Dream Zombie Apocalypse Death Squad

Um…so who doesn’t know about the impending Zombie Apocalypse? Honestly though, I’m really not that into Zombie lore, unless you count the fact that I’ve been a fan of the Resident Evil video game series probably ever since my tenth grade year of high-school. On that note though, I’d always imagined myself having a home somewhat like Wayne Manor….maybe not as big though. Seemingly mundane, yet beneath it’s stucco walls: a Batcave (!) with secret passage ways into mysterious work spaces, retrofitted so just in case the world all went to hell I’d be living pretty comfortable in my mole hole for however long I needed too. As most people I talk to know, I do have a hole in the floor in my room, which leads into a pretty awesome basement. No Batcave, but close enough.

On that note, I was with the Kid I Babtsit, who is kinda’ like a clone version of me in terms of fandom obsessions, when I suddenly thought of this vblog I’d seen Felicia Day do on YouTube (probably because we’d been taking about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog and are straight crushes on gay Neil Patrick Harris) anyways, so someone had asked Felicia if, were she to assemble a team of five to fight along side her in the Zombie Apocalypse, who would she choose and why. They could be anyone: alive or dead, real or fake.

All of a sudden my nerd-bulb lit up like the power button on my Xbox 360.

The Kid I Babysit got into it too, and we both convinced my brother to stop watching Sgt. Frog for like a second to join us in the plotting of our respective teams. Soon we found five people just couldn’t cut it….I mean, Mass Effect style, we needed a Suicide Mission team–not five idiots who consecutively get shanked by MINDLESS zombies, leaving the only smart one of the group alone and unable to repopulate the world–no seriously, thanks for that. -_-”

So, without further ado, I present to you (omg rhyming,English major heart dies of ecstasy), [insert coughing sound] AS I was saying, I present to you:

MY DREAM ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE DEATH SQUAD

1. Buffy Summers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

It should be a well known fact by most people who know me that, for some reason or another, I am OBSESSED with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This girl has “saved the world a lot.” Buffy becomes a real leader over the course of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. She knows how to rally a group, and she’s morally legit, one of those do the right thing-ers. She’s got super slayer strength, experience offing undead, demons, and the like, and excellent pun-age. Though she can be headstrong, she’s a take charge kinda’ girl–exactly what you need in a fight for your life kinda’ situation.

2. Batman

He’s a detective, gadget guy, genius, rich, incredibly sexy (I think it’s pretty obvious how much I love Batman)–and above all else, he has a base of operations. Batman’s the guy who will figure out how the Zombie Apocalypse started and who’s behind it before anyone else even begins to start thinking about it.His anti-social tendencies when working within a group might be a bit of an issue, but he’s worked within the Justice League before, meaning he’s willing to put aside personal feelings to get the job done. Just don’t expect him to trust everyone immediately…or ever.

3.  Riza Hawkeye (Full Metal Alchemist)

(this photo moves, it MOVES)

We need somebody in our squad who can pick Zombies off from a distance. Riza’s a trained sniper with the Amestrian Army, a damn good shot, and fiercely loyal.

4. The Witchdoctor (Diablo)

I never got to finish playing Diablo 3….or even really get into it cause the power went wonky in my house, and so whenever I load up the game on my Dad’s PC, it crashes. >.< BUT, of what I did play, I decided my Necromancer character was pretty freakin’ badass, and I was only a level 8 or so. In my opinion, every undead apocalypse needs a necromancer. I mean, for obvious reasons.

5. Chell (Portal)

Chell spent most of her life as a test subject–that requires patience… and for that reason she’s pretty damn good at following orders, especially from snarky AI with questionable motives. Be that as it may when opportunity strikes, she takes the plunge! PLUS, I mean, she didn’t get out of Aperture Science labs without that portal gun (at least I hope!)–so not only is she excellent at solving puzzles, but she also has a gun that can teleport her pretty much wherever she’d like to go. Provided the walls are coated with a special white paint, that is. ( THAT does not explain why SPOILER I could shoot at the moon in Portal 2 though…)

6. Ender (Ender’s Game)

It’s been a while since I read Ender’s Game (and for that reason–when I showed The Kid I Babysit this picture, she goes “That’s not Ender!? That’s Bean” coughcough ANYWAYS). Ender is a boy genius–six years old or so, trained to be a military mastermind. Ender can act as a substitute leader and/or master strategist if Buffy or Batman were to bite the dust, or, as Tobuscus would say, encounter a back massage of death (Zombie-Style!). I figure as well, if Ender was on the squad he’d keep Batman in the game. Batman likes to recruit young apprentices. Yep.

7. Jackie Chan

If anyone is gonna be a master of hand to hand combat–it’s gotta be Jackie Chan. I mean, in his movies, or out of them: this guy is the real deal. Plus he’s hella funny. You need laughs during a Zombie Apocalypse.

8. EDI (Mass Effect)

Highly Evolved, Unshackled AI with a sense of humor. Plug EDI into Batman’s super computer, and the resistance is pretty much unstoppable. Plus, EDI is basically a network: she can be in her body, as pictured here, AND in the Bat-computer at the same time.

9. Kamina (Gurren Lagann)

In need of blind inspiration? Want to” kick logic out and do the impossible?” Kamina is kinda’ an idiot, but he still makes the ladies swoon and somehow manages to be a total bad-ass all at the same time. Personally I’d marry this guy if he were real (well…I need to think about that actually…) Kamina is truly one of the most inspirational character’s I’ve come across in my fandoming–this guy will motivate even the stereotypical Zombie Apocalypse Chicken [insert word that rhymes with hit and starts with an “S”] by punching him in the face. We need people who will punch other characters for acting stupid in the face.

10. Mordin Solus (Mass Effect)

Morin is the “The Very Model Of  A Scientist Salarian.” He’s not beyond unethical experiments and used to be Special Ops. While Batman’s off figuring out who started the Zombie Apocalypse, Mordin will be developing the cure for the disease. Unlike other Mad Scientist, though, he’s not limited to the lab. If [insert that word that rhymes with hit and starts with an “S”] got real, Mordin would have the situation under control REAL fast. About as fast as he talks, I’d say.

11. Orihime Inoue (Bleach)

Orihime Inoue is a little strange, but a sweetheart. Though she can fight, she’s more at home in the med bay healing the wounded. As far as healers go, at least in terms of my fandom lore, Orhime is the go to girl with the healing hands–she doesn’t just patch up your wounds, she can regenerate lost limbs. An essential power in a zombie apocalypse.

12. Saber (Fate stay/night and Fate/Zero)

King Arthur if he were a girl: Saber is…kinda’ a Riza Hawkeye with a sword (O.o). Excellent code of honor, and she’s not interested in power games. Just a knight, with strong morals and a killer swing. Did I mention she’s got a really big sword?

13. Subject Zero (Mass Effect)

Subject Zero, or “Jack,” is the tank of the crew–one bad girl, with unbelievably strong Biotic powers. Though she may clash with Buffy, as she hates the “high moral ground” cheerleader types, and is probably a lose cannon, she still has enough prowess to take out more than a small militia of wandering zombie folks. Can I get a high-five for crowd control?

14. Piccolo (Dragon Ball Z)

I love Piccolo. I mean–he blew up the moon! Not to mention trained Gohan–the use to be wimpy son of Goku–and turned him into a total bad-ass a gazillion times cooler than his father (don’t shoot me DBZ fans :P) Plus he’s green.

15. Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)

Sure Barney can’t really fight. I mean–I don’t expect him to really do anything other than make “urgh” faces at deformed-use-to-be-hot-zombie-[coughcough] babes,” and hit on all the lovely ladies of this squad. (oh just try, Barney…just try). But, he’s Barney: awesome personified!  He comes up with these crazy schemes and some how manages to make them work. Plus, who else would be the perfect candidate to help start the re-population of people on the earth after the Zombie’s are eradicated? Challenge Excepted? Need I even ask?

Hehe. xD So…

..who would be a part of your Zombie Apocalypse Death Squad?

Brown Butter ChoChip Cookies: Recipe Review, Tweak, and Life!

Cookies and Milk in a wine glass babe: symbolism anyone?

OMG–Look at that photo.

WOW O.O <–my face when I’m awed by my own powers of manipulation.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly say there’s any “clarity,” with the photo. I have an older camera which tends to pixealize things as one “zooms,” in. But seriously, I’m pretty proud of this.

I’m usually one who enjoys doing recipe originals–or at least, that’s what I’d like to think I do on this website. Bestfriend told me that no recipes are truly original…I mean, how many TOTALLY different kinds of chocolate chip cookies can you really have….But it’s hard, when you’re not a trained culinary professional who went to Le Cordon Blu in France or whatevs… in My Dream Cook Land, chefs are supposed to have developed their taste buds to the extent that they can detect the slightest smidgen of ginger in…well something that isn’t supposed to taste like ginger. Can I do this? No….but that’s okay.  ‘Kinda’ like that kid on Yume Patisserie. Ya know, that magical girl anime about that wanna be baker… (^^”)?

ANYwhoses, so I was having a poopy day–work and personal stress combined with an ill-timed cup of coffee kept me up all night. So here I am writing this blog entry at 5:44AM. Usually, when I’m upset about things [vauge] I write about then… or talk about them. EXCESSIVELY talk about them sometimes, much to the tune-out-age of my friends and family. XD But today, I just felt like doing something manual…something that kept my hands busy and my mind preoccupied with what my hands are doing.

There’s this little anecdote  from one of my favorite Korean Dramas, My Lovely Sam Soon/My Name is Kim Sam Soon:

“One day, the body asked the heart, ”The doctor cures me when I’m hurt, but who cures you when you’re hurt?’ ‘The heart answered, ‘I have to cure myself.’ Maybe that’s why, but everyone has their own way of healing their hearts. They drink, sing, get angry, laugh, and cry. They pour their hearts out to friends, go on trips, run marathons…the worst remedy is to ignore the pain. My remedy is to bake cakes and cookies at dawn. When father died suddenly, when love came to an end, when I lost my job…I got up at the crack of dawn and baked cakes…and the aroma of freshly baked cakes comforted me. Isn’t this the sweetest remedy in the world?”-Kim Sam Soon

 And it is…

The scene in which she recounts this tale, Sam Soon is in her company’s kitchen baking some sort of round bitter cakes. She’s alone. Lately in life, I’ve been surrounded by people–people I love, and people I never thought I’d know. Kids, teachers, parents, old friends, people who I used to think didn’t like me, all of a sudden seem to really value and respect the things I have to say. It’s such a shock to me, being who I am…or was.

Like I said–sometimes just talking,  sometimes you just need to do something. And that something in my case just happened to be bake at close to the next morning.

So I made these Sugar Cookies with Brown Butter a while back for one of the kids I work with’s birthday party, and they were just….yum. So I was looking around for ChoChip Cookie recipes that also utilized the brown butter that had made my sugar cookies taste like delicious heart attacks on a plate (boy do I need to lighten up a little…=P). I ended up using this recipe from Sweet Peony for Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies–and Ms. Peony does not lie: these cookies are probably one of the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever made.

I gave The Kid I Babysit a preview of this post, before I posted it and she asked me: what’s brown butter? So, for those of you that don’t know. Browning butter is essential a process by which one kinda’ caramelizes the milk in the butter. It has a very rich, nutty, caramel like (omg, lacking vocabulary) smell to it which makes the cookies taste extra delicious!

I made the recipe once before–following instructions to a T, but for my midnight-cookie-making-madness decided to tweak it just a little and add oatmeal  I have this other kid whom I work with who claims to make the best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie. I’ve never tasted his cookies, but right now, I beg to differ little one. Mwahahha.

HOW MY “MYSTERIOUS FRIEND THAT LIVES IN MY BASEMENT” FEELS LIVING AT MY HOUSE

担担面 Dan Dan Mian

Dan Dan Mian, or Dan Dan Noodles, are, perhaps, the most unphotogentic noodles I’ve ever had the frustration of snapping a picture of. In my opinion they look downright messy from every angle, in every lighting, and in every bowl. Though, don’t yet their ugly-osity fool you—these noodles are packed with flavor, absolutely delicious (’til this day, I get craving for these noodles on cold gray days: it reminds me of the day I first made them!) and incredibly simple to make—once you have all the right ingredients that is.

The first time I made Dan Dan Mian was for my Chinese 3 Oral presentation. I had decided to teach my Chinese class, which, ironically, was filled mostly with native speakers who probably already knew how to do this, how to make Dan Dan Mian. Now, if I really was the sort of girl who liked to exaggerate her exploits—I would say I gave directions in flawless Mandarin, impressing my “lao shi” (teacher) and “”tong xue men” (classmates) with my pronunciation and knowledge of Chinese cuisine. But at last, I have friends from that class who may be reading this, and boy would my credibility go out the window once they got their schadenfreud-ian hands on the comments button. So, I think it’s best that I remain modest and say it went just barely okay.

Though, in all seriousness, the first time I made Dan Dan Mian I bought the wrong ingredients—which turned out to be a fun conversation topic during my presentation. Walking into and shopping at a Chinese market for the first time can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re not exactly sure what’s what, where it is, or what the Chinese actually call it. After I wised up and started researching the Chinese names of specific ingredients I needed to buy before heading to my local Ranch 99, I found the whole stimuli attack a lot less “attack-like,” and more of an exciting adventure into the supermarket culture of one of my favorite languages.

The Recipes is As Follows: adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper (46).

Ingredients/ 材料

  1. Fresh or Dried Chinese Flour Noodles(条面, tiao mian), specifically Shang Hai Noodles (上海面, shang hai mian)

Meat Topping

  1. 1tbsp oil
  2. 3 Sichuan dried chilies, snipped in half,  if using regular dried chili 4-5 (辣椒干, la jiao gan)
  3. ½ tsp Sichuan Pepper (花椒, hua jiao)
  4. Ya Cai or Tian Jin preserved vegetable (芽菜, ya cai/天津冬菜, tin jin dong cai)
  5. Ground beef or pork.
  6. 2 tsp light soy sauce (生抽, sheng chou)

The Sauce

  1. ½ tsp ground roasted Sichuan pepper (花椒, hua jiao)
  2. 2tbsp sesame paste (芝麻酱, zhi ma jiang)
  3. 2tsp dark soy sauce (老抽, lao chou)
  4. 4tbsp chili oil with chili sediment (辣椒油, la jiao you)

The How

  1. In a dry wok, roast the Sichuan pepper corn until it is fragrant and lightly browned. Set aside half  (about a 1/2 teaspoon) of the peppercorns.
    1. Take the rest of the peppercorns and remove from the heat. Take a grinder (like a coffee grinder) or a mortar and pestle, and grind/mash the peppercorns until they become fine powder.
  2. Take the Tian Jin preserved cabbage and rinse it in  a strainer, set aside.
  3. In the wok, add oil and heat until lightly smoking. Add the chilies and peppercorns to the wok and stir-fry until fragrant.
  4. Add the beef and preserved cabbage and stir-fry until the meat becomes toasted. Add the soy sauce to the wok and stir until combined.
  5. Boil water for noodles. When the water is ready, and the noodles. Cook for about five minutes and then set aside.
  6. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce and then mix with a  spoon.
  7. Add in the noodles and the meat topping, then stir.
  8. It’s done! Eat. Enjoy. Best served on rainy days, or days when it impeccably cold. ;)

“But, I’m confizzled [which by that you mean confused] What’s all this…this…Stuff? What’s the difference between Dark and Light Soy Sauce? Sichuan chili, preserved veggies—whaaaa?” I understand readers, I was confizzled too [if you’re already familiar with Chinese cuisine , feel free to skip this part, hehe] So:

Let’s Talk Ingredients!

Chinese Flour Noodles are a pretty simple ingredient to find—they are noodles made from wheat flour instead of rice flour. As I said in my presentation, you can pretty much buy whichever style of Chinese Flour Noodles you like—I especially like Shang Hai Noodles, or上海面 (see pictured in the main photo), which are a much fatter and chewy wheat noodle similar to that of Japanese Udon. In Chinese the main distinction between wheat and rice flour noodles is a character: 面 or mian, which is often reserved for flour noodles, while 粉or fen, is reserved for Rice noodles, such as bean thread noodles. You’re Chinese market should have an ample supply of various varieties (ooo, alliteration), and so, when you go shopping—look for the character 面on your packaging or, simply ask an attendant for 条面,which specifically translates as flour noodles.

Sichuan Chilies Vs. Regular Dried Chili

Sichuan Dried Chilies or 四川辣椒干(si chuan la jiao gan), are a much spicier version of regular dried chills or 辣椒干(la jiao gan), pictured below. The recipe I originally read called for three dried Sichuan chili, which I just could not find at the market—you can substitute regular dried chilies, which in my opinion work just as well—though, if you’re like me, and have this fantastical illusion that all Sichuanese cuisine is mouth-numbing-ly spicy, then by all means, up your chili ‘take. I found that about four-five regular chilies is my preference. Just remember that the seeds and the white inner lining-foam-like stuff that surrounds them make a chili spicy, so if you would like the flavor of the chili without all the spicy-ness, just remove the seeds before you add the chilis to the wok.

Sichuan Pepper Corn or 花椒 (hua jiao) is infamous in Chinese cuisines for putting the “numbing” in mouth-numbing-ly-spicy. Personally, contrary to popular opinion, I find Sichuan pepper corn to have a much more “tingly” feeling on the mouth as opposed to “numbing.” Numbing to me suggests an inability to feel physical touch (picture my mouth getting lidocaine-ed when I had that cavity back in grade school -_-). For some, the flavor may be over powering, though personally I find it quite enjoyable. As many recommend, if this is your first experience with the little firecrackers, start out small, and work your way up. The recipe itself, actually calls for quite little. But then as we all know from the Mapo Dofu recipe, I’m extremely biased…

Ya Cai and Tian Jian Preserved Vegetable

I told my Chinese class that Ya Cai was the stem of preserved bean spouts—and boy was I WRONG. (对不起,我错了!_|¯o)Thank god nobody said anything. Ya Cai is actually the upper part of a particular type of Mustard Green.  I have never used Ya Cai in my Dan Dan Mian; therefore, I can’t really recommend it. But I think for those who aren’t used to the sometimes strong and unique flavors of Chinese cuisine, I’d stick with what I have mentioned below:

Tian Jin Preserved Vegetable 天津冬菜(tian jin dong cai), pictured below, which translates literally as Tian Jin Winter Vegetable, is basically a salted pickled Chinese cabbage from Tian Jian. It comes in a ceramic bowl, bagged, and topped with salt. Before use rinse, as it is VERY salty. I’ve also read that it can sometimes be sandy. The first time I made Dan Dan Mian, I just could not find this ingredient—I thought it would be with the pickled condiments, because in western stores, pickled things tend to be with the ketchup. But at last it was on the the soup and jellied beans isle (which I just happened to stumbled upon when I was perusing the isles, and BOY did I do a Happy Dance when I found this jar!)

Light Soy Sauce vs. Dark Soy Sauce

  

Before I began cooking Chinese food—I never knew there was any other variety of soy sauce aside from the Light kind. Light Soy Sauce or 生抽 (sheng chou) is a more salty soy sauce—used more for flavor and seasoning, while Dark Soy Sauce or 老抽 (lao chou), is thicker and used mostly for color. Apparently, it is also sweeter.

Sesame Paste 芝麻酱 (zhi ma jiang) is pretty self explanatory to me. It’s basically a highly concentrated paste made of sesame seeds. It’s really thick, and has oil on the top…just like a nut butter you’d find in a Western store when you think about it. Like many all natural peanut butters with the oil at the top, you need to mix the paste before use.

Chili Oil with Chili Sediment 辣椒油 (la jiao you) is another one of those ingredients that doesn’t need much explaining (and then Ricki Ricardo hung his head in shame…). If you can’t find it in a store, it is quite easy to make at home. Just take a cup of your favorite cooking oil (just don’t use olive oil…use something that is milder in flavor, like canola or safflower oil). Heat it over medium high heat until you see VERY light smoking–if the oil gets too hot the chilies will burn. When the oil is ready add 1/2 cup of chili pepper flakes, stir and remove from heat. Let sit for 2 hours. If you want regular chili oil, then just strain the oil to remove the chilies, but if you want what I have pictured below–just leave the chilies in.


I’m starting to thing the noodles are kinda sexy now—2ma noodle call anybody? <–omg imagine being married to that cheese! (by which I mean my lovely self) =P

Split Pea Soup–I mean, “Stew”

I have no sense of temporal eating (temporal, as in “temperature,” because they didn’t have a word that ends in “al” for it, pooey ‘’-_-, so I decided to make one up, as it were. Or, more accurately, use one preexisting word incorrectly). As the seasons change, I’ll likely still be eating ice cream even as I have to palm my windows to cake off actual ice, or, in contrast,  I’ll likely be slurping up spicy soup despite the summery sidewalk sizzle. But then, I’m a Bay Area babe,  growing up in a town where the weathers never really ever exactly what you’d expect it to be, so maybe that’s why my cravings are rather…spontaneous?

This whole Split Pea Soup obsession started, though, when I stopped by a friend’s house after a run like maybe half a year ago (haha…running, yeah…>.>…half a year ago, yeah…<.<) Her mom had made this WONDERFUL homemade split pea soup. I’d always remembered split pea soup tasting kinda…gummy, I guess: like old lady teeth in a glass—the type of soup you smack on, trying not to taste, and swallow like vomit you don’t want to regurgitate. Definition: eeeeew!* But, my friends mom’s soup was really damn good—I guess that’s ‘cause, before, I’d always had Split Pea Soup from a can. Campbell’s, to be exact, and that’s not exactly what my taste buds would call Welcome to Yumzville…

So a couple things happened that day: one, I realized that I MUST recreate this masterpiece of peas…AND, well…I forgot what the second thing was.

ANYWAYS, despite that so called spontaneity, I crave familiarity. Once I decide I like something, I tend to stick with it. I guess I’m just simple like that…so I’ve made this exact same Split Pea Soup…er “Stew,” recipe a gazillion times before I finally decided to take photos and blog about it, and lets be honest…it’s rather chunky, and isn’t really that traditional of a Split Pea soup. I mean, it’s got potatoes in it…

My favorite thing about this soup, though, is that it manages to be extraordinarily light on the stomach, while still remaining rather hardy. It’s full of magic, that’s why!

magic

Speaking of magic…

As we know from the Mapo Doufu post, I’m kinda in love with Cayenne Pepper (which I sometimes call Kanye Pepper, cause I can’t pronounce Cayenne). But, as we’re about to find out, I’m also kinda in love with Five Spice Powder, or wu xiang fen [五香粉]. I had this kinda weird period of my life in which I was shaking Five Spice on my Turkey Sandwiches. Those same sandwiches also contained seaweed [don’t ask…]. Five Spice is popular in Chinese cooking, and is kinda sweet. It contains: cinnamon, anise, fennel, cloves, and “cinger.” I’m guessing this is a misspelling of ginger–I know, my Five Spice Bottle is hella sketch [which by that I mean, sketchy]. Some versions of five spice have hua jiao, or Sichuan Peppercorn, in them–and, as we also know from the Mapo Doufu post, I kinda love Huajiao too. But I call those two spices for which I’m in love, magic, because they make this dish smell absolutely magnificent, and taste absolutely… well, just wait and see ;). Now, for the ingredients in this east and west(ish) fusion:

Ingredients

  • 12 oz or 1 cup and 1/2 green split peas, stones removed, and washed.
  • 4-5 medium sized red potatoes, rinsed with skin on, and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 red or yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • about 1 cup to 1 cup and 1/2 apple smoked bacon, chopped into bite size pieces. Depending on how much fat is on your bacon, you may want to remove some of the fat, but I like to leave a little for flavor.
  • 1 tbsp five spice powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 32 oz, or 4 cups, low sodium chicken broth plus 1 cup water
  • 1 cup frozen peas, rinsed of ice
  • oil

The How

  1. In a large pot, heat about 1-2 tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion. Sweat for about five minutes, or until the onion starts to turn translucent. Then, add the garlic, and continue to cook for another three minutes or so.
  2. In the pot, add the chicken broth plus 1 cup water.
  3. Add the spices, the split peas, bacon, and potatoes.
  4. Cover and raise the heat to high. Wait until the mixture comes to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer–about medium low heat.
  5. Let cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to thicken up–about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. Add the rinsed frozen peas, and stir to combine.
  7. Serve with yummy bread.
  8. Eat it and stuff.

Next time I make this, I think I might add some shaoxing rice wine, and some ground hua jiao pepper…(what was the poo about familiarity? XP)

麻婆豆腐 <3 Mapo Tofu

So I was watching the anime Angel Beats with my brother one day, when one of the characters picks up a meal card for the “infamous mapo tofu” that’s so ridiculously spicy it makes you cry.  It looks like this:

Angel Beats–“Mapo Tofu” And mine, looks like this:

Mapo Tofu, or Mapo Doufu as I like to call it [Doufu is Mandarin Chinese for Tofu] is amazing. In episode five of Angel Beats, Otonashi [the kid with the orange hair] and Hinata [blue hair] munch up. Aside from this scene being hilarious, it pretty much accurately showcases what it feels like to eat Mapo Doufu, especially for the first time ;)

The Eating Process

taste

shocked by spiciness/OMG IT’S BURNS~~~~~

twitchy cool down

Yeah. It’s pretty spicy.

Oddly enough though, and the show describes it right: it’s the aftertaste. The lingering explosion of flavor. Mapo Doufu is not mindlessly spicy. No one that I’ve ever fed this to has ever said to me “WHY!? WHY DO YOU TORTURE YOURSELF WITH THIS CRAP!? WHY ARE YOU TORTURING ME WITH THIS CRAP!?” Instead, they keep stuffing their faces. It’s. Just. That. Good.

Now, I’ve made Mapo Doufu plenty of times before I posted this recipe. A lot of the recipes I’d tried before just didn’t get it quite right in terms of spicyness. This, in my delusional mind, the mind that believes all Sichuanese cuisine is supposed to pull a Hinata (see above) on my taste buds, left me regrettably hankering for a more authentic Mapo Doufu recipe. One that hadn’t been toned down to fit a more western notion of spiciness. Rasamalaysia.com has perhaps the best Mapo Doufu recipe out on the web–and I would highly suggest purchasing Bee Yinn Low’s Easy Chinese Recipes if you want the taste of some REAL Chinese food made at home. In my culinary adventures, I’ve found that a few things really make the Mapo Doufu. One is the type of dou la jiang you use (the one I have pictured below I find gives the best flavor, and is in fact, the specific brand of dou la jiang that my aunt,who is is from Chengdu, the home of Sichuanese cuisine, uses in her own cooking) as well as the use of cayenne pepper and water as a stock instead of chicken stock. The hua jiao oil is also an essential, as it is what gives the dish the infamous Sichuanese “ma la” 麻辣(numbing and spicy) sensation.

Though I am a lover of spicy food–and if you are like me, you want to follow this recipe to a T if you want that authentic taste; however, if you’re a little intimidated by the pictures (hehe) then I would recommend toning down the spices to suit your own personal preference (^-^)

Ingredients [adapted from rasamalaysia.com with minor twist and turns]

8 oz ground beef [I used Trader Joes 96/4 lean to fat ratio]

1 block firm tofu

1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine

2 green onions cut into small rings

2 cloves garlic minced/2 tsp pre-minced garlic

3 dried chilies, seeds removed

3 tbsp dou la jiang 豆辣酱 [spicy bean paste]

1 tsp dou chi 豆豉 [fermented salted black beans] rinsed and coarsely chopped

2 tbsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp low sodium light soy sauce

½ cup water

3 tbsp chili oil

1 tbsp hua jia oil [Sichuan peppercorn oil]

1 tbsp cooking oil

1 tsp corn starch

1 tbsp cold water

The How

  1. Take the ground beef in a bowl and add 1 tbsp of shaoxing rice wine, mix together with a fork. Cover and let sit for about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, drain the tofu by wrapping it in paper towel on a plate. Cover it with another plate (I used the family supply of Nations Pie Pans for this =P), and place two 16 oz cans of soup/chili/etc on top to act as a weight. Let sit for 15 minutes, or until all the water has soaked out. Periodically change the paper towels if they become too soaked during this process.
  3. While both the beef and tofu are doing their business, chop up the green onion into fine rings and set aside.
  4. If you have pre-minced garlic, like moi, then scoop out 2 tsp and set aside. Otherwise, peel and then mince 2 cloves of garlic.
  5. Take 3 finger length dried chilies, and with either a knife or a pair of kitchen scissors, remove seeds and cut into fine rings.
  6. Scoop out 3 tbsp of the dou la jiang and set aside.
  7. In a small strainer take 1 tsp of the dou chi [fermented black beans] and rinse under “cool water” [with like sunglasses and stuff]. When done, run a knife through them until coarsely chopped.
  8. In a small bowl or cup, combine 1/2 cup of water with 2 tbsps of cayenne pepper and 1 tsp light soy sauce:  stir.
  9. In another small bowl or cup add 1 tsp of cornstarch then 1 tbsp of cold water. Mix until combined.
  10. Heat a wok, or sauce pan on medium-high until hot [or you begin to see light smoking] Then add 1 tbsp of cooking oil, 3 tbsp of chili oil, and 1 tsp of hua jiao oil. Add the ground beef with the garlic and dou la jiang. Cook until the beef is about half way done. Add the black beans and stir.
  11. Stir the water-cayenne-soy sauce mixture and then add to the wok. Mix until combined. Let come to a boil.
  12. Gently add in the tofu, and, with a spatula, gently push the tofu from one side to the other to avoid crumbling. DO NOT STIR or you will break the tofu. Lower the heat and let shimmer for a few minutes.
  13. Stir the cornstarch mixture, and then add it to the wok. Gently shake the wok, and push the mixture from one side to the other with a spatula to incorporate.
  14. Once the mixture thickens slightly, turn off the heat, and garnish with green onion.
  15. Lastly. Stuff your face. Must eat with white rice.

Banana Cakes with Green Tea Butter Cream


Lovely!

(though everyone says the green frosting looks like dog poo….(-_-;)…)

So I’ve been a total scrooge this Christmas. I dunno’ what is up with me and holiday spirit, but I just don’t have it. It annoys me beyond belief when I’m watching my favorite TV shows in the dead heat of summer (cause I’m marathoning through Bones on Netflixs), and even though the seasons don’t match up, I get to a Christmas episode, in which everyone’s jollying about, singing Christmas carols: I  despise Christmas music [death to my ears~~~bleeeh]…

…though I do love that Last Christmas song, and technically speaking I did kinda’ get excited back when I was Janitor Girl at That Clothing Store I Used to Work At when we would get cool white and green theme wrapping paper, and cute little brown gift boxes for the season of spendthrift-ing. So maybe I’ve de-scrooge-a-fied–just a little bit.

But I dunno’, I woke up Christmas morning around 12pm (so late!)  and after watching this lovely little cake video on YouTube– I just felt inspired! I’d made some green tea cookies a couple days before (that recipe: coming soon!) and still had plenty of green tea powder leftover, so I thought, “ehhh? Why not!” I guess subconsciously my Christmas heart did grow two sizes that day, because I did all this decorating to make the cupcakes look like Christmas trees–the cranberries look like some sorta’ red fruit thingy growing on them, and OMG the sugar snow! Lovely, lovely, lovely! “Lovely”, by the way, is one of my favorite words. hehe. ^_^

Ingredients: Banana Cakes (makes about 14 regular sized cupcakes) [adapted and modified just a bit from on YouTube]

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 LARGE banana

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup heavy cream

The How

  1. Take the soften butter (microwave it until it starts to melt) and cream it in a large bowl. Add the sugar and eggs to the mixture.
  2. Mash the banana and add it to the rest of the wet ingredients.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, set aside.
  4. Add the cake flour, salt, and baking powder to another large bowl. Stir together with a whisk until combined.
  5. In batches, shift the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and beat with an electric mixer. The batter will be slightly thick by the time all the flour has been added. Add the heavy cream to the mixture, and beat with the electric mixer.
  6. In a cupcake tin lined with cupcake liners, scoop the batter into the tins. Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.*
  7. Cool on a wire rack (if you possess such a thing–which I don’t, otherwise just cool on a plate)

*Because these are banana cakes, the banana is naturally mushier, which in turn may make the cakes appear a little undercooked; even though, when you insert a tooth pick into them, the tooth pick comes out clean–but this is only because of the banana’s texture.

Ingredients: Green Tea Butter Cream

2 tablespoons (matcha) green tea powder* (see recipe notes)

4 tablespoons heavy cream (plus additional to smooth the icing)

3 cups powder sugar, shifted

1 stick butter at room temperature

The How:

  1. Add the (matcha) powder to a large bowl, and add the heavy cream—form into a paste.
  2. Add the powder sugar in batches into the paste—the mixture might be a bit  tough and crumbly, but this is okay.
  3. Add the butter to the mixture and cream with an electric mixer
  4. Slowly pour small amounts of heavy cream into the butter-matcha-sugar mix until the mixture forms into a smooth beautiful green icing.

For Assembly:

Some dried cranberries.

Sugar crystals for sprinkling.

Banana Cakes

Green Tea Butter Cream Icing

The How:

  1. Take the butter cream and fill an icing bag with it (you can also spread it if you prefer). Use a round tip to pipe the icing.
  2. Take the cooled banana cakes and pipe icing on top, in spirals. Starting from the edges and working your way inward—this will create a tree like effect.
  3. Garnish with dried cranberries, and sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top the “trees.” Viva La Snow.

It doesn’t snow where I live. PHEW~~~

Eat ♥ Enjoy

I really loved the cranberries on this, the green tea butter cream is really sweet, and so the tartness of the cranberries complements the flavors well. You could probably just add the cranberries into the banana cake recipe if you wanted too, but I think they look lovely on top. Also, in my humble opinion cake with frosting on it always taste best post refrigeration. Refrigerate, then eat! (^_^)b ←(this is a smiley face with a thumbs up sign if it wasn’t otherwise obvious)

Recipe Notes

What is Matcha? Where can I buy it?

Matcha is a Japanese green tea powder used for cooking and drinking. I got mine at Ranch 99, but you can likely get it at any Asian/Japanese market. Though I’m sure upscale tea houses and coffee shops like Peets sell it (is Peets upscale?) if you’re looking for it at a Chinese supermarket, like Ranch 99, ask for 绿茶粉–lu cha fen, and bring in the characters, if you can’t speak Chinese.