Surviving Midterms: Foodie Style

It’s that time of the year again. I wish it could have been Thanksgiving but no, it’s midterms time where any form of joy is killed. It’s when you really appreciate the carefree time you had last week where you had the luxury to choose whether to watch a new episode of American Horror Story or go grab a quick bite at Panera Bread. This is all up to you of course. Midterms or not, we always have food so why not use it as a stress reliever and motivator? Step away from living off vending machine snacks and camping out at a single cubicle to learning simple tips to making your studying experience a bit more enjoyable.

  1. Find a few great studying spots and alternate. Studies show that alternating your study area improves retention compared to studying in one location. Try studying anywhere and everywhere to find out what works for you, even if it’s while flipping pancakes.

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2. Sometimes we all need a little motivation and it doesn’t hurt if it comes in the form of a gummy bear.

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3. Studying with a furry (or not so furry) friend nearby can lend for some company. Not when they steal your chair though haha.

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4. Next time you grab for a snack, go for berries and fruits. They are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants which helps your memory and improves brain performance.

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5. Go for a change and try out coconut water: it’s high in potassium and low in sodium and calories. A diet low in potassium can cause fatigue which is a bad combo for studying. A high potassium and low sodium diet helps lower blood pressure, therefore lowering your stress levels.

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6. If you are in the mood for an actual meal then Chipotle is the way to go! It’s an easy to-go meal that you can save for later if you get full. The best part about October is that you can get $3 Burritos if you come in a costume for Halloween.

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7. Need an actual break from studying? Whip up these 3-ingredient Nutella brownies or make yourself an easy mug cake.

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8. We all know what’s not good for us, yet we tend to buy it anyways. Treat yourself every now and then, because you know you deserve it.

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9. When studying gets dull, you can always light a candle or candles. Candles can help reduce your stress, improve your productivity, and help you stay more focused on your studies.

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10. Pack a healthy snack like a salad or some pumpkin spice scones to the library so you aren’t stuck living off of vending machine food, because all the real food is way too far away.

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Houston Bites: Shaved Ice Finds

For the next Houston Bites focus, check out my article on Sidedish for Houston’s Dining Magazine MyTable here for the top 5 places to find the perfect shaved ice to satisfy your summer cravings! This was a very exciting piece to do and in the process of site searching I found many noteworthy locations to share with you all. While each focuses on a different aspect of shaved ice, together they contribute to the rich food culture of Houston.

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What’s your favorite shaved ice location and what makes it special for you?

 

 

3 Rice Krispies Recipes in 1: Nutella, Peanut Butter, & Pumpkin Spice

Chocolate Loaded Rice Krispies

Chocolate Loaded Rice Krispies

The best recipes are always those that are impromptu! This one was created with a few friends that I had invited over. There was nothing planned in particular, as we are usually a spontaneous type of group and any type of baking episode that we create is always a memorable one; one where we usually double or triple the actual amount of baking time. No worries though, the time spent is invariably amusing and full of whimsical moments & shenanigans to look back at and laugh upon haha. As a big fan of simple recipes that are effortless, after eyeing the new bag of Rice Krispies on top of the fridge, I knew that we must attempt the unfailingly, delicious task of making Rice Krispy treats. I checked the recipe online and turns out that I had all the ingredients we needed (always a happy sight!). We ended up not following the exact recipe and added our own creativity to this delightful bite, which I highly recommend you do as well with your favorite chocolates or whatever you might have waiting to be used in your pantry. Some of the added goods included mini Reeses bites, mini chocolate M&Ms, peanut butter, & a satiny Nutella glaze to finish it off.

HomeMade Peanut Butter & Chocolate Rice Krispies

Printable Version Here

Ingredients

  • 5 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 10 ounce marshmallow creme/bag of marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: various candies/chocolates/pretzels

Directions

  1. Spray a medium 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray
  2. Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a saucepan over medium heat
  3. Stir in the marshmallow creme until incorporated and remove from heat
  4. Mix in the peanut butter and vanilla extract
  5. Move to a larger bowl if the saucepan is not big enough and add the 5 cups of Rice Krispies cereal
  6. Gently mix all the cereal with the marshmallow mixture and add any of your optional chocolates
  7. Press the Rice Krispies mix into the prepared dish and refrigerate until set (about 30-60 minutes)

Different Flavors to Try:

*Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispies: add 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice

*Nutella Rice Krispies: add a 1/2 cup of Nutella to your mixture

Few Tips:

*This is an easily adaptable recipe to what you like, for example if you do not prefer peanut butter then take that out or if you like extra m&ms in your rice krispies then add a whole cup of them

*For a chocolate icing simply melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, add 1/2 cup of Nutella to it, & drizzle all over

Pumpkin Spice & Nutella Rice Krispies

Pumpkin Spice & Nutella Rice Krispies

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio (n): a lime-green small sized nut perfect for snacking and eating when studying or walking around the neighborhood; a nut that is always on the go; member of the cashew family

Pistachios really go great with anything! It is the atypical flavor to see, but it tastes great in Bluebell icecream and shortbread cookies. And you most likely have seen them all over Instagram in the beautiful colors that they come in. Yes, I am guilty of posting a picture of these vibrant and exquisite desserts every time I visit a bakery, but how could you not?!

Highly recommend anyone reading this to try out this recipe. You’d be surprised at how much you will fall in love the pistachio flavor. If not, then try making macarons in any flavor that you are craving.  I, myself, can’t wait to make these again! You cannot simply just eat one, so I would recommend doubling my recipe which originally makes about 20.

*recipe for the macarons can be found on a previous post of mine here where I made chocolate macarons with a variety of frostings

*changes to this recipe: 60 grams almond flour and 50 grams of ground pistachios instead of the 110 grams of almond flour, I also added a few drops of lime green gel food coloring

 

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio Macarons

Fried Portabello Tacos w/ Cilantro Lime Ranch

Taco bout the perfect lunch! Recently, I’ve been trying to be healthier & I have found a solution to cook more instead of baking more. It really is discouraging seeing cup after cup of sugar being added to a baked good, so there are positives and negatives to seeing what goes into what you bake haha. Anyways, a recent visit at a local taco restaurant inspired me to make this scrumptious lunch. The taco was pretty simple consisting of either salmon or a fried portabello, along with a cilantro lime sauce, corn salsa, various greens, cheese, a slice of avocado, and a handful of pomegranate seeds for a ruby splash of color to top it off. I couldn’t resist but add an addicting side dish of seven layer dip on the side.

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Fried Portabello Tacos

Simple mix of the following in any order:

Fried Portabello (recipe below)

Corn Salsa (mix together and set aside)

  • 1 cup of corn
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro
  • 1/4 cup onions
  • a tablespoon of lime
  • salt and pepper for taste

-Cilantro Lime Ranch (blend the following and set aside)

  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp ranch
  • 1 tsp lime juice

-Various Greens

  • 1/2 Cabbage, shredded
  • 1-2 Green Bell Peppers, sliced
  • 2 Avocados, thinly sliced

-2 cups of your favorite shredded cheese

-1 Pomegranate, deseeded

Fried Portabello

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound portabello mushrooms, sliced (remove stems/gills)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 cup egg wash (2 eggs whisked)
  • oil as needed, for frying

Directions:

  1. Fill a pan with oil and heat as you get the rest of the set up ready
  2. Lay out three bowls and fill according with 2 cups flour, 2 eggs whisked, and the last bowl with the panko
  3. Coat each mushroom with flour, then dip it into the egg wash bowl, and lastly in the breadcrumbs to coat it evenly
  4. Fry in the oil until golden brown & place onto a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the oil

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Final Foodie Adventure of 2013 in ATL

Happy New Year’s all!! Before I share any new recipes, here are a few pictures from my last foodie adventure of 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia :)

The highlight of my winter break was definitely visiting Atlanta with my friends. The purpose of the trip was to attend a dear friend’s wedding there and we all decided to make a food adventure out of it in the meantime. I mean, might as well, right? Anyways, Atlanta is definitely known for having quite a number of local cafes that we wanted to visit. Unfortunately, not everything always goes as planned and you just find yourself waking up at noon sometimes. One of the more memorable breakfasts that we did have though was at Krispy Kreme donuts. Krispy Kreme locations are quite sparse around the United States, so there’s always that bit of excitement when you find a location. We got an assortment of creme filled, custard filled, apple fritters, and even a few red velvet donuts! The red velvet donut itself was more than filling, very sweet along with a cakey texture.

Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme Overload

We attempted for more of a healthy lunch, well lunches over the next few days. Lunches ranged from panini sandwiches from Corner Bakery to authentic pizzas from Anticos and Korean tacos from Takorea. Corner Bakery is a chain eatery similar to Panera Bread. Although we were trying to avoid chains to be able to try more of the local foods, in dire situations sometimes you settle for anything. We had decided to take the train around the city that day, and so our freedom in choosing a place to eat was greatly reduced. Corner Bakery just happened to be very close to us and we decided to give it a go. I ordered a broccoli cheddar soup with a half sandwich that did not disappoint. Broccoli cheddar soup hasn’t failed me so far, and if you haven’t tried it I highly recommend you do so!

Corner Bakery

Cornery Bakery Sandwich and Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Sometimes it’s quite difficult to go through the day without a snack. That is, especially when you spot a large vintage sign from a distance with the letters “Funnel Cakes” on it, while walking through Olympic Centennial Park. Somehow we found ourselves waiting in line for one of these crunchy and satisfying creations. After getting a fresh funnel cake, it was difficult resisting one bite while waiting for everyone to take the obligatory food picture before digging in. As the multitude of forks dug in, it reduced and reduced until there was just powdered sugar left on the plate.

Chocolate Drizzled Funnel Cake

Chocolate Drizzled Funnel Cake

As the journey continued throughout the days, we came about Antico’s. Antico’s appealed to me due to the high volume of lengthy reviews that it received on Yelp, along with the mouth watering pictures. First off, when you visit a restaurant there are two main components that contribute to your experience: the atmosphere and of course the food itself. Unfortunately the atmosphere was very busy, definitely not one where you would sit down and peacefully savor your slice of pizza. It seemed like a place where you had to fight for a table to at least claim an area large enough for your group. The upside though was that it was a very interactive and lively atmosphere. The art of the pizza making was wide open to be viewed as you could sit and view the dough making and other intricacies of the pizza process. A few pictures later, we were ready to eat our pizza. I expected that they would have some sort of outdoor seating, but after asking the waiter, who replied telling me and a friend that it was not her problem where we ate our pizza and we can sit wherever. I was really surprised and shocked at her reply. We quickly left the unwelcoming waiter and told our group to look elsewhere outside for a spacious area. There was actually a gelato place next door and so we went inside to find large tables. Just what we were looking for! We bought a few drinks and sat down to finally eat.

Pizza Making

Behind the Scenes at Antico’s

Margharita Pizza

Antico’s Margharita & Four Cheese Pizzas

The final lunch was at Takorea, a hipster Korean Mexican fusion restaurant. The interior design of this place topped off all the previous restaurants that we had visited. It had a nice daylight feel to it that was fresh and crisp. The funky light fixtures along with the misplaced garage glass doors and iron wrought chairs put together a nice mood.

Takorea

Takorea’s Interior

Takorea

More of Takorea’s Interior

The food at Takorea was an interesting mix. Most of us though enjoyed the appetizer a lot more than our main dish. The appetizer that we got was the Gogi Nachos. I think it was the beef and the special sauce that they made along with it that made the nachos so irresistible. One bite from these nachos left me wanting more and more haha.

Takorea's Gogi Nachos

Takorea’s Gogi Nachos

Takorea's Chicken Burrito with Kimchi Fried Rice

Takorea’s Chicken Burrito with Kimchi Fried Rice

Our only dinner in ATL out, asides from the wedding and reception dinners, was at Mary Mac’s Tea Room. It sounded like the perfect soul food to have on any day and it sure beat that seafood eatery we were about to go to. This restaurant had a very homey feel to it and was structured similar to a colonial home from inside.

Mary Mac's Tea Room

Mary Mac’s Tea Room

The ordering process was quite unique at this place as we had to write down our orders on a slip of paper with various sections regarding what you would want. The portion size was quite large for the price, not to mention the bread appetizers that the placed out that were to die for! We felt like we were going to get full off of just the appetizers: flaky moist cinnamon bread rolls, yeast honey rolls, and corn bread. I kept hearing phrases like, “I’m only going to have another half” or “last one, I promise!” They were so good that we asked the waiter to give us another serving of the cinnamon bread to go. Why not have a delicious midnight snack for the night?

Mary Mac's Order Slips

Mary Mac’s Order Slips

After some amazing appetizers, we had quite high expectations for the food itself. A few of us were disappointed with the orders sadly. Taking into account how much I love Thanksgiving food, I couldn’t do anything but love the food that I ordered. The mac n cheese was a little watery, but everything else was on point, reliving that comfort food style present during Thanksgiving feasts.

Mary Mac's Turkey Plate

Mary Mac’s Turkey Plate with Cornbread Dressing and Sides of Mac n Cheese & Fried Okra

To end this long-winded post, I present the best cup of mocha that I have ever had. My image of Starbucks as top dog at coffee making was quickly put to rest after drinking this beautiful cup of caffeine! Well, hope you enjoyed my food endeavors and feel free to comment below to share any of yours :)

Octane's Mocha Coffee

Octane’s Mocha Coffee

Icing Sugar Cookies 101

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I just love sugar cookies. The first time I made them was when I made these Phineas & Ferb themed cookies for a friend’s birthday. They were a lot of fun to make; it’s like a coloring book but on a cookie instead. After my first try I was down for round two: a bridal shower! A quick glance at the cutest dress and cake shaped cookies on Pinterest was more than enough to convince me to order the wedding shaped cookie cutters from Amazon. Thank god for prime shipping, because they came right in time, a few days before the bridal shower. It took me about two days to make the sugar cookies and ice them. I started the cookies the day before the event with a friend, cutting and baking about 60 of them. It took us a few hours as we also made a New York style cheesecake to accompany the cookies. I iced the outline and flood-iced the base for the cookies that night, which had to dry for a couple hours. The next day, I piped on the details and decor successfully completing the bridal themed sugar cookies. Honestly, I was a bit unsure as to how they would turn out, because it was my first time trying them out. They turned out great, although the cookies probably took me longer than they should have. I learned quite a few tips along the way that will greatly assist me for next time. Read on to find out how you can make these sugar cookies too!

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Phineas & Ferb Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 sticks of butter, room temp
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Beat the softened butter until it is creamy and add the powdered sugar until incorporated
  2. Add in the flour, egg, vanilla, almond extract, and salt and mix until no lumps are visible
  3. Chill in refrigerator for about an hour until dough is firm
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F
  5. Roll dough and cut out respective shapes
  6. Place baking tray in freezer for 5 minutes so the cookies can retain their shape while baking
  7. Bake for about 7-8 minutes

Tips & Recommendations

*You can always substitute an ingredient or baking tool if missing. In my case, we could not find the rolling pin and so to roll the cookies we ended up using a pestle mortar. The cookies could have been made a little more even as some were slightly lopsided, but it worked out in the end.

*Make sure the butter is at room temperature as to avoid a lumpy dough, you want it to be well incorporated.

Royal Icing

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbs water
  • 2 Tbs meringue powder
  • food coloring (optional)

Basic Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix for 7 minutes until smooth
  2. Divide icing into the number of colors you are using and add food coloring
  3. Add about a teaspoon of water so the icing will be a piping consistency. If still too stiff, add more water.
  4. Outline all of the cookies
  5. Add more water to the icing so you can “flood” your cookies (filling in the outlines)
  6. After you flood the cookies, let them dry for a couple hours and add details after

Detailed Directions:

1. Preparation

-Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix for about 7 minutes until smooth.

2. Coloring

-Divide icing into the amount of colors needed. I colored half of the icing that I made purple, leaving the other half plain white.

3. Piping the Outlines

-Add about a teaspoon of water to the icing until it is a consistency that can be piped. Be careful not to add too much water, so add it in very small amounts. You don’t want it too runny nor too stiff.

-Place the icing into a piping bag now. If you have a disposable bag, a trick I learned was to get some seran wrap and place about 2-3 spoons of icing onto it. Wrap the seran wrap like you are wrapping a tortilla roll, and then snip the end of it with scissors. Place your seran-wrapped icing into the piping bag now, keeping it clean and easy to wash. Click here for step by step pictures to see how this is specifically done.

-Using a #2 tip, pipe thin seamless lines lining all of your cookies.

4. Flooding The Cookies

-When you finish outlining, you need to then flood your cookies. This is done by adding more water to your icing, about 1/2 a teaspoon at a time until it is a consistency that can be spread easily onto the cookies. Use a toothpick to help spread the icing around and get it into tight spots.

-Let the cookies dry for about a couple hours before you put any of the detailing onto them.

Tips & Recommendations

*Meringue powder can be found at craft and baking stores such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby

*Be VERY careful when adding water to your icing to make it into a piping consistency. Add it 1/4-1/2 teaspoon at a time. You want it to easily come out of your tip, but not too runny or stiff.

*When flooding your cookies, make sure the icing is runnier than when you piped the outlines. I made the mistake of adding not enough water which prolonged the amount of time it took me to flood the cookies. The icing should be able to cover the whole cookie without you having to spread it.

*If you are time crunched and for whatever reason can’t wait for the base flood icing to dry, there is an alternative as always. Turn on your oven to 250 F and then turn it off. Put your wet cookies onto a baking sheet and place into the still warm oven for about 5 minutes or longer until you see them dry.

Sugar Cookies Step by Step Pictures

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Outlining the Sugar Cookies

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More Outlining of Sugar Cookies

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Flood Icing the Outlines

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And the decorating begins…

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Cake, Cake, Cake

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The Bridal Shower Dessert Table

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Finished Look

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Cheesecake to Top it All Off

Leave any suggestions or unanswered questions below!

Pumpkin Spice Feast: Homemade Cupcakes & Ice Cream

The best part about this season has definitely got to be all the pumpkin spiced desserts and drinks out. Most commonly known are probably the famous Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes or those Sprinkles Pumpkin Spice cupcakes. Even grocery stores are swimming with this unique flavor in generic cakes, cupcakes, pies, etc. It was crazy, but I actually found a cream cheese that was pumpkin flavored. It tasted pretty normal, just with the pumpkin spice flavor added in. The best though was the Pumpkin Pecan creamer, which was just perfect with my morning coffee. I know… I’m on a pumpkin flow here haha.

Of course it’s nice seeing all these delicious desserts at stores where you can conveniently buy them. What’s even better though is when you can make them freshly without that commercial taste. Check below for a Pumpkin Spice Cupcake recipe as well a Pumpkin Ice-cream recipe :)

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Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Cupcakes: recipe from a previous post found here.

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Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Printable Recipe: Here

Ingredients:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Whisk the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract together and refrigerate for about 3-8 hours
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and 1/2 cup of brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat
  3. Cook for about 5 minutes, till bubbles form around the edges of the pan
  4. Whisk the egg yolks, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of heavy cream until combined in a separate bowl
  5. Remove the heavy cream mixture from the saucepan and whisk about 1/2 cup of it into the egg yolk mixture
  6. Pour the combined mixture back into the saucepan and cook it over medium heat until it thickens (do not let it boil)
  7. Strain through a sieve into a bowl
  8. Place this bowl in another bowl full of ice-water
  9. Whisk the pumpkin puree into this custard like mixture and refrigerate for 3-24 hours
  10. Cover it with a plastic wrap pressed on the surface to prevent a skin from forming
  11. Transfer your custard to an ice-cream maker and freeze it according to the ice-cream maker’s instructions

EPIC, EASY, & EFFORTLESS DESSERTS

I don’t even know how long it’s been but here’s for a food packed post to have made that wait worthwhile. I have all these pictures accumulating and just waiting for their moment to shine in a post. Most of my baking is done for occasions like a friend’s birthday or if I am going to a dinner party. Oh and can’t forget my cravings either haha. You know, especially when you see an epic mouthwatering dessert that you just must taste. At what better than recreating it to your liking? Or even when you go to a restaurant and have one of their specialities & think of how nice it would be to be able to make it at home for a midnight snack or what not. Not only that, when you bake you know EXACTLY what it going in your food. It for sure puts all those worries about mystery ingredients to rest.

Looking for something quick to make or just ideas in general? Check out these three easy to make assorted desserts! IMG_2250 Twizzler Chocolate Sandwiches

-Bake your favorite flavor of cake & let it cool (Hershey’s cake recipe here)

-Cut it into 3 x 3 inch squares & cut those in half to make a sandwich

-Fill the inside with buttercream, recipe found here

-Using a piping bag, top the cake with icing & place your candies accordingly IMG_2806

Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes topped with Glazed Strawberries

-Bake your favorite cake in the mini bundt cake pans (found mine at World Market)

-Make a chocolate ganache to cover it, a combo of about 9 oz of chopped chocolate with 1 cup of heavy cream

-Top it off with a strawberry dipped in a fruit glaze (bought the glaze already made in the grocery store fruits section) IMG_2044 Chocolate Drizzled Pecan Pie with Raspberries

-My ALLTIME favorite pie recipe because you simply mix all the ingredients together and throw them in a pie shell (product is too epic and leaves your taste buds feeling out of this world!)

-You can find the recipe for the pecan pie in a previous blog post of mine here

-Melt some baking chocolate and drizzle it over the pie (i put the melted chocolate in a ziploc bag with the corner cut to make it easier) & for some color add fruits on top

What’s your favorite go-to recipe?

Cheesecake Supreme!

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Cheesecakes. Nuff’ Said. Yea this blog post should probably end right here huh? Lol. Fine fine I’m sure y’all want to hear allll about cheesecake and how to actually make it yourself!! It’s funny because I always get random inspirations after I try delicious dishes at random restaurants & then later try to recreate them at home. Lobster bisque, fondant cakes, broccoli cheddar soup… The list can go on and on. Well, as it happens we have the Cheesecake Factory known for their intricate & flavorful cheesecakes. You really do get overwhelmed just looking at their lengthy menu! It just so happens that this place is quite a drive from my area so going there was always a treat. Just recently though, they opened a Cheesecake Factory in my area & you can only imagine how crazy everyone went when they heard about it. Me & my friends decided to have a Cheesecake Movie night. This was a really smart move because we got to taste like half the menu by sampling the various flavors each of us got. After this though, I really wanted to bake a cheesecake. What better than being able to have your cravings whenever you want, because you can make it? Thankfully, my first try was a success. What’s neat about cheesecakes is that you can use whatever you have available to decorate it. We had some fruits, so I made a chocolate ganache and covered that with an assortment of fruits. For my next try though, I wanted to make it a little different as shown below. I drizzled the cheesecake with caramel and chocolate, sprinkled it with nuts & coconut, & last of all surrounded it with a variety of cheesecake truffles.

For the cheesecake recipe that I used, click here!

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Chinese Takeout Anyone??

photo 3  Birthday parties… The hardest thing about them is always the theme!!! For my sister though, that wasn’t the case. She’s been interested in the Chinese culture ever since my dad went there on a business trip haha. So of course, she had a Chinese themed party with everything Chinese you can think of! It was hilarious because half of the people she invited even came dressed in the Chinese cultural clothing. She asked me to make her her cake like last year (which was a rainbow layered cake from inside) so I didn’t mind at all, considering it’s been a while since I baked due to exams and studying. After some research, I decided that I was going to make her a fondant Chinese Takeout Cake! I used a Coconut Cake recipe seen below, covered it with fondant, & drew on it with edible food markers.

Coconut Cake

Ingredients:

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter (or 2/3 cup), RT
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Icing Recipe from here
  • Pre-made Fondant (bought from Michaels)

Directions:

Preheat: 350 F

  1. Mix together all the dry ingredients: cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt
  2. Cut the butter in 2-inch cubes and beat with the dry mixture until it becomes crumbly (1 minute aprox)
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg whites, coconut milk, coconut, and vanilla extract
  4. Add half of this liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and beat until well combined
  5. Add the remaining liquid mixture until the batter is consistent and uniform
  6. Pour the batter in the cake pan and bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden
  7. Allow the cake to cool completely

What I did for assembling it was cut it into four pieces, which I then stacked on top of each other with layers of frosting in between. I completely coated the whole cake with a thin layer of frosting after to seal the crumbs (because you need a flat surface when you place the fondant over it). For the fondant, I just measured each side of the cake and cut out each piece a half inch larger so I could seal each side on top of each other. I drew the Chinese symbols & house onto the fondant cut outs before putting them on the cake.

Lastly… It was pretty spontaneous, but to top it off I decided to make her cupcakes to go along with it!

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It’s Only The Beginning…

Usually you hear of people doing a bucket list, which consists of a myriad of items ranging from places to visit or dare-devil adventures to take. Me and my friend are big foodies so we gave a twist to it. When she gave the idea to have the “Ultimate Food Bucket List”, we just loved it and couldn’t stop adding foods to it! Hahaha it was just perfect & we both couldn’t wait to get started. We started off with a Pina Colada smoothie & Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas, which turned out quite successful due to the teamwork from everyone that helped. We didn’t have time to make the Strawberry Mojitos, but we will get to those later!! Keep posted as we blend, bake, slice, sauté, and cook our way through the Ultimate Food Bucket List :)

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Pina Colada Smoothie

Printable Version

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 banana
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 5 ice cubes

Directions

Blend together and enjoy your fruitful smoothie!

*If I could change anything about this, I would have added only 1/2 a banana, a couple more ice cubes, and more coconut milk! 

photo 2

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Printable Version

Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 oz chicken broth
  • 16 oz can diced/fire roasted tomatoes (your choice)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a medium pot and heat over medium heat on the stove for about 30 minutes to an hour. (For a more flavorful sauce- can also be done in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low heat or 3-4 hours on high)

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 10 tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups Enchilada Sauce
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions

  1. Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, 1 cup of shredded cheese, and 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce in a medium bowl 
  2. In another bowl, mix the shredded chicken, cumin, and garlic powder
  3. Combine the enchilada sauce mixture with the chicken mixture
  4. Pour 1 cup of the enchilada sauce at the bottom of a glass baking dish
  5. Divide the enchilada/chicken mix among the 10 tortillas
  6. Roll them up and place them seam down in the dish to keep them from opening
  7. Pour the remaining 1 cup of enchilada sauce over the tortillas
  8. Finish it off with another cup of the shredded cheese
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 F

SugarCane Glory

photo 1

When I first saw my brother cutting this in the kitchen, I wondered… What the heck is this boy doing with a bamboo stick? Haha turns out it was actually a sugarcane!! This is basically the processed sugar we eat on a daily basis in it’s unrefined form. Seems kind of weird right? It’s quite deceiving knowing that this comes from the grass family which we all assume is “healthy” although it produces that sweet product that we all try to stay away from lol. I was really curious about how sugar is made and allll these different types that we find at the grocery store.

Here’s a quick run down:

White Sugar: Made from the sugarcane; multiple washings to remove all traces of molasses and give the white color

Molasses: Byproduct syrup after sugar is extracted from the sugarcane; the type of molasses depends on which pressing of the sugar it was collected at (first-light molasses, second-dark, third-blackstrap)-with each pressing the molasses get less sugar than the previous one and become darker and less sweeter

Brown Sugar: Plain white sugar mixed with molasses

Turbinado Sugar: Made from the first pressing of sugarcane- syrup is boiled to produce the crystals and then is spun in a centrifuge to remove the moisture (gets its name from turbinelike centrifuge); retains more of the original flavor

Preparing sugarcane is a relatively easy task. Take a sharp knife and remove the green skin from all around the cane. You will expose the creamy fibrous inside that we see below in the picture. Then you chew and chew until you draw out all the juices/sugar (don’t swallow it!).

For choosing a sugarcane, Walter Nicholls gives us an in depth description in his article on the plant

“In stores, sugar cane may be sold in one-foot sections or six-foot sections. Willie Robson Jr., produce manager for Dean & DeLuca in Georgetown, suggests the following: Choose light-green-fading -to- yellow- colored batons mottled with reddish-brown patches. Avoid white canes and those with cracks or blackened areas. Thin, heavy canes tend to be sweeter than thicker ones. Those with joints that are three to five inches in length are best for skewers and swizzle sticks and easier to eat out of hand. Ask the produce clerk to make a fresh cut on each end of the cane. The best cane has opaque, off-white, moist flesh. Canes are past their prime when the flesh is dry and brown or red.”

photo 2

Enjoy!

Cupcake Wars

I know it’s been a while, but here is the post I’ve been meaning to write finally. Nope, it’s not a recipe. Even better, a stunning and exquisite presentation of some pretty talented cupcake bakers around my area! We held the competition at a carnival & it’s funny because this marvelous idea popped up randomly during one of our planning meetings for the carnival. I, myself, was very surprised at the extent to which people decorated their cupcakes. Not only that… But the stands as well!!

When the judging time came near to discern the cupcake winner, it was pretty intense. Groups of people stood near the door in huddles waiting for the results. Friends, family, even the bakers themselves as well… No news came for a while. While it was quite noisy outside, me and the other judges were quite busy at a serious task. Tasting all the cupcakes that is. I didn’t think it would be difficult with only 8 competitors, but it was more time-consuming considering we had to discuss each cupcake, pros and cons. We already knew who each cupcake belonged to, so we asked the bakers to come in, one at a time, and describe their cupcake to us and answer any questions we had. It was quite the experience. Y’all should have seen the judges table where we split the cupcakes. Haha what a mess. Anyways, onto the cupcakes themselves :)IMG_7454One of the display tables with a variety of four cupcakes, all displayed differently. These varied from lemon cupcakes to cotton candy even! I absolutely love the creativity that each competitor demonstrated.IMG_7456The second table with the remaining cupcakes. Not all can be seen, but detailed pictures are coming after! Four different cupcake entries were here as well.IMG_7458Rose patterned Red Velvet Cheesecake cupcakes (YES there was indeed cheesecake inside- toooo yummy) & Chocolate Espresso cupcakes. Gotta say, these two cupcakes are my favorite combos ever :)IMG_7437These were 4 different cupcake flavors submitted by the same baker. They range from Red Velvet Cream Cheese, Reeses, Cinnamon, and even Strawberry topped with Cotton Candy.IMG_7452Beautiful Lemon & Raspberry Cupcakes with Lemon filling as well!! Lovin’ these healthy choices. Definitely make you less self conscious as you eat one after another of these cupcakes hahaIMG_7438Yet another creative entry which were topped off the mocha flavored icing along with those addicting chocolate sticks! My favorite flavor-espresso!!

IMG_7451Creativity hands down for this one! This competitor went all out and even designed a humongous styrofoam cupcake along with a colorful Candy Land-like stand with a glittery water interior to compliment the many toned Cotton Candy Cupcakes topped with fondant. Yes, they were just as beautiful inside as well.IMG_7440Dense & moist Lemon Cupcakes with a curd filling. The top was done creatively with chocolate molded swirls, assorted berries, and coarse sugar as well!IMG_7445Lemon Meringue Cupcakes blowtorched to give them the toasty look. A very light and healthy choice as well, although I prefer the other type of icing to this light meringue one.IMG_7443At LAST… The Winner of it all went to these Moist and delicate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes stuffed with Choc Chip Cookie Dough inside as well! The cookies on top were homemade too! This entry was submitted alongside to the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes on top ^^^. The other two places went to the extravagant stand of Cotton Candy Cupcakes as well as the Lemon Curd Cupcakes topped with the chocolate molds and berries.

Hope you enjoyed this medley of fanciful desserts. Do you have a cupcake that you would enter into a competition? Which of these ones was your favorite?

Classic Pecan Pie

pecan pie

Sooo usually when I come back from school, I’ll take a break, study during the evening, and go to the gym to finish it off. Well, the other day I was just so tired! I had too long of a day at school & on top of that had to wait out on that rush hour traffic -____- Now, especially during the semester, any free time I can stumble upon is like gold so I really have to spend it productively. This instance it came down to the decision, did I want to go to the gym or bake a pie??? Now, keep in mind, I have been CRAVING pecan pie for a week or two. DONE DEAL, Pecan Pie it was! Haha now that didn’t take too long. Oh and something else. After searching if I had all the ingredients I came to the conclusion that we did not have any pecans…. I had already made up my mind though on making this, so I had to do with walnuts instead (which by the way tasted just as good). Anyways after making this, I don’t think I could ever eat a pecan pie from the grocery store given all the unknowns that are in those. This is definitely a decision I won’t regret, & you’ll find out too why when you make this pie according to the directions below :)

pecan pie

Classic Pecan Pie

Ingredients

  • 9 inch pie crust, frozen or homemade 
  • 3 cups pecans, chopped
  • 1 ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ½ tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tbsp milk
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat: 400 F

  1. Beat the eggs until slightly foamy in a large bowl
  2. Stir in the butter, brown sugar, & white sugar
  3. Whisk in the flour, milk, & vanilla
  4. Add the pecans until they are fully coated
  5. Pour the mix in the pie shell
  6. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes then lower to 325 F for 40-50 minutes

Homemade Pie Crust

*(Double Crust Recipe- half it for the pecan pie or save the other half in the freezer)*

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 cup butter or shortening
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • enough water, ice cold

Directions

  1. Stir together all the dry ingredients
  2. Cut the butter in small chunks into the mix
  3. Fill a separate bowl with ice cold water
  4. Add the ice water to the mixture a couple tablespoons at a time using a fork to mix it
  5. After getting a lump of dough, take it out of the dry ingredients and continue until all the flour mixture is gone

***The reason we use ice cold water is because flour needs water to develop gluten. Gluten is what makes the pie dough so tough to roll. The ice water will inhibit the gluten production and makes the pie dough much easier to handle.

***Recipes adapted from http://www.bakerita.com/pecan-pie/ and http://tikkido.com/node/673