Sunday, March 30, 2014

Homemade Pasta With Mushroom Bourguignon

I had always wanted to make my own noodles of some sort, but was also always too intimidated. But after the last several kitchen experiments (in previous posts about soft pretzels and turkey meatballs) turning out quite well, I had built enough confidence to consider perhaps trying to add "homemade pasta" to my list. (And then blogging it not to collect "hits" to any of my posts, but rather to document my own learning process and hopefully, my improvements).

I am in love with this cookbook. I've talked about it before with recipes I've tried in the past. I love that it's totally my style of foods that I'd want to try. I like that there's a good amount of choices yet also an exhaustive list... because the last thing I want is a book of 500 recipes, and all I do is spend time dog-earring every single page, but just spending time being overwhelmed by all the things I want to make, but not make any of it. Have any of you done that? Collect recipes that you'd one day like to try... but when it comes to actually trying them, there may be less than a handful? 

The recipe in the book was just for the mushroom bourguignon. But instead of buying a package of egg noodles, (as what the recipe called for), I decided to make my own pasta noodles. I used a combination of Jamie Oliver's recipe for simple homemade pasta and the recipe that came with the pasta machine. Why the combination of two recipes? Well, because I'm horribly indecisive like that. 

These pieces of dough certainly don't look pretty. I was playing with the sizes of dough to run through the pasta machine. If too much, it won't work. Or, I just don't have the hang of it yet. 

My new toy. Well, it's not new. We must have had this for some time now... years... but nobody has ever whipped it out to use it. I should have left my kitchen experiment as an experiment only, but instead, I decided that this would be my family's dinner. Cranking out enough pasta for five people on my first try became quite the feat. I watched a YouTube video beforehand that teaches you how to make pasta noodles in five minutes. By the time I finished making the noodles, two hours has passed. 

Now, thinking back to it, it wasn't hard. But because it was my first time, I had a lot of trial and error. First off, I almost threw the dough away and started over again, because it initially felt super lumpy. Even though every recipe I read had said it would be lumpy, and that you need to knead it to make it less so, I still had doubt in my mind and thought that I had screwed up already. Running the dough through the machine isn't hard, but it still required playing with to get it right. Always crank at a consistent speed. Don't let the dough run too close to the sides. Make sure everything is floured really well. 

But it all seemed to pay off because these gorgeous-lookin' pasta noodles fell out of the machine. And I was in total awe. Wow, I could make that! One proud moment. 

But it didn't last long... and I'll tell you why in a sec. 

This was one trick I learned from my Dirty Apron class last year. Don't wash mushrooms with water. They act like sponges and soak up the water, which in turn can change your dish. Instead, use a brush to brush off any dirt (which is a lot easier than peeling off the top layer of each mushroom). I do have to admit that some still seemed a little dirty, so I still ran some under water.

The combination of red wine, tomato paste, and beef stock gives such an amazing aroma. I couldn't wait to eat it. I did a couple taste tests before serving, and... oh man. This recipe from the Smitten Kitchen book did it again. It's simple, flavourful, and without stewing beef (like in a beef bourguignon), it was quick. This is definitely going on my "must make it again" list. 

Homemade pasta with mushroom bourguignon. Made it to the dinner table after THREE whole hours. 

It really shouldn't have taken that long, but first-time homemade pasta maker here had no clue what she was doing. Dinner was good, and everything turned out well, but it didn't come without frustration and maybe even a tiny bit of anger. It isn't always pretty every single time. The food. Or my temper. What happened after two hours of cranking out pasta noodles was my mistake in placing all the noodles in a pan (as shown in photo above). There was more humidity in the kitchen than I had thought, and sadly, most of the noodles ended up sticking together. I was able to pull apart some of it to boil for two out of five plates of pasta. (Hence how I was able to still take a few shots of my food for photos above). But, I had five people to feed in my family. I ended up smashing the dough back together into a ball, rolling it out with a rolling pin, and cutting it up with a knife.... which took all of five minutes versus my two-hour work of running it through the machine that had evidently all gone to waste. Now I know why people hang their pasta to dry after they have shaped them. I hate to admit that I cracked under the pressure I gave myself, from feeling horrible that it was 8pm and I wasn't about to serve a lump of boiled dough.

In the end, I learned something new (mission accomplished), and my family enjoyed dinner. Pasta turned out perfectly al dente. Paired with the mushroom bourguignon, it was super yummy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vancouver Canucks

I love me a hockey game. I live in Vancouver. Hockey is the life of this city. Whether you're a hardcore fan or a bandwagoner, everyone gets sucked into following the game at some point. I don't live hockey like some do. I don't know most of their stats. I don't follow every game. I don't have all their merchandise. But I do get into the hype when they have a good run at the play-offs. I've been to a craaazyy playoff game. I've gone downtown to hang out with the city's parties. I've taken a vacation day from work to watch game seven for the Stanley Cup. Experiencing the spirit of it all. 

M is a season ticket holder, so I had the privilege to join her for a game tonight. The intro light show to each game always gets me going. M also showed me all the tricks to getting a free drink at the concession stand, entering myself into draws that people don't know about, and getting Canucks freebies. We scarfed down some hot dogs and pizza ( cheap Costco food ) before going in. Ahh, hockey games are always a good time. 

We bumped into B and D at the game, so afterwards, we met up for cheap wings night. All in all, a perfect, chillaxing night.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Going Down To The States ( And Din Tai Fung )

Bridesmaid duties call again. Karen and I woke up at 6am, to get ready for a drive to Langley to meet up with Wendy and Cliff, before our day trip down to the States. Dress and shoe shopping was our mission. Long story short, we were unsuccessful. But, we ended up at the brand new Din Tai Fung at University Hill for lunch, and that pretty much made our day. 

Delicious, juicy dumplings... brings me back to my Taipei trip that I went on last year. Although, I have to say... the dumplings are still slightly better in Taipei. The flavours are the same, but the dumpling wrappers were just a lot more thin. Regardless, still absolutely yummy.

We were unsuccessful at University Hill, and unsuccessful in Seattle Downtown... even Costco closed before we got there. We ended up doing our best shopping at Trader Joe's. (Mochi ice cream!!!). And that's a wrap for this day trip. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

V Brought The Sun

There was no way to avoid looking a little crazy while I walked down the street with my eyes closed for just a few seconds. I was soaking in the feeling of a moment's bliss as the warm sun hits my skin.We had checked the forecast last night and it predicted an 80% chance of rain. Another website read 100%. But right that moment, there was nothing but warmth and sunshine. A part of me believed that V had something to do with it.

V is my brother's friend. My brother attended her funeral today. He spent the past couple of weeks thoughtfully putting together his outfit for the day. Respectful, was what he was trying to go for. For weeks now, he would mention her out of the blue in the middle of our conversations. Obviously, she's been on his mind. I was the one who broke the news to him when we first found out about her passing, because I somehow found out first. I had burst into his room, and just threw the news at him, almost hoping that he would somehow ensure me that I had gotten it all wrong. That it was some cruel mistake. That it wasn't true. But instead, he sat in his chair, not moving for minutes... in complete shock. Even though she had many, many friends, that are closer to her than my brother was, I knew from even our highschool days that her friendship meant a lot to him.

Life is fragile. I've heard it many times, but it doesn't ring any more true than now. For weeks, I've watched my brother try to process it all. Going through the necessary steps of grieving. And remembering. Makes everything else seem so small. But this is all a part of life. There will be death. There will also be birth. Today is also Kat's birthday. (Happy Birthday!). And B gave birth to her little girl. (Congrats!).The hard part about having loved someone (through no matter the kind of relationship : friendship, marriage, family, etc) is when we have to let them go. But the sorrow and sadness that comes with it sprouts from once having shared true happiness and great memories with them. That's what we live for. So, instead, I find peace and comfort in knowing that. Let us grieve... 'cause I would never give up those great memories to not have to grieve.

I gotta admit I was a little worried at how my brother was gonna handle it all. But what I learned and continue to learn (about someone I lived with for most of my life), is that he's much stronger than I thought I always knew.

V, your life was cut much too short. You've touched so many and spread happiness to so many... through my brother, I felt like I always knew you. The kind, caring, compassionate person that you were.  As I was having my moment outside with the sun today, all I could think of was you. Believing that it was you bringing this warmth to all those who love you. Thank you for being that great friend to my brother. You have no idea what it meant to me.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscar Pool 2014

With my last post, of course there was an Oscar Party. There was no loud music, no crazy boozing, no dressing up, no funky decorations or party favours... but it was still a party. We call everything a party. That's how we get together - we celebrate everything. At this party, we all entered our Oscar pool ballots, taking our best stabs at who we think would win each award category. Each person puts in $5. With the total of eleven of us, the pot was $55.

While watching pretty, skinny people, we could only think to snack on guilt-free raw vegetables. (Har har). Karen made two yummy dips - a miso dip and a curry dip. Mmm!

We lounged around at my aunt's place in our bum clothes, and watched the winners being announced after Ellen's monologue.

We marked our papers, and cheered loudly when any of us were right. "YAHH!!!". Then we trash texted the people who were playing with us but weren't there, whenever they were wrong. 

All the while, little S was being so quiet and good playing with her baby toy.

She grabbed the last cherry tomato from the veggie plate. Think she liked that one the best because it was a "ball ball".

Then she gave me her mommy's signature evil stare when I was disturbing her watching Auntie Bran's video of a bunny.

But I bugged her anyway, 'cause I can't get enough of little S.

Bran and Dan brought over some yummy treats from Malaysia. They are sweet and dissolve in your mouth. 

We all crowded around to check out Karen's masterpiece. 

This gorgeous banana chocolate cream pie! 

What is better than ending this night off with this deliciously decadent cream pie? 

I won the pool!

Well, Dan and I both won the pool. $27.50 for each of us. Afterwards, Karen sent out a rather formal email confirming our win to the rest who were part of the pool but didn't show up at the party. I wrote an email back in reply : 

I want to thank the academy for giving me this opportunity for a win I truly do not deserve. All my co-players were just as amazing and this win goes out to you all. NOT!! And finally, I want to thank my family, Karen and Ray, for putting together this oscar pool... For which, without them, I wouldn't be writing this winning speech for my free dim-sum meal courtesy of all my friends. Muwhahhahaha.

Ray then replied with :

Like the Olympics who conduct random drug testing... I would like to point out that Amie's Oscar selection was submitted at 12:05 pm, 5 min past the deadline. In compliance with IOC regulation, Amie's gold medal should be stripped and the sole gold medalist, and sole winner, should be Dan.
And for pointing out this violation, it's only fair that Dan should split the winnings with the silver medalists.
Looks like I'm having dim sum with the Yees!!!!! Muuuuuwaaahahahahaha!
I ended it off with :
Sadly, wrong event. Who applies Olympic rules to the oscars?? There are no podiums for the best actress and best actor. And in compliance with the oscars, like brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, always "fashionably late". 

But with the kindness of Jolie's humanitarian heart, I'm sure dan and I can work out something to use our winnings to treat dim sum. 

Just us. Being silly.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oscars Party 2014

If you followed this year's Oscars award ceremony, or even if you didn't, you probably heard about Ellen crashing Twitter with this Oscar selfie that broke re-tweeting records. That is one epic selfie, for sure. We decided to join in on the fun and did our own Oscars Party selfie too! Gotta love little Sarah's enthusiasm and all our happy, smiley faces. Good times. (More on our Oscars Party later).