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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Non-award winning Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies

Not that I'm super competitive or anything.

But every year my cousin D. has a Christmas Cookie Exchange. It's a fun time - everyone brings their favorite cookie and recipe to share, and there's voting and prizes involved. All who attend have three votes to cast as they see fit, and my entry - the brilliant Peanut Butter and Bacon cookie received a total of 4. Just to compare, the winner of the night, a very delicious gluten-free chocolate mint macaron baked by my cousin J. received a whopping 19 votes.

But this one's still a winner, in my book. I've made this conversation-starting cookie (an amazing recipe from
Joy the Baker who adapted it from the Gourmet cookbook) a bunch of times and it's always a hit, especially since I don't tell people what's in it right away and ask them to guess. The answers have ranged from cha siu to ham to scallops (!) but the sweet, nutty, bacon-y combination is in fact, quite delicious and the fact that there's only 6 ingredients in the entire recipe makes it even better.

makes 15 cookies
adapted from
Joy the Baker
prep time: 15 mins / cook time: 10 mins

1 c all-natural peanut butter
*I used chunky, but you can use smooth if you prefer
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
6 slices of bacon, cooked, cooled and diced
*I used turkey bacon, and it came out great

• Preheat oven to 350
˚ F.
• In a skillet over medium-high heat, fry bacon until cooked through. Drain on paper towels until cool enough to dice. Dice bacon into small pieces with a knife, and set aside.
• Grease a baking sheet with butter, set aside.
• Using a mixer, combine peanut butter and sugars until well combined, about 2 minutes.
• Add egg and baking soda and mix for another 2 minutes.
• Fold in cooked bacon.
• Roll into large walnut-sized balls and create a criss-cross pattern with a fork. If you'd like, roll the dough balls in granulated sugar before making the criss-cross pattern.
• Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

• I pulsed the cooked bacon in a food processor after Step 2, instead of using a knife to dice.
• Instead of greasing a cookie sheet, I used a Silpat and they came out great.



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mini Choco-Mel Pumpkin Cheesecake

makes 12 mini cheesecakes
recipe adapted from
prep time: 35 min / total cook time: 23-27 min

3/4 c gingersnap crumbs
3/4 c graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c confectioners' sugar
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted

16 oz. cream cheese, softened (2 packages)
1 c sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 c pumpkin purée
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
* I used freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 c coffee flavor liqueur
* I used Kahlua
2 tsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/3 c caramel

Preheat oven to 325˚ F.
• In a bowl, combine gingersnap and graham cracker crumbs with powdered sugar and butter.
• Spread evenly onto bottom of mini cheesecake pan.
• Bake for 5-7 minutes. Let cool while you make the filling.

• In a mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.
• Gradually add sugar and beat until light.
• Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
• Divide mixture into 3 bowls.
• Bowl 1, mix with caramel.
• Bowl 2, mix with cocoa powder.
• Bowl 3, mix pumpkin purée, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and Kahlua.
• Evenly divide caramel mixture into the prepared crust.
• Divide chocolate mixture on top of the caramel mixture.
• Top with the pumpkin purée mixture.
• Bake for 18-20 minutes.
• Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

• The gingersnaps are much harder in texture than the graham cracker, so I would recommend putting it through the food processor separately since it takes longer.
• I found the chocolate mixture was not as dense as the other two, so the pumpkin mixture just sank. If you don't mind not getting 3 distinct layers, just layer as listed above. If you want to have 3 visible layers, put the chocolate layer last.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bacon Jam

It might not be appropriate for the vegetarians on your list, but this year, a few of my carnivorous friends and relatives are getting something really special - bacon jam. I attempted this recipe, which is from the December issue of Everyday Food, twice - and lesson learned - will stick to the recipe verbatim (my second attempt to "freestyle" it was one big aesthetic and textural fail. But it tasted good!)

Made easily in the slow cooker, this recipes contains some unexpected ingredients - like maple syrup, vinegar and brewed coffee - and the result is a thick, sweet, and smoky spread that's perfect on toast or a warm biscuit. One recipient remarked that it was like a cha siu bao (Chinese pork bun) without the bao, which to me, was a very big compliment indeed.

makes 3 cups
from December 2010 Everyday Food
prep time: 20 min / cook time: 3-4 hrs

1 1/2 lb. sliced bacon, cut into 1-in pieces
* I used applewood smoked bacon from Trader Joe's, which added a nice flavor
2 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/2 c cider vinegar
* I ran out and substituted half with balsamic vinegar, which worked out great
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1/2 c packed brown sugar
3/4 c brewed coffee

• In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
• With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tbsp. fat from skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
• Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee, and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes.
• Add bacon and stir to combine.
• Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy; 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
•Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks.

• Make sure to drain bacon well after step one, otherwise you'll end up with greasy jam.
• Leave slow cooker uncovered (as recipe states) while cooking, this helps the jam get thick and syrupy.



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Easy Curry Chicken Salad

makes 6 servings (depending on the size of the chicken)
prep time: 20 min

1 roasted chicken, diced
1/3 c green onions, sliced
2 apples, diced
4 boiled eggs, diced
1/3 c mayonnaise
4 tsp curry powder
* All measurements should be adjusted to the size of the chicken

• Mix all ingredients together.
• Add salt and pepper to taste . . . EASY!

• Other ingredients to try: cucumber, grapes, purple onion or walnuts.
• Can be used in a sandwich, over romaine lettuce or just by itself!



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dartealing Lounge

I love a good, clever name and driving around the Bay Area, it's easy to spot some good ones. Passing by places like The Grateful Head - a hair salon, or Mom's the Word - a maternity store, always makes me smile. And for some reason, MFM always cracks up whenever we pass this restaurant in the South Bay called Thai-phoon. Well, here's another funny, creative business name to add to that list: DarTEAling Lounge. Ha. Makes you smile, right?

Its name is just one of the reasons to adore this
SOMA tea spot, where I met my friend (I haven't thought of a foodie name for her yet, so I'll just call her Mamma M. for now) for afternoon tea. We ordered the SerendipiTEA (love it!) for two ($40), which is great because it allows you to try a little bit of a lot of things, but somewhat stressful if decision making is not your forte. Because you get 12 tea sandwiches, two pots of tea, salad, scones, petit fours, cookies and more sweets. And we're talking LOTS of menu options to choose from.

The teas came first, the exotic-sounding Latin Quarter for me (a yummy black tea blend of vanilla and grenadine, which was great with splash of milk and sugar) and less-caffeinated Cherry Moon for her, a floral-y, fruity green tea. Choosing the sandwiches was a lot harder as they all sounded so good - and the ones we selected (turkey with pesto, darjeeling curried chicken, and strawberry and cream cheese) were delicate and delicious.

I think a tell-all sign of a good tea spot would be its home-baked scones, and theirs were good, if not a little on the non-traditional side (we detected coconut and chocolate chips that day). And there was so much food we each ended up taking a box of leftovers home.

It was almost like time slowed down a little, being here. It felt special for so many reasons. The place itself, which was warm, cozy and inviting. And the food and tea, with the wide array of delicious choices, the way it was thoughtfully presented, all the nice, soft and flowery details. But perhaps the most special thing of all was spending the afternoon chatting and laughing with the beautiful, glowing Mamma M., who, a few months later, brought one very lucky little guy into this world. Hello and welcome, Baby K.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chocolate Eggnog Cream Puffs

makes 12 cream puffs
recipe adapted from
prep time: 25 min / cook time: 35-40 min

1 c water
1/2 c unsalted butter
1 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 eggs, room temperature

1 small box of vanilla instant pudding
1 c milk
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* I used freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp rum extract
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 c heavy whipping cream

• Heat oven to 400˚ F.
• In a saucepan, heat water and butter to rolling boil.
• Stir in flour and cocoa. Stir vigorously over low heat about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball; remove from heat.
• Stir in eggs one at a time until smooth.
• Drop dough by scant 1/4 cupfuls about 3 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.
• Bake 35-34 minutes or until puffed. Cool away from draft.

• In a large bowl, beat all Eggnog Cream ingredients except heavy cream with electric mixer on low speed 1-2 minutes or until smooth.
• Add heavy cream.
• Beat on high speed 1-2 minutes or until soft peaks form.
* I don't like the cream runny, so I beat until stiff peaks.

• Cut off tops of cooled puffs.
• Fill puffs with Eggnog Cream; replace tops.
* Optional: Sprinkle powdered sugar.
• Serve immediately or store covered in refrigerator.

• I piped out the cream puffs onto parchment paper.
• To keep the sizes consistent, I draw 2 1/2" circles on the back side of the parchment paper.
• If you make smaller cream puffs, adjust the baking time accordingly.



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Kimchi 101

Making your own kimchi is actually easier than I thought, which is what I learned at a recent class that I took with my pal GP Norm. Called Fun With Ferments, we took cabbage and salt, and added various embellishments to make kimchi, curtido (a Salvadorian cole slaw) and sauerkraut. My favorite of the three was the kimchi - which was crunchy and spicy with a nice kick, and as I mentioned, surprisingly easy to make. Fermenting is fun!

makes 1 quart
prep time: 9 hours / rest time: 2-3 days

2 1/2 c plus 1 tbsp Kosher salt
1 head Napa cabbage (about 2 1/2 lbs)
1/2 lb. daikon, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 c mild ground Korean red pepper powder
* I doubled this, with medium-spicy results
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
* You can lessen or omit this if not a ginger fan (like me), and it's still tasty
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds

• First, prep the cabbage. Dissolve 1 1/4 cups of the salt in 2 quarts water. Test the proper amount of salt by gently placing an egg in the water. If it floats, the salt solution is perfect. If it sinks, add a little more salt.
• Peel just the outer leaves from the cabbage. Leaving the cabbage untrimmed, quarter it lengthwise through the root end, so the root still holds each quarter together. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups salt between the cabbage leaves. Starting from the outer layer, lift each leaf and sprinkle salt on it, dividing the salt evenly, so that each layer of cabbage is salted. Put the cabbage in the salted water and place a weighted plate on top to keep the cabbage fully submerged.
• The cabbage should soak until the heavy white parts of the cabbage closest to the root end are pliable but not mushy. Try bending 1 or 2 leaves. If they break, the cabbage hasn't soaked long enough. It should take 3 or 4 hours, depending on the room's temperature. In the end, the cabbage should offer a little resistance but not break.
• Toss the grated daikon in the remaining 1 tbsp salt and let it drain in a colander while the cabbage soaks.
• Remove the cabbage from the salted water and rinse it thoroughly under running water several times (this is important or your kimchi will be too salty). Squeeze lightly and place the cabbage quarters, root-side up in a colander to drain. Drain for 1 hour. Rinse the radish, squeeze out the excess moisture, and continue to drain.
• Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the green onions, red pepper powder, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.
• Squeeze the drained cabbage to remove as much water as possible. Slice the cabbage crosswise into pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide. Add them to the bowl with the seasonings. Add the drained daikon and use your hands to toss and coat thoroughly.
• Transfer the kimchi and its juice to a 1-quart wide-mouth mason jar and push down with a wooden spoon. Fasten the lid and let it sit undisturbed at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours. Refrigerate for 2 or 3 days to let the flavors develop before eating. It should taste balanced but spicy and lightly fermented. It keeps, refrigerated, for several months. It's perfect for Addiecakes' yummy Kimchi Fried Rice recipe!



Sunday, December 05, 2010

Wonton Soup

makes 5 dozen
total prep & assembly time: 20 min

1 lb. ground pork
15 pieces of shrimp, diced
1/4 c minced green onions
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/8 c light soy sauce
* All measurements can be adjusted to taste. I usually eyeball all my measurements.
1 can chicken broth
4 mushrooms, sliced
1-2 green onions, chopped

• Mix ground pork, shrimp, green onions, salt, pepper and light soy sauce in a bowl.
• Fill a small bowl with water and set aside. This will be used to seal the wontons.
• Lay one wrapper flat and place approximately 1 tsp of the mixture at one end of the wrapper.
• Roll the end with the mixture half way.
• Bend the wonton in half creating a "V" shape.
• Using your finger, dab some water on one end of the wonton tail.
• Place the other tail on top and press to seal.
*This is how my Grandmother and Mom fold wontons, but there are many other ways to do it. As far as I'm concerned, this is the "correct" way of doing it.

• Bring chicken broth to a boil.
• Add mushrooms and green onions, cook for 3 minutes.
• Place lid on pot and let soup simmer while wontons are cooking.

• Boil a pot of water.
• When the water comes to a boil, drop in wontons.
• When wontons start to float and the skins become translucent, they're ready!
* Wontons can be served with many things such as bok choy, egg noodles, shrimp, bbq pork, etc.

• To freeze wontons, place them on a cookie sheet for a few hours and place in storage bag.



Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Big Apple Bites - Part 2

Since moving away a few years ago, they are a few things I miss about living in New York (the leaves changing in Central Park, an easy-to-navigate subway system, wearing black all the time) but perhaps the one thing I miss most (besides BL, JC & VR) are the xiao long bao at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown. Spot Light: I dream about these luscious, juicy, soup-oozing crab & pork-filled dumplings and haven't found a suitable counterpart anywhere else (if anyone knows a place in the Bay Area, please, please, please let me know.) Green Light: also totally delicious - green onion pancakes and fried Shanghai noodles.

We also loved
Chelsea Market, a gorgeous food hall/farmer's market type of place chock-full of goodies ranging from stone crab claws to organic dairy milkshakes to Jacques Torres' wicked hot chocolate. Green Light:
fluffy scones and spicy pumpkin waffles at Sarabeth's, meaty lobster rolls at The Lobster Place (which takes over as the lobster roll of my dreams), sweet, chewy and cinnamon-y twisty things at Amy's Bread, and buttery chocolately brownies at Fat Witch Bakery.

So it may seem like all we did was eat, but we did shop and squeeze in a show too. En route to shopping in Soho we stopped at
Cafe Habana To-Go. Green Light: roasted corn slathered in mayo and cheese with a sprinkle of lime and chili powder, perfectly melty and crusty Cuban sandwiches with roast pork, cheese, and pickles, refreshingly tart homemade lime-lemonade. And post-show, while recommended spots Ippudo NY and Totto were way too crowded, Menchanko Tei was a great stop for ramen. Green Light: their hearty noodle dishes (men=noodles, chanko=sumo wrestlers' stew) were soupy, tasty and comforting, with a delicious chunk of rice cake which was everyone's favorite part of the meal.

Bagels. Hot Dogs. Dumplings. Cheesecake. We just about had it
all. But we were still So our last stop before heading to JFK was John's Pizzeria for thin-crust wood-oven cooked pizza (I love how they call them "pies" here.) We polished off two pies (green light!) and a salad, and then we were off to the airport. Trip complete!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mini Chocolate Cranberry Buttercream Cupcakes

makes 48 mini cupcakes
cupcake recipe adapted from Hershey's Kitchen
frosting recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
prep time: 45 min / cook time: 10-12 min

ingredients can be found here

2 c (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
3 1/2 c confectioners' sugar, sifted
10 tbsp cranberry purée
* I made fresh cranberry purée using this method, straining the pulp after it was cooked down
1/4 c milk

Instructions can be found here.
* If making mini cupcakes, reduce baking time to 10-12 minutes.

• In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy.
• Slowly add confectioners' sugar; beat to combine, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
• Add cranberry purée, beat to combine.
• Slowly add milk and continue beating on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.


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