Friday, December 12, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

This might be my favorite cookie recipe ever. I usually make them around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but sometimes I make them as early in the year as Halloween. Hey, pumpkins are a big part of Halloween too, okay?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (can be increased to 1 1/2 cups for stronger pumpkin flavor)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 package milk chocolate chips (12 oz or so)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets (or line with parchment paper or silicon baking mat).

2) In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then stir in the pumpkin puree.

3) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla instant pudding mix; gradually mix into the pumpkin mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4) To make the dough easier to work with, refrigerate for 45 minutes to an hour (or longer, it doesn't really matter). Roll into walnut sized balls and place them 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

5) Bake for 12-15 minutes in the preheated oven or until lightly browned at the edges. If you chilled the dough, it'll be more like 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

With Thanksgiving coming up, I thought I'd post this recipe for pumpkin bread. Just about every year, shortly after Halloween, my mom would bake pumpkin bread using this recipe. She got it from her old friend and first boss, Anette, when she worked at Bullock's department store, back when we lived in California.

But that's enough history. Let's get to it, shall we?


1 C sugar
1/2 C oil
2 eggs
1 C pumpkin puree
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and spices.

Dry ingredients
Figure 1: Dry ingredients sifted together.

In another large mixing bowl, cream oil and sugar together. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until light and fluffy.

Wet ingredients
Figure 2: Oil, sugar, and eggs

Mix pumpkin puree into sugar, oil, and egg mixture. Although the recipe calls for 1 C of pumpkin, you can try adding more. Extra pumpkin will give you a denser, more pumpkin-ey bread. Personally, I like to put in about 1 1/2 C pumpkin puree.

Next, combine wet and dry ingredients by slowly adding dry to wet until. Stir till fully combined.

At this point you can fold in whatever extras you like. I've tried chocolate chips, nuts, and raisins. You can combine them or just use one. Try out whatever you think might taste good.

Add Chips
Figure 3: Folding in chocolate chips

Grease a 9" x 5" bread pan and pour in the batter. Bake bread for 45-60 minutes keeping in mind that times will vary from oven to oven and at different elevations.

Before baking
Figure 4: In bread pan before baking

Check for doneness by inserting a knife or toothpick into the center of the loaf. If it's done, it should come out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

After baking
Figure 5: After baking

Eat it fresh out of the oven or toast a couple slices the following morning. No matter how you cut it, this stuff is awesome!!

Ready to eat
Figure 6: Sliced and ready to eat

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bread Head

Since I've had some time to myself, I've decided to try my hand at baking bread. I think that in the beginning, making bread from scratch can be quite daunting. However, if you give it a try I think that you'll find it not quite as difficult as you thought.

I took this basic bread recipe from my food hero, Alton Brown, host of Good Eats on Food Network. It's really simple and is also a good basis for experimenting with different ingredients and techniques.


1 lb (approx 3 2/3 Cups) bread flour
1 tsp. instant rapid rise yeast
2 tsp. honey
10 oz. filtered water
2 tsp salt

In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup of the flour, 1/4 tsp of the yeast, all the honey, and all the water. Whisk this up real good, cover loosely, and place in the fridge. It should sit for about about 8-12 hours, so it's a good idea to do this the night before you want to bake.

Figure 1: The starter after a good whisking.

8 to 12 hours later

In a large bowl, mix together the starter, the rest of the yeast, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Stir till it's well combined and then slowly add the rest of the flour. You might want to forgo the spoon at this point and just get in there with your hand. You can knead in the last of the flour in the bowl or you can do it a lightly floured surface.

If you're lucky enough to have a stand mixer, this step is a lot easier. If you've got a hand mixer, then I recommend that you put it back in the cupboard. I tried this out with a hand mixer and it wasn't that great. Best to stick to your trusty ol' wooden spoon.

How do you know when you can stop kneading? If you pull off a small piece of dough, you should be able to pull it out into a sheet thin enough that light can pass through. The dough should sticky but not so sticky that you can't handle it.

Figure 2: Kneading in the flour

Grease a straight-sided container with vegetable oil or Pam and place the dough in it. Cover the container with a kitchen towel and place it in the oven (don't turn the oven on for this). Slide a shallow pan under the container and fill it with boiling water. Close the oven and let the dough rise until it's doubled in size. This should take about 1-2 hours.

A neat trick I gleaned from Good Eats is to place a rubber band around the container to mark where the dough is prior to rising. This way you can more accurately gauge how much the dough has risen.

First rise
Figure 3: Dough covered and in container with a sheet pan filled with boiling water placed beneath it.

1-2 hours later

After bench proof
Figure 4: Dough after first rise.

Empty your dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using your knuckles, press the dough out till it's flattened out enough for you to be able to fold the dough into thirds: first top to bottom, then left to right. Flip the folded dough over and press it out again. You're going to do this 2-3 times.

Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 10-20 minutes.

Press the dough out again and this time you're going to be forming the final shape of your loaf.

To make a round loaf bring the edges into the center and pinch them together, forming a jelly-fish like form. Place the dough down onto your floured surface with the pinched side down. Roll the dough between your hands to get it into a nice rounded shape. Place the dough onto a baking pan that's been dusted with corn meal.

To make a more oblong loaf, flatten the dough out and then roll it up tightly. Place it seam side down onto your baking pan (you dusted it with corn meal, right?) and tuck the ends under.

Cover the loaf with a moist kitchen towel and let it rise till it's doubled in size again. This should take about an hour. After it's risen, slash the top of the loaf a couple times.

Figure 5: Dough after final rise with slashes.

At this point, I like to brush the bread with one of two options:

For a more rustic look, whisk together:

1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup water

Brush onto top of loaf after slashing.

To give your loaf a bit of a shine, whisk together:

2 Tbsp water
1 egg white

Brush onto the top of the loaf after slashing and then again after about 20 minutes of baking.

Bake loaf in a 400 degree (F) oven for 35-45 minutes (watch carefully because this time varies from oven to oven). When putting the loaf into the oven, fill a shallow pan with boiling water again and place below loaf. When the bread is done, it should have an internal temperature of about 200-210 degrees.

Round loaf
Figure 6: Round loaf with cornstarch wash.

Figure 7: Ready to eat!

Oblong loaf
Figure 8: Oblong loaf with the egg white wash.

Whole wheat loaf
Figure 9: Whole wheat loaf with cracked oats sprinkled across the top (added after first brushing).

Have fun with this. You can do all kinds of things, add herbs, try different flours, or top the bread with different things.

Yay, carbs!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Village Sushi

I *love* sushi. I could eat it everyday for the rest of my life. Understandably, then, one of my top food-related priorities when I moved to Seattle was finding good places for sushi. After reading reviews on Yelp, I decided to give Village Sushi a try. I first went there with Ryan shortly after they opened. The restaurant is inside of a converted house, so the atmosphere is very cozy (but it doesn't feel cramped at all). We ordered an assortment of sashimi and sushi rolls. Everything was delicious! I was especially impressed with the salmon sashimi, which was the freshest I've ever had.

I've been there several more times since, and I always enjoy myself. I usually stick to the sushi and sashimi, but when my cousin Adam was visiting me this past summer, we decided to get an order of their tempura. It was really good--not heavy or greasy. Two thumbs up!

I've liked everything I've ever ordered at Village Sushi, except for the oshinko (pickled vegetables). I'm pretty picky when it comes to Japanese pickled vegetables, and there were a few I didn't care for in the mix. Other than that, though, everything has been delicious! I'd like to work my way through their entire menu. Not in one sitting, of course. But their prices are extremely reasonable, so if you've got a big enough appetite...

Anyway, I'm going to leave you with a few pictures from my latest trip to Village Sushi. If you're ever in the U-District, definitely stop by and try them out. Great sushi, friendly service, good prices. What more could you ask for?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Caffeinated Awesomeness

Zoka Coffee Roasters and Tea Company: Awesome coffee and also home to the best cappuccino that I've ever had. Yesterday I had the chance to go down to the University Zoka's and while I was there I got a soy cappuccino and 1 lb. of the Zoka Java Blend.

Now, I'm no coffee expert and I don't really think of myself as a coffee snob. However, I'm definitely pickier than the average coffee drinker and I've had my fair share of coffees, cappuccinos, mochas, and other espresso-based drinks. I've sampled the good, the bad, and the swill they serve at the US army DFAC (that's "dining facility" in army-speak). I like to think that over the years I've gained the ability to differentiate the good stuff from the bad.

That being said, this morning's coffee, made with the Zoka Java Blend, was great. Yesterday's cappuccino: Caffeinated Awesomeness. If you're ever in the Seattle area and you're craving a cup: Zoka.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Because Google can't convert everything for you (yet)

I just discovered this awesome cooking conversions calculator at Gourmet Sleuth.

I used it to help Ryan figure out what 5 oz of bread flour is in cups (answer: 1.03). He made a very tasty loaf of bread, and yes, there will be a blog post about it! We forgot to take pictures this first time, so the post will have to wait until the next time he makes bread.

In the meantime, enjoy this nifty online tool. Happy cooking/baking/converting!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Herb-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Last night, Ryan and I made a roast chicken for the first time. It ended up turning out really well, so we thought we'd share what we did.

We went to the U-District Farmers Market and bought some fresh herbs (thyme, sage, and rosemary), red potatoes, and green beans. Good stuff! Anyway, for our dinner, we decided to roast some potatoes and carrots with the chicken, and also have some green beans on the side. Other good vegetables to roast might be squash, zucchini, and artichoke hearts.

The oven should be pre-heated to 375 degrees. We used a 9x13 baking pan for the chicken. First we rinsed the chicken (make sure the inside is rinsed thoroughly) and patted it dry. Ryan lined the bottom of the pan with some sliced onions (cut into rings) and placed the chicken on top. We rubbed the chicken down with olive oil, melted butter, the fresh herbs, and some salt & pepper. Then we stuffed the chicken with onion, minced garlic, and some more herbs. After that, Ryan tied the chicken's legs together and pinned the neck skin.

We cut up the potatoes and carrots, then blanched them. After that, we tossed them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. We arranged the potatoes and carrots at the bottom of the pan around the chicken. Then we roasted the chicken in the oven until its internal temperature was 180 degrees. Once the chicken was done, we took it out of the oven, covered the pan with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

While the chicken was resting, we steamed the green beans. It took about 5-8 minutes. We tossed the green beans with butter, garlic salt, and salt & pepper. Then it was time to eat!

The chicken was delicious, but the potatoes and carrots might have been even better. The potatoes were a little crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the carrots were really nice and sweet. We kind of pigged out and ended up eating all of the potatoes and carrots last night. Mm-mm!

Friday, September 19, 2008


Yikes! We've really been slacking off with our posting. I have a couple more substantial entries in the works, but until then...

Just a few links, mostly recipes I'd like to try at some point:

12 Months of 5 Easy Dinners

101 Simple Appetizers in 20 Minutes or Less

Stuffed peppers, corn salsa, and corn chowder

Stuffed pizza bread

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ola (8/26/08)

On our second-to-last night in Hawaii, Ryan and I went to Ola at the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu (Google Map). We first went to Ola last summer--on Michael's recommendation, actually--and it's kind of become our unofficial go-to "special occasion" restaurant. We went for Ryan's birthday back in January, so this last time was our third visit.

We started off with some of Ola's complimentary reminded me of bruschetta, but the bread wasn't grilled. It was french baguette slices topped with a tomato (fresh and sun dried), basil, feta, onion, and olive oil relish. Yum.

For our appetizer, we shared the ahi cake salad. The ahi cakes were similar to crab cakes, but made with ahi and seared--they were still pink in the middle. I actually would've liked the ahi cakes to be a bit rarer, but I prefer my fish raw in general. Anyway, the salad also had napa cabbage, hearts of palm, mixed greens, and won ton strips. The dressing was a tobiko aioli. It was a bit ginger-heavy, but it went well with this particular salad.

Since we were eating seafood, we decided to get a white wine. As we did at 12th Ave Grill, we went with a Washington wine--14 Hands Chardonnay.

As for our entrees, Ryan had the citrus-glazed seared ahi. It came with Okinawan sweet potato mash (they made it with some coconut good) and a vegetable medley.

I had the seared scallops, which were served with cranberry-fig chutney, asparagus, pancetta, and orecchiette. It was delicious.

Finally, for dessert, we had the "Chocolate Decadence" cake. It was your standard molten chocolate cake with ice cream...nothing out of the ordinary, but it sure was yummy. Ryan and I really should try our hand at making molten chocolate cake at home sometime.

All in all, another highly enjoyable visit to Ola. That's three-for-three! The food has always been good and the service is consistently pleasant and attentive. Also, their menu now consists of half "permanent" items and half seasonal items, so I don't think we'll ever get bored with the food options. I'm sure Ryan and I will be heading back there next time we're in Hawaii.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chocolate Haupia Pie

Ryan and I are leaving for Seattle soon, so we had a big BBQ last weekend. We decided to make two desserts for the occasion: brownies (which Ryan will be guest-blogging about later, since it's his specialty) and chocolate haupia pie.

I love chocolate haupia pie. Along with malasadas, it's probably my favorite local dessert. I first made it up in Seattle back in June. The recipe I had called for chocolate pudding and a graham cracker crust. It was pretty good, but not great. Then, at Costco earlier this summer, Ryan and I saw a cookbook by Jean Watanabe Hee called Hawaii's Best Local Desserts. She's written a bunch of "local" cookbooks; Ryan and I now own nearly all of them.

Anyway, there was a "from scratch" chocolate haupia pie recipe in her desserts cookbook, so Ryan and I decided to try it. It turned out really well. Ryan and I tweaked it a tiny bit and now it's even better!

Chocolate Haupia Pie

1 9-inch pie crust (from scratch or frozen)
12 oz (1 1/2 cups) coconut milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk *
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate **

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for garnish

* I use skim milk; 1% or 2% will make everything thicker/richer. I think using whole milk might be overkill.
** The original recipe called for 7 oz of semi-sweet chocolate, and we found that it made the chocolate layer a little overpowering.

Prepare pie crust.

In a saucepan, whisk coconut milk, milk, and 1 cup sugar.

In a separate bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water. Bring coconut milk mixture to a boil. Reduce to simmer and whisk in cornstarch mixture until thickened. (Note: If the coconut milk mixture is still boiling when you add the cornstarch mixture, everything will thicken up VERY quickly. That's okay; just make sure you keep stirring so it doesn't get clumpy.)

Melt chocolate.
(The original recipe says to microwave the chocolate, but we used a double boiler. Either works.)

Pour half the haupia into a bowl.

Mix haupia with melted chocolate and pour into the bottom of the pie crust.

Layer white haupia on the top. Cool pie in refrigerator for at least an hour.

Whip cream with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form.

Garnish pie with whipped cream and shaved chocolate/cocoa powder. Chill for at least another hour.


Friday, August 22, 2008

12th Ave Grill (8/21/08)

Last night, I took Ryan to 12th Ave Grill in Kaimuki (Google Map) to celebrate him finishing his Master's degree in Electrical Engineering. (Whoo hoo, go Ryan!) I'd been to the restaurant once before back when it first opened, but I couldn't really remember what I'd thought of it then. Ryan had never been before.

Ryan decided he wanted a Washington wine due to his impending move to Seattle. We ordered the 2005 Waterbrook Columbia Valley Melange. Our server said it was one of her favorite wines, and Ryan and I both liked it a lot. (By the way, you can bring your own wine, but there's a $15 corkage fee.)

They gave us two types of bread. Both were quite yummy.

We started with the Big Island heirloom tomato salad. I'd never had heirloom tomatoes before, but I've been hearing good things about them, so I really wanted to try this salad. It was quite tasty. It had the tomatoes, of course, plus mozzarella, arugula, anchovies, capers, and crispy onion rings. The dressing was an extra virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction. I kind of wish there had been more tomatoes, though. It's called a tomato salad, after all.

For his entree, Ryan got the kim chee steak, which is what 12th Ave Grill is famous for (at least, it's the dish that's most often mentioned when people talk about the restaurant). It was a flank steak that had been marinated in kim chee sauce. It came with some red bell pepper and onion, Big Island bok choy, and steamed rice. Ryan loved it. I tried some and it was very tasty. It didn't taste like kim chee, but it was a little sweet, a little tangy, with a bit of a spicy kick. Strangely, although the kim chee steak is so well-known, 12th Ave Grill no longer has it on their menu. It just happened to be one of the specials last night. So if you're planning to go to 12th Ave Grill for the kim chee steak, make sure to ask if it's going to be available on the night you go.

My entree was the Big Island ribeye steak. It had been rubbed with BBQ spices (according to the menu...I don't know exactly what spices those are) and then grilled. It came with "warm potato salad" (basically, seasoned chunks of potato and some little pieces of bacon), spinach, crispy onion rings (same as the tomato salad), and Hamakua woodear, which is a fungus most often used in Asian cooking (and incidentally, one of the only funguses I actually eat). It was really good. Ryan and I both asked for our steaks to be done medium, and they were cooked perfectly. Yum!

Finally, we had the brownie sundae for dessert. It came with vanilla gelato, strawberries in a port reduction, chocolate sauce, and these awesome little sheets of crystallized caramel or something (we couldn't tell exactly what they were, but they were delicious). The brownie itself wasn't that special (the ones Ryan makes are way better), but the dessert overall was very enjoyable.

Overall, it was a very positive dining experience. The wait staff is friendly and efficient. The restaurant was quite busy when we were there, but despite the small size of the dining area, it didn't feel crowded or cramped. It was a bit noisy, but not annoyingly so. I'd definitely go back, and Ryan said he was sad that he hadn't tried this place out sooner. Oh well. Perhaps we'll just have to stop by the next time we're back in Hawaii.