Friday, March 28, 2014

Sun Dried Tomato Soup

Sun-dried tomatoes are one of my favorite foods, and this soup did not disappoint. While scouting my regular food blogs that I follow, I stumbled on this gem from Love and Lemons.

So on one of my last days in Saigon, I was trying to return our rented motorbike downtown by myself. Nick and Cate had gone on a tour of the Mekong Delta for the day. Of course the place was not open at its designated hour because this is Vietnam and things happen at their own pace. Usually I can deal with it, but the day was getting steadily hotter (it has been in the 100s this past week). Mostly, I was being impatient. I was also thirsty but I couldn't leave the bike. All of the sudden, a lady at a stand next to me pours half her fruit drink into a glass of  ice and offers it to me. These little gestures happen all the time and the generosity of the people here make it so easy to love this country. Just like that, my day turned around. A random guy showed up, told me the woman I was looking for was still sleeping, and miraculously produced our security deposit. There was a substantial amount of cash, so he went out of his way to make sure I got into a taxi safely. The next couple days went perfectly since (surprise!) my dad as well as my friend Cate came to visit. We celebrated my birthday with tons of delicious Vietnamese food and lots of cousins. My grandma was also very happy that this was the first birthday she got to celebrate with me! That's the last of the updates on Vietnam since we're now in Bali. More on that in the next post...

1 red onion, roughly chopped
 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups veggie broth
1 can coconut milk (reserve a couple spoonfuls of the cream for garnish)
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil (found perfect size at Trader Joe's)
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Tuscan herbs
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
salt & pepper

Strain the sundried tomatoes from the oil, reserving both. In a soup pot, heat the reserved oil and saute the onions until almost translucent. This should take about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and stir for another minute.
Add the white wine and let alcohol evaporate for a couple minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients including the sundried tomatoes set aside.
Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until tomatoes are completely softened. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender to blend the soup well. Dish into bowls and garnish with coconut cream, extra sundried tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil, or all of the above.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Rum Raisin Ice Cream

The ice cream maker that Michelle got at her bridal shower last March has been sitting on top of the fridge for months now without anyone using it - it was time to experiment. 

In our defense, this winter hasn't been very frozen dessert-friendly. Michelle had been using it before she left for Vietnam (mint chocolate chip, vegan chocolate, frozen peanut butter pie). I had a little dark rum left (see Rum Cake, seriously one of the best cakes ever), so I went the boozy route with Rum Raisin Ice Cream. It's amazing! It's very rich and creamy, and the raisins are all plump and filled with delicious rum.

Adapted from recipes at Saveur, Serious Eats and Bon Appetit

1/2 cup raisins 
2/3 cup dark rum
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg, freshly ground
Pinch salt
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine the raisins and rum in a sealable container - I used a mason jar with a lid. Let it sit for at least 2 hours or for up to 3-4 days. I looked at a few different recipes and the soaking length varied a lot - but all recommended at the very least 2 hours for the raisins to soak up enough of the rum. I let my jar soak about about 15 hours. After soaking, drain the raisins, reserving between 2 tablespoons and 1/2 cup, depending on your desired booziness. 

Notes: I desired a pretty high level of booziness but also a decent frozen texture (alcohol can prevent the ice cream freezing solid), so I reserved 1/3 cup of rum, or about half the rum left in the jar. The recipe from Saveur called for reserving only 2 tbsp and called the ice cream kid-friendly, so I'm thinking 2 tbsp is only very minimally boozy - at that point the rum is just enough for flavor.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Martha's Cornmeal Pizza Dough

I've been using the same pizza dough recipes for years, occasionally trying out some whole wheat ones but always using the same one for normal white dough. I still love that recipe and will use it sometimes, but now it's got competition: Martha's cornmeal dough. 

It's still a white flour dough (which I usually prefer over whole wheat doughs), but it's made a bit richer with some cornmeal. And I love cornmeal (best example of cornmeal wonderfulness: Cranberry Maple Cornbread). To try out this dough, I made a gorgonzola and butternut squash pizza, a lot like the delicata squash pizza Michelle posted about last year

I tried frying sage for a cool topping, but they weren't that amazing. I just fried them up in some veg oil for a few seconds until crispy. I still like the idea and want to try it again, but mine didn't keep much sage-y flavor after being fried. Michelle/general public, do you know the best way to fry sage leaves so they're crispy but still sage-y?

From Martha Stewart

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
2/3 cups warm water
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 cup cornmeal, plus more for pizza peel or baking sheet
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Greek Orzo Salad

I got asparagus at Stan's in the Strip District because I'm ready to start pretending that it's spring. It has to happen eventually. 

The other day I went over to my grandparents' house for dinner and my grandma made open-face sandwiches with sliced ham, hardboiled eggs, tomatoes, asparagus and cheese sauce. So good!! She says she's been making it for years and years. I'll definitely make it sometime for a quick dinner. 


1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup feta, diced or crumbled
1/4 cup raisins and/or craisins
1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 can chickpeas
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 cups orzo
kalamata olives

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch salt & pepper

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rum Cake

This rum cake is tough for me to post about - I made it about two weeks ago and it's been gone for so long. And I want a slice NOW. I guess that's my payback for not posting it earlier. I'm dreaming about the butter rum glaze...

Disclaimer: I totally failed at getting this out of the bundt pan. You can tell. I buttered the pan, but I should have sprayed it with some cooking oil since there's all that brown sugar stickiness involved.

One more thing:

Twilly Flashback - This is the puppy in March 2012!

Pioneer Woman's Rum Cake

So this Pioneer Woman recipe is a cake mix AND pudding mix combo, which I think is great because it made it really really fast and easy. However, I usually don't have boxed cake mixes so I would normally just whipone up.

1 box (about 18 Oz.) Yellow Cake Mix
1 package (3.5 Oz.) INSTANT Vanilla Pudding Mix
4 whole Eggs
1/2 cup Cold Water
1/2 cup Canola Oil
1/2 cup Rum (dark or light Is Fine) (I used dark, Gosling's Black Seal.)
1 cup Chopped Pecans (I used almonds)
Brown Sugar (optional)

1-1/2 stick Butter
1/4 cup Water
1-1/2 cup Sugar
3/4 cups Rum

Friday, March 14, 2014

Green Pancakes with Lime Butter

     As usual, I came back from work with a couple of bags of spinach and swiss chard in my bike paneers. The pancakes are a great way to use up an abundance of produce. I followed the recipe in Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbook, Plenty almost exactly to make these. The double batch was a hit at girl dinner and with my roommates. I was inspired to post these (finally) after I saw Laura's scallion pancakes which are also delicious. All the pictures I'm seeing of Pittsburgh online make it look like Spring is really here!!!
     I just found out my dad is going to be visiting for my birthday! We'll get to spend the week with my friend, Cate and then 2 days with my dad. He's bringing me lots of books that I can read on the beach. English books are limited here; therefore, I've been reading everything (good and bad) on our 2 shelf library.
I'm wrapping things up with an anti-smoking presentation along with some of the other volunteers.
     We're having our goodbye dinner tonight. The main dish is a special treat our friend brought from Switzerland. This was one of my favorite dinners to eat while I was studying in France called "La Raclette." The basics of it are melted cheese + fingerling potatoes. It is heaven, really. We'll miss our friends but we plan to come back to Vietnam often (perhaps for the long-term). A European trip is already being planned for next summer with my little sister (her first time in Europe--yay!). Anyone want to join?


Lime butter:
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 tsp chile flakes

Pancake Batter:
4 cups spinach, chopped roughly if leaves are large
4 cups swiss chard, chopped roughly
3/4 cup gluten free flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
2/3 cup buttermilk
6 medium green onions, finely sliced (or 3 shallots)
2 fresh green jalapenos, thinly sliced
Coconut oil for frying

Make the lime butter first so the flavors can meld together while you're frying up the pancakes. You can halve the butter recipe since there will be plenty of extra. Place the butter in a medium bowl and mix with a fork until creamy. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. It takes some time to mix the lime juice into the butter, so just keep working with the butter. Place into a small, glass container with a lid. Place in refrigerator.
To make the batter bring some water (1-2 tbsp) in a large, shallow skillet to a boil. Throw in the spinach and swiss chard and stir until just wilted.


Drain in a sieve and squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop finely and set aside.
Mix the flour, baking powder, cumin, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well and then add the eggs, melted butter, and buttermilk in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Fold in the green onions, jalapenos, and spinach with a rubber spatula.


Pour a small amount of coconut oil into a cast iron skillet and place on medium-high heat. To cook the pancakes, ladle about 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet. When the side facing up turns bubbly and the edges start to dry out, flip over the pancake.


You want a nice golden brown on both sides. Keep them in the oven at 200 degrees for warmth and serve with a generous dollop of lime butter and a drizzle of sriracha.
The extra lime butter is great on anything. I especially liked it on bagels and toast topped with a fried egg.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Scallion Pancakes

Twilly and I are out porch-sittting in the crazy nice weather! Actually, he is lying down right now, but every time a human or dog walks by he jumps up and wants to run away and become that human or dog's new friend instead of ours. 

I've made scallion pancakes a few times, but I think I've used a different recipe every time. I'm not really sure if I've liked any version much better than any other - what you're going for is nice flaky layers, and I've gotten that every time. I'm posting a combo of the different versions I've tried, which is what I made this time. I like to make a big batch of smallish pancakes and freeze them, frying them up as needed. This time I was a genius and started eating them with a runny fried egg on top, with Sriracha and soy sauce. It's pretty much perfect. I think I had it for breakfast three times that week.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Magic Bars

While we were visiting my aunt in California, she requested I make these delicious bars. The last time I made these for her was in high school, and it was Christmastime. I couldn't believe she remembered this treat from all those years ago. Either way, they're super easy to make even if they are comprised of only sugar. Stay tuned for a vegan, healthier version that's even better than these!
We're winding down to our two last weeks of working at Maison Chance. Our projects are about completed, and I"m looking forward to some beach time. Like literally just staying in the ocean all day. In two weeks, my good friend Cate will be here. We're spending the week exploring Saigon with her. On the day after my birthday, we're headed to Bali. Then after that, probably Thailand though we haven't booked our flight yet. Then home!!! Time flies.
I really thought we would be ready to come home by now, but honestly we're not missing the cold one bit. Our life rules here. We get fresh pain au chocolat (French style) from the bakery at Maison Chance in the morning, work, lunch+ coffee+ smoothies with our coworkers at our favorite coffee shop, take a nap, eat snack together, work a little more, and then the rest of the day is spent finding dinner. We have dinner with our fellow volunteers here or we go out and explore by ourselves on the bike. Sometimes we go to my cousin's cafe where she stuffs us with delicious Vietnamese food. We've even found a great sushi and ramen place. Every day has truly been an adventure and we don't want it to end.

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 -14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or even better, dark chocolate chips)
2/3 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/3 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Combine the crumbs and butter in a small bowl with a fork. Press firmly into prepared pan.
Sprinkle the chips and pecans over the crumbs. Then evenly distribute the shredded coconut. Pour the sweetened condensed milk all over the bars.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. Using a wet knife, slice into squares or triangles. I prefer really little bars since these are very, very sweet.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Maple Bacon Scones

Sunday brunch at home today! We had scones, made with bacon and brown sugar and topped with a maple glaze, a spinach mushroom frittata, homefries with shredded pork and poached eggs and fruit. We're pretty fancy people and even used a tablecloth, so we're basically Downton Abbey.

I would definitely make the scones again - maybe even without the bacon. They are awesome with the bacon, but they were so good that I'm sure it would be tasty sans bacon as well. 

Maple Bacon Scones
From How Sweet It Is (blogger lives in Pgh!)

3 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cups cold butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 strips cooked bacon, crumbled 
course sugar for sprinkling
maple glaze (recipe below)


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