Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Key Lime Pie


Welcome back to me! I know, I know. Where have I been, right? MIA for 2 months and no explanation whatsoever. Shame on me. Well, I have a very good reason as to why I've been gone for so long. First, we just got back from our trip to Hawaii for one of my cousins' wedding. But more importantly, the main reason I haven't been on this blog was because I haven't been able to stand being in the kitchen due to morning sickness. You got it right, folks. Hubby and I are expecting our 2nd child, due in early May. It was a pleasant surprise and hubby, my daughter and I are so excited.

My last blog post was of this recipe for Taiwanese Spaghetti. Then that same Labor Day weekend, we found out that I was expecting. How appropriate that it was "Labor" Day. lol. But since then, I've been hit with the worst case of morning sickness ever. I experienced morning sickness with my daughter 5 years ago that lasted 7 months. But it wasn't as bad as this pregnancy. I'm nauseous all day long. I throw up almost all day long. So many smells trigger my nausea. Especially the kitchen. Which totally kills me. Because we all know how much time I spend in the kitchen. So I haven't been cooking much in these past 2 months and have avoided the kitchen like the plague. Sometimes, I can muster up some energy and cook a real simple dish. Like some sort of Fried Rice. Holding my breath the entire time I'm in the kitchen.

I worry, sometimes, that because I throw up so much, I may not be getting in enough nutrients for the baby. I haven't gained much weight, but I haven't lost weight either. My doctor says that not gaining weight is okay, as long as I don't lose weight. Everyone tells me not to worry because the morning sickness will be gone after my first trimester. That's what everyone told me with my last pregnancy, and it lasted 7 months. They also say every pregnancy is different. I guess only time will tell. I just hope it somehow subsides soon. Because I really miss my kitchen.

I've noticed that the only things I can make in the kitchen are desserts. Because the ingredients don't emit odors like onions and garlic do. Our lime tree has been growing tons of limes and hubby wanted me to start using them up. So I was thinking Key Lime Pie. I've always loved the Key Lime Pie at California Pizza Kitchen, so I did a quick search which lead me to this recipe from the Examiner. The ingredients and recipe was quite simple and the pie tasted tart and sweet. To offset the sweetness, I topped the pie with some homemade whipped cream and it came out really good. A great recipe to break my funk.

Crust
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Filling
4 large egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lime juice (regular or key limes)
2 tsp. lime zest

Topping
1 cup heavy whipping cream
5 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

2) First make the crust: In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crust, sugar and melted butter. Stir until well coated. Press crust onto a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 9-10 minutes, just before crust begins to brown. Allow to cool.

3) For the filling: Beat egg yolks over medium-high speed until they begin to thicken and turn to light yellow, about 5-7 minutes. Stop mixer and add condensed milk. Continue beating over low speed and add lime juice. Slowly add lime zest and continue beating until well incorporated. Pour filling into prepared crust and bake for 11-13 minutes until set. Allow to cool completely before topping with whipped cream.

4) For the topping: With a whisk attachment, beat heavy whipping cream over high speed until soft peaks form. Continue beating at high speed while slowly adding confectioner's sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Top on to prepared pie.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Taiwanese Spaghetti


I'm always looking for creative ways to serve spaghetti pasta because I absolutely love spaghetti. Its one of my favorite things to eat. And I think I've rubbed off on my daughter because she loves it as much as I do. So when this recipe came up on my reader from Steamy Kitchen, I was intrigued. An Asian pasta. Hmmmm....

The preparation was real easy. However, I wasn't too satisfied with the flavor. Maybe my preparation was off but it needed more umph. The meat mixture, however, would probably go great as a filling for a lettuce wrap. Or maybe with real Asian noodles. But not in a pasta. Not sure if I'd make this again as a pasta dish.

1 lb. noodles or any kind
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce (or oyster sauce)
2 tsp. regular soy sauce
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. five-spice powder
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. cooking oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 lb. ground meat (beef, pork, chicken, etc.)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 oz can bamboo shoots, diced
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, diced
1 stalk green onion, chopped

1) Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

2) In a small bowl, combine broth, soy sauces, balsamic vinegar, five-spice powder, and brown sugar. Set aside.

3) Heat wok over medium-high heat. Swirl in cooking oil. Add onion and cook for about a minute. Add ground meat and cook until almost all the pink is gone. Push meat mixture to the sides of wok. Add garlic in the center of wok and cook until fragrant. Add bamboo shoots an mushrooms in the center. Toss everything together in the wok.

4) Pour broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in green onions. Serve over  noodles.

Monday, August 27, 2012

King's Hawaiian Chocolate Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce


I've never had bread pudding before. It is one of those so-called comfort foods that never used to appeal to me. I hated mushy bread whenever I ate a sandwich, so why would I eat mushy bread as a dessert? The mere thought of that mushy texture in mouth used to make me cringe. Then I saw a show on the Food Network that was featuring food trucks. This was a time before the food truck craze went rampant. They featured a bread pudding truck that served chocolate bread pudding. And it actually looked really good. But I didn't want to try making it myself for fear that I would only cringe at eating mushy bread and it wouldn't be worth the effort to make.

I recently came across the King's Hawaiian website. I skimmed through the recipes and found their recipe for Chocolate Bread Pudding and it was calling out to me. I figured that maybe I never liked bread pudding because it wasn't prepared right. So I thought maybe I should finally face my fear of this dessert. It was quite simple to make. The bread pudding truck that I saw on the Food Network served their bread pudding with some sort of vanilla sauce. So I paired this with this vanilla sauce from My Recipes and it came out really well. It didn't even seem like mushy bread, but more of a custardy dessert that I really enjoyed. Hubby enjoyed this dessert a little too much because he had 2 servings in one sitting. Word of caution, however: this dessert uses a lot of heavy cream, so it isn't diet friendly. Therefore eat with caution. But enjoy this classic dessert warm.

2 1/2 cups Half & Half
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
6 cups lightly packed cubed King's Hawaiian bread (rolls, loaf or whatever you have)

1) Heat half & half in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble at the edges. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips. Mix until completely melted and incorporated. Cool slightly.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Temper the eggs by slowly whisking in 1 cup of the chocolate mixture until well incorporated. Whisk in the remaining chocolate mixture. Pour custard mixture over cubed bread and slowly stir until bread is well coated. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

3) Preheat oven to 325 deg F. Lightly apply a non-stick spray on a 8x8 baking dish, or six 6-oz custard cups.

4) Place cups or baking dish on a baking sheet. Spoon soaked bread. Bake for 45-50 minutes for the baking dish, or 35-40 minute for the baking cups, until knife inserted in center comes out nearly clean.
Serve warm with chocolate or vanilla sauce.

Vanilla sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1) In a saucepan, whisk together sugars, flour, nutmeg, egg and cream until well incorporated. Add butter and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened, about 10-12 minutes.

2) Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Corn Dogs


The kind of hot dog I used to eat when I was a kid was of the frozen variety that my parents would buy from Costco. I always thought that a corn dog was a corn dog, so there weren't any variations to it. As I got older, I began noticing that there were quite a few different varieties. There's the honey corn dog which uses a chicken type of hot dog with honey in the batter. There's corn dog made of beef franks. There's even vegetarian corn dogs. Go figure. I've learned that I tend to like the ones made out of beef franks. And then I came to learn of freshly made corn dogs at Disneyland and I became a corn dog connoisseur.

Because I've mostly known corn dogs of the frozen variety, I never really considered making it from scratch. Until I came across this recipe at Shine from Yahoo. I decided to give it a try. With so much anticipation, I was a little disappointed with the way it turned out. I may have done something wrong with the deep-frying or my technique may have been off, but the dough on the corn dog was thin and therefore the whole thing turned out pretty greasy. The flavor was dead on, but I didn't really like eating a stick of oil. I may have to tweak it a bit more, but I'm going to keep this recipe.

8 hot dogs
Popsicle sticks or wooden chopsticks
1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp. all purpose flour, divided
8 cups vegetable oil, divided
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup buttermilk, well shaken

1) Grill hot dogs over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked. Cool slightly. Insert wooden stick into hot dogs. Place 3 tablespoon in a plate. Roll hot dogs in the flour and shake off excess flour. Set aside.

2) In a deep, heavy pot, place about 3 inches of oil and heat to 350 deg F over medium-high heat.

3) In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in buttermilk until well incorporated.

4) Transfer some of the batter into a tall glass, filling almost to the top. Dip hot dogs, one at a time into glass with batter to coat. Deep fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Return oil to 350 deg F and continue cooking the rest of the hot dogs and refill glass with batter between batches.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tea Time at the Montage Beverly Hills

I have many friends and acquaintances. But  I only have a few really good friends that I consider my best friends. So few that I can count them in one hand. I only have a few best friends because only these few truly understand how busy life can be, being a wife, a mom, and a career woman. Sometimes life is just too busy to go out drinking, partying, going on trips, etc. And these friends understand that because they, too, have busy lives. They know that we all have different priorities. However, even though we have our own priorities, we still make it a point to hang out to celebrate each other's birthdays or just to hang out to be together because we hadn't seen each other in a while. And when we do go out, we go ALL out.

When I go out with these particular friends of mine, we like elegance and sophistication. Maybe because we're all big goof balls in real life and we like to change it up a bit and pretend to be sophisticated. lol! But its fun to pretend. Like pretending to be sophisticated ladies having afternoon tea. I never really got into having tea until one of the friends suggested we try it out. And now, we like trying out the many tea houses we have here in LA. Like the Afternoon Tea Time at the Montage in Beverly Hills.  

After much scheduling and re-scheduling, we finally decided to hang out this past weekend for afternoon tea at the Montage. You enter the restaurant that has the feel of an elegant living room. We were seated in the sofa area. We ordered the traditional tea and one kid's tea that we thought my daughter and one of my friend's daughter can share. Each serving consisted of your choice of a pot of tea.

(my daughter's Passion Fruit Tea)

As with any afternoon tea service, we were served with tiers of finger foods. The kids had their own finger grilled cheese sandwich, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and nutella sandwich.


The adults had the usual cucumber, egg salad, and chicken salad curry sandwich. 


Everything was delicious. Everyone at the restaurant was real gracious and accommodating. Even better was the company I was in. I'm glad that I am able to share these little experiences with my good friends. I sure love them to pieces.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Waffles


During the weekday, our meal at breakfast is often not spent together. My breakfast usually consist of either some sort of cereal or oatmeal that I often just eat on the desk in my office. I leave the house earlier than hubby because I drop the little munchkin off at my parents, who in turn feed her breakfast before they drop her off at school. Because weekday mornings are always so rushed, weekend breakfast is usually something special that I like to make so we can sit down and eat together as a family and enjoy a nice, slow day off.

The only other time I've ever made waffles was when I made these Carrot Cake Waffles. My daughter likes to eat things plain with no surprises like shredded carrots in her waffles. So she wants her waffles plain. So I did a search among the blogs I frequently visit and found these awesome waffles from Annie's Eats. Known as Waffles of Insane Greatness (or WIG), this recipe has apparently travelled all over the blogosphere for its awesome goodness. And I can definitely attest to its awesomeness. And so can the little munchkin, who ate all of hers up. She said I make the best waffles ♥

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together milk, buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla extract. Whisk dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until incorporated and a few lumps remain. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

3) Preheat waffle iron. Fill waffle wells and cook according to manufacturer's instructions. Cook until crisp and golden. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pastitsio


I was in the mood to make lasagna the other day. But I didn't want just a plain ordinary lasagna. Then I remembered that I had saved up a great casserole recipe from Martha Stewart that I've been dying to make. Pastitsio is a Greek casserole dish. I learned of this dish when I was watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network and was curious about how different this dish was from my Baked Ziti recipe.

When I was looking for recipes last week, I came upon this recipe from Martha Stewart and I realized the only difference with this recipe from my Baked Ziti is the cinnamon. Its actually an easier recipe because the sauce base is just tomato paste and wine. I loved the hint of cinnamon in this dish. This is a great make-ahead recipe as well. Just prepare and assemble the casserole and bake when you're ready. I'll definitely be making this new comfort food again.

1 lb. pasta (preferably penne), cooked and drained
oil for cooking
2 lbs. ground meat (beef, turkey, lamb)
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cup water
salt & pepper to taste
6 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 cups milk
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1) In a large sauce pan, heat about 3 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add ground meat and cook until no longer pink, about 6-8 minutes. Break up meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2) Transfer meat mixture to a colander to drain the fat. Return meat mixture to the pan and add the wine. Cover and allow to cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cinnamon and  water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3) Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

4) In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until incorporated. Slowly whisk in milk. Continue whisking until there are no more lumps. Cook, whisking often, until mixture is thick and bubbly, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in cayenne pepper and Parmesan cheese. Remove from heat and set aside.

5) Add pasta to the meat mixture and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Transfer to a 9x13 inch pan. Pour white sauce over the pasta mixture, smoothing it out until leveled. Bake until tops begin to brown in spots, about 30-40 minutes (40-50 minutes if you've made the casserole ahead and have placed in the refrigerator). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Coconut Macadamia Nut Bars


I came across this recipe for Coconutty Macadamia Nut Bars from Cooking Hawaiian Style. It almost got buried among all the recipes I had saved up during my Fat Flush Diet last week. I saved several recipes a while ago from Cooking Hawaiian Style. I figured I'd better start making them. Especially this one, because I still have a couple of bags of macadamia nuts I've been wanting to use from our trip to Hawaii last October.

The recipe was really quite simple and used simple ingredients. The outcome was reminiscent of Pecan Pie. It also reminds of the macadamia tart I had at a luau that we went to last October.

Crust
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour

Filling
4 large eggs
3 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups chopped macadamia nuts
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan. Set aside

2) In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar over medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour and continue beating until crumbly. Press dough on the bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

3) In a large mixing bowl, stir together all the ingredients for the filling. Spread mixture evenly on top of prepared crust. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Copycat Disney French Toast


I've been on a hiatus the past week or so because I went back on my Fat Flush Diet, which lasted a week. So there obviously hasn't been any cooking or baking. If you followed me in 2010, the Fat Flush Diet consist of no salt, no sugar, no flavor! But it cleanses your body of toxins. This time around, however, it was easier to plan for our meals. All I did was grill/pan sear a lot of fish. Because fish tended to have natural flavoring in it. That diet was so hard, but so worth it. I lost about 5 pounds, where 2-3 pounds were probably water retention. So I'm sure I'll get that back once I get my body back to consuming the salt. So, I probably lost a solid 2-3 pounds. A good weight to kick start a diet. I had been calorie counting for about a month or so and I just couldn't shed any weight. So this will help me continue with the calorie counting.

To celebrate the newer me, I wanted to finally make a good breakfast for us today. During this week-long diet, all I did was look for new recipes. I saved up so many, so I'm going to be consistently making new recipes in the next month or so. One of those is a copycat recipe for
Disney's French Toast that I found on food. com. I first had this yummy breakfast a few years ago when my brother-in-law and his family invited us to stay with them during a trip to Disneyland. They brought us along for breakfast at one of their character breakfast. I had some of their french toast and its all I look for when we have breakfast at Disneyland. I'm so glad to have found this recipe because it was delicious. You don't even need to use any syrup because its already sweetened with cinnamon sugar. Hubby and my daughter were thoroughly pleased with this supped up classic breakfast. I modified the recipe and used regular sandwich bread and cut the recipe in half. But you can use Texas loaf as the recipe calls for if you would like larger french toast.

8 slices white or wheat bread
1 egg
1 1/4 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
oil for frying

Cinnamon Sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 Tbsp. sugar

1) In a large bowl, whisk all the batter ingredients together, except the bread, until thoroughly combined and smooth.

2) In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

3) Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a skillet or griddle. Dip bread in batter and fry on both sides until golden brown.

4) Pat french toast on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Coat in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and serve warm.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Copycat Chick Fil A Spicy Chicken Sandwich

There's been a lot of hype lately with Chick Fil-A. And they haven't been positive. I'm not gonna get into the details of it, nor am I going to discuss my views on it. It is what it is and people can form their own opinion on it, but not me. I'm here to discuss food.

Hubby and I recently decided to try out Chick Fil-A because they've been appearing in random places here in Southern California. I decided to try out their Spicy Chicken Sandwich. It had just the right amount of spice without burning the roof of my mouth. And it was quite yummy. I also loved the friendly vibe I got in this fast food joint. So I told hubby that this was a good fast food place we can frequent. But because of the recent media attention they've been getting, I didn't think it would be a good time to visit one. And because of the recent media attention, I've been seeing a lot of copycat recipes for their chicken sandwich.

This recipe appeared on Shine from Yahoo and I decided to give it a go. It was pretty simple to make and quite tasty. Very flavorful. A good alternative if you can't make it out to a Chick Fil-A.

2 boneless, skinless chicken
1/2 cup pickle juice
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 cup oil for frying
toasted hamburger buns
dill pickle slices

1) Place chicken between two plastic wrap and gently pound with a meat mallet (or any heavy kitchen utensil) to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut chicken into two even pieces and place in a bowl. Pour pickle juice and Tabasco sauce in bowl and stir until well incorporated. Marinade for 30 minutes to an hour.

2) In a small bowl, bet together egg and milk. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and all the spices.

3) Heat oil in a skillet to 345-350 deg F. Dip chicken in egg mixture and then coat with the flour mixture. Fry chicken for about 2-4 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Place on a paper towel to drain oil and serve on toasted bun with pickles.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sno-Ball Cake

Happy birthday my wonderful hubby!

Since my birthday, I had been picking my brain trying to figure out what kind of cake I could make for his birthday. Hubby recently informed me that when he was a kid, the only kind of cake he would get (or even ask for) for his birthday was a Hostess Sno-Ball. You know those bright pink marshmallow, chocolate cake treats? Now, I've had my fair share of Sno-Balls during my youth. However, I found it a little strange to be celebrating with a store-bought, vacuum-packed little snack treat.

Then, I had a crazy idea. A while ago, I made some homemade Hostess Cupcakes, right? Why not make homemade Sno-Balls??? Hubby would totally love that! And since its his birthday, I decided to make it into a cake. I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe and the marshmallow fluff from my recent Fluffernutter Cupcakes and assemble to look like a Hostess Sno-Ball. I had some leftover batter, so I used it to make cupcakes/individual versions as well.  And the result was a yummy, moist chocolaty, marshmallow-y treat reminiscent of our youth. Hubby took his first bite and he immediately said it brought him back to the 1st grade.

1 recipe for chocolate cake
prepared marshmallow fluff
shredded coconut
red food color

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease and flour an oven-safe bowl of desired size. Set aside.

2) Prepare cake according to directions. Pour batter into prepared bowl about three-quarters full. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the cake is set and toothpick test comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the bowl for about 10 minutes. Remove cake from bowl and invert on a cooling rack to cool completely.

3) Using a serrated knife or cake leveler, carefully slice a thin layer off the flat side of the cake. Set aside. Create a large hole by hollowing out the center of the flat side of the remaining cake. Fill the hole with a good amount of marshmallow fluff. Replace the thin layer of cake back on the cake.

4) Invert the cake on a platter, flat side down. Cover the rounded part of the cake with globs of marshmallow fluff and smooth out.

5) Place a good amount of shredded coconut and a few drops of food color in a food processor. Pulse the processor until the color of the coconut has turned bright pink and you've reached the desired consistency of the coconut. Press pink coconut on top and all over the surface of the frosted cake. Serve.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Baked Pasta with Spinach and Sausage


Lately, I've been enjoying quiet Monday mornings alone because my 4 year old daughter has been going to school everyday for a few hours for summer school. Although I miss her deeply, because I have never been away from her on my days off, I am totally loving the few quiet hours I have to myself. I have every intention of running errands or doing chores during these days. However, its only been a few Mondays that she's been in school. And during those times, I have just laid in bed and enjoyed the quiet calmness of our house.

It was on this recent quiet Monday that I was actually able to watch my shows and not watch anything that had to do with Mickey Mouse or Kai-Lan. It was this recent Monday that I watched an episode of Rachael Ray's Week in a Day on the Cooking Channel and featured a recipe for Baked Ziti with Spinach and Veal. I was drooling. So before I had to pick up my daughter from school, I headed to the supermarket to buy a few ingredients.

After reading a few of the comments, I decided to modify the recipe based on the comments and the result was this yummy and flavorful make-ahead casserole dish. This dish is great because you can make it ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator or freezer until you're ready to bake it. However, I find that the dish tends to dry out if you make it ahead rather than bake it off right away. If I decided to make this ahead again, I think I'll be making extra sauce to help make it more creamy.

2 bunches of fresh spinach, washed, dried and finely chopped
salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. sweet Italian Turkey sausage, casings removed (or use regular ground turkey)
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped sage leaves
black pepper
1 cup white wine or chicken broth (or 1/2 cup of each)
1 lb. pasta (like penne, farfalle, corkscrew, etc.)
4 Tbsp. butter
3 rounded Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
ground nutmeg to taste
6 ounces grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1) Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Salt the water and cook pasta 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta if done before sauce.

2) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add ground meat. Lightly brown meat and crumble. Add chopped carrot, onion, and sage leaves. Season with a little salt and black pepper. Continue to cook until carrots and onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add wine and turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer gently.

3) In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour for about a minute. Then whisk in milk. Bring mixture to a bubble and season with salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Once the sauce has thickened, adjust the nutmeg and black pepper to your liking.

4) To the meat mixture, add chopped spinach and cook until wilted and thoroughly incorporated. Stir in pasta and sauce. Pour mixture in a casserole dish and top with the cheeses.

5) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 deg F. Bake for 35-45 minutes if reheating the dish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes if baking immediately. Serve hot.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bottega Louie to celebrate our birthdays

As you all know, last week, I celebrated another year of my existence. I baked Fluffernutter Cupcakes and Biscoff Cupcakes to commemorate the day. Traditionally in our family, if our birthdays land on a weekday, we celebrate by going out to a fancy dinner the following weekend. And because hubby's and my birthday is about 2 weeks apart, we usually go out on the weekend between our birthdays. This past weekend happened to be that weekend.

My mom asked me where I wanted to go out to dinner. Normally we go to our usual restaurants: Lawry's Prime Rib, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Fleming's, or Roy's. This year, however, I wanted to try something different. All thanks to one of my good friends who had instilled in me a new restaurant that I had been dying to visit. Bottega Louie.



A fairly new restaurant, Bottega Louie is a hip restaurant and gourmet market. Most of its clientele are yuppies. Rarely will you see a young family or that of the older generation. Its a very loud and busy establishment.

(Macaron display on the window)

As soon as you enter the restaurant, you will be overwhelmed with the abundance of dessert displays. From cupcakes to cookies to different pastries......




.....and finally what they're famous for. Macarons.


As we were seated at our table, we were served with their baked bread and a side of butter that they place directly on our table, lined with butcher paper.


For starters, we ordered their popular Portobello fries, which were strips of Portobello mushrooms dipped in batter and deep fried. Served with an aioli sauce, this appetizer had quite a unique taste that was quite yummy. We also ordered their Diver Scallops, as recommended by our waiter. The scallops were sweet and moist and so tender. A great recommendation. And of course, if a menu has fried calamari in it, you better believe we'll order it. And so we did. 


For our main courses, we all ordered different dishes. Mom ordered the Ceppo Gamber, shrimp with ceppo pasta and sauteed with garlic and olive oil.


Hubby ordered the Striped Sea Bass served on top of risotto.


I ordered the popular dish on the menu, the Trenne, which is trenne pasta, fried to a crisp, with braised prime rib eye and kale. I know why this dish was popular because it was delicious.


I didn't get a chance to photograph my sister and brother's meal. But my sister had the Lasagna Bolognese and my brother had the Hanger Steak Verdura, which they both enjoyed. My brother even had a few bites of my sister's lasagna, because it was apparently super delicious. 

As an added bonus, we were seated right in front of the pizza making station where we (mostly my daughter) were thoroughly entertained by the pizza tosser.



For dessert, my brother decided to order the chocolate souffle with Tahitian Vanilla Bean sauce and a side of vanilla bean gelato. 


I decided to order something outside of my normal creme brulee and settled on the Le Grande Macaron, which was a vanilla macaron stuffed with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries. Yummy!


After we had eaten our meal, one of the managers came by and asked how our dinner went. Mom mentioned that it was hubby and my birthdays, and so they served us each a scoop of gelato that I couldn't eat much of because I was stuffed.


Of course, we couldn't leave Bottega Louie without purchasing any of the Macarons they're known for. So I bought a small box, along with some sprinkled pretzels that my daughter, of course, wanted to have.

All in all, I was very pleased with my experience at Bottega Louie. My parents and hubby loved the food, but weren't too keen about how noisy the place was. Its a marketplace, so its what's expected. I'm not sure if hubby would want to return here again. But I'm hoping he'll allow us to return, because I heard they also had an awesome brunch menu :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Biscoff Cupcakes

In continuing with my birthday celebration week, I said that I had made 2 new cupcake recipes for my special day. I made Fluffernutter Cupcakes and these Biscoff Cupcakes from The Three Little Piglets.

I jumped the Biscoff bandwagon almost a year ago and have become obsessed with Biscoff spread. The first and last time I've used Biscoff spread in a recipe, however, was when I made Biscoff Cookie Dough Balls. Those were so addicting. And it had been a while since I've made anything with Biscoff spread, I thought it was time to use this yummy, but better alternative, to peanut butter again.

If you can't find Biscoff spread, you can find Cookie Butter at your local Trader Joe's which works just as well. These cupcake were delicious with the hint of Biscoff in both the cupcake and frosting. Definitely the favorite among the two cupcakes I made for my birthday.

Cupcakes
6 oz. melted unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp. Biscoff spread

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line cupcake pan with 10 paper liners.

2) Allow butter to cool until it begins to solidify, but is still pourable.

3) In a bowl of an electric mixer, cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low, gradually add melted butter and cream.

3) Add vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time. Mix just until combined. Add Biscoff spread and continue mixing until well incorporated.

4) Evenly distribute batter into cupcake liners about two-thirds full. Bake for 17-20 minutes until toothpick test comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before cooling completely on a cooling rack.

Biscoff Buttercream frosting
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. Biscoff spread
crumbled Biscoff cookies for garnish (optional)

1) Cream together butter and confectioner's sugar. Add vanilla extract and milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in Biscoff spread. Frost cooled cupcakes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fluffernutter Cupcakes

Do y'all know what today means? Its a reason to celebrate and bake cupcakes. Yup, its my thirty-something birthday. And every year when my birthday comes around (or any one's birthday, for that matter), I always like to bake something. Especially a cake or cupcakes. This year, I actually wanted to try out two new cupcake recipes.

Have you ever had a fluffernutter sandwich? If not, you are totally missing out. I have to admit that I didn't learn of this kid favorite until I became an adult. Its a simple sandwich of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Simple, but oh so yummy. I came across this recipe for Fluffernutter Cupcakes from the Novice Chef a while ago that I had saved up for a special day. And today is as special as it gets, dontcha think?

The cupcake is a dense peanut-buttery goodness, paired with a light and airy marshmallow frosting that any peanut butter lover would enjoy. So as I celebrate my thirty-something birthday today surrounded by those I love most, why not have yourself a Fluffernutter Cupcake to celebrate with me :) And tomorrow, I shall continue with my cupcake celebration with another recipe.

Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups milk
Chocolate Hazelnut spread for the filling

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

2)  In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat together brown sugar, oil, and peanut butter over medium speed until light and fluffy.   Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla extract.

3) In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Add dry mixture into batter, alternating with the milk. Scoop batter into prepared liners about three-quarters full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick test comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes before cooling completely in a cooling rack.

4) Make a cone-shaped hole on the top of each cupcake. Pipe in chocolate hazelnut spread in the hole. Set aside.

Marshmallow Frosting
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1) Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a bowl set over a saucepan with simmering water (double boiler). Whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and the egg white mixture is warm to the touch, about 3-4 minutes.

2) Transfer egg white mixture in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on low speed, and then gradually increasing to high speed until stiff, glossy peaks forms, about 5-7 minutes. Add vanilla extract and continue beating until well incorporated. Immediately frost prepared cupcakes.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Slow Cooker Moroccan Beef Stew

I've never had Moroccan food other than when I attempted to make it a few years ago when I made Crockpot Moroccan Chicken, which turned out pretty well. I came across this recipe from Spark Recipes. And since my Moroccan Chicken turned out so well, I figured this would turn out just as well. This was a super easy dish to make and came out so delicious and full of flavor from the curry and garam masala. I'm glad I was able to find another use for garam masala other than an Indian dish. And I love how this dish was a mixture of sweet and savory. I think I like this dish is better than its chicken counterpart. Serve this on top of couscous to complete your exotic meal.

2 lbs. beef, cubed
4 carrots, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. yellow curry powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1/4 cup tomato sauce
3 cups broth (vegetable, chicken or beef)
1 (14.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro for garnish
1/4 cup toasted almond slivers for garnish (optional)

1) Pat the meat dry with a paper towel. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add meat and sear on all sides. Remove meat and set aside.

2) In the same pan, add carrots, onions, and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add curry, garam masala, and tomato sauce. Stir to combine.

3) Add beef and vegetable mix in the crock pot. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add chickpeas and raisin (if using) and dried apricots. Cook for another 30 minutes to an hour. Serve on top of couscous.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ham Sandwich Casserole

I recently discovered that King's Hawaiian had a website full of recipes using their beloved sweet rolls. As I searched through all the yummy recipes, I found this interesting casserole for Mini Baked Ham Sandwiches. It was so easy and so tasty. Its an alternative recipe for a plain 'ol ham and cheese sandwich. I'm definitely going back to website for more tasty recipes.

1 (12 pack) King's Hawaiian Original Rolls
1 lb. deli ham, shaved
1 lb. Swiss cheese, sliced
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. prepared mustard (preferably Dijon)
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. dried minced onion (or onion powder)
poppy seed for garnish

1) In a small saucepan, melt butter. Mix in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and onion. Set aside.

2) Slice entire pack of rolls horizontally in half, keeping all the rolls in tact. Place bottom half of rolls (cut side up) in a 9x13 inch pan. Arrange deli ham and cheese on top of rolls. Cover with the top half of the rolls.

3) Drizzle butter mixture on top of rolls. Refrigerate overnight.

4) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Bake casserole for 15-20 minutes. Separate rolls and serve.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Not Yo Mama's Banana Pudding


The reason I made Homemade Vanilla Pudding the other day was because I wanted to use it on this banana pudding recipe I found from the Food Network from Paula Deen that I've bookmarked for a long time. I've never really had banana pudding until about a few months ago when I decided to pick some up at one of the cupcake shops at the mall. One taste of the banana pudding and I was hooked. I had one of my co workers have a taste of it and he asked me if I was sure I wasn't from the South, because I always had Southern desserts for him to try out. I'm not from the South but I am a huge fan of Southern food (do Red Velvet Cupcakes come to mind?). So whenever I see banana pudding on a menu at a restaurant, I always wanted to give it a try. Honestly, I always thought that banana pudding was just a pudding with banana flavoring. Boy was I wrong!

This recipe was pretty easy, if you take the labor out of making vanilla pudding from scratch. You could definitely use a boxed mix as the original recipe calls for. But you know me and making it from scratch. And I definitely think making it from scratch makes a big difference. The original recipe makes a huge 9x13 dessert, but you can easily cut the recipe in half if you don't want to make too much of it. You can also use any type of shortbread cookie, like Lorna Doone, because the Chessmen cookies can be pretty expensive. The end result is this creamy and comforting dessert. The dessert is even better the next day because it gives the cookies a chance to soften from the vanilla pudding. I can't stop eating it!

2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies (or any shortbread cookies)
6-8 bananas, sliced
2 cups prepared vanilla pudding
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz) container frozen whipped topping

1) Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan with a layer of cookies. Top the cookies with sliced bananas. Set aside.

2) In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine cream cheese and condensed milk and mix until smooth. Fold in the whipped topping. Stir in prepared vanilla pudding until well incorporated.

3) Pour mixture over cookies and bananas. Arrange the remaining cookies on top of the creamed mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Pudding


There is a dessert that I've bookmarked for a long time that I've been dying to try out. It consists of boxed vanilla pudding. But ya'll know me and making things from scratch. So I decided to find a good recipe for a homemade vanilla pudding to use for that recipe and found this one from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures.

This is so easy to make. And I've seen homemade gift ideas using ingredients for vanilla pudding that I'm now considering giving away as Christmas gifts this year. Because this was really delicious and so comforting that everyone should really try. You can serve this warm or cold. Eat it plain or topped with your favorite fruit. I ate mine with fresh blueberries and it was such a refreshing dessert. I can't wait to add this to my next dessert......to be continued.......

3/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups milk
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla pod)

1) In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, salt and cornstarch. Whisk in cream, milk and egg yolks. (If using a vanilla pod, split in half and scrape off all the seeds. Place seeds and the pod in mixture). Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes, or until mixture has thickened.

2) Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla extract (if not using vanilla pod). Whisk until butter is melted. Strain through a sieve to remove any lumps. Serve warm or cold. For storage, place plastic wrap directly on the pudding to prevent a film from forming. Refrigerate.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

I was watching The Best Thing I ever made on the Food Network a few days ago and Adam Gertler made a Reuben Dog. Oh-Em-Gee did it look good. Unfortunately, making the hot dog looked pretty complicated. But I so wanted to eat something like that. It consisted of a pastrami flavored hot dog, topped with Gruyere cheese, thousand island dressing, and coleslaw. Doesn't that sound yummy?

For dinner the other day, I wanted to somehow recreate that yummy dog. So I picked up a few links of Bratwursts and Gruyere cheese at a local German deli, made my own coleslaw, and then decided to make Thousand Island Dressing from scratch modifying this recipe from cooks.com. Man-oh-man. I'm not sure what Adam's Reuben Dog tasted like, but this is one of the best dogs I've ever had. So delish! The thousand island dressing really tied everything together. yummy!

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 sweet pickle relish
1 hard boiled egg

1) In a medium bowl, add mayonnaise, ketchup and relish. Grate hard boiled egg through a sieve over the the mixture. Stir until well combined. Chill before use.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Huli-Huli Chicken

Huli-Huli is Hawaiian for "turn-turn." In this case, its all about turning the chicken over an open fire. As in rotisserie-style chicken. Of the many times I've been to Hawaii, I've never really had Huli-Huli chicken. Even hubby has never had it, and he has more ties to the islands than I do because his family lives there. Though we often see signs on the side of the road advertising the sale of this coveted Hawaiian dish, it never really occurred to us to give it a try. It is said that back in the day, Huli-Huli chicken is often made during fundraising events. Many Hawaiians often look to the newspaper for any advertisements for fundraisers serving Huli-Huli Chicken.

This recipe came up on Facebook from Hawaiian Food Online and was so simple to make. However, grilling chicken never really works out well for me. It always come out undercooked, which totally takes away from the enjoyment of eating a delicious meal. From this recipe, though, I learned that the chicken has to be cooked for about 20-30 minutes on each side over a low-medium flame. Because I've never really had Huli Huli chicken before this, I can't really compare it to anything. But it came out delicious. Once I get the kinks out of grilling a chicken, I'm definitely going to be make this again.

3 chickens, cut into quarters
1/4 cup catsup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup frozen pineapple juice concentrate
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger root, finely minced
2 drops of Worcestershire sauce

1) Mix all ingredients, except chicken, in a medium bowl. Brush sauce over chicken pieces. Cook chicken on a grill until done, about 20-30 minutes on each side. Brush sauce on chicken pieces repeatedly throughout the cooking process. Serve with steamed rice and Hawaiian-style Macaroni salad.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies


Happy 1st of July!!! I can't believe that summer is in full swing. What a way to kick off the heat of the summer by baking cookies. lol! I had to crank up the oven today, because when I saw these cookies from The Novice Chef, I had to make them right away. I've often had chocolate crinkle cookies, but never a red velvet version. I didn't realize how simple these yummy cookies were. Everyone knows that I like to make things from scratch. But with the use of a boxed cake mix in this recipe, I think I can make an exception.

I used the crinkle cookie recipe on the side of the box from Duncan Hines. The only difference from the Novice Chef version is the addition of lemon zest and cornstarch. It gives the cookie an extra zing. This technique, however, can used with other boxed cake mixes like chocolate, lemon, or even funfetti (obviously, you'd omit the lemon zest if you were using the chocolate cake mix). This is a great recipe that you can quickly whip up when you have a cookie craving and have extra cake mixes on hand.

6 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 box Red Velvet cake mix
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1) Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Place confectioner's sugar and cornstarch in a shallow bowl and set aside.

2) In a large bowl, combine melted butter, eggs, lemon zest and cake mix until there are no large lumps left.

3) Roll dough into 1-inch balls (about 1 tablespoon of dough) and coat in confectioner's sugar and cornstarch mixture. Place dough balls on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1-inch apart.

4) Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the tops have crackled and have set (the centers will still be gooey). Allow to sit for 5 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Arroz Chaufa

Chaufa is a term used in Peruvian cuisine when a rice dish is Chinese-influenced. Arroz Chaufa (or Chinese Fried Rice) is more  of a Chinese based rice dish rather than Peruvian. But it certainly shows how big Chinese cuisine is in Peru.

I first had Arroz Chaufa de Pollo (Chicken) at a local Farmer's Market and really enjoyed it. Recently, I had a taste of it, once again, in the form of beef. As usual, I made it a goal to try to replicate the dish at home. And so I did a quick search online and modified this recipe from about.com. I'm not sure if there is a difference in cooking styles between Arroz Chaufa and regular Chinese Fried Rice, but this dish was delicious, nonetheless. Another great way to use up leftover rice.

1/2 lb. beef, chicken or pork, sliced into strips
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
4 Tbsp. vegetable or sesame oil
4 eggs
1 bunch green onions, sliced (separate the white ends from the green)
1 cup bean sprouts
4 cups cooked rice
salt and pepper to taste


1) In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, brown sugar, half of the minced garlic, and 1/2 tablespoon of grated ginger. Add meat and marinate for at least an hour.

2) Whisk together eggs and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoon of oil over medium heat  in a wok or large frying pan. Pour eggs into pan and allow to cook without mixing. Turn the egg pancake over to finish cooking. Remove egg from heat and coarsely chop. Set aside.

3) Add remaining oil in pan. Add the white parts of the green onions and the remaining ginger. Saute for 2-3 minutes.

4) Remove meat from the marinade and add to pan. Saute for a few minutes until cooked through. Add bean sprouts, the remaining green onions, and remaining soy sauce. Continue sauteing until heated through. Add rice and continue stirring until well incorporated and rice has heated through. Mix in prepared eggs and serve hot.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Warm Toasted Marshmallow S'mores Bars


This recipe came up on my Facebook feed from Betty Crocker. My daughter had been wanting to bake with some mini marshmallows we bought at the grocery store. I first wanted to incorporate them into brownies and make S'mores brownies. But when this recipe for S'mores bars appeared, I thought to make this first.

This recipe could not be any easier. The ingredients and assembly is real simple. The result is this warm, gooey, and messy treat. I should warn you that you should cool the pan for at least 30 minutes for the chocolate to firm up a little bit for a cleaner and easier way to cut into bars. Otherwise you'll end up with a gooey mess. But hey, isn't s'mores supposed to be messy?

1 pouch sugar cookie mix
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup butter, melted
3 cups chocolate chips
4 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

1) Preheat oven to 375 deg F.

2) In a large bowl, combine cookie mix and graham cracker crumbs. Stir in melted butter until fully incorporated and dough forms. Press dough on a 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until set.

3) Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top of crust. Allow to sit for 3-5 minutes or until chocolate begins to melt. Spread chocolate evenly over crust.

4) Set oven to broil. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly on top of melted chocolate. Broil for 20-30 seconds  until marshmallows are toasted (Watch closely. Marshmallows will brown quickly). Cool for 10-30 minutes for the chocolate and marshmallow to firm a bit. Then cut into bars. Serve warm. Store remaining bars in an airtight container.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Let's introduce ourselves, shall we?

I've noticed from my Feedjit counter lately that I've been getting a lot of readers from all over the United States and quite a few international readers as well. Yay! What a great feeling to know that I've somehow touched the life of someone from a different place. I installed the feedjit to my blog because I was curios to know if anyone other than me was actually looking at my blog. To my surprise, people were actually viewing it. So, thank you so much for visiting my blog. Oftentimes, I feel like the only audience I have is me, myself, and I. And occasionally, I get a few hits from hubby.

I've always said that the intent of this blog was to chronicle recipes I've made for my daughter to refer back to when she's old enough to understand. But this blog has grown to be more than that. And now I can honestly say that its also grown to be a way to meet people from different places.

A few people I know in real life (IRL) have told me that they've tried some recipes from this blog and wanted to leave comments on the post but found it difficult to.  I have since fixed that problem and it is now much easier to leave comments. I would really love to hear from all of you, so please feel free to leave a comment on any of my previous posts or leave a comment here, even to just introduce yourself. Otherwise, I'm probably still just talking to myself again :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kelsey's Chicken Cacciatore


I'm always on the lookout for great one-pot, easy recipes. I was watching Kelsey's Essentials on the Cooking Channel one morning and Kelsey was featuring one-pot meals that included
this recipe for Chicken Cacciatore. I already have an Easy Chicken Cacciatore, but I'm always up for trying out newer classic recipes.

This recipe tasted a little different than my go-to recipe because of the use of red wine rather than white wine. Both recipes taste great. But deciding on which recipe to use will depend on what kind of wine I have on hand. Serve this with some crusty Italian bread or your favorite pasta to complete the meal.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
2 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning
2 tsp. black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 (3-4 lb.) chicken, cut into pieces, rinsed and dried
3 Tbsp. olive oil
10 ounces mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes in juice
4 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade for serving

1) In a shallow dish, combine flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Season chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Working in batches, dredge chicken in the flour mixture. Turn to coat and shake off excess flour.

2) In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Brown chicken in the pan, a few pieces at a time to avoid overcrowding. Cook chicken for 5 minutes on each side. Remove and transfer chicken to a plate and brown remaining chicken.

3) In the same pan, add mushrooms, onion, red bell pepper and garlic and saute just until tender. Add wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add broth, tomatoes, and oregano. Return the chicken to the sauce and turn them to coat in the sauce. Add thyme and bring mixture to a simmer. Then lower heat to medium low and cover. Continue simmering for 40 minutes or until tender. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh basil and serve with pasta or crusty Italian bread.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

I recently learned from the Brown Eyed Baker that there is a cookbook out there totally dedicated to my love of all things cookie dough, The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook. I. Must. Get. This. Cookbook. After learning of said cookbook, I have been craving for some cookie dough treats. I have saved up this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies I found from, again, the Brown Eyed Baker, for emergency situations like this. Cookie dough and brownies. Genius.

Brownie
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate chips
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

1) Preheat oven to 325 deg F. Line a 9x13 pan with foil with enough to hang over all four sides. Butter foil and set aside.

2) In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate in microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each increment, until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

3) In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in melted chocolate until well combined. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour. Mix just until combined (do not over-mix).

4) Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, until toothpick test comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Cookie Dough Spread
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1) In a medium bowl, cream butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla and beat until combined.

2) Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour. Mix just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in chocolate chips.

3) Evenly spread cookie dough over cooled brownie. Refrigerate until cookie dough is firm, about an hour. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the brownies. Store brownies in an airtight container at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chocolate Frosting

It's my brother's birthday today. The other day when I was picking up my daughter from my parents' house after work, I guess my brother was hinting to my daughter by asking her what cupcake she would make for his birthday (because everyone knows that my she always bakes with me). I guess he wants us to make him some cupcakes. So she asked him what kind of cupcake he wanted and he said to surprise her. On our way home that afternoon, I asked my daughter what kind of cupcake she wanted to make for her Ninong, and she said chocolate. Perfect! I have been wanting to try out this new recipe for a basic Chocolate Frosting from Annie's Eats. And keeping with the tradition of making chocolate cake for my brother on his birthdays, it was perfect timing.

I used my go-to Chocolate Cake recipe to pair with this frosting and I think this combination fared better than the frosting I normally make with the chocolate cake. It was creamier and more indulgent. I think I'll be using this frosting more often.

9.5 oz chocolate chips (bittersweet, semi-sweet, or milk chocolate chips)
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
pinch of sat
2/3 cup sour cream

1) Melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over pot of simmering water (double boiler). Set aside to cool until just barely warm.

2) In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter over medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Gradually add in confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Beat in melted and cooled chocolate and then sour cream. Continue beating until mixture is smooth and well blended. Frost cupcakes immediately before chocolate hardens and frosting sets.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Baked Korean (Fried) Chicken

As promised, I finally tackled the task of making my favorite Korean Fried Chicken. However, this recipe isn't technically fried. I used my recipe for Baked Crispy Chicken Wings instead of double frying the chicken to obtain the extra crunchy texture I love about Korean Fried Chicken, but a little healthier. And I used the Roasted Garlic Soy Glaze recipe I found from Food Republic as the glaze for the chicken. The result is this crunchy, garlicky, finger-lickin' goodness. This recipe uses a ton of garlic. So if you don't like garlic, or are worried about kissing someone after this meal, this isn't for you. But if you really want to ward off some vampires and love Korean Fried Chicken, you have to give this a try. This makes a lot of sauce, so you can use whatever you need for your chicken and save the rest in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for use whenever you want to feed your Korean Fried Chicken craving.

prepared Baked Crispy Chicken wings, keep warm
1 cup pureed roasted garlic (see note below)
3/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup soy sauce
2 cups chicken broth
toasted sesame seeds for garnish

1) Dissolve sugar in white wine. Pour wine mixture, soy sauce and chicken broth in a medium saucepan. Whisk in pureed roasted garlic. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Once it begins to simmer, lower heat to medium-low. Continue simmering until the sauce has reduced to about half and has thickened a bit, about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

2)  Take about 1/4 cup of the sauce and toss with the prepared chicken wings to coat. Let sit for about 2 minutes for the chicken to absorb the sauce. Sprinkle sesame seeds for garnish and serve immediately. Store remaining sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

**Note: To make roasted garlic, cut off about a quarter of the top of the bulb of garlic. Drizzle oil on exposed garlic cloves and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Wrap garlic bulb loosely in foil and roast in the oven, preheated at 400 deg F, for 20-30 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then squeeze the cloves out of its casings. 


This recipe requires about 10-12 bulbs of garlic. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Snickerdoodle

"I'm Debbie Dooley. How ya doooen?"

If you're like me and my daughter, you'll know that that line came from the Disney show,  Good Luck Charlie.  My daughter will even recite that whole scene to a T for you. That line came out of an episode where the mom, Amy Duncan, was imitating her neighbor, Debbie Dooley, while making Snickerdoodles. My daughter and I (and secretly, so does hubby) love that show. But I don't think I've ever had a snickerdoodle before.

On our way home from a trip to Palm Springs this weekend, my daughter asked if we could bake cookies. First she asked for Chocolate Chip Cookies, then she asked for sugar cookies. But I kind of wanted to try out a new cookie recipe. So I agreed with sugar cookies. With a twist. Why not make a Snickerdoodle like Debbie Dooley did?

A quick search to my go-to blogs lead me to this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. Snickerdoodle is a supped-up version of a sugar cookie with a cinnamon flavor. And it is delicious, especially right out of the oven. Its also a great cookie to use for ice cream sandwiches. Soft and chewy, just the way I like my cookies. Mmmmmm!!!!

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. sugar

1) Line baking sheets with parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator.

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

3) Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add in the flour mixture, beating on low speed just until the flour is blended. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

4) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.

5) Using a small ice cream/cookie scoop, scoop chilled dough and roll in the cinnamon/sugar mixture to coat. Place on cookie sheet, spacing the dough balls about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes. (Chill cookie dough and baking sheets between batches). Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer on a cooling rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tangerine Beef Stir Fry


I'll just get right to the point. This dish was so awesome and so flavorful. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised how well this dish came out because it came out of Spark Recipes, which means diet food, which means bland, right? No way! This was soooo good! Who knew that Asian food would taste this good using only a few ingredients? It literally only took a few ingredients and you can use practically any vegetable to stir-fry with. And the end product is this orangey-delicious dish that tastes just as good as any other take-out Chinese food.

2-3 tangerines
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 lb beef, cut into thin strips
5 Tbsp. oil
1 medium bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. grated ginger

1) Zest 1 tangerine and set aside. Juice tangerine to equal 1/2 cup of juice. Stir in sherry/wine and hoisin sauce and set aside. Place beef strips in a medium bowl. Add soy sauce and sprinkle cornstarch. Massage the meat so the that it is well coated with the soy sauce and cornstarch. Set aside.

2) Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, ginger, and orange zest. Cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are tender-crisp. Transfer to a large bowl.

3) Heat an additional 2 tablespoon to the skillet. Add half of the beef and stir fry until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables. Repeat with the remaining beef.

4) Add juice mixture to the skillet and cook until boiling, about 1 minute. Return vegetables and beef to the skillet and continue cooking until heated through. Serve with steamed rice.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Juicy Lucy Burger

Happy Memorial Day! Let's not forget those who have lost their lives for this great country of ours. But did you know that its also National Hamburger Day? I didn't either. It just happened to pop up on my Facebook page from Betty Crocker (yeah, I'm fan of Betty Crocker on Facebook. Wut of it?). I had planned on making burgers today anyway. But what a great reason to make them.

I was looking for hamburger ideas to make for this weekend from What's Cookin' Chicago? and found this recipe for a Juicy Lucy. I've heard of a stuffed burger being called a Juicy Lucy before on the Food Network. I haven't made my Stuffed Burger in a while. And even then, I used ready-made hamburger patties. I've always wanted to make the burgers from scratch. So this recipe was perfect. This burger was dangerously delicious. Nice and juicy, with a surprise in the center. I've definitely found a new way to make stuffed burgers. So in honor of Memorial Day and National Hamburger Day, I now introduce you to the Juicy Lucy!

1 lb. ground beef (the more fat, the better)
1 large egg
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 cup shredded cheese
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Hamburger buns
sliced red onions
lettuce
sliced tomatoes

1) In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, and all the seasonings. Mix well using your hands to thoroughly combine. Divide and shape into 4 patties. Set aside.

2) Take one patty and create a large well in the center. Fill the well with about 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese. Top with 1/4 Tbsp. of the butter. Fold the meat over the cheese to completely cover the cheese. Re-shape into a patty. Repeat with the other patties.

3) Grill burgers to desired doneness. Try not to work the meat too much. Don't worry, some cheese may leak out. Place on hamburger buns and top with your favorite toppings.