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Cynnie’s take on Risotto

October 25, 2014
Mushroom Risotto

Smartphones can be a curse. You need to make something up, so you conveniently look it up on Google or Pinterest. Recipes can be either be a hit or a flop, depending on whether it was a tested recipe or not. That’s not fun.

Cooking is an act of love. If I’ve learnt anything from my mother while she lived with my spouse and myself for 3 months, she rarely consults a recipe book. She knows that she can always fix the taste in the process of cooking; her most basic flavouring in cooking involves a small and simple range of spices — nothing too complex. I wish my mom was here to taste my risotto! It was perfectly done — the brown rice was not soggy nor tough from having too much or too little water (in the latter case). I would have to thank my mom for teaching me how to use a rice-cooker at the age of 7 or 8. (Thanks, Mom for this new rice cooker.)

Since I have whipping cream on hand for making buttercream/ice-cream, I’d thought, why not use it to create a savoury dish? The Flavor Bible would also aid adding joy to cooks who yearns to improvise in the kitchen; it was interesting to see how the book confirmed my experiment before I even read it. In this dish, mushroom was the feature. I also am aware that whenever we improvise, we often don’t remember what we put in it. So, I wrote down what I put in as well as using a 1/4 cup to measure things. I basically had a bit of Copper Moon’s Pinot Grigio left in a bottle in the fridge. (Copper Moon comes from a fantastic winery in Kelowna, BC — we basically served Copper Moon at our wedding.)

Things to keep in mind: each person roughly eats about 1/4 cup of rice. I teased my husband when he made rice for dinner one night; he had thought one cup is the regular portion of rice per person. I’m like, Honey, don’t worry! We can always use leftover rice to fry the next day.
So, if you’re making for more than two persons, adjust the proportions accordingly. If you don’t have enough wine, add water. If you’ve got enough wine, add just the wine — the alcohol would evaporate during the cooking process anyway, so don’t use a tart or citrus-y white wine. If you’re not using brown rice, use less liquids. From my previous experience with brown rice, brown rice gets hard from not using enough liquids to cook it. The normal guideline is for each portion of rice (Jasmine or Basmati), you must add similar amounts of water. For brown rice, it’s double the amount of water/liquids for each portion.

I have never cooked risotto before; I have only had it once or twice at Zenari’s in downtown. $8 to $10 for a white container of risotto felt like a rip-off, albeit being delicious, as I was still hungry afterwards. As a person who longs to cut down on eating out expenses, I’d thought, I should have fun in the process. The reward would be saving up enough for our (delayed) honeymoon or trips back to my home country.

Mushroom Risotto


Ingredients used:
1 cup brown rice, rinsed before cooking it
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup white wine (used: Pinot Grigio)
2 large mushrooms of your choice, sliced (used: Crimini)
1 cube of mushroom stock, cut into smaller portions to dissolve more easily
1 to 2 tbsp cooking oil
Tiny sprinkle of coarse sea salt (looked like 1/4 tsp), this will help raise the boiling temperature of liquids
1 cup water

Parmesan cheese

  1. Rinse the rice with water and dump the water out.
    My mom would always save this water for watering her plants.
  2. Add white wine, cream, salt and water.
  3. Add cut cubed mushroom stock, mushroom slices, cooking oil.
  4. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top.
  5. Turn on the rice cooker to cook. Once the rice cooker clicks to keep warm, your risotto is ready.

How easy is that?? I challenge you to improvise when cooking. Even though the dish (vegetarian Sweet and Sour Pork — not featured here, since I bought it from Wholesale Vegetarian Food Inc in YEG) I made didn’t quite complement the risotto, it was a great easy and quick meal. With the vegetarian Sweet & Sour Pork, I added pineapple chunks and carrots to my heart’s delight and stir-fried it in a wok. If you haven’t heard of this vegetarian wholesale place, definitely check it out! There’s also Loma House for frozen meat imitation products. Click on either links to read my reviews on Yelp.

Feel free to ping or trackback to this post when you take on the cooking improvisational challenge. :) Happy Cooking!


Banana Doughnuts

October 17, 2014

Bananas are on sale, but you aren’t enthusiastic about yet another banana loaf? Why don’t you use a Ziploc bag to pipe the batter onto doughnut trays?! You can even use your most favourite dense cake recipes.

My most favourite thing, at the moment, to use would be the butter vanilla emulsion I found at Bulk Barn. I use it in lieu of vanilla essence.

This recipe was adapted from I Am A Food Blog. What really intrigued me was that no butter/vegetable oil was used, which is one of the 5 basic elements of baking science. (Flour, liquids, fat, eggs, and sugar) The texture of the doughnut was nowhere near a cake; it was dense, but not in an unappetizing manner. I added 1 more banana (i.e. 1/2 cup of banana) in lieu of 1 egg, to maintain moistness. (I’m also sure you can substitute many ingredients to “vegan-ify” this doughnut! Eggs with flaxseed paste, almond milk for milk + vinegar to make “buttermilk”.)
Pastry textbook referenced, for basic baking principles: Mastering the Art and Craft: Baking & Pastry, 2009. (CIA)
When I re-attempt this recipe next time, I am going to add a tiny amount of salt (approx 1/4 tsp) AND add 1 tbsp shortening to the batter to see how it can change the texture/flavour. While it’s good, I find the texture has got room for improvement; it’s not really a “cake doughnut” yet. (I will update later with a Version 2 of Banana Doughnuts.)

To make the doughnuts successfully, make sure you do not over-mix the dough, once you add the flour; my KitchenAid was not behaving since I had to stop it from stirring and scrape down the flour — I turned off my mixer and resorted to gently folding with a spatula instead. (If your budget allows, splurge on the flex-edge scraper blade!) Always sift the flour before-hand to knock out any air-particles.


Biting into a cinnamon-spiced banana chocolate chip doughnut.

Oven: 400F. Makes about 24 doughnuts.

In a bowl, beat together A:
1 1/2 cup bananas, mashed into purée (I used 3 large)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup “buttermilk” (1/2 cup organic milk + 1/2 Tbsp vinegar)
2 tsp vanilla

One bowl, sift together B:
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Optional: 1/4 cup of chocolate chips + 2 tbsp of chocolate chips for good luck

  1. Always grease your pans with shortening. I tried it both with cooking and shortening tonight. Shortening won; doughnuts came out way easier.
  2. Once A is prepared, gently & slowly fold the flour mixture B in 3 batches.
  3. Easiest way to ensure you don’t overfill your batter is to use a disposable bag.
    Notice how I cut the left corner off — not too big/not too small. You can use a bigger Ziploc bag; I used a sandwich bag.
    To fill the pan, I piped the batter around the round centres twice.
    I filled it with varying volume to see how it turned out:
  4. Bake for 11 minutes or until golden brown. Your doughnuts will continue to cook in the pan. Put the pans to cool for a minute before cooling the doughnuts on the rack.

It’s actually a lot of fun to watch your doughnuts rise in the oven. I made these doughnuts kind of old-fashioned — without any frosting or glazes.

If you live close to the 124th Street farmer’s market in Downtown Edmonton, you must check out Moonshine Doughnuts and try their strawberry wasabi doughnut. Have you attempted making any doughnuts lately?



Strawberry Ice Cream

October 12, 2014

September was a busy month! I met up with other YEG food bloggers and have been busy trying new things in the Cynful Kitchen.

“Are you sure this is not store-bought ice-cream?” My mother-in-law asked. She said that she couldn’t tast any artificial strawberry flavours in this ice cream; I flavoured it with almond essence to give it a nutty flavour. This recipe was inspired by a raspberry ice-cream recipe from Ice Cream & Ices, by Nancy Arum, printed in 1981. Did you know that natural strawberry ice cream is NOT pink? I had to ransack pink food gel from my cake decorating supplies to make people think that it’s strawberry ice-cream.

In Nancy Arum’s version, she recommended 1 cup raspberries, up to 1 cup of sugar (depending on sweetness of raspberries), 1 tsp lemon juice,  and 3 cups half-and-half cream, You can adapt this ice cream recipe to however you want — be it with blueberries or a different instant pudding mix. If you wanted to add liqueur or liquor, add it during the last 3 to 5 minutes of churning.

This is an original Cynful Kitchen recipe.

1 cup strawberries, washed, pat dried and mashed
50g of (Vanilla) Instant Pudding Mix; more if you wanted a thicker consistency
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp almond essence

2 1/2 cups of whipping cream (Or you can use 3 cups of whipping cream)
1/2 cup almond milk
Tiny sprinkles of sea salt (about 1/8 tsp or less)
1 to 2 drops of pink food gel


Strawberry Ice Cream, flavoured with Almond Essence

1. Make sure you dry your fresh fruits. You don’t want the water content going into your ice cream if you want a really creamy texture. Water would make it into a more sorbet texture. After patting the strawberries dry, remove the tops, mash — then, add pudding mix and sugar.


Step 1: wash and dry your strawberries. Remove the tops after drying. Dry again, with paper towels.

2. You will notice that your strawberry juicy mixture will thicken. Add the salt to the whipping cream. Add strawberry mixture and whipping cream mixture into the pre-chilled ice-cream machine container. 20141012-153614.jpg3. Churn the ice cream according to your ice-cream machine’s manufacturer’s instructions. Pour into an airtight container when finished. (With my ice-cream maker, it takes 30 minutes to churn, in total. Yours may vary.)


Enjoy! It’s the creamiest ice cream I have ever whipped up; the instant pudding mix really helps emulsify the mixture while the high fat content in whipping cream makes the ice-cream very creamy. For the next little while, I will be experimenting with coming up with my own recipes. It helps to read pastry chef textbooks to better understand the science that goes behind baking. Just imagine home-made ice-cream sandwiches, made with love. (Think soft-chewy chocolate cookies, with a nice pink strawberry ice-cream in between) Stay tuned, as I am very behind in my writing.

Meat Loaf gone Bananas

September 18, 2014

Bananas in Meat Loaf?

Yes, you have heard me correctly. It’s not as eccentric as meat & vegetables in Jell-O. This recipe was tried last month; I did not have a chance to post it as I was busy researching for a Disney-themed cake (Watch out for next post; birthday girls loved it).

Weeks ago, when I didn’t want to bake ANOTHER banana loaf, I added mashed bananas to our meat loaf instead. (Most moist meat-loaf recipes call for 1 egg, no? Here’s where mashed bananas can also do the trick!)

Recipe source: Retro Food Fiascos ISBN 1-888054-88-3 (Printed 2004, in Singapore); my copy was a cast-away found from a thrift-store.

Recipe notes: I store shallots in my kitchen readily (for curries; etc), wherever onions are required. The original recipe called for onions, with no specific types. Personal preference: the original recipe also suggested the onions be added to the meat. I added to the banana mixture and it was still fine.

Future adaptations: I will add ketchup/barbecue sauce to the meat loaf, prior to baking next time.

Preheat oven to 350F. Serves 4 to 6.



1 lb ground beef
1 shallot, chopped (or 1 tbsp onion, chopped)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup soft bread crumbs (I used the store-bought parsley bread crumb mix kind)

2 bananas, mashed
2 tsp prepared mustard



Mix meat, salt, pepper, and crumbs.

Combine: bananas, onions, and mustard.

Combine: bananas, onions, and mustard.

Combine bananas, onions and mustard; add to meat mixture and mix well.

Place into a loaf pan.
Bake for 1 hour or until meat is thoroughly cooked.

Sorry, I just realized I didn’t take a picture of the final product, but it’s just meat-loaf! ;) Easy-peasy? Let me know how your trials turn out!

Pear Banana Loaf

September 17, 2014
tags: , ,

Pears and Bananas

I tried really hard to find a pear loaf recipe in my cookbook collection. Nada — unless I was going to substitute apples with pears, which could work. At first, I was like, pear fritters! Then, I decided I wasn’t going to start an elaborate doughnut project at 8 PM on a weeknight! Even taking butter out to come to room temperature was work… Don’t even try to cream the butter cold. I’ve done that out of impatience; it gives a dry texture, yuck. To add to that prior impatient disaster, there was egg shells in the cake. Mm, extra calcium, anyone? (Sorry, dear husband. Thanks for testing my baking experiments where I try breaking the rules!)

Jokes aside, you can easily substitute butter for vegetable oil when time isn’t on your side.

So, I resorted to marrying and adapting two different recipes! Thanks to a Key Ingredient contribution titled “Mom’s banana pear bread” and Some More Please’s recipe.

Then, I ran out of cinnamon. (How could I?! I had cinnamon sugar — again, I could have easily calculated the proportions using elementary math, then deduct how much granulated sugar to add. Sheer laziness! Tsk, tsk.)

350°F Preheated oven

Pear Banana Bread

Pear Banana Bread


Sift the following dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp baking POWDER
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup brown sugar

Mix with a spatula. Break the brown sugar further into lumps if needed.

Wet mixture:
1 cup pear, peeled and cored, mashed with a potato masher (roughly 2 normal sized pears or 4 tiny ones)
1 cup banana, mashed (Roughly 2 bananas)
2 eggs, lightly whisked, as suggested by SomeMorePlease
1 to 2 tbsp of maple syrup (for the wet mixture)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup vegetable oil

  1. Grease two loaf pans.
  2. Mashed Pears and Bananas

    Mashed Pears and Bananas

    First bowl: mash the pears with a potato masher. Then, mash bananas. Continue preparing the wet mixture by adding eggs, maple syrup  This step can all be done using a hand-whisk.

  3. Second (bigger) bowl: Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices) together. Then, add brown sugar and salt.
  4. Wet and dry ingredients, together.

    Wet and dry ingredients, together.

    Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Fold gently (using a spatula). Don’t over-mix.

  5. Pour about 2/3 of each loaf pan. Knock the bottoms of each pan to break any air bubbles. (I usually do that with cupcakes. So, why not?)
  6. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean.

Special thanks to my coworker for the pears from his backyard.

Taste notes: You could definitely taste the pears. Serve with tea or coffee and enjoy! (I found it to be a bit sweet with the maple syrup, but everyone else liked it. It definitely contributed to the moist texture.)

Apple Muffins (Old Style)

September 5, 2014

In light of what the CFO said in today’s offsite meeting, “Simplicity is genius.” I couldn’t agree more. Simple recipes are the best especially for breakfast or tea time. This apple muffin recipe is so easy that you don’t even need a hand-mixer. Just a fork (to beat the egg) and a spatula (to mix), as well as sprinkles of love for baking.

Recipe source: E. Edwards and Mrs. E. Schon. Unifarm, compiled in 1971. I adapted the recipe a bit by substituting melted shortening with cooking oil (same proportions). Wherever a recipe calls for milk, I use lactose-free versions.


Preheat oven to 350F.

1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 vegetable cooking oil
1 tsp. lemon rind
3/4 cup apples (peeled and chopped; this was roughly 3/4 of an apple)

Sift flour, salt, nutmeg and baking powder together. Add sugar and combine.

Add lemon and apples.


Beat egg and add.

Add milk and cooking oil. Mix thoroughly. Bake for 23-25 minutes.


Taste notes:
Lemon zest complements the crab apple really well. The apple helps give a moist texture.
I think this would be a lazy baker’s favourite.
A coworker who’s not a fan of egg-y muffins asked me for this recipe. It’s great if you want something not too sweet to bake with crab-apples.

Homemade Banana Butterscotch Ice Cream

August 7, 2014

The secret to delicious ice cream is fat content. I love having whipping cream (aka heavy cream) handy; it’s great to make frosting for cupcakes, or just really good on fresh fruits after using a hand-mixer — and you can make ice-cream. If you’re really ambitious and ready for cleaning up post-fun kitchen mess, you could turn whipping cream into home-made butter & buttermilk, where you can flavour your own butter. (So, don’t over-whip the whipping cream; leave the cream to be blended last.)

Sure, I’ve made two-ingredients Nutella banana ice-cream before, where no ice-cream maker was needed. While it satisfied my sweet tooth in a healthy manner, it felt wrong that there was no cream in the ice-cream. I hate buying ice-cream from the store because I get very sick from lactose. It’s hard to understand what “modified milk ingredients” entails. (I’m guessing it’s milk powder?)

Ice Cream MakerSo, I found this little guy from Superstore between $20 and $30. It’s great because it doesn’t use a lot of space. As fun as a hand-cranked one is (yes, I do dream of owning one), which I’ve come to learn that it’s called a sabottiere, this little electrical unit has a maximum churning time of 30 minutes. However, freezing time would require 16 to 24 hours, with this little unit. (It can vary, depending on your ice-cream maker)

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine. I substituted chocolate with butterscotch chips, which gives the ice-cream a crunchy texture.

Banana Butterscotch Ice Cream

Banana Butterscotch Ice Cream

3 ripe bananas
1 1/4 cups whole milk (Optional: substitute with any lactose-free alternatives, using the same measurements)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 ounces butterscotch chips (I learnt this from the instruction manual, after-the-fact that I should have added the chips 5 minutes before turning off the ice-cream maker — Oops!)

Blended Banana Custard

Blended Banana Custard

  1. In a blender, puree the bananas with the milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in a heavy cream and butterscotch chips.

    Banana and Butterscotch Ice Cream mixture

  2. Pour the banana custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm; mine took overnight.
    Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. (I totally ignored this part, but I had fun scraping it with my ice-cream scoop.)

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