Sunday, July 31, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Dip

The past week has been a whirlwind of emotions, especially for hubby. Not only was it hubby's birthday, but his long-awaited board exam was also on his birthday. So the beginning of the week was pretty tense in our household, to say the least. However, the early Friday morning after his birthday, we received the most happiest news that after his 2 years of studies taking him away from his family, he passed his boards. It was a very emotional morning and we're so thrilled that its finally over and we can now finally move on with our lives as a complete family without worrying about him having to study, having to go to class, or having to go to his internship. So to commemorate both of our birthdays this month and the passing of his boards, we decided to throw a little pool party with our loved ones present.

I decided to have the food catered by one of the BBQ restaurants we frequent, Stonefire Grill. Then one day last week, I was looking through some recipes from the Brown Eyed Baker and came across this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip that I thought would be great to serve as an appetizer. I was a little nervous about making this because I didn't know how anyone would take it being spicy. I like to eat a little spice every now and then, but sometimes I feel like the flavor of the dish gets lost in the spice. I prefer flavor over the spice. So for this recipe, I decided to use a milder hot sauce and it came out so yummy! It was very well received and I'm so glad I made it. It was not too spicy and so we were able to enjoy the flavor. This is definitely going to be repeated again and again.

4 boneless chicken breast halves, boiled and shredded (or use a whole rotisserie chicken)
12 oz bottle hot sauce
16 oz bottle ranch dressing
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

2) In a large bowl, combine shredded chicken and hot sauce until well combined. Spread in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish or any 3 quart baking dish.

3) In a medium sauce pan, combine ranch dressing, cream cheese, and mayonnaise over low-medium heat until cream cheese is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Pour mixture evenly over chicken. Evenly spread cheese on top and bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with tortilla chips, carrot sticks, or celery sticks.

Happy birthday to hubby and me. Congratulations to hubby!

One side of this yummy Banana Nutella Chocolate cake had a sign that said "Happy Birthday." The other side said "Congratulations (hubby), PTA, ATC." Yummy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

I usually have a go-to Beef Stroganoff recipe that I make from one of my old cookbooks. And I haven't made it in a loooong time. Its one of the first recipes I made from scratch instead of the boxed Hamburger Helper version. Shopping through Trader Joe's the other day, I found a pre-made Beef Stroganoff in the refrigerated section that inspired me to make it again. But with a new recipe. So I did a quick search and this recipe caught my eye from What's Cookin' Chicago? Joelen's recipes never disappoint, so I decided to give it a try.

This dish came out with a lot more flavor than my old go-to recipe. However, it was a little too salty. So I will definitely lessen the amount of salt the next time I try to make this.

1 1/2 lbs. sirloin or chuck steaks (trimmed of excess fat)
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 lb white mushrooms (or cremini mushrooms), quartered
2 tsp. hot water
1 Tbs. dry mustard
1 tsp. sugar
black pepper
1 Tbsp. oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. all purpose flour
1/3 cup, plus 1 Tbsp. white wine
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1) Using a fork, score each piece of steak for 10-12 times. Place in a baking dish. Rub each sides with soy sauce. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes to an hour.

2) While meat marinates, place mushrooms in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high until mushrooms have decreased in volume by half, about 4-5 minutes (you should have about 1/4 cup of liquid in the bowl). Drain and discard liquid. Set mushrooms aside. Combine water, dry mustard, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper in a small bowl until a smooth paste forms. Set aside.

3) Pat steaks dry and season with black pepper. Heat oil in a skillet at medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook steaks in the skillet until browned on all sides and internal temperature is is between 125-135 deg F, about 6-9 minutes, reducing heat if they begin to burn. Transfer meat to a large plate and set aside while making sauce.

4) Add mushrooms, onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet and cook until vegetables begin to brown and dark bits begin to form on the bottom of pan, about 6-8 minutes. Add tomato paste and flour, and cook stirring constantly until onion sand mushrooms are coated, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/3 cup white, beef broth and mustard paste and bring to simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to loosen the browned bits. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce has reduced slightly and begins to thicken, 4-6 minutes.

5) While sauce is thickening, cut steaks against the grain to 1/4 inch thick slices. Stir meat along with its juices into sauce and cook until beef has warmed through, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat to let the bubbling subside. Stir in sour cream and remaining tablespoon of white wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over egg noodles and garnish with chopped parsley.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

I've been wanting to bake some sugar cookies with my daughter for a while now, so that she has a chance to decorate them. Then this recipe for Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies popped up on my reader from Annie's Eats early last week before our plumbing incident. So I baked the cookies first and haven't had a chance to frost them. We've, therefore, been eating the cookies without the frosting. So before we run out of cookies to frost, I decided to finally complete the recipe today. The cookies were really good. Soft and cakey. But the frosting really did for me. You can't have these cookies without the frosting. There wasn't much cookies left to frost, so I did them myself. But I'm definitely making these again so that my daughter has a chance to frost them.

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
5 tsp. vanilla extract

1) In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and whisk together to blend. Set aside. In a bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Blend in vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed. Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.

2) When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350 deg F. Line baking sheets with wax or parchment paper. Using a mini ice cream scoop, scoop cookie dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the ball to shape cookie and place on prepared baking sheet. Space the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until set. (Do not over bake. Edges should be very lightly browned, if at all). Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

5 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
7-8 Tbsp. milk (plus more as needed)
food coloring (optional)
sprinkles (optional)

1) Place confectioner's sugar in a bowl of an electric stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Add melted butter, vanilla and milk. Whisk until smooth. Add milk as needed, 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency. Tint with food coloring if desired. Frost cooled cookies and add sprinkles if desired. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Boiling Crab

Its been quite a hectic week this week. Which is why I haven't cooked anything new. Aside from not being home due to a few birthday celebrations we attended this weekend, we literally haven't slept in our house for a few days. You see, we were out of water for a few days due to a plumbing problem. So we stayed over my parents' house for 3 nights. Long story short, we ended up having to re-pipe the whole house due to the plumbing leak. What a nightmare that was. Unexpected expense, and unexpected trashing of our house. Hubby had to pull everything out of our kitchen and bathroom cabinets to make room for the plumber to open up holes all over the house. After all was said and done, all we have left are unfinished walls to paint (the plumbers patched up the walls, but didn't paint), a mess of things to put back in the cabinets, and an empty wallet :(

Our spirit is still up, however, and we're now trying to look past this whole ordeal, because for one, hubby has some major reviewing to do for his upcoming board certification exam. So to help lift our spirits, we decided to help celebrate 2 birthdays this weekend. A surprise birthday party for one of my cousins held at one of my aunt's house. And afterwards, we headed to Koreatown in the Mid-City of Los Angeles for an 18th birthday celebration for one of our nephews at the Boiling Crab.

This restaurant has been popping up all over the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County. Its a Louisiana style seafood restaurant where you eat all the seafood the natural way - using your hands without utensils including a plate. You use your table as a plate. Sounded fun. So I've been dying to give them a try and was excited to hear that they opened one up closer to our area and that we were invited to eat dinner there for our nephew's birthday.

Knowing that we had a large party, I should've also known that the wait for us would be super-duper long. My brother had previously warned me that the wait for this restaurant is pretty long. 45 minutes, maybe? But a 45 minute wait is pretty standard in many restaurants nowadays. So it didn't bother me. After 45 minutes, then an hour had past, we still weren't seated. It was cold, and we were getting hungry, and other parties were being seated before us. My daughter had to go to the bathroom and even that had a long wait, because, guess what, they only had one stall. As busy as this restaurant was, and that everything was eaten with your hands (ie; peeling shrimps and crabs), you'd think they'd have more restrooms if they're choosing to provide restrooms for their customers so they can wash their hands. Almost everyone coming out of the restrooms were there only to wash their hands. Maybe they can add handwashing stations instead for those patrons and leave the restrooms for those who really need to use the bathroom. Just a suggestion.

When we were finally seated (after an hour and a half-long wait), we were greeted by this:

We left it to my brother-in-law to do the ordering. While waiting, my daughter had to go to the bathroom yet again. And because the wait was so long, the food had started to arrive. We started with the fried catfish with a side of fries and tartar sauce, which was quite yummy.

And of course, we can't go anywhere without having calamari. Unfortunately, this was what was left when we got back from the restrooms. But that, too, was really good, with a little kick to it.

And finally, for the main course, we had the shrimps, flavored with "the whole shabang," but mild. Although I thought it was still a little spicy. Apparently it wasn't as spicy as what the restaurant considers "medium" that the other side of our table had. The shrimps were served in a plastic bag, that included some corn that we ordered.

Despite our long wait, the food was quite good. Messy, but good. My daughter was even wondering why we got to eat messily with our hands and no plates. It was a pretty good experience overall. But I don't know if it was worth the hour-and-a-half wait though.

We left our with our stomachs full and our tables looking like this:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lomo Saltado (Peruvian Beef and Potato Stir-fry)

Before I go into the the background of this recipe, let me just tell you how absolutely delicious this dish was, so I don't lose your interest. Because you definitely have to make this. That's how excited I am about this dish. It is that good.

Okay, now the background of this dish......I have to admit that I've never really had Lomo Saltado before. I've been to a Peruvian restaurant a while ago. But I think I ordered something safe, like a Milanesa (thinly sliced chicken or beef, breaded and fried). But as I was searching through some recipes online one day, I came across a Peruvian Beef stir-fry recipe that looked really good. I did some research to find out that the dish was Lomo Saltado and I decided to try to make it.

I learned that Peruvian cuisine has many influences, including Chinese. I also learned that there were different techniques to making Lomo Saltado, which was all a matter of preference. But I finally settled on this recipe from A taste of Peru. The Chinese influence is reflected on this dish by the use of cinnamon and soy sauce and it blended together so well. The recipe calls for using fresh potatoes to make the french fries, but after reading through suggestions from other recipes, I decided to use the frozen french fries, which worked out well. I would suggest, however, to add the french fries at the very end when you're ready to serve, because they get pretty soggy. I also omitted the spicy peppers that the recipe required because I planned on serving this to my 3 year-old. With all the modifications I made, Hubby and I really enjoyed this dish. I had to give myself a pat on the back for this one because it was really delicious :)

1 bag frozen steak fries
vegetable oil
1 lb. beef tenderloin (or beef chuck), sliced thin and cut into large strips
1 tsp. ground cumin
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 tsp. red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1 medium red onion, sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 plum tomatoes, halved, seeded and cut into sixths
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro

1) In a deep fryer, fry the french fries until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season with salt. Keep potatoes warm in a 300 deg F oven while preparing the rest of the dish.

2) In a medium bowl, toss beef with black pepper, cumin, cinnamon and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce. Set aside.

3) Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and red bell pepper for 2 minutes. Increase heat to high and add half of the beef strips. Stir fry until browned, about 2-3 minutes each batch. Season with salt. Transfer beef, garlic and peppers to a bowl and set aside.

4) Add more oil to the skillet if necessary and stir fry onion for about 1 minute until it begins to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add a few drops of vinegar and continue stir-frying until it has evaporated, about 1 minute. The onion should still have some bite to it. Add onions to the beef mixture. Repeat procedure for the tomatoes.

5) Return beef, onions, and tomatoes to the skillet. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp. soy sauce and cook for about 1 minute. Add cilantro and potato fries and toss gently. Garnish with more chopped cilantro and serve immediately with steamed rice.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Another year older.....

I'm not afraid to admit that today, I am happily 35 years old. I think after 30, women tend not to like to reveal their age. I, on the other hand, have embraced the fact that I'm older, but yet still feel young. So I'm not embarrassed to reveal my age. I think its because I'm content with my life and I'm enjoying it. What's not to enjoy, when I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful daughter, a supportive family and awesome friends to share in my life.

I heard somewhere that 30 (or was it 31?) was the new 21. That would make me 26 (or 27?), the prime of adulthood. I think you are the age you feel. I feel like I'm 26 and I feel great :) My body, on the other hand, might tell me something different.

A few weeks ago, my co-worker was looking for recommendations for a nice sushi place and I had suggested Yamashiro Restaurant. Its a nice Japanese restaurant that sits on top of the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Hollywood and the greater Los Angeles area. While my co-worker was looking over their menu online, it gave me the idea to go there, too, for my birthday. We like to go Yamashiro, especially for special occasions. We haven't been there in a while, so I asked hubby if we could have dinner there to celebrate. And off he went to plan for my night, joined by our daughter, my parents and my 2 siblings.

Yamashiro's menu changes slightly through the years. And so I was surprised to see something on the menu called the Darth Vader roll. Hubby is a huge Star Wars fan, so I had to order it as one of our starters. Its a spicy tuna roll topped with caviar. Dee-lish!

We always order Calamari whenever its on the menu. This evening was no exception. I decided to order the Calamari Tempura as another starter. However, the calamari was very tough. Almost like I was chewing on a rubber band. Not so delish.

For our main course, hubby ordered the American Wagyu steak with a side of salsa and fried onions. I should've ordered that too.

Yamashiro doesn't really have a kid's menu, so I thought I would order something "safe" for my daughter to eat. I ordered her their vegetarian pasta, which turned out to be a little spicy that she couldn't really eat it. I guess it wasn't so "safe." We ended up feeding her some of my sister's food, which was a shrimp with orzo pasta dish. Thankfully, my daughter had something to eat.

Our waiter recommended a few dishes, including the Asian pork ribs, which I decided to order. He stated that the meat falls off the bone. Which it did. The flavor, however, fell short.

Aside from the Darth Vader roll, the best part of my meal was the S'mores Brownie, served with a side of their house-made cookie dough ice cream. Yum!

Of all the times that we've eaten at Yamashiro's, I remember that I wasn't ever fully excited about any of the dishes I order. But I always seem to want to go back. Maybe its because of this view:

Who wouldn't love a view like that? What a great way to celebrate a birthday :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blueberry Pie Ice Cream

Its National Ice Cream month. So of course I have to commemorate the event by making some homemade ice cream. At first, I was thinking of slapping some store-bought vanilla ice cream on some of my Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies I just made the other day to make some ice cream sammies. Or just make some of my Orange Ice Cream. But I thought I should try something new.

On our recent trip to Las Vegas, we visited one of the casino-resorts that had an ice cream shop that was advertising Blueberry Pie shake. That reminded me of my childhood, when my dad used to treat us to a scoop of ice cream from what used to be Thrifty Drug store (its Rite-Aid now). Back then, they used to have a Blueberry Pie flavor that I loved. They don't serve it anymore, but I sure miss it and I always look out for a similar flavor. So when I saw the Blueberry Pie shake at the ice cream shop, I thought why not make it myself. I did a quick search and found this recipe from Grin and Bake It.

This is an egg-based ice cream. I usually steer clear of any custard based ice cream because they never turn out right for me. The custard mixture usually curdles up on me. And this time, the mixture sort of separated, making the mixture too thin. Luckily, this recipe came with lots of notes to help for a successful batch. It turns out, the mixture separating happens often. So I followed the notes by continuing to heat the custard mixture and it began to curdle, which the recipe says is okay because the churning will smooth it out. Safe.

My next obstacle was the churning process. My first attempt at churning the custard mixture failed because my ice wasn't "cold" enough, if you can believe that. The custard didn't fluff up. I had run out of the rock salt, which I think is key to keeping the ice really cold. So after buying a new box of rock salt, I completed the churning process the next day and was finally able to have a fluffy mixture to complete the ice cream. I used the recipe's blueberry pie filling, but you can definitely also use a canned pie filling to save time. The final product was a yummy frozen treat, reminiscent of my youth, eating blueberry pie ice cream from the drug store. I'm definitely making this again.

Ice Cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
pinch of salt
2 large egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
graham crackers, crushed or chopped into small pieces (about 3/4 cup)

Blueberry filling
1 - 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
1/8 cup confectioner's sugar
1/8 cup water

1) To make the ice cream, combine milk, 1/4 cup sugar, lemon zest and salt in a medium saucepan. Scald milk over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes.

2) While the milk is cooking, whisk eggs yolks in a medium bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whisk until light and fluffy. Temper the milk by whisking in a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining milk mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring often. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until custard is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and cool in an ice bath for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

3) While custard is cooling, combine cream and vanilla in a separate bowl. Stir cream into cooled custard. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Refrigerate until completely chilled, from 4 hours up to 3 days.

4) To make the blueberry filling, combine blueberries, confectioner's sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stirring occasionally. Mixture should begin to thicken around 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Use immediately or refrigerate.

5) Freeze chilled custard in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer's directions. Add graham cracker pieces at the last minute of churning, just until mixed. In an airtight container, layer ice cream and blueberry filling. Freeze for a few hours to overnight before serving.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Corn Chowder

I'm off work today because I'm feeling a bit under the weather. You know that saying "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?" I think I caught the flu bug from our recent trip there, and it, unfortunately, didn't stay in Vegas. This is my second bout of the flu this year. So I was craving some comfort food to help heal me, and what better way to heal than a nice bowl of soup.

Corn is in abundance nowadays and they were on sale at the supermarket, so I bought a few ears over the weekend. Why not make some corn chowder? I haven't made it in a while and haven't included it on this blog yet. This recipe was adapted from one of Paula Deen's Corn Chowder recipe that I tweeked a little bit, and it always satisfies my need for some comfort food.

4 Tbsp. butter
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 of a large carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

1) In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add potatoes, carrot, onion and garlic. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add flour to make a roux. Continue cooking until roux begins to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

2) In a microwave safe bowl, combine chicken broth and corn kernels. Microwave just until broth begins to boil, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk broth mixture into roux. Continue whisking until lumps are almost gone. Return saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture until it becomes very thick.

3) In another microwave safe bowl, combine milk and cream. Microwave for 1-2 minutes. Whisk cream mixture into corn mixture until well combined. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking chowder until potatoes are softened. (Note: if chowder is not thick enough, combine a tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water and add to chowder to thicken). When ready to serve, stir in a pat of butter (optional) to enrich the chowder.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Studio B Buffet @ the M Resort & Casino

I have a love-hate relationship with buffets, especially in Las Vegas. I love buffets if the food is fabulous, which often is not. To me, the foods at buffet restaurants are mass-produced, therefore there's a lack of taste and quality. So its rare to find a really good buffet restaurant. And when we do find a good buffet restaurant, I hate what it does to my waistline.

Sometime last year, we visited one of hubby's cousins in Las Vegas and she and her family took us to eat at the buffet restaurant at the new M Resort & Casino. The hotel is way off the strip, so it isn't as busy and rowdy, which is a nice change of pace. The food was awesome and since that trip, hubby and I vowed to always go to the M Resort for their buffet. Our Vegas trip last fall was a miss. We decided to try to go their buffet on our way back home on a Sunday afternoon. I guess everyone knew about how fabulous their buffet was and decided to eat there the same time we wanted to, because the wait was about 2 hours. Never mind. We ate a quick deli.

This past weekend trip to Vegas, we decided to change our strategy. We had brunch on the Saturday, when we know everyone is coming in to Vegas and staying at the strip. No lines. Woohoo! M Resort, oh how I've missed you.

What I love about Studio B Buffet is their huge selection of different Asian dishes, where most buffets in Vegas have only a small selection. They even had Pad Thai. What buffet does that???

My eyes are obviously bigger than my stomach, because I always seem to fill my plate up. Which is why buffets are never good for my waistline.

Their dessert selection is awesome. The M Resort has a sweet shop, Baby Cakes, that also serves their treats at the buffet. And instead of the regular soft serve machine that is often seen at buffets, Studio B has a gelato counter. Yes, gelato.

My dessert plat consisted of 2 cups of gelato (nougat and chocolate cookie dough flavors), a Tiramisu shot, a Panna Cotta shot, and a Creme Brulee cup.

The Studio B Buffet did not disappoint me again. We'll definitely be coming back to Vegas again, if not only for the Studio B.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red, White & Blue Cupcakes

No holiday is ever complete unless I make cupcakes. I've had this recipe bookmarked since last 4th of July from Sing for your Supper and I wanted to make it a point to make it this year. I loved how these cupcakes turned out. Especially the different layers of color. They look so festive. And they taste like the ones I buy at one of my favorite cupcake shops. Especially the frosting. I've actually been looking for this frosting and I'm glad to have encountered them in this recipe. You can definitely omit the food coloring if you want to make them a plain, white cupcake.

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

2) Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Whisk together buttermilk and egg whites. Set aside.

3) Place sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer and rub them together with your fingers until sugar is moist and fragrant. Add butter, and using a paddle attachment, beat at medium speed for 3 minutes until mixture is very light.

4) Beat in vanilla extract. Gradually add one-third of the flour mixture. Beat in half of the of the buttermilk mixture, then half of the remaining flour mixture until well incorporated. Add the remaining buttermilk mixture and beat until homogeneous. Add the remaining dry ingredients. Continue beating for another 2 minutes to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

5) To color the batter, divide batter into three medium bowls. Add red food coloring to one bowl until desired color is reached. Add blue food coloring in another bowl until desired color is reached. Place about a good tablespoon of of blue colored batter to the bottom of the cupcake liner. Top with another tablespoonful of white batter. Then add a tablespoon of the red batter. Cupcake liner should be half filled. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch. Transfer to cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
6-8 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1) Place butter in a bowl of a stand mixer. Add milk, vanilla, and 4 cups of confectioner's sugar. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.

2) Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition, until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading or piping consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. Use and store icing at room temperature as the icing will set if chilled.


Last week, our friend, Reni, came down for a quick visit from Portland and we took her out for a lunch at a local Korean BBQ restaurant. We decided not barbecue our meats for fear of smelling like the grill when we finished. So we decided to order our own plates. I decided on Bibimbap, a Korean vegetable and rice dish. I've had bibimbap once before, but it was a more fusion-type bibimbap from Roy's Restaurant. So I felt a little embarrassed that I didn't know how to eat the real, authentic bibimbap. After our other friend, Vivian, took charge and added the house-sauce and mixed it all up, I was able to enjoy this light, yet filling dish.

I enjoyed my dish so much, that it inspired me to attempt to make it. And since it was a light dish, I figured I'd make it today, instead of barbecuing in the heat. The house-sauce reminds me of the sauce I use for one of my Korean tacos. So I figured Bibimbap wouldn't be too difficult to make. I looked at a few recipes and the common way of making it is by just cooking all the vegetables separately and seasoning them with sesame oil and salt. The sauce actually was similar to the sauces for Korean tacos. I finally settled on this recipe from the Food Network. It took a while to get all the vegetables cooked. I also used my Korean Bulgogi Beef recipe and chopped up the beef really finely using a food processor. The final product came out really well and I was quite pleased with the results. So was hubby.

steamed white rice
Bulgogi Beef, finely chopped
1 carrot, julienned and sauteed in sesame oil and salt
bean sprouts, sauteed in sesame oil and salt
1 lb. spinach, blanched and then seasoned with sesame oil and salt
4 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in sesame oil and salt
2 zucchini, sliced and sauteed in sesame oil and salt
eggs, cooked over-easy
Gochuchang paste (recipe below)

1) Place desired amount of rice on the bottom of a bowl (individual bowl or serving bowl). Nicely arrange bulgogi and vegetables on top of rice. Place an egg on top of vegetables and drizzle desired amount of Gogchuchang paste.

When ready to eat, garnish with sesame seeds and sesame oil and mix all ingredients together.

Gochuchang paste
4 Tbsp. gochuchang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
3 tsp. sesame oil
4 tsp. water

1) Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well incorporated.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Pie

This weekend, hubby has been quite busy studying for his state board exam and fixing up the back yard so we can put up the above-the-ground pool for our daughter. We decided to put up the pool so we can have a pool/bbq party for 4th of July with my folks tomorrow.

Fresh strawberries are in abundance out at all the local grocery stores nowadays. Being that it's 4th of July tomorrow, I thought it would be festive to have some bright-red, Fresh Strawberry pie out on display when my family comes over tomorrow. My family and I love fresh strawberry pie and we buy at least one from our local bake shop every summer. The other day, my co-worker, Stacy, introduced me to a new blog and I found this great recipe for Fresh Strawberry Pie from Southern Plate. I've found a few other recipes from blogs I frequent. But the glaze that goes on the fresh strawberries look too thick, almost solid, and didn't look like the pie that I'm used to. This recipe, however, looked like the same consistency as the ones I buy at the bake shop. And it tasted great and easy to make.

1 ready-made pie crust
1 pint fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. strawberry gelatin (do not use sugar-free)
3 heaping Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup water

1) Bake pie crust according to directions. Set aside and cool completely.

2) In a medium bowl, combine sugar, strawberry gelatin, and cornstarch. Stir until incorporated. In a medium saucepan, add water and stir in gelatin mixture until well combined. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and clear. Set aside and cool completely.

3) Wash and hull strawberries. Cut strawberries in half and arrange in baked pie crust. When filling has cooled, pour over strawberries. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya)

Growing up, my lola used to make a lot of pickled items such as pickled mangos and pickled green papaya relish (atchara). She would bottle them and it would remain in the fridge for months and months. They're often an accompaniment to fried dishes with rice. However, I was never a huge fan of the pickled mangos or atchara. I was a kid and didn't like the sour-ness of them. Then a few months ago, hubby and I went to a food truck fest and ate off of a Filipino food truck. They had the standard rice and tocino. But their plates had a side of atchara with it. I don't think I remember my grandparents or my parents eat their tocino with atchara before. Then flashbacks of me not liking atchara when I was kid ran through my mind. But hey, I'm older now and have a more sophisticated palette. So I gave it a shot and ate it together with my rice and tocino. What did I miss all these years??? The sour-ness balances the flavors of the meat and rice perfectly. Hubby took a taste of it and asked if I could make atchara. And it gave me an idea. So I did a search and found this recipe from Panlasang Pinoy.

One of the reasons why I started this blog was for my daughter to have a record of her culture in food. With all the desserts and other non-Filipino dishes I make on this blog, sometimes I lose that vision. So this atchara dish somehow takes us back to that. And when I tasted my final product, it somehow took me back to my days with my lola.

3-4 lbs. green papaya, juliennned
2 medium sized carrots, julienned
1 large onion, sliced thin
10 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. peppercorn
1 inch fresh ginger, julienned
1/4 cup, plus 1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups white vinegar
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 small boxes raisin (optional)

1) In a large bowl, combine green papaya and 1/4 cup salt. Mix until salt is well distributed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2) After papaya has been treated, place in a colander and thoroughly rinse under running water. Wrap rinsed papaya with a cheesecloth or clean cloth towel. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the papaya.

3) Return papaya in the large bowl. Add carrots, garlic, ginger, onions, peppercorns, and raisins (if using). Mix until evenly distributed. Place in a large, clean mason jar (or evenly distribute among several smaller mason jars). Set aside.

4) In a medium saucepan, add vinegar and cook over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir in sugar and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon of salt until well diluted. Remove from heat and cool completely.

5) Pour vinegar mixture in the prepared mason jars until the vegetables are completely submerged. Seal jar and refrigerate for 5 days to 1 week. Serve with fried dishes as desired.