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19 March 2013

Celebrity Cupcakes Review

Location: Houston, Texas
Price: $3.50/cupcake or $2.50/mini cupcake or $39/dozen
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars


After posting my Georgetown Cupcake Review I felt the need to continue to share fabulous cupcakeries! And I decided to bring it back home to Texas :) And maybe continue my bias in posting cupcakery reviews of places where I got to take pictures with my Nikon D5100 AND pictures of the cupcakes in daytime light. Does that make me a food photo snob? Can you even be one when you are not even that great ;) Do not judge me ;)

Okay- well if you remember one of my cousins from California, the same cousin I went to Mardi Gras with last year, came to Houston to experience the awesomeness that is the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show. Now, I can only imagine that those of you not from Texas are probably doing what I did when I first heard about the rodeo-- which is chuckle while simultaneously rolling your eyes! BUT it was actually way more fun then I ever dreamed! Actually it was one of the first dates I had with the hubby. And you know what?! My cousin thought it was amazing too! My cousin also came to Texas because I have another cousin who lives in Houston (sadly she only moved to Houston after I moved to College Station :/ -- well it was her birthday AND she is preggers! I love babies!


My cousin from California is the one that introduced to me to the art of food crawling and so I wanted to take her on a Houston Cupcake Crawl. Well I took her to Crave Cupcakes (duh!)--since they are like my favorite cupcakery in Houston (or so I thought!). But then I wanted to go to some other places-- most of which I have gone to before but one of which I have never been to called Celebrity Cupcakes. Celebrity Cupcakes is located in the same area as Crave Cupcakes-- the Rice Village Area of Houston. Its off the "beaten path" in a quaint little corner of rice village and they are quite easy to miss but do take the minute to stop by! Though, since it is small-- they do not have any indoor city and have very limited outdoor seating :/ My cousin who lives in Houston had been there before and shared that she thought the staff was a sort of mean, which I hate and so I was a bit nervous. We were pleasantly surprised that the girl who was there that day was super friendly and super nice about me taking pictures for my blog. She kindly explained the different cupcakes, sizes and Celebrity favorites!


We decided to get four different flavors: Red Velvet, Chocolate Truffle, Vanilla Bean and S'mores. We got all regular size cupcakes except for S'mores because they ran out of the regular size and so we decided to get the mini. Okay- so when reading this review you need to know that my cousin from Cali was not as in love with this place as I was. I think she preferred Crave--so take that into consideration. The first thing you will notice about these cupcakes are they are absolutely beautiful! They really take the time to decorate their cupcakes to the T with just perfect color combinations. Then when biting into these cupcakes I though they were moist and fluffy. I do have to say, not the moistest ever (I think that victory would have to go BCS Chocolate Gallery or More Cupcakes) but still very moist. My cousin disagreed and though they really were not moist enough. I loved the amount of frosting they had on their cupcakes.



Usually I veer on the side of less frosting than more BUT their frosting tasted fantastic- so I did not mind that they chose to veer on the side of more than less. What I truly loved about them- was that this was not always the case though. I think they have a wonderful skill of knowing which cupcakes would be matched great with more frosting and which cupcakes would be better with a little bit of reserve on how much frosting they used, such as the Vanilla Bean Cupcake that I tried. The overall taste of each cupcake, I loved-- ALL of them! The S'more did not taste exactly like S'more and probably needed more graham cracker BUT I have made S'more desserts before myself and know how hard it is to master that taste even if you put a ton of graham cracker. Marshmallows and chocolate just mask that flavor very easily. The Red Velvet was really yummy not my ultimate favorite (as that win goes to  Georgetown Cupcakes) but very good! You just cannot go wrong with truffle- I loved it! But my super favorite, and this is weird for me to say--was vanilla bean and this is coming from a chocoholic!



I must be reminiscing a lot to my childhood but this cupcake reminded me of a fun lunch/snack my mom would make me. She would make this really simple "sandwich"- she would spread butter on two pieces of bread (not toasted) and then sprinkle each side with sugar and put the pieces together- voila you had this wonderful dessert sandwich that I just fell in love with when I was a little kid. The vanilla bean cupcake brought me back to that very feeling of love :) It just tasted so good and so homemade, you know!? My cousin was not as big of a fan as I was but I really loved this cupcake and how homey it was.


They offer both filled and non-filled cupcakes that rotate on a daily basis. You can check out their website for the menu of daily flavors. They do offer seasonal flavors- such as S'mores which becomes daily for a temporary basis. My only criticisms are few: their box is too simple: a white box with a Celebrity Sticker-- for how fancy and quaint this place was- they really need to "up" their look (the box that I show- is topped with a t-shirt and tied with a ribbon- but that is NOT how they present their box, just the bottom-- white box w/sticker), their cupcakes were small (not super small but on the smaller side, although they tasted better than Crave Cupcakes, I get about twice the amount of cupcake there for something that tastes almost as good), and finally, although I really loved this place-- I did have other people who tried Celebrity as well and I wanted to take into account their impressions (which weren't as positive as mine).

Bottom line: if you live in Houston, nearby or are just visiting- stop by! You can make it a double whammy- swing by Crave Cupcakes and the swing by Celebrity! You will not be sad! In fact just the opposite- you will be very happy you decided to try both! Yummy in your tummy!

Enjoy,
Chika

18 March 2013

Kid Casserole



It never ceases to surprise me no matter how much I travel, how tired I am when I come back. The phrase, "I need a vacation from my vacation" describes me perfectly. Which meant the first day back ended up being me sleeping for hours and afterwards I actually felt refreshed (oh, how short lived that was), so the hubby and I decided to have dinner with Justin and Luke! We actually ended up trying a Justin and Luke favorite that the hubby and I have never tried- Fuego's Taco. I think based on how much it seemed Justin and Luke liked Fuego's I was expecting more. It was good--do not get me wrong--but that was about it. Like it did not blow me away.

The hubby had surprised me with a few things when I came back: a new iPhone case which I was in desperate need for, sprinkles (which you just cannot get enough of) and a new game to play with Justin and Luke. Since I got a new game, after dinner we decided to go back to our place to make it a game night. Though before we did, I made a major fail. So at first I thought Justin and Luke were going to run back to their place to grab Cranium and then head to our place. But apparently they were just heading straight to our place. Well since I got the message mixed up, I went with the hubby to pick up snacks to enjoy during game night. Sadly, when we got back to our place- I saw Justin and Luke already there! They were waiting for 15 minutes :( Sorry Justin and Luke :/

What's up with the kid casserole? Well- until recently when I made the Sour Cream Noodle Bake, I realized that I had not really made any casseroles! Which I love! Usually the casserole recipes that I have tried in the past have always used condensed soup. I found this recipe on Pinterest that gloated about not using condensed soup- it looked yummy too and so it caught my attention for something I could make for dinner. How did I get the "kid"? I am not sure about y'all (okay, the Texas is rubbing off on me ;), but I always loved turkey hot dogs (since I do not eat beef) when I was a kid! And something about eating hot dogs as a grown up just makes me so nostalgic and reminiscent of my childhood--those fun days where you would play outside all day, come home and just eat up a delicious meal! Although the recipe called for chicken, I just got this fun idea to try to make a kid friendly version of it! I figured it would be a good recipe to share with all you moms out there :) And hey, it's always fun to be a big kid and eat food that takes you back to a good place! It ended up tasting great!






Add some french fried onions as a garnish. 

KID CASSEROLE
Adapted from Culinary.net

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 350F Degrees

2 c. uncooked rice- cooked
2 c. shredded cheese
1-16oz package of hotdogs, diced
1- 12oz can of Evaporated Milk
1/2 c. green onions, diced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1/8 c. diced jalapenos (optional)
Pinch of salt
French fried onions (optional garnish)

DIRECTIONS

Lightly grease a large casserole dish with either cooking spray or butter- set aside. In a rice cooker, combine rice with 3.5 c. of water- set to cook.

Once rice is cooked, in the large casserole dish combine rice, 1 c. of cheese, hot dogs, evaporate milk, onions, eggs, butter, jalapenos, and salt. Mix well until all ingredients are evenly distributed and well incorporated into the rice. Spread mixture in casserole dish with a spatula and smooth the top until even. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese on top of casserole. Bake 35-45 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean and cheese is melted. Garnish with French fried onions for a crispy texture!

Allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving! Keep refrigerated.

Enjoy,
Chika

17 March 2013

Georgetown Cupcake Review

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Price: $2.75/Cupcake or $15/half a dozen or $29/dozen
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars



I am well aware that I am long overdue on some cupcakery reviews and should probably address them before I write this BUT--okay so do not judge me--but after getting my Nikon D5100, I have gotten so much more picky about the pictures that I post. The cupcakeries that I visited in NYC really need to be posted but they were taken with my iPhone and that makes me sad. I also hate when I have to take pictures of cupcake sin the nighttime but that happens like half the time I go to cupcakeries! Because we head there for an after dinner snack! I cant tell everyone- hey let me take these home, take pictures of them in the morning and then we can eat them ;) Though I do wish I could. So I may have a bias towards sharing cupcakery reviews that I took with my Nikon and that I took in the daytime!



Okay- so if you follow me at all, you probably are well aware that I just came back from Boston where I engaged in a 4 cupcakery crawl! Most were disappointing but one was a wonderful surprise and I decided to start there! Having watched the TLC show Georgetown Cupcakes--when I realized that there was  Georgetown Cupcakes in Boston I knew I just had to go and that is exactly where I went on Day 2 of Boston. They have a few locations across the country, so they are national! I went with Ashley and Mike. After Day 1 of disappointing cupcakes, we were not super hopeful for anything great. We ordered 3 different cupcakes (Red Velvet, Chocolate Ganache and Boston Creme--haha..just had to try that one!) at first and I got 2 to take home to the hubby (if you also follow me- you've probably realized that my "thing" with him is to bring him back cupcakes from wherever I go).




They cupcakes were so good that we may have decided to go back and get three more (2 peanut butter chocolate and 1 birthday cupcake).



The cupcakes are small but they are about $0.50 cheaper than other cupcakes, so I guess they make up for it that way. The Boston Creme was the "worse" one which is a stretch because it was still amazingly delicious. Which probably gives you some idea of how the others tasted. They all were moist and fluffy (I love moist fluffy cupcakes)- with the exception of birthday cake which was slightly dry on the edges. Georgetown is a great cupcakery because they bake their cupcakes at least twice a day and refuse to sell "morning" cupcakes in the afternoon to maintain the integrity of the cupcakes.


Although they look like they have very little frosting (some) the amount is just a perfect pairing for the cupcakes. For example, the peanut butter cupcake is filled so the frosting is minimal- to enjoy all the flavors. For the birthday cake- it has no filling and so there is more frosting. I hope that made sense. The frosting was great and so was the overall taste (with cake and frosting and all). There are an abundance of flavors that rotate on a daily basis--you can either look this up online or they provide menus. I love all the choices! They can be filled or not filled-- so it's what your heart desires! They were adorably decorated! Just like you would except cupcakery cupcakes to look like and the store itself was a cute cupcakery as well with Andy Warhol Cupcake Painting decoration to match! I just loved the vibe of this place! I just love cupcakeries- they are just made to be fancy :)



Their cupcake boxes are a simple pink box--nothing fancy nor printed on it- so I was a bit disappointed at that, because you know how I like my adorable boxes. But they do have these simple white to-go bags :) Although they hubby got to enjoy his cupcakes two days later- he still enjoyed them and said they tasted great. He loved the coconut more than the key lime--but again- its a battle of just which one is better out of good! So why the 4.75- two simple reasons: the box and the slightly dry birthday cupcake (either it was out too long, which I doubt, or we got one from a batch that was slightly overcooked).


Bottom line: if you live near Georgetown Cupcakes or travel to a location that hosts them- TRY IT! It'll put a smile on your face!


Enjoy,
Chika

Country Club Chicken



Hello from Boston part 2 :) Though I am on my way out- just waiting for the plane to board. I was quite excited when I saw that Logan airport was offering free WiFi if you just watched a 30 second advertisement for a sponsor company! Score for me! Okay- well I left off sharing what I did the first day I was in Boston. Let's move on to what was accomplished Day 2 and 3...


Well- if you know me but at all, you would know that I continued with my cupcake crawl. I heard that Georgetown Cupcakes had a location in Boston. Given the infamy from TLC I figured I had to go visit this cupcakery while I was actually on the east coast. I had to attend a breakfast and present my poster first, and then I headed to Georgetown Cupcakery with Ashley and Mike. After the major disappointment that was Lulu's and Mike's Pasty I think we were all a bit cautious at what we were getting into! But we had a blast and may have eaten 6 cupcakes and I bought two to take home to the hubby, since that's our "thing." Just plain awesome! Gotta board the plane...to be continued...


Okay so I am now continuing this after I am back home :) ... After heading to the cupcakery we wanted a bit of lunch so we went to Boston's best rated pizza place called Regina's Pizza. That pizza just melted in your mouth and caused wonderful feelings of happiness. It was so stinkin' good! What an awesome food day! Well my advisor wanted to share with us all a favorite seafood place of hers- Union Oyster House- well we got a text message that she was ready and so we headed back to the hotel to meet her. Next stop: Union Oyster House. I split scallops and mussels with my advisor...soo soo good. Oh! And on the way out I got to hold a live GIANT lobster...haha..I was terrified! A nice way to end foodie fun for day 2.



Day 3 was pretty simple. Ashley and I headed to Sweet Cupcakes. We went to the original store Massachusetts Ave., because I was told it may just be better the Georgetown and I figured the original location would be the best. Sadly, it was a disappointment. Nothing to special at all. [check out my Cupcakery Review Page to read more!] We headed back because Ashley was presenting a poster in the evening. After the poster session- we had an early dinner- I may have had the sophisticated dish of beer battered chicken tenders (so so good)- I had a lot of seafood in the past few days and thought something different would be good. And Ashley and I ended our Boston foodie adventure with a delicious Crème Brûlée...drooool.... 


And now I am back and ready to share with you this re-make of country club chicken with a little less bacon than the original recipe because the hubby and I are those weird people that do not like bacon! I know! 







COUNTRY CLUB CHICKEN 
Adapted from Kayotic Kitchen


INGREDIENTS


Preheat Oven to 350F Degrees

1 pound of spaghetti
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 large chicken breasts (I filleted the chicken for a total of 8 pieces)
salt and pepper to taste 
1 c. of diced onions or 1 1/2 c. of pearl onions (I used pearl onions)
1 carton of sliced mushrooms
1 (10.75oz) can of cream of golden mushroom (or just regular mushroom)
1 (10.75oz) can of cream of chicken
1/4 c. bacon bits (some reserved for garnish)
1/4 c. cooking wine
2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS


For the Pasta:
In a large pot, over medium heat, cook spaghetti according to package directions- approximately 7-8 minutes until al dente. Drain excess water and run cold water through the spaghetti to prevent sticking. Return to large pot.

For the chicken:
Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season chicken breast with generous amount of salt and pepper (to taste). Quickly brown the chicken breasts on both sides. And transfer them to a greased casserole dish. 

In the same skillet, add 1 tbsp. of olive oil and saute onions for 3 minutes, until slightly transparent and fragrant. Toss in mushrooms (and pinch of salt if desired) and saute until tender-- about 8-10 minutes. Pour in white wine and condensed soup. Add in crumbled bacon bits and grated Parmesan Cheese. Stir until ingredients are well blended--the sauce should appear creamy and smooth. 

Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts in casserole dish. Place casserole dish in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until chicken is tender and sauce is golden brown on top and bubbly.

Serve chicken over spaghetti and with a side of veggies! Garnish chicken with reserved bacon bits.

Enjoy,
Chika

15 March 2013

Wedding Cake Cupcakes



Hello from Boston! The good news is that I have internet in my hotel room- the bad news is I have been having so much fun that I did not post for the past two days :( Sorry! That was a bad me. Well our whole lab (minus one) flew off to Boston on the same flight. That was pretty fun! Surprisingly Boston had pretty tolerable weather the first day we landed (sadly- I was not so lucky for the rest of the days). When we landed, since I was in Boston, we knew we definitely wanted to try seafood. On our first day we went to Rabbi's Italian Food for a Clam Bake. It was quite good- I enjoyed some lobster, clams, mussels and shrimp. We then headed next door to Lulu's Cupcakes. I wanted to introduce my lab to the true art of cupcakery crawling ;) I mean it is such a great skill to have ;)


After cupcakes, one of my labmates had mentioned that she had heard about a famous cannoli place that we needed to try called Mike's Pastry. As we were heading there- a Boston native told us that he preferred a place called Modern Pastry. Being a lab that enjoys all sweets, we decided to try both. With Lulu cupcakes in hand (I think my lab might have learned just how crazy I am with my cupcakes and photographing food- they now understand me on a whole new level. I do have to thank them, though, they were pretty darn patient with me ;). Okay- so we went to Mikes Pastry and they had cupcakes! Score for me! Picked up some cannolis too and headed to Modern Pastry. Eh- did not see anything we wanted there and so we headed back to the hotel.



That is when I got to show them how to really eat cupcakes in a cupackery crawl way. We divided each cupcake in fourths, since there were four of us. And we each tried pieces and talked about how they all tasted. It was pretty neat because normally when I rate cupcakeries I do not know if it is just me and other people would rate things differently, but this time, I had three other opinions and we always agreed on the rating out of a 5 point scale :) Okay, I am nerdy- but that is great inter-rater reliability! Just saying.... By the time we finished all the cupcakes we were in a sugar coma and stuffed. I had a 7am breakfast to attend and so I hit the sheets....for Day #2 and #3 in Boston...read my next post! For the reviews about Lulu's Cupcakes and Mike's Pastry check out my Cupcakery Reviews.

This was aftermath
Long post BUT I made these delicious Wedding Cake Cupcakes for the potluck dinner I had with Luke and Justin the other night. It was a hit! Remember how I said that if I eat what I make it must be extra special? Well- I ate a ton! Luke, Justin and the hubby ate even more than I did! I even packed some for Justin and Luke to take home and sent some with them to take to another friend (Angie- remember the Cookie Bouquet or the Caramel Cake- that's her). You must try these cupcakes they are AH-ma-ZING. Once you try them, i just know you will be making them again!







WEDDING CAKE CUPCAKES
Cupcake adapted from Recipe Girl
Vanilla Buttercream from Martha Stewart

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 325F Degrees

FOR THE CUPCAKES
1 box Duncan Hines White cake mix
1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/3 c. water
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. sour cream
4 large egg whites (no yolk!)

FOR THE FROSTING
2 sticks of butter, softened slightly
6-8 c. of powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

For Cupcakes:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk together cake mix, flour and sugar. Then add in water, vegetable oil and vanilla extract, mixing ingredients until creamy. Add in sour cream, stirring until incorporated and finally adding in egg whites (all together), again mixing until incorporated. Line cupcake pan with liners. Using an ice cream scoop fill liners 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

For Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and 4 c. of powdered sugar, 2 tbsp. of heavy cream and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1/2 c. at a time and heavy cream 1 tbsp. at a time--beating for 2 minutes after each addition. Continue adding ingredients until desired consistency is reached (i.e., you may not use all 8 c. of powdered sugar or all 1/4 c. of heavy cream). The frosting should be stiff enough to hold the shape once pipped.

Enjoy,
Chika