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31 July 2013

Spinach, Mushroom, & Ham Quiche



Remember when I finished White Collar-- and my world felt empty ;)  On Facebook, my go to source during boredom, a friend of mine posted about the show Suits. I watched an episode of Suits randomly and it was pretty good. So, when I saw that post, I decided to ask the hubby to get me the first two seasons, because sadly it is not on instant streaming through Netflix ::sadness:: I watched all of Season 1 in about 2 days and I am now almost done with Season 2 :) The show is awesome! Right up the White Collar alley. Isn't it amazing how many shows can be mystery solving  without being a police show- in this case it is lawyers. I highly reccomend the show. Though, Numb3rs is my favorite show, since it is so nerdy.

I now have to tell you about my lame slip-up. In the same post that I told you about White Collar, I mentioned that I ordered and sent out almost all of my wedding thank you's. When I went to the post office, I apparently left the unaddressed ones there (on a Thursday) and then I did not notice that I left them there until Monday! And by then, they told me they could not find it. I was in a panic because I needed to send a thank you to the hubby's former boss, who coincidentally, got me one of my favorite presents-- a Cuisinart food processor! Thankfully, a week later, the post office called me letting me know that they found it! YAY!

One of the best parts of food blogging, is always trying new recipes. Though I think that may be more of the hubby's favorite part, since he is definitely one of those people, who never orders the same thing from a restaurant, always wanting to try something different. Well, I wanted to try something very much outside box. I have only made a pie once- and the most difficult part of a pie is the crust. I also realized that I have never made a quiche. What better way to eat two cupcakes with one mouth ;)....then to make a quiche, because then I get my quiche and another go at making a pie crust. Plus, I get to say I made a quiche- now doesn't that sound very French fancy? This recipe is by no means "simple" but it is straight forward and yummy.







SPINACH, MUSHROOM, & HAM QUICHE
Crust from Add a Pinch
Quiche adapted from Budget Bytes

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 400F Degrees

CRUST
1 1/2 c. of flour (+ little more for rolling)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. shortening
1/4c. butter
4-5 tbsp. of ice water
olive oil for brushing

FILLING
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic 
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 large eggs, whisked
1 c. milk
3/4 c. grated Parmesan (or other grated cheese)
1 box (or bag) of frozen spinach, thawed and drained (completely dry)
2/3 c. diced ham
1/2 c. Mozarella cheese


DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:
First, butter a 9 inch pie pan and set aside. Then in a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Dump into the bowl of  a food processor, fitted with pastry tool (i.e., the plastic blade). Then cut in the shortening and butter until the mixture resembles a course sand. Gradually, one tbsp. at a time, add in ice water to the mixture until a dough forms.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface and kneed. Then, lightly flour the top of the pie dough and cover the top with a sheet of plastic wrap.Rolling from the center, roll the dough into 1/8inch thick circle. Remove the plastic wrap, and gently fold dough over and across the pie pan. Press the bottom and sides of dough to conform to the pie pan. Shape the pie crust edge to desired design. I chose to be simple and just use a fork to create a creased edge. Cover the pie crust with a piece of plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Remove from freezer and lightly pierce the bottom and sides of the pie crust with a fork. Brush pie crust with a light coat of olive oil. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

For the Filling:
Before beginning, reduce oven to 350F degrees. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in garlic and saute until fragrant and slightly browned. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper to taste, and then toss in mushrooms and saute for 8-10 minutes. At this pint, the mushrooms should have released all their moisture, and no water should remain at the bottom of the skillet. Set mushrooms aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs. Then whisk in milk and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

Assemble the quiche as follows: cover the bottom of the pie crust with the thawed and completely drained spinach (this is important- you do not want to make your crust soggy with wet spinach). Next, cover the spinach with a layer of mushrooms, followed by a layer of ham. Once layers have been made, pour milk and egg mixture over the layers, until completely submerged (batter should be slightly below the brim of the the pie dish). Sprinkle Mozarella cheese over the top of the quiche. If it looks really full, that is okay, this quiche does not rise very much.. 

Place pie on  on baking sheet for easy transfer into and out of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes- 1 hour until the top of the quiche is golden brown and center is solid.  
  •  After 30 minutes on the top rack, I transferred the quiche to the bottom rack. At which point, if you have a pie crust protector (so it does not burn) you should use it. If not, do what I did: Place a lined baking sheet on the rack above the quiche, and position so it is directly over the quiche. Allow to completely cool before serving.

Enjoy,
Chika

30 July 2013

Chocolate Chunk, Graham Cracker Muffins



Have you ever watched the TV show Friends? I hope so! It is probably one of my all-time favorite shows. A show that I have no problem watching re-runs of. I'd like to think that my personality doppelganger is Monica. As a psychologist in training, I have no issue admitting that I am undoubtedly a person with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Organizing and cleaning are some of my favorite things to do. Though, I realized that I did not include it in my About Me (so I just updated it :). When the hubby and I moved into our first place together this past September, we got a two bedroom apartment, so that one bedroom could be used as an office/guest bedroom. Mostly our office, since we do not often have guests.

I have so much random papers from teaching and school- then I have accumulated various piles on the floor- which is really annoying! And since I have been quite busy until now- I have not kept up with my weekly, thorough cleaning (I know- don't judge me ;).  Well my schedule has lightened up a bit, and I have proclaimed tomorrow to be a cleaning/organizing day. I am going to go through the apartment from top to bottom- dusting, scrubbing, wiping, washing, vacuuming, and organizing! I bought paper racks, magaxine holders, trays, and bins! I am also planning on finally putting up the hubby and I's diplomas. So, I thought I would get on it. Also, the hubby and I picked up some beautiful artwork in South Asia that I would like to display as well. I am excited!

Until then, enjoy this recipe for muffins. I have not made the hubby breakfast in sometime. He has been on a kick of trying different cereals. Kashi and Kellog's came out with some interesting flavors (dates, pecan and cinnamon, etc.). Well, he recently finished his last cereal box that he wanted to try and I jumped on the opportunity to make some muffins. I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest and it looked so yummy. Graham cracker and chocolate make a great combination (I mean it is 2/3 of a s'more, right?). And, this muffin has crumble on top, and I really enjoy muffins with crumble on it. Plus, muffins, in general are great. They are super easy to make, and unlike cupcakes, you do not have  worry about frosting them :)







CHOCOLATE CHUNK, GRAHAM CRACKER MUFFINS

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 375F Degrees

FOR THE MUFFINS
2 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. crushed graham crackers (1 c. chunks, 1 c. crumbs)*
1 2/3 c. milk
1/2 c. of butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten 
1 c. chocolate chunks (or more if desired)

FOR THE CRUMBLE
2/3 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 tbsp. butter, melted

*For the chunks, I used a Ziplock freezer bag, and crushed graham crackers into chunks. For the crumbs, I used a food processor (or you can buy graham cracker crumbs at the grocery store).

DIRECTIONS

For the Muffins:
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and crushed graham crackers. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, mix together milk, butter, and eggs. Slowly add in dry ingredients, one cup at a time, until well incorporated. Finally add in chocolate chunks and mix until evenly distributed throughout batter. Line muffin trays with liners or grease each muffin well. Distribute batter among 8 muffin wells (equaling about 2 ice cream scoops in each well).

For Crumble:
In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Mix together until a sand-like consistency is reached. Sprinkle crumble over muffins, making sure to completley cover each muffin top.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool on wire rack for 5-10 minutes. Store in airtight containers.

Enjoy,
Chika

29 July 2013

Velvet Cupcakes Review

Location: Valencia, California
Price: $3.00/cupcake or $33/dozen
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars


In all my cupcakery reviews, I realized that I have yet to review a cupcakery from my own home town. I know! Awful! I chose to review a cupcakery that I have actually tried before (though I technically did not know it). For my bachlorette party- my sister and best friends set up a pre-party with cupcakes. Well Paulina picked up cupcakes from Velvet Cupcakes. Though I do have to say, I am glad that I went there again because my bachlorette party was 6 days before the wedding and so I was not eating very much AND I am not sure the pictures would have turned out so great because they may have been garnished by my sister and besties with some rather tacky decor ;) ::I had no choice, it was my bachlorette party::



So on my last day in California, I decided to swing by. Similar to Sweet Cupcakes, Velvet Cupcakes had my favorite boutique decor. It is an elegant white boutique with hints of pink. It has a gorgeous chandelier in the middle. It hosts a quaint seating area with both a bar counter looking out onto the mall patio and booth area to sit at. This boutique is located in an up and coming, pretty posh mall. They host daily flavors with different specials offered each day, and also seasonal flavors (e.g., peppermint). Each cupcake is decorated with a smooth cloud- so polished, I have been on a YouTube search ever since to find out how to frost cupcakes like that. I have seen a lot of cupcakeries try to frost that way and they either end up not perfectly smooth or the frosting is too soft, in order to create that smoothness. But not Velvet Cupcakes, perfectly frosted with a perfect ratio of frosting to cupcake.



Along that lines, the cupcakes were beautifully decorated in the most simplistic way. They are moist and the overall taste is pretty good. Nothing spectacular but better than average. They had a chocolate hazelnut cupcake-- and being the Nutella addict that I am, I jumped right on it. However, similar to the many places that have attempted to do a chocolate hazelnut cupcake before-- it fell short. Do not get me wrong, it still tasted yummy, but just not Nutella. Though I cannot lie, it would have been nice if it did! The chocolate was the classic devil's chocolate cupcake that you would want and so was the Red Velvet cupcake with an authentic cream cheese frosting. The type of cream cheese frosting, where you can really taste the cream cheese. But my favorite was the cookies n' cream cupcake. Although, the chocolate cake did not host Oreo bits (as I would have really liked)- the cookies n' cream frosting was one of the best I have ever tasted. So good! I could have eaten it up, but I promised to share with my dad and sister.





And bonus (not really because I do judge on this): they have my desired, cute, fancy carry out boxes :)



Bottom line: I really enjoyed this cupcakery. It has my dream look. An elegant place to enjoy some beautiful, yummy yet simple cupcakes. They are moist with the perfect amount of frosting. The only short comings are they offer few cupcakes that are filled or they lack min-in, like in my cookis n' cream cupcake, and the taste just does not completely blow you away (but it's pretty darn good). This is far better than your average cupcakery and you will be very happy if you enjoy one of their cupcakes! Let's just say, I am glad that it's in my home town ;)


Enjoy,
Chika

Soft Dark Chocolate M&M Fudge



 

I realized that I never shared how my trip to California went. I went for a short week a the end of June :/ The day I landed, I headed off to San Diego for a conference. While there, my labmates went with me to get cupcakes :) Which is a plus, because although I am far behind on my reviews, I always love visiting new cupcakeries to share with you. After 3 days in San Diego in headed back to my parents to see my cousin get married.We headed up to Santa Barbara , CA for both a welcome dinner and the wedding ceremony (the next day). Both of which were beautiful. #loveindianweddings :)  I also got to spend time with my adorable niece, get together with my besties, and get more cupcakes before I headed off. It was definitely a packed week!






Side note: I hate selfies. I cannot stand the people on Facebook that takes pictures of themselves all the time. AND if I can see your phone (i.e., you) taking a picture of yourself in the mirror it is even more lame. AND if you are over the age of 22....STOP...and if you are a professional/graduate student REALLY STOP :) My advice to you ;) Well, I went on that rant because my sister agrees and so my niece, cousin and sister took one as a joke to post on FB under the comment #selfies. I think it came out pretty well.


And onto today's recipe.  I really try hard to improve my food photography and take pictures that I really think look good, showcase my recipes, and look like they belong on Pinterest (because you know that is the judge of everything ;) With this recipe, I cannot lie, taking pictures of this fudge was so hard- I am not sure why-- I can only guess the fudge was too dark and the M&Ms were too bright. Blah- so I am sorry for that. Just know, they are more amazing then they look. On the "bright" side, I  LOVED LOVED LOVED this fudge. This is not your traditional fudge. It is a super soft, immediately melts in your mouth type fudge, with bits of crunchy M&Ms in it. The hubby, who is not as much of a chocolate enthusiast as me, ate this up! He asked if we can make this both with no additions and one with nuts. So I can only imagine he loves it just as much as me. The biggest bonus: this is super, duper, amazingly easy! I mean EASY! Seriously, go make it NOW :)







SOFT DARK CHOCOLATE M&M FUDGE
Adapted from Texanerin

INGREDIENTS

1/2 c. butter, melted 
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. + 3 tbsp. Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
2 tbsp. cookie butter (or almond butter)
1/2 c. mini M&Ms (or 3/4 c. see below)*

*If desired you can leave out any additions or add in a different ingredient (i.e., nuts)

DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, whisk together butter and honey until well combined. Then slowly add in cocoa powder (make sure cocoa powder is sifted first-- as you want to prevent any lumps). Next, mix in cookie butter. Finally add in mix-in, if desired. If no mix in is desired, pour fudge in loaf pan lined with aluminum foil (this will make cutting the fudge into squares much easier).

If you would like a mix-in, this can be done in two ways:
  1. If you want it throughout the fudge: mix in 1/2 c. of the mix-in (M&Ms). Pour in loaf pan lined with aluminum foil (this will make cutting the fudge into squares much easier). Sprinkle the top of fudge with remaining mix-in (M&Ms).
  2. If you do not want it throughout: Pour fudge into loaf pan lined with aluminum foil (this will make cutting the fudge into squares much easier). Sprinkle the top of the fudge with 1/2 c. of the mix-in (M&Ms).
Freeze for at least 1 hour (refrigerating overnight is recommended). Lift aluminum foil out of loaf pan. Using a greased knife, cut the fudge into small squares. Keep refrigerated until served.  This can be a little messy BUT have fun licking your fingers ;)

Enjoy,
Chika

28 July 2013

Sweet Cupcakes Review



Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Price: $3.25/cupcake or $12.50/4 cupcakes
Rating: 3.25 out of 5 stars



I am on a mission to catch up on some long overdue cupcakery reviews. Since, it's been while, you ay not remember but this past Spring Break I had gone to a conference in Boston (yes- Boston during St. Patrick's Day weekend). While there, I had tried the infamous Georgetown Cupcakes. Normally, places that have been hyped up never really live  up to their expectations. However, this time I was so amazingly surprised that the yumminess that was Georgetown Cupcakes. Being the social networking addict that  I am- I shared my yummy experience with Facebook. A colleague of mine, who recently left our program for internship, ended up in Boston. She commented that if I loved Georgetown Cupcakes, I would really like Sweet Cupcakes. Well-- with that-- I just had to go. There are three locations, but Ashley (aka: my cupcake buddy) and I decided to go to the original location.



Sweet Cupcakes is an adorable boutique, with beige antique wall paper, dark wood floors, and just a hint of soft pink and white as the color for its seating area-- so subtle that it will no doubt, be attractive to even the manly, man. As this particular location, the ambiance was that of an upscale, business casual. The host wore a dress shirt, black slacks and a tie. I absolutely loved it! It was so chic. Do not get me wrong, I love small, low key, casual type eats BUT if you remember, for some odd reason-- I love the fancy, uptown, girliness that is meant to be a cupcakery! Definitely a note I took down, if I were to ever open up a bakery myself. And, so, for overall atmosphere, I really enjoyed this place.


The small display of cupcakes, hosted quite a few selections, which was a added bonus. No limit to the daily flavors you often get stuck with at other places. Their famous cupcakes, was that based on the buttermilk pancake. Though I am a sucker for signature cupcakes, the buttermilk pancake based cupcake was just not screaming my name. So between Ashely and I we decided to get: Hot Chocolate, Cookies n' Cream, Cookie Dough, and Chocolate on Vanilla (ignore the green sprinkles-- as it was a holiday limited look for none other than St. Patrick's Day).


Similar to Georgetown Cupcakes, these cupcakes are small and hand sized. With an almost pefect frosting to cupcake ratio, except for their Chocolate on Vanilla cupcake, which had slightly too much frosting. They are simple, but elegantly decorated. A trait that I have come to admire- not lumpy. I have come to the realizations that some cupcakeries are sloppy. They put out lopsided, lumpy cupcakes which irritate me to the core. Luckily, the beauty that is Sweets Cupcakery is also shown in their cupcakes. I had high hopes for this cupcakery that was compared to Georgetown Cupcakes.


Sadly, as many places that are hyped- it did not live up to its expectations. But we did not have the heart to tell the sweet host that kept checking if we were happy with everything (plus, for Sweets as they hire great staff...kudos). The cupcakes were slightly dry-- every one of them except for the Hot Chocolate cupcakes that was filled with a chocolate mouse. Even the cookie dough cupcake was dry even though it was filled with cookie dough--why--because the cookie dough was even dry. Even the cookies n' cream cupcake, a new found favorite of mine, was underwhelming at best.


Bottom line: it was not bad-- not close. Yummy, cute and a good portion. But dry-- so grab yourself a drink when you enjoy the cupcake. It was a "sweet" place with a cute vibe. What does that get you? A nice outing with a pretty cupcake that is average. People enjoy average cupcakes all the time, in fact, its called average because most cupcakeries are. So- if you craving a cupcake, why not enjoy it in an elegant little boutique. BUT if you could go down the street to Georgetown Cupcakes-- I'd head there instead ;)


A bonus: Ninja was not with me in Boston, but had he-- Sweets Cupcakes sells Pupcakes! I have a special place in my heart to cupcakeries and bakeries that sell sweet treats to our furry, loved ones :) Brownie points to Sweet Cupcakes. 


Enjoy,
Chika