Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

I've been meaning to make some Vanilla Bean cupcakes for a while now. Its Halloween and we'll be spending it at my parents' place so I decided to make some sweet treats. I've bookmarked quite a few different recipes for Vanilla Bean cupcakes and decided to try this one from Telly's Tasty Tidbits. I also used her Vanilla Bean Frosting recipe.

These cupcakes came out quite tasty. To be a little more festive, I decided to add some orange coloring on the cupcakes and also had fun by making these creepy looking cupcakes:

Vampire and Eyeball cupcakes. I got these ideas from Annie's Eats and were so much fun to make and eat.

For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod, cut lengthwise
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs

For the frosting:
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 vanilla bean pod, cut lengthwise
pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line muffin tin with 24 muffin cups.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3) In a small bowl, combine milk, oil and vanilla extract. Scrape the inside of the vanilla bean pod into the bowl. Set aside.

4) In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and combine just until blended. Add 1/2 of the milk mixture and combine just until blended. Continue adding flour and then milk mixtures alternately until they're used up. Mix thoroughly.

5) Fill prepared cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick test comes out clean (note: start checking for at the 10 minute mark to prevent from over-baking, or else it will become too dry). Cool completely and frost with Vanilla Bean frosting.

6) To make the frosting: Beat butter on medium-high until smooth, about 20 seconds. Scrape seeds from vanilla pod into butter and beat on medium-high speed for about 15 seconds to combine.
Add confectioner's sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-low until most of the sugar is moistened. Scrape the sides of the bowl and continue beating until mixture is fully incorporated. Add whipping cream and beat on medium-high until it becomes light and fluffy.
Frost prepared cupcakes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mexican Cornbread Skillet Pie

One of my co-workers, Stacy, was talking about making some kind of a tamale pie she wanted to make because she had bought some Marie Callender's cornbread mix from Costco she wanted to use. I told her I had a lot leftover, too, and thought it was a great idea. I remembered that I had bookmarked this recipe from another favorite blog I frequent, Sing for your Supper.... so I wanted to finally make this.

The dish came out okay, if you like cornbread that much. I don't know if I would make this one again, unless its requested. Maybe if I tweak it a bit, I'll take a liking to it. Though hubby loved it. I'll probably make it again on request.

boxed cornbread mix
small can of green chillies (optional)
corn kernels
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 lb. ground turkey
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
a dash cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded cheese

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Prepare cornbread mix according to package directions. Add green chillies and corn. Set aside.

2) In a medium pan, saute onions, garlic and bell peppers over medium-high heat until soft. Add ground turkey until cooked through. Drain off grease. Stir in cumin, chili powder, black pepper, salt and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat.

3) Grease bottom of a cast-iron skillet (or any oven-safe skillet or pan) and sprinkle the bottom with a little cornmeal. Evenly spread half of the cornbread mixture and top with the meat mixture. Top with shredded cheese, then spread with the remaining cornbread mixture over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown.

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Annual Valley Food Truck Festival @WhollyRollers

Its Friday night. What to do, what to do?

I've been dying to go to a food truck festival that have been popping up all over the Los Angeles County area lately. Unfortunately they are all too far away. Enter the First Annual Valley Food Truck Festival. Finally a food truck festival in my own backyard.

So where do I start??? Hubby, daughter, bro, sis and I had a plan of action. We each had to try out a different truck so that we can try different types of food.

My brother, of course, went for the White Rabbit truck. His favorite. I actually heard about this event from the White Rabbit truck website.

They advertised that they were going to feature their limited Red Velvet Flan. Sounds interesting. So my brother bought us some to try. Its a red velvet cake topped with flan. Its a spin-off to a Filipino dessert called the Custard cake, which I had been planning on making sometime next week. I guess this will get me in the mood to get cracking on making the custard cake.

The Red Velvet Flan was pretty good. Very sweet. I think I was the only one who really liked it. Everyone else could do without it.

My sister decided to try Tapa Boy, another Filipino truck. Unlike White Rabbit, which is a Filipino fusion truck, Tapa Boy serves traditional Filipino breakfast such as Tapsilog, Tosilog, Longsilog.

My sister decided to buy a variety of food from them. Her main meal was Tosilog, which was Tocino with a side of fried rice topped with a fried egg, a side of tomato salad and atsara (a green papaya salad). She also bought Tocino wrap and a Spam wrap, which is a spin-off to a sushi wrap. For dessert, she had different versions of a Turon, which are banana spring rolls.

Though the food was pretty good, I don't think I would pay over $6 for a Tosilog when I can get the same for about half that price at a local Filipino restaurant. I guess the convenience of Filipino food in a lunch truck is what you pay for. But its definitely not the food you pay for.

Hubby and I couldn't really decide on what to eat. Actually, it was I who couldn't decide. Hubby wanted some pastrami, and so I tagged along and went to The Place, which specializes in Pastrami.

Hubby had their Pastrami burger. I had The Place Burrito, which was a burrito with pastrami, hot dog and chili. Very heavy for my taste. So I only ate about a quarter of my burrito. I actually wanted, what I later found out to be, their Pastrami with egg burrito. Oh well. We also had a side of spicy carne asada french fries. The only bad part about our fries was that they didn't give us a fork to eat it with. Otherwise it was pretty good, and spicy.

Hubby wanted something cold and sweet on this chilly evening. So we decided to give Tango Mango Italian Ice a try.

We ordered a combination of Mango and Pineapple ice. My daughter loved it. Even though it was too cold for Italian Ice.

I was a little disappointed that The Border Grill truck didn't open for business, though their truck was there. The advertisement for this event also indicated that Cupcakes a Go Go was going to be at the event, but they weren't. So I was totally bummed about that too. I guess that's why I couldn't decide where to eat because I had my taste buds set for those trucks specifically. Well, I hope to see them at another food truck festival, if I'll even want them again.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

I haven't had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a long time. I remember back in grade school when the thing to eat was a pb&j sandwich for lunch. I've been craving for some peanut buttery goodness lately and I remembered that I had bookmarked this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Beantown Baker. I had some leftover Strawberry Jam that I made and LOTS of peanut butter. So I decided to try to make this. And boy did this hit the spot. It sure brings back memories of days eating lunch at the school yard.

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups creamy peanut butter
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups (18 oz) jam
2/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease a 9x13 inch pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan. Set aside.

2) In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. Turn mixer down to low speed and add vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter. Mix until ingredients are combined. Slowly add flour mixture into peanut butter mixture and mix until well combined.

4) Spread 2/3 of the dough evenly into prepared pan. Spread jam evenly on top of the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly on top of jam. Sprinkle the top with the chopped peanuts. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kare Kare (Filipino Oxtail Stew)

My favorite Filipino dish is Kare Kare. Its a peanut butter-based oxtail stew that I never knew how to make from scratch. For years, I've always been using the powdered stuff, and so has my dad. My grandmother, however, made it from scratch. But, again, I never got the recipe. Hubby took a liking to Kare Kare, too, when I started making it for him. But he's only had the powdered version. My cousin, Jhune, is a great cook who told me that making Kare Kare from scratch required the use of grounded toasted rice. So I found this recipe that calls for the toasted rice. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy. The hardest part was grounding up the toasted rice. My food processor didn't ground it up finely, so I had to finish it off with my mortar and pestle. Otherwise this dish came out really well.

3-5 lbs. oxtail
5 Tbsp. cooking oil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, sliced
1/4 cup annato seed water
1/4 lb. Chinese Long Beans, cut into 2-inch slices
1/2 lb. bok choy, stemmed
1/3 cup uncooked rice, toasted brown and ground to a powder
1/2 cup peanut butter, dissolved in 3/4 cup water
salt & pepper to taste

1) In a large pot, place oxtail and enough water to cover the meat. Boil for an hour. Discard water and rinse cooked meat. Place meat back in the pot and fill again with water enough to cover meat. Boil until tender.

2) In a sautee pan, heat oil and add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is softened. Add annatto water, garlic and onion to meat and return to boil. Add vegetables, powdered rice, and peanut butter mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to boil until sauce slightly thickens. Serve with rice.

***You can also cook this dish in a crockpot by mixing all the ingredients together (except the vegetables) after the first boil of the meat. Place the whole mixture in a crockpot and cook it for 10 hours.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Viva Las Vegas

This was our 3rd trip to Vegas within the past 4 months or so. With each time attempting to dine at the famous Serendipity 3. This visit was actually intended for my mom's college reunion. Obviously, hubby and I didn't need to join in those festivities, so we opted to cruise the city with my siblings and decided to finally dine at this much awaited restaurant.

Reservations are not necessary, but definitely very helpful. So I made reservations a week in advance. We arrived at Serendipity 3 at Caesar's palace about half an hour early and was seated immediately, while other walk-in patrons had quite a wait. Since our reservations were for 11:30, we were still given the brunch menu. I didn't come to Serendipity for breakfast, so I ordered myself the hamburger with avocado, brie and grilled onions and a side of their sweet potato fries - highly recommended by fellow yelpers. My sister had the same plate.

One thing to note about this place is that they don't have a kids menu. So we had to order a regular sized meal for my daughter. And their regular sizes are HUGE. Enough for 2 people to share. So we all picked at my daughter's plate of chicken tenders with various dipping sauce. Her plate was quite yummy and she loved the fact that she got to dip her own chicken.

Having their huge portions, hubby felt like he was doing a Man Vs. Food challenge. He was only able to eat half of his omelet. He lost :)

My brother, on the other hand, devoured this massive French toast plate. He still craves it.

And finally, what we were all waiting for. The Frrrozen Hot Chocolate as featured in many food shows. This was the reason why we went to Serendipity.

Hubby, my daughter and I shared a Frrrozen Hot Chocolate for 2. My sister had a regular serving of the Frrrrozen White Chocolate while brother had a regular Double Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate. All were equally yummy. But I think I preferred the original. We still talk about our desserts until now. In fact, I'm craving it right now :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

We're going on a road trip to Vegas, and again, I wanted to make some snacks for the trip. And since I had some bananas left over, I wanted to make some kind of a muffin that we can also munch on for breakfast. Because who wants to waste money on breakfast while in Vegas, right? I'd rather spend money on a lunch buffet rather than a breakfast buffet. And maybe have some money left over for those penny slots. lol! Anyway, I didn't want to make just a plain 'ol banana muffin. Since I've been on a chocolate banana fix, I wanted to make something with that theme. So I did a search and found this from that looked easy. It called for chopped up candy bars, but since I had so much chocolate chips in my fridge, its what I used. It came out pretty good. What I'd like to do next time is put a dollop of hazelnut spread in the middle of the muffin for a secret surprise. I would've done that now, but I was afraid of how it might melt and ruin the batter. I'll experiment with that next time.

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup mashed bananas
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream 1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Line muffin pan with muffin cups.

2) In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugars and salt. Stir in melted butter until moistened, using a fork. Reserve 1 cup of flour mixture and set aside. Add baking powder and baking soda in the remaining mixture. Set aside.

3) In a separate bowl, mix together banana, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Add banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

4) Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Crumble reserved flour mixture on top of batter and lightly press onto the top of each muffin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm or cooled with chocolate drizzled on top.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Creamy Taco Mac

I'm willing to admit the fact that I used to love Hamburger Helper. In fact, I think my skills at cooking the boxed dinner stuff is what somehow won hubby over when we were dating in college. I lived off of that stuff, and I think cooking it inspired me to cook even more. Since I started cooking from scratch, though, I began to ween myself off of the boxed stuff. So I haven't cooked it in a while. Then I found this Creamy Taco Mac recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Annie's Eats. Man oh man, this dish tasted exactly like the Hamburger Helper I used to have when I was younger. I can't believe how much I missed that stuff. Though I think this is a wee bit better than the boxed version. But then again, I think I'm being a bit biased.

1 lb. ground turkey
8 oz dry pasta (make sure to reserve 1 cup pasta water)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomato
4 Tbsp. taco seasoning (1 packet)
3 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheese (optional)

1) Cook pasta according to directions on package. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain the rest of the pasta.

2) Over medium heat, brown meat and drain off the fat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is softened. Add taco seasoning and diced tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes.

3) Add cream cheese and sour cream. Add reserved pasta water a little at a time, enough to just thin out the mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until cream cheese has melted and sauce is well blended. Add pasta and stir until well combined. Simmer on medium-low for about 5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. Remove from heat and top with shredded cheese if desired.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chocolate Banana Wontons

I've heard of a food truck called Dumpling Station. I haven't been able to catch up to it, but their menu looked yummy. What especially caught my eye was their Chocolate Banana Wontons. What a great idea! I'm in a chocolate-banana fix lately after making my Chocolate Banana Stuffed French Toast for breakfast this morning. I remember seeing Giada de Laurentiis make a similar version of Chocolate Banana Wontons. Here's my quick and easy version. This was so yummy. Make this one because it'll definitely impress and is made in a jiffy.

wonton wrappers
banana slices
chocolate hazelnut spread
oil for frying
confectioner's sugar for garnish

1) Pour enough oil in a deep frying pan so that it is about 1-2 inches deep. Heat on medium heat.

2) In the middle of a wonton wrapper, place a banana slice. Top with with a teaspoon of chocolate hazelnut spread. Dampen the edges of the wrapper with water. Fold wrapper over chocolate banana and seal the edges together. Deep fry until golden brown. Place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Dust with confectioner's sugar.

Chocolate Banana Stuffed French Toast

Its another one of those lazy Sundays we're having and I wanted to have a nice breakfast for us. I found a recipe for a Banana-Nutella Stuffed Croissant from a Costco recipe book that I've had for a couple of years and it looked so delicious on the picture. So I wanted to someday make it. Unfortunately, I always seem to forget to buy croissants. But I wanted to try to make something similar to it and I did have some bananas and sandwich bread. So I decided to improvise and came up with this recipe. And it was sooooo good! Hubby couldn't stop raving about it while he was eating it. This is a nice twist to a regular french toast. I'll definitely make this again.

4 slices of sandwich bread
4 Tbsp. cream cheese, softened
4 Tbsp. chocolate hazelnut spread
1 banana, sliced into rounds
6 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp. rum
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
a pinch of ground cinnamon
confectioner's sugar, for garnish

1) Spread cream cheese on one side of each slice of bread. Spread chocolate hazelnut spread on top of cream cheese. Set aside.

2) In a small saucepan, toss banana slices with brown sugar. Heat mixture on medium heat until sugar melts. Place mixture on top of 2 of the sliced bread topped with chocolate/cream cheese spread. Place the other 2 slices on top of the banana, chocolate side down, to make a sandwich.

3) In a bowl, combine egg, milk, rum, vanilla extract and cinnamon. Dip each side of the sandwich in batter. Heat a sautee pan over medium heat and coat with a little butter. Cook sandwich like french toast, turning once. Top with confectioner's sugar.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Spinach and Bacon Quiche

I've been wanting to make quiche for a while now ever since a quiche recipe popped up on my reader. I thought it looked so easy and I love quiche. So when I was at the supermarket yesterday, I figured I should buy all the ingredients I needed. Which isn't much. I had most of the ingredients at home already. I just needed the pie shell.

This recipe is from Paula Deen and I found it on the Food Network website. It received great reviews and looked really easy, so I wanted to give it a try. I modified the original recipe a bit, based on the reviews. Specifically, I decreased some of the ingredients because it looked like it would overflow from the pan. It came out so yummy. I can't believe how easy this recipe was.

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust

1) Preheat oven to 375 deg F.

2) Combine eggs, cream (or half & half), salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Layer spinach, bacon, and cheese on the bottom of the pie crust. Pour egg mixture on top. Place crust on a large backing dish (to help catch the overflow while baking). Bake for 35-45 minutes until the egg is set.