Friday, September 10, 2010

White Chocolate Crumb Muffins

Wow. I haven't updated in more than a month! Things have been pretty rough for me here in LA because I hadn't found a job even after submitting 10-20 applications a day and 3 interviews. To make matters worse, I will have to move out of my girlfriend's house very soon because she is allowed to have only 3 people in her rental home. I will have to live in my car if I don't start earning money soon! After having worked so hard in school for so many years, the thought of living in my car is a terrible one. Fortunately, I just landed a job teaching Spanish online for Oklahoma public schools (if you knew my family background (most of them live in OK), you would understand the irony in all of this). I will be teaching 7 hours a day as a substitute until I get my emergency certification to teach in Oklahoma while still residing in California (ah, the power of the internet and Skype). Anyway, I just hope you all can keep me in your thoughts and prayers while I go through this difficult time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Buttermilk Pound Cake & Big News

The photos in this post were taken a day after I made this cake.

BIG NEWS: I'm moving back to Los Angeles in fewer than 10 days. I have applied for a leave of absence from graduate school, so I hope to return to school in a year. I have been in school non-stop since kindergarten. So, I went from elementary to high school to earning my BA to my first master's degree to my second master's to doctoral coursework and then to my qualifying paper (a condensed version of my dissertation). For practically 2 years, I have been working on my qualifying paper in graduate school because my depression and lack of willpower have been preventing me from moving forward. When I tell myself to work on my paper, I end up doing something else like cook, bake, read other blogs, post entries, take photos, watch TV, lie in bed, stare at the walls, cry, etc. Before you blame my lost of will on baking and blogging, I must tell you that I was feeling this way one year before starting this blog, which is also one year before I started to cook/bake.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Carrabba's Bread Dip

Whenever my mother comes to visit, I know that there are two places she will want to visit: 1) Her favorite bubble tea place - Tapioca Express/House and 2) Carrabba's Italian Grill. I honestly believe she visits me just to go those two places and seeing me is just like a little perk on the side ;).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Orange Chicken Revisited

Here is another recipe I'm revisiting because the original photos are HORRIBLE, and this dish is worthy of being on my blog twice.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Daring Bakers: Swiss Roll Ice Cream Bombe Cake

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – Life and Food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.
I was finally able to take decent photos of my cake. I know I'm super late, but at least I posted this before August! HAH! So, I bet you're wondering my cake doesn't look a Swiss roll ice cream cake. I will give you three seconds to guess why. . .just think about my sausage buns, and you'll figure it out.

1 segundo.

2 segundos. .

3 segundos. . .

Yep, you guessed it. My overheating oven apparently isn't too fond of sponge cake, so it ruined the first one completely and almost ruined all of the second one as well. I managed to salvage most of the cake, but I was unable to make Swiss rolls out of it. So, I slathered on the vanilla bean whipped cream (which is just "genious-ly" good!), cut the cakes into circles and rectangles, and placed them into two ramekins and one loaf pan.
I used the leftover hot fudge from my Chocolate Sybil Cake. I still have more left for chocolate milk. YUM!
This one looks more like an elaborated s'mores cake than a bombe ice cream cake.

Although my ice cream cakes are not nearly as pretty as the other daring bakers' cakes, at least they still tasted pretty good, and I completed the challenge.

For the ice cream portion, I made coffee ice cream and chocolate ice cream. I used different ice cream recipes from those on the challenge because I wanted egg-based ice cream, which tends to be creamier. Everything tasted fantastic except for the sponge cake, but I think that is because of the egg-white flavor and my oven's performance (or failure to perform well).


1. Whole eggs can expand big time! I thought that with the addition of egg yolks, eggs couldn't expand that much, but I was pleasantly surprised. I don't know why, but I was.

2. That there exists such a thing as vanilla bean whipped cream that doesn't require the removal of the seeds. This whipped cream was AMAZING!!
 3. That there really are foods that can stick unmercifully to Silpat despite what the company claims.


1. My oven sucks even after being "fixed" twice. 
2. Ice cream melts quickly and can be frustrating so set up everything for your photo shoot ahead of time.
 3. That I love ice cream cake!
    I apologize to all my fellow DBers for being so late. A lot of things are going on in my life that I will let you know about later. I enjoyed this challenge despite the moments of frustration while taking photos of the melting ice cream haha. Now, I need to find volunteers to eat up all this excess ice cream and cake! Anyone interested? :)

    Here is the recipe for the cake.
    Here are the recipes for the coffee and chocolate ice creams I used.  
    Note: For the chocolate ice cream, I used half-n-half instead of milk for a creamier consistency.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

    I did complete the DB challenge this month, but I have been too lazy to take it out of the freezer for photos. I will try to do it tomorrow.

    Anyway, here are some cupcakes I made while my mom was here. I normally stick to my go-to recipe for chocolate cake, which is a doctored up version of Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake. However, once I saw these cupcakes from Cook's Illustrated on Gonna Want Seconds, I decided to try out another recipe.

    This chocolate cake recipe is a bit more involved and more expensive because of the chopped chocolate, ganache, refrigeration time, and bread flour, if you don't bake bread often (I suppose you could use AP flour instead, but I haven't tried that). The flavor and texture were amazing, though. I can't say that it was necessarily better than my go-to recipe; I can only say they are two fantastic variations of basically the same thing.

    Not surprisingly, the Cook's Illustrated recipe is a bit richer and more sophisticated than the go-to recipe. The go-to recipe is easier to do and is not as decadent. So, I would definitely use the go-to recipe for a "just-because" day, a child's birthday, or around the time "Aunt Flo" comes by (if she ever stops by your place hehe). It tastes like the prototypical chocolate cake but better. The more sophisticated recipe, however, would be perfect for special occasions or whenever you want to indulge a bit more.

    I rarely like chocolate on chocolate because it can be so rich, so instead of using chocolate frosting, I used vanilla bean frosting.The frosting was so good and flavorful. If you look closely, you can see a few specks of the vanilla bean. [Speaking of vanilla beans, I bought a 1/4th pound of the stuff over a year ago for only 4-7 dollars on eBay, and I still have a bunch left. I suggest searching on eBay for some good deals on vanilla beans.]

    Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling
    adapted from Gonna Want Seconds, which came from Cook's Illustrated

    Ganache Filling:
    2 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped fine
    1/4 cup heavy cream
    1 Tbsp confectioner’s or powdered sugar

    Chocolate Cupcakes:
    3 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped fine
    1/3 cup cocoa (regular or Dutch-processed)
    3/4 cup hot coffee (I used espresso and boiling water)
    3/4 cup bread flour
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 tsp table salt (I used kosher)
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    6 tbsp vegetable oil
    2 large eggs, room temperature
    2 tsp white vinegar
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    Place chocolate, cream, and confectioners’ sugar in medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 20 to 30 seconds. 

    Whisk until smooth; transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes. 

    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size muffin pan with baking-cup liners. 

    Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes. 

    Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

    Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth. 

    Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake. Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes. 

    Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting, about 1 hour.

    Vanilla Bean Frosting

    1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
    1/2 cup of shortening, room temperature (you could also use another stick of butter instead)
    1 vanilla bean pod
    4-6 cups of powdered sugar (based on how sweet you like your frosting)
    2-5 Tbsp of whole milk or half-n-half (based on desired consistency)

    Place the butter and shortening in the mixing bowl, and mix for 2-3 minutes. While the butter is mixing, remove the seeds from the vanilla bean pod. Add the seeds to the butter mixture. Next, add 4 cups of the sugar. If you feel it needs more sugar, add more 1/2 cup-1 cup at a time until you reach desired level of sweetness. Lastly, add the milk 1 Tbsp at a time until it reaches a creamy enough consistency to be piped or frosted.
    Look! I saved one just for you!

    Monday, July 26, 2010


    My blog has caused me to realize that I like Italian food more than any other International food. The reason could also lie in the fact that I am addicted to ItalianFood.Net and watch their cooking videos almost daily.

    When I saw this video for supplì (already in the plural form; pronounced [soop-PLEE], based on U.S. English pronunciation), which are fried, stuffed balls of short-grained rice and ragù. When I saw these nuggets of meat, tomatoes, cheese, and rice, I just knew I had to get over my dislike of homemade, fried foods and make them. The chef even says that supplì are one of his favorite treats, so I had to make them.

    *UPDATE* Supplì are not arancini, although they are very similar. The latter are shaped differently and do not include ragù (the tomato & beef sauce). Moreover, supplì are said to have originated in Rome and arancini in Sicily. I hope to try out arancini sometime very soon. 
    While this dish takes quite a bit of time, it is well worth it in the end. I made the ragù the day before so that the flavors could meld overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, I made the rice mixture and created my assembly line for the coating. I had never fried in olive oil before, but I didn't notice a huge difference between using any other type of oil.

    Anyway, I highly suggest making supplì for a party, your kids, or just because. I halved the recipe and still had enough for 3-4 people (I don't know why the chef says the full recipe is for four people!). I decided to roll up the supplì you see in the photos and to save the rest of the rice mixture for whenever I want more. That way, the supplì are always fresh. If I don't feel like making more supplì, I could also just eat the rice mixture as is, which is made almost exactly like risotto. It tastes amazing with or without the coating. Seriously.
    I took the last photo while eating my first bite ever of supplì. I almost ended the photo session at that point. LOL! That first bite was amazing.

    Ragù alla Bolognese
    reposted from here and adapted from Italian Food Net (video)
    You only need a FOURTH of this recipe, but I halved it here so that you can have leftovers for other dishes.

    1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
    4 cups (1 Litre tomato sauce (I used about one box of Pomì crushed tomatoes)
    1/2 of tomato paste tube (2.25 oz)
    1 big carrot (½ cup) chopped
    1 celery rib (½ cup) chopped
    1/2 white onion (½ cup) chopped
    1/4 cup of red wine (I used about 4 oz of Fre Red Wine, a non-alcoholic wine!! Yeaa!!)
    1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
    1-2 Tbsp fresh sage
    1-2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
    Extra virgin olive oil
    Salt and black pepper to taste

    Heat a large saucepan. Pour in olive oil. Add celery, carrot, onion, and let them brown over medium heat. Then add sage, rosemary, and cook the mixture for 1-2 minutes.

    Add the ground beef, divide it well, and cook until the liquid has evaporated (about 5-10 minutes), then season with salt and black pepper.

    After 10 minutes of cooking pour in the red wine, and let it evaporate. Add tomato paste, stir well, and add tomato sauce, cover and let it simmer for 1 ½ hour on a low heat. Make sure you season this sauce well before assembling the lasagne.

    Make the ragù ahead of time. You could also form the supplì without coating them ahead of time.

    3/4 cups (175 gr) (6.15 oz) short-grained rice (I used arborio. Other suggestions: Carciofi, Bomba)
    1 cup (250 gr) (9 oz) ragù (meat and tomato) Sauce (homemade or storebought; can be vegetarian)
    1 large egg
    50 gr (3.52 oz) cubed mozzarella cheese (enough to put in the small rice balls)
    1/4 cup (50 gr) (3.52 oz) finely-grated parmesan
    2 Tbsp (30 gr) (2.11 oz) unsalted butter, separated
    2 cups (500 ml) beef broth or stock (can use chicken or vegetarian stock)
    Enough flour and breadcrumbs to coat (I used Italian breadcrumbs)
    Extra virgin olive oil for rice and for frying
    Kosher salt to taste

    Heat up a pot over medium heat then add 1 Tbsp of olive oil, 1 Tbsp of the butter, and let it melt. Once the butter has melted, add rice and toast it for about 2 minutes.

    Add enough hot broth to cover the rice and when the broth has almost completely evaporated, continue to add enough broth to cover the rice, and keep doing this until there is no more broth, and the rice has evaporated.

    When the rice is cooked al dente, season with salt, add remaining butter, ragù sauce, grated parmesan and stir quickly until becomes creamy. Turn off the heat and let it cool down to room temperature.

    Make your supplì

    Break the egg and whisk. Pick up a handful of the rice mixture, mold into small balls, and firmly press it, place a small cube of mozzarella into the center then reshape into a ball. Firmly press the rice giving the typical elongated oval shape.
    (In order to not make too much of a mess, I rolled up half of the rice mixture up to this point, and set them aside. That way I did not have to roll each ball through the coatings, wash my hands, and start over.)

    Roll the rice ball in flour. Continue molding the rice to give it the elongated oval shape, then dip the supplì in egg, and finally roll it well in breadcrumbs. Repeat until all the rice is used.
    Heat extra virgin olive oil, which should be 3 inches deep, in a pot over high-medium heat, then add supplì. Let them fry until golden brown and crisp on all sides, turning over occasionally. When all supplì are golden brown, remove with a slotten spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain the olive oil.

    Transfer supplì to a serving dish and offer to your friends. Remember to eat them with hands!

    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    Mom's Blueberry Salad

    As you can see, I didn't bother styling this salad. I just let it be. . .

    A little more than 24 hours ago my mom arrived safely at home after spending more than 3 weeks with her favorite and only offspring - me :). While I love her dearly and enjoy spending time with her, I have to admit it is nice to have my bed and my place to myself again. 

    On the day I made the pasta on the previous post, my mother volunteered to make the salad *gasp!*. My longtime readers know that my mom doesn't like nor knows how to cook. However, she is the master of chopping veggies and throwing together salad-like meals (case in point - the pizza she decorated).

    After spending too much time eating salads from Panera Bread as a graduate student in upstate New York, my mother's tastebuds changed somewhat drastically. So, upon her return to Texas a few years ago, I was surprised when she told me that she now likes olives, which she at one point detested. To make matters worse Also, she became fond of adding various fruits, onions, and nuts to her salad. Now, I know that most foodies like these additions to salads, but I am boring a purist. All I fancy on my salads are lettuce (the simple kind like the water-drenched, nutrient-lacking iceberg lettuce or healthier, romaine lettuce), red tomatoes (mom and I agree on extra tomatoes), cheese, and ranch dressing. If I feel like eating a "fancier" salad, I may add on hard-boiled eggs and cucumbers but nothing more than those two ingredients. 
    My favorite thing about this salad? The ratio of tomatoes to everything else.

    So, when my mom volunteered to make this salad, I had completely forgotten about the changes in her food preferences until I saw the salad she placed in front of my camera. I instantly gave her my shocked look and promptly said, "Mo-om, it has blueberries, olives, and walnuts in it!" While rubbing her hands together in delight with a fork in one hand she said, "YUM! I know! (pause) Oh! I forgot you don't like those things in your salad! (proceeds to flick her hand nonchalantly) You can just pick them out. They won't hurt!" Thanks a lot, mom!

    Fortunately the salad was pretty photogenic. Once we sat down to eat our meal, I did remove the unwanted items immediately to the disappointment of my parental figure. I also made sure to get the part of the salad withOUT the yucky bleu cheese dressing on it. Her pour/action shot was cute, but I wish it would have been ranch dressing instead. 
    Anyway, there's no real recipe for this salad. I will just list the ingredients she used and likes to use just in case you feel like venturing out with salads - if you haven't already. I apologize now for not joining you. . . :)

    Mom's Blueberry Salad

    Roma tomatoes
    Black or green olives
    Fresh blueberries
    Chopped walnuts
    Hard-boiled eggs
    Freshly-chopped mushrooms
    Purple onions

    Other possible ingredients (feel free to add more in the comments section):
    Orange slices (including mandarin oranges)
    Chopped Pecans
    Romaine Lettuce
    Feta cheese

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Daring Cooks?: Creamy Mushroom Sauce and Homemade Pasta

    I wrote "Daring Cooks" with a question mark in the title because I didn't really follow the instructions in this challenge (and I'm two days late!), but I was inspired by one of the dishes we were requested to make with one of the nut butters.

    The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

    One of the dishes suggested was Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms from Cooking Light. Well, most of you know that I don't like any type of nut, so I decided to make a chicken and mushroom dish with homemade pasta to make this dish a bit more fussy so that it could still be sort of a challenge even though I've made pasta before. So, I'm aware that this dish doesn't count as a Daring Cooks' Challenge; however, I tried to make it work for what I like. Do I get half of a point for doing that? :D
     I highly suggest clicking on this photo or opening it on another tab and doing a close-up of the cooked, fresh pasta. It is almost translucent and looks so different from the store-bought, dried pasta. I cooked this pasta for 3 minutes and regretted it because it wasn't al dente, but it was still fantastic. Cook fresh spaghetti for 2 minutes.

    Anyway, I took some chicken out of the freezer to defrost for the next day and forgot to put it in this dish! I didn't realize I had forgotten to include the chicken until my mom and I had sat down to eat! After taking one bite of this dish, though, I forgot all about that missing ingredient. This sauce was AMAZING and so flavorful. I made adjustments to the recipe based on the highest rated comment on and based on what I had in my kitchen and will never turn back. This sauce was so quick to make that I could eat it at least once a week every week for the rest of my life. I loved the addition of sage and the meatiness of the mushrooms. For any lovers of meat, this dish would be perfect as a Meatless Monday meal or any type of meal; you really won't miss the chicken. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make this sauce. This sauce is so good and quick to make. I will be making this again very soon.

    As far as the pasta is concerned, it came out perfectly. I usually make fettuccine with my pasta cutter, but my mom wanted spaghetti, so I made that. I don't know if my mom had fresh pasta in Italy, but she claimed that this time was her first known experience eating it fresh. While my mom and I were happily eating this pasta dish, we got into an interesting discussion about the role of homemade pasta versus store-bought pasta (and sandwich bread) when mixed with a good sauce or other ingredients.

    HOMEMADE PASTA VS. DRIED, STORE-BOUGHT PASTA: We both agreed that many, not all, store-bought pasta and sandwich bread act more like mere vehicles for sauces, meats, and other ingredients. In other words, some store-bought items serve as a means to a end, i.e., transporting the the savory sauces, and what have you, into your mouth.  Homemade pasta and bread, however, play a larger role in dishes and at times become the star in a dish even if the other ingredients are quite flavorful. In other words, the homemade pasta and bread themselves become refreshing and delectable edible "plates".

    Now, the fresh pasta and this creamy mushroom sauce that my mom and I enjoyed were great complements to each other. Both the pasta and the sauce stood out so beautifully that I don't know if I could ever eat this sauce with the store-bought kind.  Okay. . . okay. . .I'm sure that on my lazier days, I will try it out and will just think back to how amazing this dish tasted with the fresh pasta. 

    All of these spaghetti came from only half of the ball of dough you will see below.

    Pasta Dough
    For the pasta dough, I've learned that true Italian pasta dough does not call for any water at all despite the other recipes I've seen online. As I always do when I want an authentic, Italian meal, I turned to ItalianFood.Net for a recipe for my pasta dough. This is now my go-to recipe for pasta dough.

    From ItalianFood.Net (click here for the video)
    Reduced for 4 people; the source recipe would be more for 6, not 4, people.

    100 grams 00 flour (You could sub AP flour. I bought my 00 flour from a local Italian market)
    100 grams semolina/durum wheat flour (I used this flour and bought it from Central Market)
    Pinch of salt (I used kosher)
    2 large eggs, room temperature
    2 tsp - 1 Tbsp olive oil (you may need to add more oil if your ball of dough is dry like mine)

    Mix the two flours and salt in a bowl and form a hole or well in the middle. Place the eggs and olive oil in the middle. Mix the mixture with a fork well. Form a ball in the bowl, and transfer the ball to a flat surface. Add flour if the ball of dough is too wet, and add more oil if it is too dry.
    That little ball of dough is enough for 4 people's worth of pasta. That little cut piece on the bottom left created those two lonnnng layers of pasta in the lower right photo.

    Knead the dough until the ball of dough becomes smooth and homogeneous. Cover the ball of dough completely, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes so that the gluten can relax. Work with 1/4th of the dough at a time to form the pasta. If you have a pasta roller/cutter, follow the instructions for your machine. If you do not have a pasta roller, roll out the pieces of dough as thin as you can with a rolling pin as instructed on the video on

    Creamy Mushroom Pasta
    adapted from allrecipes

    8 oz of fresh or store-bought fettuccine (I used spaghetti)
    1 1/2 Tbsps olive oil, separated (1/2 Tbsp for pasta water and 1 Tbsp for sauce)
    1 shallot or small onion, chopped
    3 cloves of garlic, chopped
    4 oz of fresh mushrooms, chopped
    1/2 Tbsp of unsalted butter
    1 Tbsp of AP flour
    1/4 - 1/2 of a chicken or vegetable bouillon cube or 1/4th cup of chicken/vegetable broth
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    2 Tbsp sage (trust me!)
    salt and pepper to taste (don't use too much salt b/c the bouillon is salty. I didn't need any at all.)

    Prepare pasta water and pasta:
    Bring a large pot of lightly-salted and oiled water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes (2-3 minutes for homemade pasta!), or until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water to thin out the mushroom sauce later.

    While waiting for the pasta water to boil, make the sauce: 
    Heat olive oil in a medium skillet or saucepan over medium heat, and cook shallots and garlic until transparent. Stir in mushrooms, and cook until tender. Add the butter, and add the flour after the butter melts to form a roux to thicken the sauce. Stir the roux with the sautéed vegetables for 2-3 minutes to cook out the flour taste. (Don't forget about the boiling water for the pasta! It should be boiling by now!)

    Mix in heavy cream and sage. Cook and stir until thickened. If too thick, use some pasta water (i.e., the leftover water from the cooked pasta) to thin out the sauce a bit. You can either toss the sauce with cooked pasta, and season with salt and pepper to serve, or add salt (I didn't add any salt) and pepper in the sauce, and serve it atop the pasta.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Quesadillas and An Award!

    My lame attempt to "tell a story" through a food photo. Before leaving for Brazil, his home country, my friend lent me this collection of works from Mark Twain. I cannot wait to read it!

    I rarely eat bacon, but I had some in the refrigerator that needed to be used up. Also, I never buy store-bought flour tortillas since homemade ones are so much better, but my mom was too impatient to wait for me to make some for her, so she bought some instead. Therefore, I took advantage of her impatience and frustration with my laziness by making these quesadillas with her tortillas.

    While they tasted amazing. I was just missing one thing - salsa. There weren't anymore tomatoes in the house, and I didn't feel like going anywhere, so I had to eat them as is. If you decide to make these yummy, simple quesadillas, please make sure you have some homemade or store-bought salsa on hand. I'm sure that cold, red, flavorful concoction would amp these quesadillas up a few notches.

    Versatile Blogger Award: 

    I was so blessed to be awarded by Lynne of Cook and Be Merry a few days ago, and I feel so honored to be awarded by such a talented blogger and food photographer. Her photos are so bright and clear; the presentation is lovely as well. I can only wish that I could photograph as well and consistently good as she does. One day I'll get there, though. Anyway, thank you so much for the award, Lynne!!

    The guidelines for accepting this award are:

    Thank the person who gave it to you.
    Tell 7 things about yourself.
    Pass the award on to 15 bloggers whom you have recently discovered and think are fantastic.

    So, here are seven facts about me:

    1. On my mother's side of the family, I am an only child and was raised as such since my dad wasn't around.
    2a. I changed my last name to my mother's last name so that she could get all the credit for how awesome I was to become! :D
    2b. I am humble. LOL
    3. Despite what I wrote in #2, I have very low self-esteem.
    4. When people write or say "anyway" with an "s" at the end, my mother and I cringe.
    5. I have been in a tumultuous, yet amorous relationship with a woman for more than 10 years off and on.
    6. Even though I don't write well, I love to talk about grammar more than any other topic, including cooking and baking.
    7. I detest watermelon and very rarely eat fried chicken despite the racial stereotype ;).

    I am passing along this award to the following 15 bloggers I have recently discovered. However, I won't be hurt if you were chosen yet don't feel like participating. I know how it is.
    1. Hilah Cooking - I love her personality on the videos and the fact that we live in the same city.
    2. Namely Marly - The lady obsessed with names (including mine!) and vegan cooking. She is so lovely!
    3. Asopaipas - He comments on each and every post I create, and I adore him for that, the fact that his native language is Spanish, and that he shares great, simple dishes. ¡Este premio es especialmente para ti, José Manuel! Gracias por ser un lector tan fiel.
    4. Like Mother Like Daughters - One of the daughters of this blog was a student of mine! I adore her and the fact that this blog is written by her, her sister, and her mother. 
    5. Jessiker Bakes - This woman loves sweets even more than I do! I love to see what she makes.
    6. Scrambledhenfruit - I discovered her lovely blog because of the paella pan giveaway, and she actually won! 
    7. Baked Bree - I've been going to Bree's lovely blog for a little while now. I love how bright and clear her process photos are. I'm constantly envious of how much light she gets in her kitchen.
    8. Frieda Loves Bread - She makes bread as much I wish I could make bread. Seriously.
    9. Ambrosia e Nettare - Check out the lemon cheesecake on this blog! Complimenti, Lucia!
    10. Cake on the Brain - The name of the blog itself tells you why I included this one on the list. YUM!
    11. Jolts & Jollies - Another fellow Daring Cook! I love her process photos.
    12. One Cake Two Cake - The blog title lured me in. Then the photos of yummy desserts kept me there.
    13. TheArdentEpicure - Run, not walk to this website, and check out the enchiladas. Goodness!
    14. Baking Powders - I love the title and the blog. Fantastic large photos and delectable treats. YUM!
    15. i am mommy - I'm sure just about everyone knows about this blog. Her treats are so AMAZING!
    And there you have it! Remember, this is a list of recently-discovered blogs, so there are a LOAD of amazing blogs I've known about for a long time that I didn't include here. Have a great week, everyone!

    Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Quesadillas
    Yield: 2-3 quesadillas

    3 - 4 strips of bacon
    1 1/2 - 2 Tbsps unsalted butter, separated
    2 eggs
    salt and pepper to taste (don't use too much salt because of the bacon and cheese)
    1/2 - 3/4 cups of monterey jack or cheddar cheese
    4-6 taco-sized flour tortillas (homemade or storebought)

    Prepare the bacon on a clean skillet. At the same time, prepare the eggs in another skillet after melting the half a Tbsp of butter. Lightly season the eggs with salt and pepper. Set the bacon and eggs aside.

    Wipe the skillet that had the bacon in it clean with a paper towel, and place half of a Tbsp of butter in there. After the butter has melted, place one tortilla in the skillet; add some of the eggs and bacon. Add half (or a third if making 3 quesadillas) of the cheese on top of the bacon and eggs. Place a second tortilla on top of the mixture. Grill the tortilla for about 2-4 minutes per side until both sides have browned and the insides are melted. Repeat the process with the other tortillas. Serve with fresh salsa. YUM!

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    BBQ Wings & My First Online Interview!

    I ate these wings with corn and mashed potatoes.

    Remember the baked spicy buffalo wings I made last month? Well, since that time, I have made it two or three more times because they are that good. So, I thought I would make the base of these wings with the homemade BBQ sauce I made, and it was fantastic too!
    Since I finally made these wings in the daytime, I thought I'd include some process photos. So, whenever you make these wings or the buffalo wings, you can visualize the process a bit more. Please please make one of the two versions of this dish or both! It is a quick, delicious meal.
    In fact, I went to a restaurant today and ordered wings, and my mother said that "my" wings tasted considerably better even though the restaurant's wings were very flavorful. If that compliment doesn't convince you to try the buffalo and/or these BBQ wings ASAP, then I don't know what else will.

    MY FIRST INTERVIEW: I am so happy to announce to you all that I had my first online interview a few days ago. Marly from Namely Marly contacted me via email after seeing my name and requested an interview about it. We conducted the interview on Skype and by phone; it was so fun! So, if you'd like to learn more about my name changes (yes, more than one) and me, please stop by her beautiful blog, which also features great vegan recipes. Click here for my interview, and feel free to leave comments and thought-provoking questions! Thanks again, Marly!
    I'm reposting a photo of the sauce here.

    Copycat Recipe of Rudy's BBQ "Sause"
    adapted from Beth's Favorite Recipes; original post here

    1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
    1 cup ketchup
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    2 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
    2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp coarse black pepper
    1/4 tsp cumin
    1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

    Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Simmer until slightly reduced. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

    BBQ Wings
    Base recipe comes from Life's Ambrosia; my original post here

    1.5 to 2 lb chicken drummettes or wingettes
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 tsp seasoning salt
    1 tsp pepper
    1 tsp granulated garlic
    1 egg
    2 Tbsp milk
    About 1/4 cup canola oil
    BBQ Sauce (recipe above)

    Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

    In a bowl whisk together egg and milk. . .
    Combine flour, seasoning salt, pepper and granulated garlic in one gallon plastic bag. . .
    Put chicken wings in the egg wash first and coat (I sometimes season the wings with seasoning salt and pepper before placing them in the egg wash; I did that after this photo.). . .
    Transfer the wings to the plastic bag with flour. Seal the bag and shake to coat. . .
    Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Lay wings in single layer. Drizzle with canola oil. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn and bake for an additional 20 minutes. . .
    Wings should be golden brown and crispy. Prepare the wing sauce while your drummettes are cooking.


    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Pizza Hut Clone Pizza Revisited

    My mom's pizza: tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, jalapeños, onions, sauce, and mozzarella cheese.

    In May of last year, I made this clone recipe of Pizza Hut's Pan pizza and was instantly hooked on it. I love thick and thin dough, but my favorite is the thick, pan variety. Even though this recipe doesn't yield a pan pizza exactly like that of Pizza Hut, it is fabulous and less oily. I didn't have any tomato sauce, so I watered down some tomato paste and added Italian seasoning, garlic salt, a little sugar, and pepper. That worked like a charm.
    Another burnt creation thanks to my beloved oven. It all still tasted amazing, including the crust. My pizza: pepperoni, sauce, and mozzarella cheese

    The maintenance workers came to fix my oven two times, and now it seems to be worse than before. Consequently, I burned my meat pizza and had to watch my mother's pizza like a hawk; hence, there are more photos of my mom's pizza than mine. I probably could have cooked the pizza a couple of minutes more to get more color on the crust, but my mother was pleased with how it looked, and it was well-cooked. Even my gently-burnt pizza was still amazingly good.
    My mom "decorated" this pizza all by herself haha. I'm so proud of her.

    In the original post, I had promised my mom that I would make this pizza for her in July of last year. Well, I am one year late in my promise, but the month is July, so I'm happy I could make this for her. She said this pizza was the best pizza she had ever eaten, and my mom is a pizza addict who has eaten pizza in New York, Chicago, and various parts of Italy. So, that is a major compliment!

    I had only one cast-iron skillet, so I split the dough into two pieces. Once I baked my pizza, I transferred it to a plate and started working on my mom's pizza in the same skillet. I really like making pizza in a cast-iron skillet; it is much easier than making it in a pie plate or on the back of a jelly roll pan.
    My mom's favorite part of the pizza was the crust on the top left part of the above photo, so I had to take a shot of it haha.

    I hope you make this one day soon; it is a fantastic recipe. I am submitting this post to yeastspotting!

    Pizza Hut Clone Pizza
    adapted from Real Mom Kitchen

    1 (8 oz) tomato sauce (I used one 8oz tomato paste + 1/4-1/2 cup water)
    1-2 Tbsp Italian seasoning (or 1 tsp dry oregano; 1/2 tsp marjoram; 1/2 tsp dry basil; 1/2 tsp garlic salt)
    1/2 tsp sugar (to offset the bitterness of the tomato sauce)

    Combine the ingredients. Allow the mixture to sit for 1 hour while the dough rises.

    1 1/3 C Warm water (105F/40C) (OR you could use 1 1/2 cups of WARM milk in place of water and dry milk)
    1 pk (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast (I used active)
    1 Tbsp granulated sugar
    1/4 C non−fat dry milk
    2 Tbsp vegetable oil (for dough)
    1/2 tsp salt (I used kosher)
    4 C AP flour
    approx. 6 Oz Vegetable oil (3 oz. per pan)

    Preheat oven to 475F (I cooked at 450). Put yeast, sugar, and dry milk in a large (2 qt.) bowl or mixing bowl of stand mixer. Add the warm water, and stir to mix well. Allow mixture to sit for two minutes.

    Then, add oil and stir again. Add flour and salt, and mix until dough forms and flour is absorbed. Turn out on to a flat surface and knead for about 10 minutes (If using a stand mixer, mix the ingredients with a dough hook and then knead the dough for 5-6 minutes.)

    Divide dough into two balls (about 450-460 grams each). In two cast-iron skillets (or you can use two 9' cake/pie plates or one 9-inch pie plate and one 9 x 13 dish), put 1-2 Tbsp of oil in each skillet/plate making sure it is spread evenly. Using a rolling pin or your hand, roll/pat out each dough ball to about a 9" circle in the skillet (you probably won't be able to spread the dough to the edges at this time).

    Cover with a towel or a plate. Place in warm area and allow to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Then, pat the dough once more to the edges of the skillet.
    Poke holes in the crust or use pie weights, and parbake the crust for 2-5 minutes to prevent sogginess of dough after adding the sauce.

    Spoon 1/3 cup sauce on dough. Distribute 1 1/2 Oz. shredded mozzarella cheese on sauce. Place toppings of your choice. Top with 3 oz. mozzarella cheese. Cook until cheese is bubbling and outer crust is brown about 15 minutes. Then brush outer edge of crust with garlic butter.