Strawberry Lemon Verbena Chia Seed Jam

Adapted from Marisa of Uproot Kitchen.

I started making morning oats earlier this year after watching a video tutorial by the Sweet Potato Chronicles for easy breakfast recipes on Skillshare. It is an extremely easy, time-saving way of getting yourself to eat a full-hearty breakfast every morning. But after about a month of consistently making this oats, I got tired of eating it every day. Yes, I know it is good for myself, but I need some flavors in my life!

So, as I was flipping through Instagram, I saw that Marisa from Uproot Kitchen had posted a recipe for Chia Seed Jam (I definitely recommend you to check her blog out if you also are a food and gardening enthusiast). This was a totally new concept to me. But a jam that is ready within half an hour without all the water bathing and processing? I’m sold! I made her blueberry jam recipe and it turned out very well. It’s simple and delicious!

As you already know though, I get bored of the same thing easily. So, I immediately started thinking of ways to reinvigorate this jam. I rummaged through our refrigerator to see what fruits I had and found a box of strawberries. But just strawberries sound boring. I know I had wanted to try a lemon verbena infusion because I had a big unused pot of it growing in my backyard with plenty of sprigs. So, I decided to try the infusion in this jam. End result? It was good. It was very reminiscent of a strawberry lemonade taste with the citrus taste from the leaves but without the acidity. Try this out or try it with different ingredients with your own twist!

1 pint of strawberries
1-2 sprigs of lemon verbena
2 tbsp of maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp of chia seeds
Slice and chop the strawberries into small chunks.
Place the strawberries and maple syrup into a pot and heat over medium-low heat. Keep an eye on the strawberries and stir to prevent it from burning.
As the strawberries begins to soften, tear the lemon verbena leaves a bit to release its flavor and add to the pot.
Stir until the strawberries has broken down into syrup like (about 5 minutes). Break down chunks with your spoon.
Remove and discard the lemon verbena leaves. Add the chia seeds and stir until thickens to jam-like consistency.
Remove from heat and refrigerate overnight. Eat within a week.




Simple Tomato Sauce (Sugo di pomodoro)

Adapted from Florentine: The true cuisine of Florence by Emiko Davies

Back in May, Dono and I traveled to Florence and we took a cooking class where we made a 3 course meal, one of them including a simple tomato sauce over tagliatelle pasta. Incredibly, it was one of our best meal in Europe! Unfortunately, the recipe booklet they gave us did not exactly match the sauce we made, so I have been unsuccessfully trying to recreate that sauce.

I was craving a good, simple tomato sauce to go with my pasta. While shopping around the Market Hall in Rockridge, Oakland, I noticed a book that was titled “Florentine” by Emiko Davies while waiting for my cut-prosciutto order. Flipping through it, I found a simple recipe for tomato sauce! Did it taste good? I had to buy the book to try it out. When I finally cooked it, it tasted great! Highly recommend you to check out her book!

However, there were some tweaks that I had made to the recipe to better suit Dono’s taste. We both are a huge fan of flavors, especially garlic. So I added 4 times the amount. I also added half of a shallot to add a more fragrant onion flavor. As for the tomatoes, I always tried to use fresh tomatoes as we always have plenty growing the in garden during the summer. However, I noticed that Emiko uses canned tomatoes. For one, it really cuts down the cooking time because you’re cutting down time for the sauce to reduce and thicken. So, I decided to follow suit with a 28 oz canned whole-peeled tomatoes. Why whole? I like to control the texture of my sauce with my immersion blender. For tomato soup, I like to have it runny smooth while for tomato sauce, I like it a bit more pulpy. Also, in the interest of washing fewer dishes, I  did everything in one pot.

This sauce is one that tastes a whole lot better the morning after. And it freezes well, so make a big batch for a time-saving meal. Slap it on some pasta or do what I did and buy cheese tortellini from Costco and slap this sauce onto there for a quick meal. It’s good with almost anything!

1 onion, diced
1/2 shallot, diced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 clove of garlic, minced
10 basil leaves
28 oz canned whole-peeled tomatoes
28 oz water (yes, use the same can to measure!)
Salt and Pepper
Heat heavy pot with oil over medium heat. Add the onion and shallot into the pot and saute until softened (about 10 mins). Okay to put onion and shallot into pot before oil warms. Add a small pinch of salt.
While the onions are cooking, take an immersion blender and blend the tomatoes to the consistency of your liking, either pulpy or runny smooth. Set aside.
As the onion softens, add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more until the garlic becomes fragrant (do not let it brown/burn). Add the basil and stir for about 30 seconds until you can smell the basil aroma.
Pour the tomatoes and the water into a pot with a pinch of salt (be sure to taste) and heat mixture over medium-high heat until it begins to simmer.
Once the sauce begins to simmer, turn it down to a low simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour until it has thickened to your preferred consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.



3 Ingredient Japanese Cheesecake by DeliciousMartha

Commentary on original post from Delicious Martha blog. Follow her for other great recipes and videos.

My mom has been bugging me to teach her how to make a Japanese cheesecake. But the problem is, I have never made one. So, when Delicious Martha suddenly posted a video tutorial titled “Cheesecake con tres ingredientes, la moda Japonais”, I was so happy! I love Delicious Martha blog not only for her food porn photography, but also for her lovely video recipe tutorials. All of her recipes on her blog are posted in Spanish, but her videos are great in demonstrating each step of the recipe that you wouldn’t even need to know Spanish in order to follow through (albeit, the ingredients are in English on the videos)!

This cheesecake is a Japanese-style cheesecake in which it is airy, soft and fluffy compared to the traditional American cheesecake. It is also not as rich which I think well-suits Asian taste buds and why my mom prefers eating this over the typical cheesecakes. This recipe is super simple in terms of ingredients. Only the white chocolate took me by surprise as I would’ve never thought of using it as one of the basis of the cheesecake. It adds a bit of a silky richness to the cake overall.

What I most like about this recipe is that even though it is simple, it places a lot of emphasis on techniques. What do I mean about that? I’m talking about the process of whipping egg yolks and egg whites separately and the melting of the chocolate.

For the egg whites, you really need to whip it until it is fluffy white and doubles in amount in order for your cheesecake to turn out with the same results. As for the chocolate, in the video, Marta melts the chocolate in the microwave in small intervals to prevent burning. However, my impatient self did not want to stand by the microwave, pressing 5-10 sec intervals and hoping the chocolate doesn’t burn. So I whipped out a pot of water and a bowl and created a double boiler (or “bain-marie” in French) to melt this chocolate. I find this technique easier and safer. The only caveat is that you just have to make sure you do not get any of the steam water to seep into the chocolate or else it’s ruined, but that’s very easily preventable with a wide high edged bowl!

Bain-Marie chocolate melt

If you do not have a mixer, this recipe is totally doable by hand! Trust me! You will just need to add extra elbow grease into it. When Dono and I took a cooking class in Florence, we made tiramisu by hand because that was our chef’s preferred method. Just imagine how much whipping went into that! All you need is a good sturdy balloon whisk and a tall mixing bowl and you’re good to go! I bought my whisk from the East Bay Restaurant Supply Store in Oakland, so I highly recommend you checking out your local restaurant supply store for a good, cheap sturdy one!

The end result of all that physical labor? A nice fluffy cheesecake that is as light as air! For the recipe, you definitely need to check out Delicious Martha’s video tutorial! However, if you need written procedures and cannot read Spanish, here’s some translations below:

100 grams Cream Cheese
100 grams White Chocolate, good quality
3 medium Eggs
Preheat oven to 340°F. Line a round 8-inch mold with parchment paper and coat with butter. Place aside.
Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl and melt either in microwave or in a double boiler.
In another bowl, separate the egg whites. Mix the egg whites until fluffy and set aside.
Beat the cream cheese to soften it a little in another bowl. When it is less firm, add the chocolate while beating to obtain a homogenous mixture.
While beating, add the egg yolks and mix until it is completely mixed in. With a spatula, fold in the egg whites until mixed in. Careful not to mix too much.
Scoop batter into the mold. Put aluminum around the outside of the mold and place it inside a larger container in which you will fill it with water, creating a water bath for it to cook in.
Place in oven and bake for 15 mins. After 15 mins, lower temperature to 320°F and bake for another 15 mins.
After time has past, turn oven off and leave it in for 15 mins. After 15 mins, remove from oven and leave it on a wire rack to cool completely.



Pandan Coconut Liège Waffles

I was shopping at a Thai grocery store in Oakland (Mithapheap) for curry paste ingredients and as I was checking out, my nose caught this faint hint of vanilla. It was a small bottle of pandan extract and it was only $1, so I decided to buy a bottle. The first recipe that came in mind was Vietnamese pandan waffles.I just bought a new waffle maker on Black Friday and it was about time I broke its seals.

I’m not a big fan of waffles, except for only two types: pandan and Liège. That’s where the idea came to mind. Why not alter my usual go-to Liège waffle recipe to make some Vietnamese pandan inspired ones? My favorite recipe that I have made countless of times has been from Lottie + Doof, mainly because it was adapted from Blue Bottle’s recipe. If you don’t know what is a Liège waffle yet, it’s a waffle with yeast that makes it larger and chewier than a regular Belgian waffle. But what really sets this apart from the usual waffle is the Belgian pearl sugar. These chunks of sugar are mixed into the batter and slowly melts and caramelizes as you bake them in the hot waffle iron, creating sweet joy in every bite.

Anyways, back to the pandan. In order to make this similar to the Vietnamese waffles, there were 3 modifications I made to the Lottie + Doof recipe. For the active dry yeast, I replaced the lukewarm water with lukewarm coconut milk and continued to activate the yeast in it.

For the vanilla step, I went ahead and added the vanilla but also a teaspoon of the pandan extract. When I made my first batch of waffles, I thought the flavors were not as pronounced so I dumped about 1/3 cups of shredded coconut flakes. Boy, did the flavor change! You can really taste the coconut now. It also added a slightly different texture to the waffle.

The results? It didn’t exactly turn out the way I had expected. Although there was a slight pandan taste, it still mainly tasted like a regular Liège waffle with a punch of coconut. Everyone still loved them nonetheless!

One thing I may try out in my next batch is using extract from fresh pandan leaves. More details next time!





Stir-fried Bok Choy, Cantonese-style

If you have had the chance to join a meal in a Cantonese home, you may have noticed that  majority of the dishes, if not all, are vegetable-based. Maybe the reason is that vegetables are almost always the cheapest source of food, or maybe it’s because there are so many vegetable options in Chinese cuisine! From bok choy to rapeseed leaves to chayotes (we call them hap jeung gwa), I love them all!

Vegetables are an integral part of my family’s diet. Stepping foot into my mom’s garden, you can immediately find yourself immersed into patches of young tender mustard greens  at your foot with vines of chayotes hanging down from above. Nothing beats freshly plucked greens from a garden. But if you don’t have the luxury of growing your own or knowing someone who does, you can still find a great variety of Asian veggies at farmer’s markets or Asian grocery stores. If you have never ventured into the Asian produce aisles, I challenge you right now to just go over there and pick a new variety to try out!

The simplest yet tasty method of cooking vegetables is the Cantonese way of partial steaming/stir-frying. And it only requires at most 4 ingredients  in which 3 of them I’m 99% sure you already have at home (plus salt for seasoning)! Cantonese cooking places a great amount of emphasis on the natural taste and texture of fresh ingredients and I believe this recipe definitely exemplifies this philosophy. This recipe works with a great variety of veggies (broccoli, all types of bok choy, kale, napa cabbage). Gai Lan and string beans, however, tastes best with a different method, so stay tuned for my post on those.

1 bundle of bok choy
3 cloves of garlic, minced or whole as preferred (add more for a garlickier taste)
For bok choy, be sure to thoroughly rinse off all soil. Heat up the oil in a pan with a lid large enough for all of the vegetable to fit. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking, carefully add the garlic into the oil.
As the garlic becomes fragrant but not yet browned, add in the bok choy (browned garlic will turn bitter). Stir the bok choy to nicely coat it with the oil. Add about 3 tbsp of water, just enough to create a small layer of water at the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan, leaving a slight slit for steam to vent. Let the vegetable steam until the vegetable is cooked but tender, about 4-5 minutes.
Uncover and season the vegetable with salt to taste. Stir so the salt is nicely infused throughout. Remove from heat and quickly plate the vegetable so they do not continue to cook in the pan.