Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Egg Separating Technique

Egg Separating Technique


Thanks to my Uncle Mike, I learned this awesome trick for how to separate egg yolks from the whites! At first, I was a little skeptical that the suction from the water bottle would break the yolk, but it worked perfectly every single time! I will definitely keep a spare plastic water bottle around now, just in case I ever need to separate some eggs.


Egg Separating Technique

Crack egg into a bowl and discard the shell. Take the cap off the plastic water bottle and squeeze lightly in your hand. Place the opening of the water bottle on top of the egg yolk and release your grip. If you do it right, this should suck the yolk right up into the water bottle just like magic!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Funfetti Cupcakes (Happy 1st Birthday to my blog!)

Funfetti Cupcakes (Happy 1st Birthday to my blog!)


Funfetti cupcakes will always hold a special place in my heart. For every festive occasion I had in high school I'm pretty sure there was always some funfetti cake to be found. It was a miracle when more than half the batter actually made it into the oven though. I could eat that batter like soup. So so yummy. This was the first time I actually attempted to make funfetti from scratch! A perfect celebration for my blog's first birthday!!! I cannot believe it's already been a whole year since starting this blog! Thank you to all the wonderful people in my life who have supported me and encouraged me through this whole process. I couldn't do it without you!


Funfetti Cupcakes (Happy 1st Birthday to my blog!)
Recipe from Sweetapolita

Ingredients
    For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup whole milk (237 ml), at room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites (120 g), at room temperature
  • 1 egg, whole, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) almond extract
  • 3 cups (350 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 1-1/2 cups vanilla sugar (300 g)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder (19.5 g)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (5 g)
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, softened but cool, and cut into cubes
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) vegetable shortening (I used Crisco)
  • 1/2 cup Rainbow Jimmies or Confetti Quins
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3.5 cups (400 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • a medley of sprinkles for decorating
Instructions
    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two standard muffin pans with your favourite baking liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, whole egg, 1/4 cup of milk, vanilla and the almond extract. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the vanilla sugar, together on low speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter and shortening, and blend on low speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 3/4 cup of milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1-1/2 minutes.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. If you're making Funfetti cupcakes, simply fold in the rainbow jimmies or confetti quins, until just combined.
  6. Divide the batter into your prepared pans (I always use a 50 mm cookie scoop for perfectly even cupcakes), no more than 2/3 full. Bake until a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cupcake, about 16-18 minutes. Be so careful to not over-bake.
  7. Place hot baking pans on wire racks, then carefully (they're hot!) remove the cupcakes from the baking pans immediately, to let cool. Let cool completely before frosting.
  8. For the Frosting:
  9. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  10. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  11. Best used right away (for ideal spreading consistency). To get frosting super smooth (no air bubbles), use a silicone spatula and in an aggressive side-to-side motion, pushing the frosting back and forth against the sides of the bowl. You will hear a sort of paddling sound. Do this every so often while you use the frosting--it keeps it super smooth.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Almond Cake with Orange Glaze and Sugared Grapes

Almond Cake with Orange Glaze and Sugared Grapes


Last weekend when I was home in Seattle, my Mom and I made this delicious cake! And my wonderful brother took pictures of it for me! And my Dad made us a delicious fish dinner to feed us! And my Grandma gave me the silver platter to serve it on! I have such a talented family, and I love them all very much. 
If you're looking to really wow your guests, you should definitely make this cake. Not only is it exceptionally delicious, but it is so beautiful! I'd never thought to sugar grapes before, but I assure you I will be using that technique again. It really set the cake apart from others I've had in the past. Don't be intimidated by the beauty of this cake, it's actually super easy to make. Happy baking!

PS. Go check out my bro's pics. Prepare to be blown away with awesomeness: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tottphotography/



Almond Cake with Orange Glaze and Sugared Grapes
Recipe from Thyme

Cake:
2 cups (9 oz/250g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 oz (200g) almond paste
3/4 cup (6 oz/170g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (7 oz/200g) sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/110 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C).  Generously butter a 9-cup (72 fl oz) Bundt pan (I used shortening and a light coating of flour.)

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper;  set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the almond paste and butter with the paddle on medium speed until combined.  Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy.  Beat in the almond extract.  

Slowly drizzle in the eggs, beating each addition until incorporated before continuing.  Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with the buttermilk in 2 additions, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until the cake is browned and puffed, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean (50 - 60 min).  

Let cool completely on a wire rack.  Tap the pan on a counter to release the cake, then invert it onto a serving plate.

Makes 8-10 servings

Orange Glaze:

2 cups confectioner sugar
3-4 tablespoons fresh orange juice


Sugared Grapes:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
2 cups fresh grapes, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (for rolling)

Instructions:
Place sugar and water in shallow pan and heat until simmering (not boiling) and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Place grapes in pan and submerge. Make sure grapes are well coated. 

Using a slotted spoon transfer coated to grapes to a wire rack to dry for an hour.  Separate grapes as much as possible to avoid clumps of simple syrup that will lead to clumps of sugar.

Place granulated sugar in a shallow pan or bowl and working in small batches, roll grapes through sugar to coat. Transfer coated grapes to a clean surface for furthering drying, about 1hour.





Monday, February 18, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup


I have become an intense soup enthusiast. I've come to appreciate how delicious and soul warming it can be, and also how great it is while living on a budget. Since my crazy busy schedule doesn't allow me much time for making my meals I often have to plan ahead. So it's been great to make a huge pot of soup on Sunday and then pack it for lunch or dinner the rest of the days of the week. For some reason I never really get tired of it either, unless it's really gross soup. But I don't make gross soup, so it works out ;) I swear this butternut squash soup I could easily eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. It is the perfect balance of savory and sweet, and is oh so comforting to my soul.


Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from Cupcakes and Kale Chips


Ingredients
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 T chopped fresh sage
  • 1 T fresh thyme
  • 2 c chicken or vegetable broth
  • salt & pepper
  • Optional garnishes: Crispy prosciutto or bacon, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), Greek yogurt/sour cream
Instructions
  1. In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the squash, onion, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion and squash are starting to get tender.
  4. Add the sage and thyme, and saute for another minute or two.
  5. Add the broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until squash is tender.
  6. Puree with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender or food processor.
  7. Return soup to the pot, and heat it through.
  8. Serve in bowls, garnished as desired.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lemon-Butter Sage Popcorn

Lemon-Butter Sage Popcorn


I am a self-confessed popcorn addict. Recently, I've been obsessed with coming up with new popcorn flavor combinations and this experiment turned out quite successful. Popcorn is a healthy and an oh-so-delicious snack that is way underrated. Plus it is soooooo so cheap. This is as beautiful and budgeted as it gets folks. Below I'll share with you my fool-proof method for popping popcorn on the stove. If you come up with any cool flavor combos please let me know!


Lemon-Butter Sage Popcorn

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1-2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp butter
Juice from 1/2 large lemon
Bunch of fresh sage leaves (substitute dried if you don't have fresh)
Salt

In a large pot, heat 1-2 Tbsp of oil and 2 popcorn kernels over medium heat. Once one of the kernels pops, add the rest of the kernels and shake around the pot until all kernels are coated lightly in oil. Place a lid on the pot at a little bit of an angle to let it vent. Every so often shake around the kernels. Turn off the stove once all the kernels have popped. 

On a plate, lay out all the sage leaves. Microwave for about 2 minutes until leaves are nice and crispy. In a small bowl, melt butter. Add lemon juice to the butter and drizzle over the popcorn. Crumble sage and sprinkle salt over the popcorn. Stir it up and enjoy!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate-Covered Cheesecake Bites

Chocolate-Covered Cheesecake Bites


It's Valentines day yet again! I love celebrating Valentines day despite my singleness. Well really I just love holidays because they give me excuses to make themed food and give little gifts to people. Valentines day in particular is fun because it gives me an excuse to tell people how much I love them. I don't think we should wait for an excuse to do this though. Every day we should strive to show our appreciation and love to those around us. I am especially encouraged by my God's love for his people and I hope you too will be encouraged by these verses.

Romans 8:38-39

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.




Chocolate-Covered Cheesecake BitesAdapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • FILLING:
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • COATING:
  • 24 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons shortening

Directions

  • Line a 9-in. square baking pan with foil and grease the foil. In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into prepared pan; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and sour cream until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour over crust. Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack. Freeze overnight.
  • In a microwave, melt chocolate and shortening; stir until smooth. Cool slightly.
  • Using foil, lift cheesecake out of pan. Gently peel off foil; cut cheesecake into 1-1/4-in. squares. Work with a few pieces at a time for dipping; keep remaining squares refrigerated until ready to dip.
  • Using a toothpick, completely dip squares, one at a time, in melted chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Spoon additional chocolate over the tops if necessary to coat. (Reheat chocolate if needed to finish dipping.) Let stand for 20 minutes or until set. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Yield: 49 squares.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chewy Ginger-Date Bars

Chewy Ginger-Date Bars


You know the saying "don't judge a book by it's cover"? Well these bars don't look all that fancy, but boy do they pack a punch of flavor. And what's better is their super chewy consistency. The original recipe only included dates and chopped nuts, but I just kinda went crazy and started throwing in a bunch a different things. What I didn't add that would probably also be good are dried cranberries, or raisins, or chocolate chips. But get creative and make these bars your own. I sent these bars off to my Mom for her birthday a couple weeks ago because I know how much she loves ginger. I love you Mom!!!

Chewy Ginger-Date Bars
Adapted from Lanas Cooking

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped crystalized ginger
  • 1/2 cup dried coconut
  • 2 eggs
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8x8 pan and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking, powder, dates, salt, nuts, ginger, and coconut. Add eggs. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread into prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, cut into small squares and dust with powdered sugar.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sweet Potato Gnocchi


Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I must admit that I'm not a huge pasta fan. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure my roommate could easily enjoy eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week. I do enjoy it on occasion though, especially when it is prepared with lots of sauce! Usually when I go to Italian restaurants, I like to order gnocchi. I guess the potato aspect makes it feels less pasta-ey to me. 

I had lots of fun making these little potato pastas and it was a whole lot easier than I anticipated. It was the perfect thing for me to do this rainy Saturday morning. Sadly though I had no sage, so I ran down to the farmers market and picked some up fresh. Though gnocchi can be served with many different sauces like cream based, or tomato sauces, I liked this simple pan fried rendition. If you're looking for some stress relief and comfort food, I highly recommend trying out this recipe!

PS. Gnocchi is pronounced "nyo-key"

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Adapted from A Couple Cooks
Serves about 4
What You Need
For the gnocchi
2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 pound each, but can be less)
1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour (plus extra for kneading)
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
To serveFresh sage (or dried as a substitute)
Olive oil (or butter)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Kosher salt
Parmesan cheese

What To Do
1  Cook the sweet potatoes: The microwave actually works great for the potatoes in this recipe!  Prick them with a fork and then microwave until tender and cooked all the way through. For us, it took about 20 minutes total, around 10 minutes per side. However, the time will depend on your microwave and how big your potatoes are. Insert a knife into the potato to test for its doneness. (If you are against microwaves or don’t have one, you can also bake for about 40 minutes at 450°F.)
2  Mix the dough: Let the potatoes cool until you can handle them. Then scoop them from the skins into a bowl (or remove the skins if they peel easily). Mash them with a potato masher until smooth. Then add 1 egg, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and about 1 1/2 cups wheat flour. Mix with a spoon and then kneed until a dough forms. Then gradually add additional flour until the dough is not sticky – we added up to 1/2 cup for ours, so you may have to add a fair amount of extra flour to get it to a workable state. If it’s too sticky to roll out – add more flour!
3  Make the gnocchi: Divide the dough in four parts, Using your hands, roll out each piece into a very long, skinny roll. Then cut off small parts of the dough to form the gnocchi (we re-rolled them here so they looked uniform). If desired, use a fork to add an impression on the top of each gnocchi. Place the gnocchi on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. From here you can freeze them, or immediately boil and prepare them as described below. (If you freeze them, you can boil them right out of the freezer.)
4  Boil the gnocchi: When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Then boil the gnocchi (in batches if necessary) until they float, about 5 minutes.
5  Prepare the gnocchi:Chiffonade some fresh sage (or substitute a teaspoon or two dried). In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil or butter. Add the gnocchi, sage, nuts, and a bit of kosher salt and heat for several minutes, until slightly browned. Serve immediately, topped with fresh grated parmesan and a bit of fresh groundpepper.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins


I made these muffins for my wonderful friend and bassoon colleague Brandon who stepped in at the very last minute to sub for me. Thank you Brandon!!! Bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate is probably one of my most favorite combinations in the world. I've made this combo many times in smoothie form, ice cream form, frozen form, and just plain normal form. Any way I've had it, it's never failed to satisfy my tastebuds. This was the first time I attempted it in baked form, and it turned out quite lovely. They were very moist and hearty, and will fill you up perfectly if you want to eat one for breakfast.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Recipe from For the Love of Cooking

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used crunchy)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 tbsp turbinado sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Coat a muffin tray with cooking spray.
Mix together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. In a second bowl beat sugars and softened butter. Add the mashed bananas, peanut butter, vanilla, and egg. Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined; add 3/4 cup of chocolate chips to the batter and mix. Spoon batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin evenly with the remaining chocolate chips and turbinado sugar.
Bake in preheated oven for 13-15 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing from the tray and placing on a wire rack to finish cooling. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies


Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies


Well the ones I made weren't necessarily vegan caused I used regular cow milk, but you can easily substitute nondairy milk if you want purely vegan cookies. I made these cookies after trying some that my friend Sarah made. They were some of the softest, most delicious chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. I've started making these in place of my "non-vegan" recipe, even for people who aren't vegan! And they wouldn't know the difference. 



Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe adapted from Veg Family

½ cup brown sugar (organic is vegan)
¼ cup white sugar (organic is vegan)
2/3 cup canola oil
¼ cup almond or nondairy milk (I used regular milk)
1 tablespoon tapioca flour or cornstarch
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven 350° F. Lightly grease two large cookie sheets.

2. Combine sugars, oil, nondairy milk, and tapioca flour in a mixing bowl. Use a strong fork and mix really well, about 2 minutes, until it looks like smooth caramel. There’s a chemical reaction when sugar and oil collides, so blend well. Mix in vanilla.

3. Add 1 cup flour, the baking soda, and the salt. Mix well. Mix in rest of flour. Fold in chocolate chips. The dough will be a little stiff.

4. For 3-inch cookies, roll dough into balls the size of ping pong balls. Flatten to about 2 ½ inches on a cookie sheet. They will spread a little when baked. Then bake for about 8 minutes—no more than 9—until a bit brown around the edges. Bake 8 cookies at a time. (Don’t double up the cookie sheets in the oven.) Let cool 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Eggless Mint Brownies

Eggless Mint Brownies


These brownies are also better known by their other name, "Robert-friendly brownies". Thanks Robert for the challenge of making yummy, eggless brownies! I love trying to make delicious, non-traditional desserts. So far the two "vegan" baking adventures I've had have turned out quite successful. I honestly almost prefer these brownies and my vegan chocolate chip cookies to the eggy versions. They turned out super moist, squishy, and oh-so-chocolatey. They also ended up being the perfect in-between for cakey-fudgey brownies. Usually I only like fudgey brownies, but they can get a tad bit over-the-top rich sometimes. So these were a nice in-between version. Pair these warm brownies with some mint-chocolate chip or just plain vanilla ice cream and you might as well be in heaven.


Eggless Mint Brownies
Adapted from Pure Vegetarian Bites


Ingredients:
  • All purpose flour  – 1 cup
  • Cocoa powder – 1/2 cup (I used 1/4 dark, and 1/4 milk chocolate cocoa powder)
  • Powdered Sugar – 3/4 cup
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Baking soda – 1 tsp
  • 5 tbsp melted butter or for a vegan recipe use cooking oil
  • Butter milk – 1 cup or for a vegan recipe use 1 cup soy milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice mixed in
  • 1/2 tsp mint extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
Directions:
Sift all purpose flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt together.
Take the sifted contents in a bowl and combine oil, butter milk and extracts. Stir with a spatula until everything combines into a smooth batter.
Stir chocolate chips into the batter (be careful not to over-mix!!!)
Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.
Grease and flour the baking pan (8x8 square). Pour in the prepared batter into the pan and bake for 25 mins or until wooden tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Allow to cool thoroughly for maximum chocolaty taste and slice them into squares.