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March 28, 2022

Macerating Your Fruit


Dear readers, this one is for all you fruit lovers.  Spring is here at long last and the markets are filled with all kinds of delectable friuits.  Yum!  I'm pretty serious when I buy fruit, trying my very best to choose the best ripe fruit, checking for the right color, the right hardness or softness, the good smell, no bruises, etc.  And still, sigh, sometimes, I end up with fruit that's totally 'meh'.  Tasteless, lifeless fruit.  Why even sell such fruit, amirite!?  So disappointing!  😞   

At other times, I forget the fruit that I bought and stashed in the fridge for too long (I'm quite absent minded) and when I rediscover them they look sad, shriveled and resentful (my bad).  I have discovered that there is a super simple fix for both these cases of fruit gone sad.  A bit of sugar, a bit of time and the magic of maceration will turn your Plain Jane or neglected fruit into plump, juicy, flavor intensified fruity superstars!  It's time to Macerate your Fruit!

March 16, 2022

Brooks Brothers Shirt with Neckline Detail


This delightfully soothing and refreshing Winter Melon Tea 冬瓜茶 is something we recently discovered when eating out at a local Taiwanese restaurant.  It was so refreshing and good I couldn't believe that I'd never come across this delicious drink before!  Apparently it's a widely enjoyed beverage in Taiwan and super healthy to boot, chock full of vitamin C (boosts immunity!), antioxidants, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium.  Super good for your health!  Winter melon is considered cooling to the body in Chinese medicine so this is the perfect refreshing drink as the weather starts to warm up.  

It was a serendipitous discovery as I've been obsessing recently over the issue of drinks and the fact that modern life seems to requires that a lot of drinks be purchased and lugged home.  I always wondered, what did folk do for drinks back in the days before supermarkets and convenience stores?  They made them at home, of course, and thus my search has been to discover traditional healthy teas and tonic drinks that can be easily made at home.   What a cool thing it is to have a constant supply of delicious easy to make healthy tea/drink in fridge to sip whenever one is thirsty!

February 28, 2022

Pork Floss Buns 豬肉鬆包


Have you ever tried Chinese pork floss, 豬肉鬆?  If not, you're totally missing out cuz pork floss is the bomb and it's the meat version of cotton candy!  Pork floss is meat that is stewed in soy sauce and spices until imbued with flavor and fall apart tender, then teased apart and cooked again until completely dry, in the process becoming a light tender fluff that's packed with intense and incredible yummilicious meat flavor.  It's so good that you just always want to have a bit more!  

Pork floss is used inside rice rolls, or eaten with congee, or with a bit of bread.  One of my favorite (and easy!) tricks is to grab a slice of bread, slaughter on some butter, add some pork floss, roll it up and it's a quick delicious and very popular snack in our household.  Even my wee cat loves the stuff!  This time I decided to go a bit more formal and make the proper Pork Floss buns, just like you can buy at the bakery!  A soft enriched bun with a hidden heart of pork floss as well as a luscious piling of pork floss on top, this bun is as good looking as it is tasty!

February 9, 2022

Salted Egg Yolk Lotus Seed Paste Bun 白蓮蓉鹹蛋包


This gorgeous gold and orange round within round of yummiliciousness in a pristine white bun is our offering for this year's Chinese New Year, the Year of the Tiger.   The perfect circle of the yolk in this Salted Egg Yolk Lotus Seed Paste Bun symbolizes the all important Chinese concept of the family unity.  Not saying that Chinese families don't fight, they do and they do it just as robustly as other folk do (yeah, personal experience).  

But even with all the fighting that can happen, the Chinese believe that family is the bedrock.  This is especially so around Chinese New Year when the whole family gets together to bring in the New Year.  Our Salted Egg Yolk Lotus Seed Paste Bun 白蓮蓉鹹蛋包 is not only yummilicious with its soft fluffy white bread wrapped around a heart of creamy sweet lotus seed paste and lusciously melty salted egg yolk but also rich in its symbolism of unity.  It's the perfect way to celebrate the New Year!

January 29, 2022

Chinese Iron Eggs 鐵蛋


These unusual looking treats, called Iron Eggs 鐵蛋, are an interesting snack that originates from Taiwan.  One can sometimes find them in convenience stores in HK; that's where we first discovered them, these tiny dark brown almost black eggs vacuum packed into see through packages.  Liking to try weird foods (almost black eggs!) we bought a pack and in the first delectable tiny bite became instant iron fans.

The legendary Iron Egg started at a Taiwan food stall that sold normal soy sauce eggs.  One day due to bad weather there was a serious lack of customers.  So the soy cooked eggs were thrown back into the pot and recooked again, still no customers, recooked again, still no customers, and so on.  Eventually the eggs shrank and became dark and dense.  However they tasted really, really good!  So good that customers began to request them and thus began the legend of the iron egg.  (Don’t you just love that name!  And the iron only refers to the color and not the texture BTW.)  

This is an exceptionally tasty treat that goes great as a party snack or drinking snack or just a whatever snack.  The making is simple but it takes quite a bit of time.  The final result, these Chinese Iron Eggs 鐵蛋, are tiny eggs with a chewy outer shell and a lush yolk, all throughly infused with the aromatics that it has been cooked in repeatedly.  A burst of intense spiced eggy goodness in a perfect little package, Iron Eggs are just the most delicious little snack!

January 19, 2022

Homemade Lotus Seed Paste 白蓮蓉


This lovely round of goldenness is my homemade Lotus Seed Paste,  白蓮蓉 , a soft, luscious, slightly nutty sweet paste made from lotus seeds that is used in many Chinese pastries and cake, including the famous Lotus Paste Double Yolk Mooncake 雙黃白蓮蓉月餅.  During our making of Lotus Seed Egg Tea  蓮子蛋茶 recently we discovered the secret of cooking lotus seeds that allows them to become meltingly soft.  Then I realized that this technique might make a huge impact on the lotus seed paste (that we previously wrote about when making Double Lotus Mooncake) that we make at home for our various mooncakes and Chinese pastries.  I tried it and I was right!  It totally made a huge difference, the softer lotus seeds pureed and cooked down into a lusciously soft creamy and melty paste, just like the ones in the shops!

January 2, 2022

Lotus Seed Egg Tea 蓮子蛋茶


To bring in the new year we present our next delectable Chinese dessert soup.  This subtly delicious and comforting sweet soup will warm your heart and tummy in the depths of any wintery chill. Requiring only a few ingredients, this Lotus Seed Egg Tea (not sure why it’s called a ‘tea’ and not a soup?) 蓮子蛋茶 is deceptively simple to make.  The result is a beautifully golden hued soup with a clear sweet delicate taste, bejeweled with melt in your mouth lotus seeds and sweet soft red jujubes.  Oh,  and there is the added delight of a hard boiled egg!  The egg is my favorite part, the slippery egg white and the melty egg yolk just tastes so good slurped in with the soup!  It's the perfect afternoon snack for a wintery day, both fortifying and comforting.

Add-on Note: I just found out that this tea is served to newlyweds to symbolize the hopes that they will soon conceive children.  The rather obvious symbols being the 'seed' and the 'egg'--he he!  

December 18, 2021

Chinese Almond Dessert Soup 杏仁糊


This delicious and soothing sweet concoction is know as Chinese Almond Dessert Soup 杏仁糊, or also sometimes as Chinese Almond Tea 杏仁茶.   Rather ironically it's not made of almonds at all, rather it's made from the kernels of apricots, apricot seeds, also known as xingren or 杏仁.  Probably the reason it's called an 'almond' dessert is because apricot seeds exude an intense, delicious, almond-y aroma that is really just lovely.  More almond-y than almonds!  This dessert soup is considered by the Chinese to be soothing for the lungs, helping to stop coughs and just generally boosting your health.  

November 28, 2021

Chinese Black Sesame Dessert Soup 黑芝麻糊


At long last the chill winds of autumn are blowing through Hong Kong, blasting away the warm long lasting humidity of the sometimes seemingly unending Hong Kong summer.  In other words, it's finally getting cold!  

I'm sitting at my writing desk, snuggled contentedly into my soft and very warm and comfy Chinese silk padded jacket 棉襖.  Guarded against the autumn chills, my thoughts turn to warming myself and my family from the inside out.  Hum...  Ah ha, I've got it!  What better way to do that then to whip up some deliciously soul soothing and warming Chinese dessert soups?  Not only tasty but, according to Chinese beliefs, these soups are essential to supporting health and warming the body throughout the cool months.  And to start with is my personal favorite, the rock star of Chinese dessert soups, the black and  gorgeous Chinese Black Sesame Dessert Soup 黑芝麻糊, a thick and sweetly nutty soup packed with intense aroma of freshly roasted and ground black sesame seed.  Warms the heart and sweetens the day, all in one yummilicious bowl!

November 12, 2021

Spanish Persimmons


 I adore fruit.  It's just so amazing that nature can gift us with such amazing little packets of deliciousness!  Here in Hong Kong we are so lucky that we can try fruits from all over the world.  So whenever we see new and exotic fruits, we like to try them out.  This is our latest fruity discovery, the Spanish persimmon, known by the trademarked name 'Persimon® ' (one 'm'), or 'Ribera del Xuquer' or as 'Rojo Brillante', a fruit so delicately and refreshingly sweet that it brings to mind what I imagine the nectar of the gods would taste like.  The persimmon is after all the fruit of the Diospyros tree and tellingly, 'Diospyros' is a ancient Greek word that means 'divine fruit'.

The unique delicate flavor of this Spanish persimmon simply blew us out of the water!  Though pricier than the regular persimmon we took a chance and now would gladly pay the extra.  Having actually discovered it last year, we have been waiting eagerly all year for the Spanish persimmon season to start again!  (Which is now, oct-jan, so keep an eye out at the markets!).

November 4, 2021

How to Wrap a Wonton 餛飩的包法


Today I'm going to show you how my dearest Grandma 奶奶 taught me to wrap a wonton.  On wonton making day my 奶奶 would always round up all us kids to help her.  First we would make homemade wonton wrappers.  The nifty pasta maker (I bought one recently and it's still unchanged after all this time!) would be clamped firmly to our dining table.  Us kids would fight for the chance to turn the crank on the pasta maker and watch the dough roll through again and again until at last it magically rolled out in thin shiny supple sheets.  Gramma 奶奶 would then cut the dough sheets into squares with her big chopper knife and then she would have our extra (and small) hands to help wrap up plump snowy row after row of wontons.  It's easy once you done it once or twice.

There are other methods to wrap wonton but they all revolve around the most important rule of wonton wrapping: wrap it up snug and tight so that the wonton doesn't fall apart during boiling!  For myself, the wrapping I always use is the same one dearest grandma taught me all those years ago.

October 25, 2021

Vegetarian Plant Based Wontons 植物肉餛飩


Wontons are Chinese boiled dumplings, slippery chewy meat and veggie filled dumplings that are just the perfect combo bite of yummilicious food.  When I was a little girl I could eat two whole large plates of my Grandma's homemade wontons!  It's one of those 'you just can't eat one' kind of foods.  Recently, inspired by all the plant based meat products coming out in the market, we decided to try to make plant based vegetarian wontons!  Our Vegetarian Plant Based Wontons 植物肉餛飩 are simple to make, stuffed with plant based mince and an assortment of veggies that add flavor and texture.  It's a yummilicious and satisfying alternative to the traditional meat filled wontons.

October 10, 2021

Stir Fry Pizza ala Gong Bao Chicken 宮保雞丁比薩


What you're seeing here is the result of some serious pizza experimentation! It all started when we tried out some interesting pizzas at a local pizza joint (for my B-D!)  Their pizzas were topped with all kinds of foods that I didn't usually associate with pizzas and it was pretty delish.  That got me thinking about ways to make a different kind of pizza, a kind that tasted not like a pizza but was still totally a pizza.  

Sounds confusing, eh?  I was confused at first too.  After a bit of thought I realized what I wanted was a pizza to taste like two things: 1) a pizza and 2) another dish of my choosing.  So if you've got a favorite dish like barbeque chicken and you love pizza as well, you could make a barbeque chicken pizza that tastes like both barbeque chicken and pizza!  Double the yummy, amirite?!

The original Gong Bao Chicken Stir Fry

Daringly (for us kitchen nerds:), we took on the Chinese Gong Bao Chicken Stir Fry 宮保雞丁 (click to check out our recipe), a powerhouse of flavor and texural contrasts, as our other 'taste/dish'.  Note that this dish is a stir fry and its many different ingredients are meant to meld together in the wok during a hot and furious stir fry session.  But pizzas are made in the oven.  So a stir fry on a pizza?  Would that even work?  Well, we decided to take a gamble and see.  

September 28, 2021

Ginger Scallion Sauce 薑蔥醬


Here's a quick and easy Chinese sauce that's simply fabulous.  It's found in many places in Hong Kong but mostly at the siu mei shops 燒味鋪 that sell those delectable barbeque Chinese meats.  An order of 'white cut chicken 白切雞' or 'soy sauce chicken 豉油雞' comes with a generous side of this Ginger Scallion Sauce 薑蔥醬, also known as Ginger Spring Onion Sauce, an aromatic oil sauce intensely infused as well as packed with scallion and ginger.  

September 17, 2021

Chinese Spiral Flaky Pastry Mooncake 千層紫薯酥


The Chinese way of making flaky pastry, also known as Huaiyang Pastry 淮揚酥皮, is the bomb!  You start with a basic layered dough that produces a wonderfully light and delicate flaky pastry.  This basic dough can be rolled out and wrapped in three different ways to produce different pastry skins.   In the first the layers are hidden, only showing after the pastry is opened (see our Chinese Flaky Pastry with Lotus Seed Paste 白蓮蓉酥餅 recipe).  The second way exposes the flaky layers.  We wanted to try something alternative for this year's Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節 so we used the exposed layers method to make this truly elegant Chinese Spiral Flaky Pastry Mooncake 千層紫薯酥, yummiliciously stuffed with a lush soft purple sweet potato filling and a hidden heart of tender white mochi.  

September 9, 2021

Purple Sweet Potato Mooncake Filling Paste 紫蕃薯餡


It's almost time for my favorite Chinese festival of the year, the Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節. Mooncakes, glowing lanterns, the full moon in the velvet sky, what's there not to like!  We're serious about our mooncakes in this household and every year will prepare one of our homemade mooncakes, choosing between fragrant LF carmar denim boyfriend jeans size 27, nutty Five Nuts Mooncake, delectable Black Sesame Walnut Mooncake, or the icily delicious Snow Skin Custard Mooncake.  

This year we wanted to try something different so we decided to try making mooncakes with both a new filling and skin.  To wrap the mooncake we chose to use the Chinese Flaky Pastry Dough that we wrote about recently.  There's a different way to the roll out the pastry dough that exposes the delicate layers in a flaky spiral swirl.  So beautiful!  And for the mooncake filling, we experimented with this Chinese Purple Sweet Potato Mooncake Filling Paste 紫蕃薯餡 which, as it turns out, makes an amazing filling: lush and gorgeously purple hued, the sticky soft paste rich and deliciously sweet with a fragrant hint of cloves and nutmeg.  We stuffed our mooncakes with this yammilicious filling along with a hidden heart of soft and tender mochi.  Also note that not only is this filling for mooncakes but also for all other kinds of pastry, for example these Chelsea & Theodore Navy Polka Dot 3/4 Blouse.

August 31, 2021

Winged Bean Garlic Stir Fry 蒜蓉炒翼豆


 Have you ever seen a bean with wings?  Or wings with a bean?  No?  Well then, I am very pleased to introduce you to the fabulous Winged Bean 翼豆!  We discovered these strange beans in the wet market the other day.  So funny looking with four little wing like corners on each bean. Never seen them before but the vegetable lady assured us that they were quite delicious.  Excited as always to try a new veggie, we scooped up a bag full to take home.  True to the vegetable lady's advice a very simply prepared Winged Bean Stir Fry was delicious: kissed with fragrant garlic, these stir fried beans were tender yet still lightly crunch with a sweet light flavor reminiscent of green peas and snow peas.

August 24, 2021

Gong Bao Chicken | Kung Pao Chicken 宮保雞丁


This easy Chinese stir fry, the Gong Bao Chicken 宮保雞丁, also known as the Kung Pao Chicken, is a dish of bold and striking flavor and textures, a voluptuous treat for the culinary senses.  It is a savory dish, touched with the umami of soy sauce, the tang of black vinegar, the pepperyness of ginger, the hot of chili pepper, a hint of numbness from the szechuan pepper,  and the fragrant aroma of sesame and spring onion.  In texture the Gong Bao Chicken is tender and chewy (the chicken), crisp ( the water chestnut) and crunchy (the peanuts).  This easy to make yet spectacular stir fry has a little bit of everything nice!

Note:  This dish has chili pepper in it!  Integral part of the dish.  As you've probably noted ours doesn't.  This is because our little girl can't tolerate spicy at all (working on training her!) and so for the time being we cook without it :(

August 16, 2021

Chinese Pickled Vegetables 自製中式泡菜


These little veggie goodies that you can make at home are fantastic little bombs of fermented probiotic goodness!  With a simple brine of salt and water vegetables can be transformed into delicious health boosting pickles that can keep for a long time.  This process to do this is known as lacto fermentation whereby good bacteria known as Lactobacillus are used to break down starch and sugars into lactic acid, a natural preservative.  The transformative result is veggie pickles with a tanginess introduced, flavors intensified and layered with new taste notes, texture still packing a bit of crunch.

As this was the traditional way to preserve vegetables in the days of old, one can find lacto fermented food in most every culture.  Sauerkraut, kimchi, jalapeños, dill pickles, yogurt, kefir, natto (our new obbession!), kombucha, tempeh and miso are just a few examples of the endless variety of fermented foods found around the world.  Today we introduce the traditional Chinese way of making Pickled Vegetables 泡菜, a brine soak resulting in yummiliciously delicious veggie pickles infused with aromatic Chinese spices.  It's super simple to make, just need a bit of time and patience.

August 9, 2021

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I love flatbreads of all kinds.  Probably cuz I love finger foods and these little breads are so wonderful for making snackable packages of finger food!  Perhaps you have tried these particular Mandarin Pancake flatbreads before while having Peking Duck or Moo Shu Pork: they are used to wrap up the cooked meat and veg into yummilicious little packages before consuming.  These Chinese breads look like and serve similar purposes with flatbreads from other cultures, like the chapati from India and the tortilla from Mexico, but actually these Chinese flatbreads have unique charm and feel all their own.  

And while traditionally this flatbread is used with specific Chinese dishes like the Peking Duck, etc., we like to modern it up by using the Mandarin Pancake to wrap up just about anything, be it warm and saucy or cool and spicy.  The great thing about these easy to make sesame scented Mandarin Pancakes 荷葉餅 is that they are soft and flexible yet strong enough to hold both food and sauce without leaking.  Make a bit of stir fry and,  instead of cooking up rice, just use these flatbreads to wrap up your stir fry and there's your dinner!