Archive | June, 2010

Perfect Summer Delights: Rhubarb Lavender Crumble

25 Jun

Saw a bunch of juicy, thick and crunchy rhubarb at the grocer the other day, and it reminded me of this delicious recipe that’s perfect for summer, family gathering, BBQs, potlucks, or just to share for 2. Love the tarty rhubarb, the sweet fragrant lavender aftertaste, and the crunchy crumble. Pair with vanilla,  strawberry  or homemade honey ice cream (recipe below).

NOTE: The more sugar the better! You can’t say that about most recipes, but this one is fool proof. Use white granulated with some packed brown or golden. You can’t go wrong because it needs to counter the tartness of the rhubarb.

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Rhubarb Lavender Crumble

9×13 pan of rhubarb crumble – serves 4-8

2 pounds fresh rhubarb, leaves removed and discarded
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender buds
1 batch of Basic Oat Crumble Topping for Fruit – Softer Version (below)
3/4 cup sliced and toasted almonds
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar

  1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Prepare a 9×13 pan by greasing lightly with butter or with oil spray. Cut the rhubarb stalks into small pieces – about the size of your knuckle. They should be evenly sized. Toss with the sugar, honey, and salt. Rub the lavender between your hands, crushing it into the rhubarb. Stir everything and spread evenly in the baking pan.
  2. Spread the crumble topping over the rhubarb. Melt the butter, toasted almonds, and brown sugar together in the microwave or in a small saucepan, and dot over the crumble topping.
  3. Bake at 375°F for 40-45 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then serve with whipped cream or strawberry ice cream.

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Basic Oat Crumble Topping for Fruit – Softer Version

tops a 9×13 pan

1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Nuts (optional)
Water or milk

Mix the dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter. Add just enough water or milk so that the mix comes together in loose clumps – not too wet. Stir in the nuts, if using. Dot the fruit with the mixture evenly and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.

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Honey Ice Cream

4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup pure honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups half-and-half
Optional infusions, inclusions* (add-ins) or swirls (see “Four Ways To Customize,” below)

*Infusions are flavors that are infused into the milk or cream; then the flavoring element (cinnamon stick, ginger, etc.) is removed. Inclusions is the industry term for what many of us call “mix-ins.” Of course, “inclusions” simply means “other things that are included” in the ice cream—nuts, chocolate chips, pieces of whatever.

  1. Whisk together eggs, honey and salt in medium bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring half-and-half to a full simmer with any infusions. Remove from heat. If infusing, cover and let steep 2 hours; strain into another medium saucepan and bring to a simmer again.
  2. Slowly add 1 cup of the simmering cream mix to the egg-honey mixture while whisking (to avoid scrambling the eggs); then return the egg and cream mixture to the saucepan.
  3. Again bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens enough to coat a spoon and the thermometer reads 170°F to 175°F, about 4 minutes (do not boil).
  4. Strain into a clean bowl and allow steam to escape before covering and chilling until cold (at least 3 hours and up to 1 day).
  5. Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions; add soft add-in ingredients half way through freezing or chunky ingredients during the last 2 to 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a bowl or tub, add any desired swirls and serve, or cover and freeze until firm—at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

Four Ways To Customize Honey Ice Cream

  1. Switch your dairy: Replace up to 1 cup of the half-and-half with heavy cream, plain yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream.
  2. Infusions: Infuse the cream base with 1 to 2 tablespoons of your favorite herbs (such as lavender or mint), spices (crushed sticks or cloves), botanicals (grated citrus rind or chopped ginger root), a split and scraped vanilla bean or a few saffron threads.
  3. Inclusions (Add-ins): Halfway through the churning process, add up to 1 cup of fruit orvegetable purée, soft cream cheese or blue cheese. Or, during the last 2 to 5 minutes, add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of juicy berries, chunks of ripe fruit, nuts, bits of pure honeycomb or chocolate pieces.
  4. Swirls: Immediately after churning and before serving (or packing in freezer tubs), swirl in whatever creamy, thick confection that tempts, such as caramel or chocolate sauce.

Yield: 1 Quart

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Gem of a Find: Devil May Wear

20 Jun

I love shopping along Main Street – love the boutiques, the originality and the one-of-a kind finds. Favourite haunts are Front and Co. (I can always find something to buy there) and the Barefoot Contessa (great dresses)… not just for clothes, but for interesting and affordable jewelery by local or Canadian designers (Simply Sublime and Toodlebunny come to mind). Now I have one more boutique to add to the list – Devil May Wear. Stephanie, the Owner, was in the shop and we chatted a bit about her jewelery pieces – all one-of-a kind, handmade (by her) and affordable. I was immediately drawn to the origami crane on a gold chain and snapped it up immediately. She was folding a stack of really cute frilly panties, which she sews herself, are made from sustainable fabric and spandex free. More about Devil May Wear in this Georgia Straight article and her store can be found on etsy.com. Visit the store on Car Free Day today!

Devil May Wear
3957 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604.216.2515

How to make Taiwanese ZhongZi (or ZongZi) 粽子

16 Jun

Today is the 5th day of the 5th lunar month in Chinese calendar, aka The Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival 端午节 in Chinese). I hardly look at the lunar calendar but only know when it’s coming when T&T starts selling 粽子 (ZongZi or ZhongZi), lychee is in season or when Grandma starts making zhongi. I asked her to teach me how to make it this year, and she was glad to pass down the tradition to me. It’s actually quite easy, but the preparation process is complex and the wrapping needs to be practiced.

What this is great for, is getting friends and family together to make it and eat together – and that’s what it’s really about.

粽子 / ZhongZi / ZongZi Recipe

(courtesy of and featuring my Grandma)

Ingredients:

If you are comfortable with cooking and experimenting, discard all my measurements (as usual), but use it as a reference.

  • 1.3 lbs sticky rice
  • bamboo leaves as needed (and string)
  • 1/6lb peanuts (optional, as much as you like)
  • 0.65oz dried miniature shrimp
  • 0.65oz dried chinese mushrooms
  • 1/2lbs pork (fatty, belly, whatever… chunked)
  • fried shallots as needed
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp rice wine (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (or brown sugar syrup. DO NOT use Taiwanese black sugar)
  • salt, white pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Salted duck egg, chestnuts, dried minced daikon radish.
  • Serve with: sweet chili sauce or sweet soy sauce.

Preparation:

  • Soak overnight: peanuts, dried chinese mushrooms, dried miniature shrimp
  • Wash bamboo leaves thoroughly and till pliable. Remove stems and leave in bowl with some water to keep moist but not soak.
  • Wash rice thoroughly and rinse 3-4 times. Add 3 tsp of salt and mix. Update: soak for at least half an hour if you are planning to use a pressure cooker, 3 hours to overnight if using a steamer
  • Peel cooked salted duck egg. Remove the white and the membrane around the yolk. Toss with a tbsp of rice wine for flavour.

Methods – meat filling:

  1. Heat oil in wok. Add pork chunks and stirfry till fragrant. Remove from heat.
  2. Add more oil to wok if necessary. Stirfry shrimp and fried shallots, then add mushrooms and stirfry till fragrant. Add peanuts and mix.
  3. Add meat, season with soy sauce, rice wine, sugar. Saute rapidly over high heat until boiling (add enough soy and rice wine so that there is some liquid). Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. ALWAYS TASTE and add more if necessary of any ingredient.

Methods – wrapping:

  1. Take 2 leaves, one larger than the other and opposite end to opposite end. Overlap, with the smaller leaf on the top, line the edge of the leaves up but with the smaller leaf a little higher. (You’ll need to watch the video to know what I mean).
  2. Fold and form a funnel shape, with the left end longer than the right.
  3. Place rice, filling, and more rice as in the video.
  4. Fold the bottom over, pinch the sides in and push the rice and filling upwards. Make sure it’s tight or else when it’s cooked the rice will turn into mush. Pinch the top and fold. Secure with cotton string.

Methods – cooking – 2 ways:

  1. Boiling in pressure cooker: Put dumplings into pressure cooker and cover with water. Cook until boiling and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove and cool. But always test first to see amount of cooking time depending on heat source, pressure cooker etc.
  2. Steaming: Bring water in steamer to a boil, and steam over low heat for 1 hour or until done.

Serve with sweet chili sauce or sweet soy paste.

I Spy: Eminence Organic Skincare

8 Jun

 

You’ve no doubt seen Eminence Organic Skin Care around  a lot lately. Pretty much because it’s based out of Vancouver, but mostly because they have great products that are natural, organic, not tested on animals and free of fragrance, mineral oil, petroleum, parabens, sodium laurel sulfate and other harsh chemicals.  With ingredients like coconut, mango, guava, pineapple, chocolate mousse and ice wine, it’s hard to resist not licking your face!

Why the “I Spy”? Because I spotted a brand new building across from Lululemon Lab at 530 West Broadway with an ‘Eminence Organics” temporary signage. Could it be an office, flagship store or even better… a SPA????

Well before their doors open, you can still buy their products locally online, at spas or try their treatments:

Where to Buy Online:

Spas:

 

Some of the products that you should check out or get a sample of:

Cleansers:

  • Coconut Milk Cleanser
  • Eucalyptus Cleansing Concentrate
  • Sweet Red Rose Cleanser

Moisturizers:

  •  Mango Night Cream
  • Pink Grapefruit-C Gel
  • Guava & Bamboo Age-Defying Moisturizer
  • Wild Plum Eye Cream

Scrubs and Peels:

  • Pineapple Enzyme Pro Peel 10%
  • Yam and Pumpkin Enzyme Peel
  • Blueberry Soy Sugar Scrub

Masques :

  • Quince and Ice Wine Masque
  • Pink Grapefruit Clarifying Masque
  • Chocolate Mousse Hydration Masque

Suncare:

Jem: You’ve probably heard her before, but never heard of her

7 Jun

You’ve definitely heard Jem‘s songs before, but you’ve probably never heard of her. Her songs have been featured in everything from a Lexus ES 350 commercial (“Amazing Life”) to Grey’s Anatomy. Not to mention that she’s a fave of the music superisors at the CW network, and her music’s been on Gossip Girl, the OC, One Tree Hill, 90210 and the list goes on. I discovered her when I decided to search out the song of a “The Mentalist” promo – turns out that it’s called “It’s Amazing”. Not on the top 40’s (yet) and not your typical pop act, she’s Dido-esque but catchier. Her deep, soulful and sassy lyrics are set against a backdrop of, well, not any particular musical style, but a combo of the best of every genre.

Jem: It’s Amazing

Jem: I Want You To

Jem: Got It Good

Jem: They

Jem: Finally Woken

Jem: 24

Since everyone’s at Cafe Medina right this moment…

5 Jun

It’s gorgeous today – sunny, cool and blue skies and fluffy clouds as far as the eye can see. What it really is, is perfect brunch weather. Before I even looked outside I knew what it was like, because pretty much every Vancouverite on my twitter feed was heading to Cafe Medina.

I’m not going to post a long review because it’d be redundant. Everyone raves about the waffles, muses over the food, gushes about the coffee and laments about the wait time.

My must eats/drinks:

    Lavender Latte – regular lattes will ever taste the same again. Delicate and fragrant, with 49th Parallel as the coffee of choice (Organic Epic Espresso). I’m off to conjure up some lavender syrup (simple syrup infused with lavender buds overnight. Touch of honey?)
    Waffles – it’s the Belgian waffles that everyone raves about. Toppings offered:
    Dark chocolate, Milk chocolate Lavender, White Chocolate Pistachio Rosewater, Fig Orange Marmalade, Raspberry Caramel, Mixed Berry Compote. If you want the liege waffles at home, head to Patisserie Lebeau where they make it fresh or sell frozen. Available in the frozen section at Meinhardt, Capers, Choices, Urban Fare, Whole Foods. I recreated the fig orange marmalade in a post a few years ago and will be posting a blueberry lavender and a blueberry/limoncello compote recipe soon.
    Le Chasseur – A savoury dish of 2 fried eggs, bison sausage, wild boar bacon, braised potato, watercress, roasted tomato, green peppercorn and grilled foccaccia. This was devoured so fast that I didn’t have a chance to take a photo. Perfect for sharing.
    UPDATE: Went there for my Lavender Latte fix this morning – another sign that Cafe Medina really cares about it’s food? Besides making their own waffles, they make their own syrup for their coffees. Check out all the vanilla beans in there! Good stuff!

Smells Like a Beach

5 Jun

I can’t believe it’s June already. And like you, I can’t believe that though it’s technically summer, it’s still raining. Accuweather predicts that in the next 15 days, 11 will have some form of precipitation. *sigh* There goes half of June. With that said, as a seasoned Vancouverite, I just shrug my shoulders, make sure I’m properly layered for the day and pack an umbrella.

But don’t despair! Summer will come soon – it has to eventually. All I’m doing is mentally and physically preparing for it because when it hits, I will want to enjoy every moment of it. How I’m physically prepping for summer? Getting highlights, a layered cut for those easygoing waves, putting on a touch of bronzer everyday and starting the self-tan process. How I’m mentally preparing for summer? By smelling it.

As I get older, it’s less important for me to smell good than it is for the fragrance to conjure up a mood,  invoke a feeling, rekindle a memory or transport me somewhere other than here. I wear Hermes Un Jardin sur le Nil on those cold rainy days because it adds a warmth to the dampness, prefer Carriere by Gendarme for those morning meetings and dab on Comme des Garcons Kyoto as it reminds me of my grandfather. But I’m digressing… again.

During the summer, I don’t let Coppertone do the talking, I get my fragrance to. Here are my picks for summer, or for now if you want to sniff, close your eyes and dream of sunny days to come.

Estee Lauder Azuree from Tom Ford Collection (fragrance and body oil) – when this launched in 2006, the perfume forums went crazy, it instantaneously sold out, there were waiting lists at all the department stores, eBay was selling at ridiculous prices and I stocked up like a mad woman. Why? It wasn’t because it was by the sexy Tom Ford, or because it was in stylish retro turquoise/gold packaging, or that it was limited edition… it was because it smelled like “white sand beaches, azure waters and sultry afternoons that go on forever.” It didn’t smell like the beaches of Miami or Mexico, but of beautiful, tanned people without a care in the world sunning in St. Tropez or the Cote d’Azur. It’s my staple fragrance for summer because the fragrance is sophisticated and subtle enough for work, and layered with the body oil it’s sexy enough for play. In 2008 it was reincarnated as Bronze Goddess (without Tom Ford), which it still remains today, but was reformulated with less Tahitian gardenia and more coconut.

Beach by Bobbi Brown – this is a more sophisticated beach scent that’s more Atlantic East Coast than West Coast or anything tropical. Think sea and salty – the Hamptons or Nights in Rodanthe.

At the Beach 1966 by CB I Hate Perfume is Bobbi Brown’s Beach + (more) Coppertone.

Miami Glow by Jennifer Lopez – I would never admit  that I own a JLo fragrance, but I have a soft spot for this one. It’s perfect for those really hot days/nights when you’re drinking sangria on the patio at Havanas with your girlfriends, smokin’ a cuban or flirting with a hot boy toy. It’s exactly what the name implies: Miami = coconut + suntan lotion + fruity drink with a cocktail umbrella. Wear it anytime or anywhere else, and you’d be deemed a social and olfactory menace. Yes, it’s that offensive. Sadly, it’s been discontinued but you can still find a few bottles at Shoppers Drug Mart and other drugstores.

Articles:

If you’re interested in reading more about scents and places, you’d like this article by Chandler Burr. He has also written about the conceptualization and development of Hermes Jardin sur le Nil for the New Yorker, and recently published the ‘must have’ list of salty/beachy/ocean scents for summer. If you want to get away, Elle magazine has a great perfume guide for travelling around the world without leaving your desk.

(Almost) Perfect ‘Curls’

3 Jun

My quest to achieve perfect waves/curls (subject to personal opinion, of course) was not inspired by the current ‘it’ girl with the hair “that all women want and men want to run their fingers through” Serena van der Woodsen (aka Blake Lively). With her perfect blonde touseled waves that can go either Park Avenue Princess or beachy Hamptons socialite, she inspires both admiration and envy every Monday night.

No – my obsession with waves started out with the original Serena, Tinsley Mortimer. As known as the “girl with the curls” in NY society pages, I have written about how to achieve her hair in a previous post, and to this day I still stand by the Infiniti by Conair Instant Heat Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron (in 3/4″, 1″ and 1.5″). As it’s very reasonably priced (less than $30) you can buy all 3 sizes for different looks – it works so well that I’ve actually brought it along to my hairstylist to use.

But I have a new hair icon. As where there’s Serena, there’s Blair, Tinsley also has a social and fashion nemesis, the one everyone loves to hate – Olivia Palermo. If you’ve ever followed the now defunct Socialite Rank, you’d know the infamous rivalry in which the website did play a part in escalating. I’ve always loved Olivia’s hair and style, but on this season of The City, it is, dare I say… PERFECT. To achieve her style, you’d need a center part layered cut, at least shoulder blade length all around, and the use of up to 3 sizes of curling irons. Complicated? Perhaps. Showstopping? YES!!!! (I was so taken by her hair in Season 2, Episode 3 that I had to screencap it. Yes, I’m that much of a geek).

But not only was this post inspired by Ms. Palermo, but it’s also dedicated to my new Moroccan Oil Luminous Hairspray. I already swear by the Original Oil Treatment and use the Glimmer Shine Spray to enhance highlights and protect colour in the summer, but one thing about living in rainy Vancouver is that no matter how much Bumble & Bumble hairspray or the cult fave L’oreal Elnett I spray on, minutes after I step outside my waves frizz out. Not to mention that I have thick, coarse, over processed dry hair. But that all changed when I used the argan oil infused Luminous Hairspray that claims to “offer a long-lasting natural hold without stickiness or build up… this humidity-resistant hairspray leaves a veil of luminous shine.” This claim, dare I say, holds true. Proof? It’s becoming the ‘it’ product at all the runway shows. Around $20 – I got mine at Pompadours on 4th, which carries the whole Moroccan Oil collection.

I would usually never post my photo, but I just had to show that it works!!!! My hair looks healthy and shiny, unlike the tumbleweed it usually is. Moroccan Oil Original Treatment + T3 hair dryer + Infiniti by Conair 1.5″ + Moroccan Oil Luminous Hairspray. Total drying time 5-8 minutes. Total curling and styling time 5-10 minutes. Bonus? It also smells like summer.

Update: Thanks to Nicole (www.lemodedujour.com) I am more curls than waves. If you want waves check out her site!

Song: The Boy Who Murdered Love

3 Jun

From UK X-Factor’s Diana Vickers. Love the style of this video. Very Dace Spring 2010 – I’ve fallen in love with Lili Bulle btw. Great music for those warm lazy hazy days.