Father’s (Birth)Day

October 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Daddy!

When I asked my sister for suggestions for cake decorations she said that my dad is obsessed with trees. I laughed. Then I said, okay, I don’t have any better ideas. So I made trees. I think it looks like a Father’s Day cake.

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I haven’t baked and decorated a cake for a looong time. Made some whipped chocolate ganache for this one. Filled with Chocolate Pastry Pride and crushed chocolate sandwich cookies (the generic kind because I’m cool like that ^-^.) The cake is just white cake mix… reduced oil, added non-fat plain yogurt, extra egg, milk instead of water. I didn’t really measure ingredients for anything in this cake. Seems to have worked out. Heh.

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I couldn’t find my piping tips, so there is no border on the cake. They might be at my apartment. I don’t really know where anything is anymore. It’s so hard to live in two places at once. The trees are made of candy melts. Yellow and blue mixed together, piped into 1/2 tree shapes. Each tree has six “petals.”

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions

1. Melt the chocolate chips over a double boiled, stirring constantly.

2. Add 1 cup of cream at a time, whisking until smooth.

3. Cool in refrigerator. Best if overnight. Or if you’re super impatient like me, 20 minutes…

4. Whisk using an electric mixer until fluffy. Place a bag of frozen peas under the bowl if you didn’t let it cool enough. 🙂

Personal Cheesecake!

August 10, 2009

I’d like to share with you one of my favorite recipes ever. It’s super easy. Super fast. And really versatile. Meet the Personal Cheesecake:

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The first time I made this recipe I made one batch (12 cheesecakes). My mother tasted one and immediately demanded that I make more so that she could take them to work. I’ve made these for countless potlucks, block parties, and birthdays. I even made them for a 50 person banquet once. Five batches were all gone by the end of the night, meaning many people ate more than one each.

The best thing about these delicious treats is the super simple recipe.

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Personal Cheesecakes

6 sandwich cookies (like Oreos or vanilla versions if you want a graham cracker-ish crust, twisted open so there’s cream on both cookies)

1 lb (2 8oz. blocks) cream cheese (room temperature)

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

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Line muffin pan with paper liners and place half a cookie in the bottom of each cup, cream side up.

Beat together cream cheese and sugar.

Add eggs one at a time and mix until just incorporated.

Stir in vanilla.

Scoop 1/4 cup of cheesecake filling into each muffin liner.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15-18 minutes.

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Top with whatever you’d like. For example: chocolate frosting (melted chocolate chips + a little butter), strawberry jam, lemon curd, or fresh berries.

Chicken and Potatoes

August 8, 2009

After a relaxing weekend, it is really tough to get myself out of bed at 730 in the morning to go to a boring 8am class. Getting through the rest of the day isn’t much easier. All I want to do is snuggle in my covers and nap. But alas, I must fill my head with organic chemistry.

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Then after a long day of leaning I must cook. Because eating is necessary.

Yesterday this proved to be a daunting task. Rummaging through the refrigerator, I found all kinds of food. An eggplant, some carrots, a little chunk of smoked salmon, tomatoes, bell peppers, leftover asparagus soup… but nothing really struck my fancy.

After grumbling for a bit, attempting to start on my homework, and generally not being productive, I called my mother. And then I was inspired. My mother returns home from 8+ hours of work every day to prepare dinner for the family. No matter what happened at work that day, no matter how tired she is, by the time we’re all hungry, dinner is ready. Yesterday she shared a smidgen of her magic with me. Over the phone, she explained this very simple, very tasty dish. There is no recipe, you just pour things in until it looks/smells right.

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Chicken and Potatoes

Dump chicken (I used drumsticks) and a couple slices of ginger in a nonstick pan over high heat. Make sure your pan is big enough to fit all your chicken in 1 layer. Cook about 3 minutes, then turn and cook other side for 3 minutes.

Add soy sauce, cooking wine, a little vinegar, to cover the chicken about halfway. Toss in a couple cloves of garlic (smashed with the side of a knife.)

Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Cut a potato into chunks and add that to the pot. Cover and simmer for 8-10 more minutes or until potatoes are soft.

Salt to taste.

Best if served over rice, but also tastes good with bread (if that’s what you happen to have a lot of.)

Lemon Coconut Halva

August 2, 2009

When my roommate and I purchased 2 pounds of semolina from a small market in Old Oakland, the lady at the register was skeptical. She wanted to make sure we knew what we were getting. When we convinced her that  we knew how to use the stuff, she started telling us about the wonderful fresh pasta that her daughter makes. One thing led to another, and before we knew it we were in for a half-hour story about the photographs of her daughters, her son, and her grandbabies that decorated the register. She was a fascinating little lady with a rich history, a fiery personality, and bright purple eyeshadow. When we finally bid her farewell, she grabbed our elbows and proclaimed, “Don’t get into drugs or alcohol! Study hard and you will be successful in the future.” Ah the wonders of Oakland 🙂

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Semolina is a yellowish flour made from durum wheat. It looks a lot like cornmeal and is often used to make pasta. (1 cup semolina + 1 egg = pasta dough). It is also used to make halva. Which is a super delicious Mediterranean dessert.

Lemon Coconut Halva

First, make a sugar syrup. Stir together 1/2 cup sugar, 2/3 cups water, and the juice of half a lemon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. It will thicken considerably .

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In a slightly larger saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter.

Remove from heat and stir in:

1 cup sugar

3/4 cups all purpose flour

1 cup semolina

1 cup shredded coconut

3/4 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

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Pour into an ungreased, foil lined pan (I used and 8″ round cake pan) and bake for 25-30 minutes in a preheated 350F oven.

Cut halva into 24 pieces and drizzle evenly with sugar syrup. (If the syrup got too thick, heat it until it becomes a pourable consistency.)

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Eat!!! This was super tasty. The lemon flavor was a little overpowering at first, but maybe that’s because I didn’t let it cool. My second piece was a much better balance of coconut and lemon. And my third piece….and my fourth piece….heh.

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Rice Pudding!

August 1, 2009

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My roommate is a genius. (And also a bread winner hehe). What do you do with leftover rice when 10 loaves of bread show up in your kitchen? Ask your roommate what to do with it. Then, MAKE RICE PUDDING! Because obviously you will be eating bread with your meals, not rice, for the next week or so.

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Apparently I am semi-perfectionistic. Before I make something, I have to find a recipe. So that’s what I did. I found a rice pudding recipe. And I went into the kitchen and started measuring out 3 cups of milk. My roommate found this extremely amusing. It’s rice pudding! You just dump milk in cooked rice, add sugar anddried fruits! And that put an end to my milk mesuring. Instead I snipped dried apricots into quarters.

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Apparently I am also easily distracted. So we ended up with lots and lots of dried apricot quarters. That’s okay. We’ll just not use the dried cranberries…and it looked like this:

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Oh the beige-ness!

So we added dried cranberries:

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Much prettier! Yay.

And since we’re very impatient we ate the pudding while it was stil HOT. Mmmmm….

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Try it, then I’ll tell you what’s in it.

July 31, 2009

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I made these for the first time a week ago. When I told my roommate what I wanted to make she balked. She’s  an adventurous eater, but this was just TOO weird. The fact that I made them again today proves that they’re actually REALLY GOOD.

Mayonnaise Brownies. Yes, that’s right. Chocolate goodness made with mayo. After they come out of the oven you can’t even tell. No smell, to taste.

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These are really simple and only take about 40 minutes from start to finish. I can see this as a staple for my potluck contributions. I just won’t tell people what’s in them until after they’ve tasted it.

Mayonnaise Brownies

3/4 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup chocolate chips (melted)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 eggs (lightly beaten)

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1. Stir together flour and baking soda in a medium bowl.

2. Microwave chocolate chips for 20 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until chocolate chips are melted.

3. Stir mayonnaise into melted chocolate.

4. Add eggs, sugar, chocolate, and vanilla to the flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

5. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes.

Makes 12 cupcakes or an 8×8″ pan of brownies.

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Whole Wheat

July 30, 2009

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Post midterm relaxation, also known as bread baking, is a tasty and theraputic way to spend a lunch break. Bread can be surprisingly simple to make. Flour, water, yeast, a wee bit of sugar to feed the yeast, and a wee bit of salt for flavor. These simple ingredients can make good bread.

How to make bread with your roommate and juggle classes at the same time:

1. Combine 2 cups all purpose flour and 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast in a bowl.

2. Warm 1 3/4 cups water, 3 Tbst butter, 2 Tbst honey, and a little sugar until the butter is almost melted.

3. Pour warm water into flour, stir and add 2 cups wheat flour.

4. Turn dough onto well floured counter and knead in as much all purpouse flour as you can (we got in another 1/4 cup, but the recipe called for up to another cup).

5. Put dough back into the bowl, cover and place somewhere warm to rise.

This process takes less than 20 minutes. Unless you’re really bad at kneading, like I am, and then it might take 25 minutes. Now go to class for 2 hours. When you get back, the dough should have doubled in size.

6. Punch down the giant dough. (Not too hard!)

7. Divide the dough into as many loaves/rolls/anyshapes that you want, then cover and place back in the warm place.

This is when you go for a 40 minute run.

8. Bake loave/rolls/anyshapes for 35 minutes (this is for 2 loaves…adjust according to how many pieces you divided the dough into) in a 375F oven. (If you’re lazy and don’t preheat your oven bake your bread for a little longer.)

If you run slow, your roommate will have already started this and you can come home and be tempted to peek at the baking bread while enjoying the wafting scent of fresh b

9. The bread is done when knocking on the bottom of the loaf results in a hollow sound. (Of course, if you try to do this when the bread is still hot you’ll burn you knuckles, but it’s the best way to tell for sure if the bread is done.)

Tada! Fresh homemade bread. Good with honey, jam, Nutella, quark (this really delicious spready cheese we got at the farmer’s market), hummus, bologna, etc.

Midnight Chocolatefest

July 29, 2009

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Hobo dance parties. Something you’ll probably only see in Berkeley. Last night around 8PM a wave of lound, upbeat music floated in the window. A quick peek outside confirmed the hobo dance party. Complete with strobe lights and howling beagles. What a lovely way to spend an evening.

But alas, I was not brave enough to go outside and join the homeless merrymakers. Instead my roommate and I wandered to the kitchen to bake Banana Pineapple Bread. And dip chocolate strawberries. By the time we were done it was nearing 10PM. We decided to take some of our creations to our friendly upstairs neighbors. Surprise! We have mutual friends! (And not just the Facebook kind.) So we all consumed cupcakes and strawberries.

The bread is made mostly of fruit…so it’s healthy right?

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Banana Pineapple Bread

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon (I used an Asian 5-spice powder)

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup apple sauce

2 Tbsp oil

1 cup crushed pineapple

2 cups mashed bananas (4 medium bananas)

2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Whisk together eggs and sugar.

Add applesauce, pineapples, bananas.

Mix in vanilla.

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined.

Makes 12 cupcakes and an 8″ round.

Burn your fingertips pulling hot muffins out of the pan because they smell so good and you want to eat them NOW.

Or serve with homemade cherry jam. Yum.

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Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Milk chocolate chips

Shortening (optional-1Tbsp per cup of chocolate)*

Long stem strawberries

Melt chocolate chips and shortening (if using) in  a bowl over a pot of boiling water. (Call this a bain marie or water bath or double boiler.)

Dip strawberries in melted chocolate.

Set on an aluminum lined baking sheet to set.

*Adding shortening to the chocolate will lead to a softer set and prevent the chocolate from cracking off of the strawberry when you take a bite.

Dip muffins, bread, pineapple, anything you happen to have handy in leftover chocolate.

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Ah the wonders of midterm season.

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B-A-N-A-N-A-S

March 25, 2009

I’m super proud of myself. This is probably the first recipe that I pretty much came up with on my own. I was looking all over the Internet for a dense, nutty banana loaf, but didn’t find any that exactly suited my needs. I did find one that sounded amazing – full of crushed pineapple, flaked coconut, walnuts, and banana – but I didn’t want to make a trip to the grocery store. Other recipes seemed to cake-y and not banana-y enough. So I found some basic recipes, used those as a basis for proportions for wet/dry ingredients. Then followed my gut.

Here’s what I ended up with:

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See how dense, moist, and nutty that is?

And the surface of the cake turned out beautifully, thanks to my lovely, new, non-stick Bundt pan.

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Banana Bundt Cake

1/2 cup butter

8 oz. cream cheese

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup plain yogurt

5 medium bananas-mashed

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat butter and cream cheese.

Add sugars, beat until well incorporated.

Mix in eggs, one at a time.

Add  yogurt and mashed bananas. Mix until smooth.

Stir in flour, periodically scraping sides of bowl.

Fold in walnuts.

Bake in preheated 350F oven for 45-50 minutes, or until skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

Glub Glub Glub

March 16, 2009

Fishbowl cupcakes!

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The focus of these cupcakes was definitely more on the looks than the taste. That doesn’t mean they don’t taste good though. It just means they’re so cute that everyone who got one wanted to frame the top. I got a lot of comments about the cupcakes being “too cute to eat.” (But most people devoured them anyways.) It was the first time in a long time that I really focused on decorating. Thank you Hello, Cupcake for the brilliant ideas and easy to follow instructions. The book said that the Goldfish added a salty twist to the treat, but I found that most people were a little put off at the idea of consuming Goldfish and cupcakes together. For the most part the Goldfish were fished out and gobbled up first.

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