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30 September 2012

Pumpkin Ninja Biscuits



Last post of the day! Phew...I actually love when I have tons of things to post and the truth is I wish I could post daily. Maybe, just maybe soon...I will master my schedule and not always feel so overwhelmed. Not really quite sure how I lived without the hubby with me in College Station, because I barely have time to take care of Ninja :( My poor baby is so mommy deprived. I owe him big time and some major loving! He's starting to have some resistance to my working- and if you are my facebook friend- you would have heard that Ninja now has a cute little routine to attract my attention and convince me that school work is not as cool as him. My conclusion? He has a winning argument!

And what post day is complete without something related to Ninja?! So, although I have not even close, baked everything...I wanted to bake something that Ninja could enjoy. The poor thing, always waits at the edge of the kitchen as I bake and cook, just waiting for me to drop something or hoping that I will give him a treat. And I always feel so bad, becuase he does not get much (or any) of my attention while I bake and then when I'm done he does not get to enjoy anything I make. So I decided to make puppy frozen yogurt (to be posted later) for those hot, after dog park days and these pumpkin biscuits.

Pumpkin is quite soothing for puppy tummies, especially when they are constipated. So I thought- these would be nice to make for Ninja- and hopefully he will enjoy them. Well he did, but he only got one, becuase I did not want him to overload on pumpkin biscuits. Instead of sharing Ninja's enjoyment with words, I thought pictures could make this post :)









PUMPKIN NINJA BISCUITS
Adapted from Simmer Till Done

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 350F degrees

1/2 c. canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1/4 c. honey
2 tbsp. peanut butter
2 1/2 c. wheat flour

Combine pumpkin, eggs , honey and peanut butter. Mix well. Slowly add in wheat flour. If dough is too soft, add more flour. If dough appears to "hard" knead further. On a floured sufrace roll out dough (re-rolling scraps as you go)- to about 1/4'' thick. If you prefer thicker biscuits or thinner, just adjust thickness of dough. Using cookie cutter, punch shapes out of dough. Simmer Till Done suggested using a fork to create a decorative pattern- which I chose to do. So you might want to think of doing that as well- just use a fork and press down half way through the biscuit. Place cookies on a baking tray (do not grease baking pan)- instead I just lined pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes.

Enjoy (or let your dog enjoy),
Chika

Creme Brulee Bars (Neiman Marcus Bars)



This post is inspired by a present the hubby got me. He bought me a Crème Brûlée set including a torch! How cool! I definitely need to add that to the lsit of things I need to make. Ironically he got me these, while I had already started making these bars. But I just thought it was a nice coincidence! The truth is that these did not start off in my mind as "Crème Brûlée Bars," instead they were meant to be Neiman Marcus Bars- though they did not turn out anything like the what they were meant to be.

Though the product was something cooler, something delicious and similar to Crème Brûlée. They hubby really liked it and by really liked it...I mean he loved it. In about a day, I'd say he ate about half :) I love when I make things that end up on the hubby's favorite list, because although he eats everything, its hard for him to choose a food that is his "favorite." I on the other hand, only got small taste, becuse the truth is- trying something that does not have chocoate is a hard sell for me. This recipe was pretty easy to prepare, but the cooking time and expectations- were not what I had in mind. So Im not sure if I did something "special" that required a bit of tweaking or I was just meant to create Crème Brûlée Bars ;)

Cooking tip (not really a fact): this might seem obvious, but I'd like to state it nonetheless. Although  many of us purchase non stick bakingware, it is important to grease the pans and trays (I personally use butter). Why, when you have non-stick bakeware? Because although they are meant to be non-stick- that is not truly what you get. If you invest in making a dessert- you want to enjoy it without half of it sticking to the sides. And in order to have that happen- you really want to grease the sides. The result will be easily cut desserts :)






Crème Brûlée Bars 

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 350F degrees

CAKE LAYER
1 1/2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
2 c. of sugar
4 large eggs
2/3 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all purpoes flour
1/4 c. corn starch
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda

CREME BRULEE LAYER
1 (8oz) creme cheese
3 3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 eggs (beatened)

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter and sugar (about 6-8 minutes, until nice and fluffy. Add eggs (make sure they are at room temperature as well)- one at a time, until incorporated. Add sour cream and then vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together, flour, corn starch, salt and baking soda. Then add 1/2 c. of dry mixture to wet mixture, unitl just incorporated (do not over mix). Set Aside.

For topping, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and eggs. Ok, so this is weird, even though this is the "topping" according to the original recipe- and how I baked it- it somehow, migrated to the bottom. So, this is what I am suggesting- grease a 9x13 pan and spread topping even across greased pan. Then pour batter over the "topping." Spread evenly. Place in oven and bake for 60-75 minutes. The original recipe called for 30-35 minutes- but my bars were not cooked at all.

Once cooked (toothpick should come out clean)- allow to cool completely. Then cut in bars. What I had to do thought was flip it once cut, so the bottom was now the top of the bar (hopefully that made some sense) and voila...Crème Brûlée Bars!

Enjoy,
Chika

Dragon Noodles



So, I decided I would finally stop starving the hubby ;) and start cooking. Well I am not one for mentioning blogs that I love (and I'm not really sure why) but I stumbled upon a great blog...Budget Bytes. She has wonderful recipes that are easy to make AND affordable (ding, ding ding...key word for a graduate student!). Plus, there is an emphasis on Asian food, which I am a big fan of and she seems to be a big user of sriracha sauce, and really who isnt? A number of the recipes I planned for this coming week comes from this website, so thank you Budget Bytes :)

What was planned for sunday dinner? Dragon noodles. The name alone intrigues me and the picture made me start drooling. It must be a winner! And it was. Im actually going to text my sister and tell her she and her husband will love this recipe- and my sister is also a fan of easy and delicious recipes. As I've mentioned before, I am really big fan of Asian food- Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Indian...you name it! And I adore noodle dishes. But I've always assumed "Asian" food was hard to make- but what I've learned is that its not too hard- just a different style of cooking. I've gained the confidence to add "Asian" food that I will attempt to tackle in cooking for the hubby :)

Cooking tidbit: adding milk in scrambled eggs. Why? Adding milk in scrambled eggs, although dulling the color a bit- will add a creamy, and fluffy texture to your eggs. This will be enjoyable to eat and look well for presentation.






DRAGON NOODLES
Adapted from Budget Bytes

INGREDIENTS

1 package of Lo Mein Noodles
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. worcester sauce
2 tbsp. sriracha sauce
2 eggs
1 tbsp. milk
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 c. green onion
Cooked, diced chicken
cilantro

DIRECTIONS

Cook lo mein according to package direction (4-6 minutes). Once cooked, run cold water through to cool noodles and prevent from sticking. While noodles are cooking, combine brown sugar, soy sauce, and sriracha sauce to make "sauce" for noodles. Set aside. Then mix two eggs and milk. Heat skillet, slowly melting butter. As butter is melting add in crushed red peppers and green onions. Once butter is melted, add eggs and scramble. Once cooked, reduce heat to low- and add chicken and cooked lo mein noodles. Distribute egg and chicken throughout noodles. Slowly add in sauce and incorporate well. Garnish with cilantro.

Enjoy,
Chika


Magic Bars



I've returned to my pattern of baking on the weekends only, but hopefully not for long. I did some menu planning for "cooking for two" for this coming week- so hopefully I'll have something new to share, a few times a week for the month of October. We shall see- I am a lot more optimistic about the week on weekends than I am when I am actually experiencing the week! Though I have to say- this week has be awfully stressful but on the plus side I feel I have been quite productive. Hopefully after the first week of October- my life will calm down a bit. As for now- I am working on submitting my first grant :) ::SMILE:: and hopefully ::crossing fingers:: it gets funded! I can dream cant I?

So on to FOOD...one of my favorite topics ;) Well- for the longest times, I have been making these delicious bars...and by delicious, I mean hands down one of my favorite desserts, the ONLY thing that I bake, that I eat ALL OF IT! :) I think it deals with my love for condensed milk...actually take that back...I love every part of it. I mean seriously- these are delicious. Though, since I've made them a ton- I've gotten feedback. If you love sweet things, you will very much enjoy this. If your sweet tooth cannot handle too much sweet, you might not be a fan. This is very "rich." Though I have made this many, many times- I oddly have not photographed it (and on that note, these bars are oddly hard to capture) or shared it on my blog, so I thought it was time to whip up a batch, share some with all of you and then shove it in my mouth.

So fun fact- you might wonder what is the difference between condensed milk and evaporated milk? Well both are canned milk products with about 60% of its water removed. Evaporated milk has vitamin D added, is unsweetened and as a very mild carmalized flavor. It is used mostly in things such as custard and dishes where a creamy texture is desired. Evaporated milk on the other hand has sugar added and is mostly used in desserts.






MAGIC BARS
Adapted from Eagle Brand

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 350F Degrees
1 1/2 c. of graham cracker crumbs
1 stick of butter (melted)
1 (14 oz) can of condensed milk
1 c. of chocolate chips
1 c. of butterscotch chips
1 c. of coconut flakes (sweetened)
1/2 c. of chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS

Grease a 8x8 pan. Then mixed graham cracker crumbs and melted butter  with a fork. Combine well until crumbs are coated- then press down to form crust (I usually use the top of a spice bottle). Press firmly. Pour condensed milk on top of crust. Then top with chocolate chips and butterscotch chips (evenly distributing). Finally top with coconut flakes and chopped pecans. Bake for 30 minutes. Once baked, cool completely (I usually then place in the freezer for 15-30 minutes- which helps with cutting into bars).

Enjoy,
Chika

23 September 2012

Mashed Potato Cakes



Last post for the day but hopefully not the last for the month :) Well along with the two desserts, I wanted to bring a side. Really anything I could bake and cook because I finally had people to eat them! As you all know, I am a HUGE Pinterester and as I did my many daily scroll throughs- I saw this recipe for Mashed Potato Cakes. They looked absolutely delicious and what you all may not know about me is that I LOVE mashed potatoes. And they were topped with sour cream, another food/condiment that I love. And I knew that I just had to make these.

I promise to resume my baking facts- when I post again, but until then- Ill replace it with a Ninja story :) Sadly, its not a fun one. Last night after the BBQ the hubby and I came home and to our delight, Ninja was well behaved. See my furry love of my life, has a passion for ripping up throw pillows. Well, last night, he decided to be good. Well whenever he is good- I like to reward him with a treat but when I went to give him his treat- he did not want to eat it! This is rare for Ninja to turn down treats, in fact, the only reason he does not take a treat is because he is sick, and that was exactly how he was feeling :( Ninja had a stomach ache! The hubby and I had a not so fun night of sleep and in the early morning, Beau had to sleep in the other bedroom becuase Ninja finally joined us in the room again (when he is sick, he likes to sleep on his own) and when Ninja joined us, he decided to finally rest where Beau usually sleeps and being the wonderful hubby that I married- Beau did not want to wake up Ninja and so slept in the other room. Isn't that the sweetest!? Finally, Ninja slept! And now I am happy to report- he is feeling better! I have a feeling his tummy ache was as a resutl of his naughty behavior yesterday- ie. he sneakily grabbed a paper towel that I had wiped my hands on while I was baking and decided to chew on it. Naughty, naughty Ninja...






MASHED POTATO CAKES

INGREDIENTS

1 package of instant mashed potatoes (I got garlic, butter flavored) (+ ingredients)
2/3 c. shredded cheese
1 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
1/2 c. diced green onions
1 egg

Bacon bits
Diced green onions

DIRECTIONS

First, make instant mashed potatoes. Next combine, mashed potatoes, shredded cheese, bread crumbs, onions and egg. Scoop out a portion of mixture and hsepe into patties. Again, I made smaller patties because I wanted these to be appitizer size. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and set on stove over medium/high heat. Cook patties 1-2 minutes on each sie. Let cool slightly. Then add a dallop of sour cream on top of each patti and garnish wtih bacon bits and green onions.

Enjoy,
Chika

Brownie Sandwich Cookies



Another post brings more exicitig news. But first I must share the back story. As I shared in my last post- I went to NYC for my sister's birthday. Well, while there, my camera broke. It may have been dropped on its lens (but the person will remain anonymous ;) ). So I was camera-less, which was sad becuase it broke at the beginning of our trip and so all the lovely cupcakeries that I visited- had to be photographed with my iPhone :( So if you read my cupcakery reviews- Im sorry for some of the pictures. But when I got back- I went on the search for what new camera I wish to get. I knew I was in the market for a DSLR but, as with most DSLRs they were expensive- so I was a bit hesitant. Long story short...thanks to the hubby- I am now the owner of a Nikon d5100!!! I am so excited! I now have the potential to greatly improve upon my food photography skills and maybe, just maybe, my photography skills in general. However, I do have to admit that that the camera is a bit tricky to work (which Im sure goes along with the territory of no longer having a point and shoot), and I have only now just mastered the basics but I have a lot more to learn! Sometime I do get frustrated but I just need to be patient and do more research.

Along with the cream puffs- I decided to also make some cookies. I was on route to make these peanut butter cookies but the hubster pointed out instead, after scrolling through my Pinterest on my iPad- that I had not made "these"- well when I went to look to see what "these" meant- I saw that he was pointing to "these" brownie sandwich cookies with salted caramel filling- similar to homemade Oreos but with a twist. It looked interesting enough and the hubby was right- I had not made anything like it, so I decided to go for it. Although they looked easier than the cream puffs- they actually turned out to be a bit more difficult, but not so bad.





BROWNIE SANDWICH COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

Preheat oven to 350F degrees

COOKIE
1 c. butter
1 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. packed brown sugar (light)
2 eggs.
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. special dark cocoa powder
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda

FILLING
1/2 stick of butter (softened)
3 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. caramel (you can either use store bought caramel sauce or use this recipe, I also provide a recipe for caramel sauce as the base for my caramel buttercream found here)
1 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter and sugars. Then add one egg at a time and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix salt, cocoa powder, flour and baking soda. Slowly add dry mixture to wet ingredients. Then either scoop 1 inch round balls onto a cookie sheet- making sure to press down slightly to flatten (and bake 8-10 minutes) or (and this is what I did)- spread across cookie sheets and bake for 20 minutes (or unitl toothpick comes out clean). Then allow to cool and use a cookie cutter to cut out small circles. I choose to use small circles so they could be close to "appitizer" size.

For filling- cream together butter, powdered sugar, caramel and salt. Pipe filling onto one cookie and top with another cookie to create sandwich. The filling will melt in warm temperatures, so I kept these in  the refridgerator unitl they needed to be served. On a side note- if you do not like the salty (like the hubster) you may always cut down or completely remove the salt.

Enjoy,
Chika



Cream Puffs



Wow! I can believe that it has been almost three weeks since my last post! It has definitely been a very filled three weeks- I went to NYC for my sister's 30th birthday (which was an absolute blast- we went to see Wicked, went dancing, did some major sight seeing, and best of all visted 4 cupcakeries...all in little over 24 hours)! Then the hubster and I moved into our first place together (memories...). We are now in a two-bedroom apartment, which is wonderful, because our things were not going to fit into my small, one-bedroom. And I think there is just something nice about not being in "my place" or "his place" but "our place." Though I have to say Ninja- is not appreciating that he has is "own" bedroom- he finds solace in knowing that the three of us should fit into one bed, so we can all be together...and you know what?! I love that about him :)

And then lastly, I got HORRIBLY sick- I am not sure what happened, but one minute I was fine and the other- I felt like my stomach was going to kill me. Thankfully, after going to the doctor's, the hubby taking care of me and my parents checking in on me- I felt much better. But in all that chaos- I had almost no time to cook. The truth is- I think that even if I was free and healthy- Im not sure I would have had time- like I've mentioned before- this semester has been a time consuming one- I barely have enough energy to drive home and when I get home- I literally pass out. I have more fun news to share...but since I have three posts- Ill take the time to spread it out ;)

Anywhoo, on to the food. This weekend brought a dog park BBQ get together- which I am always a big fan of. As school only becomes more stressful its nice to have nice company and enjoy yummy food. Well- its potluck style- and I knew that after three long weeks...I just had to do some baking and cooking! The question was what dessert(s) to bake? I was thinking more along the lines of an appitizer size dessert- and what did I come up with? Cream puffs. I have not yet made anything like it and seemed well enough in my comfort zone.






CREAM PUFFS
Adapted from Joy of Baking and All Recipes

INGREDIENTS

Preheat ove to 350F degrees

PASTRY
1c all purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter
1 c. of hot water
3 eggs

GLAZE
1 egg

FILLING
1 3.5oz package of vanilla pudding
2 c. of heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

GARNISH
Powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter and then add hot water- bring to boil. Remove from heat and with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture all at once- stir until combined. Transfer dough to electric mixer and beat on low speed to release steam from dough (about 1 minute). Lightly beat eggs and add to dough (the dough will separate and then come together), continue to mix unitl you have a smooth, thick paste. Pipe 24 small mounds of dough onto the baking sheet. Make sure the mounds are about 1-2 inches apart. Gently brush the tops of the dough with the lightly beaten egg (for glaze).  Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and dry when split. Poke a few holes, using a toothpick, in each puff. And let completely cool. For filling- combine pudding, whipping cream and vanilla.

To assemble cream puffs- cut each shell in half (I found the best way to do this was to use cooking scissors) and fill with vanilla filling. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the whipped cream and dust with powdered sugar.

Enjoy,
Chika



08 September 2012

Crumbs Cupcakes Review

Location: National (present location: New York City)
Price: $4.50/cupcake
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars


For my sister's 30th birthday: my sister, one of my favorite cousins and I went to New York City to celebrate. While there we did some celebrating but we did some major food crawling, specifically cupcakery crawling. Yup-- that must be my cousin :) In less than two days we went to four different cupcakeries--all of which I will review. But for now I will focus my attention on Crumbs Cupcakery.


And I do have to apologize for my photos. It was while in NYC that my camera broke :( The pictures of these cupcakes look a little wonky- and that is because they all were taken with my iPhone. But do not be too sad-- because I broke my camera-- that is when I got to buy a new camera-- my beloved and prized Nikon D5100 which after 4 months I am still playing around with. I hope one day that I can realistically call myself an amateur food photographer. For now I am just a dork with a camera :)



This is a national chain- so you can find their cupcakes other than in NYC. I was really surprised I did not hear about it before- my sister explained to me that it was not just a local cupcakery. I really enjoyed crumbs. I have nothing to complain and so many things to give them kudos to. Their cupcakes are HUGE-- and when I mean huge, I mean at leasta twice the size of any cupcake you have eaten in a cupcakery before (even when those cupcakery use the word "jumbo")--HUGE. Which you have to pay for as their cupcakes are about $1.25 more than most cupcakes (set at $4.50-- but well worth it-- and that is hard for me to say).


What is funny is they also offer mini cupcakes and Colossal Cupcakes (hahaha..and that cupcake sure is colossal...its bigger than my face!). I love the idea of their mini cupcakes-- they prepackage a set of cupcakes-- some are all one flavor and they also offer just a pack of crumb favorites (which are their most popular flavors)-- so for those of you who do not think they can tackle the huge cupcake that is Crumbs but really want a sample of flavors they have got you covered! They also have a TON of flavors offered daily- so that is great. You do not have to worry about coming on a particular day to get a flavor you love. Almost all of their cupcakes are filled :) The cupcakes are creative, moist, delicious and have a perfect frosting to cupcake ratio.



 Random Fact: Whenever I travel, I always try my best to go to cupcakeries. Since I travel a lot without the hubby because of conference-- I always bring him back a cupcake :) Between the two of us we tried these Crumb Cupcakes (which I do not think they make some anymore :(...Red Velvet, Blackout (brownie cupcake filled with chocolate), Peanut Butter Banana (I do not think they make this anymore), Peanut Butter-Chocolate, Lemon, Caramel and Half and Half (brownie and cookie dough- I do not think they make this anymore either. Sad because it was my favorite).



The only thing I have to complain about is that their cupcakes (only some of them) look a bit of a hot mess. Meaning they are lopsided and looked bumped around. BUT what I most loved about Crumbs is that I got one of these cupcakes but was a bit sad when photographing them because it did not look good-- the staff saw that and noted that I was doing this for my blog-- and they gave me a nice, replacement for free and let me keep the other cupcake (because I had touched it) AND they wished me luck on my blog. To them Thank you! You were one of the sweetest staff I have ever encountered. Kudos to you Crumbs!


My recommendation: EAT AT CRUMBS :) You will not be sorry and they just may put a smile on your face :)