Monday, November 17, 2014

Pecan Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

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

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

4) Pour filling into prepared pan.

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

Crockpot Copycat Chipotle Barbacoa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 20, 2014


I was reading up on the news on Yahoo one day and came across this recipe for Panzanella. I've always seen Panzanella being made on cooking shows or featured in a restaurant on TV, but I've never had it. I always loved the croutons in my salads, so I imagined it was like eating a bowl full of croutons.  So I decided to give it a try. Let me tell you that its even better than eating a bowl full of croutons. Its fresh and light and tangy and so full of flavor. Hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed it that we ate huge bowl fulls of it as a main course. This is my new favorite salad.

Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 anchovies, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1) Combine all the ingredients, except olive oil, in a bowl. Allow to sit for 15 minutes for the flavors to infuse.

2) While whisking, slowly add olive oil in a steady stream until fully incorporated. Set aside.

1 loaf of day-old french bread, torn in large pieces
2 lbs. tomato, large diced
1/2 cup red onion (or any sweet onion), sliced thin
2 medium cucumbers, large diced
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn in large pieces

1) To assemble the salad, place all salad ingredients in the a large bowl. Pour vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Allow to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes for the flavors to meld. Or if you like your bread to have a bite, you can eat the salad right away.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Zucchini & Corn Fritters with Cilantro Sour Cream

I just love fresh corn on the cob, but I've always wanted to make something else out of them. Enter Pinterest. I've been seeing quite a few recipes on corn and zucchini fritters like this one from Girl versus Dough and I thought it would be a great way to sneak in some veggies for the kiddos. I made a go at it and also made some dipping sauce to go with it. Score! The little one loved it. The older one, not so much. But mommy thought it was so yummy. This recipe makes quite a few patties, so I decided freeze a few to eat later whenever I need a corn fix. Such a yummy way to use up corn and zucchini.

1/4 cup oil
4 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup corn kernels
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

1) In a large bowl, combine eggs, salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Add zucchini and corn and combine thoroughly. Add the flour and stir thoroughly until there are no pockets of flour in the dough.

2) Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a pan over medium-high heat. Using an ice cream scoop filled about 1/4 full, pour batter into oil and cook on both sides until golden brown. Place cooked fritters on a paper towel to drain the oil. Serve warm with cilantro sour cream.

Cilantro Sour Cream
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
salt & pepper to taste

1) Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend thoroughly. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Zucchini Bread

For the past month or so, I had been seeing a lot of zucchini recipes on Pinterest. I guess because it was zucchini season. It sounded weird to me that zucchini was a main ingredient for something sweet. I always thought it to be used in a savory dish. So I wasn't too interested in any of the different versions of zucchini bread that popped up all over Pinterest. Don't get me wrong. I absolutely LOVE zucchini. Just not in a sweet form.

Well one day, an old co-worker brought in some freshly baked banana and zucchini breads for her last day in our office. She suggested I try the zucchini bread. I hesitated a bit, but I went for it. Let's just say that I went back for thirds and fourths. It was delicious. Not too sweet and you don't even taste the zucchini! It was just like eating a spice cake. And since I had been seeing a lot of zucchini bread recipes lately, like this one from Oh My! Sugar High, I decided to give it a go. I wanted to make this for my family, especially for my girls, to try out. Its a great way to sneak in some of their veggies. And they LOVED it. In fact, my older daughter has asked me to make more. I also gave some for my folks and they also loved it. This will definitely be made frequently at home. Serve it warm with some butter, or at room temperature. Yum!

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cup sugar
3 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (with some of the liquid squeezed out)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1) Preheat oven at 350 deg F. Grease and flour 2 8-inch or 9-inch loaf pan and set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if using). Set aside.

3) In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients and beat until well combined. Batter will be thick.

4) Fold in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour in prepared loaf pans and bake for 40-60 minutes, until toothpick test comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes. Then cool completely in a wire rack.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bacon Ranch Pinwheels

We're getting a new employee at the office tomorrow, and to welcome him, the boss wanted to have some refreshments set up for his welcome. I was more than happy to bring something in. But what? For the 10 months I've been in this new office of mine, I've come to learn that my co-workers are not huge fans of sweets. Bummer. Its my favorite thing to make. So I guess I just have to be more creative with the goodies I bring in.

One of the supervisors is bringing donuts. I think there will probably be enough sweets there as it is, so I decided to bring something savory. I remember eating this yummy appetizer my sister-in-law made one New Year's day celebration and thought it would be a perfect thing to bring at the office. A quick text to her lead me to a search on Pinterest and found this recipe for  Chicken Bacon Ranch Pinwheels from In the Kitchen where I Belong. I wanted to keep it simple, so I omitted the chicken, but will definitely add it in the future. I think they'll like these at the office. Thanks for the idea, Deby!

2 tubes refrigerated crescent rolls
ranch dressing
1/4 cup diced onions
10 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
shredded cheese

1) Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets and set aside.

2) Unroll each tube of crescent rolls. Pinch the creases together to seal and make a rectangular dough. Spread a few tablespoons of ranch dressing on each dough. Top with with equal amounts of diced onions, then bacon, and shredded cheese.

3) Roll the dough (from the long side) tightly and cut equal amounts of slices (I was able to get about 12 slices per dough). Place pinwheels on prepared cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about a minute. Serve warm.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

S'mores Pudding Pops

Guess what I found out today was......its S'mores day! Happy S'mores day everyone! I guess they make an occasion out of everything. But what a delicious way to celebrate an occasion. Funny thing is, without knowing what today is, I somehow chose today to experiment on this recipe. Well, its not really a recipe. I just threw stuff together to make a frozen treat out of my older daughter's favorite dessert - S'mores. And it came out yummy. It was such a huge hit with my girls, that I'm almost out of it. Luckily, I managed to wrestle some away from them to take a quick picture for this blog.

prepared boxed or chocolate pudding
crushed graham crackers
mini marshmallows

1) Using popsicle molds or small paper cups, place a small amount of graham cracker crumbs at the bottom of your mold. Place a few marshmallows on top of the graham crackers. Pour or spoon a small amount of pudding on top of the marshmallows. Gently tap the mold to ensure the pudding coats the marshmallows. Doing so will ensure the popsicle will freeze in one piece. Repeat layering.

2) Top the chocolate pudding with some more graham crackers. Place the popsicle stick and freeze overnight.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Copycat Coco Puffs

If you don't know, you better ask somebody.

A few years ago, I posted about our first visit to the Liliha Bakery in Hawaii and our first time having their famous Coco Puffs. I had heard about them from an episode of Hawaii Five-0 and decided that we had to visit the bakery when we went back to Hawaii. From then on, we always make it a point to visit Liliha Bakery for their puffs every time we're on the island. Well, its been a couple of years since we've been back and I hella miss my coco puffs. What to do, what to do....

Recently, hubby's cousin in Hawaii posted a picture of some coco puffs she had made on Facebook. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking to myself that one day I would try making them. Well folks, THE TIME IS NOW. So I did a search on Pinterest and found this recipe from Just Jenn Recipes. Coco puffs are these little pillows of pastry (Choux pastry) filled with chocolate pudding and topped with a sweet Chantilly frosting. I decided to modify my vanilla pudding recipe and came up with my own Chocolate Pudding to fill the pastry with. The outcome was almost as good as coco puffs. It was a huge hit with hubby. In fact, he's asking me to make more! These, by no means, will ever replace the original. But its pretty damn close.

If you don't know about these yummy pastry treats, you better ask somebody how good they taste. Or better yet, go to Hawaii and visit them yourself. Or even better is to try making them yourself like I did.

prepared chocolate pudding (homemade or boxed instant pudding mix)

Choux  pastry
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs

1) In a medium pot over high heat, bring water, milk, butter and salt to a boil.

2) Carefully add flour in the pot and stir. Continue stirring until the dough begins to pull away from the sides. Cook for another minute or so to cook the flour out. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Line 2 cookie sheets with silpat or wax paper.

3) Place dough in a bowl of an electric mixer. On low speed, add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Do not over beat.

4) Using a small cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared cookie sheet, spacing them enough to fit 12 puffs in a tray. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lower the heat to 350 deg F and allow to bake for another 10  minutes. Turn the heat off and keep the puffs in the oven for another 10 minutes for them to dry out. Remove from the oven and cool completely in a wire rack.

5) Once cooled, poke a small hole on top of the puff and fill them with prepared pudding, using a piping bag or a sandwich bag.

Chantilly frosting 
1 (12 oz can) evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
pinch of salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1)  In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium low heat. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Refrigerate until mixture turns into piping consistency for a few hours, or place in freezer to cool faster.

2) Pipe or spoon frosting on top of prepared puffs. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Pudding

There's a new recipe that I'm going to be testing in a while which requires chocolate pudding. Rather than using the boxed pudding mix that the recipe calls for, and being the do-it-yourself er that I am, I decided to modify my original Vanilla pudding recipe and make my own chocolate pudding. There's nothing better than homemade chocolate pudding. You can totally taste the difference between the boxed stuff and homemade. Yum!

3/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups milk
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract 

1) In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cocoa powder. Whisk in cream, milk and egg yolks. Whisk thoroughly to dissolve the cocoa powder (it may take a while). Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes, or until mixture has thickened.

2) Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract. Strain through a sieve to remove any lumps. Place plastic wrap directly on the pudding to prevent a film from forming. Refrigerate.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rosemary Watermelon Lemonade

When I made my Cucumber Mint Lemonade and shared it with my parents, my sister asked me to try to make Rosemary Watermelon Lemonade. It also comes from the Lemonade cafe that I've been hearing a lot about. I gave it a shot and this is what I came up with. Another perfect and refreshing drink for this summer.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 cups peeled and cubed watermelon
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
8 cups water

1) Make simple syrup by combining sugar , 2 cups of water and fresh rosemary in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Allow to simmer until sugar is completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool completely. Once cooled, remove sprigs of rosemary. Set aside.

2) In a blender, add watermelon and 1 1/2 cups of the simple syrup. Puree until smooth.

3) In a large pitcher, add lemon juice. Pour the watermelon mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the pitcher to remove most of the pulp. Add the remaining 8 cups of water. Add more of the simple syrup if you like it sweeter. Chill before serving.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cucumber Mint Lemonade with Chia seeds

I've been seeing a lot of posts on social media lately about this place called Lemonade. They serve interesting types of salads, sides, sandwiches, desserts, and you guessed it, lemonade. I've never been to any of their locations, but I have managed to get a glimpse of their menu online. Being that its summer and very hot, what caught my attention was their cucumber mint lemonade. I thought to myself "that sounds really refreshing." I'm sure I can find a way to make it if I looked on Pinterest. Sure enough, I found this recipe on Pinterest from The Domestic Geek. I asked my parents for some lemons from their tree in exchange for some of this yummy lemonade, and they were pretty eager to give me some. The end result was this delicious and refreshing beverage, perfect for the summer. Hubby really liked this. He said it tastes like a mojito without the alcohol. I obviously modified the original recipe by adding the chia seeds, which I hear is super healthy for you. But if you can't find chia seeds or prefer not to have it in the drink, you can definitely omit it altogether. I happened to like the texture in my drink and it reminded me of the pineapple agua fresca I had not too long ago that contained chia seeds. I had never had chia seeds before, but I think I may have found a new favorite.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
handful of fresh mint leaves
8 cups water
1 Tbsp. chia seeds

1) Make simple syrup by combining sugar and 2 cups of water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Allow to simmer until sugar is completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool completely.

2) In a blender, add cucumber, mint leaves, and 1 1/2 cups of the simple syrup. Puree until smooth.

3) In a large pitcher, add lemon juice. Pour about 3/4 of the cucumber mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the pitcher to remove most of the pulp. Pour the remaining 1/4 of the cucumber mixer directly into the pitcher. Stir. Add the remaining 8 cups water. Add more of the simple syrup if you like it sweeter.

4) Stir in chia seeds. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to allow the chia seeds to expand. Serve cold.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs

Summertime is for grilling.

I was surfing the net one day (Do they even still use that term? "Surf the net?") and an article came up with this recipe from Once Upon a Chef. I'm always up for trying a great new recipe and I love, love, love kebabs. So I decided to dust off the cobwebs off my grill and give this recipe a try. And boy were these kebabs delicious. It tastes exactly like the kebabs I buy at many of the local Mediterranean/Armenian restaurants in our area. I normally eat kebabs with my homemade Tzatziki sauce, but these kebabs do not need any accompaniment because they are so good and so flavorful all by themselves. I did, however, serve it with my new found favorite Basmati Rice Pilaf and my Mediterranean meal was complete.

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (less if you don't like it spicy)
zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of any fat and cut into large pieces)
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
oil for greasing the grill
bamboo skewers, soaked in water for about an hour

1) In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, olive oil, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, zest and juice of lemon, salt black pepper and garlic. Stir until thoroughly combined.

2) Thread chicken pieces onto the skewers, alternating occasionally with the red onion pieces. Be sure not to cram the skewers. Place the kebabs on a tray lined with aluminum foil. Brush or spoon the marinade all over the meat and onions coating well. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

3) Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grease the grill by dipping some paper towel in oil and wiping down the grill with it. Grill chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes on each side. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with rice and/or tzatziki sauce.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Basmati Rice Pilaf

This Basmati Rice Pilaf from Once upon a Chef perfectly pairs with your favorite kebab. The raisins or dried fruit really compliments the overall flavor of the rice. I'm definitely going to make this my staple rice pilaf whenever I make kebabs.

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup dried fruit, such as raisins, currant, or finely chopped apricots

1) Place rice in a medium bowl and fill it with enough water to cover the rice by 2 inches. Wash and rinse the rice about 4-5 times until the water runs almost clear. Use a fine mesh strainer to drain the water from the rice. Set aside.

2) Melt butter in a pot or skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring regularly until softened, but not browned, about 4 minutes.

3) Add cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic. Cook unit fragrant, about 30 seconds or so. Add rice to the pot and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes.

4) Add water, salt and pepper and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle dried fruit. Do not stir. Place lid loosely over the pot and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Caldo de Res (Mexican Beef Soup)

Its summer. Its hot. But what do I do? I make soup! I've had a hankering for some soup lately and I don't really know why. And I've been so eager to try a Mexican beef soup called Caldo de Res that I often see in Mexican menus. So when I recently visited the local Latin market, I came across a packet of ingredients they use for Caldo de Res and decided to try my hand at making this popular Mexican comfort food.

Off I went to research a good recipe online and came across this one from All Recipes and it couldn't be easier. I basically threw everything in the pot and allow to simmer until the meat and all its yummy veggies are tender. The flavor is reminiscent of the Albondigas I used to make (which reminds me, I haven't made Albondigas in a while), so it was quite yummy and comforting. It would definitely be the perfect comfort food to eat on a cold day. Or when you're sick. Or when you're craving it in the summer like me.

2 lbs. beef shank with bones
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (14.5 oz can) diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth (or chicken broth)
4 cups water
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 medium potato, quartered
2 ears of corn, cut into thirds
2 chayotes, quartered
1 small head of cabbage, cored and cut into wedges

1) Remove some meat from the bones and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, leaving some of the meat on the bones.

2) Heat oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat, making sure the bottom of the pan is completely covered with the oil. Season the meat and bones with salt and pepper. Add meat to the pan and cook until meat has thoroughly browned.

3) Add onions and continue cooking until onions begin to brown. Stir in tomatoes and broth. The liquid should cover the bones by about 1/2 an inch. If not, add enough water to compensate. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour with the lid on loosely. If meat is not tender, continue cooking for another 10-20 minutes.

4) Pour in the 4 cups water and return to a simmer. Add the carrots and cilantro and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in potato, corn and chayote. Simmer until all vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Push the cabbage wedges into the soup and cook for another 10 minutes.  Serve in large bowls garnished with more cilantro, lime wedge, and chopped onions.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oatmeal

I don't know about you, but I'm kind of tired of eating plain old oatmeal or plain cereal for breakfast. I try to eat a healthy breakfast but I'm just so tired of the bland taste. I think that's the reason why people tend to eat yummy, unhealthy food because healthy always equals no taste. Not so with this new oatmeal recipe I found. I came across this recipe from Creme de la Crumb on Pinterest. I've been seeing a lot of posts about overnight oatmeal lately. Its quite an interesting spin on regular, goopy oatmeal. Its eaten cold. Which isn't so bad, since its now summer and no one wants to eat hot oatmeal in the heat of summer. And its a great grab-and-go meal to take with you when you're in a rush in the morning. No need to cook it and wait to cool before you can pack it up and eat at your desk at the office. It sits in the fridge overnight in a container, then just grab it and go out the door. Its so convenient. And tastes quite yummy. I think I've found another way to eat my oatmeal.

1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
6 oz blueberry Greek yogurt
1-2 drops vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. dry vanilla pudding mix
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (to taste)
1/3 cup flake cereal
fresh blueberries (for garnish)

1) In a mason jar or other sealable container, combine oats, almond milk, yogurt, vanilla extract, pudding mix, and cinnamon. Stir until well combined. Top with cereal and blueberries. Cover and refrigerate overnight or 2 nights. Eat cold.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Spicy Thai Basil Chicken (or Turkey)

My friend/supervisor took a couple of us out to lunch a few weeks ago to a local Thai restaurant. I couldn't really decided what to order. I normally order my staples: Pad Thai, or fried rice, or Pad See Ewe, or Rad Na, or Satay or Thai BBQ. However, I figured since she was treating, I decided to go out of my comfort zone and order something different. My co-workers frequented this particular restaurant and they suggested I try their lunch special Spicy Thai Basil Chicken. It seemed everyone had the same idea of what to order because the waiter took down 3 lunch special orders of Spicy Thai Basil Chicken in different levels of spiciness. I ordered mine in a medium heat and I totally devoured my plate. I was able to save a few bites to take back to the office to eat for lunch the next day. But boy was it so flavorful. I vowed to my co workers that I was going to find them a good copycat recipe. So off I went that evening in search of the perfect Spicy Thai Basil Chicken and this is what I found from SippitySup via Pinterest.

Keep in mind that there are different species of basil, and this recipe is specific to Thai Basil, which can be found in many Asian markets or your local Farmer's Market. However, if you can't find Thai basil, you can always use regular basil and combine it with some mint leaves, which the original recipe suggests. Whatever you have on hand, make this now. You won't regret it.

3 Tbsp. oil for frying
15 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 small onion, sliced
1 lb. ground chicken or turkey (or you can chop up 1 lb. chicken into bite size pieces)
4 Thai chilies, sliced thin (more if you like it spicy)
juice of 1 lime
3 tsp. black sweet soy sauce (or 3 tsp regular soy sauce + 1 Tbsp. brown sugar)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 cups fresh Thai basil

1) Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add onions and garlic and stir frequently to prevent from burning.

2) Add chicken (or turkey) and stir fry for about 2 minutes until it just begins to change color. Stir in chilies, lime juice and soy sauce. Stir fry for another minute. Season with the fish sauce. Continue to stir fry until the meat has cooked through.

3) Stir in the basil and continue to stir fry for another minute until the basil is wilted. Place on a serving platter and garnish with additional slices of chilies, fish sauce to taste, and lime wedges. Serve with steamed white rice.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Homemade Fruit Rollups

My 13 month old daughter has been having constipation problems lately. I know, TMI for this food blog, right? Well, we've been trying everything to help ease her pain. Lots of water, lots of prune juice, and lots of fruit. I've bought all kinds of fruits that are in season to help kick up her fiber intake. With those fruits, I've tried making different combinations of smoothies and purees. But then I came across this recipe for a 2-ingredient homemade Fruit Roll-up from Raining Hot Coupons via Pinterest that I thought would be another great way to get her to eat more of the fruits. Its literally only 2 ingredients. If your fruits are sweet enough and you omit the sugar, its only 1 ingredient. You can use any fruits and any type of combinations of fruits you have on hand. I just happen to have a lot of strawberries to use up. And it really is like a fruit roll-up. My older daughter enjoyed it a little more than my 13 month old. I guess its a textural thing. Besides, she doesn't have that many teeth to chew with anyway.

3 cups of fruit
sugar (optional or to taste)

1) Pre heat oven to 170 deg F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap, making sure you have enough overhang.

2) Puree the fruit and sugar (if using) until you reach a smooth consistency.

3) Pour on a prepared cookie sheet about 1/8" thick. Bake for 6-8 hours until the center is no longer tacky.

4) Lift plastic wrap out of the cookie sheet and allow to cool. Once cooled, flip over on top of parchment paper or wax paper. Peel off plastic wrap. Cut into strips and roll. Store in a ziploc bag or an airtight container for about a week.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pioneer Woman's Spaghetti Sauce

Everyone who knows me in real life knows I love anything that's related to spaghetti. In fact, I've made a whole bunch of spaghetti recipes on this blog, some of them sauces, that I like to make large batches of that I freeze as a make-ahead meal. Just freeze the portioned sauce and thaw it in the microwave for a quick, homemade meal. I even like to bottle some of the sauces and give them to my brother and co workers. From Pasta Bolognese, to Tomato Basil Marinara  Sauce, to Spaghetti al Amatriciana. I love all my spaghetti recipes. Despite all the spaghetti recipes I have on here, though, I actually don't have a spaghetti sauce recipe. What a shame. My mother-in-law actually makes a kick a$$ spaghetti sauce, but she hasn't quite given me the recipe for it yet. So I decided to do a search on Pinterest for my own spaghetti sauce recipe and this one from The Pioneer Woman (one of my faves) has come up quite frequently on Pinterest. This sauce is quite comparable to mother-in-law's. It makes a huge batch of meaty goodness. Perfect to freeze as a make-ahead-meal.

5 lbs. ground beef
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (14 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 jar of store-bought marinara sauce (I used my marinara sauce)
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
8 basil leaves, chopped (or more if you like basil)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, more for garnish

1) In a large pot over medium heat, add ground beef and cook until browned. Remove meat from the pot and set aside. Discard grease and add olive oil. 

2) Once oil is heated, add onions and cook for about a minute. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute or so.

3) Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and marinara sauce. Stir to combine. Then add sugar, salt, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper (if using), and bay leaves. Stir in cooked ground beef. Cover and allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add water or beef broth if it needs more liquid.

4) After 1 hour, stir in parsley, basil and Parmesan cheese. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Serve over your favorite pasta or spaghetti. Freeze unused sauce for up to 6 months.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cookie Dough Dip

I love anything that has to do with cookie dough. Whether it be cookie dough it its raw form whenever I make my Big Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies. Or my Cookie Dough brownies. Or my Cookie Dough cupcakes. Or my Cookie Dough truffles. I just love cookie dough. So when I found this Cookie Dough Dip recipe from Love and Prayer via Pinterest, I knew I had to add it to my collection of cookie dough recipes.

I decided to make this for a pre Mother's Day lunch with hubby's side of the family last month and it came out really good. I served it a few neutral flavored cookies and crackers like Vanilla wafer cookies, Graham crackers, and honey wheat pretzels. I loved it most with the pretzels. So yummy.

1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8 oz) block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
3/4 cup semi sweet mini chocolate chips

1) Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture starts to bubble. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, whisk in vanilla extract.

2) In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and confectioner's sugar. Slowly add cooled brown sugar mixture. Mix until combined.

3) Fold in chocolate chips. Refrigerate for an hour before serving. Serve with vanilla wafer cookies, graham crackers, or pretzels.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Kimchi Fried Rice with Portuguese Sausage

I had my first taste of Kimchi fried rice during a recent visit to Hawaii. Hubby's cousins took us to dinner at Side Street Inn in Waikiki. I never really liked Kimchi because I just couldn't get past the strong fermented smell of cabbage. But I was on the islands and it seemed to be in a lot of the menus we ordered from. And of course, the cousins ordered it for the table, so I gave it a taste. Man-oh-man was I missing out. Yes, it did have that pungent smell. But boy did it taste ono.

I started seeing posts on Facebook of people making Kimchi fried rice and decided to recreate that yummy dish I had in Hawaii. Kimchi Fried Rice, also known as Kimchi Bokkeumbap, is just the way its sounds. Fried rice made with Kimchi. I did a search on Pinterest and came upon this recipe from Notions and Notations from a Novice Cook. It called for shrimps, but in order to make it Hawaiian style, I replaced them with Portuguese sausage, which I bought at a Japanese supermarket that sold Hawaiian items. You can also use canned luncheon meat like Spam or Polska Kielbasa or Louisiana Hot links for that extra spice. The rice came out just like I remembered. So yummy and flavorful. This has been somewhat of a staple at home for hubby and me (my daughter can't take the spice yet).

3-4 cups cold, day-old white rice
1/2 - 1 cup cubed Portuguese sausage (or Spam, Kielbasa, or hot links)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 - 1 1/2 cups kimchi, chopped (juice reserved)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil for cooking
salt & pepper to taste
fried egg for garnish

1) Heat sesame oil in a large pan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add sausage and kimchi and saute for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.

2) Add soy sauce, fish sauce, and lime juice and continue to stir.

3) Add rice, making sure to break up as much of the large pieces as possible and stirring constantly to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Add kimchi juice, one tablespoon at a time, if the rice is too dry.

4) Stir in green onions and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and place in a serving platter, topped with fried egg for garnish.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lemon Blueberry Bread

I know I've somewhat neglected this blog for a while. Having a six year old with tons of activities at school and a 1 year old needing attention will make me do that. I'm not complaining though. I'm so blessed and thankful to have healthy children and a busy household. But now that I have another daughter to look out for, I really needed to get back to my food blogging so both my children can benefit from this. I want to start creating memories with her in the kitchen like I did with my 6 year old. I can't wait to have both my girls with me in the kitchen. Its what I've always dreamed of.

I had been craving something lemony to make one day. But I had a huge batch of blueberries that I bought from Costco that needed to be used up. So in search of a great recipe, once again, turned to my favorite Pinterest and found this recipe from Notes from the Heartland.

This had just the right amount of tartness I was looking for and not overly sweet. I brought this to work and my co-workers really enjoyed it. Its a great way to use up those blueberries.

1 1/2 cup, plus 1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.

2) Sift dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients together. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir to combine.

3) Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour with the blueberries, being careful not to crush the blueberries. Gently fold blueberries into batter just until combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick test comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then remove from pan.

Lemon syrup
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

1) Dissolve sugar and lemon juice in a small pan over medium heat. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

2) Remove from heat. Place blueberry bread on a plate. Poke with a fork or wooden skewer several times. Brush the bread with the lemon syrup.

Lemon glaze
1/2 -  1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1) Stir together powdered sugar and lemon juice until well combined.

2) Pour glaze over blueberry bread.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Arroz a la Cubana

I'm not quite sure if this is an authentic Cuban dish, but I came across this recipe from Skip to Malou when I found her website through Pinterest. It looked really simple and yummy. So when I made it, I was pleasantly surprised. It really was so simple, flavorful, and super yummy. Hubby really enjoyed it. This recipe is definitely going to frequent our household.

2 tbsp. oil
1 lb. ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
3/4 cup frozen green peas & carrots
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
fried plantains
fried egg

1) Heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in ground meat. Add bay leaf. Cook until juices is almost completely dry.

2) Add tomato sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with oyster sauce and soy sauce. Stir in green peas, carrots, bell peppers and raisins (if using). Continue to simmer for another 2 minutes.

3) Serve over steamed rice, topped with fried egg and plantains.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chocolate Pistachio Cupcakes

Its been a while since I've made any new cupcakes. I'm usually making my staple cupcakes of Red Velvet, and Banana cupcakes. But I wanted to replicate a Chocolate Pistachio cupcake I get from my local cupcake shop that I love so much. So I searched my ever-so favorite site, Pinterest, and found this recipe from The Little Kitchen. 

I used my new favorite Chocolate Frosting. However, I feel like this frosting was too rich and it overpowered the Pistachio flavor of the cupcake. The cupcake was delicious. It had just the perfect amount of pistachio flavor. I may play around with the frosting to match the cupcake a little more. Stay tuned....

Pistachio Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sat
3.4-3.5 ounce box of instant Pistachio pudding
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 egg white
1/2 cup milk

1) Preheat oven to 325 deg F. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

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

3) In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add oil and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Add eggs and egg white, one at a time until completely incorporated. Scrape the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

4) Add dry ingredients and incorporate with a rubber spatula until most of the dry ingredients are moistened. Its okay if there is still some unincorporated flour. Add milk and mix on the mixer over low speed for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and continue mixing on low for another 30 seconds until batter is smooth.

5) Fill prepared liners with the batter about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or toothpick test comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

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, January 28, 2014

Cuban Garlic Chicken

A few months ago, I was assigned to a new position at work where I get the chance to work again with an old colleague of mine that I worked with when I first started my career almost 15 years ago. Its great working with an old friend and reminiscing of old times. Since being assigned at this new position, however, all she and I have been talking about was food and exchanging recipes. I introduced her to my blog and she introduced me to this wonderful, flavorful recipe for Cuban Chicken. She lead me to this recipe from the Food Network. Let me just cut down to the chase...........this chicken is probably one of THE BEST things I've made on this blog. Yup, its that's good. And I have thanked my friend a million times for introducing to me this dish that is reminiscent of our days when we would eat at one of our favorite Cuban restaurant - Versailles, and I would have their garlic chicken. This dish was so easy to make, it was ridiculous. And the end result is this burst of flavor in your mouth. You will be just as amazed as I was. It marinades for 2 days. But the first time I made it, I didn't get to cook it until the 3rd day, and it probably made it even more delicious. I cooked half of the batch of chicken, and froze the other half for later use, which came out just as good. I also served this with sweet fried plantains. You can also serve this with black beans to complete your Cuban meal. Make this dish now, and you'll thank me later. Thanks Cossette!!!

1 cup lime juice
2 cups orange juice (preferably fresh squeezed, but store-bought is ok)
1/2 cup lemon juice
12 cloves garlic, crushed then roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. cumin
salt & pepper to taste
3 whole chickens cut up (or 8-10 pieces of chicken thighs)

1) Combine all marinating ingredients together. Place chicken in a deep roasting dish or gallon sized Ziploc bag. Pour marinade over chicken and marinade for 1-2 days in the refrigerator.

2) When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450 deg F. Arrange chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan. Pour marinade over the chicken and place pan on the lower third of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until juices run clear and chicken is cooked through and sauce begins to caramelize. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, baste the chicken with the sauce. Serve with rice, fried plantains and black beans.
(Note: You can also grill the chicken over an open flame until cooked through. Use the sauce to baste the chicken to keep it moist).