Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pumpkin Macarons

French macarons have been the bane of my existence for the past 3 weeks. I was determined to bake them successfully. They are such gorgeous little things... round domes with frilly feet and piped with a delicious cream. I baked several batches of chocolate, plain almond, vanilla, all failing in some way or another, such as no feet, too flat, cracked, etc. I probably went through 2-3 cartons of eggs. -_-

Finally, I succeeded! A beautiful batch of pumpkin macarons... I actually was inspired by the pumpkin bagels and pumpkin cream cheese at Noah's Bagels. I cheated and piped the pumpkin cream cheese into the macarons. It was divine!!! If you don't have access to pumpkin cream cheese schmear, feel free to use a cream cheese icing recipe and incorporate some pumpkin puree. The results should be similar.

I have to say, these were absolutely divine. I've only eaten macarons once, and I don't remember them being as good as these. There aren't too many pumpkin macarons out there, because pumpkin isn't a very French ingredient. However, the pumpkin is such an interesting, hearty taste that contrasts the sweetness of the macaron shell. Macaron shells are super sweet, and I tend to like them with a slightly bitter flavor (bittersweet chocolate) or a tangy filling (cream cheese filling). These would be perfect for Thanksgiving. In fact, I'll probably make them for Thanksgiving!! :)

I think the most important thing I learned is how much to fold and to age the egg whites. The common advice for folding is to get to the "flows like magma" stage. Unfortunately, this isn't a very informative phrase unless one has actually seen magma (practically nobody!) I think a more helpful tip would be to fold as little as possible. Underfolding is always better than overfolding. When piped, perfect macaron shells should be round and the tops should flatten themselves. It's okay if theres a little peak though, which would indicate the batter is underfolded. But at least they'll probably have feet. Also, another helpful tip is to leave out the piped shells for about an hour, so that they form a skin.

Pumpkin Macarons

-1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
-1 cup almond flour
-5 tablespoons granulated sugar
-3 egg whites, aged for 1-2 days at room temperature, covered
-1 tablespoon pumpkin spice or cinnamon

1. Sift confectioner's sugar and almond flour into a large bowl. Discard any large chunks.
2. Add in pumpkin spice. Mix until well incorporated.
2. In another large bowl, whip egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Add in granulated sugar and whip on medium until soft peaks form.
3. Sift 1/3 of the confectioner's sugar/almond flour mixture into the whipped egg whites. With a large spatula, fold by cutting the spatula down the middle of the mixture and turning when meeting the bowl until mostly combined. Repeat until all is incorporated. Do not overfold.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a plain tip, pipe 1-2 inch rounds about 2 inches apart from each other. Leave outside for one hour to allow skins to form.
5. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 10-12 minutes.
6. Allow to cool slightly, then peel parchment paper away from macarons. If they are difficult to remove, wet the bottom of the parchment paper with a few drops water.
7. When cool, pipe with cream cheese frosting and sandwich together. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Friday, September 12, 2008


This summer is the first time I've been spending the majority of my time at a 9-5 job. I work right on Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade, which is full of shops and tempting food. Eating out every day can really put a strain on your diet and wallet. I balanced eating out at healthy places with bringing my lunch.

I love bento! It is really fun to try to make a lunch from home exciting to eat. Nine times out of ten, in a match between a packed lunch and a bought lunch, the bought lunch wins. But bento makes me excited to eat a yummy, cute, nutritious lunch.

I use lots of leftovers and some frozen food in my bento to minimize time. Egg molds, cute bento boxes, and fresh ingredients with lots of color makes the lunch more exciting.

Here are some lunches that I made recently:

Chicken milanesa, fried rice, grilled zucchini and tomato, fruit mooncake
This was a leftover bento, from my restaurant lunch the day before. I sliced up the leftover chicken milanesa to go on top of fried rice. The grilled zucchini is from the restaurant; I combined it with some tomato that I grilled at home. The mooncake is a new kind that I bought at a Chinese bakery, a fruity apple flavor instead of the traditional nuttier or bean flavors.

Soy burgers on wheat bread, diced watermelon, carrot sticks with peanut butter, little package of cheddar
This was a delicious and nutritious lunch. I grilled up a frozen soy burger from the freezer section of the grocery store, and cut up watermelon and carrots.

Fried rice onigiri on bed of lettuce, eggs and tomato and corn, steamed green beans

The fried rice and eggs are leftover dishes. I prepared the veggies in the morning and this was ready to go!

I recently bought new bento accessories, so expect to see those soon!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kim Sam Soon series: Mango Mousse Cake

I've recently been rewatching one of my favorite Korean dramas- My Name is Kim Sam Soon. Sam Soon is a chubby 30 year-old patisserie, or pastry chef. She is unladylike, strong-willed, unconventional, loyal, and a fun character, very offbeat kind of heroine. The series has been compared to Bridget Jones' Diary, but I feel like it is so much more... there is a lot more about finding yourself and finding true love, even in an unconventional form. Despite Sam Soon ah's flaws, she is still very loving and caring. She finds "true love" with the attractive President at her restaurant/workplace, but their love story isn't typical at all. For example, one scene shows Sam Soon drunk, getting a piggyback ride from the President Jin Hun. A typical scene in Korean dramas, for sure. But Sam Soon isn't the typical damsel in distress; instead, she hits Jin Hun on the head several times with her stuffed animal and curses at him! Another typical drama scene gone wrong: Sam Soon ends up in the hospital, but she isn't hurt- just exhausted. She starts snoring!

It's great series to watch for comic relief. It also has a lot of interesting culinary topics. One of my favorite scenes is when Sam Soon's hair gets stuck in Jin Hun's suit jacket. In a moment of impatience and cockiness, Jin Hun cuts off Sam Soon's hair. Sam Soon's response is to throw her handmade mango mousse cake in his face!!

He is shocked at this display, but even more surprised when he found out the cake was delicious!

Mango mousse cake sounded like a fun and delicious challenge... so I decided to start a series on my blog to make things from Kim Sam Soon.

I turned to the internet for recipes for mango mousse. Sadly, the mango mousse recipes were few and far between. I wanted an authentic Asian-style mango mousse, with silky soft, spongy layers and a light mousse with strong mango flavor. I couldn't find any really good recipes.. so I kind of improvised on one mango mousse recipe, combined with a different sponge cake recipe. It took two tries to get the result I wanted. Here's the cake I ended up making:

I'm really happy I tried this recipe.. even on the second time, the mirror wasn't perfect (I was too OCD and impatient), it was gorgeous and delicious. Stay tuned for more Sam Soon-inspired creations!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Restaurant Jaunt: Gochi

Gochi has been getting some rave reviews in the area. When I called for a reservation, the lady said that the reservations are backed up for two weeks!! I got there early to see what the fuss was all about. The atmosphere is nice, with the option of sitting at a normal table or kneeling Japanese-style on tatami. The hostesses and servers were all very polite and accomodating.
It's a Japanese tapas restaurant, so everything is served in small portions. Gochi is also known as a fusion restaurant, combining Japanese food with cuisines such as Italian, Chinese, Korean, French, and Spanish. They do have some classics, but for really good classic Japanese food I would recommend you go elsewhere.

We started with the Yuzu Ceviche, which came with homemade chips. This wasn't very good. The ceviche was very roughly chopped and I didn't like the flavor or texture of it.
Next, we got some braised pork with yellow wasabi and scallions, which seemed to be Chinese-Japanese fusion. It was good, but nothing new to me... maybe because my mom makes the exact same dish for less than a quarter of the price! :)
Next, we got the Haraime Carpaccio, which was served with alfalfa and pesto sauce. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night!

Haraime Carpaccio

Next we had Salmon Meshi, which is a fairly traditional dish. Meshi dishes are claypot dishes, where rice, fish, and some other seasonings are cooked in a hot rice pot. The rice sticks to the pot and becomes crispy and brown (my favorite!) and the whole thing is mixed then divided into bowls by the server. Definitely a well made, traditional Japanese dish at Gochi.
Another classic was the yaki onigiri, or fried rice balls. We ordered it with tuna-mayo. I was quite disappointed with Gochi's rendition, the tuna-mayo was on top of the yaki onigiri instead of inside. Also, the yaki onigiri wasn't completely golden-brown, and the inside was soft and mushy white rice. I didn't enjoy this dish.
Another one of my favorites of the night was an Italian-Japanese fusion dish of risotto croquettes served in tomato-basil and pesto sauces. The risotto had tiny specks of mushroom in them, and was quite delicious. The outside was fried golden and crispy, complete perfection. This is what fusion food is all about!

Risotto croquettes in tomato-basil and pesto sauce

I wish I took a picture of our last savory dish, a pizza that I have forgotten the name of, but it disappeared so quickly I didn't get the chance. It was covered with lump fresh crab meat, white cheese, enoki mushrooms I think, fish eggs, and a few other things. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the crust was not a regular pizza crust, but a crispy Chinese-pancake style crust, dotted with chopped green onion!The combination was divine. At first I didn't think I was unsure about this dish, but it turned out really good. The saltiness of the fish egg really melded with the softer, meltier flavors of the cheese.

The Gochi dessert menu sounds really ambitious and delicious, so I ordered two: Strawberry Tiramisu and Green Tea Creme Brulee. These dishes sound good in theory, but were very poorly executed. The strawberry tiramisu wasn't soaked in strawberry liquer like I thought it would be, but was just a normal mocha-y tiramisu with some strawberry whipped cream and a strawberry on top. Very disappointing. The creme brulee wasn't terrible, but there was no real indication of it being green tea flavored other than its green color. At 6.50 each, I thought they were wildly overpriced.

Strawberry Tiramisu

Green Tea Creme Brulee

Gochi is a decent restaurant, but I expected to be wowed because of the hype and the prices. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to those expectations. However, a few dishes were truly innovative and delicious, such as the risotto croquettes and the crab pizza. I might come again for those two, and maybe try a few more dishes.

19980 Homestead Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014

Chocolate ganache butter cookies, tea, and flowers

I bought a new tea set and have been putting it to good use. In fact, I made these cookies espressly for the purpose of showing it off! I bought this pink cherry blossom set in San Diego, at Horton Plaza's Whittard Co. The store is a British import of tons of tea and goodies from Chelsea. The prices are very reasonable when on sale.. I love it! I will be making a return visit in the future...

Chocolate ganache butter cookies

The cookies are super, super basic and the chocolate ganache was from some truffles I made earlier, but just softened with a little extra heavy cream.

I also wanted to show off some very pretty flowers I received last weekend...

Roses and orchids

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A tale of two recipes

Last week I really wanted to thank M's family for having me for the weekend, so I decided to surprise them with some pretty homemade baked goods. The first thing I kept in mind was that I was baking for a younger, sweet-tooth M & co, as well as for the older and more adult needs and tastes of his mom. Because of this, I ended up making two versions of each baked good.

The first is my banana bread. It is really delicious!! Not to toot my own horn, but I think it's the best banana bread (especially when fresh.) I made muffins of the extra to give to my roommates, and all three of them raved about them. It has a strong banana flavor and texture, probably due to the large amount of bananas.

For the "healthy" banana bread, I cut the sugar down by 1/2 a cup and increased the cinammon to compromise for the taste. For the "yummy" banana bread, I kept the original recipe and added chocolate chips. Both were delicious! I think I actually prefer it without chocolate chips, because I want to really be able to concentrate on the banana texture.

Next... I tested two recipes of checkerboard cookies because I've never made them before. The first I found online, and it included an egg and was like any normal buttery cookie. The second was a Martha Stewart recipe and didn't have an egg. I found the second to be surprisingly good, very much like a shortbread. Instead of making just chocolate and vanilla checkerboards, I opted for chocolate and orangey-lemon instead :) Instead of vanilla extract, I added Meyer lemon and orange zest and juice to the white dough. It gave the shortbread a delicate and citrusy taste which made all the difference!

Unfortunately a lot of them got broken in transport. They were still mouth-wateringly good though!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes

I love cupcakes.. probably one of the main reasons is that they are perfect individual servings and that makes them ridiculously cute! I love mini tarts and things too, so expect to see those soon!

Chocolate mint cupcake

But back on topic, I've found that chocolate and peppermint are a really complementary flavor combo. Something about chocolate's rich, full taste is complemented by a whiff of refreshing mint flavor. Since I was in the mood for a cupcake, this flavor combination seemed like a good idea. I googled chocolate mint cupcakes for ideas, and scanned my favorite blogs as well. Chocolate mint cupcakes seemed to be pretty popular.. I saw them on several websites, including Chockylit, my favorite cupcake blog. An interesting addition that I borrowed was a bit of instant coffee mix in the chocolate cupcakes, which really added to the flavor of the cake in my opinion. These were delicious and I would try again! Next time I would cut back on the peppermint extract though... I think the flavor was too strong, and slightly overpowered the chocolate. Or maybe try fresh mint? Not sure how to do that though.

I piped the frosting and decorated with green pastel (Easter?) M&Ms. I couldn't find the right tip though so I resorted to a smaller shell tip which didn't quite have the swirly effect I was looking for. Still, I am quite happy with the results! :)

These cupcakes are decorated and all ready to go. I really enjoy making them and I hope to maybe someday sell them for small events.

Impromptu Panini

I love paninis but I don't have a panini grill at my apartment. However, I do have a George Foreman grill... so being the creative spirit I am, I threw together a panini for lunch.. with random ingredients I happened to have on hand.

Turkey, mozzarella, and basil panini
  • french bread (or focaccia, or anything else you have)
  • deli sliced turkey
  • thick-sliced mozzarella
  • basil leaves
  • fresh peppercorn, salt to taste
  • extra-virgin olive oil
1. Slice bread into two halves. Drizzle each side with olive oil. Add some salt and freshly ground peppercorn to taste.
2. Layer turkey on one half of the bread. Add thick slices of mozzarella and basil leaves.
3. Grill sandwich until golden brown and crispy.

SO delicious! Probably going to add this to my lunchtime repertoire...

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Although Spam isn't particularly popular in the contiguous United States, it's a protein staple in Hawaii. Spam is everywhere in Hawaii in various incarnations: Spam fried rice, Spam and eggs, Spam sandwiches, Spam sushi, etc.

My boyfriend M lived in Hawaii for several years, and as a result has a penchant for all(most all) things Spam. When we first started dating, I was skeptical about the lunchmeat. I had eaten it a time or two when I visited Hawaii, and I hadn't been particularly impressed. But M made me two variations that have changed my mind about Spam!! I made both today:

Spam and Eggs

The first is Spam and eggs and rice. Spam for breakfast is sooooo good :) I just slice up the Spam, dip in soy sauce, and fry with a little bit of oil. Spam is already cooked so you can cook it to your preferred level of done-ness; I prefer mine a little crispy on the edges. Usually M prefers lots of ketchup on his Spam-eggs-rice, but I have successfully converted him to Sriracha, hehe. I like ketchup too, but I prefer a little kick in my food.

Spam musubi

The second is Spam musubi. Spam musubi is so good! The saltiness of the Spam is great with lots of rice and nori. Plus it's the perfect on-the-go food, kind of like Japanese onigiri (posts on onigiri to follow!) Spam musubi is everywhere in Hawaii... restaurants, McDonald's, 7-11. I didn't have a lot of rice left over from breakfast, so at first I wanted to make the Spam musubi with only one layer of rice, one slice of spam on top, and wrapped in nori. But M, ever the spam purist, ridiculed that style as the "kind of Spam musubi at 7-11." So I went with two layers of rice surrounding the spam, wrapped up completely with nori. Yum yum yum!

Spam musubi
  • 1 can of Spam
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • oil
  • 2-3 cups of cooked rice (white, medium or short grain preferred)
  • sheets of nori (dried seaweed)
  • Spam musubi mold, or empty Spam can with top and bottom removed using can opener
1. Combine soy sauce and sugar in a shallow bowl.
2. Slice Spam crosswise into 1/4-1/2-inch thick pieces. Place in soy sauce mixture and marinate for 5 minutes.
3. Heat oil in a skillet on high heat. Place Spam in skillet and fry for a minute or two on each side, or until lightly browned.
4. Cut nori into sheets so that the width of the nori is the same as the length of the Spam.
5. Place the mold on one end of the nori. Arrange one layer of rice on the bottom of the mold and pack lightly. Top the rice with one slice of Spam and another layer of rice. Pack down the sushi and lift the mold. Roll the Spam musubi along the nori to wrap.

I used mini cookie cutters to make the heart and star "mini spam musubi." They will be in my bento lunches later on this week. They are so cute, I am in love with them! Even the purist approved of these. :)

Birthday cakes

For some reason almost everyone I know has a birthday in this part of the year. In my family, we have one birthday every month from October to February. So this time of year I am always baking cakes!

Chocolate ganache cake

This was kind of an impromptu cake for my boyfriend M's birthday. I had limited supplies at my apartment when making this cake. I used the Magnolia Bakery vanilla birthday cake recipe for this cake, modified to use only regular flour since that's all I had on hand. The frosting is a chocolate ganache. I like the silver dragees but you can't really see them in this pic.

Vanilla birthday cake

I made this one at my house for my brother's birthday. It was my first time piping shells so they aren't perfect, but I'm working on improving them! It was lemon or vanilla inside I think, with vanilla buttercream. The "Happy Birthday" plaque is made of melted white chocolate.

Lemon birthday cake

I think the cake looks good here, but in reality I don't think it was my best. It was very rushed because we held a huge birthday dinner for my dad, complete with 6 or 7 rolls of sushi, sake, and 5 courses. I was exhausted as I was making this cake! Although I do think my writing is improving!!

Over my next break (3-4 weeks) I will make some better cakes, with more intricate detailing, so stay tuned!

Victorian sponge cake

My first food-related post on this blog... something I made a while ago. Even though my friends I are but college students, I like our gatherings to be an excuse to dress up. I hosted a little "afternoon tea" because I love going to those Asian cafes. The ones I have been to have really decadent teatimes with different kinds of beverages and a set of pastries. In our usual potluck style, I was responsible for dessert. I wanted something tradition teatime-y, but also something that would make an attractive centerpiece. I settled on a traditional Victorian sponge cake, and since strawberries were in season, filled with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

I adapted a few recipes I had found online to create this. It was a bit experimental ^^ But it was light and airy like a classic sponge, the strawberries were fresh, and the whipped cream was of course delicious... everyone raved about it, so I was satisfied with the results!

Victorian Sponge Cake
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar (more for garnish)
  • strawberries
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease two cake pans and set aside.
2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Set aside.
3. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer in another bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating fully. Mix well.
4. Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Beat in the milk and vanilla until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the baking pans.
5. Bake for 20 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and unmold.
6. Whip cream with electric mixer. When peaks start to form, add in vanilla extract and sugar. Beat for a little while longer, but make sure not to overbeat.
7. Spread a layer of halved strawberries on the cake. Cover with whipped cream. Garnish cake as you like with more whipped cream, strawberries, and confectioner's sugar.

Hello everyone!

Welcome to Cat's Kitchen! At first I wanted to create a blog that had one focus, like breakfasts or cupcakes or something because I love reading blogs like that, they are so unique and interesting. I couldn't decide on one focus because I love a little bit of everything! So this blog will be an array of savory foods and baked goods. I love to cook but I have only begun to think seriously about cooking and baking for a blog post or a photograph. Please enjoy the site, it will continue to improve and expand!! :)