Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Turmeric Milk

The idea for this milk came from My Edible Sunshine's Instagram one day. Turmeric has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Since I had been feeling sickly (too many cookies + freezing cold weather during December), I figured I would give this tea a try. You can definitely taste the turmeric but it's surprisingly subtle, and the honey balances it out nicely.

Fast forward to Vietnam!! I discovered that my grandpa also drinks turmeric tea! By turmeric tea, I mean he just mixes the turmeric with water. He also eats bee pollen (like me!) and bird's nest water (ew). I promise you, my version is a lot tastier.

The practice of medicine is dramatically different here and it has taken me awhile to get used to it. I agree with the practice of Eastern medicine (herbs, acupunture, and food as medicine), but I can't agree with the rampant use of antibiotics plus other drugs. Then again, it's a third world country. What can I expect?

On the other hand, the people here know so much more about food than I do. It's just common knowledge on what foods cure which ailments. Sore throat? Drink some aloe vera. Stomach pains? Tapioca+water. In that way, the pharmacist here has been teaching me so much. Lastly, there's a lot of focus on what foods make you hot (mango, longan, rambutan) or cold (coconut water, avocado, watermelon, and green mango). If there's an imbalance, then you're more susceptible to sickness. It's a pretty cool system that teaches you to be in tune with yo body! So now you know!

Turmeric Tea (one serving)

1 1/4 cup cashew milk
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
1-2 tsp raw honey

Warm up the cashew milk in a little saucepan until lukewarm. You don't want it to get too hot since heat destroys the awesomeness of the enzymes in the raw honey. Meanwhile, mix the spices with the honey in the bottom of a large mug. Once the milk is warm enough, pour into mug while stirring to incorporate all the goodness. Add more honey if desired. Drink up first thing in the morning.
An alternative is making cashew cream to store in the fridge and then mixing it with the spices and honey. Then adding some warm water to the mix.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ricotta Cake

This is a lot like a normal pound cake but with a delicious secret ingredient - ricotta! The ricotta flavor is definitely noticeable but it's hard to guess what you're tasting. I made this loaf to bring to a morning meeting at work, and it was all gone by the end of the meeting. I love pound cake, and this is a surprisingly great variation.

Ricotta Cake
Slightly adapted from Sweet Bites

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 1/2  sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  cups fresh whole-milk ricotta
  cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 vanilla bean
  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cookies and Cream Cake

This is a seriously late post, but I seemingly misplaced my recipe somewhere in the Highland Park house. Things are a little slow nowadays in the pharmacy, so I had time to dig up a recipe from online. The photo credit goes to Kate, who took great pictures at the wedding. They're the only documentation I have of the cakes! My sister and I made about 7 cakes total, most of them vegan. I will be posting more cake recipes from the wedding in the future.
Anyways, my duties have been shifting to English teacher here! Lots of people want to talk to me to practice and I've taken on 2 students so far. I don't feel I'm qualified to teach although I'm perfectly willing to chat. In exchange for my time, I get fed. The ladies here cook me lots of food (vegan!) and pick up fruit for me from the market. I'm really grateful because lately I haven't been into eating meat. The hospitality here is phenomenol. Today I got coconut water and some apple-like fruit. Nick also gets food just because he's my husband and the ladies think he's cute. In fact, everyone that we have met has decided Nick is the nicest person ever. Our co-workers infer this via his mannerisms as he can't actually speak to anyone. As for me, everyone has decided I'm nuts which is about right. I get a pass because of my Vietnamese blood, though. Haha.

This recipe is from the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. I used the basic vanilla cupcake recipe and made it twice. Then I added oreos to the batter. Can you believe I could not find a single vegan vanilla oreo cake on the internet?

1 cup almond milk

1    tsp. apple cider vinegar

  cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

¾ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. sea salt 

cup canola oil

¾ cup pure cane sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract
10 Chocolate Newman-O's


Prepare 2-8 inch round baking pans by greasing them, lining the bottoms with parchment paper, and greasing again. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Measure out the almond milk in a liquid measuring cup. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes to curdle whle measuring other ingredients.
Place the Newman-O's in a large freezer bag and go to town crushing the cookies. You don't want them to turn into crumbs, more like small to medium chunks depending on what you like.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until uniform. Then fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no streaks of flour remain. Do not overmix! Then fold in the crushed cookies.
Pour the batter into one of the prepared baking pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until a toothpick can be removed from the center cleanly.
While the first cake was baking, I made the batter for the second cake. I did this instead of doubling the recipe because the cake was on the smaller side so I decided to turn it into a layer cake. Bake the second cake and let both cool completely. Then remove them from the pan by turning onto a cooling rack and removing parchment paper.
While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. There's really no exact recipe. I think I used vegan margarine (you can also use flavor neutral coconut oil), powdered sugar, vanilla, and almond milk. My sister was in charge of the frosting. We were trying to re-create that sugary Oreo filling. She just played around with the ingredients until they reached a perfect consistency.
After frosting and layering the cake, we froze them on little cardboard circles covered in aluminum foil. After 20 minutes or so, we wrapped the cake with plastic wrap and foil until the day before the wedding. It was a lot of work and without my sister I couldn't have done it!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pumpkin Buckwheat Pancakes

This week, we celebrated our friend Hiến's birthday (it was his first big birthday celebration, ever). I also learned how to do accents. And the squiggly Spanish one? We have that too!! I've been making some bulletin boards for the pharmacy. I know, glamorous work. I'm actually enjoying having an office job for once. Since I'm here and I'm basically extra labor, I might as well make the place look nice. Anyways, birthdays are not a big deal here! Since we're American, Nick and I decided to throw a birthday party complete with pizza and cake. Some friends threw in some fried rice and papaya salad so it had a nice Vietnamese touch. Oh and plenty of Saigon 333 beer (which you don't ever want to drink too much of). Not sure what's in that beer.... I rode on the back of a motorcycle for 3 miles clutching a large strawberry cake with one hand and praying I wouldn't drop it. It survived! Our friend, Trinh, got to try pizza for the first time too. She was not a fan, haha.
Valentine's day is also this week, which does exist here because- commercialization. Nick and I went to a French restaurant owned by a chef from Avignon. It was adorable. Provencal tablecloths and lots of olive oil. The chevre chaud salad was phenomenal.
For actual Valentine's day, we're going to go eat with a bunch of our cousins and possibly watch a Vietnamese horror movie. Movies here are $3.50, and that's for the weekend. Because of the low ticket price, we can splurge on kettle corn (my cousins love it) and butter popcorn (I ate the whole box by myself). They also have Vietnamese root beer here!!! The things we have in common. 
 My sisters and I made these pancakes from Food for Life for our Christmas morning breakfast. To tell you the truth, I actually mixed up the batter while yelling at my sisters and Nick to come help instead of watching Dr. Who. By the time they got up to help, the batter was mixed and ready to fry up. It was kind of a group effort. I upped the sugar content for my sisters.

Pumpkin Buckwheat Pancakes 
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin puree

Mix dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl with a wire whisk. Make a well. Add wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Fry in a saucepan until golden brown. As pancakes are cooking, place the finished ones on a baking tray in 200 degree oven to keep warm. Serve with butter and some maple syrup. Maybe some cinnamon sugar too.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lemon Lavender Muffins

We have a lot of culinary grade lavender! And lavender goes great with lemon. I adapted a recipe from Tide & Thyme for cranberry orange muffins to make them lemon lavender ones, and I threw in some dried cherries for good measure. It works! I brought them other to a friend's place for brunch and movies on this very very snowy and cold Sunday.

Lemon Lavender Muffins
Makes about 12 muffins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 + 2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup milk
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dried cherries
For streusel topping:
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Birthday Salad

It was my grandpa's 88th birthday last week! We had a little family and friends potluck party, and I brought this very tasty salad, which had to stand up beside classics like ham loaf and corn pudding. This salad is nothing that original, but the beet-red vinaigrette makes it relatively fancy-looking for a simple homemade salad, and it has got some great combinations: beets, red onions, bacon, goat cheese...

Birthday Salad

Serves 8-10 as a side salad, 4-5 as dinner salad

1 lb fresh spinach or your favorite leaf mix (I got a mix from Sam's Club that had baby kale & swiss chard leave plus Spinach)
1 red onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
4 small beets, steamed or roasted, peeled, and cut into wedges
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 6 inch pieces
1 mini-log (? oz) goat cheese, crumbled

Pink Vinaigrette
1 small beet, steamed or roasted, peeled, and cut into wedges
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch sea salt
pinch pepper

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

This is Alice Water's recipe that I got from the blog Lottie + Doof. I first had this at my friend, Rachel's house and have been wanting to make it ever since. The beauty of this dish is that you can make it in a cast iron skillet. It's also really easy to make adjustments to this cake, say, to make it gluten free.
This post will be about the Tet holiday (or the Lunar New Year) in Vietnam. We got a 2 week break from work to spend with my family. This is the time when you go home to visit your family if you live far away. A good chunk of the population of Saigon is from the countryside. It's a calmer time for the city since pretty much all the shops are closed. Tet lasts for 5 days officially and during this time, people are going in and out of each other's houses to visit and best of all, eat. We've been eating so much these last few weeks. I've met so many cousins that I didn't even know I had. There's an incredible sense of community here that is refreshing. So many people have invited us into their homes and shared food with us. I would say about 100+ people have come to my grandparent's house to wish them good health and bring them gifts. By the way, they market oreos and ritz crackers as luxury goods here so those were some gifts that I ate. We handed out lucky money in red envelopes to the little kiddies. They have to wish us a happy and prosperous year before they get the dollars though.
The last 3 days, we got to spend at the beach in my dad's old hometown (Mui Ne). It's a beautiful fishing village that is filled with Russian tourists. We stayed at a resort with some cousins and friends and had a blast. Lots of seafood, sunshine, and playing with my little cousins. Now, back to the recipe!

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 3/4 cups fresh cranberries
1/4 cup apple cider
2 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/2 cup almond milk
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F. Make sure everything is at room temperature!
In an 9-inch cast-iron skillet, cook 4 tablespoons butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture starts to bubble and is fragrant. This doesn't take long. Turn off heat and let skillet cool down.
In a separate saucepan, cook the cranberries and apple cider until the cranberries just start to pop for about 5 minutes. You will notice the skin of the cranberries splitting and the insides literally popping out. Pour the mixture over the cooled caramel.
In a mixing bowl add the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine.
In a bowl, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the two egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in vanilla extract. When mixed well. add the flour mixture alternately with the almond milk, starting and ending with one third of the flour. Stir just until no streaks of flour can be seen. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold one third of the egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula, and then gently fold in the rest.
Pour the batter over the cranberries in the pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is really golden brown and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. You want a toothpick to be able to be removed from the center cleanly. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate.
This cake is great served by itself.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pumpkin Roll Cookies

If I had to choose one word to describe Saigon, it would be chaos. From the nonexistent traffic laws to the endless crowds there is much chaos. I love it. On the plane ride here, I was feeling nervous since I had no idea what to expect from the country that my family comes from. Long term travel is nothing like a vacation and not something to take lightly. When we landed, we were welcomed by the abundant sunshine and the shouting hoards of people at the airport. I felt instantly at home. Unlike the Philippines, I was in a country  whose language I understood (at least, sort of).
We had a great welcome dinner with all the other volunteers and some of our co-workers who make up our group of friends here. There's nothing like bonding over being in a strange and foreign country to bring people together. We were thrown into a mix of Vietnamese and French speaking and I love it.
Anyways back to the chaos, which if you haven't guessed yet, is the theme of the post. I'll describe my first day working at the pharmacy so you all can get a good idea of what happens daily. So I walk in and the pharmacist (the sweetest lady!) starts telling me what my jobs will be (inventory, dispensing meds, writing up a list of what age groups of children should receive what meds, and a tobacco cessation presentation). Then after about 10 minutes of chatting, about 5 people rush in and start yelling. By the way, yelling is the normal here. I couldn't exactly understand what was happening and then all of the sudden everyone starts moving the shelves, etc. out of the pharmacy and everyone continues shouting. Things need to be discussed here (by yelling) before any work gets done. It actually reminds me of France a little bit. I slowly understood that they decided that during my first week working, they would be repainting the pharmacy. This meant that I would not really be working since the computers and drugs the pharmacy. I did get to help with the heavy lifting and some packing away of files and medical supplies (my other useful skill). Instead of working the first week, I spent my time getting to know people that the pharmacist introduced me to like the people in the physical therapy rooms and the workers for Maison Chance. It was actually a lot of fun. I got to practice my Vietnamese and hear lots of people comment on how I don't actually look like a Vietnamese person. So that concludes our first week here! Pretty awesome all in all.
So pumpkin roll cookies. These are vegan and my contribution to the cookie exchange. They are from Oh Ladycakes and her pictures are much lovelier than mine. These are super soft and delicous!

Dough (makes 2 dozen cookies)

1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp almond milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

For the dough, mix all the dry ingredients together in a small mixing bowl with a wire whisk. The in a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, molasses, vanilla extract, pumpkin, and milk until thoroughly combined.
Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with a little flour. Make sure to use as little flour as possible. I used too much and the cookies didn't roll as nicely as I would have liked. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 10×18 rectangle. Brush with coconut oil then sprinkle with other filling ingredients. Roll dough tightly, starting at the long end, into a log. Wrap the log with plastic wrap and place on a plate. Put  in freezer for 15-25 minutes until firm.
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Get nonstick baking pans ready and line if desired. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut the dough into 1/2″ segments and line on baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, let sit for 1 minute after taking out of the oven, and then transfer to a cooling rack. I skipped the glaze since the cookies were pretty sweet by themselves.


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