’tis the season for ginger!

Mike is here for a guest post on making candied ginger and ginger ale :D

Finished candied ginger

 

Hi all! For Christmas this year, one of my goals was to be less commercial in my gift giving. A few years ago, Trish gave me some dried fruit, almond butter and my favourite tea. An awesome gift for sure — especially considering the dried fruit was dried kiwi — but it got me thinking about how gift gifting must have been like 100 years ago. Needless to say, I’m not a very crafty individual, at least when it comes to yarn, so I was very excited when I stumbled upon instructions for making candied ginger.

Equally exciting is just how easy it is. Are you ready for this? To make candied ginger at home all you need is:

  • Sugar
  • Ginger
  • Water

That’s it! Unless you want to make your own homemade ginger ale, in which case you’ll need some club soda — but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The first step is to peel the ginger (the tutorial recommends using a spoon) and then cut it really thin. Slicing it thin is crucial. If you cut it too thick, it’ll be quite spicy/peppery and take much longer to dry.

Cutting the ginger  

Secondly we mix the simple syrup. It’s equal parts sugar and water. Simple eh? We used about a cup and a half of each, but we were making a few batches and ended up reusing the syrup a few times.

Bring the sugar-water mixture to a boil and then simmer the ginger for 30 minutes or until tender.

After the ginger is finished cooking, strain off any remaining syrup and move to a wire mesh or cooling rack. Basically the ginger needs to be well ventilated so it can fully dry.

 

Drying ginger

Here’s the ginger looking all syrupy and waiting to dry.

A large batch of ginger drying

The anticipation!

Once the ginger is all nice and dry — about seven or eight hours should do — shake it in a large bowl with some white sugar until it’s completely coated. I used half table sugar and half icing sugar, which gave it a nice texture!

After making a few batches, we saved the ginger flavoured syrup to use in tea and to make our own mock ginger ale. The ginger ale was good, a little spicy, but not bad.

Ginger syrup 

Festive drinks!

I hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start. Cheers!

holiday deliciousness

Was making wonton for a get together the other night. After all the meat filling was used up there were five wrappers left. I remembered reading somewhere once upon a time about this wonton wrapper crisps and have always wanted to try making it, so I did :D

 

They were delicious :D The wrappers were brushed on both sides with melted margarine, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and baked on a baking sheet at 300°F until it’s golden brown… can’t tell how long it took because I was busy making noodles while it baked… I just checked periodically.

And then a very thoughtful friend brought homemade egg tart! :D One of my absolute favourites!

 

Have a sweet Thursday! 

 

beet love

 

 

It was Mike’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to bake him a cake. After seeing the beet cake video by Tiger in a Jar I thought, why not? I’ll make a beet cake! :D

And after reading this post about tie-dyeing with stuff in the kitchen, there was no way I was going to just pour all that beet water down the drain — I’ll dye stuff with it, while I bake the cake! :D

So we got the largest bunch of beets in the grocery store (they were sold by the bunch, not by weight).

 

They had beautifully ruffled leaves with red veins.

 

I cut and boiled the beets in a large pot. Even threw in the stems, because they looked really red.

 

I boiled the beets for a long time — probably too long — so I could get as much colour out as possible. But that was probably why the cake in the end didn’t taste much like beets :P After taking the beets out I threw in a tied white cotton shirt and went on with the baking.

 

It called for baking chocolate but I forgot to buy it. But we had chocolate coins! :D So I used those instead.

 

The cake batter was SO pink!

 

While the cake was baking, I took out the shirt and let it dry on the clothing rack. I was pretty happy with the shade of pink. I also added a bit of cotton yarn to the dye bath half way through.

 

Ta-da! The cake was done! :D

 

Happy birthday, Mike! :D He liked the cake. I think it tasted good, kind of like carrot cake. Just a bit disappointed that it wasn’t pink inside, and the bits of beets had turned into a shade close to that of raisins.

 

The recipe yielded quite a large cake. It stood pretty tall in a 9″ round pan. I probably could have made a smaller round cake and a loaf. We brought half to church the next day, and spent the next two evenings eating beet cake for dessert. It was good though!

The yarn turned out with beautiful shades of pink after it dried.

 

And with it I crocheted a free-form heart.

 

The shirt, though, faded a lot as it dried. So I dyed it again (I saved the beet water in the fridge after the initial dyeing, just in case I find other things to dye in the next couple of days), added vinegar to it this time (because I read somewhere that it helps to fix the colour in the fabric) so the whole shirt smelled like pickled beets. The colour was more intense the second time. And I ironed it as it was drying (because I read somewhere that it also helps to set the colour). And then I put it in the wash because I couldn’t possibly wear a shirt that smelled like pickled beets. And when it came out, all the colours had faded to a yellowed old shirt colour :(

 

There’s no way I’m going to rinse the dyed yarn then. And the yarn doesn’t smell as much like pickled beets.

Well, I was hoping to dye fabric without special dye agents or fixatives but it looks like the colour wouldn’t stay otherwise. Or perhaps I didn’t do it right… anyway, it was a fun experiment and I can always use the shirt for some other dyeing experiments ;)

Have a great start to the week, everyone!

milk tea chez mudpie

Once in a while we buy condensed milk for tea. So instead of using sugar and milk, we add two heaping spoonfuls of condensed milk into our tea. It’s absolutely creamy and delicious.

It’s far too warm for hot tea in the afternoon these days, so I thought I’d try making some cold Hong Kong style milk tea that one could get at Chinese bakery/coffee shop/diners.

My process was pretty intuitive (read: totally eye-balling and guesstimating), but it tasted almost as good as what I remember from the Chinese diners! (but then I’m not very picky when it comes to taste… it should be good though, because condensed milk makes everything better :D)

I needed some really strong tea, because I would add ice cubes to it later (I learned this from my barista days :D). So I tossed an orange pekoe teabag into a mug and filled it 2/3 of the way full with hot water.

 

While letting that steep, I poured  about 3 tablespoons of condensed milk into a large mixing mug. (Please excuse the toast crumbs in the condensed milk — we also put it on toast)

 

After the tea has been steeping for 5 minutes, I poured it into the condensed milk and gave it a vigorous stirring.

 

Then I poured it over ice — TA DA! Cold milk tea! That was quick, wasn’t it?

 

I poured it into empty jelly jars because it made a cool photo. I had some leftover after filling one jar. It probably makes one large glass of cold milk tea.

I like my tea really sweet, but this is easily adjustable — one could add more ice if one finds the tea too sweet, or add more condensed milk if one finds it not sweet enough.

Cheers! :D

sakura treats

 

Tried the coconut ice recipe I wrote about last week! They’re not like sakura mochi, but I made them pink and white because it is indeed cherry blossom season :D

The recipe calls for desiccated coconut. I didn’t think I would find any in the grocery store and was just going to use the shredded coconut we always see in the baking aisle. But we went to a Chinese grocery store last week and there is was! Desiccated coconut, made by WD Happy Boy.

 

And in the next aisle we found some Lucky Stars condensed milk.

 

Now that we feel both happy and lucky, it is time to get to work! I neglected to take photos of the process, but there was not much to it anyway. Just a lot of stirring, stirring, and s‑s-stir-r-ring. Condensed milk is really thick and with the huge pile of powdered coconut and sugar, the mixture became really thick and a bit difficult to maneuver.

The recipe is supposed to make over 1 kilo of coconut ice. I like coconut, but that’s a bit much, I think. (Great for a bake sale though! Must keep that in mind when Christmas season rolls around.) Plus, I didn’t have enough icing sugar, so I just eye-balled maybe half a bag of coconut and 2/3 can of condensed milk. It made about 3 dozens 1“x1“x1.5″ bars, like these…

And in the morning I had enough condense milk left to make milk toast — delicious! :D Brings back fond childhood memories too.

 

I’m praying for good weather this Saturday, so we can finally visit the cherry blossoms at High Park! If rain is not in the forecast it might be good to bring some of the coconut ice with us for a mini picnic!

It was a beautiful day in our neighbourhood today — hope you’ve enjoyed some lovely sunshine too!

jolly good times!

Because Typhoo tea was on sale right when we ran out of tea bags. (By the way, did you know that “ty-phoo” came from the Chinese word for doctor? I didn’t!)

Because there were only sugar cubes left in the corner store on Easter Sunday, when we ran out of sugar.

Because it’s rained nearly everyday here in our neighbourhood, it’s almost like we’re living on the British Isle.

So we decided to go the extra mile on the subway and buy some proper tea ware from the thrift store, so we can have some proper tea this weekend and join in the Royal Wedding fun. The dainty tea cups and saucers cost approximately £2.85 (or exactly $4.50 CAD), and we’ll be all ready if the queen ever comes over for tea. (Or the prince and the new princess! Aren’t they coming to Canada in July?)

We even made cucumber sandwiches! We made the most simple, traditional kind according to this trusty source. So, basically thinly sliced cucumber, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and sandwiched between two pieces of bread. The white bread was sold out at the grocery store, but that’s OK, WW bread is better for us anyway :)

We only made the cucumber sandwiches for fun. I wouldn’t really want to eat a whole one, because it’s kind of bland. But if one is adventurous one could try fancier versions of the cucumber sandwich. Like this curried version, or these with mint and cream cheese. These open face ones on rye look pretty appealing too!

Mike even hung up his British flag for the occasion (and found out that our door frames are made of metal! More surfaces to hang stuff with magnets! :D).

He also bought some crumpets for breakfast, because he’s a big fan of crumpets.

I don’t care much for crumpets, because I find them kind of bland (there seems to be a trend here… is it just me, or is English food generally bland?). So one morning I decided to try them with butter and syrup, because the back of them kind of look like pancakes…

… but they’re no pancakes. The syrup didn’t change the flavour much. Oh well. What are crumpets supposed to be eaten with anyway?

But all in all we had a jolly good time drinking tea, eating crumpets, and talking like characters in Wallace and Gromit :D

Lots of people I talked to were kind of annoyed by all the exaggerated excitement and fascination around the royal wedding. And having planned my own wedding and enjoyed the complete absence of expectation from both of our families (they’re the best!), I kind of wished that everyone would just leave the couple alone so they can have a private time of celebration. Well, I can only wish. But I think any wedding of two people who are deeply in love with one another is a happy occasion worth celebrating. So the royal wedding just gave us a reason to do something fun and British (or what we think is British).

But no, we didn’t stay up to watch it. But from the photos I saw afterward I think the prince and princess were genuinely happy, and for them I am happy.

And I think it’s always good to find things to be happy about. Like yesterday, I saw that the magnolia bush we walk by every week is finally blooming.

 

They’re almost white this year. I remember that last year they were more pink. But look how graceful the soft petals are, unfolding.

 

That made my day. I hope this week will bring you many things that fill your heart with joy.

Cheerio!

green with deliciousness — round two!

My mom requested some green tea leaf cookies for the weekend, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try a different recipe, because last time the tea leaves turned out a bit too puffy. So this time I used Martha’s green tea shortbread recipe, and they looked fabulous! :D Kept their shape throughout the baking.

The cookies are very, very buttery (so delicious…), but it also makes the dough a bit difficult to handle. But the leaf-shapes turned out alright. I used regular salted butter because I had some left over from baking last time, but next time I will buy unsalted butter, because I think the saltiness of the butter kind of took away from the subtle green tea flavour, and if the cookies weren’t green one may not even know that they were green tea cookies. But they were still quite delicious.

And then we celebrated several birthdays over the weekend — my dad’s and my parents-in-law’s :D I found this recipe that makes a double-layer cake, so I made 2 cakes out of it, one in a loaf pan and one in a round pan. The batter was so green! And I thought it makes a nice photo as the yogurt was being mixed in…

The green tea flavour is easier to detect in the cake than in the cookies. I was rather happy with it.

Hope your weekend is fabulous!

green with deliciousness

A friend gave me some matcha powder earlier this week, so I decided to test them out today. We started the day with some green tea latte. I’ve never made one at home before, but my first attempt tasted pretty good.

2 tsp matcha + 2 tsp sugar + fill mug half way with hot water and stir
Fill mug with milk and microwave for 1 min and, voilà! Green tea latte.

 

And then I baked some green tea cookies. I followed this recipe because it seemed straightforward. Look! So green!

I decided to make them leaf-shape after I saw Martha’s green tea shortbread. I don’t have a leaf-shape cookie cutter, so I cut them out with the back of a butter knife, and each leaf is different, which I like very much.

The veins were also made using the back of a butter knife.

They turned out a bit puffier than I wanted — I was thinking about the bunny cookies I made and how they didn’t expand at all, so I didn’t expect these ones to expand or rise, since it’s pretty much a sugar cookie recipe. But I didn’t pay attention to the fact that this recipe has both baking powder and baking soda, plus eggs, so I guess it’s supposed to rise. Hmm. Perhaps next time I’ll just follow the plain sugar cookie recipe and add a couple of tablespoons of matcha.

But I’m still rather pleased with my tea leaf cookies. There’s a very subtle green tea flavour, and the cookies are light and flaky.

And to top it off we watched The Secret of Kells tonight, with the richest, most glorious emerald green, and each scene an exquisite watercolour with layers and layers of vibrant colours and brush marks. Very inspiring film, I must say. I highly recommend it.

 

Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!

for the goat!

The kids and parents at church were organizing a bake sale on Sunday, and I said I would bring some baked goods. They were going to use the money they raise to buy a goat or chickens from the World Vision Gift Catalogue.

I’m never very good at baking. The only Christmas baking I do is making dough ornaments. So I had no idea what to make. But then I remembered my new bunny and bird cookie cutters from Hong Kong. I bought them because I thought they’d make good ornaments. And they came in a nifty little box, in three different sizes.

And so I thought maybe I can test out my new cookie cutters and actually use them to make some sugar cookies.

I used this recipe from Canadian Living, and the medium bunny cookie cutter.

It was a pretty good recipe, I think, but I must have done something wrong somewhere in the process because the dough started crumbling. So I had to roll them out in small batches. But it all worked out in the end :D

Fresh baked bunnies! :D

Toward the end the dough was really crumbling and some of the last cookies looked rather wrinkly and cracked after being baked, so we ate those ourselves, with some hot cocoa and marshmallows :D

I think the bunny cookies were well received (especially by the kids) at the bake sale. I’m glad they help to raise money for the goat and chickens. One of the best wedding gifts we got was a goat from the gift catalogue and the bake sale was such a brilliant idea. Everything was gone pretty quickly. It was rather difficult to get through the wall of people in front of the bake sale tables to buy things, but Mike and I managed to get our hands on some banana muffins and mint chocolate chip cookies before they were gone :D

Have a happy Tuesday!

I yam what I yam

I prefer calling sweet potatoes yam :)

Anyway, attempting to make yam sweet soup for a late night snack. It’s a Chinese dessert made with yam, rock sugar and ginger. I had a general idea about how to make it but wanted to know how much sugar to use. I found a Chinese recipe that was pretty straightforward, but it just said “some rock sugar” in the ingredient list.

It reminds me of my grandmother, when we asked her for the recipe of her famous “tea fruit” (a Hakka snack in the form of rice flour patties) and how much rice flour she used, she said, “oh, just a small bowl.”

I later found an English version of the yam sweet soup recipe in case anyone’s interested :D

My yam sweet soup turned out a tad too sweet. I didn’t have rock sugar, so I just poured in a bunch of brown sugar. I would also like to put in more ginger next time. But it was a good late night snack :D

Happy Sunday!