Saturday, June 30, 2012

Rustic Tomato Mozzarella Tart

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I tried to finish this post while I was stuck in Shanghai but then blogger seems to be a censored site. It's typhoon season in Hong Kong, so my flight was delayed. Ungh. We were put in some awful hotel and fed terrible food. Also, there was a sign in there that apologized for all the mosquitoes that were infesting the place! Ahh. Luckily, I'm not so prone to mosquito bites and I just figured out why...

Do Mosquitoes Love You or Hate You?
One in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes so says a professor at the University of Florida. It's actually not dinner they want, but female mosquitoes (the ones that do all the work) need blood to develop fertile eggs and apparently, you've got to have some good blood for them to want  eggs to hatch in them. EW.. Now let's take a look at this list...

1. How much carbon dioxide do you emit?      
  • I guess you wouldn't really know, but people who are heavier, preggers or have faster metabolisms tend to exhale more carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes are attracted to the gas apparently.
2. How sweet do you taste?         
  • If you exercise quite a bit or sweat profusely, your perspiration contains lactic acid, octenol and other chemicals that mosquitoes love. Motion also gets their attention and you're emitting more carbon dioxide.
3. Are you goth? Or do you just like wearing black
  • These buggers are highly visual and their first mode of search for humans is for dark colors.
4. How hot are you?          
  • Your body temperature or warmth can make a difference. It's why they flock to pregnant women because of their extra body heat.

But then again, the American Mosquito Control Association said it could be that people who don't get bitten produce chemicals on their skin that make them more repellant and cover up smells that mosquitoes find attractive. So remember to cover up yourself with some DEET this summer! Luckily, I have my little brother who acts as my repellant. I guess I'm just not so tasty and he is (yay for me)!

Rustic Tomato Mozzarella Tart 
Makes one 9" tart

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Roasted Beets Feta Salad

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Oops...I've been a little lazy and haven't updated in a while. My good friend/roommate/labmate came down from LA and we went kayaking. It has been almost 100 degrees!! (I can't believe I just used Fahrenheit) And now I have awful shorts tan, farmer's tan and my shoulders are aching. Whine whine whine.

Here's a recipe for a healthy salad for the start of summer!

Why Aren't Bald Men Extinct?
I guess some women find it attractive? But, I sure as hell don't (haha kidding not really). We all have hair because it is useful - it protects us from the sun, gives us a little bit of warmth and most importantly hair is sexy. So why is it that male pattern baldness is successfully passed on?

Usually by age 30, a quarter of men start to lose their hair starting around the temples (Wolverine look), then on top of the head (Santa Claus look) and finally to total retreat (Dick Cheney look). Research suggest that baldness might have some survival advantage because it signals dominance and status. When bald men are angry, they could appear to have red domes (think alarm bells), which could signify dominance (what?!). Other studies say women see bald men as more mature and less aggressive. But then they also see them as older and less attractive :(

Anyhoo, whether you fancy a man with hair or no hair is really up to you. But if you prefer hairy burly men look for the pattern baldness trait on their mother's side.

Roasted Beets and Feta Salad

1 bunch beets and beet greens
1 medium onion (red or white)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled Feta
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 425F
Roast beets in a baking dish and cover with foil. Takes about 1 hour until it is soft. Cut off the ends and the skins should peel right off.

Slice onions across the grains so you get rings. Chop up the beet greens into 2 inch pieces.

In a frying pan, heat up some olive oil and place your onions on top. Let it brown in either side (about 3 mins). Set that aside.

Fry up the beet greens also for about 3-4 mins until soft. Add salt and pepper

Slice the beets and arrange on a platter. Arrange the onions and beet greens a over the beets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk together 2 tbsp of good extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Drizzle over the onions and beets. Crumble feta over and serve.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nutella Swirl Cupcakes

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I introduced nutella to bubs some time this year. I know. Who hasn't grown up with nutella sandwiches for breakfast?? Poor deprived man-child child. Anyway, we're in Richmond, VA for a quick tour. It's so damn hot right now even I'm sweating, and I don't sweat.

We're off to more BBQ wee! Excited!!

Factoid: Erythropoietin - Your Exercise Motivation Hormone
How much effort does it take to get you off your fat bum and exercise? Don't you just have those days where you want to just veg? I'm guilty. But I might just throw that onto how much erythropoietin (Epo) I have. Epo is a hormone present in small quantities that stimulate red blood cell production so you can supply those limp muscles with more oxygen while you power jog through the park.

Healthy people treated with EPO reported to feel improved mood, physical conditional as well as increased ventilation (yay oxygen). That helps you change how fatigued you feel and enhance exercise capacity. Other nerds from Switzerland this year injected extremely high doses of Epo into mice and even made genetically modified mice to produce Epo in their brains!  Both groups of mice showed more motivation to exercise than the control group.

Maybe they'll find a pill or injection for humans in the future? In the mean time, get off your lazy arse and hit the tread mill :)

Nutella Swirl Cupcakes
Makes a baker's dozen
No need for icing!
1.5 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup white or brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup (or just use all sugar)
2 egg
1/2 cup yogurt (or use another 4tbsp butter)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F
In a large bowl, cream your butter and sugar together. Once the butter is nicely incorporated, add in the maple syrup, egg, yogurt and vanilla.

In another bowl, sift all your dry ingredients together. Add dry to the wet mix and fold until just incorporated.

Divide it into muffin cups and fill up to 1/2 way. Drop 2-3 tsp of nutella on top of the batter in the muffin cups. Swirl it around with a toothpick.

Bake it for 18-20mins

Friday, June 15, 2012

Daikon and Carrot Pickle {Bahn Mi Sandwich}

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Woo. Going to a low country boil tomorrow. Filling my belly with some mud crawlers crawfish. I had a Vietnamese friend who loved crawfish and introduced it to me. But, I still think they taste a little like mud. She can pull off their heads so quickly, it's pretty amazing. Hmm... I just realized that there are so many crawfish places that seem to have Vietnamese that a thing?

Anyhoo, we're going to one in Virginia, and the Southern-ness (whole 4 years I've lived in Texas) is excited to be eating andouille sausages, corn and maybe some crawfish :D

Factoid: Sleeping Too Little Gives you a Heart Attack

At the SLEEP convention this month, researchers from the University of Alabama surveyed first stroke symptoms and how much they slept. They amassed a study of 5,666 people and followed their sleeping pattern for 3 years. Sleeping less than six hours increased the risk of stroke symptoms! And that's not just fat, old prone adults. Man, I really need to sleep more...

Not only for strokes, too little snooze time is a risk factor for many other disasters. So skip the exercise and sleep more. Haha kidding.

Daikon and Carrot Pickle - Do Chua (Vietnamese)
Makes about 1 huge jar
Pickles are the best sandwich accessory

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chicken-Pork Meatballs with Sriracha Mayo

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Chipotle got smart and made an Asian version of itself in DC! It's called Shophouse and it is derricious. Bubs and I alway make time to go there. What I like is their super spicy sauce. Of course, not so spicy for me so I have to add in maybe a gallon of extra sriracha. But enough for bubs to sweat me a river (ew!). So Chipotle was my inspiration for these meatballs. They also work so well for making 'pseudo' Banhmi (dericious vietnamese sammich). I'll be posting later on about making a quick banhmi next! A quick factoid about cilantro, because I love them and because they are all over these meatballs!

Factoid: Cilantro Lovers Share a Genetic Trait (and so do Haters)
Cilantro is oh-so-heavenly. It's refreshing, crunchy and a lovely lime-y flavor that compliments all kinds of cuisines like guacamole, curry and meatballs (!). However, I know some hateful people that are repulsed by it. Why is it so polarizing to them? Only science can explain...

A new study conducted at the University of Toronto found that among 1,400 young adults, 21% of East Asian roots hated it and 17% of white people Caucasians hating it too. The results were published in Flavour Journal. It's possible that hater have a mutated or even an absent receptor gene for the protein that would interact with the very pleasant smelling compound found in cilantro.

It's all still speculative! There may be a genetic mutation of some sort that makes people just want to throw cilantro across the room and stomp on it, but there is yet to pin-point a single gene that's responsible. So... I guess science hasn't quite explained it yet (harhar)

Oh right, so you fussy people who hate cilantro. You can substitute it with Thai basil.

Chicken Pork Meatballs with Sriracha Mayo Dip
Makes 15-20

Friday, June 8, 2012

Potato-Beet Gnocchi

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Yay! I'm off to NYC for the annual Big Apple barbecue Block Party. Well, I'm also going to see my high school buddies but ribs and pulled pork are definitely on the agenda. If not, I will have a hissy fit. Haha just kidding. But, not getting bbq can make me go cray cray. Just saying...

With that kind of crazy talk, I bet you would never in a million years thought I had ever been a vegetarian. In fact I have! Well for about a year. I don't really know why. It was probably a college phase thing. You know...because people experiment in college right...? So here's a little something something about veggies and a recipe to match!

Factoid: Beet Juice for Healthier Brains
I figured some people really don't like the taste of beets. I'm a veggie lover and I thought it tasted like dirt when I first ate it. Actually, I still think it tastes like dirt...but I've grown accustom to it. I'll eat it now, especially knowing how good it is for me! A research group at Wake Forest University, has shown that drinking beet juice increases blood flow to the brain. That's super important as you age because some areas of you noggin just don't get enough blood, leading to dementia and forgetting where you last saw your keys...or grandchildren :/

The reason is that beets contain lots of nitrates, which is also found in celery, cabbage and other leafy greens. Good bacteria in your mouth will convert it nitrate to nitrite. Nitrite is a super important blood vessel dilator that will increase blood flow everywhere and especially to places lacking oxygen. Read more about increased MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain activity recorded in old old people after drinking beet juice here.

Also, don't freak out when you get red doo doo okay? That's just the beets. :D

Potato-Beet Gnocchi
Adapted from F&W

1 (8 oz) medium red beet with greens (SAVE the greens!)
1lb medium baking potatoes
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (divided)
1 onion vertically sliced
1/4 cup fresh parmesan
Garlic salt + Pepper

Preheat oven to 400F
Remove greens and stems from beet. Save the greens! We're going to use the whole plant.
Pierce beets and potatoes with a fork. Bake potatoes for 1-1.5 hours and the beets for 1.5 - 2 hr or until soft.

While you're waiting, chop the green parts to measure 2 cups. Slice the onion too.

Once they're extremely soft peel and mash them both pretty well in a bowl. You can use a paper towel to rub the skin off. It should come off pretty easily. A trick I learned from bubs is to mash using the end of a wine bottle! Very convenient if you don't have a potato masher.

To the mashed beets and potato, add in 1 cup flour and 1/2 tsp salt to form the dough. The dough should be a brilliant red. Knead on a floured surface until smooth.

Divide the dough into 4 and make long ropes out of them. Dust them if the remaining 1/4 cup flour to prevent from sticking.  Cut each Gnocchi out (~3/4 inch) and roll each piece down with a slightly floured fork.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a pot. Add half of the gnocchi, cook for 2 minutes or until done. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, saute 4 minutes. Add gnocchi, greens, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp salt. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Serve with some shaved cheese!
Serves 4

and some fresh parmesan~

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Green Tea Cake with Red Bean Filling

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I have all this left over red bean from making the red bean mochi and also a lot of time. Well, I have to write a paper but I have absolutely no motivation in any bone. Gah... So here is a recipe to use that red bean filling. Green tea and red bean go so well together!

Onto a totally different tangent. Have you realized when you're dating that you seem to look more and more like your boyfriend/girlfriend?? Or am I just crazy?

Factoid: Men Tend to Seek Women who Look Like Themselves
After dating for a while, we all know that people tend to find mates that are similar to them in many ways, such as cultural background, socioeconomic status, and intellectual ability. (Well, true for me...) It's been found in many surveys too that spouses more similar to each other are more successful in terms of having babies and staying longer together than less similar pairs.

In this particular paper, they got 150 volunteers and showed them pictures of the opposite sex, whose faces were warped/photoshopped to resemble their own face. They were then asked to choose a potential partner from 3 images: self-resembling face, non-resembling face, attractive face.  Men apparently rated the self-resembling faces as most attractive (egotistical tsk tsk). In cavemen terms, men choose a physically similar mate to enhance his and his spouse's fitness and the genetic fitness of your offspring. Meaning if they looked alike, there's a higher chance his genes will be carried onward. Like father, like son geddit?

Women are less superficial far more complex when it comes to making mate choices. They didn't show any preference for similarity, just preference for the most attractive hotties ;)  It just goes to show that physical appearance is only one of the many influencing factors to making our decision. Another important factor is scent!

Oh women are so much more evolved than men~

Green Tea Layer Cake with Red bean Filling

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp matcha powder

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 small/medium eggs
1/2 cup yogurt
1.5 tsp vanilla

Red Bean filling

Preheat oven to 350F
In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients (oil, eggs, yogurt, vanilla) and sugar.

In another bowl, sift the flour, mix the dry ingredients and add that to the wet. Mix until JUST incorporated. It's okay if there are a few lumps.

I used a huge 10" x 13" pan to get a large thin sheet of cake. But you can use 2 smaller pans for the same effect. Liberally grease the pans and add in the batter. Bake for 15-20mins or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let that cake cool for 20 mins. Invert it onto a plate. Cut the cake in 1/2 if you used a large pan. Trim the edges if you want to make it pretty. Spread red bean over the top side. (The cake is amazing on it's own too!)

Slap on the other layer. Dust with some powdered sugar and cut up and serve!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Daifuku - Red Bean Mochi

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Woo! Done with exams! Now I can take a really long nap. Maybe one that will go until I wake up the next day haha. Those are soo good. You wake up and you still want to go back to sleep. My neighbor is the king of naps. His body is just scheduled to take a quick nap at 2pm every single day- without fail. I can't seem to take short naps. My naps turn into 3 hours and then I wake up and it's dark outside. Fail.

Cognitive Impairment due to Long Naps are worse than that due to Sleep Deprivation
So why am I ranting so much about sleeping? Well, I was reading this paper about the benefits of naps. Not just sleeping. Napping. We could really benefit from a afternoon snooze because it improves logical reasoning, reaction time in tests and increased vigor (duh). Research has really got down into trying to make our naps better, by looking at the duration, age, and the time of day. Essentially, taking longer naps (30mins plus) can produce sleep inertia. That's the groggy, confused feeling that's supposedly worse than the feeling from sleep deprivation. Sleep inertia is deadly. It impairs sensory motor and cognitive tasks, impairs accuracy and puts you in a stinky mood. It's worse when you're also sleep deprived.

You should aim for 10 to 20mins, and you'll feel super invigorated immediately after waking up. It improves with practice. For reals. Habitual nappers maintain a tonic level of alertness throughout the nap and can disperse sleep inertia more quickly. Postnap performance improvement right after waking up was true for seasoned nappers.

Holy. I need to jump on this napping band wagon and practice now! zzZZZZ

Red Bean Mochi
Adapted from veganyumyum
Makes 10-12

1 cup Glutinous Rice Flour (I used the Mochiko brand, see pic below)
3 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup water
Cornstarch, potato starch or tapioca starch for dusting
1 tsp matcha green tea powder (to make the green ones)

Red bean paste (I made some way back but you can buy them premade)
Strawberries if you like!

Home made recipe for red bean paste
1.5 cups adzuki beans
4 cups water
1 cup sugar (depends on how sweet/ or not sweet - I use a mix of brown and white)
1 tbs vegetable oil
1-2 pinches salt

Place beans and water in a pot, cover, bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 1.5 hours or until the beans are very soft.

Strain water from the beans, put back into the pot and on the fire at low heat. Add sugar and oil. Use a masher (I just used a fork) to smash all the beans. Of course you can use a blender and save you some elbow grease. This should turn into a nice thick paste. I like my paste chunky so I leave some whole ones in there.

Take off the heat and let it cool. You can adjust how sweet you want it too. This is a lot of red bean, enough for 3 batches of mochi. I save mine in the freezer and use it for later.

Making the Mochi

Add together the flour, sugar, water, matcha powder (if using) to a microwave safe bowl. Stir well until no lumps. Scrape down the side of the bowl so doesn't get all sticky on the sides too.

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 mins on high. Remove and stir quickly. Put it back in the microwave for another 1 min. If you see the dough sinking as you open the door, it should be done! Don't overcook it or it'll be rock hard.

Have a dusted plate or countertop with cornstarch. Scoop up a little more than 1 tbsp of dough, dust your fingers and palm with starch too and flatten the dough while it's hot (you can use a rolling pin if you like). Put about 1-2 tsp of red bean paste and seal the opening with a pinch. I like a lot of filling and less mochi so adjust as you like!

To keep them fresh over the next few days, individually wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you leave it out, they'll get dry and tough.

Make sesame seed covered ones by wetting the outside a little and rolling it on sesame seeds. Nom nom nom.

Some tips: You really want to dust your fingers thoroughly!