Friday, June 12, 2015

Well, Hello Again.

Soooooooooooooooooooo this happened:

And now we're  here: 

4 months.

Welcome to this world, little man.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Elvis Cupcakes (banana, peanut butter and chocolate)

You can hate me right now, but I'm not a big sweets person. Yes, that right. I'd rather have a briney pickle or olive than sweet cookie or slice of cake. I made these cupcakes to 1) fulfill a need to bring something to a bake sale and 2) use up ingredients that I had at home, which in this case were bananas and peanut butter.

Like I said,  I'm not a sweets person, but these cupcakes were delicious. Especially if you like banana, peanut butter, or chocolate. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of any of those things, but these cupcakes are fantastically delicious. They were the first item to be sold out of at the bake sale. They not only taste great, but also look great. (and you don't have to be a pastry chef to make them look like a million bucks, which is always a big plus in my book) I have this thing about making things look as good as they taste and this recipe will not leave you disappointed.

The cake is a banana cake, the glaze is peanut butter, and the garnish is shaved chocolate. The combination of the the three flavors is know as "Elvis." (You can make Elvis cookies, pancakes, smoothies, etc.) Recently I've been going the 'glaze' route with cupcakes because it's much easier to make it look professional. Not to mention, you don't have to use butter (which is an expensive ingredient), and you don't need a pastry bag or tips. You do however, need a cooling rack, which gets very sticky and messy, which unfortunately is one of my husband's least favorite kitchen item to wash (in case you were wondering, the cheese grater and garlic press are also among his top most annoying things to wash).

These aren't that much of a hassle to make, and you can rarely find them in acceptable bakeries, so if you're looking for something special, these cupcakes fit the bill.
Cupcake Batter:                                                                                            
1 ripe banana (frozen or fresh is fine, just mash it up)
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour plus 2 TB cornstarch
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup veg. oil
 DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12 muffin pan with liners. Mash together the banana and lemon juice until smooth, then whisk in eggs. In the bowl of your electric mixer, use a fork to whisk together your flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Put on the paddle attachment and beat in the oil until it's well incorporated. Add your banana/lemon juice/egg mixture and mix until just combined. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake 15-20, until a toothpick comes out clean. Make the glaze while they cook. (directions below) Transfer to a wire rack and remove from pan immediately so they don't get overcooked.
Glaze: Whisk together 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter and 2 TBS of milk (or you can use water/almond or rice milk/cream, whatever). Add 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth. Add more sugar if you want a sweeter glaze. The glaze should drizzle off your whisk when you hold it above your bowl. (adjust consistency with more liquid/sugar).
Topping: Use a microplane or the little blades on a grater to shave some dark chocolate onto a plate. I used Ghirardelli's extra dark, and only used like 1 oz for all 12 cupcakes. You may have to freeze the chocolate and the shavings so they don't get all melty (especially since it's summer! the heat of your hands can make things get gloopy)

Assemble:  While the cupcakes are still hot, push them close together on your cooling rack. This makes sure you waste a minimum amount of glaze. You may want to put a cookie sheet or parchment paper under your cooling rack to minimize the mess.Take your whisk and swirl it in the glaze. With a  Bob Ross like motion,  float your whisk above the cupcakes, left to right and glaze those babies.  Replenish your whisk as needed. When you are done glazing , get your chocolate shavings from the freezer and sprinkle them on top. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Make Your Own: Chinese Dumplings

There's this really good 1/2 cookbook, 1/2 story book I like to read. It's called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. It's the hilarious story of her culinary experiments. She has tried making pretty much everything from scratch including cheeses, breads, prosciutto, and a host of other foods. Each recipe comes with a cost analysis of ingredients and how much it would cost if you bought the finished product in the store. Besides being a great resource, it's pretty entertaining....but that's all I'll say about the book since this is not a sponsored post and I really just want to tell you how to make delicious dumplings. Or potstickers. Or whatever you'd like to call them.

These potstickers (despite the long list of ingredients) are way more yummy than the pre-made kind you buy in the frozen foods aisle and even more delicious than the ones you order from your favorite Kung-Fu-Wok-China-House-Lucky-Express-Panda-Chang restaurant. They take a little bit of time to put together, but it's not a complicated process and it is SOOOOO much cheaper than buying them. I've made them twice now, and I'll tell you, it's easy to eat 10 or more. We like to make a dipping sauce for them, mixing soy sauce and sriracha, but you could easily do something different depending on your personal tastes. I usually make a trip to our local asian market and pick up the ingredients for less than $10, and this recipe makes 60-80 potstickers. That sounds like a lot, but trust me, you'll want that many.

Here's the recipe, modified from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter.

1 pound fatty boneless pork shoulder, ground
3/4 pound napa cabbage, finely shredded
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup minced scallion
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1 tsp. minced ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tBSsoy sauce
1 tBs sesame oil
1/4 tsp. of red pepper flakes
1/4-1/2 tsp. sriracha sauce (depending on how spicy you want them)

About 80 round dumpling wrappers (usually in the frozen section)
All-purpose flour (for dusting)
Vegetable oil/Olive oil (for frying)

In a large bowl combine all the filling ingredients and mix well. Fry up a tablespoon of the mixture in a small frying pan and taste it. Adjust seasoning to your liking.

Set up a dumpling wrapping station with the wrappers, filling, small bowl of water and a cookie sheet lined with parchment or dusted with flour.

Into the middle of each wrapper put a generous teaspoon (I use a small spoon, not the actually measuring spoon). With your fingers wet or brush, wet a semi-circle (1/2) of the edge of the dumpling wrapper. Fold in  half and pinch to close. Pinch and pleat the wrapper and place on the cookie sheet. Repeat until you have no more wrappers.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 2 teaspoons of oil.  Drop in 15 potstickers and cook for 5-7 minutes. Scoop out the potstickers, drain briefly, and place on a clean cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and spray with non-stick spray (or do it in a non-stick skillet). When the oil is shimmering/sizzling, add 10-12 dumplings. Cook on one side until the skin begins to brown and "thicken." (about 2/3 min.) Cook on the other side. Repeat with remaining dumplings. Serve immediately.


FYI: don't let my interchange of the words potstickers and dumplings confuse you. I'm talking about the same thing.  I'm not sure if you could make these vegetarian (with tofu or something) but I would love to hear if you experiment with that. We like our potstickers fairly spicy so I put a few shakes of red pepper flakes and a small squeeze of sriracha (probably about 1/4 tsp). However, they are not that spicy, so we make a sauce out of sriracha and soy sauce. You could probably put more sriracha in the dumpling filling and then have a sauce with soy and sesame oil if you want....just an idea. Also, these freeze well. I make a big batch the freeze them in containers with 7 dumplings. Into the microwave they go for 90 seconds and they're ready to eat.

Here's the mixture. You want everything pretty small. (I should have shredded the harder, white part of the cabbage a little smaller). I use this small soup spoon/teaspoon to measure the filling into the dumplings. If you stuff them too much they'll break or explode when you boil them. 

Here are about half of the dumplings, before they were boiled. It's important to add some oil to your pot of boiling water so that these babies don't stick to the bottom of the pot. After you put 15ish in the boiling water, give them a stir to make sure they're not sticking to the pot or each other. 

Happy Dumpling Making!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mixing Styles in Your Home

If someone asked me to pick one type of way to decorate my living space (vintage, modern, traditional, cottage, etc.) I would be very, very sad. I just love picking up pieces at vintage shops, rummage sales, and shopping online and in stores. Lots of styles appeal to my taste and I combining them is so fun! I also love changing up the decor every so often as well as re-arranging the furniture, but you knew that already. That's why I was delighted when One King's Lane contacted me and asked me to share about their resource guide. Unlike their shopping website, you don't need to sign up with an email to access a ton of great articles and tips on decorating and furnishing your home.

Since we've moved into our new apartment/loft almost 9 months ago, decorating and furnishing has been a fun project. One room that has been particularly neglected is our music room/guest room. (the only thing that makes it a guest room is that there's space for an air mattress) A couple months ago I purchased a navy and cream moroccan trellis rug and ever since then I've been wanting to do some decorating in this room. It's far from done, but here's what I came up with so far:

I decided to create the perfect reading nook in the music room, combining meaningful items and one-of-a-kind items.  The tall clock was a wedding gift from my mom which we love. The grey chair was actually a pink vintage rocking chair I got off craigslist and then did a fabric paint treatment which seals off germs. The wooden pair of pears were hand-turned by a family member.

This little 'moment' of space has everything I would need to enjoy a good book: a soft warm throw, a comfy chair, a reading lamp, a teapot waiting to refill my cup with earl grey. And let's not forget an amazing smelling candle.

You may remember these 1960's chairs from our previous home, when I found them discarded and totally redid them (or see the transformation here). Our living room is currently sporting caper and wine tones so these chairs are living in the music room for now.

Here's my side table, consisting of an ottoman with a weaved basket tray on top. This candle smells divine! I had a splurge moment at Whole Foods and had to buy it. The metal and glass top teapot is a vintage find. I found it at a Salvation Army store in MN and it came all the way from England. Also pictured is my favorite current mug. As a native NYC'er I saw this ceramic version of the classic NYC coffee cup and had to buy it. (or strongly hint, aka just tell my husband it's what I wanted for Christmas)

Hope you enjoyed a peek into my home! I look forward to sharing the rest of the room once it gets organized :)

Amazing Decor Items and Ideas: One King's Lane Resource Guide
Paddywax Fresh Fig and Cardamom Soy Candle:  Paddywax
NYC Ceramic Coffee Cup: MoMA Store
Architect Lamp: Target
Navy Rug: Rug USA

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Easy Energy Bites

Some days I just don't have enough energy. Sometimes I am looking for a snack to take with me when I go out on errands so I don't buy an entire Whole Foods store. Or a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. In the past I've tried making granola bars, other times shelling out cash for pricey Cliff or Luna bars. To be honest, none of those bars really cut it for me on the taste test. Yeah, they're ok, but I can't rave about the oatmeal-chocolate-chip or carrot-cake flavors that seem to be so popular. My solution is energy bites- I pack a couple in my lunch bag or purse when I think I might need a quick burst of energy or snack to tide me over until the next meal.

These energy bites are fast, simple and relatively nutritious. They are easy to customize and can be made in raw and vegan versions. So grab your measuring cups and a teaspoon and give these a try!

Easy Energy Bites

1 cup uncooked oats (I like to use quick oats since they're smaller pieces than old fashioned. Do not use steel cut for these.)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup flax meal
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Shape into balls and chill 30 min. Ideally, store in the refrigerator or freezer. (I often put a couple in a sandwich bag in my purse for a couple days and they're fine) Makes 17-19 energy bites/balls.

Customize: Add a cup of coconut flakes,  1/4 cup diced crasins/raisins, sub the choco chips with butterscotch chips. Sub in almond butter or nutella (cut back on the sweetener if you use nutella).

*I've made this before using granulated sugar when I'm out of honey. They still taste pretty good and stay together in a ball. The honey is a better binder for sure, though.

*You can see from the picture above, I go pretty scant on the honey. I don't like these to be too sweet. Chocolate chips on the other hand, get a heaping 1/4 cup. Seems logical, right?

*Flax meal is available at health food stores, and occasionally I can find it at Big Lots for super cheap.

Just dump everything into the bowl and mix.

This is what your mix should look like when you are ready to shape them into balls.

You can make the bites/balls as big or little as you want. I usually make mine a little bit larger than a tablespoon. 

If you make these, I'd love to know- especially if you're tried a variation of this! Happy cooking!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Visit NYC on the Cheap: St. John the Divine and The Hungarian Pastry Shop

Since moving from NYC, it's been special to go back and see all the things I missed while I was living there. Since I still don't have millions to blow, I like to do things that don't cost a whole lot of money.

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine (just say St. John the Divine if you have to ask for directions) is the 4th largest in the world and the largest in the U.S. For such a tiny city, this church takes up a lot of space. It is beautiful inside and out and has a great sculpture in the garden dedicated to the future children of the world and the creativity the carry with them. I believe admission to the church is free (the lady just waved us in despite the sign saying "thank you for your donation of $10") and there are some signs around giving some historical and architectural information about the church. It's great to walk around in, especially when it's cold outside. The address is 1047 Amsterdam Ave, and it's on the upper west side. Take the 1 train to get there.

Right across the street is The Hungarian Pastry Shop with a great vibe. There are lots of pastries to choose from and the art is pretty cool. I like this place because it's different than your mainstream "cool" coffee shop. It's grungy in an attractive way and it has quite a European cozy feel about it. You should note that the prices are more if you want to stay (rather than grab something and go) but it's not that much more. If you need somewhere to warm up and check on email (or blog!) I recommend this place. We ordered a cinnamon roll which was very flaky and had juicy raisins. They also carry Jewish treats, like hamentashen. The address is 1030 Amsterdam Ave. 

Hope you enjoy the places! Feel free to ask any questions.

  • Sunday, January 5, 2014

    Quick & Easy Sour Milk Biscuits

    There's a running joke around here that these are "Sour Milk Biscuits with Salt." The second time I made these, I forgot to put in the salt. After assuring my husband I had followed the recipe exactly, I was puzzled why they didn't taste as good as the first time. He quietly asked me if I had put any salt in them and I insisted the recipe didn't call for any. Well, I swallowed my words when I checked the recipe. Now, whenever I say I'm going to make some biscuits my husband asks "oh, are you going to make Sour Milk Biscuits with Salt?" It's just a gentle reminder. Don't forget the salt.

    At our house we always seem to have some sour milk on hand, so this recipe is pretty perfect for our family. If you don't have sour milk don't worry, you can still make these biscuits. Just set out a scant 1 cup of milk and add a tablespoon of vinegar to it. The milk will curdle in about five minutes and voila, sour milk. These will work just as well with lactose-free milk or half and half. I haven't tried soy, rice, or almond milk, but my guess is that as long as you add some lemon juice to react with the baking soda, it just might work.

    Sour milk biscuits with a side of persimmon. 

    We like these biscuits because they are fluffy and have nice buttery layers to them. They are a perfect substitute for the Pillsbury Biscuits from a can, but better since they don't have chemicals or unnecessary ingredients. They also come together pretty quickly- I start out by preheating my oven, and by the time it gets to 450F, my biscuits are ready to go in the oven.

    You can have these versatile biscuits for breakfast with jam and butter, or with a sausage patty and egg inside, or for dinner with chicken pot pie filling. They also freeze well- I've kept them for about 2 months in my freezer and reheated them in the micro for less than a minute when we want some.

    Quick and Easy Sour Milk Biscuits

    2 cups all purpose flour
    1 tsp. salt
    4 tsp. baking powder (seems like a lot, but you want them to be fluffy!)
    4 TBS cold butter or lard
    1 cup sour milk

    Preheat oven to 450F and line a cookie sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Mix dry ingredients together. Put fat in flour and mix together until pea-sized lumps occur (crumble with fingers).

    Make a well, pour in milk, and mix until it becomes a sticky dough. Flour work surface, rolling pin, and hands. Drop dough on surface. Work some flour into the dough by gently kneading.

    Roll out and fold dough in half. Repeat two more times, turning the dough 90 degrees each time. Roll out one final time and cut into circles with a cookie cutter (or, like I do, make squares but cutting with a pastry scraper). Bake 8-10 min. until lightly brown.