First Chinese Eggplant

Fun times in the kitchen.

–no red pepper (that would have made a big difference)

-no scallions

-still awesome, daughter ate it, yay

Next time I will get my act together



  • 6 ounces fusilli (long spiral spaghetti) (**made rice)
  • 1 small eggplant (about 1/2 pound) (**used chinese eggplant)
  • 1/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms (***used portabello)
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 6 vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
  • (***used regular tomatoes)
  • 1/4 fresh jalapeño chili
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh gingerroot
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (***used thai basil)

    1. Fill a 4-quart kettle three-fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for cooking fusilli.
    2. Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes and transfer to a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle eggplant lightly with salt and let drain 10 minutes. While eggplant is draining, discard stems from mushrooms and cut caps into 3/4-inch pieces. Cut scallions diagonally into thin slices. Quarter tomatoes and chop jalapeño including seeds (wear rubber gloves). Rinse eggplant and squeeze dry, discarding any liquid in bowl.
    3. Boil fusilli until al dente.
    4. While fusilli is boiling, in a large non-stick skillet cook gingerroot and garlic in oil over moderately high heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add eggplant and mushrooms and sauté, stirring constantly, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add scallions and sauté, stirring, until eggplant is tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, tomatoes, jalapeño, basil, and salt and pepper to taste and cook just until heated through, about 30 seconds.
    5. Drain fusilli in a colander and in a bowl toss with sauce.


    Sparks Catering Services–Update June 2017


    Ever so often I post my offerings here.  Feel free to reach out to me here, at the email attached to my flyer or to my Facebook or linked in, depending where you are seeing this post.


    Sparks Services Home

    I am also offering lunch services.

    Sparks Catering Services Lunch


    Armed with my Instapot, wok and blender I can do most things. If I have not made in the past  I can certainly learn or give it the old college try!


    Instant Pot Does it Again-Lamb

    This time I thought I would try lamb.  As we know, lamb is not fast cooking and if not done right, well its just not done right.  So I embarked on finding lamb.  No stop & shop for this or little market.  I went to the source–Costco.  I found lamb pieces (w/bone, cut like oxtail) about 10 per pack.  I immediately searched for a recipe for lamb chops and then I remembered Lamb Tagine and it was on.  This is the recipe I found and as usual I edit a little to work with what I know and have.

    4 lamb chops

    1 tsp cinnamon,  1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp of ground ginger (I uses fresh)

    1 tbsp olive oil, 1 small onion sliced (about 1 cup), 2 tsp minced garlic

    1/2 cup dry wine (I had vodka so I used that), 3/4 cup chickpeas, 1/2 cup dried apricots (I used raisins and then on the second round a mix of raisins and dates)

    I added two small shakes of turmeric

    At the end I added some rice flour to some of the sauce and made a roux to add to the pot for some thickening.  The sauce had an oily slick so I diminished it with the roux

    So the end product was good.  I made it twice and I am thoroughly enjoying eating my lamb tangine with some rice.


    My process–I added all the seasonings and the vodka to the meat with about a tsp of olive oil and let it sit. The following day I sauteed the  meat in the pot and then cooked it for about 20 minutes. (oh I should warn that I did not follow the process that came with the recipe)

    After the first pressure cook I added the chickpeas and the raisins and let it go for another 6-8 minutes.  Presto-dinner made.  My rice cooker was going at the same time.

    Lamb and me happy together. I thank thee Costco.





    Chocolate Bread et. Al

    So as to continue my post from the week before, we will start with it and end in a different place. I mentioned to someone about my chocolate bread and sharp cheddar cheese combination, which was stellar. Forget regular grilled cheese.  Try chocolate bread with cheese grilled on a flat top.  YUMMY.  So the person equated that to BUN and CHEESE which is from Jamaica.  Similar idea as in not using traditional bread. Bun and Cheese  I had no idea about the Bun and Cheese thing, what is behind it.  I just knew of it in passing.

    So in my ode to bread I point out that fresh bread daily is like water daily-gotta have it.  So when in  Lisbon, Portugal, I stay with a local so I am able to observe normal daily life and not the super tidy streets or directed traffic pattern etc of a modern, hotel driven possibly multinational behemoth industrial park with manicured lawns and fountains, super clean everything and possibly only chain stores familiar to expats.  I hope I set or rather unset the scene!

    So every morning from about 6 (or earlier) till about 10 the bakeries sell fresh bread.  It is like a carrot dangling and you blindly walk into the light.  The smell is wonderful.  It is habit and culture.  Can you imagine if we did that here and we also changed it up from time to time to keep people excited about the product-what do we call that, OH YES BUZZZ!.  At these bakeries there are lines and once the bread is done :(.  You are basically out of luck by 10 am as it is the start of early lunch preparations though not the serving of it or its the mid morning coffee break and you head to a cafe close to work or close to home.  I missed the boat.  I chose to sleep past 9 and was hauling a… to get there before they closed up.

    Another such bread experience was in the Philippines.  There is something called Pan de Sal, and it is great. It is a small roll that has a little sweetness but in a different way and they are sold warm and people get them by the dozens.  Forget the carb diet–does not exist.  I remember we were taking a road trip–6 of us and my daughter-toddler.  I think we got 2 or 3 dozen, that is basically 4 per person.  It was so good and the place is like a little kiosk–think Melissa’s Cupcakes and they can just turn it out hour after hour.  There is a limit as well so you have to go during certain times. pan de sal

    A long winded idea, were I to have a windfall of cash, is to open a bakery/cafe but only selling fresh bread in the morning and selling desserts of my choosing in the night.  Why the F… not.  I mean in other countries bread is really integral in the culture and why not satiate that need or feeling.  HMMM.  My wheels are spinning.

    So what have we learned–Bread is good and Fresh Bread is great.



    Instapot, some thoughts

    boy was i excited to get it

    we  (husband and I) got it for our christmas gift

    it arrived while we were away and we daydreamed of it while driving down the highway in Europe (of all things)

    we got home and it sat in the box for about 4-5 days

    it sat outside of the box for a few more days

    now i am hesitating to use it

    hmmm, i watched a few dozen videos about making spaghetti and meat sauce, and… i will still make my spaghetti and meat sauce stove top (the sight of spaghetti floating in sauce just was not a turn on)

    i am however going to make spaghetti and meat sauce once just to say i did it

    the only things i want to use it for are pulled pork, beef stew, duck and any kind of whole chicken roast–

    as a trained cook/chef, it might take all the fun out of cooking–fast is not always satisfying

    so, i leave you, in a half and half feeling –happy but not happy about my instapot

    bye for now, no pressure


    p…ss…  i will keep you posted on my trials..


    Recipe Testing-A reflection

    So life happens.  I was on this wave of making desserts or rather testing out new dessert recipes. Even that is wrong. I was trying recipes to see how to make them and what they tasted like if new to me.

    So what draws me to a recipe, well a few things.  It may be something I saw, or some ingredient that is completely new or that I tasted at some point in my life or something I saw on a food or travel show.  It must be uncommon at least to the masses here. It might also be some process that seems challenging to me that I wish to conquer.

    What am I learning–massive patience.  I received a French cook book a few years back when I was just getting into food or cooking really.  One of my parents gave me a fancy pancy book and I have made only one recipe from it since and I only read through it a couple of times just to explore the ingredients etc. What was a massive turnoff was the length of the recipes.  One whole page of micro print is a lot and then two pages of both ingredients and instruction just really put me off.  At that point I thought that I would never master this as it would take too long to create a dish and is that really worth my time.  First there is the imitation, which is trying the recipe, then there is the “becoming rote” in making the recipe and then I guess tailoring but who wants to really tailor a classic dish.  I am just poised to get the dish correct and for it to be palatable. To this day there are a few things I do not touch really-Fish, Steaks and French Food.  I just followed a recipe for Beef Bourguignon and it came out pretty decent, after almost burning it.

    So I have been noting recipes and I came upon a few that were pager turners. I am no more tolerant of long recipes and complicated processes as in the early days.  I am just jumping in and kind of just doing it–little hesitation, because I can talk myself out of anything and at this point, it is important that I try to do something that puts me at the helm.  Its hard to keep the faith or keep on the road when you cannot see far down the road.

    I am reading a recipe for Gyeondan/Rice Cake Balls

    and I have to go back and note all the apparatus and mise en place (preparing all ingredients prior to starting) I will need-a bunch of bowls, a few pots, a grinder, and a strainer.  In my local dialect we say “it come like a project.”  The thing has turned into a project.  So each time I do one of these long, sometimes complicated, and confusing, as well as all encompassing recipes it is like a project.  Who says that I am not learning and achieving!

    Until next time,

    signed, Project Manager



    The South American treat.

    So I polled some friends and acquaintances a while back to see what kind of desserts they liked and someone said Alfajores. I looked it up and realized that I liked that as well.  Well shiver me timbers, we have something in common.

    When I made it (Alfajores) my daughter caught sight of it and kept saying “cookie, cookie, cookie.”  The look was enough to get her.

    So my conclusion on what makes a dessert great is appearance.  If a dessert/sweet looks funny and smothered and it is in an ugly dish,  it deserves to sit in the fridge.  Food should be fun and enticing.  Most desserts don’t disappoint –however if it looks horrible no one wants to try –even if it tastes great.

    The recipe is actually good to do with kids.  Once the dough is mixed, they can use a cookie cutter to  make the circles.  After all are cooled, they can spread the dulce de leche.  I used the store brand but bought some regular condensed milk to try getting the homemade effect. (did not repeat as yet so did not used my home method)

    Here are some pictures.


    It is sweet so this in no way is healthy but that is okay.  Moderation!!!!
    Happy Cookie-ing!!!!

    Kasutera or Castella (Japanese Sponge Cake)

    img_65931I call this blog post–Kasutera Melee  (That may be extreme but to follow is why!)

    I found a few recipes and decided on one that seemed the least strenuous.  I foamed up the eggs and warmed up the milk and made a thick egg yolk batter.

    What the recipe said not to do was mix the flour in. So it was just sifted on top and folded in.  After that I added the balance of the items but kept seeing some extra liquid in the bottom of the bowl.  I did my best to somewhat mix without mixing. (extra liquid from either non frothed egg or the milk separated, who knows.) So I noticed but went along with the balance of the recipe.  It also did not say to add  flour in batches.

    I baked it up and the bottom was not cooking through as the top. So given that, I further instigated the situation by putting a tray to catch falling liquid.  I had filled the baking pan to the brim and was afraid of spillage as it would burn and set my alarms off and disturb me (forget the neighbors). (yet again)

    After checking the cake when the timer was up I removed the tray and put the cake back for 10 minutes.  So in the end it was for not.  I had a half half cake–top half was the correct texture and bottom half was a little dense and reminiscent of a dry pudding. (revisit the picture I included)

    So I have to try again using another recipe to see if it was just me.


    Oh by the way–the recipe calls for using a bain-marie. So that is fun and different and it took some time.


    Later Cakers!!







    Chocolate Babka


    Who has 5 hours to spare–this took a while but I must say, we enjoyed this bread/dessert  for days.  I snacked on it and ate it for breakfast.  It was also delicious with a piece of sharp cheese melted.  Oh my taste buds were excited!!

    You have to really want the babka for the time investment, but you can double the recipe to get an extra loaf to freeze and enjoy later.  Note that with the exception of the chocolate, most people have the balance of the ingredients in their kitchen even if they bake occasionally. (see below)


    Dough Ingredients

    • 1 packet active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp
    • 2/3 cup whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F, plus 1 additional tbsp for egg wash
    • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
    • 1 1/2 tbsp flavorless cooking oil, I used grapeseed
    • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 4 egg yolks, reserve 1 egg white for egg wash
    • 3 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp kosher salt

    Chocolate Filling Ingredients

    • 2 cups finely chopped, good quality dark chocolate
    • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold

    Streusel Ingredients

    • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
    • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

    See the full post:



    Happy Baking!

    Banana cake with amaretto frosting 

    My husband and I noticed an ad in the Clipper Magazine.  I usually do not save anything but this time I pulled out a few pages and one was for the 808 Bistro.  We are always into trying a new place and my Aunt was visiting so we figured when we were with her she took us around, Now that she is here we could do something nice.
    The hostess was nice and the waiter was attentive.  The owner or manager came buy and made a nice comment.  The appetizer was of a good portion and mine was especially large so I gave to my toddler as she is okay with chicken.  The only thing about my appetizer (chicken) was that it was a lot (not really a problem but it kind of filled me) and that there was a squirt of the sauce.
    I guess they do not want to be like the chains that send toppings and sauces out at every chance. My husband had the sausage “egg rolls.” They were good.  My aunt had the grilled shrimp over greens and beans.
    I then had the steak with/mushrooms medium well,  which was okay, as I am just a minor lover of steak but my scalloped potatoes were baked in an individual dish and just what I needed. (nice touch)  My husband had the pork rib eye which he was not sure about at first.  He wondered if pork could come in a rib eye cut.  Well it did and he liked it.  Along with his meal were mashed sweet potatoes which he ended up sharing with my aunt who had the Fillet of Sole, topped with a super tangy lemon sauce and finished with slivered almonds.  Hers also came with sliced green and yellow squash and stir fried w/onions.  Her veggies my husband and I finished.  Oh did I mention that I was stuffed.  Well then came dessert.  We had flan and bread pudding with banana sauce. The pudding plate had a strawberry and both banana and strawberry sauces.  Even my toddler liked it.  The flan just melted in the mouth.  It was not as solid as other flans we had in the past but it was not bad, just nothing to write home about. The whipped cream texture and the super creamy nature of the flan were not a good match.
    The restaurant was barely full when we arrive in the early evening but it had a full house while we were there.  It was a good time and we will probably return as we had a really positive experience.  I have a toddler, so anyplace that does not turn up its nose has my vote.
    It was apparently a former bar but they put about 17 tables and kept an “ole school” ceiling with 3 fans which are not too noisy and not too windy.  The place had dim lighting with candles on each table.  It was enough to eat.  There was music in the background but not to the point where you would have to yell loud to be heard.  It looks like a small well run operation as there were only a few waiters to manage the place.  Oh the parking–some on the street.  I did not investigate pay parking nor if they had a lot for customers.
    Until then!  Eat up!!!