Thursday, September 20, 2012



FRESH BLUEBERRIES... they're still out there.  they're always out there and they are pop in your mouth delicious.  i don't know where you live, but blueberries are a year 'round thing here in So. California so there's really no rush.  sometimes they are better than others and i get excited when they are 2 for 3$ instead of 1 for 4.99$.  the best ones are plump, a bit firm and look like they have a slight white powder dust on know, the ones that have not been man-handled.   grab them up...they're good for ya.

LEMON...might want to go with organic.  always try to use organic when using the outer layer of anything.  i'm a little lazy about this but i really should pay attention.  try cutting your zest in thin slivers as shown in photo with raspberries.  i find it adds a little extra zing when you get that sliver in a bite.

LAVENDER... dried...i buy mine at Mother's Market...inexpensive bought by the ounce.  again, organic...although, i must admit to using some straight from the garden (not so organic garden i might add) and i'm not dead yet.  lavender adds that delicious floral herb aroma flavor that many people aren't familiar with, but detect there's something special in the mix.  it's not overwhelming, but it makes this jam stand out from any ol' store bought jam. 
 NOTE...i should add that you need to be careful adding floral things like lavender in jams...or any food, for that can easily over do it and end up with something you liken to the face mask you had on your last spa day...or that pretty little candle you got for your birthday labeled RELAX...



6 cups blueberries
3 1/2 cup sugar
juice from 1 lemon or 1/4 cup
zest from 1 1/2 lemon
peel lemon with a potato peeler, then cut into very thin slivers (photo)
2 Tbsp dried lavender tied in a cheesecloth pouch
1/2 tsp dried lavender for the pot
1/2 vanilla bean scraped
1/2 tsp lavender extract.  (if necessary) can add 2-3 wedges of granny smith apple to the pot for pectin.  remove before canning

i can't stress...mise en place, mise en place...mise en place
don't forget to put a couple of small plates in the freezer for your plate test...and start you huge pot of water for your water bath.  have all your jars sterilized and kept warm so you are ready.

in a large stainless steel or enamel pot add blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest slivers, lavender pouch, lavender buds.  start on low heat until juice is released from blueberries and sugar is dissolved.  some recipes call for you to crush 1/3-1/2 of the blueberries first, but i think i just cut about 1/3 in half.  i like to see whole blueberries in the finished product.  when sugar is dissolved bring the heat up to a medium boil for about 15-20 minutes or until it starts to thicken and temperature is 220-222 F degrees.  add your vanilla bean scrapings and stir well so as not to get clumps of vanilla.  taste test...(careful, it's molten hot) do you need more lavender?  i did so i added in about 1/2 tsp lavender extract.  skim off any noticeable foam.  do a plate test... if you are satisfied, ladle into you warm jars and proceed with the water bath.  i start the clock for 10 minutes after the water has come back to a boil.
after the water bath, let the jars sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours.

i know this is raspberry, but this is an example of the thin lemon slivers

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chicken Paws...short cut to dim sum style chicken feet


hey... WAIT !  don't go.

i needed a fix of the weird stuff.  too much pansying around with jams and pound cakes.  i start to get the itch for something out of the ordinary.
when i get the yen for something different i head to my favorite Asian market, 99 Ranch in Irvine.  let's fish, fish heads, black chicken?..been there, done that!...pig's feet ?...done,  snout...done,  pig ears ?...done and tongues?.. NO,  once again i had to pass on the duck tongues...i'm still not quite ready for those yet...

 BUT i thought a good dose of chicken toes would do the trick.

and these definitely did the trick.

these are the best chicken feet i have ever tasted...

and YES....i have had quite a few in my day.
i usually cook them up for good chicken stock.  they make THE BEST GOLDEN DELICIOUS BROTH.  no one else in the family eats them, but i remember my Grandmother noshing on a foot or two in her day.

i must admit, however, that i have never seen chicken feet on a menu...i would have ordered them...hence, i have never had the privilege to eat them prepared in the proper dim sum manner.  so this is not an authentic preparation in any way, but i think it definitely has the right flavor profile and they ARE finger lickin' good.  the glaze that this creates is absolutely delicious and could be used for many other things...maybe chicken wings, spare ribs, pork tender loin, pulled pork...anything really.

above and below are a couple of bold visual examples of what you will be dealing with....
and i'll add that these were some of the prettiest chicken feet i had ever seen.
no kidding, that's why i bought them.  i found them at 99 Ranch Market...they were HUGE!, white and spotless, but beware...most chicken feet are not a pretty sight and are quite strange for a newcomer.

one of the MORE uncomfortable things you must do is cut the "talon" off.  best done with a pair of kitchen shears and done as quickly as possible so as not to dwell on the fact too long.  you can quickly lose your appetite for your new adventure at this stage of the game.

i say throw your inhibitions aside...put on your helmet, don your protective eye wear, set out the drop cloth and dive into some chicken feet dim sum.  you'll have a load of fun preparing them and you won't stop talking about it for months.  they surely make for colorful conversation...
AND you might just find out you like chicken feet...SHHHHH...

quick note about the recipe...i call this a "short-cut" because you don't need to fry the feet in hot oil as you would with authentic recipes, you don't need a wok and the ingredients are pretty simple...but it does take a few hours to cook.

adapted from by Chef #74195

1 1/2 - 2 pounds chicken feet
2 (12oz) cans Coke
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 discs fresh ginger
2 star anise
3 smashed garlic cloves
2 Tsp garlic chili sauce or sambal oelek

put all ingredients, except the feet in a large bottom dutch oven.  large because you want all the feet to be in the broth.
start heat to combine flavors and dissolve sugar.
add chicken feet.
bring to a boil and turn down to a slow-low simmer for approx 2 - 3 hours.  i cooked mine for 2 hours then turned the heat off and let them sit in the covered dutch oven for another hour.  they were perfect.  check them after 1 hour and give them a delicate stir.  they are done when you can easily pull a "finger" off.
remove the feet from the pot.  strain the broth  and put back on medium heat until the liquid turns into a will reduce and thicken into an absolutely delicious glaze sauce that you will want to use on other things as well.  i was amazed how fabulous this was.

serve in a large bowl or serving platter and drizzle glaze over all the feet.
or...just toss the feet with the sauce/glaze.
sprinkle some red pepper flakes and cilantro or chopped scallions.
have an empty bowl next to each person for the tiny little bones.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rose Petal Plum Jam

"A ROSE IS JUST A ROSE..." until it becomes


another favorite jam from this season...sweet, tart fresh plums with just a wisp of summer rose.
perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea on a cold fall-ish day.
i know you'll be proud to give some away, as i did, but be sure to stick a few jars in the pantry for one of those gloomy blah winter days when you need a little reminder that everything is right in the world.

the jam is a beautiful crimson color with small chunks of plum and an occasional aromatic rose petal...
a little note about the rose petals...smell them!.  some are more fragrant than others.  if buying the dried rose buds, then you'll need to separate them into petals and make sure you weed out the nice looking petals and not all that comes with the whole bud (there's some scrappy stuff you don't want in there).  don't go wild with the petals.  i used 1/4 cup.  they do not dissolve or get really soft in the jam.  you don't want too many rose petal chunks in your delicate jam.  towards the end when i did my taste test i found that i needed to add a little rose extract to really make the rose evident.
it's one thing to call it rose petal jam, but i wanted it to taste like rose petal jam.
and a note about the plums...i bought mine at my favorite Mexican market.  .99 cents for 3 lbs...really?! they had a reddish interior.  the ones in the photo that went by the same name, "Red Plum", had the lighter interior.  i have used both for jams and find that the beautiful skin is what colors the jam so nicely.  OH, and don't buy ripe squishy plums...they should be firm and a little tart.
also, don't be alarmed if the jam is quite stiff straight out of the fridge, it will soften at room temp.
plums are full of pectin and with the assurance of the sliced green apple you will surely get a good "set".  i tend to lean on the more set side, but some like a syrupy's up to you how far you cook it down.


3 lbs, plums, equals about 6 cups diced
2 slices of green apple...will be removed
4 cups sugar
1 lemon zest...use a potato peeler and slice into very thin can use a microplane, but i like to see the tiny slivers and notice the flavor when you run into one.
juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup edible rose petals, carefully picked through
1 tsp cardamom...i started with 1/2 tsp and added the other 1/2 after some taste testing.
1/2 vanilla bean, scrapped
1/2 tsp rose extract... you might not need this depending on the intensity of your rose petals.  i had it on hand just in case and ended up adding it in.

get your water bath ready and start it takes a long time to boil a huge canning pot like mine.  put a couple of small plates in the freezer.  get all your jars cleaned and sterilized.  i like to clean the jars and sterilize them in the oven for 20 min. at 220 F degrees...then turn the oven to low until ready to fill jars.  hot jam must go into hot/warm jars. 
put all ingredients except the rose extract,  into your heavy non reactive jam making pot...i use a tall sided stock pot to insure no boil over and no splattering.
start on low until you see the plums releasing their juice.  stir a little to combine.  i like to fold it so as not to mash the fruit more than necessary.  when you see more liquid and the sugar is dissolving, turn the heat up to medium.  get a little boil going...then go to medium-high. stir to insure no hot spots and no burning on the bottom.  the mixture will almost double in size and bubble up, so a large or taller pot is necessary.  stir every now and then.  when the temperature reaches 220 F degrees, do a plate test. if you see any pockets of foam skim it off as well as possible.  this makes for a prettier, glistening jam.  i don't get to finicky about the foam skimming, but i try.   taste test your jam at this point.  please remember to be careful, it is molten hot...even blowing on it will not suffice...let it rest.  rose petals can vary in flavor and aroma intensity...i added the rose extract at this time (you might not need to).  cardamom can vary in intensity as well, but remember, you do not want the cardamom to over power the rose.

remove the apple slices.
when you have passed the plate test, turn off the heat and proceed with canning.
i will not go into the whole canning process because this is getting too long, but you can find good information HERE at Simple or Pick Your

one final note...after the jam has been opened, dipped in to and put in the fridge for a few weeks, i found that it discolored a bit on the sides of the if it wanted to crystallize.  not to worry, it is not spoiled.  i don't know why it does this.  i have only noticed it on the plum jams and a little on the Orange Tarragon jam after a quite few weeks.  maybe i should eat more jam!, but there are 13 jars in the fridge right now! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

TIPS and TRICKS from my first season canning

oh how i love my beautiful little jars of jam.
i truly did not make this display for the photograph...i just had nowhere else to put them.
i have eaten and given quite a bit away.

what used to be a lovely dinning room shared by all has now become my pantry for all these delicious jams.  i know i'll have to move them soon, but for now i'm too proud and happy to shove them into the dark lonely kitchen pantry...

i should preface with the fact that this IS my 1st year canning, so i do not, in any way shape or form, consider myself a wealth of knowledge in the canning dept.  i did, however, turn out some pretty darn good jams...TOOT TOOT.  tootin' my own horn there for a second.  if you have other methods and or more tips...i would love to hear...please pass it on.


investigate some good canning sites such as...

learn your fruits that have high and low pectin...HERE

when choosing fruits...
do not choose the ripest fruits.  it is best to have some that are not ripe, but do have maybe 1/2 that are ripe to ensure the sweet flavor of your chosen fruit.  pectin fades as the fruit ripens.  

if using a low pectin fruit try adding a few wedges of granny smith apple in the pot while cooking, then remove before jarring...
or add in a pouch of lemon seeds and membrane as shown in photos below.

learn how to do a PLATE TEST HERE from Food in Jars (great site for recipes and info)
put a couple of small glass plates in the freezer for plate testing.

get all of your mise en place ready before firing up the pot of jam...
sterilize all your jars.
put in a few extra jars. you don't want to scramble if you have more product than you expected.

don't forget to start your big pot of water for the canning process.  when it boils, turn it off and cover it until ready.

important...choose a pot that is bigger than you think you need.  i use a thick bottom stainless steel stock pot with tall sides.  the jam will double or triple in volume at a full boil and some fruits spatter more than others.  you DO NOT want a spill over of molten hot syrupy jam.

boil a small sauce pan of water for the lids.  when it boils, turn it off and put lids in...cover until ready to use.  do not leave the lids in boiling water, remember to turn off the heat.

TASTE TEST...i can't emphasize this enough.  just be careful of the molten HOT JAM.  try to taste test a few minutes before you think it's going to set so you can incorporate more flavor if needed.
add extracts towards the end...and i  think vanilla bean should be added toward the end.

wipe your rims before putting the lids on...and do not screw the lids on as tight as possible...screw them on so there is no play in the lid.  i use the 2 part lids.

do not tighten the jars after they come out of the bath.

do not disturb the jars for 12 to 24 you can tighten the lids.

to add extra pectin to non-pectin fruits...
example of cutting out the inner membrane core of lemon with seeds to bundle up in a cheese cloth pouch.  be sure to pull off any cheese cloth threads from the ends.  just gently pluck them off as much as you can.

above is an example of the slivers of lemon versus just grating it in with a Microplane.  i find this adds to the flavor in each bite when you run into a sliver of zesty lemon.

use cheesecloth pouch to infuse spices into jams.
you can steep the flavors in as i did when making my Apricot Ginger Vanilla Chai Jam.

star anise is a great add to many fruits.  i used it in my Chinese Five Spice Blueberry Apricot Jam...whoops, haven't posted that one yet...soon.

my favorite jam of the season???
if i had to choose one...maybe two...okay three


for more jams please go to my LABELS.
i have not posted all of them yet, but i DO have about 5 more jammy flavors coming soon.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Banh Gan. Vietnamese Flan...aka "Liver Cake"


YES...this is the color of Banh Gan.
translation..."LIVER CAKE"


BUT...this has got to be one of the top 5 weirdest things i have ever baked.  make that top 3.
and as you know......i know some weird stuff.

i was introduced to this odd dessert one day when i took my mother on an adventure to Little Saigon here in Westminster, CA.  our goal was to go to 2 of the establishments where they make fresh tofu and serve their wares right on the spot...Tan Tan Tofu seemed to be the most popular on the Internet...closed on Wednesday.  on to  Dong Phuong Tofu just the next street over.  
sorry to say, but the experience was less than we had anticipated...we felt like aliens.  i'm used to feeling out of place because i go to some out of the ordinary places, but the employees (probably the owners) didn't really want to help us AT ALL.  knowing that i was out of my element i was as nice as nice could be, but to no avail.  even my little mother felt uncomfortable.  we muddled our way through the language barrier, with no help from the guy behind the counter...bought a few pieces of fried tofu...good, but not great and didn't see any of the fresh tofu i was hoping that point i didn't dare ask.
BUT at the register there was this odd flat squishy brownish looking dessert.
i saw the word "flan" and threw it in with our small purchase.

when we got home i had to check this "flan" out...
to be honest...first bite?...ewe!  this is NOT the flan i was used to.  way too sweet, gummy, odd texture and a waste of money, might have to throw it out...
second day?...second bite...hmmm, not too bad.  it would be wasteful to throw out...i'll keep it.
third day?...hey, i think i like this.  WHAT THE HECK IS IT?  i liked it so much i ripped off the label and googled Bahn Gan to see what exactly i was eating.  maybe i could find the recipe.

i only found 2...two recipes that really resembled the strange brown spongy liver looking block that i had become fascinated with.
most of the recipes out there looked like regular flan or creme caramel.  as you can see this is not your basic a matter of fact, it barely resembles a flan.  maybe a well cooked "WOOPS, I OVER COOKED THE FLAN" type of flan.

i wish i could explain exactly how weird this was to cook, but i will
cut to the chase...
this post is getting too long.  i could go on and on.
in short...i have already cooked this dessert 3 times and have more to report with a different recipe involving espresso and chocolate that is equally as good as this one.  i will post about banh gan #2 and #3 later.

if you want to try something out of the ordinary and totally weird, BUT DELICIOUS...
whip one of these up.  i have had quite a bit of fun asking friends to try it.  when i explain there is no liver involved at all, only then are they willing to give it a try.
i've already been asked for the recipe twice.

BANH GAN #4 is in the works...

by the way...what's the weirdest dessert you've ever come across ?...

very slightly adapted from QlinArt

7 large eggs
1 cup good quality coconut milk
2/3 cup dark brown sugar or raw cane sugar
1/4 tsp each...powdered cinnamon, anise, cloves.
i did not have powdered anise so i steeped 3 star anise in the coconut?sugar mixture.
1 tsp ginger juice (use garlic press)
1 tsp baking soda

preheat oven to 350 F degrees
grease a 8"x 3"x 4" loaf pan.  i used a glass pyrex because that's what i though would be good for a custard.  ALSO, i wanted to see what it was looking like from top to bottom.

melt sugar in coconut milk over medium high heat in  a medium sauce pan and boil or simmer for about 15 minutes.
add spices, ginger juice and baking soda.  whip with whisk for about 1 will foam up a bit.
remove mixture from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
add slightly beaten eggs in a slow steady stream and beat the mixture until smooth with a whisk.
pour batter through a strainer into a preheated greased loaf pan

bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes in regular oven.
i think mine was in for 45 minutes.  i kept a close eye on it...not knowing what it was supposed to look like, i waited until the center looked like it had risen enough and i knew the eggs were cooked through. 
BY THE was soooo odd looking while it cooked...something out of Alien.  it looked like it was alive all bubbling underneath it's thin brown crust.  i've never seen anything like it.

remove from oven and let the cake stand for at least 15 minutes for it to cool before removing from pan.
as the cake cools it will deflate considerably.  don't be alarmed.  it will condense into a firm custard.

chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
another BY THE WAY...right out of the oven this thing smelled like rotten eggs...sulfur in fact.  i thought, what the heck is this? can this be edible?  i put it in the fridge for a few hours and gave it a try...ewe, still rotten eggs.  yikes.  i was going to throw it out, but knew i needed to blog about it.  i let it sit in the fridge while i thought about it.   a day or two later i brought it out again...after messing around for about an hour taking pictures i realized the smell had gone away.  miraculously the smell had disappeared.

again...cut to the chase....
after it is cooked, put it in the fridge for at least a day or two.  then bring it out and give it a try.  maybe it will need some airing out as well.
i know this doesn't sound all that tempting to a lot of you out there, but it sure makes for great conversation.  if you take the chance and make it, i hope you will be pleasantly surprised like i was...
i'm still fascinated.

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