, flaky, not fishy-smelling at all tilapia fillets with a subtle parmesan taste.

To top it off, I mixed mayo with Sriracha (heavy on the Sriracha) to make a dipping sauce. I hate mayo, but I love Sriracha. The combo was awesome :)

Verdict: Super Win!

The chicken was amazing. Best non-Asian dish I have ever made. I really think that the sweet Hungarian paprika that I got from Penzey's this weekend made a difference. The potatoes were okay (the chicken just out-shined everything), but I did like the bright lemon taste. I didn't have the special broiler that the food blog had, so instead I winged it. Next time: cook the potatoes with foil on high (broil setting for oven) for 5-10 minutes, then put the rack of chicken on (top-side down) and cook for 18-20 minutes on low. Flip the chicken over and cook for 18-20 minutes on low, then cook on high for 2 minutes to crisp up the chicken. Double win because chicken leg quarters are so cheap :)

Verdict: Win x 2!

So easy, and so delicious. Only change: next time, less cream cheese frosting for the cake balls, more liquor for the truffles. These, along with the pink macarons, are going to be some Valentine's day treats for my friends tomorrow :)

Verdict: Win

Macarons...I love them, but they are ridiculously difficult. I've perfected my egg white whipping technique, even when I chanced it with the red gel food coloring, but this time I seriously messed up with piping. I just can't seem to make uniform macarons, and of course I piped them all too close to each other so their overlapped. I also underbaked them a bit, so the insides were a little wet. I popped them back in the oven to bake a little more, which in return ruined their feet a little bit. Sigh. Will retry these Sunday, and with the raspberry mascarpone cheese filling. Today I was short on time and couldn't find mascarpone at the store, so I just used leftover Amaretto ganache.

Below is her original recipe that I will soon try again.

Verdict: Win

I had a ton of egg yolks left over for some reason, so I googled ways to use them up. One of the first solutions that popped up was to make lemon curd. I've never had lemon curd, but I could already imagine the lemony goodness I could spread over toast and I was sold. I made this last night and left in the fridge over night. I bought some french bread because I didn't have time to actually make some, topped it with the lemon curd, and as Emily put it, it's like an instant lemon bar. :)

Verdict: Win

One of D. Lu's faves. I didn't have a whole chicken, so I used chicken winglets. It was tasty, but I think next time I'll let it simmer on low (rather than medium) for longer to allow the meat to soak up the flavor, but still remain tender. I added 4 Thai chili bird peppers and I loved the hint of spiciness it added.

Gailan from Steamy Kitchen

Verdict: meh

I threw this together at the last minute, so I didn't follow the directions very well. The stems were bitter and I used too much oyster sauce, but it seemed like I was on the right path. It'll probably turn out better next time, but I think I'll just go ask my mom instead.

Verdict: Win

YUM! I'm not a huge fan or raisins, but every since DY brought back oatmeal raisin cookies from Walmart, I've been itching to make some. Of course, one can't make cookies without help from friends :) B.Krup and Knabel had the brilliant idea of including more than just raisins in our cookies, so they were more like oatmeal monster cookies (chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, and raisins). I also added a dash of ground cloves since I heard it would make the cookies spicier. The cookies were a little disappointing by how few [only 17 :( ] that the recipe actually made - we actually added 1.25 cups extra of oatmeal to bulk up the dough a bit. These were still really good, but I may try this Flour Bakery recipe from David Lebovitz next.

Verdict: Win

Well, ours didn't turn out quite like the picture (maybe because I overdid it with the butter? Or cooked it at too low of a temperature?), but I have to say that it was still pretty tasty. Looks like my streak of badly cooked non-Asian dishes are coming to an end! Changes: I didn't have whole milk, so I subbed in heavy whipping cream with a dash of water, and I didn't have vermouth for the sauce, so I subbed in rice wine, red wine vinegar, and chicken broth. I had to put in a lot of chicken broth because the lemon and vinegar were overpowering everything. For next time, I'm definitely following the recipe with vermouth, and I'm also going to be careful about adding the parsley at the very end (so it doesn't lose it's vibrant green color). As a side, we ate this with rice, and I liked how the rice we had actually soaked up the sauce and helped balance out the flavors. DY says that he'd eat this again...so it must be a win!

Below is the original recipe, as I'd like to try following in exactly next time.


Verdict: Win

Yum. I didn't get a chance to finish these last night, so I made them today around lunch time. Tang cu pai gu is one of my favorite childhood dishes. My grandmother would make them all the time when she stayed with us. She's since gone back home to China, and my mom doesn't make this as frequently. Now that I live on my own, I wanted to try recreating this favorite.

I didn't quite get the sauce syrupy enough, but the flavors definitely melded into the meat. I loved how the ginger tones actually came through each bite - I'm not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that I let the meat sit in the ginger/scallion broth over night (on accident)? I was also worried that the meat wouldn't be tender enough because I had cooked it so long, but it was still tender and quite good. Note: less vinegar, more sugar.

Verdict: Win

This is Kristen's absolute favorite Chinese buffet dessert, and it's a piece of cake to make.

Verdict: Win

Every time I think of this recipe now, I'm going to think of Becky. She kept raving about this dish - she's good at making me feel like an actual cook :) I pretty much followed the recipe to the t, so there aren't many comments that I'd like to make. If anything, I should not have crowded the beef so much, because it ended up velveting the beef almost too much. But, for my first time making them, I was still pretty happy with the dish.

Verdict: Win

This is also one of my mom's recipes that I grew up on. This is probably my favorite way to eat cucumbers.

Verdict: Win

Sigh, unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the food at our CNY dinner. This particular recipe is important to me because it's my mom's secret (okay, now it's not so secret) special recipe. We have it at all of our big events, and I'm pretty sure that these spring rolls are the reason why our neighbors love us and keep inviting us back to parties.

Verdict: Win!

LOVE. I mainly chose this recipe because 1) the blog is highly reputable among the food blogosphere and 2) they look exactly like the scallion pancakes that my mother buys frozen that I love so much. Scallion pancakes, aka 葱油饼 or "cong you bing" in Chinese, is a typical breakfast food or appetizer. For me, the saltiness and and taste of the chopped scallions are what make this dish special. The scallion pancakes from this recipe taste so authentic to me. Of course, on my first try I didn't get the perfect flaky, peel-apart layers that I love and that are represented in the pictures, but they sure were tasty. I've tried making scallion pancakes before (not this recipe), and it turned into a salty mess of dough. These were soooo good, and so very real.

Verdict: Win

I've had a couple of boxes of Panko breadcrumbs sitting in my room, so I wanted to try to put them to use. I chose this recipe over others because it didn't use butter. The ingredients were perfect for 3 whole chicken breasts (6 halves), but the flour mixture was a little more than I needed. I also added 1 teaspoon of cayenne that added some heat to this tender, crispy chicken. Served with rice (a staple!) and dipped in my choice of ketchup, Dijon mustard, or BBQ sauce, and I got a tasty meal.

Verdict: Win

Today I also made some pizza dough and froze it for later. I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe that I've cited before. Below is my adapted recipe with my favorite sauce recipe.

The sound of the snow-ice precipitation hitting against the windows has not stopped since yesterday, except for the brief intermission from this morning until about 2 PM. While sitting cozily in my bed, the sound is relaxing. Outside is like a war-zone where the wind shoots tiny icy bullets into your face.

Thank goodness DY and I got to go buy groceries during the break from this snow storm. We picked up a ton of things for the CNY party this Friday, and a few things for ourselves.

Speaking of CNY, I was planning on making sesame seed balls filled with red bean paste, but I've decided not to after attempting them tonight. Also, I think that the red bean paste (aka 红豆沙 or "hong dou sha" in Chinese) is an acquired taste.

Verdict: Win

So tasty! The sticky rice does fill you up, as this is a rich, deep-fried dessert. They were not too difficult to make, but at the same time they weren't simple. It didn't help that in the process of traveling from one house to another that I smushed all of my perfect round balls (so instead of balls, these were more like sesame seed disks). Much of our batch had to be thrown away, but the ones that did survive were had a beautiful, light golden color with toasted sesame seeds and a crispy exterior followed by a sticky and smooth interior of "hong dou sa."

Verdict: Win

I bought a jar of kimchi last semester and unfortunately haven't had the chance to use it. I was determined to not let it go to waste, so I found the recipe above. I liked it because it was a little more complex ingredients-wise than other recipes that I found, but was still simple to make. All of the ingredients were mixed together and then put in the fridge for a few hours before dinner. Changes: liberally added the soy sauce and sesame oil, and omitted the sambal (sriracha all the way!). I also added one shaved carrot that easily picked up the taste of the kimchi. Next time I'll shave two carrots, just to be able to eat more vegetables and dilute the kimchi flavor a bit. If you like kimchi, then the flavor is good. Cooking the kimchi toned it down a bit, and after DY's suggestion of lowering the temperature to medium, the chicken came out more tender. I served this over a bed of leftover lo mein noodles, which I think acted as a good canvas for the strong kimchi flavor.