Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Means Baking a New Kind of Cookie!

I spent my entire last day of 2009 cooking new foods.  And, boy, it has been a jolly good day!
Fickle Foodie once baked some delicious matcha shortbread cookies for me when I came back from my Alaskan cruise.  I never forgot how much I loved it.  Anything with green tea is bound to be a favorite with me.  I'm in love with its calming, gentle floral scent.  It is quite simply sublime. 

After baking my first cookies this month for my office cookie swap, I have been hankering for some matcha cookies.  Since I liked the mint chocolate cookie dough alot, I thought that I can concoct a green tea version (with less sugar) and replace the peppermint extract and dark chocolate with pistachios and dried cherries!  Three of my favorite things to round out 2009 and kick start 2010!

Here's my recipe for my Matcha Cookies with Pistachios and Cherries:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp matcha powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/6 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts (unsalted)
1/2 cup dried cherries

(the dough and directions are adapted from Une Gamine dans la Cuisine's Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies)


Sift the flour, baking soda, matcha powder, and salt in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat the butter, brown, and granulated sugars together until light and fluffy, and add the beaten egg on low speed.  Add the flour mixture and beat until the ingredients are well combined. 

Fold in the nuts and cherries by hand until they are evenly integrated, and chill the dough for at least an hour. 

Cherries and Pistachio Nuts Added to the Dough

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Roll dough into small balls and bake on parchment lined cookie sheets for 12-15 minutes. 

Dough in Tablespoon Size Balls

These cookies will not expand like the mint chocolate chip cookies probably because of the much harder additions of nuts and cherries (and I added more than what I have recommended here).

Matcha Cookies with Pistachio Nuts and Cherries

Matcha Cookies with Pistachio Nuts and Cherries

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sushi Robata

Sushi Robata

 Sushi Robata is the other wonderful restaurant recommended by Jessica.  This sushi joint is the real deal.  There isn't a traditional Japanese restaurant in Austin of this caliber and at these prices.  I'm definitely starting to like Dallas. 

The dishes here are honest, simple Japanese food that highlights the quality and freshness of the ingredients.  I'm going to be tacky and list prices.  I had the baby clams for $5.99 and sake cod for $6.99.  It's impossible to find these dishes at these prices at any Japanese restaurant!

The food was beautiful in presentation and taste. 

Asari Sakamushi-Steamed Baby Clams in Sake Broth

Tara Kasuzuke-Sake Flavored Cod

Mom shared a yellowtail collar, a sashimi plate B, tako, and nabeyaki udon with dad.  Yellowtail collars are usually $12.99+ and this was only $6.99!  I tried all of mom and dad's dishes and loved everything.

Hamachi Kama-Yellowtail Collar

Sashimi Plate B


Nabeyaki Udon

Green Tea Ice Cream

I'll be coming back for more.

Bistro B: Another Delicious Vietnamese Food Venue in Dallas

Bistro B

Thanks to my brother's friend's food blog, we made sure to try two highly recommended restaurants in Dallas-Bistro B and Sushi Robata

Bistro B has an encyclopedic menu.  We dove right into Jessica's recommendations and ordered 2 BBQ minced pork rolls, 2 BBQ minced shrimp rolls, and a plate of roasted quails.  I also ordered a catfish clay pot and a diced beef fillet with tomato rice. 

I was slobbering all over myself as I stuffed a roll in my mouth and eyed the quail as it arrived...then tore into the quail and eyed the remaining rolls.  This is not the place to pretend you're a refined diner.  The food is too damn good to waste time on maintaining self-composure.  I'm proud to say I ate with GUSTO!

These rolls are different from the standard Vietnamese spring rolls in that instead of rice noodles, the rolls have crunchy, fried egg roll skins!  These are definitely less healthy, but super tasty! The texture is amazing.  It has the sticky pull of the exterior rice wrapper, then a crunchy, flakey interior, and it's all tied together with the creamy peanut sauce.  YUM!

BBQ minced pork rolls and BBQ minced shrimp rolls with peanut sauce

Insides of the pork and shrimp rolls-crunchy fried spring roll skins instead of rice noodles!

The roasted quail is the most delicious quail I've ever tasted!  It's crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.  Its sweet and savory juices penetrate every pore of the quail. 

Roasted Quail

The catfish clay pot was good, but way to salty.  It goes well with white rice.  The diced beef was tender and flavorful, but Sunflower's shaken beef in Austin is still the best version of this dish I've had so far.

Catfish Clay Pot

Diced Beef Fillet with Tomato Rice

The only bad thing about Bistro B is that they definitely use MSG.  I was dreadfully thirsty after the glorious meal!

Medieval Times Dallas: The Cheesiest, Funniest, Christmas Dinner

Medieval Times-Dallas

My brother and I always wanted to see the dinner show at Medieval Times since we were kids.  Our parents took us on numerous roadtrips, and Medieval Times enticed us youngin's everytime we passed by its various locations on the highway.  Our fascination with medieval violence probably stems from watching Ivanhoe and rewinding and rewatching the last fight scene from elementary school to this day.  We always burst into guffaw when Front de Boeuf chooses the forbidding flail, leaving Ivanhoe on a very sad defense for the first half of the fight.

From the cheesy exterior, I expected the show to be cheesy-bad and the food to be pseudo-medieval-better-than-gruel fare.  Turns out, the show was fun and engaging and the food wasn't bad!  In fact, the apple turnover was absolutely delicious. 

Tomato Soup; Roasted Chicken, Spare Rib, Baked Potato with Herbs and Spices

Apple Turnover

We were assigned to cheer for the yellow knight.  Unfortunately, the green knight, the antagonist, picked to fight our knight first, which obviously meant that he was as good as dead.  That didn't matter, I cheered for the remaining knights and had a fantastic time being a kid again!  I'm glad I got to share this dinner show with my brother.

Jousting; Yellow Knight Losing

Chao Vit Thanh Da: Inside the Saigon Mall Food Court in Garland, TX

I had no idea that the Dallas-Metro area has so many Asian commercial centers like a spread out version of Rowland Heights in California!  Just search "Asian Markets Dallas" and you'll get a map of 10 Asian market locations! I recently visited Hong Kong Market Place, Asia World Market, and Saigon Mall

Saigon Mall

It was snowing when we arrived at Saigon Mall, so our instincts told us to hit the food court for a hot bowl of pho.  I got caught up in the vareity of Vietnamese eateries and wanted to try everything.  There were 2 or 3 places selling 20 kinds of banh mi!  It's glorious!

Saigon Mall Food Court

Of all the vendors, I picked Chao Vit Thanh Da because they had the most customers.  The 3 of us ordered a beef pho with meatballs and a plate of grilled pork, steamed egg with ground meat and clear noodles, pork skin dusted with peanut powder, salad, and cracked rice.  I wish mall food courts have Vietnamese vendors!  The food at Chao Vit was excellent and the rice combo plate was enormous at only $6. 

Chao Vit Thanh Da

Rice Combo Plate; Beef Pho

Grilled pork, steamed egg with ground meat and clear noodles, pork skin dusted with peanut powder, salad, and cracked rice

I remember that I used to eat around the pork skin because it gave me the creeps, but I got over it this time and found the chewy strands quite delectable with the peanut powder!

Beef Pho

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maudie's Tex Mex: How I Found Comfort in an Office Lunch Disaster

Another office (not the cookie swap office) inflicted a hilariously awkward lunch onto my friend and me.  I won't go into details here, but it really was as awkward as it could get, though I wouldn't put it past this office to throw another curve ball at me in the future.

The setting was at Maudie's, a restaurant I've been wanting to try since Jennifer H. of the cookie swap office told me about their Diablo Sol Food queso.  And boy, even though my friend and I had to endure through a certain degree of humiliation, I took comfort in food like any forlorn maiden.  The prices were awesome too.  I'm almost willing to forget this office ridiculousness.

Free Chips and Salsa

Diablo Sol Food-melted cheese seasoned with garlic, onions, peppers, taco beef, and pico de gallo.

Yes, Jennifer, this queso just bursts with flavor!  I will be coming to Maudie's regularly for this.  As much as I love Torchy's queso, I'm more of a carnivorous queso eater.  Hula Hut's queso compuesto is still my favorite, but I'm no fan of the price.  My credit card whimpers everytime I head there for just queso.  So until Hula Hut changes their price, I'll be heading to Maudie's for my bowl of melty cheese.

Soft Tacos with Taco Beef, Lettuce, Tomatoes, and Guacamole

Besides loving the queso, I was shocked to eat a plate of satisfying soft tacos for only $5.95!  By the end of the meal, I was laughing away my work-related troubles.

Office Cookie Swap

The office had a cookie swap on Monday, which was a fantastic idea, until we all gorged ourselves on the following deliciousness to the point of regret...not quite, but almost.

The managers at the office turned out to be fantastic chefs!  I enjoyed every single cookie, and I'm not just being nice to keep my job.  :-P

I was thrown off by the odd appearance of Melinda's chocolate dough, M&M, butterscotch chips, oatmeal, and coconut cookies, but they tasted sweet without going overboard like its ingredients would suggest. 

Chocolate Dough, M&Ms, Butterscotch Chips, Oatmeal, and Coconut Cookies

Shana concocted red velvet cake balls with chocolate shell bottoms that kept me going at work on holiday week!

Red Velvet Cake Balls with Chocolate Shell Bottoms

Red Velvet Cake Balls

Jennifer M. made the texturally blissful cranberry coconut cookies.  I really want to know how she got them to have an angel cake consistency without taking away the cookie constitution!  I'm also a fan of her spicey gingersnaps.

My Stash: Cranberry Coconut Cookies, Gingersnaps, Red Velvet Cake Balls, and the "Everything" Cookies

I ate 7 cookies that day.  That's scary.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Baking Cookies from Scratch for the First Time!

The office is holding a cookie swap tomorrow, and this is the kind of push that I needed to face my baking fears. I baked a bit when I was in elementary school. I would bake cakes and breads on weekends after pouring over recipe books from the library. I lost touch with baking when I realized that other forms of cooking are so much faster with easier clean-ups. I no longer had the patience for bread to rise, for egg whites to get beaten into a nice fluff, for cakes to be decorated, and for the confections to bake--10, 30, 60 minutes seem like an eternity.

I thus devoted my entire Sunday to baking 2 kinds of cookies worthy of my time *wink*. Most of what I cook is without the help of a recipe. I either interpret a dish from my memory of how it tastes, or I create something. I can't risk that with baking! I have absolutely no solid knowledge in making sweets. After asking a couple of foodie friends and much internet research, I picked Saveur magazine's blog cookie pick-Une Gamine dans la Cuisine's mint chocolate chip cookies and Kayotic Kitchen's savory Italian cheese cookies.

The recipes are all hyperlinked to their names above so I won't post them here. I will post my photos and tell you that they are very scrumptious. However, I did make an addition to the savory cookie. I noticed how many people posted on Kayotic Kitchen that their Italian cheese cookies turned out on the dry side, so I added a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of olive oil (I doubled the quantity from the recipe so maybe 1/4 to 1/2 tsp for the recipe) into the mixer along with the dry ingredients. They turned out really well!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies


Chopped dark chocolate ready to go into the dough

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Stack of Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Sundried Tomato-Rosemary-Parmigiano Reggiano Cookies


Butter, flour, parmigiano reggiano, cayenne, salt, rosemary

Dough with sundried tomatoes; Chilled dough

Baked Italian Cheese Cookies!

Italian Cheese Cookies

Trio of Italian Cheese Cookies