Tramontina Gourmet Cast Iron Covered Casseroles – My Favorite Kitchen Item #2
Apr 19th, 2011 by sovicki

Tramontina Gourmet Cast Iron Covered Casseroles

I love Le Creuset design and color, however not the price. So I started search online for a similar but more reasonable priced replacement. This casserole is made of porcelain-enameled cast iron.

Cast iron retains heat very well, and its heavy secure-fitting lid also keeps the heat, moisture in the pot. It also claims to keep in the nutrients. There is no way for me to verify that so I guess I’ll just take their word for it. I like to use this for stews, soups, etc. It cuts the cooking by half at least.

It is only oven safe up to 450 degrees F which means, yes, you can try that famous Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe with this. The only downside to this wonderful kitchen additional is inevitable given its weight(almost 20 pounds). It had to be hand washed.

Also word of caution: this pot is rather wide, 14inches at its base means you can’t use another full size pan or pot next to it on the stove.

Purchased from at $45

Lady Finger
Apr 18th, 2011 by sovicki


Eggs, 3 separated
Granulated Sugar, 6 tbs
Cake Flour, sifted, 3/4 c
Confectioner’s Sugar, 6 tbs


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then brush 2 baking sheets with softened butter and line with parchment paper.
2. Beat the egg whites with a whisk or electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
3. Gradually beat in the ganulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form again; the meringue will be glossy and smooth..
4. Lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork, and fold into the meringue with a wooden spoon.
5. Sift the flour over the mixture and fold in gently.
6. Pipe the ladyfingers: Fit the pastry bag with the large plain tip and fill with the ladyfinger batter.
7. Pipe strips of batter 5 in. long and 3/4 in. wide diagonally onto the baking sheets, leaving 1 to 2 in. between each strip.
8. Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers; wait 5 minutes and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
9. Holding the parchment paper in place with your thumb, lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess confectioner’s sugar.
10. Bake without opening the oven door for 10 min.
11. Then, rotate the baking sheet so the ladyfingers color evenly.
12. Cook until lightly golden, about 5 more minutes.
13. Remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and let cool on a rack.

OXO Salad Spinner
Apr 13th, 2011 by sovicki

OXO Salad SpinnerTwo things are needed for a good stir fry vegetable dish.

First, you need to have a very good heating source. If your kitchen has the flat top stove instead of the gas range, then a cast iron wok is a must.

Second requirement would be dry vegetable. So we don’t end up boiling the vegetables instead of stir-fry them. Now this salad spinner will help you accomplish that.

Priced at $19.99 from

I purchased the large size.

Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator
Apr 13th, 2011 by sovicki

Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator

I first saw this at my napa winery tour. Our pourer used this for the red wine, and had us taste the before and after effect of it.

It supposed to “enhance the flavor, bouquet, and finish of any wine”.  That’s a lot of fanny talk, but does it work? Well, yes sorta.

It speeds up the breathing process by aerate while you pour. Since I normally don’t purchase wine that’s more than $10, this does make a difference (or at least that I want to believe that it does) it has become my favorite gifting item.

Listed price at $39.95, but you can usually find it a little cheaper on

Zojirushi CV-DSC40 VE Hybrid Water Boiler and Warmer, Stainless Steel
Apr 13th, 2011 by sovicki

Zojirushi CV-DSC40 VE Hybrid Water Boiler and Warmer, Stainless SteelThis is one of my favorite item in the kitchen. Something that I use everyday for sure.

It boils and keeps water warm with a 4-liter capacity. It has 4 temperature settings: 175 (green and white tea), 195(Oolong tea), 208 (black and flower tea), and vacuum-insulated.  4-liter capacity works great for me, since I also use the hot water to clean my cast iron wok after cooking. It also makes quick ramen meal even quicker 😀

I bought it at $165 on

Cast-Iron Wok – My Favorite Kitchen Items #1
Apr 13th, 2011 by sovicki

Lodge Pro-Logic 14-Inch Cast-Iron Wok with Loop HandlesFor the past several years, I’ve been looking for a non-stick wok. Some had worked well, but they all had one problem in the end. The non-stick coating peels off after a while. Also you cannot run them very hot. My mom had this very old (must be over 15 years old) iron wok that she bought in New York City China town. It is still very solid. Sadly, I’ve been to all of the Asian supermarket around Seattle, and wouldn’t find anything close to hers.  So I started to look online. I read lots of posts and comments from Chinese forums, and decided on cast-iron.

Cast-iron’s got several benefits:

it retains heat well which is very handy when stir-fry vegetable
it doesn’t have any coating
it suppose to last a very long time

I found couple options, one was from this Chinese Importer website based in California. Even though from the picture, the woks there would look more like what my mother has, the shipping totally kills it. And the fact that there wasn’t any reviews on the website, I wasn’t sure if I can trust the picture that much without important information like the weight and the handle of the wok.

After much research, I ended up purchase this Lodge Pro-Logic 14-Inch Cast-Iron Wok with Loop Handles from $45 with free shipping

The cast-iron wok came pre-seasoned, so that saved some trouble. Or here is a video that I found very informational that teaches you How to Season a Wok

I’ve been using this wok for quiet some time now. It is great. I didn’t realize that before this wok, I actually never stir-fried vegetable. Instead, I was boiling them. I had never been able to make stir-fried shredded potato at home until now.

Bamboo Wok Brush

With this wok, I had to pre-heat it for a while, but once it is heated, it retains the heat very well. Although be careful the loops get very hot as well. The only compliant that I have about it is that it is really heavy, which makes plating a bit hard after stir-frying. Normally I would hold the wok with one hand, and pour the food out, and using a wok utensils in the other hand to sweep the food on to the plate. But with this one it is impossible. Since there is

no way that I could possibly hold it with one hand. Also, cleaning could be tricky. After get the food out, I pour in a cup or two of hot water and scrub with a bamboo wok brush (any  stiff, non-nylon kitchen brush or a grill brush would work just as well). Pour out the dirty water, put it back on the heat to boil off any excess moisture, and wipe it with an oiled paper towel and let cool.

Kaju Kathli, Cashew Diamonds
Apr 13th, 2011 by sovicki

Hobby’s coworker bought these back every time he visits India. One night, after dining out at a local Indian restaurant, he wanted to order it, only found out that it is not available widely here. So we went to the Indian grocery store next door, and after long explanation, they  told us they don’t have the exact thing, but they have something similar. So we got our sugar fix, however, we were told the real thing we’d have to go to Vancouver BC to get it.

Here is a recipe that I found online. I guess when I get bored one of those days, I would attempt it.


1 cup of cashews
3/4 cup (or slightly less if you prefer) of sugar
1/4 cup of water

Yields about 20 diamonds.


  1. Finely grind the cashews to a powder. A coffee grinder does a great job of this.
  2. Mix the sugar and water in a wide saucepan.
  3. Heat till small bubbles begin to appear on the surface.
  4. Stir gently and let it come to a rolling boil. No need to check for string consistency etc of the syrup.
  5. Pour in the cashew powder and stir well to avoid lumps.
  6. Keep stirring for a few minutes and you should notice the mixture getting a little thicker.
  7. Put a little drop on a chilled plate and test to see if it hardens slightly. You should be able to roll it into a loose ball.
  8. If it does, switch off the heat and move the pan away from the hot surface.
  9. Let it cool slightly and dump out the contents onto a board or a clean countertop.
  10. Knead well with your hands (much like you would knead bread dough) to make it smooth and glossy.
  11. Roll out with a rolling pin into 1/4 inch thick sheet and cut into diamond shaped pieces.
  12. Gather all the end bits and knead again and repeat the process. No wastage!!
  13. Let cool/dry and pack in tins between sheets of waxed paper.
  14. Store at room temperature for a week or in the fridge for longer.


  1. If the mixture remains runny after it has cooled down, you can heat it up a bit more or microwave it to get it to thicken up.
  2. If you have over cooked it and the mixture becomes powdery, add a few drops of milk to knead it. This will reduce the shelf life a bit, but won’t make any difference in taste.