Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mel's Thanksgiving '08 Part II: Cecille's Potluck with Friends

Cecille has been talking about having a hangout/potluck for a long time and the perfect time to do it would def. be during Thanksgiving! A time when good friends getting together to eat and spending time together. Everyone was suppose to bring a homemade dish and I decided to make one of my favorite, corn casserole! I've been making this recipe for the past 3 Thanksgiving and everyone loves it!
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 (15 ounce) can cream-style corn
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I use 3 cheese or taco cheese with seasoning-more favor)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I think it taste better without it)
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies, drained (I don't like chilies so I don't put it into the mixture)
  • 1 (8.5 ounce) package dry corn muffin mix (I use only 1/2 box, the first time I used 1 box it turned out to be like a corn bread instead of corn casserole)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, cream style corn, sour cream and melted butter. Stir in whole kernel corn, cheese, onion and chilies. Stir in the corn muffin mix until just moistened.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for 75 minutes; or until an inserted knife comes out clean and the top is golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Check out what we had that day! So much food:
Chicken wings by Maribeth
Bon Chon Chicken from Jenny (yes she made it! =P)
Some dish I wasn't sure who made it but everything was awesome!
My corn casserole and ratatouille.
Andy's Jamaican oxtail stew:

Khin's sausage meatloaf with mashed potato bite:
Khin's cheddar potato skins
Nadia's couscous salad
Deserts: Bread pudding, apple pie, tiramisu and chocolate moose cake:

Thanks Cecille for hosting this wonderful potluck and thanks to everyone who cooked or bought things to the party! We had so much fun! I can't wait for next year <3>

Mel's Thanksgiving '08 Part 1: Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner and Cooking Session with Chef Lillian Bolton

For me, Thanksgiving is a time to gather those you love around you, family, and closest friends to celebrate life, love and to give thanks to what we have. And of course making a big Thanksgiving feast for those you love. It's all about the 3 F's in my life: family, friends and FOOD! It's one of my favorite and busiest holiday of the year! This year I went to 2 pre-Thanksgiving dinners (potluck/cookluck) and 2 Thanksgiving dinners which was on the same day! I was an non-stop eating machine!

This Thanksgiving post is going to be separated into 3 parts to this:
1) Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner and Cooking Sessions w/ Chef Lillian Bolton
2) Cecille's Potluck with friends
3) The Tong's Thanksgiving Dinner and the Fung's After-dinner party
Part 1: Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner and Cooking Session with Chef Lillian Bolton
This Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated with my high school buds (Jess and Lilly and our boys). This was the first time we ever did a Thanksgiving dinner even though we know each other for 10+ years. Okay, let's talk about my two best buds from HS and how I met them:

Jess: I met her in JHS. She was in my Spanish class during my senior year. The funny part was the first time I spoke to her was the last day of class. We signed each other yearbook and found out we were going to the same HS. We said our good byes/good luck and then saw each other again at HS orientation and the rest is history....

Lillian: She was also in my JHS but we weren't friends until we were in HS. I remember her from my JHS gym class, she was the type of chick who was really good in sports and everyone wanted her on their team. In HS, I met Lillian through Jess and all three of us became good friends, we were all in the same track and took classes together. We had so many good memories....

So how did this Pre-Thanksgiving/Cooking Session came about?
About a week ago, while I was trying to plan for my Thanksgiving dinner I asked Lilly for some easy recipe suggestions since she was the expert. We were back and forth with the emails for a few days with her giving me suggestions and me asking her lots of (dumb) cooking questions. The great friend she is, she asked me if I wanted her to actually do a test run and show me how to cook some of the dishes she recommend to me. Cooking lessons from a chef, oh hell yea! I jumped to the opportunity and emailed Jess to set up an pre-Thanksgiving dinner and cooking sessions at Lilly's house! We wanted to make alot but we had to cut down the menu and this was our final list:
Cauliflower bake
Butternut Squash Risotto
Mushroom and Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce
Saute Butternut Squash
Puff pastry wrapped mushrooms
Smashed potatoes with roasted garlic, onions and truffle oil
Turkey breast

The day of the dinner, the girls didn't have work so they went to the supermarket to buy the groceries. Andy and I went to Lilly's house after work and got there around 7:30. When I got there she put me to work right away..."yes, chef!!" We had to do alot of cutting, mixing, stirring, and sauteing.
Butternut Squash
It was my first time cooking w/ butternut squash and those babies were so hard to cut but Lilly made it look so easy like cutting a melon!

-alot of cutting and sauteed veggies: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red onions, tomatoes and finished with herbs, butter and with orange zest and reduced oj
-alot of work!

Butternut Squash Risotto

Things I learned:
-rozo is different from risotto (duh!)
-wait for the risotto to sound like it's popping then it's ready for the liquids
-must keep stirring!

Prepping the puff pastry wrapped mushrooms
-garlic, sage and thyme goes good w/veggies dishes

Cauliflower bake and the asparagus in the oven

Smashed potatoes with roasted garlic and onions
-truffle oils gives it a great savory taste

After a few hours of cooking we finally ate around 11pm. We were all tired, sweating and starving at this point. I can't believe we cooked all this food in a few hours. If I had to do this alone it would probably take me a whole day! The final products we were so very proud of:

Puff pastry wrapped mushrooms

Butternut Squash Risotto


Smashed potatoes with roasted garlic, onions and truffle oil

Saute Butternut Squash

Mushroom and Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce

Cauliflower bake

Turkey breast

Everything was SOOO good! Thanks to Lilly's supervision, everything turned out right or else we probably would've burn everything! Some of the dish was easy to make and some were pretty complicated and I probably won't attempt again. I actually made two of these dish for my Thanksgiving dinner which you probably see on Part 3. At the end, we were all so stuffed, we all ate a lot but there were still plenty of food left! Lilly made us take a lot of it home which lasted me a few days!

This is def. one of my most favorite Thanksgiving dinner. Special thank you to:
-Lilly for being a great friend, for hosting this dinner and teaching us how to cook, and putting up w/ my silliest =O
-Jess for being a great friend, for being a great sous chef to work with (haha), for cutting all the veggies and everything else!
-Brian for helping out with all the dishes and eating.
-Mo and Andy for being there to help us eat (ahha)

I'm so lucky and grateful to have such great friends that I can share this special holiday with..... BFF <3

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Peking Duck House

Last month we celebrated my friend Khin's (aka one of my sexiest gf) birthday at Peking Duck House. She was in the mood for Peking duck so she asked me which restaurant I recommend for some good Peking duck. Honestly, I don't think I ever had good Peking duck in New York before because all of them (expensive or cheap) taste the same. It's either with the bun or the pancake (usually the expensive ones are w/ the pancake and cheaper one w/ the buns-I personally like the pancake). Most of the time we order Peking duck from the banquet style Chinese restaurant or at the Chinese buffet. They all taste like regular roasted duck with out the bones and with extra stuff. Once in a while, Andy and I would even have cheap peking duck ($15 for 1/2 duck) for lunch at Chinatown and it taste just like those. So when Khin ask me where to go, I asked her if she's willing to pay more or less for duck. She suggested Peking Duck House since it was suppose to be their "specialty" but I was skeptical about it but I said sure why not!

So what should REAL Peking duck be like? Well it should have thin, crispy skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. I remember seeing an Iron Chef episode of battle duck, Ming Tsai (against Bobby Flay) prepared a Peking duck the traditional way by separating the skin from the fat by blowing air in the area between them and then baked it. He used a air compressor to do this, before electrical air compressors chefs use to use bicycle pumps and before that they used a wooden straw to blow air into the duck. It was so fascinating seeing him prepare this dish and the most impressive part was he made it within an hour. At the end, he won the iron chef for battle duck.

Okay let see what kind of Peking duck we got from Peking Duck House...

We ordered the banquet menu and added a duck so we had 3 ducks! The banquet menu for 10 people ($280.00) included:

Soup:Hot & Sour Soup
It was way tooo salty. It was the worst hot and sour soup I've ever tasted.
Shrimp Ball, Spare Ribs with Honey
Nothing special with any of them, the ribs tasted really funky.

Peking Duck (2) + (1)
-crispy skin = yes
-serving mostly the skin and little meat = yes
-sliced in front of the diners by the cook = NO!
I think we totally got riped off of the whole Peking Duck experience because they were slicing it somewhere in the back corner. They ended up bring the tray of the individual wrapped up duck. All of us was expecting to see the cook slice the duck and prepare it in front of us but we were all disappointed. I guess they were so busy they didn't care for the presentation of preparing the dish for us and just wanted to serve it ASAP. Overall the duck tasted good, the skin was quite crispy and meat was juicy so I can't complain too much.

The sauce we used for the different dishes we had:
hosin sauce, duck sauce, muster, hot chilli sauce

Sauteed Prawns w. Ginger & Scallions:
**oops-sorry no pic, imagine prawns saute ginger and scallion**
-it wasn't memorable

Beef Broccoli-
Nothing good or special about this dish, tasted very saucy like any other Chinese take out place.

Crispy Seabass-
I guess since we had more then 10 people they gave us an extra fish dish which was very good! It was topped with sweet and sour sauce and the seabass skin was very crispy. Very tasty, I liked it! Finally something that I liked....

Chicken with Orange Flavor:
I also like this dish, the orange flavor tasted really good and it wasn't too sweet.

Crispy String Beans with Minced Pork
**oops-sorry no pic, imagine string beans w/ some minced pork!**
-it wasn't memorable

Fried Rice-
it was good, tasted like what it should be....nothing special

Dessert: Fried Banana with Walnuts
a little piece of banana fried w/ a little walnut on top. It wasn't satisfying...
Thank goodness we brought our own desert, ube cake:

Ube (or ubi) is the Filipino word for purple yam. It contains pigments that gives its violet color. Isn't it so pretty! It taste like cake with alot of yam favors covered with vanilla icing and bits of yams in the middle. It was my first time trying this cake and it was very yummi. My experience at the Peking Duck house was as expected disappointing. It was exactly what I thought it would be, high priced Chinese food that shouldn't be that expensive. Each of us ended up paying around $50 bucks. I think I might come back just for the duck but not for the other food and especially not for the banquet style menu. Next time I'm taking Khin to eat the cheaper kind and see what she thinks....

Happy Birthday Khin <3
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Peking Duck House
28 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 227-1810

Thursday, November 13, 2008

11th Annual Chocolate Show-Review and Chocolate Porn!

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!!! I was so chocolated out but it was a very fun experience at the chocolate show. We got to sample many types of chocolate in different favors, shapes and form, did some shopping, attended a few demonstrations by celebrity chefs which I thought was the best part of the chocolate show and we spotted a celebrity within the crowd. Here are the pics...sorry took so long to post them:

Pier 94: the place was huge and roomy, throughout the day I didn't feel that it was packed or crowded at all. We went around 11am because we were afraid there would be lines and ton of people but we walked right in w/ no problem. People started to come later on the day and there were long lines esp. the bathroom!

Virginie Duroc-Danner; Artiste Chcolatiere: These were one of my favorite pick from the show! Can you guess why I like them? They are freaken adorable! I love all the little details and shapes of the chocolate.

It also came w/ cute and pretty boxes:

Chocolate syrup: dark milk, caramel, white chocolate...

Mary's flower chocolate from Japan. These were filled with ganache blending cream and chocolate together. The chefs demonstrated their skills on painting a flower on each individual chocolate.

a very cool looking budda chocolate:

check out the christmas theme chocolate cards/pictures! great Christmas gift for chocolate lovers:

One of the outfits from the fashion show, the theme was superheroes. Yes, this outfit is made w/ chocolate! I heard from a chef, some parts of the chocolate outfit actually melted off the models while they were walking down the runway!

Celebrity sighting: Lisa Loeb! Thanks to Cecille for recognizing her and to Andy for helping us stalk her and had the courage to go up to her and ask if she's Lisa Loeb! lol =X

Keegan Gerhard, the emcee from Food Network Challenge. He was also the emcee for the chocolate demonstrations:

Jansen Chan from the restaurant Oceana. He was cooking his desert w/ Grand Marnier:

he made this and we all got to sample it:

Zac Young from the restaurant Butter. He was a fun presenter who cracked alot of jokes. He made a frozen white chocolate soufflé w/ Valrhona chocolate.

Frozen white chocolate soufflé:
this is the sample that his interns made for him show as the final product in which Andy shameless asked at the end if he can have! As you can tell by the picture above, the chef obviously said yes! It tasted much better then the sample we had, it was soooo good! We got to keep the cup too! yay..

The sample he gave out to the audience was a bit too salty. He likes to add salts to his sweets.

more chocolate porn.....

emergency chocolate bar cards w/ fun and interesting message on the box:

For relief from the symptoms of wrinkles and crow's feet.

Warning-May cause weight gain if used incorrectly

Directions: Simply break off the desired dosage and consume. You should quickly be overcome by stress-relieving endorphins and no longer conerned in the slightest about your wrinkles.

all different kinds of peanut butter:

chocolate fondue:

Chocolate covered cheerios and corn pops:

We stayed for around 4-5 hours at the chocolate show. We were all tired and sick of chocolate by the end. I wanted to stay for more of the demonstrations but we were hungry and craving for meat, salt, and real food so we left. My first chocolate show was a great experience and I would def. go again.

I <3>