Saturday, November 27, 2010

Milk Tea

I've been a big fan of Kirin brand Milk Tea but my local Japanese market quickly sells out of the stuff not matter what size it happens to be (1.5 liter or .5 liter bottles. I've been dragging my feet on making my own. But with rumors that the product was gonna be restricted for some STUPID reason by some jacka$$ who thinks they know better than I should be eating or drinking have prompted me to start experimenting. That and basic costs of a 1.5 liter when available. You see it costs about $7.00 for the 1.5 liter bottle and $2.35 for each half liter bottle. Several bottles adds up quickly.
Now Aldi has all the ingredients available pretty much all the time.
Dry Milk Powder $6.00for a 25.6 ounce box
100 Black tea bags for $1.99
4 lbs of sugar for approximately $1.99

I have made 4 batches thus far and I expect to get another 3 or so out of the box of milk powder. A batch consists of 1 gallon of milk tea that easily fills 2-1.5 liters bottles and a 20 oz bottle with about another 2-2.5 cups left to drink.

So lets add up the basic costs for just the one home made batch...
2x$6.99 + 3x2.35 = $22 or so with taxes.

The cost of my batch is approximately $5.99 + $1.99 + $1.99 = $10.50 - 11.00 for all the ingredients and about $2.75 a gallon for 4-1 gallon batches. And since 4 batches hasn't used up all of my ingredients it will probably get even cheaper as I make more batches.

So if you can live with the slightly different taste of the generic black tea, it's certainly worth making your own.

My experiments with ratios and brewing time/style are as such:

BATCH 1:hot water brewed 10 tea bags which was allowed to cool overnight without refrigeration. Added 2 cups of milk powder and 2 cups of cactus honey powder (cactus honey powder is a Japanese sweetener)
BATCH 1 Result: Very noticeable tea flavor, nice mouth feel thanks to the high amount of milk fats, noticeably sweet but not over-sweet

BATCH 2:cold water brewed 10 tea bags in fridge for 24 hours. Added 2 cups of milk powder and cactus honey.
BATCH 2 Results: almost the same as batch one but the tea flavor wasn't as strong. Felt like I could cut back on milk powder and get same results.

BATCH 3:cold water brewed 10 tea bags in fridge for 24 hours. Added 2 cups of milk powder and 2 cups of white sugar.
BATCH 3 Results:Overwhelmingly sweet. Forgot to cut back on the milk powder.

BATCH 4:cold water brewed 10 tea bags for 24-36 hours. Tea looked rather weak might need to go back to hot brewing or add more tea bags. Added 1.5 cups of milk powder and .75 cups of white sugar.
BATCH 4 Results: Haven't tried it yet will have to add results later

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup-Stew it's not a Japanese dish but this one pot meal came in to existence because of some time constraints. I started the flat cut corned beef in a large pot with plenty of water and on a low flame early in the morning. Normally, I'd pour off the water and begin with fresh. The main reason why I didn't is because there was no spice pack. So I just added the cleaned potatoes, carrots and cabbage to the pot. Now I generally find the vegetables in corned beef and cabbage to be a bit tasteless. My answer to this problem was to add a fair amount of vegetable base to the pot as well. The final ingredient to be added to my soup pot was german style egg noodles since I didn't want to have a second pot of water on my stove.
All in all, while the concoction does sound a bit weird it tastes pretty good. I'm starting to think of another way to make this soup with chunked or shreaded corned beef.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I did it!!!!!

I have been attempting on and off over the last couple of years to replicate the garlic sauteed mushrooms that can only be purchased at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Since I tend to visit the Faire every other year, at best, I've been trying to make that mushroom dish at home. I have finally come close. You see, I found a recipe on the for a mushroom and lentil stew. The flavors of this stew is, I think, very close to that mushroom dish offered at the Faire. So I tried it minus most of the non-mushroom ingredients and I feel I got close.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Resturant style pasta

This post isn't about the sauce. You can find those recipes or tips elsewhere. No, what I want to talk about is the actual pasta itself. You see, while I worked for a brief while in a corporate kitchen, I noticed that the spaghetti always seem to cook up into much plumper noodles than what I could cook at home. Well...that corporate kitchen used a steam oven in some way to cook their spaghetti.

To achieve the same affect, try this technique: Cook your pasta in the normal manner for the minimum amount of time. Drain off all the water and immediately pour your cooked pasta into a 2 gallon storage zip top bag. Add enough cool water to come close to covering and seal the bag. Let it sit for a while, try 20 -30 minutes and then drain off the steaming water. If the pasta has cooled too much for your liking, reheat it by dropping into boiling water for a few minutes or, much easier, microwave it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A great bento staple - Carrots, Hijiki and Shirataki Noodles has a great recipe for stewed hijiki seaweed and carrots supplemented with some fried tofu cake cut with a cookie cutter. I've done taken this recipe and made my own version of it.

For me, I decided to add shirataki noodles (also known as yam starch noodles)to this dish. You see while my hijiki is re-hydrating, I rinse and par-boil the noodles AND julienne my carrots using a mandolin slicer with a julienne insert. Once the seaweed is hydrated, the noodles should be drained and chopped into shorter lengths. Put the noodles, carrots and seaweed back into the same pot you parboiled the noodles in. Add fresh water and vegetable stock soup base. Or if you have if add some canned/boxed premade stuff. Personally, I prefer using a stock base as I have more control over the intensity of the flavor since it will generally be eaten cold which dulls flavors. If at all possible, I suggest using the Better than Bouillon brand of soup base as the manufacturer tends to roast the veggies which gives greater depth of flavor. That being said, add a good heaping tablespoon of base to the water in the pot with the noodles, seaweed, and carrots. Bring your pot to a boil and maintain it for approximately 30 minutes. This should be enough time for the noodles to take up the flavor of the vegetable stock. Drain off your vegetable stock and let things cool before storing it away.

I have had this bento staple last for two weeks in my fridge before going bad. I find that this dish can taste equally well cold or reheated. And you rarely need to add any extra salt to it as it draws the salt from the vegetable base.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hamburger press

If you just happen to have a hamburger press or know someone who does, borrow it and try it with the beef and potato croquettes recipe. Line the bottom tray with wax paper, parchment paper or even plastic wrap, so you can remove the finished patty without ruining it. Using a press like this will make the finished patties a consistent size and thickness. I use one when I make beef & potato croquettes. It helps to keep the cooking times consistent and minimizes burned patties.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Beef and Potato Croquettes

1/2 lb ground beef
1 lb potatoes
3 eggs
bread crumbs, unseasoned
oil for deep frying

Cook ground beef. If beef is too fatty, drain off half of the grease. Boil potatoes until soft then mash them until they are free from lumps. Mix cooked beef with the mashed potatoes. Scoop a handful of the mixture and compress into a patty. Beat the eggs with a bit of water to make a egg wash. Coat all sides of the patty with the egg wash, then into the bread crumbs. Heat the oil til hot. Deep fry the breaded patties until golden brown. Drain on paper towel.

Note: The grease is needed to help bind the potatoes together. An 80/20 blend should work best without draining off the grease. Also, you should be using regular old breadcrumbs, not panko breadcrumbs. This is because you can not get an even coating with panko. They are too flaky to coat the patty very well.

Note: 7-21-07: Used 85/15 ground beef and added all of the beef and grease to the potatoes. Potatoes were also mashed fine. I also used a hamburger press to even out the thickness of the patties. It worked out real well. However, the mixture is very soft and crumbly. So I put the patties in to the freezer until I could work with them without them falling apart. It worked but some still fell apart as I dipped them in the egg and breaded them. Perhaps next time, I’ll add a few eggs to bind the mixture better since just the beef grease alone isn’t enough.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wax Paper Sheets

You could find these single cut sheets in a supermarket or Wal-mart but I'll bet you're more likely to find them in a restaurant supply shop. They are 5 inch by 10 inch sheets that have been pre-folded and placed into a dispenser box so that they pop up like kleenex. This are great for keeping individual portions separated so that they don't stick together if you happen to stack them. These sheets also work great as an alternative to paper towel in covering your foods as they heat in the microwave. The waxy surface keeps most foods from sticking and tends to keep the steam close to the food so that it doesn’t dry out so fast.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Something different to add to your bentos

On impulse, I bought some fresh brussels sprouts the other day for dinner. I decided to cook them with some garlic, ginger and turkey bacon. The result....well, since I was trying to only dirty one pan, it wasn't the success I had hope it would be. You see I choose to steam the sprouts, which were quartered, after I had cooked the bacon to a crispy texture. The water needed to steam the sprouts softened the bacon. Oh well...guess I'll have to steam the sprouts separately before adding them to my bacon next time.

And for an FYI: I tend to pick up turkey bacon mainly for the reason that it's ALL meat and there is little grease to clean up afterwards. Feel free to use regular bacon if you want.

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Ginger and Bacon

1/2 lbs Brussel Sprouts, quartered
3-4 slices of turkey bacon, sliced in to strips
1-2 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped
1/3 inch ginger, minced fine
vegetable oil (if using turkey bacon)

Quarter and steam brussels sprouts. Slice bacon into thin strips. Add bacon, ginger and garlic to fry pan along with a bit of vegetable oil. (omit extra oil if using regular bacon). Once the bacon begins to get crispy, add the steamed brussels sprouts. Cook until bacon is done and serve.

Personally, I'm not too sure how this dish would work cold with regular bacon. I would think that the grease would make the dish unpleasant cold. Your call.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Home Made Pokky -- an update

Ok...this one should have been posted ages ago but I kinda forgot about it. So here it is now.

Well...the chocolate chips melted fairly easily using a glass jar and a pot of water. Why a jar, you ask? Well...the breadsticks are longer than 6 inches and if I used a regular bowl, I'd have more difficulty in coating the upper portions of the breadsticks. So by using a relatively tall narrow jar, I would be able to coat more of the breadstick with much less effort. It also gave the added benefit that when I finished, I could cap off the remaining chocolate and store it in the fridge until the next time.
I must admit that while the chocolate firms up upon placing it in the refrigerator, it does not stay that way when it sits out. In other words..the chocolate is not tempered or not tempered properly. I can only hope that as I repeat this experiment again and again, I learn what I need to do to achieve that state. Until then...I geuss I can enjoy the fruits of my labors even if they are not perfect. After all, who can resist a sweet, salt crunchy treat. ;D

Monday, February 22, 2010


Lately, I've been running more than a bit behind on a few things, like blogging and cooking up a variety of stuff for my lunches. It's not that I've given up on the healthier lunches but I've been cooking less Japanese foodstuffs and more from other cultures like Indian. Yeah...Curries are popular in Japan but I've been slow to try them. So that means most of my current cooking attempts have been undocumented.

I'm currently hooked on working with fresh cabbage (it's pretty cheap). I continue to make the sauteed cabbage with balsamic vinegar, garlic and cranberries on a regular basis but I tried a new recipe that said you could substitute cabbage for leeks. Well, I had bought the leeks but I forgot to read the recipe and didn't purchase enough so that's when I added the cabbage. And the rosemary (one of my favorite herbs for cooking). Big mistake. It doesn't really go together...rosemary and leek. Rosemary and cabbage might not be a good combination either. The final product wasn't completely inedible but it doesn't really work. I won't add the rosemary again when I retry this recipe.

I will admit that I made a cabbage soup this past weekend and I'm mostly happy with the result. It was very filling but slightly tasteless. I suppose I could have added a bit more salt to the pot but I hesitated to do so because the chicken base I use is salty in the high concentrations needed to really give a soup a pronounced chicken flavour. Oh wasn't like I had an actual recipe for this soup. It was one of these experimental soups that shows one if one should proceed and refine the recipe. I think I will try this one again as well.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Some Success..

Well, I made my second batch of sweet stewed beans and I'm pretty pleased with the result. This time around I only used 1 cup of beans (two cups worth went bad before I could eat them all) and switched to Lupini beans versus the white navy beans. It gave me about 3 cups worth of finished cooked beans. I initially started using these beans as a desert item in my bento lunches. I found that I really liked the more complex sweetness that the beans bring versus the processed sweets. But that's really only for lunches, I've still got a sweet tooth for the normal candy and snack cakes. So I've not made any healthy ground there.

I must admit that by making bento lunches with the oriental vegatables/foodstuffs that I'm getting better nutrition (and less preservatives) than I had been. This I think is the primary reason for me NOT getting sick this winter. Plus, I'm finding it fun to learn how to cook these exotic foods. That is really my primary goal, expanding my cooking skills, in this hobby. It does, however have a major downside to it....there are more pots and pans to wash up when I get done. That, and the constant nibbling you need to do to see if you've got the seasonings just right.

On the subject of nibbling or rather tasting, I did make the seaweed salad again using the water / sugar / vinegar combination that I noted down some posts back. It was just the right sweetness to tartness that I had been looking for. I'm thinking on trying the same dressing and pickling some cucumbers and onions with dill.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Something different

I picked up a sweet potato the other day because I had picked up fresh ginger at the same time. Yeah, I's not really a memorable combination but I figured that if ginger, onion and garlic could make regular white potatoes taste real good, it could do the same with sweet potatoes. Most recipes for sweet potatoes accent its sweetness by making them into pies and sweet breads. I did find a few recipes that suggested frying the darn things. Thus emboldened, I decided that I could slice my sweet potato and chose to fry it up with the garlic, onion and ginger. I must admit it did smell good while frying. Flavour-wise, the sweet potato medallions didn't quite soak up as much of the flavour I had hoped but I think it's worth trying again.