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.