Monday, August 10, 2015

Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Vermicelli)

My recent obsession has been Vietnamese Vermicelli with grilled pork, or Bun Thit Nuong. I was first introduced to this dish by a co-worker within the last year. Actually, I had my first try of this dish a few years ago when I decided to become adventurous at a local Vietnamese restaurant. Rather than ordering my usual Pho, I decided to give a dry noodle a taste. When I did, it really was a dry noodle. It wasn't bad. It was just that nothing stood out of the dish. Who eats just salad with noodles?! So I never ordered it again on my own.

Then one day, a few co-workers and I went out to lunch. We decided to share plates so we could try different dishes. One of my co-workers ordered the Bun. She poured all the sauce on top of the dish and mixed the whole salad up. She equally plated the noodle salad dish on each or our plates and then I took my first bite from a real Bun Thit Nuong. It was love at first bite. I realized that you don't just dip the meat in the sauce. The sauce was the dressing! DUH!!! lol. The sauce, better known as Nuoc Cham, made a whole difference in the world as I knew it. Aside from getting its flavor from the grilled pork, the sauce made the dish. From that day on, whenever there was Bun on the menu, its the only thing I order. Its a large bowl of lettuce and rice noodles with all kinds of different toppings - pickled carrots and daikon, sliced cucumbers, cilantro, bean sprouts, fried onions, crushed peanuts, and grilled meat. Its so filling, but so light. And I just love it.

This recipe is actually a shortcut recipe, in that I used a prepared grilled pork, a Filipino delicacy called Tocino. It has the same flavor as the grilled pork they put at the restaurant we went to. For the pickled Carrot and Daikon, I used this recipe from Hungry Huy. However, I have since been eliminating the daikon altogether. If you aren't familiar with a daikon, please be warned that though its supper yummy, it releases a very foul odor that lasts in the kitchen for a very long time. The Nuoc cham was made using this recipe from This dish came out just as good as the restaurant's. I was so excited, because now I can have Bun anytime I want. Maybe one day, I'll make the grilled pork from scratch. But to get a quick fix, I'll stick with the prepared tocino. For now.

chopped lettuce
cooked vermicelli/rice noodles
prepared grilled pork or Filipino tocino
cilantro leaves
cucumbers, julienned
bean sprouts
fried onions
crushed peanuts
pickled daikon & carrots (recipe below)
Nuoc cham (dressing recipe below)

1) Layer the bottom of a large serving bowl with chopped lettuce. Top with cooked vermicelli noodles.

2) Arrange the remaining ingredients in a nice pattern, except the nuoc cham, on top of the noodles.  When ready to eat, pour nuoc cham on top of the noodle salad and toss until evenly coated. Enjoy!

For the pickled daikon & carrots 
1/2 lb. daikon radish
1/2 lb. carrots
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 cup hot water to dissolve 5 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup water
4 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar

(note: Daikon radish emits a very foul odor, but tastes so yummy. If the odor really bothers you, you can totally eliminate the daikon radish and double up on the carrots)

1) Julienne the carrots and daikon (you can use your food processor for your convenience). Sprinkle salt and toss well. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

2) Rinse the carrots and daikon well, and squeeze out excess moisture. Dry and add in mason jars.

3) Dissolve sugar in hot water. Combine with the remaining water and vinegar. Pour on top of the vegetables until completely covered. Seal and store at room temperature until pickled to your taste, about 12-24 hours. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks until ready to use.

For the Nuoc cham
4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 Thai red chilies, finely minced (or 1 tsp. red chili flakes)
1 can coconut water (or 1 1/2 cup water)
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1) In a medium bowl, combine coconut water (or regular water) with the sugar. Whisk until sugar completely dissolves.

2) Add fish sauce, garlic, chilies and stir until combined. Add lime juice and stir.

3) Check for taste and add more sugar, fish sauce, or lime juice as needed. Store in an air tight container and refrigerate for up to 4 months.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Green Tea Ice Cream

One of the best gifts I got this past Christmas was my Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker attachment from my brother and sister-in-law. And I absolutely LOVE it. I've only been using it for about month, but I've made quite a few batches of ice cream since then. So much that my freezer looked like an ice cream shop. Which really is a good problem to have. lol. This attachment is so much easier than my old ice cream maker that I don't have to fuss over using rock salt and making sure I have enough ice in the bucket. And the cleanup is so much easier.

I love making ice cream from scratch. Its easy to make (especially now that I have a better ice cream maker), it always tastes so fresh and creamy, and you always know what is in your ice cream. You know that its not loaded with any kind of preservatives.

One of the first few ice cream recipes I made with my new gadget was this Green Tea Ice Cream from Just one Cookbook. Simple ingredients and simple to make.  If you have trouble finding Matcha Green Tea Latte, I found mine from Trader Joe's (I love Trader Joe's!). If you happen to find the actual Matcha Green Tea powder, by all means, use it. Just add a little more sugar to the mixture. This tastes just like the green tea ice cream you get at Japanese Restaurants. So yummy! Thanks bro & sis for my new toy! I'll be sure to give you some of the ice cream ;-)

2 cups half & half
3 Tbsp. Matcha Green Tea Latte of Matcha Green Tea powder
1/4 cup sugar (1/2 cup if using Matcha Green Tea powder)
pinch of salt

1) Freeze ice cream bowl for 24 hours.

2) In a medium saucepan, whisk together half & half, sugar and salt over medium heat. Add green tea latte (or green tea powder). Whisk often, and continue heating until it begins to foam and very hot to touch (do not boil).

3) Remove from heat, pour mixture into a large bowl. Place bowl in an ice bath to cool. Once cool, cover bowl with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.

4) When ready, pour chilled mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions, about 20-30 minutes. Pour soft ice cream into an air tight container and place in a freezer for 8 hours before serving.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hummingbird Cupcakes

I've been seeing quite a few recipes for Hummingbird Cakes or Cupcakes all over the blogosphere for a few years now. To be honest, the name just didn't appeal to me. It never interested me to even look into what was in a hummingbird cupcake. However, I knew it was a Southern favorite, with recipes passed down from mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers.

Because I frequent Pinterest a lot, this cupcake version came up from A Spicy Perspective. I clicked on it and found out its made of all kinds of yummies - pineapple, coconut, banana, and pecans. Just like how a tropical Hawaiian dessert would entail. I just knew hubby would love this cupcake. Its got everything he loves. So I had to make it. I replaced the frosting in the recipe with my go-to cream cheese frosting and the outcome was delicious. It went over so well with hubby. This has become one of his favorite cupcakes I make. I don't know why I never bothered to make this. Now I'm going to make this more often.

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 bananas, mashed
1 cup crushed pineapple, with juices
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

2) Combine the first 4 dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Turn the mixer down on low and add eggs and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture. Add bananas, pineapple with the juices, coconut, and pecans. Continue until blended well.

4) Scoop batter into paper lined muffin tins, about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes until tops are golden and bounces back when touched. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then cool completely on a cooling rack. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese frosting
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4-6 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tbsp. milk, depending on consistency

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese for about 1 minute. Add butter and beat for 1-2 minutes until incorporated.

2) Add brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and beat until well incorporated.

3) 3) Slowly add 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat well. Continue adding powdered sugar and alternating with the milk until desired consistency. Frost cupcakes.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

One of my favorite places to eat is at a Churrascaria, which is an all-you-care-to-eat Brazilian BBQ. They serve the bbq with a buffet of different kinds of sides. My kids are not real big meat eaters, so they end up only eating whatever rice, potato, or bread dishes found on the buffet line. But their absolute favorite thing to eat at a churrascaria is their Pao de Queijo, Brazilian Cheese bread. 

I've been seeing quite a few recipes for Pao de Queijo all over Pinterest, like this one from Rasa Malaysia. The recipe is pretty easy and doesn't require much cleanup. However, the tricky part of the recipe is finding tapioca flour. You can find them in most Asian markets. Usually, when I find them, I buy quite a few bags of them because I like to make big batches for my kids to snack on. It also saves me a trip from constantly going to specialty Asian markets just to purchase tapioca flour. These are best eaten hot, but you can easily store them at room temperature in a large freezer bag or an air-tight container for 3-5 days. Then warm them up for  few seconds in the microwave. 

1 egg at room tempature
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice, packed
1 heaping tsp. salt

1) Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Grease mini-muffin tins generously.

2) Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender and continue pulsing. Batter will make about 2 cups.

3) Pour batter into muffin pans, about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes, until puffy and lightly golden. Cool in the pan for about 2-3 minutes, and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve warm. Store remaining in a freezer bag or an air tight container for up to 5 days, and reheat when ready.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Butterscotch Pudding

My family and I always go out to lunch after church almost every Sunday. Recently, we went to the local California Pizza Kitchen and my sister had ordered their Salted Caramel pudding. It was so rich and decadent and it got me thinking of trying to make a homemade version. I figured that the pudding was nothing more than a butterscotch pudding, so off I went in search of a good butterscotch pudding and it lead me to this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, the Brown Eyed Baker.

If you've ever made caramel before, you know how tricky it can be with watching the temperature of the sugar as you cook it. This recipe is almost the same concept. Its tricky, but its quite simple. Once done, I placed the pudding in individual mini mason jars, topped them with my homemade salted caramel sauce and sprinkled a little Fleur de Sal to top it off. It was just as rich and decadent as the pudding we had at CPK. I think this was sister-approved.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 1/4 cup whole milk, divided
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. vanilla extract
caramel sauce to top
Fleur de Sal (optional)

1)  Bring butter, sugars, water, corn syrup, lemon juice, and salt to a boil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugars and butter melt. Continue boiling until temperature reaches 240 deg F using a candy thermometer, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.

2)  Immediately lower the heat to medium-low and gently simmer with a steady stream of bubbles, stirring frequently until temperature reaches 300 deg F with the candy thermometer, about 12-16 minutes longer. The color should resemble dark peanut butter and has a burn smell.

3) Remove from heat and carefully add 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Swirl to incorporate (the mixture will bubble and steam). Allow the bubbles to subside then whisk vigorously, scraping down the sides of the pot until mixture is completely smooth, about 30 seconds.

4)  Return pan to medium heat and gradually whisk in the remaining heavy cream until smooth. Whisk in 2 cups of the milk until smooth, making sure to scrape the sides of the pan to remove the remaining bits of caramel.

5) Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of milk in the microwave for 45 seconds (it should be simmering). In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk in  the heated milk into egg mixture until smooth. Set aside.

6)  Increase heat of the pot to medium-high heat and bring to a rapid boil, whisking constantly. Once mixture begins to boil rapidly and beginning to climb to the top of the pan, immediately pour into the yolk mixture in a single motion (do not add gradually). Whisk thoroughly for 10-15 seconds (it will thicken after a few seconds). Pour pudding through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in vanilla extract.

7)  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent it from forming a film on top. Refrigerate until cold and set, about 3 hours. Whisk until smooth before serving. Top with caramel sauce sprinkled with Fleur de Sal.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pecan Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake

Last year, I was asked if  I made pumpkin cheesecakes. Cheescakes were not really a specialty of mine. And I didn't really eat cheesecakes too often, so I said I didn't. But I promised to try to make it this year. Well, I'm always good on my word, so I made it a mission of mine to look for theee best Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe and I think I've found it from I am Baker. This is her version of the Cheesecake Factory's Pumpkin Cheesecake. However, I decided to switch it up and make a ginger snap and pecan crust, which I think took this recipe over the top.

Baking a cheesecake is pretty tricky. Bake it too long and you'll end up with cracks in the middle of your cheesecake. So I searched for different tricks on how to bake it and I toyed with different baking methods using straight baking and water-bath baking. Although I really liked the texture and appearance of the cheesecake after water-bath baking, I often ended up with a soggy crust due to the water seeping into the springform baking pan. Straight baking made the outer edges of the cheesecake look darker, but they always came out consistent. So its all in your preference. There is also a lot of cooling time for cheesecake. Properly cooling it will help prevent the cracks from forming.

There is a lot of work and effort into baking a cheesecake but there is no doubt that it will be delicious. The caramel sauce totally makes this cheesecake decadent. This definitely made me a pumpkin cheesecake lover. But only MY pumpkin cheesecake. lol. Hubby took one bite and I had him in the palm of my hand. He was definitely proud of this dessert of mine. I had him take some to work and I immediately had some people order for their Thanksgiving celebrations. This will definitely be made frequently in our household.

32 pieces of ginger snap cookies
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, melted

1) Finely crush cookies in a food processor. Mix in butter, sugar and chopped pecans.

2) Generously grease a 9-inch springform pan or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. This is important to make sure your cheesecake releases nicely from the pan. Press the cookie mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan and set aside.

3 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
prepared whipped cream
caramel sauce

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

2) In an electric stand mixer, cream together cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract until well combined.

3) Add pumpkin, eggs and pumpkin pie spice and continue beating until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.

4) Pour filling into prepared pan.

5) Place in the oven (or place on a roasting pan filled with water and place in the oven). Bake for 50-55 minutes. The center should still be jiggly after baking time.

6) Turn the oven off (and remove from the roasting pan if you are water-bath baking). Allow the cheesecake to cool inside the oven with the oven door slightly ajar. This will cool the oven down and allow the cheesecake to cool slowly, which will help prevent the cheesecake from cracking. This may take a couple of hours.

7) Once the oven has cooled down, remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to completely cool at room temperature.

8) Once the cheesecake has cooled to room temperature, refrigerate overnight. Top with prepared whipped cream and drizzle caramel sauce.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle

Now that Fall is in full swing, you all know how I like to stock up on pumpkins after visiting the pumpkin patch around Halloween every year. Around this time, I usually make my staple Pumpkin Spice Pancakes or Pumpkin Soup. And if I'm feeling a little bit more celebratory, I'll make my Pumpkin Dream Cake. This year, quite a few people have been ordering my Pumpkin Cake Roll. You'd think I'd be pumpkined out. But no. I still want to add to my pumpkin repertoire and searched for another pumpkin recipe. This time, I wanted to make cookies out of my pumpkin.

On Pinterest, many have posted recipes for Pumpkin Snickerdoodle. My daughter loves Snickerdoodles, so I decided to give this recipe a try from Center Cut Cook. These cookies came out soft, light and airy and more like a cake than a cookie. But it was delicious. I love the subtle flavor of pumpkin and all the spices in this cookie. And my daughters love these as well.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar (for topping)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon (for topping)

1) In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs and mix well.

2) In a separate large bowl, sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Combine dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

3) Stir in pumpkin puree. Place dough in the freezer to chill for about 90 minutes.

4) When dough has chilled, pre heat oven to 350 deg F. Then in a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon for the topping. Set aside.

5) Using an ice cream scoop, scoop dough to make a ball. Roll ball into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place dough balls on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the edges begin to brown. The middle of the cookie will appear uncooked, which is okay.

6) Cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes then cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Crockpot Copycat Chipotle Barbacoa

I have to make a confession. I never really got into eating at Chipotle until about a year ago. Fast Mexican food just never appealed to me. Until one day, on a trip home from Vegas, hubby and I decided to make a pit stop at a Burger King in Barstow to pick up some food for our daughter . I know, I know. Being a foodie that I am, what in the world and am I doing feeding my child junk food??? Hey, it was quick and my daughter was hungry. Every now and then, we make an exception. Anyway,  Burger King happened to share the same parking lot with Chipotle. I didn't really want to eat Burger King, so I decided to give Chipotle a shot. The line was almost out the door, so I figured that was a good sign. Or else, they thought they same as I did in that they didn't want Burger King either. So after waiting in line, I decided to order a burrito with shredded beef (aka Barbacoa) and all the fix ins. Man, that burrito was huge. But after that first bite, I was hooked. I know that there was no way that burrito was healthy, but boy was it good. Even hubby was hooked.

Fast forward to a few months ago. Skimming through Pinterest, I came across a few recipes for Chipotle's Barbacoa and thought, hmmmm. Now there's an idea. So I decided to give
this recipe from The Slow Roasted Italian a try. What I loved about this recipe was that it was a slow cooker recipe. It looked pretty easy and it really was. The flavor was spot on with the barbacoa I get at Chipotle. I served it with my recipe for green cilantro rice which tasted exactly like Chipotle's rice. I added a homemade mixture of tomatoes, cilantro and onions as my salsa, topped it with some sour cream and we had an instant Chipotle Burrito. This recipe made a huge batch of shredded beef, so I was able to freeze a few servings to eat on a later day. Can't wait to get into it again.

3-4 lb chuck roast, fat trimmed
2 tsp. salt, divided
2 Tbsp. oil
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
6 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground clove
2-4 chipotle peppers (from a can, packed in adobo sauce depending on how spicy you like it)
1/2-1 Tbsp. adobo sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1) Cut roast into large chunks. Sprinkle all sides with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, reserving the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside.

2) In a blender or food processor, combine vinegar, garlic, black pepper, ground clove, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, broth and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

3) Heat a heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and sear beef on all sides. Place beef in slow cooker. Pour sauce over beef and tuck in bay leaves into mixture. Cook for 5-6 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.

4) At the final hour of cooking, shred the beef using 2 forks to pull it apart. Season with salt to taste and stir sauce completely. Cook for another 1 hour. Serve as a burrito, taco, or salad with rice, pico de gallo (salsa), sour cream, guacamole, beans, etc.