Friday, March 27, 2009

I miss the warm weather :-(

But at least it was semi-warm for a couple days! So we decided to make the most of it and eat some ice cream...outside! Gabrielle is ALWAYS bugging me to eat ice cream cones, so finally I broke down and bought some. Good thing it was warm enough to go outside, because (as you can see from Leila's face) they L<3ved it! Of course it wasn't hot (I'm still in Conneticuit you know), as you can see my girls are still wearing their jackets.

My girls are sooo cute!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How It All Came Together

Tonight's little creation came together due to a few different things. For starters, Robert left again today which put me in a sad poopy mood that could only be alleviated by baking something. My initial decision had been orange cupcakes, random I know. But a friend suggested that maybe I should take a cupcake break -- which I thought "Why would I want to do that?" But a little break wouldn't hurt. Then while I was coming home from the airport, I stopped at Starbucks to get a green tea latte. Green tea is like my new thing now. And while I was driving I was thinking about how if I could just get my hands on some matcha powder (that's cheaper than $42) then I could make my own green tea lattes. Then I realized what an idiot I've been! Why the heck did I go to the health food store looking for green tea powder? I buy all of my Asian groceries at the Asian grocery stores, and green tea powder is Asian, so shouldn't I go to the Asian grocery store for it? Duh! So I decided to try the Korean grocery store just down the street and wouldn't you know it, they had TWO different types of green tea powder. And the best part is that they were $6! Can you believe it? Six dollars for an ounce and a half! So anyway, you would think that the first thing I'd make is a green tea latte. But I'd already had one today and I got too sidetracked. Or maybe more cupcakes -- but I just made green tea cupcakes. Instead, I made another recipe that I'd been eyeing - a green tea roll cake! Like a jelly roll (which I've actually never made), except with green tea and whipped cream. It turned out being really strong, like a VERY strong cup of green tea. But the sweetened matcha flavored whipped cream helps to tone the flavor down some. I thought it went perfect with a mug of hot water (is that weird? that I drink plain hot water?) I'm sure it'd be good with a glass of warm milk as well. I think if I make it in the future, I'd use a little less matcha powder and maybe a little more sugar for a bit of a sweeter taste. The roll itself turned out pretty good I think, considering it was my first time. It could've been prettier. Oh well. And as for my green tea latte, I'll be making one tomorrow for sure!

More Chicken!

Well I finally got around to making that prosciutto wrapped chicken yesterday. Robert requested it which somewhat surprised me because we've had so much chicken lately. Then I remembered that he can eat chicken every day of the week. And I suppose that if I can make it a different way each day, maybe I could too. Eh, maybe not. But I was surprised by this recipe. I couldn't quite imagine how all the flavors would come together -- prosciutto, chicken, basil, mozzarella, and sun dried tomatoes. It was kind of like caprese salad stuffed in chicken. In the end, it turned out to be really good served with a side of rice pilaf and some veggies. None of the flavors were super overwhelming. And Robert liked it too -- which was the important thing since he requested it :-P

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patty's Day!

I am sure that it has become common knowledge that in my home, a holiday is synonomous with food. To be honest, everything and everyday means food here, but when there's a holiday, I tend to get a little bit extreme. And even though we have no Irish in the family (as far as we know, except I wouldn't be surprised if there was), St. Patrick's Day was a good excuse to whip some things that I've never made before. Actually, make that a lot of things that I've never made before. For dinner, we had the ever so traditional corned beef and cabbage. . . except it's not very traditional because I've never had it before! Technically, what I made was New England Boiled Dinner because I added potatoes and carrots to the corned beef and cabbage. I took the easy way out and made it all in my slow cooker. But I was really surprised with how good it turned out. I didn't expect it to be so tender and tasty. I could definately eat corned beef again, even when it's not St. Patrick's Day. The girls didn't really seem to care for it at all. They are not real meat and potato eaters. On the other hand, they REALLY like bread. And lucky for them, I made a loaf of Irish Soda Bread to go with dinner. Once again, I've never had Soda Bread before, but based on the descriptions that I read, I am pretty sure I made it right. It was actually really easy, the easiest bread I've ever made -- considering there are only 4 ingredients involved. I almost forgot that I was going to make it, and didn't remember until an hour before dinner. Yet, I managed to mix it and bake it just in time for dinner! I was really surprised by the taste and consistency because I didn't think something so simple would be very tasty.

And of course, since I am the crazy cupcake lady, I HAD to whip up some cupcakes. I was actually torn in what kind to make because one friend told me that I should make mint cupcakes, and another really wanted me to make Green Tea cupcakes. I had originally decided on the green tea cupcakes because I had read about how green tea powder naturally makes food green (big surprise there). So even though green tea isn't very Irish, at least the cupcakes would've been green, which is in the spirit, right? Well, in the end, I couldn't make a decision, which could only mean one thing -- a whole lot of cupcakes! Because I thought mint cupcakes were just too plain and easy, I had to take it up a notch. I almost immediately thought chocolate mint, but since the last few batches of cupcakes I've made have been chocolate, I really wanted something lighter. The result -- Bailey's Mint Chocolate Irish Cream Cupcakes with chocolate chips and a Mint Cream Cheese Frosting. Say that three times fast! It ended up being a real flavor explosion. The only thing was that I had to make the batter a little denser than normal because I wanted the chocolate chips to float in it. So not my typical light, fluffy airy cupcakes. . . instead it was more like a pound cake and rather filling. But with the mint frosting, I think they made a really good combination. I am not usually a fan of chocolate chips in things, but I think these worked really well.

As for the green tea cupcakes. Well, there were definately some issues there. For starters, the recipe called for matcha powder, which is basically the green tea powder. The problem with that is that the local health food stores carries it for $42.50 per ounce! Yes that's right! And since the recipe required about an ounce, they would've been the most expensive cupcakes I've ever made and eaten in my life! And what if I ruined them, then that would be $50 down the drain. Well, either way, I wasn't going to be $43 worth of green tea, that's probably more expensive than coke (not that I would know of course). So I decided on a considerably cheaper substitute - sensha powder, which is another type of green tea, except it's sold at the commissary for 2.95 a box and is marketed as Iced Green Tea powder. I think taste wise, it was a worthy substitute. Unfortunately, the batter didn't take on the hue of green that I would've gotten with the matcha powder, which is much darker. It was barely discernable as being green. But that was nothing compared with the fact that I forgot an EXTREMELY important ingredient. In the past, I have told friends on more than one occasion that you cannot bake without baking powder or baking soda. I wish I had told myself that before I put my green tea cupcakes in the oven. It wasn't until I was cleaning up that I realized that I'd forgotten a key ingredient, and that's why my cupcakes looked exactly the same as they did when I put them in the oven. Good thing I didn't spend $43 on that matcha powder. . . I really would've been crying then! Luckily, the batter was enough to make two batches, so I was able to fix the rest of the batter and the second batch of cupcakes turned out perfectly risen. I topped them off with whipped cream, and they reminded me of mini green tea lattes! And I could almost say that because they're green tea, they're good for you!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thai Mango Chicken

I was originally supposed to make proscuitto wrapped chicken for dinner. But when it came time to actually make dinner, I realized I was missing a few things. Determined not to make a run to the store, I started trying to brainstorm other things that I could make with the already defrosted chicken. While I was frantically trying to figure out what we were going to eat, Robert decided to cut the 4 ripened mangoes that were sitting on the counter. And thus dinner was born! Amazingly enough, I had all the ingredients that I needed to make the recipe, from the red pepper (which we never have) to the cilantro. The only thing we didn't have was fish sauce, which was easy to do without. A little salt replaced the saltiness that the salt wouldn't provide. And while the recipes called for some type of chili sauce, I just ended up using Sriracha (which is Thai too, so it couldn't have been too far off the mark). It turned out to be really, really good. I couldv'e eaten the whole pot all by myself! It was so amazing to me because the sauce was sweet, salty, sour, and spicy all in the same bite. It was like one flavor after another! At first we didn't think the girls would eat because it definately had a little kick to it. But they seem to be acquiring a taste for spicy foods. They certainly didn't complain. I am eager to make this recipe again. Yum yum!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Car Wash!

The weather has actually been pretty decent lately, which I am grateful for. I could definately handle it being a little warmer, but hey, I'll take what I can get. Robert decided it was warm enough to wash the car (I secretly disagreed), but the van was looking pretty dirty from all the sand and salt it's accumulated with the snowstorms. Even washing the car is a lot more fun when you've got little ones who are sooo excited about anything new. Gabrielle actually helped to wash, and she was pretty serious about her duties. As for Leila, well Leila had a much better time just splashing around in the mud puddles that the water had created. She was really jumping around and getting a kick out of it! By the time the car was clean, everyone else was dirty, and Leila's socks and shoes were soaked! I still think it needed to be about 30 degrees warmer to be out getting wet, but who am I to argue with fun?

Picture Perfect continued. . .

Another party, another cake! I think this may be starting to spin out of control. At least there are other people eating the cakes except me and Robert. This one is a mango-pineapple torte which I actually prefered to the chocolate cake. But then again, I don't love chocolate as much as some.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Picture Perfect

I just had to include a picture of this cake because I thought it was so perfect and picturesque. This is a chocolate strawberry cake that I made for a friend's Pampered Chef party. This is another super easy recipe out the aforementioned cookbook. But my favorite part was not that it was easy to make, but that it was easy to look beautiful. I love it when the stuff I make actually LOOKS good! I mean, it even had these beautiful chocolate covered strawberries around it. Oh and yeah, it was good to eat too! Actually it was delicious and super moist. Unfortunately, all of this cooking is really starting to get me into trouble! I am going to turn into a butterball if I continue at this rate. But then again, who can resist a cake that looks like this?

Monday, March 9, 2009

First time Fajitas!

As in I made fajitas for the first time today. I know that may seem surprising with all the cooking I do. But until recently, tacos was the only Mexican dish I made. I am slowly branching out. Fajitas is what I tend to order when we go out so I was pretty proud of myself when they turned out tasting restaurant style. Unfortunately, the girls are not fans of beef and they didn't seem to appreciate the fajitas. Maybe next time I will make it with chicken . . . or perhaps just stick to tacos and reserve the fajitas for special occasions. Now I just need to get one of those skillets so that I can bring it out of the kitchen sizzling and smoking!

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Princesses!

Robert's brother in Korea sent them some princess stuff! Nothing like a box full of dress up accessories to make two girls very happy!
I took the girls with me to the hair salon because Robert wasn't in town. I was a little concerned because my hairdresser doesn't take appointments and sometimes I am there for hours. This time we were there for 5! Amazingly enough, we made it through the whole time with no yelling and no tears. And while I had Gabrielle there, I figured I could get them to wash her hair (which certainly beats me doing it) and she got it blow dried too. She absolutely adores it. And she just keeps saying how much she loves her hair straight. She actually keeps saying now she really looks like a princess. I think it is time for Disney to make a princess with curly hair. In the meantime though, I will admit that it is very pretty (and long) and much easier to comb in the mornings, but I definately don't think she should get used to it. I've bought a hair dryer hoping that I may be able to blow dry her hair in the future, but I don't think Gabrielle should get her hopes up on it looking as good as it does now. I was very proud of this little do right here. It's a recreation of that hairstyle you could do back in the 90's with that little contraption you could buy off the t.v. Somebody help me out here because I cannot for the life of me remember what it's called.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pasta, Pasta Pasta!

My girls looooove pasta. They could probably eat it everyday and in every way. The great thing about pasta is that it is such a large genre. . . from the simple mac n cheese to spaghetti, fettucinne, tortellini, you get the idea. Today I was able to try a new and very simple pasta dish. This is kind of out of the norm for me because Robert is out of town, and I tend to cook less when he is gone. But I recently acquired this recipe from The Pampered Chef Season's Best cookbook and it looked super easy so I figured "what the heck". And it was actually very easy to make. Less than half an hour from beginning to end (which is quick by my standards) and the best part about it was that the girls loved it! Of course they did cause it was pasta right? Well I was concerned that Gabrielle wouldn't eat it because it had tomatoes in it. But she ate up her whole bowl. And when I commented that she must've been really hungry, she told me "No, it's just really yummy!" And I have to agree, I thought it was pretty yummy today. :-)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cupcake Heaven!

I think I have found the staircase to cupcake heaven! And I am truly becoming a crazy cupcake lady as this recipe is my own concoction (based upon a variety of ideas). They don't look like much, but they are jam packed with flavor! I'm calling them Kahlua Mocha cupcakes with Dulce de Leche. All the things that I love -- chocolate, coffee, alcohol (Kahlua), and dulce de leche (which I have a love affair with) in one perfect sized bite (they're mini cupcakes). I don't know what else to say except that when I gave one to Leila, she scarfed it down and asked for another one. When I said no, she actually began to cry! And when she woke up from her nap, the first thing she asked was "Mommy, can I have a cupcake?" That's my girl :-)

1 box devil’s food cake mix
1/3 c. Kahlua
1/3 c. water mixed with 4 tbsp. instant espresso coffee granules
2/3 c. milk
3 eggs, separated
½ tbsp. vanilla extract
½ c. vegetable oil or melted butter, cooled

1 (14-ounce) can dulce de leche (Super Walmart carries it or you can make your own )
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
½ c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In large bowl, beat the egg yolks. Gradually add in the cake mix, Kahlua, coffee water, milk and vegetable oil, alternating between the wet and dry ingredients.

With clean beaters and a large bowl, beat the egg whites on high until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula, fold the meringue into the batter. Fill cupcake liners ¾ full and back for 20-25 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan for 10 minutes before removing to cooling rack.

To make frosting, place egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl. Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a small, heavy saucepan. Whisk in the water first, then the dulce de leche and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk the dulce de leche mixture into the 2 egg yolks. Stir in the vanilla. Strain through a wire mesh strainer into a small bowl and set aside to cool completely.

Beat the butter on high speed in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled dulce de leche mixture. Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth and spreadable.

Frost and dust with cacao powder.

Makes 24 regular cupcakes, or 48 minis. Enjoy!