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I think this coffee cream filling for macarons is one of best fillings I have ever made so far O(∩_∩)O~

I replace 10g almond flour with super fine freshly ground coffee.  Instant French roast coffee and coffee rum are added to the filling for an enhanced coffee flavor.  Turns out to be so amazing!  The real trick here is to use real good dark chocolate.  It makes huge difference!

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I have been baking a lot of macarons lately.  What a sweet obsession! O(∩_∩)O~ 

Different fillings bring different textures and flavors to macarons.  And I have been experimenting all sorts of different fillings.  Because macaron cookies are very sweet, I like macaron fillings to be moist, not too dry nor wet; mild, not too sweet nor greasy.   After lemon custard, I make apricot filling which is also very tasty and refreshing.

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I haven’t baked macarons for a long time, mostly because they are just too sweet for my personal taste.  I bought some fresh cute yellow lemons on my last trip to grocery store.  They are perfect for making lemon custard. 

Normally lemon custard requires a large amount of butter, which intimidates me a bit.  So I experiment in my kitchen several times until I create this wonderful lemon custard recipe.  It is sour and sweet, more sourness than sweetness of course, which neutralizes the overwhelming sweetness from macaron shells.  The balance between lemon acidity and sugar is very fascinating.  I think I going to stick to lemon filling macarons for a while.  O(∩_∩)O~

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Garlic chive is a vegetable that is popular across Asia.  We use it in stir fries, soups, dumplings and various dim sums.  Surprisingly it never became popular in United States and never made their way to American grocery stores.  For those who are interested, there are two ways to get garlic chives.  You can either grow them yourself, or just drive to the nearest Asian grocery store.   Sometimes garlic chive is sold at local farmer market too.

Garlic chive tastes a lot like leek, but with a milder, more delicate grassy and earthy flavor.  The best season for garlic chive is spring.  After a long cold winter, garlic chive sprouts earlier than most vegetables.  Chinese people consider garlic chive to be a messenger of spring.  When summer comes, its flavor gets stronger and become less popular.

My favorite way to enjoy garlic chives is dumplings.

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Between late March and early April, there is a traditional Qingming Festival in China.  Family members get together on this day and visit their ancestors’ and passed love ones’ graves.  They are there to tidy up graves and show their respect and love.  It is a day of remembering and sharing. 

Usually food is also an essential part of this ritual.  What food items to bring really depend on local traditions and family preferences.  Besides chicken, duck, and pork, there is one item most people bring and love: green sweet rice cakes.  The green color is from fresh young mugwort plants.  It is popular because of good herbal grassy flavors as well as medical purpose to refresh up both body and mind. 

As time goes by, people like these green sweet rice cakes more and more that they are no longer just a food item used in Qingming Festival ritual.  They become a daily snack / dim sum.

And the sweet rice cake fillings are evolving too.  The traditional ones include red bean paste, black sesame, peanut and brown sugar.  A couple years ago, some restaurant in Shanghai invented a filling with salted duck egg yolks and shredded pork and it instantly became a huge hit.  People stand in a line for hours and hours just to purchase several sweet rice cakes.  Wow, foodies!  O(∩_∩)O~

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Finally, it is crawfish season! 

More and more restaurant s and stores are selling crawfishes.  Every seafood market stores in Seabrook have huge signs “live crawfish” on the outside. 

And more excitingly, there are all kinds of festivals on weekends to celebrate these delicious “mud bugs” across town too.

I love dining out to enjoy Cajun flavor crawfish boil.  I also love make very hot and spicy Asian style crawfish boil at home.

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The most exciting events in spring for us are wildflower touring and crawfish festivals.  We make plans to going to Brenham and Austin to see wildflowers every year.  The plans don’t always get carried out because the wildflowers’ peak time is very short.  Besides, wildflowers are affected by many other factors like temperature and rainfall. 

This year, we finally have a perfect wildflower tour to Brenham during bluebonnets peak time.  Hooray!

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It is a dish I cook over and over again in my kitchen.  It is very simple, quick to make but loaded with tons of great flavors.  Whenever I don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, I stir fry some pork belly with slightly dried daikon.

Pork belly is perfect for stir fry.  The daikon has been slightly dehydrated before cooking, which produces an extra crunchy texture. 

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If you like Asian style hot pot, you will love this smashed shrimp paste.    

Cooked smashed shrimps taste a lot better than regular cooked shrimps.  It carries on the shrimp flavor but with a smoother and slight crunchy texture, which makes eating these tiny shrimp balls so fun.

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If you are a fan of ramen noodles like me, you would be familiar with the soft boiled eggs in soy sauce and know how great they taste. 

Tonkotsu ramen is very hard and time consuming to make from scratch at home.   On the other hand, soft boiled eggs are quite simple and easy.

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Since I got stand mixer with pasta roller set and Philips pasta machine, I have been making a lot of noodles.  Homemade noodles from scratch is so much fun that the whole family can enjoy.

A bowl of great noodles depends on its broth, noodles and topping/ seasoning.  For the broth part, I personally love thick pork broth the most.  It is not hard to make at home but it will take hours.  After it is done, you will love it as much as I do. O(∩_∩)O~

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Garlic leaves taste a lot like leeks, with a more intense garlicky and spicy flavor.  We usually use them in stir-fries.  I personally consider garlic leaves pair best with pork belly in stir-fries.  They help to get rid of mild hog flavor in pork belly, and add refreshing herbal spicy garlic flavor to the whole dish. 

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The fifteen day of Chinese New Year is called Lantern Festival.  Lantern Festival Day is the last day of Chinese New Year celebration. On this day, we traditionally celebrate with lanterns and dance balls.  Families and friends get together to have another feast before going back to work. 

One of the traditional foods served on this feast is sweet rice cakes balls.  There are so many varieties of sweet rice cakes out there on the market that everyone can find his favorite flavor.  As for me, I love black sesame filling the most.  

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Dried purple sweet potatoes are one of my favorite snacks.  Unfortunately it is very hard to find tasty ones available in store.  I usually make them from scratch at home.  It is so simple and easy that even a person who doesn’t cook can manage it in no time.  O(∩_∩)O~

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It is a very traditional and common for Chinese people to make sweet rice wine at home.  But it is not really the clear-colored high alcohol content version of “rice wine” you are thinking.  It is non-distilled, very sweet, and more dessert like.

The most common one is made with pure white sweet rice.  Sometime people add different ingredients to make variations too.  This time I add black sweet rice.  After fermentation, it becomes a gorgeous deep purple color.

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Tails are another one of my favorite parts from a hog.  They don’t look like much.  But the texture and taste are both awesome.  They are similar to ox tails, but smaller, sometimes leaner, and usually sold with skin on. 

They can be cooked in soup, braised, or deep fried.  Different cooking method would bring out different flavors.  After trying most cooking ways I can think of, smoking-and-then-braising becomes my new favorite way to cook them.

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Can you believe it is tofu?  O(∩_∩)O~          

Yes, it is definitely tofu.  Chinese people invented tofu more than a thousand years ago.  We have been cooking and eating tofu in numerous different ways ever since.  Sometimes you know what you eat is tofu, but sometimes you don’t even know if you are eating tofu. 

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Spicy sliced mixed beef in chili oil sauce is a very traditional and popular dish in Southwest China area.  The weather is extremely hot and humid in summer time there, so local people have been developed a unique spicy cuisine to spice up regular daily food to be more appetizing.

According to legend, local poor working class people couldn’t afford expensive beef cuts like steak or ribs.  They collected what was left or unwanted beef parts from market; boiled them for a long time until they got tender enough to eat; thinly sliced, tossed them with soy sauce and red chili oil sauce.  The dish got popular because it was quite affordable and surprisingly tasty.  Years later, a local food stand run by a couple further adapted and perfected the dish by adding more complicated chili sauce; substituted beef lung with beef shank.  So people named the dish after this couple.  Don’t be surprised if you see “couple’s beef” on a Chinese restaurant menu.  That is how the dish got its name.  A Sichuan restaurant Twin Peppers in Houston even name the dish “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”.   Interesting, isn’t it?

I still call it spicy sliced mixed beef in chili oil sauce to avoid any possible confusion.

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