Category Archives: Culinary

It’s High Tea Time!

I had long dreamed of having High Tea at a special place like New York Hudson Valley’s The Equus, so when Valentine’s Day had rolled around (this was a few years back) and I learned that my husband was bringing us there for afternoon tea, I was none-other-than ecstatic!  The following is most likely what we had ordered…  mind you it has been some time…  a nice assortment of lovely teas and delicious little tea cakes, scones (served warm and frosted in powdered sugar with the choice of clotted cream & fruit preserves), and toasted curry chicken sandwiches.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  Every tea lover should try this once in their life…  even if it’s simply planning a quaint little tea party at home and extending an invitation to a few good friends- this would be a darling thing to do, by the way, so don’t just write it off.

Our recent Cape May excursion allowed for another similar treat of afternoon tea at the Carriage House Cafe & Tea Room located on the grounds of the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate.  I ordered egg salad with chives on swirled rye and shared the assorted scones & tea breads accompanied with clotted cream with my husband.  My tea of choice was Harney & Sons’ Vervaine Lemon Verbena (I highly recommend).  It was a perfect sunny, gently breezy day and I was so happy to be there; just the night before we took a trolley ride around the Emlen Physick Estate on the Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tours, which I also highly recommend!..  Think darkened magical streets and flickering gas lamps… let your imagination run wild ;)!  As an aside, for our next Cape May visit, this sounds great too -> The Walking Ghost Tour.

P.S. Cucumber or watercress sandwiches with cream cheese are among my favorite tea-time helpings.  Searching for great menu ideas?   I recently found a wealth of info at Linda A. Thompson’s Blog.

*Photocredit: The Equus, New York and Carriage House Cafe & Tearoom, New Jersey


carriage house cafe & tearoom

Holiday Pie Embellishments

Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays!  Happy New Year!!!

I spotted these lovely piecrust cutters in the holiday edition of Williams-Sonoma’s catalog and was instantly inspired!  Aren’t the pies just gorgeous with not too much effort even?!  I ordered a set of these holiday cutters and a fall leaves version.  I’m going to get back into baking for sure now!  Some day I would love to present a pretty pie that I made with any of these cutter sets to a party hostess.

I will try my best to remember to post pics of my upcoming pie bake =)

*Photocredit: Williams-Sonoma & NYCupcake

*Update: February 16, 2012:

I recently made a chicken pot pie using these charming pie cutters; just couldn’t wait.  Tasted delicious besides the few darkened spots on the crust.



McCormick’s Szechuan Style Pepper Blend

I was very disappointed to find out that McCormick had discontinued my favorite pepper blend of all-time!  I loved to sprinkle it on my eggs; made everything very tasty.  This disappointment came a few years ago (circa 2006) and today it’s still on my mind.  I proceeded to re-create the Szechuan pepper blend last year and met with some small success (not quite the same but it will do for now).  Just in case you loved the pepper blend as much as I did; and wanted to know the ingredients so you can try your hand at possibly re-creating it, here’s the list…

  • Spices: Black Pepper, Red Pepper, Ginger, Garlic, Sugar, Onion, Salt, Extractives of Paprika (I worked only with mixing the spices in an empty spice container and didn’t concern myself with the tricalcium).
  • Tricalcium Phosphate

McCormick on Szechuan Style Pepper Blend: “Turn up the heat!  Use this spicy blend to give your foods that famous flavor of the Orient.  Shake on steak, chicken, or pork before grilling or broiling.  Sprinkle on shrimp and saute in small amount of butter; serve on cooked noodles or rice.  Add to stir-fried vegetables, cooked rice, or marinades.  Spice up pizza, hamburger or subs.”

I bet my husband is tired of seeing me carefully perusing through the supermarket spice section (just about every time we go food shopping) hoping that McCormick has brought back its magic blend.   As an aside, I’m also upset that Shake ‘n Bake discontinued its Honey Mustard flavor (also the best of the bunch).

One word of caution, the mix is very pungent and is an irritant to the nostrils so if you have to smell it to gauge the success of the mix, do not put your nose directly over it!  I learned the hard way =(.   Judging from the second picture, there is a texture difference between what I made and the original recipe.  I’ve been trying to guess the exact proportions of each ingredient and haven’t reached perfection yet; though I haven’t thrown in the towel either.

*Photocredit: NYCupcake

*Addendum August 14, 2013:

A chain of sneezes later and without further adieu this is so far the closest I’ve gotten to the original blend (see below).  One slight noticeable difference is that mine was sweeter and less smokier than the original.  I like it though =)…

  • black pepper: 6 turns of the mill
  • red pepper flakes: 1 tsp.
  • ginger: start with 1/2 tsp.  You may go up to 1/4 tsp. but the mix will be sweeter.  Ginger was definitely the sweet factor.
  • powdered roasted garlic: 2.5 tsp.  Garlic is the smoky factor.
  • granulated sugar: 1 tsp.
  • onion powder: 2 tsp.  Semi-sweet factor.
  • onion salt: 1/8 tsp. or a few quick sprinkles.
  • paprika: 1/4 tsp.


I hope this helps and I encourage you to play with this recipe and customize it to your preferences.  Happy spicing everyone!

P.S.  I apologize for taking so long in replying to your messages and updating this post.  Hopefully you will try this recipe, like it, and easily forgive me =)



My Kitchen Necessities

Just a list of some kitchen necessities I cannot do without.  It really depends on how often you cook and what you like to cook; you may not need all these items.  This is simply food for thought…

  • slow-cooker
  • rice cooker or a small pot will do
  • electric kettle
  • rotating spice rack (if you work heavily with spices like me)
  • cooking set (non-stick and cast irons are great to have)
  • mortar & pestle
  • knife set (love Henckels)
  • kitchen shears
  • toaster oven
  • microwave oven
  • baking pans (including assorted shapes)
  • pyrex baking dishes (small & large)
  • roasting pan
  • pyrex measuring cups (love that they are see-through).  1 cup & 2 cups are very handy to have.
  • baking sheet
  • aluminum foil
  • seran wrap
  • wax paper
  • baking parchment
  • kitchen twine (for baking)
  • cheese cloth
  • casserole dish (corningware)
  • muffin & cupcake pan and wrappers/liners
  • colander (small & large)
  • wooden spoons & plastic cooking utensils (metal ones tend to damage pans)
  • stainless steel tongs
  • soup ladel
  • grater & zester
  • melamine mixing bowls (assorted sizes; they are lighter weight than glass ones)
  • countertop blender
  • hand-held mixer
  • dish rack
  • dishwashing sponges (plastic sponges for e.g. cast iron pans & O-Cel-O Scrub & Wipe Pads for everything else.  Love O-Cel-O; so sturdy for all the abuse they take!)
  • lighter
  • twistie ties & rubber bands
  • Dishwashing detergent e.g. Dawn (best I ever used to cut grease)
  • tupperware with lids (assorted sizes & shapes)
  • trivets
  • oven mitts
  • absorbent kitchen towels
  • bread/cake cloche with plate
  • stainless steel measuring spoons
  • can opener
  • baster
  • apple corer
  • candy & meat thermometer
  • ceramic or plastic wide-mouth jars/containers (for cookies, rice, etc.)
  • plastic & wooden cutting boards

So now I’m wondering what are your kitchen necessities?  Please do tell…

*Photocredit: O-Cel-O







Hillhouse Naturals

I always find wonderful little treasures at the New York Botanical Garden’s book/gift store.   This time I picked up a Hillhouse Naturals Bloom sachet for my closet.   It’s an enduring floral fragrance.  Love it!  It’s the best sachet I’ve ever purchased.  Please visit their website.  They carry a wide selection of home fragrance products such as potpourri, candles, oils, fragrance mist, sachets, pillar candles, and even have a body care line.

*Photocredit: Hillhouse Naturals

Nifty Cutting Boards

I saw these Core Bamboo cutting boards yesterday and wanted to blog about them.  Really great for a serious cook who wants a well-equipped kitchen beyond basics or has lots of extra storage space in his/her pantry or basement.  I have to pick and choose what’s the most important me.  Space is of the essence.  I can picture my husband’s folks or aunt owning one of these; they’re fairly serious epicures.

*Photocredit: Ideeli

Comfort Food: A Selection of Traditional Recipes Like Your Grandma Used to Make

Thanks to my mother-in-law’s gift of a new recipe book, I am once again armed with an arsenal of great stuff to try =). So far I’ve made the Sausage & Tomato Stew and the Cheese & Spinach Lasagna. Both pretty tasty; and even better, simple to make! This is an absolutely wonderful book for any beginning chef and mother. Can’t go wrong with comfort recipes. Below is a picture of the book in question; however, I believe it depicts an earlier edition by Parragon Publishing than the one I own. I am planning for next week’s dinner menu… Pick up a copy!

*Photocredit: Amazon

First Attempt at Quiche Lorraine

This is my first attempt at making quiche. The recipe was pretty simple with easy to find ingredients. I really didn’t have to buy much this time. Recipe source: I’m normally not a bacon lover but this quiche was very tasty.

Glad to know based on what I’ve read from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food, that my pantry is basically well stocked minus risotto or polenta (though white rice probably counts). I’ve always wondered what a well stocked pantry should contain for starters. Of course, your family’s and cultural influences may play a big part in what’s important for you to include on this list. I’m fascinated to know what special treats people may keep in their pantry and why (especially those items not considered as basic pantry stock). Write me! I’m a little nosy :)… My decadent treat is condensed milk and I love love love tea of every kind- but especially green tea & brown rice, white chrysanthemum with honey, jasmine, and India Estate teas.

For now, I’m probably armed with the best cookbooks. You don’t necessarily need a library’s worth of cookbooks to make regular family meals. After seeing the movie Julie & Julia last night I’d like to make Child’s Beef Bourguignon along with Raspberry Bavarian Cream dessert. Before this little venture, I’m planning to make Braised Chicken Legs on egg noodles and sauteed fennel. I’ve made the Orange and Olive Salad last night from the aforementioned book and it was sooooo good! I lit up knowing that I had the ingredients at hand to make this on a whim.

Why this growing interest in culinary delights in this stage of my life?.. Contribute to all-around self-improvement… that if I’m to cook for an hour or two most days, I should make the most of my time… Oh, read some great books, try some new recipes with diligence and accuracy, learn along the way from my fizzles and small victories, and progress to the point where I can vary some recipes with confidence and customize it to my or my taster’s liking… The bigger picture… get the most out of life, what it has to offer, and never take things for granted (no more shoveling down food).

With this, I will close this post with a pic of Water’s book, my Quiche Lorraine, and a promise to share more photos of my gastronomic pursuits…

*Photocredit: Amazon

French-Style Braised Cabbage

I’ve made this recipe twice, once with red cabbage and last night using green cabbage. Both are so good! You have to try it! It’s also so simple to do.

Braised Red Cabbage (Chou Rouge Braisé)

* 1 head of red cabbage
* 4 tablespoons butter
* 1 large onion, peeled
* 2 cloves
* 1/2 cup red wine
* 1 cup chicken bouillon
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* bay leaf
* salt and pepper
* 2 apples, diced

Cut the cabbage in four and then cut out the stem. Chop the cabbage finely or use a food processor to shred it.

In a large solid pot (the original French recipe says this is best done in a cast iron pot), melt the butter. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Poke the onion with the two cloves and add it to the pot along with the red wine and bouillon. Stir in the sugar and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cook covered for 1 h 15 min on low heat, stirring occasionally. Add more water as needed.

Add the apple to the cabbage and cook 15 minutes more. Season to taste. Aim for a good equilibrium between the sweet, salty and acidic flavors of this dish.

Makes 8 servings or more depending on the size of the cabbage.


* For a more acidic flavor you can substitute red wine vinegar for part or all of the wine, and don’t hesitate to use that opened bottle of wine that’s gone a bit off. It would be perfect for this dish.

* For a more substantial dish, fry six ounces of bacon in the butter before you add the cabbage or try adding canned cooked chestnuts to the cabbage and apples at the end of the cooking.

* Try adding other spices and flavors: a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, orange zest, or 1/3 cup raisins would all work well.

* Feel free to try this recipe with green cabbage and white wine. It will work just as well.

* Many people enjoy a sprinkle of cassonade, or raw sugar, on top of their braised cabbage for a slightly sweeter dish. You could serve the cabbage with a small bowl of sugar at the table.


Store in refrigerator and microwave to rewarm the next day. Since one cabbage tends to make a lot you’re bound to have leftovers. This is a good deal, because you won’t have to think about what vegetable to serve with your next meal!

*Photocredit: OnApples


On Cooking & Baking

I’ve never really considered cooking as a hobby so I will name it as an interest of mine. I’ve been cooking for seven years, thought of it solely as a necessity, and basically cooked recipes I had learned from my mom (no formal recipe books). A few months ago I began thinking of it as something more. The same goes for baking. My recent fave recipes have been French countryside, cast iron, and casseroles. I also enjoy making and decorating cupcakes with my Wilton set and creating rustic desserts e.g. apple galettes and fresh versus canned cherry clafoutis. It’s never a crime to substitute an ingredient if you think you have a better idea e.g. sometimes I will use cilantro instead of flat-leaf parsley, etc. I also prefer ingredients that are relatively easy to obtain from a local supermarket. I’ve done some light research regarding cookbooks and the best ones I’ve seen so far are featured below… I have also perused through the internet and accumulated some great recipes. If you have any other suggestions, please post a comment. I would love to hear from you.