Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quick Personal Pizzas

Over the weekend, I wanted to try the artichoke pizza recipe from the Food and Wine magazine.   I decided to use pita bread instead of pizza dough to test out more recipes.  The pita bread came in a pack of 5 from the bakery department.  I liked using the pita breads because it was quick and small so I could make many different kinds of pizzas at the same time.  I baked these pizzas at 395 degrees for 10 minutes and pulled them out of the oven right away. They were thin and crispy.  The order here is placed from the most to least favorite.

Beef Salami -with Portobello mushrooms, yellow onions, yellow bell peppers and mozzarella cheese with pasta sauce.

Hawaiian Pizza - Pineapple chunks, ham, yellow onions, mozzarella and Fontina cheese over pasta sauce.

Artichoke Pizza - with a lot of Fontina Cheese and artichokes.

All The Rest Pizza -Whatever left over chopped ingredients were placed on this pizza over pasta sauce.
Ham and Portuguese Sausage - with ham, onions, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese over pasta sauce.

We disliked the Ham and Portuguese sausage pizza, but the other pizzas were very good.  I chose the Portuguese sausage because it had less sodium compared to most of the other brands.  The Fontina cheese was good with ham and salami.  I love the smoked Fontina cheese but it is too strong of a flavor for pizza.  I like making these homemade pizzas because I can control the amount of the pasta sauce and cheese to adapt to my own taste and also cut the calories at the same time. It is just easy and quick for a delicious meal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Passport Renewal

We took our little daughter to the Main Post Office to renew her passport last week.  We searched online to find out the hours before we headed there.  It said it closed at 3 pm.  I took my daughter there right after school to avoid getting her out of school too early.  My husband took off early from work and got there to line up before 2pm.  There was already a long line when we got there at 2:30pm.  The lady in front of us told us that she was there the day before and had lined up since 1:30pm, and at almost 3pm an official lady had come and told her that they couldn't accept anymore people for that day. She was cut off with a couple of ladies in front of her.  We were hoping we would not be so unfortunate to have to come back another day since it's a hassle to have both parents and the kid present when applying a passport for a minor.

We couldn't see how many people were working in the passport service office as the line was so long out the door.  Everyone there just waited very patiently without knowing why it seemed like it took 20 minutes or more to see only one family left the office.  Most of the people with kids just had their spouse take the kids out and back again later to line up.  I was so tired of standing up that my feet were hurt and I had to stay in my car.  My husband later told me that an official lady came and passed out a red card to the last person to be admitted to the line up and sent the rest home at 3pm.

We finally got in to the door at 4:30pm and there was only one official lady working the office. The same lady who passed out the red card earlier.  Due to the bad economy, many of the post offices have closed down  and I guess they also cut down the manpower there too.  I have to compliment the official  lady for being so patient even though I could see she was tired but was still multi-tasking with answering all the questions from her colleagues while processing our application.  To make her feel a little better, we chatted with her a little bit while she looked through the paperwork.  She told us she had been working there 27 years and she knew the ins and outs of the whole thing.  Sure enough the bad economy did cut off the employees there.  It was good that we didnt' t need to take pictures there.  We already had 2 photos and application filled out, a check for $60 to the Passport Service and $25 for the Postmaster.  It didn't take us too long to finish, but when we left there it was already 4:45pm.  What a tiring afternoon just for renewing a passport.  I am glad we don't have to do this until years later.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mini Quiches

My daughter loves the mini-muffin tin I bought her.  She has baked several kinds of mini muffin in it and thought they were so cute.  She used the muffin tin again to bake these mini quiches.  They were just so tasty and we rated the quiches 5/5.  Here is the recipe she sent me.

Makes 24 mini-muffin sized quiches

1 cup crushed saltine crackers
2 tbsp butter, melted
Filling of your choice: (1 c chopped green onion, ½ c ham in small pieces)
2 eggs
1 c milk
½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper
1 c cheese


1. Combine butter and crumbs. Divide equally among mini muffin tins.
2. Saute onions and other ingredients. Cool, then put on top of cracker crumbs.
3. Beat eggs. Add milk, salt, pepper, cheese. Pour by spoonfuls on top of ingredients. Do not fill to tops as the quiche will rise quite a bit.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 300 degrees F.


Quiche was very omelette-y because there was no crispiness on the side.  We thought maybe she could press crust around sides as well.  The original recipe called for 4tbsp butter and she reduced it to 2tbsp.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

My Vietnamese friend was kind enough to invite me over to have lunch with her.  She made these delicious fried spring rolls:
She told me this is how they eat these in the summer, with fish sauce over the rice noodles:

She packed a platter of egg rolls to bring home for my kids, and I served them the noodles and these:
These were so crunchy and delicious that my kids ate them all without leaving any for my husband.  I will have to learn this from her since we all love fried spring rolls and always order it from the restaurant.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Collections of Spoons, Pins and Dolls

I enjoy looking at people's collections.  My friend has so many good qualities;  not only is she very environmentally conscious, but she is also very organized with her collections.   I am always interested in what people collect and love looking at them.  I took these pictures from her kids' collections.

Spoon Collection:
 Close-up of the spoons, I like the square spoon:
Assorted pins collection:

Dolls collection:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vietnamese Food

Last week my Vietnamese friend invited me to her house.  She was very nice to make everything in advance just to show me some Vietnamese food. I was happy to learn about the common food she made at home for her family.

Breakfast Rice Noodle 

Flat Rice Noodle - Shredd to small pieces and heat up in microwave.
Top with fresh fried shallots and fried tofus.
Serve with fish vinegar sauce (see note)

Fish Vinegar Sauce (Dipping Sauce)

2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup water
Minced garlic
Hot green chili (optional)

Mix well, refrigerate any unused portion in a glass container.

I tried to mimic the sauce at home. The taste was pretty close to what I had at my friend's house.  I added a little minced garlic and green chili to spice up the sauce.  I forgot to add the fried tofu to the noodle but it should be included.

Vietnamese Shrimp Toast

Shrimp - shell the shrimp and make it into a paste
Add some black peppers
1 tsp Oyster sauce
1 tbsp Mirin Wine (sweet taste)
1 tbsp Soy sauce

Spread on slices of bread to toast at 300 degree for 10 minutes.
Cut up into triangle shapes to serve.

Vietnamese spring rolls
Cooked rice vermicelli according to package
Rice wrappers
Shrimp meat balls (See below for recipe)*
Thai basil
Mint leaves

Dipping Sauce: fish sauce,lime juice, sugar, chili (see above note for recipe of sauce)

  1. Fill a bowl with warm water. Dip a rice wrapper into the warm water for 1 second to soften. Lay wrapper flat.  Place a small piece of lettuce, basil, mint leave, small amount of vermicelli, and 2 shrimp balls on the wrapper.  Fold and roll the wrapper into a rectangular shape. Repeat to finish making the rest ingredients into spring rolls.
    2.  In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, lime juice, garlic, sugar and fresh chopped chili. 
    3.  To serve, dip spring roll into sauce.
*Shrimp Meatballs

Shrimp paste
Ground Pork
Japanese Mirin Wine
Soy Sauce
Fish Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Black Pepper

Mix all ingredients and shape in to small balls.
Fry in a little oil and scoop out when it's done.

Vietnamese Basic Noodle Soup

Yellow Onion

Add all the ingredients in a big pot of water and cook for 2 hours.
Shred the chicken meat and save for later use and discard the rest.
In a bowl, add shredded chicken meat and rice noodle or vermicelli with this soup.
Add mint leaves, bean sprouts and fresh lemon.
Serve with hoisin sauce and chili or hot sauce.


Serve the shrimp meatball and noodle in this soup as lunch.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring cleaning - organization

Every year in the spring.  I try to reorganize and redecorate some parts of the house. I've learned to organize things as I do spring cleaning these days. The most important thing I learned is not to have small items floating on the surface where we can see them.   Clear the counter-top and walls of small objects and organize them behind doors or display the collection neatly in the cabinet neatly to avoid looking like clutter. Use unifying objects, frames, baskets, or boxes to hide clutters.


  • Line up spics and put them in the drawer
  • Put all loose tea bags together
  • Post a list of food at home on refrigerator
  • Use a plastic container,box, empty jar, bowl, basket to gather small items
  • Discard expired items
  • Donate any item that you do not like or use


  • Donate duplicated items 
  • Sweaters are best to fold and stack no more than 6 pieces at a time to avoid them from tumbling down
  • Leave 6" between self and clothes to let clothes breath
  • Use shower curtain rings and hang them on a hanger for belts and scarves
  • Place most often worn clothes in the front and middle
  • Use scents for closets, like lavender or cedar
  • Use rack with pegs to hang long necklaces
  • Anything that you have not worn over the past two years go into the donation piles
  • Hang clothes by length, color and season (shirts, skirts, pants, dresses, coats, white, gray, colors, etc.)

Living Room:

  • Put small things in a basket or box, like remote controls or glasses.
  • Use similar frames to unify the look
  • Group frames in groups of 3 with various sizes to display photos


  • Post a cleaning instruction on the cabinet door to remove any kind of stains
  • Put a container there to collect coins or anything found in the laundry
  • Hang a rod between walls or cabinet to hang dry clothes to safe from ironing 
Home Office:
  • Store samll objects such as IPod, cell phone, camera, glasses or keys in a decortive box.
  • Only keep a few pen and pencils to use.  Box away excess office supplies that are not being used, such as rulers, binders, papers, etc.
  • Try to minimize papers around the house, scan artwork and use the computer for back up instead.
  • Magazines -Start with the most recent ones and tear out the pages that can go into the 3 ring binders and donate the rest or swap with friends.


  • Guest bathroom -Display all collected toiletries from hotels in the medicine cabinet
  • Donate unused photo albums if it's been there over a year
  • Discard any duplicate photos, scan all photos into computer
  • Frame all artwork that are to be kept as soon as possible to avoid cluttering and also to keep them from being destroyed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pandan Chiffon Cake

This is the first time I used the pandan leaves to bake a cake.  I followed the recipe from this blog, Icook4Fun and made this pandan chiffon cake and it was just so moist and delicious.  The pandan leaves are commonly used in Asia.  It is mainly used for desserts.  The leaves created a fresh aroma and its juice can also be used as food coloring.  This cake is very moist and has just right amount of sweetness.

Recipe adapted from Icook4Fun.  Thanks Gertrude for letting me share the recipe here.

Ingredient A :

3/4 cup sugar
6 large egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Ingredient B :

1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted
6 large egg yolks
1 cup fresh coconut milk
10 pandan leaves
1/4 cup vegetable oil

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree F. Get ready a 9” tube pan. Do not grease the pan.
    2. Clean and cut the pandan leaves to about 1” length and blend them in the food processor with the coconut milk. Strain the juice and measure out the 1 cup for use.
    3. Whisk ingredients A in an electric mixer until light and stiff.
    4. In a mixing bowl, mix egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Add in corn oil and pandan coconut milk. Mix well. Stir in sifted flour and fold in carefully and gently to mix.
    5. Pour egg yolk mixture lightly into the egg white mixture. Mix evenly with a spatula. Pour the batter into tube pan and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until cake is well browned and firm to touch.
    6. Remove cake from oven. Invert pan immediately. Leave to cool, and then remove cake from pan with the help of a thin-bladed knife.


    I followed the recipe exactly and I will definitely try her recipe on the Mandarin Orange Chiffon Cake since I like citrus cakes a lot.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    DIY Plants Centerpiece

    I have been doing my spring cleaning through out the house over the past few days.  I found these baskets and almost put them in the donation piles.  While I was finding ways to display these rocks my girls collected from Carlsbad when we took our vacation there few years ago, I started to play with these items:
    I first laid out the rocks on the big rattan tray and then put the small basket inside.

    Then, I finished gathering the small plants and grouped them together here, and Voila!

    Here is another centerpiece I made a while back.  I loved the shape of this zisha clay teapot but broke the long handle and thought I could use it as a flower pot.
    I have 4 of  these small bamboo plants in the votive that I received as party favors from a wedding we attended last year. One was used for the above tray centerpiece, these 3 were used in the teapot.  Look how beautiful they are together:

    I am just so happy to be able to salvage the things I love and make it into something I can display at home.  All you need is a little imagination!

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Lamb Chop Marinade

    I had some lamb meat in my fridge for sometimes.  I followed the recipe on this blog with slight changes and it was so delicious.  Sue from The Journal of a Girl who loves to cook was kind enough to let me share the recipe here. Thanks Sue for your kind sharing.

    Lamb Chop Marinade

    • Lamb meat/Chop
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
    • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
    • 1 tsp strong Honey French mustard
    • a sprinkle of flake sea salt
    • 1 tbsp of cooking wine
    • 3 cloves garlic finely diced

    1. Pound the meat with a meat pounder.
    2. Marinate the meat with all the ingredients.
    3. Heat up the pan and add a little oil.
    4. Grill or cook on non stick pan until cook.


    The only difference I made was I pounded the meat first and add wine to the ingredients.

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    A Strand of Pearls

    I recently purchased this 100" long strand of fresh water pearls from Macy's and found it very versatile. Here is how it was boxed:
    Beautiful wooden box

     Inside an elegant wooden box

     It also came with a booklet of various ways to wear the pearl necklace:

    I also saw a young lady wearing a long string of pearls on the day I went to the Beauty Event at Neiman Marcus.  She was wearing a white knitted sweater with knotted long pearls, a pair of black skinny pants, a pair of black sling backs and a white purse.  It was just lovely on her, but I was not able to take a picture of her on that day.

    It also reminded me of the story everybody probably knows:  The Necklace. I still remember the scene from the movie I watched: the lady who lost the necklace was wearing a Victorian dress with a string of pearls around her neck.  I must have still been in elementary school.  There is another story I read long time ago Mr. Know-All written by W. Somerset Maugham.  I am just fascinating about these stories.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    The Ant War Is On

    The area I live in always has ants in the house.  Every summer I have to fight with the ants everyday.   I learned these tactics from my friends over the past couple of years.  They seem to work effectively.

    I tried this last year, and we did not have a lot of ants in the house:

    Method 1:
    • After the raining season is over , like around April, spray the outside of the house with ants Pesticide.
    • Spray again in June before the weather gets really hot.
    • Another spray in October before the weather gets cold.
    I found out recently that there are ways to take care of the ants without using the chemicals.  Ants do not like spices and baby powder.  Here is what I learned from my friend:

    Method 2:

    • Place ant stakes 2 times a year outside of the house- whenever the day light saving time hour change, e.g. March and October.
    • Place star anise or cinnamon sticks inside the shelf or area where the ants will most likely show up.
    • Put fresh vanilla bean inside the sugar container.
    • Place powder underneath the refregerator.
    • Plant some peppermints outside the house.
    I bought the ant stakes from Orchard Supply yesterday and they were $2.00 off and each cost $4.99 per box. I hope these tactics will help and save me from battling with the ants this year.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Sonoma Chicken Coop

    I was in downtown San Jose with my kids recently.  My husband took us to this restaurant Sonoma Chicken Coop since he had a $10 discount coupon.  To my surprise, it was not a typical wait to be served restaurant.  It was like a fast food restaurant where I ordered the food first and they gave me a restaurant alarm that vibrated when the food was ready to be picked up.  The place was casual but very nice setting.  The weather was just lovely and we had our lunch on the restaurant's patio.

    I was not familiar with the restaurant before I took the kids there. We just ordered something we never had before. The price on the menu was reasonable.  I would definitely check out their weekly special the next time I go there again. These were what we ordered on that day:

     Skillet Chicken Carbonara
    Clam Chowder
    Chicken and Prawn Picatta
    Garlic and Chicken pizza
    We were full with these nice and rich foods.  We loved the pizza and the Chicken Carbonara. I would say the chicken and prawn picatta was also good. It's just that we don't like the capers and lemon since that made the dish taste a little sour.  I think it was worth the price considering we had no waiter to pay tip to and a $10 discount.
    I was told this place is packed on weekdays during lunch hour, so plan to go there early to avoid the crowds.  It is also very close to San Jose airport.  It is a nice place to eat or wait to pick up someone from the airport.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Rack of Lamb

    We always order rack of lamb whenever there's one on the menu at the restaurant.  One of our family friends brought this over a couple years ago and told me how to make this.  Ever since I learned how to make this at home,we have never needed to order this at the restaurant again.  I made this over the weekend.



    1 Rack of lamb
    1 tsp Dijon Mustard
    1 Tbsp fresh Rosemary (chopped)
    1 Tbsp Basil
    1 Tbsp Garlic, or 2 gloves of fresh garlic minced
    1 Tbsp Italian Parsley spices
    1/2 Cup Italian bread crumb
    1 Tsp salt
    2 Tbsp olive oil

    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in the pan and sear the rack of lamb for 2 minutes on each side.
    3. Take it out of the pan after 2 minutes, let it cool off then brush the dijon mustard on both sides.
    4. Combine all the ingredients with the rest of the oil in a bowl.
    5. Place the rack of lamb in the mixture and make sure both sides are covered with seasoned crumbs.
    6. Cover the bones with a piece of foil to prevent the legs from burning.
    7. Put the seasoned lamb in the middle of the rack of the oven.
    8. Bake for 20 minutes and then let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

    If you do not want to sear the lamb, you can preheat the oven at 400 degrees and brush all the ingredients on the rack of lamb.  Bake it for 25 to 30 minutes.  I had tried that before and the lamb was still very tasty.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    Beauty Event at Neiman Marcus

    Last Thursday my sister-in-law and I went to this beauty event at Neiman Marcus.  We began with the first level of Neiman Marcus. We passed by the makeover show and browsed through the cosmetic counters. We stopped at this table at the man's department.  We each were given two drink tickets and a red rubber band to wear on our wrist by the lady there.
     Lined up to get our drinks at the bar:
    After we got our drinks, we saw people lined up for this caviar table.  There were several kinds of caviars:
    This is how they served the caviar:
    My sister-in-law and I looked at each other and wondered if we were supposed to eat them or use them as lotion since this is not the way I remember when I had the caviar before.  I would think they would serve this expensive caviar on a cracker. We then saw that people sipped off the caviar from their hands.  I assumed that was the correct way to eat it.  I wanted to know if they were serving the Beluga caviars (which I doubted since this brand is very expensive) so I asked the lady who served us the caviar what brand it was.  She told me it was California Estate caviar.  It came in a 2 oz. jar and was selling for $90 per oz.  We both had two servings already, so I assumed we must had consumed half of that caviar, and that must be worth of $45 for that tiny portion.

    The fashion show was on the second level.  A table stand was already set up to display these mini cupcakes.  Look at these cute mini cupcakes. They were just so moist and delicious.  The ones I tried were chocolate, red velvet and lemon.

    Here is the cupcakes list:
    The event also offered the latest regimens and free gifts. It doesn't mater what brand, with a cosmetics or fragrance purchase of $100 or more, you get a denim bag in light blue with silver trim or dark blue with gold, plus some free gifts. 
     I believed we had missed the first three rounds of the fashion show by the time we were at the second level. While we waited for the show to begin, a board game called "Fashion" was displayed on top of the table where we were sitting. 
    Decks of various categories of trivia questions cards were stacked around the board game:
    The cost of the board game was $65.
    The fashion show began 10 minutes later:

    This is our favorite: