Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Dessert Buffet

Chocolate and almond sugar cookie trees.

My family came over from Vancouver and Victoria for a few days to spend their Christmas with us. There were ten of us in the house and although I pulled off another Christmas dinner and dessert buffet, I can't help but feel even more victorious at the fact that we never once ran out of hot water. How awesome is that?!

It was nice to see the family again and my 5 year old got to play nice with his two little cousins. Thank goodness. He's starting to adjust a lot better to our new life here in the USA. Christmas dinner was a bit different this year. I tried a few new dishes which had good potential. I bought myself another dutch oven so I was able to bake two dutch oven breads on the same day. TWO! One white bread for dinner and one fig anise bread for breakfast the next day. They both turned out great!

White round bread in my new dutch oven.

Below was our lovely menu, in case you are interested. There are a few links to the recipes as well. Sorry, I didn't take any pictures :( I was way too busy serving everyone. All the dishes went quite well together and there was a good variety for everyone. The leftovers fed us for a few days. Guess we got way too full on the wine.

Christmas Menu

Dessert Buffet
Displayed here is only about 1/3 of all our desserts.

I love cooking for Christmas but it's the baking that actually takes more time. All the cooking was done the day of but I started baking a couple of days before. I had to finish frosting the cupcakes Christmas morning. It seems like I made a lot of food but I actually wasn't overworked. I think it's because I have a bigger kitchen now and that makes it easier to organize and multitask.

Giant Santa cookies for the kids.

Glittery pearl airbrushed Christmas trees. I love these!

New York Times chocolate chip cookies.

Brown butter rice krispies.

Trader Joe's peppermint candies for the topping.

Chocolate cupcakes with peppermint ganache and peppermint swiss meringue buttercream.

It was fun but I'm ready to leave Christmas behind. Lol. I'm gearing up for New Year's and my birthday now. Is it just me or is Christmas way too close to the New Year's celebration? Luckily, it will only be a three-course meal for New Year's :)

Hope you all had a great Christmas and winter holiday!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Homemade Vegan Pho

It's freezing here in Redmond. I'm actually typing this post with fingerless gloves on and an infrared heater turned on in the room. All I can think about these days is sipping hot tea and eating hot soup. Everyone north of us would be laughing since we have a temperature high of 4C today and not a single flake of snow on the ground. It was about 5 degrees colder yesterday though. I hear Vancouver, BC is white with snow and I'm actually thankful not to be there right now.

One of my all time favorite noodle soup dishes has got to be Phở. It's probably the noodle soup that I make most often since it's the simplest one. We also go out for Pho a lot because it's fast and cheap comforting food. But of course I like to make my own since I can control what I put in my food :) I also want more than just two meatballs in my soup.

My husband asked me to veganize Pho a long time ago and I refused to. There is no way a Pho could be "a Pho" without meat and meat products. Now that I have tried vegan Pho at a restaurant and have reproduced it at home, I can tell you I was right! Pho is just not Pho without the meat and bones. The vegan broth definitely tastes different. However, what they call vegan Pho is still passable as a good alternative to Pho. It's tasty and it's spiced in the same way so it does smell like Pho. It's more like a Pho-spiced hot pot with noodles. Like most soups, it tastes better the next day as well.

Pho is easy to make. Vegan Pho is more complicated. But the good news is that Vegans can still satisfy their craving of Pho with this homemade soup :) And if you live in the Redmond, WA area, you can find vegetarian meat balls or mushroom balls that are made from taro root powder and potato starch. They taste alright and were less than $3 a pack :)

My favorite Pho noodles.

Homemade Vegan Pho
Serves 5

Soup Broth:

4 quart of water
7 whole dried mushrooms, rinsed
1 bunch broccolini, sliced (save leafy ends for serving)
4 carrots, thick slices (save a few for serving if you like)
2 cups, snap peas (save 1 cup for serving)
1 small handful of rinsed shredded kelp or dry seaweed

Soup Spices:

2 tbsp ginger, sliced
7 whole cloves
3 star anise
1 big piece or stick of cinnamon
few peppercorns
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp crushed garlic

Soup Seasoning:

3 tbsp of light soy sauce
1-2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Bowl Contents:

1 bag Pho noodles
1 bag of bean sprouts, about 2 cups
1 small onion, thinly sliced
handful of basil, washed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
fried garlic and oil
lemon wedges, optional
sriracha sauce, optional

Boil water and add the mushrooms, stems of the broccolini, carrots, 1 cup of snap peas, and kelp. Add all the spices and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for at least 1 hour to make the broth. Remove and discard all the vegetables in the soup. They won't have much flavor anymore. You can keep the mushrooms though. Once they are cool enough, you can cut off and discard the stems and then slice the caps.

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the bag. Be careful not to overcook the noodles. Five minutes before serving, add seasoning to the broth and raise the heat to medium. Add the broccolini, snap peas, the sliced mushrooms from the broth and whatever other vegetables or veggies balls you want to serve in the soup. I also added a pack of enoki mushrooms to my soup. Boil and cook this for just a few minutes.

For each large serving bowl, add some bean sprouts, then noodles, some onions, then add broth and vegetables. Top with some basil, green onions, garlic oil, and sriracha sauce. Mix and enjoy!

Note: if you are serving veggie balls and want dip for them, I spotted vegetarian Hoisin sauce at the Asian Food stores here. I didn't read the ingredients so I'm not sure if it is vegan. Worth checking out though ;)

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