Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best of 2008 - Recipe Collection

best-vegetarian-recipes
Time flies faster than you think, and its already time to bid farewell to 2008, and welcome the New year with open arms and loads of dreams and aspirations. This has indeed been a very eventful year for us, both professionally and personally, and 2008 is definitely one of our most memorable years. I'm not going to bore you with details about why it is so, but I would surely like to thank all of you, my blogosphere friends, my readers, subscribers, silent followers and the enthusiastic commentors who keep Fun and Food a cheery place for food-lovers from around the world! This year also saw the launch of Fun and Food Cafe, and thanks for showering your love and support for the new baby just as you have shown to my blog; I'm happy and proud to see that FFCafe has started attracting more traction than I hD expected.

You might have seen a tiny drop in the number of posts on this blog, but that is just because I have enveloped the doctrine that Quality is indeed better than Quantity, at least as far as Food goes - so as personal life gets a bit more demanding, I shall promise to keep delivering good food, nutrition advice and keep sharing all my ideas with you here as well as at Fun and Food Cafe - so keep reading for there's lots more coming in the New Year!

And now, without further ado, here are some of my favorite 2008 Recipes and Articles. Just a recap for those who need a few ideas as you still indulge in the holiday season. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we did! Off this goes to Srivalli, who's hosting the Best of 2008 event this month!

Best of 2008 - Savory Tidbits
Spicy Tomato & Bell-Pepper Rice
Paneer & Sun-Dried Tomato Muffins
Instant Microwave Khandvi(Suralichiwadi)
Vegetarian Zucchini Crab Cakes
Spinach Fettucini with Garlic & Cherry Tomatoes
Moong Dal Kachori (basket kachori)
Cheese Ravioli with Tomato-Basil Cream Sauce
Gujarati-Style Handvo - Vegetable Cornmeal Cake
Tri-Colored Dhokla Sandwich
Vegetarian Schezwuan Hakka Noodles

Best of 2008 - Curries & Gravies
Kashmiri Dum Aloo
Hyderabadi Baghare Baingan
Tandoori Paneer Tikka with Mango Dressing
Stuffed Bell Peppers (Bharoni Shimla Mirch)
Mixed Vegetable Korma
Paneer Butter Masala
Bhindi Masala with Peanuts & Coconut
Lauki(Ghiye) ke Kofte

Best of 2008 - Desssert Recipes
Chocolate Nutella Cookies
Fudgy Mocha Pistachio Brownies
Spiced Apple Bread Recipe
Layered Chocolate Cake with White Frosting
Baked Strawberry Dessert Pudding
Moist Espresso Kahlua Brownies
Chocolate Banana Bread
No-Bake Mini Cheesecakes
Raspberry Jelly Swiss Roll Cake
Rasgulla - Traditional Bengali Sweet
Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries
Mango Cake with Streusel Topping

Wish you all a wonderful and joyous 2009. May you be blessed with health and happiness, and of course, good food!:)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cheap Eats in Waikiki

There are lots of wonderful places to eat on Oahu but finding reasonably priced places right in the tourist zone of Waikiki is a challenge. In fact, finding a really tasty meal for under $10 is almost impossible. Here are a few of spots that not only fit the bill but are worth seeking out.

Gyoza No Ohsho
Gyoza
This tiny restaurant in the King's Village Shopping Center serves gyoza, ramen and some rice bowls. But the thing to order, not surprisingly, is the gyoza. Japanese gyoza are like a smaller, thinner more delicate version of Chinese potstickers. At Gyoza No Ohsho there are 6 to an order for $3.95, served in a cast iron skillet. The dumplings are available in the traditional style, fried and steamed, and there are also boiled and cheese varieties. They are juicy and flavorful with a pork and ginger filling and have a very thin and delicate wrapper. Dip them in a combination of soy sauce, vinegar and chili oil, if you like. The ramen is ok, but I think you're better off with the gyoza, either as a snack or a light meal depending upon how many you order.

Fatty's Chinese Fast Food
Beef  & Choi Sum Chow Fun
The fast food in the name really just means the food is cooked quickly. This little hole-in-the-wall can be a bit hard to find because it doesn't face the street; it's in the alley next to the Miramar Hotel. It looks and feels like a real dive, but sitting at the counter you can see all the dishes, mostly stir fries, being cooked to order. I had a very large portion of beef and choi sum chow fun which was plenty for two people. Although not on the menu, you can order a side dish of choi sum, which is a bit like a cross between bok choi and broccoli. It would go well with the "three meats on rice" which is three neat lines of sliced char siu pork, chicken with a minced ginger cilantro sauce and roast duck on top of a bowl of rice. Whatever you do, avoid the already cooked options and order from the menu.

Me's BBQ
Me's BBQ
This little Korean takeaway counter offers a lot of options including some really delicious vegetable side dishes and kimchi. You can make a meal of vegetarian sides, or pair them with barbecue chicken, "kal-bi" short ribs or order other classic Korean dishes such as Bi Bim Bap or fried "Man-Doo" dumplings. Almost everything is between $7 and $10 and everything I've had here has been fresh and tasty. Whatever you end up ordering, keep in mind the portions are huge. They also offer very cheap sandwiches and breakfasts at certain ours of the day, though I've never tried them. Eat outside at one of the picnic tables or take your feast to the beach just a couple blocks away.

Teddy's Bigger Burgers
Burger & Onion RIngs
If you're in the mood for burgers, this retro burger spot is the place to go. It's really just a fast food outlet, but the burgers are cooked to order and quite tasty. So are the onion rings. Order the small size which is 5 ounces, anything else is obscenely large. Burgers come with "secret sauce" if you don't like that kind of thing, ask them to hold it. I also recommend the chocolate shake which is very intensely flavored, thick and creamy, almost like a soft serve ice cream. I had no problem getting a burger rare though I've been told when it gets very busy the wait may be long and the chances of getting your order done the way you like may decrease.

If you have any other cheap finds in this area, please feel free to share them in the comments section.

Gyoza No Ohsho
131 Kaiulani Ave
Honolulu, Hawaii
808-922-2161

Fatty's Chinese Fast Food
2345 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, Hawaii
808-922-9600

Me's BBQ
151 Uluniu Ave
Honolulu, Hawaii
808-926-9717

Teddy's Bigger Burgers
134 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii
808-926-3444

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cookbooks and chocolate and spatulas!

Baker's Delight
The Menu for Hope campaign has been extended until December 31st, allowing you a little more time to give back and maybe win something wonderful. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of your choice. At the end of the campaign, raffle tickets will be drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim.

If you got what you wanted this holiday season, think about the children of Lesotho, Africa, and help them get what they really need, healthy meals.

This year I am offering the Baker's Delight (prize code UW18) a fabulous baking kit designed for a home baker or professional pastry chef with brand new cookbooks, a selection of artisanal American chocolate and a set of silicone spatulas.

The package contains four of the years' best baking books:

* Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone by French pastry chef extraordinaire Francois Payard

* Baking for All Occasions by much loved author Flo Braker

* The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread: Cakes, Cookies, Bars, Pastries and More from New York City's Favorite Bakery, your source for bakery treats like Amy's signature scones, White Chocolate Cherry Chunker Cookies, Definitely Devil's Food Cake, Soft Brioche Rolls with Melting Chocolate Centers, etc.

* The Pastry Chef's Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Pastry Professional, an excellent reference guide for every kitchen cookbook shelf

It also includes four pounds of E. Guittard chocolate wafers, a top choice of professional bakers and chefs:

* One pound E.Guittard 72% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate, this super-dark chocolate has a smooth mouthfeel and provides intense chocolate flavor. It’s the perfect choice when a dessert is unequivocally about chocolate – flourless cakes, molten chocolate mini-cakes or an unforgettable chocolate fondue.

* One pound E.Guittard 61% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate, the super-rich chocolate flavors last and last, with a refreshing chocolate finish. This chocolate is extremely popular with pastry chefs, and makes a great eating chocolate as well.

* One pound E.Guittard 38% Cacao Milk Chocolate, enjoy bold, rich, milk chocolate flavors with caramel accents, fresh dairy notes and a signature hint of cinnamon that set this milk chocolate apart from all the others. It’s an extremely versatile blend that can be used in recipes ranging from crème brulée to ganache.

* One pound E.Guittard 31% Cacao White Chocolate, this French-style white chocolate has a sweet, fresh cream flavor with nutty undertones and lingering hints of citrus and vanilla. It adds a balanced dairy flavor to any recipe, and stands alone as an extraordinarily smooth white chocolate with rich cocoa butter taste.

To use with your next recipe:

* A set of four silicone spatulas, perfect for mixing, scraping and folding, they won’t chip or crack and can be used can be used to stir extremely hot mixtures

The Baker's Delight prize package is worth nearly $200! A big thanks to Guittard for the chocolate, and to Clarkson Potter, Chronicle Books, and Wiley for the books.

To win this or other fabulous prizes:
1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at Pim's site, the Baker's Delight prize is UW18
2. Go to the donation site or click on the Menu for Hope logo below, to make a donation.
3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
5. Please allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone and no one but us will be able to see it.

Click here to donate:


For the US West Coast prizes specifically, please visit Matt at Matt Bites, the West Coast host (and food photographer extraordinaire.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Helena's Hawaiian Food: Restaurant Review

Helena's Hawaiian Food
If you want to experience authentic native Hawaiian food, as opposed to the fusion of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese that is common today, you must eat at Helena's Hawaiian Food. I've been going to Helena's since 1977 and while Helena is sadly gone and the location has changed, the food is exactly the same as it ever was. Absolutely delicious. But don't just take my word for it, Helena's was actually recognized with a James Beard award for outstanding American regional cuisine in 2000.

To say Helena's is an unassuming little place would be an understatement. You eat here, you don't dine. It's the kind of restaurant where they don't clear the tables until customers come in the door. Despite the posters and photographs on the walls, it has zero ambiance with mismatched plastic plates and formica tables. It's all about the food which arrives on small plates that are intended to be shared.

While you may have had kahlua pork before, you need to try it at Helena's where it is cooked the traditional way in an underground oven called an imu. It's smoky and tender, mixed with cabbage and so much better than what you'll find at most places.

Another dish you have to order is lomi lomi salmon. I'm not sure how salmon arrived in Hawaii, because it is not local, but the dish of chopped tomatoes, chiles, onions and salted salmon is a standard Hawaiian dish these days. It's like a juicy salsa with salty bits of fish.

Pipi kaula ribs are another Hawaiian specialty, but one you don't see all that often. Pipi kaula is Hawaiian for "beef string" and it used to be two beef strips were tied together then hung to dry. While the beef is still hung to be dried, today it's also marinated in honey, garlic, soy and sometimes sherry. I don't know Helena's exact recipe, but the chewy ribs are succulent and have the right balance of intense salty and sweet flavors.

You may never have tried poi, but it was a staple of Hawaiian cuisine and it really does taste good with the mostly salty savory dishes. It's mashed and ground taro root, and has the consistency of pudding with a mildly sour taste. You really should try it.

Another dish not to be missed is the butterfish collar. This is similar in texture to hamachi kama you might order in a Japanese restaurant. It is a very rich and oily piece of fish that you really only find in Hawaii.

Other wonderful things to try include laulau, luau squid and chicken long rice (which is actually a kind of noodle not rice). Each order comes with some homemade haupia for the table a bit of onion and Hawaiian red salt. The haupia is a firm cold coconut pudding. It is cool and refreshing and not too sweet. If you end up eating it before the end of the meal, you may need to order more! A meal here will probably cost you under $10.

Helena's Hawaiian Food
1240 N. School St
Honolulu HI
808-845-8044

Other reviews of Helena's:

Ono Kine Grindz

Jay's Strange Blog

Honolulu Advertiser

Yelp

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Town and Downtown@the HiSAM: Restaurant Reviews

I've had a lot of great meals in Honolulu, but if I had to pick my favorite dinner so far, it would be the one I had at Town. Town is in Kaimuki, a funky neighborhood packed with good restaurants. The bistro menu features mostly local and organic ingredients and the wait staff is knowledgeable about many of the purveyors. The space is cozy and contemporary though a bit noisy.

Aside from the Hawaiian ingredients used, it feels like a restaurant you would find in San Francisco with Mediterranean style selections such as hand cut pasta, risotto, slow-braised meats, a couple of fried appetizers, and cooked and raw preparations of fresh local seafood. But often the dishes have a twist, making them unique and fresh. I loved the mussels cooked with fennel and tomato. So what was the twist? A broth made with the white vermouth Cinzano and a bit of pastina in the bottom of the bowl.
Mussels with Cinzano
The gnocchi was tender and gooey with cheese and chewy oyster mushrooms, but there are only 12 orders available a night so get your order in early!
Gnocchi with Oyster Mushrooms
Both the crispy fried appetizers were cooked perfectly and not at all greasy. We ordered the salted walu brandade fritters and a frito that had slices of local green Meyer lemon, okra, kampachi and meltingly luscious green onions.
Piccolo Frito
Braised pork cheeks with creamy polenta and bitter greens was a great dish with lots of contrasting soft textures and rich flavors. Sorry for the blurry photo!
Pork Cheeks
The only weak part of the meal might have been the desserts, but only because they didn't "wow" as much as the other courses. We had a panino with chocolate and apple bananas and a pineapple napoleon. Both were fine, but nothing I'd go out of my way to order again.

I'm sorry I don't have pictures of my lunch at Ed Kenney and and David Caldiero's other restaurant, Downtown at HiSAM (Hawaii State Art Museum). The museum is free, so splurge on a weekday lunch, just be sure to make reservations since it is very popular. The menu has many similar dishes to what you find at Town. I was very happy with the tender homemade pasta in the duck confit canneloni, which was served on a bed of bitter greens and topped with a kumquat sauce. Service was a bit rushed and I didn't get a chance to try the churros and chocolate, but I will next time!


Town
3435 Waialae Avenue #103
Honolulu, HI
808-735-5900

Downtown @ the HiSAM
Hawaii State Art Museum
250 S. Hotel St.
Honolulu HI
808-536-5900

Monday, December 22, 2008

Whey Protein & Its Role in your Diet

whey-protein-diet
Being a vegetarian since birth, a lot of people ask me how I fulfill the need of proteins in my diet. Do I use protein powders? Well, as most other vegetarians, getting enough protein into our system just by means of diet can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you are trying to gain or lose weight and are on a special fitness regime. I have used protein shakes while following diets, so I'm going to try to address a few basic points about protein isolates, especially whey protein, and what role they play in your daily life.

Protein Powders have long been associated with Bodybuilding, as they are primarily used by those who like to build muscles and beef up their bodies through heavy weight-lifting and exercise. However, protein powder is not just for bodybuilders or those hoping to bulk up and become macho!

A human body needs daily protein because that is what muscles and tissues are built from, and there is no place where the body can store extra protein. The need for adequate protein in the human body is second only to the need for water. Research has proved that ingesting protein powder every day can boost your immune system, speed up recovery of wounds after surgery or injury, and promote healthy skin, all this by increasing muscle strength and development.

Types of Protein Powders
Protein powders are made from four basic sources - Whey (from milk), Egg, Soy and Rice(vegetable protein). Just like any other supplements available in the powder form, Protein powders can contain one or more of the above protein forms processed into the powdered form, so its easy to mix and incorporate into your food. Adding them to water or milk and ingesting it as a protein Shake is one of the most preferred choices!

Importance of Whey Protein
Out of all of these protein supplements, whey protein has the highest biological value as it gives you more usable gram of amino acids than the other forms. It is recommended to consume between 1 and 1.5 grams of quality protein per pound of body weight each day. Just make sure you divide your total protein consumption into 4-5 meals per day, which ensures create an anabolic effect, that build more muscle and burns more fat.

Lots of people consider using Whey Protein Isolates to compensate for the protein deficiency in their diet. Whey Isolate contains around 90 - 96% protein; this process has more of the lactose and fat content removed from the powder, so you get a higher quality protein. Talk to a nutritionist to compare the different types of Whey protein forms, like Isolates vs Concentrates, or a blend of both. Athletes and bodybuilders need a higher level of protein for faster muscle build-up and hence their needs would be different than an average person. Your trainer or nutritionist can guide you through the process and help you choose what's right for you.

For beginners, here is an excellent writeup on understanding Whey Protein. As a part of my diet and exercise plan, I've used Whey Isolates in the form of protein shakes as there's no way I could get the recommended daily intake by means of cereals, pulses and vegetables. And personally, I would recommend the Optimum brand protein powders for quality. However, if you are just an average individual with no special fitness plan, you can easily get your protein from natural sources like fish and seafood, dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, beans, lentils, soy, eggs, lean red meat, etc. However, make sure you do not go overboard than your required protein intake, as excess of anything is poison!

I hope this simple writeup helps you understand the importance of Protein in your diet, understand the different forms of proteins available, especially Whey (vegetarian protein), discuss your options with a nutritionist and choose the one that's right for you. There's no reason to sacrifice your health, even during the holiday season!

Related Articles
What is Trans Fat & How to Avoid It?
Do Purple Tomatoes Prevent Cancer
How to Break a Weight Loss Plateau?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Favorite Things 2008

Here is a mishmosh shopping round up, just in case not everyone on your list is covered. I'm including a couple of things I've already reviewed this year, and a of couple new ones.

FYI, if you're the "stay-at-home-and-shop" type, today is the last day for 2-day shipping on Amazon.

Zojirushi 1lb mini loaf breadmaker


Months after writing about it, I am still in love with my Zojirushi 1lb mini loaf breadmaker! It's so easy even my very first loaf was stellar. I'm having fun experimenting with different kinds of flour, gluten, nuts and seeds. Smaller loaves mean fresher bread, everyday. For someone with a small household or not much counter space, this is the ideal bread machine!

Kuhn Rikon Noir Forged 6-inch Santoku Knife
I received a Kuhn Rikon Noir Forged 6-inch Santoku Knife in the mail to try out and I adore it. I even brought it on vacation with me! It has a slightly non-stick surface, a very sharp blade and is not too heavy. The Santoko is a great option instead of a chef's knife. This knife, plus a bread knife and a paring knife are all almost anyone really needs. Right now on Amazon there is a special deal, buy this knife and get one of 6 magazines free, including a year of Gourmet or Bon Appetit.

Fissler Protect Steelux Premium 11.0 Inch Frypan
I have tried giving up non-stick pans, but I can't do it, so I have resorted to using various "green" pans. The German-made Fissler Protect Steelux Premium 11.0 Inch Frypan is replacing all of them. I have used it for months without the slightest scratching, flaking or difficulty cleaning. Best of all, the proprietary Protectal Plus nonstick sealing is the first coating to be 100% PFOA-free even in production. It is a very heavy pan and comes with a 5-year warranty. Would I spend over $150 for a pan? I'm not sure, but I am completely happy with this one.

Putumayo Presents:Acoustic France


I reviewed this CD earlier this year, and ok I admit it's a bit of a stretch for a food blog, but Putumayo Presents:Acoustic France CD actually comes with a recipe in the liner notes from French chef, Michel Troisgros. It's just happy, fun music that will put you in a good mood and make you wistful about France, if you're not already...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Plate Lunch, Redux

When you come to Hawaii, you have to try a plate lunch. Plate lunches are the ubiquitous "blue plate special" in Hawaii. They consist of some kind of protein like breaded chicken or pork cutlet, beef teriyaki, fried mahi mahi, etc., two scoops of white rice and one scoop of Hawaiian style macaroni salad (which is about equal parts macaroni and mayonnaise!). While tasty, filling and relatively inexpensive, usually somewhere around $5, traditionally they are not very healthy and not very fancy. But that's not always the case. In fact, plate lunches can be healthy, and sometimes surprisingly sophisticated.

Many take out places and drive-ins are offering a choice of brown rice and green salad in addition to the standard white rice and mac salad. There are healthier choices of protein as well, even a fast food chain like L & L Drive Inn now offers "Healthy Plate Lunches" with garlic shrimp, garlic ahi or mahi, salmon patties and grilled chicken.

In Honolulu there are chefs with experience cooking at fancier restaurants who own more casual spots that specialize in plate lunches, offering amazingly fine food for the price, though don't expect table service and anything fancy in terms of presentation. Every time I come to Hawaii I seek out these hot spots. Here are three that that I recommend trying:

Hong Kong Stuffed Chicken
First off, Kahai Street Kitchen. Located in an industrial part of Kalihi right across the street from my beloved Ethel's Grill, this take out place has only 2 tables so like most customers you'll probably want to pick up your meal and enjoy it elsewhere. Check out the daily specials online. I had the Hong Kong Stuffed Chicken and it was filled with shiitake mushrooms, lup chong or Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, peanuts and sticky rice. It was outstanding, a perfectly balanced dish and a very large portion that I couldn't finnish in one sitting. I ordered it with salad, no rice and it cost $7.75. My only disappointment was in the salad dressing which didn't taste homemade.

Fried Tuna Belly
Nico's at Pier 38 is located next to the Honolulu Fish Auction building and there is plenty of parking, though like Kahai Street Kitchen you'll need a car to get there. While there is no indoor seating, there are lots of outdoor picnic tables, some with a view of the harbor. My top pick is the Fried Tuna Belly which comes with two large pieces of ahi topped with a special lomi tomato salsa. This portion for $8.40 easily served 2 people. It was excellent and definitely worthy of a sit down restaurant.

Kaka'ako Kitchen also serves up gourmet lunch plates. Tucked away in the back of the Ward Center Shopping center you'll typically find a line of people waiting to order. I particularly like their salads, like the Ahi Chop Salad, with fresh Nalo greens, crunchy noodle strips and rare chunks of seared tuna, but the prices are a bit higher here and the salad is about $11. Baked goods are really good here though frankly portion sizes have drastically shrunk in the past year or so.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Cookbooks for Giving or Keeping

There were a lot of important restaurant cookbooks that came out this year A Day at El Bulli, Alinea and Thomas Keller's Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide come to mind. I am not opposed to serious books, but the books I turn to again and again tend to not be the weighty ones. Just like cooking and eating, I like cookbooks to be fun. Today I am recommending two fun books, two thoroughly enjoyable non-cookbooks and two local San Francisco Bay Area cookbooks, one of which actually is a restaurant cookbook, but also much more than that. And by the way, I did not choose all these books because they have orange covers that complement my blog, really, it was pure coincidence!

New Flavors for AppetizersYou didn't think I wouldn't mention my own book, right? I am so proud of my first cookbook, New Flavors for Appetizers! The recipes are very much my style and by that I mean fairly healthy, easy to make, big on flavor, short on fuss. Since writing the book I have made recipes such as the crostini with white beans and kale, the chickpea dip with pomegranate and the spiced lamb meatballs with yogurt dipping sauce again and again to rave reviews. It's a perfect book for entertaining or gift giving, if I do say so myself.









The Food You CraveI am an unabashed Ellie Krieger fan so of course, I appreciate her latest book, The Food You Crave. Her recipes are full of flavor and don't make you think "healthy" but rather "tasty." Kreiger uses real ingredients, nothing fake and doesn't shy away from flavor enhancers such as butter, olive oil, lots of herbs and spices and fresh ingredients to make really appealing food. Noodles with Lime-Peanut Sauce, Miso Glazed Cod, Fettuccine with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce, Snow Pea, Scallion and Radish Salad, and Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti are just some of the recipes that tempted me this year.











Eat, MemoryLike a dim sum parlor, Eat, Memory, a compilation of essays from the New York Times magazine is filled with unexpected delights. My only complaint is that the book was too short. I wanted to keep reading and reading because the stories are so well told. I've often felt food is just a lens through which we see the world and this book explores the emotions that accompany that which we eat. There are stories by lots of great contemporary writers, authors, screenwriters, etc. that just happen to be about food. Some of the stories and essays are punctuated with a recipe at the end, but not all of them. It's not a cookbook per se, but a book drawn from the memories associated with food or in some cases, the lack of food. It's just a wonderful read.









The Flavor BibleI raved about The Flavor Bible a few months ago. It's a book to go to for ideas, inspiration, and sometimes reassurance that yes, that seemingly crazy combination you came up with does in fact make perfectly good sense. Sneak a peek at some of the signature dishes of top chefs and find out what flavors pair well. I find this book helps me get out of the ruts I sometimes get into with a specific ingredient, always cooking it one way, forgetting to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Since reviewing it, I have used this book many times in creating new recipes for my wine retailer client. This is hands down the best, and most useful culinary reference book of the year.









Heirloom BeansEveryone from Michael Pollan to Mark Bittman is saying the same thing, we need to eat less meat. I for one, am eating more beans, especially heirloom beans. While I love cooking beans, I still need ideas for how to make the most of all the wonderful heirloom beans on the market these days. Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo is just the ticket. I love the recipes and appreciate the substitution notes which make the recipes all the more versatile. The recipes go way beyond just chili, soup and dips, there are also appetizers, side dishes and even main dishes. Love beans? You will love this book!

16 Food + WineWhile A16 is a tremendously popular restaurant in San Francisco, I suspect A16 Food + Wine
will have an even larger audience. It features the big, bold, rustic flavors of the South of Italy. The book helps you to recreate the recipes of the region reinterpreted for American kitchens. It's also a wonderful primer for the lesser known, unique and enjoyable wines of the South as well. This is a really handsome, large hard cover book. And yes, both the much loved pizza and Monday night meatballs are in there.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Win the Baker's Delight/Menu for Hope

Baker's Delight
Once a year food and wine bloggers put together prizes for the Menu for Hope raffle, with the proceeds going to charity. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim. 

This year I am offering the Baker's Delight (prize code UW18) a fabulous baking kit designed for a home baker or professional pastry chef with brand new cookbooks, a selection of artisanal American chocolate and a set of silicone spatulas.

The package contains four of the years' best baking books:

* Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone by French pastry chef extraordinaire Francois Payard

* Baking for All Occasions by much loved author Flo Braker

* The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread: Cakes, Cookies, Bars, Pastries and More from New York City's Favorite Bakery, your source for bakery treats like Amy's signature scones, White Chocolate Cherry Chunker Cookies, Definitely Devil's Food Cake, Soft Brioche Rolls with Melting Chocolate Centers, etc.

* The Pastry Chef's Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Pastry Professional, an excellent reference guide for every kitchen cookbook shelf

It also includes four pounds of E. Guittard chocolate wafers, a top choice of professional bakers and chefs:

* One pound E.Guittard 72% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate, this super-dark chocolate has a smooth mouthfeel and provides intense chocolate flavor. It’s the perfect choice when a dessert is unequivocally about chocolate – flourless cakes, molten chocolate mini-cakes or an unforgettable chocolate fondue.

* One pound E.Guittard 61% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate, the super-rich chocolate flavors last and last, with a refreshing chocolate finish. This chocolate is extremely popular with pastry chefs, and makes a great eating chocolate as well.

* One pound E.Guittard 38% Cacao Milk Chocolate, enjoy bold, rich, milk chocolate flavors with caramel accents, fresh dairy notes and a signature hint of cinnamon that set this milk chocolate apart from all the others. It’s an extremely versatile blend that can be used in recipes ranging from crème brulée to ganache.

* One pound E.Guittard 31% Cacao White Chocolate, this French-style white chocolate has a sweet, fresh cream flavor with nutty undertones and lingering hints of citrus and vanilla. It adds a balanced dairy flavor to any recipe, and stands alone as an extraordinarily smooth white chocolate with rich cocoa butter taste.

To use with your next recipe:

* A set of four silicone spatulas, perfect for mixing, scraping and folding, they won’t chip or crack and can be used can be used to stir extremely hot mixtures

The Baker's Delight prize package is worth nearly $200! A big thanks to Guittard for the chocolate, and to Clarkson Potter, Chronicle Books, and Wiley for the books.

Where does the money go?
The funds raised by Menu for Hope this year will got to a school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. Providing food for the children helps keeps them in school so that they learn the skills to feed themselves and their families in the future. The program in Lesotho is a model program in local procurement - buying food locally to support local farmers and the local economy. Instead of shipping surplus corn across the ocean, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is buying directly from local subsistent farmers who practice conservation farming methods in Lesotho to feed needy children.

To win this or other fabulous prizes:
1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at Pim's site, the Baker's Delight prize is UW18
2. Go to the donation site or click on the Menu for Hope logo below, to make a donation.
3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
5. Please allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone and no one but us will be able to see it.


Click here to donate:


For the US West Coast prizes specifically, please visit Matt at Matt Bites, the West Coast host (and food photographer extraordinaire.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Low-Sodium Diet Benefits

low-sodium-diet-benefits
Human blood contains about 0.9% salt (sodium chloride), and this salt ratio is important for a healthy metabolism, and to maintain the electrolyte balance inside and outside of cells. This appears to be a very insignificant amount, and yet, for those who've experience blood-pressure problems, obesity and several other hypertension-related issues, we know this isn't something to be ignored! Especially as the trend changes towards eating more junk-food rather than balanced home-cooked meals, it becomes even more compelling to watch your sea salt intake, and make sure your salt-to-water ratio is maintained correctly. There are a lot of benefits of switching to a low-sodium diet. Its safe, and will prevent most health problems, and best of all, it's not too hard to follow!

Salt can make your blood vessels and body tissues swell and fill with fluid. This puts an extra strain on your heart and can increase blood pressure, causing Hypertension.

We've all known for some time that people with hypertension can lower their blood pressure by reducing the sodium in their diets. What we didn't know was whether, by consuming less salt sea(sodium chloride, the main form of sodium in the diet), these folks would also lower their risk of heart attacks. Well, recent studies have shown that this is indeed true in most cases, as can be said by the experiments conducted by John Hopkins University, in which candidates having pre-hypertension (diastolic pressure between 80 and 89 mm Hg and a systolic pressure less than 140 mm Hg) were subjected to a low-sodium diet; the results showed that these people faced 30 percent less chance of heart attacks and strokes, angioplasty, and coronary artery bypass later in their lives - similar results have also been published by the British Medical Journal.

However, it is important to know that the results did not prove whether sodium restriction will either lower blood pressure or decrease the number of heart attacks and strokes in people who have neither hypertension nor prehypertension.

Yet, as a writer for a health blog, I believe that Prevention is always better than Cure - you don't have to drastically reduce your salt intake if you do not suffer from Hypertension. But being an Indian, I know its very easy to slip some extra salt into your diet without realizing it. A serving of Ketchup, some salt on your fries, a pinch of salt in your cake where you don't need it all, or regular intake of soy-sauce based food are just a few ways that you can get more sodium into your system than required!

My grandmother has Hypertension, and though her doctor has banned all salt from her diet, at 76, its hard for her to exercise control unless forced to! My mom has started showing signs of high blood pressure too, and seeing her have to pop a pill a day, I'm more inclined to restrict my sodium/salt intake rather than face medication prescribed for life!

Even if you are not a big health fellow, its a matter of educating yourself and your loved ones, and taking things in control. A little less salt will never make your food un-tasty, but a little more than required that goes into your system can create troubles for life.

A low sodium diet(less than 1500 mg per day) is certainly recommended if your blood pressure is higher than normal, 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg); For others, moderate sodium restriction(2300 mg per day) is beneficial, erring towards eating lower rather than more. Here is a great list of low-sodium foods if you are looking for alternatives. A few simple changes in life will go a long way in preventing Hypertension and other Heart-related diseases. Talk to your doctor about this and take the first step towards a healthier you!

Note: The author is not a licensed nutritionist or doctor. Please take this article as a reference read only, and not as a medical advice.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Malasadas

Leonard'sHawaii offers a variety of delectable sweet treats. A couple you have to try when you're here are haupia, a firm coconut pudding and malasadas, a Portuguese style doughnut. Portuguese recipes took hold in the islands because laborers from the Azores came to Hawaii to work the plantations in the late 1800's.

Perhaps doughnut isn't the best description because malasadas don't have holes. They are made from a yeast dough, fried and tossed in granulated sugar. The best ones are fluffy and light with a slightly tangy, yeasty flavor. They must be eaten when they are piping hot!

The most famous place to get them is Leonard's in Waikiki but there is also a Leonard's truck that can be found in various locations. Having heard about another place in Honolulu called Champion, I decided a taste test was in order.

While I was rooting for the underdog, I can definitively say, Leonard's really are the best. Champion's malasadas are a bit cheaper at 60¢ rather than 70¢ each, and have a more pronounced tangy flavor but the texture is not quite as good as the ones from Leonards. They are so light and airy! Supposedly the Champion recipe is from Macau, but the man who runs the place used to work at Leonard's so who knows where his recipe really came from.
malasadas
Both places sells them plain, with cinnamon and filled but be a purist, simpler is better. Some claim the malasadas are best from the Punahou Carnival but I've never been here when the carnival is going on. Next time I'm in Kailua, I hope to try the malasadas from Agnes' Portuguese Bake Shop. Why try them all? Professional responsibility, you know.

More malasada links:

Punahou malasadas recipe

Rubbah Slippahs in Italy on malasadas

Leonard's in the Star Bulletin

Champion in the Honolulu Advertiser

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cookbooks for Families & the Cocktail Set

An odd combination, I know, but I promised something for everybody! I'm sure after the kids go to bed there are plenty of parents who could use a cocktail.

Even though I don't have kids, I know when recipes appeal to the kid in me. The books I'm recommending fit with my style completely. The recipes are creative, fun, generally pretty healthy, and most importantly, delicious.

Toddler CafeMy first pick is Toddler Cafe: Fast, Healthy, and Fun Ways to Feed Even the Pickiest Eater. What could be better than getting a child interested in a variety of delicious healthy foods? The Toddler Cafe is filled with fun recipes for of course, toddlers. But I bet even adults would be tempted by pea green Lilly Pad Pancakes and Knock-Knock Gnocchi made with instant mashed potatoes (almost identical to my recipe, great minds think alike!) If you know someone with a picky kid, this book will surely help get them excited about new flavors and textures.







Real Food for Healthy Kids! Real Food for Healthy Kids: 200+ Easy, Wholesome Recipes is another book to tempt young palates. Seeing kids eat junk food and drink soda makes me sad. My parents insisted I eat healthy food and I never felt deprived. As with Toddler Cafe this book features recipes even adults will relish and why not? The authors are none other than the editor in chief of Epicurious and a test kitchen editor for Every Day with Martha Stewart! Recipes like Oven Barbecued Ribs, Chickpea Pita Pockets and Harvest Tomato Tart are no dumbed down versions, but good stuff for kids of all ages.











Imbibe!Technically Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash came out late last year, but it's such an important book I'm including it this year anyway. It's just too wonderful to leave out of the mix, so to speak. Current cocktail culture is a rediscovery of the history of mixed drinks and there is no finer historian on the subject than David Wondrich. He researched the life and times of Professor Jerry Thomas the author of the seminal Bartenders Guide and his discoveries are tremendously important to understanding the origin of many cocktails and spirits. Wondrich brings to life the stories and the many personalities behind classic cocktails of the past. And yes, there are plenty of recipes too.







Essential Cocktail The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks is another must have book for anyone who fancies himself or herself a bartender. The subtitle of this book really says it all--classic favorites, new ingredients and modern techniques. This is a beautiful tome, but more a practical guide than a coffee table book with over a hundred recipes plus instructions on garnishes, glasses and more. They don't call DeGroff the King of Cocktails for nothing, a focus on fresh ingredients and plenty of background on each drink will help you raise the bar in your own home.

Cookbooks for Bakers & Wannabe Bakers

Given the current state of the economy, it feels somewhat odd to be making shopping recommendations this holiday season. But I can still get behind buying food and drink, cookbooks, and cooking utensils. I dare say each will undoubtedly go to very good use. In the cookbook category I'm recommending a variety of different books, hopefully something for everybody. Today's installment is for bakers and wannabe bakers. Check back tomorrow for cookbooks for families and the cocktail set...

The Art & Soul of BakingMy first pick is The Art & Soul of Baking. This massive book is nothing short of amazing. For beginners or for master bakers, it has the tips, the techniques and the recipes to ensure success. It is super practical and yet indulgent at the same time. Learn about yeast and quick breads, pastries, pies, cookies, cakes, tarts, fruit desserts, custards and puddings, plus souffles, cheesecakes and more. Even how to stock your pantry is included. Recipes include classic brownies, pot pies, Danish pastries, elegant soufflés, breads, pizza and are peppered with tips "what the pros know."





Sweet! Sweet!From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener is the latest book from Mani Niall. Let me start by saying I have enjoyed every single one of Mani Niall's baked goods I have ever tried. He is a terrific baker and knows a lot about working with different sweeteners. He literally wrote the book on honey. What I really like about this book is that Niall tells you which recipes are good for beginners, and the hows and why each recipe works. Interestingly enough he even includes some savory dishes that rely on interesting sweeteners like palm sugar. I've flagged Lemon Cupcakes with Mascarpone Cream and Raspberries which uses agave syrup and Cranberry Almond Breakfast Bars. Wonder which one I will make first?

Baking for all OccasionsAnother baking book for bakers of all levels is Baking for all Occasions by Flo Braker. Flo Braker really ought to be named Flo Baker. She is revered by just about every serious pastry chef I know, ok, I only know about half a dozen, but still, this woman knows what she's doing! The recipes are super precise using both gram and ounce measurements. If you don't already have a Flo Braker book in your collection, this might be the one to tempt you with recipes like Persimmon Bread Puddings, Tangy Lemon Custard Tart with Pomegranate Gelee and Congo Brownies.



Field Guide to CookiesLast but not least, Field Guide to Cookies by Anita Chu. This is my friend Anita's book, so how could I not recommend it? Anita is the talented local pastry chef and blogger. Her blog is Dessert First so you know she is serious about her baking! I love that it has photos of the cookies so you know what the end result is supposed to look like. For the serious cookie baker or the novice this is a perfect little guide to just about every cookie under the sun. I tried several of Anita's cookies at a recent book party and all of them were very good.

Mixed Fruit Jello Cupcakes

fruit-jello-cups
Kids love sweet treats, but its the responsibility of parents to watch what they eat, and how much, so we can prevent childhood obesity. Everyone knows the importance of eating at least 2 servings of fruits per day, and here's an innovative way to get your kids to eat fruits, and enjoy then too! These Mixed Fruit Jello Cupcakes are very easy to make, and extremely versatile. I've made mine using POM juice, cranberries, pineapple, mango and some chopped nuts. And the most important thing, these all natural fruit cups contain less than 2 tbsp of sugar! So, these low-sugar, high antioxidant, high vitamin-C treats are perfect for your kids, and your maternal instincts!

This is my contribution to the MM-Low Sugar Treats event that we are proudly hosting over at The Daily Tiffin this month!

Ingredients
2 cups POM juice
1 cup Kerns Mango-Pineapple juice
1 pkg JELL-O Raspberry Flavor Gelatin
1/2 cup craisins
a handful of chopped walnuts and pistachios

Method
Boil the 2 cups of POM juice till it starts to bubble. In another bowl, take the mango-pineapple juice and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let stand for about 1 min, and allow the gelatin to bloom.

Now pour the warm POM juice into this bowl and stir well to mix the gelatin. Add the craisins and chopped nuts.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Pour the juice mixture into each cup, about 1/2 to 3/4 full. Sprinkle with some more nuts if needed. Then refrigerate it for at least 3-4 hours, until the Jello sets.

Before serving, remove the paper liners and serve the delicious and healthy Mixed Fruit Jello Cupcakes - an ideal treat any time of the day!


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Monday, December 8, 2008

Seagull Diner: Movie review

Kamome Shokudo or Seagull Diner


Last week I went to see Kamome Shokudo or Seagull Diner, a quirky little Japanese film about a woman who opens a diner in Finland, and the relationships she has with two other Japanese women and her Finnish customers. The three main characters, single Japanese women who have found themselves in Finland are funny and endearing in their mannerisms. The film isn't a comedy in the strict sense of the word, but there is a lot of humor.

Food plays an important role in the movie. The cool and wary Finns are attracted to the diner when the main character bakes cinnamon buns and in another scene, there are experiments with onigiri or rice balls using local ingredients like reindeer meat. Through various forms of comfort food, the film explores the character of the Finns, love, identity, and friendship. Ultimately it is food that brings everyone together.

I really enjoyed this film. The three main characters are played by wonderful Japanese actresses but the rest of the Finnish cast is terrific as well. It's an offbeat movie with touches of fantasy and unexpected twists and turns. The characters are engaging, the emotions universal and the stories entertaining in this sweet film. If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.

Note: I saw this film at the Movie Museum, a video store with a movie screening room in the Kaimuki neighborhood. It has 23 seats, most of which are barcaloungers. The sound and projection quality are high, and they show films you're not likely to find elsewhere, best of all, tickets are a mere $5. Bring your own popcorn or snacks and call ahead to reserve seats.

Movie Museum
3566 Harding Avenue Suite 4
Honolulu, Hawaii
808-735-8771

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fresh from the tree...

fresh nutmeg

What was the photo in my last post? Donna of Wine Stained Cloth guessed it--it's a fresh nutmeg, covered in mace. The seed is found inside the fruit and the red veins are mace. When peeled, the mace dries in about a week then it can be ground and used as spice. After the mace covering is removed, the pod can be cracked open and inside is the part of the nutmeg that is ground and used as spice.

Freshly ground nutmeg is wonderfully fragrant and adds a distinctive spicy flavor to a variety of baked goods and desserts such as pumpkin pie, gingerbread and custard. It is also used in eggnog and mulled wine or cider. Often paired with cinnamon, it is also used in savory dishes in some parts of the Middle East, Greece, and in Caribbean and Dutch cuisine. I like a tiny bit added to bechamel sauce and also to spinach. At home I use a microplane for grating whole nutmeg. I don't know if it is any stronger in the fresh form, but I'll let you know when I try it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Kapiolani Farmer's Market

what am I?
Today I went to the Kapiolani farmer's market. It's in the parking lot of the local community college also home to a spectacular cactus garden. There are a lot of fresh prepared foods, fruit, vegetables, herbs and even meat and seafood. In lieu of breakfast, I nibbled on panko fried green tomatoes with wasabi lime sauce and a slice of divine pesto mozzarella pizza with tomatoes from North Shore Farms.

I'm really not doing much cooking in Hawaii, except for breakfast, but I did pick up a few items. For $3 I got 2 big bunches of apple bananas, which never taste as good at home as they do in Hawaii. They are tangy and very creamy. I also got some spicy kimchee sausage and a bunch of radishes for 50 cents, to have with bread and butter.

Some of the more exotic items I saw were tropical flowers like ginger, plumeria and heliconia, fern-like Asian greens, samphire, fresh hearts of palm and the item in photo above. It fits in the palm of my hand and parts of it are edible. Do you know what it is?

The Saturday Farmers' Market at Kapiolani Community College
Kapiolani Community College
4303 Diamond Head Road
Saturdays, 7:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Virtual Hug from Hawaii

a virtual hug


Hawaii is such a peaceful and relaxing place to be, I wish I could send the delicious breezes, soft air and the sound of the waves to everyone reading this post. But most of all, I wish I could send the gift of health to Barbara of the blog Winos and Foodies. Barbara is battling cancer and food bloggers around the world are sending her their best wishes, prayers, and tantalizing recipes to cheer her on and speed her recovery.

Because I am away from home, coming up with a new recipe would be a challenge, so I am sending a collection of links to past recipes that are fresh, healthy and Asian inspired:

Tofu & Celery Salad

Asian Slaw Dressing

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Shrimp & Mango Kebabs

To see more posts dedicated to Barbara, head to Bron Marshall's blog. A big thanks to Bron and Ilva of Lucullian Delights for organizing this effort.

5 Basic Frosting Recipes

frosting-icing-recipes
As all of you start preparing for Christmas, cookies, cakes and holiday treats become common in every kitchen, and what makes most of these foods really attractive is the icing or frosting that goes on these cakes and cookies to deck them up! I'm not so much of a Frosting person, as I find it really sweet, but festive times call for festive efforts, and I give myself some leeway to dabble with some frosting recipes, trying to create artwork on my holiday desserts! So, to add more color and sweet flavor to your holiday cooking, I thought I'd share with you some Basic Frosting recipes that can be easily modified to suit your style!

Pictured above is one of my first fully-frosted cakes that I decorated in my cake-decorating class. As you can see, it is pretty primitive - it uses Buttercream Frosting in different consistencies. This works best for cakes, along with Chocolate frosting. The Cream cheese frosting is greta for cheese-cakes, cupcakes or smaller desserts, while the Royal icing is preferred for decorating cookies. And now, off to the Frosting Recipes!

Buttercream Frosting
(recipe source - Wilton; Yield - 3 cups)
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

Chocolate Frosting (Eggless)
(recipe source - Epicurious; Yield - 2 cups)
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a work bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter. Sift the sugar and cocoa powder together and gradually add to the butter, beating well after each addition. Add the cream and vanilla and beat until well blended and fluffy.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(recipe source - Kraft Foods; Yield - 2-1/2 cups)
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups (about 16 oz.) powdered sugar, sifted

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add sugar gradually, beating until well blended after each addition. Adjust sugar quantity to your liking, and beat until light and fluffy.

Royal Icing
(recipe source - Joy of Baking; Yield - 3 cups)
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups (330 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
Note: This is the best icing for decorating cookies

Vegan Chocolate Frosting
(recipe source - About.com; Yield - 2 cups)
2 cups organic powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) dairy-free soy margarine, softened
1/4 cup plain unsweetened almond milk or soymilk
3/4 cup unsweetened pure cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium-large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, cream the powdered sugar with the soy margarine until mixture is thick but well combined. Add the almond milk, cocoa powder and vanilla, and continue to mix until smooth.

These basic frosting recipes can be modified to suit your style and flavor - most of them can be adapted to incorporate your choice of flavor by adding a teaspoonful of essence - coconut, orange, mint, almond are a few nice suggestions, but you can customize these recipes as you choose. Add a tinge of food coloring to make colored frosting, and celebrate the festive holiday season in style! For more tips, here's an article on How to Frost a Cake in 5 Easy Steps!

Related Recipes
Layered chocolate Cake with Fluffy White Frosting
Upside Down Cranberry Cake
Best Banana Cake Recipe

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jimbo: Restaurant Review

Udon
I am crazy about noodles and eat them just about every chance I get. In Hawaii the noodles to indulge in are Asian. You can find Vietnamese pho and bun, Chinese noodles and dumplings and Japanese noodles.

When it comes to Japanese noodles there are three kinds I know and love--ramen, soba and udon. I've got a favorite spot for soba I'll be reviewing soon, and a number of ramen places on my list to check out. But when it comes to udon, I recommend Jimbo where they make the chewy thick white wheat noodles daily.

There are many ways you can tell a good restaurant, a bench out front with people always waiting to get in is a pretty dependable sign. Jimbo is a pretty little Japanese restaurant that specializes in udon. The menu is enormous because you can have noodles hot, cold, in soup, in salad, in sauce, stir fried, in a pot, and with an almost endless array of optional rice dishes.

I had a hot bowl of udon soup with sansai and wakame or mountain vegetables and seaweed. With sansai, there is always a variety of textures and flavors including mushrooms and various greens. I like it because it tastes healthy and fresh. It was a huge bowl and the broth had a very homemade rich flavor of dashi. This is a filling but light type of meal and I would happily order it again.

Lee had a combination that included saba, or mackerel and tofu with bonito flakes, and it was very satisfying. We also shared an order of crispy tempura.

My father had a bowl of curry katsu udon. Japanese love curry and this was a bowl of curry, slices of breaded pork cutlet and plenty of noodles. I've never seen this in the Bay Area but apparently it is popular in Japan, so I've read. My mom had a bowl of snow crab and egg soup with udon. Prices are reasonable and you can easily get out for about $15 per person.

More reviews of Jimbo:
Ono Kine Grindz
Epicurean Appetite
Yelp

Jimbo Restaurant
1936 S. King St
Honolulu, Oahu
808-947-2211

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Aloha, everyone!

Sunset on the Beach
I know some people come to Hawaii for the sheer natural beauty. The sun setting over the ocean, the waves lapping at the shore and the warm soft air are delicious. But truth be told, it's the funky side of Hawaii I love the best.

My first stop from the airport was to Ethel's Grill. It typifies what I enjoy about Oahu. It's cheap, friendly, funky, pure local goodness. Last year I showed the waitress a restaurant review I had written of Ethel's on my iPhone. This year she not only recognized me but remembered my name. The mix of Asian cuisines and local ingredients, with specials like a post Thanksgiving Turkey Loco Moco make me fall in love with Ethel's every time I visit.
Ethel's Grill
Lunch was an order of fried hamachi kama (the rich, oily collar of the fish), sticky garlic chicken and rice and a big platter of Ethel's crazy delicious ahi tataki with slivers of soy marinated garlic and crunchy bean sprouts. It all came with bowls of egg drop miso soup, a crisp iceberg lettuce salad with her tangy herbal dressing and a little bowl filled with slices of sweet grapefruit. Oh, and an order of turkey loco moco for Lee. Before we left we also snagged two large papayas and a handful of guavas. The bill for 4 people? $40.
Lunch at Ethel's
Aloha everyone, or as the locals say, alooooohaaaa!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Vegetable Korma

vegetable-korma
Vegetable Korma is a favored curry recipe in Southern India, and as all kind of cuisine gets global, people all over the country have started enjoying the taste of this delicious and nutritive coconut-based curry. It is indeed a wonderful way to savor a generous serving of mixed vegetables - loaded with potatoes, peas, beans, cauliflower, carrots, and flavored with a thick paste made from coconut, poppy seeds, tomatoes, onions and Indian spices, the Mix Vegetable Korma is a filling meal when served with Parathas and/or Jeera Rice.

Ingredients
Makes about 4 servings
1 cup finely chopped green or string beans
1 cup finely chopped carrots
2 potatoes, finely chopped
1/2 cup shelled green peas
1 large tomato, chopped
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon ghee
A few bay leaves
1/2 bunch of coriander leaves (to garnish)

Wet Paste
1/2 cup coconut, grated
6-8 green chillies
1 small onion, chopped
A piece of fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 small bunch of coriander leaves
A little water

Dry Masala
1 tablespoon aniseed
A small piece of cinnamon bark
6 cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
** you can use regular Garam masala instead of freshly ground spices

Method

Paste: Place the grated coconut, green chillies, chopped onion, ginger, ground turmeric and coriander leaves in an electric blender or food processor, adding only a little water. Blend ingredients to a fine paste. Set aside.

Masala: Place the aniseed, cinnamon bark, cloves, cardamom pods, and poppy seeds in a heavy saucepan. Dry-roast spices until they give off a strong aroma. Grind to a fine powder in an electric blender or food processor. Set aside.

Place the finely chopped green beans, carrots, and potatoes in a heavy saucepan, add 1 tbsp ghee to it. Roast the veggies a little, then Add sufficient water to just cover the vegetables, and a pinch of salt. Cover pan with a lid, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Now add the green peas, chopped tomato and more salt to taste. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Take another small pan, add 2 tsp oil, and roast the onion paste for a couple mins, just so the raw-onion smell goes away. Now add this paste to the boiled vegetable mixture. Mix and add in the masala powder. Stir the korma thoroughly once more. Serve the hot Vegetable Korma with Naan or Parathas!

Related Recipes
Chana Masala Bruschetta
Bharoni Shimla Mirch (Stuffed Capsicums)
Malai Kofta Curry