Sunday, December 27, 2015

Delicious Assorted Cakes For My Christmas Cocktail Party

Review submitted by: Jane Ong

As I mentioned in my previous post, I hosted an early Christmas cocktail party a week before Christmas.  Being an extremely busy professional who doesn't have much time to spend in the kitchen, I had chosen to not make my own desserts but to pay $52.08 to get a dozen mini cakes from one of my favorite Japanese bakeries.  These cakes were a great hit at my cocktail party.  They tasted richly delicious and were such a joy to eat.  Everyone at the party loved the good clean sensation from the cakes. These cakes just didn't leave a sickly and stuffy feeling in the chest or throat.  They were rich, yet smooth and they felt so light and comfortable after the last bite was gone.  They were really great with coffee.  I could have spent days in my kitchen and watched all the baking shows on TV but I don't think I will be able to make cakes like these. May be I can, but I just don't have the time.  According to my friends at my party, these were actually the best cakes they ever had in their lives. Of course, these cakes aren't made of vegetable shortening, and there is no food coloring in them. The ingredients are real chocolate, real cream, real fruits, and this is why these cakes don't come with too many color schemes, which I don't care. Because most of the colorful cakes that I had before from grocery stores and other American bakeries just made me feel so sick afterwards and all I tasted was food coloring. I personally hate the taste of vegetable shortening, and I don't like the taste of food color which is so strong in all cakes in a lot of American bakeries... and the fondant that is so widely used. Yuck. To me, cakes and desserts aren't about the color, the price or quantity, it's all about quality.  I would never want to eat cakes again if there were no Japanese bakery in the USA and if I couldn't find time or the money to bake them myself.

Bakery: Mammoth Bakery
Address:Inside Marukai Gardena Pacific
              1620 W. Redondo Beach Blvd. Gardena, CA 90247
Tel: (310) 538-9031

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Trees Crostinis

Content submitted by: Jane Ong

I never had to even boil water until I graduated college.  My parents always discouraged me from even stepping into the kitchen, because they themselves were forced to spend their entire childhood and young adulthood in the home kitchen and working in the kitchen.  For some twisted reasons, my parents just didn't want their children to go even close to the kitchen.  I'd come to learn how to make a sandwich when I started working and living on my own.  This year, I felt I had to prove to my friends that I wasn't totally helpless and spoiled just because I get most of my meals from restaurants. So, I decided to throw an early Christmas cocktail party at my tiny apartment before I went overseas for my Christmas vacation. Based on my years of sandwich making experience, I made Christmas Trees Crostinis for the cocktail party.  It was fast, and easy and I was proud that they were extremely well received and they disappeared from my party tray really really fast.

The Japanese bakeries here in Los Angeles make the best and freshest white bread in the entire Los Angeles (just my opinion).  Naturally, the delicious white bread makes the best tasting Crostini. My friends could just eat the plain toasted white bread by itself non-stop.  It's how good the Japanese white bread was. 

I bought a Christmas tree cookie cutter years ago wanting to make Christmas tree cookies to bring to the Christmas party at work.  I ended up not making any cookies but bought a party tray of disgusting cookies from the grocery store instead.   When I saw the brand new cookie cutter that had never been used all these years, I thought of using it to may be  make some croutons for salads.  Then I felt they were too big for salads and decided to turn them into Crostinis.  The cookie cutter turned out to be really useful in making festive looking Crostini. These Crostinis are extremely easy to make and taste really good with Champagne.   

Makes 24 Crostinis  

  1. 24 pieces of really really good quality white bread 
  2. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 2 teaspoons dry parsley flakes
  4. 1 can (5oz) tuna in oil, drained and flaked (reserve 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil)
  5. 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  6. 1 cup can (7oz) sweet corn
  7. 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  8. Salt & ground pepper 
  9. Powdered Parmesan cheese for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut 24 Christmas trees out of the white bread using a cookie cutter. Place the Christmas tree pieces on the baking sheet.  On both sides, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley flakes.  Bake for 10  to 12 minutes or until golden.  Turn over once during baking.  

  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together ingredients 4) to 7).  Use some of the reserved oil from the can tuna to bind the ingredients if necessary. Or you can use some mayo to bind instead.  Season with salt and ground pepper.

  3. Spoon the tuna mixture from step 2 above onto the baked Christmas tree pieces, garnish with powdered Parmesan cheese and serve.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Martha Stewart's Double Chocolate Brownies Recipe Make Great Christmas Gifts

Content submitted by: Jane Ong

In the past few years, I always picked up a Martha Stewart Magazine on the magazine rack whenever I visited a grocery store.  It was however just pure browsing.  I hadn't tried any recipe or any craft from the magazines.  I have been a very busy professional slave and I never had time to do much other than flipping through the glossy Martha Stewart Magazines during check-out.  2 years ago during my sabbatical, I had the leisure to finally make her Double-Chocolate Brownie recipe.  They are so delicious that I have been  making them as Christmas gifts for my landlord and his family ever since. They love them tremendously, which I am very glad.

I can't be buying the glossy Martha Stewart Magazines all these years and not learn one trick or two in terms of gift wrapping. I originally was looking for the Martha Stewart brand gift box but they seem to be kind of pricey.  So I just grabbed whatever that was the cheapest:

$3.76 for the Bags & Ribbon, $1.99 for the 9 gift tags, and 9% sales tax, total $6.27 to pack 32 brownies with 1 gift tag left for use to tie to another gift.  This is  not the first time in my life I made gifts from the kitchen, but  I still don't know how to tie a proper bow.  My bows just didn't come out as proper looking as the one shown on the Wilton photo.  I still don't know how to do it. So one of my resolutions for 2016 will be to find out how to tie a bow properly and learn to do it.  Hopefully there is a tutorial on Martha Stewart's website somewhere?

Notes From Our Editors: Tell us about your most favorite food gifts for Christmas and we will send you a box of Godiva Chocolate Truffles if we decide to publish your review here. For submission guidelines, please click here to connect with us.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gift Wrap Wine Using Wrapping Paper Leftover From Prior Years

Content submitted by: Jane Ong

I can't believe I am still having Christmas wrapping paper from more than 2 years ago.  I don't dare to use it to wrap gift boxes this year because I am afraid that my friends will recognize the same wrapping paper when they receive the box of gift from me.  I'm so sick of having this old roll of wrapping paper lying around that I decided to use it to wrap Champagn bottles this year. I hope that the wrapping paper showing up in a bottle shape instead of a cube shape will make it look less familiar to my friend.  Gift wrapping the champagn bottle is easy, I just double folded the wrapping paper and rolled the bottle inside, tape it up (tugged the bottom in with invisible tape) and secured the neck with a silver beaded hair band that I bought for cheap when I had long hair, yet my short hair now has no use for it.  I also added a gift tag left over from 2 Christmases ago.  Now hopefully, my friend might not remember the wrapping paper so much.  Below is a photo of the Champagne before it was wrapped.

It actually looked great and Christmas presentable even without wrapping. I just want to use up my old wrapping paper... However, I'm still not done with the roll and it's still lying around in my home.... It's driving me crazy now that I have to think of more ways to use it up. I hate tossing things away even though I know I can simply trash it. I just can't get myself to trash wrapping papers that are in good condition....

Notes From Our Editors: Tell us about your most favorite food gifts for Christmas and we will send you a box of Godiva Chocolate Truffles if we decide to publish your review here. For submission guidelines, please click here to connect with us.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Stay Away From Kroger Wild Caught Pacific Cod

Review submitted by: Jane Ong
I just had a piece of these cods that I bought for $9.99 a bag at my local grocery store Ralph. But now I feel I was scammed and I am very angry about the quality of this totally tasteless cod fillets.  I love fish.  Most of my money I spent dining out is on seafood dishes, particularly on fish dishes like cod.  So when I saw the photo and the description on the bag, I was lured to make the purchase.  May be I am not cooking it right?  I thawed the fish fillet and I dumped it in my pre-seasoned Korean Soon Tofu soup starter kit, thinking it's going to add a lot of flavor to my beloved tofu soup.  Korean Soon Tofu soup is a very tasty and delicious soup. I bought the extremely tasty Korean soup starter kit, tossed in mushroom, the cod and green onions.  But the cod added no extra seafood flavor to my tofu soup. While my tofu and mushroom soaked up the seasoning of the soup starter kit, the cod still tasted nothing.   How could the cod taste nothing while my tofu and mushroom absorbed the seasoning of the soup kit?  Eating the cod is like chewing on paper towel. I mean paper towel right out of the dispenser without soaking the paper towel into my tasty tofu soup kit.  It's because if only I soak my paper towel into the soup, even the paper towel becomes flavorful.

What exactly is this cod?  Is this really fish?  I mean I had cods in restaurants all the time, baked cods, fried cods, sauteed cod, grilled cod, etc, etc, and I love Trader Joe's "American Made" oven ready breaded cod fillets.  I had never had a piece of cod that tasted like paper towel. I am angry because I feel that Kroger insults me by selling me this crap.  Does Kroger really think I am so retarded that I think cod should taste like paper towel?  Does Kroger think I don't deserve to be sold decent quality cod but tasteless crap?  The package says the cods were wild caught in the Pacific. Then when I read the "fine print" just now, I saw "Product of China".  Now, no wonder the cod tasted like paper towel, or recycled white plastic?  So America can't even fish now, but has to depend on China to fish for her?  Only god knows how these cods were processed in the processing plants in China or how they were treated to have the texture  changed so drastically and the taste totally bleached out.  Anything that can't be seasoned after soaking in the tasty Korean Tofu Soup kit has to be pretty bad....because this soup kit can make anything taste decent, including paper towels and I am not kidding.  But the soup can't add flavor to the cod.  Besides, fish is supposed to add flavor to any soup...Now, my concern is, are those really cod I just eat or some simulation from recycled plastics?

The Best Tasting Decadent Little Chocolate Cake

Review submitted by: Jane Ong

Set on a little gold plate, this is one of the best tasting mini chocolate ganache cakes I'v had.  Covered under the deliciously rich chocolate ganache are layers of light and fluffy regular cake and chocolate cake layered with real delicious whip cream and chocolate butter cream.  Dusted with coco powder, topped with rich chocolate truffle ball, chocolate pieces and a flake of gold (which is edible light sugar that melts in the mouth like cotton candy).  This mini individual size cake is so divinely delicious.  What I like about this cake is, it tastes so rich and so good and yet it feels so light. This is made by one of my favorite Japanese bakeries.  This cake doesn't give me a sickly and stuffy feeling. It's just a pure enjoyment to eat this cake because it's not overly sweet, and yet it's appropriately sweet, and indulging.  I just like the after feeling when I finished my last bite. I just felt great and I didn't feel stuffy and sickly like I always felt after eating a donut or a cheap cupcake from the average American bakeries, or something baked by my dear friends and colleagues from the mass market baking mix.  For people who think their cup cakes are good or the baked goods in the typical grocery stores are actually edible, just try this cake and they won't be able to go back and taste those craps again.  

This cake is $4.29, yes, it's not cheap because this isn't made of cheap hydrogenated anything or artificial chocolate powder cake mix and crisco, this is the real cake made by Japanese bakers using the real ingredients. This is how cake is supposed to taste like.  This cake is totally worth my time to eat and the possible extra calories that I added to my slim body. (My family and I  have been eating cakes like this all our lives, never the cheap disgusting baked goods in grocery stores. We don't eat cakes every day, only once in a while and we are still slim.)

Bakery: Monte Martre Bakery
Address: 2525 Pacific Coast Hwy, Torrance, CA 90505
Tel: (310) 326-2783

Notes From Our Editors: Do you know how to ship delicate cakes?  If so, you are welcome to tell us how, and we will send you the above cake if we decide to publish your tips here. For submission guidelines, please click here to connect with us.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Williams-Sonoma Classic Hot Chocolate

Review submitted by: Barbara Weiner
This was my impulse purchase when I was visiting the Williams-Sonoma store to kill time while waiting for my friend. The store was full of Christmas traffic, it smelled really good and the display was totally festive.  When I saw this beautiful red tin, I wasn't thinking so much about Chocolate, but I was really thinking of the white open cabinet rack in my kitchen.  I thought the red tin would make my white rack look good for this holiday season and it does.  In terms of the chocolate, it's just shaved chocolate. It's pretty good quality chocolate, but not much better than regular chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate. I probably can make the same hot chocolate by melting semi-sweet chocolate into my milk.  It's very pricey at $19.95 a can. It goes fast because it takes 5 table spoons for every one cup of hot milk. I did get a 20% in-store discount though.  But you can also get 20% off and free shipping for this chocolate if you shop at the Williams-Sonoma website and enter the code  "FRIENDS" at check out.  What I love about this product isn't so much about the taste. Sure the taste is good and I surely enjoy it (but I had better hot chocolate). What I really like about this product is that it's  made in the USA and its Christmas container is a great functional holiday decor for my white kitchen rack.

Notes From Our Editors: Tell us about your most favorite food gifts for Christmas and we will send you a box of Godiva Chocolate Truffles if we decide to publish your review here. For submission guidelines, please click here to connect with us.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Baked Cod Fillet Served with Linguine With Pesto and Tomatoes

Content contributed by: Jane Ong

Trader Joe's has this tasty Linguine with Pesto & Tomatoes  for $2.99 per a 16 ounce bag that makes a great meal when paired with  Trader Joe's oven ready breaded cod fillets.  A box of 8 to 9 pieces of breaded cod fillets is only $9.99.  I normally don't buy frozen fish fillets because most of the fish fillets in American grocery stores are "Products of China" and I am  aware of the fact that there isn't that many unpolluted shores or rivers in China to produce that many fish fillets for export.  So when I saw that Trader Joe's oven ready breaded cod fillets are "Products of the USA", it naturally became one of my favorite grocery items from TJ.  I popped them into the oven as instructed and they came out pretty good.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Holiday Truffles Star Ornament

Review submitted by: Barbara Weiner
I spotted this really cute box of chocolate truffles when I was shopping for Christmas gifts at Barnes & Nobles.  I would like to give some of my friends edible gifts this year and so I decided to try out these chocolate truffles myself.  They tasted pretty good. But it is the Christmas star box that really appeals to me.  I  hang the box on a gold tone door knob on my bedroom's white door and  it looks really festive and pretty.  I'm actually going to buy more of these for myself as Christmas ornaments on my kitchen cabinet.  After I finish the chocolates, I will use the pretty candy wraps to wrap balls of paper towel and put them back in the box for decorating.  These beautifully packaged chocolate truffles however aren't cheap at $10.00 per box.  For those of you who are really crafty, may be you can make the box yourself and stuff it with your homemade candies. But for me, paying $10.00 for a box of these beautifully wrapped chocolate truffles  is very worth my time.

Notes From Our Editors: Tell us about your most favorite food gifts for Christmas and we will send you a box of the above Chocolate Truffles if we decide to publish your review here. For submission guidelines, please click here to connect with us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

240-Calories Herb Roasted Chicken Dinner

Review submitted by: Jane Ong
Herb-Roasted Chicken Over A Medley Of Zucchini, Tomatoes & Butternut Squash

I had been walking by My Fit Foods many times because it's right next to Trader Joe's, a few steps down from my favorite Chinese restaurant, a few more steps from Wholefood supermarket, an authentic Japanese grocery store, Blaze Pizza and also a number of Japanese restaurants.  I have always been curious about this shiny and sparkly clean store front but as you can see, there are just too many food choices within walking distance that it's not easy for me to make up my mind to walk into this prepared meals store.

Today, I finally bought a box of dinner ($7.29 + tax) from there before I walked over to pick up my Chinese lunch next door. The box size reminds me of meals that I ordered when I was flying with Virgin America.  In my opinion, the taste and quality of this dinner are also similar to the meals served by Virgin America, which I didn't particularly love, but I had no problem swiping my credit card for when I was hungry and I had no other choice.  The quality and the taste of this dinner are decent, but the chicken is just way too bland for my taste.  The veggies are somewhat less bland but they are still not well seasoned for my palate.  I mainly tasted the peppery seasoning from the veggies, and no salt. The taste is too one-dimensional for me, which is somewhat boring, compared to the ready meals from grocery stores like Wholefood, Fresh & Easy & Trader Joe's.  This dinner box is however much better than frozen dinners. It's after all made up of decent quality real chicken and real veggies.

Los Angeles may seem to be a great market for healthy meals, but the competition is fierce and consumers' are spoiled by all the great cuisines brought in from around the world.  If this store wants to survive here in Los Angeles, it has to do a lot better, in terms of taste, quality, price and delivery.

Store: My Fit Foods
Address: 2543-G Pacific Coast Hwy, Torrance, CA 90505

Notes From Our Editors: Share your restaurant experience with us and we will send you a box of gourmet Chocolate Truffles if we decide to publish your review here. For submission guidelines, please click here to connect with us.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Thanksgiving Dinner Classics

Review submitted by: Jane Ong

After two years' absence from Black Angus Steakhouse on Thanksgiving day, my friend and I had returned this year for our traditional thanksgiving dinner there that we started several years ago.  Last time we went, it was $16.99 for a whole dinner with all the fixings.  This year, it was $18.99 per dinner. We like that the dinner included a bowl of richly delicious potato soup.  My friend suggested to go to my favorite Chinese restaurant which was open on Thanksgiving day.  But to me, I just needed to get that turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. I never had any kind of  food other than the American Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving and the thought of  not having it this year drove me into a panic mode.  So my friend gave in and I had my familiar comforting Turkey dinner that I usually enjoyed at Black Angus Steakhouse.

As usual, I was overall pretty satisfied with my turkey dinner there, even though pie isn't this restaurant's specialty.   The restaurant has very decent dinner rolls, and I love the turkey stuffing there.

The pumpkin pie I had there wasn't the greatest, but it wasn't bad.  I always requested the server to heat the pie up for me because I don't like pumpkin pie cold.

I had many Thanksgiving Dinners at relatives' or friends' homes where I literally felt like torture to me because the food was either too bland or just not well prepared by the not-so great cooks who think they are good cooks.  In order not to hurt their feeling, I often had to act like I loved their food that they piled on my plate.  There is nothing more tortuous than forced feeding myself a plate of cold, gamy or bland dry turkey, with the really mushy and overcooked broccoli or canned green beans casserole. The worst part was I had to sit at the dinner tables with people I love and care and try to hide the fact that I was literally repulsed by their cooking.  I just don't like canned veggies, I love fresh green beans but I hate canned green beans, particularly when they are drown in canned mushroom soup.  So this year, once again, I came up with all kinds of excuses to dodge my thanksgiving dinner invitations and chose a decent turkey dinner over spending time with friends and family.

Restaurant: Black Angus Steakhouse
Address: 3405 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90503
Tel: (310) 370-1523

Notes From Our Editors: Share your restaurant experience with us and we will send you a box of gourmet Chocolate Truffles if we decide to publish your review here. For submission guidelines, please click here to connect with us.