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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rum Raisin Carrot Cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes
cake recipe adapted from my Mom
frosting recipe adapted from Cookie Confessions
prep time: 20 min / cook time: 15 min

1/2 c raisin
1/2 c dark rum
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 c white sugar
2/3 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c grated carrots
2 tsp orange zest

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c mascarpone cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 c confectioners sugar

• Soak raisins in dark rum for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
• Preheat oven at 375˚ F.
• Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
• In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and fluffy.
• Add sugar and continue beating until well blended.
• Stir in oil, vanilla extract, carrots, orange zest and rum raisins (do not add left over rum).
• Stir in sifted ingredients.
• Pour into prepared cupcake tin.
• Bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
• Remove cupcakes from pans and cool.

• Mix cream cheese, butter, mascarpone cheese and vanilla together until creamy.
• Gradually add in confectioners' sugar and whip until light and fluffy.

Using your favorite tip, fill your pastry bag and pipe a small amount of frosting onto the cupcake.
* Optional: dust frosting with cinnamon.



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Maple Bacon Lattes

According to a few food trend articles I've read recently, bacon, as well as cupcakes, are out. (Apparently coconut water, pickling and anything gluten-free is in.) But bacon will always be in fashion, in my book. Meaty, savory, and smoky with just the right amount of grease. It's one of the best ingredients on earth.

So when
GP Norm tells me about Pirate Cat Radio Cafe, a place that serves maple bacon lattes, it instantly goes on my must-try list. Funnily enough, it's a vegan cafe that is also home to an indie radio station run by volunteers (who sometimes double as the baristas).

Anthony Bourdain is a fan of this latte too. It's rich, satisfying and deliciously chunky (from bacon bits that are sprinkled on top). Once you get over the hunk of rendered bacon fat that is scooped from a jar (collected from restaurants; I had to ask), the combination of sweet, savory, and the kick of caffeine is really, really nice. And probably one you don't have every day.

After a sip of my friend's bacon latte, I wanted to try another menu item and went for the coconut curry latte at the barista's suggestion. This was a different experience altogether. The frothy combination of coconut cream, soy milk and curry powder might have been better suited in a bowl of soup. Or maybe over rice. Either way, I wasn't a fan. Not to knock the barista's taste or anything (she was really, really, like super nice).

The space is tiny but intimate, with the DJ booth window facing out to the coffee bar. I met Norm and ButterSCOTTch (who apparently doesn't like his foodie name and asked for a new one; I'm working on it) here and we had a great time. If
bacon jam is breakfast in a jar, this is definitely breakfast in a cup. One that you can happily enjoy at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shrimp & Vegetable Couscous

makes 4 servings
prep time: 15 min / cook time: 25 min

1 c chicken broth
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 c whole wheat couscous
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, diced
2 zucchinis, diced
2 portobello mushrooms, diced
2 tomatoes, cored and diced
3 c spinach
1 lb. shrimp
salt & pepper to taste

• In a saucepan, bring chicken broth, butter and salt to a boil. Remove from heat.
• Pour couscous into the sauce pan. Stir well, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
• Fluff with a fork.
• While couscous is cooking, heat up a large skillet over medium heat with olive oil and add garlic. Cook until garlic is fragrant.
• Add onions and cook until translucent.
• Add zucchinis and cook until slightly soft.
• Add mushrooms.
• Add tomatoes.
• Salt and pepper to taste.
• Turn off heat and add spinach until they have wilted.
• Cook shrimp in a small skillet, salt and pepper to taste.
• Take the fluffed couscous and mix together with the vegetables and shrimp.

• Other vegetables that can be used: carrots, celery, bell peppers and/or eggplant.
• I ended up with some liquid in my vegetable mixture. Simply drain it and then add your couscous.
• Saffron can be added to the broth as it boils.



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

San Dong House BBQ

Any trivia buffs out there?

According to the Scoville scale of hotness, which pepper is the hottest?

What's the first animated movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar?

Besides Mexico, what's the only other country to have an "x" in its name?

It was the night of the big trivia contest fundraiser, and after a week of stuffing massive amounts of random information into our heads, my teammates and I (better known as Team Iron Chefs) were ready for the real deal. But first we had to fuel up. And there's no better brain food (at least in my opinion) than dumplings and hand-pulled noodles. So we headed to the Inner Richmond to try the recently-opened San Dong House BBQ.

We were disappointed they were out of the recommended oxtails, but quickly got over it when we tasted the meaty and flavorful beef tendon soup, served with soft, silky hand-pulled noodles. You can hear the actual "thwack" of the noodle dough being thrown and pulled throughout your meal as the "master" known as Shifu Chi does his magic at an open workstation in the back of the restaurant. (Note: the restaurant opens until 1am, but apparently Shifu goes home at 10:30, so if you're hankering for noodles, put in your order by 10pm).

I was also really impressed by the beef pancake appetizer, which was tasted like Peking duck (only with beef) rolled in a green onion pancake (only without the green onions) which sounds a little strange, but is really, really delicious. However, the boiled dumplings (we tried pork, and chicken & corn), and dan dan mein (spicy pork & bean sauce noodles) were just okay - we all agreed we'd had comparable if not better iterations at other restaurants in the Bay Area.

It was the beginning of a long, long night. But after 3+ hours, 100+ questions and battling it out with 27 other teams, we ended up winning a respectable 2nd
place overall. We even got a trophy! And by the way - the Ghost chili has the highest heat units, making it the hottest pepper; Beauty & the Beast was the first animated movie nominated for Best Picture (Up was the 2nd); and the only other country besides Mexico with an "x" is Luxembourg. Just in case you were wondering. Go Iron Chefs!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rice Krispie Pops

makes 50 pops
recipe adapted from Kellogg's
cook time: 15 min / assembly time: 1 1/2 hr

3 tbsp butter or margarine
10 oz. regular marshmallows (1 package) OR 4 c mini marshmallows
6 c Rice Krispies

• In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat.
• Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
• Add Rice Krispies cereal. Stir until well coated.

• Lay out a sheet of wax paper.
Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes, it becomes less sticky as it cools.
• Form a small ball and let it harden a bit on the wax paper, about 10-15 minutes.
• Place a lollipop stick into each formed ball.
* If the stick isn't sticking to the rice krispie treat, let it harden longer then insert the stick.
• Heat the candy melt according to the direction on the package.
• Gently dip and swirl the rice krispie treat into the melted chocolate and sprinkle sugar pearls on top.
* The candy melt hardens in a couple of minutes, so it's best to sprinkle the sugar pearls immediately.

• Instead of plain marshmallows, try it with flavored ones such as strawberry or chocolate.
• If the rice krispie is still too sticky to roll into a ball, add a bit of butter to the palm of your hand.
• If the lollipop stick doesn't stay in the formed balls, you can add a some melted chocolate on the end of the stick then insert it into the rice krispie.
• Have a piece of foam handy to hold your rice krispy pop as the chocolate hardens.



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Coco Chicken

Here's another reason why I love Yelp. A few months ago, my pal TSS told me the name of a fabulous fried chicken place in Fremont, but I didn't bother to write it down as I'm hardly ever in that neck of the woods. But a recent errand brought me to that very area right around dinner time, and a quick Yelp search for "fried chicken" lead me to her recommended place. It's called Coco Chicken. And it's delicious!

Located in a non-descript strip mall next to a supermarket, this Korean spot serves some of the tastiest fried chicken around, period. It's surprisingly light - not greasy or batter-laden; perfectly crispy skin on the outside, and hot, juicy, flavorful meat on the inside. MFM and I ordered a large (8 drums, 4 wings, $14.95) which was probably more than enough for two, especially with the all-you-can-eat salad bar that comes with every meal.

But I could have kept eating more. Especially with the delectable sauces that you choose to come with it (we ordered it on the side). The waitress will tell you that the most popular ones are sweet & hot and soy garlic, and I whole-heartedly agree, they are finger-lickin' delicious. We also tried the honey mustard which was reminiscent of the dipping sauce you get with McDonald's Chicken McNuggets (which is a good thing, in my book.)

It's hard to imagine ordering anything else, but the Korean dishes others were eating (like bulgogi, kalbi and spicy pork) also looked mighty good, and the staff couldn't have been any nicer. My brilliant friend TSS says she orders the fried chicken to go, then drives to a spot in SF's Chinatown that has great waffles, creating the best chicken & waffles you can imagine. Darn, I didn't write down the name of that place either. But I have to say I really like that kind of thinking. Yelp, here I come...


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Crème Brûlée Croissant French Toast

makes 6 servings
crème brûlée recipe adapted from Mark Bittman (NY Times)
syrup recipe adapted from cdkitchen
prep time: 25 min / cook time: 30 min

1 can coconut milk
1/4 c confectioners' sugar
1/3 c sweetened shredded coconut

ingredients can be found here
* You will not need the tubinado sugar

10-12 croissants

• In a medium saucepan, mix the coconut milk with the sugar and bring to a boil.
• Add shredded coconuts.
• Reduce heat and simmer until reduce to 1 1/2 cups of syrup, about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
• Cool syrup to lukewarm and serve or refrigerate until cold and serve.

• Instructions can be found here.

• Transfer your crème brûlée into a shallow dish and give it a quick whisk.
* The mixture will have thickened overnight.
• With a paring knife, make a few slits on both sides of the croissant so that it will soak up more liquid.
• Place your croissants into the mixture and allow it to soak on each side for a few minutes.
* I double soaked it, soaking each side twice.
• As your croissant is soaking, prepare your pan. Place some butter into your skillet and let it melt over med-low heat.
• Place your soaked croissant into your prepared pan and let it cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.
* Optional: dust with powdered sugar and garnish with fresh fruit.

• The crème brûlée can be made the night before and refrigerated.
• Do not soak more croissants than you can cook at one time. If you let your croissants sit in your mixture too long, it starts to soften and will fall apart.



Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Lucky Chances Casino

Over the years I've adapted some interesting traditions. I like to visit Disneyland for my birthday. Every Christmas I must watch Love Actually. And, for two years in a row, my first meal of the year has been at the cafe in the Lucky Chances casino in Colma. I’m not sure how this one started, actually. It has nothing to do with gambling, but more about the Filipino-style breakfasts that hit the spot after a night of ringing in the new year.

I had to look it up, but “tapasilog” or anything ending with “-silog” is a Filipino dish that includes garlic fried rice, eggs and some kind of fried meat. I’ve been here multiple times and always order the same thing – “tapsilog” with longanisa (sausages), marinated beef, or Spam, if the mood strikes.

On this day, the longanisa was juicy and garlicky with just the right amount of sweet, perfect with over-easy eggs and garlic fried rice. It comes to the table with sliced tomatoes and a tangy, spicy, vinegary dipping sauce for the meat.

Every time I’ve been here, I’ve headed straight to the café, so I’m not sure what the rest of the casino or gaming area looks like. Based on the menu (which includes Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino and as well as American fare, like burgers and fries), the clientele is quite diverse. It's also frequented by all types (families, hipsters and seniors alike, with an occasional bleary-eyed card player mixed in).

I rounded out the meal with coffee (lots of it) and a short stack of pancakes; hot, fluffy and covered with syrup and butter. Oh, and I have this other New Year's tradition too (of making resolutions to be healthier, eat better, etc) which starts, uhm, right after this. Happy New Year, everyone!


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Pumpkin Pecan Madeleines

makes 12 madeleines
madeline recipe adapted from supper in stereo
glaze recipe from pastry studio
prep time: 40 min / cook time: 12-15 min

1/4 c pecans, chopped
1/3 c + 1 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 c butter, plus more for toasting pecans and greasing madeleine tin
1/4 c loosely packed brown sugar, plus 2 tsp for candying pecans
2 large eggs
pinch salt
4 tbsp pumpkin purée

2 tbsp butter
1/3 c dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tbsp heavy cream
* I used low fat milk because I wanted a thinner glaze
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp rum
* I used 2 tsp
pinch of salt to taste

• Preheat your oven to 350˚ F.
• Chop the pecans.
• Sift the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.
• Melt your butter in a small pan over medium heat. It will froth up, then reduce again as it begins to brown and turn a rich nutty color.
• When it is brown, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer (this gets rid of any solids that might have formed) into a small bowl.
• Set the brown butter aside to cool as you prepare your pecans and batter.
• In the same frying pan you used to brown the butter, toast the pecans with a teaspoon or so more butter.
• When they are getting golden, toss approximately 2 tsp of brown sugar in and stir the pecans to coat them well.
• Remove then from the pan and set aside to cool.
• In a standing mixer, beat the two eggs together with a pinch of salt until they're pale yellow, thick and syrupy. They will have gained some volume.
• Beat in your brown sugar, adding it in large pinches to the eggs while you continue beating.
• When all the sugar has been incorporated, continue beating until your mixture has gained even more volume and hold the marks of the beater for a few seconds (like softly-whipped cream).
• Sprinkle the flour over the egg mixture and gently fold it in with a spatula.
• Fold in the butter and pumpkin into the mixture until well incorporated.
* I mixed the butter and pumpkin together first to help soften the pumpkin purée.
• Finally, fold in the pecans.
• Spoon the batter into your madeleine tin.
* The original recipe said the batter doesn't spread, so use the back of a spoon to spread the batter.
• Bake for 12-15 minutes, turning the pan once half way through baking to ensure they brown evenly. They will be golden and springy when they're ready.
• Cool the madeleines in the tin before popping them out.

• Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and combine with brown sugar.
• Lower heat a bit and cook for 2 minutes.
• Add the cream and continue to cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
• Remove from heat and add the vanilla and rum.
• Add a pinch of salt to taste.

• Dip the cooled madeleines into the glaze.
• Place on a baking rack to let the glaze set.

• I do not recommend using pecan chips. They are too small to candy and will burn.
• The syrup in the candied pecans start to harden as it sets. I recommend breaking it apart a bit before putting it into the batter.


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