Vanilla Bean Poached Pears

poached pears

If you always fall in love with that perfectly spiced apple pie drenched in a sweet, cinnamon syrup that just keeps you coming for more, then you are sure to find this recipe a hit! Why? It’s super easy and you don’t have to worry about baking a crust that is too hard or under-baked. After making this recipe, I didn’t have mounds of measuring cups, bowls, and spoons to wash so it was a relief. Mind you, I’m not usually the pears type of person. I will go straight for the apples if given both to choose from. This dish though presents pears in a simple yet enjoyable way. It almost tastes like an apple pie, because of how juicy and tender the pears are.

Vanilla Bean Poached Pears

Printable Recipe here

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (can also use actual vanilla bean or vanilla extract)
  • 7 medium sized pears (peeled, cored, and split in half)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Preheat: 375 F

  1. Place sugar in a small bowl and mix in the vanilla bean paste
  2. Arrange the pears in a large baking dish (cut side up) and then pour the lemon juice and sprinkle the sugar evenly over them
  3. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the pears and pour the water into the dish
  4. Divide the butter amongst each of the pears, placing a small amount onto each one
  5. Roast the pears for 30 minutes
  6. Turn the pears over and roast for another 25-30 minutes, or until tender and caramelized

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Tips:

– If you are unable to finish the pears, refrigerate and warm up before eating the next time

– Vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream will go great paired with this dessert

poached pears

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Mason Jar Pecan Pies, Watermelon Bubble Tea, & More

pecanpie

Today’s lesson: You and only you have the power to turn your day into a great one.

My weekend was supposed to end with a relaxed swimming day with some friends. Nope. The stormy, rainy weather thought otherwise. My pool day was canceled and I was left with… A choice to either nap in, finish off some work, or host a cooking day instead. I chose the last option and sure was I glad that I decided to do so! Yes, I was pretty disappointed at the bipolar weather, but what better than great food and fabulous friends to spend your day with? Mason jar pecan pies. Watermelon inspired bubble tea. Soft & chewy chocolate chip cookies. Homemade mochi with mango and blood orange sorbet. My focus tends to be on the desserts, but I promise we ate some real food before all of this. Definitely can’t forget the chili cheese macaroni and buffalo chicken nacho pasta that was on the menu for entree.

filledpies

Mason jars just offer their own homey and special atmosphere. I have no idea what it is about mason jars, but I love them! These mini 4 ounce jars are just enough to satisfy you, especially if you have just eaten dinner or lunch. Not too much, not too little. And you know what’s best? You can use the lid and store them in your fridge for later, so no hassle of finding an empty Tupperware to store it.

pies

To top it all off: a scoop of classic vanilla bean ice cream. The cold creamy texture of the ice-cream perfectly balanced out the warm, chewiness of the pecan pie.

Mason Jar Pecan Pies 

Makes enough for 12 (4 oz) mason jars

Preheat: 350 F

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
  •  A ready made pie crust (store bought or homemade)

Directions

  1. Mix together the sugar, brown sugar, salt, syrup, vanilla, butter, and eggs.
  2. Get a round object (like a circle cookie cutter) that is a little wider than the mason jars to cut the pie crust
  3. Press the cut crusts into each of the mason jars so that they reach at least half way up
  4. Sprinkle some pecans in the bottom of each of the mason jars
  5. Pour your prepared syrup into each jar (about 3/4 full)
  6. Put your mini mason jars on a cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 F (if they start to burn on the top, take them out)

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman can be found here

watermelon

Any bubble tea fanatic will appreciate this drink right here. Once you’ve tasted a majority of the usual bubble tea flavors such as thai tea, green tea, jasmine, etc. you will find that you may want something new; something a little more exciting. Now, the classics never get old. I could legit order green tea or thai tea for days and still love it as much as I did the first day.

The bubble tea above is made of a honeydew base and topped off with a watermelon slush and tapioca pearls for the “seeds”.

Watermelon Honeydew Bubble Tea

Directions:

I really have no exact measurements for this, because it truly is best done without that. I will still give a general recipe as to how I made it. The bottom is a honeydew base. It is basically honeydew blended with a few ice cubes added and half a cucumber. The top is purely watermelon. No ice cubes there. Blend enough watermelon till your desired amount is reached and add a few scoops of lemonade powder as it complements it nicely. Add prepared tapioca pearls and you are done!

Tips:

-Recipe for Tapioca Pearls can be found here (My post about it is still in progress)

mochi

Mmmmmochi! I’ve always seen this delectable and chewy delight in frozen yogurt shops, yet I had never really tasted it by itself to appreciate it to its fullest. One of my friends brought the recipe for this with her and so we got to add it to our great menu of desserts for the day. It goes great with sorbet especially blood orange and mango (pictured above). I will have a special post dedicated to how to make this delicacy later with step by step pictures so keep posted :)

 

 

 

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.

My_Table

 

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

 

 

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 :)

IMG_0413

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

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

IMG_0607

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!

photo 3

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!

photo 1

photo 2 photo-10 cophhy

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

Surprises Abound!

Wow, I just love surprises, both giving and getting them. First off, I would love to thank Nina Baydoun from Tabkhet el Yom for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. This is my second award, after the last Sunshine Award I got. If you want some a variety of the best Lebanese food, then be sure to check out her blog!

Here are my nominations:

1- bakingwithbrennan

2- Teenage Girl Cooks

3- Allison Eats

4- A Melbourne Girl at Heart

Speaking of surprises, I’ve been eyeing this multi-layer rainbow cake I found on foodgawker foreverrrrrr! I finally got the excuse to bake it up today for my sister’s party. It was so funny because all the party guests did not know what to expect when I told them there was a surprise for them inside the cake. I mean, it looks like a totally normal cake from outside, with the plain white icing and what not. They probably thought that I put some strange material inside. Surprise!!!!! They had no idea that there would be a rainbow inside after the first slice was cut.

The cake itself was pretty easy to make. I followed a white cake mix recipe that I found here.

Rainbow Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 2 tsp of pure vanilla extract
  • Gel Paste (I used the Wilton Colors: Christmas Red, Orange, Lemon Yellow, Leaf Green, Sky Blue, and Purple)
Tools Needed:
  • Measuring cups: tablespoon, teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 cup, 1/2 cup
  • 2 Mixing Bowls (for dry/wet ingredients)
  • Electric Mixer
  • Parchment Paper, Pencil, and Scissors
  • 9″ round cake pans
  • Toothpicks
  • Mini bowls (for separating the egg whites)
  • 6 medium bowls/spoons (for separating the 6 colored layers)
Preheat: 350 F
Directions:
  1. Mix together all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cream all the butter with an electric mixer. If you forgot to leave it till it reached room temperature, then microwave it for about 20 seconds before creaming.
  3. Add in the sugar, egg whites, vanilla extract, and sour cream mixing well in between each and every addition.
  4. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to the creamed mixture. Mix until well incorporated.
  5. If you have a scale, you can weigh the amount of the total cake mixture and divide it by six to see how much to add to each of the 6 divisions. My lack of a kitchen scale lead me to improvise and use another method. Instead, I used the measuring cups to scoop the mixture into each of the 6 bowls laid out. I started with a 1/2 cup for each and then added another 1/3 cup to each dividing the rest of the mix as equally as I could.
  6. Next, use the toothpicks to add the 6 gel food colorings to each of the 6 bowls. The color you see of the raw cake mixture is how it will turn out after being baked, so add the food colorings according to your own discretions.
  7. Now, trace the cake pan with a pencil on the parchment paper and cut out the circle. Butter the parchment paper after putting it in the cake pans. I used two cake pans at a time in the oven, because I only had two.
  8. Pour the colored batter into the cake pans and bake for about 15 minutes or until well done.

For the icing I wanted to try something different so I did a Swiss Meringue Buttercream from here. I didn’t really like how it turned out though, because it was not consistent enough to ice a cake. I had to add half a can of store bought frosting to it to make it less runny. This was only for the filling though, in between the layers. For the outside frosting, I went with the recipe that I have been using from my previous cupcake post. It hasn’t failed me yet and is the perfect icing for a cake!

More cupcake pictures too! :)