Month of December, 2013 – “I AM GRATEFUL” Jar

 
Time fly so fast! It comes to the end of the year 2013, and hopefully new year 2014 will open with more promises, luck, opportunities and happiness in life for everyone.
 
1. First I am thankful for being born as a girl, so that I could experience the roles of daughter and wife (Hopefully I could become a mom in a near future too)
 
2. I am grateful for getting older every year. I’ve learned a lot through mistake – it is not easy to overcome all challenges, but there are always ways to solve those problems.
 
3. I am also thankful for having a roof over my head. (I know I say this many times, but I’ve never understood as deeply as I do now – I just experienced with power outage for 4 days in the Greater of Toronto, Canada, after a massive ice storm hit us. The worst was that it happened in winter time, people had to stay in dark and cold places, in fact, some people died because of  breathing carbon monoxide poisoning. Fortunately we got power back after couples days, imagine other people have to live on street from month to month. Only 4 days without hydro power but enough for me to realized how lucky I am to have a home, family and friends)
 
4. Finally I am grateful for all different recipes out there. Some recipes are easy to follow, some are not, but I am still thank you for everyone, who post and share their recipes online for others. I’ve learned and made many dishes, desserts, as well as drinks. (Poor my family have to taste all of those foods, doesn’t matter how good or bad they are). I am proud to say that my future children will enjoy their mama’s foods just as much as I love my grandma’s and mommy’s foods.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What are you grateful for? (Write quick notes about something you are grateful for and put in a jar. At the end of the month, read each note and appreciate all the blessing in your life, either big or small)

Good luck!

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KUMQUAT JAM

Ingredients:

1 cup  kumquat

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. lemon juice

What would you do with some leftover Kumquat?How to make Kumquat Jam Kumquat Jam

Directions:

Soak and wash Kumquats with ½ teaspoon sea salt in a bowl

Cut each Kumquat in half and then take all seeds out

Blend all Kumquats in a blender until smooth

Pour back Kumquat mixture into a cooking pot. Add half cup of brown sugar, stir around and cook the mixture at medium heat (about 10 minutes)

After 10 minutes, you will see it starts bubbling up, turn the heat down to low and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Constantly stir the Kumquat mixture during cooking time to avoid burn around the edge and at the bottom

Wait for all sugar melt and blend well with Kumquats, the mixture will get thicker and a bit sticky.  At this time add 2 teaspoon of lemon into the mixture to give sour flavor into Kumquat jam (I just add lemon because I find it taste better with sweet and sour flavors, but you can skip this step if you prefer only sweet taste.)

Stir lemon juice and cook for 5 more minutes before turn heat off.

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Canning:

Rinse all jars in hot water, and dry them in an oven at 100 degree

Add Kumquat jam and seal the jars with lids, leave them cool down in room temperature

Store those yummy ready-to-eat Kumquat jam jars in a fridge when done.

Enjoy!!

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STIR-FRIED LEMONGRASS FROG LEGS

Lemongrass Frog Legs @chopstickspoon.wordpress.com

Ingredients:

Frog legs (about 10 legs)

2 tablespoon oil (I use avocado oil)

2 tablespoon minced lemongrass

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 tsp. minced chili

2 tsp. seasoning salt

2 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. pepper

Lemongrass frog legs @chopstickspoon.wordpress.com

Directions:

  1. Wash and let frog legs dry.
  2. Marinate frog legs with curry powder and pepper.
  3. Turn oven to high heat, add oil
  4. Stir fried minced garlic, lemongrass and chilli in hot oil first, until you see them slightly turn to brown
  5. Add frog legs next, use chopsticks or spatula to mix all ingredients well together. Cover lid and leave it cook for about 7- 10 minutes.
  6. Add seasoning salt, and stir frog legs couples more times before turn oven off
  7. Serve with coriander and eat with rice.

lemon-grass frog legs

Vietnam used to be French colony, so the frog leg dish was brought to Vietnam since then. The taste and texture of frog meat is about between chicken and fish, and it can be eaten as main dish in a meal. It is a very popular dish on all restaurant menus in Vietnam because frog meat taste best when eating with hot cooked rice or in hot-pot with all variety of herbs. Fortunately for me that I don’t have to catch alive frogs and prepare the dish from scratch, I just have to buy the frozen one in plastic packages at all Asian supermarkets. If you ever have chance to travel to Saigon, Vietnam – make sure to drop by Ben Thanh market where people sell the alive ones.

Have you ever tried frogs legs?  What do you think? Drop me your comments @chopstickspoon.wordpress.com

SHRIMP ON SWEET POTATO NEST

Around 80’s people were still poor in Vietnam, my parents got married and had no choice but to lived in a very small house that they shared with others. They tried to save every single Dong (VND Vietnamese currency) to born me. Even though my parents didn’t have a lot of money at that time but they always tried to raise and support me in the best ways they could. I remember I didn’t have many toys, besides one big doll with blue hair and couple sets of cooking toys to play with other neighbour kids. The interesting thing was that my mom let me played with real foods, so we children always had tasty snacks every time gathering to play together. She made all various foods such as deep-fried banana patties, rainbow jelly, sweet and sour bon-bons, caramel sugar candies, hot sugar syrup tofu, coconut sticky rice cakes wrap in banana leaves, and much more including deep-fried shrimp on sweet potatoes nest. I am even still drooling every time think or talk about my yummy childhood foods…hmm, so why not travelling back in time with me to see how they were made!

Ingredients for batter:

1 cup rice flour

2 cups all purposed flour

3 cups water, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. sugar

2 beaten eggs

 

Ingredients for other things:

Shrimps, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. minced garlic

2 large sweet potatoes, vegetable oil to deep-fried

Vietnamese dipping fish sauce

 Fried shrimp and sweet potato cakes

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients for the batter, mix well until smooth.
  2. Clean shrimps and season with pepper, salt, sugar and minced garlic
  3. Peel sweet potatoes skin, and then shred thinly. Rinse slightly under water. Put all shredded sweet potatoes into the batter mixture
  4. Pour oil into a saucepan, at high heat.
  5. Use a small size of bouillon spoon to scoop the batter, then pour gently into the hot oil. Use Chopsticks/ spoon/ tong to take a shrimp, press slightly on the top of the sweet potato mixture
  6. Deep friend for about 2-3 minutes then flip to the other side, continue frying until golden brown
  7. Serving with lettuce, herbs and dipping fish sauce
Fried Shrimp & Sweet Potatoes
Photo credit to: family.vn

OH, HOW SWEET TO RECEIVE THE “WORDPRESS FAMILY” & “INNER PEACE” AWARDS”!!

WOW! I JUST GOT MY FIRST AWARDS!

When I checked notifications, I just realized that British Blokes Cooking nominated Chopstickspoon for the WordPress Family” Award and the “Inner Peace” Award This is my very first time to receive two awards at the same time and I am so thankful to both awesome BBC1 & BBC2 for nominating me for this award! (You should see the way I jumped up and down because of joy and happiness. I admit that getting this award is like receiving one of wonderful presents on the Holidays!)

However, the best part of receiving an award in the blogging community is not the receiving itself but the opportunity to pass it to others. I love everyone’s blog – they are all unique in their own ways and absolutely deserve this award for doing great on posting yummy recipes, cool DIY ideas, personal stories/thoughts and food porn photographs.

For the ‘WordPress Family Award’ & ‘Inner Peace Award’, here are my  nominations ( in alphabetical order), please check them out and hope you like their blogs as much as I do.

Bite by Michelle

British Blokes Cooking

city julep

Delicious Daydreams

Eul Culinar

Fae’s Twist & Tango

fudgingahead

kabcphotography

Kitchen Bound

Lattes and Leggings

Making it with Danielle

Miss Spicy Hat n’ Sugar Socks

Patrons of the Pit

The Craving Project

The Hungry Artist

Victoria Bakes

We Call Him Yes!Chef!

Wordpress Family award

The rules for I’m a part of the WordPress Family Award are:

  1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and a link back.
  3. Nominate up to 15 bloggers for I’m a part of the WordPress Family Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
  4. Copy and paste the award somewhere on your blog.
Inner Peace Award

SALTED CARAMEL TOFFEE

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It starts to look like a white Christmas in Canada with snow although there are still 14 more days to go. People go crazy with shopping, decorating and making special plans for the holidays. This year I have decided to make some homemade foods such as Salted Caramel Toffee for giving away to family and friends – nothing can beat homemade comfort foods.

Salted Caramel Toffee ingredients

Caramel ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whipping cream (you can use condensed milk to cut cooking time)

1 cup granulated white sugar

2/3 cup natural Coconut sweetener (I try to keep somewhat healthy but you can use brown sugar)

1/3 cup pure honey (Corn syrup or Maple syrup is fine to use too)

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (or kosher salt)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Other ingredients: parchment paper (I have never seen anything that stick on parchment paper), square or triangle mold, spatula, an ice water bowl, and a cooking pot (in large size)

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Directions:

Over medium heat, put whipping cream, granulated white sugar, coconut sweetener and honey in the cooking pot. Stir gently and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes. During the cooking time do not stir the sugar mixture.

 

Now this is an interesting but important step – Use a teaspoon to get some caramel sugar liquid and drop into an ice water bowl.  The ice water will make the caramel sugar drops cool down quickly; feel its texture. If caramel is firm but still somewhat soft and chewy, that’s the right texture you should get (we don’t want it too hard like rock or too runny)

 

Add unsalted butter, sea salt and vanilla extract, and then stir to blend all ingredients well together. Cook for 5 more minutes, the caramel should have an amber dark brown color.

 

Turn off heat. Carefully pour on to a mold that was covered with parchment papers. Leave it cool down in room temperature (usually it takes about 3 hours).

 

When the caramel completely cool down and has a firm, smooth and soft texture, cut it into bite sizes and wrap carefully in parchment papers.

 

Store in cool place, but if you want to keep for couple months, I recommend you to store in a fridge.

 

 

It has a sweet taste with a little twist of salt, which make Salted Caramel Toffee become tastier and balance in flavors. You can win anyone’s heart who has a serious sweet tooth (Trust me! It works all the time)

Salted Caramel Toffee #chopstickspoon

If the Salted Caramel Toffee doesn’t turn out the way you want, just don’t give up. It takes me couple times to meet the right texture, and I find candy thermometer won’t help much, it may even make you more confused. It is funny that I have to go back to the basic of how to cook with caramel I had learned from my grandma. In fact, she can use chopsticks to dip in caramel liquid, tries to rub the tip of chopsticks together, and then she knows if it ready or not. However, I have to use the ice water method; I guess I am not that professional in cooking like my grandma yet.

Having yourself joyful, lovely and happy Holidays with your love ones!!

AMBARELLA SALAD

“I was born and grew up in Vietnam, a tropical country with hot weather and source of different delicious fruits including Ambarella. This salad recipe has been passed on to many generations in my family because it is a great side dish for men to eat while drinking beer, a natural medicine for women to lose some weights, and a cheap but nutritious childhood snack for all children. I remember I used to gather with my friends everyday, put all money together to buy bags of variety of fruits such as guava, papaya, pineapple, tamarind, green mango and of course couldn’t miss ambarella, then we brought to school and shared with others. It was nothing fancy, just some simple snacks, but I have never forgotten those sweet memories…  “

Ingredients:

  • 3 Ambarella fruit
  • Dry shrimps
  • Fried onion
  • Mint & Basil
  • Vietnamese dipping fish sauce

 Ambarella salad

Directions:

  • Wash and peel Ambarella’s skin, cut in thin slices
  • Add dry shrimps, fried onion, mints and basil
  • Pour 1/2 cup of Dipping fish sauce and mix well
  • Keep cool in the fridge, serve as side dish

New Eat & Drink List

I want to explore new places in the city I am living as well as other cities, towns, and countryside. Tasting new foods and drinks always give me the inspiration of cooking creation in my little kitchen, so why not?

Below will be a list of restaurants/ bars/ shops I would love to pay a visit, order, take pictures, eat and satisfy my food craving. Then I will do reviews on those places and post them on “Around the blocks” page.

Jelly Modern Doughnuts
1. Jelly Modern Doughnuts (1539 Avenue Road) – a new shop for gourmet treats with all of the doughnuts are made fresh on site.

2. Stay Cafeteria, a new Chinatown snack bar is now open at 388 Spadina Avenue.

hogtown smoke
3. Hogtown Smoke

4. Celebrity Hot Pot, is a downtown Chinese place offer different sauces and free self-served soya milk/ honey tea.

5. Gourmet Burger Co. (various locations)

Formocha
6. Formocha, a coffee and bubble tea shop at Yonge/ Eglinton neighborhood

 

Clams with Lotus Roots + Alocasia Odora, Bean Sprout, Pineapple, Tomatoes, Okra, and Basil in Vietnamese Tamarind-flavoured Broth

2 pounds of clam

4 cups water

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce (optional)

Pineapple, lotus roots, dry tamarind, chili, tomatoes, okra, Asian bean sprout, and
stem of Alocasia Odora

culantro & basil

chopstickspoon.wordpress.com

“Today I am making another Vietnamese comfort food recipe. I still follow my grandma’s recipe but add a little twist with clam and lotus roots. I find the broth taste better and sweetener.  You can eat this Vietnamese Southern-style tamarind soup with any kinds of sea foods; usually taste best with king shrimp or red Tilapia fish “

Tamarind-flavoured broth (main ingredients)

  • Soak clam, put 1/2 tsp. hot chili to get rid of smell and dirt.
  • Wash and cut all vegetables and herbs in smaller sizes that you want

 

Directions:

 

  1. Bring the water to a boil
  2. Take half cup of hot water from the pot, pour in a bowl and squeezed tamarind to get a sour brown liquid, and then pour the tamarind liquid back to the pot.
  3. Put Clams, pineapple and lotus root to make the broth sweetener and aromatic. Cook for 10 minutes
  4. Add Okra and stem of Alocasia Odora, let it cook for another 2-3 minutes before putting bean sprout in
  5. Add pepper, salt, sugar and fish sauce (optional) to your preference taste. Letstand, covered, for 10 minutes before serving. This soup is eaten with culantro and basil