Oct 31, 2011

Halloween Fingers from Fat Monsters

Am I too late for Halloween?

I finally managed to chop down some fat monsters' fingers just couple days before Halloween. Overwhelmed with endless chores, maybe this post was a little bit too late for such a greenish festival. But even though Halloween might just pass few hours ago, our spooky spirits remain right!?

Ingredients (for about 15 fat fingers or 20 skinnier fingers)?

1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of almond butter
1 egg
15 or more almond halves
Few drops of vanilla extract
Small pinch of sea salt
Some Japanese matcha powder


Beat the egg and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

In another container, mix together room temperature butter, almond butter, sugar, and salt. Once fully combined, add in the egg mixture and blend till smooth in texture.

Gradually add in the flour while mixing in slow speed,
Mix till no white flour bits present, divide the dough in half.

Wrap 1/2 of the dough with foil,
As for the other half, keep blending while adding matcha powder a tiny bit at a time till it reaches desired yucky green color,
When the dough is ready, wrap with foil.

Transfer the dough to the fridge to chill for about 15 to 20 minutes,
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line the parchment paper on a baking sheet.

I also halved the almonds while waiting for the dough and the oven,
This is my dummy way to halve the almonds -

Push the almond in between the fork to position it tightly,
Aim the center with a sharp knife and carefully cut the almond in half.

Take the dough out and start our art lesson,
Just like playing with clay when you're a little kid, simply grad some dough and roll out some fingers! I tried to make some big deformed Frankenstein-like knuckles but yeah..not very successful..

Score the dough with fork that resembles the wrinkles on our fingers,
Gently push down each almond halves on finger tips to make ugly nails.

It was my first time making Halloween fingers so I got a little bit too greedy, turned out I got fat fingers.

If you want regular size fingers, remember to make skinny logs while forming the dough.

Into the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes,
If you prefer a softer bite, 10 minutes should be enough.

Despite their creepy looks, the almond and matcha flavor actually taste pretty good. In fact, I'm glad I got fat fingers because it means more bites in one cookie!

Cindy's Rating: 7

Oct 27, 2011

Simple Pecorino Pasta

Pecorino is a type of cheese with a taste similar to Parmesan,
The main difference is that pecorino comes from ewe's (sheep) milk and Parmesan comes from cow's milk. Personally speaking, I think pecorino has a slightly stronger and more so saltier taste compared to Parmesan.

Here's a very simple paste dish made with pecorino cheese. In fact, there's a traditional Italian recipe called "cacio e pepe" with pecorino, black pepper, and butter as main ingredients. But today we gonna skip all that steps and just focus on the creamy stuff. Let's save cacio e pepe for the next round!

Simple pecorino pasta -

Ingredients (for two)?

1 1/2 to 2 cups of grated pecorino
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 small bundle of flat leaf parsley
Some sea salt
Some pasta water


First and also the hardest part, grate the cheese, which requires strenuous muscle work -

Bring a big pot of water to a boil,
Add in some salt to the water, and cook the spaghetti according to package instruction, or till al dente.
Once ready, remove from water and set aside,
Remember to save the pasta water in case you need to dilute the sauce later.

Pour the whipping cream to a big pan, sprinkle just a little bit of salt since the cheese will provide most of the savory flavor later on.
Turn to medium high heat to warm up the whipping cream, for about couple minutes.

Add the already cooked pasta into the pot,
Pour in 4/5 of the grated cheese,
Mix well till all the cheese oozes in the spaghetti,
If the whole mixture appears too dry, scoop in pasta water a little bit at a time and stir well,
Sprinkle the remaining cheese and fresh parsley before serving to brighten up the flavor.

Quite simple right?
Try to finish this in one meal, otherwise reheat it with a pan instead of microwave,
You might have to add a little bit more hot water or milk when heating up the pasta.

Cindy's Rating: 8 (simple dish rules!)

Oct 20, 2011

Spicy Garlic Chives and Ground Pork Stir Fry - 辣炒韮菜豬絞肉

Saw these beautiful garlic chives during one of my recent visit to the local market -

Garlic chives is a common vegetable in Asia,
Usually you'll find it as one of the stuffing ingredients used in all kind of dumplings and buns,
Another popular way to cook garlic chives is by stir frying them with heavy seasonings, and that's how I like it.

Spicy Garlic Chives and Ground Pork Stir Fry -


1 bundle of garlic chives
4 garlic cloves
2 red chili peppers
1 pound of ground pork
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of black bean soy sauce
2 teaspoons of Sichuan spicy peppercorn sauce (or other types of chili sauce)
Some olive oil
Some sea salt
Some freshly ground black pepper


Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves,
Remove the stems from the chilies and finely chop them,
Remove the very bottom part of the garlic chives and the flower top if necessary, sometimes they might get a wee bit chewy.

Have a big pan ready,
Drizzle some olive oil untill evenly coat the bottom of the pan, turn to high heat,
Toss in chopped chilies, garlic, some salt and pepper; cook till the aroma comes out.

Right before the garlic is about to burn, add the ground pork,
Give it a quick stir, about 2 minutes, then add in all the remaining seasonings,
Mix well and cook till the liquid has been reduced by half,
Toss is chopped garlic chives,
Mix well again and cook till all the juice has been fully absorbed by the ingredients, about few more minutes,
You can taste the mixture to see if more soy sauce or chili oil is needed.

Sprinkle some more freshly ground black pepper and garnish with one garlic chive flower before serving.

*Perfect with rice or as noodle base.

Cindy's Rating: 8

Oct 12, 2011

Beef Stew Vietnamese Style

One night at a regular potluck gathering, my friend had a pot of fork tender beef stew sitting on the table. In my memory, that very first bite basically knocked me out with a big punch of exotic flavors. It was so good!

My friend was very kind to share his secret - Vietnamese beef stew seasoning from local Asian grocery store. Soon enough, I got a few packs of my own -

I think it doesn't have to be the  exact same brand. All other generic Vietnamese beef stew mix should work almost the same.

Ingredients (for a big pot)?

1/2 to 2/3 pack of Vietnamese stew beef spices
1.5 lbs of beef brisket
2 carrots
1/2 large onion
8 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons of ketchup'
2 teaspoons of granulated sugar
Some unsalted chicken stock or beef stock
Some corn starch
Some olive oil
Some sea salt
Some freshly ground black pepper


Since it was my first time using the seasoning pack, I carefully followed the instruction behind the package with a little twist of mine. Let's see how my first Vietnamese style beef stew was made.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and toss in cubed brisket,
Cook till the dirty brown bits start to float to the surface, turn off the heat, drain well, and set the beef aside.

Grab another big pot or skillet, toss in peeled garlic cloves and chopped onion,
Sprinkle some salt and pepper,
Cook till the garlic turns slightly brown but not burned,
Add in ketchup and seasoning mix, stir well and cook till the aroma comes out.

A well shielded deep pot is highly recommended since some burning bits might start flying out once you pour in the ketchup. Trust me, there is still a small burned red spot under my right eye and it's been almost 3 weeks!!
Maybe next time I should cook Captain America style with spatula on one hand and shield on the other.

After dodging the flying seasoning bits, carefully mix in beef cubes and cook for about 2 minutes. Add in peeled and cubed carrots, combine well and cook for another 5 minutes or so.

Gradually pour in luck warm chicken or beef stock till all the ingredients are submerge under the liquid,
Bring to a boil and turn to medium low heat tokeep it simmering,
Season with some granulated sugar.
Instruction calls for some msg, but I don't use msg in my cooking so didn't even bother,

At first I couldn't wait and tasted it after simmering for one hour only,
Man...the meat was tough as a rubber band.
Luckily, after 3 more hours of cooking, the beef cubes have transformed into another fork tender goodies. You'll know its ready when all the liquid has been reduced by at least half.

Once ready to serve, mix some corn starch with water.
Gently pour in the mixture while stirring the beef stew at the same time,
This will yield a thick and gooey gravy, otherwise you can try to start with even more stock in the beginning and prepare it beef soup style!

You can serve it over rice, noodles, or even pasta,
I believe almost any kind of stew dish tastes even better overnight.
Here's how I enjoy it the next day:

Cook some Asian noodles -

Drain well and mix in with the beef stew plus one teaspoon of Sichuan chili paste -

Next time I'll try eating it with rice and a sunny side up egg, make it an even heartier dish!

Cindy's Rating: 7

Oct 5, 2011

Who Would Have Expected Great Tacos Near Zion National Park!?

I'm usually the food planner - meaning finding a place to eat - when it comes to traveling. Maybe partly due to my knowledge of food; partly due to my restaurant searching capability, but I bet a big chunk of the reasoning is because how picky I am when it comes to food. Hey! You don't wanna ruin your traveling experience by walking into a crappy restaurant right?

After serious of cross referencing and diner review validation, we've decided to eat at small Mexican joint called Whiptail Grill after one whole day of exploring Utah's Zion National Park -

It's not exactly hole in the wall place, but definitely not a pretty restaurant around the neighborhood. On top of that, the service can be quite slow sometime since there might only be two servers running around the place. But it's ok, we're here to relax and to take in that beautiful sunset shining on the rocks while gulping down a cold beer in our hand -

Let's see what's on the menu tonight -

Calamari friti $11.99 -

"Strips of calamari steaks flash fried, served with a roasted plum tomato and herbed sauce, and basil pesto aioli."

It's a little bit different than the regular fried calamari. There were bits of Italian seasoning mixed in the coating, which makes the fried calamari very aromatic. Together with garlicky basil pesto aioli sauce, that's divine.

Chipotle chicken enchiladas $15.99 -

"Spicy chipotle marinated chicken, onions, green chilies, smothered in roasted tomatillo green salsa, topped with cheese and salsa fresca."

Enchilada is my Mexican comfort food. It's good, but not as good as the tacos I'm gonna tell you about.

Grilled prawn tacos $15.99 -

"Seasoned and char grilled prawns atop cabbage and spicy salsa fresca."

Sooooooo good!
Let me tell you, I'm not the biggest fan of tacos and burritos, so when being asked to try one bite, my expectation was not very high up there. But man...that one bite might change my view of tacos forever. All the bright flavors were like a big punch in my mouth. Who would have thought there's a great Mexican joint next to a national park?

My recommendation is if you're not in a hurry to get yourself filled with food, please come to Whiptail Grill for dinner. Just sit there, relax, and enjoy the sunset while the Mexican chef preparing your dish in a tiny kitchen behind the counter. It's totally worth it.

*Taco is a must
*Go before sunset
*Get a table outside to enjoy the view and the beauty of this little town

Whiptail Grill
445 Zion Park Blvd
Springdale, UT 84779
(435) 772-0283

Cindy's Rating: 8