Archive for the ‘misc’ Category

a bowl of comfort

We can’t complain too much about the weather in San Francisco, but it has gotten noticeably chillier over the past two weeks. Any outing requires us to bundle up in thick sweaters, coats, and mittens in preparation for the nippy air. On days like these, all J and I want after coming in from the cold is a steaming mug of mulled cider or hot chocolate, or even better — a big bowl of soup — to warm our insides.

Like a bowl of this potato and leek soup. This soup is hearty and smooth without being heavy, and will have you warm and toasty in no time at all.


I loosely used this recipe and followed a reviewer’s suggestions to add fried bacon pieces and bacon fat to the recipe.

Potato and Leek Soup
adapted from Gourmet | March 1992
Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
Yield: Makes about 4 cups, serving 2 generously

a couple strips of bacon, chopped into 3/4″ pieces
white and pale green parts of 2 large leeks, split lengthwise, washed well, and chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound boiling potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

First, fry bacon pieces to a crisp, and then set them aside. Using only about a third or half of the rendered bacon fat (discarding the rest) plus a pat of butter, saute the leeks with salt and pepper until they are soft, tender, and golden around the edges. Add chicken stock, water and cubed potatoes. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for about twenty minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Using a blender, carefully puree the soup (in batches, if necessary). Season to taste with salt and pepper, and if needed, thin out soup by mixing in more stock or water and reheating. Ladle soup in bowls and top with chopped parsley and fried bacon bits. Serve with crusty bread.


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in just a bit…

I’ve been meaning to get around to posting about our trip to Mexico. It will happen soon, over the next few days (I hope).

Oh, please go and buy yourself some persimmons, the Hachiya variety. Get them ripe, as if they were ready to rupture — skin paper-thin and flesh soft and squishy. Wash the persimmons gently before eating. To eat, sink your teeth into the skin of the fruit’s pointed end and suck the pulpy flesh out. As you watch the persimmon deflate, pretend that you are a vampire feasting on Halloween. Tasty.


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autumn moon festival

My aunt made me some wonderful mooncakes and flaky chinese pastries to celebrate the mid-autumn festival last week. Instead of using lotus seed paste mixed with shortening or lard for the mooncake filling, she made a paste out of mung beans and vegetable oil. Using homemade pastry dough and a mooncake mold handed down to her from my grandmother, she formed some of the prettiest and tastiest treats. Even though I was in Seattle and wasn’t able to celebrate with family, the mooncakes brought me home.


pastry bun

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a cuppa joe

if necessity is the mother of invention, then it goes without saying that laziness is the mother of shortcuts. i was invited to a housewarming party on sunday, and i had promised early on to bring a batch of cupcakes. by friday, i still hadn’t decided what kind i would make. then saturday rolled around, but i was out in the snow all day. by the time i got home, i was too pooped to do anything. on the other hand, i was stressing myself out trying to think of what i could whip up this time, without having to go to the store. stressing, you see, because people now have high expectations. “a-ha! i’ll make coffee cupcakes!” i had everything i needed at home. great, time for bed. the next day, a couple of hours before the party, i started gathering all my ingredients together: instant coffee, flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk…OH NO, i have NO milk left in the fridge! should i make a run to the grocery store? as i began to fret over the thought of making a trip to the store just for milk, i remembered that i had some left-over packets of dried milk that i bought for making hot chocolate mix. i can already hear you say, “eww…powdered milk?? that nasty stuff that doesn’t even taste like the real thing and has that weird sweet smell of warmed milk?” hey, when i’m in a pinch, i’m all about the shortcuts. besides, it was an excuse for me to conduct a dried milk experiment!

to make the dried milk creamier, i decided to use half the volume of water required for reconstitution. this was for both the cake and the frosting. for the cake, i chose to make a marble of chocolate/coffee and white cake, to get the look that coffee gets when hot, steamed milk is added to it. i included chocolate in the cake solely for its coloring, but if i were to do this again, i would add more to the batter so that the flavors really stand out. since the taste of coffee in the cake was ever so subtle, i would also consider adding more coffee.

these cupcakes came complete with a noticeable sugar and caffeine high, a bonus for seattleites, who consume coffee as if it were water (seriously, at least for some of the people i know).

and now, for the Cupcake Quote of the Day: “the espresso beans…they crunch like pop rocks in your molars.”



Cuppa Joe Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
*1-1/2 cups concentrated dried milk (i used 1/2 the volume of water), plus a heaping tbsp of folgers instant coffee mixed in (can anyone tell me if “instant espresso powder” is just a euphemism for “instant coffee”?
1/2 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

1. Measure out everything but the eggs directly into your mixer bowl.
2. Mix on low speed just until incorporated.
3. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
4. Add eggs, beat on high speed again for 2 minutes.

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
*1-1/2 cups concentrated dried milk (i used 1/2 the volume of water)
1/2 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

1. Measure out everything but the eggs directly into your mixer bowl.
2. Mix on low speed just until incorporated.
3. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
4. Add eggs, beat on high speed again for 2 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the two batters and create swirls by mixing lightly.

Fill lined cupcake tins 3/4 full. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Coffee Buttercream

3 sticks butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3-1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
*1/4 cup milk, plus 2 heaping tbsp instant coffee mixed in — i think the powdered milk altered the consistency of the buttercream a bit, possibly due to the emulsifiers in it.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, vanilla and salt until light, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar alternately with coffee/milk mixture until the mixture is creamy and smooth, beating well after each addition.

*I would still recommend using real milk if you have it.


Using a large closed star tip, pipe buttercream onto cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a couple of espresso beans.

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