Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tolerance - Butternut Squash Soup

Some things cannot be changed, no matter how much effort is sunk into them. As a (mostly) vegetarian, fervent lover of fruits and passionate adorer of vegetables, it is with much regret that I announce my dislike of butternut squash soup. Either too sweet or too salty, not enough butternut squash or a bland, sweet puree reminiscent of baby food, butternut squash is a vegetable best left to the dessert world. As a substitute for pumpkin, it's fantastic. The sweet, creamy fruit, roasted and scooped from its helmet-like skin, blends beautifully with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Covered in salt and whiffing of garlic, though, not so much.

And it's not even easy, or quick. I'm actually massively lazy on a regular basis, or, more likely, perpetually exhausted, thanks to a(n un)healthy karate habit. This recipe requires a blender, the oven, the stove, constant stirring, and the possibility of bright orange soup explosions. In other words, not something I'm down for at 11:30pm after two hours of class, an extra workout, and an hour driving home in unexpected traffic.

Sad to say, it is not this recipe that changes my mind, and I slowly back away from my fruitless (heh) quest to find an agreeable butternut squash soup. As a proud home cook with a massive ego, it rather pains me to admit that even I can't make myself like butternut squash soup. Then, why, might one ask, why on Earth am I sharing a recipe for this one dish that I have never managed to enjoy? A soup that takes up an entire huge box in the fridge and will probably last another week and three friends staying over Friday night? Because, glory hallelujah, my boyfriend likes this soup.

Butternut Squash Soup
Reluctantly developed from various sources, including Simply Recipes and Cookie and Kate


2 lb cubed butternut squash (we bought ours from Costco. A lovely place)
1/2 onion
2 or 3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive or other cooking oil
1 tsp salt (season to taste)
4 cups water


1. Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking tray, preferably rimmed, with foil.

2. Chop the onion into large chunks. Peel, trim and roughly chop the garlic.

3. Mix the onion, garlic and butternut squash with 1 tbsp of oil and layer on the baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and roast the vegetables for about 60 minutes, stirring them halfway. The vegetables will brown, caramelize a bit, and become what is probably the most delicious stage of this soup.

4. In a blender, food processor or other pureeing device, cream together the vegetables and water into soup, probably in batches.

5. Heat on the stove, stirring gently to prevent bright orange explosions.

6. Season to taste, and serve to those who enjoy butternut squash soup. Enjoy! I hope.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Party Food - Brazilian Cheese Bread

I've been obsessing over these for over a year a year and half. I should have shared the recipe the instant they popped out of the oven, all thin toasted, crispy crust around a soft chewy, cheesy puff, hot enough to make my roommate juggle one in eager anticipation.

Last year on my boyfriend's birthday, I gathered our friends, many bottles, a magic custard cake from White on Rice Couple and a batch of these beautiful breads. True to form for a karate party, drinks were mixed and shots taken, but these stood out amongst the fuzzy memories. They are fully worth the labor, enough so that a staunchly non-cooking friend asked me for the recipe. Since then, they've been to a Christmas party, a birthday party (as the birthday cake request...!) and a baby shower.

Tomorrow, they're going to the beach! To those in the U.S., Happy Independence Day! Let's eat a lot, terrify our pets with bright lights and loud bangs and generally cause a ruckus :D

To those in every other country in the world... Happy Monday...?

Like those bottles hanging out on the top shelf of my pantry, these are always welcome to the party.

Brazilian Cheese Bread
Adapted from The Kitchn

2 cups tapioca flour (I use plain, not fermented, which is just fine)
1 cup whole milk (yes, you can use skim, evaporated + water, etc. Forgiving recipe!)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I like olive)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup shredded Parmesan/mozzarella/cheddar cheese


1. Set aside the tapioca flour in a bowl.

2. Boil the milk, oil and salt. They will bubble up alarmingly fast, so have the tapioca flour ready to go!

3. Dump in the tapioca flour and stir quickly, forming a gelatinous dough. Turn off the fire, but keep stirring until all the tapioca flour has been incorporated. I recommend a wooden cooking utensil, such as a spoon. My personal favorite is a wooden paddle with square edges, so I can scrape the inside edges of the pot.

4. Stir vigorously (I prefer a mixer at this point...) until cool. Add the eggs and keep stirring until the dough is light yellow and reasonably homogenous.

5. Add the shredded cheese and stir until all the cheese is evenly mixed in.

6. Using a scoop, spoons or your hands (dip your hands in water to reduce sticking), form balls of dough around 2 tablespoons in volume. At this point, you have a few choices.

7.A. Preheat the oven to 350F and arrange the breads on top of parchment paper on baking sheets, a couple of inches apart. Bake for 25-30 minutes, then party!!!

7.B. Alternatively, arrange the breads on top of parchment paper on baking sheets and freeze, saving them to bake later. This is also a good method of portion control...

Either way, now or later, enjoy! These are best warm, since they lose their unusual chew when they cool, resembling more typical cheese buns made with wheat flour. They do make fantastic sandwiches, though, hot or cold.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Recovery - Eggs in Baskets

For someone whose life revolves around work and karate, it shouldn't be surprising that weekends are suddenly gone, three out of five workdays involve at least an hour and a half in heavy So-Cal traffic, and sleep is almost nonexistent. Training for my career and extra training for karate drain the life out of me like forgetting to water an orchid. All this running around has me cobbling together meals from bits, pieces and leftovers, seemingly perpetually scrambling for extra calories so that I don't faint during (or after!) a bazillion two-hour class of intense karate. Luckily, I've finally found some time today, a blue moon free half-weekend, to put pan to stove and eat!

It seems fitting that my first post back from, well, the past six months, should be something a little more simple and typical of what I'm really eating these days. I had a post about candied citrus (!) almost ready to go, then it languished for 3 months. Which means, if you think about it, I've been wanting to come back and procrastinating on this for a full 3 months.


So, what did I do in the last six months? Not necessarily in chronological order:

- Graduate with my master's (shamefully "mastering out" of a PhD program, as they say)
- Find a job (!)
- Get a raise (!!)
- Start a program that will culminate in my parts inspection certification
- Spin my somewhat blue-collar job into an internship and recovery period from grad school
- Move more south in Southern California, within walking distance of said job
- Split the purchases of significant pieces of furniture for the apartment
- Make shodan (1st degree black belt!!!) in shotokan karate
- Get really, really, really physiologically drunk from a single shot (same day)
- Drive/ride (I carpool) over 1,400 miles on the way to and from karate
- Start the instructor training program in the AJKA-I organization (karate)
- Teach a 40-kid karate class by myself (with assistance from a lovely brown belt friend)
- Karate crisis! AKA why our karate dojo (school) has so few women
- Stay up until ???am in the morning talking with my friend and forever karate idol
- Recover from karate crisis (thanks to said friend and karate idol!)
- Pay first deposit toward the karate trip to Japan I'll be taking in September (!!!)
- Start taking proper care of my face (Korean skincare!)
- Learn more about skin chemistry and ingredients than I ever needed, but I love it
- Get my boyfriend into wearing sunscreen everyday (he'll be pretty forever <3)
- Help a friend write several academic papers/applications/letters
- Speak three languages at work
- Start investigating new jobs... one that actually uses my engineering degree...!

All of this means that my kitchen adventures are less ice cream cakes (story for another time...) and more simple, sustaining food like this, an Egg in a Hole. I'm told they go by many names, but as my personal history consists more of rice and scrambled eggs than fanciful fried egg dishes, I'll leave those English names to the experts... those who grew up in English-speaking countries with English-speaking parents ;)

And here we go!

Egg in a Basket
Egg-strapolated from Wikipedia

Ingredients (scale up as desired!) for 1 Egg in a Basket
1 egg
1 slice of bread
Cooking oil (I like the big olive one from Costco. Huge, reasonably priced, and tasty)
Salt (optional)
Pepper (optional)


1. With either a cookie cutter or a knife, cut a hole in the slice/s of bread. I like round holes, but if you prefer corners, then who am I to deny?

2. In a frying pan, add about a teaspoon of oil and around the same amount of butter. Fry the slice/s of bread on one side. You're going to have to flip these slices, so leave a bit of extra space.

3. Add a bit of oil or butter to the hole/s in the middle of the toast. With the toasted side up, crack an egg into the hole of each toast. Allow to cook for at least 30 seconds, or until the egg whites have set.

4. Sprinkle salt and pepper if desired. With a spatula, lift up each egg in the hole, add a touch more oil or butter, and flip the toasts. Now it gets a bit interesting: controlling whether your yolks are runny. I like them so, but my boyfriend prefers medium-cooked eggs. About 30 seconds more will get you said runny yolks, and about 1 minute will cook them about medium. The more oil/butter you add, the earlier you can get away with removing the eggs.

5. Plate and serve! Enjoy!

Postscript: Yes, of course I fried the little bread cut-outs afterward to make butter toast :)

Update: Almost done with this post, I smelled something oddly toasty. I went to the kitchen to find that while I was writing, my rice on the stove had totally burned to a pretty, speckled, black/toasted beige/silver/white pattern. Good job, Asian-American food blogger.