Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Came a Long Way

Remember I used to have strange aversion to oatmeal? Well, maybe my taste buds have matured... or my mind became more flexible... In any which way, I am very happy to admit that I now enjoy a sweet version of cooked oatmeal.

Lately, I am incorporating more soy milk into the diet because of some health benefits. OK, I draw a line, though, for adding soy milk into the coffee. (NEVER!) But it's easy to replace, either partially or entirely, the cream or milk with soy milk when you're cooking. I made soy milk white sauce, chicken dish instead of yogurt marinade, and red curry soup with soy milk with satisfying results. Then I decided to give the hot oatmeal a try, hoping I outgrew the fear I had.

I prefer the soy milk unsweetened so I can control the degree of sweetness, which in this case, comes from a ripe banana. Mash the banana, combine with soy milk, and if there's an apple or pear lying around, by all means add to the mix. Add oatmeal and cook it until it's piping hot. Well, the rest is all free style: sprinkle cinnamon, ginger powder, sea salt, drizzle the honey, maple syrup, top with dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, or pepitas... For the extra oomph, I sometimes add peanut butter into the mixture before the cooking process.

Since the weather turned cold, there are much discussions among the food sites on the best take-out oatmeal breakfast around town. Although some looks really tempting, there is really no need. I mix everything, except for the topping, in the morning and carry it to the work uncooked. By the time it reaches the microwave, oatmeal has nicely absorbed the liquid and ready to go.

Ku Cake

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Seriously Chocolate

February seems to be the last chance for baking something so dark and deep. That only means chocolate, folks! I don't think it's a coincidence that someone decides chocolate is the official currency of Valentine's Day. Well even without it, I wanted to try something new, a little more complex, and definitely more decadent, chocolate dessert.

Gâteau au chocolat came to my mind.

Usually I resort to more simple recipe in which one ingredient is added to another until the batter goes into the oven: too lazy to separate the egg yolks and whites, not to mention whipping it! So until now, there was no angel cake or soufflé or anything requires a meringue. Well, it's time to conquer the fear of vigorous whisking.

I was afraid of facing a lengthy recipe, but it turns out rather simple: dark chocolate (using 70% cacao), heavy cream, butter, sugar, eggs, cake flour and cocoa powder. We don't need any exotic ingredient. The resulting cake is surprisingly airy in texture. But that is rather deceiving; the piece I took (and it wasn't that big!) was so rich, it is almost qualifies for a small meal.

Ku Cake

Friday, February 4, 2011

Setsubun - 節分

Well, I still don't know exactly how this prediction business works - it only means that particular morning is either sunny or cloudy, doesn't it? - but I simply take the Groundhog Day as another step toward the spring approaching. The day also reminds me to buy some dried soy beans.

The day of Setsu-bun usually falls around this time. This year it was yesterday, the 3rd day of February. I opened the front door, grabbed some beans and threw them outside: "Oni-wa-soto!" Grabbed more beans and this time, threw them inside over my shoulder: "Fuku-wa-uchi!" There are a few rituals I am meaning to keep doing it, no matter where I am, and this is one of them.

Inside, Jumpy is delighted to dig up and play with the beans all over the floor. Outside, hungry birds flatter to peck on the beans scattered around the icy pathway and snow covered yard. Another sure sign that says: "Just hold on, the spring is coming!" (Apparently, in less than 6 weeks!)

Ku Cake