Wednesday, 22 May 2013
So my sister got a bunch of samples from Sephora last time she ordered something, and she gave me some and told me to review them. I honestly have no idea what to say about them, especially as I don't think using something once will necessarily give you noticeable results? But I said I would, so here goes.
[Edit: Okay, so apparently she didn't want me to "review" them necessarily, she just wanted me to use/try them and see if there were any I liked.]
AmorePacific - "FUTURE RESPONSE Age Defense Creme"
Pros: nice consistency
Cons: lingering scent, PRICE POINT
Comments: This is made in Korea and definitely smells like it, meaning it's got this "girly" scent that I associate with Asian cosmetic counters.
Official Product: 1.7 oz. for 195$
Final Ruling: I cannot justify a 195$ face cream for any reason, especially one that does not at the very least double as a moisturizer/sunscreen.
Boscia - "Detoxifying Black Cleanser"
Pros: a gel cleanser you're supposed to put directly on your face (as opposed to lathering in your palms first)
Cons: the smell reminds me a bit of Chinese medicine? but it doesn't linger so it's not really a con
Comments: Since I "dampened" my face with warm water, I actually didn't feel the "warming effect" that much, but I don't think that's really a functional detail anyway so. The cleanser really is black, which is interesting, although again, I'm not sure that adds to its ability to clean. I would not have described it as a "gel" but again, doesn't affect its function. Made my face squeak a bit when I rinsed it off. The sample amount was good for two uses, so the pump bottle would probably last about ~4 months if used once daily. All the claims on the package seem pretty exciting, but as you probably expect, it doesn't magically make all your pores invisible in one use.
Official Product: 5 oz. pump bottle for 28$
Final Ruling: As far as cleansers go, it seems to work, and I'll admit it didn't dry out my skin as much as my current daily acne wash. I didn't try using it as a dual face wash/make-up remover (which it claims to be able to do), but that would be an interesting feature if it worked well.
Ole Henriksen - "truth is in the eyes"
Pros: very light, virtually fragrance free, absorbs (dries?) quickly
Cons: slightly tacky even after it's no longer damp (but not enough to really bother me)
Comments: The package says "an eye peel concentrate that's a natural antidote for fatigued and wrinkled eye tissue" and I'm not sure if I qualify for that. But the official tube also says it's good for dark circles, of which I saw no visible improvement. The sample packet was 0.1 oz and lasted me about a week before I decided to just move on. Questions I had: Why is it called a peel if nothing is peeled? If it's a gel but it exfoliates, is it chemical exfoliation?
Official Product: 0.5 oz tube for 42$
Final Ruling: I actually would use a product that could "heal" dark circles, but if there's no change after using a product for a week then I might as well just use concealer.
Algenist with Alguronic Acid - "Overnight Restorative Cream"
Pros: virtually fragrance free, not oily
Cons: doesn't absorb into the skin really, so your face feels a bit sticky for a long while
Comments: Apparently this is supposed to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, restore elasticity and firmness to the skin, and leave it renewed by morning. If this is true, it's probably wasted on me at this point in my life.
Official Product: 2 oz jar for 90$
Final Ruling: Geez Louise, 90$ for sticky skin and that feeling in the back of my mind that I'm going to have to wash my pillowcase more often? No thanks. -.-; Although, I only used about half the 0.05 oz sample to cover my whole face, so the jar is like, 80 uses. Still not worth it for me personally.
Monday, 15 April 2013
Mike has had a bag of cacoa nibs in the freezer for as long as I can remember. From before we got married even. Since we're moving again (relatively) soon, I wanted to get rid of them. But I didn't want to throw them away, because cacoa nibs are awesome and why waste them? But I didn't know what to do with them, because I've only ever eaten them in a chocolate bar and I wasn't feeling ambitious enough to make truffles.
I was talking to May not too long ago about truffles (she called me asking if she should use heavy whipping cream or just whipping cream, or something like that). So I tried to pawn off the nibs on her, but she had apparently already bought her own bag. I don't know if she bought them for her truffles or for something else. Seriously, who buys a bag of cacao nibs? *cough*crazyhusband*cough*crazysister*cough*
By the way, for those who don't know, cacao nibs are bits of the cacao bean after they're roasted but before they're made into chocolate. They smell like chocolate and they have a nutty flavor and texture, but they are not at all sweet, in fact they are slightly bitter.
Anyway, after a little web surfing it looked like the easiest thing to do would be candied cacao nibs.
I found this recipe for candied cacoa nibs and cross-referenced it with this other similar recipe because I was confused about melting sugar as opposed to dissolving it (pictures for you at the end if you're also worried about this, but it turns out fine).
Since the point of the exercise was to use up the cacoa nibs I centered everything around that. I had roughly 1+1/3 cups of cacoa nibs, which is the most awkward amount ever. It would mean I had to do a 16/9th of the first recipe link. So I just decided to roughly double everything but make sure to have slightly less. Yeah, I'm not a precise cook, sorry.
All pictures at bottom for ease of referencing the recipe in the future.
~ 4/3 c cacao nibs
~ 1 c sugar
~ 2 tbs unsalted butter
Put sugar in a medium pot on medium heat, stirring occasionally until it starts to melt. In the mean time, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. For my pot/stove/amount of sugar it took around 10 minutes for me to start to see any melting/clumping. The sugar starts to get slightly toasted looking and clumps up, and I just stirred and broke up the chunks as best I could. About 15 minutes in, the whole thing was caramel coloured and mostly liquid.
Pour in the cacao nibs and stir to coat the nibs in sugar. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 more minutes. (Even though I doubled the recipe, I had no idea what the "cooking" would do, so I didn't extend the cook time.)
At this point it's pretty much a gooey solid mass and I was thinking "uh oh" regarding cleaning everything up afterward. But this was also the time for your first taste test/snacking privilege, and it was delicious so I decided it was going to be worth it. =9
Add butter, remove from heat, and mix. The butter really amazingly breaks up the mixture pretty easily. Just smoosh it and mix it around with your spoon. Everything just crumbled for me magically.
Pour onto cooking sheet and spread out as well as you can. Sprinkle salt on it if you like (I sprinkled salt on half then tasted, and it was pretty good either way).
I think they taste even nuttier afterwards. Maybe that's a beurre noisette effect too. They taste a bit like crunchy oatmal chocolate crisps? They used to sell something like that at Costco...
Oh, by the way this recipe slightly discolours your wooden spoon. But it also turns your wooden spoon temporarily into a lollipop. And the rest of the sugar that you can't eat off easily will come off if you just soak it in water for a few minutes.
Bowl of cacao nibs:
Sugar starting to look toasty:
Sugar almost done melting:
Poured in the nibs:
Done! (In case you're thinking 4/3 c of cacao nibs didn't make much, I actually had two baking sheets, but only one is pictured.)
Nom nom (this box is to take home if I don't eat them all before then):
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Remember when boys were a shadow
to the allure of girls ?
The highlight of every week was
a trip to the grocery store
sweaty and sunny
smiles and silliness
and sex ?
Remember when we drank Pom iced tea
to quench our thirst ?
to belong ?
Remember when poetry
with every heart ache ?
Remember when boys were shadows ?
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
So if you decided to make vanilla ice cream the way I did, then you were probably left with three egg whites that you didn't know what to do with. The good news is that egg whites can be frozen and then thawed to use later. I just poured mine in a ziplock bag and wedged in between some other things so it would stay upright. Remember to label the bag with how many egg whites are in there so you don't forget.
There are quite a few things you can make with egg whites. I wanted to make some sort of sweet or dessert, which doesn't narrow it down terribly. And then I was restricted by the ingredients I had on hand, which did narrow it down quite a bit.
In the end, I decided to just make a white cake.
I referenced this recipe page, which also has a nice recipe for buttercream, which I haven't tried but sounds legit after a brief conversation with Diana Link (Inadomi?) the other day.
The best part about the recipe on that page is that it calls for 6 egg whites and makes two 9" rounds so. If you're not doing a fancy layered cake, then you can halve the recipe perfectly and make one 9" round instead.
The cake did turn out quite egg-y in the end. Not like EGG but it did call to mind the fact that cake in Chinese is 蛋糕.
3/8 c butter (if you have those convenient baking rectangles, it's 3/4 of one of the sticks)
1/2 c milk
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla (yeah, I didn't have almond extract)
>1 c flour (I'm lazy...)
<1 c sugar (...and not very precise)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat your oven to 350F. Take the butter out of the fridge, put it in a bowl and cut it into smaller chunks.
Flour your round cake pan.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
In a different bowl, mix milk, egg whites, and vanilla.
If your butter is softened, add it to your dry mixture and incorporate as best you can. (If it's not, feel free to microwave.)
In the recipe, it said to add all but 1/2 c of the liquid mixture to the dry+butter mixture, so I tried to add half in first? But it ended up being just odd. So, I recommend just adding all the liquid mixture into your medium bowl slowly while stirring.
Bake for 30 minutes, and you're done.
Frosting would probably be a good idea.
Edit: I don't know if it's the all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, but the cake is on the dense side. Reminds me a little of pound cake.
&& It literally looks like a cake you would make from a mix which is why I didn't bother taking a picture.
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
I meant to write about this awhile back and just realized today that I hadn't yet.
So basically it all started when Candace gave us some homemade vanilla extract. Yeah, I looked it up - apparently it's not difficult to make, literally vanilla beans in vodka. So I thought, what can I make that will use vanilla? How about, vanilla ice cream!
I basically combined this method of making ice cream without an ice cream maker with this recipe for vanilla ice cream, with a few modifications.
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c half-and-half
pinch of salt
3/8 c sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
Pour the heavy cream into a a large metal bowl (with a lid), add 1 tsp of vanilla extract, mix, and put that back in the refrigerator.
In a saucepan, heat the half-and-half, salt, sugar, and the rest of the vanilla extract. Stir until everything's dissolved, then turn off the heat.
In a small bowl, stir together egg yolks.
Make your custard by adding spoonfuls of the warm half-and-half mixture into the bowl of yolks and stirring continuously. When the bowl of yolks is warmed somewhat, pour it all back into the saucepan while stirring.
Turn the heat back on to low and stir constantly, being sure to scrap the bottom of the pot once in awihle, until the custard thickens. It doesn't really get as thick as pudding, but slightly more than a thick gravy?
Take your cream out of the fridge, pour the custard into it. Stir until everything is smooth.
Loosely cap the bowl and put it in your freezer. Check on it after an hour, give it a stir if you feel so inclined. Mine didn't really do anything until ~1.5 hours in. Then it got a bit of a crust around the side of the bowl:
Really stir that in well so that the entire mixture becomes consistent again. You're going to do this every half hour or so.
About 3.5 hours in I got something that looked like the whole top froze over (like a lake), and then the surface cracked and more cream bubbled out.
About 4.5 hours in I got something that had more of an ice cream like texture, but really wet:
An hour later it really started to look like ice cream, if a bit soft:
I gave it another stir for good measure, and then I went to bed. Checked it the next morning and it had pretty much kept its texture.
A few things of note:
- I used half and half instead of whole milk because half and half came in a smaller carton at the store, and we normally don't drink whole milk. It made the ice cream SUPER rich and creamy though (like, after you ate it you got a slight feeling of your mouth being coated in cream), so if I did it again I would just go for the whole milk.
- The metal bowl is nice for when you're making it, but then it's really cold, so I ended up transferring the whole thing into a plastic bowl later so that you didn't get frostbite when trying to scoop out ice cream to eat.
- The ice cream is HARD. It actually worked out that I transferred it into a plastic bowl because then it was sort of cut out in scoop-sized chunks and made it easier to serve later on. Some people commented that it was sort of like Haagen Dazs in being quite hard when you first take it out of the freezer, but softening up to a nice ice cream consistency after a few minutes.
- My sister said it tasted like frozen cream, but then realized that's what ice cream is, literally. A bit on the icy side apparently?