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31 December 2012

Cheesy Ranch Pasta with a Kick



Do you know what I realized making the Oreo cupcakes and this recipe I am about to share? I am not a spur of the moment, whip something up through guess-timating kinda baker/cook. I cannot look in my cupboards and think- hmmm...what could I make. I definitely cannot do a pinch of this and a pinch of that. Don't get me wrong-- sometimes I have those few and far between moments when a recipe will randomly pop in my mind and I actually do whip up something that was not planned--with a little bit of this and that. But those are rare...very...very rare :)

And maybe its a time thing- that through baking and cooking for years, you just learn to create recipes from random ingredients and add "pinches" of things. But for now- I shall stay aware from that--far, far away. I am more of a spend time scrolling through recipes, meal planning, grocery list creating kinda gal-- a gal that measures everything besides an occasional pinch of salt :)

I realized that my more popular posts are those recipes that are simple and easy to make. Those that require little ingredients. Which are a bulk of my cooking recipes because-- I neither have the time nor money to buy a lot of ingredients and whip up some extra-ordinary meal. I think my recipes click with busy moms and wives-- those that are busy running after children, keeping up their household, working, going to school and for some all of the above (to you-- I am so in awe) :) And that makes me happy. And you know what?! You can make wonderfully fancy and delicious meals for recipes that take a few ingredients and take just a few minutes to make!

So for 2013 my goal for cooking recipes are to make only simple, quick and easy meals! As for baking- its a bit more tricky-- as baking from scratch just takes a lot of core ingredients (but the same-- so I always keep them in my pantry).






CHEESY RANCH PASTA WITH A KICK
Inspired by Plain Chicken
*I first tried Plain Chicken's recipe. It did not come out at all. The sauce was too watery and grainy (the dry ranch did not dissolve well), but they inspired me for a quick and simple recipe.

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. of pasta
2 chicken breast, chopped and cooked*
1 1/2- 1 3/4 c. ranch dressing (I use light)
2/3 c. of shredded cheese (of your choice)
1/8 c. sriracha sauce**
16 oz. broccoli (florets), cooked (I use the steamable bags)***
Red pepper flakes for garnish

**I like spicy. You can add more or less depending on your taste preference. If you have little ones- you can also exclude sriracha entirely and red pepper flakes entirely- and maybe garnish with a bit of salt and pepper.

***This can be substituted with a family vegetable favorite.

DIRECTIONS

*I cooked my chicken like this: heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp. of garlic and 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes until garlic is golden brown. Then add chicken and cook till tender and no longer pink in the center. However, you can cook your chicken any way.

In a large pot, over medium heat cook pasta according to package directions- approximately 7-8 minutes until al dente. Then drain excess water and run cold water through pasta to prevent sticking. Set aside and allow to cool. Once pasta is cool- combine with ranch dressing. Next add shredded cheese-- fold well to fully incorporate. Then, mix in sriracha sauce- the pasta should become very slightly pink in color. Lastly toss in broccoli- be gentle as broccoli florets easily fall apart. Top with red pepper flakes.

Enjoy,
Chika

30 December 2012

Cookies n' Cream Cupcakes



I took a few days off from baking, cooking and blogging to do some major cleaning. I am not sure if it is a cultural thing or a tradition that I grew up with but every year before the New Year, you do a major cleaning of your home. Not just dust and vacuum but go through every nook, cranny, box, etc. and see what you need and what you do not. It is a daunting task but it feels so good when you are done. Plus, this prevents from developing unwanted clutter because each year you took the time to "cleanse" your home :)

We cleaned well before New Year, because I work New Years Eve and the hubby and I were planning on visiting his family today. It looked like Ninja was doing really well since his surgery, but since his pain medication ran out-- he began limping again, and not just limping but just hopping around on three legs :( Our  two week follow up is tomorrow- and I am hoping that it is because he is not on pain medication anymore and not that the contraption in his leg is not working or broke. Long story short- because Ninja is not doing so well- we decided to stay home instead of travel. I made these Cookies n' Cream Cupcakes to take to the party but now I guess the hubby will be eating them.

Note: This recipe was DEFINITELY a trial and error. The cupcakes were not hard to make but the frosting-was a pain! I went through tons of different recipes with none being stiff enough.










COOKIES N' CREAM CUPCAKES
Cupcakes Adapted slightly from Sweetapolita
Frosting Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart 

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 350F Degrees

FOR THE CUPCAKES
1 c. butter milk, room temperature
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 egg (whole), at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. cake flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
6 tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
6 tbsp. vegetable shortening
13-15 crushed Oreo
25-30 Oreos

FOR THE FROSTING
2 (8oz) package of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 stick of butter, room temperature
2-4 c. of powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
10 finely crushed Oreo*

FOR THE TOPPING
8-10 crushed Oreos
15 Oreos cut in half


DIRECTIONS

For the Cupcakes:
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg whites, whole egg, 1/4 c. of milk, and vanilla. Set aside. Then in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, and baking powder on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and shortening to the dry ingredients, and blend for an additional 30 seconds. Next, add the remaining milk and continue blending on low speed until mixture appears moistened. Then increase to medium speed for 1-1/2 minutes.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the wet ingredients in 3 separate batches-- each time mixing for 20 seconds. Lastly, fold in crushed Oreo (do not finely crush to Oreo- you want chunks of Oreo in the cupcakes) in the batter. Do not mix the Oreo in-as the vanilla cupcakes will discolor. Prepare two cupcakes pans with liners. Place an Oreo at the bottom of each liner. Using an ice cream scoop- fill liners no more than 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cupcakes cool before frosting.


For Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, combine cream cheese,butter, 1 c. of powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed and then medium-high speed for 6-8 minutes until creamy, light, and fluffy. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1/2 c. at a time-- beating for 1 minute after each addition. Continue adding in ingredients until desired consistency and sweetness is reached (i.e, you may not use all 3 c. of powdered sugar, if you want more sweetness but need a softer consistency add some heavy cream). Finally add in 3/4 of the crushed Oreos. The frosting should be stiff enough to hold shape once piped. Garnish with remaining crushed Oreos and top with half of an Oreo.


Enjoy,
Chika

27 December 2012

Stuffed Avocados



Yesterday, I hit the stores to see what good day-after Christmas deals I could find. I found some pretty cool things. I had no idea what good deals you could find on Christmas stuff! I had to hold myself back, otherwise I would have come home with a whole set of Christmas decorations for the apartment. But I did find cute Christmas containers for cookies! Let's cross our fingers to hope that next year I get to or the hubby gets to take part in a cookie exchange :) Do not worry-- if there is not one-- Ill create one :) I mean, who does not want to take part in a cookie exchange?!

On a related note. Do you know what else I would like to take part in? I must be slowly turning into a housewife but a Pinterest Party! Though only for food. It is like a cookie exchange but in general people make something they saw on Pinterest (it does not have to be food) and make enough for each person at the party. Then at the Pinterest party, each person gets one of what everyone made. I think for me, I would prefer food...because well I love food but I would like to see recipes that may not have caught my eye but taste delicious. Sadly, I live in College Station and my two good friends are boys. And though we do potluck dinners-- I am not sure they and the hubby would be fan of Pinterest parties :) 

Well, my morning appointment was cancelled. So I came home and wanted to whip up a really fast lunch. Like really fast! This is what I came up and it tasted delicious! Though you must be a fan of avocados, otherwise you will not enjoy this. But man, is this recipe easy to make and pretty healthy :)








STUFFED AVOCADOS
A For the Love of Dessert Original Recipe

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 425F Degrees

(Ingredients are for two servings-- one avocado)- multiply by servings needed

1 ripe avocado 
1/2-1 tomato, diced (or half a can of diced tomatoes, drained)
3/4 c. corn (drained or if frozen--warmed)
1/3 c. cream of cheese* 
1/3 c. bread crumbs 
1/4 c. shredded cheese (sprinkling)
1 green onion, diced
Cilantro, salt, pepper, lemon juice for garnish

* You may substitute with another cooking cream 

DIRECTIONS

Cut the avocado in half and remove pit. Set on baking sheet lined with Silpat or a parchment paper coated with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine tomato, corn, cream of cheese, and bread crumbs. Scoop out about 3-4 tbsp. of the mixture and fill the center of the avocado (where the pit used to be). Shape into a dome and flatten with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Then bake for 5-8 minutes. Remove and garnish with a pinch of cilantro, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Then top with green onions and serve.

Serve avocados with any additional stuffing. Extra stuffing is always yummy! Especially for the parts of the avocado not topped with stuffing! 

Enjoy,
Chika 

25 December 2012

Frosted Sugar Cookies



Do you have any Christmas movie favorites?! Well, I do! I really enjoy "While You Were Sleeping," "Elf" (so awesome), and "On the 2nd Day of Christmas" (the Lifetime movie). Elf is by far my favorite. That movie makes me laugh so hard, whether it was the first time I watched it or the 100th (no I have not actually seen it a hundred times but a good 10). As you can see, I am a definite sucker for romantic comedies. There is something about corny romances that make me so happy. So this Christmas, after doing some baking and maybe some napping-- I got comfy on the couch and watched my favorite parts of Elf and a new romantic comedy-- the Backup Plan. Quite cute, but definitely not my favorite romantic comedy.

I hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful holiday! I was a bit late with this but I wanted to take a Christmas Family photo. I think it is good to capture your family on each major holiday for every year-- to see how you change over time and to just capture sweet moments. This year, I am especially picky-- because it is the hubby and I's first year of marriage-- and well you cannot ever get that back-- so I want to know that I captured every, single moment. The hubby was a good sport but Ninja was a different story. He was being super stubborn on not wanting to sit next to the Christmas Tree. And the poor thing kept blinking every time the flash went off. So, here is it: Happy Holidays from our family to yours :)


Well, Christmas is not Christmas unless you make cookies for Santa right?! I may have made my cookies a little late, but Santa is always welcome at my house and not just in the early morning of Christmas Day :) I love sugar cookies and they are so easy to make festive-- just change the color of the frosting or the sprinkles and voila you got yourself a holiday cookie! Here you go Santa, I hope you enjoy them...and until then...the hubby is enjoying them ;)






FROSTED SUGAR COOKIES (small batch)
Adapted from Sweet Peas Kitchen 

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 425F Degrees

FOR THE COOKIES (about 22- 2 1/2 inch cookies)
2 1/4 c. flour (add a 1/4 c. if the dough is too sticky). 
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 stick of butter, softened 
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. sour cream

FOR THE FROSTING
1 stick of butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. heavy cream
Sprinkles 
Food coloring (if desired)

DIRECTIONS

For the cookies: In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. In the bowl of  a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars for approximately 4 minutes. Scrape down sides and add egg and mix until incorporated; followed by vanilla extract and sour cream-- mix on low speed until combined. Add dry ingredient to wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated- do not over mix. Wrap dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

On a flat surface, covered with flour, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Using a 2 1/2 in circle cookie cutter- cut out circles and transfer to a baking sheet lines with either a baking mat, parchment paper, or cooking spray. Space cookies about 1.5 inches apart (they do not spread much). Bake 7-8 minutes. Place on cooling rack to completely cool (you do not want to melt the frosting).

For the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and vanilla. Slowly add in powdered sugar. Once creamy, add heavy cream 1 tbsp. at a time until the consistency is as desired (you want to it to be creamy but not watery).

Once cookies are completely cooled-- frost the cookies (you can add food color to the frosting if desired) and add sprinkles. Allow frosting to set (I placed my cookies in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes until frosting set. **Sweet Pea's Kitchen recommends that you store in an air tight container and that you allow the cookies to set for several hour before serving- to allow for the flavors to develop!

Enjoy,
Chika

French Toast



Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays everyone :) I love all holidays but I think Christmas (and probably Halloween) win on the most spirit and cheer! I really enjoy the whole month of December. Though, Christmas started off a bit gloomy in Texas with it raining all night and morning. But  now, with no snow, the sun is shining very brightly! :)

We woke up early-- and opened our presents as I clicked away on the camera. The hubby really liked the game I got him for Christmas, so yay! And he spoiled me, by not sticking to our "one" present agreement- and got me a bath set, a heated back cushion for the home and for the car (on those long drives)--because as I shared before my back gets pretty stiff, very fast, a steam mop, and a MINI DONUT MAKER! I get to cross one off my Wish List :) I am really excited to make a mess making donuts and cleaning it up using my steam mop!


Ninja was very involved in opening his presents but got a bit distracted with the wrapping paper and box. And in fact, I think he wanted every one else's present, insisting that they were his. And afterwards insisted that he needed to stick his butt in every picture. Gotta love my Ninja face :) He really enjoyed his doggie smoothie that we got him too! He then spent the morning playing with his new toys and is now passed out and snoring (yes- Shar Pei snore, its cute...when you get used to it)!


Well after opening our presents, I wanted to make the hubby a delicious breakfast and of course, try a new recipe, while he got to try out the the new game. I decided to make french toast, because I know he is a big fan. I am not really a breakfast person (unless its donuts ;) and so I made a small batch just for him. It did not create a mess at all and was quite simple to make :) Have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones :) I know I am sure enjoying my time!





FRENCH TOAST
Adapted slightly from Dollhouse Bake Shoppe

INGREDIENTS 

3 tbsp. all purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
3 eggs
3/4 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. shortening  (1 tbsp for each batch made)
7-8 slices of bread (the thicker the bread the better)
Powdered sugar for garnish
1/2 c. whipping cream (whipped) or whip cream (can) for garnish

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside. Then in medium bowl, combine egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients and whisk together. Then pour into a casserole dish (or flat dish).

Heat one tbsp. of shortening in a non-stick skilled over medium heat. Dip bread into egg mixture, coating each side well. Lightly shake bread, to remove any excess liquid. Then place bread in skillet, and sprinkle additional cinnamon on top (just a little pinch). Cook the toast 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned (when I first started off it was about 3 minutes, as the skillet got increasingly hot it was 2 minutes). Repeat for remaining slices of bread.

If desired, dust french toast with powdered sugar and top with whipped cream (if using heavy cream- use a hand mixer to whip the cream until it becomes whipped cream). Serve with fruit (also if desired).

Enjoy,
Chika

24 December 2012

Turkey Dumplings



I would like to say that I have a pretty, darn wonderful husband. You might be telling yourself, "she just realized that now?" Well- no, I did not just realize that now-- but do you ever have those moments when someone does something big or small, but it makes you smile, sit back and realize just how lucky you are to have that person in your life? I had one of those moments with the hubby. So what made me smile this time- it was more a culmination of moments-- every time I make food for him, and whether or not I am at home, he always checks to make sure that I have taken pictures for my blog :) And that my friends, is an amazing husband for a food-blogger!

Do you have a Christmas Eve tradition? If so, please share. Now being married, and as I think of having children in the future, I like thinking of cute traditions I would like to start with my family. One tradition I would like to celebrate on Christmas with my children- is baking desserts in the kitchen all day (especially baking cookies for Santa).

On another note: Hi, I am addicted to Asian food. I realized I attempt to make Asian recipes a lot! But the truth is, I cannot get enough of noodles, crab rangoons, and sushi! By far my favorite foods...well that and raw oysters. Today, I decided to attempt to make dumplings. I have never tried them before and have never worked with wanton paper-- so I thought it would be fun. FYI. They turned out pretty good for my first time :) I thought they would be a hot mess- but they were simple and easy to make and quite delicious! But I mean who does not like dumplings?! Potstickers are like my best friend ;)

Looks like a Christmas Tree. These are before I steamed them.

A close-up of the dumplings before I steamed them. 




TURKEY DUMPLINGS
Adapted from Cafe Munchkin

INGREDIENTS

1 lb ground turkey
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. oyster sauce 
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. garlic 
1/4 c. green onions 
1/2 tsp. cooking wine (optional)
1/2 - 1c. finely, shredded lettuce 
40 pcs. on wonton wrappers (store bought) (circle or square)
small cup filled with water for sealing wonton wrappers 

*Cafe Munchkin has a nice step by step picture tutorial of sealing the wonton wrapper

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients (except wonton wrappers) together. I got messy, and used my hands to make sure everything was thoroughly mixed in with the ground turkey. 

Holding the wonton in a diamond shape in your hand, scoop one tablespoon of meat mixture into the middle of the wonton. Then dip your finger in the water and lightly outline the "top" triangle border of the wonton wrapper. Then fold the bottom triangle portion of the wonton paper up-and over the top portion. Pinch the border of the wonton to tightly seal the wonton. 

Sometimes when sealing one side, the meat will push out on the other-- if that happens just use your finger to push the meat back into the wonton, and slowly seal the other side. Repeat, until entire meat mixture is used. 

Then either using a steamer or a bamboo steam basket- steam the dumplings for 20 minutes. Make sure to steam well because you are working with raw meat. Also- the dumplings are supposed to become wrinkly. 

Enjoy,
Chika


Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bread



This was just too funny not to share. I think I was summed up nicely in this e-card :) Hahaha...do not get me wrong. The hubby and I would LOVE to have kids someday. But for right now we have Ninja, our baby-- and I cannot lie- I think he is pretty darn awesome. I mean, isn't it obvious. I post about him way too often ;) I stumbled upon this e-card in my addicted scrolling through of Pinterest. 



The hubby and I moved into our first place together, a cute little two-bedroom apartment, back in September! And I still have not decorated it. Now that I have time to search for color palates and designs- I think I have settled on two that I like. I really like the coral and gold palate for the guest bedroom, because I am not sure how much the hubby would like coming home to a master bedroom that in "pink" (yes, coral, but to hubby pink :). For the master bedroom I was thinking of the grey and yellow color palate with antique designs. I am still debating about this because the master bath's color palate is the same- and I am not sure if that is too matchy matchy. Make sense? I really like the "hotel white"" look but let's be honest- with Ninja that is just not happening!

And although I have furniture for the living room- I am thinking of going with a light peacock theme since its become very sentimental for the hubby and I since the wedding. Just accents- like throw pillows and wall art. And just maybe, a decorative chair. We shall see. Also my kitchen is tiny-- so I might get some bookshelves to increase my storage. Any suggestions?! I would LOVE to hear them. 

Well- for Christmas Eve, I just had to make something in the spirit of the holidays and one of the desserts that come to mind are sweet breads. And for me I thought of banana bread. :) 






CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BANANA 
Adapted from Cookies & Cups

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven 350F Degrees

4 very ripe bananas, cut into pieces
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. melted butter
1 egg
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sat
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. peanut butter chips

DIRECTIONS

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine bananas, peanut butter, butter, egg, and sugars. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine with wet ingredients. There will be chunks-- do not over mix-- until just incorporate. Then add chocolate and peanut butter chips. Again, do not over stir.

Grease bread loaf pan (8x4) with shortening. Spread batter evening in pan and bake for 1 hour or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Note: After an hour, the toothpick did not come out clean, but do not bake for additional time. Instead, let it sit in the hot loaf pan-- and it will continue cooking. Otherwise, you will overcook and burn the edges of the loaf. 

Enjoy,
Chika 

23 December 2012

Easy Peasy Cheesy Broccoli Orzo



I made a big opps! The hubby is sweet enough to subscribe to my blog and actually read my posts. I was under the impression he "subscribed" but did not actually READ it. WRONG! Because, this morning, he gave me a cheesy smile and let me know that he knew what I got him for Christmas. I cannot believe I walked right into that one :( I am huge on Birthdays and Holidays, where the hubby is "eh" about them. So I have been on a mission since we met-- and clearly I am failing....miserably....at the wonderful element of surprise. And Ninja still has not given up stalking the closet to gain access to his present! Who knew dogs had such personalities, with Ninja's main component being sweetness and stubbornness-- now I did say he was just like his mommy ;)

I am not sure what it is about holidays-- but I have still been indulging in the laziness that is holidays. It is soo nice sleeping in, watching t.v., cuddling with Ninja and tweaking the blog-- things I never have time to do during school time. I feel like a little kid saying "school time," but i really have no other way to describe it. Well today, since I am still on hiatus from baking but not cooking-- I spent the morning sleeping and cuddling with Ninja, scrolling through Pinterest, watching HGTV, and eating mango popsicles. Yes, only me, would wait till winter to start eating popsicles. In line with my lazy day, I wanted something that seemed easy to whip up for an early dinner. But this recipe was SOOO easy- that it took half the time I thought it would be. I guess the hubby can nibble on some now and later?







EASY PEASY CHEESY BROCCOLI ORZO
Adapted From Iowa Girl Eats 

INGREDIENTS

2 chicken breasts, diced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1-2tsp. garlic salt
1 c. orzo
3 c. water (salted)
16 oz. broccoli florets 
1/2 c. shredded cheese (of your choice)
1/3 c. milk
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. parmesan cheese 

DIRECTIONS

In a large skillet, over medium heat-- add olive oil and chicken. Satuee chicken until cooked and tender, sprinkle garlic salt over chicken and toss to combine well. Set aside chicken. 

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cook orzo for 4-5 minutes. Then add broccoli florets and boil for an additional 2-3 minutes or until orzo is tender. Drain excess water-- make sure to do this well, because no one likes watery cheese (gross). Add orzo and broccoli back to pot. Add shredded cheese, milk, butter and parmesan cheese and stir well until butter and cheese melts. 

Then, add chicken and mix well- to spread throughout. This meal, literally takes like 12-30 minutes to prepare. :) LOVE IT!

Enjoy,
Chika