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Sunday, September 29, 2013

[Twilight Saga] A Very Romantic Story with.... Very Little Literature

First of all, I am very surprised I liked this book. :) But, it's true. It was honestly the first book I had read that featured vampires. 

I had refused to read Twilight series for the past few years until I ordered the whole series online upon a recommendation of a dear friend/professor. As I said, I am not a vampire book reader, but this book was interesting and told me so many new things about whole vampire facts. (For example, I didn't know that there were vegetarian vampires who don't drink human blood. Or I had never thought that I would become so envious(?) of the fact that vampires don't age and stay at the age when they turned vampires.)

  The whole series got suspense, romance, and that whole forbidden love thing going on. Twilight is a highly addictive series. I devoured all four books!  But here is my warning! This series is very very romantic. I was fascinated by all the new notions about much unknown creature of the whole vampire thing. If you are not a fan of romantic novels, you may not be too impressed. For a person like me who loves novels like Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, Withering Heights and A Mid Summers Night Dream, Twilight saga has most characteristics of the said novels.

 However, there is a huge difference between the above timeless literature and Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga. I am sorry to say that, but Ms. Meyer's writing  is kind of abysmal, monotonous, and puerile. The story is stellar and unconventionally creative. That must be why the series attract millions of people to go through four long books. But! technically, it's lousy!!!! The most noticeable fault is the author's tendency to use the same captions and glossary over and over and over, ..... and over. I gave up counting at the end of the first book, but I'm sure Ms. Meyer used each of the words "chuckled" and "crooked smile" about 100 times, if not more. It was a way too much..... She could have done it better than that. And also, Bella's constant need to describe Edward's gorgeousness got really old and stamped in my memory. I get that Edward is so beautiful. I don't think I'll be able to see any of the movies of this series since I don't want to be disappointed. I am so sure that the actor cannot meet the level of the beauty described in the book. 

Even though I loved the books, I had some difficulties of liking some characters of the book. To be more honest, none of the main characters are sympathetic. Bella is the worst, she's co-dependent, self-destructive, whiny, selfish, and irresponsible. I found Bella to be a self centered, self absorbed, weak, and brat. I don't understand Bella and her need for a man. Then the suicide thing between them is a bit too much. Also, I really hate that Bella was stupid enough to fall for Jacob. Though it had a fantastic ending thanks to werewolf specific "imprinting." Edward and Jacob are slightly more tolerable, but I honestly couldn't figure out what exactly Bella saw in Edward except for his super beauty. And Jacob, who is somewhat more human and  is unmistakable macho. Other than these three characters, all the supporting characters such as the Cullens, Bella's father and mother, are much more likable.

Nonetheless, in spite of all the blind spots of the book, I enjoyed reading the Twilight saga. Stephanie Meyer may not be a great writer, so far, but she is a great storyteller. She got me to think that there could be vampires out there among us and some of them could be nice vegetarians. I know, I know. My friends think that I am silly. :( But, that is an amazing repercussion Ms. Meyer got on me.

It truly was a sensation worldwide. I would say it's worth reading, for once.

Twilight Saga

Monday, September 23, 2013

[Pasta with Rapini & Sausage] Pasta with a classic Italian combination (+ Tip for cooking pasta al dente)

I think a vegetable I hadn't had a chance to taste as a kid would be rapini (broccoli rabe). A few years ago, I encountered this delicious vegetable that has a slight bitter taste. The subtle bitterness of the rapini stimulates your taste buds. Even though I liked rapini (or broccoli rabe) immediately, I guess I wouldn't have liked it too much if I had tasted it as a kid. Let's say it has some "mature" taste that will attract more grown-ups than kids. 

One kid in my household, Remi, has a "quasi" grownup taste while the other kid likes childish food. :( In other words, Remi likes rapini very much and Pablo is not a fan of rapini, yet. But, still does he eat it even though he just swallows it, with grimace, instead of chewing or relishing, so far. 

But, it's okay. I think he will like this green vegetable, at the end, since he likes most vegetables. If you didn't try rapini, you should, as soon as possible. Rapini has many spiked leaves around clusters of green buds that resemble small broccoli heads. All the parts, i.e. leaves, buds, and stems, are edible. I am glad I got to know this tasty vegetable. I am curious of all different kinds of raw food, including vegetables. Hope to find more and more new vegetables down the road. :)

Any short pasta will be good for this recipe. I was pretty sure I still had a couple of boxes of orecchiette pasta. But, I must have used up. :( So, naturally, I chose penne to make rapini & sausage pasta. Penne is my favorite pasta. So, I tend to choose penne more often than any other pasta. You can use any short pasta of your choice. Meaty sausage and just a little bit bitter rapini go very well together. It's a classic Italian combination.

Here goes the recipe for pasta with rapini & sausage.
(adapted from Gambero Rosso)

1 bunch broccoli di rape
1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage
5 tablespoons good olive oil
3 large cloves garlic crushed (2 teaspoons minced garlic)
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 cup or more chicken broth
1 lb short pasta, such as penne or orecchiette
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
4 tablespoons feta or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated


1. Wash and dry the rapini. Remove any large tough leaves, leaving just tender leaves and buds(broccoli heads). Tear large leaves into 2-3 pieces.

2.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the crushed (or minced) garlic.

3. Peel the sausage, 

and crumble it while sauteing over medium-high heat in a tablespoon of olive oil. Potato masher does a great job. 

Continue sauteing for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the sausage is lightly browned. Taste, and season lightly with salt and pepper flakes.

4. Drain out the fat in the pan, and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add rapini to the pan, tossing. 

It will be cooked within 1-2 minutes.

5. Stir in a tablespoon of the butter(optional), then the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook uncovered for several minutes more to reduce the liquid.

6.  Meanwhile, start cooking pasta in the boiling water. Cooking time for al dente depends on the pasta. Normally, I find, penne takes about 8 minutes to be cooked al dente. Cooking al dente means  to cook pasta or bean firm but not hard! 

There are two ways to cook pasta al dente. One is to taste it every minute or so, starting from 6-7 minutes after cooking. My preferred way is to cut pasta into half and see if pasta is mostly cooked with a small core uncooked.

7. Drain the pasta cooked. Turn the hot pasta into the sauce and toss gently to blend. 

8. Sprinkle on the fresh cheese, and toss to blend. 

9. Turn the pasta onto the plates and serve.

Delizioso~~ :)

Pasta con Salsiccia e Cime di Rapa

Thursday, September 19, 2013

[Chocolate Cheesecake] Serownik - Rich Cheesecake from Poland

The piece of rich chocolate cheesecake my colleague handed me was just so good that I gulped it down within a couple of minutes. I loved it at the very first bite. As I am a self-defined international recipe collector who is very interested in all kinds of ethnic food, I required and acquired the recipe for this wonderful Polish cheesecake. Well, in usual circumstances, I avoid baking a cheesecake since I love it so much. 

Let's say my feelings toward cheesecake is that of love-hate. :( Whenever I bake a cheesecake, I end up indulging in a half of the cake because I like it so much. And I'm not even kidding! Because of such a clear reason, I look away from a cheesecake as much as possible. But, this serownik or Polish chocolate cheesecake is a very rare item that mainly uses dry-curd(or pressed) cottage cheese instead of usual cream cheese. 

It must be the pressed cottage cheese that gives a very distinctive rich taste. As I've always been so curious about new food/ingredients, I decided to bake a big rectangular chocolate cheese cake. Warning~ this cheese cake is very thick and creamy! And, for the peace of your mind, don't worry. It's big enough to share without fighting for a second piece. :)

Here goes Dorotka's Polish cheese cake recipe:
(I converted from weight to volume measure for the convenience)
You need a 13" x 9" baking pan.

3 + 1/4 cup  all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 egg yolks
2 cups  icing sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons sour cream

1 cup  sugar
4 large eggs (or 4 large eggs separated)
1  tablespoon cornstarch
2 lbs dry curd cheese
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla


1. First, make crust. Sift flour, sugar and cocoa in a large bowl.

2. Add butter and egg yolks, 

and incorporate all to make a dough.

3. Make a disc shape, wrap tightly, and have it rest in the freezer so that it will become hard enough to handle.

Meanwhile, make cake filling:

4. Process dry-curd cottage cheese in a blender until smooth.

5. In a  large bowl, combine egg yolks with 1 cup  sugar and mix well. 

6. Add cottage cheese and mix well.

7. Add cream cheese and butter, and mix until smooth.

8. Add cornstarch, vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons butter, and mix until well incorporated. 

9.   In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold them into the cheese mixture.

Now, it's time to combine.

10. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the baking pan.

11. Cut the crust down into two and sprinkle flour, then roll out the first half. 

12. Put the bottom crust in the 13" x 9" baking pan.

13. Spread the cheese filling.

14. Roll out the crust dough for the top half. 

You can either top the cheese filling with the one big crust, or cut into small pieces like I did.

15. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven.
Once it's baked, Remove from the oven let it cool down a bit, about for 30-40 minutes.

16. Take it out from the pan and let it cool down completely on a rack.

Wait until completely Cut into squares and and serve either cold or room temperature.

It's sooooooooooooo rich and creamy.
Hope you like this cake as much as I did. :)


Serownik - Chocolate Cheesecake

Friday, September 13, 2013

[Suzy Q Doughnuts] Dangerously Delicious and Unconventional Doughnuts (Donuts), maybe better stay away!

Yes, now I can finally say that I had this "fameux" doughnuts on a cold summer Sunday! When everybody, especially after it was on CBC in 2012, Suzy Q's doughnuts became so hot, or rather even hotter! But, you know, "Bacon maple" doughnut wasn't appealing enough for me to go there to buy (relatively) expensive doughnuts. It is $2 each, or $10 for half-dozen, and $20 for a dozen. It's expensive for a fried bread, isn't it?  And also, I was not sure how I would like "sweet and salty" taste together on the context of a doughnut, even though I liked "sweet & salty" granola bars. Then, a few weeks ago, Mr. D had a chance to eat that famous doughnut at work, and said it was "oddly" very very good. That's when I got suddenly so curious about this unconventional doughnut place. So, on a sunny, but chilly Sunday morning, we drove to Westboro to buy some "so-called" exceptional doughnuts. 

I heard it's really busy and you have to line up for at least quarter an hour to order your doughnuts, but luckily for us, it was not bad at all. It's surprisingly small, and looked like a snack bar around the corner. 

The showcase was not so big, but with full of doughnuts of all kinds I've never heard of:  Maple Bacon, Wundercrunch (Chocolate and peanut crunch)
                              Go-Nut (Chocolate and Espresso),  Salted Caramel, Raspberry Cassis, Cookies ‘n’ Cream, Dirty Chocolate, etc... They all looked delicious and warm. It was really hard to choose. 

But, maple-bacon must be there best sellers since the tray was being refilled constantly.
I put some extra effort to pick a dozen doughnuts. 

As we couldn't have anything with nuts because of  Pablo who is allergic to nuts, I picked a half-dozen maple-bacon, three cookies 'n' cream, and three Dirty chocolates. Go-Nut was very tempting, but next time. I heard that they sell only 50 dozens and call it a day. 600 doughnuts~ Wow. It wouldn't look too much for a Tim Horton's, but it sounded a lot for a small family business between Suzy(Sue Hamer), husband, and brother-in-law. 

It's a very small shop and there wasn't any eating area in the shop. I didn't want to eat at a picnic table on the parking lot. So!, we drove for 3 minutes and went to the small food court next to Tim Horton's at the lobby of Civic hospital. 

We bought a large double-double for Mr. D, two hot cholocates for kids, and extra-large steep tea for me.

(This mister refused to eat SuzyQ's and picked a glazed cinnamon roll at Timmy's.)

I had my first bite of maple bacon doughnut~!
OMG, this doughnut is PHENOMENAL!!!

Delicious and warm with a perfect balance between salt & sugar(maple syrup)
It's so spongy and soft. Gosh~  How can doughnut be this good??? (This is bad news. I have to stay away from it, otherwise, I'll never be able to lose weight!) I had decided to have only one doughnut. But, guess what, I just couldn't stop at one. I had a dirty chocolate, too. It was chocolaty with a sense of salt. Again, it was very very good. But, definitely their flagship is Maple-Bacon. I must admit that I loved SuzyQ's maple-bacon doughnut. That being said, doughnuts are not the exactly healthiest food in the world. Sigh... But, well, we all need an occasional treat for ourselves, especially after a hard working week, don't we? :)

When you need a fabulous, fresh and caloric treat, I strongly recommend SuzyQ. You will not be disappointed!

(613) 724-2451
991 Wellington Street West, Ottawa, ON K1Y2Y1

Maple-Bacon Doughnut