Friday, April 30, 2010

Black as Chocolate

I have been obsessed with this store (Black as Chocolate) since maybe my first week in Taipei. First of all, there is the name, Black as Chocolate, I just like saying it. Black as Chocolate, it's even fun to type. Then there is the fact that there is no chocolate visible anywhere in the store. It is one of those modern minimalist places with stark lighting and a counter. When you go in to order a cake, you don't get to look at the cakes, you choose one from a book and then they bring it to you.
But it wasn't until my birthday when DH bought me a Black as Chocolate cake that I TRULY became obsessed. These cakes are delicious. Such yummy chocolaty goodness. So we had one for my birthday, then we had one last weekend for dinner (yup that's right, I didn't cook, we all ate cake it was great!) I wonder if I can go get another one this weekend.....

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Catching up

Oh! It's been awhile since I was here. Well in the time that I've been gone I finally got around to making the Oatmeal pancakes (with mixed results) and homemade yogurt (surprisingly easy).
Let's start with the Yogurt.

I found a recipe for homemade yogurt on Recipezaar (where else, that's where I get almost all of my recipes). Basically what you do is 1. Boil milk.

2. Let it cool to about 120 degrees (where you can just stick your finger in it, but why do this as whatever germs are on your finger will end up in the milk)
3. (you can pour it into another container at this point) Add about 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt (with live active cultures) or yogurt starter for each cup of milk that you boiled. 4. Stir well 5. Let sit in a warm place (keeping milk at about 110 -115 degrees) for 4-8 hours depending on how firm you want your yogurt. In order to keep it warm first I tried putting it in a crock-pot full of water on the warm setting, but it got to warm, so I had to keep turning it on and off.
This time I'm trying the wrap into towels method, where you wrap the jar full of yogurt in a bunch of towels to keep in the heat (after about four hours it seemed to be getting cold so I put it the whole thing in an oven that I warmed to 170 then turned off) we'll see how this works.
With any luck your yogurt will set up right and you'll have nice thick yogurt.
As for the Leftover Oatmeal pancakes....
Well, I didn't have a specific recipe and for all of my looking online the best I got was add a cup of leftover oatmeal to the pancake batter and increase the baking powder to make up for the heaviness of the batter. Not very specific is it? So I decided to start with half a cup of oatmeal and increased the baking soda by another tablespoon.

The batter was thicker than normal, and VERY lumpy (but I expected that I did use whole oat groats to make my oatmeal after all) but I couldn't use my trusty recycled ketchup bottle to squeeze my pancake batter into the pan.
(trusty leftover ketchup bottle, you know Williams Sonoma sells something similar for $10, but this way you can reduce and reuse).

The pancakes were not bad.
They were slightly chewier than normal, much puffier than normal, and I was slightly concerned about them being cooked all the way through but they tasted ok. I think I'm going to need to play around with it a little more, I think it would be awesome with buttermilk, but Taiwan is not the place for buttermilk.

Next up: Homemade Ice Cream

Friday, April 16, 2010


One of the things that I used to like about living in New York was the rare occasions when I had to be up early in the morning. I used to love to walk through the neighborhood to catch the train as the neighborhood shops were setting up. I don't know why but I love the feeling of being out in the world and watching it wake up. I think maybe it's like being behind the scenes for a play or a movie. You get to see the stars without their makeup and watch as the set designers set up the stage. I didn't see this too often, because I HATE mornings. I don't like sunrises, and I think it's criminal to be up earlier than 7 in the morning.... That being said Taiwan is perfect for me since I can have that behind the scenes glimpse at 9 in the morning.
I have started taking Honeydog with me when we take Babes to school so that HD gets her walk in and I don't have to make several trips in and out of the apartment. When Babes goes to school all the shops and food stands are shut. But as I walk HD back to our place you can often see vendors sweeping their sidewalks, mopping their shop floors, and putting their places in order for the day. Most places don't open until 11 or 12 so there are only a few people up at this early hour (early for the Taiwanese). But it's good, because HD and I can get our walk in and be back at home before the streets fill up with shoppers and people on their way to work.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Leftover Oatmeal Carrot cake muffins

Hmm... In an effort to make something other than the usual leftover oatmeal muffins I tried to come up with something different. So I decided to make carrot cake muffins.

1 cup leftover oatmeal
2 eggs
1/4 Cup butter (I actually used 3 Tbsp butter, 1 olive oil)
1 Cup grated carrot
1/2 Cup finely chopped pineapple
1/2 Cup raisins
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 Cup flour
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1 Tsp baking soda
1 Tsp baking powder

I mixed the wet ingredients together and the dry ingredients together then mixed the two together and put them in mini muffin pans. These took forever to bake though maybe 30 minutes at 350, and they were still a little too moist (for my taste), and I don't think I cut the pineapple small enough. But DD and DH loved them so I will try them again grating/cutting everything smaller. No picture this time, but they look a lot like the other muffins....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Around Taiwan

(originally sent as an email)

Saturday morning I had breakfast overlooking a forest of palm trees in an open air dining room to the soft sound of rainfall as it rippled across the decorative ponds of our hotel. Yes, the rain did spoil the day of sight seeing we had planned for sun-moon lake, but the rain, and the accompanying fog, intensified the natural beauty of the area surrounding our hotel. The fog blanketed the valley below us, softening the landscape and obscuring all but faint shapes giving the whole scene a dreamlike quality, while the rain beaded on palm leaves and spiderwebs and sparkled brightly in the dim light.
Where was I, you might ask yourself, No we did not splurge and fly to some tropical paradise, we merely took a road trip down to the South of Taiwan (which I guess is a tropical paradise, but is it still paradise if you work there? Yeah I guess it is). We took a week of vacation and drove to Tainan, Kenting, and Sun-moon lake.
I was interested to see what Taiwan would have to offer once you left the gilded and polished city of Taipei, and it did not disappoint. What the smaller cities lack in polish and refinement they make up for with beautiful scenery and friendly people. Our main objective in this trip was to head to the beaches of Kenting, which is a 7 hour journey by car. To break up the trip (since we are traveling with a toddler) we stopped in Tainan which is in southwestern Taiwan. Having traveled in China and now some in Taiwan I have to say that it is interesting to visit Taiwanese cities because you get to see something of Chinese culture and history that you really don't see that often on the mainland. In Tainan we visited several small and large Buddhist and Confucius temples. In Taiwan these temples are still active and often well cared for. At any given time in a temple you will see, not only tourists, but worshipers as well, and, like churches in the U.S., they were centers of social as well as spiritual activity. (you see this in Taipei, but also like in the U.S. the further away from the modernized cities and the closer to the countryside the number of temples increases)
After a day in Tainan we drove to Kenting which is a very big surfing beach in Taiwan. Unfortunately, Zora's cold developed into a fever and the weather took a turn for the worse, so the first day or two in Kenting we spent in our hotel instead of on the beach. BUT this was not a loss as we stayed in a beautiful suite (apartment?) on a man-made lake a little ways inland. The Swan Lake Resort was a peaceful, if somewhat kitschy, hotel/resort. Our first day we got to spend on the first floor with a deck right on the lake where Zora could feed the swans right in front of our rooms. There were at least 8 swans, six black (did you know there were black swans?) and two white ones, and maybe one or two baby swans in their own special fenced in area. When the weather did finally lighten up (around the same time Zora's fever broke) we headed out to the beach to watch the waves crash upon the shore. The water, beautifully blue, was much too turbulent to wade in, so we spent the afternoon in the sun. It was actually kind of funny because as we were sitting in the shade in our swim gear talking about the heat (it was about 80) there was a man next to us in a woolen vest.
After Kenting, we headed back north and hit the sun moon lake on our way back to Taipei. Sun-moon lake is located in the only land locked county in Taiwan (every other county in Taiwan has a beach). It took us an hour to find our hotel driving around windy curvy hilly back mountain country roads in the semi dark and finally dark dark. Unfortunately Google maps directions get less useful right around the same time as the street lights disappear. But it was totally worth the search. The hotels rooms all look out over a forest of palms with private patios, and huge jacuzzi tubs with glass walls over looking the forest. The next day we took a rope line (cable car/sky bucket) over the mountains to a minority village/amusement park. It is an interesting thing, it is set up to teach Taiwanese kids about the indigenous people of Taiwan, there are tribal dances, and mock villages, but to sweeten the deal there is an amusement park rival to six flags. About half way through the day the weather turned and a heavy fog descended upon the area so that when we took the rope line back down to the lake we couldn't see anything ahead or behind us.
In the end, we wandered through one of the towns around sun-moon lake before stumbling upon a small hotel that would turn out to serve one of the best meals that I've had in Taiwan. The restaurant specializes in pairing meats with some of the fruits that Taiwan is famous for. As we sat enjoying the sumptuous meal with the open air patio I couldn't think of a better way to end our spring break!