I’m on a mission to find the best white cake ever. For the next month or so I’ll be experimenting with different ingredients until I find one that I absolutely love. This version of the white cake was made into cupcakes using a combination of a couple egg whites, whole milk, cake flour, and shortening. The cake is super delicate and is pretty good if you like a denser white cake. Flavor wise, it was spot on!
Yields 9-12 cupcakes
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup and 2 tablespoons cake flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- Preheat oven at 350˚ and line cupcake pan with up to 12 cupcake liners.
- Using your mixer with the paddle, mix shortening and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed. Add egg whites, one at a time. Add vanilla.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and add to creamed mixture alternately with the milk.
- Bake cupcakes for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
- 1 cup of frozen strawberries thawed with liquid
- 1/3 cup of powdered sugar
Mix strawberries and powdered sugar and top each cupcake with about 1 tablespoon of the icing. Chill cupcakes overnight and serve.
I wanted to make a lemon berry cupcake that was tart and refreshing and not overly sweet. I played around with a classic yellow cake recipe I liked and added blueberries and lemon zest to the batter. Then, separately I cooked 2 cups of blueberries in a sauce pot with sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch and let the mixture look somewhat like pie filling which gave the cupcakes a super tart center. Topped it off with lemon zest crème chantilly (fancy name for whipped cream icing). YUM.
The cupcakes. Yields 16-24 cupcakes
- 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3 t baking powder
- 1 t salt
- 1 cup shortening
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3 tsp vanilla
- 1 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup of blueberries
- zest of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pans or line cupcake liners.
Sift dry ingredients together. Mix shortening, sugar, and lemon zest at medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time then add the vanilla extract. Gradually add milk and dry ingredients alternating each in 3 parts. Fold in fresh blueberries. Bake 15-17 minutes until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
- 1.5 cups of fresh blueberries or frozen
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
- Large boba tea straws
- Bring blueberries, water, and sugar together in a saucepan on medium heat. When blueberries pop, add the cornstarch mixture and lemon juice. Cool completely.
- To fill the cupcakes, insert one end of the boba tea straw in the center of the cupcakes. The center of the cupcakes should come out when you remove the straw. Repeat for all cupcakes then fill each one with blueberry filling.
- 2 cups of very cold heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup of powdered sugar
- 1 or 2 drops of lemon oil or extract
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of gelatin dissolved in 1 table spoon of warm water
- blue food coloring (optional)
- Using an electric mixer with wire whisk, whisk the heavy cream on medium speed.
- When the creme starts to thicken, add the gelatin, vanilla, lemon oil, and food coloring if you like.
- Add powdered sugar a little at a time. The cream is ready if it makes soft peaks. Pipe on cupcakes and garnish with more fresh blueberries.
When it comes to entertaining with cocktails, the best foods to serve your guests are the ones they can grab and walk around. That way, your guests won’t feel obligated to stay in one place. So finger foods would be the best choice for game night, girls night, wine night, whatever shenanigans you like night. Here are some recipes for finger foods I like to serve again and again. Always a crowd pleaser. Follow this link for the recipes: http://bit.ly/1eaFTs4
This sweet and savory soup comes to you from my family’s dinner table. The word “canh” in Vietnamese means soup and “chua” means sour. As the title implies, the soup is quite sour from the tamarind base. My mom would add fresh shrimp, catfish fillets, bean sprouts, pineapple, and chopped lemongrass. I made a simpler version with shrimp, pineapple, and tamarind. The soup is awesome with jasmine steamed rice and perfect for a cold day. The following recipe makes 2 servings.
- 2 roma tomatoes, quartered
- 1 cup of pineapple chunks
- 1 15 oz can of chicken broth
- 1/2 pound of shrimp peeled and de-veined
- 2 tablespoons tamarind soup base mix
- 1 stalk of lemon grass, cut into 3 pieces
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- vegetable or coconut oil
- chopped green onions and cilantro for garnish
- In a medium pot, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Sautee garlic and lemongrass stalks.
- Add soup base, chicken broth, pineapple, tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Strain the lemon grass stalks and add shrimp. Cook for 3 minutes and add green onions and cilantro.
- Serve over rice or rice noodles if desired. Enjoy!
North Texas is slowly building up a reputation for being a coffee drinking place. Little coffee shops are popping up like mushrooms, mostly clustered in the city but many good ones can be found in the burbs. This morning I made a trip to meet my friend Alf to talk about graphic designing stuff and we decided to skip Starbucks and opt for some place we both haven’t tried. Enter Life House coffee shop, one of the best coffee shops in Texas!
The first all-organic coffee shop that ever came to DFW and it happens to be so far away from where I live in downtown Dallas.
Finding The Life House coffee shop was such a treat for the following reasons:
-They roast their own coffee beans and their own blend of espresso is pretty darn good
-All coffee syrups are made in-house. None of that artificial stuff we’re used to.
-A bad-ass breakfast menu, made with organic, local ingredients.
-All pastries made in-house every day.
-Lots of indoor and outdoor seating.
-Friendly, accommodating staff. The people who run this place are really pleasant.
I bought a bag of their espresso blend to make at home. I’m so excited!
There’s a local organic movement that is sweeping Dallas off its feet. You can thank local restauranteurs for opting for local produce and baked goods first before buying from wholesale retailers. My favorite burger joint now has gluten-free buns from a local gluten-free bakery, my post office now sells fresh peas and turnips along with local honey and barbecue sauces (score!), I can buy free range eggs at the market near the lake, and get raw almond milk at the farmers market. Dallas has come a long way.
On my way to pick up lunch this week I discovered that an organic raw juice stand had opened in Shed #2. Boom Juice offers fresh pressed, organic juices that can be used as food supplements during cleansing. They also have a special liquid diet for new moms, brides-to-be, and juices for babies when they’re ready to eat solid food. Boom Juice also makes fresh coconut milk and almond milk. If you haven’t been down to the Farmers Market in a while, it’s time to check out all the new stuff. Don’t forget the new gluten-free cheese bread stand Ipanema Cheese Bread run by Hortencia Dunaway. Every weekend Dunaway creates delicious gluten-free lunches from stews to chilies and baked desserts for anyone who want to steer clear from gluten.
On Friday night after work, I put my renegade face on and went on baking Zoey’s 1st birthday cake. Last year, her mother ordered baby shower cupcakes from me with fondant cherry blossoms. This year, her mother opted for a bumble bee theme. I was pleased with how the bumble bees turned out. What fun! If you’re wondering, the cake flavor is pumpkin and cream cheese.
Something neat happened yesterday: I made bún riêu cua in 30 minutes.
When you think about Vietnamese food in the states, Pho comes to mind and it’s good but it’s sort of like saying that barbecue is the national food for all the United States when there are in fact, a distinct type of food for every region. When you venture into south Vietnam, very few people know what pho is. Bún (dried rice stick) is favored over it’s fresh noodle cousin and the same type of noodle which takes longer to cook, gets put into a plethora of soups. My parents are from the southern most tip in Vietnam and you can find a bún riêu stand on every block. The traditional southern version has ground beef or pork short ribs, egg drop, minced crab or prawns, tofu, Roma tomatoes, and *gasp* congealed pork blood if you dare.
The trouble with cooking Vietnamese food is that it takes typically a good 3 hours to create a broth. I’m going to show you a quick way to make it for a quick weeknight meal. 30 minutes. I promise it will be delightful.
Recipe: Serves 2
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large shallot sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil
- 1 small can of bún riêu paste (either crab or shrimp)
- 4 cups of chicken broth (more if you liked more soup)
- 2 roma tomatoes
- 1 package of rice vermicelli
- 4 eggs
- salt and pepper
- 1 bag of puffed tofu
- cilantro and green onion, chopped finely
- In a large boiling pot, bring water to boil and cook rice noodles until softened. Drain and rinse in cold water very thoroughly. Set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan or small stew pot, heat oil at medium heat and fry shallots. Add the crab/shrimp paste, then garlic. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are stewed.
- In a small bowl, whisk eggs together and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle the egg mixture and allow the mixture to cook and float to the top. Add in your green onions and cilantro.
- Separate noodles into large soup bowls and spoon broth over on top.
There it is. 30 minute bún riêu.
My favorite recipes are the ones where I can prep and then slow cook in the oven for hours without tending to. Ergo, beef bourguignon and pot roast are my ideal recipes. I can start the vegetables and meat and then still watch my favorite tv marathons. I made pot roast and served it with whipped potatoes, gravy, and carrots. It was so darn good. A tip on selecting the beef cut: use Prime or Choice meats and the more marbled the meat is, the fattier. Fat=Flavor. Heck yeah!
This recipe will serve 4.
Ingredients for Roast
- 5 pounds of beef chuck
- salt and pepper
- 2 large onions cut into quarters with skin peeled
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 4 cups of beef broth
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley
- 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- olive oil
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large dutch oven pot on high heat, brown onions then add carrots. Remove and set aside.
- Season beef chuck generously with salt and pepper. Add to hot pan and sear beef chuck until all sides are very brown. Remove and set aside.
- Deglaze the pan by whisking in beef broth until all the brown bits at the bottom of the pan are dissolved.
- Add fresh herbs (with stem), parsley, then browned beef chuck, garlic, and finally carrots and vegetables.
- Cook in oven for 4 hours. When time is over, allow beef to rest so all the juices in the meat can redistribute for about 5 minutes. When ready to serve, pull the beef or sliced into cubes. Serve with remaining carrots and add a side of mashed potatoes.
Ingredients for Gravy
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 2 cups of leftover broth from cooked pot roast
- salt and pepper
In a small sauce pan over medium high heat, melt butter. Add flour and whisk. Slowly whisk in pot roast broth. Whisk until there are no more lumps. Season with salt and pepper and spoon over pot roast and your version of mashed potatoes.
It rained almost every day this week. I forgot to mention that I’ve somehow found myself in a position at work to cook for 5 app developers. They’re working on a super important project and I am now a chef at a small start up company. Who would’ve thought that I would be cooking at my job. I was shocked when our CEO asked me 2 weeks ago if I was up for preparing breakfast and lunch every day while doing my normal tech work. The past couple of weeks have been very fun. One of the meals I prepared was stuffed pasta shells with browned ground beef, sauteed onions and garlic, and herbs in a tomato sauce. The casserole dish makes a beautiful presentation. I hope you get to make this at some point.
Stuffed Pasta Shells
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 (26 ounce) jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 18 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup dry red wine
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil water for pasta.
2 Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown ground beef, onion and garlic; drain and cool.
3. Cook pasta in water, drain.
Meanwhile pasta is cooking, combine meat, mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs, egg and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Mix spaghetti sauce with tomato sauce; cover bottom of a large casserole dish with 1/4 of the sauce.
Stuff cooked, drained shells with the meat mixture and place on top of sauce in dish in a row.
Add red wine to remaining sauce and mix well; cover shells with sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and browned.
Fashion is a little off topic for this food blog but I took a break from culinary excursions today to indulge in some local debauchery at Dallas’ Mercy Wine Bar to sample flights of wine and watch Mila Hoffman debut her new collection “Dream a Little.” The Korean-Russian designer’s collection features whimsical gowns that sparkled with gems, feathers, rhinestone, and more lace and chiffon than the breadth of Lance Armstrong’s feat in Tour DuPont. If you’d like to find out more about this collection, go to http://www.milahoffman.com/
Once in a while I get the craving for a veggie or black bean burger. When you get the veggie patties at the market they’re either bland or overwhelmed by herbs that don’t taste appetizing. You can make your own black bean patties and control what you put in them. The consistency of these patties are just right; they’re not too soft nor dry; just perfect. I add sauteed red onions, garlic, salt, a little flour and the surprise ingredient? Ground oatmeal flour. The flours holds the patty together and when baked, the patties are slightly crispy on the outside. Sometimes I add cumin and paprika which go so so good with avocado. The recipe is easily adjustable. I can’t wait for my Vegetarian friends to try this!
This recipe makes 5 servings
- 30 ounce can of black beans no salt, drained
- 1/2 cup of all-purpose gluten-free flour
- 1/2 cup of ground gluten-free oatmeal
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- small red onion, diced finely
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- gluten-free buns
- Heat olive oil on medium heat and saute diced onions until softened and brown.
- Add garlic and cook for another minute. Set aside and cool.
- In a mixing bowl, add beans and mash with fork. Add the onion and garlic mixture, salt, and both flours.
- Form into patties and arrange on baking sheet.
- Bake patties at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. The slow cooking will reduce the moisture in the patty.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. If you’re storing them for later, allow to cool completely before freezing in zip lock bags.
cinnamon dolce syrup
Cinnamon dolce, next to caramel syrup is my favorite coffee sweetener. You can get your own bottle of coffee syrup from the market for $9-15 OR you can make your own in minutes. All you need is regular granulated sugar, cinnamon, water, and an empty syrup dispenser bottle.
- 2 cups of water
- 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- empty syrup dispenser or a large mason jar with lid
- We’ll begin by making a simple syrup. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar granules dissolve.
- Add cinnamon. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Take off heat and wait for 3 minutes.
- At this point the cinnamon will float to the top. Skim the cinnamon with a ladle and discard and allow syrup to cool completely before using. The syrup should be clear of any traces of cinnamon before using.
- Don’t forget to allow syrup to read room temperature before storing them away in the empty bottle or jar.